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Opposition says Congo politicians agree Kabila transition deal
23 December 2016, 7:36 PM

Congolese politicians have agreed in principle to a deal under which President Joseph Kabila leaves office by the end of 2017, opposition leaders said on Friday, an unexpected breakthrough after dozens were killed in anti-government protests this week.

If the deal does succeed, it would be a major achievement for the Catholic church, which has been mediating talks in an attempt to prevent Democratic Republic of Congo sliding back into years of anarchy and civil war.

Pope Francis has heaped pressured on Kabila and the opposition to find a peaceful solution to the crisis in Congo.

“At first glance, a miracle is possible and the bishops have won their bet,” Albert Moleka, former chief of staff to the leader of the main opposition bloc Etienne Tshisekedi, said.

A government spokesman said the proposal would be presented to the full delegation at the talks on Friday afternoon, but he declined to comment on the specifics of the deal.

In return for Kabila staying on for another year, the constitution will not be changed to let him stand for a third term, a prime minister will be named from the main opposition bloc and Tshisekedi will oversee the deal’s implementation, opposition leaders Martin Fayulu and Jose Endundo told Reuters.

“Kabila stays for one year,” Fayulu said. “He will not try to stand for a new term.”
However, Kabila himself has so far said nothing and the parties have yet to sign the deal, which requires final approval by all delegates at the talks.

The negotiations could still be tough, with the opposition insisting on Friday that Kabila step down in time for elections to take place no later than November 2017.

Church leaders have presented these talks as a last ditch effort to prevent violence spinning out of control after a bloody week that saw protesters killed and deadly clashes between various ethnic militia across the country.

BLOODY PROTESTS

The head of the U.N. human rights agency said on Friday that Congolese security forces had killed at least 40 people and arrested 460 in protests this week.

The violence has raised fears Congo is heading toward another major armed conflict, a risk that has prompted several donor nations to condemn Kabila for failing to stand down.

Millions were killed in wars between 1996 and 2003.

“Most of … (Kabila’s coalition) would welcome this (deal) because they’re under so much pressure,” said Pascal Kambale, a Congolese human rights lawyer working for the Open Society Foundations.

But Jean Marc Kabund, the secretary general of Congo’s largest opposition party, the UDPS, warned that the deal was not yet a sure thing.

“Today is the last day (of negotiations),” he told Reuters. “It’s make it or break it.”

A presidential election scheduled for last month had been postponed until at least April 2018 because of what the government said were delays registering voters. This deal would mean it must happen by the end of next year.

Kabila has declined to commit publicly to not changing the constitution to extend his term, leading many to conclude that this is what he secretly wants to do.

His allies have argued that he is committed to respecting the constitution but that promising to step down would make him a lame duck and possibly spark a power struggle that could put his life in danger.

His father, President Laurent Kabila, was assassinated by a bodyguard in 2001 and Congo has never had a peaceful transition of power.

It was not immediately clear how the wider population would react to an agreement. On Twitter, a leader of the youth activist group Filimbi, Floribert Anzuluni, said it constituted “high treason by everyone”.

However, many in the capital Kinshasa, who spoke to Reuters after the protests subsided, said they were tired of the violence and hoped for a negotiated settlement.

– By REUTERS

Hijacked Libyan plane lands in Malta with 118 on board
23 December 2016, 4:19 PM

An airliner on an internal flight in Libya was hijacked by a man claiming to have a hand grenade on Friday and diverted to Malta, where it landed with 118 people on board.

The hijacker told crew he was “pro-Gaddafi” and that he was willing to let all 111 passengers leave the Airbus A320, but not its seven crew, if his demands were met, the Times of Malta said.

It was unclear what the demands were. Some media reports said there was more than one hijacker. Former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was killed in an uprising in 2011, and the country has been racked by factional violence since.

Troops took up positions a few hundred metres (yards) from the plane as it stood on the tarmac and no one was seen boarding or leaving it. The aircraft’s engines were still running 45 minutes after it landed late in the morning, the Times of Malta said.

Some other flights at Malta International Airport were cancelled or diverted, it said.

A senior Libyan security official told Reuters that when the plane was still in flight on Friday morning the pilot told the control tower at Tripoli’s Mitiga airport it had been hijacked.

“The pilot reported to the control tower in Tripoli that they were being hijacked, then they lost communication with him,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“The pilot tried very hard to have them land at the correct destination but they refused.”

Large numbers of security officials could be seen at Mitiga airport after news of the hijacking.

The aircraft had been flying from Sebha in southwest Libya to Tripoli for state-owned Afriqiyah Airways, a route that would usually take a little over two hours.

The tiny Mediterranean island of Malta, a European Union member, is about 500 km (300 miles) north of Tripoli.

Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat tweeted: “Informed of potential hijack situation of a #Libya internal flight diverted to #Malta. Security and emergency operations standing by -JM”.

The last major hijacking in Malta was in 1985, when Palestinians took over an Egyptair plane. Egyptian commandos stormed the aircraft and dozens of people were killed.

– By REUTERS

Hijacked plane flew back towards Tripoli before heading to Malta
23 December 2016, 3:28 PM

An Afriqiyah Airways plane that was hijacked on Friday during an internal Libyan flight was diverted towards Malta, but turned back as far as Libyan airspace before changing course again and flying to the Mediterranean island, an airline official said.

“According to radar information the plane was going to Malta, then it flew back as far as Tripoli airspace, then it turned back towards Malta again,” said Farouk al-Wifati, the head of the Afriqiyah Airways office in Tripoli’s Mitiga airport, where the flight was due to land.

A security official at Mitiga told Reuters earlier that the pilot had tried to persuade the hijackers to land in Libya, but they had refused.
The hijacked Libyan has 111 passengers on board, including an infant, Malta’s prime minister said on Twitter.

“It has been established that Afriqiyah flight has 111 passengers on board. 82 males, 28 females, 1 infant,” Joseph Muscat said.

– By REUTERS

West Africa regional bloc says forces ‘on alert’ for Gambia
23 December 2016, 2:58 PM

West Africa’s regional bloc has put standby forces “on alert” in case Gambian president Yahya Jammeh does not step down when his mandate ends on January 19, 2017 president of the ECOWAS commission Marcel de Souza said late on Thursday.

Jammeh has vowed to stay in power despite losing a December 1, 2016 election to rival Adama Barrow. ECOWAS has previously warned him that it would take “all necessary actions” to resolve the impasse.

Barrow’s surprise victory and Jammeh’s initial decision to concede was seen across Africa as a moment of hope until the president reversed his position a week later. His party is now challenging the result in Gambia’s Supreme Court.

Regional leaders have mandated Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari to mediate the crisis and are offering Jammeh an “honorable exit”, but if he does not take it then forces could be deployed, De Souza said on Malian state television.

“… we have put standby forces on alert if he does not take it on January 19, 2017 when his mandate ends…,” De Souza said.

Diplomats say ECOWAS would probably seek approval from the UN Security Council for the use of force. Senegal is a likely candidate for leadership of any African intervention force given its position as Gambia’s only territorial neighbor.

Senegal has indicated that military action would be a last resort and President Macky Sall said earlier this week that he thought Buhari would be able to make Jammeh see reason.

– By REUTERS

South Africa’s mourning for Nelson Mandela
8 December 2013, 10:03 PM

Following are the main events in the South African government’s official programme for the mourning and state funeral of Nelson Mandela, who died on Thursday, aged 95:

Sunday, Dec. 8 – National day of prayer and reflection in which South Africans will celebrate the life of Mandela and his legacy in places of worship, homes and communities.

Tuesday, Dec. 10 – Official memorial service for Mandela to be held at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg, also known as the Soccer City stadium, the site of the 2010 World Cup final. This will be attended by members of the public and by a number of visiting heads of state and government.

Wednesday, Dec. 11 to Friday, Dec. 13 – Mandela’s body will lie in state in an open casket for three days at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, the seat of the South African government, where it will be viewed by citizens and selected international visitors and guests.

The casket will be transported daily between 1 Military Hospital, Thaba Tshwane, and the Union Buildings. The government is inviting mourners to line this route and form a public guard of honour.

Saturday, Dec. 14 – Mandela’s body will be transported to the Eastern Cape from Air Force Base Waterkloof in Pretoria, where the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party will bid it farewell.

Also on this day, a procession will take place from Mthatha to Qunu, Mandela’s ancestral home, where the Thembu community to which he belonged will conduct a traditional ceremony.

Sunday, Dec. 15 – A state funeral will take place at Mandela’s home and final resting place at the family homestead in the village of Qunu in the Eastern Cape.

This will be open to selected dignitaries and heads of state who request to attend.

Sunday 8 December 2013 22:03

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