DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO
GOMA — While the international community is focused on the M23 rebellion, other armed groups have taken advantage of the security vacuum in eastern Congo and killed more than 260 people since April, says a U.N. report released Wednesday.
"In April 2012, army desertions and the subsequent creation of the M23 armed group led the Congolese army to focus on efforts to contain this new rebellion. Many armed groups have taken advantage of the security vacuum left by the redeployment of army units to expand their own areas of influence," the report says.
A series of six investigations by the U.N. determined that the Raia Mutomboki and Nyatura armed groups were responsible for most of the 75 massacres in which at least 264 people died, including 83 children.
The actual number of victims is likely to be higher, as not all massacres were investigated.
The Raia Mutomboki -- meaning "Angry Villagers" in Swahili -- is a Congolese armed group that was created in South Kivu in 2008 to defend the local population against the exactions of the FDLR, a Hutu militia of fighters who helped perpetrate the 1994 Rwandan genocide and have operated in eastern Congo since then.
President returns home after Saudi surgery
KHARTOUM — President Omar al-Bashir returned home Wednesday after undergoing vocal-cord surgery in Saudi Arabia.
Thousands of people lined streets around the airport in central Khartoum to greet him after the presidential plane landed at about 4:15 p.m.
Gen. Bashir, 68, arrived on the eve of a conference by an Islamist social movement at the heart of his ruling National Congress Party.
Reformers in the movement say corruption and other problems have left Sudan's government Islamic in name only, and they question how much longer Gen. Bashir should remain in power.
Gen. Bashir, who overthrew a democratically elected government in a 1989 military coup, is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide committed in Sudan's far-western Darfur region, where a rebellion began in 2003.
Son of ex-president resigns Cabinet post
BLANTYRE — The son of a former president of Malawi has resigned his post as a minister in current President Joyce Banda's administration after announcing his own presidential bid.
Austin Atupele Muluzi served as Malawi's economic planning and development minister as part of Mrs. Banda's efforts to reach across political divides in the African nation.
An aide to Mr. Muluzi confirmed his resignation Monday.
Mr. Muluzi is a 2014 presidential candidate for the United Democratic Front, which once was Malawi's governing party under his father, Bakili Muluzi, president from 1994 to 2004.
Political unrest in Malawi sparked extensive legislative delays, rioting, a failed impeachment bid and accusations of coup and assassination plots in recent years.
Mrs. Banda took over as president in April after the death of President Bingu wa Mutharika.
U.N. staffer killed in disputed Abyei area
UNITED NATIONS | The U.N. chief has said one U.N. staffer was shot to death and another was injured during unrest around a mosque in the Abyei region, which is disputed by Sudan and South Sudan.
A spokesman for Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Wednesday that the U.N. chief condemned Tuesday's killing.
U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky told reporters the staffer was shot during clashes around a mosque in Abyei, during which U.N. peacekeepers were called in to restore order.
He said the circumstances were being investigated. The staffer was not identified.
Anti-gay bill seen passing this year
KAMPALA — Uganda's anti-gay bill will be passed before the end of the year despite international criticism of the draft legislation, the speaker of the country's parliament said this week, insisting it is what most Ugandans want.
Speaker Rebecca Kadaga told The Associated Press that the bill, which originally mandated death for some gay acts, will become law this year.
Ugandans "are demanding it," she said, reiterating a promise she made before a meeting Friday of anti-gay activists who spoke of "the serious threat" posed by homosexuals to Uganda's children.
Some Christian clerics at the meeting in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, asked the speaker to pass the law as "a Christmas gift."
The anti-gay activists paraded in front of Ms. Kadaga, with parents and schoolchildren holding up signs saying homosexuality is "an abomination."
The speaker then promised to consider the bill within two weeks, declaring that "the power is in our hands."
Uganda's penal code criminalizes homosexuality, but in 2009, a lawmaker with the ruling party said a stronger law was needed to protect Uganda's children from homosexuals.
Parliamentarian David Bahati charged at the time that homosexuals from the West were "recruiting" poor children into gay lifestyles with promises of money and a better life.
Parliament approves smaller Cabinet
MOGADISHU | In a sign Somalia's government may be willing to move away from its corrupt past, the parliament on Tuesday approved a smaller, 10-member Cabinet in a vote that serves as an important victory for the country's new prime minister.
Parliamentary speaker Mohmed Sheik Osman Jawari said 219 parliamentarians endorsed the Cabinet in a vote Tuesday. Three voted against and three abstained. The Cabinet, formed by Somali Prime Minister Abdi Farah Shirdon, is expected to be sworn in next week.
The naming of the smaller Cabinet is the latest change undergone by the government this year.
A new interim constitution has been passed, a new parliament has been seated, and a new president has been voted in.
The U.N. representative for Somalia, Augustine Mahiga, hailed the naming of two female ministers: the minister of foreign affairs, who also serves as deputy prime minister, and the minister of development and social services.
• From wire dispatches and staff reports