A car laden with explosives rammed into the gate of a hotel in centre of Somalia's port city of Kismayu followed by gunfire - a police officer and a resident said on Sunday. The state-run Somali National Television said on Twitter security forces were dealing with a "terrorist incident" at the hotel, which al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab has taken responsibility for. "There is a blast at Tawakal hotel and there is gunfire being heard," Mohamed Nur, a police captain, told Reuters from Kismayu. There was no immediate word on casualties. Witnesses said a huge blast was heard before the gunfire started. "The security forces have besieged the scene," Farah Ali, a shopkeeper in Kismayu, told Reuters. Abdiasis Abu Musab, al Shabaab's military operation spokesperson, said the group was behind the attack, and had targeted Jubbaland region's administrators who work from the hotel.
The United Nations has warned of famine, not seen in half a century, threatening Somalia. Spokesperson for the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (Unicef) James Elder said in a press statement that 44,000 children were admitted to health facility in Somalia due to severe malnutrition since August, noting that child is admitted to a health facility for treatment of severe acute malnutrition "every single minute of every single day". Elder explained that many children cannot even reach these health facilities due to the insecure conditions that dominate Somalia, pointing out that Somalia will face the death of children on a scale not seen in half a century if the international community does not increase its financial support. "Severely malnourished children are up to 11 times more likely to die of diarrhea and measles than well-nourished children. With rates such as these, Somalia is on the brink of a tragedy at a scale not seen in decades," Elder said.
More than 600 people have died in the worst flooding Nigeria has seen in a decade, according to a new toll released Sunday. More than 1.3 million people had to leave their homes as a result of the floods, Nigeria's Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs said on twitter. Over 603 lives have been lost as of October 16, 2022, and 2,407 persons have been injured, the ministry said. The previous toll from last week stood at 500, but the numbers had risen because some state governments had not prepared for the floods, said the ministry. The flooding also completely destroyed more than 82,000 houses and nearly 110,000 hectares of farmland, the ministry added.
Lesotho’s newly formed party Revolution for Prosperity (RFP), which won the most seats in last week’s election but fell short of an overall majority, has formed a coalition government with two other opposition parties, its leader said yesterday. The kingdom of Lesotho in southern Africa has been marred by years of political instability under the outgoing All Basotho Convention (ABC) party, which had been in power since 2017. RFP founder Sam Matekane told a media briefing he had formed an alliance with two other parties — the Alliance of Democrats (AD) and the Movement for Economic Change (MEC) — after securing 56 seats in the election and needing to court other parties to control Lesotho’s 120-member parliament. Formed in March this year, the populist RFP has promised to do away with rampant corruption and focus on economic growth. “One thing for sure of the many things that we are going to do is to downsize the cabinet, and all our members will declare their assets, including myself,” Matekane, the wealthy businessman who created the party, told reporters. He said the parties were also working on a coalition agreement, which will be made public after the approval. The coalition would tackle “crime and eradicating corruption within the (first) 100 days in office,” Matekane said. “We are taking over a bankrupt government and we will be using our personal cars and staying in our homes until things have gone back to normalcy.” The election went ahead despite a deadlock in parliament on constitutional reforms meant to be enacted ahead of the vote to bring order to Lesotho’s fractious politics.
More than 50 people were killed in an air strike that hit a school in northern Ethiopia’s Tigray region that was sheltering people displaced by conflict between the federal and regional governments, two aid workers and Tigray forces said. The air strike in the town of Adi Daero, some 40km from the border with Eritrea, appears to be one of the deadliest carried out during the nearly two-year war, which has killed thousands and uprooted millions. The school was on a list of sites housing internally displaced persons (IDPs) that the Office of the United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Co-ordinator in Ethiopia sent to Ethiopia’s foreign ministry in January, according to one of the aid workers and two UN sources. A range of Ethiopian government and military officials did not respond to Reuters requests for comment on the air strike or the letter. The government has previously denied targeting civilians in the conflict. The UN co-ordinator’s office also did not respond to requests for comment. Reuters could not independently verify details of the air strike or the death toll. Most communications have been down for over a year in Tigray, where the federal government has been battling regional forces since November 2020. But four humanitarian sources, who asked not to be named because they were not authorised to speak to the media, said that the school had been hit, citing eyewitnesses and local administrative officials. Survivors of the strike told humanitarian workers after fleeing to the town of Shire, about 25km away, that at least 50 people had been killed and more than 70 injured, an aid worker in Shire said. The survivors said they had heard what sounded like a drone, this aid worker said. Another aid worker, who was briefed on the death toll by colleagues, said 62 people had been killed. This person did not have information about the number of people wounded. The two other humanitarian sources, both from the United Nations, had no information about the number of casualties. The Tigray external relations office said in a statement that 65 people had been killed and 70 injured in the strike. It blamed the Ethiopian and Eritrean governments for what it called a “massacre”. Eritean troops have fought on the side of Ethiopia’s federal government during the conflict.
More penguins have died from avian flu at the colony at Cape Town’s Boulders beach, a popular tourist attraction and an important breeding site in South Africa, raising concerns for the species and for other seabirds. David Roberts, a clinical veterinarian at the South African Foundation For The Conservation Of Coastal Birds, said at least 28 out of around 3,000 penguins in the colony had died from the disease since the middle of August. “We have confirmed avian influenza in 14 African penguins since the middle of August,” Roberts said, adding that at least another 14 penguins were also affected but not tested for the virus. “This is a continuation of the outbreak that happened last year and it affects several different species of sea birds and at the moment we are quite concerned because the numbers of penguins that are being affected and dying from the disease is going up,” Roberts added. South African environmental authorities said on Sept 16 that the strain of highly pathogenic avian influenza was similar to that detected last year among a range of wild seabirds, including Cape cormorants and common terns. Roberts said scientists were monitoring the situation because it was not clear how the outbreak would evolve.
In the city from which Lebanon’s richest politicians hail, the poorest residents once again mourn their dead. Among them, Mustafa Misto, a taxi driver in the city of Tripoli, and his three young children, whose bodies were found off Syria’s coast on Thursday after they left Lebanon on a migrant boat carrying more than 100 people. Lebanese transport minister Ali Hamie told Reuters 95 people died in the accident, including 24 children and 31 women. It marks the deadliest such voyage yet from Lebanon, where mounting despair is forcing ever more people to attempt the perilous journey on rickety and overcrowded boats to seek a better life in Europe. Before embarking on the ill-fated voyage, Misto had fallen heavily into debt, selling his car and his mother’s gold to feed his family yet still unable to afford simple things, like cheese for his children’s sandwiches, relatives and neighbours said. “Everyone knows they may die but they say, ‘Maybe I may get somewhere, maybe there is hope,’” said Rawane El Maneh, 24, a cousin. “They went...not to die, but to renew their lives. Now they are in a new life. I hope it’s much better than this one here.” The tragedy has underscored soaring poverty in northern Lebanon, and Tripoli in particular, that is driving ever more people to take desperate measures three years into the country’s devastating financial collapse. It has also brought into focus stark inequalities that are particularly acute in the north: Tripoli is home to a number of ultra-rich politicians but has enjoyed little in the way of development or investment. While many of Lebanon’s sectarian leaders have spent money in their communities to shore up political support, residents in Tripoli say their area has been neglected despite the wealth of its politicians. As mourners gathered to pay their respects in Tripoli’s impoverished Bab al-Ramel neighbourhood, many voiced anger at the city’s politicians including Najib Mikati, Lebanon’s billionaire tycoon prime minister. “We’re in a country where politicians just suck up money, talk, and have no regard for what people need,” El Maneh said. Tripoli, Lebanon’s second city with a population of roughly half a million, was already Lebanon’s poorest before the country plummeted into financial crisis, the result of decades of corruption and bad governance overseen by ruling elites. Mohanad Hage Ali of the Carnegie Middle East Center said Tripoli had seen no major development efforts since the 1975-90 civil war despite the political rise of rich businessmen from the city. This “resembled the growing inequality and income disparity in the country”, he said. Mikati made much of his fortune in telecoms and is ranked the Arab world’s fourth richest man in 2022 by Forbes. Mikati’s office said in a statement to Reuters on Thursday that he had been the “biggest supporter of socio-economic development in Tripoli” for more than 40 years, through his charitable foundations. He also understood “the agony the people of Lebanon in general and Tripoli in particular are going through,” due to the crisis, it added. Mikati’s seaside mansion on the city’s edge, known locally as “Mikati’s Palace”, has been a rallying point during protests in recent years over government corruption and economic desperation. A Lebanese prosecutor in October 2019 charged Mikati with illicit enrichment for using funds designated for a subsidised housing loan scheme for poor families — accusations he has denied. His office said the charges were “politically motivated to smear” his reputation, and noted another judge dropped the case earlier this year. Reflecting a disconnect between people in Tripoli and the politicians and a belief nothing will change, just three in 10 people in the city voted in May parliamentary elections. The north has been one of Lebanon’s most troubled regions since the end of the civil war. The city and its surrounding areas have been a fertile recruiting ground for young militants. Most recently, Tripoli has been a focal point of a worsening security situation linked to the financial collapse. Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi has announced a new security plan that followed a spike in crimes and violence. Several dozen of the people on the migrant boat came from the sprawling Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared, according to camp residents. There were also many Syrians, around 1mn of whom live in Lebanon as refugees. The economic crisis has led poverty to sky-rocket, with 80% of the population of some 6.5mn poor, according to the United Nations. The government has done little to address the crisis, which the World Bank has called a deliberate depression “orchestrated” by the elite through its exploitative grip on resources. Several other boats attempted the voyage from Lebanon last week: Cyprus rescued 477 people from two vessels that left Lebanon. The UN Refugee Agency said 3,460 individuals had left or attempted to leave Lebanon by sea this year, more than double the number in the whole of 2021. Those who perished on the boat carrying Misto also included a woman and her four children from the northern Akkar region. A view shows the exterior of Lebanon’s Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s house in the northern city of Tripoli.
William Ruto pledged to work for all Kenyans after he was sworn in as president at a pomp-filled ceremony yesterday, five weeks after his narrow victory in a bitterly-fought but largely peaceful election. Tens of thousands of people joined regional heads of state at a packed 60,000-seat stadium in Nairobi to watch him take the oath of office, with many spectators clad in the bright yellow of Ruto’s party, cheering loudly and waving Kenyan flags. “I will work with all Kenyans irrespective of who they voted for,” the 55-year-old said in his inauguration speech, vowing to unite the polarised nation and announcing a series of measures to tackle its economic woes. “In this process we have demonstrated the maturity of our democracy, the robustness of our institutions and the resilience of the Kenyan people.” The rags-to-riches businessman described his swearing-in as Kenya’s fifth post-independence president as a “moment like no other,” adding: “Today, I want to thank God, because a village boy has become the president of Kenya.” A notoriously ambitious politician who has been deputy president since 2013, Ruto beat his rival Raila Odinga — who had the backing of now former president Uhuru Kenyatta — by less than two percentage points in the August 9 poll. But the Supreme Court on September 5 unanimously upheld his victory, dismissing his opponents’ claims of fraud and mismanagement. African Union Commission chair Moussa Faki Mahamat, hailed the peaceful transfer of power in a post on Twitter.
William Ruto was sworn in as Kenya's fifth president on Tuesday, a week after the Supreme Court upheld an election that dashed the hopes of the nation's most prominent political families and handed power to a man who began his career as a roadside chicken seller. Ruto, who served as deputy president for the past 10 years, takes over at a time of surging food and fuel prices, high unemployment and rising public debt. By 5 a.m., Nairobi's 60,000-seat Kasarani Sports Centre was packed with Ruto's supporters resplendent in his party's colours of yellow and green. They danced and waved miniature national flags to the strains of a band. "He is our fellow youth! I know he will bring us more opportunity," said dancer Juma Dominic as he and his troupe warmed up. The National Police Service had tweeted that the stadium was full by 5 a.m. and asked citizens to stay home, but crowds continued to try to force their way inside. The St John's Ambulance Service said it had taken several injured people to hospital. Ruto has been deputy to President Uhuru Kenyatta since 2013, but they fell out after the 2017 election. Kenyatta backed opposition leader Raila Odinga to succeed him in the August election and denounced Ruto as unfit for office. Kenyatta finally publicly congratulated Ruto on the eve of his inauguration. "You will be president not just for those who voted for you but for all Kenyans," he said. Odinga had filed a court challenge accusing Ruto of cheating his way to victory, but the Supreme Court swept aside his petition alongside several others. It was the fifth time that Odinga, 77, had stood for election. Odinga accepted the court's decision, helping avoid the kind of violent protests that marred the elections he lost in 2007 and 2017. He did not attend the inauguration, however, and said on Monday that the election had not been free and fair. Ruto, a 55-year-old former roadside chicken seller who is now a wealthy businessman, campaigned by portraying himself as an underdog "hustler" battling the elite. Odinga and Kenyatta are the sons of the nation's first vice president and president respectively. That message resonated with chronically underemployed youths and families squeezed by poverty and rampant corruption, which Kenyatta publicly acknowledged he was unable to rein in. One of Kenya's most prominent civil society activists, Boniface Mwangi, said on Monday that overconfidence, disorganisation and Kenyatta's embrace had doomed Odinga's campaign. "Every time Uhuru spoke on behalf of the party, we suffered," he wrote, pointing out that Kenyans had suffered hardship and corruption for 10 years while Kenyatta and Ruto were in charge.
An air strike hit Mekelle, the capital of Ethiopia's northern Tigray region, on Tuesday, wounding at least one person, a local hospital official said. The air strike happened two days after Tigray's regional government said it was ready for a ceasefire without preconditions and would accept an African Union-led peace process to try to end its war with the central government, which erupted in November 2020. The Ethiopian government has not yet provided an official response to the talks and ceasefire offer by the Tigray People's Liberation Front, the party that governs Tigray. Kibrom Gebreselassie, the chief executive officer of Mekelle's Ayder Hospital, said the hospital had received one wounded person from Tuesday's air strike. He said the person who brought the wounded person to the hospital said the strike hit the business campus of Mekelle University and Dimitsi Woyane TV station, which the regional government runs. Getachew Reda, spokesperson for the regional government, said on Twitter that the business campus had been hit by drones. Ethiopian military spokesperson Colonel Getnet Adane and government spokesperson Legesse Tulu did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The air strike is the third to hit Mekelle since the conflict re-erupted late last month, ending a five-month lull in hostilities. Each side has blamed the other for the resumption of fighting. The Tigrayan regional government's statement on Sunday backing the AU-led peace process was described by international powers as a potential breakthrough. Former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo, who has been tasked by the AU with mediating between the two sides, met with the American envoy to the Horn of Africa region, Mike Hammer, on Monday, according to a tweet by Djibouti's former ambassador to Ethiopia, Mohamed Idriss Farah, who also attended the meeting. The TPLF dominated national politics for nearly three decades until Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed came to power in 2018. The TPLF has accused Abiy of centralising power at the expense of Ethiopia's regions. Abiy denies this and has accused the Tigrayan forces of trying to reclaim power, which they have denied.
Former President Donald Trump’s attorneys yesterday opposed the US Justice Department’s request to continue to examine the contents of classified documents seized by the FBI from his Florida estate last month in an ongoing criminal investigation. In a court filing, his lawyers also asked US District Judge Aileen Cannon to include the roughly 100 documents marked as classified that were among more than 11,000 records recovered in the court-approved Aug. 8 search in an upcoming review of the material by an independent arbiter, called a special master. In another development, the Justice Department has charged a Texas woman who prosecutors accused of making phone threats against Cannon including saying the judge was “marked for assassination.” The incident marks the latest example of threats reported against various federal authorities in recent months. Trump is under investigation by the Justice Department for retaining government records — some of which were marked as highly classified, including “top secret” — at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach after leaving office in January 2021. The department is also examining possible obstruction of the probe. The special master, who has yet to be named, could exclude the department from using certain documents. FBI agents retrieved the records during a court-approved Aug. 8 search. Cannon previously blocked the department from immediately using the seized records in the investigation, a move that will slow down the work of prosecutors and make it harder for them to determine whether additional classified materials could be missing. Trump’s lawyers in yesterday’s filing said he disputes the department’s claim that the roughly 100 documents at issue are in fact classified, and they reminded Cannon that a president generally has broad powers to declassify records. They stopped short of suggesting that Trump had declassified the documents, a claim he has made on social media but not in court filings. “There still remains a disagreement as to the classification status of the documents,” Trump’s lawyers wrote. “The government’s position therefore assumes a fact not yet established.” If the judge rules that the Justice Department cannot continue relying on the classified materials for its criminal probe or insists on letting the special master review them, prosecutors have vowed to appeal to a higher court. “In what at its core is a document storage dispute that has spiralled out of control, the government wrongfully seeks to criminalise the possession by the 45th President of his own presidential and personal records,” Trump’s lawyers wrote. “The government should therefore not be permitted to skip the process and proceed straight to a preordained conclusion,” they added. The documents probe is one of several federal and state investigations Trump is facing from his time in office and in private business. He has suggested he might run for president again in 2024. Following the search, Trump’s attorneys sought the appointment of a special master to review the seized records for materials that could be covered by attorney-client privilege or executive privilege — a legal doctrine that can shield some presidential records from disclosure. In ruling in favour of Trump’s request last week, Cannon rejected Justice Department arguments that the records belong to the government and that because Trump is no longer president he cannot claim executive privilege. Cannon was appointed to the bench by Trump in 2020. If the special master decides some of the material is covered by Trump’s privilege claims, it could hamper the government’s investigation. The Justice Department on Friday proposed retired federal judges Barbara Jones and Thomas Griffith to serve as special master, while Trump’s team proposed federal judge Raymond Dearie and Paul Huck, Florida’s former deputy attorney general. The two sides are expected to give the judge later their views on each other’s proposed candidates.
In a makeshift open-air classroom, dozens of children sat squeezed together on a mat and watched as their teacher chalked simple sums on a blackboard — a rare chance of education for their nomadic community in Chad. Around 7% of the central African nation’s population of about 16mn are nomads, who move hundreds of kilometres from the south with their herds every year when seasonal rains turn the semi-arid central regions green with fresh pasture. This way of life is centuries-old but incompatible with Chad’s formal education system. According to the Copenhagen-based International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs, fewer than 1% of nomad boys and “virtually zero” nomad girls were registered for school as of 2018. Teacher Leonard Gamaigue was inspired to set up a mobile school when he saw children playing at a nomad camp in Toukra, outside the Chadian capital N’Djamena, during normal school hours in 2019. “When we started, we had practically nothing, not even a piece of chalk,” the 28-year-old recalled, after a lesson in late August during which the kids had carefully jotted down answers in exercise books on their laps. Nearly three years on, his school — which follows the community when they move on every two months or so — has 69 pupils of various ages and basic supplies thanks to donations. “They had never been to school before, none of them...today they can already write their name correctly, express themselves in French, do sums,” Gamaigue said with pride. The teacher has also received an education in nomadic ways, learning to conserve water more carefully, live off a milk-heavy diet, and get used to packing up and moving the school.
A Palestinian was killed and 16 wounded yesterday when Israeli troops entered Jenin in the occupied West Bank to carry out a home demolition, the Palestinian health ministry said. “The outcome of the Israeli aggression on Jenin at dawn today: a 29-year-old martyr and 16 wounded with bullets and shrapnel were admitted to hospitals,” the ministry said. Palestinian official news agency Wafa identified the dead man as Mohamed Musa Mohamed Sabaaneh, 29. Sabaaneh’s father, Musa Sabaaneh said that a soldier “inside a jeep fired a bullet” at his son. “We were asleep and did not know the news. We received a call that my son was seriously injured,” he said. Thousands of mourners gathered in Jenin as Sabaaneh’s body was paraded through the streets at his funeral. Laid alongside his body was an assault rifle emblazoned with the emblem of Saraya al-Quds, the armed wing of Palestinian group Islamic Jihad. The Israeli army said it entered Jenin overnight “in order to demolish the residence” of the perpetrator of a deadly shooting attack in Tel Aviv in April. Raad Hazem killed three Israelis in a shooting spree in Tel Aviv’s busy Dizengoff Street nightlife district on April 7, before being shot dead after a massive manhunt. His father Fathi Hazem and brother Hamam are both wanted by Israel. A petition by Hazem’s family to prevent the demolition was rejected by Israel’s Supreme Court on May 30. On Monday, armed forces chief Lieutenant General Aviv Kohavi said “around 1,500 wanted people were arrested and hundreds of attacks prevented” in the operations. Human rights activists say Israel’s policy of demolishing the homes of suspected attackers amounts to collective punishment, as it can render non-combatants, including children, homeless. But Israel says the practice is effective in deterring some Palestinians from carrying out attacks. Israel has occupied the West Bank since 1967, when it captured the territory from Jordan.
Around 730 children have died in nutrition centres across Somalia since January, the United Nations said yesterday, warning the true figure could be much higher, with the country nearing famine. Millions of people are at risk of starvation across the Horn of Africa, which is in the grip of the worst drought in four decades after four failed rainy seasons wiped out livestock and crops. “Malnutrition has reached an unprecedented level,” said Wafaa Saeed, the Somalia representative for the UN children’s agency Unicef. “Around 730 children are reported to have died in nutrition centres across the country” between January and July, she told reporters in Geneva via video-link from Mogadishu. “This is less than 1% of the children who were admitted, cured and discharged. But we also feel that this number could be more, as many deaths of children go unreported.” She said some 1.5mn children — nearly half aged under five — are at risk of acute malnutrition. Among those, 385,000 will need treatment for severe acute malnutrition, Saeed said. The UN warned Monday that Somalia was on the brink of famine for the second time in just over a decade, and that time was running out to save lives in the drought-stricken country. Seed said the drought had triggered a water and sanitation crisis, because many of the water sources had dried up. “Many of those have also dried out because of overuse, and we have around 4.5mn people who need emergency water supplies,” she said. That figure is expected to rise as the drought worsens and, according to Unicef, as the price of water has increased by between 55% and 85% since January. “No matter how much food a malnourished child eats, if he or she doesn’t get clean water then they won’t be able to recover,” said Saeed. Unicef is particularly concerned because history shows that when levels of severe acute malnutrition in children combine with deadly disease outbreaks, child mortality rises dramatically. “We are really very much concerned about this because we are also seeing increase in outbreak of acute watery diarrhoea,” Saeed said. “There are more than 8,400 cases this year and around 13,000 cases of measles. And the cases of measles this year alone are more than what has been reported in 2020 and 2021 combined.” Humanitarian agencies have been ringing alarm bells for months and say the situation across the Horn of Africa — including Kenya and Ethiopia — is likely to deteriorate with a likely fifth failed rainy season in the offing. In Somalia alone, about 7.8mn people or half the population face crisis hunger levels, UN agencies say. Around 1mn have fled their homes on a desperate quest for food and water.
Kenya’s Supreme Court yesterday unanimously upheld William Ruto’s presidential win in a scathing judgment that blasted opposition leader Raila Odinga’s accusations of cheating. Soon after, Odinga tweeted that he would respect the ruling even though he disagreed with it, easing fears that Kenya would see any repeat of the violence that followed disputed votes in 2007 and 2017. Several public figures and anti-corruption campaigners — including some who had backed Odinga — welcomed the judgment, saying it bolstered the court’s reputation for independence. “This decision is good for the judiciary. This election result is bad for Kenya. Two things can be true at the same time,” tweeted author Nanjala Nyabola, who had not backed either candidate. There were no immediate signs of protest in Odinga’s stronghold of Kisumu city or the low-income neighbourhoods of Nairobi that traditionally support the left-wing politician. “There is nothing we can do, the judgment has been made,” Geoffrey Omondi, a 33-year-old electrical engineer who supported Odinga, said. Ruto’s jubilant supporters danced and waved flags in his party colours of yellow and green. East Africa’s most wealthy and influential nation had been on tenterhooks since the August 9 elections, which pitted Ruto — a former chicken seller — against two of nation’s two most powerful political families. Similar accusations of cheating triggered deadly election violence, often with ethnic undertones, during the two previous polls. Chief Justice Martha Koome, who heads the seven-member Supreme Court, left no ambiguity about the court’s position on key arguments brought by Odinga’s team and other complainants. She dismissed some affidavits alleging that polling stations results forms had been tampered with as “double hearsay” — and one as “no more than hot air ... a wild goose chase”. “Some of the (computer) logs presented as evidence ... were either from logs arising from the 2017 election or were outright forgeries,” she said. Koome raised the possibility of perjury, noting that two people who filed affidavits allegedly on behalf of polling stations agents had not spoken to the agents. “Swearing to falsehoods is a criminal offence,” she said. She also called for reforms at the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, saying that a “boardroom rupture” between the commissioners had undermined public confidence. Four of the seven election commissioners had disowned Ruto’s win minutes before it was formally announced, saying the tallying process was opaque. But the dissenting commissioners had previously participated in the tallying without raising any concerns, Koome said. “We uphold the Supreme Court decision,” dissenting commissioner Juliana Cherera told Reuters. The history between Odinga, Ruto and outgoing President Uhuru Kenyatta underscores the tangled ties between elite families and the primacy of personality over politics. Ruto was Kenyatta’s vice president, but the two fell out and Kenyatta backed Odinga in the vote. In a speech after the judgment, Ruto poked gentle fun at his predecessor and former ally, saying: “I’ve not yet spoken to my ... friend Uhuru Kenyatta.” Ripples of laughter spread through the audience before Ruto dissolved into uncontrollable chuckles at the podium. Later he promised to respect both Kenyatta and Odinga, and said he would stop law enforcement mounting any politically-motivated corruption investigations — something he accused Kenyatta’s government of doing. Ruto said he would not recruit Odinga to serve in his government, saying that the country needed a functioning opposition and such alliances created a “mongrel of a government.” Kenyatta is the son of the country’s first president and Odinga the son of the first vice president.
Charred cars and buildings pockmarked by bullets scarred Libya’s capital yesterday, the day after intense fighting killed 32 people yet appeared to leave the Tripoli government more firmly entrenched. Battles raged across the city throughout Saturday as forces aligned with the parliament-backed administration of Fathi Bashagha failed to take control of the capital and oust the Tripoli-based government of Abdulhamid al-Dbeibah. On a tour of the city yesterday, Reuters saw workers clearing glass and debris from streets littered with spent ammunition casings, as fighters aligned with Dbeibah stood in front of bases seized from forces affiliated with Bashagha. Traffic had returned to many roads as residents inspected damage to their property. The clashes erupted and ended suddenly. But the brief nature of the flare up has not quashed fears of a wider conflict resuming between rivals after months of stalemate in a nation that has endured more than a decade of chaos and violence. Libya has had little peace since the 2011 Nato-backed uprising that ousted long-time autocrat Muammar Gaddafi, splitting the nation in 2014 between rival eastern and western factions and dragging in regional powers. Libyan oil output, a prize for the warring groups, has repeatedly been shut off. Bashagha’s prospects of seizing control in Tripoli, which lies in west Libya, appear badly dented for now but there is no sign of a broader political or diplomatic compromise to end the struggle for power in Libya. The powerful eastern faction that backed Bashagha, including parliament speaker Aguila Saleh and commander Khalifa Haftar with his Libyan National Army, have given little indication that they are ready to reach an accommodation with Dbeibah. Saleh’s parliament, based in east Libya, said Dbeibah’s government had exceeded its term and appointed Bashagha to replace him early this year after the collapse of a political process to prepare for elections. Dbeibah challenged this. “Dbeibah looks more solid and more permanent now than he did 48 hours ago,” analyst Jalel Harchaoui said.”Haftar and Aguila Saleh have to decide whether they can live with a configuration in which they have almost no control over Tripoli.” He said backroom negotiations could follow among main players and their foreign backers. But the rivals might also seek to build new military coalitions capable of expanding their areas of control, he said. National elections, scheduled for last year as part of a UN-sponsored peace process, were abandoned amid disputes about the rules governing the vote. They now appear even further off. UN secretary general Antonio Guterres called for an immediate halt to violence and for dialogue to end the impasse. Several groups aligned with Bashagha in Tripoli appeared to have lost control of territory inside the capital on Saturday. Attempts by other forces, aligned to him and trying to advance into the capital from the west and south, appeared to stall. A main military convoy that set out from Misrata, east of Tripoli, where Bashagha has been based for weeks, turned back before reaching the capital. A top pro-Bashagha commander Osama Juweili said Saturday’s fighting had been triggered by friction between armed forces in Tripoli. But he told Al-Ahrar TV that “it is not a crime” to try to bring in a government mandated by parliament. Airlines yesterday said flights were operating normally at Tripoli’s Mitiga airport, a sign that security had been restored for now. The health ministry said yesterday that 32 people were killed in Saturday’s violence and 159 were injured, without saying how many were fighters and how many were civilians. Fire fighters were still trying to extinguish a blaze in a Tripoli apartment block yesterday morning. A man standing among residents nearby said: “Who will compensate them? And who will bring the dead back to life?”
The UN yesterday condemned an Ethiopian air strike on a kindergarten in rebel-held Tigray that killed at least four people, as diplomats urged that civilians not be targeted. Addis Ababa denied bombing civilian areas in Friday’s air raid on the city of Mekele, and accused the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) of staging deaths. But the UN children’s agency Unicef said the strike “hit a kindergarten, killing several children, and injuring others”. “Unicef strongly condemns the air strike,” said Unicef chief Catherine Russell. “Yet again, an escalation of violence in northern Ethiopia has caused children to pay the heaviest price. For almost two years, children and their families in the region have endured the agony of this conflict. It must end.” The bombardment came just days after fighting erupted on Tigray’s southern border between government forces and TPLF rebels, ending a five-month truce and dashing hopes of peace talks. The TPLF said the air strike, the first in many months on Tigray, demolished a kindergarten and hit a civilian residential area. The government said only military sites were targeted and accused the TPLF of “dumping fake body bags in civilian areas” to maximise outrage. An official at Mekele’s Ayder Referral Hospital told AFP four people died in the strike, including two children, while nine others were injured. Tigrai TV, a local network, put the death toll at seven, including three children. The broadcaster aired graphic footage of mangled playground equipment and a compound brightly painted with cartoons in ruins at the apparent scene of the strike. The claims could not be independently verified as access to northern Ethiopia is severely restricted. Vicky Ford, the UK’s Minister for Africa, said the protection of civilians must be prioritised under international law. “Reports of civilian casualties following airstrikes on #Tigray are appalling,” she said on Twitter yesterday. The EU commissioner for crisis management, Janez Lenarcic, echoed calls for international law to be respected. “Civilians are #NotATarget,” he said on Twitter. WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, himself from Tigray, described the air strike as “barbaric” and “horrifying”. “Children killed in a kindergarten in today’s air strike on #Tigray, while the 21-month starvation, deprivation & death of children continue,” he posted on Twitter. In March, the UN said at least 304 civilians had been killed in the three months prior in airstrikes “apparently carried out by the Ethiopian Air Force”. The UN human rights office has documented aerial bombardments and drone strikes on refugee camps, a hotel and a market in the country’s north, and warned that disproportionate attacks against non-military targets could amount to war crimes. Ethiopia’s air force operates the only known military aircraft over the country’s skies. Untold numbers have been killed in northern Ethiopia since the war began in November 2020. The conflict has been marked by reports of atrocities, including mass killings and sexual violence. A truce in March paused the worst of the bloodshed and allowed aid convoys to slowly start returning to Tigray, where a major humanitarian crisis is under way. The UN says millions are nearing starvation in the northern region, while dire shortages of fuel, medicine and cash have hindered efforts to assist those in need. Since the end of June, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government and the rebels have repeatedly stated their willingness to enter peace negotiations, but disagreed on the terms of such talks. And on Wednesday, fresh offensives erupted in an area bordering Tigray, Amhara and Afar, with both sides accusing the other of firing first. The situation on the ground remains difficult to assess. On Saturday, the government accused the TPLF of “expanding its attacks on various fronts” but offered little in the way of concrete detail. “While the peace option proposed by the Government is preserved, our heroic National Defence Forces are co-ordinating and responding with full efficiency and capabilities, against the large-scale attack launching by this terrorist group,” the government said in a statement. Spokespeople for the TPLF could not be reached for comment. The UK on Saturday upgraded its security advice for Ethiopia, advising citizens against all travel to the popular tourist destination of Lalibela, and the road onward to Tigray. The flare up has alarmed the international community, which has been pushing both sides to peacefully resolve the 21-month war in Africa’s second most populous nation. Abiy sent troops into Tigray in November 2020 to topple the TPLF, accusing the former ruling party of the dissident region of orchestrating attacks on federal army camps.
French President Emmanuel Macron called for “truth and recognition” of the past yesterday, the second day of a visit to France’s former colony Algeria aimed at mending their often painful ties. The three-day trip follows months of tensions between Paris and the North African country, which earlier this year marked six decades of independence following 132 years of French rule. The visit also comes as European powers scramble to replace Russian energy imports - including with supplies from Algeria, Africa’s top gas exporter, which in turn is seeking a greater regional role. Macron had proclaimed a “new page” in relations on Thursday, after meeting President Abdelmadjid Tebboune and announcing the creation of a joint commission of historians to examine the colonial period and the devastating eight-year war that ended it, at a cost of hundreds of thousands of lives. On Friday, Macron - the first French president to be born after Algerian independence in 1962 - dismissed what he said were calls to “choose between pride and repentance”. “I want the truth, and recognition, otherwise we’ll never move forward,” he said. On Friday morning Macron laid a wreath at a monument to those who “died for France”, in the mixed Christian-Jewish Saint Eugene cemetery which was a major burial ground for Europeans during colonial times. French soldiers sang the Marseillaise as cicadas buzzed in the background. Macron then visited the Jewish part of the cemetery, accompanied by prominent French Jews. Later in the day he was set to meet young Algerian entrepreneurs and discuss creating a French-Algerian incubator for digital start-ups, as part of a visit his office said focuses on the future. Tebboune on Thursday hailed “promising prospects for improving the special partnership” between the two countries. Ties between Paris and Algiers have seen repeated crises over the years. They had been particularly tense since last year when Macron questioned Algeria’s existence as a nation before the French occupation and accused the government of fomenting “hatred towards France”. Tebboune withdrew his country’s ambassador in response and banned French military aircraft from its airspace. Normal diplomatic relations have since resumed, along with overflights to French army bases in sub-Saharan Africa. Algeria is seeking a bigger role in the region, buoyed by surging energy prices that have filled the coffers of Africa’s top natural gas exporter following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Macron’s office has said gas is not a major feature of the visit -- although the head of French energy firm Engie, Catherine MacGregor, is in Macron’s 90-strong delegation. The president said that Algeria had helped Europe diversify its energy supplies by pumping more gas to Italy, which last month signed a deal to import billions more cubic metres via an undersea pipeline from the North African coast. Dismissing suggestions that Italy and France were “in competition” for Algerian gas, Macron welcomed the deal. “It’s good for Italy, it’s good for Europe and it improves the diversification of Europe,” he told reporters. He also dismissed suggestions that Italy and France were “in competition”, noting that France only relies on natural gas for a small part of its energy mix. The two leaders discussed how to bring stability to Libya, the Sahel region and the disputed territory of Western Sahara, according to Tebboune. Macron said Friday they had “very freely” discussed the human rights situation in Algeria with Tebboune, whom he said was “sensitive” to the matters. “These issues will be settled in full respect of Algerian sovereignty,” Macron said. He also urged young Algerians “not to be taken in” by the “immense manipulation” of social media networks by foreign powers including Russia and China. Macron was to also visit the iconic Grand Mosque of Algiers on Friday before heading to second city Oran for a stop focused on the arts.
The party that has ruled Angola continuously for nearly 50 years claimed victory yesterday in this week’s election, after the electoral commission put its vote at 51% in a poll marred by low turnout and opposition accusations of fraud. Fewer than half of Angola’s registered voters turned out for Wednesday’s election, which now looks certain to give President Joao Lourenco a second five-year term and extend the rule of the MPLA, which has governed the southern African oil producer since independence from Portugal in 1975. With more than 97% of the vote counted, the election commission said on Thursday the formerly Marxist People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola, or MPLA, was ahead with a 51% majority while its long-time opponent, the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola, or UNITA, had 44.5%. “We have reached yet another outright majority. We have a calm majority to govern without any kind of problem and we will do it,” MPLA spokesman Rui Falcao told a news conference in the capital Luanda, a city that overwhelmingly voted for UNITA. Wednesday’s vote was Angola’s most closely fought yet, with unprecedented gains for the opposition led by Costa Junior, who have complained about the counting process. Analysts fear any dispute could ignite violence among a poor and frustrated youth who voted for Junior. The MPLA and UNITA, formerly both anti-colonial guerrilla groups, were on opposing sides of an on-off civil war after independence that lasted 27 years until 2002. But since the election, the streets have been mostly calm, aside from the odd protest in favour of broken up by tear gas and baton-wielding police. Civil society activists shared images on social media of dozens of young people marching, chanting and waving banners in protest against electoral fraud in the coastal town of Lobito on Friday. Reuters was unable to verify these images. If the results tally stays as it is then UNITA, for the first time, will have deprived the MPLA of the two-thirds majority needed to pass major reforms - the ruling party will instead need the backing of other lawmakers. But perhaps even more telling was how few voters showed up to choose between two political entities which have dominated Angolan politics since independence. Election data released on Friday showed that turnout was 45.65% of eligible voters. Lourenço, 68, has pledged to extend reforms in his second term, including privatising poorly-run state assets. But many Angolans still live in poverty despite his promises of a fairer distribution of wealth in Africa’s second biggest oil producer - a fact which benefited UNITA, popular with poor, jobless youths. UNITA has challenged provisional results, saying its initial count of 40% of polling stations showed it only a whisker behind the MPLA. UNITA said this was a small enough margin for it to overhaul the MPLA once all ballots in Luanda were tabulated. UNITA posted an image of Junior on its official Instagram account with the caption: “The President”. The MPLA posted a social media video of Lourenço thanking Angolans for the election outcome. As she watched the news on her phone, 47-year-old Antonia Neto, who works at a coffee shop at Luanda airport, said she was not happy with the results but there was a glimpse of hope. “There is a lot of discontent,” she said. “Maybe things will be better in the next election.”
The death toll has climbed to at least 43 from wildfires that have raged for days in northern Algeria, with numbers expected to rise further, the gendarmerie said Monday. Thirteen people have been arrested over suspicion of involvement in starting the fires, it added. "The latest toll of victims from the fires increased to 43," from 38 recorded two days earlier, the gendarmerie command said on state radio. Fires had swept through 14 wilayas, or administrative councils, in the north of the country, with most concentrated in the northeastern El Tarf region near the border with Tunisia. The gendarmerie, which operates under the defence ministry, added that they are still working on identifying the bodies of the victims. The death toll is expected to increase, it said, despite earlier reports that the fires had mostly been contained. Civil protection services said some 31 fires were put out in various parts of the North African country between Saturday and Sunday. More than 1,000 families were evacuated from various districts over the past few days, the civil defence's Colonel Boualem Boughlef said on Saturday. The fires, which have become a yearly fixture due to climate change, have devastated thousands of hectares of woodland in the mostly-desert country. Fires last year killed at least 90 people and seared 100,000 hectares of forest and farmland in the north.