Africa Theater

Violence and fear in Sudan

The UN is pledging to lead an investigation into the helicopter crash that claimed the life of Sudan's newly-installed vice president John Garang, longtime leader of the southern guerillas. (UPI, Aug. 3) Violence since his death has already left at least 84 dead. Garang's position, both as vice president and leader of the SPLA guerillas, is to be assumed by his second-in-command Salva Kiir Mayardit, described by the New York Times as "a fierce fighter with traditional Dinka tribal scarring on his forehead" who has "fought shoulder to shoulder and occassionaly face to face wth Mr. Garang for two decades." (IHT) This commentary by Julie Flint in Lebanon's Daily Star (excerpts below) makes clear the multiple challenges Kiir Mayardit faces—first, to hold together his own SPLA organization, which unites several southern peoples. Not included in the recent peace agreement are the conflicts in Darfur in Sudan's west and the much less-known Beja region in the east. We hope Garang's contentious air crash will not be remembered in the same light as that of Rwanda's President Juvenal Habyarimana in 1994.

Coup d'etat in Mauritania

Hundreds have taken to the streets of Mauritania's capital, Nouakchott, shouting and honking car horns in celebration after the army announced it had seized power and ousted long-ruling President Moawiya Ould Tayeh. Convoys of vehicles with people hanging out the sides shouting "Praise Be to God" and making victory signs paraded down one of Nouakchott's main avenues. (Reuters, Aug. 3)

Starvation in Niger

You'd think right on the heels of the Live 8 hype, the world would be doing something about this, no? The response to the crisis, which was building throughout the Edinburgh hoopla, appears to be dramatically too little and too late. And people wonder why there is popular discontent fueling Islamic extremism in this part of the world. Via TruthOut:

Sudan peace deal signals regional re-alignment

The new peace deal in Sudan, ending a 22-year civil war in which two million people lost their lives, took effect July 9, when Col. John Garang of the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) was sworn in as Sudan's first vice president in Khartoum, the capital. After six years of power-sharing between Garang's SPLA and President Omar el-Bashir's National Congress Party, there will be a referendum to decide Sudan's future, with the southern stronghold of the SPLA potentially having the option to secede.

Ethnic cleansing in Mauritania

Just what we needed to hear. The world stands by as massive ethnic cleansing—perhaps genocide—continue in Darfur. Now we are told of a similar crisis in Mauritania, which hasn't even come to the world's atttention. This from Johannesburg's Business Day, July 12, via, July 12:

Shell workers kidnapped in Nigeria

A militant group in Nigeria’s oil-rich Niger Delta kidnapped two German and four Nigerian workers of Bilfinger Berger Gas & Oil Services, a contractor firm for Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell June 15. The workers were abducted around Warri by a group calling itself Iju-Warri, to press demands for social services such as water, roads and schools. (AFP, June 16)

Zimbabwe police demolish township

Police in Zimbabwe fought running battles June 14 with residents of Makhokhoba, one of the oldest townships of the country's second city, Bulawayo as they demolished illegal structures. One woman stripped naked in protest after police destroyed her shack (a traditional African gesture of shaming men). A police spokesman said that more than 20,000 structures had been destroyed and 30,000 arrested in the three-week nationwide operation.

Pentagon "Pan-Sahel Initiative"

The Pentagon is rapidly expanding its little-noted "anti-terrorist" training program in the nations of Africa's Sahel. From page 11 of the New York Times, June 10:

As Africans Join Iraqi Insurgency, U.S. Counters With Military Training in Their Lands
A growing number of Islamic militants from northern and sub-Saharan Africa are fighting American and Iraqi forces in Iraq, fueling the insurgency with foot soldiers and some financing, American military officials say.

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