Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Botswana invites Ouattara for a state vist

The president of Botswana has invited the internationally recognized president of Ivory Coast, Alassane Ouattara, for an official state visit, the Foreign Affairs Ministry of Botswana announced Wednesday.

President Seretse Khama Ian Khama has discussed the visit with Ouattara, the ministry said in a statement, and the two leaders "agreed that the visit should take place at a mutually convenient time."

But it's not clear when that time may come, since Ouattara is virtually blocked inside the Golf Hotel in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, by troops sent by Laurent Gbagbo, who claimed the presidency after the November 28 runoff.

While an independent electoral commission declared Ouattara the winner, the country's Constitutional Council invalidated the results in some provinces and proclaimed that Gbagbo, the incumbent president, had won. Gbagbo is refusing to step down

"Botswana continues to support all efforts aimed at ensuring that Ouattara assumes the presidency in Cote d'Ivore," the ministry statement said, using the French name for the country.

Immediately after the election in Ivory Coast, Botswana joined the African Union, the United Nations, the European Union and the United States in endorsing Ouattara as the winner of the disputed presidential elections.

At the time, Khama's government called upon all political entities, including the Constitutional Council of Ivory Coast, to respect the decision of the Independent Electoral Commission in declaring Ouattara the rightful winner of the elections.

"The government of Botswana is deeply concerned about African leaders who reject elections results that are not in their favour.

"Such actions not only deny people the right to have leaders of their choice, but also thwart efforts to maintain peace and security on the African continent," the statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation says.

Botswana took similar actions two years ago after controversial parliamentary and presidential elections in neighboring Zimbabwe, declaring that Robert Mugabe was not democratically elected and saying it would not recognize him as that country's leader. Botswana officials also vowed not to attend any AU or Southern African Development Community (SADC) meetings if Mugabe was invited.

However, the government of Botswana softened its stance after Mugabe and his rival, Morgan Tsvangirai, formed a national unity government to ease Zimbabwe's economic and political predicament.

Botswana also did not recognise the leadership of Andry Rajoelina, after he was sworn in early last year as the transitional president of Madagascar. The government of Botswana issued a statement saying the former disc jockey and mayor of Madagascar's capital should hand over power to the constitutionally elected leader Marc Ravalomanana.

Rajoelina and his military-led supporters forced Ravalomanana to step down, and although Rajoelina entered into a power-sharing agreement, it has yet to be implemented.

A national anthem for South Sudan

Southern Sudan is busy voting in an historic referendum.

Does it want to become fully independent from its old civil-war enemy in the north? Does it want, in short, to become a new nation? If the mood on the streets is anything to go by, the vote will be an overwhelming Yes. And in anticipation of this, South Sudan's poets and musicians have been getting-busy writing lyrics and a tune for a national anthem.

Peter Martell reports from the southern Sudanese capital Juba.

7.2 temblor jolts Pakistan, 200 structures damaged

A powerful earthquakemeasuring 7.2 on the Richter scale that hit a remote area ofsouthwest Pakistan today shook the ground from Delhi to Dubai,damaging about 200 structures though there were no reports ofdirect casualties.

Initial reports indicated that around 200 mud housesnear the epicentre of the quake in Balochistan province weredamaged though there were no reports of loss of lives,National Disaster Management Authority Chairman Nadeem Ahmedsaid.

The earthquake occurred at 1:23 am Pakistan time at adepth of 84 km, the US Geological Survey said.

Its epicentre was 45 km west of Dalbandin, a remotetown in Balochistan with a population of 15,000.

Pakistan Meteorological Department Director ArifMahmood said the quake was felt in Punjab, Sindh andBalochistan provinces of Pakistan and parts of Iran and India.

He said quakes of such magnitude in the past werefollowed by aftershocks.

Footage on television showed people fleeing theirhomes in several cities, including Quetta and Karachi, andgathering in streets and open spaces.

Some men prayed while women read from the Quran.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani directed theNational Disaster Management Authority to keep reliefprovisions ready for dealing with any emergency in theaftermath of the quake.

He directed the NDMA to rush tents, blankets, medicineand food to Quetta as a "standby arrangement for quickdelivery if required".

A contingency plan was also finalised during a meetingbetween the Prime Minister and the NDMA chief this morning.

Gilani said army, paramilitary and law enforcementpersonnel should be sent to make an assessment ofquake-affected districts.

Officials said there were apparently no casualties atthe epicentre because the region is sparsely populated.

People living near the epicentre in Kalat, Dalbadinand Kharan districts told CNN some mud-walled homes weredamaged but no one was hurt.

People in Balochistan and Sindh said they had feltbuildings sway during the quake.

The temblor shook the cities of Hyderabad, Quetta,Jaffarabad, Lahore, Rawalpindi, Islamabad, Multan andSargodha. Residents of high-rise buildings in Karachi rushedout into the streets. .

People in places as far apart as Dubai and New Delhi, 1,300 km from the epicentre, felt the quake.

The Pacific Tsunami Centre said the onshore quake hadnot triggered a tsunami in the Indian Ocean.

Quakes of 7.0 to 7.9 are classified by geologicalauthorities as major and are capable of causing widespread andheavy damage.

On October 8, 2005, a 7.6-magnitude quake 95 kmnortheast of Islamabad killed over 70,000 people.

Pakistan is still recovering from the impact ofdevastating floods that swept vast areas of the country lastyear and officials said another natural disaster couldseverely stretch resources.