Yearly Archives: 2008
Giles Foden, the author of The Last King of Scotland, thinks that creating another state might be the answer to the troubles of the violent Congo-Rwanda border area.
In the immediate term, pressure should be put on the Rwandan leadership itself to rein in Nkunda; in the short term, Monuc should be supplemented by a large EU force; in the longer term, as eastern Congo seems ungovernable from Kinshasa, I see no option but the creation of a buffer state on the western shores of Lakes Kivu and Tanganyika. This could be achieved by regional forces with Monuc-EU backup.
The first two recommendations seem ironclad. The third, though, I worry is a little too reckless. It’s hard to say right now what the situation in the Kivus will look like in the long term (though I could certainly be pessimistic), and it seems that reconciling issues between Rwanda and Congo — not creating an artificial third state — is the paramount concern here.
There is one day left in the first round of our On Day One ideas contest. Of the 81 quarter finalists selected by our panel of judges, nine will move on to the semis. So far, the ideas leading in the popular vote include this video from SeeProgress on “the global common good” (Category: US Image in the World); Robert Greenwald’s suggestion that we begin to end the war (Category: Iraq); Mathew Yglesias’ recommendation that the United States commit to nuclear disarmament (Category: nuclear proliferation); WorldTraveler29′s idea that the United States tackle the root causes of terrorism (terrorism category); Jaime Zimmerman’s suggestion that the next president reform our foreign assistance programs (Category: poverty) Rose Ann Witt’s recommendation that the next president create a cabinet level department of peace (category: peacekeeping); Grobdsash’s exhortation that the next president end torture and close Guantanamo (Category: Democracy and Human Rights); Roger Doiron’s proposal that the next president build a vegetable garden on the White House lawn (category: climate change); and Adrienne Germain’s call for the next president to guarantee women’s rights around the world. (Category: global women’s issues).
There is still one day left in this round, so make sure to head over to On Day One to register your vote. The top nine ideas will be presented to President-elect Obama’s transition team and will move into our final round of voting. The top vote-getter will win transportation to Washington, D.C. and hotel accommodations for the inauguration. Get out and vote!
Beth Dickinson agrees that the U.S. push to deploy (underarmed) UN peacekeepers to Somalia prematurely — while at the same time advising that much-detested Ethiopian troops remain in the country and taking the provocative step of naming Eritrea a state sponsor of terror — is, well, not a very well thought-out policy.
Finally, you can expect this to ratchet up tensions in the region. Eritrea is indeed rumored to supply the Somali Islamists with weapons. But Ethiopia and Eritrea have an ongoing border dispute that has left both sides exceedingly militarized. Acceding to Ethiopian wishes by putting Eritrea on the terror list is like playing Russia roulette. With all live rounds.
Another live wire connected to this powder keg, I might add, is that the Ethiopia-Eritrea border is not only “exceedingly militarized,” but, thanks to the illegitimate manipulations of both sides, also utterly empty of the UN peacekeepers that once monitored the accord between the two countries. So what we have here is this: the total abandonment of peacekeepers in a situation that, had the host governments not overtly interfered with their presence, actually fulfilled the conditions prerequisite to a peacekeeping mission (i.e., a peace to keep), juxtaposed with desperate calls for blue helmets to deploy where no one wants to go and where peacekeepers are bound to (all too literally) be thrown under the bus.
The only question, it seems, is where the explosion will hit first.
From the UN News Center
The death toll from Zimbabwe’s worst-ever cholera outbreak is approaching 1,000, the United Nations reported today, as Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned that the country’s leadership is not doing enough to address the dire situation in the Southern African nation.
“We continue to witness a failure of the leadership in Zimbabwe to address the political, economic, human rights and humanitarian crisis that is confronting the country and to do what is best for the people of Zimbabwe,” Mr. Ban told a closed-door session of the Security Council.
The UN said today the number of suspected cholera cases has risen to 18, 413 with 978 deaths. The outbreak is now affecting nine out of ten provinces in the country and spilling across borders into South Africa, Botswana, and Mozambique.
About half of all cases in Zimbabwe are in one suburb of the capital, Harare, and another 26 per cent in a town on the border with South Africa.
UK Foreign minister David Miliband addressed reporters outside the council yesterday and called the situation in Zimbabwe unbearable. “The disease that has the headlines is cholera,” he said. “But the disease at the heart of Zimbabwe..is misrule and corruption.” Watch.
A United Nations envoy dealing with Niger, Canadian Robert Fowler, has gone missing while driving near the West African country’s capital Niamey, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today. “We are doing all our best efforts about his whereabouts,” he told reporters when asked about it at a news conference. “We are now mobilizing all necessary information networks on this.” Earlier a spokesman said the UN had no indication Mr. Fowler, whose car was found on Sunday evening without its three passengers, had been taken hostage. Spokesman Farhan Haq added that the Niger authorities were looking into the matter. “We appreciate their efforts and are working with them,” he said.
The BBC reports that (at least some) Tuareg rebels have claimed that they have in fact abducted Mr. Fowler, who is also a former Canadian ambassador to the UN. The disappearance occurred far from the rebels’ usual base of operations, though, and UN and Niger officials do not even agree whether Mr. Fowler was in the country in his official capacity or on private business.
We’ll keep you updated.
UPDATE: It appears that Fowler — “no stranger to conflict zones” — was kidnapped when returning from a major Nigerien gold mine that is largely owned by a Canadian corporation. I’ve heard speculation from the ground that, as the mine is widely believed to rely on a shady system of bribing both government officials and rebels, it was no accident that Canadians were targeted. Another possible explanation is that the kidnapping was meant to embarrass Niger’s regime just days before national holiday celebrations.
The SG: In Ethiopia over the weekend, the SG is now in the United Arab Emirates. Today he met with Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashed Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, where the two discussed developments in the region, including Syria, Iran, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan, and in the Middle East Peace Process.