The Independent (Kampala)

20 February 2013

Africa News Round Up

In Tunisia, Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali has announced his resignation at a news conference in Tunis, Aljazeera reports.

Mr Jebali had been trying to form a new coalition in response to the political crisis sparked by the killing of opposition leader Chokri Belaid.

He had said he would quit if his Islamist Ennahda party did not back his plan for a cabinet of technocrats.

Mr Belaid's assassination on 6 February provoked mass protests and resignations from Tunisia's coalition government.

"I promised if my initiative did not succeed I would resign as head of the government and this is what I am doing following my meeting with the president," Jebali said at the presidential palace.

"Today there is a great disappointment among the people and we must regain their trust and this resignation is a first step."

An aide had hinted that Jebali might resign earlier on Tuesday, after the ruling Ennahda party rebuffed his plan to form a non-partisan cabinet to steer Tunisia through a crisis sparked by the killing of leftwing politician Shokri Belaid.

Jebali, who had warned of chaos if his plan fell through, made a last ditch effort to push for "another solution" and was due to meet President Moncef Marzouki later in the afternoon.

Jebali met the cabinet in the morning to say goodbye and to ask them to "continue to expedite current matters," one government member said.

Ennahda's leader Rachid Ghannouchi had put forward his own proposal on Monday for a mixed government of politicians and technocrats and had said there was a consensus among political parties for Jebali to remain prime minister.

Jebali did not rule out accepting if he was charged by the president once more to form a new government, but he said any new cabinet he would lead must be free from partisan haggling, inclusive and charged primarily with holding new elections.

In DR Congo, UN leader Ban Ki-moon renewed claims Tuesday that rebels in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo have had "external support" and warned that conflict could erupt again, Daily Nation reports.

Ban's latest report on DR Congo to the UN Security Council did not single out any country for backing the M23 rebels, who briefly seized the main eastern city of Goma in November.

But UN experts have said the rebels were aided by Rwanda and Uganda, and Ban said the group conscripted child soldiers in Rwanda. Both countries have strongly denied involvement in the uprising against the DR Congo government.

Government soldiers and troops from the UN mission, MONUSCO, held back M23's first attack on Goma, and Ban said the group's second attempt showed clear evidence of outside help.

"The subsequent speed, efficiency and success of the renewed M23 offensive were rendered possible by a sudden increase in the group's combatants, coordinated multi-pronged attacks, and attacks with coordination between infantry and fire support."

These were "capacities" that the rebels were not known to have.

UN "observations of the command and control ability of the attacking force, the effective coordination of its fire support, the quality of its equipment and its general fighting ability, particularly during nighttime, all suggested the existence of external support, both direct and indirect," added the report.

There is currently a tense ceasefire in eastern DR Congo while the UN prepares plans to beef up its peacekeeping mission. Ban hopes to sign a regional political deal to end the turmoil later this month.

In Kenya, new opinion polls show that Presidential candidates Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga are locked in a statistical dead-heat, Daily Nation reports.

The two are fighting a race that is possibly as close as 2007, according to three opinion polls commissioned by the Nation Media Group.

In data collected between February 14 and February 17, registered voters were asked who they would vote for if the election were held on that day.

According to Strategic Research, 44.4 per cent said they would vote for Mr Odinga while 43.9 per cent said they would back Mr Kenyatta.

Mr Musalia Mudavadi of Amani coalition had the backing of 6.4 per cent of the respondents, Mr Peter Kenneth of the Eagle coalition was backed by 2.8 per cent, while Ms Martha Karua of Narc Kenya 1.9 per cent.

None of the remaining three presidential candidates was supported by more than one per cent of interviewees.

Prof James ole Kiyiapi of Restore and Build Kenya got 0.3 per cent, Mr Mohammed Abduba Dida of the Alliance for Real Change got 0.2 per cent and Mr Paul Muite of Safina 0.1 per cent.

The survey was conducted in 33 counties and had a margin of error of +/-2 with a confidence level of 95 per cent.

The Constitution says a presidential candidate must garner at least 25 per cent of the votes in 24 of the 47 counties to qualify for the highest political office, a condition only Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga meet, according to the polls.

The Constitution directs that the second round of the polls, involving the top two candidates in the first round, should be held within 30 days after the March 4 General Election.

Two pollsters - Strategic and Infotrak - reported that Mr Odinga was the most popular candidate in Nairobi, Kenya's capital, while Consumer Insight put Mr Odinga behind Mr Kenyatta with a gap of two per cent.

US president Barack Obama's statement that the US does not support any candidate in the election could have solidified Mr Kenyatta's support, but then the diplomatic cautions about electing suspects of crimes against humanity may also have slowed support for the Jubilee Coalition.

Mr Odinga's popularity losses could be due to the nominations mess where popular candidates denied party tickets decamped to other parties.

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