- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 30, 2005

REPUBLIC OF CONGO

Fruit bats harbor deadly Ebola virus

PARIS — Three species of African fruit bat harbor the Ebola virus, enabling the deadly pathogen to spring from a natural host to infect people and apes, according to a study appearing today in the British journal Nature.

The bats were captured in Gabon and the Republic of Congo after Ebola outbreaks among humans and great apes from 2001 through 2003. More than a thousand small invertebrates were caught and examined to see if a natural pool existed for the hemorrhagic-fever germ.

Previous research showed apes suffer higher mortality from Ebola during the dry season in the forests of Central Africa. This, say scientists, may be because they come into competition with the bats for scarce fruit, and face greater risk of being bitten. Infection also comes from killing and eating bats, a custom among local people.



GABON

President’s re-election provokes clashes

PORT-GENTIL — Omar Bongo’s re-election as president led to overnight violence, protests and arrests in the economic capital of Port-Gentil after the opposition cried fraud, witnesses said yesterday.

After the Interior Ministry announced that Mr. Bongo, in power since 1967, was re-elected for seven more years, scores of youths ages 15 to 20 rampaged in this port city of the oil-rich Central African country.

Port-Gentil is among the few cities where a opposition candidate, Pierre Mamboundou, 59, came out ahead of Mr. Bongo, who is 69 and won Sunday’s vote with 79.21 percent of ballots cast nationally.

NAMIBIA

No plan to set up truth commission

WINDHOEK — Despite the recent discovery of apartheid-era mass graves, Namibia will not set up a truth-and-reconciliation commission like South Africa, Justice Minister Pendukeni Ivula-Ithana said yesterday.

In a statement to parliament, she said creating such a body would usher in a flood of compensation claims and lead to finger pointing. “This is a costly exercise to administer,” she said, adding, “we cannot place monetary value on our pain and suffering.”

Two mass graves were found in early November at a former South African military base in northern Namibia and three more sites were discovered there a few days ago. During Namibia’s fight for independence from apartheid South Africa, several hundred Namibians served in the notorious “Koevoet”, a South African counterinsurgency force.

Weekly notes …

A splinter Darfur rebel group clashed with African Union monitors, injuring five soldiers, as the two main rebel groups began peace talks with the Sudanese government in Nigeria yesterday. It was the latest violence involving the National Movement for Reform and Development (NMRD), a breakaway group demanding a seat at the Abuja, Nigeria, talks, where only two rebel groups are represented. … Kenya said yesterday that birds found dead in the central Rift Valley had not succumbed to avian flu and assured the public that no cases had been detected. Tests for the feared H5N1 strain that has spread from Asia to Europe were also negative on 43 live birds that were tested for the disease. “That means there is no case of avian flu in the country,” a government statement said. The Rift Valley is considered at high risk for the arrival of the virus because of the vast numbers of migratory birds that flock there during the European winter.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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