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Africa News In Brief (10/16/13)

By October 16, 2013No Comments


Oct. 15 (GIN) – The African Union has given notice to the International Criminal Court that it should end trials of sitting heads of state and postpone the active trials of the president and deputy president of Kenya, both tied down by the recent Westgate shopping mall terror attack.

At a summit in Ethiopia this past weekend, African Union members urged the Hague-based court to defer the trial of Uhuru Kenyatta, president, and William Ruto, deputy president, but they nixed a call for a complete withdrawal from the court.

Addressing the summit, Mr Kenyatta accused the court of bias and “race-hunting.”

Kenyatta and Ruto are accused of instigating and financing deadly violence in a post-election melee in 2007 that cost hundreds of lives and forced thousands to flee their homes.

Critics accused the court of “hunting Africans” as eight cases were selected from Africa for prosecution out of 139 worldwide. These eight were Uganda, the DRC, the Central African Republic; Darfur, Sudan; the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya; the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire and Mali.

But a growing number of African scholars, elders, and civil society activists back the jurisdiction of the court which steps in when local courts are unable or unwilling to do the job. A withdrawal from the ICC, they say, would enable those who have “killed, maimed and oppressed,” to easily do so again.

The court, insists former Archbishop Desmond Tutu, constrains those who act as if “neither the golden rule, nor the rule of law, applies to them.”

“Those leaders seeking to skirt the court are effectively looking for a license to kill, maim and oppress their own people without consequence,” he wrote in a recent New York Times editorial.

“They believe the interests of the people should not stand in the way of their ambitions of wealth and power… and that those who get in their way — the victims: their own people — should remain faceless and voiceless.”

Writing in the online newsletter Pambazuka, Prof. Horace Campbell of Syracuse University, reflected on Africa’s judicial system and its weakness in prosecuting war crimes perpetrators.

“Far from opposing the ICC,” he wrote, “Africans must strengthen social justice movements in their societies so that it becomes a moot question as to where to put on trial those who orchestrate the deaths of thousands.

“This work must proceed so that by the time Africa is united and the Africans and indigenous peoples democratize Latin America, especially Brazil, there will be a new platform for the enforcement for international law.” w/pix of Pres. Kenyatta


Oct. 15 (GIN) – Madame President Joyce Banda of Malawi took a figurative broom to her ministers and sacked them all for their alleged roles in a corruption scandal dubbed “Cash-gate” by media.

Banda, like her counterpart in Liberia, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, has been battling entrenched misuse of office by government officials. At a cabinet meeting last week, Banda reportedly told ministers she had lost faith in the lot of them.

“It is obvious that huge amounts of public funds have been lost through corruption and theft within the public service, and regrettably this still continuing,” Banda said in announcing the mass layoff although it was later reported that most of them were reassigned to new posts.

Among the 25 cabinet members fired was the finance minister, Ken Lipenga who had been leading a high-profile delegation to meetings with the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. His dismissal was expected because “he was at the centre of fraud and cooked revenue figures at the treasury,” said analyst Ernest Thindwa.

According to local reports, upwards of $3 million was taken from state coffers. Ten government employees were arrested while 9 senior police officers were jailed in another fraud. The budget director, on the eve of revealing a major corruption ring, narrowly escaped death in an assassination attempt.

In the history of plunder from government coffers, Banda’s predecessor, Bingu wa Mutharika, stands out for increasing his personal wealth in 8 years from $1.5 million to $175 million. Bingu, as he was popularly known, had been an economist at the World Bank in Washington and worked in the Economic Commission for Africa in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

In a speech last week, the President credited the Police, the Anti Corruption Bureau and other government agencies for “uncovering and intercepting large amounts of cash in homes, offices and in the trunks of cars of some individuals in the civil service.”

While Banda, 63, has set up a special unit to audit state finances, she hasn’t agreed to calls by donors, which fund about 40 percent of the budget, to enlist foreign investigators. w/pix of Pres. Banda


Oct. 15 (GIN) –The United Nations, the West African regional bloc ECOWAS, the European Union, among others are adding their voices to a call by local citizens seeking the release of results from polls held more than two weeks ago.

According to early results from 37 of the country’s 38 electoral districts, President Alpha Conde’s ruling RPG party leads with 53 seats, opposition leader Cellou Dalein Diallo’s UFDG has 38 seats and former Prime Minister Sidya Toure’s UFR has 9.

In a statement Sunday, unofficial observers called on the government to cooperate fully so that results could be counted from the Matoto district of the capital city, Conakry, one of the country’s biggest, which both sides claim to have won. They recommended that international observers monitor the process.

The delay has prompted a call by the opposition to annul the entire exercise, dampening hopes for an end to years of instability since a 2008 military coup that deterred investment in the world’s largest bauxite exporter.

Guineans cast ballots on Sept. 28 in their first legislative election in more than a decade. Opposition parties said the polls were marred by a string of irregularities, including ballot stuffing, voter intimidation and minors casting ballots.

Tensions rose further when the Independent National Electoral Commission was slow to announce the results, blamed by the current president Alpha Conde on a manual tally and the “state of our roads.”

This week, some 30 young opposition supporters were detained for holding a protest without a permit against the alleged irregularities.

Alpha Barry, spokesman for a special elections-related security force, said the demonstrators gathered to denounce the disappearance of a ballot box in Conakry’s administrative district where the office of the president is located. w/pix of Pres. Conde


Oct. 15 (GIN) – A new report released by Amnesty International lays blame on Nigerian security forces for the detention and deaths of hundreds of civilians in the military’s ongoing war against Boko Haram, an Islamist group in the country’s north-east.

Hundreds of prisoners suffocated in overcrowded cells, others died from starvation and extra-judicial killings, according to the report.

The Nigerian army has rejected all previous accusations of human right abuses but the report cites an account by a senior Nigerian army officer who admitted to Amnesty that at least 950 people died in military custody in the first half of the year.

Most were said to have links to the Islamist militant group Boko Haram, Amnesty said.

A large proportion of these deaths were reported in Giwa military barracks, Maiduguri in Borno State and Sector Alpha, commonly referred to as ‘Guantanamo’ and Presidential Lodge (known as ‘Guardroom’) in Damaturu,Yobe State.

According to former detainees interviewed by Amnesty, people died on an almost daily basis in both Giwa and Sector Alpha from suffocation or other injuries due to overcrowding and starvation. Some suffered serious injuries due to severe beating and eventually died in detention due to lack of medical attention and treatment.

These interviews also revealed that in some cases detainees may have been extrajudicially executed. Some described soldiers taking detainees from their cells threatening to shoot and kill them. In many cases the detainees never returned. Others were reportedly shot in the leg during interrogation, provided no medical care and left to bleed to death.

In July, Human Rights Watch said 3,600 people had died in conflict related to the Boko Haram uprising since 2009, including killings by the security forces.

Nigerian security forces have been criticized by rights groups in the past for its approach to the war on the Boko Haram, often firing randomly in civilian areas or arbitrarily rounding up young men as suspects.

Meanwhile, it was reported that President Goodluck Jonathan will lead more than 30,000 Christian pilgrims on an upcoming trip to Israel. The President is expected to arrive on Oct. 23. He’ll be joined by several members of his administration and by other governors.

President Jonathan, who is the first sitting Nigerian Christian president to visit Israel, is expected to sign a Bilateral Air Services Agreement between Nigeria and Israel, making it easier for Christian pilgrims to visit. w/pix of Pres. Jonathan


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