ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast — Not long ago, the thought of President Laurent Gbagbo and rebel New Forces leader Guillaume Soro serving in the same government seemed absurd. In 2002, Soro’s rebels attempted to overthrow Gbagbo’s regime, which they called discriminatory because it viewed northerners, including those who served in the army, as non-Ivorians. A civil war then erupted in what was once West Africa’s most stable and prosperous country. Gbagbo deployed military force to crush the rebels — his loyalists sneered they were armed bandits controlled by France — who seized Bouake, the country’s second-largest city. When the fighting subsided, […]

The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Deserves a Fresh Look

WASHINGTON — Eight years ago, the Senate declined to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) following President Clinton’s signature and endorsement. Even today, though, many lawmakers, analysts, and voters continue to push for it and the treaty remains on the calendar of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. As nuclear politics have increased in importance — especially following developments in Iran and North Korea — Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) is reportedly attempting to revive a debate on the treaty by attaching a “sense of Congress” resolution to the annual defense authorization bill, now being considered in Congress, which will express […]

HIRED GUNS IN IRAQ — Two years ago, the United Nations set up the U.N. Working Group on the Use of Mercenaries, hoping to discourage the use of private armies, and to push more nations to sign the 1989 U.N. Mercenary Convention. Mercenaries in the classic definition of proxy fighters are not very much in evidence these days, but the United Nations has broadened the term to include hired guns for protection — and that business is booming. Some 48,000 foreign civilians are employed as security guards in Iraq alone, where they provide protection for government officials, businessmen, journalists, industrial […]

Paradoxically, the Libyan supreme court’s verdict Wednesday confirming the death sentences of five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor found guilty of infecting children with the AIDS virus may be the beginning of the end of their eight-year ordeal and not the final step towards their death. The five nurses — Snazhana Dimitrova, Nasya Nenova, Valya Cherveniashka, Valentina Siropulo, and Kristina Valcheva, and the Palestinian doctor, Ashram Juma Hajuj, were arrested in 1999 and charged with injecting 438 children with HIV-tainted blood in a hospital in the Libyan coastal town of Benghazi. Fifty-six of the children have since died. At […]

African heads of state displayed their disconnection with reality when they met in Accra, Ghana, June 25 to July 3 to talk shop about an idea tritely called the “United States of Africa.” Libyan President Moammar Gadhafi led the charge. He has fruitlessly spent copious energy and resources flogging the idea, originated by Ghana’s first president Kwame Nkrumah, an incurable Pan-Africanist. Not surprisingly, the meeting yielded no concrete commitments toward a united African government. It served as a searing reminder of how far ahead of his time Nkrumah was when he championed the idea in the 1960s. The African Union’s […]

Editor’s Note: Rights & Wrongs is a weekly column on the world’s major human rights-related happenings. It is written by regular WPR contributor Juliette Terzieff. MEDICS’ DEATH PENALTY CONVICTION UPHELD — The Libyan Supreme Court decided Wednesday to uphold earlier convictions of five Bulgarian nurses and one Palestinian doctor on charges of intentionally infecting over 400 Libyan children with the HIV/AIDS virus. The court’s ruling was widely expected and — as it signals the official end to the appeals process — paves the way for an out-of-court settlement to financially compensate the children’s families and bring an end to the […]

LONDON – Three militia generals found guilty for their roles in Sierra Leone’s brutal civil war are expected to be sentenced Monday in the first step towards winding down the four-year, $90 million proceedings at the ad hoc war crimes tribunal. “The AFRC committed untold horrors — mutilations, rapes, massacres, abductions — throughout the towns and villages of Sierra Leone,” Human Rights Watch researcher Corinne Dufka told WPR, who herself documented scores of cases of abuse by those under the command of the generals in custody. “They effectively waged war against the civilian population, leaving a trail of loss and […]

A strange but very revealing little spat broke out between Israel and the Arab League in recent days. On the surface, the disagreement over the most minor of issues looks less than trivial. What shows through its thin cloth, however, is one of the most insidious reasons why peace between Israel and Arabs has remained so stubbornly elusive. Here is what happened: In what was undeniably a landmark event, the 22-member Arab League decided on July 8 to send a delegation to Israel for discussions about peace prospects. Israelis could hardly contain their excitement. For decades the Arab League stood […]

President Bush’s meeting with Vladimir Putin last week found U.S.-Russian relations in a far different state than six years ago, when President Putin was the first leader to call the Oval Office and pledge his support following September 11. While there is yet no real basis for proclaiming a new Cold War, a long list of thorny issues includes sanctions against Iran, location of the proposed U.S. missile defense system, and the unresolved question of Kosovar independence. Perhaps the most important recent change U.S.-Russian relations, however, is Russia’s much greater reluctance to support the Bush administration’s Middle East and Europe […]

MEXICO CITY — Mexican President Felipe Calderon took office last December promising to create jobs, crack down on drug traffickers, improve infrastructure and reduce rampant inequality. But any progress towards tackling these national priorities hinges on a much more mundane topic — tax policy. This is why Calderon’s recent fiscal reform initiative, currently being discussed by a Mexican congressional committee, is a crucial test. To make his promises reality, he needs more money, and improving the nation’s anemic tax collection is the only solution. “It’s pretty clear that we don’t raise enough revenue to do all the things we want […]

Editor’s Note: Corridors of Power is written by veteran foreign correspondent and World Politics Review Editor-at-Large Roland Flamini and appears every Monday. FOREIGN OPINION ON LIBBY — Lewis “Scooter” Libby is the Paris Hilton of Washington politics. Luckily for him, his local sheriff was more powerful than Hilton’s sheriff, and the commuting of his sentence can’t be reversed, as hers was. That view is scattered through foreign (and for that matter, domestic) editorial comment on President Bush’s decision last week to quash Libby’s jail time. Other points widely made were (1) that Vice-President Cheney’s disgraced chief-of-staff had lied to the […]

Editor’s Note: For more, watch our Web cast with Luke Hunt in Hong Kong. HONG KONG — When Britain’s Prince Charles shook hands with then-Chinese leader Jiang Zemin and farewelled an empire, opinion was firmly divided over how Hong Kong would prosper under an estranged motherland. The optimists predicted democracy, unparalleled wealth and autonomy. Hong Kong would thrive as a center for commerce, the gateway to China and prove itself truly independent and international. Others were far less generous, forecasting the territory would become “just another Chinese city” dictated to by Communist authorities in Beijing who had only a scant […]

Editor’s Note: Rights & Wrongs is a weekly column covering the world’s major human rights-related happenings. It is written by regular WPR contributor Juliette Terzieff and appears every Friday. ICRC BREAKS SILENCE OVER BURMA — In an extremely rare move, the International Committee of the Red Cross June 29 issued a harsh public censure of the Burmese government over systematic human right abuses of civilians and detainees, including forced relocations, arbitrary detentions and murder. “The ICRC has repeatedly drawn attention to these abuses but the authorities have failed to put a stop to them. . . . The continuing deadlock […]

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