BRIEFLY: Uganda student, South African MP shot; Tanzania terror mastermind killed; South Sudan warriors talk; Africa Cup in jeopardy

Official figures released last month showed that more than 17,000 people were killed in South Africa last year.

THE week opened with a lot of news about shooting news, but also of guns likely to go silent, as South Sudan’s warring factions meet in Tanzania. In a major hopeful sign, the WHO declared Nigeria Ebola free on Monday. Here are the stories that didn’t get the big headlines:

ANC MP shot in South Africa

A TOP member of South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) was shot during a robbery after he was accosted while withdrawing cash, police said on Monday.

Jackson Mthembu, a member of parliament and former spokesman of the ANC was shot on Sunday in the town of Witbank, east of Johannesburg, while getting cash from an ATM machine. Police said he was approached by a robber who demanded that he withdraw all his money. 

A firearm went off during the confrontation, striking Mthembu in the cheek. “Mthembu was rushed to hospital and is said to be in a stable condition,” said police spokesman Brigadier Selvy Mohlala.

South Africa is known for its  high number of violent crimes, and official figures released last month showed that more than 17,000 people were killed in the last year.


Uganda police shoot student

UGANDA police fired live bullets and tear gas on Monday to break up protests by university students, wounding several people, authorities and witnesses said.

“We were holding a peaceful strike but police came and fired bullets and tear gas, several students have been injured—one was hit by a stray bullet and was taken to hospital,” student leader Ivan Boowe told AFP.

Police said only one student was wounded.

The students, from the capital’s Makerere University, were calling for graduation fees to be lowered, from some $85 to $35.

Since the beginning of this year, Makerere students have staged numerous demonstrations against rising costs.


Tanzania police kill bombing “mastermind”

Tanzanian police said Monday they had shot dead a man suspected of carrying out bomb attacks in the tourist town of Arusha, including targeting a church and restaurant.
Yahaya Omari was described by police as the “mastermind, brain, coordinator and the main performer of terrorist bombings and acid attacks in Arusha.”

He was being transferred to the Tanzanian capital Dodoma when he tried to escape, with officers shooting him dead late Sunday. Omari, a martial arts teacher aged 31, who was also known as Yahaya Sensei, was arrested on October 6. 

During questioning, police said Omari had “admitted to have planned, coordinated and led” a series of attacks since 2012, although no details were given for his motivation. Police said he had admitted carrying out a bomb attack in July on a restaurant in Arusha wounding eight people, as well as a May 2013 attack on a Catholic church, when an improvised bomb ripped through the building, wounding 30. 

Religious tensions between Tanzania’s usually peaceful Christian and Muslim communities have occasionally flared with attacks on mosques and churches.


Warring South Sudan rivals meet in Tanzania

Warring South Sudanese factions were meeting Monday in Tanzania in the latest bid to end a 10-month civil war in which thousands of people have been killed, a presidential aide said.

Peace talks to find a lasting solution to the conflict that broke out on December 15 between factions loyal to President Salva Kiir and his former vice president Riek Machar have been repeatedly interrupted. But delegations have “had successful meetings so far”, Awan Riak, Minister in the Office of the President told reporters before Kiir flew to Arusha to take part in the talks. 

Kiir hopes to meet face-to-face with Machar, Riak said, without giving further details or a timeframe. It would be the first time the rivals meet since signing a ceasefire in August in Ethiopia, which like three previous agreements swiftly collapsed. The talks in the northern Tanzanian tourist town of Arusha follow an invitation from President Jakaya Kikwete, who has also met with both leaders. “We are hopeful that something will come out from Arusha,” South Sudanese foreign ministry spokesman Mawien Makol said. No major deal is expected, but the two leaders have not even met for almost two months. 

Political and military leaders have repeatedly broken promises made under intense international pressure, including visits to South Sudan by UN chief Ban Ki-moon and US Secretary of State John Kerry. 

Thousands of people have been killed and almost two million have fled fighting between government troops, mutinous soldiers and ragtag militia forces partly divided along ethnic lines. Almost 100,000 people are sheltering in squalid UN peacekeeping bases fearing they will be killed if they leave.

Earlier this month, a group of 19 major aid agencies warned that while massive food drops had helped avert famine for now, the threat remained, and the risk grew greater the longer the war continues.


South Africa rejects hosting Africa Nations Cup

South Africa is not ready to host the Africa Cup of Nations in January if Morocco withdraws because of the Ebola epidemic, Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula said Monday.

The Confederation of African Football (CAF) has reportedly approached South Africa, Ghana and five others countries ahead of a November 2 meeting to decide on the future of the continent’s premier football event. 

But the minister tweeted: “Hosting AFCON (Africa Cup of Nations) is a NO NO.” He told South African media that the country had a responsibility to help fight to help fight the Ebola epidemic that has killed more than 4,500 people, mainly in West Africa, with the UN predicting a surge in deaths and cases. “Even before taking the matter to cabinet, I can tell you unambiguously and categorically that hosting is a no no,” he told South African media. 

“We do not have a ready-made abundance of resources to be shifted to AFCON. “We did it (host the 2013 AFCON) in solidarity with Libya last year. Our budget cycle will not allow us to host the (2015) AFCON. It is totally impossible. We would like to give this one a pass”, Mbalula added.

South Africa were among seven countries sounded out by the CAF as possible replacements should Morocco pull out. The country has twice been ‘emergency’ hosts of the competition, replacing cash-strapped Kenya in 1996 and strife-torn Libya last year. South Africa has world-class stadia having become the first African hosts of the World Cup four years ago. 

Ghana has also been approached by CAF, according to the sports minister of the west African country. The identities of the other five countries have not been officially revealed.

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