- - Wednesday, September 1, 2010

UGANDA

U.S. asked to fund troops to Somalia

KAMPALA | Uganda said Wednesday that it is ready to send 10,000 more troops to Somalia if the U.S. provides the funding, a move that would more than double the size of the African Union force in Mogadishu.

Uganda made its pledge in the wake of twin bombings in Kampala during July’s World Cup final that killed 76 people. Somalia’s most dangerous militant group, al-Shabab, said it carried out the attack because of the presence of several thousand Ugandan troops in Mogadishu as part of the nearly 7,000-strong African Union force.

The spokesman for Uganda’s army, Lt. Col. Felix Kulayigye, said the country has 10,000 more forces trained and ready to deploy to Somalia, but the country needs the U.S. to provide assistance.

“The USA committed itself to fund the peacekeeping troops,” Col. Kulayigye said. “Once they provide what they promised, we will send the troops.”

The U.S. Embassy spokeswoman in Uganda, Joann Lockard, said the U.S. has provided funds for an additional 1,000 Ugandan troops to deploy to Somalia. The U.S. also continues to work with African nations to increase the overall support for AMISOM, the African Union Mission in Somalia, she said.

The U.S. has obligated more than $185 million in support of AMISOM troops from Uganda and Burundi, she said.

MOZAMBIQUE

6 killed in riot over rising prices

MAPUTO | Two children were fatally shot and at least four more people were killed in clashes between police and rioters across Mozambique’s capital, Maputo, on Wednesday in protests over rising prices, police and hospital sources said.

Police used tear gas to disperse crowds and fired live ammunition after running out of rubber bullets, while protesters blocked roads and burned tires, police officials said.

The violence was the worst in the impoverished southern African country since 2008.

The protests appeared to have been touched off when the government boosted prices on bread by 30 percent on Wednesday, as wheat prices shoot up around the world.

Residents of one of the world’s poorest countries say they have been hit hard by rising costs for basic necessities including bread, with soaring costs for fuel and other essentials adding to their troubles.

Mozambique also is heavily dependent on imports from South Africa, which have become more expensive in recent months as the South African rand currency has strengthened.

BENIN

Ponzi scheme tied to presidency

COTONOU | More than 100,000 people in the tiny West African nation of Benin have lost their savings in a Ponzi scheme run by a now-defunct company that appeared to be publicly endorsed by the country’s president.

The government said in a statement last month that more than 130,000 people had given their savings to Investment Consultancy and Computering Services. Together, they lost more than $130 million, the statement said.

The corporation was registered as a nonprofit computer service company and was operating illegally as a banking institution. The company was forced to close July 1, and more than a dozen of its employees were jailed.

But the reverberations have echoed to the top of Benin’s power pyramid and now threaten President Boni Yayi, who appeared in television, print and radio ads with company managers.

SOUTH AFRICA

Civil servants in talks to end 15-day walkout

JOHANNESBURG | Striking South African civil servants were in pivotal talks Wednesday over a fresh government wage offer to end a 15-day walkout as the key mining sector shelved sympathy protests.

Unions were discussing the improved deal after President Jacob Zuma ordered ministers to go back to the bargaining table in an effort to end the crippling strike, which has shut down schools and hit hospitals.

“The unions are still consulting,” said Chris Klopper, chairman of the Independent Labor Caucus, one of the striking labor umbrellas that represent more than 1 million civil servants. “I doubt there will be an announcement today as unions have not completed their internal processes.”

Mr. Zuma issued the order to break the deadlock amid mounting pressure over the walkout, which is now in its third week, as fresh stoppages hit the private auto industry on Wednesday.

Sympathy strikes planned for Thursday, including at the country’s mines, were called off to give civil servants time to vote on the new deal.

NIGERIA

Report urges jobs for youth population

ABUJA | Nigeria risks social unrest in the coming years unless the oil-rich nation takes advantage of its resources and creates jobs for its swelling youth population, a report released on Wednesday warned.

The report, commissioned by the British Council, said Africa’s most populous nation “could reap an enormous economic dividend in the next 20 years if it creates opportunities for its young people — but faces a demographic disaster if it fails.”

Conducted by an independent panel of Nigerians, including economists and ex-ministers, the report said the country in the next two decades will have an abundant supply of young workers.

If the country continues with current levels of economic growth, creates jobs and boosts health and education standards, more than 30 million people could be lifted out of poverty by 2030, the report said.

CONGO

Gunmen target plane carrying aid workers

JOHANNESBURG | Gunmen in eastern Congo fired Wednesday on a private plane carrying international aid workers who escaped into the forest and are in hiding, the regional director of International Medical Corps told the Associated Press.

Miel Hendrickson of the Los Angeles-based agency said U.N. peacekeepers were on the way to rescue the three Americans and one Georgian who were on the aircraft and two Congolese staff who were at the landing strip outside Walikale mining town when the shooting erupted.

A pilot was kidnapped at Walikale airport a few weeks earlier, Ms. Hendrickson said.

The aid workers are part of a team treating scores of people raped in rebel attacks July 30 to Aug. 4 in villages about 40 miles from Walikale.

Ms. Hendrickson said the number of people treated for rape in those attacks has risen to 242 from 192 last week. More and more survivors who had fled into dense forest have been coming out of hiding each day — some women completely naked, aid workers said.

The attacks took place within miles of a U.N. peacekeeping camp for about 80 Indian soldiers, and thousands of Congolese troops based at Walikale, a 90-minute drive from the villages, raising questions about why nothing was done.

From wire dispatches and staff reports