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South Africa's ANC vows change as Zuma exit looms

Posted AFP

on  Saturday, January 20   2018 at  15:26

South Africa's ruling ANC party said Saturday that it "must act decisively" to rebuild its reputation, as local media reported that President Jacob Zuma could soon be forced to leave office.

Zuma has been under growing pressure to resign since he was replaced as head of the African National Congress (ANC) in December by his deputy Cyril Ramaphosa.

Zuma's presidency has been engulfed by corruption scandals and a weakening economy, with the party losing public support ahead of next year's general election.

Ramaphosa's supporters are keen for him to take over as president and try to revive the economy before the election, when the ANC could lose its grip on power for the first time since the end of apartheid.

"The ANC must act decisively and with determination to rebuild the bond of trust between our people and the movement," the party said in a statement after a two-day meeting of its senior members.

The statement addressed criticism that South Africa currently has two centres of power — Zuma still in office as president, while Ramaphosa heads the ruling ANC party.

"(Party) officials, led by President Ramaphosa, will continue their engagement with President Jacob Zuma to ensure effective coordination between the ANC and government," it said.

Zuma to leave, but when?

The News 24 website said the party's executive meeting had decided that Zuma must leave office, but that no exact timeline had been agreed.

"We will have a new president in the coming weeks," it quoted one unnamed party member at the meeting as predicting.

Zuma's closest allies still hold senior positions in the party, and he could in theory remain president until the 2019 election that marks the end of his second and final term in office.

His control over the ANC was shaken when his chosen successor — his former wife Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma — lost out to Ramaphosa in the closely-fought race to be party leader.

Zuma, 75, could leave office either by resigning, through losing a motion of no-confidence in parliament or impeachment proceedings.

He could also be recalled by the ANC, forcing him to step down.

Whoever is president on February 8 will deliver the annual state of the nation address in parliament — providing one deadline for political manoeuvring.

Ramaphosa, 65, is a former trade unionist who led talks to end white-minority rule in the early 1990s and then became a multi-millionaire businessman before returning to politics.

The ANC, which has ruled since 1994 when Nelson Mandela won the first multi-racial election, recorded its worst-ever results in 2016 local polls.

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After two-year wait, Uganda gets its new cancer machine

Posted AFP

on  Saturday, January 20   2018 at  14:04

Uganda's only radiotherapy machine has officially been replaced, nearly two years after the previous one broke down, giving hope to cancer patients who had been denied a crucial tool against the disease.

The failure of the old machine in March 2016 caused a public outcry and was seen as symbolising the deterioration of Uganda's medical services.

Since 1995, Mulago Hospital in Kampala had become a hub for treating cancer patients across east Africa, many of them coming from countries lacking radiotherapy equipment.

On Friday, Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda said the new $815,000 Cobalt-60 machine, housed in a concrete bunker at the hospital, is part of a "vision of becoming the East African centre of excellence in the management of oncology."

Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) which helped install the new machine, said the commissioning is a "major cause of celebration".

The agency and the Ugandan government each paid half of the cost of the machine which is capable of treating up to 120 people a day.

"In 28 countries in Africa there are no cancer machines. (Patients) cannot be diagnosed and they cannot be treated," said Amano.

Dr Jackson Orem, director of the Uganda Cancer Institute, toldAFP that about 5,000 cases are referred to the institute each year. Many patients show up with cancer that is already at an advanced stage.

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Emmerson Mnangagwa invites the UN to observe elections

Posted AFP

on  Saturday, January 20   2018 at  06:51

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa wants international observers including UN officials to watch over the country's upcoming elections, he said in a Financial Times interview.

Mnangagwa has adopted a more diplomatic tone since taking over as leader in November, after the ousting of the authoritarian Robert Mugabe, his former boss.

After announcing earlier this week that elections will be held in four to five months, the new president invited international observers to Zimbabwe for the vote.

"We want fair, free, credible elections," he told British business newspaper the Financial Times in an interview published Thursday.

"I would want that the United Nations should come, the EU should come... If the Commonwealth were requesting to come, I am disposed to consider their application," he added.

Zimbabwe shunned international observers during Mugabe's 37-year rule, during which elections were marred by vote-rigging and violent suppression of the opposition.

Mnangagwa was one of Mugabe's closest allies in the ruling Zanu-PF party and the 75-year-old has been accused of playing a vital role in the authoritarian regime.

But since taking over the presidency he has extended an olive branch to the international community, including to former colonial ruler Britain.

The UK was an outspoken critic of Mugabe's leadership, but Mnangagwa predicted closer ties when Britain leaves the European Union next year.

"They will need us. And we will make sure we become very close to them," he told the FT.

The Zimbabwean president also said he would be open to seeking to rejoin the Commonwealth, a grouping of nations largely formerly ruled by Britain.

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Sierra Leone court orders arrest of presidential candidate

Posted KEMO CHAM in Freetown

on  Friday, January 19   2018 at  17:21

A Sierra Leone court has ordered the arrest of an opposition presidential candidate on charges of contempt.

A magistrate sitting in Segbwema in the eastern Kailahun District issued the arrest warrant for Mohamed Kamaraimba Mansaray of the Alliance Democratic Party (ADP) for failing to appear before the court.

Mr Mansaray is standing trial for alleged unlawful arms possession, a charge he has denied, saying it was politically motivated.

He was charged last year alongside one of his aides, Mohamed Bangura, who was accused of malicious damage and assault.

The prosecution alleged that Mr Mansaray was found in possession of a stun gun without licence, following skirmishes involving supporters of the ruling All People’s Congress (APC) party in Segbwema, about 350km west of the capital Freetown, during a by-election.

The politician’s aide was accused of attacking APC supporters.

The magistrate said Thursday that the two accused persons showed gross contempt of the court by failing to show up.

The judge ordered that the two be detained until the next trial date on January 24.

Questioned on why he failed to appear in court, Mr Mansaray and his lawyer are quoted as saying they did not receive the notice of hearing.

The ADP presidential candidate is scheduled to present his nomination papers to the National Electoral Commission in Freetown on the same date as the trial.

His supporters say the timing is a calculated move to prevent him from contesting the polls.

Sierra Leoneans go to the polls to elect the president, MPs and local representatives on March 7.

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Mnangagwa visits Zambia for bilateral talks

Posted MICHAEL CHAWE in Lusaka

on  Friday, January 19   2018 at  16:33

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa met with his Zambian counterpart Edgar Lungu at State House in Lusaka on Friday.

The two leaders agreed to enhance bilateral cooperation and security between the two southern African neighbours.

According to a statement from State House, they agreed to enhance collaboration especially in their joint projects including the Chirundu one-stop border post and the 1,626MW Kariba Dam managed by the Zambezi River Authority, on behalf of the two countries.

President Mnangagwa’s Lusaka visit is part of a regional SADC bloc tour to brief the member states on political developments in Zimbabwe.

But for the 75-year-old leader who came into power last November after a surprise military takeover that ended Robert Mugabe’s nearly four decades reign, the visit to Zambia was also a “homecoming”.

The President wrote in the State House visitors’ book: “I feel I have come back home after about 40 years… [the] country that has made me who I am today.”

Mnangagwa’s family fled to Zambia in the 1950s during the repression years of the white minority rule. While in college, he joined Zambia’s Independence party UNIP. He was later recruited to join the Zimbabwe liberation struggle movement from there.

Zambia is the fifth official trip for President Mnangagwa to the Southern African Development Community’s 15-member states.

The president has visited South Africa, Angola, Namibia and Mozambique.

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South Sudanese regulator accuses media of bias

Posted JOSEPH ODUHA in Juba

on  Friday, January 19   2018 at  14:00

South Sudanese media regulator has warned journalists against what it termed as an "assassination of the country and its government".

Speaking at a forum on Freedom of Expression and Journalists' Safety held in Juba on Thursday, the director of media compliance at the South Sudan Media Authority, Mr Sapana Lado, accused reporters of fuelling the crisis in the war-torn country through biased reporting.

He said local journalists lacked patriotism and were acting as foreign agents.

“Our problem is that our journalists are acting as vendors selling South Sudan. Most of the negative reports that appear or are released by international media agencies are collected by the local media in Juba.

“You should stop assassinating the character of this country and its government,” Mr Lado told journalists.

He threatened to take reporters critical of the country and government to court.

“I wish I will still live long so that you [journalists] face the high court,” he said.

This is not the first time that the media regulator has threatened reporters.

Last year, it banned about 20 foreign journalists from entering the country on what it said was “unfounded reporting that can incite violence”.

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But, Mary Ajith, the acting chairperson of the Association of Media Development in South Sudan said the comments by Mr Lado were unacceptable as they threatened the lives of journalists in the country.

She dismissed the claims that the local media was biased, saying rather that it only reported matters as they are.

“If a civil society activist tells the truth to the media, that truth is censored. But when a government official give false news, it is published. Now, who is giving fake news, the media or the government? She posed.

Lawyer and human rights activist, Mr Reech Malual, also slammed Mr Lado.

“Legally it is wrong to issue such statements which constitutes threats against journalists by a responsible official serving in the responsible arm of government. It is a hate speech,” he said.

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Early this month, President Salva Kiir warned foreign envoys and media in the country against publishing negative reports about South Sudan, saying that it was hurting and delaying the restoration of peace and stability.

South Sudan has been ravaged by a four-year civil war that erupted barely two years after it seceded from Sudan.

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Congolese refugees refuse to return home

Posted ARNALDO VIEIRA in Luanda

on  Friday, January 19   2018 at  10:29

Congolese refugees in Angola have said they will not return home despite an agreement between the two governments’ officials to repatriate them.

Nearly 35,000 refugees have fled conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s central Kasai region for Lunda Norte in northern Angola since March last year.

A Catholic Church priest in Lunda Norte, António Macoco Muiamba, who is also a member of a humanitarian assistance group in the camps, told VOA Radio that the refugees prefer to remain in Angola until the Congolese government creates a stable environment.

“The refugees have written a letter to their country’s bishops expressing their desire to remain in Angola until conditions improve,” he told VOA Radio on Wednesday.

Last week, government representatives from DR Congo and Angola agreed to repatriate all the 35,000 refugees starting March this year.

Violence in Kasai erupted in September 2016 after government forces killed a tribal chief and militia leader, Kamwina Nsapu, who had been leading a rebellion against President Joseph Kabila. The conflict added to the woes of volatile eastern Congo where rival militia groups fight for control of the mineral-rich area.

Violence has also been reported in various parts across the country after President Kabila refused to step down when his tenure expired in December 2016. There are fears that the country could slide into civil war again.

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Egypt, Ethiopia ease tensions over Nile dam

Posted AFP

on  Friday, January 19   2018 at  09:42

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said Thursday at talks in Cairo they were opposed to any “conflict” over the sharing of Nile waters.

Mr Sisi said that Mr Hailemariam’s visit was “a clear sign for our peoples and the entire world of our political will and determination to overcome all obstacles” between the two countries.

The Nile should serve as “a source of cohesion... and development, not of conflict” with Ethiopia, which is building a controversial dam that has raised Egyptian concerns over water supplies, he said.

“We agreed that we must make sure that this great river never becomes an object of competition, mistrust and conflict,” Mr Hailemariam told a joint news conference.

Mr Sisi said Ethiopia was not aiming “to harm the interests of Egypt”, while reiterating Cairo’s call for the World Bank to serve as a neutral interlocutor between the two countries on technical issues related to the Nile.

Egypt relies almost totally on the Nile for irrigation and drinking water, and says it has “historic rights” to the river, guaranteed by treaties from 1929 and 1959.

Ethiopia’s Grand Renaissance Dam project on the Blue Nile, launched in 2012, is designed to feed a hydroelectric project to produce 6,000 megawatts of power, equal to six nuclear-powered plants.

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The Blue and the White Nile tributaries converge in Sudan’s capital Khartoum and from there run north through Egypt to the Mediterranean.

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28,000 pupils miss out on place as schools starts

Posted PETER DUBE

on  Thursday, January 18   2018 at  18:53

Thousands of parents in South Africa’s northern Gauteng province are anxious after their children failed to get school placements in time for the new academic year.

The Gauteng Department of Education, for the first time, was unable to place 28,000 children in schools before the beginning of the term.

The department’s spokesperson Steve Mabona confirmed on Wednesday that 28,000 were yet to be assigned schools.

“We’ve a problem of choice but when we resolve some of the challenges we have, I think all learners should be placed by mid-February. I think everyone will be placed by then,” said Mr Panyaza Lesufi, a member of Gauteng’s executive committee for education.

More than one million pupils reported to school across Gauteng on Wednesday after getting placements.

The opposition party Democratic Alliance (DA) in Gauteng called on Mr Lesufi to engage with independent schools in order to place the affected pupils.

The DA said it finds it regrettable that many pupils are denied access to basic education due to the provincial government’s poor planning.

“There should be no child of school-going age sitting at home because the department has failed its obligation to provide basic education,” DA’s Mr Khume Ramulifho said.

He said the DA will continue to visit schools to ensure that they have the necessary resources to ensure learning and teaching.

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Dual citizenship a sticking point in Sierra Leone’s election

Posted KEMO CHAM

on  Thursday, January 18   2018 at  14:55

Dual citizenship has become a political hot potato for Sierra Leoneans ahead of the General Election which is less than two months away.

During ongoing primaries to pick candidates for local and parliamentary seats, the ruling All People's Congress (APC) party invoked a constitutional provision that bars individuals with foreign citizenship from running for office.

The move has sparked heated debate nationwide as dozens of people, including prominent politicians, were disqualified.

While APC has said the country's law must be followed, many are asking questions about the party's motive.

Targeting opposition

Critics say the ruling party could be targeting opposition parties whose leaders reportedly hold dual citizenship, and in particular the presidential flagbearer of the recently formed National Grand Coalition (NGC) party, Dr Kandeh Yumkella.

NGC split from the main opposition Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP) and appears to have changed the political dynamics from a two-horse race to a three-horse race. APC and SLPP have dominated Sierra Leone’s politics since independence in 1963.

Mr Yumkella is rumoured to hold Austria and the United States citizenship.

The former UN official has kept mum over the issue which has dominated the airwaves for nearly a month.

Support

But NGC officials have been quoted admitting to the fact that Mr Yumkella held a US citizenship until November last year when he revoked it.

Mr Yumkella also hails from the north of the country, where the APC enjoys its strongest support.

In the northwest, which includes the capital Freetown, another traditionally APC stronghold, Mr Yumkella also appears to appeal to the youths and the elites. These has fuelled speculation over the APC's motive to invoke the law on citizenship.

In December, when dissolving parliament APC’s President Ernest Bai Koroma criticised people “who stayed away from the country” while his government went through the trouble of developing it for now seeking to govern it.

President Koroma's remarks were widely viewed as directed at the former UN official.

The President will not be contesting after serving his second and final five-year term.

Debate

In the public debate over citizenship many have wondered why APC invoked the law just before the elections yet President Koroma’s Cabinet has more than half a dozen ministers known to hold dual citizenship as well as a number of aspirants who lost in the APC’s primaries.

According to the law, ministers only qualify for appointment if they also qualify to be elected as MPs.

“The APC party did not just drowsily stumble upon this novel idea, or simply deviate into lawfulness overnight; they realise that there is a new sheriff in town,” suggested one Mr Umarr Kamarah, a commentator.

Sierra Leoneans go to the polls on March 7 to vote for the president, MPs and local council representatives.

Presidential candidates

Nominations for presidential candidates are ongoing.

So far National Electoral Commission (NEC) has cleared five candidates including APC's Samura Kamara, ex-junta leader (Rtd) Brigadier Julius Maada Bio of SLPP, Mohamed Kamarainba Mansaray of the Alliance Democratic Party (ADP), Musa Tarawallie of the Citizen’s Democratic Party, and Mr Yumkella.

Sixteen registered political parties have been certified by the National Electoral Commission (NEC) to contest the polls. But a few of these parties have indicated the possibility of alliance.