East Timor hero Xanana Gusmao calls for restraint after campaign violence

Xanana Gusmao’s National Congress for Timorese Reconstruction party said 18 of its supporters in Vikeke district were injured over the weekend and two vehicles damaged in an attack by members of rival faction Fretilin. (AP)
Updated 07 May 2018
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East Timor hero Xanana Gusmao calls for restraint after campaign violence

VIKEKE, East Timor: East Timorese independence hero Xanana Gusmao is calling on supporters not to be provoked after campaigning for elections this week was marred by violence.
Gusmao’s National Congress for Timorese Reconstruction party said 18 of its supporters in Vikeke district were injured over the weekend and two vehicles damaged in an attack by members of rival faction Fretilin.
The parliamentary elections next Saturday are the second in less than a year for East Timor after the Fretilin-led minority government collapsed in January.
After the alleged attack last Saturday, Gusmao said Fretilin was a party of violence that should be shut down but also urged his supporters to show restraint.
“I ask all of you not to respond to provocation from other parties’ members,” he said. “When you return home, you should keep your own security and do not serve violence.”
Jorge Ribeiro, a local official with Gusmao’s party, said police and soldiers who responded to the violence have not arrested anyone. Vikeke’s police commander Antonio Mauluto said the incident is being investigated. Mari Alkatari, secretary-general of Fretilin, did not immediately respond to phone calls or text messages seeking comment.
The election pits a loose grouping of Fretilin and one minor party against a formal alliance of three parties led by Gusmao’s National Congress for Timorese Reconstruction, who together voted against Fretilin’s policy program and budget, resulting in the new election.
East Timor, a former Portuguese colony, was occupied by Indonesia for a quarter century. It gained independence after a UN-sponsored referendum in 1999 but reprisals by the Indonesian military devastated the East Timorese half of the island of Timor.
Today, the country of 1.3 million people still faces grim poverty. Leaders including Gusmao, who was East Timor’s first president, from 2002 to 2007, and prime minister from 2007 to 2015, have focused on big-ticket infrastructure projects to develop the economy, funding them from a dwindling supply of former oil riches, but progress is slow.
Presidential and parliamentary elections last year were the first held without UN supervision.


At least 161 dead in northeast Congo in apparent ethnic clashes

Updated 17 June 2019
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At least 161 dead in northeast Congo in apparent ethnic clashes

  • A series of attacks in Ituri province has mostly targeted Hema herders, who have long been in conflict with Lendu farmers over grazing rights and political representation
  • Open conflict between Hema and Lendu from 1999-2007 resulted in an estimated 50,000 deaths in one of the bloodiest chapters of a civil war in eastern Congo

GOMA, Democratic Republic of Congo: At least 161 people have been killed in a northeastern province of Democratic Republic of Congo in the past week, local officials said on Monday, in an apparent resurgence of ethnic clashes between farming and herding communities.
A series of attacks in Ituri province has mostly targeted Hema herders, who have long been in conflict with Lendu farmers over grazing rights and political representation, although the exact identity of the assailants remains murky.
Open conflict between Hema and Lendu from 1999-2007 resulted in an estimated 50,000 deaths in one of the bloodiest chapters of a civil war in eastern Congo that left millions dead from conflict, hunger and disease.
Tit-for-tat attacks between the two groups in late 2017 and early 2018 killed hundreds of people and forced tens of thousands more to flee their homes, but a tenuous calm had taken hold until this month.
Pascal Kakoraki Baguma, a national lawmaker from Ituri, said the latest violence was sparked by the killing last Monday of four Lendu businesspeople.
“Members of the Lendu community believed that these assassinations were the work of the Hema,” Kakoraki said. “This is why they launched several attacks on Hema villages.”
“Sources affirm that 161 bodies have been found so far. But the death toll goes beyond the bodies recovered, as there were other massacres of civilians and police officers,” he said.
Jean Bosco Lalo, president of civil society organizations in Ituri, said 200 bodies had been found since last week in predominantly Hema villages, including the 161 mentioned by Kakoraki. Lalo said the toll would rise once his teams gained access to other villages where killings had been reported.
Ituri Governor Jean Bamanisa said provincial authorities were still working to establish the exact death toll and declined to say who was responsible.
He said the assailants’ tactics were to “empty out the villages, burn them and pursue those who had fled to the surrounding areas with bladed weapons.”
Congo President Felix Tshisekedi, who took office in January, is trying to restore stability to the country’s eastern borderlands, a tinderbox of conflict among armed groups over ethnicity, natural resources and political power.
Several rebel leaders have surrendered or been captured during his first months in office, but armed violence has persisted, particularly in North Kivu province, south of Ituri, which is the epicenter of a 10-month Ebola outbreak.