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Briefly: Africa

- - Wednesday, December 1, 2010

KENYA

Court witnesses moved to neighboring country

NAIROBI | A lawyer for a former government minister being investigated by the International Criminal Court said Wednesday he has contacted witnesses who had been moved for their protection to a neighboring country, the second time witnesses in hiding have been exposed.

Charles Koech, a lawyer for former Higher Education Minister William Ruto, said he spoke to witnesses who had been moved to Tanzania by the ICC's witness protection program and will soon travel there to get sworn statements.

Mr. Koech said the six witnesses told him they want to withdraw statements they made to the ICC implicating Mr. Ruto in the violence that followed Kenya's disputed 2007 election. The witnesses claim they were coached, Mr. Koech said.

The ICC is expected to issue indictments against several top Kenyan leaders later this month.

EGYPT

Muslim Brotherhood pulls out of election

CAIRO | Egypt's top two opposition movements pulled out of parliamentary elections on Wednesday, citing widespread fraud, after they were all but shut out in a first round of voting.

The move by the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood - the strongest opposition force in the country - and the smaller, secular liberal Wafd Party is a blow to this top U.S. ally's efforts to portray itself as a democracy. Egypt's government has staunchly defended the fairness of last Sunday's election, despite reports of rampant rigging in favor of the ruling party.

A top Brotherhood official said the movement had decided to pull out of a second round of voting scheduled for the coming Sunday. He spoke on condition of anonymity because the official announcement, expected later Wednesday, had not yet been made.

The Brotherhood held 88 seats in the outgoing Parliament - a fifth of its seats. But results announced late Tuesday showed not a single candidate from its ranks won a seat in the first round. Twenty-six Brotherhood candidates made it into the run-off.

NIGERIA

65 charged in oil-worker kidnappings

LAGOS | Police say 65 people have been charged for crimes including the kidnapping of expatriate workers in Nigeria's oil-rich southern delta.

Rivers State police spokeswoman Rita Inoma-Abbey said Wednesday a court charged them for crimes including kidnapping, armed robbery, murder and rape. She said she did not know if all suspects were members of the region's main militant group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta.

She said some of the suspects are accused of kidnapping two Americans, two Frenchmen, two Indonesians, one Canadian and 12 Nigerians in early November from Exxon Mobil Corp. and Afren PLC facilities.

Militants in the oil-rich Niger delta have attacked pipelines, kidnapped petroleum company employees and fought government troops since 2006.

BURUNDI

African force in Somalia reaches full strength

BUJUMBURA | Burundi has sent an additional battalion of 850 soldiers to Somalia, an army spokesman said Wednesday, bringing the African Union (AU) force in Mogadishu close to its full authorized strength of 8,000.

"Upon request from the AU, Burundi sent an additional battalion to Somalia last week," Burundian army spokesman Gaspard Baratuza told Agence France-Presse. "This brings to four the total number of Burundian battalions deployed in this country as part of the African Union mission in Somalia [AMISOM]."

The latest deployment from the small central African country brings to about 8,000 the total number of AMISOM troops deployed in Mogadishu, with the rest of the force provided by Uganda.

The AU force, whose main task since it was first deployed in early 2007 has been to protect the weak Western-backed transitional federal government, has failed to stabilize Mogadishu and faces a fierce Islamist insurgency.

The African Union has requested that the authorized limit of the force be raised to at least 12,000 and wants a more robust mandate, but the move requires approval from the U.N. Security Council.