- - Wednesday, October 31, 2012

SOUTH AFRICA

JOHANNESBURG — Freedom of expression needs to be balanced to give the right to dignity and privacy to all South Africans, President Jacob Zuma said this week, after he agreed to withdraw a defamation case against a newspaper cartoonist who depicted him poised to rape Lady Justice.

Mr. Zuma said his government’s proposed Media Appeals Tribunal is designed to assure those rights in South Africa, where the president’s complaints against some in the local press have brought this tension into sharp focus.

A media tribunal would “strengthen, complement and support the current self-regulatory institutions” such as the press council, said Mr. Zuma, speaking to the Foreign Correspondents Association on Monday.

“The African National Congress fought for media freedom and will continue doing everything in its power to promote freedom of expression and media freedom,” Mr. Zuma said. “At the same time, we also remind those who are privileged to have access to the media to respect the rights of others.”

But media watchdogs disagree with Mr. Zuma and say that industry self-regulation is the best approach, not a tribunal that could be manipulated by those in power.

“I think the potential for it to be abused is too high,” William Bird of Media Monitoring Africa, a watchdog group, said of the proposed tribunal.

Mr. Zuma has taken several media organizations to court for alleged defamation, including Jonathan Shapiro, a cartoonist for the local Sunday Times newspaper, which he accused of defamation in a case that was set start off this week.

The cartoon outraged Zuma supporters when it was printed in September 2008, with Mr. Zuma demanding damages of up to $460,000.

In the cartoon, Mr. Zuma unzips his trousers as he stands over Lady Justice, who is pinned to the ground by the president’s political allies.

Mr. Zuma was acquitted of a rape charge in 2007.

Mr. Zuma said he agreed to drop that case after the newspaper conceded it had defamed him. The Sunday Times said over the weekend that Mr. Zuma’s attorneys agreed to withdraw the case without conditions and to pay half of the newspaper’s legal costs.

KENYA

Official: 2,700 Ugandantroops have died in Somalia

NAIROBI — The number of African Union troops killed while battling Somali militants has always been a tightly held secret, but a top Kenyan official says more than 2,700 troops have died there.

Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Richard Onyonko said Wednesday at a forum on Somalia that Uganda has lost more than 2,700 troops since 2007.

Mr. Onyonko said about three dozen Kenyan forces have died there in the past year.

Neither the African Union nor Uganda has ever confirmed its casualty figures, and several officials who work on Somalia said Mr. Onyonko’s figure sounded high.

Two officials told The Associated Press last month that about 500 Ugandan and Burundian troops have died in Somalia since 2007.

A Ugandan spokesman did not answer calls for comment.

SOMALIA

Government seeks weapons as peace expands

NAIROBI, Kenya — Should Somalia’s fledgling government be allowed to import weapons to arm its nascent military?

With areas under government control increasing and the threat from al-Shabab militants decreasing, that’s the question being put to the U.N. Security Council.

The African Union this week appealed to the council to allow arms and military equipment into the country to equip the military.

It is a request being made even as the international community begins to look at how long it will be before Somali troops can provide security on their own, allowing the departure of African Union troops who have been in Somalia since 2007.

MALI

Family: Military killed 8 Tuareg herders

BAMAKO — A relative says eight men killed by the Malian military raised animals for a living and were not criminals as the government alleges.

Mohamed Amzad, a relative of some of the victims, told The Associated Press that he believes the deaths stemmed from a rivalry.

He said the family of one of the victims had fallen out with another family with close ties to the military.

The men killed were Tuaregs, an ethnic group from northern Mali that has faced discrimination in the country’s south.

Mali’s government said Monday that soldiers had killed about 10 gunmen near the town of Diabaly on Oct. 21.

In September, rank-and-file soldiers killed 16 unarmed preachers in the same region who were coming from Mauritania en route to a religious conference.

RWANDA

Opposition leader gets 8 years for treason, genocide denial

KIGALI — A court in Rwanda has sentenced the country’s top opposition leader to eight years in prison on charges of treason and genocide denial.

Judge Alice Rulisa, speaking for a three-judge panel, said Tuesday the court convicted Victoire Ingabire on charges of promoting ethnic division and genocide ideology.

The court said Ms. Ingabire was given a lighter sentence because she had written a letter to President Paul Kagame asking for leniency.

Ms. Ingabire’s lawyer, Iain Edwards, said his client will appeal the ruling.

Ms. Ingabire is a Hutu political leader in a country run by a Tutsi president who has made ethnic identification taboo.

SOUTH AFRICA

Census data show progresson water, electricity delivery

JOHANNESBURG — South African census data show that even though more households are gaining access to basic services such as clean water and electricity, a significant number continue to lag behind as the ruling party struggles to reduce the widening gap between the rich and the poor.

Census results for 2011 released Tuesday show that nine out of 10 South African households have access to piped water and that 73 percent of them use electricity to cook, up from 45 percent in 1996.

But 7.7 percent of all households still use kerosene appliances for lighting. Because kerosene is highly flammable, malfunctioning appliances can endanger lives.

President Jacob Zuma said his government is committed to lifting more people out of poverty.

South Africa’s population stood at 51.7 million in 2011, up from 44.8 million in 2001.

BENIN

Poisoning suspect’s family denies his confession

DAKAR, Senegal — The family of a man charged with attempting to poison the president of Benin says authorities are trying to force the suspect to sign a confession by keeping him in a tiny cell without food.

Moudjaidou Soumanou, a former trade minister, was one of three people arrested early last month and charged with conspiracy and attempted murder.

The suspects are accused of plotting to swap President Boni Yayi’s medicine with a toxic substance in exchange for millions of dollars.

The plot allegedly unraveled when one of the three suspects told someone else who then alerted authorities.

Mr. Soumanou’s family says he is now being held in a 3-by-3 foot cell without access to food or daylight. His son-in-law denied the prosecutor’s assertion that Mr. Soumanou already had confessed to involvement in the attempted poisoning.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports