Hundreds of protesters have clashed with police and security forces in Afghanistan in a second day of angry demonstrations over reports that copies of the Quran were burnt at an airbase used by NATO and coalition troops.
Several people were reported wounded on Wednesday as demonstrators blocked a major highway outside Camp Phoenix, a US base in Kabul. Police said protesters threw stones, smashed car windows and charged at police lines.
At least 11 people were reported wounded when shots were fired into a crowd of demonstrators trying to march on the city centre, according to the AFP news agency. Protesters shouted “Death to America!” and “Death to (Afghan President Hamid) Karzai!”
“People are marching towards Kabul. Police are trying to stop them. We have sent more reinforcements to the area,” the spokesman said.But a police spokesman denied that police officers had shot at protesters.
A second protest erupted in west Kabul, involving about 100 university students, a police spokesman said, adding that riot police were present and the demonstration was under control.
According to AFP, one person was killed and 10 were wounded when shots were fired at anti-US demonstrators in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad. Protesters there praised the leader of the Afghan Taliban, shouting “Long live Mullah Omar!”, Reuters reported.
The US embassy said on Wednesday it was locked down and had suspended all travel in Afghanistan.
Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s president and Africa’s oldest leader, has celebrated his 88th birthday, denying reports he has cancer.
Mugabe declared himself “fit as a fiddle” on Tuesday, scoffing at calls to retire and pushing for new elections this year.
“The day will come when I will become sick,” Mugabe said in an interview on state-owned Radio Zimbabwe, dismissing fears about his health.
Making light of numerous media reports of his sickness, Mugabe, a Roman Catholic, said: “I have died many times – that’s where I have beaten Christ. Christ died once and resurrected once.”
Presidential officials said he would celebrate his birthday at a family dinner at his home in the capital Harare, with a celebration rally taking place in eastern Zimbabwe on Saturday.
Mugabe, in power since independence from Britain in 1980, said he will stand again in new elections that he insisted should be held this year – with or without the new constitution required under Zimbabwe’s power-sharing deal with Morgan Tsvangirai, the prime minister.
“I came from the people and the people, in their wisdom, our members of the party, will certainly select someone once I say I am now retiring, but not yet,” Mugabe said.
Mugabe was chosen in December by his ZANU-PF party to stand again as its presidential candidate.
“There is no one who can stand and win at the moment,” he said of the contenders in his party jostling to succeed him.
“We just must have elections. They just must take place with or without a new constitution. If others don’t want to have an election then they are free not to participate.”
Ex-Nigerian President Obasanjo hopes to mediate political standoff while police once again fire tear gas at protesters
Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo has arrived in Senegal to mediate the country’s political standoff, while police once again fired tear gas to disperse protesters in the capital.
The demonstrators want President Abdoulaye Wade to step down, instead of running for a third term in this weekend’s election.
Obasanjo said on Tuesday that his message was “this country is very beautiful, and nothing should be done to destroy it.”
He is in Senegal as the head of a joint mission between the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
An ECOWAS statement said Obasanjo’s mission was “to engage all the political stakeholders in Senegal with a view to promoting dialogue and ensuring peaceful, fair and transparent elections.”
Wade’s camp said Obasanjo was welcome to observe the election but made it clear there was nothing to mediate.
Music icon and opposition activist Youssou Ndour was injured in the leg after being hit by a projectile at the scene of a banned rally in Dakar, his entourage said.
“Youssou Ndour was injured in the left leg, he has been seen by a doctor, but he doesn’t want to make a big issue out of it and we won’t be giving any more comment,” said Charles Faye, spokesman for Ndour’s Fekke ma ci boole (I am involved) movement.
Earlier, witnesses said police fired tear gas and opposition demonstrators hurled stones in central Dakar.
A few hundred metres away from Independence Square, policemen were locked in a standoff with a group of protesters headed by former Prime Minister Idrissa Seck, who is contesting the vote, and Ndour, whose candidacy was rejected by the constitutional court.
“Dictatorship is going [on] in Senegal, because all the rights that are protected by the constitution and the laws of this country are being thrown out by this candidate,” Seck said.
“This situation is the situation Mr Wade created in Senegal. He doesn’t have the right to be a candidate in this election,” Ndour said.
Senegalese music star and political activist Youssou Ndour attended an opposition protest in Dakar [Reuters]
Hundreds of supporters gathered around the two opposition leaders’ vehicles, chanting in the Wolof language, “Get out, old man”, in reference to Wade who, at 85, is Africa’s second oldest head of state.
Waving Senegalese flags and holding up placards, protesters screamed “Must go” and “Wade is dead”], and “You have to surrender”.
“By no means did this standoff with riot police relate to some of the worst aspects of violence in Senegal – particularly Dakar’s suburbs – this past month,” Al Jazeera’s Andrew Simmons said.
“But it shows the determination of leading opposition
figures and protest movements to converge on a symbolic focal point: Independence Square. There is every indication that the situation will escalate.”
Six people have been killed in election-related violence so far. Opposition supporters have increasingly sought to defy bans on protests by the authorities, leading to cat-and-mouse street battles in the capital and other towns.
The EU election observer mission expressed “its concern over the interior ministry’s ban on demonstrations”, a statement said. It added that Senegalese law allowed for such demonstrations when they involve presidential candidates.
Some minor candidates have called for Sunday’s vote to be delayed but most, including the leading opposition figures, have not, even though they say they will not recognise Wade’s candidacy.
Wade’s rivals say his candidacy is illegal because it breaches rules setting a two-term limit, and accused the octogenarian leader of backtracking on his own statements that he would not stand for re-election.
The president has argued that he is eligible to stand as the limits were added to the constitution after he had started his first term in 2000.
The value of unclaimed dividends by investors in the Nigerian capital market hit N41bn by the end of last year.
The amount represents a reduction of seven per cent or N3bn compared to the N44bn that was recorded at the end of 2010.
Unclaimed dividends refer to dividends payable to shareholders but have remained unclaimed by the beneficiaries for a period of not less than 12 months.
The Director-General, Securities and Exchange Commission, Ms. Arunma Oteh, disclosed this to our correspondent on the sidelines of a media briefing by the commission on the Nigerian capital market in Lagos on Tuesday.
Oteh noted that SEC was not comfortable with the high volume of unclaimed dividends being recorded annually and was doing all it could to reduce the amount.
Usually, the reason for the accumulation of unclaimed dividends is ignorance or when shareholders change their forwarding addresses without informing the companies’ registrars thus, failing to receive the dividend warrants.
According to Oteh, there are ongoing interactions aimed at ensuring that unclaimed dividends are reduced by up to 50 per cent by the end of this year.
She said, “The registrars have informed us that there is N41bn outstanding unpaid dividends and this marks a reduction from the N44bn of the previous year. Last week, we took on the registrars on a radical solution to the problem and we jointly considered a number of options.
“I can say that by the end of this quarter, the results will be felt; our target is that in 2012, we shall reduce the size of outstanding dividends by 50 per cent and we also aim to finally dispose of the operational and regulatory bottlenecks that have led to the accumulation of unpaid dividends.”
The DG, who noted that a lot of issues had been contributing to the accumulation of unclaimed dividends, said SEC was collaborating with the Central Bank of Nigeria and stakeholders to explore other options that could help to reduce the amount.
The Executive Commissioner, Operations, SEC, Ms Daisy Ekineh, said that the electronic platform was introduced to reduce the issues of unclaimed dividends.
She said, “We have been talking about e-Dividend as an option to reduce unpaid dividends; however, we are aware that shareholders have some challenges regarding this, as it was originally stated that the dividend warrants would be paid into current accounts, which most of them did not operate.
“However, we have been talking to the CBN and the banks on ways that they can make it easy, and we hear that some banks are now allowing the warrants to be paid into savings accounts. We have ongoing interactions with all the stakeholders and we are sure these will yield clear results before the end of the year.”
The Managing Director, First Registrars Limited, Mr. Bayo Olugbemi, had told our correspondent that the problem of unclaimed dividends was of major concern to registrars, adding that that was why they came up with the e-dividend option.
“For a permanent solution, we encourage shareholders to subscribe to or embrace the e-dividend payment solution, which all the registrars have put in place. It is a product through which dividends due are credited same day to bank accounts vide electronic means and it is free,” he said.
Shareholders had recently expressed worry over the late delivery of dividend warrants to investors.
For instance, the National President, Renaissance Shareholders’ Association of Nigeria, Mr. Olufemi Timothy, said that it was becoming increasingly common for shareholders to receive their warrants very late.
He said that this was a problem that a lot of shareholders had to grapple with and that by the time the warrants would eventually reached them, the six-month lifespan of the warrant would have elapsed, a situation that posed further problems to the shareholders.
“Someone, somewhere is not doing his job and it is the shareholders that are suffering in this situation, it is not right. Our dividends are our right and anyone who invests in any business always expects and awaits returns; so, if we are denied our right, then perhaps the regulators are not doing their job,” he said.
NATIONAL Sport Commission (NSC) hopes a March trip to see FIFA boss Sepp Blatter will address the crisis in the country’s Football Federation.
In January, a federal high court in Abuja dissolved the football federation (NFF) and Premier League (NPL).
The court declared that only the Nigeria Football League (NFL) and the Nigeria Football Association (NFA) have the legal authority to operate.
The NFA became the NFF in 2009, but failed to register the change properly. This is why the Nigerian law is refusing to recognise the NFF as the national body governing the country’s football.
Nigeria’s Sports Commission – which is in effect its sports ministry – has now stepped in to set up a meeting with FIFA.
“I can confirm that the Sports Commission plan to meet with the FIFA president on 15 March in Zurich to discuss this situation,” Tony Ohaeri, spokesman for the sports commission, told BBC Sport on Monday.
“There is a need to meet with FIFA to explain the situation concerning the Nigeria Football Association and the Nigeria Football Federation. The NSC representatives will travel to Switzerland for this important meeting, and hopefully there will be a solution to the path to follow.”
Days after the initial ruling by the federal high court in Abuka, the NFF filed an appeal as well as a motion for a stay of execution of the judgement pending appeal.
On Monday, the court adjourned the hearing on the stay of execution until April 19.
According to Akin Olujimi, counsel to the NFF, the body will continue to operate on the basis that they followed due process in filing the appeal.
“We will argue the case on April 19, but what the law says is that my clients can go about their jobs,” he explained.
Nigeria’s Super Eagles are trying to revive their flagging fortunes after their failure to qualify for this month’s African Cup of Nations.
But court cases, infighting and government interference in the administration of the NFF have overshadowed plans to revitalize football in the country.
FIFA had initially imposed a ban for what it called “government interference” in the running of Nigerian football in the wake of the national side’s early exit from the World Cup.
But it lifted the ban provisionally after some steps were taken, notably allowing the country to play a 2012 Nations Cup qualifier in Guinea.
FIFA rules prohibit any government intervention with its members.
Nigeria are currently ranked 56th by FIFA – their worst rating by the world governing body in 12 years.
SUPER EAGLES’ Head Coach Stephen Okechukwu Keshi, has dispelled news making the rounds that he has any axe to grind with Chelsea midfielder John Mikel Obi, hence his non-inclusion in the team that will battle Rwanda next week Wednesday.
Team’s Media Officer, Ben Alaiya, quotes Keshi as saying: “this camp is a national team’s camp of love and not of hate, how can a father like me quarrel with a son like Mikel. The young man is full of talent and is a player who has several years left in him, but he was just coming back from an injury lay-off and we thought it wise to leave him to settle down before we call on him again to come and fight for his fatherland”.
Keshi pleaded with the media, whom he said are partners in progress to always cross-check facts before going on air or publishing them with the appropriate quarters.
Another issue that Keshi also took time off to clear was the alleged injury to returnee midfielder, Sanni Kaita. Keshi said Kaita is not injured and has been playing regularly for his club, urging those in doubt to call on his Russian club to find out details. “We have taken time to select the best for the national team and we find Kaita to be one of them, those who say he’s injured should call his club to find out the truth, from our end we have a fully fit Kaita ready to represent his fatherland”.
Similarly, Keshi has said he would pick 11 home based players to join the 11 foreign based players earlier announced last week for the trip to Kigali Rwanda for the Nations Cup qualifier.
As at Tuesday afternoon, 21 players were in camp, following the arrival of Kwara United’s Barnabas Imenger and Akwa United Solomon Jabason to boost the 19 players who have been sweating it out for shirts for the battle of Kigali .
HAVING been out of action for Inter Milan in the last two Italian Serie A matches, Nigeria’s midfielder Joel Obi may have the feel of the UEFA Champions League as the Nerazzuri clash with Marseille at Stade Velodrome tonight.
Obi was benched in Inter’s 1-0 defeat by Novara last weekend and relegation-threatened Bologna’s 3-0 upset in Milan last Friday. He has, however, been listed to contest for shirt in an all important match against Marseille.
Inter has looked miserably bad in recent weeks. Having won nine games out of 10 either side of Christmas to reinvigorate their bid for a Champions League place, Claudio Ranieri’s side have hit the skids in recent weeks and have not won in six games in all competitions.
In Serie A, Inter have taken one point from a possible 15 matches- sliding to seventh place on the league – and after a 4-0 mauling at Roma, their last two games saw them lose at home.
One of the few bright spots for Inter has been the revived form of Diego Milito, 2010 UEFA attacker and footballer of the year. Milito was rested for the match against Bologna, but the Argentine has scored eight of Inter Milan’s last 12 goals in Serie A.
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