Friday, January 09, 2004

MEDIA CLAMPDOWN IN GUINEA -- LURD WANTS HEAD REPLACED BY HIS WIFE
The Media Foundation for West Africa claims that Journalists Face Reprisals After Guinea Elections. Several independent journalists have been harrassed and intimidated for reports on the controversial election that authorities didn't appreciate. The stories denounced what were described as widespread election malpractices. The publications were also accompanied by picture illustrations of underage children stuffing ballot boxes and women who had voted more than once. Reporters from Le Diplomate and Le Populaire were apparently targeted. In the 21 Dec. election, head of state Gen. Lansana Conté was overwhelmingly re-elected, according to official figures, in the face of the boycott of all major opposition figures. Interestingly, one of the article that aroused governmental fury alleged that the Senegalese President, Abdoulaye Wade, had offered his Guinean counterpart, President Lansana Conte, exile in Dakar. Police who interrogated [the author of the piece] accused him of jeopardizing the internal security of the state. Guinea is the only country in West Africa without any private radio or television stations.

LURD rebels want their leader replaced by his wife, a strange story eminated from Liberia. Forty commanders of Liberia's main rebel group, the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) have signed a statement calling for the replacement of LURD chairman Sekou Damate Conneh by his influential wife, Aisha Keita Conneh. Diplomats say she has a great deal of influence with Guinean President Lansana Conte, who for the past four years has been LURD's main backer. She is reputed to be Conte's personal fortune teller, reports IRIN.

The UN information clearinghouse also notes Three major pan-African institutions will come into force in early 2004. They include a much-heralded Peace and Security Council, modelled on the UN Security Council, as well as a Pan-African Parliament and an African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights, both of which will be in force by the end of January, [African Union] officials told IRIN. In a continent where many national parliaments are marginalized, it remains to be seen how influential a continental legislature will be.

Mozambique's press agency claims a Million Children Still Unable to Study in the southern African state. An education ministry official fingered the shortage of schools and teachers as primary obstacles. The ministry did cite positive progress. Despite all the difficulties, many more children will be studying this year than in 2003. Thanks to the building of new schools last year, in 2004 the Ministry expects to enrol 731,000 children in first grade (which compares with the 685,000 places available last year).

A Daily Mail and Guardian piece argues that Zimbabwe ruins African unity. The essay notes that the row has alienated South African president Thabo Mbeki with his Nigerian counterpart Olesegun Obasanjo. The rift has large implications for African unity. It may hamper coordinated peace-keeping efforts on the continent and the implementation of Africa’s economic recovery plan, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad), suggest analysts. Details have emerged of how Mbeki’s divisive posturing embarrassed Obasanjo, for whom Chogm was the most important political function on home soil during his term in office. There was “anger and disquiet” at Mbeki’s stance, say highly placed Commonwealth insiders.

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