- - Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Airport body scanners going unused

LAGOS | Body scanners bought for Nigeria’s main airports in the wake of a Christmas Day bomb attempt remain unused months later, though officials said Wednesday that U.S. air marshals now protect flights coming into the West African nation.

Harold Demuren, director general of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, said the government still needs to train officers to operate the screening devices already in place at Lagos’ Murtala Mohammed International Airport and at the international airport in Abuja.

However, Mr. Demuren said explosive detection equipment already being used and full-body pat-downs for international passengers would make sure a similar attack “never happened again.”

The Nigerian government bought 10 body scanners immediately after Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab reportedly attempted to bring down a Detroit-bound airliner with an explosive device hidden underneath his clothes. However, that equipment sits idle as international passengers walk through security screening at Murtala Mohammed, the oil-rich nation’s busiest airport.

The U.S. gave Nigeria four full-body scanners for its international airports in 2008 to detect explosives and drugs. Those machines remain in use by federal anti-drug agents at the Lagos international airport and elsewhere, though Mr. Abdulmutallab did not undergo a screening.


Mugabe thanks China for steadfast support

SHANGHAI | Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe on Wednesday thanked China for its steadfast support as he visited the World Expo in Shanghai and called for help in reviving his country’s shattered economy.

Mr. Mugabe expressed his deep gratitude to Beijing and called for deeper cooperation at a time when his country is struggling with a decade of acute food shortages.

“China has always stood by Zimbabwe,” Mr. Mugabe said as he presided over Zimbabwe Day at the Expo. “It is thus natural and logical for us to forge a strategic relationship with an all-weather friend [such] as the People’s Republic of China.”

China is not a party to international sanctions on Mr. Mugabe, who is the subject of a Western travel ban and asset freeze.

He spoke a day after the United Nations’ food agencies said 133,000 tons of food aid would be needed to help 1.68 million Zimbabweans between now and the next harvest in May.

Once a breadbasket of southern Africa, Zimbabwe suffers food shortages brought on by drought and Mr. Mugabe’s crippling land-reform program.


Kagame sweeps presidential polls

KIGALI | Rwandan President Paul Kagame secured another seven-year term Wednesday after being declared landslide winner of an election criticized by international observers for shutting out the real opposition.

Mr. Kagame, who has led the tiny eastern African nation since about 800,000 people were butchered in a 100-day genocidal spree in 1994, won 93 percent of the votes in Monday’s contest, according to the electoral commission.

But Commonwealth observers said the election had been devoid of “critical opposition voices,” with his three opponents both linked to Mr. Kagame’s party.

Jean Damascene Ntawukuriryayo of the Social Democratic Party was second, with 5.15 percent of the vote; the Liberal Party’s Prosper Higiro won 1.37 percent in third place, said the electoral body’s secretary, Charles Munyaneza. A fourth candidate won less than half a percent.


UNICEF: 155 die in cholera outbreak

YAOUNDE | The U.N. Children’s Fund says it’s urgently sending medical supplies to thousands of people affected by Cameroon’s worst cholera outbreak since 2004.

UNICEF representative Ora Musu Clemens-Hope said Tuesday that aid officials fear the outbreak may spread to neighboring West African countries, including Nigeria, Chad and Central African Republic.

UNICEF says the outbreak, which started in May in Cameroon’s north, has killed 155 people out of more than 2,000 confirmed cases.

UNICEF is distributing supplies for medical workers and water-treatment kits for families, along with medication. The waterborne infection is highly contagious yet easily preventable with clean water and sanitation.


U.N. urges Sudan to allow Darfur aid

UNITED NATIONS | The U.N. urged Sudanese authorities on Tuesday to allow humanitarian organizations access to a Darfur refugee camp that has been closed to aid agencies for more than a week following an outbreak of violence.

U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said about 50,000 people are still believed to be in Kalma camp in South Darfur, and several thousand have taken refuge outside a community police center run by the joint U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force.

“We are concerned about the shortages of food and fuel. Deliveries have stopped, and fuel for water pumps has run out. And so, obviously, sanitation is a major concern, because it’s the middle of the rainy season,” Mr. Nesirky said.

“The government must resume full humanitarian access to Kalma and to surrounding areas where displaced people have fled,” he said.

The Save Darfur Coalition called the Sudanese government’s behavior “atrocious” and said its denial of humanitarian aid and threat to relocate the Kalma camp was leaving families even more vulnerable to hunger and disease.

The coalition urged the U.S. and the international community to pressure the government to allow immediate, unimpeded access for U.N. agencies and humanitarian groups.


Government, unions plan deadline strike talks

JOHANNESBURG | South African unions representing more than 1 million civil servants and the government plan wage talks on Thursday, hours before a union deadline to reach a deal that would avert a prolonged strike.

“We are optimistic that the government will come back to us with a significant offer. Our members want to avoid protracted strike action,” said Sizwe Pamla, a spokesman for the public-sector union NEHAWU, said on Wednesday.

The group is a part of the country’s largest umbrella labor group, COSATU.

COSATU unions and other civil service labor groups staged a one-day strike on Tuesday, seeking an 8.6 percent pay rise — twice the current rate of inflation — and a 1,000 rand ($138) monthly housing allowance.

They threatened a prolonged strike they said would bring the government to a halt unless a deal is reached by Thursday.

The action increased pressure on President Jacob Zuma’s government to prevent a repeat of a massive public-sector strike three years ago that dented the economy and support for his predecessor, analysts said.

The government has offered 7 percent and 630 rand for housing, but analysts say it is likely to raise its offer rather than risk a strike just before a policy-setting meeting next month of the ruling African National Congress.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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