- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 11, 2009

GABON

Senate head sworn in president

LIBREVILLE | Senate leader Rose Francine Rogombe was sworn in as Gabon’s interim president Wednesday, the first step in the process of replacing Omar Bongo, Africa’s longest-serving head of state, who died this week.

Mr. Bongo’s death left a power vacuum at the head of the central African nation that he tightly controlled for more than four decades.

Ms. Rogombe, 66, was educated in France and became Gabon’s first female judge before she was elected to the Senate this year. She was a key Bongo ally in the ruling Gabonese Democratic Party, has served as secretary of state and has a theology degree.

Gabon’s constitution, which hands power to the head of the Senate in the event of the president’s death, gives Ms. Rogombe 45 days to hold elections to select a new head of state.

But her time in power as interim leader can be extended in case of a national crisis, said Marie Madeleine Mborantsouo, who swore in the new president in her position as head of the Constitutional Court.

SUDAN

Southern rebels begin to disarm

JUBA | Former rebels who fought a devastating 22-year civil war in south Sudan began laying down their arms Wednesday as the United Nations’ biggest demobilization program stepped up a gear.

It is hoped that a total of 180,000 former fighters will pass through the Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration program, a key part of the 2005 peace deal that ended the conflict between north and south in which an estimated 1.5 million people died.

The U.N.-backed demobilization program began in north Sudan in February with the demobilization of government troops and irregular forces who fought alongside them. A total of 4,300 men have been disarmed in the north so far.

The program foresees the disarmament of equal numbers of forces from both sides in the conflict between the Muslim north and mainly Christian and animist south.

The program is part of a wider process of reconstruction in the south, where an estimated 4 million people fled their homes during the civil war. The conflict ended with the establishment of an autonomous regional government in the south led by the former rebels and the promise of a referendum on independence from the rest of the Sudan in 2011.

MOZAMBIQUE

Rival’s guards linked to plot

MAPUTO | Police said Wednesday they suspected bodyguards of a rival political party leader in the assassination attempt of presidential candidate Daviz Simango.

Alexandre Guiador, police district commander for the northern city of Nacala-Porto, said police reports from the scene implicate Afonso Dhlakama’s bodyguards in Tuesday’s failed assassination attempt, which injured a policeman and two onlookers.

Mr. Guiador said a stolen police rifle used in the attack was later confiscated from Mr. Dhlakama’s residence.

Mr. Dhlakama and Mr. Simango are rivals in Mozambique’s Oct. 28 presidential election. Both Mr. Dhlakama, leader of the main opposition Renamo party, and Mr. Simango, leader of the breakaway Democratic Movement of Mozambique, hope to unseat President Armando Guebuza of the ruling Frelimo party.

NIGERIA

Rebels claim Chevron attack

PORT HARCOURT | Nigeria’s main militant group said Wednesday it had sabotaged a Chevron-operated facility in the Niger Delta, but the military denied an attack had taken place.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, or MEND, whose attacks have shut one-fifth of Nigeria’s oil output in the last three years, said the Otunana pumping station in Delta state was engulfed in fire after a militant raid late Tuesday.

The military said the fire at the oil facility was accidental and not caused by any militant activity.

Chevron confirmed the fire at its facility, which was shut down before the incident. It did not say how the fire was started.

Security forces last month launched their biggest offensive in years against militants in Delta state, bombarding militant camps from the air and sea and sending three battalions of soldiers to hunt down rebels in surrounding communities.

In response, MEND has declared an “all-out war” against the military and bombed a Chevron pipeline, forcing a loss in oil output of 100,000 barrels per day.

MEND says it is fighting for a fairer share of the natural resources in the Niger Delta, but criminal gangs involved in the theft of crude oil and kidnapping for ransom are profiting from the insecurity.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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