A former minister jailed over a passport scam has been pardoned by the president of Malawi. Ex-cabinet member Uladi Mussa was released from prison by President Lazarus Chakwera at the start of this month less than halfway through his sentence for abuse of office.
Mussa had been convicted in 2020 over corruption linked to the illegal issuing of passports.
His release was an act of mercy to mark Easter, according to Homeland Security Minister Ken Zikhale Ng'oma.
Mussa remains an influential politician in the southeast African nation, after serving as a minister under four different presidents between 1994 and 2019.
His involvement in the corruption scandal took place during the tenure of former Malawi president Joyce Banda.
In 2019, the US government imposed a travel ban on Mussa and his spouse over their roles in the passport fraud.
Mussa was one of 200 convicts to be released in early-April; most had 'committed minor offences and have demonstrated good behaviour during their stay in prison', officials told the BBC.
Those released at Easter included a driver who was arrested and charged last year after refusing to give way to President Chakwera’s motorcade.
Meanwhile, Tunisia's main opposition coalition, the National Salvation Front, rallied earlier this month to demand the release of political prisoners in the country.
Tunisia has seen more than 20 political opponents arrested since February, as well as businessmen, politicians, former ministers, trade unionists and the owner of the country's most popular radio station Mosaique FM.
These arrests have been heavily criticised by both local and international human rights groups.
Samir Ben Amor, an official with the Al-Joumhouria (Republican) party, called for a 'national dialogue in order to draw up a roadmap to save Tunisia and return to the democratic path' at the April 9 rally.
Tunisia’s president, Kais Saied, who sacked the government back in July 2021, claimed that those who were arrested were 'terrorists' involved in a 'conspiracy against state security'.
He has been accused by rivals of re-establishing autocratic rule in the North African nation.
Amnesty International, a British-based organisation, stated back in March that authorities should release the detainees arrested on 'unfounded accusations'.
An increase in debt alongside a cost of living crisis has also contributed to the current political situation Tunisia is facing.
- BURKINA FASO
Elsewhere, more than 40 civilians were killed by 'armed terrorist groups' in northeastern Burkina Faso in early April.
'Armed terrorist groups' killed forty-four people in two villages near the Niger border, a regional lieutenant-governor announced.
'This despicable and barbaric attack' which saw the villages of Kourakou and Tondobi in northeast Burkina Faso targeted, took place overnight on Thursday April 6.
The provisional toll 'is 44 civilians killed amongst many others wounded,' said Rodolphe Sorgho, who is lieutenant-governor of the Sahel region.
Sorgho stated that 31 people had died in Kourakou and 13 in Tondobi.
An official from the region said that an army offensive put 'out of action the armed terrorist groups' that are responsible for executing the killings.
'Actions to stabilise the area are under way' assured Sorgho.
The impoverished country is grappling with a seven-year campaign by jihadists linked to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group.
Whilst speaking to AFP, one resident of Kourakou said: 'A large number of terrorists burst into the village. All night long, we heard gunfire. It was on Friday morning that we saw that there were several dozen dead,' he added.
Locals believe an incident involving the execution of two jihadists, attempting to steal cattle a few days earlier, had left the village open to retaliation.
Last September saw Captain Ibrahim Traore come to power after a coup, and this has been the deadliest attack since.
The current military chief of Burkina Faso pledged to introduce a 'dynamic offensive' against jihadists following a string of insurgent attacks since the start of the year.
According to the estimate of one NGO, over two million people have been displaced and at least 10,000 people have been killed in the region since 2015, when the jihadists began their reign of terror in nearby Mali.
Jihadists control around 40 percent of the country.
The country has seen the activity of all political parties and civil society organisations suspended after Traore seized power last year.
Meanwhile, over 250 protesters were released from prison in Chad on April 8 after serving a five-month stint behind bars.
The former inmates departed the Moussoro prison, which is located around 300 km (180 miles) east of Ndjamena, and arrived home safely. The protesters had been officially pardoned in late-March.
They were arrested after taking part in last October’s Black Thursday protests, which left at least 50 protesters dead.
Thousands of Chadians marched across the country on October 20 last year, following the extension of the transitional government for two years.
Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno has remained in power after taking the reins of the country following his father’s death.
According to government officials, the number of arrests totalled 601 people in Ndjamena, including some 80 minors.
A mass trial then followed, with no lawyers involved, leading to a court based in a high-security desert prison sentencing 262 people to between two to three years behind bars.
Around 80 other people, out of the 401 people on trial, were handed one to two years' suspended prison sentences. A further 59 were acquitted.
Charges for those found guilty included 'unauthorised assembly, destruction of property and arson'.
The opposition and NGOs have also denounced disappearances, extra-judicial executions, and torture in Chad.
Further east in Sudan, the signing of the Civilian Rule Agreement was delayed this month, after the parties failed to agree details on the military restructure.
Arrangements for a return to civilian rule were agreed late-2022, following a coup in October 2021, however they have since been postponed.
April 1 was slated as the original date for signing the agreement only to be again postponed to Thursday April 6. Sudanese authorities have since postponed once more but no new date has been set at present.
In response to the delay, an influential and powerful civilian group, Forces of Freedom and Change coalition, called for protests on April 6.
The date marks two uprisings, one in 1985 and another in 2019, that led to the removal of ex-leaders Jaafar Nimeiry and Omar al-Bashir respectively.
The Forces of Freedom and Change coalition said progress had been made during the talks on military restructuring, however, disagreements continued towards mid-April over the timeline for incorporating the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) into the military.
RSF leader Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo and military ruler General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who led the 2021 coup, reportedly continue to be at loggerheads over the issue.
The RSF arose from the Janjaweed militia which Bashir leaned on in his crackdown on the western Darfur region in the early 21st century.
The militia is accused of committing war crimes against Darfur's non-Arab rebels.
However, Bashir's 2019 expulsion did not eradicate the RSF. Its leader Daglo, was among the most influential figures in post-Bashir Sudan.
- THE DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO (DRC)
Also this month, an attack by Islamic State-linked terrorists has killed over a dozen people in the the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
The attack in eastern DRC, which killed around 20 civilians, has been blamed on rebels affiliated with the global jihadist group.
'The enemy ADF (Allied Democratic Forces) ambushed farmers at around 4 pm on Friday near the village of Enebula,' local civil society leader Patrick Mukohe said by phone to AFP.
Mukohe stated that he witnessed 21 bodies made up of both men and women at the site of the killing, around 30 kilometres (20 miles) west of the town of Oicha, in North Kivu province.
A hospital morgue worker, Jules Kambale, reported that Oicha Hospital had received 19 bodies.
The regional military administrator, Charles Ehuta Omeanga, confirmed the attack, which he believes 'ADF terrorists' were responsible for. He also said that he was not in a position to give a definitive death toll.
Gaining a position in the eastern DRC in the 1990s after earlier holding territory in Uganda, the ADF is suspected of killing thousands of civilians.
It is one of the deadliest of many outlawed groups in the tense and unsettled region.
Footage released of the April attack showed a crowd surrounding the body of a man tied to a wooden frame, having had his throat slit.
The material has been shared on social media and has been authenticated by Mukohe.
Many young people tried to block the nearby national road in protest as the bodies of victims arrived at the Oicha morgue however they were quickly led away by the police who, according to one civil society source, opened fire during the process.
'The situation here is catastrophic,' the source said.
The United Nations mission in the country, MONUSCO, stated on Thursday April 6 that more than 30 civilians had been killed by the ADF in neighbouring Ituri province at the beginning of April.
The United States has now offered $5 million as a reward in attempt to gain information concerning ADF leader Seka Musa Baluku.
- SOUTH AFRICA
In other news, South Africa is predicted to be the hardest hit of all large global economies, according to projections released by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) this month.
After warning of high uncertainty and banking sector stress, the IMF trimmed its global-growth projections for the country, which is set to see the largest reduction among major economies.
The IMF predicted South Africa’s economy will barely grow in 2023 as rolling blackouts, weak commodity prices and the fallout from the Russia-Ukraine conflict continues to hammer the continent’s most industrialised nation.
Real growth in the country was downgraded to just 0.1 per cent, a reduction of 1.1 percentage points from the IMF’s previous estimate.
Growth is expected to rebound in 2024. Sub-Saharan Africa, meanwhile, is expected to see average growth of 3.6 per cent this year.
The outlook for much of the rest of the world is equally bleak, with a statement by the IMF concluding: ‘Tentative signs in early 2023 that the world economy could achieve a soft landing — with inflation coming down and growth steady — have receded amid stubbornly high inflation and recent financial sector turmoil.’