|Africa News Digest
Marburg in Angola: Situation 'Still Quite Alarming'
There has been a burst of new Marburg Fever cases and deaths in Angola, and Doctors Without Borders (DWB) called the situation 'still quite alarming' on May 2. The number of cases acknowledged by the World Health Organization has jumped, as of May 2, to 313, the number of acknowledged deaths, to 280, and the number of deaths of health workersincluding doctorsto 19. Actual figures are larger. The comparison to the figures of three days earlier, is 313 vs. 277 cases, 280 vs. 257 dead, and 19 versus 17 health workers dead.
"The epidemic is still not under control.... The situation is still quite alarming.... [A] new focal point has emerged in the hospital of Songo, about 30 miles northwest of Uige," DWBorders reported May 2.
Top Nigerian Economist Signs Call for New Bretton Woods
Professor Sam Aluko of Nigeria, formerly the top economic adviser to the Nigerian President, signed Helga Zepp-LaRouche's call for an Ad Hoc Committee for a New Bretton Woods on May 6.
Nigerian VP: Never More Serious About Debt Relief
Nigeria has never been more serious than it is now about debt relief, said Nigerian Vice President Atiku Abubakar, in response to a question from EIR, at a Washington forum. Atiku was the speaker at a Director's Forum at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars May 2. Atiku said that Nigeria paid $1.8 billion in debt service in 2004, or 11 times what the country spent on health care and five times what it spent on education in 2004. However, he noted that Nigeria still fell short of the total $2.9 billion in debt service it is supposed to pay, and is an additional $3.36 billion in arrears.
In answer to EIR, Atiku raised the question, "Do we really owe $37 billion?" This is the foreign debt of Nigeria, as computed by bankers' arithmetic.
Meanwhile, one reliable source in Nigeria dismissed all talk of debt relief as nonsense.
But Argentine President Nestor Kirchner's success in offering creditors 30% on that country's debt, "take it or leave it," is likely to be having an impact on the geometry of the collapse of the financial system.
When someone asked, what one thing would have the single greatest impact in unleashing the Nigerian economy, Atiku answered, increasing electricity generation.
Financial Times Supports Debt Relief for Nigeria, To Keep It Under Control
The London Financial Times supports "at least partial" debt relief for Nigeria as the only way to keep control over the country. A Financial Times editorial April 26 recalls that the March report of Blair's Commission for Africa "called for Nigeria to be included in wider and deeper debt relief" for Africa. The editorial states that Nigeria "may be the world's eighth biggest oil exporter, but its 130 million-plus population is one of the poorest.... Foreign aid per head is just $2 a year, lower than anywhere else in Africa except Libya.... The sum of aid and [actually paid] debt service results in an annual net transfer from Nigeria to rich governments of about $10 for every Nigerian. No other country as poor as Nigeria has such a burden."
A strong argument for "at least partial relief," it says, is that "Without such a gesture of support, the country's embryonic plans for economic reform have little chance of surviving. At long last, President Olusegun Obasanjo's government is promoting a reasonably credible and rigorous program. But many aspects of it are unpopular and up against entrenched interests. A favorable debt deal would ... go a long way towards providing legitimacy for the proponents of tighter economic governance."
One of Obasanjo's latest "reforms" has been to get a law passed that makes continued existence of the trade union umbrella, the National Labour Congress, a matter of the President's discretion. Other reforms are privatizing state-run enterprises and cutting subsidies for gasoline and kerosene. (Nigeria imports refined products at high prices while its own refineries languish in disrepair.)
Nigerian Dailies Plagiarize Financial Times on Debt Relief
Business Day, self-described as "Nigeria's premier business daily," published the Financial Times editorial on Nigerian debt relief reported above, on the same day, without any indication that it was not written by its own staff. This Day, a Lagos daily, did likewise the next day.
Did Bush and Obasanjo Discuss the Nigerian Debt?
The leading item on the agenda, when President Bush and Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo talked at the White House May 5, is supposed to have been Bush's request that Obasanjo hand over former Liberian President and butcher, Charles Taylor, to the Sierra Leone special tribunal for war crimes. The ground was prepared by a 421-1 non-binding resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives May 3 that made that demand. Bush does have an interest in the matter: in 2003 the Cheney-Bush regime offered $2 million for the kidnapping of Taylor from Nigerian sanctuary.
Obasanjo told the press, "We must not forget the circumstances under which Charles Taylor was brought to Nigeria" by the Presidents of Nigeria, South Africa, and Ghana. But he added, "We have agreed that we will explore how we work together to achieve what needs to be achieved." Surrendering Taylor would likely lead to Taylor's faction reopening the Liberian civil war.
Why is this the central issue now? The House resolution seemed to come out of a clear blue sky. Did Bush and Obasanjo talk about debt and use the House resolution as a pretext? Or is the Bush regime using the Taylor issue as a test, to see how far Obasanjo can be made to bend over, before deciding on a strategy for the debt?
Could Bush Regime Bring Sudan Gov't Into Its Orbit?
The possibility of bringing the government of Sudan into the Bush regime's orbit is hinted at in a Los Angeles Times signal piece of April 29. The lengthy story underscores close counter-terrorism intelligence cooperation between Khartoum and Washington since shortly after 9/11, even while political and diplomatic relations have remained frosty. But the piece ends with this:
"Last month, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sent a letter to the Bashir government calling for steps to end the conflict in Darfur. But the letter, reviewed by The [L.A.] Times, also congratulated Sudan for increased cooperation with an African Union mission to Darfur. It also said the administration hoped to establish a 'fruitful relationship' with Sudan and looked forward to continued 'close cooperation' on terrorism."
In exchange for its cooperation, Khartoum wants to be removed from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism. The Times reports, "A senior U.S. government official familiar with terrorist threats ... said Khartoum was not at present a state sponsor of terrorism.... 'The reason they are still there [on the list] is Darfur, which is not related to state-sponsored terrorism but makes lifting sanctions now politically impossible.' "
As if to "acknowledge receipt" of the L.A. Times story, "Sudan officially confirmed Sunday [May 1] recent talks between its top intelligence and American counterparts in Washington. The Sudan National Security and Intelligence Department said in a statement its chief, Gen. Salah Abdullah [Gosh], held 'successful talks recently with his counterparts at the Central Intelligence Agency,' " UPI reported from Khartoum May 1. UPI noted the L.A. Times story. The confirmation appears to refer specifically to this paragraph in the story:
"Last week, the CIA sent an executive jet here [Khartoum] to ferry the chief of Sudan's intelligence agency to Washington for secret meetings sealing Khartoum's sensitive and previously veiled partnership with the administration, U.S. officials confirmed."
(Gosh is one of the people accused by the Congressional Research Service and members of Congress of directing military attacks against civilians in Darfur.)
Janjaweed Leader in Negotiations With Non-Arab Chiefs
A top Janjaweed leader has been in peace negotiations with non-Arab chiefs in Darfur for weeks. Jonathan Karl, in the Weekly Standard May 2, highlighted the negotiations between Musa Hilal, the most prominent of Darfur's Arab nomad tribal chiefs, and Darfur non-Arab (but Muslim) tribal chiefs. Karl was in Khartoum during Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick's visit April 14-15.
Karl interviewed Hilal during a formal dinner Hilal hosted in Khartoum; the 50 guests were leaders of the Fur, a large, non-Arab people. Karl writes, "These are leaders of the people Hilal stands accused of terrorizing. The 'chief of the chiefs' of the Fur tribe sat next to Hilal.... [He] is an elderly and desperate man. He wants reconciliation with Hilal because he wants his people out of the camps, ... and back to their villages. He doesn't have much faith in ... the international community...."
Reuters had reported April 6 that Hilal read a joint statement of Arab and Fur tribal leaders to the press in Khartoum April 5, rejecting the UN's referral of war-crime suspects to the International Criminal Court. Reuters wrote: "A Fur leader from Zalengei in West Darfur state said he was optimistic Fur members of the rebel groups would listen to him.... Another Fur leader from Zalengei, Youssef Bakheit, said that within 60 days the Zaghawa and Massalit tribes would join the reconciliation process."