Monday, September 27, 2021

Backing Terrorist TPLF Won’t Make Biden Africa Team Victorious

September 26, 2021

BY MULATU BELACHEW

ADDIS ABABA- Americans deserve to know that siding with the treasonous and terrorist TPLF that started the war and then expanded it when it had the chance to reciprocate is not a winning formula for the Biden Africa Team, Aklog Birara (PhD)–Senior Advisor at the World Bank said.

In his article published recently, he stated that civilians fleeing the conflict are accusing TPLF forces of committing a range of atrocities, including door-to-door executions. The rebels have widened the conflict beyond the borders of their own State.

“Displaced people blame the dissidents for killings, widespread looting and the indiscriminate shelling of civilian areas, I agree with media reports in this regard. This is a terrible conflict and utterly wrong for all concerned. Of course, the combat should end. But what can the U.S. do?”

Aklog reminded the American people, especially the electorate that Ethiopia deserves constructive support at a time of greatest threat punitive sanctions against the country and its high-level officials will not work. “The American people must, instead, pressure the Biden Africa Team to demand that the TPLF reciprocate and stop its terrorist acts immediately and unconditionally.”

He pointed out that looting or blocking  humanitarian aid and shipments to civilians is an act of aggression. The Biden Africa Team must be bold, and fair minded enough to state clearly that failure to implement these critical steps will result in the application of the Magnitsky Act against TPLF leaders, members and supporters who misinform, who murder, who loot or block or weaponize humanitarian aid and those who recruit child soldiers and deploy them as human shields.

 The scholar further urged the American people to push the Biden Africa Team as well as members of the U.S. Congress to champion the imperative of establishing an independent and all-inclusive Commission for enduring peace, national reconciliation, and consensus in Ethiopia. “I am convinced that pushing and financing such an initiative by the United States will renew and cement U.S. and Ethiopian relations for decades to come.”

 Noting facts on the ground such as “war crimes, genocide, ethnic cleansing, and rapes” and other atrocities are rare if ever reported by credible, independent, and objective sources, Aklog highlighted that the Biden Africa Team is part of the problem.

The Government of Ethiopia declared a unilateral cease-fire on June 28 whilst Secretary Antony Blinken did not demand that the TPLF reciprocate in kind. Emboldened by deaf ears and blind eyes (the State Department and the White House, the UN, and the EU) the TPLF expanded the war to Afar and Amhara states.

“The Biden Africa Team is doing the exact opposite. It does the opposite because the TPLF was identified by the U.S. as a terrorist group,” he noted, adding that USAID Head’s outrage to the rebels looting humanitarian aid resources from warehouses is what the Team missed to say. “Hence, The Biden Africa Team’s follies; and its incoherent, misguided, shortsighted and dangerous policy towards Ethiopia must be corrected.”

The Ethiopian Herald September 26/2021

UN and EU Seek Key Actions to Fix Problems in Somalia’s Food Systems

By Xinhua 

Sep 25, 20210

The United Nations and European Union have called for pragmatic actions to strengthen resilient agri-food systems in Somalia, saying urgent actions are needed to address the challenges and the negative impacts associated with malnutrition in Somalia, which has some of the highest rates of malnutrition globally.

“In addition, global crises such as COVID-19, the climate emergency, pollution, biodiversity loss, conflict and other disasters are revealing significant risks and vulnerabilities in Somalia’s food system, posing an existential threat to both humans and ecosystems alike,” the two bodies said in a joint statement issued in Mogadishu on Friday.

Ahead of the 2021 United Nations Food Systems Summit convened in September by United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, the Somali Federal Government in cooperation with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), European Union (EU), and the French Research Center for Agricultural Development (CIRAD) conducted a stakeholders consultation workshop on the assessment of food systems.

Over 60 stakeholders representing the government, civil society, the private sector, academia and non-governmental organizations gathered virtually on September 14 in Mogadishu, and Hargeisa on September 16 for Stakeholders Consultation Workshop discussions.

Etienne Peterschmitt, FAO Country Representative for Somalia said during the consultation workshop that finding practical solutions to specific problems in Somalia’s food systems not only requires comprehension of the linkages between system components but also governance structures capable of addressing trade-offs between food system outcomes and sustainability.

“Looking at the Somalia context, food systems are critical to address the needs of the population to eat safe food, adopt a healthy diet and reduce food insecurity and malnutrition,” said European Union program manager Luca Pagliara.

According to the UN, the consultation workshops are a step in promoting this sustainable and inclusive transformation of such food systems. Stakeholders identified key constraints and entry points for innovative policy and investment solutions for the transformation of sustainable food systems.

The evidence and knowledge gathered will be summarized in a Food Systems Assessment Report and Policy Brief that will advance the national dialogues on food systems, and feed into policies, plans and programs shaping the food systems development in Somalia and Somaliland. The findings will also inform the high-level United Nations Food System Summit in September 2021, in view of guiding future action under the global food systems transformation agenda.

World Health Organization: Let’s Rethink Healthcare Delivery

By GNA 

Sep 27, 20210

The World Health Organization (WHO) says health care is fundamentally changing around the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic and called for a rethink of the traditional ways of healthcare delivery

The pandemic, according to WHO, has heralded the reimagining of healthcare delivery models from siloed and static-into new models that can do a better job of anticipating people’s healthcare needs.

Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, in a welcoming video message at a three day workshop for senior health managers at Aqua Safari Resort in Ada said the four-month programme aimed to provide participants with a dynamic and valuable learning experience.

“Whether you are a unit lead, senior manager, division director, Agency CEO, your enrollment in this programme recognizes your unique expertise and contributions towards enhancing teamwork, accountability, and innovation.

It is for that reason that we have invested in this transformative programme to give you an opportunity to deepen your management and leadership skills, to share strategies, challenges and resources with each other, and to think creatively and innovatively when facilitating initiatives with governments and other partners.

I am confident that a strong learning community provides the foundations for successful operations. Therefore, our plan is to continue educational activities for people involved in health management to help them to stay competitive and have an advantage in a demanding and quickly evolving environment.” She said.

Dr Francis Kasolo, the WHO country representative for Ghana, told the media that the senior health managers were been trained to build their leadership skills, hoping that the style of leadership that they would take along their various health workers under their supervision to ensure that Ghana delivered Universal health coverage goals.

According to him, Ghana was one of the countries which had a road map for achieving the universal health coverage and ” for this to take place, the WHO need to have leadership that have the skills and up to speed.”

He said, “We know that the fundings that we have may not necessarily be enough but we have to use innovation in delivering some of the health interventions. The other thing we are training them on is the issue of mentorship so they will be able to mentor their junior staff to develop their capacities to feed into driving a universal health coverage agenda.” He said

Mr. Masao Patrick Kindiano, one of the facilitators, told the Ghana News Agency that after the training, the senior health managers were expected to be leaders who can transform the health sector.

He said a healthy nation is a nation which could produce economically and “If you have a nation where the health sector is not up to power, it means you have unhealthy people who can not live up to the level required.

So we are hoping that they can transform the health sector in such a way that it can contribute to having a healthy Ghana.”

Alhaji Asei Mahama Seini, a Deputy Minister of Health, said, “Ministry of Health is responsible for the health of everybody living in Ghana and we are also aware that health issues are now multifaceted and dynamic so a training programme like this by WHO, will sharpen our professionals in terms of leadership skill development so that they can execute proper instructions to bring about the well-being of Ghanaians, monitor, see through effective implementation of all other policies even as we are being threatened by COVID-19, ” he said.

Mr. Mahama, who was also a participant, noted that the impact of the training would allow teamwork among them as senior health managers and charge colleague participants to implement whatever training they had to bring about improvement in the health sector.

Background

According to WHO, studies have shown that transformational leadership positively affects employees’ individual creativity and work-related attitudes which as a practice has also been found to positively influence leadership efficiency and produce positive outcomes including extra effort, effectiveness and satisfaction.

WHO, has embarked on the journey of transformation in 2015 and defined the WHO Africa Health Transformation Programme which served as the strategic framework that would guide WHO’s contribution to the sustainable development platform in Africa.

It also aimed to strengthen the capacity of WHO in the African Region to better respond to Member States’ needs and deliver country level impact.

The 2021 global transformation evaluation revealed that more staff in the WHO African Region feel valued, heard and more accountable for results.

A notable increase was observed in the percentage of staff who feel they are motivated from 43% in 2017 to 54%.

The WHO African Region showed the most promising results across all the WHO regions in cultural change with initiatives such as the WHO values charter, Change Agents’ Network and Pathways to Leadership Program proving to be very promising efforts at inculcating new cultural values and norms.

COVID-19 Pandemic Has Impacted Negatively on Tourism Growth, Job Creation

By GNA 

Sep 27, 20210

Mr Ekow Sampson, Deputy Chief Executive Officer, in-charge of Operations, Ghana Tourism Authority (GTA), has said the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted on tourism growth, job creation, and livelihood of communities that depended on tourism.

He said in 2019, tourism generated 3.3 billion dollars with a total of 1.1 million tourist arrivals but was sharply depressed with the advent of Covid-19 to 355,108 arrivals in 2020 with a receipt of 387, 1 million dollars.

“Tourist arrivals and receipts figures declined by 68.5 percent and 88.3 per cent respectively.”

Mr Ekow revealed this in a speech on behalf of Mr Akwasi Agyeman, GTA CEO during the 2021 UNWTO World Tourism Day celebration in Wli on the theme: “Tourism for inclusive growth.”

“The theme is apt as the tourism industry is gradually recovering from the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It is time for us all to essentially take stock and highlight a participatory approach to creating and sharing tourism wealth for poverty reduction, decency in living standards, and livelihoods security.”

He said the average tourist expenditure which stood at 2,931 dollars also declined sharply to 1,090 dollars which was 64 percent in 2020.

The Deputy Chief Executive Officer said tourism globally was the most affected economic activity in the world as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and the ongoing restrictions to mobility.

“According to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) 2021 report, Travel and Tourism GDP Which accounted for 10.4 per cent in 2019, declined to 5.5 per cent in 2020.

“There were 62 million job losses in 2020 from 334 million jobs in 2019, it declined rapidly to 272 million jobs in 2020.”

He noted that Small Scale and Medium Enterprises (SME’S), which contributed 80 per cent of all global businesses in the tourism sector, were particularly affected.

Mr Ekow noted that as the world as the Travel and Tourism Industry could not return to pre-Covid arrival levels until 2023 as predicted by the UNWTO and WTTC, domestic tourism presented an opportunity for sustaining tourism growth.

“It is said that “charity begins at home” therefore the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture with its implementing Agency, the Ghana Tourism Authority in collaboration with the private sector, Ghana Tourism Federation (GHATOF) as well as all the Trade Associations initiated the Domestic Tourism campaign,

“Experience Ghana, Share Ghana” to whip up interest in domestic tourism to enable Ghanaians to appreciate the tourism, hospitality, arts, and culture potential and engender cross-cultural exchange amongst themselves as a people.”

He said since Dr Mohammed Awal, Sector Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, assumed office in spite of the disruptive times of the COVID -19 era, he had been keen on promoting domestic tourism and showcasing the same across 10 Regions he visited so far.

“Due to the pandemic, domestic tourism statistics dropped from about 669,000 visitors in 2019 to about 200,000 in 2020.”

He said the expectations were that, relying on the current domestic tourism campaign and the enthusiasm of Ghanaians to visit most of the country’s tourist sites and attractions, general visitations would increase to reduce the gap created by global travel restrictions.

Togbe Ametornu IV, Divisional Chief of Wli Agorviefe, on behalf of Togbega Lo I, Paramount Chief of Wli Traditional Area, said the Area was grateful to host the 2021 World Tourism Day celebration in Ghana.

Nurses Urged to Desist from Acts That Tarnish the Image of the Profession

By GNA 

Sep 27, 20210

Nurses and midwives have been advised to desist from acts that tarnish the image of the profession in the eyes of the public.

Ms. Elizabeth Omechey, a student midwife from the Kumasi Komfo Anokye Nursing and Midwifery training college who made the call said it was high time nurses and midwives crafted a new image for the profession.

Speaking at a community health sensitization programme at Bremang in the Suame Municipality, she said the nursing profession was a divine call, which needed to define itself to suit the will of God.

Nurses and midwives should make sure their work always reflects that call.

The community health campaign was organized by the assembly member for Katinka Donkor Fordjour electoral area at Bremang, Nana Obuor Sika, to help sensitize the people on the need to take good care of their health as well as their environment to prevent diseases.

Ms. Omechey, advised the people to desist from the practice of self-medication and also strictly abide by all the covid-19 safety protocols at all times.

Nana Obuor Sika explained that the community engagement with the student nurses had been an interesting and educative one, since it really taught participants many life preventive measures.

He used the occasion to present sewing machines and other items to artisans within the electoral area to enable them to work effectively.

Nana Obour charged the people to take good care of their health and work hard to support the development process of the country.

Sudan Revolutionaries Urge Reform of the Armed Forces

24 SEPTEMBER 2021

Radio Dabanga (Amsterdam)

Khartoum — The statements of the president and deputy of the Sovereignty Council accusing political groups in the country of being more preoccupied with positions than politics, met with fierce criticism from various parties.

In response to a coup attempt that was thwarted on Tuesday, Lt Gen Abdelfattah El Burhan, Sovereignty Council President and Chief of the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF), and Lt Gen Mohamed Dagalo 'Hemeti' Sovereignty Council Deputy President and Chief of the Rapid Support Forces militia*, blamed Sudan's political forces for the crisis in the country and condemned the lack of respect for the military.

They accused the politicians of squabbling and quarrelling over positions instead of working for the future of the country.

The Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC), the driving force behind the Sudanese revolution that led to the ousting of the regime of President Omar Al Bashir, considered the statements of the president and vice-president of the Sovereignty Council "a setback to the agenda of the revolution and the democratic transformation".

The speeches of the military leaders contained "a load of fallacies and baseless accusations against the FFC," the group said in a press statement yesterday. Their claims constitute "a direct threat to the democratic transition as they attempt to create a rift between the forces of the civil revolution and the armed forces of the people, and undermine the foundations on which the revolution was based".

The FFC urged the acceleration of the reform of the military and security service, the removal of remnants [of the Al Bashir regime], and the implementation of the stipulations of the 2020 Juba Peace Agreement, in particular the implementation of the security arrangements protocol.

'Rehearsal'

According to the Sudanese Congress Party (SCP), "the statements of the chairman of the Sovereignty Council and his deputy included dangerous indicators and unacceptable contradictions".

'The military are responsible for the failure to handle the growing insecurity in the country and prevent repeated coup attempts' - Sudanese Congress Party

The SCP holds the military responsible for the crises the country is going through, "by claiming a monopoly of guardianship over the country and the sole right to lead it through the transitional period".

In a press statement yesterday, the party holds the military responsible for "the failure to handle the growing insecurity in large parts of the country in a systematic manner and prevent repeated coup attempts," and called for "the unification of the armed forces under auspices of a professional military institution". The party further demands the Ministry of Finance to be solely responsible for all public resources, including investment companies affiliated with the military forces.

The Sudanese Journalists Network also considers the statements of the military leaders of the country on Wednesday "an advanced step towards the seizure of power". The network will work with other forces "to urgently mobilise the people and develop a professional plan of action to confront such attempts".

The Democratic Lawyers Alliance described the aborted coup attempt on Tuesday as a "rehearsal and a measuring device to show the extent of the street's reaction to military change". The lawyers wondered why information about the coup attempt only came from the military themselves and why the names of the people behind the coup have not been made known yet. They called for regular updates about the investigations.

Civilian rule

The alliance, together with the Sudan Doctors Central Committee, the Preparatory Committee for the Restoration of the Journalists Syndicate, the Pharmacists Committee, the Laboratory Technicians Committee, Resistance Committees in Khartoum, and 17 other professional and revolutionary associations signed a joint statement in which they strongly rejected the statements of El Burhan and Hemeti.

Activists in El Obeid in North Kordofan, Nyala in South Darfur, Delling in South Kordofan, and El Gedaref, on Thursday, staged protests vigils condemning the failed coup attempt and the statements of the military leaders. The demonstrators all called for civilian rule.

* The paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) was set up by the ousted Al Bashir regime in 2013. The militia which grew out of the Janjaweed groups which fought for the Sudanese government in Darfur since the war broke out 2003, is widely believed to be responsible for atrocities in the region in the past six-seven years. The RSF are also held responsible for the violent break-up of the Khartoum sit-in in June 3 last year. Tens of thousands of RSF troops have joined the Saudi-led campaign against the Houthi rebels in Yemen since 2015.

The RSF has reportedly built up a vast business empire that captures not only a large part of the country's gold industry, but has huge interests in many sectors of the Sudanese economy as well.

Officially, the RSF was integrated into the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) two years ago. In the August 2019 Constitutional Charter it was agreed that both the army and the RSF will fall under the command of the "Supreme Commander of the Sudan Armed Forces". At the same time however, the militia stayed a force unto intself, commanded by Mohamed Dagalo 'Hemeti', Vice-President of Sudan's Sovereignty Council.

In the Juba Peace Agreement of October 2020, the Sudanese government and a number of rebel movements agreed to form a single national professional army with a new unified military doctrine making the SAF, RSF, other security forces, and combatants of former rebel movements "a single unified regular force that serves the supreme interests of State of Sudan". In June this year, Hemeti publicly refused the integration of his forces into the Sudanese army. Later that month, Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok spoke about the need to reform Sudan's military institutions, including the integration of the RSF militia into "a unified national army".

Read the original article on Radio Dabanga.

Tensions in the Capital, East - Sudan Faces Coup Attempts and Economic Blockades

TUBS / Sting / NordNordWest / Wikimedia Commons

A map showing the location of Sudan in East Africa (undisputed borders, in 2011).

26 SEPTEMBER 2021

Ayin English (Nuba Mountains)

ANALYSIS

Tensions in the capital and eastern Sudan have pitted the country's civilian politicians and military to near breaking point this past week as accusations and counteraccusations follow an alleged coup in Khartoum and ongoing protests in Eastern Sudan.

Early Tuesday morning, Sudan's military claimed to quash a military coup orchestrated by 21 officers and soldiers linked the Armoured Corps and the Airborne Forces, according to Ground Force Commander Lt-Gen Essam al-Din Karrar. It marks the fourth coup attempt since Sudan formed a transitional government comprising of civilian and military elements in August 2019. It is also the first time individuals have been arrested for partaking in the coup plot, according to the premier's advisor, Yasser Arman. "We have to admit that there is a civilian-military crisis in Sudan," Arman said on the international Arabic broadcaster, Al-Arabiya.

A war of words

While the purported coup attempt ended without bloodshed, a war of words between the civilian and military wings of government ensued.

For the first time, Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok hinted that some of the individuals involved in the coup attempt were part of the current military -not solely those ousted from the former regime. "What happened today is a coup orchestrated by elements inside and outside the army and was preceded by a systematic incitement and high-level arrangement and coordination," Hamdok said on Tuesday in a speech aired on national television. Hamdok and the leaders of the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) pointed an accusing finger at Burhan saying he delayed crucial security sector reforms and refused to sack the Islamist elements within the military, according to news reports. They added that this inactivity has helped enable Islamists to carry out attempts to seize power, both in the past and today.

According to Jonas Horner, Senior Sudan Analyst at the think-tank, the International Crisis Group, the coup has also "allowed the civilian side of the government to claim that security forces are ineffectual and divided and that they must be consolidated and brought under civilian control."

Meanwhile, Sudan's military leadership was quick to accuse the civilian-staffed government of ignoring the Sudanese people's needs, suggesting that they had given coup-plotters an opportunity. Sovereign Council Head Lt.-Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and his deputy, General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (known as 'Himmedti') repeatedly claimed the civilian politicians of seeking personal gains and ignoring the goals of the revolution in public appearances. "Politicians are the main cause behind coups because they have neglected the average citizen," Himmedti said via Sudan's news agency, "... and are more concerned fighting over how they can stay in power." During a military graduation ceremony in Omdurman, Burhan claimed it was the military who were defending the revolution and supporting transitional democracy. "Political parties have nothing to do apart from fighting for their posts and chairs, neglecting the suffering of our people, and focus only on attacking and criticizing the military," the sovereign council leader told army recruits on Wednesday.

The war of words became so harsh, civilian Sovereign Council member Mohamed el-Faki referred to Burhan and Himmedti's public statements as "the real coup" in Sudan during a recent interview on state television. In recent times, El-Faki said, the civilian and military components of Sudan's transitional government remain perpetually averse to one another. "Our meeting never reaches a political process or results," the sovereign council member said. "We were fine and agreed [on issues] in previous periods, but now there is an incompatibility between the two components -any meeting in which there are civilians with the military-no results are made."

Magdi El Gizouli, an academic at the Rift Valley Institute, says both sides of Sudan's government have used the coup to "assert their influence and undermine the other." Analysts believe the military may use the aborted coup, for instance, to prolong their leadership of the Sovereign Council, citing insecurity as an excuse. "And the argument will simply be that the country is facing a security crisis that requires them [the military] to remain in power," Gizouli said.

Horner agrees. "Whether or not the coup attempt was a genuine attempt by forces hostile to the transitional government to remove that government, the net result has been for Sudan's military to claim it is newly indispensable to the fragile transitional process," he told Ayin.

Disputed dates

The date for the transition of the presidency of the Sovereign Council from the military to the civilian side is under debate, some claiming the transfer should take place in November while others suggest next July due to a constitutional amendment made by the Juba Peace Agreement. Either way, many supporters of the revolution fear the military leadership will renege on their legal obligation to cede power to civilian leadership. "The biggest threat currently facing the country is to make a new amendment to the constitutional document with the aim of extending the term of the military leadership of the Sovereign Council," Sharif Ali Al-Sharif, the head of the Sudanese Initiative for Human Rights, told Ayin.

Whether civilians will accept an extension of military leadership or even another military coup remains to be seen. Prime Minister Hamdok appears convinced Sudan's citizenry support a democratic transition. "There is no excuse for a coup from any side. If the citizens are dissatisfied, then they will also not accept a coup. This kind of talk is astonishing," the premier said in an interview with Al-Sudani newspaper. Hundreds of people took to the streets in Khartoum and other parts of the country -including El Gedaref and El Obeid, to denounce the attempted coup and support full civilian rule.

A calm capital, eastern entropy

While tensions in the capital have eased with the passing of the aborted coup, the situation in eastern Sudan remains as strained as ever.

Some members of the Beja ethnicity group in eastern Sudan have effectively crippled Sudan's economy having closed oil pipelines, ports, and two airports in protest over the current transitional government and the eastern track peace deal. The protest leader Muhammad al-Amin Turk called on Burhan to declare a state of emergency within the country, dissolve the civilian government, and end the peace deal in a statement addressing his supporters in Suakin, Red Sea State. Al-Amin claims the peace deal, signed with several former rebel groups in Juba last October, fails to represent them. The costly protest has severely impacted Sudan's already beleaguered economy. Closing Port Sudan's ports for only four days cost the country US$ 3.4 million, the ministry of transport said.

During his interview with state television, Sovereign Council member al-Faki claimed the protests in eastern Sudan are being orchestrated in the capital. "The problem of the east is in Khartoum, not in the east," he said. According to one security official who spoke on the condition of anonymity, elements of Sudan's security forces are actively supporting the protests in Eastern Sudan since the demands of the protestors under al-Amin Turk are in line with the military. Sovereign Council leader al-Burhan, however, stressed that the armed forces have no connection to the eastern protests and have called for their resolve.

The protests, now over a week in duration, may not last much longer. Thousands of eastern Sudanese rallied on Saturday to show their support to the transitional government and the eastern peace agreement, countering the protest demands of Turk's group.

More coups to come?

While the attempted coup and protests in Eastern Sudan may subside, the possibility of future instability is tenable. Some analysts suggest the alleged coup that took place last Tuesday was little more than a litmus test to see whether a future military coup could take place without public outcry. "In the wake of the apparent coup attempt, an abiding worry of diplomatic and domestic stakeholders is that the episode was meant to be a trial balloon to gauge street and military reaction to a military challenge to the government," Horner told Ayin. "On the morning of the coup attempt, little response was in evidence from Sudanese in Khartoum."

On the other hand, these same analysts suggest elements opposed to Sudan's democratic transition have purposefully sabotaged development within the country to defuse any confidence in the current leadership. If true, this approach may not be working given recent positive developments within the country.

"The civilians have banked two significant successes recently that point to a turnaround in an all-important economic realm: for the first time in the transitional government's two-year tenure, inflation has fallen, and Sudan's balance of trade has improved markedly," Horner said. "This success itself may worry military and civilian opponents of the government who have counted on the government's failure in the face of a vast array of obstacles."

Read the original article on Ayin English.

East Africa: Attempted Coup Mirrors Building Tension, Unsolved Horn of Africa's Conflicts

Christopher Michel/Flickr

Khartoum, Sudan (file photo)

25 SEPTEMBER 2021

The East African (Nairobi)

OPINION

By Aggrey Mutambo, Mawahib Abdallatif And Garang Malak

The recent attempted coup in Sudan has exposed the delicate political ground not just in Khartoum but also the Horn of Africa. The neighbourhood is already struggling with a now humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia's Tigray region that threatens to suck in all countries in the region one way or other.

But inside Khartoum, the failed coup exposed the widening gulf between the military and civilian components of the transitional government.

On September 21, officials in Khartoum said they had foiled a coup reportedly masterminded by loyalists of ousted Sudanese leader Omar al-Bashir, currently serving a jail term for corruption crimes. "What happened in this coup attempt, is an extension of previous attempts against the Transitional Council," Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok said.

"They tried to take advantage of the situation in different towns by closing ports and roads and tried to stop us from moving forward during this transitional period," he added.

At least 40 soldiers had been arrested by last Thursday for questioning, but the PM himself admitted that the plot was led by both military and non-military elements in government which he said had ties with al-Bashir.

The incident was widely seen as an added threat to the transitional government. The PM said there will be a "total review of the transition experience."

From the outset, it looked like recent conditions in the country would fuel an attempt to topple the transitional government. Sudanese security and military affairs expert Maj-Gen Amin Mjazoub told The EastAfrican that the coup was probably just to test the waters.

Sudan has had three coups and eight coup attempts going back to 1957 and includes that which brought al-Bashir to power in 1988. Mr Bashir was ousted in April 2019 in a popular uprising, with the help of the military.

Since August 2019 when he took office, Mr Hamdook still faces a crisis and has an uphill task uniting, first the military units and weed out Mr Bashir loyalists; and then unite the military and civilian sides of the government.

Mr Hamdook has had to accommodate in government more representatives of armed factions who agreed to lay down arms; reformed key areas of the economy such as addressing the exchange rate and subsidies, and making the country eligible for debt relief.

"The important thing would be that the civilian side of the government learns from this and accelerate to cleanse the military and security establishment, which is still under the control of remnants of the former regime," said Maj-Gen Amin Mjazoub.

The US recently announced it will pump $700 million into the Sudanese economy, ending years of being blacklisted under sanctions for being an alleged state sponsor of terrorism. Those sanctions were lifted last December.

Jonas Horner, a Senior Analyst for Sudan at the International Crisis Group had argued earlier that Sudan's painful economic reforms had actually started bearing fruit as the country lowered a trade deficit by 25 percent, lowered inflation from 423 percent to 388 percent, for the first time in two years.

"Mr Hamdook would do well to publicise this concrete sign of progress to a population suffering under vastly reduced purchasing power to show government can respond to their concerns while communicating the long road still ahead for Sudanese and their fragile economy," he Tweeted.

That long road includes drafting a new constitution and election laws, preparing the ground for peaceful elections, patching up the economy and encouraging more groups to sue for peace; all hopefully before the end of 2023.

The US Statement Department in a statement Tuesday said; "The US condemns the failed attempt by rogue military and civilian actors to seize power from Sudan's Civilian Led Transitional Government (CLTG)," calling it a danger to transition. "The US continues to support the CLTG in its pursuit of a democratic transition for Sudan."

It must be noted that, on the eve of the coup, the civilian side of government spoke of a lack of confidence in guarding democratic transition, and called for urgent reforms in the military seen as still harbouring radicals. February last year, those "radicals" had refused to be purged and staged a mutiny at the national security intelligence services headquatres in Khartoum.

Last month, Mr Hamdook announced a national mechanism to help create a broad consensus to protect the transition. Mr Hamdook said he had consulted widely and that the formation of the mechanism reflected diversity. Then the coup attempt happened and the military said there can never be any way to remove them from power.

"There is no elected government in the country, and the armed forces are the guardians of Sudan's security and unity," said Gen Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, chairman of Sudan's Transitional Sovereign Council, stressing that "no one can remove armed forces from the scene during the transition."

Al-Burhan, nonetheless, stressed the importance of the unity of all military and political components to get Sudan out of the transitional phase of a civilian-state that fulfills the aspirations of the people, saying the military in fact "believe in democratic transformation, the aspirations of the revolution, and the goals of the transitional period to move towards a future that establishes a democratic civilian-state chosen by the Sudanese people."

His deputy, Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo suggested the coup was a result of power struggles within civilian components, which gave the plotters to take advantage of it.

"The political forces have given the opportunity for military coups to take place, because they are preoccupied with power struggles and the distribution of positions among themselves," he said.

"The political forces deceived the citizens, and we have done nothing for our people. We harnessed all the possibilities of the regular forces for the benefit of the people." The civilian components under the Forces of Freedom and Change (FCC) have shared power with the military, alongside other groups since the transitional government was set up in 2019. The initial idea was for the chairmanship of the Sovereign Council to alternate between the two sides until proper elections are held. That hasn't been happening.

In fact, the FCC issued a statement on Tuesday accusing the chairman of the Transitional Sovereign Council and his deputy of threatening democracy. Whether the accusation is true or not, will still worry enthusiast of peace in the Horn. Sudan already faces an ongoing border tiff with neighbouring Ethiopia, adding to the ongoing dispute over the construction of the Grand Ethiopia Renaissance Dam (GERD).

A bulletin by the International Crisis Group (ICG) had warned that the tension over al-Fashaga border area near Amhara region of Ethiopia was a threat to regional stability and that a wider conflict could draw in neighbouring countries.

On Wednesday, South Sudan President Salva Kiir said Mr Hamdook should hold to account those behind the coup attempt. "We consider this a blatant attack on the process of consolidating peace in our sisterly country and strongly condemn the coup attempt," President Kiir said in a statement.

"We emphasise our firm position in rejecting the use of military means to undermine the power of people and the leadership of the Transitional Government. Such shortcuts aimed at blackmailing the democratic political transition in Sudan shouldn't be allowed to derail the efforts of the Sudanese people" Kiir added.

And President Kiir has reason to worry because in Ethiopia, a conflict in Tigray region has caused more than one million people to flee into Sudan, while another 500,000 are facing starvation inside Ethiopia. Last week US President Joe Biden signed an executive order with wide-ranging sanctions for both Ethiopia and Tigray if either of them derailed dialogue towards a peace.

President Biden said "The United States supports ongoing international efforts to promote a negotiated ceasefire and political resolution of this crisis, to ensure the withdrawal of Eritrean forces from Ethiopia, and to promote the unity, territorial integrity, and stability of Ethiopia."

Addis termed the sanction threat as "undue pressure" on the government to negotiate with what it calls a terrorist group. "As a long-time friend, strategic ally and partner in security, the United States 'recent policy against my country comes not only as a surprise to our proud nation, but evidently surpasses humanitarian concerns," Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed wrote in an open letter on Tuesday. "The American people and the rest of the Western world are being misguided by the reports, narratives and data distortions of global entities many believe were driven to help impoverished countries like mine, yet have in the past months portrayed victims as oppressors and oppressors as victims."

The Tigray People's Liberation Front, which the government is fighting, said they will comply with the conditions of the sanctions, terming the call by Biden as "correct" to prevent the situation from snowballing, according to Getachew Reda, the group's spokesman.

Although the conflict has created a humanitarian crisis, the African and Caribbean Group at the UN Security Council, known as A3+1 argued at a recent session on Tigray for donors to be careful not to impose an economic punishment on a country already suffering from effects of conflict.

"We urge caution in the use of any unilateral coercive sanction measures that risk Ethiopia's economic collapse. Their use will only worsen the humanitarian crisis." The four countries -- Kccccenya, Tunisia, Niger and St Vincent and Grenadines-- said in a joint statement last month.

Read the original article on East African.

Rwanda Massacre Mastermind Dies

Sam Ngendahimana/New Times

Youths carry a coffin containing remains of the victims of genocide (file photo).

27 SEPTEMBER 2021

Voice of America (Washington, DC)

Theoneste Bagosora, a former Rwandan army colonel regarded as the architect of the 1994 genocide in which more than 800,000 ethnic Tutsi and Hutus who tried to protect them were killed, died in a hospital in Mali on Saturday.

The 80-year-old Bagosora was serving a 35-year sentence after being found guilty of crimes against humanity by the then-International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

Known as a hardliner within the party of Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana, Bagosora was appointed cabinet director in the defense ministry in 1993 and took control of military and political affairs in the country.

Bagosora was accused of taking over the affairs of state after Habyarimana was killed when his plane was shot down in 1994 and ordering the massacre of Tutsi.

After the genocide, Bagosora fled into exile in Cameroon. He was arrested there in 1996 and flown to face trial in Tanzania in 1997.

His trial began in 2002 and lasted until 2007.

Bagosora was sentenced to life in prison in 2008 but that sentence was reduced on appeal.

Read the original article on VOA.

Rwanda: Activists Protest Burial in France of Genocide Architect Bagosora

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (file photo).

27 SEPTEMBER 2021

The New Times (Kigali)

By Bertrand Byishimo

Le Collectif des parties civiles pour le Rwanda (CPCR), a civil society body based in France has implored the French government not to welcome the remains of the top genocide architect Col Théoneste Bagosora who succumbed to a disease in a Malian prison on Saturday, September 25.

He was serving a 35-year sentence handed to him by the then International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).

Founded by Alain and Dafroza Gauthier, CPCR is a non-governmental organization that aims at bringing before justice all the suspects of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi mainly those living in France.

In a statement released on Sunday, the organisation said; "We urge the French authorities to refuse that the remains of Bagosora get buried in France where several members of his family reside," reads the statement in part.

'Place of pilgrimage'

The civil society also warned France to avoid becoming a haven of genocide fugitives.

"France, which is already a land of asylum for plenty of people suspected of having participated in the genocide against the Tutsi, should not become a 'place of pilgrimage' for those nostalgic for the genocidal regime of Juvénal Habyarimana," read the statement.

CPCR based their request on the fact that France has already received the remains of Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza, the former president of CDR, an extremist political outfit. Barayagwiza was also a founding member and head of RTLM, the hate radio that was key in facilitating the Genocide against the Tutsi.

France has also received the remains of Simon Bikindi, who was one of the then regime propagandist musician and song-writer whose compositions were aired on RTLM and other extremist outlets.

Survivors react

Genocide survivors and family members of slain politicians whose death Bagosora bears a superior responsibility, were disappointed by the fact that the genocide mastermind did not show any remorse until his time of death.

According to Naphthali Ahishakiye, the Executive Secretary of the Umbrella organization of genocide survivors, IBUKA, the survivors are relieved that he died in the hands of justice.

"Laws stipulate that a crime is wiped by the death of the convict, but we are glad that he died in the hands of justice system, having been tried, convicted and sentenced," he said.

Nevertheless, he regretted that Bagosora didn't express remorse for the grave crimes he committed as he bears a superior responsibility in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

Bagosora also bears responsibility for the systematic killing of prominent personalities and opposition political figures who include Landoald Ndasingwa, the designated minister of Local Government.

Commonly known as Lando and founder of the popular Hotel Chez Lando, Ndasingwa was killed with his entire family on April 7, 1994.

Anne-Marie Kantengwa, the sister to Lando, says that Bagosora's death should be a wake-up call to other genocide convicts to show remorse and be cooperative which he said will help in the documentation of the country's history.

"His death should push other convicts to show remorse, and be cooperative during investigations and documentation to make sure all information is availed to the public to heal the survivors," she said pointing out that convicts should show remorse and show where the remains of the genocide victims are buried.

Bagosora, 80, was arrested in Cameroun in March 1996 and transferred to the ICTR in Arusha, Tanzania where he was tried for his role in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

At the beginning of the Genocide, he was the highest authority in the Ministry of Defence and exercised control over the army of the genocidal regime that worked with Interahamwe to slaughter Tutsi.

Read the original article on New Times.

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Over 100 Officials Resign from Tunisia’s Main Islamist Party

TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — More than 100 officials of Tunisia’s Islamist party Ennahdha announced their resignations Saturday to protest the choices of the movement’s leadership in confronting the North African country’s political crisis.

The split within the ranks of Ennahdha comes amid deep political crisis in Tunisia. In July, President Kaïs Saied’s decided to sack the country’s prime minister, suspend parliament and assume executive authority, saying it was because of a national emergency. His critics called it a coup.

In a statement released Saturday, 113 officials from Ennahdha, including lawmakers and former ministers, said they had resigned.

“This is a definitive and irrevocable decision,” Samir Dilou, an Ennahdha lawmaker and former minister from 2011 to 2014, told The Associated Press.

Dilou said the decision to resign was linked to the “impossibility of reforming the party from the inside” because of decisions being made by the head of the party, Rachid Ghannouchi, and his entourage. He also noted that Ennahdha, the largest party in parliament, has failed to counter Saied’s actions.

Earlier this week, Saied issued presidential decrees bolstering the already near-total power he granted himself two months ago.

Wednesday’s decrees include the continuing suspension of the Parliament’s powers, the suspension of all lawmakers’ immunity from prosecution and a freeze on lawmakers’ salaries.

They also stated Saied’s intention from now on to rule by presidential decree alone and ignore parts of the constitution. Laws will not go through the parliament, whose powers are frozen, granting him near-unlimited power.

Saied said his July decision was needed to save the country amid unrest over financial troubles and the government’s handling of Tunisia’s coronavirus crisis.

8 Dead as Al-Shabab Claims Blast in Somalia’s Capital

By HASSAN BARISE

Medical personnel carry a body after a car bomb attack at a Presidential Palace checkpoint in Mogadishu, Somalia, Saturday Sept. 25, 2021. Police said a vehicle laden with explosives rammed into cars and trucks at a checkpoint leading to the entrance of the Presidential Palace, killing at least eight people. (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh)

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — A vehicle laden with explosives rammed into cars and trucks at a checkpoint leading to the entrance of the Presidential Palace in Somalia, killing at least eight people, police said Saturday.

The checkpoint is the one used by Somalia’s president and prime minister on their way to and from the airport in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu.

Nine other people were wounded in the bombing, police spokesman Abdifatah Adam Hassan said.

The al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab extremist group has claimed responsibility. The group often carries out such attacks in the capital.

Biden Risks Losing Support from Democrats amid DC Gridlock

By STEVE PEOPLES

FILE - In this Sept. 24, 2021, file photo President Joe Biden speaks about the COVID-19 response and vaccinations in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington. Biden is losing support among critical groups in his political base as some of his core campaign promises falter, raising concerns among Democrats that the voters who put him in office may feel less enthusiastic about returning to the polls in next year's midterm elections. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — President Joe Biden is losing support among critical groups in his political base as some of his core campaign promises falter, raising concerns among Democrats that the voters who put him in office may feel less enthusiastic about returning to the polls in next year’s midterm elections.

In just the past week, the push to change the nation’s immigration laws and create a path to citizenship for young immigrants brought illegally to the country as children faced a serious setback on Capitol Hill. Bipartisan negotiations to overhaul policing collapsed and searing images of Haitian refugees being mistreated at the U.S.-Mexico border undermined Biden’s pledge of humane treatment for those seeking to enter the United States.

Taken together, the developments threaten to disillusion African Americans, Latinos, young people and independents, all of whom played a vital role in building a coalition that gave Democrats control of Congress and the White House last year. That’s creating a sense of urgency to broker some type of agreement between the party’s progressive and moderate wings to move forward with a $3.5 trillion package that would fundamentally reshape the nation’s social programs.

Failure to do so, party strategists warn, could devastate Democrats in the 2022 vote and raise questions about Biden’s path to reelection if he decides to seek a second term.

“Quoting Benjamin Franklin, if they don’t hang together, they’ll hang separately,” said James Carville, a veteran Democratic strategist. “They’ve got to get something done to have a chance.”

Despite such concerns, it’s likely too early for Democrats to panic.

While Biden’s approval ratings have taken a hit, for instance, they are significantly better than Donald Trump’s were at the same point in his presidency. With the midterms more than a year away, Biden and party leaders have time to course-correct.

Some of the past week’s challenges are more the result of inertia in a narrowly divided Congress rather than a failure of leadership by Biden. Other issues, including concerns about the future of abortion rights and anger at Republican efforts to restrict voting rights, may galvanize Democrats even if they’re disappointed by Washington’s persistent gridlock.

“I said it’s going to take me a year to deliver everything I’m looking at here,” Biden told reporters on Friday when he was pressed about the slow pace of progress.

“No. 2, take a look at what I inherited when I came into office. When I came into office, the state of affairs, and where we were: We had 4 million people vaccinated. We had no plan. We had — I mean, I can go down the list,” Biden added. “So, you know, part of it is dealing with the panoply of things that were landed on my plate. I’m not complaining; it’s just a reality.”

A recent poll from the Pew Research Center, in line with internal polling on the Republican and Democratic sides, paints a darkening picture for the president and his party. It found a 14-percentage point drop since July in his support from voters between the ages of 18 and 29, a 16-point drop among Latinos and an 18-point drop among African Americans. The shift among Black voters from 85% to 67% was particularly troubling given that they were Biden’s most reliable source of support in 2020.

“A year from now, the political environment is going to be a lot different,” said Biden pollster John Anzalone.

He emphasized the popularity of key elements of Biden’s “Build Back Better” agenda being debated in Congress.

“We’re going to have a good narrative going into 2022, not only what the Biden administration and Democrats have done for Americans, but also to contrast what Republicans are doing,” Anzalone said, suggesting that voters would blame the GOP for any Democratic failures.

For now, however, Democratic pollsters and strategists privately attribute Biden’s shaky standing to a number of factors.

Some point to the administration’s messy withdrawal from Afghanistan as a turning point among some disappointed Democrats and independents. Things deteriorated further when Biden faced a fierce backlash from the left for his administration’s aggressive treatment of Haitian immigrants gathering on the U.S.-Mexico border. Some African Americans have expressed concerns about some of the most far-reaching Democratic-backed pandemic restrictions in places such as New York City, which recently imposed a vaccine requirement for indoor dining. Some Black Lives Matter leaders in the city have called such mandates racist.

The Democratic frustration has begun to seep into midterm elections like the one in Illinois’ 7th Congressional District, where Kina Collins is challenging Rep. Danny Davis in the Democratic primary.

Collins says the people of her Chicago-area district want less talk and more action. Her party has not done enough, she said, to move past Trump’s divisive leadership.

“Is Trump gone?” Collins asked. “I don’t know if the remnants of Trump are really gone. People are afraid.”

Most Washington Democrats are betting their political fate on the legislative package being debated on Capitol Hill that would lower prescription drug prices; establish universal pre-K for 3- and 4-year-olds; upgrade Medicare to cover dental, vision and hearing; and combat climate change, among other liberal priorities.

Senate Democrats can use a special process to approve the measure with a simple majority, rather than the 60 votes needed to proceed with most pieces of legislation.

But even if Democrats are successful in enacting it — far from certain, given resistance from moderates such as like Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona — they still face intense pressure to deliver on immigration and racial justice. On both fronts, the odds of Democratic success are even more bleak.

Immigration advocates are reeling from a ruling by the Senate parliamentarian that Democrats could not add immigration provisions, including a pathway to citizenship for millions of immigrants, to their massive package. And top Democrats have conceded that negotiations failed to produce a compromise policing bill in response to sweeping protests last summer against police violence.

Biden pledged to keep fighting on both fronts, though the path forward is murky at best.

“There is cost to inaction,” warned Lorella Praeli, who led Latino outreach for Hillary Clinton’s last presidential campaign and now serves as co-president for Community Change Action.

Her organization and others are pressing the Biden administration and Democrats in Congress to fight the parliamentarian’s ruling or disregard it altogether.

She predicted that the Democrats’ ability — or inability — to deliver on what has been a party priority for more than a decade would resonate with voters in states such as Arizona, Georgia, Wisconsin and Nevada, among others that host high-profile elections next fall.

“At the end of the day, no one’s going to give a damn about the parliamentarian’s ruling,” Praeli said. “They’re just going to remember there was a Democrat in the White House and a Democratic majority in Congress.”

Sensing opportunity, the Republican National Committee recently opened Hispanic community centers in Laredo, Texas, and Milwaukee. The GOP already has some momentum with Latino voters, who backed Trump’s party at higher rates last fall than Democrats expected. In June, Republicans won a mayoral race in McAllen, Texas, a border town whose residents are overwhelmingly Latino.

“Joe Biden and Democrats are solely responsible for their failures,” RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel said. “With rising prices, the largest tax increase in decades, a crisis at our southern border, and forced vaccine mandates all disproportionally impacting lower income communities and communities of color – this isn’t working.”

COVID-19 in Iran: ‘Prospects Look Good’ as over 50% of Target Population Vaccinated by at Least One Dose

Sunday, 26 September 2021 6:50 PM

Press TV  

A nurse prepares to administer a COVIran Berakat vaccine against COVID-19 at a vaccination center in Shar-e Rey, near Tehran, Iran, on September 26, 2021. (Photo by YJC)

Story by Mohammad Homaeefar

More than 50 percent of Iran’s target population have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, as the country’s vaccination rollout accelerates, made possible in part by larger foreign vaccine imports.

According to the latest statistics published by Iran’s Health Ministry on Sunday, more than 35 million people— out of the target population of 60 million — have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, while the total number of vaccines injected has exceeded 50 million.

So far, 15,467,255 people have been fully vaccinated, according to the ministry. That includes the 1,169,478 people who have received the shot in the past 24 hours.

In recent weeks, Iran has on average rolled out more than one million doses each day, doing its utmost to make up for a lengthy delay in importing enough shots to complement the vaccination of Iranians with homegrown jabs. Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei has said foreign vaccines poured in only after the world saw the success of Iran’s homegrown ones.

Iran is among a few West Asian countries capable of developing and producing vaccines. The Islamic Republic has developed several vaccines against COVID-19, including the COVIran Barekat, Razi COV-Pars, Noora, and Fakhra.

Iran is to receive 10 mln of J&J, Pfizer vaccines to boost immunization against the coronavirus.

According to Kayhan Azadmanesh, the head of the virology research division at the Pasteur Institute of Iran in Tehran, Iran possesses the technology and know-how of producing vaccines, “so why not use it?”

In an interview with the prestigious scientific journal Nature last month, Azadmanesh said that due to Iran’s ability to produce vaccines and in order to ensure the safety of Iranians, “it makes sense to develop a variety of vaccines using different research and development strategies, as China has done.”

The increase in vaccinations in Iran began after the administration of President Ebrahim Raeisi, who had made the provision of vaccines and the fight against the deadly virus a top priority, took charge. Faced with a pandemic that exacerbated the country’s already hard-hit economy, which has been under severe US sanctions since 2018, President Raeisi’s administration has been pressing ahead with a major vaccination drive so that the government and businesses would be able to return to normalcy.

In remarks on Saturday, the president said that 70 percent of the Iranian society would be vaccinated within days. He said vaccinating 50 million people was made possible only through “invaluable efforts.”

Iran is to dispatch health workers door-to-door to catch up on missed COVID vaccinations.

Alireza Raeisi, the spokesman for the National Headquarters for Managing and Fighting the Coronavirus, elaborated on the president’s remarks, saying that given the fast pace of vaccination, the number of people getting the first shot would soon reach 42 million, equal to 70 percent of the target population in the vaccination campaign.

“More than one million doses are now being administered daily in the country, and given that the target population consists of 60 million people (+18 years of age), when the number of first-dose vaccines reaches 42 million, 70% of the population will have been vaccinated against the coronavirus,” the spokesman explained on Saturday.

“The prospects look good,” he said, asking Iranians to register to receive jabs as soon as possible, while voicing satisfaction with the speed of the import of vaccines.

‘We can’t rely on help from the international community’

On Sunday morning, Iran received the 57th shipment of its imported vaccines, which included six million of China’s Sinopharm, making the total of its imported jabs exceed the 71 million mark.

Meanwhile, COVID-related hospitalizations and deaths are on a declining trajectory in Iran, which is facing a fifth wave of the spread of the virus that pushed the daily death record beyond 700. According to the Health Ministry, 13,792 people tested positive for the deadly virus in the last 24 hours, while 288 people lost their lives. Since it was first detected in Iran in early 2020, the coronavirus has claimed the lives of 119,360 people.

Iran’s FDO chief says J&J and Sputnik Light vaccines have been approved for emergency use.

In spite of the shortcomings, Iran has managed to vaccinate all of its prisoners.

Hosting the world’s fourth-largest refugee community, the country has also vaccinated 400,000 foreign nationals.

Meanwhile, Tehran has repeatedly denounced US sanctions for the lag in the import of vaccines. As a result of the sanctions, there have been unfulfilled shipment promises and international monetary problems facing the country. Top officials of the Islamic Republic have also slammed global powers — mostly Western ones — for hoarding vaccines and cooperating with Washington’s anti-Iran sanctions.

Earlier this month, Raeisi, the spokesman for the National Headquarters, warned the World Health Organization (WHO) of a “vaccine apartheid,” which “can be a threat to the global health.”

Still earlier, after a new analysis showed that wealthy countries will likely have about 1.2 billion extra doses available by the end of the year, the WHO criticized the wealthy nations for hoarding COVID-19 vaccines, saying it is prolonging the pandemic. Last week, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres lamented the inequitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, describing it as an “obscenity.”

“We can’t rely on help from the international community with the pandemic,” Azadmanesh, who is developing two viral-vector vaccines through his spin-off company Humimmune Biotech, said in his interview with Nature.

Iran has launched the third phase in the clinical trial of its homegrown Fakhra coronavirus vaccine.

Referring to the United States’ sanctions against Iran, he said Washington claimed that sanctions do not affect humanitarian activities, “but when your ability to transfer money is restricted, it is difficult to buy drugs and medicines.”

“For example, the chromatography resins we need to purify vaccines are mostly produced by multinational companies that are major suppliers to the United States, so they might be afraid of selling to us,” Azadmanesh said.

“The United States says that we can apply for exemptions, but, in our experience, that hasn’t worked. But somehow, we find a way. We modify our methods, find other providers, or look for local solutions,” he said.

Five Palestinians Killed in Overnight Clashes with Israeli Forces across West Bank

Sunday, 26 September 2021 10:09 AM 

Press TV

 Palestinian fighters from the al-Quds Brigades, the armed wing of the Islamic Jihad resistance movement, carry the body of Osama Yaser Soboh, a young Palestinian man killed by Israeli soldiers during overnight clashes, during his funeral in northern West Bank town of Burqin on September 26, 2021.

Israeli troops have shot dead at least five Palestinians across the occupied West Bank after intense clashes that erupted in at least four towns following overnight arrest raids.

According to official Palestinian news agency Wafa, military forces stormed the northern town of Burqin near al-Quds in the predawn hours of Sunday, and surrounded a home before breaking in and detaining its owner. The detainee was identified as Mohammad Zir'ini.

The raid prompted skirmishes between angry town residents and Israeli troops who fired live rounds, killing two protesters and injuring at least four others.

One of the two Palestinian victims was identified as 22-year-old Osama Yaser Soboh. The other one is yet to be identified, with his body still in Israeli army custody.

Clashes also erupted shortly after midnight in Kafr Dan village northwest of Jenin as Israeli troops raided the area, detaining at least two Palestinians. 

On Saturday night, Israeli undercover forces kidnapped two young Palestinian men from their car in a fuel station near Jenin.

The Israeli regime escalates its daily crackdown on Palestinians following the daring escape of six from a maximum-security Israeli jail.

Furthermore, three Palestinians were shot dead by Israeli forces in an attack which targeted a house in the village of Biddu.

Witnesses told Wafa that Israeli army troops surrounded the building and fired gunshots and grenades at it. Loud explosions were heard during the raid.

Mohammad Hleil, spokesman for the Palestinian Health Ministry, confirmed the killing of three Palestinians. They were identified by their families as Ahmad Zahran, Mahmoud Hmaidan and Zakariya Badwan.

Hamas resistance movement commended the Palestinian victims, pledging that “the blood of the martyrs of al-Quds and Jenin at dawn today will continue to fuel our people’s uprising against the Zionist occupier.”

The movement hit out at the Palestinian Authority (PA), saying its policy of coordinating with Israel to crack down on resistance groups in the West Bank had led to the raids.

“The death of today’s martyrs is the consequence of ongoing security coordination with the Zionist occupation. It is the fruit of normalization meetings which PA leaders held with Zionist ministers and Knesset members in Ramallah,” Hamas spokesperson Abd al-Latif al-Qanou said.

Almost 200 human rights organizations have held Israel fully responsible for the lives of six Palestinians who escaped from Gilboa Prison and were rearrested later.

Israeli army spokesperson Ran Kochav said the military believed that Hamas and the Islamic Jihad would likely retaliate against the deaths and arrests of the Palestinians with rocket fire from the Gaza Strip.

Tensions have been rising in the occupied territories following the heroic escape of six Palestinian prisoners from high-security Gilboa Prison earlier this month.

They tunneled their way out through their cell’s drainage system, dealing a serious blow to Israel's image through bringing the condition of Palestinian prisoners to international attention even though they were rearrested later. 

Palestinian Authority Calls on Sudan to Unfreeze Confiscated Assets

Sunday, 26 September 2021 7:55 AM 

Press TV 

The Palestinian Authority has called on Sudan to hand over confiscated assets that Khartoum has alleged were being used to support the Hamas resistance movement, emphasizing that Palestinians, particularly residents of the besieged Gaza Strip, are “in need” of the funds.

Hussein al-Sheikh, a senior Palestinian official close to President Mahmoud Abbas, made the plea in a tweet on Saturday.

"We hope that the state of Sudan, which has always been a supporter (people and a government) to Palestine, to hand over the movable and immovable funds that were confiscated to the State of Palestine and its Government," Sheikh said, adding that, “The Palestinian people are in need of this money, especially our great people under siege in Gaza.”

The Gaza Strip has been under an Israeli blockade since 2007 when Hamas took control of the coastal enclave.  

The siege has inflicted severe hardship on residents. The poverty rate among Gaza’s population has reached 53 percent, while “extreme poverty” stands at 33.8 percent, according to statistics by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS).

About 68 percent of families do not have enough to eat, while 80 percent of Gazans are dependent on aid.

The seizure of assets comes just months after Israel's deadly onslaught against the Gaza Strip, where some 260 Palestinians were killed, including dozens of women and children.

Since the ouster of Sudanese former president Omar al-Bashir in 2019, Sudan's military rulers have confiscated and taken control of all assets that they claimed to have provided backing for Hamas.

Media reports said on Thursday that a Sudanese committee, set up to recover public funds after Bashir’s ouster, has taken control of companies allegedly linked to Hamas.

The alleged assets of Hamas were seized amid growing ties between Israel and the current Sundanese military regime authorities.

The seized assets allegedly include real estate, company shares, a hotel in a prime Khartoum location, an exchange bureau, a TV station and more than a million acres of farmland.

Sudan's military rulers have also stopped all transfers of funds to the Palestinian resistance movement and to the accounts of companies and individuals working for it.

The resistance movement rejected on Friday any links to companies and individuals targeted by Sudanese authorities, saying the seized assets belonged to Palestinian investors and businesses.

Sudan’s seizure of Palestinian assets has been described as part of an effort by Khartoum to move toward the West and kowtowing to US demands of normalizing ties with Israel.

Under pressure from Washington, Sudan signed a normalization deal with Israel last year as part of agreements dubbed the “Abraham Accords” between the Tel Aviv regime and regional Arab states of the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco.

Sudanese came together in the capital Khartoum to denounce a deal paving the way for normalization of ties between Sudan and Israel.

Khartoum won removal from the US state sponsors of terrorism (SST) list last December and is on course for relief of more than $50 billion in debt.

The African country is currently ruled by a transitional government dominated by military representatives, which was installed in the aftermath of Bashir's ouster in a palace coup two years ago.

The Sudanese junta and Rapid Support Forces (RSF), which has a history of brutality and impunity in Darfur and elsewhere, played a key role in curbing the popular civilian protests and the post-coup events.

Protesters have been calling for the resignation of the transitional government.

Frustrated Abbas Gives Israel Ultimatum in Harsh UN Address

By JOSEPH KRAUSS

September 24, 2021

In this photo taken from video, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas remotely addresses the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly in a pre-recorded message, Friday, Sept. 24, 2021, at UN headquarters. (UN Web TV via AP)

JERUSALEM (AP) — In an unusually harsh speech, President Mahmoud Abbas on Friday gave Israel one year to end its occupation of territories the Palestinians want for a future state. He threatened to withdraw recognition of Israel — a cornerstone of three decades of failed peace efforts — if it failed to do so.

Abbas delivered the vague ultimatum in a long, prerecorded address to the U.N. General Assembly in which he accused Israel of “apartheid” and “ethnic cleansing,” explosive terms rarely employed by the 85-year-old leader, who has long been committed to a two-state solution.

“If the Israeli occupation authorities continue to entrench the reality of one apartheid state as is happening today, our Palestinian people and the entire world will not tolerate such a situation,” Abbas said. “Circumstances on the ground will inevitably impose equal and full political rights for all on the land of historical Palestine, within one state.”

A one-state solution, while popular with some Israeli and Palestinian activists, would mean the end of Israel as a Jewish-majority state. No major Israeli or Palestinian party supports such an outcome.

Abbas spoke against a backdrop showing the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, a flashpoint holy site sacred to Muslims and Jews, and a series of maps of the region showing Israel’s territorial expansion over several decades of war and conflict.

He said he was willing to negotiate final borders over the coming year but that if Israel did not ultimately end its occupation of territories seized in the 1967 war, then he would reconsider recognition of Israel.

“If this is not achieved, why maintain recognition of Israel based on the 1967 borders?” Abbas said. He also threatened to confront Israel at the International Court of Justice.

Israel’s ambassador to the U.N. said Abbas had “proved once again that he is no longer relevant.”

“Those who truly support peace and negotiations do not threaten delusional ultimatums from the U.N. platform as he did in his speech,” Gilad Erdan said in a statement.

Israel captured the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza in the 1967 war with neighboring Arab countries, territories the Palestinians want for their future state. It annexed east Jerusalem in a move not internationally recognized and withdrew its forces from Gaza in 2005. The Islamic militant group Hamas won parliamentary elections a year later and seized Gaza from Abbas’ forces in a bloody power struggle in 2007.

Israel has made various offers over the years that it says would have given the Palestinians independence in most of the territories. But the Palestinians — always the weaker negotiating party — said each proposal fell short of granting them full statehood and resolving other core issues, like the fate of Palestinian refugees and the status of Jerusalem.

Palestinian recognition of Israel was the foundation of the 1993 Oslo accords that launched the Middle East peace process. Talks ground to a halt more than a decade ago, and Israel’s current prime minister, Naftali Bennett, is opposed to the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, which is still widely seen internationally as the only way to resolve the conflict.

Abbas’ harsh rhetoric reflects widespread Palestinian frustration with the moribund peace process. But it could also be seen as a way of burnishing his nationalist credentials at home, where he faces a major backlash from Palestinians frustrated by his long rule and the increasingly authoritarian Palestinian Authority.

A poll released this week found that nearly 80% of Palestinians want him to resign. Abbas’ presidential mandate expired in 2009, but he has continued as head of the PA, which administers parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Abbas canceled the first Palestinian elections in 15 years back in April when it appeared his Fatah party would suffer an embarrassing loss. He was largely sidelined during the 11-day Gaza war in May, when support for his militant Hamas rivals soared.

The death of a prominent critic of the PA while in the custody of Palestinian security forces in June sparked widespread protests in which the security forces beat and arrested several demonstrators.

But Abbas is still viewed internationally as the representative of the Palestinian cause and a vital partner in the peace process. His forces coordinate security with Israel, targeting Hamas and other militant groups that both view as a threat — a policy that has contributed to his unpopularity.

Abbas has made veiled threats before, and is unlikely to follow through with the kind of drastic political decision that would spell the end of the PA, which was created through the Oslo accords. His government also relies heavily on aid from the international community, which remains committed to a negotiated two-state solution.

UN and Afghanistan’s Taliban, Figuring Out How to Interact

By AYA BATRAWY

Afghan children and women gather outside a bakery to get free bread in Kabul, Afghanistan, Friday, Sept. 24, 2021. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

It’s been little more than a month since Kalashnikov-toting Taliban fighters in their signature heavy beards, hightop sneakers and shalwar kameezes descended on the Afghan capital and cemented their takeover. Now they’re vying for a seat in the club of nations and seeking what no country has given them as they attempt to govern for a second time: international recognition of their rule.

The Taliban wrote to the United Nations requesting to address the U.N. General Assembly meeting of leaders that is underway in New York. They argue they have all the requirements needed for recognition of a government. The U.N. has effectively responded to the Taliban’s request by signaling: Not so fast.

Afghanistan, which joined the U.N. in 1946 as an early member state, is scheduled to speak last at the General Assembly leaders’ session on Monday. With no meeting yet held by the U.N. committee that decides challenges to credentials, it appears almost certain that Afghanistan’s current ambassador will give the address this year — or that no one will at all.

The U.N. can withhold or bestow formal acknowledgement on the Taliban, and use this as crucial leverage to exact assurances on human rights, girls’ access to education and political concessions. This is where the power — and relevance, even — of the 76-year-old world body still holds.

Afghanistan is a good, and perhaps extreme, representative case study of precisely why the United Nations was founded in the aftermath of World War II, said Rohinton Medhora, president of the Center for International Governance Innovation in Canada.

A Taliban fighter prays next a demonstration organized by the Afghan Society of Muslim Youth, demanding the release of frozen international money in Kabul, Afghanistan, Friday, Sept. 24, 2021. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

“If you’re the U.N. and you want to represent the family of nations, then you want absolutely everyone of the family there — even you know, the distant cousin that not everyone’s proud of,” he said. “So the U.N. needs Afghanistan and countries to demonstrate the value of many of its operations.”

In Afghanistan, the United Nations can deploy the weight of its vast aid and development programs to show just how crucial its often underfunded agencies are in providing stability and security. The country is facing multiple humanitarian crises and near-total poverty due to fallout from the political situation.

There are already growing calls for aid to be contingent on ensuring girls’ access to education. Despite promises to be inclusive and open, the Taliban have yet to allow older girls back to school, have curtailed local media freedoms and returned to brutal practices like publicly hanging dead bodies in city squares.

“Taliban does not represent the will of the Afghan people,” Afghanistan’s currently accredited ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, Nasir Andisha, told The Associated Press.

If the United Nations recognizes the Taliban’s claim to power, Andisha said, then it sends a corrosive message to others — be it in Yemen or in Myanmar — that they can take up guns, create violence, join with U.S.-designated terrorist groups.

“I think for the world, for the United Nations, it’s time to use this as a leverage,” Andisha said.

The Taliban’s appointed U.N. representative, Suhail Shaheen, a former negotiator and political spokesman, told The Associated Press that his government should be admitted into the club of nations and that “all borders, territory and major cities of Afghanistan are in our control.”

“We have support of our people and because of their support, we were able to continue a successful struggle for independence of our country which culminated in our independence,” he said. “We have all the requirements needed for recognition of a government. So we hope the UN as an neutral World Body recognize the current government of Afghanistan.”

A Taliban fighter walks on the side of a road as a Humvee carrying other fighters drives by in Kabul. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

More than a dozen ministers in the all-Taliban Cabinet are on a U.N. blacklist, including the group’s foreign minister, whom Andisha and other Afghan diplomats abroad are refusing to speak to.

Andisha was serving in Geneva under the U.S.-backed government of Ashraf Ghani when the president fled Afghanistan Aug. 15 to seek refuge in the United Arab Emirates as the Taliban encircled the capital. Ghani’s government swiftly fell thereafter.

Andisha is still holding meetings with representatives from countries around the world, imploring them to push for the resuscitation of intra-Afghan peace talks. He wants the United Nations to make clear that joining its ranks is not only about “holding a country under the barrels of your guns and having enough population taken hostage.”

Meanwhile, Qatar has urged countries not to boycott the Taliban, and Pakistan called on nations to avoid isolating the Taliban, and to incentivize them to hold to their promises of renouncing terrorism and being inclusive.

During the Taliban’s repressive time in power in the late 1990′s, only Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates recognized their legitimacy. During that era, the U.N. refused to recognize their government and gave Afghanistan’s seat to the previous, warlord-dominated government.

The group was then ousted from power in 2001 by a U.S.-led coalition after the 9/11 attacks for harboring al-Qaida.

The United States, which withdrew all its forces from the country last month in a chaotic airlift that ended America’s “forever war,” says it is critical that the international community remains united in ensuring the Taliban meets a range of commitments before granting legitimacy or support beyond humanitarian aid.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said this is the message he delivered to the U.N. Security Council and others on the sidelines of the General Assembly this week.

The U.S. has “significant leverage when it comes to the Taliban,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters Friday. “But we have all the more leverage when we work in coordination and in harmony with our allies and partners around the globe,” he added.

Medhora, of the Center for International Governance Innovation, said the U.N. has levers it can use through its various agencies, such as UNICEF, which focuses on children, UNHCR, which assists refugees, and the World Food Program, all “where the actual work of the U.N. gets done.” This is another area where the United States has major sway as the the largest donor to the United Nations, contributing nearly one-fifth of funding for the body’s collective budget in 2019, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.

In multiple U.N. speeches this past week, a number of world leaders mentioned Afghanistan, including U.S. President Joe Biden and Afghanistan’s neighbors, such as Pakistan, Iran and Uzbekistan.

Enayat Najafizada, who runs an independent think tank in Kabul that monitors security issues in Afghanistan’s provinces, said the U.N. should also facilitate negotiations between Afghan groups and bring the various countries with a history of meddling in the nation on board for the sake of regional security.

“Without forming an inclusive government, the country will move to a civil war,” said Najafizada, founder of The Institute of War and Peace Studies.

Although what comes next for Afghanistan is far from certain, it is clear the Taliban do not want to be seen as global pariahs, said Kamal Alam, nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council.

“They want a seat at the U.N. They want to go to Davos. They like the private jet lifestyle,” he said, referring to the group’s political elite who reside in exile in Qatar.

“But that’s only the political leaders. The foot soldiers on the ground, there’s no such thing as ‘the new Taliban’,” he said. “There is no new Taliban. Everything they’re doing is a tactic to get recognition as well as not be isolated.”

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AP journalists Matthew Lee and Kathy Gannon contributed to this report. Dubai-based AP correspondent Aya Batrawy has covered the U.N. General Assembly since 2019.

Afghanistan Girls Soccer Team Given Asylum in Portugal

By ALEX SANZ

September 21, 2021

In this photo provided to The Associated Press, members of the Afghanistan national girls soccer team are seen on Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2021, in Lisbon, Portugal. Late Sunday night, almost three weeks after the American withdrawal from Afghanistan, the girls and their families landed in Lisbon after an international coalition came to their rescue. (AP Photo)

The girls on Afghanistan’s national soccer team were anxious. For weeks, they had been moving around the country, waiting for word that they could leave.

One wants to be a doctor, another a movie producer, others engineers. All dream of growing up to be professional soccer players.

The message finally came early Sunday: A charter flight would carry the girls and their families from Afghanistan — to where they didn’t know. The buses that would take them to the airport were already on their way.

“They left their homes and left everything behind,” Farkhunda Muhtaj, the captain of the Afghanistan women’s national team who from her home in Canada had spent the last few weeks communicating with the girls and working to help arrange their rescue, told The Associated Press. “They can’t fathom that they’re out of Afghanistan.”

Since the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, the girls, ages 14-16, and their families, had been trying to leave, fearing what their lives might become like under the Taliban — not just because women and girls are forbidden to play sports, but because they were advocates for girls and active members of their communities.

Late Sunday, they landed in Lisbon, Portugal.

In interviews with the AP this week, Muhtaj, members of the soccer team, some of their family members, and soccer federation staff, spoke about their final days in Afghanistan, the international effort to rescue them and the promise of their newfound freedom.

The rescue mission, called Operation Soccer Balls, was coordinated with the Taliban through an international coalition of former U.S. military and intelligence officials, U.S. Sen. Chris Coons, U.S. allies, and humanitarian groups, said Nic McKinley, a CIA and Air Force veteran who founded Dallas-based DeliverFund, a nonprofit that’s secured housing for 50 Afghan families.

“This all had to happen very, very quickly. Our contact on the ground told us that we had a window of about three hours,” said McKinley. “Time was very much of the essence.”

Operation Soccer Balls had suffered a number of setbacks, including several failed rescue attempts, and a suicide bombing carried out by Islamic State militants, the Taliban’s rivals, at the Kabul airport that killed 169 Afghans and 13 U.S. service members. That bombing came during a harrowing airlift in which the U.S. military has acknowledged it was coordinating to some extent with the Taliban.

Complicating the rescue effort was the size of the group – 80 people, including the 26 youth team members as well as adults and other children, including infants.

Robert McCreary, a former congressional chief of staff and White House official under President George W. Bush who has worked with special forces in Afghanistan and helped lead the effort to rescue the national girls soccer team, said Portugal granted the girls and their families asylum.

“The world came together to help these girls and their families,” said McCreary. “These girls are truly a symbol of light for the world and humanity.”

The Taliban have tried to present a new image, promising amnesty to former opponents and saying they would form an inclusive government. Many Afghans don’t trust those promises, fearing the Taliban will quickly resort to the brutal tactics of their 1996-2001 rule, including barring girls and women from schools and jobs.

This week, the Taliban set up a ministry for the “propagation of virtue and the prevention of vice” in the building that once housed the Women’s Affairs Ministry, the latest sign that it is restricting women’s rights.

As the girls moved from safehouse to safehouse, Muhtaj, who is also a teacher, said she helped them stay calm through virtual exercise and yoga sessions and by giving them homework assignments, including writing autobiographies.

She said she couldn’t share details about the rescue mission with the girls or their families and asked them to believe in her and others “blindly.”

“Their mental state was deteriorating. Many of them were homesick. Many of them missed their friends in Kabul,” said Muhtaj. “They had unconditional faith. We’ve revived their spirit.”

Some of the girls spoke to the AP through an interpreter. They said they want to continue playing soccer — something they were urged to not do while they were in hiding — and hope to meet soccer superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, Manchester United’s forward and a Portugal native.

Wida Zemarai, a goalkeeper and coach for the Afghanistan women’s national soccer team who moved to Sweden after the Taliban ascended to power in 1996, said the girls were emotional after their rescue.

“They can dream now,” Zemarai said. “They can continue to play.”

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Follow Alex Sanz on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/alexsanz