Reformist ex-president dies
Former president Chadli Bendjedid, who gave the country a multiparty political system before he was overthrown in a 1992 military coup, died on Saturday at a military hospital, the state news agency said. He was 83. Bendjedid, who became president in 1979, presided over a series of political reforms that allowed for competitive legislative and municipal elections. Yet when an Islamist party swept the first round of parliamentary elections, the country’s powerful generals stepped in, ousted Benjedid and canceled the elections in 1992. The coup prompted an armed resistance that turned into a decade-long civil war, which tore the country apart and claimed at least 200,000 lives. Bendjedid was kept under house arrest hundreds of kilometers from the capital until 1999, when he was freed. He was admitted to the Mohamed Seghir Nekkache military hospital last week for kidney-related problems, the state news agency reported, citing family members.
Red Crescent staff freed
A group of seven Iranian Red Crescent workers who were kidnapped in the eastern city of Benghazi were freed yesterday, an interior ministry official told reporters. “The seven Iranians were freed today and have left the country,” said Ezzedine al-Fazzani, a spokesman for the interior ministry in the east. Libyan Red Crescent official Qais al-Fahry confirmed the team “was released today and left Benghazi for Turkey,” from where they would continue on to Iran. “They were in good health and happy to be heading home,” he said. Gunmen kidnapped the visiting delegation on July 31, the Libyan Red Crescent reported at the time.
Lake Malawi row continues
The government called on Saturday for an international mediator to resolve a long-standing border dispute with Malawi, conceding the latest talks over territorial rights to Lake Malawi have failed. Lake Malawi, known locally as Lake Nyasa, is Africa’s third-largest lake and it is thought to sit over highly coveted oil and gas reserves. Malawi claims sovereignty over the entirety of the lake while Dodoma says it is entitled to 50 percent of it. Dodoma wants an international mediator to be appointed from among former African presidents from the 15-nation trade bloc Southern African Development Community (SADC). Both Tanzania and Malawi are members of SADC. Malawian officials have made it clear they will not continue with talks until Tanzania stops intimidating Malawi fishermen, an accusation denied by Dodoma. Malawi said Tanzania had deployed military vessels on the lake, which it has denied. The territorial row, which dates back half a century, could worsen if significant oil and gas discoveries are made.
Tunisia seeks Quito’s advice
President Rafael Correa says his country will advise Tunisia on possible renegotiation of its debts. He says he will send a mission to explain what Ecuador did in 2009 when it renegotiated about US$3 billion in debts after declaring many of them illegitimate. He made the comment during his weekly Saturday radio broadcast, saying the advice was requested by Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki. Tunisia’s economy has suffered since the nation launched the Arab Spring uprisings by ousting former Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January last year. Officials accuse Ben Ali of committing economic crimes during his rule.