Congo's Nonviolent Push Toward Democracy

In the opinion-page article "Stirrings in Africa," July 25, the author accurately describes the pressure on leaders of three Francophone African countries - Togo, Cameroon, and the Central African Republic - to hold national political conferences. He neglects to point out, however, that much of the pressure on the single-party governments of these countries is a direct result of the successful conclusion of a national conference in the neighboring Republic of Congo.Congo's President Denis Sassou-Nguesso announced in October 1990 the intent to hold a conference that then ran from February to June of this year. The atmosphere of the conference was often times rancorous, but never violent, as the 1,200 delegates mapped out the transition to a multiparty democracy and scheduled elections for all levels of office. Defying the recent history of bloody political transitions in Africa, the opening of the conference was not a result of violent demonstrations and its successful conclusion was accomplished without violence or bloodshed. This can only give hope to neighboring countries for similar results and moves toward pluralist political systems throughout the region. Paul L. Boertlein, Washington

Energy imperative Thank you for the opinion-page articles "Oil Drilling in the Arctic Refuge: Two Views," July 23. I appreciate the opportunity to study experts' views. The pro-drilling perspective is based on what the author says is an "imperative": that the US find new domestic sources of oil. This is not the imperative. Rather, it is more short-term thinking. What is imperative is that the US take seriously the development of alternative energy sources. John Audubon once may have supported balancing oil extraction with environmental concern, but he never could have foreseen our national gluttony for fossil fuels, nor our helpless resignation at the spilling of those fuels on virtually every body of water on Earth. The problem is not simply the threat of ecological disaster, however, but that we cannot allow another wrong turn on the road to a non-fossil-fuel economy. Laurie W. Ford, Worthington, Ohio

Picture of Jabaliya Regarding the photograph of the Jabaliya refugee camp in Gaza which appears with the article "Israel Bides Time Before Responding to Baker Plan," July 23: I find the context in which it was used deceptive. A reader unfamiliar with living conditions in Jabaliya and the seven other refugee camps might easily assume that life is relatively easy for the 500,000 refugees who live in Gaza. After all, the woman pictured is well-dressed, wearing gold rings and a watch, and is surrounded by colorful cloth. Other pictures of the camps show worse living conditions. If pictures are worth a thousand words, then the media must be extremely careful of how they are used. Terry Rempel, Woodstock, Ill.

Thomas: the qualities that matter The opinion-page column "Thomas Nomination Was Well Calculated," July 23, represents what many articles have said about the nomination of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court. It seems that the primary consideration is his skin color and then what he will do for all others of his particular skin color. There is going to be discrimination, hatred, and fear as long as we think tribally or in terms of skin color. What about Mr. Thomas's ability as a human being? Is he honest, just, merciful? Does he respect the Constitution? Is he morally courageous? These qualities are what matter. B. A. Baumgardner, New York

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