Tag Archives: East Africa

Six children killed in ‘old bomb dares’ – Police.

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In the 1990s, government forces battled rebels from the West Nile Bank Front and the LRA across northern Uganda..

Six children were killed and five others injured in northwest Uganda after an old explosive they found in the bushes detonated as they played with it, police said Thursday.

Three children died instantly while three others succumbed to injuries en route to hospital in Adjumani, a district of West Nile region that witnessed years of conflict and insurgencies.

“The children were playing in the bushes on Tuesday afternoon when they came across an object, and it exploded as they were playing with it,” Josephine Angucia, a regional police spokeswoman, told AFP on Thursday.

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“Preliminary investigations suggest the explosion was from a hand grenade abandoned during the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) insurgency that affected West Nile region, and in particular, Adjumani which was greatly affected.”

Five children were seriously wounded and being treated at the district hospital, Angucia said.

It was the second fatal accident in Adjumani in less than two weeks involving leftover munitions, with a separate recent explosion killing two people, the police spokeswoman said.

In the 1990s, government forces battled rebels from the West Nile Bank Front and the LRA across northern Uganda, with civilians suffering a horrific toll.

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The West Nile Bank Front was crushed by the end of the decade but the LRA survived, continuing its bloody rebellion against President Yoweri Museveni until being forced out of Uganda in 2006.

The United Nations says the LRA killed more than 100,000 people and abducted 60,000 children in a campaign of violence that spread beyond Uganda to Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic.

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#Newsworthy

Pandemonium as 3 reportedly died in Mogadishu car bomb.

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They were driven out of Mogadishu in 2011, but still, control swathes of territory from where they plan and launch frequent, deadly strikes against the government and civilian targets.

At least three people were killed and eight others wounded after a car bomb detonated near a security checkpoint along a key road in Mogadishu Saturday, security official and witnesses said.

“The police were chasing the hostile vehicle after spotting it a few kilometres away from where it exploded. Three civilians died according to the information we have received so far and eight others are wounded,” security official Abdirahman Mohamed told AFP.

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“The police opened fire on the vehicle and chased it and this has allowed many people to flee away from road. This has really limited the number of casualties the blast could have caused,” he added.

Witnesses said they heard gunfire and saw vehicles and three-wheel tuk-tuks scatter before the heavy blast occurred.

“I was at a gym close to where the blast occurred, but thanks to God we have heard the gunshots before the blast. And this alerted many people including myself and we fled from the area to take cover before the vehicle reached the area of the explosion,” Dahir Osman, a witness said.

“The blast was huge, I was inside a shop and I saw police chasing a vehicle on the wrong side of the road. It crashed into several vehicles and tuk-tuks before it exploded close to the checkpoint as police continued opening fire on the vehicle,” said another witness, Aisha Ahmed.

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Mogadishu is regularly targeted with attacks by the Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabaab group who have been waging a long and violent insurgency seeking to unseat the internationally-backed government in Mogadishu.

They were driven out of Mogadishu in 2011, but still, control swathes of territory from where they plan and launch frequent, deadly strikes against the government and civilian targets.

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#Newsworthy

Ethiopia confirm rape reports in Tigray war.

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The UN said last month it had received “disturbing” reports of sexual violence in Tigray, including of individuals forced to rape members of their own family.

Rape has “without a doubt” taken place during the conflict in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region, a government minister said, corroborating eyewitness reports and warnings from the UN.

The statement Thursday night from women’s minister Filsan Abdullahi Ahmed marks the first official acknowledgement of crimes activists fear have been widespread.

A government taskforce “unfortunately established rape has taken place conclusively and without a doubt,” Filsan said on Twitter.

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Law enforcement officials “are currently processing the data in terms of numbers,” she said, expressing hope that perpetrators will be “brought to justice”.

Filsan did not say which forces were responsible for rapes documented by the government taskforce.

But multiple women have told AFP about being raped by Eritrean forces, whose presence in Tigray is widely documented but officially denied by Addis Ababa and Asmara.

Friday marked the 100th day of fighting pitting forces loyal to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government against troops supporting the ruling party of Tigray, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).

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Though Abiy declared victory in late November when the Ethiopian military entered the Tigrayan capital Mekele, the TPLF vowed to fight on, and aid workers say persistent insecurity is hampering the humanitarian response.

Thousands have died in the conflict, according to the International Crisis Group, and tens of thousands of refugees have streamed across the border into Sudan.

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But humanitarian and media access restrictions have made it difficult to assess conditions on the ground.

The UN said last month it had received “disturbing” reports of sexual violence in Tigray, including of individuals forced to rape members of their own family.

A ‘big’ step
Sehin Teferra, founder of Ethiopian feminist organisation Setaweet Movement, told AFP it was “a big thing” that Filsan acknowledged rape had happened in Tigray.

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“It’s really, really hard to talk about in terms of numbers and to verify rape anywhere. All we know is it’s happening on a large scale and we know that from firsthand reports,” she said.

Some parents in Tigray are shaving their daughters’ heads and dressing them “as boys” to protect them from rape, she said, adding that her organisation had received multiple accounts of rape committed by Eritrean soldiers.

It is important for the government to follow through on promises to investigate and provide support to victims, Sehin said.

She also called for authorities to investigate rape in other conflict zones in Ethiopia, including in the western zone of Metekel where inter-ethnic violence is intensifying.

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“We really shouldn’t forget about other active conflicts,” she said.

“I know everybody’s resources are stretched, but it’s really important to acknowledge that rape happens everywhere.”

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#Newsworthy

Orphanage owner ‘jailed’ for sexually abusing minors in Kenya.

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Dow’s sex crime came to public knowledge after two girls, aged 12 and 14, escaped from the orphanage and told of sexual abuses going on at the orphanage.

An American man identified as Gregory Dow has been sentenced to over 15 years in prison plus a lifetime of supervised release, for engaging in illicit sexual conduct in Kenya.

According to a statement by The United States Department of Justice, the court also ordered Dow, to pay a total of $16,000 in restitution.

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Investigation by FBI’s Philadelphia Field office with assistance from Kenyan authorities and local law enforcement in Lancaster County revealed that the 61-year old Dow travelled to Kenya in 2008 to start an orphanage with his wife.

Dow while still maintaining close ties with the US sexually abused the children at the orphanage called Dow Family Children’s Home on multiple occasions.

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His wife was accused of being complicit in the abuses.

He abused at least four minor girls between October 2013 and September 2017.

“Trial Attorneys Lauren S. Kupersmith and Lauren E. Britsch of the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS) and Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy M. Stengel of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania prosecuted the case,” the statement read.

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Dow’s sex crime came to public knowledge after two girls, aged 12 and 14, escaped from the orphanage and told of sexual abuses going on at the orphanage.

A Kenyan woman living in the US, who had just returned to her village, heard of the stories of sexual abuse and tipped off the FBI.

The woman, Margaret Ruto collected the testimonies of the escaped girls herself. Two of the girls were as young as 11 years old when the abuse began.

“I was meant to know about this,” Ruto told Washington Post. “And I was meant to do something about it.”

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“The defendant’s wife even transported the victims to a medical clinic to have birth control devices implanted into their arms, which allowed Dow to perpetrate his crimes without fear of impregnating his victims,” the US attorney’s office said in a statement after Dow was sentenced.

Dow is known sex offender long before he travelled to Kenya. He pleaded guilty to assault with intent to commit sexual abuse in 1996. He received two years’ probation and was ordered to register as a sex offender for a decade.

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#Newsworthy

Ethiopia strikes deal with United Nations to allow aid workers access Tigray.

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UN refugees chief Filippo Grandi stressed the need for a more efficient system of facilitating access for aid workers and distributing aid.

The United Nations’ food agency says it has reached a deal with Ethiopia to expand access for aid workers and “scale up” operations in the country’s conflict-hit Tigray region.

David Beasley, the head of the World Food Programme (WFP), made the announcement late on Saturday amid growing fears of a humanitarian catastrophe in Tigray, a region of more than five million people.

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Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on November 4 ordered air raids and a ground offensive against Tigray’s former governing party – the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) – after its forces attacked federal army bases in the northern region. Abiy declared victory on November 28 after the TPLF withdrew from the regional capital, Mekelle, and other main cities, but low-level fighting has continued.

Thousands of people are believed to have died and hundreds of thousands have fled their homes since fighting began. Both sides deny their forces have committed atrocities, and blame their rivals for the killing of civilians.

Top UN officials and international NGOs have repeatedly complained about access restrictions to Tigray.

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The government and the WFP “have agreed on concrete steps to expand access for humanitarians across Tigray, and WFP will scale up its operations”, Beasley said on Twitter following a visit to the Mekelle.

“Nearly 3 million people need our help NOW and we have no time to waste,” he added.

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A WFP statement said Ethiopian officials had agreed to speed up reviews of aid workers’ requests to move within the embattled region.

The WFP’s statement also said the agreement had agreed to government requests to provide emergency food aid to one million people in Tigray and help with transport to hard-to-reach rural areas.

Ethiopian Peace Minister Muferihat Kamil said in a separate statement the government was “moving with urgency to approve requests for international staff movements into and within Tigray”.

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The new terms fall “under the existing agreement” between the government and the UN on aid, according to the WFP statement.

That agreement restricted UN access to areas under government control. In early December, a UN team visiting refugees in Tigray region was shot at after failing to stop at two checkpoints, according to the government.

But a senior UN official told the AFP news agency the progress was nevertheless “significant” and would facilitate access deeper into Tigray.

“It’s not good enough to just stick to the safe routes, the secure routes,” the official said. “Our role is to be determined to get to where the last person in need is, and the presence of militias should not really hamper us.”

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The WFP statement noted that “armed escorts for humanitarian cargo and personnel will be undertaken as a last resort”.

The conflict has displaced tens of thousands of people [Ashraf Shazly/AFP]

Tigray remains largely cut off to media, making it difficult to assess the situation on the ground.

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The UN official noted that “insecure areas [are] were “many and significant”.

A new UN report earlier this month said life for civilians in Tigray has become “extremely alarming” amid growing hunger and a “volatile and unpredictable” security situation.

“Reports from aid workers on the ground indicate a rising in acute malnutrition across the region,” it said, according to The Associated Press news agency. “Only 1 percent of the nearly 920 nutrition treatment facilities in Tigray are reachable.”

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Starvation has also become a big concern. “Many households are expected to have already depleted their food stocks, or are expected to deplete their food stocks in the next two months,” according to a new report posted on Thursday by the Famine Early Warning Systems Network, which is funded and managed by the United States.

The report said more parts of central and eastern Tigray likely will enter Emergency Phase 4, a step below famine, in the coming weeks.

The government has played down fears of widespread starvation while touting its own efforts to meet the needs of the population. It says it has provided emergency food aid to 1.8 million people.

During a visit to Ethiopia last week, UN refugees chief Filippo Grandi stressed the need for a more efficient system of facilitating access for aid workers and distributing aid.

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“We heard from everywhere, including from the local authorities, that more is needed” beyond what the government is providing, Grandi said.

“The situation as I said is very grave, is very urgent. Without further action, it will get worse.”

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#Newsworthy

Ugandan senior Army commander guilty of war crimes.

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Seven of these women were forced to be Ongwen’s “so-called wives” and two gave birth to children, leading to the historic conviction for forced pregnancy.

The International Criminal Court on Thursday found a child soldier-turned-Lord’s Resistance Army commander guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity during a reign of terror in Uganda.

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Dominic Ongwen, 45, was found guilty of 61 charges including multiple murders, rape and sexual enslavement by the rebel group, plus the first-ever conviction by the Netherlands-based court for the crime of forced pregnancy.

ICC judges dismissed defence claims that the Ugandan was himself a victim of the notorious LRA, led by the fugitive Joseph Kony, as he had been abducted by the group as a nine-year-old boy and turned into a fighter.

Ongwen had personally ordered attacks on refugee camps in northern Uganda in the early 2000s by the LRA, which waged a bloody campaign to set up a state based on the Bible’s Ten Commandments, the judges said.

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“His guilt has been established beyond any reasonable doubt,” presiding judge Bertram Schmitt said as he read out the verdict in the tribunal in The Hague.

“The chamber is aware that he suffered much. However, this case is about crimes committed by Dominic Ongwen as a responsible adult and a commander of the Lord’s Resistance Army.”

Ongwen, nicknamed “White Ant”, will be sentenced at a later date and faces a maximum punishment of life imprisonment.

Victims and rights groups hailed the verdict as “historic” as it the first conviction to date at the ICC of any leader of the LRA.

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‘Shot, burned and beaten’
The LRA was founded three decades ago by former Catholic altar boy and self-styled prophet Kony, who launched a bloody rebellion in northern Uganda against President Yoweri Museveni.

The United Nations says the LRA killed more than 100,000 people and abducted 60,000 children in a campaign of violence that spread to Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic.

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Judges said Ongwen — whose nom de guerre means “born at the time of the white ant” — rose to become a senior commander ordered his soldiers to carry out massacres of civilians at the Lukodi, Pajule, Odek, and Abok refugee camps between 2002 and 2005.

Children and mothers with babies tied to their backs were among those killed, said judge Schmitt, who read out the names of the victims.

“Civilians were shot, burned and beaten to death. Children were thrown into burning houses, some were put in a polythene bag and beaten to death,” Schmitt said.

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Ongwen, as commander of Kony’s infamous Sinia brigade, was responsible for the abduction of girls to serve as domestic workers and sex slaves, and boys to serve as soldiers, judges said.

Seven of these women were forced to be Ongwen’s “so-called wives” and two gave birth to children, leading to the historic conviction for forced pregnancy.

Soldiers under Ongwen’s command forced some mothers abducted by the group to abandon their crying babies in the bush so they could carry supplies. One two-month-old was dumped in a rubbish pit.

Dominic Ongwen, a senior commander in Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), stands at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, on December 6, 2016. Former child soldier-turned-warlord Dominic Ongwen becomes the first member of Uganda’s brutal Lord’s Resistance Army to go on trial in a landmark case before the International Criminal Court keenly watched by thousands of victims. / AFP PHOTO / ANP / Peter Dejong / Netherlands OUT

‘He deserves death’
At the opening of the trial, prosecutors played gruesome videos of the scene after an LRA attack on Lukodi refugee camp, showing disembowelled children and the charred bodies of babies in shallow graves.

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Kony promoted Ongwen to colonel at about the time of the attack, the judge said.

Ongwen surrendered to US special forces who were hunting Kony in the Central African Republic in early 2015 and was transferred to the ICC to face trial.

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Survivors, victims and former rebel fighters from Lukodi sat under mango trees to listen to the verdict on a small radio provided by a local leader, and burst into cheers when it was announced.

“Good,” shouted Angelina Okiror, 38, a resident of Lukodi, when the verdict was read out.

“At last justice has been delivered,” added Ann Maria Angwech, 43. “Because Ongwen killed, he deserves death, because with his hand he took away innocent lives and left we the survivors destitute.”

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Residents told AFP the horrors of the attack still lingered fresh in their memories.

“A total of 15 of my family members were killed during the attack and very many people were injured,” said farmer Muhammed Olanya, 38.

Human Rights Watch said the verdict was “historic”.

“One LRA leader has at last been held to account at the ICC for the terrible abuses victims suffered,” said Elise Keppler, associate director of the International Justice Program at HRW.

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“Would-be rights violators should take note that the law can catch up with them, even years later.”

Kony remains at large despite a massive international manhunt on an ICC warrant.

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#Newsworthy

United Nations ‘still hopes for humanitarian access’ to Tigray.

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Western powers have argued that the influx of refugees into neighbouring Sudan was a humanitarian crisis requiring international intervention.

Every member of the UN Security Council called for increased aid during a closed-door meeting Wednesday to discuss the humanitarian situation in the Tigray region of Ethiopia, according to diplomats.

The meeting had been requested by Ireland, Estonia, France, Norway, Britain and the United States.

“Everyone said there should be more humanitarian access,” one diplomat said under condition of anonymity, though no official statement was released after the discussions.

There was never meant to be a declaration passed, according to the same diplomat, though another said the idea was abandoned because African members of the council had said they would refuse to vote for one, deeming it unproductive.

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Meetings on the situation in Tigray have been few and far between since the Ethiopian military operation began in November, with African countries, in particular, preferring to treat the conflict as a domestic matter.

But Western powers have argued that the influx of refugees into neighbouring Sudan was a humanitarian crisis requiring international intervention.

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The Security Council also failed to produce a declaration after other closed-door meetings on November 24 and December 14.

Youngsters play in front of a damaged truck belonging to the Ethiopian Defense Forces in the village of Bisober, in Ethiopia’s Tigray region on December 9, 2020. – Tigrayan forces settled in the school several months ago. The November 14 killings represent just one incident of civilian suffering in Bisober, a farming village home to roughly 2,000 people in southern Tigray. In retrospect, Bisober residents say, the first sign of the conflict came seven months ago, when members of the Tigray Special Forces took over the village elementary school, which had been emptied because of the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by EDUARDO SOTERAS / AFP)

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in Mid-December announced two deals with Ethiopian authorities that should have allowed access to the country.

But opportunities to deliver aid remain fragile, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Wednesday.

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“Very little is being allowed in,” he said.

“What we need is to be able to just get in there in an unfettered manner without having to, I guess, negotiate for every truck, for every box.”

“We work cooperatively with the government, and it’s their country … we have to go through them, and that’s the way it should be,” Dujarric said.

“But there is a grave humanitarian need in Tigray, and at this point, we’re not able to reach the people that need to be reached.”

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High-level UN figures visited Ethiopia this week, including the high commissioner for refugees Filippo Grandi and UN undersecretary-general Gilles Michaud — while a visit from World Food Program chief David Beasley is expected in the coming days, according to diplomats — to try to gain access to refugee camps.

Akshaya Kumar of the NGO Human Rights Watch said: “The Security Council should hold a public session followed by a strong resolution demanding an end to aid obstruction and immediate investigation of war crimes” in Ethiopia.

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#Newsworthy

Prominent ex-general ‘assaulted’ in Mogadishu hotel raid.

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Barre’s ouster plunged Somalia into decades of clan warfare followed by the rise of Al-Shabaab.

At least five people, including a prominent former general, were killed in an hours-long Al-Shabaab attack on a Mogadishu hotel, which ended around midnight on Sunday, Somali police said.

The Al-Qaeda-linked jihadists detonated a car bomb at the entrance to the Hotel Afrik at a busy junction near the airport before gunmen stormed the hotel, exchanging fire with security personnel.

Somali police spokesman Sadik Dudishe told a press conference that four attackers had also died.

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“Among the dead are five civilians and the gunmen — three of them shot and another who detonated himself. The death toll can be higher and some of the wounded people may succumb.”

He said 10 people had been injured.

The information ministry said in a statement that one of the fatalities was a well-known retired general, Mohamed Nur Galal.

Shabaab claimed in a statement that the 80-year-old Galal was the main target of the attack, as he had been involved in the killing of their fighters and leaders.

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“Galal was trained and committed for so long in the fight against sharia law, while using his knowledge and military intelligence experience to fight mujahidin,” the statement said.

Galal was the commander of Somalia’s armed forces during the 1977 Ogaden War between Somalia and Ethiopia.

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He served under dictator Mohamed Siad Barre as a minister and intelligence chief but led the first wave of the popular uprising against him which was to result in Siad Barre’s ouster in 1991 after a bloody civil war.

Barre’s ouster plunged Somalia into decades of clan warfare followed by the rise of Al-Shabaab.

Al-Shabaab said that Galal was responsible for the death of former Shabaab chief Adan Hashi Ayro — who was killed by a US missile attack in 2008.

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Ali Ato, who went to the hotel to recover the body of a colleague killed in the raid, described the scene.

“I have never witnessed such a level of devastation. We found the dead body of my colleague in front of the room where he stayed but I don’t know if they shot him or he was killed in a grenade explosion,” Ato told AFP.

Debris remain at the blast site from a suicide car bombing attack from the day before at the side of Afrik Hotel in Mogadishu, Somalia, on February 1, 2021. – At least three people including two civilians were killed in a jihadist attack on January 31, 2021 on a Mogadishu hotel, a Somali security source said, adding that the death toll could rise with assailants still inside. (Photo by STRINGER / AFP)Debris remain at the blast site from a suicide car bombing attack from the day before at the side of Afrik Hotel in Mogadishu, Somalia, on February 1, 2021. – At least three people including two civilians were killed in a jihadist attack on January 31, 2021 on a Mogadishu hotel, a Somali security source said, adding that the death toll could rise with assailants still inside. (Photo by STRINGER / AFP)

Al-Shabaab has been waging a violent insurgency across the Horn of Africa country seeking to unseat the internationally-backed government in Mogadishu.

They were driven out of Mogadishu by government forces backed by African Union peacekeepers in 2011.

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But the group still controls swathes of territory outside the cities, from where they launch attacks against government and civilian targets. It has also carried out deadly attacks in neighbouring Kenya.

Somalia was scheduled to hold indirect parliamentary and presidential elections before February 8, but the process has been derailed by political disagreements between the central government in Mogadishu and its federal states.

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#Newsworthy

Storyline: Ugandan opposition leader files election challenge in court.

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Access to the headquarters of his political party, the National Unity Platform (NUP), has been blocked for about two weeks.

Lawyers for Ugandan opposition leader Bobi Wine filed a challenge in the Supreme Court on Monday against President Yoweri Museveni’s victory in last month’s election, claiming the poll was rigged.

The 38-year-old singer-turned-lawmaker came a distant second behind veteran leader Museveni in the January 14 vote that followed some of Uganda’s worst pre-election bloodshed in years.

Medard Sseggona, one of Wine’s lawyers, said “any election Museveni participates in can never be a peaceful election, can never be a free and fair election”.

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“We want nullification of the election. We do not want (Museveni) participating in any future election,” Sseggona said outside the Kampala courthouse where he filed the petition.

Museveni, a 76-year-old former rebel leader who has ruled since 1986, won a sixth term with about 59 percent of the vote.

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Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, secured about 35 percent and slammed the vote as a sham.

Under the constitution, Wine had 15 days from the declaration of results by the electoral commission to challenge the outcome.

The Supreme Court must now rule on the petition within 45 days.

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Losing candidates have sought unsuccessfully in the past to overturn Museveni’s wins in court.

One of Africa’s longest-serving rulers, Museveni has won every election since 1996, almost all marred by allegations of irregularities.

‘Invaded polling stations’
Sseggona said “soldiers invaded polling stations” and stuffed ballot boxes with pre-ticket votes. Electoral registers were tampered with at other locations, he added.

“Museveni cannot be left to cheat and steal scot-free,” Sseggona said.

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Museveni, however, declared the election the cleanest in Uganda’s post-independence history.

The run-up to the vote was marred by violence and a sustained crackdown on government critics and Museveni’s rivals.

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In November, at least 54 people were shot dead by security forces loyal to Museveni during protests against one of Wine’s numerous arrests.

The opposition leader was held under effective house arrest from polling day until a court-ordered security forces end his detention last week.

(FILES) In this file photo taken on January 14, 2021 Musician-turned-politician Robert Kyagulanyi also known as Bobi Wine reacts after casting his ballot at a polling station in Magere, Uganda. – Lawyers for Ugandan opposition leader Bobi Wine launched a legal challenge on February 1, 2021 in the Supreme Court against Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni’s victory in last month’s election, claiming the poll was rigged. (Photo by Yasuyoshi Chiba / AFP)

Security toughened
Security was beefed up across Kampala on Monday, with soldiers atop armoured personnel carriers and police marching in the streets.

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Uganda’s deputy inspector-general of police, Major General Paul Lokech, said the additional security was due to protests threatened by elements aligned to the NUP.

The party denied the allegations, with Secretary-General Lewis David Rubongoya saying it advocates for a “peaceful change of Museveni’s government, and not through violence”.

Civil society activists have criticised the parameters for challenging Ugandan elections, with judges only examining events on voting day and the declaration of results, without also taking into consideration the overall campaign period.

“The electoral jurisprudence narrows an election process to votes, numbers and statistics on declaration day making election petitions very difficult,” independent election analyst Crispin Kaheru told AFP.

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By law, Wine must prove to the court that any alleged irregularities affected the outcome of the election “to a substantial manner” — a much higher burden of proof than in civil cases.

Ugandan courts do not “look at elections as a process but only at events on polling day and declaration day, which makes it very difficult to prove the substantial effect of fraud wrongdoing,” Kaheru said.

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#Newsworthy

Just in: At least five ‘killed’ in Mogadishu hotel raid.

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The hotel is frequented by Somali officials, members of the security forces and community leaders.

At least five people were killed in an hours-long Al-Shabaab attack on a Mogadishu hotel which ended around midnight on Sunday, Somali police said.

The Al-Qaeda-linked jihadists detonated a car bomb at the entrance to the Hotel Afrik at a busy junction near the airport before gunmen stormed the hotel, exchanging fire with security personnel.

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Somali police spokesman Sadik Dudishe told a press conference that four attackers had also died.

“Among the dead are five civilians and the gunmen — three of them shot and another who detonated himself. The death toll can be higher and some of the wounded people may succumb.”

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He said 10 people had been injured.

The information ministry said in a statement that one of the victims was well known retired military official General Mohamed Nur Galal.

Ali Ato, who went to the hotel to recover the dead body of a colleague who was killed during the raid, described the scene.

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“I have never witnessed such a level of devastation. We found the dead body of my colleague in front of the room where he stayed but I don’t know if they shot him or he was killed in a grenade explosion,” Ato told AFP.

Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack in a brief statement, saying: “The mujahidin stormed in an ongoing operation inside Hotel Afrik where members of the apostate team are stationed.”

Al-Shabaab has been waging a violent insurgency across the Horn of Africa country seeking to unseat the internationally-backed government in Mogadishu.

They were driven out of Mogadishu by government forces backed by African Union peacekeepers in 2011.

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But the group still controls swathes of territory outside the cities, from where they launch attacks against government and civilian targets. It has also carried out deadly attacks in neighbouring Kenya.

Somalia was scheduled to hold indirect parliamentary and presidential elections before February 8, but the process has been derailed by political disagreements between the central government in Mogadishu and its federal states.

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#Newsworthy

Jihadists attack on Hotel in Mogadishu

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Somali soldiers surrounded the Hotel Afrik and blocked off access to it, a journalist reported.

Gunmen are attacking a hotel in central Mogadishu following a car bombing at the entrance, according to witnesses and Somali police, with the Al-Shabaab jihadist group claiming responsibility.

The hotel is near the road leading to Mogadishu’s airport, frequented by officials, members of the security forces, and community leaders.

“There is ongoing (an) attack on a hotel… A car bomb hit the front entrance and armed men stormed the building,” police officer Mohamed Adan told AFP.

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“There is an exchange of gunfire and the security forces are trying to rescue people inside from the attackers,” he added.

Witnesses confirmed a massive explosion followed by smoke after a car struck the hotel entrance at great speed, followed by gunfire.

“The gunfire is still going on and there was another blast after the first big one,” said Osman Saadaq, a witness.

Another witness, Muhubo Said, said “casualties could be possibly high”.

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Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack in a brief statement, saying: “The mujahidin stormed in an ongoing operation inside Hotel Afrik where members of the apostate team are stationed.”

The Al-Qaeda-linked group has been waging a violent insurgency across Somalia seeking to unseat the internationally-backed government in Mogadishu.

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#Newsworthy

Uganda Election: Vote count under way

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There was silence when the president’s name was read out.

Ugandans have voted under heavy security and an internet blackout in an election pitting veteran leader Yoweri Museveni against a former popstar Bobi Wine after one of the bloodiest campaigns in years.

Voting in Kampala took place under heavy military and police presence on Thursday, with no reports of violent incidents making their way through the communications shutdown.

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Vote-count is under way after polling stations closed as people turned out in droves to make their mark in an historic, hotly contested election in which Museveni’s reign is said to be strongly tested.

Long lines of voters snaked out of polling stations in the capital, a stronghold for an opposition galvanised by Bobi Wine despite a campaign scarred by deadly crackdowns.

There are 17.7 million registered voters and results are expected within 48 hours. Turnout looked robust, based on footage from polling stations broadcast by private TV channels.

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After polls closed at 4pm local time, hundreds of Bobi Wine supporters in Kampala returned to their polling stations to heed his call to “protect the vote” by watching the count.

Ugandan electoral commission officials count ballot papers after elections at a polling station in Kampala [Sumy Sadurni/AFP]

At the station where Bobi Wine voted, security forces chased his supporters away.

He took to Twitter shortly after voting was finished to announce his and his wife’s phone was blocked.

“I know this is to stop me from communicating to our agents and coordinators,” he added, asking his supporters to be vigilant.

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Reporting from Kampala and quoting the chairman of the electoral commission, NoRM said the election process had largely been smooth.

“He said there were a few hiccups here and there delaying the delivery of the voting materials in some polling stations, identification kits in some stations failed, but all that was sorted,” she added.

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“Voting at a few polling stations did not take place and will do so tomorrow.”

‘Staying to watch’
At three polling stations the Reuters news agency visited during counting, cheers rose up from throngs of young people every time an election agent raised a ballot cast for Bobi Wine.

“I know Museveni always rigs to stay in power. This time we are staying to watch each step of the process,” said Sam Ndaula, 26, a roadside vendor.

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On Thursday, police arrested about 30 people at the Hotel Africana in Kampala on allegations they were creating an illegal parallel tallying centre, a police official at the scene, who declined to be named, told Reuters.

Museveni is still held in high regard by older Ugandans who remember the relative stability and security that he returned to the country.

“These young people, they want change, but they don’t know what Museveni did for us,” said 58-year-old Faith Florence Nakalembe.

But her children, also standing in line in Kamwokya to vote, desperately want change.

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“For 23 years, I have never seen a different president. I want someone else,” said her son, 23-year-old student Saad Mukoone, who was throwing his vote behind Bobi Wine.

Museveni, who has been in power since 1986, says his administration guarantees stability and progress, including much-needed hydropower dams and roads.

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#Newsworthy

Tigray conflict ‘tickles’ land dispute

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Yet any attempt by Mulu to exert authority over Alamata is unlikely to go over well.

As rifle-toting militiamen fired celebratory rounds into the air, young men marched through the streets denouncing the former ruling party of Ethiopia’s Tigray region as “thieves.”

The party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), is the target of military operations ordered by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, last year’s Nobel Peace laureate, that have reportedly left thousands dead since early November.

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But the impromptu parade this month in Alamata, a farming town in southern Tigray flanked by low, rolling mountains, was unrelated to any kind of battlefield victory.

Rather it was to hail the release of Berhanu Belay Teferra, a self-described political prisoner under the TPLF whose pet issue, analysts warn, risks becoming Ethiopia’s next flashpoint.

In 2018, Berhanu, 48, was detained by the TPLF for advocating that his homeland — located in an area known as Raya, of which Alamata is the biggest city — had no business falling under Tigrayan control.

Berhanu argued that the TPLF had illegally incorporated the famously fertile land into Tigray after it came to power in the early 1990s.

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He was detained for more than two years — enduring beatings and long stretches of solitary confinement in a cave — before pro-TPLF forces, fleeing the government’s assault in November, let him go, setting the stage for his triumphant homecoming.

Now reunited with his wife and four children, Berhanu is back to agitating for the transfer of Alamata and its surroundings to Ethiopia’s Amhara region, which borders Tigray to the south.

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“We don’t want to live with Tigray people, who don’t know our culture and traditions,” Berhanu told AFP a few days after the parade marking his return — a moment of joy he said was unrivalled by every other event in his life besides his wedding.

Risking ‘bloodshed’
Raya is not the only place in Tigray where, since the onset of fighting on November 4, some residents have been clamouring for change.

A similar dynamic is playing out in western Tigray, where activists and politicians also accuse the TPLF of annexing land historically administered by ethnic Amharas.

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In both areas, Abiy is, at least for the time being, relying on Amhara special forces to provide security now that the TPLF has been kicked out.

Amhara officials are leading transitional administrations in multiple towns and cities.

And the word “Amhara” has been scrawled on countless abandoned homes and shuttered storefronts like a hastily graffitied claim of ownership.

William Davison, Ethiopia analyst for the International Crisis Group (ICG), described what’s happening in western and southern Tigray as “unconstitutional de facto annexations” that “set a destabilising precedent for the federation”.

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Some newly-installed officials make clear they want nothing to do with Tigray, raising the possibility of future conflict over the land.

“First we were forced to become part of [Tigray]. Now by force this area is liberated,” said Alamata’s new mayor, Kassa Reda Belay, adding he hoped Abiy would “answer the question of the people” — meaning place the area under Amhara authority.

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“If not, there will be a lot of bloodshed, and there will be a civil war,” Kassa said.

Path ahead uncertain
It is not clear what the federal government’s long-term plans are for the contested territory.

The Amhara region’s president, Agegnehu Teshager, has said Amhara security forces did not get involved in the conflict to reclaim land.

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But Zadig Abraha, Ethiopia’s democratisation minister and an Alamata native, told AFP that the city could one day fall under Amhara control.

“The people have asked loud and clear to be part of it. There is a possibility for that to happen and we will have to wait for some time,” Zadig said.

In the meantime, Abiy’s government is working to prop up a caretaker administration in Tigray led by Mulu Nega, a Tigrayan former higher education official.

“If Dr Mulu Nega comes here, there will be two or more demonstrations against it. We don’t want him to come. From now on… we want to live with Amhara people,” said Kassa, the Alamata mayor.

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‘I don’t feel safe’
That kind of language strikes fear into the hearts of men like Hailay Gebremedhin, a Tigrayan who has owned a clothing shop on Alamata’s main street for six years.

In November, when fighting broke out in the mountains around Alamata, he stuffed his sneakers and other merchandise into burlap sacks and ran home, where he huddled for weeks.

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Hailay reopened his shop earlier this month because he’d run out of money and food, but he’s not sure what kind of life he and his fellow Tigrayans can have in the city.

“I don’t feel safe here because there are people going around saying, ‘Oh, we’ve defeated them, we’ve broken them, now they will leave,’” he said.

The ICG’s Davison said “there is likely to be sustained Tigrayan resistance if territories are taken out of Tigray, in the same way that Amhara activists have long agitated for the ‘return’ of them.”

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There are also some activists who believe Raya should become its own region, belonging to neither Tigray nor Amhara.

For now, though, such voices are quiet in Alamata.

Hailay told AFP he’s afraid even to speak in Tigrinya, the Tigrayan language, for fear of reprisals from Amhara officials and security forces.

As he spoke, he looked out towards the roundabout where large crowds gathered during the parade welcoming the return of Berhanu, the self-described political prisoner.

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Planted in the grass was a picket sign that, to Hailay’s mind, read like a threat.

“The Amharas wait patiently,” it said, “but they cannot be broken.”

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#Newsworthy

Ethiopia Attack: More than 200 loses to death

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Regional authorities said on Thursday that troops had killed 42 armed men alleged to have taken part in the massacre, without giving details about their identities.

A total of 207 people were killed in a Wednesday attack by gunmen in western Ethiopia, the country’s Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said, more than doubling a previous count.

The independent government body had on Wednesday said 100 people were killed in their sleep and crops burned in a pre-dawn assault in the Metekel area of the Benishangul-Gumuz region.

“133 of the victims were adult men and 35 were adult women. Seventeen children, one of whom a six-month-old baby, and 20 elderly persons were killed,” the EHRC said in a statement posted to Twitter late Friday.

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Mostly inhabited by ethnic Shinasha, Oromo and Amhara people — the last two making up Ethiopia’s most numerous groups — the Metekel area has suffered a string of deadly attacks in recent months.

Local leaders blame ethnic Gumuz people for the violence.

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Following Wednesday’s attack, “effort is underway to identify the victims with the help of survivors and identity cards,” the EHRC said.

The body repeated its appeal for “relevant authorities to provide urgently humanitarian assistance to the victims and persons displaced by the attack.”

It added that around 10,000 had fled the Bekuji Kebele area and made for the city of Bulen, around 40 kilometres (25 miles) away, which is already sheltering “thousands of displaced persons”.

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“Bulen city is overwhelmed. The roads leading to the city are still teeming with displaced persons and their herds of cattle,” one eyewitness told the commission.

“The massacre in the Benishangul-Gumuz region is very tragic,” Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said in a Twitter post on Thursday, conceding the government’s efforts to solve the problem “had not yielded results”.

In October, he had said that fighters “armed and trained” in Sudan’s neighbouring Blue Nile state were behind the violence and urged Khartoum to tackle the problem.

Abiy claimed that the latest attack had been aimed at “dividing the significant force” deployed to the country’s dissident northern Tigray region.

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There is no known link between the violence in Benishangul-Gumuz and military operations in Tigray.

Thousands have been killed in the Tigray conflict, according to the International Crisis Group think tank, and more than 50,000 people have fled over the border into Sudan.

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#Newsworthy

Tigray Conflict: Ethiopian PM, Abiy meet with AU envoys

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It was unclear Friday whether the attack on Mekele had begun, or how close federal forces were to the city

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Friday met with African Union envoys to discuss the conflict in Tigray, where the army is poised for what he has called the final offensive against regional forces.

Abiy, the winner of last year’s Nobel Peace Prize, on Thursday announced a “third and final phase” in his campaign against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), whose forces have been battling federal troops in the defiant northern region for three weeks.

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The violence has killed many hundreds and displaced tens of thousands more, but there are grave fears for half a million civilians in Mekele, the regional capital, which the army says it has encircled ahead of a threatened attack.

The international community has warned such a strike could violate rules of war and has called for urgent mediation.

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Addis Ababa has refused to negotiate with the TPLF and Abiy has rebuffed calls for dialogue as “interference” in Ethiopia’s internal affairs.

(FILES) In this file photo taken on November 17, 2018 Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed delivers a speech during the 11th Extraordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. – Ethiopia’s army chief of staff has been shot, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced on television on June 23, 2019 as the government said it had thwarted an attempted coup in a regional state of this Horn of Africa nation. (Photo by Monirul BHUIYAN / AFP)

But the prime minister received at his office in Addis Ababa on Friday three African ex-leaders — Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia and Kgalema Motlanthe of South Africa — dispatched this week by the AU as mediators.

In a statement issued after their meeting, Abiy said he appreciated “this gesture and… the steadfast commitment this demonstrates to the principle of African solutions to African problems.”

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Even so, the government has a “constitutionally mandated responsibility to enforce rule of law in the region and across the country,” he said.

Many attempts, he added, had been made to negotiate with the TPLF before military action was ordered on November 4.

The conflict has erupted in a year when the 55-member AU — which is headquartered in Addis Ababa — resolved to play a more prominent role in resolving conflicts across the continent under the slogan “Silencing the Guns”.

The AU called for an immediate halt to hostilities on November 10 but the conflict only spiralled further, with warplanes bombing the mountainous region and both sides claiming the upper hand.

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Humanitarian crisis
Tigray has been under a communications blackout since fighting began, making it difficult to weigh competing claims about casualties, and who holds what territory.

The state-affiliated Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation said late Thursday the army — which in recent days said it was advancing on Mekele with tanks — had identified key TPLF hideouts across the city, including an auditorium and a museum.

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Abiy, who ordered the strike on TPLF forces in Mekele after the lapsing of a deadline for their surrender, said “great care” would be taken to protect innocents and spare the city from severe damage.

The prospect of a full-scale attack accelerated diplomatic efforts this week to resolve the conflict, with the UN Security Council holding its first meeting on Tigray and US and European officials urging restraint.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, who met his Ethiopian counterpart Demeke Mekonnen in Paris on Thursday, called for urgent measures to protect civilians as the humanitarian fallout from the crisis worsens across the region.

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The UNHCR said Friday that nearly 100,000 Eritrean refugees in Tigray could run out of food as early as Monday if supplies cannot reach them.

In eastern Sudan, meanwhile, where more than 40,000 refugees have escaped the fighting in Tigray, local authorities are struggling to meet the sudden surge in demand for food, shelter and other life-saving essentials.

The UNHCR said Friday that a plane carrying 32 tonnes of emergency aid had arrived in Sudan, and another airlift with 100 tonnes was expected Monday.

Refugees crossing the border said those still trying to reach Sudan were cutting across fields to avoid detection by Ethiopian troops, who they said were blocking the main exit route from Tigray.

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Abiy ordered the military into Tigray after alleged attacks by TPLF forces on federal army camps in the region.

The TPLF dominated Ethiopian politics and controlled its security for the better part of three decades until Abiy rose to power in 2018, beginning a power struggle between the former rulers and the new leader.

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#Newsworthy

Tigray crisis: Uganda’s Museveni urges dialogue with Ethiopia’s Abiy

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Hundreds have died and thousands have fled the country amid airstrikes and heavy fighting that observers fear could lead to a protracted civil war.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on Monday met with Ethiopia’s foreign minister to discuss the growing conflict in that country, urging negotiations between warring parties.

Museveni met with Demeke Mekonnen, Ethiopia’s deputy prime minister and foreign minister, to discuss the almost two-week-old conflict in the dissident northern region of Tigray.

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Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced November 4 he had ordered military operations in Tigray in a dramatic escalation of a long-running feud with the region’s ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).

“A war in Ethiopia would give the entire continent a bad image,” Museveni wrote on Twitter after the meeting in the northern town of Gulu.

“There should be negotiations and the conflict stopped, lest it leads to unnecessary loss of lives and cripples the economy.”


#Newsworthy…

Tigray conflict: Ex President of Nigeria moves to Ethiopia

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Abiy has previously said any talks can’t begin until the TPLF is fully disarmed, resisting calls from world leaders for an immediate end to hostilities.

Nigeria’s ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo on Monday jetted to Ethiopia to mediate in the conflict between the government and the northern Tigray region, his spokesman said.

“He is on his way to Addis Ababa for talks,” Kehinde Akinyemi told AFP on the visit of the former Nigerian leader to the Ethiopian capital.

“He is going there for mediation,” Akinyemi said, without giving further details.

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Both the Ethiopian government and the African Union said they had no information on any visit by Obasanjo, who has previously acted as a United Nations peace envoy in DR Congo.

Ethiopia’s central government announced a military operation in the northern Tigray region on November 4 in a dramatic escalation of a long-running feud with the region’s ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).

The fighting — which has sent thousands fleeing over the border into Sudan — has sparked fears of civil war and concerns it could spread across the region after rockets were fired at an airport in neighbouring Eritrea.

The attack on Saturday was claimed by TPLF which has accused Eritrea of backing the government.

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Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s office on Monday dismissed claims from Ugandan officials that President Yoweri Museveni would meet with representatives of both sides in an effort to facilitate talks.

Ugandan officials told AFP over the weekend those meetings would begin Monday in Uganda and would involve Demeke Mekonnen, Ethiopia’s deputy prime minister and foreign minister.

“The claims by various news outlets that Ethiopian officials are expected to take part in mediation talks with TPLF in Uganda are inaccurate and not substantiated,” a government statement said.


#Newsworthy…

Uganda: Family of Activist killed at US park files $270m fake death claims.

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The National Park Service did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday, nor did Michaud’s attorney.

The family of a Ugandan activist killed in an accident over the summer at one of America’s top national parks has filed a $270 million wrongful death claim.

Esther Nakajjigo, 25, was visiting Arches National Park in Utah with her French husband Ludovic Michaud in mid-June when an unsecured gate swung into the road, decapitating her as she sat in the passenger seat of their car.

The newlywed couple had travelled to the park to celebrate the one-year anniversary of their first date.

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Michaud is seeking $240 million in damages from the National Park Service, while Nakajjigo’s family is seeking $30 million, NoRM reported Saturday.

“For want of an $8.00 basic padlock, our world lost an extraordinary warrior for good; a young woman influencer who was destined to become our society’s future Princess Diana, philanthropist Melinda Gates or Oprah Winfrey,” the claim, which is a precursor to a lawsuit, stated.

In an interview carried by CBS4 television station in Denver this week, Michaud, who lives in Colorado, said he still has flashbacks of the accident and is “trying to figure out how to move forward, how to wake up in the morning.”

“What he saw and experienced that day, I cannot even imagine,” Deborah Chang, an attorney representing Michaud and the Nakajjigo family, told local media. “The end of the gate impaled the car like a lance, and literally beheaded his newlywed bride right in front of him.”

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Nakajjigo had a huge following in her native Uganda and was involved with numerous philanthropic projects.

She was especially interested in reducing teenage pregnancy and created a reality television show to empower women.

She had come to the United States to further her education and met Michaud in June 2019 through a dating app.

The couple married in March and planned to throw a big wedding party in Uganda once the Covid-19 pandemic was over.


#Newsworthy…

Northern Mozambique Massacre: 50 Beheaded

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Witnesses say the assailants herded victims onto a football pitch in the village of Muatide where the killings were carried out.

Police say attackers beheaded and dismembered more than 50 people in northern Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province over the past three days as violence in the area continues.

The ISIL-linked fighters attacked several villages in the districts of Miudumbe and Macomia, killing civilians, abducting women and children and burning down homes, Bernardino Rafael, commander-general of Mozambique’s police said during a media briefing on Monday.

“They burned the houses then went after the population who had fled to the woods and started with their macabre actions,” said Rafael.

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Witnesses told local media the assailants herded residents onto the local football field in the village of Muatide where the killings were carried out.

Security forces in gas-rich Cabo Delgado province have been fighting the armed group – which pledged allegiance to ISIL (ISIS) last year – since 2017.

But some analysts have questioned how serious the ISIL (ISIS) link really is, saying the root of the unrest may be poverty and inequality rather than religion. Little is known about the fighters who call themselves al-Shabab – although they have no known links to the group of that name operating in Somalia.

The unrest has killed more than 2,000 people since 2017 – more than half of them civilians, according to the US-based Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project.

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The violent attacks in Cabo Delgado have triggered a humanitarian crisis with more than 300,000 internally displaced people and 712,000 in need of humanitarian assistance, according to an Amnesty International report released last month.

Shock and grief
Gunmen fired shots and set homes alight when they raided Nanjaba village on Friday night, the state-owned Mozambique News Agency quoted survivors as saying. Two people were decapitated and several women abducted.

A separate group of fighters attacked Muatide village where they beheaded more than 50 people, the news agency reported.

Villagers were chopped to pieces in an atrocity carried out from Friday night to Sunday, NRM reported.

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The dismembered bodies of at least five adults and 15 boys were found on Monday scattered across a forest clearing in Muidumbe district.

“Police learnt of the massacre committed by the insurgents through reports of people who found corpses in the woods,” said an officer in the neighbouring Mueda district who asked not to be named.

“It was possible to count 20 bodies spread over an area of about 500 metres (1,640 feet). These were young people who were at an initiation rite ceremony accompanied by their advisers.”

An aid worker in Mueda, who also declined to be named, confirmed the killings had taken place, saying some of the boys had come from that area. She said body parts had been sent to their families for burial on Tuesday.

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“Funerals were held in an environment of great pain,” said the worker. “The bodies were already decomposing and couldn’t be shown to those present.”

The armed group has stepped up its offensive in recent months and violently seized swathes of territory, terrifying citizens in the process.

In April, attackers shot dead and beheaded more than 50 youths for allegedly refusing to join their ranks.

Cabo Delgado is home to a multibillion-dollar liquefied natural gas project by French multinational Total.


#Newsworthy…

Comoros: Opposition unites to denounce coup against Assoumani.

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The common front of the living forces against the dictatorship defend the turn of Anjouan in 2021 and Mohéli in 2026.

In an unprecedented union in the Comoros Islands, the opposition and all civil society movements in both the archipelago and abroad amongst the diaspora have come together to form the new “common front of the living forces against the dictatorship” to denounce a perceived constitutional coup d’état on the part of President Azali Assoumani — who they want to be ousted, in light of the amendment of the constitution by referendum in July 2018 removing the consecutive term limit which sees him in the presidential race for upcoming elections when his current term ends in a few months.

As Assoumani is not only a candidate in the presidential race but has also brought forward the election date which was originally scheduled for 2021.

And all this in spite of the fact that his term in office would end in a few months to make way for a president from the island of Anjouan if he had not changed the Constitution.


#Newsworthy…

Oil Spill: Mauritius still evaluating damages.

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Two months after a cargo loaded with fuel ran aground off Mauritius, the shores are still taking stock of the damage.

The rich fishing grounds and sensitive marine habitats have been severly damaged by the oil.


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Conservationists are particularly concerned about the long-term ecological damage to the island’s marine ecosystems.

“There is visible pollution, and invisible pollution. Some of the oil doesn’t float but dissolves in the sea. The fish eat it, the coral absorbs it, it goes into the ecosystems”, environmental expert Sunil Dowarkasing said.

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The oil itself is known as VLSFO — a fuel oil less viscous and lower in sulphur than conventional fuel oils.

But this newer generation oil is poorly understood in terms of its environmental impact, said Ware.

“They are quite new to us, compared to the heavy fuel oils that we mostly used to deal with… That is why we need to study this, and this will certainly help for future oil spills elsewhere.”

The tourism industry, crucial to the country’s economy, has suffered a heavy blow, in what is the worst environmental disaster ever witnessed in the Indian Ocean archipelago.

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“This oil spill is the worst environmental disaster that Mauritius has ever faced. We are still assessing the damage to the mangroves and the coastal areas. We wish to thank all the countries and the UN system which rushed to assist Mauritius during these difficult times. I have a special word of thanks and gratitude to the people of Mauritius whose display of solidarity and spontaneous support helped protect our rumsaw sites and other environmentally sensitive areas”, declared Mauritius Prime Minister Pravind Jugnaut in his address to the UN General Assembly.

Following a second Oil spill a few weeks after in Sri Lanka, Mauritius Prime Minister Jugnaut has called for a regional response to be put in action. In the hope to avoid any futher disasters of the sort in the future.

“At the same time, there is a need for a review of governance rule concerning bunkers and tankers. Mauritius happens to be on an important and busy sea lane between the West and the far East and is therefore directly concerned.” continued PM Jugnaut.

Cleaning up the spill
Thousands of volunteers marshalled along the coast in the early days wearing rubber boots and gloves, scrubbing the shoreline clean and stringing together makeshift cordons to contain the oily tide.

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Since then the government has identified 26 affected sites around the coastline and commissioned the clean-up operation to French company Le Floch Depollution and Greek outfit Polyeco SA.

“The work is progressing satisfactorily, but it is a very delicate clean-up operation, we must make sure that it is done in a methodical and systematic way”, Environment Minister Kavydass Ramano said.

The clean-up is divided into four phases, and some sites are already in the second or third stage.

The ship eventually split in two and the bow and hull of the wreck were towed 15 kilometres (nine miles) offshore and sunk. The stern remains on the reef and the government expects to announce a contract to remove it within days, Ramano said.

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A wake-up call ?
On August 29, between 50,000 and 75,000 people protested the government’s response to the disaster — numbers not seen on the country’s streets since 1982.

A second rally on September 12 brought another 20,000 people out to Mahebourg, a fishing village near the spill site.

Frustration over the handling of the oil spill has heaped pressure on Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth, whose administration has been dogged by allegations of corruption and nepotism.

“There is a general feeling of dissatisfaction, and Wakashio was the last straw,” said Dowarkasing, a former MP.


#Newsworthy…

Storyline: Ethiopia does not want to harm Sudan, Egypt – PM says.

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Ethiopia Prime minister Abiy Ahmed stated the country has “no intention to harm” neighouring Egypt and Sudan.

Comments that come after months of negociations over the Renaissance Dam, situated upstream of the two countries, have failed to produce any agreement.

Egypt has warned the Dam project could have devastating effects on its economy. As the Nile river’s flow would be diminished to fill up the dam’s reservoir, Egypt would lose on its main source of scarce fresh water ressources.

A situation Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said he is willing to avoid.

“I want to assure that we are firm in our commitment to addressing the concerns of downstream countries and reaching a mutually beneficial outcome in the context of the ongoing African Union-led process”, Ethiopia ‘s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, stated in an recorded speech to the United Nations General Assembly.

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Regional tensions and a local crisis
Abiy Ahmed, whose country is engaged in complicated talks in the region, also faces a major challenge in his country.

Deadly unrest shook Ethiopia as long-marginalized groups, who seek more say in the country’s politics have taken their anger to the streets for the past few months.

The long awaited first free elections, two years after Abiy Ahmed was sworn in as Ethiopia’s Prime Minister have been postponed to 2021.

Opposition members, such as Oromo Federalist Congress leaderJawar Mohammed, have stated the government was using COVID 19 pandemic fears as a tool to stay in power.


#Newsworthy

Oil Spill: Up To 75,000 Protesters Full Mauritius

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Tens of thousands of Mauritians protested Saturday in the capital Saint-Louis over the government’s handling of a giant oil spill off its pristine Indian Ocean coast.

The Japanese bulk carrier MV Wakashio crashed into a reef off southeastern Mauritius last month spewing more than 1,000 tonnes of oil into waters that are home to mangrove forests and endangered species.

After the boat split in two, the larger piece was towed out to sea and sunk, but the smaller section remains stranded on the reef.

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The call for the march came from an ordinary citizen, Jean Bruneau Laurette, who has become a hero among many for daring to oppose Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth.

Laurette, a maritime security expert, says the government has been hiding the truth about the circumstances of the oil spill. He has filed a case against the environment ministry.

Up to 75,000 protesters thronged the square in front of the cathedral in downtown Port-Louis, an AFP reporter said, in the biggest demonstration in 40 years.

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Many of them were dressed in black — the colour of mourning. Public anger has boiled over in Mauritius after at least 34 melon-headed whales were found dead or seriously ill near the site of the spill.

Fisheries minister Sudheer Maudhoo had said there was “no trace of hydrocarbons on them or in their respiratory system”.

“This rally is an occasion to send a message to tell Pravind Jugnauth he has messed up,” marcher Jocelyne Leung, 35, told AFP.

“This is the first time that a citizens’ demonstration has gathered such a big crowd,” said Ajay Gunness, the number two of the opposition MMM party.

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Many protesters carried the national flag, sang the national anthem, and called for Jugnauth to step down.

Authorities and experts from Japan and Britain are still investigating the true extent of the ecological damage to an island whose economy depends heavily on tourism.

This archipelago is a tourist haven and many of it’s 1.3 population derive their livelihood from tourism or fishing.

Veteran politician Jugnauth, whose current stint in power began in 2017, has denied making any mistakes in handling the spill.


#Newsworthy…