28 January 2013

Africa: News Round Up

We start off this morning's news round up in Egypt where President Mohammed Morsi has declared a state of emergency in the cities of Port Said, Suez and Ismalia after days of deadly unrest, the BBC reports.

The three northeastern Egyptian cities, all of them along the Suez Canal, have been sites of deadly violence in recent days.

A daily curfew from 21:00 to 06:00 will be imposed for 30 days from Monday, he said in a speech to the nation.

At least 33 people died over the weekend in Port Said, where a court judgment sparked rioting.

Unhappiness with Mr Morsi's rule fuelled unrest elsewhere.

In the capital Cairo, anti-government protesters clashed with security forces near Tahrir Square for a fourth consecutive day.

Morsi who became the North African nation's first democratically elected president this year but has since become a target of critics accusing him of amassing power for himself and his Islamist allies.

In his Sunday night speech, Morsy claimed people in these and other places had attacked public and private institutions, "terrorized civilians," blocked roads and taken up arms.

Those "criminals" responsible will face "justice as soon as possible," the president said. He added he has instructed the Interior Ministry, which oversees security forces, "to deal properly, and also with force, against those who attack the nation's institutions."

Welcoming the invitation to dialogue, National Salvation Front spokesman Khaled Dawoud told Reuters news agency: "His call to implement emergency law was a right move given what is going on, namely thuggery and criminal actions."

However, he said, Mr Morsi was "missing the real problem on the ground, which is his own polices".

February's violence began when fans of Port Said side al-Masry attacked visiting supporters from Cairo club al-Ahly.

Fans flooded onto the pitch, attacking Ahly players and fans as the match ended.

Most of the victims died of concussion, cuts and suffocation.

In Mali, Malian and French soldiers have captured Timbuktu airport as they continue to retake territory from al-Qaeda-linked rebels in the north of the country, Aljazeera reports.

Al Jazeera's Jacky Rowland, reporting from Mali, said the recapture of the airport of the key northern city on Sunday evening was "a major strategic gain" for the French-Malian coalition forces.

A reconnaissance team has already reached the edge of Timbuktu, a senior Malian officer said, adding that French and Malian soldiers were approaching the city "without meeting any resistance".

France's defence ministry said one of its armoured battalions and Malian troops were headed toward the ancient trading post and centre of Islamic learning, where 333 revered Muslim saints are believed to be buried.

The Mali crisis erupted in the chaotic aftermath of a military coup. An alliance of ethnic-Tuareg rebels seeking an independent homeland in the north joined forces with several armed groups, taking Kidal first and then Gao and Timbuktu.

The groups quickly sidelined the Tuaregs, imposing a harsh version of Islamic law which saw offenders flogged, stoned or executed.

Rebels also banned music and television, forced women to wear veils and destroyed ancient religious shrines in the World Heritage site of Timbuktu.

In a related story, the United States announced Saturday that it will intensify its involvement in Mali.

It will support the French military by conducting aerial refueling missions, according to the Pentagon, which released a short statement following a call between Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.

"The leaders also discussed plans for the United States to transport troops from African nations, including Chad and Togo, to support the international effort in Mali. Secretary Panetta and Minister Le Drian resolved to remain in close contact as aggressive operations against terrorist networks in Mali are ongoing," it read.

U.S. policy prohibits direct military aid to Mali because the fledgling government is the result of a coup. No support can go to the Malian military directly until leaders are chosen through an election.

In Kenya, the Jubilee alliance has pledged a duty-free port at Mombasa as one of the items on a long list of promises as politicians drummed up support at the Coast on Sunday, the Daily Nation reports.

The alliance's presidential candidate Mr Uhuru Kenyatta said it will no longer be necessary to travel to Dubai to seek business products.

This would create many opportunities for trade, business and employment, he said adding that poverty will reduce alongside insecurity.

Mr Uhuru's running mate Mr William Ruto said the first Jubilee government budget would set aside a business fund for the youth and women that will be equal to money set aside for CDF.

The leaders warned that after the March 4 General Election and in the event that Jubilee wins, drug dealers will be dealt with mercilessly.

"We are giving an ultimatum to drug dealers that after the March 4 elections, they must close shop or flee from the country. They cannot be left to destroy the youth talent and potential," he said.

They were addressing a political rally at Chaani Primary School Grounds in Changamwe, Mombasa.

The leaders said the Jubilee coalition was for peace and unity of the country, with Mr Ruto pledging that whether they lose or win, the country has to remain united.

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