African News Roundup
Chinese president on a three-nation tour of Africa
After visiting the U.S. and Saudi Arabia earlier this month, Chinese president Hu Jintao went on to Africa to boost trade and political ties. His tour included Morocco, Nigeria and Kenya.
China, hungry for natural resources and looking for markets to offset its products, has made some significant investments in Africa, especially in the oil and infrastructure sector. African countries for their part are looking towards China so they don’t have to solely rely on old, often colonial ties with Europe anymore. Plus, Chinese investment and credit comes with much less strings, like transparency and accountability, attached. Now China is looking to use this economic weight to count for more politically.
Despite the fact that Morocco doesn’t have oil, China’s main interest in Africa, and Moroccan industry has been hit by the spread of cheap Chinese products like clothing, both countries are looking for strong common ties. One of the things that Morocco does have and China is looking for is fish. Morocco has huge Atlantic fisheries, but there is one serious problem: the contested Western Sahara, which in total is about half the size of Morocco but holds about half of its coastline. If Morocco is forced to give up its claim on Western Sahara, it stands to loose the lucrative fishing grounds of the Western Sahara coast as well. And that’s where Chinese and Moroccan political interests meet.
While Morocco hopes that China, a permanent U.N. Security Council member, will support their plan for only a limited autonomy for the Western Sahara, China is looking for support for its stand towards Taiwan, which it considers to be a part of China and not an independent state. And support is exactly what it got from the Moroccan government. According to Reuters, officials with the Chinese delegation said Morocco had reaffirmed support for its “One China” policy. In return president Hu said China supported a “solution to the Sahara problem that is consensual and achieved through peaceful means and dialogue”, the official Moroccan news agency reported.
China got the same support from the two other countries it visited, Nigeria and Kenya. Oil was the main point on the agenda in Nigeria. In return for the right to further explore Nigerian oil fields, China committed $4 billion to infrastructure projects, a deal that was met with a violent response by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) who detonated a car bomb near an oil refinery. “We wish to warn the Chinese government and its oil companies to steer well clear of the Niger Delta … The Chinese government by investing in stolen crude places its citizens in our line of fire,” said MEND.
Kenya, which also signed a deal on oil exploration rights, was very clear about its support of Chinese policy towards Taiwan. A joint communiqué between Kenya and China signed in Nairobi, said the Kenyan government opposed “in every form, the independence of Taiwan,” and that “the Government of the People’s Republic of China is the sole legal government representing China, and Taiwan is an inalienable part of the Chinese territory.”
HIV and AIDS: Those most affected are least heard
According to a study by South Africa’s Media Monitoring Project (MMP) and Gender Links which monitored 37,001 news items, only 3% of the news in southern Africa focusses on HIV/AIDS. “Lesotho had the highest percentage of HIV/Aids stories with 19% and Mauritius had the lowest with just 1%,” said the director of MMP, William Bird.
South Africa alone currently bears about 10% of the global burden of HIV infection. Over 6 million people carry the disease. Still, only 2% of the news in SA focuses on HIV/AIDS. Of course the media is not the only one in SA who’s in a state of denial. Not to long ago, former deputy president Jacob Zuma said that he minimised the risk of contracting the AIDS virus during unprotected sex with an HIV-positive woman, by taking a shower afterwards.
There is good news as well though. Top United Nations official on HIV/AIDS, Peter Piot, said falling infection rates in parts of Africa show education campaigns have started to impact sexual behaviour, with young Africans delaying their first sexual experiences and practising safer sex.
DRC election date finally set
First, parliamentary and presidential elections would be held on the 29th of April, with a second round at the beginning of June. Later, after calls by Etienne Tshisekedi’s main opposition party (UDPS) to boycott the registration and the poll, that date became the 18th of June, with no date for a second round. Now, the Independent Electoral Commission said the elections will be held July 30.
Because the UDPS failed, or refused, to register for both the presidential campaign and the parliamentary campaign, international observers fear that the election might lead to violence. That’s why the U.N. Security Council voted unanimously to send a 1,500 European Union rapid reaction force to the Democratic Republic of Congo to support the 17,000 peacekeepers already stationed in the country.
Can the Millennium Man save the MDG’s?
The eight Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s) are to halve extreme poverty and hunger, achieve universal primary education, promote gender equality and maternal health, reduce child mortality, combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, ensure environmental sustainability, and develop a global partnership for development. All this by 2015. But despite various international campaigns, they are loosing momentum. With every report that comes out, the goals seem harder to achieve.
But, as Jeffrey Sachs – a.k.a. the Millennium Man, shows us, the battle is still not over. His Millennium Villages project has demonstrated how localized projects with relatively small amounts of money spent on health, education, fertiliser and other essential services can dramatically accelerate progress towards achieving most of the MDG’s.
Pfizer 1996 Nigerian drug experiment violated international law
According to The Washington Post, Nigerian medical experts concluded 5 years ago that Pfizer Inc. violated international law during a 1996 epidemic by testing an unapproved drug on children with brain infections without consent of the parents or the knowledge of the Nigerian government, causing 5 children to die and leaving several other with brain damage. The report was never made public before.
In a press statement Pfizer denies all accusations and claims that the drug, Trovan (trovafloxacin), saved lives. The fact that use of the drug is severely restricted by the FDA because it’s been associated with liver damage, is not mentioned in the press release. Nor the fact that European regulators don’t allow for the drug to be sold on the European market.
[GNN’s Liam Sheff reported on a similar experiment gone bad: Exclusive: The Truth about Nevirapine
“Sam Urquhart”:http://szamko.gnn.tv/ contributed to this report
Posted by JanBegine