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  • Christine Chumbler
    Jan 28, 2002
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      EU poised for action on
      Zimbabwe

      Mugabe: Invited observers but excluded Britain
      European Union foreign ministers meeting in
      Brussels are discussing new UK proposals on
      possible sanctions against Zimbabwe.

      Britain was expected to press its EU partners
      to impose limited sanctions if Harare does not
      meet demands for monitors for the 9-10 March
      presidential elections.

      Reports suggest several
      EU members are
      reluctant to impose
      sanctions, such as the
      freezing of assets
      abroad, arguing it would
      give Mr Mugabe's
      government an excuse
      to exclude international
      monitors.

      But state media in Zimbabwe said Mr Mugabe
      had invited foreign observers to the elections,
      including observers from the EU, but would not
      allow observers from Britain, whom he accused
      of backing the opposition.

      UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said ahead of
      Monday's meeting that it was time to put
      President Mugabe "on the spot" amid mounting
      violence ahead of the election.

      "The tragedy unfolding in Zimbabwe is driven
      by one man's ruthless campaign to hang on to
      power whatever the cost," Mr Straw told the
      Guardian newspaper.

      EU foreign ministers are
      considering four
      options, ranging from no
      change in policy at all
      to an immediate
      imposition of sanctions.

      Correspondents say the
      most likely outcome will
      be somewhere between
      these two extremes.

      In a letter sent to Brussels a week ago,
      Zimbabwe committed itself to inviting
      observers.

      And Mr Mugabe was quoted as saying in a
      meeting on Monday with state media reporters
      that Nigeria and the South African
      Development Community could send observers
      immediately.

      Observers from the Commonwealth, the EU -
      excluding Britain - and other regional and
      international organisations could go at a later,
      unspecified date, he said.

      'Disgrace'

      Over the past few days the British Government
      has backed away from the idea of trying to get
      EU sanctions imposed at once.

      But Mr Straw said on
      Sunday that Mr
      Mugabe's actions had
      sullied the reputation
      of the whole of
      southern Africa.

      "Clearly what has been
      happening in Zimbabwe
      is totally
      unacceptable," he said.

      "And I think the word
      the Prime Minister
      [Tony Blair] used last
      Wednesday was that
      Mugabe's actions were a disgrace to his own
      country."

      EU foreign ministers are expected to debate
      cutting aid to the troubled country and may
      ban Zimbabwean governmental figures from
      travelling.

      The EU has repeatedly urged Mr Mugabe to
      end political violence.

      It wants him to organise fair presidential
      elections, ensure freedom of the press and to
      end the continued illegal occupations of
      white-owned farms by so-called war veterans.

      It is also concerned about new proposed
      legislation that would severely censor the
      country's media and restrict foreign reporting
      in the country.

      The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group
      could decide to recommend Zimbabwe's
      suspension when it meets on Wednesday.

      But BBC diplomatic correspondent Barnaby
      Mason says a full decision cannot be made
      until the Commonwealth heads of state summit
      at the beginning of March.

      *****

      Mt Kilimanjaro Is Melting To Its Death

      The East African Standard (Nairobi)
      January 27, 2002
      Posted to the web January 27, 2002
      An astonishing development is changing one of Africa's most remarkable land marks beyond recognition. The ice cap on Mt Kilimanjaro, one of the few places in the world where ice and snow can be seen on the Equator, is expected to disappear in the next 12 years. Staff writer Mildred Ngesa and photographer Blasto Ogindo recently visited the mountain on a fact finding mission.
      Guide: "Leo mlima umenuna (Today the mountain is annoyed)!"
      Writer: "Mlima umenuna? (The mountain annoyed?)"
      Guide: "Ndio, mlima umekasirika, kwa maana umejificha nyuma ya mawingu, hautaki kuonekana! (Yes the mountain is annoyed and that is why it is hiding behind the clouds, refusing to be seen)"
      It was a warm and cloudy morning in the serenity of Moshi town. The beauty of Moshi, accentuated by the domineering presence of Mt Kilimanjaro, is an enduring joy to the visitor.
      No matter which side of Moshi you may be, waking up to the view of the magnificent mountain recalls a popular refrain in these parts: I woke up and kissed the Kilimanjaro good morning.
      Today, however, on the first morning of our assignment, there was no visible Kilimanjaro to kiss. Thick clouds had assembled above and around the giant mountain, forming a protective cover.
      "As the day unfolds, the mountain may be kind enough to peek through the clouds, a very beautiful sight," Nechi Limo, our guide, told us.
      True to his word, the mountain broke into view as dawn gave way to a bright new day. A few hours towards midday, Africa's highest mountain stood tall and proud in all its glory, with the twin peaks of Kibo and Mawenzi filling up the view.
      Sheets of snow from one of the peaks roll down the mountainside but soon disappear into crevices before reaching the base of the mountain.
      Unknown to many, the popular shiny ice cap on Kilimanjaro is actually on Kibo peak. Mawenzi peak does not have any snow or ice left, although years back it too wore a shiny ice cap.
      "Believe it or not, Mawenzi is now bare without any snow or ice on it. About 15 years ago, the ice cap was there. The same case applies to Mount Meru in Arusha which also had an ice cap once upon a time. Now, Mount Meru has no evidence of ice on it," says Philemon Ndesamburo, Moshi's Member of Parliament.
      Ndesamburo, who is also the shadow Minister for Tourism and Natural Resources in the opposition CHADEMA party, is one of the few Tanzanian leaders who can authoritatively talk about Mount Kilimanjaro's melting ice cap.
      A native of the old Moshi District located directly at the foot of the mountain, Ndesamburo says a lot of changes have taken place on the mountain since his childhood.
      "When I was a young boy in the village, we seldom saw the whole of Mt Kilimanjaro throughout the year. Most of the time, the whole mountain was covered in snow and the ice cap was so thick that the whole mountain would be engulfed in dense clouds for months," he says.
      Today, it is possible to view the whole mountain on a daily basis. Because of the reduction of the ice and snow on the mountain, the cloud cover around it is not as thick and persistent as before.
      "Our government dismisses the melting of the ice cap as propaganda by the western media. If this is so, why can't the government do its own research then come up with a report on the exact situation at the mountain?" he challenges.
      Last year, American Professor Lonnie Thompson from Ohio State University went with a group of scientists to Moshi to find out more on the melting ice cap. The group intended to fly a balloon atop the mountain so as to acquire a least 50 tonnes of ice from the mountain to facilitate their research.
      "Surprisingly, the government stopped the researchers saying that the balloon flights would scare away animals. That was a petty excuse," Ndesamburo says. Thompson and his colleagues, however, carried on with their research and established that the ice cap was melting fast. It is estimated that the whole cap will be completely gone in 12 years.
      "We have the results of Prof Thompson research. Eighty years ago, there was about 12.2 square kilometres of ice cap. By the year 2,000, there was only 2.2 square kilometres of ice cap left," the legislator says.
      These are the findings that prompted Prof Thompson to lead an international campaign in an effort to make scientists as well as environmentalists aware of this turn of events.
      Thompson research also confirms that Peru's Quelccaya's ice cap in the Southern Andes mountains has also shrunk by at least 20 per cent since 1963. More troubling, however, is Thompson observation that the rate of retreat for one of the main glaciers flowing out of the ice cap Qori Kalis has been 32 times greater in the last three years than it was in the period between 1963 and 1978.
      In his report, Thompson states: "Officials worry that the loss of the ice cap atop Kilimanjaro will be devastating to the thriving trade that brings people to the mountain each year and fuels the country's economy."
      Ndesamburo concurs with these findings and adds that a number of seasonal rivers that used to flow from atop the mountain to the surrounding areas have dried up.
      "Moshi has a population of over 200,000 people most of whom are farmers. This is the area where the bulk of Tanzania's coffee is produced. Banana farming is also vibrant. However, with these rivers drying up, there is a big disaster waiting to happen," he says.
      A spot check around Marangu, Himo and various villages at the foot of the Kilimanjaro reveals a number of rivers have dried up. From the Mawenzi peak, rivers Una, Monjo and Ona are no longer reliable to the villages around it while rivers Karanga, Weruweru and Kikafau, flowing from the Kibo peak, have also dried up.
      Going further east towards the Rombo side of the mountain, the ice cap is completely gone. Gone too is the giant river Ungwasi, a main source of water for the people of Rombo.
      Even more disturbing is the gradual disappearance of rain forests that are crucial to agriculture.
      "We have a major problem of de-forestation here. All the saw mills operating in this area should be closed down. The government knows about the destruction of forests. Sadly, those doing this are destroying rain forests which are crucial to our survival," Ndesamburo argues.
      We established that tree felling around Mount Kilimanjaro is rife. Also contributing to the degradation of the mountain are fires that ravage the place during the dry season. Some of these fires are accidentally started while others are arson attacks for various reasons. Global warming is also blamed for the melting of the ice cap.
      Ndesamburo says the warming is "due to excessive carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere from factories that use gas, oil and coal."
      The tragedy is that few Tanzanians truly understand what is happening to the ice cap and how it could affect their lives.
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