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  • Congo asks companies to block social media before anti-Kabila protests

    KINSHASA (Reuters) - Authorities in Democratic Republic of Congo have asked telecoms companies to block social media networks from Monday, apparently to thwart protests against plans by President Joseph Kabila to stay in power beyond the end of his mandate.

    Providers including Vodacom, Orange and Airtel did not immediately comment on whether they would comply, but one industry executive said all companies had signed an agreement to respect national security injunctions.

    The country's top court has extended Kabila's tenure beyond the end of his two-term limit in the wake of a deal between the government and some opposition leaders to delay a vote in November to choose a successor until April 2018.

    The government blocked social media networks and the Internet during protests in January 2015, justifying the measure as necessary to prevent rumours that could fuel violence. Human rights groups criticized the decision.

    Kabila took power in 2001 and a campaign by the opposition to force him to step down has led to years of sporadic demonstrations and arrests. More than 50 died in protests in September and a similar number died in January 2015.

    The request to block social media was made in a letter by the Regulatory Authority of the Post and Telecommunications of Congo (ARPTC), a copy of which was seen by Reuters. It listed Facebook, Twitter, Skype, YouTube and LinkedIn as services that should be blocked temporarily.

    The government spokesman and telecommunications minister could not immediately be reached for comment.

    In November, police in Kinshasa fired tear gas to disperse opposition supporters seeking to defy a ban on public protests and rally against Kabila, and the signals of two radio broadcasters were disabled.

    Opposition leaders called new protests for this month.

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  • Berlin truck attack suspect killed in Italy shootout

    German prosecutors issued a Europe-wide wanted notice for 24-year-old Anis Amri, offering a 100,000-euro reward for information and warning he "could be violent and armed"

    Italian police on Friday shot dead the prime suspect in the Berlin Christmas market attack, ending a frantic four-day hunt for Europe's most wanted man.

    But just as German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed relief that suspected attacker Anis Amri no longer posed a threat, she pledged a "comprehensive" analysis of how he was slipped through the net in the first place.

    Amri, a 24-year-old Tunisian, is believed to have hijacked a lorry and used it to mow down holiday revellers at the market on Monday, killing 12 and wounding dozens more.

    "We can be relieved at the end of this week that the acute danger is over," Merkel told reporters.

    AFP / Jean Michel CORNU, Simon MALFATTOBerlin attack suspect killed

    "However the danger of terrorism in general endures, as it has for several years. We all know that."

    The Islamic State jihadist group has claimed responsibility and released a video Friday in which Amri is shown pledging allegiance to IS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

    He had been missing since escaping immediately after the attack, but his time on the run was cut short thanks to a combination of luck and the quick reflexes of rookie Italian police officer Luca Scata.

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  • Mali denies agreement on failed EU asylum seekers

    Bamako (AFP) - Mali's foreign minister on Monday denied an agreement had been reached with the European Union to take back migrants failing to get asylum.

    The Dutch foreign ministry signed a joint declaration on the EU's behalf on December 11 which it said would tackle "the root causes of illegal migration" and "enable the return from Europe of Malian migrants".

    But Abdoulaye Diop told a press conference: "At no point was there any question of signing an agreement that would allow the expulsion of countrymen (living) in Europe illegally."

    Mali "does not intend to put a price on its dignity even if the EU is a development partner."

    Expressing "astonishment" at learning via the media he had signed such a document, Diop said the visit of his Dutch counterpart Bert Koenders to Bamako had never been intended as the moment to make a deal.

    The number of migrants from African nations who risk their lives at sea in a desperate bid to reach Europe has increased considerably in recent years.

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  • Lawyer of Gabon's Ping safe in 'friendly' embassy

    Libreville (AFP) - A lawyer for opposition leader Jean Ping thought to have gone missing is hiding in a "friendly" country's embassy, the Gabonese politician said on Tuesday.

    Ping's party had said on Sunday that Eric Iga Iga, one of two lawyers who represented Ping in a Constitutional Court challenge to President Ali Bongo's controversial election victory in August, had been missing for three days.

    But Ping said Iga Iga, who fled after feeling "in danger", is safe and well.

    "Late during the night of Thursday, one of my lawyers, Mr Eric Iga Iga, received a visit from elements presenting themselves as belonging to the defence and security services -- more specifically the military police -- in the most completely illegal way," Ping said in a statement.

    "Feeling in danger, Mr Iga Iga chose to hide by going to look for protection from the embassy of a big, friendly country which was happy to host him until now."

    Ping's spokesman, Jean-Gaspard Ntoutoume Ayi told AFP that Iga Iga remains in the embassy, but declined to reveal which country was hosting the lawyer.

    "Mr Iga Iga has deliberately chosen to break the silence to allow this embassy to let his family know where he is," added Ping's statement, which thanked the embassy for offering his lawyer protection.

    "I ask all those around me in this battle to remain vigilant," warned Ping.

    Ping has been calling himself the president-elect of Gabon since contesting the official results of the August 27 election that gave Bongo victory.

    He called for a recount but that was rejected by Gabon's top court.

    On Monday, EU observers questioned the "integrity" of the election results noting the barely credible official figures from Bongo's Haut-Ogooue heartland.

    He took 95 percent of the vote there from a 99 percent turnout, compared to a 54.24 percent turnout across the rest of the country.

    Bongo, whose family has ruled the tiny oil-rich nation since 1967, won the election by a tiny 6,000 votes.

    The election result sparked two days of rioting and protests in which the government said three people died, while the opposition claimed the true toll was 26.

    More than 800 people were arrested following the disorder.

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  • Ghana TV: President concedes defeat to opposition leader

    Ghana President elect Nana Akufo-Addo, of the New Patriotic Party, smiles on being declared the winner of the presidential election in Accra, Ghana, Friday, Dec. 9, 2016. Ghana's longtime opposition leader Nana Akufo-Addo won the presidency late Friday on his third run for the office, a race that was largely seen as a referendum on how the incumbent party had managed the economy in this long stable democracy. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)

    Ghana President elect Nana Akufo-Addo, of the New Patriotic Party, smiles on being declared the winner of the presidential election in Accra, Ghana, Friday, Dec. 9, 2016. Ghana's longtime opposition leader Nana Akufo-Addo won the presidency late Friday on his third run for the office, a race that was largely seen as a referendum on how the incumbent party had managed the economy in this long stable democracy. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)

    ACCRA, Ghana (AP) — Ghana's longtime opposition leader Nana Akufo-Addo won the presidency late Friday on his third run for the office, a race that was largely seen as a referendum on how the incumbent party had managed the economy in this long stable democracy.

    The country's election commission said Akufo-Addo received 53.8 percent of the vote, compared to 44.4 percent for President John Dramani Mahama. It was the largest margin of victory by a presidential candidate since 1996, upending pre-election predictions that the race would be neck and neck.

    After the announcement, thousands of Akufo-Addo's supporters converged on his residence in the capital of Accra to celebrate and listen to the president-elect deliver his victory speech.

    "There's never been a more humbling moment in my life," Akufo-Addo said. "I make this solemn pledge to you tonight: I will not let you down. I will do everything in my power to live up to your hopes and expectations."

    Akufo-Addo went on to commend Ghanaians for the "mature, peaceful and orderly manner" in which they exercised their right to vote.

    "The democratic credentials of our nation have been further enhanced by your conduct," he added, addressing Ghanaians.

    Mahama's concession solidifies Ghana's status as a model of democracy in West Africa, a region historically plagued by coups and strongman rule. Ghana has experienced a peaceful transition of power every time there has been a change in government since the country moved to democratic rule in 1992.

    Sandra Kwakye, a 38-year-old businesswoman in Accra, told The Associated Press that she is hopeful for the future now that there has been a change in government.

    "I'm so happy and grateful because we've all been facing hardships for a long time, but we know now that we will have a good president," she said. "(Akufo-Addo) will make everything better for us. That's what he promised."

    Mahama called Akufo-Addo to concede defeat shortly before the commission's announcement. He also delivered a concession speech in which he congratulated Akufo-Addo and promised to remain committed to the unity and stability of the country.

    "I want to assure the people of Ghana of my commitment to the sustenance of our country's democracy and would work to ensure a smooth and peaceful transition for the incoming administration. As president, I've done my bit," Mahama said as party supporters surrounded him.

    It took almost 72 hours for the commission to declare a winner, leaving many Ghanaians skeptical about the delay and impatient for a verdict. The commission, however, acknowledged that it had performed its duty within the scheduled time frame and that it was on par with previous elections.

    Before Wednesday's election, the opposition had emphasized Ghana's high unemployment levels and underperforming GDP growth rates to appeal to frustrated voters.

    Mahama defended his record, hinging his campaign on plans to boost economic growth and continue modest gains in infrastructure development. A change in government, he said, would reverse the progress made during the last four years.

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