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The Round TableVol. 96, No. 388, 3 – 28, February 2007 Fiji is suspended from the Commonwealth after a military coup. Peace talks progress in Uganda and flounder in Sri Lanka. Pakistan’s fragile alliance with the West ishighlighted when President Musharraf is simultaneously praised for fighting terror in the USA and blamed for supporting extremists in the UK. A major terrorist alert at UK airports disruptshundreds of thousands of travellers after police say they have foiled a plot to commit murder onan unprecedented scale. Gorillas return to Cameroon, flamingoes disappear from Kenya andPakistan becomes the first country to forfeit a cricket Test.
The simmering rift between the government and the army chief comes to a head in amilitary takeover (5 December 2006), the fourth in 20 years. The tensions betweenPrime Minister Laisenia Qarase and army leader Commodore Frank Bainimaramahave been escalating over government plans to offer amnesties to those involved in acoup six years ago. At that time Bainimarama was forced to flee and then played akey role in putting down the uprising. On 31 October Qarase orders Bainimarama’sdismissal—but the military chief refuses to step down and warns of bloodshed unlessQarase resigns.
A month later Bainimarama announces a bloodless military coup, saying he has assumed some powers of the president to dismiss Qarase. He declares a state ofemergency, fires the police chief and shuts down parliament, then orders JonaSenilagakali, a 77-year-old military doctor, to take over as prime minister.
Bainimarama warns that any attempt at resistance will be suppressed by themilitary. The Commonwealth suspends Fiji until democracy is restored (seeCommonwealth Ministerial Action Group at the end of this Update) and Australiaand New Zealand impose a travel ban and other sanctions.
Military leaders put adverts in newspapers asking for Fijians of ‘‘outstanding character’’ to fill interim government posts. A number of Fijian institutions,including the church and the influential Great Council of Chiefs, oppose thetakeover, but Bainimarama warns that unless the tribal leaders approve a Correspondence Address: Email: Judith.Soal@guardian.co.ukDerek Ingram was Founding Editor of Gemini News Service until 1993, is the author of a number ofbooks about the Commonwealth and is active in the CJA, CPU, CHRI and the RCS, as well as a memberof the moot. Judith Soal is a journalist who has worked extensively in South Africa and is currently deputynight editor at The Guardian in the UK.
ISSN 0035-8533 Print/1474-029X Online/07/010003-26 Ó 2007 The Round Table LtdDOI: 10.1080/00358530701189734 new government the military regime will continue ‘‘for up to 50 years’’ (14December).
The world’s biggest solar power plant is to be built near Mildura, Victoria.
It will be a solar concentrator collecting sunrays in hundreds of squaremetres of curved mirrors, beaming the heat on to photovoltaic panels. The 154-megawatt project will provide power for 45 000 homes and produce tempera- tures up to 1008C. Similar stations are being built in the USA and theMediterranean.
Drought has devastated many parts of Australia, with 92% of New South Wales affected and no rain having fallen in some places for six years. Wheat crop forecastsare dire and there are reports of one farmer suicide every four days. Extremes ofdrought and heat are threatening wine growing in some areas. In Toowoomba, 85 miles from Brisbane, controversial plans to use purified sewage as its main watersupply are to be put to a referendum.
Prime Minister John Howard says the country, which has the largest uranium reserves in the world, should consider developing uranium enrichment even if itupsets efforts to limit nuclear proliferation (14 August 2006). A week later Kim Beazley, leader of the opposition Labor Party, does a U-turn and says Australiashould abandon the long-standing restrictions on mining the metal.
A federal court gives the Nyoongar aboriginal tribe the right to access land for its traditional activities in Perth. The federal government says it might appeal (20September). It is the first time a metropolitan area has been ruled to belong toindigenous people.
Parliament lifts restrictions on media ownership and mergers (18 October).
Foreigners can now take control of media companies and people can own two formsof media in one city. Two major deals take place within hours of the legislation beingpassed.
Australia, like the USA, has not signed the Kyoto Protocol on climate change and Treasurer Peter Costello says (31 October 2006) there is still ‘no point’ unless itapplies to China and India too. He insists Australia is on track to reduce itsemissions, although new UN figures show it is the West’s second highest emitter percapita after Luxembourg.
On 4 December Labor elects Kevin Rudd to succeed Beazley as opposition leader, choosing the former diplomat to take it into elections in 2007. Julia Gillard becomesdeputy leader. Rudd promises to stick to pledges of withdrawing troops from Iraqand signing the Kyoto protocol.
An inquiry finds that Australia’s wheat exporter, AWB, broke UN oil-for- food programme rules by bribing Saddam Hussein in return for contracts(5 December). AWB is stripped of its power to control wheat exports for sixmonths.
In advance of the 2006 – 07 England v. Australia cricket Test series the Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission rules that the term ‘pom’, is not aninsult and may be used. The origin of the word is obscure. Legend has it that POHMwas stitched into convict’s uniforms—for Prisoner Of His Majesty.
More than a century after the island heard its last murder case, New Zealand chefGlenn McNeill, 28, is committed to stand trial (11 August 2006) for killing anAustralian hotel worker in 2002. The four-year investigation included massfingerprinting of the 1600 residents aged between 15 and 70.
Trade talks with 120 New Zealand business people open in Shanghai in November2006 with the aim of striking a free trade deal with China by 2008. If successful, itwould be the first such pact between China and an advanced Western economy.
About 1500 New Zealanders in London’s Hyde Park, including Prime Minister Helen Clark, watch Queen Elizabeth dedicate the UK’s first memorial to NewZealand war dead (11 November).
Forty pilot whales become stranded on a Ruakaka beach, 85 miles from Auckland, in November and die. Forty others are herded back to safety. Recordsshow 5000 whales and dolphins have beached themselves in New Zealand in the past160 years.
Opposition leader Don Brash resigns (23 November) over his links with a secretive Christian sect, the Exclusive Brethren. The sect is accused of funding a clandestinepublicity campaign to promote conservative values and attack leftwing parties.
Private detectives say the Brethren hired them to dig up dirt on Labour politicians,including Clark and her family.
Australian peacekeepers raid the office of Prime Minister Manesseh Sogavare (20October 2006) looking for evidence in a sex case. Australia accuses the Solomons ofharbouring Australian lawyer Julian Moti, wanted for child abuse and nowappointed Solomons attorney general. Moti was arrested on a trip to Papua NewGuinea in October but escaped before being extradited to Australia. Sogavarethreatens to expel Australian forces. The standoff develops as the RegionalAssistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) shifts from providing security totackling corruption. The Sogavare government brands Australia a regional bully.
At the annual South Pacific Forum meeting in October heads of government agree to review the Australian mission. Sogavare says it has strayed from its goals. Theleaders say they want RAMSI to continue.
The World Health Organisation warns that HIV/AIDS cases could reach one millionby 2015 unless drastic action is taken. Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare takes theissue under his remit, but points out the difficulties of health education in a societywith 800 languages and only 34% literacy.
Conservative MP Boris Johnson apologizes after referring to PNG as a country of ‘‘orgies, cannibalism and chief-killing’’ (8 September 2006). The country’s high commissioner to London, Jean Kekedo, says she is shocked that such a supposedlywell educated person could be so ignorant.
Under the sponsorship of Conservation International, one of the world’s largestmarine parks will be created to protect the country’s coral ecosystem. The grouppraises the government for its ‘‘unprecedented vision for long-term conservation ofits precious marine diversity’’. An endowment fund will compensate Kiribati for revenue it could have received from fishing licences. Isolation of the area overmillions of years has resulted in separate evolutionary pathways.
King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV dies in a New Zealand hospital (11 September 2006) aged 88, after reigning for 41 years. In 1976 he was named the heaviest monarch inthe world, weighing 33 stone. His mother was the famous Queen Salote. Hissuccessor, his 58-year-old Sandhurst-educated son, Siaosi Tupou V, faces a push formore democracy. Under the 150-year constitution the king appoints the governmentand all but nine of Tonga’s 32 lawmakers. Within a month it is announced that laws will be changed to establish a ‘‘fully elected parliament, by the people, for thepeople’’.
But the government fails to pass democratic reforms before it goes into recess in November and crowds take to the streets. They ransack much of the business quarterof the capital, Nuku’alofa, destroying the prime minister’s office and several Chinese-owned shops (17 November). Eight people are killed. The king asks for calm. PrimeMinister Fred Sevele calls it a day of shame. He appeals for help and Australia andNew Zealand fly in 150 soldiers and police. When order is restored the governmentannounces major changes ahead of elections in 2008. Legislation is immediatelypassed.
The Privy Council dismisses the appeals of six islanders against convictions for childrape and indecent assault (30 October 2006). Sentences range from six years jail tocommunity service.
Canada hosts the 16th International AIDS Conference in Montreal (13 – 18 August2006), which is addressed by former US president Bill Clinton and billionairephilanthropist Bill Gates. After the conference 151 delegates, including 137 SouthAfricans as well as Salvadorans, Eritreans, Zimbabweans and Ugandans, apply forrefugee status on the grounds they cannot receive life-saving drugs in their homecountries.
A gunman goes on the rampage on a Montreal college campus, killing a teenage girl and wounding 20 others before turning the gun on himself (14 September).
Kimveer Gill’s attack on Watson College prompts questioning on the failure of thecountry’s tough gun control laws.
The death of four Canadian soldiers in a suicide bomb in Afghanistan on 18 September fuels a growing outcry over the troop deployment against the Taliban.
In a speech to the Canadian parliament, Afghan leader Hamid Karzai appeals forcontinued support. Prime Minister Stephen Harper rules out early withdrawal:‘‘Canada does not leave a country before achieving success’’. Thirty-six Canadiansoldiers have died in Afghanistan since 2002.
Harper tells parliament it should recognize Quebec province as ‘‘a nation within Canada’’ in an apparent attempt to pre-empt a similar move by Quebec’s separatistparty. After initially rejecting the motion, the leader of the Bloc Que´be´cois, GillesDuceppe, offers his support. The motion passes easily (28 November), but expertssay it carries little legal significance.
Former environment minister Stephane Dion is elected leader of the opposition Liberal Party, in a surprise victory over writer Michael Ignatieff (3 December). The 5000 delegates at a party convention in Montreal need four rounds of voting to selectthe winner to lead them into elections, expected in 2007.
MPs reject an attempt by the ruling Conservatives to overturn the legalization of gay marriages (8 December). Several cabinet members are among 12 ConservativeMPs who joined with opposition parties to dismiss the motion by 175 to 123.
Fishermen and farmers block access to a site where the US company Alcoa hopes tobuild an aluminum smelter (12 September 2006), reciting Bible verses and lightingcandles before being removed by police. Alcoa has signed a preliminary deal with thegovernment to own and operate the smelter in Cap De Ville for 30 years.
Demonstrators say it will poison their water supply for generations.
Former premier Sir John Compton, 81, wins an unexpected victory (11 December2006) after coming out of retirement to lead the United Workers Party into elections.
He defeats Prime Minister Kenny Anthony’s Labor Party, seeking its third term inpower. Compton, who led the country for 29 years between the 1960s and 1990s, isregarded as the father of St Lucian independence.
Information Minister Colin Campbell resigns (8 October 2006) after it emergesthat a Dutch oil trading company, Trafigura, donated more than £235 000 to theruling People’s National Party in an account in the name of COCC (ColinCampbell Our Candidate). Trafigura has handled the Jamaican oil contractfor more than 10 years. The company was also responsible for charteringthe Probo Koala, a ship that dumped toxic cargo in Abidjan on 19 August,killing 10 people, hospitalizing thousands and leading to the resignation of thegovernment.
Trevor Berbick, a former heavyweight boxing champion and the last man to beat Muhammad Ali, is killed in a hatchet attack in Norwich (28 October). Police said heappeared to have died from a massive ‘‘chop wound’’ to the head in a churchyard. Aman is arrested the next day.
The territory gets its own airline, Air Montserrat, in October 2006, running dailyflights to Antigua.
Conservationists discover in October 2006 that three eggs laid by a Grand Caymanblue iguana released into a nature reserve have hatched successfully. The blue iguanais the world’s rarest lizard, and is expected to be extinct in the wild within a decade.
To try to save the species, 219 captive-bred iguanas have been released in the Salinareserve since 2004.
A £10 million fake drug scam is exposed when 11 people are arrested andcharged in the USA and Belize (20 September 2006). American investigatorssay the drugs, sold over the internet, had little or no medicinal value. Georgianfirm Hi-Tech Pharmaceuticals marketed the drugs as Canadian, althoughthey were ‘‘crudely manufactured in an unsanitary house’’ in Belize, accordingto the charges. They include fake versions of Vioxx, Viagra, Cialis, Valium andXanax.
Cricket legend Sir Clive Walcott dies aged 80 (26 August 2006). With Sir FrankWorrell and Everton Weekes, Walcott was one of the famous ‘Three Ws’ of WestIndian cricket. He made 3798 runs in 44 Test appearances, including 15 centuries,and averaged 56.68.
President Bharrat Jagdeo wins another five-year term in general elections (28 August2006). The ruling People’s Progressive Party, dominated by Guyanese of East Indiandescent, increases its parliamentary majority by two seats to 36 seats out of 65. Themain opposition People’s National Congress (PNC), with its power base in theAfrican – Caribbean population, loses six seats. Analysts say the population votedlargely along ethnic lines. An 18-strong Commonwealth observer group, led by EpeliNailatikau, former parliamentary speaker of Fiji Islands, reports minor adminis-trative problems, but says they did not ‘‘undermine the overall integrity andcredibility’’ of the vote. Voting was largely peaceful, avoiding the violence that hasmarred previous polls.
Political tensions escalate in the run-up to the April 2007 elections. Vice-PresidentAtiku Abubakar is suspended by the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) (28September 2006) after President Olusegun Obasanjo accuses him of misusing £62million of state money. A court later declares the suspension illegal. Abubakar saysthe claims against him are politically motivated. He backed the campaign to preventObasanjo seeking a third term and has been clear about his intentions to run forpresident. After much infighting in the PDP, Obasanjo’s choice, Umaru Yar’Adua, is nominated as its presidential candidate (17 December). Yar’Adua is governor ofKatsina state and did not have much of a national profile until it became known hehad Obasanjo’s backing.
Two leading opposition parties form an election alliance in December, agreeing not to field candidates against each other. The All Nigeria People’s Party and theAction Congress say they want to improve their chances of challenging the PDP. The Action Congress nominates Abubakar as its presidential candidate (20 December).
Three more impeachments bring the number of state governors sacked since December 2005 to five. Obasanjo says the moves are part of a crackdown on graftbut critics claim he is using the anti-corruption drive to remove political opponentsahead of the election. Ayo Fayose, governor of Ekiti state, is fired in October and a state of emergency is declared. Obasanjo installs a retired army general in his place.
Joshua Dariye, of central Plateau state, is impeached on 13 November and replacedby Michael Botmang. Anambra state leader Peter Obi is sacked (6 November) andVirginia Etiaba becomes Nigeria’s first woman governor. She initially refused to takethe position as civil rights groups criticized the dismissal as unconstitutional. On 8December the Supreme Court reinstates Rashidi Adewolu Ladoja, sacked inJanuary, declaring his impeachment illegal.
Ninety-nine people, including the Sultan of Sokoto, die as their plane crashes after takeoff from Abuja (29 October)—the fourth air disaster in a year. Three days ofmourning are declared for Ibrahim Muhammadu Maccido, 80, leader of anestimated 70 million Nigerian muslims. His son also dies and his younger brother,retired Colonel Muhammadu Sada Abubakar, 53, becomes the 20th Sultan.
Abubakar had been Nigeria’s military attache´ to Pakistan. Aviation MinisterBabalola Borishade is dismissed after the crash. A month earlier an air crash nearObudu killed eight major generals and two brigadier-generals—the top echelon inarmy headquarters. The government approves £70 million to reform the aviationsector.
Under a £4 billion contract signed in October a Chinese firm will build an 800-mile railway between Lagos and Kano. About 50 000 Nigerians will be employed.
A kidnapped British oil worker is killed during a rescue attempt by the Nigerian navy (22 November). David Hunt, 58, was one of seven foreigners taken hostagefrom an oil ship off the southern coast. Although kidnappings of oil workers areincreasingly common, Hunt is the first to have been killed. On other occasions thehostages have been released unharmed, presumably after a ransom has been paid.
Earlier, militants invaded three Shell stations (24 October), shutting the facilities.
They accuse Shell of failing to fulfil an agreement to provide them with aid. Armedmen take control of another Shell oil facility on 15 December, before being overpowered by security forces. Militant groups are demanding more local controlof oil wealth for residents.
President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah announces elections for 28 July 2007, the first sinceUN peacekeepers left in 2005. Kabbah, not eligible for re-election, appeals to votersto see the elections ‘‘not as warfare between warlords but as a friendly contest’’. Thepolls will test whether the country has recovered from the 10-year civil war that President John Kufuor accuses predecessor Jerry Rawlings of trying to raise moneyto stage a coup (24 October). Rawlings dismisses the claims as an ‘‘astounding’’ attempt to salvage the government’s image.
In August the government tells mining firms to cut their electricity consumption by 25% because of a serious water shortage affecting the country’s generating capacity.
AngloGold Ashanti says it will have to close one of its goldmines temporarily if theproblems worsen. A further cut would force it to close its Iduapriem mine.
The government bans a conference for gay men and lesbians due to take place in September in Accra. Homosexuality is illegal in Ghana.
President Yahyeh Jammeh wins another five-year term in elections (22 September2006). Jammeh, whose Alliance for Reorientation and Construction takes 67% ofthe vote, seized power in a 1994 coup. Opposition candidate Ousainou Darboe, ofthe United Democratic Party, takes 27% and Halifa Sallah 6%. Turnout is 59%. ACommonwealth observer group headed by Salim Ahmed Salim of Tanzania says theelection result reflects the wishes of the electorate, but that they would like to see ‘‘amore level playing field and a more restrained utilization of the advantages ofincumbency’’.
Four gorillas smuggled out of the country in 2002 are to come home. Cameroon hassought their return since they were illegally snatched and taken to Taiping Zoo inMalaysia four years ago. In 2004 Malaysia sent the so-called Taiping Four to a zooin Pretoria in South Africa, where DNA tests confirmed they were from Cameroon.
After international pressure South Africa agreed to send them home. Cameroon isone of the few countries where the western lowland gorillas still exist in the wild.
A truce to end the 20-year conflict between the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) andthe government is signed in Juba, Sudan, on 26 August 2006, but plans for rebel troops to leave the bush within three weeks soon break down. President YoweriMuseveni meets LRA negotiators for the first time in October. The absence ofrebel leader Joseph Kony and three top commanders at the talks threatens anyconclusive deal. The four fear arrest under warrants from the InternationalCriminal Court (ICC), which has indicted them on charges including murder, rapeand abducting and conscripting 25 000 children. The court refuses to withdraw thewarrants, despite Uganda’s offer of total amnesty. On 12 November UN aid chiefJan Egeland meets Kony on the Sudan border. Egeland had agreed to the meetingon condition that the LRA release some captured women and children, but this does not happen. Kony denies holding anyone against his/her will. A newwithdrawal deal is struck in December, when Museveni speaks to LRA deputyleader Vincent Otti. Kony meets his 83-year-old mother, Nora Anek Oting, for thefirst time in 17 years (9 December). She reportedly advises him to talk to Musevenidirectly. Kony says he is ‘‘overwhelmed by the government’s generosity’’ infacilitating the meeting. The deadline for rebel troops to withdraw is extended to The US-based Population Reference Bureau says Uganda is the fastest-growing country in the world. The 27.7 million population is expected to reach 56 million by2025. A typical Ugandan woman gives birth to seven children.
The murder trial of landowner Tom Cholmondeley, 38, sole heir of the Fifth BaronDelamere, opens amid chaotic scenes in Nairobi (26 September 2006). He is accusedof killing a trespasser, Robert Njoya, on his land. He admits the shooting but says hefired his hunting rifle at the poacher’s dogs. It is the second time Cholmondeley hasbeen accused of a killing. The first charge was dropped.
The government is under international pressure to track down a Hutu business- man said to have financed the Rwandan genocide in 1994. The InternationalCriminal Tribunal claims Felicien Kabuga moves in and out of Kenya freely, bribingofficials to protect him (28 September). But the government says it does not knowwhere he is. Kabuga is accused of paying for machetes, food and other equipmentused by Hutus during the massacres, and of giving money to the notorious MilleCollines radio station, which incited the deaths of some 800 000 Tutsis and moderateHutus.
Kenya’s anti-corruption commission says four former cabinet ministers should be investigated for their alleged role in a £150 million graft scandal (2 October). Twoserving ministers have accused John Githongo, the commission’s former chief nowliving in the UK, of being a sell-out in the pay of donors. Githongo left Kenya in2005 saying he had been threatened because of his investigations into corruption.
The ‘Anglo-Leasing’ affair involved contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollarsbeing awarded to fictitious firms. Two ministers resigned after being accused ofinvolvement.
Conservationists say Lake Nakuru is in danger of losing its famous pink shores because of environmental degradation and pollution (4 October). Its flocks offlamingo attract thousands of tourists to the National Park in the Rift Valley, butexperts believe the lake is drying up.
Veterans of the Mau Mau uprising in the 1950s demand an apology and compensation from the UK for the beating, starvation and torture they say theysuffered fighting colonial rule 50 years ago. Their lawyer says (11 October) he hasfiled an official request with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. So far a handfulof claimants are demanding an average of £42 000 each. If they succeed, up to 1000others could come forward. The UK has four months to reply to the demands. Itargues that it handed over all responsibilities to the independent Kenyan governmentin 1963. Some historians say 25 000 people died in the uprising, mostly Mau Maususpects or civilians linked to them. About 1000 were hanged.
An ally of ex-president Daniel arap Moi is named the chairman of Kanu, the former ruling party (29 November). Nicholas Biwott becomes the official oppositionleader after a split in the party. His faction opposes a decision to join the OrangeDemocratic Movement, a broad-based political alliance, ahead of 2007 presidentialelections. The ousted leader Uhuru Kenyatta, son of founding president Mzee JomoKenyatta, refuses to accept the government’s decision to recognize the breakaway faction. His supporters hold a rally in Nairobi (5 December), where they clash withpolice.
After criticism at home and abroad, President Mwai Kibaki rejects a 60% salary increase supported by parliament that would have taken his monthly pay to morethan £22 000 (14 December). Kibaki says the country has ‘‘other priority projects in In a major restructuring, President Jakaya Kikwete appoints 46 new districtcommissioners and moves or retires many others. Dar es Salaam regionalcommissioner Yusuf Makamba becomes the new secretary-general of the rulingChama cha Mapinduzi party (25 June 2006). In his first months in office Kikwetestops the privatization of the Tanzanian Port Authority, becomes the first head ofstate to visit the prisons of Dar es Salaam and travels the country speaking to hiscitizens. At a dinner hosted by Robert Mugabe in Bulawayo, Kikwete supportsZimbabwe’s land reform policy and praises his firm anti-neocolonialism stand.
More than 40 000 market traders in Dar es Salaam are relocated to the remote Kigogo area (18 October). The government says they are there illegally andpreventing sewage and clean water pipes being installed, and hindering traffic.
Zanzibar bans the import and production of plastic bags to protect its tourism industry and the environment (10 November). It estimates that 200 tonnes of bagsare shipped through its port every month.
In South Africa Graca Machel, now married to Nelson Mandela, lays a wreath onthe site where her first husband, Samora, the founding president of Mozambique,died with 34 others in a plane crash 20 years ago (19 October 2006). It was thoughtto be an assassination plot by the South African apartheid regime—although this hasnever been proved. South Africa’s President Thabo Mbeki and MozambiquanPresident Armando Guebuza are there. Guebuza repeats a commitment to discover the truth about the incident. In his newsletter Mbeki calls Machel a ‘‘towering giantof the African Revolution’’. South Africa is conducting a third investigation into thecrash.
The 400-mile Sena railway linking the Beira port with the interior, closed for 20 years, is finally cleared of mines (18 October). Resources such as gold, copper,diamonds and coal will now be accessible. The USA invested £6 million in the two-year project.
Opposition leader Wavel Ramkalawan is one of dozens of people injured whensecurity forces clash with protesters outside parliament in Victoria (4 October 2006).
Witnesses say trouble began after a bill restricting private radio station ownership waspassed, ending the opposition National Party’s hopes of opening its own station. Theunrest comes two months after Ramkalawan, an Anglican priest, was defeated in presidential elections by James Michel of the Seychelles People’s Progressive Front.
Opposition MP Lucius Banda, a former musician, wins an appeal against a 21- month jail sentence for faking a school certificate to allow him to run for parliament(7 November 2006). The judge declared the sentence excessive. Banda was arrested in2005 shortly after proposing a motion to impeach President Bingu wa Mutharika.
Banda, popularly known as the Soldier of the Poor, said: ‘‘He wanted to break mebut I am a survivor’’.
Controversy (and the media) descends in October when Madonna adopts a young boy. Some human rights groups oppose the adoption of David Banda and promiseto challenge it in court.
President Levy Mwanawasa of the Movement for Multiparty Democracy wins asecond term in office with 43% of the vote (28 September 2006). Opposition leaderMichael Sata (Patriotic Front), second with 29%, accuses the government ofelectoral fraud but accepts the result. During the campaign, Sata praised the policiesof Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe. Haikande Hichilima of the five-month-old UnitedDemocratic Alliance, a coalition of three parties, wins 25%. After peacefulcampaigning and voting, the Patriotic Front clashes with police in Lusaka whilewaiting for the results. Commonwealth observers, led by Paul Berenger, formerprime minister of Mauritius, say the outcome largely reflects the will of the people,and congratulates political leaders for committing themselves to peace.
Sata is arrested on 5 December for allegedly making a false declaration of assets before the election, but the charges are withdrawn on 14 December.
The first discoveries of oil and gas reserves are announced (October 23). They were found in western Zambia near the border with Angola, a major oil exporter.
Mwanawasa says tests in Germany have confirmed that samples from 12 sitescontain oil. The government extends the search for oil to other parts of the country.
The corruption case against former president Frederick Chiluba experiences further delays when the court rules he is too ill to stand trial (17 November). Thestate is asked to release his passport so he can go to South Africa for a hearttransplant. Chiluba, who ruled Zambia for 10 years until 2001, denies allegations ofstealing public funds while in office. In October charges are brought against his wife,Regina, for using ‘‘unlawfully obtained’’ money to buy five houses and four cars.
Harare shops run short of bread after manufacturers are arrested in September 2006for overcharging. Two bakers are sentenced to four months in jail (1 December). Thegovernment controls prices of bread and other staples, but bakers say the officialprices do not cover production costs. This comes as the country’s main internetconnection is shut for 10 days because of unpaid debts. The reserve bank bails outtelephone operator TelOne, which owed £350 000, and the link is restored (26 September). In December authorities stop issuing new passports because they cannotafford to import the necessary special paper. Would-be travellers are told to waituntil March. Zimbabwe’s annual inflation is 1200%—the highest in the world.
Police suppress an anti-government protest in Harare (13 September). Fifty demonstrators, including leaders of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, are arrested. Two days later 12 unionists are transferred from prison to hospital,claiming they were tortured. ZCTU secretary-general Wellington Chibebe says hewas beaten unconscious.
The UK announces £20 million to fight AIDS in Zimbabwe (12 October). Part will go to a project training hairdressers to reduce infection by offering counselling andcondoms to their clients.
The government takes out a four-page newspaper advert, offering compensation to more than 1000 white farmers whose property was seized under the so-called landreform programme (15 November). Secretary of Lands Ngonmi Masoka asks formerfarmers to contact the ministry ‘‘as a matter of urgency in connection with theircompensation’’. Many former landowners have since left the country.
Zimbabwe says it will not extradite Mengistu Haile Mariam after the former Ethiopian ruler is found guilty of genocide in Addis Ababa during a trial in absentia(12 December). Mengistu was given asylum after being ousted from power in 1991.
The ruling Zanu-PF resolves to postpone the next presidential election from 2008 to 2010 (16 December), extending the 26-year rule of President Robert Mugabe.
Insiders say the party is deeply divided over who should succeed the 82-year-old.
An average of about 265 Zimbabweans fleeing into South Africa are deported every day. Many slip back again, joining an estimated 1.2 million now living in SouthAfrica.
Corruption charges against former deputy president Jacob Zuma are dismissed (20September 2006), boosting his bid to become president in 2009. A high court judgesays the prosecution failed to follow proper guidelines, but leaves open thepossibility of charges being refiled. The ruling is a significant political victory for Zuma, whose rivalry with President Thabo Mbeki has divided the ruling AfricanNational Congress. Zuma, 64, was fired as deputy president in 2005 after hisfinancial adviser, Schabir Shaik, was found guilty of fraud. The judge ruled thatthere was a ‘‘mutually beneficial symbiosis’’ between Zuma and Shaik. Zuma hasdenied any wrongdoing. Shaik’s appeal against his 15-year sentence is rejected(6 November). The ANC will elect a new leader in December 2007, who will almostcertainly become president.
After a decade of intense criticism of its AIDS policies, the government changes tack by promising to step up the fight against the epidemic and improve treatment for the estimated five million infected. In the past Mbeki has questioned the linkbetween HIV and AIDS and Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang has saidnutrition, especially garlic and beetroot, is more effective than anti-retroviral drugs.
Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka now takes over the leadership of AIDSpolicies. The Treatment Action Campaign, one of the government’s fiercest critics,welcomes the new commitment. A five-year plan to combat HIV is announced on The National Assembly approves a sweeping anti-mercenary law (29 August) that could criminalize thousands of citizens working in war zones. If passed by the upperhouse, the law would mean 800 South Africans in the British army giving up theircareers or surrendering citizenship. Defence Minister Mosiuoa Lekota says the government has the right to stop its citizens fighting in wars it does not support—which many take as a reference to the invasion of Iraq.
An inquiry is launched into the 1981 disappearance of Mbeki’s son Kwanda (12 September), thought to have been killed by apartheid agents. In a rare personalcomment Mbeki points out that the disappearances of his son, brother and cousinwere among 477 left unsolved by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Mbekiwas speaking on the nature of forgiveness, following news that former apartheidminister Adriaan Vlok washed the feet of Rev Frank Chikane, a man he onceordered killed who is now director-general in Mbeki’s office.
Fourteen current and former MPs, mostly ANC, plead guilty to fraud in one of the biggest corruption scandals since the end of apartheid (16 October). They admithiring expensive cars and booking into luxury hotels with state funds. The admissionmeans they escape jail, receiving fines or suspended prison sentences.
South Africa wins a two-year seat on the UN Security Council (16 October).
Dumisani Kumalo will take up the post.
Finance Minister Trevor Manuel announces a £1 million budget to host the 2012 Football World Cup (25 October). Most will be spent on building new stadiums andrefurbishing existing ones. South Africa hopes to defy critics who say it does nothave the infrastructure to host the event.
American-born geologist Cynthia Carroll, 49, president of Alcan’s primary metals division, becomes chief executive of Anglo-American, third largest mining group inthe world (25 October). She is the first non-South African to hold the post and thefirst woman.
Nobel literature prizewinner Nadine Gordimer, 83, is robbed in her Johannesburg home (26 October). Four armed men lock her up with her housekeeper and stealmoney and jewellery. She later expresses sympathy for the robbers, saying youngSouth Africans need more job opportunities to save them from a life of crime.
Johannesburg International airport, formerly known as Jan Smuts airport, is renamed O. R. Tambo airport in honour of Oliver Tambo, who led the ANC in exile(27 October).
Former apartheid leader P. W. Botha dies aged 90 (30 October). There is little sympathy in South Africa or around the world for the man who presided over someof the harshest of apartheid’s atrocities, as prime minister from 1978 to 1984 (andpresident from 1984 to 1989), and who never delivered the reforms he promised.
Flags are flown at half-mast and Mbeki attends the funeral.
The ANC backs down on a plan to remove power from the mayor of Cape Town, Helen Zille, the only non-ANC mayor in the country (31 October). Ministers hadthreatened to restructure the council, giving Zille little more than ceremonial powers,while leaving mayoral responsibilities in other cities intact. Zille belongs to theopposition Democratic Alliance.
South Africa legalizes same-sex weddings, the first African country to do so (14 ANC chief whip Mbulelo Goniwe is sacked after a party disciplinary committee finds him guilty of sexually harassing a 21-year-old intern (14 December). He isbarred from public office for three years.
The presidents of Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe sign a £35 million deal tobuild a bridge linking the three countries across the Zambezi River (29 August2006).
Kalahari Bushmen win a long-running battle against the government for the right to live on their ancestral land (13 December). The high court rules that the stateacted illegally by evicting them from the game reserve, and should have given themlicences to hunt. San leader Roy Sesana celebrates victory, saying: ‘‘My ancestorsneed my presence . . . they are waiting for me’’. More than 1000 Bushmen wereevicted from the reserve when their water supplies were cut off in 2002. Thegovernment says it will abide by the ruling.
The Lesotho Promise, a 603-carat diamond found in the Letseng mine on 22 August2006, is sold in Antwerp for £6.2 million to the South African Diamond Corporation(9 October). The Letseng mine is jointly owned by the Gem Diamond MiningCompany of Africa and the government.
The kingdom marks the 40th anniversary of independence from the UK (3 October) by changing its flag to a more peaceful image. A traditional cone-shapedhat on the blue, white and green flag replaces the military emblem of a shield, spearand knobkerrie.
South African bank Old Mutual is to sell £22.6 million-worth of assets to blackNamibians in the country’s largest economic empowerment deal. Insurance and banking shares will be transferred to 250 000 employees, business consortia,women’s organizations and church groups.
Leaders from 48 out of Africa’s 53 countries meet in Beijing for a forum on Africa –China cooperation (4 – 5 November), signing deals worth £2.8 billion and pledging toboost trade and development between them. President Hu Jintao promises to doubleaid to Africa by 2009, as China seeks new sources of raw materials for its booming economy. In December South Africa’s President Thabo Mbeki warns Africansagainst falling into a ‘‘colonial relationship’’ with China and says relations must beon an equal footing.
Environmentalists say Africa faces a particular threat from climate change. The UN says widespread coastal flooding, loss of animal habitat and lower cereal yieldsare all likely in coming decades. ‘‘Africa has made the lowest contribution to climate change [but] is the least prepared to cope with the consequences . . . and has the mostto lose’’, says Achim Steiner, executive director of the UN Environment Programme(9 November). A UN climate change summit in Nairobi ends without agreement onmandatory cuts of greenhouse emissions or a firm timetable for negotiating suchlimits (17 November).
At the Great Lakes summit in Nairobi, leaders of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania sign a £1 billion securityand development pact to stop violence in the region (14 December). It includesmeasures to disarm rebel groups, prevent arms trafficking and help refugees.
On an official visit to Washington in September 2006 President Pervez Musharrafsays the USA threatened to bomb his country ‘‘back to the Stone Age’’ after 11September 2001 if he it did not cooperate with the fight against the Taliban inAfghanistan. In a television interview Musharraf says the threat came from DeputySecretary of State Richard Armitage, who later claims to have been misunderstood.
President George Bush sidesteps the row and praises Musharraf as ‘‘a staunch ally inthe war against terror’’—at the same time as a document is leaked in the UKclaiming Pakistani intelligence services are backing the Taliban. The report, writtenby a Ministry of Defence think-tank, says: ‘‘Indirectly Pakistan, through [theintelligence agency] ISI, has been supporting terrorism and extremism, whether inLondon on 7/7 or in Afghanistan or Iraq’’. The UK government distances itself fromthe report, describing it as ‘‘academic research notes’’.
Back in Washington Bush hosts a meal between Musharraf and the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, at the White House (27 September). The two disagreeabout many things, most recently Pakistan’s truce with militants in tribal areasalong the Afghan border. Karzai accuses Musharraf of giving the Talibansanctuary; the general claims he is being made a scapegoat for the weaknessof Afghan authorities. The next day the US military says attacks alongAfghanistan’s southeastern border have more than doubled since the deal cameinto effect on 5 September.
On 30 October the Pakistan army attacks an Islamic school it claims is a training camp for terrorists. Helicopters fire missiles into the madrassa in the Bajaur tribalregion, killing 82 people. Residents say many of the dead were pupils, but officialsinsist they were all fighters. Several thousand people march through Bajaur’s maintown, Khar, shouting: ‘‘Death to Musharraf’’ and ‘‘Death to Bush’’. Jamaat Islami,a hardline but influential Islamist party, condemns the attacks as ‘‘brutal andbarbaric’’.
The raids interrupt the five-day visit of the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall (31 October). The royal couple cancel a planned trip to Peshawar because of security fears. They visit Islamabad and areas hit by the 2005 earthquake inKashmir. During the trip the Prince takes up the case of Mirza Tahir Hussain, aBriton from Yorkshire sentenced to death in Pakistan, with Musharraf. On 17November Hussain is released and returned to the UK.
On 8 November a suicide bomber attacks a Pakistani military camp in Dargai, killing 42 soldiers. The attacks are blamed on extremists seeking revenge for the Earlier (August 26) security forces kill Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, 79, nationalist leader and former chief minister in Baluchistan, and 60 others in his cave hideout 150miles from Quetta. Days of rioting in Karachi and elsewhere follow.
Parliament passes a motion condemning Pope Benedict after he cites a medieval text (15 September) describing the Prophet Muhammad’s contribution to religion as‘‘evil and inhuman’’. The remarks anger Muslims around the world, with leadersaccusing the pontiff of falling into ‘‘the trap of bigots and racists’’. Protesters burneffigies of him. Pope Benedict apologizes for causing offence.
Former prime ministers (and bitter rivals) Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif say they will join forces to oppose Musharraf in 2007 elections (20 October). Musharraf,who ousted Sharif in 1999 in a military coup, says neither politician will be allowedback into the country. Bhutto, who heads the Pakistan People’s Party, and Sharif,leader of the Pakistan Muslim League, have met three times during 2006.
Former president Ghulam Ishaq Khan dies aged 91 on 27 October. He came to power in 1988 after military ruler Zia ul-Haq was killed in a plane crash. Five yearslater Khan resigned during a political crisis sparked when he dismissed the Sharifgovernment, which was restored by the courts.
In North West Frontier Province, 17 people are killed in fighting between Sunni and Shia Muslims (6 October) over ownership of the shrine to 18th century figureSyed Amir Anwar Shah in Orakzai tribal region.
The senate approves a bill allowing rape cases to be tried in civil courts, despite opposition from Islamist MPs (23 November). In the past, rapes cases were triedunder sharia law, which requires women to produce four witnesses to the assault.
The new bill, which needs to be approved by the president, also drops the deathpenalty for sex outside marriage.
China’s President Hu meets Musharraf in Lahore (24 November) and signs a number of defence and trade deals. China thanks Pakistan for its ‘‘valuable supporton issues such as Taiwan, Tibet and human rights’’. The deals could triple bilateraltrade within five years, to £7.7 billion.
A court rules that the schoolgirl who ran away from Scotland should return to live with her mother (29 November). Misbah Rana, also known as Molly Campbell, says she wants to stay in Pakistan with her father, who promises toappeal.
Terrorist charges against Rashid Rauf, a Briton suspected of being a ringleader in the alleged plot to blow up transatlantic airliners this summer, are dropped (13December). Criminal charges against him, including claims of forgery andpossessing explosives, remain. Rauf’s arrest in Pakistan in August was describedas the trigger for a major security alert at London airports. UK officials say theruling does not affect an extradition request for Rauf, relating to a separateincident in 2002.
A fire at a wedding in Jhok Utra kills 22 women and children, including the bride (17 December). More than 100 women and children were in the tent for female guestswhen an electrical circuit set fire to the canvass, causing a stampede.
The government gives permission for the import of 300 black cabs. Later London Taxis International will build an assembly plant in Karachi and produce up to 4000cabs in Pakistan each year.
Pakistan becomes the first country to forfeit a cricket Test after a row over ball tampering during the fourth Test against England at London’s Oval in August. Theumpires penalize Pakistan five runs for alleged ball tampering, but the team refusesto accept the verdict and stays in the dressing room after tea. The match is awardedto England, who win the series 3-0. The Pakistani Cricket Board complains and umpire Darrell Hair is sacked in November from the panel of internationalumpires.
Terror attacks continue around the country with alarming regularity. The mostdevastating strike is in Malegaon in Maharashtra, where 37 people are killed whenthree bombs explode in a Muslim graveyard on 8 September 2006 as worshippersleave afternoon prayers. The city, which is 75% Muslim, has a history of religiousclashes. Violence also escalates in Assam after the collapse of talks between the rebelUnited Liberation Front of Assam and the federal government in September. Theworst incident in the state occurs in Guwahati on 5 November, when a series ofexplosions kill 17 people. In West Bengal, at least 12 die in two blasts on a passengertrain on 20 November. Police suspect separatist groups. In Manipur, a bomb attackat a Hindu temple on 16 August kills five people. On 2 December 14 policemen die ina landmine ambush near Bokaro in Jharkhand state. Maoist rebels are fighting for acommunist state in the region.
Moves to ease discrimination against low-caste Indians, the former ‘untouchables’ now known as Dalits, continue to cause widespread controversy. Higher casteIndians take to the streets, saying affirmative action quotas will ‘‘lower standards’’,and some Dalit activists criticize the measures for not going far enough. Hundreds ofthousands of Dalits gather in Mumbai on 6 December 2006, the 50th anniversary ofthe death of their leader, Bhim Rao Ambedkar, to call for equal rights. A week laterparliament approves a bill to increase the number of places reserved for Dalits in allstate higher-education facilities to 27%, leading to a hunger strike among doctors inDelhi. On 19 October the supreme court upholds a decision to set quotas for statejob promotions—the subject of massive protests. The government also proposes offering £580 to higher-caste Hindus marrying those from the lowest castes. InOctober thousands of Dalits convert to Buddhism or Christianity in massceremonies in Nagpur to escape the injustices of the caste system.
Monsoon floods across southern and western India in August kill 300 people and leave four million homeless. Nearly 90% of gem-cutting centre Surat, Gujarat, issubmerged and diamonds worth millions are washed away.
In September British Conservative leader David Cameron arrives on a four-day trip. His stay is overshadowed when a minibus carrying aides and journalists knocksdown an elderly woman in Mumbai, causing life-threatening injuries (5 September).
Fifty-four miners die in a coalmine explosion in Jharkhand state (6 September).
Angry relatives criticize the state-owned mine for delayed rescue operations, whichwere hampered by poisonous gases.
The country’s longest trial ends in Mumbai (13 September). Four members of one family are convicted of the 1993 bombings that killed 257. The case, against 123 men and women, began in 1995 and heard 686 witnesses.
More than 100 influential Indians call for the repeal of a ‘‘colonial-era’’ law making homosexuality a crime (16 September). In an open letter the signatories,including Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, Booker prizewinner Arundhati Roy andauthor Vikram Seth, say the law has been used to persecute sexual minorities and Former French-ruled Pondicherry is renamed Puducherry (20 September). The territory was merged with India in 1963, 16 years after independence. In Novemberthe southern city of Bangalore, Karnataka state, changes its name to Bengaluru. Thestate government vows to enforce a 1994 language policy banning English classes infavour of the local language Kannada.
In Kerala a court lifts the ban on the sale of Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Co (22 September). The high court also unseats an MP by ruling that he broke the law whilecampaigning (1 November). P. C. Thomas loses out to the second placed candidate,despite winning the Muvattupuzha constituency by 529 votes in 2004. The court saysThomas, a Roman Catholic, should not have pictured Pope John Paul II on hiselection material. He is to appeal.
A corruption inquiry is launched against former defence minister George Fernandes (10 October). Fernandes is said to have approved the purchase of anti-missile defence systems from Israel in 2000 after the leader of his Samata party, JayaJaitley, received £240 000 in bribes. He denies the allegations. Fernandes resigned asdefence minister in March 2001 after secret footage emerged of politicians, armyofficers and bureaucrats allegedly accepting bribes from reporters posing as armstraders.
Indian author Kiran Desai, 35, wins the £50 000 Man Booker prize for her novel The Inheritance of Loss (10 October). In earlier years her mother Anita wasshortlisted three times for the Booker.
Defence Minister and veteran congress party politician Pranab Mukherjee, 70, becomes foreign minister (24 October). Mukherjee, who has close ties with theGandhi family, takes over after nearly a year in which Prime Minister ManmohanSingh has doubled up as foreign minister since Natwar Singh was removed overallegations of involvement in Iraq’s oil-for-food scandal.
A severe outbreak of dengue fever, for which there is no vaccine, infects 5000 people in October, including members of the prime minister’s family.
UK High Commissioner Sir Michael Arthur reopens Nicholson cemetery in Delhi in October after a two-year renovation. The burial ground, named after thebrigadier-general who led the British force retaking the Mughal city in 1857, has longbeen overrun by monkeys and litter. Author William Dalrymple, supporting thecontroversial renovation, says Nicholson was the ultimate racial psychopath with apassion that horrified even the most bloodthirsty British.
Chinese President Hu Jintao visits Delhi for talks with Singh (20 – 23 November).
The countries pledge to double trade to £21 billion a year by 2010 and keep trying toresolve long-running border disputes. Indian police ban an exiled Tibetan activist,Tenzin Tsundue, from leaving his Dharamasala base during the trip to stop himorganizing anti-Chinese protests.
The world’s largest oil multinationals, including BP, Shell and ExxonMobil, bid for the rights to explore India’s continental shelf. More than 60 companies are competing for 55 blocks, the largest such auction in India. Recent finds, notablyCairn Energy’s billion-barrel Mangala discovery, have ensured high interest.
Malaysian state oil company Petronas becomes the biggest investor in Cairn with£429 million (23 November).
An Indian version of the reality television show ‘Big Brother’ makes its debut in The US Congress approves a nuclear energy deal with India following an agreement between George Bush and Singh earlier in 2006 (8 December). Under thedeal India will get access to nuclear technology and fuel in return for opening itscivilian nuclear facilities for inspection. Weapons sites will remain closed.
A rogue elephant, named Osama bin Laden, is shot dead in Assam (17 December) after trampling 14 people to death in six months.
The countries’ leaders meet at the Non-Aligned Movement summit in Cuba inSeptember 2006 and agree to resume peace talks, on hold since explosions inMumbai in July killed 186 people. India linked Pakistan’s ISI to the blasts. Theresulting negotiations take place in Delhi from 14 to 16 November between ForeignSecretary Riaz Mohammad Khan and his Indian counterpart, Shivshankar Menon.
The pair agree to set up a joint panel to share information to fight terrorism, and todiscuss ways to limit the risk of nuclear conflict. Pakistan promises to act againstmilitants if India provides proof of their involvement in the bombings. India hasarrested 16 people in connection with the blasts; seven claim the police forced themto make false confessions. A special court is set up to speed their trial. Thirty peopleare charged (30 November), including Pakisani Azam Cheema—the allegedmastermind. At least half of the suspects are from Pakistan.
Police in Mysore arrest two suspected Pakistan-based militants (27 October), said to be planning attacks on Mysore and Bangalore. The men are stopped by a policepatrol outside the city. Police say guns, a satellite phone and a laptop were seized andthat information in the laptop indicates they are members of the separatist groupal-Badr.
On 6 December Musharraf boosts peace hopes by saying Pakistan is prepared to give up its claim on Kashmir if India agrees to withdraw troops and support self-governance for Kashmiris. The response in India is mixed, with a government officialsaying it does ‘‘not want to remain in conflict’’ with Pakistan.
Conflict over elections due in January 2007 leads to months of political uncertaintyand violence. Street demonstrations led by the opposition Awami League secure the temporary resignation of the chief election commissioner, M. A. Aziz, on 21November. The 14-party opposition alliance accuses Aziz of favouring the outgoinggovernment, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), and putting millions of ‘ghostvoters’ on the electoral roll. Under Bangladesh’s constitution, which establishes aquarantine period between administrations, the BNP prime minister, Khaleda Zia,should hand over to K. M. Hassan, the last chief justice to retire, in October. But the opposition alliance objects to Hassan, who is a former BNP member. To try todefuse the crisis, President Iajuddin Ahmed takes over as temporary head ofgovernment on 29 October. Still the protests continue, culminating in a four-daynational blockade in November. Aziz’s decision to stand aside for three months endsthe blockade, but demonstrations resume in December with demands for a new voter list and other electoral reforms. The deployment of troops to quell the protests (9December) leads to the resignation of four members of Ahmed’s interim cabinet (11December). The election is delayed to 23 January, two days before the caretakergovernment’s mandate expires.
Bangladeshi Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank are jointly awarded the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize on 13 October. Yunus founded the bank, one of the pioneersof micro-credit lending schemes for poor people, especially women. He says he willuse the £730 000 prize to ‘‘find more innovative ways’’ to help the poor launchbusinesses.
After five years at the top of the table Bangladesh is replaced by Haiti as the world’s most corrupt country, according to the watchdog Transparency Interna-tional (6 November). It remains in second place.
An investigation into the garment trade finds that workers, generally women, earn as little as 5p an hour making cheap clothes for UK high street stores such as Tesco,Asda and Primark (7 December). The organization War on Want says women earnabout £8 a month (a third of the minimum wage), despite working long hours inextremely poor conditions.
Human Rights Watch accuses the crime-fighting force of killing more than 350 suspects in custody (14 December). The Rapid Action Battalion, which drawsmembers from the police and military, was set up by the BNP government in 2004 totackle rising crime. Human rights lawyers have expressed concerns about its tactics,said to include torture, in the past.
Fighting between Tamil Tiger rebels and the government escalates, with the worstclashes since the 2002 ceasefire starting in the northeast in August 2006. Hundreds of civilians are killed and tens of thousands are forced to flee their homes, according tothe UN. Seventeen French charity workers are among the dead. The military deniesclaims by truce monitors that it is responsible for killing the Action Against Hungeremployees.
Twelve men are arrested and charged in the USA with trying to buy arms for the Tamil Tigers and trying to bribe government officials to have the group’s nameremoved from a list of terrorist organizations, after an FBI sting operation inAugust.
Suicide bombs, reprisals, attacks and counter-excursions are rife. The two sides meet for talks for the first time in eight months in Geneva on 28 October, but thenegotiations end in failure after two days. No date is set for a new meeting.
A pro-Tamil Tiger MP, Nadarajah Raviraj, dies after being shot in Colombo (10 November). His supporters blame the government, who deny the claims. His killingcomes after another former Tamil MP, Sinnathamby Sivamaharajah, is shot dead on20 August. Both were members of the Tamil National Alliance. Thousands march in Colombo on 13 November over Raviraj’s assassination. The day before he died theMP took part in a protest against the deaths of civilians from military shelling in theeast.
The country’s main foreign donors, Norway, Japan, the USA and the EU, condemn ceasefire violations by both government and Tamil Tiger rebels. In a statement after a meeting in Washington (November 21), the countries criticize therebels for initiating hostilities from populated areas and the government for firingback and killing civilians.
The cabinet introduces sweeping emergency laws (6 December), giving security forces greater power to search, arrest and question suspected rebels. It says 3400people have been killed in the conflict since late 2005.
The Tamil’s top negotiator, Anton Balasingham, dies of cancer in London aged 68 Two men who pushed a woman into the sea during the 2004 tsunami after stealing a gold chain from around her neck are sentenced to hang (14 December). The actionsof Ruwan Mapalagamage and Ajith Kumar were caught on video, and DinetiDishika’s body was found when the water receded.
Opposition leader Mohamed Nasheed is released after a year under house arrest (20September 2006). The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) leader, an outspokencritic of President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s government, was charged withterrorism and sedition after allegedly calling for the president’s forced removal in aspeech in July 2005.
An MDP rally planned for 10 November in Male is cancelled at the last minute.
The party says it has faced a sustained campaign of harassment from thegovernment, with more than 100 of its activists arrested and some tortured. Thegovernment says the protest would have been illegal, and accuses the MDP of tryingto stage a coup.
The Commonwealth Secretariat carries out a programme of human rights training for police instructors and legal officers in Male (4 – 8 November).
Amnesty International criticizes the government for taking ‘‘repressive measures’’ against its opponents (29 November).
The son of the Islamic opposition party’s spiritual leader is one of several allegedmilitants to be released under an amnesty on 18 October, ahead of Eid. Nik Adli NikAziz has been held without charge for more than five years. He is the son of Nik AzizNik Mat, the chief minister of Kelantan state and spiritual head of the conservative China and Malaysia sign a gas deal (31 October) said to be worth £12.5 billion.
Under the 25-year agreement the state-owned oil company Petronas will supply gasto the Chinese firm Shanghai LNG.
Malaysia’s longest serving prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad, has a mild heart attack on 9 November. He retired in 2003, to be succeeded by his prote´ge´, Abdullah Badawi. Recently, however, Mahathir has accused his successor ofrunning a ‘‘police state’’ and of widespread corruption and economic mismanage-ment. Mahathir, 81, still has considerable influence on domestic politics andbusiness affairs.
Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin is sworn in as the next king (13 December). The new monarch, 44, and his deputy, Tuanku Abdul Halim, will serve five-yearterms. The Sultan will be the 13th king since Malaysia gained independence fromthe UK in 1957. The rulers take turns to ascend the throne, a largely ceremonialrole.
The annual World Bank/IMF meeting is held in Singapore from 19 September 2006,but the run-up to the event is marred by controversy when authorities ban allprotests and then bar several anti-globalization activists. The World Bank chief PaulWolfowitz says he is ‘‘very displeased’’ with the move, which breaks an earlieragreement. Singapore later backtracks and allows all but five of the campaigners toattend. Protests are permitted, but only in designated indoor areas. Demonstratorsare given special, soft placards to wave.
Malaysian company Genting International wins a £1.6 billion contract to operate Singapore’s second casino, beating Bahamas-based Lerzner and a Las Vegasconsortium (8 December).
A millionaire wins a £4.24 million lawsuit against her former salsa teachers (6October 2006), ending a high-profile courtroom drama. The high court rules thatMimi Monica Wong, 61, the head of HSBC’s Asian private banking business, shouldbe reimbursed for lessons she cancelled after her teacher Mirko Saccani called her a‘‘lazy cow’’ and threatened to throw her ‘‘out of the f***ing window’’. Wong told thecourt she suffered an emotional breakdown after repeated insults, which Saccani andhis wife Gaynor Fairweather said were intended to motivate her.
Hong Kong’s first budget airline, Oasis, takes off on its maiden flight on 26 October—a day behind schedule. Oasis promises low-cost long-haul flights with in-flight services. An economy class ticket to London costs £112.
HSBC says documents allegedly showing that Augusto Pinochet stashed £85 million in gold at the bank in Hong Kong are forgeries (26 October). Aninvestigation did not uncover any accounts in the name of the former Chileandictator, who dies on 10 December.
One of the city’s foremost cultural landmarks, the Central Piers, closes (11 November). The piers, which served the Star Ferry for 48 years, are being moved further out into the ever-shrinking harbour to make way for highways and shoppingmalls in the latest stage in a land reclamation programme that has almost halved thedistance between Kowloon and Hong Kong island. Residents protest against theplans.
A Chinese court rejects an appeal by a Hong Kong reporter jailed on spying charges (24 November). Ching Cheong, who works for Singapore’s Straits Times, was jailed on 31 August after being found guilty of spying for Taiwan. Human rightsgroups have criticized the verdict and called for Ching’s release.
The pro-democracy movement claims a measure of success in elections for a committee to decide the territory’s next leader (10 December). Results show thedemocrats, led by Alan Leong, won more than the 100 seats needed to nominate a candidate. Only 5% of the population—those belonging to political, business orprofessional communities—are allowed to vote for the 427 seats being contested.
Donald Tsang, the incumbent backed by China, is expected to easily win re-electionin March 2007.
A team of scientists begins excavating mass graves all over Cyprus in November2006, searching for the remains of some 1500 Greek Cypriots and 500 TurkishCypriots reported missing in fighting between the two sides in the 1960s and 1970s.
The team is made up of both Greek and Turkish Cypriots working alongsideinternational experts—one of the few joint ventures on the divided island.
Turkey’s refusal to recognize Cyprus continues to threaten its progress to EU membership. Hopes of getting Cypriot and Turkish officials to meet for peace talksin Helsinki on 4 November are dashed when Turkey refuses to attend.
Metropolitan police say they have uncovered a ‘‘major terrorist plot’’ to blow up 10transatlantic aeroplanes (10 August). The announcement causes chaos for travellers,with many flights in and out of the UK being cancelled and almost all delayed. Strictrestrictions on hand luggage are introduced after reports that the suicide bombersplanned to use liquid-based explosives. Metropolitan police Deputy CommissionerPaul Stephenson describes it as ‘‘a plot to commit mass murder on an unimaginablescale’’. MI5 is said to have been monitoring the plotters for more than a year,culminating in raids on houses around the UK and the arrest of 24 suspects. ThePakistani ISI is said to have aided the investigation. Fifteen people are later charged.
Travel disruptions continue for weeks, with some airlines, notably Ryanair, accusingthe authorities of overstating the threat. In November British Airways says the terroralert cost it around £100 million.
Simmering tensions between Tony Blair and his chancellor, Gordon Brown, erupt in September. After the resignation of seven junior ministers Blair is forced toannounce he will stand down in 2007. He stops short of anointing Brown as hissuccessor. The row continues into the Labour Party conference (23 – 28 September).
There is talk of a leading Blairite (possibly Education Secretary Alan Johnson orHome Secretary John Reid) standing against Brown, but this likelihood diminishes as relations improve over the next few months.
Escalating violence in Iraq increases criticism of the role of the UK in the region.
As the number of British casualties grows, Foreign Secretary Margaret Becketannounces (22 November) that troops may withdraw from Basra by spring 2007.
A former Russian spy living in exile in London dies after apparently being poisoned (23 November). Traces of radioactive polonium 210 are found on the body of Alexander Litvinenko, an outspoken critic of the Vladimir Putin. Before he diesLitvinenko issues a statement blaming the Russian president for his fate. Theinvestigation strains relations between London and Moscow.
Blair is interviewed by police as part of an ongoing cash-for-honours investigation (14 December). Detectives hope to establish whether loans given to both the Conservative and Labour parties breached funding laws. Lord Levy, Labour’sunofficial fundraising chief, is one of three people arrested since April.
Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) The group meets in New York (23 September 2006) during the UN meetings. Of thenine foreign ministers, five are represented by deputies. Maltese foreign minister,Michael Frendo, is elected chair. Only one item is on the agenda—Pakistan. Thegroup acknowledges some steps towards promised reform, but reaffirms ‘‘that theholding by the same person [Musharraf] of the office of Head of State and Chief ofArmy Staff is incompatible with the basic principles of democracy and the spirit ofthe Harare Commonwealth principles’’. CMAG repeats the CHOGM 2005 call forthe issue to be resolved before the end of the current presidential term in 2007. Thecurrent membership is: Malta (chair), Malaysia (vice-chair), Canada, Lesotho,Papua New Guinea, St Lucia, Tanzania, Sri Lanka and UK.
At an extraordinary meeting in London on 8 December, CMAG suspends the Fiji Islands from the Commonwealth after its military coup. The Secretary-General, DonMcKinnon, says the group ‘‘unanimously and unequivocally condemned the militarytakeover of Fiji’s democratically elected government’’. The islands are banned fromall Commonwealth meetings and technical assistance programmes are stopped.
The annual meeting, held in Colombo (12 – 14 September), pushes for efforts toreform the international aid architecture. A panel on system-wide coherence hasbeen established by the UN and it is agreed a group will be set up to decide how bestthe Commonwealth can influence the debate. Ministers urge key players to revive the Doha talks, suspended in July, and call for another drive to implement debt write-offunder the heavily indebted poor countries (HIPC) initiative.
The 16th Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers is held in Cape Town(10 December 2006). A Teachers Group is launched to address education issues.
McKinnon says urgent action is needed to meet Millennium Development Goals.
‘‘The clock is ticking. The small print of the second Millennium Development Goal reads that all children must complete a full cycle of primary school by 2015. Thatmeans they must be in primary school by the end of 2007’’, he says.
Former Minister William Shija of Tanzania becomes the first African to be Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) (1January 2007), succeeding Denis Marshall of New Zealand. The 52nd meeting of theCPA takes place in Abuja, Nigeria (1 – 10 September 2006), where the theme isenhancing the standards of democratic governance and public perceptions ofparliament in the Commonwealth.
Somnath Chatterjee, speaker of the Lok Sabha of India, is elected president for the coming year. His parliament hosts the 2007 conference. The new vice-president isTan Sri Dato’ Seri Di Raja Ramli Ngah Talib, speaker of the lower house. Malaysiawill host the 2008 conference.
Four hundred ministers, industry leaders and economists meet in Johannesburg forthe fifth Africa Investment Forum (9 – 11 October 2006). The series, launched by theCBC, is helping mobilize investment in 11 countries. The CBC convenes 250 UK andIndian business leaders in London (27 June) to step up economic relations betweenUK and India. The UK is losing the race to invest in India and the CBC decides toreaddress the issue. Indian Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath is there.
South Africa becomes the 46th country to join the Commonwealth Foundation (14November 2006), which is separate to the Secretariat. Only seven Commonwealthcountries do not now belong.
Several meetings are held to improve relations with the EU. EU Commission President Jose´ Manuel Barroso meets Don McKinnon in London (16 October) todiscuss governance in Africa and EU – Commonwealth cooperation in Pacificdevelopment. Ministers from the six Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) regionsmeet at the secretariat (1 – 2 November) to try to revitalise the ACP – EU talks.
The fourth Pan-Commonwealth Forum on Open Learning, run by the Commonwealth of Learning in Vancouver, takes place in Ocho Rios, Jamaica(30 October – 3 November). The Virtual University for Small States of the Commonwealth will become a reality in August 2007, it is announced in Seychellesby Sir John Daniel, president of the Commonwealth of Learning based inVancouver. The £1.5 million project will help small states produce, adapt and usecourses and learning materials difficult for one state to produce alone.
The special envoys who help to further the Secretary-General’s Good Offices work in areas of conflict meet in London (16 – 17 November) to develop strategies forconflict prevention and resolution. They include former prime minister Joe Clark ofCanada, former deputy prime minister Musa Hitam of Malaysia and formergovernor-general Sir Paul Reeves of New Zealand.
A workshop of 20 government officials from Commonwealth countries on combating corruption in infrastructure service delivery is held at LoughboroughUniversity, UK (11 – 15 September).
The 22nd Commonwealth Agricultural Conference takes place in Calgary (13 – 16 July). On the agenda: scientific advances in cereal production, developments of newmarkets and farming in Canada and Africa.
Implementation of principles for election observing is discussed at a meeting in the Commonwealth Secretariat (31 May – 1 June). Delegates come from the EU, AfricanUnion, Organization of American States and the UN Development Programme, aswell as from such non-Commonwealth countries as Switzerland, Ireland and Japan.
MacKinnon attends the meeting of Caribbean Community Heads of Government in St Kitts and Nevis (3 – 5 July), the Non-Aligned Movement summit in Havana(15 – 17 September) and visits Fiji Islands, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and Singaporein November. In December he visits Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland.
Erin Soros of Canada wins the 2006 Commonwealth Short Story competition for her story ‘The Moon, the Cat and the Donkey’. The competition is funded by theCommonwealth Foundation.
The Foundation, with the Seychelles government, holds a conference in Mahe (9 – 12 October) on climate change—expected to be a major topic at the next CHOGMmeeting (Kampala, November 2007).
A workshop on HIV/AIDS education attended by 40 officials and experts is held in Boksburg, South Africa (12 – 15 September).
Commonwealth publications can be ordered online at www.thecommonwealth.

Source: http://www.moot.org.uk/pdf/update_388.pdf

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