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Archive for June 23rd, 2008

The New African Leader

Posted by African Press International on June 23, 2008

This past week has been like no other in the recent past. For the first time since the wave of nationalism that swept African leaders to power across the continent, the world witnessed the emergence of a new, super intelligent, deeply pragmatic and sincerely hopeful leadership in Africa. By visiting Washington D.C. and displaying the best of African pride and wisdom, Prime Minister Raila Odinga told the global community that the continent was turning a page. Africa is moving forward with dignity and hope. The era of begging for handouts is over. The era of hard work, partnerships and reciprocal trade agreements is in.
Those of us who support Prime Minister Raila Odinga have been accused of doing so blindly. Worse still, we’ve been labeled tribalists who seek to see a Luo presidency in our lifetime in Kenya. Bull. It’s easy for those who are loath to the visionary leadership of the Prime Minister to twist what we say and spin it into something more parochial and foolish. But how do such people argue with thecharisma of a man who came to Washington and declared that what we need today is not give-outs, but investment? How do they argue with the diplomacy of a man who respected President Kibaki even as he reminded the world that the truly elected President of Kenya had not yet been inaugurated? And how do they argue with the sense he left in official Washington…that the new African leader was emerging?
But while the Hon Odingawas projecting the new face of Africa to the world, in Zimbabwe we were witnessing the brutality of discredited and myopic leadership. Robert Mugabe was going around the nation unleashing terror on his own people, maiming women and children, killing fathers and brothers, literally raping the economy. Isn’t there just one bullet someone can lock in his head to end this misery for our people in Zim? How long will his madness be allowed to go on? And then there is Thabo Mbeki. The man has gone from a respected world leader to an idiot. Remember his position on AIDS? Anddid you know that he is the reason Mugabe feels he can get away with impunity? Is it any wonder the South Africans went with Jacob Zuma as his replacement? Hhmm!
While all that was going on, Kalonzo Musyoka was back in Ukambani asking Kenyans to stop debating amnesty. You see, to people like Kalonzo, this is a debate. To him this is a matter of who wins an argument. What this traitor needs to be told is that we are not debating. We are calling on the government to release thefreedom fighters locked up in our jailhouses. The boys who fought the police and Kibaki’s thuggish forces fought for the nation. They are not criminals. They are freedom fighters. It’s because of them that we have a government of national unity. To continually keep them in jail isunethical. So, once again, for the sake of putting the final block on the reconciliation house we’ve been building, let the boys go. Letthe sons and daughters of Nyanza,the Rift Valley, Western, Central, Coast, Eastern, Nairobi and the NEP go. Let our people go. The alternative, as you’ll soon find out, will be a deal-breaker.
Be reminded, once again, that the chief culprits in the election debacle are: Mwai Kibaki, Samuel Kivuitu, John Michuki, Gen Ali andothers. Their crimes are listed in my earlier posts.
That said, let’s thank God that Kenya is blessedto have one of the new breed of African leaders in our own country. With leaders like William Ruto, Musalia Mudavadi, Najib Balala, Joe Nyagahand the indomitable Madam Charity Ngilu, Kenya ismarching to a better place.
The golden age in Kenyais at hand!
For Love of Country,
Sam O. Okello
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Smoking kills: Do smokers take the warning seriously or they feel mobbed?

Posted by African Press International on June 23, 2008

Higher cigarette taxes discourage teen smoking

The African proverb, It takes a village to raise a child, reminds us of the role of governments and communities in supporting our youth. When schools, communities and government work together, we can more effectively tackle the problems facing our youth.

On June 3, the state excised a cigarette tax increase by $1.25 a pack. Studies have demonstrated that higher cigarette taxes are one of the most effective ways to reduce smoking by both youth and adults. According to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, New York can expect this increase to prevent more than 243,000 kids alive today from smoking.

Every time a person quits smoking, or chooses not to smoke, it helps relieve the monetary burdens taxpayers currently incur as a result of smoking. The annual health care cost in New York State directly caused by smoking is $8.17 billion. The state Medicaid program covers $5.4 billion of that expense. If you are ready to quit using tobacco, call the New York State Smokers Quitline at 1-866-NY-QUITS or visit www.nysmokefree.com . Kathryn Huber, Mark Kessler and Alan Rubeck

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Judy Garland: Fairytale gone wrong

Posted by African Press International on June 23, 2008

Judy Garland (AFP Photo)
From a sweet film icon Judy Garland was turned into a drug-addled victim because of the men in her life, says the actress’ new biography.

Judy Garland, her children have said, hardly gave them much of a childhood. She dragged them from hotel to hotel, often flitting out under cover of darkness without paying her bills, and subjected them to her repeated suicide attempts and a string of disastrous relationships.

In the Andy Hardy movies, in which she starred alongside Mickey Rooney, she won over the public with her image as the good-hearted girl next door, while in The Wizard Of Oz the role of Dorothy cemented her status as an icon of sweet innocence and guileless charm. Beneath the surface, however, all was not well.

Aged 14 Garland landed a contract with MGM and came under the influence of the studios legendary boss Louis B Mayer. He saw that her natural screen presence had the potential to turn her into a star and was soon running virtually every aspect of her life, reports The Daily Express.

He took to groping her in his office, telling her as he put a hand on her left breast that she sang from the heart. When she found the courage to tell him to back off, he wept in shame. MGM even attempted to control her romantic involvements. She fell in love with and married composer David Rose in 1941. MGM, however, disapproved and later forced Judy to have an abortion. The pair had divorced by 1945.

She next married Vincente Minnelli, who directed her in the musical Meet Me In St Louis. They had daughter Liza in 1946, which triggered Judys post-natal depression. It also wasnt long before rumours of Vincentes homosexuality reached his wife. When she found him in bed with another man she slit her wrists, though she had cheated on him with several men, including Orson Welles and Yul Brynner.

They divorced in 1951 and drink and drugs took hold. She was a constant no-show on film sets and MGM fired her in 1950. She attempted suicide again and suffered several nervous breakdowns. Judy hired Sid Luft as her manager and he organised a series of concerts in Europe and New York which were a huge success. The couple married and had a daughter and a son. But Judys infidelity doomed that relationship too.

Marriage number four was to actor Mark Herron and was short-lived when he turned out to be gay.

Meeting musician and producer Mickey Deans changed all that but this brief stab at happiness was also destined for failure. Just weeks into their marriage, a row broke out in their London home which spilled into the street. Mickey was unable to calm the screaming Judy so he stormed off.

On his return, he found his wife slumped naked and lifeless on the toilet, dead from an accidental overdose of barbiturates. At 47, Judy Garland had finally succumbed to the addiction, despair and torment that had dogged her for much of her tragic life.

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Raila wants Mugabe to go: He made the demand while in the US – that must have pleased the Americans

Posted by African Press International on June 23, 2008

WASHINGTON: Kenya’s Prime Minister, Raila Odinga, has called on world leaders to pressure Robert Mugabe to step down, labelling the regime of the Zimbabwean despot “an eyesore on the African continent”.

Mr Odinga said the international community should pressure Mugabe to step down and should send peacekeepers to Zimbabwe to oversee free and fair elections there.

“Do we have conditions for free and fair elections in Zimbabwe at the moment? The answer is no, you don’t,” Mr Odinga said of a June 27 runoff presidential vote between Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

“It’s already been pre-rigged,” Mr Odinga said, citing beatings and arrests, arson, the repeated detention of Mr Tsvangirai and more than 100,000 soldiers already casting ballots under the watchful eyes of police.

“It would be best for the international community to insist for Mugabe to step down, and send an international peacekeeping force,” he said.

Mr Odinga criticised fellow African leaders for failing to speak out against the violence plaguing Zimbabwe ahead of the presidential polls.

South African President Thabo Mbeki, who was due to meet Mugabe overnight, has come under fire for his policy of quiet diplomacy towards the neighbouring country.

“Zimbabwe is an eyesore on the African continent … an example of how not to do it. I’m sad that so many heads of state in Africa have remained quiet when disaster is looming in Zimbabwe,” Mr Odinga said.

Mugabe has threatened to arrest opposition leaders amid mounting violence in his country ahead of this month’s runoff in which he faces the most serious challenge to his 28-year rule.

A senior UN official, Haile Menkerios, met Mugabe in Harare yesterday, as part of a trip to assess the political situation in the country. The opposition, led by Mr Tsvangirai, has said more than 60 of their supporters have been killed since the first round of the presidential elections in March.

Mr Odinga told a discussion run by Washington’s Centre for Strategic and International Studies that he had been “declared enemy number one in Zimbabwe” for criticising the country’s leaders.

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At last, the world recognises rape as a weapon of war – Good for world peace

Posted by African Press International on June 23, 2008

Story by RASNA WARAH
THE UN SECURITY COUNCIL last week voted unanimously in favour of a resolution that could change how war is defined around the world.

The resolution, sponsored by the United States, declared rape and sexual violence as a war tactic that aims to humiliate, dominate, instil fear in, disperse and/or forcibly relocate civilian members of a community or ethnic group.

The recognition of rape as a weapon of war by the international community is significant and historic because it acknowledges what has been described as one of historys greatest silences the sexual violation of women and girls during periods of conflict.

Ever since men started fighting other men for territory and resources, rape has been used as a weapon to subdue and conquer the enemy.

Soldiers, war-mongers and combatants know that one of the most effective ways to destroy a community is by raping its women and girls.

Rape and sexual violence not only emotionally damage the victims, they destabilise affected populations, and destroy bonds that keep families and communities together.

In many cases, victims contract sexual diseases that further isolate them from their communities. In a study of 1,000 widows who lost their husbands in the Rwandan genocide in 1994, for instance, 67 per cent were found to be HIV-positive.

For years, human rights organisations have been raising the alarm on the growing numbers of women who are sexually violated during conflict but their pleas to have rape recognised as a war crime have been largely ignored.

In 2004, for instance, Amnesty International warned that in conflict zones such as Colombia, Iraq, Chechnya, Nepal and Afghanistan, governments had failed to protect women and girls and that violence against women was not just a by-product of war in these countries, but often a deliberate military strategy, with women particularly targeted in ethnic cleansing campaigns.

In its report Lives Blown Apart, the human rights organisation reported 36 countries where women were being deliberately targeted by male combatants.

Closer to home, that terrible Heart of Darkness known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo has been engaging in what one human rights organisation has referred to as a war against women for more than a decade.

The UNs Integrated Regional Information Networks (Irin) reports that rape has become so extensive in this conflict-ridden country that it is locally referred to as a war within a war.

It is estimated that some 40 women are raped every day in the DRC. The Shame of War, a book published by Irin in 2007, describes in horrific detail the kinds of atrocities women and girls have to face in this mad and murderous country.

IN ONE INSTANCE, A CONGOLESE mother walked into her house to find a soldier raping her 10-month old baby. Fighters are also known to abduct girls and keep them as sexual slaves.

Amnesty International says thousands of women fail to report these crimes because there is no government mechanism or political will to address the issue.

Often, violence against women continues even after peace returns. In Kivu in the eastern DRC, women and girls continued to be raped and maimed even after the peace process had been initiated in 2002.

In the Balkans, forced prostitution and human trafficking escalated in the aftermath of the wars in the former Yugoslavia. In this case, criminal elements replaced fighting factions by continuing with the sexual victimisation of women and girls.

In some cases, reports Irin, the presence of peacekeeping forces actually makes the situation worse, as they comprise a notable portion of local demand for prostitutes in places such as Bosnia-Herzegovina, Sierra Leone, Kosovo, Timor Leste and the DRC.

While it is difficult at this stage to know what impact the UN resolution will have on what happens on the ground, by breaking the silence on what can only be described as the longest war against women, the UN has forced governments to acknowledge that rape is being used systematically as a weapon of war, and must be dealt with as such.

This acknowledgement may also lead to more accurate reporting of crimes against women and girls and may force governments to act more decisively in conflict zones.

However, to be effective, the resolution needs to be translated and adopted as a war crime under international law.

Rape and sexual violence during conflict must be viewed in the same light as genocide and other crimes against humanity.

Only then is there hope that the perpetrators will face any judicial system or be tried under national and/or international justice systems.

UN resolutions can only guide member states to act in certain ways; they are not legally enforceable. The next step for human rights organisations and governments is to lobby for an international law that would put in place measures and legal instruments that would make rape during conflict as punishable as torture or genocide.

Ms Warah is an editor with the UN. The views expressed here are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations. (grasp@nbi.ispkenya.com)

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Karua is correct: Some ODM Kenyan leaders fear the truth

Posted by African Press International on June 23, 2008

In an earlier story, see below – cited as related story, API wrote that the leaders calling for amnesty are trying to cover up the attrocities committed during post election violence. The leaders are afraid to be named in court by those who they encouraged to commit crimes by going on a killing spree. The US ambassador in Kenya is an agitator. API is of the opinion that the US ambassador Ranneberger is fooling Kenyans. Read the Story. API

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Amnesty: Karua says leaders afraid of truth

By Martin Mutua And Anderson Ojwang
Justice Minister Martha Karua has hit back at leaders calling for amnesty for perpetrators of post-election chaos, saying they feared more for themselves than the suspects.
Karua said leaders advocating for amnesty feared that the suspects would name them when taken to court.
“The leaders who are pushing for it (amnesty) fear that if the suspects are brought before court, they will be mentioned,” she added.
Karua made the remarks at the burial of Mzee Daniel Mwarania Kiraitu, the father of Energy Minister Kiraitu Murungi, at Murungurune in Imenti South District at the weekend.
On Friday, Karua was booed by mourners at the burial of Assistant Minister Lorna Laboso over her insistence that amnesty would not be granted to the suspects.
, Karua said she was not shocked by the reaction of the crowd, saying it was the work of those drumming up support for amnesty.
Elsewhere, an assistant minister has said religious leaders and elders must be involved in reconciliation if the process is to be successful.
Mr William Cheptumo, the assistant minister for Justice, National Cohesion and Constitutional Affairs, said healing and reconciliation could not be realised through the law alone.
“If we had our priorities right and involved religious leaders and elders in seeking peace, we would not need the National Cohesion docket in the ministry. We must take a different approach to heal the nation,” he said.

The Baringo North MP was speaking in Eldoret town during an inter-denominational dinner to foster peace and friendship among religious organisations in the area.

Cheptumo challenged the religious leaders to take a leading role in reconciling displaced people and the host communities.

“Eighty per cent of the population are Christians and if our religious leaders were sincere, we would have resolved this issue. I challenge you to walk the talk and let us unite Kenya,” he said.

Meanwhile, Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka has censured his Cabinet colleagues who introduced the amnesty debate at the funerals of Kipkalya Kones and Lorna Laboso.

The VP said it was wrong for politicians to have used the funerals of the senior Government leaders to make statements that incited wananchi.

The Mwingi North MP said the funerals should have been used for reconciliation, not condemnation.

He said it was wrong for politicians to try to campaign for the application of the rule of the jungle rather than the rule of law.

The VP was talking at the funeral of the father of Energy Minister Kiraitu Murungi, Mzee Daniel Mwarania Kiraitu, at Murungurune in Imenti South District.

Related story:

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Kenya’s Harambee stars play against Zimbabwe

Posted by African Press International on June 23, 2008

Harambee stars 0-0 Zimbabwe

Written By:Vereso Mwanga

The national soccer team Harambee Stars fought out a barren draw with hosts Zimbabwe in their 2010 world cup cum Africa cup of nations return leg qualifier played in Harare Sunday.

Following the victory Kenya maintains the top spot in-group two of the qualifiers with 7 points.

Zimbabwe still remain second on 5 points pending the match between Guinea who have 4 points and Namibia who trail with a point.

Harambee Stars are expected back home Monday evening.

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US Ambassador in Kenya Ranneberger is fooling Kenyans all the time

Posted by African Press International on June 23, 2008

Why are Kenyan leaders allowing the foreign amabssadors to dictate in the running of the country? Why are they allowed to act like small kings in Kenya when in their countries, they have no voices at all? Many Kenyans who have not lived with the white people seem to continue thinking the white are better than the black people. It is shocking. A white ambassador dictating in Kenya all the time as if he is the head of state! Is there no way to stop him? When there is anything being discussed by Kenyan politicians that is not good for ODM and the Raila group, the US ambassador takes a neautral stand and if it is against PNU then he is loud-mouth!

Now when PNU politicians have talked about punishing those who killed during post election violence, the ambassador takes a neautral stand because he knows that those who killed more people are ODM supporters. Any US support for punishment would harm Raila, Ruto and ODM and that is not what Ranneberger and the US want to see. This is double standard against the Kenyan people.

The Ambassador says that the two leaders – Kibaki and Raila should find an amicable solution. What is amicable? Those who killed must be punished. There is fear in some circles including the US embassy. If some people are taken to court, they might reveal who in ODM leadership paid them to go out and kill other people. API editorial

US not to take part in the debate: Ranneberger

Written By:KBC court reporters

The United States government will not be involved in the ongoing amnesty debate for perpetrators of post election violence.

US ambassador to Kenya Michael Ranneberger however says the grand coalition government should be able to come up with an amicable solution to the issue.

According to Ranneberger, amnesty should be considered after the rule of law has been followed.

Ranneberger however added that it is the prerogative of the two principals to come up with an amicable solution.

Speaking during the inauguration of St. Aloysius Gonzaga secondary school in Nairobi funded by the American government, Ranneberger said his government believes that the grand coalition government led by the two principals will enact the much-awaited constitution.

Meanwhile, four Cabinet Ministers have called for a speedy conclusion of the constitutional review process in order to guarantee the fundamental rights and freedoms of all Kenyans.

Finance Minister Amos Kimunya and Public Health and Sanitation Minister Beth Mugo said by undertaking major constitutional reforms quickly, the rights of Kenyan people including women and children would be safeguarded.

Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Martha Karua and her Energy counterpart Kiraitu Murungi stressed the need for the rule of law and justice to prevail at all times for the sake of peace.

The ministers made the remarks yesterday in Imenti South district during a burial ceremony for Kiraitu’s late father, Mzee Daniel Kiraitu.

Assistant ministers, Kilemi Mwiria, Japheth Kareke Mbiuki, Peter Munya, and Mwangi Kiunjuri also supported the move, calling for systematic reforms that will safeguard the interests of all Kenyans.

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Very good for Mugabe and some Zimbabweans now that Tsvangirai has pulled out ending his presidential ambitions

Posted by African Press International on June 23, 2008

Western countries, particularly UK and the US will get very disappointed. These two countries wanted Tsvangirai to remove Mugabe, just as they wanted Raila to remove Kibaki. Raila did not manage to remove Kibaki and now Tsvangirai pulls out of the competition leaving Mugabe to get another term as undisputed president. In Kenya, when Raila did not manage, the Western Nations forced themselves into Kenya and got a deal that enabled Raila get the Premiership. Are the same countries planning to do the same in Zimbabwe? To negotiate with Mugabe and create a place to satisfy Tsvangirai? One thing is clear, if it is UK or US taking the initiative, Mugabe will not accept. Mugabe has made it clear that Tsvangirai and MDC will not rule Zimbabwe as long as he lives.API

Tsvangirai pulls out of election

Story by REUTERS

Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai pulled out of a run-off election against President Robert Mugabe today, saying a free and fair poll was impossible in the current climate of violence.

Tsvangirai said he won the March vote outright and only reluctantly agreed to a run-off.Photo /FILE

Speaking only hours after his opposition Movement for Democratic Change reported its rally had been broken up by pro-Mugabe youth militia, Tsvangirai called on the United Nations and the African Union to intervene to stop “genocide” in the former British colony.

“We in the MDC have resolved that we will no longer participate in this violent, illegitimate sham of an election process,” he told reporters in Harare.

The MDC and Tsvangirai, who beat Mugabe in a March 29 vote but failed to win the absolute majority needed to avoid a second ballot, have repeatedly accused government security forces and militia of intimidation and strong-arm tactics to ensure a Mugabe victory in the June 27 poll.

Tsvangirai repeated this on Sunday, saying there was a state-sponsored plot to keep the 84-year-old Mugabe in power.

“We in the MDC cannot ask them (the voters) to cast their vote on June 27, when that vote could cost them their lives,” he said.

Tsvangirai, who himself had been detained by police five times while campaigning, said 86 MDC supporters had been killed and 200,000 displaced from their homes.

Mugabe has repeatedly vowed never to turn over power to the opposition, which he brands a puppet of Britain and the United States.

Mugabe, who has ruled since independence from Britain in 1980, has blamed the political violence on the opposition and denies security forces have been responsible for brutal actions.

The veteran leader has presided over a ruinous slide in a once prosperous economy. Millions have fled the political and economic crisis to neighbouring states.

The MDC earlier said that thousands of youth militia loyal to Mugabe poured into an MDC rally in Harare on Sunday armed with iron bars and sticks, beating journalists and forcing election observers to flee.

Police had banned the rally, which was to be the highlight of Tsvangirai’s stormy election campaign, but a high court in Harare overturned the police ban on Saturday.

International Pressure

Tsvangirai said he won the March vote outright and only reluctantly agreed to a run-off. The state-run media has refused to run the opposition’s political ads and police have blocked some of its rallies.

Tendai Biti, a top MDC official and lieutenant to Tsvangirai, is in custody on a treason charge and other offences that carry a possible death penalty. A magistrate has ordered him held until at least July 7.

There is, however, pressure on Mugabe’s government to put an end to the violence.

A growing chorus of African leaders added their voices to concerns that the election will be illegitimate.

Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, a longtime Mugabe ally, on Friday urged the Zimbabwean leader to allow the election to proceed in a spirit of tolerance and with respect to democratic norms.

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AU, France sign budgetary support agreement

Posted by African Press International on June 23, 2008

The African Union and France on Friday signed in Addis Ababa a budgetary support aimed at supporting the activities of the AU Commission.

Erastus Mwencha, Deputy Chairperson of the AU Commission, and Mr Stphane Gompertz, French ambassador in Ethiopia, and the permanent representative of France to the African Union, signed this agreement at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa.

The agreement also includes an amendment to the Convention which has been governing, since September 2005, budgetary assistance provided by France to the African Union.

This new text will detail, in accordance with the priorities set up by the African Union, the areas of implementation of the French budgetary assistance to the AU in 2008, which amounts to 1.7 million dollars. These amounts will mainly come in support of capacity-building and AUs initiatives in three areas, the AU said.

Accordingly, nearly $700, 000 will be devoted to support the strengthening of the African Standby Force while $390 000 will be directed to the electoral assistance fund, which the African Union has just set up.

The African stand by Force still under discussion by the AU is expected to be functional by 2010.

Half a million dollars will also benefit the programme for promotion of French at the African Union, to be implemented in partnership with the International Organisation of Francophonie.

Besides, on this occasion, France has been willing to illustrate its commitment with the AU by deciding not to request the reimbursement of the support provided in kind by the French army to the AU mission in Sudan (AMIS), from the facility in Abeche (Chad) from 2004 to 2007. Such an assistance amounts to 1.4 million euros, the AU added.

A few days ahead of the summit of Sharm-El-Sheikh, the signing of this text, which renews the framework for French financial assistance in support of AU action, is an additional testimony of our continuous and confident bilateral cooperation, said Gompertz, the French ambassador.

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Nigeria, Cameroon to strengthen bilateral cooperation and ensure security in Bakassi

Posted by African Press International on June 23, 2008

Nigeria and Cameroun have agreed to strengthen their bilateral cooperation and work in concert to enhance security in the Bakassi Peninsula.

According to a communiqu released on Saturday in Abuja after the close of the 22nd meeting of the Nigeria-Cameroon Mixed Commission in Abuja on Friday, the two countries agreed that enhancing security in Bakassi had become imperative in view of recent development in the areas, leading to loss of lives.

It said that the two countries also agreed to reconvene the joint commission to address issues relating to consular and economic relations.

According to the communiqu, the commission considered the issues of the affected population and commended the governments of both countries on efforts to address their humanitarian needs.

The communiqu stressed the need to support programmes of donor countries that contributed to relief projects in the peninsula and assist in the resettlement of the affected population.

The commission said that it was satisfied with the presentation made by the representative of the African Development Bank (ADB) on the Nigeria-Cameroon multinational highway project.

“We consider the project as a concrete milestone in the development of economic cooperation and strengthening of good neighbourly relations between the two countries, the communiqu said.

The commission also accepted a proposal to convene a retreat to review the progress made and challenges faced in the area of peaceful dispute settlement.

It also approved the field assessment programme for the joint technical teams in October and the demarcation plan slated for December.

Cameroon will host the next meeting of the Commission.

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Uganda to continue to observe truce and not attack LRA bases, minister assures

Posted by African Press International on June 23, 2008

Ugandas minister of State for Defense, Mrs Ruth Nankabirwa has clarified that the government is still observing the cessation of hostilities agreement with the rebels of the Lords Resistance Army (LRA) even though the formal deadline for the agreement passed on April 15th 2008.

The fiery minister told journalists in Kampala on Saturday that the government will continue to observe the agreement as encouraged by the chief mediator, Dr. Reik Machar for both sides not to attack each other or to promote negative propaganda, and to continue the pursuance of peaceful means to end the insurgency in the north.

She said that the Ugandan Peoples Defense Forces (UPDF) is on high alert to defend the citizens from any possible LRA offensive but will not attack the rebel hide outs and bases.

Nankabirwa added that the UPDF however not hesitate to repulse and fight the LRA if they attacked or crossed into Uganda in order to maintain the current peace that Ugandans have started enjoying particularly in the north and north-eastern areas for the last two years. She also disclosed that with or without the final peace agreement, the government is going ahead to resettle people formerly living in internally displaced peoples camps (IDPs) back to their ancestral villages.

She contended that the war in northern Uganda is over and the Ugandan army is ready to defend the people if any attack is made by LRA rebels.

Dr. Machar, who is also the Vice President of Southern Sudan recently appealed to both the LRA and the government to stick to using peaceful means to end the war. The ministers explanation follows recent reports by sections of the local press alleging that the rebels had entered parts of Acholi land north of Kampala and ready to resume the war.

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Grenade attack on cinema hall in Mogadishu leaves one dead

Posted by African Press International on June 23, 2008

One person died and four others were seriously inured after a hand grenade was hurled into a cinema hall by unknown men in Mogadishu on Saturday night at about 8.30 pm local time, eyewitnesses told APA.

The cinema, called Africa Cinema located at Hamar Jajab in south Mogadishu, was the biggest located the area. It often shows India films, American movies and also sometimes pornographic movies.

“As I was in the cinema watching an India film, I suddenly heard heavy blast in the hall, said Muhuden Yusuf, one of the audience. He added that a young boy died on the spot and four others of the audience were seriously injured. He said the police later arrived in the area but left without apprehending any of the criminals.

Some residents of the area complain that the cinema sometimes shows pornographic movies at night. In previous such occasions, cinema owners had received death threats or warnings to demand that they close their cinemas, but in this case, the owners said there were no such warnings.

“If they [attackers] informed me to close the cinema, I will do so, but I had no such warnings before, Mohamed Barkadle Alim, the owner of the cinema, told APA. He added that he was not going to re-open the cinema in the foreseeable future.

During the era of the Islamic Courts Union, for about six months before they were ousted by the Ethiopian forces, the Islamists imposed a strict Sharia law that banned watching cinemas and listening to western music.

This is not the first time that a cinema house had been attacked in Mogadishu or even in the countryside. Recently, a grenade attack on a cinema hall in Marka, 100 km south of Mogadishu, left five people dead and more than 10 others injured.

The Somali capital, Mogadishu has seen more violence after the Ethiopian invasion in late 2006, taking over control from the Islamic Courts Unions, who had at least managed to stabilize the south and central regions including the city for the period of that they were in control of the area.

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Central African parties sign an all-inclusive peace agreement in Libreville

Posted by African Press International on June 23, 2008

The government of the Central African Republic (CAR) and the representatives of two local political and military factions, on Saturday in Libreville, signed a global peace agreement, according to a presidential press statement issued in Libreville, the capital of Gabon.

The government was represented a by the Communications minister, Cyriaque Gonda, while the two opposing parties: the Union des Forces Dmocratiques pour le Rassemblement (Union of Rally for Democratic Forces (UFDR) was represented by Zacharie Damane and the Arme Populaire pour la Restauration de la Dmocratie (Popular Army for the Restoration of Democracy (APRD) by Jean Jacques Dmafouth.

For logistical reasons, the statement further said, former UFDPC rebel leader, Abdoulaye Miskine could not make the trip to Libreville, insisting that the peace agreement was still open to other rebel movements.

The same source said at the end of the signing ceremony that among other things, the deal provides for a complete ceasefire, the stationing and disarmament of troops, and a general amnesty for the rebels.

According to the statement, the signing ceremony was held at the presidential palace in Libreville. It was attended by Gabons President Omar Bongo Ondimba, the mediator in the crisis in the Central African Republic (CAR) and his Central African counterpart, Franois Bozize, as well as the office of the United Nations in the CAR and the International Organisation of the Francophonie (OIF).

The CAR government successively signed on 2 February 2007 in the central Libyan resort town of Sirte a peace accord with Abdoulaye Miskines UFDPC, on 13 April of the same year, a similar agreement with the UFDR of Zacharia Damane, and on 9 May 2008 in Libreville, a ceasefire and peace agreement with the APRD of Jean Jacques Demafouth.

On 8 June 2008, a 15-member organising committee for an all-inclusive political dialogue was et up and have since then been actively working for the holding of those peace talks.

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api.source.apa

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Gunmen abduct UNHCR official in Somali capital

Posted by African Press International on June 23, 2008

The head of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in Mogadishu was abducted overnight at Elesha Biyaha, 17 km south of Mogadishu, by heavily armed men, carrying with them two vehicles, residents told APA.

The officer, Hassan Mohamed Ali, popularly known as Keynaan, was abducted around 9 pm local time in his home when dozens of the armed men stormed his home and took him away to an undisclosed destination.

“I saw armed men knock on Alis door, they entered into his home and took him away. His wife was shouting behind them but they opened fire with their guns, and she ran back to the house,” Aniso Moalim, a neighbour, told APA by telephone.

Many aid workers have been abducted after the death of Aden Hashi Ayro, one of the leaders of the Islamists by a US air strike in May.

However, Mogadishu has seen more violence after the Ethiopian invasion in late 2006, taking over control from the Islamic Courts Unions, who had at least managed to stabilize the south and central regions including the city for the period of that they were in control of the area.

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Api.source.apa

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