[in] focus

What message should SA take from the actions of the Congolese?

In the past few weeks, a group of Congolese citizens in South Africa, calling themselves 'Combatants', have unleashed a wave of violent attacks on individuals and property associated with the regime of President Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Among other violent actions and threats, the group is reported to have assaulted members of the official Congolese delegation attending a mining conference in Cape Town in early February 2012. They also allegedly ransacked the DRC embassy in Pretoria, destroyed office equipment and caused diplomats to go into hiding. The embassy has since reported the death of one of its staff as an indirect consequence of the incident.

They also encamped outside the headquarters of the governing ANC in Johannesburg. As condemnable as these actions may be, they are meant to send a strong message for South Africa in regard to its perceived complicity or lack of interest in the post-election stalemate in the DRC.

The militancy of this group could best be interpreted as an escalation of protests that have accompanied the re-election of Joseph Kabila in an electoral contest that is widely regarded as flawed. It should be recalled that following the announcement of the November 2011 presidential elections by the DRC's electoral commission, the Congolese in the diaspora have staged demonstrations in major cities across the world, including London, Brussels and Johannesburg, calling international attention to what they regard as an illegitimate attempt by Kabila to continue occupying the country's presidency.

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Is Africa homophobic?

“All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression.”

It is certainly apposite to reflect on Thomas Jefferson’s words in light of a bill that is currently being reintroduced to Uganda’s parliament. Parliamentarian David Bahati is attempting to see the passing of a bill that would impose punitive measures for committing “homosexual offences”, as well as punish anyone who fails to report to the authorities a person they know to be homosexual. The maximum sentence for homosexual offences would be life imprisonment. The original draft, proposed in 2011, included the option of capital punishment for ‘serial offenders’ (although this term was never properly defined), but has been removed from the current draft.

The bill has received plenty of popular support in Uganda, traditionally a very conservative country. Homosexuality is already criminalised under its penal code, and is largely stigmatised, especially by religious groups.

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Time for Togo to enter the global scene

To keen observers of the African continent, it may have become noticeable that Togo has risen to a certain level of renown among the circles of key world players. The small West-African nation, which was under the 38-year dictatorship of Gnassingbe Eyadema until his death in 2005, is rising to the foreign policy agenda of the United States, the development agenda of China and the aid agenda of the European Union.  Beyond this, Togo has become one of the states to join the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) as a non-permanent member. All these indicate that it may be time for Togo to occupy more prominence on the global scene. American Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton’s visit to Togo on January the 16, 2012, is a recent illustration that Togo is mounting in significance.

Four nations were visited during Clinton’s continental visit. These were Liberia, Ivory Coast, Togo and Cape Verde. Her selection of Togo among the other three African nations was an important milestone, as the visit marked the first ever high-level U.S official delegation visit to the Republic. This set Togo apart from the other three nations Clinton visited during the tour, as it was not the first time a high-level US delegations had visited any of the other three countries. However, the US is only one of the key global players that has been improving its relations with Togo in recent times.

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The Syria Debacle in the UN Security Council and Africa

The double veto against the Arab League-initiated and West-driven resolution on Syria blows open the power struggle between the west and new powers led by China and Russia in the Security Council. It suggests that there is more than meets the eye in terms of the extent of division at the centre of global power. This presents both opportunities and risks for emerging regions like Africa.

On Saturday morning, the UN Security Council chambers saw intense shuttle diplomacy. The draft resolution initiated by Morocco last week on behalf of the Arab League, which displaced the draft that Russia had initiated a week earlier, was due for a vote. On that morning, Russia convened a closed meeting of country representatives to consider its proposed amendments. After just an hour the meeting dissolved and diplomats headed for the chambers for voting on the draft resolution without amendments that Russia requested.

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The expansion of AFRICOM in Africa under Obama: A Paradox?

In classic Orwellian juxtapose, Obama’s AFRICOM strategy appears to echo “War is Peace” and “Ignorance is Strength.” In his presidential campaign a few years ago, Obama personified change and hope which granted him a Nobel Peace Prize even before he had started working for world peace in earnest. Yet his message is constantly being undone.

Contrary to expectations, AFRICOM, a Europe-based military platform for advancing the US’ strategic interest in Africa, has secretly expanded its presence in Africa under the Obama presidency, notwithstanding spirited opposition from African countries opposed to militarization of African affairs.

In 2008, no African country would host US troops, yet 30 months after becoming an independent command, AFRICOM has used other surreptitious ways of marking its presence, principally through the consolidation of military-to-military relations with 51 African nations. Changes in government in Côte d’Ivoire and Libya have added two more countries to that column. US troops now have bases in Djibouti, Senegal and Uganda. A US military base in Botswana remains a rumour, yet military relations between the two countries have grown significantly.

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