Robert Weller
Updated Dec 14, 2013, 8:21 AM
Stories and images from covering news around the world for more than 40 years.
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The Beginning

THIRD WORLD (1979-1993)











   Town Lives Up To Afrikaans Name
   WEENEN, South Africa _This town has lived up to its name, an Afrikaans word for weeping.
   Neil Alcock, a white man know for 20 years as a peacemaker among Zulus, was ambushed and slain with five tribal elders while trying to settle a deadly feud.



     OBOTE WORSE THAN AMIN IN UGANDA


    MPIGI DISTRICT, Uganda _ Hundreds of thousands of Ugandans from the Mpigi, Luwero and Mubende districts have fled their fertile land in fear of persisting violence, although there has been no large-scale fighting in the area since 1982.

   The government of President Milton Obote estimates that 750,000 people have been displaced by fighting in the three districts north and west of the capital _ the "Luwero Triangle."

   Triangle refugees, interviewed in Kampala, backed a claim by Anglican Bishop Misaeri Kauma of Kampala that more people have died since Obote took power than during the 8 1/2 -year rule by Amin, whose name was a dread word in Uganda by the time he was overthrown.



            

    BREATHTAKING LABOR DEVELOPMENT IN APARTHEID SOUTH AFRICA

   JOHANNESBURG, South Africa _ The mining industry has agreed to recognize a black miners' union for the first time, bringing the reformist labor movement into the heart of the economy of white-minority-ruled South Africa.
   "It's a breakthrough, a victory," union leader Cyril Ramaphosa said Thursday. "But anytime you deal with the Chamber of Mines you must be cautious. We must watch them to make sure the agreement works at the mine shaft level." 
   A Chamber of Mines source confirmed an agreement had been reached on recognition of the union for some jobs at some mines, but said no statement would be issued until the agreement was signed in the next few days.
   "We are not happy with the agreement, but it lets us get our foot in the door," said Ramaphosa. "After all, it's been a hundred years."


   ZAIRE LIFTING SILENCE ON AIDS


      KINSHASA, Zaire _ With an aggressive information campaign, Zaire has partially lifted the veil on its AIDS problem, regarded by outsiders as serious.

    The campaign is aimed at halting the spread of the disease, but the government is still withholding information on how widespread the disease might be in this Central African nation formerly known as the Congo.

    A letter by the national campaign organizers calls the problem an "especially pressing" one and cites one survey as indicating that 6.3 percent of this capital's 3.5 million people have been exposed to the AIDS virus.

    Zaire has been particularly stung by reports abroad describing the country as the "AIDS epicenter" and "AIDS capital of the world." 





   SOUTH AFRICANS CORRUPT BUSHMEN

    RUNDU, SOUTH-WEST AFRICA _ The Bushmen of the Kalahari eked out a Stone Age existence for 21,000 years on a hard, air soil. Small, often yellow-skinned,, nomadic, they hunted across vast, unpopulated spaes.

They became legendary when their story was told to the outside world, but are no longer the simple, harmless people they were.

    John Marshall, whose sister, Elizabeth, wrote "The Harmless People," and speaks their language, said since they had been hired by South Africa to track guerrillas in Angola, most of them had been exposed to alcohol and "couldn't track themselves off a snowy football field."

    Although they stick together almost 24/7 they seemed to talk non-stop. I asked Marshall what one was saying in the back of a bakkie, as a pickup truck is known in these parts, and he said, "I am killing myself with too much tea."

     




    Novel About First Ebola Outbreak Puts Focus on People, Not Terror

   BIG PINEY, Wyo. _ More than a month after the 1976 Ebola virus outbreak in Zaire's rain forest, scientists couldn't even get to the scene.

   Then Dr. William Close, about to leave Zaire after 11 years as physician to the country's president, overheard two fellow airline passengers talking about the epidemic.

   Those passengers - both doctors from the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta - recruited Close to use his influence to help fight that first Ebola epidemic that went on to kill 400 people. 

   Now that the virus has risen again, nearing 300 dead so far this year, Close has come out with the novel "Ebola," based on his experience.

   But Close said his book - researched with the help of his actress daughter Glenn Close - differs from other novels and movies about deadly viruses because it is not designed to instill terror.

   "It's the story of people, not a virus," said the 71-year-old Close, who left Zaire when the outbreak was contained later in 1976 and now runs a family clinic in this small town in western Wyoming.






      

    
KINSHASA, Zaire — Rampaging bands of looters and rioting mutineers have caused about 15,000 foreign workers to evacuate this capital city in recent weeks--flee for their lives is more like it--but Delfi Messinger, American, has chosen to stay.

For her own safety and with what used to be called Yankee ingenuity, she turned her workplace into a sanctuary.

She dressed her staff in hospital gowns and smeared across the entrance, in sheep's blood, "SIDA," the French equivalent of "AIDS." It worked.


 






   MISSIONARY DOCTOR CONFRONTS MOBUTU ABOUT VIOLENCE


  As the only surgeon left in the Congo's main hospital in Leopoldville during the civil war of 1960, American missionary Bill Close was overwhelmed tending the wounds of battling African tribesmen, policemen and soldiers.

    Then he thought about seeking help from a young colonel named Joseph Mobutu (later to become Mobutu Sese Seko), who had seized power after the country he later renamed Zaire was granted independence from Belgium.

    Close, the father of actress Glenn Close, says he flagged down Mobutu's car in a paratrooper camp.

    Mobutu rolled down his window, clearly surprised to see a white man there, and said, "Oui?"

    "I'm a surgeon at the Congolese General Hospital," Close said. "I wondered if you could do something about the violence in town so we can catch up in the operating room." 

       "Yes, I think I can," Mobutu replied, before driving off.

     Thirty-five years later, during an interview at his home here in the high plains of Wyoming, Close said he still doesn't know what Mobutu did.

    But not only did the tempo in the operating room soon slow down, it was the start of the doctor's intimate 16-year relationship with Mobutu, the Machiavelli of post-colonial Africa.


   *The former Harvard graduate and World War II army pilot died Jan, 15, 2009, in Big Piney.





Car Bomb Kills 16 in Pretoria

PRETORIA _  A car bomb exploded outside Air Force headquarters in this South African capital during the rush hour Friday (May 21 1983). Officials said 16 people were killed and 197 wounded.

The white-minority regime blamed black guerrillas for the black, which it called the "biggest and ugliest" terrorist attack yet.


South African Jets Bomb Mozambican Capital in Revenge for Car Bomb

MAPUTO, Mozambique _ South African jets rocketed what they called guerrilla bases here in a three-minute air strike to avenge the bombing three das earlier in its capital. Six people were reported killed and 40 wounded.

The official Mozambique news agency AIM said all the dead and wounded were their nationals except for one South African refugee living in the suburb of Matola.

South Africa said it warned the Maputo airport it was about to strike.


        Scientists Find Clues To AIDS In Mandrill Baboon


    FRANCEVILLE, Gabon _ East meets West in the heart of Africa, where the forest-dwelling, red and blue-faced mandrill baboon is helping American and Japanese scientists piece together clues about AIDS.

   Japanese researchers, working with specimens from the primate center in Franceville run by an American veterinarian, have identified a simian version of the AIDS virus in the mandrill, a Central African baboon.

   The University of Tokyo team earlier discovered a simian AIDS virus in African green monkeys. But the discovery of a second Simian variant was needed to prove it was "species specific," said Masanori Hayami, associate professor of animal pathology. 

   Thus the virus found in African green monkeys and the virus found in mandrills are separate and distinct from each other and from both forms of the human AIDS virus.

   The newest discoveries are further evidence the AIDS virus was not transmitted to man by monkeys, at least not in the past 5 million years, says Robert Cooper, the veterinarian who runs the primate center at the Franceville Center for Medical Research.

   Hayami says it's much more likely humans and monkeys both received the virus from a common ancestor. Monkeys and humans are descendants of primates who lived 20 million to 30 million years ago.



   
TRADE UNION ACTIVIST MARTYRED


   IRENE, South Africa _ The parents of trade union activist Neil Aggett, whose hanging death while in detention sparked nationwide protests, said Friday that they believe his apparent suicide was "induced."

   "Induced suicide is the same as murder," said Aggett's father, Aubrey, 69. "He was such a strong boy," added Aggett's mother, Joyce, 64. 

   "Neil was the last one who would have committed suicide," her husband told The Associated Press.


A TALE OF TWO COUNTRIES SEPARATED BY MORE THAN A RIVER

    KINSHASA, Zaire _ Democracy remains a dream to Zairians, who were allied with the West in the Cold War, while their kinsmen across the river in the formerly Marxist Congo move to multiparty rule. Pro-democracy groups on both sides of the Congo River used strikes and demonstrations against their authoritarian presidents, following a pattern that is emerging across Africa.

    In Brazzaville, the Congolese capital, it produced a national conference that stripped President Denis Sassou-Nguesso of all but ceremonial powers. On March 15, voters overwhelmingly approved a constitution creating a multiparty democracy, and presidential elections are scheduled for June.

    In Kinshasa and the rest of Zaire, the economy is in ruins. Hospitals and schools are closed, even most government offices, but President Mobutu Sese Seko refuses to budge. Instead, he uses well-armed special commando units to suppress demonstrations and intimidate the opposition.





    RICE IS LIFE ON ISLAND


    ANTANARIVO, Madagascar _ "Don't act important if you don't even know how to irrigate a rice field." So goes one of many Malagasy proverbs about rice and so goes life on the world's fourth-largest island.

   People eat rice three times a day, an average of one pound each, more than in China or any other country. Some spend 70 percent of their incomes on rice. Up to 85 percent of the country's cultivated land is covered with rice paddies, sometimes in terraces clawing up steep hillsides. 


  


    ETHIOPIAN FAMINE

   ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia _ President Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, the new chairman of the Organization of African Unity, on Friday accused developed nations of not responding to the devastating drought in Africa until their residents "saw corpses on television."

   "It is a shame that a single person in the world should die of starvation," he told a news conference. "It's a major shame because there is a lot of food in the world. Just now, Western Europe has something they call food mountains _ and the food is rotting there and the people are dying here." 






    DOES RETURN OF ELEPHANTS TO LAKE CHAD MEAN DROUGHT IS OVER


    NIAMEY, Niger _ Thousands of elephants roamed the banks of Lake Chad when the great lake extended into four west African countries, but the lake shrank with drought and the elephants left. Some are drifting back now, bringing hope to the arid Sahel.

  "Does the presence of these elephants announce the return of Lake Chad?" the newspaper Le Sahel asked, noting the recent good rains and the preference of the huge animals for humid areas. 

  Le Sahel, the daily newspaper of the Niger Information Ministry, said in its Thursday edition that officials had confirmed the return of an elephant to Nguigmi in Niger's Lake Chad region. It said villagers farther south reported seeing a herd of 16 elephants.

  The Sahel, the fringe of the Sahara Desert, stretches from Senegal, the westernmost point of Africa, east to Chad. It also includes Niger, Mali, Mauritania, Cape Verde and Burkina Faso. Lake Chad once covered portions of Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon and Chad, but has shrunk by hundreds of square miles during a decade of drought. Its waters now do not even reach Niger.

  Villagers near Diffa, 120 miles southwest of Nguigmi, recently reported that the Komadougou River, which had been dry for at least a decade, resumed flowing overnight. The government rushed seed to the area so farmers could plant crops.


                 

    SIKHS SLAUGHTERED AFTER GANDHI ASSASSINATION

       NEW DELHI _ A Sikh high priest said today that "Sikhs have been slaughtered in their thousands" by vengeful Hindus after the assassination of Indira Gandhi, and that the slaughter was forcing Sikhs to choose between their country and their religion.
       Sahib Singh, the chief high priest of the Golden Temple in Amritsar, told The Associated Press in an interview in the Sikh holiday city that despite attacks on his people, they had not retaliated against Hindus in the Sikh stronghold of Punjab state. Little violence has been reported there.




   ISLAND OPPOSITION WINS EVERY SEAT

   PORT LOUIS, Mauritius _ The Marxist-led Mauritian Militant Movement ousted Prime Minister Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam after 22 years in power, winning all 60 contested seats in parliamentary elections.
   It wasn't such a great surprise for an island where they joke that they have the highest rate of bilingual illiteracy. It has been owned by several colonial powers, and its majority is Hindu.