After nearly three decades of autocratic rule followed by a civil uprising, Burkina Faso has a new leader. Roch Marc Christian Kabore won more than 53% of votes in the recent elections, according to an official tally. The results mean Kabore, a former Prime Minister of the West African nation, will become its next President. His closest opponent, Zephirin Diabre, conceded defeat after winning less than 30% of votes. The road to this vote has been bumpy. Just two months ago, a military plot tried to derail the election. Now experts say this looks to be the most democratic polling in the country’s history. The people have themselves to thank for that, said Chris Fomunyoh from the Washington-based National Democratic Institute, which is overseeing election observers. Ever since a citizen uprising overthrew President Blaise Compaore a year ago, after he ruled over the country for 27 years, civil society has done a lot of work to assure the quality of this election. “They feel a sense of ownership,” said Fomunyoh, who is overseeing some 6,000 election observers, all local citizens who have trained up for the task.
Pope Francis visits mosque in flashpoint district in Central African Republic
Pope Francis visited a mosque in a Muslim neighbourhood of the Central African Republic’s capital that has been a flashpoint for violent clashes, continuing his message of religious tolerance on the final leg of his African tour. The visit to the mosque in Bangui’s PK5 district, a Muslim enclave that has been the site of violent clashes with Christian militias, was a powerful gesture in a country wracked with fierce intercommunal violence in recent years. The stop in the besieged neighbourhood, where Bangui’s sole remaining Muslim community remains locked in a standoff with surrounding Christian militias, also presented the greatest security challenge of the Pope’s three-day African visit. His security detail of U.N. and French troops and the papal secret service was bolstered as Francis met with Muslim leaders in the embattled district, where he pronounced: “God is peace. Those who claim to believe in God must be men and women of peace”, he said.
Oscar Pistorius convicted of murder as appeals court overturns earlier conviction
Oscar Pistorius has been found guilty of the murder of Reeva Steenkamp after South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeal overturned the previous conviction of culpable homicide. Judge Eric Leach ruled that the Paralympic gold medallist should have foreseen that his firing of a gun would have killed whoever was behind the door in his bathroom, regardless of whether he thought it was Steenkamp or an intruder. State prosecutors appealed the verdict of culpable homicide, seeking a conviction on more severe charges. The original court judgment had been “fundamentally flawed,” Leach said. Pistorius shot girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, a model, four times through a locked toilet door on Valentine’s Day 2013, saying he mistook her for an intruder. In October, Pistorius was allowed to move from prison, where he served a year of his original five-year sentence, to house detention. Steenkamp’s family members were present for the proceedings, remaining stony-faced throughout but hugging after hearing the verdict.
China pledges $60 billion in funding support to Africa
Chinese President Xi Jinping announced that the country will pledge a new round of funding support to Africa’s development, worth $60 billion. Analysts had wondered if the pace of Chinese investment in Africa would slow, particularly in infrastructure projects, because of the slowing growth of the Chinese economy. The announcement, however, seems to indicate that China’s commitment to the continent will continue, and it will be focused on 10 projects over the next three years. China has been criticized on the continent for bringing in Chinese state-owned firms and Chinese workers to complete projects. In his keynote speech at the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), currently underway in Johannesburg, South Africa, Xi jinping has also given the pledge a clearer context: “China strongly believes that Africa belongs to the African people and that African affairs should be handled by the African people,” he said. The package, which is almost twice as large as the $30 billion worth of funding announced in 2012, will cover several key areas including agriculture, renewable energy, skills training, health, peace and security and infrastructure development.
Outrage over Saudi death sentence for poet on blasphemy charges
Hundreds of writers around the world have joined human rights groups in urging Saudi Arabia to release a poet who faces a death sentence on charges of apostasy for his poetry. Palestinian poet and artist Ashraf Fayadh, 32, was sentenced to death by a court in the southwestern Saudi city of Abha this month on a series of blasphemy charges, according to Human Rights Watch, which viewed the trial documents. The charges included insulting the “Divine Self” and the Prophet Mohammed, mocking the Quran and spreading atheism. His sister, Raeda Fayadh, appealed to King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia to grant clemency to her brother in an interview with CNN. She said her brother had done nothing wrong, having been falsely accused by a man with a personal animosity toward him. There was nothing blasphemous in his writings, she said, and those who had accused him were damaging the image of Saudi Arabia, she said. “He wrote in words that stupid people misunderstood,” she said.
Rwanda genocide suspect arrested after 21 years
One of the most wanted fugitives sought in connection with atrocities committed during the 1994 Rwandan genocide has been arrested after 21 years on the run, the United Nations has announced. Ladislas Ntaganzwa, 53, was arrested in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and is now awaiting transfer to Rwanda, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) prosecutor told the U.N. Security Council. Ntaganzwa was indicted by the ICTR for genocide, crimes against humanity and other serious violations of international humanitarian law. A former mayor and chairman of the National Republican Movement for Democracy and Development (MRND), Ntaganzwa is accused of being one of the main instigators of the genocide in his prefecture, where thousands of Tutsis and moderate Hutus were slaughtered. He is also accused of orchestrating rape and sexual violence against women. Ntaganzwa was among nine fugitives — along with Felicien Kabuga, Augustin Bizimana, Protais Mpiranya, Fulgence Kayishema, Pheneas Munyarugarama, Aloys Ndimbati, Ryandikayo, and Charles Sikubwabo — for which a $5 million reward is offered for information leading to their capture. The rest of the fugitives remain at large. In 1994, nearly 800,000 people lost their lives in the three-month killing spree. An estimated 300,000 of the genocide’s victims were children. In addition, 95,000 children were orphaned. Hutu extremists in Rwanda targeted minority ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus, in some cases slaughtering families in their homes and burning down churches with people inside. The violence erupted after a plane carrying then-President Juvenal Habyarimana, an ethnic Hutu, was shot down on April 6, 1994.