Weekly anb12195.txt #6

WEEKLY NEWS ISSUE of: 19-12-2002      PART #5/6

* Malawi. New economic pledges - 12 December: Malawi's government is under pressure to clean up its act, following the suspension of vital loans from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The Malawi parliament has now unanimously passed a bill to borrow $50m from the World Bank to cushion the country's worsening food crisis, while finance minister Friday Jumbe has introduced a series of cost-cutting measures. The IMF suspended its financial support amid concerns over the government's spending, under President Bakili Muluzi. Aid agencies say between 3.2 million and 3.6 million Malawians are on the verge of starvation because of both the drought and alleged government mismanagement of grain reserves. But Mr Jumbe, reading from a cabinet white paper, gave journalists a list of measures that would reduce spending and help the government to operate within its budget. The IMF has said it will resume the crucial loans to Malawi once the country has dealt with its rising wage bill and high spending. Mr Jumbe's cost-cutting measures include cutting down on building projects, reducing the number of Malawi embassies, and trimming government departments. The white paper also proposes to reduce government travel and to cut the wage bill by 50m Malawi Kwacha (about $600,000 million). Other proposals include using the "maize levy" -- which is collected on every litre of fuel motorists buy and usually used as a safety net fund -- for general budgetary expenditure. The areas usually funded from these so-called safety nets, such as buying food or medical drugs in times of emergencies, will now be funded by the World Bank loan. Toll fees will be introduced on the country's roads by next month and there will also be an increase in licence fees for vehicles. (ANB-BIA, Belgium, 12 December 2002)

* Maroc/Espagne. Un geste du roi - Le 13 décembre, le roi Mohammed VI du Maroc a décidé d'autoriser, "à titre exceptionnel" et par "solidarité", les pêcheurs espagnols victimes du naufrage du pétrolier Prestige à opérer dans les eaux marocaines. Hautement symbolique, ce geste de Rabat est le premier signe tangible d'une décrispation entre le Maroc et l'Espagne, dont les relations diplomatiques se sont particulièrement détériorées depuis octobre 2001. (AP, 13 décembre 2002)

* Morocco. Cracking down on Islamists - 10 December: The trial in Morocco of three Saudis and seven Moroccans accused of being part of an al-Qaeda plot has shaken the image many Moroccans hold of their country as a peaceful, tolerant Muslim state. Many here now fear their country is under threat from the import of radical, fundamentalist ideas from abroad. (ANB-BIA, Brussels, 10 December 2002)

* Mozambique. Riot police in Parliament - 12 December: Riot police were called in today, to restore order in Mozambique's parliament after opposition MPs banged on the tables, shouted and whistled. The MPs were protesting after the assembly refused to allow them to replace five of their members who had either defected or been expelled. Their Mozambique National Resistance Party (Renamo) claims that the five, including the organization's former number two, Raul Domingos, can no longer defend the interests of the people who elected them. However, the majority Mozambique Liberation Front (Frelimo) party says the five are protected by the law. Frelimo MP Mateus Kathupa said Renamo's attitude is in violation of the law. Under the Mozambican constitution, MPs have to serve until the end of their mandate unless they die or become ill. They may also be replaced if they express interest in leaving parliament. Frelimo insists the five should continue to serve as independents in parliament until general elections in 2004. (ANB-BIA, Belgium, 12 December 2002)

* Nigeria. Fresh fraud probe for Nigeria Airways - 12 December: Nigeria's scandal-ridden national airline is facing yet another probe into the alleged misdeeds of its management. The government has announced that, following a judicial inquiry it is setting up a ministerial committee to investigate the disappearance of more than US $400m between 1983 and 1999. The period in question covered the years from Nigeria's last civilian government to the election of the current administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo. The airline is barely functioning after years of mismanagement, with only one operable aircraft and barely any reliable timetable. The idea of fraud at the heart of Nigeria Airways is unlikely to come as news to Nigerians. Popularly dubbed "Nigeria Air Waste", the company's abysmal maintenance record and its swelling bad debts have seen its fleet of jetliners dwindle from 20 two decades ago. In common with other state enterprises, the airline was treated as a cash cow by a succession of military governments, the most recent inquiry has found. It has also identified several high-placed Nigerians as party to the theft, Information Minister Jerry Gana said, although he declined to name them or the companies involved. The recent record, however, is little better. Earlier this year attempts to privatise the airline ran into problems after the Ministry of Aviation sold a 49% stake to a UK leasing company, Airwing, without going through the proper channels. The process was already in jeopardy after a World Bank body advising on the sale pulled out in May 2001, saying that with most of its routes sold off there was almost nothing left that anyone would want. In January 2002, the airline said it was sacking almost half its staff in readiness for privatisation. And flights to London -- the most important route given the massive Nigerian expat population in the UK --were restarted only in late 2001 with a leased aircraft after an eight-year hiatus. The UK safety authorities had refused to certify the airline as airworthy. (BBC News, UK, 12 December 2002)

* Nigeria. Money laundering deadline - 15 December: Nigeria has passed laws to crack down on money laundering one day before a sanctions deadline set by the world's rich and industrialised countries. The Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the investigative arm of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (MSOECD), threatened to impose financial sanctions against Nigeria if the 15 December deadline was not met. President Olusegun Obasanjo signed three bills on 14 December which will also create a financial crimes commission and tightened the regulation of Nigeria's banking sector. "A copy of the money-laundering bill 2002 has been sent... to the chairman of the FATF," a statement from Mr Obasanjo's office said. The OECD represents the interests of the 30 most industrialised countries in the world. (ANB-BIA, Belgium, 15 December 2002)

* Sénégal. Manifestation violente - Le 14 décembre à Dakar, au moins trois personnes ont été blessées et dix autres arrêtées par la police, lors d'une manifestation des familles des victimes du naufrage du Joola, qui avait fait 1.200 morts le 26 septembre. La manifestation avait débuté pacifiquement, mais s'est heurtée à la police lorsqu'elle se dirigeait vers la présidence. Un cameraman d'une agence d'information a été brutalisé. Les personnes arrêtées ont été libérées dans la soirée. (ANB-BIA, de sources diverses, 16 décembre 2002)

* Sénégal. Capitale administrative? - Le site Mékhé-Pékerse, situé à environ 120 km de Dakar près de la côte atlantique, a été provisoirement retenu pour servir de future capitale administrative du Sénégal, rapporte l'agence de presse sénégalaise APS, citant le ministre de l'Urbanisme et de l'Aménagement du territoire. La décision a été prise au terme d'un conseil présidentiel le 14 décembre. Les études préliminaires pour la réalisation de ce projet devraient être bouclées d'ici la fin du mois de janvier. (PANA, Sénégal, 15 décembre 2002)

* Somalia. Faction leaders agree on participation - 16 December: After weeks of wrangling over the number of participants attending the Somali peace talks in the Kenyan town of Eldoret, faction leaders have agreed to a maximum figure of 300. In an earlier statement, the leaders' committee had called for representation by 400 participants, after the regional Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) -- which is brokering the conference -- said the numbers attending phase two of the talks should be reduced to 287. IGAD said it would meet the costs of sending surplus delegates back to Somalia, but those who did not register to return by a 12 December deadline would have to meet their own transport costs. In agreeing to a maximum of 300 participants, the leaders' committee said these would be divided along clan lines. The leaders have also called for accelerating phase two of the talks, which includes discussions on a provisional federal charter, disarmament, and land issues. They say they want it to run concurrently with phase three, which is to deal with power-sharing. Furthermore, they have called for the establishment of a 450-seat parliament. (IRIN, Kenya, 16 December 2002)

* Somalie. Parlement de transition - Le 16 décembre, les leaders des différentes factions somaliennes, prenant part à la Conférence nationale de réconciliation à Eldoret (Kenya), sont tombés d'accord sur la formation d'un Parlement fédéral de transition de 450 membres. La décision a été ensuite approuvée lors de l'assemblée générale. La répartition des sièges serait conforme aux critères retenus par rapport à la division ethnique et en conformité à la Constitution fédérale. Les leaders des factions ont aussi exhorté le président kényan, Arap Moi, à poursuivre le processus de réconciliation. (PANA, Sénégal, 16 décembre 2002)

* South Africa. What to do with your old computer - More than 600 million perfectly good computers will be discarded by companies over the next five years. But an ambitious project is hoping to put hundreds of thousands of these abandoned machines to use helping children in the developing world become computer literate and better educated. The project is being co-ordinated by a group called the Digital Partnership. It unites large companies that regularly update their stock of desktop computers with software makers, networking companies and aid agencies to ready the machines for use in schools, village telecentres and prisons. Already the first few thousand computers have been installed in schools in South Africa. The ever-increasing size and sophistication of software on desktop computers means that large companies often have to upgrade their equipment to handle the demands of new programs. Most of the computers being thrown out still work perfectly and many are broken up and buried in landfill sites. Now the Digital Partnership, set up by the Prince of Wales' International Business Leaders Forum, is setting up a program to collect the discarded computers and use them in schools in the developing world. The first nation helped by the Digital Partnership is South Africa. Over the next year it hopes to transfer 170,000 computers to about 4,000 government schools in the country. A network of workshops is being set up in South Africa to refurbish the donated computers and locals are being trained to do the work. Telecentres full of computers are being set up in the schools and teachers are being trained in the best ways to use the machines in lessons. Eventually all the machines will be running Windows XP and the Office XP suite of programs. Microsoft has waived software licence fees for all the schools getting computers via the Digital Partnership program. To help pay for the upkeep of the computers, schools are being encouraged to open up their computer rooms to locals and charge for courses in technology skills, for printing out documents or hosting e-mail accounts on their behalf. Web-based portals are being set up that will host up to date textbooks and educational material that should help schools save money and pay for the maintenance of the machines. Financial help has also come from the South Africa Government which has passed laws guaranteeing cut price net access for schools. (BBC News, UK, 16 December 2002)

Weekly anb1219.txt - #5/6