South Africa's Legal Battle Over Gay Marriage

May 17 (GIN) - Gay rights are again in the spotlight with South Africa’s highest court hearing an appeal to a ruling that recognized the right of lesbians to marry.

The case, brought by the home affairs department, argues that The Supreme Court of Appeal did not have the right to allow gay weddings.

Last year, in a landmark case, Judge of Appeal Edwin Cameron said the definition of marriage should read: "Marriage is the union of two persons to the exclusion of all others for life."

The court also declared that the intended marriage between two women was capable of lawful recognition as a legally valid marriage, provided the formalities in the Marriage Act of 1961 were complied with.

South Africa's constitution is seen as one of the world's most liberal in terms of gay rights. In a previous judgement, the constitutional court ruled that gay couples should be allowed to adopt children.

According to the AFP news agency, some 200 gay rights activists packed the courtroom, wearing orange and yellow t-shirts with the slogan: "Marriage. Anything less is not equality."


May 17 (GIN) - Nigeria's former education Minister Fabian Osuji has gone to trial in the capital. He is one of six high government officials that have been charged with corruption.

Mr Osuji is accused of paying a $400,000 bribe to some members of parliament to ensure the passing of an inflated budget for his department. He denies the charge.

The embattled minister said he is being made a scapegoat because he is close to Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, seen as a possible successor to Mr Obasanjo. The ex-Education Minister is also contesting a statement credited to President Olusegun Obasanjo to the effect that he was a thief and that it was only in Nigeria that thieves go to court.

President Olusegun Obasanjo is on an anti-corruption crusade as he attempts to win international debt relief.

Defense lawyers argue that huge publicity surrounding the trial means it will not be fair.


May 17 (GIN) - The final report of the National Reconciliation Commission, appointed to investigate past human rights abuses in the country between 1957 and 1993, has just been released.

The commission, set up in 2002, considered the impact of socio-economic disparities and colonial policies on the rise of widespread human rights abuse in the country. It addressed the roles of the armed forces, universities, political parties, the media, and other institutional actors.

It also discussed Ghana’s post-independence history where four military regimes ruled for more than 22 of the 27 years between 1966 and 1993.

Ghana's Attorney General and Minister of Justice, J. Ayikoi Otoo, publicly endorsed the report's recommendations and offered an official "apology to all those who had been wronged."

Modest reparations and a range of institutional reforms were recommended.

Former National Security Chief, Captain Kojo Tsikata (Rtd), whose innocence was not acknowledged in the final report, accused the NRC of subverting the reconciliation process to serve a partisan political agenda

The government committed to establishing a reparations fund before December 2005.


May 17 (GIN) - Ugandan security forces used torture against political opponents, alleged rebels and criminals, according to a new report issued by Human Rights Watch and the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative.

The organizations have called on the Ugandan government to enact legislation to punish those who torture and who maintain and use "safe houses," or unofficial detention centers.

They also call on the government to change laws that allow detention of treason and terrorism suspects for 360 days after preliminary charges are filed, without bail.

Torture often occurs when suspects are held by agencies other than the regular police, the investigation found, including the Joint Anti-Terrorism Task Force (JAT), the army, Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI), and the Violent Crime Crack Unit (VCCU), the report says.

"Torture persists in Uganda because no one is investigated or punished for it," said Livingstone Sewanyana, director of the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative, based in the capital Kampala.

In a written response to Human Rights Watch and the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative, the Ugandan government said, "Allegations concerning mistreatment of opposition politicians, e.g. FDC and Reform Agenda are unfounded."

A briefing paper showing the organizations’ findings was submitted to the U.N.Committee Against Torture which will offer it’s reccomendations to Uganda on Friday.


May 17 (GIN) - A multi-million dollar mausoleum is being built for Hastings Kamuzu Banda, Malawi's autocratic first president, who died at the age of 101 in 1997.

There is talk that the mausoleum will include a library, a dancing arena, a viewing bay for Banda's remains and a research centre where people can find out information about Malawi's history.

The idea of building a mausoleum is an old one but construction only started following last year's election victory of President Bingu wa Mutharika and has resulted in some controversy.

Opponents of the project say that the government’s money would be better spent combating an acute food shortage.

While some, including members of Dr. Banda’s family, feel that he is being given the respect he deserves, others complain that money is being wasted.


May 17 (GIN) -- In a meeting in Lagos, Africa's Anglican bishops have decided to stop sending African clergy for theological training in Western institutions.

African Anglican leaders are also studying the creation of a separate, "African" theology rejecting gay clergy and same sex marriages. They stopped short of calling for an outright split in the Anglican church, as some had feared.

Africa accounts for about half of the world's 76-point-five million Anglicans.


May 17 (GIN) - Riot police arrested over 100 people at a rally calling for an independent Biafra, according to witnesses and police. The rally took place last over a week ago in Abakaliki, capital of Ebonyi state, in the oil-rich southeast of Nigeria.

The gathering was described as a Christian revival meeting and was called by the outlawed Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB). It was interrupted by truckloads of policemen firing tear gas into the meeting hall and shooting into the air, witnesses said.

Since then, an alleged plot to by the government to assasinate key members of MASSOB has surfaced.

An attempt to declare an independent Biafra in 1967 resulted in nearly three years of civil war. This time MASSOB insists the movement is non-violent and will remain so despite provocation.


May 17 (GIN) -- Ethiopia's election enjoyed a high voter turnout, around 90%.

Although there is no official confirmation yet, spokesman for the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) and Minister of Information Bereket Simon, said they had won more than half of the seats in parliament, but lost seats in the capital and for the city council.

While conceding it had lost all of Addis Ababa's 23 parliamentary seats as well as the capital's city council, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Front (EPRDF) said it would soon form a new government with a parliamentary majority.The opposition and the chief European Union election observer have criticized the ruling party for announcing results before counting is over.

High turnout kept some voters in line for more than nine hours to cast their ballots, and polling in Addis Ababa lasted until Monday morning.

Kemal Bedri, chairman of the National Election Board, described the elections as one of the best ever held.

Final election results will be announced on June 8.

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