Promising Too Much?

Protection for victims of ethnic strife in Darfur finally is on the way, it would seem. Last week Sudan agreed to permit 3,500 African Union troops and police officers to deploy in the troubled region. That appeared to spell a victory for U.S. officials who have ramped up rhetorical pressure on the Khartoum regime; first Congress, then Secretary of State Colin Powell and finally President George W. Bush all recently described the scorched-earth government counterinsurgency in Western Sudan as genocide. "My hope is that the African Union moves rapidly to help save lives," Bush said in last week's debate. Those tracking the crisis might easily picture African bases bustling as crack troops mobilize to hit the ground in Sudan.Wrong. This week the chiefs of staff of several African Union heads of state will meet to begin discussing how to go about setting up this hypothetical force. Among the issues: who will train the AU police to cooperate with their Sudanese counterparts? After these...

INVASION OF THE CRITTERS

Cleanup crews are used to thankless tasks. But when maintenance men at the Sao Paulo Electrical Co. (CESP) descended to the bowels of the huge Sergio Motta hydro- electric plant on the Parana River earlier this year, they couldn't believe what they saw. Or smelled. Like some nightmare still life, rotting shellfish were everywhere. And that was the good news. Limnoperna fortunei--better known as the golden mussel--is a tiny monster. Left untended, the fast-multiplying mussels would quickly clog the cooling tubes, causing the turbines to overheat and, conceivably, the plant to shut down. The Sergio Motta plant is one of the crown jewels of the regional power grid, which supplies electricity to six of 10 Sao Paulo residents. The only way to fight back is to drain the turbines and scrape off the mussels with water jets and pickaxes. "We hauled out trucks of the stuff," says engineering chief Luis Tadeu de Freitas. "The stink was unbearable."Odor is the least of their problems. The...

Malaria Malpractice

Irene's 40-degree fever hadn't budged for days. Burrowed under blue blankets at Mbagathi district hospital in Nairobi, the girl lingered on the edge of consciousness, able only to murmur "Mama." "This is not good," said nurse Abigael Owila. "Resistant malaria." Two different drugs had failed to dent the fever. The last treatment the hospital had to offer was quinine, administered intravenously--a painful, weeklong process that doesn't always work. "Hopefully, that will give results," said the nurse.The scene is all too common. On average, a child dies of malaria every 30 seconds in Africa. Worse, 8-year-old Irene needn't have suffered so much. A handful of tablets derived from an ancient Chinese herb can cure 95 percent of malaria victims within three days. Patients usually start feeling better within hours. A modern cure based on the herb has been widely available for two decades. And yet U.N. officials have only just begun to trumpet the need for Africa to embrace this cure in the...

On The Road To Nowhere

Mornay is what passes for a safe haven in western Sudan. For 14 months, the government has fought a merciless war against rebels in the remote Darfur region. Sudanese warplanes and the feared Arab militiamen known as the janjaweed, who attack on horseback, have depopulated much of an area larger than California, driving roughly 1 million villagers into a few spots like Mornay. In January the town had some 2,000 inhabitants; by March there were 80,000. Every village within 30 miles has been leveled, says Coralie Lechelle, a nurse with the relief group Medecins sans Frontieres. Refugees are stuck there, she says: "In fact, it is a prison."It's about to get worse: the rainy season is coming. Most of the displaced villagers sleep in the open, having lost nearly everything else along with their homes. They can't reach their fields to plant this year's crops, and in May, when the rains start, it will be too late. Diseases, especially waterborne ones, are sure to spread. Meningitis has...

Liberia: 'Thank You, George Bush'

It was premature to believe that Liberia had turned a corner toward lasting peace. But still, it was breathtaking to see the calming effect of a calibrated show of U.S. might. After weeks of delay, the Bush administration finally sent some 200 Marines into Monrovia to support 776 Nigerian troops already there. When two U.S. Harrier fighter jets screamed over the main bridge linking the government and rebel-held sides of the capital, crowds of excited onlookers burst into spontaneous applause, accompanied by gospel hymns and chants of "Thank you, George Bush" and "Thank God, America." The celebration was possible because Liberia's warlord President Charles Taylor had agreed to leave the country (the main demand of rebels who had besieged the capital and subjected its 500,000 residents and about 1 million refugees to random mortar attacks). Taylor's departure was also Bush's key condition for putting U.S. boots on the ground to support a West African peacekeeping effort (which will...

Periscope

InspectionsSaddam's Next StepsWhen it comes to Iraq and U.N. Security Council resolutions, nothing is ever quite what it seems. Saddam Hussein pretended to be furious last week, but just before the deadline to accept the resolution on weapons inspections, he did. U.N. inspectors were headed back into Iraq on Nov. 18. Interestingly, Baghdad may have reason to regard their return as at least an interim victory.Saddam knows better than to believe his own rhetoric about fighting off a U.S. invasion. His best option now is to at least pretend to go along with weapons inspections and hope the charade is convincing. (The Iraqis have proved much better at that than at tank warfare.) If they manage to cooperate passably well for the full 105 days until inspectors have to report back to the Security Council, that will take things until the last week of February. Allowing even just two weeks of further debate at the United Nations, the Ides of March--and the beginning of Iraq's fierce summer,...

No End To Their Woes

More than a year ago, officials from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees agency looked on as women in a Zimbabwe camp called Tongogara depicted daily life: girls kissing and cuddling with aid workers in order to be allowed to go to school. The skit was a red flag, but there was no investigation. Last month refugees from the same camp complained to the UNHCR of sexual harassment. They got no reply. Finally an intern at Tongogara alerted the International Catholic Migration Commission, which runs the camp under contract. A top official flew in, and this month the ICMC fired its country director and camp manager.The alleged lapses, detailed in a confidential ICMC report obtained by NEWSWEEK, weren't the first. Last fall the UNHCR shelved a report by one of its own experts that accused 67 aid workers from 40 agencies of extorting sex from teenage girls in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia. Though news reports confirmed the study's allegations, High Commissioner for Refugees...

BETTING THE FARMS

This seed corn is tall and lush, growing under irrigation. The soybeans flourish in the care of diligent field hands. More than 150 head of fat brown steers fill a pen, and the newly renovated piggery has grown to 113 sows and seven boars. Surveyors backed by a construction crew hurry to lay more irrigation pipe to stave off the drought that has devastated Zimbabwe's annual harvest.This is modern farming--and a political statement. Amid the tense uncertainty that settled over Zimbabwe last week after a rigged election returned President Robert Mugabe to power, many white farmers, finally, are calling it quits. But new black entrepreneurs--like the ones who own this 4,000-hectare (10,000-acre) spread--are rushing to make a success of Mugabe's land-grab plans. "The perception outside is that the whites are the ones who make Zimbabwe tick," says Mutumwa Mawere, the politically connected CEO of the trust that purchased this farm and others last year. "We're creating a center of...

MUGABE, BY ANY MEAN NECESSARY

Scenes from a guerrilla war. An old blue bus, with a sign on the windshield declaring its destination to be hard times, rattles down a highway in eastern Zimbabwe. By the roadside, a soldier drills chanting youngsters as local villagers look on, frowning. They know what these recruits are used for: nighttime brutality against the enemy--suspected "sellouts," supporters of a rival political party. One youth recalls how an Army unit arrived in his mountain village and staged a footrace for local boys. Those able to run six miles in 45 minutes were told they would be trained, then given 45,000 Zimbabwe dollars (US$200) and a chance to enlist. But graduates say that they mainly are indoctrinated into the vital necessity of victory for President Robert Mugabe and the party that has ruled Zimbabwe unchallenged for more than two decades. "I would have gone, but I have asthma," said the boy. "What other prospects are there for me here?"Zimbabwe's landmark presidential elections this weekend...

Turbulence At The Polls

Welshman Ncube may simply have been running for safety. Or he may have been planning to set up a government in exile, convinced that Zimbabwe's president, Robert Mugabe--not content to defeat his political opponents at the polls--plans to jail them, too. Ncube, third in command of Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change, was arrested at a border post with his family as they prepared to leave Zimbabwe Monday.The timing was unusual--voting in crucial presidential elections had just gone into an unscheduled court-ordered third day after long delays at the polls left thousands unable to vote. Polling stations opened five hours late on Monday, and closed at night amid tense scenes as police fired tear gas to disperse those still waiting to cast their ballots.A judge refused to extend the voting for a fourth day, and the winner may be declared on Wednesday. Ncube's arrest demonstrated that the opposition already is desperate, and on the run. For its leaders, losing at the...

'The Grievance Of All Grievances'

His Press Secretary tried to cut off the interview, but Robert Mugabe would not be silenced. Back home in Harare after a campaign swing last week, the 78-year-old President seemed tired and touchy--and fed up with Zimbabwe's white inhabitants. "I am a proud African. I don't want insults from anybody," he told NEWSWEEK. He said he had "extended the hand of reconciliation" but claimed that "the whites have stood aloof. Maintaining their racist superiority, so called; not wanting to be integrated into our society, really," he continued. "Wanting their little schools, wanting their little sporting activities." Mugabe said the white man cares only about his own interests. "Deep down he remains a racist," the president said. "I would rather the lot left this country. The lot of Britons."As a freedom fighter a generation ago, Mugabe battled both the white rulers of colonial Rhodesia and African rivals for political power in what became independent Zimbabwe. He won the presidency in 1980...

An Ugly Start To Presidential Elections

The waiting crowd seethed. Five hours after their polling place opened in Highfields, a middle-class black neighborhood of Harare, only 280 people had voted for the next president of Zimbabwe. Now the line stretched for 200 yards outside the Rusvingo Primary School, and it wasn't moving. Those first in line, who had arrived at 5 a.m. or earlier to exercise their franchise when the polls opened at 7 a.m., waited packed together outside the polling place, a classroom. When a group of young men began to shout in frustration, riot police holding plastic shields flailed at the mass with batons. On a street outside the school, the mood was open defiance. "If we can't vote, we are going into town Monday, and we don't care whether the soldiers have guns or not," said Zed Jokomo, 19. "We are already dead. We don't have jobs. This is the only time we can effect change. We are not afraid to die."Two elections began today in Zimbabwe. In rural areas where support for President Robert Mugabe is...

Studying A Dark Future

"Use my name--it doesn't matter, I'm on the run anyway," says Tapera Kapuya, 21. "There's a warrant out for my arrest." His crime: helping organize student demonstrations last year at the University of Zimbabwe in Harare. Some of these rallies were in support of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, others protested the murders of fellow student activists Batanai Hadzizi, beaten to death in his dorm room, and Lameck Chemvura, strangled with a shoe lace and thrown off a moving train.In the tense run-up to Zimbabwe's presidential elections this weekend, Kapuya now sleeps on friends' couches, a few hours at a time. "Police are harassing my mother," he said. "I feel terrible, but I really don't see that we have a chance when it comes to fighting for our rights. There are many of us who will always do that, now and under any other future government."These are not idle boasts. Though often melodramatic and disorganized, the pro-democracy student movement in Zimbabwe helped ignite...

Sacrifices Of A Street Fighter

She was lost in the crowd of protesters outside Parliament last week. As township activists shouted under the noonday sun, not afraid to stand up to demand that President Thabo Mbeki launch an all-out war against AIDS, Thandeka Mantshi stood quietly in the throng with her daughter Okuhle, 4. Mother and daughter both are HIV positive. And just by being there, they showed they were not afraid to stand up to demands that their president end his dithering over the causes of the pandemic.Mantshi, 32, pays a steep price for campaigning to smash complacency about AIDS in black townships. Fearful neighbors won't enter her three-room shack in the Macassar neighborhood of Khayelitsha. Local children shun her daughter, who attends a Roman Catholic-run preschool for boys and girls who carry HIV. But she is dauntless in hectoring Khayelitsha residents to be tested at the local government hospital. She has known of her HIV status since 1995. Though she is jobless, her family helps scrape together...

South Africa's Lonely Rebel

Thabo Mbeki long has savored this moment in the day. Just after the close of office hours, when the 9-to-5 workers have departed, he summons his close companions for a sundowner. His drink is a tall Scotch. The group may change, but most often it includes one or both of the Pahad brothers, Essop and Aziz, college friends from his exile years in Britain, now top aides who know the drill by heart. And the South African president holds court. He tries out an idea, then sits back as the others kick it around. This 6 p.m. Socratic exercise--something like a college seminar--is the real beginning of his day, after the official, published schedule ends. Soon after, he is at his laptop. If he makes it into bed by 2 a.m., it's an early night.These sundowner sessions can't be the fun they once were, when the Mbeki presidency was shiny new. The president is in big trouble over his obstinate refusal to acknowledge the gravity of the AIDS crisis in the world's worst-hit country. The annual...

Flying The 'Big Bad Dog'

The control tower at Cape Town International Airport knows the black Electric Lightning fighter jet as Bravo Bravo Delta. That's an inside joke--its pilots call the British Mach 2 interceptor the Big Bad Dog. Designed at the height of the cold war--to race up high, get off a couple of missiles at incoming bombers, then go home before the fuel ran out--the Electric Lightning is essentially a rocket with wings. Now this fighter does milder duty as a kind of supersonic joyride for the superrich. ...

Terror Hot Spots: Somalia -- Kids In The Cross Ha

Somali fundamentalists didn't figure anybody would mind when they took over a looted and abandoned high school in downtown Mogadishu. They weren't building a bomb factory or training terrorists. They were restarting Somalia's only university, with classes in economics and computer science, Arabic and English. But before even the first semester was out in 1997, gunmen working for a local warlord broke up the studies. "The students rushed to me as I arrived," recalls Osman Omer Jelle, an English teacher. "They said, 'Teacher, there are gunmen in the university!' " ...

The Promise, The Peril

How do you build a nation? Leaders have asked that question for literally thousands of years. From Shaka Zulu to Bismarck, military rulers did it by uniting disparate clans through the conquest of land and the cultivation of "national" pride. In colonial times the European and American powers did it through subjugation and might. But since the end of the cold war--and the diplomatic paralysis that it produced--the job of creating nations from failed states has fallen increasingly to the nebulous "international community" through the United Nations.To the United Nations' chagrin, nation-building is still more of an art than a science. The international community failed miserably in Somalia, choosing to cut and run with disastrous results. It succeeded in Mozambique, thanks to the end of the superpower rivalry that had fed the country's civil war--but also to the war weariness of the local people and their leaders' determination to win the peace. Despite the United Nations' mixed...

Growing Up In Africa's Cruelest War Zone

It's terrible to be a child anyplace without adequate food, shelter or access to education. Add war, and society's youngest members face a life of relentless horror and uncertainty. But even war seldom produces the kind of cruelty endured by children in Sierra Leone. Over the past two decades rebels there and in Liberia have systematically used child abuse as a military strategy. First children as young as 7 or 8 are abducted. The girls are raped. Boys are forcibly injected with drugs and made to perform an atrocity: sometimes they must kill their own parents, or they might be forced to chop off someone's hand. Those who refuse are killed. Afterward some become porters and sex slaves; others are mustered into child-soldier units. "The process of abducting children and forming them into rebel fighters is not something that happens by accident," says Corinne Difka of Human Rights Watch. "This was a plan that they thought out: to take these young people from their families and form...

Bottom Of The Heap

It's not just the poverty that's so appalling in Luanda. Africans have a saying: when a politician takes power, he and his cronies get "to eat"--to enjoy the spoils of office through corruption, perks or patronage. And in a world of haves and have-nots, there may be no greater contrast between misery and excess than in the Angolan capital--a more damning indictment of a nation's leadership than any measure of annual per capita income.Luanda is a boomtown. Oil brings in more than $3 billion a year, and the major companies plan to spend tens of billions more in the southwest African nation over the next five years. Huge new deep-water finds could make Angola the continent's leading oil producer in a decade. It already supplies 8 percent of the United States' oil, more than Kuwait. Not even the brutal civil war waged by rebel leader Jonas Savimbi for the last quarter century can explain why nothing seems to trickle down.But the consequences are pain-fully obvious. Down the block from...

The Rape Of Paradise

Legend has it that the king of one of the warring Betsimsaraka clans climbed a mountain peak in what is now southern Madagascar and spoke with the gods, who ordered him to sacrifice a son. The boy's blood flowed, and then came the eternal rains, which fed six rivers, each bearing the son's name, Mana. The water sustained a thick growth of forest and a thriving people.These sacred mountains, part of Andohahela National Park, are the scene of a pitched battle to save Madagascar's rain forests. Years of population growth and rice cultivation have destroyed 87 percent of the rain forests on this island, the world's fourth largest, off the southeast coast of Africa. Environmentalists stepped in 40 years ago and made Madagascar a cause celebre, but 150,000 hectares of forest are still disappearing each year. At this rate, in 30 years the forest will be gone and the island will be unfit for agriculture. "Madagascar could very easily become the next Haiti," says Mark Finn, a forester...

Botswana's Hope

A sign at the entrance of a freshly painted bungalow near the center of Gaborone says MAKE A NEW START TODAY. And people are getting the message. Every morning there's a line at the door: a prick of the finger, a quick visit with a counselor and within an hour you're on your way again. Plenty leave grim-faced: more than a third of Botswana's adults test positive for HIV--the highest proportion in the world. But "people these days really want to find out," said Joyce Maruping, 23, who left the Voluntary Testing Center smiling one day last week. "I was terrified, but you just have to know."Alone among governments in the African AIDS hot zone, Botswana has summoned the means and the political will to try to treat every AIDS sufferer who needs life-sustaining retroviral drugs. Three months ago President Festus Mogae surprised his own officials by promising that by the end of the year the government would provide the AIDS drug cocktail to Botswana's 300,000 infected people. As a result,...

Plight Of The 'Child Slaves'

In the poorest villages of West Africa, sending a youngster out into the world to seek a better life hasn't always been considered shameful. Child labor is a hard fact of life in the region; about 40 percent of boys and girls under the age of 14 work. A rural child could be fed, clothed and educated in a city home in return for performing domestic chores, and eventually his or her parents back home could expect to receive a share of her city wages. People in Togo and Benin, two of West Africa's poorest countries, call it aguegue--"off to adventure." Usually there's a sweetener from labor agents who comb the countryside seeking workers--the gift of a bicycle and a cassette recorder, or a nominal payment of $15 or $20. ...

South Africa: Fallout From A Stampede

South African President Thabo Mbeki sometimes uses soccer, the country's most popular sport, as a metaphor for the difficulty his country faces in adjusting to postapartheid realities. ...

Soldiers Of Christ

For the first time in seven months, a plane with supplies from the outside world stood on the guerrilla leader's dirt airstrip. The Americans had brought corn, soap, medicine and boxes of Bibles printed in the local language, Nuer. But what made rebel commander Peter Gatdet happiest was the 440 pounds of salt. In the territory where the Sudanese People's Liberation Army operates--the swampy headwaters of the Nile, one of the world's most remote and primitive places--salt is a better currency than money. ...

The Grass-Roots Battle

At first she struggled to raise the nearly $1,000 a month she needed for an AIDS treatment regime to keep her alive. Once she nearly died from the medicine's side effects, and briefly she had to stop taking any drugs because she couldn't afford a more costly alternative. Last week the 29-year-old office worker from Cape Town learned of Merck & Co.'s radical cut in the price of its AIDS drugs, effective immediately. That meant her doctor can now prescribe Stocrin, the drug he feels will best control her illness, and still stay within strict price limits set by her health-care plan. "It's a big relief," she said after meeting with Cape Town AIDS specialist Steve Andrews. "There's hope for this thing," said Andrews, who consults patients throughout the continent. "Africans don't have to die." ...

Death Of A Dictator

The cream-colored Marble Palace is a typically grandiose relic of the former Congolese dictator, Mobutu Sese Seko. Guards in blue tunics and plumed helmets are posted out front, and the interior is adorned with enormous mirrors and overstuffed Louis XIV-style furniture. It was here last week that Mobutu's successor, Laurent Kabila, was engaged in the daily routine of running his dictatorship. Seated at one end of a private reception room, Kabila met first with his Finance minister, then with a top official of Congolese television and finally with a deputy cabinet director. According to another cabinet official who was at the palace and gave NEWSWEEK a detailed account of what happened, Kabila had no reason to think he was in imminent danger.Kabila scarcely glanced up when a guard named Rashidi entered the room from an adjacent courtyard. In his late 20s, Rashidi had been a member of the small presidential-guard unit for more than two years. He walked over beside Kabila as if to...

Mbeki's Arms Ache

They first met secretly in June 1998, in a Cape Town coffee shop a few blocks from South Africa's Parliament buildings. Terry Crawford-Browne, a banker turned peace activist, expected questions about his campaign to redirect the new black government's hefty defense budget toward building schools and houses. Instead, he says, a senior government intelligence official spun a tale of high-level malfeasance. The most damning accusation: that associates of well-placed members of the ruling African National Congress stood to reap windfall profits from subcontracts signed under a $6 billion arms deal with Britain, Sweden, Germany and Italy, the result of conflicts of interest. "My eyes were out on stalks," says Crawford-Browne.Under apartheid, the South African arms industry grew notoriously corrupt. Secrecy was the rule as the pariah government sought to maintain its regional dominance in spite of an international arms embargo. Prosecutors still are unraveling some of the allegedly self...

Will The 'Dark Continent' Still Matter?

Africa matters," American U.N. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke declared a year ago. "Its problems must be addressed or they will get worse." As president of the Security Council last January, he backed up those words by staging an unprecedented "month of Africa" devoted to the troubled continent's most pressing crises. Vice President Al Gore declared that the African AIDS epidemic constituted a threat to U.S. security. Former South African president Nelson Mandela set an October deadline for peace in Burundi. Leaders of 10 central African countries, including the erratic Laurent Kabila, promised peace in Congo.It sounds hollow now. Africa's problems only deepened this year. The AIDS pandemic raged unchecked. Burundi's oppressive minority resisted Mandela's browbeating. Congo's war wore on. The world's biggest U.N. mission, in Sierra Leone, broke down. The leaders of South Africa and Nigeria, who had appeared best equipped to help steer the continent toward recovery, both stumbled at...

The Anc's Nasty Wake-Up Call

South Africa makes a habit of breaking the mold. For decades after the sun had set on European colonialism in Africa, descendants of the Dutch settlers who founded Cape Town fought an ugly rear-guard action against democracy. The 1994 election that sealed their defeat was another first. The African National Congress, a liberation movement long backed by Moscow, enshrined the property rights of the ruling class and set about opening the country to international markets. New elections last week may signal another departure--the creation of a two-party African state. The Democratic Alliance, formed this year under the liberal white leader of a party that polled less than 2 percent of the vote in 1994, took nearly a quarter of the votes in elections for newly created local councils--the last constitutional transition of the post-apartheid era. "The ANC has lost sole ownership of the role of agents of change," said DA strategist Ryan Coetzee.In theory, this should be a good thing. DA...

A Bully In His Pulpit

Outside the presidential mansion in Liberia's crumbling capital city, Monrovia, a billboard urges citizens to think big. The author and resident, Charles Taylor, certainly does. "He is very bold--nothing scares him," says an American businessman who knew Taylor back in the 1970s, when he was a cash-strapped student activist in Washington, D.C., leading protests against the Liberian government. In 1990 Taylor took charge of insurgents and, critics say, began recruiting children as soldiers, hooking them on heroin and training them to commit atrocities with routine efficiency. Then, with the presidential elections of 1997, he made a superficial transition from rebel to statesman. His campaign fight song--"It's heat, it's hot, it can't get cold!"--terrified the electorate, people who knew Taylor's methods.As he bullied his way to power, Washington played along. No less an authority than former U.S. president Jimmy Carter, on hand to observe the polling, declared Liberia's...

Breaking The Silence

Like teenagers everywhere, the girls of Khayelitsha Site B understand that breaking up with a boyfriend can be painful. But in this dirt-poor squatter camp on the outskirts of Cape Town, teen love gone sour carries special risks. A jilted boy--or one who suspects his girlfriend is playing the field--will sometimes retaliate by subjecting the girl to group sex with his friends. "They ask you to go somewhere, and the others are all there," says Asanda Sizani, 16, as her friends abandon skipping rope in a dusty field to cluster around a visitor. "Seven or eight boys in a room. They discuss about you, decide among themselves and they line up. They call it ifoli." (Foli means "line.") Another girl chimes in. "If you don't want him, he is going to do it," says Hosipho Jentile, 17. "This is a rape. But only the strongest report it." Adds Sizani: "Most of the girls here get pregnant or they get AIDS."Ifoli may be extreme behavior, practiced by a minority. But the casual manner in which...

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