|Africa News Digest
U.S. Policy Shift on Zimbabwe Would Isolate U.K.
Feb. 4 (EIRNS)On Jan. 30, the day that Morgan Tsvangirai of the Zimbabwe opposition party, MDC-T, announced that his party was ready to enter a government of national unity with President Robert Mugabe, U.S. State Department acting spokesman Robert A. Wood was quizzed on whether it was still the U.S. view that Mugabe must quit. (A third party, which had split off from the MDC in 2005, is also joining the unity government.)
The explicit position of the Bush regime had been that the U.S. could never recognize a unity government in Zimbabwe in which Robert Mugabe was a participant. Wood, on this occasion, did not call for the ouster of Mugabe as a condition, which was widely seen in Africa as a policy shift. Wood said, "The key is always implementation. What Robert Mugabe needs to do is to do what's best for the people of Zimbabwe; and an effective power-sharing arrangement, one that is equitable, fair, and in line with the will of the Zimbabwean people, that's what needs to happen." Wood said that when the government is in place, "the Obama Administration will be looking to see what more we can do with regard to giving a jump start, a boost to the economy."
This beginning of a shift on Zimbabwe policy leaves the U.K. in the isolated position of continuing to advocate policies designed to paralyze Zimbabwe. British Foreign Ministry official Lord Mark Malloch-Brown, who attended the African Union summit Feb. 1-3, got an earful from the African delegates, who called for the sanctions to be lifted, on the first day of the summit: "I think the one message I've got loud and clear from this summit ... is we've got to give this [unity government] a go, we've got to all do our best to support it, because the needs of Zimbabweans are so overwhelming," he said.
He admitted what he actually thought when he got back to London. Speaking to the parliament, he said he was skeptical that the unity government would succeed. He also complained that the sanctions against Zimbabwe were misrepresented, and were only meant to force the government to share power. "I think we need this lever for a while," he said. "We need to keep a squeeze on Mugabe."
WHO: Zimbabwe Cholera Epidemic Deadliest in 15 Years
Feb. 2 (EIRNS)The cholera epidemic in Zimbabwe is spreading throughout the rural areas, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Jan. 30. WHO characterized the outbreak as the deadliest in Africa in 15 years. Cases are reported in all ten of the country's provinces. The capital city of Harare, particularly the Budiriro suburb in the southwest, accounts for the majority of cases, followed by Beitbridge in Matabeleland South, and Mudzi in Mashonaland East, according to the WHO report.
David Heymann, the assistant-director general of the WHO, in an interview in the French daily Le Monde, today said that unfortunately the "worst" scenario is becoming reality and is reminiscent of ravages of medieval epidemics, "when nothing was known about the pathogen's mechanisms of contamination or routes of transmission." Asked about this "regression in health care," Heymann pointed to the collapse of health infrastructure and the withdrawal of health-care providers who are no longer being paid by the government. "You have to realize that many of them simply lack the necessary means to get to work. At the same time, persons directly facing the threat of the epidemic, in a very large number of the provinces, lack means to get to the dispensary to get help.
"This situation brings us de facto back to the impotence observed during the cholera epidemics of the Middle Ages, even though people exposed today are globally better informed.... In general, the daily difficulties for the health care providers are simple: how to distribute to affected populations, oral re-hydration kits and products to disinfect drinking water."
The WHO called on donor countries to help pay the salaries of thousands of Zimbabwean medical workers, to provide oral rehydration salts and chlorine tablets, and to raise awareness about cholera prevention and treatment. The appeal was made as UN aid officials tried to rally international support for Zimbabwe, where they said some 5.5 million people need UN assistance to cope with dwindling food supplies and hyperinflation. Elisabeth Byrs of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said that no contributions have yet been received toward a $567 million appeal for Zimbabwe this year.
In a Jan. 24 interview with Newsweek, Zimbabwe's Finance Minister Gideon Gono pointed to the international sanctions against Zimbabwe as the root of its economic problems. Gono added that the IMF's request for the U.S. to print more money was "an implicit endorsement" of his own methods, which led to hyperinflation. "I began to see the whole world now in a mode of practicing what they have been saying I should not," Gono said.
Opposition to ICC Attack on Sudan Emerges in U.K.
Feb. 4 (EIRNS)Sir Geoffrey Nice, Queens Counsel, and Rodney Dixon made an application on Jan. 11 to the International Criminal Court (which wants to violate Sudanese sovereignty, to arrest Sudan President Omar al-Bashir), on behalf of a Sudan Labor federation and a Sudanese NGO, not to issue the arrest warrants at this time.
The reasons given by Sir Geoffrey for not doing so are: 1) Such a move would have grave implications for the peace process in Sudan, and "that deference must be given to considerations of national interest and security," since the agreement that ended the civil war between North and South would break down, and therefore the country "would be under threat of disintegrating"; 2) justice will not be served in light of the prosecutor's conduct in bringing these applications [this is a reference to attempts by Prosecutor Ocampo to get support from other countries for prosecuting Bashir, whereas proving the charge is only supposed to happen at a trial, not before the trial]; 3) such warrants could entrench the negative perceptions of the ICC, and thus contribute to a deterioration of the situation in Sudan; 4) alternative means of transitional justice and resolution are being pursued without the need for any involvement of the ICC at this stage.
Sir Geoffrey and Dixon cite several highly regarded experts on Sudan, all of whom oppose the ICC threat to destabilize Sudan.
EIR sources from the region have indicated that since the inauguration of the President Obama, they don't expect any U.S. military attack against Sudan (policed no-fly zones, for example), even if the ICC issues an arrest warrant for Bashir, which British press sources claim may happen in February.
If the ICC issues its arrest warrant, it could be deferred for a year, while efforts to resolve the crisis are made. If the United States were to block its deferral in the UN Security Council, British circles will be in a position to say they made efforts to stop the warrant, but that the U.K. government succumbed to the wishes of the United States.