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Wednesday, November 09, 2005

 

Dead birds reported at Somaliland coast

8 November - Official sources in the Awdal region of Somaliland said that dead birds had been seen in the coast of Loyaddo, Zeila district, neighbouring Djibouti. Authorities fear that these may be the first cases of bird flu in Africa, although there are still no clinical evidences to support this.
A similar report of dead birds had caused alarm two months ago, but a visit by Somaliland's Environment Minister Fouad Adan Adde and doctors from relief organisations had dissipated any fears of the birds dying of bird flu. However, with the whole world panicking over the deadly bird flu, people are urging the government of the self-declared republic of Somaliland to take urgent measures to ensure the reason behind the death of the birds. The 'Awdalnews' staff reporter based in Borama learned from official sources that Minister Fouad would soon head for the Zeila coast with a number of doctors accompanying him to investigate the matter. Somaliland has recently banned the import of poultry as a preventive measure to stop the pandemic bird flu from reaching the country. The disease, which has spread over great parts of Asia and started reaching Europe, has so far not been detected in Africa. The UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) however last week said it would only be a matter of time before the bird flu spreads into Africa from the Middle East - Somaliland thus being a possible point of entry. Due to the poor situation of public health in Africa and poor hygiene, scientists fear that the continent could become a place where the virus is able to spread from birds to humans - or even mutate into a human flu virus of lethal force. In Asia, the virus already has caused tens of deaths among humans, but it has yet to mutate into a virus that can spread from person to person. Large-scale monitoring programmes have been initiated in Europe and the Middle East to detect the spread of the virus, which follows birds migrating from continent to continent. Many migrating bird species are currently heading to Africa from cooling Asia.

By Hashim Goth, Awdalnews and afrol staff reporters

 

Africa and peacekeepers

Wednesday, November 9, 2005
Be stronger, stay stronger. If there’s one lesson to be learnt from African peacekeeping over the past few years, then this is certainly it. The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) offers an example. Its volatile eastern regions of Ituri and the Kivus saw continued attacks on civilians by ruthless militias, carried out in the presence of United Nation (UN) peacekeepers, in the towns of Bunia and Bukavu in May 2003 and June 2004, respectively. The failure of the UN Mission in Congo (MONUC) to prevent the slaughter of hundreds of civilians in both instances drew widespread international criticism.
These did not represent isolated, tragic incidents; they were clear symptoms of a deeper illness. The international community’s hasty push for a rapid succession of local and national , elections in the DRC, without concurrently addressing the security imperative of disarming former combatants, is playing into the hands of the former warlords, who see greater access to spoils through maintaining their private militias than through any political transition. The precedent increasingly seems to be Angola, where a 1992 ‘winner takes all’ election led to the resumption and escalation of the civil war.
In Liberia, as in Congo, former belligerents, now governing partners, have carved out their countries’ wealth base for themselves and for their clients. The defeat of corruption and illicit economies prevailing in these and similar post-con-fIict situations should be a priority, but the peacekeeping template in Africa’s failed states appears to reward the spoilers rather than holding them to account. Africa is thus facing a serious peacekeeping dilemma. Unless greater effort is dedicated to addressing root problems, then the continent will face either countries relapsing into conflict once the peacekeepers are withdrawn, or an expanding and unsustainable peacekeeping burden.
At least, violence in Liberia has subsided-no doubt because the UN has sent a peacekeeping force of 17,000 to a country of 3 million. In the DRC, 16,700 troops oversee a country about the size of western Europe and with a population of 53 million.
Size matters, and so too does the willingness to use it; this goes beyond the issue of mandates. Asked recently why MONUC was reluctant to employ its arsenal for the protection of civilians under attack, Jean-Marie Guehenno, UN Under-Secretary General for Peacekeeping Operations, argued that “having a mandate and having real power are different things. One is just words, on paper; they don’t stop guns. We often lack what military planners call ‘escalation dominance’ -the clear ability to decisively overwhelm an opponent and thereby deter him.
However, days later MONUC used such a lesson - delivering escalation dominance against the Ituri militiamen who had killed nine peacekeepers. The incident recalled the swift response of the French peacekeepers in Cote d’ivoire in November2004, after a government air raid killed several of their soldiers. Although, the government had been bombing civilian targets in rebel-held areas in the north for two days by then, the French destroyed the attacking planes on the ground less than two hours after the raid on their own barracks. When peacekeepers fail to use such strong resolve for the protection of African civilians, they invite the unavoidable conclusion that the international community values the lives of Africans far less than those of the peacekeepers.
More recently, a reformed African Union (AU) increased its peacekeeping operations and conflict-mediation capacity when the Darfur crisis erupted in 2003. Abandoning the policy of non-interference in the internal affairs of member states – that had crippled the Organisation of African Unity in the face of Africa’s many conflicts during four post-independence decades, the AU established, in mid-2004, a 15-member Peace and Security Council (PSC) designed to address the region’s conflicts.
However, the Darfur crisis has stretched the AU’s capacities to the limit despite considerable logistical and financial the international community.
While struggling to perform in Darfur, the AU announced plans to intervene in the DRC, and its sub-regional body, the Intergovernmental Authority for Development(IGAD), prepared for, intervention in Somalia. Both plans would undoubtedly require peace-enforcement capabilities in which the AU and IGAD have, no experience, risking drawing the fledgling AU peace-keeping into perilous and uncharted waters. The AU should focus on succeeding in the Darfur test case. For that to happen, African contributing states have to act more diligently in readying their troops for deployment, and the international community has to do much more to improve the AU’s capacity for ending the bloodshed the and on the continent generally.
Baldo, is director of Africa Programme, International Crisis Group.

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