22 October 2012

Guinea Bissau: Africa News Round Up

We start off this week's news roundup in Guinea-Bissau where RNW reports that six people have been confirmed dead after gunmen raided a Guinea-Bissau army barracks housing an elite unit near the capital's airport on Sunday.

Unidentified armed men launched the assault on at about 4:00 am (0400 GMT), but soldiers fought off the attack after about an hour of fighting, forcing the assailants to flee, witnesses said.

The pre-dawn attack is certain to add to tensions in the deeply troubled West African country, where a junta seized power in a coup in April.

A military source confirmed the attack but would not say whether there had been any casualties among the elite "red beret" ground force unit targeted in the raid.

There was no information immediately available about who carried out the attack, but observers said there was some anger in the military about a recent round of promotions.

Since independence from Portugal in 1974, the army and state in the chronically unstable nation of 1.6 million people have remained in constant conflict, and no president has ever completed a full term in office.

The Guinea-Bissau government has accused Portugal, the Community of Portuguese Language Countries and a former prime minister of backing a coup bid.

"The government considers Portugal, the CPLP and Carlos Gomes Junior as the instigators of this attempt at destabilisation," said a statement read out by Communications Minister Fernando Vaz.

Its aim had been to overthrow the transitional government, undermine the political process, bring Gomes Junior back to power and justify an international "stabilisation" force, the statement added.

In Zimbabwe, a crucial meeting is to be held on Monday to review a draft of a new constitution, a key step toward elections meant to end the uneasy power-sharing government between President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, news24 reports.

Two years in the making, the draft charter will be debated at a two-day conference in the capital Harare attended by civil society groups and supporters of Mugabe, Zimbabwe's ruler since 1980, and Tsvangirai, his top rival.

Mugabe and Tsvangirai formed a "unity government" in February 2009 in a bid to end deadly political violence that erupted after disputed elections in 2008.

Under the power-sharing deal, which was brokered by regional mediators, Zimbabwe is to draft a new constitution and put it to voters in a referendum, paving the way for fresh polls.

But the process of drafting the new constitution was plagued by chronic delays and violence at public meetings.

A draft negotiated by Mugabe's ZANU-PF party, Tsvangirai's MDC party and a smaller MDC splinter group was finished in August.

The current draft would rein in presidential powers and bolster those of parliament, set a presidential term limit of 10 years and strip away the president's immunity from prosecution after leaving office.

In Kenya Attorney-General Githu Muigai was on Sunday accused of holding up preparations for the election by refusing to authorise payment to a French company, Daily Nation reports.

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission said the registration of voters, which is two months behind schedule, remains in limbo until the AG gives Treasury the go-ahead to issues letters of credit (LC).

Until he does so, Biometric Voter Registration equipment cannot be delivered and no date can be set for the registration to begin.

Mr Hassan blamed the State Law Office for standing in the way of the supplies, saying voter registration plans have stalled due to the stand-off between the AG and the Treasury over authorisation.

According to deadlines set by IEBC in August, voter registration was supposed to be carried out in September and October. However, the exercise was now set to start on November 14.

The commission has been forced to amend its timelines several times over the past three months due to the BVR crisis.

Elsewhere in Kenya, the Daily Nation reports that the High Court in Nairobi begins hearing of petitions filed by sacked judges, who are questioning both the legitimacy and the decisions of the Judges and Magistrates Vetting Board.

Sacked Court of Appeal judges Joseph Nyamu, Samuel Bosire, Riaga Omollo and Justice Jeanne Gacheche formerly of the High Court moved to court after the vetting board declared them unfit to serve the Kenyan Judiciary.

After being dismissed, the five judges applied to the board to review its decision, but the board upheld its initial verdict.

The board had found that Justice Nyamu was found to have been a "gate-keeper" for powerful individuals when he served at the High Court, while the board held that Justice Bosire was unfit due to the manner in which he handled the Goldenberg Inquiry.

Justice Omollo was found to have exhibited inconsistency in his decisions touching on political matters, and authoritarianism, while Justice Gacheche was found to have abused her judicial powers.

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