Saturday, June 19, 2021

Ethiopian PM Calls for Unity amid Mounting Interventionist Pressure

June 13, 2021

Borkena

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Saturday called for national unity amid increasing foreign pressure from powers in the western world. 

He shared a metaphorical message on social media where he elaborated the connotation of activities and practices performed in circular social gathering as a demonstration of Unity. 

He talked about how Ethiopians eat and dance together, the coffee ceremony, and traditional house structure. Circle, he said,  “is  a symbol of boundlessness, eternity and equality.” 

We need to encircle Ethiopia today, he added. “So as not to let those who want to divide our wholeness and challenge our unity. we need to make a circle that will not let intervention. In equality and by holding one another, let us show the world our unity and perfect wholeness,” he added. 

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government has been under increasing pressure from Western Interventionist campaign on alleged grounds of human rights abuse in the Tigray region of Ethiopia, where the government had been carrying out law enforcement operation against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front – an ethnic Tigray radical nationalist organization that ruled Ethiopia for nearly three decades with economic and “development” support from the west. 

Western governments (mainly the United States and the United Kingdom) have been also accusing Ethiopia of “obstructing humanitarian activity” in the Tigray region of Ethiopia. 

Recently, the  western allegations against Ethiopia took a new twist when a claim was made that famine is being used as a political weapon in the region. 

This week, the provisional administration in the Tigray region of Ethiopia dismissed the allegation is baseless that has negative impact on the effort to stabilize the region. 

The Ethiopian government has been saying it provided more than 70 percent of humanitarian and other aids distributed in the region, which supported more than four million people. 

Ethiopian government has admitted that there have been checkpoints in the Tigray region of Ethiopia to ensure that humanitarian activities are being undertaken in accordance with the guidelines put in place by the Ethiopian government. 

In a recent interview with Aljazeera, Ethiopia’s permanent representative in the United Nations, Taye Aske Selassie said there were cases where humanitarian workers were caught with ammunition and grenades which were meant to be delivered to TPLF – which is now operating as a guerrilla force. 

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s administration seems to be getting considerable support from Ethiopians, even from those who oppose him, when it comes to the action in the Tigray region of Ethiopia. 

Ethiopians in and outside the country have also been protesting western intervention in Ethiopian affairs, which is understood as an effort to revive TPLF and support Egypt in its quest to continue to monopolize waters from the Nile river. 

This past Saturday, among the other protests elsewhere, Ethiopians and Eritreans staged a protest in the United Kingdom where the G-7 countries meeting was taking place. 

Another protest is planned to take place in Geneva, where the United States President Joe Biden is expected to meet with Russian president Vladimir Putin. 

Al-Burhan Urges to Expedite Demarcation of Sudan-South Sudan Border

Joint teams marking a crossing point between the two countries (undated picture by UNISFA)

June 17, 2021 (KHARTOUM) - The head of the Sovereign Council urged Sudan and South Sudan Joint Border Committee (JBC) to quickly reach an agreement that would make the borders flexible and allow for social and economic interaction.

The JBC members Thursday briefed Abdel Fattah al-Burhan about the outcome of a series of meetings on the border disputed areas held in Khartoum from Monday to Thursday.

The Head of the Sudanese side, Muaz Tango, said that the two sides made great progress during the 4-day meetings.

He added they discussed the documents supporting the positions of each party regarding the delimitation of the borderline as of the first of January 1956.

In a statement released after the meeting, the Chairman of the Transitional Sovereignty Council, Abdel-Fattah Al-Burhan, urged the JBC to expedite the completion of the demarcation of the international boundary between the two states

"In addition to the JBC official mandate, al-Burhan called on the Committee to cooperate with the relevant authorities and encourage them to open the crossings and make the borders between the two countries flexible to facilitate the free movement of citizens on the border strip and to interact economically and socially," further said the statement.

Michael Makuei, Head of the South Sudanese side, said that they briefed al-Burhan on the progress made by the JBC in its works.

He said the parties exchanged documents that will be studied by the two sides before resuming discussions in the near future.

"Despite the difficult task, the Committee will work hard to accomplish its mission," added.

The completion of the demarcation of the border between the two countries had to be finalized before the referendum on the independence of South Sudan in 2011.

Also in March 2012, the two sides committed themselves to expeditiously complete it within 6 months.

However, the tribal overlap and the common use of water and pastures between the tribes of the two countries made it difficult to reach an agreement over the international boundary, even after the submission of legal documents supporting the ownership of the claimed areas.

The Mile 14 area is seen as an example of the difficulties facing the demarcation process. The grazing is located between Western Bahr El-Ghazal State in South Sudan and East Darfur State in Sudan. It was part of the Darfur region when the country declared its independence on 1 January 1956. However, the Malual Dinka reject to concede it to Sudan.

The JBC says they finalized the delimitation of 80% of the 2,010-km border between the two countries. The disputed areas include the 14-Mile area, Joudat Al-Fakhar, Jebel al-Migainais, Kaka, and Kafia Kingi enclave (Hofrat al-Nahas).

The Sudanese transitional government proposed to open crossing points in the agreed border areas to allow free movement of people and goods between the two sides of the border.

(ST)

3rd Plenary Meeting of 8th Central Committee of WPK Closes

The 3rd Plenary Meeting of the 8th Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) closed on June 18 after successfully wrapping up the discussion of the agendas as the millions of Party members, boundlessly inspired by the leadership of the great Party Central Committee, displayed their iron will to faithfully implement the important policies newly indicated by the Party.

The fourth-day sitting of the plenary meeting reviewed the organizational and ideological life of the members of the Party central leadership organ in the first half of the year 2021 as the seventh agenda.

First, data on the Party life of the members of the Party central leadership organ in the first half of the year were informed.

Listening to the data, the members of the leadership organ seriously looked back on their Party life in an all-round way with the remorse for failing to live up to the expectations of all the Party members and people who trust them as the cores of the WPK and expect them to strive to carry out the important tasks in a responsible manner.

The respected General Secretary Kim Jong Un pointed out one by one the serious problems revealed in the work and life of the members of the Party central leadership organ newly elected at the 8th Congress of the Party although they made solemn pledges before the Party and the people.

He taught in detail what readiness and work attitude the members of the leadership organ should take to fulfil their historic mission and how they should strive to cultivate themselves ideologically, spiritually, culturally and morally.

The General Secretary stressed the need for the members of the leadership organ to draw a serious lesson from defects revealed in the first half of the year, bear deep in mind again the ideals of "The People Are God", single-minded unity and self-reliance set forth at the Party Congress with the plenary meeting as an occasion and redouble their efforts with higher awareness to fully discharge their responsibilities and duties.

He said that in order to do so, they should be genuine revolutionaries who thoroughly accept and implement without fail the decisions of the Party Central Committee in whatever difficult circumstances and devote themselves without hesitation to defending the true nature of the Party just like the preceding generations of the revolution.

He earnestly asked the members of the leadership organ to make every occasion of going among the people an important political work of deepening the kindred between the Party and the popular masses and giving confidence and encouragement to the people with a resolution to work heart and soul to bring benefits of socialist system ever closer to the people and with a commitment not to do anything that offends the interests of the people.

Saying that the people who should take the lead in making our Party fulfil its duty as the militant General Staff of the revolution and making it the one serving the people are the members of the Party central leadership organ, he ardently called upon them to devote all their wisdom and passion to thoroughly carrying out the major policy tasks discussed and decided at the plenary meeting without an inch of deflection.

The plenary meeting discussed the organizational issue as the eighth agenda.

It recalled and by-elected members and alternate members of the Political Bureau of the Party Central Committee and members and alternate members of the Party Central Committee and dismissed and appointed senior officials of the state organ.

The General Secretary concluded the plenary meeting.

Saying that the plenary meeting was able to successfully perform its work and fulfil its historic and important duty thanks to the ardent participation and boundless responsibility of the members of the Party central leadership organ, he expressed thanks to all the members of the leadership organ for taking an active and sincere part in the discussion of the overall work of the Party and the state throughout the plenary meeting.

The General Secretary solemnly swore on behalf of the WPK Central Committee that the Party will surely break through head-on the difficulties lying in the way of the revolution in the indomitable fighting spirit and remain loyal to the revolutionary idea and cause of President Kim Il Sung and Chairman Kim Jong Il to the end without the slightest deviation whatever severer difficulties it may be confronted with in the future.

All the participants in the plenary meeting, extending boundless gratitude to the General Secretary who provided immortal guidelines and a powerful practical weapon for vigorously leading the Korean-style socialism to progress and development with his extraordinary wisdom, insight, ceaseless thinking and devotion and instilled firm confidence and unbounded inspiring power in all the Party members and other people, broke into stormy applause and enthusiastic cheers reflecting their pledge of loyalty to single-mindedly and devotedly uphold the General Secretary's idea and leadership.

The 3rd Plenary Meeting of the 8th Central Committee of the WPK held under the guidance of the respected General Secretary will be etched in the history of the Juche-oriented revolution as a historic meeting at which important decisions for the prosperity of the country and the people's wellbeing were made despite the severest adversity and as a significant one through which the ever-victorious leadership of the WPK resolutely opening up an era of fresh dynamic advance with strenuous efforts despite manifold difficulties in the way ahead was fully demonstrated.

KCNA

2021-06-19

Party of Great Leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il

The Workers' Party of Korea is the party of the great Comrades Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il.

The WPK holds Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, its founder and builder, in the highest esteem as its eternal leaders.

The respected Comrade Kim Jong Un said:

“The Workers’ Party of Korea founded by the great Comrade Kim Il Sung is the glorious party of Comrades Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, which, under their outstanding and seasoned leadership, has developed into an invincible revolutionary party and led the revolution and construction along a road filled with victory.”

Having embarked on the road of the revolution in his early years to win back his country deprived of by the Japanese imperialists, Kim Il Sung authored the Juche idea that the masses are the masters of the revolution and construction and that they have the strength to propel the revolution and construction. He achieved the historic cause of Korea’s liberation by organizing and leading the struggle of the Korean people, and founded the WPK, the Juche-type revolutionary party, on October 10, Juche 34 (1945) right after national liberation.

Kim Jong Il started working at the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea on June 19, 1964, which marked a turning-point in strengthening and developing the WPK.

The great leaders consolidated and developed the WPK into an invincible revolutionary party which securely guaranteed the unitary character of the leaders’ ideology and leadership, a motherly party which struck its root deep among the masses and formed a harmonious whole with them, and an ever-victorious party with iron discipline and fighting efficiency.

The immortal exploits they performed in the building of a Juche-type revolutionary party shine forever along with the history of the WPK.

The WPK is guided solely by the great Kimilsungism-Kimjongilism.

The WPK sets it as its ultimate programme to model the whole society on Kimilsungism-Kimjongilism. It reflects its revolutionary stand to carry through the masses’ cause of independence, the socialist and communist causes, under the unfurled banner of Kimilsungism-Kimjongilism.

As it holds Kim Jong Un, who carries forward the ideas and leadership of the great leaders, in the highest esteem as its General Secretary, the WPK is further developing into the party of the great leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il.

Kim Jong Un is glorifying the revolutionary careers and immortal exploits of the great leaders by brilliantly realizing the cause of immortalizing them.

He scientifically formulated their revolutionary ideas as Kimilsungism-Kimjongilism and the eternal guiding ideology of the WPK and wisely leads the WPK to conduct its building and activities in the way the great leaders did.

Under his leadership, the WPK develops as the revolutionary party which shines forever with the august names of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, and the party which faithfully carries forward the revolutionary cause of Juche pioneered and led successfully by the great leaders.

Today, the WPK is making a vigorous advance towards a new victory of socialist cause, upholding the banner of the great Kimilsungism-Kimjongilism.

Son Ryong Son, researcher at the Academy of Social Sciences

2021-06-19

Harmonious Whole of the Party and the Masses

Throughout the period of leading the Workers’ Party of Korea, Chairman Kim Jong Il formed a harmonious whole of the Party and the masses of the people by strengthening and developing the WPK into a motherly party that serves the people.

One January day in Juche 79 (1990), he told officials in the following vein: The masses of the people are the motive force of the revolution and construction, and they have an inexhaustible strength and wisdom. Ours is the party that serves them, and all its lines and policies are geared to their good. Now, the Korean People’s Army has a slogan “We serve the country!”, and the slogan of our Party officials must be “We serve the people!”

One year, he recalled as follows: He put forward the slogan “Let the whole Party go among the masses!” long ago and made sure that officials go among the masses and work in reliance on their strength. And he earnestly asked them to go always among the masses and make it part of their everyday life to carry out the revolutionary tasks relying on their strength, with a correct attitude towards them.

It was his unshakable creed that the Party should be a mother serving the people with its roots struck deep among them.

Kim Jong Il led the WPK to perform its noble mission and responsibility of being a motherly party that serves the people.

Even at a time when the country was in a difficult situation, he ensured that the Party and the state invariably pursued the people-oriented policies and made devoted efforts to improve the people’s living standards.

One day in March 2006, he visited the Samsu Power Station under construction in the northern part of the country. At that time, officials told him that they planned to carry on the project after evacuating the inhabitants from the area and make them live together with other families for a while. He felt worried about their report and asked them to build houses before evacuating the residents.

He saw to it that an enlarged meeting of the executive committee of the Ryanggang Provincial Committee of the WPK was convened to discuss the issues of building houses for the evacuees and ensuring their livelihood, and that urgent measures were taken to solve them at the joint conference of the WPK Central Committee and the Ryanggang Provincial Committee of the WPK.

Later, a dynamic campaign was launched to build houses for the evacuees in a matter of several months, with the result that the evacuees were provided with modern houses, household articles and daily necessities.

Stockbreeding bases, condiments factories and fruit farms built in different parts of the country, public service facilities including the renovated Okryu and Chongnyu restaurants, farms of sturgeon, terrapin, eel and salmon, modern dwelling houses in Mansudae and Haebangsan streets and others are associated with Kim Jong Il’s loving care for and devotion to the people.

Under his close concern, the Pyongyang Grand Theatre, Moranbong Theatre, Central Zoo and other structures were renovated splendidly, and Mts Myohyang, Chilbo and Kuwol and other celebrated mountains laid out in a superb way to provide the people with excellent conditions for their cultural and leisure activities.

His energetic leadership provided the fundamental source for the WPK to remain etched in the mind of the people as a benevolent mother and form an integral whole with them.

Thanks to the might of this integral whole wherein the Party takes care of the people with maternal affection and the latter absolutely trust in and follow the former, the WPK has been able to advance victoriously against the trials and difficulties facing the revolution and creditably perform its sacred mission.

2021-06-19

Promoting the DPRK-China Friendship to a Higher Level

Kim Jong Un, general secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea and president of the State Affairs of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, paid a visit to the People’s Republic of China from June 19 to 20 in 2018, and met with Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and president of the People’s Republic of China.

It was the third meeting of the leaders in a matter of three months, following those in March and May.

The Chinese party and government heartily welcomed Kim Jong Un as their state guest and accorded him the most lavish hospitality.

At the talks held at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Kim Jong Un said that he was very satisfied with and valued the realities in which strategic cooperation between the two parties were strengthened and mutual trust consolidated, and expressed his determination and will to further promote ties of friendship, unity and cooperation between the parties and peoples of the two countries.

A banquet was arranged in honour of the DPRK leader’s visit to China.

Xi Jinping in his congratulatory speech said that the Sino-DPRK friendship and cooperation are brimming with fresh vitality and animation and confirmed that China and the DPRK as close friends and comrades would learn from each other, consult each other and work together to shape a brighter, rosier future of the two countries’ socialist cause.

In his return speech Kim Jong Un said that today the DPRK and China are sincerely helping and cooperating with each other while sharing weal and woe like family members, adding that such an image clearly demonstrates to the people at home and abroad that the traditional relationship between the two parties and countries is developing into an unprecedentedly special one beyond the traditional ties. And he said that he would value rapport with Xi Jinping more than anything else and exert every possible effort to take the bilateral ties to a new level in a steady manner.

The following day Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan met with Kim Jong Un and his wife Ri Sol Ju at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse and accorded exceptional hospitality. In the compound of the guesthouse was the spruce planted by President Kim Il Sung on October 2, 1959. They sat together to have a luncheon in a happy family setting.

Historic visit to China by Kim Jong Un unfolded another new brilliant page of the chronicle of the traditional DPRK-China friendship.

2021-06-18

To Provide Disabled Persons with Stable Jobs

Not long ago, I visited the vocational training school for persons with disabilities for the coverage of their life in the run-up to the national day of persons with disabilities (June 18).

Teacher Rim Kum Hyok told me that the two-year school is aimed at teaching the persons with disabilities in the capital city of Pyongyang various technical skills so that they can lead a public life with their own occupations like the able-bodied.

Its subjects include information device control technology, carpentry, hair-dressing, beauty culture, garment processing, etc. Most of its students are the deaf, blind and physically-handicapped persons.

The school has graduated several batches of students. It pays much attention to helping its students acquire practical knowledge applicable in society.

Its graduates are now working in various sectors of society, including the Korean Art Association of the Disabled, the Korean Sports Association of the Disabled, IT exchange companies, vehicle repair shops and garment factories.

“Practice rooms arranged according to major subjects serve as important places indispensable for students to consolidate the knowledge they learned in lessons,” said Rim, guiding me to the carpenter’s room.

Woodworks produced by students there are winning public favour for their delicacy and artistic quality.

The school has other laboratories for hair-dressing, beauty culture and garment processing.

When I entered a teachers office, Pak Se Il in his thirties was practicing sign language in front of a mirror.

He said: Communication is the most important in teaching deaf students. Therefore, I should be well versed in sign language in order to transfer the techniques to them.

Not only Pak but all other teachers were making devoted efforts to help students possess high technical skills.

Some graduates from the school receive online education of Kim Il Sung University and Kim Hyong Jik University of Education.

As I left the school, I recalled an article of the Law of the DPRK on the Protection of the Person with Disability, which stipulates that the State respects the personality of the person with disability and shall provide the same socio-political right, freedom and interests to the person with disability as the healthy citizen.

Pak Kum Song

2021-06-18

Reply Message to Kim Jong Un from Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez

Kim Jong Un, general secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea, president of the State Affairs of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and supreme commander of the armed forces of the DPRK, received a reply message from Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, first secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba.

Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez in the message expressed thanks to the respected Comrade Kim Jong Un for sending sincere congratulations to him upon his election as the first secretary of the CPC Central Committee at the 8th Congress of the CPC.

He said in the message that the congress served as an occasion for unity and succession and an expression of the oath of the Cuban people to defend the idea and cause of the Cuban revolution and the CPC, and their historical leaders Supreme Commander Fidel Castro Ruz and General Raul Castro Ruz.

He, on behalf of the Cuban Party, government and people and in his name, expressed the invariable will to steadily strengthen the bonds between the two parties and the fraternal friendship provided by Fidel Castro Ruz and President Kim Il Sung, the historical leaders of the two countries.

KCNA

2021-06-17

Reply Message to Kim Jong Un from Raul Castro Ruz

Kim Jong Un, general secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea, president of the State Affairs of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and supreme commander of the armed forces of the DPRK, received a reply message from Raul Castro Ruz.

Raul Castro Ruz in the message expressed thanks on behalf of the Cuban party and people and in his name to the respected Comrade Kim Jong Un for sending sincere congratulations to him on the occasion of the 8th Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba.

He affirmed that the Cuban leadership of a new generation elected at the congress of unity and succession would invariably keep the respect and reverence for the fraternal DPRK.

He reaffirmed the invariable will to steadily strengthen the traditional bonds of friendship and cooperation between the two countries.

KCNA

2021-06-17

China Mourns the Death of Zambia's First President Kaunda, an Old and Good Friend to Chinese People: FM Spokesperson

By Global Times

Jun 18, 2021 05:30 PM

China deeply mourns the death of Kenneth Kaunda, Zambia's founding president, and expresses sincere sympathy to the Zambian government and people as well as to Kaunda's family, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said on Friday.

Kaunda was an old and good friend of the Chinese people, Zhao said. China is ready to work with Zambia to push forward China-Zambia and China-Africa friendship and cooperation, he noted.

Zambia's founding President Kenneth Kaunda died at 2:30 pm Thursday local time in Lusaka, capital of Zambia, according to the Zambian government.

An internationally renowned leader of African independence movements, politician and social activist, Kaunda had made historic contributions to the national independence of Zambia and the liberation movements of Southern Africa, Zhao said.

Kaunda was a founder of China-Zambia relations, having long been committed to the cause of China-Zambia friendship, Zhao said.

Kaunda once creatively put forward the term "all-weather friend," accurately and vividly describing the relations between the two countries, said Zhao.

Chairman Mao Zedong put forward the well-known "Three Worlds" theory when meeting with Kaunda in 1974, he added.

Some Chinese netizens expressed their mourning and respect toward Kaunda on social media on Friday. 

"Kaunda was an old friend to the Chinese people," one user wrote on Twitter-like Weibo. "I feel so sad for his passing away." "I heard a lot about Kaunda; he bravely fought against the Western forces," wrote another. 

Always standing firmly with China, Kaunda made important contributions to the restoration of the lawful seat of the People's Republic of China in the United Nations, China Central Television (CCTV) reported.

Kaunda had been committed to actively promoting the friendship and cooperation between Zambia and China. He announced that Zambia would establish diplomatic relations with China on October 24, 1964, the day after Zambia declared its independence. With efforts of both sides, China and Zambia soon officially built diplomatic ties and sent ambassadors to each other on October 29 that year.

Kaunda had slammed the allegations of Westerners that China is "grabbing resources in Africa." Amid the 45th anniversary of the establishment of China-Zambia diplomatic relations in 2009, he told the Chinese media that [some Western forces], who were accusing China of coming here to grab wealth, had actually been coming to the continent for hundreds of years to grab economic benefits.

China, instead, has helped many countries in Arica including Zambia to struggle for independence, and is continuing to work with the countries to help them develop their economies, Kaunda said.

He cited the Tanzania-Zambia Railway Authority (TAZARA) that was developed by China in the 1970s, saying the project was part of the contribution by China to the development of Africa, and a model of the friendship between Africa and China.

"That's what China is doing - helping us, as friends, genuine friends," Kaunda said in an interview with Xinhua News Agency in October 2009.

In November 2009, Kaunda was honored with the China-Africa Friendship Award in Beijing, and was chosen as one of the "Five African People Who Deeply Moved the Chinese People."

Citing TAZARA, the railway links Tanzania and Zambia, which was built by Chinese in the 1970s, Kaunda said the project was part of the contribution by China to the development of Africa and the model of the friendship between Africa and China.

Global Times

With Love and Respect, Chinese People Cherish Memory of Zambia's Kaunda, 'an Old and Good Friend'

By Global Times

Jun 19, 2021 01:45 AM

Kenneth Kaunda, Zambia’s founding president. Photo:AFP

Kenneth Kaunda, Zambia's founding president and the founder of China-Zambia ties, died of an illness at the age of 97 on Thursday, local time, in Lusaka, capital of Zambia.

Thousands of miles away, numerous people in China cherished the memory of the great man who devoted his life to Zambia's independence and development, and who had made remarkable efforts in promoting the friendship between China and Zambia, as well as China and Africa.

China deeply mourns the death of Kenneth Kaunda, Zambia's founding president, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said on Friday. 

Kaunda was an old and good friend of the Chinese people, having long been committed to the cause of China-Zambia friendship, Zhao noted.

On Chinese social media, many netizens, with love and respect to Kaunda, on Friday shared and forwarded a video of Chairman Mao Zedong meeting Kaunda in Beijing in 1974.

In the video's nostalgic yellow tone, Mao warmly shakes hands and talks with Kaunda, who wears a Mao's badge. Mao put forward the well-known "Three Worlds" theory in the meeting, expressing China's willingness to make friends with developing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Standing firm with China

Born in April 1924, Kaunda was an internationally renowned leader of African independence movements, politician and social activist, who had made historic contributions to the independence of Zambia and the liberation movements of southern Africa.

He had also been activity pushing forward the friendship and cooperation between Zambia and China throughout his life. He announced that Zambia would establish diplomatic relations with China on October 24, 1964, the day after Zambia declared its independence. With the efforts of both sides, China and Zambia soon officially built diplomatic ties and sent ambassadors to each other on October 29 that year.

Kaunda always stood firmly with China. He had greatly contributed to the restoration of the lawful seat of the People's Republic of China in the United Nations. He once remarked at the UN rostrum that it was wrong for the UN to have no representatives from the People's Republic of China.

Kaunda had slammed the allegations of Westerners that China was "grabbing resources in Africa." Amid the 45th anniversary of the establishment of China-Zambia diplomatic relations in 2009, he told Chinese media that [some Western forces] who were accusing China of coming here to grab wealth, had actually been coming to the continent for hundreds of years to grab economic benefits.

China, instead, has helped many countries in Arica, including Zambia, to struggle for independence, and is continuing to work with the countries to help them develop their economies, Kaunda said.

He cited the Tanzania-Zambia Railway Authority (TAZARA), saying the project developed by China in the 1970s was part of the contributions of China to the development of Africa, and a model of the friendship between Africa and China.

"That's what China is doing - helping us, as friends, genuine friends," Kaunda said in an interview with Xinhua News Agency in October 2009.

In November 2009, Kaunda was honored with the China-Africa Friendship Award in Beijing, and was chosen as one of the "Five African People Who Deeply Moved the Chinese People."

The creative term "all-weather friend," which vividly describes a friendship that remains strong under all kinds of conditions, was firstly put forward by Kaunda. 

Decades later, "all-weather friend," often mentioned by leaders of China and some African countries on various occasions, has become a special witness that highlights the long-standing China-Africa relations, observers said.

Friendship with generations of Chinese leaders

Kaunda had visited China several times from the 1960s to the 2010s. He met and talked with Chinese leaders in Beijing or Lusaka, keeping consolidating and promoting China-Zambia ties during the decades.

Kaunda became the first witness of Chairman Mao's "Three Worlds" theory in his second visit to China in 1974. 

"In my view, the United States and the Soviet Union belong to the first world. The in-between Japan, Europe and Canada belong to the second world. The third world is very populous. Except for Japan, Asia belongs to the third world. So does the whole of Africa and Latin America," Mao, then 81, told Kaunda.

Kaunda responded that he agreed with Mao's analysis, saying it was precise and accurate. Through the years, China, as a member of the Third World, has been firmly supporting Third World countries, including Zambia, in their struggles against hegemony and interference by the Western superpowers and pursing self-development.

People's Daily reported that President Hu Jintao had a thorough, warm and sincere communication with Kaunda in 2007 in Lusaka, with the two looking back on history and the friendship between the two countries.

President Hu warmly greeted the 83-year-old Kaunda on February 4, 2007 in Lusaka. He told Kaunda: "You are an old friend of the Chinese people. You and the older generations of Chinese leaders including Chairman Mao Zedong, Premier Zhou Enlai and Comrade Deng Xiaoping have forged a profound friendship. I am very happy to see you today."

Kaunda replied that it was great to be able to greet leaders from China - Zambia's all-weather friend - in Lusaka. The Chinese people have always been Zambia's genuine friends, he said.

"There is an old Chinese saying: Don't forget the well-digger while drinking water. The Chinese government and people will never forget your outstanding contribution to the development of China-Zambia and China-Africa friendship," President Hu responded emotionally.

Hu praised that "during your tenure as President of Zambia, the Tanzania-Zambia Railway, built by China, Zambia and Tanzania, has become a monument in the history of China-Zambia, China-Tanzania, and China-Africa relations," according to People's Daily.

When Kaunda visited China in 2011, relations between China and Zambia experienced nadir following the new party taking office in the African country. On November 24, Kaunda met with then Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping in Beijing and Xi gave him a deep impression.

Kaunda said he was worried about the situation then. But Xi said to him that the all-weather friendship between the two countries, established by the old generation of leaders of China and Zambia, plays a vital role and has profound influence in China-Africa ties, Kaunda said.

Xi told Kaunda that China has always cherished the traditional friendship and has attached great importance to China-Zambia relations. Kaunda said that Xi is a sincere and down-to-the-earth person, expressing his desire of keeping the friendship between the two countries. Kaunda said he clearly remembered what Xi had said that he was willing to work with the new Zambian government to deepen friendship and promote pragmatic cooperation.

Remembered by diplomats and netizens

From diplomats to ordinary netizens, Chinese people shared precious memories with Kaunda on Friday and expressed their respect to this old and good friend.

Former Chinese Ambassador to Zambia Yang Youming  remembered clearly the first time he met the late leader when Yang arrived in Lusaka to assume his post in 2014. Kaunda had bright and sharp eyes that nobody could tell he was in his 90s.

They took a group photo with smiles, as Kaunda required. When Yang and his colleagues said goodbye to Kaunda, the old gentleman did not respond but trotted down the hallway and stopped at Yang's car, looking back with a proud face. He wanted to see the Chinese diplomats off.

Another impressive moment Yang shared was October 2014 when the country celebrated its 50 years of independence. Surrounded by flame-like Poinciana blossoms in the streets, Kaunda waved a white handkerchief to the crowds and said "one Zambia," the people shouted "one nation" back; he then spoke louder, the crowds responded louder.

"One Zambia, one nation" is the principle Kaunda made for the young multi-ethnicity country to be united. 

Yang had once invited Kaunda to spend Spring Festival with them, and prepared vegan food for him. Kaunda used to eat meat, but when he was expelled from a butcher's by white colonizers, Kaunda vowed to himself that he would never eat meat again.

Kaunda liked music and singing, and sang at the banquet "a song of unity," which he wrote and later became a household melody, dubbed as a second national anthem. The song encouraged 73 ethnicities in Zambia to unite and develop in stability.

When Yang left his post, he went to say goodbye and Kaunda saw them off as he always did. "I waved back, feeling we can meet again. I never imagined that it was farewell," Yang wrote.

On China's Sina Weibo, a user described Kaunda as "a real hero who had the courage to fight colonial powers and safeguard national dignity."

A star fell from the sky and a real fighter who had battled against the West rested, wrote another.

He was from the time of Chairman Mao and the founder of China-Zambia friendship! A Weibo user posted with emotion.

The friendship lasts until today despite some winds and rain. No need to mention the famous Tanzania-Zambia Railway built with Chinese assistance, Chinese companies today develop farms in Zambia, offering job opportunities and train locals to become technicians in the country's agricultural upgrade. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Chinese government and companies have offered medical supplies and technical support for treatment and disease control.

29 Post-AZ Injection Deaths Reported in Taiwan, Shedding Light on True Face of DPP: Experts

By Liu Caiyu

Jun 18, 2021 03:26 PM

Disinfection workers sanitize the streets in Taipei on the island of Taiwan on Sunday amid mounting COVID-19 epidemic control pressure, as the island registered 335 cases on Monday following 207 the previous day. Photo: VCG

Deaths among those who had received the AstraZeneca (AZ) COVID-19 vaccine in Taiwan have increased hesitation among the public to get jabs, with some criticizing the politically driven policy made by the secessionist Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) authority as a shame to the virus-hit island. 

Two days after Taiwan started inoculations with the AZ vaccine that was delivered from Japan, the island recorded at least 13 deaths, although local authorities were reluctant to classify those deaths as being related to the vaccine, local media said. 

As of Friday, 29 post-injection deaths have been reported. 

Most of those who died were aged between 60 and 90, and some had a history of chronic diseases. The sudden deaths after vaccination made many elder people and their relatives worried, and they feared that it would be all right if they did not get vaccinated, but there would be a danger to life if they did. 

Kaohsiung on Thursday reduced the vaccination venues from the planned 34 to 27, and some sites had more medics than patients, local media reported. 

A Beijing-based immunologist told the Global Times on Thursday that some European nations such as Denmark had stopped using the AZ vaccine, although the European Medicines Agency listed the blood clots with low blood platelets that were strongly associated with the AZ vaccine, as a rare side effect.

Canada on Thursday local time suspended the use of AstraZeneca for people who are waiting for a second dose due to blood clot risks, and suggested people receive vaccines in other technical routes, such as mRNA vaccines by Pfizer. The country had already stopped AstraZeneca for first-dose vaccinations earlier, media reported. 

The immunologist suggested that Taiwan should suspend administering the AZ vaccine for the sake of public health, to allow more detailed investigations and evaluations of its safety. 

The deaths may not be directly related to the vaccine, but still some Taiwan netizens worried that Japan was just dumping the "questionable" vaccine on Taiwan. The AZ vaccine is not included in the inoculation plan in Japan.

Wang Jianmin, a senior cross-Straits expert at Minnan Normal University, told the Global Times on Thursday that the deaths showed that Japan's offer of the AZ vaccine was more of a humiliation to the island.

Japan is considering a second donation to the island after it sent 1.24 million AZ doses to Taiwan earlier this month, local media said.

Chen I-hsin, a politician from the opposition camp Kuomintang, said on Facebook on Thursday that he had foreseen the incident last week and asked the DPP authority to take precaution before the AZ vaccine was dispatched. However, the DPP did not buy it, resulting in those deaths among the elderly.

Some Taiwan residents blamed the DPP, which would rather take the risk of questionable vaccines than accept vaccines offered by the Chinese mainland. Some are seeking other solutions, including flying to the mainland for vaccinations, amid an infection surge and vaccine shortage.  

Wang said that the DPP's reluctance to take vaccines from the mainland was not only politically driven but also was probably economically driven, as accepting vaccines from the mainland would strike against its home-grown vaccine that is still waiting for approval. 

Some Taiwan internet users said they believed that the vaccine and inoculation fiasco had answered the question "Are the DPP's political interests more important than Taiwan residents' lives?"

Over 400 Flights Cancelled at Shenzhen Airport After Restaurant Staff Reportedly Test Positive for COVID-19

By Global Times

Jun 18, 2021 08:58 PM

A flight information platform said on Friday the Shenzhen Bao'an International Airport in South China's Guangdong Province has cancelled more than 400 flights, after a staff at a restaurant in the airport reportedly tested positive for COVID-19. 

As of 14:25 on Friday, the cancelled arriving and departing flights (including the cancellations on Friday and cancellations in advance) accounted for around 40 percent of the total number of flights at the airport, flight information platform VariFlight told the Global Times on Friday.       

According to a notice issued by the Shenzhen airport epidemic prevention and control office obtained by the Global Times, a staff at a restaurant in the airport tested positive for the virus, despite the person being vaccinated twice in January and February.

The staff previously tested negative on June 1, 7, 9 and 15. 

The airport has asked 56 staff working at the same restaurant to go into quarantine, the notice said, warning of the possibility it would cancel more flights. The airport has closed all stores and started the third round of mass nucleic acid testing. 

The Shenzhen Municipal Health Commission has not revealed new information about the reported case at the airport as of the press time. 

However, Shenzhen airport on Friday afternoon said airline operation remained normal. It had scheduled 780 inbound and outbound flights and cancelled 63 flights as of 4:30 pm on Friday.

Shenzhen, a tech hub in South China, saw COVID-19 flare-ups in the city's port earlier this month. Its neighbor city, Guangzhou, also the capital city of Guangdong, saw 147 domestically-transmitted COVID-19 cases from May 21 to Monday. 

Among those infected people include some who have been vaccinated. On these infections, a local expert explained with three main reasons. 

For some people, the vaccines may fail to trigger the relevant immune system reactions; for others, their immune systems may not have enough time to produce the necessary antibodies to fight infections, Ma Wenjun, an expert at an advisory committee of Guangdong Preventive Medicine Association said. 

Thirdly, it is possible that they are infected with the new mutant virus that can bypass existing vaccines, Ma said. 

Global Times 

Xi Congratulates Guterres on Re-election as UN Chief

By Xinhua

Jun 19, 2021 12:16 AM

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. Photo:VCG

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday sent congratulatory messages to Antonio Guterres and Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa over Guterres' re-election as United Nations secretary-general.

In his messages, Xi said that as the most universal, representative and authoritative inter-governmental international organization, the UN plays an important role in international affairs.

China expects Guterres to continue to fulfill his obligations laid out in the UN Charter, uphold an objective and just position, firmly preserve multilateralism and make greater contributions to world peace and common development.

UN Re-elects Antonio Guterres as Secretary-general

By EDITH M. LEDERER

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres arrives for the G7 meeting at the Carbis Bay Hotel in Carbis Bay, St. Ives, Cornwall, England, Saturday, June 12, 2021. Leaders of the G7 gather for a second day of meetings on Saturday, in which they will discuss COVID-19, climate, foreign policy and the economy. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, Pool)

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. General Assembly unanimously elected Antonio Guterres to a second term as secretary-general on Friday, giving him another five years at the helm of the 193-member organization at a time a deeply divided world faces numerous conflicts, the growing impact of climate change, and a pandemic still circling the globe.

Guterres, the only candidate for the U.N.’s top post, said he was “humbled and energized” by the support of the world’s nations and said the “driving theme” of his second term will be “prevention in all its aspects -- from conflicts, climate change, pandemics to poverty and inequality.”

Ambassadors in the assembly chamber burst into applause as Assembly President Volkan Bozkir announced Guterres’ re-election by “acclamation,” without a vote. Just before the announcement, Estonia’s U.N. Ambassador Sven Jurgenson, the current Security Council president, read a resolution adopted by the 15-member council recommending Guterres for a second term.

Under the U.N. Charter, the General Assembly appoints the secretary-general on the recommendation of the Security Council.

The council said this year it would only consider applicants backed by a U.N. member state and Guterres was the only candidate nominated by a U.N. member, his home country Portugal where he previously served as prime minister. The country’s current president, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, was in the assembly chamber to watch the event.

Immediately after his re-election, Guterres took the oath of office and delivered an address urging U.N. member nations “to do everything we can to overcome current geostrategic divides and dysfunctional power relations.”

“There are too many asymmetrics and paradoxes,” he said. “They need to be addressed head on.”

“What we are living through today in terms of mistrust is, I hope, an aberration,” the U.N. chief said, “but it cannot become the norm.”

Guterres pledged to “give it my all to ensure the blossoming of trust between and among nations, large and small, to build bridges and to engage relentlessly in confidence building” -- and to “seek to inspire hope that we can turn things around, that the impossible is possible.”

Guterres said the world is facing “a number of dramatic fragilities,” singling out the pandemic, climate change, lawlessness in cyberspace and the geopolitical divide, and stressing that this must be addressed by bringing together the world’s nations and strengthening multilateralism.

“This is a time to understand that each country alone can do nothing... that countries must come together,” he said. “To rebuild trust is the way to make the impossible possible. If we remain divided, the impossible will remain impossible and the fragilities of this world will present themselves into bigger suffering for the people, especially the most vulnerable of the vulnerable.”

Guterres said the most important lesson he learned in his first term is the need to rebuild solidarity and trust, “and if there is something I need to do better in my second term is to make sure that I do everything I can to rebuild trust -- trust among governments, trust between people and institutions, and trust in the United Nations.”

The secretary-general’s re-election was immediately welcomed by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Blinken called Guterres a “results-oriented” and “capable leader in a demanding role.”

The United States “looks forward to continuing our strong and constructive relationship ... as we advance the urgent task of bringing about a more peaceful world and prosperous future,” Blinken said. “The United Nations is an indispensable anchor of the multilateral system” where nations work together “to meet such unprecedented challenges as the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, human rights, development, migration, and humanitarian crises.”

Merkel praised Guterres’ commitment to peaceful solutions to conflicts, climate protection and “innovative solutions to global problems” in his first term.

She thanked Guterres for helping set up the COVAX facility to get vaccines to poorer countries and said: “The coronavirus pandemic in particular has shown us that the United Nations’ ability to react quickly to current challenges is essential.”

Guterres came under fire in his first term for failing to criticize Russia, China and the United States, whose support he needed for a second term, especially on human rights issues including China’s crackdown on Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang and Russia’s targeting of dissidents. Former U.S. president Donald Trump’s “America First” policy was sharply at odds with Guterres’ insistence that nations can only solve problems by working together.

With his second term assured, Human Rights Watch’s U.N. Director Louis Charbonneau said Guterres “should start calling out all governments that commit human rights abuses, including those that are powerful and protected.”

His “legacy will depend on his willingness to speak out for all the oppressed, wherever they are,” Charbonneau said.

Traditionally, candidates for the U.N.’s top job have been nominated by a U.N. member state, but that is not a requirement in the U.N. Charter or in a resolution adopted by the General Assembly in 2015. This year, seven individuals submitted applications to be secretary-general without backing from any government, including former Ecuadorian President Rosalia Arteaga.

The 2015 resolution made the previously largely secretive selection of the secretary-general more open and transparent, allowing member states for the first time to see basic information about all candidates, including their resumes, and to question them at open sessions.

Guterres, a former U.N. refugee chief, was elected by the assembly to succeed Ban Ki-moon after a hotly contested and transparent race in October 2016 that initially included 13 candidates -- seven women and six men. Guterres took office on Jan. 1, 2017.

——

Geir Moulson in Berlin and Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report

Friday, June 18, 2021

Who is Pedro Castillo, Peru’s Presumed President-elect?

The official vote count gives Castillo a slim margin over rival Keiko Fujimori, who is contesting the results.

Peru's presidential candidate Pedro Castillo addresses supporters from the headquarters of the Free Peru party in Lima, Peru, June 15, 2021 [File: Sebastian Castaneda/Reuters]

By Simeon Tegel

18 Jun 2021

Lima, Peru — More than most presidents-elect, Pedro Castillo, Peru’s apparent new leader, will need to put his transition team to work as soon as possible.

On the one hand, a third wave of the coronavirus pandemic looks increasingly likely in the Andean nation, which already has by far the world’s worst per capita COVID-19 mortality. The highly contagious Delta variant has just been detected in Arequipa, with the authorities scrambling to cut off Peru’s second city from the rest of the country.

On the other, Castillo, 51, a radical left outsider who no one — apparently including the candidate himself — expected to win, ran a chaotic campaign, frequently contradicting himself and delaying for weeks revealing whether he even had a policy team, claiming that he did not want his expert advisers to be “stigmatised” by the media.

Even many of those who voted for the village school teacher and union leader from the impoverished Cajamarca region, in the northern Andes, question whether he is ready for the historic challenges of leading Peru out of the twin public health and economic crises once he is sworn in on July 28, the 200th anniversary of Peruvian independence.

Yet no transition can begin until a series of unprecedented legal challenges from his opponent, Keiko Fujimori, daughter of the imprisoned 1990s’ despot Alberto Fujimori, are resolved. She is making unsubstantiated claims of electoral “fraud”.

They come despite international election observers, including from the Organization of American States, praising Peru’s electoral authorities for running a transparent, clean and fair election with no significant irregularities.

Fujimori, 46, is seeking to throw out nearly 200,000 ballots, mainly from Indigenous and mixed-race voters from impoverished Andean regions that voted heavily for Castillo. According to the official vote count, Castillo has a razor-thin lead of 40,000 votes out of the 18.8 million cast, but cannot be officially declared president-elect until Fujimori’s challenges are resolved — a process that could take weeks.

The stakes could not be higher for Fujimori, whose father once used army tanks to shutter Congress before his regime eventually collapsed amid accusations of electoral fraud and cleptocracy. He is serving a 25-year sentence for ordering extrajudicial killings. Now his daughter is facing a trial of her own, for allegedly laundering $17m and a potentially lengthy jail sentence — unless she acquires presidential immunity.

Her critics are likening her tactics to those of former US President Donald Trump’s refusal to accept his loss in the November 2020 election, with a similar damaging effect for Peru’s brittle democracy.

Fujimori’s supporters have picketed the homes of the head of the Andean nation’s electoral agency and members of the JNE, the electoral tribunal tasked with resolving her appeals.

They have also launched a tsunami of often racially-tinged social media attacks against Castillo’s allies, journalists and anyone else questioning Fujimori’s hardball tactics, accusing them of being “communist” and even “terrorists”. That prompted Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights to issue a statement condemning “hate speech and discrimination” and urging all Peruvians to accept Castillo’s apparent victory.

“The Fujimoristas have created this idea of anti-communism as a façade to allow people to let their racism out,” José Ragas, a Peruvian historian at the Catholic University of Chile, told Al Jazeera. “Fujimori’s only solution is to die taking everyone with her.”

When he is eventually confirmed the winner, as independent observers expect, Castillo will face a momentous task in righting Peru’s listing economy and guiding its polarised society past the pandemic — even as many Peruvians doubt his legitimacy.

The country’s economy shrank 11 percent last year and plunged millions back into poverty, including more than one million children. Although the outgoing government of interim President Francisco Sagasti has signed contracts for 60 million COVID-19 vaccines, so far less than 5 percent of the population of 32 million people have been fully vaccinated.

But it remains unclear what direction Castillo’s administration will take. He initially campaigned on the far-left platform of his party, Free Peru, which repeatedly cited Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, and Fidel Castro, and proposed nationalising large chunks of the national economy. “No more poor people in a rich country,” was his campaign slogan.

Flagship promises included renegotiating contracts with foreign mining companies to force them to leave 70 percent of their profits in the country and dedicating 20 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) to healthcare and education — a promise no economist takes seriously.

Yet there is a possibility that Castillo will moderate his policies and choose a centre-left cabinet.

He may have little choice if he wants to avoid a fruitless and dangerous standoff with a fragmented, populist, right-leaning incoming Congress. Despite being the largest party, Free Peru will have just 37 lawmakers in the single-chamber 130-member body.

Yet he may also prove ideologically more flexible than many in Free Peru, of which he is not a member and whose presidential nomination he won at the last minute after the party’s founder was barred from running because of a corruption conviction.

“Identity politics is never far from the surface in Peru. Ideological differences are much more important in Lima than in the rest of the country,” Anthony Medina Rivas Plata, a political scientist at the Santa Maria Catholic University of Arequipa, told Al Jazeera.

“Castillo’s rise is not because he is left-wing, but because he comes from below. He has never said he is a Marxist, socialist or communist. What he is, is an evangelical.”

Yet his religious beliefs could also pose a problem for his ability to govern. A social conservative, he opposes LGBTQ rights and abortion, placing him at odds with the progressive left, whose support he will need to be able to govern.

Diana Miloslavich, who heads the Flor Tristan Women’s Center, a feminist NGO, said: “I am hopeful. He will need to form a broad coalition and gender issues will be part of that. They’re not just important to many of us on the left now, but also those in the centre. The demands that Castillo represents must include the feminist agenda.”

Brazil Still Debating Dubious Virus Drug amid 500,000 Deaths

By DAVID BILLER and DÉBORA ÁLVARES

FILE - In this March 19, 2021 file photo, a health worker pauses in the ICU unit for COVID-19 patients at the Hospital das Clinicas in Porto Alegre, Brazil. As Brazil hurtles toward an official COVID-19 death toll of 500,000 — second-highest in the world — science is on trial inside the country and the truth is up for grabs. (AP Photo/Jefferson Bernardes, File)

BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) — As Brazil hurtles toward an official COVID-19 death toll of 500,000 — second-highest in the world — science is on trial inside the country and the truth is up for grabs.

With the milestone likely to be reached this weekend, Brazil’s Senate is publicly investigating how the toll got so high, focusing on why President Jair Bolsonaro’s far-right government ignored opportunities to buy vaccines for months while it relentlessly pushed hydroxychloroquine, the malaria drug that rigorous studies have shown to be ineffective in treating COVID-19.

The nationally televised hearings have contained enough scientific claims, counterclaims and outright falsehoods to keep fact-checkers busy.

The skepticism has extended to the death toll itself, with Bolsonaro arguing the official tally from his own Health Ministry is greatly exaggerated and some epidemiologists saying the real figure is significantly higher — perhaps hundreds of thousands higher.

Dr. Abdel Latif, who oversees an intensive care unit an hour from Sao Paulo, said the fear and desperation caused by the coronavirus have been compounded by misinformation and opinions from self-styled specialists and a lack of proper guidance from the government.

“We need real humane public health policy, far from the political fight and based on science and evidence,” he said.

Brazil’s reported death toll is second only to that of the U.S., where the number of lives lost has topped 600,000. Brazil’s population of 213 million is two-thirds that of the U.S.

Over the past week, official data showed some 2,000 COVID-19 deaths per day in Brazil, representing one-fifth the global total and a jump public health experts warn may reflect the start of the country’s third wave.

Bolsonaro has waged a 15-month campaign to downplay the virus’s seriousness and keep the economy humming. He dismissed the scourge early on as “a little flu” and has scorned masks. He was not chastened by his own bout with COVID-19. And he kept touting hydroxychloroquine long after virtually all others, including President Donald Trump, ceased doing so.

As recently as last Saturday, Bolsonaro received cheers upon telling a crowd of supporters that he took it when infected.

“The next day,” he declared, “I was cured.”

He pushed hydroxychloroquine so consistently that the first of his four health ministers during the pandemic was fired and the second resigned because they refused to endorse broad prescription of the medicine, they told the Senate investigating committee.

The World Health Organization stopped testing the drug in June 2020, saying the data showed it didn’t reduce deaths among hospitalized patients. The same month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration revoked emergency authorization for the drug amid mounting evidence it isn’t effective and could cause serious side effects.

Nevertheless, the notion that medicines like hydroxychloroquine work against COVID-19 is one of the main things the fact-checking agency Aos Fatos has been forced to debunk continually for the past year, according to Tai Nalon, its executive director.

“This didn’t change, mostly because there is a lack of accountability of doctors and other medical authorities who propagate this sort of misinformation, and the government supports it,” Nalon said. “Basically it takes only the president to make any fact-checking efforts not useless, but less effective.″

In fact, the Senate hearings that began in April have turned into a forum for dueling testimony from doctors who are either pro- or anti-hydroxychloroquine, creating what some experts fear is a misimpression that the drug’s usefulness is still an open question in the international scientific community.

A Health Ministry official who is a pediatrician told the Senate that there is a much anecdotal evidence of its effectiveness and that the ministry provided guidelines for its use without explicitly recommending it. Fact-checkers cried foul, saying the ministry’s own records show it distributed millions of the pills nationwide for COVID-19 treatment.

A cancer specialist and immunologist who has been one of the drug’s biggest champions — and is said to be an informal adviser to the president — also testified, decrying demonization of a drug she said has saved lives. But fact-checkers proved her wrong when she claimed Mexico is still prescribing it for COVID-19.

Still, the drug is celebrated across social media, including Facebook and WhatsApp. And other misinformation is circulating as well.

Bolsonaro told a throng of supporters on June 7 that the real number of COVID-19 deaths in 2020 was only about half the official death toll, citing a report from the national accounting tribunal — which promptly denied producing any such document.

The president backtracked but has publicly repeated his claim of mass fraud in the death toll at least twice since.

Epidemiologists at the University of Sao Paulo say the true number of dead is closer to 600,000, maybe 800,000. The senators investigating the government’s handling of the crisis ultimately hope to quantify how many deaths could have been avoided.

Pedro Hallal, an epidemiologist who runs the nation’s largest COVID-19 testing program, has calculated that at least 95,000 lives would have been spared had the government not spurned vaccine purchase offers from Pfizer and a Sao Paulo institute that is bottling a Chinese-developed shot.

When the U.S. recorded a half-million COVID-19 deaths, President Joe Biden held a sunset moment of silence and a candle-lighting ceremony at the White House and ordered flags lowered for five days. Bolsonaro’s government plans no such observance.

The Health Ministry is instead trumpeting the 84 million doses administered so far. The number is mostly first shots; just 11% of Brazil’s population is fully vaccinated.

The Senate committee will name at least 10 people as formal targets of its investigation by next week, members told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. That could lead to a recommendation of charges by prosecutors. The list includes the pediatrician and cancer specialist who testified, the current health minister and his predecessor.

For his part, Bolsonaro has said the investigation amounts to persecution.

Last week, microbiologist Natalia Pasternak, who presides over the Question of Science Institute, a nonprofit that promotes the use of scientific evidence in public policies, went before the committee and decried the government’s “denialism.” She lamented that the myth of hydroxychloroquine won’t seem to die.

“In the sad case of Brazil, it’s a lie orchestrated by the federal government and the Health Ministry,” she said. “And that lie kills.”

___ Biller reported from Rio de Janeiro. AP videojournalist Tatiana Pollastri contributed from Valinhos, Sao Paulo.

US Catholic Bishops OK Steps Toward Possible Rebuke of Biden

By DAVID CRARY

FILE - In this Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021 file photo, President-elect Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, listen as Cardinal Wilton Gregory, Archbishop of Washington, delivers the invocation during a COVID-19 memorial at the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool in Washington. Gregory has made clear that President Biden, who sometimes worships in Washington, is welcome to receive Communion at the archdiocese's churches. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

U.S. Catholic bishops overwhelmingly approved the drafting of a “teaching document” that many of them hope will rebuke Catholic politicians, including President Joe Biden, for receiving Communion despite their support for abortion rights.

The decision, vehemently opposed by a minority of bishops, came despite appeals from the Vatican for a more cautious and collegial approach to the divisive issue. And it raises questions of how closely the bishops will be able to cooperate with the Biden administration on issues such as immigration and racial injustice.

The result of the vote — 168 in favor and 55 against — was announced Friday near the end of a three-day meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that was held virtually. The bishops had cast their votes privately on Thursday after several hours of impassioned debate.

Supporters of the measure said a strong rebuke of Biden is needed because of his recent actions protecting and expanding abortion access, while opponents warned that such action would portray the bishops as a partisan force during a time of bitter political divisions across the country.

As a result of the vote, the USCCB’s doctrine committee will draft a statement on the meaning of Communion in the life of the church that will be submitted for consideration at a future meeting, probably an in-person gathering in November. To be formally adopted, the document would need support of two-thirds of the bishops.

One section of the document is intended to include a specific admonition to Catholic politicians and other public figures who disobey church teaching on abortion and other core doctrinal issues.

Bishop Donald Hying of Madison, Wisconsin, said during Thursday’s debate that he speaks with many people who are confused by a Catholic president who advances “the most radical pro-abortion agenda in history,” and action from the bishops’ conference is needed.

“They’re looking for direction,” Hying said.

Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego countered that the USCCB would suffer “destructive consequences” from a document targeting Catholic politicians.

“It would be impossible to prevent the weaponization of the Eucharist,” McElroy said. He warned that the initiative would weaken the bishops’ ability to speak on issues such as poverty, racism and the environment.

Biden, who attends Mass regularly, says he personally opposes abortion but doesn’t think he should impose that position on Americans who feel otherwise. He’s taken several executive actions during his presidency that were hailed by abortion-rights advocates.

During a White House event on the COVID-19 pandemic Friday, Biden was asked about the possibility that the bishops would approve a document suggesting that his abortion stance should disqualify him from receiving Communion.

“That’s a private matter, and I don’t think that’s going to happen,” the president said without elaborating.

The chairman of the USCCB doctrine committee, Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana, said no decisions have been made on the final contents of the proposed document. He said bishops who are not on the committee will have chances to offer input, and the final draft will be subject to amendments before it is put up to a vote.

Rhoades also said the document would not mention Biden or other individuals by name and would offer guidelines rather than imposing a mandatory national policy.

That would leave decisions about Communion for specific churchgoers up to individual bishops and archbishops. Cardinal Wilton Gregory, the archbishop of Washington, has made clear that Biden is welcome to receive Communion at churches in the archdiocese.

Gregory was one of nearly 70 bishops who signed a letter to USCCB president and Los Angeles Archbishop José Gomez urging him to delay the Communion discussion until the bishops convene in person, but that request was not granted.

“The choice before us at this moment,” Gregory said during Thursday’s debate, “is either we pursue a path of strengthening unity among ourselves or settle for creating a document that will not bring unity but may very well further damage it.”

The USCCB has identified the fight against abortion as its “preeminent” priority. But the bishops’ collective stance is at odds with the views of many Catholics in the U.S.

In recent polls by the Pew Research Center, about 56% of U.S. Catholics surveyed said abortion should be legal in most or all cases, and 67% said Biden should be allowed to receive Communion during Mass.

On the latter issue, Pew found a sharp partisan divide: 55% of Catholics who identify with the Republican Party said Biden’s abortion stance should disqualify him from Communion, compared with 11% of Catholics who lean Democratic.

Sixty Catholic Democratic members of the House of Representatives issued a statement Friday urging the USCCB to drop any effort to exclude politicians from Communion over the abortion issue, and calling it contradictory.

“No elected officials have been threatened with being denied the Eucharist as they support and have supported (other) policies contrary to the church teachings,” the statement said, “including supporting the death penalty, separating migrant children from their parents, denying asylum to those seeking safety in the United States.”

David Campbell, a political science professor at the University of Notre Dame, said the bishops’ vote “reflects the fact that the same fault lines dividing all American voters also divide American Catholics — and Catholic leaders.”

“The more attention the bishops focus on the Communion question, the more the church will be perceived as being in the political fray, which risks driving some Catholics away,” Campbell said via email.

___

Associated Press religion coverage receives support from the Lilly Endowment through The Conversation U.S. The AP is solely responsible for this content.

Zambia’s 1st President, Kenneth Kaunda, Dies at Age 97

By NOEL SICHALWE and ANDREW MELDRUM

FILE - In this Jan. 25, 2015 file photo, former Zambia president Kenneth Kaunda, attends the inauguration ceremony of the Patriotic Front's Edgar Lungu, in Lusaka. Zambia’s first president Kenneth Kaunda has died at the age of 97, the country's president Edward Lungu announced Thursday June 17, 2021. (AP Photo/Moses Mwape, File)

LUSAKA, Zambia (AP) — Kenneth Kaunda, Zambia’s founding president and a champion of African nationalism who spearheaded the fights to end white minority rule across southern Africa, has died at the age of 97.

Kaunda’s death was announced Thursday evening by Zambian President Edgar Lungu on his Facebook page. Zambia will hold 21 days of national mourning, Lungu said.

“On behalf of the entire nation and on my own behalf, I pray that the entire Kaunda family is comforted as we mourn our first president and true African icon,” wrote Lungu.

Kaunda’s son, Kamarange, also gave the news of the statesman’s death on Facebook.

“I am sad to inform we have lost Mzee,” Kaunda’s son wrote, using a Swahili term of respect for an elder. “Let’s pray for him.”

Kaunda had been admitted to the hospital on Monday and officials later said he was being treated for pneumonia.

The southern African country is currently battling a surge in COVID-19 cases and Kaunda was admitted to Maina Soko Medical Center, a military hospital which is a center for treating the disease in the capital, Lusaka.

Kaunda came to prominence as a leader of the campaign to end colonial rule of his country, then known as Northern Rhodesia, and was elected the first president of Zambia in 1964.

During his 27-year rule, he gave critical support to armed African nationalist groups that won independence for neighboring countries including Angola, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe.

Kaunda also allowed the African National Congress, outlawed in South Africa, to base its headquarters in Lusaka while the organization waged an often violent struggle within South Africa against apartheid.

Outgoing and ebullient, Kaunda lobbied with Western leaders to support majority rule in southern Africa. Famously, he danced with then British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher at a Commonwealth summit in Zambia in 1979. Although he implored her to impose sanctions on apartheid South Africa, Thatcher remained a steadfast opponent of those restrictions.

Kaunda was a schoolteacher who became a fiery African nationalist. Although he eventually ruled over a one-party state and became authoritarian, Kaunda agreed to return Zambia to multi-party politics and peacefully stepped down from power when he lost elections in 1991.

In Zambia’s heady first years of independence, Kaunda rapidly expanded the country’s education system, establishing primary schools in urban and rural areas and providing all students with books and meals. His government established a university and medical school. Kaunda also expanded Zambia’s health system to serve the Black majority.

Genial and persuasive, Kaunda gained respect as a negotiator pressing the case for African nationalism with Western leaders.

Kaunda ultimately conducted negotiations with the South African government, despite domestic opposition, that is credited with helping to bring the apartheid regime to release Nelson Mandela and to allow the ANC to operate legally.

He remained lifelong friends with Mandela after the anti-apartheid leader’s release from prison, quipping that they shared the same bond of 27 years — him as Zambia’s president and Mandela as a prisoner.

Even though Zambia was not spared occasionally violent political strife, Kaunda managed to foster peaceful coexistence between its 73 ethnic groups.

Kaunda was born in April 1924, the youngest of eight children to a Church of Scotland missionary and teacher. He followed his father’s footsteps into teaching and cut his political teeth in the early 1950s with the Northern Rhodesian African National Congress.

He was imprisoned briefly in 1955 and again in 1959, and upon his release became president of the newly formed United National Independence Party. When Northern Rhodesia became independent from Britain, Kaunda won the first general election in 1964 and became the first president of renamed Zambia.

Kaunda imposed a one-party state in 1973. He said the one-party state was the only option for Zambia as it faced attacks and subterfuge from white-led South Africa and Rhodesia.

Ruling at the height of the Cold War, Kaunda was a leading member of the Non-Aligned Movement.

The imposition of austerity measures proposed by the International Monetary Fund and Western creditors, with whom Kaunda had a prickly relationship, led to riots over price hikes and shortages in basic commodities such as maize meal.

Kaunda eventually gave way to domestic protests and international pressure in 1990 and agreed to multiparty elections. He lost the 1991 poll to Frederick Chiluba, and the two men became bitter rivals, with Kaunda dismissing Chiluba and his allies as “little men with little brains.”

Chiluba sought to ban Kaunda, whose parents had been born in neighboring Malawi, from running again in 1996 by a constitutional amendment barring first-generation Zambians from running for president. He also used a 1997 failed coup attempt to place Kaunda under house arrest, despite the latter’s protestations of innocence. Kaunda said he comforted himself while in confinement through music and poetry, and thoughts of the late Princess of Wales, who was killed in a car crash in 1997.

Despite his anti-colonialist struggles, Kaunda was a self-confessed admirer of Queen Elizabeth II and the British royal family. He was also an avid ballroom dancer and loved to play the guitar.

Kaunda was shot and wounded by government forces during a demonstration in 1997 and in 1999 escaped an assassination attempt. He blamed Chiluba’s allies for the November 1999 killing of his son and heir-apparent, Wezi. He lost another son, Masyzyo, to AIDS in 1986.

After his retirement from politics, Kaunda campaigned against AIDS, becoming one of the few African leaders to speak up on a continent where it is often taboo. He set up the Kenneth Kaunda Children of Africa Foundation in 2000 and became actively involved in AIDS charity work. He took an AIDS test at the age of 78 in a bid to persuade others to do likewise in a country ravaged by the virus.

Ex-President Gbagbo Back in Ivory Coast After Ouster by Imperialism a Decade Ago

By TOUSSAINT N'GOTTA and YESICA FISCH

Former Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo arrives at the international airport, in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, Thursday, June 17, 2021. After nearly a decade, Gbagbo returns to his country following his acquittal on war crimes charges was upheld at the International Criminal Court earlier this year. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast (AP) — Former President Laurent Gbagbo returned home to Ivory Coast on Thursday, a decade after his refusal to concede to French and United States backed forces inside this West African state.

Gbagbo was extradited to the International Criminal Court at The Hague in 2011 and spent eight years awaiting trial on war crimes charges. A judge acquitted him in 2019, saying prosecutors had failed to prove their case.

The verdict was appealed but upheld in late March, clearing the way for Gbagbo to leave Belgium, where he had spent the past two years.

After coming down the steps to the runway, Gbagbo soon made his way to a vehicle that was then surrounded by crowds as it headed toward the city.

He later made a brief but emotional speech to his supporters at his former campaign headquarters in Cocody.

“I am happy to return to Ivory Coast and to Africa,” he said before adding: “I know that I am Ivorian but in prison I knew that I belonged to Africa.”

While the government led by his longtime rival President Alassane Ouattara has allowed Gbagbo’s return to Ivorian soil, there already have been concerns about what impact his presence will have on the nation’s political stability. It is not immediately known whether the 76-year-old ex-president will seek to re-enter politics.

Tensions between the jubilant crowds and security forces were high, with tear gas being used to disperse people coming to greet Gbagbo near the airport on Thursday. Clashes continued later along the route Gbagbo’s vehicle took toward his former campaign headquarters.

His opponents, though, maintain he should be jailed in Ivory Coast, not given a statesman’s welcome. Some demonstrated outside Gbagbo’s residence in the Cocody on Wednesday.

Thursday remained mostly a day of jubilation for Gbagbo’s supporters, who long have maintained his prosecution was unfair and politically motivated. The ex-president garnered nearly a majority of the vote in 2010 and maintains a strong base of supporters.

“After his arrival we want peace and reconciliation, we want to live together because we were born together so we are obliged to live together” said Chief Tanouh, a traditional leader from the country’s east.

Ouattara, who was ultimately declared the winner by Paris and Washington of the 2010 vote and has been president of Ivory Coast ever since, did not greet Gbagbo at the airport Thursday. The current president won a controversial third term in office late last year after the opposition claimed many of its candidates were disqualified including Gbagbo.

It still remains unclear what will become of other pending criminal charges against the ex-president.

Gbagbo and three of his former ministers were sentenced to 20 years in prison on charges they broke into the Abidjan branch of the Central Bank of West African States to get cash amid the post-election crisis in January 2011.

It’s unlikely that Ivorian authorities will jail the ex-president, says Ousmane Zina, a political scientist at the University of Bouake. However, Ouattara is likely to attach conditions to Gbagbo’s return in an effort to avoid reigniting tensions of the past, he added.

“Before granting a pardon or amnesty, he will want to obtain a guarantee that the country will remain peaceful,” Zina said.

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Associated Press journalists Krista Larson in Dakar, Senegal; and Bishr El- Touni, Mark Carlson and Lorne Cook in Brussels contributed.

African Americans Laud Juneteenth Holiday, Say More Work Ahead

By DARLENE SUPERVILLE and KEVIN FREKING

President Joe Biden points to Opal Lee after signing the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, in the East Room of the White House, Thursday, June 17, 2021, in Washington. From left, Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif, Rep. Danny Davis, D-Ill., Opal Lee, Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn., Vice President Kamala Harris, House Majority Whip James Clyburn of S.C., Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, obscured, Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio, Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Black Americans rejoiced Thursday after President Joe Biden made Juneteenth a federal holiday, but some said that, while they appreciated the recognition at a time of racial reckoning in America, more is needed to change policies that disadvantage too many of their brethren.

“It’s great, but it’s not enough,” said Gwen Grant, president and CEO of the Urban League of Kansas City. Grant said she was delighted by the quick vote this week by Congress to make Juneteenth a national holiday because “it’s been a long time coming.”

But she added that “we need Congress to protect voting rights, and that needs to happen right now so we don’t regress any further. That is the most important thing Congress can be addressing at this time.”

At a jubilant White House bill-signing ceremony, Biden agreed that more than a commemoration of the events of June 19, 1865, is needed. That’s when Union soldiers brought the news of freedom to enslaved Black people in Galveston, Texas — some 2 1/2 years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation had freed slaves in Southern states.

“This day doesn’t just celebrate the past. It calls for action today,” Biden said before he established Juneteenth National Independence Day. His audience included scores of members of Congress and Opal Lee, a 94-year-old Texas woman who campaigned for the holiday.

Biden singled out voting rights as an area for action.

Republican-led states have enacted or are considering legislation that activists argue would curtail the right to vote, particularly for people of color. Legislation to address voting rights issues, and institute policing reforms demanded after the killing of George Floyd and other unarmed Black men, remains stalled in the Congress that acted swiftly on the Juneteenth bill.

Other people want the federal government to make reparations or financial payments to the descendants of slaves in an attempt to compensate for those wrongs. Meanwhile, efforts are afoot across the country to limit what school districts teach about the history of slavery in America.

Community organizer Kimberly Holmes-Ross, who helped make her hometown of Evanston, Illinois, the first U.S. city to pay reparations, said she was happy about the new federal holiday because it will lead more people to learn about Juneteenth.

But she would have liked Congress to act on anti-lynching legislation or voter protections first.

“I am not super stoked only because all of the other things that are still going on,” said Holmes-Ross, 57. “You haven’t addressed what we really need to talk about.”

Peniel Joseph, an expert on race at the University of Texas at Austin, said the U.S. has never had a holiday or a national commemoration of the end of slavery. Many Black Americans had long celebrated Juneteenth.

“Juneteenth is important symbolically, and we need the substance to follow, but Black people historically have always tried to do multiple things at the same time,” Joseph said.

Most federal workers will observe the holiday Friday. Several states and the District of Columbia announced that government offices would be closed Friday.

Juneteenth is the 12th federal holiday, including Inauguration Day once every four years. It’s also the first federal holiday since the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday was added in 1983.

Before June 19 became a federal holiday, it was observed in the vast majority of states and the District of Columbia. Texas was first to make Juneteenth a holiday in 1980.

Most white Americans had not heard of Juneteenth before the summer of 2020 and the protests that stirred the nation’s conscience over race after Floyd’s killing by a Minneapolis police officer, said Matthew Delmont, who teaches history at Dartmouth College.

He said the new federal holiday “hopefully provides a moment on the calendar every year when all Americans can spend time thinking seriously about the history of our country.”

The Senate passed the bill earlier this week by unanimous agreement. But in the House, 14 Republicans voted against it, including Rep. Chip Roy of Texas. Roy said Juneteenth deserves to be commemorated, but he objected to the use of “independence” in the holiday’s name.

“This name needlessly divides our nation on a matter that should instead bring us together by creating a separate Independence Day based on the color of one’s skin,” he said in a statement.

Added Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., who also voted against the bill: “We have one Independence Day, and it applies equally to all people of all races.”

The sentiment was different in Texas, the first state to make Juneteenth a holiday.

“I’m happy as pink,” said Doug Matthews, 70, and a former city manager of Galveston who has helped coordinate the community’s Juneteenth celebrations since Texas made it a holiday.

He credited the work of state and local leaders with paving the way for this week’s step by Congress.

“I’m also proud that everything started in Galveston,” Matthews said.

Pete Henley, 71, was setting up tables Thursday for a Juneteenth celebration at the Old Central Cultural Center, a Galveston building that once was a segregated Black school. He said the Juneteenth holiday will help promote understanding and unity.

“All holidays have significance, no matter what the occasion or what it’s about, but by it being a federal holiday, it speaks volumes to what the country thinks about that specific day,” said Henley, who studied at the school before it was integrated and is president of the cultural center.

He said his family traces its roots back to enslaved men and women in the Texas city who were among the last to receive word of the Emancipation Proclamation.

“As a country, we really need to be striving toward togetherness more than anything,” Henley said. “If we just learn to love each other, it would be so great.”

Holmes-Ross recalled first learning about Juneteenth in church in Evanston, a Lake Michigan suburb just outside Chicago. Over the years, she said she made sure her three children commemorated the day with community events including food, dancing and spoken word performances.

She said it was about more than a day off for her family and expressed hope that it would be for others, too.

“We were intentional about seeking out Black leaders and things we could celebrate as African Americans,” Holmes-Ross said. “Hopefully, people do something productive with it. It is a day of service.”

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Associated Press writers Margaret Stafford in Liberty, Mo., Sophia Tareen in Chicago and Jake Bleiberg in Dallas contributed to this report.