US, Nigerian envoys head to war-torn South Sudan

Envoys from the United States and from African powerhouse Nigeria will fly into Juba on Sunday, part of intense diplomatic efforts to avert all-out civil war in South Sudan, an official said.

AFP| Last Updated: Dec 22, 2013, 16:02 PM IST

Juba: Envoys from the United States and from African powerhouse Nigeria will fly into Juba on Sunday, part of intense diplomatic efforts to avert all-out civil war in South Sudan, an official said.

Donald Booth, the US envoy for Sudan and South Sudan, is expected to arrive later today, an official at the South Sudanese foreign affairs ministry told AFP, adding that Nigeria is also sending in an envoy.

A group of foreign ministers from east Africa and the Horn wrapped up a three-day mediation bid, during which they met with South Sudan`s President Salva Kiir, yesterday.

South Sudan`s government yesterday agreed to talks with Kiir`s rival, deposed vice president Riek Machar, who is now on the run, provided no conditions were attached to the talks.

The chief of South Sudan`s army dismissed claims that his country was on the brink of civil war.

"A civil war will not come. We will avoid it at all costs," he told AFP late yesterday.
Fighting has escalated steadily in South Sudan since it erupted December 15, with the death toll in Juba alone at more than 500 and tens of thousands seeking UN protection.
The army chief also dismissed rumours that armed youths co-opted to the rebel side could march on the capital in the coming days.

"I don`t think there is anybody... Who is coming to attack you. No such thing," he told AFP in Juba.
He conceded the government has "problems" in two states -- volatile Jonglei in the east and oil-rich Unity in the north -- but said he was confident of being able "to fix this in a few days".

Oil companies have started pulling staff out of Unity state after several local oil workers were singled out on ethnic grounds and killed last week, and there has been fighting in and around the state capital Bentiu.

In Jonglei -- a remote state already prone to large-scale inter-ethnic fighting, where three US military aircraft were shot at yesterday as they carried out an evacuation mission -- battles have raged in several centres and at least 15,000 people have sought refuge with the UN.
Two Indian peacekeepers were killed at the UN base in Akobo in Jonglei last week as they tried to protect civilians who had sought shelter there.

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Thailand protesters throng outside PM Yingluck Shinawatra’s house

Zee Media Bureau

Bangkok: A day after the main opposition party announced its decision to boycott the snap elections proposed for February 2, scores of Thai protesters gathered at key sites around the capital city of Bangkok, in a mass Sunday rally aimed to topple the Prime Minister Yinglyck Shinawatra’s government.

Yingluck had dissolved the Parliament and proposed fresh elections in Feb after the persistent demand by the protesters led by Suthep Thaugsuban, a former Democrat member.

However, the opposition Democrat Party, whose members had resigned en masse, announced that they will boycott the elections, which is presumed to bring to power Yingluck`s Puea Thai Party.

Protesters doubt that the fresh elections would lead to the establishment of another Shinawatra regime.

The opposition has previously boycotted elections in 2006, helping to create the political vacuum which heralded a military coup that ousted Thaksin.

Analysts say the current boycott could engineer a similar outcome, but also carries major risk for the country`s oldest political party which could face a wipe out if the polls go ahead.

Tens of thousands of protesters wanting to oust the Yingluck government, gathered at key sites around the capital, with thousands of them massed outside the PM’s house. The PM is however outside Bangkok.

The protesters waving Thai flags, chanting anti-Yingluck slogans paralysed the city as the traffic was almost at standstill at three main intersections.

Opposition protesters are expected to converge for a major rally at the protest base at Democracy Monument around 1100 GMT. Previous rallies have attracted at least 150,000 people.

Yingluck and Thaksin remain hugely popular in the north and northeast, but Suthep`s movement is backed by a powerful minority - Bangkok`s middle class, bureaucrats, conservative elites and top army generals.

With Agency Inputs
Lawyers JAC to intensify protest against AP division
Rajahmundry(AP): The Seemandhra Lawyers Joint Action Committee (JAC) will intensify its agitation in favour of a united Andhra Pradesh and continue to abstain from court work till January 23 next year.

"We will intensify agitation for united Andhra Pradesh. Over 35,000 lawyers/ advocates from 13 districts are on the stir. We will continue boycotting court work till January 23, 2014, till a statement is issued by the central government in favour of united AP," JAC co-convener Muppalla Subba Rao said here.

Over 18 lakhs cases are pending in various courts in 13 Seemandhra districts, he said, adding the lawyers, despite facing severe financial problems, have been protesting against the state bifurcation for the past 144 days.
"We will take letters from MLAs in favour of united Andhra Pradesh and hold demonstrations and blockades at MLAs` residences," he said.

The JAC members also urged the MPs and Union ministers to mount pressure on the government to stall the bifurcation of the state.

They said members of Bar Council and Bar Association would file a petition in the Supreme Court?against the central government`s Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Bill 2013.
Subba Rao alleged that the bill has several loop holes, including not addressing the concerns of people, causes for division of state and it (bill) further creates problems between two regions?Telangana and Seemandhra.
He also urged the MLAs to oppose the bill in Assembly and express their views in favour of united Andhra Pradesh.

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Libya protesters force Internet shutdown
Tripoli: Knife-wielding protesters have stormed the headquarters of Libya`s largest telecoms provider and forced an eight-hour shutdown of Internet access in the south and west of the country.

Dozens of protesters calling for Prime Minister Ali Zeidan to resign occupied Libyan Telecom and Technology`s headquarters in the eastern suburbs of the capital, Tripoli, yesterday, forcing staff to cut Internet service, said LTT communications chief Mourad Bilal.

"Thanks to the activation of a Plan B by our telecommunications technicians, Internet has now been restored in the regions that experienced outages," Bilal told AFP.

Besides calling for the prime minister`s ouster, Bilal said, the group condemned the blockade of vital oil terminals in eastern Libya by local security guards demanding regional autonomy.

The months-long blockade has dealt a blow to the country`s economy and slashed oil production from nearly 1.5 million barrels per day to just 250,000.

Since the overthrow of Libya`s longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, authorities have struggled to impose their authority and stem rising lawlessness.