- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 23, 2009

SUDAN

Panel gives oil field to Khartoum

THE HAGUE | An international arbitration panel on Wednesday awarded the Sudanese government control over almost all major oil reserves in a disputed region of Sudan that erupted into violence last year between state forces and former southern rebels.

The arbitration was a crucial test for a 2005 agreement that ended 20 years of warfare between the government and southern Sudanese insurgents. Both sides said they accepted the decision and southern officials called it a step toward permanent peace.

The Abyei region, with oil reserves and grazing lands used by nomadic herders from the north and south, has suffered flare-ups of violence since the peace deal.

The northern government and semiautonomous south asked The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration to set the region’s permanent borders after a May 2008 battle in which 22 northern soldiers were killed, most of the town of Abyei was burned to the ground and 50,000 residents were forced to flee.

The five-member panel affirmed, in a four-one decision, the northern boundary as set by a 2005 commission but drew new lines in the east and west that placed the Heglig oil fields and the Nile oil pipeline under the control of the Khartoum government.

NIGERIA

Militants free oil tanker hostages

ABUJA | Nigerian militants have freed six crew members abducted earlier this month from an oil tanker, a Norwegian oil services company said.

The Sichem Peace crew was freed Tuesday evening after spending 18 days in captivity in the Niger Delta, said EMS Ship Management, which manages the Singapore-flagged oil and chemical tanker.

The Sichem Peace was attacked July 4 by an armed gang 18 miles off Escravos, Nigeria.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta said the six were released as part of the 60-day cease-fire it announced last week. The hostages included three Russians, two Filipinos and one sailor from India.

SOUTH AFRICA

Protests erupt in townships

JOHANNESBURG | Violent protests in South African townships spread Wednesday, piling pressure on President Jacob Zuma to deliver on government promises of help for the poor three months after elections.

Protesters pelted cars with stones and blocked a highway near Johannesburg in the worst disturbances since Mr. Zuma took office, intensifying uncertainty after a wave of strikes and threats of industrial action in Africa’s biggest economy.

The unrest also undermines South Africa’s hope of showing a positive image with less than a year to go before the World Cup finals.

Residents in Meyerton, south of Johannesburg, occupied farmland in invasions reminiscent of those in neighboring Zimbabwe. They were protesting being evicted from their temporary settlement. Protests continued in Johannesburg’s volatile Thokoza township, where residents demand better housing and services.

Poor South Africans complain they have not seen the benefits since white minority rule ended 15 years ago. Mr. Zuma pledged to do more to help them as the main plank of the election manifesto of the ruling African National Congress. But the government is limited by South Africa’s first recession in 17 years, as a result of the global crisis, and is wary of any policies that might discourage local or foreign investment.

ZIMBABWE

Civil servants to get pay raises

HARARE | Zimbabwe this month will raise the salaries of civil servants, who have received a flat $100 allowance since February, state media reported Wednesday.

The government-run Herald newspaper did not say how much government workers would now receive, but said the new salary scale provided for increases as large as 55 percent.

That would still fall far short of the demands of many public servants, including teachers who have threatened to strike to demand a minimum wage of $454 a month.

Salaries in Zimbabwe have been decimated by a decade of hyperinflation that only ended in January when the government abandoned the nearly worthless local currency.

Since longtime President Robert Mugabe and his erstwhile rival, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, formed a unity government in February, salaries have been paid in U.S. dollars.

From wire dispatches and staff reports.

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