2 January 2013

Africa News Round Up January, Wednesday 02, 2013

We start off this year's Africa news review in Ivory Coast where three days of mourning have been declared in following a New Year's Eve stampede that killed at least 61 people in Abidjan, the BBC reports.

Hundreds of people leaving a fireworks event at a stadium in the Plateau district were jammed into a tiny street in the early hours of Tuesday: many were crushed; others suffocated.

An investigation is under way and many of the victims were said to be 15 or younger.

President Alassane Ouattara described the deaths as a national tragedy.

Different theories are emerging as to what caused the stampede after the fireworks display ended in the 65,000-capacity Felix Houphouet Boigny Stadium.

Some say a group of youths brandishing knives was snatching people's mobile phones, provoking panic among the large crowd, says the BBC's West Africa correspondent Thomas Fessy.

But others say security forces acted ineptly as they tried to control the many thousands walking through the city centre - triggering the stampede which has left many more people injured, some critically.

The fireworks event had been organised to celebrate the peace recently re-established after a period of unrest triggered by former President Laurent Gbagbo's refusal to recognise Mr Ouattara's victory in 2010 elections.

In Kenya, Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka on Tuesday accused Jubilee alliance leaders of being "diehard conservatives" who could not be trusted to transform the country, the Daily Nation reports.

Mr Musyoka said Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and Eldoret North MP William Ruto were hiding behind their youthful age to confuse Kenyans and shed off their status quo image.

The VP who is Prime Minister Raila Odinga's running mate in the Coalition for Reform and Democracy(Cord) said their team was composed of social democrats while their Jubilee alliance opponents were conservatives who were opposed to reforms and change.

"If you are opposed to reforms and transformation of the country, that fact doesn't change because you're younger than your opponents. The truth is that these Jubilee leaders are true conservatives," the VP said during a New Year's press briefing at his Yatta home.

"We as Cord leaders stand for true social transformation which will grow the country's economy in double digits because we combine servant leadership and proven passion for reforms," Mr Musyoka said.

He said victory for the Cord alliance in the next elections will restore Kenya's image as maturing democracy in Africa adding that the world was watching to see if the country will put behind the 2008 post election violence.

In the Central African Republic, residents of the capital have watched in fear as rebels from the country's north seized control of more than half the country in less than a month. On Tuesday, all he could do was pray that a solution to the crisis could be found without the violence reaching Bangui, News24 reports.

"We are afraid for our nation and for our fellow citizens in the countryside," Marcel said, standing on the steps of the Notre Dame cathedral before a New Year's Day Mass. "The rebels are imposing themselves on the population and stealing things. We are here praying for peace."

As a new year began, the fate of the capital with 700 000 people, remained unclear. Government forces backed by a regional multinational force held a line in Damara, just 75km from Bangui. The rebels hold the city of Sibut, about 185km from Bangui.

While President Francois Bozize, after nearly a decade in power, has proposed a coalition government to include the rebels, a spokesperson for the alliance of rebel groups advancing through the country said on Monday they did not trust his offer. Former colonial power France already has said it will not protect Bozize's regime and has about 600 troops in the country just to protect its own interests.

Troops from neighbouring nations arrived in the country, with a contingent from Gabon expected on Tuesday. Their arrival comes a day after about 120 soldiers flew in from Republic of Congo with a mission to help stabilise the area between rebels and the government forces.

The political instability already has prompted the United States government to evacuate its ambassador and about 40 other people. There have been no mass civilian evacuations from the capital, though many residents have temporarily relocated to the southern side of Bangui, considered further from the path of a potential rebel invasion arriving from the north.

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