- - Wednesday, June 1, 2011

ETHIOPIA

President commutes death sentences for 23 ex-officials

ADDIS ABABA — President Girma Wolde Giorgis on Wednesday announced he has commuted the death sentences of 23 high-ranking officials from the ousted communist regime.

The sentences were reduced to 25 years in prison. The group includes the former prime minister and the former vice president to ex-dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam who took power in 1974. Some already have served 20 years.

Religious leaders had called for the move.

Mengistu was driven from power in 1991 by the current regime and lives in exile in Zimbabwe. He was convicted in absentia and sentenced to death in 2008.

Some experts say 150,000 university students, intellectuals and politicians were killed in a nationwide purge by Mengistu’s regime.

ZIMBABWE

Elections observes want militia bases destroyed

HARARE — Independent election monitors Wednesday called for the immediate demolition of militia bases set up for the president’s party in rural districts ahead of fresh elections.

In its latest bulletin, the Zimbabwe Election Support Network said observers in voting districts reported that bases have been re-established after President Robert Mugabe called for elections this year to end a troubled two-year coalition with the former opposition. Many of the bases were used by militants as “torture and coercion” camps during the violent and disputed 2008 elections, the group said.

It demanded the demolition of “these structures of violence which have created a culture of fear in communities” across the country.

NIGERIA

Muslim terrorist claims credit for bombings

GOMBE — A man who identified himself as the deputy spokesman of the Boko Haram terrorist group said the radical Muslim sect is responsible for blasts in two northern Nigerian cities and one town near the capital that left at least 17 dead.

The BBC’s Hausa service said this week that Abu Zaid told them by telephone that the group was also responsible for the killing Monday of the brother of the Shehu of Borno, the No. 2 Muslim leader in Nigeria.

Boko Haram, which means “Western education is sacrilege” in the local Hausa language, has targeted police and clerics in a string of killings in the past year.

BURKINA FASO

Soldiers loot shops after rampage at military barracks

OUAGADOUGOU — Soldiers at a major military barracks rampaged, fired into the air and looted shops in Burkina Faso’s second-largest city, witnesses said Wednesday.

Residents in the city of Bobo-Dioulasso also said soldiers beat and wounded some civilians overnight. They added that soldiers set fire to their barracks’ food storehouse.

The rampage is the latest in a string of unrest in the impoverished West African nation. Earlier this week, soldiers near the capital and in the north fired their weapons into the air.

The reports come just more than a month after a mutiny threatened President Blaise Compaore’s 24-year rule. Mr. Compaore dissolved the government and removed the country’s security chiefs but stayed in power.

Teachers also last month launched strikes for better pay, and thousands of students joined in support.

SOMALIA

U.S. admiral urges foreign aid to defeat pirates

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — A top U.S. commander Wednesday said piracy in Somalia can only be defeated if the international community helps restore governance in the lawless African country.

Adm. Robert Willard, chief of the U.S. Pacific Command, said Navy patrols alone cannot stop hijacking of ships if pirates’ bases onshore are allowed to operate without interference.

He said the international community has to “help Somalia recover from being the ungoverned state that it is” to tackle the root problem of piracy.

Decades of conflict in Somalia have allowed piracy to flourish. Pirates have become more violent in recent months, killing four American hostages this year while warships were shadowing the hijacked yacht.

SWAZILAND

Teachers call for help from United States, South Africa

MBABANE — Hundreds of teachers marched in Swaziland’s capital Wednesday to deliver petitions to the U.S. and South African embassies calling on their country’s most important allies to push for democratic and economic reform in sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarchy.

Teachers and other civil servants have been restive since February, when the prime minister presented an austerity budget with no pay raises for government workers’ for the next three years.

Before Wednesday’s peaceful protest ended, teachers presented a petition at the U.S. Embassy calling on Washington to identify and freeze assets of prominent Swazis in the United States.

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