Protestors, police clash in Burundi capital: witnesses

Police in the central African nation of Burundi on Sunday clashed with small groups of protestors, witnesses said, the day after the president was declared as candidate for a controversial third term.

An AFP correspondent said there were small demonstrations in several parts of the capital despite a government ban, with at least one outbreak of stone-throwing and anti-riot police beating back around 100 protestors trying to reach the city centre.

In the Cibitoke area, an AFP reporters said protestors pelted police with stones after they arrested a demonstrator.

“We threw stones to try and free our friend. This is a peaceful protest, we were only singing and they charged,” said one of the protestors, who did not give his name.

At least two police were wounded and two youths arrested, and police fired live rounds in the air in a bid to disperse the crowd.

Witnesses reported similar small-scale clashes in two other districts of the capital.

The protests come the day after President Pierre Nkurunziza was declared the ruling party’s candidate for a third term in office.

Opposition figures and rights groups say the move is unconstitutional and say the president’s effort to cling to power could push Burundi — which emerged from civil war in 2006 — back into violence.

Photo Credits : AFP

UN condemns ‘heinous’ Mali attack on peacekeepers

The UN Security Council strongly condemned the “heinous” attack on a UN peacekeeping base in northern Mali on Sunday, warning that those responsible will be held accountable.

A Chadian peacekeeper and two children died when the attackers fired more than 30 rockets at the barracks in the northern city of Kidal in the early morning hours.

In a statement by its 15 members, the Security Council called on the Malian government to swiftly investigate and bring the perpetrators to justice.

The council “stressed that those responsible for the attack shall be held accountable,” and underlined that attacks targeting peacekeepers may constitute war crimes.

The top UN body called on all sides to refrain from actions that could jeopardize peace efforts and reiterated a threat to impose sanctions against those who resume hostilities in Mali.

The attack on the UN base in Kidal came a day after a masked gunman burst into a Bamako nightclub, opened fire and threw grenades, killing five people, including a French national and a Belgian.

It also came a week after the Malian government signed an agreement with some northern armed groups to hand over more authority to northern Mali in a bid to stabilize the region.

The main Tuareg alliance, known as the Coordination, did not sign on to the deal and asked for more time to consult with its grassroot members.

The Security Council and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had both urged the Tuaregs to sign on to the deal, arguing that it represented an important opportunity for peace.

With more than 30 peacekeepers killed since UN troops were deployed in northern Mali in 2013, MINUSMA is considered the UN’s most dangerous mission, with Chad suffering heavy losses.

Islamist militants seized control of northern Mali for more than nine months until a French-led military intervention in 2013 that partly drove them from the region.

Photo Credits : AFP

Sudan’s Bashir says he will step down if beaten at polls

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir said Thursday he would stand down if he is voted out at polls in April, as he launched his campaign which he is widely expected to win.

“I will leave but by the ballot box,” Bashir told a rally in Wad Madani southeast of Khartoum, where he was launching his campaign for the presidential election.

Sudan’s mainstream opposition is boycotting the election.

“The Sudanese people hold power and choose who governs and represents them through the ballot box,” he told the cheering crowd on the outskirts of Wad Madani, in Jazira state, a farming area.

Bashir, 71, also criticised his opponents who have said they will boycott the April 13 legislative and presidential elections.

He said there was no place for those seeking power through “conspiracies or foreign allegiance, whether they meet in Addis Ababa or Paris”.

Various groups opposed to his government, including political parties and armed rebels, have signed agreements in the Ethiopian and French capitals.

Standing on a metal stage in front of the supportive crowds, Bashir gave few concrete details of his programme for another term in power.

People arrived in buses from throughout Jazira region to attend the rally, many wearing the traditional gleaming white Sudanese robes and turbans, and waving Sudanese flags and pictures of Bashir.

The ruling National Congress Party started its own campaign for the elections on Tuesday.

Bashir did not attend Tuesday’s launch because he was in the United Arab Emirates, flouting an International Criminal Court indictment for alleged war crimes in the western region of Darfur, where his government has been battling insurgents since 2003.

The career soldier seized power in a 1989 Islamist-backed coup and won an election in 2010, which the opposition also boycotted and observers said failed to meet international standards.

Photo Credits : AFP

War, Ebola, elections top African Union summit

Conflict in Africa, especially the violence of Nigeria’s Boko Haram insurgents, and efforts to stem Ebola is top of the agenda as African leaders gather for their annual summit this week. While the official theme of the African Union meeting will be women’s empowerment, leaders from the 54-member bloc will once again be beset by a string of crises across the continent when they meet at the AU headquarters in the Ethiopian capital on Friday and Saturday.

AU chief Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who has said she is “deeply horrified” at the rise of Boko Haram, has said she will use the summit to drum up “renewed collective African efforts” to tackle the Islamists.

Boko Haram are “not just a threat to some countries, it is a threat to the whole continent,” Dlamini-Zuma said this week, with pressure mounting to set up a regional five-nation force of some 3,000 troops, currently stalled amid arguments between Nigeria and its neighbours.

More than 13,000 people have been killed and more than one million made homeless by Boko Haram violence since 2009.

With over a dozen elections due to take place this year across Africa, the focus will also be on how to ensure peaceful polls. The Institute for Security Studies, an African think-tank, warns that “many of these are being held in a context that increases the risk of political violence.”

Wars in South Sudan and the Central African Republic — both nations scheduled to hold elections — as well as in Libya are also due to draw debate.

South Sudan’s warring parties are due to meet on the sidelines of the summit, in the latest push for a lasting peace deal, with six previous ceasefire commitments never holding for more than a few days — and sometime just hours — on the ground.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed in more than a year of civil war, with peace talks led by the regional East African bloc IGAD due to restart on Friday.

The question of membership to the International Criminal Court is also set to be debated. Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, who last month celebrated the dropping of crimes against humanity charges against him at The Hague-based ICC, will again be lobbying other leaders to push for an alternative African court that will rival what he has branded the anti-African ICC.

As leaders prepare to meet, observers say the real deals are struck on the sidelines of the talks, with past summits full of unfulfilled promises.

“The AU makes very lengthy statements and declarations with no effective follow-up or implementation. This frustrates many people,” said Solomon Dersso of the Institute for Security Studies. top the agenda as African leaders gather for their annual summit this week.

Six dead in Kenya as troops battle Somali gunmen: army

One Kenyan soldier and five suspected Islamists insurgents loyal to Somalia’s Al-Qaeda-affiliated Shebab fighters were killed in a battle in Kenya’s coastal Lamu district on Wednesday, the army said.

Kenyan troops, part of the UN-backed African Union force in Somalia fighting the Islamists, were travelling northwards close to the Somali border when they were attacked.

“A firefight ensued and five suspected Al-Shebab militants were killed,” army spokesman David Obonyo said in a statement, adding that one Kenyan soldier was killed and three others wounded.

“Some militants escaped with multiple injuries, and immediately an operation was launched in pursuit.”

Kenyan troops entered southern Somalia in 2011 to fight the Shebab rebels, later joining the AU force.

The Shebab are fighting to overthrow Somalia’s internationally-backed government, but have also carried out a string of revenge attacks in neighbouring Kenya.

Kenya’s government has been under fire since Shebab gunmen attacked the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi in September 2013, in which at least 67 people were killed.

In December the Shebab executed 36 non-Muslim quarry workers in a Kenyan border town, following an attack in November when they killed 28 passengers on board a bus.

Wedmesday’s attack took place on the mainland in Lamu country near Basuba, over 60 kilometres (40 miles) north of Lamu island, a UNESCO World Heritage site dependent on tourism for its economy, that has been badly hit with visitors scared off by a string of attacks.

Photo Credits : AFP

UN fails to halt DRC reign of terror

More than 200 civilians have been hacked to death in 16 mysterious attacks in and around the eastern DRC city of Beni since October 3, the latest taking place this week. No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks.

The UN’s Force Intervention Brigade (FIB), which includes 850 South African combat troops, has a mandate to aggressively pursue rebels. Yet no UN military ground offensive has been launched against the attackers.

One attack took place five minutes’ drive from a UN base near Beni, another in which at least 58 people were killed was half an hour away. Witnesses described seeing bodies with split skulls strewn across paths.

The FIB previously launched joint ground and air offensives against rebels in the bush, using snipers, special forces operatives and mortar teams together with the Congolese army, known by the French acronym FARDC.

Somali troops capture key port town from al-Shabab

BBC reports that Somali government troops backed by African Union forces have captured Barawe, a key stronghold of al-Shabab Islamists, according to the local officials.

The government now controls all the sea ports along the coast of Somalia, blocking off supply lines, and the AU says al-Shabab, who had held the town for six years, used it as a base to launch attacks on the capital.

Al-Shabab had begun withdrawing from the key port town on Friday, and have lost control of several towns in the past month. They however still control large swathes of territory in rural areas.