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MAIL & GUARDIAN: Africa

Congo govt forces, rebels in firefight

Government forces killed seven rebels south of the capital in a rare firefight this week, a government spokesperson said. The rebels, loyal to renegade Pastor Frederic Bitsangou, were killed on Tuesday near Kinkala, 70km south of Brazzaville, spokesperson Alain Akouala said late on Thursday.

Zim prepares charges against ‘mercenaries’

Sixty-four suspected mercenaries allegedly hired to overthrow the government of oil-rich Equatorial Guinea, along with their three-man flight crew, were expected to make sworn statements on Friday. Meanwhile, a United States official has denied the US was involved in the alleged coup plot.

Zambian NGOs in the hot seat

Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa has had an uneasy relationship with civil society from the beginning of his term in office. However, matters worsened recently when he accused Aids activists of monopolising the funds provided by donors to fight the pandemic.

Sudan faces a ‘real threat’ from HIV/Aids

Emmanuel Amoko shrugs off the social stigma attached to Aids in his southern Sudanese community. Instead, the 16-year-old -- who lost his father to the disease -- is determined to increase awareness among his peers about the dangers of Aids and to help orphans left behind.

Kano starts enforcing Sharia

Business was good in the taverns of Kano as the city's football fanatics gathered to watch the English FA Cup quarterfinals this weekend, and as the beer sellers stacked crate after crate of empties back onto their trucks they seemed unaware that this might be one of their last loads.

Prince Harry reveals his caring side in Lesotho

Tossing a rugby ball with Aids orphans and planting trees, Britain's teenage Prince Harry is showing his caring side during a trip through the impoverished southern African country of Lesotho. ''It's really good fun to learn about the people here,'' he said at a photo opportunity this week. ''It's not a place that everyone knows much about.''

Daily News launches new legal challenge

Zimbabwe's Supreme Court on Wednesday began hearing a constitutional challenge brought by the country's main independent daily, a fierce critic of President Robert Mugabe, against tough media laws that were used to close down the newspaper last year.

East African customs union established

Member states of the East African Community have signed a protocol for establishing a customs union that is expected to boost growth in the region. The agreement was initialled on Tuesday in the northern Tanzanian town of Arusha by the presidents of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. It will take effect in July this year.

Prince Harry builds fences, plants trees in Lesotho

Prince Harry, third in line to the British throne, will spend his third week during a private visit to Africa building fences and planting trees at a rural orphanage in the small mountain kingdom of Lesotho, a royal spokesperson said on Wednesday.

Kenyan civil servants demand 600% pay rise

Civil servants in Kenya have threatened to go on their first-ever strike at the end of March if the government fails to award them a 600% pay rise. The Kenya Civil Servants Union, which has been in existence for a year, says it has been negotiating with the government on behalf of about 250 000 workers.

‘The situation is very grim’

A delegation from Zimbabwe's Movement for Democratic Change is in South Africa to draw attention to the plight of Zimbabwe. They are, yet again, calling for pressure to be brought on the government of President Robert Mugabe, which has presided over a political and economic crisis in the country.

Kenyan ‘bribe taxes’ decreased in 2003

A report launched in Kenya this week indicates that levels of bribery in the country decreased last year. The third Kenya Bribery Index was issued on Tuesday this week by the Kenyan chapter of Transparency International, a Berlin-based NGO. It says that monthly expenditure on bribery in 2003 was about ,8 per person, compared to per person in 2002.

Strong medicine for fake medics

Authorities in Sierra Leone have started a campaign to rid the country of its so-called ''pepper doctors'': people who practise medicine under false pretences. The pharmacy board recently joined forces with police to raid the premises of suspected pepper doctors in the capital, Freetown, and elsewhere.

Zim farmers dig into natural resources

As Zimbabwe marks the fourth anniversary of its land redistribution programme, there is concern about the impact this is having on the country's environment. Many of the peasant farmers who were resettled on farm land forcibly acquired from white owners are starting to harvesting other resources instead.

‘They rejected me because I am a woman’

Vera Chirwa is a prominent human rights activist in Malawi, a prison rapporteur for the African Union -– and someone who was imprisoned for speaking out against authoritarian rule under former head of state Hastings Kamuzu Banda. But, this pedigree wasn't enough to earn her a shot at Malawi's presidency during the May elections.

Car crash kills pioneering filmmaker

A car crash in the remote desert of Niger killed French film director Jean Rouch, whose pioneering 1960s work in the documentary-style filming known as cinéma-vérité inspired filmmakers in France and the United States. Rouch helped pioneer cinéma-vérité, known for blurring boundaries between fiction and reality, director and subject.

A price above rubies

''We are going to shout about bride price across Africa and we are going to say 'no' to the sale of women,'' exclaimed Atuki Turner to a crowded hall at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. Turner was speaking at the opening this week of the first international conference on the tradition of bride price.

Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink

Nigeria's Niger Delta region is one of the largest wetlands in the world. It is a source of great irony, therefore, that people living in the area struggle to get hold of clean drinking water: they take what they can from creeks and rivers. Providing safe drinking water for the country's 120-million people will require considerable investment in the future.

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