Briefs – February 2004

Image: Flickr, Gideon
Image: Flickr, Gideon

Withering Husks: Poor rains in Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa will drastically affect maize yields this year, relief agencies warned.


Tanzania had already planned to import about $3,6 million worth of maize from Kenya, which now expects its own crop failures.

Out of favour: Concern about Zambia’s apparent lack of fiscal discipline has led the International Monetary Fund to suspend debt relief to the Southern African country. The IMF said that President Levy Mwanawasa had placed unbudgeted expenditures ahead of priority areas such as poverty-eradication and HIV/Aids.

A go at Agoa: African trade ministers expressed concern that poor infrastructure was hampering the ability of their countries to take full advantage of the US African Growth and Opportunity Act. At the third US-Africa Trade and Economic Cooperation Forum at the end of 2003, the ministers sought inclusion of more African countries in the agreement, new provisions ensuring greater access for African companies to US markets and an extension of the Act to 2015. AGOA, which eliminates US import barriers for some African countries exporting selected products, expires in 2008.


A step beyond anarchy: The main warlords and political factions of Somalia signed a deal in January 2004 to set up a parliament that will elect the country’s first president in 13 years. This agreement, following a year of talks in neighbouring Kenya, has been hailed as a fragile but important step toward ending 13 years of violent statelessness in the East African country.

Justice deferred: Defence lawyers went on strike in late January 2004, disrupting proceedings at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha, Tanzania. At the time of the strike, retired Lt. Gen. Romeo Dallaire, the former commander of UN peacekeeping troops prior to the 1994 genocide, in which the Hutu government incited the slaughter of 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus, testified that the UN Security Council and Western powers ignored his warnings of an impending ethnic massacre. Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who was head of the UN peacekeeping operations in 1994, has called for the creation of a commission that will prevent genocides from taking place.

Hitting where it hurts: A year after promising to devote $15 billion to fight HIV/Aids in Africa, US President George Bush plans to scale back from that pledge due to domestic economic constraints, according to a report in The New York Times. US contributions to the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria will decrease from $550 million to $200 million in the 2005 financial year, the paper reported.

Thorn of Africa: If Ethiopia and Eritrea continue to dishonour the ruling of the boundary commission, which gave the disputed border town of Badme to Eritrea, the US could impose sanctions on both countries. Ethiopia, refusing to accept the ruling, has threatened to plunge the neighbouring states back into conflict. A bloody two-year conflict between the countries, which ended in a stalemate in 2000, involved trench warfare on a scale not seen since World War II.

eAfrica, Volume 2, February 2004