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Djibouti asks AU to deploy observers along its disputed border with Eritrea

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Djibouti has asked the African Union to deploy observers along its disputed border with Eritrea after Qatar withdrew its peace-keeping troops two weeks ago, the Djibouti foreign minister said on Monday.

The Qataris were sent to the region after clashes broke out between Eritrea and Djibouti in 2008, but they were pulled out without warning on June 14.

Qatar gave no reason for the withdrawal, but it came days after both Djibouti and Eritrea sided with Gulf Arab nations that had broken off relations with Qatar.

“The Qatari forces left on short notice without really preparing the ground. Leaving the status quo was not in the best interest of both countries,” Djiboutian Foreign Minister Mahamoud Ali Youssouf told Reuters during a summit of African Union leaders in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.

“We proposed to the African Union that it take over the disputed side and fill the gap. We need the African Union to act very quickly,” Youssouf said.

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A dozen Djiboutian troops were killed and dozens wounded in the 2008 clashes with Eritrea. The fighting erupted after Djibouti accused Eritrea of sending troops across the border.

Amid fears the conflict would escalate and spread, the U.N. Security Council requested that both sides withdraw. Qatari volunteered to mediate the dispute and deploy observers.

After Qatar pulled its troops out of the region, Djibouti accused Eritrea of occupying the disputed Dumeira area along their border.

“In the beginning, there were a limited number of Eritrean troops in the disputed areas. But then they pulled back,” Youssouf said.

The African Union has called on both sides to exercise restraint and said it would deploy a fact-finding mission to the disputed area. Diplomats said Eritrea has not yet responded to that request.

Youssouf said a potential African Union deployment could involve conflict-prevention experts or members of a regional “standby force” the union is setting up.

Africa

Robert Mugabe, in Speech to Zimbabwe, Refuses to Say if He Will Resign (VIDEO)

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HARARE, Zimbabwe — It was the resignation speech that did not happen.

Robert Mugabe, 93, who ruled Zimbabwe with an iron grip until the military took over and placed him under house arrest, stunned the nation on Sunday night with a nearly 20-minute address in which he refused to say whether he would resign.

Many political observers and fellow Zimbabweans had been waiting for Mr. Mugabe to step down as president after nearly 40 years in power. But sitting at a table while flanked by members of the military and other officials, the embattled president said he would preside over the party congress, scheduled to take place in a few weeks.

Mr. Mugabe made the non-announcement in a televised address to the southern African nation about 9 p.m. local time after intense negotiations at the State House with the country’s Army generals about the conditions of his what was expected to be his departure.

His speech came hours after he was expelled as leader of his own governing party, ZANU-PF, which gave him until noon Monday to resign or face impeachment by Parliament.

Officials earlier barred his wife, Grace Mugabe, widely viewed as his likely successor, from the party for life.

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Africa

Zanu-PF sacks Mugabe

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Zimbabwe’s ruling party has told Robert Mugabe that he must resign as president of the country by midday on Monday, or face impeachment.

The ultimatum given to the veteran leader, who has been in power for 37 years, came five days after the military seized power and placed Mugabe under house arrest.

The embattled 93-year-old leader has so far appeared resistant to demands to step down, but is increasingly running out of options.

On Sunday, the ruling ZANU-PF party dismissed Mugabe as its leader and also expelled his wife, Grace, from its ranks.

It said if Mugabe does not resign by midday on Monday, then will start impeachment proceedings when parliament resumes on Tuesday.

Members also voted to name sacked Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who Mugabe fired on November 6, as new party leader.

‘Let the old man resign and go home’
In opening remarks at ZANU-PF’s Central Committee meeting, Obert Mpofu, the minister of home affairs who chaired the gathering, blamed First Lady Grace Mugabe and her allies for taking advantage of the veteran leader.

“We meet here today with a heavy heart because Mugabe’s wife and her close associates have taken advantage of his frail condition and abused the resources of the country,” he told members. “I warmly welcome you all to this historic meeting which will mark a new era, not only for our country but for the party.”

Members cheered as the resolution to recall Mugabe was read out.

“It will be very honourable for him to resign than to face impeachment,” a war veteran in the capital, Harare, told Al Hazeera.

“It will continue to soil his record – and that’s our advice, please let the old man resign and go home.”

Earlier on Sunday, the ZANU-PF Youth League, which Grace Mugabe leads, called for her expulsion from ZANU-PF “forever” and demanded the president to resign as leader of the country and party, “so that he can rest as the elderly statesman he is”.

The group also condemned the “unprocedural expulsion” of Mnangagwa.

Power struggle

Mugabe has been under military quarantine at his residence since Wednesday.

ay, when the army placed him under house arrest and took over state TV and key government sites.

Mugabe’s decision to sack Mnangagwa, who was touted as his most likely successor, spurred an internal power struggle.

First Lady Grace Mugabe was tipped to takeover as second secretary and vice president, prompting a military takeover with the army saying it wanted to “target criminals” around Mugabe who were leading the party and state astray.

In a rare sign of solidarity between the people and the army, which has often been a pillar of support for Mugabe’s near 40-year rule, Zimbabweans on Saturday expressed support and praise for the military’s operation.

Huge crowds swelled on the streets.

Civilians could be seen giving hugs and fist bumps to soldiers, and taking selfies with army personnel camped outside parliament, the presidential offices and other strategic sites.

There was a convivial mood in the capital as people played loud music and danced after marching to State House to demand Mugabe’s resignation, in scenes described as “historic” and representing a “day of freedom”.

Zimbabweans have never before gathered in such numbers to march against Mugabe.

‘It’s very hard’

Patrick Chinamasa, a senior ZANU-PF official and former minister, said he was expecting “cooperation” from Mugabe following the “overwhelming decision” taken by the ruling party’s central committee and Saturday’s “massive demonstration”.

“It will make the transfer of power smooth and it will be very good for our country if in fact we were able to achieve it without any prolonged and protracted procedure,” he told Al Jazeera from Harare.

Chinamasa said if Mugabe refused to step down, then there was no other option than the parliament to begin impeachment proceedings.

“It is a route that we don’t want to go – it will be most unfortunate if we were go down that road – but it’s the constitutional route available to parliament to remove a president from his position,” he added.

Striking a more emotional tone about the events of the past few days, Chinamasa said Mugabe has been a politician that has “shown very good leadership” over the years, but was recently taken advantage by the people close to him, including his wife.

“We have travelled with the president for decades,” he said.

“We have faced many challenges together as a party and he has provided very good leadership, and the unfortunate thing which is happening to me, when you part ways with a person you respect, who has scored many achievements for this country, for the region, for the continent and or the world, it is very hard [to see it ending this way].

“But it’s all unfortunately because of his advance in age, he became a victim to his wife and the allies of his wife who basically abused his position and directed him to do things which were not in the interest both of the party and government.”

Zimbabwe is expected to hold elections next year.

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Zimbabweans take to streets to call for Mugabe’s resignation

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Thousands of protesters flooded Zimbabwe’s streets demanding Robert Mugabe’s resignation on Saturday in a movement organised by independence war veterans and backed by ruling party barons and the army.

The mass turnout came after an unprecedented week which saw the army’s top brass seizing power and putting Mugabe under house arrest in response to his sacking of Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

It was a stunning turnaround for Mugabe who has ruled Zimbabwe with an iron fist since 1980.
Veterans of the liberation war, who had previously supported Mugabe, had called for the gathering which saw marchers rallying in Highfield, a working-class suburb of Harare, with another demonstration staged in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second city.

“This is the best day of my life. We are hoping for a new life after Mugabe,” said 38-year-old Sam Sechete who was marching with a crutch.

A symbolic location, Highfield was where Mugabe gave his first speech after returning from exile in Mozambique ahead of independence in 1980.

Demonstrators, who began arriving around midnight, roared, whistled and danced, brandishing placards proclaiming: “Not coup but cool” and “Mugabe must go!”

‘TODAY IS INDEPENDENCE’

Such an open display of disloyalty would have been unthinkable just a week ago as dissent was routinely crushed by security forces.

In a statement released on Friday, the army said it fully supported the protests.

“Today is independence, we are suffering too much,” said 14-year-old marcher Grace Kazhanje.

“This is our new independence day.”

Emma Muchenje, a 37-year-old market worker, said she had skipped work to be at the march.

“This day took too long to come,” she told AFP.

There was an atmosphere of celebration among the crowds with protesters cheering the soldiers and stopping to shake their hands.

By 0800 GMT, several thousand people were at the scene, AFP correspondents said, although buses bringing more demonstrators were continuing to arrive.

A separate #ThisFlag march led by anti-Mugabe pastor Evan Mawarire will head to State House in Harare while other rallies are to take place elsewhere around the country.

‘MUGABE CORNERED’

Mugabe enraged many Zimbabweans when he failed to resign following talks with the army’s top brass on Thursday, with sources suggesting the veteran leader was “buying time” to negotiate an end to his 37-year reign.

He appeared publicly for the first time on Friday at a pre-planned graduation ceremony in Harare, further stoking speculation about his talks with General Constantino Chiwenga, who led the military power grab.

Later on Friday, eight of the 10 regional branches of Mugabe’s ruling ZANU-PF took to state television to call for him to go — yet another a serious blow to the embattled leader.

“Thousands for Mugabe ‘final push’,” blared the front-page of the News Day Weekender while the Daily News lead with: “Mugabe cornered”.

‘IT IS FINISHED’

“The game is up,” said Chris Mutsvangwa, chairman of the independence war veterans’ association which organised the Highfield protest.

“It’s done, it’s finished… The generals have done a fantastic job,” he said.

“We want to restore our pride and (Saturday) is the day… we can finish the job which the army started.”

Mawarire, the outspoken Mugabe critic who rose to prominence last year with his #ThisFlag protest movement against the president, called on Zimbabweans of all backgrounds to march with the war veterans.

In their Friday statement, Zimbabwe’s military chiefs said their operation to round up “criminals” in Mugabe’s government was ongoing.

CLASHING WITH GRACE

Their seizure of power appeared to be the climax of a dispute over who would succeed the veteran leader.

Before being pushed out, the vice president had clashed repeatedly with Mugabe’s wife Grace, 52.

Both had been seen as leading contenders to replace Mugabe but Mnangagwa had the tacit support of the armed forces, which viewed Grace — a political novice — with derision.

The United States has called for the Zimbabwe army to quickly relinquish power.

“We all should work together for a quick return to a civilian rule,” said US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson ahead of talks with African foreign ministers.

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