Monday, July 15, 2024

Judge Dismisses Classified Documents Case Against Trump

Judge Aileen Cannon ruled that the entire case should be thrown out because the appointment of the special counsel who brought the case, Jack Smith, had violated the Constitution. Her decision is sure to be appealed.

July 15, 2024, 10:28 a.m. ET

Alan Feuer, New York Times

A federal judge dismissed in its entirety the classified documents case against former President Donald J. Trump on Monday, ruling that the appointment of the special counsel, Jack Smith, had violated the Constitution.

In a stunning ruling, the judge, Aileen M. Cannon, found that because Mr. Smith had not been named to the post of special counsel by the president or confirmed by the Senate, his appointment was in violation of the appointments clause of the Constitution.

The ruling by Judge Cannon, who was put on the bench by Mr. Trump, flew in the face of previous court decisions reaching back to the Watergate era that upheld the legality of the ways in which independent prosecutors have been named. And in a single swoop, it removed a major legal threat against Mr. Trump on the first day of the Republican National Convention, where he is set to formally become the party’s nominee for president.

Mr. Smith’s team will almost certainly appeal the ruling by Judge Cannon throwing out the classified documents indictment, which charges Mr. Trump with illegally holding onto a trove of highly sensitive state secrets after he left office and then obstructing the government’s repeated efforts to retrieve them.

An Israeli Ship Hit with Ballistic Missiles in Gulf of Aden: Yemeni AF

By Al Mayadeen English

14 Jul 2024 23:42

The spokesperson for the Yemeni Armed Forces renewed his call to Arab and Islamic countries to engage the Israeli occupation in support of Palestine.

The spokesperson for the Yemeni Armed Forces, Brigadier General Yahya Saree, announced that the naval forces, air force, and missile force of the Yemeni Armed Forces (YAF) carried out a joint operation targeting an Israeli ship in support of the Palestinian people and in response to the Israeli genocidal massacre in al-Mawasi.

The joint operation targeted the Israeli ship MSC UNIFIC in the Gulf of Aden with a number of ballistic missiles and drones. 

In turn, the drone force carried out a joint operation against several military targets located in the Israeli-occupied Umm al-Rashrash (Eilat) area in southern occupied Palestine. According to the spokesperson, the drone mission achieved its objective successfully.

The Yemeni Armed Forces spokesperson further renewed Yemen's call to all Arab and Islamic armies to fulfill their religious, moral, and humanitarian duty towards the Palestinian people and affirm their full readiness to carry out joint military operations with any Arab or Islamic party that supports the oppressed Palestinian people.

Earlier, yesterday, Saree, stated that they are closely monitoring the developments in Gaza, including the recent massacre by the Israeli occupation forces, which resulted in hundreds of martyrs and injured Palestinian people.

"The Arab and Islamic complacency has encouraged the Israeli enemy to continue committing these crimes in full view of the world," the spokesperson said.

The Yemeni Armed Forces affirmed their commitment to supporting the Palestinian people, vowing to "take necessary steps and measures" to achieve a "genuine victory for the blood of the Palestinian people."

They warned they would "not hesitate to expand their military operations against the Israeli enemy and its backers" until the aggression ends and the blockade on Gaza is lifted.

Somalia Will Require Foreign Troops Past Atmis Exit, Experts Says

SUNDAY JULY 14 2024

Outgoing African Union Mission in Somalia (Atmis) troops arrive at Jalalaqsi, Somalia on February 9, 2023. PHOTO | POOL

By JULIUS BARIGABA

As Somalia moves towards African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (Atmis) exiting the country and ushering in another foreign force on its shores, security experts say financial reasons and political expediency are to blame for the short transition timelines. As a result, they say Somalia’s push to be the architect of its security will again not be achieved when all AU troops exit the country.

This will come nearly three years after Atmis was authorised by the United Nations Security Council to mentor the Somali National Army (SNA) to take up security responsibilities, handover military outposts and deliver the transition that guarantees protection for civilians, against al Shabaab militants.

But, in his June 24 briefing to the UNSC, head of Atmis Mohamed el-Amine Souef observed that despite the AU force’s progress towards delivering the transition, al Shabaab remains resilient and retains the ability to conduct devastating attacks.

This, Souef said, was evident in the recent attack on Somali Security Forces in El Dhere in the Galguduud region of Galmudug state in central Somalia, and the mortar attack on the Atmis camp in Baidoa, in the southwestern part of the country.

“The political ambitions around the transition consistently have not matched ground realities, which then causes delays,” says Omar Mahmood, senior Eastern Africa analyst at the International Crisis Group.

Mr Mahmood observes that there has been progress, as the SNA has taken over some bases from the AU force, and increasingly leads the fight against al Shabaab, but a full transition is a long-term process, and more time is required to continue to develop the Somali security sector to stand on its own.

“It is likely Somalia will still require foreign troops assistance for at least the next couple of years in order to avoid a security reversal,” he says.

Peace and security analyst Ruth Namatovu argues that the transition in Somalia is staggered because it was not designed by the AU but imported into the mission.

“[There’s] no clear plan, different stakeholders have different agendas,” argues Ms Namatovu, who is a research fellow at the Institute of Research and Policy Integration in Africa, at the Northern Illinois University in the US.

Citing conflicts like Afghanistan, Iraq, peacekeeping missions in Mali, Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ms Namatovu adds that globally, security transitions during insurgencies have always ended in disaster and recycled the affected countries into conflicts.

“Somalia is trying to dodge a similar end result by minimising the risks of getting rid of the foreign forces at once at the time when al-Shabaab has become more resilient, sophisticated and grown its force in terms of numbers,” she says. 

Experts say a fluid security transition such as the one in Somalia does not need an immediate, complete withdrawal of foreign forces, but the gradual transfer of military operations and security responsibilities to local forces prior to the ultimate withdrawal of foreign troops.

Despite the progress – in which the SNA has since June 30, 2023 taken over 22 bases from the AU, Somalia’s transition has stuttered due to a force generation deficit, resulting in the inability to match the security tasks at hand, which has continued to expose civilians to al-Shabaab attacks.

Because of these security gaps, the Federal Government of Somalia last month sought to delay till end of September the exit of 2,000 out of 4,000 AU troops that were meant to leave the mission at the end of phase three of the drawdown on June 30.

But on June 28, the UN Security Council cut the period that Somalia sought to delay the full drawdown to August 12, in the unanimously adopted Resolution 2741 (2024).

The decision means the Atmis troop-contributing countries (TCCs) were authorised to deploy up to 14,626 uniformed personnel until June 30 but must complete the drawdown of the 2,000 personnel by this date. 

The Security Council further authorised the TCCs to deploy up to 12,626 uniformed personnel from July 1 until August 12, after which 2,000 troops will leave the mission to complete phase three of the drawdown. 

The AU force will wind up its peacekeeping operations on December 31, amid fears of a resurgent al Shabaab.

In December 2023, Somalia tabled a formal request to the UN Security Council, for a post-Atmis force after a series of security setbacks in several parts of the country.

Mr Mahmood argues that a new mission – whose Concept of Operations (Conops) the UN Security Council says should be finalised by end of this month and reviewed on August 2 – should have clearly identified benchmarks that continue momentum towards a full transition.

“Part of the problem has been previous plans emphasised quick timelines for reasons of political expediency, rather than realities on the ground. Ultimately, it is less up to the international partners or even the AU to deliver the transition, but the Somalis themselves,” he says.

Indeed, in the run up to the reconfiguration of the African Union Mission to Somalia (Amisom) to Atims, mission fatigued donors shot down a five-year transition period that the TCCs proposed as the more realistic timeline, in favour of their own short transition of less than three years.

But funding has remained a thorny issue, with the mission allegedly $145 million in arrears currently, and analysts say international partners have to agree on a mechanism to finance the new force, as a priority that guarantees peace and security returns on their investment in state-building of Somalia. 

Rwanda Opens Voting for the Diaspora

SUNDAY JULY 14 2024

Over 9.5 million Rwandans are expected to vote, and for the Monday July 15 elections, polling stations will open at 7am and be close at 3pm. PHOTO | SHUTTERSTOCK

By MOSES K. GAHIGI

By BRIAN OCHARO

Thousands of Rwandans in the diaspora on Sunday voted at their nearest diplomatic missions around the world as the country decides who will be their head of state and MPs for the next 5 year-term.

The voting by the diaspora opened the electoral D-Day by Rwanda whose general election opens proper on Monday across the east African country.

In Kenya, Rwandan citizens thronged Mombasa Sports Club to participate in the nation's General Election, where current President Paul Kagame is running for re-election for the fourth time and is the favourite to defeat his two rivals.

The polling station opened early with the first voter casting their ballot precisely at 8 am.

According to election officials, more than 350 registered voters were expected to turn out in large numbers to exercise their voting rights in the coastal city.

The procedure was such that voters were required to provide identification for confirmation of their registration status. Voters presented passports which had to indicate their dates of entry into Kenya.

The polling station in Mombasa caters to all Rwandan residents in the Coast region who are qualified to participate in the election. Those living in Kwale, Lamu, Kilifi, Tana River and Taita Taveta and want to cast their ballots are required to travel to Mombasa to exercise their voting rights.

However, the queue at this polling station was short initially, but the count continued to increase over time.

The election officials anticipated a voter turnout of more than 90 percent.

Rwanda is only the third country in the East African Community bloc to allow its diaspora to vote. Kenya has twice allowed its citizens to vote in the general election while South Sudan allowed its diaspora to participate in the referendum that enabled it to seceded from Sudan. South Sudan, however, has never held general election since.

Rwanda on Saturday completed three weeks of campaigns which had seen the three presidential candidates give their last push in convincing Rwandans for a vote.

“I have cast my vote at the Rwandan High Commission in Singapore. Yes, I flew from Thailand to Singapore to exercise my civic rights” said Innocent Muvunyi, a Rwandan living in Thailand, after casting his vote.

Gatarayiha Elsa a Rwandan living in Nairobi Kenya, and a first time voter said participating in elections gives her immense pride of a civic responsibility.

“The reason voting is very important is because it is a decision which has ability to change things in one’s nation, it is a point of pride for me to finally exercise that right, I am thankful and I wish everyone good elections”

Up to 2 million Rwandans will vote for the first time, many of who are children born in the last 30 years after the ruling Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) came to power.

Rwanda has stayed stable for most of that time, rising from the ashes of the Genocide against the Tutsi in 1994 to one of Africa’s financial hubs today.

Up to 62,000 Rwandans in diaspora are slated to vote from 70 countries, a threefold increase from the 22,000 diaspora members who voted in the previous presidential election.

“Rwandans living in Saudi Arabia turned up in big numbers at the Embassy of Rwanda in Riyadh, to cast their votes in 2024 Presidential and Parliamentary elections. They were excited to exercise their civic right in voting for leaders of their choice” read a statement from the Rwandan embassy in Riyadh on X.

Over the years, the RPF government has deliberately mounted campaigns to engage Rwandans in the diaspora through successful Rwanda days, the most recent being one held in Washington DC in February this year.

Speaking on his last campaign rally in Gahanga, Kicukiro, on Saturday, President Paul Kagame, said “the Monday July 15th election is as good, finished and won.”

He was addressing thousands of supporters at the venue, Kagame said he came to talk about what will be after elections.

“What I came here for is to further our unity and progress. I am talking about what will be (there) after elections, that’s why I talk about security and furthering our development,” Kagame said.

Referring to Western critics of his regime, who have become a mainstay in his campaign speeches, Kagame told chanting crowds, that “What others say does not kill, what kills is poverty and bad politics.”

“The more they talk bad about us, and treat us with contempt, the more they give us energy to prosper”.

After leading the Rwanda Patriotic Army (RPA) which stopped the 1994 genocide, Kagame championed a remarkable recovery for Rwanda, improving literacy, human health and the general aspects of development including infrastructure.

But his critics in the West, human rights bodies, and dissidents who fell out with him have continued to blame him for suppressing free speech and undermining human rights.

“You can’t fake unity, you can’t fake excitement, you can’t fake a turn up like this, you can’t fake development, you would be mad.

“But like I said, if they think it can be faked let them also try it,” Kagame said at the rally.

Over 9.5 million Rwandans are expected to vote, and for the Monday July 15 elections, polling stations will open at 7am and be close at 3pm.

There are about 2,600 polling stations in Rwanda, including 160 stations set up abroad.

There are polling stations set up at hospitals as well, from district-level facilities to major medical centers, to ease the voting process for patients, caregivers, and healthcare workers.

On Tuesday July 16th, representatives of special groups (women, youth, and people with disabilities) will be elected by the electoral colleges.

The national electoral commission (NEC) has accredited more than 1,000 election observers, including East African Community (EAC) mission headed by Kenya's former chief justice David Maraga.

Former President of Cabo Verde, Jorge Carlos De Almeida Fonseca is leading the African Union Commission (AUC) and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) joint team of election observers.

South African Police Arrest Boyfriend of Scientist Found Dead in Bramley

Police said they found 32-year-old Dorcas Lekganyane at a house in Bramley after responding to a domestic violence call. In June, Lekganyane was recognised by the Mail & Guardian as one of 200 influential South Africans.

Dorcas Lekganyane. Picture: Supplied

JOHANNESBURG - Police have arrested the boyfriend of a young environmental scientist after she was found dead with multiple stab wounds. 

Police said they found 32-year-old Dorcas Lekganyane at a house in Bramley on Thursday, after responding to a domestic violence call. 

In June, Lekganyane was recognised by the Mail & Guardian as one of the 200 influential young South Africans.

A couple of weeks later she was killed, allegedly by her boyfriend in what her family has called “an act of senseless violence.”

Gauteng police spokesperson Noxolo Kweza said police were investigating a murder case.

“Her partner was also found in the house. He was taken to a local hospital where he was placed under police guard. He will be charged with murder and will appear in court soon.”

In a statement, her family said Lekganyane was a beacon of light whose death will be mourned by many people she impacted with her work and humanity. 

Presidency Says Everyone Involved in VBS Looting Must be Held Accountable

Speaking on the sidelines of the cabinet lekgotla in Pretoria on Saturday, Minister in the Presidency, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni said the government hopes Tshifhiwa Matodzi's guilty plea will allow law enforcement to move with speed to catch the other perpetrators. 

FILE: VBS Mutual Bank in Thohoyandou. Picture: Sethembiso Zulu/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - The presidency says everyone involved in the looting of the now-defunct VBS Mutual Bank should be held accountable. 

This week, former Venda Business Society chair Tshifhiwa Matodzi was sentenced to an effective 15 years in prison for his role in fraud. 

Matodzi's leaked affidavit implicates leaders of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), a former director-general in the National Treasury and the South African Communist Party.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Cabinet lekgotla in Pretoria on Saturday, Minister in the Presidency, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni said the government hopes Matodzi's guilty plea will allow law enforcement to move with speed to catch the other perpetrators. 

"Now you know the scale of the looting, the laundering, the disregard of laws but you have not yet quantified the impact of the VBS saga to the ordinary people of Vhembe in particular - the woman of the stokvels, the burial societies, the aged who had lost their pension funds and although government tried to repay it was not enough, the impact had just been dire."

High Pricing Makes it 'Exceptionally Difficult' for South Africans to Afford Electricity - Ramokgopa

Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa said the government’s focus would be on providing sustainable access to electricity but also making sure it is affordable for everyone.

Minister of Electricity and Energy Kgosientsho Ramokgopa briefing media on electricity distribution and generation performance, on 8 July 2024. Picture: GCIS

JOHANNESBURG - Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa says high pricing and tariffs have made it “exceptionally difficult” for ordinary South Africans to afford electricity.

Ramokgopa said the R200 monthly surcharge, implemented by Joburg City Power, is an example of how expensive electricity provision is.

The Minister spoke on the sidelines of the cabinet lekgotla in Pretoria on Saturday.

Ramokgopa said the government’s focus would be on providing sustainable access to electricity but also making sure it is affordable for everyone.

“We know that over a period of time, municipalities have under-invested in maintenance, replenishment and protection of the distribution grid and of course, we are paying the price now, including the areas that are serviced by Eskom. We made the point that the debt levels of municipalities to Eskom sit at about R78 billion, it's an unsustainable situation so we need to resolve that crisis.”

Ramokgopa said the government would be investing in new forms of energy, like nuclear, to improve electricity provision.

"We made the point that in the long term that we need to anchor the base load and nuclear is an important part of that intervention. As I said we are working on a framework for a procurement – because we don’t want to discredit the process through a procurement process that is not transparent. Of course, we will do it at a scale and speed we can afford as a country.”

Affirmative Action Policies to Remain Under GNU, Assures Trade and Industry Ministry

Some parties in the GNU campaigned on the idea that Affirmative Action policies like BEE were hurting the country’s economic potential, however, Minister Parks Tau said transformation could not be sacrificed for the sake of economic growth.

Broad-based black economic empowerment (BBBEE)

Deputy COGTA Minister Parks Tau. Picture: Instagram

JOHANNESBURG - The Ministry of Trade and Industry says Affirmative Action policies, like Black Economic Empowerment (BEE), will remain under the Government of National Unity (GNU). 

Over the weekend, the seventh democratic administration government met in Pretoria for its first Cabinet lekgotla.

The lekgotla serves as a strategy session for the GNU to develop a national policy agenda around issues like BEE and many others. 

The main priorities for the Government of National Unity is economic growth and trade. 

A number of parties in the GNU campaigned on the idea that Affirmative Action policies like BEE were hurting the country’s economic potential and needed to either be scrapped or repealed.

However, the Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition, Parks Tau said transformation could not be sacrificed for the sake of economic growth. 

“Included in our priorities in relation to social justice, equity and redress, therefore these are parties that have come together on the basis of addressing transformation because we have committed to redress in the foundation principles.”

Tau said while policies like BEE have had their issues, the government cannot scrap them altogether.

The Collapse of a School in Northern Nigeria Leaves 22 Students Dead, Officials Say

Police say the two-storey school in Plateau state collapsed during morning classes Friday, sending rescuers on a frantic search for dozens trapped in the rubble. Many of the students were 15 years old or younger.

BY DYEPKAZAH SHIBAYAN

2:26 PM EDT, July 13, 2024

ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — A two-story school collapsed during morning classes Friday in north-central Nigeria, killing 22 students and sending rescuers on a frantic search for more than 100 people trapped in the rubble, authorities said.

The Saints Academy college in Plateau state’s Busa Buji community collapsed shortly after students, many of whom were 15 years old or younger, arrived for classes.

A total of 154 students were initially trapped in the rubble, but Plateau police spokesperson Alfred Alabo later said 132 of them had been rescued and were being treated for injuries in various hospitals. He said 22 students died. An earlier report by local media had said at least 12 people were killed.

Dozens of villagers gathered near the school, some weeping and others offering to help, as excavators combed through the debris from the part of the building that had caved in.

One woman was seen wailing and attempting to go closer to the rubble as others held her back.

Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency said rescue and health workers as well as security forces had been deployed at the scene immediately after the collapse, launching a search for the trapped students.

“To ensure prompt medical attention, the government has instructed hospitals to prioritize treatment without documentation or payment,” Plateau state’s commissioner for information, Musa Ashoms, said in a statement.

The state government blamed the tragedy on the school’s “weak structure and location near a riverbank.” It urged schools facing similar issues to shut down.

Building collapses are becoming common in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country with more than a dozen such incidents recorded in the last two years. Authorities often blame such disasters on a failure to enforce building safety regulations and on poor maintenance.

Sunday, July 14, 2024

Mind the Mangroves! Some Kenyans Combat the Threat of Logging With Hidden Beehives

Beekeeping conservationists are concealing hives in Kenya’s mangroves to deter illegal loggers. The insects act as silent guardians, ready to attack if the sensitive ecosystems are threatened, while providing local communities with vital income.

BY ZELIPHA KIROBI

5:14 AM EDT, July 14, 2024

MOMBASA, Kenya (AP) — Dressed in protective clothing and armed with a smoker, Peter Nyongesa walked through the mangroves to monitor his beehives along the Indian Ocean coastline.

The 69-year-old Nyongesa recalled how he would plead unsuccessfully with loggers to spare the mangroves or cut only the mature ones while leaving the younger ones intact.

“But they would retort that the trees do not belong to anyone but God,” he said.

So he has turned to deterring the loggers with bees, hidden in the mangroves and ready to sting.

Their hives now dot a section of coastline in Kenya’s main port city of Mombasa in an effort to deter people who chop mangroves for firewood or home construction. It’s part of a local conservation initiative.

“When people realize that something is beneficial to them, they do not consider the harm that comes with it,” Nyongesa said of the loggers.

Mangroves, which thrive in salty water, help in preventing erosion and absorbing the impact of severe weather events such as cyclones.

But more than half of the world’s mangrove ecosystems are at risk of collapse, according to the first global mangrove assessment for the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Ecosystems released in May.

Mangroves are threatened by illegal logging, climate change and rising seas, pollution and urban development. According to a Kenya environment ministry report in 2018, about 40% of mangroves along the Indian Ocean coast are degraded.

In Mombasa county, it’s estimated that almost 50% of the total mangrove area there — 1,850 hectares (4,570 acres) — is degraded.

Such overall degradation has slowed in Kenya, which in 2017 developed a 10-year plan to have community conservation efforts manage mangroves. But the efforts have been incomplete because of inadequate resources.

Communities are doing what they can. James Kairo, a research scientist at the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute, said initiatives such as beekeeping are helping. Their honey also brings in community income.

“Mangrove honey is also classified as top quality and medicinal,” he added. “This could be due to the environment that mangroves thrives in” and what they absorb from their surroundings.

Nyongesa now has 11 beehives and harvests about 8 liters (2 gallons) of honey per hive every three months. Each liter earns him $6, a valuable source of income.

When Nyongesa started beekeeping 25 years ago, he didn’t know anything about the threat to mangroves or how his bees could help.

He became involved in 2019, when he joined a local conservation group called Tulinde Mikoko, Swahili for Let’s Protect Mangroves. The group adopted his beekeeping as a community initiative along with mangrove planting. Members also serve as custodians of the mangroves and try to stop loggers.

The group has concealed beehives in the top branches of mangroves as silent guardians. The bees are meant to attack unsuspecting loggers.

“We positioned them at the peak where they can’t be spotted with ease,” said Bibiana Nanjilula, the Tulinde Mikoko founder. “As such, when the loggers start cutting down whichever tree, the bees will attack due to the noise.”

The group hopes the tactic is working but has found it hard to measure its effects in the relatively difficult to access areas.

The bees also play a crucial role as pollinators. As they forage among the mangrove flowers, they transfer pollen from one flower to another, facilitating plants’ reproduction.

“The healthier the mangroves are, probably the more productive the honey production will be,” said Jared Bosire, project manager for the UNEP-Nairobi Convention, who said they encourage the integration of livelihoods with conservation. The office is a project of the United Nations Environment Program, based in Nairobi.

Kenya has 54,430 hectares (134,500 acres) of mangroves remaining, and they contribute $85 million per year to the national economy, according to a report by the Global Mangrove Alliance in 2022.

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For more on Africa and development: https://apnews.com/hub/africa-pulse

Saturday, July 13, 2024

Shooting at Trump Rally is Being Investigated as Assassination Attempt, AP Sources Say

Donald Trump was whisked off the stage at a rally in Butler, Pennsylvania after apparent gunshots rang through the crowd. He quickly ducked behind the podium as agents from his protective detail rushed the stage and screams rang out from the crowd.

BY JILL COLVIN, JULIE CARR SMYTH, COLLEEN LONG, ERIC TUCKER, MICHAEL BALSAMO AND MICHELLE L. PRICE

8:57 PM EDT, July 13, 2024

BUTLER, Pa. (AP) — Donald Trump appeared to be the target of an assassination attempt as he spoke during a rally in Pennsylvania on Saturday, law enforcement officials said. The former president, his ear covered in blood from what he said was a gunshot, was quickly pulled away by Secret Service agents and his campaign said he was “fine.”

A local prosecutor said the suspected gunman and at least one attendee are dead. The Secret Service said two spectators were critically injured.

Posting on his Truth Social media site about two and a half hours after the shooting, Trump said a bullet “pierced the upper part of my right ear.”

“I knew immediately that something was wrong in that I heard a whizzing sound, shots, and immediately felt the bullet ripping through the skin,” he said in the post. “Much bleeding took place, so I realized then what was happening.”

The attack, by a shooter who law enforcement officials say was then killed by the Secret Service, was the first attempt to assassinate a president or presidential candidate since Ronald Reagan was shot in 1981. It comes amid a deeply polarized political atmosphere, just four months from the presidential elections and days before Trump is to be officially named the Republican nominee at his party’s convention.

“President Trump thanks law enforcement and first responders for their quick action during this heinous act,” spokesman Steven Cheung said in a statement. “He is fine and is being checked out at a local medical facility. More details will follow.”

The Secret Service said the suspected shooter fired from “an elevated position outside of the rally venue.” Trump is “safe and being evaluated,” the agency said.

“There’s no place in America for this type of violence,” President Joe Biden, who is running against Trump as the presumptive Democratic nominee, said in remarks. “It’s sick. It’s sick.”

Two officials spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing investigation. They said the shooter was not an attendee at the rally and was killed by U.S. Secret Service agents.

The officials said the shooter was engaged by members of the U.S. Secret Service counterassault team and killed. The heavily armed tactical team travels everywhere with the president and major party nominees and is meant to confront any active threats while other agents focus on safeguarding and evacuating the person at the center of protection.

It’s still not clear yet whether Trump was struck by gunfire or was injured as he was pulled to the ground by agents.

Butler County district attorney Richard Goldinger said in a phone interview that the suspected gunman was dead and at least one rally attendee was killed.

A rally disrupted by gunfire

Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, was showing off a chart of border crossing numbers during his last rally before the Republican National Convention opens Monday when the apparent shots began just after 6:10 p.m.

Republicans are gathering in Milwaukee to nominate Donald Trump again. Here’s what to expect

It took two minutes from the moment of the first shot for Trump to be placed in a waiting SUV.

As Trump was talking, a popping sound was heard, and the former president put his right hand up to his right ear, as people in the stands behind him appeared to be shocked.

As the first pop rang out, Trump said, “Oh,” and grabbed his ear as two more pops could be heard and he crouched down. More shots are heard then.

Someone could be heard saying near the microphone at Trump’s lectern, “Get down, get down, get down, get down!” as agents tackled the former president. They piled atop him to shield him with their bodies, as is their training protocol, as other agents took up positions on stage to search for the threat.

Screams were heard in the crowd of several thousand people. A woman is heard screaming louder than the rest. Afterward, voices were heard saying “shooter’s down” several times, before someone asks “are we good to move?” and “are we clear?” Then, someone ordered, “Let’s move.”

Trump could be heard on the video saying at least twice, “Let me get my shoes, let me get my shoes,” with another voice heard saying, “I’ve got you sir.”

Trump got to his feet moments later and could be seen reaching with his right hand toward his face. There appeared to be blood on his face. He then pumped his fist in the air and appeared to mouth the word “Fight” twice his crowd of supporters, prompting loud cheers and then chants of “USA. USA. USA.”

The crowd cheered as he got back up and pumped his fist.

His motorcade left the venue moments later. Video showed Trump turning back to the crowd and raising a fist right before he is put into a vehicle.

Reporters covering the rally heard five or six shots ring out and many ducked for cover, hiding under tables.

After the first two or three bangs, people in the crowd looked startled, but not panicked. An AP reporter at the scene reported the noise sounded like firecrackers at first or perhaps a car backfiring.

But then there were more shots. Panic set in as people realized what was happening. Shouts of “Get down!” rang through the crowd.

When it was clear the situation had been contained and that Trump would not be returning to speak, attendees started filing out of the venue. One man in an electric wheelchair got stuck on the field when his chair’s battery died. Others tried to help him move.

Police soon told the people remaining to leave the venue and U.S. Secret Service agents told reporters to get “out now. This is a live crime scene.”

Two firefighters from nearby Steubenville, Ohio, who were at the rally told the AP that they helped people who appeared injured and heard bullets hitting broadcast speakers.

“The bullets rattled around the grandstand, one hit the speaker tower and then chaos broke. We hit the ground and then the police converged into the grandstands, said Chris Takach.

“The first thing I heard is a couple of cracks,” Dave Sullivan said.

Sullivan said he saw one of the speakers get hit and bullets rattling and, “we hit the deck.”

He said once Secret Service and other authorities converged on Trump, he and Takach assisted two people who may have been shot in the grandstand and cleared a path to get them out of the way.

“Just a sad day for America,” Sullivan said.

“After we heard the shots got fired, then the hydraulic line was spraying all around, you could see the hydraulic fluid coming out of it. And then the speaker tower started to fall down,” Sullivan said. “Then we heard another shot that, you could hear, you knew something was, it was bullets. It wasn’t firecrackers.”

“They weren’t super loud shots,” he said.

“You could hear it landing, ammunition landing, on metal,” Takach added.

Then they took cover behind a farm tractor.

Sullivan said they were concerned for Trump and saw him stand up.

“He got up and he gave a motion he was OK,” Sullivan said, raising a fist as Trump had.

Political violence again shakes America

The perils of campaigning took on a new urgency after the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy in California in 1968, and again in 1972 when Arthur Bremer shot and seriously hurt George Wallace, who was running as an independent on a campaign platform that has sometimes been compared to Trump’s. That led to increased protection of candidates, even as the threats persisted, notably against Jesse Jackson in 1988 and Barack Obama in 2008.

Presidents, particularly after the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963, have even greater layers of security. Trump is a rarity as both a former president and a current candidate.

Biden was briefed on the incident, the White House said. He received an updated briefing from Kimberly Cheatle, the director of the United States Secretary Service, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, and White House homeland security adviser Liz Sherwood-Randall.

He told reporters after 8 p.m. that he hadn’t been able to reach Trump yet but was briefed that the former president was “doing well.”

“I hope I get to speak to him tonight,” he said.

After the shooting at Trump’s rally the Biden campaign was pausing all messaging to supporters and is working to pull down all of its television ads as quickly as possible, the campaign said.

Donald Trump Jr. posted a photo on X of Trump, his fist raised and his face bloody in front of an American flag, with the words: “He’ll never stop fighting to Save America.”

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Ohio Sen. JD Vance, the three men on Trump’s shortlist for vice president, all quickly sent out statements expressing concern for the former president, with Rubio sharing an image taken as Trump was escorted off stage with his fist in the air and a streak of blood on his face along with the words “God protected President Trump.”

Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro, a Democrat, said in a statement on X that he had been briefed on the situation and Pennsylvania state police were on hand at the rally site.

“Violence targeted at any political party or political leader is absolutely unacceptable. It has no place in Pennsylvania or the United States,” he said.

___

Colvin, Balsamo and Price reported from New York. Long reported from Washington. Tucker reported from Westport, Connecticut.

Report From the Shooting at Trump’s Rally: ‘Get Down! Shots Fired!’

It sounded like a small caliber weapon. Everyone immediately ducked.

By Simon J. Levien

Reporting from the scene in Butler, Pa.

July 13, 2024

8:42 p.m. ET

Former President Donald J. Trump had just started to talk about immigration in his stump speech when several shots rang out from the bleachers to his right. It sounded like a small-caliber weapon.

Everyone immediately ducked — myself included. I was in an area cordoned off for journalists, directly facing the stage.

There were screams in the crowd as Mr. Trump ducked to the ground before being surrounded by bodyguards. Around me, people were screaming and saying, “Get down, get down, shots fired.” I ducked under the press stand and remained there — until I heard cheering.

I came out and saw Mr. Trump raising his fist defiantly. The crowd, though subdued, cheered. I saw Mr. Trump led down the stairs of the stage to his left, taken immediately to a vehicle. An armored truck also arrived.

I saw police and men in military fatigues yank someone off the bleachers on the other side, in the direction where I’d heard the sound of gunfire.

On those stage-right bleachers, there were people crowded around several people lying prone.

“Trump was just elected today, folks,” I heard a man shout. “He is a martyr.”

It appeared that at least three people were injured.

The Secret Service quickly cleared the press area, moved the crowd out and declared the rally setting a crime scene. State troopers cordoned off a section of the stage-right bleachers with yellow tape.

There was confusion, and the crowd dispersed slowly. On the stage-right bleachers, now empty, I saw blood.

Several medical helicopters arrived after 7 p.m. and departed minutes later, headed south, toward Pittsburgh, about 35 miles away.

Death Toll of Al-Mawasi Massacre Rises to 90: Gaza Health Ministry

By Al Mayadeen English

13 Jul 2024

According to the Ministry, "half" of the dead are women and children, and at least 300 have sustained injuries, many of which are in "critical" condition.

Latest estimates from Gaza's Health Ministry reveal that the death toll in the al-Mawasi camp, a so-called "designated safe zone," has risen to 90.

According to the Ministry, "half" of the dead are women and children, and at least 300 have sustained injuries, many of which are in "critical" condition.

Earlier today, "Israel" claimed to have targeted a senior Hamas commander in the area but later retracted its statements after Hamas sources confirmed he was still alive. 

In a statement, the Resistance clarified that the purpose of "Israel's" allegations was to cover up the horrific massacre committed by the Israeli occupation in Khan Younis.

Hamas leader Sami Abu Zuhri confirmed to Reuters earlier that the report broadcast by the Israeli occupation's Army Radio, stating that a raid on Khan Younis targeted the general commander of the al-Qassam Brigades, is "nonsense."

He further noted that "all the martyrs are civilians," stressing that "what is happening is a dangerous escalation of genocide amid American support and global silence," and further noted that the massacre is a practical message from the occupation indicating that it "is not interested in any agreement."

Today's massacre at the Al-Mawasi camp sparked a wave of international outrage, with several world leaders expressing condemnation over "Israel's" actions.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, "What is happening in Gaza is not a war or self-defense but genocide," adding that no country in the region, including Turkey, can feel safe as long as "Israel" seeks its security by occupying lands.

The Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs also confirmed that "Israel's" killing of dozens of civilians in al-Mawasi is "part of the Netanyahu government's efforts to eradicate all Palestinians."

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani said targeting the tents of displaced people in areas that have been declared safe is "a new crime in the record of Zionist crimes that continue in light of the silence of the international community, the comprehensive US support for this entity that kills innocent people, the double standards of European countries, and the failure to use the existing capabilities of Islamic countries."

In turn, the Political Bureau of the Ansar Allah movement in Yemen strongly condemned the brutal genocide massacres of the occupation, the latest being the massacre in al-Mawasi in Khan Younis and the massacre at the prayer area at the al-Shati refugee camp west of Gaza.

The Political Bureau added that "the series of crimes and insistence on killing and displacement comes with direct American direction, amid the world's complacency and the so-called international community."

Zimbabwe Authorities in Crackdown on Dissent Ahead of Summit

SATURDAY JULY 13 2024

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa. 

By KITSEPILE NYATHI

The Zimbabwe government has launched a crackdown on opponents to forestall protests against unresolved political disputes during a forthcoming regional summit.

Harare will host the 44th Southern African Development Community (SADC) Summit on August 17, where President Emmerson Mnangagwa will take over as chairperson of the sub-regional organisation.

That Summit could also be an arena to sort out Zimbabwe-Zambia tensions after Mnangagwa was caught on hot mic telling Russian President Vladimir Putin about the West, planning to install crucial military equipment in Zambia to target Harare. Both the US and Zambia refuted the claims but Zambia has since lodged a complaint to SADC about Zimbabwe’s allegations.

But for Zimbabwe, the local political problems are just as important. In recent weeks, Mr Mnangagwa’s government has become increasingly edgy about reports of planned protests by his opponents to coincide with the summit. Hehas intensified a crackdown on opposition and civil society groups, which has led to the arrest of scores of people.

Mr Mnangagwa told a recent meeting of his ruling Zanu-PF party that he was “aware of certain rogue elements within the nation who are bent on peddling falsehoods and instigating acts of civil disorder, especially before, during and after regional and world stage events.”

He warned that security forces would crush any protests against his government. The 81 year-old ruler’s outburst was followed by a government statement claiming that “criminal and opportunistic elements within the opposition and some civil society groups” were “attempting to incite disorder.”

Over 100 opposition and civil society activists have been detained in less than a month on charges of participating in gatherings with the intent to promote violence, breaches of peace or bigotry as well as disorderly conduct.

Tension has been simmering since President Mnangagwa’s controversial re-election last year in polls that were dismissed by foreign observer missions, including SADC, as not meeting regional standards.

Zimbabwe is also in the throes of a long running economic crisis that saw the country ditching its currency for the second time since the turn of the millennium in April due to hyperinflation.

President Mnangagwa’s opponents have been agitating for demonstrations to register their anger over the economic and political crises, with analysts saying the recent unrest in Kenya is pushing his regime to pre-empt a potential uprising.

Allan Ngari, the Africa advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, urged SADC leaders to take a keen interest on what is happening in Zimbabwe.

“The government of President Mnangagwa is accelerating its crackdown against legitimate and peaceful activism ahead of the August Summit,” Mr Ngari said.

“The Southern African Development Community needs to engage with the authorities to take clear measures to ensure the enjoyment of basic freedoms by all Zimbabweans.

“SADC should promote respect for human rights by calling upon Zimbabwe’s government to end repression and the arbitrary arrests and prosecutions of activists and opposition supporters.

“The pervasive climate of intimidation and repression needs to end.”

Khanyo Farise, Amnesty International regional director for southern Africa, urged Zimbabwe to release over 70 members of the country’s main opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) that were arrested at a private residency in Harare on June 16.

“The arrest and continued arbitrary detention of 78 opposition members, who had peacefully gathered at a private residence is part of a disturbing pattern of repression against people exercising their rights to freedom of assembly and expression,” Ms Farise said.

“Zimbabwean authorities must immediately and unconditionally release these opposition members and drop all charges against them.

“Authorities must also uphold Zimbabwe’s constitutional and international human rights obligations including the rights to peaceful assembly, liberty and freedom from torture and other ill-treatment.”

Police spokesperson Paul Nyathi denied allegations that any specific groups were being targeted for political reasons, but confirmed that the law enforcement agency will be clearing the streets of Harare and the dormitory town of Chitungwiza of informal traders ahead of the SADC summit.

Most Zimbabweans rely on informal businesses such as vending for survival in a country where unemployment is as high as over 80 percent.

Authorities are said to be of the belief that vendors who often roam the streets of urban centres would act as catalysts if protests erupt during the summit, hence the crackdown.

“We have Operation Clean-up Harare and this operation is looking at maintaining law and order in the Harare central business district and its vicinity. We are looking at the issue of traffic congestion, and pirate taxis,” Commissioner Nyathi said.

“We are also looking at any form of lawlessness and criminal acts. So the operation is targeting everything against the law.

“We are not targeting specific individual people or groups, but we are targeting acts of lawlessness.”

Farai Maguwu, a political analyst, said SADC must intervene in Zimbabwe to end the political impasse.

“l think it is clear to everyone that there are some serious internal issues in Zimbabwe. which have been lingering for more than two decades. Most of the people are leaving Zimbabwe because of social and economic crises,” Mr Maguwu said.

“So it is important for SADC to ensure that there is political stability in the country and the government is there to save the people, they must talk to move the country forward and that will be a great achievement.”

Since assuming power after the 2017 coup that toppled long time ruler Robert Mugabe in 2017, President Mnangagwa has dealt ruthlessly with protests.

On August 1, 2018, six people were shot dead by soldiers that were deployed in central Harare to disperse opposition supporters that were protesting against delays in the release of disputed presidential election results.

Protests against a steep increase in fuel prices in January 2019 invited a heavy handed response from the government, which resulted in the killing of scores of people by security forces.

Several opposition and civil society activists were also abducted and tortured during the protests.

The United Kingdom and the United States responded to the crackdown by imposing sanctions on security chiefs that were accused of being behind abductions and the deaths of protestors.

Ahead of last year’s elections, President Mnangagwa’s main challenger Nelson Chamisa was barred from holding rallies to mobilise support.

The government has also been pushing for legislation to control operations of civil society organisations, which it accuses of promoting a regime change agenda.

President Mnangagwa is accused of going back on his promises to turn Zimbabwe into “a new kind of democracy” after decades of authoritarian rule by his predecessor.

Ethiopia, Sudan Inch Closer to Face Common Problem: Paramilitary RSF

SATURDAY JULY 13 2024

By AGGREY MUTAMBO

By MAWAHIB ABDALLATIF

Ethiopia and Sudan are showing renewed signs of stronger cooperation, as the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) emerges as a possible problem for both. The new reality check could now upend any suspicions the leaders of the Sudan Sovereignty Council may have harboured against Ethiopia, which had been initially seen as profiting from the same sources that have benefited the RSF.

This week, however, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed arrived in Port Sudan, the tentative capital of the military junta in Sudan during this wartime. Walking hand-in-hand, Abiy and Gen Abdel-Fattah al-Burhan spoke of cooperation to deal with common challenges.

Dr Abiy Ahmed said his visit to Sudan is in solidarity with the Sudanese people, saying that “true friends appear in times of trouble".

“This visit confirms the support of the Ethiopian government and people for Sudan…the visit is a message of solidarity with the people of Sudan in their plight… the war will end and relations between the two countries will remain solid and strong,” he said on July 9.

The trip was significant because the junta in Khartoum had initially seen Addis Ababa and Nairobi among possible backers of the RSF.

Both refuted that claim, emphasizing that they vouched for peace and dialogue to end the conflict. But even that call for dialogue did not please the junta which labels RSF, led by Mohamed Hamdani Daglo, as a “rebel militia” it should never sit at a table with.

Ethiopia and Nairobi didn’t come especially as clean mediators, considering they both have tight relations with the United Arab Emirates, which Khartoum accuses of arming the RSF to target civilian areas. Abu Dhabi has, however, recently rejected those claims, in a statement to the United Nations Security Council.

In Port Sudan, Burhan thanked Mr Abiy for expressing “the sincerity of the Ethiopian leadership and its goodwill towards Sudan,” and endorsed “the strength of relations between the two countries and the importance of preserving them.”

However, it wasn’t lost on the conditionality the junta imposed: Any support for RSF would be unwelcome.

“The militia committed crimes and atrocities against the Sudanese people, destroyed the State's infrastructure, and targeted national institutions,” Mr Burhan said.

Sources told The EastAfrican that, concerns about RSF reach was one of the reasons for Mr Abiy’s travel to Port Sudan. Although not expressly critical of the RSF, and had called for dialogue for all parties in Sudan to iron out differences, RSF continual expansion in eastern parts of Sudan was becoming a worry.

In public, Mr Abiy spoke of the importance of peace as the basis for development but argued “problems of countries must be solved internally without external interference.”

“There is a threat of RSF and Fano creating some sort of alliance. And that could cause further security problems in Ethiopia,” explained a diplomatic source who spoke on the background.

The source was referring to the Ethiopian militia in Amhara. Since August last year, Ethiopian forces has been battling the militia which went to arms, in protest against the implementation of the Tigray peace deal with the Ethiopian government.

The group initially supported the war against Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). But after the African Union (AU) mediated a peace settlement between Ethiopian government and the TPLF in November 2022, Fano differed with Ethiopian authorities on disarmament.

Disarmament and demobilisation were crucial pillars of that peace deal, that provided for only Ethiopia’s security agencies to remain armed, and for the country to have one national defence force.

The diplomatic source, however, said Ethiopia moving closer to Burhan could test Addis Ababa relationship with the United Arab Emirates, which was credited for supporting Ethiopia’s aerial power against the TPLF. It could also, for now, pose the perennial border dispute between Sudan and Ethiopia, especially since the two sides now face a common humanitarian problem.

In Addis Ababa, the civilian political alliance known as Taqaddum, led by former Sudan Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok was calling on both sides to join the dialogue.

Sudan, however, has been critical of regional efforts to end the war. Neither junta nor RSF sent representatives to Cairo to kick-start talks on agenda for dialogue last weekend.

Starting July 10, the Inter-Sudanese Political Dialogue Process, AU-Igad (Intergovernmental Authority on Development) joint initiative, to establish “the appropriate atmosphere for dialogue” between the Sudanese stakeholders.

Those talks were chaired by Mohamed Ibn Chambas, the AU High-Level Panel on Sudan (HLP-Sudan) and the Igad Special Envoy for Sudan Lawrence Korbandy.

The AU had said it wanted “a unified platform, an inclusive approach and Sudanese ownership.” But the sides were still haggling on agenda, participants and crucial timelines for peace talks, by the time we went to press.

Mr Burhan, meanwhile, said he won’t sit at a table with RSF, even though he signaled a liking for the Jeddah Peace Process fronted by Saudi Arabia and the United States.

“Sudan is committed to the success of the Jeddah platform and considered it a foundation upon which to build,” he had said on Monday after meeting Waleed bin Abdulkarim El-Khereiji, deputy foreign minister of Saudi Arabia, in Port Sudan.

Hussein Awad, a Sudanese diplomat in the Foreign Ministry said the Sovereignty Council was keen to resume those talks as long as it doesn’t involve “rebel militia”.

Since May 2023, Saudi Arabia and the United States have sponsored talks between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the RSF in the Saudi Arabian port city of Jeddah. But the two sides violated all commitments to ceasefire and talks completely broke down in October after “fundamental differences” emerged between warring sides.

The war, however, has been a matter of concern for the region and all Sudan’s allies abroad. Since mid-April 2023, at least 16,650 lives have been lost, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Some eight million people have been displaced internally within Sudan, while about 2.2 million others have crossed borders into neighbouring countries, according to the UN International Organisation for Migration.

Warning

This week, charity group Care warned that some 26.5 million people in Sudan, half the population of the country, are “facing disastrous levels of hunger.”

“This situation is forecast to worsen as the country endures reduced agricultural output ahead of the next harvest in September 2024, while fighting escalates,” the charity group said in a statement. The situation has got worse in the last two months as the RSF raided Sinnar and Sinjah in the eastern part of Sudan, displacing more people.

“Families in Sudan are caught in a spiraling horror, and are living a nightmare that continues to worsen,” said Abdirahman Ali, Care Sudan Country Director.

“In the camps and other sites, parents are skipping meals to feed their children, who are already weak from malnutrition.”

Sudan’s other initiatives at peace have also failed, largely due to a trust deficit. Among these initiatives are the recent talks held in Cairo as part of international efforts to calm the situation.

Despite the importance of these talks, the main parties to the conflict did not attend, resulting in no tangible progress towards ceasing the hostilities. Mediation by the African Union and the Igad also initially failed, as Mr Burhan boycotted the Igad summit hosted by Uganda last January to discuss Sudanese affairs.

Why US is Concerned About South Sudan Political Record

SATURDAY JULY 13 2024

South Sudan's President and EAC chairman Salva Kiir Mayardit. PHOTO | PCS

By FRED OLUOCH

South Sudan this week celebrated its 13th independence anniversary by generating worries to both concerned Africans and faraway allies like the United States, signalling a fall from hope with which the world once saw this youngest nation on the continent.

The country marked Independence Day on July 9 with little fanfare. But it also elicited concerns after the Transitional National Legislative Assembly passed controversial amendments to the National Security Service (NSS) law. Those changes mean the National Security Service can arrest and detain suspects for long periods without need for a court warrant.

Matthew Miller, US State Department Spokesman, said the Washington was concerned with those changes and asked President Salva Kiir not to sign it into law.

“Enactment of this law would degrade political and civic space in South Sudan,” he said on Wednesday.

“The transitional government must act with urgency to create an environment in which the South Sudanese people can express their views openly and without fear.”

The Assembly, formed after the 2018 peace agreement is composed of representatives from the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) and the warring sides it had bickered with until the Intergovernmental Authority on Development mediated a peace deal in Addis Ababa.

On July 3, the Assembly passed the amendments, with a vote of 274 to 114. Rights groups have said the amendments only continue a legacy of censorship, surveillance and repression.

South Sudan’s Ministry of Justice had previously publicly agreed to limit the NSS powers of arrest and detention. But the new Bill included situations like “emergency circumstances” and “crimes against the State,” the latter of which is not defined.

“Vaguely defined provisions on ‘emergency circumstances’ and ‘crimes against the State’ open the doors for abuses, the law should be revised to precisely define and circumscribe any derogations from international human rights principles,” argued Donald Deya, CEO of the Pan African Lawyers Union, a lobby of human rights legal professionals on the continent.

In South Sudan’s decade-old history, rights watchdogs have often complained that the country’s security services overreach their mandate, including by abducting suspects in neighbouring countries, and detaining them at the NSS headquarters in Juba, infamously known as the Blue House.

One such incident involved rights activists Samuel Dong Luak and Aggrey Ezbon Iddri, who were picked up from Nairobi and deported to Juba. They died under mysterious circumstances but rights watchdogs directly accused the NSS.

“South Sudan is in the midst of a delicate political transition, which only increases the urgency of creating a legal and political system that allows citizens to speak freely and participate in political processes,” said Dismas Nkunda, Executive Director at Atrocities Watch Africa, a rights watchdog.

This year is especially critical for Juba: It is marking another year without holding elections.

But it must also work on ending a transition by holding the elections. Initially scheduled for December, it remains uncertain as stakeholders in government haggle on whether that is possible.

“President Kiir has an opportunity to make a significant impact by curtailing the NSS broad powers and fostering a more rights-respecting environment in South Sudan,” Halima Ahmed, Research Associate with Af4HA added.

Freedom is one thing Juba has mostly missed ever since it gained independence. After two deadly wars after independence, leaders agreed on peace among themselves, creating a coalition government that was initially meant to last until last year in February. They decided to extend it by 24 months.

On July 9, Antony Blinken, the US Secretary of State said South Sudan should not depart from the hope it gave its people and the world: That of establishing a democratic, just and peaceful society.

“The United States calls on South Sudan’s leaders to take the steps necessary to meet these expectations and to guarantee their people a future of peace and the ability to choose their leaders through genuine and peaceful elections,” Blinken said.

“We urge the transitional government to start using public financial resources transparently for the good of all the people of South Sudan. We also call on the transitional government to create an environment that is conducive for the effective provision of international donor assistance, including by reducing the costs and risks faced by those trying to help the South Sudanese people.”

Juba’s situation is that it has only been able to partially implement the Revitalised Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS), which brought together the government and its former enemies on the battlefield. There has been some success in the attempts to integrate opposition troops and create a single national army.

The aftermath of that war continues to be felt today, with thousands of people still in need of humanitarian assistance, which was recently worsened by incessant flooding.

On Independence Day, President Salva Kiir appealed to the country’s citizens to focus on development and improving economic growth.

“I encourage the staff of the Bank of South Sudan to cooperate with the staff of our institution to advance the positives of the government. I urge other government institutions and citizens to focus on development and improving economic growth,” said President Kiir at the anniversary that has not been celebrated for three years the line.

Amaju Ubur Yalamoi Ayani, as a specialist in international relations and diplomacy, says the 13th Anniversary saw some improvements in the country’s security and relative peace and calm in various parts of the country.

“Our distractors had already written us off, even before the proclamation of our independence. They say we will slip into civil war as soon as our flag is hoisted. They justify that by arguing that we are incapable of resolving our problems through dialogue,” said Ayani.

Whether peace is absence of conflict in South Sudan is debatable. But even when peaceful, South Sudan itself has been forced to take in more than 560,000 people fleeing Sudan war, worsening its humanitarian crisis. More than 7 million individuals, or more than half of the population, were already in urgent need of food assistance, according to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC).

Since September 2023, most civil servants have not received their salaries. Professionals with monthly salaries ranging from $10 to $50, such as teachers, doctors, and security guards, have also experienced protracted payment delays.

Before independence, one US dollar was worth two South Sudanese pounds; today, that value is at a historic low of 3,250 pounds. The world’s most oil dependent nation now faces a struggle to tap revenues from donors to boost the economy. But some of those donors have tied any financial support on improving democracy record at home.

Egyptian Ministers Join 1st Flights to Djibouti, Mogadishu from Cairo

Ahram Online

Friday 12 Jul 2024

Minister of Foreign Affairs and Emigration and Egyptian Expatriates Affairs Badr Abdelatty embarked Friday on a two-leg tour operated by EgyptAir to Djibouti and Mogadishu, marking the first direct flights between Egypt and these two African nations.

Minister of Foreign Affairs and Emigration and Egyptian Expatriates Affairs Badr Abdelatty embarked Friday on a two-leg tour operated by EgyptAir to Djibouti and Mogadishu, marking the first direct flights between Egypt and these two African nations.

Abdelatty is accompanied by Minister of Civil Aviation Sameh ElHefny and other officials on the trips, according to a statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Abdelatty's first stop will be Djibouti, where he will hold a meeting with his Djiboutian counterpart, Mahamoud Ali Youssouf. He will then travel to the Somali capital Mogadishu to hold a meeting and a conference with his Somali counterpart, Ahmed Moalim Fiqi.

The meetings will discuss several priority topics, the statement noted.

The foreign ministry spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid said that establishing this direct flight route between Egypt and both Djibouti and Somalia is part of strengthening the bonds between the three countries.

It also reflects the historical and deep relations between Egypt and both nations, he added.

Al-Wafd Party Reports Members Expelled for Apparent Involvement in Antiquities Trafficking to Prosecution

Ahram Online 

Friday 12 Jul 2024

Al-Wafd Party announced Wednesday it expelled two members who appeared in a leaked video discussing trafficking in artefacts in what seemed to be a clandestine meeting that took place inside the party headquarters - and reported them to the Public Prosecution.

Al-Wafd Party leader, Abdel-Sanad Yamama, approved the decision by the Central Organization Committee, issued following an internal investigation, to expel and terminate the membership of Safeer El-Sayed Mohamed Nour and Abdel-Wahab Barakat El-Sayed Mahfouz from the party.

The Central Organization Committee is headed by Secretary-General and Party’s Spokesperson Yasser El-Hodeiby with the membership of  Safwat Abdel-Hamid, Abdel-Azim Al-Basel, Ibrahim Saleh, Gamal Bilal, and Mohamed Abdel-Gawad Fayed.

The drama unfolded after a leaked video - recorded on a mobile phone during what appeared to be a meeting held in the party’s headquarters - showed Nour and Mahfouz discussing a business deal with an individual who possesses "the two pieces" - in a veiled reference to artefacts - in Mansouriya in Giza governorate.

On Tuesday, in response to the leaked video, the party formed an investigation committee which immediately suspended Nour and Mahfouz pending further inquiry.

Unauthorized archaeological digging and antiquities trafficking and smuggling are strictly prohibited under Egyptian law, carrying severe penalties that reach life imprisonment and fines of up to EGP 10 million in some cases.

Security authorities conduct extensive crackdowns on individuals involved in illegal digging and trafficking, including prominent figures, to safeguard the nation's heritage.

Egypt, Serbia Sign Several Agreements as President Sisi and Serbian Counterpart Bolster Bilateral Ties

Ahram Online 

Saturday 13 Jul 2024

President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi and his Serbian counterpart Aleksandar Vučić affirmed on Saturday their common aspiration to advance bilateral relations and develop cooperation between both countries.

This came during a press conference as the two leaders witnessed the signing of several deals between the two countries after holding a summit at the Ittihadiya Palace in Cairo.

"We look forward to sharing our diverse experiences and exchanging expertise for the benefit of enhancing peace and stability in the region and the world," El-Sisi said.

From his side, President Vučić praised El-Sisi's leadership, especially in managing the country amidst significant challenges.

"We signed several agreements in various fields aimed at bolstering economic cooperation between both countries," Vučić said.

Deals

According to a statement released by the Egyptian presidency, both presidents expressed a strong desire to build on the positive momentum observed in the Egyptian-Serbian partnership and effectuate a flurry of MoUs and agreements signed ahead of the press conference.

The deals spanned several domains, including trade, labour and employment, communications and information technology, antiquities and museums, and customs.

The two sides viewed these deals as a step toward bolstering economic cooperation further between Egypt and Serbia, the two leaders said during the briefing.

El-Sisi and Vučić also had in-depth discussions on cooperation at the economic, investment, and military levels during today’s meeting, added the statement.

Regional, Int’l crises

During the presser, both presidents stressed the need to establish calm and peace in conflict zones such as Ukraine, Sudan, and Libya.

El-Sisi added that peace must be achieved in these zones “at the earliest opportunity.”

On the Israeli war in Gaza, El-Sisi reiterated the call for an immediate and comprehensive ceasefire in the strip, stressing the need to stop targeting civilians in Gaza.

He also emphasized Cairo's rejection of the forced displacement of Palestinians, the liquidation of the Palestinian cause, and the use of the Rafah crossing as a tool to tighten the siege on the Gazans.

Furthermore, both sides discussed developments in the Western Balkans region, where El-Sisi underscored the Serbian role in establishing stability and enhancing cooperation in this region.

Historical relations

Egyptian-Serbian relations witnessed unprecedented prosperity during the fifties and sixties, the era of the Non-Aligned Movement, supported by the Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel-Nasser and Yugoslav leader Josip Broz Tito.

In July 2022, President El-Sisi paid his first official visit to the Serbian capital of Belgrade.

President Vučić's visit to Cairo today marked the first visit by a Serbian head of state to Cairo since Boris Tadić's visit to the Egyptian capital in April 2009.

In recent years, Cairo and Belgrade increased coordination in multilateral organisations and forums and on international and regional levels.

Cairo and Belgrade also boosted cooperation in various fields.

Earlier today, President El-Sisi and First Lady Intissar El-Sisi welcomed Serbian President Vučić and First Lady Tamara Vučić at the palace ahead of the summit between the two leaders.

Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune Announces Reelection Campaign

BY ASSOCIATED PRESS

5:08 PM EDT, July 11, 2024

ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) — Algeria’s president announced on Thursday that he intends to run for a second term in office, five years after ascending to power as the military and establishment-backed candidate during widespread pro-democracy protests.

The 78-year-old political veteran, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, said in an interview broadcast on Algerian television that his decision came in response to support from political parties and young people.

“If the Algerian people want to vote for me, that’s fine, otherwise I’ll have accomplished my mission and whoever succeeds me will be welcome,” he said, lauding his record as well as the gas-rich North African country’s security and stability.

Tebboune had avoided declaring his intentions even after setting the Sept. 7 election date almost four months ago.

Despite repeated demurrals, his intentions were “an open secret” and his candidacy a byproduct of discussions among the political elite, says political scientist Rachid Grime.

Tebboune’s announcement came a day after he visited Kabylia, a mountainous region east of Algiers known as an epicenter of anti-government sentiment. Several members of the Movement for the Autonomy of Kabylia are behind bars.

While there, Tebboune inaugurated a new stadium and announced a planned 500-bed hospital and desalination plant for the region.

Besides Tebboune, 34 candidates have announced plans to run in the election.

However, only three so far have gathered the number of signatures necessary to appear on the ballot — at least 50,000 in half of the country’s 58 regions. Candidates have until July 18 to collect the required signatures.

The three are: Youcef Aouchiche of the Socialist Forces Front, Algeria’s largest opposition party; Abdellah Hassan Cherif of the Islamist party Movement for Society and Peace; and Sadia Naghzi of the General Confederation of Algerian Enterprises.

A second Tebboune term would entrench the power of Algeria’s political and military elite and further distance the country from the aspirations voiced by its “Hirak” movement, which held weekly street protests that pressured the country’s ailing octogenarian president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, to resign in April 2019, after two decades in office.

Tebboune, a former prime minister under Bouteflika, emerged the victor in an election with a low turnout election in 2019. Protesters boycotted it and decried it as a rushed affair designed to maintain the old regime’s grip on power over the nation with a population of 45 million.

After initially releasing some jailed protesters and journalists, Tebboune launched a campaign to bring stability and fight corruption, tightening his grip on power in the process.

Political party activity and media freedoms have since waned, with journalists facing prison time and critical outlets losing state advertising funding they have relied on to stay afloat.

Though Tebboune pledged early to diversify Algeria’s gas-reliant economy, the OPEC member depends on exports to Europe — particularly as the war in Ukraine increased demand for non-Russian fuel.

Though Algeria’s gas reserves make it richer than its neighbors by most metrics, it has been plagued by occasional shortages of necessities like cooking oil.

As a rotating member of the United Nations Security Council, Algeria has denounced Israel’s actions throughout the nine months of the Israel-Hamas war and it has maintained friendly ties with Russia, China and Turkey as well as European nations like France and Italy, which Tebboune visited as part of the Group of Seven summit in Italy last month.

Despite the legacy of its colonial past, Algeria also has close ties with France politically and economically. Tebboune is Algeria’s first president to not have fought in the war that led to Algeria’s independence in 1962.

Arrests, Summonses of Potential Presidential Candidates in Tunisia Continue as Election Day Nears

1:22 PM EDT, July 13, 2024

TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — As elections approach in Tunisia, potential candidates are facing arrest or being summoned to appear in court as authorities clamp down on those planning to challenge President Kais Saied.

On Friday, a judge in a Tunis court put a potential presidential candidate under a gag order and restricted his movements. Abdellatif Mekki, who served as Tunisia’s health minister and was a prominent leader of the Islamist movement Ennahda before founding his own political party, is among a group of former politicians being investigated for the 2014 killing of a prominent physician.

His political party, Work and Accomplishment, has decried the timing of the murder charges as politically motivated due to his plans to run against Saied in Tunisia’s October election.

“We strongly condemn these arbitrary measures, considering them political targeting of a serious candidate in the presidential elections,” it said in a statement Friday.

Mekki is the latest potential candidate to face legal obstacles before campaigning even gets underway in the 12 million person North African nation.

The challenges facing opposition candidates are a far cry from the democratic hopes felt throughout Tunisia a decade ago. The country emerged as one of the Arab Spring’s only success stories after deposing former dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in 2011, holding peaceful, democratic elections and rewriting its constitution in 2014.

Since 2019, observers have been alarmed at growing signs of a democratic backslide. Saied has imprisoned political opponents, suspended parliament and rewritten the constitution to consolidate the power of the presidency. Despite Tunisia’s ongoing political and economic challenges, large segments of the population continue to support him and his populist rhetoric targeting corrupt elites and foreign interference into domestic affairs.

About a week before Mekki, Lotfi Mraihi, a physician and veteran politician who had also announced plans to run for president, was arrested on money laundering related charges.

Mraihi, the president of the nationalist Republican People’s Union party, was kept in custody after a judge issued an additional warrant adding to charges filed against him in January.

A court spokesperson in Tunis told Radio Mosaique that the arrest warrant was served “on suspicion of money laundering, transfer of assets and opening of bank accounts abroad without the Central Bank’s approval.”

Last January, the court sentenced Mraihi to a suspended six-month prison term as part of an investigation into a 2019 case related to vote-buying allegations.

The Tunisian non-governmental organization Legal Agenda described the arrest as a show of force.

“The arrest of the presumed candidate, Lotfi Mrahi, represents a new step by the authorities in tightening its grip on the electoral process, after announcing ‘tailor-made’ conditions for candidacy, while judicial rulings ensure that the rest of the candidates in the race are besieged,” it said in a statement last week.

The arrests add Mekki and Mraihi to the list of Tunisian politicians pursued by the courts in Saied’s Tunisia.

Amnesty International said in February that over the year prior more than 20 political critics of Saied’s government had been arrested, detained or convicted on charges related to their political activity.

The pursuit of Saied’s political opponents has spanned the political spectrum, from Tunisia’s lslamists like Ennahda’s 83-year-old leader Rached Ghannouchi and nationalists like Free Destourian Party President 49-year-old Abir Moussi.

Ghannouchi has been behind bars since May 2024, facing foreign interference charges that Ennahda, the country’s largest Islamist party, has decried as politically motivated.

Tunisia’s anti-terrorism court sentenced him to one year in prison and a fine following public statements he made at a funeral in February 2022, when he appeared to call the president “a tyrant.”

Ghannouchi continues to face legal challenges. This weekend, the court sentenced him to three years in prison on charges that he was involved in an illicit foreign financing scheme during the last presidential election.

Moussi, a popular right-wing figure who appeals to Tunisians nostalgic for the pre-revolution era, was arrested in October 2023. She was initially detained while being investigated under a controversial cybercrime law after Tunisia’s election authority filed a complaint against her. The complaint came after Moussi criticized a lack of transparency and the presidential decrees guiding the electoral process.

Moussi’s party had announced plans to challenge Saied in October before her arrest and confirmed them earlier this month, though she remains imprisoned.

The National Salvation Front — a coalition of secular and Islamist parties including Ennahda — has said Tunisia can’t hold a legitimate election in such a political climate. The group has denounced the process as a sham and said it won’t endorse or nominate a candidate.

The arrests have sparked outrage among individual political parties and inflamed worries about the country’s ailing political and economic atmosphere landscape.

Work and Accomplishment, Mekki’s party, said his Friday arrest would “confuse the general political climate, undermine the credibility of the electoral process and harm Tunisia’s image.”