Weekly anb0626_4.txt #6

WEEKLY NEWS ISSUE of: 26-06-2003      PART #4/6

* Liberia. The battle for Monrovia - 19 June: Thousands of frantic Ghanaians struggle to board a refugee ship out of war-devastated Liberia -- desperate to leave despite a day-old truce with rebels fighting to drive out President Charles Taylor. At Monrovia's port, they crowd through a fenced-in entrance to board a boat sent by their home country to evacuate some of its nationals. Hundreds of Liberians scale barbed-wire-topped walls to try to press aboard the ship as well. Security forces wade into the crush, lashing out indiscriminately. --International monitors must start supervising the fragile ceasefire as soon as possible, says the Liberian Government. Making the appeal, Information Minister Reginald Goodridge denies rebel claims that government forces had violated the ceasefire within hours of it coming into effect on 18 June. The ceasefire agreement, signed after two weeks of talks in Accra, Ghana, is part of efforts to reach a political settlement to end a civil war that has devastated Liberia and destabilised other countries in West Africa. The agreement gives the two sides 30 days to design a transitional government that excludes the current president, Charles Taylor. "The international standard for all ceasefires is that it takes at least 72 hours for such agreements to come into place," Mr Goodridge says. 20 June: Ceasefire monitors who will oversee the first phase of the Liberian peace accords are gathering in Ghana, ready to start for Monrovia on 21 June. They will map the precise locations of the various sides in the conflict and report back to West African mediators by the end of the month. -- President Taylor says he does not intend to step down before his term ends next year and may seek re-election, despite his exclusion from power under a peace deal with rebels. He was speaking in a radio broadcast just days after his government signed a ceasefire deal with rebels, which specifically excluded him from a proposed new government. "I said I was prepared to step aside," said Mr Taylor in his broadcast, emphasising "prepared". "I didn't say I was not going to run." Mr Taylor argued that he had a large following in Liberia and that many people in authority, like local chiefs, were protesting that he could not step aside without their approval. Mr Taylor's position is seen as key to the future peace of Liberia, where fighting has spread chaos into neighbouring states. The United States calls on Mr Taylor to abide by his commitment to stand down and says there is "no place" for him in the Liberian Government. -- Human Rights Watch says that the UN Security Council should hold governments in West Africa accountable for their support of abusive regimes and rebel groups. 23 June: The Swiss authorities have frozen several bank accounts belonging to Liberian leader Charles Taylor. The money was blocked in accordance with a request from the United Nations-backed war crimes court in Sierra Leone. It is not known how much money is involved at this stage. Meanwhile, the government and rebels in Liberia have traded allegations over breaches of their ceasefire in the civil war signed last week. Liberian Information Minister Reginald Goodrich says the town of Ganta, on the border with Guinea, has come under tank fire and he alleges that rebels there are being helped by Guinean forces. -- Liberia's main rebel faction say it will boycott the negotiations in Accra. The boycott follows a row between the rebels and President Charles Taylor's government over the exact meaning of a cease-fire accord they signed in Ghana last week. Two rebel factions want him to step down much sooner and accuse regional mediators, desperate to end a war that has sown chaos across West Africa, of favouring the government's interpretation of the accord. 25 June: Rebel fighters and government troops have clashed on the outskirts of the Liberian capital, Monrovia, witnesses have said. Several people have been killed by artillery shells fired into residential areas at the edge of the city. Thousands of people have fled the fighting and taken refuge in the city centre. The attack on the capital is the latest in a series of violations reported by both government and rebels since the two sides signed a ceasefire agreement last week. Lurd rebels and government troops are reported to be fighting around St Paul's River bridge, about 10 kilometres from the city centre. Deputy Defence Minister Austin Clark said residents fleeing the fighting were hit by shells about five km from the centre. As fighting nears the capital, thousands of frightened Monrovians head towards the centre, seeking refuge in schools, stadiums and other buildings. "We will continue to run and run -- no end to our running," says a woman, fleeing from the city's outskirts. -- Later in the day, rebel fighters cross the St. Paul's Bridge and fighting is underway between the bridge and the port. President Taylor has made a radio broadcast vowing to fight until the end and denying rumours that he has fled the city. 26 June: Rebels advance deep into Monrovia. Thousands of people have been fleeing to foreign diplomatic missions in search of shelter. Sir Jeremy Greenstock, the British Ambassador to the UN has proposed that the United States lead a peacekeeping force. "It would be broadly welcomed if the US were to lead an intervention". He described the US as the "natural candidate" for the mission. However, the American Ambassador in Monrovia, John William Blaney, said the parties must stop fighting first. Speaking from his embassy compound, he said that the international community could think how to contribute to the peace process once hostilities have ceased. Yesterday, the US embassy compound itself came under fire, leaving three Liberians dead. Today, a high level diplomatic mission from the UN Security Council is travelling to West Africa. They will hold talks in Ghana with Liberians representing various factions. (ANB-BIA, Belgium, 26 June 2003)

* Libya. Death in the desert - 19 June: The Libyan authorities have denied knowledge of reports that some 200 Ghanaians have died trying to cross the Sahara desert in Libya this year. The Ghanaian Daily Graphic newspaper quotes the Ghanaian ambassador to Libya as saying his countrymen died as they were attempting to cross the desert in search of greener pastures in Europe. "It is usually a pathetic and horrific scene to find some of these persons dehydrated and weak". Mr Kumi said that the deaths occurred between January and the beginning of June this year, due to extreme dehydration and general fatigue precipitated by the harsh weather conditions in the desert. But an official in the Ministry of African Affairs in Tripoli denies any knowledge of such deaths in the desert. According to Mr Kumi, the death toll could even be higher as "most deaths of Ghanaians who die on the desert and in the Mediterranean Sea are not recorded". The Ghanaian ambassador said that the Ghana Mission in Tripoli has had to organise search and rescue operations to save some Ghanaians stranded on the desert. "It is usually a pathetic and horrific scene to find some of these persons dehydrated, weak and helpless and on the verge of death after trekking for more than 300 kilometres on the desert," Mr Kumi complained. However those rescued usually refuse to go back to Ghana. (ANB-BIA, Belgium, 19 June 2003)

* Malawi. Membres présumés d'Al-Qaïda - Des agents américains ont sorti du Malawi cinq hommes soupçonnés d'être des convoyeurs de fonds pour Al-Qaïda, a déclaré mercredi, 25 juin, un haut responsable du Malawi. L'avocat des suspects estime que le gouvernement a violé leurs droits constitutionnels. Ces étrangers arrêtés au Malawi dimanche par les services de renseignement malawites et américains ont été remis aux autorités américaines mardi soir. Ce transfert est survenu alors qu'un juge avait ordonné soit leur inculpation, soit leur remise en liberté le mercredi matin. Avant l'expiration du délai, les hommes ont été sortis du pays en passant par le Zimbabwe. (AP, USA, 25 juin 2003)

* Malawi. Malawi terror suspects block exile - 23 June: A Malawi court has ordered the authorities not to deport five alleged al-Qaeda members. Sources privy to the operation said they were arrested in a joint operation by the American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Malawi's National Intelligence Bureau (NIB). Blantyre lawyer Shabir Latif told High Court judge Justice Healey Potani that his clients were arrested without being told what crime they had allegedly committed. "They were treated without dignity as they were handcuffed, blind-folded and transferred to Lilongwe where they are being kept in an unknown location and are said to be awaiting deportation to an unknown destination on suspicion of being members of al-Qaeda," he said. Mr Latif alleged that the Malawi Government wants to hand over the five to the CIA who would -- according to him -- take them to Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba where other al-Qaeda suspects -- especially those arrested in Afghanistan -- are being detained. "Security officers without a warrant searched their houses and seized their computers and confiscated their money," he said. The lawyer described the methods used in the arrest of the five as "unconstitutional and unlawful for it violates the right to freedom of movement, the right of all people not to be discriminated against on grounds of race or origin or nationality". Justice Potani, in his order granting the injunction, ordered the government to bring the five detainees before a court of law within 48 hours to be told of their offence under Malawi laws or any international legal instruments or release them on bail. The Directorate of Public Prosecutions has since indicated that it would challenge the injunction. 25 June: The suspects are handed over to the US authorities, despite the injunction blocking deportation. It appears they were whisked out of Malawi, although the Americans are not saying where they have been taken. (ANB-BIA, Belgium, 25 June 2003)

* Maroc. Le code en question - Yasmina Badou, secrétaire d'Etat marocaine chargée de la Famille, monte au créneau. Elle affirme, dans le quotidien L'Economiste daté du 18 juin, que "la mendicité, la prostitution et les enfants des rues sont des conséquences du code de la famille". Elle ajoute qu'une "loi qui jette arbitrairement à la rue une femme avec ses enfants", au lieu de les protéger, "n'est pas bonne". Ne craignant pas de provoquer l'ire des islamistes, opposés à toute réforme du code, elle condamne la polygamie qui, "telle qu'elle est pratiquée, est contraire à l'essence de l'islam". Une réforme de ce code est en cours, menée par une commission érigée par le roi Mohammed VI. (J.A.I., France, 22-28 juin 2003)

* Morocco. Editor ends hunger strike - 23 June: An imprisoned Moroccan journalist has agreed to come off a 48-day hunger strike following the intervention of a dissident member of the country's royal family. Ali Lamrabet was sentenced to four years in prison last month for "insulting the king's person" and "undermining [Morocco's] territorial integrity" in articles and cartoons. This was reduced to three years on appeal. Mr Lamrabet, who is diabetic and has a heart condition, went on hunger strike on 6 May but had recently started to drink water again after losing 22kg in weight. The cousin of King Mohammed VI, Prince Moulay Hicham al-Alaoui, told reporters that he had visited Mr Lamrabet in a Rabat hospital on 23 June. The prince -- a supporter of liberal reform in Morocco -- said he had successfully argued that the cause of freedom of expression "needs him alive, not dead". Mr Lamrabet's lawyer, Ahmed Benjelloun, said his client would continue to struggle for freedom of expression despite ending his hunger strike. (ANB-BIA, Belgium, 23 June 2003)

* Maroc. Lmrabet met fin à son jeûne - Le 23 juin, au 47e jour de sa grève de la faim, le journaliste marocain Ali Lmrabet a arrêté son jeûne. C'est le prince Moulay Hicham, cousin du roi, qui a annoncé cette décision "prise sans condition" et que Rabat espérait pour sortir de l'embarras dans lequel l'a placé la protestation de Lmrabet contre sa condamnation à trois ans de prison pour délit d'opinion. Le Conseil consultatif des droits de l'homme (désigné par le roi) et Moulay Hicham, dont les relations avec le roi sont tendues, avaient rencontré Lmrabet à l'hôpital. - Le 24 juin, l'organisation Reporters sans frontières (RSF) a annoncé qu'elle entendait poursuivre sa campagne pour la libération du journaliste, notamment en direction des touristes qui se rendent au Maroc "pour les alerter sur l'envers du décor". (ANB-BIA, de sources diverses, 24 juin 2003)

* Mauritanie. Nouvelles arrestations - Le jeudi 19 juin, la police a interpellé Mohamed Mahmoud Ould Hamady, secrétaire fédéral du Parti républicain démocratique et social (PRDS, au pouvoir), en liaison avec le coup d'Etat avorté du 8 juin contre le président Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya. Mercredi, le président de la Cour suprême et la secrétaire d'Etat à la Condition féminine, limogés après le putsch raté, avaient été appréhendés. Le gouverneur de Nouadhibou, la capitale économique, a été limogé et mis en résidence surveillée. Et deux nouveaux gouverneurs ont été nommés dans les régions du Hodh El Gharbi, dont est originaire la plupart des putschistes, et du Ghidimagha. -- 25 juin. Selon un bilan de l'armée, 15 personnes ont ete tuées et 68 blessées dans la tentative de coup d'Etat du 8 juin. Par ailleurs, le ministre de la Communication a implicitement nié toute implication extérieure dans ce coup, alors que des journaux locaux continuent d'accuser la Libye de complicité avec les putschistes. (ANB-BIA, de sources diverses, 25 juin 2003)

* Niger. Examens de fin d'année - Le Syndicat national des enseignants du Niger (SNEN), qui regroupe quelque 15.000 enseignants, a décidé de mettre fin à son ordre de blocage de notes et tâches administratives, suite à un accord signé avec le gouvernement, écartant ainsi toute menace sur le sort des examens scolaires de fin d'année. Grâce à cet accord signé in extremis cette semaine, les examens sont donc prévus le 25 juin pour le Certificat de fin d'études du premier degré et pour le Brevet d'études du premier cycle, et le 9 juillet pour le baccalauréat. Le SNEN rappelle cependant au gouvernement que "le bon démarrage de l'année scolaire 2003-2004 dépendra en grande partie du respect des échéances fixées dans le protocole d'accord". (PANA, Sénégal, 24 juin 2003)

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