CENTRAL AFRICAN REP.

Voters hoping for greater stability

Thousands in the Central African Republic voted Wednesday in national elections with hope that a new president will lead to greater stability after years of violence.

Voters are choosing a president from a list of 30 candidates to replace transitional leader Catherine Samba-Panza, who was put in place in January 2014. More than 1.8 million people are expected to vote at more than 500 polling stations nationwide.

The Central African Republic has been rocked by unrest since March 2013 when a largely Muslim alliance of rebel groups known as Seleka overthrew President Francois Bozize.

The rebel leader left power in 2014 and a horrific backlash by the Christian anti-Balaka militia against Muslim civilians followed. Thousands were killed and sectarian violence has continued. - AP

BURUNDI

President warns: No peacekeepers

As conflict in Burundi escalates along the same ethnic lines that fueled genocide in neighboring Rwanda, Burundi's president on Wednesday warned the world to stay out, threatening to attack any peacekeepers dispatched by regional countries.

In a public address, President Pierre Nkurunziza said a proposed African Union peacekeeping force would violate Burundi's Constitution, which forbids such an intervention if there is a functioning government and no fighting between "two parties."

"Burundi will consider it an invasion" if any foreign troops come and will fight them, the president said.

Nkurunziza, who is from the Hutu ethnic group, appears to be sidelining military officers from the Tutsi minority whose loyalty is questioned. Some Tutsis are also starting to defect from the army, and one, a colonel, announced the creation of a new rebel group last week. - AP
CHINA

Freak weather seen as cause of sinking

Chinese authorities blamed freak weather for the capsizing of a cruise ship that killed hundreds earlier this year, but also recommended that the captain be further investigated and representatives of the shipping company and local authorities be punished for management flaws, state media announced Wednesday.

The disaster on the Yangtze River on the evening of June 1 killed 442 people and left just 12 survivors. The Eastern Star was carrying many elderly tourists on a 10-day cruise from Nanjing in China's east upstream to Chongqing.

The official Xinhua News Agency said the cabinet's investigation team concluded that the Eastern Star was brought down "by strong winds and heavy rains" associated with a downburst, a strong downdraft that is "a very rare weather phenomenon."

Xinhua said the investigation team found that 36 local government and party officials and seven people from the shipping company should be given administrative punishments for flaws in management, which would likely include demotions and firings. - AP