|Region in revolt
threaten to snuff out protests
TRIPOLI (AFP) –
Moamer Kadhafi’s regime vowed to snuff out attempts to
challenge the Libyan leader, after an opposition “day of
anger” became a bloodbath and two policemen were reported
hanged by protesters.
According to a toll compiled by AFP from different local
sources, at least 41 people have lost their lives since
demonstrations first erupted on Tuesday.
That toll does not include two policemen who were killed on
Oea newspaper, which is close to Kadhafi’s son Seif
al-Islam, said they were killed after being captured in the
eastern city of Al-Baida.
Security forces were deployed around Al-Baida on Friday, a
source close to the authorities told AFP, following reports
on the Internet that anti-regime protesters had seized
control of the city.
“Security forces were deployed heavily around the city and
control all roads in and out, as well as the airport,” the
source said, declining to be named.
Oea also reported that 20 people were buried in Libya’s
second city of Benghazi on Friday after being killed in
protests. A previous toll supplied by a medical source in
the city was 14 dead.
And protesters set fire to the headquarters of a local radio
station in Benghazi after the building’s guards withdrew,
witnesses and a security source told AFP.
Seven people were killed in protests in Derna, east of
Benghazi, Oea reported.
Earlier, the Revolutionary Committees, which are the
backbone of Kadhafi’s regime, warned protesters in no
“The response of the people and the Revolutionary Forces to
any adventure by these small groups will be sharp and
violent,” the Revolutionary Committees said on the website
of their newspaper, Azzahf Al-Akhdar (Green March).
“The power of the people, the Jamahiriya (government by the
masses), the Revolution and the leader are all red lines,
and anyone who tries to cross or approach them will be
committing suicide and playing with fire.”
Several thousand mourners on Friday went straight from
weekly prayers to funerals for the Benghazi dead, witnesses
told AFP, with one reporting that 13 victims were buried in
the city’s Hawari cemetery.
“The security forces’ vicious attacks on peaceful
demonstrators lay bare the reality of Moamer Kadhafi’s
brutality when faced with any internal dissent,” said HRW’s
Middle East and North Africa director, Sarah Leah Whitson.
In Al-Baida, a well-informed Libyan source told AFP 14
civilians have been killed since Wednesday, including both
protesters and members of the Revolutionary Committees.
The source could not say how many members of the security
forces had been killed.
In another sign of growing disorder, about 1,000 inmates
broke out of a prison in Benghazi, Quryna newspaper reported
on its website, and four convicts were killed by security
forces when they tried to flee another prison outside
Tripoli, a security services source said.
The overall reported toll does not include the four
shot as heir promises talks
MANAMA (AFP) –
Bahraini security forces opened fire on anti-regime
protesters in the capital, wounding dozens, after the
military vowed “strict measures” to restore order in the
wake of a deadly police raid.
Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa promised to open a
national dialogue once calm returns, a statement quickly
backed by a royal announcement that he had been assigned to
start such discussions.
US President Barack Obama condemned the violence in Bahrain,
which is of vital strategic importance to Washington because
the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet is based there and some 40 percent
of the world’s oil passes through the Gulf.
The prospect of a prolonged crisis raises fears of a
potential flashpoint between Iran and its Gulf Arab rivals,
if the Islamic republic attempts to capitalise on the
Marchers had been trying to reach Pearl Square, the
epicentre of pro-democracy protests that have shaken the
Gulf island state, when the forces opened fire.
Witnesses said the gunfire was targeting them near Salmaniya
hospital, about two kilometres (one mile) to the south.
“Twenty-six wounded people, including some with serious
injuries, have been admitted o Salmaniya hospital,” Shiite
opposition MP Ali al-Aswad told AFP.
One of the wounded was “clinically dead.”
This was the first demonstration since police stormed the
square before dawn on Thursday, killing four people and
wounding around 200 others.
Following that raid, which drew widespread international
condemnation, troops were deployed in Manama, and the
defence ministry warned that the army will “take all strict
and preventive measures to restore security and public
Aswad accused the army of Friday’s shooting, while witnesses
earlier said it was the police.
“The army fired live bullets at more than one thousand
people who wanted to reach the Pearl” Square, he said.
In a television interview, Prince Salman said: “our dialogue
must take place in a climate of total calm,” adding that “no
issue can be excluded from that dialogue.”
“What is happening today in Bahrain is not acceptable... We
have reached a dangerous stage that necessitates that each
of us acknowledges the responsibilities... Bahrain today is
divided,” he said.
In a statement read on state television, King Hamad charged
the crown prince with starting a “dialogue with all sides
and groups in the kingdom with no exceptions.”
“We have given him all the powers needed to reach the
aspirations of all esteemed citizens,” he added, urging all
sides to “cooperate faithfully” with the crown prince.
The statement made no mention of the latest violence.
Vatican leaders amid sex scandal
ROME (AFP) –
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was upbeat after a
brief meeting with top Vatican officials at a ceremony in
Rome, just days after being called to stand trial for an
underage sex crime.
Asked by reporters how the meeting went as he came out,
Berlusconi was quoted by ANSA news agency as saying: “Very
well, as always.”
Vatican officials left without making any comment.
Berlusconi has been criticised by the Roman Catholic Church
over the scandal involving a then 17-year-old alleged
prostitute nicknamed Ruby.
The meeting on Friday marked the anniversary of the 1929
Lateran Accords between Italy and the Holy See, which gave
the Vatican full sovereignty.
Sources said Italian and Vatican officials discussed the
status of Christian minorities in the Middle East and laws
on medical ethics in Italy.
During the meeting Berlusconi was seen speaking to Cardinal
Angelo Bagnasco, the powerful head of the Conference of
He did not meet Vatican number two Tarcisio Bertone, who was
Bertone last month spoke of “concern” regarding the
Berlusconi sex scandal.
“The Church urges and invites everyone, especially those who
hold a position of public responsibility... to commit
themselves to a more solid morality, a sense of justice and
legality,” he told reporters at the time.
|Mideast unrest puts US military access
|WASHINGTON (AFP) – Popular unrest sweeping the Middle
East highlights the US military’s reliance on Arab regimes
that offer privileged access to airfields and ports from
Cairo to Qatar.
The military’s dominant role in the region hinges on a web
of agreements with friendly Arab states that allow American
forces to patrol oil shipping routes in the Gulf, target
Islamist militants and keep a watchful eye on arch-foe Iran.
Roughly 27,000 US forces are deployed at an array of bases
and sites throughout the Gulf, along with a 50,000-strong
contingent in Iraq and thousands more aboard naval ships, a
US military official told AFP.
Major air fields in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, a
large base in Kuwait and the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet
headquarters in Bahrain serve as key points in an arc around
Iran, ensuring American forces can move swiftly with heavy
tries to calm discontent
|TUNIS (AFP) – Tunisia’s caretaker government granted
amnesty to political prisoners and new aid to the poor as it
moved to counter simmering discontent a month after the
ouster of its strongman president.
The amnesty will be formalised by a decree “in the next few
days”, after it was approved by the cabinet of Prime
Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi, government spokesman Taieb
The government also moved on the social front, extending
assistance to an additional 50,000 disadvantaged families
and offering minimum wage to construction workers employed
in public services since 2000.
The measures were taken during the
third cabinet meeting of the transition government to
respond to some of the major demands
of the population.
Strikes in several economic sectors and an atmosphere of
social discontent has continued to roil the north African
country since massive protests ousted president Zine El
Abidine Ben Ali on January 14.
Ghannouchi’s interim government has warned that the country
is at risk of collapsing if the work stoppages and sometimes
violent demonstrations do not stop.
The government also called for negotiations to begin in the
public and private sectors in response to a major demand of
the powerful UGTT union.
Baccouch said the talks should be aimed at “relaunching the
activities of public and private enterprises and boosting
|Uganda vote set to
extend Museveni’s rule
|KAMPALA (AFP) –
Ugandans voted in polls widely expected to extend Yoweri
Museveni’s rule to 30 years, amid opposition accusations the
veteran leader was rigging his way to re-election.
“The electoral commission is satisfied with things so far.
There have been some incidents around the country but we
corrected them as we went along,” Charles Willy Ochola,
electoral commission spokesman, said.
Some 14 million voters, out of a total population of just
under 33 million, were to choose their next president and
their members of parliament.
The electoral commission must, by law, publish complete
results within 48 hours after the close of voting, that is
by 1400 GMT Sunday.
Mary Karooro Okurut, spokeswoman for the ruling National
Resistence Movement, also expressed satisfaction.
“I’ve just heard about a few isolated incidents but
otherwise we’re happy, we think the elections were as
peaceful as the campaign,” she said.
But Margaret Wokuri, an opposition spokeswoman saw things
differently. “We have serious concerns about what happened
today. Many of our people have been harassed,” she said.
Voting material was delivered several hours late to some
polling stations in Kampala, identified by residents as
being in opposition strongholds.
Ochola of the Electoral Commission blamed “traffic” for the
delay, despite the virtual absence of vehicles from the
|South Korea says more
N Korea attacks possible
|SEOUL (AFP) – North Korea could launch more military
attacks against South Korea, Seoul’s prime minister said,
after a senior US military commander voiced similar fears.
“North Korea is not showing a responsible attitude yet,” Kim
Hwang-Sik said while presiding over an annual defence
meeting of top military commanders, ministers and
“Seeing the situations in North Korea, there is a chance of
its military provocation again,” Yonhap news agency quoted
Kim as saying. “So (the South’s military) should be fully
Tensions have been high since the North’s bombardment of a
South Korean border island last November, which killed four
people including civilians.
Seoul also accuses Pyongyang of sinking one of its warships
last March with the loss of 46 lives, a charge it denies.
Military talks aimed at improving relations broke down last
week, and the North said there was no need for further
dialogue with “traitors” in the South.
Satellite photos made public this week show that the North
has apparently completed work on a new and larger launch
site for long-range missiles.
Admiral Robert Willard, head of the US Pacific Command, said
in Washington Thursday there are no signs of an upcoming
But he expressed fears of some sort of new “provocation”
Many analysts and officials believe last year’s attacks were
aimed at burnishing the military credentials of Kim Jong-Un,
the youngest son and heir apparent to elderly leader Kim
Pointing to the succession process, Willard said: “We may
very well be facing the next provocation in months and not
|Recap of developments
in Middle East, North Africa
DUBAI (AFP) – Here
are developments in the unrest sweeping the Middle East and
North Africa following uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia that
toppled their longtime rulers.
ALGERIA: A senior former leader of the Algerian regime,
Abdelhamid Mehri, called for sweeping political changes in
the North African country in an open letter to President
BAHRAIN: Police opened fire on anti-regime Shiite protesters
in Manama, wounding dozens, a day after four were killed and
some 200 wounded as tanks and troops keep a tight security
clamp in the Sunni-ruled Gulf monarchy.
DJIBOUTI: Thousands of opposition supporters, mainly
students, gathered in Djibouti to demand President Ismael
Omar Guelleh step down before he seeks re-election for a
third term in April elections.
EGYPT: Hundreds of thousands of Egyptians massed into
Cairo’s Tahrir Square to celebrate the fall of strongman
Hosni Mubarak and to pressure the new military rulers to
deliver on reform pledges, while hundreds of others staged a
“sorry, president” rally.
IRAN: Tens of thousands of regime loyalists poured on to the
streets of Tehran to demand that opposition leaders Mir
Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi be hanged for their
IRAQ: The offices of a Kurdish regional opposition party
were targeted by looters, officials said, after Iraq’s most
violent protests since the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia
left three dead in two days.
JORDAN: Government supporters clashed with young protesters
in Amman, leaving eight people injured, in the first such
violence since protests began in Jordan, witnesses and
KUWAIT: At least five people, including a security man, were
hurt and dozens arrested as Kuwaiti riot police clashed with
hundreds of stateless Arab protesters demanding rights.
LIBYA: Four prisoners were killed trying to escape a Tripoli
prison, while inmates of a Benghazi succeeded in doing so
before burning a bank, prosecutor’s office and police
station, local press said, after protests against Libyan
leader Moamer Kadhafi have led to at least 28 deaths in
MOROCCO: Ahead of a planned pro-reform rally, Morocco
announced it would inject 1.4 billion euros in subsidies to
soften price hikes for staples -- a key factor behind the
spreading unrest in the Arab world.
SYRIA: Hundreds of Syrians staged an impromptu protest
against security forces after traffic police beat a young
man in the capital’s Old City, a Dubai-based website
TUNISIA: Ousted Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali
suffered a stroke and was “in a coma” in a Saudi hospital, a
family friend said, as more details of corruption under his
rule came to light.
YEMEN: Anti-regime protesters in Taez were blasted with a
hand grenade killing two and injuring dozens, while three
were shot dead as police opened fire in Aden. Violent
clashes also erupted in Sanaa, witnesses said, on a sixth
day of demonstrations.
|Egypt allows Iran
warships to transit Suez
|CAIRO (AFP) – Egypt gave permission for Iranian warships
to transit the Suez Canal into the Mediterranean, state
media reported, after Israel described the move as a
“Egypt agreed to allow two Iranian warships to transit the
Suez Canal,” the official MENA news agency reported.
Canal officials say it would be the first time Iranian
warships have made the passage since the 1979 Islamic
MENA reported that the request for the ship to pass said
they were not carrying weapons or nuclear and chemical
It is not known when the ships are expected to arrive at
Port Said, the northern terminus of the canal on the
Mediterranean. From there they are expected to sail to
Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak has labelled the Iranian
action as “hostile’ and said Israel was closely monitoring
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said an Iranian naval
presence in the area was a “provocation that proves the
self-confidence and cheek of the Iranians is growing from
day to day”.
Asked by AFP in Jerusalem to comment on the latest
development, foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor
recalled Lieberman’s comments on Wednesday.
“We have nothing to add to the minister’s statement,” Palmor
said on Friday. “It’s still valid.”
Earlier, an Egyptian foreign ministry official said the
Iranian request was passed on to the defence ministry, which
has to approve the passage of any warship through the canal.
His comments came a day after a canal official and a
shipping agent said the request had been cancelled, at the
prompting of the Egyptian government. An Iranian diplomat
said administrative reasons where behind the delay.
Iran’s official Fars new agency, quoting senior naval
commanders, has said the ships are the 33,000-tonne
refuelling and support vessel Kharg and the 1,500-tonne
light patrol frigate Alvand, both British-built.
The Kharg has a crew of 250 and can carry up to three
helicopters. The Alvand is armed with torpedos and anti-ship
|12 die in Afghanistan bombings
|KHOST (AFP) – Twelve people were killed in two blasts
near the Pakistani border in eastern Afghanistan, including
a Taliban car bomb which led to nine deaths near a district
The first attack came in the city of Khost, where nine
people were killed and 40 others were injured, four of them
seriously, public health official Amir Badsha Mangal said.
A local police chief, Abdul Hakim Eshaqzai, said that a
policeman as well as women and children were among the dead,
adding that the city’s hospitals have been “overwhelmed” by
the influx of wounded.
It was the second major attack in a week on Afghan police,
who alongside a fledgling army, are due to take control of
security from US-led NATO troops by the end of 2014 to allow
the bulk of Western forces to withdraw.
In a second incident, three police were killed in Nangahar
province, which like Khost province borders Pakistan, after
a roadside bomb ripped through their vehicle, a provincial
Meanwhile, international forces said more than 30 insurgents
had been killed in a four-hour, overnight air raid in Kunar
province, also in the east.
“While on an aerial security patrol, the air weapons team
positively identified armed insurgents in the area and
engaged them,” the International Security Assistance Force
(ISAF) said in a statement.
“After the initial firing, a large number of armed
individuals emerged from a nearby building and were
subsequently targeted and killed by the air weapons team.”
And in northern Afghanistan’s Baghlan province, two German
soldiers were killed and seven wounded when a man wearing an
Afghan National Army uniform shot at them at a base.
Another soldier whose nationality has not been confirmed was
killed by a separate bomb blast in southern Afghanistan.
Following the Khost blast, an AFP reporter said blood and
body parts littered the road near the scene and that nearby
windows in a busy civilian area had been shattered.
Pieces of human flesh were flung up to 50 metres (yards)
from the blast spot, indicating the explosion was a strong
one, the reporter said.
Obama vows US
|HILLSBORO (AFP) – President Barack Obama vowed Friday to
make America “the best place on Earth to do business,”
making his case for investments that have sparked a raging
budget battle with Republicans.
Obama travelled to Intel’s most sophisticated semiconductor
plant in Oregon to tout his plans to invest in science and
education despite seeking ways to rein in spending in other
areas to deal with a ballooning deficit.
“In a world that is more competitive than ever before, it’s
our job to make sure that America is the best place on earth
to do business,” Obama said,
“Even as we have to live within our means, we can’t
sacrifice investments in our future,” Obama said.
“If we want the next technological breakthrough that leads
to the next Intel to happen here in the United States – not
in China or not in Germany... then we have to invest in
America’s research and technology, in the work of our
scientists and our engineers.”
Obama’s budget released on Monday would shift billions
towards technology and green energy sectors, and into
transportation systems, while imposing spending freezes and
trimming unaffordable projects.
But Republicans complain Obama is wasting money on big
spending programs while doing little to bring the deficit,
forecast to reach $1.65 trillion this year, under control.
Since his State of the Union address last month, Obama has
been trying to convince Americans that their country can
only compete with nations like China and India with a burst
of innovation and new investment.
“If we want to make sure Intel doesn’t have to look overseas
for skilled, trained workers, then we’ve got to invest in
our people – in our schools, in our colleges, in our
children,” Obama said in Oregon.
“Basically, if we want to win the future, America has to
out-build, and out-innovate, and out-educate and out-hustle
the rest of the world. That’s what we’ve got to do.”
|Mind-moved bionic arm
goes on display in US
|WASHINGTON (AFP) – A bionic prosthetic arm that is
controlled by its operator’s thoughts and feels like the
amputee’s lost limb went on display at a major US science
More than 50 amputees worldwide, many of them military
veterans whose limbs were lost in combat, have received such
devices since they were first developed by US doctor Todd
Kuiken in 2002.
The arm uses technology called Targeted Muscle Reinervation
(TMR), which works by rerouting brain signals from nerves
that were severed in the injury to muscles that are working
“What we do is use the nerves that are still left,” Kuiken
said. “Muscle becomes the biological amplifier.”
Glen Lehman, a retired US military sergeant who lost his arm
in Iraq, demonstrated the latest technology at the annual
conference of the American Association for the Advancement
of Science in Washington.
“It feels great, if feels intuitive. It is a lot better than
the other prosthetic I have now,” said Lehman, whose forearm
and elbow were blown off in a Baghdad grenade attack in
“The other one is still controlled by muscle impulse, you
just flex muscle to make it move, it is not intuitive. This
arm is more trained to me, whereas the other arm I had to
train to it,” he said.
“It does feel like my own hand.”
Lehman demonstrated for reporters how he could pinch his
finger and thumb together, lift his forearm and bend his
elbow, and turn his wrist just by thinking about those
Kuiken said more advances, such as the ability to transfer
some sensation to the limb, are being studied in the lab but
have not yet made it to patients.
Other drawbacks include the inability to sense how hard the
battery-powered prosthetic hand is squeezing, but Kuiken
said scientists are working on ways to improve the
technology with added sensors.
“Our goal would be to put sensors in the prosthesis to, for
example, know how hard you are squeezing and then bring that
up and have a device squeeze on this area (of the bicep) so
the patient has an idea of how hard he is squeezing.”
Kuiken said the team has encountered some technological
“challenges” that have slowed progress but is “excited about
A series of other efforts to test and improve on these
mind-reading robotics, known as brain-computer interfaces,
were also showcased at the conference.
|Rights groups press
Thailand on boat people
|BANGKOK (AFP) – Thailand should swiftly investigate the
treatment of almost a hundred boat people amid claims the
group was set adrift in a vessel without an engine, rights
Thai authorities have said 91 asylum seekers from the
Muslim, Bengali-speaking Rohingya ethnic group were returned
to Myanmar in January soon after they washed up on the
country’s shore, Amnesty International said.
But 91 people believed to be Rohingya landed in India’s
Andaman islands in early February and said the Thai navy
pushed them out to sea “in an engineless boat with limited
food and water”, the rights group said.
“Amnesty International called on the government of Thailand
to institute a prompt, independent and transparent
investigation into how Thai authorities treated this group,”
Thailand’s handling of the Rohingya – described by the UN as
one of the world’s most persecuted minorities – has caused
controversy in the past.
Security forces towed hundreds of people from the Muslim
community out to sea in “unseaworthy boats” and cast them
adrift in late 2008 and early 2009 and some “subsequently
died at sea”, Amnesty said.
New York-based Human Rights Watch also urged the Thai
authorities to investigate.
“If the Thai government wants the world to believe that
history is not repeating itself, they need to go well beyond
their quick-draw denial and launch a full public
investigation into these very serious allegations,” said
Asia deputy director Phil Robertson.
Mainly Buddhist Myanmar effectively denies citizenship and
property rights to the Rohingya, prompting many to flee the
country, often to refugee camps in Bangladesh.
The Rohingya are subject to “systematic persecution,
including forced labour, forced eviction, land confiscation,
and severe restrictions on freedom of movement”, Amnesty
Hundreds of individuals claiming to be from the ethnic
minority, including a number of children, have been detained
in Thailand since January.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said it was
given access to many of these people earlier this month, but
was unable to speak to the 91 people in question.
A further 129 Rohingyas remain in Indonesia after they were
found drifting off the northern tip of the island of on
|Thousands protest in
Bolivia over food prices
|LA PAZ (AFP) – A national protest over rising food
prices in Bolivia paralysed several cities and sectors of
the economy in South America’s poorest country.
It was the second national protest in less than two months,
led by labour unions, in the latest sign that socialist
President Evo Morales faces growing unrest.
Schools closed, hospitals handled only emergencies, and
public transportation was greatly reduced. Streets in the
central city of Cochabamba were blocked by barricades and
thousands of people marched in the capital city La Paz.
Demonstrations also took place in Santa Cruz, Oruro, Potosi,
Sucre, in response to calls for action by the powerful
Bolivian labour federation (COB).
Protesters called for Morales to increase salaries, and
reverse the rising prices of food and services.
“He said that he would govern with the people – put it into
practice!” said Pedro Montes, the COB’s secretary general.
Led by unions under a chilly rain, the La Paz rally was
punctuated by the blast of dynamite sticks set off by some
There were no immediate reports of anyone being hurt, and
the demonstration dispersed peacefully after several hours.
The protests, however, showed renewed anger over the
inability of many Bolivians to keep up with the price rises,
especially for sugar.
Last month, violent protests broke out in the nation even
after the government backed off an attempt to halt hefty
fuel subsidies, which ease the cost of food transport and
Demonstrators, police clash
in Djibouti streets
|DJIBOUTI (AFP) – Djibouti police firing tear gas clashed
Friday with demonstrators who turned out in their thousands
in an unprecedented protest to demand the departure of
President Ismael Omar Guelleh, an AFP reporter said.
The protest by opposition supporters had started peacefully
at around 2:00 pm (1100 GMT) but the demonstrators then
decided to set up camp outside a stadium, vowing to remain
there until their demand is met.
After dusk, the standoff escalated into clashes, pitting
demonstrators hurling stones against riot police firing tear
The area facing the interior ministry was blocked to
traffic, with only police vehicles screeching past with
their sirens wailing.
Two burned-out cars could be seen near the el-Hannan
hospital; other vehicles were damaged and glass from broken
car windows crunched underfoot.
The rare demonstration in the tiny Horn of Africa country
was organised amid mounting opposition to the president, who
last year had the constitution amended to allow him to seek
a third mandate in upcoming April elections.
“IOG out”, read one banner, using the president’s initials,
as most Djiboutians do. “No to a third mandate”, read
When the demonstration started opposition leaders addressed
a peaceful crowd consisting mainly of students.
Colonel Abdillahi Abdi Farah, the national police chief,
told AFP that the protestors were no more than 600 to 700.
But the crowd swelled as several thousand protestors set up
camp at the entrance of a stadium facing the interior
ministry, with the intention of staying there until their
demand is met.
Later in the afternoon, the president of the Union for
Democratic Change, an umbrella group of three opposition
parties, Ismael Guedi Hared, put the number of demonstrators
“This peaceful popular uprising reflects the desire of the
Djiboutian people to see the fall of the ruling regime,” he
Demonstrators were determined to hunker down in front of the
stadium for as long as necessary, mimicking the protracted
protests on Cairo’s Tahrir square that got the better of
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year-old rule.
Asked if he hoped for an Egypt-like scenario, Hared said:
“Yes, that’s it.”
“We came out here to stay. We will leave when the regime
collapses,” said Habiba, a young student from Djibouti
“We don’t want you here anymore, IOG,” shouted Hassan, a
young unemployed Djiboutian from the capital’s Balbala
Security forces were deployed en masse but initially
refrained from attempting to break up the protest.
Small groups of protesters could still be seen in the
streets later in the night after police broke up the
gathering and the clashes died down, an AFP correspondent
The national radio and television made no mention of the
protests in their Friday evening broadcasts.
The 63-year-old Guelleh has been in power since 1999 and the
new constitution allows him to stand for anothyer six-year
term in the April 8 elections.
Djibouti, a former French territory, sits in a strategic
location commanding the strait between the Red Sea and the
Gulf of Aden.
It has borders with Somalia’s breakaway state of Somaliland,
Ethiopia, Eritrea and faces Yemen, where protests demanding
long-time President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s ouster have left 10
people dead since Sunday.
Students had already held smaller protests and clashed with
police earlier this month, although they were demonstrating
mainly against the marking system in law exams.
The authorities had arrested several people in the aftermath
of the protests, including opposition activists and a
prominent human rights campaigner.
returns to Madagascar
|JOHANNESBURG (AFP) – Former Madagascar president Marc
Ravalomanana will return to the island nation in a bid to
prepare new elections nearly two years after his army-backed
The deposed president, who returns under the threat of
arrest, declared himself as Madagascar’s rightful leader and
said he was going back to start “desperately needed” talks
that must pave the way to new polls.
“I am the democratically elected and constitutional
president of Madagascar,” he told a press conference in
South Africa, where he has been in exile.
“I return to my country humbly, so that we can return to
democracy, and together create a bright future for
The rule of his rival Andry Rajoelina, the army-backed
opposition leader who ousted him in a coup in March 2009,
was illegal and it was time for him to return home, he said.
“Only a truly national consensus, forged by the Malagasy
people, through direct talks in our own country, can restore
us to democracy – and can ensure that nobody can ever seize
power illegally in Madagascar again,” he said.
French Cooperation Minister Henri de Raincourt’s office
meanwhile announced that he would make a two-day visit to
Madagascar beginning the same day as Ravalomanana’s return.
In a statement, the ministry said Raincourt and a team of
mediators would “meet one by one with the different
political forces present.”
A member of the minister’s delegation said Raincourt had no
plans to meet with Ravalomanana but was open to seeing any
political party that requested it.
A Madagascan minister warned Wednesday that Ravalomanana
would be arrested if he returned to the island.
Ravalomanana was sentenced in absentia to life in prison and
hard labour last year for the death of 30 opposition
protesters killed by presidential guards as they attempted
to march on the presidential palace on February 7, 2009.
“I know the risks facing my return, but cannot allow them to
get in the way of us restoring democracy. I have nothing to
fear. I have done nothing wrong,” he said.
The former president appeared confident as spoke at a
lectern bearing Madagascar’s national seal, saying his
decision to return had been influenced by the recent
protests in Tunisia and Egypt.
“These are momentous times. We have been inspired and
gratified by the democratic aspirations in Tunisia, Egypt
and other countries,” he said.
Ravalomanana said he had informed South African authorities
and would meet them on Thursday afternoon about his plan to
However, the country’s foreign ministry said it noted
Ravalomanana’s intent to return to Madagascar but cautioned
“against any unilateral measures taken prior to the Southern
African Development Community (SADC) Organ meeting.