- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 23, 2011

SOUTH AFRICA

Top politician faces bribery accusations

JOHANNESBURG | South African media say they have uncovered evidence that supports corruption allegations against a leading anti-apartheid activist who served time on Robben Island alongside Nelson Mandela.

Mac Maharaj, who now is President Jacob Zuma’s spokesman, vigorously denied the accusations Tuesday, saying at a news conference: “I have not been involved in any bribery. I have not been involved in any corruption.”

The Sunday Times reported that it has documents showing money was funneled from a French company to Mr. Maharaj’s wife.

Mr. Maharaj is a former transport minister, and the French company involved later benefited from a transport ministry contract.

He said prosecutors investigated and did not charge him.

Mthunzi Mhaga, spokesman for national prosecutors, confirmed to the Associated Press on Tuesday that the case is closed.

Mr. Maharaj has long been among the African National Congress’ leading members. He was prominent in the negotiations that led to South Africa’s first democratic elections in 1994 and served as minister of transport under Mr. Mandela.

He was imprisoned on Robben Island from 1964 to 1976, and was close to Mr. Mandela, helping smuggle out the manuscript that would become the basis of Mr. Mandela’s memoirs, “Long Walk to Freedom.”

BURUNDI

Group: Death squads killed 300 in five months

BUJUMBURA | Government-backed death squads have killed more than 300 members of Burundi’s former rebel group and opposition supporters in covert operations in the past five months, a rights group says.

The group said the Central African country’s regime and its proxies have waged a systematic campaign of extrajudicial killings against the former rebels, who went back to the bush after pulling out of 2010 polls after fraud claims.

“A devilish killing machine is targeting opposition activists,” said Onesphore Nduwayo, head of Government Action Observatory, a civil society coalition. “For over five months now, more than 300 demobilized [National Liberation Forces] fighters have been killed.”

“These people were arrested by the Imbonerakure [the ruling party’s youth wing] or by police or secret service members, and were taken to unknown places where they were killed,” he said.

Government spokesman Philippe Nzobonariba said the rights group is teaming up with an opposition alliance to defame the government.

SOUTH SUDAN

New government welcomes talks with Khartoum

JUBA | Sudan is willing to hold direct talks with the south on all outstanding post-secession issues, which months of third-party negotiations have failed to resolve, South Sudan’s top negotiator said Tuesday.

“The message from Khartoum is that they are going to directly contact the government of South Sudan on direct bilateral negotiations on all these issues,” Pagan Amum told reporters after meeting former South African President Thabo Mbeki, who heads an African Union mediation team.

Mr. Amum welcomed the news, which he said followed a decision by Khartoum to pull out of the latest round of third-party talks and reject proposals by the AU mediators.

South Sudan seceded peacefully from the north in July after decades of civil war, but talks on how to resolve key outstanding issues such as oil, debt, borders and the future status of oil-rich Abyei have floundered.

“We are ready to directly engage Khartoum within the framework of the AU facilitation. … We are waiting for what it is they have,” Mr. Amum said, while warning that the implementation of any deal had to involve the AU.

However, the top southern negotiator, who is also secretary general of South Sudan’s ruling party, mentioned several major obstacles that reduce the likelihood of a comprehensive agreement being reached any time soon.

Mr. Amum claimed that Sudan wants the south to pay about $15 billion that it reckons is the “fiscal gap” left by the loss of the south, while the AU proposals had used a $5.4 billion figure calculated by the International Monetary Fund.

NIGERIA

Senator charged over links to Islamist ‘spokesman’

ABUJA | Nigerian authorities have charged a senator over suspected links to a man accused of being a spokesman for the Islamist sect Boko Haram, which is blamed for attacks that include the bombing of U.N. headquarters here.

Sen. Mohammed Ali Ndume was charged Tuesday in magistrate’s court alongside the spokesman, Ali Sanda Umar Konduga, with breaching public trust and criminal intimidation.

The charges claim that between Sept. 15 and Nov. 3 in the cities of Maiduguri and Abuja, “Mohammed Ali Ndume and Ali Sanda Umar Konduga did conspire to commit” the alleged crimes.

Mr. Ndume, a senator from Borno state in the country’s northeast, where most of Boko Haram’s attacks have occurred, pleaded not guilty.

Mr. Konduga pleaded guilty and is to be sentenced at a later date.

The case was adjourned until Dec. 6.

The senator is a member of the People’s Democratic Party, which dominates national politics but is not in power in Borno state.

He also served on a presidential committee that sought earlier this year to determine whether dialogue was possible with Boko Haram.

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