In brief: Brisbane begins flood cleanup
BRISBANE, Australia – Parts of Australia’s third-largest city reopened today as deadly floodwaters that had swamped entire neighborhoods receded, revealing streets and thousands of homes covered in a thick layer of putrid sludge.
Garbage trucks moved through Brisbane’s muddy streets and some residents dragged ruined furniture out of their homes as the massive cleanup began following one of Australia’s worst natural disasters.
In towns upstream of Brisbane, soldiers picked their way through debris looking for more victims. Weeks of flooding across Australia’s northeast have caused 25 deaths, and 55 people were still missing.
“There is a lot of heartache and grief as people start to see for the first time what has happened to their homes and their streets,” Queensland state Premier Anna Bligh said.
Preval unhappy with election advice
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – Haitian leader Rene Preval on Thursday officially received the report of an international team trying to solve an electoral deadlock, but he is unhappy with their recommendation that his preferred candidate be cut from the presidential runoff vote.
A source with knowledge of internal discussions said the president wanted revisions to the document submitted by the Organization of American States.
Rioting broke out across the country when preliminary results from the Nov. 28 first-round election were announced in December that indicated the runoff would be between former first lady Mirlande Manigat and Preval’s candidate, state-run construction company chief Jude Celestin.
Supporters of the third-place candidate, popular singer Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly, barricaded streets and burned Celestin’s campaign headquarters to demand their man be named president. A planned Jan. 16 runoff was postponed and the OAS team called into review allegations of fraud in the vote.
Tunisia president vows to step down
TUNIS, Tunisia – Tunisia’s autocratic president, struggling to contain deadly riots that have destabilized his authority, made sweeping pledges for political and media freedom and said he will leave the presidency – but not until his term ends in 2014.
Facing the worst unrest in his 23 years in power, an unusually contrite President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali ordered prices on sugar, milk and bread slashed. Buoyant crowds spilled into the streets after his speech, many cheering his price cuts but some questioning his commitment to real change.
Gbagbo backers attack U.N. vehicles
ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast – Mobs and security forces allied to Ivory Coast leader Laurent Gbagbo attacked at least six U.N. vehicles Thursday, setting some ablaze and injuring two people in the latest round of violence sparked by this West African nation’s disputed election.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon strongly condemned the attacks by loyalists of Gbagbo, who the U.N. says lost the Nov. 28 poll to longtime opposition leader Alassane Ouattara.
Ban said the attacks by “regular and irregular forces” constituted crimes under international law, and warned that those responsible would be held accountable. Other U.N. officials sounded an alarm, warning they were being prevented from protecting civilians.
Appointed leader wins key backing
ABUJA, Nigeria – President Goodluck Jonathan, who took on his nation’s top job only after the death of the country’s elected leader, won the endorsement of oil-rich Nigeria’s ruling party Friday morning, clinching a victory that makes him the overwhelming favorite to win in the April presidential election.
Jonathan cast himself as the leader able to change a nation blessed by natural resources but cursed by years of military dictatorships. However, the regional and religious tensions that flared up during the primary persist across a country troubled by violence and extremism more than 40 years after its brutal civil war.
As the candidate of the People’s Democratic Party, Jonathan can expect the party to use its political connections, money and muscle to propel him to victory in Nigeria’s unruly and corrupt electoral system. Since the handover in 1999 from military rule to a civilian government, politics in Africa’s most populous nation have been dominated by the party.