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AFRICA BRIEFS: Jackson moves to save death-row prisoners in The Gambia

(GIN) – Gambian President Yahya Jammeh has asked for a face-to-face meeting with the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. to discuss the fate of 37 death row prisoners scheduled to be executed one at a time for the next 37 months.

Nine prisoners were shot dead on Aug. 29. The rest were supposed to be dead by Sept. 15, but after receiving calls from the Rev. Jackson and several international humanitarian groups, President Jammeh backed off the execution schedule.

"The goal is to save some lives by getting him to commute some sentences," Jackson told Fox News.

The civil rights leader has already won the release of two Americans who faced sentences of up to 20 years. The two Gambian-born Americans – Tamsir Jasseh, a one-time U.S. soldier, and Amadou Scattred Janneh, a longtime professor at the University of Tennessee – were both accused and convicted of treason by the Jammeh regime.

Killing prisoners, Jackson said, "isn't going to make Jammeh, himself or his country, any safer...It's essentially punishing the whole country with their blood. And executing prisoners by firing squad makes a country look less humane."

Many of The Gambia's death row inmates are former officials and top military officers who have been detained for treason since 1994, when Jammeh took power in a coup. A woman was among those executed, the Interior Ministry said.

"I hope and pray he will choose the high road," said Jackson.

Massacre at Marikana shadows South African labor confab

(GIN) – From South African President Jacob Zuma to the head of the country's Communist Party, there was mostly gentle criticism at this week's major labor congress, for the armed attack on striking platinum miners, which left 34 dead and many injured.

Zuma and others defended the gun-toting police whose action at the Marikana mines last month was widely described as "a massacre."

A video of the Marikana "massacre" on Aug. 10 shocked many South Africans who said it recalled atrocities from the apartheid days.

But speaking at the national congress of Cosatu – the country's largest labor federation – President Zuma charged that those who compared the police killings at Marikana to apartheid-era repression were opportunists looking to score points.

"Given the levels of violence and intimidation in Marikana, government deployed law enforcement agencies to stabilize the situation," Zuma said. "This does not take away the rights of miners and residents to protest, peacefully and unarmed, as provided for in the laws of the land."

In an oblique reference to Julius Malema, the expelled African National Congress youth leader who has been championing the miners' cause, Zuma said, "We appeal to some political party leaders in the country... to desist from the irresponsible language of comparing the Marikana law enforcement to apartheid-era measures."

While Cosatu's General Secretary Zwelinzima Vavi warned against the use of brute force by the police on mineworkers, certain leaders, including ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe, argued for a softer position on the action of the police in labor disputes.

The final document of the labor group included a pledge to embark on a militant campaign against "poverty wages."

Few speakers highlighted the conditions that had sparked the unauthorized rally by 3,000 miners, who defied their union by the walk out.

"When you drive around there, you see all these squatter camps," said observer Elias Philosi to a reporter. "I felt that something would "certainly) happen one day," Philosi said.

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