May 20 1985


May 20 1985


Death behind bars

The treatment of imprisoned black leaders in South Africa has been an explosive issue ever since activist Steven Biko died in police custody in 1977. As a result, there was outrage across the nation last week when black trade unionist Andries Raditsela, 29, died of head injuries after being held briefly by police in a Johannesburg suburb. The anger grew after s reports that a second black man, 20-year-old student Sipho Mutsi, had also died following a

police interrogation. In protest, black union leaders called for a two-hour work stoppage on May 14. The two deaths came amid continued rioting in the country’s black townships against the apartheid policy of the white-minority government—and its black collaborators. At least 18 people were killed in various incidents as crowds stoned buses and trains and firebombed houses. Civil rights leaders insisted that a decision by the government to cancel plans to move 700,000 blacks to remote tribal homelands would not stop the cycle of violence that has claimed 350 lives since September. As the disturbances escalated, the liberal Cape Times newpaper declared: “South Africa seems to be drifting into civil war, stumbling from one horrific incident to another.”

South Pacific setback

Since French President François Mitterrand paid a one-day visit last January, sparking angry demonstrations, a fragile peace has prevailed in France’s troubled South Pacific territory of New Caledonia. But the calm was shattered last week when renewed fighting broke out between the indigenous Kanaks, who are campaigning for independence, and French settlers, who bitterly oppose it. The trouble began when stone-throwing settlers attacked a group of 100 Kanaks in the central square of Nouméa, the capital, where they had been holding a protest rally. By dusk, when police finally restored order, one 20-year-old Kanak was dead and 95 people had been injured. France’s special envoy, Edgard Pisani, blamed the violence on “deliberate aggression” by a right-wing settlers’ party, the Assembly for Caledonia Within the Republic (RPCR). The party was angered by a recently announced French plan to replace the RPCR-dominated territorial assembly with a congress of four regional assemblies, likely to be controlled by the Kanaks—an interim step toward an independence referendum expected in 1987. Party leaders denied Pisani’s charge, but Kanak legislators resigned from the island assembly in protest. With that, France’s attempt to form a consensus on the future of the territory suffered another critical blow.

The Thais strike back

With only weeks to go before monsoon rains turn battlefields into mud, Vietnamese army commanders last week attempted to wrap up their dry-season offensive against Kampuchean nationalist forces on the Thai-Kampuchea border. But when Thailand discovered that the Vietnamese had once again penetrated its territory in pursuit of their Khmer Rouge enemies—near the southeastern town of Ban Cahm-

rak—the Royal Thai Army struck back. Supported by artillery fire and air strikes, Thai marines attacked Vietnamese positions in mountainous terrain up to IV2 km inside the border. After five days of heavy fighting, which left seven Thai soldiers dead and 27 wounded, Thailand’s generals said they had driven some of the 800 Vietnamese soldiers back into Kampuchea. But the operation, they conceded, had been difficult. Indeed, this year Hanoi’s well-equipped troops have overrun every major base of the resistance, which is fighting the puppet government installed after Vietnam invaded Kampuchea—then known as Cambodia—in 1978. In the process, Thai villagers and Kampuchean refugees have suffered heavily. Said one village official, pointing east to the occupied nation: “All we want is for the Vietnamese and the Khmer Rouge to get off Thai soil. The war belongs over there.”

Explaining an eviction

Stung by reports that his government had evicted tens of thousands of famine victims from an emergency relief camp, Ethiopian leader Mengistu Haile Mariam last week blamed local officials for the incident and pledged to punish them. Mengistu’s statement to United Nations investigator Kurt Jansson—who feared that thousands might die on the trek home from the Ibnat camp—contradicted an earlier government version. In its original comment the Marxist regime denied using force in the evacuation and it accused U.S. officials who reported the transfer of waging a campaign “of denigration, disinformation and falsification.” Attempting to establish the truth, Jansson travelled to Ibnat—in northern Gondar province —later reporting that about 50,000 people had indeed been dispersed, supplied with only 10 days worth of food. Many, Jansson said, had already reached home, but last week some 35,000 limped back to Ibnat, lacking not only food but clothing and shelter. Under the watchful eye of the UN, the Ethiopian government has promised to care for them.

The battle for UNESCO

When the United States formally withdrew from UNESCO last year, agency supporters declared that the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization would survive the loss of its largest patron. The declaration may have been premature. The American pullout—over accusations of poor 9 management and anti-West£ ern bias—cost the agency a 1 quarter of its $200-million anM’Bow: puzzled West nual budget. Then, Britain

gave notice of its withdrawal

by the end of 1985, and at least three other members—West Germany, the Netherlands and Japan—have threatened to follow suit. Last week the long-running battle resumed in Paris at a meeting of the 51-nation executive board. A coalition of Western countries is pressing for tighter budgeting and fewer politically slanted programs. But the group suffered a setback when the board, responding to objections by Third World countries, decided not to debate a U.S. government report critical of UNESCO. If the Western nations are completely stymied they may try to replace the agency’s controversial director general, Amadou Mahtar M’Bow. Among the rumored successors: Pierre Trudeau.