Authorities in Ivory Coast have issued an arrest warrant for Guillaume Soro, prompting the ex-rebel leader and presidential hopeful to divert his plane to another country instead of returning home.
The arrest warrant is certain to escalate political tensions ahead of the 2020 election in the West African nation. Soro's supporters took to the streets Monday to protest and police used tear gas on them.
Soro, who served as prime minister from 2007 to 2012, had planned to return home after more than six months abroad.
Public Prosecutor Adou Richard announced on state television Monday night that Soro was accused of "presumption of an attack on state security," without giving details. Soro also is suspected of embezzling public funds and money laundering, Richard said.
The charges were announced hours after several of Soro's top associates were detained by security forces following a news conference in Abidjan.
"Arresting Soro won't resolve the problem, the crisis in Ivory Coast," said Soro supporter Bernard Koffi. "On the contrary, it makes the crisis worse because we don't know what wrong he is supposed to have done."
Ivory Coast erupted in civil war in 2002 and remained divided into a rebel-controlled north and loyalist south until a 2007 peace deal.
Soro and his allies helped President Alassane Ouattara come to power when then-President Laurent Gbagbo refused to step down during the violent 2010-2011 election that left more than 3,000 people dead.
Soro later fell out of favor with Ouattara while serving as parliament speaker and ultimately stepped down.
He is the first candidate to publicly declare his intention to run for president under the banner of his party, Générations et Peuples Solidaires, or GPS.
Ouattara was believed to be serving his final term but recently indicated he might consider seeking a third term if Gbagbo decides to run.
The mayor of Burundi's capital says at least 15 people have been killed by landslides caused by heavy rains over the weekend.
Bujumbura Mayor Freddy Mbonimpa on Sunday evening said another 30 people were injured and dozens of homes were damaged or destroyed in the landslides earlier in the day in the north of the capital.
One 50-year-old survivor who gave her name only as Angele said she lost her four children and her husband when their house was destroyed. She said she was spared because she had been away at work.
Other residents told The Associated Press they feared the toll would be higher as searches continued for missing people.
Security Minister Alain Guillaume Bunyoni during a visit to affected neighborhoods said authorities would install provisional shelters for those who lost their homes.
Heavy rains in recent weeks across East Africa have killed scores of people. Earlier this month, authorities in Burundi said at least 28 people died in landslides.
Authorities searched Monday for four Chinese crew members who were taken hostage by pirates in speedboats off Gabon's capital over the weekend.
Government spokesman Edgard Anicet Mboumbou Miyakou confirmed Sunday that four vessels anchored in the bay off Libreville were targeted in the overnight attack. He said a Gabonese national, the commander of a vessel operated by the Satram company, was killed.
The four Chinese crew members taken hostage were working for the Sigapeche company, the spokesman said.
Security forces were searching for the attackers in collaboration with Interpol and sub-regional organizations, he said. Gabonese authorities were taking measures "to guarantee the safety of maritime traffic," he said.
While attacks in the waters off Libreville are rare, piracy poses a growing threat in the Gulf of Guinea. The International Maritime Bureau says the Gulf of Guinea now accounts for about 82% of crew kidnappings in the world.
A suicide bomber detonated an explosives-laden vehicle outside a hotel hosting senior military officials in central Somalia, killing at least six people Saturday evening, say police.
The powerful blast shattered the windows of the Global Hotel in Galkayo town and destroyed several cars, said Col. Ahmed Bishar. The hotel accommodates Somalia's land forces commanders and other military officials who escaped unhurt, Bishar said.
At least 10 people were also injured in the blast in the town which has rarely experienced similar attacks.
No group has yet claimed the responsibility for the attack. However, al-Shabab, which is allied to al-Qaida, often carries out car bombs attacks on hotels.
France's President Emmanuel Macron has vowed to boost the fight against Islamic extremism in West Africa as French troops killed 33 Islamic extremists in central Mali.
Saturday was Macron's second day of his three-day trip to Ivory Coast and Niger that has been dominated by the growing threat posed by jihadist groups.
"We must remain determined and united to face that threat," Macron said in a news conference in Abidjan. "We will continue the fight."
By Macron's side, Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara in Abidjan announced a "historic" reform of the French-backed currency CFA Franc, established in 1945 and used by eight states in West and Central Africa.
The currency's name will become the "eco" next year and all French officials will withdraw from its decision-making bodies, Ouattara said. In addition, the obligation for member states to keep half of their foreign reserves in France will end.
The currency will remain pegged to the euro, which guarantees its stability, Ouattara stressed.
Macron, who turned 42 on Saturday, welcomed the reform and praised the financial and economic empowerment of the region.
"I don't belong to a generation that has known colonialism ... so let's break the ties!" he said, adding that the currency was considered by some, especially the African youth, as a post-colonial heritage.
Earlier that day, Macron announced that a French military operation killed 33 Islamic extremists in the Mopti region of central Mali on Saturday morning.
He tweeted he was "proud of our soldiers who protect us." Two Malian gendarmes also were rescued in the operation, he said.
France has about 4,500 military personnel in West and Central Africa, much of which was ruled by France during the colonial era. The French led a military operation in 2013 to dislodge Islamic extremists from power in several major towns across Mali's north.
In the ensuing years, the militants have regrouped and pushed further into central Mali, where Saturday morning's operation was carried out.
On Friday evening, Macron met with French military personnel stationed in Ivory Coast, which shares a long border with volatile Mali and Burkina Faso. The visit included commandos who were involved in the operation in Mali last month during which 13 soldiers died in a helicopter collision.
Earlier Saturday, Macron and Ouattara highlighted a new training effort being launched. The International Academy to Fight Terrorism will be in charge of "training in Ivory Coast some specialized forces from across Africa," Macron said. "Then we will collectively be better prepared for the fight against terrorism."
On Sunday, Macron will pay tribute in Bouake to the victims of a 2004 bombing by the Ivorian air force during the civil war in the country, which killed nine French soldiers and an American civilian who had sought shelter at the French army base.
He also will pay a visit to Niger's President Mahamadou Issoufou in Niamey before returning to France, where a summit with West African leaders will be held in mid-January to clarify the strategy of the French military operation in the Sahel region.