- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 27, 2006

BURKINA FASO

Authorities shut arsenic-carrying wells

OUAGADOUGOU — Authorities have closed water wells in this poverty-stricken West African state because of arsenic in drinking water that reportedly has caused two deaths, health officials said yesterday.

The emergency measure will cause a water shortage for people in the north of the country where the contamination was detected, reports said. Burkina Faso has suffered drought since the 1970s, when desertification in the north intensified.

“We have closed numerous wells after analysis showed arsenic content well above 10 micrograms per liter, the norm set by the World Health Organization,” said Dr. Moussa Dadjoari, regional health director at Ouayigouya in the north. Health authorities fear continued consumption of arsenic-contaminated water could cause vascular illness, damage eyesight, and provoke skin, kidney or lung cancer.

REPUBLIC OF CONGO

2 activists fined after faulting regime

BRAZZAVILLE — A court at Pointe-Noire in the Republic of Congo sentenced two human rights activists yesterday to suspended prison terms of one year and fined each the equivalent of $600 for fraud.

Christian Mounzeo, president of the Rally for Peace and Human Rights (RPDH), and Brice Mackosso, executive secretary of the Roman Catholic Justice and Peace Commission in Congo, were convicted of fraud, using forged documents and abuse of trust, said their attorney, Laurent Ngombi. The two were arrested and jailed for three weeks in April on a charge of embezzling funds at RPDH, which they both denied.

GUINEA-BISSAU

President declares war on traffickers

BISSAU — President Joao Bernardo Vieira said his government will “fight without truce or mercy” drug traffickers who operate from an archipelago in the small and poor West African nation, state radio said yesterday.

“It’s no longer a secret to anyone that a network of drug traffickers exists in the Bijagos islands,” he told a youth rally in a speech Tuesday, later broadcast on public radio. “We’re going to fight without truce and mercy against this plague,” he said.

Smugglers move drugs from South America to Europe via the Bijagos archipelago, part of which is a wildlife reserve.

Weekly notes …

Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo and the chief executive officer of Italian energy group ENI agreed yesterday that no armed action would be undertaken to free four hostages working for ENI subsidiary Agip. Paolo Scaroni, in a “long and friendly” meeting in Lagos with the Nigerian leader, “confirmed and supported the choice of the Nigerian authorities of proceeding with the negotiations … avoiding any kind of military intervention,” ENI announced from Milan. … Workers carried away the last charred bodies of victims from a fire that swept through a crowd of Nigerians stealing fuel from a ruptured gasoline pipeline, and the death toll reached 265, the Red Cross said yesterday. Dozens more were injured when the pipeline tapped by thieves caught fire Tuesday as residents of an impoverished Lagos neighborhood collected fuel, senior Nigerian Red Cross official Ige Oladimeji said. The Vatican conveyed Pope Benedict XVI’s condolences to Nigerians.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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