- - Wednesday, June 8, 2011

NIGERIA

Politician denies fraud charges

ABUJA | A top Nigerian politician has pleaded not guilty to charges that he defrauded the state of more than $1.7 million.

Nigeria’s anti-graft commission accuses former House Speaker Dimeji Bankole of involvement in a scam of more than $14 million.

Mr. Bankole appeared Wednesday in Abuja Federal High Court.

Court documents say Mr. Bankole conspired to buy items for Nigeria’s National Assembly at inflated prices.

The documents say hundreds of supplies were purchased at more than double their price.

Mr. Bankole and others also are accused of not following due process in awarding contracts for cars.

Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission arrested Mr. Bankole on Sunday, just days after the National Assembly was dissolved.

The anti-graft body said it will press more charges.

AFRICAN UNION

AU stance on Libya turns with call for Gadhafi to quit

NAIROBI, KENYA | An African Union call for Col. Moammar Gadhafi to step down exposes cracks in the continent’s public stance toward the Libyan strongman, who has long championed its various causes, analysts said.

The leader of the AU’s heads-of-state mediation team on Libya, Mauritania’s President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, said this week that Col. Gadhafi’s departure had become necessary as “he can longer lead Libya.”

It was the first time a head of state on the AU panel, which has made several trips to Libya to try to negotiate a settlement to the conflict, has made such a direct public reference to the departure of the Libyan leader.

“Clearly more and more African heads of state feel they can openly express their dislike of Gadhafi,” said Paul-Simon Handy, director of studies at the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria, South Africa

“The facade of unity that the AU often likes to show on such issues is cracking,” Mr. Handy said.

The pan-African body, which includes many beneficiaries of Libyan aid, has steadfastly condemned NATO-led airstrikes on Col. Gadhafi’s forces, officially being carried out to protect civilians from attack.

Three African countries - Gabon, Nigeria and South Africa, all nonpermanent members of the U.N. Security Council - voted for the resolution, however, to impose a no-fly-zone in Libya, which led to the air raids.

The Arab League also announced its support for the measure.

SUDAN

Fuel prices skyrocket in oil-rich south

JUBA | Southern Sudan wants to control its oil supply after it becomes the world’s newest nation in just a month’s time, but already a dispute with the north has sent fuel prices skyrocketing here and prompted fistfights at gas stations.

Aid groups are decamping from their offices in the capital to the few restaurants and hotels that have stockpiled fuel for their generators, and it’s unclear how long even the southern Sudanese government can keep its air-conditioning units blowing.

The mayor of Juba is accusing the Khartoum-based northern government of attempting to strangle the south’s economy ahead of its independence declaration. While the south is rich in oil, all pipelines run through the north, and the south does not have any refineries of its own.

“It has worsened very quickly, and that is what the Khartoum government wants - they want to support instability,” said Mayor Mohamed el Haj Baballa told the Associated Press.

The north categorically denies involvement in any such blockade, though U.N. officials and residents say otherwise.

ZIMBABWE

President’s former friend dies of cancer

HARARE | Edgar Tekere, a staunch friend and ally of Zimbabwe’s president who then became one of the leader’s harshest critics, has died at the age of 74.

A statement Wednesday from representatives of his family said Mr. Tekere died Tuesday from cancer.

He spent 10 years as a political prisoner alongside President Robert Mugabe in the same colonial-era jail, and after their release the two men fled on foot together to lead burgeoning guerrilla forces to end white rule.

Mr. Tekere was a founding member of Mr. Mugabe’s party in 1964. He then enraged Mr. Mugabe by speaking out against corruption and misrule a decade after independence in 1980. He formed an opposition party and lost to Mr. Mugabe in presidential polls.

Mr. Tekere also brought reggae legend Bob Marley to perform at ceremonies marking the birth of Zimbabwe.

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