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Published 29th February 2008

Vol 49 No 5


Zimbabwe

A birthday at Beitbridge

Image courtesy of Panos Pictures

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Economic hardship and growing divisions in the ruling party give the opposition candidates a better chance in the coming elections

President Robert Mugabe, sure of victory in the presidential election on 29 March, chose to hold his 84th birthday party in Beitbridge. The party overlooked the border post through which hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans troop in search of food and jobs across the Limpopo in South Africa. The reason for this exodus - Zimbabwe's fast-shrinking economy - could help Mugabe's opponents to spring a surprise. That is earnestly believed by the two main opposition candidates: Simba Makoni, a former Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) politician, now standing as an independent; and Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). With economic decline wrecking the lives of more than 95% of Zimbabweans, voting for change is a patriotic duty, they say. The government's Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) reports spiralling economic discontent across the country, even in ZANU-PF's base in the rural heartlands where the lack of basic commodities and farm inputs has shocked the most resilient Mugabe loyalists.


Constituency carve-ups

Whatever may happen in the presidential poll, the legislative elections are crucial and independent candidates likely to swing behind Simba Makoni are thin on the ground. A total o...


Technical knock-out

President Yar'Adua's supporters say his election tribunal victory will free his government to move on reforms

The verdict was emphatic. On 26 February, Justice James Ogebe and his four colleagues on the Presidential Election Tribunal in Abuja voted 5-0 to dismiss the petitions brought by t...



BLUE LINES
THE INSIDE VIEW

A full range of ideological positions was on offer as Africa said adiós to Cuba’s Fidel Castro when he stood down last week after 49 years in power. There was low-key press coverage and no official comment in Congo-Kinshasa where Castro’s ally, Che Guevara, launched one of their earliest revolutionary projects. Castro had declared a national day of mourning after the 2001 assassination of Laurent Kabila, who had briefly and chaotically fought alongside Guevara in Congo in the 1960s. Neither w...
A full range of ideological positions was on offer as Africa said adiós to Cuba’s Fidel Castro when he stood down last week after 49 years in power. There was low-key press coverage and no official comment in Congo-Kinshasa where Castro’s ally, Che Guevara, launched one of their earliest revolutionary projects. Castro had declared a national day of mourning after the 2001 assassination of Laurent Kabila, who had briefly and chaotically fought alongside Guevara in Congo in the 1960s. Neither was Ethiopia, a fraternal socialist state, moved to bid a fond farewell to Fidel. Alongside the Soviet Union, Cuba had intermittently supported Menghistu Haile Mariam’s Dergue regime, which was eventually toppled in 1991 by forces loyal to Meles Zenawi. The most fulsome tributes came from the General Secretary of the revived South Africa Communist Party Blade Nzimande and the ANC’s Jesse Duarte, who praised Castro’s support for Angolan forces at the battle of Cuito Cuanavale in 1988. In Angola, the MPLA’s Foreign Affairs Secretary, Paulo Teixeira Jorge, described Castro’s refusal to accept re-election as head of the Cuban State as ‘noble and dignified’. It seems that Castro has handed the baton for political endurance to Africa: Gabon’s Omar Bongo Ondimba, in power since 1967, is now Africa’s longest serving leader, followed by Libya’s Moammar el Gadaffi, who seized power in 1969.
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The Harambee House deal

A compromise deal has pulled the rival parties back from the brink but much detail still has to be resolved

The two-page agreement signed by President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga at Harambee House on 28 February could hardly have been simpler. Drafted by Attorney Gener...


Bush, the farewell tour

President George Bush's five-country African tour on 16-21 February met with varied reactions. He was burned in effigy in Dar es Salaam and praised in Kigali by Irish singer and activist Bob Geldof, who said that Bush has 'done more (for Africa) than any other president so far...This is the triumph of American policy really. It was expected of the nation, but not of the man, but both rose to the occasion.'

Responding to their President's call, Tanzanians turned out massively on 18 February, day two of President George Walker Bush's Tanzania visit, following an anti-climax the previo...


Not on parade

The planned new military headquarters will stay in Europe because of the widespread hostility to it in Africa

Washington officials had hoped that their new African military headquarters would be (where else?) in Africa. The Africa Command (Africom) would, they said, help the fight against ...


Thunder on the left

The African National Congress’s new leadership, in which the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) and the South African Communist Party (SACP) have aligned themselves be...


Local is national

The elections for local councils are about national issues and the opposition wants to make a point

At last Senegal's many opposition parties have decided to get together for local elections that are due on 18 May. Siggil Sénégal (Save Senegal), whose main component...


Lifting the bamboo curtain

Beijing is changing its policy on Khartoum but on its own terms

China is worried about the 'deadlock' in Darfur and is looking for new ideas, its Special Representative for Africa and Darfur, Liu Guijin, told a leading Sudanese civic activist i...


The Wade summit

Several varieties of uncertainty hang over the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) before its summit meeting in Dakar on 13-14 March. Unfinished buildings are scattered ac...



Pointers

Selective divestment

Britain’s Conservative Party, which has been campaigning against the Sudan government’s Darfur policy, faces charges of hypocrisy after it accepted more than US$800,000 in contribu...


Mission position

Britain’s former Prime Minister Tony Blair landed in Kigali on 23 February on his mission to give ‘unpaid’ advice to the Rwandan government and to his ‘long standing friend’ Presid...


Party probe

African National Congress leader Jacob Zuma’s purge of allies of President Thabo Mbeki is gathering pace, with all the ANC’s key policy-making committees under the control of the n...


Bad marks

Just before President Nicolas Sarkozy and his new wife, Carla Bruni, set off on their African safari on 27 February to Chad, South Africa and Angola, Germany’s Bertelsmann Foundati...