Monday, April 29, 2024

China to Host 'Palestinian Unity Talks' Between Hamas, Fatah

A senior official from Hamas says the group is willing to join a unified government for Gaza and the West Bank with Fatah on the condition of a 'fully sovereign Palestinian state'

APR 27, 2024

(Photo Credit: Getty Images)

Delegations from Palestinian resistance faction Hamas and the West Bank-ruling Fatah have traveled to China for “unity talks” hosted by Beijing as the country looks to expand its newfound role as a mediator in West Asia.

According to a Fatah official who spoke with Reuters, the delegation from the party that controls the Palestinian Authority (PA) is led by Azzam al-Ahmad, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council. For its part, the Hamas delegation is reportedly led by senior official Mousa Abu Marzouk.

“We support strengthening the authority of the Palestinian National Authority and support all Palestinian factions in achieving reconciliation and increasing solidarity through dialogue and consultation,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said at a press briefing on 26 April.

The visit will mark the first time Hamas officials have visited China since Operation Al-Aqsa Flood on 7 October and the start of the Israeli genocide in Gaza.

A Chinese diplomat, Wang Kejian, met Hamas politburo chief Ismail Haniyeh in Qatar last month, according to the Chinese foreign ministry. Beijing says the talks sought to open a pathway to reconcile the two Palestinian parties.

Last year, China brokered a historic rapprochement deal between Iran and Saudi Arabia, ending years of hostility. Beijing's diplomatic success also opened the door for talks to end the Saudi-led war in Yemen.

The highly unpopular Fatah has been the de facto ruler of the occupied West Bank since 2006, when Hamas won the last legislative elections to be held in Palestine.

Hamas' victory at the polls was not welcomed by then-US President George Bush, who put in motion a covert initiative to ignite a Palestinian civil war and prevent Hamas from taking power. The meddling from Washington, Israel, and allied Arab states led to a Fatah-Hamas war in 2007 that saw the two parties split control of the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip, respectively.

In 2016, a leaked audio revealed that, 10 years earlier, Hillary Clinton suggested the Palestinian elections be rigged, calling them “a big mistake.”

"I do not think we should have pushed for an election in the Palestinian territories. I think that was a big mistake. And if we were going to push for an election, then we should have made sure that we did something to determine who was going to win," Clinton said.

China's diplomatic efforts come on the heels of a statement by senior Hamas official Khalil al-Hayya, who earlier this week suggested that the armed wing of Hamas could be folded into a “Palestinian national army” if Palestinian statehood is achieved.

He also said that Hamas would be willing to join the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and form a unified government for Gaza and the West Bank with Fatah on the condition of a “fully sovereign Palestinian state” on pre-1967 borders and “the return of Palestinian refugees in accordance with the international resolutions.”

In January, Russia hosted a round of “unity talks” between several Palestinian factions, including Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), Fatah, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), PFLP General Command, and the Al-Saiqa organization.

Democrats Push for Further Crackdown on Columbia University Students

By Al Mayadeen English

Democrats join Republicans in calling for the disbandment of the encampments at Columbia University as the students garner more and more international attention.

The Columbia University board has recently come under pressure from several Democrat House Members to end the ongoing encampment and protests against the genocide in Gaza, demanding that the faculty "act decisively" in the face of the student protests, Axios reported on Monday.

This group of House Democrats sets a precedent, as the Republicans have been leading the campaign against the pro-Palestine students, and though the Democrat Biden administration is responsible for the police crackdown on these students, the party itself had not publicly adopted any policy on the demonstrations. 

Some 21 lawmakers signed a letter to the university's board in which they voiced their "disappointment that, despite promises to Columbia University has not yet disbanded the unauthorized and impermissible encampment of anti-Israel, anti-Jewish activists on campus," Axios said, which echoes the same rhetoric of Republicans who are calling the protesters anti-Semitic for their anti-Zionist sentiment and despite there being countless Jewish students mobilizing for the cause. 

Calling for the disbandment of the encampments on campus, the lawmakers, led by New York's Dan Goldman and New Jersey's Josh Gothheimer, warned that "if any Trustees are unwilling to do this, they should resign so that they can be replaced by individuals who will uphold the University's legal obligations under Title VI."

Panel against suppression of protests

The President of Columbia University faced increased pressure on Friday as a campus oversight committee strongly condemned her administration's actions in suppressing a pro-Palestine demonstration in the school.

Universities across the United States have witnessed in the past few weeks a historic surge in student protests in support of Palestine and Gaza, calling for ending all agreements with "Israel" and divesting from the occupation entity. Students also demanded an end to US support to "Israel" and involvement in the genocidal war.

Cross-country protests in the US continue to grow as the Israeli genocide in Gaza reaches its 206th day. The Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza announced on Saturday that the number of Palestinians killed in the ongoing Israeli genocide in the Strip since October 7 has now reached 34,388, with 77,437 injured.

After Columbian students established their Gaza Solidarity Encampment on April 17, University President Nemat Minouche Shafik summoned the NYPD to the campus to disperse the demonstrations, resulting in the arrest of over 100 students. But shortly after, outraged by the footage of their fellow students being arrested, a new group of students arrived on campus and set up another encampment in protest.

Shafik had issued an ultimatum to student protesters: either negotiate an agreement with the administration to disband the encampment or the school would pursue alternative measures to dismantle it. However, the demonstrators remained steadfast in their demands, with new supporters swelling their ranks.

The Columbia University Senate passed a resolution following a Friday meeting, stating that Shafik's administration had eroded academic freedom and disregarded the privacy and due process rights of students and faculty members by involving the police and terminating the protest.

"The decision... has raised serious concerns about the administration's respect for shared governance and transparency in the university decision-making process," it said.

The Senate, predominantly comprising faculty members and other staff with a minority representation of students, refrained from explicitly mentioning Shafik in its resolution and opted for a less severe tone than a censure. The president, also a member of the Senate, did not attend.

Deadline withdrawn

Late on April 25, Columbia University went back on an overnight deadline set for pro-Palestine protesters to leave their encampment, amid more college campuses in the United States attempting to stop such protests from taking place. 

US police made large-scale arrests in universities all over the country, and even used chemical irritants and tasers to stop the protesters who are expressing solidarity for Palestine. 

Columbia University is still the center of the student protest movement as it is where these protests began. 

In a statement released at 11:07 pm (03:07 GMT today), the office of Columbia University President Minouche Shafik went back on the midnight deadline to disperse a large tent camp with around 200 students. 

Columbia University Protest Negotiations Collapse, Will Not Divest

By Al Mayadeen English

The negotiations regarding the protests at Columbia University over the ongoing Israeli genocide in Gaza collapse as students have determined that the faculty was negotiating in bad faith.

Columbia University refused to divest from the Israeli occupation as negotiators did not manage to reach an agreement, University President Minouche Shafik announced Monday morning in an email, the Columbia Spectator reported.

Shafik "urge[ed] those in the encampment to voluntarily disperse," adding that the University was "consulting with a broader group in our community to explore alternative internal options to end this crisis as soon as possible."

The President of Columbia University faced increased pressure on Friday as a campus oversight committee strongly condemned her administration's actions in suppressing a pro-Palestine demonstration in the school.

Talks between members of the administration, the University's Senate, and the protesting students have been ongoing for the past week with the goal of achieving the student's demands in exchange for getting them to stop protesting and camping on campus. However, the effort has faltered due to "bad faith" on the university's end.

The faculty had announced a midnight deadline for reaching an agreement before it began exploring "alternative options for clearing the West Lawn."

After the deadline expired, the students negotiating on behalf of the protesters left the talks and pledged to return only on the condition of "good faith bargaining and protections for nonviolent protesters against police and military violence" as they have been getting assaulted and detained by the local police department, with some even calling for the army to be mobilized against their peaceful protests.

After the negotiators left, the university backed down on its decision and decided to postpone the deadline. 

Inadequate offers

The email, moreover, underlined that the university had made several other offers, including one to develop an "expedited timeline" for divestment from the Israeli occupation and another to establish a process allowing students to access a frequently updated list of the university's direct investment holdings.

"The university's goal for the talks was a collaborative resolution with the protestors that would result in the orderly removal of the encampment from the lawn," Shafik claimed. "The students also were asked to commit going forward to following the university's rules, including those on the time, place, and manner for demonstrations and events."

Columbia University Apartheid Divest (CUAD) addressed the negotiations Sunday, describing the University's offers as "unacceptable."

Some demands by the students include amnesty for disciplined students, divestment from the Israeli occupation, and financial transparency on the university's holdings. 

Moreover, CUAD highlighted that "The University has openly admitted to surveilling students involved in the current encampment, and has stated that they would face a disciplinary process if they fail to identify themselves."

"The University still withholds the right to punish students who do identify themselves for any actions it deems a 'violation of policies.' Finally, the University's offer is contingent on the camp being dismantled without noise and the ejection of non-affiliates," it added, which completely goes against the negotiators' demands.

Democrats pressure campaign

The email came before it was revealed by Axios that the Columbia University board has recently come under pressure from several Democrat House Members to end the ongoing encampment and protests against the genocide in Gaza, demanding that the faculty "act decisively" in the face of the student protests.

This group of House Democrats sets a precedent, as the Republicans have been leading the campaign against the pro-Palestine students, and though the Democrat Biden administration is responsible for the police crackdown on these students, the party itself had not publicly adopted any policy on the demonstrations. 

Some 21 lawmakers signed a letter to the university's board in which they voiced their "disappointment that, despite promises to Columbia University has not yet disbanded the unauthorized and impermissible encampment of anti-Israel, anti-Jewish activists on campus," Axios said, which echoes the same rhetoric of Republicans who are calling the protesters anti-Semitic for their anti-Zionist sentiment and despite there being countless Jewish students mobilizing for the cause. 

Universities across the United States have witnessed in the past few weeks a historic surge in student protests in support of Palestine and Gaza, calling for ending all agreements with "Israel" and divesting from the occupation entity. Students also demanded an end to US support to "Israel" and involvement in the genocidal war.

Cross-country protests in the US continue to grow as the Israeli genocide in Gaza reaches its 206th day. The Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza announced on Saturday that the number of Palestinians killed in the ongoing Israeli genocide in the Strip since October 7 has now reached 34,388, with 77,437 injured.

After Columbian students established their Gaza Solidarity Encampment on April 17, University President Nemat Minouche Shafik summoned the NYPD to the campus to disperse the demonstrations, resulting in the arrest of over 100 students. But shortly after, outraged by the footage of their fellow students being arrested, a new group of students arrived on campus and set up another encampment in protest.

‘We Cannot Breathe’ – Gaza Residents Living in Shelters, Inhaling Fume

April 27, 2024 

Displaced Palestinians in a makeshift refugee camp in Gaza. (Photo: Abdallah Aljamal, Palestine Chronicle)

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By Abdallah Aljamal – Gaza

“We have no alternative for cooking food but to light fires. Our hands have turned black and burnt, and so have our faces”.

The Government Media Office in the Gaza Strip has announced that diseases and health complications such as chest pain, breathing difficulties, respiratory illnesses, and asthma have spread across the region due to the lack of cooking gas, which forces residents to rely on open fires for cooking.

Along with a genocidal war, which has killed and wounded well over 110,000 Palestinians in Gaza, Israel has also imposed a complete siege on the enclave.

“There will be no electricity, no food, no fuel, everything is closed,” Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said on October 9. Since that moment, only a very limited quantity of aid has entered Gaza, leading to a catastrophic humanitarian situation. 

The Palestine Chronicle spoke with three residents from Gaza, who talked about the hardship they have been enduring during the last seven months.

Our Faces are Burnt 

“We have been out of cooking gas in my house since the first month of the war, and there is no cooking gas in Gaza City to refill our cylinders,” Hajj Abu Mahmoud Shhaiber told The Palestine Chronicle. 

“I have searched everywhere, but there is no gas available, and the occupation prevents its entry into the north of the Gaza Strip,” he added.

Therefore, for the last seven months, the Shhaiber family has been forced to cook our food on firewood. This, however, has caused us significant health complications.

“My wife, my daughters who help us with cooking and myself, we all suffer from chest pain, respiratory issues, and breathing difficulties,” he told us, explaining that the problem is exacerbated by the fact that there is no medicine in Gaza City, and that all health centers and hospitals have been destroyed or shut down. 

“We have no alternative for cooking food but to light fires. Our hands have turned black and burnt, and so have our faces,” Shhaiber continued. 

“I always feel short of breath, and I am constantly coughing and wheezing, but unfortunately, we have no alternative, due to the Israeli siege.”

No Other Option

“I still live with my children in the Northern Governorate. My home and my family’s home were destroyed, but we live in displacement centers,” Rond al-Masri told us. 

“I lost my gas cylinders during the bombing of my house, and I don’t have a stove or gas for cooking. Therefore, I have to rely on canned food when it’s available to feed my children,” she continued. 

Rond told us that they are forced to light fires to prepare food.

“There is no other option available to us, and there is no alternative to cooking gas but to light fires. Throughout the day, my children search for wood and cardboard for us, and if available, we light a fire and prepare food,” Rond said.

Rond’s children got sick and the woman explained that this is due to a combination of factors. 

“They have fallen ill due to poor hygiene, and from spending long hours under the sun searching for food. Moreover, exposure to carbon monoxide from the fires and the smoke they constantly inhale have caused us respiratory diseases,” the woman said, desperately.

“In northern Gaza, there are no hospitals or clinics to obtain medication . I can only heat some water for my children to drink and alleviate chest and respiratory pains,” Rond said. 

‘Immediate Actions’ 

According to another resident, Muatasim Jabr, this is part of Israel’s deliberate policy to kill Palestinians in every way possible. 

“They kill us by bombing and gunfire, but death by hunger is the most painful and agonizing. Killing through disease by spreading respiratory illnesses in the absence of treatment is also incredibly painful and deadly,” he said.

“Many respiratory diseases require oxygen, and the occupation destroyed the central oxygen room at Al-Shifa Hospital,” Jabr explained, adding that now there is only a small oxygen room at the Kamal Adwan Hospital, in the Jabaliya refugee camp.

“Unfortunately, it is insufficient to cover the thousands of cases in need of oxygen due to bombings, killings, and the spread of diseases,” the main said.

Jabr called on international institutions, the United States, Arab countries, and European countries to pressure the occupation to stop the war and to provide the basic needs for the residents of the Gaza Strip. 

“We need immediate action to save Gaza from the environmental, health, and humanitarian disasters caused by the occupation during this war”.

(The Palestine Chronicle)

– Abdallah Aljamal is a Gaza-based journalist. He is a correspondent for The Palestine Chronicle in the Gaza Strip. His email is

AGOA to be Expanded to All of Africa and Extended to 2041


U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) speaks during a press conference following the weekly Senate caucus luncheons on Capitol Hill in Washington, US on March 12, 2024. 


The US Congress has put forward proposals that would see the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa) extended to 2041.

Senators Chris Coons of Delaware and James Risch of Idaho last week introduced the bipartisan Agoa Renewal and Improvement Act of 2024, which would see Agoa cover 54 African countries.

The extension is expected to integrate Agoa with the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) to support the development of intra-African supply chains.

Enacted in 2000, Agoa is due to expire next year.

Speaking in Nairobi during the fourth edition of the regional American Chamber of Commerce Kenya (AmCham) business summit, US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo said the plans to extend Agoa were on course.

“President Biden and our administration have made it a priority to renew Agoa. It is the decision of the US Congress, so we have to work with some of the members,” Ms Raimondo told The EastAfrican.

Coons and Risch’s proposed update would push Agoa beneficiaries to increase their exports under the agreement.

“This bipartisan bill aims to refine Agoa’s eligibility criteria, increase transparency, and hold US agencies accountable for their advice to the president,” Senator Risch said.

The proposed bill will require an Agoa Forum to be held annually no later than September 30.

The current statute requires Agoa beneficiaries to transmit a “textile visa” to US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) with every shipment of apparel. This bill will eliminate requirements for textile visas, boosting Kenya’s apparel and clothing exports to the US.

The CBP no longer requires textile visas to monitor imports, and they are in use only because statute requires them for trade with Agoa beneficiaries.

“The Agoa Renewal and Improvement Act is necessary to support continued economic development on the continent while further strengthening ties between the United States and partners in sub-Saharan Africa,” said Senator Coons.

Kenya’s private sector welcomed the new proposals and hoped that it would spur more exports to the US.

Jas Bedi, chairperson of the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (Kepsa) said the US has “tried to consider our views for the last 20 years.”

Agoa covers most—but not all—goods imported to the US from sub-Saharan Africa. The list of covered goods has not been substantially updated since the program was created in 2000.

But under the new Agoa Bill, this would task the U.S. International Trade Commission with producing a study into the economic effects of adding additional products to the list of covered goods.

To participate in the expanded rules of origin, North African countries would be required to meet Agoa’s eligibility requirements related to governance, human rights, and foreign policy.

While Agoa is limited to sub-Saharan African countries, this bill would modify Agoa’s rules of origin to allow inputs from North African AfCFTA members to count toward the requirement that 35 percent of a product’s value originate in the region.

This change would help support the development of intra-African supply chains.

The US legislators believe that Agoa would provide US businesses interested in sourcing from Africa or investing in its supply chain assurance that the region possesses long-term trade potential.

On income graduation, under current law, countries lose eligibility for Agoa benefits once they become “high-income” according to the World Bank’s measure of GDP per capita.

Yet developing economies often have volatile GDP numbers that fluctuate year-to-year.

This Bill would ensure that countries do not lose eligibility until they have maintained “high-income” status for five consecutive years.

Further, the president may extend a country’s eligibility for up to an additional five years to allow time for the negotiation of a free trade agreement.

On the clause on prohibiting imports of goods made with forced labour, the current statute prohibits the import of any goods made wholly or in part by forced labor.

The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act supports enforcement of that prohibition on goods manufactured in China, especially goods from Xinjiang.

This Bill reemphasizes that prohibition, and calls on the Secretary of Commerce to submit a report on the procedures in place to ensure that imports under Agoa are compliant with these US laws.

EAC’s ‘Fragile’ States Set for Fastest GDP Growth


Busy streets of Kinshasa, DR Congo, reveal the country’s massive economic potential. FILE | PHOTO | AFP


The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has named South Sudan, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo as the East African Community (EAC) member states poised for the quickest economic growth trajectories in the 2024-2025 period. This, is despite the three being the most conflict-stricken in the region.

The IMF’s latest regional economic outlook report for Sub-Saharan Africa published last week forecasts a 1.2 percent gross domestic product (GDP) growth for South Sudan, from 5.6 to 6.8 percent, even as it grapples with economic disruptions and humanitarian support problems caused by the war in neighbouring Sudan.

GDP growth in Burundi is projected to jump from 4.3 to 5.4 percent and in DR Congo from 4.7 to 5.7 percent. All three countries are included in the report's group of countries in ‘Fragile and Conflict-Affected Situations’.

Four of the other five EAC countries are below the full 1 percent growth marks, but the report does not give any particular reason(s) for the troubled trio’s exceptionally positive outlooks while citing many of their problems.

Somalia, the newest EAC member having joined just last month, is not mentioned at all. Kenya and Rwanda have the lowest growth trajectory forecasts at 0.1 and 0.3 percent respectively, but Kenya is still tops in terms of GDP estimates for 2024 at $104 billion, which places it 7th overall on the list of largest economies in the continent.

Tanzania is the only other EAC country in the top 10 for Africa with a current GDP estimate of $79 billion.

According to the report launched on April 19 during the annual IMF-World Bank Spring Meetings in Washington D.C., the economic prospects for sub-Saharan Africa are still gradually improving after the general downturn induced by the global Covid-19 pandemic.

GDP growth across the region is projected to hit 4.0 percent in 2025, after rising from 3.4 percent in 2023 to 3.8 percent in 2024, and two-thirds of the countries anticipate further growth in 2025.

The report, however, warns that risks remain as governments continue to grapple with financing shortages, high borrowing costs and impending debt repayments.

“A funding squeeze persists and amid these challenges, sub-Saharan Africa will need additional support from the international community to develop a more sustainable future,” it says.

The IMF outlook is that DRC and South Sudan both experiencing tough security situations, in DR Congo’s case because of the raging conflict east of the country which shows little sign of cooling off anytime soon and has the potential to inflict long-term harm to the economy.

Figures are also included showing that DR Congo is second only to Burundi in terms of highest monetary and forex exchange rates in the EAC region.

On the positive Burundi forecast for 2025, the report again did not offer explanations. However, another IMF team that visited Bujumbura in January noted that real GDP had rebounded from an 2.7 percent growth in 2023 to 4.3 percent this year and projected a stronger economic recovery going forward.

The most recent IMF ground assessment of the situation in South Sudan was done in December 2023 when a staff team visited Guba for consultations on medium-term fiscal policies to address the country’s fragility issue.

It commended government efforts to maintain macroeconomic policies that have allowed the country's foreign exchange rate to "show signs of stabilization in recent months", but also noted that South Sudan's risk of debt distress remained high amid low levels of forex reserves and fiscal buffers.

The Fund has recently appointed a public finance management advisor at the request of South Sudan authorities to help in reforming budget execution, cash management and fiscal reporting processes.

This followed a technical assessment in February this year that the country's finance ministry faced "significant challenges" in preparing realistic budgets and enforcing disciplined budget execution due to a post-civil war recovery environment that was still "fragile."

But the report still predicts that DR Congo's average consumer prices will drop to 8.5 percent in 2025 from 19.9 percent in 2023 and 17.6 percent in 2024, which would be the lowest consumer prices threshold recorded for the country in almost two decades.

The director of the IMF's African Department, Abebe Aemro Selassie, said during the report launch that the DR Congo government deserved commendation for pursuing "very difficult but important reforms over the last few years" to ensure a degree of macroeconomic stability to the country.

Mr Selassie pointed out that DR Congo was about to wrap up a three-year, $1.5 billion program with the IMF, the first between the two parties that has "gone through the full cycle without interruption" in terms of consistent implementation by the government.

"If the government shows strong interest to pursue another program once the current one ends, we would be very happy to engage in discussions along those lines," he said.

The growth would be driven by increasing agricultural production, public investments and other ongoing economic reforms under the Fund's latest Extended Credit Facility (ECF) arrangement for Burundi which is aimed at supporting financial sector resilience in the post-pandemic period, the team said.

Somalia Stabilization Force: Uganda Troops Answer Call Up; Anyone Else?


Uganda People’s Defence Force soldiers ahead of their deployment to the African Union Mission in Somalia in 2018. FILE | AFP


Ugandan authorities have confirmed that the country’s forces will remain in Somalia after the expiry, at the end of this year, of the current mandate of the African Union mission, but the other troop-contributing countries from the region, Kenya and Burundi, are yet to be invited into the arrangement.

The EastAfrican has learnt that the current troop-contributing countries want to be part of the security plan that will replace the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (Atmis) on January 1, 2025, because they are already heavily invested in Somalia’s transition.

Nathan Mugisha, Uganda’s Deputy Head of Mission in Somalia, said Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF), who were the first boots on the ground in March 2007, will continue to deploy there as part of the proposed post-Atmis security arrangement.

“Uganda will be here in whatever form,” he told journalists in Mogadishu on April 17, adding that the new AU-led mission is being planned on the basis of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 2719, and revealing that “they [UNSC] have asked us to stay and we’ve said yes”.

The spokespersons of the Kenya and Burundi contingents could not confirm if their armies would maintain a presence in Somalia, saying it was too early to discuss the arrangement.

They indicated that the post-Atmis security framework is not up to their countries to decide but a process led by the Federal Government of Somalia.

After the collapse of Mohammed Siad Barre’s regime in 1991, Somalia became a failed state, wallowing in economic ruin, political turmoil and destruction stemming from a bloody conflict fuelled by armed clan factions, religious extremism and later terrorism that even global powers tried but failed to stop.

Mugisha says this is the state of affairs into which Uganda led the way as the African Union’s peacekeeping mission, and other African countries followed suit, with Burundi sending in troops in December 2007, and later Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti joined the force that says it has now liberated 80 percent of Somali territory.

“Some people used to think that this mission was dead on arrival,” said Mugisha. “When the rest of the world was scared to set foot in Somalia, Uganda sent troops here.”

But al-Shabaab remains a threat, and with Atmis drawing down to 5,000 troops since June last year – while passing the baton to the Somali National Army – the enemy has regrouped and reclaimed lost territory in Galmudug and Hirshabelle.

Ugandan commanders under Atmis say that Somalia needs more time to generate a force that can defend its vast territory and that a security vacuum could arise when the mandate of Atmis ends on December 31, 2024.

In a recent interview with journalists, Uganda contingent commander Brig-Gen Anthony Lukwago alluded to open spaces that are left as the peacekeepers exited in the previous two drawdowns (June and December 2023), allowing al-Shabaab space to attack civilians.

“They are telling us to draw down but we will still have a force on the ground. We are not about to create an Afghanistan here,” he said. “What happens to these places? The population will either become vulnerable to al-Shabaab attacks or subscribe to al-Shabaab. You can see the fix they are in.”

Another drawdown due in June this year will target 4,000 troops, of whom 1,000 will be Ugandans.

The AU force has just over 13,000 troops in Somalia, down from 22,000 at the peak of deployment. After the June drawdown, the mission will be down to 9,000 personnel.

Stakeholders, who include the Federal Government of Somalia, the UN, AU and international partners like the European Union, the US and Turkey, have proposed an AU-led multinational force to take over from Atmis.

The EU, a key partner in the rebuilding of the country’s security sector, has consistently warned that while drawdowns are taking place, the FGS has not achieved adequate force generation to replace the lost capacity of Atmis.

Brig-Gen Lukwago said that rebuilding Somalia’s security forces especially the army, has not matched the task at hand: “They haven’t really built an adequate force that can conduct operations, defend borders and secure the population from al-Shabaab.”

Within the diplomatic and security sectors, there are indications that the stabilisation force that will replace Atmis will focus on key centres such as Mogadishu, but experts punch holes in this strategy as defending from the rear, instead of attacking enemy bases.

For bilateral arrangements, continued deployment in Somalia under the new force will come with a new burden of demands and put a strain on TCCs budgets to provide funding to cover salaries and allowances for soldiers, the purchase of materiel, arms and ammunition.

UN-invited countries, on the other hand, will enjoy international partners' support. The EU, for instance, has already indicated that although the scope and size of the stabilisation force is not yet clear, Brussels is willing to provide funding for it.

Kenya Postpones Reopening of Schools as Flood-related Deaths Near 100

Children fleeing floodwaters that wreaked havoc at Mororo, border of Tana River and Garissa counties,

By Africa News

Kenya has postponed the reopening of its schools by one week due to ongoing flooding caused by heavy rains, as flood-related deaths since mid-March in the East African country neared 100.

Some schools remained "adversely affected" by the flooding, the Education Ministry said Sunday night. Local media reported that more than 100 schools were flooded, some with collapsed walls and roofs blown away.

All schools were set to reopen on Monday but will now open on May 6.

Ninety-three people have died in the flooding in Kenya and that number is expected to rise after a boat capsized in northern Garissa county on Sunday night. The Kenyan Red Cross said it had rescued 23 people from the boat, but more than a dozen people were still missing.

Heavy rains have been pounding the country since mid-March and the Meteorology Department has warned of more rainfall.

The East African region is experiencing flooding due to the heavy rains, and 155 people have reportedly died in Tanzania while more than 200,000 people are affected in neighbouring Burundi.

The highest number of deaths in Kenya have been reported in the capital, Nairobi, according to police records.

Kenya's main airport was flooded on Saturday, forcing some flights to be diverted, as videos of a flooded runway, terminals and cargo section were shared online.

The airport's manager, Henry Kegoye, said the flooding was from ongoing refurbishment work that was due to be completed in June. Heavy rains had overwhelmed a temporary drainage system set up by the contractor.

More than 200,000 people across the country have been affected by the floods, with houses in flood-prone areas submerged and people seeking refuge in schools.

President William Ruto had instructed the National Youth Service to provide land for use as a temporary camp for those affected.

At Least 45 People Die in Western Kenya as Floodwaters Sweep Away Houses and Cars

Police in Kenya say at least 40 people have died after a dam collapsed in the country’s west. The floodwaters swept through houses and cut off a major road, police official Stephen Kirui told The Associated Press.

3:27 PM EDT, April 29, 2024

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Flash floods and a landslide swept through houses and cut off a major road in Kenya, killing at least 45 people and leaving dozens missing on Monday, the Interior Ministry said.

Police official Stephen Kirui initially told The Associated Press that the Old Kijabe Dam, located in the Mai Mahiu area of the Great Rift Valley region that is prone to flash floods, had collapsed, carrying with it mud, rocks and uprooted trees.

But in a statement late Monday the Nakuru County said that the water mass that caused the flash floods was a clogged railway tunnel.

Vehicles were entangled in the debris on one of Kenya’s busiest highways and paramedics treated the injured as waters submerged large areas.

The Kenya Red Cross said 109 people were hospitalized while 49 others were reported missing.

William Lokai told Citizen TV that he was woken up by a loud bang and shortly after, water filled his house. He escaped through the roof together with his brother and children.

Ongoing rains in Kenya have caused flooding that has killed at least 169 people since mid-March, and the country’s Meteorology Department has warned of more rainfall.

Kenya’s Interior Minister Kithure Kindiki ordered the inspection of all public and private dams and water reservoirs within 24 hours starting Monday afternoon to avert future incidents. The ministry said recommendations for evacuations and resettlement would be done after the inspection.

The Kenya National Highways Authority issued an alert warning motorists to brace for heavy traffic and debris that blocked the roads around Naivasha and Narok, west of the capital, Nairobi.

The wider East African region is experiencing flooding due to the heavy rains, and 155 people have reportedly died in Tanzania while more than 200,000 people affected in neighboring Burundi.

A boat capsized in Kenya’s northern Garissa county on Sunday night, and the Kenyan Red Cross said it had rescued 23 people but more than a dozen people were still missing.

Kenya’s main airport was flooded on Saturday, forcing some flights to be diverted, as videos of a flooded runway, terminals and cargo section were shared online.

More than 200,000 people across Kenya have been hit by the floods, with houses in flood-prone areas submerged and people seeking refuge in schools.

President William Ruto had instructed the National Youth Service to provide land for use as a temporary camp for those affected.

Jill Stein – Who is the US Presidential Candidate Arrested at Pro-Palestine Protest?

April 29, 2024

Jill Stein was arrested by police at Washington University in St. Louis. (Design: Palestine Chronicle)

By Robert Inlakesh

Jill Stein’s recent arrest has been highlighted as an example of how peaceful demonstrators are cracked down upon unjustly by US law enforcement.

Green Party Presidential candidate, Jill Stein, was arrested by police at Washington University in St.Louis this Saturday, making her one of over 100 arrested during anti-war protests taking place at college campuses throughout the United States. 

Yet, many who are stuck in the American two-party paradigm are not even aware that this third option exists, due to a lack of relevant media coverage. 

Who is Jill Stein?

Born in Chicago, Illinois, Jill Stein practiced internal medicine in her professional life for 25 years and was a graduate of Harvard Medical School in 1979, after having studied psychology, sociology, and anthropology prior to this. 

While still working as a physician, Stein found intrigue in the connection between health and the quality of one’s local environment, leading her to a path of activism after having noticed the links between toxic exposures and illness. 

In the late 1990s, she began protesting the “Filthy Five” coal plants in Massachusetts and ended up receiving awards for environmental activism in the years 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2004. 

She also co-authored two reports on the issue, entitled ‘In Harm’s Way: Toxic Threats to Child Development’ in 2000, and the ‘Environmental Threats to Healthy Aging’ in 2009. Despite having joined the Democratic Party in the United States, she decided to leave and join the Green Party when “killed campaign finance reform” in her State, she told reporters in 2016.

Having organized two campaigns to become governor of Massachusetts, despite beating her Republican opposition fell short of winning both races. 

She did however run for the local legislative body in Lexington, Massachusetts, winning a seat in both 2005 and 2008. At the Green-Rainbow Party state convention in 2006, Jill Stein was nominated for Secretary of the Commonwealth and in a two-way race with a Democrat, gained 353,551 votes, or the equivalent of 17.7% of the vote.

Presidential Election

In 2012, Jill Stein ran for President of the United States, making history as the first Green Party candidate to have qualified for federal matching funds, but fell far short of competing with Barack Obama and Mitt Romney who she accused of both being representatives of Wall Street. 

In 2016, Stein again won 1 percent of the popular vote in the Presidential election and warned what the two-party corporate system could foster as the result of electing either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump at the time.

During 2016, Jill Stein was also arrested for her activism that supported the Standing Rock protests by the North Dakota authorities. 

Assisting non-profits and marginalized communities to combat environmental injustice and racial discrimination, she has managed to win victories on “campaign finance reform, racially-just redistricting, and the clean-up of incinerators, coal plants, and other toxic threats”. 

She has also long been a proponent of a Green New Deal, ending the US’s foreign wars and advocates for respecting international human rights law, as well as a Medicare-for-all system. 

As a Jewish American, she has also long been an active supporter of Palestinian human rights and has been particularly vocal in condemning Israel’s genocide in Gaza. Stein, along with Cornell West are the only two actively pro-Palestinian Presidential Candidates who are running for office in the 2024 elections. 

Jill Stein’s recent arrest, while being present in supporting the ongoing mass-student protest movement across college campuses, has been highlighted as an example of how peaceful demonstrators are cracked down upon unjustly by US law enforcement.

(The Palestine Chronicle)

– Robert Inlakesh is a journalist, writer, and documentary filmmaker. He focuses on the Middle East, specializing in Palestine. He contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle.

Israel’s War on Gaza Live News: Hamas Officials to Visit Cairo for Talks

People gather near bodies lined up for identification after they were unearthed from a mass grave found in the Nasser Medical Complex in the southern Gaza Strip on April 25, 2024 [AFP]

By Lyndal Rowlands and Zaheena Rasheed

28 Apr 2024

At least 22 Palestinians have been killed, including many children and women, in overnight Israeli attacks on Rafah and Gaza City.

Hamas officials are set to travel to Egypt’s capital on Monday for fresh round of ceasefire talks.

Israeli military’s chief of staff approves plans for the “continuation of war” as hardline ministers warn Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu his government will collapse if a truce is agreed.

At least 34,454 Palestinians have been killed and 77,575 wounded in Israeli attacks on Gaza since October 7. The revised death toll in Israel from Hamas’s October 7 attacks stands at 1,139, with dozens of people still held captive in Gaza.

Sunday, April 28, 2024

Israel Murders Daughter and Grandson of Refaat Alareer

Ali Abunimah 

Electronic Intifada Executive Editor 

26 April 2024

Israel on Friday murdered the daughter, grandson and son-in-law of Refaat Alareer, the beloved writer, poet and educator who was assassinated by Israel in December.

The airstrike on a building in the al-Rimal neighborhood of Gaza City killed Shymaa Refaat Alareer, her husband Muhammad Abd al-Aziz Siyam and their 3-month-old son Abd al-Rahman.

They had been sheltering in the building of Global Communities, an international relief charity formerly known as CHF, in Gaza City, according to Abdallah Abd al-Aziz Siyam, Muhammad’s brother.

In a voice message heard by The Electronic Intifada, Abdallah al-Siyam said members of his family had moved to the CHF building months ago, after their neighborhood was destroyed.

A few days ago everyone except for Muhammad, Shymaa and their baby had left the building, Abdallah said.

At around 11 am on Friday morning, Abdallah spoke to Muhammad by phone and said he was on his way to the CHF building to see him.

Moments later, Abdallah, who said he works for Global Communities, received a call that the building had been bombed. He ran to the location and found his brother, Shymaa and their baby son dead. According to Abdallah, they were the only people at the building when it was attacked.

Abdallah said that no one thought the CHF building would be bombed without warning, given that it was the headquarters of an international aid agency. The Electronic Intifada has reached out to Global Communities and this article will be updated with any new information.

Funeral prayers were held for the family after their bodies were brought to al-Ahli hospital in Gaza City.

His inspiration

The killing of Refaat’s daughter Shymaa and the grandson he never had a chance to meet is being received with renewed outrage and grief from Refaat’s close friends, former students and people around the world who have been touched by Refaat’s life and work.

“I am out of words, tears and ways to comprehend this endless loss, this pain, this criminal annihilation of our people,” wrote Jehad Abusalim, one close friend of Refaat.

Ahmed Nehad, another close friend and colleague, noted that Refaat’s now world-famous poem “If I Must Die” was written to Shymaa.

“She’s the one that was told to tell his story, to sell his things, and to not lose hope,” Nehad wrote.

In an interview with Al Jazeera some years ago, Refaat described how Shymaa – then just 5 years old – inspired him to start telling stories during Israel’s first major war on Gaza in December 2008-January 2009.

“During the first war on Gaza, the most painful thing was the horror the children went through,” Refaat said.

“Dad, who created the Jews?” Refaat recalled Shymaa asking him – Palestinians in Gaza commonly refer to Israelis as Jews since in their context Israel describes itself as a Jewish state and purports to represent and act in the name of Jews everywhere.

“I could not answer her question,” Refaat recalled. “But I realized that the war made Shymaa think there is a loving and merciful God … and another cruel God who created these Israeli soldiers, these killing machines, who terrorize us, destroy and turn our lives into a living hell.”

“I had to find a way to distract my kids from war and bombs by telling them stories,” Refaat recalled.

A message to her father

Following news of her killing, Palestinian media circulated a message Shymaa had posted shortly after the birth of her son, addressed to her martyred father.

“I have beautiful news for you, and I wish I could tell you while you were in front of me, handing you your first grandchild. Did you know that you have become a grandfather?” Shymaa wrote.

“Yes, father, this is your grandson. He is a month old. This is your grandson Abd al-Rahman, who I always imagined you holding. But I never imagined I would lose you so early, even before you saw him.”

Shymaa was a talented calligrapher who cherished her father’s memory and what he meant to people all over the world.

“She was an artist in her own right. A person worthy of remembering in her own right,” wrote X user Fatima Said. “May you be reunited with your father in Firdaws [paradise] Shymaa.

“Dr. Refaat always spoke to us about his immense love for his daughter,” Razan Abu Salem, one of Refaat’s former students, writes in a tribute for The Electronic Intifada.

“Shymaa is now joining her dad in heaven – not by choice but because Israel has killed her. Through this terrible crime, there are now fewer members of Dr. Refaat’s family left to tell his story,” Razan says.

“But those of us still alive will continue to remember and honor Dr. Refaat and lament his loss.”

And now we must tell Shymaa’s story as well.

As Pro-Palestinian Protests Escalate, Israel Lobby’s Attack on Academic Freedom Continues

April 26, 2024 

By Robert Inlakesh

Following a crackdown by the New York Police Department (NYP), resulting in around 100 arrests, the encampment only expanded and began to attract significant attention.

As pro-Palestinian protests escalate throughout college campuses across the United States, so too there been a ramping up of efforts from Israel Lobby affiliates, corporate media and the political establishment, to curtail freedom of expression at academic institutions.

On April 17, students from Columbia University set up tents in the communal area of their campus, refusing to leave until their academic institution divest from companies affiliated with Israel. 

Following a crackdown by the New York Police Department (NYP), resulting in around 100 arrests, the encampment only expanded and began to attract significant attention on both broadcast and social media.

It wasn’t long before other Ivy League colleges throughout the US would join in and form their own encampments/protest movements. 

As the riot and anti-terrorism police, along with State Troopers and even the National Guard being called upon to disperse the protests, the corporate media lit up with stories of alleged “anti-semitism on campus”. 

This was then re-enforced by Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who released a video in which he directly called for the US authorities to end the university protests, which he predictably labeled “anti-Semitic”. 

Following Netanyahu’s comments, the speaker of the US House of Congress, Mike Johnson, took to delivering a speech at Columbia University, in which he not only called the protesters anti-Semitic and sought to legitimize combating their first amendment rights, but also made up allegations that Hamas had raped and beheaded babies on October 7.

In the Orwellian double-speak tradition, professors at the Columbia University have also been targeted by what they call “deliberate misrepresentations” and outright smear campaigns, undermining their right to free speech.

Specifically at Columbia University, professors Mohamed Abdou, Katherine Franke and renowned scholar Joseph Massad, have been subjected to pressure campaigns which have included distortions of their views and even outright lies about them, with petitions and corporate media articles written in attempts to have them fired from their positions.

According to the American Association of University Professors, what is currently happening in the world of academia is “a new strain of McCarthyism in the US.”

Some other professors who have endured smear campaigns includes, but is not limited to, the following:

Rula Abisaab (McGill), Khaled Abou El Fadl (UCLA), As’ad AbuKhalil (California State), Sahar Aziz (Rutgers University), Hatem Bazian (UC Berkeley), John Cheney-Lippold (University of Michigan), Juan Cole (University of Michigan), Lawrence Davidson (West Chester University), Noura Erakat (Rutgers University), John Esposito (Georgetown), Wa’el Hallaq (Columbia University), Henni Samia (Cornell University), Ibrahim Kalin (Georgetown University), Rashid Khalidi (Columbia University), Dina Khoury (George Washington University), Rebecca Lopez, (University of Arizona), Mohammad Mahallati (Oberlin’s College), Lynn Mahoney (San Francisco State University), Ussama Makdisi (UC Berkeley), Jasbir Puar (Rutgers), Rebecca Zapien (University of Arizona).

Students on college campuses, who are currently bravely standing up to their own institutes, have for years been subjected to pro-Israeli groups that have placed them on blacklists with the intent to ruin their careers. Pro-Palestinian students on campus are frequently incorrectly labelled anti-semites, this includes Jewish students, while the students from Muslim and/or Arab backgrounds are often labelled as supporters of terrorism.

During a recent interview on MSNBC’s Morning Joe show, the Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt was quoted as having said that “Iran has their military proxies like Hezbollah, and Iran has their campus proxies like these groups like SJP and JVP,” when commenting on the ongoing protests across the US.

In response to this, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) called upon MSNBC to ban Greenblatt. 

CAIR Deputy Executive Director, Edward Ahmed Mitchell, stated that “Mr. Greenblatt’s increasingly unhinged and outrageous comments must be condemned, and MSNBC should no longer give him a platform to peddle his hate speech.”

“Falsely claiming that Jewish and Palestinian student organizations are literal proxies of the Iranian government is a dangerous and defamatory slander that has no place on MSNBC or any other television network,” Mitchell also added.

A hostile environment already exists for free speech, on campus, when it comes to voicing criticism of Israeli government policy. With the development of the student protest movement, the efforts to stifle free speech at academic institutions are intensifying and endanger the very future of these institutions.

(The Palestine Chronicle)

– Robert Inlakesh is a journalist, writer, and documentary filmmaker. He focuses on the Middle East, specializing in Palestine. He contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle.

Pro-Palestine Protests at US Universities Continue Amid Arrests

By Al Mayadeen English

28 Apr 2024 

George Washington University's administration informed the protesters that their behavior was considered a violation of its policies. 

Hundreds of students and faculty staff members from prestigious American universities are still protesting the Israeli genocide in Gaza despite various attempts from administrators and police officers to stop them through disciplinary measures and violent arrests. 

According to an Al Mayadeen correspondent, protestors have demanded the overturn of penalties implemented on students who were temporarily expelled from George Washington University as the situation continues to escalate between the protesters at the university and the administration. 

George Washington University's administration informed the protesters that their behavior was considered a violation of its policies. On the other hand, the students rejected all anti-Semitic claims in constant attempts to hinder their movement. 

In the Fashion Institute of Technology, students established solidarity camps, in support of the Palestinian people in Gaza. The institute is located in New York, where multiple universities have experienced massive demonstrations. 

In Yale, in the state of Connecticut, more than 200 demonstrators erected nearly 30 tents on campus, blocking access to a green field by establishing two human chains. 

At least 900 people arrested 

According to a tally by The Washington Post, over the last 10 days, American authorities have arrested at least 900 protesters at pro-Palestine protests on college campuses, making this the widest police response to campus activism in years, and it may subject law enforcement agencies to challenges. 

In Missouri, the police arrested Jill Stein, the presidential candidate for the Green Party as they forcefully attempted to disperse a protest against the Israeli war on Gaza at Washington University in St. Louis. 

Stein took part in the protests to support students urging the university to stop all its investments in the company Boeing because it has contracts with the Israeli occupation forces and Israeli security industries. 

Not backing down

In California, the Los Angeles Police Department issued a "tactical alert" on April 27 amid the pro-Palestinian protest at the University of Southern California, reported CNN affiliate KCBS. As of early April 28, no arrests had been reported.

On the night of April 26, USC posted a message on social media announcing the temporary closure of the University Park campus due to a "disturbance."

USC has been the focal point of demonstrations linked to the cancellation of the school's valedictorian speech and has been part of the nationwide campus protests in support of Palestine.

In recent events, nearly 100 individuals were arrested after the university instructed protesters at Alumni Park on campus to disperse on April 24. The demonstrators are advocating for "full amnesty" for those detained and for "no policing on campus."

This week, the university faced criticism for canceling pro-Palestinian Asna Tabassum's valedictorian commencement speech and subsequently decided to cancel its main-stage commencement ceremony scheduled for next month citing "security concerns".

Meanwhile, the slogan "Say No to Genocide" was seen spray-painted on the pedestal of the Tommy Trojan statue at the University of Southern California.

Ramaphosa Hails ANC Record as South Africa Marks 30 Years of Democracy

President Cyril Ramaphosa lauds South Africa’s achievements under his party’s leadership since the end of apartheid in 1994.

People attend Freedom Day celebrations in Pretoria, South Africa

27 Apr 2024

President Cyril Ramaphosa has hailed South Africa’s achievements under his party’s leadership as the country celebrated 30 years of democracy since the end of apartheid.

April 27 is the day “when we cast off our shackles. Freedom’s bells rang across our great country,” Ramaphosa, 71, said on Saturday, reminding South Africans about the first democratic election in 1994 that ended white-minority rule.

“South Africa’s democracy is young. What we’ve achieved in these short 30 years is something of which all of us should be proud. This is an infinitely better place than it was 30 years ago,” he said in a speech marking “Freedom Day” at the Union Buildings, the seat of government, in Pretoria.

The first inclusive election saw the previously banned African National Congress (ANC) party win overwhelmingly and made its leader, Nelson Mandela, the country’s first Black president, four years after being released from prison.

With the ANC winning a landslide victory, a new constitution was drawn up, and it became South Africa’s highest law, guaranteeing equality for everyone, regardless of race, religion, or sexuality.

The ANC has been in government since 1994 and is still recognised for its role in freeing South Africans, but for some, it is no longer celebrated in the same way as poverty and economic inequality remain rife.

ANC struggling in the polls

Ramaphosa used the occasion to list improvements shepherded by the ANC, which is struggling in the polls due on May 29 and risks losing its outright parliamentary majority for the first time.

“We have pursued land reform, distributing millions of hectares of land to those who had been forcibly dispossessed,” he said.

“We have built houses, clinics, hospitals, roads and constructed bridges, dams, and many other facilities. We have brought electricity, water and sanitation to millions of South African homes.”

Al Jazeera’s Jonah Hull, reporting from the capital Pretoria, said that while there is freedom of speech, many South Africans will say there is no economic freedom.

The latest news from around the world. Timely. Accurate. Fair.

“The country has a 32 percent unemployment rate. The World Bank describes this society as the most unequal on earth,” Hull said.

“Corruption is rife. Infrastructure is in a dire state, and in an election due just next month, polls predict that for the first time, the ANC could fall beneath 50 percent of the vote. That, if it happens, would in itself be a pretty significant milestone in this country.”

An Ipsos poll released on Friday showed support for the governing party, which won more than 57 percent of the vote at the last national elections in 2019, has fallen to just more than 40 percent.

Were it to win less than 50 percent, the ANC would be forced to find coalition partners to remain in power.

The party’s image has been badly hurt by accusations of graft and its inability to effectively tackle poverty, crime, inequality, and unemployment, which remain staggeringly high.

The governing party is being largely blamed for the lack of progress in improving the lives of so many South Africans.

Thandeka Mvakali, 28, from the Alexandra Township in Johannesburg, said life is no different from the time of her parents during apartheid.

“It’s almost the same. You can see, we are living in a one bedroom, maybe we are 10 inside the house, for my family, we are 10 and then maybe two is employed, like my mother [and] my brother,” Mvakali told Al Jazeera.

“All of us we are not employed, we did go to school but there’s no job in South Africa.”

Mvakali added that she will vote for the first time in the May 29 elections because she is “hoping” her vote will count this time.

Ramaphosa acknowledged the problems, but denounced critics as people who wilfully “shut their eyes”.

“We have made much progress and we are determined to do much more,” he said.


Mandela's World

A photographic retrospective of apartheid South Africa.

Jurgen Schadeberg, centre, with photographers Peter Magubane and Bob Gosani, 1956 [Jurgen Schadeberg]

By Jurgen Schadeberg

26 Apr 2024

Photographer Jurgen Schadeberg (1931-2020) spent most of his life documenting the struggle against apartheid. Years before his death in 2020, Schadeberg shared some of his iconic images - and the stories behind them - with Al Jazeera.

On April 27, 1994, South Africa held its first multiracial democratic election, voting out apartheid and voting in its first Black president, Nelson Mandela.\

Forty-six years prior, in 1948, apartheid - a system built on white supremacy, segregation and inequality - was signed into law.

It fomented the boundaries between races, cutting people off from one another with increasingly restrictive rules.

In the vibrant multiracial enclaves of Johannesburg in the 1950s, apartheid police clamped down while many non-white people resisted.

Among those documenting life and resistance under apartheid for the famed Drum magazine, was young German-born photographer Jurgen Schadeberg.

On the streets of Johannesburg, he captured vibrant, diverse communities at a time when the apartheid government was trying its hardest to remove every trace of multiracialism from its streets. Through his lens, he also immortalised leading struggle and cultural icons, among them Oliver Tambo, Miriam Makeba and Nelson Mandela himself.

This story was first published in the Al Jazeera Digital Magazine.

Burkina Faso Says HRW Massacre Accusations ‘Baseless’

A Human Rights Watch report on Thursday accused the military of executing residents in Nodin and Soro, including at least 56 children.

New junta's soldiers stand guard in an armoured vehicle in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso

28 Apr 2024

Burkina Faso has said a Human Rights Watch report alleging that soldiers killed at least 223 villagers in two attacks on February 25 made “baseless accusations”.

The HRW report on Thursday accused the military of executing residents of Nodin and Soro, including at least 56 children, as part of a campaign against civilians accused of collaborating with rebel fighters. The New York-based group said its report was based on telephone interviews with witnesses, civil society and others.

“The government of Burkina Faso strongly rejects and condemns such baseless accusations,” Communications Minister Rimtalba Jean Emmanuel Ouedraogo said in a statement late on Saturday.

“The killings at Nodin and Soro led to the opening of a legal inquiry,” he said.

The minister expressed his surprise that “while this inquiry is under way to establish the facts and identify the authors, HRW has been able, with boundless imagination, to identify ‘the guilty’ and pronounce its verdict”.

HRW described the massacre as “among the worst army abuse in Burkina Faso since 2015”.

“These mass killings … appear to be part of a widespread military campaign against civilians accused of collaborating with Islamist armed groups, and may amount to crimes against humanity,” HRW said on Thursday.

“Burkinabe authorities should urgently undertake a thorough investigation into the massacres, with support from the African Union and the United Nations to protect its independence and impartiality,” it added.

According to the Burkina statement: “The media campaign orchestrated around these accusations fully shows the unavowed intention … to discredit our fighting forces.”

“All the allegations of violations and abuses of human rights reported in the framework of the fight against terrorism are systematically subject to investigations” followed by the government and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, it said.

On Thursday, Burkina Faso suspended the BBC and Voice of America radio networks from broadcasting after they aired the report accusing the army of attacks on civilians in the battle against rebels.

Violence in the region fuelled by the decade-long fight with armed groups linked to al-Qaeda and ISIL (ISIS) has worsened since the respective militaries seized power in Burkina Faso and neighbouring Mali and Niger in a series of coups from 2020 to 2023.

Burkina Faso saw a severe escalation of deadly attacks in 2023, with more than 8,000 people reportedly killed, according to United States-based crisis monitoring group the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED).


Floods Leave Trail of Death and Destruction as Experts Warn of Looming Food Shortage


Residents of Mwiki area in Kasarani view a truck-mounted crane lift a lorry submerged in River Majimazuri on April 24, 2024. PHOTO | FRANCIS NDERITU | NMG





The past two weeks have been disastrous in East Africa as heavy rains caused floods leading to the loss of hundreds of lives, displacement of thousands and damage to property. A spot check by The EastAfrican shows that Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Burundi have been worst hit by the storms, with highways and railways temporarily closed.

Experts warn that Tanzania, one of the sources of food to the region, will realise reduced yields by up to 30 percent due to the impact of the floods.

Government Spokesperson Mobhare Matinyi said 8,532 houses have been damaged in Morogoro and Coast regions and 76,698 hectares of farms destroyed.

The country’s Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa told Parliament flooding had left at least 236 injured, while more than 10,000 houses had been damaged and upwards of 200,000 people affected.

“The heavy El Nino rains, accompanied by strong winds and flooding and landslides in various parts of the country have caused adverse effects,” Mr Majaliwa said.

The rains cut off movement between Kenya and Tanzania on the Nairobi-Namanga highway for the better part of Wednesday, after the Athi River burst its banks flooding a large part of residential and industrial areas in Kajiado and Machakos counties.

Red Cross and other volunteers rescued 96 people marooned in Athi River.

The matter is a subject of discussion in the Council of Ministers meetings going on in Tanzania.

“Flooding caused by the Athi River led to the temporary closure of the Namanga road and we, as East African Community ministers, are going to meet to discuss how to deal with floods,” said Peninah Malonza, Kenya’s EAC Cabinet Secretary, who is in Arusha to discuss the EAC budget for the financial year 2024/25.

“We are going to Arusha and later Dar es Salaam and we hope to have a meeting over the matter.”

The Kenya Meteorological Department issued a heavy rainfall advisory.

In Uganda, flash floods made movement on the Northern Corridor difficult.

Earlier this week, the Masaka-Mbarara highway – which is also Uganda’s main trade route to Rwanda and the DR Congo – was cut off by floods, paralysing traffic and trade.

A section of Kampala-Masaka highway between Busega and Kyengera, a few kilometres outside the city caved in on Sunday, according to the Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) spokesperson, Allan Ssempebwa.

“We are experiencing a failure at the section of the highway, the drainage systems have collapsed… What we are doing right now is mobilizing materials and other necessary equipment to intervene as quickly as possible,” Mr Ssempebwa said.

The Masaka-Mbarara highway is an economic lifeline for Uganda because it is the main trade route connecting Uganda to Rwanda and the DR Congo.

The highway is one of the busiest in the country, with an estimated average daily traffic of more than 30,000 vehicles.

The southwestern part of Uganda is also the source of much of the food consumed in Kampala. Many traders were stranded on the road and made huge losses because their foodstuffs, especially bananas, were spoilt before reaching the market. Vehicles snaked through the rugged, potholed and narrow marram roads to reach or get out of Kampala.

“During this rainy season we know that anything can happen so we have put together an emergency response team that’s now always on standby to respond to flooding across the country,” Mr Ssempebwa said.

The Uganda National Meteorological Authority had announced that the country would receive above-normal rainfall in April.

This week, the Kyambogo-Banda road was also cut off while in the Industrial Area traders were left counting losses as they kept their shops closed due to flooding.

The National Meteorological Authority said on Friday that the country would continue to experience more rain and that the northern part of the country was at risk of floods.

“The country is experiencing isolated thundershowers. These conditions will continue with a few regions like West Nile, Midwestern, central North, Kyoga, and Kigezi getting sunny intervals. Eyes on the North which may get floods in lowlands,” the Authority said on X.

In Tanzania, by Wednesday this week, the government had announced the deaths of 63 people. The Coastal areas are particularly at risk, with the potential of flooding and disruptions to key economic activities such as fishing and maritime transport. The agency’s acting director-general Ladislaus Chang’a cited Dar es Salaam, Tanga, Morogoro, Mtwara and Lindi, including Mafia Island, as well as Pemba and Zanzibar as high-risk regions. Others are Mwanza, Masra, Simiyu, Kagera, Kigoma and Shinyanga.

Around the Rufiji River Basin, thousands of people residing in valleys and close to big rivers have been forcibly moved. The rains have caused landslides in Arusha and Manyara, where houses and road have been damaged.

In Dar es Salaam city, roads such as Morogoro Road near Jangwani and Mkwajuni in Kinondono suburb were temporarily closed.

Eight camps have been established in the Coast region to accommodate 1,529 flood survivors and one in Morogoro.

The government has provided 40,000 tonnes of foodstuffs such as maize and rice and medicines and medical equipment worth $83,588 were donated to the people in the camps.

In Burundi, Lake Tanganyika’s rising waters invaded the port of Bujumbura, disrupting business and making movement difficult for people and goods. Intense rainfall has affected various regions in Kenya, especially the Coast, Nairobi, Central, Western Highlands, Rift Valley, Lake Victoria Basin, Southeastern lowlands and the Northeastern region.

The rising waters of Lake Tanganyika have caused the Kanyosha River to overflow, damaging homes and other property in Bujumbura. Burundi’s Interior Minister Martin Niteretse called for support in managing the crisis.

“We ask our development partners to combine efforts with the state of Burundi to help all people affected by these disasters,” Mr Niteretse said.

In neighbouring Rwanda, 4,800 families, from 326 identified disaster high-risk zones have been moved to safety, as the country braced for floods.

Although no large-scale flooding has been reported so far, the authorities are not taking chances, especially as memories of the more than 130 lives lost a year ago still linger.

“We informed the people in disaster hot-spot areas beforehand, more than 4,800 families have been moved from these areas from 326 identified disaster high-risk zones,” said Adalbert Rukebanuka, director-general of risk reduction, planning, and mainstreaming at the Ministry of Emergency Management.

“At the moment we haven’t yet got many cases of disaster-induced deaths or destruction, we are getting few reports in different parts of the country, but we believe the worst is yet to come,” said the official.

US Says Looming Tiktok Ban Won't Change Relations with China as Kenya Weighs In


A man shows a smartphone with the logo of social network TikTok. PHOTO | AFP


Kenya’s National Security Council to decide on whether or not to ban public officials from using TikTok.

A potential US ban against TikTok took a major step toward becoming reality last week as House lawmakers approved a bill targeting the app.


A decision by the US government to ban the Chinese-owned Tiktok unless it is sold within a year, would not change the US relations with China, the US Secretary for Commerce Gina Raimondo said in Nairobi on Thursday.

In an exclusive interview with The East African, Kenya’s authoritative regional newspaper, Raimondo who visited China in August 2023, said the decision will also not impact negatively with her allies as countries such as Kenya are likely to follow suit.

“The USA does a lot of trade with China and we want to continue to do business with China,” said Raimondo who is on his first official visit to Africa since her swearing in in 2021 as the 40th U.S. Secretary of Commerce.

“But for technology like Artificial Intelligence and the connective Apps we have to be very careful. It’s about national security and protecting Americans. So we trade where we can but we have to protect our people.”

A potential US ban against TikTok took a major step toward becoming reality last week as House lawmakers approved a hot-button bill targeting the app as part of a wide-ranging aid package for Israel and Ukraine.

President Biden on Wednesday signed the bill into a law that would ban Chinese-owned TikTok unless it is sold within a year.

The bipartisan vote of 360-58 marks the latest defeat for TikTok in Washington, as the embattled social media company with 170 million US users fights for survival under its current ownership by ByteDance, its Chinese parent company.

It is the most serious threat yet to the video-streaming app's future in the U.S., intensifying America's tech war with China.

“The reason that Congress voted to ban Tiktok is because of our national security concerns.  Because everyone who uses Tiktok, Tiktok  collects a lot of data from you,” said Raimondo who visited China last year.

“They know what you like to look at, they know exactly where you are and all that data goes back to the Chinese government and may be the Chinese military state controlled. So that is the reason.”

The US decision comes at a time when Kenya too has joined a growing list of nations seeking to regulate TikTok in a bid to combat false information, fraud, and the distribution of sexual content.

Last week Kenya’s ICT Principal Secretary John Tanui told Parliament during the committee meeting that TikTok will be required to publish compliance reports every three months as part of the plan to address the negative effects linked to TikTok, instead of banning it from the country.

The government, under pressure to rein in TikTok, says that the social media platform will now be required to show content taken down and reasons for the same.

“To necessitate easy community reporting TikTok is required to share quarterly compliance reports with the Ministry clearly showing content taken down and reasons for the same,” said Tanui.

“I urge that we choose regulation instead of a complete ban and seek your support towards the proposed regulations.”

The move to compel TikTok publish the compliance reports every three months comes weeks after Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki disclosed that government workers will be regulated on how they use the site.

Prof Kindiki said that the National Security Council will in the coming days decide on whether or not to ban public officials from using TikTok, in a bid to protect Kenya’s cyberspace from internal and external threats.

Kenya is among the leading countries in the use of TikTok in Africa and a decision by the US has already informed options of whether to ban or not.

Uganda’s Fight Against Cattle Raiders Dividing Karamoja People


A family plant groundnuts in Kachinga, Karamoja, Uganda. Natural disasters, locusts, armyworms, and raids by heavily armed cattle thieves have for decades battered the region. PHOTO | POOL

By Samuel Meyerson

In the Karamoja region of north-eastern Uganda, a four-year outbreak of violent raids for livestock is finally subsiding – the result of a ruthless, informer-driven disarmament campaign by the army.

But even as stability returns, divisions arising from class tensions, intergenerational friction, and animosities between raiders and government collaborators within communities may complicate future peace and reconciliation efforts.

In 2022 and 2023, I spent over a year conducting oral history research in Kotido District, an area of northern Karamoja inhabited by the Jie, an ethnic group of an estimated 240,000 people.

My research demonstrated that to properly address these deep intracommunal antagonisms, peace activists must look beyond orthodox models of conflict resolution and address the complex landscape of fears, hatreds, alliances, and betrayals that the violence of the 2020s has generated.

Livestock raiding has a long history in Karamoja. Traditionally driven by inter-ethnic competition over land and livestock, raiding was an important component of an agro-pastoral economy that relied on resourcefulness and adaptability to survive the region’s harsh and arid climate.

A previous military disarmament campaign in the 2000s involved draconian cordon-and-search operations of entire villages – collective punishment that elicited sympathy for the rustlers and built on a pattern of animosity between pastoralist communities and the Ugandan state, stretching back to British colonial rule.

In the past few years, the army has switched to an intelligence-based campaign, targeting individual suspects, whose whereabouts and activities are monitored by informers. The information they have provided has caused the imprisonment, torture, and extrajudicial execution of alleged raiders at the hands of the army. As a result, when alleged informers have been discovered by rustlers, they in turn have been killed.

The intra-communal divisions the army’s tactics generated are reflected in an ominous song, popular among Jie youth in 2022. “We are searching for the informers,” they sang, “Move aside, government, so we can search for the informers!”

The political economy of raiding

Traditionally, cattle raiding between rival ethnic groups in Karamoja was in the collective interests of entire communities. Raided livestock were shared, and mutual suspicion between communities and the government ensured that people in Kotido adhered to what researcher Ponsiano Bimeny and his team call the principle of kiwa ekile or “hide the man” – protecting the identity of the raiders from security personnel and other agents of the state.

However, Karamoja’s political economy has undergone massive changes over the course of the past several decades, and the face of conflict in the region has changed with it.

The penetration of the cash economy and the commercialisation of raiding has accelerated dramatically since the conclusion of the army’s last disarmament campaign in 2011.

The military’s operation was successful in the short term. But the system of “protected kraals” (cattle enclosures) guarded by the army that it introduced – along with climate change and dramatically declining livestock herds – has made the traditional agro-pastoral economy increasingly untenable.

During the relative peace of the 2010s, economic inequality was shaped by an individual’s relative ability to participate in the market economy. Well-connected older men, with access to money, land, and livestock, were able to cement their success.

Younger men, on the other hand, without cash or cattle, sometimes resorted to petty crime to make good.

When raiding reappeared in 2019 and 2020, spurred in part by the impact of Covid-19, it had become the purview of market-oriented criminal groups, who sold stolen livestock and pocketed the proceeds rather than sharing the stolen animals with their communities.

Like in past decades, raiding hit agricultural production and other livelihood activities, contributing to a food crisis – with reports of hunger-related deaths.

The more individualistic nature of conflict in Kotido – and in Karamoja in general – has meant armed raiders have targeted members of their own Jie community, and even cooperated with raiders from rival ethnic groups such as the Dodoth, Bokora, or Matheniko.

Using cell phones, Jie's accomplices coordinated with cattle raiders, informing them of the locations of Jie livestock and advising them when to strike. Once the deed was done and the raiders had sold the stolen livestock, they sent a cut of the profits to their co-conspirator in Kotido via mobile money transfers.

According to some Jie, soldiers tasked with guarding Jie livestock in the “protected kraals” established at army barracks also participated in these.

For present-day raiders, “a cow in the pocket” – or cash from the sale of raided animals – is preferable to a cow in the kraal. It allows the repayment of loans, and coverage of medical bills, and provides comrades with a steady supply of roasted meat and beer.

As a result, communities have turned against sons involved in raiding, derisively calling them nginyamirei (“devourers”) and ngimokorai (“gangsters”). Their behaviour is described through the idiom of sons raiding the cattle of their fathers – an anathema that underscores the grave threat to long standing social mores they represent.

The rise of informers

Informers are a new dynamic in the changing nature of cattle raiding. Cultivated by military intelligence, their widespread use has created a pervasive atmosphere of suspicion. They are often ex-raiders who have been persuaded to collaborate with the army – either through a financial inducement, or the threat of torture and imprisonment.

The risks are substantial. “If villagers know you as a broke man without cows and see you holding money, they will ask, ‘Where did you get money from?” a former raider stated.

“After that [if they suspect he is a collaborator], he ends up being killed.”

Some people uninvolved in raiding complain that some informers provided false information to the army to extort people or, as an NGO official explained, “to purge their rivals in the community”.

Members of local peace committees, which play a prominent role in both peace initiatives and liaising with the government, have been targets of accusations by raiders and informers alike. Peace committees are formalised groups, typically consisting of elders, and originally formed in collaboration with international NGOs in around 2001.

They also assist with the confiscation and redistribution of stolen cattle – which opens them up to allegations of corruption.

Young raiders see peace committee members – some of whom were once successful raiders – as hypocrites and potential informers. A raider who surrendered his gun in 2023, alleged that some members of local peace committees are deeply implicated in the business side of raiding, with connections to livestock traders in neighbouring regions such as Teso. “They are in charge of peace, but… they will never refuse to take what I bring back from [raids],” he said.

Peace committee members claim that some raiders-turned-informers have sought to settle old scores by making false claims against them. As one committee member stated: “In order to punish a peace committee member, [informers] will tell the government that his son has a gun.”

Reconsidering peacebuilding

Over the past year, following the assassination of prominent Jie raiders and a blanket amnesty for raiders willing to surrender their weapons, the guns have largely fallen silent in Kotido District and across Karamoja.

Peacebuilders have made important contributions, including placing young men who recently surrendered their weapons at the forefront of peacemaking efforts. Yet NGO-led peacebuilding initiatives have adhered to long-standing models of peace meetings between ethnic communities. This approach treats livestock raiding in Karamoja as the product of intractable inter-ethnic animosities rather than changing economic incentives and ignores the divisions that intra-communal violence and the use of informers have engendered.

At this critical juncture, it is vital that peacebuilding actors do not overlook the significant changes to Karamoja’s political economy that have occurred in the past two decades.

While rivalries between communities persist, divisions within communities may be more difficult to tackle, with the lines between raider, peacemaker, dealer of stolen cattle, and informer often so blurred as to render them invisible.