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Archive for August 7th, 2008

UN special envoy holds talks with West African leaders

Posted by African Press International on August 7, 2008

As part of his continuing tour of the sub region, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for West Africa Said Djinnit travelled to the Gambia on 4-5 August where he held discussions with Gambian authorities.

Djinnit met with the vice-president, secretaries of state for foreign affairs and interior and justice, and the deputy chief of defence staff, APA learnt here.

According a statement by the UN Office for West Africa (UNOWA), the discussions were related to security and the food crisis in the region.

In his discussions, Djinnit sought views on the challenges facing the country including cross-border issues, and what the United Nations could do more to assist.

The Gambian authorities said that in addition to food insecurity, illicit cross-border activities were of great concern to the country, according to the UNOWA statement.

The Gambian authorities also underscored weaknesses in the capacity of some state institutions, including justice and law enforcement, and the need for external assistance.

\”Djinnit reiterated the commitment of the UN to help consolidate regional efforts towards peace, security and conflict prevention and address cross-border issues, in close cooperation with ECOWAS,\” UNOWA said.

Earlier, Djinnit visited Burkina Faso where he met with President Blaise Compaor, the current ECOWAS chair.

During his visit from 1-2 August, he briefed Compaor on the UN secretary-general\s latest report to the Security Council on UNOWA and informed him of the continued commitment and support of members of the Council for West Africa, UNOWA said.

The visit also provided an opportunity for Djinnit to exchange views and information with the heads of regional organizations based in Ouagadougou. They explored avenues for future cooperation in addressing the challenges facing West Africa.

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API/SourceAPA

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AU condemns military coup in Mauritania

Posted by African Press International on August 7, 2008

The African Union Commission on Wednesday condemned the military coup detat in Mauritania and demanded the restoration of constitutional legality.

Commission chairman Jean Ping said he was following with great concern the evolution of the situation in Mauritania, particularly the overthrow of the democratically elected head of State, Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi, by elements of the Mauritanian armed forces.

Ping also said he had decided to immediately dispatch to Nouakchott the AU commissioner for Peace and security, Ambassador Ramtane Lamamra, to assess the situation on the ground and assist in promoting a peaceful solution to the crisis in accordance with constitutional order and legality.

\”In the meantime, and in conformity with the Lome Declaration, the Peace and Security Council will shortly convene a meeting to consider the situation,\” he said.

He reiterated the African Union\s rejection of any unconstitutional change of government and attempt of seizing power by force.

The African Union, in collaboration with its international partners, supported the remarkable transition that led to the establishment of democratic institutions in Mauritania in May 2007.

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Nigeria will not recognize military government in Mauritania

Posted by African Press International on August 7, 2008

Nigeria will not recognize the military government in Mauritania, President Umaru Musa Yar\Adua informed chiefs of defence staff of member countries of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) who visited him at the State House in Abuja on Wednesday.

Former head of the Mauritanian presidential guard, General Mohammed Ould Abdelaziz ousted the government of President Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi on Wednesday in a bloodless coup.

Yar\ Adua condemned the coup which he said could jeopardize the democratic gains of the West African sub-region, adding that no nation in the sub-region could achieve meaningful socio-economic development without peace and political stability.

He said Nigeria will continue to lead efforts to maintain peace and political stability in West Africa and Africa as a whole and will facilitate the urgent establishment of the West African Stand-by Force.

\”Nigeria totally condemns the situation that took place in Mauritania this morning. Nigeria will not recognize and support any government that comes into being through unconstitutional means. The African Union pact has made it clear that AU will not recognize any government that didn\t come into being through constitutional means,\” he said.

\”Today our sub-region experiences political stability the type that has never been experienced before since we attained political independence. It is extremely clear that we in the African continent, issue of peace and security is critical to our development, especially in meeting the needs and providing for our people. The region, and indeed its armed forces, has made tremendous sacrifices in bringing this peace\”.

Chairman of the ECOWAS military chiefs General Alli Traore of Burkina Faso informed President Yar\Adua that an agreement had been reached by the military chiefs for the imminent take-off of the stand-by force.

He said the force would comprise soldiers, police and gendarmes.

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Former Lativa President meets Uganda First Lady

Posted by African Press International on August 7, 2008

The former president of Latvia, Ms. Vaira Vike-Freiberga on Wednesday met Ugandas Uganda\s First Lady Janet Museveni at State House in Entebbe, south of Kampala.

Vike-Freiberga is a member of the Club of Madrid which is dedicated to the strengthening of democracy around the world by drawing from the unique experience and resources of its 70 members who are former heads of state and government.

She told Mrs. Museveni that she was on a tour of several African countries to discuss with governments and non-governmental organizations how to prevent and guard against gender-based violence and injustices in Africa.

After holding a series of meetings with several Uganda government officials including Prime Minister Apollo Nsibambi, Deputy Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga and MPs, she said Uganda is run by a gender-sensitive leadership.

She appealed to Mrs. Museveni to use her position as First Lady and legislator to advocate for legislation that addresses the plight of women in Uganda.

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More US Concerns Regarding Democracy in Ethiopia

Posted by African Press International on August 7, 2008

By Scott A Morgan

According to a Ethiopian Newspaper the Addis Fortune the Bush Adminstration is concerned about the “narrowing” of Democracy in Ethiopia. The report indicates that there are two pieces of Legislation at the Heart of the Concern of the US Government.

In a joint press briefing that was held in Addis Ababa on July 24th the US Undersecretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor David J Kramer was joined by the Current Ambassador Donald Yamanoto to discuss the Concerns. On this particular trip Ethiopia was the only stop made in Africa by Ambassador Kramer. He spent a total of 48 hours in the East African Country.

During his Visit the Ambassador met with Ethiopian Prime Minister Zenawi and other Members of the ruling EPRDF (Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front. The Ambassador stated that the US has vibrant ties relations with the Ethiopian Government. Two Areas that were prominently mentioned were Security and Humanitarian Issues.

However there are two major areas of concern for this Administration in its last few months. First is the New Ethiopian Media Law. In the eyes of some experts this law makes it easier for the Government to Launch new efforts of Repression. One Chilling Chapter can allow for Defamtion Cases to be filed by the Government even if the person that was injured decides not to file charges.

This comes on the heels of the “reforms” last year of the Ministry of Information. The Government now has power to use licensing and registration as a Punishment of Dissent. Another Feature gives the Government Power to stop the Distribution of a Newspaper if the Attorney General deems a news item to be a criminal act.

The Actions against NGOs is a Major concern as some of them have been targeted for their work in the Ogaden Region. Once again Ethiopia has suffered from drought conditions and the country is heavily involved in neighboring Somalia. Some NGOs have been targeted for their work since the Controversial 2005 Elections that had a violent aftermath.

The US Congress has introduced a Piece of Legislation HR 2003 The Ethiopian Democracy and Accountability Act. It passed the House of Representatives without dissent but is currently stalled in the US Senate. This was introduced to raise the concerns of the Legislative Body after the violence plagued 2005 elections. A better way to raise US Concerns would be to pass this legislation as well as contacts with the current leadership in Addis Ababa.

For what its worth Ethiopia is a hingepin for a successful US Policy in the Horn of Africa. It has been active in Somalia on behalf of US Interests for a couple of years now. It has a long running feud with Eritrea that could erupt into warfare as well. So Whatever action Ethiopia takes probably has the blessing of this Administration. But what of the next one?

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MY OPINION CORNER: Hate rules the world.

Posted by African Press International on August 7, 2008

No, I’m not being cynical or feeling hopelessly discouraged, on the contrary I’m bringing up an issue that has the potential to one day destroy our country. In my travels,I’ve come to realize that wherever I go, hate is always a very powerful force or emotion. I’ve traveled to parts of the United States where I sat in aHoliday Innlobby watching news andsuddenly the TV was turned off. When I asked why it was being turned off, here is the reply I got. “I’m turning it off because nobody is watching it.” You get the point? I am a nobody because of my skin color.
Hate.
Then I think about Rwanda. This is where more than one million Hutus killed the Tutsis because of simmering tribal animosity. If you’ve had a chance to watch Hotel Rwanda, Don Cheadle starring, what you’ve witnessed is how cruel and cannibalistic man can be. The hate that’s projected in that movie is enough to make one wonder whether there is any redemptive quality in man. Yes, there’s Mandela and Mahatma and Abraham Lincoln, men who fought hard to turn back the tide of hate in their communities, but for each of them, there were hundreds of others who fought hard to preserve the legacy of hate that they inherited from their forefathers.
Hate.
And recently I was talking to a Mexican friend of mine.She haswatched the immigration debate in America and Europe. Whatthis good professorsees is hate, pure and simple. Why, for example, do the Australians find it necessary to put asylum seekers in detention centers…with their wives and children? Would theystill detain themif the immigrants were predominantly from a Western nation with a Judeo-Christian background? And why does Europe continue to enact immigration laws that are clearly meant to keep black and brown people out? They say they want to control the flow of immigrants into their shores and plantheir future effectively. I agree with that.But when you look at the punitive nature of these new laws and the fact that they areenforced by the great grandchildren of men and women who enslaved ourgreat grandfathers and grandmothers, don’t you begin to wonder about fairness? So when you see so many Africans turned back from Europe, you know what’s at play here.
Hate.
And before I turn my attention to Kenya, I want to remind us of what happened in Israel. Over there, a number of people managed to get out of the boiling Darfur, tiptoed into and through Egypt, then crossed and landed in Israel. When word of their presence reached the Israeli authorities, they were promptly rounded up and sent back toDarfur. To the boiling pot. The minister responsible saidbeaten down Sudanesewere economic refugees! Can you believe this? Had the Israelis never heard of Darfur?
Hate.
Closerhome, I look at the ongoing tribal animosity with increasing fear. Since the sixties, we’vepracticed the politics of tribe. First it was theGEMA and the Luo community coming together.This was an alliance that sustained a Kenyatta presidency. The other thing it did was to keep smaller Kenyan tribes on the periphery of power. Then there was the KAMATUSA. This alliance sustained the Moi administration. The other thing it did was to turn Kenya into a Kalenjin Kingdom. Now there is the Kibaki administration. This is one of the most cynical administrations to ever rule Kenya. Before thecoalition government was put in place, it had literally turned Kenya into a Kikuyu Kingdom. The downside to this kind ofpolitics has been to tribalize Kenya in a way that ifnot checked, could lead us down a path to a revolution. Why? Because alliances inevitably create an USversesTHEM complex. These alliancescreate hate.Is it any wonder thatour brothers and sisters in Central Province felt left out in the Western Alliance of Raila, Ruto and Mudavadi? And is it any wonder that Kenyans have felt left out in the grab grab grab mentality that’s characterized the Kibaki leadership? When will we start practicing the politics of ideas? When will we go with issue-driven campaigns? Policy-guided leadership?
Hate.
I fear hate.
When theHutus called the Tustsi cockroaches, they went all out to exterminate them. When theNazis called the Jewsrats, they went all out to destroy them.And now, I see a Kenya where Kikuyus are called thieves, the Luos are called dirty and AIDS carriers, the Luhyas are called watchmen and ugali-eaters and the Kalenjin are called dumb and militaristic. This is the language of hate. Itmust have no place in a modernizing Kenya.We must all work towards a Kenya where our children willembraceall of the nation’s children as brothers and sisters. Where genuine admiration will exist for the Kikuyu for their liberation of our nation from colonial bondage, where accolades will be extended to the Kalenjin for turning over power peacefully when Moi’s Kenyattawas beaten at the polls, where the Luowill berespected for producing some of the nation’s best brains, where the varied tribes of our nationwill becelebrated for their strengths…strengths that together form the beautiful stretch of land that we all adoringly call our motherland.
Forgiveness.
Fellow Kenyans, let hate give way to forgiveness. We’ve all done things that haveoiled the path to hatred. The first step is to look deep inside and see where our actions may have abetted this vice.We don’t have to announce to the world what a self-examination reveals about our hateful ways, but we can all begin by forgiving ourselves and making a promise, to ourselves…individually, that we’ll work hard to advanceharmony rather than project hate.
I know that it’s not easy to let our prejudices go, but I also know that we must start the process of letting Kenya emerge as a cohesive, loving nation.
Folks, the world out here is full of hate. We must work hard to create a place where our children can grow up without experiencing the bitter hate that rules the world. It would be nice if one day all of the Kenyans of the Diaspora will come back to a nation unified in love and purpose, a place where they will come back to rest after battling the fears and indignities of living in a thoughtless, cold world.
I know we can detribalize Kenya.
Let’s start now!
For Love of Country,
By Sam O. Okello
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Press Release: EAC commends development dimension of defence establishment

Posted by African Press International on August 7, 2008

EAC Headquarters, Arusha, 5 August 2008: The Secretary
General of the East African Community, Amb. Juma Mwapachu
has advanced a new ethos of the armed forces in the EAC
region which, he said, should combine their core values of
high military preparedness with corporate social
responsibility; and increasingly put military resources to
civilian advantage. The Secretary General said the military
should shed image that is ingrained in the popular psyche of
an establishment that is only concerned with activities of
armed engagement in battles and wars.

The Secretary General made these observations during the
tour of the munitions production plant at the Kenya Ordnance
Factories Corporation (KOFC) in Eldoret, 5 August 2008 on
the second day of his four-day (4-7 August) familiarization
tour of defence institutions and establishments in Kenya.
The Secretary Generalʼs visit to the defence institutions
in Kenya follows similar visits he made in 2007 to the
defence institutions in Tanzania and Uganda. The Kenyan
tour that had been planned for September 2007 was postponed
due to the elections campaigns that were taking place in the
country at the time.

During todayʼs visit, the Secretary General was taken
round the production lines of the Kenya Ordnance Factories
Corporation by the Management of the Corporation led by the
Managing Director, Brigadier S.G. Mohammed. The Management
of KOFC briefed the Secretary General on the agricultural
projects, environment and water management as well as
community development projects, in health and educational
development, which the local and wider civil society and
business community are participating in and benefiting from.

The Secretary General said that he was impressed by the
application of modern advanced technology in the KOFC
munitions plant, noting also that the KOFC was engaged in
the production and provision of quality products for
civilian uses as well as input to the commercial demand. He
said the EAC is making plans to bring similar defence
institutions in the EAC Partner States together to harmonize
their technological capabilities to exchange views and
experiences towards rationalizing their utilization of
resources and investments and benefiting from the economies
of scale to avoid wasteful duplication as well as
addressing, in concert, other implications and ramifications
of the armaments industry.

Directorate of Corporate Communications and Public Affairs
East African Community
Arusha

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Forwarded to API by Leo Odera Omolo

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API

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Coup attempt in Mauritania, President, Prime Minister detained

Posted by African Press International on August 7, 2008

The Mauritanian head of state Sidi Mohamed Ould Sheik Abdallahi and his Prime Minister Yahya Ould Ahmed Waghf have been arrested on Wednesday and detained at the base of the presidential guard while civil servants and other members of the society have been denied access to the presidential palace, APA learns from corroborating sources in Nouakchott.

However, an official statement is yet to be issued in the capital, where troop movements are being reported. However, observers report that the country has embarked on a course that may lead to a coup detat.

A group of high-ranking officers, three generals and one colonel, all former members of the Justice and Democracy Military Council (CMJD), were dismissed on Wednesday morning, a dispatch of the Mauritanian information agency (AMI) quoted a presidential decree as saying.

It is reported that the dismissed officers, including Brigadier Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, are those who arrested the president and the Prime Minister.

Changes in the Mauritanian army affected particularly the special chief of staff of the President, Brigadier Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, who was replaced by Colonel Mohamed Ahmed Ould Ismail, the national chief of staff, General Mohamed Ould Sheik Mohamed Ahmed was replaced by Colonel Abderrahmane Ould Boubacar and the chief of staff of the national guard General Felix Negri was replaced by his deputy Colonel Mesgharou Ould Sidi. While the chief of staff of the gendarmerie, Colonel Ahmed Ould Bekrine was replaced by his deputy Colonel Ahmed Ould Mohamed El Kory.

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UN mission arrives in Djibouti to assess border dispute with Eritrea

Posted by African Press International on August 7, 2008

A UN mission arrived Sunday in Moulouhl, 15km away from Ras Doumeira to assess the political, humanitarian and security situation along the Djibouti-Eritrea border, official sources said in Djibouti.

The UN experts were received by General Sheikh Zakaria Ibrahim, Djiboutian Army Chief of Staff, who gave a presentation on “aggression and occupation by Eritrea of a part of Djiboutis territory “, namely Ras Doumeira and the island bearing the same name.

From Moulouhl, where the headquarters of the advanced Djiboutian Armed Forces (ADF) is set up, the mission went “a few kilometres from the positions held by the Eritreans,” the same source said.

Last June, the FDA managed to “take over” this part of territory from the Eritrean forces, but had to withdraw as the Security Council asked the belligerents to resume their positions before the 10-11 June clashes.

But the Djiboutian side said Eritrea did not follow that call by the UN.

Even if no incidents have been reported since the Junes clashes, the situation remains tense on the ground, where the two armies still face each other.

The head of the delegation, Mr Sam Ibok, Deputy-Director of the United Nations Department of Political Affairs, revealed in a terse statement to the press a three-stage plan, whose first stage consists in putting an end to the mobilization of troops along the border by both countries.

He will therefore have to urge Djibouti and Asmara to ensure that their troops go back to their original positions, ie the position before the Eritrean incursion,” the UN official said.

It will be only after that they will proceed with the drawing of the border between the two, which represents the third and the most critical stage of the plan, he said.

During their stay in Djibouti, the UN experts who arrived Friday in the country of the Horn of Africa on Saturday met with Prime Minister Mr Dileita Mohamed Dileita and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Mr Mahamoud Ali Youssouf.

The delegation comprises Sam Ibok, Deputy-Director of the United Nations Department of Political Affairs of the and Head of Mission, Arnaud Huannou, in charge of political affairs at the United Nations Department of Political Affairs, and Douglas Langher, officer, Peacekeeping Department.

The next step will be therefore to travel to Asmara.

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Rights group urges Sudan to end trials by special anti-terror courts

Posted by African Press International on August 7, 2008

The United States-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Wednesday urged the Sudanese government to abolish the hastily created special courts and instead prosecute all cases in the regular courts in accordance with the 2005 National Interim Constitution after the countrys Anti-Terrorism Special Courts in late July sentenced 30 alleged rebels to death in trials that fell short of international fair trial standards.

The special court trials began on June 18 in Khartoum, Khartoum North and Omdurman. The Sudanese chief justice hastily established the special courts on May 29 to try individuals accused of participating in the May 10 attack on the capital, Khartoum, by the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) rebel group.

The death sentences were handed down on July 29 and 31. The special courts set up by Sudan to try alleged rebels who attacked Khartoum are a charade. The special courts dont meet even minimal fair trial standards, and yet they have the power to sentence people to death, said Georgette Gagnon, Africa director at HRW in a press release issued to the press in Nairobi.

According to the release, the special courts imposed limits on the defendants ability to make their case that in effect denied them the right to a fair trial. Defendants had only limited access to lawyers, some of whom withdrew from the court because the judge denied them access to their clients.

HRW documented cases in which the defendants were not allowed to see the evidence against them. Several defendants retracted their confessions when giving evidence in court after allegedly confessing to the crimes under torture.

The special courts did not apply the 1994 Evidence Act, relying instead on accomplice testimony and media reports, but refusing alibis for defendants and denying defendants the right to fully contest the evidence.

One of the defendants lawyers told HRW: If the normal evidence procedures were used in these trials, the prosecution would have no case. And some relatives of the defendants were not allowed into the courtroom despite the trials supposedly being open.

On July 29 and 31, the special courts convicted and sentenced to death by hanging 30 men, under various articles of the 1991 Penal Code, the 2001 Anti-Terrorism Act and the 1993 Weapons and Ammunition Ordinance (amended 1997). Under the Anti-Terrorism Special Courts procedures, defendants have only one week to lodge an appeal. The decision of the Court of Appeal is final.

A month earlier, on June 29, lawyers for the defendants filed an application with the Constitutional Court to suspend the ongoing trials until the Constitutional Court makes a decision on the constitutionality of the Anti-Terrorism Act and the special courts. On July 23, the Constitutional Court rejected the application without providing any grounds for its decision.

HRW said some of the defendants lawyers have been subjected to harassment by the authorities. On July 8, the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) summoned Satie al-Hajj, a lawyer representing the defendants, and told him to cease representing them, the release said.

Meanwhile, hundreds of individuals remain in detention without charge, several of whom are feared to have disappeared.

HRW called on the Sudanese authorities to immediately release or charge those in detention with a cognizable offence.

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