- - Wednesday, March 14, 2012

NAIROBI, Kenya — Al Qaeda-linked Somali insurgents say they are expelling the British aid group Save the Children from areas under their control.

A Tuesday statement from the al-Shabab militia said Save the Children distributed 4,470 cartons of expired porridge to children, was corrupt and offered bribes.

Save the Children officials were not immediately available for comment.

Al-Shabab has expelled several aid organizations from its territory, including the Red Cross, the Danish Refugee Council, the U.N. World Food Program, UNICEF and the World Health Organization.

Experts say the expulsions of aid agencies contributed to a famine in the group’s strongholds from July to January in which tens of thousands of people died.

SOUTH AFRICA

South Africa opens ties with Somalia

JOHANNESBURG — South Africa says it is establishing its first diplomatic relations with Somalia in hopes it can assist in the war-torn East African nation’s search for peace and democracy.

The South African Foreign Ministry said Tuesday that Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane reached an agreement to exchange diplomats with her Somali counterpart in that country’s transitional government.

It said only peace negotiations between all Somali armed groups could restore constitutional law after more than two decades of civil war.

The statement said South Africa is ready to share experiences of its own history in ending apartheid-era rule and building a new constitution.

Diplomats based in Kenya will act for South Africa until an embassy can be opened in Mogadishu.

ZAMBIA

Former ruling party dissolved: Chief registrar

LUSAKA — Zambia’s former ruling Movement for Multiparty Democracy has been dissolved for failing to pay registration fees, which could see it stripped of its parliamentary seats, the chief registrar said Wednesday.

Political parties are required to pay annual registration fees, but the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) has not paid since 1993 and owes more than $97 million, said Clement Andeleki, chief registrar of societies.

“I have canceled the registration of the MMD for noncompliance with the Societies Act,” he told a news conference in Lusaka.

“The effect of my decision is also to nullify 53 seats in parliament held by the MMD as of today,” Mr. Andeleki said.

The party will retain its seats until the speaker of the National Assembly is notified.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

Rwandan rebel leader surrenders in Congo

KINSHASA — A top Rwandan rebel leader who has been fighting in neighboring eastern Congo has surrendered amid a U.N.-backed military offensive in the violence-wracked region, a Congolese military official said Tuesday.

Lt. Col. Idrissa Muradadi and three of his bodyguards turned themselves over on March 10, said Col. Sylvain Ekenge. He said Col. Muradadi is in the hands of the U.N. mission in Congo and awaiting extradition to Rwanda.

Col. Muradadi was a leader in the 2nd battalion of the Rwandan Hutu militia known by its French acronym, FDLR, which has terrorized eastern Congo for years, launching brutal attacks on civilians.

The Congolese government has attempted unsuccessfully to eradicate the group, which crossed into Congo after Rwanda’s 1994 genocide.

Col. Ekenge said Col. Muradadi surrendered because of military pressure.

SOUTH AFRICA

Drug dealers turn to cigarette smuggling

JOHANNESBURG — The national revenue service says illegal drug syndicates in South Africa are turning to cigarette smuggling.

The tax and customs authority said Tuesday that more than 1 billion smuggled cigarettes were confiscated last year. It said 70 percent of the tobacco contraband came from the nation’s troubled northern neighbor, Zimbabwe.

Authority spokesman Adrian Lackey said trends suggest “well-known organized crime figures have been moving away from investing in traditional illegal drug smuggling.”

In Zimbabwe’s chaotic economy, cigarettes sell for one-fourth of the retail price in South Africa.

Revenue officials said smuggled cigarettes also came from Dubai. They said a recent shipment of 18 million cigarettes was seized at the South African port of Durban.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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