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Published 30th April 1999

Vol 40 No 9

Diplomacy with attitude

The Labour government's ideas of an ethical foreign policy and activist diplomacy have met their toughest test in Africa's conflicts

British ministers talk boldly of 'militant humanitarianism' and 'defending civilians against terror'. They refer to Kosovo, but some African officials have asked their Western counterparts if such considerations extend to the wars enveloping almost a third of Africa's 53 states. Most Western capitals reply with a definitive if slightly apologetic 'no'. But African diplomats hope that Britain may push their continent's case in the United Nations Security Council when the international focus moves on from the Balkans. The kill rate in Africa's wars - 1.5 million in Sudan, 1 million in Rwanda, over 500,000 in Angola, 150,000 in Liberia, 80,000 in Algeria, 15,000 in Sierra Leone, and 40,000 in a few weeks in Ethiopia and Eritrea - easily eclipses the Balkans' death toll of some 400,000 dead since 1990. There is no causal relation between war casualties and diplomatic concentration.

Whitehall's Africa team

Image courtesy of Panos Pictures

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After an eventful two years for politics and personalities, Africa is getting more space

Along with Washington and Paris, London is a key city for Africa specialists in diplomacy, academia and business but they break cover less often than their American and French coun...

Confusions in the Cape

Image courtesy of Panos Pictures

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Apartheid's bitter legacy still complicates electoral calculations in the Western Cape

Of South Africa's nine provinces, Western Cape faces the fiercest battle for control in the run-up to the 2 June provincial and national elections. Western Cape is the only provin...

World-class war

UN envoy Mohammed Sahnoun mediates while the world ignores its biggest war

With more than half a million troops deployed along the disputed border and tens of thousands of casualties in fighting so far this year, the Ethiopia-Eritrea war is the world's bi...


Enemies within

Although the establishment candidate Abdelaziz Bouteflika won, the manner of his victory in the 15 April presidential election - with the authorities failing to bludgeon any of his...