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South Africa’s Mad Science (6/99)

Even James Bond would have been shocked to walk into the secret laboratories of the former South African White minority regime not so long ago. He would have seen some of the country’s best and most experienced scientists developing an arsenal of chemical and biological weapons to be used against the Black opponents of apartheid.

One of these "mad" scientists, Dr. Wouter Basson, faces 64 charges, including 16 counts of murder and 24 counts of fraud. His trial is scheduled to start October 4 in Pretoria’s High Court and could last two years. The South African National Defence Force will foot his legal bills. read more

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Inside the TRC (6/99)

The Jakaranda trees were in full bloom in late October when I arrived in South Africa’s capital, Pretoria, as part of a massive media contingent covering the national event of the decade – the hand over of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) final report to President Nelson Mandela. The purple flowers, like the customary garb of the TRC’s illustrious chairperson, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, seemed to overwhelm everything.

Unlike most other journalists – pampered, pompous, and jockeying for position in this earth-moving event – I was tired and disoriented from a 19-hour bus ride, and still recovering from almost three years in the cauldron of the TRC Investigative Unit. Nevertheless, I was eager to see what the commission would release as the product of all our work. I didn’t really doubt that it would "do the right thing," yet I wasn’t certain exactly how the report would look when unveiled to the world. And I couldn’t forget the deep, almost soul-destroying battles which had been waged behind the scenes. read more

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South Africa: HIV/AIDS Solutions (3/99)

Fifty women, most middle-aged, married, and Black, gathered last fall in an unlikely place – Rand Afrikaans University (RAU), once one of South Africa’s most relentlessly White institutions. They participated in a rare event, an AIDS education workshop designated exclusively for women. And they came together largely through the efforts of a remarkable scientist and activist, Debra Meyer. Barely in her thirties, Meyer is already in the vanguard of those leading "the new South Africa." read more

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Media Hero: Nigeria’s Soyinka Comes Home (12/98)


For four years, Nigeria’s Nobel Prize-winning author Wole Soyinka roamed Western capitals, seeking support against military rule in Nigeria. His life was in danger several times, as agents of the late dictator, General Sani Abacha, tracked his footsteps in London, Rome, and New York. Thus, Abacha’s death in June lifted a weight off his shoulders. The new military ruler, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, appeared to be a man of liberal principles who would not allow the machinery of the state to target such a gifted individual. read more

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South Africa’s Arms Trade (8/98)

In the aftermath of the nuclear tests in South Asia, the US State Department, CIA, and other agencies are scrambling to review South Africa’s multi-billion dollar armament industry, particularly its apartheid-era nuclear weapons program. "We are continually updating assessments," a CIA spokesman confirmed recently on the usual condition of anonymity. "But certain aspects are under increased scrutiny, and one of them is their nuclear capability."

In 1993, then South African Prime Minister F.W. De Klerk confirmed what had been an open secret. South Africa had the bomb – seven of the Hiroshima-style weapons to be precise. Manufactured by South African nuclear physicists at the Palindaba atomic complex near Pretoria despite anti-apartheid sanctions, the "Armageddon" devices were reputedly destroyed later that year. read more

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Human Rights: Ending the Nighmare (5/98)

Electric shocks, partial drowning, sleep depravation, and mental distress – torture comes in many forms. But increased exposure, modern communications, and the linking of development aid to a country’s human rights record are forcing change as the century draws to a close.

In 1982, I experienced torture. Born and raised a Kenyan of European descent, I came face to face with the dark secrets that all Kenyans knew, but were cowed into enduring. The bludgeoning death of President Jomo Kenyatta’s rebellious confidant J.J. Kariuki, the assassination of firebrand opposition leader Tom Mboya on Nairobi’s Government Road, and the free-fall death from an army helicopter of Robert Ouko, President Moi’s about-to-tell-all foreign minister, brought the message home. read more