The Independent (Kampala)

13 February 2013

Africa News Round Up

In Paris, two French charity workers have been sentenced to two years in prison for illegally trying to fly 103 African children from Chad to France in 2007, the BBC reports.

Eric Breteau, who founded Zoe's Ark, and his partner Emilie Lelouch had been tried in absentia but appeared in the Paris court for Tuesday's verdict.

Four other members of the group were given suspended sentences of between six months and a year.

Zoe's Ark received a 100,000 euro (£86,000) fine and has been dissolved.

The children were said to have been orphans from Sudan's war-torn Darfur region, but turned out to be mainly from Chad and with families of their own.

In a case that shocked France, the defendants were arrested in Chad as they tried to load the children on to a plane bound for France in 2007.

They were sentenced later that year to eight years' hard labour by a court in the Chadian capital, N'Djamena, but repatriated to France after receiving a pardon from Chad's president in March 2008.

Mr Breteau and Ms Lelouch, who had been living in South Africa, refused to attend the start of the trial in early December, reportedly saying they had "no wish to give an account of themselves".

But they appeared in court on Tuesday to hear the judge rule that they should face a two-year prison sentence, a fine of 50,000 euros each and a ban on working with minors. Their lawyer said they would appeal.

The pair "could not have been unaware of the illegality of their project," the court said, adding that they had "knowingly lied to their families".

In April 2007, the charity announced a campaign to evacuate 10,000 young orphans from Darfur in western Sudan, which was suffering a humanitarian crisis following five years of civil war. Zoe's Ark said it planned to place the children, all mainly under five years old, in foster care with French families.

However, the 103 children the charity was putting on to a plane from Chad to France in 2007 were found to be largely from Chad itself, and were not orphans at all.

In the Sudans, South Sudan has accused Sudan of building up forces along its disputed border, the site of clashes between the two countries last September, Aljazeera reports.

South Sudan's defence ministry described the deployment of troops on Tuesday as "unusual" and said they were ready for a possible incursion.

"The last two months have seen an unusual build-up of forces along our common border with the Republic of Sudan," Majak D'Agoot, South Sudan's deputy defence minister, told reporters in the capital Juba, without giving any numbers.

"Our forces are in the state of maximum readiness to repel any attack by Khartoum. We will stay in our current positions, we will keep to the terms of the (September) agreement," D'Agoot said.

Sudan's army and foreign ministry spokesmen could not be immediately reached for comment.

The two countries came close to war last April in the worst border clashes since South Sudan seceded in 2011 under a peace agreement that ended one of Africa's longest civil wars.

The two nations have failed to set up a demilitarised border zone and resume oil exports from the landlocked South Sudan through Sudanese pipelines, as agreed in Addis Ababa at an African Union meet last September.

Such a buffer zone is a pre-condition for Sudan to allow oil exports to restart.

Juba shut down its output of 350,000 barrels a day a year ago in a row with Khartoum over pipeline fees.

In South Africa, a man who says he is the son of former DR Congo President Laurent Kabila has been charged in with plotting to overthrow the government of Joseph Kabila, the BBC reports.

Etienne Taratibu Kabila is alleged to be the leader of 19 other people who were charged last week.

Etienne Kabila says President Kabila is not the true son of Laurent Kabila.

His claims about the president and to be the former leader's son have been dismissed by DR Congo's government.

Etienne Kabila handed himself in to police at the weekend.

He was not asked to enter a plea and the case was postponed until Thursday, when his case will be joined to that of the other 19.

Prosecutors said they belonged to the Democratic Republic of Congo's Union of Nationalists for Renewal (UNR) rebel group.

South Africa's counter-terrorism forces arrested them last week in the northern Limpopo province under the country's Foreign Military Assistance Act, which is intended to crack down on mercenary operations in the country.

In Zambia, News24 reports that opposition party leaders called on Tuesday for a suspension of their country from the Commonwealth, accusing President Michael Sata of stifling democracy.

The leaders of several opposition parties and civil society groups gathered in Johannesburg to make the call, claiming it was now impossible for them to operate normally in Zambia.

They called "for the provisional suspension of Zambia from the Commonwealth pending investigation" into rights abuses.

Several of those present, including Nevers Mumba and Hakainde Hichilema, have recently been arrested and granted bail on graft and other charges.

"The very fact that we were not able to hold this event in Lusaka gives you an indication of the levels of intolerance in Zambia," said Sakwiba Sikota, leader of the United Liberal Party.

Nigeria, Pakistan, Zimbabwe and Fiji have previously been expelled from the 54-nation bloc.

Opposition parties are frequently denied permission to hold rallies.

The opposition leaders also vowed to also take their case to the African Union and the South African Development Community.

"The country is under assault, our democracy is under assault," Mumba said, adding that the opposition leaders wanted to give the international community an "early warning."

"The signs on the ground are very similar to what happened in Uganda with Idi Amin in terms of how the president and government is managing the opposition," he said.

But the government rejected the accusations of rights violations and calls for the copper-rich country to be booted out of the grouping of mainly former British colonies.

"There is no truth in what they are saying. They are being childish and silly," chief government spokesperson Kennedy Sakeni told AFP in Lusaka.

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