INTL Africa: Politics, Economics, Military- December 2021

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB
November's thread:

Regional Conflict in Mediterranean beginning page76:

Main Coronavirus thread beginning page 1455:

Ugandan troops cross into Congo to widen anti-ADF offensive
Uganda has deployed soldiers into the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo, as part of a joint operation with the Congolese military. The troop movement followed bombardments against posts held by the Islamist ADF.

Ugandan soldiers on an operation in the Central African Republic
Uganda deployed soldiers in a ground operation after bombarding militant positions across the border
Hundreds of Ugandan soldiers in armored vehicles crossed the border into the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on Wednesday, witnesses said, as part of a joint operation with Kinshasa.
Congo has said special forces from both countries are being deployed to secure bases used by the Islamist-affiliated Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) militia.

What's happening on the ground?
The Ugandan military started its deployments into Congo on Tuesday, having already launched air and artillery strikes against ADF targets from Ugandan territory.

"They are arriving aboard armor-plated cars, with escorts from members of the local security services," Tony Kitambala, a freelance journalist based in North Kivu province, was cited as saying by the AFP news agency.

Another witness, a resident of the border town of Nobili, reported seeing tanks.

The pre-incursion bombardments were aimed at several ADF positions in North Kivu, as well as in the neighboring Ituri province to the northeast.

The Ugandan armed forces said the raids had successfully hit their targets, with ground operations to follow that would hunt down "terrorists."

A Congolese military spokesman said "search and control" operations were underway at the bombarded ADF locations.

According to one DRV military officer, Congolese troops were headed towards Beni, the capital of North Kivu province, from neighboring South Kivu.

Congo has promised that a situation report on the mission will be made public. There was no initial official indication of how many troops had been deployed or how long the operations will continue.

Watch video01:43
Several killed in Uganda suicide bombings
What is the ADF?

Historically, the ADF is a Ugandan rebel coalition. It was mostly comprised of Muslims opposed to Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who has led the country since 1986.

The ADF has been active since the mid-1990s and was pushed out of Uganda after trying to mobilize support.

It became embedded in places such as North Kivu in Congo and engaged with other armed groups. The group came to be treated as one of the deadliest among scores operating in eastern Congo.

The group has operated alongside fighters from groups supportive of the former regimes of Milton Obote and Idi Amin, who felt sidelined by Museveni's politics. ADF members have also been linked to rebels engaged in a drawn-out fight for greater independence for communities on the borders between Uganda and Congo.

According to Congo's Catholic Church, the ADF has killed some 6,000 civilians since 2013. Another monitor, the Kivu Security Tracker, blames the group for 1,200 deaths since 2017.

While the ADF pledged allegiance to the so-called "Islamic State" (IS) in 2019, United Nations researchers say they have found no evidence of IS command and control.

However, some ADF attacks in eastern DR Congo have been claimed by IS since April 2019. And in March this year, the United States placed the ADF on its list of "terrorist" organizations linked to IS

Ugandan authorities accused the ADF — or a local affiliated group — of carrying out or planning a string of attacks this year.

Four people were killed and 33 wounded in twin suicide bombings in Kampala in November, with police linking this to the ADF.
rc/sms (AFP, Reuters, AP)
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Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB

Libyan court says Gadhafi’s son can run for president

FILE - In this Feb. 25, 2011, file photo, Seif al-Islam Gadhafi speaks to the media at a press conference in a hotel in Tripoli, Libya.   Libya's top electoral body said Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2021,  that Seif al-Islam Gadhafi, the son and one-time heir apparent of the late Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi is disqualified from running in presidential elections that are supposed to take place next month.  (AP Photo/Ben Curtis, File)

FILE - In this Feb. 25, 2011, file photo, Seif al-Islam Gadhafi speaks to the media at a press conference in a hotel in Tripoli, Libya. Libya's top electoral body said Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2021, that Seif al-Islam Gadhafi, the son and one-time heir apparent of the late Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi is disqualified from running in presidential elections that are supposed to take place next month. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis, File)

CAIRO (AP) — A Libyan court ruled Thursday that a son of the late Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi can compete in upcoming presidential elections, overturning a decision by the country’s top electoral body to disqualify him.

A court in the southern province of Sabha ruled in favor of Seif al-Islam Gadhafi, Libyan media outlets reported. For almost a week, the court had been unable to convene to hear the appeal after the building was surrounded by armed men who prevented judges from entering.

Last week, Libya’s High National Elections Committee had disqualified him, citing past convictions linked to using violence against protesters. The candidate had appealed the ruling.
The first round of voting is meant to start on Dec. 24, though a number of divisive issues need to be resolved before then. It remains unclear whether any further legal challenges could be made to Seif al-Islam’s candidacy.

In a Twitter post late Thursday, he thanked the judges for risking their personal safety, saying they had done so “in the name of truth.” He also thanked his family and supporters.
The election comes after years of U.N.-led attempts to usher in a more democratic future and end the country’s civil war.

Libya has been wracked by chaos since a NATO-backed uprising toppled Moammar Gadhafi in 2011. Over the past decade, the oil-rich nation had been split between a government in the east, backed by powerful commander Khalifa Hifter, and a U.N.-supported administration in Tripoli, aided by western-based Libyan militias. Each side has also had the support of mercenaries and foreign forces from Turkey, Russia and Syria and different regional powers.
Seif al-Islam had been sentenced to death by a Tripoli court in 2015 for using violence against protesters in the 2011 uprising against his father, though that ruling has since been called into question by Libya’s rival authorities. He is also wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of crimes against humanity related to the uprising.

The upcoming vote faces many challenges, including disputes over the laws governing the elections and occasional infighting among armed groups. Other obstacles include the deep rift that remains between the country’s east and west and the presence of thousands of foreign fighters and troops.

Libya is currently governed by an interim government that was elected by Libyan delegates after U.N.-led talks in Geneva in February.

Several other high-profile figures have filed their candidacy documents, including Hifter, and the country’s interim prime minister, Abdul Hamid Dbeibah. In recent days, local courts have been looking into several appeals against candidates.

Also Thursday, the country’s high election commission said that armed men had attacked four different polling stations in the town of Azizia and one in the capital of Tripoli. The commission said they stole or destroyed over 2,000 voting cards, that eligible voters are expected to carry on the election .


Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB

Burkina Faso caught between terror and protests for change
Following protests in Burkina Faso, President Roch Marc Christian Kabore has vowed to step up the fight against terrorism. Many people feel these are empty words, and are calling for his resignation.

Ptotestors walk past burning tires on a street
Demonstrators have been calling for a change in government in protests since November

A surge of Islamic militant violence in Burkina Faso is taking on a new dimension.
The situation is particularly worrying in Nadiagou, located in the southeast, not far from the border with Benin and Togo.

DW reported on how the al-Qaeda-linked jihadist militia group JNIM, which originated in Mali, brought a town under its control for the first time. The men fled, the churches closed.
Protesters are frustrated with the state's failure to stop the violence.

"The jihadists control the village," a resident who fled to the capital, Ouagadougou, but remained in contact with relatives told DW.

"Only women, children, and old people are left."

While this could not be officially confirmed, a reliable source in security circles corroborated the account.

This development shows how easily militias appear to have spread their grip in the region. JNIM has carried out attacks in the north and northwest, while the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) is mainly active in the east and in the border region of neighboring Niger.

"Our country is at war, and it is disappearing more and more. We have already lost a large part of the land," said Ibrahima Maiga, who now lives in the United States and is a cofounder of the movement Sauvons le Burkina Faso (Save Burkina Faso).
Infographic Burkina Faso showing Nadiagou village

Calls for President Kabore to quit
For weeks, the civil society group has been exerting massive pressure on the government of President Roch Marc Christian Kabore, who has been in power since 2015.

This weekend, Sauvons le Burkina Faso plans to organize new demonstrations.

"We have decided to keep protesting until there is real change. For us, this is only possible if President Kabore steps down. That is why we are maintaining this momentum," Maiga told DW.

In Burkina Faso, more than 2,000 people have died as a result of terrorism since 2016. Some 285 people died between July and September alone, according to the United Nations children's agency UNICEF.

Nearly 1.5 million people are on the run, about 2,700 schools are closed and some 300,000 children and young people can no longer receive an education.

The terror threat is the most significant security crisis in the country since Burkina Faso gained independence from France in 1960.

Watch video01:34
Protest against jihadi attacks turns violent
Attack that changed everything

The trigger for the current pressure on the government was a November 14 attack on security forces in Inata in the north, near the border with Mali.

The assault was the deadliest attack security forces in Burkina Faso have endured since the insurgency began in 2015. Jihadis killed at least 49 police officers and four civilians.

The attack has fueled anger against both the government in Ouagadougou as well as the French military forces that support it. Since then, protests against Kabore's government have flared up sporadically.

For many Burkinabes, including Prosper Nikiema, the militants had finally crossed a line. He said the ambush on a military police post showed that something had been wrong for far too long.

"Of course, there have always been signs of danger. But these have not been taken seriously at all," Nikiema told DW.

For him, there is only one logical conclusion: Kabore's resignation. However, he thinks that Kabore lacks the courage to take that step.

Nikiema suggests fight terrorism more efficiently — for example with a transnational anti-terrorist operation.

On Tuesday, Security Minister Maxime Kone announced that Ghana, Togo and the Ivory Coast had created such a mission, with more than 5,700 soldiers. They arrested at least 300 suspects and confiscated illegal firearms. That operation had been planned before recent protests.
A burned car outside of the French embassy in Burkina Faso
Burkina Faso has become a target of frequent terror attacks, including this one in Ouagadougou in 2018

Fighting across borders
Amadou Diemdioda Dicko, a member of parliament for the opposition Union for Progress and Change (UPC) party, believes cross-border initiatives are crucial.

"The situation is also very similar in Mali and Niger," Dicko told DW. "People need to understand that we can only fight terrorism together."

In his opinion, it is not only the government's responsibility: "The population must be involved — for example, by reporting suspicious people. Weapons alone will not bring a solution."

This is evident in neighboring Mali. Despite international military missions and training programs for the armed forces, the security situation has deteriorated in recent years.
To set an example quickly, Kabore appointed Lieutenant Colonel Wendwaoga Kere as inspector general to remedy grievances within the armed forces. For parliamentarian Diemdioda Dicko, Kere's appointment is a step in the right direction.

"Action is demanded of the president, after all," he said.
Burkina Faso's President Roch Marc Christian Kabore
Kabore is under increasing pressure to resign due to his government's botched handling of jihadi attacks

New faces instead of fundamental changes
For Ibrahima Maiga of the movement Sauvons le Burkina Faso, that is not enough: "He has changed the chief of staff four times. He had four defense ministers. We have tried and replaced everything. Just not him yet."

Maiga, instead, has called for a government of national unity. At the same time, he acknowledged the difficulties in finding a head. "The opposition and the government are the same," he pointed out.

Eric Ismael Kinda, spokesperson for the citizens' movement Balai Citoyen (Citizen's Broom), agrees that replacing ministers is insufficient. Instead, he said, specialized expertise was necessary.

Balai Citoyen led peaceful protests that forced former President Blaise Compaore to resign in 2014. However, as Burkina Faso's best-known civil society organization, it has not yet joined the demonstrations.

"No organization has contacted us about this," Kinda told DW.

Balai Citoyen has always prided itself that its power lies in grassroots support. It remains to be seen how many people Sauvons le Burkina Faso will mobilize for future protests.
  • Senegal Massalikul Jinaan-Moschee (AFP/SEYLLOU)

Plain Jane

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Suspected jihadists kill dozens in attack on vehicle in central Mali
Issued on: 04/12/2021 - 12:49
An MI-8 helicopter of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), lands at the UN base in Menaka, Mali, on October 22, 2021.
An MI-8 helicopter of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), lands at the UN base in Menaka, Mali, on October 22, 2021. © FLORENT VERGNE/AFP
Text by:FRANCE 24Follow
1 min
More than 30 people have been killed in an attack on a passenger vehicle in central Mali's volatile Mopti region, the country's interim government said Saturday.

In a statement, Mali's interim government announced that "an armed attack was perpetrated against a truck heading to Bandiagara fair on Friday (morning)".

"Unidentified armed bandits attacked and set fire to a truck carrying fairground workers halfway between the village of Songho and the paved road. The toll is 31 dead, 17 wounded and the truck burned to ashes," the statement read. "Reinforcements are currently being deployed to the area and are leading a thorough sweep of the area to track down the assailants."

Presenting its condolences to the families of the victims, the transitional government added that "all measures will be taken to stop and punish the perpetrators of this ignoble and tragic act". It added praise for Mali's armed forces for their efforts "in the battle against terrorism in all its forms".

Transitional president Assimi Goita declared three days of mourning with flags to be lowered to half-staff on public buildings from Sunday.

'Sprayed with bullets'
"The passengers were sprayed with bullets and the vehicle was torched," during an attack by "terrorists" near the town of Bandiagara on Friday, local officials told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.

An elected official in Bandiagara said the victims included women and children.
The attack has not been claimed by any of the many armed groups active in the West African country.

Mali has been struggling to contain an Islamist insurgency that first erupted in the north in 2012 and has since claimed thousands of military and civilian lives.

Despite the presence of thousands of French and UN troops, the conflict has engulfed central Mali and spread to neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.

Central Mali has become one of the most violent hotspots of the Sahel-wide conflict, where ethnic killings and attacks on government forces are frequent.

A military coup last year, brought about after mass protest against the ongoing violence, has failed to stem the bloodshed.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)


Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB

China Poised To Establish 1st Ever Naval Base In Atlantic, Alarming US Officials
Tyler Durden's Photo

SUNDAY, DEC 05, 2021 - 04:00 PM
US intelligence believes that China is set to establish its first ever permanent naval installation on the Atlantic Ocean. On Sunday The Wall Street Journal revealed key findings of a series of classified intelligence reports that point to China's military prepping a presence at a deep water port in Equatorial Guinea, on Africa's east coast.

American officials who spoke to the WSJ indicated that the reports "raise the prospect that Chinese warships would be able to rearm and refit opposite the East Coast of the U.S.—a threat that is setting off alarm bells at the White House and Pentagon."

Last April, the commander of US Africa Command, Gen. Stephen Townsend, first raised the possibility of this "most significant threat" of a PLA military Atlantic presence during Senate testimony - describing that Beijing is eyeing "a militarily useful naval facility on the Atlantic coast of Africa."

"By militarily useful I mean something more than a place that they can make port calls and get gas and groceries," he said at the time. "I’m talking about a port where they can rearm with munitions and repair naval vessels."

But for all the "alarm" in Washington and the defense establishment, it bears pointing out that Equatorial Guinea is 7,000 miles away from the United States mainland. Additionally the US maintains at least 750 bases across some 80 countries worldwide, including 29 or more known bases stretching from one side of Africa to the other.

China's first overseas military base was set up in Djibouti in 2017, on the Horn of Africa, and is less than 10 miles from Camp Lemonnier, known as the largest US base in Africa. US officials have long been concerned that along with a Chinese military footprint, Beijing hopes to coerce host countries into signing onto major Chinese investment and infrastructural deals, advancing China's geopolitical interests in the line with Xi's Belt and Road Initiative.

One US-funded think tank analyst pointed out the following pattern that accompanies Chinese military expansion to foreign countries:

"China doesn’t just build a military base like the U.S.," said Paul Nantulya, research associate at the Pentagon-funded Africa Center for Strategic Studies. "The Chinese model is very, very different. It combines civilian as well as security elements."
Chinese state-owned companies have built 100 commercial ports around Africa in the past two decades, according to Chinese government data.
In Equatorial Guinea especially, the US concern is that Beijing can more easily make deeper and lucrative economic inroads as the family-run government of longtime strongman President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo (having ruled the tiny country with an iron fist since 1979) is widely perceived as corrupt.

Already China has multiple major construction companies there, and it should be remembered that the West African oil-producing country has been a member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) since 2017.

China also trains and arms the country's national police force. Equatorial Guinea has also in recent years singed Belt & Road memorandums pledging adherence to the initiative.

The WSJ report features satellite imagery and statements of US officials strongly suggesting the Chinese have an eye on Bata in particular, the country's largest mainland city, on the coast. The report describes that this location "already has a Chinese-built deep-water commercial port on the Gulf of Guinea, and excellent highways link the city to Gabon and the interior of Central Africa."

Plain Jane

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Gambia: President Barrow wins election amid cries of foul play
Gambia's electoral commission has declared President Adama Barrow the winner of Saturday's election. But opposition candidates rejected this outcome and warned that "all actions are on table."

Gambian President Adama Barrow, left, speaks to journalists after casting his vote in Gambia's presidential elections, in Banjul, Gambia
Gambian president Adama Barrow looks set for a landslide win at the country's elections

Gambian President Adama Barrow was declared the winner of the country's key election on Sunday by the African nation's electoral commission.

Barrow and his National People's Party (NNP) claimed nearly 40 out of 53 constituencies in Saturday's vote.

Election results have taken longer to come through as a consequence of the country's poverty, high turnout and marble-based election process, which sees voters choose their preferred politician by dropping a marble inside one of the boxes. The system was introduced in the 1960s to avoid spoiled ballots due to low literacy rates.

Opposition candidates cry foul
The preliminary results did not go down well with three of the candidates vying for the presidency.

"At this point in time we reject the results announced thus far by the IEC," said Barrow's main rival Ousainou Darboe of the United Democratic Party (UDP) along with two other candidates. They added that "all actions are on table."

UDP supporters claimed the vote was rigged although have yet to provide evidence to substantiate the allegation.

Opposition parties have the right to lodge a dispute before the country's Supreme Court within 10 days.

Why is this election important?
Barrow became Gambia's current president after ousting former dictator Yahya Jammeh, who had ruled for 22 years, in a 2016 election.

Jammeh reigned with an iron fist in the West African country before fleeing to Equatorial Guinea under pressure from a combined African military intervention. The Saturday vote was the first since Jammeh's ouster.
A man exits a voting booth after the opening of a the vote in a market in the Manjai Kunda neighbourhood in Banjul
The Saturday vote is seen as a test of Gambia's fledgling democracy

Nearly 1 million people out of a 2.5 million population are registered to vote in mainland Africa's smallest country, which is completely surrounded by Senegal.

Who were Barrow's main rival candidates?
Barrow's main challenger and former political mentor is the UDP's Ousainou Darboe.

Barrow, 56, made lavish promises during the campaign. He told his supporters he planned to introduce health insurance that would grant access to treatment without payments upfront.

Critics, however, say he has broken his promises, pointing to how he backtracked on a pledge to serve only three years after winning in 2016.

Watch video25:59
The 77 Percent - Street Debate: Is Gambia's Adama Barrow Getting Drunk on Power?
In contrast, Darboe told supporters on Thursday that he intended to work towards reconciling Gambians and dispensing justice to those who suffered under Jammeh's rule.
A truth commission set up by Barrow after becoming president revealed stories of state-sanctioned death squads during Jammeh's rule. But the final report has not yet been released to the public.

Poverty and youth unemployment are also key political issues in Gambia, where about half the population lives on less than $1.90 (€1.68) a day, the World Bank said.

Ousted strongman Jammeh, meanwhile, backed the Gambia Democratic Congress (GDC) party, even addressing their rallies via telephone.
ab, jc/dj, jsi (Reuters, AFP)

Plain Jane

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Aid group says tribal violence kills 24 in Sudan’s Darfur
By SAMY MAGDYyesterday

CAIRO (AP) — Tribal clashes between Arabs and non-Arabs killed at least 24 people Sunday in Sudan’s western Darfur region, an aid group said. It was the latest bout of intercommunal violence to rock the conflict-stricken region.

The fighting grew out of a financial dispute late Saturday between two individuals in a camp for displaced persons in the Kreinik area in West Darfur province, said Adam Regal, the spokesman for the General Coordination for Refugees and Displaced in Darfur.

Regal said Arab militias known as janjaweed attacked the camp early Sunday, torching and looting properties. At least 35 others were wounded, he said.

A hashtag that reads “Kreinik is bleeding” in Arabic was trending on Twitter on Sunday, with users posting footage purportedly showing burned houses and bodies wrapped in burial shrouds.

The camp is located east of the provincial capital of Genena, and houses displaced people from the African Masalit tribe, who have been forced to leave their homes during the Darfur conflict.

The violence in Kreinik was the latest to rock West Darfur in recent weeks. Last month, a land dispute between Arabs and non-Arabs in the Jebel Moon area led to bloody clashes that left at least 17 people dead and 12 others wounded.

In the nearby South Darfur province, tribal clashes over the past two months have claimed the lives of at least 45 people in the town of Tawila, according to the Sudan Doctors Committee.

Such clashes pose a significant challenge to efforts by Sudan’s transitional authorities to end decades-long rebellions in some areas like war-wrecked Darfur. Sudan is in the midst of a fragile democratic transition since a popular uprising forced the removal of longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir in April 2019.

The Darfur conflict broke out when rebels from the territory’s ethnic central and sub-Saharan African community launched an insurgency in 2003, complaining of oppression by the Arab-dominated government in Khartoum.

Al-Bashir’s government responded with a campaign of aerial bombings and raids by the Janjaweed, who stand accused of mass killings and rapes. Up to 300,000 people were killed and 2.7 million were driven from their homes.

Al-Bashir, who is in prison in Khartoum, faces international charges of genocide and crimes against humanity related to the Darfur conflict.

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB

Burundi says prison fire kills 38 inmates in Gitega

In this image made from video, security forces and others gather outside the scene of a fire at a prison in Gitega, Burundi Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021. Burundi's government says 38 prisoners have been killed in the fire Tuesday morning at the overcrowded prison, with more than 60 other people injured and the death toll could rise. (AP Photo)
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In this image made from video, security forces and others gather outside the scene of a fire at a prison in Gitega, Burundi Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021. Burundi's government says 38 prisoners have been killed in the fire Tuesday morning at the overcrowded prison, with more than 60 other people injured and the death toll could rise. (AP Photo)

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Burundi’s government says 38 prisoners have been killed in a fire Tuesday morning in Gitega, the country’s political capital.

Vice President Prosper Bazombanza announced the deaths. More than 60 other people have been injured and the death toll could rise.

The prison in Gitega is overcrowded with more than 1,500 inmates in cells designed to hold 400, according to local reports.

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB

Burkina Faso: Prime Minister Dabire resigns amid security crisis
Prime Minister Christophe Dabire submitted his resignation to the president, after terror attacks last month spurred protests calling for a government reshuffle.

 Christophe Dabire
Prime Minister Christophe Dabire resigned after the president stressed the need for a "stronger" cabinet last month

Burkina Faso's Prime Minister, Christophe Dabire, resigned on Wednesday as the West African country's government comes under pressure amid a security crisis.

President Roch Marc Christian Kabore has been under fire since al-Qaeda affiliated militants killed at least 49 military officers and at least 4 civilians in November.

The attack was one of the worst on the military in recent memory and sparked protests calling for a new prime minister.

The government's secretary general read out a decree on public television that officially terminated the prime minister's term.

The president has already reshuffled leadership of the armed forces.
Police fire tear gas to disperse crowds in Ouagadoudou, Burkina Faso
Protests turned violent last month in Ouagadoudou, the capital city

What happens next?
According to Burkina Faso law, the resignation of a prime minister also requires the resignation of the entire government.

But the outgoing government will remain in a caretaker capacity until a new one is formed, according to the government's secretary general Stephane Wenceslas Sanou.

President Kabore first appointed Dabire in early 2019, and again in 2021, after the president was re-elected for the second and last term.

Deteriorating security situation
Burkina Faso is one of the poorest nations in West Africa, and has been beset by terror attacks in recent years perpetrated by militant groups linked to al-Qaeda and the so-called Islamic State.

The attacks have claimed thousands of lives and forced more than a million people to flee their homes.

The country is also being affected by an Islamist insurgency that has hit large parts of neighboring Mali and Niger.
rm/wmr (Reuters, AFP)

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Niger and Burkina Faso kill scores of 'terrorists' in a joint operation, armies say
Issued on: 10/12/2021 - 09:10
File photo of Burkina Faso soldiers during a training drill at a  military camp near Ouagadougo in April 2018.
File photo of Burkina Faso soldiers during a training drill at a military camp near Ouagadougo in April 2018. AFP - ISSOUF SANOGO

The armies of Burkina Faso and neighbouring Niger said Thursday they had killed around 100 "terrorists" in a joint military operation against jihadists on the border between November 25 and December 9.

The operation managed to "neutralise around 100 terrorists" and "detain around 20 suspicious individuals", they said in a joint statement.

They had also dismantled two bases, one in Kokoloukou in western Niger and another in Yeritagui in eastern Burkina Faso.

Four Burkinabe soldiers also lost their lives in a roadside bomb attack, it added.

Both sides deployed foot soldiers, as well as "surveillance and combat aircraft" during the operation, whose headquarters are in the town of Tillaberi in western Niger.

Tillaberi is located in the so-called tri-border area -- a flashpoint zone where the frontiers of Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali converge.

Groups linked to Al-Qaeda and the so-called Islamic State group have plagued the Sahel region since 2015.

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB

South African doctors see signs omicron is milder than delta

FILE — Melva Mlambo, right, and Puseletso Lesofi, both medical scientists prepare to sequence COVID-19 omicron samples at the Ndlovu Research Center in Elandsdoorn, South Africa, Dec. 8, 2021. Health experts still don't know if omicron is causing milder COVID-19 but some more hints are emerging with doctors in South Africa saying their patients aren't getting as sick with omicron, compared to the delta variant. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay, File)
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FILE — Melva Mlambo, right, and Puseletso Lesofi, both medical scientists prepare to sequence COVID-19 omicron samples at the Ndlovu Research Center in Elandsdoorn, South Africa, Dec. 8, 2021. Health experts still don't know if omicron is causing milder COVID-19 but some more hints are emerging with doctors in South Africa saying their patients aren't getting as sick with omicron, compared to the delta variant. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay, File)

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — As the omicron variant sweeps through South Africa, Dr. Unben Pillay is seeing dozens of sick patients a day. Yet he hasn’t had to send anyone to the hospital.

That’s one of the reasons why he, along with other doctors and medical experts, suspect that the omicron version really is causing milder COVID-19 than delta, even if it seems to be spreading faster.

“They are able to manage the disease at home,” Pillay said of his patients. “Most have recovered within the 10 to 14-day isolation period.” said Pillay.

And that includes older patients and those with health problems that can make them more vulnerable to becoming severely ill from a coronavirus infection, he said.

In the two weeks since omicron first was reported in Southern Africa, other doctors have shared similar stories. All caution that it will take many more weeks to collect enough data to be sure, their observations and the early evidence offer some clues.

According to South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases:
— Only about 30% of those hospitalized with COVID-19 in recent weeks have been seriously ill, less than half the rate as during the first weeks of previous pandemic waves.

— Average hospital stays for COVID-19 have been shorter this time - about 2.8 days compared to eight days.
— Just 3% of patients hospitalized recently with COVID-19 have died, versus about 20% in the country’s earlier outbreaks.

“At the moment, virtually everything points toward it being milder disease,” Willem Hanekom, director of the Africa Health Research Institute, said, citing the national institute’s figures and other reports. “It’s early days, and we need to get the final data. Often hospitalizations and deaths happen later, and we are only two weeks into this wave.”

In the meantime, scientists around the world are watching case counts and hospitalization rates, while testing to see how well current vaccines and treatments hold up. While delta is still the dominant coronavirus strain worldwide, omicron cases are popping up in dozens of countries, with South Africa the epicenter.

Pillay practices in the country’s Gauteng province, where the omicron version has taken hold. With 16 million residents, It’s South Africa’s most populous province and includes the largest city, Johannesburg, and the capital, Pretoria. Gauteng saw a 400% rise in new cases in the first week of December, and testing shows omicron is responsible for more than 90% of them, according to health officials.

Pillay says his COVID-19 patients during the last delta wave “had trouble breathing and lower oxygen levels. Many needed hospitalization within days,” he said. The patients he’s treating now have milder, flu-like symptoms, such as body aches and a cough, he said.

Pillay is a director of an association representing some 5,000 general practitioners across South Africa, and his colleagues have documented similar observations about omicron. Netcare, the largest private healthcare provider, is also reporting less severe cases of COVID-19.

But the number of cases is climbing. South Africa confirmed 22,400 new cases on Thursday and 19,000 on Friday, up from about 200 per day a few weeks ago. The new surge has infected 90,000 people in the past month, Minister of Health Joe Phaahla said Friday.
“Omicron has driven the resurgence,” Phaahla said, citing studies that say 70% of the new cases nationwide are from omicron.

The coronavirus reproduction rate in the current wave - indicating the number of people likely to be infected by one person — is 2.5, the highest that South Africa has recorded during the pandemic, he said.

“Because this is such a transmissible variant, we’re seeing increases like we never saw before,” said Waasila Jassat, who tracks hospital data for the National Institute for Communicable Diseases.

Of the patients hospitalized in the current wave, 86% weren’t vaccinated against the coronavirus, Jassat said. The COVID-patients in South Africa’s hospitals now also are younger than at other periods of the pandemic: about two-thirds are under 40.

Jassat said that even though the early signs are that omicron cases are less severe, the volume of new COVID-19 cases may still overwhelm South Africa’s hospitals and result in a higher number of severe symptoms and deaths.

“That is the danger always with the waves,” she said.

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB

Ethiopia: Tigray rebels recapture Lalibela, residents say
Residents of Lalibela, home to a UN World Heritage site, said the rebels have retaken it "without firing guns." Ethiopian forces and their allies had taken control of the town less than two weeks ago.

Amhara Fano militia fighters walk in the ransacked terminal at the Lalibela airport in Lalibela, on December 7, 2021
Tigray forces first took control of Lalibela in early August, but in December government troops recaptured the town before losing once again to the rebels

Tigray forces have recaptured the north Ethiopian town of Lalibela, 11 days after government forces said they had taken it back, witnesses reported on Sunday.

Lalibela, located in the Amhara region 645 kilometers (400 miles) north of the capital Addis Ababa, is home to a UNESCO world heritage site and an important pilgrimage site for Ethiopian Christians.

The Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) rebel group's military leadership said in a statement shared with pro-TPLF media that they had launched "widespread counter-offensives" in several locations.
Orthodox underground monolithic church carved into the rock in Lalibela
What did the residents say?
Citing a witness, Reuters news agency reported that residents had begun fleeing Lalibela. "We panicked, we never saw this coming. TPLF forces are now patrolling the town wearing their uniforms," the witness said.

Another witness told Reuters that special forces from the Amhara region and their militia allies — both allies of the Ethiopian government — began leaving Lalibela on Saturday night.

"The last batch left this morning. We heard gunshots from a distance last night but the Tigrayan forces recaptured Lalibela without firing guns in the town," the witness, a hotel receptionist, told Reuters.

Tigrayan fighters "are in the town centre, there's no fighting," a resident told the AFP news agency over the phone. "They came back. They're already here," said another.

Communications have been cut in the conflict zone and access for journalists is restricted.

What is the situation in Ethiopia?
Rebels had taken control of Lalibela in early August, but on December 1, Ethiopian troops and their Amhara regional allies recaptured the town.

War erupted in November 2020 between Ethiopian federal troops and forces loyal to the TPLF rebel group, the ruling party of Tigray. The conflict has killed thousands of civilians, displaced millions, and has left hundreds of thousands in famine-like conditions.

The conflict prompted countries such as the United States, France and Britain to urge their citizens to leave Ethiopia as soon as possible.

Diplomatic efforts led by the African Union to try to reach a cease-fire have failed to achieve any visible breakthrough.

Watch video02:19
Military clashes continue in Ethiopia’s Tigray conflict
mvb/fb (AFP, Reuters)

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB

West Africa bloc threatens more sanctions against Mali junta

LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — West African leaders are threatening further sanctions against Mali within weeks unless the country’s junta makes “concrete progress” toward holding democratic elections in February as promised.

The latest threat came Sunday after the regional bloc known as ECOWAS held a summit in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, amid mounting concern that Mali’s coup leader is failing to make sufficient election preparations.

ECOWAS commission president Jean-Claude Kassi Brou told reporters that the additional sanctions would be put in place starting Jan. 1.

The decision is the latest in a series of moves launched by the regional bloc to mount pressure on Mali’s transitional government to pave the way for a democratically elected president after a coup in August 2020.

Col. Assimi Goita then carried out a second coup in May, overthrowing the transitional president and prime minister. Goita was sworn in as interim president the following month, solidifying his grip on power.

ECOWAS has suspended Mali from the regional bloc, and it also slapped travel bans and asset freezes on members of the transitional government after junta leaders said last month they won’t be able to make the February deadline.

The junta claims the election is being threatened by Mali’s security woes. The country has struggled to contain an Islamic extremist insurgency since 2012.

A French-led military operation in 2013 forced the extremists from power in major towns across the north, but they have regrouped and continued to launch attacks against Malian soldiers and their allies.

Security concerns also have grown since France, the region’s former colonial power, announced that it plans to withdraw 2,000 troops by early next year.

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB

French military leaves Timbuktu, Mali, after nearly 9 years
By BABA AHMEDyesterday

BAMAKO, Mali (AP) — French forces left the city of Timbuktu late Tuesday, the latest sign that the former colonial power is drawing down its presence in northern Mali nearly nine years after driving Islamic extremists from power there in a military intervention.

The symbolic move comes amid fears about whether the Malian military can now step in and fend off the extremists, who have regrouped and expanded their reach even further southward since the 2013 offensive.

In a communique, the French military emphasized late Tuesday that the Malian military maintains “a strong garrison in Timbuktu,” in addition to nearly 2,200 U.N. peacekeepers who are permanently deployed there.

Residents told The Associated Press late Tuesday that the Malian military has occupied the former French military base.

The French military already has shut down its bases further north in Kidal and Tessalit but is maintaining its presence in Gao near a volatile border region where operations have been concentrated in recent years.

France announced earlier this year that it would be withdrawing more than 2,000 troops from the Sahel by early 2022, refocusing its military efforts on neutralizing extremist operations, and strengthening and training local armies.

The decision came amid mounting political instability in Mali, where Col. Assimi Goita carried out two coups in less than a year’s time before being sworn in as the country’s interim president. The international community has set a deadline for new democratic elections to be held by the end of February, though there are growing signs that will not happen.

On Sunday, the regional bloc known as Economic Community of West African States warned that Mali could face additional sanctions if more “concrete progress” is not made by Jan. 1 toward preparing for elections. The Community already has suspended Mali, and it slapped travel bans and asset freezes on members of the transitional government.

The junta has cited mounting insecurity throughout Mali as a reason why February’s deadline is not attainable.
Associated Press writer Krista Larson in Dakar, Senegal contributed.

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB

89 Africans Killed By Mysterious New Illness Emerging In South Sudan
Tyler Durden's Photo

WEDNESDAY, DEC 15, 2021 - 05:45 AM
Just as the latest delta-driven wave of SARS-CoV-2 washes over parts of the US that already benefit from some of the country's highest vaccination rates, the WHO has dispatched an advance team of researchers and doctors to South Sudan, situated in Northern Africa, where 89 people have been killed already by some strange new virus, according to the Daily Mail.

South Sudan's ministry of health reported that an unknown disease had killed scores of people in the northern town of Fangak in Jonglei state. So the WHO dispatched a team to the area, which is one of the worst-hit places on the entire Continent to be afflicted by a recent severe flooding, to collect samples from sick people. Doctors from Médecins Sans Frontières are already preparing a mobile clinic in Rubkona town.

According to the Daily Mail and BBC, "we decided to send a rapid response team to go and do risk assessment and investigation; that is when they will be able to collect samples from the sick people - but provisionally the figure that we got was that there were 89 deaths," said the WHO's Sheila Baya.

Baya said the team of scientists had to reach Fangak via a helicopter due to severe flooding in the area, adding that the group are waiting for transport to return them to the capital Juba on Wednesday.

"We are extremely concerned about malnutrition, with severe acute malnutrition levels two times the WHO threshold, and the number of children admitted to our hospital with severe malnutrition doubling since the start of the floods," MSF said.
Meanwhile, some 700K people have been impacted by the flooding in the area, including food shortages and illnesses, which are putting tremendous strain on what few health care resources are available in the area.

But seeing as the omicron variant seemingly first emerged from southern Africa (at least, as far as we know), the whole world is probably wondering: what fresh hell might this be?

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB

Danes: Pirates off West Africa suspected of taking hostages

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Pirates are suspected of taking six hostages from a container ship in international waters in the Gulf of Guinea this week, Denmark’s military said.

While sailing off West Africa on an international anti-piracy mission, the Danish navy frigate HDMS Esbern Snare responded Monday to information that a container ship was under attack near Bioko Island off Equatorial Guinea.

The frigate dispatched a Seahawk helicopter, which observed several suspected pirates and hostages boarding a skiff stationed alongside the vessel, the Danish military said Tuesday.
The helicopter crew pursued the skiff as it sailed north and noted that people on the small boat threw objects overboard in an apparent effort to travel faster. However, the aircraft had to stop when it reached the airspace above the national waters of Nigeria, where it is not allowed to operate.

Denmark’s frigate later received a message that several crew members remained on the container ship, including a man with gunshot wounds on his lower leg. He received medical attention, was transferred to the frigate and his condition is stable, the Danish military said.
On Wednesday, Poland’s Foreign Ministry said one of the six abducted crew members on the Tonsberg container ship that is registered in Liberia is a Polish citizen.

Danish military personnel also searched for two more crew members from the container ship who remained missing after the suspected raid. The army provided no details on them.
Earlier this month, sailors from the HDMS Esbern Snare killed four suspected pirates and injured another during an exchange of gunfire off West Africa.

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB

Congo declares end to latest Ebola outbreak in the east

FILE - A child is vaccinated against Ebola in Beni, Congo, July 13, 2019. Congolese officials Thursday Dec. 16, 2021 announced an end to an Ebola outbreak that had killed at least six people since October 2021 in the latest health challenge confronting the country's restive east.(AP Photo/Jerome Delay, file)

FILE - A child is vaccinated against Ebola in Beni, Congo, July 13, 2019. Congolese officials Thursday Dec. 16, 2021 announced an end to an Ebola outbreak that had killed at least six people since October 2021 in the latest health challenge confronting the country's restive east.(AP Photo/Jerome Delay, file)

BENI, Congo (AP) — Congolese officials on Thursday announced an end to an Ebola outbreak that had killed at least six people since October in the latest health challenge confronting the country’s restive east.

The most recent outbreak erupted in North Kivu province, the same part of Congo where more than 2,200 people died during an earlier Ebola epidemic that began in 2018.

Congolese health workers had been able to “limit widespread infections and save lives,” Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization’s regional director for Africa, said.

“Crucial lessons are being learned and applied with every outbreak experience,” she said.
Research has shown that the first case from the latest outbreak “likely represented a new flare-up of the 2018–2020 Ebola outbreak due persistence of the virus in the community,” WHO said Thursday.

Scientists have previously documented Ebola survivors who inadvertently infected others long after they had recovered. For example, health officials have warned that the virus can persist in male survivors’ semen for more than a year.

The newly ended outbreak marked the 13th time Congo has battled Ebola, including another outbreak in North Kivu between February and May of this year.

The disease has proved particularly difficult to prevent in North Kivu, which is home to a myriad of armed groups.

While the 2018-2020 pandemic marked the first time that vaccines could be given to those at risk, insecurity in rural areas prevented health workers from safely accessing many. Those challenges also faced vaccination and contact monitoring teams somewhat this time around too, WHO said.

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB

Celebration and protests mark Tunisia’s new Revolution Day

People hold banners during a gathering to commemorate the anniversary of Tunisian revolution, in the city of Sidi Bouzid, Friday, Dec. 17, 2021. Banners in Arabic read: We are jobless because of your policies. President Kais Saied changed the anniversary date of Tunisia's 2011 revolution – when former autocratic ruler Zine el Abidine Ben Ali fled the country – to Dec. 17 to mark the day in 2010 when fruit seller Mohammed Bouazzi set himself alight, setting off the series of uprisings in Tunisia that led to what is now known as the Arab Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia, Friday, Dec. 17, 2021. (AP Photo/Riadh Dridi)
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People hold banners during a gathering to commemorate the anniversary of Tunisian revolution, in the city of Sidi Bouzid, Friday, Dec. 17, 2021. Banners in Arabic read: "We are jobless because of your policies." President Kais Saied changed the anniversary date of Tunisia's 2011 revolution – when former autocratic ruler Zine el Abidine Ben Ali fled the country – to Dec. 17 to mark the day in 2010 when fruit seller Mohammed Bouazzi set himself alight, setting off the series of uprisings in Tunisia that led to what is now known as the Arab Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia, Friday, Dec. 17, 2021. (AP Photo/Riadh Dridi)

TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — Official observances took place at the birthplace of Tunisia’s 2011 revolution, while opponents and supporters of the country’s president held rival demonstrations in the capital Friday, the new date the leader chose to mark Revolution Day.
A few hundred demonstrators gathered in Tunis on Friday morning to protest Tunisian President Kais Saied’s consolidation of power over the summer and his subsequent actions that have raised fears of democratic backsliding.

A smaller counter-protest in support of the president was held nearby.

Saied announced Monday, almost five months after his power grab, that he would prolong the suspension of parliament until an election in December next year. He also set a date for a national referendum on political reform for July 25, exactly a year since Saied took on sweeping powers.

The president’s opponents slammed his announcement.

Former parliament speaker Rached Ghannouchi, the leader of Tunisia’s largest Islamist party, Ennahdha, called Saied’s moves “unconstitutional and illegal” and said the president had “deepened the political crisis in the country…and exacerbated Tunisia’s international isolation.”

The secretary-general of the country’s main trade union, the UGTT, said Saied’s announcement did not address the country’s economic and social problems. The coronavirus pandemic exacerbated Tunisia’s deteriorating economy, and the country has an 18% unemployment rate.

Following nationwide antigovernment protests in July, Saied abruptly froze parliament, dismissed his government and assumed greater executive powers. In September, he partially suspended the country’s post-revolutionary Constitution and gave himself the power to rule by decree.

Though Saied’s measures have proven popular, welcomed by a public weary of political elites and economic turmoil, critics say Saied’s actions amount to a coup.

Among Saied’s recent announcements was his decision to move the country’s official Revolution Day from Jan. 14 – commemorating the date when former autocrat Zine el Abidine Ben Ali fled the country amid unprecedented mass protests – to Dec. 17.

The new date marks the day in 2010 when fruit seller Mohammed Bouazizi set himself on fire in frustration over corruption, joblessness and repression. His desperate act set off an uprising across Tunisia that spread to other countries in what became known as the Arab Spring.

In the decade since, an annual celebration has always been held on Dec. 17 in Sidi Bouzid, Bouazizi’s hometown and the site of the revolution’s first protests.

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB

Madagascar court jails 2 Frenchmen for plotting failed coup
By LAETITIA BEZAINDecember 17, 2021

FILE — Madagascar's President Andry Rajoelina speaks during the UN Climate Change Conference COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021. A court in Madagascar has convicted two French citizens of having plotted a failed coup against Rajoelina and sentenced them to 10 years and 20 years of forced labor. (Adrian Dennis/Pool Photo via AP File)

FILE — Madagascar's President Andry Rajoelina speaks during the UN Climate Change Conference COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021. A court in Madagascar has convicted two French citizens of having plotted a failed coup against Rajoelina and sentenced them to 10 years and 20 years of forced labor. (Adrian Dennis/Pool Photo via AP File)

ANTANANARIVO, Madagascar (AP) — A court in Madagascar has convicted two French citizens of having plotted a failed coup against President Andry Rajoelina and sentenced them to 10 years and 20 years of forced labor.

At the end of a 10-day trial in Antananarivo, the capital, Paul Rafanoharana was sentenced to 20 years in prison on Friday. Frenchman Philippe François was given a 10-year prison sentence.

The two Frenchmen were arrested in July and accused, along with 18 other defendants, of endangering state security, criminal association and conspiracy to assassinate the president.

The two belonged to “a criminal organization” that was seeking to “carry out an attack against President Rajoelina” as shown by “emails, arms and money, seized” by authorities, said state prosecutor Arsène Rabe. The plot was called “Apollo 21,” said the prosecution.
The two men pleaded not guilty and their defense has denounced the trial and unfair with “numerous procedural flaws.”

“We are truly appalled by this verdict,” said Arlette Rafanomadio, one of Rafanoharana’s lawyers who was reached by telephone.

“We did not expect such a heavy sentence because there is no hard evidence to convict our client,” she said. “We are going to appeal and we are studying possible applications to international bodies.”

Rafanoharana, a former officer of the French gendarmerie and a graduate of the Saint-Cyr military school, was briefly an adviser to Rajoelina in 2011.

François, also a graduate of Saint-Cyr and a retired colonel of the French army, had worked in Chad before arriving in Madagascar almost two years ago. Francois and Rafanoharana were partners in an investment company, Tsarafirst, which bought and sold gold.

During the trial, Rafanoharana did not deny that he imagined a way to “neutralize” the president’s entourage, but he denied that he plotted to kill the president himself.

“I consider that it is not a crime to have thought of neutralizing the mafia which harms the country and to have wanted to help a president who is a prisoner of various influences,” he told the court.

Francois denied any involvement in the plot. “I have never been directly or indirectly involved in such a project,” he said.

Others sentenced include Rafanoharana’s wife who was given a five-year prison term. Former Madagascar Prime Minister Victor Ramahatra was handed a five-year suspended prison sentence.

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB

Africa's Biggest Economies
Tyler Durden's Photo

SUNDAY, DEC 19, 2021 - 08:45 AM
With a total GDP of $432.3 billion, Nigeria has become the biggest economy on the African continent over the last 30 years. While the five highest spots on this ranking have been more or less constant over the last three decades, Statista's Florian Zandt notes that the rest of the top 8 are subject to bigger fluctuations as our chart shows.
Infographic: Africa's Biggest Economies | Statista
You will find more infographics at Statista

Libya, for example, managed to come in sixth in 1990 and 2005, but dropped out of the top 8 and only made the 17th rank in 2020. One of the most probable reasons for this dropoff is the Second Libyan Civil War. The multi-sided conflict started in 2014 in the aftermath of the election results of 2012 putting the General National Congress into power. Kenya, on the other hand, passed a new constitution in 2010 which limited the power held by the country's president and enabled business and technology centers like Nairobi to grow. The city is now home to the African offices of Google, Coca-Cola, IBM and Cisco, among others.

Nigeria's first place is largely attributable to its rapidly expanding financial sector, which grew from one percent of the total GDP in 2001 to ten percent in 2018, and its role as one of the world leaders in petroleum exports. The growing tech hub of Lagos, the second-largest metropolitan area in Africa and among the largest in the world, is also likely to further bolster Nigeria's growth in the coming years, even though the divide between the part of the population living in slums without access to basic sanitation and its upper class making the city one of the most expensive in the world is likely to grow as well. This is also reflected in its comparably low GDP per capita of $2,100. When considering this indicator, Nigeria doesn't even make the top 10 in Africa.

Of the 54 countries in Africa, only four countries made the top 50 of all nations with the highest GDP according to data from World Bank. The top spots on this list are reserved for the US, China, Japan and Germany, whose residents generate a combined GPD of $45 trillion, a whopping 50 percent of the global GDP.

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB

Rise Of Gaddafi's Son Throws Libyan Elections Into Chaos, Alarms West
Tyler Durden's Photo

SUNDAY, DEC 19, 2021 - 10:40 PM
The presidential and political elections scheduled for December 24th in Libya will not be held. It is certain now. Only official communication from the National High Electoral Commission is awaited. Libya risks a new power vacuum, because both Prime Minister Abdelhamid Dbeibah and Head of State Mohamed Younis Ahmed al-Manfi would have fallen from their posts in coincidence with the elections. Their mandate was completed and linked to the electoral consultation.

Saif Al Islam Gaddafi’s candidacy destroyed the already precarious balance between the factions competing for power in Libya. The country is divided into three major areas of influence. Tripolitania is substantially under the protection of the Turkish government, Cyrenaica – currently the only "quiet" region – is governed by the Libyan National Army led by General Haftar and is under Russian and Egyptian influence. And finally the Fezzan, the reservoir of much of Libyan wealth with 70 per cent of hydrocarbons. Precisely in the constituency of Sebha, the most important city of Fezzan, Saif Al Islam Gaddafi had presented his candidacy as president of the Libyan Republic.

Via AFP/Libyan High National Election Commission

The pressures of the international community to celebrate the vote have stalled due to the friction between the various actors in Libyan politics. If the vote were truly free, Libya would undoubtedly choose Saif Al Islam as the new head of state. It is the result of all the pre-election polls carried out by the media and social media operators in recent weeks. Gaddafi’s name would have defeated every competitor: an epochal defeat for the United Nations and for the new leaders of Libya after 2011.

There are clear signals from the political and military fields. Tripoli came under the control of armed militias again last week. Colonel Salah Badi’s Al Samoud Brigade showed the total inconsistency of the Dbeibah/AlMenfi duo. In a few hours, Colonel Badi’s vehicles brought the key points of power in Tripoli under control, from the presidential palace to the Ministry of Defense. At the same time, the Lybian National Army was besieging the city of Sebha. The objective of General Haftar’s troops was to put the 116th Brigade under their control. Mission accomplished. Haftar’s army now controls two of the three main Libyan regions.

What appears to be the prelude to a civil war is actually a "risiko game" that serves to reposition the forces in the field and restore a stable balance. For Dbeibah and Al Menfi there is no hope of remaining at the helm of the country after the deadline of 24 December. The great laborer is Aquila Saleh, former head of state in Libya between 2014 and 2015. After leaving office in favor of Fayez Al Serraj (the president imposed on Libya by the international community), Saleh continued his work of political texture from Tobruk. Candidate in the elections on 24 December, the Libyan politician managed to find a solution that satisfies all the forces in the field. A "unitary" solution which consists in being all aligned against the return of a Gaddafi to power.

Thus, eternal rivalries are destined to turn into convenient alliances in the near future. Saleh’s plan involves the creation of some guarantee figures. With the elderly leader originally from the city of Al Qubbah as president of the nation, the leadership of the government would be entrusted to the pro-Turkish Fathi Bashaga, former Minister of Internal Affairs of the Al Serraj government. The Saleh-Bashaga ticket is nothing new. The two presented themselves together at the final votes of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum in Geneva (LPDF, an intra-Libyan series of meetings started in late 2020, aiming to quickly lead to Libyan elections and todemocractic legitimacy of Libyan institutions). The vote on January 18, 2021 saw Saleh and Bashaga (both backed by the US State Department) defeated by five votes by two virtually unknown politicians: current Prime Minister Dbeibah and President Al Manfi.

The Libyan government will also have two vice presidents. One’s name is sure: Khaled Al Misri, one of the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood in Libya. Al Misri had announced for months that the Brotherhood would not participate in the elections.

It remains to be clarified which role to assign to Libya’s third major key player: General Haftar. Saleh played a mediating role between the commander of the Lybian National Army and the former Minister of the Interior Bashaga. Haftar, or whoever for him, will have the task of coordinating the military defense system of the whole of Libya. Only a year and a half ago, Haftar’s militias and national government troops (supported by the Turkish contingent) clashed in Operation Volcan of Rage for the conquest of Tripoli. A long time has passed since then.

Muammar Gaddafi was brutally executed in the street by US/NATO-backed "rebels" on Oct.20,2011 near Sirte.

Gaddafi's ghost, symbolically embodied in his eldest son, is frightening enough to force the two old rivals to forge a new alliance. The agreement also went through the scrutiny of the Turkish government, which gave the green light. Once in office, the Saleh-Bashaga government will have to set a new date for the elections. But it will be a long time. First, it is necessary to settle the accounts, once and for all, with the "old enemy" of all time: the ghost of Gaddafi.


On TB every waking moment
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Ansaru congratulates the Taliban in Afghanistan, promotes Al Qaeda ties
BY CALEB WEISS | December 20, 2021 | | @Weissenberg7
The opening of Ansaru’s congratulatory statement to the Afghan Taliban, as seen in the group’s most recent video.

Al Qaeda’s franchise in Nigeria, Jamaat al Ansar al Muslimeen fi Bilad al Sudan, better known as Ansaru, has publicly congratulated the Taliban for “rolling back the infidel forces” in Afghanistan.

The video is dated for August 19, 2021, or shortly after the Taliban conquered Afghanistan, but was not shared online by al Qaeda’s social media accounts until late last week.

This is just the second video to be released by the group in some time with another recent video documenting the group’s ideological affinity to al Qaeda.

Ansaru’s most recent film features several small video clips from other ostensibly recent, yet unreleased propaganda productions from the group, which includes appearances by child soldiers and what appears to be the group raising its black flag over a captured population center.

The majority of the short video, however, is a narrator reading an Arabic-language statement as it scrolls across the screen.

“To our ‘Taliban’ brothers, and at the head Emir al-Mu’mineen Sheikh Hibatullah Akhundzada,” the narrator starts, “we congratulate and bless the heroes and your men specifically and the Islamic Ummah [the global Islamic community] in general.”

“Emir al-Mu’mineen,” or commander of the faithful, is an honorific title with great significance. The title is usually reserved for a Muslim Caliph, or leader of a caliphate, but has been appropriated by jihadist groups to mainly refer to one of two leaders depending on where a specific jihadist group stands within the global al Qaeda-Islamic State split.

The Islamic State and its acolytes call its top leader, Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Quraishi, and before him Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, ‘Emir al-Mu’mineen,’ symbolizing their supposed role as the leader of the Islamic State’s proclaimed caliphate.

Al Qaeda and its various branches and allies, however, refer to the overall Taliban emir, Akhundzada (and before him Mullah Mohammad Omar), with the same honorific symbolizing not only al Qaeda’s allegiance and deference to the Taliban but also the Taliban leader’s place at the top of al Qaeda’s goal of resurrecting a caliphate of its own.

That Ansaru is using the term to refer to Akhundzada is thus in line with Al Qaeda’s ideology.

The Ansaru speaker continues by saying “we bless your defeat of your enemies in Afghanistan and placing your control over the emirate under the shade of the fair Islamic Shari’a and rolling back the infidel forces under the command of America.”

The narrator finishes his statement with “we wish you luck and persistence in the Haqq [Truth] and we advise you to fear God as his faithful servants and torment his criminal enemies, and do not be afraid of being blamed by the accusers of re-implementing Shari’a, which you have been parted from it for more than 20 years in your land.”

He then states that “be aware of infidel plots, as you know they will plot against you in various ways.”

Demonstrating its Al Qaeda ties
Ansaru fighter Abu Omar al-Muhajir (blurred) as seen in Ansaru’s video shared online last month.

This is the second recent Ansaru video to surface in the last few weeks. Late last month, another one of the group’s videos, which was incorrectly dated for next year’s Islamic Eid holiday, was also shared online. Most of its contents were likely filmed early this year or late last year.

Both recent videos are from the group’s Al Yaqout Media Center, which was previously dormant since its founding in late 2019.

This earlier production features more traditional al Qaeda imagery in that clips of Osama bin Laden, the September 11 attacks, and visual eulogies for dead al Qaeda leaders can be seen.

These individuals include: Abdelmalek Droukdel and Abu al Hassan Rashid al Bulaydi of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM); Mohammed al Zawahi of Ansar al Shari’a Libya; Abu Mus’ab al Zarqawi of al Qaeda in Iraq; and Nasir al Wuyashi, Ibrahim Rubaish, Anwar al-Awlaki, and Said Ali al-Shihri of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

These figures were shown under the backdrop of a speech from former al Qaeda senior leader Abu Yahya al Libi. Photos and video clips of al Qaeda’s overall emir, Ayman al Zawahiri, and current AQAP emir, Ibrahim al Qosi, can also be seen throughout the video.

In highlighting the various global al Qaeda leaders, Ansaru is publicly placing itself within the same lineage and pedigree as an al Qaeda-affiliated group. This move is unsurprising given Ansaru’s deep historical ties to the global jihadist network.

The historical clips of various al Qaeda figures are interspersed between training footage, including in the manufacturing of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), and speeches made by members of the group calling on Nigerian Muslims to join their jihad and making general denouncements of democracy.

Much like the video congratulating the Taliban, child soldiers can again be seen in Ansaru’s ranks in this production.

One speech in the earlier video, however, stands out. Spoken in Arabic, one Ansaru fighter, identified as Abu Omar al-Muhajir, (implying he is a foreigner to the region in which he is fighting) directly refers to Ansaru as being part of al Qaeda’s global network.

In an attempt to appeal to public support in northwestern Nigeria, Muhajir (seen above) states that local civilians have a choice to standby or do their utmost to help Ansaru “restore the Islamic state upon the best of the Muslims under the banner of al Qaeda.”

Ansaru formed as a splinter group of the so-called ‘Boko Haram’ in late 2011 at the behest of and with support from al Qaeda, particularly AQIM, which provided the group with financial support and training. The group has been open about its relationship with al Qaeda in the past.

Between 2015 and late 2019, Ansaru was largely dormant inside Nigeria. Since late 2019, in conjunction with worsening communal violence and a rise in general banditry, Ansaru has since become active again in the country’s northwest.

The group has claimed some attacks online through al Qaeda’s global propaganda arms, though it generally prefers to operate more clandestinely to likely keep attention off of its activities. It has made inroads with some bandit factions in Nigeria’s northwest (to be clear, not all of the region’s bandit factions) in addition to other armed ethnic Fulani groups.

Independent researchers have found that al Qaeda’s official branch in northwestern Africa, the Group for Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM), has also assisted Ansaru in this comeback.

With Ansaru’s official revival underway and video productions now being released, it is clear the Nigerian jihadist group is proudly demonstrating its ideological affinity and connections to al Qaeda.

Caleb Weiss is a contributor to FDD's Long War Journal and a senior analyst at the Bridgeway Foundation, where he focuses on the spread of the Islamic State in Central Africa.

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB

Tigrayan fighters announce they are withdrawing from rest of Ethiopia
The Tigrayan People's Liberation Front (TPLF) said its forces will be returning to Tigray. The group's head said the move "will be a decisive opening for peace."

Debretsion Gebremichael, leader of the Tigray People's Liberation Front
TPLF leader Debretsion Gebremichael said the withdrawal will be a "decisive opening for peace"

The leaders of the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front (TPLF) announced on Monday that its forces would be withdrawing from a number of areas in Ethiopia and returning to Tigray.

"We trust that our bold act of withdrawal will be a decisive opening for peace," wrote Debretsion Gebremichael, the head of the TPLF, in a letter to the United Nations.

Party spokesman Getachew Reda said on Twitter that the withdrawal had been completed in two regions and accused the international community of being slow to take action against Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and what he called his "regional partners in crime."

"We have just completed the withdrawal of our forces from both Amhara and Afar regions," Getachew tweeted.

US State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters, "If we do see a movement of Tigrayan forces back into Tigray, that is something we would welcome. It's something we've called for and we hope it opens the door to broader diplomacy."

'Opportunity for peace'
William Davison is a senior analyst at Crisis Group, an independent NGO which seeks to help resolve conflicts. Davison posted a copy of Debretsion's letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

Debretsion said that previous opportunities of a ceasefire had been passed over and urged the UN Security get behind ending hostilities.

"Do not let another opportunity for peace pass without decisive action. We propose an immediate cessation of hostilities followed by negotiations."

Debretsion called for the UN to assist with the establishment of a no-fly zone for "hostile flights of aircraft and drones over Tigray except for humanitarian and civil purposes."

The TPLF leader also called for arms embargoes on Ethiopia and Eritrea.

Watch video02:51
Humanitarian crisis unfolds in northern Ethiopia
Ethiopia yet to respond

There has been no immediate response from Ethiopian officials, although the latest development could be a step towards a ceasefire in the conflict which has claimed thousands of lives and dragged on for 13 months.

In recent weeks the Ethiopian army regained control of key territories in the Amhara region from Tigrayan forces.

Fighting has caused a humanitarian crisis in the Tigray region with allegations of atrocities leveled against all parties in the conflict.

More than two million people have been displaced and hundreds of thousands are living in famine-like conditions with aid to the region blocked.

On Friday the UN Human Rights Council announced that it would estalish an independent commission of human rights experts to investigate allegations of atrocities committed since the conflict began.

Watch video04:46
Tigray: HRW renews calls for international investigation
kb, ar/msh (AFP, Reuters)

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB

Mali: West African bloc asks for post coup election plans from interim government
West African bloc ECOWAS said they hoped to have an election plan from Mali by the end of this year, after a meeting with the interim leaders. Mali's authorities had previously said elections could be delayed.

A Senegalese Blue Helmet peacekeeper in Mali. (Photo by AMAURY HAUCHARD / AFP)
Mali's transition government had said there may be a delay in elections for security reasons.

A delegation from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has been visiting Mali's capital Bamako, to assess progress towards the promised election after a military coup in August 2020.

After meeting interim leaders, the envoy and former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan said ECOWAS hoped for a credible plan for elections to be put forward before the year ends. He said the West African bloc hoped "by the end of the year, we will have a whole schedule in place for the organization of elections."

The bloc met with interim president Colonel Assimi Goita. Details of the talks were not shared, but Jonathan told reporters the encounter went very well.

ECOWAS has already placed economic sanctions on Mali, and threatened to add more sanctions if a concrete plan was not put in place by the end of December.

Mali's interim government made no comment on the election dates. Transitional authorities had previously said the vote could be delayed by a few weeks or months from the February 2022 deadline, due to security concerns.

Putin, Macron discuss Mali
Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Emmanuel Macron discussed Mali among other topics in a phone call on Tuesday, the Kremlin without providing precise details.

France has objected in recent months to reports of plans from Mali's military government to engage Russian mercenary company the Wagner Group, the recent subject of sanctions from the EU. Russia has responded that the company is not tied to the Russian state and should be able to operate if it does not breach Russian or domestic laws.

French President Emmanuel Macron had announced in July that by 2022, France intended to close all of its military bases in its former colony Mali, leaving the military government with security concerns to address in its long-running fight with domestic militants.

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB

Libya calls off presidential election planned for Friday
A parliamentary committee has said holding the vote would be "impossible." The country's election board has now suggested January 24 as an alternative.

Seif al-Islam Gadhafi sits at a table to sign documents
Seif al-Islam Gadhafi (center) fought at court to be approved as candidate, but remains deeply contested

Libya's presidential election, scheduled to take place on December 24, has now been called off.
Lawmakers on the committee overseeing the vote concluded on Wednesday that holding it on time would be "impossible."

"After consulting the technical, judicial, and security reports, we inform you of the impossibility of holding the elections," lawmaker Al Hadi al-Sagheer wrote to Parliament Speaker Aguila Saleh.

The High National Electoral Commission (HNEC) has suggested postponing the first round of voting to January 24, according to a statement on its Facebook page.

Why was the Libya vote postponed?
The Commission disbanded electoral committees late on Tuesday and handed responsibility for the vote over to the parliament.

It never released a final list of candidates, with many of them highly contested.

In total, close to 100 people had been running for office in the deeply divided and war-torn country.

Other obstacles include disputes over the laws governing the election, infighting among armed groups, a long-running rift between the country's east and west and the presence of thousands of foreign fighters.

Watch video01:36
World leaders gather in Paris for Libya conference
What this means for the UN peace process

Friday's election was to mark a fresh start for Libya a year after a landmark cease-fire.
The cancellation of the presidential poll is a major setback to the peace process aimed at ending a decade of chaos in the wake of a 2011 revolt that removed late dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

Many Libyans had registered for the vote, and some lawmakers have called for protests after it was called off.

The status of the interim government that was installed in March as part of the UN peace process is also at risk.

The US ambassador to Libya, Richard Norland, said the delay was a disappointment.

He urged the parties to "expeditiously address all legal and political obstacles to hold elections, including finalizing the list of presidential candidates." Norland said arrangements for the elections should be a priority.
lo/rt (AFP, AP, Reuters)

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB

West condemns 'deployment' of Russian mercenaries in Mali
This follows announcements in July that France will reduce its troop presence. The Western statement called for Russia to "revert to responsible behavior."

French soldiers leaving Timbuktu
16 Western countries condemned the "deployment" of Russian mercenaries

Sixteen Western countries issued on Thursday a joint statement condemning what they said was the "deployment" of mercenaries from the Russian Wagner Group in Mali.

Among the signatories of the statement are Canada, as well as France, Germany, the United Kingdom and 11 other European allies.

The United States is not a signatory of the statement, but US Secretary of State Antony Blinkon warned Mali not to accept Wagner mercenaries earlier this month.

What did the statement say?
"This deployment can only further deteriorate the security situation in West Africa, lead to an aggravation of the Human Rights situation in Mali, threaten the Agreement for peace and reconciliation in Mali," the statement said.

The statement accused Russia of giving material support to the Wagner Group, calling on Russia to "revert to a responsible and constructive behavior in the region."

The statement also said that the signatories regretted the choice of Mali's authorities to use "scarce public funds"
to pay foreign mercenaries instead of paying their own armed forces.
Malian interim president Assimi Goita
Macron was due to raise concerns over the Wagner Group in a meeting with Assimi Goita

What is the situation in Mali?
In July, President Emmanuel Macron announced a drawdown of French troops in the Sahel region by early 2022.

France has said that Malian forces are ready to take over in fighting the insurgency in northern Mali. Macron promised African leaders in a meeting in July that France will continue to help fight groups linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State.

Macron was due to raise concerns over the Wagner Group in a meeting with Mali's new interim president Assimi Goita. However, this trip was canceled for reasons related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Watch video01:49
Mali: France ends Operation Barkhane
Goita took power in June in Mali's second military coup within the space of a year.
French troops have been in Mali since 2013, when they intervened to stop an insurgency in the country's north.
sdi/msh (AP, AFP, Reuters)

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB

Ethiopia says its army will not advance further into Tigray
Associated PressDecember 23, 2021

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Ethiopia’s government has announced that its forces will not advance deeper into the Tigray region.

Ethiopian forces have been ordered to maintain the areas they have won back from the Tigray People’s Liberation Force, but not to go further into the Tigray region, the Government Communication Service head, Legesse Tulu, said Thursday.

The Ethiopian federal army and its allies have made strong advances in recent weeks, recapturing major towns and cities in the neighboring Amhara and Afar regions that Tigray fighters had seized earlier this year. The Tigray forces have been forced to retreat back to their home region.

“The first phase operation to expel the terrorist group from the areas it invaded has ended with victory. At this moment the enemy’s desire and ability (to engage in war) is severely destroyed,” said Legesse.

“The government will take further steps to make sure that (the Tigray forces) desire won’t arise again in the future. For now, Ethiopian forces are ordered to maintain the areas it has controlled,” he said.

The government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s announcement that its soldiers will not pursue the Tigray forces into their home region could be an opening that encourages a cease-fire and negotiations to resolve the conflict.

Earlier this week the leader of the Tigray forces said its fighters have been ordered to withdraw back to Tigray.

“I have ordered those units of the Tigray Army that are outside the borders of Tigray to withdraw to the borders of Tigray within immediate effect,” Debretsion Gebremichael said in a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. Debretsion proposed an immediate cease-fire to be followed by negotiations.

He also proposed the establishment of a no-fly zone over Tigray to prevent air attacks over the region and the imposition of an international arms embargo on Ethiopia and Eritrea.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed in the Tigray conflict that erupted in November 2020 between Ethiopian forces and fighters from the country’s Tigray region, who dominated the national government before Abiy became prime minister in 2018.

As a result of a months-long government blockade, some of Tigray’s 6 million people have begun starving to death, according to aid groups. Thousands of ethnic Tigrayans have been detained or forcibly expelled in an atmosphere stoked by virulent speeches against Tigrayans by some senior Ethiopian officials. Alarmed human rights groups have warned some of the anti-Tigrayan rhetoric is hate speech.

Last month, the Ethiopian government declared a state of emergency as Tigray fighters moved closer to the capital, Addis Ababa, and carried out a number of abuses against ethnic Amhara, according to accounts by local residents. The Tigray forces say they are fighting to lift the blockade on their people.

The Ethiopian government’s military appears to have been strengthened by aerial drones purchased from China, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, said William Davison of the International Crisis Group.

“Tigray forces appear to be in a weakened position after giving up all the areas they controlled,” he said.


passin' thru
Suicide bomber kills at least five at east Congo restaurant


2 minute read
A Congolese boy walks past a wall in Beni, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, April 1, 2019. Picture taken April 1, 2019.REUTERS/Baz Ratner/File Photo

A Congolese boy walks past a wall in Beni, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, April 1, 2019. Picture taken April 1, 2019.REUTERS/Baz Ratner/File Photo
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BENI, Dec 25 (Reuters) - A suicide bomber struck a restaurant in the city of Beni in east Congo on Saturday, killing at least five peopleas well as himself, officials said.

The attack marks the latest violence in a region where Congolese and Ugandan forces have launched a campaign against suspected Islamists.

"The suicide bomber, prevented by security guards from entering a crowded bar, activated the bomb at the entrance of the bar," the regional governor's spokesman, Général Ekenge Sylvain, said in a statement.

Six people died in the blast and 14 were injured, including two local officials, he added.

Sylvain said that insurgents from the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a group aligned with Islamic State, had activated a "sleeper cell" in Beni to target citizens, but he did not provide evidence connecting them to the explosion.

The ADF did not immediately claim responsibility for the attack.

Congo and neighbouring Uganda launched a military campaign in the area at the end of November against the ADF. Officials have previously blamed the group for bombings in the region. read more

Beni's mayor, Narcisse Muteba Kashale, earlier told local radio that a bomb had exploded in the city centre. "For safety, I'm asking the population to stay home," the mayor said.

A Reuters journalist nearby said he heard an explosion around 7 p.m., just after the afternoon Catholic mass, near the city's main road, followed by gunshots.

Police spokesman Nasson Murara said that officers fired live rounds to disperse an angry crowd that attempted to bar investigators from accessing the scene of the explosion. No one was injured, he said.

Images shared on social media showed dozens of green chairs scattered across a road, some melted or smouldering. At least four bodies, including that of a small girl, could be seen among the wreckage.

Reuters could not immediately verify the authenticity of the images.

The joint Congolese and Ugandan campaign, launched on Nov. 30, had planned to target four ADF camps, including two in the Beni area, a Ugandan general said earlier this month.

Beni was rocked by two explosions in June at a Catholic church and at a busy intersection. No one was killed in either blast except the suspected bomber, who was killed by the second explosion.


Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB

South Africa's Archbishop Desmond Tutu dies at 90
The Nelson Mandela Foundation said Tutu "was an extraordinary human being." Tutu was a key ally to Mandela in the fight against apartheid and chaired the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the post-apartheid era.

Desmond Tutu at the World Cup in South Africa in 2010
Desmond Tutu was part of a generation credited with liberating South Africans

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Desmond Tutu, 90, died in Cape Town, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced in a statement on Sunday.

Alongside late Nelson Mandela, Tutu was one of the most important voices against the old system of white minority rule known as apartheid. The Anglican cleric also headed country's Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the post-apartheid era. He was seen by many as the conscience of the troubled nation.

"Desmond Tutu was a patriot without equal; a leader of principle and pragmatism," Ramaphosa said in a statement.

The Nelson Mandela Foundation said in a statement, "His contributions to struggles against injustice, locally and globally, are matched only by the depth of his thinking about the making of liberatory futures for human societies. He was an extraordinary human being."

Tutu "died peacefully at the Oasis Frail Care Center in Cape Town this morning," said Ramphela Mamphele, the acting chairperson of the Archbishop Desmond Tutu IP Trust and coordinator of his office. The statement, issued on behalf of Tutu's family, did not provide details on the cause of death.

Elections like 'falling in love'
Tutu won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his efforts in leading the non-violent struggle against apartheid.

While other leaders, like Mandela, were incarcerated, Tutu traveled and spoke widely, using his senior position in the Anglican Church and the esteem the Nobel Peace Prize brought to promote his anti-apartheid message worldwide and elevate the stories and lives of Black South Africans.

Watch video05:09
Portrait of a 10-year-old African activist
Following Mandela's release from prison after 27 years, Tutu led him onto a balcony at Cape Town City Hall where Mandela delivered his first public speech.

Tutu likened voting in the country's first democratic election in 1994 to "falling in love." When Mandela was sworn in as the country's first black president, Tutu was at his side.

The archbishop's life was a testament to the hope and strength he placed on reconciliation in the divided nation, Ramaphosa said.

Dream of a 'rainbow nation'
While Tutu preached against the tyranny of apartheid, he would go on to be just as critical of black political elites.

He even publicly criticized his ally Mandela over what the cleric describes as the "gravy train mentality" of Mandela's party, the African National Congress. Later, Tutu would castigate Mandela for his open affair with Graca Machel, who Mandela would eventually marry.

In 2013, Tutu pulled his support to Mandela's party, describing South Africa as "the most unequal society in the world." In his final years, the archbishop spoke with regret that the dream of a true "rainbow nation" had yet to be realized.

Watch video02:15
Is South Africa living up to its promise for LGTB people?
ar/dj (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

See this thread also:


Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB

Somalia: President 'suspends' prime minister amid tensions over elections
President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed has adjourned the powers of Prime Minister Roble over accusations of corruption. The surprise announcement came as the two leaders clashed over delays in ongoing elections.

 Somalia's Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble attends the Somali election negotiation in Mogadishu.
The suspension of Roble's powers comes after he and Mohamed entered into a war of words, accusing each other of holding up the ongoing parliamentary elections

Somalia's President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed "suspended" the powers of Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble, a statement released by the president's office said on Sunday.

"The president decided to suspend prime minister Mohamed Hussein Roble and stop his powers since he was linked with corruption", the statement said, accusing Roble of interfering with an investigation into a land grabbing case.

The suspension of Roble's powers comes after he and Mohamed entered into a war of words on Sunday, accusing each other of holding up the country's ongoing parliamentary elections.

What we know so far
President Mohamed said the prime minister's powers will remain suspended pending a probe over allegations of corruption and misconduct.

Roble "entered the fray with allegations of corruption and misappropriation of public funds, and an investigation is underway to determine the allegations, the work and powers of the Prime Minister have been suspended pending an investigation," the president's statement read.

It added that other members of the Council of Ministers would continue their duties in accordance with the laws and regulations of the country.

What is happening with the elections?
The elections, which began on November 1, were slated to be over by December 24. However, a newly elected parliamentarian said that only 24 of 275 lawmakers had been elected by Saturday, Reuters news agency reported.

Watch video01:57
Somali women campaign for more seats in parliament
Earlier on Sunday, the president's office said that Roble "is posing a serious threat to the electoral process and overstepping his mandate."
The prime minister's office hit back saying President Mohamed had spent "so much time, energy and finances in frustrating the national elections" and was "derailing the electoral process."

In April this year, clashes broke out between factions of the security forces allied to Mohamed and Roble, as the prime minister and opposition decried a move to extend the president's four year term to two more years.

The groups seized areas of capital Mogadishu, forcing almost 60,000 to 100,000 people to flee their homes.

The showdown was resolved when Mohamed put the prime minister in charge of security and of organizing the delayed elections.

US calls for 'credible, rapid' conclusion

The United States on Sunday asked for a "credible and rapid conclusion" to the polls in Somalia.

"The United States is deeply concerned by the continuing delays and by the procedural irregularities that have undermined the credibility of the process," the US State Department said.

Washington also put its weight behind the call for an in-person National Consultative Council this week to step up the election process.

The Somali prime minister has pledged to conduct a meeting on Monday to help speed up the election.

President Mohamed's office also said that he would hold a meeting, separately, on the elections and "agreeing on a capable leadership to spearhead timely, and transparent elections."

This report was written in part with material from Reuters news agency.
Edited by: Rebecca Staudenmaier

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB

Ethiopia unhappy as U.S. ends its duty-free access
Associated Pressyesterday

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Ethiopia says it is unhappy with the U.S. decision to revoke duty-free access for the East African country’s exports.

The statement by Ethiopia’s trade ministry on Monday came after the Biden administration on Dec. 23 terminated Ethiopia’s eligibility for benefits under the African Growth and Opportunity Act. The U.S cited its disapproval of the war in the Tigray region for the action.

“The Ethiopian government is saddened over the decision by the U.S. to remove it,” from the preferential trade benefits, the ministry said. It asked the U.S. to reconsider its decision.

“Ethiopia is carrying out various initiatives aimed at bringing peace and stability, political consensus and economic development in addition to conducting reforms in line with the longstanding relationship between the two countries,” the statement said.

The U.S. stopped Ethiopia’s eligibility for the trade benefits despite pleas by a few U.S. legislators and Ethiopian lobby groups who asked the Biden administration to give the country more time to comply with U.S. demands.

The decision against the African nation was made over its failure to end a nearly yearlong war in the Tigray region that has led to “gross violations” of human rights, said the Biden statement. The action also stops Guinea and Mali from receiving the trade benefits as of January 1.

The Africa Growth and Opportunity Act provides sub-Saharan African nations duty-free access to the United States on the condition they meet certain requirements, including eliminating barriers to U.S. trade and investment and making progress toward political pluralism.

The U.S. and the United Nations say Ethiopian authorities have prevented trucks from delivering desperately needed food and other aid into Tigray. Scores of people have starved to death, The Associated Press has reported.

In September Biden warned that his administration would levy sanctions if Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed did not take steps to wind down the war in Tigray and other regions.
On November 3, Ethiopia’s foreign ministry labeled the move as “misguided” and “unjustified intimidation” and said the decision could affect the livelihoods of more than 200,000 low-income Ethiopians who work for companies that benefit from the preferential trade access.

Some Ethiopian companies are already showing signs of a downturn in their export business.
“Several companies have already started leaving and we don’t know what is next,” a textile worker at the Hawassa Industrial Park, some 270 kilometers (168 miles) south of the capital, Addis Ababa, told the AP by phone on condition of anonymity fearing for his workplace safety.

Ethiopia in recent years had one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies, but the war in Tigray has dampened that momentum.

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB

Uganda's Main Airport Becomes Latest Target For China's "Debt Diplomacy"
Tyler Durden's Photo

WEDNESDAY, DEC 29, 2021 - 02:45 AM
During the height of the Trump era trade war with China, Vice President Mike Pence accused Beijing of waging "economic warfare" in a stirring speech that broke down how the CCP uses a tactic Pence termed "debt diplomacy" to pressure developing nations to submit to Beijing's influence, WSJ reports.

One notable example is the Sri Lankan government's effective surrender of one of its biggest ports to the Chinese government. The takeover drew the attention of American journalists, including reporters for the NYT, who provided extensive coverage of how Beijing used its Belt and Road Initiative to seize control of strategic assets belonging to other developing nations.

If anything, the process has only accelerated in the years since that NYT story was written. Now, Uganda's only international airport, the Entebbe International Airport, is at risk of being lost to Chinese creditors thanks to a poorly understood clause in a contract approved by the country's leaders a few years back. It granted a Chinese firm $200M to perform renovations on the airport. But thanks to this fine print that nobody apparently looked at, China might wind up with a major score by gaining effective control of the airport.

Of course, Uganda is hardly alone. Kenya and Ethiopia have also expressed regrets about Chinese-built railroads being extremely overpriced.

Here's how the deal worked:

Under the plan, Export-Import Bank of China would lend the money to Uganda, which would pay Beijing-based China Communications Construction to build new passenger and cargo complexes, plus fix two runways and associated taxiways.

These renovations are about 75% complete and link the airport to a separate Chinese financed-and-built highway to Uganda’s capital, Kampala. In that era, a proposal for the loan, the project would be split into two phases with borrowing of $200M and $125M at a 2% interest rate and with a 27-year payback period.

It all adds up to a total outlay of $417.91M.

A reference in the 17-page proposal (which isn't publicly available) shows there's at least $17M in an escrow arrangement, which is in itself unusual because beu

In response to the torrent of criticism, Beijing insisted that if it had wanted to take the airport, it wouldn't have suspended debt repayment for various loans in 2020 and 2021 and simply allowed borrowers to default.

The episode has been an imposition for the US on behalf of longtime president, Yoweri Museveni, who had already been criticized as being too cozy with Chinese leaders and for pivoting from $3.5 billion in World Bank debt relief a decade ago to a borrowing spree nearing $11 billion, almost all of it from China.

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB

Desmond Tutu remembered with song and dance at memorial
A colorful memorial to anti-Apartheid icon Desmond Tutu mixed tearful farewells with songs and musical tributes. The interfaith ceremony in Cape Town came ahead of Tutu's funeral this weekend.

Women sing and dance at a memorial service held for Anglican Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu
Women sing and dance at a memorial service held for the late Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu outside his Soweto home in South Africa

Mourners paid tribute to the life and spirit of the late anti-apartheid campaigner Archbishop Desmond Tutu in an interfaith service in Cape Town on Wednesday.

The memorial is one of several leading up to Tutu's funeral service in Cape Town this weekend.

The Nobel Peace Prize laureate, who was a fierce advocate for human rights around the world, passed away at the age of 90 on Sunday.

Honoring Tutu in dance and song
Tutu's family members were joined by politicians and leaders from many different faiths for a memorial at Cape Town's city hall.

Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and Traditional African religious leaders offered prayers. Indigenous Khoisan leaders honored Tutu at the ceremony.

The lively memorial included tearful goodbyes, as well as musical tributes.
Clerics and officials appear on stage at the start of memorial service for Anglican Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu
The interfaith service included religious leaders from numerous faiths

But the moment that brought spectators to their feet came during a performance of the 1980s hit "Paradise Road," that was sung by South African singer Zolani Mahola.

A performance by the South African Youth Choir and guitarist Jonathan Butler — whose music was popular during the struggle against apartheid — also prompted spectators to stand.

A rabbi and a Buddhist monk were among those to join in the dancing.

The festive spirit of the memorial — which had limited attendance due to coronavirus curbs — reflected the impact that Tutu had on South Africa and around the world.

"If we all live our lives just taking a small amount of the values that he lived with, can you imagine the different world, the different country... (and) the change that will be made?" Alan Winde, the Western Cape premier, said.

Donning purple
Many of those who came to pay tribute to Tutu donned purple in honor of the archbishop's famous purple robes.
Donning traditional garb and animal skins, Khoisan religious leaders held an animal skull aloft during a prayer for Desmond Tutu
Donning traditional garb and animal skins, Khoisan religious leaders held an animal skull aloft during a prayer for Desmond Tutu

Purple glowed in and around Cape Town, as the City Hall building and famous Table Mountain have been lit up in memory of Tutu this week.

Tutu, who was the first Black person to become an archbishop in the Anglican church, will be laid to rest at a funeral this Saturday.

South Africa is holding a series of memorial events in the run-up to the funeral service at St. George's Cathedral in Cape Town. The site of his funeral is particularly poignant, as Tutu had led marches and campaigns to end white-minority rule in South Africa under apartheid.

Tutu will be cremated and his ashes will be interred beneath the floor of the cathedral.
rs/fb (AFP, Reuters)

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB

Group: Sudanese forces fire at anti-coup rally; 4 killed

People chant slogans during a protest to denounce the October military coup, in Khartoum, Sudan, Thursday, Dec. 30, 2021.  The October military takeover upended a fragile planned transition to democratic rule and led to relentless street demonstrations across Sudan.   (AP Photo/Marwan Ali)
1 of 10
People chant slogans during a protest to denounce the October military coup, in Khartoum, Sudan, Thursday, Dec. 30, 2021. The October military takeover upended a fragile planned transition to democratic rule and led to relentless street demonstrations across Sudan. (AP Photo/Marwan Ali)

CAIRO (AP) — Sudanese security forces fired tear gas and live ammunition at protesters rallying Thursday in the country’s capital and elsewhere against the October military coup. At least four protesters were killed, a Sudanese medical group said.

The Sudan Doctors Committee tweeted that the fatalities took place in Khartoum’s twin city of Omdurman and that many demonstrators were wounded.

The protests were the latest in near-daily demonstrations across Sudan — despite tightened security measures and closures of bridges and roads — over the Oct. 25 military takeover that upended the country’s fragile transition to democracy.

During the day, thousands marched in Khartoum, beating drums and waving Sudanese flags. They chanted “Revolution! The military belong in the barracks!” Demonstrators also hurled stones at security forces and armored police vehicles from where tear gas was fired.

Similar protests took place in other parts of the country, including the provinces of Kassala and West Darfur, and the coastal city of Port Sudan.

The medical group called on doctors to rush to hospitals in Omdurman to attend to the casualties, saying many were “in critical condition.”

The committee is part of the Sudanese Professionals Association, which spearheaded the mass uprising that led to the ouster of longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir in 2019. The association said that state-allied militias were intercepting ambulances and medics to prevent them from reaching the wounded.

Thursday’s protests were preceded by a disruption of the mobile internet, according to advocacy group NetBlocs, a usual tactic employed by the generals since the coup.

“Our position is clear; we are opposed to any negotiations, partnership or compromise” with the military, said Shahinaz Gamal, a protester. “We came out today to bring down this (ruling military) council and to have a civilian democratic government afterwards.”

Despite the internet disruption, activists posted a few videos showing masked protesters under clouds of gas.

Also, Saudi-owned Al Arabiya television and its Al Hadath news channel reported that Sudanese security forces raided their bureaus in Khartoum and confiscated their equipment during the protests on Thursday. They also said that two of their correspondents along with their camera crew were beaten up by Sudanese forces.

The U.S. Embassy in Khartoum condemned the killing of four people and injury of dozens during Thursday’s demonstrations. “We also deplore the violent attacks by Sudan’s security services on media outlets and journalists, and urge authorities to protect the freedom of the press,” the embassy tweeted.

Volker Perthes, the U.N. chief’s special representative for Sudan, said he was “deeply disturbed” by reports of the killings and attacks on the media. “Credible investigations into these violations are necessary,” he tweeted. “All people have the right to express themselves peacefully; media have to report freely.”

Thursday’s casualties bring to at least 52 the death toll in protests triggered by the coup, according to a tally by the physicians committee.

Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, a former U.N. official seen as the civilian face of Sudan’s transitional government, was reinstated last month amid international pressure in a deal that calls for an independent technocratic Cabinet under military oversight led by him.

That deal, however, was rejected by the pro-democracy movement, which insists that power be handed over to a fully civilian government tasked with leading the transition.