Thursday, August 31, 2023

Gabon Election Results Prompted Military Coup


12:44 PM EDT, August 31, 2023

DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — The ouster of Gabon’s president by mutinous soldiers appears to have been well organized and capitalized on the population’s grievances against the government as an excuse to seize power, analysts said.

Soldiers on Wednesday ousted President Ali Bongo Ondimba, whose family has ruled the oil-rich country in Central Africa for more than five decades. The coup leaders accused Bongo of irresponsible governance that risked leading the country into chaos and said they put him under house arrest and detained several Cabinet members.

Meanwhile, the African Union Peace and Security Council met Thursday and announced the immediate suspension of Gabon from “all activities of the AU, its organs and institutions” until the country restores constitutional order.

The head of Gabon’s elite republican guard, Gen. Brice Clotaire Oligui Nguema, was announced on state TV as the nation’s new leader hours after Bongo was declared the winner of a weekend presidential election that observers said was marred with irregularities and a lack of transparency.

While there were legitimate grievances about the vote and Bongo’s rule, his ousting is just a pretext for the junta to claim power for themselves, Gabon experts say.

“The timing of the coup, following the announcement of the implausible electoral results, and the speed with which the junta is moving suggests this was planned in advance,” Joseph Siegle, director of research at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, said. “While there are many legitimate grievances about the vote and Bongo’s rule, that has little to do with the coup attempt in Gabon. Raising those grievances is just a smokescreen.”

In an announcement on state TV Thursday a spokesman for the junta said Oligui would be sworn into office on Monday September 4 before the constitutional court. It encouraged people to go back work and said it would restore domestic flights.

Also on Thursday, Gabon’s political opposition called for elections to resume “under the supervision” of the armed forces,” to allow the main opposition candidate, Albert Ondo Ossa, to assume the presidency, said his campaign manager Mike Jocktane.

Gabon’s coup is the eighth military takeover in Central and West Africa in three years and comes roughly a month after Niger’s democratically elected president was ousted. Unlike Niger and neighboring Burkina Faso and Mali, which have each had two coups apiece since 2020 and are being overrun by extremist violence, Gabon was seen as relatively stable.

However, Bongo’s family has been accused of endemic corruption and not letting the country’s oil wealth trickle down to the population of some 2 million people.

Bongo, 64, has served two terms since coming to power in 2009 after the death of his father, who ruled the country for 41 years, and there has been widespread discontent with his reign. Another group of mutinous soldiers attempted a coup in 2019 but was quickly overpowered.

The former French colony is a member of OPEC, but its oil wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few — and nearly 40% of Gabonese aged 15 to 24 were out of work in 2020, according to the World Bank. Its oil export revenue was $6 billion in 2022, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Gabon’s coup and the overturning of a dynastic leader, such as Bongo, appeared to have struck a nerve across the continent that coups in more remote, volatile West Africa previously hadn’t.

Hours after soldiers in Gabon announced the new leader, the president of neighboring Cameroon, Paul Biya, who’s been in power for 40 years, shuffled his military leadership, and Rwandan President Paul Kagame “accepted the resignation” of a dozen generals and more than 80 other senior military officers. Even Djibouti’s Ismail Omar Guelleh, in power in the tiny former French colony in the Horn of Africa since 1999, condemned the coup in Gabon and denounced the recent trend of military takeovers.

Still, on Wednesday, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said it was too early to call the attempted coup in Gabon a trend.

“It’s just too soon to do a table slap here and say, ‘yep, we’ve got a trend here going’ or ‘yep, we’ve got a domino effect,’” he said.

In a statement, the Commission of the Economic Community of Central African States, a Central African regional bloc, said it “firmly condemns” the use of force for resolving political conflicts and gaining access to power. It called for a return to constitutional order.

Since Bongo was toppled, the streets of Gabon’s capital, Libreville, have been jubilant with people celebrating alongside the army.

“Today we can only be happy,” said John Nze, a resident. “The country’s past situation handicapped everyone. There were no jobs. If the Gabonese are happy, it’s because they were hurting under the Bongos”.


Associated Press journalists Cara Anna in Nairobi, Kenya, and Will Weissert in Washington contributed to this report.

Some in Africa Are Celebrating the Coups--Many Are Fed Up and Desperate for Change, Analysts Say


8:32 AM EDT, August 31, 2023

ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — After mutinous soldiers in Gabon announced they had deposed the country’s president, many residents danced in the streets and declared themselves free from the presidential family’s 55-year rule. It’s becoming a familiar scene in West and Central Africa, which has recorded eight coups since 2020.

“It is an expression of the popular dissatisfaction,” said Hermann Ngoulou in the Gabonese capital of Libreville. “The country has been experiencing a deep crisis on all levels due to bad governance, the rising cost of food (and) the high cost of living.”

There have been about 100 documented coups across Africa since the 1950s. This resurgence of military takeovers is often prompted by diminishing democratic dividends, according to analysts.

In Gabon, the coup occurred shortly after the president was declared the winner of the election from which international observers, for the first time, had been barred.

That’s not unusual in a region where elections are often alleged to be flawed, longtime leaders pursue the extension or elimination of term limits, and civic space is eroded by misgovernance, said Tiseke Kasambala, the director of Africa programs at the Washington-based Freedom House watchdog group.

In the end, the result is “widespread resentment and frustration amongst citizens,” she said.

At least 27, or half, of the 54 countries in Africa are among the 30 least developed in the world, according to the latest United Nations Human Development Index. Most are in West and Central Africa, often endowed with natural resources whose rich profits are little seen by everyday citizens.

The failure of leaders to significantly improve the lives of their populations has left people frustrated and desperate, said Remi Adekoya, a politics lecturer at the University of York.

“Africans do not think the idea of military rule is great; it is the disappointment in what is supposed to be a democratic rule that is causing people, if not openly support military dictatorship, to not be against it,” Adekoya said. “The leaders who are supposed to be democrats are not abiding by the rules of democracy … and people are wondering, what is in this system for me?”

Research network Afrobarometer’s 2023 surveys found that the number of people supporting democracy and elections in Africa has fallen. Only 68% of respondents across 34 countries preferred democracy to any other system of government, down from 73% a decade ago.

“A significant correlation” was established between the number of Africans reporting substantial corruption in the presidential office and dissatisfaction with democracy.

Most respondents believed elections are “an imperfect but essential tool for choosing their leaders,” the study noted.

On Aug. 26, as Gabonese went to the polls, authorities cut off the internet. As service returned in the hours after the coup, the president used it as a megaphone to the world, sharing a video in which he called on friends of Gabon to “make noise” for his restoration.

International sanctions imposed to reverse coups in Africa have often failed, resulting instead in more hardship for populations already struggling with high rates of poverty and hunger.

Niger was the world’s third-least-developed country before the coup there in July, and has 4.3 million people in need of humanitarian aid, according to the U.N. Sanctions aimed at reversing that coup resulted in “serious socio-economic crises” for Niger’s residents, the head of West Africa’s regional ECOWAS Commission, Omar Alieu Touray, told reporters recently in Nigeria.

Even as frustration grows against what some describe as “electoral coups” that keep longtime leaders in power, analysts warn that military regimes are never the answer, and efforts to intervene should be aimed at entrenching democracies.

“If a country requires reforms before elections, then the best way to support these reforms must be seriously considered, even if the protagonists include military coup leaders,” wrote Ornella Moderan, head of the Institute for Security Studies Sahel program.

The mutinous soldiers in Gabon claim to have taken power in the interest of the people — a familiar line in past coups elsewhere.

Militaries have sometimes been encouraged by what appears to be popular support, Adekoya said. “What is most encouraging for any would-be coup plotter today is the reaction of the crowd to the coups, the fact that on many streets in these countries, people are coming out to celebrate them,” he said.

But military regimes have not proven to be a better alternative for good governance.

In Mali, where soldiers have been in power since 2020, the Islamic State group almost doubled the territory they control in less than a year, according to U.N. experts. And in Burkina Faso, which recorded two coups in 2020, economic growth slowed to 2.5% in 2022 following a robust 6.9% the year before.

In other places like Chad, military regimes have been accused of clamping down on dissidents, sometimes resulting in extrajudicial killings.

African countries run by regimes have experienced “a breakdown in the rule of law, an increase in arbitrary arrests and detentions, bans on peaceful protests and impunity for human rights violations committed by military forces,” said Kasambala with Freedom House.

Still, some of the regimes are supported because of “intrusive” external forces, she said, citing former French colonies such as Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso where “perceived French interference in the affairs of government and what is seen as the propping up of authoritarian rulers has generated widespread anti-French sentiment.”

In the end, Africans weary of decades of misrule are not asking for much, Adekoya said.

“People are just asking for some slight improvements to their fortunes, some slight sense of security, and free and fair elections,” he said. “Once you have the majority of people feeling ‘the system is not working for me,’ then that system is in trouble.”

Niger’s Military Government Orders Police to Expel French Ambassador and Revokes His Diplomatic Immunity

FILE - Supporters of Niger’s ruling junta hold a Russian flag at the start of a protest called to fight for the country’s freedom and push back against foreign interference in Niamey, Niger, on Aug. 3, 2023. The mutinous soldiers who overthrew democratically elected Niger President Mohamed Bazoum have announced a raft of measures that analysts say are aimed at strengthening their grip on power while preparing to defend against any military attempt by regional leaders to reinstate Bazoum, it was reported on Monday, Aug. 28, 2023. (AP Photo/Sam Mednick, File)


12:39 PM EDT, August 31, 2023

DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — Niger’s military junta has revoked the diplomatic immunity of France’s ambassador and ordered police to expel him from the West African country, according to a statement from the military regime.

The mutinous soldiers who ousted Niger’s president more than a month ago gave French Ambassador Sylvain Itte 48 hours to leave the country last week. The deadline expired on August 28 without France recalling Itte.

The French government says it doesn’t recognize the coup-plotters as the country’s legitimate leaders, and French Foreign Ministry spokesperson Anne-Claire Legendre said Thursday that the ambassador remains in place despite the expulsion threats.

The communique sent by Niger’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs earlier this week and seen by The Associated Press on Thursday said Itte “no longer enjoys the privileges and immunities attached to his status as a member of the diplomatic staff of the embassy.”

The document also says the diplomatic cards and visas of the ambassador’s families have been canceled.

After Itte first was told to leave Niger, French President Emmanuel Macron said the envoy would remain in his post. Macron spoke out firmly against the coup leaders while insisting that France, Niger’s former colonial rule, is not the country’s enemy.

Since toppling democratically elected President Mohamed Bazoum, the junta has leveraged anti-French sentiment among the population to shore up its support. People chant “Down with France” at near daily rallies in the capital, Niamey, and at times in front of a French military base in the city.

France has some 1,500 military personnel in Niger who trained and conducted joint operations with Nigerien security forces to beat back a growing jihadi insurgency linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group. The operations have ceased since the coup, and jihadi attacks are increasing.

Insurgents killed 17 soldiers and wounded nearly 24 this month, the first major attack in half a year against the army in Niger.

Regional tensions are also rising as the junta ignores calls from other West African countries to release and reinstate Bazoum, even amid the threat of military force.

The regional bloc ECOWAS deployed a “standby” force and ordered it to transition Niger back to constitutional rule. The force has not yet entered Niger, and the bloc says the door remains open to dialogue but it won’t wait forever.

The junta has appointed a new government and said it would return Niger to the system of government prescribed by the constitution within three years, a timeline that ECOWAS rejected.

The expulsion of the French ambassador and the revocation of his diplomatic immunity put France in a challenging position. France has said it would support ECOWAS in restoring an appropriate government in Niger but also needs to protect its diplomatic staff.

“If Paris recognizes the military authority in Niger, which is the heart of the matter, it could potentially limit the reputational damage that France is facing in its former African colonies,” Mucahid Durmaz, a senior analyst at global risk consultancy Verisk Maplecroft, said.

At the same time, Durmaz thinks it’s unlikely France would use the junta’s moves against the ambassador as a reason to launch a military intervention backed by ECOWAS troops.

“The catastrophic implications of a regional war, alongside an increase in already high anti-France sentiment in the region, means Paris would likely shy away from such a move,” Durmaz said.


Associated Press writer Angela Charlton in Paris contributed to this report.


Ramaphosa made his way to the scene on Thursday evening for an oversight visit. He was accompanied by the City of Joburg officials and the Gauteng Premier - Panyaza Lesufi.

President Cyril Ramaphosa made his way to the scene of a fire that tore through a five-story building and claimed at least 74 lives in Marshalltown, on 31 August 2023. The president was accompanied by City of Joburg officials and Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi.

Eyewitness News | 31 August 2023 19:17

JOHANNESBURG - President Cyril Ramaphosa has called for a probe into the fire that tore through a five-story building and claimed at least 74 lives in Marshalltown, in the early hours of Thursday morning.

He added that the blaze is "wake-up call" for the government to deliver habitable housing.

At least 12 of those who lost their lives are children. About 50 others were left injured and are being treated at nearby hospitals.

This follows more than 12 hours search-and-rescue efforts.

Ramaphosa made his way to the scene on Thursday evening for an oversight visit. He was accompanied by the City of Joburg officials and the Gauteng Premier - Panyaza Lesufi.

"Obviously, this needs to be investigated," said Ramaphosa, adding that officials are "setting up an investigation process, which the premier and the city will announce in due course".

He added that ministers, MECs, the Gauteng province and the City of Joburg are working hard to ensure victims are taken care of.

"We've got to get to the bottom of what caused this fire. It's a wake-up call for us to begin to address the situation of housing in the inner city... Those who have lost their homes or accommodation are going to be catered for," said Ramaphosa.


Speaking at the scene on Thursday morning, Makhubele told Eyewitness News that the tragedy highlights the need to do away with the illegal occupation of buildings. The fire claimed at least 70 lives with seven children among the victims.

Johannesburg emergency services attend to a fire in the Johannesburg CBD on 31 August 2023. Picture: Jacques Nelles/Eyewitness News

Alpha Ramushwana | 31 August 2023 14:47

JOHANNESBURG - City of Joburg Council Speaker Colleen Makhubele said the building fire in Joburg CBD could have been avoided.

Speaking at the scene on Thursday morning, Makhubele told Eyewitness News that the tragedy highlights the need to do away with the illegal occupation of buildings.

Makhubele said the city was making immense progress in addressing hijacked buildings until they were taken to court by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) as well as civil society organisations.

Makhubele said several NGOs have legally challenged the municipality's decision to evict people staying at dilapidated buildings.

“There are some certain NGOs that are hellbent on preventing the city from dealing with it [illegal occupation of buildings]. It needs decisive action and there will be causalities but let there be no death, let us have causalities of reallocating people to proper housing.”

Refunds for Kenya Troops in Somalia up 93pc to $48m


Kenya Defence Forces soldiers serving under the African Union Mission in Somalia guard Kismayu Sea Port on October 6,2021. PHOPTO | MARY WAMBUI | NMG


The Atmis took over from Amisom on April 1, 2022, following approval from the United Nations Security Council, ending Amisom’s 15-year mission.

Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia each withdrew 400 of their troops under Atmis, Burundi drew down 650 officers, while Djibouti withdrew 150 soldiers.

Earlier estimates suggested the international community pays $1,028 for each soldier per month.

Kenya received Ksh6.98 billion ($48.04 million) in reimbursement for its troops fighting Al Shabaab militia in Somalia in the financial year that ended June, which translates to a 93 percent jump ahead of full withdrawal from the peacekeeping mission in under two years.

The refunds from the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (Atmis), formerly the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom), grew from Ksh3.6 billion ($24.8 million) in the previous year.

The disbursements in the last fiscal year were the second highest since Kenya joined the AU-backed military operations in the civil war-riddled country, which borders Kenya to the East.

The highest refunds were posted in the year ended June 2021 at Ksh8.94 billion ($61.5 million).

The Treasury funds operations by the Kenya Defence Forces in the war-torn Somalia and is refunded by the Defence Ministry once it gets cash from the African Union.

Data shows Kenya has been reimbursed Ksh58.65 billion ($403.65 million) in 11 years through June 2023.

Kenya formally sent about 4,660 soldiers to Somalia in October 2011 after incessant attacks and kidnapping of civilians by Al Shabaab militants within its territory, numbers which have since been gradually trimmed.

A year later, the UN Security Council gave Kenya the green light to join Amisom, a decision that meant the Treasury would not bear the full costs of the incursion.

The Atmis took over from Amisom on April 1, 2022, following approval from the United Nations Security Council, ending Amisom’s 15-year mission.

The transition and drawdown mission has been mandated to work with Somali National Security Forces towards lasting peace and stability in the Horn of Africa country which has been ravaged by civil war for more than three decades.

The mandate of the Atmis ends in December 2024 when Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Burundi and Djibouti are expected to have withdrawn all their forces and handed over to the Somali National Security Forces.

Defence Secretary Aden Duale said a fortnight ago that the drawdown, overseen by the UN Security Council and AU guided by the Somalia Transition Plan, started in earnest last June with the five countries withdrawing 2,000 military officers.

Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia each withdrew 400 of their troops under Atmis, Burundi drew down 650 officers, while Djibouti withdrew 150 soldiers.

“This September 3,000 troops from all these contributing countries will draw down from Somalia. By December 2024, no more Atmis will be in Somalia,” Mr Duale said during an interview on Citizen TV on August 16.

“We are in Somalia… to protect the national security interest of the Republic of Kenya and its people … [and] as part of our moral duty to be part and parcel of the regional peace and security in the Horn of Africa.”

Kenya Defence Forces (KDF), in the book titled War for Peace: Kenya’s Military in the African Mission in Somalia, 2011-2020— published May 8, 2020 — suggested that reforming the Somali National Army to take charge of sustainable peace should be the first pillar of the AU mission’s exit plan.

The second pillar is creating a "stable, peaceful and prosperous" Jubbaland, which has had relative peace amid years of civil strife in mainland Somalia by “securing routes in Jubbaland accessible to and used by Al Shabaab”.

Soldiers usually serve for one year which may be extended by a few months or cut short depending on the situation and the financial operations.

Earlier estimates suggested the international community pays $1,028 (about Ksh149,060 under prevailing rates) for each soldier per month.

Their respective governments then deduct about $200 (Ksh29,000) for administrative costs, meaning the soldiers take home about $800 (Ksh116,000).

Under the Amisom, the EU funds largely catered for allowances for the about 20,000 Amisom troops and police, international and local civilian staff salaries and operational costs of their offices.

The United Nations Support Office in Somalia (UNSOS), on the other hand, provided logistical field support to the Amisom troops and Somali National Security Forces during joint operations.

Violent Protests Rock Goma in DRC Over UN Peacekeepers


Protesters set fire in front of United Nations Mission for the Stabilisation of Congo Headquarters in Goma, DRC on July 25, 2022. PHOTO | AFP


Violent protests have rocked Goma, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo after a group of residents attacked stations manned by UN peacekeepers.

And in a show of continual anger against the UN Mission known as Monusco, gunfire could be heard for most of the morning following new demos against the Mission’s presence in North Kivu. Several sources, including the Kivu Security Barometer, an organisation that tracks conflict tolls in eastern DRC claimed at least 8 civilians were had been killed and 20 wounded during an assault by the security forces on a broadcasting base belonging to the Meciath Sect early on Wednesday in the Ndosho district, Goma.

Lt-Col Kaiko Njike, the spokesman for the Congolese army FARDC in North Kivu, said it is early to say how many people died. But few hours later, he said one policeman and six assailants had been killed.

"The Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo wishes to inform the people of Goma and its surroundings that a group of intoxicated and manipulated armed bandits, posing as the Wazalendo and belonging to a mystical- religious sect of the prophet Bisimwa Ephrem, premeditated and sowed chaos in our city starting from the night of Wednesday; with the demand of the departure of Monusco, the Regional Force of the Community of East African States as well as all Westerners, including their NGOs", Lt-Col Ndjike Kaiko said in a statement .

"Within the ranks of the defence and security Forces, one police officer was stoned to death and several others injured. In the ranks of the protesters, six died, some got injured and 158 others got arrested", the FARDC Spokesperson in North Kivu said.

“The assailants were armed,” he added but said the situation had been put under control, including arrests of the ring leaders.

“The message that we, the FARDC, are sending to the population is that we are concerned about the security of our province, which is being attacked by the Rwandan army operating under the M23 label. There is therefore no question of tolerating anyone creating insecurity in the town of Goma.” warned Gen Kaiko Njike, continuing the official government line of accusing Rwanda of fomenting trouble in eastern DRC. Kigali denies the charge but last week the US sanctioned a Rwandese military officer, Brig-Gen Andrew Nyamvumba, among six individuals it accuses of helping rebel groups continue with violence in eastern DRC. On Tuesday, President Paul Kagame incidentally promoted Nyamvumba to be commander of a training college in Nyakinama.

The protests signal continual low public opinion for the Mission, which has been in the DRC for more than two decades. The demos erupted even after the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres announced their accelerated departure from the DRC beginning this December in what he said was a hostile environment.

According to initial reports on Wednesday in Goma, a crowd of young people inspired by the Wazalendo self-defence groups blocked certain roads in the town demanding Monusco's immediate departure.

Last week, the Principal Superior Commissioner of Goma Faustin Kapend, had indicated that the protesters “do not have the legitimacy of the competent authority in the province of North Kivu and in the town of Goma in particular.”

The call to demonstrate had been issued by a spiritual quasi-political organisation known as ‘la Foi Naturelle Judaïque Messianique vers les Nations’ (FNJMN) / Agano La Uwezo Wa Neno/Wazalendo’. The group is headed by Ephraim Bisimwa. Through various channels, including social networks and Radio Uwezo Wa Neno it owns in Goma, Bisimwa had called for a huge demonstration to demand the independence of Congo and Africa, and the unequivocal departure of Monusco. 

The demonstrators claim to be heirs to Patrice Lumumba's struggle.

The demonstrations come more than a year after violent protests in Goma and several other towns in the east of the DRC, demanding the departure of Monusco for its "passivity" in the face of violence perpetrated by armed groups. Monusco has already announced a transition to a gradual departure from the DRC. But Antonio Guterres had warned that a premature departure of Monusco could expose civilians to more violence.

Demonstrations is undergoing in Goma, where the East African regional force is also stationed. This force, deployed in the DRC to combat armed groups, could extend its stay in the DRC, even though its mandate is due to expire on 8 September.

Kagame Promotes General Sanctioned by US for War in DR Congo


President Paul Kagame. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA | NMG


Rwanda's President Paul Kagame has promoted a general recently sanctioned by the US for having a hand in the conflict in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo in what could either be a show of defiance or protestation against the labelling.

Brig-Gen Andrew Nyamvumba was named alongside several other top army officials in new positions.

But he is now a fingered man after the US Department of Treasury listed him among six people considered warmongers in eastern DRC.

It said Andrew Nyamvumba was among those who “helped fuel the conflict in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo”.

The US Treasury Department had sanctioned a total of six people from Rwanda and the DRC.

They include three FDLR (Hutu rebel group in DRC) leaders: Apollinaire Hakizimana, a Rwandan national, FDLR defence commissioner; Brigadier General Sebastian Uwimbabazi, a Rwandan national, FDLR intelligence leader; and Ruvugayimikore Protogene, a Rwandan national, leader of the FDLR-affiliated Maccabe group, formerly known as the Commando de Recherche et d'Action en Profondeur.

The sanctions also targeted Bernard Byamungu, a Congolese national, deputy commander of operations and intelligence for the M23, a Tutsi rebel group in the DRC. Salomon Tokolonga, a Congolese national and commander of the 3411th regiment of the FARDC (Congolese army), is also targeted.

"Nyamvumba, the head of operations of the 3rd Division of the Rwandan Defence Forces (RDF) whose units penetrated Congolese territory and provided support to the M23, which has long-standing ties with the Rwandan government", the Treasury Department statement said.

He will now head the commandant of a military college in Nyakinama. Rwanda did not immediately respond to his listing alongside rebels when the sanctions were announced last week. American entities are barred from engaging with him.

The US Treasury Department had each of these individuals contributed to the instability in eastern Congo-Kinshasa. And that these six people are involved "in numerous cases, in human rights violations, including sexual violence and violence against children".

Following the announcement of these sanctions, President Félix Tshisekedi expressed his satisfaction, saying that "things have started to move on the diplomatic front, with sanctions being imposed". The Congolese president added, however, that "the people sanctioned were not those we were expecting".

Rwanda Defends Bayern Munich Deal


L-R: Rwanda Development Board CEO Clare Akamanzi, FC Bayern Chief Executive Officer Jan-Christian Dreesen and Rwanda’s Minister of Sports Aurore Mimosa Munyangaju pose for picture during the unveiling of Visit Rwanda partnership deal in Kigali, Rwanda on August 27, 2023. PHOTO | TWITTER via RWANDA MINISTRY OF SPORTS


The partnership will see the club work specifically with Rwanda’s Ministry of Sports to set up a football academy to strengthen the development of football in the country.

The club will display Visit Rwanda branding on match days and different activities will be organised to promote tourism and investment opportunities in Rwanda. 


Rwanda has staunchly defended its tourism promotion agreement with Bayern Munich, countering criticism from human rights groups and sceptics who accuse Rwanda of extravagance. 

The controversy arose as Bayern chose not to renew its sponsorship contract with Qatar Airways following heavy backlash from its fans and human rights groups.

The latest deal means Rwanda under its “Visit Rwanda” Campaign now has tourism promotion deals with three major European clubs - London (United Kingdom)-based Arsenal Football Club, Paris (France) -based Paris Saint-Germain Football Club or PSG and Munich (Germany) Bayern Munich. 

Rwanda's deals with the European clubs have sharply divided opinion with some endorsing the country’s plan as strategic while others say Rwanda’s status as a low-income country does not merit the sponsorships.

There is also concern over transparency as little information about the deals has been made available publicly available.

All parties - Rwanda, Arsenal, PSG and now Bayern Munich - have not disclosed how much Rwanda paid for the partnerships.

On its part, Rwanda defended its decisions, noting that funds for partnerships were generated through the sale of tourism products, and insisted that "anyone who criticises our deal (now deals) with Arsenal on account of Rwanda being poor or an aid recipient, either wishes for Rwanda to be perpetually so."

The deals are also helping the country to rebrand itself as a tourism destination. 

But its critics led by Human Rights activists are equally resolute arguing that European football clubs should not be signing partnerships with a country facing allegations of human rights abuses and silencing critics.

Wenzel Michalski, the Director of Human Rights Watch Germany, said Bayern’s new alliance with Rwanda " is a very, very bad choice".

“Anyone who thought that FC Bayern would change sponsors for human rights reasons has now been severely disappointed. The partnership with Rwanda is also a very, very bad choice. This is a country where human rights are trampled on,” he said in his address to journalists on Tuesday.

Another group, the Human Rights Foundation, released a statement condemning the deal as “an instance of the club lending credibility to another oppressive regime striving to cleanse its violent transgressions through sports.”

"While FC Bayern's professed objectives of advancing youth sports and tourism in Rwanda hold merit, the club is now associated with a corrupt regime responsible for severe human rights violations, invasive wars, and mass atrocities in the neighbouring DRC," the body said.

"The Bayern Munich/Visit Rwanda deal represents a disheartening and retrogressive step for the club, following its decision to terminate its heavily criticized business affiliations with Qatar in June."

In response, Yolande Makolo, Rwanda's Government Spokesperson, likened these views to mere “tantrums”, arguing that the deal will generate wealth for Rwandans.

“This HRF tantrum proves Rwanda is absolutely on the right track with our Visit Rwanda partnerships to promote tourism and young football talent - ultimately generate wealth and well-being for Rwandans. We’re doing business with the world. A hall monitor is upset. Too bad,” she said.

At a press conference on Tuesday, Clare Akamanzi, CEO of Rwanda Development Board, defended the expenditure on this deal, saying that Rwanda generates enough money to pay for these partnerships.

"We can afford it. It is not excessive”, she said, but refrained from mentioning how much Rwanda has paid Bayern Munich citing contractual confidentiality.

“The money we get just from gorilla permits is enough to pay for these partnerships and also do other activities to promote tourism. We are not funding these deals from anywhere else but from the money we get from tourism,” she said.

“Gorilla tourism is the fastest growing. While the rest of the country grew at 56 per cent, gorilla tourism grew at over 76 per cent. This is why we can afford this deal.”

The Minister of Sports Aurore Mimosa Munyangaju doubled down.

“To answer questions related to the price we paid (for this deal), I do not think there is a price on a country’s visibility. This is a long-term plan; you may not get benefits immediately but in the next few years, you can start to see the benefits,” she said.

A survey conducted by the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) demonstrated that the probability of tourists choosing Rwanda due to its partnership with Arsenal escalated from 35 per cent in 2019 to 41 per cent in 2020.

However, no survey has been released since the lifting of Covid-19 lockdown measures three years ago.

FC Bayern Chief Executive Officer Jan-Christian Dreesen said the partnership was agreed upon until the summer of 2028. 

"FC Bayern can become active on the African continent and gather important experiences. The new platinum partnership is aligned with long-term goals. We will promote 'Visit Rwanda' and help Rwanda grow in sports with projects for youth football. These are challenging and responsible tasks. Africa is a continent of opportunities. For FC Bayern, this is the next important step in internationalisation."

Figures by the National Bank of Rwanda show the Composite Index of Economic Activities increased by 6.3 per cent in the second quarter of this year partly supported by robust recovery of tourism reflected in downstream services such as hotels and transport.

Separate figures by RDB show tourism is on a rebound, with the country earning $247 million in the first half of 2023, a 56 per cent increase compared to $158 million in the same period in 2022.

Kenya to Lose Pepfar Aid if No Resolution Made by US Congress


A health practitioner takes a blood sample from a patient for HIV testing. PHOTO 


Kenya may lose HIV funding if the United States Congress does not resolve the current debate by next month.

In June this year, a group of Kenyan Members of Parliament and religious leaders wrote a letter to the US Congress with claims that funding from the US President's Emergency Plan for Aids Relief in the country was helping prop up abortion.

The letter titled "Pepfar and African Values", sent to several leaders of the US House Representatives and Senate, stated that the HIV funding allocated to Kenya was being used to finance family planning and reproductive health principles, which include abortion, and this goes against our fundamental values regarding life, family, and religion.

The lawmakers cautioned against the reauthorisation of HIV funding to Kenya until Pepfar remains true to its original mission and respects the norms, traditions, and values of the country. 

“As you now seek to reauthorise Pepfar funding, we want to express our concerns and suspicions about this funding. We ask that those partner organizations with whom the US government partners implement Pepfar programs in ways that are cognizant and respectful of our beliefs and not cross over into promoting divisive ideas and practices that are not consistent with those of Africa,” the letter said.

“Again, we thank the American people for their extraordinary generosity and solidarity with us and ask that our voices be heard and acknowledged, and our beliefs safeguarded in future Pepfar programming,” the letter further read.

Last month, US Republicans picked up on the issue and demanded that Pepfar funding for 2023-24 (due in September) to Kenya be suspended until the issue is resolved. 

“If Pepfar doesn’t get reauthorised, the program can continue but it could send some pretty chilling messages to people in the field who depend on Pepfar for life support,” said Jennifer Kates, Director of Global Health and HIV Policy at KFF, a health policy organisation that has tracked the provisions set to expire September 30.

The Congress debate that will determine whether Kenya gets the money is ongoing.

The outcome will affect the future of the programme, hence sparking confusion with many civil societies calling on the withdrawal of the letter. 

Over 50 civil societies have written to the Speaker of National Assembly, Moses Wetang’ula to protest the MPs’ move, which they say would jeopardise the lives of over 55 million Kenyans who benefit from HIV programmes supported by Pepfar as well as more than 1.6 million people living with HIV in Kenya.

The US has since threatened not to renew the funding which contributes more than 50 per cent of total HIV/Aids care funds in Kenya. This is happening as various stakeholders in the HIV space are gathered in Mombasa County to take stock of what has been happening in the country.

“Pepfar programme is now set for renewal. We are apprehensive that the claims by our Members of Parliament in the letter may jeopardise the reauthorisation of the programme. Our own Members of Parliament are expressing baseless claims which could cost Kenya funding for services such as testing, diagnosing, prevention and, majorly, the dispensing of antiretroviral medicines,” said Allan Maleche, Executive Director at the Kenya Legal & Ethical Issues Network on HIV and Aids.

Kenya was expecting Ksh50 billion (343.9 million) in HIV-Aids funding for the financial year 2023-24 once the current funding period lapses on September 30. 

As a result of this letter, US Republicans now want the Biden government to suspend the funding reauthorisation due next week, until a clause is added to impose the Mexico City Policy (Global Gag Rule) on their Aids programmes in Africa and around the Global South.

The Global Gag Rule was in effect during President Donald Trump's administration and requires that any recipient of funding from the US government not engage in providing services or even information about abortion care, even if those services are not being funded by the US.

President Joe Biden withdrew this policy (the Global Gag Rule) when he took office, but Republicans now want it back as a condition for this specific Pepfar programme.

Biden's handlers have termed as baseless claims that the funds were being used to support abortions.

“It is disheartening to witness the spread of misinformation regarding Pepfar's alleged involvement in supporting abortion and allegedly disregarding family values. These claims are not only baseless but also detrimental to the progress we have made in combating the HIV epidemic," he added.

“It is important to note that Pepfar's focus is on saving lives, promoting health, and upholding human rights, with a very limited mandate restricted to HIV care and management,” he further said.

The societies indicated that the gains Kenya has realised two decades after PEPFAR was introduced are great. The programme has continuously met the needs of millions of Kenyans by providing lifesaving drugs that were previously beyond reach. 

“From the current funding landscape in Kenya, without Pepfar support, millions of lives would be at risk. Kenya will have a major funding gap in these programs. Further, none of these funding areas violates ‘our core beliefs concerning life, family and religion’ as alleged,” the civil societies said.

The civil societies are calling upon Mr Wetang’ula to clarify to Kenyans the National Assembly's position on the suspension of Pepfar funding to Kenya.

“We are united in calling upon the US Congress to fully reauthorise Pepfar,” they wrote.

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Gabon Coup Leaders Name General Brice Oligui Nguema as New Leader

Gen Nguema was carried triumphally through the streets of the capital Libreville by his troops

By George Wright

BBC News

Army officers who seized power in a coup in Gabon on Wednesday have named General Brice Oligui Nguema as the West African state's transitional leader.

Gen Nguema was earlier carried triumphally through the streets of the capital Libreville by his troops.

The deposed President, Ali Bongo, has appeared in a video at his home, calling on his "friends all over the world" to "make noise" on his behalf.

The former French colony is one of Africa's major oil producers.

Mr Bongo's overthrow ended his family's 55-year hold on power.

Army officers appeared on TV in the early hours of Wednesday to say they had taken power.

They said they had annulled the results of Saturday's election in which Mr Bongo was declared the winner but which the opposition said was fraudulent.

The officers also said they had arrested one of Mr Bongo's sons for treason.

Within hours, generals met to discuss who would lead the transition and agreed by a unanimous vote to appoint Gen Nguema, former head of the presidential guard.

Crowds in Libreville and elsewhere celebrated the army's declaration.

But the coup was condemned by the UN, the African Union and France, which had close ties to the Bongo family.

There has long been simmering resentment of the Bongo family - it ruled Gabon for 55 years - and there has been public discontent over broader issues such as the cost of living.

"At first I was scared, but then I felt joy," a resident of Libreville, who requested anonymity, told the BBC. "I was scared because of the realisation that I am living through a coup, but the joy is because we've been waiting for so long for this regime to be overthrown."

Gabon coup: The basics

Where is Gabon? It's a country rich in oil and minerals on the west coast of Central Africa, with a population of just 2.4 million.

Who is Ali Bongo? He was declared the winner of Saturday's disputed elections and has been president since 2009. Before that, his father was in power for 41 years.

Why was there a coup? The army do not accept the election results and say they took power to keep the peace.

Gen Nguema, 48, was absent from the first three statements read out by senior army officers on national television to announce the coup.

But he was named transitional leader soon after, and was carried through the streets in jubilant scenes.

He was aide-de-camp to the ousted leader's father, Omar Bongo, who ruled for almost 42 years until his death in 2009.

A former close colleague told AFP news agency that Gen Nguema had been extremely close to Omar Bongo, serving him from 2005 until his death in a Spanish hospital.

Under Ali Bongo he first worked as a military attache at Gabon's embassies in Morocco and Senegal.

But in 2018 he was made intelligence chief under the elite republican guard - Gabon's most powerful army unit - replacing Ali Bongo's half-brother Frederic Bongo, before getting promoted to general.

As in previous general elections in Gabon, there were serious concerns about the process in Saturday's vote.

Main opposition candidate Albert Ondo Ossa complained that many polling stations had lacked ballot papers bearing his name, while the coalition he represented said the names of some of those who had withdrawn from the presidential race had still been on the ballot sheet.

Both of Mr Bongo's previous wins were disputed as fraudulent by opponents. This time, controversial changes were made to voting papers just weeks before election day.

In 2018, he suffered a stroke which sidelined him for almost a year and led to calls for him to step aside.

The following year, a failed coup attempt saw mutinying soldiers sent to prison.

Gabon’s Wealthy, Dynastic Leader Thought He Could Resist Africa’s Trend of Coups. He Might Be Wrong

Gabon soldiers cheer their general after seizing power


12:44 PM EDT, August 30, 2023

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — The president of Gabon, Ali Bongo Ondimba, knew well the threat of military coups in his part of the world. But he swore one wouldn’t happen to him.

“While our continent has been shaken in recent weeks by violent crises, rest assured that I will never allow you and our country Gabon to be hostages to attempts at destabilization. Never,” Bongo declared this month as the central African nation marked 60 years of independence from France, almost all of that time with his family in power.

Now, according to a group of mutinous Gabonese security forces who spoke on state television early Wednesday, he is under house arrest, accused of “unpredictable, irresponsible governance.” The soldiers who claimed authority said people around Bongo had been arrested for “high betrayal,” embezzlement and corruption, though it was not clear whether the president himself faced those charges.

“I don’t know what’s going on,” Bongo said in a brief video shared with media outlets hours after the soldiers’ predawn announcement. In the richly carpeted room where he sat, an image of former South African President Nelson Mandela sat on a bookshelf.

A longtime politician and one-time funk musician, the French-educated Bongo, 64, is a member of one of Africa’s political dynasties. He took office in 2009 after the death of his father, who ruled oil-rich Gabon for 41 years, and continued security partnerships with France and the United States.

His family’s longevity, perhaps, gave Bongo confidence in the face of the military coups shaking other parts of French-speaking Africa.

Still, there have been challenges. He won his second seven-year term by a narrow margin in 2016 amid violent protests. In late 2018, he had a stroke that kept him from his duties for months. Mutinous soldiers attempted a coup in early 2019 while Bongo was in Morocco recuperating. They were quickly seized.

It is not yet clear how the coup announced Wednesday, hours after Bongo was declared the winner of a weekend presidential election, will play out. The coup leaders said his family and his doctors were with him in his home. They did not give any details about his health.

Bongo has held power in a corner of Africa where heads of state find ways to stay in office for decades. Gabon’s neighbors are ruled by a trio of the continent’s longest-running leaders, including Teodoro Obiang in Equatorial Guinea, in office since 1979; Paul Biya in Cameroon, in office since 1982; and Denis Sassou Nguesso in the Republic of Congo, in office from 1979-92 and again since 1997.

While Gabon’s oil reserves have enriched its rulers, many linked by family ties, frustration has been growing among the population over the inequality on display. Gabon’s oil export revenue was $6 billion in 2022, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

“It is an oil emirate run like a family property for almost six decades,” said Thomas Borrel, an analyst in France who studies Africa.

Bongo is one of Africa’s richest heads of state, and his wealth is likely to be scrutinized even more now, along with that of his family. Investigators in the U.S. and France have looked into millions of assets in both countries.

For most people in Gabon, economic pain is rising along with prices. In an Aug. 17 Independence Day speech, Bongo acknowledged the widespread frustration. “I know there is impatience,” he said, “the sentiment that we could have done better.”

He listed steps his government was taking to contain fuel prices, make education more affordable and to keep the cost of baguettes stable. In January, the Gabonese government created a ministry to combat the high cost of living, according to the World Bank.

Even as Bongo tried to appeal to citizens for votes, he continued what human rights groups and other observers have described as years of efforts to stifle the opposition. Gabon abolished presidential term limits two decades ago. Last weekend’s general election, for the first time, was said to have no international observers.

Bongo appeared intent on staying in office, like his father, until his death.

Relatively affectionate about former colonizer France even as anti-French sentiment has grown in parts of Africa, Gabon’s president earlier this year played host to President Emmanuel Macron. Macron’s declaration there that “the age of Francafrique is well over” was a response to critics who have long asserted that Paris props up authoritarian rulers on the continent.

Now Bongo, trapped at home, seeks help from “all the friends we have.”

In recent years, he has tried to present Gabon to the world as a global leader in environmental conservation instead of a case study in clinging to power.

The United Nations last year described the small nation as “probably the most carbon-positive country in the world due to its strong environmental conservation and longstanding political commitment to preserving the country’s untouched natural environment.”

In 2021, Gabon was the first country to receive payments for reducing forest emissions from deforestation. Bongo took pleasure in the progress and praise.

But such achievements are now overshadowed by the sight of hundreds of people dancing and cheering in the streets of the capital on Wednesday, declaring themselves free.


AP writer Sylvie Corbet in Paris contributed.

IN BRIEF: Military Stages Coup to Seize Power in Central African Country of Gabon

The coup took place almost immediately after the Gabonese election authority announced that the incumbent president had been re-elected for a third term


PRETORIA, August 30. /TASS/. A group of military officers in Gabon announced that they had taken power in the country, cancelled the results of the recent presidential election, in which incumbent President Ali Bongo Ondimba had secured victory, and dissolved all state institutions.

TASS has gathered the key takeaways regarding the breaking developments in Gabon.

Pre-coup background

Voting in Gabon’s presidential, parliamentary and local elections kicked off on August 26 amid tightened security measures. A total of 14 candidates stood in the presidential election, including incumbent head of state Ali Bongo Ondimba, who was seeking his third term in office. Albert Ondo Ossa, supported by the Alternative 2023 electoral coalition of six opposition parties, was his main rival.


The coup took place almost immediately after the Gabonese election authority announced that the incumbent president had been re-elected for a third term, winning 62.4% of the vote, while chief rival Albert Ondo Ossa garnered 30.7%. The opposition refused to accept the outcome of the election, citing irregularities.

Gabon's military seizes power in country, overturns presidential election results

A group of high-ranking officers in the Gabonese armed forces announced on state television that they had taken power in the country and moved to cancel the results of the presidential and parliamentary elections. The rebels consist of officers serving in the Central African nation’s security forces, armed forces and police, as well as members of the national guard and presidential guard.

Rebels’ statements and actions

After seizing power in Gabon, the military announced that the country’s borders would be closed until further notice. They also dissolved all state institutions, including the government, the Senate, the National Assembly, and the Constitutional Court. The rebels then established a structure called the Committee for the Transition and Restoration of Institutions, but its membership has not yet been disclosed.

The military rebels announced their intention to honor all of Gabon’s international obligations. In explaining the rationale for their actions, the military said that irresponsible governance had brought the country to the brink of chaos.

Current situation in Gabon

Residents of the Gabonese capital of Libreville and the country’s second-largest city, Port-Gentil, took to the streets carrying national flags and welcoming troops riding in tanks. According to earlier reports, shooting was heard in the capital. French mining company Eramet has suspended its activities in Gabon amid news of the coup.

International reaction

Top European Union diplomat Josep Borrell stated that if reports of a coup in Gabon proved true, the situation in the country would be brought up for discussion at the August 31 meeting of EU foreign ministers. According to Borrell, the current situation across Africa’s entire Sahel region is difficult.

French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne pointed out that Paris was keeping a close eye on events in Gabon.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson called on the parties to resolve differences peacefully.

President’s whereabouts

Gabonese President Ali Bongo Ondimba is under house arrest, Agence France-Presse reported, citing the military rebels who have seized power in the country.

Ondimba, 64, is the son of Omar Bongo Ondimba, Gabon’s second president since gaining independence from France in 1960, who ruled the country from 1967 to 2009. Ali Bongo Ondimba was elected president after his father’s death in 2009 and re-elected for a second term in 2016 with only a razor-thin margin of victory over the opposition candidate. According to analysts’ estimates, he has managed to implement only 13 out of the 105 points of his 2016 election program.

About Gabon

Gabon is one of Africa’s most oil-rich countries, where oil production accounts for 70.5% of export revenues. It is one of the continent’s leaders in terms of per capita income ($7,540 as of 2022, in third place after the Seychelles and Mauritius). However, the current government has been unable to resolve the problem of endemic poverty, which affected 32.9% of the country’s population in 2022, according to the World Bank.

Regional instability

In late July, a group of military rebels in Niger announced the removal of President Mohamed Bazoum. The National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland, headed by General Abdourahmane Tchiani, was established to govern the West African country. The regional bloc Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) imposed harsh sanctions on the Nigerien rebels, demanding they release Bazoum and reinstate him in office, and threatening to intervene militarily in Niger.

UN Chief Condemns Coup in Gabon, Calls for Guaranteeing President’s Security

A group of high-ranking officers in the Gabonese armed forces announced on state television earlier that they had taken power in the country

UNITED NATIONS, August 31. /TASS/. United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres condemned the coupe in Gabon and called on the rebels to ensure the safety of President Ali Bongo Ondimba and his family, United Nations Secretary-General’s Spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said on Wednesday.

"The Secretary General is following closely the evolving situation in Gabon. He notes with deep concern the announcement of the election results amid reports of serious infringements of fundamental freedoms," he said. "He firmly condemns the ongoing coup attempt as a means to resolve the post electoral crisis. The Secretary General reaffirms his strong opposition to military coups.

"The Secretary General calls on all actors involved to exercise restraint, engage in an inclusive and meaningful dialogue and ensure that the rule of law and human rights are fully respected. He also calls on the national army and security forces to guarantee the physical integrity of the President of the Republic and his family," he stressed.

A group of high-ranking officers in the Gabonese armed forces announced on state television earlier that they had taken power in the country. The rebels consist of officers serving in the Central African nation’s security forces, armed forces and police, as well as members of the national guard and presidential guard. The rebels canceled the outcome of the August 26 presidential vote that resulted in President Ali Bongo Ondimba’s election to his third office term. The military said that the president was under house arrest "surrounded by his family and doctors." He confirmed in a video that he was being held at the presidential residence.

Later, the rebels named Republican Guard head General Brice Oligui Nguema as transitional leader, Reuters reported, citing a statement one of the rebels read out on national television.

Kiev Regime’s Drone Attacks on Russia Display of 'Sheer Futility,' Russian Diplomat Says

According to Maria Zakharova, the Ukrainian authorities have "simply run out of options"

Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova Russian Foreign Ministry Press Service/TASS

© Russian Foreign Ministry Press Service/TASS

MOSCOW, August 30. /TASS/. Ukraine’s attempts to attack Russian territory using drones overnight on Wednesday demonstrate the "sheer futility" of the situation the Ukrainian authorities find themselves in and the death throes of the Kiev regime, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.

In the early morning hours of August 30, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) were deployed in several attempted attacks on a number of Russian regions. In Crimea, seaborne drones were used in an attempted attack on Sevastopol harbor.

"Obviously, these are the death throes of the Kiev regime; mindless hatred, malice and the lack of any prospects for their own development have engendered this type of terrorist activity. [They have] simply run out of options; [it is a display of] sheer futility," she said in remarks to Sputnik radio.

FACTBOX: Massive drone attack on Russian regions

Drone boats attempted to attack the bay of Sevastopol in Crimea, with the strike being repelled by anti-submarine warfare forces

MOSCOW, August 30. /TASS/. In the early hours of Wednesday, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) attempted to attack five regions in Central Russia and the Pskov Region in the country's northwest.

In Pskov, the attack caused a fire at the city’s airport. Several Il-76 military transport planes were damaged there. In other cases, drones were shot down by air defense units before causing any harm.

Also, drone boats attempted to attack the bay of Sevastopol in Crimea. The attack was repelled by anti-submarine warfare forces.

TASS compiled a summary of these events.

Attack on Pskov Airport

- Pskov Airport was attacked by drones. The attack was repelled by the Russian Defense Ministry’s air defense units.

- No casualties occurred.

- Air traffic above the Pskov Region and its administrative center was restricted. Pskov Airport will remain closed on August 30.

- The Pskov Region’s department of the Russian emergencies ministry said Il-76 military transport aircraft had caught fire.

- 21 pieces of firefighting equipment and vehicles and 65 people are involved in the firefighting effort.

Drone attack on central Russia

- According to the Russian Defense Ministry, air defenses shot down three Ukrainian drones above the Bryansk Region in west Russia and one above the Oryol Region in Central Russia.

- Oryol Region Governor Andrey Klychkov said, however, that two drones had been intercepted above his region’s territory.

- The Russian Defense Ministry also reported that two Ukrainian drones had been downed in the Ryazan Region and one - in the Kaluga Region.

- Kaluga Region Governor Vladislav Shapsha said two drones had attacked his region: one was shot down and the other hit an empty oil tank.

- One drone was headed towards Moscow, but was intercepted above the Moscow Region’s Ruzsky municipal district.

- No casualties were reported in any of these cases.

- Moscow’s airports were briefly closed for arrivals and departures. By now, all restrictions have been lifted in Sheremetyevo, Vnukovo, Domodedovo and Zhukovsky.

Drone boat attack on Sevastopol

- In the early hours of Wednesday, Sevastopol Governor Mikhail Razvozzhayev reported that forces of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet were repelling a drone attack near the main bay of the Crimean city of Sevastopol

- About an hour later, he said that anti-submarine warfare forces had completed their task. For now, there has been no precise information about the number and type of destroyed targets.

Russia Cripples Ukrainian Military Command, Intel Centers in Overnight Precision Strike

Russian forces repulsed three Ukrainian army attacks in the Kupyansk area, eliminating roughly 100 enemy troops over the past day, the ministry reported

© Alexey Konovalov/TASS

MOSCOW, August 30. /TASS/. Russian forces delivered a strike by long-range precision weapons, wiping out Ukrainian military command and intelligence centers over the past day in the special military operation in Ukraine, Russia’s Defense Ministry reported on Wednesday.

"Overnight to August 30, Russian forces delivered a multiple-launch strike by airborne and seaborne long-range precision weapons against enemy military command and intelligence centers," the ministry said in a statement.

The goals of the strike were achieved. "All the designated targets were destroyed," the ministry stressed.

Russian forces repulse three Ukrainian attacks in Kupyansk area over past day

Russian forces repulsed three Ukrainian army attacks in the Kupyansk area, eliminating roughly 100 enemy troops over the past day, the ministry reported.

"In the Kupyansk direction, units of the battlegroup West, artillery and heavy flamethrower fires repulsed three attacks by the Ukrainian army’s 43rd and 115th mechanized brigades and 68th jaeger brigade in areas near the settlements of Sinkovka in the Kharkov Region, Sergeyevka and Novoyegorovka in the Lugansk People’s Republic," the ministry said.

The enemy’s losses in the Kupyansk area over the past 24 hours amounted to 100 Ukrainian personnel, three armored combat vehicles, three motor vehicles, two US-made M109 guns, a D-30 howitzer, a Gvozdika motorized artillery system and a Polish-manufactured Krab self-propelled artillery gun, the ministry reported.

Russian forces destroy 60 Ukrainian troops in Krasny Liman area over past day

Russian forces struck Ukrainian army units in the Krasny Liman area, destroying roughly 60 enemy troops over the past day, the ministry reported.

"In the Krasny Liman direction, units of the battlegroup Center in interaction with aircraft and artillery repulsed an attack by an assault group of the Ukrainian army’s 42nd mechanized brigade in the area of the Serebryansky forestry. As many as 60 Ukrainian personnel, two armored combat vehicles and two motor vehicles were destroyed over the past 24 hours," the ministry said.

Russian forces repulse five Ukrainian attacks in Donetsk area over past day

Russian forces repulsed five Ukrainian army attacks in the Donetsk area, killing and wounding roughly 380 enemy troops over the past day, the ministry reported.

"In the Donetsk area, units of the southern battlegroup supported by aircraft and artillery repulsed five enemy attacks near the settlements of Belogorovka, Zaitsevo and Krasnogorovka in the Donetsk People’s Republic. The enemy’s losses totaled 380 Ukrainian personnel killed and wounded," the ministry said.

Russian forces also destroyed four Ukrainian armored combat vehicles, seven motor vehicles, two D-20 howitzers, an Msta-B howitzer and a Rapira anti-tank gun, the ministry specified.

Near the settlement of Prechistovka in the Donetsk People’s Republic, Russian forces obliterated ammunition and fuel depots of the Ukrainian army’s 35th marine infantry brigade, it said.

Russian forces strike Ukrainian army group’s headquarters in DPR

Russian forces struck a Ukrainian army group’s headquarters and an enemy signal center in the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) over the past day, the ministry reported.

"Near the settlement of Rovnoye in the Donetsk People’s Republic, a headquarters of the [Ukrainian army’s] battlegroup Donetsk was destroyed along with a signal center of the Ukrainian army’s 24th mechanized brigade," the ministry said.

Russian forces eliminate 120 Ukrainian troops in south Donetsk area over past day

Russian forces eliminated roughly 120 Ukrainian troops and two enemy howitzers in the south Donetsk area over the past day, the ministry reported.

"In the south Donetsk direction, units of the battlegroup East inflicted damage by combined firepower on amassed Ukrainian army personnel and equipment near the settlement of Novodarovka in the Zaporozhye Region. The enemy’s losses in that direction amounted to 120 Ukrainian personnel, two armored combat vehicles, four motor vehicles, a D-20 howitzer and a D-30 howitzer," the ministry said.

Russian forces repel nine Ukrainian attacks in Zaporozhye area over past day

Russian forces repelled nine Ukrainian army attacks in the Zaporozhye area over the past day, the ministry reported.

"In the Zaporozhye direction, nine attacks by assault groups of the Ukrainian army’s 46th air mobile and 82nd air assault brigades were repelled by active operations of units from the Russian battlegroup, air strikes, artillery and heavy flamethrower fires near the settlements of Rabotino and Verbovoye in the Zaporozhye Region," the ministry said.

Russian forces also destroyed as many as 85 Ukrainian army personnel, a tank, three armored combat vehicles, two pickup trucks, three M777 artillery systems and three M119 howitzers of US manufacture, a Gvozdika motorized artillery gun, a Bogdana self-propelled artillery system and a UK-made AS90 self-propelled artillery gun in the Zaporozhye area over the past 24 hours, the ministry specified.

Russian forces destroy 15 Ukrainian troops in Kherson area over past day

Russian forces destroyed about 15 Ukrainian troops in the Kherson area over the past day, the ministry reported.

"In the Kherson direction, as many as 15 Ukrainian personnel, two motor vehicles and a D-30 howitzer were destroyed as a result of damage inflicted by firepower," the ministry said in a statement.

Russian air defenses intercept HIMARS rocket, destroy 28 Ukrainian drones over past day

Russian air defense forces intercepted a rocket of the US-made HIMARS multiple launch rocket system and destroyed 28 Ukrainian unmanned aerial vehicles over the past day, the ministry reported.

"Air defense capabilities intercepted a rocket of the HIMARS multiple launch rocket system. In addition, they destroyed 28 Ukrainian unmanned aerial vehicles in areas near the settlements of Shipilovka in the Lugansk People’s Republic, Spornoye, Zelyony Gai, Verkhnetoretskoye and Vodyanoye in the Donetsk People’s Republic, Ocherevatoye, Pyatikhatki, Tarasovka and Berdyansk in the Zaporozhye Region," the ministry said.

During the last 24-hour period, operational/tactical and army aircraft, missile troops and artillery of the Russian groupings of forces inflicted damage on Ukrainian army personnel and military hardware in 138 areas, the ministry reported.

In all, the Russian Armed Forces have destroyed 466 Ukrainian warplanes, 247 combat helicopters, 6,234 unmanned aerial vehicles, 433 surface-to-air missile systems, 11,570 tanks and other armored combat vehicles, 1,146 multiple rocket launchers, 6,128 field artillery guns and mortars and 12,528 special military motor vehicles since the start of the special military operation in Ukraine, the ministry reported.

Russia’s UNSC Resolution on Lifting Anti-Malian Sanctions in 2024 Not Passed

Russia voted in favor of the document, Japan was against, while other members of the UN Security Council, including China, abstained

© Eduardo Munoz/Pool Photo via AP, file

UNITED NATIONS, August 31. /TASS/. The United Nations Security Council has not passed Russia’s draft resolution on lifting sanctions off Mali in September 2024, a TASS correspondent reported on Wednesday.

Russia voted in favor of the document, Japan was against, while other members of the UN Security Council, including China, abstained.

The draft suggested that the sanctions regime, which has been in force since September 2017, be extended for one more year, until August 31, 2024, for the last time.

Western delegations initiated their draft resolution, which also provided for a one-year extension of the sanctions, did not mention that this is the last such extension. Russia vetoes the Western draft.

Before the voting on the Russian draft, Russian Permanent Representative to the United Nations Vasily Nebezya stressed that Russia would not support other drafts on the sanctions against Mali. "I would like to say once again <…> to the US representative - if this resolution is not passed, there will be no return to the discussion of any new draft," he warned.

Both drafts envisaged the extension of the sanction regime, which expires on August 31, 2023, for one more year, or until August 31, 2023. Since neither of them has been passed, the sanction regime will not be extended, which means that the sanctions against Mali will become ineffective from September 1, 2023.

In any case, sanctions are formalized by special laws on the national level, hence, countries are free to extend their national restrictions against Mali but such steps will not be backed by a UN Security Council resolution.

Under the current regime of restrictions imposed on Mali, the sanction list may include individuals and organizations responsible for actions jeopardizing peace, security or stability in Mali, in particular those who are participating in hostilities in violation of the 2015 peace agreement, hindering its implementation, hampering humanitarian assistance, violating international humanitarian law, and involved in recruiting children.

Those put on the blacklist are banned from visiting foreign countries and their assets and economic resources were frozen.

Russia’s Actions at U.N. Terminate Mali Sanctions and Panel of Experts Reporting, Recently on Wagner


7:03 PM EDT, August 30, 2023

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Mali’s military junta succeeded in kicking out the U.N. peacekeeping force, and on Wednesday its Russian allies scored yet another victory against the U.N.: They were able to terminate all U.N. sanctions on Malians and abolish a panel of experts which has been critical of activities of Russia’s Wagner Group in the West African nation.

The travel ban and asset freeze, currently affecting eight Malians on the U.N. blacklist for threatening peace efforts, and the mandate of the panel of experts monitoring the implementation of sanctions were up for renewal in the U.N. Security Council.

A French and United Arab Emirates-drafted resolution that would have extended the sanctions regime until Aug. 31, 2024 and the mandate of the U.N. panel of experts monitoring sanctions until Sept. 30, 2024 was put to a vote first. It got 13 “yes” votes in the 15-member council but was vetoed by Russia. China abstained.

A rival Russian resolution that would have extended sanctions “for the final period of 12 months” until Aug. 31, 2024 and abolished the panel of experts “with immediate effect” failed to get the minimum nine “yes” votes needed for adoption. In the vote, Russia was the only country to vote in favor, Japan voted against, and 13 countries abstained.

The result is that after Thursday, Aug. 31, when the current sanctions regime ends there will be no sanctions on the Malians. The panel of experts submitted their last report which was circulated last week and its mandate will officially end on Sept. 30.

Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told council members before the vote that it would not allow another resolution to be put forward on sanctions and the panel of experts.

Nebenzia called for consultations before the votes, which the U.S. agreed to after a long break, but Russia’s demands on sanctions and the experts were not acceptable to supporters of the France-UAE resolution, so the voting went ahead. Nebenzia said after casting the veto on that resolution that its views and those of the Mali rulers were not taken into consideration.

U.S. deputy ambassador Robert Wood, who chaired the meeting, called sanctions “necessary to stem the illicit financial transfers and ill-gotten gains both from Mali and into a region in which numerous malign actors operate and have sadly proliferated.”

He called the panel of experts’ reporting “a central source of information on the situation in Mali,” and said Russia wanted to eliminate its mandate “to stifle publication of uncomfortable truths about Wagner’s actions in Mali, which require attention.” He said Russia’s draft was “lamentably short” on providing sustained support for Mali.

France’s deputy U.N. ambassador Nathalie Broadhurst expressed deep regret at Russia’s veto at a crucial time for Mali and the region. “The choice made by Russia follows the participation of Wagner mercenaries in fighting” in northern Ber, where the U.N. was evacuating a peacekeeping base, and in airstrikes that “imperil” a cease-fire and a 2015 peace agreement, she noted.

In their final report to the council, the panel of experts said they remain particularly concerned with persistent conflict-related sexual violence in Mali’s eastern Menaka and central Mopti regions, “especially those involving the foreign security partners of the Malian Armed Force” – the Wagner Group.

In their final report to the council, the panel of experts said they remain particularly concerned with persistent conflict-related sexual violence in Mali’s eastern Menaka and central Mopti regions, “especially those involving the foreign security partners of the Malian Armed Force” – the Wagner Group.

“The panel believes that violence against women, and other forms of grave abuses of human rights and international humanitarian law are being used, specifically by the foreign security partners, to spread terror among populations,” the report said.

The experts also said Islamic State extremists have almost doubled the territory they control in Mali in less than a year, and their al-Qaida-linked rivals are capitalizing on the deadlock and perceived weakness of armed groups that signed a 2015 peace agreement.

The stalled implementation of the peace deal and sustained attacks on communities have offered the IS group and al-Qaida affiliates a chance “to re-enact the 2012 scenario,” they said.

That’s the year when a military coup took place in the West African country and rebels in the north formed an Islamic state two months later.

The extremist rebels were forced from power in the north with the help of a French-led military operation, but they moved from the arid north to more populated central Mali in 2015 and remain active.

In August 2020, Mali’s president was overthrown in a coup that included an army colonel who carried out a second coup and was sworn in as president in June 2021. He developed ties to Russia’s military and the Wagner group whose head, Yevgeny Prigozhin, was reportedly killed in a plane crash on a flight from Moscow last week.

In June, Mali’s junta ordered the nearly 15,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping force to leave after a decade of working on stemming the jihadi insurgency The Security Council terminated the mission’s mandate on June 30 and the U.N. is in the throes of what Secretary-General António Guterres calls an “unprecedented” six-month exit from Mali.

The U.N. special envoy for Mali, El-Ghassim Wane, laid out the scale of the operation to the council on Monday: All 12,947 U.N. peacekeepers and police must be sent home, their 12 camps and one temporary base handed over to the government, and 1,786 civilian staff terminated by the Dec. 31 deadline.

EgyptAir Will Resume Direct Flights from Egypt to Conflict-stricken Sudan

In this photo provided by Egypt’s presidency media office, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, right, greets Sudan’s army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan at the Presidential palace in el-Alamein city, Egypt, Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2023. (Egyptian Presidency Media Office via AP)

4:34 AM EDT, August 30, 2023

CAIRO (AP) — Egyptian authorities said the national carrier will resume direct flights to Sudan this week following high profile talks between the Egyptian president and Sudan’s military chief.

Egypt’s Ministry of Civil Aviation said Tuesday that EgyptAir would launch a weekly flight route from Cairo to the Sudanese coastal city of Port Sudan starting Friday. No further details were given.

Sudan plunged into chaos in mid-April when simmering tensions between the military, led by Abdel Fattah Burhan, and the powerful paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, commanded by Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, exploded into open fighting in the capital, Khartoum, and elsewhere.

The flight announcement came hours after Burhan and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi concluded talks in Cairo. The visit marks the Sudanese general’s first trip abroad since fighting erupted on April 15.

Sudanese authorities reopened the airspace in the east of the country earlier this month, according to local media. Port Sudan on the Red Sea has seen limited fighting since the conflict broke out and is controlled by the military. The port has become the main entry point for humanitarian flights and aid shipments for Sudan.

Both leaders said they spoke about ways to end the conflict but gave few details. Sudan’s Foreign Minister Ali al-Sadiq, who traveled to Cairo with Burhan, said that among several “urgent issues” discussed was the flow of people and goods across the Sudanese-Egyptian border.

More than 4.6 million people have been displaced, according to the U.N. migration agency. Those include over 3.6 million who fled to safer areas inside Sudan and more than 1 million others who crossed into neighboring countries. More than 285,300 people have fled to Egypt.

Egypt has longstanding ties with the Sudanese army and its top generals. In July, el-Sissi hosted a meeting of Sudan’s neighbors and announced a plan for a cease-fire. A series of fragile truces, brokered by the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, have failed.

According to Sudan’s ruling Sovereign Council, Burhan returned to Port Sudan late Tuesday.