The fall of Thabo Mbeki

Many within the African National Congress (ANC) believed that Thabo Mbeki was an inveterate plotter, and they had the scars to prove it. Now he has been made to pay the price.

The former South African president’s alleged role in plotting against Mr Jacob Zuma, his former deputy, was the last straw.

While serving as deputy president under Nelson Mandela, it was Mr Mbeki who chaired the key committee that negotiated the controversial $5bn (£2.7bn) deal to modernize the country’s defence force.

Read more on Thabo Mbeki from the Famous people news magazine >>

Georgian president a, “political corpse”

Russian President, Dmitry Medvedev, has called his Georgian foe a, “political corpse,” in remarks confirming Russian hostility to the Georgian government.

“President Saakashvili no longer exists in our eyes,” Medvedev told Italy’s Rai television.

Fighting between Russia and Georgia began on 7th August after the Georgian military tried to retake the breakaway region of South Ossetia by force. Russian forces launched a counter-attack and the conflict ended with the ejection of Georgian troops from both South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Russia has since recognised the independence of both regions, though no other country has.

More on this story from the BBC >>

Meanwhile, Russia’s status as the biggest oil and gas supplier to Europe means that economic and political sanctions will not be imposed in the immediate future.

Georgia & Russia in another tragic drama

The latest war between Georgia and Russia is the latest episode of tragic relations spanning two hundred years. Georgia, because of its small size but strategic position, finds itself a target of the great powers.

Throughout its history, Georgia has changed hands between the Greeks, Arabs, Turkey, Iran and Russia. Lately, the United States and Western Europe have landed into the fray. Indeed, analysts say that the current Russian intervention in Georgia has little to do with the Georgian people but is meant to combat US attempts to make inroads in the area.

Russia believes that it has exclusivity over the Caucasus region, meaning other world powers should keep off. The Russian Empire collapsed in the Revolution of 1917 but since then, governments in Moscow have wanted to control territories that used to be part of the Empire.

Georgia was part of the Russian Empire until 1917. After the collapse of the Empire, an independent Georgian state was established in May 1918. In 1921 during the Russian Civil War, Russian troops invaded the country under the orders of Joseph Stalin, who was a native Georgian.

Large-scale repressions orchestrated by a pro-Russian but ethnic Georgian security officer, Lavrentiy Beria, heavily demoralized the Georgian society and exterminated its most active pro-independence part. From August 29 to September 5, 1924 – a period of one week – 12,578 people, chiefly nobles and intellectuals, were executed and over 20,000 exiled to Siberia.

Georgia then became a republic within the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) until 1991 when the USSR collapsed.

As an independent state, ethnic tension has often plunged Georgia into crises and provided ample opportunity for the intervention of neighbouring countries. Ethnic Georgians account for 70% of the population; Armenians, Russians, Azerbaijanis, and Ossetians are the leading minorities. Thus, the country is always under the grips of instability. Georgia’s first president, Zviad Gamsakhurdia, was ousted in 1992. Former President Eduard Shevardnadze survived two assassination attempts in the 1990s.

In 2004, the US supported riots in Georgia that led to the ouster of President Eduard Shevardnadze, who was pro-Russia. The youthful Mikhail Saakashvili took office and adopted a pro-Western stance. Not only did Georgia contribute soldiers to Iraq, but the country has applied for membership in the American led, NATO. These developments have angered Russia. Georgia’s ill-advised attack against pro-Russian militia in South Ossetia gave the Russian government a good reason to invade.

The regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, both containing minority ethnic groups, wish to secede and join Russia. Of course, Russia has only been too happy to provide the necessary assistance in a bid to destabilize Georgia. The local governments of Abkhazia and South Ossetia are not recognized by the central government of Georgia. Abkhazia is essentially independent, and South Ossetia is almost independent.

Another autonomous region, Ajaria, does not seek secession from Georgia; its local government cooperates with the central government and recognizes the constitution of Georgia as the guiding force for local legislation.

Disputes with Abkhazia, Ajaria and South Ossetia featured prominently as Georgia joined the Soviet Union in the early 1920s.

In July 1921 the Ajarian Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (ASSR) was formed within Georgia. Abkhazia was initially a separate Soviet republic, but in 1921 it was merged with Georgia, and in 1931 it was downgraded to the status of an autonomous republic. In April 1922 the Soviet government created the political entity of South Ossetia and designated it an autonomous region within Georgia, while its northern counterpart on the other side of the Greater Caucasus, North Ossetia (now Alania), became part of Russia.

Georgia has a mostly mountainous terrain, more than one-third of which is heavily wooded. The main ridge of the Caucasus Mountains forms the Northern boundary with Russia. The Lesser Caucasus occupy the Southern and central parts of the republic.

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REPORTS BY: MSN Encarta, Wikipedia, History.com
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Kisumu plane crash: 60 year secret exposed

Life has a strange way of bringing out events. A quiet stroll on the shores of Lake Victoria led this writer into a 60 year secret from Kenya’s colonial past. Coincidence? But there are still many unanswered questions, as J. Wafula reveals.

C-47 military transport aircraft. Picture by Wikipedia.

A C-47 military transport aircraft. Picture by Wikipedia

It was a warm, Sunday afternoon in Kisumu back in 2006. I was relaxing on the shores of Lake Victoria after a busy week. My wife was at home and, quite frankly, I just wanted to be by myself this afternoon. No, we weren’t having problems but I think, every once in a while, everybody needs some space.

I went down to the kiosks at the end of Oginga Odinga street, bought a soda, and strolled down to the lake where local boys wash cars. It was a great experience, the cool breeze blowing from the lake made the place much cooler than the rest of Kisumu. As the rays of the evening sun shimmered on the waves, I wished I had a camera to capture the moment. Everybody was busy minding their business and I became lost in my own thoughts.

He came and stood next to me, a slightly built, not very old man. Maybe in his 60s. He looked like he lived in the vicinity for he was casually dressed and in slippers. At once, I resented him for intruding on my space, but then this was a public ground and he had as much right to be there as I was. I hoped he wouldn’t start conversation but I was soon to be disappointed.

The old man started talking about lake monsters, those that could swallow fishing boats. I didn’t understand what he was talking about. He told me how these monsters could travel on both land and water, how they moved from the lake and into nearby mountains. Actually, I began to feel sorry for the old man because I thought he was desperate for an audience. Perhaps, where he lives, nobody pays attention to him.

The old man told me about a plane that crashed into the lake at Kisumu. After listening to stories about monsters and dragons, I didn’t believe a word he said. The old man said that many years earlier, a plane crash had killed many white people, or “Waingereza.” Well, in all my years in Kisumu, I had never heard of such an incident. Having been an avid fan of Kenyan newspapers for close to 30 years, there had never been mention of the disaster. I was convinced that, had it happened, I would have read about it by then.

As I went home at dusk, I admitted to myself that perhaps a plane crash had indeed occurred. After all, the Kisumu airport is just a short distance from the lake itself. However, I beleived that only a handful of people could have died. Word of mouth may have exaggerated the figures with time. Where aircraft are concerned, what could the local people possibly know?

Here we are today: 2008. A lot of things have changed. I am in a bigger job, we moved to a bigger house and Kisumu is yet to recover from the destruction of post-elections violence.

My boss asked me, a few weeks ago, to do some research on tourism for the Western Kenya circuit. The government is trying to promote tourist attractions in Nyanza and Western provinces. So, I was to create a report and marketing material to that effect. Naturally, I went to the internet to research on the topic.

As it turned out, there wasn’t as much information on Kisumu as I expected. I had to scroll through endless search pages while coming up with none of the information I was seeking. I came across church websites, NGO websites, blogs and news websites but it was of little use. I found a website talking about an aircraft accident in Kisumu and since there hadn’t been any news to that effect, I clicked on the link to see more. What I found just blew me away considering the information that was handed to me two years ago.

There really had been a plane crash in Kisumu. And the old man had not exaggerated on the number of dead in that incident.

According to the Aviation Safety Network (http://aviation-safety.net), a South African Airforce aircraft crashed into Lake Victoria on 11th July 1945. The military transport aircraft – registration number 6812 – was taking off from Kisumu Airport. All 28 people in the plane died, four of whom were the crew.

The Aviation Safety Network says that the C-47 transport plane was, “written off” after the disaster. The destination is listed as, “unknown.” However, further research on the internet shows that in the 1940s, Kisumu was a stopover and refuelling point for flights between Southern Africa and Egypt. It is therefore possible that the South African military plane was either heading home, or flying northwards.

On the aircraft model, Wikipedia says the following: The Douglas C-47 Skytrain or Dakota is a military transport that was developed from the Douglas DC-3 airliner. It was used extensively by the Allies during World War 2 and remained in front line operations through the 1950s with a few operating to this day. The C-47 was driven by two propellers attached to powerful piston engines. The aircraft had a capacity of about 28 people, meaning the ill-fated Kisumu plane was almost full.

World War 2 was coming to a close by 1945. It is possible that the South African C-47 may have been flying to Europe or Asia where the Allies were victorious. Such a mission would purely have been staff transport or logistical due to the nature of the aircraft.

The possibility of sabotage is ruled out, for there were no hostile activities in Kenya that year. The Italians had long been defeated in Ethiopia, while agitation for independence from colonial rule had not assumed violent proportions. If anything, most of the pro-independence violence took place a decade later hundreds of kilometres to the east of Kisumu. It can be reasonably assumed that the C-47 crash was caused by engine failure during take off. Statistically, a huge percentage of aircraft accidents happen at the take off and landing stages of flight.

I have not been able to find out the names of the people on that aircraft. Where were they going? Were they military or civilian personnel? What happened afterwards: were the bodies flown to wherever they came from or were they buried in Kisumu?

More importantly, I would like to know why the incident disappeared into history. Why doesn’t any newspaper or book make reference to it? How come so few people know about it? If it wasn’t for that lonely old man on the beach, I would never have found out about the disaster.

If any of you have answers to this question, please share the information with the rest of us. I am very sure that whatever comes out will be quite interesting.

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If you have information on the 1945 Kisumu plane crash, please write to us on <nairobichronicle@live.com>. We guarantee confidentiality if requested.

Read the report on Aviation Safety Network >>
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South Africa: What a shame!

Recent events in South Africa indicate that the former power is already on the well-trodden path that has led numerous African countries into ruin.

The South African army in a security operation in response to violence.

For the past one week, poverty-stricken South Africans in the townships have gone on the rampage against immigrants from other African countries. The South Africans blame Nigerians, Zimbabweans, Mozambicans and Kenyans for their woes in an environment of high unemployment and violent crime. Though few Kenyans have been affected so far, there are fears that the violence could spiral out of control.

The political leadership in South Africa does not provide much hope. President Thabo Mbeki has become a lame duck president as his presidency comes to a close. The country’s social, economic and political institutions are in a state of limbo as the curtains draw to a close after 10 years of Thabo Mbeki leadership. Actually, Mr Mbeki had been the de facto leader of government during Nelson Mandela’s presidency between 1994 and 1999. At his age, Mandela had decided not to get too involved in the intricacies of government. Today, Mr Mbeki is seen as tired, authoritarian and out of touch with the realities facing his people.

Thabo Mbeki (left) and Jacob Zuma (right)

Thabo Mbeki (left) and Jacob Zuma (right). Pictures by Afrol News (left) and Ligali Corporation.

Next year, the man expected to take over from President Mbeki is the current head of the African National Congress, Jacob Zuma. Mr Zuma is currently facing corruption allegations that forced him out of the country’s Vice Presidency some few years ago.

Mr Zuma has been acquitted of raping a HIV positive woman who happened to be a family friend. The woman is young enough to be Mr Zuma’s daughter. During his trial, Zuma said that the lady had dressing in a manner suggesting that, “she wanted sex.” According to Zuma, it was against his Zulu culture to, “leave a woman without satisfying her.” The woman denied that she had behaved suggestively.

Questioned on whether he was not afraid of getting infected with HIV, Mr Zuma testified that he took a shower afterwards.

Mr Zuma is a flamboyant, polygamous character who has been known to marry several women within the space of a few months. Mr Zuma is prone to populist statement. After winning the African National Conference (ANC) leadership, Mr Zuma told his supporters to get ready to pick arms to fight for greater opportunity in a South African economy still dominated by whites. The comments were widely criticized but could be responsible for today’s blood-letting.

Until the 1990s, South Africa was the leading military and economic power in Africa. The country’s intelligence was much feared and ranked alongside Israel’s Mossad in efficiency and ruthlessness. South Africa’s army and police forces inflicted huge losses on liberation movements throughout the Southern African region. It is reputed that South Africa may have been behind the death of Mozambican President Samora Machel in a plane crash in 1988. President Machel had succeeded in ousting the Portuguese from Mozambique and was a leading figure in the fight against Apartheid in South Africa. By a twist of irony, his wife Graca Machel is now married to South Africa’s first black president, Nelson Mandela.

South Africa energy companies distributed power to most of the Southern African countries, including the very countries that supplied the power in the first place! South African businesses can be seen throughout the African continent in the form of retail chains, fast food outlets, newspapers, communications companies and beer manufacturers. South Africa’s sea, airports and railways were reputed for their efficiency. South African Airways was number one in Africa. South Africa excelled in sports

South Africa was a leading innovator in Africa. Its SASOL firm converts coal into petroleum. At one time, South Africa was said to be developing nuclear weapons with the help of its ally, Israel.

Today, South Africa’s reputation is spoken about in the past tense.

According to the book, “The State of Africa” by Martin Meredith, South Africa continues to face daunting problems. Despite economic growth, unemployment rates stand at more than 40%. The number of job seekers continues to out pace the growth in jobs. In some rural areas, unemployment is as high as 95% with a dozen people surviving on the old age pension of one relative.

Millions of people live in squatter camps or informal settlements, enduring abject poverty with little or no sanitation, clean water or power and no visible means of support. In all, at least 18 million people live without any sanitation; 5 million lack safe water supplies; and 7 million struggle below the national poverty line. Crime for many is the only means to survive resulting in one of the highest crime rates in the world. Less than 10 million South Africans earn a regular wage in the formal economy out of a population of about 46 million. The rest face what Meredith calls, “a precarious existence.”

South Africa’s military and intelligence services are decaying, its professional ranks diluted by the deluge of fighters from liberation movements. Most of them only had elementary military training but the agreements ending apartheid dictated that they be absorbed in the forces to enhance racial equality. The South Africa of today cannot project its might within its own borders much less across the region.

South Africa can no longer supply enough electricity and power is being rationed. Load shedding programs have plunged entire neighborhoods into darkness for hours at a time in scenarios similar to those of other African countries.

South Africa’s people continue to suffer the vagaries of HIV/Aids, with the highest rate of infection in the entire world. Government reaction has however been erratic at best and slow at worst. President Mbeki himself questioned the scientific premise behind HIV/Aids, terming it as a conspiracy against black people. Mbeki said HIV/Aids is not a disease but a symptom of poverty, inadequate diet and lack of healthcare. The South African government refused to provide anti-retrovirals even after drug companies had lowered the costs. Mbeki said that anti-retrovirals are poisons aimed at curbing the growth of the African population.

South Africa’s health minister, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, has prescribed herbs for the management of HIV/Aids patients. Incidentally, a former assistant minister of health describes Tshabalala-Msimang of being too fond of the bottle. However, Tshabalala-Msimang’s friendship with Mbeki goes back to their days in exile while fighting Apartheid and her position in the cabinet is quite secure.

The crisis in Zimbabwe exemplifies South Africa’s failure to rise up to the challenge of leadership in Africa. Though South Africa is Zimbabwe’s biggest economic and political partner, Mbeki has insisted on “quiet diplomacy” even in the face of massive human rights abuses in Zimbabwe. Millions of Zimbabweans have fled to other countries in the region including South Africa and Mbeki cannot claim ignorance of events just a few hundred miles from South Africa’s capital city. Critics say that had Mr Mbeki gotten tough on Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe years ago, the present misery in Zimbabwe would have been avoided.

Just after the historic 1994 elections that ended Apartheid and brought about black majority rule, South African whites expressed apprehension over the future of the country. “Grass will grow on airport runways,” one woman said as an example. Looks like the worst fears of black majority rule are becoming a harsh reality.

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