Monday, September 30, 2019

Civilians Among Victims of US Air Strikes in Somalia, Says Rights Group
US military Africa Command claims three killed were supporting Islamist operations

Sally Hayden in Kampala
Irish Times

People gather at the scene of an attack on an Italian military convoy in Mogadishu on Tuesday. Photograph: Said Yusuf Warsame/EPA

Dozens of civilians have been killed or injured by US army air strikes in Somalia, after being wrongly targeted as “al-Shabaab terrorists”, according to Amnesty International.

The human rights group’s latest investigation found that three men killed in an air strike in March were civilian farmers with no association to the militant Islamist group. Between them, the three men left behind 19 children, according to Amnesty.

The US military’s Africa Command (Africom) denies the men were civilians.

Ella Knight, campaigner for Amnesty’s military security and policing team, told The Irish Times the organisation had been able to investigate only six of the more than 130 air strikes that have been carried out by Africom since April 2017. In just those six, 17 civilians were killed, she said.

“To us it’s very likely that the real scale of civilian casualties is much higher than has been documented.” The US military had so far admitted two civilian casualties, a woman and a child, she said.

“Ultimately we want the US to conduct proper, thorough, urgent investigations into, firstly, all the strikes we’ve documented and presented evidence to them [about[the US] have or had reporting mechanisms in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. If they wanted to they would have the means to,” Ms Knight said. “We feel like the US is all too quick to label parts of the Somali population as terrorists or al-Shabaab members, [but] they’re not carrying out investigations on the ground.”

Since Donald Trump became president in 2016, the US military has roughly tripled the number of air strikes it is carrying out in Somalia each year, according to Pentagon figures.

Amanda Sperber, an investigative journalist who has been reporting on US air strikes in Somalia since mid-2018, said language barriers and a lack of access make it difficult to travel to frontline villages or spend extensive time embedding there, though it was “far from impossible”.

“I do not think this is a strategic cover-up by the US, I think it’s a lethal case of confusion and arrogance. I am not sure what needs to be done to encourage full transparency, but definitely engaging with Somali civilians would be a place to start,” she said.

‘Reasonable certainty’

In a statement to The Irish Times, an Africom spokesman said it had arrived at a reasonable certainty that the men Amnesty says were civilians were members of al-Shabaab, and actively supporting al-Shabaab operational activity.

“Africom willingly receives allegations from multiple sources, including media, human rights organisations and social media,” a spokesman said. “All allegations brought to the attention of Africom are thoroughly assessed. Africom minimises the risk to civilians by following a thorough, reasonable methodology that accounts for weapons effects and mitigates risk to civilians.”

Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for attacks on Monday in Somalia on an Italian military convoy and a on a base where US special forces train Somali commandos. No casualties were reported in either attack. The US military said it and partnered forces had killed 10 militants and destroyed a vehicle in response to the attack on its base.
US Military Shows Appalling Disregard for Civilians Killed in Somalia Air Strike
30 September 2019, 23:01 UTC
Amnesty International

New evidence that three men targeted were civilian farmers, not “terrorists”
US military ignores plight of grieving families
Amnesty International has now documented more than two dozen civilian casualties in US government’s secretive war

An investigation by Amnesty International has revealed that three men killed in a US military air strike in March after being targeted as “Al-Shabaab terrorists” were in fact civilian farmers with no evidence of links to the armed group.

Disturbingly, the organization has also learned that, despite being informed in May of its flawed assessment of at least one of the men as a fighter, the US military’s Africa Command (AFRICOM) failed to contact his relatives to investigate further. Between them, the men left behind 19 children.

“It’s bad enough that the US Africa Command appears not to know who its air strikes are actually killing and maiming in its secretive war in Somalia. But it’s reprehensible that AFRICOM offers no way for those affected to contact it and has failed to reach out to the families of victims after its version of events was called into question in this case,” said Abdullahi Hassan, Amnesty International’s Somalia Researcher.

It’s bad enough that the US Africa Command appears not to know who its air strikes are actually killing and maiming in its secretive war in Somalia. But it’s reprehensible that AFRICOM offers no way for those affected to contact it and has failed to reach out to the families of victims after its version of events was called into question in this case.

Abdullahi Hassan, Amnesty International’s Somalia Researcher

“This is just one of many cases of the US military wantonly tarnishing large parts of the Somali population with the ‘terrorist’ label. No thought is given to the civilian victims or the plight of their grieving families left behind.”

The impact destroyed the vehicle, instantly killing the driver, Abdiqadir Nur Ibrahim (46), and one passenger, Ibrahim Mohamed Hirey (30).

A man who was a close friend of Abdiqadir Nur Ibrahim visited the scene the next morning and described the aftermath: “Abdiqadir’s body was completely destroyed but I recognized… his face that was burnt…I also recognized his watch which was hanging from the front side of the car.” A woman who visited the scene told Amnesty International that Abdiqadir Nur Ibrahim and Ibrahim Mohamed Hirey “were both burnt beyond recognition and cut into pieces.”

Abdiqadir’s body was completely destroyed but I recognized… his face that was burnt…I also recognized his watch which was hanging from the front side of the car. Friend of one of the victims who witnessed the aftermath of the strike.

A third man traveling in the vehicle, Abdiqadir’s half-brother, Mahad Nur Ibrahim (46), was very badly burnt and died in a hospital in Mogadishu almost three weeks later. Medical records seen by Amnesty International listed his cause of death as cardiac arrest after suffering sepsis and burns over more than 50% of his body. There is no evidence that AFRICOM attempted to engage with him before he died.

An AFRICOM press release on 19 March alleged the victims were “three terrorists,” without citing any evidence. It also stated AFRICOM “was aware of reports alleging civilian casualties,” and would review any relevant information about the incident.

However, in May, a journalist writing for Foreign Policy provided AFRICOM with evidence that Ibrahim Mohamed Hirey was a civilian and passed on contact information for his relatives. But to date AFRICOM has not reached out to them.

Amnesty International shared further information about the case with AFRICOM in August, but AFRICOM has refused to back down on its claim that the three men were “terrorists”, stating: “This airstrike was conducted against lower level al-Shabaab members to decrease morale ahead of Somali Army operations… Specifically, information gathered before and after the strike indicated that all individuals injured or killed were members or affiliates of al-Shabaab”. AFRICOM did not provide any evidence for its claim or indicate that it will be investigating further. It has not changed its position on any cases in Somalia that Amnesty International has brought to its attention to date.

Amnesty International interviewed 11 people – in person and remotely – about the 18 March strike, including family members, those who visited the scene, and staff at Hormuud Telecom, a company where one of the men also worked.

The organization also assessed media reports, US government statements, vehicle purchase records, official IDs, medical records and videos and photographic evidence of the scene of the attack and injuries sustained by the victims.

Everyone the organization spoke to was adamant that none of the men was a member of Al-Shabaab. Also, Al-Shabaab did not prevent the relatives of those killed from collecting and burying their remains, which the armed group generally does when its own fighters are killed.

AFRICOM’s reporting on the strike and correspondence with Amnesty International raise serious questions about its intelligence-gathering and its targeting of what it claimed were “affiliates” of Al-Shabaab, which may have violated international humanitarian law.

At least two dozen civilians killed or injured

To date, Amnesty International has documented six cases where US air strikes are believed to have resulted in civilian casualties – killing a total of 17 people and wounding eight.

On 20 March this year, the organization’s ground-breaking report, The Hidden US War in Somalia, published reams of evidence to counter AFRICOM’s repeated claims until then that its operations in Somalia had resulted in “zero civilian casualties”. Just over two weeks later, on 5 April, AFRICOM admitted to its first-ever civilian casualties in Somalia, stating that Amnesty International’s work had prompted it to review its records. Six months later, AFRICOM has not shared any update on the status or outcome of that review.

US air strikes in Somalia surged in early 2017, after President Trump signed an executive order declaring the south of the country an “area of active hostilities”. Since then, AFRICOM has used drones and manned aircraft to carry out at least 131 strikes in the country.

The attack in Abdow Dibile is one of 50 strikes the US military has admitted to in Somalia so far this year (up to mid-September). This outstrips the 47 strikes in 2018, and the 34 strikes carried out in the last nine months of 2017.

“This is yet another crushing injustice – three civilian men died agonizing deaths while their families are left questioning why the US military targeted and killed them. It is also potentially unlawful and raises questions about how seriously AFRICOM takes its obligations under international law,” said Brian Castner, Amnesty International’s Senior Crisis Advisor on Arms and Military Operations.

This is yet another crushing injustice – three civilian men died agonizing deaths while their families are left questioning why the US military targeted and killed them. It is also potentially unlawful and raises questions about how seriously AFRICOM takes its obligations under international law.
Brian Castner, Amnesty International’s Senior Crisis Advisor on Arms and Military Operations
“The US government must ensure thorough, impartial investigations into all credible allegations of civilian casualties are carried out, with accountability for those responsible for violations and reparation made to the victims and survivors. It can start by establishing an accessible mechanism for Somalis to safely report civilian casualties of US military operations.”

ADDITIONAL BACKGROUND AND ANALYSIS
ABDOW DIBILE, 18 MARCH 2019

In the middle of the afternoon on 18 March 2019, a US air strike hit a vehicle carrying three civilian men near the hamlet of Abdow Dibile, approximately 5km southwest of Afgoye, Lower Shabelle. The vehicle was carrying three men – Ibrahim Mohamed Hirey (30), a farmer; Abdiqadir Nur Ibrahim (46), a farmer and employee of Hormuud Telecom (Hormuud), a telecomunications company; and his half-brother Mahad Nur Ibrahim (46), also a farmer. The vehicle was destroyed and Abdiqadir Nur Ibrahim and Ibrahim Mohamed Hirey were killed instantly. Mahad Nur Ibrahim was badly burnt and taken to a hospital in Mogadishu, where he later died. US Africa Command (AFRICOM) acknowledged responsibility for the strike and referred to the deceased as being “terrorists” and “lower level members of Al-Shabaab”.

Testimonies and other evidence gathered by Amnesty International indicate that the three men in the vehicle were civilians and none were members of Al-Shabaab.

In researching this strike, Amnesty International interviewed 11 people, including family members, Hormuud Telecom staff, and three individuals who visited the scene after the attack. Amnesty International also analyzed media reports, US government statements, medical records, vehicle purchase records, official ID, satellite imagery, and videos and photographs of the scene of the attack and of injuries sustained by the victims.

Al-Shabaab controls much of Lower Shabelle, including the area around Abdow Dibile, although in recent months Somalia government forces have regained control over several key towns in the region, including Sabiid, Barire and Awdheegle. According to residents interviewed by Amnesty International, while Al-Shabaab members come and go in the area around Abdow Dibile, they do not have a permanent presence in the hamlet.

On 18 March 2019, Abdiqadir and Mahad Nur Ibrahim and Ibrahim Mohamed Hirey were travelling towards the hamlet of Abdow Dibile from the village of Muuri, Lower Shabelle, in a white Toyota Surf SUV. They had been visiting their farms near Muuri that day, as they often would, and were returning from the farms to their respective homes in Mogadishu, Leego and Yaaq Bariwayne. Between 3 and 4pm, when the vehicle was approximately 750m north of Abdow Dibile, it was hit and destroyed by a munition launched by a US aircraft.

A friend of Abdiqadir Nur Ibrahim, living in Mogadishu, told Amnesty International that he learned on the night of the attack of his death from a relative of Abdiqadir Nur Ibrahim. Early the following morning, the friend left Mogadishu and travelled to Abdow Dibile. At around 8am he arrived in the hamlet where he found Mahad Nur Ibrahim, badly burnt but alive, inside a vehicle bound for hospital. Amnesty International also viewed photographs of these injuries. Mahad Nur Ibrahim told his friend that the three men had been travelling from their farms near Muuri, when their car was struck. Shortly after they spoke, Mahad Nur Ibrahim was driven to Digfeer hospital in Mogadishu, approximately 30km away. “Mahad later succumbed to his injuries and died in a Mogadishu hospital,” the friend told Amnesty International. According to hospital records viewed by Amnesty International, Mahad Nur Ibrahim died on 6 April 2019. The records state that the cause of death was cardiac arrest, after suffering from sepsis and burns on more than 50% of his body.

The friend described to Amnesty International what the scene of the attack looked like when he arrived, and how he identified the two victims whose bodies remained at the scene. On arrival, he found Ibrahim Mohamed Hirey’s body cut into pieces and lying near the wreckage, after local people had removed him from the back of the vehicle. Amnesty International reviewed photographs that appear to show Ibrahim’s burnt head and torso.

The friend and relatives of Abdiqadir Nur Ibrahim and Ibrahim Mohamed Hirey buried the two men in Abdow Dibile on Tuesday 19 March.

An elder in the Wadalaan Gorgaate clan and distant cousin of Abdiqadir and Mahad Nur Ibrahim explained that the families of the men received no support from the Somalia or US government after losing their loved ones.

“No one apologized or even asked us about their death. We came together as a family after their death, but we just could not give them any support. We left it to God. We don’t know what actually happened and why they were killed, maybe it was a mistake. We would like justice to be served and the families of the deceased supported.”

Abdiqadir Nur Ibrahim was a father of eight. He owned electric generators supplying the village of Leego in Wanlaweyn district, Lower Shabelle, and farmed land near Muuri, in Afgoye district. He was also the head of Hormuud’s Leego office. Mahad Nur Ibrahim was a father of four. Ibrahim Mohamed Hirey was a father of seven. In addition to farming, he leased out farm equipment and ran a business transporting foodstuff between Mogadishu and Muuri. Ibrahim Mohamed Hirey previously lived with his family in Muuri, but they fled to Mogadishu five years ago due to the conflict between Biyamal and Habargidir clans.

Amnesty International interviewed family members, neighbours, and colleagues of the victims, all of whom unequivocally stated that the men were not members of Al-Shabaab.

All 11 people Amnesty International spoke to were adamant that the three men were civilians. “He was not Al-Shabaab” a relative of Mahad Nur Ibrahim explained. “He owned a truck and he transported charcoal to Mogadishu. Al-Shabaab banned charcoal business in Leego and Lower Shabelle so he was not doing much in the past two years. He wanted to invest in the farms with the help of his brother, but both were killed while coming back from the farms.”

A Habargidir clan elder and relative of Ibrahim Mohamed Hirey was also clear on this point: “I can confirm before anyone that Ibrahim was a civilian and not an Al-Shabaab guy”. Another relative concurred: “He was a civilian, he was not member of Al-Shabaab. If he were Al-Shabaab we would not have run away from the Biyamal-Habargidir conflict. We were basically IDPs in Mogadishu with Ibrahim supporting us. I don’t know why he was targeted. It was a clear aggression.”

According to a fellow employee at Hormuud who Amnesty International interviewed, as well as relatives, Abdiqadir Nur Ibrahim had worked for Hormuud for over a decade and was also not an Al-Shabaab member. Those who knew the men questioned why they had been killed. “I don’t know why [Abdiqadir’s] car was targeted but I think it was a mistake,” a friend said. “The three people who were killed in that car were farmers and not members of Al-Shabaab”.

In addition to the testimonies, there is additional circumstantial evidence which indicates that the deceased were civilians. Al-Shabaab did not treat the three men as if they were members of the armed group. Families of the victims were not prevented from recovering the bodies and taking the injured to hospital. Testimony gathered throughout Amnesty International’s research in Somalia has consistently shown that Al-Shabaab will collect and bury their dead themselves, often before they permit civilians back into the area. Additionally, Mahad Nur Ibrahim was transported from Abdow Dibile to government-controlled Mogadishu, where he was treated at Digfeer hospital, a civilian facility, where it would have been relatively easy for Somalia government forces to question or arrest him.

In a press release published on 19 March 2019, US Africa Command (AFRICOM) stated that the previous day, 18 March 2019, US forces conducted an airstrike “in coordination with the Federal Government of Somalia’s continued efforts to weaken al-Shabaab” in the “vicinity of Awdheegle,” Lower Shabelle. AFRICOM claimed it assessed that three “terrorists” were killed in the strike. It went on to confirm however, “we are aware of reports alleging civilian casualties resulting from this airstrike. As with any allegation of civilian casualties we receive, U.S. Africa Command will review any information it has about the incident, including any relevant information provided by third parties.”

According to media reports, AFRICOM was presented with the contact details of Ibrahim Mohamed Hirey’s family in May 2019. Amnesty International understands that the family have not been contacted by US authorities in relation to the attack that killed their relative.

Amnesty International wrote to AFRICOM on 29 August 2019 presenting details of the allegation that the three victims of the attack were civilians, and seeking its response. AFRICOM replied on 18 September 2019, stating:

“In coordination with the Federal Government of Somalia, U.S. Africa Command did conduct a precision-guided airstrike that corresponds to the time and location of this allegation. This airstrike was conducted against lower level al-Shabaab members to decrease morale ahead of Somali Army operations.

Pursuant to our thorough assessment procedures, we determined that U.S. Africa Command is not likely to have caused the civilian casualties alleged on 18 March 2019. Specifically, information gathered before and after the strike indicated that all individuals injured or killed were members or affiliates of al-Shabaab. We have not received any new or additional information that contradicts this information.”

Further, AFRICOM stated:

“To date, U.S. Africa Command has only received an allegation of a civilian casualty with respect to the driver of the vehicle – there have been no other allegations that the additional two passengers were civilian. Based on detailed methods and a body of multi-intelligence reporting, to include the actions observed from the vehicle, U.S. Africa Command arrived at reasonable certainty the vehicle and its occupants were al-Shabaab and actively supporting al-Shabaab operational activity.”

Amnesty International also wrote to the Somalia government on 20 September, presenting the details of the allegations. At the time of publishing, the government had not replied.

Amnesty International’s evidence above indicates that, regardless of its intention, US forces failed to undertake necessary measures to ensure that they were targeting fighters directly participating in hostilities and not civilians. Contrary to AFRICOM’s assessment, there is significant evidence that the deceased are civilians and were killed unlawfully. Failure to take feasible precautions that are necessary to verify that a target is a military objective is in itself a violation of international humanitarian law and can result in indiscriminate attacks. Indiscriminate attacks in which civilians are killed or injured can constitute war crimes.

The description by AFRICOM of those killed in this attack as “members or affiliates of Al-Shabaab” [emphasis added] is concerning. As Amnesty International explains in-depth in its March 2019 report, The Hidden US War in Somalia: Civilian casualties of US air strikes in Lower Shabelle, the US military appears to be applying an overly broad concept of who is targetable. According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, individuals suspected of membership in armed groups must not be targeted on the basis of “abstract affiliation, family ties, or other criteria prone to error, arbitrariness or abuse.” AFRICOM’s response to Amnesty International suggests that US forces may have targeted these men on the basis of criteria that do not conform to the requirements of international humanitarian law. Amnesty International’s concern about the arbitrary nature of targeting based on supposed Al-Shabaab membership is compounded by the reference to targeting on the basis of the vague notion of “affiliation.” In response to a request by Amnesty International, the US Department of Defense previously refused to explain how it determines affiliation to Al-Shabaab, stating that this would “jeopardize the intelligence process which we gather that information [sic]”. Based on Amnesty International’s findings in this and previous cases, we fear that the term “affiliates of al-Shabaab” may be used by the US military to describe any military-aged male who is unfortunate enough to be in the vicinity of a suspected Al-Shabaab fighter at the time of a US strike. This would be an unlawful practice that could amount to targeting civilians who are not directly participating in hostilities.

In the context of a non-international armed conflict, only individuals who are directly participating in hostilities may lawfully be targeted. Direct attacks against the civilian population and individual civilians not directly participating in hostilities are prohibited and constitute war crimes. Further legal analysis, including regarding what constitutes direct participation in hostilities, can be found in chapter four of The Hidden US War in Somalia.

Further, there is strong evidence to call into question the “detailed methods“ and “body of multi-intelligence reporting” that the US military used in this strike. In its press release the day after the attack, AFRICOM claimed to have killed three people. But at that time only two were dead, the third still alive and would soon be in Digfeer hospital. The US has not corrected this error in further statements. Additionally, if the US was confident Mahad Nur Ibrahim was an Al-Shabaab operative, then there was also ample opportunity to arrest him in hospital after the strike. That the US post-strike intelligence assessment was not sufficient to correctly note the number killed, nor the location of the third victim of the strike, speaks to the quality of the US intelligence and the degree to which it should be trusted to correctly identify and categorize members of Al-Shabaab.

US and Somalia authorities must ensure an independent, impartial, and thorough investigation is conducted into this attack. They should also ensure that anyone responsible for violating international humanitarian law is held accountable, compensate the victims’ families, and implement an effective mechanism to ensure a safe and accessible means for people to self-report civilian casualties from military operations.
Al-Shabab Attacks Airbase Used by US Military in Somalia
By Harun Maruf
VOA
Mon, 09/30/2019 - 14:27

Italian and Somali security forces are seen near armored vehicles at the scene of an attack on a Italian military convoy in Mogadishu, Somalia, Sept. 30, 2019.

Fern Robinson, Meghan Duzor contributed to this report.

Al-Shabab militants launched an attack on an airbase used by the U.S. military supporting Somali forces, security sources said.

The militants detonated explosions from two car bombs at Ballidogle airport in Lower Shabelle region, about 90 kilometers (56 miles) west of Mogadishu. A local source reported hearing two explosions in the vicinity of the airport.

A U.S. Africa Command statement said no U.S. or Somali forces were injured in the attack. It said in response to the assault, the U.S Africa Command conducted two airstrikes and used small arms fire to target al-Shabab militants, killing 10 of them and destroying one vehicle involved in the attack.

The commander of Somali forces trained by the U.S. military in Somalia, Major Abdirahman Omar Jeeni-Qaar, said all of the al-Shabab attackers were killed.

"All the men they sent, none of them escaped," he said in an interview with VOA Somali. He denied an al-Shabab claim that hundreds of soldiers were killed in the assault.

Following the attack, al-Shabab issued a statement claiming responsibility for "storming" the base.

Somali national army radio, in a twitter post, said the militants detonated car bombs at the outer perimeter of the base. It said the Somali soldiers and their U.S. partners "repelled" the attack.

The U.S. Ambassador to Somalia condemned the attack and praised Somali security forces for their actions.  "We commend the Somali security forces who repelled the attack against the Somali National Army (SNA) Base in Baledogle, Lower Shabelle region," a statement said.

The Associated Press reports the U.S. uses the base to launch drone attacks on al-Shabab targets.

Meanwhile, a car bomb exploded in Mogadishu, the capital, targeting a military convoy near the Jaalle Siyad military academy. Witnesses said the suicide car bomb detonated near the academy, which is used for training Somali security forces by the international forces, including the European Union.

Reuters reports the explosion missed European Union peacekeepers, but injured Somali civilians.
Al-Shabab Militants Claim Attack on Somalia Base Used by U.S. Forces
SEPTEMBER 30, 2019 / 3:14 PM
CBS/AP

A Somali official confirmed reports of an attack on a U.S. base in the country on Monday. Yusuf Abdourahman, a security official with the Lower Shabelle regional administration, told The Associated Press that a suicide car bomber detonated a vehicle packed with explosives at the gate of a military airstrip that serves as a base for U.S. and Somali forces.

He said a burst of gunfire could be heard across the base after the bombing, suggesting an ongoing attack on the facility.

Somalia's Islamic extremist rebels, al-Shabab, claimed responsibility for the attack.

The U.S. military uses Belidogle airstrip in the Lower Shabelle region as a base where it launches drones that attack al-Shabab and trains Somali troops. AFRICOM confirmed a strike by U.S. drones about two weeks ago in support of Somali forces who came under attack by al-Shabab militants while on patrol in Lower Juba province.

There was no information immediately provided by the U.S. military's Africa Command (AFRICOM) on the incident at Belidogle.

Al-Shabab, which often exaggerates its battlefield operations, claimed in a statement posted online that the attack began with multiple explosives-laden trucks, which it said had allowed a group of militants to get into the base where they "engaged American troops."

There were reports of a second attack on European Union peacekeepers in Somalia's capital, Mogadishu. A Reuters journalist reported seeing a seriously damaged armored vehicle with a small Italian flag on it after an explosion that apparently targeted an EU convoy. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

Al-Shabab was behind the brazen assault on a shopping and hotel complex in Nairobi, Kenya, in January that left more than 20 people dead, including one American man.

Kenyan intelligence officials told CBS News that the al-Shabab cell in Kenya behind that attack had been scouting the upmarket dusitD2 hotel complex for at least two years. 

First published on September 30, 2019 / 6:18 AM
Greece Wants to Send 10,000 Migrants Back to Turkey by 2020
DAILY SABAH WITH AFP
ISTANBUL
Published
30.09.2019
18:17

Refugees and Migrants disembark on a ferry with destination the port of Piraeus, on the northeastern Aegean island of Lesbos, Greece, Monday, Sept. 30, 2019. (AP Photo)

The Greek government said Monday it wants to send 10,000 migrants back to Turkey by the end of 2020, following an emergency cabinet meeting.

Athens would increase the rate from the "1,805 returned in the 4.5 years under the previous Syriza government" of left-wing leader Alexis Tsipras, a cabinet statement said, a day after a deadly fire at a migrant camp on the Greek island of Lesbos.

To reduce the number of illegal migrants on the dangerous Aegean Sea route, Turkey and the European Union signed an agreement in 2016. The deal stipulates that Greece is to send migrants held on its Aegean islands back to Turkey. In return, Turkey is to send Syrian migrants it hosts to various European Union countries.

According to the deal, Turkey was promised a total of 6 billion euros in financial aid, which was initially designed to be given to the country in two stages and be used by the Turkish government to finance projects for Syrian refugees. Visa freedom for Turkish citizens was also to be provided under the agreement. Lastly, the customs union was also to be updated in accordance with the deal.

In exchange for these promises, Turkey took the responsibility of discouraging irregular migration through the Aegean Sea by taking stricter measures against human traffickers and improving the conditions of more than 3 million Syrians living in Turkey.

Despite significant developments in the control of migration traffic, the EU has not delivered on its commitments.
Greece Wants to Return 10,000 Migrants to Turkey After Deadly Camp Fire
Migrants from the Moria camp embrace before boarding a bus to the port of Mytilene from where they will be transferred to the mainland, on the island of Lesbos, Greece, September 30, 2019. (Reuters)

30 September 2019
AFP

Greek officials also confirmed the death of a woman in Sunday’s blaze at Moria
Athens wants to return 10,000 migrants to Turkey by the end of 2020

MORIA: Greece said Monday it wanted to start sending back thousands of migrants to Turkey, a day after a deadly fire sparked riots at an overcrowded camp on the island of Lesbos.

The decision, taken at an emergency cabinet meeting, came as officials in Greece and abroad called for action to ease the pressure on the crowded migrant camps spread across the Aegean islands.

Athens wants to return 10,000 migrants to Turkey by the end of 2020, the government statement said.

That would increase the rate from the “1,805 returned in the 4.5 years under the previous (left-wing) Syriza government,” it added.

The conservative government of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has already announced more naval patrols in the Aegean, closed centers for migrants refused asylum, and plans to overhaul the asylum system, the statement added.

Greek officials also confirmed the death of a woman in Sunday’s blaze at Moria, Europe’s largest migrant camp, which has facilities for 3,000 people but houses around 13,000.

Greek media reported that a burnt blanket possibly containing the charred remains of a baby had been found next to the woman. Earlier police sources said a mother and her child had died.

Another 17 injured migrants, including two children, were transferred to a hospital on the island at Mytilene, the health ministry said Monday.

“Many refugees are so sad, they are stressed, they fear an accident can happen again,” Farid, a young Afghan who did not give his last name, told AFP.

A steady increase in migrant arrivals has created dangerous conditions in the Greek island camps in the Aegean Sea, just off the Turkish coast.

Boris Cheshirkov, the UN refugee agency’s (UNHCR) spokesman in Greece, called for better conditions at Moria and faster transfers of migrants off the island, describing the situation as “critical.”

Lesbos mayor Stratos Kytelis also called for the pressure on the islands to be eased.

Aid agency Oxfam argued that Sunday’s fatal fire was a consequence of the EU’s migration policy.

“People arriving in Greece should be relocated to safe accommodation across the EU, not crammed into dangerous spaces where their life is at risk,” said Renata Rendon, Oxfam’s head of mission in Greece.

And European Commission spokesman Mina Andreeva said Monday: “The increased arrivals in Greece over the past weeks have put an immense strain on an already flawed system and are creating unsustainable conditions as we have already had the opportunity to point out in the past.”

EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos is to visit Greece and Turkey this week with the interior ministers of Germany and France to discuss the crisis.

Moria camp has become like a small town, with UN refugee agency tents for around 8,000 people sprawling into the olive fields of the nearby village. Others are housed in containers.

A plane helped extinguish Sunday’s blaze, which reportedly started in a mobile vendor’s stall. But police later fired tear gas to control an angry crowd that accused authorities of taking too long to respond to the incident.

Calm had returned to the camp by Monday but the UN and residents said there was still a strong police presence.

Greece hosts some 70,000 mostly Syrian refugees and migrants who have fled their homes since 2015, crossing over from neighboring Turkey.

Around 10,000 people had landed on Lesbos in the past three months alone, according to the Greek government.

“We’re in a different context compared to 2015... But this is by far the worst period we’ve been experiencing since the EU-Turkey deal was struck,” Deputy Minister of Citizen Protection Lefteris Economou told reporters on Monday.

“We are trying to gradually transfer the migrants to empty the Moria camp,” Economou said.

Some 2,510 migrants have been transferred from the Greek islands to the mainland between September 2 and 15, UN figures show.

But Oxfam said there were still more than 26,200 migrants spread across the Aegean island camps.
Greece Rushes to Unblock Camps After Migrant Deaths
Government speeds up measures after deaths in crowded camps that NGOs describe as ‘hell.’

By NEKTARIA STAMOULI
POLITICO.EU
9/30/19, 10:04 PM CET

ATHENS — Greece's government announced on Monday sweeping measures to deal with a sharp increase in migration flows, a day after a killer blaze in a notoriously overcrowded camp on the island of Lesbos.

Following a Cabinet meeting, the government said it would try to decongest camps on the Aegean islands, by transferring people to the mainland and setting up closed pre-departure centers for those who are to be deported or sent back to their country of origin. It also said it would create a “safe-country list” for people who have illegally entered Greece, making it easier to send them back if they are not at risk at home.

The goal is for some 20,000 people to leave the squalid conditions in the islands' reception centers, Greek officials said. The center-right government also aims to deport some 10,000 people in 2020, compared with the approximately 1,800 people deported in total during the past four and a half years under the previous left-wing Syriza government.

The newly elected New Democracy party is grappling with a significant surge in migration flows that is exacerbating the poor conditions in reception centers in the Aegean that receive the bulk of migrants.

Greece is once again the main point of entry for migrants coming to Europe, with new arrivals at their highest level since an agreement between the European Union and Turkey in March 2016 to reduce the flow.

Some 23,000 people have landed on Greek shores in the last three months. This year so far, about 46,000 people have entered the country via its land and sea borders. The other two European frontline states, Spain and Italy, have jointly received a total of 29,000 migrants so far in 2019.

The situation in Greece could escalate even further if Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan makes good on his threat to reopen the borders if he doesn't receive adequate international support.

On Sunday, the charred corpse of a woman was recovered from the infamous Moria camp on Lesbos, after fires broke out. Her baby, along with 16 other people, were transferred to hospital. The unrest came a few days after a five-year-old Afghan boy was accidentally run over and killed by a truck on the fringes of the camp. A teenage boy was stabbed to death late August in a brawl.

“No one can call the fire and these deaths an accident. This tragedy is the direct result of a brutal policy that is trapping 13,000 people in a camp made for 3,000,” said Marco Sandrone, a field coordinator for the NGO Doctors Without Borders. He described the camp in question as "hell."

Greece said it plans to completely transform its asylum process in order to tighten up the time needed for a final decision. In the face of resistance from international organizations and opposition parties, the government has dropped plans to abolish second-instance committees, where asylum seekers can appeal if their application is rejected. However, the authorities will alter the composition of those committees.

New legislation also means that if applicants fail to cooperate, or fail to be physically present throughout the asylum process, they will be removed. The goal, officials said, is to have a final decision within three months, in a procedure that currently often takes more than two years. The new rules impose stricter definitions of which applicants are considered "vulnerable" — for example, applicants suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder will no longer qualify.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

China’s Military Strength Guarantees World Peace, Stability
By Li Qingqing
Global Times
2019/9/29 22:38:40

The New York Times published an article on Saturday titled "Tanks, Missiles and No Pigeons: China to Celebrate 70th Birthday of the People's Republic." The article, written by Steven Lee Myers, said Chinese authorities have banned homing pigeons before the upcoming National Day parade on Tuesday.

Pigeons are a symbol of peace. By deliberately placing the words "tanks," "missiles" and "pigeons" together in the title, the article was trying to create an atmosphere of Chinese oppression, and to meaningfully convey the idea that China's upcoming parade is only a show of muscle and power.

Some Western people should review their history. Many Western countries' development resulted from invasion and plunder especially in the 18th and 19th centuries. The New York Times is using imperialism and expansionism to observe China.

China's development has always remained stable and peaceful. Pigeons have been flying through People's Republic of China's history over the past seven decades. The country's great achievements, including the giant leap in economy, national strength and people's livelihood, have been realized in a completely peaceful way.

This is the major difference between China's rise and the Western countries' industrialization and modernization. However, Western countries are not willing to admit it, even though most of them achieved prosperity through wars and colonialism. These Western countries' development was based on other countries' suffering and humiliation. Now that most Western countries are enjoying the development dividend, they have become selectively blind to history and to China's peaceful rise.

Military strength is of great importance to China's stable development over the past seven decades. The country's defense power has increased substantially after decades of rapid military development. Today, China has already become one of the three nuclear triad powers. Thus, it is impossible for China to be carved up by other countries today, and other big powers are unlikely to use military force to make China yield.

However, China will only use its military for strategic deterrence and defence of national security. The "tanks" and "missiles" that Western media hyped will not be a threat to any other country or region in the world. On the contrary, China has shouldered the responsibility as a major power to maintain peace and stability worldwide and to oppose global and regional hegemony. This has made China's military strength an important guarantee of world peace and stability.

Military muscle is not a bad thing. The key is how to use such muscle. After seven decades, it is time for China to show some muscle to the world. China's strength is a reliable guarantee of national unity and world peace. It is also a solid foundation to act against any force that tries to sabotage regional peace and development. China has always pursued a defensive national defense policy, and the 70 years of peaceful rise is China's greatest contribution to the development of mankind.
Chinese Advance With Their Country
Global Times
2019/9/29 22:28:40

Tuesday, October 1 marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China (PRC). The average age of Chinese people is 37 years old, which means they have accompanied China for 37 years. Many young Chinese need to learn about the country through narratives of other people. Based on distinct experiences, people of different generations may also have various perspectives of China.

 China is a country which started out with a very weak economy. But China has made huge economic achievements and has become the world's second-largest economy. It realized initial modernization, led its largest population in the world to live in a well-off society, and achieved poverty alleviation.

Once suffering from poverty and bullies, China has recovered its dignity and become a world-class strategic power. China has been one of the most outstanding developing countries in the world.

 As a people's republic, has China pursued its original intention to seek the people's welfare and national rejuvenation? In the early days since the founding of the PRC, the country faced arduous tasks to achieve real independence. This was also the basis for China to seek a unique development path that fits its national conditions. China has made efforts to pursue the path, while simultaneously gathering strength and developing itself.

 Although China's reform and opening-up have made tremendous achievements, people who benefitted from them know that reform and opening-up were gradually carried out. The reform and opening-up were the people's desire for better livelihood, which was stimulated by China's growth.

Guaranteed national security and political cohesion made it possible for Chinese society to concentrate on economic development, to improve people's livelihood, and to properly deal with various interests in the process of economic construction.

The rapid rise of China's economy has been a process of fulfilling the needs of the Chinese people for a better life. From eating properly to owing houses and cars, the people had simple but clear requirements. China has become the second-largest economy in the world while simultaneously reshaping the Chinese people's livelihood.

A decade after China became the world's second-largest economy, it continues to care most about living standards. People's appeal for better education, medical care, social security and environment is the biggest impetus for China to continue advancing.

What is the great national rejuvenation of China? In addition to China becoming stronger, a majority of Chinese people understand the rejuvenation as enjoying a world-class livelihood. China is always motivated to develop with definite goals as it serves its people, whose demands are always clear.

The Chinese people's fate is closely linked to and protected by China. Decades ago, we only managed to feed the people, but as China rose, Chinese workers have become part of globalization.

We have become more competitive in the world, and have thus made more achievements. Once marginalized in modernization, we have become clients of various world-class companies. As China moved forward, ordinary Chinese people have become pioneers in the unprecedented changes that have not been seen in the past century.

The seven decades since the founding of the PRC is a promise to the future. Standing by China, our lives will be based on a solid platform. Our wish for a better life is sacred, our efforts will be more respected in globalization, and we will benefit from our country's strong development.
UN Chief Underscores Cyber Realm as Anti-terrorism New Frontier
Xinhua
2019/9/26 11:19:41

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (L, Front) chairs a UN Security Council ministerial debate on the cooperation between the United Nations and regional and subregional organizations in maintaining international peace and security, at the UN headquarters in New York, on Sept. 25, 2019. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned Wednesday that a "new frontier" of the fight against terrorism is the cyber realm and called for complementing security measures with prevention efforts that identify and address root causes. (Photo: Xinhua)

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned Wednesday that a "new frontier" of the fight against terrorism is the cyber realm and called for complementing security measures with prevention efforts that identify and address root causes.

Guterres made the remarks at a Security Council ministerial debate on cooperation between the United Nations and the Collective Security Treaty Organization, the Commonwealth of Independent States and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in countering terrorist threats.

Describing the terror threat as "evolving," he said that "the new frontier is cyber-terrorism: the use of social media and the dark web to coordinate attacks, spread propaganda and recruit new followers."

"In response to this unprecedented threat, we are taking unprecedented action. The United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy and related Security Council resolutions provide a comprehensive framework," he said.

"Pursuing and dismantling terrorist groups is vital, but it is just one among many measures. We must complement security measures with prevention efforts that identify and address root causes, while always respecting human rights."

The UN chief called for building the resilience of societies, so that people and communities reject terrorist narratives that prey on fear and hopelessness.

"We must reinforce the social compact, including the provision of basic services and opportunities, particularly for young people," he said.

The important role of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, the Commonwealth of Independent States and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in countering terrorist threats is set as the focus of the debate.

Guterres highlighted the need for international cooperation as the first priority of the counter-terrorist strategy.

"The three organizations ... are playing an important role in promoting regional counter-terrorism cooperation by facilitating the exchange of critical information and knowledge, and the implementation of joint investigations and operations," he said, adding the United Nations is strengthening its institutional links with each of them.

He further said the partnership has established frameworks for joint activities, exchanges of information, and collaboration on capacity-building assistance to UN member states.

In conclusion, the UN chief said the cooperation between the United Nations and the three organizations is deepening as it covers a growing range of issues. "I look forward to our continued cooperation as we work together to end the threat of terrorism and build a more secure and prosperous future for all."
Ethiopia Commences Chinese Funded 270 mln USD Water Supply Project
Xinhua
2019/9/25 15:10:29

Debretsion Gebremichael, Deputy President of Tigray regional state, was speaking at the commencement program of Mekelle city water supply project on Sept. 23, 2019. (Photo: Xinhua/CGGC)

With Chinese funding support, Ethiopia commences a major water supply project that will serve around 400,000 people in the country's Mekelle city. The project will also supply water for the needs of industry, agriculture and animal husbandry development. The 270-million-US dollar project is to be undertaken by Chinese firm CGGC.

Ethiopia has commenced a Chinese-funded 270 million US dollars water supply project.

The project is intended to meet the water needs of the estimated 400,000 residents of Mekelle city, capital of Ethiopia's northern Tigray regional state.

China Gezhouba Group Co. Ltd. (CGGC) will construct the water supply project, which is expected to be completed in three years.

The Mekelle city water supply project commencement program was attended by Chinese Ambassador to Ethiopia Tan Jian.

Speaking at the event, Tan said the project is designed to supply 124,300 cubic meters of clean water daily once it is completed.

"On May 10, 2018, I had the honor to sign the framework agreement on financing the project with Ethiopia State Minister of Finance, Admasu Nebebe. The ceremony was witnessed by Prime Minister Dr Abiy Ahmed and Chairman of the Standing Committee of China's National People's Congress, Li Zhanshu," said Tan.

Chinese Ambassador to Ethiopia Tan Jian was speaking at the commencement program of Mekelle city water supply project on Sept. 23, 2019. (Photo: Xinhua/CGGC)

"The Chinese government has agreed to provide an interest-free loan of 80 million US dollars and preferential loan of 150 million US dollars for the project, accounting for 85 percent of the total financing required," said the ambassador.

Tan also said the water supply project will meet the needs of the numerous manufacturing industries located in and around Mekelle city.

"The project will supply water for the needs of industry, agriculture and animal husbandry development, thus contributing to Ethiopia's development," he said. "The project will provide water for the use of Mekelle Industrial Park, Mesfin Industrial Engineering, Messebo Cement Factory, and Velocity Apparels Company."

Located 783 km north of Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa, Mekelle has been rapidly growing in the last several years, with regional authorities struggling to meet the water needs of the city's growing population and its industries.

In recent years, Ethiopia has built with the help of Chinese financial aid, a 756-km electrified rail connecting the landlocked country with ports in neighboring Djibouti, a new headquarter for the continental body African Union (AU) and several large-scale energy projects.
China-Africa Governance Exchange Nothing Like the Export of Western Institutions

By Song Wei
Global Times
2019/9/29 20:13:39

Since the founding of the People's Republic of China, China has been providing foreign aid for 70 years. It can be said that foreign aid was the most important and even the only content of the Republic's diplomacy for a long time. As China's aid expands, especially with the deepening of China-Africa relations in recent years, the criticism of China's aid to Africa by world opinion has intensified.

Although "encouraging corruption" and "exporting the Chinese model" is not the reality of China's aid to Africa, the relationship between China's foreign assistance and the buildup of Africa's governance capacity still needs clarification.

China never avoided talking about the emphasis of aid or downplayed the governance exchanges between China and African countries. China's foreign aid model is fundamentally different from the adopted Western model.

The Western aid model is accompanied by lots of add-on conditions like political system reform, market economy reform and government performance. Once African countries do not meet the bar, Western countries will wield punishing sticks.

In contrast, China has guaranteed that its aid to Africa "does not attach any conditions and does not interfere with Africa's domestic affairs." This model should not be interpreted as China's aid does not support the improvement of African countries' governance or exacerbates corruption in Africa.

The evolution of China's foreign aid in the past 70 years is an important part of China's continuous efforts to be integrated into and shape globalization.

China's aid to Africa accounts for more than one third of China's total foreign aid, which epitomizes China's understanding of South-South cooperation and global development governance.

China supports Africa's governance improvement. Its foreign aid has gradually refined and sublimated from strengthening infrastructure construction, emphasizing technical cooperation and official training, to highlighting the exchange of experience in governing the country.

China's aid to Africa also covers four major aspects, including security and the rule of law, participation of citizens in governance and human rights, opportunities for sustainable economic development, and human development.

There are three reasons as to how Chinese experience and practice in strengthening Africa's governance capacity have also been positively evaluated by African countries and the global development evaluation system.

First, China's development experience better suits Africa. Developed countries have long wished to apply their development theories to Africa. However, Africa, as a former colony, is not equipped with the same starting point and conditions as developed countries. Forcing the model on this theme has caused turmoil and even infiltration of terrorism in Africa. In contrast, with more resemblances, China can be a better reference for African countries.

Second, China's aid pays more attention to equal status in China-Africa relations. China treats African countries based on the principles of respect and equality.

This is of great attraction to the African continent that was once colonized and accustomed to the double standards of the West.

Third, China's aid has enhanced the bargaining power of African countries. For example, Angola ended 27 years of civil war in 2002. Western society led by the US attached many additional conditions to Angola's post-war reconstruction assistance, which prevented Angola from obtaining start-up funds. However, China insisted on providing unconditional aid to Angola, which enabled Angola to claim rights in negotiations with the West and eventually compelled the West to make concessions.

However, China is also facing the problem like how to get a better result from aid in promoting African governance. Since conducting the governance exchanges with China depends on African countries' free will, the lack of government transparency mechanisms in African countries has exacerbated the problem.

If the exchange of governance experience only stays in the words and documents and lacks supervision and evaluation, the effect of improving the governance capacity of African countries will certainly be greatly reduced.

Improving governance capacity is crucial to Africa's independent development. For an entire century, Africa failed to rid itself of the development dilemma and achieve poverty alleviation under Western guidance.

Therefore, African countries hold high expectations for China, a fast-growing emerging power. They hope to learn distinctive experience from their new partner, which is why Africa is "looking east."

China is willing to share its development and governance experience accumulated in the past decades with African countries, thus boosting African modernization. Although the actual implementation is also faced with some difficulties, I believe that with the continuous enhancement of political mutual trust between China and Africa, the external impetus will certainly be internalized into the endogenous impetus for reform.

The author is an associate research fellow at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation under the Ministry of Commerce. bizopinion@globaltimes.com.cn
Zimbabwe Re-engagement Drive Goes Gear Up
30 SEP, 2019 - 00:09
Zvamaida Murwira recently in New York, US
Zimbabwe Herald

President Mnangagwa took Zimbabwe’s engagement and re-engagement crusade a gear up at the just- ended 74th United Nations General Assembly in New York following high- level meetings with Commonwealth Secretary-General Mrs Patricia Scotland and investment discussions with Scandinavian countries.

This came as calls for the reform of the United Nations Security Council grew louder with the African Union voicing concern on the lack of movement on the issue.

President Mnangagwa was among several Heads of State and Governments who attended the UN General Assembly that was held under the theme “Galvanising multilateral efforts for poverty eradication, quality education, climate action and inclusion”.

The Head of State and Government held several high-level meetings with Mrs Scotland, Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg, African Development Bank executives, American politicians and businesspeople, global media gurus, representatives from the World Food Programme and also convened a dinner with investors in the health sector.

President Mnangagwa also addressed the General Assembly where he said Zimbabwe remained committed to engage with any country to deepen relations in a mutually beneficial arrangement.

“The engagement and re-engagement with all countries of world towards returning Zimbabwe to its rightful place within the comity of nations is yielding notable progress. Our arms remain outstretched with a genuine heart of friendship and cooperation, to all those willing to take this new and exciting journey of Zimbabwe’s rebirth,”

In an interview after the visit, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister Dr Sibusiso Moyo said President Mnangagwa continued with his re-engagement programme in New York where he met both American businesspersons and politicians.

“Above all, the President managed to continue with his programme of re-engagement, particularly with different communities. He met Americans, not only from a political perspective but business, Americans who were actually committed. He addressed business meetings where he was invited. This is why a lot of businesspeople were questioning the relevance of sanctions, why sanctions are still there yet there are opportunities which could be (exploited) by corporates,” said Minister Moyo.

He described the visit by President Mnangagwa as a major success for Zimbabwe. Bsides the re-engament thrust, the President also attended UN high-level meetings which included a review of progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to ensure they were enacted within a strategic plan for member states.

“The second point is that we managed to communicate the fact that Zimbabwe was now a going concern emanating from a very dilapidated background which was characterised by isolation to a major reformer with both political and legislative reforms. That message was put across by the President,” said Minister Moyo.

“I am happy to say a lot of other member states of SADC stood the test of time according to an agreement made in Tanzania calling for the removal of sanctions, There was quite a lot of interest from the whole spectrum of interests, from Israelites, Norway after President (Mnangagwa) met the Norwegian prime minister,” he said.
Government, UN Envoy to Agree on Final Report
30 SEP, 2019 - 00:09

Daniel Nemukuyu Investigations and Special Reports Editor
Zimbabwe Herald

GOVERNMENT and the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, Mr Clement Voule, have agreed that Zimbabwe will get an opportunity to respond to his findings before compilation of a final report by December 15 this year.

On Saturday Mr Voule issued a press statement to journalists on the progress made during his official tour of Zimbabwe.

However, Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi yesterday said the preliminary document was not the one that will be handed over to the United Nations Human Rights Council.

In an interview, Minister Ziyambi said the final report was yet to be produced after December 15 when Zimbabwe is expected to officially give its input.

“When we met Mr Voule, we agreed that he will give us the final draft of his findings by the 15th of December to enable us to officially respond ahead of the production of the final report to be handed over to UNHRC.

“What was released this weekend is not the final report to be handed over to UNHRC. He is still to compile a detailed report and we will be given an opportunity to respond to it first.

“Whatever is being circulated is not the final report,” said Minister Ziyambi.

The Special Rapporteur’s final conclusions and recommendations will be presented in a report to the Human Rights Council in June next year.

In his statement, Mr Voule said his preliminary document did not reflect all the issues presented to him.

“I will elaborate on these preliminary findings in a more detailed manner in a report that will be presented at the 44th session of the UN Human Rights Council in June 2020.

“The preliminary findings neither reflect all the issues presented to me, nor all the initiatives undertaken by the Government of Zimbabwe,” he said.

Mr Voule hailed Zimbabwe for ratifying a number of international human rights instruments and urged the country to ratify the other outstanding instruments.

“Zimbabwe has ratified a number of international and regional human rights instruments and committed itself to observe them.

“I would like to encourage it to ratify the remaining key international human rights treaties such as the Convention Against Torture and other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; the Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances and the optional protocols to which it is not yet a state party, in particular, those of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights,” he said.

Mr Voule concluded a 10-day official visit to Zimbabwe on Friday, the first such mission to the country by an independent expert appointed by the Human Rights Council.

He came to Zimbabwe at the invitation of the Government.

The expert expressed his support for the Government’s stated commitment to democratisation, urging the authorities to go further in translating their vision into action.

“The change in leadership in Zimbabwe two years ago and its promised ‘new dispensation’ — which reaffirms the aspiration to bring the country forward in terms of democratic processes, civic space and the realisation of human rights for all — must be put into action now,” Mr Voule said in a statement.

“The Government has the unenviable challenge to resolve a profound and complex economic, political and social crisis in the country. To succeed it will need the support of the international community,” Mr Voule said.

“My role is to encourage the authorities that genuine dialogue with the political class and the population, including protest movements, is the only way forward to resolve such a crisis.”

The expert applauded the setting up of the Motlanthe Commission which was tasked to bring truth and accountability for alleged human rights violations which occurred in the midst of electoral violence last year.

He urged the Government to implement recommendations from the commission’s report which was submitted in December 2018.
Government Provides Another $42m for Harare Water Chemicals
29 SEP, 2019 - 00:09
Zimbabwe Herald
Debra Matabvu

Government has channelled an additional $42 million to the Harare City Council (HCC) to enable it to procure water treatment chemicals as part of interim measures to deal with the capital’s water woes.

The funds, which are an addition to the $37,4 million released by Treasury for water infrastructure projects last week, were hived off the kitty reserved for devolution projects in Harare.

Of the allocation, $32 million will be used to settle the debt owed to Chemplex Corporation, the city’s major supplier of water treatment chemicals, while the remainder will be used to replace old pipes.

It is estimated that City of Harare is losing 60 percent of treated water to leaks.

Local Government, Public Works and National Housing acting Permanent Secretary Retired Colonel Joseph Mhakayakora said paying off the debt to suppliers of water treatment chemicals will enable Harare to build its stocks.

“We are building water treatment chemicals’ stockpiles by paying off the debt we are currently owing Chemplex,” he said.

“This will be done to capacitate them so that they are able to produce chemicals for us and reduce the import bill.

“We are also looking at substituting other chemicals such as chlorine. In the next six weeks, we should be seeing a change in water chemicals. It will also reduce the logistics cost.”

HCC also got assistance from the African Development Bank to replace old water pipes, which will complement the $10 million released by Government for the same project.

Dysfunctional water meters will also be replaced.

Harare is currently testing chemicals that are expected to substitute for the chlorine compound now used and reduce the number of water treatment chemicals from the current nine to less than four.

An estimated US$2,5 million is used to treat water pumped to residents every month as the raw water in the storage dams is heavily polluted.

Earlier this year, the Environment Management Authority (EMA) identified City of Harare as the main polluter of Lake Chivero – the city’s major water source – through discharging raw sewage.

Major projects kick in

In addition to helping the local authority through writing off a $135 million debt owed by HCC to the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra), Government has already begun working on accessing the remaining US$72 million from the US$144 million loan from the Export-Import Bank of China (China Exim Bank).

Beijing had discontinued the loan owing to rampant corruption by the MDC-run council, but President Emmerson Mnangagwa recently successfully negotiated with his Chinese counterpart, President Xi Jinping, for the project to continue.

Preliminary work on the construction of Kunzvi-Musami Dam, which is expected to augment water supplies for the burgeoning population in Harare and its satellite towns, has also begun.

Treasury has since approved the financing model for the major project – estimated to cost US$680 million – and is now working with financiers of the project.

A South African company, Gibbs International, which had been contracted to work on feasibility studies for the envisaged dam, has since completed its work.

“Treasury is now working closely with China . . There are also negotiations on the remaining US$72 million from China; once we get the remaining funds, we will have sufficient water to reach Warren Control (Pump Station). From there, they have to work on the distribution network to other reservoirs such as Letombo and Mabvuku.

“The deliberations are at an advanced stage,” said Col Mhakayakora.

City fathers have largely been blamed for water shortages as they have collapsed the billing system and failed to generate adequate funds to bankroll urgent water infrastructure development projects.

While council’s monthly collections range between $13 million and $20 million, it spends $35 million on water treatment chemicals, $12 million on salaries and $8 million on fuel.

Overall, its expenses – excluding outlays for critical service provision – overshoot its monthly revenues by $35 million.

This has prompted Government to step in.

Dr Percy Toriro, an urban planning expert, said there is need for a battery of measures to comprehensively deal with the current challenges.

“To deal with this, we need short-term, medium-term and long-term strategies. Let us use the little water we have sparingly,” he said on his Facebook post last week.

“The city embarked on a pipe replacement plan, which appears to have been incomplete. At the current reported water loss levels of over 50 percent, coupled with slow reactions to burst pipes, we are putting our resources in a leaking container.”

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Former President Laid to Rest in Zvimba
29 SEP, 2019 - 00:09
 
Former First Lady Grace Mugabe flanked by daughter Bona Chikore(second from right), Robert Jnr(right),Son in-law Simba Chikore(third from left) and her sister Junior Shuvai Gumbochuma(forth from left) pay their last respects at the burial of the late Former President Robert Mugabe at his homestead at Kutama in Zvimba yesterday - Picture by Kudakwashe Hunda

Levi Mukarati in Zvimba
Zimbabwe Sunday Mail

Government has granted former President and national hero Cde Robert Mugabe his death-bed wish for his remains to be interred at his rural home in Kutama, Zvimba, Mashonaland West province.

The former President was yesterday interred at his rural home in a ‘specially constructed site’ in the courtyard of the house of his first wife, Sally.

The burial was conducted in accordance with Roman Catholic rites, which were presided over by Father Paul Tigere of Marymount Parish.

Family members and a handful of villagers related to the Mugabes attended the event. Mashonaland West Minister of State for Provincial Affairs Mrs Mary Mliswa-Chikoka was among those at the funeral.

Former President Mugabe died of advanced prostate cancer in Singapore on September 6.

He was 95.

The Mugabe family expressed gratitude to President Emmerson Mnangagwa for allowing them to bury the late national hero at his rural home.

In his vote of thanks, family spokesperson Mr Walter Chidhakwa outlined the support the former President had received from President Mnangagwa and his Government, during his illness.

“We want to thank President Mnangagwa and Government. The journey that we have travelled with the late Cde Mugabe has not been easy. It was full of pain.

“Amai (Mugabe) used to say she wants to take baba for medical check-ups in Singapore and we would approach President Mnangagwa. In no time he would assist us with travel arrangements before we return.

“But in the last visit, baba did not return as his condition deteriorated, leading to his death. President Mnangagwa sent a plane together with Vice President (Kembo Mohadi) and he received us at the airport.”

Added Mr Chidhakwa: “The President then assisted us with transport, food and other logistics before conferring baba a national hero.

“We thank President Mnangagwa because since the death of baba, he said he will let the family decide on funeral and burial arrangements.

“But it is not the family that decided, vaMugabe is the one who said he wanted to be buried here at his home. We simply followed his wish and we are happy President Mnangagwa has also granted him that wish.”

Mr Chidhakwa dispelled speculation there was bad blood between the former first family and Government.

He said as a family, they were not going against the ideals of Zanu-PF and Government.

Mr Chidhakwa added that the family was thankful for the military that had acted professionally in handling the former President’s body.

“The military has made us proud. They are the ones that have been carrying the casket from day one up to today. They have made us proud with the dedication, professionalism and honour they have given to Cde Mugabe.

Speaking at the same event, Mrs Mugabe,’s sister Ms Shuvai Gumbochuma said the family had respected Cde Mugabe’s wish.

“When I look at the low numbers here I say to myself, we had hoped that we bury baba like other national heroes. But what we have done is to respect his wish.

“He said he did not want to be buried at the National Heroes Acre. Even if it shows as if there are a few people here, we are happy that we have respected baba’s wish.”

Ms Gumbochuma also praised the late national hero as a champion of economic empowerment, adding that the legacy he left after the land reform programme could never be erased.

He said many beneficiaries of the land reform took pride that they have an asset they can pass to their children.

In his homily, Father Tigere said the former President lived a worthy life.

“Let us celebrate a life that was lived worthily. Go well, we will always remember you for the legacy you left us.

“The late had his failures, but we should also understand we are human beings and also have areas that we fall short.”

The burial was also attended by former war veterans’ leader Jabulani Sibanda and National Constitution Assembly leader Professor Lovemore Madhuku.
Shocking Details Surrounding Mugabe Burial
29 SEP, 2019 - 00:09
News Editor
Zimbabwe Sunday Mail

Events leading up to the burial of the country’s founding President, Cde Robert Mugabe, at his rural home in Zvimba yesterday – 22 days after his death in Singapore – betrayed former First Lady Grace Mugabe’s insecurities, political ambitions and scheming, sources close to the former First Family told The Sunday Mail yesterday.

While speculation was rife that inordinate delays and confusing chatter surrounding Cde Mugabe’s final resting place was due to haggling between Government and the Mugabe family, it has since been revealed that heated disagreements within the family, especially between Cde Mugabe’s clansmen and Mrs Mugabe, took centre stage.

She reportedly held out for a burial at the family’s sprawling Blue Roof mansion, but both the chiefs and elders wanted him interred at the National Heroes Acre as the founder of both the struggle and the nation.

However, the former First Lady and her associates came unstuck when it came to the title of the land and the bylaws that govern the residential property.

“Blue Roof is a homestead and not a cemetery, so changing the land use could have been encumbered by the associated legal processes. There was also the issue of the title: Blue Roof is part of properties that were purchased through Zanu-PF’s M&S Syndicate (a holding company for the party’s private and public investments) at the time President Emmerson Mnangagwa was the party’s Secretary of Finance,” said the source who took part in the heated discussions.

Sources said Mrs Mugabe further made a shocking proposal to exhume the body of Cde Mugabe’s mother, Bona, from Zvimba for burial at Blue Roof as the former President had expressed a wish to be buried close his mother.

After failing to get her way, Mrs Mugabe then pushed for a burial in Zvimba, but those who opposed the suggestion were unyielding.

She told Cde Mugabe’s clansmen that burying him at the national shrine amounted to “rewarding the dead and overlooking the living who minded for the former President until his death”.

In order to sway the chiefs and elders, she reportedly played them a recording of Cde Mugabe purportedly pronouncing his final wishes.

“Chiefs argued that the recording by Grace lacked integrity: it sounded like a guided conversation. They also questioned Mugabe’s state of mind at the time the purported recording was made – and by an interested party.

“The elders also argued that at the few occasions they met Mugabe, he had made it known that he wanted to be buried at the National Heroes Acre.”

They further chronicled how then-President Mugabe overruled the wishes of Cdes Edgar Tekere and Cephas Msipa.

On Cde Tekere, he famously noted that “the dead do not decide where they are buried”.

Further, the chiefs questioned why Cde Mugabe “would not find rest at the National Heroes Acre”, where he had his first wife, Sally, and his sister, Sabina buried.

One of the elders reportedly broke down during the exchanges after voicing his concern about the manner the body was being kept at home for so long before being laid to rest.

Said the source: “They said Mugabe “imharuri” (founder) of both the struggle and the nation and, therefore, ‘could not sink into oblivion’ by being interred away from the national shrine.

“This is why they proceeded to mark the grave at the Heroes Acre.”

Faced with a recalcitrant customer, the chiefs left the former First Lady — who was allegedly being urged on by self-exiled G40 members Patrick Zhuwao, Professor Jonathan Moyo and Saviour Kasukuwere — to her designs.

Since the death of the former President, the controversial trio were reportedly angling to milk political capital from the wake.

Mugabe’s promise to Kasukuwere

In particular, Kasukuwere, who is understood to have been in almost daily contact with Ms Mugabe, believes he has the political gravitas to take over the Presidency from Zanu-PF, which stems from a promise that was once made by the late Cde Mugabe to him during a State visit they made in one South American country.

During the visit, Cde Mugabe reportedly promised to hand over the reins to Kasukuwere, but expressed reservations that he was still young to gain the trust of commanders in the security forces and senior officials in the revolutionary party.

A plan was then hatched to hand over power to Cde Sydney Sekeramayi during the interregnum.

However, Cde Sekeramayi was supposed to rule for one term before eventually handing over power to Kasukuwere.

It is this belief that is understood to be pushing Kasukuwere and his G40 to entertain the idea of launching a political party that he would lead, deputised by Mrs Mugabe.

“He has a sense of proprietorship over the presidency, which he thinks is the heritage of the former President. . .

“As for Mrs Mugabe, the plan was to lie low, smile a lot, hoping that ED (President Mnangagwa) is naïve enough, not to know that underneath the smile lay a dagger. They planned to out themselves (politically) with a bang in such a way they thought ED could have never had contained. Fortunately, the State has ears,” said another source privy to the behind-the-scenes discussions.

Diplomatic sources who spoke to The Sunday Mail said the grand scheme reportedly has the buy-in of a former president of Mozambique and the Economic Freedom Fighters (South Africa), who think they can leverage on burgeoning youthful populations in the three countries to assume the levers of power.

“They think residual respect for Robert Mugabe will transcend anger for Ms Mugabe, Jonathan Moyo and Zhuwao, who they blame for ruining the stature of the old man.”

Sources also said there was interesting triangular communication between Mrs Mugabe, Saviour Kasukuwere and Nelson Chamisa, president of the MDC.

Insecurities

Central to the ex-First Lady’s fears are concerns over the former First Family’s sprawling real estate empire.

“She fears losing pieces of land that she acquired contrary to the country’s land policies. It has since emerged from the ongoing land audit that the family owns 22 farms, six of which were under the ‘old man’, while the rest were under Grace and her associates,” said another source.

It is understood that soon after arriving from Singapore with the body of the late Cde Mugabe, Mrs Mugabe tried to broach the subject of the properties with President Mnangagwa.

“The President said we are still mourning and we cannot discuss these issues; why don’t we lay Cde Mugabe to rest and then come back and discuss.’”

Mugabe’s Zanu-PF legacy

Ultimately, there is concern that the decision to bury Cde Mugabe in Zvimba will affect the narrative of Cde Mugabe’s legacy.

Last week, Zanu-PF expressed its disquiet over the decision to bury Cde Mugabe at his rural home, describing the development as “unfortunate”.

President Mnangagwa, the party said, had done everything possible to give the former President a decent farewell.

“The revelation that former President R. G. Mugabe who passed on in Singapore on September 6 2019 will have a private burial at his rural home in Zvimba is most unfortunate. . .

“All will remember that the Zanu-PF Politburo declared the former President a national hero soon after his death,”said Zanu PF secretary for information yesterday.

“With the construction of the mausoleum progressing within the defined time-frame, all patriotic Zimbabweans were shocked to learn that the remains of the former President had been surreptiously taken yesterday(Thursday) to Zvimba for a private burial on Saturday 28 September 2019.

“We indeed respect the wishes of families of deceased heroes, hence get saddened when manoeuvres that boarder on political gimmicks begin to unfold on an issue concerning an illustrious liberation icon,” he said.

Zanu-PF, Cde Khaya Moyo added, will remain “eternally grateful to the late iconic leader”.

“President E. D. Mnangagwa has shown his usual exemplary and exceptional leadership qualities by doing everything possible to accord the former late President a decent farewell. There is nothing more a humane President could have done. . .

“It must be remembered that ordinary Zimbabweans who adored him so much had the opportunity to bid their late gallant leader farewell at Rufaro Stadium with aplomb. Scenes of emotions from the diversity of our great nation shall forever remain embedded in the national memory.”
Chiefs Snub Mugabe Burial
29 SEP, 2019 - 00:09 
Norman Muchemwa in Zvimba
Zimbabwe Sunday Mail

Chiefs from the late national hero Cde Robert Mugabe’s Gushungo clan of Zvimba were conspicuous by their absence during his burial yesterday, amid indications that they failed to agree with the family on burial procedures.

The late former President’s wish was to be buried the Christian way, a development that did not go down well with the chiefs, who wanted him to be buried in a traditional way.

The only notable figures during the burial were Chief Zvimba Beperere (Mr Alfred Tome) and one only identified as Chief Matare.

Addressing mourners at the Mugabe family’s homestead yesterday, Cde Mugabe’s surviving sibling Dr Regina Gata said her brother was a Christian and he deserved to be buried as such.

The burial was presided over by the Roman Catholic Church.

Said Dr Gata: “ As the only surviving sibling, allow me more time to speak. This man lying hear was a true Christian who said, I will live a Christian life and die a Christian . . .

“Let me first make sure that I express my gratitude to His Excellency President Mnangagwa because he listened to the children on their father’s wishes.

“He was on record saying we will follow the family’s decisions, so all these discords, should go where they deserve.”

Family spokesperson Mr Walter Chidhakwa urged chiefs from the Gushungo clan to remain united but not to interfere with family issues.

He said this in reference to the feud between the family and the chiefs.

“As the Gushungo clan of Zvimba we are one,” he said.

“We have Beperere, Mutsedza and Chidziva amongst us. We should remain united, but when it comes to family issues, let us allow individual families to make their own decisions.”