Monday, November 29, 2004

Nigeria: Sharia court issues warrant for gay man

The story appeared in the Vanguard yesterday ...
A Nasarawa Sharia court sitting in Keffi has declared wanted a middle-aged man, Mr Michael Ifediora Nwokoma for allegedly engaging in homosexual act with a businessman, one Mallam Abdullahi Ibrahim.

The court issued bench-warrant on him following an explanation by the prosecution that Nwokoma was at large and could only be brought before the court by the police to face trial.

[...] Nwokomah, a supervisor with a building construction firm in Keffi and a Muslim cleric’s son, Mallam Ibrahim, were alleged to have been engaging in the “unholy” act for sometime.

According to reports, some local Muslim youth who had been suspecting the duo of being homosexuals decided to get them to explain their actions.

When the irate youth reportedly actualized their decision, they succeeded in getting one of the alleged homosexuals - Ibrahim who was almost lynched [by the youth] in the process of getting him to confess to the act but for the timely intervention of their district head who informed the appropriate authorities which formally arrested and charged him to court for homosexualism.

[...] Trial in the matter has since been stalled as the court hinted that there must be a joint prosecution of the accused persons in the matter. (source)
Punishment is death by stoning.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Equatorial Guinea: Du Toit retracts confession ....

Nick Du Toit has retracted his confession.

The trial of Du Toit and 18 other suspected mercenaries resumed today after an 11-week adjournment.
In August, during the first seven days of the Malabo trial, just one of the 19 accused, South African arms dealer Nick Du Toit, admitted to the court that he took part in a coup plot. He could face the death penalty.

The seven other South Africans, six Armenians and five Equatorial Guineans on trial with Du Toit all denied any knowledge of a plot. (source)
Also ... the government of Equatorial Guinea will try Mark Thatcher in absentia. The government would still like to have him extradited.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Uganda: president willing to drop ICC case

The government is ready to ask the International Criminal Court (ICC) to stop its investigation of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) if the LRA is prepared to make peace.

In January of this year, the LRA became the first organization to be investigated by the ICC.

According to a story in today's New Vision, President Museveni said ...
"The Konys can come out and engage in internal reconciliation mechanisms put in place by the Acholi community such as mataput or blood settlement. The state could then withdraw its case and we could inform the ICC that we have a solution to the Kony problem. That is what the ICC wants. No cover-up, no impunity." (source)
Yesterday, the government announced a weeklong ceasefire with the LRA. Museveni said he declared the ceasefire to allow the LRA leadership to gather and decide what they want to discuss with the government.

More ...
[...] Uganda's former minister in charge of northern Uganda, Betty Bigombe, had received "clear indications from Kony's group that they want to end the conflict."

[...] Bigombe, who currently works for the World Bank, is preferred – mainly - by the rebel force as the leading mediator.

"Bigombe has, therefore, proposed a seven-day suspension to allow the leadership to meet," the [government] press statement added. "The next step is for the LRA to prepare a statement indicating that they have accepted President Museveni's peace gesture, after which, the Ugandan government will declare a further 10-day truce in the entire region."

In 1994, Bigombe tried to mediate a peace process between the government and the LRA, but the process collapsed when Museveni gave the insurgents an ultimatum of seven days to surrender or "face the might of the army".

In August 2002, Museveni offered to talk to the LRA, saying his government would, under certain conditions, halt operations against the LRA and open talks to end the conflict. Museveni also named a government negotiation team. At the time, Museveni asked the rebels to gather in specific areas both in southern Sudan and northern Uganda, but the rebels said they feared a trap was being set up. (source)

USA: 19-year-old wanted to take over Somalia

A 19-year-old kid from Washington state has been charged with trying to help the Somali group Al-Ittihad Al-Islamiya. The US placed the group on its list of terrorist groups after 9/11.

The young man, Mark Robert Walker, confessed that he was planning to buy night-vision goggles and bulletproof vests for the group. He was carrying $2,100 when he was caught.

Walker was arrested after his college roomate told the authorities that Walker was communicating with terrorist groups through the Internet.

It appears that Walker was strangely fascinated by Somalia. He left the following message in his 2004 senior year highschool yearbook ...
My plans for world supremacy are in order. They entail taking over Somalia and working outward, but I should not divulge the exact details of my cunning strategy. In case the reader is not present to witness my future heroic death, here is my death poem: ephemeral flash/ of grenade exploding/ all shall pass this world. (source)
Initially, US officials suspected Al-Ittihad Al-Islamiya was involved in the 2002 attack on an Israeli owned hotel in Mombasa, Kenya. That attack turned out to have been the work of an al Qaeda cell. According to a UN report published a year ago, this is the same al Qaeda cell that was responsible for the US Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania back in 1998. The cell regrouped in Somalia after those attacks.

This might be of some interest ... soon after the attack on the Mombasa hotel, the following article appeared in the Observer arguing that Al-Ittihad Al-Islamiya was unlikely to have been involved in the attack.

Al-Ittihad al-Islamiya is also known as Islamic Union.

Botswana: chief justice robbed

On Nov. 6, Chief Justice Julian Nganunu was carjacked. The thieves tied him up and drove for some time before they finally left him on a roadside. They took his car, his bank cards, and his shoes ...

In an unrelated incident, on Nov. 5, Sidney Pilane, special advisor to the president, was stabbed by unknown assailants while he was taking a walk.

Might be of interest ... Pilane is involved in the CKGR case.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Uganda: govt declares weeklong ceasefire with LRA

The weeklong ceasefire starts tomorrow (Monday) ... to allow the Lord's Resistance Army to confirm that it indeed wants to talk peace.

There had been some confusion about the offer.

Islam south of the Sahara ...

Reuters reporters Arthur Asiimwe and William Maclean look at the spread of Islam south of the Sahara. They write that while there is anecdotal evidence of the growth of Islam in the region, data is scarce. However, they did find some numbers for Rwanda and South Africa ...
"When I realized that the people I was praying with killed my parents, I decided to convert to Islam because Muslims saved many lives and did not take part in the killings." [Genocide surviver Zafran Mukanwali, a 22-year-old Tutsi woman, and a former Catholic.]

Before 1994, Muslims comprised between 1 percent and 2 percent of the overwhelmingly Catholic population in Rwanda. Today that figure is 5 percent, census returns show. Muslim leaders say the number of mosques has risen to 570 from 220.

[...] In South Africa, Islam is growing among blacks in a country where 80 percent of the 45 million people are Christian.

Currently, less than 2 percent of South Africans, or about 650,000 people, are Muslim, mostly members of the country's Indian and Colored (mixed-race) communities.

But the semi-autonomous Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) estimates 74,700 Africans are Muslim from fewer than 12,000 in 1991 when apartheid outlawed racial interaction.

"The gap is closing and we are finding each other," Sheik Thafir Najjar, who heads the Cape Town-based Islamic Council of South Africa, says of reconciliation since the end of apartheid.

Money helps. Islamic non-governmental groups in Africa, many backed by Gulf oil cash, grew from 138 in 1980 to 891 in 2000, more than twice the rate of increase in the total number of Africa's NGOs in the period, says Mohammed Salim, a Sudanese political scientist at Leiden University in the Netherlands. (source)

Egypt: 700 Islamist prisoners released

Egypt has released from prison in recent days 700 members of the al-Gama'a al-Islamiya, an Islamist group that fought the government in the 1990s but which has since renounced violence, a newspaper reported on Sunday.

The daily Al Masry Al Youm said the prisoners had been serving jail sentences between five and 10 years. It did not say how much time they had served.

An Interior Ministry official had no immediate comment on the reported releases.

Al-Gama'a fought the Egyptian authorities in the 1990s in an effort to form a strict Islamic state.

Egypt last year released 400 al-Gama'a members from jail, including leading member Karam Zuhdi, who spent 20 years in jail for his involvement in the assassination of President Anwar Sadat in 1981.

[...] The prisoners were released before Sunday, the first day of the Eid al-Fitr holiday that marks the end of Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

"It had been decided to release this group before Ramadan, but the Taba terrorist bombings delayed their release," the source said, adding that those freed included middle-ranking leaders of the group.

Taba and two beach camps on Egypt's Sinai Peninsula were attacked on Oct. 7, killing at least 33 people. The Egyptian government said a Palestinian driver intent on killing Israelis masterminded the blasts. (source)
See this story for more about Zudhi's release ...

More background on al-Gama'a al-Islamiya here (note that the page doesn't appear to have been updated recently ... eg. Zudhi is still listed as being in prison) ....

There are a number of ways to spell al-Gama'a al-Islamiya ... variations can be found here.

Friday, November 12, 2004

WHO toolkits

Just found out about this ... a toolkit (articles etc...) for people working with sex workers on HIV/AIDS prevention.

Also this toolkit ... for people working on the issue of antiretroviral (ARV) treatment.

Ghana: NPP will dispel "rebel" members

The National Organizer of the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP), Mr. Lord Commey, has disclosed that the party would soon fire its members, including Members of Parliament (MP) who are contesting upcoming Parliamentary elections as independent candidates.

"Any member of this great party who has decided to contest next month’s parliamentary election as independent candidate is a rebel, he or she is not part of us and very soon, they would be expelled to form their independent party," Mr. Commey stressed.

[...] The Chronicle has gathered that by the next two or three weeks, the NPP headquarters may expel about 30 of its members who were contesting the parliamentary elections as independent candidates. (source)

Uganda: did he or didn't he?

Published in yesterdays New Vision...
THE Government yesterday said it had not received any requests for passports from the Lord's Resistance Army to enable the rebel leaders to travel abroad for peace talks.

Internal affairs minister Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda said, "We have not received any request for passports or for peace talks." (source)
IRIN reported a couple of days ago that Ayela Odongo, a lawyer based in Kampala, had told the government that Kony was willing to hold talks outside the country ...
Saying that his team of emissaries had carried messages from the LRA to the government, Odongo noted that some government officials had not been very positive. However, President Yoweri Museveni's office had given them encouragement. (source)
UPDATE: Okay, accordign to the Nov. 14 edition of The Monitor, Kony did make an offer ...
Mr Julius Onen, the Foreign Affairs permanent secretary, said that the process [regarding the offer of talks] was being "handled on a different level". Mr Museveni told journalists recently that he was considering Kony's peace overtures and would make an announcement after.

However, while speaking in Luweero on Thursday, the President appeared dismissive of the rebels saying Kony is defeated and that is why he is pleading for talks. (source)

Zimbabwe: ZANU-PF strapped for cash?

According to the Zim Financial Times, ZANU-PF is struggling to raise the Zim$20 billion needed for the party's December congress and the campaigns for the March parliamentary elections.
They [highly placed sources] said the non-participation of traditional sponsors, mainly bankers, most of whom fled the country to escape punishment for alleged economic crimes, had dented ZANU PF's fundraising.

The remaining bankers, who are fighting a liquidity crunch that has afflicted the financial sector since the introduction of a tight monetary policy late last year, are said to have lost trust in the party following the charges against their fugitive colleagues. While donating to the ruling party was akin to buying protection in the past, this was not the case anymore, the sources said.

ZANU PF legislators are reported to have implored President Robert Mugabe to pardon some of the party's former financiers hiding in the United Kingdom and South Africa in a bid to secure funding for the December talk-shop.

But the President has since declared that no one would be immune under the anti-corruption drive. (source)


Ghana/West Africa: no fish ... people turn to bushmeat

Overfishing by subsidized European fleets off the coast of West Africa is hurting local fisheries and forcing people to slaughter wildlife to get enough to eat, researchers said on Thursday.

[...] "If people aren't able to get their protein from fish, they'll turn elsewhere for food and economic survival. Unfortunately, the impacts on wild game resources are not sustainable, and species are literally disappearing from the reserves," Brashares added in a statement. [Justin Brashares, assistant professor of ecosystem sciences at the University of California Berkeley.]

[...] More than half of Ghana's 20 million people live near the coast and they rely heavily on fishing.

Brashares and colleagues said they studied census data recorded by park rangers from 1970 to 1998 for 41 species of animals such as buffalo, antelope, jackals, lions, elephants, monkeys and baboons.

[...] They found a 76 percent decrease in numbers of mammals, with many local extinctions.

[...] Bushmeat hunting has also been linked to the emergence of dangerous new viruses that may have jumped from animals to people -- Ebola and the AIDS virus. (source)

US/Somalia: lawsuits filed against two former high-ranking Somalis

The two lawsuits claim that Mohamed Ali Samatar, a former defense minister and prime minister of Somalia, and Yusuf Abdi Ali, a former colonel who commanded a notorious Somali army battalion, bear responsibility for human rights violations committed during the military regime of the late Somali president Mohamed Siad Barre, who was deposed in 1991. The lawsuits were filed in U.S. District Court in Alexandria on Wednesday on behalf of eight Somali plaintiffs.

The lawsuits, filed by the San Francisco-based Center for Justice and Accountability and a Reston law firm, represent the latest effort by private groups to hold accountable alleged human rights violators who have found safe haven in the United States.

[...] Samatar, a resident of Fairfax County, came to the United States in the early 1990s after his wife was granted political asylum. Abdi Ali, known to Somalis by his nom de guerre, Tokeh ("the Crow"), received military training in the United States in 1986 and 1990 and sought refuge in Canada when the Siad Barre government collapsed. He landed in the United States after he was deported from Canada in 1992 because of his human rights record, and he eventually prevailed in a six-year legal battle with U.S. immigration. He now lives and works in Alexandria.

Samatar and Abdi Ali could not be reached for comment yesterday. In an interview in Canada before being deported, Abdi Ali denied that he committed human rights abuses. (more here)

Zimbabwe: on the issue of a female deputy prez

The national chairman of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association, Jabulani Sibanda says national leaders must be chosen on the basis of their ability and not gender.

[...] "I believe that women in leadership positions are there not because of affirmative action but because they are capable. President Mugabe is the president not because he is male but because he is capable and we elected him," said Sibanda.

Sibanda said if people wanted a deputy woman president they would elect one.

The ruling Zanu PF Women’s League at its congress recently resolved to push for a woman vice-president with former liberation war fighter and Minister of Water and Rural Resources Development Joyce Mujuru tipped for the post. (source)
More ...
Before the ZANU PF Women's League national conference held in August this year, the contest for the high-pressure job had been restricted to the party's national chairman, John Nkomo, [ZANU PF secretary for administration Emmerson] Mnangagwa, retired army general Vitalis Zvinavashe and Anti-Corruption and Anti-Monopolies Minister Didymus Mutasa.

The race took an interesting turn when the women's league resolved to push for the overhaul of the party's constitution to allow its candidate to land the top post through affirmative action.

Joyce Mujuru, wife of retired army general and ZANU PF kingpin Solomon
Mujuru, has since emerged as the favourite. This move is however reportedly being fiercely resisted by some ZANU PF bigwigs, who feel that the idea should have come from the provinces rather than from the women's league national conference.

Mnangagwa, who many thought was balancing on political knife-edge in the face of a subtle but fierce succession struggle in the ruling party said while the powerful ZANU PF Women's League's request was "legitimate", the mechanism of achieving it was still to be resolved.

He said: "Currently, the ZANU PF constitution requires whoever is interested in the position to have the support of six provinces, voted for by the provincial executives of the six provinces. And whoever gets that support is nominated. So the Women's League, unless it (the constitution) changes, has to follow the provisions of the ZANU PF constitution." (source)
But according to the following report ... ZANU-PF might postpone choosing a deputy president until after the parliamentary election in March. They want to minimize public bickering over the deputy president position ... and wnat to concentrate on beating the opposition in the elections. Besides which ...
Earlier indications were that the women [ZANU PF Women's League] would vote for Joyce Mujuru. However, it has since emerged that the league has been torn apart with the emergence of a new camp pushing for Thenjiwe Lesabe [head of the Women's League & Zanu PF women's affairs secretary]. (source)
I'm not sure what to make of that last bit ... as recently as September, Lesabe was pushing for Mujuru to get the post. However, according to this story from October 21 ...
ZANU PF insiders told The Financial Gazette that Lesabe, the iron lady of the party's politics, had not said "no to proposals from certain quarters" that she also throws her hat into the ring.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Rwanda: France ready to cooperate in genocide investigation

The new French ambassador to Rwanda said his country is ready to cooperate with Rwanda's investigation of France's role in the genocide.
"I have stated it clearly in different meetings with government officials that France is ready to cooperate in good spirit and goodwill with the [Rwandan] commission," Dominique Decherf, the French ambassador, told IRIN in the capital, Kigali.

[...] France has always denied involvement in the killings and a French parliamentary commission in 1998 cleared France of responsibility for the genocide while also admitting that "strategic errors" had been made. (source)

DRC: Congolese troops deployed in South Kivu

A total of 3,260 Congolese troops, working with an undisclosed number of U.N. forces, began deploying Monday to Walungu, 15 miles from Bukavu, in volatile South Kivu province, said Kasanda Wa Kasanda, spokesman for the Congolese army in the region. [This is part of a drive to stabilize the area and disarm former Rwandan rebels there.]

[...] Eliana Nabaa, a U.N. spokesman in Bukavu, said U.N. troops would not disarm foreign troops by force, but rather would conduct campaigns on the disarmament process on local radio stations.

[...] The stepped-up Congolese deployment heightens the prospect of clashes there with ex-rebel forces. (source)

Kenya: whose fault is it?

The pro-life [anti-abortion] protestors collided with a group of doctors and nurses dressed in white medical coats.

"We are always blamed. It is the woman who is doing it - not us," said one of the doctors. (source)
What?

HIV/AIDS: generic antiretrovirals removed from list

Ranbaxy Laboratories, an Indian generic drug manufacturer, has voluntarily withdrawn seven antiretroviral drugs from the World Health Organisation's (WHO) list of approved HIV medicines.
WHO removed these medicines from the list after inspections at the Contract Research Organizations (CROs) which conducted bioequivalence studies revealed serious discrepancies between the original results compiled by the CROs and the results presented to WHO, and non-compliance with international guidelines on Good Clinical Practices and Good Laboratory Practices.
Translation ... it doesn't look like the generic version of the drugs were equivalent to the brand-name versions.

Earlier this year, WHO removed three other Ranbaxy manufactured antiretroviral drugs.

According to this, the company will be submitting studies which will prove the efficacy of the seven delisted drugs.

The "list" is the work of the WHO's "Prequalification Project".
The overall aim of this pilot project was to provide quality assessment on a selected number of pharmaceutical products that are considered for purchase by UN agencies involved in the procurement of drugs and diagnostics. (source)

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Kenya: Masai vs. florists ...

Florists win.

HIV/AIDS: what causes what ...

One study conducted among both urban and rural youth in the mountainous southern African kingdom of Lesotho uncovered a considerable number of teenagers who had noticed more AIDS and more condoms - and deduced that the latex must be the source of the virus! (sourc)

Nigeria: stoning sentence overturned

A 29-year-old woman, who was to be stoned to death, has had her sentence overturned. (She's now six-months pregnant ... sentence would have been carried out after she gave birth.)
The lower court had sentenced her to 100 lashes and death by stoning after she confessed to having unlawful sex [sex outside marriage] with a 35-year-old man, Dauda Sani. She became pregnant but Sani was released for lack of evidence.

The [Islamic court] appeal judge annulled the conviction on the grounds it was incorrect to deliver the two sentences for the crime; the confession was void because it was not made four times; Ibrahim was not given the chance to defend herself; and the investigation was not properly carried out.

[...] Nobody has been lawfully stoned to death for sex offences in Nigeria in the four years since 12 northern states introduced Islamic sharia law. Nine such sentences have been overturned on appeal and a tenth appeal is due to be heard on December 2. (source)

DRC: UN says "uranium" mine should remain closed

A UN team has said that the Shinkolobwe uranium mine should remain closed. The team was there to investigate the safety of the mine after a shaft collapse killed eight people earlier this year.
The mine had been exploited for uranium but closed before the country gained independence in the 1960s by sealing the main shafts with concrete. In the late 1990s, artisanal mining for cobalt was allowed, leading to uncontrolled and dangerous mining activities. No evidence of uranium mining was found. (source)

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Botswana: US government's police training academy

Interesting story here and here about the International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) in Botswana. The Academy is training police officers from across Africa.
So far, 1,100 policemen from 17 countries, most in southern Africa, have been at the ILEA in Botswana.

Next year brings the first trainees from the Democratic Republic of Congo. (source)
Both stories say the Academy was opened last year ... but according to this page on the US State Department website, it was opened in 2001.

Both stories also say the program is run by the US Department of Homeland Security. However, to be precise (and I do love to be precise) ... the ILEA in Botswana is run by the Federal Law Enforcement Training Centre (FLETC) which is part of the Department of Homeland Security. And while Homeland Security is the lead agency at the Botswana ILEA, many other departments are involved in setting policy for all the ILEAs (there are four) ...
The Secretary of State, the Attorney General and the Secretary of the Treasury established the ILEA Policy Board comprised of senior representatives from their respective organizations. Department of Homeland Security, as a new charter member, will also have senior representation on the Policy Board. ...

The FBI is the lead agency for ILEA Budapest [est. 1995], DEA for Bangkok [est. 1999] and FLETC for Gaborone. (source)
More on the courses offered at ILEA Gaborone (Botswana) ... here. (Includes pictures of the buildings ... pretty.)

Sudan: the stick and carrot

The US and its allies are trying to get the government and the SPLA/M to sign a comprehensive deal. (Note: This is a North-South conflict, distinct from the conflict in Darfur.) The US is threatening to withdraw some (unspecified) economic goodies if the factions don't sign a deal soon.
The U.N. Security Council is conducting a rare formal session in Nairobi Nov. 18-19 to pressure all parties to sign an agreement in the south by the end of the year and solve the crisis in Darfur in western Sudan.

[...] A draft resolution to be adopted in Nairobi "encourages" the World Bank and others to develop a reconstruction and economic development package, including debt forgiveness, once an agreement is reached in the south.

[...] Secretary of State Colin Powell, speaking on Monday with reporters en route to Mexico City, cited unspecified "progress" in talks to resolve the North-South dispute in Sudan, saying: "We might be able to provide a little electricity to those proceedings when the Security Council meets in Nairobi."

U.S. Ambassador John Danforth, the current council president and organizer of the trip, said some offers would not last forever.

[...] Six protocols have already been signed between Khartoum and the SPLM, but are not in force. They include agreements on governmental power sharing, the country's oil wealth as well as integrated security forces in southern Sudan, the Nuba Mountains, the Southern Blue Nile and Khartoum.

In six years, southerners would be entitled to a referendum to determine whether they wanted to form their own state.

[The UN envoy to Sudan, Jan Pronk, told the council that ...] the main obstacle was the financing of an army in the south and the "parties seem reluctant to move."

"Strong political language is needed. They will listen to it if the big powers say it," Pronk said, referring to the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France. (source)

Nigeria: Halliburton admits it may have paid bribes

"We understand from the ongoing governmental and other investigations that payments may have been made to Nigerian officials," [Halliburton ...] said in a quarterly filing Friday with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

[...] The allegations center on a contract for a $4 billion Nigerian liquefied natural gas plant awarded in 1995 to TSKJ, a consortium of four partners — M.W. Kellogg Co., a subsidiary of Dresser Industries; Technip SA of France; ENI SpA of Italy; and Japan Gasoline Corp.

[...] The Justice Department, the Securities and Exchange Commission, a French magistrate and Nigerian officials are investigating whether the consortium paid $180 million in bribes to Nigerian officials from 1995 through 2002. The consortium got other contracts involving the Nigerian plant in 1999 and 2002.

In June Halliburton fired two consultants including former KBR chairman A. Jack Stanley, for violating the company's business code of conduct by receiving "improper personal benefits" related to TSKJ's construction of the Nigerian plant. (source)

Rwanda/Arusha: genocide prosecution of only woman in custody

Pauline Nyiramasuhuko is the only woman in the custody of the ICTR. She is the former minister of Family and Women Affairs. She is being tried along with five others ... and the prosecution concluded its presentation last Friday. More on the case here.

More stories about Nyiramasuhuko here, here, and here.

UPDATE: Check out this other (slightly related) article ...
Today, Rwanda's women and girls have one of the highest literacy rates in Africa -- 61 percent. Boys and girls attend school at about the same rate, nearly 70 percent; before the genocide, boys outnumbered girls 9 to 1. Nearly half of university graduates are women, compared to 6 percent just 10 years ago. And for the first time, women have the right to own property; in the past, they could not keep their homes, or even their children, when their husbands or male relatives died.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Libya: Sayef al-Islam says democratic elections coming

Gaddafi's son, Sayef al-Islam, on BBC World Service (radio) today
... [He] said that in the wake of regional government elections three months ago, nation-wide polls -- under the gaze of US and European observers -- would be "the next step" and that they would be held "soon".

[...] "In Libya, next time, everything should be democratic from A to Z. This is the desire of my father. This is the desire of the people."

Asked whether his father -- who rules Libya with no formal title -- would contest the presidency, he replied with a laugh: "I think he is going to be the leader, and not president."

[...] But he criticised European Union policy towards North Africa, saying Brussels was wrong to separate the nations along the south shore of the Mediterranean from the rest of Africa.

He also said that if Europe wanted to stem the tide of illegal immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa via Libya, it should do more "to create jobs and fight unemployment" in the region.

"It is not by sending us four wheel drive (vehicles), helicopters and night vision equipment" that the problem can be resolved, he said.

"We have to bring opportunity from Europe ... and then we can prevent (migrants) from crossing the Sahara and crossing the Mediterranean towards Europe," he said. (source)

Zanzibar: gays and the law

Interesting Reuters article ...
In August, the government [...] outlawed gay sex and set prison terms of up to 25 years for men and seven years for lesbians. The law also set a penalty of life imprisonment for sodomising a minor.

The government argues there has always been a law against homosexuality, but that it was vague. Officials say the revised legislation is effective because it defines clearly what parliament considers indecent sexual practices.

[...] Although Zanzibar is 95 percent Muslim, islanders say homosexuality and bisexuality have been practised among its one million people for as long as many can remember.

[...] Zanzibar has long relied on tourism for much-needed foreign exchange revenue, but the government's recent move has prompted travel agencies specialising in trips for gays and lesbians to threaten a boycott.

The government protests.

[...] But there may be hope for a reprieve for Zanzibar's gay community. The main opposition party, the Civic United Front (CUF), say they would amend the law if they came to power in elections due in 2005. (source)

Uganda: shocking numbers

Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) has released some shocking numbers about the 1.6 million people displaced by the civil war in northern Uganda.
MSF research conducted last month in six refugee camps in remote Lira and Pader districts, 400 km (250 miles) north of the capital Kampala, found a crude mortality rate of 2.8 deaths per 10,000 people per day for the general population.

"According to the internationally agreed benchmarks a rate of more than two per 10,000 a day is classed an 'emergency out of control'," MSF said in the statement.

"The mortality rate was even more alarming among children under five years of age, at 5.4 deaths per 10,000 children a day, with the rate as high as 10.5 deaths per 10,000 children a day in one location," it said.

A separate mental health study conducted in Pader town revealed almost all respondents had been exposed to severely traumatic experiences in the last two years.

"Sixty-three percent report the disappearance or abduction of a family member, 58 percent report the death of a family member due to the insurgency, 79 percent have witnessed torture, and 40 percent have witnessed a killing," MSF said.

"Another very disturbing figure is that five percent of the population have been forced to physically harm somebody."

MSF said its doctors in Pader had treated several patients for the consequences of failed suicide attempts, and that 62 percent of women interviewed thought about committing suicide. (source)
MSF's press release.

Sudan/Darfur: another investigation

Looks like the UN has sent another group to investigage whether what's going on in Darfur constitutes a genocide.
"It is to begin its investigation of reports of violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law in Darfur by all parties, including to determine whether or not acts of genocide have occurred and to identify the perpetrators of such violations," he [George Somerwill, UN spokesman in Sudan] said of the team's mandate.

Somerwill did not give details of the make-up of the team. In October U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan named a five-member panel led by Italian judge Antonio Cassese to investigate whether genocide has taken place in Darfur. The panel was created at the request of the U.N. Security Council.

[...] Two U.N. human rights watchdogs told the U.N. Security Council in September that war crimes had probably occurred on a "large and systematic scale" in Darfur. (source)

Nigeria: jet fuel shortage

Just seeing this story now ...

Flights were cancelled/delayed on Thursday and Friday due to a shortage of jet fuel.

From a This Day article published Nov. 5 ....
Marketers said yesterday they had indeed pulled out of importing the product after airline operators had stated catergorically that they would not be able to buy the fuel at the real import cost. (source)
Nigeria seems to have a fair bit of trouble with its fuel supply ... even though it's the seventh largest oil producer in the world.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Cambodia: $2 to see Pol Pot's ashes

Strange ...
The Khmer Rouge abolished money during their genocidal regime but now the Cambodian government is charging $2 to tourists visiting the spot where their murderous leader, Pol Pot, was disposed of.

[...] Pol Pot's cremation site is the prime asset in a plan to develop Anlong Veng, their last stronghold, into a tourist attraction. Down a narrow path behind a roadside market, through the wooden huts of a small Cambodian army encampment, the spot where the genocidal killer's remains were cremated has become a shrine.

[...] Two cranes stand nearby ready to build a casino to lure visitors once the go-ahead is given. "Without tourism development other businesses will not do well," said Seng Sokheng, manager of the Anlong Veng tourist office. (source)
There are clearly people who still like Pol Pot.

Somalia: general shot, wounded

Gunmen shot and seriously wounded a prominent Somali army officer in an attack widely seen in the region as a warning to the African Union (AU) not to deploy peacekeeping troops, residents said on Sunday.

Former General Mohammed Abdu Mohammed was shot four times in the chest and shoulders by three masked men armed with pistols and an assault rifle as he emerged from a mosque near his house on Friday, residents reached by telephone from Kenya said.

The attack in north Mogadishu's Shibis area happened several days after he expressed support for the deployment of AU forces in media interviews and at discussion groups on law and order.

Somalia's new president Abdullahi Yusuf has asked the AU to send 20 000 peacekeepers to help disarm the militias who rule the damaged country of up to 10 million and collect the millions of small arms owned by Somalis.

[...] But several militant Islamist groups in Mogadishu long hostile to Yusuf have expressed opposition to the deployment of foreign forces, saying without elaborating that their use would be against Islam and that they would transmit "diseases". (source)

Kuwait: transsexual fighting for recognition

A 26-year-old male to female transsexual who goes by the name Amal is fighting to be recognized as a female.
One court ruled for her, another overturned it and now she is going to the Court of Cassation, her last avenue of appeal.

[...] Many Middle East countries refuse to recognize sex changes. Jordan, Lebanon and Syria do, but it takes complicated and lengthy court proceedings. Only Iran and Egypt allow people to officially change their gender with relative ease.

[...] Amal declined to discuss it [her operation], but claimed her body was already "80 per cent female" at birth.

"I found out that my case is not unknown to medicine," said Amal. "My real problem is with the lack of understanding by society and my family."

Last year, the Ministry of Education suspended Amal from her job [as a secretary] until she works out her legal status.

[...] In April, a court upheld her right to register as female because the sex-change operation was a health matter that merited an exception to Sharia, or Islamic law.

Gender is not "just . . . genitalia, it is also psychological feelings," the judges ruled.

Last month, an appeals court overturned the ruling, saying God decides gender and humans have no right to change it.

"Ahmed is still a man, and the operation he had does not change the way he was created, even if it changed the way he looks to others," said Mohammed al-Tabtabai, the dean of Kuwait's Sharia College. (full-text)
UPDATE: Found the following Reuters article (from back in April) about the first verdict ...
The Personal Status Court of First Instance ruled that the plaintiff had suffered physiologically and psychologically since childhood due to hormonal imbalances, defence lawyer Adel Al Yahya said yesterday.

Saturday's ruling has to be referred to a higher court before the decision becomes final, Al Yahya said, adding the process might take up to at least a month.

Yahya said he presented the court with an edict issued by Egypt's Al Azhar, Sunni Islam's top religious institution, that allowed people to change their gender if medical reports showed this was to their benefit.

"We have evidence, a fatwa from Al Azhar, because we have a case of illness, not a case of switching gender or as they call it in Kuwait a third-sex case," Al Yahya said. (source)
Interesting nugget from Gulf News ...
Amal's is not the first transsexual case in Kuwait. A court verdict in 1998 granted a female citizen a change in legal status as a male allegedly without a medical examination and without the controversy surrounding Amal's case. (source)