News and Comment: last weekend of March roundup

Spanish Court Weighs Inquiry on Torture for 6 Bush-Era Officials from the NY Times.  Judge Baltasar Garzon is at it again. He was the Spanish judge who ordered the arrrest of former Chilean dictator Pinochet. He also has looked into the activities of Basque separatists and the executions of the Franco era.  This time, due to the fact that some Spanish citizens or residents were detained at Gauntanamo, Spain can claim some jurisdiction.  It will be interesting to see how far this goes.

Staying in Touch Internationally, on the Cheap from the NY Times. Includes some great ideas for using cell phones while traveling internationally.  One option it mentions is Google Voice, which has taken over from Grand Central (a service I signed up for early on but never followed through on).  This could really make things easy for those of us who travel abroad.

The African Export-Import Bank talks up the potential benefits of South-South trade. But Botswana’s Minister of Finance and Development Planning complains about how Africa is “marginalised and patronised” during the current financial crisis.

Finally, Zimbabwe retains its pariah status as the US continues sanctions. It may not help that Mugabe remains n power and continues to act friendly towards exiled former Ethiopian dictator Mengistu.

 


News and Comment: South Africa does what China wants?

The BBC (see below) is reporting that the South African government may be bowing to pressure from China in its decision to block the Dalai Lama’s entry. If true (and what other reason could there be?), it is yet another signal that doing business with China carries its own conditions.  And if South Africa cannot stand up to such pressures, what other African states can?

clipped from news.bbc.co.uk

South Africa ‘blocks’ Dalai Lama

Dalai Lama

The Dalai Lama was due at a peace conference this week

The South African government has defended its decision to deny entry to the Dalai Lama, amid charges it is bowing to pressure from China.

The Tibetan spiritual leader was due to attend a peace meeting in Johannesburg this week, along with fellow Nobel laureates Desmond Tutu and FW de Klerk.

But the authorities have not granted an entry visa, saying the invitation did not come from official channels.

Archbishop Tutu has threatened to pull out of the conference over the issue.

Speculation is rife in the local media that the government caved in to pressure from Beijing.

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Johnnie Carson, nominee for top Africa job at State Department

On Friday, Johnnie Carson became Obama’s official nominee for US Assistant Secretary for African Affairs at the State Department (via allAfrica.com). A number of observers have worried about how long it took him to name someone to this post, that it is an indication of Africa’s low priority in the Obama administration.  But the choice itself demonstrates that Obama has decided to select someone with a long diplomatic history with the the continent (beginning as a Peace Corps volunteer in Tanzania and including ambassadorships to Kenya, Zimbabwe and Uganda).

What, exactly, does Carson’s nomination signal?  At least one blogger has mused that Carson could be tough on Museveni in Uganda, perhaps promoting a pro-democracy agenda there.  Yet another observer seems concerned that the choice signals a lack of intention on the part of the Obama administration to effectively deal with the crisis in the DRC.

Carson seems to me to be a strong choice. He has great experience with the continent and will likely be respected by most African leaders.  But he is also a safe choice.  It is unclear that the Obama administration is making any significant move to change US policy in the region. It would be nice, for instance, if we saw (as one of the observers mentioned above has opined) a special envoy for the crisis in the DRC.