Algeria’s President, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, who returned to the country last week after two months in Germany, has signed the country’s new constitution into law. It was done on New Year day.
A news agency report, specifically AFP, says the presidential signature is coming after the document was approved in a November referendum on record low turnout as its leader received treatment abroad for COVID-19.
In the mean time, 25 civilians have been killed in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s troubled east, local officials claimed on Friday, blaming the attack on the notorious ADF militia.
The army was chasing ADF fighters on Thursday when they found the bodies of 25 civilians, who had been “taken by surprise in their fields on New Year’s Eve”, Donat Kibuana, the administrator of Beni territory in North Kivu province, told AFP.
The massacre took place in the village of Tingwe, about eight kilometres (five miles) from the town of Eringeti.
The head of the civil society organisation in Tingwe, Bravo Mohindo Vukulu, said at least 30 had died.
“People had gone to their fields to prepare for New Year’s Eve, the ADF picked them up one by one”, he said.
Adding, he said, “we had alerted our forces that the ADF had passed through from the east to the northeast of Eringeti. They did not react quickly.”
The ADF, which originated in the 1990s as a Ugandan Muslim rebel group, is one of dozens of militias that plague the eastern provinces of the vast country.
It is blamed for the deaths of around 800 civilians over the past year in North Kivu province, which borders Uganda.
The group makes money notably through wood trafficking and DR Congo officials suspect some military are complicit in the violent raids.
The ADF has never claimed responsibility for attacks. But since April 2019, several of its assaults have been claimed by the so-called Islamic State’s Central Africa Province, without providing proof.
The United Nations said in July the group’s attacks could constitute crimes against humanity and war crimes.
However, President Tebboune had promoted the new constitution as the “cornerstone of the new Algeria”, as he sought to turn the page on the long-running Hirak mass protest movement.
But the document received the backing of less than 15 percent of the electorate, in a November vote overshadowed by the novel coronavirus pandemic and following Hirak calls for a boycott.
The Hirak first launched vast street demonstrations in early 2019 to oppose then-president Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s bid for a fifth term in office.
Following his resignation that April, the Hirak kept up the pressure to demand a full overhaul of the ruling system in place since the North African country’s 1962 independence from France.
The new constitution was pitched as responding to the demands of the Hirak, but keeps in place Algeria’s presidential regime and expands the powers of the army, a central pillar of the state.
Tebboune, 75, on Thursday approved Algeria’s 2021 budget and is hoping to launch a vaccination campaign against the novel coronavirus, using the Sputnik V jab produced by its Russian ally, as early as this month.