$5 million prize for former African leader goes to ... no one


Millions of dollars hung in the balance as a committee huddled in London, trying to decide which former African leader was worthy of their hefty cash prize. Monday, they announced which government head  won.


For the third time in its six years of existence, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation prize committee scanned Africa and decided nobody met the bar for its coveted award, which includes $5 million paid out over a decade and an additional $200,000 annually for life.

The plush prize is supposed to nudge African leaders to serve well -– and serve only so long. It cannot be granted to leaders who illegally cling to power. Only leaders who have left office in the last three years, serving no longer than their constitutionally mandated terms, can get the cash award.

The Mo Ibrahim Foundation eyed “a number of eligible candidates,” it said Monday, “but none met the criteria needed to win this award.” Its chairman and namesake, a British billionaire born in Sudan, told the Associated Press the committee wouldn’t “go through the motions to just find anybody.”

The foundation, launched six years ago, aims to promote good governance in Africa, which has made strides toward stronger democracy but is still speckled with countries where power stems from military coups, corruption or brutality. Last year it honored former Cape Verde President Pedro Verona Pires for bolstering democracy; before that, it didn’t honor anyone for two years in a row.

Ibrahim argued the decision was not a disappointment, but a sign of exceedingly high standards. The foundation gave no details about why nobody was chosen. Despite what Ibrahim said, not handing the prize to anyone was widely seen as a dismal mark for the latest round of African leaders to leave power.

“Good governance is a rather hard sell in Africa,” the Daily Nation in Kenya editorialized ruefully, “because some leaders believe their survival is synonymous with that of their countries.”

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Chinese manager slain during labor dispute at Zambian mine

MOGADISHU, Somalia — Relations between the Chinese managers and Zambian miners at the Chinese-owned Collum coal mine in Zambia have been strained for years. On Sunday, old grudges boiled over.

In a riot over a pay dispute, enraged miners killed the Chinese mine manager, Wu Shengzai, 50, and wounded another representative of the Chinese mining company according to Zambian police.

Wu was slain when he tried to flee into the mine and workers shoved a coal trolley into him, police and government officials told news agencies. A second Chinese man was injured in the incident and hospitalized.

The miners were protesting what they said was management’s failure to implement a recently ordered increase of the minimum wage of $320 a month.

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On World AIDS Day, activists condemn global donor shortfalls

REPORTING FROM JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA -- Activists marked World AIDS Day on Thursday with warnings that severe shortfalls in global AIDS funding by donors would cost many lives, particularly in hard-hit southern Africa.

After scientific research this year concluded that aggressive treatment of HIV from an early stage with anti-retroviral medications could save lives, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria announced last week it was canceling funding for new programs until 2014 because it had not received adequate donations.

The organization is the biggest fund offering grants to fight the diseases and provides anti-retroviral medication for about half the people in sub-Saharan Africa taking the drugs. Globally it is providing such medications for 3.2 million people.

The global financial crisis and the uncertainty created by the Eurozone meltdown are major causes of the shortfall in donations, according to analysts. Corruption in some agencies that received Global Fund grants was another issue, leading the fund to tighten its accountability procedures.

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World can beat AIDS but funding must increase, U.N. says


REPORTING FROM JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA -- The world has made significant gains in its efforts to reduce new HIV infections and deaths from AIDS, according to the United Nations, with a 21% decrease in AIDS-related deaths since the 2005 peak. New infections fell by the same amount since the 1997 peak, according to a report by UNAIDS.

Sub-Saharan Africa is still the world's hardest hit region, with a million people dying of AIDS every year since 1998.

But recent improvements in access to antiretroviral medications are saving lives and preventing the spread of the disease, according to UNAIDS, the joint U.N. program on HIV/AIDS. About half the people who need antiretroviral medications, or ARVs, are getting them, according to the report released Monday.

In other key findings it reported:

  • 34 million people globally are living with HIV
  • 2.7 million people were infected with HIV in 2010
  • 1.8 million people died of AIDS-related illnesses in 2010

The number of people getting lifesaving ARVs rose 20% from 2009 to 2010. Three African countries, Botswana, Nambia and Rwanda, achieved universal access, defined by UNAIDS as access for 80% or more of those eligible. Four African countries, Kenya, Ethiopia, Swaziland and Zambia, had coverage for between 60% and 80% of infected people.

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Chinese copper firms in Zambia abusing workers, rights group says

Chinese-run copper mining companies in Zambia routinely violate labor laws and regulations intended to protect workers’ safety and their right to organize, according to a report released Thursday by Human Rights Watch.

The report, entitled “‘You’ll Be Fired If You Refuse’: Labor Abuses in Zambia’s Chinese State-Owned Copper Mines,” describes abusive employment conditions at four Chinese-run mines, including substandard health and safety conditions, 12- to 18-hour shifts of strenous labor, and anti-union activities.

According to Human Rights Watch, the violations were documented between November 2010 and July 2011 and drawn from interviews with more than 170 mine workers, including 95 from the four Chinese-run companies and 48 from other multinational copper mining operations. The Chinese companies are subsidiaries of China Non-Ferrous Metals Mining Corp., a state-owned enterprise, the rights advocacy group said.

An underground miner at Non-Ferrous China Africa, the longest-operating Chinese-owned copper mine in Zambia, told Human Rights Watch that workers were often forced to continue with their tasks even when faced with a dangerous situation.

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ZAMBIA: President Banda cedes power


REPORTING FROM JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA -- Zambian President Rupiah Banda, faced with electoral defeat Friday, did something unusual. He ceded power.

Banda's concession speech, a rare and conciliatory move for a recent African leader, marked the fourth time power has changed hands in Zambia since independence in 1964, a significant step for democracy in the nation.

Banda attended the swearing-in ceremony for his rival, Michael Sata, who was declared the winner by the electoral commission earlier in the day. Sata is a nationalist figure known as King Cobra for his sharp criticism of China, which has extensive investments in Zambia's copper mines.

"The people of Zambia have spoken and we must all listen," said an emotional Banda, 74, wiping away tears. "We never rigged, we never cheated, we never knowingly abused state funds. We simply did what we thought was best for Zambia."

Sata, 74, won the election with 43% of the vote to Banda's 36%. Banda was elected president in 2008.

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