- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 18, 2010


Acting president dissolves Cabinet

ABUJA | Nigeria’s acting president, Goodluck Jonathan, dissolved the Cabinet on Wednesday in a further step to assert his authority just over a month after assuming executive powers.

“He did not give us any reason for the dissolution of the Cabinet. Permanent secretaries will take charge of the ministries from tomorrow,” outgoing Information Minister Dora Akunyili told reporters after a lengthy Cabinet meeting.

The powerful governors of Nigeria’s 36 states and senior ruling party officials should now put forward nominees for new ministers who will then be screened and approved by the Senate, a process that could take weeks.

In the interim, Mr. Jonathan is the sole administrator of Africa’s most populous nation and biggest oil and gas producer, because as acting president he has no deputy in the presidency.

Mr. Jonathan took over as acting leader in early February during the three-month absence of ailing President Umaru Yar’Adua who was undergoing medical treatment in a Saudi clinic. Mr. Yar’Adua has since returned to Nigeria but remains too sick to rule.

The Cabinet was made up largely of Yar’Adua appointees. Mr. Jonathan has moved quickly to assert his authority. He had already demoted the former justice minister — a close Yar’Adua ally — and appointed respected ex-military Gen. Theophilus Danjuma as one of his top advisers. He also fired the country’s national security adviser, a key member of Mr. Yar’Adua’s inner circle.


Zuma begins talks on power-sharing

HARARE | South African President Jacob Zuma began talks Wednesday with Zimbabwe’s political leaders on his first trip as chief regional mediator to patch up differences in the troubled coalition government.

President Robert Mugabe arrived first at a downtown hotel where Mr. Zuma met separately later with former opposition leader, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

“It was a good meeting, as usual,” Mr. Mugabe told reporters after spending 90 minutes with the South African leader.

Mr. Zuma arrived in Harare late Tuesday on a crucial two-day visit to review the country’s shaky coalition agreement a year after a power-sharing government was sworn in. Disputes have weakened the coalition and led to Mr. Tsvangirai’s three-week withdrawal from it in November.


African Union imposes sanctions

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia | The African Union (AU) has slapped sanctions on Madagascar’s President Andry Rajoelina and 108 other people in the Indian Ocean island who have backed Africa’s youngest leader since he seized power a year ago.

The AU said in February it would impose targeted sanctions if there was no progress by March 16 on forming a new government with the three main opposition groups to restore constitutional order as soon as possible.

Some analysts said the sanctions were largely symbolic and would have little impact on Mr. Rajoelina’s rule, as long as influential military allies continued to back him.

Mr. Rajoelina and three former presidents agreed on a power-sharing deal in Mozambique last year but disagreements over top government posts stalled progress. The accord was then revived at talks in Ethiopia, only to flounder for the same reasons.


Royal tombs fire fuels riots, 3 killed

KAMPALA | Ugandan security forces fatally shot three people in the capital Wednesday during clashes with rioters angry after the tombs of five traditional kings were destroyed overnight by fire, a tribal government official said.

Lubega Segona, minister of information for the Buganda kingdom, said three people were killed and several wounded by members of the presidential guard. He said the guards shot at angry members of the traditional kingdom who had tried to stop Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni from visiting the tombs.

In 1993, Mr. Museveni restored Uganda’s traditional kingdoms, which his predecessor had banned in 1967. But Mr. Museveni has been adamant that kings restrict themselves to cultural duties and keep out of politics.

Buganda’s leader, King Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II, declared five days of mourning after the building housing the kings’ tombs was destroyed by fire early Tuesday.


Students protest bail for hip-hop artist

JOHANNESBURG | Police used rubber bullets and water cannons Wednesday to disperse thousands of high school students protesting a bail hearing for a South African hip-hop artist accused of killing four children while drag racing on drugs.

Molemo Maarohanye — who is known as “Jub Jub,” which means Marshmallow — faces four murder charges and two charges of attempted murder along with co-defendant Themba Tshabalala. Authorities say the children were run down by a Mini Cooper, but it is unknown who was driving the vehicle at the time.

The case has prompted an outcry in South Africa, and some 2,000 rioting youths and children, many in school uniform, gathered outside the courthouse Wednesday. Some threatened to use mob justice if the hip-hop artist is granted bail.

A decision on whether to release Mr. Maarohanye on bail was postponed until Thursday.


2 hanged in killing of Chinese oil workers

KHARTOUM | Sudan executed two people convicted of killing four oil workers, two of them Chinese, in one of the country’s most energy-rich regions, state media reported Wednesday.

The two were found guilty in 2004 of killing the workers and looting their vehicle in Heglig in Sudan’s South Kordofan state, state-run Sudanese News Agency reported. The report said the workers had been employed by a Chinese oil company.

Foreign interest in Sudanese oil has pushed workers into some of the country’s most remote and insecure corners.

Three Sudanese working with the Yemeni HTC oil company were killed after they were ambushed while traveling between Heglig and Mayom County in South Sudan’s Unity State in October 2008.

Earlier the same month, gunmen abducted nine Chinese oil workers from South Kordofan and later killed four after what China said was a failed rescue attempt.

Heglig oil field is currently operated by the Greater Nile Petroleum Operation Company, a consortium led by China’s CNPC that also includes Malaysia’s Petronas and Sudan’s state-owned Sudapet.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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