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Algeria protests keep up pressure on post-Bouteflika regime

Students and magistrates have called for renewed rallies and marches in the capital and other cities across the country

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Algerian security forces use a water canon to disperse students taking part in an anti-government demonstration in the capital Algiers on April 9, 2019. Lawmakers named the speaker of the upper house as Algeria's first new president in two decades today, after the resignation of Abdelaziz Bouteflika following mass protests. STRINGER / AFP

Algerian protesters gathered for the first Friday protests since the announcement of presidential elections to succeed ousted leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika fearing a ploy by the ruling system to stay in power.

Social media, the source of mass protests which led to the end of Bouteflika’s two-decade rule, have echoed with calls for an eighth week of demonstrations, this time under the slogan of “They will all leave.”

“On Friday, we’ll show them what it means when we cry out, ‘Go away!'”

said Walid, 22, near the principal protest site outside the landmark main post office in central Algiers.

Presidential elections are to be held on July 4, interim leader Abdelkader Bensalah’s office announced on Wednesday, 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.

The appointment of upper house speaker Bensalah as Algeria’s first new president in 20 years has 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 have called for renewed rallies and marches in the capital and other cities across the country.

“I’m not going to vote. What for?” asked Walid.

– They don’t know what’s coming –

For the first time since the anti-Bouteflika protest movement was launched in mid-February, police vehicles and forces have blocked off access to the post office.

But young protesters were undeterred.

“We will be out in large numbers, very large. They don’t know what’s coming. They won’t be able to do anything against us,” said Yassine, 23.

For Mahrez Bouich, a philosophy professor at the University of Bejaia, east of Algiers, “the July 4 election has already been rejected by the people, which also refuses Bensalah’s nomination”.

The demonstrators argue that elections cannot be free and fair if they are held under the same judicial framework and institutions as that of the Bouteflika regime.

Bensalah has received the implicit support of the army whose chief General Ahmed Gaid Salah withdrew his backing for Bouteflika, prompting his resignation on April 2.

But the general has stood up for the defence of Algeria’s institutions and warned against the “unrealistic slogans” of protesters aiming to sweep away the whole ruling system.

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

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

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Buthelezi steps down after 44 years as Inkatha Freedom Party leader

He was to some the embodiment of the Zulu spirit and for years was defined by his rivalry with the ruling party.

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Buthelezi steps down after 44 years as Inkatha Freedom Party leader
Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi waves to the crowd. The veteran Zulu nationalist stepped down as Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) leader on Saturday after 44 years. (Photo by RAJESH JANTILAL / AFP)

Mangosuthu Buthelezi, head of the once-feared Zulu nationalist Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), on Saturday stepped down as party leader after 44 years.

Buthelezi, 90 led the party from its inception, a reign marked by bloody territorial battles with ANC supporters in black townships during the 1980s and 1990s that left thousands dead.

As prime minister of the “independent” homeland of KwaZulu, a political creation of the apartheid government, Buthelezi was often regarded as an ally of South Africa’s racist apartheid regime.

He was dogged by allegations that he collaborated with the old government to fuel violence to derail the ANC’s liberation struggle – a claim he furiously denied.

“I will not stand for re-election,” he told a congress of his party meeting in the town of Ulundi, north of Durban to elect new leadership.

“My time as president of IFP is finished, I am handing over the baton this afternoon,” he told delegates making reference to a “long” and “difficult” journey he has travelled.

“It was not my own decision to remain as party president for many years, but (we are) democrats, when my party unanimously asked me to lead, I accepted,” he said. 

Buthelezi was a minister in the ANC-led government between 1994 and 2004.

Born of royal blood, he was to some the embodiment of the Zulu spirit and for years was defined by his bitter rivalry with the ruling African National Congress (ANC), a party that was his political home until he broke away to form the IFP in 1975.

Buthelezi, who turns 91 on Tuesday, is the oldest-serving lawmaker in South Africa’s parliament.

He is also listed in the Guinness World Records as having made the longest speech to a legislative assembly with an address in March 1993 over 11 days, with an average of two-and-a-half hours each day.

On Saturday, he spoke for nearly two hours.

The IFP draws its support base from the country’s largest ethnic group, the Zulus, and the party was formed as a cultural organisation.

In the first non-racial elections in 1994, the IFP won 43 seats – but its showing dwindled to just 14 seats in the last vote in May.

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North Africa Politics

Nabil Karoui arrested in Tunisia for money laundering

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Tunisian authorities arrested presidential candidate and media mogul, Nabil Karoui for alleged money laundering, his party said, hours after his channel was banned from covering campaigns.

“About 15 police cars blocked the road and rushed to Nabil Karoui’s car before armed civilian police asked him to come with them, saying they had instructions to arrest him,” said Oussama Khlifi of the mogul’s Qalb Tounes party.

Private radio station Mosaique FM quoted a judicial official Friday confirming that an arrest warrant had been issued against Karoui and his brother Ghazi for money laundering.

Authorities did not immediately confirm his arrest.

Tunisia has been seen as a rare success story among nations that underwent the Arab Spring uprisings, emerging as a nascent democracy.

Karoui was among 26 presidential candidates given preliminary approval this month to run in the election, set for September 15.  

The tycoon was charged with money laundering in early July shortly after stating his intention to stand in the polls, but has remained a leading candidate.

His apparent arrest came the same day as authorities announced a ban on three local outlets — including Karoui’s Nessma TV — from reporting on the election campaign, after they had broadcast “illegally” without licenses. 

Karoui has been accused by regulators and some politicians of using Nessma to bolster his political ambitions. 

The station, launched in 2007, has played up his charity work with footage of him handing out food and clothing. 

He was nearly removed from the race in June when parliament passed an amended electoral code that would bar any candidate who handed out “favours in cash or in kind” in the year before the vote.

But then-president Beji Caid Essebsi neither rejected nor enacted the bill, leaving the door open for Karoui to run.

The polls were brought forward from November, following Essebsi’s death last month.

Karoui had been an active supporter of Essebsi’s election in 2014 and has become the fiercest rival of Prime Minister Youssef Chahed, who is also running for president.

He formally stepped down from Nessma’s management after being criticised by international observers for his channel’s partisan conduct during the 2014 campaign, and officially joined Essebsi’s Nidaa Tounes party in 2016.

But he subsequently made no secret of continuing to pull the strings at Nessma, while honing his political profile.   

Tunisia’s broadcasting authorities banned Nessma in October 2018, but it did not comply and remains on air.

The regulator accuses the channel of “positioning itself to influence government bodies”, and rebuked it for not having disclosed its shareholders — reportedly including Italian politician Silvio Berlusconi. 

Karoui has said he is being targeted by “attempts to undermine his growing popularity”.

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Court in South Africa bans display of apartheid-era flag

Judge Phineas Mojapelo said in Johannesburg that any gratuitous display of the old flag was “racist and discriminatory”

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Court in South Africa bans display of apartheid-era flag

In a landmark ruling, a Johannesburg court has barred the unjustified display of South Africa’s apartheid-era national flag, saying such gestures amounted to “hate speech” and “harassment”.

Judge Phineas Mojapelo said in Johannesburg that any gratuitous display of the old flag was “racist and discriminatory”.

“It demonstrates a clear intention to be hurtful, to be harmful and incite harm and it in fact promotes and propagates hatred against black people… it constitutes hate speech”.

The ruling followed a petition to the court by the Nelson Mandela Foundation Trust after the flag was displayed in October 2017 by white South Africans protesting at the murders of white farmers.

The judge said those who publicly displayed the flag “wish to remind black people of the oppression, humiliation, indignity, demonisation that they moved away from and do not wish to relive.”

The former flag was used from 1928 until 1994 by the Union of South Africa, then a British dominion, and by the Republic of South Africa that succeeded it.

It comprised three stripes of orange, white and blue with three small flags at its centre — the emblems of the Orange Free State, Britain and the South African Republic.

Intertwined with the white-minority regime, it was widely known as the “apartheid flag” before being dumped in 1994 with the advent of democracy and its replacement by a multicolour flag.

Mojapelo, a high court judge presiding over what is called an equality court, said the prohibition was not a blanket ban.

The flag could be displayed for academic or artistic purposes in the public interest, he said.

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