President says he is in “excellent health”, dismissing speculation of illness in first remarks after extended US trip.
Malawi’s President Peter Mutharika, 76, has dismissed rumours of ill health after being away from the country for a month, saying doctors told him his vital organs are like those of a 30-year-old.
Mutharika flew to New York in mid-September to give a speech at the UN General Assembly later that month, but there had been no sight of him until his return on Sunday, prompting widespread speculation that he was critically ill or even dead.
Speaking for the first time after his extended trip to the United States, Mutharika said on Friday he was in “excellent health”.
“I am not sick. I am still alive and I have more than nine lives,” he told reporters jokingly.
Malawi celebrates 50 years of independence
‘Nothing to worry’
Mutharika entered the press conference in the administrative capital Lilongwe waving both hands to an audience of media, cabinet ministers, supporters and diplomats.
Last Sunday, when he disembarked from his plane from the US, his right arm appeared stiff and he instead used his left arm to wave and to shake hands with officials, raising more speculation among Malawians who are scrutinising every detail for clues about his health.
He told the press conference he was unable to use his right hand then because of “slight rheumatism”.
“It’s getting better now. I am really fine and there is nothing to worry. I hope that puts to rest the rumours about my health,” he added to wild applause and dancing from supporters.
Mutharika said if he was sick, he would have been “crazy” to leave the US and fly home.
‘Absence without leave’
When Mutharika extended his stay in the US for two weeks after the UN gathering, his office condemned rumours that he was critically ill as “baseless, malicious and sickening”.
It threatened legal action against anyone responsible for “damaging rumour-mongering”.
Politicians in Malawi have called on Mutharika to disclose all expenses incurred on his tour, including those of his entourage, as well as explain what critics called his “absence without leave”.
But the president refused to discuss the money spent on his trip, saying he does not have to explain “every minute of what I am doing.”
Mutharika, a former lawyer, was elected in 2014 for a five-year term.
Fifty-three people were killed and nearly 300 injured on Friday when a packed passenger train travelling between Cameroon’s two largest cities derailed and overturned, the transportation minister said.
Speaking on state radio, Edgar Alain Mebe Ngo’o said the figures represented a provisional toll from the accident, which occurred near the train station in the town of Eseka, around 120 km (75 miles) west of Yaounde.
(Reporting by Anne-Mireille Nzouankeu; Writing by Joe Bavie; Editing by Larry King)
Congolese opposition supporters chant slogans during a march to press President Joseph Kabila to step down in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s capital Kinshasa, September 19, 2016. REUTERS/Kenny Katombe/File Photo
Congolese security services shot, burnt, beat and hacked to death at least 48 civilians and reportedly hired thugs to attack protests last month against the extension of President Joseph Kabila’s mandate, the United Nations said on Friday.
The death toll came from two days of violence in the capital Kinshasa and included four police officers killed by protesters and one other civilian. It was higher than during the 2011 electoral process, the U.N. Joint Human Rights Office in Congo (UNJHRO) said in a report.
Kabila’s chief diplomatic adviser Barnabe Kikaya Bin Karubi conceded errors by Democratic Republic of Congo’s police and armed forces but said that both were confronted by “looters and stealers and rapists”.
“The reaction was not commensurate to what can be considered acceptable by international standards for a police force,” he told Reuters. “But the fact of the matter is that these policemen and these army officers were in a position of self-defence.”
However, the interior minister denied last week that on-duty security forces opened fire on protesters, who authorities say were conducting an armed insurrection. A government report said 32 people, including three police officers, were killed by protesters or private security guards, or in accidents.
Congo’s main opposition alliance had called for a march on Sept. 19 to demand that Kabila, who has ruled the vast central African country since 2001, step down in December as required by constitutional term limits.
The governing coalition and other smaller parties agreed last week to postpone elections planned for November until April 2018, citing logistical woes registering millions of voters, but most major opposition parties rejected the accord.
Congo has never experienced a peaceful transition of power and international donors fear that the impasse over Kabila’s plans to stay on will lead to widespread bloodletting.
In total, UNJHRO said, there were at least 422 victims of human rights abuses by state agents in Kinshasa between Sept. 19 and 21. “This is clearly outrageous and serves to fuel an already explosive situation in the country,” U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said.
Of the civilians killed, 38 were shot by the police, army and presidential guard and seven were burnt to death by members of the presidential guard, including during an attack on the headquarters of the main opposition party, the report said.
Four police officers were burnt alive or beaten to death by protesters who also looted the headquarters of ruling coalition political parties, according to UNJHRO.
The death toll could be much higher due to the authorities’ restrictions on access to morgues and other facilities, it said.
UNJHRO also said it had received “concordant reports about the distribution by the authorities of machetes and money to about a hundred young men, with a view to disturbing the demonstration.”
The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor sent a delegation to Congo this week to urge restraint by all parties in the coming months and warned that human rights abuses could be prosecuted by the court.
South Africa is withdrawing from the International Criminal Court, according to a document seen by Reuters on Thursday, a move which would take effect one year after notice is formally received by United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon.
A UN spokesperson declined to confirm receipt of the document, which is signed by Minister of International Relations and Co-operation Maite Nkoana-Mashabane and dated October 19.
“The Republic of South Africa has found that its obligations with respect to the peaceful resolution of conflicts at times are incompatible with the interpretation given by the International Criminal Court,” according to the document.
The South African mission to the United Nations was not immediately available to comment on the document.
The International Criminal Court, which opened in July 2002 and has 124 member states, is the first legal body with permanent international jurisdiction to prosecute genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
Burundi appeared set to become the first state to withdraw from the Rome Statute, the 1998 treaty establishing the global court, after its parliament voted last week to leave. President Pierre Nkurunziza signed a decree on Tuesday, but the United Nations has not yet been officially notified.
South Africa said a year ago that it planned to leave the International Criminal Court after its government faced criticism for ignoring a court order to arrest Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who is accused of genocide and war crimes, when he visited the country last year.
Several African countries have expressed concern that the focus of The Hague-based court has been on Africa rather than elsewhere in the world.
“The Republic of South Africa is committed to fight impunity and to bring those who commit atrocities and international crimes to justice and as a founding member of the African Union promotes international human rights and the peaceful resolution of conflicts on the African continent,” the document said.
“In complex and multi-faceted peace negotiations and sensitive post-conflict situations, peace and justice must be viewed as complementary and not mutually exclusive,” the South African document said. – Reuters
South Africa ‘to withdraw from war crimes court’
South Africa has formally begun the process of withdrawing from the International Criminal Court (ICC), media reports say.
They say diplomats have notified the UN of the move, accusing the ICC of bias against African countries.
Last year, South Africa refused to arrest Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by the ICC on charges of genocide and war crimes.
He was attending an African Union summit in Johannesburg.
Mr Bashir denies allegations he committed atrocities in Sudan’s troubled western Darfur region.
Several media outlets say they have obtained a copy of the “Instrument of Withdrawal”, signed by South Africa’s foreign minister.
“The Republic of South Africa has found that its obligations with respect to the peaceful resolution of conflicts at times are incompatible with the interpretation given by the International Criminal Court,” the document says.
Neither South Africa nor the UN have officially confirmed the media reports.
There are also conflicting legal opinions as to whether South Africa can leave the ICC without parliamentary approval.
Human Rights Watch criticised the reported move.
“South Africa’s proposed withdrawal from the International Criminal Court shows startling disregard for justice from a country long seen as a global leader on accountability for victims of the gravest crimes,” said Dewa Mavhinga, the NGO’s Africa division senior researcher.
“It’s important both for South Africa and the region that this runaway train be slowed down and South Africa’s hard-won legacy of standing with victims of mass atrocities be restored,” Mr Mavhinga said.
Last year, South African warned it might leave the ICC.
The reported move to leave comes a week after the South African President Jacob Zuma visited Kenya, a country that has been highly critical of the ICC ever since the prosecutor charged its President Uhuru Kenyatta with crimes against humanity.
He denied the charges, and the trial later collapsed due to lack of evidence.
Two weeks ago Burundi became the first country to express its intent to pull out of the ICC – a decision described by the court as “a setback in the fight against impunity”.
Previously, the African Union has urged member states not to co-operate with the ICC, accusing it of bias against Africa.
The 124-member ICC opened in 2002. It is the first legal body with permanent international jurisdiction to prosecute genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
(JUBA) – South Sudan’s President, Salva Kiir, will soon issue another controversial order to increase the number of states from 28 states to undisclosed number, according to his second deputy and longtime ally.
South Sudan’s president, Salva Kiir, delivers a speech in the capital, Juba, on 10 June 2013 (Reuters)
Speaking after Tuesday’s meeting, Vice President, James Wani Igga, flanked by the controversially newly appointed First Vice President, Taban Deng Gai, said the presidency has agreed to increase the number of states but will soon start with the issue of Malakal and Lol state as the first priority.
Malakal, is a contested capital between West Nile and East Nile states, but which was given to the East Nile by the presidential decree in October last year. Lol is another controversial state in Bahr el Ghazal region.
The two places, according to the Vice President in a statement broadcast by the state owned South Sudan Broadcasting Corporation (SSBC), are where communities have protested either splits, asserting the order had divided their communities or have been annexed to communities with whom they share nothing in common in that they would prefer to remain alone.
“We have resolved and agreed to increase the number of states but the first thing is the issue of Raja and Malakal. A committee has been formed under the First Vice President and this committee will have to complete their work and report back to the President within seven days,” revealed Vice President, Igga.
He did not say how many more states will be added to the already controversial 28 states.
The two issues the presidency had discussed and resolved, he further added, were the reinstatement of the civil servants who either abandoned their positions or rebelled, either in Juba or in the states, when the conflict erupted in 2013.
The other issue was the issue of cantonment sites for the opposition forces of the SPLA-IO. Two cantonment sites, he said, will be in central Equatoria, one in Eastern Equatoria and another in Western Equatoria.
Congolese opposition leader Jean-Pierre Bemba alongside four associates, who include two of his former defense lawyers, have been convicted in the witness bribery trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC). Their sentences will be announced at a later date.
Upon conviction for offenses against the administration of justice covered by Article 70 of the court’s Rome Statute, judges may impose a term of imprisonment not exceeding five years, a fine, or both. Today judges ordered that those convicted, besides Bemba, would remain on conditional release pending the determination of their penalties.
Bemba and his former lawyers Aimé Kilolo Musamba and Jean-Jacques Mangenda Kabongo were found guilty of corruptly influencing 14 witnesses – D-2, D-3, D-4, D-6, D-13, D-15, D-23, D-25, D-26, D-29, D-54, D-55, D-57, and D-64 – and presenting their false evidence before the court.
Furthermore, Kilolo was found guilty of inducing the giving of false testimony by the 14 witnesses, while Bemba was additionally convicted for soliciting the giving of false testimony. The judges also determined that Mangenda aided in the giving of false testimony by two witnesses and abetted the giving of false testimony by seven witnesses. Mangenda was acquitted of charges of aiding the giving of false testimony by five witnesses.
Congolese Member of Parliament Fidèle Babala Wandu, who is Bemba’s close confidante, was found guilty of aiding in corruptly influencing two witnesses but acquitted of similar charges in relation to 12 witnesses. Babala was also acquitted of charges of aiding in giving false evidence and presenting false evidence.
Meanwhile, Narcisse Arido, a former soldier in the Central African Republic (CAR), was found guilty of corruptly influencing three witnesses but acquitted on charges of aiding in presentation of false evidence and in aiding the giving of false testimony.
The false testimony mostly related to claims by witnesses that they served in the army of the CAR, or in rebel forces, during 2002-2003 when Bemba’s troops were in that country helping the government to fight back a coup attempt. These witnesses claimed Bemba’s Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) troops were not responsible for the crimes committed during the conflict and that the Congolese troops fell under command of Central African generals.
Judges determined that Bemba, Kilolo, and Mangenda jointly agreed to illicitly interfere with defense witnesses to ensure they would provide evidence in favor of Bemba. They “adopted a series of measures with a view to concealing their illicit activities, such as the abuse of the Registry’s privileged line in the ICC Detention Center, or money transfers to defense witnesses through third persons or to persons close to the defense.”
They said Kilolo and Mangenda secretly distributed new telephones to defense witnesses without the knowledge of the Registry and in breach of the cut-off date for contacts imposed by judges so that Kilolo could stay in contact with them. “They also used coded language when speaking on the telephone, making reference to persons by using codes, or using particular expressions… signifying the bribing or illicit coaching of witnesses,” states the summary judgement issued today.
Today’s ruling brings to eight the number of individuals convicted by the court since its founding in 2002. Those previously convicted are Thomas Lubanga, Germain Katanga, Ahmed Al Faqi Al Mahdi, and Bemba. Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui, a former leader of a Congolese militia group, has hitherto been the only person acquitted by the ICC.
The postponement of the vote, which hands President Joseph Kabila more than a year of extra time in office, was approved by the country’s constitutional court on Monday following talks between the ruling coalition and smaller parties.
Most opposition forces, however, boycotted the “national dialogue” and called for a nationwide general strike on Wednesday to put pressure on Kabila.
The Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS), which is led by veteran opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi, strongly rejected the postponement plan, the party’s secretary-general Jean-Marc Kabund told AFP news agency on Tuesday.
Kabund said the move “unilaterally imposes Mr Kabila in flagrant violation of the constitution which sets the end of his mandate at December 20”.
Should the agreement now hold, a new government would be set up, with the key post of prime minister handed to an opposition figure.
Al Jazeera’s Catherine Soi, reporting from the capital Kinsasha, said that voter registration is now expected to begin in July.
Our correspondent said that the electoral commission had previously indicated that it was “logistically impossible” to hold the election this year because of “security challenges”.
Dozens were killed in September during protest against Kabila’s term extension [Reuters]
Kabila is banned under the constitution from running for a third term.
Last month, dozens of people died in Kinshasa as security forces clashed with anti-government protesters calling for the president to leave office when his mandate runs out in December.
Earlier on Tuesday, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said the postponement plan was “no response to the crisis”, and called Kabila to announce that he will not run for office.
The European Union has threatened sanctions if the country does not hold elections in 2017.
Kabila, who came to power in 2001 when his father was assassinated, says he will respect the constitution but has not made clear if he plans to find a way to run again.
Supporters of Kabila rally behind the proposal the reschedule the election to April 2018 [Al Jazeera]