Thursday, August 21, 2008

SUDAN

12 sentenced to death in attack

KHARTOUM | A Sudanese anti-terror court condemned 12 men to death Wednesday for their role in a shock Darfur rebel attack on Khartoum.

The men chanted “God is great” and “We welcome death” as the judge passed sentence in the heavily guarded court, bringing the number of men facing death by hanging over the assault to 50.

More than 200 people were killed and hundreds injured when Darfur rebels from the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) launched an unprecedented attack on the Khartoum suburb of Omdurman in May.



The attackers drove across hundreds of miles of desert and scrub land to reach the capital and were only repelled at a bridge just a few miles away from the presidential palace.

Twenty people appeared before Judge Hafiz Ahmed Abdalaha in Omdurman special court Wednesday. Four were acquitted, another four were referred to child courts and the remaining 12 were sentenced to death by hanging.

The sentence came just three days after another eight men, including JEM leader Khalil Ibrahim’s half brother Abdel Aziz el-Nur Ashr, were also condemned to death.

ZAMBIA

Vice president takes charge

LUSAKA | Zambian Vice President Rupiah Banda, a prominent businessman, has taken over as head of government after the death of President Levy Mwanawasa and will call early elections, officials said Wednesday.

Mr. Mwanawasa, 59, died in a French military hospital Tuesday after suffering a stroke in June.

Cabinet Secretary Joshua Kanganja said Mr. Banda, 72, was now running the country. Mr. Banda, a former foreign minister who has a degree in economics, was appointed as Mr. Mwanawasa’s deputy in 2006 and was seen as a possible successor.

Under Zambia’s constitution, an election must be called within 90 days of the presidential office becoming vacant. The presidential term is five years.

CONGO

Doctors’ strike cripples hospitals

KINSHASA | Hospitals in the Democratic Republic of the Congo turned away patients Wednesday because of a doctors’ strike that has paralyzed a health care system already seen as one of the world’s worst.

The two-week work stoppage over low pay began in the teeming capital, Kinshasa, on Monday and quickly spread to cities across the vast nation of 60 million people where war, chaos and neglect have halted virtually all public services.

Doctors are calling for the payment of months in back pay and a salary increase from the current $215 to $580 per month.

MALI

Panel prepares for more Tuareg talks

GAO | Mali‘s government has set up a special commission with former Tuareg rebels to prepare a new round of talks for late August, sources said Wednesday.

The 200-strong special “appeasement and dialogue” body will prepare the talks set for Aug. 28 to 30, said Malian and Tuareg sources. They would take place in Algeria, which is mediating between the Malian government and the Tuaregs, the sources added.

A source close to Tuareg chief Ibrahim Ag Bahanga confirmed that they too were working with the commission.

The government and the Tuaregs reached an agreement in Algiers on July 21 about the implementation of the 2006 Algiers peace accords between the parties.

Under the terms of the 2006 agreements, the Tuaregs were to give up their claim for regional autonomy, while the Malian government was to speed up development in the northern regions.

The Tuaregs are a nomadic desert people who have roamed the southern Sahara for centuries.

In recent years they have staged uprisings in both Mali and neighboring, Niger claiming autonomy for their traditional homeland.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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