Thursday, June 30, 2005

UN mission to Zimbabwe

Anna Tibaijuka, executive director of housing agency UN-HABITAT, has been in Zimbabwe since Sunday on a mission to assess the crackdown and has visited Harare's oldest township of Mbare, one of the worst hit by the crackdown. "We had very good discussions, constructive discussions," she told journalists after talks with the veteran Zimbabwe leader. She declined to take further questions.

"She is a United Nations director of Habitat and belongs to the United Nations and not to stupid Blair," the 81-year-old leader said. Tibaijuka said she would report only to Annan.

I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for her report. Mrs. Anna Kajumulo Tibaijuka will be under a lot of pressure from many sides to water it down.

First, she is a Tanzanian national; predictably, President Mkapa of Tanzania was the first to support Mugabe and his criminal "Operation Murambatsvina" that has left hundreds of thousand homeless and deprived them of their livelihood. Hopefully he will be called to account for his egregious statements as requested by Baroness Park of Monmouth on 20th June 2005 while discussing the Africa Commission report in Parliament.

Second, in a week the G8 Summit will be held in Edinburgh and Africans will want to play down the Zimbabwe issue as much as possible in fear that it might reduce their chances of aid and debt relief.

Third, she is a UN employee and must have learned early on that it doesn't pay to search for truth; taking dictators' declarations and promises at face value is the way to go.

In this depressing scenario, some sanity surprisingly pops up now and then:

REUEL Khoza, chairman of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (Nepad) Business Foundation, has accused the African Union (AU) of "shirking its responsibility" by not intervening in Zimbabwe's crackdown on poor urban settlements.

A drop in the ocean.

Nice resume

While the MSM is abuzz with Ahmadinejad's past career as a kidnapper (and conveniently forgot and forgets that he is wanted for murder in Germany and Austria), someone is looking at the real implications of Iran's latest "elections" result:

"Israel might need to launch a pre-emptive attack against Iran, even if the international military and diplomatic reprisals that follow might bring immense pressure upon Israel itself," Corsi said in a keynote address to the Knesset's prestigious Forum on the Middle East.

Peaceful change in Iran is possible, Corsi testified, but only if the international community acts now to support reformist groups.

But of course the peace-loving Europeans will walk softly and talk softly, afraid to miss out on some lucrative business deal with the new talibans, until there will be no other option but war. Haven't we seen this before?

In the meantime, read the letter that the Student Movement Coordination Committee for Democracy in Iran has addressed to the G8 leaders (thanks Stefania).

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Today in Zimbabwe

London - British Prime Minister Tony Blair said on Wednesday that neighbouring African countries had a responsibility to address the crisis in Zimbabwe, and suggested it could hamper his G8 goal of helping the continent.

Hammer it home, Tony.

Police yesterday urged people with automatic weapons at their homes to surrender them at the nearest police station. Harare police spokesperson Inspector Jessie Banda said the firearm licences for such weapons had been withdrawn with immediate effect.

Getting scared, Bob?

The price of petrol was hiked from 3 600 Zimbabwe dollars (R2,60) per litre to Z$10 000 (R6, 70) per litre. The cost of a litre of diesel was increased from Z$3 650 (R2,40) to Z$9 600 (R6,40).

Quite reasonable, by Zimbabwe standards.

The Herald said climate change has been artificially induced "in a bid to arm-twist the region to capitulate to the whims of the world's superpowers". It said weather was being manipulated for political gain using unspecified "unconventional" chemical weapons.

Mad Bob wants to retire and become a stand up comedian.

Plans were under way for field visits which would enable Tibaijuka's team to visit demolished neighborhoods and assess "the capacity of the government and the humanitarian community to respond (to the crisis)," it added.

Why should the government respond to a "crisis" it has created and which it considers a "solution"? Stalling for time, Ms Tibaijuka?

The wind is changing

To find out which way the European political wind is really blowing, look for the flag of the national leader who is not facing elections in the next 10 minutes. In Spain, a firm gust is pushing the standard of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, last year's anti-Blair and anti-Bush apasionado, toward a course-correction.

Since Tony Blair began his charge at European Union leadership and reform, the Spanish Socialist prime minister has started detaching himself - in what looks like a series of inconspicuous little surgeries - from the Gerhard Schröders and Jacques Chiracs that Spain judges no longer hold Europe in their grip.

The corpses of Chirac and Schroeder stink so much that even Mr Bean can smell it.

Know before you blow

WASHINGTON, June 27 - Senators from both sides of the aisle competed on Monday to extol the humane treatment of detainees whom they said they saw on a weekend trip to the military detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. All said they opposed closing the center.

One senator, Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, has come under criticism and apologized repeatedly for comparing reported abuses at the camps to treatment in Soviet gulags or Nazi concentration camps.

So until now they were making allegations without having been there? How incredible.

That's a relief

Bottom of Form

U.S. and South Korean forces can deter and defeat North Korea even if the reclusive communist state has several nuclear weapons, a senior U.S. military officer said in an interview broadcast on Wednesday.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Iran's second revolution

An interesting article by Amir Taheri on the Australian:

Ahmadinejad's victory reveals the true face of the Islamic Republic as a regional power with its own world vision that challenges the so-called "global consensus". It reminds the world that the mini-Cold War that started between the Islamic Republic and the West, notably the US, is far from over.

However, although Khamenei seems to have consolidated his power by installing Ahmadinejad as president, he may have started something he will not be able to control and of which he could become hostage.

Blair and Mugabe

Deputy Minister of Information Bright Matonga said:

…the most logical thing for Mr Blair is to come over to Zimbabwe... ... he's got to be man enough and meet our president [that is, without vomiting?] …"It does not want to see the country that they had oppressed for more than 100 years, doing well, being organised, building houses for its people, prospering for that matter," Matonga said.

If it weren't tragic, I would laugh my head off.

Monday, June 27, 2005

UN and Zimbabwe

Prime Minister Tony Blair called on Monday for the United Nations Security Council to debate a housing crackdown in Zimbabwe and what it says are wider human rights abuses, after a visiting senior U.N. official reports back.

"The only salvation for Zimbabwe will come from the countries surrounding Zimbabwe and Zimbabwe itself," Blair said.

Nice try, good luck.

Seen it before?

Zimbabwe's homeless to be herded into camps.

In the meantime:

An envoy for U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan flew to Zimbabwe on Sunday to investigate a so-called urban renewal campaign that has destroyed the homes and livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans.

We shall see.

Seen it before

The [Zimbabwe's riot police] stopped Vusa and his friend and demanded to know why they were not dressed properly. Patriotic youths, they were told, must dress properly (Phekazvakanaka). These other fashions were not acceptable. With threats and coarse abuse they instructed Vusa to cut off the dreadlocks at once and the girl to change into some more modest attire.

Adult stem cells breakthrough

PITTSBURGH – June 23, 2005 – In a ground-breaking study, scientists at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh have discovered that adult, or post-natal, stem cells have the same ability as embryonic stem cells to multiply, a previously unknown characteristic indicating that post-natal stem cells may play an important therapeutic role.

Polish plumber

Lech Walesa, the Nobel Peace Prize winner and founder of the Solidarity labor movement, offered him [Krzysztof Turowski, Polish Tourism Bureau] advice for his Paris trip. "I suggest that he ask the French why the heck for so many years they encouraged Poles to build capitalism when as it turns out they are Communists themselves,"


Sunday, June 26, 2005

Africa backs Mugabe

Foreign ministers from the G8 grouping of the world's richest and most powerful countries have called on other African leaders to denounce the forced evictions which are causing so much suffering in Zimbabwe.

But it seems unlikely that Africa's other leaders will sympathise with the displaced rather than with a fellow president…

The naïve and disingenuous response to this call was expected; after all, Menghistu "THE BUTCHER OF ADDIS" Hailemariam lives in a posh Harare suburb.


I hope also that as a member of the commission, President Mkapa of Tanzania will be called to account for his statements made at the African economic summit in South Africa when the news began to emerge of the terrible events named "Operation Clean Up Filth". He said that this was no more than an, "ongoing clear-up operation, necessary to deal with some of the activities compounding economic difficulties facing the country, and to wipe out a secondary economy that was becoming increasingly active and exacerbating the challenges the country was already contending with".


The 81-year-old president, who has ruled the southern African country since independence in 1980, said the mass bulldozing of houses and businesses was to curb "lawlessness, illicit foreign currency dealings, black marketeering, rampant thefts, prostitution and other social ills so detrimental to social morality and decency." He claimed that the program had been "well-received by the majority of our people."

If you want to give any credence to this poppycock you would also have to admit that all this "lawlessness, illicit foreign currency dealings, black marketeering, rampant thefts, prostitution" (unknown before and in the first years after independence) comes from Mugabe's mismanagement and greed.

Secret talks are underway to find a diplomatic solution to Zimbabwe's ruin at the hand of this old, bitter, vengeful and little man:

BRITISH government diplomats have held secret talks in Zimbabwe aimed at persuading Robert Mugabe to hand over power and return his devastated nation to the Commonwealth, it was claimed last night.
Senior sources in London and Zimbabwe told Scotland on Sunday that the dictator's closest allies have been pressing the British government to relax its stance against Mugabe in advance of an attempted breakthrough in the stalemate at the G8 summit in Scotland this week.

To give in to this would be a mistake the UK government cannot afford; it would clearly be perceived as a move to save the debt relief program and the Commonwealth, not Zimbabwe. What the UK should do instead, is to follow Baroness Park of Monmouth advise:

Most of the G8 is committed to relief for Africa and the forgiving of debt. My suggestion is that the Prime Minister should use his position to persuade his colleagues in the G8, or some of them at least, to persuade the African leaders to live up to their undertakings. President Mbeki will be in Gleneagles, for example.

Iran slides backward in history, again

Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, described Mr Ahmadinejad's victory as a "profound humiliation" for the US.

In fact, the contrary is true; the taliban-like regime that he will establish in Iran with the help of the Guardian Council, is another step back for a country that has already suffered the indignity of extreme regression under Khomeini.

For the EU things will not change: business as usual. Teheran offers too many opportunities for countries desperate for jobs and cash; to the US Rafsanjani or Ahmadinejad as president of Iran will not make any difference.

Ahmadinejad was thrust into the presidency by careful engineering, organization and the deployment of every single cog the powerful machine of the heavily centralized government could muster. The Revolutionary Guards in which the candidate once served as an officer was brought into play. With the help too of massive vote-rigging, the ruling clique could cynically claim to have achieved regime change.

The unelected Khamenei and the Guardian Council, aware of their weakening grip on power, had to act decisively to survive; they could ill afford the victory of an unpredictable character like Rafsanjani, who would have exploited their internal divisions, and the country's, for his own ends.

Tsunami mess

Six months after the tsunami, the usual bickering among donors, UN and recipient governments' politics and corruption is hindering the aid program. The BBC points out:

Failure to deliver assistance effectively to the poorest, or to plan properly for the future, reveals fundamental weaknesses in the system.

In Banda Aceh, for instance:

The head of Aceh's rebuilding programme, Korro Mangusubroto, has admitted: "Only one per cent of the money has been spent.

Rebuilding was delayed while the Indonesian government dithered about how to spend the aid, but now restrictions have been lifted.

The UN is complaining that some donors are reneging on their pledges (why the UN announces pledges instead of the amounts of money it effectively receives is beyond me). On a total of 5.32 billions dollars (not taking into account considerable private donations), only 3.46 have been allocated; however, have the UN aid agencies the capacity to utilize such an unprecedented amount of funds? There is an interesting table on a UN site that shows how the Flash Appeal funds have been distributed among the agencies; the total is only $321,543,721. Furthermore, although this amount is indicated as "expenditure", it indicates earmarked funds for future expenditure. A "delivery against budget" would illustrate the progress of the aid program much better.

"Computer, abort self destruct sequence"

NASA will soon be installing a new voice-activated computer system on the International Space Station that bears a striking resemblance to Star Trek's computer system.

Friday, June 24, 2005

South Africa and Zimbabwe

A South African government spokesman expressed irritation yesterday at a so-called bogeyman approach being used to scare African countries, like children, into conforming with the West following Jack Straw's urging to African leaders to confront Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe:

"SA won't be scared into obeying G8 leaders; we will do things because we believe they are correct and right"

Whatever you say, but do it, you pompous &$$.

Mugabe like Pol Pot

Mad Bob has never done anything right in his life. Always driven by greed and thirst for power and glory, he has managed to destroy a country that maintained itself; he could have sat back and enjoyed life, but dictators seldom do.

His recent "initiatives" are another sign that he is a fool: if he is trying to destroy the opposition by driving the urban population that opposes him to the rural areas, it will not work (it is backfiring, in fact); if it is revenge against those who voted against him, it is even more stupid.

Whatever the reasons behind the evictions, killings, demolitions and burnings, they have caught the attention of the international community precisely when everybody was trying to forget the recent rigged parliamentary elections. Transforming Zimbabwe in another Rwanda or Darfur will alienate his few friends and give them, hopefully, an opportunity to confront their ill-informed public.

His associates, if at least a modest censure can be elicited from other African countries at the G8 Summit, will begin (if they haven't yet) to realize that their pickings are diminishing, that Mugabe has become a liability for his own party ZANU PF and that whithout a political cover, they could be torn to pieces the moment Mugabe leaves office or is eliminated. Most importantly, the army as well will start feeling that its position is untenable (despite declarations to the contrary).

He should not worry, though; he will get his equestrian statue smack in the middle of independence square. Even the clueless Samora Machel (who did many of the same mistakes) got one. Mugabe, however, should remember that people and pigeons know what to do with silly monuments.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

An interview with Oriana Fallaci

Today there is a splendid interview on the Wall Street Journal with famous Italian writer Oriana Fallaci. She talks about her indictment for vilipend of religion by an Italian judge, the decline of Europe (or Eurabia, as she calls it), her admiration for Pope Benedict XVI and other things.

"When I was given the news," Ms. Fallaci says of her recent indictment, "I laughed. Bitterly, of course, but I laughed. No amusement, no surprise, because the trial is nothing else but a demonstration that everything I've written is true."

"The moment you give up your principles, and your values . . . the moment you laugh at those principles, and those values, you are dead, your culture is dead, your civilization is dead. Period."

…I'd like to see the result of the trial. I do think I will be found guilty."
At this point she laughs. Bitterly, of course, but she laughs.

Read it all, for it is worth it.

Sailing through the Universe (update)

Bad news for Cosmos 1:

An attempt to launch the world's first solar sail spacecraft fizzled when a booster rocket failed less than two minutes after liftoff, showering debris over the Arctic Ocean, the Russian space agency said Wednesday.

However, I am certain that these attempts will not be abandoned:

But solar sailing is "extremely promising," according to a "restricted access" report prepared at Los Alamos in 1973. The technology would enable "travel essentially at will throughout the solar system, achieving quite reasonable flight times for a broad category of interesting interplanetary missions."

You can download the "restricted" report here.

Air Zimbabwe

To talk of apparently marginal Zimbabwean issues while horrible events are unfolding there might seem callous. However, I have already touched on these (see previous posts) and keep hoping that at last the UK and US will manage to convince Mbeki that the (South) African position vis a vis Zimbabwe is irresponsible. Moreover, Zimbabweans have an excellent sense of humour that helps them endure the worst.

Air Zimbabwe used to be an excellent airline until relatively recently; as the rest of Zimbabwe industries it has been corroded by graft, corruption, mismanagement and, last but not least, Mugabe's abuses and general grand-standing:

Only in Zimbabwe: plane runs out of fuel ... while in the air!

They were out on a routine training session when they ran out of fuel, and so were forced to make this emergency landing. The plane has apparently lost its nose and a wing.

Mugabe commandeers Air Zimbabwe jet

Air Zimbabwe officials turned-up at Gatwick Airport as the plane was about to take off for Harare and ordered passengers who had booked the business class to get off the plane, leading to a three-hour delay.

I received this joke from friends there and would like to share it. This is how Zimbabweans take it:

Good morning, Ladies and Gentlemen. This is your captain welcoming both seated and standing passengers on board Air Zimbabwe. We apologize for the four-day delay in taking off, it was due to "other" commitments. This is flight 126 to Harare. Landing there is not guaranteed, but we will end up somewhere in Zimbabwe.
If luck is in our favour, we may even be landing on your village! Air Zimbabwe has an excellent safety-record. In fact our safety standards are so high that even terrorists are afraid to fly with us!
We regret to inform you, that today's in-flight movie will not be shown as we forgot to record it from the television. But for our movie buffs, we will be flying right next to British Airways, where their movie will be visible from the right side of the cabin window.
Kindly be seated, keep your seat in an upright position for take-off and fasten your seat-belt. For those of you who can't find a seat-belt, kindly fasten your own belt to the arm of your seat ...and for those of you who can't find a seat, do not hesitate to get in touch with a stewardess who will explain how to fasten yourself to your suitcase."

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Straw tells Africa to act

Finally someone is telling it as it is:

Brussels - British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw urged African leaders on Wednesday to condemn Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, saying they needed to acknowledge the "horror" he was perpetrating against his own people.

"The problem that we face is a lack of real commitment by all of Africa's leaders to recognise the scale of the horror that is taking place in Zimbabwe."

What is significant here, I think, is the timing: the 6th of July 2005 the G8 Summit will be held in Edimburgh where aid to developing countries will be at centre stage.

Jack London, the famous American writer, used to say:

"How can I convince my wife, when she enters the studio and finds me staring out of the window, that I am working?"

Which, translated into modern english, would sound more or less like this:

"You just sit there all day, staring at your computer screen and don't even talk to me, you bum!"

Slow blogging for a couple of days, I guess.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

UN sends special envoy to Zimbabwe

The United Nations said Monday it was sending a special envoy to Zimbabwe to investigate a government crackdown on squatter settlements that aid workers say has left 200,000 people homeless.

Oh well, problem solved then.

Avian Flu Danger To Humanity

Future Pundit has a long article with lots of links on this threat:

If the relentlessly evolving virus becomes capable of human-to-human transmission, develops a power of contagion typical of human influenzas, and maintains its extraordinary virulence, humanity could well face a pandemic unlike any ever witnessed. Or nothing at all could happen.

Read it all, just in case.

Iraq Suicide Bomb Kills 15 Policemen

My heart goes out to my friends in Erbil where I lived and worked before and after the liberation of Iraq. I will not forget their determination, bravery and professionalism.

Iran farce (again)

Michael Ledeen, always well informed on all things Iranian, tells us convincingly that the real turnout in the Iranian "elections" could have been around 10% and not 65% as claimed by the Mullahcracy:

Despite this, the mullahs trotted out rosy reports of big voter turnouts, and even broadcast "live" TV coverage of voters queued up, waiting patiently to make their voices heard. The only problem was that the pictures were from past elections. One woman called up a Tehran radio station to say that she was sitting at home watching the tube, and saw herself voting. Very droll indeed.

The unexpected second place gained by the infamous Mahmoud Ahmadinejad after various contradicting official announcements is also very fishy. He will face Rafsanjani in the run-off.

The "reformers" are going to back Rafsanjani, and the "hard liners" will go all out for their man Ahmadinejad.

Will the Revolutionary Guards and the fanatical Basijis accept a Rafsanjani victory or can we expect a military coup if he wins?

Immigrants accuse Italy of abuses

According to human rights group Amnesty International:

…"there is substantial cause for concern" over Italy's treatment of foreign migrants and asylum-seekers it detains annually in temporary stay and assistance centres, and its "lack of transparency" in operating these centres.

It is unfortunate that such reports, which until recently would have triggered a public outcry and immediate investigation, thanks to Amnesty International recent irresponsible publicity stunt and consequent loss of credibility, can now be dismissed out of hand. A loss for the world.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Condi's speech

Excellent speech by Condoleezza Rice at the American University in Cairo. Take a listen (click on "Rice talks democracy in Egypt" to open the player).

Wolfowitz & Bolton

This is the "controversial" (because of his closeness with Mr Bush) new president of the World Bank:

Paul Wolfowitz, the new head of the World Bank and close ally of George Bush, said yesterday he was returning from a week-long trip to Africa to urge the Bush administration to help fund a big aid push for the continent, saying he regarded it as being on the move and full of real partners with whom the west could work.

Seen as a Washington hawk during the Iraq war, Mr Wolfowitz may become the pivotal figure in persuading Mr Bush that Africa can absorb extra aid without swallowing the cash in corruption.

I do hope Mr Bolton gets his confirmation for the post of UN ambassador from the Senate today. World bodies need can-do guys like these.

Mugabe clamps down on corruption

Years ago, it must have been in the early nineties, I was watching ZBC (Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation) in Harare when Mugabe came on to give one of his inconclusive, meandering speeches. At some point he said (I am quoting from memory):

Ministers should not steal, at least not too much…

And started chuckling at his own joke. I froze; the implications were horrible to contemplate. He was saying to his cronies in government: obey me and I'll let you get away with anything; we are in charge now and we can do as we please; the people of Zimbabwe are sheep and we can fleece them at will; loot and plunder, it's for us to take.

That, of course, was the beginning of the end.

Now he is running scared and wants to put a stop to it after having been such a shining example? It could be his undoing.

For your information

Sunday is a slow news day, so you might have caught yesterday's main headline, carried by most MSM: "Israel and the Palestinians agree to destroy settlers' Gaza houses". But this is how the BBC titled it:

Gaza houses 'will be demolished'
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said Jewish homes in the Gaza Strip will be destroyed when Israel pulls out its troops and settlers.

Only if you read the article in full you will discover that:

Ms Rice said the move had been agreed by Israel and the Palestinians.

Officially the Palestinians need high-rise housing for the 1.3 million living in the Gaza Strip. Unofficially, they also want to avoid widespread looting and P.A. corrupt officials taking the settlers' houses for themselves and their friends. She must have convinced Sharon to carry out this long and costly demolition.

Iran Moderate Says Hard-Liners Rigged Election

Duh! Even the NYT gets it (free registration).

Home page

A few years ago, and long before aggregators made their appearance on the web, I made myself a home page. Although I am not a programmer (I just opened up Front Page and played with it), I managed to include in it all I wanted. The design underwent a number of transformations: I experimented with frames, graphics, java applets, but eventually came to the conclusion that simplicity would win the day.

The page now has a news ticker on top and a drop-down menu with useful links such as exchange rates, unit converter, thesaurus, country profiles, etc. On the left of the main body, a few feeds with the latest articles about what interests me (top stories, africa, europe, middle east, technology, science), and on the right, my regular "favourites" (news, blogs, reference, etc.).

For years this has served me well; no site would offer me the same level of configurability. The other day though, I stumbled upon the Microsoft Sandbox site (research projects); it directed me to a fantastic beta portal that I might well - when it is launched - adopt as my start page. Give it a try (use IE to test it for the moment; it acts a bit funny with Firefox, but they have promised full compatibility).

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Iran farce (update)

In stark contrast to CNN and BBC, who are trying to depict this ridiculous scam as democracy in action (and we know why), the New York Times today has a good editorial (free registration):

Today's presidential election in Iran is an affront to true democracy, just as the past record of the front-running contender, Ali Akhbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, is an affront to true moderation. As President Bush rightly noted, the voting was effectively rigged in advance by the council of unelected clerics that decided who would and who wouldn't be allowed to run.

CNN's Mrs Amanpour bland interview of Mr Ali Akhbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the front runner in these "elections", must have pleased her husband very much. I wonder how her good friend Oriana Fallaci is taking it:

she (Fallaci) once became so disgusted while interviewing Iran's Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini that she ripped off her head scarf and threw it in his face.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Sailing through the Universe

Astronomers have long theorized that a spacecraft could propel itself through the cosmos cheaply by harnessing the pressure exerted by sunlight, the way sailboats use the pressure exerted by wind. Cosmos 1's sole mission is to test this technique.

Not very ethical

AHOSKIE, N.C. — Two employees of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (search) have been charged with animal cruelty after dumping dead dogs and cats in a shopping center garbage bin, police said.

Trade not Aid

Bush is right:

…aid has failed to ‘fill the gap’. Instead, it has, over the past fifty years, largely been counterproductive: it has crowded out private sector investments, undermined democracy, and enabled despots to continue with oppressive policies, perpetuating poverty.
It would be more sensible to scale back levels of aid, provide aid only to governments that are already reforming, and make aid available for a strictly limited period of time. Other reforms, such as removing trade barriers and eliminating trade-distorting agricultural subsidies, would yield far more benefits than increasing aid.

Why reward corruption then?

British charity Oxfam has had to pay the Sri Lankan government $1m in import duty for vehicles used in tsunami reconstruction work.

Washington condemns Mugabe

The United States reacts to Mugabe's inhuman excesses:

"The United States condemns the government of Zimbabwe for these actions," McCormack said in a statement. "They have left hundreds of thousands without shelter or income and cannot be justified."
"Zimbabwe's economic decline cannot be reversed by heavy-handed crackdowns on the poor."
…McCormack said, "The targets of this onslaught are the poorest of Zimbabwe's poor, who are already victimized by unemployment and food shortages."

The UK joins in:

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said he deplored the "horrific and ruthless actions of the Zimbabwean Government, who have ruined the lives of thousands of innocent families, condemning them to homelessness".

But the key of course is Thabo Mbeki; will Tony Blair listen to Kate Hoey?

Tony Blair must take a harder stance against South Africa's failure to condemn Zimbabwe, says a Labour MP.
Kate Hoey was speaking after secretly visiting Zimbabwe to report for BBC Newsnight on how people are being forced to demolish illegal houses.
She said Mr Blair should stop South African President Thabo Mbeki from attending the G8 summit unless he condemns the Zimbabwe "excesses".

Iran farce

Unless you are french, or in the oil business, please don't call today's charade in Iran "elections".

…a vast majority (74%) of Iranians feel America's
presence in the Middle East will increase the probability of democracy in their own country

nearly four of every five Iranians (79%) say that the upcoming elections should not be held unless they are free, fair and transparent.

Surely Sean Penn will confirm the poll results and join the President in supporting the Iranian people.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Annan says he will not resign from UN

No need to recount here all the costly mistakes this man has made, they are too well known. What is striking though, is the fact that the dapper and soft spoken Secretary General insists, after having lost any credibility he might have had, in pretending to be the victim of a conspiracy and continues to pontificate on world affairs.

What a complete lack of dignity.

Aid for Zimbabwe?

After independence, Mugabe, at the time the pet of the west, received an inordinate amount of aid; street smart as he is, he used some of it to build schools and hospitals, just to keep it flowing, and at the same time proceeded to exterminate the opposition in Matabeleland while we looked the other side. At that point it was clear that he would not - he could not - relinquish power ever, for fear of a trial or reprisals; typical career of a despot.

He continued to erode civil liberties and, unable to admit that his ill-digested marxist theories would never maintain, let alone improve, the beautiful and healthy country he had inherited, he embarked in the DRC war adventure and, many suspect, even tried his hand at regime change in Equatorial Guinea, desperate for oil. Having now completed his transformation into a perfect scavenger, to keep his grip on power at the cost of finishing off Zimbabwe he attacked white farmers, who - it should be noted - where the only ones at this point keeping the country's economy afloat (and most of whom had acquired their properties during his regime with his full consent). Not happy with the famine he has created, not to mention the hundreds of thousands of farm labourers displaced by his racist policy,he has now magnanimously declared that he might accept food aid at his conditions:

President Mugabe has also made it clear that the country welcomes assistance from other countries of goodwill but remains firmly opposed to any food handouts on political conditionalities.

My question is (and it is an honest question): should we accept his conditions in order to save some zimbabweans (surely the political opposition will not receive even a cob of maize) or should we press for change and risk the lives of millions? And, are we not risking the lives of millions anyway by supporting the regime?

In light of recent developments in Zimbabwe, it is clear that Mugabe has no intention to change or repent for his cruelty, mismanagement and general idiotic adventurism.

Is it war?

I have always been a fan of Mrs Thatcher, but I must say that Tony Blair is good, very good.

As expected, Chirac is trying to blame the UK for his EU referendum debacle and demanding that UK renounces its rebate; Blair reply has been that agricultural subsidies (of which France is the major beneficiary and that account for 42,6% of the EU budget) should be discussed first.

Tony Blair finally comes round to the idea that agricultural subsidies should be the responsibility of national governments rather than European taxpayers. It's the only sensible solution, but airing his views so soon after his meeting with Jacques Chirac indicates just how fraught their relationship has become: "I totally understand why countries may want to give their money to support farmers. What I have an objection to is the European Union deciding collectively it is going to give 40% of its budget into an area that has got 4% of its people. It makes no sense.

The UK presidency of the EU for the next 6 months should offer a great opportunity to put the EU on the right track and reject, once and for all, the "french social model" that is dragging Europe towards the "dustbin of history". France , once again, seems to have stuck its finger in the fan; it's looking more and more like Waterloo rather than Fontenoy.

Africa and Aid

The recent debt relief plan for developing countries, proposed by Tony Blair and supported, in some measure, by President Bush, is making headlines. Is this a breakthough towards reducing poverty? It could be.

If one goes beyond failed popstars' need for attention ( and mainstream media disinformation campaigns (although there are also objective opinions), one could sense, perhaps for the first time, that these pledges are almost devoid of the "solidarity" rethoric so often invoked by the left and that has contributed so much to the rampant corruption of these countries.

Demanding that these countries, in exchange for debt relief and a steady flow of aid, as President Bush is doing, improve their democratic processes is the minimum we owe to their citizens and to ourselves if we really want to see results.

In his recent trip to Washington, Mr Mbeki was told in friendly but unequivocal terms what he must do if he wants NEPAD to take off; he was hoping to receive support and a large amount of cash but Mr Bush insisted on highlighting the two issues of AIDS and Zimbabwe, which Mr Mbeki has managed to mangle considerably during his presidency.

There has been a lot of speculation about Mr Mbeki's stance on these issues and one can only continue to speculate as it is extremely difficult to fathom the reasoning beyond his attitude. Is he promoting the theory that poverty is the cause of AIDS to promote his pet project, NEPAD? Or is he pandering to the sangomas? Is his Minister of Health telling people that AIDS can be cured by garlic for some nefarious scheme? Is he supporting Mugabe (his "quiet dipolomacy" is exactly that) so that South African companies can buy into Zimbabwe on the cheap? Or is he so afraid of the ANC that he cannot challenge publicly Mugabe's lies? Or, most important, is South Africa going the same way as Zimbabwe?

At the time of writing, Mr Mbeki has fired his deputy, Jacob Zuma (a staunch supporter of President Robert Mugabe), for corruption; one can only hope that Mbeki, in view of next G8 summit in Edimborough next month and World Bank new president Mr Wolfowitz's visit to South Africa, wanted to be seen acting against corruption.

Very little of what has been given in the form of aid has been used by the beneficiaries for its intended use; therefore this plan, which is meant to give them the chance of starting from scratch, without a heavy backload of debt, must be implemented, but - this time - not to appease our consciences or to make more or less shady business deals, but to see real progress on the ground while demanding good governance. The monitoring of how these funds will be utilized should become the first priority of donor countries.