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Tuesday, July 19, 2005 

It's not all doom and gloom, you know.

It's very easy to fall into the trap of constantly being cynical and pessimistic. I often get into this cycle of misery. Just to try to counter this, with all the depressing news of political parties coming together to fight free speech, Iraq fast becoming the most deadly place on the planet and President Bush moving the goalposts over his previous pledge to sack whoever leaked Valerie Plame's name to the press, here are two heartening and optimistic news stories you may have missed.

Mugabe asks South Africa to bail him out:

President Robert Mugabe is pleading for a loan worth hundreds of millions of dollars from Zimbabwe's neighbour South Africa to buy food, fuel and electricity in what is being seen as a sign of the deepening crisis afflicting the country.

Far-ranging negotiations are taking place between South Africa and Zimbabwean officials that could lead to Mr Mugabe agreeing to significant economic and political reforms, South African officials said yesterday.

In what could be a turning point in resolving Zimbabwe's crisis, South Africa's president, Thabo Mbeki, is demanding that Mr Mugabe make substantial reforms, including an immediate halt to housing demolitions.


Economic reforms that South Africa will require include a significant devaluation of the Zimbabwe currency. Another requirement will be for Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF party to hold talks with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change over the constitution, conditions for elections and human rights abuses.

As long as those economic reforms don't involve enforced privatisation, this could finally be the beginning of the end of Mugabe's reign of tyranny against his own people. It shouldn't be forgotten that he was first thought of as an excellent leader, and one of Africa's foremost statesmen. It's only in recent years, with his expulsion of white farmers which so thoroughly annoyed the west, especially Britain, that he has become an international pariah. His despicable demolitions of "slums", have been the last straw, after his crass human rights violations and stolen elections. Hopefully now other African leaders will denounce him, but also help to rebuild the shattered country.

Indonesia and Aceh rebels agree peace:

Indonesia and the rebel province of Aceh have struck a peace deal to end a 30-year-conflict that has killed up to 15,000 in the region worst devastated by last December's tsunami.

The deal will lead to the withdrawal from the province of 27,000 Indonesian troops and police, and the disarming of 5,000 guerrilla fighters, and speed up the delivery of aid to the area's 4.1 million people.

Negotiators expect a formal peace agreement to be signed on August 15, in time for Indonesia's independence celebrations two days later.

The breakthrough came after Jakarta agreed to drop objections to Gam becoming a political party, a move with ramifications for separatists elsewhere in the archipelago.

Jakarta has traditionally banned regional political parties for fear of stoking separatist movements.

The draft deal submitted by Gam was approved by Jakarta on Saturday, said Mr Djalil. "The president has agreed to the draft submitted by Gam about political parties" the minister said yesterday. "Finally we have reached common understanding about the issues we discussed last night."

Around 250 EU observers and 100 monitors from the Association of South-east Asian Nations will oversee the end of the war, which will involve the guerrillas laying down their weapons under an amnesty, while more than half of the 50,000-strong Indonesian force in the province withdraws.

I realise that these agreements are often broken, as can be seen in the inexorable chain of war and peace between Israel and Palestine and Sri Lanka, not to mention Northern Ireland, but they can often also lead to relative calm between sectarian communities. It's a start, if nothing else.

If liberals and left wingers are constantly negative, and fail to have a vision of what we actually do want to change, we will never be taken seriously. The revolution will still take a long time in coming, but the quicker we start the quicker it will arrive.

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