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New Era Newspaper Tuesday July 18, 2017

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18 AFRICA Tuesday, July 18 2017 | NEW ERA Congo votes for parliament with opposition calling foul BRAZZAVILLE Voters went to the polls in legislative elections in the oil-rich Republic of Congo on Sunday, the first since a violence-marred presidential poll last year, which returned Denis Sassou Nguesso to power. The first round of polling to elect National Assembly members, as well as local councils, went ahead despite the opposition calling foul, accusing the ruling Congolese Labour Party (PCT) of giving its candidates an unfair advantage. Electoral officials said voting passed off calmly although some polling stations opened more than an hour late, because of a delay in receiving voting materials. Polls closed at 1700 GMT. However, an incident was reported in the northern town of Kelle where opposition protesters briefly took away the ballot boxes, a local resident who gave his name only as Antoine told AFP by phone. “The ballot boxes have been returned after a lot of negotiation,” he said, adding that one protester was beaten up by police but that his injuries were not life threatening. Nguesso returned to office in March 2016 after a constitutional referendum ended a two-term presidential term limit, amid deadly violence notably in the Pool region neighbouring the capital Brazzaville. The 73-year-old president’s PCT ran 128 candidates for the 151 seats available, while several independents have close ties to the party. The main parliamentary opposition group, the Pan-African Union for Social Democracy (UPADS), put forward 43 candidates, compared to 31 run by the UDH-Yuki group of Guy-Brice Parfait Kolelas, who came second in the presidentials last year. But an opposition coalition said it would only take part under certain circumstances, including “the end of the crisis in Pool and the release of all political prisoners”. Two leaders of that coalition, Jean-Marie Michel Mokoko and Andre Okombi Salissa, were arrested and jailed in June 2016 and in January “for threatening the internal security of the state”. Republic of Congo President Denis Sassou Nguesso “It’s a disgraceful election and we already knew there would be fraud. The system for organising these elections is like the mafia,” Clement Mierassa, a leader of the Frocad opposition grouping, told AFP Sunday. Django Cissoko, head of a 50-strong African Union observer mission, said on Friday that “campaigning has been carried out normally.” But UPADS spokesman Daniel Tsoumou Ngouaka said the ruling party had the upper hand. “It’s a one-way campaign because the PCT has controlled all the state media, leaving no space for others,” he said. “The PCT drew on public funds for the campaign of its candidates and its allies. It’s unacceptable,” added Christophe Moukoueke, spokesman for a collective of opposition parties, which called for a boycott of Sunday’s polls. Sassou Nguesso, a former paratrooper, served as president from 1979 to 1992, returning to power in 1997 following a civil war. He won two successive terms in elections in 2002 and 2009, both of which were disputed by opposition parties. Congo has substantial deposits of oil, timber and diamonds, but oil production remains its most important economic sector, and it is the fourth biggest producer in sub- Saharan Africa. Dwindling reserves and civil wars that have ravaged the economy has slowed growth. Almost half the population of 4.5 million people still lives in poverty, according to World Bank data. No date has been given for the official announcement of elections results. The second round of the legislative polls is scheduled for July 30. – Nampa/AFP 34 Cameroonian soldiers missing after boat capsizes YAOUNDÉ Thirty-four Cameroonian soldiers from the elite Rapid Intervention Brigade were missing Monday, a day after an army vessel capsized off the country’s southeastern coast. The ship was carrying 37 people, including crew, and was on its way to the city of Bakassi for refuelling when it sank on Sunday morning, Defence Minister Joseph Beti Assomo said in a statement. “Thirty-four personnel are missing till now,” he said. “Three soldiers were rescued but the boat seems to have sunk right down.” He said the circumstances of the accident were not yet clear but the waters were very choppy when it happened. The Rapid Intervention Brigade is in the front line of Cameroon’s fight against Boko Haram jihadists in the north. Though Boko Haram originated in Nigeria, the Islamic State-affiliated group has carried out frequent attacks in Cameroon, Chad and Niger. Cameroon’s Far North region, which borders Nigeria, has seen a resurgence in attacks blamed on Boko Haram after months of relative calm. This month, two bombers blew themselves up in northeastern Cameroon killing 15 people in an attack blamed on Boko Haram. Some 200,000 Cameroonians from the Far North region have fled their villages in fear of the violence. – Nampa/AFP 27 dead, 54 missing, in DR Congo boat sinking KINSHASA At least 27 people have perished and 54 are missing after an overcrowded boat sank in a river in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a local official said Sunday. Most of the victims of the tragedy on the Kasai River were students on holiday, local administrator Jacques Mbila told AFP. The main reasons for the sinking were “overcrowding and drunk drivers”, Mbila added. The accident happened overnight Thursday to Friday on the river Congo in the Idiofa area in the southwest of the vast country. Local radio journalist Nelly Mafuta said she saw two nuns among the 27 dead, and the Idiofa cathedral said it held a mass in tribute to the victims. The boat had left Dibaya in the restive central Kasai province on Thursday, heading northwest for its final destination of Ilebo more than 500 kilometres (300 miles) away. Such transport is one of the most used in DR Congo with its numerous waterways including the Kasai river, the country’s second longest after the mighty Congo at over 2,360 kilometres. Boats frequently capsize in DR Congo, Egypt says 9 militants killed in Sinai CAIRO Security forces have killed nine militants in the Sinai Peninsula and also destroyed 15 vehicles transporting weapons into Egypt across its western border, the military said in statements on Sunday. The “extremists” were killed in two separate incidents in the middle Sinai, but the military did not say when they took place. Both involved the air force and “law enforcement forces”. The military said a planned “hostile act” was foiled after “a highly dangerous terrorist” group was discovered and tracked, and six militants were killed most often due to taking on too many passengers, the lack of safety measures and inexperienced helmsmen. Violence in the Kasai region erupted last year after a tribal chieftain known as the Kamwina Nsapu openly challenged the authority of President Joseph Kabila’s government and was killed in a police operation in August. – Nampa/AFP in a mountainous area. In a separate incident, three “highly dangerous” extremists were killed and another was arrested. A four-wheeldrive vehicle and five caches containing “large amounts of explosives and ammunition” were destroyed, the military added. On Egypt’s western border with Libya, warplanes have attacked and destroyed 15 four-wheel-drive vehicles carrying weapons, ammunition and contraband over the past 24 hours, the military said on Sunday. The air strikes took place following intelligence that “criminal subjects were gathering to sneak into Egypt”, it said. The military has boosted its operations on the border, repeatedly expressing concern about militants crossing the frontier to launch attacks. Libya has been wracked by chaos since the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi, with rival authorities and militias battling for control of the oil-rich country. In May, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said setbacks by the Islamic State group (IS) in Syria were driving its fighters to try to relocate to Libya and the Sinai. The same month, the air force attacked “terror camps” in Libya in retaliation for a deadly attack on Coptic Christians in Egypt, saying the assailants had been trained there. Egypt’s military is battling a local affiliate of IS which has waged a deadly insurgency in the northern Sinai that has killed hundreds of members of the security forces. Since December, IS has also targeted Christians in other parts of the country, including in Cairo, killing dozens. The jihadists have threatened to carry out further attacks on Christians, who make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s 90 million people. – Nampa/AFP

Tuesday, July 18 2017 | NEW ERA WORLD 19 Venezuela opposition hails poll as blow to Maduro CARACAS Venezuela’s opposition hailed an unofficial “plebiscite” held Sunday as a blow against President Nicolas Maduro and his plan to rewrite the constitution, though deadly violence reared its head again with a deadly attack on voters in Caracas. Nearly 7.2 million Venezuelans voted in the symbolic election against Maduro, university guarantors said with 95 percent of ballots counted. Venezuela “sent a clear message to the national executive and the world,” announced Central University of Venezuela president Cecilia Garcia Arocha, noting that 6,492,381 voted in the country and 693,789 abroad. Garcia said final results would be released Monday. “We do not want to be Cuba, we do not want to be a country without freedom,” said Julio Borges, leader of the opposition-controlled parliament. “Today, Venezuela said yes to a dignified country, a democratic country, a country where people do not have to go because they have no future. The mandate the people have given us is clear.” A 61-year-old woman was killed and three other people wounded when gunmen on motorcycles opened fire on people lined up to vote in Catia, a workingclass neighborhood in the capital, prosecutors said. The death brought to 96 the number of people who have died in nearly four months of protests and political agitation in Venezuela’s streets. The opposition blamed the attack on “paramilitary groups” linked to the government. The central question before voters concerned Maduro’s intention to hold an election on July 30 to choose 545 members of a citizens’ body called the “Constituent Assembly” that would redo the constitution. A dry run of that election was also held Sunday, to detract from the opposition vote which the government branded “illegal”. Maduro told the opposition to “not go crazy” with the results of its vote, though the head of the national electoral Death toll climbs from India’s monsoon floods NEW DELHI The death toll from severe monsoon flooding across India has risen to at least 76, officials said Monday, with eight people killed in the past day in the worst-hit states. Heavy rain in Gujarat has claimed 11 lives since Saturday as the monsoon intensified across the western state. “Seven of these died in the last 24 hours and at least four others are still missing,” Pankaj Kumar, a Gujarat government official, told AFP. Arunachal Pradesh and Assam in India’s northeast have been the hardest hit, while pockets of the eastern states of Odisha and Bihar have also been affected. In the hilly state of Assam 60 people have been killed and a state-wide emergency relief operation has been underway since the wet season arrived in April. “One person died in the last 24 hours. Thousands have been rescued and are now in 118 relief camps set up by the government across 21 affected districts,” said Rajib Prakash Barua, a senior official with the state’s Disaster Management Authority. Rains had eased in some parts of the state but five major rivers were still at danger levels, he added. Rescue teams have also delivered grass and other feed to animals stranded in flooded sections of Assam’s Kaziranga National Park, home to India’s famed one-horned rhinos and other native species. Power supply and rail and road services have been disrupted in the five worst-hit states. Parts of Arunachal Pradesh have endured some of their worst floods and landslides for years amid more than a week of incessant rain. At least five people were killed by a landslide last week in a remote village along the border with China. The government has called in the army to help with relief and rescue operations in some parts of the worst-hit states. - Nampa/AFP council told the opposition that the result would be considered to have “no legal consequence”. Meanwhile, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Samuel Moncada said on VTV government TV that he was declaring former Mexican President Vicente Fox persona non grata and banning him from the country for conspiring to instigate violence and foreign intervention. Moncada did not provide evidence to back his claims. Fox, who left Venezuela late Sunday, had travelled to the country with several other Latin American ex-leaders in a show of support for the opposition’s referendum. The Mexican government, critical of Maduro, called for the results of the opposition consultation to lead to a “negotiated solution” to help “restore” democracy. Ordinary Venezuelans blaming food and medicine shortages on Maduro’s policies, however, seized on the vote as a way of telling the president to leave office. People took to Caracas’ streets after the vote shouting SEOUL South Korea on Monday offered to hold rare military talks with the North, aiming to ease tensions after Pyongyang tested its first intercontinental ballistic missile. The offer of talks, the first since South Korea elected dovish President Moon Jae- In, came as the Red Cross in Seoul proposed a separate meeting to discuss reunions of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War. The South’s defence ministry proposed a meeting to be held on Friday at the border truce village of Panmunjom, while the Red Cross offered to hold talks on August 1 at the same venue. If the government meeting goes ahead, it will mark the first official inter-Korea talks since December 2015. Moon’s conservative predecessor, Park Geun-Hye, had refused to engage in substantive dialogue with Pyongyang unless the isolated regime made a tangible commitment to denuclearisation. “We make the proposal for a meeting... aimed at stopping all hostile activities Photo: Nampa/AFP Protest… People demonstrate in Caracas yesterday as they take part in an opposition-organized vote to measure public support for Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s plan to rewrite the constitution. Authorities have refused to greenlight the vote that has been presented as an act of civil disobedience and supporters of Maduro are boycotting it. Protests against Maduro since April 1 have brought thousands to the streets demanding elections, but have also left 96 people dead, according to an official. “this government is falling” as motorists honked their horns in celebration. During balloting, one voter, 49-year-old Tibisay Mendez, told AFP that Maduro and his officials “only want to hold on to power – We are voting to get them out.” Many wore white and the colours of the national flag as they cast their votes. Government supporters – and public workers worried about keeping their jobs – stayed away, almost S. Korea seeks rare talks with North to ease military tensions that escalate military tension along the land border,” the defence ministry said in a statement. The Red Cross said it hoped for “a positive response” from its counterpart in the North, hoping to hold family reunions in early October. If realised, they would be the first in two years. Millions of families were separated by the conflict that sealed the division of the two countries. Many died without getting a chance to see or hear from their families on the other side of the heavily-fortified border, across which all civilian communication is banned. With the passage of time, the number of survivors has diminished, with only around 60,000 members of divided families still left in the South. “North Korea should respond to our sincere proposals if it really seeks peace on the Korean Peninsula”, Cho Myoung-Gyon, Seoul’s unification minister in charge of North Korea affairs, told reporters. Cho stressed that Seoul “would not seek collapse of the North or unification through absorbing the North,” and urged Pyongyang to restore inter-Korea communication channels including a shuttered military hotline. Moon, who took power in May, has advocated dialogue with the nuclear-armed North as a means of bringing it to the negotiating table and vowed to play a more active role in global efforts to tame the South’s unpredictable neighbour. But Pyongyang has staged a series of missile launches in violation of UN resolutions, most recently on July 4 when it test-fired its first ICBM, a move which triggered global alarm and a push by President Donald Trump to impose harsher UN sanctions on the country. Washington has also called on China, the North’s sole ally, to put more pressure on Pyongyang to rein in its nuclear ambitions, which have advanced rapidly under the North’s leader Kim Jong-Un. The latest ICBM test – which Kim described as a “gift” to the Americans – was seen as a milestone in Pyongyang’s quest to build a missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead that can hit the US mainland. guaranteeing an overwhelming rejection of Maduro’s Constituent Assembly. Several Latin American countries and the Catholic Church have criticized Maduro’s move to redraft the constitution. The opposition says it is a bid by Maduro to concentrate dictatorial prerogatives and stay on despite his deep unpopularity, put at 80 percent by Datanalisis. Julio Borges, leader of the opposition-controlled legislature in Venezuela, said the vote was a watershed moment “in this fight to win back democracy for Venezuela.” The political deadlock promises little respite for those suffering in the listing economy of the oil-rich South American nation. The opposition accuses Maduro of driving the country into bankruptcy, and of using the Constituent Assembly to entirely sideline the legislature. - Nampa/AFP The proposed meetings, if realised, would be a “rare opportunity to ease tension that has built up for 10 years”, said Cheong Seong-Chang, analyst at Sejong Institute think tank. “It would at least help let off some steam out of the current crisis, although the North would still maintain that it would not give up its weapons programmes,” he said. The agenda for the meeting could include moves to suspend propaganda campaigns operated on both sides of the border for years, Cheong added. The South’s military has deployed dozens of giant loudspeakers along the tense border to blare out a mix of world news, K-pop songs and other propaganda targeting young North Korean soldiers. It has also occasionally launched giant balloons containing anti-Pyongyang leaflets across the border despite warnings of military retaliation by the North. The North has responded with its own propaganda broadcasts and sent anti- Seoul leaflets via giant balloons across the border. - Nampa/AFP

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New Era Newspaper Vol 22 No 167

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