Also today: Jos takes a breather to bury its dead; Pressure grows on Nigeria’s absent president; Zimbabweans foul up over new constitution.
Africa Cup of Nations: Cameroon makes it into last eight
Africa Cup of Nations – Angola
Zambia made it into the last eight of the Africa Cup of Nations with a fluent 2-1 win over Gabon, with one goal coming from a little chip by Rainford Kalaba, and another as James Chamanga tapped into the net.
Gabon rallied late, but to no avail as their single goal in the dying minutes wasn’t enough to see them through. The Zambians finished their group on four points along with Gabon and Cameroon, but while the Cameroonians scraped through on goal difference, and Gabon only needed a draw to get into the quarterfinals, it was not to be, and they exited the Cup.
Cameroon fought a tight 2-2 draw with Tunisia, with the North Africans getting their first goal within a minute of the opening after catching the Indomitable Lions napping and heading one home. Cameroon skipper and former Barcelona striker Samuel Eto’o equalised early in the second half, before Cameroon scored an own goal, putting the Tunisians back in front. But Landry N’Guemo rammed home an equaliser, and the West Africans were home and dry.
All five African 2010 World Cup qualifiers are now in the last eight – Cameroon, Ghana, Algeria, Nigeria and Ivory Coast – which is going to make their stay in South Africa later this year just that much better. South Africa automatically qualifies as 2010 host, and Bafana Bafana’s coaching woes meant they didn’t even get to Angola. (Photo: Reuters)
Jos takes a breather to bury its dead
The central Nigerian city of Jos has called a truce, or at least the army has lifted a 24-hour curfew to let people bury the dead. Reports say up to 17,000 displaced people are trying to try to return home, while others are still leaving. The latest count put deaths at 65 Christians and 200 Muslims, but as is usual with such events, a more solid figure will take some time to gel, if at all. The dead had gunshot and machete wounds, so fighting between the religious gangs has been close. Nigeria is in a panicky state at present, as there’s a perceived power vacuum with President Umaru Yar’Adua away in Saudi Arabia for the past two months receiving treatment for heart problems.
Pressure grows on Nigeria’s absent president
Meanwhile, 40 former Nigerian governors, senators and ministers want parliament to change the constitution as President Umaru Yar’Adua faces growing pressure to formally transfer power to his deputy Goodluck Jonathan. Yar’Adua is in Saudi Arabia being treated for heart problems, and since his departure two months back, all sorts of things have been happening that require full executive control. A court has allowed Jonathan to fulfil all presidential duties, but this isn’t enough in the endemically corrupt and highly-charged political environment, and many question the legality of the decision. The president’s absence has led to claims that the country’s vast bureaucracy has been disrupted, and that a presidential amnesty for rebels in the oil-rich Niger Delta region has come unstuck. Opponents want Yar’Adua to formally hand over executive power to his deputy or return at once, which is highly unlikely. Now, thousands have marched in Lagos to protest his absence, and things are becoming rockier by the day.
Zimbabweans foul up over new constitution
Zimbabwe’s bickering political parties have suspended drawing up a new constitution. It’s not easy to get anything done in that country, despite a so-called unity government. President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF hampers every move by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, and now a row over party funding has put a further dampener on hopes for free and fair elections next year. After agreeing to shared government in 2008, Mugabe and MDC Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai agreed to draft a new constitution within 18 months, that strengthened parliament and curtailed presidential powers. But Mugabe is not remotely interested in democratic reforms, and has shown this time and again. And now.
Ethiopian ruling party pleads innocence as it cracks opposition heads
Ethiopia denies it’s cracking down on the opposition before national elections in May. But New York-based Human Rights Watch says opposition leaders are being jailed and many human rights organisations have been outlawed. The country has a history of oppression. One opposition leader, Birtukan Mideksa, was jailed in 2005, released two years later and re-arrested late last year. The government has strongly rejected HRW’s findings, and blamed them on the opposition and a rebel group, saying nobody is above the law in Ethiopia. That sounds awfully familiar to Africans across the continent, as does the killing of some 200 protestors by troops and police after a 2005 election ended in violence.
Kenyans finally get rid of race-hate preacher, put him on private jet
Kenya has put Jamaican-born Muslim preacher, Abdullah al-Faisal, on a privately-chartered Gulfstream jet to Jamaica. The government tried to deport him to the Caribbean island a few weeks back via the tiny and rather nasty West African country of The Gambia. But he got sent back to a Kenyan jail after his Nigerian transit visa ran out and airlines refused to carry him. The cleric has already served four years in a British jail for preaching race-hatred against Hindus and Jews, but later wandered freely around East Africa despite being on an international terrorism list. A Kenyan court had ordered the government to produce Faisal, after riots in Nairobi last week over his incarceration without charges killed many and saw 300 Somali and Kenyan Muslims arrested. It seems the state, in its haste to get rid of him, has obviated the court’s jurisdiction, saying Faisal is being deported because of his terrorist history. Kenya fears an overflow from the radical Islamist violence that plagues its anarchic neighbour, Somalia. It couldn’t get him out quick enough, law or no law.
Angolan opposition simmers as democracy is unwound
Angola has unpicked a key aspect of its democracy. And while true democracy in the country’s largely one-party state is hard to fathom, parliament’s approval of a new constitution which abolishes direct presidential elections has opposition leaders hot under the collar. The president will now automatically lead the party with the parliamentary majority. This is great news for the majority Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola party, which smashed its rivals in a 26-year civil war that ended in 2002. The main opposition National Union for the Total Independence of Angola party predictably boycotted the vote, but that’s not likely to ruffle the feathers of President Jose Eduardo dos Santos after his more than 30 years in power. Elections won’t happen until at least 2012. The MPLA couldn’t have slipped this political Mickey Finn in at a better time. Angola is holding the showpiece Africa Cup of Nations soccer tournament, and few will be watching the machinations of the majority party.
African continent not a good place to be a journalist
The International Federation of Journalists says 13 African journalists have been murdered and 32 jailed in 2009, naming Eritrea, Somalia, Tunisia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and The Gambia as the most repressive countries in which to work. The report was compiled by members of the Federation of African Journalists, which is allied to the IFJ. Despite rhetoric about press freedom, the hacks say the African Union is doing nothing about it. Nine journalists were murdered in the anarchy that is Somalia, with another 19 detained in nearby Eritrea. The UN Security Council has slapped an arms embargo on Eritrea, and imposed targeted sanctions on its leaders for allegedly aiding Somali rebels and threatening neighbouring Djibouti.
Zambians do about-turn over nixed copper mining agreements
Rallying metals prices after the commodities crash has Africa’s biggest copper producer, Zambia, hurrying to renegotiate long-term agreements with foreign mining companies, after it cancelled them in 2008. The Zambians have been in a spin over everything from mining taxes to royalties in the past few years, after the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (most interestingly) urged the Zambian government to demand greater revenues from its foreign partners so it could reduce poverty and better handle the environmental impacts of its vast open-pit mines. But recently, the Zambians said they would keep existing mining taxes, having earlier abolished a 25% windfall tax on minerals, despite protestations (again, unusually) from the IMF and World Bank. The European Parliament got in on the act, and unlike the World Bank and IMF, said it wanted lower costs for mining projects backed by the European Investment Bank. So, it’s easy to see why the Zambians are in flux. Despite the current mining royalty rate being only 0.6%, which is well below the 3% average of most other countries, foreign miners are demanding the reinstatement of the cancelled agreements, saying they caused a loss of incentives. Zambia’s government is desperately trying to attract investors, and not just the Chinese. But copper is pretty much its only play, so expect some hard bargaining from here on in.
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