Central African Republic<&h3> The UN World Food Programme (WFP) said on April 10 it had suspended deliveries of food aid from the Cameroonian port of Douala to Bangui, the capital of Central African Republic (CAR), because the security situation at its warehouses was not satisfactory for the storing and distribution of food.
"WFP has given instructions that the food stored in Douala should not be sent onwards to Bangui until we are ready to receive it here," David Bulman, WFP representative in CAR, said. WFP said 1,800 mt of food were looted from WFP warehouses in Bangui in the aftermath of the March 15 coup, in which Francois Bozize seized power from former president Ange-Felix Patasse. "We are using the same warehouses that were looted and their security situation has not changed," Bulman said. (Source: IRIN)
MadagascarFollowing last year's political crisis, which crippled Madagascar's already weak economy, the government announced on April 10 there had been significant growth in tax collections, loans to the private sector and foreign trade.
Director-General of the Ministry of Economy, Finance and Budget, Hajanirina Razafinjatovo, said in a statement: "Regarding sea port traffic in January and February 2003, the [eastern] port of Toamasina handled 418,000 mt, compared to a little more than 200,000 mt both in 2001 and 2002."
He added that the number of new businesses had also increased over the year. Madagascar's economy was hit hard by a power struggle when President Marc Ravalomanana challenged the previous incumbent, Didier Ratsiraka, over the result of the December 2001 presidential election.
The eight months of political upheaval led to the loss of thousands of jobs, forcing many people onto the streets. While the government was upbeat about progress at the macro-economic level, the majority of people are still finding it difficult to recover from the aftershocks of the crisis.
"Although the situation has improved slightly, it is hard to say if people have recovered economically from the crisis or not. There are currently no statistics on how people are coping, but many people are out of work," Antananarivo-based economist, Pepe Andrianomanana, said. (Source: IRIN)
MalawiA World Food Programme (WFP) assessment found over 1,000 people were left homeless after recent floods and a landslide in northern Malawi, a spokesman said on April 11. An assessment with local government authorities found that 1,160 people had their fields or houses destroyed, and four people died in the landslide in the Mzuzu district, Abdelgadi Musallam of WFP said.
According to Malawi agriculture ministry official, Victor Luhanga, the floods also swept away a number of bridges and roads, and damaged mining equipment at Mchenga coal mine, which supplies local industry and exports to Tanzania.
Malawi hopes to have an improved harvest this year after two years of weather-related food shortages. (Source: IRIN)
NigeriaOnly two general elections in Nigeria have been organised by civilian governments since independence from Britain in 1960. In each case, the elections were marred by irregularities and violence. In each case, they were followed by military overthrows. The presidential, legislative and state polls from April 12 to May 3 represent the third attempt by a civilian government to organise successful elections in Nigeria. Whatever the outcome of the the polls, Africa's most populous nation will still have to grapple with key issues that affect the well-being of its 120 million people. Communal and religious conflicts, and violence sparked by competition for resources figure high among these issues. (Source: IRIN)
SwazilandSwaziland's prisons are becoming dangerously overcrowded as one consequence of a controversial Non-Bailable Offences Act, legal observers say.
"We predicted a crisis in prisons, and we were right. Not only does the non-bailable law tie the hands of magistrates by denying them the discretionary power to set bail, but it has led to inhuman conditions of crowding at the prisons," a source at the Swaziland Law Society said. "Prisons are overcrowded, but the situation is particularly bad at remand centres," reported the Bureau of Democracy. Amnesty International has also criticised the five-year-old non-bailable law.
A paralysis in the court system brought on by a current "rule of law" crisis has seen the postponement of many criminal cases, further worsening overcrowding and the attendant health risks as defendants remain incarcerated while they await postponed trials.
If a person is arrested for rape, murder, armed robbery or other serious crimes, he or she cannot be granted bail by courts. After hearings to set trial dates, judges are instructed by law to send these suspects back to the remand centre in the central commercial hub, Manzini.
The law went into effect in 1998 in response to a crime wave that startled the conservative Swazi nation and undermined the country's image as a tranquil home of African traditional life. (Source: IRIN)
UgandaA report released by the Uganda Human Rights Commission has accused government security agents of torture. Margaret Sekagya, of the human rights commission told IRIN that the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) - a military intelligence security department in the Ugandan People's Defence Force (UPDF) - and the Internal Security Organisation (ISO) - part of the ministry of internal affairs, which controls internal security - had been heavily implicated in the report.
There were 158 cases of torture reported in 1999, 97 cases in 2000 and 152 in 2001, the report said. The majority of cases occurred while victims were being held in custody. The report added that torture continued to exist in Ugandan society because of the impunity that resulted in the government's reluctance to punish the perpetrators.
The human rights commission has given training to more than 60 police officers since October 2001 on how to use a police human rights training manual which was developed in 1999, Sekagya said. (Source: IRIN)
ZambiaFormer Zambian president Frederick Chiluba, charged with 65 counts of theft, on April 11 filed a notice of appeal in the Supreme Court to have his trial moved from lower courts to the High Court. The charges relate to his conduct while in office and follow the lifting of his presidential immunity from prosecution by Zambia's parliament.
Investigations into Chiluba's conduct while in office were set in motion by the man he picked to succeed him, President Levy Mwanawasa. The former president was arrested in February after the Supreme Court ruled that the decision to lift his immunity should not be reversed.
Chiluba's subsequent application to the High Court to have his trial moved, on the grounds that he would not get a fair trial in subordinate courts, was also turned down. (Source: IRIN)