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Vol 42 No 19

Published 28th September 2001

Everyone's catastrophe

The slaughter in the USA creates more economic and political problems for Africans

Every African government sent condolences to Washington after the attacks of 11 September and popular sympathy everywhere was with the victims. However, opinion is divided on Washington's diplomatic and military response. Many African nationalists complain that the loss of up to 7,000 United States' civilians prompts a global war, while small attention is paid to the African wars and economic crises which kill more people than that every week. Religious tolerance is threatened by religious caricatures, both Muslim and Christian. In Nigeria's Middle Belt town of Jos, fighting between Christians and Muslims restarted after 11 September, leaving more than 500 people dead. In the north-western state of Zamfara, the Islamic Youth League organised a 'celebratory march' that evening. In South Africa's eastern city of Port Elizabeth that same week, a mob smashed up an Islamic centre. Several rogue states hope to profit from the disaster. Liberia's President Charles Taylor, whose regime is under United Nations sanctions for backing the Revolutionary United Front in Sierra Leone, sent condolences to President George W. Bush, then called in Liberia's Muslim clerics and urged them to abjure extremism. Opposition militias in Somalia hope to weaken Abdulkassim Hassan's transitional regime by accusing it of promoting Islamism. There were big demonstrations in favour of Usama bin Laden, Bush's 'prime suspect', in Mogadishu last weekend. Sudan's National Islamic Front regime, once host to Usama, now promises full cooperation with the USA.

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