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UNITA leader, Savimbi gets reburial 17 years after death in Angola

Seventeen years on, it was time to heal the scars of past conflict

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UNITA leader, Savimbi gets reburial 17 years after death in Angola
Supporters give praise Jonas Savimbi, former leader Angola's rebel UNITA movement, at his reburial site in the village of Lopitanga, near the town of Andulo, in Bie Province in Angolaon May 31, 2019. - In what is being billed as a rare moment of national unity, the historic leader of Angola's rebel UNITA movement, Jonas Savimbi, will get a public funeral on June 1, ,2019, 17 years after he was killed in a shootout with government soldiers that spelt an end to a long civil war. Savimbi, a charismatic, controversial warlord who fought Angola's socialist government in a 27-year civil war, was killed in a battle against the People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) government forces in February 2002 in Moxico, where has buried. (Photo by Rodger BOSCH / AFP)

Former leader of Angola’s rebel UNITA movement Jonas Savimbi will be reinterred Saturday, 17 years after he was killed in a shootout with government soldiers that spelt the end to the country’s long civil war.

Angola, a former Portuguese colony, became a Cold War battleground after independence in 1975 when the Marxist-Leninist People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) seized control.

The United States lined up behind Savimbi’s National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) rebels and the Soviet Union and its allies backed the MPLA.

“The remains have been returned to UNITA and the family,” Alcides Sakala Simoes, spokesman for UNITA, told AFP on Friday.

“There was a lot of emotion. It has been 17 years since the government was asked to give us the body. This is an important step for national reconciliation.”

“We are moved and relieved, we will be able to mourn,” Cheya Savimbi, his eldest son, said after the remains were handed over at a ceremony in Andulo about thirty kilometres (20 miles) from the village of Lopitanga where the funeral will be held.

At least half a million people died in the conflict for the vast, oil-rich southern African nation, which played out over more than a quarter of a century.

Early in 2002, soldiers pursued the 67-year-old Savimbi across the province of Moxico in central eastern Angola.

On February 22, his pursuers caught up with him. He fought back but, riddled with more than a dozen bullets, soon died.

His body was taken to the provincial capital Luena and hurriedly buried in a cemetery, with a cross of iron on the mound of red soil and the name “SAVIMBI Jonas” etched into the trunk of an acacia tree.

Swift ceasefire

After his death, rival sides swiftly moved towards a ceasefire in a conflict that had lasted 27 years.

This year, after long talks, the MPLA government agreed with UNITA and the Savimbi family to hold a funeral on Saturday in Lopitanga, in central Angola, where Savimbi’s father is buried.

The deal was unlocked after President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, Savimbi’s sworn enemy, stepped down in 2017 and was replaced by his defence minister, Joao Lourenco.

“Seventeen years on, it was time further to heal the scars of past conflict and under a new head of state, Joao Lourenco, allowing this to happen is easier,” Alex Vines of the London-based think tank Chatham House told AFP.

Typically dressed in a green combat uniform, with a walking stick in his hand and a revolver on his hip, Savimbi led an army of more than 30,000 troops.

Backed for many years by apartheid South Africa, his forces were accused of atrocities and he himself was described as having carried out summary executions.

His remains were handed over after a dispute this week between government authorities and UNITA over how the procedure would be conducted.

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North Africa

Jailed Egyptian ex-president Morsi dies after court collapse

“He was speaking before the judge for 20 minutes then became very animated and fainted.” -Judicial source

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Jailed Egyptian ex-president Morsi dies after court collapsing
Ousted (now late) Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi. Ahmed Omar / Anadolu Agency

Former Egyptian president, Mohamed Morsi died on Monday in a Cairo hospital after fainting during a session in court, judicial and security sources said.

“He was speaking before the judge for 20 minutes then became very animated and fainted. He was quickly rushed to the hospital where he later died,” a judicial source said.

The official Al-Ahram news website also reported the death of Morsi, who was Egypt’s first democratically elected president but spent just one turbulent year in office after the 2011 uprising before the army toppled him in July 2013.

While he was president, Morsi issued a temporary constitutional declaration that granted him unlimited powers and the power to legislate without judicial oversight or review of his acts as a pre-emptive move against the expected dissolution of the second constituent assembly by the Mubarak-era judges.

The new constitution that was then hastily finalised by the Islamist-dominated constitutional assembly, presented to the president, and scheduled for a referendum, before the Supreme Constitutional Court could rule on the constitutionality of the assembly, was described by independent press agencies not aligned with the regime as an “Islamist coup”.

This led to an uproar that contributed to his government being ousted by Abdelfatah Al-Sisi, the incumbent president.

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Africa News & Updates

Two paramilitary officers and a soldier killed in an ambush in Mali

The two paramilitary officers were killed on Sunday when an improvised explosive device blew up as they walked near the entrance of a military post

News Central

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Two paramilitary officers and a soldier killed in an ambush in Mali

Two Malian paramilitary officers were killed by a mine explosion outside a military base and a soldier died in an ambush in the north of the country, the armed forces said on Monday. Since French troops helped force out jihadists in 2013, parts of northern Mali remain out of control of security forces and violence has spread to other areas of the country.

The two paramilitary officers were killed on Sunday when an improvised explosive device blew up as they walked near the entrance of a military post in Sokolo in the central Segou region, Mali’s armed forces said on Twitter.

In a separate incident in the north, an army patrol escorting civilians was ambushed between Niafounke and Tonka, around 100 km south of Timbuktu, the army said. It said one soldier was killed and another wounded in the exchange.

Attacks in Mali are mostly in the north. But since 2015 violence has also hit the centre and south of the country. Along with militant attacks and militia violence, Mali also struggles with intercommunal and ethnic clashes.

Earlier this month, an attack on Sobane Da village in the centre of Mali killed 35 people in an ethnic Dogon enclave in the diverse Mopti region. President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita appealed for calm after the attack sparked fears of a tit-for-tat cycle of ethnic killing.

Malian army bases are also often attacked. Eleven soldiers were killed in April by suspected jihadists who attacked a post in Guire in the centre of the country, and in March an assault on the Dioura military camp killed nearly 30 soldiers.

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Africa News & Updates

Key Bouteflika ally, Ali Haddad jailed for six months in Algeria

Haddad, who owns Algeria’s largest private construction company, is the first high-profile figure with ties to Bouteflika to be jailed

News Central

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Ali Haddad, pro-Bouteflika businessman and main funders of Bouteflika's electoral campaigns is seen in a car after arrested

A key backer of Algeria’s former leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika and one of the country’s top businessmen, Ali Haddad, was jailed for six months Monday for holding two passports, state television reported. Haddad was arrested in late March on the border with Tunisia, in possession of two passports and undeclared currency, days before Bouteflika resigned in the face of mass protests.

Haddad, who owns Algeria’s largest private construction company, is the first high-profile figure with ties to Bouteflika to be jailed since the president stepped down. He was found guilty of the “unjustified procurement of administrative documents” and also fined 50,000 dinars, state television reported.

Described by Forbes as one of Algeria’s wealthiest entrepreneurs, Haddad is widely perceived to have used his links to Bouteflika to build his business empire. The businessman had denied breaking the law and said he obtained his second passport legally after seeking an interview with the then prime minister Abdelmalek Sellal.

The ex-premier and Haddad are among many businessmen and former politicians caught up in a separate anti-corruption investigation launched since the president stepped down. Earlier this month Haddad’s lawyer, Khaled Bourayou, decried a “political trial” and told journalists the passport case had no legal basis.

The sentence is significantly lower than the 18 months term and a fine of 100,000 dinars requested by the prosecutor. Hassane Boualem, then director of titles and secure documents at the interior ministry, was given a two-month suspended sentence and fined 20,000 for issuing Haddad’s second passport in 2016.

He told the court he was following the orders of his superiors – interior ministry head Hocine Mazouz, Sellal and Algeria’s current premier Noureddine Bedoui – who were not investigated over the affair.

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