All back to normal in Lome

Monday May 9, 2005 · Flavio Grassi

The election is over, the rioting has calmed down, the dictator’s son is the new dictator, death squads are back to work to crush the opposition. Like in the past 40 years.



A brewing crisis

Saturday May 7, 2005 · Flavio Grassi

Guinea could soon become the next crisis flashpoint in Africa.

The general prosecutor for war crimes in Sierra Leone David Crane, has accused ex Liberian president Charles Taylor of plotting from his golden exile in Nigeria to assassinate his arch-enemy: the president of Guinea Lansana Conté.

He has already tried it last January. But in all likelihood, Taylor will not be able to attempt the assassination again. Nor will he need to.

President Lansana Conté, a general who took power with a coup in 1984 and was later elected and reelected through electoral processes of very dubious fairness, is dying from diabetes.

Whether his life ends as a result of a bullet from Taylor or of a final diabetic crisis, Conté’s death will leave a power vacuum of which there are already disturbing signs.

Apparently the president is falling into comas that are progressively becoming more frequent and prolonged. In the capital city Conakry nobody has seen him in public for months. The lieutenants around him are getting ready to grab as much as possible of his inheritance, including power.

There is no clear line of succession and constitutional guarantees are all but inexistent. In such a situation the struggle for power can very easily turn into a fight among warlords. Which in turn can just as easily grow into an ethnic struggle.

It would be nice if this time the international community found a way to move before having to say “never again”. again.

The Perspective, Alertnet


I've Been Away

Tuesday September 21, 2004 · Flavio Grassi

I never knew Lybia had become a democracy with free elections and all.


Aaand now, ladies! aaand gentlemen: Ahmed Chalabi!

Monday June 28, 2004 · Flavio Grassi

Ahmed Chalabi seems to be pretty powerful for a disgraced spy and all the bad things we’ve been reading about the neocon’s favorite friend-turned-fiend.

What all this much ado about nothing really looks like is just an elaborate role-playing to give Chalabi a brand antiamerican image.

And of course his nephew and business associate Salem Chalabi is still in charge of the tribunal that will stage the Saddam Trial reality show.



History Back in Indian textbooks

Sunday June 27, 2004 · Flavio Grassi

A commission of historians established by the new Indian government has recommended scrapping the textbooks introduced by the past Hindu nationalist government.

The Hindu right of ex Prime Minister Vajpayee was attempting to “correct the mistakes of history” by correcting history books in the first place. Without even shying away from the ludicrous:

Memorably, one textbook claimed that the Taj Mahal, the Qu’tb Minar and the Red Fort, three of India’s outstanding examples of Islamic architecture, were designed and commissioned by Hindus.

The Guardian


The Truth About Chavez Is In The Barrios

Friday June 25, 2004 · Flavio Grassi

The best article on Hugo Chavez I’ve read recently is by an American Catholic priest who has been living in Venezuela for 19 years.

The opening:

While I was watching a huge rally in support of the current Venezuelan government, President Hugo Chavez passed through the crowd on the back of a truck. A stranger nearby commented: “Look at the eyes of the men. They’re crying.” They were – a reaction few presidents could provoke.

The conclusion:

Is the present government perfect? No, but the country is light years ahead of where it was under those who ruled before and want to control it again. They still have power and money. If you doubt it, just look at most news releases and editorials about Venezuela.
But if you want to know what is really happening in Venezuela, come and look at the eyes of the men the next time Chavez passes by.

Read it all.

Rocky Mountain News


No aid for Darfur

Tuesday June 15, 2004 · Flavio Grassi

Jan Egeland, the UN emergency relief coordinator, blasted the Sudanese government for hindering the arrival of aid to the population of Darfur despite official statements to the contrary. And while ministry clerks sit on doctors’ visas people dye.



Christian Fundamentalists Attack Muslim Minority

Friday June 11, 2004 · Flavio Grassi

In the Eastern Nigerian city of Numan Christian gangs attacked the Muslim minority and destroyed a mosque tearing town the minaret. In the clashes that followed nine people were killed, according to the police. Witnesses put the death toll closer to 50. The Christians took offense at the minaret being higher than the nearby palace of their tribal leader. While the Muslims would have been willing to move the mosque elsewhere, provided they would receive compensation for it, on Tuesday talks were cut short. Now the police have declared a curfew.



Date For Fhe Recall Referendum Set

Wednesday June 9, 2004 · Flavio Grassi

Contrary to what many Chavez opposers ferared, the recall referendum will be held on August 15, within the terms set by the Venezuelan Constitution for electing a new president if Hugo Chavez will be ousted. A date after August 19 would have made the referendum almost useless because the current VP would have stepped into the president’s seat until the end of the term, in December 2006.



Political Crisis in Karachi

Tuesday June 8, 2004 · Flavio Grassi

After the “bloody May” that caused over 50 victims of sectarian violence, heads are rolling in the southern province of Sindh. The Karachi governor announced the resignation of the provincial chief minister, after which the government was dissolved and the parliament was called for an emergency session.

This won’t be the end of it. With a population of 14 million, Karachi is not only the largest city and commercial capital of Pakistan, it is also the city with the largest shi’a minority. And al Qaeda’s world headquarters.



Rebels Attack Mail, Schools, and Buddha

Tuesday June 8, 2004 · Flavio Grassi

The situation in Nepal keeps deteriorating despite the appointment of a new Prime Minister. Now maoist guerrilla are targeting the postal service, often the only means of communication for remote villages in rural areas where even the telephone is just a dream.

All schools are closed because of an indefinite strike declared by pro-guerrilla student organizations. And just hours after the Indian Foreign Affairs Minister K. Natwar Singh had closed his visit to Kathmandu pledging assistance in the struggle, guerrilla mounted unprecedented attacks against police stations and an army barracks in the Kapilavastu district, Buddha’s birthplace.

Switzerland is offering its services as mediator between the government and maoist rebels, but it remains to be seen how authoritative Prime Minister Deuba’s cabinet will be: right after his re-appointment by King Gyanendra, the opposition parties returned to their old habit of squabbling among themselves.

OneWorld, Daily Times, Business News India, Radio Australia


Chavez Accepts the Challenge

Friday June 4, 2004 · Flavio Grassi

A date hasn’t been set yet, but Venezuela will vote on the recall referendum aganist Hugo Chavez. The President appeared to welcome news that the opposition had succeeded in collecting enough signatures and assured his supporters he will win again.

Associated Press


Let's pretend it's 2002 again

Wednesday June 2, 2004 · Flavio Grassi

In a surprise move, King Gyanendra appointed Sher Bahadur Deuba, as the new Prime Minister with full executive powers. Deuba is the same PM that the king fired two years ago for “incompetence” taking onto himself executive powers.

My opinion: this is a painful setback for Gyanendra and probably originates in New Dehli more than in Kathmandu. Nepal is the only Hindu kingdom in the world and the recently defeated Indian Prime Minister, the Hindu nationalist Vajpayee was quite benevolent toward Gyanendra’s traditionalism. Not so the Congress Party now back in power.


BBC News


A Hot Ammunition Room

Tuesday June 1, 2004 · Flavio Grassi

Yesterday it was all too easy to predict that the murder of Sunni Mufti Nizamuddin Shamzai would have sparked an escalation in the smoldering Karachi civil war. What’s impressive is how short it took. Sunday morning the killing, Monday evening another bomb in a Shi’a mosqe, despite 15,000 security agents patrolling the city. 19 more victims. And today the funerals.

The population of Pakistan is over 150 million, 77% Sunni, 20% Shi’a. If Pervez Musharraf loses his grip there will be bad, bad news coming from there.



Announcing Civil War

Monday May 31, 2004 · Flavio Grassi

Last week Nepalese Maoist rebels abducted about 1400 students and teachers. Yesterday a bomb blew a bus in Kathmandu, a rare event because so far guerrilla activity had been mostly limited to rural areas. And today

A rebel leader defended the abduction of an estimated 1400 students and teachers over the past week from four war-torn districts, saying they were being prepared for battle.
“The Maoists have been giving armed combat training and revolutionary education to the abductees to absorb them in our army before launching a nationwide attack,” said Maoist central committee member Bam Dev Kshetri.

The Australian


Kingdoms in confusion

Monday May 31, 2004 · Flavio Grassi

The Kingdom of the Himalayas is on the verge of total chaos. But the United Kingdom government seems to have problems deciding on a policy. The Department for International Development suspended all activities in western Nepal because of the human rights violations by maoist rebels and government security forces alike. And the very same day the Defense Secretary donated two aircraft to the Nepalese Army.

The Observer


The Karachi War

Monday May 31, 2004 · Flavio Grassi

Yesterday Karachi was rocked by urban guerrilla all day long after the murder of Sunni Mufti Nizamuddin Shamzai, killed on the street by at least six shooters.

Rioting started immediately, with cars, shops and banks ransacked and set on fire. During the evening, tens of thousands of people gathered for the funeral, and there were more skirmishes with the police.

Jus a couple of days ago the American Consul in Karachi survived a car bomb attack, while tree weeks ago a bomb in a Shia mosqe killed 22 people.

Clearly, this is not the end of it.

Associated Press


Don't call Nepal a Failed State

Friday May 28, 2004 · Flavio Grassi

Looks like in New Dehli there are hawks itching to spread India’s wings over Nepal. Not a good idea. Sure, the situation is bad, but:

Nevertheless it would be a mistake to brand Nepal as a failed state, a tag that big powers use for small nations, often as a prelude to direct intervention. India must resist that temptation.
India must tread the thin line between firm persuasion and intervention. No nation, however small, takes kindly to bullies.

The Times of India


Two Million Risk Starvation in Sudan

Thursday May 27, 2004 · Flavio Grassi

Despite the Naivasha peace, the U.N. has nearly doubled its estimate of the number of people facing starvation in western Sudan bringing it to 2 million.

Two million people risk starvation in the coming months.



Peace in Sudan is nearer

Thursday May 27, 2004 · Flavio Grassi

The Sudanese government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Army yesterday finally signed the key agreements to end the 21-year old civil war in the South of the Country.

This is good news, although there is still a lot of procedural detail do work out. And it doesn’t involve the looming humanitarian catastrophe in the western region of Darfur. Except, maybe, indirectly. Yesterday afternoon SPLA and the Khartoum government were still mucking about and talking of postponing the signature over last-minute disputes.

Apparently it took a phone call from Colin Powell to the SPLA leader John Garang to get down to business. I can only guess, but Powell probably made it clear that the U.S. had run out of patience over the Naivasha talks.

Now it’s high time to make a few firm phone calls over the Darfur situation.

Associated Press


The U.N. moves on Darfur

Wednesday May 26, 2004 · Flavio Grassi

Despite hard lobbying by the Sudanese govenment to prevent it, the U.N. Security Council unanimously adopted a “Presidential Statement” to highlight the situation in the Darfur region:

Noting that thousands of people had been killed in the Darfur region of the Sudan and that hundreds of thousands more were at risk of dying in the coming months, the Security Council tonight expressed its grave concern over the deteriorating situation there and strongly condemned those acts that jeopardized a peaceful solution to the crisis.
The Council also called on the international community to respond rapidly and effectively to the consolidated appeal for Dafur. It affirmed the need for the immediate appointment and appropriate accreditation of a permanent Resident Coordinator/Humanitarian Coordinator to ensure daily coordinator, in order to address impediments to humanitarian access brought to the United Nations’ attention by the international aid community.

Only a first step, a Presidential Statement is not a legally binding Resolution, but an important one. Now Khartoum knows that Darfur is on the international agenda, and national governments are officially called to do their part before it’s too late. Everyone should act, but four countries have a special responsibility: United States, United Kingdom, Italy and Norway as observers of the peace process for Sudan must lean heavily on the Sudanese government to let aid organization do their job securely.

United Nations, Reuters


The time to act in Darfur is now

Monday May 24, 2004 · Flavio Grassi

The International Crisis Group has issued a report on the growing humanitarian catastrophe in the region of Darfur, in western Sudan. Western governments have been whispering timidly in the Khartoum government’s ears for fear that strong pressure might derail the peace talks which might soon end the over 20-year old civil war with the SPLA. But the Sudanese government has been using these fears to go about its business and proceed with ethnic cleansind in Darfur.

Now with the rainy season coming, hundreds of thousands of displaced people risk starvation and epidemics. Something can and should be done. Now.

Read the executive summary or the full report (pdf).


Guerrilla block schools, the army goes to Africa

Monday May 24, 2004 · Flavio Grassi

The chaos strategy of Nepali rebels seem to be focusing on schools. After the mass abduction of students and teachers a few days ago, yesterday a student organization close to the maoists called an indefinite strike in all the schools of the kingdom starting June 6.

Meanwhile, King Gyanendra continues to appear scarcely interested in his own country’s troubles: yesterday the Nepali army announced that it will be sending 800 troops to Africa to join the UN peacekeeping mission in Burundi.

Hi Pakistan, Xinhuanet


Nepal Maoists abduct students and teachers

Sunday May 23, 2004 · Flavio Grassi

Maoist guerrilla continue with their mass abductions strategy to disrupt civil life in large areas of the country. This time the choice fell on 200 students and teachers of a technical school in western Nepal.


Former Minister Arrested

Sunday May 23, 2004 · Flavio Grassi

Venezuelan troops arrested a retired general who served as finance minister in President Hugo Chavez’s government until the 2002 coup. He is accused of being part of a plot to overthrow Chavez, which the opposition insist is the President’s own invention in an attempt to dodge the recall referendum.

Venezuela is just not a place where anyone reasonable would take sides right now. Just because Chavez is paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t really trying to get him.

Los Angeles Times