- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 9, 2009

SIERRA LEONE

War-crimes court sentences rebels

FREETOWN | The war-crimes court for Sierra Leone handed down sentences Wednesday of up to 52 years in prison for three rebel leaders convicted of overseeing a trail of rapes and killings.

Revolutionary United Front interim leader Issa Sesay was sentenced to a total of 693 years, but as the judges ordered separate sentences for 16 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity to be served concurrently, he will spend a maximum of 52 years in prison.

Morris Kallon, a former RUF commander, was sentenced to a total of 340 years in prison, but will spend a maximum of 39 years in prison under the judges' ruling. Augustine Gbao, whom the court said was RUF's ideology trainer, will spend 25 years in prison.

From 1991 to 2001, RUF carried out killings, rapes and mutilations in an attempt to gain control over Sierra Leone's lucrative mining districts. The rebels used so-called blood diamonds to fund the warfare and forcibly recruited child soldiers.

The sentencing may be the final act in what is to be the last ever trial of the U.N.-backed court to be held in Freetown.

MADAGASCAR

Toppled leader meets AU officials

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia | Madagascar's ousted president, Marc Ravalomanana, met Tuesday with African Union officials as a strike by central bank workers back home piled pressure on the man who deposed him.

Mr. Ravalomanana, who arrived in Addis Ababa on Monday, met with AU commission chief Jean Ping and Peace and Security Council chief Ramtane Lamamra as well as Ethiopia's Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, officials said.

Mr. Ravalomanana has been rallying international support against Andry Rajoelina, the former mayor of the Madagascar capital Antananarivo, who ousted him last month with the army's backing.

Mr. Ravalomanana was forced out of office on March 17 following months of protests led by Mr. Rajoelina, which descended into violence that claimed more than 100 lives.

The AU and the regional Southern African Development Community have suspended the Indian Ocean island from their groupings and called for a swift return to constitutional order.

Mr. Ravalomanana's ouster has triggered a series of protests by supporters demanding his return.

On Tuesday, the country's central bank employees went on strike, adding more pressure on Mr. Rajoelina, a former disc jockey.

KENYA

Coalition appears on brink of collapse

NAIROBI | Kenya's year-old coalition government looked under threat Wednesday with key members claiming that its power-sharing principles are being systematically trumped by the president.

Formed to end violence and bloodshed that erupted over the results of the December 2007 election pitting President Mwai Kibaki against opposition rival Raila Odinga, the bloated Cabinet of close to 100 ministers and assistant ministers has achieved little in a year, analysts say.

Simmering tensions within the government came to a head Monday when Justice Minister Martha Karua, once one of Mr. Kibaki's staunchest supporters, announced her resignation, claiming she could not institute reforms.

Mr. Odinga rushed to her defense, complaining that Mr. Kibaki was in the habit of “embarrassing” him before the public by failing to consult him on important decisions.

Mr. Kibaki and Mr. Odinga failed to reconcile their differences during a retreat last week in Kilaguni in the Tsavo national park. The fence-mending event never got off the ground as their parties failed to even agree on an agenda.

From wire dispatches and staff reports


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