Saturday, January 29, 2011

African Union accuses ICC prosecutor of bias, Posted by Menelik Zeleke

January 29, 2011 5:21:16 PM

* Ping says Africa not against the ICC
* Kenya: will set up a local tribunal to try suspects

By Richard Lough

ADDIS ABABA, Jan 29 (Reuters) - African countries support the International Criminal Court (ICC) but its chief prosecutor is guilty of double standards, the chairman of the African Union Commission said on Saturday.

Jean Ping's comments came a day after Africa's foreign ministers threw support behind Kenya's bid to defer the trials of key suspects accused of masterminding the ethnic bloodshed that followed a disputed election in 2007.

That vote, although still to be rubber-stamped by heads of state, is expected to embolden the east African nation to ask the U.N. Security Council -- which helped set up The Hague-based court -- to invoke article 16 and defer or suspend the cases.

"We Africans and the African Union are not against the International Criminal Court. That should be clear," Ping told a news conference at an African Union summit in Ethiopia.

"We are against Ocampo who is rendering justice with double standards," he said, referring to ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo.

The ICC's active cases all target crimes against humanity committed in the African states of Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Uganda and Kenya.

"Why not Argentina, why not Myanmar ... why not Iraq?," said Ping.
Moreno-Ocampo has rejected criticism from African states, saying the ICC is only a court of last resort for countries that are either unable or unwilling to try suspects themselves.

The ICC is also conducting preliminary examinations to determine whether it has the jurisdiction to open formal investigations in Afghanistan, Colombia, Georgia, Guinea, Honduras, Ivory Coast, Nigeria and the Palestinian territories.

The case of Kenya's post-election violence was referred to the ICC after east Africa's largest economy failed to set up a local tribunal to try suspects.

The ICC's pre-trial chamber is expected to announce by early March whether Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and suspended ministers William Ruto and Henry Kosgey have a case to answer.

Kenya says it is now better placed to hold local hearings after adopting a new constitution in August that was designed to strengthen the judiciary.

Readout of the President’s Meeting on Egypt, Posted by Menelik Zeleke

Office of the Press Secretary
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                                                                                                                                         January 29, 2011

Readout of the President’s Meeting on Egypt
At 1:00 pm today, the President convened a meeting of his national security team at the White House. Participants included Vice President Joe Biden, National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism John Brennan, National Security Advisor to the Vice President Tony Blinken, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes, Senior Director for the Central Region Dennis Ross, Senior Director for the Middle East and North Africa Dan Shapiro, Chief of Staff Bill Daley, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, and Senior Advisor David Plouffe. The meeting lasted just over an hour. The President was updated on the situation in Egypt. He reiterated our focus on opposing violence and calling for restraint; supporting universal rights; and supporting concrete steps that advance political reform within Egypt.

Haiti to release election results, sets runoff date, Posted by Menelik Zeleke

* Contested first-round vote results to be released Feb. 2
* Runoff vote scheduled for March 20

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Jan 29 (Reuters) - Haiti's electoral authorities will release results next week from the country's disputed presidential election and set a date for a runoff vote in signs a protracted electoral impasse may be easing.

The results from the first-round vote will be made public on Wednesday with a runoff set to take place on March 20, Haiti's electoral council said in a statement late Friday.

Political uncertainty has gripped Haiti, the Western Hemisphere's poorest country, since a chaotic Nov. 28 presidential vote that was marred by fraud allegations and street protests.
Official preliminary results showed a government-backed candidate, Jude Celestin, would advance to a second-round vote against former first lady Mirlande Manigat.

But President Rene Preval, who has faced accusations of rigging the first-round vote results, is under intense pressure from the U.S. government and other Western powers to accept a report by Organization of American States experts that recommends dropping Celestin from the runoff in favor of another candidate.

The recommendation followed a review by OAS electoral experts of the contested results in the earthquake-battered Caribbean country.

On Wednesday, Haiti's ruling party said it had agreed to pull Celestin from the elections, but he has not yet formally withdrawn.

Michel Martelly, a popular musician who finished a close third in the November vote, has warned his supporters will take to the streets if he is not included in the runoff.

The new vote schedule came ahead of a planned visit by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is expected to arrive in Haiti on Sunday.

Clinton will meet with Preval and the Haitian candidates to discuss the election and reconstruction efforts a year after a devastating earthquake hit the country. (Reporting by Allyn Gaestel; Writing by Kevin Gray; Editing by Eric Beech)

Rwanda grenade attack kills two people, wounds 28, Posted by Meosha Eaton

* Govt linked previous attacks to exiled general
* Four people arrested, motive unknown

By Kezio-Musoke David

KIGALI, Jan 29 (Reuters) - A grenade attack killed two people and wounded at least 28 in Rwanda's capital Kigali during the Friday evening rush hour, the police said on Saturday.

Police spokesman Theos Badege said four people had been arrested in connection with the blast and investigations were underway. No details of the suspects were given.
The grenade exploded near a busy bus terminal in Giporoso, Remera, a suburb of Kigali.

Badege said the police cannot at the moment figure out the motive of those who threw the grenade, but were not ruling out that the attack was designed to cause instability.
"So far two people are dead and among the 28 who sustained injuries, 10 are critically injured and hospitalised," Badege told Reuters.
"This particular type was a hand grenade. It went off at around 7 p.m. Kigali time at Giporoso near the bus park.
"It could be an isolated incident, but we can't say it was by accident because someone was definitely moving with this grenade. A mini bus was also party damaged," he said.
Kigali was hit by a string of grenade attacks last year which the government has blamed on two high-ranking officers now in exile.

One of the exiles -- Lieutenant-General Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa, a former chief of staff and ambassador to India -- denied the allegations last year.
He said the Rwandan authorities had staged grenade attacks and then accused him of being behind them.

Nyamwasa now lives in South Africa. He was shot and wounded last June in an attack his wife blamed on Rwanda, a charge labelled as "preposterous" by Kigali.
Many grenades were left over from lengthy conflicts in the Great Lakes region and are sometimes used to settle scores.

While there has generally been little crime in recent years in the central African country -- where 800,000 were killed in 100 days in the 1994 genocide -- there are occasional bombings.

 (Editing by David Clarke/Maria Golovnina)

AU says could not agree on armed force for Ivory Coast, Posted by Meosha Eaton

* AU reiterates Ouattara is president-elect
* Confident of success without force * Intervention would lead to chaos, killings

By Aaron Maasho
ADDIS ABABA, Jan 29 (Reuters) - The African Union said on Saturday its decision to push for a negotiated settlement to Ivory Coast's crisis was taken after a proposal to threaten military intervention caused a divide among member states.

The Addis Ababa-based organisation announced late on Friday that it would form a panel of five heads of state to resolve the leadership crisis in the West African nation by coming up with a binding settlement within a month.

The country, the world's top cocoa grower, has been paralysed by a stand-off following a presidential election in November. U.N.-certified results showed challenger Alassane Ouattara won, but they were overturned by a legal body and the incumbent Laurent Gbagbo has resisted calls to step down.

"Africans have taken measures. They recognise Ouattara as president-elect," African Union Commission Chairman Jean Ping told reporters on the sidelines of an AU summit in Ethiopia.

But he added: "It was said that to restore peace we have to use force and that is where divergences started among Africans."

African states have been at odds over the use of force since the crisis began. Nigeria and Sierra Leone see Gbagbo's defiance as a risk to regional peace and efforts to nurture democracy.

Other countries such as South Africa and Uganda have publicly criticised the way in which the United Nations, African Union, West African regional bloc ECOWAS and other Western nations quickly recognised Ouattara as victor.

Ping said U.N. Security Council members Russia and China would have vetoed calls for military intervention had the United Nations sanctioned it, saying that would have left Africa "to do the dirty job".

"The use of force should be the last thing after you exhausted all options," he said. "If we use force in the Ivory Coast it will be chaos, killings."

The AU's mediator Raila Odinga said on Friday that AU leaders must demand Ivory Coast's presidential rivals hold face-to-face talks to resolve the crisis.
Odinga, prime minister of Kenya, failed to make a breakthrough during two visits to Ivory Coast this month.

The crisis has raised the prospect of renewed conflict in a country divided since a 2002-2003 civil war. A subsequent ban on cocoa exports ordered by Ouattara pushed cocoa futures to one-year highs this week.

A range of sanctions has been imposed on Gbagbo and institutions supporting him in Ivory Coast, but ECOWAS military planners say they are ready to oust him if he refuses to go.

Ping expressed confidence that an agreement could be reached.
"I am convinced that we will succeed without the use of force. If we fail, it doesn't mean that we will not reconsider our position," he said.

(Editing by David Clarke)

Egypt's Mubarak sends in army, resists demands to quit, Posted by Meosha Eaton

* President orders curfew, mobilises army
* Mubarak says he seeks dialogue
* Biggest day of anti-Mubarak protests so far
(Adds quote, protesters still out in early hours of Saturday)

By Edmund Blair
CAIRO, Jan 29 (Reuters) - Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak refused on Saturday to bow to demands that he resign after ordering troops and tanks into cities in an attempt to quell an explosion of street protests against his 30-year rule.
Demonstrators were still out in the streets in the early hours of Saturday morning, as were looters. Parts of Cairo looked like a war zone, filled with smoke, rubble and the choking smell of tear gas.

Mubarak dismissed his government and called for national dialogue to avert chaos after a day of battles between police and protesters angry over poverty and autocratic rule. Medical sources said at least 24 people had been killed and over a thousand injured in clashes in Cairo, Suez and Alexandria.

"It is not by setting fire and by attacking private and public property that we achieve the aspirations of Egypt and its sons, but they will be achieved through dialogue, awareness and effort," he said in a televised address, his first public appearance since the protests began four days ago.

The unprecedented unrest has sent shock waves through the Middle East, where other autocratic rulers may face challenges, and unsettled global financial markets on Friday. U.S. President Barack Obama said he had spoken with Mubarak and urged "concrete steps that advance the rights of the Egyptian people".

The army, deployed for the first time in the crisis, cleared Cairo's Tahrir square towards midnight. Shortly after Mubarak's speech, protesters returned in their hundreds, defying a curfew. They said sacking the cabinet was far from enough.

"It was never about the government, by God. It is you (Mubarak) who has to go! What you have done to the people is enough!" said one protester.
Shots were heard in the evening near parliament and the headquarters of the ruling National Democratic Party was in flames, the blaze lighting up the night sky. Cars were set alight and police posts torched.

A Reuters team saw a gang of looters storm into a bank and carry out the safe.
More than half of the dead in Friday's clashes were reported in Suez, the eastern city which has been ground zero for the most violent protests over the past four days.

Mubarak, 82, has been a close ally of Washington and beneficiary of U.S. aid for decades, justifying his autocratic rule in part by citing a danger of Islamist militancy. The Muslim Brotherhood opposition, however, appears to have played little role in the unrest.

The protests were triggered by the overthrow two weeks ago of Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Al Ben Ali. Street protests in Tunis focused on similar issues of poverty and political repression. Demonstrations have also flared in Yemen, Algeria, Sudan and Jordan in recent weeks.

"There will be new steps towards democracy and freedoms and new steps to face unemployment and increase the standard of living and services, and there will be new steps to help the poor and those with limited income," Mubarak said.
"There is a fine line between freedom and chaos and I lean towards freedom for the people in expressing their opinions as much as I hold on to the need to maintain Egypt's safety and stability," he added.

Obama also called on the Egyptian government to halt interference in access to the Internet, mobile phone service and Internet social networks that have been used by protesters.

"I want to be very clear in calling upon the Egyptian authorities to refrain from any violence against peaceful protesters," he said.
Anthony Skinner, Associate Director of political risk consultancy Maplecroft, said Mubarak's conduct was reminiscent of that of Ben Ali in his final days in power.

"Mubarak is showing he is still there for now and he is trying to deflect some of the force of the process away from himself by sacking the Cabinet.
"We will have to see how people react but I don't think it will be enough at all. I wouldn't want to put a number on his chances of survival -- we really are in uncharted territory."

Markets were hit by the uncertainty. U.S. stocks suffered their biggest one-day loss in nearly six months, crude oil prices surged and the dollar and U.S. Treasury debt gained as investors looked to safe havens.
"I think the next two to three weeks, the crisis in Egypt and potentially across the Middle East, might be an excuse for a big selloff of 5 to 10 percent," said Keith Wirtz, president and chief investment officer at Fifth Third Asset Management in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Many protesters are young men and women. Two thirds of Egypt's 80 million people are below 30 and many have no jobs. About 40 percent of Egyptians live on less than $2 a day.

Elections were due to be held in September and until now few had doubted that Mubarak would remain in control or bring in a successor in the shape of his 47-year-old son Gamal.

Father and son deny that Gamal is being groomed for the job.

(Additional reporting by Dina Zayed, Marwa Awad, Shaimaa Fayed and Yasmine Saleh,, Alison Williams and Samia Nakhoul in Cairo, Alexander Dziadosz in Suez; Writing by Angus MacSwan and Ralph Boulton; editing by David Stamp)

U.S Projects 80% Clean Energy in by 2035

by Williams Ekanem

WASHINGTON D.C:  President Barack Obama says the United States is projecting that  80 percent of America’s electricity comes from clean energy sources by 2035. 

Stating the goal at Wisconsin while addressing staffers of Orion Energy Systems, Obama said that it is a goal the country can meet.

Meeting the goal, he pointed out is how "well make America the first country to have 1 million electric vehicles on the road by 2015."
Restating his earlier projection of five million electric-driven cars in five years, a million electric cars on the road, the President said “ that’s how America will lead the world in clean energy.  And as I have said before, the nation that leads the world in clean energy will lead the global economy in the 21st century.”

He went further, this is not something that I am making up just to fill up time in a speech, according to him,   China is making these investments.  They have already captured a big chunk of the solar market partly because we fell down on the job.  We weren’t moving as fast as we should have.  Those are jobs that could be created right here that are getting shipped overseas.  

Obama pointed out that  Orion tells a different story.  This is the model for the future.  I’m told the story of Orion begins a few decades ago.  Neal was switching jobs.  He decided to try his hand at clean energy.  Clean energy seemed pretty far-fetched to a lot of people back then, but Neal figured there might be something to it.  So he bought a couple of solar panel distributors.  Both of them went under.  But Neal didn’t give up.  He kept at it, he started Orion, a company that would not only distribute but also manufacture its own lights. 

Commenting on what has made Orion and indeed Orion Energy Systems thick over the years, he recounted how it all started  about 10 years ago when Neal, the founder  had an idea.  “He calls it his epiphany.  Probably since you guys work here you’ve all heard this story, but I’m going to tell it for everybody else.   It was around 2:30 in the morning, but Neal hopped in his car and drove to the factory in Plymouth.  It was one of those moments when the future couldn’t wait until the morning.  And he grabbed whatever tools he could find –- a couple two-by-fours and broom handles.  Is this really true, Neal, the broom handles part?    Is it?  He says it’s true.  So he started tinkering around until an engineer showed up,” he went on.

According to the President,  what Neal had come up with was one of Orion’s signature innovations –- a new lighting fixture that produced twice the light with half the energy.  And it was only then that the real work began, because Neal then had to work to apply for loans, find investors, find customers who would believe his improbable pitch. 

Encouraging Americans to play to win, Obama said, “if we are on defense, if we’re playing not to lose, somebody else is going to lap us, because there are a lot of hungry folks out there, a lot of countries that are gunning for us.  So we’ve got to play to win.  We’ve got to play to win the future. And if entrepreneurs like Neal keep sticking with it, and small businesses like Orion keep breaking new ground; and if we, as a country, continue to invest in you, the American people, then I’m absolutely confident America will win the future in this century as we did in the last.”