13 January: Nigerian parliamentarians to check out president’s health in Saudi Arabia

By Branko Brkic 13 January 2010

Also today: Egypt cruises past Nigeria in Africa Cup of Nations, as Mozambique draws with Benin; Upsurge in fighting between rival Somali Islamist groups; More rebels claim responsibility for Togo soccer team ambush.


Nigerian parliamentarians to check out president’s health in Saudi Arabia


The Nigerians have been getting a bit panicky over the possibility of a power vacuum ever since President Umaru Yar’Adua’s headed off to Saudi Arabia to be treated for heart problems. So Nigeria’s parliament has decided to send a delegation to Jeddah to check on his health. Earlier, he told the BBC in a phone call that he was recovering and hoped to return home soon to resume his duties. The president has refused to transfer power to vice president Goodluck Jonathan, prompting a lawsuit from the Nigerian Bar Association, which says he’s violating the constitution. Nigeria’s 140 million people are split into a Muslim north and Christian south. Yar’Adua is a Muslim, a requirement of the country’s rotating presidency. Worried citizens fear electoral and constitutional reform has ground to a halt. This is especially worrying after resurgence in attacks in the oil-rich Niger Delta.

Read more: BBC, Reuters 


Egypt cruises past Nigeria in Africa Cup of Nations, as Mozambique draws with Benin


Nigeria went ahead in their opening Group C match in the Africa Cup of Nations against Egypt after 12 minutes. But that was the last goal they scored, as Egypt replied in the 34th minute to make it 1-1 at half-time, finally winning 3-1, to boost their chances of retaining the Cup. Egypt won the 2008 tournament hosted by Ghana for a record-sixth time, beating Cameroon 1-0 in the final.

Nigeria’s loss will rattle them somewhat, as they are one of six African teams to qualify for the 2010 World Cup. Along with Algeria, Ghana, Cameroon, and Ivory Coast, the Nigerians want to ensure the Africa Cup of Nations curtain-raiser sets them up for their sojourn in South Africa.

South Africa’s under-performing Bafana Bafana didn’t make it to this year’s African showpiece. The “beautiful game” is a fickle mistress. On Monday, minnows Malawi shocked Algeria 3-0. The North African team was a pale image of the side that beat Egypt in the World Cup play-offs to make it to South Africa, in a game that sparked riots in both Algiers and Cairo.

In a later match, Mozambique held Benin to a 2-2 draw on Tuesday night, denying both teams their first-ever victory at the Africa Cup of Nations. Mozambique next plays Egypt on Saturday, while Benin play Nigeria earlier that same evening.

Read more: Reuters, The Telegraph


Upsurge in fighting between rival Somali Islamist groups


Days of fighting between pro-government militias and Somalia’s radical lslamist al-Shabaab group in central Somalia has seen at least another 27 people killed. The rebels run most of southern and central Somalia and the capital, Mogadishu, where the government lives in a few city blocks. Washington says they’re proxies of al-Qaeda, and helps kill them whenever it can. Battles between al-Shabaab and the government-friendly Ahlu Sunna Waljamaca militia, which aspires to a more moderate version of Islam, have increased in intensity, with the latter group publicly executing an al-Shabaab commander this week for the first time. Since 2007, the anarchy in the country has seen some 19,000 Somalis killed, with a further 1.5 million people displaced.

Read more: Reuters, Reuters


Niger Delta sees resurgence of violence in new kidnappings


In a resurgence of violence after thousands of rebels took a presidential amnesty in Nigeria’s oil-rich Niger Delta, kidnappers abducted three British nationals and a Colombian who work for Shell, near the city of Port Harcourt. The Delta is notorious for kidnappings by rebels who demand a greater regional share of the country’s oil wealth. But since the country’s President Umaru Yar’Adua’s went to Saudi Arabia to be treated for heart problems, people say a power vacuum has led to a standstill in resolving the region’s problems. Yar’Adua had promised some $10 billion to Delta residents to help provide jobs and education. Now it looks as if greedy politicians are undoing his good work.

Read more: BBC


More rebels claim responsibility for Togo soccer team ambush


So much for hindsight. A second separatist group called Flec-Fac has claimed responsibility for a deadly attack on Togo’s soccer team in Angola’s oil-rich Cabinda province, saying they shot at the bus not realising who was in it. Now they’ve promised there’ll be no more attacks during the Africa Cup of Nations. Earlier, another faction of the Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda claimed responsibility, so nobody knows who really did it. The initial group who claimed mea culpa also said they didn’t realise it was the Togo team on the bus. The leaders of both factions live in Europe and campaign for the independence of Cabinda. Now that each has claimed responsibility for the actions of the other, two things are apparent: they either don’t have a clue what’s going on among their own insurgent militias or cynically manipulate the truth for their own propaganda purposes.

Read more: BBC


Guinean junta holds talks with civilian parties


Guinea’s ruling military junta has held talks with opposition parties, after the army backed having a civilian prime minister to lead the country to elections. Defence minister Sekouba Konate assumed control of the West African country as coup leader Captain Moussa Dadis Camara recovers from an assassination attempt. The nation has been wracked by uncertainty after Camara’s troops killed some 200 demonstrators in a September 2009 massacre. Konate visited Camara in a Moroccan hospital, saying he would take time to recover, and seems to have taken heed of a Moroccan demand that he negotiate with representative politicians.

Read more: Reuters


Spurred by investment, Ugandan president does a tiny hop to the left on gays


We told you so. Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni now says a proposed anti-gay bill has become a foreign policy issue and needs more discussion. The bill, put forward by MP David Bahati, calls for the death penalty for gay acts with minors, those with HIV and serial offenders. Museveni, a gay-basher himself, is also an ardent capitalist, and it seems the latter has the edge on the former. He’s now caved in to pressure from Western rights groups and nations to have the bill abolished. He was recently quoted as saying that Western gays are “recruiting” in Uganda. He also says that when he went to Canada for the Commonwealth conference, all the Canadian prime minister, the US assistant secretary of state and Gordon Brown could talk about was gays. So now it’s a Ugandan foreign policy issue. Museveni says it must be handled in a way that does not compromise the country’s principles, but also takes into account foreign policy interests. You go, girl.

Read more: Reuters, Pink News


Sudan’s Bashir wins presidential nomination, yawn


Sudanese leader Omar al-Bashir has been officially nominated to stand for president in an April election. Big surprise, as his northern National Congress Party has been in power for donkey’s years, and with its record of arrests and political omnipotence, intends to stay in power for ever more. So, Bashir will no doubt win the election, but he will largely be a stay-at-home president, after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for him for his role in killings in troubled Darfur. The election will be the first since the end of a 20-year civil war in 2005, which pitted the Arab north against the black African south of the country. The election paves the way for a 2011 referendum on southern secession. But the south holds most of the nation’s oil wealth, and despite slow negotiations over this and other matters in a current power-sharing government, the parties can barely agree to hold the election at all. Bashir has stepped down as army commander-in-chief in accordance with electoral law. No doubt he’ll be reinstated the moment the election is over. If it happens at all.

Read more: BBC


Senior Madagascan opposition figure linked to failed bombings


Madagascar coup leader Andry Rajoelina’s government has issued an arrest warrant for a senior opposition politician in connection with a string of failed bomb attacks in 2009.  Fetison Andrianirina, a close ally of former president Marc Ravalomanana, who was toppled by Rajoelina, says the charge is politically motivated. The 35-year-old Rajoelina, who is constitutionally too young to govern, has been behaving like a dictator, cracking down on the opposition after scrapping a series of internationally brokered power-sharing deals. Madagascar has been suspended by the African Union and the Southern African Development Community, but its illegal president seems determined to forge ahead with his own plans for elections, having appointed a military office as prime minster.

Read more: Reuters


Key Zimbabwean state witness tells it as it is


A key prosecution witness in the terrorism trial of white former Zimbabwean farmer and leader in the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, Roy Bennett, has turned the state’s case on its head. Prosecutors said Peter Hitschmann stashed weapons for Bennett, who faces the death penalty, as part of a terrorist plot to kill Robert Mugabe (how can one call him president?). Hitschmann disowned most of the weapons in court, denied ever meeting Bennett and accused the police of fabricating a conspiracy. Last year, Bennett’s defence said many of the weapons displayed by the state were licensed to Hitschmann, while many others were not even on the state’s list, having been brought in willy-nilly by Zimbabwean police. Bennett is a close ally of Prime Minster Morgan Tsvangirai, and was supposed to have been appointed agriculture minister in the power-sharing government. Obviously, Mugabe and his cronies can’t stand the thought of a functioning agricultural system, so they continue to try to rip Zimbabwe’s unity government apart. Now, Zimbabwe attorney general Johannes Tomana says the state will move to have its key witness impeached for giving contradicting evidence. Little wonder, Hitschmann says he was tortured into giving evidence in the first place.

Read more: Reuters, Metro Zimbabwe


Equatorial Guinean government resigns, but not for long

Equatorial Guinea

Equatorial Guinea’s government resigned on Tuesday, but don’t get too excited, it has nothing to do with democracy. The minsters were just completing a legal requirement after President Teodoro Obiang Nguema won another seven years in office. Obiang has ruled the tiny oil producer (and former Spanish colony) for more than 30 years. His winning margin in the November election was 96.7%, which was about on par with that won by Saddam Hussein in his last “democratic” outing. Obiang has now named a new prime minister, namely the old one, Ignacio Milam Tang. Equatorial Guinea’s dictatorial stability has attracted European investors to gas projects, as oil production has slipped. Shame on European politicians.

Read more: Reuters