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  • Christine Chumbler
    Jan 28, 2003
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      'Third-term' protests
      broken up in Malawi

      Police in Malawi have fired tear gas to disperse
      demonstrators angry at proposals to let
      President Bakili Muluzi run for a third term in
      office.

      Some 2,000 people marched in the commercial
      capital, Blantyre, before the protest was
      broken up, according to Reuters news agency.

      In Lilongwe, parliament
      has started an
      emergency debate over
      a proposed change to
      the constitution to let
      Mr Muluzi contest
      elections scheduled for
      2004.

      The current constitution only allows presidents
      to serve two terms.

      A similar bill was narrowly defeated by
      parliament last year.

      Knives and stones

      Some 15 people were arrested by the police
      and two people were taken to hospital,
      Reuters reports.

      Some of the protesters carried placards
      reading "Muluzi leave Malawi in peace".

      Monday's protests
      were organised by a
      coalition of Christian
      groups, civic
      organisations and
      political parties.

      Some Muslim groups
      have backed the
      proposals to let Mr
      Muluzi stand again.

      Supporters of Mr
      Muluzi armed with
      knives and stones
      were also planning to march, reports the
      French news agency, AFP.

      Police said they fired tear gas to prevent
      clashes between the rival groups.

      'No threat'

      Following a wave of anti third-term protests
      last year, Mr Muluzi banned public
      demonstrations on the issue.

      Justice Minister Henry
      Phoya denied that the
      new bill threatened
      democracy, as he
      introduced it.

      "It does not mean the
      incumbent president
      will be the next
      president because
      there will be free and
      fair elections and the
      majority of people can
      vote him out."

      Mr Muluzi's United Democratic Front has 95
      MPs and needs an extra 28 votes from the
      opposition for the two-thirds majority needed
      to change the constitution.

      *****

      Scuffles Delay Decision On Muluzi Third Term

      UN Integrated Regional Information
      Networks
      January 28, 2003
      Posted to the web January 28, 2003

      Johannesburg

      Debate on a proposed constitutional amendment which would allow
      President Bakili Muluzi to run for a third term has been deferred
      indefinitely
      following scuffles outside and inside parliament on Tuesday.

      Sources in the capital told IRIN there was a heavy police presence
      around
      parliament, where police had to fire teargas at protestors on Monday.

      Debate on the proposed amendment had to be postponed for the first
      time
      on Monday following clashes in Lilongwe and Blantyre between police,
      pro-third term protestors and anti-third term protestors.

      Muluzi had earlier banned all protests around the issue.

      When debate resumed in parliament on Tuesday, an eyewitness in the
      chamber told IRIN the atmosphere was charged. So much so that scuffles
      broke out on the steps of parliament, a clergyman was apparently
      beaten,
      and inside parliamentary chambers. A ruling party MP was reportedly
      injured inside chambers.

      He said: "It was clear the ruling party was going to lose again. Soon
      after
      [the scuffle inside parliament] the minister of justice announced that
      they
      had decided to refer the debate to a special legal affairs committee
      of
      parliament, to look at comments that had come from the opposition and
      the ruling party.

      "Later on the attorney-general was briefing reporters outside [saying]
      that
      there was no time-frame when it [the amendment bill] would come back
      to
      parliament."

      It was uncertain in what guise, if at all, the bill would return to
      parliament as
      the legal affairs committee was chaired by an anti-third term
      opposition
      MP.

      Donors, on whose development aid Malawi depends heavily, have warned
      Muluzi against amending the constitution and trying to hold on to
      power.

      Muluzi's bid for a third term suffered its first setback in early July
      2002
      when a bill proposing an amendment to the constitution was narrowly
      defeated.

      A second attempt at tabling the bill in October 2002 - after Minister
      of
      Justice Henry Phoya proclaimed the government's intention to amend the
      constitution in a government gazette - failed again due to opposition
      pressure.

      Civic organisations and church groups have rallied in opposition to
      the
      proposed third term amendment, said Nicholas Mkwabata of Public
      Affairs
      Committee, a lobby group constituted by churches.

      He told IRIN there was widespread opposition to another term for
      Muluzi.
      The group had organised protests and was lobbying heavily against the
      amendment bill.

      The ruling United Democratic Front had caught opposition and civil
      society
      off-guard with the surprise tabling for the bill for debate in an
      emergency
      session of parliament.

      "We did not know this bill was going to be tabled, so yesterday
      [Monday]
      most of the opposition members of parliament were hoping they could
      get
      to vote [against it]. But the vote was delayed," Mkwabata told IRIN.

      *****

      Spectre of Famine Still Looms for Fragile Malawi, UN
      Envoy Warns

      United Nations (New York)
      January 27, 2003
      Posted to the web January 28, 2003

      New York

      The United Nations top humanitarian envoy for southern Africa has
      warned
      that the food security situation in Malawi remains fragile and slight
      gains
      made to avert famine could be easily eroded by a combination of
      HIV/AIDS,
      late rains and floods.

      Continuing his week-long, five-nation mission in southern Africa,
      James
      Morris, Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Special Envoy for Humanitarian
      Needs in the region, said yesterday that despite rapid response from
      the
      international community, the crisis is "far from over and the
      situation
      remains so fragile that gains could be easily eroded." HIV/AIDS, late
      rains
      and floods are threatening this year's upcoming harvest, placing
      millions of
      people at risk of starvation.

      The envoy, who travelled to one of the worst flood-affected districts
      during
      his visit to Malawi, said that along with the converging HIV/AIDS and
      hunger
      crises, floods earlier this month caused by Cyclone Delfina wreaked
      havoc
      throughout the country, destroying hundreds of acres of desperately
      needed maize, the staple food. More than 30,000 people were displaced
      by
      the floods, which also caused significant damage to roads, bridges and
      railway lines.

      Mr. Morris said that at the root of the humanitarian crisis in Malawi,
      along
      with erratic weather and chronic poverty, "is the HIV/AIDS pandemic,
      which
      is threatening the lives and livelihoods of millions of people." About
      14 per
      cent of the country's population is infected with HIV, the virus that
      causes
      AIDS. The virus worsens the effects that famine has on people due to
      their
      weakened immune systems.

      *****

      Accusations Against Malawian Truckers

      Agencia de Informacao de
      Mocambique (Maputo)
      January 21, 2002
      Posted to the web January 24, 2003

      Maputo

      Tete (Mozambique), 24 Jan (AIM) - The Mozambican police have
      accused Malawian truck drivers of illegally selling fuel along the
      main
      road from Zimbabwe to Malawi, which runs through the middle of the
      western Mozambican province of Tete.

      The Tete police say that at night the truckers remove fuel from the
      tanks of their own vehicles and sell it. There is a market for the
      fuel
      along the Tete corridor, since the Malawians sell it at cheaper prices
      than motorists can buy fuel from authorised distributors.

      Thus the Malawian drivers are accused of swindling their own
      companies, and of unfair competition with legal fuel distributors.

      The police have cracked down on this activity. According to the Tete
      provincial police commander, Jose Mapilele, a police operation along
      the corridor resulted in the seizure of 2,525 litres of diesel, and
      279
      litres of petrol.

      He promised that this year the police will step up the battle against
      illegal sales of fuel. The objective, he said, was "to put an end to
      this
      evil once and for all, in defence of the Mozambican economy".

      *****

      Terror warnings cripple Zanzibar
      Alex Ortolani | Zanzibar

      27
      January 2003 10:20

      A terrorist warning issued by the United States,
      British and
      Australian governments has hampered the tourism
      trade in
      the popular beach resort of Zanzibar, comprising
      Unguja
      (Zanzibar Island) and Pemba Island.

      Zanzibar's economy, which once relied heavily on
      clove
      exports, is now bolstered by a foreign tourism
      trade that
      brings in thousands of travellers every year.

      On January 11 the US State Department cautioned
      visitors
      about an attack on an unspecified location
      frequented by tourists in
      Zanzibar, citing markets, bars and nightclubs as
      areas to avoid. The
      message followed a general warning for travellers
      in East Africa about
      "continuing potential for terrorist actions,
      including kidnapping", issued more
      than one month after a car bomb killed 14 in the
      coastal city of Mombasa,
      Kenya.

      The British government followed the US by
      cautioning tourists that an
      "international terrorist group" might be
      planning an attack on Zanzibar. The
      Australian government likewise recommended
      "extreme caution" to travellers
      just months after the Bali blasts took numerous
      Australian lives.

      No country has directly ordered tourists or foreign
      nationals to evacuate the
      islands.

      The warnings have left many restaurant tables, tour
      bus seats and hotel
      rooms empty on the islands during a peak tourist
      season that runs from
      November through February, said Issa Mlingoti,
      director for tourism, planning
      and development at Zanzibar's Commission for
      Tourism.

      "There have been numerous cancellations in all
      sectors of the tourism
      industry," Mlingoti said. "It's a big
      challenge for us. For the time being we
      can only increase security and wait it out."

      The commission sent a letter to tour operators in
      the area giving details of
      how to increase security and make patrons feel
      secure, said Mlingoti. It
      includes putting guards at entrances to check bags,
      making sure all guests
      sign in with appropriate documentation and
      preventing cars from parking
      near public places.

      "We do not have the power to tell tourists
      'Stay, do not go back home'," he
      said. "We cannot override the decision of their
      governments, though we feel
      Zanzibar is as safe as ever."

      Khamis Ayub, of Links Tours & Travel in Zanzibar
      Town, said the warning
      had hit particularly hard because of its timing.

      "It came during the first [month] of the year,
      right when we have a number of
      expenses to be met," Ayub said. "We need to pay
      insurance, taxes and our
      tour guide operators at this time, and now there is
      very little money coming
      in."

      Ayub said his company would usually be catering for
      between 20 and 25
      tourists a day. Two days after the warnings those
      numbers had dropped
      from about six to zero. "At this rate we might
      have to close up the office
      early in the season," Ayub said.

      The fear of terrorist attacks has also hit the
      hotel industry. Some are
      resorting to bringing prices down to low-season
      rates, though that is doing
      little to bring in new customers.

      Hotel Marine Zanzibar manager HR Kijiba sifted
      through a stack of printed
      e-mails from travel agents cancelling tour groups
      from Britain and Australia.

      "We should have a hotel with 20 full rooms,"
      Kijiba said. "Instead, right now,
      we only have two. What can we do? No amount of
      advertising will take away
      people's fear."

      Some well-tanned backpackers could still be seen
      wandering about Stone
      Town's winding streets and colourful shops.

      British traveller Emma Richardson did not let the
      warnings spoil her overland
      trip through Africa. She said her tour group was
      told about the warnings a
      few days before reaching Dar es Salaam.

      "They gave us the choice to stay on in Dar if we
      did not want to risk going to
      Zanzibar," Richardson said. "I did not even
      think of not coming. In fact, it
      made me more adamant to come and enjoy the
      island."

      Abraham Mussa, a taxi driver on the island, spoke
      from the hood of his
      vehicle while eyeing the pristine blue of the
      ocean. "Where is Osama [bin
      Laden]?" Mussa asked. "I don't know. You
      don't. No one does. I wish he
      were in Zanzibar. Then I would find him, hand him
      over to [US President
      George W] Bush and get back to driving my taxi."


      *****

      Abuse spreads HIV
      among Zambian girls

      Girls in Zambia are five times more likely to be
      infected with the HIV virus than their male
      counterparts due to widespread sexual abuse,
      a human rights organisation has reported.

      New York-based Human
      Rights Watch described
      in its report - entitled
      Suffering in Silence -
      how young girls who
      suffer abuse often
      experience it whilst in
      the hands of an elder or
      a guardian who is
      supposed to protect
      them.

      It says girls are also often raped on long walks
      to school, or abused by teachers.

      Others, orphaned as a result of Zambia's high
      rate of HIV infection, are forced to become
      prostitutes or to form sexual relationships with
      much older men.

      Authorities condemned

      The organisation condemned Zambian police
      and authorities for often being insensitive and
      ineffective in enforcing anti-sexual abuse laws
      in Zambia, leading to girls being reluctant to
      report any such abuse.

      "Young girls are preyed upon by older men,
      including those who dare call themselves
      guardians or caretakers of these girls, and the
      government fails to protect them," Washington
      director for HRW Africa Division Janet
      Fleischman said.

      The organisation warns that attacks on girls -
      some as young as eight-years-old - are now
      so common that unless the Zambian
      Government begins to address the issue little
      will be achieved in the fight against HIV and
      Aids.

      It called for better training for police and court
      officials regarding the issue of sexual abuse
      and said those who commit such offences
      should be vigorously prosecuted.

      And the organisation also said that money the
      Zambian Government will soon receive from the
      Global Health Fund should be spent on
      strengthening support networks for victims.

      An estimated 21.5% of Zambia's adult
      population is infected with HIV, the virus which
      causes Aids, and about 120,000 children are
      also thought to be infected.

      *****

      Hungry Zambians loot rejected GM food
      Lusaka

      28
      January 2003 15:55

      An estimated 6 000 Zambian villagers overpowered an
      armed policeman and
      looted food aid consisting largely of maize
      rejected by the government
      because it was genetically modified, police said on
      Tuesday.

      Southern Province Minister George Mpombo said 4 600
      50-kilogramme bags
      of GM and non-GM staple maize were stolen at the
      weekend in
      Sizanongwe, 300 kilometres from the capital.

      He said starving villagers overpowered the lone
      policeman after word went
      round that the maize was to be returned to Lusaka.

      Despite the threat of starvation that faces more
      than two million Zambians,
      Zambia has imposed an outright ban on GM food aid.

      Southern Province is the region hardest hit by
      famine in Zambia. The
      villagers also got away with beans, seed maize and
      scales donated by an
      international relief agency World Vision.

      Some traditional chiefs in the area supported the
      villagers' action, accusing
      the government of neglecting the people in the
      worst famine-stricken areas
      where people were surviving on wild fruits and
      plants. - Sapa-AFP

      *****

      US tells its citizens to consider leaving
      Zimbabwe
      Washington
      28
      January 2003 10:10

      The United States on Monday warned US citizens of
      the risk of travelling to
      Zimbabwe amid ongoing political, economic and
      humanitarian crises and
      said Americans in the country now should consider
      leaving.

      "Zimbabwe is in the midst of political, economic
      and humanitarian crises
      with serious implications for the security
      situation in the country," the State
      Department said.

      "All US citizens in Zimbabwe are urged to take
      those measures they deem
      appropriate to ensure their well-being, including
      consideration of departure
      from the country," it said in a statement.

      The statement noted increased crime and lawlessness
      due to a "precipitous
      decline" in Zimbabwe's economy that has sent the
      unemployment and
      inflation rates soaring.

      In addition, it said existing food shortages could
      result in famine which
      would, in turn, lead to general unrest and a
      further deterioration of the
      security situation. - Sapa-AFP

      *****

      Zimbabwe police probe 'church reporters'
      Harare

      27
      January 2003 11:23

      Five foreigners suspected of being undercover
      journalists reporting on
      Zimbabwe's hunger crisis have been picked up for
      questioning by police,
      representative Wayne Bvudzijena said on Sunday.

      He said the five were picked up in Zvishavane, a
      mining town in the
      drought-hit south of the country, along with a
      journalist from a local daily
      newspaper. Under Zimbabwe's strict press laws it is
      illegal for journalists to
      work without accreditation from a government
      commission. The government
      accuses a hostile international media of trying to
      undermine it.

      Bvudzijena said the five, whose passports indicated
      they were journalists,
      had been allowed to return to their hotel while
      investigations continued.
      "We're convinced that they're not aid workers,"
      Bvudzijena said.

      One of those arrested, Kathleen Kastilahn, told AFP
      via telephone from
      Zvishavane that she was merely reporting for a
      church magazine.

      Their group was picked up on Friday evening and
      questioned by police,
      Kastilahn said. "They think we're here to do
      clandestine journalism," she
      said. "We're here to tell the story for our
      churches."

      Kastilahn said she and her five colleagues had been
      invited by the Lutheran
      World Federation Development Services to tour
      projects in the area and hold
      meetings with churches.

      Among those arrested is Zimbabwean journalist
      Fanuel Jongwe of the
      privately owned Daily News newspaper. The others
      include two Germans --
      one a freelance photographer -- a representative of
      Finnish Church Aid and a
      Kenyan coordinator for the Lutheran Development
      Services.

      Jongwe said they had been told they were being
      arrested under the Public
      Order and Security Act and were due to have
      statements recorded by police
      on Monday.

      "We have been told not to leave the hotel," he
      added. In an earlier report the
      state-controlled Sunday Mail claimed that five
      suspected journalists and a
      Zimbabwean reporter from a local daily had been
      arrested and were in police
      custody. The five were posing as aid workers but
      had been "sent into the
      country to secretly write stories aimed at
      tarnishing the image of the
      government," the paper claimed.

      The Zimbabwe government and aid agencies are
      currently distributing
      emergency food aid to some of the estimated
      eight-million of Zimbabwe's
      11,6-million people threatened by famine.

      Since a tough new press law came into effect last
      year, at least 12
      journalists have been arrested and two foreign
      correspondents told to leave
      the country.

      Foreign journalists are allowed into Zimbabwe for
      short periods of time, but
      must apply for accreditation before they arrive. -
      Sapa-AFP

      *****

      EU to decide on Mugabe
      trip

      European Union foreign ministers are deciding
      whether to renew sanctions against the
      government of Zimbabwe's President Robert
      Mugabe at a meeting in Brussels on Monday.

      The measures include a travel ban on senior
      government figures, but France has invited Mr
      Mugabe to a Franco-African summit in Paris
      next month, angering several countries.

      France argues that EU sanctions against
      Zimbabwe allow officials to attend meetings in
      Europe if the focus is on human rights and
      democracy.

      Britain and a number of other countries -
      including Sweden and the Netherlands - want
      to keep Mr Mugabe out.

      Concern has also been growing about England's
      World Cup cricket match due to be played in
      Zimbabwe, after players received letters
      threatening violence at the game.

      At a press conference on Monday, the England
      team asked for the 13 February match against
      Zimbabwe to be moved to South Africa.

      It is the first time the players have said they
      do not want to play in Zimbabwe. s

      The EU travel ban, along with a freeze on Mr
      Mugabe's assets, was imposed last February as
      violence flared in the run-up to a presidential
      election which was later widely condemned as
      unfair.

      Compromise?

      Supporters of sanctions fear that if the
      Zimbabwean leader is prevented from travelling
      to Paris, France will allow the entire sanctions
      regime to lapse.

      Sanctions are due to
      expire on 18 February,
      just one day before
      the Franco-African
      summit begins.

      France argues other
      African nations would
      boycott the summit if
      Mr Mugabe is not
      invited.

      There were already
      concerns about Mr
      Mugabe attending an
      EU-Africa summit in April before the latest
      dilemma arose.

      This had led to some EU members seeking a
      compromise that would have seen Zimbabwe's
      Foreign Minister Stan Mudenge attend the
      summit in Lisbon in his place - although the
      minister would also need a travel waiver.
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