INTL Africa: Politics, Economics, and Military- July 2020

Plain Jane

Veteran Member
Here is June's thread:


Regional Conflict in Mediterranean beginning page 27:

Main Coronavirus Thread beginning on page 1264:
 

Plain Jane

Veteran Member


French, Spanish and African leaders meet to combat extremism
By CARLEY PETESCH and SYLVIE CORBETyesterday



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French President Emmanuel Macron, left, is welcomed by Mauritania President Mohamed Ould Ghazouani, right, upon arrival at Nouakchott Oumtounsy International Airport Tuesday June 30, 2020, in Nouakchott, to attend a G5 Sahel summit. Leaders from the five countries of West Africa's Sahel region, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger, meet with French President Emmanuel Macron and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez in Mauritania's capital Nouakchott on Tuesday to discuss military operations against Islamic extremists in the region, as jihadist attacks mount. The five African countries, known as the G5, have formed a joint military force that is working with France, which has thousands of troops to battle the extremists in the Sahel, the region south of the Sahara Desert. (Ludovic Marin, Pool via AP)

DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — Leaders from the five countries of West Africa’s Sahel region — Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger — on Tuesday called for intensifying counter-terrorism operations supported by the French military that have already seen successes in the recent months despite growing jihadist attacks in the region.

The heads of state from the five Sahel countries said the stability of the region below the Sahara Desert remains challenged by persistant attacks, a deteriorating security situation in Libya and the COVID-19 pandemic, and renewed calls for the cancellation of external debts as they deal with the pandemic.

The statements came after meetings between the heads of states Tuesday with French President Emmanuel Macron and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez in Mauritania’s capital Nouakchott to discuss military operations against Islamic extremists in the region.
The five African countries, known as the G5, have formed a joint military force that is working with France, which has 5,100 soldiers in the Sahel to help combat the still growing attacks. France first sent troops to the Sahel in 2013 when it helped to push al-Qaida-linked militants from their strongholds in Mali’s north.

But in recent months extremist groups linked to both al-Qaida and the Islamic State become more assertive, pushing further south into Niger and Burkina Faso, increasing attacks and taking control of more territory.

Thousands more soldiers are meant to be deployed as part of the G5 Sahel Joint Force, but this force is has not yet become fully operational due to the lack of funding and equipment.
“We are all convinced that victory is possible in Sahel,” Macron said in a news conference alongside other heads of states.

Macron said his first trip outside Europe since the beginning of the new coronavirus crisis aimed at showing “solidarity” toward the African continent. This was also Sanchez’ first trip abroad since a strict lockdown was adopted in Spain in mid-March to slow down the spread of the pandemic.

The French and African military force has made major gains since the last summit in Pau, France, in January, when it was decided to focus on eliminating the growing threat of the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara along the tri-border region of Burkina Faso, Niger and Mali. Among the successes has been the killing of the head of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb on June 3 in the Tessalit region.

“France will be there as long as its presence is wanted and requested by the Sahel states as they consider their people’s security is threatened ... and that our role is useful,” Macron said. He earlier praised the greater involvement of other European countries in the region.

Tuesday’s summit was called to set new milestones and raise the operational levels of the armies, as the victories remain fragile, said organizers. Counter-terrorism operations along the Burkina Faso, Niger and Mali tri-border region will continue, and the heads of state of the G5 also called for increased military engagement by the international community. They expressed gratitude for the support provided by France, the U.S. and the United Nations mission in Mali.

Operation Takuba, which will be a force of European special forces soldiers, would deploy in the summer of 2020, according to the G5 statement, along with a brigade from Britain in support of the Mali U.N. mission and 3,000 African Union soldiers.

There is political instability in Mali and Burkina Faso and the COVID-19 crisis has also substantially affected the already very vulnerable Sahel countries who are hoping for increased financial support as wealthier countries face the same pandemic.

Mauritania’s President Mohamed Ould Ghazouani urged richest countries to cancel the poor nations’ debt obligations. “The debt issue arises even more with the new situation that results from the pandemic and its consequences. The debt service burden is unbearable.”
Ghazouani met with Macron and Sanchez before an afternoon discussion with other heads of state, including Burkina Faso’s President Roch Marc Christian Kabore, Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, Niger’s President Mahamadou Issoufou and Chad’s President Idriss Deby.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte participated in the meeting via video call.

Recurrent jihadist attacks and inter-communal violence killed at least 4,000 people in 2019 in the Sahel, five times more than in 2016, according to the United Nations.

In Burkina Faso, the threat has grown with fighting spreading from the country’s north to the east and southwest regions. Areas that were once accessible are cut off. Djibo town in the Sahel has been under siege by jihadists for weeks, preventing aid from reaching civilians, according to workers for humanitarian groups and locals in the area.

There’s also been a rise in extrajudicial killings and revenge attacks by the army and local defense groups, targeting people allegedly supporting the jihadists, according to Human Rights Watch. The jihadists have also increased attacks on volunteer fighters helping the military.

On Tuesday, the G5 Heads of State agreed that “allegations of abuses by elements of the defense and security forces will be investigated and, if the facts are proven, of exemplary sanctions,” according to the final statement.

Burkina Faso’s army, which was already ill-equipped and struggling to stem the violence, has been hampered by the coronavirus. While it’s continued basic operations in the north and along the border with Mali and Niger, the military has no personal protective gear or other preventive supplies and few trained medical staff, according to internal foreign embassy cables seen by the AP. The “vast majority” of the military remain in their barracks, as a protection measure against the virus, said the report.

Despite gains along the border region, analysts say there’s been no progress in terms of addressing the issues driving the conflict.

“The progress has been mixed at best. The French had some tactical victories along the border, but not much has been done by local or international military to create long lasting stability or warrant any kind of victory,” said Flore Berger, a Sahel research analyst at the Institute for Strategic Studies.

Strengthening the regional G5 force is also critical at this time, especially as the U.S. has yet to make a decision on whether it will scale back military presence in the area.
The next summit will be held in 2021 in a Sahel country.
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Corbet wrote from Paris. AP writers Sam Mednick in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso; Ahmed Mohamed in Nouakchott, Mauritania, and Aritz Parra in Madrid contributed to this report.
 

Plain Jane

Veteran Member



Mortar shells hit after Somalia celebrates reopened stadium
By ABDI GULEDyesterday



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Somalia's President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, center, prepares to cut the ribbon for the reopening of the stadium in Mogadishu, Somalia Tuesday, June 30, 2020. At least three mortar blasts struck the Mogadishu Stadium Tuesday evening, just hours after it was reopened by Somalia's President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, who had left before the shells hit, following years of instability. (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh)

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — At least three mortar blasts sent sports fans in Somalia ducking for cover Tuesday evening, hours after the Mogadishu Stadium reopened following years of instability.

The mortar shells struck in and around the stadium, police Col. Ahmed Muse said. There was no immediate word on any casualties. The al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab extremist group often targets the city.

The blasts occurred after Somalia’s President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed attended the opening ceremonies that included a football match in the nearly empty stadium. He left before the shells hit.


A live television broadcast captured the sound of one of the blasts as an interviewer ducked and hurried off-camera.

The 35,000-seat stadium’s opening, complete with a large ceremonial flame, was a symbol of Somalia’s attempts at rebuilding after nearly three decades of conflict. The venue had hosted a base for the African Union peacekeeping force until late last year.

https://apnews.com/911c9cdb10a0319fb5f36dc5ddff9d40
 

Plain Jane

Veteran Member

Russia's nuclear play for power in Africa
Russia is pushing nuclear technology to African nations to both turn a profit and expand its political might on the continent.



South Africa's nuclear power station at Koeberg

Rwanda's parliament has just approved a plan for Russia's state-owned Rosatom nuclear conglomerate to build it a nuclear research center and reactor in the capital, Kigali.

The Center of Nuclear Science and Technologies, planned for completion by 2024, will include nuclear research labs as well as a small research reactor with up to 10 MW capacity.
Ethiopia, Nigeria and Zambia have signed similar deals with Rosatom, while countries such as Ghana, Uganda, Sudan and DRC have less expansive cooperation agreements.

Rosatom has been aggressively wooing African nations since the mid-2000s and the nuclear deals are seen as part of Russia's push turn a profit and also gain influence in Africa.

Western sanctions first imposed on Russia in 2014 over its annexation of the Crimea in the Ukraine have forced Russia to seek alternative sources of incomes and also new friends.

Nuclear technology instead of trade
"For Putin to remain relevant in Russia, he really has to ensure that Russia has a big influence," said Ovigwe Eguegu, a geopolitics analyst with the international affairs platform, Afripolitika. "That's why he is looking at African markets so he has more parties to partner with when it comes to international issues."
Russian President Vladimir Putin stands amid African heads of state
In a sign of the continent's increasing importance for Russia, its president, Vladimir Putin, held the first Russia-Africa summit in October 2019

African nations constitute the largest voting bloc in the United Nations.
While the Soviet Union had a close relationship to various African states during the Cold War, Russia's trade balance with Africa is one tenth of that of China, meaning it needs to look for other means to get a foothold on the continent.

"Russia is using the tools that they have to expand their influence and right now, Russia has lots of experience in the nuclear energy area," Eguegu said in a phone interview from Abuja.

Rosatom nuclear leader
Rosatom is the world's biggest nuclear company by foreign orders. While it has projects in developed countries such as Finland and Hungary, it's mainly involved in developing regions.
The Rosatom packages are popular because the corporation's sheer size means it can offer all-in-one deals, from training local workers to developing nuclear science curricula, supplying uranium for the plant's life time and dealing with nuclear waste — with the added plus of Russian state loans for the projects.

The cost and financing of Rwanda's nuclear research center is still undisclosed. But Russia is extending a $25 billion (€22.23 billion) loan to Egypt to cover 85% of the cost of the El Dabaa nuclear power plant, which Rosatom is constructing.
Ministers sign an agreement at tables with the Russian and Egyptian flags behind them
Egypt and Russia signed a deal to build Egypt's first nuclear power plant in 2015

"Rosatom has come to dominate nuclear exports to developing countries because of their generous financing and worker training," according to the 2018 Center for Global Development policy paper, Atoms for Africa.

Additionally, Russia is itself a major player in the nuclear market, responsible for some 8% of uranium production worldwide as well as 20% of uranium conversion and 43% of uranium enrichment (conversion and enrichment are stages of processing uranium so it can be used by commercial nuclear power reactors).

Pros and cons of nuclear technologies
Rwanda's planned research reactor will also be used to manufacture radioisotopes, according to Rosatom. Radioisotopes have many applications from irradiating food to increase its shelf life to helping diagnose tumors or heart disease.

Such research reactors have "definite advantages" in fields such as nuclear medicine, nuclear scientist Michael Gatari, a professor at the University of Nairobi, told DW.

In addition, on a continent where where more than half of the population lack access to electricity, there is "immense potential" for nuclear to provide a clean source of energy to meet Africa's large energy deficit, the Center for Global Development study, Atoms for Africa, found.

"In the long term, a nuclear reactor generates electricity cheaper than we are paying now. It is also stable and produces no carbon emissions," Gatari said in a phone interview from Nairobi.

However, many experts, including Gatari, believe that nuclear technology doesn't yet make sense for African countries. They lack the highly skilled local workforce required to run the technological intricacies of such reactors. Plus, nuclear facilities are vastly expensive and take years to build.
A radioaction symbol hangs on a wall
There are questions whether African nations have the ability to safely maintain nuclear facilities

Gatari warns of countries becoming locked into costly projects that end up being "white elephants".

"Such a project can only be driven by strong and educated local human resources," the nuclear researcher said. "That knowledge isn't possible by rushing young students through training for a short time.

And the cost of maintaining that kind of installation can cripple the budget of a country for a long, long time."

Doing the smooth sell
Currently, South Africa is the only country in sub-Saharan Africa with a functioning nuclear power plant, while Nigeria and Ghana have research reactors, which are primarily used for studying and training and to test materials, such as minerals.

In Europe, safety concerns around nuclear technologies have already caused countries such as Germany, Italy, Spain and Switzerland to vote to phase out nuclear power.

These concerns are compounded in Africa, given the the political instability of certain regions and the threat of sabotage or terrorist attacks.

Read more: What happens to nuclear waste from power plants?
This hasn't stopped Rosatom, and Russia, from doing a soft sell of nuclear technologies on the continent.
Rosatom logo
Rosatom is closing deals to finance and build nuclear facilities across Africa

Rosatom funds scholarships for students from sub-Saharan Africa to study nuclear sciences and engineering in Russia. As of January 2020, around 300 students from more than 15 African countries were studying nuclear specialties there.

It runs an online video competition, Atoms for Africa, where participants stand a chance to win an all expenses paid trip to Russia for a video dedicated to innovative nuclear technologies.

In 2019, it even held an international fishing competition near the Leningrad nuclear power station, Russia's largest, to demonstrate the safety of nuclear power for water bodies. (The competition was won by an Egypt team).

"There is good money if you can sell a research reactor," said nuclear scientist Gatari. "Unfortunately, the convincing capacity of [Rosatom's] marketing is very high, and the understanding of those who are buying is low."
 

Plain Jane

Veteran Member



  • Unrest erupts in Ethiopia after killing of singer
    Hachalu Hundessa — famed for his political songs — had been considered a voice for Ethiopia's Oromo ethnic group. Heavy violence has been reported following his death, with multiple people killed in ongoing protests.


    Hachalu Hundessa at a 2013 concert

    Prominent Oromo singer-songwriter Hachalu Hundessa was shot dead on Monday evening in the Addis Ababa suburb of Gelan Condominiums.

    The context to the artist's death was not immediately clear, although the US Embassy in the Ethiopian capital said Hundessa's supporters had blamed security forces and "assume a political motive" for the crime.


    His death sparked protests across Ethiopia's Oromiya region on Tuesday, with at least eight people killed in the wave of violence according to an official tally, while some estimates have put the number as high as 50. According to a police spokesman, the dead included both protesters and members of the security forces.

    Police also detained opposition politician Jawar Mohammed on Wednesday alongside 34 others. The arrest of Jawar, a former media mogul who went on to join the opposition Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), risks stoking ethnic tensions in the region even further.
    An interview with DW's Colleta Wanjohi about the killing of Hachalu Hundessa and its ramifications features on Tuesday's Africalink radio show which is available on DW Africa's Facebook page.
    Music: A tool of protest
    Three people were killed on Tuesday and others were critically injured when protests erupted, reported news agency Agence France-Presse. The internet was shut down, major roads were blocked, tyres were burned and smoke was seen billowing across the city.
    The German Embassy in Addis Ababa warned people to avoid large crowds and driving through the city, citing calls for demonstrations on social media.


    'Voice of a generation'
    Ethiopia's prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, expressed his condolences and tweeted that an investigation was currently under way.

    Laetitia Bader, Human Rights Watch's regional director, said in a statement that the government should act urgently to reduce tensions and ensure that security forces "do not make a combustible situation worse."

    Hachalu Hundessa was considered "an icon of revolution — especially in the Oromo ethnic group," said DW's Colleta Wanjohi.
    An equestrian statue of Ras Makonnen is demolished by demonstrators
    An equestrian statue of Ras Makonnen is demolished by demonstrators
    The Oromo is the biggest ethnic group in terms of population in Ethiopia. "It is also the ethnic group "credited with leading Ethiopia through a transition from the previous regime to the current leadership under Abiy Ahmed, who himself is from the Oromo ethnic group," Wanjohi explained.

    Hundessa in 2017 was described by OPride.com as an "electrifying voice of a generation that is revolting" after being awarded the portal's Oromo Person.

    "For capturing and expressing the frustration, anger, and hope of Oromo protesters through revolutionary lyrics; for courageously defying forcible suppression of dissent and boldly proclaiming ‘we are here and not going anywhere'; for providing a stirring soundtrack to the budding Oromo revolution; for breaking down fear and structural barriers through rousing musical storytelling, and for uniting the Oromo masses and amplifying their collective yearning for change, Haacaaluu Hundeessaa is OPride's Oromo Person of 2017."

    The Oromo, Ethiopia's largest ethnic group, had taken to the streets to complain about what they perceive as marginalization and persecution by the central government.
    Ethnic distribution in Ethiopia

    Ethiopian diversity
    Oromo protests made international headlines when Ethiopian long-distance runner Feyisa Lilesa — a member of the Oromo community — reached the finishing line raising his crossed hands at the Rio 2016 Olympics. The crossed hands have become the symbol of the anti-government movement that started in the Oromia region and spread north to the Amhara region.

    At the height of anti-government protests, Hachalu gave a concert in Addis Ababa, singing songs that spoke to concerns among the Oromo that they had been economically and politically marginalized.

    "The Oromos did whatever we could, we have done our best, we can do no more than this. We served the small and the big people just so we can live together but we can't tolerate it anymore," were the lyrics of one song.

    Ethiopia is no stranger to ethnic violence. With over 80 different ethnic groups and Africa's second-largest country based on population, the country is extremely diverse and disagreements between various groups often spiral into communal violence.

    An interview with DW's Colleta Wanjohi about the killing of Hachalu Hundessa and its ramifications features on Tuesday's Africalink radio show which is available on DW Africa's Facebook page.
    kw/stb (dpa, Reuters)


 

Plain Jane

Veteran Member




Click to copy
Botswana investigates ‘mysterious deaths’ of 275 elephants
By SELLO MOTSETA2 hours ago


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In this supplied photo a dead elephant lies in the bush in the Okavango Delta, Botswana, Monday May 25, 2020. Botswana says it is investigating a staggeringly high number of elephant carcasses, with 275 found in the popular Okavango Delta area of the southern African nation in recent weeks.(Photo via AP)

GABORONE, Botswana (AP) — Botswana says it is investigating a staggeringly high number of elephant carcasses — 275 — found in the popular Okavango Delta area of the southern African nation in recent weeks.

The Department of Wildlife and National Parks said it is mobilizing human personnel and aircraft to better understand the “mysterious deaths.” Samples have been collected for analysis at labs in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Canada and anthrax has been ruled out as the cause.

“We have no reason to dispute the numbers reported and we are continuing to verify reports,” Lucas Taolo, the department’s acting director, told The Associated Press.

He said local communities are being advised not to tamper with the dead elephant’s tusks. Poaching remains a threat in the country but also has been ruled out as the cause of the deaths.

This is “one of the biggest disasters to impact elephants this century, and right in the middle of one of Africa’s top tourism destinations,” the director of conservation group National Park Rescue, Mark Hiley, said in an email.

“Elephants began dying in huge numbers in early May and the government would normally respond within days to an event of this scale. Yet here we are, months later, with no testing completed and with no more information than we had at the start.”

He said COVID-19 is an unlikely candidate but for now nothing, including poison, can be ruled out.

Botswana has the world’s highest population of elephants with more than 156,000 counted in a 2013 aerial survey in the country’s north.

Former wildlife minister Tshekedi Khama, brother of former president Ian Khama, has blamed poaching in the Okavango Delta on President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s decision to disarm the wildlife department’s anti-poaching unit in 2018.

Soon after that decision, conservation group Elephants Without Borders reported 87 elephants found stripped of their tusks in the area.

In a separate statement on Thursday, Botswana’s government also announced “an alarming surge of rhinoceros poaching in the Okavango Delta” in recent days.
 

Plain Jane

Veteran Member


Click to copy
South Africa’s hospitals bracing for surge of virus patients
By ANDREW MELDRUMtoday



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FILE — In this May 8, 2020, file photo a man looks into a tent as a health worker in protective gear collects a sample for COVID-19 testing in Diepsloot, Johannesburg, South Africa. South Africa’s reported coronavirus are surging. Its hospitals are now bracing for an onslaught of patients, setting up temporary wards and hoping advances in treatment will help the country’s health facilities from becoming overwhelmed. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe, File)

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — The nurse started crying when describing her work at a Johannesburg hospital: The ward for coronavirus patients is full, so new arrivals are sent to the general ward, where they wait days for test results. Already 20 of her colleagues have tested positive.

“A lot, a lot, a lot of people are coming in every day. With COVID-19,” said the nurse, who spoke on condition of anonymity because she is not authorized to speak to the media. “Each day, it becomes more difficult to cope.”

South Africa’s reported coronavirus cases more than quadrupled in June — though some of that is due to efforts to clear a testing backlog, the rate of increase of new cases is picking up. Its hospitals are now bracing for an onslaught of patients, setting up temporary wards and hoping advances in treatment will help the country’s health facilities from becoming overwhelmed.


The surge comes as the country has allowed businesses to reopen in recent weeks to stave off economic disaster after a strict two-month stay-at-home order worsened already high unemployment — it reached 30% in June — and drastically increased hunger. In Johannesburg, the largest city, health officials said they are considering reimposing some restrictions to try to slow the quickening spread of the virus.

“We’re seeing a spike in infections in Johannesburg. The number of people that we are diagnosing on a daily basis now is absolutely frightening,” said Shabir Madhi, professor of vaccinology at Johannesburg’s University of the Witwatersrand, who is leading a vaccine trial in South Africa in cooperation with Britain’s University of Oxford. “Who we are finding positive now is an indication of who will be in hospital three weeks from now.”

The vaccine trial began last week, and Madhi said he’s surprised by the high number of prospective participants who have been disqualified because they are positive for the virus.
“It is hard to see how our hospitals will be able to cope,” he said. “Our facilities are reaching a tipping point.”

COVID-19 has highlighted South Africa’s inequalities, he said. “Everyone is at risk from the virus,” he said. “But the poor, living in higher density areas, without good access to running water, access to health care, the poorest will suffer the most.”

South Africa, with 58 million people and nearly 40% of all the cases on the entire continent, has seen the number of confirmed infections rise from 34,000 at the start of June to more than 168,000 on Friday.


Overnight it reported its largest daily number of new confirmed cases — 8,728.
As of Friday, 2,844 people had died, according to official statistics. But forecasts by health experts have warned that South Africa could see from 40,000 to more than 70,000 deaths from COVID-19 before the end of 2020.

Other African countries are watching warily as the country with the continent’s best-equipped and best-staffed health system hurtles toward a peak that may overwhelm it.
South Africa’s health minister, Dr. Zwelini Mkhize, issued a sobering warning recently about an expected flood of cases, especially in urban centers as many return to work.

“It is anticipated that, while every province will unfortunately witness an increase in their numbers, areas where there is high economic activity will experience an exponential rise,” Mkhize said this week.

Concerns about the virus spreading in the minibus taxis that millions of South Africans use to commute grew this week when the taxi association said the minivans would run at full capacity of up to 15 passengers, despite government orders to carry just 70% capacity.
For weeks Cape Town has been the country’s epicenter of the disease, but Johannesburg is rapidly catching up.

Mkhize said Gauteng province, which also includes the nation’s capital of Pretoria, will quickly surpass Cape Town and will need more hospital beds.

Gauteng hospitals already have 3,000 COVID-19 patients, the province’s premier David Makhura told reporters Thursday. He denied reports that patients have been turned away and said bed capacity would be significantly increased by the end of July. He said the reopening of schools set for next week may be postponed and warned that restrictions may be reimposed to combat the surge.

To increase its hospital capacity, South Africa has converted convention centers in Cape Town and Johannesburg, built wards in huge tents, and turned a closed Volkswagen car manufacturing plant into a 3,300-bed treatment center. Still, finding staff to tend to those beds is a challenge: The factory remains empty for lack of health workers.

In Khayelitsha township, one of Cape Town’s poorest areas with some 400, 000 residents, the district hospital has 300 beds. Anticipating increased demand on the overstretched facility, an external wing was created across the street. Built in a month, the new ward opened at the start of June with 60 beds. By this week only two beds were empty.

“It’s overwhelming,” said Dr. Hermann Reuter of his work in the external ward, run by Khayelitsha District Hospital with assistance from Doctors Without Borders.

Reuter said advances in treatment — including giving patients oxygen masks and nasal inhalers earlier and turning them often in order to keep them off ventilators — has yielded encouraging results, even though many are severely ill when they arrive. Crucially, many can be discharged in two weeks — freeing up much-needed bed space, said Reuter, who normally runs community substance abuse clinics but volunteered to work in the field hospital.

As South Africa heads into its coldest time of year, the media have warned of a “dark winter” over fears cases will peak in July and August in the Southern Hemisphere country. President Cyril Ramaphosa recently counseled the nation to prepare for tough times ahead, saying that many may find themselves “despondent and fearful” in the weeks and months to come.

“It may be that things have gotten worse, but we are certain that they will get better,” he said.
For the nurse at the Johannesburg hospital, those dark days already appear to have arrived.
“Nursing is a calling, and we are working to help people in this corona crisis,” she said. “But we are becoming overwhelmed.”
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Mogomotsi Magome in Johannesburg contributed.
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Follow AP pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and Understanding the Outbreak
 

Plain Jane

Veteran Member
This looks hopeful!


NEWS
JULY 6, 2020 / 8:26 AM / UPDATED AN HOUR AGO
Kenya uses app in battle against desert locusts

Baz Ratner
3 MIN READ

LORUGUM, Kenya (Reuters) - Lorugum village in northwest Kenya is under siege. Hundreds of thousands of young desert locusts perch on trees, shrubs, and in the grass.

In the coming days or weeks, their bodies will turn from pink to yellow, their wings will harden and, if nothing is done to stop them, they will begin to swarm, with disastrous consequences for agricultural production and the environment.

Using his smartphone camera, Christopher Achilo takes photos and videos of a tree trunk in the village that is crawling with the pink insects, and uploads the images onto an app.

“One locust eats food equal to his weight (every day), so imagine having millions of locusts, if you cannot even see over the trees,” he said.

Within some time, all the trees are just naked. Even they go inside the farms, they strip the farms, so it is a very big impact on the food security.”

Achilo is one of a team of locust scouts trained by local aid group ACTED, with the help of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and Turkana County regional government, to spot and report sightings using a new application, E-Locust.

The information he and the others collect is sent in real-time to a database in Lodwar, Turkana’s main town, which is then used by another team deployed to spray the insects with pesticides to prevent swarm formation.

Locust numbers, the worst in three generations, surged in East Africa and the Red Sea region in late 2019 and early this year, encouraged by unseasonably wet weather and dispersed by a record number of cyclones.

The pests could cost East Africa and Yemen $8.5 billion this year, the World Bank has said.

Swarms can fly up to 150 km (93 miles) a day with the wind, and a single square kilometre swarm can eat as much food in a day as 35,000 people. Desert locusts feed on nearly all green vegetation and crops, including leaves, flowers, bark, fruit, millet and rice.

In a bulletin from July 3, the FAO said it expected swarm formation in Kenya to continue until mid-July. It said that in June, control operations treated around 30,830 hectares against locusts, around 8,500 hectares by air.

Reporting by Baz Ratner; Additional reporting by Nazanine Moshiri in Nairobi; Editing by George Obulutsa and Raissa Kasolowsky
Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
 

Plain Jane

Veteran Member
See this thread for more on the dead elephants.

 
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Plain Jane

Veteran Member

NEWS
JULY 6, 2020 / 8:58 AM / UPDATED AN HOUR AGO
Nurses in Zimbabwe arrested as they protest over pay


3 MIN READ

HARARE (Reuters) - Police in Zimbabwe arrested 12 nurses protesting outside state hospitals on Monday demanding to be paid in U.S. dollars as inflation running at nearly 800% was eroding their salaries, the country’s nurses union said.

An economic crisis under President Emmerson Mnangagwa has revived memories of the hardships of more than a decade ago when hyperinflation wiped out savings and pensions and forced the country to dump its currency in favour of the U.S. dollar.

The demonstrations, including at Zimbabwe’s biggest hospital in the capital Harare, come at a time COVID-19 cases are rising in the southern African nation, which has recorded 716 infections and eight deaths so far.

Nurses holding placards reading “No U.S. dollar no work” and “#Nurses can’t breath” said they had to protest because they cannot survive on a monthly salary of 3,000 Zimbabwe dollars ($47).

“The situation is bad and our cause is justified,” Pretty Gudza, a mother of four told Reuters during the protest in Harare. “I cannot work for nothing, I have to eat and I have to be mentally healthy so that I can assist the sick.”

Nurses also gathered in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second biggest city, to demand better pay, said Enock Dongo, president of the Zimbabwe Nurses Union.

He said 12 demonstrators had been arrested in Harare, where a Reuters witness saw police detaining nurses.

Police national spokesman Paul Nyathi said he was unaware of the arrests and would investigate.

Mnangagwa’s government announced a 50% salary hike for state employees last month and a $75 allowance for three months but workers said the increase was not reflected in their June pay.

Zimbabwe reintroduced its local currency last year after a decade of official use of the U.S. dollar but the local currency rapidly lost value, sending prices rocketing and raising fears of renewed hyperinflation.



Slideshow (5 Images)
Zimbabwe’s inflation rate stands at 785%, one of the highest in the world, while businesses charge in U.S. dollars and use black market rates to calculate prices in the local currency, making goods too expensive for many.

Last month, Zimbabwe suspended trade on the stock exchange and some mobile phone payments, which account for over 80% of all transactions, as part of efforts to arrest the local currency’s slide.

Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by Emma Rumney and David Clarke
Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
 

Plain Jane

Veteran Member



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Ethiopia’s week of unrest sees 239 dead, 3,500 arrested
By ELIAS MESERET31 minutes ago


ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) — At least 239 people have been killed and 3,500 arrested in more than a week of unrest in Ethiopia that poses the biggest challenge yet to its Nobel Peace Prize-winning prime minister.

In the Oromia region, the toll includes 215 civilians along with nine police officers and five militia members, regional police commissioner Mustafa Kedir told the ruling party-affiliated Walta TV on Wednesday.

Officials earlier said 10 people were killed in the capital, Addis Ababa, eight of them civilians, amid outrage after a popular singer was shot dead last Monday.

Hachalu Hundessa had been a rallying voice in anti-government protests that led to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed taking power in 2018. Abiy swiftly introduced political reforms that also opened the way for long-held ethnic and other grievances in Africa’s second most populous country.

The military was deployed during the outrage that followed Hachalu’s death.

In remarks last week while wearing a military uniform, Abiy said dissidents he recently extended an offer of peace had “taken up arms” in revolt against the government. He hinted there could be links between this unrest and the killing of the army chief last year as well as the grenade thrown at one of his own rallies in 2018.

The 3,500 arrests have included that of a well-known Oromo activist, Jawar Mohammed, and more than 30 supporters. It is not clear what charges they might face. The Oromo make up Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group but had never held the country’s top post until they helped bring Abiy to power.

Local reports have said that in some places ethnic Oromo have attacked ethnic Amhara, and in Shashamane town some people were going home to home checking identity cards and targeting Amhara residents.

Businesses have now begun opening slowly in Oromia after the violence in which several hundred homes in Ethiopia were burned or damaged.

But Ethiopia’s internet service remains cut, making it difficult for rights monitor and others to track the scores of killings.
 

Plain Jane

Veteran Member



Burkina Faso’s volunteer fighters are no match for jihadists
By SAM MEDNICKyesterday



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A group of local defense force fighters drive their motorbikes during an event to inaugurate a new chapter of the group in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, Saturday, March 14, 2020. In an effort to combat rising jihadist violence, Burkina Faso’s military has recruited volunteers to help it fight militants. (AP Photo/Sam Mednick)

KONGOUSSI, Burkina Faso (AP) — Armed only with a knife, Issa Tamboure was no match for gun-wielding jihadists who attacked his village in northern Burkina Faso in March.
So Tamboure, 63, rounded up his family — including his 13 children — and ran, eventually reaching a camp for people displaced by violence.

But Tamboure was not a typical civilian fleeing the extremists linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State organization who have been dramatically escalating their attacks in the West African nation in recent years. He is among the volunteers who signed up with Burkina Faso’s military to help fight the militants.

But his plight shows the program’s weakness: With little training, few weapons, and dwindling means amid an economic downturn fueled by the coronavirus pandemic, volunteers now say they are unable to adequately battle the well-armed extremists.

“When you don’t have enough to eat, you don’t have enough strength to use a rifle,” said Tamboure, running his fingers over the family’s tattered tent in a makeshift displacement camp in Kongoussi, about 15 miles (25 kilometers) from his home. He said the number of volunteers who patrol a swath between his village and the camp at night has fallen in recent months to around 200 from 500.

For years, Burkina Faso was spared the kind of Islamic extremism that hit neighboring Niger and Mali, where a 2013 French-led military intervention dislodged jihadists from power in several major towns. But deaths from attacks in the country have risen from about 80 in 2016 to over 1,800 in 2019, according to the United Nations. Burkina Faso’s military has struggled to contain the violence despite training and aid from the French and U.S. militaries.

In an attempt to bolster the army, the government passed a law to arm civilians in January. Many towns have no government or military presence, leaving only this corps of volunteers to protect their villages.

Armed with a few hunting rifles and knives, the fighters patrol the surrounding bush and escort displaced civilians back to their villages to plant crops or pick up belongings or to other areas to visit relatives. In Kongoussi last month, residents told The Associated Press they were grateful for the patrols.

“Even if I’m a little afraid, I feel safer with the volunteers,” said Souleiman Soule, 44.
But several volunteer fighters in hard hit areas in the north and west of the country told the AP that because of the economic downturn caused by the pandemic they no longer have money to buy gas for their motorbikes to conduct patrols.

Analysts are concerned that restrictions on movement imposed to control the virus will make it harder for the volunteer fighters to receive equipment and supplies, thus emboldening the militants, especially in rural areas.

“The security forces are already overwhelmed, under-resourced, and have a bad reputation,” said Laith Alkhouri, an intelligence specialist who researches violent extremists in West Africa. “Any shortage or delays in manpower will require the army to divert important resources to fill the gap of the volunteer groups, making them unable to get in front of the violence.”

Meanwhile, the volunteers have been targeted by the jihadists. In the western region of Boucle du Mouhoun last month, several people told the AP that volunteer fighters were being killed in the markets.

Such attacks were predictable, say experts.
“As long as you decide to establish community defense mechanisms, they’re systemically going to become threats and the targets of these (extremist) groups,” said William Assanvo, senior researcher with the Institute for Security Studies.

A ragtag group of volunteers won’t be able to stop Burkina Faso’s cycle of violence, he said. And there’s some evidence they are contributing to it.

The proliferation of armed men across the country — including the military, the government-sanctioned volunteers, and also ad hoc community defense groups — has led to an increase in extrajudicial killings, say rights groups.

Graves containing at least 180 bodies and remains were found in Djibo, and there is evidence suggesting government security forces were involved in the slayings, Human Rights Watch said this week. Djibo is home to many Fulanis, an ethnic group whose members are predominantly Muslim and have been targeted over allegations they are affiliated with Islamist groups.

Allegations of human rights abuses by volunteers have also been “rampant,” said Ousmane Diallo, West Africa researcher for Amnesty International.

“Volunteer fighters are problematic and have led to more violence and reprisal,” said Diallo.
Neither the government nor the army responded to repeated requests from the AP for comment.

But fighters struggling to protect their communities say they need more government support.

In the northern town of Ouahigouya, an 18-year-old said his community received arms to help the army fight extremists in November — before the government officially began its volunteer program — but then soldiers took back the weapons, leaving villagers with little to defend themselves and now marked as targets for retaliation. The teen, who helped fight, spoke on condition of anonymity because he is afraid for his safety.

“These tactics make us vulnerable to terrorists,” he said, hanging his head. “We think the soldiers are creating more problems than solutions.”
 

Plain Jane

Veteran Member
Sounds like a color revolution may be planned for Zimbabwe.


Zimbabwe asks Kenya to expel Mugabe-era minister


THURSDAY JULY 09 2020
moyo pix

Former Zimbabwean Information Minister Jonathan Moyo. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP






Summary
  • The former minister has a controversial past, both in his home country and Kenya.
  • In Kenya, Mr Moyo once worked for an international NGO in Nairobi in the 1990s where he was accused of defrauding of thousands of dollars.
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By KITSEPILE NYATHI
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Zimbabwe has asked Kenya to expel a Mugabe-era Cabinet Minister amid claims that that he is organising mass protests against the southern African country's government.

Prosecutors have approached Kenya seeking the extradition of Jonathan Moyo, who fled during the 2017 coup that saw Robert Mugabe toppled from power and Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa installed as Zimbabwe's president.

Prof Moyo, a former Higher Education Minister, was charged with fraud involving over $400,000 in public funds, but he argues that the case is politically motivated.

PROPEL GRACE TO POWER

Mr Moyo is believed to have been the brains behind G40, which was a faction within the ruling Zanu-PF party that was scheming to propel Grace Mugabe to take over power from her husband, at the expense of then VP Mnangagwa.

Now, a top Zanu PF party official has said that Zimbabwe wants Mr Moyo expelled to stop him from mobilising against President Mnangagwa's government.

We take note and welcome the prosecutor general's efforts for the extradition of Professor Jonathan Moyo from Kenya as he is the figment of the external demonisation of our leadership and extorting mass uprising in the country," said Zanu PF secretary for administration Obert Mpofu.

However, Zimbabwe and Kenya do not have an extradition treaty, but Harare says there is a provision for the two countries to facilitate the politician's return to face criminal charges.

Mr Moyo claims that there has been an assassination attempt against him even after he fled to Kenya.

However, government spokesperson Ndabaningi Mangwana said President Mnangagwa had no intentions to kill the former minister.

“Zimbabwe does not assassinate people,” he said.

“We have a lot of faith in our criminal justice system and we believe everyone should have their day in court, (Prof) Jonathan Moyo included," he added.

SHADY PAST

The former minister has a controversial past, both in his home country and Kenya.

In Kenya, Mr Moyo once worked for an international NGO in Nairobi in the 1990s which he was accused of defrauding of thousands of dollars.

He was implicated in a corruption scandal involving about $6 million (about Sh620 million) while he was the programme director in Nairobi for the US-based charity organisation, Ford Foundation.

The money was meant for a Nairobi-based NGO, the Series on Alternative Research in East Africa Trust, which was founded by political scientist Mutahi Ngunyi.

Kenyan officials have previously denied habouring Mr Moyo.
 

Plain Jane

Veteran Member


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Mali protests in 2nd day despite president’s call for talks
By BABA AHMEDJuly 11, 2020



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Anti-government protesters burn tires and barricade roads in the capital Bamako, Mali, Friday, July 10, 2020. Thousands marched Friday in Mali's capital in anti-government demonstrations urged by an opposition group that rejects the president's promises of reforms. (AP Photo/Baba Ahmed)


BAMAKO, Mali (AP) — Police fired tear gas Saturday in Mali’s capital as scattered groups came out for a second straight day of anti-government protests, defying the president’s latest call for dialogue.

The turnout was far smaller than the thousands who surged through the streets Friday, briefly occupying the state television station and setting fires.

At least three people had been killed and more than 70 wounded in the two days of demonstrations, according to a report from the Gabriel Toure Hospital in Bamako to government officials that was seen by The Associated Press. There were also reports of arrests of opposition leaders.

Friday’s developments marked a major escalation in the growing movement against President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, who still has two years left in office in this West African country long destabilized by Islamic extremists.

His overnight address to the nation took a conciliatory gesture days after he had tried to appease the protesters by promising to revamp the constitutional court whose legislative election results in April have been disputed by several dozen candidates.

“I would like once again to reassure our people of my willingness to continue the dialogue and reiterate my readiness to take all measures in my power to calm the situation,” he said.
The anti-government movement still wants the National Assembly dissolved. Its name, the June 5 Movement, or M5, reflects the day demonstrators first took to the streets en masse.
While the group has officially backed down from its calls that Keita leave office, some protesters still want him gone.

“At this point, all possible scenarios are possible. We are in a cycle of ingovernability,” Baba Dakono, a researcher and political analyst, told AP. “It is difficult now to say whether President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita can still benefit from the support of the army,” because the behavior of the officers in contact with the troops can’t be predicted.

“Dialogue between the parties is necessary to break the deadlock,” he said.

Keita came to power after a French-led military operation to oust Islamic extremists from power in northern Mali’s towns in 2013, winning the first democratic elections organized after a military coup the year before.

Despite the presence of U.N. peacekeepers, and French and regional forces backing Malian troops, extremist groups continue to mount attacks.

Last year was particularly deadly as hundreds of soldiers were killed in the north, forcing the military at one point to close down some of its most remote and vulnerable outposts. It prompted criticism of how the government was handling the crisis.

The last democratically elected leader before Keita, President Amadou Toumani Toure, was overthrown in the 2012 coup after a decade in power. The political chaos that ensued has been blamed for creating a power vacuum that allowed the Islamic insurgency to take hold in the north. Following international pressure, that coup leader later handed over power to a civilian transitional government that organized elections.



 

Plain Jane

Veteran Member


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5 dead in hostage situation at troubled South Africa church
By CARA ANNAJuly 11, 2020



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In this photo made available by the South African Police Services (SAPS), confiscated arms and ammunition, foreground, and arrested suspects, background, lay face-down at a church in Zuurbekom, near Johannesburg, Saturday, July 11, 2020. Police in South Africa say five people are dead and more than 40 have been arrested after an early-morning hostage situation at a church near Johannesburg. (South African Police Services via AP)

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Five people are dead and more than 40 have been arrested after an early-morning hostage situation at a long-troubled church near Johannesburg, police in South Africa said Saturday.

A statement said police and military who responded to reports of a shooting at the International Pentecostal Holiness Church headquarters in Zuurbekom found four people “shot and burned to death in a car” and a security guard shot in another car. Six other people were injured.

Police said they rescued men, women and children who had been held hostage and appeared to have been living at the church. It was not clear how many were rescued.

The attack by a group of armed people “may have been motivated by a feud” between church members, the police statement said.

The church is one of the largest — and reportedly richest — in South Africa.

Photos tweeted by the police showed more than a dozen men lying on the ground, subdued, along with rifles, pistols, a baseball bat and boxes of ammunition —including at least one marked “law enforcement.”

The response by security forces “averted what could have been a more severe bloodbath,” national police commissioner Khehla John Sitole said.

Among those arrested were members of the police, defense forces and correctional services.

The church’s Zuurbekom headquarters has been the scene of violence between factions more than once in recent years, with shots fired, rocks thrown and cars smashed, according to local news reports.

“Trouble has been brewing at the church following the death of its leader‚ Glayton Modise‚ in February 2016,” The Sowetan newspaper reported in 2018.
 

Plain Jane

Veteran Member

Sudan allows alcohol for non-Muslims, decriminalizes apostasy
In a reversal of four decades of hardline Islamist policies, Sudan is to scrap laws that had made leaving Islam potentially punishable by death, allow non-Muslims to consume alcohol and ban female genital mutilation.



Sudan allows alcohol for non-Muslims, decriminalizes apostasy

Sudan will allow non-Muslims to consume alcohol and has scrapped laws that had made apostasy potentially punishable by death, the country's Justice Minister Nasredeen Abdulbari said.

The changes come a year after Islamist autocrat Omar al-Bashir was toppled following mass protests against his three-decade rule.

Sudan now "allows non-Muslims to consume alcohol on the condition it doesn't disturb the peace and they don't do so in public," Abdulbari said in an interview Saturday evening on state television.

Alcoholic drinks have been banned in the country since former President Jaafar Nimeiri introduced Islamic law in 1983, throwing bottles of whisky into the Nile in the capital Khartoum. While Islamic tradition forbids the faithful from drinking, Muslim-majority Sudan has a significant Christian minority.
People of Sudan celebrate after a transitional constitution is signed to pave way for civilian rule
People of Sudan celebrate after a transitional constitution is signed to pave way for civilian rule

A string of reforms
The minister also said that Sudan will decriminalize apostasy and ban female genital mutilation, a practice which typically involves the partial or total removal of the external genitalia of girls and women. According to a 2014 report by the UNICEF, Sudan's FGM prevalence rate is 86.6%.

Furthermore, women will no longer need a permit from male members of their families to travel with their children.

"No one has the right to accuse any person or group of being an infidel... this threatens the safety and security of society and leads to revenge killings," said Abdulbari, who is part of a transitional government that took power after Bashir's ouster. The transitional administration, installed under a deal between protest leaders and military generals, has so far pursued a string of reforms.

A constitution adopted for the three-year transition period omits mention of Islam as a defining characteristic of the state.

Earlier this month, the transitional government had promised major reforms, after thousands of protesters took to the streets demanding greater civilian rule.
 

Plain Jane

Veteran Member


Timbuktu war crimes trial set to begin in The Hague
An alleged Islamist arrested in Mali, West Africa, in 2018 is on trial at the International Criminal Court. He is accused of orchestrating war crimes, including torture and rape, in the city of Timbuktu.


Al-Hassan Ag Abdoul Aziz Ag Mohamed Ag Mahmoud

In 2012, a coalition of Islamic extremists occupied the ancient city of Timbuktu in the Saharan desert. They imposed a brutal regime, murdering and raping those they considered to be non-believers and destroying centuries-old holy sites that they saw as blasphemous.
Prosecutors at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague accuse Al Hassan Ag Abdoul Aziz Ag Mohamed Ag Mahmoud, who was arrested in 2018, of being one of those extremists and even a leading figure among them. They say he was a key member of Ansar Dine ("Defenders of the Faith"), a militant group that ruled northern Mali between April 2012 and January 2013.

Al Hassan was de facto chief of the Islamic police and as such was responsible for the torture and mistreatment of people, particularly of women, the prosecutors say.
Fatou Bensouda at the ICC
The chief prosecutor at the ICC, Fatou Bensouda, wants justice for the victims

Long catalog of allegations
"On the basis of the evidence gathered, my office alleges that Mr. Al Hassan committed crimes against humanity and war crimes in Timbuktu, Mali," the chief prosecutor of the ICC, Fatou Bensouda, stated in a video after his arrest.

"We also allege that Mr. Al Hassan bears responsibility for the war crimes of cruel treatment and torture, outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment, rape and sexual slavery," she continued.

Read more: Ahmed Baba: Timbuktu's famous scholar
She said Al Hassan was also accused of being partly responsible for the destruction of a number of ancient mausoleums on grounds of supposed idolatry, as well as for meting out punishment without trial.

"We continue to have the victims foremost in mind," said Bensouda. "We strive to do what we can so that they may attain the justice they so rightly deserve. I am also committed to the view that fighting impunity for such grave crimes positively contributes to fostering peace, security and stability in society. This, too, is my commitment and hope for Mali."
Destroyed mausoleum of Alfa Moya, an Islamic saint
The Islamists destroyed several mausoleums, such as this one of the saint Alfa Moya

Question of power
The trial, which began in The Hague on Tuesday, will examine how much power Al Hassan had and whether he was acting on his own or following instructions from the Ansar Dine leadership.

According to Thomas Schiller, who runs the Mali office of the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, a think tank that is affiliated to Germany's Christian Democratic Party (CDU), Al Hassan had a high profile in Timbuktu but "not a prominent figure amid the Islamist forces in general."
"He was certainly not a main actor in the occupation that was carried out by Islamist forces," Schiller said.

'Pearl of the Desert' destroyed
Located about 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) north of Mali's capital, Bamako, Timbuktu was once nicknamed the "Pearl of the Desert" and known as the "City of 333 Saints." UNESCO classified it a World Heritage Site in 1988.

After the Islamist coalition that included Ansar Dine and Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQMI) had occupied large parts of northern Mali, including Timbuktu, in 2012, it immediately set about destroying the city's cultural heritage.

The ICC prosecutors also accuse Al Hassan of being instrumental in this destruction and of brutally imposing bans on music, dance, art and sport.

Malian and French forces liberated the city in January 2013.
People attend a ceremony at a rebuilt mausoleum in Timbuktu
Some of the buildings in Timbuktu, such as this mausoleum, have been restored

Second Timbuktu trial
Schiller told DW that the trial would probably not interest most Malians, since the majority of the people there had not been affected by the Islamist brutality, northern Mali being more sparsely populated.

"Many people in Timbuktu know who Al Hassan is. But most other Malians will not have heard of him," he said.

"Most will be trying to ensure that their daily security situation does not continue to worsen," he added.

Al Hassan is the second Islamist to go on trial in The Hague in relation to war crimes connected with Timbuktu. In 2016, the ICC sentenced former Ansar Dine leader Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi to nine years' imprisonment after he admitted to destroying historic shrines in the city.

There is speculation that he might be called up to testify against Al Hassan.
 

Plain Jane

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Satellite images show Ethiopia dam reservoir swelling
By CARA ANNAan hour ago



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This combination image made from satellite images taken on Friday, June 26, 2020, above, and Sunday, July 12, 2020, below, shows the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile river in the Benishangul-Gumuz region of Ethiopia. New satellite imagery shows the reservoir behind Ethiopia's disputed hydroelectric dam beginning to fill, but an analyst says it's likely due to seasonal rains instead of government action. (Maxar Technologies via AP)

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — New satellite imagery shows the reservoir behind Ethiopia’s disputed hydroelectric dam beginning to fill, but an analyst says it’s likely due to seasonal rains instead of government action.

The images emerge as Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan say the latest talks on the contentious project ended Monday with no agreement. Ethiopia has said it would begin filling the reservoir of the $4.6 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam this month even without a deal, which would further escalate tensions.

But the swelling reservoir, captured in imagery on July 9 by the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-1 satellite, is likely a “natural backing-up of water behind the dam” during this rainy season, International Crisis Group analyst William Davison told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

“So far, to my understanding, there has been no official announcement from Ethiopia that all of the pieces of construction that are needed to be completed to close off all of the outlets and to begin impoundment of water into the reservoir” have occurred, Davison said.


But Ethiopia is on schedule for impoundment to begin in mid-July, he added, when the rainy season floods the Blue Nile.

Ethiopian officials did not immediately comment Tuesday on the images.

The latest setback in the three-country talks shrinks hopes that an agreement will be reached before Ethiopia begins filling the reservoir.

Ethiopia says the colossal dam offers a critical opportunity to pull millions of its nearly 110 million citizens out of poverty and become a major power exporter. Downstream Egypt, which depends on the Nile to supply its farmers and booming population of 100 million with fresh water, asserts that the dam poses an existential threat.

Years of talks with a variety of mediators, including the Trump administration, have failed to produce a solution. Last week’s round, mediated by the African Union and observed by U.S. and European officials, proved no different.

Experts fear that filling the dam without a deal could push the countries to the brink of military conflict.

“Although there were progresses, no breakthrough deal is made,” Seleshi Bekele, Ethiopia’s minister of water, irrigation and energy, tweeted overnight.

“All of the efforts exerted to reach a solution didn’t come to any kind of result,” Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukry said Monday in an interview with Egypt’s DMC TV channel.


Shukry warned that Egypt may be compelled to appeal again to the U.N. Security Council to intervene in the dispute, a prospect Ethiopia rejects, preferring regional bodies like the African Union to mediate.

Meanwhile the countries agreed they would send their reports to the AU and reconvene in a week to determine next steps.

Between Egypt and Ethiopia lies Sudan, which stands to benefit from the dam through access to cheap electricity and reduced flooding. But it has also raised fears over the dam’s operation, which could endanger its own smaller dams, depending on the amount of water discharged daily downstream.

In a press conference on Monday, Sudanese Irrigation Minister Yasser Abbas said the parties were “keen to find a solution” but technical and legal disagreements persist over its filling and operation.

Most important, he said, are the questions about how much water Ethiopia will release downstream if a multi-year drought occurs and how the countries will resolve any future disputes.

Hisham Kahin, a member of Sudan’s legal committee in the dam negotiations, said 70% to 80% of negotiations turned on the question of whether an agreement would be legally binding.
___
Associated Press writers in Cairo contributed.
 

Plain Jane

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South Africa surpasses the UK in confirmed coronavirus cases
By CARA ANNAyesterday



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A grave is prepared for a Muslim burial at Johannesburg's main Westpark Cemetery, Tuesday, July 14, 2020. Graves are being prepared across the country as it faces a possible shortages of COVID-19 beds and oxygen supply as the country heads towards its coronavirus peak. (AP Photo Denis Farrell)

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — South Africa on Tuesday surpassed the U.K. in its number of confirmed coronavirus cases as the country’s president warns of “the gravest crisis in the history of our democracy.”

South Africa now has the world’s eighth-highest number of cases at 298,292, which represents nearly half of all the confirmed cases on the African continent. That’s according to a Health Ministry statement and data compiled by Johns Hopkins University researchers, which showed the U.K. with 292,931 confirmed cases.

The pandemic is now spreading swiftly in parts of the African continent of 1.3 billion people as the world’s most poorly funded health systems begin to face what experts have warned all along: They would be rapidly overwhelmed.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa this week said many more virus infections have gone undetected despite the country conducting more than 2.2 million tests, by far the most of any African nation.

A strict lockdown had delayed South Africa’s surge in cases but it has been loosened under economic pressure. Now, what the president calls the “storm” has arrived, and it is already “stretching our resources and our resolve to their limits.”

Shortages of medical oxygen have been reported as the number of COVID-19 patients seeking help in breathing grows. Public hospital beds across the country could fill up within the month.

South Africa grapples with the pandemic in the dead of winter, with temperatures in the outbreak epicenter, Gauteng province and Johannesburg, forecast to drop below freezing overnight. That makes ventilation a challenge especially in small, crowded homes for the poor.

While public health officials in the United States and elsewhere in the Northern Hemisphere warn that fall and winter could be a severe test, South Africa is already demonstrating some of the dangers to come.
___
Follow AP pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and Understanding the Outbreak
 

Plain Jane

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Tanzanian opposition leader urges united front ahead of vote
By TOM ODULAtoday



Tanzanian opposition politician Zitto Kabwe, right, speaks at the national assembly in Dodoma, Tanzania Friday, May 5, 2017. With Tanzania facing an October 2020 election that contentious President John Magufuli hopes to win, Zitto Kabwe tells The Associated Press he's trying to unite the opposition behind one candidate for the best shot at an upset. (AP Photo)

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — One opposition leader was shot 16 times and fled the country. Another had his leg broken by unknown assailants and his newspaper was shut down. A third, the country’s most prominent, has been banned for a year from making so-called “seditious statements,” or what others might call dissent.

But he’s speaking out anyway. With Tanzania facing an October election that contentious President John Magufuli hopes to win, opposition leader Zitto Kabwe tells The Associated Press he’s trying to unite the opposition behind one candidate for the best shot at an upset.
And his party just attracted a potential candidate, former foreign minister Bernard Membe, who left the ruling party that has been in power since independence.


Magufuli’s administration, however, has set up one obstacle after another. In 2016 it barred opposition groups from political gatherings, and there’s no sign it will be lifted for campaigning. Human rights groups say that ban has no legal basis.

Politics are behind the attacks on opposition leaders and multiple arrests, rights groups say. And now the coronavirus is a threat after Magufuli declared it defeated in the East African nation. His government stopped updating the confirmed number of cases in April. The president has refused to shut down the economy or bar any kind of gatherings — except the political ones.

Kabwe, the leader of the Alliance for Change and Transparency party, the country’s fastest growing political party, has been arrested 16 times since Magufuli came to power in 2015.
“The best weapon against a dictatorship is speaking up,” he told the AP.

This week Tanzania’s registrar of political parties added more pressure, threatening to deregister or suspend Kabwe’s party and accusing it of flouting rules by mixing religion and politics. Kabwe called the accusations “flimsy” and told supporters not to worry because the registrar is barred from deregistering a party in the 12 months before an election.

Kabwe says he “crossed the Rubicon” and became more outspoken after opposition leader Tindu Lissu, deputy leader of the CHADEMA party, was shot 16 times in 2017.

“I decided and said this should not continue,” he said. “The state wants us to keep quiet, they threaten us. The best weapon for us is to speak up and radicalize even more.”

Now his task is persuading Lissu and CHADEMA leader Freeman Mbowe, was attacked in June by unidentified assailants, to join forces in the election against the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi party.

Lissu has announced he will run against the president, but he remains in Belgium. Mbowe has picked up a nomination form, which suggests he will run, too.

Kabwe said that in Tanzania, where whoever gets the most votes wins the election outright, a united opposition has the chance at an upset. Magufuli won the 2015 election with 58% of the vote.

“I have been across the country and the feeling of the people is just change,” Kabwe said. He said past efforts to form a united front had failed because of “selfishness,” giving no details.

On Wednesday, Kabwe told reporters his party was in talks with CHADEMA to front a single candidate and he will not vie for that position. Instead, he will support whoever emerges after the two parties choose their candidates in the coming weeks.

Talks with CHADEMA are at an “advanced stage,” he said.

He also warned the election won’t be free and fair, pointing out that Magufuli appoints the members of the electoral commission. And independent media houses have been banned or had their licenses suspended.

But the opposition cannot boycott this election regardless of the obstacles, Kabwe said. Boycotting could make the situation in Tanzania worse as Magufuli’s allies would have no challenge for seats in the legislative assembly or local assemblies.

Ruling party delegates this month unanimously endorsed Magufuli to run for a second term. Some even want him to go beyond the two-term limit.

The president, although criticized over repressive measures, has won some support for his much-publicized fight against corruption, though some in the opposition question its effectiveness. Magufuli also celebrated when the World Bank this month reclassified Tanzania upward as a lower-middle income country.

Parliament speaker Job Ndugai has said they will force Magufuli to pursue further terms “whether he likes it or not.”

Amnesty International warns the October election will take place in a climate of fear as restrictions tighten. “Already, organizations such as the Legal and Human Rights Centre and Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition that have previously convened local organizations on election observation or monitoring human rights in the context of elections have been barred by Tanzania’s government from playing these roles,” researcher Roland Ebole said.

Kabwe said he and other like-minded people will continue fighting.

“We will call for electoral and political reforms while conducting our politics. There is no way apart from that in order to save our democracy,” he said.
 

Plain Jane

Veteran Member


Click to copy
Fighting between armed groups in eastern Congo kills dozens
By JEAN-YVES KAMALEtoday


KINSHASA, Congo (AP) — Days of fighting between armed groups in villages in Congo’s South Kivu province killed at least 43 people, many of them women and children, residents said Saturday.

At least 40 others disappeared after members of the armed group known as Ngumino attacked the village of Kipupu on Thursday while they were being pursued by the Mai Mai rebel group, according to the coordinator of South Kivu civil society groups, Andre Byadunia.
“The clashes between these armed groups began since Thursday,” he said. Houses were set on fire in other villages along the way.


A local army spokesman, Capt. Dieudonne Kasereka, confirmed attacks in several villages that began Thursday and continued into Friday. The army is taking all steps to protect civilians, he said.

Many armed groups are present in Congo’s eastern provinces, fighting for power over the mineral-rich region.


Excavation crew expands search for Tulsa massacre victims
 

Plain Jane

Veteran Member

NEWS
JULY 19, 2020 / 8:46 AM / UPDATED 9 HOURS AGO
Four killed in Sierra Leone protest after police and army open fire


2 MIN READ

FREETOWN (Reuters) - At least four people including a teenager were killed and 10 wounded when police and soldiers opened fire on protesters in northern Sierra Leone, a health official and witnesses said on Sunday.

Hundreds gathered on a rainy day in the city of Makeni on Saturday to try to block the movement of a power generator to another town, fearing it would jeopardise the area’s electricity supply, five witnesses said.

When protesters began throwing rocks, the authorities opened fire, said Matthew Kanu, a department head at the University of Makeni.

“They began by firing into the sky and people started running away ... but after that, when people kept throwing stones, they started shooting into the people,” he said.

A police spokesman did not immediately comment. An army spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

In a statement late on Saturday, the government said it was aware of a “potential loss of life”, without providing details. It said that any attempt to undermine public peace would be met with “the fullest force of the law.”

The youngest among the dead was a 15-year-old schoolboy who died shortly after arriving at Makeni’s main hospital, said the city’s medical superintendent, Mohamed Sheku. Ten others were admitted to hospital with bullet wounds, four of whom were in critical condition as of Saturday night, he said.

“It was complete chaos all day. We were afraid that If we left we’d get caught in the crossfire,” Sheku told Reuters. “Many hospital staff haven’t come into work because they’re afraid of things flaring up again outside.”

Sierra Leone’s power generation capacity falls far short of the needs of its 7 million citizens. Prolonged blackouts are common even in the capital and urban areas, and area a source of frustration for the population.

Reporting by Cooper Inveen, Writing by Edward McAllister, Editing by Timothy Heritage
Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
 

Doomer Doug

Has No Life - Lives on TB
Besides the usual blood and death in Aftica, I saw somewhere that South Africa is now a corona chan hotspot, or something BAD in South Africa.
 

Plain Jane

Veteran Member

Gambia welcomes Germany investigation of Jammeh's 'hitmen'
German police raided a house of Gambian asylum seekers who claimed to have been hitmen hired by former president Yahya Jammeh. The exiled leader is accused of ordering extra-judicial killings during his two-decade rule.



Gambia, Serrekunda: Kommission gegen Menschenrechtsverletzungen (picture-alliance/AP/J. Delay)

Federal prosecutors in Baden-Württemberg are investigating a group of Gambian asylum seekers who claim to have been part of a hit squad within Gambia's military during Jammeh's regime.

As military personnel, the seven suspects were allegedly involved in the torture, ill-treatment, and murder of Jammeh's opponents, according to a report by German daily newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung. The Gambian ex-ruler Jammeh now lives in exile in Equatorial Guinea.
Read more: Timeline: Gambia in crisis

The suspects also stated in their asylum hearings at Germany's Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) that they had been involved in the mistreatment of prisoners in Gambia's prisons.
Gambians inside a crowded ferry. (picture-alliance/AA/X. Olleros)
Many Gambians who fled under Jammeh's rule eventually returned after he was ousted

Germany's effort in prosecuting crimes commited outside
It's not the first case where prosecutors in Germany have investigated crimes committed by people trying to seek asylum. In April this year, prosecutors charged former members of Syria's Intelligence Services for torturing fellow Syrians.

Germany's Code of Crimes Against International Law, which came into force in June 2002, includes the so-called principle of universal jurisdiction, which allows German courts to prosecute crimes against international law even if they were not committed in Germany and neither the perpetrator nor the victim are Germans.
German constitutional judges (Getty Images/S. Gallup)
Rights activists are counting on Germany to deliver justice on behalf of victims of Jammeh's rule

Reed Brody from Human Rights Watch, who is now working with Jammeh's victims, told DW he is confident that Germany's legal system will deliver justice. "Perpetrators of international crimes need to be held accountable wherever they may be found."
Read more: Syria's intelligence apparatus on trial in Germany

Jammeh's 'reign of terror'
Under Yahya Jammeh's regime, security agencies carried out extrajudicial killings and torture of political opponents. Civil rights activists and journalists were not spared, either.
Members of the Presidential Guard carried out the most egregious crimes. Notable among them was ordering the killing of about 50 west African migrants in 2005. The victims included Nigerians, Ghanaians, Senegalese and Ivorians. Gambian security agents accused them of being mercenaries seeking to overthrow Jammeh.

Rights groups such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have documented the role of Jammeh's hitmen in enforcing Jammeh's orders.

Read more: The Gambia: Three former hitmen released after admission at reconciliation commission

Self-incrimination
Rarely do asylum seekers in Germany speak boldly of direct involvement in crimes committed in their home countries. More often, authorities act on a tip-off or whistleblower information to launch investigations and prosecute suspects.


If it is proven that the suspects were part of a notorious hit squad within the Gambian military that tortured political opponents of the former government, then German prosecutors will most likely investigate the possibility of their accomplices living in Germany.

Calls for extradition
Jammeh is accused of committing the atrocities starting 1994 when he came to power in a military coup to 2017 when he lost the presidential election to incumbent President Adama Barrow.

Since last year, a truth commission in the Gambia has heard from over 200 witnesses incriminating Jammeh, security agents, and some members of his government over human rights violations.

Sherrif Kijera, the chairman of the Gambia Center for Victims of Human Rights Violations, said justice must be accomplished. "I think the German authorities should work with relevant authorities in The Gambia to see how best they can get these people extradited to The Gambia," Kijera told DW.
Supporters of Yahya Jammeh (DW/O. Wally)
Exiled Jammeh still commands considerable support in The Gambia
"The truth-seeking process is already on. it will be good also to have them [the suspects] to be part of the process at least to get them to testify if it's possible," Sherif added.
Omar Wally (in The Gambia) contributed to this article
 

Plain Jane

Veteran Member

Hopes dashed in Mali as warring parties fail to reach a deal
Mali’s political stalemate continues as warring parties fail to reach a deal. The opposition wants President Ibrahim Keita to go, but the government doesn't even deign to respond.



Mali President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, Malian imam and former head of the High Islamic Council of Mali (HCIM), Mahmoud Dicko

Mediators led by former Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan had proposed a roadmap that would lead Mali out of its ongoing crisis.

They convinced the government led by President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita that a power-sharing deal was an option to break the impasse.

Under this route, the formation of a transitional government would see the ruling coalition take up 50% of the seats in the government, leaving 30% for the opposition and 20% for civil society groups.

Read more:Mahmoud Dicko – Mali’s controversial guardian of faith
The mediators also suggested appointing new judges to the country's constitutional court to resolve a dispute over the March-April parliamentary election.

However, the opposition has refused to take the deal. Instead, they are demanding the resignation of President Keita – a proposal that ECOWAS mediators did not bring to the table.

"It's a red line," said Jean Claude Kassi Brou, the president of the ECOWAS Commission. "There's a constitution that governs the country: The constitution must be respected. If you don't recognize the constitution, the door is open to everything."
Former Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan speaks at the UN (picture-alliance/United Archives/WHA)
Former Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan stepped aside peacefully after losing the 2015 presidential election to Muhammadu Buhari

Goodluck Jonathan key figure in mediation
As the head of the ECOWAS mission, former Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan is playing a key role in the mediation process. As the former leader of a large West African country, experts see him as an instrumental figure.

"ECOWAS cannot come to Bamako and see to the setting up of an interim government," Jonathan said. "We have to take one step at a time."

Johnathan is notable for having gracefully complied with the democratic process in his own country when he accepted his election defeat in 2015. But there are other elements to his leadership that may complicate the current peace efforts initiated by ECOWAS.

"Goodluck Jonathan’s mission was always going to be a challenge for reasons including his lack of expertise on Mali, his lack of fluency in French and, probably most of all, his Christianity, which renders him unpalatable for the more hardline religious factions involved in the negotiations," DW's West African correspondent Bram Posthumus explained.

ECOWAS stands firm on democratic principles
Experts say ECOWAS could not support Keita's resignation because he was elected to his current term in 2018 in an election that was recognized as democratic and entirely legitimate.

"It would set a dangerous precedent for West Africa if he was forced out," Paul Melly, a consulting fellow for the Africa Program at Chatham House told DW.

Why is the opposition refusing the deal?
Mali's M5 movement - a coalition of political, religious and civil society leaders - says it has lost confidence in ECOWAS to handle the current impasse.

"We do not expect anything more from them," Mohamed Assaley Ag Ibrahim, a member of M5 said. "We will continue to demonstrate peacefully using all legal means to removeKeita and his regime."

The majority of the opposition does not trust Keita to give them meaningful influence in a unity government. According to Melly, if opposition figures are to share responsibility for the difficult compromises needed to advance the peace process, they have to feel they are players in making those decisions. "Trust is a big challenge and it has been severely eroded," Melly said.

Read more:Mali: President Keita dissolves constitutional court amid unrest
However, Bram Posthumus believes there are more issues to iron out. "It seems to me that the idea of a power-sharing deal was discussed but not the details, especially ministerial posts or maybe even lucrative directorships of various parastatal bodies," he explained. "And this is where these power-sharing deals usually come unstuck."
Opposition supporters protest in Mali (Reuters/M. Rosier)
Mali's opposition and their supporters have repeatedly asked for the resignation of President Ibrahim Boabacar Keita

The genesis of the current crisis
Much of the current tension was sparked in April when the constitutional court tossed out 31 results from the parliamentary elections, which led to protests.

The so-called June 5 movement (M5) then emerged, channeling their anger over a range of issues. They staged two mass rallies demanding Keita's resignation in June, before organizing the July 10 rally which turned violent.

The movement is led by influential imam Mahmoud Dicko, despite him not being a formal member.

The standoff between M5 and President Keita last week spiraled again into violent clashes that left nearly a dozen people dead.

M5 blames Keita for failing to tackle corruption, an economy in tatters, and the country's eight-year-long jihadist conflict.
Infografik Timline der politischen Krise in Mali 2020 EN

Mali crisis a colossal concern for neighbors
Mali's allies and neighborsare anxious to stop the war-torn Sahel state from sliding into further chaos.

Jihadists have retained control of swathes of the country since the 2012 insurgency that began in the north. Thousands of lives have been lost and the conflict has driven hundreds of thousands from their homes. A number of armed groups, including ethnic movements, are still fighting for hegemony and the control of trafficking routes.

The conflict has also spread to Burkina Faso and Niger. Foreign powers, including the European Union (EU) and the United Nations (UN), fear that the ongoing turmoil in Mali could undermine their military campaigns against Islamist insurgents across West Africa's Sahel region.

There are currently 13,00 UN peacekeeping forces in Mali. A peace deal with key armed groups was signed in 2015, but its implementation has failed as signatory groups still resort to violence.
A Malian soldier sits on the back of a truck in Djenne (Getty Images/AFP/M. Cattani)
Islamic extremists have gained a foothold in central Mali where their presence has inflamed tensions between ethnic groups

Chronology of crucial events since 2010
April 2010:
Mali, Algeria, Mauritania and Niger set up a joint command to tackle jihadists
January 2012: Fears of a new Tuareg rebellion following attacks on northern towns
March 2012: Military officers overthrow President Toure over his failure to deal effectively with the Tuareg rebellion
April 2012: Tuareg rebels seize control of northern Mali
April 5, 2012: ECOWAS plans a military intervention against the junta and the Tuareg rebels
April 12, 2012: The military hands over power to a civilian interim government led by President Dioncounda Traore
June 2013: The government signs peace deal with Tuareg nationalist rebels to pave the way for elections
July-August 2013: Ibrahim Boubacar Keita wins presidential elections
May 2015: The government and several militia groups sign a peace accord to end the conflict in the north of Mali
August 2016: Several attacks on foreign forces take place, followed by several terror attacks



Mahamadou Kane in Bamako contributed to this report
 

Plain Jane

Veteran Member



Ethiopia’s leader hails 1st filling of massive, disputed dam
By ELIAS MESERETan hour ago



This combination image made from satellite images taken on Friday, June 26, 2020, above, and Sunday, July 12, 2020, below, shows the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile river in the Benishangul-Gumuz region of Ethiopia. New satellite imagery shows the reservoir behind Ethiopia's disputed hydroelectric dam beginning to fill, but an analyst says it's likely due to seasonal rains instead of government action. (Maxar Technologies via AP)

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) — Ethiopia’s prime minister on Wednesday hailed the first filling of a massive dam that has led to tensions with Egypt, saying two turbines will begin generating power next year.

Abiy Ahmed’s statement, read out on state media outlets, came a day after he and the leaders of Egypt and Sudan reported progress on an elusive agreement on the operation of the $4.6 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, the largest in Africa.

The first filling of the dam’s reservoir, which Ethiopia’s government attributes to heavy rains, “has shown to the rest of the world that our country could stand firm with its two legs from now onwards,” Abiy’s statement said. “We have successfully completed the first dam filling without bothering and hurting anyone else. Now the dam is overflowing downstream.”

The dam will reach full power generating capacity in 2023, the statement said: “Now we have to finish the remaining construction and diplomatic issues.”

Ethiopia’s prime minister on Tuesday said the countries had reached a “major common understanding which paves the way for a breakthrough agreement.”


Meanwhile, new satellite images showed the water level in the reservoir at its highest in at least four years, adding fresh urgency to the talks.

Ethiopia has said it would begin filling the reservoir this month even without a deal as the rainy season floods the Blue Nile. But the Tuesday statement said leaders agreed to pursue “further technical discussions on the filling ... and proceed to a comprehensive agreement.”
The dispute centers on the use of the storied Nile River, a lifeline for all involved.

Ethiopia says the colossal dam offers a critical opportunity to pull millions of its nearly 110 million citizens out of poverty and become a major power exporter. Downstream Egypt, which depends on the Nile to supply its farmers and booming population of 100 million with fresh water, asserts that the dam poses an existential threat. Sudan is in the middle.

Negotiators have said key questions remain about how much water Ethiopia will release downstream if a multi-year drought occurs and how the countries will resolve any future disputes. Ethiopia rejects binding arbitration at the final stage.

Sudanese Irrigation Minister Yasser Abbas on Tuesday told reporters that once the agreement has been solidified, Ethiopia will retain the right to amend some figures relating to the dam’s operation during drought periods.

Abbas also said the leaders agreed on Ethiopia’s right to build additional reservoirs and other projects as long as it notifies the downstream countries, in line with international law.

“There are other sticking points, but if we agree on this basic principle, the other points will automatically be solved,” he said.

Years of talks with a variety of mediators, including the Trump administration, have failed to produce a solution.
 

Plain Jane

Veteran Member

NEWS
JULY 23, 2020 / 2:04 AM / UPDATED 3 HOURS AGO
Influential cleric Dicko emerges as driver of Mali protest movement

Aaron Ross
4 MIN READ

DAKAR (Reuters) - When five West African presidents arrive in Mali on Thursday to try to defuse a political crisis that has alarmed governments in the region and beyond, the man whose assent they need the most will be one who has never held elected office.

Mahmoud Dicko, a Saudi-trained preacher known for his Koranic erudition and social conservatism, is seen by admirers and detractors alike as the galvanizing force behind a protest movement now threatening the political survival of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.

International powers are anxious for the crisis to end, fearful it could undermine multi-billion-dollar efforts spearheaded by former colonial power France to contain insurgents linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State in the region.

Public opposition to Keita hardened, however, after at least 14 protesters were killed in clashes with security forces earlier this month.

Infuriated by grievances ranging from disputed legislative election results to the army’s repeated losses to Islamist militants, tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets in recent weeks.


Stepping to the rostrum at the first rally in the capital Bamako on June 5, Dicko, 66, drew on his signature brand of religiously-infused nationalism.

“This great nation of Mali, builder of empires and kingdoms, is not a submissive people,” Dicko said, addressing the crowd of mostly young men in the local Bambara language mixed with French and Arabic. “It is a people standing proud!” he said, thrusting a fist into the air as they chanted his name.

AGENT OF COMPROMISE?
While protesters come from a diverse coalition of religious, political and civil society groups, Dicko is universally viewed as the driving force. Some of the president’s supporters think that could be a good thing.

Unlike others, Dicko has not explicitly called for Keita, whom he supported in the 2013 election, to resign.

" I am convinced that Mahmoud Dicko is now determined to end all this,” said Bajan Ag Hamatou, a lawmaker from Keita’s coalition. “If he stops, the others will have to stop.”

But Dicko - who is expected to meet with leaders of Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Ghana and Niger on Thursday - has not publicly proposed a compromise, leaving his endgame unclear. He did not agree to an interview but previously dismissed speculation he intends to seek political office.

HARDLINER
Dicko’s influence unnerves some in Mali, which is 95% Muslim but has a secular constitution, and France where some commentators have likened him to Iran’s late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

He studied in Mauritania and Saudi Arabia in the 1970s, where he embraced conservative Salafist ideas. As head of Mali’s influential High Islamic Council in 2009, he led successful protests against a family code that would have thrown out a requirement that women obey their husbands.

His efforts to mediate with Islamist militant groups have also drawn suspicion.

Mohamed Kimbiri, a member of the High Islamic Council, said Dicko was not challenging state secularism but wanted a less rigid version.

“Today, he alone can command the Malian ship,” Kimbiri told Reuters. “The politicians have disqualified themselves, and the Malian public is now really in favour of the religious leaders.”

Additional reporting by Tiemoko Diallo and David Lewis; Editing by Mark Heinrich

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
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Plain Jane

Veteran Member

Pressure mounts on Zimbabwe to release investigative journalist
Journalist Hopewell Chin'ono, who exposed a multimillion-dollar corruption scandal, has been charged with inciting protest. Rights groups say COVID-19 is a convenient excuse for Zimbabwe to further crack down on dissent.



Simbabwe Hopewell Chin’ono (picture-alliance/AP Photo/T. Mukwazhi)

Zimbabwe authorities on Wednesday arraigned prominent investigative journalist Hopewell Chin'ono as well as Jacob Ngarivhume, leader of the political group Transformation Zimbabwe.
At Harare Magistrates Court, the prosecutor accused Chin'ono of inciting Zimbabweans to join a planned anti-government protest during the coronavirus outbreak. This showed "no regard for human life," he said.
Ngarivhume faces similar charges.
Read more: #BLM: US cycle of racist violence resonates in Africa
Exposing government corruption
Chin'ono had most recently exposed government corruption relating to the procurement of COVID-19 supplies by the health ministry — an alleged multimillion-dollar fraud dubbed "Covidgate."

As a result of Chin'ono's investigation, Health Minister Obadiah Moyo was arrested in June and subsequently fired for allegedly awarding contracts for test kits and pandemic-related protective gear at inflated costs.
At the time, Chin'ono had said he feared for his life after ruling ZANU-PF party spokesman Patrick Chinamasa accused the journalist of seeking to embarrass President Emmerson Mnangagwa by linking the president's family to the contracts.
Opposition politician Ngarivhume had called for the July 31 protests to push for Mnangagwa to address corruption among his officials.
International criticism
The arrests of the two men on Monday drew strong criticism.
"The arrest of Chin'ono and Ngarivhume are designed to intimidate and send a message to journalists, whistleblowers and activists who draw attention to matters of interest to Zimbabwe," Amnesty International's Press Officer for Southern Africa, Robert Shivambu, told DW.
"Zimbabwean authorities must stop intimidating and misusing the criminal justice system to persecute journalists and activists who are simply exercising their [right to] freedom of expression and peaceful assembly," Shivambu said in a phone interview from Johannesburg in South Africa.
Following news of Chin'ono's arrest, the US Embassy to Zimbabwe tweeted that "exposing corruption is not a crime" while the Delegation of the European Union noted that "journalism is ... a crucial pillar of any democratic society & of the fight against corruption."


Official response
Police and government officials have defended the arrests, saying there is enough evidence to implicate Chin'ono and Ngarivhume in serious crimes and that no one is above the law.
ZANU-PF accused rights groups of trying to bully state institutions by pressuring for the men's release.
"Our institutions do not arrest criminals so that they release them," Tafadzwa Mugwadi, ZANU-PF spokesman, told DW.
ZANU-PF, which has ruled Zimbabwe since independence in 1980, has always displayed a callous disregard for human rights, said Jeffrey Smith, director of Vanguard Africa, a nonprofit supporting pro-democracy initiatives.
"The record is clear," Smith commented in a text message to DW. "And the Mnangagwa regime is a continuation of this trend. It's the same corrupt cabal that has devastated Zimbabwe, and its latent potential, for decades."
Read more: Opinion: Robert Mugabe's dead, but Zimbabwe's woes persist
Zimbabwe's opposition member Cecillia Chimbiri in hospital (DW/Columbus S. Mavhunga)
Cecilia Chimbiri and her two colleagues were arrested on 10 June 2020 and charged with falsifying their abduction and torture at the hands of suspected state security agents
Crackdown on dissent
The arrest of both Chin'ono and Ngarivhume are part of a string of detentions in the past months.
In July, police detained at least 12 health workers during a demonstration over poor pay.
In May, three female opposition members said security forces kidnapped them for days, torturing and sexually assaulted them. The government has since accused the women of faking their abductions. The women, now in jail, were arrested after leaving a rally calling for better COVID-19 palliatives for citizens.
According to Smith, COVID-19 has provided a convenient excuse for the regime in Harare to further crack down on dissent and political opposition.
"What we see today is an emboldened and opportunistic autocratic regime running roughshod over the country and its citizens," he told DW.
Starting Wednesday, security forces will enforce a strict curfew between 6:00 pm and 6:00 am.
Zimbabwean journalist Hopewell Chin’ono (Getty Images/AFP/J. Nijikizana)
Prominent investigative journalist Hopewell Chin'ono was arrested on Monday for allegedly inciting public violence
Zimbabwe sanctions justified
The US government and the European Union have sanctioned 141 individuals and 59 companies from Zimbabwe because of human rights abuses, which include a spate of abductions and torture of civil rights activists by suspected state security agents.
Mnangagwa promised reform when he took over from his predecessor Robert Mugabe in 2017 but his government has failed to calm international worries over corruption and human rights.
"The targeted sanctions on Zimbabwe's leaders are there for a reason. And the Mnangagwa regime has given zero justification for lifting them," Jeffrey Smith said.
Read also: Activists say 'new Zimbabwe' resembles Robert Mugabe's
Smith adds: "One could make the plausible case that the situation has deteriorated further since November 2017, when the current regime ousted Robert Mugabe in a military coup."


Last week, Foreign Minister Sibusiso Moyo told DW on its political program Conflict Zone that international sanctions imposed on his country are a "weapon of mass destruction" that impose "untold sufferings" on the country's people, rather than its leadership.
DW's Columbus Mavhunga in Harare contributed to this report.
 

Plain Jane

Veteran Member



Click to copy
Islamic State group says it killed 5 aid workers in Nigeria
By KRISTA LARSONJuly 23, 2020


DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — Militants from an Islamic State affiliate claimed responsibility Thursday for killing five aid workers who were kidnapped last month in northeastern Nigeria.
The Islamic State West Africa Province, which broke away from Boko Haram several years ago, warned in June that it would target Nigerians working for international aid agencies along with those who helped the military. Nigeria’s president already had blamed the extremists for the slayings.

The group issued its claim online in its digital weekly newspaper, al-Naba, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors extremist groups. The aid workers were killed on Sunday, and a video of their deaths was later released on social media, SITE reported.

The alarming development threatens to further complicate relief efforts in northeastern Nigeria, where nearly 2 million people have been displaced by the ongoing insurgency. The U.N. World Food Program says 3 million in the northeast are facing hunger, and now also threatened by COVID-19.

The five were traveling by road to the state capital of Maiduguri when they were abducted last month by the militants. Nigeria’s presidency said the victims had worked for the Nigerian government and three international aid agencies: Action Against Hunger, International Rescue Committee and REACH International.

“They were committed humanitarians who devoted their lives to helping vulnerable people and communities in an area heavily affected by violence,” said Edward Kallon, the U.N.’s humanitarian coordinator in Nigeria.

Security has long been a concern for aid groups operating in the northeast, where humanitarian workers have been repeatedly kidnapped and killed during Boko Haram’s decade-long insurgency against the Nigerian government.

Those concerns have deepened though since the Boko Haram splinter faction warned last month that it would target civilians who help humanitarian groups. The splinter group previously was not known to target Muslim civilians but left threatening pamphlets in June.
___
Associated Press writer Haruna Umar in Maiduguri, Nigeria contributed.
 

Plain Jane

Veteran Member
Talk about fightin' words!




The Nile Is Ours!" Ethiopia Tweet Outrages Egypt As Giant Upstream Dam Being Filled In
Profile picture for user Tyler Durden
by Tyler Durden
Sun, 07/26/2020 - 17:20
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A week ago Ethiopia took the hugely controversial step of initiating filling the reservoir behind the 'Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam', further enraging Egypt which says the project will devastate its economy, farming, and ecosystem bound up with the Nile River downstream.
Ethiopia days ago added further fuel to the fire when the country's foreign minister tweeted in the national language, Amharic, that "The Nile is Ours".
Via Reuters: "Ethiopia sees the dam as essential for its electrication and development, while Sudan and Egypt view it as a threat to essential water supplies."
Ethiopian Foreign Minister Gedu Andargachew's tweet read as follows: "Congratulations! It was the Nile River and the river became a lake. It will no longer flow into the river. Ethiopia will have all the development it wants from it. In fact the Nile is ours!"

International reports suggest the Ethiopians plan to fill the dam's reservoir within a period of three years.
Once the effects of the dam are felt by the Egyptian population, which some analysts fear could lead to famine given the central importance a healthfully flowing Nile plays to to Egyptian agriculture, Cairo will be pressured to possibly take military action. Andargachew's tweet has certainly intensified the standoff.

Needless to say, the Nile has been Egypt's lifeline for thousands of years and the largely desert climate country's greatest natural resource.
It is estimated that some 85 percent of the water reaching Egypt comes via the Blue Nile tributary. But this is precisely where Ethiopia has constructed its massive dam.
The dam is an officially funded project of the Ethiopian government.

Via AFP
Tensions are rising due to the project's reaching a key milestone this past week:
On Wednesday, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed confirmed that his country had achieved its target of filling the reservoir behind the dam with its first 4.9 billion cubic metres of water – days after its neighbours Sudan and Egypt raised objections against doing so.
“The completion of the first round of filling is a historic moment that showcases Ethiopians’ commitment to the renaissance of our country,” Ahmed said.
The Ethiopian foreign minister's tweet was met with fierce public reaction in Egypt, where public figures have even threatened that only eventual war could solve the crisis.




Various countries influential in the region such as Russia and China have facilitated talks in recent years.
On the prospect of talks, we recent featured the following commentary from a Russian report on talks at Sochi: “The next round of negotiations is likely to end with nothing. It is no longer possible to stop Ethiopia from its chosen path, with any international pressure. And Egypt, long ago, lacked the tools to exert such pressure on Addis Ababa. Things are moving towards war, and what can only be postponed for several years until the project works at full capacity, and its real consequences will appear on public life in Egypt.”
 

Plain Jane

Veteran Member

Somalia: Prime minister ousted after resounding vote of no confidence
Hassan Ali Khaire has been removed after 170 out of 178 lawmakers felt he was unfit for office. Khaire has been in dispute with President Mohamed over when to hold Somalia's national elections.



Somalia Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire (picture-alliance/Photoshot)

Somali Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire was removed from his post in a vote of no confidence on Saturday, the country's parliamentary speaker said.

A simmering power struggle between Khaire and President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed provided the backdrop to the vote, which resulted in 170 of parliament's 178 MPs backing the motion.

President Mohamed, who appointed Khaire in February 2017, has been at loggerheads with the prime minister over when to stage Somalia's national elections, due in February 2021. The president was in favor of postponing the nationwide ballot, with Khaire insisting it should go ahead.

Read more: Somali plane crash carrying coronavirus medical supplies shrouded in mystery
"After learning that the government had failed in its promise to prepare a clear plan that paves the way for one-person-one-vote elections in 2021... parliament undertook a vote of no confidence against the government and its prime minister Hassan Ali Khaire," speaker of the house Mohamed Mursal told reporters.

"The president of the federal government of Somalia... will appoint a prime minister and a government which will pave the way for elections," Mursal added.

Unconstitutional 'dark day'
Mohamed Abukar Islow, the internal security minister and an ally of Khaire, accused the house speaker and the president of plotting to remove the prime minister as part of plans to cement their own positions.

"It is a dark day," Islow said, saying the move was unconstitutional as an election should occur every four years.

President Mohamed has temporarily promoted Deputy Prime Minister Mahdi Mohamed Guled to act as caretaker PM, a statement issued by the president's office said.

Read more: Opinion: African Union turns 18 but still hasn't grown up
The West African country has set itself the goal of holding a one-person, one-vote election next year, as opposed to a complex system in which special delegates pick lawmakers who then vote for the president. The objective was to have its first full democratic election since 1969, but that proposal now lies in doubt.

Norway-born Khaire, 52, was a political newcomer when he was appointed prime minister, having previously held the position of Director of the Africa department of the British firm Soma Oil and Gas.

Civil war, clan conflict and political instability
Khaire is a member of the Hawiye clan while President Mohamed is from the Darod clan, in keeping with the expected balance of power at the head of the Somali executive.
Since gaining independence on July 1, 1960, Somalia has faced civil war, clan conflict, secessions, and the constant threat of terrorism.

Terror, targeted shootings and roadside bombs have become the new normal in the country home to some 15 million people and it remains under threat from the Islamist al-Shabab group, which carries out most of the attacks.

With ties to al-Qaida, al-Shabab's ultimate aim is to establish an Islamist state. It currently controls a small part of the country and often carries out attacks against government, military and civilian targets.


jsi/rc (AFP, Reuters)
 

Plain Jane

Veteran Member

NEWS
JULY 27, 2020 / 11:04 AM / UPDATED 2 HOURS AGO
West Africa proposes rapid plan to resolve Mali crisis


2 MIN READ

DAKAR (Reuters) - West Africa’s regional body ECOWAS on Monday proposed a four-point plan to resolve Mali’s political crisis that it says should be implemented within 10 days, and recommended sanctions against anyone standing in the way.

The proposals are similar to earlier ones made by ECOWAS missions to Mali since the crisis began in early June that have been flatly rejected by President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita’s opponents, who insist that he resign.

Tens of thousands of protesters have answered the opposition’s calls to take to the streets in recent weeks, raising concerns the unrest could derail the fight against Islamist extremists in the region.


The demonstrations, caused by contested local elections and perceived government corruption and incompetence, turned into a full-blown crisis this month when police killed protesters.

At least 14 people have died in clashes this month, according to the United Nations.

West African heads of state met via video link on Monday following a visit to the country last week initiated after a previous ECOWAS mission was unable to appease M5-RFP, the opposition movement that has led the protests.

“The Heads of State...express deep concerns on this situation likely to increase instability in Mali, and in the sub-region,” ECOWAS said in a statement after the meeting.

Their plan recommended that 31 members of parliament whose elections were contested should step down and that by-elections be held. It also called for the creation of a government of national unity that would include members of M5-RFP and said there should be an inquiry into the deaths earlier this month.

Reporting By Edward McAllister; Editing by Aaron Ross and Philippa Fletcher
Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
 

Plain Jane

Veteran Member
As reported on the Regional Conflict thread, Turkey and Niger have entered into a mutual defense agreement. In addition France and to a lesser extent Germany have troops in the region trying to deal with Muslim extremists. Stability in Mali is important to success in that effort but efforts to achieve stability are flailing.


NEWS
JULY 28, 2020 / 6:31 AM / UPDATED 15 MINUTES AGO
Mali's opposition rejects West African leaders' plan to end deadlock

Tiemoko Diallo
2 MIN READ

BAMAKO (Reuters) - Mali’s opposition coalition on Tuesday formally rejected a plan proposed by West African leaders for ending a political crisis, raising the prospect of more mass anti-government demonstrations in the coming weeks.

Tens of thousands of people answered opposition calls for protests in early June over contested local elections, perceived government corruption and incompetence. Police killings of protesters further inflamed anger against President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, who the opposition insists should resign.

Heads of state of members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) proposed on Monday that the members of parliament whose elections were contested should step down and that by-elections be held. It also called for a government of national unity and an inquiry on the deaths.


President Keita responded with a cabinet reshuffle late on Monday, naming six ministers to core positions, including Tiebile Drame as foreign minister and General Ibrahim Dahirou Dembele as defence minister. They are tasked with negotiating with the opposition to form the government of national unity.

But the plan was unlikely to be accepted by the M5-RFP opposition coalition, which has spearheaded anti-Keita protests and already flatly rejected an earlier version of the proposals from the bloc.

“The M5-RFP states with regret that the conclusions of the Heads of State Summit do not take into account the depth and gravity of the sociopolitical crisis that has Mali’s future hanging in the balance,” it said in a statement.


It said the proposals did not “correspond to the expectations and aspirations of the people of Mali and violate the laws and constitution of Mali.”

The coalition has said it would restart the protests on August 3 if their demands are not met.

The unrest has raised concerns that it could derail the fight against Islamist extremists in the region.

Additional reporting by Edward McAllister; Editing by Bate Felix and Raissa Kasolowsky
Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
 

Plain Jane

Veteran Member

NEWS
JULY 27, 2020 / 6:35 AM / UPDATED AN HOUR AGO
Tanzanian opposition leader who survived 2017 gun attack returns from exile


2 MIN READ

DAR ES SALAAM (Reuters) - Tanzanian’s opposition leader and potential presidential candidate Tundu Lissu arrived home on Monday from Belgium where he took exile and underwent treatment after being shot three years ago.

Lissu, 52, was met at an airport in the commercial capital Dar es Salaam at 2 p.m. (1100 GMT) by relatives, political allies and thousands of supporters from his party CHADEMA.


A fierce critic of President John Magufuli’s government, he was shot 16 times, mostly in the lower abdomen, in an attack by unknown gunmen in the administrative capital Dodoma in September 2017.

At the time, Magufuli condemned the shooting and ordered security forces to investigate, but no one has been arrested.


Lissu was arrested eight times in the year leading up to his attack and charged with incitement, among other alleged offences. His most recent arrest was in August 2017 - two weeks before he was shot.

Lissu is currently vice chairman of CHADEMA, the main opposition movement, and plans to vie for the presidency in October general elections if he wins his party primary.

Lissu, who is popular in urban areas, would face incumbent Magufuli.

CHADEMA chairman Freeman Mbowe dropped out of the presidential race after he and three other party members, who initially said they wanted to contest the presidency, failed to pick and return nomination forms.

Magufuli, nicknamed “the Bulldozer” for his ability to push projects through, took office in November 2015 pledging to expand the East African nation’s infrastructure and fight graft.

But international rights groups accuse him of curbing free expression and cracking down on opposition figures.

The government denies stifling dissent.

Writing by George Obulutsa; Editing by Elias Biryabarema, William Maclean and Andrew Cawthorne
Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
 

Plain Jane

Veteran Member

NEWS
JULY 29, 2020 / 7:22 AM / UPDATED 18 MINUTES AGO
Zimbabwe agrees to pay $3.5 billion compensation to white farmers


3 MIN READ

HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe agreed on Wednesday to pay $3.5 billion in compensation to white farmers whose land was expropriated by the government to resettle black families, moving a step closer to resolving one the most divisive policies of the Robert Mugabe era.

But the southern African nation does not have the money and will issue long term bonds and jointly approach international donors with the farmers to raise funding, according to the compensation agreement.

Two decades ago Mugabe’s government carried out at times violent evictions of 4,500 white farmers and redistributed the land to around 300,000 Black families, arguing it was redressing colonial land imbalances.

The agreement signed at President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s State House offices in Harare showed white farmers would be compensated for infrastructure on the farms and not the land itself, as per the national constitution.


Details of how much money each farmer, or their descendants, given the time elapsed since the farms were seized, was likely to get were not yet clear, but the government has said it would prioritise the elderly when making the settlements.

Farmers would receive 50% of the compensation after a year and the balance within five years.

Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube and acting Agriculture Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri signed on behalf of the government, while farmers unions and a foreign consortium that undertook valuations also penned the agreement.

“As Zimbabweans, we have chosen to resolve this long-outstanding issue,” said Andrew Pascoe, head of the Commercial Farmers Union representing white farmers.

The land seizures were one of Mugabe’s signature policies that soured ties with the West. Mugabe, who was ousted in a coup in 2017 and died last year, accused the West of imposing sanctions on his government as punishment.

The programme still divides public opinion in Zimbabwe as opponents see it as a partisan process that left the country struggling to feed itself. But its supporters say it has empowered landless Black people.

Mnangagwa said the land reform could not be reversed but paying of compensation was key to mending ties with the West.

Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by Alison Williams
Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
 

Plain Jane

Veteran Member

Malian PM Boubou Cisse says he will not resign
Mali's prime minister, Boubou Cisse, told DW that "no one is expected to achieve the impossible" in finding a solution to form a unity government for the crisis-rocked country. His resignation isn't on the agenda.



Premierminister von Mali Boubou Cisse ( Pressedienst d. Premierministers von Mali)

Mali's Prime Minister Boubou Cisse has told DW in an exclusive interview that his resignation "is not on the agenda."

The opposition alliance M5-RFP is calling for Cisse, along with President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, to resign.

Read more: Mali: President Keita dissolves constitutional court amid unrest
"The President of the Republic is the only one who has that prerogative. So far, he has not shown me this — on the contrary," Cisse told DW on Thursday in a telephone interview from Mali's capital, Bamako.

"We are completely in step with everything that is happening, with the attempt to find a way out of the crisis, and the President of the Republic wants me to continue to deal with the government's work program."

The controversial cleric's offer
Imam Mahmoud Dicko, the Muslim cleric seen as the driving force behind Mali's protest movement, said the country's political crisis could be resolved without President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita resigning.

"I think we can find a solution without going as far as the resignation of the president. Aside from his resignation, there are lots of things that can be done," Dicko said.

The West African state has seen repeated anti-government protests since early June. According to the French international broadcaster RFI, 14 people died and more than 120 were injured in demonstrations since the beginning of July.

Read more: Timbuktu war crimes trial begins in The Hague
Cisse and Dicko met on Tuesday to discuss recommendations made by the West African Economic Community (ECOWAS) to form a government of national unity.

Referring to Dicko, Cisse said: "I found a man who was obviously open to dialogue between the different actors, between the children of Mali, and a man who would like us to reach a solution as quickly as possible to end the crisis and return to normality."
Mali Bamako | Proteste (Getty Images/M. Cattani)
14 people died and more than 120 were injured in demonstrations since the beginning of July

Three negotiations attempts have so far failed. One of ECOWAS's recommendations was the resignation of 31 parliamentarians.

Cisse confirmed to DW that some of the deputies have refused this option.

On Wednesday, the lawyers of the concerned MPs told the press that they were not prepared to resign, but would insist on completing their five-year term of office.

Still, Cisse described the discussions with the opposition as going well.

"A draft roadmap has been drawn up. We hope that the various actors behind this roadmap will support it — the presidential majority, of course, the opposition actors, but also civil society."

Read more: Mali: Anti-government protests turn violent
According to Prime Minister Cisse, the roadmap will be the agenda of the government of national unity.

"We are in the process of finalizing the roadmap. It has been distributed to all the players. At the moment, their comments are coming in," Cisse told DW.

"Of course, the opposition is not yet fully in line with the roadmap but we are continuing the negotiations and we hope that, in the coming days, we will be able to bring together all the players behind this roadmap. This accession will enable us to move towards the establishment of the government of national unity."

Moving forward
"Our wish, and personally my most fervent wish, is that we can find a consensus around this roadmap with the opposition, in particular with M5-RFP," he said referring to the opposition coalition calling for President Keita's resignation.

"At the moment, no one is expected to achieve the impossible," Cisse told DW. "Men move on, but a country remains. So we are going to ensure the continuity of the state together with the nation's stakeholders who will agree to accompany us."

According to the US non-governmental organization ACLED, which collects data on crises worldwide, 2,612 people have died violently in Mali in the past twelve months.
 
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