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Archive for March 29th, 2008

Comoros requests for extradition of Mohamed Bacar from Reunion

Posted by African Press International on March 29, 2008

Published by Korir, api africanpress@getmail.no source.apa

The deposed President of Anjouan, Colonel Mohamed Bacar, who has sought refuge on Wednesday in the French island of Mayotte along with 23 of his guards, arrived in Reunion Island where he is expected to be handed over to the French justice on Friday.

Colonel Bacar was overthrown following an attack led by the African Union-backed Comorian forces.

The Comorian interim Foreign Minister Houmadi Abdallah on Thursday told a press conference that he had gotten in touch with the French authorities on Colonel Bacars flight.

Moroni is claiming Colonel Bacars extradition by France to be tried in the country in accordance with the international warrants against the separatist leader.

According to the minister, the Comoros Union will do everything possible to find Mohamed Bacar and try him for crimes against humanity.

The French ambassador to Moroni, Christian Job, however, ascertained the presence of the rebel Colonel in Mayotte along with over twenty collaborators.

Asked about Comoros attitude should France reject the extradition of Mr Bacar, who is reportedly heading to Reunion, a French department in the Indian Ocean, Minsiter Abdallah said should the case occur, his government would take its responsibilities without giving further details.

About 1500 troops from the Comorian forces and the African Union (Tanzanians and Sudanese) on Tuesday early in the morning invaded Anjouan to dislodge the self-proclaimed President Mohamed Bacar.

The African Union had in the past mediated to put an end to the crisis triggered by Mohamed Bacars announcement of his victory following the illegal poll held in June 2007.

The continental organisation had refused to acknowledge the election on the tropical island that had tried in 1997 to break away from the other islands, only to rejoin in 2001.

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‘Peeping Tom’ plagues roadside restrooms

Posted by African Press International on March 29, 2008

Published by Korir, api africanpress@getmail.no source.aftenposteneng

Somebody keeps drilling holes in the walls of this roadside restroom near Lillehammer.

PHOTO: JOHANNES GRBERG/VEGVESENET

A kinky problem continues to confound maintenance workers along the highway that winds through the scenic valley of Gudbrandsdalen in Norway.

Maintenance workers plug the holes, and new ones reappear within a week.

PHOTO: JOHANNES GRBERG/VEGVESENET

Someone has been drilling holes into the walls of public roadside restrooms in the area around Lillehammer.

The first holes were found more than 10 years ago. Maintenance workers patched them up, only to find new holes drilled shortly thereafter.

The problem has persisted, with new holes being found in a restroom near the Vingrom Church as recently as during last week’s Easter holiday.

The state highway workers don’t think the holes are being drilled to increase ventilation in the restrooms. They think someone is using them to spy on those using the public toilet facilities.

“We have discussed who might be behind this, but haven’t come to any conclusions,” said Johannes Grberg, building leader of the Sr-Gudbrandsdalen district of the state highway department (Vegvesenet)

“I can’t even say whether it’s the same person drilling the holes,” Grberg added. “A few years ago we thought we were on the trail of someone, but don’t know if it’s the same person now.”

Reststops at Vingrom and Skarsmoen have been hit the hardest, but holes have also been drilled at reststops between Gjvik and LIllehammer, and along the E6 highway at Sjoa, south of Otta. Sometimes it only takes a few days before metal plates set up to cover the holes are found to have been removed, or new holes emerge.

“Sometimes we’ve had to repair the same place twice in the course of a week,” Grberg said. The highway department hasn’t, however, received any reports from people reporting uncomfortable experiences at the rest stops.

Written by Marie Norum Lerbak and Nina Berglund

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Collapsed building still burning, victims inside

Posted by African Press International on March 29, 2008

Published by Korir, api africanpress@getmail.no source.aftenposteneng

Firefighters in the west coast city of lesund were trying Thursday morning to cool down fires that continued to burn inside a residential building destroyed by a landslide. Five persons remain trapped inside.

This aerial photo shows how the hill behind the newly built condominium complex gave way.

PHOTO: ODD MEHUS/BERGENS TIDENDE

The fires sparked by gas leaks, along with the building’s instability, have blocked rescue workers’ attempts to reach victims.

It’s believed that five residents living on the building’s lower floors were caught under the rubble. The landslide hit just before 4am Wednesday, knocking the building off its foundation and causing the lower floors to collapse.

The neighbourhood around the building on Fjelltunvegen, not far from downtown, also remained evacuated Thursday morning. Fear of explosions from the fires and leaking gas prevented residents from returning to their homes.

Police said it was impossible for emergency workers to enter the building until the gas had burned out. There was less smoke than on Wednesday, and firefighters believed they had control over the burning wreckage.

Fifteen of the building’s 21 residents were rescued after the landslide hit, one resident was said to be away on a trip and five others are believed to have been caught inside and are feared dead.

Speculation over the cause of the landslide continued to rage. One geologist said he’d warned that the hill behind the building, completed just four years ago, could give way.

Others, however, said it had been secured and the building’s developer and contractor claimed all regulations and re-enforcement measures had been followed. City officials had issued building permits after approving plans submitted.

Norway has a long history of land- and rockslides, and many of them have occurred in the western, mountainous area near lesund. Some geologists claim that warmer and wetter weather raises the danger of slides.

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Ali Farah relieved over discrimination ruling

Posted by African Press International on March 29, 2008

Published by Korir, api africanpress@getmail.no source.aftenposteneng

Ali Farah, an African-Norwegian abandoned by ambulance personnel after he’d been beaten in an Oslo park last summer, says he’s “relieved and happy” that a state commission has concluded he was a victim of discrimination.

Ambulance personnel refused to take an injured Ali Farah to hospital last summer.

PHOTO: CARLOLINE DREFVELIN

State health officials in charge of the ambulance service had earlier concluded no laws were broken when two ambulance attendants refused to take Ali Farah to hospital.

An inquiry by the Norwegian Board of Health Supervision (Statens helsetilsyn) claimed racism wasn’t an issue when the attendants left Ali Farah injured and bleeding.

The state Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombud, however, disagreed. It now says Ali Farah was a victim of discrimination and that the ambulance personnel violated Norway’s anti-discrimination law.

Ali Farah, who was found to have suffered a severe head injury after being taken to hospital in a taxi, said the ombud’s ruling has renewed his faith in the Norwegian system and state agencies. “I feel that this report strengthens my case,” he said. “It’s good to be believed.”

The fate of the ambulance personnel, who initially were suspended from duty after the incident, remains unclear. Both kept their jobs but health officials said they now will reevaluate the case with the ombud’s decision under advisement.

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Ethiopia begins deployment of peacekeeping logistics to UN/AU force in Darfur

Posted by African Press International on March 29, 2008

Published by Korir, api africanpress@getmail.no source.apa

Ethiopia on Friday started deployment of military logistics to Darfur as part of the United Nations/African Union hybrid force there.

Ethiopia is among the few African countries that is sending peacekeeping forces under the AU and UN operations in Darfur.

The Ethiopian ministry of defence said that all military logistics required for the Ethiopian peacekeeping forces to Darfur is being transported to the area through the Djibouti port.

Ethiopia is sending over 1,000 peacekeeping forces to Darfur to join the hybrid force there.

The AU and UN have started last month to deploy peacekeeping forces to bring peace and stability in Darfur.

The hybrid force will consist of about 26,000 peacekeepers; the majority of them are expected to be African troops.

The over 1,000 troops, which Ethiopia promised to send to Darfur are said to have finalized their preparation to deploy to the region.

Brigadier General Nigussie Lema, who is in charge of the Ethiopian mission to Darfur said that the transportation of military logistics will be followed by the deployment of Ethiopian troops to Darfur. Ethiopia has also promised to provide two helicopters to the hybrid force.

The UNAMID will have around 26,000 peacekeeping personnel, to take over from the African Mission in Darfur (AMIS) which had some 7,000 peace keeping forces in Darfur since 2004.

However, due to financial constrains and limited mandate of the AU, AMIS was unable to fully discharge its mandate in bringing peace and stability to Darfur.

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Ugandan army deploys heavily at borders ahead of peace deal signing

Posted by African Press International on March 29, 2008

Published by Korir, API africanpress@getmail.no source.apa

The soldiers of the Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF) have been heavily deployed along the borders Uganda shares with Sudan (north) and the Democratic Republic of Congo (east) ahead of the anticipated signing of the northern Uganda comprehensive peace agreement next 5th April, APA learnt Friday from the spokesperson of the UPDF 4th Division, Captain Ronald Kakurungu.

Captain Ronald Kakurungu averred in an interview that the deployment was prompted by reports that some fighters of the Lords Resistance Army (LRA) who are not interested in the peace process will attempt to re-enter Uganda.

The deployment is to seal the border and to ensure a smooth transition period, he said.

Captain Kakurungu pointed out that if some elements of the LRA fail to comply with the terms of the peace deal, the government of Uganda will carry out a joint operation with the countries in which the rebels are based, to root them out by military means.

The LRA have bases in Sudan, the DRC and the Central African Republic.

There are reports in Uganda that the South African government is planning to send its troops to northern Uganda ahead of the signing of the peace pact.

However, Defense State Minister Ruth Nankabirwa said the reports are baseless. South Africa will probably send members to the African Union Observer Mission to help in implementing the peace agreement, she stressed.

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Posted by African Press International on March 29, 2008

Published by Korir, API africanpress@getmail.no source.apa

Nigerias former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, said the rising death toll of innocent Somali citizens could have long been nipped, but for a deliberate turning away by the international community, said an address published Friday in Abuja.

Obasanjo was delivering a keynote address at an international meeting on Somalias Finance and Economic Issues in Nairobi, Kenya. The address is entitled: The Advancement of Peace in Somalia.

We have collectively failed …the Somali people. We have failed ourselves, he stressed in the address.

…We should stop the implicit and latent ranking of conflicts which had relegated the Somalia issue to the background, Obasanjo said.

Obasanjo said the international community continued to show preference for some countries by ranking conflicts across the globe, while forgetting the common humanity that bound all.

The former head of state deplored that the international community continued to pay lip service to the conflict in Somalia, while focusing on other conflicts with higher economic benefits.

Was Somalia given the same attention and resources as Afghanistan, Iraq and Kosovo by the international community?

Could it be that we have concluded that Somalia is not of any strategic relevance to the international community and Africa?

Could it be that lack of strategic mineral resources within the borders of Somalia has made its case somewhat unimportant and irrelevant?(…) he asked.

How else can we explain that a world that could afford to expend well over five billion dollars in 78 days in Kosovo and an additional 55 billion dollars in reconstruction costs could not afford to find the required resources for peace in Somalia? he queried.

Obasanjo continued that how can we explain that a world that could spend 500 billion dollars, deploy 168,000 American troops, recording the death of almost 4,000 of them in the quest for peace in Iraq, could not afford the resources for peace in Somalia?

According to Obasanjo, the Somalia tragedy will continue to be a scar on the conscience of the world, and it will ridicule the entire effort of building global community until it is resolved.

It is this lack of demonstration of the principle of solidarity and collaborative effort that has failed in the Somalia case, he said.

The solidarity that we underline as the basis of our unity and development as a people (…), solidarity that we underline and capitalise in our charters and constitutive acts will remain mere appellations until we are ready to use it again as guiding, goading and inspirational term (…).

It is not too late to correct the inadequate human collective efforts on Somalia, Obasanjo said.

On the labelling of Somalia as a failed state, Obasanjo said that the tagging was derogatory and it undermined the value of lives in that country.

He added that the downturn in the economy of Somalia and the sufferings of many, were indications of international neglect, rather than symptoms of a failed state.

How can we talk of a failed state where human life and living are involved? In my mind as an analytical tool, the concept of a failed state is at best obscurantist and in the worst of situations a gratuitous insult, he said.

Obasanjo warned academics and political leaders to be wary of concepts that had been coined to gain wide acceptance, without really conveying values to the African states and economy.

Indeed and in truth, what has failed in Somalia is a myriad of highly ineffective, largely selective and predetermined initiatives and efforts at conflict resolution at the local, regional and global level…

Citing an instance, the former Nigerian president said a concept like the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) failed to improve the African economy, in spite of its wide acceptance and usage.

We recall with pain the foisting of a patently absurd economic framework called SAP on us and the effort it took on the part of some progressively inclined leaders to reject and repudiate the concept, he recalled.

He added that it was after its failure that the World Bank and the IMF agreed that it was a totally misleading and hastily conceived framework as unrealistic and certainly irrelevant to our situation doing more harm than good.

On the way forward for Somalia, Obasanjo said that the resolution of the conflict must be based on clearly definable and identifiable principles.

There is need to guard the balance of power, reduce the gap between expectations and power, and reduce the probability of successful violence, he added.

Obasanjo noted that a post-conflict Somalia must also be focused on prioritising on economic recovery in order to heal the wounds of loss and poverty, instead of dwelling on political considerations.

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African Press International – API

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Kenyans to go through another weekend without a full Cabinet

Posted by African Press International on March 29, 2008

Published by Korir, API africanpress@getmail.no source.nation.ke

Story by SAMUEL KUMBA

No breakthrough on new Cabinet

ODM and the Government coalition have yet again failed to compromise on the nature and size of the Cabinet.

ODM leader Raila Odinga addresses a news conference shortly after his meeting with President Kibaki at Harambee House earlier today. He is flanked by Pentagon members Musalia Mudavadi and Joe Nyagah. Photo by PETERSON GITHAIGA

According to ODM, the contentious issues are the size of the cabinet, portfolio balance and ODMs participation in all political appointments in the civil service including permanent secretaries and diplomats.

ODM leader Raila Odinga, in a press conference on Friday afternoon said his meeting earlier in the day with President Kibaki failed to resolve the issues and they agreed to consult further.

In our meeting we revisited the issue of size of the cabinet and the allocation of portfolios to ODM and PNU. But we have been unable to reach a consensus so far, Mr Odinga said.

Even a statement from the Presidential Press Service only stated that the two leaders met and agreed to consult further with focus on the implementation of the signed peace accord.

However, there was no indication when they would meet next.

On cabinet size, PNU continues to prefer 44 ministries while ODM wants 34.

On this Mr Odinga said: Such a bloated government, I am afraid, is not good for the country. We would like to see a lean cabinet, preferably of 34 ministries, because the President has already appointed 17 ministers.

During the press conference at Pentagon House, Mr Odinga who was flanked by Pentagon Members Musalia Mudavadi, Joe Nyagah and Najib Balala, maintained that a lean cabinet is necessary because the government needs to contain public expenditure.

He insisted on this especially at such a time when there is abject poverty and deprivation among other people, but also because a leaner cabinet can more efficiently deliver on the services and policies that Kenyans need.

On the other key outstanding issue of portfolio balance, Mr odinga said no consensus has been reached, with the other side preferring to retain the most important ministries.

This is contrary to the cardinal principal of power sharing that is at the heart of the new arrangements. The National Accord and Reconciliation Act 2008, specifies, in Section 4 (3) that, the coalition government shall at all times reflect the relative Parliamentary strength of the respective parties and shall at all times take into account the principle of portfolio balance, he said.

ODM also staked a claim to involvement in all forms of government.

The government is not just the cabinet, which is only a part. There is the bureaucracy. As you are aware the Permanent Secretaries are all the time appointed afresh whenever a cabinet is reshuffled. So nobody should claim that these are professional and so on. We want to be involved in appointment of PSs, diplomats and all other political appointees including heads of parastatals and their chairs, Mr Odinga said.

This contradicted earlier comments by the head of Public Service Francis Muthaura that government sharing does not run outside the Cabinet.

But Mr Odinga was still optimistic that the talks would continue arguing that it took over a month for Germany to strike a deal and form a coalition government. According to him, it is better to do it once and do right other than do it wrongly because of haste.

Asked about the haggling over the ministry portfolios, Mr Odinga was categorical that it is about service to the people of Kenya.

Since we are going to be part of the government, we would like to have a say in key ministries. We just dont want to be passengers to the government, he said.

Insisting that talks have not broken down, the ODM leader said each side has its demands and goals adding that what was lacking is just consensus.

As discussions continue we must keep in mind that the public would like to se us eliminate wasteful public expenditures, and a bloated cabinet would portray us as disconnected from the mood of the country and set a bad example for curtailing other wastefulness, said Mr Odinga.

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African Press International – API

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