Tag Archives: Africa

Black boxes from France’s ill-fated helicopters found in Mali

The black boxes from two French military helicopters that collided and killed 13 soldiers during an operation against alleged militants in Mali have been recovered, France has announced.

French military spokesman Colonel Frederic Barbry told BFMTV on Wednesday that the boxes “will be handed over to the relevant authorities to be analyzed.”

A French Tiger attack helicopter and a Cougar military transport helicopter collided under yet unknown circumstances on Monday, during an operation — also involving a third helicopter and a squadron of Mirage jets — to provide air cover for ground troops pursuing alleged militants.

All the 13 soldiers on board the two aircraft were killed in the incident.

Barbry did not rule out any scenario as to the cause of the crash. But he seemed to suggest that the collision might have taken place due to low visibility. It was a moonless night, he said, and flight conditions at the time were “extremely difficult.”

The deaths brought to 41 the number of the French troops killed in the Sahel region since France intervened purportedly against militants in northern Mali in 2013.


Violence, ballot box snatching, vote buying hallmark guber polls in Kogi, Bayelsa

Bookmakers were, yesterday, proven right, when shootings, widespread violence and electoral malpractice took centre stage as Bayelsa and Kogi states went to the polls to elect new governors, and a senator.

In the build up to the exercise, the actions and inaction of some interested parties, forced many, including observer groups to express fears that bedlam may reign. It did, as reflected in at least two deaths, maiming, kidnapping, several cases of ballot box snatching, intimidation of voters, massive rigging and sundry electoral malpractice, which were recorded in both states.

The nadir of the violence in Kogi State, was the killing of two persons, Umoru Shuaib and Faruk Suleiman, at Barracks Polling Unit in Abocho Community, in Dekina Local Council.

Three persons, who were shot in Bayelsa State, have their stars to thank for still being alive, while another youth identified as Prince Odede, allegedly had his hand chopped off by political thugs at Ward 5, Opolo, Yenagoa, Bayelsa State.

In Kogi, which lived up to its reputation as a hotbed of political violence, an unidentified Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) official was allegedly kidnapped at the SUBEB Polling Unit in Lokoja.

The abduction allegedly occurred after gunmen shot sporadically into the air while voting was going on. As voters scampered for safety, the gunmen went away with the official. This happened not long after some suspected thugs reportedly attacked the polling unit where Senator Dino Melaye voted. The hoodlums reportedly broke one of the ballot boxes, carted away the other, and shot severally into the air as they departed in a black Hilux van.

Senator Melaye, who confirmed the development via his official Twitter handle, said that the incident did not happen while he was at the polling unit.

The gunmen, who killed the duo in Abocho, while they were about casting their votes, an eyewitness claimed, apparently came for Shuaib.

“They came in a bus while voting was taking place and were in police uniform. So, we didn’t suspect anything. Shuaib had voted and was chatting with Suleiman close to the poling unit, when the bus drove by. None of the occupants alighted from the vehicle, but all we just heard were gunshots and shouts from the victims, as well as onlookers. And in the ensuing pandemonium, the attackers drove off.

Over 250,000 displaced persons return to Deir Ezzor, Syria (+Photos)

More than 250,000 displaced persons returned to their homes in the city of Deir Ezzor, located about 450 kilometers northeast of this capital.
The figure was released by Raed Mandil, mayor of Deir Ezzor, who referred to a gradual increase in the number of returnees to their homes since the liberation of this city just over two years ago from the Islamic State (Daesh), which occupied over 70% of it.

Mandil explained that during the terrorist occupation lasting from 2013 to the end of 2017, the Deir Ezzor population barely reached 60,000 inhabitants, yet today it exceeds 325,000.

‘Most of the city’s neighborhoods are witnessing a return of their residents, except the neighborhoods of Huwaiqa, Ghanamat, Sinaa and Hamidiya, which were utterly ravaged and need total reconstruction,’ he explained.

‘Due to the blockade and sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union, we lack financial resources and work with old vehicles, but we managed to restore basic services and pave over 60% of the streets of the provincial capital,’ he added.

The province of Deir Ezzor was almost completely occupied by Daesh and the Syrian government presence was limited to only 30% of the provincial capital, under siege by terrorists.

Kogi election: 11th-hour judgements won’t alter our plans- INEC

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has foreclosed any adjustment to its arrangement for the Kogi and Bayelsa governorship elections on account of recently delivered court judgments.

Chairman of the Commission, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, who disclosed this on Tuesday in Lokoja, during a stakeholders’ meeting/signing of peace accord among political parties and candidates, also assured INEC was ready to conduct next Saturday’s election.

He declared all non-sensitive materials had been delivered to the commission’s office in Lokoja while the sensitive materials had been delivered to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

The INEC boss also emphasised the essential value of the Smart Card Readers (SRC), saying their use is mandatory in accordance with the regulations and guidance of the commission for the conduct of elections.

Yakubu however, appealed to all stakeholders to help the INEC in making the exercise a peaceful and successful exercise, saying that all the efforts of the commission to deliver a free, fair and peaceful election require the support and commitment of all stakeholders.

According to him: “I would like to assure the people of Kogi State that our preparations will not be affected by the judgement delivered five days ago in which a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja ordered the Commission to include a political party on the ballot.

“Although the judgement is at variance with the decision of another Federal High Court in Abuja delivered ten days earlier which affirmed the propriety of the Commission’s action in a similar case by another political party, INEC has a consistent record of obeying court orders.

“However, we will consider legitimate steps to address the conflicting judgements by courts of coordinate jurisdiction in the interest of our electoral jurisprudence.

“Furthermore, with four days to the Governorship elections, two more cases challenging the decision of the Commission on the validity of candidates’ nominations have been reserved for judgement in Bayelsa and Kogi States.

“In addition, there are twelve (12) cases of intra-party disputes filed by aspirants from different political parties challenging the conduct of their own primaries and nomination of candidates, some of which have been reserved for judgement in the next few days.

“I must admit that the plethora of court cases and conflicting judgements delivered on the eve of elections in Nigeria are stressful to the Commission and costly to the nation.

“However, I wish to reassure the people of Bayelsa and Kogi States that learning from experience, the Commission has taken steps to ensure that the elections on Saturday in the two States are not affected by any eleventh hour judgement.

“With only four days to the election, how prepared is the Commission? The short answer is that we are ready.

“So far, the Commission has successfully implemented 12 out of our 14-point plan for the election as required by law.

“The Commission has delivered all non-sensitive materials for the election to our office here in Lokoja.

“The sensitive materials for the Governorship and Kogi West Senatorial Re-run elections are also ready.

“As usual, they are being handled by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). The normal process of inspection and distribution of sensitive materials within the State will be done in the presence of party agents, security agencies, observers and the media.

The Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) for Kogi State will communicate the date and time for stakeholders’ inspection and the arrangements for deployment in line with the Commission’s established procedure.

“For emphasis, let me reiterate that the Smart Card Readers (SCRs) have been configured.

“It is mandatory to use the SCRs for voter accreditation and authentication in line with the Commission’s regulations and guidelines for the conduct of elections.

“Let me also reiterate that voter inducement in all forms, including vote-buying at polling units is a violation of the law.

“The ban on the use of mobile phones and other photographic devices in the voting cubicles is still in force and will be strictly enforced and monitored.”


‘Probe police excesses against students in Kenya’

Global human rights watchdog, the Amnesty International on Tuesday asked Kenya to probe police excesses and violence against university students. 

“Amnesty Kenya is deeply concerned about the violence against students resorted by police officers at Jamo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology in Juja, Kiambu on Nov. 11,” the civil rights group said in a statement. 

“The incidents were precipitated, when students gathered to protest against growing insecurity in the campus and around,” the statement read. 

“We call upon the Internal Affairs Unit of the NPS [National Police Service], the Independent Policing Oversight Authority and the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights to commence investigations into the cause of the violence,” Amnesty International said.

The interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiangi and the Inspector General of the NPS had committed to probe and arrest officers involved in the incident. While appreciating this commitment, human rights body noted that Kenyan police officers have been using excessive force against students in recent years. 

It also recommended reforms in the methods of policing, to break the cycle of violent incidents in the Kenyan seats of higher learning.

“Violent policing during demonstrations must stop. Officers who break their code of office must be held individually guilty of misconduct, sanctioned and made to compensate victims,” said Irungu Houghton, executive director of Amnesty office in Kenya.


Nigerian forces attack Zakzaki supporters during Arba’een mourning rituals

Security forces in Nigeria have attacked the followers of Sheikh Ibrahim al-Zakzaky, the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), during a religious procession in the capital, Abuja, arresting at least four people.

The security forces used tear gas and live ammunition against Zakzaky’s supporters, who were taking part in a procession to commemorate Arba’een, the 40th day after the martyrdom anniversary of Imam Hussein (PBUH) — the third Shia Imam — on Friday.

One of the mourners was reportedly injured in the attack.

Nigeria has been cracking down on the IMN for several years.

Sheikh Zakzaky has been in detention since December 2015 after his home in Zaria was brutally raided by Nigeria’s forces, during which he was beaten and lost his left eye.

During the violent crackdown, three of his sons lost their lives, his wife sustained serious wounds and more than 300 of his followers were killed.

IMN members regularly take to the streets of the Nigerian capital to call for the release of the sheikh.


Nigeria Releases 25 Children Cleared of Suspected Ties With Boko Haram

MAIDUGURI, NIGERIA, – The Nigerian army released 25 children Thursday after clearing them of suspected ties with armed Islamist groups in the country’s restive northeast region, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said.

Nigeria has fought an insurgency by militant Islamist group Boko Haram in northeastern states that has killed more than 30,000 people over the past decade. It is not clear how many children in total have been drawn into armed groups, including Boko Haram, or how they have been recruited.

UNICEF said 23 boys and two girls were released by the army and handed to authorities in Borno, the state worst affected by the insurgency.

“These are children taken away from their families and communities, deprived of their childhood, education, health care, and of the chance to grow up in a safe and enabling environment,” said UNICEF Nigeria Acting Representative Pernille Ironside.

Earlier this week, police in Lagos said they had freed 19 women and girls who had mostly been abducted and made pregnant by captors planning to sell their babies.

Last week, around 400 boys and men — some as young as 5 and many in chains and scarred from beatings — were rescued from a building in the northern city of Kaduna that purported to be an Islamic school.

Ironside said UNICEF was working to ensure that all children affected by the conflict were reunited with their families.

A total of 2,499 people, including 1,627 children, have been cleared of association with non-state armed groups in Nigeria since 2016, UNICEF said.


Human Rights Watch responds to Trump: El-Sisi is no ‘Great Leader’

Human Rights Watch (HRW) condemned, Thursday, US President Donald Trump’s remarks on Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, during their recent meeting at the United Nations.

In a statement posted on its Web site, the international organisation condemned Trump’s description of El-Sisi as “the great leader who has brought Egypt out of turmoil.”

HRW pointed out that Trump’s praise comes “days after widespread protests erupted in numerous Egyptian cities after an Egyptian contractor, who had worked with Egypt’s top brass for years, posted videos on social media detailing alleged corruption in El-Sisi’s inner circle.”

The organisation addressed El-Sisi’s blaming of the protests on “political Islam,” claiming: “The slogans and chants had nothing to do with Islam. The protests appeared to be sparked by allegations of corruption, harsh suppression of civil society, the military’s abusive campaign in the Sinai, the massive incarceration of dissidents and impoverishment blamed on El-Sisi’s economic policies. ”

HRW recalled the violations El-Sisi’s regime has committed since the 2013 military coup, adding: “Over the last seven years, security forces have killed more than 500 people in apparent extrajudicial killings and suspicious raids. Thousands have been convicted in unfair trials, often on bogus charges.”

“More than 20 journalists remain in jail for doing their jobs, and the government has blocked hundreds of websites (including Human Rights Watch). Among al-Sisi’s political prisoners are at least six US citizens (the number may be as high as 18),” continued HRW.

The organisation went on: “Prison overcrowding and deplorable conditions have contributed to the deteriorating health and likely the deaths of scores, including former president Mohamed Morsi. Torture is endemic.”

HRW criticised US-Egyptian relations in light of these violations, noting that “last month, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo waived the congressional restrictions on the Fiscal Year 2018 funding and authorised the release of the $300 million that had been conditioned on human rights improvements, citing national security concerns, given the state of affairs in Egypt.”

The organisation also pointed out that “long-term relations between Egypt and the United States do not justify the administration’s coddling of El-Sisi and turning a blind eye to his government’s massive human rights violations.”

“These latest protests make clear that Egyptians have not forgotten the 2011 dream of living in a country that respects and protects their basic rights. The US government should likewise be clear that it stands by Egyptians’ hopes and aspirations,” HRW concluded.

The operation room of the Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights received 1,909 reports of arrest and detention cases so far. About 1,841 males and 68 girls and women have been arrested and detained in 20 governorates since the beginning of recent events. It  pointed out that “investigations were carried out with 977 of them, while 924 people are left with no official information about them.”


Tunisia: New appeals against first round of presidential elections

Tunisian Administrative Court spokesman, Imad Ghabri, confirmed that the court received today new appeals against its judgments regarding the first round of the presidential elections.

On Monday, the court rejected the appeals of six candidates against the results of the first round of the presidential elections held on 15 September.

The deadlines for appeals set by the Administrative Court rulings expire on Thursday. The Independent High Electoral Commission was expected to announce the date of the second round, in case of the absence of any new appeals.

The run-off election is likely to be held on 13 October, according to previous official statements.

“So far, we have received appeals from candidate Hatem Boulabiar (independent) and Naji Djelloul (independent),” said Ghabri to Anadolu.

He also clarified that “pleadings will take place on Saturday on these appeals and the verdict will be issued next Monday.”

A member of the Independent High Electoral Commission, Hasna Ben Slimane, previously said: “If appeals against the results of the first round are not resumed, the closest date for run-offs is 6 October in conjunction with the legislative elections. In case of an appeal, the run-offs will be scheduled for 13 October.”


IMF: Zimbabwe has the highest inflation rate in the world

Harare, Zimbabwe – Annual inflation in Zimbabwe was 300 percent in August, according to new data released by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). At that level, the troubled southern African nation’s inflation rate is the highest in the world.

Annualised inflation in Zimbabwe was measured at 175.66 percent in June, up from 97.85 percent in May. In a statement released on Thursday, IMF head of delegation Gene Leon said Zimbabwe was experiencing what he described as severe economic difficulties.

Leon was a part of an IMF delegation that was recently in the country to assess progress on the implementation of a Staff Monitored Program (SMP) that measures economic performance and Zimbabwe’s commitment to reforms. The programme is a key step towards unlocking IMF funding.

“Since the February currency reform, the exchange rate has depreciated ,” Leon said. The currency went from one-to-one with the US unit to 1 to 16.5 as of September 23, “fostering high inflation, which reached almost 300 percent (year-over-year) in August.”

Zimbabwe’s Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube banned the publication of annual inflation numbers in July to allow the country’s statistical agency, Zimstat, to compile new price data, which will only be published in February 2020, Ncube said.

This is not the first time Zimbabwe has experienced high inflation. Government figures show Zimbabwe’s peak inflation rate was 79.6 billion percent month-on-month and 89.7 sextillion percent year-on-year in mid-November 2009. Hyperinflation only ended the following year with the adoption of the US dollar.

Sting of inflation

While Zimstat is not confirming the IMF’s inflation estimate, many Zimbabweans are feeling the sting of the Zimbabwean dollar’s diminishing value.

Chenjerai Varugu, a vendor who sells mobile phone chargers and USB cables in Harare’s streets, says high inflation has made life tougher for him.

“Life is just now harder for me,” he told Al Jazeera. “I am now struggling to buy food. Bread is now $10. Everything has gone up.” When the local currency was pegged to the US dollar a loaf of bread could be bought for $1.

Varugu said he was thinking of leaving the country because most of his merchandise comes from abroad and that makes his livelihood particularly sensitive to exchange rates.

“The weakening local currency also affects my business in a big way because the wholesalers of the products buy these products in US dollars and increase the prices when the Zim dollar weakens against the US dollar,” Varugu said. When the cost of doing business for him rises, he raises prices, but he admits this is not a sustainable solution. “Customers generally don’t buy as much when you increase the price.”

Leon said economic difficulties in the country have been exacerbated by severe weather shocks. He foresees a steep drop in the value of all the goods and services produced within Zimbabwe in 2019.

“Social conditions have deteriorated sharply, with more than half of Zimbabwe’s population [8.5 million people] estimated by the UN to be food insecure in 2019/2020. Weakening confidence, policy uncertainty, a continuation of FX market distortions, and a recent expansionary monetary stance has increased pressure on the exchange rate,” Leon added.

Worse than Venezuela

Like Zimbabwe, the Venezuelan government in 2018 once suspended inflation readings.

This year, annual inflation in Venezuela – the country with the world’s second-highest inflation – was measured at 135.3 percent in August. On a month-on-month basis, consumer prices in Venezuela rose 65.2 percent in the same month, according to the opposition-controlled Congress.

While inflation in Venezuela has decelerated in recent months because of strict reserve requirements on banks, which reduced the credit available to businesses, Zimbabwe’s rate hike has not slowed down inflation.