Thursday, August 31, 2006


Experts say the composer's script was quite distinctive. Researchers in Germany say they have unearthed two previously unknown manuscripts written by Johann Sebastian Bach when he was a teenage organist. The handwritten manuscripts, dating from about 1700, are copies of organ music composed by Dietrich Buxtehude and Johann Adam Reinken. At the time Bach was 15 - and these are the oldest known manuscripts by him.

They were among archives taken from a library in Weimar, east Germany, which was ravaged by a fire two years ago. The Bach manuscripts survived because they were stored in the building's vault. The fire at the Duchess Anna Amalia Library, part of a 16th-Century palace, destroyed about 50,000 books.

According to Bach experts Michael Maul and Peter Wollny from the Bach-Archiv foundation in Leipzig, the manuscripts shed new light on the career of the young Bach. They confirm that he was a student of the organist Georg Boehm in the north German city of Lueneburg. The researchers say the latest find is more significant than the discovery last year of a previously unknown vocal piece by Bach, which was also among the papers removed from the library. Bach's script was quite distinctive, the researchers said, although there was some similarity to Boehm's.

The organ works that Bach copied were chorale fantasias called Nun freut euch lieben Christen gmein (Be joyful ye Christians) and An den Wasserfluessen Babylons (By the waters of Babylon). The Bach Archiv foundation said that "technically highly demanding, these organ works document the extraordinary virtuoso skills of the young Bach as well as his efforts to master the most ambitious and complex pieces of the entire organ repertoire".


'Islamist conspiracy' fear in Turkey
By Paul Henley BBC Radio 4's Crossing Continents.

Turkey has long been valued by the West as a secular Muslim ally but now one former military officer tells the BBC that secularism is under threat. General Solmaztuerk talks of Islamist groups infiltrating the armyHaldun Solmaztuerk is a former brigadier general in the Turkish army. He has seen active service in the direst days of guerrilla war in the Kurdish south-east, as well in Somalia and in Bosnia. As he watches an elderly woman inch her way up a marble staircase on an extremely hot day in Ankara, he is moved to tears. "It's nearly 40 degrees today. And here there are people of all ages and backgrounds - small children, old people who can barely walk, climbing these steps because they want to pay their respects. "You see, we owe everything to this man," he says. The man he is talking about died nearly 70 years ago.

But the presence of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, "Father of the Turks", is still felt very keenly. "Without Ataturk we would not have any Turkish Republic," says the general. Symbols of unity? We walk between stone lions guarding a half-mile long avenue which leads to the distinctive white and red of the Turkish flag and his hero's grandiose mausoleum. Ataturk founded the republic and became its first president"We are in the heart of that republic now. "It is a symbol not just of power, but of unity, of the whole nation together without any differentiation between ethnic origins," he says.

Symbols of such unity seem a little over-optimistic in today's Turkey, marked as it is by the regular bomb attacks of separatist Kurdish groups. In the towns and villages of the south-east, where support for the outlawed armed gangs of the PKK runs high, local officials sit with what must be permanently gritted teeth beneath the de-rigueur portraits of Ataturk. But there is another perhaps more significant reason why the Father of the Turks deeply divides his 70 million "children". And it is about more than ethnic difference. It has to do with religion.

The briefest search of the name Ataturk on the internet reveals website after website of invective, as well as praise. Ataturk turned Turkey into a new Europe-looking nation"He was truly an enemy of Allah to the core," writes one Islamist thinker. Ataturk made Turks look West, not East, for their cultural and political inspiration. As well as giving women the vote and introducing the Latin alphabet for the written Turkish language for the first time, he formed the secular state with a divide between religion and government enshrined clearly in law. His ban on women wearing headscarves in public institutions endures as one of the issues that most incites bitterness, even violence, in Turkey today.

For General Haldun Solmaztuerk, Ataturk's principles have never been more politicallyrelevant. General Solmaztuerk retired from the military last year, but he sees himself and his country as involved in a daily battle with forces he says are trying to destroy the gap between mosque and parliament and ultimately make Turkey an Islamic state under Sharia law. "The enemy,"he says, "is a way of thinking, of subjecting political decisions to religious rules. "I believe I am in line with values held dear by the EU and all Western democracies." Turkey's government strongly denies that it wants to undermine secularism.

Mr Erdogan has disavowed the hardline Islamic views of his pastTurkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, an eager proponent of Turkey joining the European Union, recently stressed the need to "strengthen democracy, secularism... and the rule of law." But there is an increasing number of people in Turkey who doubt his secular credentials. His government has its roots in a party banned several years ago for allegedly trying to Islamise the country. His so far unsuccessful efforts to ease the headscarf ban, to promote religious vocational schools, to criminalise adultery and discourage alcohol consumption have outraged the secularists who are prominent in Turkey's judiciary, academia and above all in its military.

Solmaztuerk cannot speak for the military, not officially. No-one, it seems, is prepared to do that. With a refusal to allow the BBC any access to serving personnel or bases, the army preserves its reputation for secretiveness.But he is hardly a man to step out of line with the institution which gives him his very raison d'etre. "When I was 11 years old I was determined to become a soldier," he says, accompanied by the rhythmic boot-thuds of the changing of the guard at the Ataturk mausoleum." "Being in the armed forces has meant everything to me... because the Turkish army is not any army. "Institutions in this country are ineffective, bureaucracy is lazy... politicians are abusing democracy."

Inside the Turkish Military was broadcast on Thursday 31 August at 1102 BST.
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Listen to the programme

The army is Turkey's most trusted institution but it is not so popular with the EU. There have been three coups since 1960. Each time the army has quickly handed back power to civilians. But a priority for the EU is that the military scale back its political influence. For example, the EU has made sure that the military budget is now under Parliamentary control. General Solmaztuerk's fear is that if the EU continues to water down the military's power it will be easy to narrow the separation between state and mosque. And he goes further than criticism of government policy. He talks of secretive Islamic groups "infiltrating" the army's ranks. "They see the army as the main obstacle to achieving their aim of an Islamic republic," he says. And he claims their method would mirror "orders given in the late 70s by Khomeini to some Iranian officers to kill their generals and launch the revolution."
The European Union, he concludes, should take note.

BBC Radio 4's Crossing Continents was broadcast on Thursday, 31 August 2006, and repeated on Monday, 4 September 2006 at 2030 BST.



Chinese threat for Ghana's textile firms.
By Orla Ryan Accra, Ghana.

Brightly coloured African textile designs are big business in Ghana. Ghanaian textile designer Philip Adu-Gyamfi wakes up in the middle of the night worrying about what he will design the next day. The African prints he and his team design for textile firm ATL are hugely popular. They are worn to church, funerals and weddings - every occasion, traditional or modern, that Ghanaians can find an excuse to wear them to.

But Chinese copies of these designs are being smuggled into the West African country and sold at vastly-reduced rates. And this is forcing designers like Mr Adu-Gyamfi to work doubly hard to stay ahead. "It is not easy at all," he says. "You get to a market and the design you have made has been copied, you feel like crying."Traditional African prints, some printed in wax, are a popular sight in Ghana and throughout West Africa. On Sundays, Ghanaian women, magnificently dressed in brightly-coloured fabrics, sail through the capital Accra's dusty streets to attend church services.

Most weekends, mourners attend funeral parties decked in red, brown and black traditional cloth. In some cultures, traditional African wax print is even included as part of the bride price. For many, there is no greater indicator of prestige or class than wearing clothes made from fine-quality African fabric. "When people see you (wearing African fabric), they appreciate you are of a certain class," says Mr Adu-Gyamfi.

Meeting the fashion needs of Ghanaian women is big business. Dealers can make more from fake textile designs than African originals. About 150 million yards of African prints worth up to $250m (£131.5m) are sold in Ghana each year. But just one quarter of Ghanaian demand for African prints is met by locally produced textiles - a situation that ATL attributes to smuggled Chinese imitations. Sales have fallen by between 50% and 75%, as customers buy Chinese copies of locally produced designs. "We started to realise there was a flood of Asian products arriving on the market two years ago. It started in 2004, it really built up. Last year it was terrible, there were loads coming in," says ATL's Steve Dutton.

Arriving in the free port of Lome and smuggled into Ghana, Chinese imitations retail at between 160,000 and 220,000 Ghanaian cedis per 12 yards. This is almost half to a third cheaper than the 300,000 cedis ATL charges. ATL is not the only textile firm to complain of competition from China. Many European and American firms struggle to compete with the Chinese manufacturing machine. Chinese imports are particularly likely to hurt Dutch firms, who have a long tradition of selling wax cloth in West Africa. The Ghanaian textile market has seen years of decline - much as Ghanaians love African prints, not everyone can afford them and many buy cheap second-hand Western clothes.

Cheap labour and high productivity makes it almost impossible to compete with Chinese firms, Mr Dutton admits. ATL had expected its creativity and market knowledge to give the firm an edge. This advantage, says Mr Dutton, is eroded by the fact that most of the Chinese fabrics arriving in Ghana are replicas of Ghanaian-copyrighted designs. Faced with the difficulty of tracking down Chinese manufacturers, ATL is tackling local traders instead. Some traders are happy to co-operate, others want to enjoy the higher margins on the fake products. It is nearly impossible to find out where the goods came from, but Ghanaian-made sales do rise after a crackdown. "All we can do is attack people selling it here, we don't want to do that, but that is the only line of defence we have," says Mr Dutton.


The bill proposes bugging e-mail and phones. Zimbabwe's opposition and civil society groups have expressed anger at a proposed law to monitor communications. The bill proposes a monitoring centre, apparently with Chinese technology, that would eavesdrop on telephone, internet and other communications. The government says the bill is similar to anti-terror laws elsewhere to protect people from organised crime. Parliament began public hearings on the Interception of Communications Bill on Wednesday amid heated exchanges.

Communications minister can issue warrants for interception
Police, security and revenue service bosses can apply to minister to issue warrant
Warrants can be issued in case of perceived crime or security threats
Warrants valid for three months, can be extended indefinitely
Right of appeal to minister, not to courts
ISPs must install monitoring hardware and software

"One of the key obligations on internet service providers (ISPs) is to install equipment which would allow them to interface between the ISP and the monitoring service," Jim Holland, spokesman for the Zimbabwe Internet Service Providers' Association, told the BBC News website. This equipment would have to be installed at the expense of the ISP.

Mr Holland said his organisation would seek clarification on whether the bill applied to all companies that provide internet services to the public. Asked whether Zimbabwe had the technological capacity to implement the changes proposed in the bill, Mr Holland said: "I would imagine it is now here. There are obviously now close links with the Chinese, who are specialists in the interception of radio and internet communication." Zimbabwean telephone calls are already monitored. "The Posts and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority said the interface was already there - all that is required is to connect to the monitoring centre," Mr Holland said.

Monitoring internet communication is nevertheless more complicated than monitoring phone calls, and Zimbabweans using an overseas-based webmail service would be able to avoid bugging by the authorities in Zimbabwe. The government has defended the proposal in the name of national security. "The advancement in technology today means that no one is safe at all from the source of terrorism, mercenarism and organised crime," Brig Gen Mike Sango of the Zimbabwe Defence Force told the hearing.
"A piece of legislation has been long overdue on this particular problem."
'Carte blanche'
Critics raised concerns that the bill does not make provision for decisions to be reviewed by the judiciary. "An aggrieved person is given a right to appeal to the Minister (of Transport and Communications), who is neither independent nor impartial. He authorises the interception and monitoring in the first place," argued Wilbert Mandinde, legal officer of the Media Institute for Southern Africa in Zimbabwe. The opposition Movement for Democratic Change agreed: "It seems to give carte blanche - the minister is the judge and the jury, it violates the whole concept of the separation of powers," said MDC legal adviser Jessie Majome.

A special report will be tabled before parliament after the public hearings. President Robert Mugabe's government already faces criticism for laws that curtail free speech and movement.
Mr Holland said the lack of judicial oversight in the bill was similar to certain provisions of an earlier communications law that were overturned by the High Court in 2004 on grounds of being unconstitutional.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006


The Canary Islands are coping with an unprecedented influx. The European Commission says it will do more to help EU member states handle large flows of migrants.
Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini was replying to a new appeal for help from Spain, which is struggling with an influx by sea from West Africa.
The EU launched an operation this month to turn back small boats carrying migrants from Cape Verde, Mauritania and Senegal to the Canary Islands. But Spain says the operation is not big enough and took too long to get going.
Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega said Spain needed "more boats, more planes, more personnel".
Mr Frattini said he would ask member states to show more solidarity with Spain, to increase the amount of money available for border control, and to strengthen the "operational capacity" of the new EU border agency, Frontex.

In pictures: Arrival in Europe
He also said he would back Spain's request for the Canary Islands operation, known as Hera, to be extended from the planned nine weeks to the end of the year.
More migrants have arrived on the islands this month than in the whole of 2005. In total, nearly 19,000 migrants have arrived on the islands this year. Estimates of the number that have died en route range from 590 to 3,000.
The operation, co-ordinated by Frontex, involves air and sea patrols along the coast of Cape Verde, Mauritania and Senegal.

So far, only one Portuguese ship has joined the Spanish effort. An Italian ship broke down en route, and a Finnish aircraft has yet to arrive. Other countries have provided experts in identification of migrants. A Frontex official said the experts were necessary because migrants tried to avoid repatriation by concealing their nationality.
A Spanish government official in the Canary Islands estimated that 5,000 had been repatriated so far this year.
The EU is planning a similar operation in the Mediterranean to intercept migrants from North Africa to Italy and Malta.
The Canary Islands crisis is headline news in Spain, even though the African migrants represent only a small proportion of the total flow of immigrants to the country - more than half a million in 2005.
A study published in Spain this week says that without the 3.2m immigrants that have arrived in the country in the last 10 years, the country's per capita output could have fallen, rather than rising by 2.6%.
The study by the Catalan state savings bank and the Autonomous University of Barcelona, quoted by the Financial Times newspaper, says per capita output would have fallen in many European countries - including Germany and the UK - if they had not benefited from immigration.


Oil wealth fails Chadian villagers.
By Stephanie Hancock Ngalaba, southern Chad.

Pylons criss-cross the landscape carrying power to the oil wells. Giant electricity pylons and the glow of gas flares dominate the landscape in southern Chad, but people living admidst the oil fields do not receive any of the power in their villages.
It makes for an unusual sight: the very best of modern industrial technology alongside a village people whose lifestyle has barely changed in centuries.
Although cattle still roam freely and the fields remain lush and green, villages like Ngalaba have become known as a "village enclave" - a community totally surrounded by oil wells.
Village chief Tamro Mbaidjehuernan says his community has been changed by Chad's oil project - but only for the worse.
"They took a lot of our fields to make room for the oil installation," explains Mr Mbaidjehuernan.
"We received compensation, but it wasn't very much. We used to cultivate peanuts, sorghum, maize and millet. But now we can hardly grow anything - there's just not the room."

Esso, the US company which operates the 1,070 km (664-mile) pipeline that runs from Chad through Cameroon to the coast, says it paid villagers market rates for their land, built a school in the village as compensation, and also donated a well.
But as a row over Chad's oil revenues intensifies in the capital, people in Doba Basin remain disillusioned with the project that began pumping oil three years ago.
A few minutes walk from Ngalaba lies the village of Maikeri, another "village enclave", where Chief Djinodji August says the project has proved a false dawn.
"They said this project would bring us happiness. But from where I'm sitting, it's going from bad to worse. There have been a lot of false promises."
The chief's son, Bendoh, also complains about a night-time curfew in their region, put in place by the local government after a spate of thefts at nearby oil facilities.
"This curfew has installed a climate of fear," says Bendoh. "If people go to their fields or want to visit a friend, they are scared of seeing a gendarme as he will make trouble for them.
"Even if you are transporting a sick person to a clinic - as there is none in our area - they will search you, ask you questions and sometimes take your money."
When the World Bank supported Chad's bid to start pumping oil, it insisted on setting up a group called the 5% Committee - which allocates extra oil revenues to the oil-producing region.
But despite being set up 18 months ago, the committee has yet to finish a single project.
Urbain Moyombaye, a local development worker who himself lives just kilometres from an oil field, says villagers' lives have not improved with the oil project.
"We have not seen any concrete positive impact for the local population," says Mr Moyombaye.
"There is nothing. Go to any village - I say any village - in the Doba Basin and there is nothing. Not a single thing has been built with oil revenue money."
However, some oil money is being spent in the region.
In nearby Doba town, the capital of this oil-producing region, work is starting on a brand new $5m football stadium.
But the stadium was not approved by the 5% Committee - instead, it is being built on the direct orders of Chad's president, Idriss Deby.

It is exactly the type of unilateral decision the World Bank was hoping this project could avoid.
Pierre Djasro is not hopeful that his school roof will be replaced soon.
"All these projects are being decided by 'derogation'," says Mr Moyombaye.
"Normally, before starting projects, the committee should ask local people what they want.
"How can we build a stadium when there are people who don't even have clean drinking water?"
Pierre Djasro is one of the nine members of the 5% Committee, and is also village chief of Miandoum village.
The roof of his village school was recently ripped off in a heavy storm, but even he admits this is unlikely to be fixed any time soon.
"I've formally asked the 5% Committee to come and have a look," said Mr Djasro, who adds that the school is so overcrowded many pupils study outdoors. "They said they'd come a week ago but they haven't come. Even today they promised me a visit, but they've not arrived."

While it is clear there is little respect for proper procedure, many people believe there is another reason why the oil cash is not getting through. Miandoum oil field is visible from Ngalaba village.
"The real problem in Chad is not lack of resources - it's corruption," says Arnaud Ngarmian, member of a civil society which monitors Chad's oil project.
"The World Bank agreed to finance this project to help reduce poverty, but the way oil revenues are being managed, this will never happen," he says. "Projects are being built without due process, and the World Bank says nothing. The World Bank has a big responsibility to the Chadian people."
Chad's oil project was designed to try and lift the country out of poverty. It was supposed to be the World Bank's flagship project, a way of making poverty - and corruption - a thing of the past. But three years into this project, ordinary Chadians say they are still waiting for their share of the country's oil riches.


Naguib Mahfouz was a much-loved writer in the Middle East. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has paid tribute to writer Naguib Mahfouz, who has died in Cairo at the age of 94. "Mahfouz was a cultural light... who brought Arab literature to the world," he said of the first Arab to win the Nobel prize for literature. He said the author expressed "values of enlightenment and tolerance". The Egyptian writer had spent the last months of his life in hospital after falling during a midnight stroll and injuring his head in July.

His vibrant portrayal of the Egyptian capital in his Cairo Trilogy won the 1988 Nobel Prize for literature. US President George Bush has also expressed condolences, calling Mahfouz "an extraordinary artist who conveyed the richness of Egyptian history and society to the world". A White House spokesman said the author's work would "introduce his beloved Egypt to Americans and to readers around the world for generations to come".

International recognition The writer had suffered health problems since being stabbed in the neck in 1994 by an Islamist extremist, angry at his portrayal of God in one of his novels. After that incident he was in hospital for seven weeks and suffered nerve damage in his neck, which limited his ability to write and caused his eyesight and hearing to deteriorate. Mahfouz's Nobel Prize brought international recognition to a man already regarded in the Middle East as one of its best writers and premier intellectuals. Egyptian writer Ahdaf Souief, who knew Mahfouz well, said the writer was a "massively important influence" on Arabic literature. "He was our greatest living novelist for a very long time," he said. "Mahfouz was an innovator in the use of the Arabic language.


1911: Born in Cairo
1934: Graduated in philosophy from Cairo University
1959: Al-Azhar, one of the most important Islamic institutions in the world, bans novel because it includes characters representing God and the prophets
1988: First and only Arab to win Nobel Prize for literature
1994: Mahfouz stabbed in the neck by Islamist militant angered by his work.

Obituary: Naguib Mahfouz

"He also embodied the whole development of the Arabic novel, starting with historical novels in the late 1940s through realism, through experimentalism and so on. "He single-handedly went through the whole development of the Arabic novel and made innovation possible for generations of writers after him."

The Cairo Trilogy - Palace Walk, Palace of Desire and Sugar Street, all of which appeared in the 1950s - detailed the adventures and misadventures of a Muslim merchant family. The books introduced a character who became an icon in Egyptian culture: Si-Sayed, the domineering father who holds his family together. Controversy came in 1959 with the publication of the novel Children of Gebelawi. First serialised in Egyptian newspapers, it caused an uproar and was banned by Egyptian religious authorities on the grounds it violated Islamic rules by including characters who clearly represented God and the prophets. Nonetheless, it was published in Lebanon and later translated into English.

In a career that spanned decades Mahfouz published more than 30 novels, short stories, plays, newspaper columns, essays, travelogues, memoirs and political analyses. His final published major work - a collection of stories about the afterlife titled The Seventh Heaven - came in 2005. "I wrote The Seventh Heaven because I want to believe something good will happen to me after death," he told the Associated Press in December 2005. "Spirituality for me is of high importance and continuously provides inspiration for me."



South Africans were among the group arrested in Zimbabwe in 2004. South Africa's National Assembly has approved a law requiring that citizens working as security staff abroad must seek permission from the government. It will also make South Africans seek permission to serve in foreign armies.
Defence Minister Mosiuoa Lekota said the law was to prevent mercenaries from subverting democracy across Africa but opponents say it is too stringent. South Africa is trying to get rid of a reputation as a haven for mercenaries and coup plotters. The authorities estimate at least 4,000 South Africans are employed in conflict areas, and several have been found to be involved in attempted coups. "Mercenaries are the scourge of poor areas of the world, especially Africa," Mr Lekota said. "Killers for hire, they rent out their skills to the highest bidder regardless of the political agenda."

The governing ANC's two-thirds majority in parliament ensured the bill was passed with a large majority, though several opposition parties opposed it. Critics say the bill could destroy the jobs of those South Africans who are currently doing genuine security work in countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan. "This could mean that thousands of South Africans currently doing legitimate work in such countries will now have to apply for authorisation and, if this is not given, will have to give up their jobs and return to South Africa where chances of employment are slim," Len le Roux of the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria argues.

The UK High Commissioner to South Africa, Paul Boateng, was among those who appealed for changes to the bill, which is likely to affect 800 South Africans serving in the UK armed forces.
Mr Lekota defended South Africa's right to ban its citizens from serving in the British army if South Africa did not support the war in question. "If Her Majesty's Government was engaged in or getting into a conflict that is inconsistent with our law (which is based on the demands of the Constitution), we would say we are not going to do that. And that we will regulate," he said on Tuesday.

The bill was passed by an overwhelming majority in the National Assembly, and must now be approved by the Council of Provinces, the upper house of parliament. South Africa's role as a mercenary base was highlighted in 2004, when more than 60 SouthAfrican citizens - most of them former Angolans who had fought alongside South African troops in the Angolan civil war - were arrested in Zimbabwe in connection with an alleged coup attempt in Equatorial Guinea. All served a year in jail in Zimbabwe, and eight suspected ringleaders were subsequently charged in South Africa.

Also last year, Sir Mark Thatcher - son of former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher - fell foul of South Africa's existing anti-mercenary laws in relation to the alleged coup plot and was given a suspended jail term and fined after agreeing a plea bargain to help investigators. The alleged ringleader of the plot, Briton Simon Mann, and the two pilots of the plane, remain in prison in Zimbabwe on longer sentences. In Equatorial Guinea, 14 other people were found guilty of charges linked to the alleged coup attempt, including plot leader Nick du Toit who received a 34-year jail sentence.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006


Zimbabwe cash switch: Your experiences.

Zimbabweans living in the country and abroad describe the effects of the recent currency reform, a week since the initial deadline expired rendering the old currency no longer legal tender. In a move to tackle hyper-inflation and crackdown on illegal trading activities the government removed three zeros from its currency's value at the beginning of August.
Click on the links below to read about their experiences.

People's names have been changed to protect their identity. The viewpoints have been selected from as wide a cross-section of people as possible and may not be representative of wider Zimbabwean public opinion.


President Obasanjo's term in office ends next year. Nigeria has announced that elections to choose a successor to President Olusegun Obasanjo and a new national assembly will be held on 21 April 2007. Voting for state governors and regional assemblies will take place on 14 April. The Independent Electoral Commission chairman said preparations for the elections were progressing well. This could mark the first successful democratic transfer of power from one civilian president to another since Nigerian independence in 1960.

President Obasanjo will have served two terms, the maximum allowed under the constitution, since being elected in 1999. It is not clear who will be in line to succeed Mr Obasanjo, who has denied favouring any particular successor to the presidency.

Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, who opposed moves to change the constitution so as to allow Mr Obasanjo a third term, is believed to be seeking the nomination of the governing People's Democratic Party (PDP).

Former military ruler Ibrahim Babangida - also a PDP member, and seen as close to Mr Obasanjo - has announced his intention to stand for the presidency, though not necessarily on a party ticket.



Local leaders are accused of putting economics before environment. One third of China is suffering from acid rain caused by rapid industrial growth, an official report quoted by the state media says. Pollution levels have risen and air quality has deteriorated, the report found. This comes despite a pledge by the authorities to clean up the air. In the latest incident, a reservoir serving 100,000 people in north-west China was polluted by a chemical spill. China has some of the world's most polluted cities and rivers.

The pollution inspection report to the standing committee of parliament found that 25.5 million tonnes of sulphur dioxide were spewed out, mainly from the country's coal-burning factories last year - up 27% from 2000. Emissions of sulphur dioxide - the chemical that causes acid rain - were double the safe level, the report said. In some areas, rainfall was 100% acid rain, it added.
"Increased sulphur dioxide emissions meant that one-third of China's territory was affected by acid rain, posing a major threat to soil and food safety," Sheng Huaren of the standing committee, was quoted by state media as saying.

Local governments were accused of overlooking environmental regulations in the rush for economic development. "It is especially worrying that most local governments base economic growth on energy consuming industries, disregarding the environment's capacity to sustain industrial expansion," Mr Sheng said. His report echoes the findings from the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) released earlier this month.

In July, China announced it planned to spend 1.4 trillion yuan ($175bn) over the next five years on protecting its environment. The sum - equivalent to 1.5% of China's annual economic output - will be used to improve water quality, and cut air and land pollution and soil erosion. Meanwhile, water supplies to the city of Hancheng in Shaanxi province were due to resume on Sunday, following an emergency when a nearby reservoir was polluted with 25 tonnes of caustic soda.

Officials brought in 10 tonnes of hydrochloric acid to neutralise the caustic soda, which was being carried by a tanker that fell into the Xuefeng reservoir on Friday, killing one person.


Bonfire of the brands.
By Neil Boorman

We are surrounded by myriad brands, flashing neon signs, billboards, labels on our heads, feet and bodies, and the objects we hold in our hands. But what happens when one man tries to live without them? I am addicted to brands. For as long as I can remember, they have occupied my thoughts during the waking day. What they look like, what they do, what they mean.
The majority of my modest income has been spent on them and I've gone to great lengths to acquire and be around them. I am a music promoter and style magazine editor by trade. In the first case that means putting on events that are often sponsored by brands. In the second it means understanding, keeping up with and talking about brands. Constantly. As a young teenager, all I ever wanted to do was to work with my favourite brands - Adidas, Technics, Budweiser, Sony - the names that were plastered over the things I craved to own.

Insurance firm AIG paid Man Utd £56m to put its name on their shirtsWhere some boys had posters of footballers or movie stars on their walls, I had images of trainers and turntables - to be surrounded by these names made me feel better about myself, transforming me from my humdrum middle class life in south London suburbia. But in less than a month's time, I am going to burn every branded thing in my possession. Gucci shoes, Habitat chairs, even Simple soap. I have reached the point in my life where I can no longer be around these things, no matter how special they make me feel. Yes, it is going to be a terrible waste, yes I'll no doubt feel lost when they're gone, but at this moment in time, it seems the only thing I can do.
Brands are all around us. In our homes, on our way to work, in the places we socialise and plastered over the things that entertain us. Some brands are causes for celebration, being symbols of status or objects of beauty (BMW). Others are the subject of ridicule, somehow signifying a state in life which we cannot slip below (Skoda). In both cases, we take for granted that brands and their messages (advertising) are ever-present in our lives. This is what has come to worry me.
I belong to a generation that has been continually sold-to, almost from birth. If someone had taken the time to videotape my life, in a Truman Show type of way, there would be less than a few hours of tape in which there were no brands on the screen. On my food, on my clothes, on the telly and in my brain.

In my world, the implications of wearing a crocodile as opposed to a polo player on the breast of one's shirt are of crucial importance - Neil Boorman. It is estimated that the average Briton receives over 3,000 advertising messages a day, and my brain's full of them: Mr Muscle loves the jobs you hate; Burger King flame grilled whopper for only £2.99; new Elvive anti-breakage shampoo from L'Oreal Paris; Oral B pulsar, changing the way you brush forever... and on it goes.
From an early age, I have been taught that to be accepted, to be loveable, to be cool, one must have the right stuff. At junior school, I tried to make friends with the popular kids, only to be ridiculed for the lack of stripes on my trainers.
Once I had nagged my parents to the point of buying me the shoes I was duly accepted at school, and I became much happier as a result. As long as my parents continued to buy me the brands, life was more fun. Now, at the age of 31, I still behave according to playground law.
I have been topping up my self-esteem and my social status by buying the right branded things, so that I feel good about myself, so that people can know who I am. In my world, the implications of wearing a crocodile as opposed to a polo player on the breast of one's shirt are of crucial importance. Understanding the differences between Dualit and Dyson, and what they say about their owners is reflection of style and good taste.
By now you're thinking that I am a particularly shallow individual, and to a certain extent, you'd be right. But I think that in small ways, we all behave like this in our daily lives. A stranger waves as they drive past in the same model car as our own. Snap judgments are made on youths dressed in white Reeboks and hoodies. That little bit extra spent on our favourite name brands in the supermarket is a small price to pay because we're worth it.

Cashing in on brands by association, Chinese style The manner in which we spend our money defines who we are. This theory isn't exactly new. Thorstein Veblen conjured the phrase "conspicuous consumption" back in 1899 in his book the Theory of the Leisure Class. In this secular society of ours, where family and church once gave us a sense of belonging, identity and meaning, there is now Apple, Mercedes and Coke.
These brands offer us a set of beliefs and goals which we can aspire to. Is this sounding far fetched? Don't take it from me, here's Kevin Roberts, worldwide CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi. "For great brands to survive, they must create loyalty beyond reason. The secret is the use of mystery, sensuality and intimacy... the power to create long term emotional connections with consumers."
Being the gullible fool that I am, I believed in the promises that these brands made to me; that I would be more attractive, more successful, more happy for buying their stuff. However, the highs of consumerism have been accompanied by a continual, dull ache, growing slowly as the years have gone by; a melancholy that until recently I could not understand.
I now realise that it's these damn brands that are the source of the pain. For every new status symbol I acquire, for every new extension to my identity that I buy, I lose a piece of myself to the brands. I placed my trust, even some love with these companies, and what have I had in return for my loyalty and my faith? Absolutely nothing. How could they, they're just brands.
So, this is why I am burning all my stuff. To find real happiness, to find the real me, I must get rid of it all and start again, a brand-free life, if that is indeed possible. Perhaps if I consume on the basis of need instead of want, on utility instead of status, I might start to value material things for the right reasons. For the time being, I can only hope.

Monday, August 28, 2006


Greek Cypriots watched the event live on state TV. Cyprus is making an official complaint to motor sport's world governing body over what it calls a political "trick" at the Turkish Grand Prix. The Turkish Cypriot leader, Mehmet Ali Talat, presented the Formula One trophy at the televised event in Istanbul. However, he was introduced as president of the Turkish Cypriot "state" - which is only recognised by Turkey. Cyprus has been split since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded the north of the island after a Greek-inspired coup. "The Cypriot government will denounce this unacceptable and provocative piece of theatre," Cyprus government spokesman Christodoulos Pashardis told reporters after the Grand Prix award ceremony.

Q&A: Cyprus peace process

He accused Turkish officials of exploiting a sporting event and "tricking" the organising body, the International Motoring Federation (FIA). "Mr Talat is neither a citizen nor an official of Turkey, the organising country, to be invited to present the Formula One winner's trophy," he stated. He also said the Cypriot Automobile Association would lodge a follow-up complaint. The event was watched by Greek Cypriots live on state television and by an estimated 2.5 billion people around the world.


Thomas Lubanga's UPC has been battling for control of Ituri's gold. The leader of a Democratic Republic of Congo militia has become the first war crimes suspect to be charged at the International Criminal Court. Thomas Lubanga, who led the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) militia group based in eastern DR Congo, is accused of recruiting child soldiers. International human rights groups argue that charges of murder, torture and rape should be brought against him. The ICC was set up in 2002 to deal with war crimes and genocide worldwide.

The war in DR Congo

Human Rights Watch (HRW) and other international watchdog bodies welcomed the charges, but said they did not go far enough. "Enlisting, conscripting and using children as soldiers in armed conflict are serious crimes that should be condemned and appropriately punished. However, much more is needed," HRW said in a statement addressed to the International Criminal Court last month.


Enlisting children under the age of 15 into armed groups
Conscripting children under the age of 15 into armed groups
Using children under the age of 15 to participate actively in hostilities


"We believe that you, as the prosecutor, must send a clear signal to the victims in Ituri and the people of the DRC that those who perpetrate crimes such as rape, torture and summary executions will be held to account," the statement said.

ICC deputy prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said the court had begun with the charges related to child soldiers because evidence was available. "This doens't mean the door is shut to other crimes," she told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme. "The office of the prosecutor is in no way saying other offences were not committed. But the quality of the evidence we have is also important." The Ituri region of eastern Congo saw 66,000 deaths in six years of fighting between the UPC, based among the Hema ethnic group, and rivals from the Lendu ethnic group, partly for control of Ituri's large deposits of gold.

Mr Lubanga was arrested in 2005 after nine Bangladeshi UN peacekeepers were killed in the volatile Ituri area. He emerged as one of the most notorious warlords in the civil war of the late 1990s. Soldiers under his command are accused not just of murder, torture and rape, but also of mutilating their victims. In one massacre, human rights groups say, Mr Lubanga's militiamen killed civilians using a sledgehammer. At different times, the UPC was backed by both Uganda and Rwanda - DR Congo's neighbours, which were closely involved in its conflict.

The ICC has also issued its first arrest warrants for the leaders of Uganda's rebel Lord's Resistance Army, who are currently in talks with the Ugandan government, which has offered them amnesty. It is also investigating alleged war crimes in Sudan's Darfur region. The existence of the court is strongly opposed by the United States, which fears its troops could face political prosecutions.


Limoges town hall gave the African illegals a place to stay. Over 40 Algerians and Guineans have started a fourth week on hunger strike in central France in an attempt to get temporary residence rights. The group of 44 - three of them women - want 12-month residence permits. They are occupying a former police station in the city of Limoges.

In June the French parliament adopted a new law tightening the entry rules for immigrants' dependents. Some immigrant families with school-age children are to get residence permits. The authorities are examining applications from thousands of illegal immigrants as part of the plan to regularise the status of about 800 sans-papiers (without papers) families. The condition is that the families must have children who were born and brought up in France. But the new immigration law makes it harder for unskilled migrants to settle in France.

A spokesman for the hunger strikers in Limoges, Houssni el-Rherabi, complained of "always having to hide for fear of checks which would lead to detention". "We don't work, we flee the boss, the bailiffs. We go to charities for our food, especially food for our children. It's better to die in dignity, for dignity's sake," he told the French news agency AFP. The French Interior Minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, introduced the new law in a drive to curb illegal immigration and promote selective immigration based on skills - a system similar to the Australian or US models.
The French government believes up to 400,000 people are now living in France illegally.


Nigerians re-living the highlife.
By Alex Last BBC, Lagos.

Fatai Rolling Dollar is 79, but you wouldn't know it. Highlife is winning over a new generation of fans. Small and thin, eyes sparkling beneath his signature cloth cap, cigarette and guitar in hand, he's the oldest of the highlife stars still active on the music scene. From the 1940s to the 1960s, highlife was the sound of West Africa.

It was Africa's first example of musical fusion between African traditional songs and rhythms with western styles such as jazz, Caribbean calypso, Cuban son, rumba and military band music. The new forms spread as sailors brought new influences and instruments back to the West African coast from the 1920s. It got its name because the bands played in clubs frequented by the elite; people who were living the high life. Made famous in Ghana, highlife spread across the region. It was pioneered in Nigeria by the likes of Bobby Benson, Dr Victor Olaiya, and Cardinal Rex Jim Lawson.

Rolling Dollar started playing music in the 1940s, first using a thumb piano, before moving onto the guitar, and joining highlife bands in Lagos in the hey-day of the 1950s and 1960s. But in Nigeria, the music gradually went into decline - sparked by the Biafran civil war from 1967 to 1970 which split up bands, as musicians joined the army, and nightclubs closed. Today we are trying to push highlife back again. And it's coming back. Fatai Rolling Dollar"The whole band's boys went to join the army, the navy and the air force," Rolling Dollar recalls. "One day, we went to play at a club, and an army officer went and smacked one of my boys. "The next day he went and joined the army. And so from that time, highlife went down, because there was no-one to play it."

In the years that followed, new forms of music derived from highlife took over in Nigeria: Juju and Afro-beat in the 1970s and 1980s. These days hip-hop, R&B, and rap dominate the Nigerian music market. But some people are trying to revive highlife. In Ojay's bar in Lagos, the last Sunday of each month is the Great Highlife Party, when old stalwarts like Rolling Dollar come and play with the bands.

The Biafran war put an end to many highlife bands, Rolling Dollar says. It's a chance to hear the classics, but also to bring the music to a new generation. "Highlife declined over the years, but we are trying to revive it, because we feel that this young generation should know where our musical culture is coming from," says Benson Idonije, a music journalist and broadcaster who has been promoting the highlife revival.

Mr Idonije hopes the music will influence Nigeria's current music scene. "Just now hip-hop is the contemporary thing - you find Nigerians imitating the American style," he says. "But if they were inflamed by highlife, which we are trying to bring back, they would be fusing it with highlife. "If you listen to Ghanaian hip-hop, they call it hip-life, you find that in that country, even though it is hip-hop, the underlying beat is highlife. So they have an identity, but we don't have in Nigeria, because young Nigerians are looking up to America for their future."

Inside the club, the place is packed. On stage, the large bands with drums, bongos, guitars, trumpets and saxophones play the tunes, often cover versions of the hits from decades ago.Rolling Dollar has been playing since the 1950sThen Rolling Dollar bounds on stage, singing, playing the guitar, and dancing. Each tune is about 10 minutes long, and the performance defies the years. Nigerians both old and young are up and dancing at the front. Many of those in the queue to get in are younger Nigerians in their 20s and 30s.

"Highlife is the kind of music that when you listen to it, you feel more relaxed, than this modern music," one young woman says. A young man joins in: "When I was growing up, my dad used to listen this kind of music. I'm more interested in finding out what it was about. "Highlife is our heritage, its something that I grew up with, its something I enjoy, listening to and dancing to." Although many of the old highlife greats are no longer alive, the music is still popular, and as many including Rolling Dollar believe, its influence on Nigerian music over the decades means it will never die. "Today we are trying to push highlife back again. And it's coming back. From highlife, people got something - they got hip hop. What they are singing and dancing to now, it's from highlife."

Sunday, August 27, 2006


Rebel killing raises stakes in Pakistan.
By Ahmed Rashid.

Guest journalist Ahmed Rashid assesses what the killing of a rebel tribal leader in Balochistan province means for the Baloch rebel movement and for the Pakistani government.

Nawab Akbar Bugti was a key figure in the Baloch movement.In his death and the manner in which it was carried out, Sardar Akbar Bugti is likely to become a martyred hero for Baloch nationalism and nationalists elsewhere in Pakistan - rather than the anti-government renegade and reactionary tribesman Islamabad would like to portray him as. Bugti, the Sardar or chief of more than 200,000 Bugti tribesmen, was killed along with more than 35 of his followers when the Pakistan Air Force bombed his hideout in the Bambore mountain range in the Marri tribal area.
Pakistani officials say that at least 16 soldiers including four officers were killed after they went in to mop up the remnants of the Baloch guerrilla group. A fierce battle ensued which led to their deaths. Bugti, a 79-year-old invalid who could not walk due to arthritis, is reported to be buried in the rubble of the cave where he was hiding. The tit-for-tat proxy war between Pakistan on one side and India and Afghanistan on the other will now heat up.

Rebel death sparks riot

For months, Pakistani politicians including members of the ruling party had been insisting that the military regime agree to hold talks with the Baloch leaders in order to stop what was becoming an ever-widening civil war in the province. Several security agencies and advisers to President Pervez Musharraf, including the Interservices Intelligence (ISI) and Intelligence Bureau, asked Musharraf to talk to the Baloch leaders.

However, other advisers and the hawkish Military Intelligence advised him to crush the Baloch leaders, which includes three prominent Sardars, Bugti, Khair Bux Marri and Ataullah Mengal.
Senior politicians say that Mr Musharraf's lack of understanding about the Baloch issue, his underestimation of the growing sense of alienation in all the smaller provinces and the attack on his ego when his helicopter was fired upon by Baloch rebels last December, all contributed to his helping him take the decision to kill Bugti.

Bugti was not the leader of the mysterious Balochistan Liberation Army which has been banned by Pakistan and Britain, but he was certainly its most visible spokesman over the past three years, as the Baloch insurgency against Islamabad has grown. The army has attempted to divide the Baloch by promising large aid grants to those tribal leaders who support the government, even as Islamabad claims that it is eliminating the Sardari system. Pervez Musharraf may have underestimated Baloch nationalism.Baloch nationalists have long argued that while Islamabad exploits their massive gas and mineral deposits, they give little in return to the province.

Last year, the ruling Pakistan Muslim League agreed on a package of incentives for the Baloch that included a constitutional amendment giving greater autonomy to the province, but it was overruled by Mr Musharraf and the army who then vowed to militarily crush the rebellion. The army argues that millions have been spent in development, but projects such as the building of the Gawadar port, the building of cantonments and even new roads do not necessarily benefit ordinary Baloch. The projects are defined by the army and its national security needs, rather than through consultations with the Baloch or even the Balochistan provincial assembly. Then the projects are carried out by outside companies who give few jobs to the Baloch.

By killing Bugti, the president has now earned the permanent enmity of not just the Baloch rebels but the wider Baloch population who may not believe in taking up arms, but are still frustrated with Islamabad for its failure to develop the province. He may have seriously underestimated the power of Baloch nationalism which has led to four wars with the Pakistan army in the past. Nationalism within the smaller provinces has always been the biggest threat to military regimes just as it is to mr Musharraf.

The hanging of former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1979, who was a Sindhi, by an earlier military ruler has made Sindhis resentful of the army, while they have, by and large, always voted for the opposition Pakistan People's Party. In the North West Frontier Province where Talebanisation is rampant, Pashtun nationalism is presently taking the form of political Islam.

By killing Bugti, the army is sending a clear message to nationalists in other provinces as to how they will be dealt with if they rear their heads. However, the smaller provinces are seething with resentment against continued military rule. Their sense of frustration and alienation is growing as they see the army representing only its own interests or that of Punjab, the largest province in the country.

Bugti was killed in a battle near his mountain hide-out.The army is also sending a powerful signal to neighbouring India and Afghanistan. The army has accused India of financing and arming the Baloch rebels, while it has accused Afghan President Hamid Karzai of allowing the Baloch to train in Afghanistan. India and Afghanistan have denied these charges at the highest level, but Pakistani officials say there is little doubt that the Indians were involved in funding the Baloch movement because of their long-standing involvement with the Baloch and the evidence that arrested Baloch rebels have provided the Pakistani intelligence services. The tit-for-tat proxy war between Pakistan on one side and India and Afghanistan on the other, will now heat up.

India accuses Pakistan of continuing to arm and finance Islamic extremists in Kashmir and funding anti-government and Maoist movements in other parts of the Indian sub-continent.
Afghanistan accuses Pakistan of arming and giving sanctuary to the Taleban and its leadership.
Pakistan denies both charges. There is an ever-deepening political crisis in Pakistan which the death of Bugti will only exacerbate.

Many people say that the country is rapidly unravelling with Mr Musharraf refusing to give clear-cut guarantees about free and fair elections next year, while he insists on running again for another five-year term as president even as he remains army chief. Bugti's death will only add to the growing fears about the country's future and the danger inherent in a policy of killing political opponents rather than holding a dialogue with them.


Ugandan government and the rebel Lord's Resistance Army have signed a truce aimed at ending one of the most bitter wars in Africa.
The agreement, reached during peace talks held in Juba, southern Sudan, is expected to take effect on Tuesday. A final peace deal will then be sought.
Thousands have died during the 20-year conflict in northern Uganda, and more than one million have fled their homes.
Lengthy efforts to end the war have culminated in the peace talks in Juba.
Under the terms of the truce signed by both sides, the rebels will leave Uganda and their bases in Sudan and DR Congo to gather at two assembly points, where they will be protected by the government of southern Sudan.
The Ugandan government has promised that, once the truce is in place, it will not try to attack the rebels.
Talks on a comprehensive peace agreement will then get under way.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has set a 12 September deadline for a final peace deal.

The LRA had already called a ceasefire, but Uganda had insisted that a comprehensive agreement - with the rebels providing details of their forces and deployment - needed to be in place before a ceasefire could be agreed.
The government also wanted a guarantee the LRA would not use the halt in fighting to reinforce its positions.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) wants the LRA's top officials - among them leader Joseph Kony - to face charges including murder, rape and forcibly enlisting children.
Against the wishes of the ICC, Uganda has offered amnesty to LRA leaders in exchange for the peace talks.
The LRA has abducted thousands of children and forced them to fight since the conflict began.

Saturday, August 26, 2006


Chadian President Idriss Deby says the firms must go on Sunday. Chad has ordered two major foreign oil firms to leave the country on Sunday in a row over taxes.
President Idriss Deby gave the order to US firm ChevronTexaco and Malaysia's Petronas after deciding on Saturday.
"Chad has decided that as of tomorrow ChevronTexaco and Petronas must leave Chad because they have refused to pay their taxes," Mr Deby said.
There was no immediate comment from the two firms, which are responsible for handling 60% of Chad's production.
The decision leaves only Exxon Mobil remaining in the consortium which handles the country's oil production.
President Deby said his government would take control of the remaining reserves.
The BBC's Stephanie Hancock in the capital, N'Djamena, says the surprise decision has sent shock waves around the oil industry.
The government has recently been hinting it wants to join the consortium, she says.
Privately, many observers feel the firms may have been kicked out to make room for Chinese oil companies, she adds - just three weeks ago, Chad resumed diplomatic relations with Beijing.
If this proves to be true, it will mark a turning point for geo-political relations in this region, our correspondent says.

Rows surrounding Chad's oil revenues have been simmering for months.
Earlier this year, Chad threatened to stop oil production if it did not immediately receive several months' worth of oil revenues from the US-led consortium.
And last December the government fell out with the World Bank, after it changed a law which controlled how oil revenues were spent.
The bank, which financially backs the oil project, repeatedly asked Chad not to change the law but it went ahead anyway.
In response, the bank froze all payments of oil revenues to the government.
That row was settled with a deal in July, under which Chad agreed to spend 70% of its oil revenues on development schemes, with 30% going into its overall budget.


Border region struggles with influx.
Peter Biles, BBC News, South Africa.

The deserted road that runs parallel to the Limpopo offers a fine view of the river once described by Rudyard Kipling as "great, grey-green and greasy".

The fortified fence fails to deter those desperate to fleeThe crocodile-infested Limpopo forms a natural barrier between South Africa and Zimbabwe, but the illegal migrants who try to cross the border on a daily basis, also face a man-made barrier. A triple line of fencing and barbed wire is meant to prevent the influx of Zimbabweans into South Africa. Heading eastwards, close to the Beitbridge border post, I see two young men scurrying across the road.

When they hear my car approaching, they disappear into the bush. But a third man, trailing behind his friends, is still trying to find a way through the fortified fence. As I drive past, he quickly turns back down the slope towards the river bank to avoid being seen. Thousands of Zimbabweans, including women and children, are now risking the perilous border crossing in a desperate bid to flee a country that has descended into political and economic chaos over the past six years.
"The border fence is no deterrent", says Annette Kennealy who speaks for the farmers' union in Limpopo Province. "These Zimbabweans are hungry, destitute and driven to crime. We find a lot of them staying on local farms temporarily, but others move southwards, trying to reach the big cities; Johannesburg and Pretoria".

Every Thursday, a train pulls into the station at Musina, South Africa's most northerly town. Several hundred illegal Zimbabwean migrants who have been arrested, and held at a detention centre near Johannesburg, are being deported from South Africa. Under police escort in Musina, they wait in groups on the station platform, before being crammed into police trucks and driven to the border. In Zimbabwe, we're dying of hunger.
A recent report by Human Rights Watch claimed that migrants from Zimbabwe were vulnerable to human rights abuses in South Africa. It further alleged that police and immigration officials had violated the lawful procedures for arrest, detention and deportation. However, Inspector Jacques du Buisson of the South African Police Service (SAPS) denies that police have maltreated Zimbabwean migrants: "If they're arrested around here, they're brought to the police station in Musina, where they receive food and medical treatment if that's required."Then, on the same day, they'll be deported. We've never mishandled any illegal foreigner"

According to new figures released by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the South African authorities have deported nearly 31,000 Zimbabweans since the beginning of June. This would seem to represent a sharp increase in the number of deportations. Annette Kennealy says the problem is escalating.In response, the IOM, in collaboration with the Zimbabwean government, has opened a reception and support centre at Beitbridge, on the Zimbabwean side of the border. This provides humanitarian assistance for the deportees on their return to Zimbabwe.

"We're counting 100,000 people a year in need of immediate help, on their arrival back in Zimbabwe", says Hans-Petter Boe, the IOM's Regional Representative. The problem is that while some of the illegal migrants may go back to their homes in Zimbabwe, many make repeated efforts to re-enter South Africa in the hope of finding work. Zimbabwe's economic collapse, with inflation in excess of 1,100% per annum, has led to increasing hardship. Musina is a South African frontier town, but Zimbabwean rhythms fill the air at the main taxi rank and traders can be seen carrying bundles of near worthless Zimbabwean bank notes.

Musina's taxi rank is full of Zimbabweans.Enoch Mafuso, 21, who entered South Africa legally last month, describes his predicament: "In Zimbabwe, we're dying of hunger. I used to drive taxis, but now there are no jobs and no money there. I want to stay here in South Africa, but it is very difficult to get a job". No-one is sure how many Zimbabweans are in South Africa, but the estimates range between two and three million. With no end in sight to Zimbabwe's woes, Ms Kennealy of the local farmers' union warns of an impending crisis in South Africa: "We're on the frontline here in Limpopo Province. People living further south don't realise what we're facing.
"If our government had the political will, they would patrol the borders, introduce more regulations and stop these people from coming in.

This problem is escalating and the long term effects for the rest of South Africa are going to be enormous."



Dear Family and Friends,
This week I write about peculiar and mixed messages. This is very similar towhat our lives have become here - disjointed, fragmented, confusing and almostalways with nothing guaranteed.
Everyone thought there would be an extension to the 21 days given by theReserve Bank to hand in old currency and convert to the new money - that isn't really money and has been pruned of three digits. It seems we Zimbabweans haven't learnt a thing though, least of all the lesson that what we most expect is that which is least likely to happen. There was no extension to the deadline and in the first week of the new money most people were totally confused. Having just got used to counting zeroes and being able to distinguish between hundreds of thousands, millions and even billions, now suddenly we are back to hundreds and thousands. Our purses, pockets and handbags are frighteningly light in weight and most people are adding on three zeroes in their calculations to try and work out just exactly how much things really cost. The loss of three zeroes really is an illusion and it is just going to take a bit of time to get used toless digits which still don't buy enough and still leave you stone broke.
On the first night after the old notes had gone, the newsreaders on ZBC TV wereon a propaganda high, glowing and grovelling and singing the praises about what they said had been a smooth changeover. This was despite monstrous queues at banks, building societies and cash machines which were painfully slow andclearly visible. By the next day the propaganda had done a complete U turn and ZBC was talking about people swarming banks and police having to control crowds who were stranded with the old money. Then on the third day the spin was back and the reports were about the happiness of the "Transacting Public." You simply had to laugh by then and wonder about which clever cookie had come up with the phrase Transacting Public!Five days after the money changeover deadline had passed came a speech from the Governor of the Reserve Bank. This was serious stuff now and his vote of thanks included everyone who is anyone in Zimbabwe and went on for some considerable time.
Nothing was said about the fact that neither the old money nor the new is backed up by adequate gold reserves. Everything assumed elevated proportions in the Governors speech and ordinary words became proper nouns and were givencapital letters. We were told that a Special Window had been opened for SpecialCases of people in remote areas in a Mop Up Programme to hand in their old money. This was apparently the last attempt to recover 10 trillion dollars ofmoney that had not been accounted for. You have to shake your head in wonder at the utterly absurd thought of desperately poor people living in dusty villages without electricity or running water having 10 trillion dollars buried in theirback gardens!
There are some good things about life in Zimbabwe this week - it's raining leaves and summer is almost upon us. The temperatures are warming up and everything in the garden has started growing again. For this we are thankful.
Until next week, thanks for reading, love cathy.

Copyright cathy buckle 26August 2006. http://africantears.netfirms.comMy books "African Tears" and "Beyond Tears" are available

Friday, August 25, 2006


What do psychologists make of the extraordinary case of Natascha Kampusch, abducted at 10, deprived of her childhood, and now back in the real world after eight years?
In March 1998, Natascha Kampusch was snatched from a Vienna street as she walked to school.
For eight long years, she was held in a cellar she believed to be rigged with explosives. Her only human contact was with her abductor, Wolfgang Priklopil, who effectively brought her up. He provided her with clothes, food, helped her with her studies. It is not yet clear if he sexually abused her.
But on Wednesday, Natascha escaped. An elderly neighbour of the man she had to call "master" found the 18-year-old, pale and in distress, and called the police. Natascha was soon reunited with her parents.
"Her life has been suspended, and it will take a lot to reconnect," says Dr Anuradha Sayal-Bennett. "She's obviously a very brave young woman, very resourceful, to have managed to escape."

Cellar girl 'our daughter'

That can only stand her in good stead for the long and difficult task of coming to terms with what she's been through. Natascha's is such a rare case that while she has undoubtedly suffered enormous trauma, there is no way of saying in advance what the precise effects will be - or how best to treat her.
Phillip Hodson, a Fellow of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, says those treating Natascha will be guided by her, asking her if she wants to talk about her experiences, and monitoring her for depression and flashbacks, for which there are a range of therapies.
"Go in with no assumptions, establish a basic rapport. Establish how used she is to conversation. Always put it as questions - 'they think you should talk about it; what do you think?'" he says.
Arrested development
It will be important to re-establish as normal a life with her loved ones as possible. But the life of a 10-year-old, or of an 18-year-old? For her first words to her father - after "I love you" - was "Is my toy car still there?" It had been her favourite plaything.
Dr Jack Boyle, a Glasgow psychologist who specialises in treating abused children, says a bit of both. "She has moved on emotionally from being a 10-year-old, yet that was the life she had that was abruptly cut off."

STOCKHOLM SYNDROME - Psychological response in hostages, in which they come to identify with their captor.

Named after 1973 robbery in Stockholm, where bank employees sympathised with their captors
Famous case is heiress Patty Hearst (above), who helped her captors rob a bankAnother difficulty will be the feeling of abandonment, that no-one came to rescue her. A 10-year-old believes that adults are to be trusted, that her parents will be there for her, and these expectations have been shattered, says Mr Hodson.
"At the time of the kidnap, she will have been saying 'why don't my parents come and get me?' Then she'll have despaired of that happening, and thought 'bugger them'. That will be a considerable barrier to reunited with her family."
Then there's Stockholm syndrome, the coping mechanism whereby abductees exhibit loyalty to their kidnapper. Because Priklopil committed suicide after she escaped, this will further complicate Natascha's reactions.
"She'll have a lot of conflicting reactions - guilt and relief," says Dr Sayal-Bennett.
Phillip Hodson says his death will, in a way, be like losing a family member - even if she's glad he's dead. "If somebody has been there through your transition from childhood to adulthood, it's impossible to not to form some sort of familial feeling. And she set in train the events that led to his death. That's a lot to come to terms with."



Nigerian soldiers have burnt hundreds of slum houses near where a soldier was killed during the kidnapping of foreign oil workers, residents say.
Residents in the city of Port Harcourt say the troops became angry when they learned one of their colleagues had been killed in a shootout.
Hundreds fled with their belongings as the fire spread through the slum area.
The army, which is pursuing militants in the Niger Delta, blamed the fires on militants disguised as soldiers.
At least three foreigners were abducted by gunmen from a bar close to the offices of a subsidiary of the Italian oil company, Eni, on Thursday night, near where the slums were burnt.
During the kidnapping, a soldier protecting the workers was shot and killed.
Residents say the soldiers then poured petrol onto their houses and set them on fire, accusing the community of sheltering militants.
A local pastor denied militants had been hiding in the area.

Oil militants have caused a 25% drop in oil output. "The people who attacked came from the water, they do not stay here," he told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme.
"I have nowhere to stay. My church, my house, most of my documents are burnt," he said.
There are no reports of any deaths but one man had to go to hospital with burns, the pastor said.
Regional army spokesman Maj Sajir Musa denied the army had burnt the houses.
"It was the militants who disguised [themselves] in army uniform and set the places ablaze in an attempt to tarnish the image of the Nigerian army soldiers," he said.
"They have done that in response to our constructive efforts to get rid of armed robbers and hostage-takers."
A few residents have now returned to pick through the charred remains, hoping to recover some of their belongings.
The incident comes just a week after Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo ordered the police and army to take a new tough line with armed men, who have been responsible for at least seven separate kidnappings in the space of a few weeks.
As part of the new policy, security forces last week raided another slum inside the city and arrested more than 100 people, though most were later released.
The BBC's Alex Last in Nigeria says what concerns local leaders, and the oil companies, is that this new tough policy will only increase tensions in an already volatile region.
The abductions and attacks on oil facilities have led to oil companies withdrawing staff, cutting Nigeria's oil production by a quarter.
Foreigners in Nigeria's oil capital, Port Harcourt, now move around with several armed guards.
Oil industry sources say hostage-taking has become an attractive business, as oil companies strike clandestine ransom deals - frowned upon by the government.


The woman protested her innocence as she was flogged. A Somali woman has been flogged in public for selling cannabis by Islamist militias who now control the capital. This is the first time a woman has received this kind of punishment since the Union of Islamic Courts seized Mogadishu in June. She got 11 lashes.

Arrested for a small bundle of the drug worth $1, she pleaded innocence while being beaten, AP news agency reports. Most sellers of the mild narcotic khat, widely used in Somalia, are women but the UIC has not opposed this trade.

The BBC's Hassan Barise in Mogadishu says women often sell khat because during the long civil war, they aroused less suspicion than men when crossing between areas controlled by rival factions. The UIC was set up two years ago by businessmen who wanted some law and order. Somalia has not had a functioning government since 1991.

Q&A: Islamist advance

Five men were also whipped in Thursday's ceremony, in which the seized drugs were burnt. This is only the second time that the UIC has carried out a public flogging in Mogadishu. The UIC is divided between radicals, who want to impose a Taleban-style state in Somalia, and moderates, who say they have no such plans.

It controls much of southern Somalia, while the internationally recognised government remains confined to Baidoa, some 200km to the north of Mogadishu. East African diplomats have been trying to bring the Islamists and the government together for talks.


Thursday, August 24, 2006


ANC leaders accompanied Yengeni to the gates of the jail. South African government and ruling ANC party officials accompanied former MP Tony Yengeni as he arrived to start a prison sentence for fraud. Mr Yengeni, once head of parliament's defence committee and ANC chief whip, lost an appeal this week.
He was convicted in 2003 after it was found he had received a large discount on the purchase of a luxury car, from a firm bidding for an arms contract.
He then initially lied to parliament about receiving this benefit.
Known as a flamboyant dresser, Mr Yengeni arrived at Pollsmoor Prison in Cape Town immaculately dressed in a striped pink shirt and a blue tail coat, the BBC's Mohammed Allie reports.
Housing Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, parliamentary speaker Baleka Kgotsile, and the premier of Western Cape province, Ebrahim Rasool, were among the crowd of about 300 people who supported the former MP as he arrived at the prison.
Mr Yengeni appeared composed as he addressed his supporters at the prison gates.
"Suffice to say, what has happened is a great injustice - an unfortunate travesty of justice," he said.
"This is not going to break me. It will be difficult but I will emerge stronger and continue to work with the ANC," he said, to cheers from the crowd.
Mr Yengeni was sentenced to four years' jail, but could be released on parole after only eight months.
He is likely to be moved from the notoriously violent Pollsmoor to a newer prison at Malmesbury, 50km (30 miles) north of Cape Town.
The case has been seen as an important test of the South African government's willingness to fight corruption.
Corruption charges currently being investigated against former Deputy President Jacob Zuma arise from the same arms deal for which Mr Yengeni was convicted.
Mr Zuma denies the charges, and his case is due back in court next month.


Syria is at odds with Israel over the deployment of peacekeepers. Syria has reportedly threatened to close its border with Lebanon if UN peacekeepers are deployed there. Finland's foreign minister made the claim after meeting his Syrian counterpart in Helsinki. "They will close their borders for all traffic in the event that UN troops are deployed..." Erkki Tuomioja said.

Earlier, the Syrian president, Bashar Assad, said the stationing of UN troops in the border area of Lebanon would be a hostile move against Syria. "This is an infringement on Lebanese sovereignty and a hostile position," President Bashar Assad told Arab TV. The comments came as Israel urged rapid action over an expanded peace force, warning of an "explosive" situation on the ground amid the diplomacy.

Israel accuses Syria of supplying arms to Hezbollah across the border with Lebanon, including the rockets which were used to attack Israel throughout the month-long conflict.
Efforts to build the expanded 15,000-strong UN force for Lebanon have been dogged by delay and difficulty.
The UN has been disappointed by the response so far from European nations, and says a bolstered force is urgently needed to enforce the fragile truce. Time was running out for the UN ceasefire resolution to be applied, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said after talks in Paris on Wednesday. The BBC's Michael Voss, in Damascus, says Lebanon once again finds itself caught between the Israelis and the Syrians.

Mid-East crisis: Key maps
Quick guide: Hezbollah
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Israel has indicated it will not lift the air and sea blockade on Lebanon until international peacekeepers take up positions along the border. But, in an interview with Dubai Television, Mr Assad said: "This means creating a state of enmity between Syria and Lebanon. "First, it robs Lebanon of its sovereignty. No single state in the entire world would tolerate deploying foreign troops on its border posts unless there is a state of war with the other state... "The second point is that it signals a hostile stance towards Syria. Naturally, it will create problems between Syria and Lebanon."

Mr Tuomioja, whose country holds the EU presidency, will visit counterparts in Berlin and Paris on Thursday to discuss the bloc's contribution to the UN peacekeeping force. And UN secretary-general Kofi Annan will have talks in Europe on Friday before heading for the Middle East, officials said on Wednesday.

Laptop link-up: Lebanese residents took your questions

The UN has been disappointed by the response so far from European nations over the creation of the bolstered peace force urgently needed to enforce the fragile truce. Many nations have been hesitant to commit troops until there is greater clarity about the force's mandate, particularly on the issue of disarming Hezbollah. Ms Livni echoed the sense of urgency after her talks in France, which has offered only 200 extra personnel for the peace force. "Time is working against those who would like to see this resolution applied," Ms Livni said. "We are now in the most sensitive and explosive position."

The 10-day-old truce has already been tested by a number of skirmishes and an Israeli commando raid deep inside Lebanon. Since the truce came into effect, Israel has maintained restrictions on air and sea access to Lebanon, bringing a plea from Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora for US intervention. "The United States can support us in putting real pressure on Israel to lift the siege," he told reporters on Wednesday.



UN peacekeepers and European troops are patrolling the city. Police and peacekeepers are patrolling the streets of the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kinshasa, after a deal to end factional strife. Eight people died in gun battles that erupted on Sunday, after results from July's first round of voting emerged.

President Joseph Kabila fell short of 50% of the vote, prompting a run-off. His main rival for president, Jean-Pierre Bemba, gained about 20%. The two signed a deal on Tuesday to withdraw forces from the city centre.

Bodies of those killed in the violence remained strewn across the streets of Kinshasa as an uneasy calm returned to the capital on Wednesday morning , the BBC's Said Penda reports from the city. Several lifeless bodies were still visible in certain parts of Gombe, which saw the worst of the fighting earlier in the week.

Until midday, armed men loyal to Mr Bemba were at large in parts of Gombe that were still under their control, while police and soldiers loyal to Mr Kabila controlled other sectors. There were some incidents of looting, and occasional shots were heard in the city. Public transport was running again, but banks remained closed.

Earlier on Tuesday, more than 200 soldiers from several European countries flew into Kinshasa from neighbouring Gabon, to reinforce about 1,000 EU peacekeepers already in Congo.


Joseph Kabila: 45%
Jean-Pierre Bemba: 20%
Antoine Gizenga: 13%
Nzanga Mobutu: 5%
Oscar Kashala: 4%
Turnout: 70%
Source: CEI

Fighting mars peaceful poll

The deal to end the violence was reached under pressure from the United Nations following three days of clashes.
Mr Kabila called for the withdrawal of government troops after meeting diplomats of the international committee overseeing the DR Congo's transition to democracy (CIAT).
Mr Bemba, a former rebel leader and a vice-president in the national unity government, also ordered his supporters withdraw to their original positions.
He retains his own personal security force but is now under UN protection.

A joint statement by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, the UN Mission in the Congo (Monuc) and CIAT said the conflict must resolved through dialogue. "The solution to end the differences opposing President Kabila's militia and that of Vice President Jean-Pierra Bemba is political and not military," the statement said. Neither faction in DR Congo accepted responsibility for starting the recent fighting. "An investigation will be opened to determine what started the exchange of fire," a presidential spokesman told AFP news agency.

The fighting has prompted some residents to flee KinshasaMr Bemba's spokesman Germain Kabinga told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme that the opposition leader was still committed to the run-off but that the UN should create a buffer zone between the two camps.
"We really want to go to the second round. We don't want to restart the war," he said. After the election results were declared, Mr Kabila appeared on state television, saying he had won a "great victory". Some of his rivals, including those from Mr Bemba's party, say there was widespread fraud in the elections.

The 30 July election was intended to be the first fully democratic poll to be held in the country since it gained independence in 1960. It follows the official end of a five-year conflict, which dragged in several other African countries and led to the death of more than 3m people. The results show a regional division in DR Congo, a country two-thirds the size of western Europe.
Mr Bemba won most votes in the west of the country, while Mr Kabila gained most support in the Swahili-speaking east.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006


Couples who wed in Britain's Med.
By Simon Atkinson Business reporter, BBC News, Gibraltar.

Rock solid love - but this shot requires a trip into Spain. In Joseph Luis Mascarenhas's photography shop on Gibraltar's Main Street a fiver will buy you a snap of the territory's most famous wedding couple.
The tasteful shot of John Lennon and Yoko Ono posing on the airport runway in front of the rock in March 1969 is not a bad souvenir alongside your duty free Marlboro Lights and stuffed-toy Barbary ape.
For another fiver you can get a copy of their marriage certificate as well.
But each year hundreds of overseas visitors to Gibraltar are going a step further and tying the knot there themselves.

Weddings have become big business in Gibraltar with the tourist board targeting romantics looking to get hitched as a "niche market" in the same way they do birdwatchers and scuba divers. They are an alternative to the day-trippers and cruise ship passengers who are the lifeblood of tourism in Gibraltar. It's appealing because it's on British soil and everything is in English - Peter Canessa Chief executive Gibraltar Tourist Board.
And the rationale is simple: if couples come here to get married they and their guests will spend cash staying in hotels, eating in restaurants, drinking in bars and splashing out in shops.
"There is even an element of future planning," says head of the Gibraltar Tourist Board Peter Canessa.
"If you get married here then at some point in your life - maybe when you have a couple of kids - you will want to come back."
Last year 641 of the 822 weddings in Gibraltar involved two "outsiders" - the majority being Brits coming from the UK or their homes in Spain.
Most ceremonies take place in the registry office or hotels, but if a cable car company gets its way, and its licence, it may soon be possible to get married on the Rock of Gibraltar itself - perhaps the world's most recognisable lump of Jurassic limestone.
Besides the sunshine, the big attraction is the Special Governor's Licence, which means you only have to be in Gibraltar for 24 hours before a marriage can take place.

Finally made the plane into Paris, honeymooning down by the Seine,Peter Brown called to say you can make it okay,You can get married in Gibraltar, near Spain.
'The Ballad of John and Yoko'by John Lennon (1969)

The provision, a hangover from the territory's days as a garrison town when weddings needed to be conducted quickly, gives it the potential for spur-of-the moment nuptials - to become a Gretna Green in the sun.
But while a few elope here, most plan ahead - not least because everything is booked up months in advance. According to staff, though, it is not uncommon for a couple due to wed to simply not turn up, and if there is a last minute availability they will do "everything they can" so you can say "I do".

The demand to marry in Gibraltar is such that the government is now advertising for six "freelance" registrars who can conduct the services.
"For the UK market, it's appealing because it's on British soil and everything is in English," Mr Canessa says.
"People are familiar with the legal terms because the Gibraltarian law is based on UK law.
"And because it's two and a half hours from England, it does not cost the earth. It has really taken off, and that's why we are specifically advertising it."
We need to strike a balance between marriages being conducted freely but without it becoming a Las Vegas style scenario
George FlowerGibraltar's registrar
Inside the tiny office of Gibraltar's civil registry - responsible for passports and identity cards as well as births, deaths and marriages, registrar George Flower sounds like a man trying to keep everyone happy. While understanding the argument for tourism, he is adamant weddings will "not" become an industry. "It's not a case of come and marry in Gibraltar - the more the merrier because the reality is we are a small operation," he says.
"There's room for improvement and expansion but there are realistic constraints. "We need to strike a balance between marriages being conducted freely but without it becoming a Las Vegas style scenario." He adds: "The tourist board and local hotels have advertised the product (of marriage) if you want to call it that but we must keep the seriousness of it. "We can't possibly, just simply for the benefit of the tourist industry and to make money, put in jeopardy the credibility and validity of Gibraltar marriages. "After all we are first and foremost here for Gibraltar residents."

And there is some anecdotal evidence that not all weddings are big money-spinners for the local economy. "We marry people from all over the world here, but the majority are Brits who spend a couple of weeks on the Costa Del Sol and who, during that period come here and get married, combining the marriage and honeymoon," Mr Flower says.
"In those cases they don't actually bring much benefit to Gibraltar. They might stop for a drink in the pub but then they will go back to Spain to celebrate." Another ongoing concern is ensuring that those marrying are able to do so legally and that these marriages are genuine, rather than fraudulent shams designed simply to help someone get EU residency.
Because most couples only arrive in Gibraltar a couple of days before the ceremony, they are urged to send documents in advance.
"There's an element of duty towards the UK and other European countries. We can't have a situation where Gibraltar is being used to circumvent immigration rules," Mr Flower says.
An estimated 60% of those marrying here are older couples who are each onto their second or third wedding and want limited fuss away from all but closest family and friends.
"It has become very popular and you do get all sorts of people," says Marilyn Richardson of the Caleta Hotel, one of those licensed to host weddings.
It tempts guests with promises of Mediterranean views, sumptuous menus and a spurious tale on its website that Eastenders' Grant and Tiffany eloped here (we are informed it was, in fact, Paris).
"One girl who married recently was dressed in pink, like a Cinderella. It wasn't everyone's cup of tea, mind you, but I thought she looked absolutely beautiful."
Back in his shop, Mr Mascarenhas prepares another album from a recent ceremony - but questions whether Gibraltar is truly able to host many more weddings. "I went to take photos in the garden of the registry office a little while ago and do you know what they had left in the middle of the grass?" he says, disbelievingly.
"A toilet! Incredible! You don't believe me? I took a picture of it."