Fears Rise in Africa Over Nuclear Development Plans

GIN) – With six nuclear power plants on the drawing boards in South Africa, local groups are increasing pressure on government for a building moratorium.

“The decision to go nuclear will be our mess to sort out,” warned Lerato Maregele, Youth Coordinator at Earthlife Africa Johannesburg. “We will have to live with the ever-present danger of a nuclear accident for the rest of our lives. … The South African government will be leaving us with climate change and a big nuclear bill. Thanks a whole lot.”

“As South African citizens, we’re concerned,” remarked Makoma Lekalakala of the Johannesburg group. “We’ve been campaigning around nuclear for quite a long time … Government and the power company Eskom must stop and not extend their nuclear plant for the future.”
Today, South Africa's two nuclear power reactors stand alone on the continent, but by the end of the decade, that could very well change. More than a half dozen African countries – Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, and Egypt are studying prospects for nuclear energy. Ghana and Niger have both scrapped their plans for the moment.

“Nigeria has for some time now tinkered with the idea of nuclear power to generate electricity,” observed a recent editorial in Nigeria’s Daily Independent. But “Nigeria should be prepared for the earthquake experience. Having experienced earth tremors in 1933,1939,1984,1990,1994,1997,2000 and 2006 with the surface wave magnitude of between 3.7 and 3, 9 the probability cannot be ruled out.

“Building nukes is like building a large building without any toilets,” wrote Ethnopunk on South Africa’s Business Day website. “There is no safe means of disposing of the waste…The same people who told us asbestos is safe are telling us that uranium and nuclear waste is also safe. We should therefore all demand a public inquiry into the deaths of workers due to exposure during uranium milling and mining.”

Harvard Study: Height of Poor Women Has Declined

(TriceEdneyWire.com) - The average height of poverty-stricken women in some developing countries has dramatically declined in recent decades, according to a new study conducted by Harvard University.

The study assessed the height of 364,500 women between 25 and 49 years old in 54 poor and middle-income countries. Poor women in Africa were the most likely to have seen declines or no increase in height compared to their mothers and grandmothers, according to the findings.

The average height among women declined in 14 African nations, and leveled off in 21 others in Africa and South America. Women from Guatemala and Bangladesh were found to be the shortest and those in Senegal and Chad were the tallest.

According to The New York Times, height is a common measure of long-term health, and short stature could point to disease and poor childhood nutrition.

“It’s a sobering picture,” S. V. Subramanian, the study’s lead author and professor at the Harvard School of Public Health told the Times. “It tells you the world is not getting to be a better place for women of lower socioeconomic status. For them, it’s getting worse.”

The report was published April 20 in the online scientific and medical research periodical PLoS One.

According to the study, women in the poorest 20 percent of those studied had an average height of 5-foot, 1-inch, no matter which decade they were born. However, women in the richest 20 percent have grown, averaging 5-foot, 2-inches tall, one-half of an inch taller than women of similar economic status born in the 1940s.

Guatemalan and Honduran women saw the largest gaps in height between wealthy and low-income women. Uganda and Ethiopia had the least significant gap.

Japan Crisis Blamed for Cancelled Nigerian Elections

(TriceEdneyWire.com) - GIN – The tsunami in Japan was the latest explanation given for the failure to deliver ballots to all of Nigeria’s 150 million citizens.

Attahiru Jega, chair of the Independent National Election Commission, said the vendor’s plane carrying results sheets and ballots was diverted to carry relief supplies to earthquake-stricken Japan.

But the botch up has prompted some activists to call for Jega’s firing.

"Prof. Jega was given almost one billion dollars to run this election - and he can't even get ballot papers printed on time? He has created a national fiasco of monumental significance," said Roland Ewubare, head of the National Human Rights Commission.

“There’s something fundamentally untoward about an electoral system that’s gobbled gargantuan funds and yet is susceptible to the kind of logistical snafus that aborted last Saturday’s polls,” said author Okey Ndibe. “Yes, democracy doesn’t come cheap. But democracy is not simply the sum of periodic elections. Nor does it make sense to permit the ritual of voting to constitute a profoundly oppressive financial burden on a people who lack the most basic things that a human, every human, should be entitled to.”

Citizens of Africa's most populous nation are scheduled to vote next Saturday in a presidential election and for state governors the following week.

Consensus Breaks Down Over Ivory Coast Dispute

Special to the Trice Edney News Wire from GIN

(GIN) – Growing divisions among African leaders are confounding a regional initiative to settle the crisis of two men claiming to be president of the West African nation of the Ivory Coast.

“Our position …is that (Alassane) Ouattara won the election. But now, when you begin to get some sections of the African continent to suggest that is not the case, then we begin to have a problem,” said Sonny Ugoh, of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

The unexpected arrival of a South African naval vessel in the port city of Abidjan, allegedly on a training exercise, appears to be giving support to the embattled incumbent president, Laurent Gbagbo who has been threatened with removal by force. “As we talk now, there is a South African warship docked in Cote d'Ivoire. Actions such as that can only complicate the matter further,” complained ECOWAS president James Victor Gbeho.

In the latest tragic development, a mysterious fire broke out at the economic ministry building on Tuesday, burning five floors in the high-rise building and destroying an as yet unknown number of financial records.

President-elect Alassane Ouattara continues to work out of a hotel in the downtown capital, surrounded by security guards of the U.N.

Charles Taylor, Looking Exhausted, Attends Wrap Up of Case

Special to the Trice Edney News Wire from GIN

(GIN) – The three year long prosecution of former Liberian President Charles Taylor has reached closing arguments in a windup to the notorious war crimes case.

Taylor was in court in The Hague last week as his alleged atrocities committed on neighboring Sierra Leoneans were read out. Sparks flew at the hearing as Taylor’s lawyer, Courtenay Griffiths, protested the refusal of the judges to accept his closing trial brief submitted after the deadline.

The defense lawyer had sought extra time to review new information in cables released by the whistleblower Wikileaks. In the leaked diplomatic cables, the prospect of Taylor’s case being discontinued due to massive cost overruns was discussed.

Taylor's trial, the first such for an African President, is said to be the most expensive in the history of international justice. At one time the Taylor defense was paid a monthly budget of $100,000.

If set free, some fear that Charles Taylor would take revenge against the governments of Liberia's Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and that of Sierra Leone which helped set up the court and the former warlord's subsequent arrest, detention and trial.

Taylor, 62, faces 11 counts for war crimes and crimes against humanity, allegedly committed in neighboring Sierra Leone during the 11-year brutal war there that ended in 2002.

In Liberia, the Taylor War as it is remembered, killed an estimated 250,000 people and left razed towns and villages in its trail.

Taylor's trial offered some closure for those scarred by the wars. But the prospect that the trial could be discontinued thus setting him free threatens to reignite the terrible memories all over again.

The defense is scheduled to present its closing arguments followed by two hours of rebuttal for both sides on Friday. The UN judges will retire to consider their decision, expected later this year.

Sudan Seeks Debt Forgiveness Before Independence for the South

Special to the Trice Edney News Wire from GIN

(GIN) - Sudanese authorities hope to unload much of the country’s $38 billion foreign debt before Southern Sudan becomes independent in July.

Sudan has been barred from taking new loans from the World Bank since 1993 because of unpaid obligations on the old loans. This could leave the south, one of Africa’s poorest regions, ineligible to borrow from the bank.

A region the size of Texas with just 30 miles of paved roads, Southern Sudan has no steady power supply, large farms or factories. Half of its 8 million people live on less than $1 a day and need food aid, according to the U.N. Money earned from oil extraction makes up 98 percent of the budget.

Of the $38 billion owed, $20 billion is interest, payable to lenders in England, the World Bank and affiliated institutions, Arab oil-producing states, the U.S. and other countries.

Meanwhile, the U.S. lost no time in coming to the aid of the new South Sudan. An electrification project in the village of Kapoeta, funded with U.S. aid, has installed power lines, electricity poles and street lamps not far from rusting tanks and shot-up buildings.

The Kapoeta project is one of many USAID initiatives in the region. Another top project is the funding of a $200 million highway from Uganda to Juba, the southern capital of newly independent southern Sudan.

"The development needs of Southern Sudan are absolutely enormous," Barrie Walkley, the top U.S. diplomat in Southern Sudan, said at the opening last week of the electricity project. But Juba activist Lorna Merekaje urged caution towards the incoming flood of American dollars.

"It is a great support to Southern Sudan but it needs to be managed well because if people are not careful then we end up implementing the donor agenda and not the agenda of the people."

President Zuma Gets Calls for Jobs on Twitter and Facebook

Special to the Trice Edney News Wire from GIN

(GIN) – In a novel experiment with social media, South African President Jacob Zuma urged users of Facebook and Twitter to send input for his State of the Nation speech slated to take place late last week.

"How can we improve the lives of all South Africans? This is your platform, the president is listening," Mr. Zuma, known informally as “JZ” asked on social networking sites.

Hundreds of tweets and Facebook entries responded. Feedback ranged from “create jobs”, “fix potholes” to “end corruption” and “improve the schools.”

Zuma was told to get rid of the shacks in which 1.8-million South African families still live, and to crack down on graft and poor government services. "JZ - all we need is just water & electricity, the rest is fine. Our area is more than 30yrs without Electricity," one citizen pleaded. "Jobs is what we NEED, I have a diploma and i'm unemployed".

This being an election year, Zuma is under pressure to show that earlier promises have been fulfilled. Unofficial estimates put the percent of workers without jobs at 40 percent or higher.

Meanwhile, newly-appointed labor minister Nelisiwe Oliphant outlined proposed rules intended to bring South Africans “decent work.” One rule would eliminate “labor brokers” or “temporary employment services” that provide short-term contracts, which Zwelinzima Vavi of the labor federation COSATU said “have condemned so many to new slavery by human traffickers."

Also proposed are new rights for unions, improved unemployment benefits and the criminalization of employer actions that defy the new rules.


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