Weekly anb06074.txt #7

WEEKLY NEWS ISSUE of: 07-06-2001      PART #4/7

* Côte d'Ivoire. Air Afrique's mayday call - Ten transport ministers from 11 African countries that have a stake in Air Afrique are meeting in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, to decide the future of the cash-strapped carrier. More than 500 workers demonstrated outside the meeting to protest against proposals to either liquidate or break up the airline. The World Bank last week wrote to the Chadian and Ivorian transport ministers proposing two possible solutions for ending the airline's long-running crisis, both involving liquidation. This has angered Air Afrique staff and some shareholders who see the company as an African success story despite its financial troubles. The World Bank denies that the organisation itself proposed liquidation, stressing it was only forwarding the recommendations of the US consultancy, which it funded to prepare Air Afrique for privatisation. Air Afrique has been hit by strikes since Jeffrey Erickson, the former chief executive of failed US airline TWA, and his team were appointed as interim managers in January to restructure the company. Mr Erickson works for the consultancy Simat, Helliesen and Eichner, which supplied the liquidation recommendations to the World Bank. The management of the carrier has denied it is planning to liquidate the airline and says it is working toward a restructuring and privatisation. In February, Mr Ericsson announced plans to lay off some 2,000 employees, half of Air Afrique's staff but later backtracked, offering voluntary retirement. (BBC News, UK, 6 June 2001)

* Egypt. Mubarak faults fundamentalists among Muslims - Islam's main problem is in its own ranks, among the "ignorant who do not know the real principles of religion", says President Mubarak. Addressing the 13th Congress of the Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs, which includes representatives from 70 countries, Religious Affairs Minister Mahmud Zagzug read a message from Mubarak in which the latter emphasized the "the problems faced by Islam do not come from its well-known enemies, but from those who are ignorant of our religion. Ignorant Muslims confuse others with their mistaken concepts". (Zenit, Italy, 1 June 2001)

* Eritrea. Dissent surfaces - Dissent within the ruling party in Eritrea has come out in the open for the first time since the People's Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ) took power 10 years ago. An internal letter to party members, containing an unprecedented attack on President Isaias Afewerki, was leaked to a web site. Fifteen senior members of the party, including government ministers and army generals, accused the president of working in an illegal and unconstitutional manner. The signatories said Mr Afewerki had consistently refused to allow collective leadership, and failed to convene legislative bodies intended to regulate presidential powers. "It is obvious that our country is in a crisis," the letter said. "This crisis is the result of the weaknesses of the PFDJ and the government, and the invasion of our country by the enemy." (BBC News, UK, 31 May 2001)

* Erythrée. Ethiopiens discriminés - L'avenir des citoyens éthiopiens résidant en Erythrée, réduits à quelques dizaines de milliers, reste incertain. Une vingtaine d'entre eux ont été arrêtés à Gasha-Baraka (près de Barentu, nord-ouest) et seraient incarcérés à la prison de Hadaz. Selon l'agence éthiopienne de presse (ENA) sept autres auraient été séquestrés. Selon des sources diplomatiques, de nombreux Ethiopiens auraient "disparu"; la majorité d'entre eux seraient incarcérés parce qu'ils seraient dépourvus de permis de séjour valide. Dans la plupart des cas, ils sont renvoyés en Ethiopie. L'ENA dénonce également la mise aux enchères de biens immobiliers appartenant aux citoyens éthiopiens; il s'agirait de véritables liquidations, sans que les anciens propriétaires ne reçoivent aucun dédommagement. En fait, la fuite forcée des Ethiopiens coûte cher à l'économie érythréenne. Au moins 35% des activités commerciales d'Asmara appartenaient à des Ethiopiens, et plus du double à Assab et Massaua. La retombée négative sur l'économie a particulièrement affligé les secteurs de la construction immobilière et des travaux portuaires, traditionnellement gérés par des citoyens éthiopiens. (Misna, Italie, 31 mai 2001)

* Eritrea. "God Loves This Country" - On the occasion of the 10th anniversary of Eritrean Independence Day, the Eritrean Catholic Bishops on 24 May, issued a Pastoral Letter entitled: "God Loves This Country". The Letter, originally written in the Tigrigna language is addressed to the nation and its leadership, to the faithful and to all the people of good will. The first part of the Letter gives an overall review of the past ten years since independence. It recalls the achievements the country has made, and the reconstruction after Eritrea was devastated by war and drought. In part two, the bishops show that the major task now is to build a society of justice, where human rights, the dignity and respect of the human person, social justice and holistic development based on the Constitution will prevail. (CISA, Nairobi, 31 May 2001)

* Ethiopia. Activists freed on bail - Two of Ethiopia's leading human rights activists have been released from custody on bail after a fifth court appearance having spent four weeks in jail. Professor Mesfin Professor Mesfin-Wolde Mariam and Berhanu Nega have been charged with inciting university students to riot and of membership to an illegal political party. The detention of the two men was heavily criticised both in Ethiopia and internationally with many claiming that the government was trying to silence dissenting voices. The two men were arrested on 8 May after being accused by the government of instigating the recent student protests that resulted in the deaths of more than 30 people and damage worth millions of dollars. The tense atmosphere in the courtroom erupted into cheers as two men were told that could go home. Hundreds of friends, relatives and supporters who had packed into the small courtroom and gathered in the courtyard outside, ululated and cheered as presiding judge Ambacho Abate declared that the two prominent scholars should be released on bail. After a lengthy statement Judge Ambacho argued that according to Article 63 of the Ethiopian Procedural Law, the two defendants should be released from police custody until the date of the next hearing. (BBC News, UK, 5 June 2001)

* Ghana. Rawlings threatens government - A row has broken out in Ghana between the government and former president Jerry Rawlings over his first speech made since leaving office in January. In an address to celebrate Mr Rawlings' 4 June coup, he criticised the government for waging a campaign of terror and intimidation against supporters of his NDC party. He warned that such acts could degenerate into hatred.Government spokeswoman Elizabeth Ohene said Ghana had examined the Rawlings legacy and had rejected it comprehensively in free and fair elections. Correspondents say other commentators have suggested that Mr Rawlings should concentrate on fighting malaria. (BBC News, UK, 5 June 2001)

* Guinea. UNHCR get figures wrong in Guinea - The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR), which earlier this year said Guinea faced the world's worst humanitarian crisis, insists it has got its figures right even though it cannot account for over 200,000 refugees. Before the crisis, sparked in September last year by cross-border attacks by rebels based in Sierra Leone, the UNHCR said there were 466,000 refugees in the country. UNHCR refugee numbers 192,000 refugees 55,000 repatriated 30,000 gone home 277,000 total 466,000 original estimate Now it says it has access to just 192,000. A further 55,000 refugees have been repatriated, and, at a generous estimate, 30,000 have returned home by themselves. Yet the UNHCR is not raising the alarm about the 200,000 who have apparently gone missing. The discrepancy emerged after the UNHCR completed its four-month long relocation of almost 60,000 refugees from camps threatened by rebel attacks in the Parrot's Beak and from other areas in south-east Guinea. (BBC News, UK, 4 June 2001)

* Guinea-Bissau. Fishing agreement signed with EU - An agreement was signed on 31 May in Brussels between the European Union and Guinea-Bissau covering fishing in Guinea-Bissau's waters. The agreement will enter in vigour on June 16 and will be valid until the summer of 2006. Based on the accord, French, Greek, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese fishing boats will be able to fish off the coasts of Guinea-Bissau. Meanwhile, Guinea-Bissau's parliament, on 30 May approved the 2001 budget, estimated at 94-billion CFA francs, around 2 billion CFA francs more than the previous year. (MISNA, Italy, 31 May 2001)

* Libéria. Interdits de voyage - Pour couper le soutien apporté par le Libéria à la rébellion sierra-léonaise du Front révolutionnaire uni (RUF), le Conseil de sécurité de l'Onu a publié une liste de quelque 150 dirigeants libériens interdits de voyage, a annoncé l'Onu le 5 juin. Parmi eux figurent le chef de l'Etat, Charles Taylor, ses principaux ministres et chefs militaires, ainsi que leurs épouses. Y figurent aussi notamment un chef du RUF, Sam Bockarie, et des "trafiquants d'armes". La liste sera mise à jour régulièrement. La résolution de l'Onu demande aux Etats de refuser l'entrée ou le transit de ces personnes. (ANB-BIA, de sources diverses, 7 juin 2001)

* Malawi. Heurts à Lilongwe - Le 5 juin, des incidents entre manifestants et policiers à Lilongwe ont fait une vingtaine de blessés, dont dix grièvement. Près d'un millier de manifestants ont protesté devant le Parlement, demandant au président Muluzi d'employer davantage de ressources de l'Etat en faveur du développement du pays. Selon des sources locales, le mécontentement contre l'actuel gouvernement s'empare de plus en plus des secteurs de la société civile. (Misna, Italie, 6 juin 2001)

* Malawi. Clashes leave 20 injured - There have been clashes between government and opposition supporters outside the parliament buildings in the Malawi capital, Lilongwe. The clashes occurred as parliament began its winter session. At least 20 people were injured, 10 of them seriously. Reports say the clashes continued for some 20 minutes before police restored order. Press photographers who tried to take pictures were attacked, and their cameras confiscated. The leader of the opposition National Democratic Alliance, Brown Mpinganjira, blamed the clashes on President Bakili Muluzi, alleging that the president had encouraged his supporters to use violence against the opposition. But the presidential affairs minister, Dumbo Lemani, denied this. Correspondents say that the clashes were the latest indication of rising political tension in Malawi in recent months. (BBC News, UK, 6 June 2001)

* Maroc. Grâces royales - Le roi Mohammed VI a accordé des mesures de grâce au profit de 780 détenus, dont 288 vont être libérés immédiatement à l'occasion de la fête musulmane de Mouloud, qui commémore l'anniversaire de la naissance du prophète Mahomet. Outre les 288 détenus graciés totalement, le souverain a accordé une remise de peine en faveur de 492 prisonniers. (La Figaro, France, 5 juin 2001)

* Morocco. King meets Amnesty head on rights issues - On 6 June, King Mohammed met Colm O'Cuanachain, chairman of London-based Amnesty International, to discuss human rights issues, the official news agency MAP reported. Since succeeding his late father King Hassan two years ago, the reform-minded Mohammed has released dozens of political prisoners, created a human rights advisory council to examine about 5,000 complaints and set up a multi-million dollar fund to compensate victims of human rights abuses. King Mohammed met O'Cuanachain at Rabat's royal palace in the presence of Human Rights Minister Mohamed Aujjar and Amnesty representatives, MAP said without elaborating. It was the first meeting between the Moroccan monarch and Amnesty envoys since he ascended to the throne in mid-1999. (CNN, USA, 6 June 2001)

Weekly anb0607.txt - #4/7