- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 4, 2010


Christian acting president blocked from contest

LAGOS | Nigeria’s ruling political party has said it wants a Muslim from the north to stand as its candidate for the oil-rich nation’s presidential election next year, blocking the country’s Christian acting president from seeking the office.

The announcement by Vincent Ogbulafor, national chairman of the People’s Democratic Party, late Tuesday appears to cut acting President Goodluck Jonathan adrift as he manages a nation that saw its elected president disappear into a Saudi Arabian hospital for three months. The country of 150 million people is yet to see President Umaru Yar’Adua, who apparently returned to Nigeria’s capital last week in an ambulance during a nighttime military convoy.

Nigeria splits roughly in half between Christians in the south and Muslims in the north. Under a power-sharing agreement in the PDP, candidates for the presidency must alternate between the two faiths. Mr. Yar’Adua, a Muslim, is still in his first four-year term. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, a former dictator who became the civilian elected leader in 1999 and preceded Mr. Yar’Adua, is a Christian who served two terms.

“The south had the president for eight years and it is proper to allow the north to have the presidency,” Mr. Ogbulafor told reporters late Tuesday night.


Vote seen as test of democracy

LOME | Voters in the West African nation of Togo head to the polls Thursday to pick a president in the latest test for democracy in a resource-exporting region blighted by coups and flawed elections.

Hundreds died in postelection violence after Togo’s last presidential vote in 2005. Voting this time comes just after the region has been shaken by a coup in Niger, street riots over delayed Ivory Coast polls and instability in Guinea.

Campaigning has so far been peaceful with heightened local security and the deployment of regional military forces. But the politics have already been marred by opposition accusations that incumbent President Faure Gnassingbe has used the country’s electoral commission to rig what would otherwise be a tight outcome in his favor.

Mr. Gnassingbe, the candidate of the ruling Togolese People’s Rally party, took power in 2005 after the death of his father Gnassingbe Eyadema, who ruled as a dictator for 38 years.


Waste victims get $1,500 checks

ABIDJAN | People who said they fell ill after hundreds of tons of waste were dumped in 2006 began receiving compensation checks of $1,500 each Wednesday after a legal battle over how the money would be distributed.

Oil-trading company Trafigura Beheer BV had paid roughly $46 million in compensation to London-based law firm Leigh Day & Co., which was supposed to distribute the money to the victims last fall. However, a local victims association sued and won control of the payments.

Claude Gouhourou, president of the association, said Wednesday the process of issuing checks to the 30,000 claimants could take as long as three weeks to complete. He also said that the checks cannot be cashed immediately, and a schedule has been drawn up so that local banks aren’t overwhelmed with demands for cash.

Thousands sought medical treatment after waste from a tanker chartered by Trafigura was offloaded at several sites around Abidjan in 2006. Trafigura has said the dumping was carried out by a local contractor that acted independently. The owner of the local company was jailed for 20 years in Ivory Coast in 2008 after being convicted of poisoning.


50 students feared dead in landslides

NAMETSI | During heavy rains, village elders told schoolchildren to seek shelter in the hospital. That sanctuary turned into a death trap as a landslide engulfed the building, leaving more than 50 pupils missing and among hundreds feared dead as avalanches of mud slammed into three villages.

When Beatrice Nabuduwa’s 12-year-old daughter failed to come home after school Monday, the mother assumed her child had stayed over at an aunt’s because of the rain. By Wednesday, the grieving mother accepted the reality of the situation, and said she wished God would have taken her life instead.

Rescuers in this remote corner of eastern Ugandan used hand tools to dig through the thick rivers of mud that engulfed the hospital and buried worshippers as they prayed in a church. Workers late Wednesday found the bodies of six more students from the hospital, raising the confirmed death toll to 92, said Kevin Nabutuwa of the Uganda Red Cross.

President Yoweri Museveni swooped into the villages by helicopter and ordered remaining residents to move away from the sliding hillsides. Military helicopters soon began to airlift them.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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