North Korea

North Korea
The always bombastic and unpredictable North Koreans go hysterical again. This time the country is prepared to "go to war" with South Korea because that country is playing loudspeakers directed at North Korean territory. A headline from a UK paper reads, "More than 50 North Korea submarines 'leave their bases' as war talks with South continue "

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

South Sudan, Congo and Mali

Three African countries are in the news this week - none of the reasons are particularly inspiring.

South Sudan - now one year old (July 9, 2011 independence day) is embroiled in a tense, violent confrontation with its parent nation, the Republic of Sudan. After repeated clashes along an undefined and oil-rich border, and arguments and accusations regarding payments for oil shipped north through the Republic of Sudan, South Sudan suspended oil shipments altogether in the past few months. Now South Sudan is struggling without 95% of its revenues from producing oil, and the Republic of Sudan is without 75% of its revenues based on shipping South Sudanese oil. For a while, there were concerns that a full scale war was about to erupt between the two, but that possibility has receded for the time being.

South Sudan, with a lot of oil, and Republic of Sudan owning the only pipeline out to the world market. The two countries haven't solved their issues yet.

In the past week, however, international relief agencies have noted an increasingly dire situation with much of South Sudan's population. Without the government's ability to purchase food internationally (grain), pockets of food shortages are erupting. In the northern Republic of Sudan, significant protests among Khartoum residents have also occurred due to lack of government services.

Both leaders walking together. Republic of Sudan's Bashir wanted for genocide by the International Criminal Court situated in The Hague, Netherlands; South Sudan's Salva Kiir in a cowboy hat.

So, not much of a year to point back to, the question is not only whether South Sudan's 8.2 million population has kept its firm resolve to move forward together, but if they can.

South Sudanese girls overlooking Juba, South Sudan's largest city, and temporary capitol.

Republic of the Congo

Not to be confused with its much larger and [in]famous neighbor, the Democratic Republic of Congo, this French-speaking West African country has a population of 4 million and its capitol city is Brazzaville.

Click on image for full picture
Republic of the Congo and its larger neighbor, the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Interestingly, (from Wikipedia) "the Republic of the Congo's sparse population is concentrated in the southwestern portion of the country, leaving the vast areas of tropical jungle in the north virtually uninhabited. Thus, Congo is one of the most urbanized countries in Africa, with 70% of its total population living in a few urban areas, namely in Brazzaville, Pointe-Noire, or one of the small cities or villages lining the 534-kilometre (332 mi) railway which connects the two [main] cities."

The railroad along which 70% of Congo's population lives ...

The impoverished country (wealthy in mineral resources and timber - unable to exploit them for the good of the whole ...)made the news this week when a former warlord, Thomas Lubanga was sentenced to 14 years in prison for using child soldiers during 2002-2003 when the country was engulfed in a civil war - a local conflict within the wider DR Congo war, which left an estimated five million people dead - mostly from hunger and disease.

Thomas Lubanga in the International Criminal Court sentencing proceedings this past week.

In March, Lubanga became the first person to be convicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) since it was set up 10 years ago. Lubanga led the Union of Congolese Patriots, an ethnic militia active in the war that is estimated to have killed 60,000 people. Conflicts continue in the two Congolese countries, ripples still occurring nearly two decades later after the Rwandan genocide unleashed violence throughout Central Africa.

Mali

Mali - now divided between rebels and a tenuous government in the south. The rebels themselves (ethnic Tuaregs and those with a predominately Islamist perspective) have joined forces to create an Islamist state.

The new Islamic state - Azawad - apparently considers ancient Muslim shrines as anathema, and its new leaders have duplicated action taken by the Taliban in Afghanistan when that movement took control of the country in the late 1990s. In the case of the Taliban, its forces destroyed a massive world-heritage Buddha image carved into a mountainside. In the case of the "Islamists of Ansar Dine," they too are destroying world-heritage status religious shrines.

This Buddha image was heavily damaged with direct shelling by the Taliban 13-14 years ago.

Ancient Muslim shrines in Timbuktu are the latest relics deemed offensive to the the Northern Mali's new leaders, supported by Al Qaeda, who have apparently gained the upper hand over the Tuaregs, according to the New York Times.

Strange and sad stories from Africa.

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