This week in “Huh?”

  • From CNN International, in an article about a British aid worker with what appears to be remarkable if limited telepathic capability. I think. Or maybe it’s an article about Save the Children’s remarkable if limited omniscience? Unclear:
  • The British aid worker is “well,” said Anna Ford of Save the Children in Nairobi, Kenya. “He is being looked after and is in good spirits. We are still extremely concerned about him and call upon whoever is holding him to release him.”

  • The Chinese underestimated their Zambian underlings when they shot at miners who complained about working conditions at a coal mine, wounding 11 of them. While one presumes the Zambians were supposed to learn a lesson in just how cheap the Chinese feel coal miners’ lives are, those pesky Zambians instead rioted and blocked the road leading to the mine. (I’d love to tell you what happened next, but I can’t afford a subscription to the Wall Street Journal.)
  • Update:  Thanks to a generous reader who shared his work-around for the WSJ paywall, I can now share these gems with you:  Chinese mining companies have actually shot at workers in Zambia before, in 2006.  So there’s a rich PR tradition presumably being drawn on when the PR guy for the most recent site of mining-gone-wild tells the WSJ: “The miners attacked the employees,” he said. “They had no other choice but to shoot in the air. Several people were wounded, but it’s not serious.” He said the company would pay for their hospital bills.

    Of course! Gunshots are often so much more serious than they sound… The WSJ cites police and government sources in calling two of the wounded “critically” injured.

    Meanwhile, Rayford Mbulu, president of the Miners Union of Zambia, gets the prize for Best Damn Quote of the Week:

    “We don’t care what investments the Chinese are bringing into the country,” he said. “We cannot allow them to shoot miners like that.”

  • Kenneth Roth, head of Human Rights Watch, wants to chase the LRA, chief human rights abuser in the Central African Republic, with a gun.  Well, not him personally so much as sending other guys with guns.  You know, good guys, armed against evil.  Ie, Americans.  That should work out.  (See also, “or not,” here and here.)
    • But Roth is one-upped!  The CAR, the DRC, Sudan and Uganda join forces to create a brigade that will fight the LRA.  They’ll chase the rebels, run border patrols and man a joint operations center for intelligence-sharing.  Of course, they don’t really have a common language.  And the CAR doesn’t really have an army.  And “border” is a rather generous word for that line they all share, theoretically, on a map…but you go try finding it in the sand.

And this week’s bonus Thing We Could Have All Seen Coming (Aren’t We So Smart?): The Chinese have allegedly been slipping contraband bullets into Sudan, which the Sudanese have then used in Darfur. China is apparently trying to block a UN report saying as much, according to Turtle Bay, the Foreign Policy blog of Colum Lynch (man with the best name in journalism whose feed you really should follow).

Lynch reports: “China has serious concerns over the annual report submitted by the panel of experts on the Sudan sanctions committee and believes that there is much room for improvement in the work of the panel,” a Chinese diplomat, Yang Tao, told the council Thursday. “We urge the panel of experts to conduct its work under the principles of objectivity and responsibility.”

Or, as another diplomat put it to him: “They demanded a complete rewrite of the report.”

Oh, c’mon, China. Even Rwanda sucked it up.


  • ewaffle says:

    Whenever the words “China” and “mine” appear in a headline the article will almost always have a list of dead, injured and still trapped underground (not yet counted as dead).

    There is a growing amount of unrest over the death toll from underground coal mining in the PRC including a number of “mass incidents”, the official name for strikes, demonstrations and even attacks on police stations sparked by mine collapses, workers not being paid and deadly working conditions. Importing coal from Zambia and other African sources means less agitation in Chinese coal fields.

    • Jina Moore says:

      Nothing like outsourcing human rights abuses to make it easier on everyone doing the abusing… she says, as the national of a country with some recent experience in just that…

  • Courtney says:

    Yes, but China has one thing Rwanda doesn’t: a permanent seat (thus veto power) on the UN Security Council.

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