Can Africa solve African problems?
JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA
From conflicts in Sudan, Congo, and Ivory Coast to a boom in Internet use, smooth elections in several countries, and a fresh focus on women and AIDS, the headlines in 2004 gave cause for celebration - and concern. For 2005, one theme stands out: Africa tackling its problems without much outside help.Skip to next paragraph
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It's a sobering statistic: 1,000 people are dying each day in eastern Congo, a vast nation in the heart of Africa. And in the past six years of fighting, 3.8 million people have died, according to the International Rescue Committee.
At the outset of 2005, a breakaway military faction is fighting government forces and some 180,000 civilians have fled into the jungle, according to reports. Meanwhile, neighboring Rwanda has dispatched troops into the Central African giant, citing concerns that unfriendly forces in eastern Congo could threaten it. Rwanda is also prospecting for valuable assets like diamonds and gold. Will Congo's turmoil escalate into a broader conflict?
What to watch:
• For the past decade, international donors have poured money into Rwanda - in part because of lingering guilt over inaction during its 1994 genocide. Some say it's time to stop aid flows to Rwanda to punish it for its Congo incursions. Already, Sweden is withholding one-third of its aid.
• The UN recently added 5,900 peacekeepers to its 10,000-strong force in eastern Congo. Long accused of inaction, the UN force has grown stronger recently, engaging some of the rebel groups. Can the force stay neutral amid complicated factional fighting? And will the UN expand its mandate or increase its peacekeeping force?
• Will Congo pull off elections in June? If so, young President Joseph Kabila, who's leading a transitional government, might be able to consolidate power and establish control over the chaotic eastern region. This could enable him to rein in anti-Rwanda elements, thus decreasing tensions with Congo's neighbor.
The new year could quickly see a major boost for peace in one of Africa's most-troubled nations.
A 20-year conflict in Sudan may finally be ending. The two sides - the northern Muslim government and southern rebels - say they'll sign a final peace deal Jan. 9. If they do, and if they carry it out, the deal could also be a template for solving Sudan's other major conflict - the one in its Darfur province, where the US says genocide has occurred.
The deal could even help end a related 18-year insurgency in neighboring Uganda.
But even with a north-south deal in hand, Darfur is a major challenge. Arab militias continue to rape and kill civilians. Some 2.3 million people are displaced - double the number six months ago. About 70,000 are dead. Aid workers and food convoys have been attacked.
Some groups, including Save the Child-ren UK, have quit the country. "Darfur is deteriorating," says International Crisis Group analyst John Prendergast.
Whether the world can reverse this trend, he and others say, depends on the UN, the US, and the African Union, which is deploying 3,300 troops there.