War and Peace
CongoAn international diamond "policing" scheme has stricken the Republic of Congo from its list of countries certified as following global trading rules, and accused the nation of exporting illegal gems.
The Kimberley Process fights to keep "conflict diamonds" -- used to finance armed rebellion -- off the world market by pushing for a transparent production and export system.
The removal of the central African nation from the list of countries dealing in "clean" diamonds effectively drives the Congo from the legitimate international diamond trade.
A team of experts, headed by former South African Kimberley Process chief Abbey Chicane and including experts from Canada, Israel, the World Diamond Council and the Ottawa-based NGO Partnership Africa Canada (PAC), toured Congo in June to test its claim that its gems totalling five million-carats in annual diamond exports were mined in the country or imported from legitimate producers.
In the 1990s, sales of illegally mined diamonds funded insurgencies and civil wars that killed and maimed hundreds of thousands of people in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Angola, and the Republic of Congo's neighbour, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
Paramilitary groups seized diamond fields, enslaved workers, and sold the gems on the open market or through third parties until 48 countries, representing 98 percent of the world's diamond production, signed a treaty in Ottawa in 2002 requiring the documentation of diamonds sold on the legitimate market.
With Cote d'Ivoire's peace process virtually paralysed and all hopes pinned on a regional summit in Ghana in two weeks time, a top international thinktank has urged other West African leaders to tackle those reaping economic rewards from the current deadlock.
The International Crisis Group (ICG) said in a report entitled "No Peace in Sight" that government figures, rebels, businessmen and members of the security forces were all cashing in on the civil war in Cote d'Ivoire.
The country has been split into a government-controlled south and a rebel-held north for the last 22 months even though the fighting officially stopped in May 2003.
"The political impasse is exceptionally lucrative for almost everyone except ordinary citizens," the ICG said in its report, published on last week. "Today's political actors have found that war serves as an excellent means of enrichment, and they may be ill-served by the restoration of peace and security."
"The international community, and especially the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), needs to take on the spoilers more assertively and openly," the Brussels-based group added.
Cote d'Ivoire's rival factions are due to meet in Accra on 29 July at a peace summit hosted by Ghanaian President John Kufuor, the current chairman of ECOWAS. Several other West African leaders who have played a prominent role in international efforts to restore peace to the country are also expected to attend.
EthiopiaHigh profile talks scheduled to take place in Accra later this month are designed to give fresh momentum to the stalled peace process in Ivory Coast, still divided after a rebellion in 2002 boiled over into civil war.
The peace process in the west African state came to a halt in March after opposition ministers quit the west African country’s interim government following a deadly state-sanctioned crackdown on an opposition rally which left at least 120 dead.
If all goes according to plans announced by UN chief Kofi Annan on the sidelines of an African Union summit in Addis Ababa, the meeting, due to begin in Accra on July 29, will bring together all of the country’s key political players as well as the presidents of several nearby west African states.
It would be the first time such a comprehensive group assembles since a meeting in Marcoussis in France in January last year produced the peace accord that set up Ivory Coast’s interim government and mapped out the road to peace, which has since hit a deadend.(Source: News International)
GuineaGuineans who have returned home following instability or persecution in neighbouring countries, are placing a critical strain on the already weak social services of the Region Forestiere, said aid workers and government officials. Between 75,000 to over 100,000 Guineans fled Cote d’Ivoire following a rise in anti-foreigner sentiment after a period of
civil war between September 2002 and December 2003, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) 2003 survey carried out with the authorities’ help.
Sierra LeoneThe guns may have fallen silent, the killings stopped and the terrorising of civilians ended. But, the problem of drug use is still a reality in Sierra Leone, opening a new battlefront for the authorities of this impoverished country.
"This problem is assuming frightening proportions. If not tackled urgently and decisively it may consume a whole generation of our youths," Edward Nahim, Sierra Leone's only psychiatrist, told IPS at his office in the capital, Freetown.
"About 90 percent of all mental health cases in this country that I have dealt with are related to substance abuse. It is alarming."
For most of the 1990s, Sierra Leone was embroiled in a brutal civil war in which drugs played a central role. Children as young as 11 were forcibly conscripted by rival factions, drugged and unleashed on the civilian population to commit atrocities. The Revolutionary United Front, then a rebel movement, became infamous for amputating the limbs of Sierra Leoneans.
After numerous failed peace accords, the conflict was finally declared over in Jan. 2002 - and a war crimes tribunal was established to try those who bear the principal responsibility for the atrocities.
Studies in recent months have shown that drug abuse in the country, though not as widespread as during the years of war, is a growing phenomenon. (Source: IPS)
SudanThe White House faced growing political pressure from Congress yesterday to declare that the Sudanese government is carrying out genocide in western Sudan's Darfur region.
Senators introduced a bipartisan resolution calling for action. If passed by Congress, the resolution - sponsored by Sam Brownback, a Kansas Republican, and Jon Corzine, a New Jersey Democrat - would mark the first time Congress had passed a genocide measure while the reported violence was still in progress.
The Brownback-Corzine resolution urges the Bush administration to declare genocide in Darfur and to take steps with the international community to stop it.
The senators said they introduced the resolution not to oblige the US to intervene in Darfur, but to add moral weight to efforts to pass a United Nations resolution. A UN resolution declaring genocide in Sudan would place a legal obligation on member states to prevent the violence. (Source: Financial Times)