Rights & Wrongs: Slovakia, Trafficking, Uganda, and More

SLOVAKIA LAW SEEN AS DANGER TO PRESS FREEDOM — As of June 1, anyone mentioned in a Slovak newspaper article will be entitled to a rebuttal in the same publication, according to provisions of a new law that has angered media freedom advocates and raised fears that official and self-censorship may be the law’s result. Under the law, anyone who objects to the use of their name in an article may complain to newspaper editors, who then will be responsible for printing a response by the complainer to the original reference, unless the paper can convince a court it is […]

Though international policy analysts — past and present — have lavished attention on arms races, oil wars, blood diamonds, and other such sources of insecurity, few have spilled ink on an issue that now threatens global stability: the rising cost of grain. No surprise. Arms races have been the subject of Star Wars and James Bond movies, and conflict over diamonds carried the story in “Blood Diamond,” with the dashing Leonardo DiCaprio and the luscious Jennifer Connelly. Writing about rice and wheat is just not as sexy. But average food prices have risen 45 percent in the past nine months. […]

No Letup in Darfur

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing yesterday on the ongoing crisis in Darfur, where solutions seem hard to come by, measures already in place seem ineffective, and the conditions on the ground remain horrifying. I tend not to give this conflict the attention it deserves, mainly out of discouragement. Kudos to Joe Biden for keeping it in the spotlight. There’s a lot of suffering being inflicted, and the only hope of ever resolving the multiple conflicts that are causing it is if we don’t forget that.

Last week the U.S. Navy amphibious ship Fort McHenry quietly slipped into the harbor at U.S. Naval Station Rota, Spain, near the Strait of Gibraltar, ending a six-month deployment to the West African coast. The 16,000-ton vessel’s mission, though largely unheralded, signaled a sea change in the Navy’s strategy. During its October-to-April cruise, Fort McHenry visited 19 ports in 10 countries, from Liberia to Senegal, supporting scientists, aid workers and military trainers from the U.S. and allied militaries — and delivering half a million meals to starving families. The Pentagon calls the vessel’s mix of training, diplomacy, science and humanitarian […]

No Safe Harbor

That Chinese cargo boat carrying weapons bound for Zimbabwe has now been turned away by Mozambique and South Africa, with a gathering campaign now focused on keeping it from docking on the African continent: The International Transport Workers Federation says it has asked its members across Africa not to help unload the An Yue Jiang, which is reportedly carrying three million rounds of ammunition, 1,500 rocket-propelled grenades and 2,500 mortar rounds. Namibia and Angola have been mentioned as possible alternatives for getting the weapons into Robert Mugabe’s hands, but American pressure is reportedly being applied to keep that from happening. […]

U.N. TO CLOSE ANGOLA OFFICES — United Nations officials announced April 18 the world body will close its Angola offices by the end of May at the request of Angolan authorities, who no longer wish to cooperate with the U.N. on formulating a comprehensive human rights policy. Angola, which is still struggling to recover from more than two decades of warfare that ended in 2002, has used growing oil revenues to insulate itself from Western criticism of its rights situation and to lay big plans for its own development. Human rights groups and U.N. officials, however, have expressed grave concerns […]

As the value of the dollar continues to decline relative to other currencies, some of those most affected don’t even live in the United States. Instead, they are citizens of developing countries who receive remitted dollars from family and friends working abroad. For them, the weakening dollar is particularly crippling because it either converts into less local currency or, for those in countries with pegged currencies, can’t keep up with local inflation. It’s a situation roughly similar to American travelers in Europe discovering that it now costs $4.77 for a Big Mac, whereas a year and a half ago the […]

This month marks the 14th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, which is commonly considered to have begun on April 6, 1994. One aspect of the genocide that has received little attention in English-language media is the close relations that existed between the French military and the armed forces of the “Hutu Power” Rwandan government. In collaboration with the pro-government Interahamwe militias, Rwandan army officials are held to have been largely responsible for organizing the massacres perpetrated against the Tutsi civilian population and moderate Hutu from April to July 1994. The massacres are estimated to have claimed some 800,000 lives. They […]

FORMER SLAVE SUES NIGER GOVERNMENT — Former slave Hadijatou Mani has sued the government of Niger, charging cruelty for its failure to protect her from exploitation. Mani, now 24, says she was sold into slavery at the age of 12 for just over $500 to a slave master who later sexually abused her. The case — being heard by the court of the Economic Community of West African States — is based on the government’s failure to enforce aspects of its own 2003 law banning slavery. The court has said it will announce a verdict in October. While slavery is […]

India-Africa Summit

It didn’t get much notice, but the first India-Africa Summit just wrapped up in Delhi today with the adoption of the Delhi Declaration and the Africa-India Framework for Cooperation. The biggest news to come out of the summit, which included delegations from 14 African countries, was India PM Manmohan Singh’s announcement of tariff-free market access for products comprising 92.5% of Least Developed Countries’ exports (34 of 50 LCD’s are in Africa), but the Framework is also noteworthy for the ambitious agenda it lays out for Indian economic and political involvement on the continent. Among other things, it includes a Post […]

On April 8, Egyptians will go to the polls for the first time in three years. Millions will vote to fill 52,000 seats in 4,500 municipal councils at the village, district, and provincial level. This election season, however, most Egyptians are focused less on political issues and more on matters of daily survival. In Egypt, a country where the president has ruled for more than a quarter of a century, free and fair elections are a rarity. The country held its first multi-candidate presidential elections in 2005. The following year, a stronger than anticipated performance by the Muslim Brotherhood in […]