October 2011 IIJD Newsletter Update

Zambia: Zambians Elect New President; Sata Begins Overhaul of Government. Zambians elected opposition leader, Michael Sata, to the presidency, unseating one-term incumbent Rupiah Banda and his once powerful MMD party. Since being elected, Sata—who campaigned against Banda’s overly conciliatory policies toward Chinese investors, whose increased control of several economic and financial sectors have worried Zambians—has made several major changes to government. Sata removed several officials from major posts, including the heads of Zambia’s anti-corruption body and the country’s central bank. In addition, Sata recently canceled the sale of Zambia’s First Bank to South Africa’s FirstRand, stating his desire for Zambian investment to remain with Zambian investors. He has also initiated an investigation into the sale of Zambian telecommunications company Zamtel to Libya’s LAP Green. 

Egypt: Country’s Military Head Denies Order to Shoot from Mubarak; Free Speech, Democratic Reforms under Attack by Military Rulers. Field Marshal Tantawi testified this month at a closed hearing in the trial of Former President Mubarak. Tantawi’s testimony was seen as crucial to the case against Mubarak, who is being charged with murder. The prosecution claims that Mubarak ordered military and police personnel to fire on unarmed protestors. In a rather controversial turn, Tantawi testified that Mubarak did not give any such order, prompting many to accuse him of protecting his former boss. Criticism of the interim military government has intensified over the past few months, as more than 12,000 protestors and social activists have been tried in military tribunals, some solely for acts of freedom of expression and speech. One blogger, his only charge criticizing the military, has been on a hunger strike for more than a month and is in critical condition. Egyptian prosecutors are also said to be investigating NGOs that allegedly receive foreign funding, seeking to criminally prosecute any NGO operating without restrictive permits that were formerly required under the Mubarak regime.

In addition, civil society groups and political parties have denounced the ruling regime’s new election law banning political parties from contesting a third of parliamentary seats, which under the new law will go to independents. Political parties contend that the rule would allow old regime members to secure positions and thus regain control of the government. Two-thirds of the parliamentary system will follow a proportional representation system. The military government has also come under criticism for re-establishing emergency law following an attack on the Israeli embassy in Cairo.

International Criminal Court to Investigate Crimes against Humanity in Côte d’Ivoire. ICC judges have directed prosecutors to open an investigation into the killings of over 3,000 people during post-election violence in Côte d’Ivoire earlier this year. Independent investigations by human rights groups had already found evidence that both sides committed human rights violations during the political crisis and that President Ouattara’s forces had continued to engage in human rights abuses after Former President Gbagbo’s arrest. Gbagbo and his wife are currently facing charges of corruption in domestic courts.

South Africa: South African Government Refuses Dalai Lama Visa Allegedly under Pressure from Chinese Government. The Dalai Lama was set to attend Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s 80th birthday celebrations on October 6th, but was forced to cancel after the South African government refused him a visitor’s visa. South Africa's Deputy President, Kgalema Motlanthe, had been in China last week, signing a number of bilateral trade and investment deals. Tutu and others have criticized the government’s refusal to issue the visa, calling such political behavior on the part of the government a violation of the country’s democratic constitutional principles. The government has denied acting under pressure of the Chinese, although it has offered no explanation for denying the visa.

Libya: Rebels Launch Offensive on Last Remaining Gaddafi Strongholds. Libyan rebel forces began an assault against Sirte, Gaddafi’s home town, after Sirte leadership and residents refused to surrender. NGOs operating in Sirte have declared a humanitarian emergency, as food and medical supplies run low. Civilians continue to pour out of the city. Meanwhile, the new rebel government, the National Transitional Council (NTC) announced the formation of an interim cabinet; it has promised to hold elections eight months after the end of all military operations. 

Other Developments…

Rwanda: Two Former Ministers Convicted and Sentenced to Prison for War Crimes. Former Public Service Minister Prosper Mugiraneza and his then trade counterpart Justin Mugenzi were convicted of complicity to commit genocide and incitement to commit genocide by the International Criminal Tribunal on Rwanda (ICTR). Two other ministers, Casimir Bizimungu and Jérôme-Clément Bicamumpaka, who had also been tried, were acquitted of the same crimes due to lack of evidence. Mugiraneza and Mugenzi have been sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Kenya: Highly Revered Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai Dies. Kenya's Wangari Muta Maathai, the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize winner, environmentalist and human rights activist, died 25 September at age 71. A mother of three, she devoted her life to promoting the environment and democracy. Maathai was the first African female to win a Nobel Peace Prize and the first woman in East Africa to earn a doctorate in veterinary anatomy, which she obtained from the University of Nairobi. She was awarded a Nobel in 2004 for her work the Green Belt Movement, an NGO she established in 1977 to aid in the fight against poverty and environmental degradation. She mobilized Kenyans, particularly women, to plant more than 30 million trees, and inspired the UN to launch a campaign that has led to the planting of 11 billion trees worldwide. More than 900,000 Kenyan women benefited from her tree-planting campaign by selling seedlings for reforestation. Maathai was an extremely outspoken advocate for the poor and was often vilified by Kenyan officials, including former President Moi and Kenyatta. Under Moi’s regime, she was beaten unconscious by police after organizing protests against Moi’s corrupt land dealings. Maathai was an inspiration to millions of Africans, particularly women. She will be cremated, as per her wishes; in her honor, over 5,000 tree seedlings will be planted countrywide.

Zimbabwe: 700 Foreign Companies Miss Deadline to Present Plan for Transfer of Indigenous Shares. The Zimbabwe government will probe about 700 foreign-owned companies that have missed a deadline to tell the government how they will transfer their majority equity to indigenous people, risking ‘serious consequences,’ that include cancellation or suspension of their operating licenses. Under the controversial economic empowerment law that came into force last year, foreign-owned firms must give at least 51% equity to black Zimbabweans. Those that fail to comply face legal action, which can be withdrawal of their operating licenses.

Zanzibar: Ferry Capsizes and Kills over 200. In early September, a ferry travelling between the islands of Zanzibar and Pemba capsized after being overloaded. Over 200 people were killed; 579 people, including 20 children were rescued. Both the Tanzanian and Zanzibar Presidents called for three days of mourning to commemorate the dead.  https://disqus.com/embed/comments/?base=default&f=iijd&t_u=http%3A%2F%2Fiijd.org%2Fnews%2Fentry%2FOctober-2011-iijd-newsletter-update&t_d=October%202011%20IIJD%20Newsletter%20Update&t_t=October%202011%20IIJD%20Newsletter%20Update&s_o=default#version=88af8d9914348537252d7500932cb936