- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 19, 2009

SOUTH AFRICA

Zuma wants charges dropped

JOHANNESBURG | South African prosecutors were considering whether to drop corruption charges against ruling African National Congress leader Jacob Zuma after he lodged a legal request, the National Prosecuting Authority said Wednesday.

A decision to drop the charges could boost the ANC’s campaign for elections on April 22. The ANC faces its greatest electoral challenge since apartheid ended in 1994, but Mr. Zuma is still expected to emerge as president.

The corruption case against Mr. Zuma has increased political uncertainty in Africa’s biggest economy, where growth had slowed even before the heavy impact of the global financial crisis.

Last month, a judge postponed Mr. Zuma’s trial to Aug. 25 - several months after he is expected to become president.

SUDAN

Bashir rallies Darfur supporters

KHARTOUM | A defiant Sudanese president rallied Arab supporters in Darfur on Wednesday by saying no war crimes court or the U.N. Security Council can touch even “an eyelash” on him despite an international order for his arrest.

Speaking to thousands at a rally near the southern Darfur town of Nyala, Lt. Gen. Omar Bashir denounced the West for seeking to “create chaos in Sudan” and trying to split Darfur from the rest of the country.

His remarks reflected his confidence amid support from the Arab League, whose chief Amr Moussa said this week that the 22-nation group would not act on the International Criminal Court’s arrest warrant when Gen. Bashir flies to an Arab summit in Qatar at the end of the month.

This was Gen. Bashir’s second visit to Darfur since the ICC issued the warrant March 4 on charges of war crimes in the western Sudanese region.

The Netherlands-based court accuses him of orchestrating atrocities against civilians in Darfur, where his Arab-led government has been battling ethnic African rebels since 2003. Up to 300,000 people have been killed and 2.7 million have been driven from their homes.

GAMBIA

1,000 seized in witch hunt

DAKAR, Senegal | Authorities rounded up about 1,000 people and forced them to drink hallucinogens in a witch-hunting campaign that is terrorizing the tiny West African nation, an international rights group said Wednesday.

Amnesty International called on the government of President Yahya Jammeh, who seized power in a 1994 coup and has claimed he can cure AIDS, to halt the campaign and bring those responsible to justice. The government has issued no statements in reaction to the report.

Authorities began inviting “witch doctors,” who combat witches, to come from nearby Guinea soon after the death this year of the president’s aunt. Mr. Jammeh “reportedly believes that witchcraft was used in her death,” the London-based rights group said.

Since then, “witch doctors” - accompanied by police, soldiers, intelligence agents and Mr. Jammeh’s personal guards - have forcibly taken about 1,000 people from their villages and spirited them to secret locations, Amnesty said. About 300 of them were taken to Mr. Jammeh’s personal farm east of the capital, the group said.

The mysterious liquid they were forced to drink prompted serious kidney problems among many, and two people are known to have died, Amnesty said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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