Police and protesters clashed in three cities in Malawi on Thursday during countrywide demonstrations over the disputed result of last month’s presidential election.
In the biggest rallies since the vote count was announced, police used teargas to disperse protestors who tore down billboards of re-elected President, Peter Mutharika.
Thousands of protesters gathered in the capital Lilongwe, in the commercial centre Blantyre and in the third city of Mzuzu at protests that called for the head of the Malawi Electoral Commission to resign.
In Blantyre, marchers were stopped by police using tear gas as they approached the commission’s headquarters, according to AFP reporters.
In Lilongwe, protestors included opposition leaders Lazarus Chakwera of the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and Saulos Chilima of the United Transformation Movement (UTM).
“Malawians are very angry with the manner in which the management of the election results were conducted and we want everyone involved in the injustice to resign and get out,” Chakwera said.
Chakwera alleges he was robbed of victory in the May 21ballot, which an official count showed he lost by just 159,000 votes.
Police said shops had been ransacked and two police officers injured by protesters throwing rocks in Lilongwe.
“We continue to deploy police officers both on foot and vehicle patrols, in all strategic places in towns, cities and rural areas,” police said in a statement.
The election was marred by allegations of fraud, including that many results sheets were altered using correction fluid.
The two main opposition parties have challenged the vote outcome in court, with judges due to rule on Friday on whether or not to dismiss the case, as requested by Mutharika.
“A significant section of Malawi’s society is disgruntled and does not want the current government. It’s a divided country,” Malawian political scientist Michael Jana, who teaches at the University of Witwatersrand, told reporters.
On Wednesday, protestors blocked the main route into Lilongwe as Mutharika was due to arrive from Blantyre, forcing him to use another road.
Bread Crisis: Libya’s Central Bank Rejects New Letters of Credit for Flour
Governor of the Central Bank of Libya (CBL) Al-Siddiq Al-Kabeer emphasised that the letters of credit, which were opened in 2020 for the supply of flour, were appropriate for the amounts consumed in Libya.
In response to the Head of Presidential Council, Fayez Al-Sarraj’s regarding requests for new letters of credit to import flour, the Governor of the Central Bank of Libya (CBL) Al-Siddiq Al-Kabeer has on Sunday issued a statement.
Al-Kabeer emphasised that the letters of credit, which were opened in 2020 for the supply of flour, were appropriate for the amounts consumed in Libya.
The General Union of Bakers in Tripoli shut down all bakeries in the city on Saturday, citing an increase in the price of ingredients. This move was justified by the union’s head, Saeed Boukhreiss who claimed the new prices were necessary due to the new prices of flour being linked to lack of supply by the mills’ company.
The Governor explained that the PM’s call represents a grave breach of the country’s financial law and public spending controls, stipulated in the 2015 Libyan Political Agreement (LPA). He further stated that the state’s balance of foreign exchange with the Libyan Foreign Bank (LFB) is linked to sovereign revenues.
Al-Kabeer also countered rumours suggesting that it had opened letters of credits for importing unnecessary food items.
He further reminds the GNA officials on their obligation to control the country’s borders and ports to curb the smuggling of subsidised goods, especially flour and fuel.
Bakeries reopened Monday after the Bakers’ Union reached an agreement with the control authorities. Bread prices have been impacted largely by flour shortage, the prices of wheat which increased globally by 40% and the new exchange rate of the Libyan dinar to U.S. dollar on the confectionary sector. Bakeries may face dire straits in the coming months if state authorities do not resolve the problem satisfactorily.
In 2018, inflationary pressure and dwindling oil prices among other factors saw bakeries in Tripoli abruptly shut for two weeks, thereby triggering a food crisis around bread – a staple for many Libyans.
Egypt’s First Flight to Qatar after Three Year Dispute
Egypt’s national carrier, EgyptAir, resumed flights to Qatar on Monday following the settling of a regional dispute that erupted in June 2017.
The plane left Cairo en route to Doha carrying 38 passengers and is set to return later with 91 people on board, Cairo airport sources said.
The Egyptian and Qatari national carriers last week announced the resumption of flights between the Arab countries after a Saudi-led bloc including Egypt ended a boycott of the Gulf emirate.
Qatar Airways will also resume flights to Cairo on Monday, while flights to Egypt’s Mediterranean city of Alexandria are scheduled to start on Jan. 25.
Earlier this month, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt signed a declaration with Qatar ending a rift that lasted for three and a half years.
In June 2017, the quartet severed diplomatic, trade and travel ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting Islamist militant groups, an accusation that Doha denies.
Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain have announced the reopening of their airspace to Qatar.
Emirati low-cost airline Air Arabia is also scheduled to resume flights between the UAE’s Sharjah city and Doha on Monday.
Egypt Targets Petroleum Self-Sufficiency by 2023
Egypt plans to stop relying on imported oil by 2023, Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly has said.
Madbouly disclosed this when he addressed the 568 member House of Representatives on Monday.
In September, the country’s petroleum minister, Tarek El Molla, said that in 2020, Egypt imported just 3.5 million tonnes of gasoline for $1.5 billion, compared to 10 million tonnes in 2016.
“By 2023, God willing, Egypt will reach total petroleum self-sufficiency. We will not be importing petroleum products produced in other countries,” Madbouly said.
The prime minister added that in 2020 the country had signed 26 geological survey contracts with combined investments of almost $11 billion.
“We have reached a total gas self-sufficiency and meet the local market’s demands in various areas,” the official stressed, adding that the gas production had increased by 28 per cent.
According to Madbouly, the government has also managed to fully implement its economic reforms package and lowered the budget deficit from 10 to 7.9 per cent.
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