Briefly: Four Congo army officers arrested after blasts

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REPUBLIC OF CONGO

BRAZZAVILLE — An official in Republic of Congo says four high-ranking officers have been arrested after a series of blasts at an arms depot left at least 292 people dead.

Justice Minister Emmanuel Aime Yoka announced late Tuesday that the four were under investigation following last month’s blasts. More than 2,000 others were injured.

Among those under investigation is Col. Marcel Tsourou, who serves on the country’s national security council.

The justice minister said Col. Tsourou’s two lawyers also had been taken in for questioning after they tried to hold a news conference.

The cause of the fire that set off the detonation has been blamed on a short circuit, but residents claim witnesses saw a soldier throw a cigarette inside the armory.

SOUTH AFRICA

Photographer pursues hate-speech case

JOHANNESBURG — Celebrated South African photographer Alf Kumalo climbs the courthouse stairs slowly, determined to pursue his hate- speech case against a white man he accuses of attacking him with an especially potent racial slur.

“We were supposed to have moved on from this kind of racist thing,” Mr. Kumalo, who is black, said Wednesday.

Last month, a French court convicted a prominent, white perfume maker of making anti-black comments and fined him the equivalent of $8,000.

In Britain last month, a white student who mocked a black soccer player on Twitter was ordered jailed for inciting racial hatred.

GAMBIA

18 charged with indecency after dance

BANJUL — A court in Gambia has arrested 18 people and accused them of organizing an “indecent” dance ceremony for tourists.

The 18 men each pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to charges of “indecent practice contrary to the law of the country.”

The criminal charge is applied toward people who are accused of taking part in homosexual acts in Gambia.

In 2008, President Yahya Jammeh told gays to leave the country or have their heads cut off.

Gays face threats of violence and discrimination across the continent.

SUDAN

Radio: Parliament halts talks with South

KHARTOUM — Sudan’s parliament on Wednesday called a halt to negotiations with South Sudan and ordered its delegation home, official radio reported.

“Parliament decided to stop negotiations and withdraw the delegation immediately from Addis Ababa,” Radio Omdurman reported after a second day of renewed clashes between the two nations in an oil-rich region along the disputed border.

Lawmakers also announced a “mobilization and alert” of the population, the radio report said, although President Omar al-Bashir already had issued a decree forming a high-level committee for mobilization on March 26.

That same day a series of border clashes began, sparking international fears of a return to all-out war.

The committee was tasked with preparing training camps for the paramilitary People’s Defense Force, official media said at the time.

South Sudan’s parliamentary speaker on Wednesday urged lawmakers there to mobilize people to defend the fledgling nation in case of all-out attack by Khartoum.

SWAZILAND

Swazi activists vow protests despite ban

MBABANE — Swaziland labor and student activists vowed to push on with pro-democracy protests in Africa’s last absolute monarchy despite a court blocking planned demonstrations Wednesday.

Anti-government protests have mushroomed over the past year amid deepening frustration among impoverished Swazis over a crippling financial crisis under the reign of King Mswati III.

The government obtained a last-minute court order prohibiting a march Wednesday, the first of four days of planned demonstrations.

“Nothing has changed, we are going ahead with tomorrow’s [Thursday’s] protests,” said Vincent Dlamini, secretary-general of the National Public Service and Allied Workers Union.

“Of course, we anticipate that the police will use their underhanded tactics, but we won’t back down.”

The protests commemorate a ban on political parties and suspension of the constitution that have allowed the king to rule by decree since 1973.

Police arrested two activists and set up roadblocks across the capital Mbabane and the commercial hub Manzini in anticipation of the demonstrations.

“We see this as an intimidating tactic meant to frustrate and destabilize tomorrow’s protests,” Mr. Dlamini said.

MALAWI

Body of ex-leader to come home Saturday

BLANTYRE — The body of Malawian President Bingu wa Mutharika will return Saturday from South Africa, where it was taken secretly to be embalmed, a Foreign Ministry official said Wednesday.

Mr. Mutharika’s body was airlifted to South Africa after he suffered a fatal heart attack on April 5.

His body initially was expected to return Thursday, but the official, who did not want to be identified, said: “I can confirm that it is now Saturday.”

No reasons were given for the postponement.

Supporters will be able to view his body in Blantyre, the capital Lilongwe and the northern town of Mzuzu.

The burial will take place on April 23 in Thyolo district outside Blantyre.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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