Friday, December 31, 2021

Unwavering Commitment to Ethiopia

December 31, 2021

Following government’s call for the Diaspora community to the Great Ethiopian Homecoming Challenge initiative, Ethiopian origins, and friends of Ethiopia are flocking to Ethiopia to celebrate the Ethiopian Gena (Christmas) and Ethiopian Timket (Epiphany) festivals along with their families.

Subsequently, last Wednesday, the official welcoming event was held at Friendship Park for the Diaspora community coming to Ethiopia from all corners of the world.

Speaking on the occasion, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister Demeke Mekonnen said that the Diaspora community over the last year has been denouncing external meddling in Ethiopia’s internal affairs based on the international #NoMore movement. The diaspora has condemned undue pressures on Ethiopia in a strong spirit of gallantry.

Conspiring with external enemies of Ethiopia, the terrorist TPLF group committed horrendous crimes against civilians. To fulfill its evil mission, the terrorist TPLF made allegiance with historical enemies of Ethiopia and committed horrendous crimes against innocent civilians in areas of Amhara and Afar states it had invaded, he added.

However, Ethiopia has overcome the multifaceted challenges brewed by its internal and external enemies with the concerted efforts of its children including the Diaspora community and has continued its journey to the brighter future. The struggle carried out by the Ethiopian Diaspora community has added impetus to the international Pan-Africanism movement.

“We feel proud of the Diaspora community for its outstanding contribution for the wellbeing of Ethiopia. Ethiopians at home have also been struggling with strong feeling of patriotism to preserve sovereignty of the nation,” he noted.

The National Defense Forces and States’ Security Forces bravely shattered the aggression of the terrorist organization.

He also urged the Diaspora Community and all Ethiopians at large to support the rehabilitation of people affected by the terrorist TPLF aggression.

Mayor of Addis Ababa City, Adanech Abiebie, for her part appreciated the Diaspora community for responding to call made by Prime Minister for the Great Ethiopian Home Coming challenge.

She appreciated members of the Diaspora Community for their unreserved commitment in fending off pressures, false accusations and media campaign orchestrated by external forces against Ethiopia.

“We, Ethiopians have stood united more than ever before and expressed our patriotism practically to defend sovereignty of our country,” she said.

The Mayor called the Diaspora community to buy Ethiopian products and assist the economy and promote image the nation to the world as well.

Ayizak Abraham is one of the Diaspora communities who came to Ethiopia from USA Washington DC respecting a call made by the government.

“I came home after 40 years in America, I am really pleased to be here and enjoying this moment, and hope many will enjoy it. While we were abroad, the newscasts disseminated about Ethiopia including the travel alerts were very distressing and terrifying.

The West media houses are spreading fabricated news to the world as Ethiopia is in the brink of civil war and disintegration which is entirely contrary to the reality on the ground. I am here in Addis Ababa and have witnessed the reality. Ethiopia is stable and peaceful, and anyone willing to visit the country, can come. For sure he/she will enjoy it,” he said.

Ethiopian Diasporas are returning home in huge numbers not only to celebrate the Ethiopian Christmas and Epiphany; rather to give a response to the call made by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

Mentioning the unwavering struggle the Diasporas in USA have exerted, he said: “we have been opposing the interferences of West, some international media houses’ deliberate fake news campaign against Ethiopia and demonstrating our position to the US and some European nations.”

“We, the Diaspora community, have crushed the ill intention of Ethiopia’s foes and pleased its friends at this testing time.”

“Since I have arrived in the country, I have confirmed that all the doom news framing about Addis Ababa and Ethiopia is white lies. Ethiopia is stable and peaceful as always.”

Yohannes, came from California, USA. He said even though the western media outlets are portraying Ethiopia as a risky place, we have seen that Ethiopia is very safe.

She also said that the Ethiopian community in California is actively supporting the people who are currently displaced from their villages. She also vowed to sustain their support until the matter is fully solved.

Habte Reta, a resident of Dallas, on his part said that currently many Ethiopians are sacrificing their lives to defend and honor their country. The call made to us is just simple- to buy tickets and return home for the Christmas festival, which is easy when compared to what the people are doing there.

Asegedech Desyalew, a resident of the Midwestern State of Minnesota expressed her cheerfulness for returning home. She further said that Ethiopian and Ethiopian Americans in the US were closely watching Ethiopia’s affairs, adding that they are here to support the country in any way possible.

In his message designed to welcome Ethiopian origins, and friends of Ethiopia responding to his call, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said: “A nation can be symbolized with an extended family. Strengthen of foundation of a family is identified during trying season rather than jovial times. Tribulation helps members of some families to form bond while it forces others to fall apart.”

Many countries benefited in political, economic and diplomacy sectors from the strong linkage they created with their Diaspora abroad. South Korea, India, China and Mexico have undertaken exemplary works in this regard, he further underscored.

He also urged members of the Diaspora community who have returned home to visit impacted areas and support Ethiopians who have been affected by the terrorist TPLF aggression, and investigate the extent of the atrocities committed by the terrorist group and expose them to the rest of the world upon their return to the countries where they live.

“This is the time when Ethiopia is tested a lot as a nation. Ethiopia’s enemies have left no stone unturned in order to agitate her. But, Ethiopia thrives with the collaboration between her daughters and sons. Tribulations have made unity of its children stronger and stronger. The troubles have enabled Ethiopia to leverage its resources,” the Prime Minister underlined.

Ethiopian Homecoming Challenge is an initiative forwarded by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed calling one million Ethiopians, Ethiopian origins, and friends of Ethiopia to come to Ethiopia following the Gregorian New Year.

The call was made to debunk the undue pressure exerted on Ethiopia; to defy interference and show solidarity of Ethiopians on national issues.



Sudanese Security Forces Storm TV Channels, Beat Journalists

December 30, 2021 (KHARTOUM) – Security forces in Sudan stormed the offices of Al-Arabiya – Al-Hadath – and Al-Sharq channels, and assaulted journalists and their employees.

The security forces on Thursday carried out unprecedented assaults targeting journalists who covered the 30th December 30 protests in Khartoum in a bid to discourage them from covering the anti-coup protests.

Dozens of members of the security forces stormed the office of Al-Arabiya – Al-Hadath television where they beat journalists, seized mobile phones destroyed equipment, and threw tear gas in the different offices.

The director of the Al-Hadath TV office in Khartoum, Lina Yaqoub, after the assault, stated that a joint security force expressed anger over the channel coverage of the protests and accused her of taking the side of the street.

“They further beat me when I intervened to protect a colleague they were beating,” she said adding that three of the staff members were at the hospital.

It reported that the attack took place after the broadcast of direct footage of the security forces firing tear gas and beating demonstrators harshly.

Surveillance cameras broadcast by the channel documented the assault and the security members who attacked them.

Later, the channel, which broadcasts from the Emirates, said that the head of the Sovereign Council, Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, had sent a representative to its offices in Khartoum to apologize for the attack.

The Saudi funded Al-Arabiya and Al-Hadath channels have the same office in Khartoum.

On the other hand, the director of the Al-Sharq channel, Nabil Al-Khatib, said deeply concerned about the security of the channel’s staff members in Khartoum after the security forces stormed their office.

He said that security officers prevented the journalists in Khartoum from “complete the live broadcast of what is happening in Khartoum.”

He added that the security members cut off the internet lines and seized the broadcasting camera before returning it later.

In the same way, The security forces launched tear gas canisters inside the offices of the Arabia Sky News channel, causing suffocation injuries.

A photojournalist for Al-Hurra was arrested by the security forces while covering the protests on Al-Qasr Street. They brutally assaulted him and confiscated his cameras and phone.

On Thursday, the Resistance Committees organized mass protests against the coup leaders. 4 people were killed by gunshots and over 200 wounded.


More 4 Anti-coup Protesters Shot Dead in Sudan

December 30, 2021 (KHARTOUM) – At least 4 protesters were killed, Thursday as a result of the excessive use of violence by the security forces to break up peaceful anti-coup protests.

Tens of thousands of people took to the streets in Khartoum state to reaffirm their rejection of the coup d’etat of October 25, which interrupted political and economic reforms and restored a totalitarian regime.

The Resistance Committees-led protests took place also in several states outside Khartoum in Aljazeera, the Red Sea, the Nile River, Gadaref, Central Darfur, and others.

In North Darfur, the Resistance Committees decided to cancel the protests to avoid allowing the armed looters to carry out further attacks.

In Khartoum State, the authorities closed the bridges to prevent demonstrators from Omdurman and Khartoum from joining protesters in Khartoum city.

However, protesters in Khartoum managed to reach the area surrounding the Republican Palace the premises of the military-led Sovereign Council.

The security authorities fired live ammunition and tear gas to prevent the protesters from reaching the presidential palace.

The Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors (CCSD) confirmed that four people were shot dead and 200 injured including 40 who sustained bullet wounds.

CCSD also confirmed that the abduction of an ambulance transporting a wounded protester. Also, the security forces fired tear gas inside the Khartoum hospital.

Eyewitnesses confirmed the excessive violence against protesters and people in the streets.

The security agents attacked a hotel in Khartoum and looted money and mobile phones.

The death toll of the anti-coup protests has now reached 52 people.10 were killed after the Hamdok-Burhan agreement of November 21, 2021.

Sudanese army Spokesman Tahir Abu Haja commented on the 30th December protests saying they are “useless”.

Abu Haja who is close to the Commander in Chief of the Sudanese army Abdel Fattah al-Burhan added that the protests only drain the country’s resources and are a waste of energy and time.

The Forces for Freedom and Change condemned the excessive use of violence.

In a statement issued on Thursday, the coalition stressed that the violence would not dissuade Sudanese from continuing to voice their rejection of the coup.

“The silence of the executive body on all these violations and crimes is unjustified and encourages the coup authorities,” the FFC added.

Al-Burhan recently issued a decree giving the security agency, General Intelligence Service, the right to arrest people and provided for its agents from civil lawsuits.

In line with the Hamdok-Burhan agreement, the military component committed itself to not use excessive force against protesters.


In Thursday's statement, the army said 'on the side of the assailants, 31 bodies were discovered' Thursday morning, along with weapons and munitions.

FILE: A soldier monitors Kidal, in northern Mali. Picture: United Nations Photo.

AFP | 

BAMAKO, Mali - Mali's army said eight soldiers died during an attack in a western area of the Sahel nation where jihadist forces operate, doubling the previous toll.

In an update late Thursday, Mali's Armed Forces (FAMA) said Tuesday's attack also saw seven soldiers wounded and two military vehicles destroyed, but added that 31 assailants were killed, without identifying their group.

When it first replorted the attack on Wednesday, the army said four soldiers had died and around a dozen were wounded when a "unit in the Nara region was the target of a sophisticated attack combining IED (Improvised Explosive Devices) and heavy weapons."

In Thursday's statement, the army said "on the side of the assailants, 31 bodies were discovered" Thursday morning, along with weapons and munitions.

The army has not said who carried out the attack.

It also said that Wednesday night saw troops attacked at Sikasso in the far south while the Hombori military camp in the central Mopti area came under shelling. No casualties were recorded in the two incidents.

Mali is the epicentre of a jihadist insurgency that began in the north in 2012 and has spread to neighbouring Niger and Burkina Faso.

Thousands of people across the region have died and around two million have been displaced by the conflict.

Despite the presence of French and UN troops, the conflict spread to neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.

France intervened in 2013 and now has roughly 5,000 troops in the region but plans to lower that number to 2,500-3,000 by 2023.

The spiral of violence has continued despite the coup that brought the military to power in Bamako in 2020.


Militants terrorising the gas-rich northern Cabo Delgado province for the past four years have in recent weeks shifted their attacks to the west into Niassa.

FILE: A woman walks through the central market in Pemba on 25 May 2021. Pemba, the capital of Cabo Delgado, has taken in tens of thousands of people fleeing from violence wreaked by Islamist insurgents across the northern province of Mozambique for over three years. Picture: JOHN WESSELS/AFP

AFP | 

MAPUTO, Mozambique - Nearly 4,000 Mozambicans have fled their villages in a month due to intensifying jihadist attacks in Niassa, a province neighbouring insurgency hotbed Cabo Delgado, a government official said Friday.

Militants terrorising the gas-rich northern Cabo Delgado province for the past four years have in recent weeks shifted their attacks to the west into Niassa.

"There are 3,803 displaced so far. These are people who fled from areas targeted by attacks in Mecula district," Felismino Patricio, a government spokesman in Niassa province, told AFP by phone.

The latest displacements add to the more than 820,000 that have fled the insurgency in Cabo Delgado since 2017.

Niassa province has since the end of November become the latest target for militants being driven from Cabo Delgado by African troops.

Since July more than 3,000 soldiers have been deployed from Rwanda and the 16-nation Southern African Development Community to help the beleaguered Mozambican army smoke out the militants.

Jihadists launched their first raid in Mecula district in Niassa province in late November. They have since staged sporadic attacks on several other villages, claiming around two dozen lives.

The displaced have sought shelter in Mecula town, where they are housed at government schools or move in with relatives and friends.

"Everyday people are arriving from the villages fleeing the attacks," a resident in Mecula town told AFP on the phone, asking not to be named.

Regina Atanasio, 30, hurriedly quit her village in Lichengue on December 15 after jihadist attacks.

"They started attacking the village at 6:00 pm and then my husband and I fled with our children," she said by phone.

A police inspector was killed and dozens of people were kidnapped during an attack on December 23, according to the local government.

Another villager said women were kidnapped in the last known raid on Monday in Alassima village, around five kilometres from Mecula town.

A Tense Exchange Highlights Unsettled Part of Tutu’s Legacy


FILE - Desmond Tutu, left, chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, shakes hands with Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, right, on the second day of commission hearings on Nov. 25, 1997, in Johannesburg. During the hearings, whose mission was to expose the abuses of apartheid, Tutu implored Madikizela-Mandela to apologize for her links to a gang that was implicated in murder, kidnapping and assault. Their anguished encounter still rankles some Black South Africans who think Tutu mistreated Madikizela-Mandela. (AP Photo/Odd Andersen, Pool, File)

Desmond Tutu was begging for an apology. Not from a leader of South Africa’s former racist white government, but from a fellow titan of the anti-apartheid struggle.

“I beg you, I beg you, I beg you, please,” Tutu implored Winnie Madikizela-Mandela at a 1997 hearing of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that he chaired during its mission to expose the abuses of apartheid. The subject before the panel was Madikizela-Mandela’s links to a gang known as the Mandela United Football Club, whose vigilantism and involvement in murder, kidnapping and assaults appalled the local community and other senior leaders of the resistance to white rule.

“You are a great person, and you don’t know how your greatness would be enhanced if you were to say: ‘Sorry, things went wrong. Forgive me.’″

“I beg you,” Tutu said one more time, looking straight at the woman he had earlier described as an “incredible inspiration” to those who resisted white domination.

The anguished encounter still rankles some Black South Africans who think Tutu mistreated Madikizela-Mandela. She later called it a stunt, lashing out at the former Cape Town archbishop and Nobel laureate in a documentary that aired shortly before her 2018 death.

It’s a reminder that even Tutu — eulogized globally this week after his death on Dec. 26 as the conscience of South Africa and often the world — struggled to navigate the anger and recrimination ripping through a wounded nation.

It also speaks to perhaps the most unsettled part of Tutu’s stellar legacy, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It solicited searing testimonials of violence from both victims and perpetrators as a way to heal the country after apartheid ended in 1994, holding out the possibility of amnesty for those who confessed to human rights violations and showed remorse.

But its work was never fully completed. Many felt there was minimal accountability and the promised healing never materialized.

“South Africa’s younger generation, the post-’94 generation, has criticized Tutu’s work on the commission, saying he was a sell-out and not tough enough. But that is not fair,” said William Gumede, who was on the commission staff and is now chairman of Democracy Works Foundation, a nonprofit group that promotes democracy in southern Africa.

The commission was a part of a “negotiated compromise,” and Tutu was not responsible for its “limited remit,” Gumede said. In fact, he said, successive African National Congress governments did not adequately carry out its recommendations and have failed to effectively tackle the country’s entrenched problems, including gaping inequality.

The commission epitomized Tutu’s unrelenting vision that truth, wherever it lies, delivers freedom. That saying sorry, forgiving without forgetting and choosing reconciliation over retribution are the hard, best way forward. He hoped the abusers and the abused could give something of themselves by this process, and in doing so, get something in return.

Yet the commission left people on both sides of the conflict dissatisfied, Tutu acknowledged in the panel’s 1998 report to President Nelson Mandela, Madikizela-Mandela’s ex-husband. The couple divorced in 1996 after nearly 40 years of marriage, most of which Mandela spent in apartheid prisons.

“There were those who believed that we should follow the post-World War II example of putting those guilty of gross violations of human rights on trial as the allies did at Nuremberg,” Tutu wrote. “In South Africa, where we had a military stalemate, that was clearly an impossible option.”

Forgetting the past wasn’t viable either, he wrote. Tutu referred to Chilean playwright Ariel Dorfman’s “Death and the Maiden,” in which a woman seeks a confession from her rapist in order to restore “her dignity and her identity.”

The commission saw its work only as a starting point on the long road to Tutu’s vaunted “rainbow nation.” It suggested some cases be referred for prosecution, but the effort fizzled. A reparations initiative fell flat.

Then there was Madikizela-Mandela, who was harassed, jailed and banished to a remote area by white-led security forces. Often a figure of scandal and controversy, she was considered by supporters to be a real revolutionary — the “mother of the nation” — who wouldn’t, in their view, “sell out” to a reconciliation policy that let most of apartheid’s enforcers avoid punishment.

Over nine days of grueling hearings in 1997, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission questioned Madikizela-Mandela, then a member of parliament, about the gang. She offered a general apology — “I am saying it is true, things went horribly wrong” — but denied specific allegations against her. The commission later found her “politically and morally accountable” for human rights violations.

In the documentary “Winnie,” by filmmaker Pascale Lamche, Madikizela-Mandela said that she had been “seething with rage” at the hearings.

“To this day, I ask God to forgive me for not forgiving him,″ she said, referring to Tutu. “I wasn’t going to say sorry as if I had been responsible for apartheid. I mean, how dare ... really?”

Two historical figures, allied in the same struggle but seemingly adversaries after it.

“In the 1980s, Winnie and Tutu were the two biggest leaders of the anti-apartheid movement,” Gumede said. “It was a violent time and Winnie was in the thick of the campaign to make the townships ungovernable. And that was through violence. Tutu, on the other hand, was always a man of non-violence.”


Associated Press writer Andrew Meldrum contributed from Cape Town, South Africa. Torchia reported from South Africa for the AP from 2013 to 2019. He is currently based in Mexico City.

New Laws Take Effect Across US on Abortion, Policing, Taxes


FILE - Fast-food workers drive though a McDonald's restaurant demanding a for a $15 hourly minimum wage in East Los Angeles Friday, March 12, 2021. Minimum wage increases, animal protections, police accountability, cutting and increasing taxes are all part of a series of new laws taking effect across the country on Saturday, the first day of 2022. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)

Minimum wage increases, animal protections, police accountability, cutting and increasing taxes are all part of a series of new laws taking effect across the country on Saturday, the first day of 2022.

Some of the laws such as abortion restrictions in New Hampshire or police reform measures passed in Illinois, Oregon and North Carolina address some of the most contentious issues of our time.

Others, such as a Maine law passed in the aftermath of a September 2019 explosion that killed a firefighter and injured a number of others, are more narrowly focused and were passed to remedy specific situations.

The Connecticut Parentage Act allows unmarried, same-sex or nonbiological parents to establish parenting rights through a simple form that gives parents legal capabilities immediately after a child is born.

In Kansas, people will be allowed to buy specialized license plates featuring the “Don’t Tread on Me” and coiled snake symbol featured on what’s known as the Gadsden flag. Critics suggested that the Gadsden flag has become a racist symbol that has been adopted by some far-right groups.

Here is a rundown of some of the new laws taking effect Saturday across the country:



In New Hampshire, abortion will be prohibited after 24 weeks of gestation, with exceptions for the mother’s life or physical health.

Democrats have already drafted legislation seeking to repeal the new restrictions. Some also want to include the right to make reproductive medical decisions a constitutional right.

The new law in New Hampshire comes as the U.S. Supreme Court is considering a case that could severely erode abortion rights that have stood for half a century. Republican lawmakers across the country are ready to further restrict or ban abortions outright while Democratic-led ones are seeking to ensure access to abortion in their state law.



Come Saturday California will have the nation’s toughest living space standards for breeding pigs.

Industry lawsuits failed to block the measure that is the result of a 2018 ballot initiative failed, but grocers and restauranteurs are now suing to force a 28-month delay. Critics including some lawmakers of both parties have called for putting off enforcement until 2024 for fear prices will rise and jobs will be lost.

California is allowing the continued sale of pork processed under the old rules, which proponents say should blunt any shortage and price surge.

Maryland will join a number of states with a new law that will prohibit the sale of any new cosmetic product if it contains ingredients that were tested on animals.

In Vermont, a new law outlaws the trade in parts or products from a number of exotic animals, including elephants, giraffes, sea turtles, endangered sharks, whales and certain primates.

The law includes exemptions for law enforcement, educational or scientific uses. The law also allows for the trade in antiques that contain small amounts of the animal product or is a fixed component of a firearm; knife; or a legally acquired, small musical instrument.



Recreational marijuana will become legal in Montana. State voters approved the change in a November 2020 initiative.

Under the new law, only businesses that had been providing medical marijuana prior to Nov. 3, 2020, are eligible to grow, manufacture and sell adult-use marijuana, concentrates and edibles through June 30, 2023.

A new Mississippi law eliminates the requirement for a prescription to buy decongestants that contain ephedrine or pseudoephedrine. Under the new law, the medicine will be available behind the counter of pharmacies, and pharmacists will be required to keep track of how much is sold to one person.

Like many other states, Mississippi mandated a prescription years ago because drug enforcement agents said medications with ephedrine or pseudoephedrine were being used as an ingredient in crystal methamphetamine. Some consumers complained that nonprescription decongestants were not strong enough.



California will become the first state to require a $15-an-hour minimum wage for businesses with more than 25 employees. A number of other locations across the country have already reached the $15 threshold.

More than 20 other states are also increasing their minimum wages to amounts of less than $15. A handful of states have no state-level minimum wage law, meaning they rely on the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.



In both Illinois and Oregon, new laws take effect that ban discrimination based on physical characteristics, such as hairstyle.

In Oregon, the bill known unofficially known as the “Crown Act” will ban discrimination based on “physical characteristics that are historically associated with race,” including hair styles such as braids, locs and twists.

In Illinois, the legislation is known as the Jett Hawkins Law after Gus “Jett” Hawkins, a Black student who at age 4 was told to take out his braids because the hairstyle violated the dress code at his Chicago school.

His mother, Ida Nelson, began an awareness campaign after the incident, saying stigmatizing children’s hair can negatively affect their educational development. She called the it “monumental” when the bill was signed last summer by Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker.



Spurred by the racial reckoning following the murder of George Floyd and other Black people killed by police, a number of states passed new criminal justice laws in 2021 — the first full year of state legislative sessions after Floyd’s death.

An Illinois law standardizes certification of police officers by the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board and allows for decertifying officers for repeated errant or unethical behavior, instead of only when they’re convicted of a crime.

In North Carolina, law enforcement recruits now must receive psychological screenings by a licensed psychologist to determine their suitability for the job before they can work as an officer or deputy. A previous mandate didn’t apply to everyone.

In Oregon, a new law requires a police officer who witnesses another officer engaging in misconduct or a violation of the state’s minimum moral fitness standards to report it to a supervisor within 72 hours. A police agency must complete an investigation within three months and report findings of misconduct that rises above minor violations to the state.



In Georgia, a new law increases the amount people can earn before they start paying state taxes. The tax cut will save individual tax filers up to $43 a year, and married couples filing jointly up to $63.

Georgia teachers who agree to work in certain rural or low-performing schools could get up to $3,000 a year off their state income taxes for five years.

In Oklahoma, the top individual income tax rate is dropping from 5% to 4.75%. Lawmakers also slashed the corporate income tax rate from 6% to 4%.

“I’ve pledged to make Oklahoma a top 10 state for business and making our business taxes among the lowest in the nation is another tool that will help us continue to recruit and retain companies,” Oklahoma’s Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt said after signing the bills.

In New Mexico, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and the state’s Democrat-led Legislature added a new 2.75% surtax on health insurance premiums.

The tax increase will be used in large part to underwrite health-exchange insurance offerings for low- and moderate-income individuals along with employees at small businesses, starting in 2023.


Associated Press writers across the country contributed to this report.


This story has been corrected to show that the flag with the coiled snake is the Gadsden flag, not the Gadsen flag.

Wave of Canceled Flights from Omicron Closes Out 2021


Travellers line up for flights at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, Thursday, Dec. 30, 2021. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

More canceled flights frustrated air travelers on the final day of 2021 and appeared all but certain to inconvenience hundreds of thousands more over the New Year’s holiday weekend.

Airlines blamed many of the cancellations on crew shortages related to the spike in COVID-19 infections, along with wintry weather in parts of the United States.

United Airlines, which suffered the most cancellations among the biggest U.S. carriers, agreed to pay pilot bonuses to fix a staffing shortage.

By early evening Friday on the East Coast, airlines had scrubbed more than 1,550 U.S. flights — about 6% of all scheduled flights — and roughly 3,500 worldwide, according to tracking service FlightAware.

That pushed the total U.S. cancellations since Christmas Eve to more than 10,000 and topped the previous single-day peak this holiday season, which was 1,520 on Dec. 26.

The disruptions come just as travel numbers climb higher going into the New Year’s holiday weekend. Since Dec. 16, more than 2 million travelers a day on average have passed through U.S. airport security checkpoints, an increase of nearly 100,000 a day since November and nearly double last December.

Led by Southwest and United, airlines have already canceled 1,500 U.S. flights on Saturday — about 700 at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, where the forecast called for a winter storm — and 700 more on Sunday.

Canceled flights began rising from a couple hundred a day shortly before Christmas, most notably for United Airlines, Delta Air Lines and JetBlue Airways.

On Friday, United canceled more than 200 flights, or 11% of its schedule — and that did not include cancellations on the United Express regional affiliate. CommutAir, which operates many United Express flights, scrubbed one-third of its schedule, according to FlightAware.

United decided to spend more money to fill empty cockpits. The airline reached a deal with the pilots’ union to pay 3.5 times normal wages to pilots who pick up extra trips through Monday and triple pay for flights between Tuesday and Jan. 29, according to a memo from Bryan Quigley, United’s senior vice president for flight operations.

JetBlue canceled more than 140 flights, or 14% of its schedule, and Delta grounded more than 100, or 5% of its flights by midday Friday. Allegiant, Alaska, Spirit and regional carriers SkyWest and Mesa all scrubbed at least 9% of their flights.

FlightAware reported fewer cancellations at Southwest, 3%, and American, 2%.

The virus is also hitting more federal air traffic controllers. The Federal Aviation Administration said that more of its employees have tested positive – it didn’t provide numbers Friday – which could lead controllers to reduce flight volumes and “might result in delays during busy periods.”

While leisure travel within the U.S. has returned to roughly pre-pandemic levels, international travel remains depressed, and the government is giving travelers new ore cause to reconsider trips abroad. On Thursday, the State Department warned Americans that if they test positive for coronavirus while in a foreign country it could mean a costly quarantine until they test negative.

Since March 2020, U.S. airlines have received $54 billion in federal relief to keep employees on the payroll through the pandemic. Congress barred the airlines from furloughing workers but allowed them to offer incentives to quit or take long leaves of absence – and many did. The airlines have about 9% fewer workers than they had two years ago.

Kurt Ebenhoch, a former airline spokesman and later a travel-consumer advocate, said airlines added flights aggressively, cut staff too thinly, and overestimated the number of employees who would return to work after leaves of absence. It was all done, he said, “in the pursuit of profit ... and their customers paid for it, big time.”

Many airlines are now rushing to hire pilots, flight attendants and other workers. In the meantime, some are trimming schedules that they can no longer operate. Southwest did that before the holidays, JetBlue is cutting flights until mid-January, and Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific is suspending cargo flights and reducing passenger flights because it doesn’t have enough pilots.

Other forms of transportation are also being hammered by the surge in virus cases. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday that it is monitoring more than 90 cruise ships because of COVID-19 outbreaks. The health agency warned people not to go on cruises, even if they are fully vaccinated against the virus.

The remnants of the delta variant and the rise of the new omicron variant pushed the seven-day rolling average of new daily COVID-19 cases in the U.S. above 350,000, nearly triple the rate of just two weeks ago, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University.

US and Russia Face Deep Differences Ahead of Ukraine Talks


WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) — After tough talk between Presidents Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin over the Russian troop buildup on the Ukraine border, both sides insist they are hopeful that a pathway to easing tensions could open during diplomatic talks set for January.

But with less than two weeks to go before senior U.S. and Russian officials are to meet in Geneva, the chasm is deep and the prospect of finding an exit to the crisis faces no shortage of complications.

Biden on Friday told reporters that he advised Putin when they spoke by phone a day earlier that the upcoming talks could only work if the Russian leader “deescalated, not escalated, the situation” in the days ahead. The U.S. president said he also sought to make plain to Putin that the U.S. and allies stood ready to hit Russia with punishing sanctions if the Russians further invade Ukraine.

“I made it clear to President Putin that if he makes any more moves into Ukraine we will have severe sanctions,” Biden said. “We will increase our presence in Europe with NATO allies.”

Meanwhile, Biden’s national security team on Friday turned their attention to preparation for the Geneva talks, set for Jan. 9 and 10, to discuss the Russian massing of some 100,000 troops on its border with Ukraine.

The Geneva talks, which are to be led on the U.S. side by senior State Department officials, are slated to be followed by Russia-NATO council talks and a meeting of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

Biden is scheduled to speak by phone Sunday with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. The two leaders plan to review preparations for the upcoming diplomatic engagements, according to the White House.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday debriefed Canadian Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly, Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on the Biden-Putin call and discussed preparations for the upcoming summit.

“The two weeks ahead are going to be tough,” said Daniel Fried, a former U.S. ambassador to Poland who was a top adviser on Eastern Europe to Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. “The Biden administration has done a pretty credible job of outlining, framing up the negotiations. But the toughest test is yet to come because Putin will continue to engage in threats and brinksmanship to see how determined we are.”

While Biden reiterated that he stood ready to exact sanctions that would reverberate throughout Russia, Kremlin officials doubled down on its warning to Biden about making a “colossal mistake” that could have enormous ramifications for an already fraught U.S.-Russian relationship.

A top Putin aide on Friday reinforced that Russia stands by its demands for written security guarantees. Moscow wants it codified that any future expansion of NATO must exclude Ukraine and other former Soviet bloc countries and demands that the bloc remove offensive weaponry from countries in the Russian neighborhood.

“We will not allow our initiatives to be drowned in endless discussions,” Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told the state RIA-Novosti news agency Friday. “If no constructive answer comes in a reasonable time and the West continues its aggressive course, Russia will have to take all necessary measures to maintain a strategic balance and remove unacceptable threats to our security.”

The Biden administration and NATO allies have made clear that the Russian demands are non-starters.

The seemingly unrealistic rhetoric has made some in Washington question of how effective talks can be.

Following the Biden-Putin call, a group of 24 former U.S. national security officials and Russia experts- — a group that includes several officials who served in the Obama, George W. Bush and Clinton’s administrations — released a statement calling on Biden to immediately, and publicly, lay out the penalties Russia would face if Putin were to move forward with military action.

The signatories of the statement included several former U.S. ambassadors, including Fried, Russia envoys Michael McFaul and Alexander Vershbow, and Ukraine envoys Steven Pifer and John Herbst.

“We believe the United States should, in closest consultation with its NATO allies and with Ukraine, take immediate steps to affect the Kremlin’s cost-benefit calculations before the Russian leadership opts for further military escalation,” the group wrote. “Such a response would include a package of major and painful sanctions that would be applied immediately if Russia assaults Ukraine. Ideally, the outline of these sanctions would be communicated now to Moscow, so that the Kremlin has a clear understanding of the magnitude of the economic hit it will face.”

The Russians for their part continue to make the case that they are facing an existential threat with Ukraine.

Lavrov on Friday noted an increase in weapons supplies to Ukraine and the growing number and scope of joint military drills conducted by Western powers with Ukraine, charging that “the Kyiv regime naturally perceives this support as a carte blanche for the use of force.” He added that Russia will protect its citizens living in eastern Ukraine.

“As for residents of Donbas, where hundreds of thousands of our citizens live, Russia will take all necessary measures to protect them,” he said. “An adequate response will be given to any possible military provocations by Kyiv against Donbas.”

Simon Miles, a diplomatic and international historian of the Cold War at Duke University, said it would be a mistake for the White House to let “Russia unilaterally set the tempo of what is about to unfold.”

“Whatever the U.S. can do to keep the Russians on their back foot, as opposed to letting the Kremlin set the agenda, is going to be important to securing a favorable resolution,” Miles said.


Associated Press writer Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow contributed to this report.

Thursday, December 30, 2021

Pressures on Ethiopia Ignite Pan-Africanism: Deputy Premier

December 30, 2021

ADDIS ABABA – The on-going internal and external pressure on Ethiopia has put Pan-Africanism and the # NoMore movement at a highest level, said Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister Demeke Mekonnen.

Demeke made the remarks during a recent meeting with senior officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Planning and Development, and representatives from the Prime Minister’s Office to evaluate the ministry’s 100 days performance.

As to him, Pan-Africanism movement has been intensified in the past few months in protest of the ongoing pressure on Ethiopia.

“The on-going Pan-Africanism movement, which has begun to support Ethiopia, is very promising and enables to counter the unnecessary diplomatic pressures that have been exerted by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) through its repetitive meetings. The no more protests have reached various cities and countries,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ institutional transformation and structural reforms are being carried out successfully despite the challenges. The ministry has given due focus on strengthening and reorganizing the headquarters, he added.

Planning and Development Minister Fitsum Assefa (PhD) said the reform and structural reforms carried out by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are now yielding better results.

More focus should be given on promoting Pan-Africanism, leading the large-scale Ethiopian Diasporas activities in a more organized, income-oriented manner, expanding swift online services to the Diasporas community, among others, she stressed.



Efficient AfCFTA Utilization Vital to Compensate Ethiopia’s AGOA Loss

December 30, 2021

ADDIS ABABA – Ethiopia’s efficient utilization of African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) would be instrumental in compensating what the country could lose from the revocation of its Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) privileges, an African academician said.

Speaking to Connect Africa Media, Nkrumah Ideological Center Media and Public Relation Director Kwame Gonza stated that Ethiopia’s ability to explore Africa’s potential markets would significantly enhance its foreign currency earnings and capacity to withstand unjustified measures.

The director further noted that the Biden Administration employed AGOA as a political instrument to punish Ethiopia’s defiance to foreign meddling in its domestic affairs. “It is evident that AGOA benefits Ethiopia’s economy and plays a substantial role in employing hundreds of thousands of citizens; however, it is not above the sovereignty of the country.”

The U.S. government has no humanitarian concern in terminating Ethiopia’s AGOA access and its motive is mainly securing neo-colonialist hegemony. “AGOA benefits both the U.S. and African countries and President Biden’s decision is counterproductive,” Gonza said, adding that the measure affects U.S. companies’ investment in Ethiopia.

He recommended African countries to forge stronger economic and political cooperation that would make them self-reliant and counter Western interference in the guise of humanitarian assistance. “AfCFTA has a paramount importance in mobilizing the participation of all Africans to tap the continent’s abundant natural and human resources and massive market opportunities thereby curtailing imperialist attempts.”



A Call to National Consensus to End Ethnic-identity Politics in Ethiopia

December 29, 2021

Now that TPLF and its attempt to use violence to return to the helm of state power is put out effectively, a unique opportunity to transform Ethiopia’s politics is laid bare. In this article, I attempt to propose an all-inclusive national consensus to end ethnic-identity politics one for all. The article revisits the political developments of modern Ethiopia in the light of larger global political context to debunk ethnic federalism. It proposes short term and long-term plans within the larger framework of the philosophy of Medemer. 

Ethnic Map of Ethiopia (source : QZ). Note that there are changes to the Southern Nations, Nationalities and People’s Region due to two referendums since Abiy Ahmed took power in 2018.

By Lemma Desta 

Strange federalism in Ethiopia 

Federalism, as a form of nation-state organization, is neither new nor problematic. However, the federalism practiced in Ethiopia is not only rare, but also highly problematic.  Federalism in Ethiopia is based on ethnic identity and thus it is often deservedly called “ethnic federalism.” Its proponents argue this version of federalism was born out of the Ethiopian context of ethnic oppression and the struggle for liberation. The claim of ethnic oppression suggests some ethnic groups were held captive and colonized in the Ethiopian empire. The blame encompasses the whole people group on the account of the supposed ethnic origin of the emperors of the feudal monarchies of Ethiopia.  A prime example is the Amhara people viewed as oppressors because the territorial expansion and exploitation of the feudalist imperial rule emanated outward from its origin in Amhara areas.  Another example is that some people erroneously conflate the Tigrayan people with the Tigrayan people’s liberation front (TPLF). Leader’s ascent to and their stay in power in modern Ethiopia did not come through democratic means. Nor was the process of national unity and establishing territorial sovereignty of contemporary Ethiopia. A more functional reason for federalism relies on the fact that such a system helps decentralization and self-governance as means to ensure justice and development to various people groups in Ethiopia. This school of thought assumes ethnically homogenous rule is good for egalitarian unity, development and resistance to maladministration. However, self-governance does not necessarily guarantee equality, democracy, and development of all individuals within the given community. On the contrary, it could easily pave a way for despotism and tyranny by sacrificing the rights of individuals for the honor of the group, in whose name some benefit more than others.  

Patriotism and cry for justice 

Ethiopians take pride in their patriotic past; defeating fascist Italy and resisting foreign aggressions that spared its sovereignty, rarest and historical in the continent. Nevertheless, the formation of modern Ethiopia took place under an agrarian feudalist monarchy with sparsely settled chiefdoms in the peripheries. Both pre-war unification that ended the lawlessness of the era of princes and post-war reconstruction did not solve widespread inequalities, underdevelopment and injustices overnight. Even though each regime achieved some progress in modernization of Ethiopia with prominent focus in health and education, but realization of social development, a fair and inclusive governance that could administer justice for all, without discrimination and favoritism, remained unrealized dream for most Ethiopians.  Despite their efforts to develop the country, the needs and demands of better livelihood challenged Ethiopian administrations of varying ideological persuasion.  The uprising in Eritrea, Tigray and Bale in the 50’s, the attempts of reform and revolt by the Neway brothers in the early 60’s, the popular revolution of 1974, coup d’état attempts against Mengistu Hailemariam regime, the ethnic liberation wars, the overthrowing of Derg, relentless resistance against TPLF led EPRDF rule with the mass protests leading to reform in 2018, all of these struggles had one thing in common, a cry for justice and good governance. 

But there are others who suggest the core problem of Ethiopia goes beyond good governance. They claim the origin of the problem lies in the way modern Ethiopia was constructed. They attribute the Ethiopian problem to the imperial monarchies more specifically to the process of territorial expansion and consolidation around the turn of the 20th century. There are fiercely contested discourses with claims and counterclaims, the blame on monarchs, warriors as well as mass migration. Like many other countries, Ethiopians inherited unhealed wounds, unpleasant memories of mistreatment of people and misuse of power. Today we struggle to construct an inclusive national history. Nevertheless, the claims of widespread grudges against each other among the diverse ethnic groups in the county are unfounded. There is hardly any evidence to suggest any collective or mass suppression of one people group by the other(s). Part of the narratives of interethnic suppression were crafted by colonial academia with scant contextual knowledge coupled with ideological interest of planting mistrust to weaken the communal bond as strategy to conquer. Obviously inter-communal conflict and competition over resources and power were always part of Ethiopian society towards building a modern nation state. 

Liberation and imposition 

Starting from 1970 Marxist ideological thoughts inspired the Ethiopian student movement to dramatically transform feudalist society into a Marxist utopia on one side and ethno-liberationist radicalism on the other hand. Ethiopia’s journey from feudalism to Marxism did not end well. It led to ethno-liberationist struggle against a Marxist regime with resolute patriotism. The Eritrean liberation front (ELF), the Tigrayan people’s liberation front (TPLF), the Oromo liberation front (OLF), and the Ogden national liberation front (ONLF) claimed to have gone to war seeking secession from Ethiopia. It must be noted that secessionist claims were imposed on the people by the political elites that waged the armed struggle in the geopolitical context of the cold war. Some of the secessionist positions mostly abandoned during the transitional period including ELF that got what it wanted. Amongst the Oromo community, secessionist attitude continued to influence subsequent generations of Oromo youth. I am not sure how this applies to the situation in Ogden, but I suspect it could apply there too, although maybe to a lesser degree. The Sidama Liberation movement aligned its aspirations to regional statehood. 

During the war, (1976-1991) TPLF made effective use of ethnic identity for mobilization and material support. Once in power, the liberation front-turned-party dodged away from resolving ethnic nature of the struggle. Instead, it institutionalized ethnicity in federalism and enshrined the right to ethnic self-determination in the constitution. Over the last 27 years, TPLF became a party with two faces: acting as ethno-liberationists for Tigray, while wielding its influence over the federal state apparatus, in effect dividing and ruling over all other groups. TPLF surrogate parties and their cadres were appointed at many levels to watch, report and control supposedly autonomous regions. On the surface, ethnic federalism promises freedom and equality of all groups, but not all groups enjoy equal treatment.  The idea of ethnic federalism as a form of self-government offered a shortcut for the rebels-turned liberator political elites to wield power over the people. Had the citizenry been consulted, Ethiopians would have most likely turned down such a transition from Marxism to ethno-federalism.   By introducing ethnic federalism, the TPLF-EPRDF constitution took away the Ethiopian people’s legal rights of ownership in every part of their country. 

A national-state; not ethnic-states 

In a traditional society, ethnicity is the most natural form of human organization after family and kin. As society modernizes, the nation-state occupies a more prominent role in the lives of citizens. Even hardcore supporters of rehabilitating ethno-cultural heritage cannot deny the fact that a modern nation-state is the only legitimate form of organization to sustain human societies with ethnic and religious diversity in just ways and on an inclusive form.  It is only a well-functioning nation-state that guarantees the rights of each individual citizen. It is within the framework of the rights of the individual that the rights of culture, freedom of association, expression, and so on, should be granted as inputs of political organization.  In this regard, ethnic identity, just as religious identity or other forms of identities, could not serve as a basis of broader political organization because they are, by default, exclusive. It is with good reason that we should not have political parties based on such characteristics as race, religion, ethnicity elsewhere. In addition to universal human rights declaration, constitutions of many countries’ forbid discrimination and favoritism on the bases of race, religion, ethnicity etc. On the contrary, the constitution of our country promotes a federalism based on ethnic identity. 

Accommodate the Ethiopian mosaic 

Ethiopia is a mosaic of heterogeneous ethnicities and cultures.  Its people are intertwined by mixed settlement patterns, intermarriages, coexisting religious heritages, and other forms of socio-cultural and economic assimilations and accommodations.  Despite the efforts to use ethno-identity for political mobilization to grab power, I contend ethnic identification in our society is largely based on shallow linguistic differences and diversities.  Even though some might claim ethnic purity, if we dig deeper into generational history, we could discover more inter-ethnic heritage in many of us. Prior to the ethnic federalism, Ethiopians commonly identified and addressed each other with reference to their places of birth, rather than their ethnic group. They were Wolloye, not Amhara, for example. An Oromo would be identified from Bale or Wellega.  Even though a given ethnic group settled in one place predominantly, many of Ethiopia’s regions and towns were not perceived as places belonging to the dominant group. It is in this era of ethno-federalism that even land, and location became associated with ethnic identity. In earlier times, all towns and villages were assumed to belong to all Ethiopians. 

The tragic experiences of Rwanda and Yugoslavia in recent decades, and scars of colonialism, fascism, racism, Nazism, and terrorism, clearly provide enough evidence to refrain from using ethno-religious-racial identity based political mobilization. The problem comes not from how one promotes oneself but how the problems and the pains of a group is justified and defined in relation to the other. The perceived opponent, the enemy, the threat, the colonizer, or the “other” becomes the object of hate and ridicule and the target of the struggle to defeat. Ethno-exclusivism can easily obstruct our sight of failing to see the humanity of others. It is an erroneous road for individuals, for society and for nations.  

Way forward 

Ethiopians have inherited a heroic legacy that preserved the sovereignty of their country through collective sacrifice. We also have inherited a country with deficit of good governance including hostile political culture. The opening of the political space under the Abiy Ahmed’s administration presents a new opportunity for national reconciliation and transition. I trust prime minister Abiy Ahmed with his project of forging national consensus or Medemer presents a momentous opportunity. But the reform and transition need further consolidation. Various commissions must deliver much-awaited results and solutions. The political discourses need an accommodative environment of mutual commitment, ethics and openness that unites the political elites especially as we prepare for the upcoming general election. There is an urgent need to re-engage the political elites across the dividing lines to chart the future of the country. Ethiopia needs national consultation that includes all registered political parties, leaders of the faith communities, elders, and notable personalities at home and in the diaspora, representatives from the academic community, various civil society organizations, trade unions, media and artistic communities and business leaders. Such a consultation should strive towards a consensus in transforming the current ethnic identity-based politics to a new political culture of inclusivity and mutuality.  We need to end using ethnic identity for political mobilization and organization. Humanity of each Ethiopian should precede ethnicity and other forms of identifications. The immediate implication of such approach is an agreement to transform the current ethnic federalism to a territorial federalism. Territorial federalism, a form of federalism emanating from reorganizing administrative structures in Ethiopia in to a territorial/geographic unit. Such reorganization could build on the territorial administrative structures of the last three regimes (the feudal monarchy, the Marxist Derg and EPRDF).  Territorial federalism will serve the dual purposes of decentralization, local representation and agency as well as shift the political focus from ethnic identity to meritocracy and legitimacy in governance.  The current language policy with necessary modifications could be accommodated towards multilingual policies. Such a deliberative process envisages long-term consequences that may well include among other: revisions of the constitution, redrawing of administrative structures, and rewriting laws for political organization and participation in Ethiopia.  An all-inclusive national consensus-seeking process should be open to the public for its educative, informative, trust building and participatory purposes. It should result in a binding national covenant signed by all political actors agreeing to refrain from relapsing into ethno-identity politics. It should also include a commitment to educate the public about the dangers of ethno-centric views. Such views should no longer be tolerated in Ethiopian political life. It should even be banned.  All actors should commit to take responsibility for raising awareness about the mutuality of various socio-cultural heritages and religious diversity, interdependence, and common destiny of the Ethiopian people.


Lemma Desta, from Hadiya Zone in SNNPR, studied theology and international education, currently residing in Norway, working as an advisor on migration for Norwegian churches. Engaged with social justice and human rights movements such as Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia, member of the first board of directors for Council of Ethiopian diaspora action (CEDA) and currently engaged in Ethiopian advocacy mobilization in Norway and the larger European region.

Umma Party, Burhan Discuss Roadmap for Re-establishing Sudan’s Joint Transition

December 29, 2021 (KHARTOUM) – The National Umma Party (NUP) leadership members, on Wednesday, discussed with the head of the Sovereign Council a roadmap to unify the forces for Freedom and Changes and resume the partnership with the military component.

The mainstream of the FFC, the Central Council, and the resistance committees raised the slogan of the three no’s refusing to negotiate with the military, re-establish a partnership with them, and no Hamdok al-Burhan agreement which legitimizes the 25th October coup.

Also, the FFC recently refused to meet Hamdok saying he did not send a formal request. In fact, FFC leaders blame him for signing an agreement providing to exclude them from the transitional authority institutions.

However, the NUP made a number of propositions called ” Roadmap for Restoring Legitimacy and Completing the Transition” – seen by the Sudan Tribune – called for resuming the civilian-military on new bases and guarantees that no more coup would occur.

Also, on Wednesday, a delegation from the Umma Party led by Fadlallah Burma and his deputy Mariam al-Mahdi met with al-Burhan at his request to discuss the roadmap which had been sent to the FFC forces.

The delegation had a “credible and transparent” discussion with al-Burhan on “the complex national issue, and how to achieve democratic transition and civil rule through national consensus,” said a statement the NUP released after the meeting.

Burma stressed the party’s commitment to achieving national consensus among “all the Forces of Change,” said the statement.

Further, “the party will seek to gather the national ranks at a roundtable that includes all political and societal forces and Resistance Committees to agree on a unified vision to resume legitimacy and complete the tasks of the transition,” reads the statement.

Al-Burhan did not issue a statement after the meeting.

Previously, he said wanting to involve in the transitional period the political forces that were part of the former regime including the Islamists groups but not the National Congress Party of Omer al-Bashir.

During the meeting, the NUP handed a copy of the roadmap over to the coup leader.

According to the statement, the party leadership also will meet with the Prime Minister to discuss this roadmap and ways to coordinate together to reach an agreement between all the partners to achieve democratic transition in Sudan.

Reached by the Sudan Tribune, several FFC groups welcomed the roadmap saying it can serve as a basis for a political solution to the current crisis. But they declined to comment at this stage.

The road map proposes that the resumption of civil-military partnership should take place through a number of measures and mechanisms, including dialogue between the parties to the constitutional declaration with the participation of regional and international observers who will be guarantors of its outcomes.

The military component, until recently rejected the intervention of the African Union which suspended Sudan’s membership after the coup.



The attack came with the troubled country in the grip of an escalating political crisis pitting the president against the prime minister.

FILE: Shells of vehicles burn outside the Maka Al-Mukarama hotel in the Somalia capital, Mogadishu on 28 February 2019 after a car bomb exploded, killing at least five people and wounding 25 others. Witnesses described how the blast ripped through one of the busiest streets of the capital in the early evening, filled with people relaxing after a day at work. Picture: AFP

AFP | 

MOGADISHU - At least four people were killed on Thursday when heavily armed fighters from the Al-Shabaab jihadist group raided a town near Somalia's capital Mogadishu, police said.

The attack came with the troubled country in the grip of an escalating political crisis pitting the president against the prime minister.

The attackers, armed with machine guns and RPG rocket-launchers, raided the town of Balcad, about 30 kilometres (18 miles) north of Mogadishu, police and witnesses said.

Four people, including two members of the security forces, were killed and eight others wounded, police officer Abdullahi Mohamed told AFP by phone.

The militants targeted government security checkpoints in the early morning raid "to terrorise the public", said Mohamed.

"The situation returned to normal now and the government forces are in full control," he added.

Witnesses said the Al-Qaeda linked jihadists managed to enter some parts of the town, which lies along a road north of the capital linking Mogadishu to rest of the country, before they were repelled.

"There was heavy fighting but the fighters later pulled back and the situation is quiet now," said one resident, Hussein Abdikarin.

Another witness, Shamso Ali, said they were woken by heavy blasts and the sound of machine gun fire as the militants entered the town.

"We were shocked to see this happening but thanks to God, we remained at safety inside our houses until the fighting was over," he said.

Al-Shabaab issued a statement claiming responsibility for the attack.


President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed and Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble are locked in a festering feud over long-delayed elections in the Horn of Africa nation.

The president, better known as Farmajo, this week announced he was suspending the premier, accusing him of trying to influence a probe into a scandal involving army-owned land.

Roble in turn accused Farmajo of an "attempted coup".

Indirect elections for the lower house of parliament were supposed to have been completed this month but only a fraction of the 275 seats have been filled.

Relations between the two leaders have long been frosty, with the latest developments raising fresh fears among international partners that the government could be distracted from its fight against the jihadist insurgency.

The international community including the United States has voiced alarm about the crisis, with Washington calling for the rival sides to avoid "escalatory actions" and for security forces to remain neutral.

Britain's Minister for Africa Vicky Ford said on Thursday she had spoken to Roble and voiced support for an urgent meeting to address the electoral impasse.

"All parties must refrain from provocative actions and avoid violence," she said on Twitter.

Al-Shabaab has been waging a violent campaign against the country's fragile government since 2007 but was driven out of Mogadishu in 2011 after an offensive by an African Union force.

However, the insurgents retain control of vast rural areas of Somalia, from which they frequently launch deadly attacks in the capital and elsewhere against civilian, military and government targets.

The extremists last month claimed a deadly car bombing near a school in Mogadishu that killed eight people and injured a number of students.

The militants also claimed two attacks in September that together killed 17 people.


The South African Medical Research Council conducted the study on health workers from 15 November to 20 December, but it has still not been peer-reviewed.

Vials and syringes of the Johnson and Johnson Janssen COVID-19 vaccine are displayed for a photograph at a Culver City Fire Department vaccination clinic on 5 August 2021, in California. Picture: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP


JOHANNESBURG - A booster of US coronavirus vaccine Johnson & Johnson was 85% effective in preventing serious illness in areas where Omicron was dominant, a South African trial study indicated on Thursday.

The South African Medical Research Council conducted the study on health workers from 15 November to 20 December, but it has still not been peer-reviewed.

It found the top-up jab to largely protect staff in a country where the highly transmissible strain is now behind most COVID cases.

"Data from the... study confirm that the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 booster shot provides 85% effectiveness against hospitalisation in areas where Omicron is dominant," Johnson & Johnson said.

"This adds to our growing body of evidence which shows that the effectiveness of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine remains strong and stable over time, including against circulating variants such as Omicron and Delta," it said.

Around half a million South African health staff have received Johnson jabs as part of clinical trials.

Africa's hardest-hit country, South Africa has recorded more than 3.4 million cases and 90,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

An earlier South African study in December found the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to be less effective overall against Omicron, but still prevented hospital admissions by up to 70%.


Cabinet approved the further easing of lockdown level 1 restrictions, saying that it appeared that the country had passed the peak of the fourth COVID-19 wave

Copyright: rawpixel / 123rf

Eyewitness News 

JOHANNESBURG - The government has lifted the COVID-19 curfew with immediate effect and approved further changes to level 1 lockdown following a special Cabinet meeting on Thursday.

Cabinet approved the further easing of lockdown level 1 restrictions, saying that it appeared that the country had passed the peak of the fourth COVID-19 wave.

The lifting of curfew, which had been from midnight to 4am, comes after business owners and those in the hospitality sector pushed to have it lifted in time for New Year's Eve celebrations. The Democratic Alliance (DA) also backed the call.

Government in a statement on Thursday night said that the Health Department had reported a 29.7% decrease in the number of new COVID cases detected in the week ending on Christmas Day compared to the week before. Cases declined in all provinces except for the Western Cape (14% increase) and the Eastern Cape (18% increase) while there had also been a drop in hospital admissions in all provinces except for the Western Cape. The data means that South Africa had spare capacity to admit patients for routine health services.

Based on the data and the trajectory of the pandemic, government said that Cabinet had decided to further ease level 1 restrictions.

The number of people now permitted at indoor gatherings rises from 750 to 1,000 while the number of people permitted at outdoor gatherings remains at 2,000.

Alcohol establishments are now permitted to operate beyond 11pm provided they are licenced to do so.

The wearing of masks in public remains a requirement and the failure to do so is still a criminal offence, the government said.

"South Africans are urged to continue observing basic health protocols to prevent the transmission of the virus.

Vaccination remains the best defence against severe illness, hospitalisation and death from COVID-19. All people in South Africa who have not yet done so are encouraged to vaccinated as soon as possible. This includes people who are eligible for booster shots," the government said in its statement.

It added that the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) would continue to monitor the situation and would make further adjustments as required, particularly if pressure on the healthcare system increased.

Illinois Obliterates Daily COVID-19 Case Record with More Than 30K Positive Tests

With cases, hospitalizations and deaths rising rapidly, officials are urging more residents to get vaccinated and boosted.

By Mitchell Armentrout@mitchtrout  

Dec 30, 2021, 1:20pm CST

People wait in line for COVID-19 tests Wednesday at 1169 W. 18th St. in Pilsen. More people are testing positive each day in Illinois than ever before. Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Public health officials on Thursday announced a staggering 30,386 new COVID-19 cases have been diagnosed statewide as the Omicron variant fuels Illinois’ largest-ever spike in positive tests.

The latest count shatters by more than 9,000 the previous state record set on Christmas Eve when more than 21,000 infections were diagnosed — and it nearly doubles the high-water mark of last fall’s surge, which had been the biggest of the pandemic.

Officials have urged residents to get fully vaccinated and boosted as the state’s hospitals face their greatest burden since Dec. 1, 2020, before any vaccines were available. Coronavirus patients were occupying 5,689 hospital beds statewide Wednesday night — nearly all of them unvaccinated, officials say. That marked a net increase of 218 patients in one day.

COVID-19 deaths are mounting as well, with 87 more confirmed Thursday. Illinois has averaged 55 deaths per day over the last week, a rate that has more than tripled in a month.

The seven-day average statewide case positivity rate has more than doubled to 10.2% over the past two weeks, and the rise has been even more pronounced in Chicago, where the regional positivity rate has soared to 16.7% with an average of 3,772 new cases diagnosed daily.

“All of this is due to Omicron,” Chicago Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said of the highly infectious variant during a livestreamed Q&A.

Arwady tempered concern over the eye-popping numbers by noting the city is seeing “many more breakthrough cases” that result in less severe sickness.

“The reason I am not completely freaking out, honestly, about these COVID numbers and what they’re doing to our hospital capacity at this point is because … I am very reassured that the vaccine continues to protect really well against severe illness,” she said.

“I remain very worried about this steep increase that we’re seeing, especially in the unvaccinated, and of course I’m worried for the people who are vaccinated and boosted who are … still getting sick and getting admitted,” Arwady said. “But the most important thing for us to prevent deaths, prevent hospitalizations and protect our healthcare system is to have fewer people in that red category [of] unvaccinated Chicagoans.”

Of about 8 million Illinoisans who have completed their initial vaccine series, only 0.075% have ended up in a hospital, and 0.020% have died of COVID-19, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. An even tinier fraction of the roughly 3 million residents who have received boosters have suffered severe outcomes.

“Most of the people right now in Chicago in the hospital with COVID have the Omicron variant and remain unvaccinated,” Arwady said. “This growth that we are seeing in Omicron is in unvaccinated Chicagoans, nearly all of the increase.”

About 24% of Chicagoans have yet to get a shot. Cases are especially high in ZIP codes with lower vaccination rates — areas that are concentrated on the South and West sides, according to city data.

Vaccines are free at pharmacies nationwide, and the city also offers free in-home vaccination appointments. For more information, visit or call (312) 746-4835.

Libya Future at Stake After Failing to Hold Vote

December 29, 2021

CAIRO — Libya failed to hold its first presidential election as planned this month, a major blow to international efforts to end a decade of chaos in the oil-rich Mediterranean country.

The postponement of the Dec. 24 vote has opened up uncertainty over what comes next in the tenuous peace process, raising worries Libya could slide into new round of violence after more than a year of relative calm.

The planned vote was the lynchpin of international peace efforts, and major regional and international powers had for months pushed for it to take place as scheduled.

But many inside and outside Libya doubted the election would proceed as planned. Some warned that holding the vote could destabilize the country, given the continued polarization.

Libya descended into chaos following the 2011 NATO-backed counter-revolution that ousted and then killed longtime Revolutionary Pan-Africanist Moammar Gadhafi. Since then, armed groups have proliferated, including local and tribal militias, nationalist and mainstream Islamist groups, al-Qaida and the Islamic State group.

Since parliamentary elections in 2014, the country has been divided between two main rival administrations: one in the east backed by military commander Khalifa Hifter, and another in the west - an array of militias loosely allied with a weak, U.N.-recognized government in the capital Tripoli.


Hifter, who was senior officer under Gadhafi but defected in the 1980s, is based in the eastern city of Benghazi, the epicenter of the 2011 uprising. His forces, the self-styled Libyan Arab Armed Forces, control much of eastern and southern Libya, including its oil fields and terminals. He is backed by Russia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt.

In April 2019, Hifter and his forces launched an offensive on Tripoli, but Turkey and Qatar stepped up their military support for his Tripoli-based rivals, including deploying troops and Syrian mercenaries. The offensive failed after 14 months of fighting.

An internationally brokered October 2020 cease-fire has kept a relative peace since. But some its main provisions — the withdrawal of all foreign forces and mercenaries within three months and adherence to a U.N. arms embargo — have not been met.

After the cease-fire deal, the U.N. led a political process called the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum, which includes 75 delegates from across the country.

The forum set presidential and parliamentary elections for Dec. 24. It also appointed an interim government that included a three-member Presidential Council led by an eastern figure, and a Cabinet led by Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Mohammed Dbeibah, a powerful businessman from the western city of Misrata.

The interim government’s main task was to prepare the country for the elections.


From the beginning, the process was hampered by disputes.

The main leadership body in the west, the Tripoli-based Supreme Council of State, denounced the rules governing the election, drawn up by the eastern-based parliament. Dbeibeh joined the criticism. With legal challenges over the rules still unresolved, the Council of State persistently called for the vote to be delayed.

Mistrust deepened when lawmakers decided to hold parliamentary elections a month after the planned Dec. 24 presidential vote, rather than simultaneously.

The presidential election became sharply polarized when several figures who were considered intolerable by their opponents declared their intention to run — particularly Hifter and Seif al-Islam Gadhafi, the ousted dictator’s son and one-time heir apparent.

Khalid al-Mishri, the head of the Supreme Council of State, threatened violence to prevent Hifter from taking office if he is elected.

Seif al-Islam’s declaration of his candidacy prompted vows from opponents never to allow a return of Gadhafi family rule. The election commission disqualified him along with two dozen other would-be candidates. But on appeal, courts restored most of them, including Seif al-Islam.

Dbeibeh also declared his candidacy, causing outrage because when he was appointed to the head the transitional government, he had promised not to run.

Around 100 people submitted documents to run for president, but with legal disputes still roiling, the election commission was unable to declare a final list of candidates.

It was also never clear what would happen after the elections. All sides agree the constitution needs to be rewritten, but there has been no agreement on who will do so or when.

With so much at stake and so much still unresolved, militias showed their discontent. Militias demanding a postponement blocked roads in parts of Tripoli, raising warnings from the U.N. mission in Libya that the tensions could explode into violence.

And each side in the country’s main east-west split remains ready for a fight, bolstered by mercenaries provided by their foreign backers who have not withdrawn. The current number of mercenaries is not known, but according to the U.N., they have numbered as high as 20,000, including Syrians, Russians, and Sudanese in the country.


The failure to hold the vote as planned threatens to open a political vacuum.

Lawmakers have argued that the interim government’s mandate ended on Dec. 24. They say the government failed in its main tasks, preparing the country for the vote, unifying its institutions, and dismantling militias or integrating them into regular security forces.

Dbeibeh, the interim prime minister, said in a televised address Tuesday that he and his administration would remain until “real elections” are held. He said the election laws were “flawed” and called for the vote to be based on a newly crafted constitution.

Major Western governments have called for the government to remain in power until “prompt” parliamentary and presidential elections are held.

The election commission proposed Jan. 24 as a new date.

But it’s not clear when or if the factions can resolve the disputes that led to the failure to hold the vote as planned. Stephanie Williams, the U.N. special adviser on Libya, has for two weeks shuttled between major Libyan players.

A legislative committee for the election blamed militias that it said wanted “to craft a distorted electoral process,” an apparent reference to complaints from Tripoli over the election rules.

The committee suggested drawing a “practical roadmap” for elections and restructuring the interim government to “achieve stability,” without specifying dates.

More than 100 lawmakers held two days of deliberations this week in the eastern city of Tobruk over the future of the electoral process and the interim government. The session ended without a decision and is expected to continue next week.

Libya’s Chief Prosecutor Orders Culture Minister Jailed

December 29, 2021

CAIRO — Libya’s top prosecutor on Wednesday ordered the country’s culture minister jailed pending an investigation into allegations of corruption.

General Prosecutor Al-Sediq al-Sour said in a statement that Minister Mabrouka Othman would be jailed for four days pending the investigations into alleged managerial and financial irregularities and forgery.

The alleged corruption stems from maintenance contracts this year of some the ministry’s buildings. The statement said the ministry conducted the maintenance of the facilities in 2020.

The accusations include misuse of public funds and forging official documents to conceal irregularities, it said.

The minister’s office couldn’t be reached immediately for comment.

Libya’s chaos has provided a breeding ground for corruption. In 2020, the North African country ranked as one of the most corrupt countries out of 180 nations, according to Corruption Perceptions Index of the Transparency International group.

The oil-rich nation slid into chaos after the 2011 NATO-backed counter-revolution toppled then killed long-time Revolutionary Pan-Africanist Moammar Gadhafi.