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Friday, 5 July, 2002, 14:28 GMT 15:28 UK
Africa Media Watch
Africa Media Watch
This week's Media Watch, looks at lessons for sub-Saharan Africa in the wake of the United Nations' latest grim report on the spread of HIV/Aids.

Criticism of African leaders over their response to events in Madagascar.

And some early indications of the potential impact of the new International Criminal Court on the continent.

Kenya's The Daily Nation sees the UN's assessment that the HIV/Aids epidemic is still at an early stage, as a "moment of reckoning".

"Just as the government began waxing proud of the fact that HIV/Aids infection cases were stabilising - in fact, declining - a new United Nations report painted a grave picture of the real situation obtaining," an editorial said.

[Aids summits are] big on talk and small on tangible commitments

Uganda's The Monitor

The fact that Kenya ranks third in terms of the number of Aids orphans implies that all the efforts so far spent on trying to stem the spread of the disease "have not hit the desired target."

"The point... is that the strategies used in the anti-Aids campaigns were either faulty or misdirected," according to the paper.

Stop the talk-fests

Uganda's The Monitor wonders whether it is not time to dispense with big summits such as the 14th international Aids conference which begins in the Spanish city of Barcelona on Sunday.

It dismisses them as costly "celebrity mega-fests" which are "big on talk and small on tangible commitments."

The paper chided world leaders who at their recent G8 summit acknowledged the devastating effects of disease on African development, but failed to commit the resources to battle the problem.

"Uganda occupies an intellectual and emotional high ground as a pioneer in the fight against HIV/Aids," the paper said, adding that "it must use this vaunted status to signal a direction away from conferences in the international fight against the pandemic."

The conferences "are important but they cost more and perpetuate the lie that something is being done about HIV/Aids."

Another child Aids victim is buried

A column in South Africa's Cape Argus noted that two years ago, the UNAids report devoted six pages to the issue of making drugs to combat the disease more affordable.

This time, the topic took up almost a whole chapter.

With the realisation by scientists that the HIV epidemic's "natural limit" is much higher that previously thought, antiretroviral drugs can no longer be seen as an "optional luxury" in treating patients.

The South African Government has consistently refused to supply antiretrovirals to sufferers, citing toxicity and costs.

"In calling for wider access to triple therapy, UNAids echoes the sentiments of the World Health Organisation, which added antiretrovirals to its essential drugs list three months ago," the paper said.

'Silence' on Madagascar

Kenya's East African Standard mocks African leaders' "strange" response to events in Madagascar.

The first test-case for the African Union

East African Standard

While the United States, Germany and France have recognized the presidency of erstwhile opposition leader Marc Ravalomanana, "not a single African president, or prime minister, has had the courage to salute the elected leader of the Malagasy people."

"This must be strange in a continent where presidents always compete to be seen to be the first to congratulate 'President So and So', even when the polls are disputed," the paper said.

The answer is to be found not in the contested ballot count, but in the fact that Mr Ravalomanana was the opposition candidate.

The paper sees African leaders apparently taking the side of outgoing President Didier Ratsiraka, "a long-time member of their club".

The "silence" of African leaders "borders on a conspiracy to disable democracy" and Madagascar will be "the first test-case for the African Union to be launched next week."

Hopes for justice

Nigeria's The Guardian reported this week that the US government has been "wooing" Nigeria and other countries in search of support for Washington's opposition to the new International Criminal Court (ICC).

It said the US ambassador had made overtures and that Washington was asking Abuja to support the granting of immunity to US overseas peacekeeping troops and other of its officials.

The South African Press Association news agency meanwhile reported that the newly-formed Zimbabwe Victims Coalition, based in South Africa, is to take President Robert Mugabe to the ICC for crimes against humanity.

President Robert Mugabe
International court's first target?

"We believe that Mugabe will be the first person to be indicted before under the tribunal, and not a moment too soon," the group's chairman Phillip du Toit said.

An article in the Kenya-based East African weekly voiced the hope that the ICC could be "an international instrument which could break the logic of years of occupation and human-rights violations in eastern [Democratic Republic of the] Congo."

"On the ICC map, which is obviously much smaller than the complete world map, eastern Congo deserves serious attention."

"It is hopefully one of the first areas where the ICC will be able to demonstrate its effectiveness as an instrument in the fight against impunity," the weekly said.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

See also:

02 Jul 02 | Africa
25 Jun 02 | Africa
03 Jun 02 | Africa
27 Jun 02 | Country profiles
05 Jul 02 | Africa
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