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Nigerian rights group denounces 'attacks' on Amnesty office
by Staff Writers
Abuja (AFP) March 21, 2017

French prosecutors want C.Africa child-rape case dropped
Paris (AFP) March 21, 2017 - Prosecutors in Paris have called for the case to be dropped against French soldiers facing allegations they raped children in the Central African Republic while on a peacekeeping mission, judicial sources told AFP Tuesday.

What happens next is up to investigating judges in France, but as no one has been charged a trial appears unlikely.

France opened a first probe into the child rape allegations in 2014 concerning French soldiers deployed in Central African Republic to restore security after months of violence between rebels and militia fighters.

The prosecutor believes sexual abuse may have occurred during the 2013-2014 deployment but "differences in the testimonies" meant it was not possible to establish guilt among the French troops, a source close to the case told AFP.

British daily The Guardian first revealed the accusations to the public in April 2015, reporting that six children aged between nine and 13 had said they were abused in a camp for displaced people in CAR's capital Bangui.

Since then, other reports have emerged about troops' alleged involvement in sexual attacks and giving children food and sometimes small amounts of money for sexual services.

Six French soldiers were questioned but none were charged and all denied committing any sexual abuse.

A Nigerian rights group on Tuesday called for an investigation into "attacks" on the Amnesty International office in Abuja following heavy criticism by the country's military.

Protesters had surrounded the Amnesty office in the Nigerian capital on Monday and Tuesday, demanding that the London-based rights group leave the country immediately.

The demonstration comes less than a month after the Nigerian military issued a press statement urging Amnesty to "desist from meddling into security issues in our country which is inimical to national interest, cohesion and unity."

Military spokesman Rabe Abubakar in February had accused Amnesty of "taking sides with terrorists and other belligerent groups to cause internal disorder".

In response to the protests, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), a Nigerian non-profit group, said that Nigeria should investigate "apparently sponsored and coordinated attacks" against Amnesty.

"Any failure to hold to account those who may be responsible will invariably increase the vulnerability of civil society in the country," said SERAP deputy director Timothy Adewale.

"Nigeria is a democratic society and the government can't just sit back and watch reprisals, threats and increasing hostility to Amnesty International in particular, and the NGO community in general."

Last year Amnesty backed claims that the Nigerian military shot dead at least 150 peaceful pro-Biafran protesters.

It also accused the military of attempting to cover up the "mass slaughter" of more than 350 people in 2015 after violence broke out between soldiers and supporters of the Shiite Muslim Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) in the northern city of Zaria.

The Nigerian army earlier this month committed to investigating human rights abuse allegations but said it did not have the jurisdiction to investigate the Shiite clashes.

Today the military still plays a major role in shaping policy in Nigeria, one of Africa's largest oil producers that only became a democracy in 1999 following decades of military rule.

Current President Muhammadu Buhari is a former general and served as a military head of state in the early 1980s after seizing power in a coup.

Rags, not riches, defining Africa's urban explosion
Bamako (AFP) March 19, 2017
Anarchic architecture, unchecked pollution and high costs of living are the lot of African city dwellers, experts warn, as living standards fail to keep pace with rapid urban growth on the continent. The Bamako Forum, a pan-African think tank, recently considered the phenomenon of African urbanisation against the backdrop of a city living the results of rural flight clashing with poor urban ... read more

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