Muddy Notebook

March 10, 2008

This and that

Filed under: Central African Republic,Myanmar,Zimbabwe — carolynthewriter @ 7:17 am

Here are a few tidbits I’m picking up from wire stories. 

Carolyn’s note: Robert Mugabe’s policies continue to hurt Zimbabwe – and all Zimbabweans. Who isn’t hurt by just this one effect of his actions, as reported by the Associated Press:

  “Since the government began ordering the seizure of white-owned farms in 2000, production of food and agricultural exports has slumped drastically. Zimbabwe has the world’s highest official rate of inflation: 100,500 percent. ”

Carolyn’s note: From the Associated Press, this reminder that Mynamar is still a problem, even if it has fallen off the radar of most U.S. media:

YANGON, Myanmar: The U.N.’s special envoy to Myanmar resumed meetings with the military government Sunday despite the junta’s rejection of his efforts to speed up the country’s return to democracy.
But the meetings appeared not to be directly concerned with the political reconciliation efforts being promoted by the envoy, Ibrahim Gambari.According to the U.N. Information Center in Myanmar’s largest city, Yangon, Gambari met with the ministers of health and national planning as well as the chairman of the civil service board and a deputy foreign minister.Gambari apparently failed, however, to secure more talks with Information Minister Brig. Gen. Kyaw Hsan, who heads a team set up to discuss democratization.Last week the junta rejected U.N. suggestions for reconciliation, such as letting independent observers monitor the upcoming national referendum on a new constitution.Gambari also sought to have the process for adopting a new constitution made more open to incorporate the views of the country’s pro-democracy movement, led by detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The draft constitution’s text has not yet been made public. The guidelines on which it is based were drawn up by a military-guided convention and include clauses that would bar Suu Kyi from public office and perpetuate the army’s leading role in politics.

Kyaw Hsan said it would be “impossible” to rewrite the draft constitution, which will be submitted to a referendum in May.

Asked by Gambari to consider releasing political prisoners — estimated by the U.N. and human rights groups to total more than 1,100 — he said Myanmar has no political prisoners and that Suu Kyi was detained because she tried to disrupt the country’s stability.

Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo condemned the junta’s rejection of independent poll monitors, calling it “a sad day for democracy and our region.”

“Outside observers are not a threat to any nation’s sovereignty,” she said in a statement issued Sunday in Manila. “Rather, the participation of outside election observers is a sign of strength. These observers help show the world the credibility of the election process itself as we had long done in the Philippines.”

The Philippines has been a major promoter of democratization among its fellow members of the Association of Southeast Nations, ASEAN. Myanmar is a member of the 10-country bloc.

The junta announced last month that it would hold the constitutional referendum, followed by a general election in 2010 — the first specific dates for steps in its previously announced “roadmap to democracy.”

The country been military-ruled since 1962. The current junta seized power in 1988 and refused to honor the results of a 1990 general election won by Suu Kyi’s party.

The junta’s rejections of Gambari’s suggestions were the latest setback for the envoy, who arrived Thursday on his third trip to Myanmar since the junta’s deadly crackdown on nonviolent pro-democracy protesters in September triggered an international outcry.

His visit came amid growing concerns that the government is tightening its grip on power.

Carolyn’s note: Let us also not forget the continuing violence in the Central African Republic and Chad as well as Sudan. 

BANGUI, March 9 (Reuters) – French troops stationed near Central African Republic’s border with Sudan transferred to a European Union protection force at the weekend, launching its deployment in the country, a force spokesman said.

The European Union is deploying a 3,700-strong EUFOR force to protect civilians and humanitarian operations in eastern Chad and northeastern Central African Republic near the volatile border with Sudan’s Darfur region.

Around 200 French soldiers stationed in Birao, a remote town in northeastern CAR which was attacked and briefly occupied by rebels in late 2006, transferred to the force at a ceremony on Saturday, EUFOR’s Lieutenant-Colonel Patrick Poulain said.

“They left French command and entered the command of EUFOR,” Poulain said on Sunday from the Chadian capital N’Djamena, where the force has its operational headquarters.

The French infantry unit, engineers unit and field hospital will be joined later by other European forces, although the bulk of EUFOR will be based in Chad, he said. The force will have an initial mandate of 12 months, which is expected to begin in the next few weeks when it becomes operational.

The deployment was delayed for several months by problems securing equipment, notably enough helicopters to cover an area 26 times the size of Kosovo with a fraction of the European Union force previously deployed to that conflict zone.

France, which is contributing more than half of EUFOR’s troops, formerly ruled both Chad and CAR as colonies and has stepped in to help both governments fight off rebel attacks.

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