INTL Africa: Politics, Economics, Military- June 2020

Plain Jane

Veteran Member
May's thread:

Main Coronavirus thread from page 1230:

Mediterranean Regional Conflict thread from page 23:

Russian arms exports to Africa: Moscow's long-term strategy
Along with natural resources, arms exports are a key component of Russia's economy. In the last two decades, Moscow has managed to deepen its connection with Africa and became the biggest arms supplier on the continent.

A member of a rebel militia in Libya (Getty Images/AFP/J. Moore)

Russia's state arms seller Rosoboronexport announced in April the first contract to supply assault boats to a country in sub-Saharan Africa. The recipient's identity is concealed. What is known: It marks the first export contract of Russian-made final naval products to this region in the last 20 years. While this news might not have caught much international attention, this new deal adds up to a pattern: Russia is building its path to gain a foothold in Africa and broaden its export map for arms on the continent.
Once a major supplier during the Soviet era, Russia's role in Africa waned after the collapse of the USSR. But by 2000, Russia had made inroads again, and within the last two decades Russia has managed to become the biggest arms exporter to Africa. Currently, it accounts for 49% of total arms exports to Africa, according to the database of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
Since 2000, Russia's arms exports to Africa have grown significantly. The increases were mainly due to growth in Russia's arms exports to Algeria.
Read more: African countries mull nuclear energy as Russia extends offers
Data visualization EN Arms export volume to Africa over time

Russia's eye on Africa
Until now, Algeria remains the biggest recipient of Russian arms in Africa, followed by Egypt, Sudan and Angola. According to Alexandra Kuimova, a researcher with SIPRI's Arms and Military Expenditure Program, the number of African countries buying Russian arms increased over the last two decades. In the early 2000s, 16 African countries were recipients of Russian arms. Between 2010 and 2019, the figure went up to 21.

Starting in 2015, Russia started selling arms to oil-rich Angola — mainly fighter aircraft and combat helicopters. The Angolan government in Luanda has long maintained strong ties with Moscow, dating back to the USSR. In 1996, Russia forgave 70% of Angola's $5 billion (€4.56 billion) in debt, which was mainly a result of several export credits the USSR had issued Angola for buying Soviet arms and military equipment. In the new millennium, Russia was a predictable choice for Angola to sign new arms deals — and within the last five years, Angola has become the third-biggest African client for Russian arms after Algeria and Egypt. Luanda's other suppliers are Bulgaria, Belarus, Italy and China, but their shares are small.

Data visualization EN Map African importers of Russian arms

The situation was similar with Algeria, the largest importer of Russian arms on the African continent. Soviet-era connections allowed Russia to secure its monopoly on arms deals, and Moscow completely wrote off Algeria's $5.7 billion in debt in 2006. That same year, Algeria signed another arms deal to buy Russian weapons for $7.5 billion.

"Officials in these countries intrinsically look at Moscow from the Soviet-era links and Moscow has been able to maintain its influence. In some cases, like Algeria, it is done by debt release; sometimes by claiming that it will build repair facilities and manufacturing or maintenance facilities," says Paul Stronski, a senior fellow in the Carnegie Endowment's Russia and Eurasia Program.

Read more: Russia's comeback in Africa

Opening new markets in line with geopolitical vision

Russia's growing interest in Africa is defined by not only economic, but also political and strategic reasons. Russia sees Africa as a key potential partner in the vision for a multipolar world order.

"Less European, less trans-Atlantic and focused more on rising powers and rising regions," Stronski said. This is where Russia's ties with countries like Zimbabwe and Sudan have been established, he stressed.

Zimbabwe has been subject to financial sanctions from the West since the early 2000s. The state was reportedly responsible for violence, tortures and killings of the president's opponents during the era of former President Robert Mugabe. Despite widespread international condemnation of Mugabe's regime, Russia stayed on the side of Zimbabwe: together with China, it vetoed the UN's Security Council resolution for an arms embargo in 2008 and criticized Western sanctions. Russia exports a number of both raw and finished materials to Zimbabwe, ranging from wood, wheat and fertilizers to printed materials, railway cars and electronics. Russia, in turn, imports coffee and tobacco from Zimbabwe.

Russian companies are also involved in diamond and gold mining projects in the country. According to Gugu Dube, a researcher at the Transnational Threats and International Crime program in the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) in Pretoria, Russia has been scaling up activities in the mining of resources such as coltan, cobalt, gold, and diamonds in several other countries across Africa. In Zimbabwe, Russian companies are also involved in a joint venture of the Darwendale project — mining and smelting one of the world's largest deposits of platinum group metal — for which production is planned in 2021.

A Russian military helicopter on display at the Russia-Africa Summit in 2019 (picture-alliance/dpa/Sputnik/E. Lyzlova)
A Russian Mi-35P military helicopter on display at the Russia-Africa Summit in Sochi in October 2019
Russia hosted the first-ever Russia-Africa summit in Sochi in 2019 as a way of further identifying cooperation possibilities across the continent. During the summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin stated that "the strengthening of ties with African countries is one of Russia's foreign policy priorities".

Arms deals were at the center of attention at the summit. African delegates were invited to exhibitions of Russian weapons: from subsonic jet trainor Yakovlev Yak-130, the Pantsir missile system, and the Tor-M2KM surface-to-air missile systems to smaller arms including a new Kalashnikov AK-200 series assault rifle. This exhibition showed that Russia does not aim to offer disruptive new technologies in arms; instead, it focuses on improving the models that have been demanded the most.

African states' most-ordered weapons from Russia

These include aircrafts, missiles, tanks, air defense systems and artillery. For example, Algeria alone bought around 200 aircraft items from Russia from 2000 to2019, ranging from transporter helicopters to combat helicopters, bomber and fighter ground aircrafts. Various models of surface-to-air missiles (SAM) that are designed for destroying aircrafts or other missiles have been ordered from Algeria (several orders through 2000-2019), Burkina Faso, Egypt (several orders), Ethiopia, Libya and Morocco. Algeria also ordered tanks (more than 500 items in total), as did Uganda (67 items).

Cheap weapons — no questions asked

In Russia's publicly available strategy documents, such as its foreign policy concept or defense doctrine, African states are defined as belonging to an unstable continent and posing an international threat in light of terrorist groups' activities, particularly in the North African region. Such documents highlight Russia's aims to expand interaction with Africa by developing beneficial trade and economic relations and supporting regional conflict and crisis prevention.

This ongoing instability feeds a continuous market for arms — and for Russia, Africa represents a major market without a limit in the form of economic sanctions that came from the West after the annexation of Crimea. Africa is the continent where Russia can freely push one of the key elements of its exports: weapons. Arms trading accounts for 39% of Russia's defense industry revenue.

"Russian arms are good. It is universally recognized. Russian arms are also cheaper. There is no reason why African countries would not want to buy them," says Irina Filatova, a history professor at Moscow's Higher School of Economics and professor emeritus of the University of KwaZulu-Natal, who specializes in Russo-African history and relations.

In comparison to other big players, arms deals with Russia do not demand political or human rights conditions. In some cases, Russia has managed to fill the gap where European or American suppliers stepped out.

For example, in 2014, government soldiers in Nigeria were accused of human rights abuses against suspects in the country's fight against Boko Haram. Afterwards, the US cancelled a shipment of attack helicopters, even though the deal had already been signed. That same year, Nigeria placed an order and received six Mi-35M combat helicopters from Russia.

Egypt is a similar case. After a military coup in 2013, the US started cutting military aid and arms supplies to the country. This left Russia (together with France, another leading arms exporter) with an open opportunity; the country quickly intensified arms transfers to Egypt. From 2009 to 2018, Russia accounted for 31% of Egypt's imports of major weapons.

According to Kuimova, arms deals with Russia generally go fast. If a certain country needs weapons right away and Russia has them, Russia will be able to supply. What also plays in its favor is a lack of pressure from local civil society groups to track weapons sales. Russia's defense industry is secretive; the law does not oblige companies to report on arms exports as such, and usually this information falls under the state's secrecy laws. A general lack of data and transparency has created a situation where civil society groups for monitoring arms trading simply do not exist.

South Sudanese President Salva Kiir Mayardit (l.) and Russian President Putin (Getty Images/AFP/Pool/S. Chirikov)
South Sudan's President Salva Kiir Mayardit (l.) meets Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Russia-Africa Summit in 2019
Competition for Russia? Growing potential of Chinese arms

For now, Russia seems to be secure in its markets for arms in Africa. However, experts see the potential of China to become a bigger player for arms supplies in Africa. Currently, China accounts for 13% of arms exports to the continent.

"China has improved the quality and quantity of what it sells. They also do reverse-engineered Russian weapons. Since 2014, Russia has shared sensitive military technology as a part of its growing ties with China," Stronski said.

Kuimova adds that today China is able to produce and offer all kinds of arms. "China is generally growing as an arms exporter and shows similar patterns as Russia in a way of giving weapons with less political conditions," she explained.

Researcher Filatova does not see China as a threat to Russian arms in Africa, however — in her opinion, the main competitors for Russian arms will remain the same: the US and France. She defines China's interest in Africa as predominantly economic and says that "Russia's competition in Africa in that regard is already lost" — because economically, Russia is not able to offer what China can. Moscow instead focuses on natural resources exports and locking down arms deals. For arms importers, switching to other suppliers is costly, so the likelihood is high that Russia can ensure new deals with its arms buyers well into the future.

Plain Jane

Veteran Member

MAY 31, 2020 / 5:50 PM / UPDATED 9 HOURS AGO
Armed bandits kill at least 18 in Nigeria's Katsina state


MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (Reuters) - Armed bandits in Nigeria’s northwestern state of Katsina killed at least 18 people, including a local official, and stole thousands of livestock on Sunday, two witnesses and a police spokesman told Reuters.

The eyewitnesses said as many as 500 men riding motorcycles, some brandishing assault rifles, charged into the Faskari local government area on Sunday afternoon.

“At least 18 person were confirmed killed by now and many others were suspected to be killed,” local resident Isma’ila Ya’u told Reuters by telephone.

The men went on to the nearby village of Sabon Garin where they killed local leader Abdulhamid Sani, 55, after attempting to kidnap him, the witnesses and a police spokesman said.

Sadiq Hasaan, another witness, said the men were headed with the stolen livestock towards other villages in the Batsari local government area, and thousands of residents had fled their homes.

Police spokesman Gombo Isa confirmed the attack, adding the assailants carried “sophisticated weapons”. He said security forces were “combing the forest with a view to arresting the hoodlums.”

Criminal gangs carrying out robberies and kidnappings have killed hundreds in the last year in northwest Nigeria.

The attacks have added to security challenges in Africa’s most populous country, which is already struggling to contain Islamist insurgencies in the northeast and communal violence over grazing rights in central states.

Reporting By Maiduguri newsroom; Writing by Libby George; Editing by Daniel Wallis
Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Plain Jane

Veteran Member

DR Congo: Ituri governor appeals for help to stop 'ongoing genocide'
Jean Bamanisa Saidi, the governor of Ituri Province in northeastern Congo, tells DW he has called for international troops to the troubled region. Thousands have been killed by militia in the past three years.

DR Congo UN-Soldiers in Djugu, Ituri province (AFP/S. Tounsi)

Since the beginning of March, nearly 300 people have died as a result of the ongoing violence in Ituri Province. Jean Bamanisa Saidi, governor of the volatile region, described the killings as genocide. "This must stop in our country!" the governor said.
"It is estimated that more than 4,000 people have been brutally massacred since 2017," Saidi told the DW in an exclusive interview. "Between 1999 and 2003, international troops such as the soldiers from Operation Artemis and MONUSCO [United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC] were here. At that time, there were arrests that led to an end to the crimes."
UN peacekeepers ride on a military vehicle in Ituri Province, DRC
Despite being in DR Congo since 1999, UN peacekeepers have so far failed to bring peace to its eastern region
But the problem has not been fully resolved, the Congolese politician said: MONUSCO unfortunately no longer has a mandate to intervene, but only to observe. We need a solution that will solve the problem in the long term and allow peaceful coexistence in Ituri."
Warning of genocide
Thomas Lubanga is not the ideal contact person when it comes to human rights issues. He was one of the militia leaders in the bloody fighting that shook the province of Ituri in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo between 1999 and 2003. He has just served a 14-year prison sentence handed down to him by the International Criminal Court for recruiting minors.
Read more: Eastern DRC: Distressed calls for security from Ituri residents

Ironically, Lubanga is now ranting against a new wave of violence in DR Congo, with the CODECO militia group at its center. Since March, CODECO members are said to have killed around 300 people in Ituri province. According to the United Nations, 200,000 people are on the run from CODECO.

What they are doing in Congo can be called genocide," Lubanga told DW. He sees an old conflict being rekindled. "The tragedy that took place between 1999 and 2003 has not been fundamentally reappraised in order to understand what happened so that the conflict can finally be stopped."

The Ituri killings are one of the cruelest chapters in the history of the conflict-ridden eastern DR Congo. Within a few years, tens of thousands of people were killed, hundreds of thousands fled. Borders were drawn along ethnic lines, human rights activists warned of genocide. Now the same groups are facing each other again. Many observers in the Congo see a new edition of the old conflict.

Origin of CODECO militia group

CODECO stands for Cooperative for the Development of Congo — a name that does not sound like a declaration of war. "CODECO was originally an agricultural cooperative founded in the Zairean era as CODEZA," Christoph Vogel, a security and political analyst on the DR Congo, told DW.

According to Vogel, who closely monitors the practices of various rebel groups in the region, in the earlier Ituri conflict, the organization had already attracted attention because of its proximity to the FRPI militia, which, in alliance with other groups, carried out massacres of the Lendu ethnic group. But for a long time, not much was heard about CODECO.

Congolese refugees in DR Congo (imago-images/Xinhua/A. Uyakani)
Many people from Ituri Province in DRC have fled the violence to neighboring Uganda
Today, the hierarchies and backers are difficult to see understand for the outside world.

"CODECO is a structure without a head or tail that is constantly redefining itself," Jean Bamanisa Saidi, governor of Ituri Province, told DW.

For local people who want to gain influence, it is therefore easy to recruit and use a militia for their own political goals. "There are some people who think that if you manipulate an armed group, you can sit down at a table afterwards to negotiate posts," the governor said without mentioning names.

Rocky path to conflict resolution

Successful conflict resolution is also about learning from past mistakes. Congo expert Christoph Vogel said. He called for a "sustainable and reasonable plan" for the reintegration of the fighters, which goes further than before.

There have been very expensive programs implemented by the government in cooperation with international donors and the United Nations. However, what was lacking is that the combatants were in most cases taken out of the armed groups, but not fully reintegrated into society and provided with jobs.

The rifts between the ethnic communities that have grown in past conflicts must also be overcome. Congo's President Felix Tshisekedi, who has been in power for almost a year and a half, brought in Germain Katanga and Floribert Ndjabu, two Lendu militia leaders from the Ituri war at the turn of the millennium, to help resolve the conflict.

DRC President Felix Tshisekedi (Presidence RDC/Felix Tshiszkedi )
Many Congolese had high expectations that President Felix Tshisekedi will put an end to the killings
Read more: DRC: President Tshisekedi's first year in office

Christoph Vogel sees this ambivalently: "On the one hand it is undisputed that the big string-pullers — be it Lubanga or Katanga — still have well-functioning networks with the armed groups, in politics and business. On the other hand, one can never say exactly what interests they pursue."

New game rules, new sideshow

Observers and politicians agree that the current entanglements call for a comprehensive approach that focuses on both local structures and global inter-relationships. Governor Jean Bamanisa Saidi points to an active arms trade via neighboring Uganda. "There are also people who cross the border, people who come here to give courses on terrorism. Because what happens here is terrorism. But people are sometimes hired here as well to carry out similar attacks in Uganda."

Vogel noted that other crises — for example in North Kivu around the city of Beni or in the Masisi region — have also flared up anew. At the same time, he referred to a "political shadow boxing" in the capital Kinshasa, between Tshisekedi's government and a coalition which backs former President Joseph Kabila.

M23 rebels in Goma , DRC(picture-alliance/dpa)
Numerous militia groups are fighting for control in eastern DRC
"There is a lot of trench warfare, the politicians are mainly concerned with themselves and their respective opponents. In terms of conflict resolution in eastern Congo, not much has happened except for military operations," he said.

Talking to DW, Governor Saidi called for new international troops to help the Ituri people out of their predicament. However, soldiers alone will hardly be enough to bring lasting peace to eastern Congo.

Plain Jane

Veteran Member
Ebola again! This time in the eastern part of Democratic Republic Congo.

New Ebola Outbreak Kills Four In West Congo
Profile picture for user Tyler Durden
by Tyler Durden
Mon, 06/01/2020 - 23:01

Health officials have confirmed a second Ebola outbreak in Congo, the World Health Organization said Monday, adding yet another health crisis for a country already battling COVID-19 and the world's largest measles outbreak, according to the AP. Congo also has yet to declare an official end to Ebola in its troubled east, where at least 2,243 people have died since an epidemic began there in August 2018.
The United Nations Children's Fund said that five people, including a 15-year-old girl, have died of Ebola in a fresh outbreak of the virus in the Democratic Republic of Congo; a total of nine cases total have been reported.
"Four additional people who contracted the virus - all contacts of the deceased and including the child of one of the fatal cases - are being treated in an isolation unit at the Wangata Hospital in Mbandaka," UNICEF said in a statement. "The deaths occurred between the 18th and 30th of May but they were only confirmed as Ebola-related yesterday."
The country's Health Minister Eteni Longondo confirmed that "There are already four deaths and four suspected cases" who are still alive.

Earlier on Monday, embattled WHO Director-General and and Chinese PR spin guru Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus tweeted news that six cases had been reported in Mbandaka, in the country's northwest Equateur province. It's the country's 11th outbreak of the potentially deadly virus, which is passed by bodily fluids and has a fatality rate of anywhere between 25% and 90%, depending on the outbreak.

The Democratic Republic of Congo has still been struggling to end an outbreak that started in 2018 in the eastern part of the country, in which 3,406 cases have been reported, with 2,243 deaths, according to WHO. There has not been a new case in the past 21 days in that outbreak and since Ebola has a 21-day incubation period, that particular outbreak may be under control but WHO waits for two full incubation periods, or 42 days, to be sure before determining that an outbreak has ended.

"The announcement comes as a long, difficult and complex Ebola outbreak in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo is in its final phase, while the country also battles COVID-19 and the world's largest measles outbreak," WHO said in a statement. The central African country has reported 3,195 cases of coronavirus and 72 deaths. By far the worst epidemic affecting the DRC is measles, which has infected nearly 370,000 people and killed 6,779 since 2019.

The Ebola virus lives in bats, and WHO says new outbreaks can be expected in the Democratic Republic of Congo. By far the largest epidemic of Ebola was in 2014-2016 in the West African countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. More than 28,000 people were infected in that epidemic and more than 11,000 of them died.

If that wasn't enough, Covid-19 already has touched 7 of Congo's 25 provinces, with more than 3,000 confirmed cases and 72 deaths. However, like many African countries Congo has conducted extremely limited testing, and observers fear the true toll may be far higher.

There's more: while Ebola and COVID-19 have drawn far more international attention, measles has killed more Congolese than those diseases combined. WHO said there have been 369,520 measles cases and 6,779 deaths since 2019.

"This quadruple threat could prove lethal for millions of children and their families," said Anne-Marie Connor, national director in Congo for the aid organization World Vision.

Plain Jane

Veteran Member

Virus has been ‘very devastating’ for many African airlines

1 of 5
FILE - In this Wednesday, March 4, 2020 file photo, a Nigerian port health official, right, uses a thermometer to screen Ethiopian Airline cabin crews for the coronavirus, upon arrival at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos, Nigeria. Questions are swirling in Africa and elsewhere over the financial wisdom of sustaining prestige carriers that have a tiny share of an aviation market that sees no recovery in sight as sub-Saharan Africa faces its first recession in a quarter-century amid coronavirus-related travel restrictions. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba, File)

KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — A “new baby” was born with the revival of Uganda Airlines, the country’s president announced last year. But now its four new jets sit idle, business suspended indefinitely because of coronavirus-related travel restrictions.
Questions are swirling in Africa and elsewhere over the financial wisdom of sustaining prestige carriers that often have a tiny share of an aviation market that sees no recovery in sight.

African airlines had been piling on debt long before the pandemic but government bailouts allowed them to limp on for years. Now, as sub-Saharan Africa faces its first recession in a quarter-century, some airlines will find it harder to survive. That’s despite growing global interest in the continent of 1.3 billion people.

In some cases, local airlines are so important for pan-African business on a vast continent with historically poor infrastructure that their collapse would cripple speedy travel. In other cases, however, airlines have been seen as vanity projects for states that can hardly afford to support them.

Nowel Ngala, commercial director of Asky Airlines — a carrier launched in 2010 by a group of regional banks hoping to solve transport difficulties in central and West Africa — said the pandemic has been “very devastating “ to the company, whose nine aircraft are grounded. Revenue losses are substantial and there have been “serious impacts in terms of maintaining” the planes for whenever business resumes.

The International Air Transport Association in April warned that African airlines could lose $6 billion in passenger revenue compared to last year, and half of the region’s 6 million jobs in aviation and related industries could be lost. Air traffic this year is expected to fall by half, it said.

“These estimates are based on a scenario of severe travel restrictions lasting for three months, with a gradual lifting of restrictions in domestic markets, followed by regional and intercontinental,” the IATA said.
That three-month period is already nearing an end, with no return to normal air travel in sight.

Even Ethiopian Airlines, Africa’s only profitable airline in recent years, has signaled distress, citing revenue losses of up to $550 million between January and April. As a survival measure, the airline has thrown itself into cargo operations, including shipping medical supplies across Africa and to other continents.

“Some 22 of our passenger aircraft have been converted to cargo,” CEO Tewolde Gebremariam told The Associated Press. “Once the pandemic is brought under control and passenger flights resume, we will configure them back into their original passenger cabin configurations.”

If the crisis lingers, he said, “we will discuss with our owner, the Ethiopian government, on how to manage the situation going forward, and we may also discuss with our creditor banks for liquidity loans.”

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital, has become Africa’s gateway to Gulf nations and beyond. Now it is a key hub for shipping humanitarian supplies during the pandemic.

Another major African airline, South African Airways, hasn’t been profitable since 2011 and has been under bankruptcy protection since December. Tired of issuing bailouts, the government is demanding a new business plan.

“We are now faced with the unknown post the COVID-19 pandemic and there is no precedent or certainty which can be followed in developing a new strategy,” the department of public enterprises announced on May 1, saying the airline will be restructured. Administrators aim to lay off nearly 5,000 employees to keep the airline afloat.

“Airlines that were struggling before the pandemic will likely end up filing for bankruptcy or seek bailouts,” the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa has warned, calling air transport a critical sector for the continent’s economy, along with tourism, as global ties and investment have grown.

The revived Uganda Airlines barely had the chance to get started.
Without solid support from the state while grappling with how to comply with new safety guidelines, Uganda Airlines “may as well go home,” said Francis Babu, a pilot and former government minister. The airline’s CEO and spokesman did not respond to requests for comment.

In neighboring Kenya, Kenya Airways CEO Allan Kilavuka has been blunt.
“Even before this crisis we were not in a good place,” he told the Metropol television channel on May 6. The airline’s business model and market approach will need to change, he said. But asked how he sees Kenya Airways coping after the pandemic, he replied: “No one knows.”

Employees have taken pay cuts of up to 80% as Kenya Airways undergoes a re-nationalization process started last year to help it return to profitability. In February the airline received a government loan of nearly $5 million to overhaul its fleet’s engines.
A further cash infusion from the state is needed, Kilavuka said, “anything that you can afford.”

The company’s growing debt is one reason that Aly-Khan Satchu, a financial analyst based in Nairobi, believes that authorities will need to create another version of Kenya’s flag carrier “with a clean balance sheet.”

Kenya Airways, which depends on passenger traffic for 90% of its revenue, will have to pivot to cargo and reduce its network to create an agile state carrier, he said. “I appreciate it serves a national interest function but the balance sheet has now crossed a tipping point.”

In Rwanda, the government said it will increase its funding to national carrier RwandAir, whose cost-trimming includes pay cuts of up to 65% and the suspension of contracts with some pilots and non-essential staff until further notice.

Times are even harder for Air Zimbabwe, the one-plane national carrier of the southern African nation, saddled with debt of more than $300 million even before the pandemic. The airline said in April it was forcing dozens of employees into unpaid leave until the Boeing 767 can fly passengers again.
Elias Meseret in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Ignatius Ssuuna in Kigali, Rwanda, Farai Mutsaka in Harare, Zimbabwe, and Erick Kaglan in Lomé, Togo, contributed.

Plain Jane

Veteran Member

Africa: China-Africa Blanket Debt Forgiveness Not in the Cards

3 JUNE 2020
Voice of America (Washington, DC)
By Salem Solomon
As China tightens its belt economically in response to the coronavirus, African leaders are anxious about the future of infrastructure projects, trade and, in some cases, are requesting debt relief.

China is Africa’s largest trading partner with over $200 billion in combined imports and exports annually. China has also financed billions of dollars of infrastructure projects like roads, ports and railroads across the continent.

But COVID-19 has taken a toll on the world economy, harming African countries’ ability to repay debt and decreasing China’s willingness to invest abroad. Observers are looking for signs as to how the China-Africa relationship will change in the wake of the virus.

“The Chinese economy is taking a heavy hit from COVID-19,” said Yun Sun, the director of the China program at the Stimson Center, a Washington-based policy research center. “That's absolutely going to dampen the Chinese ability to disperse financing or continue to support infrastructure projects in developing countries including Africa, at a rate that did before.”
One of the biggest questions is the future of China’s numerous infrastructure projects including the massive Belt and Road Initiative. The Chinese government, banks and private investors lent about $146 billion to African countries between 2000 and 2017. Due to the global pandemic, many are calling for a pause in repayments or some form of debt forgiveness.

“It's not just one African country who is so welcoming of this global gesture with this calling for global debt relief,” Sun said. “But I would say that the picture looks very different from the Chinese side. That, first of all, given the massive amount of debt that the African countries owe China, whether it is financially feasible for China to forgive those debts is a key question here.”

It is estimated that African countries owe a combined $44 billion to service debt this year. Global lenders including the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and private lenders from G-20 countries, including China, have agreed to pause debt service payments from 77 of the world’s poorest countries.

China has said it is open to further debt relief but prefers to negotiate terms on a one-on-one basis with individual countries.

“The Chinese attitude towards that, to begin with, is quite resistant,” Sun said. “It doesn't mean that China will not engage in, for example, debt renegotiation or debt restructuring or even postponement to owe for a longer grace period for the African countries to pay back their debt. But I think a blanket debt forgiveness is not in the cards.”

African countries do not appear eager to be confrontational with China over debt.
Hannah Ryder runs Development Reimagined, a Beijing-based development consultancy. She said many African leaders believe taking on debt is essential to building the national infrastructure necessary to jump-start economies and lift citizens out of poverty.
She points out that African nations require a total of $68 billion per year to meet domestic infrastructure needs. They cannot finance those needs internally and must look to international lenders including many in China.

But concerns remain as to how China will react to an inability by African countries to repay loans. Djibouti, for example, owes foreign lenders an amount equal to about 80 percent of its gross domestic product. In Kenya, that figure is 61 percent. Both countries have major ports financed by China. Observers worry that as debt mounts, projects will go unfinished, or Chinese lenders will take control of African infrastructure in lieu of repayment.

“There are going to be some infrastructure projects that will go bust, that won't be working as a result of COVID-19,” Ryder said. “And those issues need to be looked at in a much more, kind of, detailed structural way. And so that is going to be something that the governments need to think about going forward and they need to be starting to plan with and to talk to China about.”

“Of course, there are problems with debt and debt is never fun even as an individual. It's never great to have debt,” Ryder said. “But the reason why African leaders have decided to go into debt to fund different infrastructure projects, to fund energy, roads, etc. is because those are badly needed on the continent. And fundamentally, the African continent will not meet the Sustainable Development Goals, if those investments are not made.”

Read the original article on VOA.

Plain Jane

Veteran Member

JUNE 3, 2020 / 5:01 PM / UPDATED 15 HOURS AGO
Two more people infected with Ebola in new Congo outbreak, WHO says


GENEVA (Reuters) - The Ebola virus has infected two more people in Equateur province in western Democratic Republic of Congo and spread to a new area 150 km (93 miles) away from the original six cases, the World Heath Organization said on Wednesday.

On Monday Congolese authorities confirmed tests showing that four people had died of Ebola in the western city of Mbandaka.

Congo had been preparing to declare itself Ebola-free this month. An epidemic of the virus on the other side of the country has killed more than 2,200 people since 2018.

The two outbreaks are the same strain of the virus, which means the same vaccines can be used to help contain its spread, health officials say, although they are not thought to be linked.

“The latest person confirmed with Ebola attended the burial of one of the first cases, but was detected in the town of Bikoro, 150 kilometres away from Mbandaka,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told journalists.

"This means that two health zones are now affected.”

Mbandaka suffered a small Ebola outbreak in 2018 in which 33 people died. The use of a vaccine and swift containment efforts including mobile handwashing stations and a door-to-door education campaign kept it at bay.

On Wednesday almost 50 health workers from WHO and its partners arrived in Mbandaka with 3,600 doses of Ebola vaccine and 2,000 cartridges for lab testing, Tedros said.

The Ebola virus causes hemorrhagic fever and is spread through direct contact with body fluids from an infected person, who suffers severe vomiting and diarrhoea. Ebola is endemic to Congo whose Ebola river gave the virus its name when it was discovered there in 1976.

Congo’s health system, which has been hobbled by decades of war and mismanagement, is fighting the world’s worst measles epidemic as well as the coronavirus pandemic, which has infected over 3,000 and killed 75 people.

Reporting by Emma Farge; Writing by Hereward Holland; Editing by Bate Felix and Grant McCool
Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Plain Jane

Veteran Member

What’s behind the Ethiopia-Sudan border row?
The border between Ethiopia and Sudan is the scene of occasional fighting. Recent deadly skirmishes could however complicate matters between the two countries.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Sudan's General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan Abdelrahman (Reuters/M. N. Abdallah)

Amid heightened tension along its border with Ethiopia, Sudan swore in a new defense minister. Major General Yassin Ibrahim Yassin was recalled from retirement to fill the position following the death of General Gamal al-Din Omar. Yassin's swearing-in came after an alleged Ethiopian cross-border attack which left at least one Sudanese soldier and a child dead, according to Sudan's military. Three Sudanese civilians and a soldier were also wounded.
The attack, which took place in the eastern province of al-Qadarif, started after an Ethiopian militia group penetrated Sudan's border to fetch water at the Atbara river, Brigadier Amer Mohammed al-Hassan, a spokesman for the Sudanese military, said.
Map showing Sudan's al-Qadarif province next to Ethiopia's border.

"It is not clear exactly what triggered a flare-up of this long-standing border dispute. Sources suggest that Sudanese security forces may have responded to incursions by Ethiopian farmers, which in turn brought in Ethiopian security forces," William Davison, senior Ethiopia analyst at the International Crisis Group, told DW.
The heavy exchange of fire reportedly left one Ethiopian militia wounded. "If these allegations are true, then it is an escalation," Kjetil Tronvoll, professor of peace and conflict studies and Research Director of International Studies at Bjorknes University College in Oslo, told DW.

The border clashes flared up as Ethiopia and Sudan were preparing to meet in the Sudanese capital Khartoum, for a second round of talks aimed at resolving the border dispute. "There have been negotiations and they reached an understanding that most or all of this contested land can be under Sudan," Tronvoll said. "The interesting aspect is why there is new violence now and possibly also at a higher level than before."

Sudanese soldiers on top of military vans. (picture-alliance/Photoshot/M. Babiker)
Sudan sent more troops along the border with Ethiopia to stop the incursions
According to Sudan's military, tensions along the border between the two countries have recently heated up amid increasing attacks on Sudanese troops. Following the incident, Sudan summoned Ethiopia's envoy and urged the Ethiopian government to do all it can to end such border clashes.

Ethiopia's call for diplomacy

Ethiopia offered its "deep sympathy and condolences to the families of the victims of the conflict along the Ethiopia and Sudan border." Addis Ababa urged the two countries to pursue diplomacy as a means of resolving the border dispute saying there was no need for the countries to "descend into hostility". Last month, Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent General Adam Mohamed Mahmoud, the country's military chief to Khartoum in a bid to ease the tensions.

MFA Ethiopia


Statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia on the #Ethiopia-#Sudan Border Incident. @NEBGET
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For Tronvoll, solving the dispute via diplomatic means is reasonable and should be encouraged. However, he said there could be more to the clashes. "There are various actors and processes within the region, and this is an opportune moment for some to ignite some tension between Sudan and Ethiopia," Tronvoll said. "Hopefully, the two sides can sit at the negotiating table and come to a conclusion."

Former Sudanese leader Omar al-Bashir (Ashraf Shazly/AFP/Getty Images)
Sudan's ousted former president Omar al-Bashir had tolerated Ethiopia's encroachment along the border
Root of Ethiopia-Sudan border dispute

Sudan and Ethiopia share a common boundary that stretches over 1,600 kilometers (994 miles). The border was drawn following a series of treaties between Ethiopia and the colonial powers of Britain and Italy. However, to date, this boundary lacks clear demarcation lines.

Sudan's al-Fashqa region which covers approximately 600 km, is a rich fertile land conducive for agriculture. For decades, Ethiopia has allowed its farmers to plant crops there.

Former Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir largely turned a blind eye to his country's territorial incursion. However, Sudan's transitional authorities, who took over after popular protests which eventually led to the ousting of al-Bashir, have initiated talks with Ethiopia in a bid to have to Ethiopian farmers withdraw.

Watch video02:38
How is Sudan faring 1 year after Omar al-Bashir's ouster?
More Sudanese boots at the Ethiopian border

For the first time in nearly 25 years, Sudan deployed its troops along the al-Fashqa border strip at the end March. This came after an attack which prompted a top security team to visit the area.

"There are old problems. Herders have lost their livestock and farmers have lost their lands," Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, Chairman of Sudan's Sovereignty Council, said in an interview with the national network, Sudan TV, after touring the border region. Al-Burhan defended the troop deployment saying the armed forces were left with no choice but to protect their territory because the Ethiopians had imposed their presence.

Sudan's military has vowed that it is willing and ready to protect its citizens and territory.

Sudan's about-turn in Ethiopia's mega dam project

The border dispute could complicate Ethiopia's plan to construct the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). On Wednesday, Sudan wrote to the UN Security Council calling on it to urge Ethiopia and Egypt, not to take unilateral action on the dam. Sudan had initially backed Ethiopia's project but later refused to sign on an initial agreement which would have paved the way for Ethiopia to begin filling the dam.

Aerial view of Ethiopia's Grand Renaissance Dam (DW/Negassa Desalegen )
Ethiopia's Grand Renaissance Dam project has increased tensions along the River Nile
For Ethiopia analyst Davison, the border dispute has little to do with GERD. "Ethiopia and Sudan are holding regular discussions to prepare the ground for the resumption of trilateral GERD talks, so the process is restarting rather than stalled," Davison said. "It does not appear therefore that the border incident has caused a significant disruption to the negotiations."

According to Davison, Sudan and Ethiopia need to ramp up their existing discussions over the borderlands in order to come to an understanding that will lead to a final resolution of the issue.

Plain Jane

Veteran Member

UN says eastern Congo fighting has killed 1,300 civilians

DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — Various conflicts involving armed groups and government forces in Congo have killed more than 1,300 civilians in the past eight months and violence has surged in recent weeks in eastern provinces, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said Friday.

Michelle Bachelet said some incidents may amount to crimes against humanity or war crimes, with armed groups committing massacres and security forces also responsible for grave human rights violations.

“I am appalled by the increase in brutal attacks on innocent civilians by armed groups, and by the reaction of the military and security forces who have also committed grave violations, including killings and sexual violence,” she said. “These are not only reprehensible and criminal acts, but they also break the trust between people and the state representatives.”

The recent violence in Ituri province has also displaced more than 200,000 people, according to medical charity Doctors Without Borders.Multiple armed groups have been present in Congo’s mineral-rich eastern provinces for decades, attacking civilians and fighting for control of the territory and its valuable resources.The U.N. said the principal armed group staging attacks in Ituri province is known as CODECO and is comprised mainly of fighters from the Lendu community. Its main leader was killed in March.“The attacks and the nature of the violence committed by the armed groups have grown increasingly more gruesome, including sexual violence, beheadings and mutilation of corpses,” according to a statement by the U.N. Joint Human Rights Office of Congo.Since October more than 531 civilians have been killed by armed groups in Ituri province, the U.N. said, including 375 since March.

In North Kivu province, the main armed group known as the Allied Democratic Forces has been staging retaliatory attacks since the military launched major operations against it in November. ADF rebels have abducted children, attacked schools and hospitals and used machetes, axes and heavy weapons, according to the U.N.A local rights group, the Center for the Promotion of Peace, Democracy and Human Rights, called on Congo’s government to reassess its operations after attacks by ADF and an Islamic State-linked group on several villages last month killed at least 40 people. According to the rights group, more than 627 civilians have been killed since Oct. 30.ADVERTISEMENT

The U.N. on Friday called on Congolese authorities to establish state authority in conflict regions by increasing the presence of security forces and ensuring civilian protection.“When the state leaves a vacuum, others tend to fill it,” the statement said.The U.N. said more than 110,000 civilians also have been displaced in South Kivu province, where 74 people have been killed since October and at least 36 women and children have been raped in a resurgence of ethnic violence. That conflict between the Banyamulenge and the Bafuliro, Babembe, and Banyindu communities has been “fuelled by hate speech disseminated through the media, social media and in public discourse,” according to the U.N. Soldiers have also been responsible for rights violations there, it said.

Doctors Without Borders this week called on international and national organizations to step up assistance in Ituri province. It said children have been killed in the attacks, including a 15-month-old who was shot while strapped to his mother’s back during an attack in Drodro on May 17.Health centers are also being targeted, with at least four attacked in May. This is a major concern as neighboring North Kivu province combats an Ebola outbreak and as COVID-19 spreads.“The violence is systematically targeting villages and health centers in order to prevent the people who fled from returning,” said the organization’s field coordinator, Benjamin Courlet. “Some people are too terrified to go the health centers that are still functioning in the villages or in the camps. Instead they stay in the bush, so we have set up mobile clinics to reach them there.”

Plain Jane

Veteran Member

France kills al-Qaida head of North Africa
France said Abdelmalek Droukdal was killed during an operation in Mali. Droukdal was the head of all al-Qaida affiliates in North Africa.

Abdelmalek Droukdal (picture-alliance/dpa/AFP/T. Coex)

French Minister of the Armed Forces Florence Parly confirmed on Friday that France and its military partners had killed Abdelmalek Droukdal, the North African head of the terror network, al-Qaida. Parly said Droukdal and some of his "close collaborators" were killed during an operation in the West African country of Mali.

Florence Parly


Lors du Sommet de Pau le 13 janvier dernier, les chefs d’État de la France et des pays du G5 Sahel ont réaffirmé leur détermination à poursuivre leurs efforts de lutte contre les groupes terroristes qui opèrent dans la bande sahélo-saharienne.


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Parly also revealed that France had captured Mohamed el Mrabat, a senior IS commander in Mali, in May. France has about 5,100 forces in the North Africa region.
Read more: Mali's security crisis: A cycle of exploitation and corruption

Who was Droukal?
Droukdal headed all al-Qaida affiliates in North Africa and also commanded the Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM), an active terrorist group in the Sahel Strip of West Africa. The JNIM battled the "Islamic State" terror group in severe jihadi in-fighting in early May when the JNIM attacked IS positions and blocked fuel supplies.

Droukdal was part of a militant takeover of north Mali before his fighters were driven away by French military forces in 2013. He was part of several terrorist attacks, including a deadly attack on hotel in the capital of Burkina Faso, which killed 30 people. He was sentenced to death in Algeria in 2012 for organizing three bomb attacks in the country's capital.

France's role in North Africa
Droukdal's death comes six months after France combined its military forces G5 Sahel countries — Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger — under one command structure to fight IS-linked militants.
French troops during exercises in Burkina Faso (picture-alliance/dpa/P. de Poulpiquet)
French troops in the Sahel region
Read more: Anti-French sentiment on the rise in West Africa as security situation deteriorates
France, the former colonial power in the region, become militarily involved seven years ago after IS militants took over parts of northern Mali. However, the European country has recently become unpopular after militants strengthened their hold in the region and begun stoking ethnic violence. (Mali: More than 100 killed in ethnic massacre | DW | 24.03.2019)

"When Operation Serval began in 2013 to dislodge the jihadists, who were then occupying all the major urban centers in the north of Mali, it was thought it would be a problem that would be quickly resolved. They (France) did chase out the jihadists, although they did not chase them out completely. It's now seven years later and the problem is most definitely getting worse," Dakar-based independent reporter, Bram Posthumus, told DW in December 2019.
am/sms (AFP, Reuters)

Plain Jane

Veteran Member

JUNE 6, 2020 / 3:25 PM / UPDATED AN HOUR AGO
Men in military fatigues kill at least 20 Malian villagers


BAMAKO (Reuters) - Armed men dressed in military fatigues attacked a village of Fulani herders in central Mali, killing at least 20 people, a local government official and a Fulani association said on Saturday.

The attackers on Friday targeted the village of Binedama in the Mopti region, which has seen dozens of tit-for-tat ethnic massacres over the past few years.

The Fulani, semi-nomadic herders present across West Africa, have been accused by rival farming communities of supporting local jihadist groups, making them targets of violence from ethnic vigilante militias and sometimes government forces.

Moulaye Guindo, the mayor of the commune of Bankass, which neighbours the commune to which Binedama belongs, said between 20 and 30 people were killed by men in military attire.
Fulani association Tabital Pulaaku said 29 people were killed, including a 9-year-old girl. It blamed the attack on Malian soldiers, who it said surrounded the village in pick-up trucks before killing the villagers and setting houses on fire.

The victims are all from the peaceful civilian population .. who had not committed any crime except for their ethnic identity,” Tabital Pulaaku said in a statement.

Mali’s army spokesman did not respond to requests for comment.

Human rights groups have accused the Malian military in the past of conducting extrajudicial killings, kidnappings, torture and arbitrary arrests against suspected jihadist sympathisers - charges it has promised to investigate.

In 2018, the government said some of its soldiers were implicated in “gross violations” after the discovery of mass graves in the centre of the country.

Mali has been in crisis since 2012 when al Qaeda-linked militants seized its desert north. French forces intervened the following year to drive them back, but the militants have since regrouped and extended their operations into neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.

Reporting by Tiemoko Diallo; Writing by Aaron Ross; Editing by Hugh Lawson
Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Plain Jane

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Africa’s essential truckers say they face virus stigma
By RODNEY MUHUMUZA and TOM ODULA50 minutes ago

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In this photo taken Monday, June 1, 2020, Tanzanian truck driver Ally Akida Samwel washes his hands next to his truck as he waits to be allowed to enter on the Kenya side of the Namanga border crossing with Tanzania. Africa's long-haul truckers carry food, fuel and other essential supplies along dangerous roads, but now they say they are increasingly accused of carrying the coronavirus as well. The drivers say they are stigmatized and even threatened in some countries. (AP Photo/Brian Inganga)

NAMANGA, Kenya (AP) — They haul food, fuel and other essential supplies along sometimes dangerous roads during tough economic times. But Africa’s long-distance truckers say they are increasingly being accused of carrying something else: the coronavirus.

While hundreds of truckers have tested positive for the virus in recent weeks, the drivers say they are being stigmatized and treated like criminals, being detained by governments and slowing cargo traffic to a crawl.

That has created a challenge for governments in much of sub-Saharan Africa, where many borders remain closed by the pandemic, on how to strike a balance between contagion and commerce. Countries are struggling to reach common ground.

“When I entered Tanzania, in every town that I would drive through, they would call me, ’You, corona, get away from here with your corona!’” said Abdulkarim Rajab, a burly Kenyan who has been driving trucks for 17 years and recalls when drivers were being accused of spreading HIV during that outbreak.

Rajab and his load of liquefied gas spent three days at the Kenya-Tanzania border, where the line of trucks waiting to be cleared stretched into the distance and wound around the lush hills overlooking the crossing at Namanga.

Tanzania closed the border there this week, protesting Kenya’s efforts to re-test all incoming truckers, including those who even had certificates showing they had been tested in the previous 14 days. It was the second time the frontier was closed in less than a month and was taken after many Tanzanian truckers with negative results started testing positive at the border.

Many truckers must sleep in unsanitary motels and interact with many people, increasing their risk of contagion. They’re often stuck for days at a border waiting for virus test results, mingling in crowded parking lots.

Some told The Associated Press they try to elude authorities or switch off their phones when they enter Uganda so they can’t be ordered to pull over. More than half of the country’s 507 coronavirus cases as of Wednesday have been confirmed among truckers.

New government orders largely confine truckers to their vehicles and have designated rest areas along highways to limit contact with residents. Authorities say the restrictions are necessary, but the truckers see them as biased and unjust.

When a driver takes a bathroom break, “the people in the area start chasing him, saying, ‘You want to leave your COVID here.’ That’s discrimination,” said Byron Kinene, a Ugandan who heads the Regional Lorry Drivers and Transporters Association.

Several Kenyan truckers driving through northern Uganda to South Sudan on May 30 made a distress call after locals threatened them as they sought to park, Kinene said.

Health authorities in East African countries don’t have enough tests for their population, so they focus instead on highly mobile truckers.

“We are concentrating on hot spot areas. We are picking many (truckers) who are positive,” said Pontiano Kaleebu, who heads the Uganda Virus Research Institute, the government testing agency. “This is not unfair. This is the reality.”

The testing at the border is often slow, frustrating and risky.

“The challenge is the number of people who come. They are so many,” said Aggrey Keya, a Kenyan lab technician at the Namanga border.

Taking samples raises the possibility of getting infected, Keya said. Processing the samples can take two days, along with another three days for truckers to clear customs and immigration. Some drivers report waiting for up to a week.

The East African Community regional bloc said May 30 it wants to monitor truckers via mobile phones and issue certificates declaring their health status. But the measure can’t be implemented until each country sets up a coordinating office and gets the necessary equipment, and no start date has been set.

That means countries like Kenya and Tanzania, which have responded differently to the pandemic, will continue their own restrictions.

Tanzania hasn’t updated its number of virus cases since April 29. While its president claims the virus has been defeated, African health authorities want its government to be more transparent and the opposition fears a cover-up. Officially, cases remain at just over 500 while the opposition says the real number could be in the tens of thousands.

Neighboring Kenya and Uganda have enforced strict measures. The countries are on major transport corridors that serve a large part of central and southern Africa. Some trucks coming in from the Indian Ocean port of Mombasa head for South Sudan, which is emerging from civil war.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has said banning trucks is “suicidal” in a region where delivery by other means, including air and sea, is underdeveloped.

Some truckers have staged protests on the highway leading to the Kenya-Uganda border recently, citing alleged mistreatment in Uganda. The four-day protest, during which truckers deflated their tires, caused a huge traffic jam inside Kenya.

Feeling harassed, some truckers refuse to cooperate with authorities, switching off phones or giving the wrong contact address if their sample tests positive, said Ndugu Omogo, head of the Uganda Professional Drivers Network. He said some drivers have been mistreated when arrested.

Ally Akida Samwel of Tanzania, waiting at the Namanga border post to haul maize to Kenya, said some officials refuse even to touch a trucker’s documents, asking they be read aloud instead.

“On the other hand, drivers themselves are scared of getting the coronavirus from the people, so most prefer to sleep in their trucks and not hotels,” he said. “I stop and cook on the roadside, and I am on my way. If you are scared of me giving you the coronavirus, I am also scared of you giving it to me.”


Muhumuza reported from Kampala, Uganda.

Plain Jane

Veteran Member

NAIROBI (Reuters) - The tiny Horn of Africa nation Djibouti has witnessed days of anti-government protests after a detained air force pilot said in a video clip he had been tortured, his lawyer said on Monday.

The government did not respond to a request for comment but Djibouti’s ambassador to neighbouring Ethiopia told Reuters the pilot, Fouad Youssuf Ali, had been arrested for treason. The envoy denied that Fouad had been tortured.

“Many spontaneous protests in support of Fouad’s unlawful detention and mistreatment have taken place in Djibouti,” said the lawyer, Zakaria Ali, adding that some 200 people including members of the pilot’s family had been arrested in recent days.

“I visited him on May 13 and saw severe signs of torture on his legs,” Ali added.

Grainy footage posted on social media sites appeared to show people protesting in the streets of Djibouti.

According to social media, the protests started last week after a video clip began circulating online showing the pilot being held in what appeared to be a toilet of a jail.

Asked about the case, Djibouti’s ambassador to Ethiopia, Mohamed Idriss Farah, said the pilot had been arrested on April 9 in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, where he had escaped after attempting to steal and fly a plane to Eritrea.

He was extradited to Djibouti the following day on charges of treason, as he incited people to rebellion in a video he took in the plane,” Farah said.

“Claims that the pilot has been tortured while in detention are false,” he added. “Those protests were sparked by social media mainly from the diaspora who spread fake news in Djibouti.”

Djibouti is home to both Chinese and U.S. naval bases. Its strategic position on the Gulf of Aden means it overlooks the world’s busiest shipping lanes for oil cargos, but many of its citizens are impoverished and human rights groups say abuses by the security forces are common.

Independent news sites are blocked in Djibouti and journalists often arrested and beaten, global media watchdog Reporters Sans Frontieres says.

On Monday, the group put out a statement saying two independent Djiboutian journalists covering the story of the pilot had been arrested — Kassim Nouh Abar on June 5 and Mohamed Ibrahim Wais on June 8.

Rashid Abdi, a Nairobi-based Horn of Africa political analyst, warned that there was already widespread anger over poverty and corruption.

“We should not underestimate the ability of the government to be very brutal in its response if the unrest continues,” he said.

Reporting by Nairobi bureau; Editing by Gareth Jones and Catherine Evans
Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Plain Jane

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South Africa, Kenya protest cop brutality in US and at home

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A man wearing chains joins a protest rally in front of the U.S. Consulate General in Johannesburg, South Africa, Monday, June 8, 2020. The protest in support of Black Lives Matter was called by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party in response to the recent killing of George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis, USA, that has led to protests in many countries and across the US. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Protests against police brutality were held in South Africa and Kenya on Monday, with demonstrators who came out to denounce George Floyd’s killing in the U.S. charging that they are also suffering abuses by their own authorities.

South Africa’s leftist opposition party, the Economic Freedom Fighters, held anti-racism protests in Johannesburg, Pretoria and Cape Town over Floyd, a black man who died in Minneapolis after a white police officer knelt on his neck for several minutes even as Floyd pleaded that he couldn’t breathe.

The EFF party’s firebrand leader, Julius Malema, criticized the South African government, saying that it is not doing enough to stop brutality perpetrated by its own police and army.

In Johannesburg, about 100 protesters closed a major thoroughfare in front of the U.S. consulate. They knelt in the street for eight minutes and 46 seconds to mark the time that the police officer knelt on Floyd’s neck. The South African protesters held up Black Lives Matter placards.

Malema, leading the protest at the U.S. Embassy in the nation’s capital, Pretoria, was joined by the partner of Collins Khosa, a black South African man who died after allegedly being assaulted by black soldiers enforcing the country’s strict lockdown to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Khosa was allegedly beaten by soldiers after beer was found at his home, which was still legal during the lockdown although the sale of alcohol was prohibited. The incident happened two months ago in Johannesburg’s poor Alexandra township.

The opposition party has offered to pay legal fees to help Khosa’s family press a court case against the army and the South African government for his death, said Malema. He said the government has not properly responded to Khosa’s death, and has already absolved the soldiers of any blame.

“We are in the second phase of suing the state on behalf of the family. We are more than convinced that the judges will be on our side,” said Malema, according to the news website News24. “It was brutality and abuse of power and we don’t associate with that.”

In Kenya’s capital, residents of one of Nairobi’s poorest areas held a peaceful protest over the police brutality and killings which have plagued their neighborhood in recent years.

Juliet Wanjera, a member of the Mathare Social Justice Center, said the group organized the protest in solidarity with the global movement against police brutality sparked off by the death of Floyd.

About 200 people holding placards with messages such as “Youth Lives Matter” and “The Right of Life is Absolute” marched through Nairobi’s second biggest shantytown.

Human rights groups say Kenya’s poor suffer the brunt of unlawful police killings and abuses because they don’t have resources to seek redress. Residents of the Mathare and Dandora areas, the poorest in Nairobi and which are home to several hundred thousand people, say they have suffered most of these abuses in recent years.

“We feel we are being harassed like this and being treated this way because we are poor people,” said Wanjera. “So today the poor people of this country have come together to say no to police killings and police brutality and also stand in solidarity with the global protest against police excesses all over the world.”

Last week, Kenyan police were accused of killing a homeless man in Mathare for violating a curfew put in place by the government because of the coronavirus.

Kenya’s Independent Police Oversight Authority said that while enforcing the curfew police have killed 15 people and are accused of 31 cases of torture and injuring people. The oversight body said a police officer will be charged with the killing of a 13-year-old boy.


Odula reported from Nairobi, Kenya.

Plain Jane

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JUNE 8, 2020 / 9:48 AM / UPDATED 20 HOURS AGO
Up to 12 infected in Congo's new Ebola outbreak: WHO


KINSHASA (Reuters) - Up to 12 people have been found infected with Ebola in a new outbreak of the deadly disease in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday.

A week ago, authorities reported six infections in the northwestern city of Mbandaka, saying they appeared to be separate from another outbreak of the virus that has raged in the east since 2018.

There have now been nine confirmed cases and three probable cases of the disease in and around Mbandaka, the WHO said. Six of those people have died, it added.

The city sits on the Congo River, close to the border with the Republic of Congo.

Genetic sequencing of the virus by Congo’s biomedical research laboratory showed the new outbreak is likely to have started as a “spillover event”, a transmission from an infected animal, according to research published on, a molecular evolution and epidemiology forum.

In a situation report, the WHO said 300 people in Mbandaka and the surrounding Equateur province had been vaccinated - a tool health workers used to control the outbreak in the east, which has not seen any new infections since April 27.

Mbandaka suffered a small Ebola outbreak in 2018 that killed 33 people. Health officials say vaccinations and swift containment efforts including mobile handwashing stations and a door-to-door education campaign kept it at bay.

The new cases in Mbandaka mark the country’s 11th major Ebola outbreak since the virus was discovered near northern Congo’s Ebola River in 1976. It is Congo’s third outbreak in two years of the virus which causes vomiting, diarrhoea and external bleeding.

Reporting by Stanis Bujakera; Writing by Hereward Holland; Editing by Andrew Heavens
Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Plain Jane

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JUNE 9, 2020 / 7:26 PM / UPDATED 9 HOURS AGO
Boko Haram kills 69, razes village in northern Nigeria: sources


MAIDUGURI (Reuters) - Boko Haram gunman killed at least 69 people and razed a village to the ground in northern Nigeria’s Borno state on Tuesday afternoon, three sources told Reuters.
The men attacked the village of Faduma Koloram, in Gubio local government area of Borno state, starting about noon.

They arrived in vehicles and on motorcycles, shooting with AK-47s, razing the village and stealing 1,200 cattle and camels. A resident, a Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) member and a soldier each confirmed the same account.

They said the men attacked because they suspected residents of sharing information on Boko Haram’s movements with security authorities.

It’s an unfortunate day for us to witness this,” said CJTF fighter Kachallah Bumu. While he said the residents were armed, and had repelled previous attacks, this one caught them off guard.

They took us unaware and killed our people,” he said.

A military spokesman could not be reached for comment.

Boko Haram and its offshoot, Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), have killed thousands and displaced millions in northeastern Nigeria.

Reporting by Maiduguri newsroom; Writing by Libby George; Editing by Peter Cooney
Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Plain Jane

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Burundi says president Nkurunziza has died of heart attack

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FILE - In this Thursday, May 17, 2018 file photo, Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza speaks to the media after casting his vote in the constitutional referendum in Buye, northern Burundi. Burundi's government said Tuesday, June 9, 2020, that President Pierre Nkurunziza has died of a heart attack. (AP Photo/Berthier Mugiraneza, File)

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza has died of a heart attack at age 56, the government announced Tuesday, ending a 15-year-rule marked by deadly political violence and a historic withdrawal from the International Criminal Court.

The statement posted on social media said the president was admitted to a hospital overnight Saturday after not feeling well. He appeared better Sunday but “to very great surprise” his health abruptly worsened Monday morning, and several hours of effort failed to revive him.

Burundi’s government has declared a week of mourning.

Nkurunziza’s death comes weeks before president-elect ruling party candidate Evariste Ndayishimiye was expected to be sworn in after winning the May election. It was not immediately clear what the government’s steps will be and a spokesman was not available for comment.

“According to Burundi’s constitution, when a president dies in office before handing over power, the speaker of parliament takes over and organises a fresh election. But I think the leadership will ignore this requirement and go with Evariste Ndayishimiye,” said David Gakunzi, a Burundian author.

Despite the government’s statement, some in Burundi wondered whether Nkurunziza died of COVOD-19 instead. “When Nkurunziza’s wife was flown to Kenya suffering from COVID-19, many in Burundi suspected the president himself was sick,” said Justin Nyabenda, a resident in Bujumbura. He was referring to reports in Kenyan media that Nkurunziza’s wife, Denise, was hospitalized in Nairobi for COVID-19 in late May.

Burundi’s government has downplayed the virus and held the election and large campaign rallies in spite of the threat. Authorities kicked out the World Health Organization’s top official in the country just days before the election after the WHO raised concerns about crowded rallies. The country has reported 83 virus cases.

Nkurunziza took office in 2005, chosen by lawmakers to lead the East African nation after the 1993-2005 civil war killed about 300,000 people. He and Ndayishimiye fought alongside each other as rebels in the conflict.

The peace process known as the Arusha Accords specified that a president’s term can be renewed only once. But Nkurunziza, who won a second term in 2010, announced he was eligible for a third term in 2015 because he had not been chosen the first time by universal suffrage.

The deadly turmoil that followed badly damaged ties with the international community, and Burundi became the first country to leave the ICC after it started investigating allegations of state-sponsored crimes including murder, rape and torture.

The United Nations human rights office reported more than 300 extrajudicial killings and was later kicked out of the country after outgoing U.N. rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein called Burundi one of the “most prolific slaughterhouses of humans in recent times.”

Burundi’s government has denied allegations it targets its people, calling them malicious propaganda by dissidents.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres sent condolences to the government and people of Burundi and to the president’s family.

“The scretary-general reaffirms the willingness of the United Nations to support the government and people of Burundi as they face the COVID-19 pandemic and in their continuing efforts to create a stable, prosperous and peaceful future for all the country’s citizens,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

Nkurunziza survived a coup attempt shortly after the 2015 vote. International donors cut support, leaving the government struggling. Hundreds of thousands of people fled the country.

“Many Burundians will remember Nkurunziza as a president who left behind a divided country,” said author Gakunzi. “When he came into power after the Arusha agreement, citizens expected peace and prosperity. However, his greed for power in 2015 divided the country and sent many to live in exile.”

Many Burundians were surprised when the president announced in 2018 that he was serving his last term. Many thought he would continue to wield power behind the scenes. The opposition leader who lost the May election, Agathon Rwasa, said his supporters were harassed ahead of the vote and arrested by the scores on election day. His court challenge to the vote alleging fraud was rejected.

The government had approved legislation meant to bestow upon Nkurunziza the title of “paramount leader” once he stepped down.

Nkurunziza “leaves behind a legacy of ruthless repression,” said Lewis Mudge, Central Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “He ruled through fear to erect a system synonymous with the worst human rights abuses: extrajudicial killings, torture, disappearances and the systematic crushing of dissent.”

Burundi must investigate the crimes, Mudge said. “As long as these abuses go unpunished, this dark legacy will hang over Burundi for many years to come.”


Associated Press writer Eloge Willy Kaneza reported this story in Nairobi and AP writer Ignatius Ssuuna reported from Kigali, Rwanda.

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Sudan militia leader in custody on Darfur war crimes charges

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-FILE- In this Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019 file image the International Criminal Court, or ICC, is seen in The Hague, Netherlands. Sudanese militia leader Ali Kushayb has been arrested on war crimes charges related to the conflict in Darfur more than 13 years after a warrant was issued for him, authorities said Tuesday. Kushayb surrended to authorities in a remote corner of northern Central African Republic, near the country's border with Sudan, International Criminal Court spokesman Fadi El Abdallah said. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong, File)

BANGUI, Central African Republic (AP) — In a significant breakthrough in the pursuit of justice for crimes in Darfur, Sudanese militia leader Ali Kushayb, who is charged with 50 crimes against humanity and war crimes in the devastating conflict, has been arrested more than 13 years after a warrant was issued for him and transferred to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, authorities said Tuesday.

Kushayb surrendered to authorities in a remote corner of northern Central African Republic, near the country’s border with Sudan, International Criminal Court spokesman Fadi El Abdallah said. He later added that Kushayb arrived at the ICC’s detention center Tuesday evening.

In the Darfur conflict, 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.

The government responded with a scorched-earth assault of aerial bombings and unleashed militias known as the Janjaweed, who are accused of mass killings and rapes. Up to 300,000 people were killed and 2.7 million were driven from their homes.

The court’s prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda said Kushayb’s surrender and transfer into the court’s custody nearly two decades after the Darfur conflict raged was “a powerful and somber reminder that the victims of atrocity crimes in the Darfur region of Sudan have waited too long to see justice done. The victims in the Darfur situation deserve to finally have their day in court.”

The ICC charged Sudan’s ousted former president Omar al-Bashir with genocide for allegedly masterminding the campaign of attacks. Al-Bashir has not been turned over to the court to face trial. Kushayb’s detention sets the stage for the court to hold its first trial focused on the Darfur conflict.

Brad Brooks-Rubin, managing director of The Sentry, a watchdog group co-founded by George Clooney, called Kushayb’s detention “a modest triumph for the cause of accountability for atrocity crimes in Africa.”

“This represents a glimpse of hope for people in Darfur and around the world who desperately seek justice and security but are too often forgotten,” he said.

According to the ICC’s arrest warrant, Kushayb is accused of commanding thousands of Janjaweed militia back in 2003-2004 and acting as a go-between for the militia and Sudanese government. The ICC says he “personally participated in some of the attacks against civilians” and allegedly “enlisted fighters, armed, funded and provided food and other supplies to the Janjaweed militia under his command.”

Among offenses listed on his arrest warrant are murder, rape, persecution and pillage.

No immediate date was set for Kushayb to appear before the court. At his initial appearance, judges will seek to confirm his identity and that he has read and understood the charges against him and his rights. The next stage will be a preliminary hearing, likely to be months from now, at which prosecutors will attempt to convince judges that their evidence is strong enough to merit putting Kushayb on trial. He faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment if convicted.

Central African Republic Attorney General Eric Didier Tambo confirmed to The Associated Press that Kushayb had been extradited to The Hague in the Netherlands on Tuesday after being brought to Bangui the day before. It was not immediately known how long he had been in Central African Republic.

Kushayb and al-Bashir evaded arrest on war crimes charges for more than a decade amid reluctance by other African nations to carry out arrest warrants.

Al-Bashir, who is accused of crimes including genocide, traveled abroad freely and it was not until after he was deposed last year that Sudanese authorities agreed to extradite him to The Hague. However, the ex-president has not yet been turned over to the ICC.

Human Rights Watch welcomed Kushayb’s detention.

“Today is a landmark day for justice for victims of atrocities committed across Darfur and their families,” said Elise Keppler, associate director of the group’s International Justice Program. “The world watched in horror as Sudan’s government carried out brutal attacks on Darfur civilians, killing, raping, burning and looting villages, starting in 2003. But after 13 years, justice has finally caught up with one major fugitive of the crimes.

Kushayb’s arrest underscored the importance of the International Criminal Court, which has faced fierce criticism from the United States.

“Justice is not always immediately possible, making the ICC’s role as a permanent court so critical,” she said. “ICC arrest warrants have no expiration date, but do rely on cooperation from states to be enforced.”


Mike Corder reported from The Hague, Netherlands. Krista Larson in Dakar, Senegal, contributed to this story.

Plain Jane

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JUNE 11, 2020 / 3:09 AM / UPDATED AN HOUR AGO
Jobs gone, investments wasted: Africa's deserted safaris leave mounting toll

Mfuneko Toyana

MABARHULE, South Africa (Reuters) - When Khimbini Hlongwane spent most of his small safari tour company’s savings on the deposit for a new minibus in February, it seemed like a safe bet.

His revenues had doubled in the previous year. And bookings by American, British, and Brazilian tourists hoping to catch a glimpse of elephants, giraffes and lions at South Africa’s famous Kruger National Park were up.

Now, with borders closed and airlines grounded due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Africa’s multi-billion-dollar safari industry is unravelling and he can no longer afford the payments on the new 21-seater, which sits collecting dust in the parking lot.

“It hasn’t moved since the day we bought it,” said Hlongwane, who has been forced to stop paying the salaries of his five employees. “We could’ve been using that money to survive right now.”

From Kenya’s Masai Mara to the Okavango Delta in Botswana, rural communities that depend on safaris for income are seeing their livelihoods and dreams shattered. Hundreds of thousands of people rely on the sector, not to mention their dependents.

A slump in tourist dollars has hit conservation projects hard. And even as countries around the world loosen lockdowns, game parks, lodges and travel agencies face a grim future.

The safari industry generates some $12.4 billion in annual revenues for South Africa, Botswana, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania Uganda and Zambia - Africa’s top wildlife tourist destinations - according to an estimate by SafariBookings.

But a survey of over 300 tour operators conducted by the online safari travel platform this month showed that almost 93% reported a drop in bookings of at least 75% due to the pandemic. Cancellations have also spiked, the majority of them said.

Leon Plutsick’s Distinctly Africa lodge on the Manyeleti private game reserve bordering the Kruger National Park had been full in March.

Today, his employees are sitting at home and baboons have ransacked his unstaffed kitchen.

“We’re getting to a point where we have to ask ourselves how long do we carry on?” he said. “A lot of us are living on reserves just to survive.”

Plutsick is not alone.

A survey of close to 500 businesses in the Kruger Lowveld district - South Africa’s safari heartland - conducted by the local tourism agency last month, found 90% believed they would not survive even if international borders opened immediately.

Over two-thirds of them have laid off employees.

The lack of tourist dollars is forcing wildlife projects across Africa to make cuts, and beyond the human cost, conservationists worry that growing desperation in rural communities hit by COVID-19 could fuel a wave of poaching.

Three popular game parks in South Africa recently dehorned dozens of rhinos as a preventative measure, hoping that it would make them less attractive targets for poachers.

In Mabarhule, a community on the edge of Kruger National Park, roughly half of residents were already jobless before the pandemic.

Freelance workers like Sipho Nkosi - a tour guide and father of four who typically makes around 550 rand ($33) per tour - have found themselves without a safety net.

“We’d saved some money. But its running out, so we’ll start starving,” said Nkosi, standing outside a half-completed community hall that was being built using tourist donations.

The Madilika Craft Centre sits so close to the boundary of the Kruger National Park that lions can sometimes be heard roaring in the distance.

A layer of dust now coats the pink walls of the women’s cooperative, which shut when the private game lodges where it sold its traditional Xitsonga beaded jewellery closed down in March.

Now, with her income gone, co-founder Jane Mashele is hoping the sweet potatoes and spinach in her garden will be enough to feed her four orphaned grandchildren.

“We started the centre because we were tired of sitting at home with no jobs,” she said. “This is terrible.”

In South Africa, which has recorded the most COVID-19 cases of any African nation, Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane warned parliament last month that up to 600,000 jobs were at risk if the sector remained shut until September.

Governments’ relief initiatives - like South Africa’s offer of 50,000 rand ($3,000) one-time grants to small tourism businesses - will do little to staunch the losses, some operators said.

In the face of looming financial calamity, the Tourism Business Council of South Africa - the industry’s lobby group - is pushing for international tourism to resume as early as September.

With the pandemic’s peak on most of the continent still predicted to be months away, that appears unlikely.

South Africa’s government has instead said regional and international tourism are only expected to resume next year.

Kenya, Namibia and Rwanda also remain closed to international visitors, while in Zambia tourists are permitted but face a two-week quarantine upon arrival. Tanzania has dropped quarantine requirements and is welcoming foreign guests.

One East African tour operator said even if restrictions were eased, international travellers could be discouraged by the possibility of quarantines when they return home.

In the meantime, South Africa, for one, hopes domestic visitors can drive the first phase of a recovery. South African national parks are now opening for self-driving safaris.

But overnight visits and travel across provincial borders remain banned under current restrictions. Even when permitted, some operators worry that local visitors will not be enough to save their businesses.

“To open for two or four or six people, is it actually worth it?” asked lodge owner Plutsick. “I’ll just be digging myself a bigger hole.”

($1 = 16.8141 rand)

Additional reporting by Omar Mohammed in Nairobi; Editing by Joe Bavier and Mike Collett-White
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JUNE 11, 2020 / 6:11 AM / UPDATED 19 HOURS AGO
At least 10 Ivory Coast soldiers killed in attack near Burkina border, army says


ABIDJAN (Reuters) - At least 10 soldiers were killed and six wounded in an attack on an Ivory Coast military post on the northern border near Burkina Faso on Thursday, the army said.
It was not yet clear who carried out the pre-dawn attack, which was the deadliest in Ivory Coast since gunmen from al Qaeda’s North African branch stormed the beach resort of Grand Bassam in March 2016, killing 19 people.

The head of the armed forces, Lassina Doumbia, said in a statement that 10 soldiers were killed and six wounded. He added that one of the assailants was killed.

Earlier, a senior officer at the army chief of staff’s office said 12 soldiers had been killed and seven wounded, and added that two other military gendarmes were reported missing.

The assailants were believed to have come from Burkina Faso, said the officer, speaking to Reuters by phone.

Doumbia said that all troops in the region were on alert and that a search operation was under way to find the assailants.

Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso launched a joint military operation last month to tackle the expanding threat from Islamist jihadists linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State in the Sahel region.

A week ago, the U.S. Embassy in Ivory Coast banned its staff from traveling to the country’s northern areas bordering Burkina Faso and Mali because of the risk of attacks.

Islamist groups with links to Islamic State and al Qaeda have sought to widen their influence in West Africa in recent years, regularly carrying out deadly attacks.

The landlocked nations of Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso have been worst hit, in part because their unpoliced desert expanses have allowed fighters to cross borders undetected.

Reporting by Ange Aboa and Thiam Ndiaga; Writing by Juliette Jabkhiro and Edward McAllister; Editing by Bate Felix, Alison Williams and Frances Kerry
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Extremist group al-Shabab sets up COVID-19 center in Somalia

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — The al-Qaida-linked extremist group in Somalia has unveiled a COVID-19 isolation and care facility, a sign that the group is taking seriously the pandemic that continues to spread in the fragile country.

Al-Shabab announced Friday that the facility, which includes a round-the-clock hotline, has been set up in Jilib, a major stronghold of the extremist group in southern Somalia.

“I am urging people with the disease symptoms to come to the medical facility and avoid infecting other Muslims,” Sheikh Mohamed Bali, a senior al-Shabab official and a member of the group’s ad hoc COVID-19 response committee, said in a speech broadcast by the extremist group’s radio arm Andalus.

When The Associated Press called al-Shabab’s COVID-19 hotline, a man who answered said the care facility is “open for all people.” He declined to say whether they had any virus cases but said the facility — set up in a building that once housed the United Nations children’s agency in Jilib — has all necessary equipment to isolate and treat patients.

For months, Somali health officials have warned that areas controlled by al-Shabab in central and southern Somalia could be at high risk for the virus’ spread. The extremist group has resisted assistance from the government and international health organizations in this and past crises including drought.

No information was immediately available about any virus cases in al-Shabab strongholds that remain off-limits for health workers and authorities, or how COVID-19 cases would be confirmed.

The Horn of Africa nation has more than 2,500 confirmed virus cases and has one of the world’s least-equipped health systems after years of conflict and poverty, leading to fears that untold numbers of cases might be going undetected.

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JUNE 13, 2020 / 6:25 PM / UPDATED 9 HOURS AGO
Militants kill 20 soldiers, 40 civilians in northeast Nigeria attacks


MAIDUGURI (Reuters) - Islamic militants killed at least 20 soldiers and more than 40 civilians and injured hundreds in twin attacks in northeast Nigeria’s Borno state on Saturday, residents and a civilian task force fighter said.

The attacks, in the Monguno and Nganzai local government areas, came just days after militants killed at least 69 people in a raid on a village in a third area, Gubio.

Two humanitarian workers and three residents told Reuters that militants armed with heavy weaponry including rocket launchers arrived in Monguno, a hub for international non-governmental organizations, at roughly 11 a.m. local time. They overran government forces, taking some casualties but killing at least 20 soldiers and roaming the area for three hours.
The sources said hundreds of civilians were injured in the crossfire, overwhelming the local hospital and forcing some of the injured to lay outside the facility awaiting help.

The sources said the militants also set fire to the local police station and burned down the United Nations’ humanitarian hub in the area, although a UN spokesperson said the facility sustained only light damage. Fighters distributed letters to residents, in the local Hausa language, warning them not to work with the military, white Christian westerners or other “non-believers”.

Militants also entered Nganzai at about the same time on Saturday, according to two residents and one Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) fighter. They arrived on motorcycles and in pickup trucks and killed more than 40 residents, the sources said.

A military spokesman did not answer calls for comment on the attacks. U.N. officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

Boko Haram and its offshoot, Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), have killed thousands and displaced millions in northeastern Nigeria. ISWAP claimed the two Saturday attacks, and the Gubio attack.

Reporting By Maiduguri newsroom; Additional reporting by Lanre Ola; Writing by Libby George; Editing by Daniel Wallis and David Gregorio
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JUNE 15, 2020 / 3:19 AM / UPDATED 2 HOURS AGO
Congo's gold being smuggled out by the tonne, U.N. report finds


(Reuters) - Gold production in Democratic Republic of Congo continues to be systematically underreported while tonnes of the precious metal is smuggled into global supply chains through its eastern neighbours, a United Nations report has found.

The countries along Congo’s eastern border have long been conduits for gold worth billions of dollars mined using rudimentary means by so-called “artisanal” miners.

Difficult to trace, trade in the precious metal has fueled regional wars, funded rebel fighters and led to UN sanctions on traders involved in a bid to staunch the flow.

North Kivu, South Kivu and Ituri provinces reported official production of just over 60kg of artisanal gold in 2019, yet exported a total of just over 73kg, the UN Group of Experts on the Congo found in its annual report.

The group estimated that at least 1.1 tonnes of gold were smuggled out of Ituri province alone in 2019. That would have earned the government up to $1.88 million in taxes had it been legally exported.

Across all gold-producing provinces the loss is likely much greater. Artisanal miners in Congo produce 15 to 22 tonnes of gold a year, Germany’s Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources has estimated.

“The country remained one of the Great Lakes region’s largest artisanal gold producers, and yet one of its smallest official exporters,” the Group of Experts wrote.

Asked by Reuters about the report, Congo’s mines minister, Willy Kitobo Samsoni, said he could not immediately share his figures on mineral smuggling from the east of the country.

The UN experts also found that Uganda and other neighbouring countries export far more gold than they produce, suggesting they might still be staging posts for smuggled Congolese gold.

More than 95% of gold exports from Uganda in 2019, which totaled just over 25 tonnes, were not of Ugandan origin, the group estimated, based on 2018 production and 2019 export data.

Uganda’s gold exports more than doubled in 2019 compared with the previous year, central bank data showed in March.

Uganda’s energy minister did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the report.

Smugglers told the Group of Experts that Kampala was a main trading hub for gold from Ituri. Smuggled gold from South Kivu went to Burundi, Rwanda, the United Arab Emirates, and Tanzania, the report added.

Reporting by Helen Reid and Hereward Holland; Editing by Hugh Lawson
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Egypt: Ethiopia rejecting ‘fundamental issues’ on Nile dam
By SAMY MAGDYyesterday

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FILE - In this June 28, 2013 file photo, construction work takes place, at the site of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam near Assosa, Ethiopia. Egypt and Sudan said talks over a controversial massive Nile dam would be resumed Monday, June 15, 2020, amid Egyptian accusations that Ethiopia has sought to scrap “all agreements and deals” they had previously reached, and that “many fundamental issues” remain rejected by Ethiopia, the third party to the project. (AP Photo/Elias Asmare, File)

CAIRO (AP) — Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia on Sunday said talks would continue later this week to resolve their dispute over a Nile dam Ethiopia is constructing, even as Cairo accused Addis Ababa of rejecting “fundamental issues” at the heart of the negotiations.

Ethiopia wants to begin filling the dam’s reservoir in the coming weeks, but Egypt has raised concerns that filing the reservoir too quickly and without a deal could significantly reduce the amount of Nile water available to Egypt. Both countries have made clear in the past that they could take steps to protect their interests, should negotiations fail, and experts fear a breakdown in talks could lead to conflict.

The talks resumed last week via video conference after months of deadlock, and will start up again on Monday, statements from the three main Nile basin countries said Sunday.

However, the most recent negotiations have been punctuated by strong comments from both Egypt and Ethiopia.

Egypt’s Irrigation Ministry said in a statement late Saturday that Ethiopia was looking to renegotiate a number of points of contention, which “demonstrated that there are many fundamental issues that Ethiopia continues to reject.”

Irrigation Ministry spokesman Mohammed el-Sebaei accused Ethiopia of bogging down the talks with a new proposal he called “concerning.”

A day earlier, Ethiopia’s deputy army chief had said his country will strongly defend itself and will not negotiate its sovereignty.

Talks came to an acrimonious halt in February, after Ethiopia rejected a U.S.-crafted deal and accused the Trump administration of siding with Egypt. At the time, Egypt’s Foreign Ministry said it would use “all available means” to defend “the interests” of its people.

Construction of the $4.6 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile is over 70% complete, and promises to provide much-needed electricity to Ethiopia’s 100 million people. Egypt seeks to protect its main source of freshwater for its large and growing population, also more than 100 million.

William Davison, senior analyst at the Crisis Group, a Brussels-based think tank, said the resumption of talks was “necessary and positive,” however there were still “considerable disagreements” between the parties on key issues, primarily how to manage future droughts, and also how to resolve any future disputes that arise.

“Any further pause in talks would not be welcome as the only way to resolve this matter is for the parties to remain engaged in negotiations until they reach consensus on the outstanding issues,” he said.

“The Ethiopian proposal aims to scrap all the agreements and understandings reached by the three countries during the negotiations spanning nearly a decade,” el-Sebaei said Saturday.

Ethiopia’s Water and Energy Ministry on Sunday said el-Sebaei’s comments were “regrettable.” It said that if the ongoing negotiations failed, it would be because of “Egypt’s obstinacy to maintain a colonial-based water allocation agreement that denies Ethiopia and all the upstream countries their natural and legitimate rights.”

Egypt has received the lion’s share of the Nile’s waters under decades-old agreements dating back to the British colonial era. Eighty-five percent of the Nile’s waters originate in Ethiopia from the Blue Nile, which is one of the Nile’s two main tributaries.

Ethiopia has said it plans to start filling the dam in July this year, at the start of the rainy season.


Associated Press writer Elias Meseret contributed from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

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JUNE 16, 2020 / 3:05 AM / UPDATED AN HOUR AGO
Exclusive: African nations seek U.N. inquiry into U.S. racism, 'police brutality': text

Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA (Reuters) - African countries are lobbying to set up a U.N. inquiry into “systemic racism” and “police brutality” in the United States and elsewhere, aiming to defend the rights of people of African descent, a draft resolution seen by Reuters shows.

The text, circulating among diplomats in Geneva, voices alarm at “recent incidents of police brutality against peaceful demonstrators defending the rights of Africans and of people of African descent”. It is due to be considered at an urgent debate of the U.N. Human Rights Council on Wednesday.

The 47-member Council agreed on Tuesday to convene at the request of Burkina Faso on behalf of African countries after the death last month of George Floyd, an African American, in police custody in Minneapolis. His death has ignited protests worldwide.

The United States, which quit the Council two years ago alleging bias against its ally Israel, has not commented on being put in the dock.

The text, subject to change after negotiation at the Council, calls for setting up “an independent international commission of inquiry ... to establish facts and circumstances related to the systemic racism, alleged violations of international human rights law and abuses against Africans and of people of African descent in the United States of America and other parts of the world”.

The panel should examine federal, state and local government responses to peaceful protests “including the alleged use of excessive force against protesters, bystanders and journalists”.

The resolution calls on the United States and other countries to cooperate fully with the inquiry, which would report back in a year.

The Council already has commissions of inquiry or fact-finding missions into human rights violations in hotspots including Syria, Burundi, Myanmar, South Sudan, Venezuela and Yemen.

Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Andrew Heavens, William Maclean
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Opinion: Ethiopia is on the brink of failure
Delayed elections and ethnic tensions are undermining Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's reform agenda. But the postponed polls could also be a chance for Ethiopia, says DW's Ludger Schadomsky.

Men wait in line to vote

People making an international calls to Ethiopia last week got a big surprise. Not because of the bad telephone connection — they got used to that a long time ago.

Rather, it was because before they were connected, they heard the voice of none other than Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed promoting the country's plan to plant 20 billion seedlings by 2024 — an ambitious reforestation project that again highlights Ethiopia's reputation as Africa's poster child.

It might have been a great PR stunt for the international community — but it didn't sit well with many Ethiopians at home who mockingly asked if Abiy didn't have other, slightly more pressing, issues to address than the planting trees.

For example, the coronavirus pandemic that the country of 100 million people and a severely underfunded health system is still battling.

Or Ethiopia's reconciliation project that launched with Abiy's appointment as a young reformist prime minister in 2018 but is now threatening to crash land.

After all, polls originally scheduled for August have now been stalled indefinitely because of the COVID-19 outbreak. The government's mandate set to end in October has also been extended until the end of the conronavirus pandemic despite constitutional concerns.

Reconciliation bites the dust?
Before the announcement of the election delay, Ethiopia already faced growing interethnic violence and more than a dozen small ethnic groups were calling for greater regional autonomy. Nationalists in the regions of Oromia, Tigray and Amhara, who can rely on legions of unemployed, disillusioned young people, have been busy moblizing support for a while now.

Who would have thought that two years after Abiy — a hope bearer and the winner of the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize — took power, militias manning roadblocks would be part of Ethiopia's everyday life?

Abiy, who is still celebrated abroad, is no longer a favorite at home. For example, his former ally Jawar Mohammed, a media mogul and social media influencer, has moved over to the opposition camp.
Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed smiles
Abyi Ahmed has been celebrated as the "bearer of hope"
In a culture used to distrusting the authorities, conspiracy theories are shooting up like weeds. One of the most popular is that Abiy is using the coronvavirus pandemic to consolidate his power beyond the constitutional deadline.

Collapse of the multi-ethnic state?
Meanwhile, Abiy's political opponents are plotting revenge. The Tigray minority, who traditionally were among the ruling elite before Abiy came to power, are marketing themselves as victims of his reforms. In an affront to Abiy's leadership, they've said they'll go ahead and hold the elections in August anyway.
Photo of Ludger Schadomsky
Ludger Schadomsky, Head of DW Amharic Service
The election delays are now causing an imminent showdown that could tear apar the multi-ethnic country with its 80 diverse groups.

At the same time, Ethiopia's respectful culture of debate — developed over three millennia and of which Ethiopians are rightly proud – is crumbling. Leading politicians are now insulting each other on social media with unprecedented malice.
And that once influential religious leaders are now unable to calm the waters shows the extent of the political divide.

Poll postponement an opportunity
But the election delay and the extension of the government's mandate should also be seen as an opportunity for reconciliation — perhaps the government's last chance if the time gained up to 2021 could be used for a genuine National Dialogue that involves the entire region, including neighboring Eritrea.

This, however, would require all leaders to display a modicum of humility and a willingness to compromise, something that isn't evident at the moment.

If the rifts between the ethnic groups deepen further, then boycotts of the 2021 election and marauding militias could see the country dissolve into violence.

Reconciliation through COVID-19?
The coronavirus, of all things, could in the end help reconciliation in Ethiopia. That is if Ethiopians from all ethnicities and political beliefs come together to tackle the virus, thereby practicing national building in a very practical way.

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Egypt & Ethiopia Are On Verge Of War Over Water As Nile Crisis Escalates
Profile picture for user Tyler Durden
by Tyler Durden
Fri, 06/19/2020 - 03:30

A new report in the major Russian online newspaper Vzglyad, details prospects for the inevitability of war between Egypt and Ethiopia, if not today, then in the future.
Via Reuters: "Ethiopia sees the dam as essential for its electrification and development, while Sudan and Egypt view it as a threat to essential water supplies."
According to the Russian-language report, negotiations between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia resumed on Sunday over a set of issues related to building a huge hydroelectric station on the Nile.

The Ethiopians are building on the Blue Nile, Africa’s largest hydroelectric power plant, surpassing the Sayano Shushenskaya Hydropower Station,” journalist Yevgeny Krotikov said, pointing out that Ethiopia would become the second largest generator of electricity in Africa.

And Bloomberg confirms that the Russia-sponsored talks have failed :

A last ditch attempt to resolve a decade-long dispute between Egypt and Ethiopia over a huge new hydropower dam on the Nile has failed, raising the stakes in what - for all the public focus on technical issues - is a tussle for control over the region’s most important water source.
The talks appear to have faltered over a recurring issue: Ethiopia’s refusal to accept a permanent, minimum volume of water that the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, or GERD, should release downstream in the event of severe drought.
The Blue Nile is the main artery that feeds the Grand Nile, and the construction of the dam will lead to severe decay in the valley waters, where up to 90% of the Egyptian population lives.

Last year, an open conflict (between Ethiopia and Egypt) was avoided at the Russia-Africa summit in Sochi.

The current exacerbation is due to the fact that the Ethiopians have started filling the dam reservoir and will do so in record time, with a duration of three years.

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Now, it is incomprehensible that any compromise could take place. It was spent. Egypt is guilty of missing an opportunity. A warm congratulations can be sent to the ‘Arab Spring’ and Muslim Brotherhood,” Krotikov argued.

“The next round of negotiations is likely to end with nothing. It is no longer possible to stop Ethiopia from its chosen path, with any international pressure. And Egypt, long ago, lacked the tools to exert such pressure on Addis Ababa. Things are moving towards war, and what can only be postponed for several years until the project works at full capacity, and its real consequences will appear on public life in Egypt.”

The report concluded: “After that, Cairo will have no choice but to try to solve the problem in a simple and severe manner.”

Plain Jane

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I don't know what appealing to the UN will accomplish.

JUNE 19, 2020 / 5:45 PM / UPDATED 12 HOURS AGO
Egypt calls for U.N. intervention in talks on Ethiopia's Grand Renaissance Dam


CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt on Friday called on the United Nations Security Council to intervene to restart talks on the $4 billion hydroelectric dam being built by Ethiopia on the Blue Nile near the border with Sudan.

Talks over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam were halted once again this week, this time only about a fortnight before its expected start-up.

“The Arab Republic of Egypt took this decision in light of the stalled negotiations that took place recently on the Renaissance Dam as a result of Ethiopian stances that are not positive,” the foreign ministry said in a statement on Friday.

The latest round of talks, which had started on June 9 over video conference, followed a previous round of negotiations in Washington, which ended without agreement in February.

Egypt, which is almost entirely dependent on the Nile for its fresh water supplies, sees it as a potentially existential threat. It is anxious to secure a legally binding deal that would guarantee minimum flows and a mechanism for resolving disputes before the dam starts operating.

The dam is the centrepiece in Ethiopia’s bid to become Africa’s biggest power exporter.

Reporting by Omar Fahmy; Writing by Nadine Awadalla; Editing by Sandra Maler and Grant McCool
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JUNE 21, 2020 / 4:21 AM / UPDATED AN HOUR AGO
Blasts kill 7 people in southern and central Somalia


MOGADISHU (Reuters) - At least seven people have died in two separate bomb attacks in southern and central Somalia in the last 24 hours, police and military officers said on Sunday.
In the first incident, two bombs planted in front of the house of a military official in Wanlaweyn town, 90 km northwest of the capital Mogadishu, exploded late on Saturday, killing four people, including soldiers and civilians.

No group has claimed responsibility. Such attacks are commonplace in Somalia, where Islamist militant organisation al Shabaab have been waging a 12-year campaign to topple the central government.

“First we heard a blast at the house. The military officer was absent by then. Guards and residents came to find out what caused the blast and then a second blast went off,” Mohamed Nur, a police officer, told Reuters from Wanlaweyn on Sunday.

In the second incident, three militants in a car carried out a suicide bomb attack at a military checkpoint in Bacadweyn town in central Somalia’s Galmudug state on Sunday.

Soldiers shot at the vehicle after its occupants ignored orders to stop. Three soldiers died and two others were wounded, according to Major Abdullahi Ahmed, a military officer in the nearby town of Galkayo.

Al Shabaab, which wants to establish its own rule in Somalia based on its own strict interpretation of Islamic sharia law, could not be reached for comment.

Residents of Bacadweyn, about 180 km to south east of Galkayo, said they were afraid the attackers belonged al Shabaab.

“Al Shabaab have never attacked us. We are horrified this morning to witness a suicide car bomb. Government forces are a target but such attacks will not spare civilians,” local elder Hassan Nur told Reuters.

Reporting by Abdi Sheikh; Editing by George Obulutsa and Raissa Kasolowsky
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JUNE 22, 2020 / 6:58 AM / UPDATED 2 HOURS AGO
Minibus drivers in South Africa strike over coronavirus funding

$1 = 17.38)
JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Drivers of minibus taxis in South Africa’s financial hub Gauteng went on strike on Monday to demand more financial support from government, leaving thousands of commuters stranded.

Dozens of taxis blocked busy roads in Johannesburg and Pretoria, confronting police and soldiers. Many people were stuck at taxi ranks, while others walked to work or piled onto buses.

Since a coronavirus shutdown began in late March, taxis have been permitted to operate at only 70% capacity under strict social distancing measures, a difficult situation as the industry depends on maximum passenger loads at low prices.

The loss of income from smaller loads and lower volumes due the shutdown, which saw most workplaces completely closed, has caused unhappiness in the industry, with operators threatening price increases of more 100% in some areas to cover losses.

The lockdown has been gradually eased and most of the workforce are now allowed to go to work.

On Friday, Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula announced a 1.1 billion one-off payment to registered taxi operators, amounting to about 5,000 rand ($287) per driver. He said this was not compensation for loss of revenue due to coronavirus restrictions but rather assistance from the government.

Taxi operators rejected the relief and the conditions linked to government’s plan to formalise the industry.

Reporting by Mfuneko Toyana; Editing by Angus MacSwan
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JUNE 22, 2020 / 8:18 AM / UPDATED AN HOUR AGO
Morocco used NSO's spyware to spy on journalist, Amnesty says

Tova Cohen

TEL AVIV (Reuters) - Technology developed by Israel’s NSO Group was used by the Moroccan government to spy on journalist Omar Radi, a critic of Morocco’s human rights record, Amnesty International said on Monday.

The organization found that Radi’s phone was subjected to several attacks using a “sophisticated new technique” that silently installed NSO’s Pegasus spyware.

“The attacks occurred over a period when Radi was being repeatedly harassed by the Moroccan authorities, with one attack taking place just days after NSO pledged to stop its products being used in human rights abuses and continued until at least January 2020,” Amnesty said.

If NSO won’t stop its technology from being used in such incidents, “then it should be banned from selling it to governments who are likely to use it for human rights abuses,” said Danna Ingleton, deputy director of Amnesty Tech.

Messages left with Radi, and with Moroccan government spokesperson Said Amzazi and human rights minister Mustapha Ramid were not immediately returned.

An NSO spokesperson said the company has undertaken a human rights policy to comply with United Nations guiding principles and takes any claim of misuse seriously.

“We responded directly to Amnesty International after learning of their allegations ... and we shall immediately review the information provided and initiate an investigation if warranted,” the spokesperson said.

NSO said due to state confidentiality it cannot disclose the identities of customers.

Last year Amnesty said two Moroccan human rights activists were hacked with the help of NSO tools.

Pegasus has been linked to political surveillance in Mexico, the United Aran Emirates and Saudi Arabia, according to the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab, which researches digital surveillance. NSO has denied wrongdoing.

Facebook’s WhatsApp sued NSO in October after finding evidence that the firm had abused a flaw in the chat program to remotely hijack hundreds of smartphones.

In March, Radi was handed a suspended four-month prison term for a tweet he posted in 2019 criticizing the trial of a group of activists.

Moroccan courts have in recent months sentenced a dozen individuals to prison terms of up to four years on charges that include insulting constitutional institutions or public servants and inciting protests, according to rights activists.

Additional reporting by Ahmed El Jechtimi in Rabat,; Editing by Steven Scheer, William Maclean
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Malawi starts voting in a rerun of the presidential poll
By GREGORY GONDWE15 minutes ago

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Malawians queue to cast their votes in Blantyre, Malawi Tuesday, June 23 2020. Polls have opened in Malawi and voters began casting their ballots Tuesday in a rerun of the presidential poll after the courts nullified the results of the election held more than a year ago. (AP Photo/Thoko Chikondi)

BLANTYRE, Malawi (AP) — Voters in Malawi lined up before dawn for a re-run of the 2019 presidential election that the courts nullified over widespread evidence of tampering.
Hundreds of voters braved the cold weather of the southern hemisphere’s winter to vote as soon as the polls opened at 6 a.m.

Incumbent President Peter Mutharika, 79, is looking for a second and final five-year term in office and is running against Lazarus Chakwera, 65, leader of the main opposition Malawi Congress Party.

The Constitutional Court on Feb. 3 struck down Mutharika’s victory in the May, 2019 election, citing evidence of voting fraud, including thousands of ballots that appeared to have been altered using typing correction fluid. The ruling was upheld by the Malawi Supreme Court.

Some 6.8 million Malawians are eligible to cast ballots at more than 5,000 polling stations across the country.

Many voters interviewed Tuesday morning said they are relieved the elections are taking place.

The Human Rights Defenders Coalition, a local organization, led demonstrations across the country to call for fairness in the electoral process. The group’s national coordinator Luke Tembo told AP that the voting Tuesday is what the group had been campaigning for.

“This has now given people a second chance to exercise their rights. Now we have been calling on people to come out in their large numbers to vote to determine the future of this country,” said Tembo. “We believe this time around we are going to get things right and get a free, fair and credible election.”

The day before the vote there was a spate of clashes in capital, Lilongwe, and the lakeshore town of Nkhotakota sparked by rumors of vote rigging. Order was restored by soldiers of the Malawi Defence Force who have been deployed across the country.

The Electoral Commission Chairperson Chifundo Kachale assured all voters that the polling process would be fair.

Before the voting started the U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on “all political actors and stakeholders to renew their commitment to credible and peaceful elections, while observing all preventive measures against the spread of COVID-19,” according to a statement issued by spokesman Stephane Dujarric.

A number of local and international organizations will observe the new elections, in an effort to confirm that they are free and fair. The European Union, the African Union, the Southern African Development Community, several diplomatic missions and the Commonwealth will be observing the elections, the Malawi Electoral Commission’s spokesman Sangwani Mwafulirwa said.

The U.S. and British embassies announced that they sent out small observer missions as a supplement to thousands of domestic election observers and political party monitors.

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Click to copy
Malawi starts counting votes in rerun of presidential poll

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A woman carrying a child on her back washes her hands at a polling station during a presidential election in Blantyre, Malawi, Tuesday, June 23 2020. Polls have opened in Malawi and voters began casting their ballots Tuesday in a rerun of the presidential poll after the courts nullified the results of the election held more than a year ago.(AP Photo/Thoko Chikondi)

BLANTYRE, Malawi (AP) — Polls closed across Malawi Tuesday evening after millions voted for the country’s president in a rerun of the 2019 election that was nullified by the courts because of vote tampering.

Counting of ballots has begun at the 5,000 polling stations and the results will be announced from the National Tally Center in Blantyre. The Malawi Election Commission has eight days to announce the officials results.

Incumbent President Peter Mutharika, 79, is running against Lazarus Chakwera, 65, leader of the main opposition Malawi Congress Party.

The Constitutional Court on Feb. 3 struck down Mutharika’s victory in the May, 2019 election, citing evidence of voting fraud, including thousands of ballots that appeared to have been altered using typing correction fluid. The ruling was upheld by the Malawi Supreme Court.

Some 6.8 million Malawians were eligible to cast ballots.
The Human Rights Defenders Coalition, a local organization, led demonstrations across the country to call for fairness in the electoral process. The group’s national coordinator Luke Tembo told AP that the voting Tuesday is what the group had been campaigning for.

“This has now given people a second chance to exercise their rights. Now we have been calling on people to come out in their large numbers to vote to determine the future of this country,” said Tembo. “We believe this time around we are going to get things right and get a free, fair and credible election.”

The day before the vote there was a spate of clashes in capital, Lilongwe, and the lakeshore town of Nkhotakota sparked by rumors of vote rigging. Order was restored by soldiers of the Malawi Defence Force who have been deployed across the country.

The Electoral Commission Chairperson Chifundo Kachale assured all voters that the polling process would be fair.

Before the voting started the U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on “all political actors and stakeholders to renew their commitment to credible and peaceful elections, while observing all preventive measures against the spread of COVID-19,” according to a statement issued by spokesman Stephane Dujarric.

A number of local and international organizations are observing the new elections, in an effort to confirm that they are free and fair. The European Union, the African Union, the Southern African Development Community, several diplomatic missions and the Commonwealth also observed the elections, the Malawi Electoral Commission’s spokesman Sangwani Mwafulirwa said.

The U.S. and British embassies announced that they sent out small observer missions as a supplement to thousands of domestic election observers and political party monitors.

Plain Jane

Veteran Member

JUNE 24, 2020 / 3:01 PM / UPDATED 17 MINUTES AGO
Congo police disperse parliament protesters with tear gas, water cannon

KINSHASA (Reuters) - Democratic Republic of Congo police fired tear gas and water cannon on Wednesday to repel hundreds of protesters whose rally against a proposed new law threatened to spill into the parliament compound in the capital Kinshasa.

Opponents say the reform, which would place prosecutors under the government’s authority rather than the courts, undermines the independence of the judiciary.

On the second day of protests, crowds of mostly young men chanted and squared up to security forces on the streets around parliament, before being pushed back by armed officers in jeeps.

The proposal was put forward by a member of ex-president Joseph Kabila’s PPRD party, but has faced opposition from the UDPS party of President Felix Tshisekedi.

“We will fight to the end to protect the independence of the judicial system,” said protester and UDPS supporter Jean Kabamba, whose head was wrapped in a Congolese flag.

The tension and frustration felt by Tshisekedi’s party long predates the current events, said Fred Bauma from the Congo Research Group at New York University. The proposed law “is just a trigger,” he told Reuters.

Tshisekedi took power last year, but his presidency has been hampered by an awkward power-sharing deal with Kabila, whose allies control a majority of ministries and seats in parliament.

The recent trial of Tshisekedi’s former chief of staff on embezzlement charges pointed to other cracks in the ruling elite. Vital Kamerhe backed Tshisekedi in his successful election campaign in return for his support in the 2023 race. On Saturday, he was sentenced to 20 years hard labour.

Reporting by Benoit Nyemba and Hereward Holland; Writing by Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Mark Heinrich
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Plain Jane

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JUNE 25, 2020 / 11:29 AM / UPDATED 17 HOURS AGO
At least 10 aid workers kidnapped in southwest Niger

NIAMEY (Reuters) - At least 10 local aid workers have been kidnapped in southwest Niger near the border with Burkina Faso, security sources and an official from APIS, the non-governmental organisation for which they worked, said on Thursday.

It was not clear who had carried out the kidnapping, which took place as the aid workers distributed food in the village of Bossey Bangou on Wednesday, said an APIS representative and a local security official.

Jihadist groups with links to Islamic State and al Qaeda have been expanding their presence in the arid Sahel region of West Africa, and attacks on civilians and armed forces have increased significantly over the last two years.

APIS is an NGO based in Niger-based that has worked with the U.N. World Food Programme during the coronavirus outbreak.

Reporting By Aaron Ross in Dakarm, David Lewis in Nairobi and Moussa Aksar in Niamey; Writing by Edward McAllister; Editing by Kevin Liffey
Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Interesting that there is no mention of this on Reuters or AP.

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JUNE 26, 2020 / 4:56 PM / UPDATED 9 HOURS AGO
Sudan, Egypt say Ethiopia will not fill Nile dam without reaching deal

Ulf Laessing, Giulia Paravicini

CAIRO/ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - Leaders of Sudan, Ethiopia and Egypt agreed that Ethiopia will not start filling its Nile dam without reaching an agreement within two weeks, Sudan and Egypt said on Friday.

Ethiopia, which is building the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) which worries its downstream neighbours Egypt and Sudan, only confirmed “fruitful discussions” with the help of the African Union, the foreign ministry said in a statement.

The dam on the Blue Nile, the source for most Nile water, offered for “all stakeholders the opportunity for unprecedented economic growth and mutual development,” the statement said.

It was not clear whether the statement had been issued after an online summit of leaders from Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who chairs the African Union (AU).

Reuters was unable to get late at night any immediate comment from Ethiopian officials whether they had agreed not to fill the dam until a deal had been reached.

Ethiopia says the $4 billion hydropower project will have an installed capacity of 6,450 megawatts.

The three leaders had “agreed to an AU-led process to resolve outstanding issues,” AU Commission Chair Moussa Faki Mahamat tweeted. He gave no details.

The Egyptian presidency said in a statement after the summit that Ethiopia will not fill the dam unilaterally.

“Egypt’s vision in this regard is represented in the importance of returning to negotiation ... while working to create an environment conducive to the success of these negotiations through Ethiopia’s pledge not to take any unilateral step,” Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi said, according to state media.

Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok said the leaders had agreed to resume talks, suspended last week, the Sudan News Agency said.

With Ethiopia insisting it will use seasonal rains to begin filling the dam’s reservoir next month, Cairo appealed to the U.N. Security Council in a last-ditch diplomatic move. The Council is due to have a public meeting on Monday.

Reporting by Ulf Laessing, Hesham Abdul Khalek, Nayera Abdallah, Ahmed Tolba and Aidan Lewis; editing by Diane Craft and Grant McCool
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Kenya: 3 people killed in clash with police over face masks
By TOM ODULAyesterday

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — A witness says three people were killed in a small town in Kenya’s Rift Valley during a confrontation between police and residents over the wearing of face masks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Police confirmed the deaths but gave a different account.

Human rights activists for weeks have protested alleged killings by Kenyan police officers while enforcing virus-related restrictions. They also accuse officers of using the measures to extort bribes.

Kenneth Kaunda told The Associated Press that violent protests erupted in Lessos on Thursday after residents tried to prevent police officers from taking a motorcycle taxi rider to the station for not wearing a mask. Kenya has made it compulsory to wear face masks in public and failure to comply brings a $200 fine, a hefty fee for many.

Kaunda says residents were tired of police shaking down people for not wearing masks. He asserted that a policeman who had arrested the driver opened fire at the angry crowd, killing a local cobbler.

“He shot at least five times into the crowd,” said Kaunda, a stone mason.

Angered by the cobbler’s death, residents set fire to the house of the local police chief and attacked a police station with stones. In the chaos two other people were shot dead, Kaunda said.

Police said something else sparked the incident.

Kenya’s police spokesman Charles Owino said in a statement that other motorcycle riders tried to prevent their colleague from being arrested for carrying two passengers. The government has restricted motorcycle taxis to carrying one passenger to prevent the spread of the virus.

Owino accused the motorcycle taxi riders of trying to “snatch” a rifle from the arresting officer, leading to the shooting.

Police Inspector-General Hillary Mutyambai told the AP that the police officer who shot the cobbler had been suspended from work and arrested.

Kenya’s police force for two decades has been ranked the country’s most corrupt institution. It’s also Kenya’s most deadly, killing far more people than criminals do, according to human rights groups.

In the last three months 15 people, including a 13-year-old boy, have been killed by police while enforcing the new restrictions, a watchdog group has said. Human rights activists now put the figure at 21.

Activists say there has been no groundswell of widespread public support for change in Kenya, one of Africa’s biggest economies, even as protests have erupted in many parts of the world over police abuse.

But human rights activist Al-Amin Kimathi said that despite the loss of life, it is encouraging to see the public is no longer subdued.

“It is heartening that this time, after the cops killed the first man, the people didn’t sit back but went for the police in protest,” he tweeted. “Serves notice that any other time won’t be the usual resignation.”

Plain Jane

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JUNE 27, 2020 / 5:54 PM / UPDATED 11 HOURS AGO
Malawi opposition leader wins presidential election re-run

Frank Phiri

BLANTYRE (Reuters) - Malawi’s opposition leader Lazarus Chakwera on Saturday was declared the winner of a re-run presidential election, a dramatic reversal of incumbent Peter Mutharika’s discredited win 13 months earlier in a process that analysts viewed as a triumph for democracy in Africa.

Chakwera, 65, secured the required majority, with 58.57% of the vote on Tuesday, the electoral commission said, beating Mutharika. Chakwera won election to a five-year term as president of the nation of 18 million people.

“My victory is a win for democracy and justice. My heart is bubbling with joy,” Chakwera said after his win, which sparked wild late night celebrations on the streets of the capital Lilongwe, his stronghold.

In power since 2014, Mutharika must now either challenge the result in court or step aside. The vote was regarded by analysts as a test of the ability of African courts to tackle ballot fraud and restrain presidential power.

The judiciary infuriated Mutharika in February by overturning the result of the May 2019 election that had given him a second term, citing irregularities, and ordering a re-run. Mutharika’s disputed win sparked months of anti-government demonstrations, a rare sight in Malawi.

The commission declares that Lazarus Chakwera ... has attained the requisite majority of electorate and is duly elected as president,” the electoral commission chairman Chifundo Kachale said.

Before seeking public office, Chakwera served as president of the Malawi Assemblies of God.

Mutharika, 79, earlier on Saturday said there had been voting irregularities including violence and intimidation against his party’s election monitors, but the complaint was dismissed by the electoral commission. The opposition has denied the allegations.

The ruling against Mutharika’s election victory, upheld by the nation’s supreme court, echoed one by a Kenyan court in 2017 that nullified President Uhuru Kenyatta’s election win - although in that case Kenyatta went on to win the re-run.

Both decisions were celebrated by pro-democracy activists on a continent where judges rarely challenge executive power.

There were no independent reports of irregularities, and no international observer missions this time because of COVID-19. Local observers have said the poll was free and fair.

Last year’s cancelled result also forced a change in the electoral system, swapping a “first-past-the-post” system for one in which the winner has to get more than 50% of votes.

Reporting by Frank Phiri; Writing by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo and Tim Cocks; Editing by Will Dunham and Daniel Wallis
Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.