- A court in the Zambian capital Lusaka today dropped charges of false declaration of assets against the leader of the opposition Patriotic Front, Michael Sata, describing the case as illegal. Mr Sata stood against President Levy Mwanawasa in September presidential polls.
The opposition leader has been an arch-critic of the policies of President Mwanawasa but he has had to pay a price for it: he was detained on 6 December before being sued for false declaration of assets when he wanted to contest for elections. Mr Sata was faulted for wrongly declaring an additional US$ 87,000 worth of assets when he filed his candidacy papers.
In his ruling, Magistrate Sharon Newa however argued that the opposition leader did not violate Zambia's electoral rules.
"Statutory declaration of assets and liabilities is not false declaration of assets and would not amount to a criminal offence. I find no consequences for false declaration of assets and liabilities," Mr Newa ruled.
"I uphold the defence's application that the indictment is defective and I therefore quash it," said Magistrate Newa. Mr Newa also refused a request by prosecutors to slam fresh charges against Mr Sata.
As Mr Sata was driven away from the court, his supporters embarked on long jubilations outside the court building. The opposition leader had gained a strong following during the election campaigns, which had polarised Zambian society.
One of Mr Sata's attorneys, Robert Simeza, believed that the charges were politically motivated purposely to damage his client's political career. He claimed that despite losing the polls, Mr Sata was remaining a favourite of the people.
He said they must legally test the state for malicious prosecution because they told them that the case was a political vendetta.
The opposition leader meanwhile has not faced charges for attacking the press during the election campaigns - an ugly affair that cost him the support from most of Zambia's independent newspapers, including the market leader, 'The Post'. Mr Sata had incited a crowd of followers to attack 'The Post' and its editor, alleging the independent newspaper had written negatively about him.
It remains unsure whether 'The Post' will press charges against Mr Sata, but editor Fred M'membe has made no such indications. Analysts hold such charges would stand a better chance at Lusaka courts than government attacks on the opposition leader.
afrol News - It is called "financial inclusion", and it is a key government policy in Rwanda. The goal is that, by 2020, 90 percent of the population is to have and actively use bank accounts. And in only four years, financial inclusion has doubled in Rwanda.
afrol News - The UN's humanitarian agencies now warn about a devastating famine in Sudan and especially in South Sudan, where the situation is said to be "imploding". Relief officials are appealing to donors to urgently fund life-saving activities in the two countries.
afrol News - Fear is spreading all over West Africa after the health ministry in Guinea confirmed the first Ebola outbreak in this part of Africa. According to official numbers, at least 86 are infected and 59 are dead as a result of this very contagious disease.
afrol News - It is already a crime being homosexual in Ethiopia, but parliament is now making sure the anti-gay laws will be applied in practical life. No pardoning of gays will be allowed in future, but activist fear this only is a signal of further repression being prepared.
afrol News / Africa Renewal - Ethiopia's ambitious plan to build a US$ 4.2 billion dam in the Benishangul-Gumuz region, 40 km from its border with Sudan, is expected to provide 6,000 megawatts of electricity, enough for its population plus some excess it can sell to neighbouring countries.