Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) – Gunfire erupted in several areas in the capital Kinshasa, as Congo's long-serving president, Joseph Kabila appeared set to stay on despite the expiration of his mandate. Shots rang out early on the 20 Dec 16 in several parts of the sprawling city of 10 million, particularly in two northern quarters after whistles - an opposition sign of protest - were heard. Demonstrators also beat on improvised drums, demanding the 45-year-old Kabila, who has led the Democratic Republic of Congo since 2001, to quit the top job. Kabila's second term officially expired on the 20 Dec 16. Opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi called on the Congolese people to peacefully resist Kabila. "I launch a solemn appeal to the Congolese people to not recognise the illegal and illegitimate authority of Joseph Kabila and to peacefully resist [his] coup d'etat," Tshisekedi said in a video posted on YouTube. The declaration appeared to be an effort by Tshisekedi and opposition leaders to reinject themselves into the drama surrounding the conclusion of Kabila's mandate, after they originally declined to call for mass protests. A muffled explosion was also heard in the posh quarter of Gombe, where the presidential palace is located. Residents said tear gas shells were fired in other areas. Talks on a peaceful transition are in limbo, sparking fears of new violence in the unstable, mineral-rich nation. Kabila, who has been in power for 15 years, is constitutionally barred from seeking a third term, but under a recent constitutional court order, he may stay on until a successor is chosen. The ruling party and some opposition leaders have agreed to schedule an election in April 2018, at the earliest, leaving Kabila in office until the vote. But the main opposition bloc rejects this plan. Security was also tight in the second city, Lubumbashi, in the southeast. Social networks have been cut or filtered since midnight on the 19 Dec 16 on government orders, and police at the weekend banned gatherings of more than 10 people. In a last-ditch bid to achieve a peaceful transfer of power, the ruling party and opposition groups held talks last week with the mainstream opposition led by Tshisekedi. But after a week of mediation, they were suspended and due to resume on the 21 Dec 16. "I don't see [Kabila] caving in to pressure," his diplomatic adviser Barnabe Kikaya Bin Karubi said. A democratic handover would break new ground for Congo's 70 million people who, since independence from Belgium in 1960, have never witnessed a democratic transfer of power following elections. The president has been in office since his father, Laurent Kabila, was assassinated in 2001. He was elected in 2006, and again in 2011, in a poll the opposition decried as rigged. Some two decades ago, Congo sank into the deadliest conflict in modern African history, its two wars in the late 1990s and early 2000s dragging in at least six African armies and leaving more than three million dead.
Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) – Security forces in Democratic Republic of Congo killed at least 26 demonstrators and arrested scores more amid growing protests against Joseph Kabila's hold on power, according to a human rights group. Despite the bloodshed overnight, the situation was calm early on the 21 Dec 16. The killings on the 20 Dec 16 were the first reported since Kabila's mandate to rule ended on the 19 Dec 16 at midnight after 15 years as president. He has refused to cede power until new elections are held, which may not happen until 2018. Protesters set fire to the headquarters of the ruling party in the capital, Kinshasa. Military and police forces fired live rounds, raising fears more people may have been killed, New York-based Human Rights Watch said. Residents also told the group Republican Guards were carrying out door-to-door searches and arresting young people. Authorities have also blocked most social media.
Libya/Da’esh – Libya’s unity government leader Fayez al-Sarraj on the 17 Dec 16 officially announced the end of military operations in Sirte, after the liberation from ISIS group forces of what was the last significant territory they held in the country. However prime minister-designate Sarraj warned that the battle against the militants was not over. Eight months after the start of the operations against ISIS in the coastal town of Sirte “I officially announce the end of military operations and the liberation of the town”, Sarraj said in a televised speech two weeks after the announcement that the area was in control of forces loyal to the government. The capture of Sirte, first announced on the 5 Dec 16 boosts the authority of Sarraj’s UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA), which was launched in Tripoli in March but whose legitimacy is contested by a rival administration based in eastern Libya. Sarraj made the announcement on Sirte on the first anniversary of the signing of a peace agreement in Morocco. “The battle for Sirte is over but the war against terrorism in Libya is not finished,” he warned, stressing the need to unify the various military forces into “one single army”.