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Daily Archives: May 22, 2008

SAfrica race violence spreads

by Fran Blandy*

Mob attacks against foreigners in South Africa spread to the east coast city of Durban yesterday as elite police units managed to rein in the violence that has so far left 24 dead in Johannesburg.
While Johannesburg enjoyed its quietest night after nearly a week of assaults, looting and rapes, the outbreak of violence in Durban indicated that anger towards African immigrants who have moved to the continent's economic powerhouse is not merely confined to the country's biggest city.
Superintendent Phindile Radebe, police spokeswoman in the eastern KwaZulu Natal province, said that a Nigerian-owned business had been one of the targets of a mob in Durban's impoverished suburb of Umbilo.
"A mob of plus/minus 200 were gathering on the streets carrying bottles and knobkerries (wooden clubs) busy attacking people on the streets," she said.
"They attacked one of the taverns there believed to be owned by Nigerians."
The Durban-based Mercury newspaper reported Umbilo police spokesman Captain John Lazarus as saying the mob had ordered the foreigners to "leave KwaZulu Natal", the country's most populous province.
Radebe said the situation was being monitored by police, who were still investigating the motive behind the attack.
According to the United Nations, some 13,000 people have been made homeless since the xenophobic violence first broke out in Johannesburg 10 days ago when rampaging mobs began chasing foreigners out of slums and torched their shacks.
The foreigners, most of whom have fled the economic meltdown in neighbouring Zimbabweans, have been blamed for the sky-high rates of crime in South Africa as well as for depriving locals of jobs with the unofficial unemployment rate believed to be around the 40 percent mark.
There have been widespread calls for the army to be sent into townships to help police, whose resources are already stretched in one of the world's most-crime ridden cities, however a specialised unit seem to have helped quell the unrest.
"They were deployed and were all in place yesterday morning so that is very encouraging, it is very encouraging that there is some semblance of normality again," said national police spokeswoman Sally de Beer.
"There is a huge effort being made by the South African police service in the area and they will keep it up."
Johannesburg police spokesman Govindsamy Mariemuthoo said the situation had been calm overnight, with only a few incidents to the east of the city that police quickly brought under control.
"It has been quiet in the area overnight but there were a few incidents," he said, adding shacks were set alight in Gugulethu and Ramaphosa informal settlements on the East Rand.
Meanwhile the damage to the country's reputation from the violence — reminiscent of that seen in townships during the whites-only apartheid era — was highlighted as the rand currency dropped by 1.7 percent against the dollar and 2.6 percent against the euro on Tuesday.
After Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk expressed fears about the negative impact of the violence on efforts to attract visitors from Africa, football's world governing body FIFA also spoke out.
"We are obviously concerned about this issue, but hope the World Cup and its unifying power will help to overcome the divisions," FIFA said in a statement published by South Africa media.
South Africa is expecting up to half a million tourists to visit the country when it hosts the football World Cup in 2010.



In first foreign visit, Medvedev spotlights China

by Victoria Loginova*

Russia's new President Dmitry Medvedev travels to powerful neighbour China this week in the centrepiece of his first trip abroad since taking office.
The 42-year-old president, who took office in place of Vladimir Putin on May 7, will visit energy-rich ex-Soviet Kazakhstan today before travelling to Beijing tomorrow, the Kremlin said.
Analysts doubt China and Russia will hammer out specific deals during Medvedev's symbolic maiden voyage as president — China has for example long wanted a Russian commitment to extend a far eastern oil pipeline to its territory.
But the visit underscores that today Russia takes account of its populous and resource-hungry neighbour in numerous spheres — a major change for a country used to measuring itself against the West.
"This is a signal that Russia has other friends, not only the West," said analyst Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of the journal Russia in Global Affairs.
Another analyst, Yevgeny Volk, of the US Heritage Foundation's Moscow office, said that "these destinations reflect the new priorities of Russia's foreign policy, while relations with the United States and the European Union are cooling."
With its huge population and appetite for natural resources, China looms large for Russia, both as a friend and — though they tend not to admit it — as a rival.
China is a welcome consumer of Russian resources such as metals and oil, but is also vying for influence in energy-rich Central Asian states such as Kazakhstan, which were Moscow's exclusive preserve in Soviet times.
While most Russian energy exports still go to Europe, China has been pursuing its own pipeline projects in Central Asia and an oil pipeline already runs from Kazakhstan, symbolising a loss of control for Moscow.
Nonetheless as it battles what it views as Western expansionism on its western borders, Russia has sought to make friends with China.
At the United Nations, Russia and China have been coordinating their positions on controversial issues such as Iran's nuclear programme and Kosovan independence.
Russia has also refused to join international criticism of China's human rights record in the run-up to this summer's Beijing Olympics. It was one of the first countries permitted by Beijing to send rescue workers to help the ongoing earthquake relief effort in China.
And in the security sphere the two countries are increasingly cooperating through the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.
Comprised of China, Russia and four Central Asian states, this organisation focuses on defence and counter-terrorism but is expanding into economic cooperation.
Some analysts detect an anti-Western agenda in its activities, particularly as it has given Iran observer status at its meetings.
Since taking office, Medvedev has refrained from openly assailing US global dominance in the style of his mentor and predecessor Putin, who remains highly influential in the prime minister's post.
But this week's visit subtly underscores Russia's readiness to shrug off Western criticism by giving pride of place to a country that is also criticised on issues such as democracy, human rights and media freedom.
"Russia is turning more and more to the countries of the East, which unlike Western countries don't criticise Moscow for a lack of democracy and support the idea of a multi-polar world," said Volk.