- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 7, 2002

African mediators fly to Madagascar

ANTANANARIVO, Madagascar African mediators flew to Madagascar yesterday to help solve a slow-burning political crisis as an alternative "government" warned of civil war if the army did not unite in opposition to President Didier Ratsiraka.

The arrival of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) team signals renewed outside interest in a power struggle that diplomats fear could, if mishandled, become another blot on Africa's record of violent political transitions.

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"We have not come to negotiate. We are a contact group. We are here to renew contact and start dialogue," said OAU team leader Antonio Mascarenhas, a former president of Cape Verde. The OAU, the United Nations, former colonial power France and the United States have condemned as unconstitutional the Feb. 22 proclamation by opposition leader and Antananarivo Mayor Marc Ravalomanana that he is president.

Sassou Nguesso seeking re-election

BRAZZAVILLE, Congo Republic Denis Sassou Nguesso, running for re-election in Sunday's presidential election here, is a career soldier who has never been afraid to use force to further his political ambitions.

In 1997, he seized power in an armed uprising that overthrew Pascal Lissouba, becoming president for the second time and replacing the man who had ended his 13-year Marxist-Leninist rule in 1992.

Mr. Sassou Nguesso, 59, took over as head of state in 1979 and ruled for 13 years until the spirit of democratization sweeping through Africa produced a national referendum that ushered in multiparty politics in 1992. He was defeated in the subsequent presidential elections.

S. African vigilantes cleared in lynching

CAPE TOWN, South Africa Four South African Muslim vigilantes were found not guilty yesterday of the public lynching of a gang leader in 1996, radio and news agency reports said.

Judge John Foxcroft said there was not enough evidence to link the four members of People Against Gangsterism and Drugs (PAGAD) to the killing of local gang boss Rashaad Staggie, the South Africa Press Agency said.

Mr. Staggie was dragged from his car, then shot, stabbed and burned to death during a march by PAGAD members to protest gang violence and drug peddling.

Weekly notes

South Africa's former president, Nelson Mandela, acclaimed as the leader of the struggle against apartheid, paid tribute yesterday at the Voortrekker Monument to an Afrikaaner war hero, Danie Theron, who died in a 19th-century battle with the British at the age of 30. The monument on the outskirts of Pretoria symbolized racism under the apartheid government, but Mr. Mandela has helped raise money to turn it into a venue for cultural and heritage festivals. … Angola has intercepted a radio message in which UNITA rebel leader Antonio Dembo asks his forces to stop fighting, Portugal's state news agency, Lusa, said yesterday, two days after Angolan media reported his death. Mr. Dembo, 58, was reported dead on Monday, but neither the government nor UNITA has confirmed this.

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