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Graft case for South Africa’s Zuma delayed to May 26

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Zuma has previously described the trial as a "political witch hunt".

The start of the corruption trial of South Africa’s scandal-tainted ex-president Jacob Zuma, which was slated to start on Monday, has been postponed to May 26, a judge said.

Zuma is facing 16 charges of fraud, graft and racketeering relating to a 1999 purchase of fighter jets, patrol boats and military gear from five European arms firms for 30 billion rand, then the equivalent of nearly $5.0 billion.

The 79-year-old Zuma, who was at the time serving as deputy president to Thabo Mbeki, is accused of accepting bribes totalling four million rand from one of the firms, French defence giant Thales.

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The case has been postponed numerous times as Zuma lodged a string of motions to have the charges dropped.

In the latest snag last month, all of Zuma’s lawyers quit without explanation.

But his new lawyer, Thabani Masuku, told the court Monday: “Zuma is ready to proceed with trial, he has always been ready to proceed with trial”.

Zuma has previously described the trial as a “political witch hunt”.

Nearly everyone rose as Zuma, dressed in a dark blue suit, entered the wood-panelled courtroom at the Pietermaritzburg High Court.

In response, he clasped his hands in front of his chest.

A man in the public gallery chanted “Long live Jacob Zuma, long live!”

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Dozens of people, including senior ruling African National Congress (ANC) officials like the recently suspended party secretary general Ace Magashule, rallied in a show of support for the embattled former head of state.

“I am here to support president Zuma,” Magashule told AFP, dismissing the trial as “so political”.

A crowd of supporters dressed in yellow party T-shirts chanted outside the court house, waving ANC flags.

“We should allow president Zuma, with grace and dignity, to rest at home,” said ANC lawmaker and former North West provincial premier Supra Mahumapelo.

He said Zuma has “consistently maintained no one is above the law. He has always submitted himself to the law. But at his advanced age, he should be allowed to go into obscurity and we to move forward as a society.”

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In power between 2009 and 2018, Zuma was forced to resign by the ANC after a mounting series of scandals.

His successor Cyril Ramaphosa has vowed to root out corruption.

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Police arraign 48 ‘Yoruba Nation’ separatists in Nigeria

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The prosecutor said that the defendants gathered for a protest that was not permitted to hold and began to disturb the peace of the neighborhood.

A total of 48 persons, including two women, on Monday appeared before a Yaba Chief Magistrate’s Court in Lagos for alleged unlawful protest and killing of a woman.

The defendants, who allegedly committed the offences at 10:09 a.m. on July 3, at Ojota area of Lagos, are jointly facing a three-count charge of conspiracy, unlawful assembly and breach of peace to which they pleaded not guilty.

One of the defendants, Tajudeen Bakare, is facing two extra counts of murder and unlawful possession of arms.

Police Prosecutor, Adejoke Adebesin, told the court that Mr Bakare, during the protest shot a passerby, Jumoke Oyeleke, with a Barretta pistol which was recovered from his possession.

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He further stated that the defendant drove a Jeep with Registration No. LSR 322 FK, and killed the deceased from the window of the car.

The offences contravened Sections 411, 168(d), 223, 330, 44 (1)(2)(3)(4) of the Criminal Laws of Lagos State 2015. (Revised)

Section 330 stipulates seven years imprisonment for the offence of unlawful possession of arms while 223 stipulates the death penalty for the offence of murder.

The prosecutor said that the defendants gathered for a protest that was not permitted to hold and began to disturb the peace of the neighborhood.

Chief Magistrate Adeola Adedayo admitted the 47 defendants to N300,000 bail each with two sureties in like sum and remanded Bakare, who is facing mucder charge, to a correctional center while awaiting legal advice from Lagos State Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP).

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She directed that both sureties must be residing within the court’s jurisdiction and be gainfully employed with evidence of three years of tax payment to the Lagos State Government.

She added that one of the sureties must be either a cultural, religious, or traditional leader in the court’s jurisdiction and both sureties must submit copies of their National Identification Number (NIN) to the court.

She adjourned the case until August 16 for mention/ review of remand.

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Jihadists issue threat as Somalia elections loom

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The Al-Qaeda-linked group has been fighting to overthrow the federal government since 2007 and frequently attacks government, security and civilian targets.

Somalia’s Al-Shabaab jihadists have warned politicians against taking part in elections due to kick off this month after months of deadlock and delays.

The threat, in an audio message purportedly recorded by Al-Shabaab leader Ahmed Umar Abu Ubaidah, underscores the security challenges facing the election process in the deeply unstable Horn of Africa country.

Indirect parliamentary and presidential polls are due to open on July 25 with four days of voting for the upper house by state delegates.

“We are sending… a warning to the (voting) delegations,” Ubaidah said in a rare message issued Monday to mark the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha that was circulated on pro-Shabaab websites.

“Don’t get fooled by the empty promises… including the provision of money, and the promise that the voting will be secret.

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“Learn from those before you,” he said, in an apparent reference to traditional elders who took part in the last elections in 2016, some of whom were targeted and assassinated by Al-Shabaab fighters in the ensuing years.

Ubaidah’s whereabouts are not known, and it was not clear when the message was recorded. AFP could not independently confirm the identity of the voice.

The Al-Qaeda-linked group has been fighting to overthrow the federal government since 2007 and frequently attacks government, security and civilian targets.

Somalia’s political leaders finally agreed last month on a voting timetable after months of stalemate that turned violent at times.

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President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed and the leaders of Somalia’s five states had been unable to agree on the terms of a vote before his term lapsed in February, triggering an unprecedented constitutional crisis.

The political impasse exploded into violence in April when negotiations collapsed and the lower house extended the president’s mandate by two years, sparking gun battles on the streets of Mogadishu.

Under pressure the president, commonly known as Farmajo, reversed the extension and ordered his prime minister to reconvene with the state leaders to chart a fresh roadmap towards elections.

The ballots follow a complex indirect model whereby special delegates chosen by the country’s myriad clan elders pick lawmakers, who in turn choose the president.

Successive leaders have promised a direct vote but political infighting, logistical problems and the Al-Shabaab insurgency has prevented such an exercise.

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The upper house vote will be followed by elections for the lower house from September 12-October 2, according to an updated timetable issued last week.

According to a statement issued in June, both assemblies were due to convene to vote for the president on October 10, but no date for this election was given in the updated timeline.

Somalia has not held a direct one-person, one-vote election since 1969, the year dictator Siad Barre led a coup and went on to rule for two decades.

Barre’s military regime collapsed in 1991 and Somalia sank into anarchy.

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Ethiopia’s Tigray war spills into neighbouring regions

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Rebels in Ethiopia’s war-hit Tigray have carried out operations against pro-government troops in neighbouring Afar region, a spokesman said Sunday, opening a new front in the widening eight-month conflict.

The “very limited action” targeted special forces and militia fighters from Oromia region, Ethiopia’s largest, who were massing along the Tigray-Afar border, the rebel spokesman, Getachew Reda, told AFP.

“We took those actions to ensure those forces are sent back to Oromia, and we have managed to do that,” Getachew said, adding that there were some casualties but he could not provide figures.

“Our action was very limited to dispersing the peasant militia from Oromia that was mostly press-ganged into fighting the useless war.”

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent troops into Tigray last November to detain and disarm leaders of the region’s then-ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).

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He said the move came in response to TPLF attacks on federal army camps.

The 2019 Nobel Peace laureate declared victory in late November after government forces took the Tigray capital Mekele, but TPLF leaders remained on the run and fighting continued.

Last month the war took a stunning turn when pro-TPLF forces retook Mekele, Abiy declared a unilateral ceasefire and the army mostly pulled out of Tigray.

But after rebel leaders launched a new offensive intended to regain control of western and southern Tigray — contested areas that have been occupied by fighters from Amhara region, which borders Tigray to the south — Abiy vowed to “repel” them.

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The government has since mobilised forces from regions that had previously been untouched by the conflict, including Oromia.

A spokesman for Afar region did not respond to requests for comment Sunday.

– ‘Ethiopia’s cancer’ –

A state media report published Saturday night accused the TPLF, which the government deems a terrorist organisation, of blocking aid into Tigray via Afar using “heavy shelling” and “heavy artillery.”

“Rejecting the ceasefire by the federal government, TPLF is trying hard to expand the conflict into Afar region,” the Ethiopian News Agency report said.

Getachew denied any aid delivery had been disrupted.

“Where the fighting happened, there is no major highway that is being used for aid purposes,” he said.

Getachew confirmed Sunday that rebel units were also active in northern Amhara region, where last week AFP journalists saw thousands of militia fighters mobilising in border towns in advance of planned anti-TPLF operations.

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“We have also conducted successful operations in Wag Hemra, which is in Amhara region, and even as we speak some units are operating in between Mai Tsebri (in western Tigray) and adjoining Amhara territory,” he said.

In a statement posted on Twitter Sunday, Abiy referred to the TPLF “junta” as “Ethiopia’s cancer”.

“As the saying goes, a Satan which stays long cannot be removed immediately,” he said.

“It is inevitable that it rests in one way or another. But surely, the junta will be removed so that it will not grow again.”

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