ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA -- It is no secret that the old Organization of African Unity's (OAU) annual summits often provided an excuse to give a face-lift to the cities that hosted them. And though the group was reincarnated here last week as the African Union (AU) -- a move intended to herald the organization's transformation from a dictator's club of years past to an agent of reform and progress on the continent -- old habits die hard. Prior to the conference, which began last Monday and ended 30 hours later on Tuesday afternoon, the fence around Ethiopian President Meles Zenawi's palace was repainted; so were the city's roads.
NAIROBI, KENYA -- The streets were nearly deserted in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi last Friday evening. After voting in the country's most important presidential and parliamentary elections in nearly a quarter-century, most people retreated to their homes. The brave went to their local bars to watch the results come in on national television. A handful of popular clubs were sprinkled with the normal crowd of young professionals, expatriates and Asians. Yet amid the prevailing silence in this normally bustling East African metropolis of 3 million, where mansions abut slums and Mercedes swerve among street kids, was a sense of anxiety at what the election results might bring.
ASMARA, ERITREA -- When U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld concluded a whirlwind tour of the horn of Africa and the Persian Gulf last week, he left in his wake more than just a handful of new allies in America's war on terrorism lined up behind him -- most of them countries that prior to September 11 rarely turned up on America's geopolitical radar. He also lent legitimacy to at least one government whose policies in recent years oppose everything the United States claims to stand for.
Chances are that August 17, 2002 won't go down in history as a particularly pivotal day for the pro-reparations movement. Not only did the Millions for Reparations Rally -- held on a small patch of the Mall immediately in front of the nation's capital for seven hours -- fall well short of a million participants. The event also indicated why formal legal channels, rather than popular demonstrations or legislative action, may be the best way for the descendants of America's slaves to pursue compensation for centuries of slavery and discrimination in the United States.