Sahel:”Interférences” (Le Quotidien d’Oran)

This Algerian paper has an interesting piece on the current "AQIM problem" in the Sahel, if only as an elucidation of a Algerian nationalist perspective. The US and other are continually hammering on about the Sahel becoming the next Afghanistan or Somalia, but more as an attempt to justify the intrusion of AFRICOM and the "War on Terror" into Africa (so far, true in my view). The states in the region have "refused to blindly embark on the American global war", but many have internal weaknesses (smuggling, regionalism). True, but now it gets fishy. Mali, he says, had the 'excuse' of the Tuareg insurgency not to govern the north. Now Algeria has solved that problem for them, and yet they still "do nothing". Mali has "betrayed" Algeria, releasing the AQIM under the "interferences" of the west, hints that the Mali govt. has a finger in the hostage business. But Mali is "fated to return, sooner or later, the path of cooperation." No mention that the AQIM come from Algeria, of course.

Cote d’Ivoire: Opposition outrage ends rather quietly

Past rebel and once again Prime Minister Guillaume Soro announced a new cabinet, after his foe/ally President Gbagbo dissolved the government and the "independent" electoral commission week before last. The commission, headed by the opposition, had been faulted for including "foreigners" in the rolls. In post "Ivoirite" CI, foreigners are people from the north of the country, Muslims, or communities who don't support the government. Soro took no principled stand against this clearly unconstitutional stance. The opposition (non rebel) parties did, sending their supporters out to die in riots. Now they've decided they will just extract minor Ministry seats instead. The PDCI of Henri Konan Bedie and the RDR of Alassane Ouattara have accepted ministries serving Gbagbo/Soro, with no changes in most seats: Charles Koffi Diby retaining the Finance Ministry, Désiré Asségnini Tagro the Interior Ministry, and Michel N'Guessan Amani the Defence Ministry (so the "important" ones).

Football: Riot In Euskadi, featuring “el orinador”

Bilbao fans, my favorite Iberian side, have a reputation for lefty nationalism and fearlessness in the face of Nazis. Seems one got creative, and is a Youtube sensation. Via some dopey website: "According to most newspapers, Anderlecht fans started to mess around with the Basque supporters, thus breaking the golden rule of Spanish football: You should never provoke an angry horde of Athletic fans… Some Bilbao and Anderlecht supporters invaded the pitch after the match, causing a violent riot amongst the fans, whereas other Basque fans engaged in a discussion with the Belgian visitors in the stands… two of these aficionados went a bit further, than the "usual." Sitting above the visiting fans, one of the Basques was throwing plastic cups at the opposing fans, whilst another fan decided to, literally, urinate on the Belgian fans. Some dare to call him genius, others call him simply a drunk buffoon, but everyone knows him as "el orinador" (Castelleno for "The Urinater")."

Mali: AQIM release French hostage

Pierre Camatte, seized by a gang near his home in Menaka and shopped to the AQIM in the desert, has returned to Bamako. Will he ever be able to go back to his longtime home? The Malians released four AQIM prisoners in exchange, we can assume under French pressure. What else each side got from France or other western nations we will likely never know. Algeria and Mauritania have withdrawn their ambassadors to Mali in protest. Mali has its problems, but in this case, it just seems everyone else's festering problems, which would cost them too much to fix at home, come to northern Mali out of convenience. The very least Algeria, Mauritania, and the west can do for Mali is is to make it harder for their proxy warriors to end up in Gao. But that's wishful thinking, I'm sure. No word on the other hostages.

Niger: Junta names Prime Minister, brings in men from Saibou era.

Following the Monday night communique outlining the transitional authority of the CSRD, The junta President Salou Djibo has named as Prime Minister Mahmadou Danda, the former interim Communications Minister during the 1999 junta's interim rule. Danda has served the government since the 80s, and most recently as Sport Minister in 2000 (under Tandja). He was until now working for the Canadian Embassy, one of the nations most involved in uranium and gold mines. As interesting, Salou's new Personal Chief of Military Staff is Colonel Amadou Moussa Gros. Gros rose under Gen. Ali Saibou's military rule in the 80s, becoming Min. of Tourism. An old friend of Tandja's, he served the brief MNSD government of Hama Amadou in 1995 that was overthrown by Bare. Bare later reactivated him, and made him Chief of Staff. Of late he has been head of a military charitable group, the AAETN. To top this off, Salou went to visit Saibou himself to receive the blessing of the old President and his family.

Institutions: Karzai packs the electoral commission (BBC)

Quite apart from the obvious conclusions about corruption and power, I was struck by the range – or lack of – in the discussion on the BBC today on the packing of the Afghan Electoral Commission in the run up to parliamentary elections. The removal of foreign elements from the commission was the center of concern with Karzai appointing all members of the body. First, foreign observers might be just as corrupted by Karzai, or his sponsors. But the debate never imagined any Afghan opposition or civil society taking part as a check on power. West Africa, following the civil society led wave of democratization in the 1990s, made truly independent electoral commissions (usually under the French acronym CENI) the cornerstone of electoral transparency in most nations, with wide membership of all forces in society. The current crisis in Cote d'Ivoire points to their continued importance, if imperfection. These experiences, sadly, seem ignored elsewhere.

Niger: Tandja to get Red Cross visit

Col. Hima "Pele" Hamadou told the press this weekend that (ex) President Tandja would be visited by the Red Cross to confirm his health. Pele says that Tandja is under house arrest with his family. MNSD-Nassara VP Ali Sabo (assistant to party president Seini Oumarou and chair Albadé Abouba, both high ranking ministers whose whereabouts are not public ) has told the press that Tandja is not allowed any visitors but his doctor, and is being held not at the military school south of town, but in the "Villa Verte": a luxurious house abutting the President Palace's compound, often used for state functions, official meetings, and as home of visiting heads of state. Former Mauritanian President Ould Taya, disposed by coup, spent the first days of his exile there in 2005. Not too shabby!

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.

Ghana’s Earthquake Scare

Someone began a text message earthquake scare on the 18th in Ghana, causing panic amongst thousands. Ghana's National Security agency has vowed to get to the bottom of the rumors, which claimed the BBC was reporting that NASA had told them a quake was about to hit Ghana. Of course no one, especially the US Space Agency, can predict earthquakes. Finger pointing has ensued, with the NDC party blaming rival NPP activists of starting the scare to divert attention from the ongoing NDC national congress. But the attention gained from Haiti has stirred both wide charity work by Ghanaians and a look at their own readiness. Ghana has recorded major quakes back to the 1600s, with a 6.3 quake hitting in 1939. Small tremors have hit as recently as 2005. Yet the Ghana Geological Survey Department reports it's only seismographs are broken: one in Accra, installed in 1988, broke down two years ago while the one at Kukurantumi, fixed in 1923 is said to have gone out of order many years ago.

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.

Trafigura pay-out to go to cronies not victims

An Ivorian court has ruled that a previously unknown NGO should get all compensation, not the victims. '…a senior partner at Leigh Day, the British law firm that has been representing claimants, said that following Friday's ruling, "the prospect of our clients receiving their compensation look somewhat remote… Thirty thousand Ivoirians have been looking to get the compensation due to them to alleviate their lives. Now there is a very real chance they will not see a penny." Another Leigh Day lawyer, Kouame Klement, said only his firm knew the identity of those due to be paid, and that he was worried Mr Gohourou's group would create fictional lists of names. Leigh Day said in a statement that it was concerned there was a "Mr Big" behind Mr Gohourou… Amnesty International is among those concerned that the money could be stolen if passed to Mr Gohourou's newly created non-governmental organisation.'

“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."

Niger: Welcome to the para government press

"L’Afrique peut-elle se développer? TANDJA a osé !" shouts the headline. A suck-up piece about how President Tandja dares to reject colonial notions of "democracy" in favor of real "African" traditions. This is the same crap we've been fed for decades: cult of personality dressed up as liberation. What's interesting is that the byline is Ousseini Lawali in "La nation" N°00 of 13 January 2010. Yes, Number Zero of a brand new paper in Niamey, bravely printing the stories other refuse to tell of how great the President is. And so last week's meetings of the government press authority (CSC) come into focus. While the CSC was founded in 1993 to protect journalism, it is now a government controlled censorship agency. Last week it announced a vague "refoundation" of press laws and journalistic standards in Niger. So we we likely see the vibrant, if little distributed, independent newspapers gagged in coming months, to be replaced by "independent" papers like "la Nation".

Niger: more lax working hours for government

This week's presidential decree: the rescinding of the "Journée continue" law of 2007. Much in vogue in the last decade across the Francophone world, the 2007 law mandating the elimination of the two or three hour lunch break was inspired by similar laws in Burkina and Mali. Government offices were expected to be open from 7:30 to 16:30 five days a week. But complaints continued that staff would leave on their short lunch at noon and just not come back. One can assume that this is a bone to administrators, as they will likely see pay cuts due to sanctions. Whatever the rights or wrongs, the initial change was made by the National Assembly, the government and the President, but in this new age, the stroke of Tandja's pen undoes it without public notification.

AFP: West African body presents ‘road map’ for Niger

This is the offer which has been floating around opposition circles for several months: a transition to a seventh republic which resembles the 5th. Tandja, like General Ali Saibou during the transition from the 2nd to the 3rd Republics, would become a figurehead to a constitutional convention with executive power, and then retire to his farm. Tandja will not accept this willingly. ::

The important thing to note here: neither side is really about to compromise, especially Arzika for the government, who's position is entirely dependent of the dictatorial powers of the new constitution. Both sides are positioning themselves to win ECOWAS's support when the talks end. The opposition hopes that strong ECOWAS sanctions will split the regime and overturn Tandja. The government hopes that ECOWAS will be frustrated, make some statements, and eventually — quietly — accept Tandja's rule as a fait a complis.

Alernet’s “Forgotten crises to watch in 2010”

Reuters Alertnet describes nine national and international crises which are likely to appear in the headlines over the next 12 months. Their prediction that somewhere in the rural Sahel chronic malnutrition, heightened by national poverty and market dominated agriculture, will break out into Famine is a safe if depressing bet.

"Here is a selection of some of the under-reported humanitarian emergencies at risk of deteriorating this year. The list is by no means exhaustive nor is it any kind of ranking."

Thailand's Restive South / Violence In The Philippine Mindanao / Food Shortages In Nepal / India's Maoist Rebellion / Hunger In Guatemala / Ogaden Crisis In Ethiopia / Malnutrition In West And Central Africa / Conflict In Central African Republic / Chad's Wild East

Greg Dunkel. Haitian History: What U.S. textbooks don’t tell

"This Week in Haiti," Haiti Progres, 17–23 September 2003. A two-part article looks at high-school textbooks in the U.S. to show why so may Americans are so ignorant about Haiti and how this limited knowledge has been distorted, muffled and hidden behind a veil of silence. Part of the large "World History Archives" fair use and free "Haiti Archives" documents.

Haiti: Death of an African UN worker ties Guinea to Port au Prince

Among those killed in the Haiti UN building was Mamadou Bah, son of a prominent Dinguiraye Peul family. Educated in Lome and Paris, Bah worked in New York as well as Europe Africa and Haiti. Eventually taking joint Franco-Guinean nationality, Bah rose to become chief spokesperson for Minustah, and spearheaded the construction, through the Bibliothèques sans frontières (BSF) charity, the construction of over 100 free libraries across Haiti. The list of family condolences shows the wide diaspora of one Guinean family: in Montreal, Atlanta, Maryland, Washington and Conakry, as well as France and Haiti, people morn this young man tonight.