LUSAKA – A year ago, Zambia and Angola were whispering about war. Now theyre shouting, as Angola accuses its neighbor of helping to arm Jonas Savimbis UNITA rebel movement. In Lusaka, Zambias overcrowded capital, headlines about a possible invasion hit the streets every other day. One such story, which said Angolas military power is three times that of Zambias, led to the arrest of staff members at The Post and subsequent espionage charges.
Originally funded by the US and the apartheid era South Africa regime, UNITA reneged on a 1994 peace deal and has since escalated its attacks. Last year, Angola accused Zambia of letting Savimbi use the countrys airspace to transport fuel and other accessories. In a recent letter to the UN sanctions committee, it charges that Zambia supplies arms through its intelligence service and allows its airports to be used. Angola has strong ties with most of its neighbors, but little influence over the eastern border with Zambia, an area under Savimbis control.
Although the Angolans believe that Savimbi cant win a war, UNITAs successful bombardment of government-held territory suggests staying power and external support. Angola claims that Uganda and Rwanda are also involved in the fighting against Congo-Kinshasa president Laurent Kabila and are helping to train UNITA troops. Savimbi and Congolese rebels currently control large diamond areas.
Zambian President Frederick Chiluba says his country doesnt have the capacity to wage war, but we are ready to defend ourselves if provoked. In other words, an invasion by Angola could push Zambia into a military buildup. Uganda, Zimbabwe, and Angola are already buying sophisticated weapons from Russia, China, and South Africa.
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LIMA – Allowing women into military service is a growing trend in South America, taking hold in countries such as Bolivia, Argentina, and Chile. In Colombia, the Air Force academy is training its first female combat pilots; female soldiers, know as Women of Steel, already engage in combat. In Peru, 50 young women are currently studying at the countrys military academy, while Chile has its first female general although she heads the family protection branch of the military police, which is viewed as a womans department.
Despite recent breakthroughs, critics charge that such participation is mere tokenism, and note that military women not only face sexual abuse and harassment but also gender discrimination tied to social values. According to one former teacher at Perus military academy, women are held to a stricter moral code. Another worries that female recruits will be driven to adopt the same violent behavior exhibited by many of their male peers.
Anti-war feminists meanwhile say women should focus instead on challenging and disbanding military institutions. In Paraguay, for example, women have led protests against military rule and mandatory male conscription. Their sisters in Argentina, the Mothers and Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, continue to demand information on the fate of loved ones who disappeared during the countrys 1976-83 dirty war.
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NAIROBI – Its a useless piece of literature, says Kenyan Court of Appeals Justice Richard Kwatch. Hes referring to the latest celebrity bio by Andrew Morton, author of Diana: Her True Story and Monicas Story. This one is an apparent whitewash of Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi, titled Moi: The Making of an African Statesman.
Kwatch and another judge have filed a libel suit against Morton for suggesting their involvement with a high government official accused of murdering the countys foreign affairs minister. The book, which potrays Moi as a leader along the lines of Nelson Mandela, irks many who have lived under his 20-year rule. The only thing Morton manages to convey, argues attorney Christopher Mulei, is the justification of an autocratic style of leadership on account of being an African chief.
Morton portrays Moi as a man living simply, making no mention of his personal jet and sleek limousines. Pundits question the authors independence, claiming the president approached him to write a sympathetic biography before ending his reign in 2002. But the plan may have backfired, awaking old opponents and opening new wounds.
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WASHINGTON, DC – At least 24 reporters in 17 countries were murdered for their work in 1998, according to the annual report of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). Another 12 murders are still under investigation, and at least 118 journalists were in prison in 25 countries at years end. The report analyses press freedom in 118 countries, including compelling accounts of 500 attacks aimed to intimidate and silence journalists and news organizations through assault, wrongful imprisonment, censorship, and legal harassment.
Among the ominous trends was the explosion of violence against journalists in war-torn Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and onerous new press laws in Jordan and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Colombia, where 43 journalists were murdered in the past 10 years, remains the most lethal country for journalists.
The Committee adds that, for the fifth consecutive year, Turkey held more journalists in prison than any other country. Of the 27 journalists jailed there, most are victims of the governments continued criminalization of reporting on the 14-year-old conflict with Kurdish insurgents in Turkeys southeast. Both China and Ethiopia had a dozen reporters in jail last year.
Even in Europe, journalists arent always safe. Prime-L listserv reported that Belgian writer Michel Collon was arrested and brutally attacked during a demonstration in Brussels on April 4 against the NATO war on Yugoslavia.
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REIGEL – Just as environmentalists feared, a genetically engineered (GE) strain of BT-176 corn, created in a lab by the Novartis Corp., has escaped. The strain spread to a field of corn in an organic farm near Reigel. Fortunately, the unusually large size of the strain made it easy to identify.
The head of Germanys family farms organization has requested compensation for damages, while Greenpeace Germany demands a recall of all GE crops, along with quick government action to contain the spread of the altered corn. There are no walls in nature, warns Greenpeace.
Neither Novartis nor German officials alerted farmers that the new crop was being introduced. After the incident, the French Ministry of Agriculture recalled all genetically engineered corn.
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TOLOGNARO – Plans for a $500 million titanium dioxide mining project on the southeast coast of Madagascar have run into opposition from bitter inhabitants. Some say promises of badly needed jobs are being broken even before the project gets underway. Others worry about damage to tourism and the environment.
Qit-Fer Madagascar Minerals (QMM), a subsidiary of Rio Tinto Zinc, the worlds biggest mining company, first raised the idea of mining Madagascars coastal dunes in 1986. But the project was delayed when the World Bank ordered an environmental study.
Villagers in Petricky and St. Luce have a strong spiritual attachment to the forest that would be razed. Photographs showing gaping red holes at a similar site in South Africa have stirred consternation. Most under threat, however, is the peaceful way of life in the Evatra fishing village, the proposed site for a huge industrial port. According to Evatras local leader, if that happens the sea wont be able to get through to the river and we wont be able to fish. The community threatens to hold a sit-in across the river mouth in their fishing boats.
Local businesses fear that the sight of huge dredging machines will ruin future prospects for eco-tourism. Development and environmental groups in Tolagnaro, the islands biggest tourist destination, hope to rally a coalition now that villagers have voiced disapproval. Their slogan: Leave our sand alone.
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SUVA – With a general election looming, Fijis government has purchased a controlling interest in one of the countrys two daily newspapers, the Daily Post. Although the Post has an editorial line critical of the government, unions and other critics have challenged the buyout on economic grounds, noting the hypocrisy of privatizing water, electricity, health, and other services while purchasing a media enterprise.
We have a foreign-owned newspaper and now were going to have a locally-owned one, said Finance Minister Jim Ah Koy. The rival main circulation newspaper, Fiji Times, is owned by Rupurt Murdochs News Corporation group. The government brushed aside speculation that it bought the paper to prevent its falling into the hands of investors close to the opposition Indo-Fijian dominated Federation Party.
We do not consider that a newspaper with government as its single largest shareholder can be independent, notes Fiji Media Council chairman Daryl Tarte. Government also owns the radio station Island Networks, and has the power to give directions to Fiji Television. The Paris-based Reporters Sans Frontiers has urged the government to negotiate an editorial charter with the papers staff guaranteeing a free press.
The Fiji Trade Union Congress says the buyout exposes the governments confused privatization policies.
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Congo Square, New Orleans
Go with me to Congo Square
where the drums thud softly in the dark
Come with me to Congo Square
where the drummers hands tap softly in the dark
See the figures emerge from the shadows
see their bodies glisten
with sweat, with tears, with blood
See the men and women emerge
from the shadows of the past
millions of men and women
who died under the lash
under the shackles and chains of slavery
See those ghosts come back from the past
see how the drums assert
their unconquerable will
See the drums in Congo Square
— Dennis Brutus, 2/28/99