Author Archive for Tommy Miles

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Historian death match!

The Guardian had provided blow by blow coverage of the recent hatefest between two British historians of Russia, Orlando Figes and Robert Service. Figes, once touted as the “angry young man” for historians, is more accurately the spoiled brat. A…

CAR: Coup, or election, foiled by government?

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="Image by Getty Images via Daylife"]KABO, CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC - DECEMBER 17: ...[/caption]

The French press initially reported midday Sunday (14 March, local time) that the Central African Republic government had foiled plans for a coup attempt, set to take place between the 15th and the 20th. No one does coups quite like Bangui, usually with the French government pulling the strings: they’ve had a lot of practice. Jules Bernard Ouanda, the Minister of National Security and Public Order, recorded an announcement for Radio Centrafrique, passed on to the press, and since confirmed.

Ouanda claims that on Friday, the government of President François Bozizé obtained a “Plan of Action” made by the coup plotters, whom they refused to name, but described as “several political and military figures.” Ouanda red from a detailed plan: a “special form” dated March 8, subtitled “Preparations for coup from the period from March 15 to 20.” The government notations on the plan describe it as (according to a brief glimpse by reporters) “hatched by elements KAMIKAZE commandos, mercenaries, militias and expatriates in the pay of former President Ange-Félix PATASSE” Ouanda repeatedly refused to name names, but did read a portion of the “plan” that included orders to “reinforcement elements in the home of AFP.”

Reporters also spoke with former President Ange-Félix Patassé who in his thirty years of political leadership has been more than once a coup plotter, like current President Bozizé who ousted the President Patassé on 15 March 2003. Patassé told reporters “I phoned the minister. He told me that it was not me” who was blamed for the coup plan. He added that he expected it still might be an attempt to “eliminate” him from the scheduled 12 and 23 April two round Presidential elections.

Another such rival, Charles Massi was a Minister under both Patassé and Bozizé, in 2008 left political life to become the respectable front on the northeastern CPJP. When I first saw report in the CAR expat press and on the CPJP website around Xmas saying he was “kidnapped in Chad and turned over to the CAR”, I assumed this was infighting or overreaction. I was wrong. Sometime around January 9, Massi was tortured to death by the CAR government in Bossembele prison, a fact which the government admitted last month.

Lord preserve the CAR from political leaders, near and far. It brings to mind a Brecht poem a friend of mind often repeats:

Empires collapse.
Gang leaders Are strutting about like statesmen. The peoples
Can no longer be seen under all these armaments.

See Also: Centrafrique: When a neocolony collapses (17 December 2009)

Niger: Communities at odds in the north

I’ve warned that, given the poor harvests and pastures, we can expect many incidents of communal and ethnic tension across the Sahel this year. The end of the formal insurgencies in both Niger and Mali last year also leaves a residue of unemployed armed men and grudges between communities.

One example of these risks is reported in Agadez‘s “Aïr Info journal” n°108 dated this week. On page 5 is the story of an attack by armed youth from Tchi-n-Tiguit (“Tchitintagatte”, about 50km south of Arlit, coincidentally in the middle of the new AREVA Imouraren mining concession) on their neighbors at Sekkiret (“Sikirat”, about 30km west of the famous Dabous Giraffe carvings).

Earlier this week, armed young men arrived at Sekkiret, firing in the air and chasing women and children out of their homes, but left before anyone was hurt. Sekkiret youths having returned home to frightened families, set off for revenge. The paper reports it was only the intervention of two former ministers (one from each community) and the local chieftaincy which ensured security forces were quickly dispatched to calm the situation.

The cause: Sekkiret youths had reputedly harassed Tchi-n-Tiguit two years ago during the insurgency. There is no indication here of ethnicity, but that history, and the name Tchi-n-Tiguit, suggests a community of Tamasheq speakers some Tuareg caste, subgroup, or related community). Some towns in the area – like Ingall – are populated by Songhai speakers, dating back to the time when they were outposts of the Malian and Songhay Empires. Others are made up of former Tamasheq bonded communities who still bear grudges against some higher caste communities. These groups are normally peacefully intermixed, along with other groups, tribes, caste communities, and Tuareg confederations. But in times of stress, as we’ve seen from Sarajevo to Jos, people do find enemies even among neighbors.

Aïr Info concludes: “The inhabitants of these villages, brothers since time immemorial, have now become two blocs that risk, if we do not take care, of turning on each other! The state must quickly find a solution to this problem which has already gone on too long!”

The Louverture Project, a free Haitian history resource

The Louverture Project (TLP) collects and promotes knowledge, analysis, and understanding of the Haitian revolution of 1791–1804. This unique history project follows the example of Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia, and is committed to creating a vast, accessible, and useful open content resource. Like Wikipedia, The Louverture Project is built and maintained by a community of users, all of whom have access to and responsibility for editing the 454 pages (and growing) currently online.

Niger: is the government trying to annex the ANDP Zaman Lahiya?

Le Corrier of 21 January reports "Tentative de «tazartchisation » de l’ANDP: Amadou Bagnou pris la main dans le sac". They bring us up to date on the just ended congress on the ANDP Zaman Lahiya, party of the recently deceased Tandja rival and member of the Dosso ruling house, Moumouni Djermakoye Adamou. In seeking a new leader for the, the party ended its congress on the 17th split, with a 6 month interim leadership going to Kindo Hamani. But the day after, one Amadou Bagnou appeared on government TV and newspapers claiming to be the new head on the party. Bagnou HAD been a member of the party in 1993, when he was Prefect of Tillaberi. But he left the party and joined the ruling MNSD, becoming sub-prefect of Boboye. More recently he was MNSD prefect of Loga under Tandja. Le Courrier suggests he's been re-inserted by Tandja's people to bring the ANDP into government. Odd, as the ANDP formed in 1991 as a split from MNSD when Tandja beat Moumouni Djermakoye for it's leadership.

Nigeriens killed in Haiti

The APA reports two Nigerien Police officers and one Gendarme are presumed dead in Haiti. They were part of the UN Mission for Stabilization in Haiti (MINUSTAH) in Haiti, and their deaths were reported by the government in Niamey.

“We must reject the status of Narco-State”

Adam Thaim, chief editorialist for Bamako's Le Republicain, reflects on a Mali being caught in an international conflict over drugs and terrorism. In short, Malian's must solve this smuggling problem, before the West drags them into a "war on terror" and "war on drugs" from which they will benefit little. He notes a gang fight over cigarette smuggling at Batal – 15 km from Gao – last week that left one man dead, and another shot through each hand in punishment. Thaim fears the tie up in international conflicts will turn people against one another, and "Malians will soon assume every northerner is a bomber and any rich man is a drug dealer" While Malian's must pull together, the greater fear is from the perceptions of outsiders. "We are not owners of these conflicts and therefore it is not we, ultimately, who can gain from them. But rightly or wrongly, the link between this activity [the drugs trade] and the AQIM has been made and this will not win us the next Nobel Peace Prize."