- - Wednesday, January 26, 2011

IVORY COAST

Leader orders seizure of regional bank

ABIDJAN | Incumbent leader Laurent Gbagbo’s government has ordered the seizure of the regional central bank’s offices in Ivory Coast in an attempt to retain control of state finances after being cut off from the money used to pay civil servants.

His political rival, Alassane Ouattara, who is the internationally recognized winner of the presidential election held nearly two months ago, condemned the move Wednesday.

“This illegitimate and illegal decision to requisition is null and void. Thus, anyone who participates directly or indirectly in its implementation will be subject to sanctions and criminal prosecution,” the statement said.

A spokeswoman at the bank’s headquarters in Dakar, Senegal, was not available immediately for comment.

Without access to government funds, it’s unclear whether Mr. Gbagbo will be able to continue paying the country’s military and security forces. Ouattara supporters hope that by stemming the flow of funds to Gbagbo’s government they can force a mass defection.

SOMALIA

U.N.: Interim government must end in August

NAIROBI, Kenya | The mandate of Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) must end in August, in line with its founding constitution, a top U.N. official said Wednesday, calling for a political deal to set up a new government.

The Western-backed government was formed in neighboring Kenya in 2004 and was to have adopted a new constitution and prepare for elections during the interim period.

However, Somalia’s relentless fighting and the emergence of a powerful Islamist movement that has heavily curtailed the government’s authority impaired any political progress.

“It is the understanding of the TFG, the regional actors and the international community that indeed this transitional government must end in August,” said Augustine Mahiga, the U.N. special representative for Somalia, talking to reporters in Nairobi.

GABON

Opposition leader declares himself president

LIBREVILLE | Gabon’s government dissolved the country’s main opposition party Wednesday, accusing members of high treason after their leader declared himself president of the oil-rich nation, a government minister said.

Opposition leader Andre Mba Obame took the oath of office late Tuesday, declaring himself the new leader of Gabon and challenging the authority of President Ali Bongo, son of Gabon’s longtime dictator, who died in June 2009 after a 41-year rule.

Mr. Obame came in third in the Central African country’s August 2009 elections, which opposition candidates said were fraudulent.

African Union Chairman Jean Ping condemned Mr. Obame’s actions in a statement Wednesday, saying the declaration comes 17 months after a presidential election monitored by international observers.

Mr. Obame’s announcement “hurts the integrity of legitimate institutions and also endangers the peace, the security and the stability of Gabon,” said Mr. Ping, who is from Gabon.

The 2009 election was called to replace the late President Omar Bongo. His son Ali was declared the winner with 41.8 percent of the vote, but opposition candidates accused him of vote-rigging.

SOUTH AFRICA

Judge orders probe into state TV

JOHANNESBURG | A South African judge has ordered an investigation into how the state-owned broadcaster delivers the news.

The independent Freedom of Expression Institute had gone to court to force the country’s communications regulatory agency to review complaints that the South African Broadcasting Corp. had skewed its news in favor of the ruling party by banning some commentators from the air.

The regulatory agency had argued the complaints were outside its authority.

The case renews debate about whether South Africans’ main source of information is a tool of the African National Congress party, which has won every election since the end of apartheid.

On Wednesday, the regulator’s spokesman, Jubie Matlou, said it would accept Tuesday’s ruling and investigate the charges.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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