Sunday, July 31, 2005

Garang warns Kony

From Uganda's "New Vision"... [via Passion of the Present - with thanks]:

Sudanese First Vice- President 1st Lt. Gen. John Garang has given Joseph Kony and his Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels an ultimatum to to leave southern Sudan.

Until Wednesday evening, Garang was a colonel, a rank he has held since 1983 when he deserted the Sudan army.

In an exclusive interview with the New Vision, Garang said he was going to deal firmly with the militias operating in southern Sudan, in order to rebuild the war-ravaged region.

"Kony won't be hiding there for long. It is not only Kony, but also all the militias who have been operating in the area. We need to provide peace, security and stability, so the militias including those that were formerly supported by the government, must be disbanded."

Garang flew into the country aboard a chartered plane yesterday for a meeting with president Yoweri Museveni. The meeting took place at Rwakitura in Mbarara.

Garang was met at Entebbe Airport by Vice-President Prof. Gilbert Bukenya and the Minister for Regional Cooperation, Nshimye Sebuturo. He flew to Rwakitura aboard President Museveni's helicopter.

The former Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA) leader, who controlled southern Sudan before the peace deal with the Khartoum Government, said the priority of his government was to resettle displaced people and remove camps of the internally displaced people and return the Sudanese refugees.

He said there were between three to four million Sudanese refugees outside the country who need to be returned and resettled.

He said his government had started rebuilding the infrastructure in the devastated region, which is home to over 12 million people.

Garang said in the next week, the 10 Supervisors for the 10 southern Sudanese states would have taken office to oversee the building of the infrastructure.

The infrastructure to be rebuilt includes roads and railways in southern Sudan and those linking it with Uganda and Kenya, water facilities and financial institutions.


Spiegel interview with African economics expert James Shikwati: "For God's Sake, Please Stop the Aid!"

Not sure what to think of Der Spiegel Interview July 4, 2005 with African Economics Expert: 'For God's Sake, Please Stop the Aid!'

The Kenyan economics expert James Shikwati, 35, says that aid to Africa does more harm than good. The avid proponent of globalization spoke with SPIEGEL about the disastrous effects of Western development policy in Africa, corrupt rulers, and the tendency to overstate the AIDS problem.

[via INCITE: Aid to Africa: Please Stop - with thanks]

Africa's digital future - Kenya pilots Pocket PC education: The Eduvision pilot project

Note this copy of a BBC report today about an extraordinary experiment aimed at using technology to deliver education across the continent.

Kenya pilots Pocket PC education
By Richard Taylor
Editor, BBC Click Online

In the final report of Click Online's Africa season, we visit Kenya where a trial project using handheld Pocket PCs could help reduce the costs of education in poor communities.

Mbita Point, on the eastern shores of Lake Victoria, hosts a small rural community.

A few minutes walk from the main town lies the local primary school, housed on the campus of a renowned research institute.

As the only school in the area with access to electricity, Mbita Primary enjoys a relatively privileged location.

This aside, it suffers from the same problems encountered by other public schools.

Since the Kenyan government introduced free primary school education two years ago, the resulting influx of kids has meant that resources are spread as thinly as ever.

In the future the students will be able to complete their assignments on these books and send them to the teacher.

Classrooms are crowded, and the all-too-familiar scenario of children sharing outdated textbooks is still very much in evidence.

However, in Class Five, things are just a little bit different. Fifty-four 11-year-old students are willing guinea pigs in an extraordinary experiment aimed at using technology to deliver education across the continent.

In the Eduvision pilot project, textbooks are out, customised Pocket PCs, referred to as e-slates, are very much in.

They are wi-fi enabled and run on licence-free open source software to keep costs down.

"The e-slates contain all the sorts of information you'd find in a textbook and a lot more," said Eduvision co-founder Maciej Sudra.

"They contain textual information, visual information and questions. Within visual information we can have audio files, we can have video clips, we can have animations.

"At the moment the e-slates only contain digitised textbooks, but we're hoping that in the future the students will be able to complete their assignments on these books and send them to the teacher, and the teacher will be able to grade them and send them back to the student."

Pocket PCs were chosen in place of desktops because they are more portable, so the children can take them home at night, and also because they're also cheaper, making them cost-effective alternatives to traditional methods of learning.

Eduvision co-founder Matthew Herren says families pay upwards of $100 a year for textbooks.

"Our system is something that we hope will be sustainable, and the money that they use towards textbooks could be used to buy e-slates instead, which can last more than a year, thereby reducing the cost of education."

Moreover, the potential offered by e-slates is enormous. The content stored on them can be dynamically updated wirelessly, hence the need for wi-fi.

This means that they could include anything from new textbooks which have just come on stream, to other content like local information or even pages from the web.

The team have also devised a rather neat system for getting the information onto the devices.

First off, content is created and formatted for use on the e-slate.

A central operations centre distributes the material over a cheap satellite radio downlink to a satellite radio receiver in the school.

The information passes through a base station which beams it out wirelessly to the students. And so a new and enjoyable way of learning is born.

"I like using [the] e-slate because I can take it home to use it at night and I can use it because it has [a] battery," said Viola, a pupil at Mbita Primary.

Fellow pupil Felix had a few problems: "At first I found it difficult, but when our teacher, Maureen, told me to go in early to teach me, I went. The next day I found it easy."

Potential pitfalls

Although the kids are certainly enthralled by the novelty of the hi-tech gadgetry, their teachers are a little more realistic.

"There are too many drawbacks," said Robert Odero, a teacher at the school.

"One is the lack of electric power in most of our schools, and since the machine needs constant recharging for it to be effectively used this would affect the users as well as the teachers.

"Another thing is the delicate nature of the machine. Given the rugged terrain of our country and the paths our kids use on their way to school, these things could easily fall on the way."

According to Eduvision co-founder Matthew Herren, the e-slates are fragile because the project is in a pilot stage.

"In any implementation in the future that's on a larger scale we will have them custom made to our specifications and coated in rubber and made much hardier," he said.

"At the same time, with textbooks there's no reason why a student couldn't drop all of their books into a pail of water and damage them as well."

There are plenty of concerns which have given pause for thought during the 18 months the pilot's been running.

The Eduvision team says all the issues can be solved and that the technology could be rolled out across countries and even extended beyond education.

Nevertheless, there are plenty of sceptics who believe it will never make it off this campus.

Kenya's Assistant Minister of Education, Science and Technology believes the project's flawed not just in design, but in its very conception.

"We need to be careful that we don't bring about too many experiments, and this is another such experiment being done without ensuring that we have the right environment for it to be assured of success," said Kilemi Mwiria.

"I think it's a big leap, a big giant leap for schools, students and communities that don't even know what a desktop computer is, as well as what you can use computers for.

"I think to suddenly bring even more advanced technology is being a bit unrealistic."

Few people could deny that this project is both novel and enterprising, and even while it's still in testing, Eduvision concede that they themselves have still got a lot to learn.

But they are convinced it will play a part in Africa's digital future.

Saturday, July 30, 2005 - News - special report: Niger 'worse than Darfur'

The charity Save the Children has told Channel 4 News that the situation in Niger is worse than crisis in Darfur.

Drought and locusts have created a desperate famine in Niger. The warning comes as The Disasters Emergency Committee is calling on the public to help tackle the dire food shortages.

Telephone and on-line donations can be made from today - while a television and radio campaign will follow next week. They say the world has been too slow to recognise this crisis.

Channel 4 News spoke to Save the children's spokesperson Amanda Weisbaum. She was asked if charities like hers share some of the responsibility for not warning the world early enough?

Click here to watch the interview.

For more news see Niger Watch.
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We must all sneer and scoff at the corrupt, cruel jackasses of Africa

An email for Sudan Watch yesterday contained an opinion piece on Africa by Matthew Parris at Times Online 2 July 2005.

It is interesting to note what Thabo Mbeki’s brother, Moeletsi Mbeki, said about windmills - and this excerpt from the piece:

Peasants must become freehold owners of their land, he said, and I agree. This nascent class of producers must be empowered to make their work worthwhile and their voices heard. But all across the continent, traditional tribal values, Western-style collectivist ideologies and the greed of political elites have joined in a murderous embrace to stop this.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Friedhelm Eronat's oil deals in Darfur, Sudan

Following on from previous posts about Friedhelm Eronat (a Bavarian born US citizen, recently turned British citizen, doing deals with the Chinese and Sudanese governments on oil exploration in Darfur) here is a copy of a report by Adrian Gatton, one of Britain's top investigative journalists, published in London's Evening Standard:

Secret World of the Chelsea Oil Tycoon
By Adrian Gatton
26 May 2005
Evening Standard

FRIEDHELM ERONAT is one of the world's most successful oil dealmakers.
He is also one of the most secretive men in Britain. He has an estimated fortune of at least $100 million (Pounds 55 million) built on controversial deals worth billions - often in connection with Mobil - in far-flung, difficult places such as Nigeria, Russia and Kazakhstan. But details about him are scant.
He eschews all publicity.

He lives in a Pounds 20 million Victorian house in a Chelsea square. The sumptuous house has a Degas painting on the wall and a magnificent wine cellar. He is married to society beauty Melisa Lawton. But typically, when she was snapped by paparazzi at Royal Ascot last year, her elusive husband was nowhere to be seen.

He became a British citizen (after renouncing his US passport) in 2003, and is now based in London, from where he operates his Cliveden Petroleum empire. Financier Robert Hanson is a friend, as is the embattled Lebanese businessman Eli Calil (accused of helping to finance the foiled Equatorial Guinea coup attempt in which Mark Thatcher was implicated).

With this sort of profile, you would expect to find Eronat in the Sunday Times Rich List or see him posing on the sofa with his wife in the pages of Hello!

Yet few people have heard of him. But an employment tribunal in West Croydon has blown the tightly sealed lid off this Great Gatsby - like figure's very private world.

Cliveden Petroleum is being sued for Pounds 8 million by highflying lawyer Dr Peter Felter, its former executive chairman, for alleged unfair dismissal.
Felter claims he was sacked for disclosing a sensitive, strategic oil deal in Africa between Eronat's company and the Chinese. The dispute has brought Eronat, 51, out of the shadows. After attending tribunal hearings, the Evening Standard can for the first time piece together his extraordinary life.

The case reveals Eronat to be at the hub of what has been dubbed "the new scramble for Africa", as the US, China and mercenaries led by the likes of Equatorial Guinea coup leader Simon Mann vie to carve up the continent's prized oil wealth. Eronat is not fond of journalists. When, on the off-chance of contacting him, the Evening Standard went to his house, the Filipina maid let us in, but we were ushered off the premises by the startled oil trader.

Cliveden's lawyers attempted against the Evening Standard's objections to exclude the Press from the West Croydon hearing, but the tribunal ruled we could stay.

That left the door wide open to a unique and fascinating look into his life. Within the oil industry, he has always had an aura of mystery. Even the name Eronat sounds unplaceable. Indeed, opinions vary as to whether he was born in a refugee camp in Eastern Europe, or more prosaically in Louisiana.
In fact he was born in Prem, Bavaria, in 1954.

Little is known of his early career but now he mixes at the highest levels. The tribunal was told "Eronat's world" was a "singular" and "unusual" place: hobnobbing with Prime Ministers, glitzy conferences staged by oil producers' cartel Opec (Rilwanu Lukman, its Nigerian former head, is a friend), multimillion-dollar deals done in Park Lane hotels, skiing in St Moritz and a holiday apartment in Marbella. But he prefers not to carry a laptop and avoids email. Nothing - not even Felter's contract - is committed to paper. Wherever he is, he is always talking the bottom line or, as he puts it, "the money in your pocket".

The sums involved are eye-popping. "Eronat told me he earned a $40 million commission from Phillips Petroleum on one oilfield deal alone," Felter explained. It is no surprise then that Felter, until 2001 the Pounds 375,000a-year head of energy at Clyde Co and for many years Eronat's lawyer, joined Cliveden. "There would be huge rewards for everybody," Eronat is supposed to have promised Felter.

But, while he likes making money he does not appear to welcome sharing it.
Jean-Gabriel Antoni, Eronat's saturnine Geneva-based financial manager, told the tribunal British Virgin Islands-registered Cliveden, which in November 2003 posted net profits of $63 million, is "not making tax returns anywhere".

Felter was escorted by a bodyguard at the hearing, though it is not clear where he thought the threat may come from. To understand the dispute, it is necessary to go back to a remarkable "completion" dinner held at Eronat's home in 2003. That night, 18 December, marked a victory for China in the scramble for Africa. The celebratory banquet, served by uniformed waiters, with guests including Felter and powerful Chinese State officials, was held in the basement, three storeys below a Chelsea street. In the impoverished nation of Chad, Eronat had landed a huge exploration concession - the "Chad Convention" - potentially holding 10 billion barrels of oil. The party was to toast a deal in which China, oil- hungry and "locking up" barrels all over Africa, bought a stake in this.

It was a big move for the Chinese. Chad recognises China's enemy Taiwan, and the Chad initiative was part of a careful political strategy (Eronat facilitated introductions between the Chad and Chinese governments), thought to have been approved by the Chinese Prime Minister and cabinet. The deal was important enough for one of the most powerful men in China, Wang Jun, chairman of Citic, the $60 billion State-owned corporation and very much an arm of government policy, to fly to London to sign up to. Together with Chinese oil firm CNPC, they purchased a $45 million, 50% share in Cliveden.

The deal was initialled there and then in Eronat's house.

Amid the popping corks and bonhomie, Felter privately reminded his boss there could be a problem. Cliveden's other 50% holding had been sold the year before to Canadian oil and gas company EnCana for $46.5 million, in a deal clinched by Felter. He believed EnCana was legally entitled to be informed about its new partner but would not be happy with its new bedfellow, given the Taiwan issue.

According to Felter, Eronat wanted to keep it quiet. Discussions became heated and when, a few days later, Felter again reminded Eronat of what he argued was his urgent legal obligation, he said Eronat shouted "No!" and slammed down the phone. Thereafter, he claimed, he was "sent to Coventry" for seven weeks.

Enter Eli Calil. As a friend and business associate of Eronat, Felter hoped the Lebanese businessman - who lives round the corner - would "talk him out of his crazy plan". Though the two men have a close working relationship and Calil is kept closely informed of much of Cliveden's activity, he did not prevail.
In January 2004, Felter notified EnCana about China's involvement. Eronat was apparently "furious". By mid-February, following a shareholders' meeting in Beijing, Felter was relieved of his duties.

Felter, who argues he put Cliveden on track to become a $1.2 billion entity, says he was sacked because he told EnCana about the Chinese. This was, he insisted, a "protected disclosure" (covered by the whistleblowers' employment laws). In keeping with his style, Eronat did not attend the hearings. But he claimed, via a brief witness statement, Felter was "not right for the job", was perceived to have an "arrogant" and "abrasive" style not suited to the Chinese way of doing business and that his disclosure to EnCana had "no bearing" on his removal.

Cliveden maintains there was no legal requirement to inform EnCana, and that the company acted correctly. EnCana would not make any comment to the Evening Standard about the dispute but is now said to be pulling out of Chad.

Felter had been dealt a bitter blow.

As Eronat's friend and legal counsel since the mid-1990s, he says that, in trying to do "the right thing", he had acted "out of misplaced loyalty". It must have been all the more galling since he had loyally shielded his client, he stated, startlingly, "against being indicted in the US for fraud and moneylaundering".

This related to Eronat's time in the 1990s in central Asia, then billed as "the new Middle East". Eronat was close to Mobil Oil. What emerges from Felter's timesheets, part of the tribunal evidence, are his meetings (Pounds 350 per hour) to fight a number of legal cases on behalf of his client: a $42 million civil suit (won hands down), two US Grand Jury investigations and a Swiss inquiry.

These apparently relate to a potentially sanctions-busting oil deal between Iran and Kazakhstan and to the "Kazakhgate" affair, the US's biggest foreign bribery case in which $78 million of inducements were allegedly paid by merchant banker James Giffen to the president of Kazakhstan for lucrative oil concessions. Eronat has not been charged in that case which goes to trial next year but is referred to in the indictment as CC1 (co-conspirator No 1) because his company was allegedly used by his friend Giffen as a conduit for some of the cash.

Dogged by these troubles, Eronat has moved on. He is out of Kazakhstan, out of the US, away from Mobil. Now he is in London, into Africa in a big way alongside Calil, and in deep with the Chinese. The hearing has closed. The tribunal panel is digesting the material with the outcome not likely for several weeks though both sides have threatened to appeal already.

It is not every day an employment tribunal enters the murky world of government deals and multimillion commissions - indeed, Congressional inquiries have revealed less.

(c)2005. Associated Newspapers Ltd.. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning Company. All rights Reserved.
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For more on Eli Calil see April 15, 2005 CorpWatch - EQUATORIAL GUINEA: Death of a Mercenary (part two) and Suspicions of Hidden Forces. Plus Kathryn Cramer's blog.


Monday, July 25, 2005

Major upsurge in Darfur fighting - 19 killed in military helicopter crash in Sudan's Darfur

Here we go again, as per usual in the run up to the next round of peace talks: Sudan's army and rebels have accused each other of staging attacks in Darfur, days after peacekeepers said security had improved.

BBC and others appear to confirm new clashes have broken out in Darfur.

According to Reuters, Darfur rebel commander says Sudan forces killed 7 in Darfur attacks.

And China news Xinhua says 19 killed in military helicopter crash in Darfur.

Associated Press report says: "In a statement Monday, Sudan's army said fighting Saturday and Sunday began with a rebel attack on a civilian convoy the army was escorting in the western region. But the Justice and Equality Movement, one of two main Darfur rebel groups, had said the army attacked its positions first."


Darfur: What were the Americans visiting Sudan with Condoleezza Rice playing at?

NBC's diplomatic (!) correspondent Andrea Mitchell says she is angry and embarrassed after the Khartoum incident where she ended up overshadowing Condoleezza Rice's short visit to Sudan by grabbing news headlines that put the spotlight on American cockiness and arrogance, instead of helping the people of Darfur.

No free speech in Sudan

Photo: In this frame from video, an unidentified Department of State official helps shield NBC correspondent Andrea Mitchell after Sudanese security guards had grabbed her, pushing her towards the rear of the room where Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was meeting with Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir Thursday, July 21, 2005, in Khartoum, Sudan. All reporters and a camera crew were physically forced from the room as Rice and el-Bashir watched. (AP Photo/Network Pool via APTN)

Scuffle overshadows Rice visit

Photo: In this frame from video, Andrea Mitchell, center, is escorted by Sudanese security guards after she and other reporters were forcibly ejected from the room where Condoleezza Rice was meeting with the Sudanese President Thursday, July 21, 2005, in Khartoum. (AP Photo/Network Pool via APTN)

No freedom of press

Since Thursday, instead of putting the spotlight on the humanitarian crisis in Niger the world's media had a field day with articles covering Condoleezza Rice's visit to Sudan and the scuffle and a row happening in Khartoum between Sudanese security staff and the American media and officials accompanying Dr Rice. Apologies were trotted out as usual by Sudanese Foreign Minister Ismail who is soon due to step down now that John Garang has taken over from Taha as Sudan's First Vice-President. By the way in Sudan, he is nicknamed "Smiley" - he trained to be a dentist.

China's News Agency Xinhua says FM Ismail stated he urged the US to review economic sanctions imposed on Sudan. He says the US no longer has reasons for the sanctions after the signing of the southern Sudan peace agreement and ongoing improvement in the situations of Darfur. He says he made the call in a press statement issued after his meeting with Condoleezza Rice.

Following the scuffle and row just prior to the meeting between Condoleezza Rice and President Bashir, reporters were only allowed to be present at the State Department's insistence, and were told not to ask any questions. Andrea Mitchell, NBC News' diplomatic correspondent - after being warned by a man in a military uniform not to ask any questions - asked President Bashir a question along the lines of" "How can we trust a rogue like you?"

Excerpt on the story from today's Sudan Tribune, entitled "NBC'S Mitchell says she's angry and embarrassed after Sudan incident":
Sudanese officials already didn't want her there. Mitchell said she was shoved as she entered a room where Rice and el-Bashir were posing for pictures. Reporters were only allowed in at the State Department's insistence, and were told not to ask questions.

Mitchell, in a telephone interview after leaving a Sudanese refugee camp and arriving in Israel, said that attitude emboldened her.

"It makes me even more determined when dictators and alleged war criminals are not held to account," she said. "If our government is going to establish a relationship and push for a new beginning as Sudan reforms itself, they have to live up to international standards. A free press is part of that process."

Although el-Bashir has denied government involvement, the U.S. and international organizations say his government has equipped militiamen to massacre villagers in the rural Darfur province.

"Can you tell us why the violence is continuing?" Mitchell asked, as a Sudanese official said "no, no, no, please."

"Can you tell us why the government is supporting the militias?" she asked.

After getting no reply from el-Bashir, she asked, "Why should Americans believe your promises?"

It was then that she was forcibly removed.

"It is our job to ask," she said later. "They can always say `no comment' ... but to drag a reporter out just for asking is inexcusable behavior."

Afterward, Mitchell said she was "angry, embarrassed, humiliated" and upset that she had become part of an attention-getting incident. "Reporters don't want to become part of the story," she said.
[I say, what a load of twaddle. Most Sudan watchers know there is no free speech or freedom of the press in the Sudan. It was made clear to Mitchell et al not to ask questions. I guess, being American Mitchell perceived herself as invincible, especially in the presence of Dr Rice and other US State Department officials. Mitchell's husband is U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan. She came across (to me anyway) as looking to score points for personal gain but her big mouth ruined her plan that backfired and put the world's spotlight on her naivety and gullibility instead. Serves her right. She defiantly asked questions making it appear she cared more for her own career than she did about the Khartoum regime "living up to its promises" [as if they are going to listen to her anyway]. The questions she directed at the Sudanese president were a nonsense. If she had expected his response to be 'no comment' then why ask questions at all, especially considering one is a guest visitor and told by the host country not to ask any.]

No freedom of speech

Rice and her entourage and press pack allowed themselves to be shown up and made fools of by a regime whose style and modus operandi is to retain power at any cost through intimidation and violence, even at a cost of two million lives. They played right into Khartoum's hands.

Americans do not seem able to see themselves and their culture the way the rest of the world does. Humility and stiff upper lip is not in their nature. When it comes to visiting outside of America, they think being an American gives them American rights to speak and behave the way they do in their own country.

The rest of the world is nothing like America and the six billion souls on this planet, with cultures and mentalities that go back to the year dot, are nothing like Americans.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir

Photo: Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir (in white) looks on as U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice (not in photo) leaves the state House in the capital Khartoum July 21, 2005. Rice on Thursday told Sudan's president his government had a 'credibility problem' on the issue of Darfur and she wanted to see 'actions not words'. (Reuters/Mohamed Nureldin)

Rice meets Bashir

Photo: U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (L) meets Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir (R) in Khartoum July 21, 2005. Rice on Thursday told Sudan's president his government had a 'credibility problem' on the issue of Darfur and she wanted to see 'actions not words'. (Reuters/Mohamed Nureldin)

Rice in Darfur

Photo (July 21 BBC/AFP): Condoleezza Rice spent about an hour talking to people in Abu Shouk camp, Darfur. and spoke privately to women affected by ongoing sexual violence. According to an article in, featuring blogers and entitled "Black Women Say Rice's Africa Trip Overdue", Rice reaffirmed the U.S. position on Darfur saying, 'The United States believes that by our accounts it was and is genocide.'"Rice reaffirmed the U.S. position on Darfur saying, "The United States believes that by our accounts it was and is genocide." Her visit follows First Lady Laura Bush's week long trip to Africa last week.
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Darfur's population to receive seeds, tools and livestock

AKI Rome July 20 reports the rainy season has just begun in North Darfur, and around 70 000 vulnerable rural families will be able to plant with seeds. Various news reports are circulating on this news but, unless I've missed something, none explain about the land these people are expected to farm. Who owns the land? What's the deal for the grazing and watering of livestock? What if bandits come along and steal the produce and livestock, like they did last time?

UN News Centre report July 20 says the UN's FAO will help Darfur's displaced families restart their farming activities but is unclear what it means by "households outside displacement camps and host communites encouraging people to stay on the land". Excerpt:
"FAO has already provided seeds and agricultural tools to some 70,000 vulnerable rural families in North Darfur, but has so far received only $7 million of the $15 million it has sought for 2005.

Some 550 tons of field crop seeds, including millet, sorghum and groundnut, and around 79,000 tools, including hand tools and donkey ploughs, were distributed outside displacement camps to households affected by the conflict as well as to host communities to encourage people to stay on the land. The assistance will help these families produce enough food to feed themselves for almost three months."
Note, the UN says it is more cost effective to buy seeds for planting instead of aid - but if law and ordered is not installed, and the crops are stolen or destroyed, the UN will still have to raise funds for food aid to replace lost crops.

A handful of men in Khartoum and a hoard of uneducated lawless Sudanese bandits, thugs, rebels and murderers are lording it over the people of Sudan. Too many of them are without gainful employment and are putting food on their table by living off the proceeds of exploitation, intimidation, banditry, theft, looting, rape and murder. They are causing grief for millions of people - not to mention the cost in terms of lost lives and billions of dollars in aid from Western countries.

Up until recently, the same happened in southern Sudan for 20 years. They seem so far behind the Western world, it will take decades for peace to be restored.

Darfur camp

With the start of the rainy season, around 70,000 families making a living from agricultural activities in the northern part of Sudan's conflict-struck Darfur region are set to receive seeds, tools and livestock from the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). The programme, which will assist households living in displacement camps and host communities, will allow the local population to restart farming and pastoral activities and guarantee its survival for the next three months. Full Story.

Sounds like a great idea but a recipe for disaster again if land/property ownership rights aren't settled beforehand. The above report says there has been tension in Darfur for many years over land and grazing rights. Conflict, drought and failed harvest has brought to a severe food shortage as well as a shortage in seeds' supplies.
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Peace is Possible...

Peace from Kassala

Photo courtesy Darfur Relief blog post July 22, 2005 entitled "Peace is Possible ..." [a blog by Sarah who may still be in Darfur]
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Cooking Time in Darfur

Sarah at Darfur Relief blog says cooking in these stoves saves women hours of time and plenty of wood.

Cooking Time

Photo courtesy Darfur Relief blog

Making Stoves in Darfur

Stove Making

Photo courtesy Darfur Relief blog

Read the story on above two photos here -- here and here at Darfur Relief blog, authored by Sarah who has been working in Darfur.
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NCC, NGOs call for Security Council action on Darfur

The National Council of Churches (NCC) is composed of 36 Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, historic African American and peace communions representing 45 million Christians in 100,000 local congregations in the United States.

NCC's call for UN Security Council action on Darfur is a complete waste of time but maybe it makes them feel better. They'd do better to pool their collective resources and focus on ensuring that all Sudanese children get a decent education, especially those living in refugee camps in Sudan and neigbouring countries.


Sudan: Darfur peace accord by the end of the year?

Published in a post here below, is a statement by the Head of the African Union Mission in Darfur saying fighting has almost vanished. You have to wonder about the African Union, if what they say is influenced by leaders of the African Union's 53-member states which include the Sudan and its surrounding neighbours. The most telling thing in the post was the fact that he felt his troops in Darfur had a sufficient mandate.

A Canadian press report July 22 says that in a report to the UN Security Council (Thursday), Secretary General Kofi Annan said Darfur is a less active war zone than it was a year ago, but rebels and government-backed militias are still carrying out attacks, raping women and creating a climate of fear and intimidation.

Also, the UN's top envoy to Sudan, Jan Pronk of The Netherlands, cautioned that "banditry has increased and has become ferocious. Attacks can flare up, Militia have not been disarmed. Arbitrary arrests and inhuman treatment of prisoners still take place."

The report says,
Nonethless, both Annan and Pronk expressed optimism that a declaration in principle signed by the government and Darfur rebels in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, on July 5 could lead to a peace accord by the end of the year. "Further confidence-building is necessary, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel," Pronk said.

Once an Darfur peace agreement is signed, more than 2 million people who fled their homes will have to return but he stressed that they will only do so when they feel secure.

That will require a further expansion of the African Union force and planning needs to start soon, Pronk said. The force is currently being built up to 7,500 troops.
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Pronk calls for more than 1 billion US dollars for Sudan

The following excerpt - from above mentioned Associated Press report July 22, 2005 via Canadian news - summarises the latest from Kofi Annan and Jan Pronk re Darfur and southern Sudan:

"The United Nations envoy for Sudan called Friday for more than $1 billion US to promote peace throughout the country after decades of war and to launch a new battle against poverty.

Jan Pronk told the UN Security Council that the peace agreement signed in January by the government and southern rebels is having "a snowball effect" and agreements to end the two remaining conflicts in western Darfur and the east are possible before the end of the year.

"All in all, there is room for optimism, but we must be realistic," he said. "The situation is fragile, utterly fragile."

Pronk warned that the neglect, exclusion, injustice and bad governance suffered by millions of Sudanese cannot be healed overnight, and he cautioned that it takes more than agreements to achieve democratic reforms and guarantee human rights.

"Poverty is deep, very deep, more than in nearly all other countries of Africa," he said. "The battle against poverty, following the fight for peace, will require decades of sustained efforts by the Sudanese and by the international community."

"Ongoing reconciliation, as well as management of conflicts between nomads and farmers, will require much political attention and resources for compensation and development," Pronk added.

The revised UN plan for Sudan for 2005 calls for nearly $2 billion, but so far only 40 per cent - about $800 million - has been committed, he said.

"I call on all donors to adhere to their pledges, and to increase them," Pronk said.

"The humanitarian situation in south Sudan is very fragile," he warned. "Not addressing this wholeheartedly would betray the expectations of millions and would jeopardize the chance to make peace sustainable, until at least six years from now, when people have to choose, by referendum, either for unity or separation."

Pronk said the total lack of infrastructure in southern Sudan, coupled with heavy rains, have created difficult problems, including delaying the deployment of some military troops to monitor the north-south peace agreement. The UN now expects full deployment by the end of October, he said.

The UN mission in Sudan has also decided to give the highest priority to facilitating the voluntary return of internally displaced people and refugees from the south during the upcoming dry season, he said.

Pronk urged the parties and the international community not to allow "powers in the dark or grumbling spoilers to harm the letter and the spirit" of the north-south peace agreement.


American Eric Reeves, professor of English and Sudan expert, says "we" have failed Darfur

Eric Reeves, an American professor of English at Smiths College in Cambridge, MA lays out a fantastical plan for NATO intervention in Darfur - quote:
Disarming the Janjaweed must be done in a head-on manner by NATO troops, for the militias are not a true military force and would be overwhelmed quickly if they resisted in the face of well-trained, well-armed NATO forces operating with robust rules of engagement.
In your dreams Eric. Military intervention is an act of war. As stated here in previous posts, waging war on the Sudan would make Iraq look like a picnic and defeat the whole object of getting humanitarian relief to the millions of Sudanese people in need.

It never ceases to amaze me how Eric keeps on pushing for Western troops to wage war on the Sudan. White man waging war on Africa to overthrow the Islamic regime in Khartoum (which is what military intervention would entail) could bring out every jihadist and set the tinder box of Africa alight. Aid workers would be expelled from the country and aid supplies disrupted. Eric appears to have no military experience or travelled much beyond his desk in leafy Boston. I often wonder about his motives but cannot fathom what they might be.

As pointed out here before, only 10% of Americans are passport holders. Most Americans do not appear to have a clue how the rest of the world really ticks. One can only conclude that Eric Reeves, along with the silly NBC reporter who overshadowed Condoleezza Rice's visit to Khartoum, is a good example of one.

The President of Sudan was recently quoted as saying to Condoleezza Rice if the Janjaweed were disarmed it would create genocide. He has a point.

In his plan for military intervention by NATO, Reeves says "we" have failed Darfur and to mitigate this failure we should wage war on the Sudan. What a cheek. Speak for yourself Eric.


Sudan: The Passion of the Present: Jay McGinley hunger strike for Darfur message

Important post by Jim Moore at Sudan: The Passion of the Present: Jay McGinley hunger strike for Darfur message.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Sudan: Head of AU Mission in Darfur says mandate is sufficient, security is improving, 3m war affected and rising

Amb Baba Gana Kingibe, Head of African Union Mission in Darfur (AMIS) in an interview with IRIN on July 18 claims fighting between Darfur rebel groups SLA and JEM and government troops has, over the last few months, more or less vanished. Banditry continues as usual and there are still no go areas for aid workers - quote:
"The humanitarian situation is not really something cheerful, and the prognosis also doesn't look good. There are attacks on convoys, particularly food convoys, and fraud in the distribution of humanitarian materials in the camps.

Right now the number of war-affected is rising; we are looking at something like three million. Quite a number - about 200,000 - are new arrivals, so there is a lot of work that needs to be done."
To date, the African Union (AU) has 3,392 personnel on the ground in Darfur. The number is expected to increase to 7,500 troops by the end of September.

Note, in the above mentioned interview, head of AMIS says he believes AU troops in Darfur have a sufficient mandate.

See July 20 BBC report Security in Darfur 'is improving.'
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UN not responsible for security in Darfur - official

KHARTOUM, July 16, 2005 (KUNA) -- UN mission in Sudan said Saturday it was not its job to safeguard security in Darfur.

Sudanese army soldiers

Photo: Sudanese army soldiers patrol on camels outside the Mornay camp in western Darfur, Sudan. (AFP).
"A UN official said in remarks here that the African Union was responsible for the security in Darfur in western Sudan.

The official underlined UN commitment to supporting Sudan by a peacekeeping force of 10,750 troops.

The protection of civilians is the responsibility of the Sudanese government, he added. He said the international forces would defend themselves if they were attacked."
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Rwandan troops to Darfur

Photo July 17 AFP - Rwandan troops of the African Union force wait to board a plane at Kigali International Airport in Rwanda to be dispatched to Darfur. US President George W. Bush directed the Pentagon to spend six million dollars in 'commodities and services' to help transport African Union troops to Darfur. (AFP/File/Jose Cendon)

U.S. military to assist with Darfur deployment

Germany - US Sudan airlift

July 16 via AP - In above picture provided by the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Airmen process through a deployment line at U.S. airbase in Ramstein, southern Germany, Friday July 15, 2005 in preparation for a month-long airlift mission to Darfur. (AP Photo/U.S. Air Force, Master Sgt. David D. Underwood, Jr.)

Germany - US Sudan Airlift

July 16 via AP - In a picture provided by the U.S. Air Force a soldiers signals to a plane as three C-130 Hercules aircraft and approximately 40 airmen depart from U.S. airbase in Ramstein, southern Germany, for Kigali, Rwanda, Saturday, July 16, 2005, as part of NATO's response to support the African Union's expanded peacekeeping mission in Darfur with logistics and training. (AP Photo/U.S. Air Force, Master Sgt. David D. Underwood, Jr.)
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Dr Rice departs for Sudan

On July 19, 2005 US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made her first trip to Africa since becoming secretary of state, with two stops in Sudan.

China's Xinhua News Agency reports Sudanese government welcomes Rice's visit - quote:
"I'll try to say to people that there is hope, that nobody is forgotten, that we are working very very hard," Rice said of her planned visit to Darfur.

I'll talk to the non-government organisations that are on the front lines." she said. "And I'll say that even the darkest moments in any country can be overcome. It's a very horrible situation."
July 20 Guardian report Rice Speaks on Ending Violence in Darfur - excerpt:
Rice told delegates at a U.S.-Africa trade conference that the additional $1 million in U.S. grants would help West African nations improve transportation safety and infrastructure to enhance international trade.

"Only the people of Africa can solve the problems of Africa," she said. "But for these men and women to fulfill their dreams of democracy and security and prosperity, all developed nations have a responsibility to help."
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Darfur's rebel groups reach deal

BBC report July 19 states two main rebel groups in Darfur, SLA and JEM have agreed to stop attacking each other.

Darfur rebel

Note, the report does not say the Darfur rebels have agreed to stop attacking government forces.

Still more more talk.
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Hassan Turabi

July 17 via AP - Hassan Turabi (pictured above) the Islamist leader recently freed from a year and a half of house arrest for allegedly plotting a coup, told the Associated Press in Khartoum, Sunday, July 17, 2005 that he wants to bring free democracy to Sudan. He criticized the new constitution and said he wants closer relations with the U.S. (AP Photo/Abd Raouf)

SPLA arrive in Khartoum
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Ex-rebel group SPLA in joint peacekeeping force for southern Sudan

July 18 via AP - The first batch of troops of John Garang's Sudan People Liberation Army (SPLA) arrive in Khartoum, Sudan, Monday, July 18, 2005, ready to form the joint peace keeping force in southern Sudan. The two main rebel movements in Darfur western Sudan have signed an agreement to stop all acts of enmities and friction between their supporters to maintain unity in the strife-torn province. (AP Photo/Abd Raouf)

SPLA rebel

Photo: A soldier from the SPLA stands guard at a camp in Khartoum, Monday, July 18, 2005. (AP Photo/Abd Raouf)
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USA: Oregon Divestment - Passes the House

Thanks to Sudan Activism Blog for this piece of news July 20, 2005:
Oregon Senate just voted a couple of minutes ago to pass SB 1089-which divests Oregon's pension system and other public investments from companies in Sudan. The vote was unanimous and the bill now goes to the House for consideration.
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Thought for today

From le blog de Fearless in the UK - with thanks:
If suicide bombings are inextricably linked to Islam, then why do the largest Muslim nations in the Africa/Middle East (Sudan & Iran) have no instances of suicide bombings?


Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Niger children starving to death

This morning, I received an email from someone together with the following message and link to Hilary Andersson's report at BBC News online:

** Message **
Another one for you to worry over. As we shall increasingly discover, very many people are living in the wrong place, and shouldn't have been born, anyway. The great fear amongst Niger's neighbours is that these starving folk will move across over their borders, in search of food. What is your solution?

** Niger children starving to death **
Children are dying of hunger in feeding centres in Niger where 3.6m people face food shortages, aid agencies warn.
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It is difficult to know what to say. My first reaction to Andersson's news on Niger is that it seems to have come out of the blue. The way the aid agencies sound in the report you would think they had shouted it from the rooftops and nobody responded. I receive daily email alerts on Africa but this is the first I've heard of such a crisis in Niger.

Hilary Andersson, a first class reporter, says little foreign aid has gone into Niger to deal with the crisis so far; aid agencies in the country predict the situation will get worse in the coming months and say the world has responded too late.
"The crisis in the south of the country has been caused by a drought and a plague of locusts which destroyed much of last year's harvest. Aid agency World Vision warns that 10% of the children in the worst affected areas could die. Niger is a vast desert country and one of the poorest on earth. Millions of people, a third of the population, face food shortages.

"There are children dying every day in our centres," says Milton Tetonidis of Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders). 'We're completely overwhelmed, there'd better be other people coming quickly to help us out - I mean, the response has been desperately slow.'"
Note, the report clearly states
"the hunger in Niger was predicted months ago - but that did nothing to prevent the present disaster - a severe drought last year, combined with a plague of locusts, destroyed much of the crop that was needed to feed the people and the cattle they rely on".
The report says the "international community" has reacted too late to the crisis. I guess the "international community" comprises the UN and donors from 191-member states. What became of all the donations and aid pledged over the past year - not to mention the public outcry on behalf of Africa and intense lobbying on Darfur? Where are all the African voices shouting about Niger? And all those who complained about white-man helping Africa with global campaigns such as Make Poverty History and Live 8? It is sickening to know about Niger at such a late stage. What has the African Union and its neighbours - and massive number of church goers - done to avoid such a terrible crisis in Niger? Once again, the onus appears to be on the West to come to the rescue - when will it end? How much longer do we have to stomach getting criticised by Africans for coming to Africa's aid?

Going by what happened in Darfur last April [the UN admitted, when put under to pressure to answer questions later on, that it failed to respond to the world's worst humanitarian crisis quickly enough] one has to conclude the UN is not on the ball and fails to act proactively. The report says "UN bodies and NGOs are appealing for donations through their websites" - when are the African fatcats who were educated in the West going to get a grip and start doing something constructive. We cannot keep going on like this. Even the head of the African Union recently said that if Africa is not sorted within the next 27 years, by which time its population will double, Africa will not be manageable for the rest of the world. It's food and aid needs will be too great.

Sorry to admit it is emotionally draining blogging about African politics and Africa's crises. I'm afraid I cannot take on blogging about Niger right now unless I get some helping hands. If any blogger would like to co-author Sudan Watch, Congo Watch, Uganda Watch, Ethiopia Watch [and possibly Niger Watch], please make contact. In the meantime, if any blogger can put together news items/summaries/round-ups and/or blog round ups for any of those sites, please email me and I will publish them asap with full credit and blog link. Depending on suitability of content, some posts could appear at more than one blog. Thanks.

Note these snippets from Hilary Andersson's report on Niger:

A severe drought last year, combined with a plague of locusts, destroyed much of the crop that was needed to feed the people and the cattle they rely on.

Now, across the windswept plains of the Sahel, carcasses of cattle litter the landscape.

Rains have come - but so late they are now a curse, bringing malaria and other disease.

Families are roaming the parched desert looking for help. One family we came across did not even know where they were going.

"I'm wandering like a madman," the father said. "I'm afraid we'll all starve."

They were hundreds of miles from the nearest food distribution point.

Aid agencies estimate that tens of thousands of children are in the advanced stages of starvation.

Children are dying daily in the few feeding centres there are, where their place in the queue could make the difference between life and death.

Amina is so starved she cannot eat even if she wants to.

"She vomits as soon as I give her food or water," says her mother.

"As far as I'm concerned, God did not make us all equal - I mean, look at us all here. None of us has enough food."


Saturday, July 16, 2005

Ex-rebel leader John Garang was sworn in as Sudan's first southern and Christian vice president

On July 9, 2005 former rebel John Garang made a triumphant return to Khartoum. It is the first time he had set foot in Sudan's capital for 22 years. He greeted the president and hundreds of thousands of supporters hopeful for a new era after Africa's longest civil war.

Southern Sudan peace

Photo: Sudanese President Omer el Bashir right holds hands with John Garang, leader of the Sudan People's Liberation Army at the headquarters of the ruling national congress party in Khartoum, Sudan, Friday, July 8, 2005, ahead of his swearing in to the position of first vice president. (AP Photo/Abd Raouf)

July 15 AFP - US President George W. Bush directed the Pentagon to spend six million dollars in 'commodities and services' to help transport African Union troops to Darfur. The speaker of South Darfur state legislature is among four people who have been held captive by ethnic minority rebels for nearly a fortnight, Sudan's official media reported.

July 14 AFP - US Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick talked to the press following his meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Borg al-Arab town, 60 kms west of Alexandria. The two men focused on Iraq and Sudan as well as bilateral relations.

July 9 AFP - Mr Zoellick said the situation in Darfur continues to be terrible and called on Sudan's government to do more to improve security and access to relief aid.

July 13 AFP - Security has improved in some parts of Darfur but fear continues to reign among internally displaced persons, a UN official said.

July 12 Reuters - Here is a photo of Sudan's opposition Islamist leader Hassan al-Turabi talking during an interview with Reuters in Khartoum, July 11, 2005.

Turabi released

Hassan al-Turabi promised to stick to peaceful opposition to the Khartoum government, just days after his release from 18 months in detention for allegedly plotting a coup. Above picture taken July 11, 2005. Al-Turabi hit out at Sudan's new power-sharing arrangement that put a final seal on a north-south peace deal, saying it failed to represent the country's political forces. 'I am not objecting to southern representation. They deserve it because they have been disadvantaged for so long, it is the other 52 percent,' Turabi told AFP.

July 10 AP - Sudanese former prime minister and chairman of the Umma Party, Imam Sadiq al-Mahdi held a press conference in Khartoum, Sunday, July 10, 2005. The leader of Sudan's main opposition party criticized the nation's interim constitution as deficient and said he was forming an alliance with a leading Islamist figure to monitor the new government sworn in the day before.

Kofi Annan and John Garang

July 9 AP - In the above image provided by the UN, John Garang, first vice president of the Republic of Sudan meets with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan Saturday, July 9, 2005 in Khartoum, Sudan. (AP Photo/UN, Evan Schneider)

The UN said on July 9 that donors must honour pledges of more than $4.5 billion in aid for Sudan or endanger a January agreement ending Africa's longest civil war in the south of the country. Speaking after southern rebel leader John Garang took the oath of office as first vice president in a peace government, the U.N. Secretary-General said he would be writing to major donor countries to remind them of the urgent needs in Sudan. (Reuters/Opheera Mcdoom)

Former sworn enemies shake hands

July 9 AFP - In the above photo, former Sudanese rebel leader John Garang (L) shakes hands with former enemy Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir in Khartoum. Garang was sworn in as Sudan's first vice president as a new power-sharing constitution came into force in a bid to put a final seal on two decades of civil war. (AFP/Salah Omar)

Garang, Sudan's First Vice President

July 9 AP - John Garang, on left in above photo, is sworn in as first vice president of the Republic of Sudan in Khartoum, Saturday, July 9, 2005 as President Omar El-Bashir, center, and the chief justice Galal edd in Mohammed Osman, right look on. Ex-rebel leader Garang, who was feted in a massive public reception a day earlier, is now Sudan's first southern and Christian vice president. Rebel groups fighting in Sudan's western and eastern regions voiced hope that Garang would help restore stability in the vast African nation. (AP Photo/Abd Raouf)

President of Sudan

July 9 AP - President Omar El-Bashir is sworn in as president of the Republic of Sudan in Khartoum Saturday July 9, 2005. (AP Photo/Abd Raouf)
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Release of soldiers and political prisoners

Release of soldiers and political prisoners

July 9 Reuters photo - Soldiers who were detained by the former southern rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) disembark from an International Committee of the Red Cross plane in Khartoum after being released in this July 7, 2005 file photo. Last week Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir said in a speech that his government had decided to release all political prisoners and undertake other reform measures. (Reuters/Handout/ICRC/Lorena Brander)
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Garang makes it to Khartoum after 22 years

Sworn enemies shake hands

Photo: Sudanese President Omar el Bashir, right, welcomes the leader of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement John Garang in Khartoum, Sudan, Friday, July 8, 2005. (AP Photo/Abd Raouf)

Families and Terrorists - And the only solution to terrorism - Downing Street's list of Al Qaida inspired attacks

A few days ago, Downing Street released a list of Al Qaida inspired terror attacks.

Today, a BBC report on the evil of the London bombers' idealogy quotes British Prime Minister Tony Blair as saying: "This is the battle that must be won. A battle not just about terrorist methods, but their views ... It cannot be beaten, in my view, except by confronting it, symptoms and causes, head on." Mr Blair denied there was a "clash of civilisations" and said that all people, including Muslims, were united in their abhorrence of terrorist activities.
- - -

Over the past week, after suggesting in a comment at Clive Soley's post on the London bombs that relatives of foreign nationals who commit an act of treason in Britain are stripped of their UK residency/passports, I recall something from years ago about relatives being held responsible for the financial debts of family members - and I saw this post by American blogger Don Park which told me I was not the only one making such a suggestion:

"... To stem the tide of terrorism, key terrorist origin and destination countries need to pass legislations that severely penalize families of terrorists. This will force parents of potential terrorists to take more interest in knowing what their children are up to and curb them away from their destructive path. Also this will raise the ante for suicide bombers so they'll have to put more than just their worthless lives on line.

Also, we need to put up fake Al-Qaeda recruiting websites. While the same can be done by closely monitoring the real ones, this approach offers more options. Trapped and turned, they can help us infiltrate the real ones.

These are, no doubt, extreme measures but I fear terrorism will spread like cancer if steps like these are not taken. Even now, pro Al-Queda communities are spreading. Even in Korea, an Al-Queda fan club was recently formed. It was promptly shutdown upon discovery but, by that time, its membership was 100+. While most of them were probably joking when they were carelessly posting about blowing things up, I am pretty sure a handful of them were not. Left alone, there are no limits to what misguided youths can do. ..."

See comments Don received at his post Families and Terrorists.
- - -

And the only solution

Somebody just emailed me this message which puts the only solution to terrorism in a nutshell, and into the correct perspective:

".....'The root cause of almost all terrorism, for perhaps 10,000 years, has been a widely held belief in the existence of conflicting Gods who protect and reward (or penalise) their adherents. There is no empirical evidence anywhere supporting this very dubious hypothesis. As long as such a highly irrational belief continues to shackle mankind, successful terrorists will continue to provide headlines for a venal media, which is what they are trying to do. Let's get used to it and shut up'. ..."


Friday, July 08, 2005

G8: 50 billion dollars for Africa aid - 3 billion for Palestinian authority - London Bombing 50 fatalities and growing

At the moment it is one o'clock Friday afternoon here in England and I am watching television news broadcast live from Gleneagles.

Surrounded by everyone attending the G8 summit, Tony Blair, president of the G8, is standing at a podium giving a press statement.

Part of the big announcement is 3 billion dollars to help the Palestinian authority live side by side in peace plus a 50 billion dollar uplift in aid for Africa along with a plan of action for Africa, in partnership with Africa. On the environment the G8 agreed a plan of action that will initiate global dialogue November 1st with the first meeting set to take place in Britain.
- - -

Desperate hunt for clues to capture the killers

News reports say Britain's most intensive manhunt - on an international scale - is underway, the largest in British criminal history. Forensics are doing a painstaking search for clues in order to capture the killers.

So far there are 50 fatalities. 24 hours after the blast, emergency services are still trying to recover bodies at Russell Square station, one of the deepest tunnels on the London Underground. As many as 20 bodies could be retrieved. A makeshift morgue has been set up nearby.

Rescuers are reporting extreme difficulties getting to the front carriage. The complex operation could take time to complete because the train just fits inside the tunnel, without any space surrounding. The train is 400 yards into the tunnel and part of the tunnel has collapsed. The tiniest of fragments might lead to what, and who, caused this. Even a SIM card from a mobile phone could, like the Madrid bombings, lead to the killers. Hours of CCTV footage might show someone entering a station with a bag and leaving without one. Investigators are checking through mobile phone records to see if the bombers made calls upon entering the stations. Reports say a bomb weighing less than 10 pounds was left inside the front doors of the front carriage. Prince Charles and Camilla were just interviewed visiting some of the victims.

An official interviewed on TV said: "We assume it's over. It may not be. The people who did this, are still out there."

Most Londoners remain defiant and refuse to be cowed. People interviewed say they are getting on with their lives, putting their heads down and cracking on with things. Schools are closed. Some people are working from home but most businesses have given people the day off work as police advice was to stay away from London. Rail services are pretty much back to normal and running on time. City workers who made the journey into London this morning by public transport admit it was a nervous journey. Business is back to normal on the Stock Exchange. Share prices have recovered. Kings Cross mainline station is now open. Madrid sent heartwarming messages of sympathy and solidarity. Consensus among commenters seems to be that common sense and calmness are strong British characteristics. Terrorists will never achieve their aims - what do they want? does anybody know?

British flag outside US State Department

Photo: Police officers raise a British flag in front of the State Department in Washington, D.C., Thursday, July 7, 2005, in remembrance of those killed in the London bombings. It was the first time a foreign flag has been raised at the State Department.

(AP Photo/Yuri Gripas) via Publius Pundit via Instapundit who links to TigerHawk's post on Sir Rudy's BBC interview in London.

Boing Boing has updates and photos related to London bombings, blog coverage and Wikipedia.

Four candles

Thank you to Eric at in America for his message of sympathy and condolence and link to Beliefnet which has a major prayer circle going on for the victims of Thursday's bombings in London.


Thursday, July 07, 2005

London bombings: Most deadliest terrorist attack on the UK - More than 38 fatalities 700 casualties, 45 serious

After logging online today at around 10am and seeing a BBC news report on today's bombing in London, I switched on the TV to find BBC1's non-stop live coverage. ITV also covered the news throughout the day and into the early evening.

News emerged, less than twenty-four hours after the euphoria of winning the Olympic Games bid, of the most deadliest terrorist attack on the UK. Without warning at 8.56 this morning in London, one of four explosive devices was detonated by terrorists on London's train subway. One of the bombs exploded inside a red double decker bus at 9.47 am and ripped off the roof. It is not known if this was the handiwork of a suicide bomber or how many people on the bus were killed.

Initial reports said there had been a power surge on the subway, but it quickly became evident that an explosion took place at 8.51 am at an underground train station near Aldgate and the City of London. A second bomb exploded 9.17 am affecting three trains coming into London's Edgware Road. The bomb on a bus exploded at 9.47 am.

Reports say so far there are more than 38 fatalities and 45 people are in critical condition with burns, amputations etc. In all, 700 casualties. Emergency services responded rapidly and could not have done better.

Prime Minister Tony Blair gave a statement via TV at the Gleneagles Hotel in Scotland. He is now back in Downing Street and has given a press conference. A panel of emergency service chiefs gave a televised news conference for the press. President Bush and various leaders were interviewed at various points throughout the day. The Queen sent a message of condolence. The Union flag at Gleneagles and Buckingham Palace are flying at half mast.

News pundits say the barbaric attack has the hallmarks of Madrid but today's bombing is not as technically competent. They say the perpetrators could be Al Queda inspired jihadists - possibly payback time for Britain's support of the U.S. over Iraq by a group formed spontaneously over recent weeks or months. More will be known when forensics are available. How the bombs were detonated will tell a lot. Bombing may have been timed with the G8.

By the time Tony Blair greeted G8 leaders this morning, he knew the worst. All of the leaders were determined the attack would not affect their day of talks which went ahead without Mr Blair. Before he left for London he gave a press talk surrounded by the G8 leaders who stood to attention in silence. He left for London by helicopter. Reports say he would be back at the summit later.

Mainline train stations are open this evening and bus services are slowly returning to normal. But for many people in London today, walking was the only route out. London mainline stations were closed. Eurostar maintained services at Waterloo. Transport to airports was suspended. At one point terminal three at Heathrow airport was closed.

Television pictures showed some footage taken on one of the underground trains by one of the survivors who had a camera phone. London buses were commandeered by police to take 100 victims to four London hospitals as traffic could not get through the city's 9 am rush hour.

Sir Rudy Giuliani, former Mayor of New York, is on Channel 4 TV news right now. Like many others, he says London is responding as well as one could expect. He commented how everyone is calm and very measured with a great sense of strength. He said large cities like London, Paris, New York etc., will never have perfect security.

The Olympic bid team were televised leaving Singapore for England feeling very saddened and subdued. Winning the Olympic bid was the best thing that has happened to Britain in a long, long time. Some extremist jihadists have rained on our parade. People are saying there could be a backlash against Muslims and attacks on mosques. Special news reports will be broadcast on TV later tonight and first thing tomorrow morning. Most of the nation will be watching.

Obviously we all feel very sad, but many of us are used to terrorist threats and attacks, especially in London because of the troubles in Northern Ireland. I lived in London SW1 at the time of the missile attack on Downing Street and I heard the explosion. For decades there were up to 70 bomb alerts each and every day, especially in central London.

Britain went through much worse during the World Wars and Battle of Britain. We will survive. The terrorists won't. They will be caught, one day. We Brits will be vigilant but shan't let any terrorists rule our lives. We are made of stern stuff.

God bless all of those suffering right now because of the appalling atrocity today and RIP the poor souls who lost their lives so tragically +++


Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Darfur rebels sign peace deal with Sudan's government

A few hours ago, it was announced that London won the Olympic bid for 2012. It was a nail biting event, televised live this afternoon. Final round of votes left London pitted against Paris. France's President Chirac spent the past week making snide remarks about Britain and its cuisine so it is pleasing to see he had little influence. The French were gutted.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair spent the past few days in Singapore lobbying for Britain's bid. Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London, was in Singapore during the vote. He said just before the result was announced, the French bid team were surrounded by 50 reporters, cameras and live TV while the London team, which included Princess Anne, Lord Sebastian Coe and David Beckham and many British gold medal athletes, were surrounded by just three reporters. The French were so confident they'd win, a rumour was leaked they had it in the bag. Heh.

Also, British television showed the G8 summit opening today in Scotland, UK plus live coverage of an MP speaking in the House of Commons about Darfur and calling for extra African Union troops, resources and an expanded mandate.

Various news reports are emerging today saying Khartoum has agreed a peace deal with the two main Darfur rebel groups SLA and JEM. Numerous ceasefire and peace agreements have been signed in the past but were worth the paper they were written on. Whenever the warring parties come close to agreeing on something, one side does something to incite violence or the rebels split or other groups spring up trouble elsewhere in eastern or central Sudan. Who knows if the following news is the real deal reported in today's Scotsman:

Sudan's government and two rebel groups last night signed the latest agreement on how to resolve the conflict in Darfur.

SLA and JEM all signed the declaration of political principles - outlining a long-term solution to the Darfur crisis - at a public ceremony in the Nigerian capital, Abuja.

Negotiators agreed to broad commitments, including upholding democracy, the independence of the judiciary and "justice and equality for all, regardless of ethnicity, religion and gender".

Salim Ahmed Salim, the African Union's special envoy for Darfur, told negotiators: "By adopting the declaration of principles, you have demonstrated your determination that you will not let down the people of Darfur ... and you will not let down our friends in the international community."
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UK announces major funding to combat polio

International Development Secretary Hilary Benn today (July 6) announced a multi-million pound package of funding to eradicate polio by the end of 2005 or early 2006 and to boost the effort to ensure the world stays polio free after that.

He said the UK is to provide £60m over the next three years.

The UK is to immediately and unilaterally plug the remaining funding gap of £20m ($36m) so that polio can be eradicated. The UK will also give another £40m in 2006-08 towards the cost of vaccinating over 500m children to ensure polio can never break out again.

There are 12 countries where there are still cases of polio: Yemen, Nigeria, Indonesia, Sudan, India, Ethiopia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Niger, Mali, Cameroon and Angola. Polio mainly affects children under five and disproportionately affects children in Africa. In 2004, 90% of the 1,255 cases were found in the region. Full Story.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Live 8 global concerts under way

Concerts are taking place around the world to put pressure on political leaders to tackle poverty in Africa.

Three billion people are watching. So far, 1.5 million people have added their name to the message being delivered to the Group 8 leaders on Wednesday in Scotland, UK. No matter where you are in the world, please add your name to The LIVE 8 List and visit Make Poverty History if you have not already done so.

Japan kicked off the first concert.

Live 8 Tokyo

Photo: Japanese band Rize started proceedings in Tokyo (Material and photos courtesy BBC)

The biggest concert, in London's Hyde Park, has opened with Sir Paul McCartney singing with U2 in front of an audience of up to 200,000. Bill Gates and Kofi Annan made a surprise appearance on stage to say a few words for the cause. Click here for line-ups of other Live 8 concerts.


Photo: Great performance by Bono and U2

Mariners begin Sail 8 round trip

The first of the boats answering Bob Geldof's call to ferry people from France for the G8 protests has left Portsmouth harbour. Full report.

Sail 8

Photo: Geldof wants protesters to collect their 'French cousins' (BBC)

Thousands flock to poverty march

Make Poverty History March

Thousands of protesters are taking part in a Make Poverty History march in Edinburgh, Scotland as musicians perform in Live 8 concerts around the globe.

Early estimates are of about 100,000 people involved in the event to highlight their message to G8 leaders meeting at Gleneagles on Wednesday.

1.5 million people turned up for Live 8 in Philadelphia.