Thursday, December 21, 2006

No dissent allowed

HARARE, Zimbabwe Dec 20, 2006 (AP)— President Robert Mugabe said Wednesday his government will not tolerate dissent created "under the guise of freedom of expression."....

Mugabe, in his annual state of the nation address to parliament, said law enforcement agencies will continue to crush dissent in the troubled southern African nation. He said government opponents were bent on creating anarchy and pushing what he has described as a British attempt to topple his government.

In September, police thwarted a march by the main labor federation in Harare protesting deepening poverty. At least 16 labor leaders were assaulted by police, several of them suffering bone fractures and other injuries, according to independent doctors and human rights organizations.

Mugabe said afterward the labor leaders were resisting arrest for holding a banned protest and "reasonable force" was used to break up the march.

Britain, the United States and the European Union have imposed travel and visa restrictions on Mugabe and ruling party leaders to protest alleged violations of human and democratic rights since 2000.....

Monday, December 18, 2006

Meet Mugabe's victims

....The people of Zimbabwe could tell countless stories like these three. What's more, men like the three I met--nonviolent political dissenters subjected to torture--were lucky: They were not killed. With international news coverage heavily slanted toward the Middle East and what little space is given to Africa focused on the continuing genocide in Sudan, the crisis of Zimbabwe has been all but ignored. Yet we should not forget about Robert Mugabe. As Holly Moyo says, "He's murdered so many people. His hands are so full of blood."

James Kirchick is an assistant to the editor in chief of the New Republic

Zimbabwe proves Kirkpatrick was right

"...Prompted by the death last week of former United Nations Ambassador Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, I looked up her essay from the November 1979 issue of Commentary magazine, "Dictatorships and Double Standards."

Ms. Kirkpatrick, then a Democrat, excoriated the Carter administration for applying a double standard in its treatment of right-wing and Communist dictatorships. The former, she argued, can eventually be coaxed into democratization (or at least made amenable to United States interests), whereas the latter, with their all-encompassing, revolutionary ideas of upending society and the very nature of humanity, are "unlikely to lead to anything but totalitarian tyranny." ...

Many in the West hailed Mr. Mugabe as a new kind of African leader, one who held much promise.

But only two years into his rule, Mr. Mugabe showed inklings of the totalitarian despot that he would come to epitomize. Between 1982 and 1987, he massacred about 20,000 Ndebele people in the southern region of the country. This massacre has been long forgotten and ignored because it was black-on-black violence. Only when Mr. Mugabe recently went after Zimbabwe's white population, purging productive farmers off their land and forcefully redistributing it to political hacks, did the Western media begin to make him out to be a great international rogue like Hugo Chavez.

Regardless, the radical redistribution of land has had dire consequences for Zimbabwe. Once a major exporter of agricultural products, Zimbabwe has descended into freefall with the world's highest inflation rate (more than 1,000 percent annually), oil and food shortages and increasing political violence.

Although not an explicitly communist regime like Cuba, Mr. Mugabe's Zimbabwe is nonetheless a left-wing dictatorship guided by revolutionary principles...

White Rhodesia was a morally unjust regime whose governing ethos (white privilege) was indefensible on any grounds. But Mr. Mugabe's ethos of governing - the personal enrichment of one man and a radical land-redistribution policy that has left millions starving - is no more justifiable than white racism. In Rhodesia, the government did not massacre civilians by the thousands; the black majority was not starving to death, nor was it digging in the ground for mice as a basic form of sustenance (a widespread practice that I witnessed less than 10 miles from Mr. Mugabe's presidential mansion).

A willingness to support anything in opposition to an unjust political system - especially when the alternative has the distinct possibility of being far worse - is an impulse that we would do well to guard against. That is the lesson of Zimbabwe, and the sage observance of a woman schooled in the ugly realities of the modern world.

James Kirchick is assistant to the editor in chief of The New Republic

Friday, December 15, 2006

Zim police brutality rises

"Police brutality in Zimbabwe has increased since the government began a crackdown against the opposition, two non-governmental organisations say.

The Solidarity Peace Trust and the Institute of Justice and Reconciliation say police brutality under President Robert Mugabe has become routine.

They say Zimbabwe's government has reverted to patterns of state control established under colonialism.

The two NGOs examined the details of 2,000 politically-motivated arrests.

They say that increasing police brutality coincided with the rise of the opposition, primarily the Movement for Democratic Change, led by Morgan Tsvangirai. ...."

Mugabe moves to extend his rule

Zimbabwe's leader Robert Mugabe has backed a plan to extend his presidency by two years until 2010, according to reports in Zimbabwe's state-run media.

The plan is likely to be endorsed during the annual conference of the ruling Zanu-PF party this weekend.

A Zanu-PF spokesman said postponing presidential elections until they could be held at the same time as parliamentary polls would save money.

The president had said he would retire in 2008 after 28 years in office.

Zimbabwe has the world high rate of inflation - more than 1,000% a year and chronic unemployment. ..

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Zim inflation rate 1000 percent

Zimbabwe inflation rate the highest in the world

HARARE – Zimbabwe’s annual inflation rate has reached 1098.8 percent as Zimbabweans braced themselves for a far-from-festive season, reports said Monday.
The new figure represents a rise of 28.6 percentage points on the October figure of 1070.2 percent, according to information released by the Central Statistical Office (CSO) and quoted on state radio.
Month-on-month inflation has reached 30.1 percent, up from 27.5 percent.
Inflation in Zimbabwe is by far the highest in the world and shows no signs of falling, despite Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono’s prediction in January that inflation would plummet to 230 percent by year-end.

Zim's determination inspiring

Read it and try not to gag.

One disturbing thing is that from the article it sounds like they are manipulating American black organizations to support Mugabe.

And they claim "The American Medical Students' Association, the largest medical student group through their global Aids division, has agreed to co-sponsor a resolution showing that Zimbabwe being deprived of humanitarian aid to fight HIV/Aids on political grounds is a violation of human rights.

We are targeting the key medical groups in our community in the US like the Black Nurses' Association, National Medical Association, National Black Leadership Commission on Aids, the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People -- the pioneering civil rights movement in the US) and Nation of Islam's medical directors. "


Tuesday, December 12, 2006

no passports in Zim

Passport office closes“, screamed the Financial Gazette newspaper billboards along Samora Machel Avenue as I made my way to work. It’s just another day in Harare where we get to hear more news about what’s in short supply. We have had fuel shortages, forex shortages and now - passports! One wonders what’s next? I was thinking aloud what would happen if there was a shortage of condoms.

My passport issued in 1998 expires in February 2008 and I began using it in 2004. All along it was just one of those documents that you had to have because you never know when you are going to use it. A colleague has just told me to start applying for a new passport because you never know how long it will take to get a new passport issued! I can clearly state that one of my resolutions for 2007 is to apply for a new passport and make sure that it is issued by December.....

Monday, December 11, 2006

Human rights day: From mourning to hope

December 10th is Human Rights Day, but in Zimbabwe human rights are grossly abused, and the poor, in particular, are ridden over roughshod by the Mugabe regime. 26 years after Independence, there is no respect for human rights in this country.

The American Declaration of Independence written at the end of the eighteenth century, states "….all men are created equal, and are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights…. life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness". These are the most fundamental human rights of all.

Today on Human Rights Day, we take just three basic human rights - perhaps the most important ones: food, health care, education - and look at how they fare as we mourn what has become of life in Zimbabwe...

(to link for entire story)

HIV, Malaria link

Malaria wrecks the immune system, making one more likely to die of HIV.

Another triumph for ecology activists, who stopped the use of DDT spraying that had largely wiped out Malaria.

Now, would someone explain why Zimbabwe, whose population lives in highlands where malaria is rare, has such a high rate of HIV?

Friday, December 08, 2006

GM Crops: another green revolution?

One of the tragedies I saw in Africa was a child who became blind from lack of vitamin A.

The Helen Keller foundation estimates "between 250,000 and 500,000 children go blind from a lack of vitamin A in their diet, which also affects their growth, cognitive development and immune system. 70% of these children die within one year of losing their sight, and a total of 800,000 children every year from a lack of vitamin A.

Supplementation with vitamin A capsules is the single most cost-effective health intervention according to the World Bank and other global health experts. It only takes two doses a year to prevent blindness – at a cost of approximately $1.

Yet even that small cost might be prohibitive to some countries, and other countries lack the infrastructure and personnel to give it out properly (too much vitamin A is toxic). And, of course, some children will not go to clinics, or their parents will refuse the medicine.

One solution to this is a new genetically engineered rice, called golden rice because of it's colour. "..Golden Rice is a transgenic variety of rice, which has genes for the synthesis of b-carotene (a vitamin A precursor). These genes are taken from the garden favourite Narcissus pseudonarcissus (daffodil) and inserted into the genome of a temperate strain of rice." The rice has a golden color from the beta carotene (think carrots), and is being offered free to India where blindness from Vitamin A deficiency is common.

The problem? It's not politically correct to artificially insert genes into crops. There is a philosophical opposition to any "genetically modified" food, no matter how benign.

But what is worse is that activists are scaring certain African countries into not using and not importing GM food and seed, even though people are starving in these countries and the food and seed could remedy their dying of malnutrition.

For example, Greenpeace opposed planting the rice because a child couldn't get it's full requirement of vitamin A from rice alone. Presumably, a little is worse than none? But not according to their activists.

A more important question is that if only the genetically modified grain is planted in places like China, the native rice will no longer be grown, and biodiversity will be lost.

There are also worries if the implanted genes might adversely affect animals or humans if ingested constantly.

The ironically named "Friends of the Earth" has persuaded some African countries to refuse rice and other staples needed for starving populations out of fear of being poisoned. And President of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, whose economic policies have caused a man made famine, actually was allowed to give a speech at the World Food Summit , and was praised for his opposition to "importing unsafe food" (i.e. food aid that might include genetically modified grain).

Today's Washington Post shows Americans are also uneasy about biotechnology, and most people are unaware that a large percentage of food ingested in the US has either GM food or comes from animals fed with GM feed. "Today, 89 percent of soybeans, 83 percent of cotton and 61 percent of corn is genetically engineered to resist weed-killing chemicals or to help the plants make their own insecticides..."

So, in the practical world, the choices are GM food vs pesticide/herbicides. Poor countries don't have the choice for expensive "organic" food. The result of their "organic" food production is too often famine and malnutrition.

Yet biodiversity is an important issue, but should not be ignored. Indeed, newer rice variants have been devised by old fashioned methods that have many of the advantages of the GM type crops.

As for us, our family grows organic rice and sell it at a premium. One advantage of the "green revolution" combined with globalization is that it has stabilized the food situation in Asia, allowing a growing middle class willing to pay the price.

Yet the yield of our fields is lower than our neighbors, and if everyone went "organic", the poor people would not have enough to eat. And as a doctor who has seen too many children die of malnutrition, I am not one to ignore crops that could be another "green revolution".

Mugabe arrives in Sudan

President Mugabe arrived here yesterday evening to attend the Fifth African Caribbean and Pacific summit which begins today.....The two-day summit will be held under the theme "United for Peace, Solidarity and Sustainable Development".

Thursday, December 07, 2006

NIgeria: Oil wealth not trickling down

Long blog report about Nigeria..

Open the news pages of Nigerian dailies or world news about Nigeria, only very few things would make one smile. Beautiful and handsome but sad faces roam the streets. Unemployment rate may run as high as 70 percent and very high inflation rate makes the case worse. There are conflicting reports on the value of income accruing to the nation that was stashed away in foreign banks by Nigerian leaders. President Obasanjo was quoted in 2002 as putting the total amount of money stolen by African leaders at $104 billion. In an article published by BusinessDay, written by Wale Haastrup the total amount looted by Nigerian leaders was put at $20 trillion. The chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission(EFCC), Nuhu Ribadu was quoted by BBC as putting the loot by Nigerian leaders since independence at over $380 billion. It is not certain the value of Nigerian leaders’ loot, but one thing that is obvious is that it is enormous.

High number of elected and government officials seem to be misappropriating and siphoning money. Alhaji Ibrahim Hassan, the Accountant- General of Nigeria at the National 5th Seminar on Economic and Financial Crimes spoke on how public servants loot the treasury. Widespread poverty accounts for the bourgeoning rate of crime in the country, which is being exported overseas through Internet or mail scams, popularly known as 419. Desperate Nigerians are finding their way abroad where they are engaged in criminal or illegal activities such as prostitution, fraud, drug and human trafficking.
The Mercury( a South African daily ) November 30, 2006 online issue, carried tears-causing article titled “Italian streets offer no joy, hope for Nigerian women”. The article dealt on the sympathetic plight of Nigerian prostitutes in Italy, who face crushing debt, insults, rape, robbery, and battery. They are reportedly shivery and cold, soliciting customers under extremely cold temperatures and constitute over half the Italian prostitute population.

Most of Nigeria’s earnings are salted away to foreign lands and the people suffer and cry but are held down under one Nigeria...."

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Zim security agents steal teacher's radios

The Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe said police and suspected agents of the Central Intelligence Organization, the country's secret police, have been seizing radios donated to union members in the country's Midlands province.

A senior union official said members in the area reported that known CIO agents and police had confiscated the solar-powered radios without justification.

The PTUZ has distributed radios to members in remote areas of the country to allow them to listen to independent news broadcasts from outside of Zimbabwe.

Nongovernmental organizations have also distributed small portable radios to small communities through local contacts who direct radios to those who need them.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Mugabe needs all the friends he can find

October 15, 2006: Angola and Zimbabwe signed a military training cooperation agreement. Angola and Zimbabwe signed a defense cooperation deal in 2002, but there was little follow-through. Zimbabwe is currently looking for allies-- anywhere it can find them. Libya is a nominal ally, but since Qadaffi gave up his weapons of mass destruction, he's been far less agreeable to crossing Great Britain. Zimbabwe's dictator, Robert Mugabe, regards Britain as one of his primary enemies.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Water woes contineu in Zim cities

"...The World Bank recently estimated it will cost some US$10 billion, or Z$2.5 trillion, to completely overhaul Zimbabwe's water and sanitation infrastructure. Harare alone will need more than US$100 million to refurbish its water works and lines.

The World Bank report said the existing system was failing because rates are too low and there is insufficient foreign exchange to buy water treatment chemicals...."

Women activists claim police brutality

"...WOZA said a group about 40 activists were taken to a drill hall in Bulawayo Central Police Station where they said they were beaten and harassed by police before they were finally released. Sibanda said about 25 activists were seeking medical care.In a related development, the U.S.-based Peace and Justice Network of Zimbabweans in exile condemned what it described as brutality by the Zimbabwean police...."

Police in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, lodged charges Thursday against 30 members of the activist group Women of Zimbabwe Arise and its men’s counterpart who were placed under arrest on Wednesday during a protest in the country's second city.

The activists are charged with “interfering with peace or quiet of the public” under the country's Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, legal sources said....

A lawyer representing the activists, Perpetua Dube, said she had managed to secure the release of six WOZA members, all of them women with babies. But Dube said 34 others remained in custody as of late Thursday....


HIV prevention and western activism

I posted an essay on AIDS HERE.

"...According to Human Rights Watch, "Twenty-five years after AIDS was first identified, programs to fight the disease continue to be undermined by conservative ideologies and moralistic approaches." Yet, as one who has worked in Africa, I wonder why, in a world that worships "multiculturalism", why so few criticize the attempt of western activists to impose their own moral and ideological agenda on African societies..."

The rest of the essay points out that destigmatizing promiscuity leads to exploitation of women and boys, not empowerment...
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