The Independent (Kampala)

Africa News Round Up

In Kenya, Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and former Public Service boss Francis Muthaura want their cases at the ICC referred to the pre-trial chamber after the prosecution withdrew evidence of a key witness, the Daily Nation reports.

In a written submission, Mr Kenyatta's lawyers Steven Kay QC and Gillian Higgins said the evidence given by prosecution witness 4 was not part of what it would rely on during the trial period despite it linking Mr Kenyatta to Mungiki activities.

The prosecution withdrew the evidence after the witness admitted that he lied in his testimonies claiming that he attended two meetings at State House Nairobi and at a private members club, where the alleged atrocities were planned.

OTP4 (office of the prosecutor witness 4) is alleged to have lied to the pre-trial chamber that he attended meetings with Mr Kenyatta, Mr Muthaura, President Kibaki and Mungiki representatives at State House on November 26, 2007, when the revenge attacks were planned.

The lawyers noted that during the confirmation of charges hearing, the court heard that the said witness, as a representative of the Mungiki, attended the meeting at State House, and that the pre-trial chamber had relied on the evidence of OTP4 to establish the presence of Mr Kenyatta at the meeting and his links to the Mungiki.

The letter to the prosecutor's office at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, says the pre-trial chamber used the witness statements at the confirmation hearings despite it being challenged by the defence teams.

The defence lawyers have also asked the ICC judges to stop the planned trials in April following the new developments.

Elsewhere in Kenya, United States President Barack Obama on Tuesday urged Kenya to reject violence in next month's election, adding the voice of America's first black president to those hoping the country can avoid the descent into bloodshed that stained its last vote, News24 reports.

Obama released the rare country-specific message in a YouTube video in which he used Swahili greetings -- the common language in Kenya -- to open and close his message. He urged Kenyans to reject intimidation and violence, to allow a free and fair vote, and to resolve any disputes "in the courts, not in the streets."

"This is a moment for the people of Kenya to come together, instead of tearing apart. If you do, you can show the world that you are not just a member of a tribe or ethnic group, but citizens of a great and proud nation," said Obama, who has several relatives in the country, including half-siblings and a step-grandmother.

Kenya goes to the polls on 4 March to vote for president and other offices. It is the first national election since the 2007 presidential vote devolved into nationwide violence that killed more than 1 000 people and displaced at least 600 000.

Obama's message is likely to be well received by most Kenyans, said John Githongo, a former adviser to Kenya President Mwai Kibaki on ethics and governance who resigned and then exposed hundreds of millions of dollars in government corruption.

Obama spent less than 24 hours in sub-Saharan Africa during his first term. There are indications Obama may pay more attention to Africa in his second term, wrote J Peter Pham, an Africa specialist at the Atlantic Council, a Washington, DC think tank, in a blog posting this month.

"The sense of let-down acutely felt, both in African capitals and among the Africa constituency in Washington, over the lack of engagement during most of the administration's first term, remains palpable," Pham wrote, adding: "Ironically enough, one reason for the optimism is precisely the current dysfunctional state of America's divided government. Within Washington's insular foreign policy community, the tiny Africa constituency has long been known for bipartisan comity."

In Mali, the French foreign minister announced that troops are expected to begin pulling out of Mali in March, CNN reports.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said troops will continue operations in northern Mali, where he said "some terrorist havens remain."

His interview was published Tuesday on Metro's website and will appear in the Wednesday newspaper.

At Mali's request, France launched an offensive last month against militants in its former colony. The ground and air campaign has sent Islamist fighters who had seized the northern region fleeing into the vast desert.

Last week, French President Francois Hollande visited Timbuktu, just days after French forces had freed the fabled city from Islamist militants.

"We are serving a cause defined within the United Nations' framework ... to bring the entire Malian territory under the legitimate authority of the Malian president and then the leaders who will be elected by the Malians," Hollande said Saturday.

French troops, he said, are not in Mali to venture into politics.

"I have enough to do with French politics," he said. "So we are at the service of a mission which was defined from the call of the Malian president and within the framework of the Security Council resolutions."

France sent troops at Mali's request after radical Islamists seized the strategic town of Konna on January 10. The town is now back under Malian control.

Islamic extremists carved out a large portion of the north last year, taking advantage of a chaotic situation after a military coup.

In South Africa the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has said that the 19 men arrested for plotting a coup in the Democratic republic of Congo were allegedly in South Africa to receive military training, News24 reports.

The NPA however denied reports that the group had links to Congolese rebel group M23, which has been fighting in the eastern parts of the central African country.

The group was arrested in Limpopo on Tuesday after months of investigation.

They were allegedly planning to overthrow the DRC's current government of President Joseph Kabila who was elected in 2006 and re-elected in 2011.

"The group's objective was to receive specialised military training to overthrow the current DRC government, the NPA's Makhosini Nkosi said.

Nkosi said no South African was implicated in the plot.

Police refused to divulge whether any arms or documents were seized during the raid.

The group will appear in court this week and all 19 are expected to stand trial in South Africa.

In Tanzania, a UN appeal court has overturned genocide convictions of two Rwandan ex-ministers who were jailed for 30 years in 2011, and ordered their immediate release, Aljazeera reports.

Appeal Judge Theodor Meron overturned the convictions on Monday for complicity to commit genocide and incitement to commit genocide against Justin Mugenzi, who was trade minister during the 1994 genocide, and Prosper Mugiraneza, former minister in charge of civil servants.

"The convictions were reversed because the ICTR Appeals Chamber believes strongly that there were errors in the trial chamber's assessment of the evidence," Roland Amoussouga, International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda spokesperson, told Reuters news agency by telephone from its base in the Tanzanian city of Arusha.

"The appeals chamber has acquitted the accused persons and ordered their immediate release."

The lower court had convicted the two on the grounds that they attended a council of ministers meeting that decided the then prefect of Butare, a region in southern Rwanda, was to be dismissed on the grounds that he was preventing the massacres from starting in his region.

The prefect, Jean-Baptiste Habyarimana, was killed after his dismissal and the massacres promptly started in Butare.

The lower court judges had ruled that the presence of Mugenzi and Mugiraneza at that meeting, and at another meeting two days later where interim President Theodore Sindikubwabo urged the population to kill Tutsis, meant that they were guilty of complicity to commit genocide and incitement to commit genocide.

The appeal judges, however, found that Mugenzi and Mugiraneza did not know that Sindikubwabo was going to make such a speech, and that the dismissal of the prefect could have been decided "for political and administrative reasons" and not necessarily in order to speed up the massacres.

The umbrella of Rwanda Genocide survivors' associations (IBUKA), however, strongly condemned the acquittal of two genocide suspects who had previously been convicted of genocide crimes and sentenced to 30 years in jail.

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