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11 jailed in Chad over coup bid in Equatorial Guinea

The defendants, all Chadians, were found guilty of “a mercenary attempt to assist a coup d’etat”

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A court in Chad has handed 20-year jail terms to 11 men accused of taking part in an attempted coup in Equatorial Guinea in December 2017.

The court of appeal in Djamena handed down the sentences on Thursday.

The defendants, all Chadians, were found guilty of “a mercenary attempt to assist a coup d’etat,” court president Yenan Timothe said.

Only four of the 11 convicted were in court to hear the sentencing. 

The seven others were tried in absentia, and warrants have been issued for their arrest, a judicial source said.

One of the judges, speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity, said the 11 were Chadians who had been recruited by a “mastermind.”

They were picked up after the Chadian intelligence services compared their requests for a document authorising them to travel to Equatorial Guinea.

“They all had the same date and destination, which means that the preparatory work for this (coup) attempt began in Chad,” the source said, without giving further details.

Last Friday, a court in Equatorial Guinea handed down terms of up to 96 years to more than 130 people also accused of involvement.

The heaviest sentences, of 96 years, were handed down to three Equatorial Guinean nationals accused of being the masterminds and who live in exile in Spain.

According to the authorities, a group of foreign mercenaries had plotted to attack Obiang at his palace at Koete Mongomo, around 50 kilometres (30 miles) from the borders with Gabon, Guinea and Cameroon, on December 24, 2017.

Three days later, Cameroonian police arrested around 30 armed men at the border while Equatorial Guinea carried out a wave of arrests on its own territory.

In January 2018, Obiang dismissed the country’s ambassador to Chad and fired four regime officials, including one of his grandsons, Constantino Obiang Mba, who was director general of the state-owned telecommunications company, Getesa.

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76 people survive shipwreck in DR Congo

The motorised boat was carrying around 100 passengers when it capsized on the lake, near the eastern city of Bukavu.

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DR Congo boat accident claims 11 lives, dozens missing

76 people have survived a shipwreck on Lake Kivu in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a regional official said Saturday. However, more than a dozen people are feared to have drowned in the same incident.

The motorised boat was carrying around 100 passengers when it capsized on the lake, near the eastern city of Bukavu. 

“We have already registered 76 survivors,” said Swedi Basila, the regional transport minister for South Kivu province, adding that up to 20 people were still missing.

“No body has been found until now,” he told AFP.

The vessel had been on its way to the island of Idjwi when it hit a large rock and capsized, Basila said.

River transport is one of the most used in DR Congo with its numerous waterways. Boat mishaps are common, typically caused by overloading of passengers and cargo.

Tolls are often high because there are no life jackets and many Congolese do not know how to swim.

In April, at least 167 people were killed in two accidents, prompting President Felix Tshisekedi to make it mandatory for boat passengers to have life jackets. 

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DR Congo authorities ban rallies in Kinshasa as tensions rise

Tensions rose in the capital after youths announced they would hold a protest against the candidacy of a former justice minister

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UDPS opposition party leader Felix Tshisekedi gestures to supporters as Authorities bans rallies

DR Congo authorities have banned political rallies this week in the capital Kinshasa because of tensions between supporters of President Felix Tshisekedi and those of former leader Joseph Kabila, police said Sunday.

Tshisekedi was elected in December to replace Kabila who presided over sub-Saharan Africa’s biggest country for nearly two decades.

Tensions rose in the capital after the youth wing of Tshisekedi’s Democracy and Social Progress party (UDPS) announced it would hold a protest against the candidacy of a former justice minister for the senate presidency.

In response, the pro-Kabila Red Berets movement said it would hold a counter-march to support the candidacy of Alexis Thambwe, who is considered by many a hardliner from the Kabila regime.

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Kinshasa police chief General Sylvano Kasongo told state television that given the tensions in the capital, Kinshasa’s governor had banned all political rallies for this week. “He instructed the police to take all appropriate measures. Anyone who attempts to march or disturb the public order this week will find the police in their way,” he said.

UDPS youth wing spokesman Fils Mukoko told reporters they wanted to protest against seeing “the same faces in charge of the country’s institutions or in the government.”

Kabila’s Common Front for Congo (FCC) coalition won comfortable majorities in both houses of parliament as well as provincial assemblies, and his supporters also dominated elections for the governorships across the country.

Read also: GNA announces a new political plan, promises elections in Libya

None of the candidates the FCC presented for seven key Senate posts is from Tshisekedi’s CACH alliance in the legislature despite an agreement to work together between the two political blocs.

Six months after Tshisekedi’s inauguration and more than a month after the appointment of Prime Minister Ilunga Ilunkamba, who was proposed by Kabila, CACH and FCC negotiators are still struggling to agree on the composition of the government.

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Social media restriction in Chad lifted after one year

Access to social media was cut in March 2018, as public opposition mounted over Deby’s plans to push through changes to the constitution

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High costs and slow speed mar Equatorial Guinea's dreams for internet access

Chad President Idriss Deby said Saturday he was lifting social media restrictions which were imposed more than a year ago for “security reasons.”

“For some months, security requirements led the government to toughen access conditions and control measures for electronic communications,” Deby said in a closing address to a digital forum in the capital N’Djamena. 

“These measures were imposed in a context of terrorist threats (but)” the current situation ” leads me … to instruct the firms concerned to lift immediately the restriction on electronic communications,” said Deby.

On Saturday afternoon, it was possible to access social media applications including Whatsapp and Twitter, an AFP journalist reported.

Access to social media was cut in March last year as public opposition mounted over Deby’s plans to push through changes to the constitution shoring up his power after almost three decades in office.

Access remained possible using VPN networks but the use of those is costly in one of the world’s poorest nations.

Barely five per cent of the population enjoys internet access.

Chad is a Western ally in the fight against jihadist groups in Africa and notably faces threats from Boko Haram, which has made several deadly incursions into its territory in recent months.

The largely desert north, bordering Sudan, Libya and Niger, is highly volatile while several rebel groups have set up base just over the border with Libya.

In late January, Chad rebels seeking to destabilise Deby entered the northeast of the country from Libya but were pushed back after French air strikes.

In the east, farmers and nomadic groups have also clashed while the south on the border with the Central African Republic is still tense after the 2013 overthrow of former CAR president sparked unrest which spilt over the border.

Legislative elections in Chad are scheduled to take place by the end of the year having been postponed several times since 2015 as Deby, who grabbed power in 1990, looks to maintain his grip on the country.

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