Category Archives: Central Africa

Scores killed during votingbin Nigeria – vote extended becausevof delays

Punch

Scores killed in Rivers, Gombe …as blasts rock Anambra, Enugu

The Victims

Tension heightened in Rivers, Anambra and Enugu states on Saturday following bombings,   killings and arrests in some polling units.

In Rivers State, a soldier and two civilians were shot dead by suspected political thugs at polling centres in Ozuoha and Kpite in Ikwerre and Tai Local Government Areas of the state.

Sources said the gunmen opened fire where prospective voters had gathered for accreditation and that a bullet hit the soldier, who died on the spot.

Brigade Commander Commander, 2 Brigade, Bori Camp, Port Harcourt,   Koko Essien, confirmed the incident when he spoke with Amaechi in Ubima.

One of the civilians, Sampson Wona, was said to have been shot dead   while waiting to be accredited at a polling unit in Ozuoha .

The second civilian, who like Wona, was   a member of the APC, was killed in Kpite, Tai LGA.

Shortly after these incidents, the APC in the state   alleged that scores of its members were killed, 100 arrested and many disenfranchised .

It said in a statement by Chukwuemeka Eze, the Senior Special Assistant, Media and Public Affairs to the State chairman, that the killings were carried out in Kpite and other parts of the state by hoodlums suspected to be acting for the PDP.

The party attached photographs of the slain persons to the statement     to prove its claim.

The statement read, “Today’s (Saturday) presidential and National Assembly elections have turned out to be a big nightmare for the APC in Rivers State, with the members being killed, attacked and disenfranchised in various parts of the state.

“Armed militias working for the PDP have intensified their killings of APC members. Scores have already been killed and several others marked for elimination.

“This (Saturday) morning in Kpite town, Tai Ward 2 and other areas of the state, five people were shot dead by PDP’s armed militia, and that was before accreditation commenced.

“It is sad that the PDP and its collaborators are targeting APC strongholds and chieftains for attacks and killings. To intimidate our people and contrary to the court ruling forbidding the use of the Army in this elections, there has been a massive deployment of soldiers in the state with clear instruction to shoot at sight any APC agent that refuses to comply with the evil plot of the PDP to write the results of the election at some designated areas of the state in favour of the PDP.”

The statement claimed that a former Commissioner and an APC leader, Chidiebere Okwuwolu, was arrested by the police and taken to Olu Obasanjo Police Station in Port Harcourt.

It added that 99 other APC members and leaders were being held in various police stations in the state.

The party also said that at Ubima, result sheets were “currently with Nyesom Wike, the PDP governorship candidate for the state.”

The Director of Communication, Greater Together Campaign Organisation, Ibim Semenitari, condemned the development, lamenting that some APC leaders in the state had also been marked for elimination.

Semenitari, in her statement said, “Armed militias working for the PDP have intensified their killings of   APC members. Scores have already been killed and several others marked for elimination.

“Specifically, the PDP armed men target APC strongholds for attack using heavy gunfire. The Greater Together Campaign Organisation, the campaign outfit for Dr. Dakuku   Peterside, has condemned this visit of terror on the state.

“On Saturday morning in Kpite Town, Tai Ward 2, two people were shot dead by the PDP armed militia, and that was before accreditation commenced.”

But the state Publicity Secretary of the PDP,   Samuel Nwanosike, told Sunday PUNCH that his party members   were not interested in attacking or killing anybody to win elections.

Nwanosike described the claim   of the APC   as mere propaganda, adding that while the PDP had been working hard to win elections, the APC had been making frivolous allegations.

In Enugu, there was   a bomb blast at the polling unit located inside WTC Primary School, Enugu North LGA at about 9am on Saturday.

The source of the explosion which made many prospective voters to flee was not known as of 8pm.

In Anambra State, voters who came for accreditation in the morning at Ayomna Okpala Primary School in Awka scampered for safety following a bomb explosion there.

No casualties were recorded in the incident but the school building was badly damaged.

One of the eyewitnesses,   Chinenye Ibe,   said they were shocked when the explosion occurred and disrupted the exercise.

Earlier, there was an   explosion at Onitsha South which eyewitnesses said injured a number of persons.

The Women Coordinator, National Presidential Campaign of the PDP , Joy Emordi, said the Onitsha South blast was unfortunate.

She called on the indigenes ,   electoral officials   and monitors   in the state to be vigilant.

The Secretary of Anambra State Government, Oseloka Obazie, told one of our corespondents in an interview, that he was yet to get an independent confirmation of the blasts.

He said, “I pray these do not derail the electoral process here. Anambra State is a very peaceful state and I don’t know why these are happening.”

Obazie, however, assured Anambra indigenes that the government of the state was on top of the situation.

The elections   however claimed some lives in Gombe State where a member of the House of Assembly, Umar Aminu, and eight others were feared killed by Boko Haram insurgents   in Dukku and Nafada LGAs.

On Friday night, the insurgents killed 25 persons and injured 30 others   in a community in the southern part of Borno State.

Borno State Governor, Alhaji Kashim Shettima, who lamented the incident, added that several houses were also razed by the terrorists.

Copyright PUNCH.

BBC

Sudan – Darfur agreement between government and Minnawi group

Sudan Tribune

(KHARTOUM) – Sudanese government and a number of Darfur rebel commanders led by Mohamedain Ismail Bashar, a former operation commander of the Sudan Liberation Movement -Minni Minnawi, signed a peace agreement in the Chadian capital Ndjamena on Friday.

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Head of Darfur peace office, Amin Hassan Omer (L) shakes hands with Mohamedain Bashar in Ndjamena on 27 March 2015 (SMC photo)

Bashar’s group is composed of several dissident rebel commanders who on 7 October 2014 accused their leader of nepotism, corruption and illegal detention of some leading members. Two weeks later, Minnawi sacked four commander and accused them of treason and communication with the enemy.

The peace agreement was signed by the head of Darfur peace office Amin Hassan Omer, and Bashar, in presence of the Chadian foreign minister Moussa al-Faki, representing president Idris Debi who facilitated the deal.

The parties didn’t release the text of the signed deal but Sudan Tribune learnt it is a security arrangements agreement negotiated on the basis of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD).

Omer welcomed the agreement and said that it was the first time that confidence building and cooperation between the two parties take place before the signing. He further called on the rebel groups to follow this example.

Bashar’s group strength is estimated at around 400 combatants with 30 vehicles.

Former SLM-MM military spokesperson Adam Saleh Abakar, the group logistics officer Abdalla Tijani and former humanitarian official Adam Buy-Dad are among Bashar’s group members.

Several sources told [Sudan Tribune that the signatories were is relation with JEM-Sudan leader Bakheit Abdallah Abdel-Karim (Dabajo) who encouraged them to negotiate with the government.

Dabajo himself before to join JEM was part of the SLM-MM.

The African Union High Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) called Darfur rebel groups including SLM-MM and their political allies of the Sudan Call forces to meet with the government next Sunday to discuss procedures of the national dialogue process.

(ST)

South Sudan government to borrow $500m

Sudan Tribune

March 26, 2015 (JUBA) – South Sudan’s national legislative assembly has authorised the ministry of finance to negotiate a loan of half a billion US dollars in a special sitting on Wednesday.

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Members of South Sudan’s parliament sing the national anthem during the reopening of parliamentary sessions in the capital, Juba, on 11 June 2012 (Photo: Giulio Petrocco/AFP/Getty)

The decision came as crude oil prices shrink globally and daily production in the country has dropped in the oil producing states of Unity and Upper Nile due to the ongoing conflict.

Cabinet affairs minister Martin Elia Lomoru on Wednesday presented the authorisation request to Members of Parliament (MPs) for approval. Lomoro told the lawmakers that the council of ministers had already approved the request by finance minister Daniel Deng Athorbei since 15 February.

“It is then my pleasure […] to read this memo seeking parliamentary approval for the loan worth five hundred million to be solicited from the Qatar National Bank (QNB) by the ministry of finance,” Lomoro said.

He told the parliamentarians that the country’s economy is in “a dire situation” and needed money to keep it running.

A chunk of South Sudanese government’s revenues come from oil by 98%, whereas the daily oil production has dropped from about 260,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 160,000 bpd since the conflict began in December 2013.

Finance minister David Deng Athorbei who also attended the Wednesday’s extraordinary session of parliament said the authorization will enable him to negotiate a half billion dollars loan with QNB, further assuring that the parliament will also have to rectify any agreement reached.

‘There will be a clause which will say ‘any agreement we reached will be subject to rectification by the parliament,” said Athorbei, who took office from former finance minister, Agrey Tisa Sabuni, in January.

“What I am seeking here is the authorisation for this august house to say ‘please go ahead and negotiate for us this loan.’ This is what I just simply want,” he added.

The MPs, when asked by the speaker of the assembly, Manasseh Magok Rundial, after presentations by the two ministers whether they approved the request, they responded “yes” without further deliberations.

“Therefore, there is no need really to refer the matter to the committee,” said speaker Rundial, referring to parliamentary procedure that would have required a special committee’s scrutiny of executive’s presentation in parliament.

“It is only the permission of this House to let him [finance minister Athorbei] go and do the thing [loan negotiation] that will be rectified by us,” he said.

Juba government is believed to have borrowed loans worth billions of dollars in order to supplement its budget including to finance the war.

Rebels led by the former vice-president Riek Machar have demanded that the national debts be disclosed during the peace talks in Addis Ababa, a proposal rejected by president Salva Kiir’s government, saying this was not necessary.

(ST)

Thousands of Nigerians flee to Chad to escape Boko Haram

Mail and Guardian

A refugee camp in Chad has provided temporary sanctuary for thousands of fleeing Nigerians.

Traumatised but safe: Hammah Aminu, aged 20 (above) is among more than 4?000 people who have sought refuge from Boko Haram at the Dar es Salaam refugee camp in Chad. (Lauren Clifford-Holmes)

“I saw Boko Haram with my own eyes and I saw the bodies. If I think about the corpses, I will cry.”

These are the words of 12-year-old Tahiru Abakhar whose family was attacked by Boko Haram in Baga and again hounded by the Islamist group in other towns until they fled to neighbouring Chad.

“After Boko Haram attacked us in Baga, we fled to Doro. Then Boko Haram followed us and attacked there. Then we escaped from Doro to the river and came to Ngouboua with a little boat. Then they attacked at Ngouboua and then we fled to Dar?es??Salaam [a Chadian refugee camp],” Tahiru explains.

In January thousands of Nigerians made their way to Ngouboua, a fishing village on Lake Chad. But they found little peace. Ngouboua was attacked by Boko Haram on February 13.

This was the militant group’s first breach of Chad’s border. Reports put the number of dead between 10 and 13 and aerial photographs showed a large portion of the town’s homes burned down.

Passing through Ngouboua recently, it was hard not to see and feel the loss. Many lost all their belongings in the blaze. Soot-covered houses were too numerous to count. Blackened clothes are melted together in the hot sand, cooking pots strewn in the ruins.

Following the attack on Ngouboua, the Chadian government, with the assistance of the United Nations refugee agency and partners, started moving Nigerian refugees to a camp named Dar es Salaam at Baga Sola.

An estimated 7 000 people are stuck on the islands in Lake Chad and more are awaiting assistance and transportation from Ngouboua.

Quest to launch an Islamic state
The Baga attack on January?3, which was recorded as Boko Haram’s most violent, attracted perhaps the most media coverage since the jihadist group launched its attacks in 2009 in its quest to create an Islamic state. This, and its subsequent strikes on surrounding areas, has resulted in an estimated 170 000 people fleeing to neighbouring countries to seek safety.

Until January, the majority of refugees fled to Cameroon and Niger, but there has now been a sustained influx into Chad.

Boko Haram’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, has already declared war on Chad in a video released in January shortly after Chad joined a military coalition to fight the insurgents. He also denounced Chad’s President Idriss Déby.

Chad formed a military alliance in January with Nigeria, Niger and Cameroon, aimed at defeating Boko Haram. Chad’s 20 000-strong army is the most effective in the region. It claims to have inflicted heavy losses on Boko Haram inside Nigeria.

Peace at Dar es Salaam
Families and children who have gone through terrifying ordeals are filling up Dar es Salaam. Conditions are not easy but there is a sense of safety. A heavy contingent of joint military forces police the camp precinct where 4 000 mostly Nigerians have taken refuge since it was opened in mid-January.

The sun bakes down on the white plastic UN tents as people try to go about a normal life. Groups gather, squatting in the sand, as they cook the limited food, mostly rice, available to them.

Children collect firewood and others help their mothers pump water at one of the boreholes, filling bright yellow containers. Mothers bathe their children, balancing them on pieces of cardboard to keep them from sitting in the sand. Inside the tents there is little or no furniture. Only blankets are laid out on reed mats.

There is much sorrow in the newly found peace; few families at Dar?es??Salaam have arrived as a unit. Most are fragmented, having been separated from one another during the attacks.

Chaos in the night
From the accounts of those in the camps, Boko Haram prefers night attacks during which, under the cover of darkness and in the ensuing chaos, wives and husbands are separated and children get lost in the rush to safety.

Twenty-year-old Hammah Aminu has been in Dar es Salaam camp for two months. Her husband wasn’t home when Boko Haram entered her hometown of Doro and she ended up fleeing with her brothers. She was separated from them and is now feeling very alone at the camp.

“I have heard that my husband is in Maiduguri [in Nigeria] and I want to meet him, but I have no way to go there. I have lost many things when I left; I lost my telephones and my clothes and food,” she says, crying with her hands over her eyes.

But some say they have good endings to their horror.

When Boko Haram attacked Doro, nine-year-old Habiba Idris lost sight of her parents and her six brothers and sisters. She managed to flee across the lake with family friends.

On arriving in Ngouboua she was told that Boko Haram had probably killed her father because someone had seen him go to Dabata Amina to look for his family. Boko Haram attacked that town too.

“After I heard that I was crying,” Habiba says.

But the next morning a boy came to tell her they had seen her father in Ngouboua. It turns out he, too, had crossed the lake in the search for his family. “I said, thank God. When I saw my father I was so glad,” Habiba remembers.

Once reunited, Habiba and her father made their way to Dar?es??Salaam where they tracked down her mother and some of her siblings.

Not enough food
Aminu says food at the camp is not enough – a sentiment echoed by many other refugees. Every day portions of rice and a few other staples are dished out to families and they cook for themselves.

The local residents seem to have welcomed the refugees. The citizens of Nigeria and Chad are finding unity against their common enemy: Boko Haram.

“The population was very surprised by the arrival of so many ­refugees but they have been very fair and have been supportive. They have a moral obligation to support these people,” says Dimouya Souapebe, speaking as the local government authority in Baga Sola.

Dar es Salaam camp co-ordinator Idriss Dezeh says locals have received the Nigerian refugees with open arms. “There are even some who have donated food … they have been extraordinary.”

But the increasing number of refugees in the area is putting pressure on the local population and resources.

Souapebe acknowledges this, saying: “There can be problems with price increases and also stock levels of food and products for the local population. This is also because it is not easy to get farm produce and products to Baga Sola.”

People are scared
Sitting in a makeshift shack on the border of the lake, Muhammad Kurundu, a metal worker in Baga Sola, says his business has suffered since the refugees started arriving in the area.

“Before the refugees came, people bought a lot of things. But since the refugees arrived, everyone is scared and staying in their villages and don’t want to come to the market.

“The people are scared because Boko Haram want to attack and kill them. All the routes are blocked, they are afraid of being burned or assassinated or have their throats slit on the way,” says Kurundu.

Shop owner Ali Abdullah says that since the refugees arrived the sale of clothing and shoes is not good, but the sale of his foodstuffs, such as sugar, maize, rice and tea is going well.

“Since the refugees arrived, the sale of consumables is good, but all the routes are blocked. We can’t go to Nigeria or Cameroon [to buy products] … our products can only come from N’Djamena [Chad’s capital] or Libya.”

With Nigeria’s pending election on March 28, few are hopeful of going home. For them, neither President Goodluck Jonathan nor his rival Muhammadu Buhari have the will to tackle Boko Haram, which they say will continue its reign of terror even after the poll.

The implication for neighbouring Chad then is that more refugees may be coming their way.


Africa and the world – rising but on the margins

ISS

As pressure mounts for Africa to take greater responsibility for development, peace and security on the continent, the question of regional leadership becomes pressing. A recent African Futures paper explores the changing power capabilities of Algeria, Egypt, Ethiopia, Nigeria and South Africa (the so-called ‘Big Five’) over the next 25 years. These countries are all leaders in their respective regions and hold some of the greatest power potential in Africa.

Collectively, they represent 60% of the African economy, 40% of Africa’s population and 58% of the continent’s military spending. This is expected to remain the same over the next 25 years. The future of these countries will provide a fairly straightforward answer to the often-evoked question of whether or not Africa is rising. Indeed if these states fall or fail, Africa will not be able to rise.

The authors of the paper, published by the Institute for Security Studies and the Frederick S. Pardee Center for International Futures, use the International Futures forecasting system to forecast future power trajectories. In an increasingly flat world where institutions matter, states that don’t network will have little influence on issues of regional and global governance.

The projections explored in the paper are based on a new index to measure national power, which includes diplomatic engagements in addition to traditional measures such as demographics, economics and technology.

If the world were a democracy, Africans would certainly have a bigger say

Today, the combined power of Africa’s 55 countries accounts for close to 9% of global power. This is more than that of Japan, Russia or India, but less than the United States (US) or China, which represent about 18% and 13% of global power, respectively. By 2040, Africa’s total relative power is forecast to surpass that of the declining European Union (EU) and US – although only adding up to around 11% of global power. This is at odds with the world’s demographic evolution. By 2050, one in four people will be African. If the world were a democracy, Africans would certainly have a bigger say.

In the next couple of decades, Africa is set to remain at the margins of global power. And this is an understatement, as Africa is clearly neither a country nor a union of states with any kind of supranational provisions. Even with significant advances in regional and continental integration, it is highly unlikely that Africa will speak with one voice in foreign policy matters, or be able to act in unison.

Only Nigeria has the potential to become a player with global significance. But this would require far-reaching changes in its current domestic stability, governance capacity and political leadership, which is an unlikely scenario. All other African countries are expected to remain so-called ‘minor powers,’ which affects Africa’s influence in issues of global governance.

For the Big Five, the data tells a story of two emerging powers and three whose potential is waning. The capabilities of Nigeria and Ethiopia are expected to grow considerably in the next 25 years. Those of Egypt, South Africa and Algeria, on the other hand, are forecast to remain stagnant or experience a slight decline.

Nigeria’s economy, already the largest in Africa, is expected to represent almost 3% of the global economy by 2040. Its military spending is set to increase significantly over the next 25 years, ready to overtake Africa’s current military heavyweight, Algeria, in more or less 10 years. By 2040, Nigeria is forecast to account for nearly a fifth of Africa’s total power capabilities.

By 2040, Nigeria is forecast to account for nearly a fifth of Africa’s total power

Ethiopia, the other rising power, is coming from a low base and the country will remain the poorest among the Big Five. Nevertheless, by 2040 it is expected to be the sixth largest African economy due to high average economic growth rates. Algeria, Egypt and South Africa are likely to grow below the African average growth rate of 6.3% per annum. The size of their populations will also stagnate – although this is due to higher general levels of development, which are associated with lower fertility rates.

Among the Big Five, Egypt has traditionally dominated the category of global diplomatic engagement. This can be gauged according to the number of embassies abroad, the number of memberships to international organisations and the number of international treaties ratified by a country. Egypt’s strategic location, and its important role in both Arab and African nationalism, ensures that it is deeply connected internationally. Egypt is closely followed by South Africa, Nigeria and Algeria, while Ethiopia lags behind. Not surprisingly, South Africa made big strides after the end of apartheid in 1994 when the country reintegrated into the international community.

The way the Big Five project power is not necessarily in line with their capabilities. After all, power is as much about potential as it is about concrete projection. Some countries are able to influence more international actors, institutions or regimes than would be expected based on their capabilities, while others don’t live up to their potential.

It is questionable whether South Africa will continue punching above its weight

This is the case for Nigeria, which has been punching below its weight despite a strong set of capabilities. High levels of internal instability and corruption along with a political economy of violence compromise the country’s prospects. There is also a lack of strategic vision in the foreign-policy domain, which has recently been aggravated by the growing threat of Boko Haram.

Algeria’s role in Africa is also at odds with its relatively robust albeit declining capabilities. Faced with significant domestic and regional threats, Algeria remains focused on the need to maintain a large military capacity for internal purposes.

Egypt punches above its weight internationally, but below its weight in the African context. The country is struggling to cope with the aftermath of the Arab Spring as well as spill-over effects of the conflict in neighbouring Libya. Domestic challenges seem to detract from projecting power outside of the country, with external priorities evolving around the conflict in the Middle East and efforts to contain terrorism.

In contrast, both South Africa and Ethiopia have largely punched above their weight. Despite its limited capabilities, Ethiopia is Africa’s largest contributor to United Nations peacekeeping missions and plays an important role in peace and security matters in the Horn of Africa. Indeed, regional security is a domestic priority for Ethiopia.

South Africa, for its part, has capitalised on the miracle of the transition to democracy; Nelson Mandela’s legacy; the international activism of his successor, Thabo Mbeki, as well as several years of healthy economic growth and a benign global environment. Yet it is questionable whether the current context of stagnant or even declining capabilities and a lack of credible leadership will allow South Africa to continue punching above its weight in the medium-term future.

What seems certain is that the distribution of relative power in Africa will remain multipolar, with various countries fulfilling the role of regional leaders.

Julia Schünemann, Senior Researcher and Project Leader, African Futures and Innovation Section, ISS Pretoria; Jakkie Cilliers, Executive Director, ISS; Jonathan D. Moyer, Associate Director, Frederick S. Pardee Center for International Futures.

South Sudan – rump of loyal MPs votes to extend Kiir’s tenure in power by two years

Sudan Tribune

March 24, 2015 (JUBA) – South Sudanese lawmakers on Tuesday passed the Constitutional Amendment Bill 2015, extending for more three years president Salva Kiir’s mandate in office.

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South Sudanese MPs stand during a parliamentary session in Juba on 31 August 2011 (AFP)

President Kiir’s term, according to South Sudan’s Transitional Constitution, officially ends on 9 July. This prompted the introduction of the Bill, which sought to extend the president’s term in office for two additional years.

270 lawmakers attended Tuesday’s session with 264 voting in support of the extension while six opposition MPs voted against parliament’s decision.

The motion passed by parliament will see president Kiir in power until July 2018.

“It is unanimously agreed that the Constitutional Amendment Bill 2015 is passed and will become law on its signature by the president,” said speaker Manasse Mangok Rundial.

Opposition lawmakers had earlier tried to block the Bill but failed due to their few numbers in the assembly compared to their counterparts from the ruling party (SPLM).

Currently, there about six members from the main opposition, SPLM-DC in parliament, while the ruling SPLM party consists of 325 lawmakers.

The Bill will now be sent to the presidency before it is eventually signed into law.

Thomas Kundu, head of parliament’s information committee, said the extension will enable the country organise national census, draw its constituency borders and plan elections.

The mandate of current parliamentarians was equally extended for three additional years.

Dengtiel Kur, the chairperson of the assembly’s legal affairs committee said the ongoing conflict necessitated the decision by MPs to extend the terms of elected positions based on Article 100 (2) of the constitution.

(ST)

Angolan journalist facing trial over book revealing diamond trade corruption

BBC

Angola’s de Morais charged over diamond book

Rafael Marques de Morais in London (March 2015)
Campaigners have called for the charges against Rafael Marques de Morais to be dropped

A renowned Angolan journalist has been put on trial on charges of defaming military generals after he accused them of links to the “blood diamond” trade.

Rafael Marques de Morais accused seven generals of being linked to murder, torture and land grabs in Angola’s lucrative diamond fields.

Several people were reportedly arrested for protesting against the trial.

Mr de Morais is a long-standing critic of President Jose Eduardo dos Santos’ 35-year rule in Angola.

He spent 43 days in prison, including 11 in solitary confinement, in 1999 after he published the article, The Lipstick of the Dictatorship, in a private Angolan newspaper.

‘Packed courtroom’

Dissent is generally not tolerated in Angola and some critics of the authorities are either bought off, jailed or disappear, says BBC Africa analyst Mary Harper.

Angola's President Jose Eduardo Dos Santos (R) waves as he leaves the Elysee presidential palace on 29 April 2014, in Paris after a meeting with French president
President Jose Eduardo dos Santos (R) has ruled Angola for 35 years

The latest case against Mr de Morais comes after he wrote a book, Blood Diamonds: Torture and Corruption in Angola.

“There is no link between the Angolan armed forces and the crimes exposed,” Joao Manuel, a lawyer for the generals, is quoted by the AFP news agency as saying.

Judge Adriano Cerveira told the packed courtroom in the capital, Luanda, that the trial would be held behind closed doors, the reports.

Outside court, scuffles broke out between police and protesters who chanted “free Rafael” and “imprison the generals”, the agency said.

‘Stooges’

Speaking after the case was adjourned until 23 April, Mr de Morais said: “I went to court today facing nine charges of criminal defamation. I left slapped with up to 15 additional ones for defamation.”

Mr de Morais was in the UK last week to receive a freedom of expression award given to him by campaign group Index on Censorship.

It called for the charges against him to be dropped.

Before the trial opened, Mr de Morais told the BBC’s Focus on Africa radio programme that Angola’s leaders lead Western lifestyles with luxury homes and cars, but denounce critics as “stooges of imperialists” when they demand freedoms enjoyed by people in the West.

“As a good guy I’m out to fight these bad guys until I win,” he said.

If found guilty he could be sentenced to up to nine years in prison and fined $1.2m (£800,000).

The unregulated diamond trade fuelled Angola’s 27-year civil war, which ended in 2002.

Since the end of the conflict, the country – one of Africa’s major oil producers – has witnessed an economic boom, though critics of the elected government say the wealth has only benefited a small elite.