Weekly anb06071.txt #7

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WEEKLY NEWS ISSUE of: 07-06-2001      PART #1/7

* Africa. Growing problem of Africa's child workers - The number of children in Africa who are forced to work -- sometimes in conditions described as modern-day slavery --could rise to a hundred million within 15 years. A conference on the future of African children was told that more youngsters aged between five and 14 are working in Africa than in any other region of the world. The conference, in Cairo, also heard that trafficking in child labour was a growing and highly lucrative trade. A speaker from the International Migration Organisation said the traffickers used the children as prostitutes, beggars, construction workers and in mines. She said many of the children were denied food, medicines and wages, and were subjected to physical and mental abuse. (BBC News, UK, 31 May 2001)

* Afrique. Air Afrique - La protestation des employés de la compagnie Air Afrique s'accentue dans tous les pays africains où elle est présente. Le 31 mai, des manifestations organisées par le comité intersyndical du personnel de la compagnie se sont tenues dans plusieurs capitales. Un cortège de 500 syndicalistes a parcouru les rues de Dakar (Sénégal) et a remis une lettre au siège de la Banque mondiale de la capitale, demandant de résoudre la crise. Selon la Banque mondiale, ont-ils déclaré, deux solutions sont envisageables: la liquidation de la société ou sa forte réduction. A Bamako (Mali), une manifestation du personnel d'Air Afrique a sévèrement contesté la stratégie de la Banque mondiale en critiquant surtout le projet de "privatisation sauvage" qui est en cours. Depuis 1993, Air Afrique connait une grave crise financière. La compagnie, constituée par la Convention de Yaoundé au début des années 60, est une compagnie publique à laquelle adhèrent onze pays africains. (Misna, Italie, 1er juin 2001)

* Afrique. Le trafic des enfants - "Le trafic d'enfants rapporte près de 7 milliards de dollars par an aux organisations du crime organisé", a affirmé Tim Demeyeur, juriste auprès du Bureau international du travail, lors du Forum panafricain réuni au Caire par l'OUA et l'Unicef. Il a précisé que le trafic des enfants d'Afrique noire augmentait sur ce continent et rappelé qu'en Afrique de l'Ouest et du Centre, des milliers de petites domestiques de 5 ans sont livrées à la prostitution. (La Croix, France, 1er juin 2001)

* Afrique. Enfants soldats - Symposium au Vatican - Le 3 juin, jour de la Pentecôte, le pape Jean-Paul II a instamment demandé que la communauté internationale se mobilise pour que l'on mette fin au scandale des enfants sodats que l'on continue de recruter dans une cinquantaine de pays. A la fin de la messe, le pape a voulu faire mémoire de "tous les jeunes qui sont victimes de la violence qui règne malheureusement dans plusieurs pays". Pour inciter la communauté internationale à faire davantage d'efforts pour protéger et réhabiliter ceux qui vivent dans ces situations dramatiques, la Mission permanente des observateurs du Saint-Siège et le Bureau du sous-secrétariat général de l'Onu pour les enfants et les conflits armés, ont organisé un symposium qui aura lieu le 5 juin et qui aura comme thème: "Les enfants dans les conflits armés: une responsabilité de tous". (Zenith, Vatican, 3 juin 2001)

* Afrique. La conférence sur le racisme dans l'impasse - Deux semaines d'âpres tractations n'auront pas suffi à surmonter les sérieuses divergences qui subsistent dans le cadre de la préparation de la Conférence mondiale des Nations unies contre le racisme, prévue du 31 août au 7 septembre à Durban, en Afrique du Sud. Les représentants des 125 Etats participant à ce qui devait être la dernière réunion préparatoire à Genève se sont séparés, le 1er juin, sans parvenir à un consensus sur le projet de déclaration et le programme d'action devant être adopté par la conférence. La principale pierre d'achoppement demeure la demande de réparation avancée par les pays africains pour l'esclavage et le colonialisme. Ils souhaitent que la traite soit reconnue comme un "crime contre l'humanité" et que les Etats impliqués assument leurs responsabilités en leur accordant des compensations. (Le Monde, France, 5 juin 2001)

* Africa. Action against the Media - Algeria: In a letter to the Interior Minister (1 June), Reporters sans Frontières (RSF) protested the attack on Nadir Bensebaa on 25 May, a journalist with the daily Le Matin, by members of the anti-riot forces in Tizi-Ouzou. Congo RDC: On 23 May, André Kisangani, a journalist with the daily La Référence Plus, was summoned to appear on 5 June before the Court of Kinshasa/Pont Kasa-Vubu by the former Education minister, Yérodia Abdoulaye Ndombasi. On 31 May, it was reported that a video tape containing a 24 April 2001 interview given by Etienne Tshisekedi wa Mulumba, to the private television chain RAGA TV, for its programme "A vous la parole", has been confiscated for a month in the office of the President. This interview, which was to be broadcast on 29 April, has not been shown to this day. In a 1 June letter to the Director-General of the Migrations Department (DGM), the organisation Journalists in Danger (JED) protested the attempt by DGM agents at Kinshasa International Airport to prevent JED's Secretary-General from boarding a flight to Bangkok via Brussels. Egypt: On 1 June, the Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN said it was seriously concerned about the prison sentence handed down to writer and researcher Dr. Saad El-Din Ibrahim. Liberia: In a letter addressed to the Minister of Information on 1 June, Reporters sans Frontières (RSF) expressed its preoccupation about the deterioration of working conditions for journalists in Liberia. Namibia: On 31 May, The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) said it noted with serious concern the deteriorating commitment of the Namibian government to the fundamental democratic values of freedom of expression. On 4 June, the Southern Africa's Editors Forum said it was deeply shocked by the punitive economic war waged by the Namibian Government against The Namibian. Swaziland: In a letter to the Minister for Public Service and Information, (4 June) MISA officials said they had been trying unsuccessfully for three weeks to set up an appointment to meet him personally, to deliberate on issues that have become a source of concern regarding the state of the Media in Swaziland. Togo: In a letter addressed to the Interior Minister on 1 June, RSF has protested the arrest of Lucien Messan, editorial director of the weekly Le Combat du Peuple". Zimbabwe: During a four-day mission to Harare, organized by the World Press Freedom Committee, it was apparent that journalists and news media there are under intense pressure, especially in the run-up to presidential elections in 2002. (Report received 5 June). (ANB-BIA, Brussels, 6 June 2001)

* Africa. Fears on debt plan - The heavily indebted poor countries' debt-relief initiative is in jeopardy of failing to deliver a sustained exit from poverty for many countries, finance ministers from sub-Saharan Africa gave warning on 5 June. Ministers attending a conference of HIPC countries in London complained of donor countries holding up debt relief and said that they would need much higher foreign direct investment and trade access to rich-country markets. Gerald Ssendaula, the finance minister of Uganda, told the Financial Times that his country might miss its targets for debt reduction. Debt relief under the initiative is based on reducing the net present value of external debt to 150 per cent of exports. Mr Ssendaula said that recent falls in the price of coffee, one of Uganda's main exports, meant that the debt relief on offer - calculated when coffee prices were much higher -- might be inadequate to hit the target. "We are worried that with these poor terms of trade the sustainability of our achievements in health and education will be placed in question," Mr Ssendaula said. He said that the World Bank was agreeing a credit of $300m to tide Uganda over the next three years. "But we need to be in a position where we can add value to our exports and other commodities," he said. "Debt relief is a good thing. But for developing countries to get out of the cycle we need more investment in the economy." (Financial Times, UK, 6 June 2001)

* Africa. AIDS plays havoc with Africa's children - HIV/AIDS has reached "catastrophic" proportions and is unravelling decades of gains in child survival and development, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, the UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, warns in a new report. The social profile of the AIDS pandemic has been gradually shifting, the report warns, with the disease increasingly affecting the young, poor and illiterate. Above all, its victims are adolescent girls. Elsewhere, too, deepening poverty and "increasingly obscene disparities" shame commitments made by the world community at a summit a decade ago to improve children's lives across the world, the report says. In a major study prepared by UNICEF for a UN special session on children in September which will bring dozens of heads of state to New York, Mr Annan challenges them to find it "unacceptable that 600m children in developing countries have to struggle to survive on less than $1 a day". But children with deep problems caused essentially by poverty are not only in the developing countries; in the world's richest countries, one in six children -- 47m --live below the poverty line, he says. (The Guardian, UK, 6 June 2001)

* Afrique. Sida: un médicament gratuit - Le 6 juin, le géant pharmaceutique Pfizer a annoncé qu'il allait offrir gratuitement dans 50 pays en voie de développement un médicament, le Diflucan, traitant deux affections touchant souvent les malades du sida. Cette offre sera mise en oeuvre en partenariat avec les Nations unies et l'Organisation mondiale de la santé. (La Croix, France, 7 juin 2001)

* Africa. AIDS drug giveaway extended - On 6 June Pfizer extended the giveaway of one of its medicines to AIDS patients in Africa as pharmaceutical companies continued to respond to attacks over the availability of their products in the developing world. Pfizer, the world's largest pharmaceutical group, has already this year started to give away Diflucan, its anti-fungal medicine, to patients in South Africa. On Wednesday it extended that to the 50 least-developed countries, as identified by the United Nations. The decision is part of public relations efforts by western companies to deal with an onslaught over the prices they charge for their drugs. This year, a group of drug companies backed down in a landmark dispute over intellectual property rights in South Africa. Pfizer has also come under fire over alleged irregularities in the testing of an antibiotic in Nigeria. It says it is working with Nigerian authorities to resolve the problem, which involves charges that it tested the drug without proper approval. Drug companies say that, without the profits they make from drugs, they could not fund research and development of new treatments. But they are under fire over prices and drug availability, particularly in the fight against AIDS, which has become a humanitarian tragedy in sub-Saharan Africa. A number of companies have announced deep price discounts on AIDS drugs in Africa. Diflucan, not itself a treatment for AIDS, treats two infections --cryptococcal meningitis and oesophageal candidiasis -- that afflict patients with weakened immune systems. (Financial Times, UK, 7 June 2001)

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