Air Algerie Plane With 116 On Board Disappears From Radar-AP
Air Algerie plane carrying 116 disappears from radar over Burkina Faso.

Jan. 15 (GIN) - Denis Mukwege, a gynecological surgeon renowned for tending to thousands of brutally raped women, returned home this week after more than two months in exile after nearly being assassinated, it was reported by the New York Times.

Welcomed by a large excited crowd, Mukege predicted that “the power of darkness will be defeated.” But he also asked people to forgive, saying, “We must respond to violence with love.”

Dr. Mukwege spoke out internationally for the countless women gang-raped by armed groups that roam the hills of eastern Congo.

For some 15 years, Mukwege kept a major hospital running in one of the most turbulent parts of the country, sometimes performing as many as 10 operations a day.

Susannah Sirkin of Physicians for Human Rights, which aids Dr. Mukwege’s Panzi Hospital, called it “a center of excellence for others to emulate and replicate across his country and beyond.

Local authorities say they have no leads on who waylaid the doctor as he returned home last October and fired shots at his bodyguard, killing him. A month earlier, Dr. Mukwege had delivered a powerful speech at the U.N. in which he denounced mass rape in Congo and criticized his own government — which has a record of silencing critics — for allowing it to occur with impunity. The U.N. has called Congo “the rape capital of the world.

He also criticized Rwanda for fomenting chaos in Congo

For his work, Dr. Mukwege has won many human rights awards and is often mentioned as a contender for the Nobel Peace Prize.

 

A WAR FOR MALI OR AGAINST MUSLIMS? CRITICS QUESTION FRENCH ATTACKS

Jan. 15 (GIN) – France has escalated a bombing campaign in the West African nation of Mali, in a bid to halt advances by a radical Muslim group that has gained new ground in recent days.

The strikes have reportedly killed 11 civilians, including three children fleeing the bombardment of a camp near the central town of Konna. Western powers warn that if the al-Qaeda linked group takes over Mali, it will become a huge staging ground for attacks around the country, the continent or possibly worldwide.

The Obama administration has pledged to help the French and that assistance could include air, drones and other logistical support, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said on Monday.

The United States was already sharing intelligence with the French when their warplanes on Sunday struck camps, depots and other militant positions deep inside extensive Islamist-held territory in northern Mali.

The United States has spent between close to $600 million over the last four years to combat Islamist militancy in the region, including in Mali, which was until recently considered a prime example of what could be accomplished with American military training. American Special Forces trained Malian troops in marksmanship, border patrol and ambush drills.

The intervention has prompted some experts on the region to ask if the French action is simply another attack on a Muslim population.

“This west African nation of 15 million people is the eighth country in which western powers - over the last four years alone - have bombed and killed Muslims - after Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Libya, Somalia and the Philippines … For obvious reasons, the rhetoric that the west is not at war with the Islamic world grows increasingly hollow,” wrote Glenn Greenwald in the British Guardian newspaper.

Citing the Libyan case, where Malian Tuaregs in Gaddafi’s army returned home, heavily armed, after his downfall, Greenwald wrote: “Over and over, western intervention ends up - whether by ineptitude or design - sowing the seeds of further intervention.”

Speaking on the news program DemocracyNow, Al Jazeera reporter May Ying Walsh said: “The genesis of this whole conflict is the unmet demand by nomadic Tuareg people of northern Mali for an independent state, much like the Kurds.”

Tuaregs, a Berber people, reside primarily in Niger and Mali but being nomadic they move constantly across borders and small groups can be found in Libya, northern Burkina Faso and Nigeria

The secular Tuareg separatists who swept down into the northern two-thirds of Mali to take over the area which they consider theirs, found themselves pushed aside by other Tuaregs coming from Libya with more religious views, Walsh said. “It was sort of an alliance not of the willing.

“I think it also needs to be mentioned that France has very important economic interests in neighboring northern Niger – the site of one of the world’s biggest reserves of uranium,” said Walsh.

France developed its nuclear industry on the back of that very cheap uranium coming from northern Niger, she said, adding that, “Niger is one of the bottom three poorest countries in the world.” She continued: "Northern Mali also has a large amount of uranium, and the whole area has been divided up into exploration concessions, and there are a number of companies that are just waiting for the chance to get in there. And also gold and oil."

West African nations have promised 3,300 soldiers to fight alongside the Malian Army, but they must be gathered, transported, trained and financed. The European Union has promised 250 military trainers to aid the Malian Army, but it has yet to deploy them, a decision that may not come before a special foreign ministers’ meeting later this week.

 

CONSERVATIONISTS VOW TO DEFEND MABIRA RAINFOREST

Jan. 15 (GIN) - One of Africa's last remaining tropical forests, Mabira Central Forest Reserve in Uganda is under threat from a sugarcane producer and by President Yoweri Museveni  who this week blamed “the political class” for impeding development on the valuable preserve.

The President wants 7,100 hectares of the forest to be handed over to the Sugar Corporation of Uganda Limited, a major producer of sugar and among the largest employers in East Africa. SCOUL is owned by Lugazi-based Mehta Group.

However, legislators and environmentalists have warned the Mehta group to stay away from the forest, saying “Ugandans can survive without sugar but they can’t survive without oxygen or a green environment.”

“We are alerting the President and informing all Ugandans that we are committed to do everything legally possible to save Mabira forest,” said Beatrice Atim Anywar, known as "Mama Mabira" of the Save Mabira Crusade group.

Opponents to the Mabira project point out that the forest is home to 300 bird species and is a key part of the country’s eco-system.

Reactions on the local Monitor newspaper site to the news was “Dr Kafumiso” who wrote: "We do not inherit this world (including Mabira) from our ancestors but we borrow it from our children… We need to protect (Mabira) in fact we need to expand it and have Mabiras in all corners of the country.

 

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