Few African leaders show up for famine relief conference

Most of Africa’s heads of state failed to turn up Thursday at the first African Union donor conference in Ethiopia to raise money for the Horn of Africa famine, leaving activists disappointed with pledges.

Of the A.U.’s 54 member nations, only the heads of Ethiopia, Equatorial Guinea and Djibouti participated in the conference in Addis Ababa along with the head of the transitional government in Somalia, the country hardest hit by famine. Critics accused African leaders of failing to make good on their rhetoric of finding African solutions for African problems.

Activists said African leaders pledged about $50 million, but much of it was “in kind” assistance, with little detail offered as to what services were being offered.

The African Development Bank, meanwhile, said it would donate $300 million for long-term development in the Horn of Africa.

A.U. leaders had been under fire for delaying the conference for several weeks because various presidents had conflicts in their schedules.

Nicanor Safula, spokesman for Africans Act 4 Africa, a coalition of civil organizations, said the failure of African leaders to appear at the conference as the Horn of Africa faced its greatest crisis in two decades was “disappointing and embarrassing.”

With 12 million people in crisis, and famine declared in many parts of southern Somalia, the United Nations has appealed for $2.4 billion to address the humanitarian crisis. Despite pledges of more than $500 million from the U.S., $228 million from the European Union and another $630 million from individual European countries, the appeal is still short of its target.

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip

Gaza militants call another truce in hostilities with Israel

Gaza militants early Friday called their second truce in less than five days in an attempt to keep more than a week of hostilities with Israel from escalating.

A leader of the Islamic Jihad faction, Mahfez Azzam, said Egypt mediated the cease-fire, which is to go into effect at 1 p.m. local time Friday.

The factions had called a cease-fire late Sunday, but it dissolved almost immediately in a volley of rocket fire from Gaza on southern Israel and retaliatory Israeli airstrikes in which some two dozen Palestinians and one Israeli were killed. The violence began with a militant attack that killed eight Israelis on the Egyptian border.


Huge river flows far beneath the Amazon, researchers say

Brazilian scientists say they have found signs of a huge underground river flowing far beneath the Amazon River.

Valiya Hamza of Brazil’s National Observatory says there are indications of a 3,700-mile long subterranean river located several thousand feet below the surface.

Hamza says the finding came from studying temperature variations at 241 inactive oil wells drilled in the 1970s and 1980s by Brazil’s state-run oil company.

Hamza says the thermal information allowed his team of researchers to identify the movement of water 13,100 feet under the Amazon River.


Papal relics of John Paul II begin 4-month exhibit tour

Relics of Pope John Paul II have arrived for public display in Mexico City, kicking off a four-month tour of the country that will hit more than 100 locations.

Worshippers applauded, cried and prayed Thursday morning as a vial of the ex-pontiff’s blood and a wax figure of the pope arrived at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Mexico was the third-most-visited country by the pope, behind his homeland of Poland and France. He died in 2005 at the age of 84. He was beatified in May.

The relics will be on display until Sunday; the tour ends in December. 

— From news service reports