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Libyan state oil firm says output down 75 percent due to blockade

Libya's oil production has plunged by around three-quarters since forces loyal to military strongman Khalifa Haftar launched a blockade a week ago, the National Oil Corporation announced Saturday. The fall, from 1.2 million barrels per day to just over 320,000, has caused estimated losses of $256 million since the closure of major oil fields and ports in the east and south of the country, the NOC said in a statement. Haftar, who controls the east and large swathes of the south, began an offensive in April last year to seize the capital Tripoli from the UN-recognised Government of National Accord. Pro-Haftar forces blockaded the main oil terminals in eastern Libya the day before a summit in Berlin on January 19 that called for the end of foreign interference in the conflict and a resumption of the peace process. The move to cripple the country's main income source was a protest against Turkey's decision to send troops to shore up Haftar's rivals. Turkey has backed th..

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Gambians rally seeking dicator’s trial for murder, rights abuses

Hundreds of Gambians marched Saturday in the outskirts of the capital Banjul, demanding justice for sweeping rights abuses and murder they suffered under former dictator Yahya Jammeh's 22-year rule. Jammeh ruled Gambia with an iron fist but fled in January 2017 after losing a presidential election to relative unknown Adama Barrow which he refused to acknowledge before being forced out of power by a popular uprising. Wearing T-shirts that read #justicemustprevail, the protesters held photographs of people killed or who have gone missing, including AFP correspondent Deyda Hydara, who was gunned down on 16 December 2004 by Jammeh's henchmen. "We want justice and we want it immediately," they cried and demanding a ban on Jammeh's former ruling Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction party (APRC). Nyima Sonko, 42, the widow of Solo Sandeng, a political activist who was arrested and tortured to death after he led a protest march for electoral reform, said: "We ar..

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Cleaner receives 15 years for stealing Morocco king’s watches

A Moroccan court has sentenced a cleaner to 15 years in prison for the theft of dozens of luxury watches belonging to King Mohammed VI, her lawyer said. The 46-year-old woman worked in a royal household and the judgement was handed down overnight Friday to Saturday at a court in the Moroccan capital, Rabat. She was accused of having stolen 36 luxury watches. The woman initially had watches melted down and sold on to gold merchants, before starting to sell timepieces intact. Another 14 people -- all men who traded gold or were intermediaries -- were sentenced to at least four years in prison after being found guilty of involvement in the affair. One, convicted as an accomplice of the woman, received 15 years. Arrested at the end of 2019, they were also tried for forming "a criminal gang", but told the judge they had no knowledge of the robberies. Forbes magazine in 2014 classified the 56-year-old monarch as one of the world's richest men with wealth estimated at more than $2.5 bill..

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Isabel dos Santos’ graft scandal ups stakes for Angola

Allegations of corruption swirling around his predecessor's daughter have set a crucial test for Angolan President Joao Lourenco in his vow to reform a country rich in oil and tainted by graft. Isabel dos Santos, the 46-year-old billionaire daughter of ex-president Jose Eduardo dos Santos, is being probed for allegedly siphoning off millions from state companies and stashing the funds overseas. Analysts say the mounting scandal raises the stakes -- not just for the dos Santos family and elites who prospered during the ex-president's 38-year rule, but also for Lourenco himself. "A lot rests on this case," said Berlin-based Transparency International's southern Africa advisor, Mokgabo Kupe. Dos Santos "is a symbol of the fight against corruption," said Oxford University fellow and Angolan law professor Rui Verde. "If (she) is charged, of course, everyone could be charged." Dos Santos was indicted this week for a host of top-level financial crimes, including money launderin..

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Torrential rain kills dozens in Madagascar

At least 26 people have died in Madagascar after almost a week of heavy rain in the north-west of the island, the government said on Friday. The tropical Indian Ocean nation is in the midst of an intense six-month rainy season that often results in casualties and widespread damage. Flooding in the districts of Mitsinjo and Maevatanana has claimed at least 26 lives since Sunday, and 15 more people are still missing and thousands have been displaced, the National Bureau of Disaster Risk Management (BNGRC) announced on Friday. Strips of road were swept away by the rains and access to affected areas has been cut off. The BNGRC warned that flooding in lowland and rice-growing areas also posed a risk of "food insecurity and malnutrition". A disruption in the supply of basic goods could also lead to surge in prices, it added. Prime Minister Christian Ntsay declared the situation a "national loss". "The government is calling on national figures and international partners to help the Malagasy p..

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Spanish FM in Morocco to discuss maritime borders

Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez on Friday acknowledged Morocco's "right" to chart its territorial waters but said such a move must respect international regulations. Her remarks, at a joint news conference in Rabat with her Moroccan counterpart Nasser Bourita, came after Morocco adopted two laws extending its legal jurisdiction over disputed Western Sahara. The laws voted by parliament on Wednesday integrate waters off the coast of the former Spanish colony into Morocco's maritime territory. "Morocco has the right to delineate a territorial maritime zone... (but it must) respect the rules and norms of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea... and international law," Spain's top diplomat said. Bourita said Wednesday's vote to delineate Morocco's maritime territory was "a sovereign act in line with international law". "Morocco delineated its frontiers... as Spain did before it. This could lead to some overlaps and that is why we seek dialog..

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15 on trial for robbing Morocco king of luxury watches

Fifteen people went on trial in the Moroccan capital on Friday over the theft of dozens of luxury watches belonging to King Mohammed VI. Defence lawyers said the suspects, arrested at the end of last year, were also charged in a Rabat court of forming "a criminal gang". The main suspect is a 46-year-old who worked as a cleaning woman in a royal household and has allegedly confessed to the robberies, while the others have denied involvement. The woman, who is alleged to have stolen 36 watches, had many of them melted down and sold on to gold merchants. The 14 others in court, all men, are gold traders or intermediaries who said they had no knowledge of the robberies. Forbes magazine in 2014 classified the 56-year-old monarch as one of the world's richest men with wealth estimated at more than $2.5 billion. He has a taste for luxury cars, paintings and watches, and was shown in an Instagram post in September 2018 with a Patek Philippe diamond-encrusted watch in white gold with an es..

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Sudan rebel groups ink key deal on security, land, power sharing

A coalition of nine rebel groups from two conflict areas in Sudan on Friday signed a preliminary agreement with the government after weeks of talks in a key step towards a final peace deal. The peace talks began in October in South Sudan and aim to end conflicts in Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan, where rebels have fought bloody campaigns against marginalisation by Khartoum under ousted president Omar al-Bashir. The latest deal covers key issues around land, giving local authorities the right to make their own laws, power sharing, and the creation of a unified national army. It was signed by groups from the Blue Nile area and Darfur, however rebels from South Kordofan -- who are demanding an autonomous state -- did not as they press further demands. "With this agreement, there (are) so many details including the issues of land that (were) resolved," said Adi Idriss, chairman of the coalition, the Sudan Revolutionary Front. The agreement also addressed legislature for the two areas..

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Cholera deepens misery in eastern DR Congo’s ‘forgotten’ crisis

In eastern DR Congo, thousands have fled violence to camps in the remote mountain forests where they battle cholera, hunger and misery in a forgotten humanitarian disaster. Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo has long struggled with violence from several militia groups, a legacy of the 1990s Congo wars that dragged in neighbouring Uganda and Rwanda. As well as unnsanitary conditions, a lack of clean water and starvation, now since late last year, an outbreak of cholera and measles have worsened life in the camps. By ALEXIS HUGUET (AFP) The region is now also the epicentre of the latest Ebola epidemic, which has killed more than 2,200 people since August 2018. Away from the Ebola headlines, tens of thousands of people are scattered in squalid camps across the mountains around Masisi, where they have fled, traumatised by violence, starving and with no chance to return home. Away from the Ebola headlines, tens of thousands of people are scattered in squalid camps across the mountains a..

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Isabel dos Santos’s Portugal funds embezzled: Angola prosecutor

Angola's chief prosecutor on Friday said funds that Isabel dos Santos, who is accused of stealing millions of dollars from state companies, invested in Portugal had been embezzled from her home country. "Angola believes that the money used for business conducted by Isabel dos Santos in Portugal left Angola by illicit means," Helder Pitta Gros told the RTP television station on a trip to Lisbon. The accusation comes a day after the tycoon daughter of Angola's ex-president Jose Eduardo dos Santos vowed she would fight what she called "misleading and untrue" allegations which have stretched across Angola's state oil and diamond industries and banks to Lisbon. Angola's prosecutors accuse dos Santos of financial crimes during her tenure at Sonangol, Angola's state-owned oil giant which she headed during her father's rule, and charged her with money laundering, influence peddling, harmful management, forgery of documents and more. Much of the allegedly misapprop..

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