Month: February 2010

No bottle popping for Robert Mugabe!

Although one is to celebrate their golden years with grace, humility and a positive outlook on life for being able to live to such an age, Robert Mugabe seems to be the exception to this understanding.

Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai

A year after a historic coalition government was formed, most Zimbabweans are in no mood to celebrate today’s anniversary. Civil servants are on strike, reforms are stalled, farmers are under attack, and the autocratic Robert Mugabe still controls most of the levers of power.

The coalition, which allowed opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai to become the Prime Minister, has staggered through a rough year. The economy has improved, but the government is paralyzed by internal feuding and fierce resistance from Mr. Mugabe’s allies. And it faces the risk of collapse if the squabbling persists and foreign donors remain unwilling to help.

Mr. Mugabe, still President at the age of 85, is showing no signs of surrendering power. He has stubbornly blocked the political reforms that were supposed to flow from a breakthrough 2008 agreement between the opposition and the ruling ZANU-PF party.

That agreement, which led to the coalition government that was sworn in a year ago, is now “becoming a joke,” according to Eddie Cross, a senior member of Mr. Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change.

Only 12 per cent of the agreement has been put into effect, Mr. Cross estimates. A top MDC leader, Roy Bennett, is still being prosecuted on charges widely believed to be trumped up. Many other MDC members have been arrested or harassed. Deadlines for reform have been repeatedly ignored, and commercial farmers are still losing their farms to invading thugs.

Mr. Mugabe and his supporters are increasingly hardline, refusing any concessions unless Mr. Tsvangirai persuades foreign governments to lift targeted sanctions that prevent Mr. Mugabe and his cronies from travelling to Europe or North America. Meanwhile, all negotiations are deadlocked.

Mr. Mugabe has “made a complete fool” of the regional leaders who brokered the coalition deal, Mr. Cross said on his website. “While they fiddle – Zimbabwe burns. No progress with health and education or economic recovery and investment. No reduction in political violence and human rights violations. No change in the media and the daily outpouring of propaganda.

Mugabe is living off his past legacy as a foot soldier and leader of Zimbabwean independence. The problem is that he never left or put aside his rebel insurgent mindset and adapted a governing mentality for the country. Mugabe is like

a wounded bull, still dangerous to its pursuers. The MDC is willing to finish the fight, but this might leave it fatally wounded, too….The region will have to decide whether to leave the old bull to die on its own and simply let Zimbabwe slide back into chaos.

Mugabe has repeatedly complained about Western interference and used colonialism as a threat to Zimbabwe’s sovereignty. The only logical and substantive outcome would be more international involvement with a tougher stance. The friendly approach has run its course, especially with South African input. This should be led by the U.S. since it has less or no historical “slave-occupation”, unlike some European countries. This would be one area of the world where President Obama can quickly and decisively have a lasting and positive impact-legacy.

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Lack of prorperty right leads to wars in Africa

The Christian Monitor has a very insight full article about land reform on the African continent. The increase of property rights and land reform, plot by plot, may be the foundation for solving so much else – from famine to poverty to genocide.

The specialists know the warning signs. Analysts and scientists and field officers and academics spend years writing white papers, issuing reports and holding conferences, trying to provoke interest in issues that often seem arcane. Please, they have urged governments and the United Nations and activists, think about something that sounds boring – land disputes – before it turns into something that is not – war.

The lack of a proper legal system and legal organization in Africa especially on property and land rights has set back its development and growth on a continental scale. This should not be a surprise throughout history property rights have always been directly connected to personal and individual rights, economic freedom, and political liberty.

By not having a simple system for determining who owns what, the slide into an atmosphere of political interference and corruption, bribes, economic stagnation, and political instability are just a few steps away. The scary thing is that when you put this on a continental level, we then end up with countries that are just a step away from conflicts that usually run out of control and end up in either a civil war or worse.

Land, at the very heart of security and survival, looms behind most of the African conflicts we’ve all heard of and dozens of others we have not. The Rwandan genocide, some argue, was as much about the dwindling land availability in Africa’s most densely populated country as it was about enmity between ethnic groups. The wars recounted in the movie “Blood Diamond” in Sierra Leone and Liberia saw land grabs by warlords eager to exploit commodities like diamonds and timber. The violence following Kenya’s 2007 election reflected generations of dissatisfaction with land policy that favored different ethnic groups over time. Beneath the genocide in Darfur is a broken land tenure system, full of fights over soil that climate change is making increasingly unproductive. Somalia’s infamous pirates gain cover for plundering from political chaos in the country, whose warring clans fight not only for power but primacy on disputed lands, full of resources to fuel ongoing violence. And beneath last week’s Muslim-Christian riots, which killed at least 260 people in Jos, Nigeria, are decades-old grievances about political rights and the land they are tied to.

Africa’s most famous disasters, many argue, could have been prevented with changes in national land laws or better local conflict resolution but for one problem: Prevention doesn’t sell.

Is there any hope in the future ….yes. Some African countries recognize this problem, and are taking the necessary steps to correct it. Unfortunately they are in a minority, and the conflicts and wars that land disputes bring about will probably be an African fact of life for a very long time.

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Al Qaeda increasing scope and reach in North Africa

Due to increased presence and military retaliation from Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and Somali, Al Qaeda is going west. North West Africa to be more precise. There has been a steady increase and the kidnapping of westerners in the region. Time magazine article about the topic states that

In the three years since allying itself with Osama bin Laden, North Africa’s al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) militant group has worked hard to align its terror activities and communications with those of its radical parent organization. Topping the list of the techniques AQIM has borrowed from its brothers in the Middle East and South Asia is kidnapping Westerners to net big-money ransoms — or carefully choreographing their executions to shock the world. As the fates of several hostages hang in the balance in Mali and Mauritania, Western governments are grappling with how to deal with the growing problem: should they pony up hefty ransoms time and again to save their citizens, or stand by the time-worn policy of refusing to negotiate with hostage takers?

First, this should not surprise security agencies around the world. From a strategic point this makes sense for Al Qaeda. The region has a substantial but not huge Muslim population where the can draw upon recruits and logistics support.

AQIM has also carefully constructed religious and ideological arguments for its actions so local Muslim populations see kidnapping as part of the group’s holy work, analysts say. “It’s essential that jihadists believe they can credibly justify horrible criminal acts as righteous before they undertake them to both themselves, the victims and the world,” says another French counter-terrorism official. “That has allowed AQIM to embrace something it had regarded as the lowly work of vulgar crooks and Mafia types before.”

The region does not have US warships patrolling the area like off the coast of Yemen, Somalia or Iraq. No drone fly overs as in Afghanistan-Pakistan(that we know of). Second in an ironic way, the region doesn’t get much media attention which works in Al Qaeda’s favor. More media attention = more military presence and oversight.

On the question whether to start giving into demands and paying ransoms should be easy. Don’t. Take a look at what is happening to Somali. The pirates had an incentive to continue their daring acts because they knew once successful, they were guaranteed a huge pay day. That plus, since there was a grey area for the law, whether Somali or international law, they cunningly exploited it while rest of world debated. African leaders aren’t going to let the region become lawless like Somali.

despite the gruesome executions that sometimes happen when ransoms aren’t paid, African officials have urged Western governments not to encourage hostage taking by rewarding it. Last September, Algerian President Abellaziz Bouteflika asked the United Nations to adopt an international ban on paying ransoms, which he called “the biggest source of terror financing today.” Still, with the clock ticking for the hostages now in AQIM’s hands, the decision for Western leaders grows more difficult by the day

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Private education sprouts up in Zimbabwe

Private schools are sprouting up in Zimbabwe as public system struggles due to bad mismanagement by the current regime of Robert Mugabe.

“No disruption to learning” touts a newspaper ad for a new private Zimbabwean school, one of many springing up in living rooms, backyards and plots across Harare.

It’s a big selling point in a country where government schools lost an estimated 20,000 teachers in 2008, a year when students attended class only 50 days. Teachers launched a new strike on Friday, raising worries about the new school year that began just last month.

Zimbabwe’s crisis in education eased last year with the creation of a unity government between President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

That ended Zimbabwe’s economic freefall and halted the political unrest that saw nationwide attacks mainly against the premier’s supporters.

But government schools still struggle with up to 50 students in a class and 20 children sharing a book.

Cashing in on the situation, new private schools run by individuals, families and organisations are sprouting across the country, often inside homes, in yards and in plots designated by the municipalities, offering an alternative to parents.

Parents have no choice but to do whats in their children’s best interest, especially the way things are being run by the current power sharing government. It is surprising that in the current economic climate, especially in Zimbabwe, that the government is charging fees, which is

frustrating many parents who say they see little result for their money.

“There is an admission that in the public school system there are problems, hence they are registering more players in the education sector, some of them charging slightly above government rates,” Wellington Koke, who runs a private school in central Harare, told AFP.

With a total enrollment of 50, Koke say his school will insist on small classes unlike government schools where a teacher can have a class of 50 pupils. His school is a refurbished home.

“We have always had this idea of having well-paying pupils who are well-serviced,” Koke said.

After government abandoned the local currency one year ago, teachers and other civil servants began receiving a flat salary of 150 US dollars a month — which was a significant improvement but still too little to make ends meet.

Teachers and civil servants are clamouring for raises, sparking fears among parents that their children could lose another year in the classroom to strike action.

The only and reasonable end solution to this problem is for Mugabe to resign, or just leave the country all together. Even though i am an optimist, that won’t happen any time soon. Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai is the country’s only hope for any salvation. Which is unfortunate since the “bread basket of Africa” deserves better.

Here is a short press meeting of his trip last summer to Washington and the White house with President Obama.

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