AfricaChildren are marginalised from decision-making about their lives, which is blighting their future, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) warned on 11 December. At the launch of its annual State of the World's Children report in Addis Ababa, it said that the voice of young people must be heard. The report spelt out the scale of misery in which many children in Africa live. Bisrat Gashaw Tena, vice minister at Ethiopia's ministry of labour and social affairs, said that children and their rights must be paramount in government. (Source: IRIN)
Central African RepublicOf the 111 women raped during October's fighting in the Central African Republic capital, Bangui, and now receiving care from Medicos Sin Fronteras-Espana (MSF-Spain), 26 have tested HIV positive. "For the moment, it is impossible to know whether there is any link between their HIV sero-positivity and the rapes," Raquel Ayora, MSF-Spain's country representative in the CAR, said on 11 December. "But if the second test in six months proves that those who tested negative before have HIV/AIDS, the conclusion will be that they were infected during the rape." (Source: IRIN)
DRCTension rose in Bukavu, eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), on 10 December as hundreds of children demonstrated against the introduction by rebel authorities of compulsory licence plates for all vehicles in the town. Police were sent to guard the Contributory Services Office after a group of children aged between seven and 12 years began tearing off the number plates of vehicles around the building, while shouting and threatening staff inside. (Source: IRIN)
EthiopiaEthiopia's ruling coalition is stifling opposition groups in the country which is leading to increased ethnic violence, the European Union (EU) has said. It said a "remaining challenge" facing the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) was to advance democracy in the country. In a speech, the current president of the EU in Ethiopia, Greek Ambassador Spyros Aliagas, warned that stifling opposition voices could lead to violence. "The overwhelming majority of the ruling party coalition at all levels of government does not facilitate a major role of the opposition in parliament and outside," he said. (Source: IRIN)
MadagascarAmnesty International has called for an independent investigation into alleged human rights abuses during the recent political crisis in the country. In a report launched on 11 December titled, 'Justice is selective', the rights group said hundreds of people had been arrested and detained for alleged crimes during the crisis, most of whom were supporters of former president Didier Ratsiraka.
Almost a year ago, presidential elections sparked a major political struggle between Ratsiraka and his main challenger Marc Ravalomanana. (Source: IRIN)
MalawiMalawi's oldest newspaper house, Blantyre Newspapers Limited, (BNL) has suspended its leading editor apparently for criticising government over-expenditure. Jika Mkolokosa, managing editor of BNL, publishers of “The DailyTimes” and “Malawi News” said on 11 December that he had been suspended allegedly for writing negative stories about President Bakili Muluzi and not featuring him on the front page.
"The boss never called me up to hear my story. [If he had called me] I would have been able to defend myself. But I wasn't given the opportunity," he said. (Source: IRIN)
NigeriaNigeria's ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) said on 10 December it would choose its presidential candidate for next year's general elections from the south of the country. An official statement by the party secretariat said PDP would stick to the zoning principle which produced President Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999, despite indications from a number of members from the north they would vie for the party's ticket. They include a one time minister of communication, Abubakar Rimi and former PDP chairman, Barnabas Gemade.
"Anyone notwithstanding this, who wishes to embark on a wild goose chase, takes a gamble at the risk of his reputation," Yohanna Madaki, the party's legal adviser, said in the statement.
The zoning arrangement adopted by the PDP was intended to redress a perceived imbalance whereby most of those who have ruled Nigeria since independence in 1960 have come from the predominantly Muslim north. A 1993 vote won by southwest businessman, Moshood Abiola, was annulled by the northern-dominated military plunging Nigeria into years of political crisis. (Source: IRIN)
Sierra LeoneIn observance of International Human Rights Day, the chief prosecutor of the upcoming Special War Crimes Court for Sierra Leone, David Crane, reiterated the roles and objectives of the Court in an attempt to clarify any confusion with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and gather local support for the two institutions. In a speech in Freetown, Crane said the Court and the TRC would operate independently, but both would work towards one ultimate goal, that is addressing respect for human rights and accountability for those who committed abuse during the country's civil war, Sierra Leone Web, an online news provider, reported on 11 December. Crane attempted to allay the fears of those who feared that testimonies given before the TRC would be used to prosecute them before the Special Court. He said TRC testimonies will not be used by the Court.
ZimbabweHuman rights groups have voiced concern that political violence and the politicisation of food aid have continued in parts of Zimbabwe. In its latest report the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum alleged that violence in the Insiza constituency, where a recent by-election was held, "continued unabated in the post election period".
Insiza is located near the second city of Bulawayo in south-western Zimbabwe.
The report, released on 10 DecemberTuesday, alleged that supporters of the ruling ZANU-PF and its youth militia "were harassing and forcing opposition supporters to denounce the MDC [Movement for Democratic Change] and join/rejoin the ZANU-PF".
There was also increasing evidence that ZANU-PF was manipulating the distribution of food along political lines in an effort to garner and retain political support.
"Reports recorded by the Human Rights Forum in September and October showed that food distribution had been politically manipulated to coerce votes from the electorate during the Rural District Council Elections and Insiza by-election respectively.
"In the month of October, the Human Rights Forum has documented incidents that suggest that ZANU-PF, with apparent government acquiescence, is controlling access to food aid, denying those perceived to be MDC supporters access. This is happening in the absence of a pending election," the Human Rights Forum alleged.
The UN World Food Programme suspended food aid distributions in Insiza in October following the seizure of food by ruling ZANU-PF activists. (Source: IRIN)