KAMPALA, Uganda — As a young bride from a village in Uganda, Annet Nyakisiki never imagined she might one day be the sole breadwinner for an HIV-positive family. But while she was a virgin at the time of her marriage, her husband, 10 years her senior, was not. There is no way to know exactly when he contracted the AIDS virus, but he did. He subsequently spread it to her, and all four of their children would eventually be born with the disease. “When I found out that we were all positive, I thought, We have no future,” admits Nyakisiki, […]

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South Africa faces an uncertain future in the aftermath of a tumultuous week that culminated in President Thabo Mbeki agreeing to step down sooner than his already announced departure date in 2009. Mbeki’s decision came at the recommendation of the governing body of the African National Congress, the country’s dominant political party, following a scandal surrounding his government’s interference in the attempted prosecution of ANC President (and Mbeki rival) Jacob Zuma on charges of corruption. A South African judge dismissed the case against Zuma last week, prompting Mbeki’s rivals within the ANC to push for his early ouster. While Mbeki […]

In the wake of last week’s power sharing agreement signed by Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe and rival opposition leaders Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara, questions have arisen as to what kind of government this unlikely alliance will produce, who will hold the balance of power within it, and whether it is even workable in the long-term. On the face of it, the three parties — Mugabe’s ZANU-PF, Tsvangirai’s MDC and Mutambara’s splinter MDC faction — look irreconcilably split on a number of key issues. The MDC’s economic plan, for instance, calls for changes of leadership in key positions, as well […]

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POLAND’S LAST COMMUNIST LEADERS IN THE DOCK — The Warsaw district court opened proceedings last Friday against former Communist Party Chairman Wojciech Jaruzelski and six other high-ranking former communist officials. They are charged for their roles in the declaration and maintenance of martial law in 1981, which resulted in mass arrests and politically motivated murders. Lawyers for Jaruzelski, 84, argued the declaration was a defensive move designed to prevent a Soviet invasion in response to the Solidarity union movement’s growing people power, but rights advocates have long decried the large scale abuses that occurred in the approximate 18 months Poland […]

Read Part I and Part II of this series. As European cocaine use has increased, heightened sea interdiction by the U.S. and the EU has pushed more traditional transatlantic cocaine trafficking routes — and their profits — further south in the Americas, making Venezuela and Brazil, via West Africa, Europe’s main suppliers of cocaine. While it is unknown exactly how much of the estimated 250 metric tons of cocaine that enters the EU by sea or air each year arrives from Africa, it is believed that the cocaine smuggled across the continent’s fragile Western region has a street value of […]

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Read Part 1 of this series. Late last year, four French tourists were gunned down in Mauritania where they were picnicking by a roadside on Christmas Eve, prompting the cancellation of the 2008 Lisbon-Dakar Rally. Identified as an al-Qaida “sleeper cell” by local officials, the two shooters were later picked up in Guinea-Bissau, where it was revealed that one of the men had lived there for two years and spoke the local Creole language. The two men, along with three suspected accomplices, all Mauritanian nationals, were later deported to their home country. But the inability of law enforcement to function […]

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Stepped up U.S. drug enforcement and interdiction in Latin America, coupled with a falling dollar and a surging demand for cocaine on the streets of Europe, is leading to political and economic chaos across West Africa, where international narco-traffickers have established their most recent, and lucrative, staging grounds. In fact, the drug trade is fast turning large parts of the region into areas that are all but ungovernable — with major implications for international security. “The former Gold Coast is turning into the Coke Coast,” said a 2008 report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). “The […]

ON THE MARGIN — As usual, Washington’s foreign ambassadors went to the two conventions in force. Though they pay their own way, they are officially guests of the political parties, which corral them into a assigned areas to witness the proceedings, limit their access to the delegates’ portion of the floor to a few group visits, and organize programs of activities outside the convention itself. At the Republican Convention this week, the ambassadors’ schedule (interspersed with the occasional policy conference) included a visit to an ethanol production plant in Winthrop, Minn., and a tour of Minnesota Lt. Gov. Carol Molnau’s […]

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In the Sergio Leone-inspired, and admittedly simplistic, formulation of the above headline, Iraq is the good, Somalia is the bad, and Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) are the ugly. The must-read from today’s media roundup of commentary concerns Iraq and comes from CNAS’s Nagl, Kahl and Brimley. The three analysts recently returned from Iraq advise policymakers on “How to Exit Iraq,” saying the answer has little to do with “‘all in’ or ‘all out’ way that Iraq is debated in Washington” at the moment. The most worrying piece of analysis I saw in today’s papers assesses U.S. and Ethiopian […]

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Seen from space Saudi Arabia looks like a chunk of reddish clay chiseled from a vast slab linking the Arabian Gulf in the east to the Atlantic coast of Mauritania in the west. This desert-like landscape, stretching almost 5,000 miles across the Middle East, stands in stark relief to the green, fertile lands of Turkey and Europe to the north and the central African jungles of Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo to the south. However, looking closer, from the perspective of an airplane flying over the kingdom, one would notice that the great sand sea of Saudi Arabia […]