AfricaA total of 52 countries agreed on 4 November in Interlaken, Switzerland, to adopt an international certification scheme designed to stop the flow of "blood diamonds" into world markets. The scheme is due to take effect on 1 January 2003.The implementation of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme will mean that all rough diamonds passing through or into a participating country must be transported in a sealed container and labelled with a certificate of origin. (Source: IRIN)
EthiopiaEthiopia's anti-AIDS taskforce came under fire on 4 November for failing to fund projects aimed at tackling the virus - despite a three-year US $59 million loan from the World Bank. Dr Yigeremu Abebe, a board member of the Executive Committee of the taskforce, told IRIN the bank loan should have been ploughed into anti-AIDS projects.
The National HIV/AIDS Secretariat has spent just one fifth of the funds in the last two years despite the pandemic sweeping the Horn of Africa country. And fears are now mounting that if the taskforce does not spend the money, it will not be able to access a US $500 million anti-AIDS grant to Africa by the World Bank. (Source: IRIN)
MalawiMalawi's parliament ended its three-week sitting on a lacklustre note on November 1 after the much-talked about Bill seeking to extend the presidential term failed to take off. Instead the limelight was stolen by a demonstration which turned violent as police dispersed critics demonstrating against the Bill which sought to pave the way for President Bakili Muluzi to stand for a third term of office in 2004.
The controversial Bill seeks to amend the Constitution to lift restrictions on the terms of office of the president. But government representatives could not shed light on whether the Bill would be tabled or not in future. The Minister of Justice and Attorney General Henry Phoya was quoted by the newspapers as saying the decision to come up with the new Bill came from the public. It would be tabled if the people wanted, he said. (Source: IRIN) Central African Republic
The UN Peace-building office in the Central African Republic (BONUCA) has set up a commission to investigative human rights violations perpetrated in October when former government army soldiers invaded the capital, Bangui, in an attempt to oust President Ange-Felix Patasse, a senior UN official told reporters on 8 November. The commission comprises representatives from the human rights section of BONUCA, from the UN Children's Fund, the UN Development Programme, the Ligue Centrafricain des Droits d l'homme, the Observatoire Centrafricain des Droits de l'Homme, the Association des Femmes Juristes de Centrafrique, the Action Chretienne contre la Torture, and Medicos Sin Fronteras-Espana.
Human rights bodies said that forces of Jean Pierre Bemba's Mouvement de liberation de Congo, which had come to Bangui to shore up the government army during the attack, had committed most of the rights violations by raping and looting. CAR Minister of State for Communication Gabriel Jean Edouard Koyambounou said on 5 November that Bemba's fighters - now 27 km north of the city - would return to the Democratic Republic of the Congo following the arrival this week of peacekeeping troops from the Central African Economic and Monetary Community. (Source: IRIN)
CongoAn UN inter-agency effort in the Republic of Congo (ROC) has so far trained 1,939 teachers on HIV/AIDS- prevention education methods involving the active participation of students, Brenda Bowman, the project administrator, has told IRIN.
The US $668,504 Project for the Prevention of AIDS in Congolese Schools - known as Presiec - aims to instil responsible sexual behaviour in students, she said on 4 November. The effort has already led to the instruction of 57 teachers on support of clubs centering on aspects of family life, whereby peer-educators are trained and instructed on life education and HIV/AIDS. In addition, 3,099 students have already been trained as peer-educators. (Source: IRIN)
DRCA vessel operated by the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC) has rescued 150 people adrift in a convoy of two barges and a tug making the 200-km journey from Kinshasa to Mbandaka along the River Congo. The convoy had gone adrift after the tugboat's engine broke down, and was in danger of being swept out of control by the current. The passengers, rescued on 7 November, were taken to the village of Kwamouth, some 2 km from the site of the incident.
The MONUC vessel was bond for Kisangani. It was the second time one of its boats had gone to the aid of a distressed convoy on this river, one of the largest on the continent. In August, it rescued 100 passengers stranded on a tugboat marooned on a sandbank on the river.
NigeriaNigeria's government has said it will not allow people to be stoned to death on the order of Shari'a courts. Junior Minister of Foreign Affairs Dubem Onyia said in a statement on 8 November that the government was aware of widespread international concern over recent death sentences imposed by Islamic courts and would "use its constitutional powers to thwart any negative ruling which is deemed injurious to its people".
"We restate that no person shall be condemned to death by stoning in Nigeria," he said.
Nigeria has come under severe international pressure for the sentences, especially after a 31-year-old mother, Amina Lawal, was condemned to be stoned to death for adultery. This year's Miss World beauty pageant, scheduled to be held in Nigeria in December, has faced boycotts by many would-be contestants in protest against the sentence. (Source: IRIN)
SwazilandLawyers in Swaziland on Monday said the failure of Attorney-General (AG) Peshaya Dlamini to appear in the Mbabane magistrate's court to face charges of sedition would reflect negatively on the country's judicial system.
"It is still unclear why the AG refused to attend the court hearing and it is a bit presumptuous to assume that it was deliberate. However, if he had chosen to stay away after having received the summons then it does not bode well for the justice system in the country," the chairman of Swaziland's Law Society, Paul Shilubane, told IRIN.
In a landmark case the government brought the charges against Dlamini after he had reportedly twice told three High Court judges to dismiss a case brought by the mother of a girl allegedly abducted to marry King Mswati III.
In an unprecedented legal challenge to the monarchy, Lindiwe Dlamini, the mother of 18-year-old Zena Mahlangu went to court last month to demand that her daughter be returned after palace aides allegedly abducted her from school to become Mswati's 10th wife.
But the mother postponed her court challenge on 5 November, which effectively put an end to the case. Following an outcry from local and international rights groups over what they believed was an attempt to undermine the independence of the country's courts, Attorney-General Dlamini submitted a formal apology to the judiciary last week.
But he was issued with a summons from police to appear in court to hear charges of sedition, contempt of court and obstructing the course of justice.
Director of Public Prosecutions Lincoln Ng'arua said on 11 November that despite repeated attempts to serve the summons over the weekend Dlamini had refused to accept it. Ng'arua said if the AG continued to refuse to accept the summons, one option would be to request a warrant for his arrest..
Mswati has subsequently denied allegations that he sent Dlamini to intimidate the judges. Sedition carries a penalty of 20 years in jail or a fine of US $2,000 or both. (Source: IRIN)