Also today: Somalis plead for funds before shutting up embassies in Europe; Uganda says to water down anti-gay bill; US court wins a first in Liberian torture ruling; One Swiss businessman beats Libyan charges, another to appeal; Nigerian governor keeps his job after disputed election.
Togo protests being kicked out of Africa Cup of Nations
The Confederation of African Football’s ban of Togo from the next two African Cup of Nations soccer tournaments got a red card after more than 10,000 people hit the streets of the capital Lome, saying CAF president Issa Hayatou must go. Togo’s government pulled the team out of this year’s event in Angola after two officials were by killed by Cabindan separatists before the games got started. CAF claims it imposed the ban because Togo’s government interfered in soccer matters by insisting that the team withdraw. If CAF thinks it’s playing by the rule-book, it’s likely to find itself offside on this score. It’s hard to see how it could have exercised jurisdiction over Togo’s government after the killings, and should have instead encouraged the team’s return after a period of mourning. By all accounts, it chose to politicise the issue, and has subsequently sullied African soccer. It remains to be seen whether other African countries will support Togo in its stand against CAF, after the Togolese government indicated it will take legal action.
Photo: CAF president Issa Hayatou. Reuters.
Somalis plead for funds before shutting up embassies in Europe
Somalia’s weak, UN-backed moderate Islamist government will close three of five embassies in Europe because of a funding crisis. That’s a further setback for the anarchic country that’s had no functional government since 1991. Some 5,000 African Union peacekeepers try to protect the government from near-daily attack from hardline Islamist insurgents, but only control a few blocks of the capital Mogadishu. The radical al-Shabaab militant group, which controls much of central and southern Somalia, now claims to be linked to Al Qaeda, so Paris, Berlin and UN in Geneva – which house the embassies under threat of closure – might have to lend a sympathetic ear to Somali requests for financial help to stay open. The Somalis now face further international isolation as embassies in Washington and London were closed some years ago. Meanwhile, all is not well with AU forces in Mogadishu, after 33 Burundian soldiers accused of mutiny have gone on trial. They’re charged with refusing to obey orders after arming themselves without authorisation, having accused officers of stealing their salaries. A bad situation made worse by the fact that Somalia’s own army is poorly-equipped and seriously demoralised.
Uganda says to water down anti-gay bill
Uganda’s feeling the heat over its proposed anti-gay bill that provides for the death penalty for certain homosexual acts. US President Barack Obama called the bill “odious”, and European countries have also made negative noises. So, now Deputy Foreign Minister Henry Okello Oryem has told the BBC that the bill is likely to be changed by parliament, but gave no details. Homosexuality is already illegal in Uganda, punishable by up to 14 years in prison. Uganda recently struck oil worth billion of dollars, and pro-Western President Yoweri Museveni is now stuck between modernising the economy and providing food and healthcare for his people, or feeding them political rubbish.
US court wins a first in Liberian torture ruling
A US court has ordered the son of former Liberian President Charles Taylor, who’s facing trial for war crimes in The Hague, to pay more than $22 million to five people tortured during the country’s brutal civil war. He’s the first person to be convicted by a US court of committing human rights abuses abroad, under a 1994 law. Charles McArthur Emmanuel Taylor, a US citizen currently in prison in Illinois, was also sentenced to 97 years in jail by Miami’s federal court for leading a paramilitary unit that tortured and murdered its enemies. Liberia was in part founded by freed slaves from the Americas, but has never really taken to democracy. Human rights groups have welcomed the ruling, saying it might serve as a warning to others who commit similar abuses. They might have added: “And flee to the US to spend their ill-gotten gains.” The judge must hope that Taylor has got the cash stashed somewhere nearby. But that’s not likely.
One Swiss businessman beats Libyan charges, another to appeal
A Libyan court has acquitted Rachid Hamdani, one of two Swiss businessmen accused of breaking immigration and business laws. He’s now free to leave the country if there’s no appeal, his lawyer says. The cases against Hamdani, who works for a construction company, and Max Goeldi have potentially damaged international investment in Libya, right after it emerged from international isolation. Goeldi, the head of Swiss-Swedish engineering group ABB in Libya, was fined on the same charge, and lawyers are considering an appeal. Both men were already convicted on charges of violating Libya’s immigration rules and sentenced to 16 months in jail, but have been staying in the Swiss embassy in Tripoli, where Libyan authorities can’t get at them. The cases have soured relations between Libya and Switzerland after the Swiss briefly arrested a son of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi on charges of mistreating two domestic workers during a visit to the Alps. The charges were dropped, but Libya cut oil supplies to Switzerland and withdrew more than $5 billion from Swiss banks.
Nigerian governor keeps job after disputed election
The current governor of Nigeria’s southeastern Anambra state has been declared the winner of an election which voters and candidates said was marred by widespread irregularities. The polls are the first of a series of votes culminating in presidential elections due in April 2011. While such complaints are common in politically-charged Nigeria, they come at a time when there are fears of a power vacuum at the top. The cabinet and senate are split over whether Nigeria’s President Umaru Yar’Adua is fit to rule after a two-month absence in a Saudi Arabian hospital, where he’s being treated for heart problems. The country of some 140 million people saw chaos during 2007 elections which brought Yar’Adua to power, after there was widespread ballot-stuffing and voter intimidation. The president will now write a letter handing power over to Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan, according to the BBC, after earlier resisting calls to step aside. The issue has been subject to a number of court cases, and has prompted protests in Lagos and the capital Abuja.
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