Weekly anb10311.txt #7

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WEEKLY NEWS ISSUE of: 31-10-2002      PART #1/7

* Africa. Blood diamond talks - 28 October: The World Diamond Council (WDC) is meeting in London to discuss moves to crack down on the illegal trade in gems mines in war zones -- the so-called blood diamonds. The WDC's talks will focus on a proposed tracking scheme under which diamonds mined in conflict-free zones would be given a certificate of origin. Once the scheme -- due to be formally launched next month -- is implemented, every diamond offered for sale will have to be accompanied by a certificate to show it is conflict-free. The WDC's chairman, Eli Izhakoff says the support of governments is essential to the plan's success. (ANB-BIA, Belgium, 28 October 2002)

* Africa. Action against the Media - Liberia: On 29 October, Reporters sans Frontières (RSF) welcomed President Taylor's decision t free Hassan Bility, editor of the privately-owned weekly The Analyst, who has been held in a secret place for the past four months, but says it is concerned about the conditions for his release. Morocco:On 24 October, RSF protested to the authorities over their refusal to allow two journalists to leave the country. Sudan/UK: On 23 October, The Writers in Prison Committee issued an Action Alert over the imminent risk of deportation from the United Kingdom, faced by Sudanese author, Mende Nazer. She claims she was forced to work as a slave in the London house of a Sudanese diplomat after having being brought to the UK with false papers. She has written a book about her experiences. Zimbabwe: In an Alert Update on 23 October, the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) said the proposed amendments to the Access to Information and Protection Act, will result in the Media and Information Commission being firmly put in the hands of the Minister of Information, and the strengthening of repressive clauses. -- On 23 October, the police charged Geoff Nyarota, editor of the independent Daily News, with violating new security laws. -- On 29 October, MISA said that two journalists with the Zimbabwe Independent and The Daily News have been threatened by police when they went to cover the funeral of an opposition member of parliament. (ANB-BIA, Belgium, 29 October 2002)

* Africa. Human rights - Cameroon: On 25 October, Amnesty International urged the Cameroonian authorities to immediately release Albert Mukong, a former executive director of the Human Rights Group and a reputable human rights defender, who was arrested on 28 September by the gendarmerie at Ayukaba, in South West Province. Côte d'Ivoire: On 24 October, PANA reported that according to Amnesty International and other organisations, both security forces and insurgents have committed human rights abuses, including extra-judicial executions. -- On 23 and 24 October, residents of a poor Abidjan neighbourhood were left homeless when their homes were demolished. Armed policemen stood guard as a bulldozer crashed into dwellings. -- On 29 October, Amnesty International said that dozens of people have been killed in Daloa since the army recaptured it from rebels. Victims include people with Muslim names or citizens from neighbouring countries. Ethiopia: Ethiopia's Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs said (on 24 October) that mass unemployment in Ethiopia is leading to an alarming rise in the illegal trafficking of women. -- On 30 October, the UN's Emergencies Unit for Ethiopia called for the abolition of "collective punishments" imposed on farmers who cannot afford to repay fertiliser debts. Namibia: The Namibian Society for Human Rights has said (24 October) that comments made by Namibia's Home Affairs Minister regarding alleged abuses by the paramilitary Police Special Force, has given further credence to calls that the unit be disbanded. Somalia: Medécins sans Frontières has condemned an attack (19 October) on one of its clinics in Adan Yabal, in the middle Shabelle Region of Central Somalia. It says it has suspended its activities in the area. Swaziland: On 23 October, the research director for the Swaziland branch of Women and Law for Southern Africa, said Women lawyers in Swaziland have embarked on a campaign to alert both genders to the need for women's rights in a proposed new Constitution. Togo: On 22 October, Togolese officials told the UN Human Rights Committee that no executions had taken place in Togo in five years and that claims of other human rights abuses are not true. Tunisia:On 24 October, PANA reported that two members of the Tunisian Labour Communist Party, jailed for being members of a banned political party, have started an indefinite hunger strike to press their demand for immediate and unconditional release. Uganda: On 30 October, Human Rights Watch said that both the rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) and Ugandan government forces have stepped up abuses against civilians in recent months. (ANB-BIA, Belgium, 30 October 2002)

* Africa. Summit on AIDS and Hunger - In the bleached shantytowns of southern Africa they call them the ugly sisters -- a twin force of such devastation that from the wreckage it is seldom possible to distinguish one sibling's impact from the other: AIDS and hunger have become inseparable. Relief agencies and governments will meet in South Africa next week to call for a new approach to a humanitarian crisis on a scale no one has quite seen before. Plague and famine have intertwined into a self-perpetuating phenomenon which could last for decades. The Johannesburg meeting will bring together UN agencies, the 14-member Southern African Development Community and non-governmental organisations to discuss new ways of tackling the economic, social and cultural nexus that is the result of the ugly sisters. (...) "The crisis within the crisis -- the HIV/AIDS crisis -- is enormous," said James Morris, the head of the WFP. "This is a catastrophe in the world that in some respects is unprecedented." That the countries worst hit by famine are among those worst hit by AIDS is no coincidence. Hunger breeds HIV and HIV breeds hunger. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation the disease is ravaging farmers. (The Guardian, UK, 30 October 2002)

* Africa. Humanitarian needs - Global: On 22 October, the UNHCR said it is facing a shortfall of US $80 million to enable it maintain at "least minimum standards for refugees". Angola: A recent UN study paints a grim picture of the country which has some of the worst living conditions in the world. More than 60% of the population are living below the poverty line. -- On 25 October, the WFP said it was very concerned over a decision by the Angolan government to close all reception areas of former UNITA rebels and their families by the end of the year. Burundi: On 28 October, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said that relief agencies have delivered much needed relief food to some 1,500 families of internally displaced persons whose camp was destroyed by fire on 27 September. Congo RDC: On 23 October, IRIN reported that another 500 people have fled South Kivu into northwestern Tanzania, bringing to 13,000, the number of Congolese seeking asylum in surrounding countries since fighting erupted again in Uvira last week. Liberia: On 28 October, the WFP expressed concern about the continuing increase in the number of internally displaced persons in camps in the suburbs of Monrovia. Sudan: On 28 October, the UNHCR said that about 17,000 Sudanese refugees were still in hiding, having fled ethnic violence last week in a refugee settlement in northeaster Congo RDC. Uganda: On 30 October, AFP said that Archbishop John Odama who has been attempting to end the conflict between the government and the Lord's Resistance Army rebels, is reported to have said that recent atrocities are threatening to overwhelm the peace process. -- On 31 October, the BBC reported that the more than 40,000 internally displaced people in overcrowded camps in the northern town of Lira, are facing acute food shortages and lack of proper medication. (ANB-BIA, Belgium, 31 October 2002)

* Africa/USA. Human rights issue in focus - Picture postcards of the port of Lobito, in southern Angola, show gleaming white cruise ships moored in the harbour before the country's civil war broke out almost 30 years ago. The conflict long ago stopped the liners coming but the tentative return of peace has attracted renewed international activity: Kellog Brown & Root, a US contractor, is to provide technical support for building an oil refinery that will tower over the harbour and process light crude suitable for consumption by American cars. The project is one of the tangible signs of growing US interest in western and central Africa, whose large oil reserves are seen by analysts and lobbyists as a bulwark against disruption to Middle East crude supplies. A series of visits to western Africa by senior US officials over the past few months has prompted questions about US intentions and the likely impact on a region notorious for corruption and poor governance. "In the short term, this part of the world is very strategic for the United States," says Alex Vines, senior researcher at Human Rights Watch. "It's the only really key focus of US policy in Africa." The US government has talked of the "national strategic interest" represented by African oil, whose 15 per cent share of US crude imports is forecast to grow to 25 per cent by 2015. (Financial Times, UK, 29 October 2002)

* Horn of Africa. Aid plea - The World Food Programme (WFP) made a renewed plea to the over-stretched aid community yesterday for funds to feed up to 14 million people facing starvation in the Horn of Africa. It was the agency's fourth appeal this month setting the plight of the drought-ravaged Horn against that of southern Africa. "The humanitarian system faces the prospect of being completely overwhelmed," the WFP executive director, James Morris, said. "At least 10 million people will need food aid just in Ethiopia. But if this month's rains stop early, up to 14 million people there will require urgent assistance. These figures are large and dramatic and the international community should take notice. Unless we come to grips with this problem very soon we face the real possibility of witnessing a devastating wave of human suffering and death as early as next year." (The Guardian, UK, 29 October 2002)

* Algeria/France. Controversial French Algerian war general dies - A French paratroop general criticised for his repressive methods during the Algerian war of independence has died at his home near Paris at the age of 94. General Jacques Massu led the French forces to victory during the Battle of Algiers in 1957, but two years ago he publicly admitted that Algerian prisoners had suffered widespread torture and summary execution. General Massu expressed regret for such actions and said the eventual institutionalisation of torture within the French army had been wrong and unnecessary. President Jacques Chirac praised the general, in a statement following his death, as a great soldier who'd conducted himself with "dignity, courage and honesty" since making his admissions. (BBC News, UK, 27 October 2002)

* Algérie. Prêt de la Banque mondiale - Le 29 octobre, l'Algérie et la Banque mondiale (BM) ont signé un accord de prêt de 94 millions de dollars destinés à réduire la vulnérabilité des zones urbaines aux catastrophes naturelles et à développer le crédit hypothécaire. Au total, la BM a accordé à l'Algérie $880 millions pour 14 projets. Le directeur de la zone Maghreb à la BM, Théodore Haller, a estimé, lors de la signature de l'accord, que son institution compte "mieux cibler à l'avenir les projets à financer, pour répondre aux priorités du gouvernement algérien". (PANA, Sénégal, 30 octobre 2002)

* Algérie. Islamistes armés - Dans la nuit du 24 au 25 octobre, des islamistes présumés ont tué 21 personnes, dont un enfant de trois mois, à Ouled Abdallah, dans la province de Chlef, à quelque 170 km à l'ouest d'Alger, a annoncé l'agence officielle APS citant les services de sécurité. Les victimes, appartenant à une même famille, ont été tuées par balles et à l'arme blanche. Et dans la nuit du 29 au 30 octobre, huit personnes ont été assassinées par un groupe terroriste à Sid-Bou Aissa, dans la préfecture de Chlef. Depuis le début du mois, une centaine de personnes ont été tuées en Algérie dans des violences impliquant des islamistes armés; et ces neuf derniers mois, un millier d'Algériens ont été tués par des rebelles ou lors d'opérations militaires des forces de sécurité. -- Selon un article paru dans Le Monde du 31 octobre, les islamistes armés en Algérie se sont restructurés en trois formations. Le plus connu et le mieux organisé serait le Groupement salafiste pour la prédication et le combat (GSPC) de Hassan Hattab, implanté dans le centre du pays (notamment autour de Boumerdès et Bouira) ainsi qu'en Kabylie. Il disposerait d'environ 350 hommes. Le deuxième groupe serait celui des Protecteurs de la prédication salafiste, fort d'environ 450 membres, qui sévissent dans l'ouest du pays, ainsi que dans les secteurs de Chlef, Tiaret, Tissemsilt et Relizane. Le troisième est celui d'Abdel Khader Souane, qui compterait une centaine d'hommes et opère dans la préfecture de Médéa et au sud de l'Algérie. (ANB-BIA, de sources diverses, 31 octobre 2002)

Weekly anb1031.txt - #1/7