7 February 2013

Africa News Round Up

In Tunisia, the Prime Minister announced he would form a non-partisan government of technocrats to run the country until elections can be held, the BBC reports.

Hamadi Jebali made the announcement at the end of a day that saw a leading opposition figure killed and protests break out in several major cities.

Anti-Islamist politician Chokri Belaid was shot in the head and neck in Tunis.

His killing was the first political assassination since the Arab Spring uprising of January 2011.

He was shot dead at close range as he left for work by a gunmen who fled on the back of a motorcycle.

Announcing the new government in a nationally televised address, Mr Jebali said he had decided to form a government of "competent nationals without political affiliation".

The killing of Chokri Belaid sparked an outbreak of anger across Tunisia.

Thousands rallied outside the interior ministry, many chanting slogans urging the government to stand down and calling for a new revolution.

In the centre of Tunis, a police officer was killed during clashes between police and opposition supporters protesting against Mr Belaid's death.

The interior ministry said the 46-year-old died after being hit in the chest by stones thrown by the protesters.

Shortly before the prime minister's announcement, confirmation came in that the army had been deployed in Sidi Bouzid, the birthplace of the Arab revolution.

Mr Belaid was a respected human rights lawyer, and a left-wing secular opponent of the government which took power after the overthrow of long-serving ruler Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali.

The Popular Front (PF), a coalition of opposition groups of which Mr Belaid was a member, said it was calling for a nationwide strike on Thursday to protest against his assassination.

Opposition supporters alleged the governing Islamist party Ennahada - which Mr Belaid frequently criticised - was behind his killing.

In Kenya, all is set for Kenya's first presidential debate to be aired live on eight television and 34 radio stations on Monday, the Daily Nation reports.

Google will stream the debate online to the world, while international media outlets CNN and Reuters will also cover the event, officials said Wednesday.

Six presidential candidates Raila Odinga, Uhuru Kenyatta, Musalia Mudavadi, Martha Karua, Peter Kenneth and James ole Kiyiapi have confirmed they will attend the debate to be held at the auditorium of the Brookhouse International School, Nairobi.

According to the 'Presidential Debate 2013' director of operations Francis Munywoki, the event will start at 7.30pm and will last for two hours where the candidates will field questions from two moderators - NTV's Linus Kaikai and Julie Gichuru of the Royal Media Services (RMS).

After the discussion, there will be an expert analysis on the thematic issues that will be discussed.

The experts will delve into the viability of the ideas projected by the candidates and put issues in perspective.

Mr Munywoki said that during the first round of the debate, issues of governance, social services - health and education- security and resource management will be discussed.

During the second debate scheduled for February 25, the deliberation will revolve around the economy, land, devolution and foreign policy.

In Uganda, the Daily Monitor reports that Congolese rebel group, M23, and Kinshasa government on Wednesday agreed to review the agreement signed in 2009 between the government and the CNDP, the precursor of M23.

This is the first agreement to be signed by both parties since the beginning of negotiations in Kampala in December 2012.

M23 rebels mainly former DR Congo army soldiers who mutinied in April 2012, accusing the government of failing to fully implement the agreement that had integrated the CNDP fighters into the national army.

Ugandan Defence Minister, Dr. Crispus Kiyonga, who is also the facilitator of the talks, described the signing as "a good step" towards achieving peace in eastern DR Congo.

The review will look at the clauses of the agreement that were implemented and violated by the government and the CNDP to help both parties reach a consensus for further negotiations. The rest of the peace talks, according to Dr. Kiyonga, will be conducted in four phases.

The first phase is the review of the agreement and the second is the discussion of security issues in the region. The third phase will review the social, political and economic concerns of both parties while the last phase would establish evaluation mechanisms for the final agreement.

In Mali, France wants the African-led military mission in Mali to be replaced with a United Nations peacekeeping mandate by April, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Wednesday.

Having swiftly seized the main towns in northern Mali from Islamist militias in a three-week campaign, France is keen not to get bogged down in a costly long-term deployment.

"From the moment that security is assured, we can envisage without changing the structures that it can be placed under the framework of U.N. peacekeeping operations," Fabius told reporters.

Asked if the aim was to have this done by April, he said: "Yes. Our experts and those we are working with are aiming for that."

According to diplomats at the United Nations, the Security Council is looking at adopting a resolution at the end of February or early March to replace the current African mission under the United Nations.

It would then take 45-60 days to "re-hat" them as U.N. forces, which would involve a reduction of their number, the diplomats said.

"On the one hand it's an advantage because it's under the United Nations and the financing of the United Nations, but that doesn't mean that there is a modification of the organization, but just that it will be under the umbrella of the U.N," Fabius said.

France has deployed nearly 4,000 ground troops, as well as warplanes and armored vehicles in its three-week-old Operation Serval that has broken the Islamist militants' 10-month grip on northern towns.

It is now due to gradually hand over to a U.N.-backed African force of some 8,000 troops, known as AFISMA, of which around 3,800 have already been deployed.

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