Archive for the ‘Africa’ Category

8
Apr

KIGALI, Rwanda—A jet roared overhead as we approached the crash site, strolling through a garden of fruit trees at the home of the late Rwandan president, Juvénal Habyarimana. In front of us, a guard manned a small concrete tower perched atop a red brick wall that obscured our view of the wreckage.

Walking under a massive ficus tree, past a pond that once housed Habyarimana’s python, my guide Christine motioned me toward a ladder that led to a small viewing platform. Minutes earlier I’d stood inside Habyarimana’s bedroom, explored his secret weapons closet, and the chamber where he’d practiced witchcraft. Now, I was about to see the remains of the plane in which Rwanda’s longest-serving president was assassinated—the event that ignited the Rwandan genocide.

It’s been 20 years since Habyarimana’s Falcon 50 aircraft was shot down on the outskirts of Kigali, Rwanda’s capital, and the country has come a long way from the 100 days of mass murder that followed. Although political tensions still simmer and current President Paul Kagame has been accused of suppressing dissent, Rwanda is now one of Africa’s safest nations and its economy is among the fastest growing on the continent. The country that in the spring of 1994 witnessed the worst genocide since the Holocaust is now defined by a lack of crime, spotless public areas, and officials who are harshly punished if caught soliciting bribes or skimming off of public contracts. Today, aside from a handful of memorials filled with skulls, photos of the dead, and displays of the instruments of death—spiked clubs, hoes, machetes—there’s little visible evidence of the nightmare that saw the deaths of up to 1 million Rwandans, mostly members of the Tutsi minority.

The 20th anniversary of the genocide will be commemorated on April 7, and I decided to visit the scene that triggered the bloodshed. On an afternoon in March, I made my way to Habyarimana’s residence: a three-story brick and concrete structure located a mile from Kigali International Airport’s runway. Built in 1976, three years after Habyarimana seized power, the mansion has been open to the public since 2008, when it was reborn as the State House Museum. An hourlong tour includes a walk through the house and gardens and a visit to the Falcon 50 wreckage, which sits just beyond the edge of the compound. Read more…

 

By Jon Rosen. Jon Rosen is a freelance journalist focusing on East Africa and Africa’s Great Lakes region. He is a two-time finalist, and one-time winner, at the Diageo Africa Business Reporting Awards in London.

Published on April 4 in http://www.slate.com

 

12
Dec

Africa’s militant threat

Written on December 12, 2013 by Waya Quiviger in Africa, News

The West may have to help France in its efforts to suppress Islamic militancy in Africa

The deaths of two French soldiers in the Central African Republic (CAR) have reminded the world of the deadly seriousness of France’s latest foreign foray to confront Islamists in their former colonies. Hundreds of troops are still in Mali, where they have helped force insurgents out of their northern city strongholds and into the desert. Now, a force of about 1,500 has been deployed to the CAR, where an alliance of rebels, known as Seleka, seized power in March. Communal fighting recently claimed many lives and the French have started to remove weapons from fighters in a bid to stop the violence.

While Britain and America continue their disengagement from overseas incursions in Afghanistan and Iraq, it has fallen to the French to take up the challenge posed by the spread of militant Islam in Africa. Long the region’s self-styled policeman, France has experience restoring regimes or thwarting rebellions. Over the past three decades, French forces have been deployed in Congo, Rwanda, Chad and the Ivory Coast as well as Mali and the CAR.

Foreign adventures are a useful distraction for political problems at home and President François Hollande certainly has plenty of those. But he has been anxious to distance himself from the more unilateralist stance of his predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy. He exhibits a greater willingness to co-ordinate military action with local and African Union forces, and recently hosted a summit on peace and security on the continent.

The big question is whether the French should be left to get on with it without external military back-up. For now, they seem willing to take responsibility. But if the threat from militant Islam in North Africa continues to grow, their Western allies might have to provide more than moral and logistical support.

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Published by The Telegraph http://www.telegraph.co.uk on December 11, 2013

 

9
Dec

How Mandela Changed South Africa

Written on December 9, 2013 by Ángeles Figueroa-Alcorta in Africa, News

Nelson Mandela was the father of the current democratic South Africa that replaced the odious apartheid state.

His primary legacy is a multiracial South Africa under the rule of law. Mandela’s governance was characterized by racial reconciliation, especially with white Afrikaners, which he shrewdly promoted through the use of symbols. Like President Obama, Mandela sought “teachable moments.” For example, he publicly supported the predominately white national rugby team. He took tea with Betsie Verwoerd, the widow of Hendrick Verwoerd, the chief architect of apartheid. He avoided African National Congress (ANC) and black African triumphalism; there was no wholesale change in Afrikaner place names during his presidency.

He insisted on the rule of law. Apartheid may have been a crime against humanity, but there was no extra-legal “revolutionary justice.” Instead there was a Truth and Reconciliation Commission under the presidency of Archbishop Desmond Tutu that offered amnesty in return for confession to liberation fighters and members of the apartheid security services. Mandela assiduously observed the new constitution that enshrined the strongest protection of individual and minority rights anywhere in the world. Alone among African states, South Africa permits gay marriage, though much of the population remains homophobic.  Read more…

As published in The Council on Foreign Relations on December 5th, 2013  http://www.cfr.org

 

A statue of Nelson Mandela stands outside the gates of Drakenstein Correctional Centre (formerly Victor Verster Prison) near Paarl

3
Sep

By Haizam Amirah Fernandez, Associate Professor at IE School of International Relations

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The worst forecasts are unfolding in Egypt. One year of the Muslim Brotherhood’s incompetent and sectarian governance polarised Egyptian society. For the past month and a half, the return to a regime dominated by the military has set Egyptians violently at odds with one another. Uniformed and bearded men now clash on the country’s streets on the basis of hatred, exclusion, cynicism and death. While many average Egyptians justify and applaud the actions of the army and the police, others consider themselves to be victims of a great injustice and cry out for revenge and martyrdom. This is how armed civil conflicts begin.

The sit-ins of the supporters of the deposed President Morsi constituted a serious threat to public order. The problem could have been resolved through political negotiation, which EU mediation advocated until the end. The army, however, along with some ‘liberals’ thought they could crush the Muslim Brotherhood and eradicate them as a political force by the use of force. In their cynicism, Islamist leaders needed to increase their list of martyrs; in their arrogance, Egypt’s generals are providing them with just that. The collective unreason and dehumanisation of the enemy seem to be the only points in common between the factions that are dragging Egypt towards social fracture, political instability and economic ruin.

Abandoning institutionalised politics and substituting it for machine guns, flaming torches and explosive belts is disastrous not only for Egypt; it also gives rise to nefarious ramifications in the entire Middle East and on both shores of the Mediterranean. Massive extrajudicial executions –widely distributed on social networks– in the name of the fight against ‘terrorism’ is fostering a new generation of radicals that will see that resorting to terrorist methods is justified. The prophecy will be self-fulfilled, although the return of a police state will not guarantee that instability will not lead to chaos, or even, lawlessness.

The Egyptian economy is in a critical state and is solely maintained thanks to Gulf-State petrodollars (mainly from Saudi Arabia). Today’s socioeconomic crisis is even more serious than when Mubarak was dislodged in February of 2011. The current head of the Egyptian army, general Sisi, will attempt to present himself as the ‘saviour of the country’, but in a context of increasing repression and instability he will find it very difficult to be the ‘saviour of the economy’. Even if the military are able to neutralise the Islamists, which is highly unlikely, the social upheaval on the streets will only continue. In the absence of democratic mechanisms to channel that frustration and search for solutions, the only paths available are the old formulas of repression, information manipulation and ‘conspiracy-paranoid’ nationalism. Read more…

As published in www.realinstitutoelcano.org on August 29, 2013.

20
Aug

19egypt1-articleLarge

A surprising number of world leaders and foreign policy experts have effectively acquiesced in the continued brutality of Egypt’s generals, arguing that support for the military is the only way to restore stability in the Arab world’s most populous state and limit wider regional turmoil. But this is just one of several false choices misinforming the debate and one that is certain to ensure more unrest, not less.

After overthrowing Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected president, the military could have been a positive force if it had put in place a transition plan that included all groups, including Mr. Morsi’s allies in the Muslim Brotherhood. But instead of encouraging Egyptians to settle differences through democratic means — elections, for instance — the generals and their anti-Morsi allies, invoking the threat of “terrorism,” took the ruthless, likely fateful, decision to crack down on peaceful demonstrators. The death toll of more than 1,000 now includes 36 Morsi supporters who died on Sunday under suspicious circumstances in police custody.

The choice the generals are promoting is that the world must decide between them or instability. “At this point, it’s army or anarchy,” one Israeli official told The Times. Israel has been vigorously lobbying the United States and Europe to back the generals. Over the weekend, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia strongly endorsed the crackdown; he and other gulf monarchs, who hate the Brotherhood, have pumped billions into Egypt’s treasury.

There is a better path, and that is to choose not to help the military, which is making things worse, and could fuel a generation of Islamists to choose militancy over the ballot box. (The possible release of ousted President Hosni Mubarak from prison would be the ultimate repudiation of the 2011 revolution.) Is that really in the best long-term interests of the United States? Obviously not. Read more…

As published in www.nytimes.com on August 19, 2013 (a version of this editorial appears in print on August 20, 2013, on page A18 of the New York edition with the headline: False Choices on Egypt).

 

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