August 1, 2007

News You Might Have Missed * Vol. 6, No. 31

Important but overlooked news from around the world.

QUOTED:

“Even today people call us the Janjaweed. They won’t say it to our faces, but when our backs are turned they call after us.”

— Zakaria Yacoub, an Arab village chief in Chad, on the ripple effects of violence in Darfur (see “Sudan,” below).

CONTENTS:

*Top Stories*
Iraqi politicians fear U.S. pullout
Pentagon delayed bomb-proof cars
Officials praise cabbie’s plan for China’s water

*Zimbabwe*
Crises in climax

*Sudan*
You can’t go home again


TOP STORIES

Iraqi Politicians Fear U.S. Pullout

While Congress debates (or refuses to debate) a withdrawal timeline for Iraq, most Sunni and Shia Arab parties in the Iraqi parliament are getting nervous at the prospect of losing the protective presence of U.S. troops.

A Sunni-led group called the Iraqi Accord Front has reversed its earlier position, which was for an immediate U.S. withdrawal.

Leaving now, the group says, would shift power to “outlaws” and send Iraq “back to the middle ages.”

[The Associated Press reported today that the “Accordance Front” has since announced its withdrawal from the Iraqi government over failure to disband militias and other security measures.]

Only parliament members allied with Muqtada al-Sadr still advocate for an immediate pull-out, which some analysts attribute to the fact that Sadr’s allies have enough power to overwhelm the weak Iraqi Army and take over.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki seems to disagree with officials in parliament, saying last month that U.S. troops could leave “any time.” An aide rushed to clarify that he meant Iraqi troops should be trained and fortified as U.S. troops withdrew.

Pentagon Delayed Bomb-Proof Cars

Roadside bombs are the No. 1 killer of U.S. troops in Iraq, but the No. 1 security solution — obtaining a fleet of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, or MRAPs, to protect against such explosives — was pushed aside by Pentagon officials until early this year, reports USA Today.

The Marines requested the first 27 MRAPs in December 2003, followed by commanders and the Pentagon’s own staff.

But military brass repeatedly shelved the appeals for the larger and heavier vehicles, preferring to add armor to Humvees at a lesser cost.

The Pentagon did, however, deliver 400 MRAPs to Iraqi forces. An estimated 1,500 U.S. troops have died from roadside bombs.

Although a former general who chaired the Joint Chiefs of Staff denies ever receiving a request for MRAPs, building and delivering the vehicles in Iraq is now the military’s top priority, at a cost of $2.7 billion.

Officials Praise Cabbie’s Plan for China’s Water

Chinese officials say a Beijing cab driver’s proposal on how to increase natural rainfall in north China is on the right track.

Environmental officials solicited public proposals on what went wrong with China’s once-abundant water supply. Liu Zhenxiang’s theory, borne out by science, is that a lack of groundwater means not enough water evaporates to bring rain.

China’s reservoirs are a recipe for disaster, he argues, because they trap water rather than letting it flow naturally in rivers.

Not only have residents over-exploited their groundwater, Liu said, but planners have been controlling it with destructive artificial river canals and wetlands have been lost to development.

According to Chinadialogue.net, officials took well to Liu’s solution, which involves holding more surface water through reforestation and the construction of wetlands and pools on rural farmland.

Elsewhere in China, rural communities have flourished as towns replaced straight channels with meandering rivers and created overflow lakes in the wet season, leading to increased agriculture and commerce.

Sources:

“Shia and Sunni MPs fear American withdrawal”
Institute for War & Peace Reporting, July 20, 2007

“Sunni Arab bloc quits Iraqi government”
Associated Press, August 1, 2007

“Pentagon balked at pleas from officers in field for safer vehicles”
USA Today, July 15, 2007

“China’s drought: a taxi driver’s response”
Chinadialogue.net, July 27, 2007


ZIMBABWE

Crises In Climax

With inflation at over 4,500 percent and hospitals, water, power and food access close to collapse, Zimbabwe faces its worst crisis since independence from Britain, reports the Associated Press.

In June, the government of President Robert Mugabe accused store owners of fueling the inflation and ordered 50 percent price cuts on commodities such as bread, eggs and milk. Some stores are now refusing to re-order because prices are so low.

Many Zimbabweans are coping with the food shortage by traveling to South Africa for goods, but Mugabe’s government will soon put a stop to that with a new law to limiting the import of food.

Thousands of other Zimbabweans are simply leaving the country, looking for work and housing in South Africa. Often, they are forced to return when they discover there is neither.

Desperate for food, some people have begun to eat dogs. Mugabe’s proposed solution to the crisis is to print more money.

Politically, Zimbabwe’s opposition faces its greatest challenge to date.

Archbishop Pius Ncube, the most vocal and well-known Mugabe critic in the country, is being sued for adultery by a man who insists the cleric slept with his wife.

Government television ran graphic footage allegedly showing Ncube and the woman, and state-run newspapers have attacked the archbishop.

His followers have risen up to support Ncube against what they believe is a state-backed plot to discredit him and his cause.

Reform campaigners and members of the official opposition have faced severe beatings and arrests after staging peaceful demonstrations throughout the country.

Several were hospitalized after a demonstration last week.

Elsewhere, lack of evidence forced police to release 34 opposition activists they had accused of planning a bomb attack after five months in jail.

Sources:

“Archbishop Ncube ‘not alone'”
Agence France-Presse, July 25, 2007

“Hungry Zimbabweans urged to eat dogs”
South African Press Association, July 26, 2007

“Judge: Zimbabwean police faked evidence”
Associated Press, July 26, 2007

“Hungry Zimbabweans flock to South Africa”
Australian Broadcasting Corporation, July 27, 2007

“Mugabe says will print more money if there isn’t enough”
Associated Press, July 28, 2007


SUDAN

You Can’t Go Home Again

Driven by environmental pressures and ethnic divisions, the violence in Darfur is reaching across borders to affect black African and Arab communities alike throughout the region.

Aid groups believe Khartoum has rounded out its ethnic cleansing campaign against black farmers in Darfur by resettling their burned-out villages with Arabs from Chad and Niger, who are entering Darfur in “unprecedented” numbers, reports The Independent.

A confirmed 30,000 Arabs have crossed the border in the past two months, according to a United Nations report, and another 45,000 are widely rumored to have already entered the country.

Very few of ask for help from the U.N. Refugee Agency, suggesting that they are not refugees.

When they arrive, they are given Sudanese identity cards and citizenship.

Back in Chad, many local Arabs displaced in attacks by the Janjaweed militia say that are now stigmatized for being Arab and called “Janjaweed” themselves.

The other victims of the Janjaweed, black African groups they live amongst, are harassing and abusing them, and in some cases are even burning their camps to the ground, they say.

Even if Darfur’s 2.5 million refugees ever manage to return to their homes, they will no longer have a guarantee of finding land and water.

Decades of drought have reduced the border-crossing Lake Chad to a tenth of its original size and forced nomadic farmers to head south in search of water and grazing pasture.

Sources:

“Sudan: Climate change escalates Darfur crisis”
Christian Science Monitor, July 27, 2007

“Arabs face discrimination in Chad”
BBC (U.K.), July 10, 2007

“Arabs pile into Darfur to take land ‘cleansed’ by Janjaweed”
Independent (U.K.), July 14, 2007


Editors: Julia Scott, Will Crain, Josh Wilson

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