- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 17, 2009

ZIMBABWE

Mugabe calls for investments

HARARE | President Robert Mugabe told businessmen Wednesday that their potential investments in Zimbabwe would be safe, while Finance Minister Tendai Biti announced that the country was $5.7 billion in debt.

Mr. Mugabe, opening a two-day meeting on investment in the once-vibrant mining industry, said Zimbabwe’s unity government has made “satisfactory progress” in creating a conducive environment for investment.

“The sanctity of property rights and the rule of law in all its dimensions are fully respected,” Mr. Mugabe said.

Zimbabwe’s economic meltdown began after Mr. Mugabe ordered the seizures of thousands of white-owned commercial farms in 2000, disrupting the agriculture-based economy in the former regional breadbasket.

His critics point to continuing human rights violations, land seizures and laws requiring a majority local stake in foreign firms.

Mr. Mugabe has demanded that Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, the former opposition leader, do more to get the sanctions lifted and restore foreign aid and investment.

But the European Union and other Western nations say the coalition, formed in February, has not done enough to restore the rule of law and begin democratic reform, blaming Mr. Mugabe and high-level loyalists for resisting change.

Mr. Biti, a former opposition official, said he would announce a national budget review in November, in which support by the International Monetary Fund would bolster efforts to kick start Zimbabwe’s crippled economy. The fund released $500 million earlier this month in a sign of acceptance for the southern African nation’s new coalition.

NIGERIA

Militants extend truce in oil region

LAGOS | Nigeria’s main militant group on Wednesday extended a two-month-old cease-fire in the oil-producing Niger Delta by 30 days but said key issues in a government amnesty program remained in dispute.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) said it would allow more time for talks but threatened renewed attacks on the oil industry if substantive negotiations were not held. The truce had been due to end at midnight Tuesday.

MEND, responsible for attacks that have wrought havoc on Africa’s biggest energy industry in the past three years, declared a 60-day cease-fire on July 15 to allow for peace talks after the release of its leader, Henry Okah.

President Umaru Yar’Adua has offered an unconditional pardon to militants who give up arms by Oct. 4, the most serious attempt yet to resolve years of unrest that has prevented Nigeria from pumping above two-thirds of its oil capacity.

CAMEROON

Lightning strike kills 5 children

YAOUNDE | A lightning bolt killed five children at their school in northwest Cameroon as they were preparing to begin their school day, a local doctor said Wednesday.

At least 58 others were taken to a hospital near the small village of Bamali, 285 miles northwest of the capital, Yaounde.

Dr. Kwazo Kedze, chief medical officer at the Ndop district hospital, said 34 children were still being treated for shock and other ailments Wednesday.

KENYA

Slum residents moved to homes

NAIROBI | Kenyan government trucks took 1,500 slum residents to new homes Wednesday as part of a United Nations-backed plan to eliminate the shantytowns that house more than half the capital’s population.

National Housing Permanent Secretary Tirop Kosgey said the $1.2 billion plan to eradicate the city’s slums will be spread over nine years and is expected to rehouse 2 million people. The United Nations is providing some of the funding for the program.

The initial phase, which began after a five-year delay, is expected to affect 7,500 slum dwellers. They will be moved to new homes, and their shanties will be knocked down and replaced with modern housing units.

But not everyone is happy with the plan, which requires residents to pay monthly rent. And some landlords have filed a lawsuit against the government, objecting to the plans because they will not be compensated for the informal shacks they rent out - although no one in the slums has a title deed.

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