|Africa News Digest
Intense Battle Against Marburg Virus Continues in Angola
The intense battle against Marburg virus continues in Angola. Even while the Angolan government briefly claimed April 17 that the Marburg outbreak is "under control" and an AP wire of April 23 claimed that the World Health Organization (WHO) saw the outbreak as "coming under control," an intense battle to contain the deadly disease is continuing. According to a WHO update of April 22, "WHO is optimistic that the outbreak can be controlled if present activities continue with sufficient vigor."
Probably the most honest assessment available was that of WHO spokesman David Daigle April 18, when he told Reuters, "We haven't contained it. We haven't broken the transmission cycle. We are still finding cases.... We are quite terrified that this could still really take off. It could spread very quickly in Uige or it could spread to somewhere like Luanda."
Dr. Michael Ryan, WHO's top outbreak specialist, speaking from Geneva by conference call April 23, said, "[T]his is the most critical time now in the response. Continuing and intensifying the effort is what we need to do now, not relax."
WHO had asked the community of nations for $3.5 million. Angola has so far actually received $1 million from donor governments.
A team of 28 newly trained, volunteer Angolan health professionals arrived in Uige April 21.
The WHO team has made several humane adjustments in its routines, such as allowing one patient's relative, fitted with a bioprotective suit, to visit the sick. This is paying off. "Traditional leaders are coming to the office to report suspected cases or dead bodies. It was not like that two weeks ago," according to Dr. Nestor Ndayimiridje, WHO's team leader for the outbreak in Angola.
U.S. Intelligence: France, U.K. in Retreat from Africa
A report from U.S. National Intelligence Council (NIC) suggests that France and Great Britain will probably continue to disengage gradually from Africa, and India and China will be increasingly active there over the next 15 years, according to Malayala Manorama (India) April 15. The NIC report, which is not otherwise identified, says that India "has a strategic interest in the Indian Ocean. Indeed, it is more likely that India will have a foreign policy toward the Indian Ocean littoral than to[ward] Africa in general, as evidenced by the development of the IBSA (India, Brazil, and South Africa) forum." China's interest, it says, is in raw materials; its only political interest is in fighting diplomatic recognition of the Republic of China (Taiwan). Africa has responded positively to China's interest, according to the NIC report. The NIC is a thinktank of all 15 U.S. intelligence agencies.
Bush Administration Africa Specialist Unhinged Over Question from LaRouche Rep
Dr. Cindy Courville, a Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Africa Affairs for the National Security Council, lost her composure when LaRouche movement representative Larry Freeman punctured her lying account of the Africa continent, in a seminar for invited guests in the Rayburn House Office Building April 14.
Courville, formerly of the Defense Department, said that under President Bush, "political stability" was sweeping across Africa; Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, and Democratic Republic of the Congo, were all achieving political "stability," she said. The sole exceptions were Sudan and Zimbabwe, where, despite U.S. antipathy to these allegedly undemocratic regimes, there would be no American "boots on the ground" to bring about regime change; but Courville would not rule out U.S. support for regime change accomplished by others.
Free trade and investment is the Bush policy, she said, because direct aid has not and will not work (she claimed), stating unequivocally that there would be no "Marshall Plan" for Africa.
For African nations to sit at the table with the "grown-ups" (the Western bankers and commodity cartels?), Courville said, they had to be accountable and stop acting like children. She told the audience of African activists that China was Africa's new "colonial master."
While many in the audience were shocked at this arrogant and ignorant presentation, the controlled environment was not broken until Freeman spoke.
Freeman said Courville seemed to be speaking of a different continent. Noting the current crisis in several West African countriesthe unacceptable mortality rates and the spread of AIDShe focussed on the policy of economic genocide still going on today in Congo, whose stability Courville had earlier praised as a Bush "accomplishment." Freeman concluded, "Dr. Courville, how would the Bush policy of free trade and accountability do anything but continue the genocide?"
Courville launched into a lengthy tirade against Freeman, repeating many of her earlier condescending statements about the "childish" behavior of African leaders. But now she was defensive and showed visible signs of anger. She blurted out, "I see you snickering at me."
The Bushies are mean when they dish it out, but they can't take it when they are exposed.
Sudan: 'Abundant Oil' Discovered in Northern Darfur State
Drilling for oil has begun in the very part of Darfur in which the insurrection is centered. Mohamed Siddiq, a spokesman for Sudan's Ministry of Energy and Mining, told Reuters April 19 by telephone that "The drilling was undertaken on the basis of the geological studies and surveys, which proved the presence of oil in abundant quantities in Darfur."
Reuters writes, "Siddiq said the ABCO consortium, in which the Swiss company Cliveden owns a 37% share, owned the rights to the field. Work on the first oil well, southwest of El-Fasher in North Darfur State, is underway." (Sudapet, the Sudanese national oil company, probably also holds a significant share in the ABCO consortium.)
The presence of oil in the southernmost part of Southern Darfur State, where the rebels have scarcely penetrated, was already well established. The China National Petroleum Corporation has rights there.
South Africa to Build High-Speed Rail and Int'l Airport
South Africa will build a high-speed rail line connecting Pretoria, Johannesburg, and the Johannesburg International Airport, a run of 50 miles. The train will travel at speeds between 160 and 180 km per hour (100 to 113 mph). The project, called Gautrain Rapid Rail Link, is described by Reuters April 13 as "one of the biggest investments planned ahead of the 2010 soccer World Cup." A "preferred bidder" will be named in Mayto be chosen between two consortia, one led by Bombardier (Canada) and the other by CAF (Spain). Each includes a South African engineering firmMurray & Roberts and Grinaker/LTA, respectively. The project is being funded by the Gauteng provincial government.
South Africa Unemployment Rises Despite Public Works Program
Unemployment rose in South Africa from 41.2% to 41.8% between the first and third quarters of 2004, despite a new public works program. This was reported by Reuters March 31 under the headline: "S. Africa jobless rate falls to 26.2%." The "fall" is based on ingenious statistics familiar from the practice of the U.S. Department of Labor. Near the end of the story, Reuters writes, "Under an expanded definition of unemployment that includes people who have not looked for work over a four-week period, the jobless rate actually climbed to 41.8% from 41.2%."
Reuters states, "A quarter of a million jobs were created between March and September last yeara development which Statistics South Africa described as 'significant'.... Most of the new jobs were created in the construction sector, which showed a 25% employment rise in the period, suggesting an official public works program may be paying off.
"After his budget for 2005 [was] released last month, Finance Minister Trevor Manuel said that if the jobless rate was as high as 40%, there would be a revolution in the country," according to Reuters.
S. African Trade Unions Demand Protection From Cheap Imports
The Save Jobs Campaign, led by the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), the South African Council of Churches, and some NGOs, demands that the country's leading retailers commit to buying at least 75% of their textile and garment stock from local manufacturers. The campaign submitted a memo to Truworths and Woolworths in the week ending April 15, documenting that clothing imports had undercut local manufactures. These and other retailers have been called on to sign an agreement to buy 75% locally and boycott "sweatshop-produced goods."
According to the South African Clothing and Textile Workers Union (SACTWU), $428 million was spent on clothing from China in 2004, amounting to 75% of imports. "Our analysis shows that within the first three months of 2005, 4,000 jobs have been lost in the textile industry," said SACTWU Deputy General Secretary Andre Kriel April 15. The garment workers are only paid $35 per month on average, and have no benefits if they lose their jobs, he said.
The unions have also sought government action to defend the clothing and textile industry from unfair competition.
South African Iron Ore Producer Seeks Chinese Investment
South Africa's Kumba Resources, the world's fourth-largest iron-ore producer, is in talks with China's Wuhan Iron and Steel Company for investment in a South African iron ore project, according to Xinhua April 13. Kumba, controlled by mining giant Anglo American Plc, exported about 40% of the 20.9 million tons of iron it produced last year to China, with the rest going mainly to Europe.