Tuesday, January 31, 2006


Chinese bloggers debate Google. Google's decision to launch a censored version of its search engine in China has drawn opprobrium from many bloggers around the world.

The BBC News website spoke to bloggers in China and Hong Kong to get their perspective.

"I'll support kicking up a fuss about American companies" Yan Sham-Shackleton, Hong Kong, Glutter

"There's too much media emphasis on censorship in China" Chinese Loafer, Beijing, Busted in Beijing

"Better to have something than nothing" Roland Soong, Hong Kong, EastSouthWestNorth

"We don't need people continually reminding us of censorship" Kevin Wen, Beijing, Kevin Wen's Web



Key nations' stances on Iran.

The UN's nuclear regulator, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), is holding an emergency meeting on 2 February to discuss Iran's nuclear programme.

At a meeting in London on 30 January, the five permanent members of the Security Council - the US, Russia, China, Britain and France - agreed that the IAEA should report to the council its decisions on steps required of Iran under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). But they agreed that the Security Council itself should wait until March and a further IAEA report on Iran before deciding whether to "reinforce the authority of the IAEA process" - that is, whether to become actively involved. The IAEA agreed in principle last September that the issues fell within the council's authority.

Iran argues that it is now in compliance and should be allowed to make its own fuel under IAEA inspection as permitted under the NPT. It says it has no intention of making nuclear weapons.

Click on the links below to read about the positions taken by key countries on the 35-member IAEA board.


Zimbabwe: Living with hyperinflation.

People are now carrying money in plastic bags. The governor of Zimbabwe's reserve bank last week admitted that his country is in the grip of hyperinflation, with some economists predicting an inflation rate of 1,000% within two months. This week saw the introduction of a so-called "bearer cheque" worth 50,000 Zimbabwean dollars - 50 times the highest available banknote - but actually worth around half a US dollar and only enough to buy a loaf of bread.

BBC World Service's Outlook programme spoke to five Zimbabweans, all of whom did not wish to be named, about what life is like living under rampant hyperinflation.

Now, we can hardly even look after our families.
When we talk of inflation, almost everyone is being affected.
It's as if our customers have left the country, because most of the people are walking in and out of town.
It's now even worse when you try to increase the fares, because already people can't afford them.
I buy five litres of petrol from the black market. This is normally 650,000 - 700,000.
On a good trip, that five litres can raise 1 million - but additional costs leave around 250,000 - absolutely nothing.
That is barely enough to feed yourself, let alone your family.
It's like we are living hand-to-mouth.

When I go to withdraw my money, I have to wait around 30 minutes because there are so many people waiting.
It's so difficult.
Maybe you want 10 million but they only give you 2.8, because there is not enough at the bank.

Hyperinflation has meant an end to rubbish collections It's a very strange environment.
There are a lot of pay rises, but they are meaningless.
They are always eroded the minute they give us the pay rise.
Also, considering we have so much to pay - we have parents in the countryside, and we have families - it doesn't work.
People are willing to lend money, but they are not willing to lend it for nothing. It's usually at a rate of 90 or 100%.
Sometimes these are your relatives or people you work with, taking advantage of this.
People are cannibalising each other.

Because my income hasn't risen as much as the prices in the shops, we have had to adjust quite a bit.
The things that we buy - the groceries at home, the things we get for our two children - we have to buy immediately, as soon as we get the money.
We know that if we wait a bit, the prices are going to go up again. If we wait another week, we will not be able to afford anything.
People are taking the money out in suitcases or carrier bags.

I don't even know if I'll have a job at the end of the week, because there is so much uncertainty. There are so many companies closing down.
It is quite interesting to see people going in banks with bags and sometimes even suitcases.
You know that there are large amounts of money in there - which unfortunately are not going to buy much.



Shaik's millions 'seized' in SA.

Shaik's trial led to Jacob Zuma's dismissal. A South African court has ordered a businessman close to the ex-Deputy President Jacob Zuma to pay $5.5m of his assets to the state. Schabir Shaik was convicted in July last year of having a generally corrupt relationship with Mr Zuma.
Mr Shaik was found guilty of receiving money from the French arms company to facilitate a deal worth more than $4bn.

Prosecutors argued the state should be allowed those assets that derived from his business relationship with Mr Zuma. Evidence aired in the Shaik trial prompted President Thabo Mbeki to dismiss Mr Zuma from his duties as deputy president. Mr Zuma was subsequently charged with corruption. The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) welcomed the ruling, which Mr Shaik's legal team say they will appeal.

Zuma was seen as the favourite to succeed President Mbeki. "The landmark judgement will assist in future similar asset-forfeiture cases as it has set a useful precedent," NPA spokesman Makhosini Nkosi said. Mr Shaik was convicted of corruption and fraud and sentenced last July to an effective 15 years' imprisonment. His appeal will be heard by the Supreme Court of Appeal later this year. Before his sacking, Mr Zuma was seen as the natural successor to President Mbeki. While Mr Zuma's many supporters within the ruling African National Congress (ANC) and its allies stood by him as he was charged with corruption, his support has ebbed since he was charged with rape in December. Mr Zuma denies both charges.

The corruption case has caused the ANC its biggest internal crisis since it was elected to power in 1994.


Monday, January 30, 2006


DR Congo players threaten strike.

I've managed to keep them going this far but they won't go any further said DR Congo coach Claude LeRoy. DR Congo coach Claude LeRoy has warned that his team will not honour their African Cup of Nations quarter-final game against Egypt on Friday if their allowances remain unpaid.
The players are expecting US$25,000 each - $10,000 for qualifying for the finals and a further $15,000 for reaching the last eight. "If they are not paid, they will not play the quarter-final.That's absolutely sure, absolutely certain," said LeRoy at the team's hotel.
The Simbas nearly boycotted their opening Group B game against Togo, which they won 2-0, over the unpaid bonuses for reaching the finals. But the squad agreed to play the game after LeRoy said DR Congo president Joseph Kabila had made a promise that the matter would be sorted out. With the money yet to be paid, LeRoy said the patience of his players had finally run out. "All these horse-trading discussions go on for hours about bonuses but when are they going to arrive? "Has the special envoy [from Congo, who is to travel to Egypt with the money] left or not?...the lads have so often been let down.
"All this creates needless tension and perhaps, somewhere along the line, these sendings-off [in their first two games] can be explained as the frustration of people who have lost their cool because of the interminable hours spent talking, which also wear me out," LeRoy admitted. "There will be no quarter-final, not even if you applied all the pressure in the world on them," said the French coach. "But it's not blackmail. I've managed to keep them going this far but they won't go any further. "But I think all of this will be sorted out today (Monday) - or tomorrow (Tuesday) at the latest."


SA president slams Bafana Bafana.

We cannot be a losing nation in a way that Bafana Bafana lost in Egypt said South Africa's president Thabo Mbeki. South Africa's dismal showing at the ongoing African Cup of Nations has earned a stinging rebuke from the country's president. Thabo Mbeki accused Bafana Bafana, which failed to reach the second round of the tournament, of not defending the country's honour. "They did not try to ensure that our country becomes a winning nation," said Mbeki in his speech to an African National Congress Youth League event in Kroonstad on Sunday. "We cannot be a losing nation in a way that Bafana Bafana lost in Egypt."

Mbeki's comments, replayed on television and covered by local newspapers on Monday, have added to the growing discontent surrounding the national side, after the team failed to qualify for the World Cup finals in Germany. Hosts of the 2010 World Cup finals, South Africa lost group C games against Guinea and Tunisia and cannot reach the quarter-finals, even if they beat Zambia on Monday.


Stark warning over climate change.
By Richard Black Environment Correspondent, BBC News website

Climate report: The conclusions Rising concentrations of greenhouse gases may have more serious impacts than previously believed, a major scientific report has said.
The report, published by the UK government, says there is only a small chance of greenhouse gas emissions being kept below "dangerous" levels.
It fears the Greenland ice sheet is likely to melt, leading sea levels to rise by seven metres over 1,000 years.
The poorest countries will be most vulnerable to these effects, it adds.
The report, Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change, collates evidence presented by scientists at a conference hosted by the UK Meteorological Office in February 2005.
The conference set two principal objectives: to ask what level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere was too much, and what the options were for avoiding such a level.
It's the irreversibility that I think brings it home to people
Margaret Beckett
Send us your reaction
Hear the interview
In the report's foreword, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair writes that "it is now plain that the emission of greenhouse gases... is causing global warming at a rate that is unsustainable."
Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett said the report's conclusions would be a shock to many people.
"The thing that is perhaps not so familiar to members of the public... is this notion that we could come to a tipping point where change could be irreversible," she told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.
"We're not talking about it happening over five minutes, of course, maybe over a thousand years, but it's the irreversibility that I think brings it home to people."
Vulnerable ecosystems
The report sets out the impacts associated with various levels of temperature increase.
The European Union (EU) has adopted a target of preventing a rise in global average temperature of more than two degrees Celsius.
But that, according to the report, might be too high, with two degrees perhaps enough to trigger melting of the Greenland ice sheet.
This would have a major impact on sea levels globally, though it would take up to 1,000 years to see the full predicted rise of seven metres.
Above two degrees, says the report, the risks increase "very substantially", with "potentially large numbers of extinctions" and "major increases in hunger and water shortage risks... particularly in developing countries".
'Without delight'
The report asked scientists to calculate which greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere would be enough to cause these "dangerous" temperature increases.
No country is going to turn off a power station which is providing much-desired energy for its population to tackle this problem
Sir David King
Currently, the atmosphere contains about 380 parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide, the principal greenhouse gas, compared to levels before the industrial revolution of about 275ppm.
To have a good chance of achieving the EU's two-degree target, levels should be stabilised at 450ppm or below, the report concludes.
But, speaking on Today, the UK government's chief scientific adviser, Sir David King, said that was unlikely to happen.
"We're going to be at 400 ppm in 10 years' time, I predict that without any delight in saying it," he said.
"But no country is going to turn off a power station which is providing much-desired energy for its population to tackle this problem - we have to accept that.
"To aim for 450 (ppm) would, I am afraid, seem unfeasible."




Sunday, January 29, 2006


Arab Holocaust centre reaches out.
By Rob Winder BBC News website.

Six million Jews were killed by the Nazis during the holocaust!

Khaled Mahameed admits his museum, in Nazareth in northern Israel, is small. But he believes it is unique. According to Mr Mahameed, it is the first and only Arab run centre for promoting the study of the Holocaust. The museum contains a collection of just 60 photographs depicting the genocide with Arabic captions explaining the scenes. The pictures were purchased from Yad Vashem - the Israeli national Holocaust memorial. Mr Mahameed firmly believes that it is only by understanding the truth about how the state of Israel was created that Arabs can fully understand Jews and ultimately resolve the conflict between them.

Ahmadinejad doesn't know what he's talking about - but I hope that people try to find out more about the Holocaust as a result of his words said Khaled Mahameed.Many Arabs believe that Israel uses sympathy for Jewish suffering during the Holocaust to gain support from the West, Mr Mahameed says. Arab leaders, he says, think that by giving credence to the Holocaust they are legitimising Israel's treatment of the Palestinians. "But when Palestinians learn about the Holocaust they will understand the Jewish people better and can begin to develop a shared history," says Mr Mahameed enthusiastically.

Since the museum opened in March 2005, Mr Mahameed says, more than 2,000 people have visited. The 43-year-old Israeli Arab lawyer's passion for his project is clear, he used $5,000 of his own money to set up the centre. On Friday 27 January - UN Holocaust Remembrance Day - he spent hours handing out leaflets promoting the centre to Palestinians filing through Qalandiya checkpoint outside the West Bank town of Ramallah. But Mr Mahameed's desire to spread information about the Holocaust is also controversial amongst Palestinians and Israeli Arabs - even within his own family. No-one spoke to him at a recent wedding and his neighbours have cursed him in public, he says. Visitors to the museum's website have harangued him for speaking sympathetically about Jews and Israelis.

Even though Palestinians are taught about the Holocaust in school, the continuing Israeli occupation means that many Palestinians find it difficult to sympathise with Jewish suffering, says Dr Sami Adwan, a professor of education at Bethlehem University. Khaled Mahameed promotes his message near Ramallah"Many Palestinians feel that sympathising too much with Israelis could lead to justification for the occupation." "And there is feeling that the Holocaust could undermine the Palestinians international status as victims - that the horror of the Holocaust is so big that it could overpower our own suffering."

But there may also be hope that the relative lull in violence between Israel and Palestinian militants will allow greater understanding of each other's histories. Dr Haim Gertner, Director of Teacher Training at the International School of Holocaust Studies at Yad Vashem, says that whenever the political situation is calm Israeli Arabs show more interest in learning about the Holocaust. "When there is less political tension, people are more open," he says. And despite the difficulties of spreading his message against a background of continuing conflict in the region Mr Mahameed believes he is making progress. He hopes to make contact with Palestinian militants Hamas and Islamic Jihad to offer them information about the Holocaust. He also has support for his project from many Israelis, including backing from Yad Vashem itself.

A conference organised by the centre in November attracted 30 people and Mr Mahameed believes that slowly - sometimes very slowly - he is changing minds.


Saturday, January 28, 2006


Russia 'to close rights group' .

Human rights activists have held protests against the new law. The Russian government is seeking the closure of one of the country's oldest human rights groups, reports say. The justice ministry has asked a Moscow court to order that the Russian Human Rights Research Centre be shut down. The authorities say the move is in response to the NGO's failure to register any information about its activities for the last five years. Staff at the centre say they are being targeted as part of a crackdown on groups critical of the Kremlin.

The government's request comes just weeks after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law giving the authorities wide-ranging powers to monitor the activities and finances of non-governmental organisations. The new powers, which include the right to suspend NGOs should they "threaten Russia's sovereignty or independence", have been severely criticised by both domestic and international rights groups. Under the new law, NGOs are required to register with a regulatory body which examines its activities to see if they pose a risk to national security. "The new law has not yet come into force, but here we are already faced with its spirit - the will to make rules for NGOs as strict as possible," Lyubov Vinogradnaya, the head of the human rights centre told Britain's Guardian newspaper.

Russia's state security service, the FSB, claims that foreign spies have been using the country's NGOs as cover for espionage work. Last week the FSB accused British diplomats of spying in Moscow and making clandestine payments to Russian NGOs. The British government denied that it had been involved in any improper conduct with Russian NGOs and the NGOs themselves said the scandal was part of a campaign to smear their work. The Russian Human Rights Research Centre, also known as the Human Rights House in Moscow, is an umbrella organisation for a number of well-known human rights groups, including the Moscow Helsinki Group and Soldiers' Mothers. It was founded in 1992 under the initiative of a number of internationally recognised human rights activists who have been operating in the Soviet Union since the 1960s.



UK man in court over Cape blaze.

Smoke from the blaze on Table Mountain shrouds Cape Town. A British tourist in South Africa has appeared in a Cape Town court in connection with a fatal fire. Another British visitor died in the blaze that swept across the slopes of Table Mountain on Thursday. Anthony Cooper, 36, from Brighton, faces charges of arson and culpable homicide. He was freed on bail.

The fire has now been brought under control, after causing residents to flee their homes, destroying bush and engulfing the city centre in smoke. The blaze killed an elderly British woman, who is thought to have died of smoke inhalation. A South African police spokeswoman said the victim's family had requested that her name not be released. A tourist guide was quoted as saying he had witnessed a man flicking a cigarette-end out of a car window in the area where the fire is believed to have started. The guide noted the car registration number and informed the police.

More than 150 firefighters struggled on Thursday afternoon to fight the blaze, which was fanned by strong winds. Helicopters dropping water were hampered by the winds and poor visibility.
Correspondents say bush fires caused by dry conditions and strong winds are common in South Africa's Western Cape province at this time of year, but this fire was notable for being so close to the centre of Cape Town and in a major tourist area. Table Mountain is one of South Africa's most popular attractions for visitors. The cable car service that takes visitors to the summit has been suspended as a result of the fire.

Friday, January 27, 2006


Nigeria gang issue hostage photo.

The picture of the hostages showed them apparently in good health. Nigerian kidnappers holding four foreign oil workers have issued a first picture of the captives, who appear relaxed and in good health. But the gang denied reports they were close to handing over their captives. In e-mails to journalists, the group holding the men said the foreigners were "going nowhere". The men were seized 17 days ago in the oil-producing Niger Delta region in an armed raid by militants demanding more control over resources.
Despite the kidnappers' denials, Nigerian government officials continue to suggested that the four men could be freed soon. "The hostages are safe. We're almost getting there. The negotiators have been able to make an agreement and very soon they will be released," Bayelsa state government spokesman Ekiyor Welson told the AFP news agency.
State negotiators and security chiefs released the image of the four hostages - a Briton, an American, a Bulgarian and one man from Honduras, according to AFP. Nigeria's President Olusegun Obasanjo also said negotiations were going well. However, the kidnappers' denial came twinned with threats of imminent new attacks. "I promised you the hostages were going nowhere in spite of the rumours and repeat that to you," the e-mail read. The group holding the men, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, has launched several attacks on oil interests in the region. They are demanding the release of two ethnic Ijaw leaders currently in detention and want more of the Niger Delta's oil wealth to go to local people.
Royal Dutch Shell, the largest oil producer in the Niger Delta, has cut production capacity and withdrawn hundreds of staff pending discussion on security with Nigeria's government. Oil workers' unions in Nigeria have threatened to withdraw members from the main oil-producing region unless the government moves to improve security. The instability has led to a 10% fall in Nigeria's oil production. The country is Africa's leading oil exporter and the fifth-biggest source of US oil imports, but despite its oil wealth, many Nigerians live in abject poverty. On Tuesday unidentified gunmen in speedboats stormed the offices of Italian firm Agip, stealing tens of thousands of dollars and killing at least nine people in the main Niger Delta town, Port Harcourt.


Liberia gets first traffic lights
By Jonathan Paye-Layleh
BBC News, Monrovia

Liberian policewoman directing traffic
Liberia's traffic police hope the new lights will ease their workload
Liberia's capital, Monrovia, has got a working set of traffic lights for the first time since war broke out more than 16 years ago.

The lights, built by the peacekeeping mission of the UN, have given motorists new hope that normality is returning.

More than half of Liberia's motorists were not driving when traffic lights last operated in the city.

However, the city does not have a regular supply of electricity and so the lights are often out of order.

The lights are located near Monrovia's main port - a key entry point to Liberia, which can be subject to terrible traffic jams.

Lessons needed?

People who drove in the city before everything was destroyed in the 14-year war say the war-time drivers need to learn how the lights work.

But some of the new drivers argue that, even though up to the outbreak of war they had not driven, at least they saw traffic lights before the country collapsed.

Although the traffic lights are not always working, they have eased the workload for traffic police assigned to the port area.

Huge traffic jams, however, continue to bring the city centre to a complete standstill on a regular basis.

One traffic policewoman said she hoped the lights would be extended to the rest of the city to make the job of directing traffic easier.

However, that will have to wait until electricity is restored to the city.

During her election campaign, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf - inagurated last week - promised to supply electricity in the middle of town within the first six months of her presidency.

What is not clear, though, is whether this will include any more traffic lights.



Fixtures, results and tables
African Cup of Nations (All times GMT).
20 JanuaryEgypt 3-0 Libya
Match report
21 January Morocco 0-1 Ivory Coast
Match report
Group A analysis
24 JanuaryLibya 1-2 Ivory Coast:
Match report Egypt 0-0 Morocco
Match report
28 January Egypt v Ivory Coast: Cairo International Stadium (1700)Libya v Morocco: Cairo Military Academy Stadium (1700)
P21 January Cameroon 3-1 Angola
Match report Togo 0-2 DR Congo
Match report
25 JanuaryAngola 0-0 DR Congo
Match report Cameroon 2-0 Togo
Match report
Group B analysis
29 JanuaryAngola v Togo: Cairo Military Academy Stadium (1700) Cameroon v DR Congo: Cairo International Stadium (1700)
22 January Tunisia 4-1 Zambia
Match report South Africa 0-2 Guinea
Match report
26 JanuaryZambia 1-2 Guinea
Match report Tunisia 2-0 South Africa
Match report
Group C analysis
30 January Tunisia v Guinea: Harras El-Hedoud Stadium, Alexandria (1700)Zambia v South Africa: Alexandria Stadium (1700)
23 January Nigeria 1-0 Ghana
Match report Zimbabwe 0-2 Senegal
Match report
27 JanuaryGhana v Senegal: Port Said Stadium (1515)Nigeria v Zimbabwe: Port Said Stadium (1800)
Group D analysis
31 JanuaryNigeria v Senegal: Port Said Stadium (1700)Ghana v Zimbabwe: Ismailia Stadium (1700)
3 February MATCH 1 Winner Gp A v Runner-Up Gp B: Cairo International Stadium (1700)MATCH 2 Winner Gp C v Runner-Up Gp D: Harras El-Hedoud Stadium, Alexandria (1300)
4 February MATCH 3 Winner Gp B v Runner-Up Gp A: Cairo Military Academy Stadium (1700)MATCH 4 Winner Gp D v Runner-Up Gp C: Port Said Stadium (1300)
7 February Winner MATCH 1 v Winner MATCH 2Cairo International Stadium (1700) Winner MATCH 3 v Winner MATCH 4Harras El-Hedoud Stadium (1300)
9 February, Cairo Military Academy Stadium (1600)
10 February, Cairo International Stadium (1600)



Hamas sweeps to election victory.

Scenes in Ramallah Islamic militant group Hamas has won a surprise victory in Wednesday's Palestinian parliamentary elections. Preliminary results give Hamas 76 of the 132 seats in the chamber, with the ruling Fatah party trailing on 43. The win poses problems for efforts to restart peace talks with Israel, say analysts. Israel insists it will not deal with an authority including Hamas. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, head of the Fatah party, says he remains committed to a peaceful settlement. "Our main objective is to end the occupation and have an independent Palestinian state," he said at a news conference after the results were announced.
Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei of Fatah has offered to resign, and the party has said it will not join Hamas in government.
In Israel, interim Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said after a three-hour emergency meeting on Thursday that Israel would not negotiate with a Palestinian government including Hamas. "Israel will not conduct any negotiation with a Palestinian government, if it includes any (members of) an armed terror organisation that calls for Israel's destruction," Mr Olmert's office said in a statement.
The BBC's Jeremy Bowen says Hamas' first big test will be an orderly transfer of power. If they can do it, Palestinians can at least hope for national unity, otherwise their immediate future is grim. US President George W Bush said the poll was a "wake-up call" for the Palestian leadership, but he hoped Mr Abbas would stay in power.
Click here to see further election result details
He said the US would not deal with Hamas unless it renounced its call to destroy Israel. Hamas is an aware and mature movement... open to the international arena. Hamas official Ismail Haniya
'Transparency' key to win
US policy challenge
But Hamas co-founder Mahmoud Zahar refused to renounce violence. "We are not playing terrorism or violence. We are under occupation," he told BBC World TV. "The Israelis are continuing their aggression against our people, killing, detention, demolition and in order to stop these processes, we run effective self defence by all means, including using guns." Hamas and Fatah supporters clashed on Thursday in the West Bank town of Ramallah. Shots were fired in the air and some injuries were reported.
The clash, which happened after Hamas supporters tried to raise their flag over the Palestinian parliament, was brought under control by police after about 10 minutes. Arab concern Election commission head Hanna Nasser said 95% of the votes had now been counted, and the results could still change slightly. On top of the seats taken by Hamas and Fatah, the 13 remaining seats went to smaller parties and independents, some backed by Hamas.
The turnout was 77%. A victory for Hamas is positive and unsettling at the same time
Jarvin McCrafken, St Louis, USMr Abbas will now have to discuss with Hamas the formation of a new government and the appointment of a prime minister. Hamas leaders have said they want to open talks with other groups including Fatah about a political partnership. The BBC's Richard Miron in Jerusalem says the mood in Israel is one of gloom. Israel's Foreign Minister, Tsipi Livni, appealed to the EU - the biggest financial donors to the authority - to firmly oppose the creation of a "terrorist government".

Who are Hamas?
Q&A: Hamas poll victory
Who's who in the elections

European leaders echoed the call for Hamas to renounce violence. "I think it is important for Hamas to understand that there comes a point and the point is now... where they have to decide between a path of democracy or a path of violence," UK Prime Minister Tony Blair said. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will meet UN, European and Russian leaders on Monday to evaluate the result and decide how to proceed with peace efforts.
The BBC's Heba Saleh in Cairo says the Hamas win will also cause Arab governments concern and boost Islamist opposition parties in Egypt and Jordan. The BBC's Jon Leyne in Jerusalem says there is no doubt that the Hamas showing has transformed the Palestinian political arena.
But correspondents say Hamas seems unprepared for its own victory, and has not prepared itself to step neatly into government and assume immediate responsibility.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006


Hopes fade after Kenya collapse.

Scene of the collapse

Hopes of finding more survivors from Monday's building collapse in Kenya are fading after a second night's search. Shoddy construction and local council corruption are being blamed for the disaster at an unfinished five-storey building in central Nairobi. At least 13 people are known to be dead with more casualties expected. Some 100 people have been taken to hospital. Rescuers say they have lost contact with people who on Tuesday were calling or tapping from under the rubble.
Government spokesman Alfred Mutua said rescuers were no longer "hearing any noise at all or any form of life at all" from the ruins of the building, but added he would not give up hope. Kenyan, American, British and Israeli rescue teams are continuing their search for any remaining survivors who might be trapped in air pockets under the rubble. Early on Wednesday, Israeli rescuers recovered three more bodies from the ruins of the building. About 200 people are believed to have been in or around the building when it collapsed.
Mr Mutua suggested the collapse was the result of over-hasty construction. "They were not being allowed to spend the normal 21 days to let the concrete set. It was taking much less before they were building another layer," he told the Associated Press news agency. But Elias Kihonge, brother of building owner Jimmy Kihonge, insisted: "Work was not rushed. We do not know why it collapsed." Opposition leader Uhuru Kenyatta blamed the collapse on "poor supervision and corruption in the city council, for allowing development of buildings of poor standards," the Daily Nation reports.
The Daily Nation also reported that the Nairobi City Council had approved plans for the building before they had been properly tabled, and that four senior council officials had been suspended from their posts in connection with the disaster.


Dutch MP defies Muslim pressure.
By Jane Beresford Producer, Taking a Stand, BBC Radio 4

Ayaan Hirsi Ali wanted to shape her own future. What turns a devout young Muslim woman into one of Islam's most outspoken critics? For the Somali-born Dutch MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali, it was a long journey that started with an arranged marriage. She sought refuge in the Netherlands on her way to her new husband's home in Canada. "I wanted a chance at a life where I could shape my own future," she says. "I knew the risks - being disowned or being shunned by my father and the rest of my family. I took those risks and I don't regret it."
Hirsi Ali describes the anti-US attacks of 11 September 2001 as pivotal to her questioning of Islam. She remembers the moment when she realised that Mohammed Atta, the leader of the hijackers, had studied the Koran, like her, in the mid-1980s. She says: "I grabbed the Koran and I started to read what Bin Laden had written and... I put (his) citations next to what is written in the Koran and I realised that, yes, a lot of it is part of my religion and what do I think of that?"
She wrote the play Submission to "challenge the conviction that what is written in the Holy Koran is absolute". I have come to the conclusion that Islam can and should be reformed if Muslims want to live at peace Ayaan Hirsi AliIt was an act that was to lead to the murder of her collaborator Theo Van Gogh. "I still do feel guilt," she says. "Guilt is irrational, but for Theo it was the freedom of expression. He said 'If I cannot make films in Holland then I am a slave... and I would rather be dead'. And I am just as principled as he is."
Hirsi Ali now lives under 24-hour armed guard. A note pinned to Van Gogh's body by the murderer threatened the MP directly. It read: "You have your principles and I have mine, I am prepared to die for mine, are you prepared to die for yours?" She says "it's like the sword of Damocles that hangs above my head. I do realise that". "I live like someone who has been told 'you have some kind of terminal disease - we just don't know when it's going to strike'."

Tuesday, January 24, 2006




Poll finds surprising optimists.

A 'zero hour' mentality makes Afghans upbeat. Iraqis and Afghans are the among most optimistic people in the world when it comes to their economic future, a new survey for the BBC suggests.
Italians join people in Zimbabwe and DR Congo as the most downcast about their future, according to the poll of 37,500 people in 32 nations. The World Bank gets a clear vote of confidence, with 55% saying it has a positive influence in the world.
Its biggest boosters are in regions where it is most active. Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, Indonesia and Afghanistan showed marked support for the World Bank. The poll marks a rare boost for the Bank's officials, who often are the focus of criticism both from politicians and anti-poverty campaigners around the world.
Canadians are bullish not just about their own finances (64%), but also about the economic prospects of their country (63%). They are joined in their optimism by the people of two countries devastated by war and civil conflict, Iraq and Afghanistan. In Afghanistan 70% say their own circumstances are improving, and 57% believe that the country overall is on the way up. In Iraq 65% believe their personal life is getting better, and 56% are upbeat about the country's economy.
The experts at polling firm Globescan, who conducted the survey, venture the guess that war may have created a "year zero" experience of collectively starting over. Other countries feeling good about themselves are India, Finland, South Africa, Australia, Senegal and the United Kingdom.

Among the six countries with unhappy majorities, Zimbabweans stand out as the most miserable lot. An overwhelming 90% of those interviewed say their country's economy is getting worse, and 84% are dubious about their own financial future. Perhaps surprisingly, the war-ravaged Democratic Republic of Congo has similar numbers of pessimists to prosperous Italy and South Korea, where nearly 80% worry about their nation's economy and between 53 and 63% believe their own financial future will be difficult.
Indonesians, meanwhile, still feel the economic aftermath of the devastating tsunami a year ago. And while France appears to sink in gloom, Germans seem to believe that their economy is turning the corner. The BBC World Service poll was released on the day before the start of the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, where issues like poverty and economic success are high on the agenda. Top company executives and world leaders will discuss how to tackle economic failure in developing countries, and the impact of globalisation in the industrialised world. The poll, commissioned by BBC World Service, was conducted by Globescan and surveyed 37,572 people in 32 countries between October 2005 and January 2006.


Sudan ready to drop AU chair bid.

Some say Sudan leading the AU presents a conflict of interest. Sudan is prepared to drop its bid to chair the African Union (AU) to avoid splits within the organisation, Sudan's presidential adviser has said. "We don't want to make any cracks. If that means Sudan should withdraw, we will," Mustafa Osman Ismail said, as AU leaders met at a summit in Khartoum. The AU has set up a special committee to try to resolve the issue. It is due to present its report on Tuesday. Some AU members fear Sudan's human rights record will damage the AU. There are also fears that Sudan's bid could set back efforts to reach a peace deal in its western region of Darfur. Sudan is the only country to put its name forward at the summit. Five countries have asked Sudan to withdraw, Reuters reports. Sudan says it has the backing of 12 other nations.

Traditionally the host of the 53-nation AU summit takes over in the chair. But human rights groups say it will be a disaster if Sudan is chosen. They cite the crisis over Sudan's Darfur region and allegations that Khartoum-backed militias have been involved in murder, rape and other atrocities. More than 200,000 people have been killed in Darfur in the past three years and two million people have been forced from their homes. Rebels from the Darfur region have said they will pull out of peace talks if Sudan takes over at the AU.
Since the AU has a peacekeeping force in Darfur and mediates in the crisis, there are concerns of a conflict of interest if Sudan is in the chair, says the BBC's Adam Mynott in Khartoum. "As far as the security on the ground is concerned, there is chaos, in particular in west Darfur where there are many parties fighting," the head of the UN mission in Sudan, Jan Pronk, said.
"There are still attacks by militias on civilians," he said. However, he has said the choice of AU chairman should be left to the AU itself. Africa is split down the middle over Sudan's candidacy, says our correspondent. Sudan says it has won the unanimous backing of 12 East African nations.
Sudan's summit makeover
Profile: African Union
However an AU official told Reuters that five heads of state had met Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir on Sunday and told him "there was a consensus that he should withdraw". The countries were not named, except that Nigeria, the current AU president, was said to be among them. "It is looking like the compromise is for [Nigerian President Olusegun] Obasanjo to stay because then Bashir will save some face," the official said. An alternative suggestion is that a central African candidate take the chair.

Monday, January 23, 2006


Kenya suspends breathalyser tests.

Kenya has a high number of fatal road accidents blamed on alcohol. A Kenyan court has suspended the use of new breathalyser tests for suspected drunk drivers after motorists claimed their rights were being breached. A judge at Nairobi High Court on Monday blocked police from using the "Alcoblow" devices pending inquiries.

Police introduced the unpopular tests in December to tackle the high number of road deaths blamed on alcohol. But a group of drivers filed a lawsuit saying the tests had not been approved by lawmakers and were unconstitutional. Nairobi High Court Justice Joseph Nyamu issued a 30-day restraining order preventing national police from using "Alcoblow" tests pending a study into whether they violate Kenyans' constitutional rights. "The commissioner of police, traffic commandant and any other police officer... are hereby restrained from Alcoblow or subjecting anyone in the country to the test," Mr Nyamu said in a preliminary ruling on the motorists' lawsuit, the AFP news agency reported.

Correspondents say the breath tests caused an uproar in Kenya, where many consider binge drinking a national sport and driving is often the only way to get home from a party or a bar.
Authorities have faced a worrying number of fatal road accidents in recent years, with 3,000 in 2004. Many of them have been blamed on drunk drivers. Since police began using the Alcoblow tests last month, hundreds of people have been charged with drink driving and forced to pay hefty fines.

Sunday, January 22, 2006


I have been almost struck dumb from reading Cathy's latest letter. I know she writes how it is for the vast majority of people in Zimbabwe. I know she is a strong woman, but it pains me to see her in such mental pain, utterly exhausted and seeing no hope for the future, and, as I see it , we in the rest of the world just sit back and watch it all dispationately. (Maybe we have to for us to cope with her reports) I know the politicians in the world know what is happening in Zimbabwe, so shame on them FOR doing nothing.


Thing is that she is probably one of the very few lucky ones living in Zimbabwe just now! Certainly the life of the average man. woman and child there must be intolerable to say the least. However the politicians will be managing fine thank you very much. Mugabe still flies here there and everywhere, continues with his mansion at the expense of human lives, that are dying due to his policies and his lack of care for most of his fellow human beings. They of course are now so weak with the struggle to stay alive that there is little they are able to do to change things. There are people who live on money invested as the interest rate is so high, so their lives probably hardly change., until they need urgent medical attention and they dont have the airfuel to fly down to South Africa to get it.. Seems to me that living in Zimbabwe now for most is almost impossible and with such a high record of HIV AND AIDS -

CATHY's weekly letter from Zimbabwe.

Burn out Saturday 21 January 2006.

Dear Family and Friends,

A friend recently sent an email describing how activists manage to cope in circumstances where fear, stress, insecurity and unrest continue for long periods of time. Determination, principle and routine, seem to be about the most important factors to consider.
As the situation in Zimbabwe continues to deteriorate, more and more activists seem to be falling silent or just disappearing from sight. The recent split of the MDC has left most Zimbabweans feeling alone, betrayed and desperate about how to cope and which way to turn. It is now very difficult to keep depression and despair at bay and prevent "burn-out".
Our lives have been in turmoil for six years and many days it seems as if nothing will ever be the same again. Houses for sale are now quoted in billions of dollars, those for rent are in the multi millions, a visit to a doctor is two million dollars and the smallest handful of basic groceries carried in one plastic bag easily costs a million. The horror of this reality comes quickly when you know that an ordinary teacher for example, or a nurse, takes home only five million dollars. The men and women entrusted with educating our children and saving our lives can not afford to live in Zimbabwe any more.
In homes across the country municipal accounts for January have just arrived and they have left residents absolutely staggering in disbelief. In my home town the municipal charges have increased overnight by almost six hundred percent. We should be saying, in disgust and outrage that we will not pay for services not being provided - street lights that don't work, garbage that is not collected, water that is filthy or roads that are collapsing. But we do not; without brave and strong leadership we are a country and a population afraid and so instead we search desperately for ways to survive, to find the money and to pay for almost non existent services.
In the very early mornings you see the real people of Zimbabwe going out to do whatever they can in these wet January days. Men and women and even children who should be in school but can't afford to attend anymore. They go to little roadside gardens to dig and weed maize, beans and pumpkins - crops which are hungry for fertilizer and whose meagre yields will be dramatically reduced when the night time thieves start coming around and helping themselves. Other people go out into the bush to pull down tree branches for fuel wood or they go collecting mushrooms and wild fruits - to eat and to sell. One day after the other, one foot in front of the other we carry on, struggling, praying, hoping - we cannot afford to burn out.
Until next week, love cathy


Soccer unites divided Ivory Coast.
By James Copnall BBC News, Abidjan.

Ivory Coast has been split in two since rebels seized control of the north of the country in September 2002, underlining a north-south divide that has dragged the country into the mire. Ivory Coast's football team has players from both north and south. Since then the country has slipped from the "African miracle" of the 1970s and 1980s to a divided nation that makes the news for all the wrong reasons. The national football team, the Elephants, are determined to help change that.
As a start, the team qualified for the World Cup, a first in Ivorian history, thanks to a last-day win over Sudan and Cameroon's draw with Egypt. That sparked roars of joy and a weekend of partying in both the government-held south and the rebel-held north of the country. The Elephants were each given a luxury house by the head of state, Laurent Gbagbo, and were warmly congratulated by the rebels and the opposition parties. The team were aware they had a unique opportunity to plead the cause of unity. Dropping to one knee in the changing room after the decisive match, the captain, Chelsea star Didier Drogba, led his team-mates in a plea for peace.
Captain Didier Drogba led his team mates in a plea for peace"Ivorians, we ask for your forgiveness," they said. "Let us come together and put this war behind us." The players, who come from both the north and south of the country, are regularly held up as an example the rest of the country can follow. Ethnic and political differences are put aside in the interests of team spirit, and the results are a shining example to all - or at least, so goes the theory. The players certainly stick closely to the line. "We have a real responsibility, because our country is at war," Arsenal defender Kolo Toure states. "We want to show that there is more to Ivory Coast than fighting, and we know all the country is counting on us to give a good account of ourselves."
Cup of Nations
Now the Elephants face Morocco in the opening stages of the African Cup of Nations - and Ivorians all over the country, whatever their political beliefs, will rally behind them. This week supporters of President Laurent Gbagbo took to the streets to demonstrate against the UN. The protests were called off on Thursday, and one demonstrator thinks he knows why. "We stopped so we can watch the Elephants at the Nations Cup. When they get knocked out, we will be on the streets again!" he told the BBC. The Elephants present a harmonious image of an otherwise divided country. But scratch beneath the surface and football often shows the same tensions as Ivorian society in general.
A few years ago, the then sports minister Genevieve Bro Grebe is reported to have said: "There are too many northerners in the team!" Fans of the former Marseille and Everton striker Ibrahima Bakayoko have claimed he was kept out of the team because he is from the north. Whatever the truth of that, all Ivorians, from the north and the south, will be behind the Elephants in Egypt. Winning the Nations Cup would certainly bring this deeply divided country a little bit closer together - and would show the world there is more to Ivory Coast than war and political turmoil.


Saturday, January 21, 2006


Ethiopia festival turns violent.

Wubishet Solomon said he had no idea why he was shot in the neck. At least one person has been killed and 22 wounded after violence broke out at an Ethiopian Christian festival. Some of the tens of thousands of people started chanting opposition slogans and throwing stones, police say. They responded with live bullets. There been several violent opposition protests in the capital, Addis Ababa, since last May's disputed elections.
On Thursday, the UK suspended direct aid to the government over concerns about its commitment to human rights. A civilian was killed when a protester threw a hand grenade at the authorities, police say. But some witnesses say the police over-reacted. Many of the country's opposition leaders are now in jail"I don't really know what was happening to me. I was shot by the police twice, one on my stomach and one on my throat," Wubishet Solomon, 16, told the AP news agency. He said he was listening to religious music when the shooting started. To mark the Timkat festival, tens of thousands of Ethiopian Orthodox Christians march through the streets carrying replicas of the Arc of the Covenant, which they believe is kept safe in northern Ethiopia, reports the AP news agency.
During a visit to Ethiopia this week, UK Development Minister Hilary Benn said all British aid to the country would now be earmarked for specific projects. Ethiopia Prime Minister Meles Zenawi was once seen as a key British ally and was a member of the British prime minister's Commission for Africa. Mr Benn said there had been a "breach of trust" since more than 80 people were killed in opposition protests last year.
Some 100 opposition leaders, journalists and aid workers remain in prison on charges ranging from treason to "genocide" in connection with the unrest. Last May's polls were the most closely contested in Ethiopian history, and resulted in the opposition winning more than 100 seats in parliament. But the opposition believed they had been cheated of victory, and took to the streets.
The clashes left many dead, and Mr Meles accused the opposition of attempting to overthrow his government. Western governments tried to bring the parties together, but with limited success. Until last year's elections, Mr Meles had been praised for opening up political debate and for liberalising the economy.

Friday, January 20, 2006




Group C: Easy pickings for Tunisia?
Compiled by Farayi Mungazi

Nickname: Carthage Eagles
Coach: Roger Lemerre
Captain: Riadh Bouazizi
Cup record: Winners in 2004; Qualified 12 times.
Tunisians reacted with euphoria to the draw that placed them in a relatively uncomplicated group.
On recent form, neither Zambia, Guinea or imploding South Africa can be tipped to win the group.
The Carthage Eagles have not changed much since winning the African title on home soil two years ago.
Roger Lemerre's team has a familiar look going into Egypt 2006, with the Frenchman having the benefit of a squad that has played together more or less uninterrupted for four years.
Tunisia: BBC News Country Profile
Indeed, Tunisia are probably the most settled of the 16 finalists and, rather ominously, they look even stronger and better prepared than they were during the 2004 edition.
Tunisia were runners-up in 1965 and 1996 but they finally landed their hands on the trophy after a thrilling 2-1 victory over Morocco two years ago.
And all but two of the stars from the victorious 2004 side - Mehdi Nafti and Imed Mhadhebi - were not included in the 23-man squad to defend the title in Egypt.

Hatem Trabelsi is one of the most coveted defenders in EuropeKey Players: Lemerre has some exciting players at his disposal but Hatem Trabelsi is undeniably the main man.
The 28-year-old right-back's appearances in the 2004 tournament were limited by injury and he only played a full part in the final.
Trabelsi is one of the most coveted players in Europe and looks set for a big-money move sooner rather than later.
Elsewhere, Radhi Jaidi is a tough nut to crack while not many defenders will relish trying to cope with the pace of Brazil-born forward Santos.
Verdict: The Carthage Eagles have a great platform from which to launch a successful defence of their crown.
A word of caution for the Carthage Eagles though: Only Cameroon have successfully defended the Nations Cup title since the competition was expanded to 16 teams.

Nickname: Chipolopolo
Coach: Kalusha Bwalya (above)
Captain: Elijah Tana
Cup record: Runners-up in 1994; Qualified 12 times.
After missing out on the 2004 Nations Cup party, Zambia are back on the biggest stage in African football.
Ironically, it was in Egypt 20 years ago, that Zambian coach Kalusha Bwalya played in his first Nations Cup finals.
As a young striker, he scored a memorable goal against Cameroon but saw his side finish bottom of their group.
Now back as commander-in-chief, he will be hoping his troops do much better than the 1986 squad.
Most of the Zambian squad play in their humble domestic league, but they are not incapable of mixing it with the continent's elite.
Zambia: BBC News Country Profile

Collins Mbesuma is another high-profile Nations Cup finals virginKey Player: They may not think much of him in the English Premiership but Collins Mbesuma has established himself as the most prolific striker in Zambian football.
He is a typical goal-poacher, as he demonstrated during his time with Kaizer Chiefs of South Africa, and Egypt 2006 is the first real opportunity for him to prove his worth on the international stage.
Bwalya will also bank on the considerable experience of two reliable performers - Andrew Sinkala and Laughter Chilembi.
Verdict: Zambia should be capable of beating both South Africa and Guinea, and on a given day should not necessarily be without a chance against the Tunisians.
If the Zambians advance to the knock-out stage, the biggest fear is that there may not be enough petrol in the tank to take them further than the last eight.

Nickname: Bafana Bafana
Coach: Ted Dumitru
Captain: Sibusiso Zuma
Nations Cup record: Winners 1996; Qualified six times
What is there to say about this team that has not already been said already?
Under normal circumstances, the South Africans would be fancied to accompany holders Tunisia out of this group.
But having endured a dismal qualifying campaign where they came perilously close to making an embarrassing exit, they are not in a position to underestimate anyone.
Their preparations were overshadowed by the resignation of coach Stuart Baxter in November, and it will be a true test of their character to see if they can get their act together.
The South Africans spluttered through the qualifiers, losing four times in 10 matches to finish five points behind eventual group winners Ghana.
South Africa: BBC News Country Profile
And while there is a large measure of pride in hosting the 2010 World Cup finals, failure to qualify for the 2006 event in Germany caused much wailing and gnashing of teeth.
Critics dismiss their chances of winning their second African title as nothing more than pie-in-the-sky stuff, but caretaker coach Ted Dumitru remains remarkably upbeat.
The former Kaizer Chiefs coach insists that Bafana Bafana will be contenders - a prediction which borders on the comical given that he picked a squad of largely untried local players.

A lot is expected of new Bafana Bafana captain Sibusiso Zuma
Key players: Dumitru says his team will mount a strong challenge if things suddenly click during the tournament.
This is always a possibility when the likes of Benni McCarthy, captain Sibusiso Zuma and young FC Copenhagen midfielder Elrio van Heerden are in the squad.
If he is in the mood, Portugal-based McCarthy can be a handful for any defence and will be keen to re-establish his diminishing credentials.
Then there is also the enigmatic Siyabonga Nomvete who can be a matchwinner on his day.
Verdict: Things are not exactly shipshape in the Bafana Bafana camp and unless Dumitru does something special, the South Africans will sink without trace.
So play safe, and do not bet a penny on them - it would need a footballing miracle of quite dramatic proportions for South Africa to claim the title.

Nickname: Syli Nationale
Coach: Patrice Neveu
Captain: Dianbobo Balde
Cup record: Runners-up 1976; Qualified eight times
It is no secret that Guinea long for a return of the good old days of the 1970s when they never entered any tournament just to make up the numbers.
Those were the days when Hafia won the African Champions Cup three times, Horoya took the African Cup Winners Cup and and Cherif Souleymane was voted African Footballer of the Year.
Since then, however, Guinean football has languished in the doldrums with the Syli Nationale hardly achieving anything one could write home about.
Which is why the fact that Guinea are not one of the favourites to lift the Nations Cup title is indisputable.
But the fighting qualities they displayed in the qualifying campaign make them a side no one will relish facing.
The Syli Nationale have a reasonable squad, as their 2004 Nations Cup quarter-final place shows, and they will have lofty ambitions in Egypt.
Guinea: BBC News Country Profile
Any thoughts they have of actually winning the Nations Cup should be dismissed as hallucinations, but Guinea will certainly add an unpredictable element to the group.
Most pundits would consider that a quarter-final appearance would represent an excellent result for this team.

Pascal Feindouno is one of Guinea's big-match performersKey players: Pascal Feindouno gave up the captaincy earlier in the year, saying he could not cope with the demands it placed on him.
But he remains the team's key asset and most pundits agree that Guinea are likely to go as far as he can carry them.
Scotland-based Dianbobo Balde is a defender who scares opponents with his giant frame while Sambegou Bangoura is another player with the benefit of European football.
Verdict: Guinea are a real threat to everyone in this group and a good result against South Africa in their opening game may provide the spark for a good campaign.
But few would expect to see any more than three matches from the Syli Nationale. So not many would be surprised to see them on the first plane home.



Egypt ready for Nations Cup.
By Vera Kwakofi BBC Sport, Cairo.

Dr Viken Djizmedjian says Egypt is ready to host the Nations Cup.The Local Organising Committee (LOC) for the 25th African Nations Cup says everything is ready for Egypt to host the event that kicks off on Friday. Dr Viken Djizmedjian, who is the planning director for the tournament, told BBC Sport that he is satisfied with how everything is coming together. "The teams have begun arriving, all the facilities and more importantly, the stadiums are ready so I can say yes we are ready," he said. "What is left is just the final decorations for the stadiums and these are very small things compared to all the effort and expenditure that's been done for this tournament so far."
Dr Djizmedjian pointed out that the LOC was under pressure from the local press to put on a good tournament after their failure to win the right to host the 2010 World Cup. "Now this is our time and place to show that Egypt deserves to host the World Cup," he said. "We have the expertise, we have the know-how and we have the capabilities and we're showing this with the Nations Cup." He however acknowledged that getting people to fill the stands was a particular concern for the organisers.
Egypt 2006 venues
"We know that when a team loses a game, people don't go to the stadium and that's why we insisted on started selling the tickets back in August on the internet," he said. "A tournament with empty tribunes is no tournament." The LOC have also drafted in the governors of Port Said and Alexandria, which will be hosting Groups D and C respectively, to put effort into filling the stands in those cities. "We have made a special arrangement for them to bus in people from the schools and factories in the area to fill the seats in those cities," Djizmedjian said. This will be the fourth time Africa's most prestigious football tournament is being held in Egypt, having previously hosted it in 1959, 1974 and 1986.


'No reason' to cull SA elephants.

Too many elephants can wreak havoc on the environment. Leading South African scientists have advised the government against culling elephants, saying there is no reason to lift a 10-year ban. The government has been considering an end to the ban, amid fears that a rapid increase in the elephant population is threatening the ecological balance.
But a panel of 10 experts told the environment minister it was not clear the elephant population was too large. They said that mass culling was in any case not a perfect solution. Environment Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk met the panel in an attempt to resolve what has become an emotive issue in South Africa.
"The scientists said that there was not yet sufficient compelling evidence to take action at a large scale to reduce the elephant population," environment ministry spokesman JP Louw said.
"They said there was not sufficient evidence to say contraception would work or translocation would work. There is not sufficient evidence about the impact of culling." Some 13,000 elephants currently roam in the Kruger National Park, South Africa's premier wildlife reserve.
This is nearly double the 7,000 that was considered the optimum number during South Africa's apartheid years, when culling took place regularly.
South Africa's National Parks Service has argued that large numbers of elephants are destroying natural habitats and threatening other wildlife in the park, as well as endangering communities and farmland in areas bordering on the park. Those opposed to the culling of elephants have argued that the overpopulation problem could be solved by transporting animals to areas where they are scarce, or by administering contraception.

Thursday, January 19, 2006


Tribalism 'rampant' in Kenyan workplace.

Some saw Kenya's rejected constitution endorsing tribalism. The rise of tribalism in the workplace has become a major talking point in Kenya following a newspaper investigation. A report by Anthony Ngare, a journalist with the country's East African Standard, argued that discrimination along tribal lines, albeit in a disguised form, is dominating the Kenyan workplace. Mr Ngare told BBC World Service's Outlook programme that although many Kenyans believe in the principles of a meritocracy, where those with the right skills advance furthest up the career ladder, up to 80% of the workforce of some Kenyan companies often comes from the same tribal area. "People will have to open up and talk about the situation," he said.
Following Mr Ngare's report, Titus Naikuni, the Chief Executive Officer of Kenya Airways and one of Kenya's leading business figures, made a speech in which he condemned the practice of tribalism. Mr Naikuni, told Outlook that he had made his statement "based on what you hear both from members of staff and also people seeking employment". "If you do not have somebody in a position who is from your tribe, you will not get into particular organisations," he added "I think it's widespread." And Mr Naikuni warned that tribalism had the potential to damage Kenya's economic prospects in the future. "When people start looking at each other from a tribal point of view, and you are not employed because of your own credentials, then it starts affecting productivity," he said. "If I am employing someone because they come from a particular tribe and not because they are qualified, then the results would be disastrous for an organisation."
Kenya Airways is now implementing a policy of having committees for interviewing, and openly discussing the problem, he explained. Mr Ngare, said that Mr Naikuni's speech meant that the subject could now be discussed openly. "Previously it had been subtle," he said
Evelyn Mungai, the chair of the Kenyan branch of anti-corruption organisation Transparency International, said the problem had got much worse in the last year. In particular, she said tribalism is rampant throughout the public sector, where it is about "who you know". "You appoint people from your background because you want votes, and that's why the public sector has been very much in the news," she said. "Lately, what we have seen in the political arena is we have seen people from a particular tribe going to the president saying: 'you've got to appoint people from my area to such-and-such a position'.
"Now it's coming to a situation where it's become rather dangerous - in a few years' time what I see is a situation where meritocracy goes out of the window, and you're talking in terms of tribalism taking centre stage." She added she believed that tribalism in the workplace has blossomed since Kenya became a multi-party democracy, with more people thinking in terms of their tribe. But Ms Mungai also said she believed the younger generation were less inclined to think along tribal lines, which offered hope for the future.
"Once the younger generation is in leadership positions - whether in the public sector or private sector - I think tribalism will ease," she said. "It is the older generation 'taking care of people back home,' as it were. That's why we've got hope for this country."


Burundi anger at TV football cut.

Burundi's national team has never qualified for the Nations CupBurundian football fans are angry that they will not be able to watch this year's African Nations Cup matches on national television. The state broadcaster RTNB warned fans on Wednesday that it could not afford the $300,000 for the television rights. Burundi has never qualified for the competition but even during the civil war, RTNB always broadcast the matches. Fans will have to subscribe to expensive satellite channels or go to bars to watch the games.
The BBC's Gaspard Karerwa in Bujumbura says the competition is followed avidly and people are angry about the news. But given the country's erratic electricity supply and its low voltage, it would have been difficult to see the tournament even if RTNB could afford the rights, he says.
Several other countries, including Ghana and Zambia, have also had difficultly securing the rights to screen matches which kick off on Friday. More than 300,000 people were killed during Burundi's 12-year civil war which came to an end last year with the election of President Pierre Nkurunziza.
The BBC's Sport website will be following the tournament closely with live updates from every match.
BBC News Report


UK cuts Ethiopian government aid.

Clashes between police and protesters followed last year's polls. The UK has suspended all aid to the Ethiopian government over concerns about its commitment to human rights. The money will instead be given to aid agencies or local authorities, UK Development Minister Hilary Benn announced on a visit to Ethiopia. Ethiopia Prime Minister Meles Zenawi was seen as a key British UK ally. The United Nations estimates 1.75m Ethiopians in the south are in desperate need of food aid and has issued an urgent appeal for help. Mr Benn did not disclose how much money would be withheld but it is thought to be around £50m ($88m). He said there had been a "breach of trust" since more than 80 people were killed in opposition protests following disputed elections.
Mr Benn maintained that Britain was still "fully committed to supporting the people of Ethiopia in their fight against poverty". But he said he was seriously concerned about "the detention of and very serious charges faced by the opposition, the media and members of civil society." Many of the country's opposition leaders are now in jailSome 100 opposition leaders, journalists and aid workers remain in prison on charges ranging from treason to "genocide" in connection with the unrest.
"Concerns have been raised with me about the continuing clashes between students and security forces in schools and colleges across the country," he told reporters in Addis Ababa. Last May's polls were the most closely contested in Ethiopian history and resulted in the opposition winning more than 100 seats in parliament. But the opposition believed they had been cheated of victory, and took to the streets. The clashes left many dead, and Mr Meles accused the opposition of attempting to overthrow his government.
Western governments tried to bring the parties together, but with limited success. In November the British ambassador to Ethiopia, Bob Dewar, put out a strong statement on behalf of the European Union and the United States. It called for respect for human rights, an end to mass arrests, the lifting of restrictions on the opposition and for the freeing of political detainees.
Up until last year's elections, Mr Meles has been praised for opening up political debate and for liberalising the economy. He was even invited to be a member of the British prime minister's Commission for Africa. The government has blamed its opponents for the unrest and violence.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006


Iran crisis a dilemma for China.
By Jill McGivering BBC News.

China needs energy to fuel its economic boom. As Washington, now joined by the EU3, presses for punitive international action against Tehran, one of its most difficult tasks will be to win China's support. The first step is to persuade China to agree to support - or not to block - an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) referral of Iran to the UN Security Council. China, like Russia, feels it is in an awkward position. An important development for Beijing will be how Russia decides to react.
Initial reports from Washington, soon after news broke that Iran was resuming work, said that Moscow had privately agreed not to veto referral to the Security Council but it is still unclear if that is true. If it were, Beijing could find itself diplomatically isolated. That would only increase the pressure on Beijing to follow Moscow's lead. But Beijing would like to avoid that crisis altogether if it possibly can. Its own focus is firmly on a non-confrontational diplomatic solution to the crisis. Beijing's initial reaction to news that Iran was breaking its deal with the EU3 was to express its concern, but immediately reaffirm its commitment to multilateral negotiations. Since then, the diplomatic temperature has increased dramatically but China has refused to change its position. Officials have repeated the Chinese government's view that the best way forward is to restart the EU3 diplomacy with Iran, despite the fact many in the West are now dismissing it as exhausted. China's work behind the scenes seems to be focussed on trying to keep the diplomacy alive. China's most obvious interest is energy.
Energy supply is a priority for the Chinese government.Three years ago, when Iran was already supplying 13 per cent of China's oil needs, the two governments signed a major deal which included Chinese development of Iranian oil fields. It is a source of supply of growing importance for China - one it doesn't want disrupted by politics. China also has a deeply-engrained reluctance to takes sides with the US against a fellow non-Western nation. Much of its current energy-driven diplomacy is on forging political alliances which exclude the West and are faithful to Chinese principles of non-interference in each other's internal affairs. But Beijing is also keen not to cause fresh tensions in its relationship with Washington. Compliance on Iran may be seen by Washington as an important test of its sincerity.
'Force for peace' The Bush administration is pressing China hard to be a more engaged and responsible player on the international stage as it emerges as an increasingly dominant world power. Support on North Korea and Iran are exactly what it has in mind, a way of proving to Washington that China is, as it claims, a force for peace in the world and can be trusted at a time of crisis. China has shown itself willing to play an active role as long as the focus in both cases is on peaceful diplomacy but it's unclear whether China would be prepared to endorse US-led punitive action which could be detrimental to its own interest.
Chinese willingness to take sides with the US against a friend and energy supplier like Iran could alarm some of its other suppliers, from Sudan to Burma. All of this will be high on the agenda of Hu Jintao's forthcoming visit to Washington, expected in April. For China, they are impossible choices. As Beijing scours the world for oil and gas, its strategy is to keep politics and energy as separate as possible, however impossible a task that is starting to look.


Ten killed in Iraq convoy attack. At least 10 Iraqis have been killed and a Malawian engineer kidnapped in an ambush in the west of Baghdad, an Interior Ministry official says.

The seven bodyguards and three drivers were killed when their three-vehicle convoy was attacked by gunmen in a tunnel in the Jamia district.

The Iraqis and the Malawian were working for the Iraqi mobile phone company, Iraqna. There have been a number of foreigners kidnapped in Iraq in recent months.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006


SA defends controversial air trip.

Ms Mlambo-Ngcuka and her party of 12 travelled to Abu Dhabi. South Africa's presidency says a recent controversial plane trip by Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka combined leisure and business. It emerged last week that the deputy president had used a state plane for a holiday costing taxpayers over $66,000.
A presidential spokesman said the deputy president's husband and the wife of another cabinet member were also on the trip to the United Arab Emirates. Critics say the trip may have been to help her husband's business interests. The incident threatens to embarrass the government, which has promised to act against corruption. Presidential spokesman Murphy Morobe on Tuesday said the trip was a holiday, but the deputy president had taken the opportunity to study the management of infrastructure projects.
Thuthukile Mazibuko-Skweyiya - wife of Social Development Minister Zola Skweyiya - was part of the trip because she is a member of the Joint Initiative for the Procurement of Scarce Skills, Mr Morobe said. The trip on a South African Air Force plane had been funded by the South African state, and accommodation was provided by the government of the United Arab Emirates, Mr Morobe said.
Two opposition parties, The Democratic Alliance and the Freedom Front Plus, have written separately to the public protector requesting an inquiry into the trip. DA MP Douglas Gibson said the party wanted an investigation into "the possible abuse of her office and state resources by the deputy president". Controversy around the December flight has grown since the press first reported it last week, as officials made apparently contradictory statements about the nature of the trip. Mr Morobe at first said it had been a private visit, and that said Mrs Mlambo-Ngcuka was entitled in her role as deputy president to use the plane for that purpose.
Later the deputy president herself said the trip had in fact been a "fact-finding mission to study cranes". The DA then pointed out that deputy president's husband, Bulelani Ngcuka, has substantial interests in the construction industry in South Africa. The deputy president's adviser then issued a further statement saying the visit had been a holiday, as originally stated.
Mrs Mlambo-Ngcuka, who was appointed after President Thabo Mbeki's previous deputy, Jacob Zuma, was sacked following allegations of corruption, is under attack from the opposition for abusing codes of public conduct.
South Africa's largest trade union federation, Cosatu, has described the use of the plane at public expense as "an example of capitalist morality." President Mbeki made the fight against corruption a cornerstone of his platform for local elections, when he launched the governing ANC party's manifesto earlier this month.


African blitz on 'flying coffins'.

Africa accounts for more than a quarter of the world's air crashes. African countries and airlines running unsafe planes face a crackdown from the African Civil Aviation Commission. AFCAC president Tshepo Pheege said it would name and shame airlines operating what he called "flying coffins".
Nearly 400 people died last year in air accidents in Africa, which has a crash rate six times the world average. At the same time, Nigeria has grounded a third domestic airline. Nigeria's president launched a task force on air safety after two major crashes in 2005. "One of the most important things in choosing an airline is how safe it is," said Mr Pheege. "You don't want to fly out as a passenger and come back as cargo." Africa accounts for only 4% of global air traffic but 27% of all air crashes. More than 200 died in two accidents in Nigeria last yearLast year, 15 air accidents were recorded in Africa.
AFCAC, a specialised agency of the African Union, will be following up on whether its recommendations are being adhered to. Mr Pheege said lack of transparency among many African states had resulted in safety concerns being ignored.
On Monday, the Nigerian presidential task force created to improve aircraft safety grounded Executive Airline Services, the third Nigerian carrier to be targeted under new safety rules. A spokesman for the company said the order related to administrative, rather than technical irregularities, and flights would soon resume. More than 200 people were killed in two air disasters in Nigeria within a month last year. Two airlines which had been ordered to stop flying have since had the restriction lifted.
These include Sosoliso, the owner of a plane which crashed in Port Harcourt in December, killing 117 people. Aside from the Nigerian accidents, the biggest culprits in 2005 were Russian-built planes, Mr Pheege said.



Sunday, January 15, 2006


Alphand wraps up maiden Dakar win.

Former skiing champion Alphand finished second last yearFrance's Luc Alphand took victory in the Dakar Rally for the first time, but his triumph was overshadowed by the three deaths that have marred the race.
Sunday's final stage was not timed as a tribute to the two young spectators who were killed and Australian motorcyclist Andy Caldecott, who died on stage nine. Former ski champion Alphand effectively sealed victory on stage 12 when leader Stephane Peterhansel crashed.
Spanish rider Marc Coma won the motorbike category for the first time.
Coma beat reigning champion Cyril Despres of France into second spot with Italy's Giovanni Sala finishing third. Coma, the second Spaniard to win after Nani Roma in 2004, claimed victory without winning a single stage.
Driving a Mitsubishi, Alphand won the cars division with a lead of nearly 18 minutes over Volkswagen driver Giniel De Villiers of South Africa. "This was definitely the most exciting Dakar Rally that I have been involved in," said Alphand, the 1997 overall World Cup skiing champion.
Born 6 August 1965
Suffers series of injuries in first part of skiing career, including abdomen tear and detached knee ligaments
Wins first World Cup downhill race in 1995
Ranked number one in men's downhill in 1995 and 1996
Wins World Cup in 1997 and retires at the end of the season
Competes in first Dakar Rally a year later in 1998

"I knew I had a chance. Our team was up against it in Morocco, but we were confident that our experience and our car would be stronger in Mauritania." Alphand was ranked number one in men's downhill in 1995 and 1996 and retired at the end of the 1997 season in which he won the World Cup.
A year later, he entered his first Dakar Rally. "It was a different world," he said after triumphing on Sunday. "I had a good advantage from the vision and the ability to analyse speeds but you need time to learn. "I was not really prepared for the desert. I was born for zero degrees and heights of 1500m. Being outside in the winter was my life. "The desert is a different world. It was scary for me at the start. "The first Dakar was a nightmare. We finished in a helicopter two days before the finish and left the car in the desert. I said to myself I did not want to be there again."
However, despite Alphand's remarkable achievement, the thoughts of many spectators in Senegal were with the families of the two young boys who were killed on consecutive days.
The first was hit by a competitor during the 13th stage and the second by a support vehicle on stage 14. "Of course, we are thinking of them and their families," said Alphand. Australian Caldecott, who won the third stage of this year's race, became the 23rd competitor to be killed in the 28-year history of the Dakar Rally when he crashed on Monday.




Egypt 1-2 South Africa
By Vera Kwakofi BBC Sport, Cairo.

Pierre Issa was a surprise goal scorer for South Africa.South Africa spoiled the Egyptian party when they beat the hosts of the African Nations Cup 2-1 at the Cairo International Stadium on Saturday. The friendly match comes six days before the curtain lifts on the Nations Cup and was the final preparation for both teams.
Bafana Bafana's first goal came in the 12th minute when veteran defender Pierre Issa bundled in a back-heeled shot, after the Egyptian keeper Abdul Wahed El Sayed came out to punch the ball and missed.
The stadium came to life when the Egyptians drew level in the 23rd minute after Amr Zaki converted a penalty, awarded when Emad Moteab was hauled back inside the area. But the South Africans regained the lead when Porto's Benni McCarthy converted a superb cross from captain Sibusiso Zuma, to make it 2-1 with just seconds remaining of the first half.

Saturday, January 14, 2006


SA fossil murder mystery solved.
By Mahlatse Gallens BBC News, Johannesburg.

The marks on the skull resemble those made by a bird of prey. Scientists claim to have solved the murder mystery of the baby that holds the key to all of humanity's ancestry. For decades, scientists have argued over what killed the 2m-year-old Taung Child, found in 1924: the first ape-man fossil to be discovered in Africa. Some scientists had believed the child was killed by leopards. Prof Lee Berger challenged this, suggesting that the Taung child was attacked from above by a bird.
But until now, Prof Berger - an American palaeontologist working at South Africa's University of the Witwatersrand - was unable to find definitive proof for his hypothesis. Scientists had missed the evidence right in front of their eyes, even though the Taung child (thought to belong to the humanlike species Australopithecus africanus) is believed to be the most photographed and observed fossil in history.
The injuries on the Taung child's skull mimic those of on the skull of a baboon killed by an eagle. Many fossils of humanlike creatures have been found in South Africa .Prof Berger explained how birds such as eagles kill their prey and eat the brain, which is the most nutritious part of the animal. "They first kill the young child or a primate by jamming their talons - up to 14cm in length - though the back of the brain and that kills the animal instantly," he said.
"They make sure the animal is dead, then they go down, disembowel it, rip it apart. Take out the eyes, very delicately with their talons, reach in, following the optic nerve with their beak, after eating the eye of course and go in." Prof Berger describes his finding as "an extraordinary window into our past" that tells of how our ancestors lived millions of years ago.
"We now know that it's not the furry things with claws that we had to be afraid of, we were driven by other stresses. We were being driven by attacks from the sky. "Can you imagine what it must have been like back then? Not only were we afraid of cats, and leopards - you had to watch for aerial attacks from these ferocious predators preying on your young." Prof Berger's findings are to be published in a scientific journal next month.

Friday, January 13, 2006


British filmmaker killed in Kenya.

Kenyan police are hunting the killers of British filmmaker and naturalist Joan Root, who was killed in an attack on her home in Naivasha. They say she was shot three times in her bed by an intruder armed with an AK-47 rifle during an apparent robbery. This is the latest in a series of attacks on farmers and descendants of white settlers in the Naivasha area. Joan Root collaborated with her husband Alan Root in making of many celebrated films about African wildlife.

A guard at her home, some 90km from the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, had reported seeing two people breaking into the residence in the early hours of Friday morning. Police say they have started a manhunt with dogs to track down the two intruders who escaped into the night. They said nothing appeared have to have been taken during the attack and the motive was not known. Naivasha police chief Simon Kiragu said: "We are trying to determine whether this was an assassination or a robbery gone sour."



Former world champion skier Luc Alphand seized the overall lead of the Dakar Rally after rival Stephane Peterhansel hit a tree on Thursday's 12th stage. Alphand covered the 228 miles from Bamako in Mali to Labe in Guinea in four hours, 22 minutes and 46 seconds. Compatriot Guerlain Chicherit was 56 seconds back on the stage while South African Giniel de Villiers came third to move into second place overall.
Overnight leader Peterhansel lost time when he had to repair a rear wheel. Peterhansel lost three hours and had to wait for help after hitting a tree during a dust storm. "I'm disappointed of course but it is less horrible than in Sharm-el-Sheikh three years ago," he told the race website. "At that time, it happened 60km before the end of the stage. It was the last day and I had never won the Dakar. "This is a little bit different. I've already won the race twice and the crash occurred earlier."
Frenchman Henri Pescarolo flipped three-times during the stage, but rejoined after repairs, despite suggestions that he could retire from the event.
In the motorcycle category, France's Cyril Depres won the 12th stage in 4:52:14. Overall leader Marc Coma of Spain was 1:45 back.

Stage 12 result:
1. Luc Alphand (Fra) Mitsubishi 4:22:462. Guerlain Chicherit (Fra) BMW 4:23:423. Giniel de Villiers (SA) Volkswagen 4:26:074. Bruno Saby (Fra) Volkswagen 4:27:185. Mark Miller (US) Volkswagen 4:29:426. Nani Roma (Spa) Mitsubishi 4:30:507. Eric Vigouroux (Fra) Chevrolet 4:31:048. Thierry Magnaldi (Fra) Schlesser-Ford 4:31:179. Carlos Sainz (Spa) Volkswagen 4:33:3410. Jean-Louis Schlesser (Fra) Schlesser-Ford 4:34:54

Overall standings:
1. Luc Alphand (Fra) Mitsubishi, 46 hours, 25 minutes, 52 seconds2. Giniel de Villiers (SA) Volkswagen at 20:313. Nani Roma (Spa) Mitsubishi, 1:20:464. Stephane Peterhansel (Fra) Mitsubishi, 2:51:055. Marc Miller, United States, Volkswagen, 2:59:53

Stage 12 motorcycle result:
1. Cyril Despres (Fra) KTM 4:52:142. Marc Coma (Spa) KTM 4:53:593. Chris Blais (US) KTM 4:54:434. Jean de Azevedo (Bra) KTM 4:55:155. Jonah Street (US) KTM 4:58:576. Helder Rodrigues (Por) Yamaha 4:59:497. Jordi Viladoms (Spa) KTM 5:00:488. Paulo Goncalves (Por) Honda 5:04:059. Janis Vinters (Lat) KTM 5:07:4510. David Fretigne (France) Yamaha 5:08:11