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Algerian President, Bouteflika, quits after mass protests

By News desk

After 20 years in office, Algeria’s ailing President, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, on Tuesday resigned, succumbing to six weeks of largely peaceful mass protests driven by youth and pressure from the powerful army against his rule.

The resignation came hours after hundreds of citizens took to the streets of the country’s capital demanding the removal of the aging elite seen by many as out of touch with ordinary people and presiding over an economy riven by cronyism.

Bouteflika’s supporters had sought to stop the dissent by telling Algerians not to return to the dark days in the 90s when some 200,000 were killed in civil war, warning even of a scenario like in Syria, embroiled in an eight-year-long conflict.

The protests stand in stark contrast to Algeria’s neighbour Libya, where Muammar Gaddafi was toppled in a NATO-backed uprising that took much of 2011 and sent the country into chaos.

Only one person was confirmed to have died during the protests, a man around 60 years old who suffered a heart attack, with most rallies peaceful and with protesters cleaning up the streets before going home.

Bouteflika announced he was standing down in a one-sentence statement carried by state news agency APS, followed by a letter – his primary means of communication since suffering a stroke in 2013 and disappearing from public view.

“I have taken this step because I am keen to put an end to the current bickering,” Bouteflika said in the letter. “I have taken the suitable measures needed for the continuity of the nation’s institutions during the interim period.”

His departure came after the army chief of staff had dramatically ratcheted up the pressure, demanding immediate action to declare him unfit for office under the constitution.

The military had stayed in their barracks during the protests but step by step increased pressure on Bouteflika’s camp, first only indirectly in an army magazine saying the military shared the same vision as the people. Then chief of staff Lieutenant General Ahmed Gaed Salah proposed last week to invoke a constitutional clause to remove him.

Bouteflika on Monday had said he would quit before the end of his term on April 28 without giving a date. He had also vowed to undertake unspecified measures for the sake of stability, triggering new protests by students demanding a new political system.

Salah eventually said it was time to go for the only leader many Algerians have known, some 70 percent of whom are under 30 years old.

“There is no more room to waste time … We decided clearly … to stand with the people so all their demands get fulfilled,” Salah said after a meeting with senior officers, APS said.

Hundreds took to the streets in the evening, waving Algerian flags or driving in convoys through the city centre, where on Feb. 22 mass protests broke out.

“The army and the people are one” and “Game over”, banners read.

Pressure had been building during the day with opposition groups demanding Bouteflika go immediately, while hundreds of students marched through the capital Algiers to demand the replacement of a political system widely seen as incapable of significant reform.

“Bouteflika’s decision (to resign by the end of his term) will change nothing,” Mustapha Bouchachi, a lawyer and protest leader, told Reuters earlier on Tuesday.

Bouteflika’s resignation will put Abdelkader Bensalah, chairman of the upper house of parliament, in charge as caretaker president for 90 days until elections are held.

Bouchachi had suggested Bouteflika’s nomination of a caretaker government was a move to perpetuate the current political system.

“What is important to us is that we do not accept the (new caretaker) government. Peaceful protests will continue.”

A veteran of Algeria’s war for independence, Bouteflika was first elected president in 1999 and established himself by ending a civil war with Islamist militants that killed an estimated 200,000 people.

But the country remains mired in corruption and, in a sign that the end for Bouteflika’s rule had been approaching, several oligarchs close to his camp were banned from travelling abroad in the past few days, part of a crackdown against his allies.

“The gang has made big money illegally taking advantage of its closeness with decision-makers,” Salah said, according to APS.

The protests have been driven by the country’s youth and lawyers demanding the removal of a ruling elite seen by many as out of touch with ordinary Algerians.

Mozambique begins three-day mourning after cyclone killed hundreds

By News desk

Mozambique started three days of national mourning on Wednesday after powerful cyclone winds and flooding killed hundreds of people and left a massive trail of destruction across swathes of southeast Africa.

Cylone Idai, which hit Mozambique’s port city of Beira on Thursday before moving inland, brought winds of up to 170 kph (105 mph) which flattened buildings and put the lives of millions of people at risk.

Mozambique’s President Filipe Nyusi said in a televised statement on Tuesday that the cyclone had killed more than 200 people in Mozambique but that more bodies were still being discovered.

In neighbouring Zimbabwe, the official death count stands at 98 but is likely to grow as hundreds are still missing.

Rescue crews are still struggling to reach victims, while aid groups say many survivors are trapped in remote areas, surrounded by wrecked roads and submerged villages.

“Challenges remain in terms of the search and rescue of thousands of people, including children,” UNICEF said. It estimated that 260,000 children were at risk in Mozambique. The Red Cross has said at least 400,000 people have been made homeless in central Mozambique alone.

Beira, a low-lying coastal city of 500,000 people, is home to Mozambique’s second-largest port and serves as a gateway to landlocked countries in the region.

Local media reported that there were food and fuel shortages in central Mozambique because Beira was cut off by road.

In eastern Zimbabwe grieving families are rushing to bury their dead because the cyclone has knocked out power supplies and stopped mortuaries from functioning. Zimbabwe’s Grain Millers Association said 100 trucks carrying wheat destined for Zimbabwe were stuck in Beira.

The European Union announced on Tuesday an initial emergency aid package of 3.5 million euros ($3.97 million) to Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe for emergency shelters, hygiene, sanitation and health care. Britain has also pledged aid.

Tunisian forces kill three ISIS militants at Algerian border

By News desk

Tunisian special forces has killed no fewer than three suspected Islamic State militants during clashes in mountains near the Algerian border.

The country’s forces killed the militants days after Islamic State had released pictures of militants carrying weapons in mountains where they have hidden for years, a security official disclosed.

“Our forces killed three terrorists suspected of belonging to Daesh after clashes in the Saloum mountains in Kasserine,” Colonel Houssem Jbebli told newsmen, using an Arabic acronym for the group.

One of the Arab world’s most secular nations, Tunisia became a target for militants after being hailed as a beacon of democratic change with an uprising against autocrat Zine Abidine Ben Ali in 2011.

Some militants operate in remote areas near the border with Algeria.

Tunisia suffered three major attacks in 2015, including two against tourists, one at a museum in Tunis and the second on a beach in Sousse. The third targeted presidential guards in the capital. All three attacks were claimed by Islamic State.

After collapsing, tourism has since gradually recovered.

Mozambique Cyclone Idai death toll hits 200, displaces millions

By News desk

The number of people killed in a powerful cyclone and flooding in Mozambique has risen above 200, more than doubling the country’s death toll from a storm that could rank as one of the worst weather-related disasters in the southern hemisphere.

Mozambique’s President Filipe Nyusi said in a televised statement following a cabinet meeting on the disaster on Tuesday that the death toll after Cylone Idai now stood at more than 200, up from 84.

Winds of up to 170 kph (105 mph) and flooding swept across southeastern Africa, including Zimbabwe and Mozambique, affecting more than 2.6 million people, United Nations officials said on Tuesday.

Rescue crews were still struggling to reach victims five days later, while aid groups said many survivors were trapped in remote areas, surrounded by wrecked roads, flattened buildings and submerged villages. The Red Cross said at least 400,000 people had been made homeless in central Mozambique alone.

“This is the worst humanitarian crisis in Mozambique’s history,” said Jamie LeSueur, who is leading rescue efforts in Beira for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

The organisation said large areas to the west of the port city of Beira were severely flooded, and in places close to the Buzi and Pungwe rivers flood waters are metres deep, completely submerging homes, telephone poles and trees.

LeSueur had said earlier on Tuesday, when the death toll was 84, that the full human impact of the disaster remained unclear, and that the figure was likely to rise.

While the official count has increased, it remains well below the 1,000 deaths Nyusi had estimated after flying over some of the worst-hit zones, witnessing submerged villages and bodies floating in the water.

The cyclone hit land near Beira recently and moved inland throughout the weekend, leaving heavy rains in its trail on Tuesday. More rural areas remained unaccessible.

Studies of satellite images suggested 1.7 million people were in the path of the cyclone in Mozambique and another 920,000 affected in Malawi, said Herve Verhoosel, senior spokesman at the U.N World Food Programme. He gave no figures for Zimbabwe.

In Maputo, Mozambique’s capital, people worried about missing relatives.

Telma fa Gloria, a street vendor, said she had not heard from her mother, who she usually speaks to every day, or her siblings, for days. Her mother’s neighbourhood was in one of the worst-hit areas.

“I’m stitched up, with nothing to do,” she said, adding she was thinking of going to Beira to find out what had happened. “I don’t have the strength to get the news I don’t want to hear, and I don’t wish anyone to hear.”

Ethiopian crashed airplane victims’ DNA test may take 6months

By NewsDesk,

Bereaved Nigerian families of Ethiopian Airlines crashed victims and that of other nationals may have to wait longer than expected before they may have access to comprehensive report on what may be cause of the plane crash,  with the airline, Ethiopian Airlines, affirming that result of DNA test that would conducted on the victims may take six months.

The airline management confirmed on Saturday that testing of the remains of the 157 passengers on board flight 302 may take up to six months while it appealed to bereaved families charred earth from the plane crash site to bury.

Moreover, it was earlier reported that a team of investigators in Paris also resumed work on the black box recorders recovered from the site where the Boeing 737 MAX 8 plane crashed into a field after taking off from Addis Ababa.

It would be recalled that passengers from more than 30 nations were aboard, but as families wait for the results from the investigation into the cause of the crash, the airline management has put planning in place to hold a service on Sunday in Addis Ababa, at the Kidist Selassie, or Holy Trinity Cathedral, where many of the country’s past rulers were buried beneath its pink stone spires.

However, one of victims’ family member, who spoke anonymous condition, disclosed that the airline has plans to apportion needed space for each of the victims.

“We were told by the company that we will be given a kilo (of earth) each for burial at Selassie Church for a funeral they will organize,”

Meanwhile, papers issued to the families on Saturday reads that death certificates would be issued within two weeks, and an initial payment made to cover immediate expenses.

According to the letter, the return of remains, most of which are charred and fragmented, would take up to six months, the papers said, but in the meantime earth from the crash site would be given.

A Kenyan, whose brother-in-law died in the crash, disclosed that the family had already held a service since they could not wait for the airline processes.

“We are Muslims we didn’t care about that (earth). We did yesterday our prayers at the mosque and that is all for us.”

Besides, experts maintained that it was too soon to know what caused the crash, but aviation authorities worldwide have grounded Boeing’s 737 MAXs, as concerns over the plane caused the company’s share price to tumble.

Flight data has already indicated some similarities with a crash by the same model of plane during a Lion Air flight in October. All 189 people onboard were killed. Both planes crashed within minutes of take off after pilots reported problems.

France’s air accident investigation agency said on Saturday it was working on the Ethiopian flight’s black boxes in coordination with teams from Boeing as well as U.S. and EU aviation safety authorities.

The grounding of the 737 MAX jets has had no immediate financial impact on airlines using the planes, but it will get painful for the industry the longer they do not fly, companies and analysts said on Friday.

Boeing plans to release upgraded software for the 737 MAX in a week to 10 days, sources familiar with the matter said.

The U.S. planemaker has been working on a software upgrade for an anti-stall system and pilot displays on its fastest-selling jetliner in the wake of the deadly Lion Air crash.

Sudan to release political detainees amid protests

By News desk

As protest in Sudan intensified, the Government has decided to release political detainees arrested in the last six weeks.

It would be recalled that anti-government protests have continued in Khartoum and other cities in the country.

The country’s Ministry of Information said: “The chief of the National Intelligence and Security Services NISS has decided to release all the detainees arrested during the recent incidents,” said a news release by the Council of External Information, which is part of the Ministry of Information.

In the meantime, the head of a government investigation committee to probe the killing of the protesters, Aamir Ibrahim, told reporters the death toll has risen since the beginning of demonstrations more than a month ago.

“We can confirm that the death toll of the people killed during the protests has accelerated to 30, including 6 deaths in River Nile State, 9 in Gadaref State, 3 in White Nile State, 3 in Northern Sudan and the remaining in Khartoum,” Ibrahim said.

Opposition groups said the number of the deaths is more than 50, while human rights organizations put the number at 40.

Two students killed amid protests in Sudan

By News desk

At least two persons were said to have been killed during an anti-government demonstrations in Sudan.

The independent Sudanese Doctors’ Central Committee, in a statement on Thursday, disclosed thata university student died from torture in custody.

There has been no official confirmation, however, over the death recorded during the protest.

Another student, 24-year-old Abdulazim Abu Bakr, was shot in the chest during demonstrations in the capital Khartoum, the committee said.

The number of people killed during the roughly month-long demonstrations has reached 29, said Amir Muhammed Ibrahim, the chief prosecutor who was assigned to investigate the protests.

It was learned that Amnesty International puts the death toll from the crisis to about 40 persons.

Sudan has been rocked by popular protests since mid-December, with demonstrators decrying President Omar al-Bashir’s seeming failure to remedy the country’s chronic economic woes.

Earlier this month, al-Bashir — in power since 1989 — pledged to carry out urgent economic reforms amid continued calls by the opposition to protest.

A nation of 40 million, Sudan has struggled to recover from the loss of three quarters of its oil output — its main source of foreign currency — since the secession of South Sudan in 2011.

U.S. accepts court verdict new Congo president

By News desk

The United States Government has Wednesday welcomed court’s certification of Felix Tshisekedi as the new president of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

U.S certification on Wednesday came barely three days after the country’s Constitutional Court backed Tshisekedi’s contested presidential election victory, but his main rival rejected the ruling, called for protests and declared himself leader.

“The United States welcomes the Congolese Constitutional Court’s certification of Felix Tshisekedi as the next President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC),” State Department spokesman Robert Palladino said in a statement. “We are committed to working with the new DRC government.”

Last month’s election was meant to mark the first democratic transfer of power in the vast central African country, where conflicts have regularly destabilized the region.

But monitors pointed to major flaws in the voting. Unrest over the vote has already killed 34 people, wounded 59 and led to 241 “arbitrary arrests” for the week after the provisional results were announced on Jan. 10, according to the U.N. human rights office.

“We encourage the government to include a broad representation of Congo’s political stakeholders and to address reports of electoral irregularities,” Palladino said.

Prosecutors frustrate Gbagbo’s return to Cote d’Ivoire

(Reuters) Prosecutors at the International Criminal Court on Wednesday asked judges to bar former Ivory Coast President, Laurent Gbagbo, from returning to his homeland, a day after he was acquitted on all charges.

In a filing ahead of a hearing on Wednesday in which judges are expected to discuss the terms of his release, prosecutors said if they appeal the acquittal, Ivory Coast might not ensure or be able to compel Gbagbo’s return to the Hague.

After Gbagbo’s arrest and extradition in 2011, Ivory Coast’s government has not cooperated with the court in other matters, prosecutors said in a statement.

Facebook tightens rules for political adverts for Nigeria, others due to upcoming election

Facebook is tightening the rules of political advertising on its platform in countries with big elections to be held in 2019, such as India, Nigeria, and Ukraine, Reuters reported.

The company is taking such measures in order to counter interference with the electoral process, the source noted.

According to Katie Harbath, director of global policy and coverage, beginning on Wednesday in Nigeria, only ads located in the country will be able to run electoral ads, mirroring a policy unveiled during an Irish referendum last May.

Tthe same policy will take effect in Ukraine in February, the source noted adding that Nigeria holds a presidential election on Feb. 16, while Ukraine will follow on March 31.

What comes to India, which parliamentary elections set for this spring, Facebook will place electoral ads in a searchable online library starting from next month, said Rob Leathern, a director of product management at the company.

“We’re learning from every country,” he said. “We know we’re not going to be perfect, but our goal is continuing, ongoing improvement.”

Facebook believes that holding the ads in a library for a total of seven years is a key part of fighting interference, he noted.