December 31, 2004


Sudanese Government, Southern Rebels Sign Final Peace Accords (VOA News, 31 December 2004)

The Sudanese government and southern rebels have signed peace accords, marking the completion of a deal to end 21 years of civil war.

One of the accords signed Friday is a permanent cease-fire, while the other covers details of how the final peace deal will be implemented.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and South African President Thabo Mbeki attended the ceremony in the Kenyan town of Naivasha, where previous talks have yielded several partial agreements.

Friday's signing fulfills a pledge by the government and the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army to reach an agreement by the end of 2004.

East African Customs Union Launched (Cathy Majtenyi, 31 December 2004, VOA News)
Officials in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda simultaneously launched the East African Customs Union, which goes into effect Saturday. This program is expected to increase regional and global trade.

Kenyan assistant finance minister, Henry Obwacha, told reporters in Nairobi the tariff agreement among the three countries effectively establishes the area as a trading bloc that will improve the lives of people living there.

"We have pursued economic integration in order to attract investments and stimulate economic activity in our region," he said. "Through the East African Community, we seek to remove barriers to trade, facilitate movement of people, money, and capital."

The Customs Union sets up a single market of more than 90 million people with a combined gross domestic product of around $30 billion.

Colombian rebel extradited to U.S. on drug, terror charges (Associated Press, December 31, 2004)
Top Marxist rebel Ricardo Palmera was extradited to the United States on Friday, becoming the first leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, to face U.S. drug and terrorism charges, officials said.

Army commandos with assault rifles and U.S. DEA agents escorted Palmera, wearing handcuffs and a bulletproof jacket, to a U.S. government plane at a military airfield outside Bogota. The plane took off minutes later.

President Alvaro Uribe had given the FARC until Thursday to free 63 hostages or see Palmera, a former FARC negotiator known by the alias Simon Trinidad, stand trial in a U.S. federal court in Washington. The FARC never responded to the ultimatum.

Ukraine Looks to New Year for Pro-Western Political Course (Lisa McAdams, 31 December 2004, VOA News)
In a rare departure from tradition, the apparent winner of Ukraine's weekend presidential election, pro-reform opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko, has invited the leader of last year's peaceful "Rose Revolution" in Georgia to spend New Year's in Kiev.

Mikhail Saakashvili, who led the massive opposition street protests in Tbilisi that swept long-time Communist leader Eduard Shevardnadze from power, accepted Mr. Yushchenko's invitation. He said he felt it very important to be in Kiev at, what he called," this decisive time in Ukraine's history."

Mr. Saakashvili, who attended college in Kiev, was the first foreign leader to congratulate Mr. Yushchenko on his apparent victory earlier this week. In a televised message broadcast on Ukrainian television, Mr. Saakashvili sent his best wishes in fluent Ukrainian to Mr. Yushchenko and the Ukrainian people for what he called their glorious victory.,/blockquote>
Just the start of what's shaping up to be peace-happy new year.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 31, 2004 2:57 PM

The East African customs union is especially interesting. Kenya and Uganda have charted a more or less free market course in the last decade or so. Both are troubled by rampant boodling by the officialdom but are light years better off than Tanzania. The Tanzanians because they were ruled by the Socialist Nyerere and his disciples followed a policy of 'Ujaama' or unity, resulting in a massive state bureaucracy and a complete failure to develop the nation's resources. Nyerere bought the Fabian line from his mission school educators whole hog and his people have been paying for it ever since.

I have no clue how a customs union with Tanzania will work out but one can only hope that it spells the end of the Nyerere cancer.

Posted by: Bart at January 1, 2005 6:41 AM
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