- - Wednesday, October 3, 2012

BLANTYRE — Malawi President Joyce Banda announced that she will take a 30 percent pay cut to show that she will sacrifice personally as part of her government’s austerity measures.

Ms. Banda, Africa’s second female president after Liberia’s Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, came to power in April following the death of President Bingu wa Mutharika.

Ms. Banda and Vice President Khumbo Kachali both will cut their salaries by 30 percent, but Ms. Banda said she will not force the rest of her cabinet to do so, saying it is up to them to choose.

Ms. Banda confirmed that her government will sell the controversial presidential jet in two weeks.

The purchase of the jet three years ago by Mutharika angered donors. Ms. Banda said she will never fly in the plane, which she called wasteful.


Group: Mentally ill chained for months

ACCRA — Mentally ill patients suffer from severe abuse at psychiatric hospitals and so-called “healing centers” in Ghana, with many chained to trees and even denied water, a human rights group said this week.

Some 1,000 residents live in squalid, overcrowded quarters in Ghana’s three psychiatric hospitals, according to Human Rights Watch.

Patients face physical and verbal abuse, and some are given electroshock therapy without their consent, said the group’s report.

The abuse is even worse in healing centers known as “prayer camps,” which lack government oversight, it said.

Thousands of mentally disabled people in the West African nation are sent to the camps, usually by their family members to be “cured” by self-proclaimed prophets through miracles, prayer and fasting.

In most prayer camps, residents are only allowed to leave when the prophet deems them healed.

At the Mount Horeb Prayer Camp earlier this year, about 120 of the 135 residents there were chained to trees or to the walls inside cell-like rooms 24 hours a day, sometimes for months at a time, Human Rights Watch said. Most of the chains measured only 2 yards long.


Doctors protest state of health care

NAIROBI — Emergency rooms in some of Kenya’s public hospitals frequently don’t have gloves or medicine.

Most alarmingly, power outages sometimes force doctors to use the light from their phones to complete a procedure.

Doctors in public hospitals in Kenya on Wednesday were on their 17th day of a strike over the dilapidated state of public health care.

Kenya’s government so far is not listening to the doctors’ demands. Last week, the government fired 1,000 of the 2,000 striking doctors despite a shortage of skilled medical practitioners.


Radical sect threatens wives of leaders

LAGOS — The leader of a radical Islamist sect has threatened the wives of Nigerian security agents and government officials in an Internet video while denying his group is in any peace talks to end the violence that has killed hundreds in the country’s north.

In a video uploaded Sunday to YouTube, Abubakar Shekau also denied claims that the spokesman for the sect known as Boko Haram had been killed by Nigeria’s military. He said the group would continue to “follow our religion” and carry out attacks in Nigeria’s predominantly Muslim north.

The Associated Press could not immediately authenticate the video, but it appeared to be from the sect and followed the pattern of other videos previously released by the group.

In it, Mr. Shekau appears relaxed, wearing a checkered red-and-white Keffiyeh scarf. An AK-47 assault rifle leans against the wall behind him.

Speaking in the Hausa language of Nigeria’s north, Mr. Shekau said that the nation’s military and security agencies have seized 10 women who are wives of Boko Haram members. He claimed the women had been raped by their captors, though he did not elaborate on how he knew that.

Those arrested by police in Nigeria often face torture, sexual abuse and the potential of being killed “extrajudicially,” human rights groups repeatedly have charged.

At one point in the video, Mr. Shekau laughed and said: “You should wait and see what’s going to happen to your own wives.” He repeatedly denied that the group is in peace talks with Nigeria’s weak central government and promised more attacks.

Officials representing Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan have made that claim several times in recent weeks, but the only attempt at talks through intermediaries failed several months ago when details leaked out in local newspaper reports.


Opposition piqued over president’s remarks

MONROVIA — Liberia’s opposition is outraged by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s recent admission that some of her supporters hid their sons’ cards to prevent them from voting against her in 2005.

Mrs. Johnson Sirleaf said some Liberian women cheated to help her in the 2005 election race against retired international soccer star George Weah, according to FrontPage Africa, a leading Liberian daily and Internet news provider.

Mrs. Johnson Sirleaf made the disclosure last week, when she addressed a women’s fundraiser while in New York attending the U.N. General Assembly. The fundraiser to support Mrs. Johnson Sirleaf’s Market Women Project was held at a public school in Harlem.

The president said that some women market-sellers in Monrovia prevented their sons from voting in the 2005 elections because they were afraid the young men would vote for Mr. Weah.

“They [the women] even did some unorthodox things, as they confessed to me later on and I can say it now since I am not running again,” she was quoted as saying.

Mrs. Johnson Sirleaf, who turns 74 on Oct. 29, is serving her second and final term.

In the 2005 election — the first after the end of Liberia’s 14-year civil war — Mr. Weah came in first in the first round but was defeated in the second round by Mrs. Johnson Sirleaf, who got 56 percent of the vote while Mr. Weah received 46 percent, according to the electoral commission.

Mr. Weah and his Congress for Democratic Change party protested and charged cheating and “ballot stuffing” in favor of Mrs. Johnson Sirleaf.

Mrs. Johnson Sirleaf’s new admission has rekindled the opposition’s anger.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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