Mandela celebrates ten years of freedom
Ten years ago, Nelson Mandela, one of the great moral and political leaders of our time, walked free after spending 27 years within the walls of South Africa's Robben Island prison. His lifelong dedication to the fight against the system of institutionalised racial discrimination that was apartheid in South Africa won him the Nobel Peace Prize and the presidency of his country.
Since his release in 1990, Mandela has become a political referent in Africa and all around the world. His personal commitment as president of the African National Congress was instrumental in creating a new South Africa, with majority rule and a multiracial government.
Mandela marked the tenth anniversary of his release at a ceremony at his birthplace deep in South Africa's rural Transkei on Friday 11 February. The 81-year-old retired president played down his own contribution to the 1994 ending of apartheid, praising instead the African National Congress (ANC) and three centuries of freedom struggle that made it all possible. ``There could have been no liberation in this country without the ANC,'' he said to a cheering crowd in the regional capital, Umtata, at the opening of a museum in his honour. ``I have been a member of the ANC for 56 years. I will be buried by my family, the African National Congress,'' he said.
During the ceremony, Mandela unveiled a plaque at a new monument near the foundations of the simple mud hut where he was born on 18 July 1918, the son of a chief's adviser. In a television interview earlier on Friday morning, Mandela said the monument was also a tribute to all South Africans who fought for the ending of apartheid.
``It does not just represent one person who went out of the gates of Victor Vester [prison]... It's the cumulative effect of the efforts of the men and women of this country,'' he said.
The monument at Mandela's birthplace overlooks a lush green valley and features large blow-ups of photographs of various stages of his life juxtaposed with extracts from key speeches, including the one he made in 1963 before being sentenced to life in jail: ``I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.''
Wiranto ousted in Indonesia
Under mounting pressure at home and abroad, Indonesian president Abdurrahman Wahid has suspended controversial former armed forces chief General Wiranto from the cabinet, pending an investigation by Attorney General Marzuki Darusman.
Wahid decided to drop the former military chief from cabinet on Sunday, only hours after saying that Wiranto could keep his position as co-ordinating minister for political and security affairs. The general led the military when pro-Jakarta militias, backed by Indonesian troops, set about a systematic campaign of killing and destruction in East Timor in September 1999, after the people of that small nation had voted overwhelmingly to reject Indonesian rule. Wiranto and five other generals are among 33 people implicated in the violence in East Timor by an Indonesian human rights inquiry which handed down its findings two weeks ago.
Political analysts say United Nations Secretary-General Koffi Annan's visit to Indonesia - he arrived to the country on Monday 14 February - was an important factor in Wahid's decision, as he seeks to reassure foreign investors and donors that he has his fractious military under control. The UN says the Indonesian military helped organise and participated in the violence against the East Timorese.
Wiranto's suspension and efforts to bring generals to trial should appease foreign governments and also help Wahid strengthen his hand over the military, which is angry at the president's moves to shift it out of politics and back into the barracks.
Wiranto accepted his suspension, easing political tensions after a two-week stand off that had sparked fears of a military coup. Surjadi Soedirdja, a retired general, was sworn in to replace Wiranto as interior minister. His successor as military chief, Admiral Widodo Adi Sutjipto, said that the military (TNI) would back the president's move.
Wiranto shot throught the ranks under former Indonesian dictator Suharto, eventually rising to military commander and defence minister. In 1998, Wiranto showed his ruthlessness with the brutal crushing by the military of student protests in the Indonesian capital Jakarta.
This confrontation with Wiranto marks a crucial step in Wahid's attempts to increase his grasp on power after only four months in the job and at a time when Indonesia is facing widespread unrest and economical hardship.
Kofi Annan praised the Indonesian investigation and pressed the government to ensure those responsible for the violence were brought to justice. ``I'm very pleased that Indonesia has taken on the responsibility to ensure that those responsible for the atrocities in East Timor will be made accountable,'' he told reporters after arriving in Jakarta for talks with President Wahid and senior ministers.
Indonesia has resisted calls for an international human rights tribunal, saying its own legal system will punish those involved in the violence. However, Wiranto's suspension does not imply he will be facing trial or international prosecution, as Wahid said on Monday 7 February that he would personally pardon Wiranto should he be found guilty of abuses in East Timor. ``The armed forces chief, however guilty he is, however wrong he has been, was the supreme commander and we will respect him,'' said Wahid. ``He will be given an amnesty, pardoned, after being judged guilty.'' But the president claimed that there would no be such amnesty for other military chiefs, soldiers and militiamen.
Germany's opposition Christian Democrats will be fined about 41 million marks by the German parliament for former Chancellor Helmut Kohl's financial transgressions. National parliamentary president Wolfgang Thierse will reduce the amount of state support to the CDU this year by 41 million marks as punishment for the party's use of slush funds.
The CDU, which has admitted to operating a system of secret accounts under former party chairman Helmut Kohl, has so far made provisions to pay less than 10 million marks in fines. Kohl's reputation as a leading European statesman and architect of German unification has been devastated by his admission that he set up slush funds and accepted two million marks in illegal donations. The CDU in Hesse has admitted illegally stashing some 20 million marks in Swiss bank accounts.
The ongoing controversy is likely to cost a number of leading CDU politicians their careers. Further inquiries and additional heavy sanctions are inevitable, while pressure will continue to be put on Kohl to confess the source of the undisclosed donations.