South Sudan army chief James Ajongo dies in Cairo

20 hours 15 minutes ago

South Sudan’s army chief died on Friday, the government said, in a development that further complicates the running of President Salva Kiir’s administration amid a four-year-old civil war.

General James Ajongo died in Cairo after a short illness at the age of 64. He had joined the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) in 1983, when it was still a rebel group fighting for independence from Sudan.

“It is with a heavy heart that I announce the untimely death of Gen. James Ajongo Mawut, SPLA army’s chief of defence force,” government spokesman Michael Makuei Lueth said.

He was appointed to the position after his predecessor Paul Malong was sacked early last year amid resignations by some generals who alleged abuses by the military and tribal bias in the army ranks.

Malong has since formed his own organisation to challenge President Salva Kiir, accusing him of looting the country’s resources and turning it into a failed state.

South Sudan researcher Alan Boswell said Ajongo’s death was ill-timed for Kiir.

“Kiir now has to manage the competing interests within a sidelined military even as he faces ramping external pressure from the Trump administration and increasingly fractious coalition politics in his own government,” he said.

“Meanwhile, Ajongo’s predecessor is trying to start a new rebellion and still has many friends inside the military.”

In March, Kiir fired his finance minister Stephen Dhieu Dau.

South Sudan, which obtained independence from Sudan in 2011 and is the world’s youngest nation, has been mired in civil war since 2013 when Kiir fired his deputy Riek Machar.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed in a conflict that has often been fought along ethnic lines, and much of the nation has suffered dire food shortages.

The fighting has slashed oil production and driven about a third of the population of 12 million from their homes.

The U.N. refugee agency estimates 3.1 million will be refugees in neighbouring countries by the end of this year.

On Wednesday, the East African bloc of nations IGAD said it had postponed this month’s talks on implementing the latest proposed peace deal.

The bloc said last month Machar should be released from house arrest in South Africa as soon as possible, on condition that he renounces violence.

REUTERS

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South Africa's Ramaphosa visits violence hit province after return from U.K.

22 hours 38 minutes ago

South Africa’s new president Cyril Ramaphosa visited North West province on Friday to try to quell protests over poor local services that have turned violent, after cutting short a trip to the Commonwealth summit being held in London.

Police Minister Bheki Cele said Ramaphosa would meet local officials from his ruling African National Congress (ANC) party at around 1000 GMT in a bid to defuse tensions.

“I am here to listen more than talk,” Cele told local television. “The president, together with the deputy president, will be having a meeting in the area to see what decisions need to be taken to make the situation better.”

Ramaphosa, who replaced Jacob Zuma as head of state in February, has staked his reputation on rooting out the corruption and mismanagement associated with Zuma’s nine scandal-plagued years in power.

Unrest erupted on Wednesday in and around the city of Mahikeng in the province, located around 300 km (200 miles) west of South Africa’s commercial hub Johannesburg.

South African media reported that cars were set alight, shops looted and roads blockaded by protesters calling for North West Premier Supra Mahumapeloa, a member of the ANC, to quit.

Police fired rubber bullets to disperse the crowds and made more than 20 arrests. One man died in a car chase between police and protesters, the Times Live news website cited a local police spokeswoman as saying.

“Service delivery protesters” seeking jobs, better housing, roads and hospitals frequently clash with police in South Africa, where weak economic growth has left more than one in four workers unemployed.

Ramaphosa cut short his visit to Britain on Thursday because of the demonstrations. Calling for calm, he ordered police to exercise maximum restraint and urged those with grievances not to resort to violence.

Foreign Minister Lindiwe Sisulu told state broadcaster SABC on Friday from London that neighbouring Botswana’s decision to close some border points into North West province was a factor behind Ramaphosa’s decision to leave the summit early.

Both countries are members of the Commonwealth, a network of 53 mostly former territories of the British Empire.

The president, a trade union leader turned businessman, has a reputation as a painstaking negotiator after playing a key role in talks to end white minority rule more than 20 years ago.

REUTERS

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