Kinshasa, Dec 27 (AP/UNB) — He wants to run Africa's second-largest country, one of vast mineral wealth, sprawling poverty and vicious fighting that has cost millions of lives. Noel Tshiani Muadiamvita's chances are slim to none but he's convinced he's perfect for the job.
Among 21 candidates vying to succeed President Joseph Kabila in Sunday's election, Tshiani promotes himself as someone Congo has never had: a truly qualified head of state. Former colonizer Belgium departed without training Congolese to rule. Mobutu Sese Seko, who led for more than three decades, had been an army sergeant major. Laurent Kabila was plucked from exile to unseat him. Joseph Kabila, after his father was assassinated, took power at age 29.
Tshiani, wielding a resume featuring Harvard and the World Bank, speaks in terms of glory.
"Muadiamvita means 'invincible warrior,' which means that when you go into a presidential election, my competition is well advised to stay aside," he said. "At the end of the day, no matter what they do, I will win."
The odds say otherwise, but big talk is a staple of Congo's boisterous run-up to the vote.
Kabila is stepping aside after ruling since 2001, and the election has been delayed since late 2016. Now tensions are rising again. The electoral commission on Wednesday delayed the vote in two key areas until months after the new president is inaugurated, meaning more than 1 million votes effectively don't count.
Amid the noise, the 61-year-old Tshiani remains an unknown for many.
"I know his name, because he wants to become president. But I don't know him," said Olivier Bonte as he waited in Kinshasa to catch a bus. Others didn't even recognize the name.
Tshiani describes himself as a technocrat, and pointedly not a politician. After completing his doctorate in economics in Paris, he went to Harvard for a postdoctoral degree in leadership and management. He worked for a number of commercial banks in New York and spent 28 years at the World Bank.
Now he wants to bring that experience home, and has published a book outlining his economic vision for Congo, "The Force of Change."
"We must be ashamed of ourselves, and the politicians should be ashamed of themselves, because this is the result of the management style of the country," Tshiani said, pointing to Congo's widespread lack of basic services and infrastructure despite staggering mineral wealth. "I believe there is a case to be made for somebody who is not a politician, who is not part of the problem ... for somebody like me to become president of Congo."
He said he is financing his campaign with his savings. Leading up to the election, he travelled around Kinshasa accompanied by dark-suited bodyguards and an armed police escort, looking the part of a big-time candidate.
But observers said they doubt his chances in a country where connections are everything.
"I know professor Noel Tshiani," said A.L. Kitenge Lubanda, a political and economic analyst. "He is a brilliant person but he has no (political) machine. His political party is very weak and I don't think he has any chance to win."
Rarely smiling in public, Tshiani often seems taken aback by Congo's vibrant political scene. He addresses a crowd like a professor intent on schooling the people on economic reforms.
He worked a crowd of about 300 people earlier this month, shaking hands as they danced and cheered him on: "Viva Tshiani, Viva!"
After they settled, Tshiani held up his book and explained his vision.
Congo has never had a peaceful, democratic transfer of power since independence from Belgium in 1960. This election could be the first.
The opposition fears that the vote will be rigged in favor of the ruling party, and that Kabila's preferred successor, Emanuel Ramazani Shadary, has the state machinery behind him. Kabila, meanwhile, has hinted he might run again in five years' time.
Tshiani said no, it is time for a change.
"He has spent 17 years in power. He has amassed a lot of wealth. I think it is time for him to just retire and leave Congo in the hands of another leadership, so that we can use the natural resources — not to enrich ourselves, but to develop the country and create good conditions for the people of Congo."
Carita, Dec 27 (AP/UNB) — Indonesia raised the danger level for an island volcano that triggered a tsunami on the weekend, killing at least 430 people in Sumatra and Java, and widened its no-go zone.
The country's volcanology agency said Thursday that the Anak Krakatau volcano's alert status had been raised to the second-highest level and the exclusion zone more than doubled to a 5-kilometer (3-mile) radius.
The eruption on Saturday evening caused part of the island in the Sunda Strait to collapse into the sea, apparently generating tsunami waves of more than 2 meters (6 1/2 feet). Most tsunamis are caused by earthquakes.
The government has warned communities in the strait to stay a kilometer (6/10 of a mile) away from the coastline because of the risk of another tsunami triggered by Krakatau's eruptions. A navy vessel is expected to pass by the island later Thursday, which could give scientists more information about the risks of a second collapse.
"There's still a chance of a landslide, even under the sea level or on the sea level," said Rudy Sunendar, head of the energy ministry's geology department.
"We don't know exactly because we are not yet gone to the field" due to bad weather, he told The Associated Press at the volcano's monitoring post. "Based on the satellite imagery interpretation, there is collapse of some area of Mount Anak Krakatau."
Saturday's disaster struck without warning, surprising people in a country that regularly suffers landslides, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. No big earthquake shook the ground beforehand, and the waves surged inland at night on a holiday weekend while people were enjoying concerts and other beachside activities.
Indonesia's tsunami warning system relies on land seismometers and buoys connected to tidal gauges and is not equipped to detect underwater landslides. The system, in any case, has not operated for years because the buoys have been vandalized or not maintained because of low funding.
Heavy rains and high seas have hampered the search for victims. Some bodies were found at sea and at least 159 people are missing.
On Thursday, residents of badly affected Banten province on Java island were searching through the debris of destroyed or damaged homes for anything salvageable.
"I've lost everything I have, my house and all belongings inside it," said farmer Muhamad Sarta.
"I just hope for some help from the government," he said. "Hopefully there will be some repairs. I have nowhere to go. I have no money. Whatever I had was lost in the water."
Radar data from satellites, converted into images, shows Anak Krakatau shrunk dramatically following Saturday's eruption.
Satellite photos aren't available because of cloud cover but radar images from a Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency satellite taken before and after the eruption show the volcano's southwestern flank has disappeared.
JAXA's post-eruption image shows concentric waves radiating from the island, which experts say is caused by its ongoing eruptions.
Dave Petley, head of research and innovation at Sheffield University who analyzed similar images from a European Space Agency satellite, said they support the theory that a landslide, most of it undersea, caused the tsunami.
"The challenge now is to interpret what might be happening on the volcano, and what might happen next," he wrote in a blog.
Anak Krakatau, which means Child of Krakatau, is the offspring of the infamous Krakatau volcano that affected the global climate with a massive eruption in 1883.
Anak Krakatau first rose above sea level in 1929, according to Indonesia's volcanology agency, and has been increasing its land mass since then.
Taipei, Dec 27 (AP/UNB) — Thousands of Taiwanese, taking a page from France's yellow vest movement, protested Thursday for the third time in a week to demand lower taxes and the fair handling of tax disputes.
Wearing yellow vests, they shouted slogans and blared air horns outside the Ministry of Finance in Taipei, the capital city, and waved banners calling Taiwan's tax collection policies illegal. Some wore clear plastic raincoats over their vests in a light rain.
"This is about our futures," said Joanna Tai, a 23-year-old English-language graduate student who plans to teach after graduation next year.
"We look at wages in Hong Kong and mainland China. We want to know why there's so much of a gap with Taiwan," she said. "Then a lot of my classmates want to start companies and be their own bosses but, because of taxes, a lot of small businesses have folded."
The Tax & Legal Reform League, an activist group, called the protest after marshaling about 20,000 people outside the presidential office in an initial demonstration a week ago, and another 10,000 on Saturday, according to organizers and Taiwanese media.
The organizers said they were inspired by the success of the recent French protests, which turned violent and were blamed for 10 deaths. The Taiwanese protests have been peaceful.
French President Emmanuel Macron eventually agreed to scrap a tax hike for gasoline and diesel and increase the minimum salary for full-time workers, as well as other steps.
"We saw Macron and he wanted to soften up, so that gave us some encouragement to protest, so we hope the president here can hear our voices," Reform League media liaison Wang Chih-lan said. "The Ministry of Finance is the major culprit. It's a big organization that's causing poverty in Taiwan."
A ministry spokeswoman said earlier this week that anti-tax activists have been pushing for lower taxes for about 20 years. Tsai Meng-chu said that the ministry has responded to some of their complaints on its website, including a rebuttal to allegations that the tax system contributes to poverty.
"Their complaints are just that they're not satisfied with the tax system," she said, noting that Taiwan offers payment deferrals to low-income individuals.
Protesters said they had received tax bills sent in error or asking for too much tax. An appeal costs too much, they said, and tax collectors sometimes keep hounding them for taxes even after losing in court. Income taxes add hardship to young people in low-paid, entry-level jobs, some said.
The average monthly wage in Taiwan is $1,364, and the minimum wage is set to rise to $750 in January. During her campaign, President Tsai Ing-wen said she would work on wages and welfare for youth.
Taiwanese who earn less than $2.42 million New Taiwan dollars (about $78,500) a year pay no more than 20 percent in taxes, according to data compiled by professional services firm KPMG.
KPMG ranked Taiwan 33rd for the world's highest taxes on a list of 135 countries and regions. France ranked 12th.
Islamabad, Dec 27 (Xinhua/UNB) - The Pakistani government on Wednesday announced to launch a wide-ranging comprehensive operation to counter-terrorism and target killing across the country in March next year.
Minister of State for Interior Shehryar Khan Afridi told media that the government has decided to launch the National Action Plan, a comprehensive action plan to crack down on terrorism and to supplement the ongoing anti-terrorist offensive.
The announcement came after the targeted killing of former parliamentarian and senior politician Syed Ali Raza Abidi who was shot dead by unknown assailants outside his house in Karachi.
The attack at Abidi is the fourth terrorist attack in Karachi during last one month, which has raised serious concerns over the country's achievements against the terrorism.
The minister said the political and military leadership and key security agencies would sit together to take decisions to bring betterment to the country's national security plan.
The minister said the government will also revive the National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA), the country's national organization established to gather intelligence and disseminate and coordinate between all relevant stakeholders to counter terrorism and extremism.
"We shall try hard to eliminate this plague from the country through joint efforts of all stakeholders including provinces and the central government, and those who want to destabilize the country will be identified soon," said the minister.
Indonesia, Dec 27 (AP/UNB) — Panicked residents, police and soldiers in this remote fishing village clobbered by a devastating weekend tsunami ran to higher ground Tuesday, shouting "Water is coming! Water is coming!" and reciting verses from the Quran as emergency messages were broadcast over mosque speakers.
It proved to be a false alarm, but a similar frenzy broke out in Tanjung Lesung, another tsunami-stricken area located hours away, as unsettled survivors of the disaster remained traumatized by a tragedy that killed more than 420 people and left thousands homeless.
Meanwhile, Christmas celebrations were replaced by somber prayers, as church leaders called on Christians across Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, to pray for tsunami victims.
Unlike other tsunamis that have hit disaster-prone Indonesia following large earthquakes, Saturday's big waves blasted ashore at night without warning. The eruption of Anak Krakatau, or Child of Krakatoa, a volcano in the Sunda Strait, is believed to have created a landslide on the volcano's slope, displacing a large volume of water that slammed into the islands of Java and Sumatra.
People in Sumur village, which has been slow to receive aid due to roads being cut off, remained stunned by how quickly the tsunami hit. The beach, located just a few kilometers from the tourist island of Umang near Java's western tip, is popular for snorkeling and other water activities. The tsunami decimated the area, ripping houses from their foundations and bulldozing concrete buildings.
Scientists have said the tsunami's waves were recorded in several places at about 1 meter (3.3 feet) high, but residents of Sumur insisted they towered more than 3 meters (10 feet) there. They said a soaring white wall of water roared toward them at high speeds, ripping trees out of the ground by their roots.
"There was no sign of a tsunami when we were at the beach. The sea didn't recede," said Tati Hayati, a housewife, who was enjoying a pleasant evening with 10 other people when the disaster hit. "It was calm and bright with the full moon."
When she spotted high, fast-moving waves launching toward the shore, she ran to her car and managed to get inside. But she couldn't outrun it. She said the car was struck by three waves, breaking out the back window and filling the vehicle with gushing water.
"We were locked inside. The car was swaying in the waves and we thought we would all die," Hayati said. "We almost could not breathe and I almost gave up when I groped the key in the water and managed to open the door, and the water began to recede. We got out of the car and ran to safety."
The disaster was compounded because it occurred over a busy holiday weekend before Christmas when many people had fled crowded cities such as Jakarta, Indonesia's capital, to relax at popular beach areas.
Pastor Markus Taekz said Tuesday that his Rahmat Pentecostal Church in the hard-hit area of Carita did not celebrate Christmas with joyous songs this year. Instead, only about 100 people showed up for the service, which usually brings in double that number. Many congregation members had already left the area for locations away from the disaster zone.
"This is an unusual situation because we have a very bad disaster that killed hundreds of our sisters and brothers in Banten," Taekz said, referring to the province on Java island. "So our celebration is full of grief."
The death toll climbed to 429 on Tuesday, with more than 1,400 people injured and at least 128 missing, said Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman for Indonesia's Disaster Mitigation Agency.
He said more than 16,000 people were displaced and that there was an urgent need for heavy equipment in the Sumur subdistrict near Ujung Kulon National Park to help get aid flowing and reach people who may be injured or trapped.
Military troops, government personnel and volunteers continued searching along debris-strewn beaches. Yellow, orange and black body bags were laid out where victims were found, and weeping relatives identified the dead. Many searched for missing loved ones at hospital morgues.
The lead singer of the Indonesian pop band Seventeen located the body of his dead wife after posting emotional posts on social media, vowing that he would not leave her. The group was performing at a beach hotel when the tsunami was captured on video smashing into their stage, killing several band members and crew.
Anak Krakatau is a volcanic island that formed in the early part of the 20th century near the site of the cataclysmic 1883 eruption of Krakatoa, which killed more than 30,000 people and hurled so much ash that it turned day to night in the area and reduced global temperatures.
The head of Indonesia's Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency, Dwikorita Karnawati, said Saturday's tsunami was likely caused by Anak Krakatau's volcanic activity and so could not have been picked up by sensors, which monitor conventional earthquakes responsible for more than 90 percent of Indonesia's tsunamis.
She said the tsunami was probably caused by the collapse of a big section of the volcano's slope. Anak Krakatau has been erupting since June and did so again 24 minutes before the tsunami, according to the geophysics agency. Other scientists have said an underwater landslide may also have contributed to the disaster.
Indonesia, a vast archipelago of more than 17,000 islands and home to 260 million people, lies along the Ring of Fire, an arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific Basin.
In September, thousands were believed killed by a quake and tsunami that hit Indonesia's Sulawesi island. A quake on the island of Lombok killed 505 people in August.
Saturday's disaster came ahead of the anniversary of the massive Asian tsunami that hit Dec. 26, 2004, after a magnitude 9.1 earthquake off Sumatra island spawned huge waves. The giant wall of water killed some 230,000 people in a dozen countries, most of them in Indonesia.