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Dozens of post-election protesters arrested in Malawi2 minutes read

Nearly 70 people have been arrested, a day after Mutharika accused protesters of plotting to oust his government.

Kathleen Ndongmo

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Malawi opposition supporters march to the Malawian parliament during a demonstration against the re-election of the president, which protestors say was due to fraud,

Police in Malawi said Sunday they had arrested dozens of people over a wave of protests that have gripped the country following disputed results from May’s election won by President Peter Mutharika.

Nearly 70 people have been arrested, police said, a day after Mutharika accused protesters of plotting to oust his government.

Police said the arrests came after “criminal acts”, including looting and the stoning of cars and buildings during demonstrations on Thursday.

Related: Malawi police fire tear gas on US ambassador, protesters

“So far we have arrested 68 suspects strongly connected to the looting and injuring of police officers,” police said in a statement.

Protest organisers were defiant, vowing to go back to the streets calling for the electoral commission chief Jane Ansah, to resign.

A new round of protests is scheduled to resume on Monday.

“We will be on the streets exercising our rights peacefully,” said the organisers, a coalition of rights groups, in a statement on Sunday.

Protesters watch a Malawi Defence Force armoured vehicle passing by during an overnight vigil against the result of the May 21 presidential vote in Lilongwe on July 4, 2019. – Several thousand people protested in Malawi’s capital Lilongwe on July 4, 2019 against the re-election of the President, which they claim was fraudulent. (Photo by AMOS GUMULIRA / AFP)

“We will not abrogate our ultimate citizens rights to assemble and to protest because of the cynical and nefarious actions of a tiny few. We will not be cowered into accepting an incompetent (electoral commission),” they said.

On Saturday Mutharika told a rally to mark the country’s 55th anniversary of independence that the violence linked to the protests was “calculated to turn Malawi into a lawless state”.

“They want to create lawlessness so that they can take over this government. But they will only take this government over my dead body,” he said.

The nationwide protests have been organised by a non-profit grouping, the Human Rights Defenders Coalition, which has rejected allegations of trying to topple the government.

None of the main protest organisers has been reported arrested.

Opposition leaders claim correction fluid was used on some results sheets and have lodged complaints in court.

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Politics

Nigeria’s dark secret haunts new generation, 50years after Biafra war

Biafran flags, an iconic red, black and green with a rising golden sun, still make appearances on the front of buildings in Enugu state as hardline separatists continue to demand independence.

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A young Biafran soldier during the civil war that lasted between 1967 - 1970./Tumblr

It’s fifty years since Nigeria ended its civil war that left about two million people dead after the old eastern region or Biafra tried to secede from the rest of the West African country.

Diekoye Oyeyinka, 33, has been billed as one of the most promising Nigerian writers of his generation. 

He went to some of the finest schools in his West African homeland but says that like the majority of his classmates he “didn’t know about Biafra until I was 14”.

When he did begin to find out about the brutal civil war that nearly tore Nigeria apart, it was not in the classroom.

Instead it was a schoolmate in his dormitory who showed him a separatist leaflet demanding Nigeria’s southeast break away from the rest of the country.

Before then Oyeyinka had known nothing about how leaders from the Igbo ethnic group declared the independent state of Biafra in 1967.

He knew nothing of the conflict that resulted and the 30 months of fighting and famine estimated to have cost over a million lives before the secessionists surrendered 50 years ago in January 1970.

“We’ve had a very brutal history, the older generation went through a lot of trauma,” Oyeyinka told AFP.

“We just sweep it under the carpet, pretending nothing happened. But without knowing our history we will repeat the same mistakes. Our history is a succession of deja-vu.”

It was to try to break this cycle of ignorance that Oyeyinka wrote the novel Stillborn – a historic epic about Nigeria from the days of British colonial rule in 1950 to 2010.

In it the civil war is the pivotal event.

– ‘Our history, our conflict’ -Unlike other famed Nigerian writers such as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, with her novel Half Of A Yellow Sun, or Chinua Achebe’s memoir There Was A Country, Oyeyinka is one of the few non-Igbo writers to have dwelt on the conflict.

“An Igbo friend got angry at me and said ‘You can’t write about us, it’s our conflict’,” he recounted. 

But Oyeyinka insists that all Nigerians need to be made aware of what happened.

“We need to address these traumas ourselves, as a country, otherwise we are a tinder box ready to explode.”

While in the rest of Africa’s most populous nation many know little about the history of Biafra, in the former capital of the self-proclaimed state at Enugu the memory of those years lives on. 

Biafran flags — an iconic red, black and green with a rising golden sun — make appearances on the front of buildings and hardline separatists still demand independence. 

The security forces — deployed heavily in the region — are quick to stamp out any clamour for a new Biafra.

At the end of the war in 1970, Nigeria’s war leader Yukubu Gowon famously declared there would be “no victor, no vanquished” as he sought to reunite his shattered country. 

The  leader of the breakaway Republic of Biafra, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, went into exile for 13 years before being pardoned. He returned to Nigerian politics but was detained for 10 months in prison.

Leading Nigerian intellectual Pat Utomi says that many Igbos — the country’s third biggest ethnic group after the Hausa and the Yoruba — still feel marginalised.

One key event was when current President Muhammadu Buhari — then a military chief — seized power in 1983, and stopped the only Igbo aspirant to get close to leading Nigeria since the war from becoming head of state.  

“In the early 1980’s, people had forgotten about the war, but this succession of poor leadership brought bitterness among the new generations,” Utomi said.



– ‘More divided’ -Nowadays any incident — from the closure of the only airport in the southeast last year to the sacking of Igbo shops by customs officials in economic hub Lagos — can cause grievances to flare. 

“It’s important to deal with history, to write it down. In Nigeria, we try to cover it up,” Utomi said. 

“We are more divided today than we’ve ever been before the civil war. We learnt nothing from it.”

In order to try to heal the rifts Utomi helped organise a “Never Again” conference aiming to bring together key cultural and political figures to discuss the lessons of the Biafra war half a century after it ended.  

He is also a patron of the “Centre for Memories” in Enugu, a combination of a museum and library where visitors can come and “dig into history”. 

– ‘History is essential’ -History itself has been absent from Nigerian schools.

The current government reintroduced it only from last term as an obligatory subject for pupils aged 10 to 13, after more than a decade off the curriculum. 

“Teaching history is essential to build our identity as a country, and defend our patriotic values,” said Sonny Echono, permanent secretary at the education ministry. 

But schools still remain woefully short of qualified history teachers and there is no unified narrative about the civil war which does not figure in the lessons. 

“We need to teach the war in our schools,” said Egodi Uchendu, a history professor at University of Nsukka, in the former Biafra territory. 

“Eastern Nigeria is completely different from how it was experienced in other parts of the country. We need to bring in the different angles to it.” 

Chika Oduah, a Nigerian-American journalist, has crossed the country to collect hundreds of testimonies of the victims and combatants of the Biafra conflict which she publishes on her website Biafran War Memories.

She says that for many of those she interviewed it was the first time they had retold the horrors of the period. 

“A 70-something former soldier… broke down crying, when he told me how he lost his brother during the war,” she said. 

She herself only learnt at the age of 17 that her mother as a child spent two years in a camp for displaced people. 

“Our parents wanted to move on, not look at the past,” Oduah insisted. 

“But we need to talk about it, otherwise we won’t heal”.


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Politics

Isabel dos Santos considers running for Angola’s presidency

“I will do everything I need to do to defend and serve my country,” Isabel dos Santos said.

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Chairman of the Unitel SA Isabel Jose dos Santos attends the "Business Dialogue Russia-Africa" session at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) , in St. Petersburg, Russia. Iliya Pitalev / Sputnik

Africa’s richest woman and billionaire daughter of Angola’s ex-president, Isabel dos Santos, has said she would consider running for president in the next election in 2022.

Asked in an interview with Portuguese state broadcaster Radio e Televisao de Portugal (RTP) whether she would run for the top job in Angola, dos Santos said it was “possible”.

“I will do everything I need to do to defend and serve my country,” she said in the interview, which was broadcast late Wednesday, an AFP report said.

Dos Santos has been targeted in an anti-graft campaign led by her father’s successor President Joao Lourenco, who has vowed to fight corruption and rebuild the economy of sub-Saharan Africa’s second biggest oil producer.

Prosecutors froze the bank accounts and holdings owned by the 46-year-old businesswoman and her Congolese husband Sindika Dokolo last month.

Dos Santos, reportedly Africa’s richest woman, has denied any wrongdoing and denounced the investigation as “politically motivated”.

The investigation surrounding dos Santos is centred on the alleged use of state-owned companies to siphon off over one billion dollars.

It is delving into irregularities involving Angola’s national oil company Sonangol and Sodiam, a national diamond marketing firm.

Dos Santos was appointed head of Sonangol by her father Jose Eduardo dos Santos in 2016, one year before he stepped down and handed the reins over to Lourenco.

The president forced her out of the position within months of coming to power in 2017.

He has since launched a large-scale purge of the dos Santos 38-year administration, during which top positions were awarded to the ex-president’s cronies.

Dos Santos’s brother Jose Filomeno — nicknamed “Zenu” — went on trial last month for allegedly embezzling $500 million from Angola’s sovereign fund, which he oversaw from 2013 to 2018.

Zenu, who faces a maximum of 12 years in jail if found guilty, is the first member of the dos Santos family to be prosecuted.  

“The selective manner of this so-called fight against corruption (is being used) to neutralise future political candidates,” dos Santos told RTP, adding that she continued to be “shocked” by the allegations.

Dos Santos has been named Africa’s richest woman by Forbes magazine, which last year rated her net worth at $2.2 billion (two billion euros).

She has holdings in two private banks, mobile operator Unitel, a supermarket chain and cable television among others.

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Weah’s critic arrested in Sierra Leone after request by Liberian government

Henry Costa, a fierce critic and chairman of youth activist group the Council of Patriots (COP) posted on Facebook on Wednesday that he was in the hands of Sierra Leone authorities.

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Liberian opposition MP accuses of President Weah's supporters of attack on her
Liberian President George Opong Weah in an undated photo. AFP

A fierce critic of Liberian President George Weah on Wednesday said he had been detained in neighbouring Sierra Leone, amid allegations of passport irregularities that saw him being detained.

Few details of the case have emerged but Sierra Leone’s local media reported that Monrovia requested opposition figure Henry Costa be  extradited over problems with his travel documents, an AFP report said.

Costa, chairman of youth activist group the Council of Patriots (COP), posted on Facebook on Wednesday that he was in the hands of Sierra Leone authorities. 

“Don’t worry. I will be okay. The Sierra Leone authorities are being very professional and nice to me,” Costa said. 

Local media said he was stopped from boarding a plane in Liberia on Friday for allegedly possessing forged travel documents.

Costa was meant to present himself to Liberian authorities on Wednesday, but was detained at the airport in Freetown, capital of Sierra Leone, media reported. 

Liberia’s government was not immediately available for comment. 

A Sierra Leone immigration official confirmed to AFP that Costa was in the country but did not comment further.

Costa is a fierce critic of footballer-turned-politician Weah and often attacks him on his popular radio show. 

The president is under growing pressure to revive the West African country’s economy, which is struggling after back-to-back civil wars and the 2014-2016 Ebola crisis.

Normally resident in the United states, Costa returned to Liberia last month ahead of an anti-Weah protest which took place on January 6. 

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