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Troops blamed for mass graves in Ivory Coast..

Government forces in Ivory Coast have been accused by the United Nations of a spate of extra-judicial killings targeting supporters of former president Laurent Gbagbo, including a 17-month old baby.

Mass graves have been discovered in an opposition neighbourhood of the business capital Abidjan. The UN mission recorded 26 killings, as well as rapes and illegal arrests in the past month. The reported reprisals will add to concerns that the internationally supported new leader, Alassane Ouattara, has broken promises over reconciliation in the deeply divided West African nation where a contested election led to civil war this year.

The new government must avoid becoming drunk with power in the manner of its predecessors," said Gilles Yabi, from International Crisis Group. "There must be justice for all if there is to be no repeat of disasters of the last two decades.

Mr Ouattara, a former IMF economist, took power in April with the military backing of France and controversial air strikes by a UN peacekeeping force under the guise of protecting civilians. Mr Gbagbo, who refused to cede power after narrowly losing a presidential run-off against Mr Ouattara last November, was eventually battered into submission and dragged from his bunker.

The post-election fighting in Ivory Coast displaced hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom are afraid to return to their homes because of the government-backed militias, according to Amnesty International. The rights watchdog said ethnic killings and abuses continued after President Ouattara came to power.

A number of leading figures from the Gbagbo regime are facing trial for alleged crimes committed while in power, but so far none of Mr Ouattara’s backers has been arrested despite compelling evidence of human-rights abuses.

The [UN] has documented 26 cases of extra-judicial killings, 85 arbitrary arrests and 11 cases of rape," said Guillaume Ngefa, the peacekeeping mission’s human-rights officer. He said that eight mass graves had been uncovered in Youpougon, a Gbagbo stronghold in Abidjan.

On Thursday, Ivorian security forces arrested 57 soldiers from the former regime – all accused of war crimes committed against Ouattara supporters.

"The risk is that now they have the majority, they start to say that they don’t need the rest of the country to rule," said Crisis Group’s Gilles Yabi. "That would be a mistake: Ivory Coast needs an inclusive government and that means justice for all.

Much of Mr Ouattara’s support comes from the north of the country in areas controlled by the rebel Forces Nouvelles. A four-month stand-off followed Mr Gbagbo’s refusal to cede power before rebels allied to the election winner swept south.

For mile after dusty mile, the land was not just parched but burned out. All shades of brown and yellow sand, crisp grey thorn bushes, and pools of deep red dust billowed up in great waves, as we ploughed through the dirt road like a ship in a storm.

On our way, we passed an abandoned borehole. We found nothing but the bleached bones of livestock. We stopped at the village to ask why. Alfon stepped forward and told us that her own camel was in the bush nearby, too weak to walk.

This stoic old woman with eight children to feed, took us through the scrub to the slowly dying animal. It had collapsed in the feeble shade of another thorn-bush, moaning softly when Alfon stooped to scratch its neck.

For all her crusty exterior, Alfon almost broke down when she explained how the female camel, who she called “Dup Muthow, had given her and her children milk for years.

But Dup hadn’t had a decent drink for months. The camel looked as though it would be lucky to survive the night.

The tragedy here is that this crisis is as much man-made as it is natural. The meteorologists have blamed the prolonged dry-spell on the “la Nina” phenomenon - when cooler-than-normal ocean currents cycle through the Pacific Ocean.

But out here, they also blame the government.

Alfon told us that the pump that drew water her village borehole broke down about a month ago. The government had since been promising to fix it .”

By Peter Greste (East Africa’s Dust Bowl)« Read Full ..

Somali men carry a severely malnourished child, under the instruction of a African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) peacekeeper, from a camp for internally displaced people to the peacekeeping operations headquarters where the child was admitted for emergency medical treatment, in this handout photograph provided by the African Union-United Nations Information Support Team, in Mogadishu July 15, 2011. 
REUTERS/Stuart Price/AU-UN IST PHOTO

Map of Africa just before World War I……
The continent of Africa was the cradle of human life.
Each stage in the development of humankind can be traced in the African record.
The ancient civilization of Egypt flourished there.
In the classical world of Greece and Rome, Africa was regarded as a source of wisdom.

Many great yet viable kingdoms and states once thrived on the African continent. Much of South and Central Africa’s history took place in comparative isolation from the rest of the world, while sub-Saharan Africa traded with the North Mediterranean and North East Africa traded with the Middle East and with India.

European attitudes towards Africa changed with the Christianization of Europe so that by the Middle Ages, Africa became associated with darkness and heathen religious practices.

In 1454 and 1483, the Pope ceded much of Africa to the emerging maritime colonial powers, Spain and Portugal. In the nineteenth century, the northern European colonial powers divided the rest of Africa among themselves. 

Exploitation followed of the continent’s wealth and people, with few resources being invested for the continent’s own benefit.

The decolonization process during the twentieth century saw the emergence of nation-states with artificial borders, often crossing tribal boundaries and with limited infrastructure.

Political instability and economic crises characterized much of Africa during the second half of the twentieth century.
Presidents tended to be “for life” and political freedom was rare. However, such leaders led countries that lacked a solid civil society foundation upon which democracy could be built.
Many of these authoritarian leaders accumulated vast fortunes for themselves while they impoverished their countries and increased their countries’ financial indebtedness to the West.

At the beginning of the 21st century, it could be argued, European nations began to accept some moral responsibility for the plight of Africa due to centuries of exploitation and underdevelopment and to make its development a political priority.

For many, Africa represents a moral challenge to humanity and a test of humanity’s commitment to create a more just, more equitable world.

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