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Algeria’s Bouteflika pledges to resign before 28 April

Bouteflika will ensure “continuity of the state’s institutions” before he quits

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Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. There have been weeks of protests against his government and calls for him and his entire cabinet to leave. (Photo by Billal Bensalem/NurPhoto)

Algeria’s ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika will resign before his mandate expires on April 28, his office said, after a succession of loyalists deserted him in the face of massive protests.

The 82-year-old, who has rarely been seen in public since a 2013 stroke, has been clinging to power as pressure mounted for weeks over attempts to prolong his 20-year rule.

Bouteflika will resign “before April 28, 2019”, after “important decisions” are taken, the presidency said in a statement on Monday, without elaborating.

He would take “steps to ensure state institutions continue to function during the transition period”, the statement carried by the official APS news agency said.

Algeria has been rocked by huge protests since the veteran president announced in February that he was seeking a fifth term in office.

Bouteflika said last month he would pull out of the race and postponed April elections, in moves that angered demonstrators, who saw it as a ploy to extend his two decades in power.

As the ire failed to subside, a number of high-profile loyalists have deserted the president.

On Tuesday, armed forces chief of staff General Ahmed Gaid Salah, who was appointed by Bouteflika in 2004, said the president should either resign or be declared medically unfit to govern by parliament using its constitutional powers.

And on Wednesday key coalition ally the National Rally for Democracy,

(RND) headed by recently sacked prime minister Ahmed Ouyahia, called for Bouteflika’s resignation “with the aim of smoothing the period of transition”.

Under the constitution, once his resignation is tendered, the speaker of Algeria’s upper house of parliament, Abdelkader Bensalah, would act as interim leader for up to 90 days during which a presidential election must be organised.

The announcement on Monday was greeted by the beeping of some car horns in Algiers, but there was little sign of euphoria as people insisted the whole ruling system must change.

“Bouteflika quits and then what happens?” asked Sofiane, a 25-year-old doctor.

The Movement for the Society of Peace, a moderate Islamist party, said “the president’s resignation… without reforms could end up conspiring against the popular movement”.

“The move is just a way of keeping the political system with all the wrong turns that have led us to the current situation,” it said.

Graft probes

As rumours swirl of frantic behind-the-scenes manoeuvring, prosecutors said they had banned corruption suspects from leaving Algeria after launching graft probes against unnamed individuals.

The authorities did not say who was being targeted by the new investigations into corruption and illegal money transfers abroad, but they followed the arrest of the president’s key backer, businessman Ali Haddad.

Haddad, who Forbes magazine describes as one of Algeria’s wealthiest entrepreneurs, was detained overnight Saturday to Sunday at a border post with neighbouring Tunisia, a security source said, without giving reasons for the arrest.

On Sunday, the Algerian authorities also banned all private aircraft from taking off and landing until the end of the month.

The statement on Bouteflika’s impending resignation came after he named a new government made up mainly of technocrats under recently appointed premier Noureddine Bedoui.

The administration unveiled Sunday — which was supposed to steward the country towards a transition — included Gaid Salah remaining in his position as deputy defence minister.

The appointments failed to curb calls for Bouteflika to leave, as hundreds of people in Algiers demonstrated overnight against the announcement.

Algerian media outlets were awash with speculation that the announcement of the new government would pave the way for Bouteflika’s resignation.

The news website TSA described the administration as a “result of compromise between the army command and the presidency”.

The El Moudjahid daily, traditionally viewed as close to power, ran a headline reading “The Beginning of the End?” and said the army’s proposal for Bouteflika to go “is the only one that offers a clear and convincing way out”.

The idea of Bouteflika’s inner circle retaining their grip on power through a substitute leader has drawn short shrift from protesters dealing with high unemployment and economic hardships.

Young people have made up a key part of the demonstrations in a country where half the population is under 30.

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East Africa News & Stories

DR Congo military kills 16 militiamen in northeastern region

A spokesperson for the military said militia positions were targeted in Walendu Pitsi sector, killing 16 militiamen and capturing one

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DR Congo military kills 16 militiamen in northeast region
Soldiers of the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC). (Photo by JOHN WESSELS / AFP)

The military in DR Congo said on Tuesday that sixteen militiamen have been killed in the northeastern part of the country, an area where ethnic violence has left at least 160 dead and forced hundreds of thousands to flee in the past two weeks.

A spokesperson for the military said militia positions were targeted in Walendu Pitsi sector, killing 16 militiamen and capturing one.

“At the moment, operations are concentrated around the Kpadruma locality where there is violent fighting,” Lieutenant Jules Tshikudi, a provincial army spokesman, told reporters.

He said;

“The soldiers of the armed forces of the DRC have chased attackers from several localities which they were occupying and sowing insecurity.” 

He also added that four AK47 rifles were recovered.

Lieutenant Tshikudi did not reveal the name of the group that was targeted, but there have been repeated outbreaks of violence between different ethnic groups in that area.

Between 10 and 12 June, there was a flare-up in violence in the Djugu region in DRC’s volatile Ituri Province which led to the deaths of at least 160 people, local authorities said. Earlier death tolls put the figure at somewhere between 50 and around 70.

The UN refugee agency has voiced deep concerns over the developments, which it said had seen “multiple attacks” involving the Hema and Lendu ethnic groups since early June.

The agency has said the recent wave of violence in the area has forced more than 300,000 people to flee their homes, with “large-scale displacement” reported in three of Ituri’s five administrative territories, with people fleeing unrest in Djugu territory especially.

The region which is known to be rich in gold, has experienced extreme violence before, with deaths numbering tens of thousands due to clashes between the Hema and Lendu form the periods of 1999 to 2003.

The DRC counts an estimated 4.5 million internally displaced people. Ituri and North Kivu province, just to the south, are battling with a major epidemic of Ebola that has claimed more than 1,400 lives since August last year. Both provinces are in the eastern part of the DRC, where the country shares its border with Uganda.

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Zuma’s lawyer says he will attend ‘prejudiced’ graft inquiry

Jacob Zuma, who was forced out of office last year over corruption allegations, has denied any wrong doings

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Jacob Zuma will attend ‘prejudiced’ graft inquiry -lawyer
Former South African President Jacob Zuma speaks with his lawyers at the High Court in Pietermaritzburg. (Photo by Themba Hadebe / POOL / AFP)

South Africa’s former president, Jacob Zuma, will attend a judicial inquiry into government graft during his tenure even though he believes it is prejudiced against him, his lawyer said.

Zuma’s lawyer Daniel Mantsha, on Tuesday, said:

“He is going to the commission as invited from July 15-19.”

However, “our client remains of the view that the commission is prejudiced against him and lacks the requisite impartiality,” Mantsha wrote separately in a letter to the inquiry seen by reporters.

It wasn’t specified in the letter if Zuma would testify or answer questions. It described last week’s invitation from the commission for Zuma to attend – in which it said he had been implicated in graft by at least nine witnesses – as part of a “disinformation campaign”.

The primary brief of the inquiry is to investigate corruption allegations, notably at state firms Eskom and South African Airways, which are in serious debt after years of mismanagement.

It is reviewing accusations that three prominent businessmen – brothers Atul, Ajay, and Rajesh Gupta — unduly influenced Zuma during his presidency about political appointments and the awarding of state contracts.

Jacob Zuma, who was forced out of office last year over corruption allegations, has denied any wrongdoings.

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East Africa News & Stories

Kagame calls out the West’s ‘human rights superiority complex’

Kagame said compared to what it was 25 years ago, Rwanda is now a different country

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Kagame criticises West's 'human rights superiority complex'
Photo credit: AFP

In an interview with French TV broadcaster, France24, Rwandan president, Paul Kagame has termed criticisms of his country’s human rights record as “rubbish” and “ridiculous”.

Kagame said compared to what it was 25 years ago, Rwanda is now a different country.

He challenged the host of the program to look at what he called Europe’s failing human rights record, particularly the way migrants have been treated.

“[Europe] is violating people’s rights, with this problem of people being bundled and sent back to sink in the Mediterranean and so many being mistreated in your own country”, he said.

He further added that criticisms from the West were tinged with a superiority complex:

“You really need to stop this superiority complex nonsense about human rights.

“You think you are the only ones who respect human rights, all others are about violating human rights. No, we’ve fought for human rights and freedoms for our people much better [than] you people who keep talking about this nonsense.”

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