- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 18, 2002

Nigerian lawmakers seek election delay

ABUJA, Nigeria The upper house of Parliament yesterday debated amendments to national electoral laws that would postpone until at least mid-July the first elections since return to civilian rule in 1999.

Last month, the Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional a law passed in December extending the mandate of local governments until 2003. State election officials then set an election date of May 18 more than a week before the terms of the country's 774 local governments expire May 29 to avoid a legislative gap.

But voter rolls have not been updated since 1998, disenfranchising millions of young people who reached voting age since then.

Legislation under consideration in the Senate yesterday, a day after it was passed by the House of Representatives, orders that voter lists be updated at least 60 days before any election is held and that all political parties be given at least 30 days' notice of when and where, to ensure fairness.

Foday Sankoh trial fails to resume

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone The delayed murder trial of former rebel leader Foday Sankoh failed to resume this week, despite a statement last week from his attorney that it would.

The trial of Mr. Sankoh, facing murder charges as leader of the brutal Revolutionary United Front (RUF) in the country's just-ended civil war, has been postponed seven times. No explanation was given for the latest delay, and there is no indication when the trial might resume.

The RUF leader appeared in court March 4 and was charged with murder for his role in the 10-year civil war that claimed between 100,000 and 200,000 lives .

Ugandan troops find rebel arms in Sudan

KAMPALA, Uganda Trying to root out Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels in southern Sudan, Uganda's army said yesterday it has discovered a large arms cache in a rebel camp its troops overran last month.

Army spokesman Maj. Shaban Bantariza said the arms were found Sunday in the LRA camp at Rubangatek. The cache included 55 assault rifles, grenades, bombs, land mines and ammunition, he said.

Rwanda-backed rebels perceive Congo plot

SUN CITY, South Africa Prospects dimmed yesterday for a peace accord among the three main parties in the war in Congo as Rwandan-backed rebels accused Kinshasa and another rebel group of trying to exclude them.

"We have news of an alliance between the government and the MLC [Congolese Liberation Movement] that seeks to exclude us. It has created an impasse," Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD) leader Azarias Ruberwa told reporters.

Mr. Ruberwa said the Kinshasa regime and the Ugandan-backed MLC would be to blame if the peace talksfail to deliver an agreement.

Weekly notes

Economic crisis and a political row over the re-election of President Robert Mugabe overshadow today's celebration of the 22nd anniversary of Zimbabwe's independence from Britain, when a seven-year guerrilla war ended nearly 100 years of British colonial rule. "Everything we fought for there is zero, absolutely nothing to celebrate about," said political analyst Masipula Sithole. A U.N. panel wants the Security Council to retain sanctions against Liberia, though it concedes Monrovia is no longer fueling a civil war in neighboring Sierra Leone. The penalties include a ban on travel and on weapons sales or diamond purchases.

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