Saturday, April 30, 2022

Russian Aircraft Eliminate Five Ukrainian Ammo Depots, Over 200 Nationalists - Top Brass

Over 2,500 special motor vehicles, 2,678 tanks destroyed in Ukraine operation

© Sergei Bobylev/TAS

MOSCOW, April 30. /TASS/. Aircraft of the Russian Aerospace Forces struck five Ukrainian ammunition depots, eliminating over 200 nationalists, Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman Major-General Igor Konashenkov said on Saturday.

"Over the day, operational-tactical aircraft of the Russian Aerospace Forces struck two command posts, nine company-level strongholds and areas of amassed manpower and military equipment as well as five ammunition and fuel depots," the spokesman said. "More than 200 nationalists and 23 pieces of armored vehicles have been eliminated."

Konashenkov said that the missile and artillery troops struck 319 areas of the amassment of enemy manpower and military equipment, 12 command posts and two missile/artillery arms and ammunition depots.

Nearly 2,700 Ukrainian tanks and other armored vehicles as well as 2,503 special military motor vehicles have been eliminated since the start of Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine, Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman said.

"Overall, the following targets have been eliminated since the start of the special military operation: 2,678 tanks and other combat armored vehicles, <…> and 2,503 special military motor vehicles," the spokesman said.

Konashenkov added that 143 aircraft, 112 helicopters, 660 unmanned aerial vehicles, 279 surface-to-air missile systems, 308 multiple launch rocket systems, 1,196 field artillery guns and mortars had been taken out.

Russian air defense forces have shot down Ukraine’s Su-25 attack aircraft in the Kherson Region as well as 12 rockets of the Smerch multiple launch rocket system in the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), Konashenkov said.

"Russian air defense systems shot down a Su-25 belonging to the Ukrainian Air Force near Chervony Yar in the Kherson Region," the spokesman said.

According to Konashenkov, two Ukrainian unmanned aerial vehicles were destroyed over Vladimirovka and "12 rockets of the Smerch multiple launch rocket systems were intercepted near Kamenka in the Donetsk People’s Republic.".

Russian air-launched precision missiles struck 17 Ukrainian military sites, including five emplacements of artillery and multiple launch rocket systems, Major-General said.

"Air-launched precision missiles delivered strikes on 17 Ukrainian military targets during the day," Konashenkov said.

In particular, eight areas of the amassment of Ukrainian manpower and military equipment, five emplacements of artillery and multiple launch rocket systems, as well as two strongholds, were hit.

"Also, a command post and a storage facility with rocket and artillery weapons were destroyed near Pokrovskoye in the Dnepropetrovsk Region," he added.

25 Civilians Leave Mariupol’s Azovstal Plant

Among them six children under 14 years old

The Azovstal plant Petr Kovalev/TASS

© Petr Kovalev/TASS

NOVOAZOVSK, April 30. /TASS/. A group of civilians has left the Azovstal steel workshops in Mariupol, a TASS correspondent reported from the site on Saturday.

A total of 25 people, including six children under 14 years old, have come out.

Mariupol is the largest city of the Sea of Azov, one of the key metallurgical centers of Donbass and a seaport. Two major ironworks are located in the city - the Ilyich metal plant and Azovstal. The Azovmash engineering plant is also situated in Mariupol.

The battles for Mariupol erupted on February 25. By now, Ukrainian nationalist formations have been driven out of Mariupol’s residential areas. In mid-April, over 1,300 personnel belonging to the 36th Ukrainian marine infantry brigade laid down their arms at the Ilyich factory in Mariupol. Later, the city’s merchant port was fully cleared of Ukrainian troops and the hostages held there were released. Ukrainian nationalists remain holed up in Azovstal, blocked by Russian troops.

Russia to Invite Nuland to Commission Probing US Bio Lab Activity in Ukraine - Diplomat

An invitation is being prepared to be dispatched, Director of the Foreign Ministry’s Department for Non-Proliferation and Arms Control Vladimir Yermakov said

US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland AP Photo/Susan Walsh

© AP Photo/Susan Walsh

MOSCOW, April 30. /TASS/. Russia will send an invitation to some American officials, including Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, to a session of the parliamentary commission investigating the activity of US biological laboratories in Ukraine, Director of the Foreign Ministry’s Department for Non-Proliferation and Arms Control Vladimir Yermakov told TASS on Saturday.

"An invitation to American officials and representatives of companies who have relation to military biological activity being conducted in bio labs in Ukraine with the US assistance is being prepared to be dispatched. In particular, there are plans to call Senior Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland as one of the witnesses to a session of the parliamentary commission of the Russian Federal Assembly investigating such activity," the high-ranking Russian diplomat said.

Russia has resources to fulfil debt obligations, default is ruled out, regulator says

However, there are difficulties with payments, head of the Bank of Russia Elvira Nabiullina noted

MOSCOW, April 29. /TASS/. Russia’s Finance Ministry has all the resources to fulfill its obligations, any default is out of the question, head of the Bank of Russia Elvira Nabiullina said after a meeting of the Board of Directors of the regulator on Friday.

"Concerning the Finance’s Ministry’s obligations on debts, I would like to reiterate that the ministry has the resources, and economically, there can be no question of any default," she said.

However, Nabiullina admitted that there are difficulties with payments.

"I hope that all this will end up successfully," she added.

Earlier, IMF European Department Director Alfred Kammer said that the low level of Russian sovereign debt and market conditions reduce the risks for the Russian government in case of a possible technical default.

According to the data of the Russian Finance Ministry, as of February 1, 2022, Russia's external public debt amounted to $59.5 billion, including debt on external bond loans - $38.97 billion. In total, the Russian Federation has 15 active bond loans with maturity periods from 2022 to 2047.

South Africa Likely in New COVID Wave, Says Health Minister

By MOGOMOTSI MAGOME

A woman wearing a mask walks past a mural of former South Africa's president Nelson Mandela, in Katlehong, east of Johannesburg, South Africa, Friday, April 29, 2022. South Africa's health minister says it is likely the country has entered a new wave of COVID-19 earlier than expected as new infections and hospitalizations have risen rapidly over the past two weeks. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — South Africa has likely entered a new wave of COVID-19 earlier than expected as new infections and hospitalizations have risen rapidly over the past two weeks, the country’s health minister said on Friday.

The increase in new cases has been dominated by the BA.4 and BA.5 lineages of the omicron variant which dominated the country’s earlier wave of the virus.

“Whichever way you look at it, it does suggest that we may actually be entering the fifth wave much earlier,” Health Minister Joe Phaahla said Friday at a televised press briefing.

He said officials will be watching carefully over the next few days to determine if the increase is sustained which would confirm a new wave.

The country’s new infections are now several thousand per day, up from a few hundred a few weeks ago.

According to Phaahla, there was currently no information indicating the emergence of a new strain, which scientists had earlier suggested may drive the country’s fifth wave, expected during the country’s upcoming winter season from May into June.

“We have always been informed that when a new wave comes, it will be driven by a new variant, but at this stage we have not been alerted to a definite new variant except changes in the omicron,” said Phaahla.

Three South African provinces — Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and Western Cape — currently are accounting for 85% of new infections, with the positivity rate in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal above 20%, he said.

Hospitalizations from the new cases are increasing but are still relatively low, Dr. Waasila Jassat from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, said.

“We are starting to see a small rise in hospital admissions in the private and public sector,” said Jassat. “Since around the 17 of April, we are seeing a sharp increase in hospital admissions.”

South Africa has experienced the highest number of infections in Africa since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, accounting for more than a quarter of the continent’s 11.4 million cases.

More than 252,000 people in South Africa have died from the virus, but the numbers are considered to be much higher when considering the number of excess deaths recorded since the pandemic compared to the same periods before the pandemic.

Just over 44% of South Africa’s adult population has been vaccinated.

Kenya Honors Former President Kibaki With State Funeral

A military honour guard walks with the coffin of Kenya's former President Mwai Kibaki, at his state funeral in the capital Nairobi, Kenya Friday, April 29, 2022. Kenyans are paying their last respects to the former leader, whose death was announced last Friday, in a state funeral service that is attended by African leaders. (AP Photo/Brian Inganga)

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Kenyans paid their last respects to former President Mwai Kibaki in a state funeral service Friday that was attended by African leaders.

Kibaki, whose death was announced last Friday, has been praised by Kenya’s current leaders as a respected statesman. He was 90.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta in his tribute Friday called Kibaki “one of the greatest African statesmen of his generation” and recalled him as “a man of few words but a man of decisive action.”

Authorities declared Friday a public holiday in honor of Kibaki, who served two terms as president from 2002 to 2013. The presidents of Kenya, South Africa and South Sudan are among the dignitaries attending the state funeral in the capital, Nairobi.

Hundreds of Kenyans had stood by the roadside to watch a military procession escorting the hearse to the national stadium where thousands more had gathered since early morning.

“It is the second time I have seen something like this. It is sad but very colorful,” said Mercy Wairimu, a street vendor of sweets.

Kibaki will be buried on Saturday at his ancestral home in central Kenya.

Before becoming president in 2002, Kibaki had a distinguished career as a public servant. He had served as finance minister, vice president, and official leader of the opposition in the National Assembly. He was often seen as a gentleman in a country full of more aggressive politicians.

Kibaki’s reelection to a second term in 2007 put a dent in his reputation as his victory was disputed by his opponent, Raila Odinga. Odinga asserted that the election result had been rigged and that he had really won the poll.

Hundreds of people were killed in weeks of ethnic violence that followed.

Amid the stalemate, Kenya exploded into fighting along tribal lines that forced more than 600,000 people from their homes. The violence shattered Kenya’s standing as a beacon of stability in East Africa.

The international community led by former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan eventually brokered a fragile power-sharing deal between Kibaki and Odinga, who settled for a new role as Kenya’s prime minister.

In the wake of the violence, Kibaki oversaw a new constitution for Kenya that was aimed at decentralizing powers and reducing persistent ethnic tensions that continue to flare up during electoral seasons. The new constitution was praised as having some of the most progressive human rights provisions in the world.

UN Secretary General to Make West Africa Trip to Senegal, Niger, Nigeria

In this image provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres attend a joint news conference with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv, Ukraine, Thursday, April 28, 2022. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is heading to West Africa on Saturday to join Muslims marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan and to highlight the impact of the Ukraine war on the African continent, the U.N. announced Friday.

U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said the secretary-general will arrive in Senegal on Saturday evening, travel to Niger on Monday and to Nigeria on Tuesday and then return to New York.

The U.N. chief will share an Iftar dinner -- the meal breaking the Ramadan fast -- with President Macky Sall of Senegal, who assumed the presidency of the African Union earlier this year, Haq said.

Guterres will also take part in celebrations of the Eid al-Fitr holiday marking the end of Ramadan with Niger’s President Mohamed Bazoum, Haq said, and he is also scheduled to meet Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari.

In the three countries, the secretary-general also will meet civil society representatives, religious leaders and families affected by violence and instability in Africa’s Sahel region, including people internally displaced and refugees, the U.N. spokesman said.

Guterres will also see first-hand the impact of climate change on vulnerable communities, and will assess progress and challenges to the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, Haq said.

The secretary-general issued a report this month saying Russia’s war on Ukraine threatens to devastate the economies of many developing countries in Africa and elsewhere that are now facing even higher food and energy costs and increasingly difficult financial conditions.

Guterres began annual Ramadan solidarity visits in his previous job as the U.N. refugee chief but the tradition was interrupted by the pandemic.

UN Extends Libya Mission After US-Russia Clash

UNITED NATIONS— The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously Friday to extend the U.N. political mission in Libya for three months, with the United States and Britain accusing Russia of blocking a longer and more substantive mandate that would include promoting reconciliation of the country’s rival governments now claiming power.

Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said Moscow insisted on a three-month extension to pressure U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to urgently appoint a new special representative to head the mission, known as UNSMIL. The former U.N. special envoy, Jan Kubis, resigned on Nov. 23 after 10 months on the job.

Nebenzia said in the absence of a new envoy, the U.N. mission “has been unable to provide substantial support for the political process in Libya for more than six months.” He blamed some unidentified members of the Security Council who he claimed “are not ready to accept a scenario where UNSMIL is guided by an African representative,” saying their opposition is “non-constructive” and “a manifestation of neo-colonialism.”

Britain’s U.N. Ambassador Barbara Woodward, who oversaw negotiations on the resolution, said after the vote that “Russia has once again isolated itself by not joining consensus with the 14 other members of the council” who supported a one-year substantive mandate.

U.S. deputy ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis said a short mandate “severely complicates” the U.N.’s ability to recruit a new head of for the mission and “creates uncertainty for the Libyan people and their leaders over the Security Council’s commitment to Libya.”

DeLaurentis also criticized Russia for eliminating “critical language on reconciliation and security sector reform” which the council’s three African members were pushing to include in the resolution adopted Friday.

The oil-rich North African nation plunged into turmoil after a NATO-backed counter-revolution in 2011 toppled Pan-Africanist statesman Moammar Gadhafi, who was later killed at the aegis of the administration of then President Barack Obama. It then became divided between rival governments — one in the east, backed by military commander Khalifa Hifter, a longtime asset of the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and a U.N.-supported administration in the capital Tripoli. Each side is supported by different militias and foreign powers.

In April 2019, Hifter and his forces, backed by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, launched an offensive to try and capture Tripoli. His campaign collapsed after Turkey stepped up its military support of the U.N.-supported government with hundreds of troops and thousands of Syrian mercenaries. An October 2020 cease-fire agreement led to an agreement on a transitional government in early February 2021, and elections scheduled for last Dec. 24 which weren’t held.

The country’s east-based House of Representatives named a new prime minister, former interior minister Fathi Bashagha, to lead a new interim government in February. The lawmakers claimed the mandate of interim Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, who is based in the capital, Tripoli, expired when the election failed to take place. But Dbeibah insists he will remain prime minister until elections are held.

Week-long talks between the rival sides in the Egyptian capital ended on April 19 without an agreement on constitutional arrangements for elections.

After Kubis resigned, Guterres appointed American diplomat Stephanie Williams, a fluent Arabic speaker who served as deputy U.N. special representative in Libya from 2018-2020 as his special adviser and sent her to Tripoli. She oversaw the agreements on the cease-fire and transitional government and told reporters after the recent meeting of the rivals in Cairo that they agreed to reconvene in May.

U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq replied that he expects Williams, whose contract is set to expire, to continue in her role “until we have any further notice to give you.”

Gabon’s U.N. Ambassador Michel Biang read a statement on behalf of his country, Ghana and Kenya, saying the widening divisions in Libya are unfolding “at a crucial juncture” that demands unified Security Council action to make progress toward a sustainable peace “that the Libyan people are craving for.”

The three African council members called on Libya’s rival parties to settle their differences politically, “bearing in mind that the military option will not provide a sustainable solution to the root causes of this crisis.”

They denounced foreign interference in Libya, demanded the synchronized withdrawal of all foreign fighters and mercenaries, and called on the U.N., the African Union and international partners to support a national dialogue and reconciliation in the country.

Biang stressed that since the situation in Libya mainly affects the country’s African neighbors, Africans should be involved in the search for a solution and the next U.N. special envoy should be an African.

Norway’s deputy U.N. ambassador Trine Heimerback said the council’s failure to agree on a substantive mandate “not only sends an unfortunate signal to the Libyan people but also to the whole region,” stressing UNSMIL’s “pivotal role in supporting Libya’s political process” and contribution to the country’s stability.

For Many Migrants, the View of Rwanda is Often Far from Rosy

By IGNATIUS SSUUNA

April 28, 2022

Britain's Home Secretary Priti Patel, left, shakes hands with Rwanda's Minister of Foreign Affairs Vincent Biruta, right, after signing what the two countries called an "economic development partnership" in Kigali, Rwanda Thursday, April 14, 2022. Britain's Conservative government has struck a deal to send some asylum-seekers thousands of miles away to Rwanda, a move that British opposition politicians and refugee groups condemned as inhumane, unworkable and a waste of public money. (AP Photo/Muhizi Olivier)

KIGALI, Rwanda (AP) — Britain’s recent decision to send some migrants to Rwanda is questioned by several people resettled in this tiny East African country who say it is not a suitable refuge.

One Eritrean refugee who was deported from Israel to Rwanda in 2015 said he found the country “too difficult” and moved his family to South Sudan, which promised better economic opportunities than Rwanda even though it was gripped by civil war at the time.

Berhani, 35, who gave only his first name to avoid possible reprisals, said he knows many other Eritreans resettled in Rwanda who have since left to make new homes in neighboring African countries or in Europe.

Questions are swirling around the suitability of Rwanda as a shelter for migrants following Britain’s announcement earlier this month that it will send to Rwanda migrants arriving in the U.K. illegally as stowaways on trucks or small boats. Their asylum claims will be processed in Rwanda and, if successful, they will stay there.

The new policy is already being challenged in Britain’s courts by a rights group that says it is unlawful.

Rwanda already is home to more than 130,000 refugees from countries such as Burundi, Congo, Libya and Pakistan, Rwandan Foreign Affairs Minister Vincent Biruta told reporters after signing the agreement with British Home Secretary Priti Patel in Kigali, the Rwandan capital, on April 14.

The plan has been criticized by rights groups and others who say it is cruel, expensive and unworkable. The U.N. refugee agency has described it as “contrary to the letter and spirit of the Refugee Convention.”

And the view of some refugees who years ago were resettled in Rwanda against their wishes is often far from rosy.

Rwandan authorities in recent years have given asylum to hundreds of people seeking shelter as a result of arrangements with Israel, the African Union, the United Nations and others. Many were from Eritrea and Ethiopia, including a group that had languished for months in detention centers in Libya.

Rwanda’s agreement to take migrants that Britain deems illegal appears to ignore the country’s own challenges.

The small country has about 13 million people, making it the most densely populated in Africa. Competition for land and resources contributed to decades of ethnic and political tensions that culminated in the 1994 genocide in which more than 800,000 ethnic Tutsi and the moderate Hutu who tried to protect them were killed.

President Paul Kagame’s government has achieved significant economic progress since the genocide, but critics say it has come at the cost of political repression. Obedience to authorities is widely enforced, one reason Rwandan cities and towns are clean and among the most orderly anywhere in Africa. There is little political opposition.

Human Rights Watch has accused Rwandan authorities of targeting poor people in the arbitrary arrests of street vendors, sex workers, homeless people, suspected petty criminals and street children.

Some migrants who spoke to AP said they were frightened to be jobless in Rwanda and without opportunities to eke out a living.

Berhani, the refugee from Eritrea, said he ended up in the streets of Kigali looking for a job, dependent on friends for food and rent. “Life is difficult in Rwanda when you don’t have a job,” he said.

“Some of my friends have managed to go back to Europe. One of my relatives has settled in Canada,” said Berhani. “One day, hopefully, I will manage to join them in Canada.”

In the Gashora camp for refugees in Rwanda’s east, one man said he was one of hundreds of migrants sent from Libya who still plan to reach Europe.

“Many have left for Sweden already,” he said on condition of anonymity for his safety. He said he would leave “even if it means death,” saying refugees in the camp often don’t have adequate food and clothing.

But some migrants in Kigali appear to have settled in well.

Frezghi Alazar, an Eritrean who co-owns a bakery, said he is grateful Rwanda gave him a “chance to thrive over the last 10 years.”

He spoke of the country as a bastion of order. “When you have capital and you start a business, nobody will come and take your business,” he said. “You don’t need to bribe people here. There is security. So, there is some benefit in Rwanda.”

It remains unclear when the first migrants from Britain will arrive in Rwanda following the deal with the British government, which said the plan will discourage people from making dangerous attempts to cross the English Channel.

Rwandan authorities said the agreement would initially last for five years, with the British government paying 120 million pounds ($158 million) upfront to pay for housing and integrating the migrants. They have not said how they would deal with a possible influx when the program gets underway.

Plans to accommodate some of the migrants in a hostel in Kigali have upset a group of genocide survivors who have lived in the property for years. They spoke of short notice, raising the possibility of conflict with locals.

“The migrants will cause land conflict with the citizens and we must avoid this situation,” Frank Habineza, an opposition figure and lawmaker, told the AP.

Other critics raise tough questions, including what becomes of migrants who fail to qualify for refugee status in Rwanda.

“Will Rwanda transport them to (their) home countries?” said Tom Mulisa, a Kigali-based lawyer and human rights researcher. “Resettlement of migrants who fail the refugee status criteria should be (carefully considered). The responsibility lies to the host state in case they fail to pass the threshold of asylum-seeking.”

___

Associated Press journalist Rodney Muhumuza in Kampala, Uganda, contributed to this report.

Friday, April 29, 2022

Women Forerunners Leading the Fight Against Misinformation

wendimagegn — April 28, 2022 

War and conflicts bring what many commonly call unfortunate consequences to communities living around conflict-ridden areas and beyond. The human cost of war is staggering. But sometimes the human casualties and suffering deliberately caused by warring parties go deep down and unnoticed most of the time.

Surely and usually, women find themselves caught up in devastating crises and conflicts. Best by myriads and pressing socio-economic challenges and targeted by warring parties, women appear to be the number one victims of war bearing unbearable trauma that would last for a long time. Past conflicts showcase women being the target of aggressors as the latter used rape, abduction, and exploitation as a weapon of war in many instances.

Though having a limited role in instigating conflicts, women are the most to suffer in wars. The mayhem and the plight African women have to endure appear to be more severe during war times. African women have agonizing burdens at normal times even. From Boko-Haram to the TPLF criminal enterprise, many violent and extremist groups instigate horrific physical and mental injury against women including underage girls.

In Ethiopia, women have been going through the same horrors due to the immoral and inhumane acts of the terrorist TPLF group. The atrocities committed by the group on women and girls are largely undocumented, but few stories have shed light on the physical and mental abuses TPLF caused against women in Afar and Amhara states.

Just to mention a few, Amnesty International`s (AI) previous report laid bare the horrendous crimes perpetrated against girls and women by the TPLF rogue element.

According to AI survivors described being raped at gunpoint, robbed, and subjected to physical and verbal assaults by TPLF fighters, who also destroyed and looted medical facilities in the town. Fourteen of the 16 women Amnesty International interviewed said they were gang-raped.

The TPLF took control of Nifas Mewcha, in Amhara`s Gaint District, for nine days between 12 and 21 August 2021, as part of an ongoing offensive into parts of the Amhara and Afar regions. Regional government officials told Amnesty that more than 70 women reported to authorities that they were raped in Nifas Mewcha during this period.

The testimonies we heard from survivors describe despicable acts by TPLF fighters that amount to war crimes, and potentially crimes against humanity. They defy morality or any iota of humanity, said Agn├Ęs Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary-General.

TPLF fighters must immediately stop all human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law, including sexual and gender-based violence. The leadership must make clear that such abuses will not be tolerated and remove suspected perpetrators from their ranks..

Amnesty International used secure video call applications to individually interview 16 survivors of sexual and gender-based violence in Nifas Mewcha.

The organization also interviewed the head of Nifas Mewcha hospital, as well as local and regional government officials with knowledge of the assault and its aftermath.

According to a local government desk officer for Women, Children, and Youth Affairs, 71 women reported that they were raped by TPLF fighters during the period in question; the Federal Ministry of Justice puts the number at 73.

Survivors told Amnesty International that the attack began as soon as the TPLF took control of the town on 12 August 2021. The women all identified the perpetrators as TPLF fighters based on their accents and the ethnic slurs they used against victims, as well as their overt announcements that they were TPLF.

TPLF fighters also subjected the women to degrading ethnic slurs, such as donkey Amhara, and greedy Amhara. In some cases, the TPLF forces told women they were raping them in revenge for the raped Tigrayan women by Federal forces. Amnesty International previously documented widespread rape and sexual violence by government-allied troops and militias in Tigray.

Amnesty International heard that, after raping the women, TPLF fighters then looted their homes. Survivors, many of whom live hand-to-mouth by working in low-paid and informal jobs, running small businesses, or engaging in sex work, described fighters stealing food, jewelry, cash, and mobile phones.

Amnesty’s testimony is only the tip of the iceberg. TPLF and its henchmen have been causing excruciating pain to girls and women. Millions of women have continued to suffer at the hands of the ragtag group. The actions have gone largely unpunished, even worse unnoticed.

Despite the gruesome tragedies though, the tsunami of misinformation and media propaganda has been adding an insult to the injuries of women victims. The trend has been exonerating the criminals and criminalizing the innocents making the path to accountability rocky.

But again, in spite of the harrowing stories, courageous women are standing up against the abusers fighting disinformation and injustice waged on Ethiopia. Hermela Aregawi, Blen Mamo, Bethlehem Tekeste and foreigners like Ann Garrison have been at the forefront in combating misinformation.

These brave women have been leading campaigns and providing unvarnished truth to the international communities who have largely been either mystified or mute on the criminal activities of the TPLF clique. From staging street campaigns to starting social media campaigns, Ethiopian women at home and abroad have been fighting injustice using whatever means they have.

Nowadays many more girls are joining these women and standing up for common cause despite having different backgrounds.

Most importantly, these women have been lifting the lead on the atrocities TPLF committed against girls and women while battling the hybrid war waged on Ethiopia. Their efforts have brought people together and awakened communities though most of the voices fell on the deaf ears of the international community.

Losing the fighting on the ground, remnants of the TPLF clique has taken the battle to the media frontiers unleashing information war. The war is meant to besmirch the successful law enforcement operation. They are furious that their paymasters have been brought to demise.

The information wars both waged in and outside by internal and external forces are meant to beg sympathy from the international communities and blacken the decisive victory Ethiopians triumphed over the divisive and hate mongering force.

In fact, fighting misinformation and disinformation does not rest on the government only, the Ethiopian people particularly those residing overseas should give the true picture of the law enforcement operation to the international communities. Availing rightful information timely and through all channels should receive due attention to counter fight the proliferation of fake news.

In general, girls and women are rarely mere passive victims of conflict, yet they have been at the heart of peace movements ending conflicts and healing communities. In this regard, other women regardless of their status and profession should join the forerunners to turn the tide on information warfare and champion the truth.

BY BETELHEM BEDLU

THE ETHIOPIAN HERALD THURSDAY 28 APRIL

Churches Burned in Silte Zone of South Ethiopia, at Least Three Killed

April 29, 2022

Security forces in the Silte zone reportedly failed to stop the attacks on churches and the killings of Christians

Borkena 

A day after the tragic incident in Gondar where a reportedly escalated clash between two individuals from Islamic faith and Orthodox Church followers claimed 14 lives, according to the government, at least three churches were blazed with fire. 

According to EOTV church TV, the perpetrators were what it called radicals [apparently from Islamic faith]. They broke into Rufael Church in Worabe , and vandalised it before they set it on fire.  They also burned St. Gabriel and two other churches. 

Apart from the burned churches, at least three people are reportedly killed from the church. The Diocese of Silete sent a letter to the Ethiopian Orthodox Patriarchate on Friday with a message to request the government to  provide protection to the remaining churches in the Diocese and the followers of the Orthodox Church.  

Protestant places of worship in the same locality were also attacked. 

The Inter-Religious Council of Ethiopia on Friday said the destruction of churches and other  places of worship in the Silte zone of Southern Ethiopia as a pure criminal activity. It is unacceptable in any religion, it added. 

His Holiness Abune Mathias, patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church , released a statemen expressing his sadness over what has transpired in Gondar and the Silete Zone of South Ethiopia. 

He described it as something embarrassing for Ethiopians in the face of the world.  Saying that  “Fire could not be put out with fire,”  he pleaded for restraint.  

His Holiness also called for religious leaders to diligently work on shaping the generation. His message for the government is that it has to deliver on the responsibility that it took from people and from God. 

“My heart and mind has been in pain because of the horrifying things that have happened in Ethiopia,” he said.  He called for the restoration of peace. 

The Ethiopian government was warning that any attempt to spread religious violence in different parts of Ethiopia will not be tolerated. 

Government is claiming that it has controlled moves to instigate similar attacks on churches in other parts of the country.

Ethiopia Arrested 280 Suspects in Connection with Gondar Incident

April 28, 2022

Ethiopian Islamic Affairs Supreme Council said over 20 were killed in what it described as “terrorist attack from radical Orthodox followers.”  

Ethiopian Islamic Affairs Supreme Council leaders during a press statement on April 28, 2022 (Photo : EIASC)

Borkena

Ethiopia’s Federal Intelligence and Security Task Force on Thursday announced that it has arrested 280 suspects in connection with the incident in Gondar which happened on Tuesday this week. 

The Taskforce depicted the arrest as part of a move to take measures against those whom it described “as working to help anti-Ethiopian forces” under the cover of the religion. 

Suspects were, according to the Task Force, involved in the violence and attempted to aggravate it. And there were plans to launch an attack targeting religious institutions and individuals with the aim to broaden the scope of the violence

It said, in a statement sent to state-affiliated media, there have been moves to instigate religious violence in different parts of the country with the pretext of the incident that happened in a funeral place in the central Gondar zone that involved Christians and Muslims.  The goal was to cater to the interests of ant-Ethiopian forces. 

“Those forces whose attempt to bring about a crisis failed due to the age-old shared values have been playing religion as a playing card in order to incite discord that could lead to violence between followers of different faith groups,” the task force claimed. 

Furthermore, it said that anti-Ethiopian forces, internal and external, had attempted to instigate ethnic-based hate and spread it to plunge the country into crisis. 

The task force is also claiming to have adequate information about those who are working from behind, including those who are using social media vying for more violence in many other parts of Ethiopia, and that it will continue to take measures. 

The statement also recalled that there is a legal provision to hold those who are spreading false information on social media responsible. 

The Ethiopian Islamic Affairs Supreme Council on Thursday called for the submission of information (photographic, audio, or video) on the attack in Gondar. The council announced on its social media page that it has formed a task force, and those with information could forward the same body. 

The statement from Ethiopian Islamic Affairs Supreme Council shared on social media on Thursday, takes a different look at the same incident. 

Unlike the security task force, the Ethiopian Islamic Affairs Supreme Council made claims that the perpetrators of the attack were radical Orthodox Church followers.  

And it said that over 20 Muslims have become martyrs and hundreds have been wounded.  The statement did not talk about those killed from the other side. 

From social media conversations, the incident in Gondar shook Ethiopians to the core. 

The National Movement of Amhara (NaMA) and Ethiopian Citizens For Social Justice Party, both opposition parties represented with a single ministerial appointment in the Federal cabinet, asked the government to investigate the Gondar incident and bring the perpetrators to justice. 

Sudanese Army, RSF Clash in West Darfur Capital

West Darfur governor (L) flanked with Sudanese army generals at the Geneina Airport to welcome a Sovereign Council delegation on April 27, 2022

April 27, 2022 (KHARTOUM) – The militias of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) clashed with the Sudanese army in the capital of West Darfur, Geneina, on Wednesday as the central government deployed more troops to restore security in the troubled state.

On April 25, the Security and Defence Council took a series of decisions to control the chronic tribal violence in West Darfur and decided to dispatch military reinforcements to prevent further escalation as elements of the RSF and the former rebels were involved in the clashes that left 201 people dead.

Eyewitnesses told the Sudan Tribune that a newly deployed military force in the state capital opened fire on an unmarked RSF vehicle that refused to stop at a security checkpoint in Geneina, killing one person and seriously wounding another.

The sources confirmed that after the incident, the RSF carried out a massive attack on the security checkpoints that the military services had set up in order to control the security situation.

“These attackers did not spare even the Sudanese-Chadian joint forces,” he added.

A senior official in the West Darfur government told the Sudan Tribune that the central government officially decided to replace all the security forces in the state including the RSF with soldiers from other Sudanese regions.

“Troops from the 5th Infantry Division in North Kordofan State started to arrive in the state. This force will deal firmly with the troublemakers, including RSF and the armed movements, alike” he added.

The military rulers ignored a request of the West Darfur government to replace the RSF with other forces from outside the state. The RSF troops in West Darfur belong to the Arab tribes in the area.

Recent developments, however, forced the Sudanese government to take this decision after the release of videos and photos on social media showing RSF personnel participating in the fighting and attacks on defenceless civilians.

Mohamed Hamadan Daglo “Hemetti”, Deputy Chairman of the Sovereign Council and RSF Commander admitted the state’s failure to deal with the bloody attacks in West Darfur and announced the formation of a commission of inquiry headed by the attorney general.

When addressing a Ramadan Iftar in Khartoum, Hemetti said that all parties involved in the events in West Darfur are “victims of malicious plans prepared and implemented by parties hostile to Sudan”.

He vowed to impose the “most severe penalties” on the perpetrators of these attacks once the investigation committee identified them.

(ST)

Zimbabwe Youth League Nominates 40

29 APRIL 2022

The Herald (Harare)

By Joseph Madzimure

ZANU PF has released names of 40 Youth League members who sailed through at the just-ended provincial elective nominations.

Four members from each province were nominated ahead of the Youth League's 7th elective conference set for May this year.

The last elective conference was held in 2014.

Positions to be contested are for Youth League deputy secretary and below, and all contestants should be 35-years-old and below.

President Mnangagwa will appoint the Youth League secretary.

The elections were held successfully under the supervision of the commissariat department.

Zanu PF acting deputy Secretary for Youth Affairs Cde Tendai Chirau announced the results saying those elected should commit themselves to serve the party and represent the interest of the youth.

Cde Chirau was flanked by director responsible for mobilisation and elections in the Commissariat department Cde Jethro Mudzingwa, and director Youth Affairs Cde Blessed Ziome.

The incoming National Youth league executive will be composed of the 40 nominees.

Out of the 40 nominees, twelve are female candidates who sail through and are eligible to contest for any position of their choice in the national executive council next week.

In Bulawayo, Cdes Chibanda Zonde, Garikai Paradzai, Mtutsa Munashe Tawanda, Chinamano Linda, Thabo Thwala were nominated to represent their province at the 7th elective Conference.

Cdes Chiwetu Tendai, Gapa Luckmore, Kandishaya Taurai, Tawomhera Tsitsi will represent Harare province.

Perennial contestant Cde Mambondiani Danmore together with Cdes Mabika Munashe, Mutomba Blessing and Mukoko Phillipa will represent Manicaland province.

Mashonaland Central will be represented by Cdes Makumbe Tsungai, Mbungo Macdonald, Pinduka Tendai and Murungweni Abigail.

The son of the late national hero Cde Joel Big Matiza, Joel Batsirai together with Cdes Mudowo Tawanda, Beatrice Kamuche, Nyerere Margaret sailed through in Mashonaland East.

Cdes Marima Shepherd, Makonza Valeria, Mananzva Kudakwashe, Zvandaziva Onisimo in the hotly contested Mashonaland West province.

The recently elected Masvingo provincial youth chairman Cde Paradza John together with Cdes Maunganidze Naledi Lindarose, Chauke Calvin and Dhanzi Auxicilia won in Masvingo.

In Matabeleland North, Cdes Ncube Thubelihle Duke, Mhlanga Future, Ndlovu Sikhangezile and Ndlovu Olman sailed through.

Cdes Dube Innocent, Ndlovu Admire, Ndlovu Charity and Moyo Vusumuzi won in Matabeleland South.

In Midlands, Cdes Makombe Phinias, Topotsa Nomater, Chishumba Patience and Manjonjo Vusumuzi sail through.

More than 130 contested for the 40 posts, a sign of democracy in the ruling party Zanu PF.

Cde Chirau said that the nominees are required to submit their CVs for their preferred positions in accordance with their rankings by Saturday this week.

"We are now calling 40 provincial nominees to submit their CVs for their preferred positions in accordance with their rankings by Saturday April 30 2022.

"All these 40 are national executive members, but they do not know the positions they have in the national executive, so they must submit their CVs and the channel will be communicated. No members will be allowed to contest for posts they have not applied for" said Cde Chirau.

Details on the submission of CVs, Cde Chirau said will be communicated through the usual channels or platforms.

The number of delegates expected to attend the 7th Youth League conference has been reduced to 2 500 from 4 000.

Some foreign delegates from other sister liberation parties are also expected to attend the occasion.

On the preparations of the Youth League National Conference, he said they are ongoing well as planned.

The conference will be held in Harare at the Harare International Conference Centre.

Africa Sees Rise in Measles as Pandemic Disrupts Vaccines

By RODNEY MUHUMUZA

April 28, 2022

FILE - A baby receives a polio vaccine during the Malawi Polio Vaccination Campaign Launch in Lilongwe, Malawi, on March 20, 2022. The World Health Organization said on Thursday, April 28, 2022 that Africa is seeing a surge of outbreaks of preventable diseases as a result of disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Thoko Chikondi, File)

KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — Africa is seeing a surge of outbreaks of preventable diseases as a result of disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the World Health Organization said on Thursday.

The continent recorded a 400% increase in measles, to more than 17,000 cases between January and March, compared to the same period last year, Dr. Benido Impouma, a WHO expert in Africa, told a press briefing.

Two years of disruptions by the coronavirus pandemic have had “major effects on the provision of routine health services, with immunization being seriously affected” in many countries, he said.

Twenty-four countries confirmed outbreaks of polio last year, four times more than in 2020. Last year 13 countries reported new outbreaks of yellow fever, rising from nine in 2020 and three in 2019, according to WHO figures.

“The rise in outbreaks of other vaccine-preventable diseases is a warning sign,” Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO regional director for Africa, said in a statement. “As Africa works hard to defeat COVID-19, we must not forget other health threats. Health systems could be severely strained not only by COVID-19 but by other diseases.”

The continent of 1.3 billion people has reported 11.4 million COVID-19 cases, including 252,000 deaths, according to figures from the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Although the virus had been trending downwards since January, the WHO reported a rise in cases Thursday driven by a doubling of infection rates in South Africa, the African country most affected by the pandemic.

Impouma, the WHO official, said that in the wake of the pandemic the agency seeks to support countries to scale up COVID-19 vaccinations as well as routine immunization services.

“The same is true for routine immunization as for COVID,” said Helen Rees, executive director of a reproductive health and HIV institute at South Africa’s University of the Witwatersrand. “There is the direct health ... problem, but there’s this spinoff in terms of adversely affecting poor development and contributing to poverty, which is absolutely critical for our region.”

Mali Accuses France of Spying After Drone Video

By AFP

Apr 27, 2022 06:09 PM

Mali on Tuesday accused the French army of "spying" and "subversion" when it used a drone to film what France alleged was mercenaries burying bodies near a military base.

The drone "illegally" flew over the Gossi base on April 20, the day after French forces handed the site back to Mali, the junta said in a statement.

The following day, the French army shared a video it said showed Russian mercenaries covering bodies with sand to falsely accuse the departing troops of war crimes. 

Earlier on Tuesday, Mali's military announced an inquiry into the discovery of a mass grave at the Gossi base.

The army said it found the grave the day after the images were published, and claimed the bodies' advanced stage of putrefaction ruled out Malian soldiers' responsibility. It subsequently accused France of spying and attempting to sully the reputation of Malian forces with the drone-filmed video.

"The said drone was present... to spy on our brave FAMa [Malian armed forces]," government spokesperson Abdoulaye Maiga said. "In addition to the spying, French forces were guilty of subversion by publishing false images worked up to accuse the FAMa of responsibility for killing civilians, with the aim of tarnishing their image."

Bamako said "foreign aircraft, notably operated by French forces" had deliberately violated Malian airspace more than 50 times since the start of 2022.

France, Mali's former colonial power, is winding down its almost decade-long, anti-jihadist military operation in the West African state. 

But in February, it decided to pull out its troops after falling out with the military junta.

AFP

‘NATO Should Protect Taiwan?’ UK Foreign Secretary in Imperial Dream Again: Global Times Editorial

By Global Times

Apr 29, 2022 01:12 AM

British Foreign Secretary Elizabeth Truss Photo: AFP

Liz Truss, UK Foreign Secretary, delivered what the Financial Times described as a "hawkish set-piece" speech at a banquet in London on Wednesday. Her target was China. She said "NATO must have a global outlook," and "needs to preempt threats in the Indo-Pacific." Then she bluntly pointed out that they "must ensure that democracies like Taiwan are able to defend themselves." It's fair to say that Truss' remarks are the most blatant and ambitious statements among those made by US and Western politicians for a while about "the globalization of NATO." 

It's reported that Truss' remarks came as NATO members were discussing the bloc's new "strategic concept." There is a fierce debate among NATO countries over how much emphasis should be placed on the "security threat" posed by China in the Indo-Pacific region. On the same day, the US Indo-Pacific Commander said that NATO is a "pretty good model" for the Indo-Pacific region, for those nations that value freedom. People have become very familiar with such pattern of the US and the UK echoing each other. 

Since the outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, some politicians in the US and the West have been constantly distorting facts, deliberately linking the Russia-Ukraine conflict to the Taiwan question in an attempt to play the "Taiwan card" to contain China. Truss took advantage of the Ukraine crisis to hype the "China threat" as early as before the conflict broke out. She "warned" that China could use the Russia-Ukraine conflict as an opportunity to launch aggression of its own in the Indo-Pacific. Even former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating harshly criticized her as being "demented" and suffering "illusions of grandeur."  

There is indeed frenzy in British foreign policy right now because of the Ukraine crisis. The UK, which has already left the EU and has a "special relationship" with the US, thinks it has a more flexible position than the US and the EU, and often parrots words very "conscientiously," saying and doing things that are inconvenient for Washington and at times being even more aggressive. Some politicians in London now increasingly see this as a source of uniqueness and superiority. The more they do this, the more they seem to feel the lingering warmth of the UK's prior status as "The Empire on which the sun never set."

Although after Brexit, the UK sees "Global Britain" as its strategic goal, hoping that the UK can become a leading country across the world. But over the years, the so-called Global Britain only seems to cling more tightly to the US. Truss claimed she would become the "modern-day Thatcher," but she only looks like the head of the US State Department's London office. Since taking office as the UK Foreign Secretary, Truss has pointed her fingers at China on almost all major China-related issues, including the Taiwan question and Hong Kong and Xinjiang issues. She has followed Washington's lead. And the pragmatism of diplomacy that the British used to talk about has increasingly descended into opportunism and radicalism. In Washington's redeployment of the global system, the UK is increasingly willing to be a "pebble."

Last July, the UK sent its Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier to the South China Sea, but it needed fighter jets and warships from Italy to make a fleet. In late March, during Truss' visit to India, she tried to persuade India not to buy Russian oil, but Indian's External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar defended India's purchase of discounted Russian oil. "If you look at the major buyers of oil and gas from Russia, I think you'll find most of them are in Europe," Jaishankar said, refusing the unreasonable demand of the UK.

Even as their own strengths continued to decline, some British and American politicians began to fantasize about "mind control" - namely to re-establish the global "superiority" of Anglo-Saxon civilization. Truss herself does not hide this, calling on Britain in a speech last year to stop the guilt about colonial history and instead be proud of its identity and status. This is why it is not surprising that although UK politicians have recently taken turns to win over India, emphasizing the special relationship between the UK and India and praising India with all kinds of nice words, the domestic response to this in India has been mediocre. Indians say that the UK still adopts a colonial mentality toward India. 

In fact, India is hardly the only country that has seen through this. More and more countries have recognized the nature of a series of small-circle activities carried out by the UK and the US in the name of the so-called common values and the culture that prioritizes Anglo Saxons. Truss and her ilk attempt to bring NATO to Asia and try to destabilize the Pacific, but they are doomed to fail. Treating China as a "systemic competitor" is also definitely a big misjudgment in the "Global Britain" strategy.

Xi Chairs CPC Top Leadership Meeting, Stressing Economic Stability

Urges officials to guard against ‘black swan,’ ‘grey rhino’ events amid uncertainty

By Chen Qingqing and Qi Xijia

Apr 29, 2022 06:11 PM

Photo: CFP

Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, on Friday presided over a meeting of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee to analyze the current economic situation. The meeting stressed coordination of anti-epidemic work and economic development, and urged officials at all-levels to take responsibility in guarding against all kinds of "black swan" and "grey rhino" events amid risks linked to epidemic flare-ups and the Ukraine crisis.

The meeting highlighted the hard-won achievements made since the beginning of this year in coordinating epidemic control with economic and social development, as China has secured stable economic performance and successfully hosted the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games and the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games.

Noting that the economy faces growing complexities and uncertainties, the meeting stressed the importance of economic stability as well as securing and improving people's livelihood.

The meeting called for upholding the "people first, lives first" principle and the dynamic zero-COVID approach to protect people's lives and health, and reduce the impact of the epidemic on economic and social development to the minimum.

Given the impact of COVID-19 flare-ups and the Ukrainian crisis, the meeting said China's economic and social development now face growing uncertainties and complexities, and there are new challenges in stabilizing growth, employment and consumer prices. 

It also urged authorities to effectively synergize the anti-epidemic work and the social and economic development.

China's capital market had a broad-based rally on Friday afternoon following the meeting.

The benchmark Shanghai stock index made an impressive comeback to above the critical psychological level of 3,000 points, closing 2.41 percent higher on Friday while the Shenzhen Component Index edged up by 3.69 percent to 11,021 points. 

The tech-heavy ChiNext board in Shenzhen has edged up by more than four percent to 2,319 points.

A total of 4,400 stocks have rallied on the two markets with more than 300 stocks hitting the up trading limit.

The onshore yuan also rebounded by more than 500 basis points standing above the 6.6 per US dollar level during intraday trading on Friday.

China's equity and foreign exchange markets recently underwent big swings amid multifaceted uncertainties, however, a number of policy recommendations have been made and actions have been taken with the aim of instilling optimism for the world's second-largest economy. 

The message from the meeting is conducive to the recovery of market confidence, Yang Delong, chief economist at Shenzhen-based First Seafront Fund Management Co, told the Global Times on Friday.

"The moves from the CPC leadership are strategic and decisive with measures covering a wide range of sectors and stabilizing the economy," Yang said.

The moves which follow favorable policies implemented earlier, such as the issuance of coupons, the expansion of infrastructure investment and the cut in reserve ratios, showed that leadership is caring about the capital market, which is conducive to the recovery of market confidence and a rebound, Yang added.

The CPC leadership meeting came after a meeting of the Central Committee for Financial and Economic Affairs on Tuesday that focused on the nation's infrastructure development, calling for a stabilization of the market. The Ministry of Transport said on the same day that the country's logistics woes have been eased after rounds of policy measures. 

Besides reiterating the requirement of ensuring smooth logistics and transportation, the CPC leadership meeting on Friday also called to intensify the adjustment of macroeconomic policies and to achieve economic goals throughout the year. During the meeting, leaders have also stressed the necessity of using various monetary policy tools and full expanding domestic demand. 

China's GDP grew 4.8 percent year-on-year in the first quarter of 2022, maintaining a stable growth range despite "unprecedented downward pressure since the first quarter of 2020" due to COVID-19 flare-ups, supply chain snags and external uncertainties arising from the Russia-Ukraine conflict. 

Friday's meeting also laid out a series of requirements for various sectors including energy, agriculture, service, housing and platform economy. The meeting emphasized the role of spring farming work and stable energy sectors, urging to effectively tackle potential risks in the housing industry, and properly manage the economy. 

In deepening the supply chain reform, the meeting asked to expand the country's opening-up, actively respond to requests made by foreign investors and to stabilize the foreign capital. 

If the epidemic in Shanghai can be put under control in May and the all-board work resumption kicks off, it is believed that China's economic growth in the second quarter should not be lower than that in the first quarter, Tian Yun, former vice director of the Beijing Economic Operation Association, told the Global Times on Friday, predicting a significant sequential quarterly growth in the third and fourth quarters.

Chinese officials have taken various measures to stablize the economy and it is believed that there will be stronger fiscal stimulus in the second quarter, Tian said.

In terms of expanding domestic demand, the main focus will be placed on advancing infrastructure construction, Tian said, expecting the infrastructure investment in the central and western part of China to be accelerated.

Tian declared that although China's foreign trade has been impacted by the temporary slowing throughput at ports caused by the epidemic,the situation should be improved in the second quarter. 

"Foreign investors have not changed much about their stance in China's long-term favorable development environment, especially China's potential future development, growth prospects, and status in the global supply chain," he said.

Beijing to Suspend Performance, Entertainment Venues, Close Cinemas During May Day Holidays

By Global Times

Apr 29, 2022 11:06 PM

A man registers before taking a nucleic acid test in Chaoyang district, Beijing on April 27, 2022. The district on the day launched its second round of large-scale testing amid the latest Omicron epidemic. Photo: VCG

Beijing will apply strict control measures across the city's scenic spots and cultural venues during the upcoming May Day holidays due to the current COVID-19 outbreak.

All performance and entertainment venues, internet cafes, offline art training and city group tours will be suspended due to the current COVID-19 outbreak during the four-day May Day holiday, which begins on Saturday, the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Culture and Tourism announced, The Beijing Times reported Friday.

The Beijing Municipal Film Administration announced Friday night that all cinemas in the capital will be closed between April 30 to May 4.

To enter venues, visitors must have their temperature measured, scan their health code and provide a nucleic acid test negative certificate taken within 48 hours.

A nucleic acid test result taken within 48 hours is also required to stay in hotels and BNBs.

The notice from the municipal government also urged law enforcement department to enhance supervision and inspection measures.

Beijing reported 34 new cases of COVID19 on Friday. After two rounds of large-scale nucleic acid screening across 11 districts, the number of newly confirmed COVID-19 cases in Beijing remained in the dozens per day, affecting 12 districts, with a total of 228 infections reported by April 29, a spokesperson from the Beijing municipal government said during a Friday press conference.

Dynamic Zero-COVID Strategy Seen as 'Purchase Insurance for 1.4 billion Chinese People': Top Expert

By Global Times

Apr 29, 2022 11:09 PM

Photo: CFP

Why won't China adopt a "lying flat" strategy in face of Omicron like some Western countries do? Liang Wannian, head of the expert group in China's epidemic response and disposal leading group, said that to passively respond to Omicron is not China's option as the country still faces unbalanced medical resources. 

Adopting the dynamic zero-COVID strategy could be seen as "purchasing an insurance for 1.4 billion of Chinese people," Liang said, noting that it helps avoiding large-scale transmissions and outbreaks, protecting people's lives, effectively diminishing the loss of life expectancy per capita. 

In countries like the US, life expectancy declined dramatically in 2020 after being hit by the COVID-19 outbreak and continued to decline in 2021, these tragic data are seen as historically unusual drops for the US. 

Some countries chose the so-called "lying flat" strategy by living with the virus to gain herd immunity while China is getting immunity by vaccination, Liang said, noting that although 90 percent of population have been vaccinated, there have been unequal results in different ages and regions. 

"We need to especially increase the vaccination rates among vulnerable groups such as senior citizens and children. Compared to an uncontrollable passive way of getting immunity, we consider active immunity as better choice," Liang told at a press conference on Friday. 

Also, as China has a very large population, different degrees of regional development and shortages of medical resources, the overall vaccination rates among seniors and children are not high enough. Liang added that if China was to adopt the co-existence strategy in handling the virus, the medical resources would be severely affected, posing a threat to a large number of patients with underlying diseases, children, seniors, pregnant women and so on. 

China has been adopting the dynamic zero-COVID strategy and its ultimate goal is to protect the health and lives of the public while ensuring the normal social and economic activities at the highest possible levels, according to the top health expert. 

As of Thursday, 88.64 percent of the total population in China have been fully vaccinated, and 81.94 percent of the seniors above 60 years old are fully vaccinated, Lei Zhenglong, an official from the epidemic control bureau of China's National Health Commission, said at the conference. He also urged local authorities across the country to fully recognized the urgency and importance of inoculating senior citizens with the vaccines . 

Li Bin, deputy director of the NHC, said that "faced with the challenges brought on by Omicron, we can't ensure that there's no domestically transmitted infections at all but we are confident about promptly adopting a set of effective early measures to handle the flare-ups." 

"Under the dynamic zero-COVID strategy, we encourage certain regions to explore some good experiences and methods to enhance their capabilities of anti-epidemic work, but a lack of decisive response could exacerbate the transmission speed of the virus in certain locations, which would then affect other areas in the country." he said. 

Carrying out the strategy also created many benefits for public services, local governance and medical services. For example, treating as many patients as possible is a major part of dynamic zero-COVID strategy, which boosted the preparation for more designated hospitals and quarantine places, Liang said. 

As of Monday, China has nearly 400 Fangcang makeshift hospitals finished and in construction, providing more than 560,000 beds. 

Li also noted that China has entered the fourth stage of anti-epidemic work by carrying out scientific and precise measures in a comprehensive manner. Considered the characteristics of Omicron, local authorities accumulated experiences and improved the measures by taking at-risk groups under control and seeking to cut off transmission chains in the shortest period possible. By conducting the antigen and nucleic acid tests, those new methods could also help with early identification of infected patients. 

Global Times 

Fighting Omicron Does Not Mean Lockdown and Citywide Nucleic Acid: Top Chinese Health Expert

By Global Times

Apr 29, 2022 06:24 PM

Photo: CFP

The latest Omicron variant-fueled epidemic waves in Beijing and Shanghai is a test of the governance capacity of these megacities, Liang Wannian, head of the COVID-19 response expert panel under China's National Health Commission (NHC), said at a press conference on Friday, noting that with a population of more than 20 million people, the rapid and insidious spread of the Omicron mutant strain has placed higher demands on these megalopolises in terms of the organization and implementation of anti-epidemic measures, such as the ability to detect cases and to provide medical treatment.

The ongoing epidemic in Shanghai and the sporadic outbreaks now being fought in Beijing have brought many valuable lessons about the battle against the epidemic in China, Liang said at the conference held by the Information Office of the State Council on Friday morning.

In response to the strong contagiousness, rapid transmission, high proportion of asymptomatic infected people and insidious transmission of the Omicron mutant strains, China has to race against this virus in terms of time, react faster and work harder than the virus, Liang noted.

He pointed out that China needs to summarize the experience of prevention and control and improve the response to the original strains of the COVID-19 such as Alpha and Delta. 

"Fighting Omicron does not necessarily mean citywide, all-volunteer nucleic acid, and even less necessarily citywide, all-area lockdown," Liang stressed, noting that truly early detection, isolation, reporting and treatment can help the cities take the initiative in the fight against the epidemic.

As of Friday, the cumulative local COVID-19 diagnosis in Shanghai exceeded 50,000 cases and 26,411 cases were cured and discharged over the latest outbreak. Shanghai recently announced the first batch of 534 regular nucleic acid sampling sites, which will provide free nucleic acid testing services for the public from May 1 to June 30, according to Shanghai local authorities.

The latest round of the outbreak in Beijing has affected 12 districts with over 200 cases of infection by Friday. On the same day, Beijing's Chaoyang district conducted the third round of sweeping tests on 3.5 million residents.

"In both Shanghai and Beijing, significant progress has been made in the prevention and control of the current epidemic... It has been proven that we can effectively control the spread of the epidemic by adopting effective strategies such as the dynamic zero strategy," Liang said.

At the same time, since the number of senior citizens in Beijing and Shanghai is higher than the national average, Liang also noted that enhanced vaccination of the elderly is an effective means to protect their health and lives.

In order to contain the COVID-19 epidemic, Shanghai and Beijing mobilized the whole society to fight the epidemic, with faster speed and more scientific and effective means and methods, COVID-19 will surely be defeated, Liang stressed.

Global Times

Beijing’s Health Code System Cyber Attacked From Overseas: Officials

By Global Times

Apr 28, 2022 11:41 PM

A passenger scans a health code provided by a car-hailing driver in Beijing on Monday, the first day that Beijing required car hailing services to register the health codes of passengers. Photo: Liu Caiyu/GT

Beijing’s online health code checking system, Jiankangbao, was hit by cyber attacks from overseas during its usage peak on Thursday, authorities said at a press conference. 

The system’s maintenance team has effectively tackled the problem and the service was not affected.

The health code system saw similar cyber attacks during the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, but the situation was taken care of properly, local officials said at the conference, vowing to provide better cyber security services and safeguard the capital’s epidemic prevention work. 

The topic drew heated discussion on various social media platforms. The system has stored a huge amount of personal information and is key to the capital city’s ongoing efforts to curb the virus, netizens pointed out on Weibo. The attacks may aim to “acquire private information of Beijing residents” and “jeopardize Beijing’s epidemic prevention works and create chaos among the public,” one netizen posted.

The Jiankangbao system was rolled out in 2020 after the initial COVID-19 outbreak. It is the official health status checking system for Beijing residents, providing a slew of services including health code, nucleic acid test result, and vaccination status. 

To better ensure that people exposed to the virus do not mix with the public, the system grants yellow or red codes to those who have had contact with or shared travel history with infected people. 

A health reminder will pop up if people have visited medium- or high-risk regions within the past 14 days, or if they have arrived from overseas. 

Australia Violates Other Countries' Sovereignty by Drawing 'Red Line' on China-Solomons Cooperation: Chinese Vice FM

By Global Times

Apr 28, 2022 05:42 PM

China’s Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng Photo: website of China’s Foreign Ministry 

What right does Australia have to draw a "red line" between China and the Solomon Islands? If this is not violation of other countries' sovereignty, what is? China's Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng asked during a video conference at the launch ceremony of the China-Pacific Island Countries Cooperation Center on Climate Change.

The Center was officially launched in Liaocheng, East China's Shandong Province on Thursday. China's Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng attended the launching ceremony via video and delivered a speech, in which Xie said that the China and Solomon Islands-signed security pact is the sacred right of two sovereign states and in line with international law and practice.

Xie said in his speech that, in September 2021, President Xi Jinping said in his phone conversation with leaders of Pacific Island countries that China was considering setting up a China-Pacific Island Cooperation Center on Climate Change to support them enhance their capacity to cope with climate change. Later, at the first Foreign Ministers' meeting between China and Pacific Island countries in October 2021, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi announced the construction of the center. "This is a concrete measure taken by China to expand practical cooperation with Island countries and a concrete action to enrich our comprehensive strategic partnership." Xie noted.

During his speech, Xie made clear China's position to the leaders of Pacific Island countries, diplomatic envoys to China, and Chinese and foreign media outlets who were present, in response to rumors and smearing by some countries that obstructed and interfered in the negotiation and signing of the security cooperation framework agreement between China and the Solomon Islands.

Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare of the Solomon Islands confirmed the pact had been signed by foreign ministers from the two countries on April 20.

Xie said that China and the Solomon Islands independently negotiated and signed the pact, which is the sacred right of two sovereign states. "The bilateral security cooperation is open and transparent and not targeted at any third party. It does not conflict with our cooperation with other partners or existing mechanisms in the region, and serves the common interests of both countries and the South Pacific region." Xie said.

Responding to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison's remarks that China is building a military base in the Solomon Islands and that this would be the "red line" for Australia and the US, Xie said that this is fundamentally different from the fact that some countries have formed a clique, stimulated arms races, increased the risk of nuclear proliferation, and incited confrontation between factions. 

"What right do these countries have to tell China what to do? What right does Australia have to draw a 'red line' between the Solomon Islands, which is 2,000 kilometers away from it, and China, which is 5,000 kilometers away? If this is not violation of other countries' sovereignty, interference in other countries' internal affairs and violation of international rules, what is?" Xie questioned.

Those who slander, smear and intimidate other countries expose their mentality of colonialism, Xie stressed. They are brazenly pursuing coercive diplomacy, and desperately trying to control Pacific Island countries and maintain their so-called sphere of influence.

"The Pacific Ocean is the common home of countries in the region, rather than anyone's backyard. It should be a big stage for international cooperation, rather than an arena for geopolitical games," Xie noted.

Since the Chinese Foreign Ministry on April 19 confirmed the signing of the security cooperation framework agreement between China and the Solomon Islands, China has been repeatedly emphasizing the legitimacy, transparency and openness of the security pact, refuting the endless slandering and smears from the US and Australia and explaining that the pact's aim is social stability and good governance in the Solomon Islands, without targeting any third party.

In developing relations and conducting cooperation with Pacific Island countries, China does not seek selfish gains, nor engage in bullying or coercion. China will always be a constructive force for peace and development, Xie said.

Global Times

International Rules Not the Rules of a Small Circle: Chinese FM on Truss Warning China

By Global Times

Apr 28, 2022 07:01 PM

China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin. Photo: VCG

International rules should be the norms governing international relations based on the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, rather than the rules of a small circle or clique, Wang Wenbin, spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry responded on Thursday to UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss' "warning" that China must play by international rules.

"Countries must play by the rules. And that includes China," Truss said in a speech at Mansion House in London. "They will not continue to rise if they do not play by the rules. China needs trade with the G7. We (the Group of Seven) represent around half of the global economy. And we have choices," she said.

Truss said NATO needed to have a global outlook that extended to democracies outside its membership, according to Reuters. 

In response, Wang said that the Cold War has long since ended, and NATO, as a product of the Cold War and the world's largest military alliance, should assess the situation and make necessary adjustments. "However, NATO has long adhered to the old concept of security, engaged in confrontation between factions and become a tool for individual countries to seek hegemony," Wang noted at Thursday's press briefing. 

Wang said that NATO claims to be a defensive organization, but in fact, it is constantly creating confrontations and disturbances. "NATO demands that other countries abide by the basic norms of international relations, yet wages war and engages in indiscriminate bombing of sovereign states, killing and displacing innocent civilians."

Wang said that NATO, which is known as a military organization in the North Atlantic, has been flexing its muscle and provoking conflict in the Asia-Pacific region over recent years and the impact of NATO's Eastward expansion on peace, stability and long-term stability in Europe deserves reflection. "NATO has already messed up Europe, should it also mess up the Asia-Pacific and the world?" Wang questioned. 

Truss also criticized China for not condemning Russia over the Ukraine conflict. 

China's position on the Ukraine issue has been consistent and clear. "We have always made independent judgments based on the merits of the case," Wang responded.

Global Times