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Algeria announces date to elect first new president in 20 years

The new date was set a day after Bensalah assumed office for a 90-day period, as stipulated by the constitution

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ALGIERS, ALGERIA - APRIL 09: Algerian upper house chairman Abdelkader Bensalah is seen after being appointed as interim president by Algeria's parliament, following the resignation of Abdelaziz Bouteflika in Algiers. Stringer / Anadolu Agency

Algeria will head to the polls in July, the presidency announced Wednesday, as demonstrators kept up protests against the ruling elite following veteran leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s resignation.

Presidential elections will be held on July 4, interim leader Abdelkader Bensalah’s office said, just hours after he pledged “transparent” polls.

The new date was set a day after Bensalah assumed office for a 90-day period, as stipulated by the constitution but much to the ire of demonstrators.

Chants of “Go away Bensalah!” and “A free Algeria!” rang out from thousands of demonstrators gathered under police surveillance in Algiers, where anti-regime rallies have been held over the past seven weeks.

The appointment of upper house speaker Bensalah as Algeria’s first new president in 20 years failed to meet the demands of demonstrators.

Although 77-year-old Bensalah is barred under the constitution from running in the upcoming election, protesters have nonetheless pushed for the close Bouteflika ally to step down.

Students and magistrates on Wednesday called for demonstrators to keep up their rallies and marches in the capital and other cities across the North African country.

Army chief General Ahmed Gaid Salah, quoted in a defence ministry statement, said the military would ensure the transition follows the “rules of transparency and integrity, and the laws of the republic”.

But he warned against “slogans aimed at leading the country to a constitutional void and destroying state institutions”.

“With the start of the new phase and continued marches, we deplore the emergence of attempts by certain foreign parties… to destabilise the country”, he said, without pointing fingers.

The army chief also signalled that the military would safeguard Algeria’s institutions.

“It is unreasonable to manage the transition period without the institutions,” Salah said, warning that such a scenario “could compromise all that has been achieved to this day since independence” from France in 1962.

For the first time in the wave of demonstrations which have swept Algiers since mid-February, police fired tear gas and water cannons Tuesday to try to disperse a protest by students.

“What happened yesterday was a violation of our right to demonstrate,” said 22-year-old journalism student Asma. 

“We’ll carry on every day if needed until the last of the (ruling) clan is out.”

All eyes on Friday turnout

Since Bouteflika announced his resignation on April 2 after losing the military’s support, the demonstrators have urged that regime insiders be excluded from the political transition.

All eyes are now focused on the turnout on the streets on Friday, the traditional day of protests in Algeria, and whether the authorities will adopt a tougher line and step up security measures.

For Mohamed Hennad, a political sciences professor at the University of Algiers, “the balance of forces will favour the street if it’s a large mobilisation on Friday” as in past weeks.

For many ordinary Algerians, the interim president’s assurance of a constitutional transition to a post-Bouteflika future has fallen short of easing their concerns.

“Bensalah is a leftover of the system… For the past twenty years, they’ve made us promises. 

“The result: they’ve taken everything and left the people in poverty,” said Lahcen, who works in an Algiers cafe. 

“What we want is a free election that is really democratic,” said the 26-year-old, who earns 25,000 dinars (about $200) a month.

The protest movement is calling for a new transitional framework that is committed to deep reforms.

The ailing Bouteflika finally stepped down at the age of 82 after weeks of demonstrations triggered by his bid for a fifth term in office.

After two decades in power, he had lost the backing of key supporters including the armed forces chief.

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Malawi opposition leader takes MP seat despite challenging presidential vote

The 64-year-old leader of the Malawi Congress Party, MCP, was sworn in at the Parliament Building on Monday, together with 60 others

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Lazarus Chakwera takes MP seat despite challenging presidential vote

Malawi opposition chief, Lazarus Chakwera, has been sworn in as a member of the country’s parliament. The swearing in took place in the capital Lilongwe following the May 21 elections, local media in Malawi reported on Monday.

The 64-year-old leader of the Malawi Congress Party, MCP, was sworn in at the Parliament Building on Monday, together with 60 others, while other lawmakers were scheduled to be sworn in today.

According to The Nation newspaper, Chakwera “took his oath of allegiance and office … amid cheers from scores of party supporters who accompanied him.”

Chakwera’s party, the MCP is currently challenging the official result of the presidential vote which saw incumbent Peter Mutharika win a second and final term in office whiles Chakwera came second.

The Malawian electoral system make provision for persons contesting for presidency and vice presidency to simultaneously contest for parliamentary seats.

 On the other hand, the incumbent vice president Saulos Chilima, who also contested in the presidential election, lost his parliamentary bid.

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Africa News & Updates

Morsi’s death: Timeline of events in Egypt since 2011 post-Mubarak era

Key dates in Egypt since the Tahrir Square-led revolt known which drove Hosni Mubarak out of power and events that led to Morsi’s death

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People carry images of Egypt's first popularly elected president Mohamed Morsi, who reportedly died from a heart attack on Monday

Former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi was buried in Cairo Tuesday, a day after he died following his collapse in court and nearly six years since his ouster by now President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, leaving the country in a leadership crisis as the incumbent plans perpetuity.

Here are key dates in Egypt since the Tahrir Square-led revolt known as the ‘January 25 revolution’ which drove Morsi’s predecessor Hosni Mubarak from power in February 2011.

Revolution

On January 25, 2011, thousands of Egyptians, inspired by the Tunisian revolt that toppled dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, protest in Cairo and elsewhere in Egypt demanding longtime dictator Mubarak’s overthrow.

On February 11, after days of vast protests centred in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, Mubarak’s newly appointed vice president Omar Suleiman announces that the president has resigned and the army is in charge. 

A crackdown on the protests has left at least 850 dead.

Tens of thousands people take part in a mass rally against a decree by President Mohamed Morsi granting himself broad powers. News of Morsi's death are making the rounds in the media
Tens of thousands people take part in a mass rally against a decree by President Mohamed Morsi granting himself broad powers on November 27, 2012 at Egypt’s landmark Tahir Square in Cairo. Clashes between police and protesting youths erupted near Cairo’s Tahrir Square, ahead of the demonstration. The planned demonstrations came a day after Morsi stuck by his controversial decree in a meeting with judges that was aimed at defusing the worst political crisis since his election in June. AFP PHOTO / GIANLUIGI GUERCIA

Islamist victory

Islamist parties win a majority of seats at parliamentary elections between November 2011 and January 2012. 

On June 30, 2012, Morsi, a senior Muslim Brotherhood leader, wins 51.7 percent of the vote to become Egypt’s first civilian, democratically elected president. He is also the first Islamist to head the country.

Egypt’s military rulers dissolve parliament in June. In August, Morsi dismisses military chief Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi and replaces him with Sisi, in a purge of top brass.

Morsi ousted

On July 3, 2013, following massive protests against Morsi’s divisive rule, the military led by Sisi overthrows Morsi and detains him. Morsi denounces a coup and calls on his supporters to defend his legitimacy.

On August 14, police disperse two pro-Morsi protest camps in Cairo, killing about 700 people in clashes, according to official figures.

The government names the Muslim Brotherhood a “terrorist organisation” in December.

Ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi greeting press members as he stands behind the bars. Morsi's Death has been reported
Ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi greeting press members as he stands behind the bars during his trial on charges of espionage on behalf of Qatar at the Police Academy in Cairo, Egypt. /Mohamed Gamil / Anadolu Agency

President Sisi

Sisi is elected president with 96.9 percent of the vote in May 2014. His election comes after the approval of a new constitution bolstering the military’s powers.

In late 2015 a new parliament is elected, packed with Sisi supporters.

Repression

Sisi presides over a fierce clampdown. Hundreds of suspected Islamists are sentenced to death or life in prison in mass trials slammed by rights groups.

Secular opposition activists are also jailed.

Local and international rights groups accuse the regime of torture, forced disappearances, summary executions and repression of dissent.

The authorities deny the accusations, pointing to the need for stability and the fight against terrorism.

Jihadist threat

The country also witnesses deadly attacks, perpetrated mainly by the Islamic State group, which kills hundreds of police officers and soldiers in attacks centred on the Sinai peninsula.

On October 31, 2015, a Russian airliner carrying tourists from an Egyptian beach resort explodes after taking off, killing all 224 people on board. IS says it had planted a bomb on the plane.

On November 24, 2017, a suspected IS attack on a mosque in the Sinai leaves more than 300 dead.

More than 100 die in attacks on Christians, also claimed by the group.

In February 2018, the army launches a vast “anti-terrorist” operation.

Backing for Sisi

In February 2015, Russian President Vladimir Putin travels to Cairo for the first time in a decade and signs a deal to build the first Egyptian nuclear power plant.

In March 2015, the Obama administration lifts a partial freeze on military assistance decided after Morsi’s overthrow.

King Salman of Saudi Arabia visits Egypt in April 2016.

In April 2017, US President Donald Trump praises Sisi as the Egyptian leader visits Washington. Sisi is hosted at the White House for a second time in April 2019.

In October 2018, Sisi visits Paris, where he receives strong support from President Emmanuel Macron, who in turn visits Egypt the following January.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (C-R) shaking hands with US Marine Corps General Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr. (L) days before Morsi's Death
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (C-R) shaking hands with US Marine Corps General Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr. (L), commander of the US Central Command (USCENTCOM), as Sisi and Defence Minister General Mohamed Zaki (R) receive the General at the presidential palace in the capital Cairo. (Photo by – / EGYPTIAN PRESIDENCY / AFP) /

Sisi boosted

In March 2018, Sisi is re-elected with 97.08 percent of the vote. His only opponent is one of his supporters.

In April 2019, a controversial constitutional revision allowing the extension of Sisi’s presidency and strengthening his powers is approved by referendum.

Morsi dies

People wave flags of Egypt during a protest against the military government in Egypt after Egypt's first popularly elected president Mohamed Morsi, who reportedly died from a heart attack on Monday at a court session
People wave flags of Egypt during a protest against the military government in Egypt after Egypt’s first popularly elected president Mohamed Morsi, who reportedly died from a heart attack on Monday at a court session, at the Times General Square in New York, United States on June 17, 2019. Atilgan Ozdil / Anadolu Agency

On June 17, 2019, Morsi collapses in court during a retrial over charges of collaborating with foreign powers and militant groups.

He arrives at hospital dead, according to the attorney general’s office.

Rights groups say the Islamist was denied medical treatment in detention and demand an investigation.

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Africa News & Updates

UN wants government to end terrorist bombings in northeast Nigeria

“This is another terribly sad day for civilians in northeast Nigeria and for the humanitarians who are working to help them”

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Red Cross officials attend to victims of a triple suicide bombing, in Konduga, 38 kilometres

The United Nations has condemned the multiple suicide bombings in the northeast of the country that killed 30 people, including a community volunteer and injured 40 others.

UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, Edward Kallon said in a statement in Abuja on Monday that the government must deploy more security solutions to end the spate of terrorist bombings in that part of the country.

“This is another terribly sad day for civilians in northeast Nigeria and for the humanitarians who are working to help them,” Kallon said in the statement.

“The UN and its partners deplore these abhorrent acts of violence and call for those responsible for these attacks to be swiftly brought to justice,” he said.

“Our deepest condolences go to the families of the victims in Konduga,” the UN chief said. “We hope all those injured can access the urgent medical attention they require and wish them a full recovery.”

Three bombers detonated their explosives outside a hall in Konduga, 38 kilometres (24 miles) from the Borno state capital Maiduguri, where football fans were watching a match on TV on Sunday evening. 

Although no group has claimed responsibility, the attack bore the hallmarks of Boko Haram, which is seeking to impose a hardline Islamic law in Nigeria’s mainly-Muslim north. 

A victim is attended by health officials, following a triple suicide bombing in Konduga, 38
Graphic content / A victim is attended by health officials, following a triple suicide bombing in Konduga, 38 kilometres (24 miles) from the Borno state capital Maiduguri, northeast Nigeria, on June 17, 2019. – Thirty people were killed late on June 16 in a triple suicide bombing in northeast Nigeria, emergency services reported, in an attack bearing the hallmarks of the Boko Haram jihadist group. Three bombers detonated their explosives outside a hall in Konduga, 38 kilometres (24 miles) from the Borno state capital Maiduguri, where football fans were watching a match on TV. (Photo by Audu Ali MARTE / AFP)

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari condemned “the heinous acts”, releasing a statement urging security agents to track down the perpetrators and devise strategies to prevent a recurrence. 

Buhari, a 76-year-old retired general, who was re-elected in February, is facing mounting demands to improve security. 

The last suicide attack was in April carried out by two female suicide bombers outside the garrison town of Monguno, killing a soldier and a vigilante. 

Konduga has been repeatedly targeted by suicide bombers from a Boko Haram faction loyal to longtime leader Abubakar Shekau. 

The faction typically attacks  soft civilian targets such as mosques, markets and bus stations, often using young women as bombers. 

Boko Haram’s insurgency has claimed more than 27,000 lives and forced two million to flee their homes, sparking a dire humanitarian crisis. 

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