Weekly anb12135.txt #7

WEEKLY NEWS ISSUE of: 13-12-2001      PART #5/7

* Liberia. Rebels are heading for the border - 10 December: Rebels fighting Liberian troops in northern and north-western Liberia are heading for the Sierra Leonean border in an apparent move to attack that country, the Liberian Government has said. "Well-armed units of the Lurd dissident group were spotted heading for the Sierra Leonean border," a Ministry of Information release said on 9 December. The dissidents have been heading to the town of Kungbor, situated on the border with Sierra Leone and some 165 kilometres north-west of Monrovia, said the government. President Charles Taylor reacted by calling in the Sierra Leonean ambassador here, Kemoh Salia-Bao, for consultation. "The intent of the rebels is to launch a bogus attack on Sierra Leone from Liberia so that it will appear like Liberia has attacked Sierra Leone. This is worrisome because Liberia enjoys relations with Sierra Leone," said Defence Minister, Daniel Chea. 11 December: More than 15,000 people displaced by fresh fighting between Liberian troops and rebels in the northwest of the country in the last week have arrived in Sawmill Town. Sawmill, situated some 100 kilometres northwest of the capital Monrovia, has begun swelling with displaced people who intermittently arrive in large groups. The vast majority of them fled camps in towns such as Bopolu, the provincial capital of northwestern Gbarpolu county which has been the scene of some of the fiercest fighting in recent days. The displaced people complained that they were being prevented from moving further on to much more safer areas like the main provincial town, Tubmanburg, some 60km outside of Monrovia. Zubazi Aquoi, a spokesman for the displaced, said Bopolu itself has not been attacked, "but echoes of artillery bombardments were so heavy from embattled places, that the 3,600 people at the camp all came with me". The fleeing people arrived in the town carrying bundles of personal effects mainly cooking utensils and foam mattresses on their heads. Liberia's Defence Minister Daniel Chea, visiting the region on 10 December, said the displaced people were safe where they are "and we will do everything to see them go home very soon". (ANB-BIA, Brussels, 12 December 2001)

* Libya. Vast railway project - Libya looks set to become the final link in a vast railway network connecting the whole of North Africa. Speaking in the capital Tripoli, an unnamed Libyan official has told the local press that the country is proposing to build two tracks, running east to west and north to south. The first line will run along the Mediterranean coast, linking Libya's western border with Tunisia with its eastern border with Egypt. The second will run southwards through the Sahara desert, linking Libya with Chad and Niger. It is an ambitious scheme, but Libya has already proved its ability to take on such vast projects. At the cost of billions of dollars, its so-called Great Manmade River project has piped underground water from deep beneath the Sahara up to the coastal plain. The official did not reveal the cost or time frame of the railway project. (BBC News, UK, 9 December 2001)

* Madagascar. Election plan behind schedule - Reports from Madagascar indicate that preparations for presidential elections on 15 December are seriously behind schedule. Many voting stations have only just received copies of the electoral lists, even though 11 December was officially the last day for voters to confirm their names on these. The head of the independent electoral body had indicated that the number of registered voters in Madagascar has fallen by two million in the past five years. he says he doesn't understand how this had happened. The incumbent president, Didier Ratsiraka, has promised free and fair elections. (ANB-BIA, Brussels, 13 December 2001)

* Malawi. Police shoot protesters - Police in Malawi have opened fire on Rastafarians and student demonstrators in the university town of Zomba, east of the commercial city of Blantyre, seriously injuring at least two people and arresting three others. Witnesses say a riot erupted when officers tried to break up a protest against the death in police custody of the outspoken reggae musician Evison Matafale. The shooting began after police fired tear gas into university buildings, causing chaos. Protests also took place in Blantyre and in the south of the country over the musician's death. Matafale died three days after he was arrested for allegedly writing a seditious letter to President Bakili Muluzi. (ANB-BIA, Brussels, 12 December 2001)

* Mali. Bamako lit up by dam start - The enormous Manantali dam in southwestern Mali has finally produced its very first megawatt of hydro-electricity, 13 years after it was completed. So far, only one of the five turbines has been installed, and when that is turning, it lights up the capital, Bamako, some 300 kilometres to the east. But there is still a good way to go if long-awaited promises of serving Senegal, Mali and Mauritania are to be fulfilled. Babacar Gueye, director of Sogem, a consortium created by the three countries that share the Senegal River, says that perhaps by the end of 2002, the dam would be providing 60% of the energy needs of urban consumers in the capitals. He says 52% of production would go to Mali, 15% to Mauritania and 33% to Senegal. Mr Gueye points out that Sogem will be selling the inexpensive electricity from Manantali to utilities in the three countries, which in turn would set the prices at which they sell to consumers. According to Mountaga Diallo, technical director of Sogem, there is a long-term plan to link Mali up to a West African grid that would permit even Togo, Benin and Ghana to receive energy from or send hydro power to Mali. He also speaks of a proposed scheme to twin the power installations with fibre optic lines to improve telecommunications. "It's a big, big, big project," says Diallo. "It will be a revolution electrically and for telecommunications too." Those who manage the dam, view it as one of the most important economic developments in West Africa. (ANB-BIA, Brussels, 12 December 2001)

* Maroc. Liberté de presse en panne - Seul pays du Maghreb à avoir pris le chemin d'une libéralisation, le Maroc n'entend pas pour autant ouvrir le débat sur les "années de plomb". Le 8 décembre, la police a saisi l'hebdomadaire Demain Magazine, qui avait publié la liste de 45 personnes présumées responsables d'atteintes graves aux droits de l'homme. Diffusée la veille par l'Association marocaine des droits humains (AMDH, indépendante), cette liste comprend les noms de responsables de l'armée et de la police toujours en fonction. Ali Lambaret, directeur de Demain, avait déjà été condamné le 21 novembre à quatre mois de prison et une forte amende pour "diffusion de fausses informations". L'AMDH a dénoncé dans une lettre au Premier ministre M. Youssoufi "les atteintes à la liberté de presse et de réunion" et réclamé une "enquête indépendante" sur la disparition d'opposants dans les années 1960-1970. (Libération, France, 10 décembre 2001)

* Morocco. Human rights ombudsman - King Mohammad of Morocco has announced the creation of a human rights ombudsman. The announcement was delivered in a message read by his brother, Prince Moulay Rachid, to mark international human rights day. The prince said the new post was part of efforts to offer support to other bodies working to redress injustice and protect liberties. On 8 December, the Moroccan Human Rights Association published the names of more than 40 senior officials and officers whom it accused of responsibility for the disappearance of political activists during the 1960's and 1970's. It said it had proof of the involvement of those on the list in crimes of kidnapping, murder, arbitrary arrest and torture. The group called on the justice ministry to take action against those named. (ANB-BIA, Brussels, 10 December 2001)

* Maroc. Un médiateur contre les abus - Les abus de l'administration sont l'une des plaies du régime marocain. Soucieux de montrer sa volonté de changement en la matière et de répondre aux critiques sur les lenteurs du processus de démocratisation, le roi Mohammed VI a profité de la journée mondiale des droits de l'homme pour annoncer, le 9 décembre, la création d'un poste de "médiateur", rattaché au cabinet royal; celui-ci constituera un "recours" pour les citoyens qui s'estiment lésés par l'administration. Son bureau devrait compter des délégués régionaux. Approuvant l'initiative, Driss Benzekri, le président du Forum vérité et justice, a toutefois souligné la nécessité de nommer à ce poste une "personnalité forte" susceptible de résister à des pressions. (Libération, France, 11 décembre 2001)

* Morocco. Eye disease eradication progress - Trachoma, one of the leading causes of blindness in the world, has now been virtually eliminated from Morocco, says the group leading the project. This represents one of the first major advances in the fight against the disease in Africa. The anti-trachoma programme is now going to be expanded to target the disease in nine countries at a cost of $200m. Trachoma is caused by the bacteria Chlamydia trachtomatis, which is commonly carried by flies. If it gets rubbed into the eyes, it can cause damage. Repeated infections can cause the eyelid to turn inwards. This in turn can cause damage to the cornea -- and eventually blindness. The strategy to fight it is a simple one, including surgery to help those already badly affected by infections. In addition, antibiotics are used to tackle active trachoma infections. To stop the infections starting in the first place, children and adults are encouraged to wash their faces regularly in clean water. (BBC News, UK, 12 December 2001)

* Maroc. Boukhari condamné - Le 12 décembre, l'ancien agent secret marocain Ahmed Boukhari, auteur de révélations sur l'affaire Ben Barka, a été condamné à 3 mois de prison ferme et une amende de 100.000 dirhams (10.000 euros) pour diffamation. Le verdict a été prononcé en l'absence de M. Boukhari et de son avocat qui ont refusé d'assister à ce qu'ils appellent un "procès mascarade". M. Boukhari est convoqué en France le 20 décembre pour être entendu dans le cadre de l'enquête sur l'assassinat de Ben Barka en 1965. Il avait déjà été empêché de se rendre à deux précédentes convocations à Paris le 19 juillet et le 7 septembre. (ANB-BIA, de sources diverses, 13 décembre 2001)

* Mozambique. No third term for Chissano - President Joaquim Chissano has announced that he will not run for a third term as head of state in elections due in 2004. There had been speculation that he may be tempted to follow some of his southern African counterparts -- Namibia's Sam Nujoma, Zambia's Frederick Chiluba and Malawi's Bakili Muluzi --and attempt to stay in power. The ruling Frelimo party last night accepted his decision, according to a statement issued by the Central Committee. The statement called Mr Chissano's decision a gesture of great dignity and political wisdom, the gesture of a statesman with a vision of the future for his people and for the country. President Chissano said he had never planned to stay in power for long. "People have the right to retire at the age of 65." (ANB-BIA, Brussels, 10 December 2001)

* Nigeria. Obasanjo approves controversial electoral law - Nigeria's President, Olosegun Obasanjo, has approved a controversial bill which changes the order in which the country elects its politicians. The law allows new parties to register and take part in local elections scheduled for 2003 -- doubling the current term for local councillors. Correspondents say a number of state governors are opposed to the move and have threatened to hold local elections next year. The new law also means that only established parties -- the ruling PDP and the two opposition APP and AD parties -- can put forward candidates for presidential, state governorship, and parliamentary elections before 2007. Analysts say the move could be an attempt by established parties to hold on to power. (BBC News, UK, 6 December 2001)

* Nigeria. Choléra: plus de 700 morts? - A Kano, avec près de 2 millions d'habitants, le choléra rôde depuis trois semaines. D'abord réticentes à admettre l'étendue du désastre, les autorités viennent d'avancer un bilan de 700 morts, dont quelque 250 enfants, indique un article paru dans Le Monde le 7 décembre. Mégapole insalubre, Kano n'a plus de distribution d'eau potable digne de ce nom. La catastrophe a été aggravée par le refus d'aide extérieure et la loi du silence. En janvier, les ONG étrangères ont été expulsées de l'Etat de Kano qui, depuis un an, applique dans toute sa rigueur la charia; le conseil des oulémas avait en effet jugé que les organisations humanitaires concouraient à la dépravation des moeurs. Il a donc fallu attendre le retour des ONG, notamment de Médecins sans frontières. Jusqu'à la semaine dernière, les autorités locales s'en étaient tenues à un bilan d'une vingtaine de morts et avaient estimé ne pas avoir besoin d'aide extérieure. - Toutefois, selon une dépêche de l'agence IRIN du 10 décembre, le gouvernement a informé que la maladie avait tué jusqu'à ce jour 90 victimes dans les hôpitaux de l'Etat, tout en reconnaissant que bien plus de personnes pouvaient être mortes en dehors des hôpitaux. (ANB-BIA, de sources diverses, 10 décembre 2001)

Weekly anb1213.txt - #5/7