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Afran : Labor alerts on oil sector deregulation
on 2009/7/4 22:42:30

Click to see original Image in a new windowThe Nigeria Labor Congress (NLC) has alerted workers to a plan by the Federal Government to commence full deregulation of the oil industry by the beginning of next month.
NLC President, Abdulwaheed Omar, gave the warning in Maiduguri, Borno State, while addressing workers as part of the nationwide protest against the deregulation of the oil industry, agitation for increase in minimum wage to N52, 200 and the implementation of the electoral reforms.
According the NLC president, since Labor creates wealth which the people in government have decided to squander while a majority of the people suffer, the only option left is for them to ground wealth creation.
He said: "The wheel around our symbol in NLC logo signifies the toil of the workers moving the wheel to create wealth, and the minority group in government has decided to take our own natural resources which is oil beyond our reach, then the only plausible option is to ground the wheel that creates the wealth. The day deregulation is firmly entrenched in this country, Nigerian workers will stop running the wheel and let us see the wealth they will generate and use against us."
Omar said that the existing minimum wage was too poor when compared to the level of inflation in the country and the escalating cost of goods and services, adding that the revenue of government was sufficient enough to pay the minimum wage being agitated for by the workers.
While expressing solidarity with workers, former NLC President, Ali Ciroma, said it was against the rule of justice for political office holders elected to serve the people to increase their own salaries by over 800 per cent while the minimum wage of workers remained stagnant at N 5,500.
He said government should show enough political will to implement the Uwais panel on electoral reform report because it was the only way by which the will of the people through their votes could count.
According to him, the only way for democracy to thrive in Nigeria is to implement the report, which is targeted at eliminating electoral fraud and bringing about good leadership that will take the country to the next level.
As was the case in other state capitals where NLC held similar rallies, a letter was delivered to the Governor of Borno State, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, by Omar for onward delivery to President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua.
Responding, Sheriff thanked the leadership of NLC and workers generally for toeing the path of peace and urged them to embrace dialogue in their quest for a better society and workers' welfare. He assured them that he would personally deliver the letter to the President.


Africa : Nigeria: Soldiers Lock Out Niger Delta Villagers
on 2009/7/1 23:35:42

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Ahamefula Ogbu, Juliana Taiwo and Chinwe Ochu

1 July 2009

Lagos — Federal Government's offer of amnesty to Niger Delta militants has suffered yet another setback as the Joint Task Force (JTF), the military body responsible for security in the oil-producing region, has stopped attempts by displaced persons to return to their villages.

The amnesty offer, which has already been met with scepticism by some militant groups and opinion leaders in the region, was also criticised yesterday by Amnesty International, a human rights advocacy organisation, which said it would not work as it is only "treating the symptoms and not the root cause" of the problem.

Militants who trooped into the Atlantic Hall of the Presidential Hotel in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, venue of the stakeholders meeting with the Presidential Committee on Amnesty and Disarmament yesterday, said even though they welcomed President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua's offer, the continued heavy presence of the JTF in the region had increased their scepticism about the sincerity of government.

A government official who attended the meeting told THISDAY last night that the militants who attended the meeting complained particularly about the refusal of men of JTF to allow the indigenes of the villages recently attacked by JTF, who are now in Warri, to return to their community.

The source said: "There was a lot of scepticism from the hundreds that turned out at the stakeholders meeting today because of the security situation. A lot of them said if the men of the JTF would not allow the people of Oporoza, Okerenkoko and Abiteye who were displaced and had been in Warri to return to the community, they are suspicious that they would be killed as soon as they surrender.

"There are a lot of military men crawling along Port Harcourt for instance and government must find a way of withdrawing some of them if it wants to build trust. I mean the people of Oporoza want to go back to their community from Warri where they have been putting up, but they are not allowed to go back by the JTF and that is making the militants not secure.

"The President must create enabling environment for them (militants) to trust the government enough to come out and embrace the amnesty else this presidential committee will be wasting tax payers' money and the desired result will not be achieved."

And after a prolonged silence over the fate of the white paper on the recommendations of the Niger Delta Technical Committee headed by Mr. Ledum Mitte, the Chairman of the Amnesty Implementation Committee, Air Vice-Marshal Lucky Araribe, has explained that the present state of the region was the reason behind its non-release.

He said at the stakeholders meeting yesterday that with the militants still up in arms against the Federal Government and the general state of insecurity, "how the white paper would have been implemented?"

He said the process of disarmament which had started with the amnesty proclamation would pave the way for its implementation when released.

This was as the Chairman of the Technical Committee and President of Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP), Mitte, while suggesting ways of making the amnesty programme work, said JTF also needs amnesty because of the atrocities committed by soldiers in the Niger Delta.

Responding to the submissions of Hon. Uche Onyeaguocha, who is lawyer to the Okirika warlord, Ateke Tom, that most of the people who were swarming them now hope to benefit from the N50 billion announced for the programme, Araribe replied that the entire money would not spent by the Committee.

According to him, the bulk of the money would be expended by the Niger Delta Ministry in addition to their budget. He pointed out that those who were aiming at the money had missed the point since when viewed against the continuity of some of the programmes; the money might not mean much.

Also in attendance were reformed militants and repentant cultists such as Commander Zero from Oluasi Creek in Bayelsa State who lamented that though they heard the message and intended to inform their colleagues in the creeks, but the JTF had blocked all routes and taken over their homes.

One Onwuchekwa lampooned the government for luring him out with unfulfilled promises.

Some suggested that fishing implements be provided, especially fishing trawlers to enable their people go into the high seas to fish as pollution from oil exploration had spoiled aquatic endowments.

On its part, Amnesty International said the amnesty package "gives impunity to the human rights abusers", ranging from the military operatives of JTF to the militants perpetuating violence in that region.

"These packages do not work because nobody is held accountable and it gives impunity to human rights abuses. There should be accountability of the JTF for their actions. It is obvious that the government is trying to seek solutions for this problem, but it is clear that the package will only succeed in treating the symptom and not the root cause. So, I think that the Amnesty package will work, but it legitimises the human rights abuses in the Niger Delta. We condemn the human rights abuses by the government security forces and those of the militants that engage in killing and displacement of innocent citizens," the report said.

The report was contained in a major news report entitled: "Petroleum, Pollution and Poverty in the Niger Delta", released yesterday in Abuja co-authored by Audrey Gaughran, Amnesty International's Head of Business and Human Rights.

She called the situation in the Niger Delta a "human rights tragedy".

According to her, "the people of the Niger Delta have seen their human rights abused by oil companies that their government cannot or will not hold to account. The Niger Delta provides a stark example of the lack of accountability of a government to its people and of multinational companies' almost total lack of accountability when it comes to the impact of their operations on human rights."

She decried the state of affairs surrounding the existence of the Niger Delta indigenes, stating that the human rights impact of pollution in the Niger Delta is greatly under-reported.

"People living in the Niger Delta have to drink, cook with and wash in polluted water. They eat fish contaminated with oil and other toxins - if they are lucky enough to be able to still find fish. The land they farm on is being destroyed. After oil spills, the air they breathe smells of oil, gas and other pollutants. People complain of breathing problems and skin lesions - and yet neither the government nor the oil companies monitor the human impacts of oil pollution," said Gaughran.

She stated that protecting the rights of a citizenry is an international obligation for any government and the Federal Government had failed in that duty, since it had failed to assign responsibility to the different players in the situation.

"The Nigerian government is aware of the risks that oil-related pollution poses for human rights, but has failed to take measures to ensure those rights are not harmed. Despite the widespread pollution of the Niger Delta's land, rivers and creeks - and the many complaints from people living in the region - we could find almost no government data on the impact on humans of any aspect of oil pollution in the Niger Delta," she added.

Africa : Somalia: Over 170,000 Uprooted By Clashes in Capital Since May, UN Reports
on 2009/7/1 22:11:48

More than 170,000 people have been displaced from the Somali capital, Mogadishu, since early May when fresh fighting broke out began between Government forces and insurgents, the United Nations humanitarian wing reported today.

In addition to those uprooted from their homes, the fighting between Government forces and the Al-Shabaab and Hisb-ul-Islam groups have also led to some 250 deaths, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Despite the ongoing fighting and insecurity, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said humanitarian agencies, including UNHCR, the World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), have continued to provide urgently needed life-saving assistance to the affected population.

Most of the internally displaced persons (IDPs) have moved to safer areas within Mogadishu or to makeshift camps on the capital's outskirts. UNHCR reported last week that an additional 45,000 people have fled towards the Afgooye corridor, 30 kilometres south-east of Mogadishu, joining 400,000 other IDPs who have been displaced since 2007.

In a related development, WFP reported that since late 2007, when naval escorts started protecting ships loaded with WFP food heading to Somalia, not a single ship carrying the agency's food has been attacked by pirates. This has helped to ensure that a vital lifeline to some 3.5 million need people in need is kept open.

Under the European Union's Atalanta operation, which started in December last year, WFP has been able to deliver more than 240,000 metric tons of food into Somalia, through Mogadishu, Merka, Bossaso, and Berbera ports.

WFP said it remains extremely grateful to the EU for committing itself to escorting ships carrying the agency's food for this year.

However, WFP is worried about any rise in Somali piracy attacks against ships carrying humanitarian assistance and commercial cargoes to the port of Mombasa in neighbouring Kenya.

Meanwhile, OCHA is also warning that drought is endangering the livelihoods of more than 700,000 pastoralists in Somalia.

Afran : Congo-Brazzaville: 'Simmering Discontent' Ahead of Elections
on 2009/7/1 1:08:41

Brazzaville — Barely two weeks before presidential elections in the Republic of Congo, Marcel Kombo decided to send his wife and children away from Brazzaville.

"When you listen to the politicians talking, you've got to be prudent," said Kombo, a secondary school teacher in the capital. The poll is due on 12 July.

"Their language is a bit violent and they don't give one confidence. I have decided to send my family - my wife, three children and a nephew - to the village so they are safe if fighting breaks out," he added.

With a past marred by army mutinies, rebellions, coups and attempted coups, Congo has been in the throes of a humanitarian crisis for more than a decade. Hundreds of thousands of people remain displaced, especially in the north of the country, where rebel activity is ongoing.

In the Pool region, for example, where government forces fought militias for years until 2003, the conflict destroyed livelihoods and set back years of progress, according to aid agencies.

Primary school enrolment, which used to be almost 100 percent, had by the end of the war dropped to less than 60 percent, according to the UN World Food Programme, which in May expanded its school-feeding programme in the Pool.

"People have not forgotten that elections have led to certain conflicts in the past," Henri Okemba, a former minister, explained. However, he thought the political class had sufficiently matured to avoid a civil war.

Marguerite Kongo, a vendor at Bouemba market, said she had put some cash aside in case the situation deteriorated. "With our politicians anything can happen; they want power so much that they could unleash war on the country again," she said. "When you hear people saying in the media that no one has a monopoly on violence, you get worried and take action."

Service breakdowns

Maixent Hanimbat, chairman of the Forum for Governance and Human Rights (FGDH), said Congo's socio-economic context was an important factor.

"Simmering discontent" was noticeable in the city, with frequent breakdowns in essential services such as water, healthcare and electricity, and discontent could lead to civil war when the election results are announced, he warned.

The socio-economic situation is precarious, with salaries unable to cover basic costs, he added. Education and health facilities are inadequate and unemployment is high - despite significant revenue from oil and timber.

Two supposedly "moderate" opposition candidates on 22 June threatened to withdraw from the elections in protest at the late publication of electoral lists.

They also claimed that the composition of the electorate and the number of polling stations was still not known by 26 June, and disputed the impartiality of the electoral commission.
* Human Rights

Parliamentary elections in 2007 and local elections in 2008, organized by the same electoral commission, were marred by fraud, according to observers from the African Union observers and the Coordination d'appui au processus électoral, a Congolese civil society body comprising more than 20 NGOs.

On 22 June, Prime Minister Isidore Mvouba, who is also vice-president of the National Security Council (CNS), sought to reassure people that adequate security measures were in place.

The CNS was deploying 17,000 security staff to protect polling stations and election rallies, as well as the candidates, including incumbent President Dennis Sassou Nguesso, who has ruled twice, from 1979 to 1992 and from 1997 to date. In March 2002, he won elections with 89.41 percent of votes cast.

[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations ]

Africa : Botswana: Chinese Burst Onto Mining Scene
on 2009/7/1 1:03:01

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Statistics from the Department of Geological Services (DGS) indicate that 111 Chinese private entities currently hold exploration licences in Botswana, up from nearly zero four years ago.

In bursting onto the Botswana mining sector, Chinese companies are vying with traditional Oriental rival, Japan, whose companies have also increased their presence on the Botswana mining scene.

According to the Chief Geologist at DGS, Johannes Tsimako, Chinese companies are being drawn to Botswana by the need to source and develop raw materials for their own industries. Thus, the major minerals Chinese companies are exploring for are copper, nickel, uranium and coal, among others.

"The key attraction is the need for raw materials for their own industries," Tsimako says. "They need to increase their supplies of metals - lead, zinc and other minerals. The Chinese are venturing into areas which have huge potential for exploration and development of these resources." Data trends from the DGS show that while a few years ago Chinese companies were content with holding equity or being in joint ventures with exploration companies in Botswana, they now focus on full control of their exploration activities.

"They are after ownership of the company exploring, perhaps because of the challenges they have experienced in joint ventures," Tsimako points out. "The Chinese companies would prefer to hold 100 percent equity in the company holding ground and would rather own the exploration licence themselves. Even if they bought into an existing company, they would want to take it over."

It is understood the Chinese private companies are partly encouraged by government funding. These companies are being empowered to source and develop raw materials in response to demand in their home country which has declined marginally this year due to the global recession. Import demand in China has been driven by that government's multi-billion US dollar stimulus plan designed to maintain development growth despite the reduced export earnings due to weaker international markets. With Botswana fast emerging as the new uranium destination, Chinese companies are eager to move into this sector and satisfy the huge demand for energy in their country. It is reported that China has a state-approved plan to improve its power generation capacity, which will drive up demand for uranium for reactors. China currently has 12 nuclear reactors under construction, with another 33 planned and another 80 proposed. By January last year, the Oriental giant had 11 operating nuclear reactors.

Africa : Africa: Zuma is Out of Step With History
on 2009/7/1 0:59:17

Click to see original Image in a new windowJust ahead of this week’s African Union summit in Libya, South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma has advocated an old and discredited approach for dealing with African heads of state facing international justice, write Comfort Ero and Piers Pigou.

When a leader of South Africa’s ruling African National Congress speaks on such critical issues as impunity for the perpetrators of human rights violations, the rest of Africa listens. We listen because we recall with passion how apartheid was dismantled, ushering in a new era of democracy for South Africa.

So it comes as a shock that President Jacob Zuma used the recent meeting of the World Economic Forum for Africa to call for a continental policy favouring impunity. Sharing a roundtable conversation with President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, Zuma proclaimed that the “world has changed” and that we must “do things differently and … not emphasise punishment” in dealing with leading perpetrators of serious crimes.

His statement is embarrassing and retrogressive, especially because the world has indeed changed – but not in the ways Zuma assumed.

What has changed is that over the last two decades a global consensus has grown that amnesty for violent crimes is morally and legally unacceptable. Africa led this change in many respects, and the newly-democratised South Africa enthusiastically supported the creation of the International Criminal Court in 2002.

What Zuma now proposes is not a “new” approach but an old and discredited one that would reinforce outdated visions of an Africa which resists human rights and is willing to tolerate the worst forms of brutality.

At a time when Radovan Karadzic is being brought before the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia, Charles Taylor faces justice before the Special Court for Sierra Leone, and Peru has tried and convicted Alberto Fujimori, Zuma has chosen to make the worst kind of rationalization for African exceptionalism.

Even worse, Zuma’s statement was made just ahead of this week’s African Union summit in Libya, which has on its draft agenda at least two reports dealing with attempts to bring to trial African heads of state. Zuma’s “new” approach, coming just as the continent faces pressures from some of its leaders to thwart justice, threatens to undermine the legitimacy of international humanitarian law.

Zuma’s approach would protect the perpetrators and architects of violence at the expense of redress for their victims. Not only is no thought given to providing reparation to victims of such violence, but their right to see justice done would be extinguished. When societies fail to make victims’ needs a priority, those societies risk new cycles of violence.

President Zuma did not distinguish between short-term peace processes and durable peacebuilding. His “bold approach” would do more to promote political violence as a means of gaining power than promote peace. He would invite leaders of political violence to look forward to impunity and a mansion in a neighbouring state.

Zuma presents this position – a safe retirement home for African despots – as being “for the sake of our people,” when clearly this protection is antithetical to the public interest. His position suggests that domestic, regional and international legal commitments can be airbrushed away, cloaked under the rubric of the pragmatic notions of what best serves Africa.

Many commentators assume Zuma’s remarks refer mainly to President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe. Zuma is indeed faced with a serious problem in Zimbabwe that is likely to be resolved only when Mugabe is persuaded to step aside.

Mugabe’s decision to leave the scene will likely depend on guarantees of impunity being extended to members of his inner circle. That is all the more reason that accountability should not be bargained away. Prospects for sustainable transformation in Zimbabwe require more, not less accountability, extending to economic crimes and corruption.

Perhaps Zuma’s public remarks are a tactical gamble, presenting himself as “on side” with the recalcitrant leaders while knowing full well that Africa’s political leadership can provide no meaningful guarantees of impunity. If this benign interpretation is true, is it worth the egg that has landed on his face as a result of appearing an apologist for the continent’s perpetrators?

Comfort Ero is deputy director of the Africa Program of the International Center for Transitional Justice. Piers Pigou is a senior associate at the ICTJ.

Africa : Guinea Bissau: Presidential Polls See Lower Turn-Out
on 2009/6/30 23:11:48

Click to see original Image in a new windowPresidential elections took place in Guinea-Bissau in an atmosphere of calm on Sunday despite tensions generated by the assassination of President Joao Bernado Vieira by the military.

Le Potentiel reports that voting began at 07h00 (GMT) and closed ten hours later in the country of 1.3 million. Counting, which began immediately after the voting ended, was scheduled to carry on through the night. Provisional results are awaited in the coming days.

According to Johan Van Hecke, the head of the European Union observer mission, turn-out was lower than for the 2008 legislative elections. Heavy rains, especially in Bissau, were part of but not the only reason for the low poll. Hecke is the head of a 21-man mission, which visited 80 of the 2,700 polling stations around the country.

Three candidates, all former heads of state, have distinguished themselves among the 11 candidates who stood.
They are Bacaï Sanha (1999-2000) of the Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde, which was the ruling party before the advent of multi-party rule, Kumba Yala (2000-2003) of the Socialist party, and Henrique Rosa (2003-2005), who is an independent candidate.

It is hoped the election will bring some stability to a country plagued by political instability for nearly 10 years. Guinea-Bissau is widely regarded as one of the poorest in the world.

Report from the original French adapted and translated by Michael Tantoh.

Africa : Nigerian president hails amnesty acceptance by militants
on 2009/6/30 22:32:32

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   LAGOS, June 28 (Xinhua) -- Nigerian President Umaru Yar'Adua expressed his welcome to the reported acceptance of his amnesty offer by four leading militant groups in the Niger Delta region.
    According to the Guardian report published Sunday, the president, who did not mention the militants, said their embrace of the amnesty was a sign that peace could be achieved in the Niger Delta to enable the government to focus on the development of the region.
    Representatives of Ateke Tom, Farah Dagogo, Soboma George and Ebikabowei Victor Ben (alia Boyloaf) issued a statement on Friday indicating their acceptance of the amnesty.
    The four factions have links to the main umbrella militant group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND),which is in reality a loose coalition of armed gangs.
    However, they said they would not surrender their weapons until holding talks with the president to know the actual package of the amnesty and secure the assurances of the president that he was sincere with the gesture.
    "We accept peace as encapsulated in the said offer of amnesty," they said in a joint statement.
    "Depending on the outcome (of the meeting with Yar'Adua), the leaders will then announce when they will begin to hand over the arms and ammunitions in their possession to the Federal Government," the statement added.
    Yar'Adua said Saturday his offer was part of the government determination for peace and security that would enable the administration to focus on the development of the country on the platform of his seven-point agenda.
    He urged other militants to emulate them for the overall peace and development of the Niger Delta.
    The president last Thursday offered a 60-day amnesty (from Aug.6 to Oct. 4) to gunmen in the Niger Delta, who have been responsible for pipeline bombings, attacks on oil and gas installations and the kidnapping of industry workers over the past three years.
    The amnesty proposal could mean that militants suspend a month-old campaign of attacks which have shut down at least 133,000 barrels of oil production per day.
    The unrest has prevented the world's 10th biggest oil producer from pumping nearly half of its capacity of 3 million barrels per day, costing Nigeria billions of dollars in oil revenues.
    Nigeria's chief of staff, Marshal Paul Dike, said the forces would observe a ceasefire and respect all the terms of the amnesty, but he warned that the army would respond, if attacked.
    However, MEND vowed to continue its arms struggle, describing the president's offer of amnesty as bait aimed at destroying the group's agitation for greater autonomy over the oil-rich Niger Delta, the Nation newspaper reported Sunday.

Africa : Comoros: Plane Goes Down Off Coast
on 2009/6/30 22:16:34

A Yemenia airline Airbus A310 is reported to have crashed in the Indian Ocean near the Comoros Islands.

The crash follows a month after another Airbus, operated by Air France, went down in the Atlantic Ocean while flying from Brazil, killing 228 passengers.

The plane which crashed last night disappeared from radar screens between Yemen and the Comores, according to airport sources. It was carrying 142 passengers and 11 crew members, who had originally boarded the flight at Roissy (Paris) and Marseille in France.

Some bodies have been found near the Comoros and a French search team has been dispatched. According to sources, the plane had on board 66 French citizens, 40 of whom boarded at Roissy and 26 at Marignane (Marseille).

French sources said the weather was cloudy and windy at the time of the accident. The French transport secretary, Dominique Bussereau, confirmed on the Europe 1 television channel that the crash might have been caused by bad weather. Sources said the control tower in the Comores did all it could to help the plane, but in vain.

Yemenia is not a blacklisted airline in France, so the government will in one way or another be part of the investigation, Bussereau said. Two battalions from the national marines have already been sent to the Comores.

Yemen has announced that some bodies have been found. According to a Yemeni official, the aircraft had failed to land on its first attempt and was about to try a second time when it crashed. But Bussereau warned that this information was unverified informations.

Report translated from the original French by Michael Tantoh.

* The airline announced on its website that the aircraft was flight number IY626, travelling from Sana’a in Yemen to Moroni in the Comores. The aircraft was an Airbus 310-300, it said.


Africa : Medvedev calls for increased trade ties with Namibia
on 2009/6/30 0:23:48

Click to see original Image in a new windowWINDHOEK (AFP) – Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Thursday called for boosting trade ties with Namibia, at the start of the first-ever visit by a Kremlin chief to the southern African nation.
"We will develop our partnership with Africa," Medvedev said at the start of talks with his Namibian counterpart Hifikepunye Pohamba.
"We should promote activization of trade and economic ties," he said.
"The first visit of the Russian president should open a qualitatively new stage in our relations."
Pohamba said his nation was also keen to "strengthen our cooperation" and build a "durable economic partnership."
"We would like to secure access of our products to Russia," he said, urging Moscow to lower tariffs on metal and farm goods.
After their meeting, Medvedev said he had discussed expanding cooperation in energy, including on Namibia's vast uranium deposits.
The Russian leader is later scheduled to go to the Okapuka natural park, famous for its rhinos, giraffes and crocodiles.
Medvedev is making a four-nation tour across Africa, aiming at boosting energy ties with the continent. His final stop will be in Angola on Friday.
http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20090625/ ... mibiarussiadiplomacytrade

Africa : Ethiopia says no plan to deploy troops in Somalia
on 2009/6/30 0:19:54

    ADDIS ABABA, June 24 (Xinhua) -- Ethiopia has no plan to deploy its troops in neighboring Somalia despite escalating insecurity in that country, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said on Wednesday.
    "We have no plans to do so for a number of reasons," said Meles.
    He said Ethiopia believes that the situation in Somalia could be stabilized without the deployment of Ethiopian troops.
    Through the international support to the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and its allies in Somalia, Ethiopia believes that the situation would be resolved, he told journalists.
    Ethiopia is not yet convinced that the situation would pose clear and present danger to its national security, Meles said, referring to the other factor for not deploying Ethiopian troops in Somalia.
    In addition, he said the deployment of Ethiopian troops in Somalia would be unwarranted.
    He reiterated that Ethiopia, which is in full support of the TFG in Somalia, now prefers to assist that country by means other than the deployment of Ethiopian troops.
    In recent weeks, witnesses have reportedly seen Ethiopian troops inside Somalia, mainly around Somalia's border areas.
    Meles admitted Ethiopia sometimes undertook military reconnaissance operations in border areas between the two countries.
    But,Meles said Ethiopia has no plans to go back to Somalia.
    Ethiopian troops entered into Somalia in late 2006 to back the embattled TFG against Islamist insurgents. But it has many times rejected accusations that it crossed back into the country in the wake of renewed fighting which has killed hundreds of local people.
    On Monday, Somalia's TFG declared a state of emergency in the country to counter an Islamist insurgency that has been battling with the government forces, urging neighboring countries to send troops to help.
    The neighboring Kenyan government said last week it would not sit back and watch security in Somalia to deteriorate further but declined to send troops.
    The radical Somali Islamist leader, Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, said on Wednesday that his forces would fight any foreign troops coming to aid the Somali government, reiterating his call for the African Union (AU) peacekeepers in Mogadishu to leave.
    Nearly 4,300 peacekeepers from Uganda and Burundi are currently deployed in Mogadishu as part of the proposed 8,000-strong AU peacekeeping forces.
    Somalia has been through nearly two decades of civil strife and the current Somali government is the fifteenth attempt at setting up strong central authority for the fragmented Horn of Africa country.     


Africa : Kenya steps up border security over Somalia threats
on 2009/6/30 0:19:06

Click to see original Image in a new window  NAIROBI, June 24 (Xinhua) -- The Kenyan government said on Wednesday it has heightened security along its common border with Somalia following threats of invasion by Somali Islamist militants.
    Speaking in Nairobi, Internal Security Assistant Minister Orwa Ojode said Kenya which brokered the protracted negotiations that culminated in the formation of the transitional government of Somalia is not taking such militia threats lightly.
    "I actually do not think that the presence of Kenyan forces along the Kenya-Somalia border will compromise security in the country," Ojode told journalists in Nairobi.
    The fragile Western-backed Somali transitional government is coming under intense pressure from Islamist militias that control swathes of the country.
    Somalia has asked for urgent foreign military intervention, a call backed by the African Union. The international community is concerned that Osama bin Laden's al Qaida terrorist network may get a grip on the failed Horn of Africa state that has been without a central government for 18 years.
    "Bad elements might come into the country through some porous border, but we have our intelligence on the ground. We shall deal with them," the assistant minister vowed.
    Ojode said that security forces around the country are on high alert following threats by the militants who have demanded that Kenya withdraws its military presence on its borders or they willl "destroy the tall, glass buildings in Nairobi."
    Ojode spoke in the wake of reports that the al Qaida terrorist group has pitched tents in Somalia where it is fighting alongside extremists to oust the transitional government, posing a deadly threat to the stability of neighboring countries including Kenya.
    The reports that Al-Muhajirun, a terrorist outfit linked to al Qaida and commanded by a Kenyan, Saleh Nabhan, have brought to Somalia some of the most dangerous terrorists in the world, posing a major concern to Kenya.
    But Ojode said the government would beef up security personnel not only along the porous borders, but also around the country to avert any intended terrorist attacks. 


Africa : Ethiopian rebels arrested for dam raid
on 2009/6/29 23:47:38

ADDIS ABABA, June 26 (Reuters) - Ethiopia said on Friday it arrested three Oromo Liberation Front rebels who beat up Chinese technicians in a raid on a dam construction site in the west.

State TV said three Chinese were in hospital after being badly beaten by the OLF gang during the attack this week at the Neshie Dam. The statement said they were planning "terrorist activities" there, and were later caught by security forces.

"The culprits beat Chinese technicians working at the site, robbed laptops, printers, digital surveying machines and other equipment at the site," it said.

The three were paraded on TV, together with guns, communications equipment and bomb-making materials.

Prime Minister Meles Zenawi's government blames the OLF, which has fought for autonomy for its southern homeland since 1993, for various explosions in the capital Addis Ababa.

Addis Ababa accuses arch-enemy Eritrea of training and funding the OLF and other small rebel groups in Ethiopia's remote, outlying areas. Asmara says that is an excuse to mask popular unrest with Meles' government.

An opposition figure said the government's version on the arrests was not credible.

"Unless there is ample evidence that the three persons apprehended as terrorists were attempting to carry out terrorist activities along the dam site, we cannot trust what the government is alleging," said Gebru Gebremariam, chief whip in parliament for United Ethiopian Democratic Forces (UEDF).


Africa : Robert Mugabe may revive Zimbabwe dollar
on 2009/6/29 23:44:57

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President Robert Mugabe said he may revive the Zimbabwe dollar because the US dollar is unavailable to a majority of people.
Mr Mugabe allowed the use of multiple foreign currencies in January to stem hyperinflation of over 230 million per cent which left the Zimbabwe dollar almost worthless.
This situation has caused untold suffering because rural people have no access to the dollars and South African rands circulating in towns.
The state Herald newspaper said Mr Mugabe's new unity government with rival Morgan Tsvangirai was battling to ease economic hardships, but added that Zimbabwe could not have a system where rural people were forced to trade their livestock.
His comments contradict those of economic planning minister Elton Mangoma who told a mining investment conference in London on Tuesday that Harare had no plans to move away from the US dollar until southern Africa adopted a regional currency.


Africa : Algerian interior minister: terrorists try to mislead security forces
on 2009/6/29 23:36:18

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27 June, 2009 12:10:00 By N. B. / English version: Echoroukonline

Algerian interior minister Nourredine Yazid Zerhouni said Thursday the latest terrorist attacks in eastern Algiers were carried out in « calm areas to mislead security forces. »
• "The latest terrorist attacks were carried in places where there is a total absence of such acts,” Zehouni told reporters.
• Terrorists killed at least 18 gendarmes in the town of Mansoura (east of Algiers) when they ambushed a military convoy.
• The town is considered as a “safe place” as it has not witnessed any terrorist attack since 1995 when the Armed Islamic Group(GIA) set up a false roadblock.
• Zerhouni said terrorist acts went down in the traditional strongholds in the provinces of Boumerdes, Tizi Ouzou, Tebessa and Jijel in eastern Algiers.
• “Pressure is getting higher on terrorists who are still operating. Their number has become very low following the blows they received as part of the fight against terrorism.”
• Asked about security measures on the 2nd Pan-African Festival due to be held in July, the minister urged people to be “more vigilant so that the event would take place in the best conditions.”
• A worker at the base of a Chinese company in Bordj Bouerreridj (east of Algiers) was arrested for giving information to terrorists about gendarmes, Echorouk has learnt.
• “He was involved in the attack before he had joined his house,” said the same sources.
• Investigators found a hunting gun in his house while a woman was arrested for sheltering the terrorists shortly before carrying out the attack.
• Investigators are questioning 17 suspicious people. Preliminary investigations show that one of the involved terrorists is a repentant activists and he carried out the attack. Most of the terrorists belong to terror support networks.. They provided some terrorists in mountains with arms and medicines.

Africa : Zimbabwe frustrated at Western aid boycott NEW YORK, UNITED STATES
on 2009/6/29 23:30:37

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Zimbabwe's vice-president on Friday expressed frustration that Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's European and US trip didn't raise as much financial aid as her government had hoped, but called it a "quite successful" first step.

Joice Mujuru, who fought alongside President Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe's war of independence, told the Associated Press that the government had hoped Tsvangirai's nearly three-week trip, which just ended in Paris, would have produced "more financial support, but being the first, it's a positive move".

She said it is being quickly followed up by ministerial visits to key countries and an investment conference to generate financial support for the new coalition government.

Tsvangirai launched the tour saying he wasn't carrying a begging bowl but wanted to mend his nation's relations with Western leaders, who accuse Mugabe of trampling on democracy and ruining a once-vibrant economy. Many Western nations want Mugabe to step down and are reluctant to offer Zimbabwe major aid or donate money directly to the government.

When Tsvangirai visited Britain this week, Prime Minister Gordon Brown pledged £5-million ($8,2-million) in new aid for food projects and textbooks -- to be distributed by charities. Officials in France offered political support but said any new aid would focus on non-governmental organisations and not go directly to the government. Tsvangirai left Washington after meeting President Barack Obama with only a promise of $73-million in conditional aid.

Mujuru expressed frustration at Western reluctance to help the power-sharing government directly, saying Zimbabwe needs a "huge financial injection" -- estimated by the Ministry of Finance at $8-billion.

Longtime rivals Mugabe and Tsvangirai have pledged to work together to confront Zimbabwe's crippling poverty, collapsed utilities and chronic shortages of food and basic goods. Zimbabwe has had the highest inflation rate in the world, thousands have died during a major cholera outbreak, and much of the population goes to bed hungry. Many blame Mugabe, but have been increasingly critical of Tsvangirai.

Mujuru said that for almost 10 years, the government and opposition "were at each other ... but now we have decided to come together and work well" in an inclusive government.

The former rivals have the same message -- "come and help us, now we are ready to work together and improve our economy and improve the living conditions of our people," she said.

"I thought by just being one inclusive government sharing the same ideas and programmes of government is a big plus on our side, and that's where the world should come to our aid," Mujuru said.

"But still the world is saying, you are not yet ready."

The new government is "stretching the hand of friendship" to the West and the rest of the world, just as Obama has said he is ready to stretch his hand out to opponents, she said.

"My president is actually saying, 'let's build bridges'," Mujuru said. "So I don't know how they expect us to start building the bridges."

"How do you want us to show the world that we are ready?" Mujuru asked.

Western countries cite the slow pace of reform since the coalition government took power, the trials of activists on trumped up charges, claims that security forces still use force to crush political opponents, and other human rights violations.

Mujuru said "Yes, we still have those isolated cases of violence, but mind you, some of them are very criminal."

"It's not everything that is political," she said, noting that one lawmaker from Tsvangirai's party who is under arrest is accused of raping a 13-year-old girl.

She said Parliament is currently recruiting for three commissions that respond to Western concerns -- a human rights commission, an anti-corruption commission, and a media commission.

Although Tsvangirai didn't get the kind of financial support the government hoped for on his trip, Mujuru said "I think it was quite successful."

"We have leads that need follow-up and so the beginning is very important," she said.

Mujuru said the government sent the foreign minister, the finance minister, the minister of economic planning and others to visit EU and some non-EU countries starting last week in Brussels to "tell our story as a unity government, because we are not understood by many ..."

The government also announced this week that it will be holding an investment conference in late July in Harare, she said.

"It's a chance for the world to come over and see what is happening on the ground," Mujuru said.

While Zimbabwe is a former British colony with links to the West, she said, the government is ready to do business with countries from the East.

In addition to being one of two vice presidents in the unity government, Mujuru is a vice-president in Mugabe's Zanu-PF party. - Sapa-AP

Source: Mail & Guardian Online
Web Address: http://www.mg.co.za/article/2009-06-2 ... ed-at-western-aid-boycott

Africa : Turkish ambassador calls for free trade agreement with Algeria
on 2009/6/29 23:25:16

Turkish ambassador in Algiers has called for a free trade agreement between Turkey and Algeria, saying that such an agreement would significantly improve commercial relations between the two countries.
"Turkey and Algeria have become two strategic partners as we have signed a number of agreements, and we can improve our relations especially in trade and end an unfair competition with European Union countries if we sign a free trade agreement," Ahmet Necati Bigali told the Anadolu Agency on Friday.
Bigali also said political relations between Turkey and Algeria were at an excellent level, adding that the friendship and brotherhood had roots deep in history

http://www.todayszaman.com/tz-web/det ... tay&link=179144&bolum=105


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