Thursday, September 29, 2022

Ethiopia, Somalia Agree to Work Together on Regional Issues

September 28, 2022

Somali president Hassan Sheik Mohamud (left) chats with PM Abiy Ahmed (right) in Addis Ababa on September 28, 2022 (Photo: Public Domain)

Borkena 

Ethiopia and Somalia on Wednesday reached an agreement to enhance bilateral relations and cooperation on regional issues of mutual interest. 

Somali President Hassan Sheik Mohamud is in Ethiopia for an official state visit.  Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed led a delegation to Mogadishu when Hassan Sheik was sworn in, for the second time, as president of Somalia in June 2022. 

In his speech during the ceremony, Abiy Ahmed spoke about Ethiopia’s determination to work with the new Somali government on regional security and economic development issues.  He passionately spoke about regional economic integration. 

He reiterated it today when he met with Hassan Sheik Mohamud. The Ethiopian PM tends to think that Ethiopian development could happen when its neighbors are developing. 

The visiting Somali president reportedly recognized the contributions of the Ethiopian peace-keeping force in Somalia and expressed gratitude to the people and government of Ethiopia. 

The Ethiopian Peace Keeping Force under AMISOM has been in Somalia since 2007. 

ENA, state media, cited  Ambassador Tesfaye Yilma, State Minister in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia, to report that the leaders from the two countries have discussed issues of cooperation on regional levels. 

Security has been one of the areas of cooperation. And the leaders vowed to work together to ensure peace in the Horn of Africa. 

Fighting terrorism in the region has been one of the shared goals of the two countries.  Somalia has been facing security challenges from the militant Al-Shabab forces for decades now. 

In July and August of this year, Al-Shabab made repeated attempts to penetrate Ethiopia, with the aim to coordinate an attack with the radical ethnic Oromo nationalist force – “Shane,” from the South Eastern part of the country. 

However, Al-Shabab’s crusade against Ethiopia ended in fiasco as Ethiopian forces killed more than 800 militants. Several dozens were captured and considerable weaponry and vehicles that the militant group deployed for the operation were destroyed. 

Ethiopia and Somalia do have also a trade relationship. Somalia is one of the destinations for Ethiopia’s Khat export, among other things. 

There were reports of unease in the relationship between Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and  Hassan Sheik Mohamud’s administrations due to the appointment of a former Al-Shabaab top man to a cabinet position in Somalia. 

However, that does not seem to be the case as the Ethiopian government has disowned the reportage, it was aired in the state media, and later the content was deleted from the state media youtube channel.

Signs of United Nations Involvement in Ethiopia’s National Dialogue

September 28, 2022 

National Dialogue Commission, UNDP representative and Ministry of Finance representative signing the MoU

Borkena 

The United Nations Development Program has signed a memorandum of understanding with Ethiopia’s National Dialogue Commission. 

Ethiopia’s Ministry of Finance is part of the agreement too. It is said that the aim is to support the National Dialogue Process financially.  

The Agreement was signed in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa. 

According to a report by Ethiopian State Media, it is a three years program. UNDP has committed itself to raising funds from development partners. It has also committed itself to spend $US 2.2 million from the UNDP coffer. 

UNDP is to administer the funds as a trust fund. 

Signatories seem to believe that the establishment of the trust fund will contribute in terms of helping the Commission in the effort to kick off an inclusive dialogue so as to get recommendations to resolve critical differences. 

Months after it was formed, the commission appeared before the Ethiopian Parliament in April 2022 to report its performance. It said internal and external interventions were among the major challenges it has faced. 

Radical ethnic Oromo nationalist groups, including the Oromo Federalist Congress under the leadership of Merera Gudina, have rejected the commission. These groups claim the process of establishing the commission was not inclusive. 

Satellite Images Show Eritrea Military Buildup Near Tigray Province of Ethiopia

By CARA ANNA

This satellite image provided by Maxar Technologies claims to show M-46 towed field guns and military vehicles positioned in the village of Serha in Eritrea, across the border from the town of Zalambessa in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia on Monday, Sept. 19, 2022. New satellite imagery of one of the world's most reclusive nations shows military positions inside Eritrea near the border with Ethiopia's northern Tigray region, backing up witness accounts of a new, large-scale offensive. (Maxar Technologies via AP)

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — New satellite imagery of one of the world’s most reclusive nations shows a military buildup inside Eritrea near the border with Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region, backing up witness accounts of a new, large-scale offensive.

Eritrea has fought alongside Ethiopia against Tigray forces. It rejects allegations that its soldiers committed some of the worst atrocities in the conflict that began in late 2020. Witnesses in Eritrea this month told The Associated Press that people including students and public servants are being rounded up across the nation and sent to fight in the new offensive.

The satellite imagery provided by Maxar Technologies shows what Maxar described as battle tanks, self-propelled howitzers and a M-46 field gun battery in the Eritrean town of Serha, near the border, on Sept. 19. The town is across the border from the Tigray town of Zalambessa, one of the first communities overrun in the war.

Eritrea is one of the world’s most closed countries to independent journalists, and images from there related to the war in Ethiopia are rare.

Last week, Tigray forces accused Eritrea of launching a full-scale offensive along the border in what appeared to be an escalation of fighting that renewed in August after months of relative calm.

Other satellite imagery captured on Monday and shared by Maxar shows military mobilization in the Tigray town of Sheraro, which a humanitarian worker this month described to the AP as being targeted by deadly shelling that caused tens of thousands of people to flee. The worker, like others, spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation.

The U.S. envoy to the Horn of Africa, who has been pressing the Ethiopian and Tigray sides to stop fighting and hold peace talks, told reporters last week that Washington has been tracking Eritrean troop movements across the border.

“They are extremely concerning, and we condemn it,” Mike Hammer said. “All external foreign actors should respect Ethiopia’s territorial integrity and avoid fueling the conflict.”

Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki, the only leader the country has had since independence three decades ago, remains a foe of the Tigray authorities despite Ethiopia and Eritrea restoring ties in 2018 following a bloody border war. Tigray authorities have bristled at the suggestion made by an African Union special envoy that Eritrea be part of talks to end the current conflict.

The war in Tigray is estimated to have killed tens of thousands of people and left millions in the region without basic services like phone, electricity and banking for well over a year. Independent journalists and human rights researchers are barred from the region.

11 Soldiers Killed, 50 Missing After Jihadist Attack, Burkina Faso Says

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Violence has raged in the landlocked west African country after Lieutenant-Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba seized power in a January coup.

By AFP

Ouagadougou,

Eleven soldiers died and around 50 civilians were missing after a suspected jihadist attack in Burkina Faso's north, the government said late Tuesday.

Violence has raged in the landlocked west African country after Lieutenant-Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba seized power in a January coup, ousting Burkina's elected leader and promising to rein in jihadists.

As in neighbouring countries, insurgents affiliated with Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group have stoked the unrest, even after Damiba earlier this month sacked his defence minister and assumed the role himself.

"A convoy carrying supplies to Djibo town was the target of a cowardly and barbaric attack," government spokesman Lionel Bilgo said.

"The provisional toll is that 11 bodies of soldiers have been found... About 50 civilians are missing and searches are ongoing."

A security source said the toll could be as high as 60 dead.

The convoy was ambushed Monday near Gaskinde in the province of Soum, part of the Sahel region.

Such convoys, escorted by the army, carry essential goods to towns in the north, particularly Djibo, which are under blockade by jihadists who have dynamited bridges on main roads.

"Practically the entire convoy was burnt," a source said Monday. Videos received by AFP showed charred vehicles.

On Sunday an improvised explosive device that targeted another army-escorted resupply convoy in the Sahel wounded four people, security sources said, but the convoy was able to reach its destination on Monday.

In early September an IED strike on a convoy left at least 35 civilians dead, the governor of the Sahel region said at the time.

More than 40 percent of Burkina Faso, a former French colony, is outside government control.

Thousands have died and about two million have been displaced by the fighting since 2015 when the insurgency spread into Burkina Faso.

Much of the Sahel region is now battling the insurgency, which also spread to Niger. In recent years, the violence has begun to spill over into coastal states Ivory Coast and Togo.

"The deteriorating security situation in Burkina Faso and Mali has made the north of the coastal countries the new front line against armed groups operating in the Sahel," the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, a German think tank, said in a report in April.

French forces supported Mali against insurgents for nearly a decade, but President Emmanuel Macron decided to pull out after France and the Malian junta fell out in the wake of a military takeover. The last French troops from France's operation Barkhane left last month.

DRC Prepares Ground for EAC Troops as Kenya Set to Enter

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Kenya Defence Forces soldiers under Africa Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) patrol Kismayo town on November 22, 2015. The presence of Kenyan troops in Somalia requires the goodwill of the Somali people to effectively execute their mandate.

File | Nation Media Group

By PARTICK ILUNGA

What you need to know:

The Kenyan contingent will enter the DRC by tackling a hot zone in Bunagana, near the border with Uganda. The area has been under the M23 rebels since June 14 in the group’s renewed fighting after a long lull.

Congolese Defence Minister Gilbert Kabanda said that the “East African regional force has been deploying materials through Uganda since September 19 via the Kasindi border.”

The Democratic Republic of Congo says it is ready to welcome regional troops to start a planned operation against rebels who have caused civilians untold suffering.

The first contingent to arrive under this arrangement will be the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF), who have since last week been deploying their logistical support systems.

DRC President Félix Tshisekedi says Kenyan soldiers will "soon" arrive in the DRC as part of the East African Community regional force that will help DR Congo fight insecurity in North and South Kivu, and Ituri provinces.

“I told you that the force is being deployed. The Burundians are already there in South Kivu,” he said in New York, on Monday, where he has been attending the 77th UN General Assembly.

“For the Kenyans, in my opinion, it is a matter of days. They are going to enter via Bunagana, for your information. So, it's being deployed little by little, depending on the means. That is why we were here and why we made contacts; it was to sensitise donors to support this regional force.”

The Kenyan contingent will enter the DRC by tackling a hot zone in Bunagana, near the border with Uganda. The area has been under the M23 rebels since June 14 in the group’s renewed fighting after a long lull.

Congolese Defence Minister Gilbert Kabanda said that the “East African regional force has been deploying materials through Uganda since September 19 via the Kasindi border.”

The regional forces are expected to be made up of contingents from Uganda, Kenya, South Sudan and Tanzania. Burundian forces have already been deployed in Congo, in the province of South Kivu, since August 15, under an earlier bilateral arrangement that has since been accommodated in the EAC Concept of Operations (Conops).

Eastern DRC is infested with hundreds of local and foreign armed groups. The DRC, which joined the East African Community in May, hopes to defeat insecurity and terrorism in its eastern provinces. Only Rwanda will not deploy its troops due to a simmering diplomatic row in which Kinshasa has accused Kigali of supporting M23 rebels, allegations that Rwanda denies.

The troops will initially be deployed for six months but their task will also involve marketing their presence to be accepted by local civilians who recently protested against peacekeepers from the UN (Monusco) for failing to tame rebel massacres.

Monusco is supposed to start departing the country as African countries ask for more focus to be turned on rebuilding the Congolese army and other national institutions.

At the UN General Assembly, Félix Tshisekedi again accused Rwanda of supporting rebels, but his counterpart Paul Kagame said: “It is no use casting aspersions on anyone. These challenges are not insurmountable. We can find solutions. These solutions would be much less costly in financial and human terms. The international community can help us solve this problem.”

“It has been proven that regional or bilateral initiatives make a big difference, whether in the Central African Republic or in the successful engagement of Rwanda and the Southern African Development Community to contain violent extremism in northern Mozambique. If this approach were properly tested in the DRC, as proposed by the Nairobi process (peace talks between the Congolese government and armed groups), it would make a difference,” added the Rwandan head of state.

For Bertrand Bisimwa, chairman of the M23, the Congolese president has chosen war over dialogue.

“When President Tshisekedi ignores the easy dialogue with his own citizens to embrace the meanderings of war, which is costly in every way and whose outcome is unknown, is this responsible? Are his objectives really pacifist or populist or electoral?”

New IFC Podcast Promotes Women in Africa’s Renewable Energy Sector

Sponsored by International Finance Corporation (IFC)

With renewable energy forecast to play a growing role in Africa's energy future, IFC has launched a new podcast series to promote the role of women in the sector as senior executives, engineers and thought leaders.  

In the She Powers Africa podcast, host Terryanne Chebet, an entrepreneur and media specialist, speaks with leading women in Africa's renewable energy space to light the path for the next generation of African women leaders into the dynamic sector.

The first three episodes feature Jennifer Boca, Head of Environmental, Social and Governance at Lekela Power; Olaedo Osoka, CEO of Daystar Power in West Africa; and Carol Koech, the Country President for Schneider East Africa.

“This engaging podcast is ideal for women interested in working in the renewable energy sector and also for anyone concerned about climate change in Africa and curious about the practical solutions. Renewable energy is Africa's energy future – and ensuring more women are part of that future will enhance the sector’s success," said Anne Kabugi, IFC's Regional Gender Lead for Africa.

By 2040, renewable energy could account for more than 60 percent of new electricity generation in sub-Saharan Africa, excluding South Africa, according to the Africa Energy Outlook 2019 from the International Energy Agency.

But, despite the sector's importance, women lag behind men in leadership and technical jobs in the renewable energy sector and represent just one third of the renewable energy workforce in Africa, according to research conducted by IFC on women’s participation in Africa.s renewable energy sector.

The podcast is produced by IFC's Energy2Equal programme and its Women in Renewable Energy in Africa Network (W-REA), which both aim to enhance women's participation in the renewable energy sector. 

Uganda Rules Out Ebola Lockdown

Thursday, September 29, 2022

An outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus was announced by Uganda’s ministry of health on September 21, 2022. 

By AFP

Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni on Wednesday ruled out imposing a lockdown to contain the highly contagious Ebola virus, saying the country had the capacity to contain the outbreak. 

Authorities in the East African nation declared an outbreak in the central district of Mubende last week after the country reported its first fatality from the virus since 2019. 

Health workers prepare for an Ebola vaccination drive in Mbandaka, DR Congo.

The caseload stood at 24 with five confirmed deaths, Museveni told a televised press briefing. 

Some 19 people classified as probable cases had also died, he added, explaining that they were buried before they could be tested for infection. 

But the 78-year-old leader vowed not to cordon off the affected regions, saying the country was well-equipped to contain the virus. 

"We decided that we shall not have lockdowns. It is not necessary," Museveni said. 

"Government has capacity to control this outbreak as we have done before. There is no need for anxiety, no restrictions of movements, closure of schools places of worships, markets as of now."

Ebola is an often-fatal viral haemorrhagic fever. The disease is named after a river in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where it was discovered in 1976.

Human transmission is through body fluids, with the main symptoms being fever, vomiting, bleeding and diarrhoea.

Outbreaks are difficult to contain, especially in urban environments.

People who are infected do not become contagious until symptoms appear, which is after an incubation period of between two and 21 days.

Six health workers were receiving treatment after testing positive for Ebola following exposure to the first victim, Museveni said. 

At present there is no licensed medication to prevent or treat Ebola, although a range of experimental drugs are in development. 

Uganda, which shares a porous border with the DRC, has experienced several Ebola outbreaks, most recently in 2019 when at least five people died.

The DRC on Tuesday declared an end to an Ebola virus outbreak that emerged in eastern North Kivu province six weeks ago.

Only one case of the virus had been confirmed, according to the World Health Organization, making the DRC's Ebola outbreak its "least catastrophic". 

The worst epidemic in West Africa between 2013 and 2016 killed more than 11,300 alone. The DRC has had more than a dozen epidemics, the deadliest killing 2,280 people in 2020.

Kenya Heightens Ebola Surveillance at Border with Uganda

Ebola control at Uganda-Kenya border

Africa News with AFP

Following an outbreak of Ebola in the Ugandan town of Mubende, health authorities in the Kenyan frontier town of Busia have heightened surveillance in a bid to prevent the virus from spreading across the border.

Everyone passing through the border from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, South Sudan, and Uganda into Kenya now have to undergo screening at the border crossing.

‘So, what is happening is the taking of temperature after which the clients fill in a surveillance form. Basically they fill in their personal details like their name and contact details and where they started their journey from so that we can detect whether they are from any areas near the Mubende division of Uganda,’ said Dr Melsa Lutomia, Acting Chief Officer of Health Sanitation in the Busia County Government.

Precautionary measures

If a person’s body temperature were to exceed 37.8 celsius, they would be directed to a holding room at the border. If their temperature remained high, they would then be taken to an Ebola isolation centre at the local hospital.

But border officials say that despite having screened over 5,000 people since the first case of Ebola was reported in Uganda about two weeks ago, no one has had to go to the centre yet.

Truck driver, George Mwangi, was travelling from Kenya to Uganda.

‘I am afraid because I am heading to Uganda leaving my family back at home. If I get Ebola my family will suffer and I will not be able to see them. Because if I go to them, I will infect them. I will be put in quarantine and they will suffer,’ he said.

Local residents worried

There is heavy traffic at this border post, with many travelers and truck drivers passing through from neighbouring countries, and local residents in Busia are nervous

‘Many people cross through this border. People from Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania. I want to plead with the government to put strict measures in place. If they don't take serious measures here, we will be greatly affected. If we catch the disease we can spread it to other cities and many people will die,’ said Lucas Odongo.

So far, the screening seems to be working. Kenyan health officials said that there have been no cases of Ebola reported in the country, and the spread of the disease appears to be contained within Uganda.

Ugandan Military Helicopter Crashes in Eastern Congo

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — A Ugandan army spokesman confirmed Wednesday that the crash of one of the country’s military helicopters in eastern Congo.

The spokesman, Felix Kulayigye, told The Associated Press “we are still waiting” for more details about the crash earlier this week.

Uganda late last year deployed forces in eastern Congo to pursue rebels with the Allied Democratic Forces, or ADF, affiliated with the Islamic State group and accused of attacking civilians in Uganda and Congo.

Uganda is fighting the rebels with the blessing of Congolese authorities. The assault on the ADF has been described by Uganda as a joint effort with Congo after a series of bomb blasts in the Ugandan capital that were blamed on the rebels.

The ADF opposes the rule of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, a U.S. security ally who has been in power since 1986. Established in the early 1990s in Uganda, the ADF later was forced to flee into eastern Congo, where many rebel groups operate because Congo’s central government has limited control there.

Indigenous Groups, Activists Resist Congo’s Oil Block Plan

By WANJOHI KABUKURU

FILE - This Dec. 11, 2016, photo shows the Virunga National Park, taken from the rim of the crater of the Nyiragongo volcano and looking over the crater of another, extinct volcano, in North Kivu Province, in Congo. The auctioning of oil and gas blocks in Congo has stirred resistance and concern among local Indigenous communities worried about damage to their homes and large swaths of forest, according to a report released Thursday, Sept. 28, by several environmental groups. (Juergen Baetz/dpa via AP, File)

MOMBASA, Kenya (AP) — The auctioning of oil and gas blocks in Congo has stirred resistance and concern among local Indigenous communities worried about damage to their homes and large swaths of forest, according to a report released Thursday by several environmental groups.

In late July, the Congolese government put 30 oil and gas blocks in the country up for auction with 13 blocks crisscrossing through protected areas and national parks, causing uproar among environmentalists. The Congo Basin forest absorbs an extraordinary 1.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide — about 4% of global emissions — some of which would be released into the atmosphere if the areas are cleared for oil and gas drilling.

The report comes just days before Congo’s government is set to co-host with Egypt a meeting on climate change in the capital Kinshasa. That’s ahead of the United Nations’ climate summit in November in Egypt.

But concerns about the blocks extend well beyond the increase of greenhouse gas emissions, the report said.

Recent hostile relations between Congo and its neighbors, especially Rwanda, could escalate, as 18 of the proposed oil blocks are in borderlands shared by Congo, Rwanda and four other nations, it warned.

“Small communities of Indigenous peoples will inevitably be impacted,” added Tal Harris, a spokesperson for Greenpeace, which was part of the report. Harris said the Twa and Mbuti people would be especially at risk of waterborne diseases and pollution if the forests are transformed for drilling.

Many members of affected Indigenous groups in the area are strongly opposed to the oil and gas block auctions, the report said.

“What do the people stand to benefit from these 30 oil and gas concessions?” asked Simon Counsell, a spokesperson for Indigenous rights charity Survival International.

Counsell pointed to a new Congolese law passed a month before the oil and gas blocks auction which called for the rights of its Indigenous population, including the right to consultation, to be considered.

The Congolese government said the oil and gas block auctioning process “is in line” with development plans and government programs in the country.

“The auctioning process intends to scrupulously respect all Congolese laws and regulations, and adhere to the most rigorous international standards,” said Tosi Mpanu-Mpanu, senior climate negotiator for Congo and former chair of the Least Developed Countries group at U.N. climate negotiations.

The government also pledged that drilling will be conducted using methods that minimize environmental impacts.

The Congo Basin is known for massive reserves of cobalt, lithium and other minerals that, among other uses, are essential for renewable energy technologies such as batteries needed for solar panels. The country is the world’s largest cobalt producer. Congo’s government has previously defended the auctions by stressing the need to diversify the country’s cobalt-reliant economy.

Despite its wealth of minerals and biodiversity, Congo is one of the world’s poorest nations and part of a negotiating bloc of states at the United Nations that are the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Millions of people across Africa, particularly those in densely populated informal settlements outside of major cities, are vulnerable to weather extremes, such as drought, heat waves and flooding, according to the U.N.’s weather agency.

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Associated Press climate and environmental coverage receives support from several private foundations. See more about AP’s climate initiative here. The AP is solely responsible for all content. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Guinea Opens Trial over 2009 Army Massacre of Protesters


By BOUBACAR DIALLO

CONAKRY, Guinea (AP) — Guinea opened a landmark trial Wednesday exactly 13 years after a stadium massacre by the military left at least 157 protesters dead and dozens of women raped, with the country’s former coup leader Moussa “Dadis” Camara among those charged.

The court proceeding began a day after Camara and five more defendants were detained in the capital, Conakry, pending the outcome of the trial. Eleven men in total appeared in court on charges of murder and rape from the 2009 attacks.

Camara, who always wore military fatigues and a beret after he took power in a 2008 coup, was nearly unrecognizable in a white flowing boubou. He listened calmly as a court clerk read the long indictment aloud.

“Thirteen years later, let’s do everything possible to ensure that the horror of massacres does not happen again in Guinea,” Djibril Kouyate, the president of the Guinean National Bar Association, said during a speech at the trial’s opening. “Those who died will not speak again, but their bloodshed demands justice.”

Karim Ahmad Saad Khan, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, applauded the victims’ family members for their patience.

“September 28 has become a day of sadness,” he said. “We have the opportunity, you have created the space for September 28 to be a day of promise and hope.”

Security forces opened fire at demonstrators who had gathered at the stadium that day in 2009 to protest then-coup leader Camara’s plans to run for president. The junta said “uncontrolled” elements of the army carried out the rapes and killings. But a Human Rights Watch investigation found that Camara’s top aides were at the stadium and did nothing to stop the violence.

The international organization’s investigation said Camara’s red-bereted presidential guard surrounded the stadium where opposition supporters had gathered and blocked the exits. The troops entered and immediately opened fire with AK-47s as panicking demonstrators tried to flee. Many were crushed to death, while others were gunned down as they tried to scale the stadium’s walls.

Several months after the massacre, Camara survived an assassination attempt and then fled into exile in Burkina Faso. The man who shot him, Capt. Toumba Diakite, is among the defendants being held alongside Camara.

For years, Guinea’s government sought to prevent Camara’s return, fearing it could stoke political instability. However, another coup last year put a military junta in power that was more amenable to Camara’s repatriation.

He finally returned last year to Conakry, where he told supporters he had faith in the country’s justice system and was “fully prepared to tell my part of the truth.”

Elise Keppler, associate international justice director at Human Rights Watch, has said the trial’s opening is bringing “victims closer to much needed justice for the horrific crimes committed in the stadium.”

“The trial is an unprecedented step for justice for victims in Guinea, which should be accompanied by reforms to enable respect for rights and more prosecutions of abuses,” Keppler said last week. “The ICC Prosecutor’s office has played a vital role in spurring forward this landmark trial through its ongoing monitoring and frequent visits to Conakry, which it should continue.”

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Associated Press writer Krista Larson in Dakar, Senegal contributed.

Sudan Offers to Mediate in Tigray Conflict

Sudan Sovereign Council Member Gen Kabbashi receives EU envoy for Horn of Africa Annette Weber on Sept 27, 2022

September 27, 2022 (KHARTOUM) – Sudan expressed readiness to contribute to ongoing efforts to end the armed conflict in northern Ethiopia between the federal government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF)

The war in the border region of Tigray between the federal army and the TPLF resumed last August after a five-month of humanitarian truce amid growing international pressure to strike a political deal.

The warring parties had failed to agree on who is eligible to mediate the process. The government proposed the African Union while the TPLF said Kenya is well placed to broker the peace process.

But finally, the Tigray leader accepted the African mediation of the talks while Nairobi appointed former President Uhuru Kenyatta, as a special peace envoy to Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

On Tuesday, Sudan’s Sovereignty Council Member, Lt Gen Shams al-Din Kabbashi and the visiting European Union Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Annette Weber discussed the situation in Sudan and ways to end the Ethiopian conflict.

In a statement released after the meeting, the military-led council said that General Kabbashi told the visiting envoy that Sudan calls on the warring parties to join the negotiating table to reach a political solution for the conflict.

“In this respect, he stressed Sudan’s readiness of Sudan, as a chairman of IGAD and a neighbour, to contribute positively to the settlement of the conflict in the interest of regional stability,” further said the Sovereign Council.

The government in Sudan is in contact with both sides to prevent the exportation of the conflict to its territory. However, it is not clear if it has officially proposed its mediation to the two parties.

Also, the disagreement over the filling of the giant dam on the Blue Nile and the dispute of the Al-Fashaga border stripe disqualify Khartoum as a mediator.

Sudan hosts some 60,000 Ethiopian refugees who fled the war in Tigray after the eruption of armed clashes in November 2020.

(ST)

Sudanese Health Authorities Say Objection to Autopsy Unidentified Bodies May Cause Plague Outbreak

A security man stands guard outside Sudan's Attorney General headquarters, which is sprayed with a graffiti that reads in Arabic "retribution", in the capital Khartoum on 15 June 2020. AFP 

September 27, 2022 (KHARTOUM) – Sudanese health officials Monday expressed the urged need to autopsy over three thousand unidentified bodies piled up at Khartoum mortuaries, stressing the current situation may trigger a pandemic of plague disease.

The growing opposition to the burial of the unidentified bodies of protesters killed by the security after the collapse of the former triggered its postponement by the Public Prosecution on Sunday.

However, the move angered the forensic authority pointing out that the prosecution cannot contest the legitimacy of their decision and expressed fears that the bodies stacked in the Khartoum hospitals may cause an outbreak of plague disease.

“We stick to the autopsy of all unidentified bodies in accordance with the Red Cross protocol and not to leave them in this tragic situation,” Aqil Swar al-Dahab, the head of the Forensic Medicine Authority’s Advisory Board, stated in a press conference held on Monday.

Swar al-Dahab said that it was inappropriate for a legal body to revoke its decision.

The ban on autopsy resulted in the accumulation of around 3,500 bodies, compared to barely 200 bodies in 2019, he further added.

The security forces killed hundreds of Sudanese before the collapse of the al-Bashir regime. Also, the bloody repression continued before the signing of a political agreement with the political forces in August 2019 and resumed after the coup in October 2021.

The ruling military authorities say favourable for the investigation into the killing of peaceful protesters, but they are accused of being behind efforts to bury the victims and clear any evidence about their responsibility in this violence.

On Monday, the police authorities dispersed hundreds of demonstrators in Omdurman who protested the burial of the victims of enforced disappearance.

Two investigators, speaking told Sudan Tribune that they think that over 200 bodies of enforced disappearance victims are among the piled bodies.

Many of the piled bodies began to decompose due to the constant power outages and the loading of morgues beyond their capacity.

Pro-democracy groups including families of the missing, the Missing Persons Initiative, the Doctors Committee and resistance committees, renewed their rejection of the autopsy and burial of thousands of unidentified bodies.

(ST)

Sudan Officials Warn of Disease from Unidentified Bodies

People walk outside a hospital in Khartoum, Sudan, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022. Sudanese medical officials warned Monday that more than 1,500 unidentified bodies piled up in several of the country’s morgues could lead to an outbreak of disease, amid accusations the government is covering up their causes of death. (AP Photo/Marwan Ali)

CAIRO (AP) — Sudanese medical officials warned Monday that more than 1,500 unidentified bodies piled up in several of the country’s morgues could lead to an outbreak of disease, amid accusations the government is covering up their causes of death.

Among the deceased are believed to be pro-democracy protesters, who activists say were killed by government forces in their crackdown on demonstrations. They believe the failure to conduct proper autopsies is an attempt to conceal evidence of those killings.

Mahjoub Babaker, a forensic medicine and toxicology consultant for the country’s autopsy body, expressed concerns because of the proximity of one of the morgues to a market, saying the bodies “could spread a plague among local residents.”

At a press conference Monday, he and three other officials argued against the need to carry out independent autopsies, saying instead that there should be a mass burial of the bodies for public safety reasons. They announced a postponement of any autopsies in order to discuss matters with the deceased individuals’ families.

Reports of the backlog of bodies awaiting autopsy first emerged in May, with a news video released earlier this month showing piles of corpses and limbs kept in a building that appeared to have no refrigeration. Then, the country’s top public prosecutor authorized the mass burial of the bodies last month without an autopsy.

It came as the country faced an ongoing crackdown on anti-military protests after a military coup last year. In October, Sudan’s short-lived democratic transition was upended when the country’s leading general, Abdel-Fattah Burhan, deposed the government and locked up hundreds of officials and activists.

Pro-democracy groups and families of missing protesters have said the failure to conduct proper autopsies is an attempt to conceal evidence of the killing of hundreds of pro-democracy demonstrators by Sudanese armed forces following the 2019 popular uprising that ousted long-time ruler Omar al-Bashir. In June 2019, the Rapid Support Forces, a powerful armed paramilitary group, opened fire on a group of sit-in protesters in Khartoum, killing more than 100 people.

The prosecutor’s decision in May has sparked several demonstrations outside the morgues from pro-democracy groups.

On Sunday, the Sudanese Doctor’s Committee, which has tracked protester deaths and injuries since the coup, held a protest outside the prosecutors’ headquarters. In a statement, the group, called for all burials to be stopped until “a team of international, independent and reliable forensic medicine is retrieved, protecting the rights of the missing and their relatives, and seeking to reach the truth and achieve justice.”

Gicheru Death the Latest in a String of Unexplained Happenings

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Lawyer Paul Gicheru during the opening of his case at the ICC on February 15, 2022.

By Joseph Wangui Court Reporter

Nation Media Group

The death of lawyer Paul Gicheru has reawakened the ghosts of the 2007/2008 post-election violence and the International Criminal Court.

This is the latest death among several cases of persons of interest perishing in unclear circumstances and others living as fugitives.

The whereabouts of two Kenyans – journalist Walter Osapiri Barasa and Philip Kipkoech Bett alias "Kipseng'erya” – both wanted by The Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC) for interfering with witnesses –remain unknown. 

Though arrest warrants were issued by the ICC close to 10 years ago, the two Kenyans are yet to surrender to the authorities, and neither have they been extradited to the Netherlands to stand trial. However, they are still on the ICC’s radar.

Mr Barasa’s arrest warrant was unsealed on October 2, 2013 and Mr   Bett’s on September 10, 2015.

The journalist is wanted for allegedly being criminally responsible for three counts of offences against the administration of justice consisting of corruptly influencing or attempting to corruptly influence three ICC witnesses regarding the Kenyan cases. He allegedly committed the offences in Kampala, Uganda. 

Court papers indicate that he was the intermediary between the Office of the Prosecutor and Kenyan witnesses in the Kenya situation for the 2007/2008 post-election violence.

“The case remains in the pre-trial stage, pending the suspect’s arrest or voluntary appearance before the court. The ICC does not try individuals in their absence,” says the ICC on its website.

Mr Bett is wanted to face four counts and his case involves the charges against Mr Gicheru – corruptly influencing witnesses regarding cases from the situation in Kenya.

On December 11, 2020, ICC Pre-Trial Chamber A, composed of single Judge Reine Adélaïde Sophie Alapini-Gansou, severed the two cases against Mr Gicheru and Mr Bett after the former surrendered.

“Until Mr Bett is arrested and transferred to the seat of the court in The Hague, the case will remain in the pre-trial stage,” said the court.

Former ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda told the chamber that severing the charges was “necessary and advisable, in particular, to safeguard Mr Gicheru’s right to a fair and expeditious trial… Mr Bett is still at large and his whereabouts are unknown. I am also unaware of any intention on his part to surrender to the court."

In November 2017 the High Court in Kenya stopped the extradition of the suspects to The Hague-based court.

The request for their arrest was transmitted to the Cabinet secretary in the Ministry of Interior for execution, in accordance with Article 89 of the Rome Statute. 

The Cabinet secretary forwarded the request together with the accompanying documents to the High Court of Kenya, under cover of a letter dated October 9, 2013.

Learning of the impending arrest, Mr Bett and Mr Barasa petitioned the court to stop their extradition. They had also sought an order to compel the Inspector General of Police to provide them with security and protection against arrest by ICC agents.

Mr Gicheru, Mr Bett, and Mr Barasa were among 15 other suspects from various countries wanted by the court for criminal trial.

Mr Gicheru and Mr Bett were wanted for the crime of corruptly influencing six prosecution witnesses.

Mr Barasa was accused of trying to bribe a person he thought was an ICC prosecution witness in the case against President William Ruto.

During a seminar on arrests at the ICC headquarters in The Hague, Ms Bensouda said the court’s judicial machinery is likely to be frustrated and held in abeyance unless persons sought by the ICC are arrested and appear before the court.

“High-level political commitment and consistent diplomatic coordination between states and other actors is needed to address the arrest challenge. If (arrests) are left unaddressed, we will have negligible impact on specific or general deterrence and prevention of the world’s gravest crimes,” she said.

The former prosecutor added that ICC arrest warrants must not be cast aside as mere inconveniences in inter and intra-state politics, or traded away in the service of political expediency.

"From the moment the court’s judges issue an arrest warrant, responsibility for its execution falls on states parties, as the court's executive arm, alongside any other states that may be under an obligation to cooperate. Impunity and instability are closely interrelated. When an alleged perpetrator of Rome Statute crimes remains at large, he or she may continue to commit crimes,” stated Ms Bensouda.

She called for action, not only through vocal support and public statements, but also at the operational level.

“States parties and the Assembly of States Parties must take appropriate action in response to the court’s findings of non-compliance on failure to arrest and surrender ICC suspects. My Office will continue to pursue non-compliance findings under Article 87(7) of Rome Statute,” she added.

Kenyan Lawyer in ICC Case Linked to New President Found Dead

Kenyan lawyer Paul Gicheru appears before a pre-trial chamber, via video-link from the ICC detention center, before facing charges against him of bribing and threatening prosecution witnesses in the case against Kenya's recently elected President William Ruto, which was ultimately dropped amid allegations of witness interference, at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands on Nov. 6, 2020. Kenyan police say that Gicheru was found dead at his home late Monday, Sept. 26, 2022 though it was not immediately clear how he died. (International Criminal Court via AP)

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Police say a Kenyan lawyer facing charges at the International Criminal Court of bribing and threatening prosecution witnesses in a past ICC case against Kenya’s recently elected president has been found dead.

Paul Gicheru had pleaded not guilty earlier this year to all eight counts of interfering with witnesses in the case against William Ruto, who had been charged with involvement in violence after Kenya’s 2007 election that left more than 1,000 people dead.

A police report seen by The Associated Press said the family of the 50-year-old Gicheru found him unconscious at his home Monday night. “The body was found lying on the back, clean, casually dressed and no saliva or blood on any body opening,” the report says, noting that “the deceased is a known diabetic and high blood pressure patient.”

The police report noted that Gicheru’s 20-year-old son, who told his mother that Gicheru “had taken something,” was later found with “froth” coming from his mouth and difficulty breathing. He was in stable condition at a local hospital, the report said. It was not clear what happened.

In comments to reporters, family lawyer John Khaminwa said the family had described Gicheru as stressed in the hours before his death. “He was not himself,” Khaminwa said. The family intends to bring in pathologists to “look at his internal organs and other things,” he said.

The Kenya Human Rights Commission said it was “concerned with the shocking news of the untimely death” and urged a swift and conclusive investigation.

The charges against Ruto and others, including previous President Uhuru Kenyatta, were dropped in 2016 when the case fell apart amid allegations of witness interference. Ruto denied the allegations against him. The court’s decision to drop the case specified that it did “not preclude new prosecution in the future.”

Ruto was chairing his first Cabinet meeting on Tuesday after being sworn in on Sept. 13 following a narrow election win.

ICC spokesman Fadi El Abdallah said he could not comment on Gicheru’s case but only on the procedure to be followed: “If there is information about the death of an accused, a confirmation of this information should be submitted to the (trial) chamber and then the chamber issues a decision ending the case.”

Judges are currently considering their verdicts in the case. No date had been set for a hearing to deliver the judgment.

___

Associated Press writer Mike Corder in The Hague, Netherlands, contributed.

Defense: Evidence is Weak in Central African Republic ICC Trial

By MIKE CORDER

Mahamat Said Abdel Kani enters the court room of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, Monday, Sept. 26, 2022. The trial of an alleged commander in a mainly Muslim rebel group from Central African Republic opened and charged Said with crimes against humanity and war crimes. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong, Pool)

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — A defense lawyer for an alleged Central African Republic rebel told International Criminal Court judges Tuesday that prosecution evidence that led to him being charged with seven counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes is unreliable and “built on a biased and sketchy narrative.”

Lawyer Jennifer Naouri made her claims in her opening statement on the second day of the trial at the global court of Mahamat Said, an alleged senior leader of the predominantly Muslim Seleka rebel group that deposed then-President Francois Bozize in 2013.

Fighting in the capital, Bangui, between the Seleka rebels, who seized power from Bozize, and a mainly Christian militia called the anti-Balaka left thousands dead and displaced hundreds of thousands more.

Said, 52, entered a not guilty plea on Monday to charges including torture and persecution. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

Naouri told judges the evidence against her client could not be trusted.

“The prosecution has built its case on a biased and sketchy narrative very far from the reality of what actually happened in the Central African Republic at the time,” she said.

“The prosecution is bringing before this chamber incomplete evidence, evidence that has not been corroborated, evidence full of hearsay, evidence that has not been authenticated and that is lacking in reliability. Evidence that has come out of a poor investigation.”

Prosecutor Karim Khan on Monday said that Said should be found guilty for his alleged leadership role at a detention center in the capital, Bangui, called the Central Office for the Repression of Banditry, from April to August 2013. They said he and dozens of Seleka rebels allegedly held prisoners perceived as Bozize supporters in inhumane conditions and subjected them to torture and brutal interrogations including whipping and beating them with truncheons and rifle butts.

“This was no office to repress banditry. This was no location to assess any criminal conduct,” he said. “This was a torture center designed as such to spread terror, hardship and pain.”

But Naouri said that depiction was “completely disassociated from reality.” She insisted it was “a police station, a place where police officers work and where they carry out their duties, namely ensuring public order, enforcing the law.”

She also said that fighting in the mineral-rich but impoverished country at the time Said is alleged to have perpetrated crimes did not rise to the level of a war, meaning he could not be charged with war crimes, and that key elements underpinning crimes against humanity charges also were lacking from the prosecution case.

Ex-Nigerian Official Gets 5 Years for Pandemic Fraud in US

By GENE JOHNSON

SEATTLE (AP) — A former Nigerian government official was sentenced Monday to five years in prison for stealing more than $500,000 in pandemic relief benefits in the United States.

Abidemi Rufai was wearing a $10,000 watch and $35,000 gold chain when he was arrested at JFK International Airport in New York on his way to Nigeria in May 2021.

Rufai pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Tacoma, Washington, in May to wire fraud and aggravated identity theft charges, and Judge Benjamin Settle issued the sentence Monday. The judge also ordered Rufai to pay more than $600,000 in restitution.

Prosecutors said the 45-year-old had a history of defrauding the U.S. government, including using stolen identities to file for emergency relief after hurricanes in Texas and Florida.

“When disaster struck, so did Mr. Rufai,” Seattle U.S. Attorney Nick Brown said in a news release. “Whether it was hurricane disaster relief, small business loans, or COVID unemployment benefits, he stole aid that should have gone to disaster victims in the United States.”

Such fraud was rampant in pandemic relief programs, according to the U.S. Labor Department’s inspector general, who said last week that $45.6 billion may have been paid out improperly in unemployment insurance from March 2020 to April 2022.

The Justice Department filed charges against dozens of people in Minnesota last week in connection with a $250 million fraud scheme that exploited a federally funded child nutrition program during the pandemic.

Rufai, of Lekki, Nigeria, has a master’s degree and is politically connected in his home country, prosecutors said. He had purported to run a sports betting company since 2016, his finances were opaque and his main source of income apparently was defrauding the U.S. government.

He was known as a prolific political fundraiser, and in 2019, he ran unsuccessfully for Nigeria’s National Assembly, Assistant U.S. Attorneys Cindy Chang and Seth Wilkinson wrote in a sentencing memo.

Between April and October 2020, he use a cache of stolen identities — investigators found more than 20,000 of them, with birthdates and social security numbers in one of his email accounts — to file for pandemic-related benefits. He applied with the workforce agencies of at least nine states, including Washington’s Employment Security Department, in the names of at least 224 Americans.

Just after returning to Nigeria in August 2020, Rufai was appointed as a special aide to the governor of Nigeria’s Ogun State. He was featured in newsmagazines, photographed with a luxury Mercedes sport-utility vehicle he had purchased with stolen funds and had shipped to Nigeria.

Rufai later returned to the U.S., and on May 15, 2021 — just a day after prosecutors filed an amended complaint against him — he was arrested trying to leave the country on a business class flight. In recorded phone conversations from jail he discussed moving a large amount of money immediately following his arrest, prosecutors said.

Rufai apologized in a letter to the court, saying “my actions are outrageous and inexcusable.” He blamed them on a gambling addiction and pressure to provide for his wife and children.

“Your honor, I am now a rehabilitated man that is ready to live a crime-free life and also be a responsible man to my family and my community as a whole,” he wrote.

The defense requested a 2.5-year sentence, citing letters from supporters who wrote that Rufai had a charitable foundation that helped pay educational fees for primary students. The Justice Department sought nearly six years, saying a longer term was necessary in part to deter others who might commit similar crimes.

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

WTO Joins FIFA in African Project Despite Qatar Controversy

By GRAHAM DUNBAR

World Trade Organization Director General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala speaks at the Clinton Global Initiative, Monday, Sept. 19, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

GENEVA (AP) — The head of the World Trade Organization said Tuesday the benefits of working with FIFA to create more jobs in Africa outweighed concerns about the controversies around Qatar hosting soccer’s World Cup this year.

Qatar has faced fierce scrutiny and criticism for its treatment of migrant workers who were brought in over the past decade to build tens of billions of dollars’ worth of construction projects ahead of the tournament, which starts in November.

“Yes, maybe there have been controversies and we are not shying away from that,” WTO director-general Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said when hosting FIFA president Gianni Infantino at an event in Geneva.

The former Nigeria finance minister noted “no one has shut down the World Cup and said it’s not going to take place.”

“I think the balance of thinking is if we are going to have the whole world going to this place for this World Cup, no matter the controversies, and we have a chance to make this whole thing benefit poor countries through trade, we will take it,” Okonjo-Iweala said.

She acknowledged Qatar was a “very active” member of the WTO, before concluding the upside of its FIFA partnership was worth the risk.

The WTO and FIFA hope cotton-producing countries in west Africa can get a bigger share of trade and jobs in manufacturing for the global soccer industry.

Infantino and Okonjo-Iweala put the sport’s annual economic value at $268 billion — similar to the GDP of a top-50 nation like New Zealand.

“Football is a big mover in terms of all kinds of goods and services,” the WTO leader said. “How do we harness the trade part of it?”

She cited the “Cotton-4” group of nations — founded as Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mali — which could benefit from the partnership. None of the national teams in those countries ever qualified for a men’s World Cup.

“It could create so many jobs, so much income, lift up women, lift up young people,” Okonjo-Iweala said.

Infantino said one of FIFA’s goals was to “bring a lot of hope but also a lot of work and opportunities to many people around the world.”

He was asked by the event moderator about Qatar being a controversial choice as World Cup host.

“Thanks to the spotlight of football as well many things have changed in Qatar,” Infantino said, referencing workers’ and human rights.

A campaign launched last week by eight of the 13 European teams who qualified to play in Qatar aims to pressure FIFA into letting their captains wear armbands with a multi-colored, heart-shaped logo. It’s part of the Dutch project “One Love” that supports diversity and LGBT+ rights. Homosexual acts are illegal in Qatar, but the host nation has promised all visiting fans will be made welcome.

“Things have still to change but a process has started,” Infantino said about Qatar. “I am happy to take all the criticism of everyone for everything, doesn’t matter, as long we can have a little, little concrete and real positive impact.”

Monday, September 26, 2022

Ethiopian PM Says the Hand Stretched for Peace Not Yielding Results

September 26, 2022

“To teach the Ethiopian government about peace is like to teach fish how to swim or a bird how to fly,” Abiy Ahmed said in his Meskel Holiday message  

In this undated picture, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is posing for picture in his office. (source: Abiy Ahmed FB page)

Borkena 

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Monday conveyed a message on the occasion of the Meskel Holiday. It has now been customary for the Prime Minister to convey long messages on the occasions of religious holidays (Christian, Islamic or for the Oromo Waqe Fena religious tradition.) 

In his message today, he highlighted what his government has achieved in project execution, including in the third filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, and the reversal of, as he thinks, the drought situation and economic challenges.  

Setups attempted to weaken Ethiopia (unspecified but implied that from external forces) to weaken Ethiopia and put the country in “darkness,” as he put it, is reversed.  

He also seized the occasion to talk about the war – without revealing the state of the war and without mentioning the warring Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) by name. 

The message appears to be not only to Ethiopians but also to powers attempting to interfere in Ethiopian affairs by branding themselves as mediators while tacitly emboldening the TPLF. 

While maintaining a pacifist tone, the core of his message seems to reject pressure on Ethiopia and rhetoric about the importance of peace. 

He said that the Ethiopian government has done more than its share to ensure that the conflict is resolved peacefully. In that direction, he went further to the extent of demonstrating the circumstances under which the TPLF (again he did not call it by name) launched the third round of invasion and attacks against Ethiopian forces. 

“Our patience was mistaken for fear; our pursuit of peace was regarded as weakness and the third round of attack was opened against us,” he added. 

The Ethiopian government has paid the ultimate price for peace and no one has paid like the government of Ethiopia. However, he added, our effort for peace is not given due credit and the other party’s belligerence is not condemned as much as it should. 

In what appears to be a response to rhetoric by western powers,  he said “to teach the Ethiopian government about the importance of peace is like to teach a fish how to swim or a bird how to fly.” 

We are forced to embark on defence to ensure that Ethiopia’s existence is not ended, the disintegration of its people not happening and our children and grandchildren inherit a sovereign Ethiopia. 

He described the response after the failure of the peace initiative as an “effort to discharge historical responsibility and defend [Ethiopia’s] national interest.” 

Because the hand we stretched for peace is not yielding results, it is forced to hold a spear. 

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed also expressed optimism that the struggle this year will resolve Ethiopia’s challenges once and for all. 

It has been well over a month since the TPLF started the third round of war against Ethiopia on alleged grounds of breaking the siege. 

Although the TPLF has been claiming victories on multiple fronts, there are no clear signs of making military advances on all war fronts.

The Ethiopian government is not revealing the state of the war too. Not much is known as to what is gained and what is lost militarily. 

Meskel Bonfire Celebration Across Ethiopia

September 25, 2022

Ethiopians in the Diaspora in many North American cities and Europe have celebrated Meskel Demera on Sunday  

Meskel Celebration in Addis Ababa (Photo: file / 2019 from SM)

Borkena 

Ethiopian Christians belonging to the Ethiopian Church are celebrating Meskel – a religious holiday on Monday.  

Meskel Bonfire commemorates the discovery of the true cross on which the Lord Jesus Christ was crucified – according to the religious traditions in the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church.  

It is recognized by UNESCO as a world heritage. 

Despite security concerns due to the war in Northern Ethiopia and the Oromo radical nationalist group militant activity in many parts of the Oromo region of Ethiopia, the holiday ( it is also called Demera) will be celebrated on Monday. 

Ethiopia’s Security Task Force is claiming that it has got information about groups (unspecified) who are preparing to disrupt the celebration. 

The Task Force had a meeting with representatives of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church (including Abune Abraham) regarding the celebration. 

Abune Abraham reportedly called on the government to take measures against individuals or groups that are working to sabotage the celebration and tarnish the dignity of the church. 

Carrying unnecessary messages to the venue of the celebration in Addis Ababa, Meskel Square.  The task force has also banned any banner message that could incite violence. 

It said that it will take measures against those who are attempting to disrupt the celebration. It also called for the public to cooperate with deployed law enforcement bodies and report any suspicious activities. 

Ethiopian authorities have been making recurring arrests in the capital Addis Ababa in connection with security threats – according to law enforcement authorities. 

Part of the security arrangement for the holiday is the roads leading to Meskel Square are closed for vehicles. 

No Decisions Made to Close Borders, Impose Martial Law in Regions — Kremlin

So far, no decisions have been made on the issue

Russian Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov Sergei Bobylev/TASS

© Sergei Bobylev/TASS

MOSCOW, September 26. /TASS/. No decisions have been made to close the borders and introduce martial law in certain regions of Russia, Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the media on Monday.

"I don’t know anything about this. No decisions have been made for now," Peskov said, while answering questions about whether martial law would be introduced in certain border regions and if the borders would be closed there.

"No decisions have been made on this score so far," he remarked about the possibility of introducing martial law in some territories.

Also, he reacted to rumors "transport mobilization" was being considered.

"No, nothing of the kind has been declared," he said.

About the publication of lists of motor vehicles that might allegedly be taken away from their owners as part of the mobilization campaign, circulating on the social networks, Peskov said such rumors should be treated with utmost caution.

"One should be very cautious about all such lists, all such leaks, so called. Our adversaries and our enemies keep launching such rumors. Some hysterical people at home do that, too. One should be very, very cautious. There are far more fake news than truth about that," he stressed.

Counter-terrorist operation regime may be needed to counter Kiev terror attacks — lawmaker

Anatoly Vyborny noted that the decision to initiate a CTO is being made by the chief federal security executive, while the decision to carry out a special military operation is being made by the President

MOSCOW, September 26. /TASS/. A counter-terrorist operation (CTO) regime may be required in the new regions of Russia in order to counter Kiev terror attacks, says chairman of the Russian State Duma Committee on Security Anatoly Vyborny.

"A counter-terrorist operation regime may be required in the new regions of Russia in order to counter terror attacks from the Kiev authorities and the Ukrainian armed forces. A similar regime was introduced in the Republic of Chechnya and it ended with total cleanup of this region from terrorist groups," he said.

Vyborny noted that the decision to initiate a CTO is being made by the chief federal security executive, while the decision to carry out a special military operation is being made by the President.

Earlier, head of Crimea Sergey Aksyonov said that the special military operation in Ukraine will effectively become a counter-terrorist one once Donbass republics and Zaporozhye and Kherson Regions join Russia.

Senate committee head Bondarev files request to take part in special military operation

The senator noted that Bondarev came to the Federation Council in 2017, being a Russian Aerospace Forces Commander "and confirmed his office for a new five-year term earlier this week"

MOSCOW, September 26. /TASS/. Chairman of the Federation Council (upper chamber of the parliament) Committee on Defense and Security filed a request to Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu asking to return to the military service to take part in the special military operation in Ukraine, Federation council Deputy Speaker Yuri Vorobyov said Monday.

"Hero of Russia, Colonel General, Chairman of the Federation Council Committee on Defense and Security Viktor Bondarev filed a request to Russian Minister of Defense Sergey Shoigu asking to return to the military service in order to take part in the special military operation," Vorobyov said on his Telegram channel.

The senator noted that Bondarev came to the Federation Council in 2017, being a Russian Aerospace Forces Commander "and confirmed his office for a new five-year term earlier this week."

"I am proud of the step of my colleague and friend - a true patriot of Russia," Vorobyov added.

Putin Deeply Saddened by `Inhumane’ Terror Attack on Izhevsk School — Kremlin

On Monday morning, an unknown attacker opened fire in School 88 in Izhevsk, and committed suicide after the attack

© Gavriil Grigorov/POOL/TASS

MOSCOW, September 26. /TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin is deeply saddened by today’s inhumane act of terror in a school in Izhevsk, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

"The president expressed his deepest condolences to all those who lost their loved ones, their children in this tragic incident, and wished the soonest recovery to those wounded in the inhumane terrorist attack," Peskov said.

"Putin is deeply saddened by the death of people, children in the terrorist attack on the school seemingly committed by a member of a neo-Nazi group," he added.

According to Peskov, the Russian leader has already held telephone conversations with Alexander Brechalov, the leader of Udmurtia where Izhevsk is located, Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova, Health Minister Mikhail Murashko and Education Minister Sergey Kravtsov who has already departed for Izhevsk.

"All the necessary instructions have been given, and Emergencies Ministry planes with teams of doctors, psychologists, neurosurgeons and other experts on board have already been dispatched to Izhevsk. All the necessary social issues will be solved," the presidential spokesman concluded.

School shooting in Izhevsk

According to the latest reports, the death toll in school shooting in Izhevsk has risen to 13, including seven children. The incident also left 21 people, including 14 kids, wounded.

On Monday morning, an unknown attacker opened fire in School 88 in Izhevsk, and committed suicide after the attack. The investigators said the man was wearing a black T-shirt with Nazi symbols and a balaclava helmet. No documents were found on the criminal, who is currently being identified. A criminal case has been opened.

Twenty three people remain in Izhevsk hospitals after deadly shooting spree at school

The minister also stated that some of the wounded children would be transported to Moscow hospitals on Tuesday morning

© Stringer/TASS

MOSCOW, September 27. /TASS/. Twenty three people, including 21 children, remain in hospitals of the Russian city of Izhevsk, where a gunmen went on a deadly shooting spree at a local school on Monday, the Russian Health Ministry reported on its Telegram channel.

"Doctors of Izhevsk hospitals currently attend to 23 patients, including 21 children," the ministry stated citing Health Minister Mikhail Murashko as saying. "Twelve people are in an extremely severe condition, while the rest are in a medium-severe condition."

The minister also stated that some of the wounded children would be transported to Moscow hospitals on Tuesday morning after doctors conduct an extra medical examination of a number of hospitalized patients.

"An extra medical examination of the hospitalized patients would follow in the early hours of Tuesday. Some of them would be transported to Moscow today considering their current state of health," Murashko said.

On the morning of September 26, a shooting incident occurred at school No. 88 in Izhevsk, the Republic of Udmurtia. The tragedy left 17 dead and more than 20 wounded. The assailant committed a suicide. A criminal case was launched. Udmurtia has declared a three-day period of mourning.

According to a TASS correspondent, hundreds of people keep coming to the scene of the tragedy leaving flowers and toys near the entrance of the school and they also light candles.

Lights Out, Ovens Off: Europe Preps for Winter Energy Crisis

By DAVID McHUGH, JUSTIN SPIKE, KAREL JANICEK and VESELIN TOSHKOV

An employee pushes bread rolls into one of the gas heated ovens in the producing facility in Cafe Ernst in Neu Isenburg, Germany, Monday, Sept. 19, 2022. Andreas Schmitt, head of the local bakers' guild, said some small bakeries are contemplating giving up due to the energy crisis. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — As Europe heads into winter in the throes of an energy crisis, offices are getting chillier. Statues and historic buildings are going dark. Bakers who can’t afford to heat their ovens are talking about giving up, while fruit and vegetable growers face letting greenhouses stand idle.

In poorer eastern Europe, people are stocking up on firewood, while in wealthier Germany, the wait for an energy-saving heat pump can take half a year. And businesses don’t know how much more they can cut back.

“We can’t turn off the lights and make our guests sit in the dark,” said Richard Kovacs, business development manager for Hungarian burger chain Zing Burger. The restaurants already run the grills no more than necessary and use motion detectors to turn off lights in storage, with some stores facing a 750% increase in electricity bills since the beginning of the year.

With costs high and energy supplies tight, Europe is rolling out relief programs and plans to shake up electricity and natural gas markets as it prepares for rising energy use this winter. The question is whether it will be enough to avoid government-imposed rationing and rolling blackouts after Russia cut back natural gas needed to heat homes, run factories and generate electricity to a tenth of what it was before invading Ukraine.

Europe’s dependence on Russian energy has turned the war into an energy and economic crisis, with prices rising to record highs in recent months and fluctuating wildly.

In response, governments have worked hard to find new supplies and conserve energy, with gas storage facilities now 86% full ahead of the winter heating season — beating the goal of 80% by November. They have committed to lower gas use by 15%, meaning the Eiffel Tower will plunge into darkness over an hour earlier than normal while shops and buildings shut off lights at night or lower thermostats.

Europe’s ability to get through the winter may ultimately depend on how cold it is and what happens in China. Shutdowns aimed at halting the spread of COVID-19 have idled large parts of China’s economy and meant less competition for scarce energy supplies.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said this month that early preparations mean Europe’s biggest economy is “now in a position in which we can go bravely and courageously into this winter, in which our country will withstand this.”

“No one could have said that three, four, five months ago, or at the beginning of this year,” he added.

Even if there is gas this winter, high prices already are pushing people and businesses to use less and forcing some energy-intensive factories like glassmakers to close.

It’s a decision also facing fruit and vegetable growers in the Netherlands who are key to Europe’s winter food supply: shutter greenhouses or take a loss after costs skyrocketed for gas heating and electric light.

Bosch Growers, which grows green peppers and blackberries, has put up extra insulation, idled one greenhouse and experimented with lower temperatures. The cost? Smaller yields, blackberries taking longer to ripen, and potentially operating in the red to maintain customer relationships even at lower volumes.

“We want to stay on the market, not to ruin the reputation that we have developed over the years,” said Wouter van den Bosch, the sixth generation of his family to help run the business. “We are in survival mode.”

Kovacs, grower van den Bosch and bakers like Andreas Schmitt in Frankfurt, Germany, are facing the hard reality that conservation only goes so far.

Schmitt is heating fewer ovens at his 25 Cafe Ernst bakeries, running them longer to spare startup energy, narrowing his pastry selection to ensure ovens run full, and storing less dough to cut refrigeration costs. That might save 5-10% off an energy bill that is set to rise from 300,000 euros per year, to 1.1 million next year.

“It’s not going to shift the world,” he said. The bulk of his costs is “the energy required to get dough to bread, and that is a given quantity of energy.”

Schmitt, head of the local bakers’ guild, said some small bakeries are contemplating giving up. Government help will be key in the short term, he said, while a longer-term solution involves reforming energy markets themselves.

Europe is targeting both, though the spending required may be unsustainable. Nations have allocated 500 billion euros to ease high utility bills since September 2021, according to an analysis from the Bruegel think tank in Brussels, and they are bailing out utilities that can’t afford to buy gas to fulfill their contracts.

Governments have lined up additional gas supply from pipelines running to Norway and Azerbaijan and ramped up their purchase of expensive liquefied natural gas that comes by ship, largely from the U.S.

Natural gas prices

At the same time, the EU is weighing drastic interventions like taxing energy companies’ windfall profits and revamping electricity markets so natural gas costs play less of a role in determining power prices.

But as countries scramble to replace Russian fossil fuels and even reactivate polluting coal-fired power plants, environmentalists and the EU itself say renewables are the way out long term.

Neighbors in Madrid looking to cut electricity costs and aid the energy transition installed solar panels this month to supply their housing development after years of work.

“I have suddenly reduced my gas consumption by 40%, with very little use of three radiators strategically placed in the house,” neighbor Manuel Ruiz said.

Governments have dismissed Russia as an energy supplier but President Vladimir Putin still has leverage, analysts say. Some Russian gas is still flowing and a hard winter could undermine public support for Ukraine in some countries. There have already been protests in places like Czechia and Belgium.

“The market is very tight and every molecule counts,” said Agata Loskot-Strachota, senior fellow for energy policy at the Center for Eastern Studies in Warsaw. “This is the leverage that Putin still has — that Europe would have to face disappointed or impoverished societies.”

In Bulgaria, the poorest of the EU’s 27 members, surging energy costs are forcing families to cut extra spending ahead of winter to ensure there is enough money to buy food and medicine.

More than a quarter of Bulgaria’s 7 million people can’t afford to heat their home, according to EU statistics office Eurostat, the highest in the 27-nation bloc due to poorly insulated buildings and low incomes. Nearly half of households use firewood in winter as the cheapest and most accessible fuel, but rising demand and galloping inflation have driven prices above last year’s levels.

In the capital, Sofia, where almost half a million households have heating provided by central plants, many sought other options after a 40% price increase was announced.

Grigor Iliev, a 68-year-old retired bookkeeper, and his wife decided to cancel their central heating and buy a combined air conditioner-heating unit for their two-room apartment.

“It’s a costly device, but in the long run, we will recoup our investment,” he said.

Meanwhile, businesses are trying to stay afloat without alienating customers. Klara Aurell, owner of two Prague restaurants, said she’s done all she can to conserve energy.

“We use LED bulbs, we turn the lights off during the day, the heating is only when it gets really cold and we use it only in a limited way,” she said. “We also take measures to save water and use energy-efficient equipment. We can hardly do anything else. The only thing to remain is to increase prices. That’s how it is.”

The gourmet Babushka Artisanal Bakery in an affluent district of Budapest has had to raise prices by 10%. The bakery used less air conditioning despite Hungary’s hottest summer on record and is ensuring the ovens don’t run without bread inside.

While it has enough traffic to stay open for now, further jumps in energy costs could threaten its viability, owner Eszter Roboz said.

“A twofold increase in energy costs still fits into the operation of our business and into our calculations,” she said. “But in the case of a three- to fourfold increase, we will really need to think about whether we can continue this.”

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Spike reported from Budapest, Hungary; Janicek from Prague; and Toshkov from Sofia, Bulgaria. Videojournalist Irene Yagüe contributed from Madrid.