Johannesburg, July 15 (AP/UNB) — Former South African president Jacob Zuma has denied corruption allegations against him, saying the charges are part of an international intelligence conspiracy that started more than 25 years ago to assassinate his character.
Zuma is appearing before a state commission that is probing wide-ranging allegations of corruption in government and state-owned companies.
Zuma dismissed the accusations against him saying that they stemmed from efforts by South Africa's previous apartheid regime and other foreign intelligence agencies to have him removed from powerful positions in the African National Congress, now the ruling party.
This, he told the commission, was because these intelligence agencies had infiltrated the ANC and feared that Zuma would either expose their spies.
Zuma's first day on the stand saw him staging a fightback against what he claims that he is corrupt.
He alleged that one of the witnesses who made allegations against him at the commission, former mining minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi, had been recruited by the intelligence agencies as a spy during the apartheid days.
He also questioned the fairness of the state commission, saying it was also part of the alleged conspiracy against him.
Among some of the allegations Zuma faces are that members of the wealthy Indian family, the Guptas, influenced his cabinet appointments when he was president and subsequently swayed the awarding of lucrative state contracts.
In this phenomenon, known here as 'state capture', the Gupta family businesses allegedly took control of a large number of government departments and state-owned enterprises including the struggling power utility, Eskom.
Zuma told the commission that his relationship with the Guptas was nothing unusual or unlawful as they also had relationships with his two predecessors, former presidents Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki.
"They were friends with Mbeki and with Mandela as well, and others. In fact, they were stronger with Mbeki," said Zuma.
Earlier Monday Zuma was asked about allegations made by a former cabinet spokesman, Themba Maseko, that he had personally called him and tried to influence the award of significant government advertising contracts to the Guptas' now-defunct media businesses.
Zuma denied this, saying he could not remember any such intervention.
Zuma told the commission that he had suggested to the Guptas that they should start a newspaper and a broadcasting channel, which they did establish.
About 300 people gathered outside the commission venue to show their support for Zuma.
Others who came to show their support for the controversial former president included his son, Duduzane, who was last week found not guilty of culpable homicide related to a 2014 car crashed that killed a taxi passenger.
Two former cabinet ministers and two former deputy ministers also attended the commission to show their support for Zuma.
Zuma continues his testimony this week.
Congo, July 15(AP/UNB) — The Congolese health ministry confirmed an Ebola case in Goma late Sunday, marking the first time the virus has reached the city of more than 2 million people along the border with Rwanda since the epidemic began nearly a year ago.
The health ministry said the man who had arrived earlier Sunday in the regional capital had been quickly transported to an Ebola treatment center. Authorities said they had tracked down all the passengers on the bus the man took to Goma from Butembo, one of the towns hardest hit by the disease.
"Because of the speed with which the patient was identified and isolated, and the identification of all the other bus passengers coming from Butembo, the risk of it spreading in the rest of the city of Goma is small," the health ministry said in a statement.
The virus has killed more than 1,600 people in Congo and two others who returned home across the border to neighboring Uganda. Health experts have long feared that it could make its way to Goma, which is located on the Rwandan border.
The health ministries in Congo's neighbors have been preparing for months for the possibility of cases, and frontline health workers already have been vaccinated.
The confirmed case announced late Sunday in eastern Congo involves a pastor who became ill last Tuesday. He then left Butembo on a bus, and arrived at a health center Sunday showing symptoms of Ebola, the health ministry said.
Violent attacks against health workers and treatment facilities have greatly compromised efforts to combat the epidemic in Butembo.
Eastern Congo is home to a myriad of armed groups, and Mai Mai militia fighters are active near the hardest hit towns. Health teams have been unable to access violent areas to vaccinate people at risk of infection and to bring infected patients into isolation.
Other times the violence against health teams has come from residents who do not want their loved ones taken to treatment centers or buried in accordance with guidelines aimed at reducing Ebola transmission.
While the experimental vaccine is believed to have saved countless lives, not all Congolese people have accepted it. Some falsely believe that the vaccine is what is making people sick, in part because people can still develop the disease after getting the shot if they already had been infected.
Mogadishu, Jul 13 (AP/UNB) — At least 10 people, including two journalists, were killed in an extremist attack Friday on a hotel in the port city of Kismayo, a Somali official said.
Abdi Ahmed, a local district official, told The Associated Press the death toll may rise as fighting is continuing inside the Asasey Hotel between the extremist gunmen and security forces. He said gunfire is continuing inside the hotel.
He said most of the victims were patrons of the hotel, which is often frequented by lawmakers and local officials. He said the victims include two journalists.
The attack started with a suicide car bomb blast and then gunmen stormed into the hotel.
Somalia's al-Shabab Islamic rebels have claimed the responsibility.
Mogadishu-based independent radio station Radio Dalsan confirmed to The Associated Press that Canadian journalist Hodan Nalayeh and her husband, Farid Jama Suleiman died in the attack.
"I'm absolutely devastated by the news of the death of our dear sister Hodan Nalayeh and her husband in a terrorist attack in Somalia today. What a loss to us. Her beautiful spirit shined through her work and the way she treated people," Omar Suleiman, a Texas-based imam who knew the victim, wrote on social media.
Nalayeh was born in Somalia in 1976, but spent most of her life in Canada, first in Alberta and then in Toronto. She founded Integration TV, an international web-based video production company aimed at Somali viewers around the world. She was the first Somali woman media owner in the world.
Khartoum, Jul 12 (AP/UNB) — Sudan's ruling military council said it foiled an attempted military coup Thursday, just days after the military and a pro-democracy coalition agreed on a joint sovereign council to rule the country during a transition period until elections are held.
Lt. Gen. Gamal Omar, a member of the military council, said in a statement that at least 16 active and retired military officers were arrested. Security forces were pursuing the group's leader and additional officers who took part in plotting the coup attempt, he said.
The council did not reveal the name of the attempted leader, his rank or other details. The statement also said five of the arrested officers were retired.
The military and a pro-democracy coalition agreed last Friday on a joint sovereign council that will rule for a little over three years while elections are organized. Both sides say a diplomatic push by the U.S. and its Arab allies was key to ending a weekslong standoff that raised fears of all-out civil war.
"The attempted coup came in a critical time, ahead of the deal with the Forces for Declaration of Freedom and Change," Omar said, referring to the group that speaks for the pro-democracy demonstrators.
Sudan has been in political deadlock since the overthrow of autocratic President Omar al-Bashir in April.
On Sunday, Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, Sudan's top general, said the military council that assumed power after al-Bashir's overthrow would be dissolved with the implementation of the power-sharing deal.
The deal was meant to end the impasse between the military council and the protest movement since security forces razed a massive pro-democracy sit-in in Khartoum early last month, killing more than 100 people, according to protest organizers.
In the ensuing weeks, protesters stayed in the streets, demanding that the generals hand power to civilian leadership.
The deal was reached after tens of thousands of people flooded the streets of Sudan's main cities on June 30 in the biggest demonstrations since the sit-in camp was razed. At least 11 people were killed in clashes with security forces, according to protest organizers.
The power-sharing arrangement is to include a joint sovereign council of five civilians representing the protest movement and five military members. An 11th seat is to go to a civilian chosen by both sides. The protesters will select a Cabinet of technocrats, and a legislative council is to be formed after three months.
The two sides also agreed on an independent Sudanese investigation into the deadly crackdown, but the details have yet to be worked out.
Cairo, July 11 (AP/UNB) — Egyptian prosecutors Thursday charged the administrator of a Facebook page that supports former autocratic president Hosni Mubarak with spreading false news and undermining national interests after a post implied Mubarak did more to help Egypt's poor than the current government of President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.
Karim Hussein, whose Facebook page "I am sorry, Mr. President" has more than 3 million followers, was arrested Tuesday, a few days after he posted video clips of Mubarak's old speeches, in which he expressed compassion for the poor and voiced his vehement opposition to lifting state subsidies. Mubarak was forced from power by a pro-democracy uprising in 2011.
The post came on the heels of the government's decision to raise fuel prices by up to 30 percent for the fourth time in three years — a move expected to inflict further pain on Egypt's middle class and poor.
"This is not first time (Hussein has) published online, but the catastrophe happened when he compared prices under Mubarak and el-Ssisi," said Gamal Eid, an Egyptian human rights lawyer. "Then, he became accused of spreading false news. In fact, it is not false news and he has not committed any crime. He is just expressing his views."
Earlier this week, Hussein posted a photograph of Mubarak holding the trophy of the African Cup of Nations and surrounded by Egypt's triumphant national soccer team, which won the African tournament several times under Mubarak's rule.
The post alluded to the early elimination of Egypt's national team from the current tournament, which Egypt is hosting. The defeat has been a source of embarrassment for the Egyptian government, which had hoped that hosting the tournament as well as winning it might boost its popularity.
Egypt under el-Sissi has implemented a sweeping crackdown on dissent, jailing activists, bloggers and others under vague laws that criminalize nearly any criticism of authorities. Egypt's military overthrew the country's first elected president, an Islamist who proved divisive, in 2013. Since then, authorities have rolled back freedoms won in the 2011 uprising that drove Mubarak from power.
On Thursday, parliament voted with a sweeping majority in favor of a presidential decree extending a nationwide state of emergency for another three months. El-Sissi's regime argues that emergency laws are needed to crush the Islamic militants he has been battling for several years, especially in the restive northern Sinai Peninsula. Human rights advocates complain the emergency laws are also used to repress peaceful political adversaries.
The High State Security prosecutor ordered Hussein's detention for 15 days. He was also charged with joining a banned group that seeks to undermine the state — an allusion to the Muslim Brotherhood organization, an accusation that has been recently brought against most critics of El-Sissi.
"The fabrication of allegations is no longer the exclusive work of the police or the state security apparatus but the prosecution has become involved too," said Eid, the rights lawyer. "This is very dangerous because people will lose faith in the judiciary and this will take us back to pre-modern times."
Eid predicted Hussein would not stand trial because of the weak allegations against him but face a prolonged pre-trial detention. He said pre-trail detention has become a notorious way of punishing political opponents.
"I am sorry, Mr. President," is one of several Facebook pages created in 2011 by Mubarak supporters who opposed the pro-democracy groups behind the ouster of longtime autocrat Mubarak.
Hussein's page usually posts pictures of Mubarak and his family and has been a platform to voice support for the military since it overthrew the Muslim Brotherhood government in 2013.
"We do not agree with (Hussein) and we do not even like him," said Eid. "But as far as freedom of expression is concerned, he did not commit any crime and our duty is to defend him."
Upon Hussein's arrest, a statement was posted on the Facebook page voicing the group's "complete faith" in the state and stressing that the police had treated him with respect.
Mubarak was freed from prison in 2017, ending nearly six years of legal proceedings against him. He was acquitted by the country's top appeals court of charges that he ordered the killing of protesters during the 2011 uprising.