Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Zuma sweetheart steps down from S.Africa charity

 

The woman named by South African media as the future wife of ex-president Jacob Zuma has been forced to resign from her position at a women's rights charity, the group said Monday.

 

The She Conquers foundation, which campaigns to improve the lives of adolescent girls, said Nonkanyiso Cono "failed to disclose her relations with Mr Zuma" and had acted "contrary to the principles" that the charity stood for. 

 

"As young girls we are lured and used by people with power who use their position to take advantage of us," the group said in a statement. 

 

According to media reports in South Africa, Cono, 24, is due to become the new spouse of 76-year-old Zuma who currently has four other wives.

 

The Sunday Times weekly reported that Cono had been a frequent visitor at Zuma's residence east of Johannesburg since she was 19.

 

The former president, who was forced to resign in February after nearly a decade in power, is facing a string of corruption charges stemming from an arms contract dating to before his time in office.

 

His political career was dogged by controversy and he was in 2006 acquitted on charges of raping a HIV-positive woman. 

 

He also caused outrage among health campaigners by telling the court that he had showered after having unprotected sex with his accuser to avoid contracting the virus. 

 

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Friday, April 20, 2018

S. Africa leader curtails Britain trip over unrest at home

 

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has cut short his participation in the Commonwealth summit in Britain to tackle violent demonstrations at home, his office said, in one of the first major challenges of his new presidency.

 

Ramaphosa, who took office in February with promises to jump-start the economy and stamp out graft, expressed "grave concern" over unrest in North West province and reports of clashes between police and protesters, according to a statement published on the president's website Thursday.

 

"President Ramaphosa has called for calm and adherence to the rule of law in the province and has called on all aggrieved parties to express their grievances through peaceful means and engagement rather than violence and anarchy," the statement said.

 

It added that the South African leader had urged security forces to "exercise maximum restraint". 

 

Television images aired by the SABC state broadcaster showed thick smoke rising into the air near the site of the unrest in and around the provincial capital Mahikeng, while crowds of protesters looted shops in the area.

 

The broadcaster said one person was thought to have died in the demonstrations.

 

Police have reportedly used tear gas and rubber bullets to try and quell the protests, which erupted this week over jobs, housing and corruption.

 

Ramaphosa had been attending the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London where he was leading a government delegation this week.

 

Born out of the former British empire, the voluntary organisation of 53 member states covering a third of the world's population typically focuses on development and democracy, but is this year placing greater attention on boosting trade.

 

Ramaphosa, who took over as leader of the ruling African National Congress in December, replaced Jacob Zuma as South Africa's leader earlier this year.

 

Zuma's nine-year tenure saddled South Africa with weak growth, ballooning national debt, depressed investor confidence and record unemployment.

 

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Friday, April 20, 2018

Kathmandu airport closed after jet skids off runway

 

Kathmandu airport was closed Friday after a Malaysian jet with 139 people on board aborted its takeoff and skidded off the runway, officials said.

 

Nobody was hurt in the incident but incoming flights to the Nepali capital were diverted while authorities tried to move the Malindo Airlines Boeing 737, which was stuck in mud.

 

It was not known how long Tribhuvan Airport, Nepal's sole international air gateway, would be closed.

 

The flight by the Malaysian carrier to Kuala Lumpur was accelerating on the runway late Thursday when the pilots detected a problem and halted the takeoff, airport spokesman Prem Nath Thakur said.

 

The jet skidded to a halt on grassland and came to a stop in mud about 100 feet (30 metres) from the runway.

 

"All aboard are safe," Thakur said, adding that the cause of the problem was not immediately known.

 

The incident came one month after the crash of a US-Bangla Airways plane at Kathmandu airport, which killed 51 people.

 

In March 2015, a Turkish Airlines jet skidded off the runway as it landed, forcing Tribhuvan Airport to close for four days.

 

The Himalayan nation has some of the world's most remote and tricky runways, flanked by snow-capped peaks with approaches that pose a challenge even for accomplished pilots.

 

Nepal has a poor air safety record. Accidents are common and Nepal-based airlines are banned from flying in European Union airspace.

 

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Thursday, April 19, 2018

Makerere students riot after dispute

 

Kampala. Makerere university students have again gone on strike following a disagreement between their leaders and the university management. During a closed door meeting in the main building, student leaders gave Makerere University vice chancellor, Prof Barnabas Nawangwe one hour ultimatum to find lasting solutions to their problems from the university council. This was after the seven-hour heated meeting was dragging on further. The guild president, Mr Papa Were said they wanted everything resolved today. “Since the VC is saying that the council has the final decisions on our grievances, let him seek them and give them to us in one hour,” he said.

The students have been rioting since Monday this week in protest against a number of university policies which include scrapping of meals at halls of residence, tuition increment, abolition of evening classes and end of semester exams. (NMG)

Others are poor internet connection, missing marks and delayed release of results, failure by management to account and update the stakeholders on MakRun, among others.

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Thursday, April 19, 2018

African migrants face rape, torture in Yemen’s Aden: HRW

 

Dubai. Men, women and children fleeing the Horn of Africa have faced torture and sexual violence in conflict-wracked Yemen at the hands of government officials, Human Rights Watch said Wednesday.

The watchdog said researchers interviewed eight migrants at a detention facility in the southern city of Aden and Yemeni government officials.

The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) published a parallel report Wednesday corroborating the findings and calling for “unhindered access” to detainees.

Last year, more than 87,000 people arrived in Yemen from the Horn of Africa, according to UNHCR.

Human Rights Watch said migrants who end up in Aden’s Buraika detention facility -- in use since early 2017 -- have faced beatings with steel bars, sexual violence and dire sanitary conditions.

Detainees, notably boys, were raped by guards, according to the report. “Every night, they would take one, to rape them,” a former detainee told HRW. “Not all of them. The small ones. The little ones. I know seven boys who were sexually assaulted... You could hear what was happening.” Other detainees said the boys “would come back unable to sit, sometimes crying, and occasionally telling the others what had happened”. At least two male detainees were shot dead, according to witnesses.

An Ethiopian national who managed to escape in 2018 told HRW there were only “two ways” to leave the Buraika detention facility -- through smugglers or being “deported into the sea”.

In January, more than 150 Ethiopians and Somalis were packed onto an overcrowded vessel in Aden and sent in the direction of Djibouti, according to the UN and the International Organization for Migration.

At least 30 people drowned when the boat capsized, the joint statement said.

“The Yemeni government bears responsibility for the deaths of deported detainees at sea,” said Human Rights Watch. (AFP)

Yemen’s interior ministry told HRW in an April 2 letter it had removed the Buraika facility commander, Colonel Khalid al-Alwani, and would transfer detainees to another facility.

HRW is calling on Yemen’s government to bring detention centres in line with UN standards, provide female-only guards for women’s quarters, end detentions of children with their families over immigration violations and ensure detainees are granted the right to make asylum claims or contest deportations.

Yemen’s government is based in Aden, having been driven out of Sanaa by Huthi rebels who overran the capital in 2014.

A Saudi-led Arab coalition intervened in March 2015 to try to restore the government to power.

Nearly 10,000 people have since been killed in Yemen’s conflict, which has unleashed what the UN has called the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

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Thursday, April 19, 2018

South Sudan armed groups release over 500 children

 

Juba. More than 500 children have been released from the armed groups in South Sudan, Unicef said.

In a statement released Wednesday, the agency confirmed that 200 of the children were released on Tuesday alone, while another 300 were freed in early February.

The agency said the numbers could rise to over 1,000 children as others were expected to be freed from the ranks of military in coming months. Out of the 207 children released on Tuesday by the South Sudan National Liberation Movement (SSNLM), an armed group based in Western Equatoria, 95 were girls and 112 boys. Their release was facilitated by Unicef.

Unicef has also promised counselling and psychosocial support to the released children as part of the reintegration programme.

“When the children return to their homes, their families will be provided with three months’ worth of food assistance to support their initial reintegration. The children will also be provided with vocational training aimed at improving household income and food security.

“In addition to services related to livelihood, Unicef and partners will ensure the released children have access to age-specific education services in schools and accelerated learning,” the agency said.

“No child should ever have to pick up a weapon and fight. For every child released, today marks the start of a new life,” the Unicef representative in South Sudan, Mr Mahimbo Mdoe, said.

“Unicef is proud to support these children as they return to their families and start to build a brighter future.”

There were still around 19,000 children serving in the ranks of armed groups in South Sudan, according to the Unicef statistics.

The agency says it requires $45 million to support the release, demobilisation and reintegration of the 19,000 children still in armed ranks. (NMG)

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Thursday, April 19, 2018

Kenyan opposition party calls for electoral body reconstitution

 

Nairobi. The Orange Democratic Movement has called for a stakeholder forum to oversee the reconstitution of the embattled electoral commission and its Secretariat.

In a statement, ODM Secretary-General Edwin Sifuna blamed the Secretariat for the annulled August 8, 2017 presidential election.

The party has also backed the three-month suspension of the chief executive officer of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission IEBC, Mr Ezra Chiloba.

“The resignation of three commissioners ostensibly to protest the commencement of disciplinary action against the CEO confirms our long held fears that the rot at the IEBC goes to the very core of the organisation,” Mr Sifuna statement reads, referring to Monday’s exit of election commissioners Ms Consolata Maina, Dr Paul Kurgat, and Ms Margaret Mwachanya.

The ODM official accused the three commissioners who resigned on Monday of having allowed Mr Chiloba the freedom to conduct Secretariat affairs without proper checks.

“Why would the three commissioners not allow for the investigations to be completed prior to resigning? What do they know? What are they running from?” asked Mr Sifuna.

Mr Sifuna named Mr Chiloba, his two deputies Mr Marjan Hussein Marjan and Ms Betty Nyabuto, as well as ICT head James Muhati and head of operations Ms Immaculate Kassait as some of the Secretariat staff who should be sacked.

Meanwhile, The Justice and Legal Affairs committee of the National Assembly was Wednesday morning forced to reschedule its planned meeting with three electoral commission officials.

The committee chaired by Baringo North MP William Cheptumo, had summoned IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati and commissioners Boya Molu and Prof Abdi Guliye over the problems the agency is facing.

The House team also planned to seek their views on the proposed changes to the IEBC Act.

However, Mr Cheptumo said that Mr Chebukati wrote to the House clerk Michael Sialai requesting for a reschedule as they were busy supervising the ongoing by-elections in Kinondo Ward, Kwale County and Ruguru Ward in Nyeri County.

“Because their reason for failing to come is valid, the committee will deliberate on their appearance at a later date,” Mr Cheptumo said.

The crisis at the IEBC boiled over on Monday after half of its commissioners resigned “with immediate effect”.

Vice-chairperson Connie Nkatha and commissioners Margaret Mwachanya and Paul Kurgat said they left the commission because they have no faith in Mr Chebukati and his leadership.

They accused Mr Chebukati of making unilateral decisions including the case of the CEO Ezra Chiloba, who is on compulsory leave over internal audit queries in the procurement and management of the 2017 General Election.

Last year, Roselyn Akombe resigned from the commission ahead of the repeat presidential election citing the agency’s lack of capacity to conduct a free and fair election. (NMG)

The crisis at the IEBC boiled over on Monday after half of its commissioners resigned “with immediate effect”.

Vice-chairperson Connie Nkatha and commissioners Margaret Mwachanya and Paul Kurgat said they left the commission because they have no faith in Mr Chebukati and his leadership.

They accused Mr Chebukati of making unilateral decisions including the case of the CEO Ezra Chiloba, who is on compulsory leave over internal audit queries in the procurement and management of the 2017 General Election.

Last year, Roselyn Akombe resigned from the commission ahead of the repeat presidential election citing the agency’s lack of capacity to conduct a free and fair election.

Her position has never been filled more than six months since she left because of the gap in law.

Her position has never been filled more than six months since she left because of the gap in law. (NMG)

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Thursday, April 19, 2018

South Sudan peace talks postponed

 

Juba. South Sudan peace monitors said Tuesday the next round of peace talks scheduled for April 26 has been postponed until further notice.

The Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC) said the new date for the next phase of the High Level Revitalization Forum will be announced in due course by the chairperson of the council of ministers of the regional bloc, the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD). “JMEC met with the IGAD special envoy, Ambassador Dr Ismail Wais, today in Juba and were informed of a change to the dates of the next phase of the High Level Revitalization Forum, that was due to commence in Addis Ababa on April 26,” JMEC said in a statement issued in Juba. Sources said the postponement will give room for effective consultations with various stakeholders to the negotiations. (Xinhua)

The forum was proposed in June 2017 to discuss full implementation of a 2015 peace agreement and to develop a revised and realistic timeline to realize sustainable peace in the country. South Sudan has been embroiled in civil war that is now in its fifth year, which has taken a devastating toll on the people, creating one of the fastest growing refugee crisis in the world. A peace deal signed in August 2015 between the rival leaders under UN pressure led to the establishment of a transitional unity government in April, but was shattered by renewed fighting in July 2016.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Jihadists abduct Burkina teacher 'for speaking French'

 

A schoolteacher was kidnapped last week in northern Burkina Faso, security sources said Tuesday as a jihadist group said he was snatched because he spoke French to his pupils.

Gunmen snatched the teacher on Thursday from a primary school in the northern town of Nassoubou, the security sources and a local official said.

The Islamic State in the Great Sahara (EIGS), based at the border between Burkina Faso and Mali, told AFP that it had carried out the kidnapping.

An EIGS spokesman who gave his name as Hammar said the teacher was abducted for speaking French to his pupils, vowing that "all those who teach in French (will be) fought."

He also said EIGS was behind the weekend murder of the mayor of the nearby Koutougou department of Soum province, accusing him of collaborating with the government of the former French colony.

Burkina Faso President Roch Marc Christian Kabore condemned the "cowardly and despicable murder" in a tweet.

The EIGS is led by Adnane Abou Walid Sahraoui, formerly of Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb (AQMI).

The troubled Sahel region of the West African country has been the target of numerous jihadist attacks since 2015, including the kidnapping of local officials.

Last month a former municipal councillor was abducted in Lassa village, also in Soum, by gunmen on motorcycles. He was released several days later.

According to official figures, 80 jihadist attacks have occurred in northern Burkina Faso over the past three years, leaving 133 dead.

The capital Ouagadougou has also come under attack, most recently in March when eight soldiers were killed and 85 people wounded in twin attacks on the country's military headquarters and the French embassy.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Boko Haram kills three Chadian soldiers

 

Three Chadian soldiers were killed in a clash with Boko Haram jihadists on Sunday, Chad's national television reported on Tuesday.

The three were given a posthumous award by the Chadian army chief of staff, the report said, adding that they were buried at the N'Djamena military cemetery.

The report gave no details of where the clash happened.

A military source said fighting took place on Sunday between Boko Haram and Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) soldiers in Arge in Nigeria's Abadam district, which is on the border with Chad.

Three MNJTF soldiers were killed, the source said, without specifying whether they were Chadian.

The MNJTF has patrolled the Lake Chad area for several years alongside civilian "watch committees" to prevent the return of Boko Haram to the region.

On the Nigerian side of the border, the MNJTF is tracking jihadists in one of their main strongholds in the Sambisa Forest of Borno State in the northeast of the country.

Boko Haram operates mainly in its birthplace Nigeria, where it commits deadly attacks and carries out kidnappings.

The jihadist group also operates in several countries neighbouring Nigeria such as Chad, Cameroon and Niger.

Since 2009, more than 20,000 people have died in Nigeria alone, victims of Boko Haram's actions and clashes with the army.

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Monday, April 16, 2018

Kenneth Matiba: A man of many firsts

 

By JOHN KAMAU

Nairobi. Kenneth Matiba was a man of many firsts. From becoming one of the youngest permanent secretaries to climbing the Himalayas, Mr Matiba was well-grounded in what he did.

 

On May 18, 1963 – and aged only 31 – Mr Matiba was summoned to the office of the colonial Permanent Secretary for Education, Mr David Gregg, who had good news for the young man: he was to be appointed the new PS in the ministry.

 

“I was astounded,” Mr Matiba later remarked.

 

As the first black PS in the ministry, which was then housed at Gill House, Mr Matiba was to oversee the africanisation of the education sector.

 

GRATITUDE

 

The next morning, Mr Matiba was taken to Government House (now State House)  where he met Duncan Ndegwa and Kitili Mwendwa. They had also come for their letters because in just a month, Jomo Kenyatta was to take over as the new Prime Minister.“For that privilege I felt that I had to commit myself to serving all Kenyans and show my gratitude in a tangible way,” he wrote in his autobiography, Aiming High.

 

At first, Mr Matiba had thought of following his father’s footsteps as a teacher  and after leaving Makerere in 1960, he had decided that he wanted to teach in north eastern Kenya before moving to teacher training college. That was his ambition.

 

But this plan never worked after the Ministry of Education turned down his choice and he was posted to Kangaru Secondary School in Embu. But after only six months he was appointed deputy officer in charge of higher education at the Ministry of Education.

 

PERPLEXED

 

“My position was so crucial that no passport could be issued to any student going overseas without my signature,” said Mr Matiba

 

It was at this position that Mr Matiba met many students who would later be influential.

 

It was when he became a permanent secretary for Home Affairs that he got to work with Daniel arap Moi who was the minister. The two were bosom friends and when Mr Moi decided to jail Mr Matiba for his stand on multi-party politics, his friends were perplexed.

 

But it was at the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Cooperatives that Mr Matiba started dealing with investors and he was thrown to various boardrooms where the government had interests.

 

While Mr Matiba deliberately refused to buy shares in companies where he could have conflict of interest, he watched as his friends made wealth through kickbacks. Rather than stay, he decided to quit and go into business.

 

JADINI HOTELS

 

It was in 1968 after he joined Kenya Breweries that he bought the Jadini Hotels in Mombasa. By this time, he had learnt about the hotel industry having been the director of Kenya Tourist Development Corporation which also gave him an opportunity to be on the board of Panafric Hotel in Nairobi.

 

At Jadini, Mr Matiba tested his survival skills in the hospitality sector. Every weekend, together with his business partner Stephen Smith, he would arrive at Jadini at 3am and the site meeting would start at 7am. They would then start the journey to Nairobi at 2pm!

 

But it was his climbing of the Himalayas — when he was Minister for Works — and walking from Nairobi to Muranga to raise funds, that catapulted Matiba to new heights. Mr Matiba managed to plant the Kenyan flag at the Island Peak, becoming the first Kenyan to do so.

 

At the Cabinet, Mr Matiba was known as the hard-working minister. Once, when he was Minister for Health, he ordered a clean up of the headquarters.

 

HOBBY

 

“I cannot tolerate filth wherever I am. I would personally clean toilets rather than leave them dirty,” he once told a reporter.

 

Before he joined politics, Mr Matiba was also an astute farmer.

 

“The farming I undertook at Limuru was something like a hobby,” he says in Aiming High.

 

Mr Matiba had first tried a pig project in Limuru and was at one time one of the largest African pig producers in the country, specialising in the production of porkers. The pig project collapsed after one of his workers overfed the animals and they all became too fat.

 

“In the end, the pig project had to close down. By then I was losing money. Luckily, it was not too difficult to sell the pigs…at give-away prices. I discovered that many entrepreneurs felt embarrassed and uneasy about a failing business,” Matiba would later say.

 

VEGETABLES

 

From pigs, Mr Matiba moved to growing vegetables in his Limuru farm where his wife, Edith, had been experimenting with capsicums and courgettes. It was this business that led them to the export business. The Matibas then learnt there was market for French beans and he investigated how the fruit, vegetable and flower business worked. Soon, he became a direct exporter and at one point he was the largest producer of French beans.

 

His only disappointment then was with the East African Airways which was going through serious problems and at times his cargo would be left behind. This forced him to rethink the vegetable business which was not making money.

 

The cargo problems persisted to an extent that Mr Matiba decided to start an air freight airline. He even registered a company known as African International Airways and invited Mr John Michuki and Mr Charles Njonjo into the venture. This was during the days of East African Community and all the three countries operated a single airline.

 

65,000 POUNDS

 

Mr Matiba and his group managed to get an aircraft, a Britannia, and it was flown to Nairobi for inspection.  It was to cost them 65,000 pounds. But the matter was leaked to a Tanzanian paper which claimed that the Kenya government had overthrown East African Airways and wanted to register a new airline. The group decided not to go ahead with the project because it was complicating relations within the East African Community.

 

Mr Matiba was encouraged to go into flower farming by his two friends across the valley in Limuru who were exporting them to Europe. He had to convince the Agriculture Finance Corporation to give him a loan to start the project. It was this business that thrived and Matiba became one of the leading flower farmers in Kenya.

 

12,350 ACRES

 

Mr Matiba also took the lead in the 1970s when he helped form Wangu Investments Company Limited.

 

The initial aim was to buy shares in various public companies which they could then sell and buy land.

 

In 1977, Mr Matiba learnt that a Timau farmer, Mr Robert Wilson, was selling his 12,350-acre piece of land. But because many cooperative groups bought land and ran them down, Mr Wilson was not willing to sell to a group. The farm was good. It had 22,600 head of sheep, 2,500 beef animals and 700 pigs.

 

STILL THRIVES

 

The selling price was a staggering Sh34.4 million.

 

When Mr Matiba said he did not have that kind of money, Mr Wilson told him that he hoped that he would not organise for a co-operative to buy it. Mr Matiba assured Wilson that it would be a public company and that the farm would be run as it was.

 

Wangu is still surviving to date and still thrives – when all other big farms have collapsed. It was Mr Matiba’s gift to his Kiharu residents. (NMG)

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Monday, April 9, 2018

Uhuru, Raila unity deal was inspired by God, say elders

 

Nairobi. Kalenjin, Luo and Gema elders have defended opposition leader Raila Odinga’s handshake with President Uhuru Kenyatta.

The elders accused the politicians attacking Mr Odinga of fueling divisive politics. They have said the critics should direct any questions on the importance of the handshake to the elders.

Mr Odinga and President Uhuru Kenyatta last month issued a joint statement and vowed to work together. The two leaders shook hands for the first time since the volatile 2017 electioneering period which saw Mr Odinga boycott the October 26 repeat presidential polls.

After the famous handshake, some leaders in the opposition accused Mr Odinga of joining a government he criticised.

Stop fighting

The elders, who spoke in Kisumu were led by Gema Chairman Bishop Peter Njenga, his Kalenjin counterpart Major John Sei and Luo council executive Apostle Stephen Oludhe. The elders asked politicians to stop fighting over positions.

In what appears to be a newly found ‘unity’ between the three communities after the historical handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Mr Odinga, the elders vowed to work together for unity and development.

Mr Oludhe said they stayed at Methodist Guest House in Nairobi for three days where they met Mr Odinga ahead of the handshake which they claim was inspired by God. “Raila was summoned by the elders to a meeting where he was given conditions that he had to go for the handshake. We don’t want anyone to blame him for the move he made. Let the missiles be directed at us instead,” said Mr Oludhe. DEAL

There have been questions by both opposition leaders and supporters as well as the Jubilee wing on the benefits of the deal between Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga following the recent deportation of fiery lawyer Miguna Miguna. Mr Oludhe was speaking at Jalaram Hospital where they had visited Luo Council of Elders Chairman Mr Willis Opiyo Otondi, who has been hospitalised for six days. They prayed and encouraged Mr Otondi before transferring him from Jalaram Hospital to Kisumu Specialist Hospital where he is expected to undergo an operation. “The handshake is what we have been asking for. It is time we stopped fighting, elders must now lead,” Bishop Njenga said.

Good chemistry

Major Sei said the elders had taken their position in guiding the country.

“As elders, we have good chemistry that we want to extend to the youth of this country,” said Major Sei. (NMG)


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Monday, April 9, 2018

Government proposes fresh taxes

Government has proposed to increase taxes on wines, spirits, beers, airtime, SACCOs and money transfers in a bid to widen the revenue envelope and fix the ailing economy. Tax bills that were tabled in Parliament last week indicate that the government is also proposing to tax SACCO’s, just a year after it had exempted them from paying taxes for the next 10 years.

President Museveni has also ordered the Finance Ministry to slap new taxes on social media platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Skype and Viber to stop what he called lugambo (gossip). The tax targets on social media users are mooted to raise between Shs400 billion and Shs1.4 trillion. It is unclear how the tax on social media platforms will be effected though Finance Ministry officials are expected to present to Parliament modalities on how Mr Museveni’s controversial tax proposals will be dealt with. (NMG)


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Monday, April 9, 2018

Kenyan battles for US Congress

Raleigh. In a year when the arrival of spring has been unpredictable and erratic in the US because of the moody winter weather that has refused to go away, it’s a surprisingly warm and beautiful morning in the Raleigh suburb of North Carolina as the Nation team arrives at the home of Mr Jeff Matemu.

The Kenyan-born attorney has attracted interest after announcing his candidacy for the US House of Representatives, Congressional District 2, North Carolina.

As Mr Matemu, 44, shows the Nation around his massive three-storey home, which he says he personally designed and oversaw its construction, one room seems to hold a special place in his heart.

Mr Matemu has made a name as a leading immigration lawyer in the US and has helped countless illegal immigrants struggling either to regularise their status or ward-off deportation orders, more so following US President Donald Trump’s tough stance.

He has become a celebrity of sorts in US legal circles because of his intimate understanding of immigration law, especially after he took a leading role in a high-level Federal case at the US Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit (No. 17-1519, Jose Guzman Gonzalez v. Jefferson Sessions III).

“Oh that case! Yeah, I’ve sued Attorney-General Jeff Sessions about something that has been going for a long time with far-reaching implications on immigrants and we are now waiting for the judgment,” Mr Matemu says.

Mr Matemu, a Nairobi School and University of Nairobi alumnus, says he chose to run as a Libertarian to better serve the people of his congressional district by avoiding party labels that he says have controlled politicians’ decisions.

“As you already know by now, Congress is hopelessly broken because of party affiliations between Democrats and Republicans. Nothing is being done under these circumstances and I want to go there to serve the people of North Carolina. I can only do that on a Libertarian Party ticket,” he says.

The US Federal government’s Congress is a bicameral legislature made up of the Senate and House of Representatives. (NMG)

The politician was born in Mombasa and spent part of his childhood in the Kenyan coastal town. His father, Dr Isaac Matemu Kithyo, is an academic at South Eastern Kenya University while his mother, Mrs Theresa Matemu, is the former principal of Muthingini Secondary School in Makueni.

Growing up, he attended several primary schools in Mombasa, Machakos and Nairobi. He sat his KCPE examination at City Primary School. He attended Nairobi School between 1988 and 1991 then joined the University of Nairobi Law School from 1992 to 1997.


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Monday, April 9, 2018

61 S. Sudan govt troops surrender to rebels

Kampala. At least 61 South Sudanese government soldiers have defected to the South Sudan Liberation Army, a rebel group royal to Riek Machar, latest reports indicate. The soldiers reportedly surrendered after their commanders dispatched them to attack the rebel positions in Bieh State. “Today (yesterday) in the morning hours, the SPLA IO intercepted 61 armed regime’s fighters who were dispatched from Waat to attack Akobo and destabilize it. However, the fighters only armed with new AK-47 and 90 rounds of ammunition each decided to surrender to the SPLA IO without resistance. They were welcomed by Maj Gen James Otong Liah Deputy Sector 3 Commander and Akobo East County Commissioner Cde Jamuth Yuot Dak. The SPLA IO welcomes these soldiers, but directs its forces to be alert as this exposed the negative intention of the regime against the SPLA IO in Akobo.” Lt Col Paul Lam Gabriel, the SPLA IO deputy spokesperson said. (NMG)

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Friday, April 6, 2018

S.Africa’s Zuma appears in court over graft charges

 

By Gregory Walton

South African former president Jacob Zuma appeared in court Friday on corruption charges over a multi-billion dollar 1990s arms deal, with the judge adjourning the case after a 15-minute hearing.

Zuma, 75, smiled broadly and gave a thumbs-up as he walked into the Durban High Court building to take his seat in the dock just seven weeks after he was forced to resign from office.

"This matter is adjourned until June 8," judge Themba Sishi said after being addressed by lawyers from both sides who confirmed that Zuma would appeal against the decision to prosecute him.

Several hundred vocal Zuma supporters rallied outside to protest against his prosecution, which could see him sent to jail if he is found guilty on 16 charges of corruption, money laundering and fraud.

"He might have made his own mistakes, but we say allow the old man to retire in peace. It is a conspiracy, it's politically motivated," pro-Zuma business manager Sphelele Ngwane, 29, told AFP.

On Thursday night more than 100 ardent backers rallied in Albert park in a gritty suburb of Durban to protest his innocence and demand a halt to the prosecution.

"There is an unfairness in the judiciary," warned bishop Timothy Ngcobo, one of the organisers of Thursday's gathering.

The protesters sang liberation-era songs including "Umshini Wam", meaning "Bring me my machine gun", which Zuma often sang at ANC rallies and gatherings.

 

- Scandal-tainted office term -

Police mounted a large security operation outside the court, but the occasion remained peaceful early on Friday.

Zuma is accused of taking bribes from French arms maker Thales over a contract worth several billion dollars (euros) during his time as a provincial economy minister and then deputy ANC president.

Thales, which supplied naval vessels as part of the deal, also faces charges with corruption and a company representative appeared in court alongside Zuma.

Zuma is accused of illicitly pocketing a total of 4,072,499.85 rand -- 280,000 euros at today's exchange rates -- from 783 payments handled by Schabir Shaik, a businessman who acted as his financial adviser.

Zuma, who came to power as president shortly after the charges were first dropped in 2009, has always denied any wrongdoing.

 

Shaik was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2005 based on the same accusations, but a much-criticised 2016 inquiry absolved Zuma of any blame.

Zuma claimed that the inquiry proved that "not a single iota of evidence (shows) that any of the money received by any of the consultants was paid to any officials".

Last month, prosecutions chief Shaun Abrahams -- dubbed "Shaun the Sheep" for his loyalty to Zuma during his presidency -- ordered that Zuma be charged with fraud, corruption and money laundering.

The ANC forced Zuma from office in February largely due to his mounting legal challenges and multiple corruption scandals, and it has distanced itself from its former leader.

Zuma's successor Cyril Ramaphosa has vowed to crack down on government corruption, which he has admitted is a serious problem.

Campaign groups are hoping that the case could set a benchmark for allegedly corrupt leaders to face prosecutions, which are a rarity on the African continent.


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Friday, April 6, 2018

US envoy to Kenya defends tenure as he faces backlash

 

Nairobi. Outgoing American Ambassador to Kenya Robert Godec has defended his five and half-year tenure in Kenya, saying he performed within his ability in a very tense environment.

Speaking during an interview on Radio Jambo on Thursday, Ambassador Godec faced backlash with angry callers accusing him of underperforming and taking sides during the 2017 General Election.

One caller claimed Mr Godec had openly supported Jubilee government, accusing him of inaction when police officers were deployed to opposition zones.

“Nauliza hivi, Ni nani atalipa damu ya watu wetu waliokufa? [I want Mr Godec to tell us, who will compensate us for blood spilt during the elections?]” asked a caller, Veronica Namanda.

Mr Godec said behind the perceived silence, his government was working with the major antagonists during the 2017 General Election and in fact condemned the killings.

He was taken to task on various issues, including that of Miguna Miguna, who was twice deported from Kenya despite High Court judges issuing orders for him to be produced in court and to be facilitated entry into the country.

Mr Godec, however, said he will miss Kenya and the Kenyan spirit of resilience and determination to rise again.

Election

Mr Godec was accused by opposition leaders of pressuring them to concede after the August 8, 2017 presidential election, which was eventually nullified by the Supreme Court.

Mr Godec, along with other western diplomats based in Nairobi, have denied the claim.

Also, opposition supporters accused Mr Godec and other western diplomats of turning a blind eye to the brutality by the police on opposition Nasa supporters after the disputed August 8 and October 26 presidential elections.

In a pointed criticism of the US and other western diplomats, in his speech at Chatham House in London on October 13, Mr Odinga said “many pro-democracy activists are no longer sure they have the support of the West”.

“Many are not clear if it is still the policy of the West to stand only with regimes that promote open, free and fair elections, transparency in management of public affairs, good governance and human rights,” he said, adding that the West was being seen “to be turning its back on democracy by cutting funding, endorsing regimes with dubious records and abandoning democracy activists and civil society all in the name of stability, war on terror and business”. (NMG)


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Friday, April 6, 2018

Shabaab attack on UPDF criticised

 

Kampala. The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has called for a crackdown on financiers of Al-Shabaab terrorists around the world and condemned the attacks on Ugandan forces in Somalia that left eight soldiers dead and six injured.

Al-Shabaab terrorists claimed responsibility for the attacks on three bases of Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF) operating under Amisom in lower Shabelle in Somalia saying they had killed 59 Ugandan soldiers.

UNSC President, Gustavo Meza-Cuadra said in a statement that, “The members of the Security Council underlined the need to bring perpetrators, organizers, financiers and sponsors of these reprehensible acts of terrorism to justice.”

Ambassador Meza-Cuadra said all states should cooperate with Somalia to hold accountable the people responsible for the killings.

“The members of the Security Council reiterated that any acts of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable, regardless of their motivation, wherever, whenever and by whomsoever committed,” he said.

“The members of the Security Council expressed their deep sympathy and condolences to the families of the victims, as well as to the people and Government of Uganda. The members of the Security Council wished a speedy recovery to those injured,” he said.

He further noted that the attacks will not weaken their determination to bring peace and reconciliation process in Somalia.

The attackers used vehicles loaded with explosives, which they set off to allow them gain access to the bases.

However, army and defence spokesman, Brig Richard Karemire, said the militants were were repulsed and 130 of them (Al Shabaab attackers) were killed.

The UNSC praised the soldiers for their bravery.

Amisom troops pushed Al-Qaeda linked al-Shabaab out of the Somali capital in 2011 -- and subsequently other towns and cities -- but the Islamists still hold sway in large parts of the countryside and launch regular gun and bomb attacks on government, military and civilian targets in Mogadishu and ambushes on military convoys and outposts. (NMG)

East African leaders contributing to the 22,000-strong AMISOM force last month called for the United Nations to reconsider plans to withdraw troops by December 2020, saying the timeline was unrealistic and could lead to a reversal of gains.


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Friday, April 6, 2018

Rwanda, UN staff accused of seizing refugees

 

Bujumbura. The Burundian government on Wednesday accused Rwanda and UNHCR staff of taking Burundian refugees hostage. Burundian government spokesman Philippe Nzobonariba in a statement urged Rwanda to free and repatriate “other refugees taken hostage by the government of Rwanda in complicity with some agents of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Rwanda.” The statement came after the repatriation of about 2,500 refugees from Rwanda on Sunday and Monday from three Rwandan transit camps. Rwanda’s Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugees Affairs on March 31 said more than 2,500 Burundian “asylum seekers” who crossed into Rwanda from a refugee camp in the Democratic Republic of the Congo will be repatriated to their home country starting from Sunday. (Xinhua)

They refused any form of registration due to their religious beliefs, said the ministry in a statement.


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Wednesday, March 21, 2018

In Somalia, women defy strict rules to play football

 

Mogadishu, Somalia | AFP | Shortly after sunrise, a group of young women arrives at a football pitch in Mogadishu, where they shrug off their hijabs  some changing underneath the billowing veil  to reveal their team kit.

Young Somali men stand nearby, some disapproving but all watching closely, as the women jog up and down, dribble a worn-out ball between colourful cones and do sit-ups, less than 200 metres (656 feet) from a heavily guarded security checkpoint.

The sight of young women playing football is highly unusual in Somalia, due to societal pressures as well as fear of Al-Shabaab.

The Al-Qaeda linked Islamist group launches regular attacks in Mogadishu and considers forms of entertainment, such as football, to be evil, worse still if women are involved.

"It is obvious that we are scared despite the fact that we put on heavy clothes over our shorts and T-shirts (until) we get to the pitch. It is very difficult to walk normally with sports clothes -- we never wear sports clothing in society," said Hibaq Abdukadir, 20, one of the footballers.

She is among 60 girls, who have signed up to train at the Golden Girls Centre in Mogadishu, Somalia's first female soccer club.

- 'Think differently' -
Mohamed Abukar Ali, the 28-year-old co-founder of the centre, said he was inspired to create the club after he realised that Somalia had no female footballers.

"We are... trying to make these girls the first Somali female football professionals," he said.

However this is not an easy task.

"When the girls have to attend training sessions, we have to organise to pick them up and bring them here and back home after the session because they are girls and we think about their security," said Ali.

"There are so many challenges, from security to lack of resources... but that will not deter our ambition to establish female football clubs in this country," he said. "We believe it is the right time and we should have the courage to think differently."

- 'They look naked' -
Many of the girls who have joined the club said they had always wanted to try playing football but never had the opportunity.

"I have been playing football for seven months, but my family has only known about it for two months," said Sohad Mohamed, 19.

"I used to dodge my mother about where I was going because she would not allow me to play football, but at least my mum is okay with it now, even though the rest of my family is not happy."

In Somalia, it is taboo for women to appear in public dressed in shorts, trousers or T-shirts, with Islamic scholars saying sports clothing is not appropriate Islamic dress for women.

The players wear tights underneath their baggy shorts, and cover their hair, but still face criticism for their dress.

"I come to watch them train but frankly speaking, I would not be happy to see my sister doing it, this is not good in society's eyes because they look naked," said Yusuf Abdirahman, who lives near the football field.

Mohamed Yahye, another onlooker, is happy to see women playing football but is also concerned about how they are dressed.

"I think there is nothing wrong with women playing football, the only thing they should change is the dress code, they need to wear something that is not slim-fitting. But as long as their body is not seen, they are in line with the Islamic dress codes," he said.

However the Golden Girls are not fazed.

"My ambition is so high that I aim for the same progress as those female footballers who play for Barcelona," said Abdukadir.

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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Kenya marks 54th Jamhuri Day

 

DIGNITARIES

Security at the stadium was tight, with those getting in being frisked by security officers.

Vehicles getting into the venue were also searched.

According to Government Spokesman Eric Kiraithe, President Uhuru Kenyatta will preside over the event will be attended by several dignitaries.

The military parade and the ceremonial trooping of the colour be conducted by the Airforce Command from Moi Airbase in Eastleigh, Nairobi.

The Air Force will also host the President’s Guard of Honour and lead other armed and disciplined forces in a March past as well as pull off the flypast.

Those in attendance will be treated to a variety of entertainment— including live performances by local artistes, cultural songs and dances.

 

SPEECH

 

The culmination of the celebrations will be President Kenyatta’s address to the nation.

It will be his first national day function following his swearing-in on November 28 for his second and final term after the Supreme Court upheld his re-election in the October 26 fresh presidential poll.

On Sunday, Nasa leaders “postponed” their “swearing-in” of their leader and presidential candidate Raila Odinga and his running mate Kalonzo Musyoka as ‘The People’s President’ and his deputy, respectively, under pressure from foreign diplomats and religious leaders.

President Kenyatta’s speech is expected to focus on the just-concluded prolonged electioneering period, free day secondary education, unity of purpose for all Kenyans, security and infrastructural development.

 

COAST

Jamhuri Day is celebrated to mark Kenya's self-rule.

It was a slow start for the celebrations at the Kenyan coast.

In Mombasa, residents streamed to the historic Tononoka grounds for the fete that will be graced by regional and county chiefs.

Security was tight at the venue located in a region perceived to be an opposition stronghold.

In Taita Taveta, the residents are set to mark the fete at the Voi stadium.

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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Somali journalist killed in front of children

 

A Somali television journalist was killed by a car bomb in front of his children, relatives said, the fifth murder of a journalist in the war-torn country this year.

Mohamed Ibrahim Gabow, a journalist working for Kalsan TV, had taken a break from work to spend time with his children.

He had just left his home on Monday afternoon when a bomb planted beneath the driver's seat ripped through the car. He later died of his wounds in hospital.

"He was a professional journalist dedicated to working for the public," grieving relative Mohamed Abdirahman said late Monday. "We don't know why they killed him in front of his children."

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, but journalists have been regularly targeted by rival forces in the long-running conflict.

"The explosive device was attached beneath the driver's seat of the car," said police officer Ibrahim Mohamed.

Somalia is one of the most dangerous countries for journalists: 45 Somali reporters were killed between 2007 and 2015, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

Mohamed Ibrahim, head of the National Union of Somali Journalists, called it a "senseless murder".

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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Trump tells NASA to send Americans to Moon

 

By Jerome CARTILLIER

US President Donald Trump directed NASA on Monday to send Americans to the Moon for the first time since 1972, in order to prepare for future trips to Mars.

 

"This time we will not only plant our flag and leave our footprint," Trump said at a White House ceremony as he signed the new space policy directive.

 

"We will establish a foundation for an eventual mission to Mars and perhaps someday to many worlds beyond."

 

The directive calls on NASA to ramp up its efforts to send people to deep space, a policy that unites politicians on both sides of the aisle in the United States.

 

However, it steered clear of the most divisive and thorny issues in space exploration: budgets and timelines.

 

Space policy experts agree that any attempt to send people to Mars, which lies an average of 140 million miles (225 million kilometers) from Earth, would require immense technical prowess and a massive wallet.

 

The last time US astronauts visited the Moon was during the Apollo missions of the 1960s and 1970s.

 

On July 20, 1969, US astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the Moon.

 

Trump, who signed the directive in the presence of Harrison Schmitt, one of the last Americans to walk on the Moon 45 years ago, said "today, we pledge that he will not be the last."

 

The better known Buzz Aldrin, the second man on the Moon after Armstrong and a fervent advocate of future space missions, was also present at the ceremony but not mentioned by Trump during his speech.

 

Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, who heads the newly revitalized National Space Council, have previously vowed to explore the Moon again, but offered few details.

 

Nevertheless, the announcement was welcomed by NASA's Acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot, who said the agency "looks forward to supporting the president's directive" and "strategically aligning our work to return humans to the Moon, travel to Mars and opening the deeper solar system beyond."

 

- 'We're dreaming big' -

Former US president George W. Bush also pledged to send Americans to the Moon as part of the Constellation program, which ran from 2005 to 2009.

 

Constellation was projected to cost $100 billion, and aimed to get boots on the Moon's surface by the late 2020s.

 

In 2009, then president Barack Obama deemed it too costly and repetitive of missions already achieved, and canceled the program in order to focus on reaching Mars by the 2030s.

 

Trump vowed his new directive "will refocus the space program on human exploration and discovery," and "marks an important step in returning American astronauts to the Moon for the first time since 1972."

 

The goal of the new Moon missions would include "long-term exploration and use" of its surface.

 

"We're dreaming big," Trump said.

 

His administration has previously held several meetings with SpaceX boss Elon Musk and Amazon owner Jeff Bezos, who also owns Blue Origin.

 

A White House statement acknowledged that partnerships with other nations and private industry could well be on the cards.

 

The US "will work with other nations and private industry to return astronauts to the Moon, developing the technology and means for manned exploration of Mars and other destinations in our solar system," it said.

 

bur-ia/oh

 

© Agence France-Presse

 

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Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Liberia court indefinitely delays presidential vote

 

By Jennifer O'MAHONY

The Supreme Court on Monday indefinitely delayed a vote for Liberia's new president, over an opposition party complaint of electoral fraud, as the vice-president alleged the election was rigged in favour of his opponent.

The court decision throws Liberia's first democratic transition in seven decades into uncertainty a day ahead of what was to have been the final round of voting to pick between former international footballer George Weah and incumbent vice-president Joseph Boakai.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Francis Korkpor said the National Elections Commission (NEC) was prohibited "from conducting the runoff election until the complaint filed by the petitioners is investigated," referring to the opposition Liberty Party.

 

The two remaining candidates must therefore await the result of the ongoing NEC complaint by a party which neither man belongs to, as well as any Supreme Court appeal.

 

The whole process could take weeks.

 

The case was brought by Liberty Party presidential candidate Charles Brumksine, who came third in the first round of voting on October 10.

 

Brumksine alleges that ballot stuffing and false voter registration cards marred the election, claims backed up by Boakai who came second.

 

"The runoff was on condition that the irregularities that we observed would all be addressed adequately," Boakai told AFP, repeating Brumskine's call for the election commissioners to be replaced.

 

"This election was designed to be rigged," he added.

 

- Waiting game -

Liberia's constitution sets out a legal maximum of 30 days following the lodging of a complaint by the NEC, meaning the body has until November 22 to resolve the Liberty Party's case, which was brought on October 23.

 

From then, the party has a week to appeal the decision, and the Supreme Court a week to decide on the appeal. The court also has the power to call fresh elections within 60 days if it decides to nullify the result.

 

"In a matter of days, we hope that there can be some conclusion to the investigation," said Musa Dean, a lawyer with the electoral commission.

 

Africa's first elected female leader, Nobel laureate Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, is stepping down after two terms spent transitioning her nation out of a long civil war, and the vote was seen as a marker of stability to buttress a fragile peace that has held since 2003.

 

A Supreme Court press officer told AFP that unidentified individuals pelted stones on Sunday night at the home of judge Sie-A-Nyene Yuoh but maintained the court "cannot and will not be coerced or intimidated."

 

- 'Contrary to the rules' -

The court found on Monday that the NEC had acted contrary to the law in declaring Weah and Boakai the top two candidates following an October 10 first round election, while a question mark over the validity of the votes was pending.

 

"By setting a date and proceeding to conduct a runoff election without first clearing the complaint of the petitioners which alleged gross irregularities and fraud, the NEC was proceeding contrary to rules which are to be adhered to at all times," Korkpor said.

 

The court urged the commission to hear the Liberty Party's complaint and resolve it with "urgent attention", given the "critical" nature of the presidential vote.

 

"The efforts to disenfranchise voters and undermine Liberia's democracy were grave enough to warrant intervention from the Supreme Court, and we are glad that after listening to our case and reviewing the indisputable evidence, the court agrees," said Liberty Party chairman Benjamin Sanvee, celebrating the ruling.

 

Liberia is no stranger to disputed election results: Weah's CDC party challenged but ultimately accepted the results of presidential votes in 2005 and 2011.

 

His party said it welcomed a chance to "look into the issues," but said the result nonetheless had been in Weah's favour.

 

"We think the will of the Liberian people was clear in that election that is it favoured the CDC," Phil Tarpeh Dixon, a CDC lawyer, told AFP.

 

The court case comes at a tense moment in Liberian politics, as Brumskine and Boakai have both accused Sirleaf of "interference" in the elections and of secretly supporting Weah over her own vice-president, claims she has strongly denied.

 

jom/pvh

 

© Agence France-Presse

 

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Tuesday, November 7, 2017

At least 10 killed in Mali, PM cancels visit

 

At least 10 people died in attacks in Mali on Monday, as the prime minister cancelled a visit to a central town after a vehicle sent to protect his team hit a landmine.

A bus travelling in the restive north was blown up by a mine on Monday, killing at least four people, police and administrative officials told AFP.

"A bus hit a mine near Ansongo," a small town about 100 kilometres (60 miles) from Gao, the regional hub, a Malian military officer in the area said.

"At least four civilians, including a teenage girl, were killed."

A local official, reached by AFP, added: "It was jihadists who laid the bomb in order to terrorise local people, whom they accuse of providing information to the security forces."

 

The passengers were heading to a weekly fair in a location several dozen kilometres from Ansongo, the Gao region transport association told AFP.

 

"There's no safety," said Oumar Guire, a member of the association. "There are attacks by armed robbers, or jihadists who put down mines in the road."

 

Another attack in the country's centre killed four civilians and a soldier as two trucks chartered by the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, MINUSMA, came under assault.

 

"The trucks were then burnt by the jihadist attackers," a customs official said, adding that the driver of one of the vehicles was among the casualties.

 

- PM cancels visit -

Prime Minister Abdoulaye Idrissa Maiga meanwhile cancelled a visit to the central town of Niafounke after one of the security vehicles being sent to the prime ministerial team hit a mine, officials and locals said.

 

"A soldier lost a leg and two others suffered fractures," an official from Timbuktu said, adding that three other landmines had been found near the site of the blast. 

 

"As a precautionary measure, the prime minister's visit was cancelled."

 

Also in the centre of the country, six jihadists on motorcycles entered the village Fatoma, 10 kilometres from Sevare, and "killed the village chief's councillor," a local official told AFP.

 

Sevare is home to the new military headquarters of the "G5 Sahel", a force aimed at pooling the military resources of five desert nations -- Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger -- that launched its first operations on November 1.

 

Islamist extremists linked to Al-Qaeda took control of the desert north of Mali in early 2012 at the expense of Tuareg rebels, but were chased out of Sahara towns by an ongoing French-led military operation launched in January 2013.

 

In mid-2015, a peace accord was signed with Tuareg leaders aimed at isolating the jihadists.

 

But much of the region remains lawless, despite efforts by Mali's army, French soldiers and MINUSMA.

 

sd-siu/ach/dl/ecl

 

© Agence France-Presse

 

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Sunday, November 5, 2017

US journalist in jail on charges of trying to topple Mugabe

 

A 25-year-old American journalist charged with attempting to overthrow Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe, on account of an alleged tweet that described the ageing leader as "selfish and sick", was remanded in custody on Saturday after denying the accusations.

Martha O'Donovan, who appeared in court in the capital Harare, was charged with subversion as well as undermining or insulting Mugabe, now 93.

The arrest of O'Donovan and the seizure of her laptop in a dawn raid at her apartment on Friday, came just weeks after the government appointed a cyber security minister tasked with policing social media.

Prosecutors said that on October 11, O'Donovan posted a message on Twitter under username "@matigary" which said: "We are being led by a selfish and sick man". The tweet was illustrated with a photo showing the Zimbabwean president with a catheter device.

"Our client is vehemently denying both charges," her lawyer Obey Shava told AFP, adding that O'Donovan would apply for bail on Monday at the High Court.

O'Donovan works for Harare-based Magamba TV, which describes itself as a leading producer of cutting edge political satire and comedy. Its content goes out on YouTube.

Human rights lawyers on Friday had said the arrest was linked to a retweet which did not mention Mugabe by name but referred to a "goblin whose wife and step-son bought a Rolls-Royce".

Mugabe's stepson with his wife and first-lady Grace, is thought to have recently imported two British-built Rolls-Royce vehicles, according to local media reports.

But a charge sheet read in court on Saturday referred to the different post on Twitter that specifically mentioned Mugabe.

The US embassy said on Friday that it had been in contact with O'Donovan and her legal counsel.

The cyber-security ministry was created in Mugabe's latest cabinet reshuffle last month which also saw his deputy Emmerson Mnangagwabeing stripped of his justice portfolio.

The new ministry is seen by rights groups as an attempt to clamp down on social media in the run up to next year's election.

"Some use the internet to fight us and implement what they say is regime change," Mugabe said on Saturday while commissioning a community information centre in the southern city of Bulawayo while O'Donovan was appearing in court.

Mugabe has already been named by his ruling Zanu-PF party as its presidential candidate for the 2018 poll. (AFP)

 

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Sunday, November 5, 2017

US tells staffers of Somalia mission to leave over threat

 

 The United States has ordered all non-essential employees of its mission to Somalia to leave the capital, Mogadishu, because of "specific threat information" against them.

Saturday's statement says the information relates to Mogadishu International Airport.

Somalia remains one of the world's most dangerous countries. The US hasn't had an embassy there since 1991 and calls security "extremely unstable."

Somalia's capital was rocked last month by the country's worst attack, which killed more than 350 people.

The US on Friday carried out its first airstrikes against ISIS fighters in Somalia.

The US Mission to Somalia is based in neighbouring Kenya. The first US ambassador to Somalia in a quarter-century told Radio Muqdisho in June that offices for a permanent diplomatic presence were expected to open in Mogadishu this year. (AFP)

 

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Thursday, September 7, 2017

Hands off our staff, IEBC tells Nasa and Jubilee on changes

 

IEBC Chairman WafulaChebukati has rubbished attempts by Jubilee and Nasa to demand changes to a proposed team to run the October 17 fresh presidential elections, terming the calls an affront on its independence.

In different letters written to Jubilee Secretary-General Raphael Tuju and National Super Alliance co-principal MusaliaMudavadi Wednesday evening, MrChebukati said the commission had all the right to make changes without being directed by any of the political outfits.

“Please note that the commission is an independent constitutional body, which as per Article 249 of the Constitution shall not be subject to direction or control by any person or authority,” MrChebukati said in his letter to MrTuju.

“It is therefore unacceptable for you to provide a list of staff that you direct us not to consider for the project team.”

INDEPENDENT

MrChebukati told MrTuju and MrMudavadi of Nasa to respect the independence of the commission and allow the team to make internal changes as it pleases.

“I welcome your comments that the independence of the IEBC is not negotiable. It is for this reason that I find it unacceptable for you to provide a list of staff that you direct us to “step aside or be suspended,” MrChebukati told MrMudavadi.

However, in the letter, MrChebukati agreed with Nasa that the commission should carry out a full audit of its servers as had been ordered by the Supreme Court.

The court annulled the election of President Uhuru Kenyatta and ordered a fresh election within 60 days.

PROPOSALS

“I have taken your proposals in the context of technology and will review them.

“I also intend to carry out a full audit of the servers guided by the previous orders of the Supreme Court,” MrChebukati said.

He went on: “The process will be transparent with international experts and representatives from the Jubilee Party and the Nasa coalition.”

BRIEFINGS

The chairman also promised weekly briefings with the presidential candidates, and a different weekly engagement with the civil society and religious leaders.

“I have decided to embed two ICT experts from Jubilee and Nasa in my project team,” MrChebukati said.

However, he said that it will be difficult to change the 290 returning officers in the run up to the poll.

"Given the short period of time before the fresh presidential election, I may not be in a position to train new returning officers across the country,” MrChebukati said in his letter to MrMudavadi which he copied to the Jubilee Party.

However, the chairman promised to review places where the returning officers "may not have discharged their duties effectively”.

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Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Polls open in Angola as Dos Santos ends long rule

 

Luanda, Angola | AFP |Polling stations opened Wednesday across Angola in an election that marks the end of President Jose Eduardo Dos Santos's 38-year reign, with his MPLA party predicted to retain power.

AFP journalists reported a slow start to voting at one station in the capital Luanda where Dos Santos and his chosen successor Joao Lourenco are expected to cast their ballots later Wednesday.

Dos Santos's unexpected retirement -- reportedly prompted by ill health -- has triggered the biggest political transition in decades for Angola, a leading oil exporter in Africa.

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Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Rodents force Nigerian president to work from home



Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari 

Lagos, Nigeria | AFP | Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari will work from home after rodents damaged his official office during a more than 100-day overseas medical absence, a presidential spokesman told AFP Tuesday.

The animals damaged furniture and air conditioning fittings in the president's official Abuja office while he was in London receiving treatment, his media adviser Garba Shehu confirmed.

"These are also general works and it is not uncommon for Nigerian presidents to also work from the presidential villa. He has used the residential office for many years," said Shehu.

"What is important is that the job gets done. Whether he does it from his bedroom or his sitting room or his anteroom -- it does not matter. Let the job be done. And the job will be done," Shehu told the Arise News broadcaster.

Shehu was unable to confirm what type of rodent was responsible for the damage, which occurred during the president's prolonged absence for an undisclosed medical condition.

"I do not have that level of detail," he said, adding that it was unclear how long the refurbishment would last

During his time away, tensions surfaced back home, where calls grew for him to either return or resign.

The Nigerian leader met with his security chiefs at his official residence on Tuesday, ordering them to deal with threats to the unity of the country.

In the weeks before Buhari left for London on May 7, he also worked from the presidential residence -- missing cabinet meetings and having official documents transported to him.

Rumours about his health have dogged Buhari even before he came to power in May 2015. He rejected claims during the election that he was critically ill from prostate cancer.

Buhari did not address his absence or medical situation when he addressed the nation on television on Monday, instead talking about separatism, crime, terrorism and the economy in his first speech since returning.

In an official letter to parliament on Monday relieving Vice President Yemi Osinbajo of his duties as acting head of state, Buhari described his trip as a "medical follow-up".

Clashes between protesters calling on Buhari to return from his recent lengthy absence and the presidents' defenders erupted in Abuja last week.

He first travelled to London in June last year for what aides said was a persistent inner ear infection, returning in January for check-ups, according to his office.

The health of Nigeria's president is a sensitive issue. President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua died in office in 2010 from a long-standing, but previously undisclosed, kidney complaint.

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Monday, August 21, 2017

Nigeria's president slams divisions after absence

 

Abuja, Nigeria | AFP |Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari took to state TV on Monday in his first speech since returning from a long medical absence in Britain in a bid to dampen mounting separatist tensions in the country.

The 74-year-old, who received treatment for an undisclosed condition in London, looked thin as he read slowly from a prepared statement in which he also vowed to redouble the fight against Boko Haram jihadists.

"I was distressed to notice that some of the comments (in my absence), especially in the social media have crossed national red lines by daring to question our collective existence as a nation. This is a step too far," he said.

"The national consensus is that it is better to live together than to live apart," added Buhari, who returned to Nigeria on Saturday after more than 100 days away from the west African nation of 190 million people.

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Monday, August 21, 2017

South Africa gives go-ahead to rhino horn auction

 

Johannesburg, South Africa | AFP | A South African court on Sunday gave the go-ahead for an online auction of rhino horns that has outraged conservationists.

South African authorities had moved to ban the three-day auction which they feared would undermine the global ban on rhino trade, refusing to issue a permit.

But the High Court in Pretoria ruled in favour of the auction's South African organiser John Hume, who runs the world's biggest rhino farm.

His lawyer had argued that the permits had been approved but not issued by the authorities in South Africa, where a ban on domestic rhino trade was lifted three months ago.

"We lost the case. We have to hand over the permit that was issued," said environment ministry spokesman Moses Rannditsheni.

Hume's lawyer Izak due Toit said they expected to collect the permit before the auction is due to start at 1000 GMT Monday.

Hume has stockpiled six tonnes of horns and wants to place 500 kilos or 264 horns under the hammer.

"We are happy. I hope that the government has learnt that they can't be unfair to us. The judge expressed his dismay at the conduct of the minister and the department."

Rhino horns are highly prized, estimated to fetch up to $60,000 a kilo on the black market - more than the price of gold or cocaine.

South Africa is home to around 20,000 rhinos, about 80 percent of the worldwide population, but in recent years has suffered record slaughter by poachers.

Hume and some other campaigners say poaching can only be halted by meeting the huge demand from Asia through legally "harvesting" horn from anaesthetised live rhinos.

But animal rights activists charge that the legal sale of rhino horns will only fuel poaching.

Rhino horn is composed mainly of keratin, the same component as in human nails. It is sold in powdered form as a supposed cure for cancer and other diseases -- as well as an aphrodisiac -- in Vietnam and China.

Johan Van Eyk of Van's Auctioneers who will conduct the auction said there is no set opening price because this will be the first ever rhino horn auction.

South Africa has over 300 private rhino breeders who say they have spent more than two billion rand ($150 million) to protect their herds over the past nine years.

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Thursday, August 17, 2017

Sierra Leone mourns 100 children among dead in massive flooding

At least 600 people are still missing in the

At least 600 people are still missing in the capital Freetown [Saidu Bah/AFP] 

By Saidu BAH

Freetown, Sierra Leone. Sierra Leone began a week of mourning Wednesday as it emerged that 105 children were among more than 300 people who perished in mudslides and torrential flooding, in one of the country's worst natural disasters.

With 600 people still missing in Freetown, President Ernest Bai Koroma described the humanitarian challenge ahead as "overwhelming".

He said flags would fly at half-mast and called for urgent help after visiting the devastated hilltop community of Regent on Tuesday.

Aid organisations meanwhile warned that the rainy season was not yet over and that more flooding could arrive at any moment in the west African coastal city of around a million people.

Officials at Freetown's central morgue said Wednesday that 105 of the more than 300 officially dead were children. An independent but unofficial morgue estimate put the toll at 400 dead.

The government of Sierra Leone, one of the poorest countries in the world, has promised relief for what the Red Cross says is more than 3,000 people left homeless by the disaster.

The authorities have opened an emergency response centre in Regent and registration centres to count those left on the streets.

Several UN agencies have ramped up efforts in Freetown, including the World Food Programme's (WFP) distribution of two-week rations of rice, pulses and cooking oil to 7,500 people. The first Israeli aid packages arrived and west African governments delivered cash and rice.

- Mass burials to begin -

Speaking to AFP at the mortuary at the Connaught Hospital, technician Mohamed Sinneh Kamara said his team lacked equipment to process and identify the bodies still piling up.

"We have logistical constraints including a lack of gloves, PPE (personal protective equipment) and rain boots," he said as families gathered to identify their loved ones' bodies.

Mabinty Sesay's family had gone to Regent for an all-night prayer session when their church was buried in the mudslide. "I have lost 13 of my family members but was only able to identify two," she told AFP at the morgue.

One woman collapsed after seeing her husband's dead body among the piles of corpses, amid a powerful stench of decomposing flesh.

The Red Cross clarified that burials which took place on Tuesday were of body bags filled with missing parts of corpses. The government said mass burials of unidentified bodies still at the morgue would take place on Thursday and Friday.

"The situation with all the dead bodies now... No one is able to identify anyone. So as the president said, let the mass burials go ahead," said Adizah Conda at the morgue after losing seven members of her extended family.

The victims will be laid to rest in graves alongside those of the country's last humanitarian disaster, the Ebola crisis, in nearby Waterloo.

- Shock to anger -

Adele Fox, national health coordinator for Sierra Leone at the charity Concern Worldwide, told AFP that the search for bodies continued but that survivors were facing difficult conditions.

"There is basic need for food, water, sanitation equipment and medical assistance. Since it is still the rainy season, further flooding is also a possibility," she said.

The prevailing sentiment among those in the disaster areas had shifted from shock and grief to anger at what is an annual problem in Freetown, she said, though never before on this scale.

The British charity Oxfam said it was trying to prevent a cholera outbreak by distributing clean water and hygiene kits to 2,000 households.

"These are some of the poorest areas in Freetown. Water and sanitation in homes is at best very basic, but at worst nonexistent.

"Overcrowding is a serious health risk and a potential breeding ground for the spread of disease," said Daniel Byrne, part of the Oxfam team in the city.

Britain's international development ministry said it was supplying tents and generators, while its military personnel had helped with relief efforts. Food and medicine would follow, it added.

The European Union released 300,000 euros ($353,000) in emergency funds, while Senegalese and Ivorian delegations handed over cash and food to President Koroma, following the lead of Guinea's president on Tuesday.

- Wake-up call? -

There was growing concern that the warning signs had been missed in a city where illegal construction on precarious ground is common.

President Koroma said in a statement released by his office that "relocation and opening up of a new settlement around the Freetown peninsula" would be considered.

Many homes are now without a water supply due to damage to a reservoir near Regent, according to the Guma Valley Water Company.

Three days of torrential rain culminated on Monday in the Regent mudslide and torrential flooding elsewhere in the city, one of the world's wettest urban areas.

Freetown is hit each year by flooding during several months of rain, and in 2015 bad weather killed 10 people and left thousands homeless.

Sierra Leone ranked 179th out of 188 countries on the UN Development Programme's 2016 Human Development Index, a basket of data combining life expectancy, education and income and other factors.

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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Three ANC lawmakers face disciplinary action over Zuma vote