'Erosion of democracy' seen throughout region
JOHANNESBURG | Southern Africa is facing an "erosion of democracy" caused in part by a failure of regional leaders to live up to their own agreements on the rule of law, civil society groups warned Wednesday.
The 15-nation Southern African Development Community is faced with a growing number of regional "problem cases" and must enforce its own commitments on human rights and democracy at a summit next week in Angola, said a coalition of religious groups, unions and nonprofit organizations.
"We note with deep concern the deteriorating political situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Malawi, Swaziland and Zimbabwe," Malcolm Damon, head of the Fellowship of Christian Councils in Southern Africa, told journalists in Johannesburg.
He said all five countries were plagued by "continued harassment and killings of human rights defenders, denial of citizens' right to participate in the political process, violence, as well as increasing human insecurity."
China gets lucrative oil exploration license
KHARTOUM | Sudan has granted a petroleum exploration license to China, Foreign Minister Ali Ahmed Karti said Wednesday after his visiting Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi and President Omar Bashir held talks in Khartoum.
He said Mr. Bashir also ordered that facilities be made available to Chinese firms operating in neighboring Chad, the Central African Republic and South Sudan to transport equipment via Sudanese territory.
Mr. Yang ended a two-day visit to Khartoum before heading on Tuesday for Juba, the capital of South Sudan, in the first trip by a senior Chinese official to the world's newest nation.
China is also a major military supplier to the Khartoum regime, as well as one of the largest foreign investors and the biggest buyers of Sudanese oil.
Mr. Bashir is under a world court indictment in connection with genocide in Darfur.
U.S. envoy fears Kordofan violence will spread
BRUSSELS | The U.S. special envoy to Sudan on Wednesday voiced fears that the violence in the South Kordofan region could spread and engulf the newly independent nation of South Sudan.
"I think that the danger in the fighting in South Kordofan is that it could indeed spread to other parts," Princeton Lyman said in an Internet news conference.
South Kordofan remained under Khartoum's northern administration when South Sudan became independent last month. Since June violent clashes have been pitting Nuba rebels once allied to southern rebels against the Sudanese army.
Woman killed in clash over Muslim sect members
MAIDUGURI | A woman was killed and two men were injured in a clash between soldiers and youths in northeastern Nigeria over the arrest of suspected members of a radical Muslim sect, police said Wednesday.
Army Lt. Olumide Olukoya said fighting started Tuesday in Biu city in Borno state. A woman died from gunshot wounds in the clash, after authorities arrested clerics and suspected members of the Boko Haram sect, he said.
Lt. Olukoya said about 150 rioting youths later torched a government building and a Catholic Church.
Boko Haram, with a name that means "Western education is sacrilege" in the local Hausa language, is responsible for a rash of killings targeting security officers, local leaders and clerics in the area in the past year. It also claimed responsibility for a bombing at national police headquarters that killed two in June.
Prosecutor charges 12 more allies of ex-leader Gbagbo
ABIDJAN | The Ivory Coast has charged 12 more allies of former President Laurent Gbagbo, including his son and party chief, with rebelling against the state in a deadly postelection dispute, an official said Wednesday.
They are among dozens of people rounded up with Mr. Gbagbo on April 11 in a dramatic end to a conflict rooted in his refusal to accept defeat in November elections won by Alassane Ouattara, now installed as president.
The charges include attacking "nation defense," plotting against "state authority," arming militias and encouraging a rebellion, prosecution spokesman Noel Dje said.
The new defendants take to 38 the number of Gbagbo supporters facing charges after the conflict, which left about 3,000 people dead.
Allegations of serious crimes, including mass killings and rapes, have been made against both camps in the conflict, although no charges have been laid against those who backed Mr. Ouattara.