- - Wednesday, December 14, 2011

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

Opposition calls for massive protests

KINSHASA | Opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi’s party called Wednesday for mass protests to “protect” the victory he claims to have won in disputed presidential polls.

Jacquemin Shabani, secretary general of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress, made the call for “peaceful and democratic demonstrations” without giving a time or place.

On Tuesday, the European Union’s election observation mission in Congo added its voice to mounting criticism of polls that handed President Joseph Kabila a new five-year term.

The Independent National Electoral Commission on Friday declared Mr. Kabila the winner of the Nov. 28 vote, provoking violent protests and looting in the capital and calls from opposition leaders for the international community to intervene.

The EU’s observer mission joined the Carter Center and other election monitors in raising serious concern about problems in the vote count and the loss of huge numbers of ballots.

KENYA

Army, Somali militia swap Twitter insults

NAIROBI | Kenyan soldiers and members of an Islamist militant group have been fighting each other in Somalia since Kenya invaded two months ago.

Now their spokesmen are taking the battle onto Twitter, with taunts, accusations and insults being traded directly in a rare engagement on the Internet.

The propaganda war on the microblogging website shows the increasingly sophisticated use of media by both sides - and underscores that there often is little reliable information about the conflict in Somalia, which directly or indirectly involves a half-dozen nations, analysts say.

“The tweets themselves will not be entirely accurate, but it will allow analysts to triangulate that information and come up with a more accurate picture of what is really happening,” said E.J. Hogendoorn of the International Crisis Group think tank.

On Monday, the Islamic insurgent group al-Shabab used its Twitter feed to accuse Kenya of a history of committing “barbarous acts” toward ethnic Somalis and cited a 1984 massacre in which human rights groups say Kenyan troops killed nearly 3,000 Somali men in eastern Kenya.

Addressing more recent actions, al-Shabab’s tweets, which began last week, have claimed that Kenyan soldiers in Somalia “flee from confrontation & flinch in the face of death.”

Al-Shabab’s tweets, written in fluent English, mocked an earlier Twitter posting by Kenya’s army spokesman, Maj. Emmanuel Chirchir, that threatened to bomb concentrations of donkeys that might be moving weapons for the insurgents.

“Your eccentric battle strategy has got animal rights groups quite concerned, Major,” the al-Shabab posting said.

The Associated Press determined that both Twitter accounts - HSMPress and MajorEChirchir - are legitimate.

IVORY COAST

Leader’s party headed for control of assembly

ABIDJAN | President Alassane Ouattara’s party was headed for full parliamentary control Wednesday as former strongman Laurent Gbagbo awaited trial in The Hague, Netherlands.

Public television reported that Mr. Ouattara’s Rally of Republicans had won 123 out of 225 seats in Sunday elections and that its main ally, the Ivory Coast Democratic Party, had captured 93.

Independents had garnered 12 seats, the media reports said, as many newspapers hailed the Rally of Republicans as “the big winner” and “new master.”

The Ivorian Popular Front, the party of Mr. Gbagbo - who is on trial for crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court - boycotted the country’s first parliamentary election since 2000.

In presidential elections in November 2010, Mr. Gbagbo refused to accept defeat, triggering fighting that left about 3,000 people dead in a country that once was a beacon of stability in western Africa.

Mr. Gbagbo, who had held on to his job five years after his initial mandate expired in 2005, was captured in his presidential palace in April.

He is the first former head of state to be brought before the International Criminal Court.

SOMALIA

Kenyan forces pledge further push into Somalia

RAS KAMBONI | Kenyan troops and their Somali allies say they will push deeper into insurgent-controlled territory in Somalia now that rains have stopped; the U.N. called for $1.5 billion in aid for those hit by famine in the Horn of Africa nation.

Mohamed Ibrahim Farah, a spokesman for a Kenyan-allied Somali militia at Somalia’s southern tip, said Tuesday that troops would move soon, by the end of the year.

“We are going forward within this week,” he said as he addressed foreign journalists in a ramshackle hut of twigs and corrugated iron that served as the militia headquarters.