Football fever: Terror, famine go unreported

Terror returned to Zimbabwe’s white-owned farms last week when supporters of president Robert Mugabe launched a fresh land grab. That was the claim of the Commercial Farmers Union, representing the remaining 300 white farmers still on their properties. It said a new surge of violence erupted on 16 farms with the looting of crops and equipment.

In eastern Zimbabwe, a black farm foreman was beaten unconscious and a farmer’s wife was barricaded into her homestead and given four hours to leave, the union alleged.
It said police had not responded to calls for help.

The attacks received scant attention in the international media, where all eyes were turned on Zimbabwe’s neighbour to the south as it counted down to Africa’s first Soccer World Cup. Such is the intense fascination with the competition in South Africa that other African news could find it hard to compete. The Not-the-World-Cup agenda includes the Democratic Republic of Congo’s 50th anniversary of independence from Belgium at the end of June, which will also signal the withdrawal of 2 000 UN peacekeepers from the vast country. President Joseph Kabila’s goverment has expressed a desire for the rest of the world’s biggest peacekeeping operation to follow sooner rather than later. But UN officials have warned that a hasty pull-out could undermine humanitarian efforts and allow a resurgence of rebel violence against civilians.

High stakes in Guinea
The presidential election in Guinea on June 27 is unlikely to get much airtime against two World Cup second round matches scheduled for the same day. But the stakes could hardly be higher 18 months after a military coup that was followed by the massacre of more than 150 political demonstrators.

The coup leader, Captain Moussa Dadis Camara, was shot six months ago, leaving General Sekouba Konate to assume control. Konate insists he will not run as a candidate in the election, raising hopes of democratic new start.

Far from the joy and celebration of the World Cup, a food crisis is gripping Niger after drought caused crops to fail and food prices to increase by up to 30% in some areas. Nigeria is attempting to keep a lid on sectarian violence. Somalia’s government, rocked last week by resignations, is clinging on against Islamist militias. Tensions are also rising in Rwanda ahead of elections in August. Human rights groups say president Paul Kagame’s Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) has become increasingly intolerant of dissent and criticism in the run-up to the vote.

Indeed, Rwanda’s genocide remains one of the most notorious examples of the storms that can be unleashed when the world is looking away. An estimated 800 000 Rwandans were killed in 100 days from April 1994—the same month that Nelson Mandela won South Africa’s first multiracial election. -

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