Saturday, September 30, 2006


Traditional drink unites Ugandans.
By Barney Afako BBC Focus On Africa magazine.

Mato oput literally means "drinking the bitter root" A bitter drink known as mato oput by the Acholi people of northern Ugandan may have the ingredients for peace between the Ugandan government and the rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA).
Mato oput is the ritual climax of an Acholi justice process for bringing reconciliation in the wake of a homicide within the community.
This ceremony was placed on the agenda of peace talks held in the southern Sudanese capital, Juba, reflecting the earnest search for alternatives to address the grave crimes which have characterised two decades of war in northern Uganda.
Apart from the killings, abductions, rapes and sexual enslavement of children, the war has inflicted a humanitarian disaster on the region, with more than a million huddled into the squalor and degradation of camps.
Having seen the LRA escape to neighbouring DR Congo and UN troops abort a mission to arrest suspects - including LRA leader Joseph Kony - Uganda's president Yoweri Museveni has said the LRA should instead acknowledge their crimes to victims and subject themselves to traditional justice within Uganda.
Uganda's Amnesty Act, introduced six years ago, provides a legal framework for this. It recognises traditional justice mechanisms like mato oput, and promotes community reconciliation.
Reparation to victims
Under the act, rebels must genuinely abandon and renounce their crimes. Over 17,000 have already done so and are being reintegrated into their communities.
Like many African communities, the Acholi believe that deep social rifts are caused by killings and require elaborate reconciliation mechanisms to restore fractured relations.

The LRA has begun returning to neutral camps under the truceMato oput is performed after a mediated process has brought together two families and clans.
The offender accepts responsibility, asks for forgiveness and must make reparation to the victims.
The perpetrator and the victim's family then share the root drink from a calabash, to recall and bury the bitterness of the soured relations.
Another Acholi ritual, gomo tong - the bending of spears - symbolises the ending of hostilities between groups and is also preceded by discussion and truth-telling.
Other cleansing rituals are already used to welcome former LRA combatants into the communities.
This option, however, is threatened by the war crimes indictments issued by International Criminal Court for four senior LRA commanders.
After the disempowerment and indignity inflicted by war, Ugandans are now seeking an active role in resolving this conflict which has torn apart the fabric of their lives and reduced them to observers of their own fate.
In opting for participatory local justice within their communities they are re-asserting lost dignity.
None of these are perfect processes, and neither are they beyond improvement.
Everywhere tradition is adapted to answer more complex modern needs; this affirms Africa's confidence in her ingenuity and rich heritage.
Formal justice
But there are increasing signs that Africans are confidently re-visiting their past.
In Uganda, human rights violations have been credibly attributed to the army and auxiliaries operating in the war zones as well as to the rebels.
However, thorough investigations and timely, fair prosecutions have been all too rare.
Beyond individual violations, the Ugandan government's policies also bear direct political responsibility for the long failure to end the war.
While mato oput can address individual offences of non-state actors, it is not a suitable vehicle for probing the state's failures and violations.
Ugandans want to see these national issues addressed publicly within the country, not only in Juba.
For too long conflicts have held back African hopes. Victims have been helpless to stop abusive armies and warlords.
Ending war is an absolute priority for today's victims and for future generations. Yet insisting on formal justice could easily thwart peace efforts.
Uganda should demonstrate that ideological and procedural tensions between international criminal justice and the continent's aspirations for local solutions to its problems can be resolved without condoning impunity.


Gambian pitfalls of kora politics.
By Lucy Fleming BBC News website, Brikama

Pa Bobo is one of Gambia's most popular jalis. Gambian griots find themselves under as much pressure to pluck the right note in praise of the president as journalists to pen Yahya Jammeh's praises.
One such praise singer is Pa Bobo Jobarteh, whose family have been playing koras - the 21-string African harp - since the 18th century.
His ancestors traditionally sang for kings and nobility. Now jalis - as griots are known in The Gambia - are expected to compose for politicians.
"It's not easy for us now. We feel afraid to compose or to sing about opposition politicians," says the 30-year-old musician.
For jalis everyone's equal no matter if you're opposition or president
Pa Bobo Jobarteh
President Jammeh, who came to power in a coup in 1994, has just won a third term in office in the tiny West African country which keeps a tight rein over the media and its critics.
Pa Bobo's most popular song, Gambia Peace, Love and Unity, was commandeered by the president for use in campaigning and he was kept busy during the election period playing the kora at ruling party rallies.
Hot water
A few years ago, however, fellow musician Jaliba Kuyateh found himself in unexpected hot water when an old song he composed for lawyer Ousainou Darboe came back to haunt him.

Kora players play an important cultural role in The Gambia.
Mr Darboe entered the political ring in 1997 to become Mr Jammeh's foremost rival with Jaliba's song as his anthem.
Jaliba had to quickly compose several songs for the president to make political amends.
"The problem is that if you sing for the opposition, they say you're opposition and that's not right. For jalis everyone's equal no matter if you're opposition or the president," says Pa Bobo.
Today jalis still rely on patronage to survive as they receive no royalties from the work they record in The Gambia.
But it is not just from politics that they make their living; the kora plays an important part in all parts of cultural life.
"Without us naming ceremonies cannot work; without us marriages cannot work and a lot of other important things," Pa Bobo says.
He agrees with the late Gambian kora player Jali Nyama Suso that a griot's role in society is akin to that of a journalist.
"We research people's history in order to praise them - like journalists. We tell your histories, we tell you how your parents came here and which people got married. We witness everything," he says.

In a traditional way you don't teach girls the kora. But I have to teach my daughters the kora to make their own way
Pa Bobo JobartehPa Bobo has tasted some international success and has regularly played at the UK's Womad global music festival since he was 11 years old.
But for most of the time he lives in his large family compound in the town of Brikama, home to Gambia's kora industry and to countless other jali families.
They mainly intermarry and the art of making and playing the instruments is passed on from generation to generation.
In concert, griots now use electric guitar heads on the koras, but most of the instruments are made much as they were hundreds of years ago with mahogany, cows' and goats' skins.
The only nod to modernity are the fishing lines used instead of antelope skins for the strings, which has given the sound a slight higher tone, and the drawing pins used to decorate the gourd.
However, Pa Bobo, who has two daughters and a son, intends to break with tradition in one important respect.
"In a traditional way you don't teach girls the kora, but that's not a good idea.
"I see a lot of women suffering in the marriage, so I have to teach my daughters the kora to make their own way," he explains.
"Because if you play the kora, you can always feed yourself."


Africa explorer's remains exhumed
By Mark Doyle World affairs correspondent, BBC News.

The once-rival cities of Brazzaville and Kinshasa are linked by ferry The remains of Pierre de Brazza, the 19th Century French explorer and founder of modern-day Congo, have been exhumed in Algeria.
They will be reburied in three days' time in the Congolese capital, Brazzaville.
It is one of the few African cities that retains the name of its colonial founder.
Brazza was buried in 1905 in Algiers, when Algeria was part of metropolitan France.
His century-old adventure story pits the Frenchman against the envoy of the Belgian crown, Henry Morton Stanley, to capture central Africa.
Both men had different masters but a common aim - to win the 19th Century "Scramble for Africa", that audacious and often cruel race to subjugate a continent.
Mineral riches
The American Stanley, who today is famous for having re-supplied the struggling British explorer David Livingstone, was working for the ambitious King of Belgium, Leopold. Brazza was working for France.

They both wanted to capture the navigable section of the great Congo river - and with it vast territories and fabulous mineral wealth.
In the end, Brazza won the race through uncharted jungles, planting the French flag on the northern shore of the river.
Brazzaville was born. Stanley was forced to the southern shore of Congo river. He founded another city and named it after his royal Belgian backer, and Leopoldville took root.
Today, Brazzaville and Leopoldville, later renamed Kinshasa, are joined by only a short ferry ride.
Brazzaville is the capital of Congo. Kinshasa is the capital of the confusingly named "Democratic Republic of Congo".
Brazza's remains will be flown to Brazzaville in a few days time to be reburied in a mausoleum built jointly by the French and Congolese governments.
Some Congolese are critical about the honouring of this controversial figure.
They say Africans have not benefited from the relationship with France.
French and Congolese historians of Brazza's exploits say, however, that by the standards of the day, their man was a humanist who had respectful relationships with African chiefs.
Where possible, they say, he used negotiations rather than force - unlike Stanley, who by most accounts was a brash and violent conqueror.



Dear Family and Friends,

Within a fortnight or so the rainy season will begin in Zimbabwe. For the seventh year in a row, we are going into the season under the most dire circumstances. Hyper inflation is out of control. Fuel (for transporting seed and fertilizer and for ploughing) is near impossible to find. The World Meteorological Organization have warned that an El Nino is developing across the Pacific and weather experts meeting in Harare have predicted a below normal to normal first half to our rainy season. The few commercial farmers left on their land are continuing to be thrown off their farms with 50 new eviction notices having been served in recent weeks. Two of the country's biggest wheat, maize and tobacco farmers are due in court this week for refusing to get off their farms. One of these farmers is thought to be the biggest maize producer in the country and has just delivered 1000 tons of grain to the GMB. One commercial farmer in Masvingo recently got a letter from the provincial Governor which said: "Your farm has just been acquired by the government and we therefore request you to wind up your business before the start of the rainy season. You are advised to comply with this order since you risk being forcibly removed if you fail to comply. We also take this opportunity to tell you that you are not allowed to move out with any of your farming equipment." When faced with such adiabolical situation there are few, if any, words.

Also this week came the Gazetted Land (Consequential Provisions) Bill. This will give any farmer who has received a Section 5 Notice of Acquisition at any time in the last 6 years, just 45 days to get out of his house and off his land. Any farmer without an offer letter or lease from the government will face criminal charges with a penalty of 2 years in prison. We aren't talking here of squatters, invaders, occupiers, settlers or whatever other polite term is currently in fashion, we are talking of men and women who paid for their land, built their houses and hold the Title Deeds. Men and women and perhaps one hundred thousand farm workers who have tried, against all odds, under extreme circumstances to keep food on our tables. As one exfarmer wrote this week, after the Bill is promulgated: "the ethnic cleansing will be complete."

I close this letter with a truly shocking report which has appeared in an independent newspaper this week. Journalist Mavis Makuni reported that Agriculture Minister Joseph Made has blamed a monkey for the shortage of fertilizer needed for the coming season. Answering questions in Parliamentas to why precious foreign currency was being used to import fertilizer, Minister Made said: "Our investigations have shown that a monkey caused damage to a transformer, thereby sabotaging our preparations for the coming season. If it were not for that monkey, the situation was not going to be as bad." And this is the man in charge of food security in Zimbabwe.
Until next week, thanks for reading, love cathy.
Copyright cathy buckle 30 September 2006.http:/ My books 'African Tears' and 'BeyondTears' are available from:

Friday, September 29, 2006


You and me, me and you, lots and lots, for us to do
By Sean Coughlan BBC News Magazine

Bill Clinton told the Labour conference to get into ubuntu. Eh?
Ubuntu. That was what Bill Clinton told the Labour party conference it needed to remember this week. "Society is important because of Ubuntu."
But what is it? Left-leaning sudoku? U2's latest album? Fish-friendly sushi?
No, it's a word describing an African worldview, which translates as "I am because you are," and which means that individuals need other people to be fulfilled.
The former president, husky-voiced and down-home with the delegates, gave it a folksy flavour, describing it in terms of needing to be around others to enjoy being ourselves.
ubuntu, noun. Humanity or fellow feeling; kindness [Nguni].
Collins English Dictionary"If we were the most beautiful, the most intelligent, the most wealthy, the most powerful person - and then found all of a sudden that we were alone on the planet, it wouldn't amount to a hill of beans," said Mr Clinton.
The word comes from the Bantu languages spoken in southern Africa - and is related to a Zulu concept - "umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu" - which means that a person is only a person through their relationship to others.
And it's entered the political lexicon through the political changes in South Africa.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, in his book No Future Without Forgiveness, says: "Ubuntu is very difficult to render into a Western language... It is to say, 'My humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in what is yours.'"
In his definition, it means that there is a common bond between people - and when one person's circumstances improve, everyone gains and if one person is tortured or oppressed, everyone is diminished.

Ubuntu chic - thong name-checking Ubuntu open-source software.
Mr Tutu's identification with ubuntu has given rise to the idea of "ubuntu theology" - where ethical responsibility comes with a shared identity. If someone is hungry, the ubuntu response is that we're all collectively responsible.
There is a spiritual as well as practical dimension to this - with ubuntu reflecting the idea that we're part of a long chain of human experience, connecting us to previous and future generations.
Ubuntu has also entered the language of development and fair trade - with campaigners using the word in aid projects for Africa in ways that suggest this will be an African solution for African problems.
Ironically, says Rob Cunningham, Christian Aid's programme manager for South Africa, just as the word is taking off in Western society the values it embodies are in decline in the land of its origin.
"In my conversations with partner organisations and the communities they work with, and among older people, there's a deep sense of loss of ubuntu," says Mr Cunningham. "To me, it means sitting down in a Zulu hut in KwaZulu-Natal sharing scarce food and a brew and a few stories."
There are ubuntu education funds, ubuntu tents at development conferences, ubuntu villages, an ubuntu university - and it's now the name of an open-source operating system.
Expect to hear more from ubuntu in the future.

Thursday, September 28, 2006


BBC launches global talent search.

The contest is part of the World Service's Generation Next season. The BBC World Service has launched a competition to find the world's best young music act.
Called The Next Big Thing, the contest is open to groups and solo artists in any genre of music, as long as they are under 18 and perform their own songs.
Entrants will be played on the World Service throughout the autumn, before a winner is chosen by listeners and music industry experts in December.
"What we're looking for is brilliant new music," says producer Ben Williams.
"The quality of the recording isn't important."
'Helping hand'
Williams says the aim of the competition is to give a helping hand to young artists who may not have access to the music industry.
"There's fantastic musical talent all over the world but many people struggle to get that first break, and that's where we come in."
"It's something new and very exciting that we've never tried before."
The contest will be run with the help of the BBC's language services, which means the final shortlist of six acts could include songs in Swahili, Portuguese or Hindi.
Artists who are interested in entering the competition should send one track to the BBC World Service by 3 November, 2006.
CDs and tapes should be sent to The Next Big Thing, Bush House, London. MP3s can be emailed to the BBC using the address - .....................................................................................



Jacob Zuma retains his presidential ambitions. South Africa's former Deputy President Jacob Zuma has apologised after offending the gay community.
He was quoted as saying that same-sex marriages were "a disgrace to the nation and to God".
He also said that when he was a young man, he would have knocked down any homosexual person he met.
Mr Zuma is trying to rebuild his career after being sacked over corruption allegations, although he was cleared of the charges last week.
Mr Zuma was also acquitted on separate rape charges earlier this year - his supporters say there is a political vendetta against him, designed to remove him from the race to succeed President Thabo Mbeki in 2009.
"My remarks were made in the context of the traditional way of raising children... I said the communal upbringing of children in the past was able to assist parents to notice children with a different social orientation," Mr Zuma said in his apology.
How can a narrow-minded person like this be expected to lead our nation?
Joint Working Group"I however did not intend to have this interpreted as a condemnation of gays and lesbians."
He also said he respected the "sterling contribution of many gay and lesbian compatriots in the struggle that brought about our freedom".
The homosexual lobby organisation Joint Working Group said Mr Zuma's comments were a "form of hate speech".
"It would seem Jacob Zuma still has a lot to learn about leadership... How can a narrow-minded person like this be expected to lead our nation?" the group said.
South Africa's constitution bans discrimination based on sexual orientation and the government is considering legalising same-sex marriages after a court ruling that the ban was illegal.
The charismatic Mr Zuma is popular among poor South Africans, many of whom say the current government has not done enough to help them.
The Congress of South African Trade Unions, Cosatu, last week said Mr Zuma should be reinstated as deputy president, following his acquittal.
The case was thrown out because the prosecution said they were still not ready to start the trial more than a year after he was charged.
The prosecution, however, say they may still press new corruption charges against him.
Unless this happens, Mr Zuma would be free to contest next year's leadership contest of the ruling African National Congress.
Whoever is elected to head the ANC would be favourite to become South Africa's next president.


The US has data on all passengers 15 minutes after take-of. European and US officials have been holding last-minute negotiations to renew a deal on the transfer of airline passenger data before it runs out on Saturday.
There have been warnings of chaos if agreement is not reached. Airlines would face massive fines if they flew to the US without supplying the data - and they could be prosecuted under European data protection laws if they did.
It is likely there would be huge queues at US immigration, as officials scrutinised the tickets of arriving passengers for some of the data they can now obtain electronically.
Under a 2004 agreement between the EU and the US, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) can access European airline reservation databases and pull out 34 pieces of information about each passenger.

Your history of missing flights
Your frequent flyer miles
Your seat location aboard
Your e-mail address

However, the 2004 agreement was annulled by the European Court of Justice in May, which ruled that officials had failed to give it an appropriate legal basis.
The judges said it could continue to operate until 30 September, while a new legal foundation was constructed.
But discussions between the US and the EU appear to have gone beyond legal technicalities - which is why they are going down to the wire.

Officials in Brussels say the EU wants to give away less data, while the EU wants more.
US demands for information are going to go up not down
Hugo BradyCentre for European ReformThe system is designed to help US officials identify terrorists before they arrive.
In future, the EU also wants to go over to a system where airlines "push" the data across to the US, rather than allowing the CBP to continue "pulling" it.
European privacy authorities also want the US to give legally binding guarantees regarding protection of the data transferred, instead of the existing non-binding undertakings.
Meanwhile, US Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff has said the CBP needs to be able to share the data with other government departments, such as the FBI.
However, it is reported that the most likely outcome now will be the renewal of the existing agreement on a new legal basis, for an interim period.
The bigger questions will be left for further negotiations on a new agreement, which is to take effect at the end of 2007, when the agreement which has now been annulled was due to have run out.

The Passenger Name Record (PNR) data falls into 34 overlapping fields, some of which contain very little information, for example the passenger's name, while others contain a lot, including the passenger's name (again), date of birth, sex, citizenship and so on.
The data can be broken down into the following categories
Information about the passenger: name; address; date of birth; passport number; citizenship; sex; country of residence; US visa number (plus date and place issued); address while in the US; telephone numbers; e-mail address; frequent flyer miles flown; address on frequent flyer account; the passenger's history of not showing up for flights
Information about the booking of the ticket: date of reservation; date of intended travel; date ticket was issued; travel agency; travel agent; billing address; how the ticket was paid for (including credit card number); the ticket number; which organisation issued the ticket; whether the passenger bought the ticket at the airport just before the flight; whether the passenger has a definite booking or is on a waiting list; pricing information; a locator number on the computer reservation system; history of changes to the booking
Information about the flight itself: seat number; seat information (eg aisle or window); bag tag numbers; one-way or return flight; special requests, such as requests for special meals, for a wheelchair, or help for an unaccompanied minor
Information about the passenger's itinerary: other flights ticketed separately, or data on accommodation, car rental, rail reservations or tours.
Information about other people: the group the passenger is travelling with; the person who booked the ticket
The CBP system has been built in such a way that some "sensitive" information is filtered out.

According to the undertakings on data protection provided by the US, this includes "personal data revealing racial or ethnic origin, political opinions, religious or philosophical beliefs, trade union membership, and data concerning the health or sex life of the individual".
This means that Halal or Kosher meal preferences will not show up, while requests for a vegetarian meal will.
"You can be sure that the US will construe whatever they can from the information provided. You can construe a lot from someone's name," says Hugo Brady, an expert in European security co-operation at the Centre for European Reform.
"They have compiled a number of scenarios which they believe amount to suspicious activity and the data is screened for a match. Did the passenger pay cash, did he have baggage? And so on."
He adds: "US demands for information are going to go up not down and we are going to have to find a way of aligning security and privacy to a mutually satisfactory end."



Children in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo have begun attending school this week instead of sifting for minerals in a vast open-cast mine.
Some 250 children in the province of Katanga have been given school places in and around the town of Kigoma.
The project is being run by a Belgian organisation, Groupe One, with funding from the government in Brussels and the UN children's agency, Unicef.
The plight of the children of Katanga was featured in a BBC report this year.
The report, timed to coincide with the World Day Against Child Labour, showed three boys working in Katanga's Ruashi mine, where 800 children worked digging for copper and cobalt.
Eight-year-old twins Decu and Kabu and their friend 15-year-old Cedric told the BBC how they wanted to go to school but their families could not afford the fees.
Cedric told the BBC this week he was now thrilled to be at the Maman Mbuyi school in Kigoma "to become more intelligent and to have the opportunity to improve my life".
Decu said school was much better than working at the mine.
"I already made friends and we play together," he said.
Cut-off date
A total of 250 former child miners aged between eight and 15 began school this week in Ruashi, near Kigoma.

Children in Ruashi mine work long days for very little reward
Fees of $75 (£40) per year for primary school pupils and $100 (£53) per year for older pupils are being covered by the scheme run by Groupe One.
That money includes the cost of new uniforms, often an extra expense families cannot afford.
The scheme has a budget of $90,000 (£48,000), one-third of it provided by Unicef.
Help is also being provided to the children's families to cover the loss of income.
Funding is secure until next year, but the Belgian scheme is due to wind up during 2007.


Adamu urges SA to seek help.
Oluwashina Okeleji BBC Sport, Lagos

Adamu says South Africa should ask for help in organising the World Cup. South Africa needs African support to stage a successful World Cup, says Fifa executive committee member, Amos Adamu.
After Germany's impressive show this year, most pundits say South Africa has a tough act to follow in 2010.
Adamu says in order to stage a "truly African World Cup", South Africans must not be too proud to seek help.
"South Africa needs Africa's help because the 2010 World Cup is for Africa," said Adamu, Nigeria's voice on Fifa's so-called football parliament.
He added: "South Africa needs manpower to help in building the required facilities and they also need help in terms of security.
"The African media must also play its part and portray a positive picture for 2010 because the world's image of the African continent is mostly negative."
Adamu, who recently caused a stir by calling for a radical change in Fifa's attitude towards government involvement in football affairs, insists that involving other nations is South Africa's best option.
"It's very important for the South Africans to reach out to the rest of the continent, like the Germans did for their World Cup," said Adamu, who also sits on the executive committee of the Confederation of African Football.
He told BBC Sport on Wednesday: "Germans got a lot of help from Uefa [Europe's governing body] due to the fact that the 2006 World Cup was in Europe.
"We believe that 2010 is not just a South Africa thing but an African project, so if it looks bad, then we all look bad.
"Despite our problems, I believe Africa as a whole has great personnel," said the chairman of the organising committee of the 2003 All Africa Games held in the Nigerian capital, Abuja.
"We're not saying that South Africa cannot do it alone but together we can make it that much better."


More than 1.5m children under five die each year because they lack access to safe water and proper sanitation, says the United Nations children's agency.
In a report, Unicef says that despite some successes, a billion people worldwide do not have access to safe drinking water from protected sources.
More than 1.2 billion people have gained access to safe water since 1990.
But sub-Saharan Africa remains a major area of concern, especially countries affected by conflict.
A Unicef deputy-director, Vanessa Tobin, gave the example of Niger, where only 13% of the population has access to toilets of an acceptable standard, or better.
She said it "certainly is a contributing factor in the cholera outbreaks" in Niger.
Progress slowed
The UN hopes to halve the number of people without access to clean drinking water and sanitation by 2015.
But progress has slowed due to population increases and unexpectedly high migration to urban areas, say the World Health Organisation and Unicef.

Ms Tobin said improving sanitation was key to helping prevent the spread of diseases such as cholera and diarrhoea-related illnesses.
"If we have clean water by itself without having sanitation and hygiene, we won't get the health impact."
The Unicef report says that children's education suffers because they have to walk long distances to fetch water, and that girls especially are deterred by the lack of separate and clean toilets in schools.
Diarrhoea-related diseases in young children could be cut by more than a third in young children by improving sanitation facilities, it adds.
The report picks out South Asia as a success story by prioritising sanitation. Access to improved sanitation facilities more than doubled in the region between 1990 and 2004.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


Jump in SA security van heists
By Peter Biles BBC News, Johannesburg.

South African police are facing well organised gangsThere has been a dramatic rise in South Africa in the number of robberies carried out on security vehicles used to transport large amounts of cash.
According to the latest crime statistics, there was a 74% increase in such incidents last year.
Many of these attacks occurred in the run-up to Christmas last year, when traditionally, more money than usual is moved around the country.
The latest crime figures also show the murder rate remains alarmingly high.
In spite of a 2% decrease, there were still more than 18,000 murders last year.
And there was also a slight rise in the number of car hijackings.
South Africa's international image has long been tarnished by high levels of crime and the huge increase in robberies on security vans suggests that the police still face an uphill task.
Last month, the government announced a new strategy of focusing on organised crime.
But the main opposition party - the Democratic Alliance - has said the police are losing the battle against heavily-armed and well-organised crime syndicates.
The party said this should be a major cause for concern, especially as South Africa will be hosting the football world cup in four years time.


As a vocal critic of apartheid, Tutu's comments carry a moral weight. The BBC's Martin Plaut reflects on South African Nobel Prize winner Desmond Tutu's scathing criticisms of South African society.

On the face of it Archbishop Tutu's comments warning of a growing danger of ethnic divisions in South Africa and saying the African reverence for life have been lost seem odd.
South Africa is at peace, and enjoying the longest period of growth in many years.
Unemployment has just fallen by more than half a million, to a six-year low.
And opinion polls show that most people are still optimistic about their country.
But just below the surface there seems to be a deep malaise.
Referring to the accusations of corruption that have been made about a number of South Africa's political leaders, Archbishop Tutu said: "They have shown that they are human. We all have been afflicted by original sin."
These problems have highlighted divisions within the alliance led by the African National Congress which is now in real trouble.
The trade union congress this month practically booed the deputy president, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, off the stage.
Its delegates sang songs describing President Thabo Mbeki as a "dog". So what's gone wrong?
At the heart of the problem is that President Mbeki has led his country down a road many are now questioning.
The left and the trade unions call for large-scale nationalisation and socialism.
But the government is locked into policies that favour business and globalisation.
Many believe not enough has been achieved for the poor since the end of apartheid, and are no longer prepared to sit in silence.
As the president's own brother, Moeletsi Mbeki put it, the governing alliance is now like a married couple on the brink of divorce.
If this is the perspective of the left in the black community, then the feelings of whites and many coloured people and Indians is equally bitter, but for different reasons.
The sky-high murder rate has convinced many they are not even safe when they shelter behind high walls and razor wire, even though crime rates are falling.
And their sons and daughters, many of whom were not even born when apartheid was in place, now cannot find jobs because affirmative action reserves them for blacks.
A fifth of the white population has left in the past 10 years, taking their skills and much of their wealth with them.
So while the sun still shines on South Africa's overall performance, there is a good deal for all sections of society to be fed up about. And the grumbling is getting louder.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


Quick guide: Age discrimination.

Laws banning age discrimination in the workplace come into effect on 1 October 2006.
It the latest type of discrimination to be tackled after race and sex. The government wants people to have the right to work longer, particularly as we are living longer, healthier lives. But it is worried that the ageist attitudes of some employers are stopping people from doing this.

Defining age discrimination -
This is when an employee is discriminated against by an employer on the grounds of age.
Age laws are designed to protect all workers, young and old.
Discrimination takes different forms.
There is overt discrimination - for example, someone being made redundant because they are considered too old for the job.
And there is indirect discrimination, such as making ageist comments.

The extent of the problem -
Unions cite age as the most common form of discrimination in the workplace.
However, age discrimination has not had the high profile of discrimination on grounds of sex or race, both of which have been outlawed for many years. In some industries, such as media and advertising, age discrimination has been endemic, an almost accepted fact of life for decades.

How the law works -
It will be unlawful to discriminate against an employee under the age of 65 on the grounds of age. The anti-discrimination law covers a range of workplace issues. Employers will not be able to specify that a new recruit should be above or below a particular age.

Quick guides are concise explanations of topics or issues in the news.

More Quick Guides

In addition, employers who fire workers or deny them the same training opportunities as their colleagues on age grounds will be in breach of the law. But there are get-out clauses. If the employer can 'objectively show' a sound business reason for discrimination then it may be permitted. And the law does not apply to workers over the age of 65, where they merely have the right to request an extension of their working lives.

Discrimination outside the workplace, for example in providing goods and services, is not banned.



Spam trail uncovers junk empire
By Mark Ward Technology Correspondent, BBC News website.

The junk mail was touting all kinds of drugsAn investigation into a seemingly routine series of spam messages has revealed how sophisticated the business of online crime has become.

The story begins with the junk mail messages themselves that were sent during April and May of 2006. Outwardly, said Patrick Peterson, chief technology officer of security firm Ironport who led the investigation, the messages hawking pharmaceuticals looked like the billions of other junk mail messages swilling around the net. The only initial point of interest about them was that they were appearing in bigger numbers than most spam runs. Every day for 14 days the spammers behind the junk mail campaign pumped out more than 100m messages.

The spam got more interesting when Mr Peterson and his colleagues took a closer look. Many of the junk messages had, hidden within them, text from JRR Tolkien's classic work The Hobbit.
This text was included, said Mr Peterson, in an attempt to convince spam filters that the messages were genuine and not junk. Many spam messages use excerpts from novels or other works in this way.
Analysis of the junk mail revealed that there were more than 2,000 variations in the content of the messages making up the spam run. Over the course of the weeks when the spam was being sent a new variant of message was despatched every 12 minutes. The sheer scale of the spamming operation became clearer when Mr Peterson started tracking where the spam was being sent from. Analysis of the net addresses where the e-mail messages originated showed that more than 100,000 hijacked home computers spread across 119 nations had been used to despatch the junk mail.

To try to beat anti-spam techniques that look up the net address from which spam originates to see if it that location has a reputation as a spammer, many of the machines used to send the mail had been recently hijacked. Analysis showed that many had only been taken over in the last 30 days, said Mr Peterson. "We ran the sources of this and found out a massive distribution of countries," Mr Peterson told the BBC News website, "it's very much centred in Europe." This widespread, sophisticated infrastructure involved more than 1500 web domains that acted as the web shops for the drugs advertised in the junk messages. Many of the domains were hosted by firms that advertise themselves as providing "bullet proof" hosting that will resist attempts to shut down the sites - no matter what information is on the website.
Behind the scenes was a sophisticated network of computers that handled the traffic generated when people clicked on links in messages and directed them to the right site. Anyone clicking on the links in the junk mail messages would get re-directed to one of the 1500 domains - each one of which was made to look like a real organisation.

If you have an e-mail account, you probably get spam"They were trying to make it look as legitimate as possible," he said. On some of the fake pharmacies, said Mr Peterson, the spammers had gone to the trouble of creating fake biographies for the supposed founders of the online shop. When an Ironport employee went to check the supposed real world location of one shop they found a vacant lot. Using a one-time use credit card, Mr Peterson bought some pharmaceuticals from one of the web shops and was amazed when a package arrived in the post.
"When we have done this in the past it's been clear that they just want to rip people off," he said. Before now most spammers have been happy to take credit card details and cash and do nothing to fulfil orders.

Instead, with this spam network, the orders were fulfilled by a pharmaceutical firm in India. The drugs received have now been sent for testing to see just what they contain. "The complexity is what's amazing to see," said Mr Peterson. IronPort was planning to continue its investigation, he said, to see if it will be possible to determine just who is behind the net-spanning spam operation. Information has also been passed to the FBI to help its investigation into a US-based hosting firm that has been implicated in a lot of spam and scam campaigns.


Monday's ceremony was attended by a sell-out crowd. The stadium that symbolised New Orleans' suffering during Hurricane Katrina last year has re-opened.
More than 30,000 people took refuge at the Louisiana Superdome after the storm struck. They lived in squalor for four days until they were evacuated.
But a major refurbishment programme has allowed the venue to host Monday's sell-out game between the New Orleans Saints and the Atlanta Falcons.
Rock bands, including U2 and Green Day, performed in a star-studded ceremony.
The Superdome was wrecked by Hurricane Katrina last August, its roof peeled off by the wind.
However, the BBC's James Westhead in New Orleans says it was the images of chaos inside, with people stranded for days with no water or food, that made it a symbol of New Orleans' misery.
Many thought that afterwards, the building would be condemned. But instead, £180m was spent on a huge renovation effort.
Although some question spending so much on a sports stadium, the governor of Louisiana, Kathleen Blanco, described it as a vital symbol of recovery for the city and the state.
"This is exactly what the city needs," Saints season ticket holder Clara Donate - who lost her home and all her possessions to Katrina - told AP news agency before the game.
"We all need something else to think about."
The Saints last played in the Superdome in a 2005 pre-season game, a few days before Katrina.
The team were forced to move their home games to other venues last season - including Louisiana State University and Giants Stadium in New York.


Ousainou Darboe said the election was a "sham". Gambian opposition leader Ousainou Darboe has said that he will seek legal advice on whether to challenge the outcome of Friday's elections.
He said he rejected the official results, giving incumbent President Yahya Jammeh 67% of the vote.
Mr Darboe said there had been widespread intimidation by local chiefs, governors and security agents.
Mr Jammeh, meanwhile, dismissed critics of his human rights record, saying: "The whole world can go to hell."
Journalists and opposition activists have been threatened and harassed in recent years but Mr Jammeh was unrepentant after winning his third election, since taking power in a 1994 coup.
I don't believe in killing people. I believe in locking you up for the rest of your life
President Yahya Jammeh"If I want to ban any newspaper, I will, with good reason," he said, reports Reuters news agency.
"This is Africa and this is the Gambia, a country where we have very strong African moral values... If you write Yahya is a thief, you should be ready to prove it in a court of law. If that constitutes lack of press freedom, then I don't care."
The president, 41, also denied that security agents were involved in the 2004 killing of newspaper editor Deyda Hydara.
"I don't believe in killing people. I believe in locking you up for the rest of your life," Mr Jammeh said.

Yahya Jammeh: 67%
Ousainou Darboe: 27%
Halifa Sallah: 6%
Registered voters670,000

Voting with marbles
Campaign in pictures

"Then maybe at some point we say: 'Oh, he is too old to be fed by the state,' we release him and let him become destitute."
Mr Darboe secured 27% of the vote, while another sociologist Halifa Sallah received 6%, according to official results.
"This election was just a sham. It was not free and fair and we don't accept the results as valid," Mr Darboe said.
He said he was considering his next move.
Voter turnout was about 59%, lower than in Gambia's last presidential election.
Due to a high level of illiteracy, voters used marbles to vote rather than ballot papers, inserting a marble into the drum representing their candidate.
Some 670,000 Gambians are registered to vote out of a population of 1.6 million.
Voting day was brought forward from October so as not to coincide with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.


Monday, September 25, 2006


Fighters seized control of the capital Mogadishu in June. Somalia's interim prime minister has asked for international help against the "al-Qaeda" and "terrorist" expansion in the country.
Ali Mohamed Ghedi appealed for aid soon, before it was too late.
He was speaking after his Islamist rivals seized the key port of Kismayo, where they fired at demonstrators, reportedly killing three people.
The Union of Islamic Courts deny having any links to al-Qaeda and say they are bringing security to a lawless country.
"I would appeal to the governments of the region to join our efforts and protect the region from the expansion of this al-Qaeda network, these terrorists," Mr Ghedi said in neighbouring Kenya.
He also said the takeover of Kismayo was a "violation" of the ceasefire agreed between the UIC and the government in Sudan.
Mr Ghedi's government only controls a small part of Somalia, around the town of Baidoa, while the UIC has expanded across most of the south.
They seized Kismayo on Sunday without a fight, after gunmen loyal to Mr Ghedi's Defence Minister Barre Hiraale fled the town.
After the takeover, pro- and anti-UIC rallies were held.
Islamist guards opened fire after some residents burnt tyres, chanted anti-Islamist slogans and threw stones.
An MP told the Somali service that three people had died. Some of the protesters had been seen burning Islamic head-dresses.
UIC officials say the protests were organised by those who opposed their ban on the popular stimulant khat during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Earlier an Islamist leader spoke at a rally which passed off peacefully.
Meanwhile, eyewitnesses report that hundreds of Ethiopian troops have crossed the border, heading for Baidoa - the only town controlled by the internationally recognised government.
Ethiopia supports the administration of President Abdullahi Yusuf but has denied that its troops are in Baidoa.
Earlier this month, the African Union agreed to a request by Somalia's transitional government, which controls only a small part of the country, to send in a regional peacekeeping force.
Kismayo had been seen as a possible landing point for the peacekeepers.
Witnesses told AFP news agency they had seen more than 600 Islamist gunmen on about 50 "battlewagons" - machine-gun mounted pick-ups also known as "technicals" - heading toward Kismayo on Sunday.
Thousands of people are reported to have fled the city in recent days.
Earlier reports said that thousands of people had gathered in the town, chanting "God is great" to welcome the UIC fighters.
The UIC has steadily increased its hold on Somalia since its fighters took control of the capital, Mogadishu, in June, taking control of hundreds of square kilometres of territory while hardly firing a shot.
Mr Ghedi's government was set up in 2004 after more than two years of talks designed to give Somalia its first effective national government since 1991.


Demand for energy has been growing fast in Egypt. Egypt is to revive the civilian nuclear power programme it froze 20 years ago following the accident at the Chernobyl plant in Ukraine.
Egypt's energy minister told the state-owned al-Ahram newspaper of plans to build a nuclear power station.
The plant will be constructed at El-Dabaa, on the Mediterranean coast, within the next 10 years.
Demand for electricity has been growing at an average rate of 7% a year and the country faces worsening shortages.
On Thursday, President Hosni Mubarak said Egypt needed to investigate new sources of energy, including the nuclear option.
Energy Minister Hassan Younes said that the project would create a fully functioning nuclear power plant within a decade.
The facility, a 1,000 megawatt nuclear power plant, is expected to cost an estimated US$1.5bn (1.17bn euros). The Cairo government says it will seek foreign investment for the project.
IAEA questions
Though it abandoned a serious nuclear energy programme two decades ago, Egypt maintains a small experimental nuclear reactor.
In February 2005 the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) disclosed that it was investigating Egypt's nuclear activities.
It concluded that Egypt had conducted atomic research, but that the research did not aim to develop nuclear weapons and did not include uranium enrichment.
Egypt admitted to failing to disclose the full extent of its nuclear research activities to the UN's watchdog. Officials said the failure arose because of a misunderstanding over exactly what had to be disclosed.
NPT signatory
Egypt is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which allows countries to build nuclear power stations under international supervision.
It has long pressed for a Middle East free of nuclear weapons.
Israel is the only state in the region with a known nuclear arsenal, though it maintains a position of "ambiguity" on its nuclear weapons, insisting that it will not be the first state to introduce nuclear weapons to the region.
Iran is in dispute with the IAEA and the Security Council over its nuclear programme.
Tehran insists its programme is peaceful, but western states believe Iran secretly wants to develop either a nuclear bomb or the ability to make one. The Security Council is demanding that Tehran halt nuclear enrichment, a step Iran is refusing to comply with.


Zimbabwean union leaders who claim they were assaulted and tortured by police deserved their treatment, Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe has said.
Lawyers claim that police assaulted at least a dozen union members before a planned protest on 13 September.
"When the police say move, move," Mr Mugabe told the official Herald newspaper. "If you don't move, you invite the police to use force."
He said the protesters were trying to attract US and British attention.
The planned demonstration over Mr Mugabe's handling of the economy was called off after at least 50 people were arrested before the protest.
'A revolt'
Lawyers for the arrested union leaders say that at least 12 of them were left needing hospital treatment by police, with Zimbabwe Council of Trade Unions Secretary General Wellington Chibebe suffering a broken arm while in custody.
Mr Mugabe said the demonstration had been intended to bring about "regime change" through attracting the support of non-governmental organisations, "stupid" journalists, and the US and British governments.

Zimbabwe's inflation is the highest in the world at more than 1,200%
"We cannot have a situation where people decide to sit in places not allowed and when the police remove them, they say no. We can't have that, that is a revolt to the system," the Herald quoted him as saying.
He said that police had been right in dealing sternly with the protestors: "Some people are now crying foul that they were assaulted, yes, you get a beating."
Zimbabwe has been gripped by an economic crisis for more than six years, with unemployment now running at 80% and inflation at more than 1,200%.
Mr Mugabe's critics blame the situation on his mishandling of the economy and a plan to redistribute white-owned farms to black Zimbabweans.
The government argues that the woes are the result of international sabotage and sanctions aimed at removing Mr Mugabe from power.
'Draconian' restrictions
The 82-year-old has led Zimbabwe since independence from Britain in 1980, and is due to retire in 2008.


Life expectancy 30 years
High dependency on food aid
20% adult HIV prevalence
Shortages of basic foodstuffs
High unemployment
Inflation 1,200%

New high for inflation

But his Zanu-PF party has said it is looking at delaying the presidential poll until 2010 so that it would coincide with planned parliamentary elections.
Critics claim that regulations on public demonstrations and media activities in the country have stifled democracy and consolidated Mr Mugabe's hold on power.
Monday saw lawyer accuse the government of abusing the legal system for its own political ends after a case against one of the country's two independent radio stations was dismissed by a local court.
Three journalists and seven trustees of Voice of the People radio were arrested nine months ago for possessing unlicensed radio transmitters.
Magistrates ordered the case to be dropped after the government asked for a fourth adjournment to assemble their case.
The radio station circumvents media restrictions by broadcasting using short-wave transmitters based outside the country.


Sunday, September 24, 2006


Kenya's government has called for the country's two rival football leagues to be halted after being ordered by Fifa to sort out chaos in the sport. "We order a stop to the two parallel leagues," Joshua Okuthe, head of the Kenya National Sports Council, said on Saturday. "Running rival leagues is not only counter-productive but an embarrassment to the government and the people of Kenya."

Kenya's top football clubs have split into two factions with nine of them taking part in a league started last week by the Kenya Premier League (KPL). The remaining 11 joined a league sanctioned by the country's football federation (KFF), which had been due to start on Saturday. Fifa president Sepp Blatter has given Kenya until 18 October to sort out the mess or face sanctions.

In a strongly-worded letter on Thursday, Blatter ordered the KFF to explain in writing steps it had taken to implement 28 points agreed upon in January, which included setting up an independent company to run the league. Fifa recognises KPL Limited, which was mandated to run the Premier League in the January agreement at a meeting in Cairo between Fifa, the KFF and Caf. However, Okuthe said: "We recognise KFF PL as legally mandated to run the Premier League on behalf of the federation and not KPL." He said no matches would take place until officials from the two leagues had met to decide which teams would play in the KFF PL League. Despite the call by Okuthe, matches from both leagues were played on Saturday.

Last October, Kenya was threatened with suspension from all soccer activity at Fifa's annual congress in Marrakesh because of government interference in running the sport.


Amnesty called for the IOC to exert pressure on China. China has failed to live up to its promise to improve its human rights record ahead of the 2008 Olympic Games, Amnesty International has said.
A report by the group said human rights activists in the country continue to be harassed while those facing the death penalty are not getting fair trials.
It also said people are being forced from their homes to make way for Olympic construction projects.
Amnesty International called on the Chinese authorities to enact reforms.
"Serious human rights violations continue to be reported across the country, fuelling instability and discontent," the report said.
"Grassroots human rights activists continue to be detained and imprisoned, and official controls over the media and the internet are growing tighter."
'Too soon'
Amnesty also called on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to exert pressure on the Chinese government.
However, a spokesperson for the IOC said it was "unrealistic to expect the IOC to pressure on such complex matters".
"It is premature to say China has failed to live up to the promises two years before the Games," communications director Giselle Davies told Reuters news agency.
During bidding for the Games in 2001, the Beijing committee pledged that a win for China would help promote the development of human rights in the country.



There are more than a billion people online worldwide. The internet will be a thriving, low-cost network of billions of devices by 2020, says a major survey of leading technology thinkers. The Pew report on the future internet surveyed 742 experts in the fields of computing, politics and business.
More than half of respondents had a positive vision of the net's future but 46% had serious reservations. Almost 60% said that a counter culture of Luddites would emerge, some resorting to violence.
The Pew Internet and American Life report canvassed opinions from the experts on seven broad scenarios about the future internet, based on developments in the technology in recent years.
Summary of the Pew Internet survey (80k)
Most computers will open PDF documents automatically, but you may need to download Adobe Acrobat Reader.
Download the reader here
Click here to see the reponses to the seven scenarios

Written responses
The correspondents were also able to qualify their answers with written responses giving more detail.
"Key builders of the next generation of internet often agree on the direction technology will change, but there is much less agreement about the social and political impact those changes will have," said Janna Quitney Anderson, lead author of the report The Future of the Internet II. She added: "One of their big concerns is: Who controls the internet architecture they have created?"
Bob Metcalfe, founder of 3Com and the inventor of ethernet, predicted the net would be a global connection of different devices. "The internet will have gone beyond personal communications," by 2020 he wrote.

Mobiles will play a big part in the net's future"Many more of today's 10 billion new embedded micros per year will be on the internet."
Louis Nauges, president of Microcost, a French information technology firm, saw mobile devices at the forefront of the net.
"Mobile internet will be dominant," he explained. "By 2020, most mobile networks will provide one-gigabit-per-second-minimum speed, anywhere, anytime.
"Dominant access tools will be mobile, with powerful infrastructure characteristics. All applications will come from the net."
But not everyone felt a "networked nirvana" would be possible by 2020.
Concerns over interoperability (different formats working together), government regulation and commercial interests were seen as key barriers to a universal internet.
Ian Peter, Australian leader of the Internet Mark II Project, wrote: "The problem of the digital divide is too complex and the power of legacy telco regulatory regimes too powerful to achieve this utopian dream globally within 15 years."
'Real interoperability'
Author and social commentator Douglas Rushkoff agreed with Mr Peter.
The less one is powerful, the more transparent his or her life. The powerful will remain much less transparent
NetLab founder Barry Wellman on issues of privacy versus transparancy.
He wrote: "Real interoperability will be contingent on replacing our bias for competition with one for collaboration.
"Until then, economics do not permit universal networking capability."
Many of the surveyed experts predicted isolated and small-scale violent attacks to try and thwart technology's march.
"Today's eco-terrorists are the harbingers of this likely trend," wrote Ed Lyell, an expert on the internet and education.
"Every age has a small percentage that cling to an overrated past of low technology, low energy, lifestyle."
"Of course there will be more Unabombers," wrote Cory Doctorow of blog BoingBoing.
Some commentators felt that the violence would either be tied to the effects of technology, rather than the technology itself, or possibly civil action around issues such as privacy.
"The interesting question is whether these acts will be considered terrorism or civil disobedience," wrote Marc Rotenberg or the Electronic Privacy Information Center.
Of course there will be more Unabombers
Cory Doctorow, BoingBoing
More than half of respondents disagreed that English would become the lingua franca of the internet by 2020 and that there would be dangers associated with letting machines take over some net tasks such as surveillance and security.
Internet Society Board chairman Fred Baker wrote: "We will certainly have some interesting technologies.
He added: "Until someone finds a way for a computer to prevent anyone from pulling its power plug, however, it will never be completely out of control."
The repondents were split over the whether the impact of people's lives becoming increasingly online, resulting in both less privacy but more transparency, would be a positive outcome.
'Access information'
Tiffany Shlain, founder of the Webby awards, said such transparancy would be a benefit to society.

The dramatic growth of the internet shows no sign of abating.
"Giving all people access to our information and a context to understand it will lead to an advancement in our civilisation."
But NetLab founder Barry Wellman disagreed: "The less one is powerful, the more transparent his or her life. The powerful will remain much less transparent."
Mr Doctorow wrote: "Transparency and privacy aren't antithetical.
"We're perfectly capable of formulating widely honored social contracts that prohibit pointing telescopes through your neighbours' windows.
"We can likewise have social contracts about sniffing your neighbours' network traffic."
By 2020 an increasing number of people will be living and working within "virtual worlds" being more productive online than offline, the majority of the respondents said.
Ben Detenber, an associate professor at Nanyang Technological University, responded: "Virtual reality (VR) will only increase productivity for some people. For most, it will make no difference in productivity (i.e., how much output); VR will only change what type of work people do and how it is done."
Glenn Ricart, a board member at the Internet Society, warned also of potential dangers.
He envisaged "an entire generation opting-out of the real world and a paradoxical decrease in productivity as the people who provide the motive economic power no longer are in touch with the realities of the real world".



Mr Maliki urged Iraqis to live side by side "like brothers". Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri Maliki has urged Iraqis to use the Muslim holy month of Ramadan to set aside their differences and seek national unity.
Mr Maliki said Iraqis could either live side by side as brothers, or see their country turned into an arena for the settling of political accounts.
His comments come as at least five people were killed in several car bomb attacks in Baghdad and elsewhere.
An insurgent leader has been captured with seven aides, the authorities said.
Mr Maliki's comments came a day after at least 35 people were killed in a car bomb attack on a kerosene tanker in Baghdad's mainly Shia district of Sadr City.
"I call on Iraqis to take advantage of this sacred month to reinforce brotherly ties to reject division and anything that threatens the Iraqi social fabric," he said.
"Either we live side by side in a spirit of brotherhood, not separated by ethnic or sectarian identifies, or Iraq becomes a battlefield for different groups to settle their scores."
Saturday's attack took place on the first day of Ramadan for Iraq's Sunni community and was one of the deadliest in Iraq in recent weeks.
The country's Shia religious authorities have said Ramadan will start on Monday.
In recent years, Iraq has seen a rise in violence during Ramadan.
In other violence:
In Baghdad, one car bomb attack targeted an Iraqi army convoy, killing at least two people; another was aimed at a police patrol, and killed at least one person
A suicide car bombing killed two Iraqi soldiers and wounded at least two, when the driver rammed his car into their checkpoint in the town of Tal Afar, 420km (260 miles) north-west of Baghdad.
Gunmen killed police Col Ismail Jihayan late on Saturday in Tikrit, 175km (110 miles) north of Baghdad
Leader's arrest
The militant leader arrested on Sunday was not named, but officials said he was a leader of a nationalist group known as the 1920 Revolution Brigades.
The announcement came a day after the Iraqi government said it had captured a leader of the radical Sunni Islamist group Ansar al-Sunna, which has been blamed for a number of suicide bombings, kidnappings and beheadings.
But the group, which is believed to have links to al-Qaeda, has denied any of its leaders were captured.


Saturday, September 23, 2006


"Very Soon" !

Dear Family and Friends,

Every day things in Zimbabwe get just a little bit harder and while ordinary families stagger from one crisis to the next, the country's leadership seem to be completely bereft of ideas. The latest phrase from government officials and ministers is "Very Soon".

It's never completely clear if 'very soon' is a threat or a promise but the litany is faithfully regurgitated at every occasion. 'Very Soon' we will have petrol they say; 'Very Soon' we will grow enough food; 'Very Soon' we will drive out everywhite farmer; 'Very Soon' we will turn around the economy and 'Very Soon' we will change the currency again, this time with just one day of warning. This week the threatened promise is that 'Very Soon' corrupt cabinet ministers and members of parliament will be arrested. Somewhere along the line, however, instead of arresting corrupt leaders, police this week arrested top company directors. All accused of increasing prices without government approval, the CEO's of Dairibord (milk), Lobels (bread),Saltrama (plastic), Windmill (chemicals), ZFC (fertilizer) and Circle(cement) were arrested. It is not clear how any business can maintain prices when inflation is officially reported to be 1204% but is crystal clear that when the ideas run out it is easier just to arrest and detain.

The arrests of people trying to express their dissatisfaction at events in Zimbabwe also continued this week. At least 140 NCA members were arrested as they marched in protest over the recent abuse and torture of union leaders demonstrating in Harare. The NCA members were arrested in Masvingo,Gweru, Harare and Mutare in a clear sign that unrest is spreading in the country.

And in between the arrests there has been a whole rash of absurdity that leaves you just shaking your head in wonder. This week email and internetservice was all but impossible in the country. Zimbabwe's Internet Service Providers said that there had been a 90% drop in internet traffic and thatit was a situation of "virtual standstill." The state owned telephone company Tel One apparently owes a massive seven hundred thousand US dollars to a satellite company and were appealing to the central bank to bail them out of the debt. At one point in the week a major ISP put out an email to all its subscribers asking if anyone had a connection in high up places that may be able to intervene in the crisis. Towards the end of the weekTel One posted an advert in the state owned press saying that with immediate effect the cost of internet services had increased by two thousand seven hundred percent. Nothing is done in measured steps in Zimbabwe. The Big Stick comes out, threat/promises of Very Soon are uttered and prices are backdated by years not months.

The irony of arresting the baker for increasing the price of bread by 50% but ignoring the government owned phone company for increasing internet prices by 2700% is absolutely bone shaking.
Until next week, thanks for reading, love cathy.

Copyright Cathy Buckle, 23 September 2006.http:/africantears.netfirms.comMy books "African Tears" and "Beyond Tears" are available


Japan launches Sun 'microscope'
By Jonathan Amos Science reporter, BBC News.

Solar-B's orbit gives it a near-continuous view of the Sun. Scientists have high hopes for Japan's Solar-B mission which has just been launched from the Uchinoura spaceport. The spacecraft will investigate the colossal explosions in the Sun's atmosphere known as solar flares. These dramatic events release energy equivalent to tens of millions of hydrogen bombs in just a few minutes. The probe will attempt to find out more about the magnetic fields thought to power solar flares, and try to identify the trigger that sets them off.

The ultimate goal for scientists is to use the new insights to make better forecasts of the Sun's behaviour. Flares can hurl radiation and super-fast particles in the direction of the Earth, disrupting radio signals, frying satellite electronics, and damaging the health of astronauts. Solar-B acts essentially like a microscope, probing the fine details of what the magnetic field is doing as it builds up to a flare.

"It will take two to three weeks to transfer the spacecraft into its so-called Sun-synchronous polar orbit. From this position, Solar-B will be able to observe the Sun without having any nights for eight months of the year," said Professor Tetsuya Watanabe, of the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ). As is customary on Japanese missions, the satellite will get a new name once it is ready to begin its work. The spacecraft, developed by the Japanese space agency (Jaxa) and the Mitsubishi Electric Corporation, has scientific and engineering contributions from, principally, the US and the UK.

The Sun behaves like a giant twisting magnet; and when contorted field lines that have lifted up off the surface of the star clash, they release a colossal maelstrom of energy. A blast of intense radiation is emitted, and charged particles are accelerated out into the Solar System. Some of these particles are moving so fast they can cover the 149 million km to Earth in just tens of minutes.

The flares can have a serious impact on Earth's environmentWhilst scientists understand the flaring process reasonably well, they cannot predict when one of these enormous explosions will occur. Solar-B is expected to transform our understanding. It carries three instruments: a Solar Optical Telescope (SOT), an X-ray Telescope and an Extreme Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrometer.

They will make continuous, simultaneous observations of specific solar features, to observe how changes in the magnetic field at the Sun's surface can spread through the layers of the solar atmosphere to produce, ultimately, a flare. "Solar-B acts essentially like a microscope, probing the fine details of what the magnetic field is doing as it builds up to a flare," said mission scientist Professor Louise Harra, from the Mullard Space Science Laboratory, UCL, UK. "What we don't know is what triggers a flare; we don't understand the physics of that phase at all. Solar-B will show us how tangled the field is, and how the field lines collide to produce all that energy."
Solar-B is but one of a fleet of spacecraft now dedicated to understanding the relationship between the Sun and the Earth; and more are set to follow. Next month, the US space agency (Nasa) plans to launch its Stereo mission - twin spacecraft that will make 3D observations of our star.

Scientists would like to predict the onset of solar flaresAs we become more reliant on space-based systems - to provide us with everything from timing and positioning services to the relay of telecoms data - the need to understand the tempestuous Sun-Earth interaction just gets more urgent. Losing a satellite because of solar flare effects could prove costly, not just in economic terms but in human lives. Spacecraft like Solar B should give scientists the data they need to make better "space weather" forecasts.

"The information that Solar-B will provide is significant for understanding and forecasting of solar disturbances, which can interfere with satellite communications, electric power transmission grids, and threaten the safety of astronauts travelling beyond the safety of the Earth's magnetic field," said John Davis, Solar-B project scientist at Nasa's Marshall centre.

Friday, September 22, 2006


Mr Karzai is grateful for the Canadian presence in Afghanistan. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has asked Canadians to stand firm in providing military support to Afghanistan. In a speech to Canada's parliament he addressed public concerns about Canadian deployment during which 36 soldiers have been killed since 2002. He said continued Canadian involvement was crucial to prevent terrorism both in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Canada's PM Stephen Harper confirmed his support: "Canada does not leave a country before achieving success." Canadian and British forces have borne the brunt of foreign troop casualties in recent months.

Four Canadian soldiers were killed in a blast in the south on Monday - one of three suicide bombings in the country. Hundreds of people have been killed this year as violence has risen, mainly in southern and eastern Afghanistan.

Mr Karzai received a standing ovation from MPs and senators as he stepped onto the podium to address Canada's parliament. "I know my visit comes at a time of sadness for a number of families across Canada who have lost loved ones in my country," he said. But he asked Canadians to maintain their support. "A democratic nation is not built overnight. Afghanistan's democracy will continue to grow, will continue to develop... but only with the patience and with the continued support of Canada and other members of the international community. "Helping us into the future is much more valuable than perhaps you can imagine."

The BBC's Lee Carter in Toronto says Mr Karzai will not be meeting the leader of the New Democratic opposition party, Jack Layton, who has called for Canadian troops to be withdrawn from their combat role in Afghanistan. Mr Layton said that despite repeated attempts to set up a meeting with the Afghan president, none was scheduled. Mr Karzai arrived in Ottawa a day after addressing the UN General Assembly in New York. At the UN he called for the destruction of safe havens and elaborate networks operating in the region to recruit, train, finance, arm and deploy terrorists. But he said military action alone would not stop terrorism in his country.

A recent poll found only 38% of Canadians support their country's military presence in Afghanistan, while 49% want the 2,300 troops hunting Taleban and al-Qaeda militants to withdraw. Afghanistan is the largest recipient of Canadian foreign aid.


Sheikh Nasrallah had not appeared in public since the conflict. The Hezbollah leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, has hailed his group's "victory" over Israel, boasting that the group still has 20,000 rockets. In his first public appearance since the recent conflict, he said Hezbollah would never be disarmed by force and called for a new Lebanese government. Hundreds of thousands crowded into southern Beirut, heavily bombed during the conflict, to hear the speech.

Israel said the speech showed a lack of respect to the international community. Waving flags in the yellow and green of Hezbollah, crowds travelled from all over Lebanon to a square in the city's southern suburbs.
Quick guide: Hezbollah
Security was tight in the streets around the square. Thanking the crowd for making the journey to the rally, he praised their courage and said Hezbollah was now stronger than it was before fighting began on 12 July.

The 34-day conflict with Israel ended in a military and a strategic victory for Hezbollah, he told supporters. "There is no army in the world that can force us to drop our weapons from our hands, from our grip." Under the terms of the UN-brokered cease-fire that ended the fighting on 14 August, Hezbollah is expected to disarm.

Fighting began on 12 July
Ended 14 August
Israeli dead: 116 soldiers, 43 civilians
Lebanese civilian dead: >1,000
Hezbollah dead: unknown

But Sheikh Nasrallah said the group would only disarm when the Lebanese government was capable of protecting the country. He repeated a Hezbollah call for a new government to replace the administration of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora. "The building of a just, strong and able state starts first with a serious national unity government," Sheikh Nasrallah said. The strength of Hezbollah had dealt a severe blow to US plans for a new Middle East peace process, he told the crowds.

The BBC's Crispin Thorold, in southern Beirut, said Sheikh Nasrallah spoke for more than an hour, and guns were fired into the air as he left. But former President Amin Gemayel, an opponent of Hezbollah, told the Associated Press the speech was "dangerous", because it linked disarmament to regime change in Lebanon. Fighting between Israel and Hezbollah ended on 14 August with a ceasefire that has largely held.

Most of the crowds waved yellow Hezbollah flagsBut Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said Sheikh Nasrallah's speech was a challenge to the international community. "The international community can't afford to have this Iranian-funded extremist spit in the face of the organised community of nations," he said.

Israel lost 116 soldiers in the fighting, while 43 of its civilians were killed in Hezbollah rocket attacks. More than 1,000 Lebanese civilians and an unknown number of Hezbollah fighters were killed in the conflict. Israel failed to achieve its stated war aims of driving Hezbollah fighters from the border, stopping rocket attacks and freeing two of its soldiers captured by Hezbollah in a cross-border raid.

The Beirut rally had been expected to coincide with the final withdrawal of Israeli troops from southern Lebanon, but the Israeli military said on Friday that some troops would remain in Lebanon over the Jewish New Year holiday this weekend.



Joseph Kabila faces Jean-Pierre Bemba in October's run-off. Two major Democratic Republic of Congo presidential candidates have urged their supporters to vote for President Joseph Kabila in the second round.
Antoine Gizenga, who came third in July's historic poll, and Nzanga Mobutu, who came fourth, have announced their support for the incumbent.
Mr Kabila now looks to be the clear favourite in the October run-off against Jean-Pierre Bemba.
Mr Kabila gained 45% of the vote in July, against 20% for Mr Bemba.
A spokesman for Mr Mobutu said he had made the choice to preserve DR Congo's unity.
Mr Kabila won a first-round landslide in the east, while Mr Bemba gained the backing of most westerners, especially in the capital, Kinshasa.
Mr Mobutu, son of former leader Mobutu Sese Seko, is also from the west and so his support would enable Mr Kabila to enjoy a more nationwide legitimacy.
The support of the two men's parties in parliament would also give Mr Kabila a majority, which would enable him to choose a prime minister.
The 500 new MPs were sworn in on Friday.
The second round will conclude the country's first democratic polls since independence in 1960.
Meanwhile, the police have arrested hundreds of people living rough in Kinshasa, after violent protests in favour of Mr Bemba earlier this week.
"These young people have been behaving like bandits for some time now, attacking members of the public. We have had several complaints," police chief Patrick Sabiti told the AFP news agency.



Africans are making treacherous sea journeys to reach Europe. EU ministers have expressed sharp differences over how to deal with an influx of illegal immigrants to Europe.

At talks in Finland, Spain's justice minister called for help to deal with the surge of mainly African migrants arriving in Spain's Canary Islands. But Germany's interior minister said Madrid should not be calling for other people's money. And Austria criticised Spain's decision to grant amnesty to some 500,000 undocumented foreigners in 2005.

About 24,000 illegal migrants have made the often perilous sea crossing from West Africa to the Canary Islands in the Atlantic this year. Up to 3,000 of them are believed to have died during the journey.

At the meeting in the Finnish city of Tampere, Spain made a fresh appeal for help, after repeatedly stating that it was unable to cope with the influx. "These people coming from the African continent are knocking on the door of the whole of the European Union - we just happen to be closest border country towards the African continent," Spanish Justice Minister Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar said.

Spain also said it wanted better organisation of Frontex, the hurriedly created EU border patrol force that operates in the Mediterranean, the BBC's Jonny Dymond in Tampere says. In response, German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schauble said Madrid "must stop asking for the money of others". He pointed out that Berlin had carried a similar problem for many years.

Austrian Justice Minister Karin Gastinger said Spain had sent "the wrong signal" by legalising the status of at least 500,000 illegal workers last year. Ms Gastinger said the decision had given "some kind of pull factor to the people in Africa, as we unfortunately saw in the last months".

Italy's Interior Minister Interior Minister Giuliano Amato suggested that money would be better spent in Africa - in the countries where the asylum seekers were coming from.

For the moment at least it looks as if Spain's appeals for help are going nowhere, our correspondent says.


Thursday, September 21, 2006


TV Confession

A Jordanian court has sentenced a failed Iraqi suicide bomber to death for her role in attacks on hotels in Amman which killed 60 people last year.
The court also passed death sentences by hanging on six other defendants who were tried in absentia.
Sajida al-Rishawi was filmed by police confessing to trying to take part in the 9 November attack, but said her explosives belt had not detonated.
She later said her confession was taken under duress and pleaded not guilty.

The attacks were claimed by al-Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab Zarqawi, who was killed in an operation by US forces earlier this year.

Map of the blast locations

The court said in statement that Rishawi and the other six were found guilty "beyond doubt" in the deadliest bomb attack in Jordan's recent history.
During the trial, her lawyer had said she had no intention of killing herself and had not even tried to explode her belt.
A forensics expert told the court that the trigger mechanism on the belt had jammed.
'Revenge attack'
Correspondents say the blasts shook Jordan, a relatively stable country in the volatile Middle East, because of the high number of civilian casualties - mainly Jordanian Muslim women and children.
Rishawi's husband, Ali Hussein Ali al-Shamari, was one of a group of Iraqi attackers who exploded bombs simultaneously in three five-star hotels in the Jordanian capital.
Her lawyer said Shamari had forced her to go with him to the Radisson hotel to commit the attack at a crowded wedding party.
Rishawi and Shamari had themselves been married just days before the attack, she said, but the marriage had not been consummated.
The hotel bombings in Jordan - a strong ally of the US - were thought to have been motivated by revenge for US military operations in western Iraq where the bombers came from.


1. Vehicle explodes outside hotel after being stopped at a police checkpoint
2. In the most deadly attack, a bomb destroys a banquet room where a wedding reception was being held. Dozens injured by shrapnel
3. Suicide attacker detonates bomb in hotel bar, just before 2100 local time. Two senior Palestinian officials are among the dead



Stella is top of her class at physics and chemistry. A 17-year-old schoolgirl is to become the first Nigerian to experience a "space flight" when she takes off from the Kennedy Space Center on Saturday.
Stella Felix from the south-east was chosen from 400 Nigerian students who applied to go on a zero-gravity flight.
"I feel like an ambassador," she said before leaving Lagos for Florida. "I feel so happy to be the first."
She will fly at an altitude of 10km (6 miles) on G-Force One, before dropping, giving a minute of weightlessness.
These parabolic flights on board a Boeing 727 are used as a training exercise for astronauts - and have been given the nickname the "vomit comet". They do not leave the atmosphere but simulate the experience of being in space.
Stella is top of her school in science subjects. Her parents earn a living selling second hand clothes.
"I'll be looking up in the sky for her," her mother Eunice told AP news agency.
The trip is organised to coincide with the United Nations' Space Week.
"The goal of the programme is to use space to inspire education on a global basis while promoting international understanding among the youth," said Robert Boroffice, director general of the National Space Research and Development Agency.
In 2001, the Nigerian Government formally adopted a National Space Policy and launched its first satellite in 2003.


Wednesday, September 20, 2006


Yemenis are looking for economic growth and an end to corruption. Yemenis are voting in presidential and local elections being seen as a test of the government's commitment to reform.
Four candidates are running against President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has been in power for 28 years.
The main challenger is Faisal Bin Shamlan, who says tackling corruption will be his main priority if elected.
Security is tight after the authorities said last week they had foiled a pair of apparently co-ordinated suicide attacks against oil installations.
The authorities say 100,000 security personnel have been deployed.
About 100 European observers are monitoring the vote, which started at 0800 local time (0500 GMT).
Mr Saleh cast his vote early. "The Yemeni people are the victorious ones," he said.

Crucial vote

The BBC's Heba Saleh, reporting from Sanaa, says the elections could prove crucial for the future of Yemen's relations with the West.
The country is an ally in the US administration's "war on terror". But some accuse it of not doing all it could to stamp out the presence of the militant Islamist group al-Qaeda on its territory.

Yemenis discuss the election candidates and issues.

In pictures

But Yemen is poor and has few resources. Officials in Sanaa argue they cannot win against al-Qaeda without substantial development aid.
They say prosperity, jobs and investments are needed to prevent the radicalisation of Yemeni youth.
But international donors do not want to pour funds into a dictatorship which corruption is rife, our correspondent says, and much may depend on the conduct of the election.
European observers are monitoring the election and if they judge it to have been reasonably democratic, that could dramatically improve relations with foreign donors.
Stinging slogan
BBC Arab affairs analyst Magdi Abdelhadi says that only one the four challengers to Mr Saleh, veteran politician Faisal Bin Shamlan, is a serious rival.

Incumbent Ali Abdullah Saleh faces a serious challenge.
His slogan, "A president at the service of Yemen, not Yemen at the service of the president", is a stinging allusion to the alleged cronyism and corruption around Mr Saleh.
Yemen is one of the poorest countries in the world and a hotbed of militant Islam, Magdi Abdelhadi says.
It has the appearance of a modern state - an elected parliament and a cabinet - but in reality power rests with the tribe, the army and religious leaders.
Despite its drawbacks, transition to democracy in Yemen is far ahead of some of its Gulf neighbours, where the formation of political parties remains forbidden.



Two hecklers interrupted the speech and were led away from the event.

Speech disrupted

Home Secretary John Reid has called on British Muslims to do more to help root out potential extremists.
In a speech Mr Reid asked Muslim parents to keep a close eye on their children and act if they suspected they were being radicalised by extremists.
The comments reflect government frustration that not enough has been done since the 7 July London bombings.
His speech was interrupted by a Muslim heckler who said he was "furious" about "state terrorism by British police".
The protester is believed to be Omar Brookes, otherwise known as Abu Izzadeen, who denies being a member of the banned Al Gurabaa group.
He accused the minister of being an "enemy" of Islam.
Mr Reid, who was speaking in Leytonstone, east London, watched as Mr Brookes was led from the building by police and stewards.

A second heckler was ejected a few minutes later after he also interrupted the speech.
The man emerged from the venue clutching several posters, one of which said: "John Reid you will pay!"
The speech was Mr Reid's first to a Muslim audience since he became home secretary in May.
During his trip, which also involved a visit to a mosque, he said community and religious leaders could play a key role in the fight against terrorism.
The home secretary said "our fight is not with Muslims generally". Instead, he said, there was a "struggle against extremism".
He warned that terrorist fanatics sought young vulnerable minds to help their cause.
Mr Reid said: "There is no nice way of saying this. These fanatics are looking to groom and brainwash children, including your children, for suicide bombings.
"Grooming them to kill themselves in order to murder others."

John Reid asked Muslim parents to keep a close eye on their children.
He stressed that by protecting families the community would protect itself.
The speech came after some Muslim leaders expressed concerns about the UK's foreign policy and called for it to be changed.
Mr Reid did not tell Muslim parents to report their concerns to the police but wants them to confront their children's behaviour and talk to them.
BBC Home Affairs Correspondent Daniel Sandford said Muslim elders felt their "real concerns" about the points raised by the home secretary had been "spoiled by stupid heckling".
In an open letter last month, some Muslims leaders said British foreign policy was putting civilians at increased risk in the UK and abroad.
Mr Reid described the letter, signed by three Muslim MPs, three peers and 38 organisations, as a "dreadful misjudgement".
Earlier this year, Prime Minister Tony Blair said the government alone could not root out extremism in Muslim communities and defeat the terrorism it creates.
After the 7 July attacks last year, ministers organised national roadshows targeting fanaticism.