Weekly anb0522_1.txt #6

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WEEKLY NEWS ISSUE of: 22-05-2003      PART #1/6

* Human Rights. G8 countries arm human rights violators - As the G8 heads of state prepare for their summit in Evian, Amnesty International reveals that despite assurances to the contrary, their governments are arming and supplying some of the world's worst abusers of human rights. A new report published today shows how military and security technology from the world's most powerful nations continues to make its way past inadequate controls into the hands of abusive regimes. At least two thirds of all global arms transfers between 1997 and 2001 came from five members of the G8 - the US, Russia, France, the UK and Germany. These countries, as well as the other members of the G8 - Italy and Canada - all have varying laws requiring that military exports be licensed. Japan officially prohibits military exports. Yet in each case, Amnesty International's report shows how these controls have been ineffective, or bypassed. (...) The report also demonstrates: - how arms brokers and traffickers based in most of the G8 countries can arm human rights abusers by simply plying their trade in "third countries" with weaker controls. - how most G8 governments do not have in place laws to prevent the export of security equipment to foreign security forces that are known to abuse legitimate devices to inflict torture or ill-treatment, or to freeze the use of equipment like electro-shock weapons until their effects are fully known. - how, using the excuse of "commercial confidentiality", the provision of meaningful and timely information to legislators, media and the general public about arms export decisions is lacking, thus undermining parliamentary scrutiny and public accountability of the arms trade. Amnesty International is calling for an international Arms Trade Treaty, to strengthen and harmonise national controls and turn off the flow of arms to human rights abusers. The G8 summit will take place at Evian-les-Bains, France on 1-3 June 2003. (Amnesty International, 19 May 2003)

* Africa. Coffee crisis tops summit agenda - 19 May: The plight of the world's coffee farmers topped the agenda at a specially-convened meeting in London, today.Many coffee farmers are on the brink of starvation after prices plummeted to their lowest level for 30 years. Over-production and an increase in poor quality coffee - particularly since Vietnam joined traditional coffee growing countries in Africa and Latin America - are to blame, analysts say. But there is widespread disagreement on the best solution. Oxfam is calling on the four main coffee roasting companies to give a fair price to farmers and end what it calls exploitation. Oxfam, together with the Global Alliance for Coffee and Commodities (GLACC), is urging the meeting to take a proposal for an independent commission on coffee and commodities to the G8 summit in France in June. "How can the coffee market be so rigged against the poor that they lose money for growing coffee, while the coffee giants' profits soar?" Mr Bloomer added. (ANB-BIA, Belgium, 19 May 2003)

* Africa. Action against the Media - 1 - Congo RDC: In a 19 May 2003 letter to Mulegwa Zihindula, a spokesperson for President Joseph Kabila, Journaliste en Danger (JED) protested the harassment and humiliation suffered by journalists during a public rally held along Kinshasa's Triomphal Boulevard on 17 May. Several journalists also received death threats. The organisation is particularly shocked by these incidents since the targeted journalists were officially accredited by the office of the president to cover the march commemorating the Kabila regime's sixth year in power. Ethiopia: On 16 May, the Ethiopian Free Press Journalists' Association (EFPJA) said that a state prosecutor has charged Wosenseged Gebrekidan, deputy editor-in-chief of It 'op newspaper, with "publishing and disseminating an article in It'op newspaper no. 343 that libels Habte Mariam Seyoum". Gebrekidan is accused of dismissing the former ambassador's statements regarding his diplomatic efforts during the Ethio-Eritrean war, and in connection with issues relating to Asab port. Gabon: On 21 May, Reporters sans Frontières (RSF) said that the National Communications Council of Gabon has decided to suspend the Misamu and L'Espoir publications. RSF describes the action as an "intimidation campaign against the private press". Morocco: On 21 May, the BBC reported that the editor of two Moroccan satirical weeklies has been sentenced to four years in prison for defaming King Mohamed VI. Ali Lmrabet was found guilty of "insulting the king's person" and "undermining [Morocco's] territorial integrity" in recent articles and cartoons. His trial was postponed by a week earlier this month after he went on hunger strike to protest against alleged police harassment and to promote press freedom. His lawyers said it was the first time since 1971 that a journalist has been given a jail term on similar charges.

* Africa. Action against the Media - 2 - Zimbabwe: On 16 May, The Committee to protect Journalists (CPJ) reported that Zimbabwean immigration officials today deported Andrew Meldrum, Zimbabwe correspondent for the UK-based Guardian newspaper, from the country. Officials at Harare Airport forced Meldrum onto a London-bound Air Zimbabwe flight, ignoring a high court order staying the reporter's deportation and instructing authorities to produce Meldrum for a court hearing on his expulsion. Meldrum was accused of being an "undesirable inhabitant" of Zimbabwe in reprisal for his critical reporting on the government. According to The Guardian, this evening, immigration officers at the airport ran away from Meldrum's lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa, to avoid being served with another court order demanding Meldrum's immediate release and forbidding his deportation. Meldrum was barred contact with anyone while he was in custody at the airport. "We are appalled and dismayed by the deportation of Andrew Meldrum, and the utter disregard that the government of Zimbabwe has shown for press freedom and the rule of law," said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper. --On 20 May, the Media Institute of Southern Africa reported that Tafataona Mahoso, chairman of the Media and Information Commission (MIC), has demanded that journalists recruited by the privately-owned newspaper The Daily News two weeks ago, surrender accreditation cards issued to them by the MIC. In a 7 May 2003 letter to Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ), publishers of The Daily News, Mahoso had said it was fraudulent for journalists accredited while in the employment of one newspaper company to work for another. In his letter to ANZ Chief Executive Sam Sipepa Nkomo, Mahoso said: "The MIC wishes to warn the publishers and the editor that it is fraudulent and highly unethical for journalists who were accredited under a duly registered publication to use their cards under that publication when in fact they are now working for the unregistered Daily News. The MIC will inform the law enforcement authorities of this position," he added. Officials with journalists' unions said Mahoso's letter was one of the clearest confirmations yet that requirements by the state that journalists register with the MIC were meant to severely curtail press freedom. (ANB-BIA, Belgium, 21 May 2003)

* Africa/USA. Bush says Europe hinders US aid to Africa - On 21 May, President George W. Bush accused European governments of hindering US efforts to end hunger in Africa, and challenged them to back Washington's policies on development aid and the fight against HIV/AIDS. Speaking just a week in advance of his first trip to Europe since the war on Iraq, Mr Bush broadened US criticisms of the major European governments, challenging them "to join us in moving beyond the broken development policies of the past and encourage the freedom and reform that lead to prosperity". The speech, in Connecticut, reflected an unrepentant mood in the White House as the president heads towards the G8 summit meeting with European leaders, some of whom opposed the US-led war in Iraq. "The president does not think we need to do a group hug and look into our inner feelings about what happened,"said a senior White House official on Wednesday. The comments emphasised that the divisions that flared over Iraq were not limited to security issues. Mr Bush's administration has grown increasingly concerned over what it sees as a European effort to export a heavily regulated, government-led economic model to the developing world. Mr Bush's harshest words came over the trade dispute between the US and Europe on genetically modified foods. He said European governments "have blocked all new bio-crops because of unfounded, unscientific fears. This has caused many African nations to avoid investing in biotechnologies for fear their products will be shut out of European markets. European governments should join, not hinder, the great cause of ending hunger in Africa." (Financial Times, UK, 22 May 2003)

* East/Central Africa. Towards a political union - If recommendations in a report released by the Mwalimu Nyerere Foundation (MNF) are followed through, six countries in East and Central Africa will form a political union and sever ties with other regional bodies within ten years. The final 56-page report, drafted by a team of specialists led by Professor Tarshis Kabwegyere, MNF's coordinator, shows how such a union will be a stabilising force, with a common defence policy and a uniform foreign policy. Such a union will demilitarize politics, pursue a multi-party system of governance and favour free market economies. The MNF has established a five-year timetable in which Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania shall withdraw from COMESA and the SADC. To this should be added Congo RDC, Rwanda and Burundi. The MNF is increasingly a significant vehicle in regional politics. It brokered the Burundi peace process which resulted in a power-sharing deal. Though the MNF is a Tanzanian project, Ugandans have been stealing the limelight. Indeed the idea of a six-nation political union is very much Yoweri Museveni's dream. The idea of a political union was first floated by Uganda, Ethiopia and Eritrea but later was shelved when the dispute arose between Eritrea and Ethiopia. Because of the power struggle between Rwanda's Paul Kagame and Uganda's Yoweri Museveni, it still hangs in the balance. Attempts have been made to reconcile the two leaders. The most recent was the 8 May 2003 meeting between Kagame and Museveni in London, UK. (Crespo Sebunya, ANB-BIA, Uganda, 13 May 2003)

* Afrique de l'Est. Projet hydroélectrique du Bassin du Nil - Le 20 mai, les ministres de l'Energie des 10 pays riverains du Nil se sont réunis à Dar es-Salaam afin d'approuver le plan de mise en oeuvre d'un projet régional hydroélectrique basé à Dar es-Salaam. L'objectif du projet, d'un coût de plusieurs millions de dollars, est de créer un mécanisme institutionnel pour coordonner le développement de marchés régionaux d'énergie entre les pays membres et favoriser l'accès à une énergie fiable et bon marché dans le Bassin du Nil. Selon David Grey, un conseiller de la Banque mondiale, il s'agit d'une région où "les pays ne disposent que de 20 kwh d'électricité par personne et par an, ce qui fait 4% du minimum recommandé pour une qualité de vie raisonnable". En créant un réseau d'énergie électrique reliant les pays, la région pourra fournir de l'électricité aux foyers et aux industries riverains et contribuer ainsi à la lutte contre la pauvreté. (PANA, Sénégal, 20 mai 2003)

* Algérie. Violences - Onze personnes ont été tuées ces derniers jours dans des violences en Algérie, a rapporté la presse algérienne le dimanche 18 mai. Huit membres des groupes armés islamiques ont été tués samedi à Relizane (300 km à l'ouest d'Alger) dans le cadre d'un vaste ratissage dans le massif forestier de Souk Sebt. La même opération, qui se déroule depuis plus d'une semaine, a déjà entraîné la mort d'une vingtaine d'islamistes armés, alors qu'il y aurait plusieurs blessés du côté de l'armée, dont le général qui dirige les opérations. Par ailleurs, trois membres de la garde communale ont été tués dans une embuscade dans la wilaya d'Annaba (500 km à l'est d'Alger). - D'autre part, selon le quotidien Al Khabar, citant "des sources informées", le chef du contre-espionnage algérien, Smain Lamari, négocierait la libération des 15 touristes encore en otages dans la région d'Illizi (1.500 km au sud-est d'Alger). Les autorités seraient disposées à laisser partir les auteurs de l'enlèvement dans un pays de leur choix ou à les faire bénéficier des dispositions de la loi sur la Concorde civile, qui accorde la grâce aux islamistes ayant renoncé à la violence armée. En cas d'échec, une intervention militaire n'est pas exclue. - Le 19 mai, l'armée algérienne a "formellement démenti" les informations données par des médias internationaux selon lesquelles les quinze otages auraient été libérés, mais affirme que "tous les efforts continuent d'être pris" pour leur libération. (ANB-BIA, de sources diverses, 20 mai 2003)

* Algeria. Algeria denies hostages freed - 19 May: The Algerian army has denied reports that more European tourists being held hostage in the Sahara desert have been freed from captivity. Earlier, military sources quoted by German media said all 15 people in the group - 10 Germans, four Swiss and one Dutch - had been released and were on their way to the capital Algiers. But later, today, the Algerian military firmly denied that any hostages had been freed. Efforts to secure their release were continuing, the army said, quoted by news agencies. German media had reported that the tourists were released in a dawn raid, near the town of Ilizu, 1,500 kilometres east of Algiers. The first group of freed hostages - 10 Austrians, six Germans and a Swede - arrived home on 14 May after being rescued by commandos. Some of the Austrians who were part of the first group have given details of their captivity. Speaking at a news conference in Salzburg, they described their captors as humane, religious men. "We almost became friends," former hostage Ingo Bleckmann said. He stressed that the militants did not put the hostages' lives in danger during the gun battle which led to their release. "From the first shot, they (the kidnappers) moved away from us so that our lives would be spared. They could have used us as human shields," Mr Bleckmann said. He also denied a report carried by Radio France Internationale on 16 May saying the release of the first group had been secured not by an army assault, but by payment of a ransom of several million dollars. The government has declined to give details of last week's rescue operation. 21 May: Fierce sandstorms and low clouds helped force the delay of a military operation to free the further 15 kidnapped hostages. El Watan says a commando raid on the Algerian militant rebels' hideout will only take place once all the necessary conditions for success are met. (ANB-BIA, Belgium, 21 May 2003)

Weekly News anb0522.txt - #1/6