- - Wednesday, March 28, 2012

UGANDA

KAMPALA Uganda’s top opposition leader pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges of convening an unlawful assembly in a case stemming from the killing of a policeman in violent street clashes last week.

In tense scenes that threatened to turn violent, heavily armed police blocked Kizza Besigye’s supporters from following him to a magistrate’s court.

Mr. Besigye was charged alongside some of his associates, two of whom were arrested for attempting to walk to court and then ferried on a police truck to the courtroom.

Mr. Besigye and the co-accused pleaded not guilty and were released on bail.

Mr. Besigye and a group of opposition politicians calling themselves activists for change have since last year been staging demonstrations against a government they accuse of mismanaging the economy.

Ugandan police say such political demonstrations disrupt businesses, and they often use tear gas and force to break up the demonstrations.

The so-called “Walk to Work” rallies, which are meant to highlight the rising cost of living in Uganda, have tapped a vein of resentment among urban residents, who see the government as corrupt and out of touch with ordinary people.

MALI

Thousands march to support junta

BAMAKO Several thousand people took to the streets of Mali’s capital in support of the military takeover and a new constitution.

Mali began Wednesday under a new constitution written in haste by the leaders of last week’s military coup and read on state TV Tuesday night.

While the constitution includes many of the guarantees of the former law, including the guarantees of free speech, the new measures include the creation of a military-led council whose president is now Mali’s de facto head of state, Capt. Amadou Sanogo.

The United States, The European Union and France have cut off all but essential aid, and the West African regional bloc has suspended Mali’s membership.

Still, supporters marching through the capital say they want recognition by the regional bloc and for Sanogo to hold on to power.

NIGERIA

Boko Haram blamed for killing retired prison guards

MAIDUGURI Gunmen suspected of being from a radical Islamist sect killed two retired prison officers in northeastern Nigeria, an official said this week.

The two men were killed Monday evening while preparing to pray in Maiduguri, where the sect known as Boko Haram once had its main mosque.

A security officer said one of the men was the father of a Boko Haram suspect arrested earlier this year on suspicion of being a spokesman for the sect. The official spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to release the information.

Meanwhile, a military spokesman said Tuesday that soldiers killed two suspected Boko Haram gunmen over the weekend. Witnesses say a shooting at a Maiduguri market Tuesday carried out by suspected sect gunmen left some people injured.

Boko Haram has been waging an increasingly violent campaign against Nigeria’s weak central government. The sect is blamed for killing more than 360 people this year alone.

SOUTH AFRICA

Nelson Mandela’s life now online

JOHANNESBURG Click: South Africa’s last white president speaks about his friendship with Nelson Mandela.

Click: Mr. Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, two anti-apartheid icons, pose with Bishop Tutu’s grandchildren.

Click: Mr. Mandela offers a self-deprecating memory in a handwritten note.

At a news conference in Johannesburg Tuesday, Mr. Mandela’s archivists and Google said their $1.25 million project to digitally preserve a record of the anti-apartheid leader’s life is now online. The project was announced a year ago.

Researchers and all others around the world now have access to hundreds of documents, photographs and videos. The archive has been launched with more than 1,900 entries, and more are being added.

“The Mandela Digital Archive Project shows how the Internet can help preserve historical heritage and make it available to the world,” Steve Crossan, director of the Google Cultural Institute, said Tuesday.

Similar Google projects have focused on the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Yad Vashem Holocaust materials.

ZIMBABWE

Six activists appeal conspiracy verdicts

HARARE Six Zimbabwean activists convicted of conspiring to commit violence because they watched videos of Arab uprisings are appealing their convictions and sentences, their attorneys said this week.

Attorney Alec Muchadehama said he filed appeal papers arguing that if the activists actually plotted violence at their February 2011 meeting, as the court found, they should have been prosecuted for treason, a charge that carries a possible death sentence. The group says the court’s ruling is “misguided.”

Mr. Muchadehama said he also is applying to have set aside the $500 fines, suspended imprisonment and community service handed to the group.

The court ruling also was based on evidence of a “dishonest witness” who lied about his true identity as a police officer when he infiltrated the group, Mr. Muchadehama said.

UGANDA

7,000 Congolese refugees flee into Uganda

KAMPALA Up to 7,000 Congolese refugees have fled to Uganda to escape violence in their home country, Ugandan officials said, warning that the influx now posed a security risk for Uganda.

Stephen Mallinga, Uganda’s minister for refugees and disasters, said late Tuesday that the rising number of refugees could upset Ugandan residents and lead to clashes over resources.

“The people of Kisoro are starting to feel jittery,” he said, referring to the Ugandan region that has been receiving most of the refugees.

Hundreds of Congolese nationals are entering Uganda each day, stretching the capacity of border officials who have to screen them carefully, according to Kisoro Chairman Milton Mutabazi.

More than 3,000 civilians fleeing violence in the North Kivu province of Congo have entered Uganda since the beginning of this year alone, the U.N. refugee agency says.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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