|Africa News Digest
Iran, South Africa Discuss Strategic Partnership, Including Nuclear Power
South African President Thabo Mbeki and Iranian National Security Council head Ali Larijani discussed cooperation and nuclear issues in Pretoria Oct. 20. The talks are part of an Iranian diplomatic effort to gain support for its nuclear program, which includes trips by Iranian deputy foreign ministers to Malaysia, Indonesia, and Ibero-America.
A proposed temporary, face-saving solution to the Iranian nuclear-fuel production issue is a South African plan under which Iran would import South African yellow-cake and produce uranium gas from it at Isfahan, and the gas would then be sent to South Africa. This would allow the Isfahan plant to operate while Iran continues to seek support for its nuclear program.
South Africa is a permanent member of the IAEA Board of Governors.
Nigeria Accepts 'Bankers' Arithmetic' in Foreign Debt Deal
Nigeria has accepted bankers' arithmetic in a deal for the reduction of its foreign debt with the Paris Club creditor nations. Under the deal, announced Oct. 20, Nigeria's nominal debt of $30 billion to the Paris Club nations will be written down to $12.4 billion. Nigeria will pay more than $6 billion of arrears from oil revenues "in the next week or two"; the Paris Club will write off $16 billion in tranches between now and April 2006 (depending on good behavior); and Nigeria will then pay $6 billion to buy back the last $8 billion of debt at a 25% discount. It will still owe $6 billion in private, commercial debt, and relatively small amounts to the IMF and World Bank.
Part of the deal: IMF "intensified surveillance" continues, and Nigeria signs a Policy Support Instrumentthe equivalent of a structural adjustment program that Nigeria supposedly chooses to impose on itself. According to Reuters May 18, the ostensibly "home-grown" Policy Support Instrument was at that time "still being formulated by IMF officials."
The "bankers' arithmetic" involved was identified in an opinion column by "Chinweizu" in Vanguard (Lagos daily) Aug. 14, which states, "Some press reports say that Nigeria borrowed $17 billion; has already paid back $22 billion, and is said to still owe $36 billion.... Should Nigeria not simply repudiate this alleged debt of $36 billion...?" (The Center for Global Development in Washington, deeply involved in formulating the deal, says only that interest and late fees account for 80% of the $30 billion debt.)
Chinweizu recalls, "Back in the late 1970s, against the wisdom of public opinion, the then military head of state, Gen. [Olusegun] Obasanjo, was conned by foreign lenders into taking a $1 billion jumbo loan that Nigeria, with its then buoyant oil revenues, did not need. The excuse was that Nigeria was 'under-borrowed.' They claimed that Nigeria needed the jumbo loan to build investor confidence." (Other hits followed. The debt was $17 billion by 1983.)
Obasanjo, now President, has been celebrating the debt reduction deal as an immense victory. Whether the Nigerian House of Representatives and Senate will agree, remains to be seen. They had vigorously argued for 100% cancellation.
S. African Intel Head Suspended as Government Defends Against Left Synarchists
South African Intelligence Minister Ronnie Kasrils told the press in Pretoria Oct. 21 that he had suspended the Director General of the National Intelligence Agency and two other senior NIA officials pending the outcome of an inquiry. Saki Macozomaa member of President Mbeki's inner circle and a candidate to succeed him in 2009had charged that he was the subject of ongoing harassment by NIA agents. The Intelligence Inspector General says the charge is true.
The harassment, if proven, appears to be part of the warfare against the government by the populist, synarchist-influenced left wing, led by former Vice President Jacob Zuma, whom Mbeki sacked in June. Zuma is now being tried for corruption. At a mid-October court appearance, Zuma supporters rallied, with insults aplenty for Mbeki, including burning t-shirts with his image on them. And, according to Reuters Oct. 17, "Zuma led them in chanting the liberation song, 'Bring back my old machine gun.'"
The Zuma faction, through the NIA, is also attempting to wrest control of the Scorpions from the government. The Scorpions, an intelligence agency formally known as the Directorate of Special Operations (DSO), is currently controlled by the National Prosecuting Authority. The NIA wants the DSO put under the police, apparently the NIA's ally, and certainly hostile to the DSO. A commission has been formed to hear evidence and make a recommendation.
According to Reuters Oct. 19, "Mbeki and his cabinet denounced [NIA chief Billy] Masetlha's submission in which he named Scorpion agents he said were cooperating with the CIA and MI5." News24 reported Oct. 21 that Masetlha's allies also claim to be concerned "about the Scorpions' apparent close and regular liaisons with the American Embassy." The Reuters story says the cabinet, in a statement, "said it wanted to 'distance government from statements ... which seek to question the integrity of officials employed in the [Scorpions] and to cast aspersions on cooperation that our institutions have with their international counterparts."
As Adversity Deepens, Backward Culture Destroys Its Children
In backward African cultures, urban families are responding to deepening misery by destroying their own children. Recent journalistic investigations show that in Angola and DR Congo, familiesespecially urban familiesare increasingly accusing their children of witchcraft. If a family member falls sick or dies, or a marriage breaks up, it is because of the child's evil spirit. The child is hated, brutalized, and driven out, or turned over to a pseudo-Christian preacher or traditional healer who tortures the child under the guise of exorcismwith some children dying in the process.
This most backward side of the culture, according to Angus Stickler (BBC News July 13) comes to the fore as a result of intense poverty and the large numbers of orphans from the civil war: "Angola has been wracked by nearly 30 years of civil war. Many children have been orphaned, cared for by aunts, uncles, the extended family. But they can't afford to keep them. It is socially unacceptable to push a child out because of poverty. But if they are possessed, it's a different matter." But David Blair of the Telegraph wrote on Sept. 24, "A visceral fear of 'possessed' children is sweeping Congo's cities, causing tens of thousands of boys and girls to be abandoned and abused.... Both [Congo and Angola] endured years of civil war in which child soldiers were responsible for atrocities. Aid workers believe this might help to explain a deep fear of the young."
Blair says 70% of the street children in Kinshasa are on the street as a result of this process.