War and Peace
The first preliminary meeting for a new international effort to bring peace, stability and development to the Great Lakes region ended on Friday in Burundi's capital, Bujumbura.
The key is tolerance, the UN Special Representative to the Great Lakes, Ibrahima Fall, said at a news conference on Friday at the end of the meeting. "By not creating frustrations and exclusion, we will pave the way to good governance and democracy," he said.
Participants to the meeting also recommended strengthening security on common borders and find joint ways to fight so-called "negative forces" active in the region.
The participants on the meeting were key members of national preparatory committees of seven core countries - Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia - as well as various experts on the region.
They discussed the themes of peace and security, democracy and good governance, economic development and regional integration, and humanitarian and social issues throughout the five-day event. "By democracy we mean political, economic and social democracy," Fall said.
Unresolved aspects are to be discussed further in preparatory meetings due to take place in Kampala, Uganda; Arusha, Tanzania; and Kigali, Rwanda. Further meetings will take place in Kinshasa and Nairobi before a regional heads of state conference in November 2004. The final conference is set for May 2005 in Nairobi.
Civil society representatives are also taking part in the meetings as well as representatives from UN agencies, the Economic Community of the Great Lakes Countries, the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa, The East African Community, the Southern African Development Community, The Great Lakes Youth League, the Mwalimu Nyerere Foundation, the New Partnership for African Development, the African Development Bank, the Group of Friends of the Great Lakes region and the European Commission. (Source: IRIN)
A continued advance of Democratic Republic of Congo government forces in South Kivu province is expected over the coming days, after they re-occupied four small towns close to Minova late last week.
Several skirmishes with soldiers allied to renegade Gen Laurent Nkunda were reported.
Meanwhile, the United Nations (UN) reports that another South African peacekeeper has been attacked, suffering a bayonet wound to the forearm when returning to his base in Goma, the capital of neighbouring North Kivu province, on Thursday.
"His attackers wore military uniform, and an investigation is under way into their identity," UN spokeswoman in Goma Jacqueline Chenard said yesterday.
The soldier's condition was not described as serious. The condition of the South African soldier who suffered a more serious assault the previous week sustaining gunshot wounds to the arm continues to improve.
Nkunda had briefly occupied the town of Bukavu, the capital of South Kivu, in early June, before retreating north to Minova, where his men have subsequently been stationed. However, a UN-backed move is meant to see all his personnel retreat to North Kivu province, and doubt remains as to whether this is occurring.
"We hope that they will withdraw if they are still in the region, and that there will be no fighting over the next few days as (government) forces move to Minova," UN spokeswoman in South Kivu Eliana Nabaa said yesterday.
An arrest warrant remains outstanding for Nkunda, who belongs to the RCD-Goma faction of Congo's transitional government, and whose official base is supposed to be in North Kivu. (Source: IRIN)
Arrests in a weapons of mass destruction investigation in South Africa are linked to Libya's abandoned nuclear programme, the country said on Friday, playing down a connection to a global weapons black market.
South Africa made two fresh arrests this week which analysts linked to a worldwide weapons ring the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says spans more than 20 countries. A local engineer initially charged has been freed with no explanation.
"So far, the evidence that we have... relates to the Libyan programme," said Abdul Minty, chairperson of South Africa's Council for the Non-Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction.
"I don't think that we are one of the major ones (cogs in a global network). It would not be for us to say what the scale of it is," he said, seeking to bury media reports that saw a link to Iran.
Police on Wednesday arrested engineer Gerhard Wisser, 66, a German living in South Africa, and colleague Daniel Geiges, 65, after withdrawing charges against a third man, engineer Johan Meyer.
Authorities said the charges against them related to the exporting of a free-flowing lathe - a device that can be used for uranium enrichment - without permission. (source: Business Day)
SomaliaWith its 37 ports under the control of clan warlords, Somalia is a land where "tax" is only a word in the dictionary. But its Indian Ocean coastline extends for more than 3,000km, much longer than that of South Africa.
Says Mr Hussein Farah Aideed, leader of the faction that controls Mogadishu, the capital: "Historically, no Somali government has controlled more than seven ports, not even Siad Barre's military regime."
He says that Somalia is only second to Iran in terms of goods shipped from the United Arab Emirates' (UAE).
Somali traders are the luckiest in the world as they unload goods at ports and hardly pay tax to the clans manning them. The goods are then sent all the way to Nairobi, Addis Ababa in Ethiopia and other parts of Africa - even as far as South Africa.
Mr Aideed adds that, historically, Somalis are traders who control transport in eastern and central Africa, but it is now difficult to install a government in Somalia as Somalis have tasted freedom" in a free-market economy.
Seeking the presidency
Mr Aideed, who is seeking the presidency in the elections later this month, is the chairman of the United Somalia Congress (USC) that includes the Somalia National Alliance faction. The group, he says, has five rotating presidents and controls 85 per cent of the country, including Mogadishu.
The Aideed group, also known as the Somalia Reconstruction and Reconciliation Council, has the goal of democratically seeking dialogue with other factions through mediation by the regional Inter-governmental Authority on Development (Igad).
According to Mr Aideed, at an African Union summit in 2001, his group signed a no-preconditionality principle committing it to working for the creation of an all-inclusive national unity government in Somalia, a country that has been at the mercy of warlords for the last 14 years after Mr Barre was deposed.
The SRRC is democratic and is against militants that want to make Somalia a base for Islamic militants," he explains.
He was a late entrant to the new parliament sworn in Nairobi late last month, and points out that he had to wait for clearance from his faction before being sworn in as an MP.
Even after taking the oath, he tells of serious mismanagement of the Somali peace process by Igad, which he claims has violated rules set by a transitional charter that spells out how MPs should be selected. He tells of a case in which men have taken up women's seats in parliament.
The transition charter says that, of the 275 members of Parliament, 12 per cent shall be women. However, says Mr Aideed, only 20 women have been sworn in, representing just over 7 per cent.
At the same time, an arbitration council set up by the clans has received complaints from 55 other people who claim that they were denied the right to be MPs.
Mr Aideed blames the wrangling on the fact that the regional government appointed people with vested interests in Somalia to preside over the talks.
Kenya is represented by Mr Mohamed Affey, while Mr Abdul Aziz represents Ethiopia. Djibouti has since removed its envoy and redeployed him to Paris to avoid wrangling.
Mr Aideed says that the chairman of the talks, Kenya's Mr Bethuel Kiplagat, is balanced in his decisions, while the Somali envoys are biased. He blames a decision by Mr Kalonzo Musyoka, when he was Foreign minister, to appoint Mr Affey, Kenya's ambassador to Somalia while, he claims, he had interests to protect in Somalia.
Mr Aideed says non-Somali Kenyans would be more suited for the job. The clans that have seats in the Somali national assembly are Digil Mirifle, Darood, Dir and Hawiye, with 61 seats each. A fifth clan of farmers and fishermen has 31. Unlike the other clans, this group is not nomadic, and lives between Rivers Juba and Shabele, where they grow bananas.
Says Mr Aideed: In order to have good democracy, you have to empower the farmers and fishermen, as the nomadic clans and the farmers have always fought for control of the resources, foremost being the ports of Kismayu, Mogadishu, Bosaso, Berbera, Marka and Elmaan.
Berbera, one of the most prominent Somali ports, was built by the British colonialists, but was taken over by the Russians in 1961, and by the Americans in 1979.
Somalia, a land of changing fortunes, is never still. It had its last constitutional government in 1969 when President Abdurashid Ali Shamake was killed by his bodyguards. The army, led by Mr Barre, took over until 1991 when the clans came in. But the clan wars were there even during the Barre dictatorship.
Despite the clan warfare, the economy has improved more in the last 10 years, and so have health and education, than during the 31 years that it had a government. Schools are run privately.
The Somalis currently have a choice of 15 television stations, 20 mobile phone companies that serve a very vibrant market where it costs only between Sh560 and Sh960 to call for a whole month.
There are 3 million Somalis abroad constantly calling home and transferring money through the phone service run by the clans.
The Somalis operate in a unique system where sharing resources is the norm. Wages for civil servants, including the police, may be in the form of food, not always money.
Meanwhile, in Nairobi, Somali MPs are to elect the chairman and vice-chairman of parliament on Wednesday before electing the president on September 22.
Besides Mr Aideed, other presidential candidates include the leader of the Transitional National Government, Mr Abdulkassim Salat Hassan, Puntland administration president Abdulahi Yussuf, Mr Jama Ali Jama, also from Puntland, Mr Musa Sudi Yalahow of National Salvation Council and several former members of the Barre regime, among them Mr Abdulahi Addow, a son-in-law of the former president, and Mr Abdurahman Jamaa Barre, Mr Barre's half-brother who was his Foreign minister.
The former Barre men have not been home for the last 14 years, but are said to be armed with wads of cash they allegedly looted when they presided over the country's finances.
Some of the presidential candidates are backed by Arab League countries and the radical Al Isll Al Ittihad factions of Islam.
Says Mr Aideed: Islamic militants run schools and a lot of businesses in Somalia and want to control the country."
Besides the elections, the Igad foreign ministers are to meet in Nairobi on Wednesday to review the progress of the peace process.
Mr Aideed has called on the Igad chairman, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, to help solve the women's issue and ensure they get their rightful share in the parliamentary seats allocation.
Once the elections are over, Igad will hand over to the Africa Union and the UN. The AU is to provide a peace force once the more than 60,000 militias are disarmed.
A cabinet will also be created, and so will a civil service and a police force. There will also be the repatriation of refugees from as far-flung places as Australia.
Currently, Somalia has 275 MPs who have not reconciled. Says Mr Aideed: To solve all this, we have to go on the ground and do a five-year transitional programme."
The new government is to move to Mogadishu once all its departments are up and running, a process that could take another two months. If all goes well, there should be a new government before the end of the year.
But still, one warlord, Gen Mohamed Hersi "Morgan", is currently advancing with troops towards the Somali port of Kismayu. This is simply the first test for the new government. What the world is sure of is that the US and the UN will this time keep off Somalia, remembering the debacle of the early 1990s, the last time they tried to restore law and order in Horn of Africa country.
As Mr Aideed says, African peacekeepers are the only ones welcome in Somalia this time. If they fail, this country that offers a perfect playing ground for terror groups, will have been lost forever to the various warlords who police the towns and sea and airports. (Source: The Daily Nation)
UgandaTeso and Karamoja conflict resolution project has been launched to improve relations between the two communities.
The Teso Committee for Famine Relief (TESFAM) was launched on Wednesday at its offices in Kumi.
The area LC5 chairman, Ismail Orot, who officiated at the function, said the project had come at the right time when Teso was considering addressing the problem of rampant Karamojong raids.
"You have come at the right time when the people of teso were looking for answers to the rampant Karamojong attacks," he said.
A TESFAM official, Jim Opolot, said TESFAM aimed at reducing hostility between the two tribes by devising means of coming together for dialogue.
He said the projects would reduce tension between the neighbours.
Opolot said the two projects, Karamoja Develoment Action (KADA) and TESFAM would be funded by Pearl of Africa Foundation.
He said KADA would operate in Namalu and Lokacat sub-counties in Nakapiripirit district and TESFAM would operate in Malera and Kolir sub-counties in Kumi.
Opolot said the projects would provide the much needed safe water in the area. (Sourcee: New Vision)