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Posts tagged ‘Laurent Gbagbo’

Africa News In Brief: International Court Stung By Charge Of ‘Hunting Africans’ Because Of Race.

African leaders at the recently concluded AU meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
By Global Information Network (GIN)

May 28 (GIN) – As the African Union summit drew to a close this week, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn leveled a stinging blow at the International Criminal Court (ICC) that prosecutes human rights violators, when he accused it of “hunting Africans” as 99% of those indicted by the ICC are from the continent.

“This shows something is flawed within the system of the ICC and we object to that,” he said.

He continued: “The intention (of the ICC) was to avoid any kind of impunity and ill governance and crime, but now the process has degenerated into some kind of race hunting.”

The Hague-based ICC, set up in 2002 to try the world’s worst crimes, insists it is an impartial body and is determined to continue with its case against Kenyan President Kenyatta and others in Africa.

“The International Criminal Court will not be reacting to African Union resolutions,” ICC spokesman Fadi El Abdallah told the AFP news wire. He pointed out that four out of eight cases under investigation in Africa were referred to the court by the countries themselves.

Also, 43 African countries signed the ICC’s founding Rome Statute, which 34 have ratified, “making Africa the most heavily represented region in the court’s membership.”

Africans currently charged with crimes by the ICC include former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo and Sudan President Omar al-Bashir who defied an international arrest warrant to attend the summit in Addis Ababa. The ICC has charged Bashir with genocide over the conflict in Darfur.

AU Peace and Security Council head Ramtane Lamamra echoed those who questioned how the UN Security Council could refer Mr Bashir to the ICC when three of its five permanent members – the United States, Russia and China – had either not signed up to or not ratified the Rome Statute which established the ICC.

“How could you refer the cases of others while you yourself don’t feel compelled to abide by the same rule?” he was quoted to say.

African leaders have been reluctant to enforce ICC warrants or support the prosecution of their counterparts, some of whom enjoy broad support by nationals at home. Currently, the AU is opposed to the ICC trying Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta on charges of crimes against humanity and wants the case moved back to Kenya.

Mr Kenyatta, elected in March, is due to be tried in July on claims that he fueled violence after disputed elections in 2007. He denies the charge.

Kenyan lawyer Wilfred Nderitu, who represents some 150 victims of the election violence, told BBC Focus on Africa, he was concerned about the safety of witnesses if Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto were tried in local courts.

He also doubted whether Kenya’s judiciary was capable of dealing with such complex cases.

Meanwhile, University of Minnesota professor Abdi Ismail Samatar commented on the concluding AU meeting.”Much like the past 50 years, there are a few leaders who are fully aware of what must be done and who have the courage to take charge,” he wrote.

“Will current African leaders rise to the challenge of the next 50 years?” he wondered. “There is a fleeting opportunity for the continent … (but) sleeping on the switch by free-riding the current resource boom will only reproduce Africa’s “Dome of Shame.” w/pix of Pres. Hailemariam Desalegn


May 28 (GIN) – Taking a page from their U.S. counterparts busy stonewalling President Obama’s modest reforms, Kenyan members of parliament voted this week to raise their own salaries, defying the newly-elected president’s call for cuts.

“We do have the requisite number and quorum to pass that motion,” Joyce Laboso, the Deputy Speaker of the assembly said, after MPs on both sides of the house voted overwhelmingly for more pay.

The new wage will be $10,000 a month (851,000 shillings) or 130 times the minimum wage. Kenyan MPs are already among the best-paid legislators in Africa.

Last month, President Uhuru Kenyatta, 51, implored lawmakers to accept wage cuts to free up cash to pay for free maternity care, laptops for primary school children, better roads and a million new jobs a year, in a country where the unemployment rate stands at 40 percent.

Lawmakers counter that they need high wages because constituents expect them to provide charitable support.

To many Kenyans, the bloated pay raises are symbols of an “it’s our turn to eat” political culture, in which officials view public office as an opportunity for personal gain, which has poisoned Kenyan politics for decades since independence.

“Did we vote in the wrong guys? This is nonsense! What work have they done in the last two months to deserve this?” prominent businessman Chris Kirubi said on Twitter.

So far President Kenyatta’s program of belt-tightening has drawn little opposition.

Deputy President William Ruto, however, is in hot water over a tour to four African countries this month, for which his office leased a luxury jet it said cost between $200,000 and $300,000. The actual price, however, may be much higher.


May 28 (GIN) – African leaders attempting to rush elections even where voter registrations are not complete or are incorrect are meeting fierce opposition in the streets.

A peaceful protest in Guinea turned ugly last week when police fired tear gas and water cannons at demonstrators after they deviated from a route approved by authorities and marched on one of Conakry’s main streets.

Mamadou Dian Balde, editor-in-chief of the Independent and Democrat newspapers, said a total of 15 people were killed by security forces during two days of protests.

The government denies its security forces targeted protesters. Instead it said the victims had been attacked by fellow protesters.

According to Balde, local observers dispute claims by the electoral commission that a successful parliamentary election can be held on June 30.

In neighboring Mali, elections have been called for July 28 despite the fact that nearly half a million people are displaced and living in refugee camps in the neighboring nations of Mauritania, Niger, Algeria and Burkina Faso as a result of a coup d’etat in January that saw a military president installed.

Besides the crucial city of Kidal, which is now under the de facto rule of the rebel National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad, numerous towns and villages are still not fully under the government’s control, making it unclear how they will carry out the vote.

In Ivory Coast, local polls last month were boycotted by the opposition party of former President Laurent Gbagbo, highlighting the slow progress of reconciliation in the West African country.

A spokesman for U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon acknowledged that campaign period had been marred by “regrettable incidents, including unacceptable intimidation in certain constituencies”.

Finally, polls this week in Equatorial Guinea were called seriously flawed, according to the London-based Amnesty International and NY-based Human Rights Watch. They cited reports of voter intimidation, denial of free speech to political groups and harassment of the opposition.

Tutu Alicante, head of EG Justice, observed: “President Obiang often says that Africans should demand a voice in global affairs, but he denies one to the people of Equatorial Guinea… The sad truth is that Equatoguineans have never experienced a free and fair election.” w/pix of Malian refugee


May 28 (GIN) – Ethiopian government officials this week celebrated the diversion of the Blue Nile river for what they’ve dubbed the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam which is expected to provide hydroelectricity for Ethiopia and neighboring countries by 2015.

But downstream nations Egypt and Sudan are troubled by the huge hydropower dam going up on the Sudanese border. Planning stages of the project were shrouded in secrecy, much to the alarm of regional governments, Nile planning agencies and Ethiopia’s Western donors. There was no expert analysis that would normally accompany such a titanic project, remarked Sudanese hydrologist Haydar Yousif.

“No environmental assessment is publicly available for the project. And no steps were taken before its launch to openly discuss the dam’s impacts with downstream Nile neighbors Egypt and Sudan,” he said.

“The consequences for Ethiopia’s downstream neighbors could potentially be catastrophic,” Yousif wrote in a published analysis. “The Renaissance Dam’s reservoir will hold back nearly one and a half times the average annual flow of the Blue Nile. Filling the reservoir – which could take 3 to 5 years – will drastically affect the downstream nations’ agriculture, electricity and water supply. Evaporative losses from the dam’s reservoir could be as much as 3 billion cubic metres per year.”

“In addition, the retention of silt by the dam reservoir will dramatically reduce the fertility of soils downstream. Sediment-free water released from dams also increases erosion downstream, which can lead to riverbed deepening and a reduction in groundwater recharge.”

Further, the dam is in a quake zone and could be at risk from damage by earthquakes, yet no one knows if it has even been analysed for this risk. The failure of such a huge structure puts the more than 100 million people living downstream at risk.

“Whatever the outcome of political arbitration, it remains irresponsible for Ethiopia to build Africa’s biggest hydropower project, on its most contentious river, with no public access to critical information about the dam’s impacts – a flawed process which can hardly result in a sustainable project,” said Yousif.

“If the Ethiopian government is serious about maintaining good relations with its Nile neighbors, and if it truly wishes to develop projects that will carry its people and the broader region into prosperity, it must begin by allowing some light to penetrate this secretive development scheme.” w/pix of Blue Nile


Blade Runner Tops The News, Rape Takes Back Seat; French Make Patent Grab For African Tea; Ivory Coast Dumps Bodies (Amnesty), African Med Students In Cuba On Strike.


Feb. 26 (GIN) – As the international press corps spins rafts of copy on accused killer Oscar ‘Blade Runner’ Pistorius, the much-needed gender debate expected to follow a young Black girl’s rape and murder has sunk to the back pages.

Cabinet ministers were also missing in action at a crucial debate in Parliament this week on gender-based violence.

Ministers Lulu Xingwana of women, children and people with disabilities, Justice Minister Jeff Radebe, Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa and Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini all failed to show up at the debate, the local Mail & Guardian newspaper reported.

Democratic Alliance spokesperson Debbie Schafer called it symptomatic of a lack of leadership on the issue. Spokesman for the ANC caucus Moloto Mothapo excused the absences telling a reporter that ‘this was not a debate on a portfolio like a budget vote, but a political debate.’

Meanwhile, a rape survivor will have her day in court thanks to pressure by the Treatment Action Coalition that followed up her case lost repeatedly by investigators after it took place in 2010. “Rape in the East Cape is out of control,” an investigating officer acknowledged. “Drastic measures need to be taken to combat this.”

Finally, the release on bail of accused sports icon Oscar Pistorius continues to raise eyebrows as details of his arrest emerge. Essayist Rapule Tabane in the Mail & Guardian observed:  “Pistorius is indeed privileged, what with a big-name spin doctor flying out from London to salvage his diminishing reputation, a specially hired pathologist and sympathetic headlines screaming “Prayers for Oscar”.

“His got special treatment, even from the police: they could not bear to put him in the back of a police van…  After his arrest, he did not have to spend time in a prison. Instead, he was detained at a police station where, it was reported, family members came to visit and gave him food. I do not need to dwell here on the horrors of our prisons, which thousands of our young men have to endure daily, and which Pistorius was spared.

Pistorius was granted bail of 1 million rand. He was allowed to pay an initial installment of 100,000 rand, with the balance due by March 1. He is next due in court on June 4. w/pix of O. Pistorius after arrest


Feb. 26 (GIN) – It’s been called “the new pomegranate juice” blessed with antioxidants and benefits for cardiovascular, diabetes, liver and respiratory ailments. Rooibos tea, grown only in a small area in the Western Cape province of South, has been a popular drink in Southern Africa for ages.

Which is why it came as a shock to learn that a French company was petitioning to own the name “Rooibos Tea”.  “The Dept. of Trade and Industry stands ready to defend South Africa’s trade and intellectual property interests vigorously,” Trade Minister Rob Davies said.

French corporate bids to own foreign names include an attempted patent claim on “Darjeeling,” the name of an Indian tea, which the French company had used for a lingerie line.

This is the second patent fight for Rooibos. A Texas firm, Burke International, registered the name “Rooibos” in 2004 with the US Patent and Trademark Office. When the tea became popular, Burke demanded that users either pay fees for use of the name, or cease its use. Burke’s claim to the name Rooibos was legally denied in 2005.

Copyright claims have even been launched against the national anthem. According to City Press of South Africa, “there are 61 claimants on royalties for Nkosi Sikelel’iAfrica or any derivative of the name, including the National Anthem of South Africa.” But Owen Dean of Intellectual Property Watch, refutes the claims.

“At best such claimants can only claim rights in their particular versions or arrangements of Nkosi (provided they are original).”

Meanwhile, the South African Rooibos Council (SARC) has reportedly applied to register ROOIBOS as a Certification Mark under the South African Trade Marks Act, which registration is intended to serve as the basis for international protection. w/pix of farmer harvesting rooibos


Feb. 26 (GIN) – A year after the international community pushed for polls in the Ivory Coast and helped remove the former president, Laurent Gbagbo, serious abuses of human rights by the current administration have been documented in a new report by the rights watchdog Amnesty International.

“Ivory Coast’s army has committed “widespread human rights violations” against supporters of ousted former president Laurent Gbagbo, Amnesty said in its report published Tuesday.

“This new national army, along with an armed militia of traditional hunters, are carrying out extra-judicial executions, deliberate and arbitrary killings, politically motivated arrests and torture”.

“They are acting with almost total impunity under the pretence of ensuring security and fighting against perpetrators of armed attacks,” the report said.

The Amnesty team heard first-hand evidence about how detainees were being held for months, with no access to their families, doctors or lawyers.

Amnesty delegates visited several places of detention. They heard accounts of torture with electricity or molten plastic to extract confessions about alleged participation in armed attacks.

Gbagbo himself has been detained by the International Criminal Court in The Hague since the end of 2011, accused of crimes against humanity.

Amnesty called for an international commission of inquiry into a July 2012 raid on a displaced persons’ camp near the town of Duekoue, which targeted people from the Guere ethnic group, considered to be pro-Gbagbo.

Fourteen people were reported killed, but Amnesty said “many more bodies are believed to have been dumped in wells”.

Meanwhile, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan begins a four-day visit Wednesday to the Ivory Coast to discuss with other leaders of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) the current crises in Mali and Guinea-Bissau. At the end of the summit, Pres. Jonathan will remain for a 3-day state visit at the invitation of Pres. Alassane Ouattara. w/pix of Ivory Coast special forces


Feb. 26 (GIN) – South Africa’s Education Minister, Blade Nzimande, has called for the deportation of over a hundred South African medical students in Cuba who launched a hunger strike over conditions they considered unacceptable.

“The sense of entitlement and lack of gratitude displayed by these students who come from a country with such high levels of desperate need for higher education and training, and limited state resources, is totally unacceptable. I condemn it in the strongest terms,” Minister Nzimande said. “If they are threatening to come back home, then maybe they should do just that.”’

But emails sent to the South African daily City Press painted a different picture. A bottleneck apparently held up payment of student food bills which left the students without meals for four days. Meals are primarily pork, not acceptable to some students. The stipend is insufficient, they say, to cover incidental expenses and amounts to a third of what children of the South African diplomatic corps receive.

“The department of health might say our demands are unreasonable, but, honestly, we wouldn’t go to such lengths for something we didn’t believe in,” said one student who asked to remain anonymous.

“None of us are trying to be heroes here, and none of us want to go home and lose our careers,” he added in an email.

Some 2,000 South African medical students are enrolled in the 6 year program which includes one year of practical work in South Africa. This week, about 187 of the student doctors staged a protest outside the South African embassy in the Cuban capital of Havana and were arrested.

They were detained overnight but have refused to give up their fight over food and money.

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi’s spokesman, Joe Maila, initially promised a “fact-finding mission” to look into the complaints. “We really want to find out what is happening with the food. Where there are serious concerns we will do something immediately. We want these students to succeed. We need more doctors.” According to the students, the mission never arrived.

He defended the pork diet. “Our students are usually served alternate meals consisting of beef, chicken or pork but for the past two or three weeks the Cuban government had problems acquiring beef and chicken. They could only serve what was available, which was pork.”

The students responded: “Whenever we ask for change we are reminded of the fact that we are from poor families, squatter camps, that we are women and men with difficulties, children of the storm and we should be grateful for the little we have.”

The father of a student detained this week told City Press it was unfortunate the department felt this way.

“When our kids complete their studies they return to serve South Africans. In many cases, they work in rural areas where local doctors refuse to go.” w/pix of Minister B. Nzimande


Ex-youth leader Ble Goude charged with war crimes over postelection violence in Ivory Coast.

ABIDJAN, Ivory CoastIvory Coast‘s state television says former youth leader Charles Ble Goude has been charged with war crimes over his alleged role in violence linked to the West African country’s disputed presidential election two years ago.

RTI television said Monday that Ble Goude also faces charges of murder and theft of public funds. He was arrested in neighbouring Ghana last week and extradited to Ivory Coast.

Ble Goude was a youth minister under President Laurent Gbagbo. Gbagbo’s refusal to cede office despite losing the 2010 presidential election vote to current President Alassane Ouattara sparked five months of violence that claimed at least 3,000 lives.

Human Rights Watch says the ultranationalist group that Ble Goude headed killed hundreds of Ivorians and West African immigrants during the conflict.


By The Associated Press | Associated Press

Ivory Coast’s Ouattara dissolves government.

ABIDJAN (Reuters) – Ivory Coast’s President Alassane Ouattara dissolved his government on Wednesday, an unexpected move that comes as the world’s top cocoa grower makes headway towards reviving its economy.

Ouattara won a November 2010 election, defeating incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo, whose refusal to accept the result triggered a four-month conflict that killed around 3,000 people.

His government continues to struggle with lingering insecurity since the war.

“The president of the republic … ended the functions of the members of the government,” Amadou Gon Coulibaly, Ouattara’s secretary general, said following a cabinet meeting in the commercial capital Abidjan.

It was not clear when a new government would be named.

Since taking office last year, Ouattara, a former International Monetary Fund official, has overseen a much-lauded revival of the economy, with growth of 8.6 percent projected for 2012 following a contraction of 4.7 percent last year.

But the security services are struggling to cope with a series of armed attacks targeting military and infrastructure installations since August.

National reconciliation between rival political camps since the war, and essential security sector reform, are also lagging.

“It’s quite strange, and it’s quite risky,” one western observer said of Ouattara’s move to dissolve the government.

“He could be saying he’s fed up with these guys and wants changes. It could also be a problem between (the coalition partners),” said the observer, who asked not to be named.



Former Ivory Coast president is well enough to stand trial.

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – Former Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo, who stands accused of multiple war crimes, is well enough to stand trial, judges at the International Criminal Court ruled on Friday.

But they also warned that his fragile mental health required close monitoring and appropriate treatment.

Preparations for Gbagbo’s trial for crimes against humanity including murder, rape and persecution have been on hold since June, when he told judges the ill-treatment he had received at the hands of his captors in Ivory Coast had left him unfit to stand trial.

Judges found Gbagbo, 67, was able to understand the charges against him, which relate to the civil war that followed his refusal to stand down after losing presidential elections in 2010. Some 3,000 were killed and more than a million were displaced in four months of fighting.

The trial can only begin once judges have confimed the charges against Gbagbo and no date has been set yet.

One of the doctors the court consulted found that Gbagbo was “a shadow of his former self”, while another said he tired easily and had symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.

When he arrived in The Hague last December, Gbagbo said he was ill after having been held in a windowless room.

“The question is not whether Mr Gbagbo is at present in full possession of the higher or better faculties he may have had in the past,” they wrote, “but whether his current capacities are sufficient for him to take part in proceedings against him.”

A third doctor cited in the judges’ ruling said Gbagbo seemed “more concerned with salvaging his image” than with addressing the specifics of the case.

Gbagbo is the first former head of state to be brought before the 10-year-old ICC – the world’s first permanent war crimes court – which earlier this year handed down its first conviction, jailing Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga for 14 years.


By Thomas Escritt | Reuters

EU grants Ivory Coast 115 million euros budget support.

ABIDJAN (Reuters) – The European Union granted Ivory Coast 115 million euros in budget supporton Thursday, aiming to help the West African nation back on its feet following a decade of political crisis that ended in a brief war last year.

The world’s top cocoa grower, Ivory Coast suffered from years of stagnation during the conflict which saw the country divided between northern rebels and southern government loyalists.

President Alassane Ouattara’s government has received strong support from foreign partners since fighting ended and the economy is expected to record growth of 8.6 percent this year, following a 4.7 percent contraction in 2011.

“The European Union will remain beside Ivory Coast to help it quickly become once again a pillar of stability and growth in West Africa,” European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso told journalists in Abidjan following the signing of the accord.

The EU, one of the West African nation’s top donors, has mobilised 430 million euros to aid Ivory Coast’s reconstruction since April 2011. The first disbursement of the new funding is expected before the end of the year.

Ivory Coast increased spending by 17 percent in a 3.814 trillion CFA franc 2013 budget adopted by the cabinet earlier this month that targets long-neglected infrastructure, power production and agriculture.



Ousted Gbagbo general jailed in Ivory Coast.


ABIDJAN (Reuters) – A top military commander under Ivory Coast‘s former president Laurent Gbagbo was sentenced to 15 years in prison on Thursday in the first trial involving an accused instigator of last year’s post-election violence.

General Bruno Dogbo Ble headed the elite Republican Guard during the brief conflict, which killed more than 3,000 people and erupted after Gbagbo refused to accept his defeat to rival Alassane Ouattarain an election held in late 2010.

“Dogbo Ble is guilty of complicity in kidnapping, illegal detention and murder … The tribunal condemns him to 15 years of military detention,” lead judge Mathurin Yao Kanga told a court in the commercial capital Abidjan.

The prosecution had requested a sentence of 20 years.

A staunch Gbagbo loyalist, Dogno Ble and four co-defendants were charged over the abduction and killing of retired Colonel-Major Adama Dosso in March 2011, at the height of the violence.

Dosso was leaving Ouattara’s headquarters at Abidjan’s lagoon-side Golf Hotel when he was stopped at a roadblock manned by pro-Gbagbo soldiers. It was widely believed he was planning to throw his allegiance behind Ouattara.

His body was later discovered beside a motorway.

While several of his co-defendants admitted to their role in the killing during the trial, Dogbo Ble denied ordering the murder and told the court he was proud of his service during the conflict.

The four other men, all of them soldiers, were convicted and given sentences ranging from five to 15 years.

A lawyer representing Dosso’s family at the trial said they were satisfied with the decision, but Dogbo Ble’s defence team said they planned to appeal the verdict.

“We raised objections that were not respected … We’re going to appeal,” Mathurin Dirabou said.

Gbagbo was captured by fighters backing Ouattara during the final battle for Abidjan and is awaiting trial before the International Criminal Court on crimes against humanity charges for his alleged role in the violence.

Most of his political and military allies are either in detention in Ivory Coast or living in exile in neighbouring West African nations.

United Nations investigators have accused key members of the Gbagbo regime of establishing a base in neighbouring Ghana from which they are working to destabilise the current Ivorian government, according to a report seen by Reuters this week.


By Loucoumane Coulibaly | Reuters

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