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South Africa extradites former Mozambique finance minister

Mozambique has accused Chang of receiving $17 million in kickbacks in a scam which creamed off hundreds of millions.

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South Africa extradites former Mozambique finance minister
Manuel Chang, former finance minister of Mozambique, appears at the Kempton Park Magistrates court to fight extradition to the United states in Kempton Park, South Africa. - South Africa announced on May 21, 2019 its decision to extradite Manuel Chang to his Mozambique. (Photo by Wikus DE WET / AFP)

South Africa said Tuesday it would send home former Mozambique Finance Minister, Manuel Chang, who has been held since December on a US arrest warrant, to face corruption charges.

“I have decided that the accused, Mr. Manuel Chang, will be extradited to stand trial for his alleged offences in Mozambique,” South African Justice Minister, Michael Masutha said in a statement.

“I am satisfied that the interest of justice will be best served by acceding to the request by the Republic of Mozambique,” Masutha said.

Chang, 63, was arrested at Johannesburg airport in December at the request of US authorities over alleged involvement in fraudulent loans to Mozambique state firms worth $2 billion.

Mozambique has accused Chang of receiving $17 million in kickbacks in a scam which creamed off hundreds of millions.

In the US, Chang faces charges of conspiracy to commit electronic fraud, financial security violations and money laundering, and could be jailed for up to 45 years if found guilty.

The South African minister said he had noted that the US submitted its extradition request weeks before Mozambique’s one.

After weighing the relevant facts and taking into account the criteria contained in both the extradition treaties between the US and South Africa, and the southern African SADC regional bloc agreement on extradition, he said he had decided to send Chang back home.

US Assistant Secretary of State, Tibor Nagy in March said he expected Pretoria to honour an extradition accord it signed in 1999. 

‘Seriousness of alleged offence’ –

South African Foreign Minister Lindiwe Sisulu had indicated in February, however, that Chang would be handed to Maputo because it would be “the easiest thing for everybody”.

In reaching his decision, Masutha said he had taken into consideration that the alleged offence was committed whilst Chang was a cabinet minister in Mozambique and also his preference to face trial in his native country. 

The minister said he also took into account the “seriousness of the alleged offence” and the “onerous debt for Mozambique as a result of the alleged fraud”.

In Mozambique, Chang stands accused of abuse of position and function, violation of budget law, fraud, embezzlement, receiving bribes, money laundering and criminal association.

The charges against Chang relate to loans taken out by the government in Maputo when he was head of treasury between 2005 and 2015.

An independent audit found that a quarter of the loan amount was illicitly diverted.

The US alleges at least $200 million of the loans was spent on bribes and kick-backs.

Mozambique has arrested several other suspects linked to the scandal, including the son of ex-president Armando Guebuza, and senior intelligence officials.

In January, three former Credit Suisse workers were arrested in London and charged with helping to create $2 billion in maritime projects as a front.

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Sudanese ex-President Bashir admits receiving $90 million from Saudi royal

Bashir faces charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide from the International Criminal Court

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Sudanese ex-President Bashir got $90 million from Saudi royals -Investigator
Sudan's deposed military ruler Omar al-Bashir stands in a defendant's cage during the opening of his corruption trial in Khartoum on August 19, 2019. - Bashir has admitted to receiving $90 million in cash from Saudi monarchs, an investigator told a Khartoum court today. (Photo by Ebrahim HAMID / AFP)

Omar al-Bashir received $90 million in cash from Saudi royals, an investigator told a court at the opening Monday of the deposed Sudanese strongman’s corruption trial.

The former President, who was forced from power by months of protests in April after 30 years in power, sat in a metal cage wearing a traditional white gown.

His relatives chanted “Allahu Akbar” (God is greatest) as proceedings got underway in the Khartoum court where he arrived in a huge military convoy.

Bashir faces a raft of charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide from the International Criminal Court over his role in the Darfur war but Monday’s trial is over graft allegations.

READ: Former president, Omar al-Bashir appears before a prosecutor

Large amounts of cash were found at this residence after he was toppled and the investigator said the case brought forward to the court probed some of that money.

“The accused told us that the money was part of a sum of $25 million sent to him by Prince Mohammed bin Salman to be used outside of the state budget,” investigator Ahmed Ali said.

According to him, Bashir had said he also received two previous payments of $35 million and $30 million from Saudi King Abdullah, who died in 2015.

“This money was not part of the state budget and I was the one who authorised its spending,” the investigator quoted Bashir as saying.

Sudan’s deposed military ruler Omar al-Bashir stands in a defendant’s cage during the opening of his corruption trial in Khartoum on August 19, 2019. (Photo by Ebrahim HAMID / AFP)

Bashir had said the Saudi money was exchanged and spent and that he could not remember how nor did he have documents providing further details, he added.

READ: Sudan to begin trial of former leader Bashir August 17

Bashir looked calm during the nearly three-hour session, which a photographer and correspondent attended. The next hearing was scheduled for August 24.

Darfur crimes –

In May, Sudan’s prosecutor general also said Bashir had been charged over killings during the anti-regime protests which eventually led to his ouster.

London-based rights watchdog, Amnesty International has warned, however, that the corruption trial should not distract from his Darfur indictments.

“While this trial is a positive step towards accountability for some of his alleged crimes, he remains wanted for heinous crimes committed against the Sudanese people,” Amnesty said.

Amnesty urged the country’s new transitional institutions to ratify the ICC’s Rome Statute, a move that would allow for his transfer to the international tribunal.

The Hague-based ICC has for years demanded that Bashir stand trial, and has renewed its call since his fall.

The head of Bashir’s defence team, Ahmed Ibrahim al-Tahir, said in July that the ousted leader’s trial had no “political background”.

“It is an absolute criminal case with a baseless accusation.”

It was the sudden tripling of bread prices in December that sparked the mushrooming protests which led to the toppling of Bashir by the army in April.

Sovereign Council –

The trial comes as the composition of the joint civilian and military sovereign council that will steer the country of 40 million through a 39-month transition was due to be unveiled on Monday.

The line-up had been expected to be announced on Sunday but it was delayed after one of the five nominees put forward by the opposition alliance representing protest leaders turned down the job.

READ: Sudanese leaders sign historic deal for civilian rule

Sudanese ex-President Bashir admits receiving $90 million from Saudi royal
Sudan’s protest leader Ahmad Rabie (2nd-R), flashes the victory gesture alongside General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan (C), the chief of Sudan’s ruling Transitional Military Council (TMC), during a ceremony where they signed a “constitutional declaration” that paves the way for a transition to civilian rule, in the capital Khartoum. (Photo by Ebrahim HAMID / AFP)

The ruling sovereign council will be composed of 11 members including six civilians and five from the military. 

It will be headed by a general for the first 21 months and by a civilian for the remaining 18 months.

The council will oversee the formation of a transitional civilian administration including a cabinet and a legislative body.

The transition’s key documents were signed on Saturday at a ceremony attended by a host of foreign dignitaries, signalling that Sudan could be on its way to shedding the pariah status the Darfur atrocities and Bashir’s international arrest warrant had conferred on it.

Amidst the euphoria celebrating the promise of civilian rule, unease was palpable, however, within the protest camp that brought about one of the most crucial changes in Sudan’s modern history.

One of its main causes is the omnipresence in the transition of General Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, a paramilitary commander and one of the signatories of the documents, whose forces are blamed for the deadly repression of the protests.

And it remains unclear how the transitional institutions will tackle the daunting task of pacifying a country plagued by several conflicts, including in the regions of Darfur, Kordofan and Blue Nile.

READ: Sudan’s new sovereign council faces delayed unveiling

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Cojep movement elects acquitted war criminal Ble Goude as President

He was “elected unanimously” by the 1,250 delegates and will serve as its President for four years

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Cojep movement elects acquitted war criminal Ble Goude as President
Charles Ble Goude, former Ivorian minister and President-elect of the Cojep movement. (AFP)

Charles Ble Goude, acquitted this year of alleged crimes against humanity, was on Sunday chosen to head up the Cojep movement in Ivory Coast which he promises to turn into a political party.

Ble Goude was “elected unanimously” by the 1,250 delegates to the group’s congress in Abidjan and will serve as its President for four years, according to a statement released after the decision.

“My priority is peace and reconciliation for the sons and daughters of Ivory Coast,” he told reporters by telephone from The Hague where he has been living since being acquitted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) there earlier this year.

He had been charged with crimes against humanity committed during his country’s violent political crisis 2010-11.

He was once dubbed the “general of the streets” for his ability to mobilise supporters of Ivory Coast’s former President Laurent Gbagbo during the conflict.

In February, Ble Goude and Gbagbo were found not guilty by the ICC on four counts of murder, rape, and other “inhumane acts.” 

Prosecutors had alleged the crimes were part of a wave of violence sparked when Gbagbo refused to concede an election that vote counters and observers said was won by his rival Alassane Ouattara.

Some 3,000 people died in five months of violence before Ouattara prevailed in April 2011. Gbagbo was arrested in Abidjan with the backing of French forces.

On Saturday, Ble Goude, in a video conference, spoke of his wish to “construct a major party” in Ivory Coast out of the Cojep. 

He had created the Congress of Young Patriots (Cojep) in 2001. The group violently backed Gbagbo’s victory claim and clashed with Ouattara supporters.

In 2015, it was renamed “the Pan-African Congress for Justice and Equality” but kept its old initials, vowing to fight for peace while steering clear of extremists.

Ble Goude has said he will not seek election in a 2020 presidential vote.

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East Africa Politics News

Burundi’s opposition party confirms vandalism of its 18 offices

Inauguration of the new offices on Sunday had been called off upon request of the mayor of Bujumbura

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Burundi's opposition leader Agathon Rwasa says its 18 offices have been vandalised

A Burundian opposition party said Sunday that 18 of its offices had been destroyed in the past two months, condemning acts of “intimidation” by the ruling party. The National Freedom Council (CNL) – a new party formed by main opposition leader Agathon Rwasa – said it was on Sunday meant to inaugurate nine new offices in the capital.

However one “was destroyed during the night by members of the ruling party,” said party spokesman Therence Manirambona. A photo seen by a reporter showed the windows and doors ripped off and walls partially destroyed.

Manirambona said it was the “18th to be vandalised in two months across the country… and each time we are told an investigation is underway to identify those responsible, but nothing has come of it”.

Some have been set ablaze, others partially or totally destroyed, while some have been smeared with human faeces, said the CNL. The ruling Cndd-FDD has repeatedly denied being behind the attacks.

Manirambona said the inauguration of the new offices on Sunday had been called off upon request of the mayor of Bujumbura after clashes erupted between CNL supporters and members of the ruling party.

He said the CNL’s Bujumbura representative Jean-Claude Kwizera had been detained by police for several hours after the incident.

Burundi has been locked in crisis since President Pierre Nkurunziza in April 2015 announced he would seek a controversial third term in office, sparking civil unrest that has left 1,200 dead and over 400,000 displaced.

Constitutional reforms adopted in May after a referendum open the way for Nkurunziza to seek another two terms in office in 2020, however, he has assured he will not do so.

A UN Commission of Inquiry last year said it believed the government was committing crimes against humanity such as summary executions, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detention, torture and sexual violence.  

The CNL has denounced the arrests, torture and disappearances of its members. “Unfortunately we have seen an increase in acts of harassment and political intimidation as 2020 approaches,” said the party spokesman.

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