TikTok Threatens Legal Action In US Over Trump Order

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“No New Foreign Students For All-Online Classes”- US

US President Donald Trump waves upon arrival to Morristown Municipal Airport, New Jersey on July 24, 2020. (Photo by Nicholas Kamm / AFP)
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Covid-19: Madagascar hospitals reaches full capacity as Covid-19 cases surge

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Dubai Reopens Doors To Tourists After Long Shutdown

With a “welcome” passport sticker and coronavirus tests on arrival, Dubai reopens its doors to international visitors Tuesday in the hope of reviving its tourism industry after a nearly four-month closure.

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But businesses are mainly betting on those already living in the gleaming desert city to energise its ailing economy and serve as a test run before wary foreign holidaymakers return.

“A warm welcome to your second home,” says the sticker applied to passports at Dubai airport, where employees wear hazmat suits and vending machines offer personal protective equipment.

The reopening comes even as the number of COVID-19 cases in the United Arab Emirates climbs to 52,068 included 324 deaths, with millions of foreign workers living in cramped accommodation particularly hard hit.

Incoming tourists are required to present a negative test result taken within four days of the flight. If not, they can take the test on arrival, but must self-isolate until they receive the all-clear.

Tourism has long been the lifeline of the glitzy Gulf emirate, one of the seven sheikhdoms that make up the United Arab Emirates.

High season starts in October when the scorching heat of the Gulf summer starts to dissipate.

Dubai welcomed more than 16.7 million visitors last year, and before the pandemic crippled global travel, the aim had been to reach 20 million arrivals in 2020.

“We are ready to receive tourists while we take all necessary precautions,” said Talal Al-Shanqiti of Dubai’s General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs in a video message tweeted on Sunday.

– Staycation, daycation –
With scant oil resources compared to its neighbours, Dubai has built the most diversified economy in the Gulf, boasting a reputation as a financial, commercial and tourism hub despite an economic downturn in recent years.

The city-state is known for its mega malls, high-end restaurants and five-star hotels and resorts.

But all have taken a severe hit during the coronavirus outbreak, and Dubai’s GDP in the first quarter of 2020 was down by 3.5 percent year-on-year.

Dubai-based airline Emirates, the largest in the Middle East, has been forced to slash its sprawling network and is believed to have laid off thousands of staff.

Before reopening to international tourists, authorities launched social media campaigns and deployed hundreds of social media “influencers” to tout Dubai’s attractions.

But as the hospitality business works out how to create an environment that follows strict hygiene rules but is still worth the hassle for potential foreign clients, hotels are offering Dubai residents “staycation” and “daycation” deals to offset the slump.

– ‘Plans have changed’ –
Restarting hospitality by “primarily targeting the domestic market is an important first step in our phased approach towards restoring normalcy in the tourism industry,” said Issam Kazim, CEO of the Dubai Corporation for Tourism and Commerce Marketing.

And key to the effort are health and safety measures at hotels to “reassure guests and travellers that Dubai is one of the world’s safest destinations,” he said in a statement last month.

Boosting domestic tourism is also part of the strategy of the UAE’s other main destination, the oil-rich capital Abu Dhabi, which welcomed a record 11.35 million international visitors in 2019.

The UAE’s capital is home to top attractions including an F1 circuit and the Louvre Abu Dhabi museum, which in late June opened its doors to masked, gloved visitors after a 100-day closure.

But the emirate does not share Dubai’s enthusiasm about opening doors to foreign tourists just yet, although those with negative test results are now allowed to enter.

“Plans have changed and we are not expecting to have the same numbers of 2019 this year definitely. It would take another two to three years,” said Ali Al Shaiba, executive director of tourism and marketing for the Abu Dhabi Department of Culture and Tourism.

“As of today, I can say domestic tourism is what is in our plan. We believe domestic tourism is key now and we don’t see us opening for international travellers very soon,” he told AFP on Monday.

Why the call to prayer made me cry this Ramadan

The empty Jamia Mosque in Nairobi, which was closed amid concerns over the spread of the coronavirus. Credit…Thomas Mukoya/Reuters

By Abdi Latif Dahir

Abdi Latif Dahir is a Kenyan who was appointed the East Africa correspondent for The New York Times last year. He has fasted every day of Ramadan since he was 9 years old.

The call to prayer rang on a recent afternoon from Jamia Mosque, a landmark in downtown Nairobi with green and silver domes and multiple minarets. There should be worshipers converging there during this sacred month of Ramadan, but the mosque’s doors remained shut, its prayer halls empty since closing in March because of the coronavirus pandemic.

With no congregation to join, I sat in the car, rolled down the windows and listened to the muezzin’s voice, a mellifluous sound that instantly made me cry.

This is a Ramadan like no other. The pandemic, which in Kenya has infected at least 1,109 people and killed at least 50 others, has given us the gift of loneliness. Isolated under a partial lockdown in Nairobi and a nationwide curfew that stretches from dusk to dawn, millions of Muslims in Kenya and beyond have exchanged sprawling banquets for dining alone and observing the evening taraweeh prayers from home.GLOBAL UPDATESRead live developments on the coronavirus pandemic.

I chafe at the imposed restrictions sometimes because, with 21 siblings and 17 nephews and nieces, the iftar meal to break the daily fast has always for me been a bustling family affair. We would start with dates, then gorge on spicy samosas and chicken biryani, pass around my mother’s legendary camel meat, and share cakes and sweet chai.

Many times, particularly when we were young, we would even watch an episode or two of the historical epics or weepy melodramas that are a mainstay of Arab television during Ramadan. But this year, we are getting more than enough drama from real life.

And so we stay physically apart but find unity in the rituals of fasting and feasting. Things might be falling apart, but I have come to find comfort and continuity in the small things: the paneer samosas sent by a friend’s mom, the afternoon runs at a nearby, almost-empty forest, the messages from loved ones checking in from all over the world — and the sound of the azan, the call to prayer, broadcast from the tops of minarets.

Africa’s education crisis: millions of children locked out of school

Girls throughout Africa are missing out on schooling CREDIT: Issouf Sanogo/AFP

Sierra Leone’s minister for education, David Moinina Sengeh, is not in the mood to downplay the challenge the world is currently facing.   

“It’s a disaster,” he tells the Telegraph on a web call from Freetown. And while he is aware the initial focus in the pandemic has to be saving lives, he is not talking about health. 

“The education crisis is happening now, in parallel with the health crisis,” he says. 

“And it’s bigger in my opinion: 1.6 billion kids out of school, that’s a problem; 810 million kids not in school in low and middle income countries, that is a disaster.”  

For much of the world, it is a new disaster. But countries in West Africa that experienced Ebola in 2014-16, like Sierra Leone, have some experience of this kind of disaster, and its long-term impact. 

In Sierra Leone, almost 4,000 people died of Ebola. The economy was severely disrupted, and many children orphaned. 

Schools were closed for nine months to stop the spread of infection. During this period, with children out of school and vulnerable to exploitation, teenage pregnancies shot up by over 60 per cent; 11,000 girls who were previously in school got pregnant. More died from childbirth complications than Ebola itself, and many of those who did survive never returned to education. 

That is a huge loss. Study after study has shown that the benefits of educating girls span society, from reducing child mortality to boosting GDP. 

Mr Sengeh – who recently went viral after tweeting a picture of himself carrying his baby on his back in a sling, a rare thing for a man to do in his country – is adamant it won’t happen again. 

“School is the safest place for many children, and we lost out on learning, and the safety of children,” he says.  “[This time] we have been able to tackle this very directly to correct it.” 

Schools in Sierra Leone closed at the end of March, part of a series of measures aimed at stamping out the virus before it took hold in the African country of 7.6 million people.   

And while the picture is not totally clear and cases have recently jumped, it appears to be working: Sierra Leone has seen 570 cases and 34 deaths. 

But schools remain closed for the foreseeable future. As such, Mr Sengeh and his team have implemented a package of measures to ensure that children – and in particular girls – do not get left behind again.

These include radio educational broadcasts to reach people with no internet access or television. The government is also working to deliver physical education materials – paper, pens and pencils – to children without putting them at risk.  

It is also building mobile phone solutions using SMS and USSD technology – the tech on phones that allows mobile banking or top-up payments to work – which has about 80 per cent penetration in Sierra Leone.  

“Even with the simplest technology there are people left out, but we are trying to make sure that [group] is smaller and smaller,” he says, adding that the government is evaluating how many children are being reached. 

Save The Children said the efforts so far were positive. 

“The children say the programmes are good, but that is for those in supportive family environments, who are able to sit with their parents, play them back, do the exercises together. That’s not the case for all children,” says Ramatu Jalloh, director of advocacy for STC in Sierra Leone.

However, she says there are signs the government has learned its lessons from Ebola, particularly around protecting the most vulnerable. For example, it has been providing food to about 6,000 children who would normally eat their main – or only – meal at school. 

For poorer countries financial challenges like this are huge, from the household level up, according to Alice Albright, chief executive of the Global Partnership for Education. It has made $250 million available to countries like Sierra Leone to work on coronavirus response.

“One of the key risks is we slip back and lose the gains we have made since the beginning of this century,” she says. “We are very concerned that the ability to get the necessary resources for education is crowded out.” 

In Sierra Leone, most of the population lives on less than $2 a day, and only around half its children completed secondary school even pre-pandemic. 

“We cannot do things the way as we did before coronavirus,” says Mr Sengeh. “We cannot. We have to change and reimagine.”

Just before coronavirus hit, Mr Sengeh’s government overturned a ban on pregnant schoolgirls that had been put in place after Ebola. It also made education free for all in 2018 in a bid to keep more children in school.   

But Mr Sengeh also means new approaches, like the idea about to be discussed by cabinet, for a ‘girl’s empowerment fund’ which pays an as-yet-undecided amount of money into a girl’s bank account for every year of school completed. 

She can use it for university, or to start a business; or access the resources during her education, for hygiene kits or sanitary pads. 

“For the economy, for child survival, for immunisations – it’s an investment to ensure that girls complete secondary school,” says Mr Sengeh. 

“This is an idea we are actively working on to launch when schools reopen. We are building schemes for girls to encourage them to come back.” 

Fear, hope and grief: wuhan after the lockdown relaxed

People on the banks of the Yangtze River in Wuhan, China, last week.Credit…Hector Retamal/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

They have delighted in the small things, like getting bubble tea and takeout noodles. They have rediscovered places like the neighborhood playground. They have searched for new vocabularies to describe their losses.

For more than two months, the people of Wuhan, China, lived under lockdown as their city buckled beneath the weight of the coronavirus that emerged there. Then, gradually, cases ebbed. On April 8, the lockdown was lifted.

Now, the residents of Wuhan are cautiously feeling their way toward an uncertain future, some of the first in the world to do so. There is trauma and grief, anger and fear. But there is also hope, gratitude and a newfound patience.

Here are four of their stories.


ELATION AND RELIEF

Her friends had posted all over social media: The milk tea shops had reopened! Wuhan was coming back!

But when Rosanna Yu, 28, took a sip of her first order in two months, she was unimpressed. “Did you guys forget how to make milk tea?” she posted jokingly on WeChat in late March. “How is it this bad?”

Still, disappointing milk tea is better than none. And while normalcy and good bubble tea may still be out of reach, just the prospect has Ms. Yu feeling buoyant.

In early April, after the lockdown eased, Ms. Yu and her parents visited a park to admire Wuhan’s famous cherry blossoms. Officials had urged residents to stay home when possible, but “we just couldn’t sit inside any longer,” she said.

She recently took a video of the long line at a local restaurant for takeout “hot dry noodles,” Wuhan’s signature dish. She now has to pause for traffic before crossing the street — a burden that has never felt less like one.

A street near Rosanna Yu’s house in Wuhan.
A street near Rosanna Yu’s house in Wuhan.Credit…Rosanna Yu

“Seeing a lot of cars, I’m actually so happy,” she said.

Her optimism is born, in part, of luck. None of her friends or family were infected. The lockdown was hard at first, but she soon distracted herself by learning to bake crullers and sweet buns.

Some things are undeniably harder. Ms. Yu quit her job as a secretary last year, planning to look for a new one in January. But her parents now want her to wait until the fall, for safety reasons.

She rarely sees friends, because there is nowhere to go; dining in at restaurants is not allowed.

But for the most part, Ms. Yu has embraced Wuhan’s new normal. She plans to keep baking. She may take online classes.

And she has discovered a new kinship with her neighbors. During the lockdown, residents who were barbers offered free haircuts. The neighborhood’s group chat, formed to coordinate bulk grocery buys, has became a virtual support circle.

“This was my first time feeling like the entire neighborhood, and all of Wuhan, was all in something together, working toward the same goal,” Ms. Yu said.


ANGER AND ALIENATION

Liang Yi has not been home to Wuhan in the four months since he fled town right before the lockdown was imposed.

If he can help it, he won’t ever be back.

“We have a son now,” Mr. Liang, a 31-year-old marketing professional, said of himself and his wife. “If we can create better circumstances for him, then we don’t want to live in a city like Wuhan anymore.”

Around the world, many are eager to return to the lives they had before the coronavirus. But for some, that return has become impossible, even undesirable.

As the outbreak ravaged Wuhan, Mr. Liang — who had hunkered down with his wife and 2-year-old son at his parents’ home about 75 miles from Wuhan — stewed over the government’s initial denials of the outbreak’s severity. He fumed over its early refusal to allow hospitals to test many suspected cases, including that of his friend, who was sent home to self-isolate.

On several business trips after the lockdown was lifted, Liang Yi was escorted to the back row of airplanes, reserved for passengers from Wuhan and its surrounding cities, he said. 
On several business trips after the lockdown was lifted, Liang Yi was escorted to the back row of airplanes, reserved for passengers from Wuhan and its surrounding cities, he said. Credit…Liang Yi

Yes, the Wuhan authorities eventually brought the outbreak under control. But he could not forgive them for allowing it to explode in the first place.

“This epidemic really must be related to the Wuhan government’s governing ability,” he said. “It makes me feel that living in this kind of city is unsafe.”

Now, as other Wuhan residents greet their newly reawakened city, Mr. Liang — who has lived in Wuhan for eight years, and in the surrounding province his whole life — is preparing his goodbyes.

He will have to return to Wuhan once, maybe in June, or whenever he feels the virus has truly gone. He will sell his property there, and he and his family will move elsewhere in China. Eventually, he hopes, they might immigrate, perhaps to Canada.

“It’s a last resort,” he said. “This is overturning your entire life. It means starting over.”


GRIEF AND REGRET

In the months after his mother died from the coronavirus, Veranda Chen searched daily for new distractions. He read Freud and experimented in the kitchen. He joked on WeChat about opening a restaurant. Its signature dish, he said, would be called “remembering past suffering, and thinking of present joy.”

But recently, cooking has lost its appeal. His mother used to ask him to cook for her, but he had said he was too busy applying for graduate school.

“I thought, ‘I’ll focus on getting into my dream school, and then after that, I can put all my time into doing the things they’d always asked me to,’” Mr. Chen, 24, said of his parents.

“Now, there’s no chance.”

Mr. Chen’s mother fell sick when the outbreak was at its height. An overwhelmed hospital turned her away on Feb. 5. She died in an ambulance on the way to another. She was 58.

She and Mr. Chen had been close, though they had often struggled to show it. She had insisted on saving money for his eventual wedding, rather than indulging a trip to the tropical island of Hainan. He considered her old-fashioned and often felt smothered.

Veranda Chen’s drive to the crematorium in his mother’s employer’s car.
Veranda Chen’s drive to the crematorium in his mother’s employer’s car.Credit…Veranda Chen

After she died, he realized he had so many questions he had wanted to ask her — about her childhood, about his childhood, about how she had seen him change.

Mr. Chen had to learn to grieve in lockdown, when the usual rituals of mourning were impossible. He couldn’t see his friends. His father wasn’t around, either; he had tested positive and was in a hospital.

Mr. Chen turned to Tinder — not for romance but for conversation. “Sometimes, talking to strangers is easier than talking to friends,” he said. “They don’t know anything about your life.”

Now that Mr. Chen and his father are reunited, they, too, are searching for new ways to talk.

They don’t discuss his mother; his father finds it too painful. But Mr. Chen wants to invite his father to go fishing, and to ask him the questions he never asked his mother. He also wants to learn from him how to stir-fry tomatoes and eggs, a traditional dish his parents used to make.

He is most fixated on getting into a psychology program. After his mother’s death, that plan feels more urgent than ever. “I want to use it to ease other people’s suffering,” he said.


PATIENCE AND VIGILANCE

Spring in Wuhan marks the start of crawfish season. Crawfish braised, crawfish fried, crawfish coated with chilies — and always devoured with family and friends.

But Hazel He doesn’t plan to have another feast like that until at least next year.

“Anywhere where there are crowds, there is still some degree of risk,” Ms. He, 33, said.

Avoiding risk shapes everything Ms. He does these days. Though residents are allowed to move around the city again, she still chats with her friends by video. Before going outside with her 6-year-old son, she peers out her window to make sure no one is around. She recently let him play on the swings near their apartment again, but they don’t leave the neighborhood.

The anxiety is not nearly as overwhelming as it had been in the early days of the outbreak, when Ms. He would cry while watching the news, and her son would ask her what was wrong.

Hazel He’s son and his grandmother out on a stroll in Wuhan.
Hazel He’s son and his grandmother out on a stroll in Wuhan.Credit…Hazel He

But, like others in Wuhan, she is still approaching normalcy only tentatively, understanding just how fragile the victory is.

Just last week, six new cases were reported there, after more than a month of no new reported infections.

“Wuhan has sacrificed so much,” Ms. He said. “Taking care of ourselves is our responsibility to everyone else.”

Ms. He is unsure when her company will resume the face-to-face meetings that are core to her job as a recruiter, but she reminds herself that her mortgage is manageable. She will have to wait until at least July to register her son for elementary school. But for now she is content to practice arithmetic with him at home.

“It’s as if we were running a race, and I’m currently 50 meters behind,” she said. “But as long as I catch up later, it’s the same.”

Coronavirus lockdown rules and punishments around the world

Countries around the world are forcing entire populations to stay at home for all but essential reasons CREDIT: SEBASTIEN BOZON/AFP

Countries around the world have slapped varying degrees of restrictions on their populations in a bid to stop the spread of coronavirus. Many have effectively shut their borders except to nationals returning home, imposed strict controls on internal travel and ordered people to stay in their homes.

Britain

UK citizens are asked to stay at home and only leave the house for one of four reasons: Shopping for basic necessities, for example food and medicine; one form of exercise a day, for example a run, walk, or cycle; any medical need, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person; or travelling to and from work, but only where this absolutely cannot be done from home.

If someone refuses to follow the regulations – for instance if they refuse when told by police to go home – officers can give them an on-the-spot fine of £60, reduced to £30 if paid within 14 days. If they keep breaking the law, more fines can be given – up to a maximum of £960.

Police could ultimately charge someone with the more serious criminal offence of breaching coronavirus regulations and a direction to follow them. This could lead to a conviction in a magistrates court and an unlimited fine.https://cf-particle-html.eip.telegraph.co.uk/d08d0aad-4d74-486a-9aae-b3d91438f1a2.html?ref=https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2020/04/01/coronavirus-lockdown-rules-punishments-around-world/&title=Coronavirus%20lockdown%20rules%20and%20punishments%20around%20the%20world

France

The French have been in home confinement since March 17 with all but those in vital jobs ordered to stay indoors. Anyone who goes out must fill out and carry a special form justifying their reasons – health, food or essential family ones. 

Physical exercise is also permitted within a kilometre of one’s home and for no more than an hour. 

You must write the time on your form before leaving and return home before the hour is up.

Fines for non-compliance start at €135 (£120) and rise to €200 for anyone who repeats the violation within two weeks. Four violations within 30 days are punishable by a six-month prison term and €3,750 fine.

Some 359,000 fines have been handed out in two weeks.

Ducks on the deserted streets of Paris during the coronavirus epidemic CREDIT: FRAT

Italy

Under Italy’s rigid quarantine regime, which have tightened since first being imposed on March 9, people are only allowed out if they are going to work, collecting medicine or shopping for essential food.

They are not allowed to leave their municipality unless they have an urgent need. 

To do so, they must fill in a form explaining the reasons for leaving home. 

The penalties for people caught flouting the law were increased last week from €206 to a maximum of €3,000.https://cf-particle-html.eip.telegraph.co.uk/307e87e5-6012-4efb-98b2-470f3a263f03.html?ref=https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2020/04/01/coronavirus-lockdown-rules-punishments-around-world/&title=Coronavirus%20lockdown%20rules%20and%20punishments%20around%20the%20world

Spain

Under Spain’s state of emergency regulations, citizens can only go out alone to buy food, seek medical care, for emergencies or to work in essential industries.

Last weekend, it tightened its national lockdown, ordering all non-essential workers to stay at home for the next two weeks. Only workers in hospitals, pharmacies, the food supply chain and other essential industries are required to work until the end of Easter, in mid-April.

Police have been accused of using violence to enforce strict restrictions on movement, and hundreds have been arrested or fined for flouting the measures.

Fines vary from €100 for entering restricted areas to €600,000 and prison terms for serious abuse of emergency restrictions, such as protesting near infrastructure including power stations or transit hubs.

People in Barcelona applaud from their houses in support of the medical staff CREDIT: AP

Germany

There is no nationwide curfew but more than two people can’t be outside together unless they’re part of the same household. Going for a walk with a friend who lives nearby is fine but groups of three or more are forbidden unless with family or roommates – as long as you keep at least 1.5m apart.

There are no sweeping, Germany-wide guidelines on fines, leaving it up to the individual states to decide for themselves. The western German states of North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate, for their part, could impose penalties of up to €25,000.

Going for a run, a walk, riding a bike, playing with your kids or taking your dog out are all allowed. Going to work is fine, so is emergency care for children. Grocery shopping, doctor’s visits, necessary appointments, helping others in need are authorised.

Many German states and local governments have even stricter rules in place. In Bavaria, for instance, residents are only allowed to be outside with people they already live with.https://cf-particle-html.eip.telegraph.co.uk/d607e45e-fe59-4ff0-bcf4-360d0dcf724c.html?ref=https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2020/04/01/coronavirus-lockdown-rules-punishments-around-world/&title=Coronavirus%20lockdown%20rules%20and%20punishments%20around%20the%20world

Belgium

Belgians must stay indoors and only go out for essential reasons, including health, food, banking, pharmacies, post office, petrol and to help others in need. Gatherings are banned.

Outdoor sports activities and walks outside are still allowed, but only in small groups, with a friend or with family members living under the same roof.

In theory, travelling for work can only be done with a certificate from the employer.

Supermarkets in Belgium remain open, but shoppers are only admitted if there is enough space for one person per 10 square metres, and they must not stay for more than 30 minutes.

Fines range from €26 to €500 and prison terms of between eight days and three months for repeat offenders.

Belgium have similar restrictions in place to the UK CREDIT: Shuttercock

The Netherlands

The government has urged people to stay at home as much as possible, and leave the house only to go to work if people cannot work at home, to buy groceries or to take care of others. They can go out to get some fresh air, but not in groups.

All events and gatherings of three people or more (that are not from the same household) are banned until 1 June.

In public, a distance of at least 1.5 meters between people not from the same household must be observed, and shops and other venues are to enforce this distancing among their visitors.

Fines will be issued to those not complying with the new rules. Companies faces a fine up to €4,000 and individuals of up to €400 for non-compliance.

Local mayors will be able to introduce local emergency legislation, known as noodverordening, to enforce rules and impose fines.https://cf-particle-html.eip.telegraph.co.uk/baeb6cfe-2f1d-4be4-a13a-7985fdce1cf5.html?ref=https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2020/04/01/coronavirus-lockdown-rules-punishments-around-world/&title=Coronavirus%20lockdown%20rules%20and%20punishments%20around%20the%20world

Brazil

The health ministry has issued a series of general recommendations for municipalities and states and cities with a high number of cases.

These include reducing social contact with the elderly and the chronically ill; cancelling events in closed places; declaring early school holidays; and quarantine if the occupancy of ICU beds for the treatment of Covid-19 reaches 80 per cent. 

Leisure, cultural and sporting events are banned to avoid crowds. Several universities and schools across the country have suspended activities.

However, far-right president Jair Bolsonaro has campaigned on social media under the slogan: “Brazil can’t stop,” suggesting that there is no need for the country to impose self-isolation rules.

The campaign was banned by judges in Rio de Janeiro.

He posted a number of videos on social media, in which he walked around busy markets near the capital Brasilia, greeting salesmen and citizens. Twitter on Sunday removed two of these for violating the platform’s regulations.https://cf-particle-html.eip.telegraph.co.uk/41b9dc30-53f8-4f76-9345-45eba67db937.html?ref=https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2020/04/01/coronavirus-lockdown-rules-punishments-around-world/&title=Coronavirus%20lockdown%20rules%20and%20punishments%20around%20the%20world

Sweden

Sweden adopted a laissez-faire approach to the outbreak early on, issuing recommendations, including for everyone to follow good hygiene practices, work from home if possible, and avoid all non-essential travel.

Elderly people and those in other high-risk groups were asked to avoid leaving their homes as much as possible, for example by doing grocery orders online or asking friends, neighbours or relatives to run errands. And anyone showing symptoms was asked to self-isolate and avoid all social contacts.

But food outlets in Stockholm continue to operate and receive customers. Schools for young people under 16, gyms, clothing stores and even some busy ski resorts have remained open (although major ones are now shutting).

Last Friday, Sweden toughened its “light touch” strategy and restaurants, bars, cafés and nightclubs were told to offer seated table service only; public events of over 50 people were banned.

Violations come with fines or prison terms of up to six months.

There is also a nationwide ban on visits to elderly care homes.

A pedestrian passes the closed Schweizer Cafe CREDIT: Bloomberg

Singapore

The country has a strictly enforced home quarantine system and an exhaustive contact-tracing programme.

Since the start of the outbreak thousands of people in Singapore have isolated themselves. Anyone required to do so can be called multiple times a day and asked to click an online link sharing their phone’s location. Officials also carry out spot checks in person to ensure compliance. Those who do not stay home can expect a fine of up to $10,000 or up to six months in prison.

India

India has limited the movement of the entire 1.3 billion population for 21 days. The lockdown was ordered after a 14-hour voluntary public curfew on 22 March, followed by enforcement of a series of regulations in affected regions.

People have been told to stay at home. All transport services – road, air and rail are suspended with exceptions for transportation of essential goods, fire, police and emergency services. Schools and non-essential businesses are shut. Food shops, banks and ATMs, petrol pumps, and key manufacturers are exempt. Anyone who fails to follow the restrictions can face up to a year in jail, according to the home ministry.

Australia

The country has imposed strict home confinement and a 14-day quarantine rule for foreigners with maximum penalties for breaching them in different states and territories ranging from $50,000 (£24,500) fines to six months’ jail time.

Australians in the state of New South Wales face a six-month sentence and a A$11,000 fine for leaving their own homes without a “reasonable excuse”.

The laws also ban gatherings of more than two people in public unless the people are members of the same household. 

Western Australian police have been given greater powers to charge people for “failing to follow a directive” if they breach social distancing and self-isolation requirements, with on-the-spot A$1,000 (£500) fines also expected to be introduced this week.  

In Victoria, Australia’s second-most populous state after New South Wales, Premier Daniel Andrews said residents will be fined $1,600 if they’re caught gathering in public in groups of more than two.

One 30-year-old man faces up to six months in prison and could be forced to watch videos of coffins of coronavirus victims after breaching self-isolation orders three times in twelve days.

A safety sign in front of the Sydney Harbour Bridge CREDIT: Shutterstock

South Africa

South Africa has restricted people to their homes for most activities including exercise, only permitting excursions for buying food or health emergencies.

During the shutdown, there will be no jogging, dog-walking or sale of alcohol across the country.

Among Africa’s strictest, the lockdown empowers the government to call out the army to enforce it and making the deliberate dissemination of false information a criminal offence.

Violation of the regulations carries a maximum six-month jail sentence or a fine.

Kenya

Kenya has enforced strict curfew measures, with all people ordered to stay indoors between 7pm and 5am, with key workers such as medical staff exempt from the measure. 

Police are allowed to us “proportionate force where non-violent means are inadequate to achieve the objectives of the curfew,” but many have complained of brutal police tactics, claiming police have teargassed commuters and harassed doctors and nurses. 

U.S. evacuates citizen who tested positive to coronavirus in Nigeria

Akin Abayomi, the Lagos State Commissioner for Health, provided the information on his Twitter handle on Wednesday.

Mr Abayomi said eight patients out of the 82 confirmed cases in Lagos have been discharged from the isolation facility following their full recovery while an American has been evacuated.

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“One of the confirmed case who is an American citizen has been evacuated to USA,” Mr Abayomi, a professor, who coordinates the Lagos government’s COVID-19 response, said.

The U.S. government had earlier said it was preparing evacuation flights for its citizens in Nigeria due to COVID-19.

In a notice released last Friday by the U.S. Consulate tagged ‘Health Alert’, U.S. citizens were told to prepare to join the arranged flights that would evacuate them from Nigeria, PUNCH newspaper reported.

U.S. citizens in different states of Nigeria were enjoined to find their way to Abuja and Lagos for the evacuation process.

“We will email US citizens immediately once we have flights details, routes, and costs,” the notice read.

Mr Abayomi has now confirmed that the U.S. citizen in the Lagos government facility has been evacuated.

Prof Akin Abayomi

The U.S., like Nigeria and the rest of the world, is currently battling the COVID-19 pandemic. The situation is, however, worse in the U.S. where over 200,000 people have been infected and over 5,000 dead.

U.S. deaths from the virus are projected to rise to over 100,000 in the next few weeks as various American states battle with insufficient equipment to treat patients.

In Nigeria, 174 people have tested positive for the virus including two deaths.

Lagos is still the state with the highest confirmed cases of coronavirus in the country with 91 cases out of the total 174 cases nationwide, followed by Abuja which has 35 cases.


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Twelve states and Abuja have confirmed cases of coronavirus out of the 36 states in Nigeria. The health authorities have also said more cases will be recorded as contact tracing continues nationwide.

Schools close in north-east Kenya after al-Shabaab targets teachers

Authorities face criticism for withdrawing teaching staff from an already marginalised region where education is badly needed.

Al-Shabaab attacked Kamuthe, Garissa county, in January killing three teachers and destroying a communications mast. Photograph: AP

A series of targeted killings of schoolteachers by a militia group in Kenya has seen an exodus of staff and the closure of hundreds of schools across the north-east of the country.

Thousands of teachers have left their posts in the past two months following several suspected al-Shabaab attacks in the region.

Schools in rural areas near the Somali border have been badly hit. On 13 January, suspected members of the Somalia-based terrorist group al-Shabaab attacked the village of Kamuthe in Garissa county and killed three non-local teachers and destroyed a communication mast.

A few days earlier, a boarding school in another remote village in the Dadaab area of Garissa was targeted by al-Shabaab attackers, according to the Kenyan police. They killed three students and a teacher.

Predominantly inhabited by ethnic Somalis, north-eastern Kenya shares a long, porous border with Somalia and it is one of the country’s most marginalised areas. It is inhabited mostly by nomadic pastoralists whose access to education has been limited.

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The local community had already lost hope, it would be difficult to win them back even if we get new teachersAhmed Abdi Mohamed, headteacher

“When the teachers leave, the students go back to their nomadic lifestyle,” said Ahmed Abdi Mohamed, headteacher of Balambala boarding school, Garissa county, where seven non-local teachers have left in recent weeks.

“I see my students looking after animals every day in the village, it pains me but there is nothing I can do. When I ask the parents they tell me why waste their children’s time in an empty school when they can utilise them to look after their livestock.

“The local community had already lost hope, it would be difficult to win them back even if we get new teachers because of the nomadic lifestyle. Many of them would have gone to far places with their livestock in search of pasture.”


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Local leaders and members of parliament argue the mass transfer of teachers by the government is an indication of the continued marginalisation of the region’s people.

“We have non-locals in various other sectors who are still working in their respective areas, why [are] only public teachers being transferred in one move?” said Abdullahi Hassan Maalim, a Wajir county official, where 100 primary schools are closing. “The Teachers Service Commission (TSC) should have done a thorough consultation with the local authorities to find ways of protecting the teachers instead of acting on their own. This is unacceptable, the rights of a whole generation have been denied.

“The insecurity problem has been going on for many years, but the national government did not take the matter seriously,” he said.

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“The national government forced us to keep the schools open symbolically because shutting them down means al-Shabaab would win,” said Mohamed. “But they are not doing anything practical on the ground to help with the continuity of learning.”

Leaders have criticised the TSC, the national body responsible for teachers’ employment, for creating an “education crisis” in the region by pulling non-local staff out of schools in the area.

The TSC has insisted that teachers will not be posted to the north-eastern region until their safety is assured.

“We appreciate the security challenges we are facing but the decision to transfer all non-local teachers from public schools was reckless,” said Maalim. “This jeopardises the future of children in north-eastern Kenya, who have long struggled to meet the national average standards in exams.”

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Abdinoor Alimahadi, an education technologist who comes from the region, has been campaigning with local governors to adopt available technology to fill the gap.

“The need for technology has never been greater,” he said. “Digital learning can not only resolve the issue of [the] teacher shortage but would also improve the performance of students. I have been presenting affordable e-learning technologies to the local leadership which they all welcomed. It is time we scaled it to the whole region.”

US warns South Africa over land seizures

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has warned that the South African government’s plan to expropriate land without compensation will be “disastrous” for the economy and the nation.

Mike Pompeo is America’s top diplomat

Mr Pompeo made the comments in Ethiopia, the final leg of his visit to Africa, which also saw him going to Angola and Senegal.

“South Africa is debating an amendment to permit the expropriation of private property without compensation. That would be disastrous for that economy, and most importantly for the South African people,” he was quoted by Bloomberg news agency as saying.

African economies needed “strong rule of law, respect for property rights [and] regulation that encourages investment”, he added.

Land is a deeply emotional issue in South Africa

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa has vowed to press ahead with amending the constitution to allow land expropriation without compensation in order to tackle the “historical injustice” caused by the white-minority rule.

Most of the country’s farms and agricultural holdings are owned by white farmers – 72% according to government statistics. White people make up 9% of the population.

The government’s plan has been fiercely resisted by the main opposition Democratic Alliance party, and mainly white lobby groups.

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In 2018, US President Donald Trump said he had asked Mr Pompeo “to closely study the land and farm seizures and expropriations and the large-scale killing of farmers”.

The South African government said Mr Trump was “misinformed”, and it would take up the matter through diplomatic channels.

Mauritania and Senegal sign deal amid fishing row

Senegalese President Macky Sall’s official visit to neighbouring Mauritania ended on Tuesday with the two countries signing a number of deals – on security, transport, energy, mining and fishing.

The Atlantic coast is rich in fish stocks, and fishing is key to both nations’ economies.

But decades of mainly European and Asian trawlers scouring the coastline have meant that the waters have been over-fished. There has also been tension between Senegal and Mauritania over fishing rights.

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RFI reports that Mauritania has lifted fines imposed on Senegalese fishermen accused of operating in their waters, as part of efforts to improve relations with its neighbour.

The first Israeli plane crossed Sudan on Saturday on its way to South America (file photo)

Sudan allows former enemy Israel to fly over its territory

Israel says it has begun flying commercial aircraft through Sudanese airspace under an agreement with the Khartoum government.

The first Israeli plane crossed Sudan on Saturday on its way to South America (file photo)

The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, told a group of visiting US Jewish leaders that the first Israeli plane crossed Sudan on Saturday, bound for South America.

He said the new air corridor would cut the flying time on the route by three hours.

Sudan said in early Ferbruary that it had given initial approval for Israeli planes to fly over its territory.

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Mr Netanyahu said Israel was discussing rapid normalisation of ties with its former foe.

Sudan, which has close ties with the Palestinians, has stopped short of referring to improving ties with Israel.

Cameroonian student becomes the first African to contracts coronavirus

A 21-year-old Cameroonian student in China has become the first African known to be diagnosed with the deadly coronavirus.

Live updates: All you need to know about the coronavirus as it happens

Coronavirus has caused panic around the world

In a statement, Yangtze University said the student was being treated in hospital in southern Jingzhou city after contracting the illness while on a visit to Wuhan city, the epicentre of the outbreak.

He had returned to Jingzhou, where he lived, on 19 January, before a lockdown was imposed in Wuhan to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, which has killed more than 200 people.

Killian Ngala reports from Cameroon’s capital, Yaoundé that the case has renewed concerns about the safety of some 300 Cameroonians quarantined in Wuhan with little access to water, food and surgical masks.

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In its statement, the university said:Quote Message: The university has provided psychological comfort to the student and has reported the situation to his parents and the embassy.

The university has provided psychological comfort to the student and has reported the situation to his parents and the embassy.Quote Message: At present, the student is actively cooperating with the treatment in the hospital.

At present, the student is actively cooperating with the treatment in the hospital.Quote Message: His body temperature has been normal for two consecutive days.

His body temperature has been normal for two consecutive days.

He has good spirit and a healthy appetite and his vital organs are stable.”

He has good spirit and a healthy appetite and his vital organs are stable.”

Thousands of African students study in China. They have made desperate appeals to their governments to evacuate them or to give them more support while they are trapped in Wuhan.

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Last week, Cameroonians in Wuhan wrote a letter to President Paul Biya, saying their embassy in Beijing had been largely uncooperative and they were short of basic necessities.

More stories about the virus

South African business owners want foreigners deported

More than 500 refugees and asylum seekers are about to enter their fifth month at a church in South Africa’s coastal city of Cape Town, as businesses in the neighbourhood continue to call for their eviction.

Souvenir businesses near the Methodist Church in Cape Town want the group removed

The majority of the refugees are living inside the central Methodist Church with others camping nearby. They say they do not feel safe living in South Africa’s townships

They have vowed not to leave the church’s premises until they are resettled outside South Africa.

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The country’s asylum system has been criticised for taking too long and South Africa has been blighted by xenophobic attacks.

Local business owners have called for the group to be evicted saying it is obstructing their tourist souvenir businesses located near the church.

Nadine Nkurikiye, who has been living in South Africa for 13 years, told the BBC that she had fled ethnic tensions in her native Burundi only to be raped in a country where she thought would be safe.

“What I’m asking is only for the UNHCR [UN refugee agency] to help us, to give us a place where we can be safe, where they can accept us like human beings, because South Africa doesn’t treat us like human beings,” said Ms Nkurikiye.

While many South Africans have been sympathetic to the plight of the refugees, local businesses and residents say they have had enough of their presence.

For four months they have had to deal with makeshift tents, people sleeping and urinating on pavements, they say.

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The UNHCR has said it does not do group resettlement and that all applications are reviewed on a “case-by-case basis”.

The South African Human Rights Commission says the refugees have been misinformed by their leaders.

Germany confirms first human coronavirus transmission in Europe

Man infected by colleague who appeared not to have symptoms when virus was transmitted.

A worker makes face masks in Changyuan, Henan province, in central China. Photograph: Xinhua/Rex/Shutterstock

The first human to human transmission of the Wuhan coronavirus in Europe has been reported in Germany, where a man was infected by a work colleague who had been in China, fuelling anxieties about the potential ease of international spread.

Experts said it was of particular concern that the Chinese woman who originally had the virus apparently had no symptoms when she transmitted it to her colleague. There have been warnings from inside China that people may be infectious before they start to feel ill.

So far there has been very limited spread from China. A handful of countries have reported cases including France, which has three, and the United States, which had five. This is the first reported European case of transmission from one person to another but it has also occurred in Japan, Vietnam and Taiwan.

Confirmed cases of coronavirus

Updated Tuesday 28 January 7.00am GMT

Guardian graphic. Source: AFP Note: Taiwan, 5 cases; Hong Kong: 7 cases

The vast majority of more than 4,000 cases, however, and all 106 deaths, have been in China and principally in Wuhan, the city where the coronavirus emerged and caused a mass outbreak of viral pneumonia.

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Many governments have brought in screening or other controls at airports for arrivals from China. Countries that have said they will repatriate their citizens in Wuhan, including France, Japan and the United States, are making arrangements to isolate them once back on home soil. Hong Kong has announced major cuts to its transport links with mainland China.

The 33 year-old man who has been infected had not visited China, but a Chinese work colleague who was in Germany last week had “started to feel sick on the flight home on January 23”, said Andreas Zapf, head of the Bavarian State Office for Health and Food Safety.

The Chinese colleague, a woman, gave a training session on 21 January at the office of the car parts supplier Webasto in Stockdorf in Bavaria. The man who had attended the session tested positive for the virus on Monday evening. He remains in hospital in an isolation ward, but Zapf said he “was doing well”.

The Chinese woman sought medical attention when she returned from China and was found to have the virus. She is said to have recently visited her parents in Wuhan. 
In a statement, the Webasto company said it had halted all business travel to and from China “for at least the next two weeks”.


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Health officials are checking 40 people who had been in contact with the two infected workers, recently, including colleagues and family members.

Experts said human to human transmission outside China was unsurprising. “We will continue to see further similar cases outside of China, but the indications are at this stage that onwards transmission will be limited, so there will likely not be too many cases for example across Europe, and on a much lesser scale than we are seeing in China,” said Dr Michael Head, a senior research fellow in global health at the University of Southampton.

But the German case is concerning largely because the virus appears to have been transmitted by somebody without symptoms, said Paul Hunter, Professor in Medicine at the University of East Anglia.

“The Vietnamese case was reported by WHO and he was in contact with his sick father who had returned from China. The Japanese cases was a tour bus driver who had driven around two groups of Chinese tourists and the German cases had attended a work-based training event also attended by a woman who only became ill two days later during her return to China two days later. The German case is most worrying because if the Chinese woman was indeed asymptomatic at the time of the training session it would confirm reports of spread before symptoms develop making standard control strategies less effective,” he said.

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The novel coronavirus is believed to have emerged from wild animals sold for food in the Wuhan seafood market, which has now been closed. It has a fatality rate of about 2%, usually in people who are in poor health with weak immune systems that are unable to fight it off. But experts at Imperial College London who do infectious disease modelling for the World Health Organisation believe there are thousands of mild cases that are not being recorded, and that the total may be 100,000 cases already. That would put the death rate far lower.

Symptoms include a sore throat, fever and breathing difficulties. People are warned to protect themselves by hand-washing, because it can be transmitted in skin to skin contact, and to cover their nose and mouth if coughing or sneezing. In the UK, the advice is for anyone who thinks they may have been in contact with somebody carrying the virus to stay at home by themselves and call 111 for advice.

Angola vows to force return of Isabel dos Santos by ‘all possible means’

The Angolan government has vowed to use “all possible means” to force the return of Isabel dos Santos following the Luanda Leaks investigation into how the ex-president’s daughter accrued her $2bn fortune.

Dos Santos, who left Angola in 2018 after her father stepped down as president, has denied any wrongdoing. Photograph: Valery Sharifulin/Tass

Angola’s prosecutor general, Hélder Pitra Grós, said on Angolan public radio on Monday that the country would use “all possible means and activate international mechanisms to bring Dos Santos back to the country”.

Dos Santos left Angola in 2018 after her father stepped down as president. She has denied any wrongdoing.

In a string of tweets after the Guardian and partners revealed the story behind her fortune on Sunday, she denounced the Luanda Leaks investigation – based on 715,000 files from her business empire – claiming it was part of a concerted campaign by the Angolan government to discredit her.

“The ICIJ report is based on many fake documents and false information, it is a coordinated political attack in coordinations with the ‘Angolan Government’. 715 thousand documents read? Who believes that? #icij #lies,” she tweeted, referring to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, of which the Guardian is a partner.

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Dos Santos says her wealth is the result of hard work and business acumen rather than state funds. “I build companies and enterprises, I invest and create jobs. This where my wealth comes from: BUSINESSES,” she tweetedon Sunday night.

At the UK-Africa Investment Summit in London on Monday, attended by 21 African countries, a member of the Angolan delegation denied Dos Santos’s descriptions of the government’s actions as a “witch-hunt”.

António Henriques da Silva, the president of the board of Aipex, Angola’s investment agency, said: “There is a clear separation of judicial and executive powers. We are reaching a point where people are sensitive towards transparency and good governance and equal rights.”


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Da Silva said investors wanted to see the country was tackling practices that could be perceived as unethical.

“This is a person who took advantage of her position,” he alleged of Dos Santos. “If the money was invested in the population, in people who do not have access to education or health in Angola, it could save lives.”

In December, an Angolan court froze Dos Santos’s assets, accusing her of having benefited from preferential state deals under her father’s government.

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Last week, she lost a defamation case in Portugal against Ana Gomes, an MEP who had accused her of money laundering on Twitter. The court found Gomes’s right to freedom of speech outweighed Dos Santos’s right to protect her reputation.

On Friday, the Portuguese newspaper Expresso reported that authorities in Monaco were investigating her and her father for money laundering, citing an Angolan official in contact with Interpol. Both she and her father, José Eduardo dos Santos, have denied money laundering.

Anti-corruption and financial transparency experts said the case highlighted the role of professional services firms, such as accountants and consultants, in enabling high-risk behaviour. The UK government has identified so-called professional enablers as a law enforcement priority.

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“Don’t let anyone frame #LuandaLeaks as a story of ‘corruption’ in a poor country – just like #ParadisePapers and all the rest, this is ultimately about failures of international rules, and the corrupting influence of professional enablers,” said Alex Cobham, the chief executive of the Tax Justice Network.

Susan Hawley, the executive director of the campaign group Spotlight on Corruption, said it was “essential that the UK authorities act urgently” to identify Dos Santos’s UK assets in anticipation of any possible request for assistance from Angolan law enforcement.

Dos Santos has properties in London and is said to spend a substantial amount of time in the UK.A spokesperson for Britain’s National Crime Agency said: “The UK enjoys a good working relationship with the Angolan attorney general’s office and [has] supported a number of investigations where there has been a UK element to their investigation.”

They said they were unable to comment on the existence or otherwise of any investigation.

UN worries over unprecedented levels of hunger in southern Africa

Southern Africa is in the throes of a climate emergency, with hunger levels in the region on a previously unseen scale, the UN has warned.

Women pray for rain in Graaff-Reinet, South Africa. Seasonal rains have been late in many countries. Photograph: Mike Hutchings/Reuters

Years of drought, widespread flooding and economic disarray have left 45 million people facing severe food shortages, with women and children bearing the brunt of the crisis, said the World Food Programme (WFP).

Zimbabwe is already facing its worst hunger emergency in a decade, with 7.7 million people – half the population – acutely food insecure. But there is evidence the situation has “deteriorated significantly” over the past few months.

About 20% of people in Zambia – a regional breadbasket – and Lesotho face acute food insecurity, as does 10% of the population of Namibia, WFP said. The crisis has been aggravated by surging food prices, large-scale livestock losses and rising joblessness.

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The 16 nations in the Southern African Development Community, a region identified as a climate “hotspot” by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, have experienced only one normal growing season in the past five years. Seasonal rains have been late in many countries and UN experts predict, with 60% certainty, that another bad harvest is due in the coming months.

Central and western areas have been hit by the worst drought in 35 years during the growing season.

“The hunger crisis is on a scale we’ve never seen before and the evidence shows it’s going to get worse,” said Lola Castro, WFP’s regional director for southern Africa. “The annual cyclone season has begun and we simply cannot afford a repeat of the devastation caused by last year’s unprecedented storms.”

Last March, Cyclone Idai hit Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe, leaving 900 people dead, thousands displaced and more than 1 million short of food. Cyclone Kenneth hit Mozambique six weeks later.

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“While our most pressing priority is the millions in need of immediate support, building the resilience of the many more threatened by increasingly frequent and destructive droughts and storms is absolutely essential,” Castro said.

WFP plans to provide lean season assistance to 8.3 million people struggling with “crisis” or “emergency” levels of hunger in eight of the hardest-hit countries: Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique, Madagascar, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini (formerly Swaziland) and Malawi.

Eddie Rowe, WFP’s country director for Zimbabwe, said the agency had carried out its own, unofficial assessment of the food security situation in the past week.

Commodity prices have risen sharply, and a network of “transporters” have sprung up on the borders, with relatives sending food parcels from bordering countries into Zimbabwe, Rowe said. Kiosks for money transfers have also popped up in rural areas, suggesting people are increasingly reliant on remittances from abroad, which in 2018 were worth about £980m, he added.

“The remittances are cushioning the effects of climate, the drought and the economic situation,” Rowe said. But he warned: “There are clear indications that the situation has deteriorated significantly.”

The number of districts assessed by the WFP as food insecure has doubled, from nine in August to 19 now. An additional 1.1 million people are believed to be facing acute malnutrition.

“Our assessment is not officially recognised,” said Rowe. “But it looks bad. We have told the government we need to present this unofficial data to donors. Our concern is there is a 60% chance we are going to see another failed harvest this year.”

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The climate emergency has altered the way WFP operates in Zimbabwe. Over the past three years, after the 2015–16 El Niño drought, almost half of the country’s strategic plan is aimed at building resilience and mitigation of the impact of the climate crisis.

One pioneering insurance programme gets people to build boreholes and irrigation schemes in return for insurance coverage. It has reached 1,650 households, of mostly women. About 100,000 people are covered by a £6m national insurance policy, purchased by the Zimbabwe government and WFP, to protect the most vulnerable.

To date, the WFP has secured just $205m (£157m) of the $489m needed for southern Africa. If the organisation fails to get the full amount it will face “assisting fewer of those most in need with less”, said Castro, who added that without the funding it would not be possible to expand activities to combat the climate emergency long-term.

Finally Europe is paying attention to Libya crisis, but for more influence

After the entry of Russia and Turkey into the conflict, Germany will host a gathering on Sunday to try to persuade warring factions — and their influential patrons — to give peace talks a chance.

By Steven Erlanger and Matina Stevis-Gridneff

For more than eight years, the Libyan conflict has festered and the European Union has mostly looked away. Libya mattered, if at all, as a playground for terrorism and a source of the migrants disrupting European politics.

But with the recent involvement of Russia and Turkey on opposite sides of a nasty civil war, adding to the meddling of other neighbors, Europe has suddenly woken to the implications of a new Great Game, this time in North Africa, that is rapidly destabilizing its backyard. Belatedly, the Continent is paying attention.

On Sunday, after months of effort, Germany and the United Nations will gather most of the main actors to try to at least bring a sustained halt to the fighting and get outside powers to give Libyans the space to attempt to find some kind of political reconciliation.LIBYA TALKS Seeking an exit in one of the Middle East’s most intractable proxy wars.

It will not be easy, as potential oil and gas bonanzas intensify the jockeying. Increasingly, the fate of Libya’s precarious internationally backed government hangs in the balance.

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“There has been a major reawakening of geopolitical interest in Libya,” said Ian Lesser, director of the Brussels office of the German Marshall Fund and an expert on Turkey and the Mediterranean.

“That begins with issues of migration, energy, security and counterterrorism,” he added. “But it is just as much about the geopolitics of relations with Russia and Turkey. If they had not been so assertive, Libya would not have attracted such attention now.”

But Europe looks weak and peripheral. Kristina Kausch, a senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund, said, “Now the Europeans are worried, but it’s too late and we’re out of the picture.”

“Russia and regional powers are playing Europe in our own neighborhood,” she added.

Khalifa Hifter, center, whose forces have laid siege to Tripoli, leaving the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Athens on Friday.Credit…Yannis Kolesidis/EPA, via Shutterstock

The Libyan mess began with the 2011 overthrow of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi after intervention by European forces, with American help. Justified on humanitarian grounds, the war produced chaos when those same Western forces largely abandoned energy-rich Libya to warring militias.

Many weapons of the old regime spread all over the sub-Saharan region, feeding other militants and terrorist groups, and producing thousands of refugees and migrants seeking safety in Europe.

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Libya remains a major transit and jumping-off point for sub-Saharan Africans hoping to make the crossing to Europe. Since the migration crisis of 2015-16, “the E.U. viewed Libya mainly through the prism of the migration problem,” said Claudia Gazzini, a senior analyst for the International Crisis Group.

Individual European countries, at the same time, pursued their own, divergent interests in Libya, often at cross-purposes.

But the entry of Russian proxies into the conflict last year and, more recently, Turkey’s pledge to send its own forces into the mix, meant Europe could no longer ignore the matter.

It has also made the fissures in the Europeans’ approach to Libya more and more untenable as the civil war turns into a wider playground for outsiders.

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On one side, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, France and now Russia support Khalifa Hifter, whose forces have laid siege to Tripoli, the capital, threatening the internationally backed government there.

On the other, Qatar, Italy and now Turkey support the Government of National Accord. Created by a 2015 United Nations-sponsored political deal, the government is led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj.

The divisions between France and Italy have already split the European Union and weakened its positioning on Libya.

Migrants being rescued off the coast of Libya last week. The country remains a major transit and jumping-off point for sub-Saharan Africans hoping to make the crossing to Europe.Credit…Santi Palacios/Associated Press

The new European Union foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell Fontelles, has brought new thinking and “a renewed energy and willingness to look at Libya as a crisis and a war in and of itself,” said Ms. Gazzini of the International Crisis Group.

In the last month, Mr. Borrell has repeatedly emphasized the dangers of Turkish military involvement in Libya and has criticized Europe’s preference for citing international law as a response to every conflict.

“We Europeans, since we don’t want to participate in a military solution, we barricade ourselves in the belief there is no military solution,’’ he told the European Parliament this week. “Nobody will be very happy if, on the Libyan coast, there is a ring of military bases from the Russian and Turkish navies in front of the Italian coast.”

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He added in a Twitter message: “But this is something that could very much happen. We need to engage strongly, keep Libya united and find a peaceful solution to this conflict.”

That will not be so easily done.

Just last week, Russia and Turkey brought both Mr. Hifter and Mr. Sarraj to Moscow to get them to sign a permanent cease-fire agreement, another sign of Russian diplomatic activity to fill vacuums created by Europe and the United States.

But Mr. Hifter, who believes he can still take Tripoli, refused to obey his Russian backers and left Moscow without signing.

Some believe that he will agree to do so on Sunday in Berlin, and that his signature, sincere or not, will be a kind of gesture from President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia to the German chancellor, Angela Merkel.

The Trump administration, which had supported the Sarraj government and the United Nations process, reversed course last April, after a meeting with Egypt’s president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, according to the International Crisis Group.

Celebrations after routing the last remaining forces loyal to Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi from the coastal town of Surt, Libya, in 2011.Credit…Mauricio Lima for The New York Times

But Washington is not very involved, and has just announced that it will sharply reduce the United States military presence in West Africa, intended to fight terrorism alongside the French, so the American influence will be further eroded.

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A senior State Department official said that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who altered his schedule to attend the high-level meeting, would urge three things: the continuation of a cease-fire; the withdrawal of all external forces; and a return to a Libyan-led political process facilitated by the United Nations.

But as with the European Union, there would appear to be little force behind those goals, and the messaging has stopped short of expressing support for the government of Mr. Sarraj.

Historical alliances in Libya and interest in gas finds in the eastern Mediterranean are at the heart of the problem, and have raised the stakes for the outside parties.

Migration aside, Italy, the former colonial power, and its energy giant, Eni, are key players in Libya. So stability matters for Rome, and the government has also tried to mediate between Mr. Hifter and Mr. Sarraj.

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But with the trend of the fighting moving Mr. Hifter’s way, and Eni shifting to more commercial interests in the eastern Mediterranean, the Italian position has become more ambiguous.

“Russian influence started first and foremost on gas and oil infrastructure,” said Tarek Megerisi of the European Council on Foreign Relations.

“If a situation unfolds whereby Russia and Turkey make peace, and Russia makes heavy investments in oil and gas infrastructure in Libya, that means that’s one more pipeline into Europe that’s in the hands of Russians,” he added. “That’s quite dangerous.”

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, left, and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in Istanbul last week. Turkey pledged to send its own forces to Libya after the entry of Russian proxies into the conflict last year.Credit…Burak Kara/Getty Images

For other Mediterranean neighbors, Greece and Cyprus, who stand to gain if gas exploration yields commercially viable finds, Libya is crucial.

Despite the cacophony, the meeting in Berlin, if modestly successful, could begin turning the tide for European involvement in Libya, and ultimately for Libya itself, Mr. Megerisi said.

“It’s not that Europe is incapable, it seems that it’s unwilling,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be that way. They do have tools at their disposal. They do have some cards to play.”

Niki Kitsantonis contributed reporting from Athens, and Jason Horowitz and Emma Bubola from Rome.

SOURCE: NYT Africa

Libya crisis is deepening, foreign powers are looking for exits

Russia has sent hundreds of mercenaries to back militias laying siege to Libya’s capital. The United Arab Emirates has sent jets and drones, while Egypt has provided logistical support.

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To stop them, Turkey has sent dozens of military advisers and is now shipping in hundreds of Syrian militiamen.

Walid Khashib, a 35-year-old Libyan bank clerk, just wishes they would all leave.

“We Libyans don’t want Turkish or Syrian or Russian or any other foreign troops,” said Mr. Khashib, who had taken advantage of a temporary cease-fire to visit the rubble of his bombed-out home in eastern Tripoli. “We just want the issue to be resolved.”LIBYA TALKS As rival powers jostle for influence, Europe is finally paying attention.

The conflict in oil-rich Libya has become one of the Middle East’s most intractable proxy wars. Russia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt are backing the former Libyan army general Khalifa Hifter, who is laying siege to the capital, Tripoli. Turkey is defending the United Nations-backed government there.

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Most of the international powers with an interest in Libya will gather in Berlin on Sunday in the latest effort to find a way out of what has become a multinational free-for-all.

Mr. Hifter, a 76-year-old would-be strongman, began an assault on the capital last April. As his advance stalled out last fall, Russia and Turkey jumped in on opposing sides, establishing themselves as potential kingmakers. But their effort to broker a cease-fire in Moscow this week ended Monday when Mr. Hifter walked out, refusing to sign the agreement.

The United States and Europe, who have largely stood on the sidelines, now hope that the Berlin conference will allow them to wrest back control of the discussion of Libya’s future. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the leaders of more than a dozen other countries plan to attend.

A power vacuum has made Libya a tempting target for foreign powers eyeing its vast oil reserves and long Mediterranean coastline.Credit…Ivor Prickett for The New York Times

But in Tripoli expectations are low.

None of the foreign powers engaged in Libya — motivated by commercial interests, geopolitical games or regional and ideological rivalries — have so far shown any willingness to back off.

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Mr. Hifter has said he would participate in the conference, but has never shown a willingness to accept any deal that gives him less than full control of the country.

His main foreign sponsor, the United Arab Emirates, had urged him to keep fighting rather than accept a cease-fire, according to three diplomats familiar with the discussions.

Leaders of the United Nations-backed government in Tripoli have also shown a recent distaste for the need to compromise with Mr. Hifter, claiming that the new influx of Turkish support gave them the potential for military victory.


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“Turkey will help us as much as they can to defeat the advance of Hifter’s forces,” Khalid Elmeshri, a top official of the provisional government, said in an interview on Thursday.

And Libyans fear that even if the international summit meeting produces a new cease-fire, it may be no more than a pause before a new escalation of the war.

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Renewed fighting could be even worse, many Tripoli residents said, because it would be between professional soldiers and trained mercenaries, not Libyan amateurs.

Libya has struggled to emerge from chaos since NATO forces ousted the dictator Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi nine years ago. The power vacuum made Libya a tempting target for ambitious foreign powers eyeing its vast oil reserves and long Mediterranean coastline. Its permeable desert borders have also made it a pressure point for the West, as both a haven for extremists and a jumping-off point for thousands of Europe-bound migrants.

For years, Washington exerted little public pressure to stop regional partners like the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Qatar or Turkey from fueling the chaos by supporting rival Libyan militias.

And the messages from Washington have been mixed. Days after Mr. Pompeo urged Mr. Hifter to stop his assault on Tripoli in April, President Trump called Mr. Hifter to commend him. The next day, Mr. Hifter began shelling civilian neighborhoods of the capital for the first time.

Supporters of the United Nations-backed government prayed in Martyrs’ Square in Tripoli.Credit…Ivor Prickett for The New York Times

“The United States has not been paying any attention to the Libyan file, and it is a big problem,” Mr. Elmeshri said. He said that the United States could have used its influence to force Mr. Hifter to the negotiating table. Mr. Hifter, he noted, is a former C.I.A. client and an American citizen.

Europe’s Libya policy has been stymied by division. French special forces have sometimes aided Mr. Hifter as an ally against extremists, while Italy has paid rival militias to help reduce the flow of migrants.

Now, though, what had long been an indirect contest among regional powers, has escalated toward a more direct conflict between Russia and Turkey.

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Last fall, after Mr. Hifter’s forces had stalled out for six months on the outskirts of Tripoli, Moscow surprised the West by intervening to tip the balance, dispatching as many as 1,500 Russian fighters — mainly mercenaries from the private, Kremlin-linked Wagner Group — to restart his advance. They brought skilled snipers, guided artillery, and better coordinated air support.

By early this month, their assistance had helped Mr. Hifter advance several miles on multiple fronts around Tripoli and to capture the strategic coastal city of Surt.

The aftermath of a bombing by Mr. Hifter’s forces near the airport in Tripoli. It left two dead and several wounded.Credit…Ivor Prickett for The New York Times

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia may have been motivated by a desire to revive lucrative weapons deals and other commercial contracts that Russia had enjoyed under Colonel Qaddafi. But he also appears to simply to relish embarrassing the West at a very low cost to Russia, several foreign diplomats said.

For his part, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey may have intervened in part to counter the influence of Mr. Hifter’s other chief backer, the Emirates, a regional foe of Turkey in an ideological cold war over political Islam.

But Mr. Erdogan has even greater financial interests. Turkish businesses had as much as several billion dollars in contracts with Libya before the uprising against Colonel Qaddafi, and Turkish construction firms stand to profit heavily from the country’s future reconstruction.

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In December, Mr. Erdogan signed an agreement with the Tripoli government that could give Turkey rights to exploit mineral and other resources under a broad section of the Mediterranean — an agreement that would lose all value if Mr. Hifter took over.

The old city in Tripoli. Turkish businesses had as much as several billion dollars in contracts with Libya before the uprising against Colonel QaddafiCredit…Ivor Prickett for The New York Times

When Mr. Hifter refused to sign the proposed Russian-Turkish cease-fire, Mr. Erdogan talked about “teaching a lesson” to the Libyan commander and said Thursday that he was sending troops.

Mr. Elmeshri said about 1,000 Turkish troops were already there.

But Libyan fighters and Western diplomats said that they had seen no sign of such a large contingent of Turks.

Instead, Mr. Erdogan appears to have shipped over Syrian fighters from some of the same Syrian militias that Turkey recently deployed in northern Syria — transferring battle-hardened fighters directly from one intractable Middle East proxy war to another.

Two Libyan fighters defending Tripoli on Friday said they had recently fought alongside as many as 200 members of a Turkish-backed Syrian militia. Two Western diplomats said that, in private conversations, Tripoli government officials acknowledged the presence of the Syrian fighters. One diplomat said at least 400 Syrians were fighting, and the other said the number could be as high as 1,200.

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Embarrassed by the use of mercenaries — an accusation the Tripoli government’s supporters often hurl at Mr. Hifter — the authorities there may be seeking to hide their presence. Tripoli has cut off the previously easy access to the front lines for visiting journalists. Some Western diplomats said the Tripoli government had also taken away the smartphones of the Syrian fighters to prevent them from posting their Libyan exploits on social media.

Martyrs’ Square in Tripoli. Some residents said they feared that foreign powers would now shape Libya’s future.Credit…Ivor Prickett for The New York Times

Mr. Elmeshri denied Turkey has sent any “Syrian nationals.” But he acknowledged that Turkey might have sent fighters who could pass for Syrian. Some were Arabic-speaking ethnic Turkmen, he said, “who live by the Syrian border and came here to facilitate the translation and other things.”

Militants in northern Syria, reached by phone, said Turkey was conducting a concerted effort to recruit young fighters to the Libyan war. Several fighters said that in the last week hundreds of men had been drawn by promises of a $2,000 monthly salary.

“You could call them mercenaries,” said a fighter named Khatab, who asked to be identified by his surname only. “They are not making enough money at home, so it’s really tempting to go to Libya.”

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As rumors of the Turkish and Syrian newcomers circulated through Tripoli, some residents said they feared that foreign powers would now shape Libya’s future.

“If one of the international powers presses with its iron hands for something, either side will do as it’s told,” said Muattasim Billah, 30, who was selling toys from a cart in the capital’s main square. “Something could happen in the blink of an eye.”

David D. Kirkpatrick reported from Tripoli, and Declan Walsh from Cairo. Hwaida Saad contributed reporting from Beirut, Lebanon.

Libya ceasefire ruined by confusion

Erdoğan and Putin make call for ceasefire, as Italian PM hosts Libyan factions in Rome.

Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called for a ceasefire in a summit in Ankara on Wednesday. Photograph: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty

An unprecedented drive involving Europe, Russia and Turkey has been launched to broker a Libyan ceasefire, and end the risk of the country collapsing into total all-out war.

However, it is unclear to which extent the joint Russian-Turkish call for a ceasefire by 12 January should be seen as complementary or in competition to an intensified Italian-led European push to end the fighting.

Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin – who have each backed opposing sides in the Libyan conflict – together called for a ceasefire by midnight on 12 January.

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At the same time, the Italian prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, hosted the two warring leaders – Fayez al-Sarraj, the prime minister of the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA), based in Tripoli, and General Khalifa Haftar, the leader of the eastern military forces – in a summit in Rome.

But it appeared the initiative was running into difficulties even before it had begun: late on Wednesday it was reported that Sarraj refused to meet Conte because the Italian prime minister had previously met his rival, Haftar.

Haftar has been fighting to seize Tripoli since April and this week made a military breakthrough when his forces, known as the Libyan National Army (LNA), captured the coastal town of Sirte. His spokesman said the LNA was extending a no-fly zone immediately to include Mitiga airport.


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Turkey recently announced it was sending military advisers to support the GNA while Russian mercenaries have been fighting on behalf of Haftar.

The Turkish military intervention, backed by the Turkish parliament, has been heavily criticised by Russia and the European Union.

A Turkish presidential spokesman, İbrahim Kalın, said Turkey only wanted to engineer a ceasefire, and called on the parties to return to the positions they held before Haftar mounted his attack in April.

“In Libya, our priority is to stop the clashes as soon as possible, the declaration of a ceasefire and all parties, particularly Haftar, to return to their positions of April,” Kalın said after a cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

“The Haftar side, which violates the agreement between Tripoli and Benghazi that was signed in April, continues its attacks recklessly. If this is not stopped, a political process in Libya will not be possible and more blood will be shed,” he said.

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“Haftar gets away with any kind of attack in Libya, the international community even does not condemn [him],” he added.

Italy, which has historically been seen as a leading player in Libya where it has substantial energy interests, has been caught out by the unexpected Turkish intervention. Rome is facing criticism over its inability in more than two years to bring about a settlement in a country that has been ravaged by political and military disputes between east and west of the country ever since the western intervention to remove Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

The Italian and Russian initiatives are not necessarily in conflict, but reflect the extent to which outside parties are intervening in the country, and are probably making it more difficult for the two internal warring parties to reach a settlement.

Haftar is strongly supported by the United Arab Emirates and Turkey claims it is acting as a necessary counterweight.

Sarraj expressed his frustration at Europe’s failure to describe Haftar as the aggressor. Sarraj said: “The suffering of the Libyan people must end instantly. We do not want Libya to be a land of escalation or war by proxy. The international community must take responsibility for ending this suffering.”

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Mohammed Ali Abdallah, the GNA adviser for US affairs, said the withdrawal from Sirte was temporary and designed to avoid pointless bloody conflict.

“Let it be well understood, however, that the government will not allow Sirte to be overrun by Haftar and his army of Russian mercenaries,” he said. “Just as we liberated Sirte from Isis three years ago, we will again – and we will end Haftar’s self-declared ‘jihad’ against our country.”

What took Harry and Meghan so long? Black Britons wonder

“Thank God they are free,” one Londoner said. “All of this is about her race, I know it because as a Caribbean woman who did not grow up here, I have experienced it myself.”

Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, leaving St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle after their wedding last year.Credit…Pool photo by Ben Birchall

When Prince Harry and Meghan announced this week that they would be stepping back from their royal duties and spending extensive time in North America, many of Britain’s minority residents said they felt a burst of relief.

At long last, many said in interviews, the couple might finally escape the abuse, much of it racially tinged, that has been heaped upon them by the British press, particularly the country’s raucous tabloids.

“Thank God they are free,” said Sanaa Edness, lifting her arms to the sky as she walked through Fordham Park in southeast London. “Nobody should tolerate bullying and abusive behavior because of the color of their skin. All of this is about her race, I know it because as a Caribbean woman who did not grow up here, I have experienced it myself.”

It wasn’t supposed to end up like this.

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When an African-American bishop and a gospel choir performed at Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s wedding ceremony at Windsor Castle in May 2018, it set a precedent for many of Britain’s people of color, who until then had felt excluded from the profoundly white culture and traditions of the British monarchy.

Young black women with no particular interest in the royal family gathered around their television screens and watched with excitement as the beautiful biracial American actress walked down the aisle of St. George’s Chapel and took up her newly found status as the Duchess of Sussex. They hoped that her union with the popular prince would mark a new era for the royal family, one that would usher in fresh and more relatable values.

But even before the wedding, the then Ms. Markle had come under frequent attack in the British tabloids, prompting Prince Harry, while they were dating, to issue a pointed statement condemning the “racial undertones” of opinion pieces and news articles.

Crowds at the Greenwich Maritime Museum cheering as the marriage was announced last year.Credit…Andrew Testa for The New York Times

And since the Daily Mail’s 2016 headline, “Harry’s girl is (almost) straight outta Compton,” the duchess has been the subject of dozens of racist and sexist stories with references to her “exotic DNA” and descriptions of her family history going from “cotton slaves to royalty via freedom in the US Civil War.”

After the couple married in 2018, and Ms. Markle officially joined the royal household, the tabloids shifted gears, presenting her as a termagant who shouted at her staff and brought her sister-in law Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, to tears. Some headlines referred to her as “Hurricane Meghan,” the “Difficult Duchess” and “ME-GAIN.”

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“They wanted to show her up as the angry black woman like a thorn against the sweet English rose petals that is Mrs. Kate,” Ms. Edness said.

In a rare ITV television interview broadcast in October, the duchess opened up about her struggles and revealed that her friends had warned her that if she married Prince Harry, the British tabloids would “destroy her life.”

The tabloids deny that their coverage shows racial bias, saying they have a right to scrutinize the couple when they are being supported by public funding.

“Most of the media is ignoring the whole racism factor that has clearly played a big role in the couple’s decision,” said Nadine Batchelor-Hunt, former president of Cambridge University’s Black and Minority Ethnic campaign.

“Racism issues are spoken about more in the popular discourse in the United States,” she continued. “People are more conscious of it, whereas here the black community is a lot smaller and it’s not really raised as a significant issue regularly.”

In the latest census in 2011, black residents made up only around 3 percent of Britain’s population, with 87 percent white and the rest from other ethnic groups. In the United States, by contrast, non-Hispanic white people account for only 60.4 percent of the population in 2019, while black people were the largest minority, at 13.4 percent.

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Ms. Batchelor-Hunt also pointed out that royal correspondents and commentators are predominantly white. “Many of them are unaware when they are being outright racist and how their comments become amplified across social media,” she said.

A mural in Brixton, a historically black area in south London. Credit…Andrew Testa for The New York Times

In an opinion piece published in The New York Times on Thursday, Afua Hirsh, the author of “Brit(ish): On Race, Identity and Belonging,” looked at the relationship between the coverage of the duchess and Britain’s class culture.

“In Britain’s rigid class society, there is still a deep correlation between privilege and race,”she wrote. “The relatively few people of color — and even fewer if you count only those who have African heritage — who rise to prominent success and prosperity in Britain are often told we should be ‘grateful’ or told to leave if we don’t like it here.”

In the interviews, a persistent theme was surprise that senior members of the royal family had not shown enough support for Meghan. Many said they have watched in astonishment as Buckingham Palace has released several statements in defense of Prince Andrew, who has been embroiled in a child sex trafficking scandal, while staying silent on the systematic attacks on the duchess.

“She didn’t get the support she needed from the royal family,” said Carol Lengolo, a mother of two from southeast London, who grew up in South Africa as a big fan of the monarchy. “You never see them speaking out about the racism, standing beside her, defending her. She’s been all alone.”

Ms. Lengolo said she was happy and relieved that the couple would finally be free of all the abuse and negativity. She could not understand why anyone was surprised by the announcement.

“These people needed to do this for the sake of their mental health and to protect their newborn son,” she said. “I support them 100 percent. I’m truly happy for them.”

“These people needed to do this for the sake of their mental health and to protect their newborn son,”  said Carol Lengolo, shown with her 13-year-old daughter, Tshego, at their home in London, last year. “I support them 100 percent.”Credit…Andrew Testa for The New York Times

Tabloid columnists expressed shock and outrage at the announcement by Prince Harry and the duchess on Wednesday, accusing them, among other things, of being “selfish,” “scheming,” “hypocrites” who had shown an “atrocious lapse of judgment” and were “trying to bring down the monarchy.”

“I’ve seen some disgraceful royal antics in my time, but for pure arrogance, entitlement, greed and willful disrespect, nothing has ever quite matched the behavior of the ‘Duke and Duchess of Sussex,’” wrote Piers Morgan, a columnist for The Daily Mail.

“I put inverted commas around those titles because I sincerely hope they won’t exist much longer.”

The popular black comedian Gina Yashere responded to Mr. Morgan’s column on Twitter saying: “Please. Every black person knew this was coming. Constant racist vitriolic abuse disguised as criticism.”

Mr. Morgan responded: “Oh Gina, stop being so ridiculous. The criticism of Meghan Markle has nothing to do with her skin color and everything to do with her being a shameless piece of work doing huge damage to our Royal Family.”

Ms. Lengolo’s 13-year-old daughter, Tshego, sees it differently. She idolizes Ms. Markle and hopes to be an actress in Los Angeles one day. She said that while she was disappointed the duchess would be distancing herself from the royal family, she was also proud of her for making such a “brave” and “powerful” decision.

“I think it’s just appalling how they can just judge someone by their skin tone,” Tshego said, her voice rising with emotion.

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“Take Kate for example,” she continued. “She got married to a member of the royal family and we don’t hear much said about her. But all of a sudden, a person of color comes into the royal family and everyone just jumps and goes after her. If she was white, she wouldn’t be treated like this, and that is just the cold reality.”

  • Anna Schaverien contributed reporting.

Nigerians deported to Bosnia beg to go home

Pair mistaken for being illegal immigrants by Croatian police say they are victims of injustice.

Abia Uchenna Alexandro, right, and Eboh Kenneth Chinedu were stopped in Zagreb. Photograph: Žurnal

Two Nigerian student table tennis players are begging authorities in Sarajevo to return them to their home country after they were wrongly deported to Bosnia by Croatian police, who mistook them for undocumented migrants.

In an interview with the Guardian, Abia Uchenna Alexandro and Eboh Kenneth Chinedu said they were victims of injustice and that the only reason they were forcibly taken to Bosnia is that they are black.

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“We hold the truth and we have evidence of it,” said Chinedu via telephone from an immigration centre in east Sarajevo where the pair are detained. Uchenna and Chinedu, students at the Federal University of Technology Owerri in Nigeria, arrived in Croatia with a regular visa on 12 November, on their way to participate in the fifth World InterUniversities Championships, held this year in Pula.

The pair, both 18, left Pula for the Croatian capital, Zagreb, after the tournament and were supposed to fly to Lagos on 18 November. “The night before our departure, on the 17th, we checked out from the hostel and went for a walk in Zagreb,” said Chinedu. “Suddenly … we were stopped by the police who asked us for our identification documents. We tried to explain that our passports were in the hostel and that we had a regular visa, but they paid no attention to what we were saying.”


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The officers allegedly mistook them for undocumented immigrants, put them in a van and transferred them to the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina where, that day, Croatian authorities had gathered together a group of migrants who were intercepted as they were attempting to cross the country.

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“There were men from Pakistan at the border,” said Chinedu. “They had been caught by the Croatians while attempting to cross the border from Bosnia. Police eventually ordered us to move through the woods. I refused and begged them one more time to check our status, but they wouldn’t listen. They kicked me in the back and told me they would shoot me if I didn’t move.”

Uchenna and Chinedu were eventually deported to Bosnia and ended up in a camp in Velika Kladuša, where thousands of migrants live in cramped tents without water or heating, and with temperatures as low as -2C.


The plight of the two students has made the news around the world and sparked a row between Croatia and Bosnia. Last weekend they were transferred to an immigration centre in east Sarajevo.

“Those people are victims of illegal acts on the Croatian side,” Dragan Mektić, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s minister of security, told al-Jazeera. “It is obvious that Croatian police forcibly displaced them.”

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Police in Croatia denied any wrongdoing and raised doubts over the table tennis players’ intentions, suggesting they were lying. According to the police, another Nigerian who participated in the championship had attempted to cross the border with Slovenia from Croatia a few days before.

“Police officers have already witnessed cases of individuals who make an attempt, even abusing their participation in sports competitions in Croatia, to remain in the country or continue their journey illegally to other European countries,” Croatian police said.

“This is not true,” said Chinedu. “We were legal in Croatia. And our visa was valid until the 3 December. If we wanted to seek asylum, we could have asked for it because we had visas.”

The interior ministry in Zagreb said the men were stopped by police on 18 November, the day they were due to depart, and not the day before as the Nigerians claimed. However, the police’s version of events does not explain why the officers sent the students to Bosnia, knowing they had entered the country on a flight to Zagreb and not from Bosnia and knowing that they had a valid visa until 3 December.



In the meantime, authorities in Sarajevo are working on the case. The presence of the Nigerians in Bosnia – even if instigated by Croatian police – is technically illegal, given that their visa was valid only in Croatia, and which has now has expired.

“The case of two students from Nigeria is being handled by the ministry of security of Bosnia and Herzegovina as it is an internal issue involving illegal entrance to Bosnia and Herzegovina,” the minister counsellor for the foreign affairs of Bosnia wrote in an email to the Guardian.

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Dragan Mektić said: “Respecting legal procedures, we now have to take them back to Croatia. It is obvious that they have Croatian visas, that they are in Bosnia-Herzegovina illegally.”

The Nigerians said they were willing to go back to Croatia, but only on one condition: “If they take us back to Croatia, we want to have UN escorts with us. We will not go to Croatia without a UN representative. We are scared of the Croatian police after what they did to us.”

“We want to go back to Nigeria,” said Chinedu. “Please, help us, send us home immediately.”

Croatia Police deport Nigerian table tennis players

Pair were legally in the country for a competition but police failed to check their paperwork.

Abia Uchenna Alexandro, right, and Eboh Kenneth Chinedu were stopped in Zagreb. Photograph: Žurnal

By Lorenzo Tondo in Tuzla

The organisers of an international student sports competition have called for two Nigerian table tennis players to be returned to their own country after Croatian police wrongly deported them to a Bosnian refugee camp.

Abia Uchenna Alexandro and Eboh Kenneth Chinedu, students at the Federal University of Technology Owerri in Nigeria, arrived in Zagreb on 12 November, on their way to participate in the fifth World InterUniversities Championships, held this year in Pula, Croatia.

The 18-year-old table tennis players left Pula for Zagreb after the tournament, and were supposed to fly back to Lagos on 18 November. However, the night before their departure, while taking a walk in the Croatian capital they were stopped by two police officers who asked them for identification documents.

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“We tried to explain who we were and that our documents were in the hostel, but they took us to a police station,” Chinedu told the Bosnian websiteŽurnal. “They paid no attention to what we were saying.”

The officers mistook them for undocumented immigrants, put them in a van and transferred them to the border with Bosnia-Herzegovina where, that day, Croatian authorities had gathered together a group of migrants intercepted as they were attempting to cross the country. Police ordered the group to move through the woods and into Bosnia-Herzegovina.

“I refused to go into the woods,” said Chinedu. “The officer told me he would shoot me if I didn’t move.”

Uchenna and Chinedu were eventually deported to Bosnia-Herzegovina and ended up in a camp in Velika Kladuša, where thousands of migrants are stuck in tents without water or heating with temperatures as low as -2C.

View of camp near Bihać in Bosnia-Herzegovina where irregular migrants who were not allowed to cross the Croatian border are sent. Photograph: Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The two Nigerian students could not make themselves understood and it took until the end of November before volunteers at the camp contacted representatives of the table-tennis competition to tell them Uchenna and Chinedu were trapped there.

Uchenna and Chinedu in interview published by Magazin Zurnal Online

“They told me two students from Nigeria were taken to Bosnia by Croatian police,” the organiser Alberto Tanghetti told the Guardian. “I asked them to send me photos and their names. After careful verification, we confirmed that those boys had participated in the tournament and had regular visas, issued by the Croatian authorities. I really don’t understand what happened, because even the police in Pula were notified that they were here.”

He added: “It is even more absurd that no one believed the boys when they tried to explain to the police officers that they had regular visas. It would have sufficed to accompany them to the hostel to verify that they had entered Croatia legally.”

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A spokesperson for the Croatian interior ministry said that the police had investigated the Nigerians’ claims

“Police officers have already witnessed cases of individuals who make an attempt to or even abuse their participation in sports competitions in Croatia to remain in the country,” the spokesperson said.

The ministry of the interior has confirmed that the Nigerians had regular visas and entered Croatia legally, but suggested that the students were making an attempt to remain and that the pair had checked out from the hostel before being stopped by the police.

But the police’s version of the facts does not explain why the officers deported the Nigerians to Bosnia, knowing that the students had entered the country with a flight to Zagreb and not from Bosnia.


“Those people are victims of illegal acts of the Croatian side,” Dragan Mektić, Bosnia-Herzegovina’s minister of security, told Al Jazeera. “Respecting legal procedures, we now have to take them back to Croatia … It is obvious that they have Croatian visas, that they are in Bosnia and Herzegovina illegally. From their statements, it is obvious that Croatian police forcibly displaced them and we have to bring them back there.”

For years, aid workers and agencies have accused the Croatian authorities of illegally sending migrants trying to cross the border back to Bosnia-Herzegovina.

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Migrants are systematically beaten by Croatian police, who strip asylum seekers of their personal items and destroy their mobile phones to avoid being filmed.

Last year, the Guardian documented compelling evidence of the physical abuse perpetrated by Croatian police, of which migrants in the Bosnian cities of Bihać and Velika Kladuša have been complaining. Croatia has denied any wrongdoing in that case.

58 migrants die After boat capsizes off Mauritania

The boat left Gambia last month aiming for Canary Islands, part of Spain. But it approached the coast in West Africa seeking fuel and food.

By The Associated Press

At least 58 migrants have drowned after a boat capsized off the West African nation of Mauritania and scores tried to swim through rough waters to safety, officials said.

It was one of the deadliest disasters this year among people making the perilous journey to Europe.

The boat, which left Gambia on Nov. 27, was headed toward the Canary Islands, a Spanish archipelago off the northwestern coast of Africa, when it tried to approach Mauritania to get fuel and food, Laura Lungarotti, chief of the Mauritania mission with the United Nations migration agency, said on Wednesday.

“Many drowned,” she added. “The ones who survived swam up to the Mauritanian coast close to the city of Nouadhibou.”

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At least 83 people swam to shore and were receiving treatment, the agency said. Interior Minister Mohamed Salem Ould Merzoug said 10 people were taken to a hospital for “urgent” treatment. The survivors were receiving care in accordance with “human solidarity, fraternity and African hospitality,” the minister’s statement said.

The Mauritanian authorities also said security forces had found 85 survivors, and the search for an unknown number of missing people continued on Thursday. The boat held as many as 180 people, most of them ages 20 to 30.

Mauritania will open an investigation into those responsible for the tragedy, including possible trafficking networks, the statement said.

Between 2005 and 2010, thousands died off Mauritania’s coast in attempts to reach the Canary Islands, but that traffic later calmed, the statement said. But in recent months, the authorities have detained boats carrying hundreds of migrants mostly from Senegal, a neighbor of Gambia, it said.

There was no immediate statement from the authorities in Gambia, where tens of thousands of people have set off in hopes of reaching Europe in recent years. More than 35,000 Gambians arrived in Europe between 2014 and 2018, according to the United Nations migration agency.

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President Yahya Jammeh’s 22-year oppressive rule severely affected the country’s economy, which contributed greatly to the exodus. Since Mr. Jammeh fled into exile in January 2017 after a surprise election loss, European countries have been pushing to return asylum seekers.

But Gambia’s economy still suffers. The coastal nation was shaken this year by the collapse of the British travel company Thomas Cook. At the time, Gambia’s tourism minister said the government had convened an emergency meeting on the collapse, while some Gambians said the shutdown could have a devastating impact on tourism, which contributes more than 30 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.

Why xenophobia in South Africa will not stop

If there is room enough for everyone, then there would be no need to scramble. The same goes for wealth. If wealth is evenly distributed, then there would be no need to envy and attempt to outdo one another; the bane of xenophobia.

Xenophobic attacks are spun from inequality and bad leadership, both of which are significant in South Africa. According to Oxfam South Africa’s democracy and governance manager, Mthandazo Ndlovu, “inequality in South Africa has been exacerbated as a result of systemic failures at a government level.” That is to say, there is a nexus between inequality, bad governance and xenophobia and if the hedge binding them are not broken, the serpent of discord will keep striking, leading in many more deaths in South Africa.

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Foreigners have always faced discrimination in South Africa, and contrary to what many thought, post-apartheid did not eliminate xenophobic attacks in the country; if anything, it made it worse. Between 2008 and 2019 about 200 people have lost their lives, no thanks to xenophobia. Mandela’s rainbow nation was supposed to show the world how a new, equitable society could be built out of the ashes of repression and racism. But by some measures, inequality in the country today is worse than it was under apartheid.


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Though the South African law integrates the once divided white, black and Indian populace, silent segregation and hostility still persist in different parts of the country mainly due to the widening gap between the rich and poor in South Africa.

The country remains the most economically unequal country in the world and in the last eight years, over three million South Africans have been living below the poverty line, a study by Statistics South Africa shows. Currently, over 30.4 million South Africans, about 55.5 percent live on less than 992 rand (about $75) monthly.

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Why Xenophobia will not end any time soon

South Africa feels superior to other African countries; First off the country is the only African country in Africa with Africa in its name, and thanks to its mineral and precious metal reserves, the country has attracted a lot of mineral giants. In addition, the proximity of South Africa to the ocean, the wildlife and the savanna make it an attractive tourist destination, creating has wealth for the country.

Although activities and the size of the country create wealth, it is not evenly distributed among whites, blacks, Indians and other nationals based in the Southern African country. This has caused intense competition for jobs, commodities and housing as well as increased poverty.

International news | Read more


Misplaced aggression: Although the majority of South Africans are poor and have a shared experience of hardship, the country is colonial and apartheid past gave birth to a racist nature among those who should jointly fight for their right.

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These racial sentiments have given birth to xenophobic attacks and ethnic prejudice in the country. Worse, the country has no favourable immigration laws. In March 2017, the country approved the White Paper on International Migration, separating foreigners into skilled and unskilled categories and only the skilled are welcomed. However, this does not alleviate the hate the locals have for foreigners who they believe are taking their jobs.

The bronze statue was donated to Jesus College by the father of a student in 1905. Photograph: N/A

Bronze cockerel to be returned to Nigeria by British college

Benin bronze statue at Jesus College to be repatriated after 1897 theft by British forces.

The bronze statue was donated to Jesus College by the father of a student in 1905. Photograph: N/A
The bronze statue was donated to Jesus College by the father of a student in 1905. Photograph: N/A

bronze cockerel taken by British colonial forces and donated to Jesus College Cambridge is to be returned to Nigeria in an unprecedented step that adds momentum to the growing repatriations movement.

The Okukor, described by the college as a “royal ancestral heirloom”, will be one of the first Benin bronzes to be returned to Nigeria by a major British institution since the punitive expedition in 1897 when thousands of bronzes were stolen from Benin City by British forces.

No specific date for return has been released but the college stated that the bronze cockerel “belongs with the current Oba at the Court of Benin”. The return was recommended by Jesus College’s Legacy of Slavery Working Party (LSWP), a group dedicated to looking at the institution’s connections to slavery, which confirmed the piece was donated in 1905 by the father of a student.

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Sonita Alleyne, the master of Jesus College, said the decision was not taken to “erase history” but came after “diligent and careful” work that looked into the wider legacy of slavery at Jesus College. “We are an honest community, and after thorough investigation into the provenance of the Benin bronze … our job is to seek the best way forward,” she said.

The cockerel had been removed from its public display following calls from students for it to be sent back in 2016, with the college pledging to begin discussions about its future, including a possible return to Nigeria. In the three years since, the college says it has been in discussion with the Benin Dialogue Group, a collective of artists and museum representatives who meet to discuss the future of the bronzes.


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Victor Ehikhamenor, a Nigerian artist and member of the Benin Dialogue Group, said: “No matter how small the gesture may look, it is a huge step towards the realisation of restitution of the works from the Benin Kingdom that were looted by the British. This is very important example, which I hope other Europeans, especially British institutions, will follow without any excuses or delays.”

Dan Hicks, a professor of archaeology at the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford and a representative of the Benin Dialogue Group, said: “We have reached a tipping point in our national dialogues about the cultural restitution of objects looted under British colonialism.

“In the past, our attention on this matter was focused on national collections like the British Museum and the V&A – but in reality such loot is held in dozens of institutions across the regions: city museums, art galleries and the collections of universities.”

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The move follows Manchester Museum becoming the first UK institution to return ceremonial items to Aboriginal groups nearly a century after they were stolen by British forces. The repatriation of the artefacts, which include a traditional headdress made from emu feathers, could be the beginning of the return of tens of thousands of similar items from institutions across the UK.

The Jesus College announcement comes almost exactly 12 months after the release of a report commissioned by the French president, Emmanuel Macron, which recommended the return of colonial-era artefacts by France.

The report’s authors, the Senegalese economist Felwine Sarr and the French art historian Bénédicte Savoy, told the Guardian that the British Museum, which houses a huge collection of the Benin bronzes, was acting like “an ostrich with its head in the sand” by not acting faster on repatriations.

“There’s an expression in French, la politique de l’autruche, which means something is in front of you and you say you can’t see it, like an ostrich with its head in the sand,” Sarr told the Guardian. “They will have to respond and they can’t hide themselves any longer on the issue.”

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The British Museum agreed with the report’s call for the establishment of “new and more equitable relationships between Europe and Africa”, and is represented in the Benin Dialogue Group.

Since the release of the report, Ivory Coast, Senegal and the Democratic Republic of the Congo have made formal requests for the return of artefacts. European countries including France and Germany have committed to handing back objects, with the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam opening talks with Sri Lanka and Indonesia and describing the Netherlands’ failure to return stolen artefacts as a “disgrace”.

The news comes a week after Open Society Foundations (OSF) announced a $15m initiative aimed at strengthening efforts to “restore cultural objects looted from the African continent”. It also follows the return of a colonial-era artefact by France, with Senegal receiving a sabre that belonged to a 19th-century Islamic scholar and ruler earlier in November.

More refugees from Libya arrive in Rwanda

The third batch of refugees, who were being held in detention centres in Libya, arrived in Rwanda in the early hours of Monday as part of a resettlement programme.

A Rwandan government account has shared pictures of the group on Twitter:

The refugees are mainly Eritrean and Somali nationals.

The group was transported from Kigali airport to the Gashora transit centre, 40 km (24 miles) east of the capital, where the other 189 refugees who arrived in September and October have been settled.

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The resettlement is part of an agreement between the Rwandan government, the UN refugee agency and the African Union.

They agreed to resettle 500 out of more than 4,000 migrants being held in Libya after their illegal journeys to Europe were halted.

Norway want to use aid budget to fight ‘lifestyle’ diseases

Norway has become the first country to launch a strategy to tackle so-called ‘lifestyle’ diseases as part of its international aid work.

In 2020, the Scandinavian government will allocate over 200 million Norwegian Krone of international development assistance – roughly £17 million – to help low and middle income countries tackle non-communicable diseases including cancer, obesity and diabetes.

The move comes amid growing concern at the rising burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) worldwide. These conditions are driven not by infections and viruses but by behaviour – for instance poor diet, smoking, drinking and a lack of exercise.

Norway’s move is likely to be followed by other government’s international aid departments over the next few years.

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According to the World Health Organization, more than 70 per cent of deaths worldwide are now associated with NCDs and experts are worried about a rising burden in low and middle income countries.

In Africa, the proportion of all deaths caused by NCDs is predicted to rise from 35 per cent to 50 per cent by 2030. 

But according to the Norwegian government, prevention and control of NCDs currently receives only about one per cent of health-related development assistance – though it is likely that this will shift in the coming decade. 

“Worldwide, 41 million people die each year as a result of respiratory disease, cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, mental disorders and other NCDs,” said Dag-Inge Ulstein, Norway’s minister of international development. 

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“This cannot continue. Therefore, Norway will triple its assistance to fight NCDs, allocating over 200 million Norwegian Krone to these agendas for 2020.

“This is just the start, we will step up funding towards 2024,” he said. 

The government added that investment would be based on the World Health Organization’s 16 “best buys” to prevent and control NCDs. These include schemes to restrict tobacco and alcohol sales as well improving diet and restricting salt and sugar intakes.

“If these were implemented, over eight million lives could be saved annually by 2030,” said Bent Høie, Norway’s minister of health. “There would also be a total savings of $US 7 trillion in low and middle income countries over the next 15 years.”

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He added that the policy, titled ‘Better health, better lives’, would help countries to reach the ambitious targets set out in the Sustainable Development Goals. 

Commenting on the announcement Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the WHO, thanked Norway for their “leadership in this important area”.

“Non-communicable diseases are the leading killers of our time,” he said. “As is so often the case, the world’s poorest bear the heaviest burden.

“The risks of dying between the ages of 30 and 70 from a heart attack, stroke, diabetes, cancer or asthma are four times higher in most countries of Africa than in Norway.”

‘Putin’s cook’ is behind Russia’s influential fake Facebook accounts in Africa

Russia is expanding the scope of its disinformation campaigns by focusing on a new target: Africa.

On Wednesday, Facebook announced that it had removed three networks of pages, accounts,and groups linked to Yevgeny Prigozhin, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

According to Facebook, Prigozhin was behind a network of 200 fake and compromised accounts that reached almost 1 million people in eight African countries: Madagascar, Central African Republic, Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroon, Sudan, and Libya.

This is hardly new territory for Prigozhin, commonly known as “Putin’s cook.” He was indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller in 2018 for his role funding Russia’s Internet Research Agency, which is accused of interfering in the 2016 presidential election.

Read: Putin’s “Erik Prince” is tied to some of Russia’s riskiest covert operations

Prigozhin has been spearheading Russia’s effort to wield greater influence in more than a dozen African countries, according to documents leaked to the Guardian earlier this year. Facebook’s findings published Wednesday makes clear that online information campaigns are a key part of this effort.

In some of the campaigns, the Russian-run networks worked with local citizens to evade detection, Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cyber-security policy, said.

“There’s sort of a joining of forces, if you will, between local actors and actors from Russia,” he told Reuters. “It appears that the local actors who are involved know who is behind the operation.”

Read: Facebook Has Become a ‘Megaphone for Hate’ Against Muslims in India

Facebook did not identify any of the locals, organizations or companies working with these campaigns, but according to their researcher partners at Stanford Internet Observatory, the disinformation campaigns can be linked to the Wagner Group, a private Russian military contractor owned by Prigozhin that operates in the Middle East and Africa.

The network of accounts worked to promote Russian interests in the region, criticize French and U.S. activities, as well as bolster the prospects of a range of African politicians and political parties.

The aims and techniques of the campaigns differed from country-to-country:

Libya: Beginning in December 2018, the Russian networks supported two potential future presidential candidates: Muammar Gaddafi’s son, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, and the rebel General Khalifa Haftar, who reportedly has at least 100 mercenaries from the Wagner Group fighting alongside his militias.

Sudan: The effort here isn’t as clear cut as in Libya. Instead, the content in Sudan appeared to support whatever government was in charge at the time. Since it popped up in mid-2018, the network of accounts supported Omar al-Bashir, the Transitional Military Council, and the Sovereign Council of Sudan. It ran a number of pages related to two news websites that regularly re-posted articles from the Kremlin-run Sputnik news agency. Prigozhin-linked companies are known to have mining agreements in Sudan and have trained local military forces.

Mozambique: The most recent campaign began in September 2019, just weeks before the country’s presidential and parliamentary elections. The pages posted content to support the incumbent president, and damage the reputation of the opposition — in at least one instance, with a fake news story, according to Facebook’s findings.

Cover: In this Friday, Nov. 11, 2011, file photo, businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin, left, serves food to Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, center, during dinner at Prigozhin’s restaurant outside Moscow, Russia.

Swahili is the main language in East Africa

Tanzania to offer Swahili proficiency tests

Tanzania has announced plans to launch an international language test for Swahili, hoping to build on the growing popularity of the language.

Swahili is the main language in East Africa
Swahili is the main language in East Africa. Photo: Getty Images

Leonard Akwilapo, the country’s permanent secretary for education, said the test would be offered by the University of Dar es Salaam’s Institute of Swahili Studies.

The test is modeled around international proficiency tests for languages such as English, Spanish, Chinese and Arabic and will be offered from January.

With Swahili recently adopted as the fourth official language of the Southern African Development Community, its proficiency should, therefore, be “authenticated”, Dr Akwilapo was quoted by the government-owned Daily News.

The institute would be conducting six examinations annually in examination centres worldwide, targeting candidates seeking to use Swahili as their second or foreign language.

Swahili is widely spoken across East Africa and parts of central Africa.

Last year, South Africa announced it would be taught in schools as an optional subject by 2020.

With new aviation laws, Ghana aims for safer skies

Ghana recently spent $275 million expanding and modernising Kotoka International Airport located in the capital city, Accra. This is part of its plan to attract eight million tourists annually by 2027. A significant increase from the 1.2 million people who visited the country in 2015. Given that most of these tourists will arrive in the country by air, attracting them partly depends on Ghana’s ability to create and maintain a safe air transport sector.

With the right legislation, Ghana hopes to improve aviation compliance and safety. Shutterstock

Ghana is a state party to the Chicago Convention. This multilateral treaty established the fundamental principles governing international air travel. It also created the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) – a United Nations agency which manages the international air transport system. As a member of ICAO, Ghana is expected to comply with its standards and recommended practices.

But it has had some compliance problems. In 2006, Ghana ranked below average in five out of eight criteria set by the organisation’s Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme. Although it met the requisite standard level for licensing, accident investigations and aerodromes, Ghana’s aviation industry was found to be unsatisfactory when it came to legislation, organisation, operations, air worthiness and air navigation services.

In 2010, two Ghanaian airlines appeared on the European Union Air Safety List for failing to meet certain international safety standards. The list is a directory of airlines which have been banned or otherwise restricted from flying in the European Union. Currently, Ghana is a Category 2 country on the American Federal Aviation Authority’s International Aviation Assessment Program. This means they were found to have not met the requisite safety standards.

Ghana’s been working hard to address its aviation deficiencies. This has yielded some important successes. In 2015, the two Ghanaian airlines were removed from the EU Air Safety List. In June 2019 Ghana was awarded a provisional Effective Implementation grade of 89.89% in aviation safety oversight under ICAO’s Coordinated Validation Mission.

This is a remarkable achievement: it surpasses the organisation’s minimum target of 60% and significantly outshines the global average of 66.5%. It is also the highest score for an African country. The Effective Implementation average rate for the continent is just over 50%.

So how has Ghana achieved this milestone? Through inter-agency cooperation and efforts to amend existing legislation and pass new ones. These legislative efforts kicked off after the country’s poor performance in the 2006 audit. Legislators and aviation authorities realised they needed to strengthen the country’s laws to improve the situation. This work culminated in two particularly crucial pieces of legislation – the Ghana Civil Aviation (Amendment) Act, 2019 and Aircraft Accident and Serious Incident Regulations, 2019. Both were passed by Parliament in March this year.

There is still a need to address the other areas identified by the audit, air worthiness and organisational efficiency, for example. These require effective and efficient business administration. One solution may be to involve a commercially-focused private company to rectify the outstanding operational issues. Indeed there have been rumours of privatisation. The financial investment and strategic management necessary to maintain the safety improvements made, and take Ghana’s aviation industry to the next level – one to rival counterparts in Nairobi – just might require the private sector.

New laws

The first of the two crucial laws aimed at improving aviation safety is the Ghana Civil Aviation (Amendment) Act 2019 (Act 985), which modified a number of pre-existing laws.

Under it, the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority will retain its regulatory function. But it will no longer be responsible for operational functions such as navigation services. These will be coordinated by a new body. This separation of roles should improve economic efficiency and minimise conflicts of interests.

The Act has also strengthened some important roles within the aviation sector. For instance, powers of the Minister of Aviation and Chief Investigator have been enhanced. The Civil Aviation Authority’s Director General has also been given extra powers. This person can now compel an individual to produce documents – or testify – before any person or panel whose work falls under the authority’s mandate. These changes should assist the effective investigation of aviation incidents and accidents.

The other new legislation is the Aircraft Accident and Serious Incident Regulations, 2019. This requires airline operators to immediately notify authorities of an accident or serious incident. The law created the Accident Incident Bureau to manage investigations of civil aircraft accidents and serious incidents in Ghana. Its remit also covers any state-registered aircraft that are involved in incidents or accidents outside the country.

The new regulations also provide for the establishment of a database of facts and figures relating to accidents and serious incidents for the first time. This will enable officials to do useful analysis on actual or potential safety concerns. It will also help identify any necessary corrective measures.

These legislative changes are meant to improve aviation safety oversight, enhance the powers of aviation officials and address inefficiencies. It should also facilitate the transition to Category 1 status on the FAA’s list.

It’s hoped that the new legal framework will help Ghana improve its reputation and performance in all sorts of safety and compliance measures. And make the country’s aircraft even safer for passengers.

What still needs to be done

Whether these new laws have their intended effect depends largely on the degree to which they are implemented. Additional resources are likely to be required. This could include a cash injection to sustain the progress made and increase the number of professionals with technical training and expertise in aviation. Any optimism about successful and long-lasting compliance requires senior officials with a sound understanding of the importance and will to enforce violations.

The tragic Ethiopian Airlines crash in March 2019 was a sobering reminder that major problems arise when safety and security are concentrated in one stakeholder, like airline manufacturers.

The more stakeholders, including states, involved in evaluating, implementing and maintaining safety standards, the better. This is why stronger legislation is so important. Now it’s incumbent on Ghana to ensure consistent compliance with its new laws.

Julia Selman Ayetey, Doctoral Candidate, Institute of Air & Space Law, McGill University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Bullets and Love: finding romance in the midst of sudan protests


Bullets, Tear Gas and Love: Romance Blooms in the Midst of Sudan Protests

After decades of rule under a dictator, a wave of exuberance has rippled across Sudan’s capital, the young are reveling in newfound freedoms — to speak, party and find love.


The minivan sped along the Nile, weaving through the evening traffic. The bride sat up front in a pink dress, a sparkling purse on her lap and her feet swaddled in bandages.

The bride, Samar Alnour, was shot twice last month during the tumultuous uprising that toppled Sudan’s longtime dictator, Omar Hassan al-Bashir. Now she was on her way back to the protest site, to marry the man who saved her.

Muntassir Altigani, 30, a construction worker, had rushed to Ms. Alnour’s aid as she lay bleeding in the street. Bullets whizzed around them. Like her, he had joined the revolt as a howl against the misrule of Mr. al-Bashir. In the weeks that followed, they fell in love.

“I thought she was very courageous,” he said.

But the revolution is not over.

Listening to music, singing and chanting at the sit-in.CreditBryan Denton for The New York Times
The confluence of the White and Blue Nile. Across Khartoum, young Sudanese are enjoying once impossible freedoms.CreditBryan Denton for The New York Times
Samar Alnour, whose feet were injured in early April during the violent crackdown on protesters, walking toward the sit-in after her wedding.CreditBryan Denton for The New York Times

The minivan halted on the edge of the protest site where thousands are still camped out at the gates of Sudan’s military headquarters, demanding a transition to full civilian rule. Ms. Alnour, an unemployed 28-year-old college graduate, hitched up her dress as she sat into a wheelchair and joined them.

An uncle pushed her deep into the heaving crowd — past the pop-up cafes with lounging soldiers and flirting couples; past the street poets and speakers, declaiming their dreams for Sudan; and past the dreadlocked musician playing Bob Marley covers.

Trailed by a cheering crowd, she stopped at the spot where she had been shot.

All her life, she said, she had known only Mr. al-Bashir’s Sudan: a cheerless place where corruption thwarted her effort to get a government job. Now a new country — or at least the promise of one — beckoned.

“Before we did not celebrate,” she said. “You couldn’t express yourself, or speak out. Now we feel free.”Socializing at one of the many cafes that line the alleyways near the site of the sit-in.CreditBryan Denton for The New York Times

Socializing at one of the many cafes that line the alleyways near the site of the sit-in.CreditBryan Denton for The New York Times
The protest area, where thousands gather every night to demand their political rights but also to play. It is the epicenter of the changes rippling through Khartoum.CreditBryan Denton for The New York Times
A soldier holding a protester’s baby.CreditBryan Denton for The New York Times

Revolutionary Sudan has become the site of extraordinary scenes. After decades of airless, joyless rule under Mr. al-Bashir, a wave of exuberance has rippled across the capital, Khartoum, where young Sudanese are reveling in newfound freedoms — to talk politics, to party and even to find love.

The epicenter of these changes is the protest area at the gates of the military headquarters. Women in jeans move about without fear of harassment from the hated public order police, whose patrols have vanished from the streets. Couples mingle easily, some holding hands.

Day and night, teenage boys beat stones against the sides of a railway bridge, in a steady rhythm that has become a kind of heartbeat of the revolution.

Down by the Nile, young people relax on plastic chairs on the grass, sucking on water pipes that were banned by Mr. al-Bashir.

Closer to the water, men swig openly from bottles of araqi — date wine whose consumption is punishable by 40 lashes under Sudan’s Shariah law.

A sweet odor of hashish hangs in the air. Uniformed soldiers, who have vowed to protect the revolutionaries, are among the revelers.

Mr. al-Bashir’s Islamist rule had made Sudan, already a conservative society, unaccustomed to such scenes. A backlash is possible. Yet change is reverberating far beyond the protest area.

Protesters listening to an imam’s sermon before Friday prayers at the sit-in.CreditBryan Denton for The New York Times
Two newlyweds were mobbed by well-wishers as they walked through the site of the sit-in.CreditBryan Denton for The New York Times

Protesters sleeping along the train tracks that run by the sit-in.CreditBryan Denton for The New York Times

One night a young woman in tight jeans rode on the back of a motorbike in southern Khartoum, her hair flowing — a once unthinkable sight, likely to invite arrest.

Now, men in a passing car tooted their horn and made thumbs-up signs. The woman smiled and flashed a victory sign.

“The changes were shocking at first,” said Zuhayra Mohamed, 28, a project manager who defied her parents to participate in the protests. “It’s as if the regime had its arms around our necks for so long, and now there’s something so beautiful.”

But while the old Sudan may be out of sight, it has not gone away.

On a recent morning, dozens of uniformed public order police sat drinking tea under a cluster of trees outside their brightly painted Khartoum headquarters, near the confluence of the Blue Nile and White Nile. They were awaiting orders, a commander said.

And as the protesters celebrated last week, Amer Yousif was being lashed.

The 35-year-old driver had been caught with a bottle of araqi in his pocket on a trip out to buy cigarettes. The next morning a judge sentenced him to 50 lashes, including an extra 10 for aggravated circumstances.

The judge “seemed angered by the revolution,” said Mr. Yousif, lifting his shirt to show a welt on his back.

Protesters looking on as a woman addressed the crowd. The protest grounds are full of small stages, where activists, including many women, have been giving speeches.CreditBryan Denton for The New York Times
A volunteer stirring a giant vat of soup being prepared for protesters.CreditBryan Denton for The New York Times
Hanging out on motorcycles on Tuti Island, where the two Niles meet.CreditBryan Denton for The New York Times

Another young couple, Mohamed Hamed and Nahed Elgizouli, also met during the protests, but it wasn’t bullets that brought them together but a cloud of tear gas.

Mr. Hamed, a 31-year-old engineer, collapsed onto his knees in downtown Khartoum, his lungs filled with the gas. Ms. Elgizouli ran up to him and rinsed his face with Coca-Cola.

They got to know each other over the following months — congregating at protest sites, sprinting away from armed regime thugs and protesting the death of a mutual friend in detention.

“They beat him to death,” said Ms. Elgizouli, 26, who works for an organization that promotes reproductive health.

Both had fallen afoul of the dreaded public order police before the revolution. Ms. Elgizouli was detained last year as she returned with male friends from a camping trip in the desert. Mr. Hamed was punished with 40 lashes in 2016 for being drunk.

It wasn’t so bad, he said. He bribed the flogger to go easy on him.

Economic collapse didn’t hurt them as badly as it did poorer Sudanese, but they hated the way the Bashir government robbed them of opportunity, and provided regular reminders of their country’s humiliating isolation.

In Sudan, American sanctions mean that Netflix, Spotify and many other internet services are blocked, credit cards don’t work and international franchises are absent. One popular coffee shop in Khartoum is called Starbox, with a version of the Starbucks black-and-green logo.

They watched friends move abroad to make a better life.

“Sudan was like a hell,” Ms. Elgizouli said. “No hope, no freedom, no jokes.”

The couple’s friendship turned to romance during the final push against Mr. al-Bashir in early April. They lay on the ground together as gunfire erupted outside the military compound, and rejoiced when the dictator fell.

Now they hold hands freely as they pass through the crowd. “This is the new Sudan, the one we dreamed of,” Ms. Elgizouli said.

The differences of religion and ethnicity that Mr. al-Bashir exploited to cement his authority are being blurred or erased. A train packed with jubilant revolutionaries arrived from Atbara, 175 miles to the north, last week. On Tuesday a cavalcade arrived from distant Darfur.

“People feel more at peace with each other,” said Ms. Mohamed, the engineer. “There’s a sense of unity.”

Sudan’s new freedoms are fragile, and whether they can endure is unclear. Power-sharing talks between protest leaders and the military, now in their fourth week, have become tense in recent days. Outside the protest bubble, supporters of the old government are waiting and watching.

Some say the struggle has just begun. “It’s like you’re in a dark place and you can see a small light,” Ms. Elgizouli said. “We have a long road to freedom.”

A young protester using his flashlight to look at graffiti depicting the faces of protesters killed in the clashes with the riot police and military before the fall of President Omar al-Bashir.CreditBryan Denton for The New York Times

Declan Walsh is the Cairo bureau chief, covering Egypt and the Middle East. He joined The Times in 2011 as Pakistan bureau chief, and previously worked at The Guardian. @declanwalsh

A version of this article appears New York edition with the headline: Romance Blooms in Midst of Bloody Revolution.


Ethiopian airline crash: family of Rwandan victim sue Boeing

The family of Jackson Musoni, a Rwandan, who died in the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 crash where 156 other passengers also died, has filed a lawsuit against Boeing Co. at a federal court in Chicago, where Boeing is headquartered. 

Boeing is accused of “defectively” designing “a new flight control system for the Boeing 737 Max 8 that automatically and erroneously pushes the aircraft’s nose down,” and of failing “to warn of the defect.” Boeing has declined comment on the lawsuit. 

The suit also claims that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) delegated authority to Boeing to approve portions of the aircraft certification process and assisted Boeing in rushing the delivery of the Max 8, which resulted in “several crucial flaws” in the safety analysis report Boeing ultimately delivered to the FAA. 

At a United States Congress hearing on Wednesday, the acting FAA administrator defended the government’s oversight approach. 

A Lion Air crash which happened months ago under similar circumstances as the Ethiopian Airline crash has also led different lawsuits against Boeing.

“Boeing, having knowledge of all the reports of dangerous conditions and the previous accident that killed over 150 people, should have taken steps to protect the flying public,” said Steve Marks, an attorney with the Miami-based law firm Podhurst Orseck, who is representing the Musoni family. “This accident happened when it should have never happened.” 

On Wednesday, Boeing announced a software update to the 737 Max fleet, which it said would prevent erroneous data from triggering the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) anti-stall system, which is suspected to have played a role in both crashes.  

Musoni, 31, was a field coordinator with the United Nations Refugee Agency based in East Darfur, Sudan. He was one of 19 U.N. aid workers and staffers who were on board Ethiopian Flight 302 that crashed on March 10.


This report was first published by The Nerve Africa. All rights reserved.

Cyclone Idai crisis takes deeper turn as cases of Cholera confirmed

Five people test positive for waterborne disease in flooded port city of Beira amid warnings outbreak will spread.

The first cases of cholera have been reported in the cyclone-ravaged Mozambican city of Beira, complicating an already massive and complex emergency in the southern African country.

The announcement of five cases of the waterborne disease follows days of mounting fears that cholera and other diseases could break out in the squalid conditions in which tens of thousands have been living since Cyclone Idai struck on 14 March, killing at least 700 people across the region.

The first cases of the disease were confirmed in Munhava, one of the poorest areas of the hard-hit port city of Beira, the national director of medical assistance, Ussene Isse, told reporters. The city of roughly 500,000 people is still struggling to provide clean water and sanitation.

“We did the lab tests and can confirm that these five people tested positive for cholera,” said Isse. “It will spread. When you have one case, you have to expect more cases in the community.”

The World Health Organization is dispatching 900,000 doses of oral cholera vaccine to affected areas from a global stockpile. The shipment is expected to be sent later this week.

Cyclone Idai smashed into Mozambique at about midnight on 14 March before tearing through neighbouring Zimbabwe and Malawi, displacing hundreds of thousands of people and flooding an area of 3,000 sq km.

Cholera has been a major concern for cyclone survivors now living in crowded camps, schools, churches and any land exposed by the still-draining flood waters. The disease is spread by contaminated food and water and can kill quickly.

Last week, the Guardian visited a number of areas, both in the city itself and outside, where those who had fled the storm and subsequent flooding were surviving by collecting standing water from the floods, including from puddles in the city, for cooking and cleaning.

The huge extent of the flooding in the countryside is also feared to have contaminated wells, which villages rely on for clean drinking water.

The disclosure of the cholera outbreak follows a warning by the WHO of a “second disaster” if waterborne diseases like cholera spread in the devastated region.

Mozambique’s president, Filipe Nyusi, was to address the nation on Wednesday afternoon about how his government is responding to the cyclone, which has killed more than 460 people in the country and left 1.8 million people in need of urgent help.

After flying over the vast, flooded plains of central Mozambique early last week, Nyusi estimated that 1,000 people had been killed. The toll could be higher, with some emergency responders warning that more bodies will be found as floodwaters drain away. They said the actual figure may never be known.

Cyclone Idai destroyed most parts of Beira. Photo: Karel Prinsloo/DEC

Health workers were opening clinics across Beira, the centre of relief operations for the region.

Underlining fears of more outbreaks of disease, Gert Verdonck, emergency coordinator for Médecins Sans Frontières in Beira, said: “The scale of extreme damage will likely lead to a dramatic increase of waterborne diseases, skin infections, respiratory tract infections and malaria in the coming days and weeks.

“The cyclone substantially damaged the city’s water supply system, resulting in many people having no access to clean drinking water. This means that they have no option but to drink from contaminated wells. Some people are even resorting to drinking stagnant water by the side of the road.

“This, of course, results in an increase of patients suffering from diarrhoea. The MSF-supported health centres have seen hundreds of patients with acute watery diarrhoea in the past few days.”

Unicef, the UN children’s agency, said parts of the city’s water supply system were working again, with “water running in 60% of the pipes”. The government is also operating water trucks.

Relief operators continue to explore ways to deliver aid to the city, which is reachable almost solely by air and sea. More challenging still is getting to rural communities, some of which have had no contact with the outside world since the cyclone hit.

More humanitarianworkers are arriving, as the UN urges the international community to fund a $282m (£213m) emergency appeal for the next three months.


SOURCE: The Guardian, Africa

Ethiopian Airlines crash: all you need to know as 30 nations grieve for victims

The crash of Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 from Addis Ababa to Nairobi is a tragedy that threatens to leave fresh questions hanging over the aircraft manufacturer Boeing.

Few details about the crash are yet available, but according to Ethiopian Airlines the pilot, who was experienced with an excellent flying record, reported difficulties and asked to turn back.

Africa’s aviation safety record has never been good, though Ethiopian has been regarded as an exception. Technical experts from Boeing are standing by for an international investigation into a crash that involved passengers from at least 32 countries.

Here are all we know so far

Carriers ground Boeing 737 Max 8 jets in wake of disaster

Ethiopian Airlines joins China and Cayman Islands in suspending use of the new jets following second tragedy in four months

A man carries a piece of debris on his head at the crash site of a Nairobi-bound Ethiopian Airlines flight near Bishoftu Photograph: Michael Tewelde/AFP/Getty Images

Ethiopian Airlines has joined carriers in China and the Cayman Islands in suspending the use of Boeing 737 Max 8 jets in the wake of a crash that killed all 157 people on board on Sunday.

Ethiopian Airlines flight ET 302, on its way to Nairobi from Addis Ababa, crashed six minutes after take-off, ploughing into a field near Tulu Fara village outside the town of Bishoftu, 40 miles south-east of the Ethiopian capital.

The disaster was the second involving the new aircraft in the last four months. In October, a Lion Air plane crashed into the sea off the Indonesian capital of Jakarta, killing all 189 onboard.

“Following the tragic accident of ET 302 … Ethiopian Airlines has decided to ground all B-737-8 MAX fleet effective yesterday, March 10, until further notice,” the state-owned carrier said in a statement released on Twitter on Monday.

“Although we don’t yet know the cause of the accident, we have to decide to ground the particular fleet as an extra safety precaution,” said the airline, which is Africa’s largest.

The move came after China’s aviation authorities ordered the country’s airlines to ground their Boeing 737 Max 8 jets.

The cause of the crash is unknown, but Cayman Airlines also suspended operations of its two Boeing 737 Max 8 planes while investigations continued.

The civil aviation administration of China (CAAC) issued a notice on Monday at 9am local time ordering domestic airlines to suspend the commercial operation of the Boeing 737- Max 8 aircraft before 6pm.

Referring to the Boeing 737 Max 8 as a Boeing 737-8, the CAAC said it made the decision “in view of the fact that the two air crashes were newly delivered Boeing 737-8 aircraft” and had “certain similarities.” 

The regulator said the grounding of the planes was “in line with our principle of zero tolerance for safety hazards and strict control of safety risks”. The CAAC said it would be contacting US aviation authorities and Boeing before restoring flights of the aircraft.

Roughly 60 of the Boeing 737 Max 8 planes have been delivered to about a dozen Chinese airlines since the new craft was released. Chinese carriers make up about 20% of deliveries of the model through January, according to Bloomberg. On Monday, two Chinese airlines told the Guardian they had begun using Boeing 737-800 aircraft instead of the Max 8.

Cayman Airways, which also flies the Boeing 737 Max 8 craft, also announced it would ground the planes while the investigation into the crash was ongoing. Cayman Airways president and chief executive Fabian Whorms said the airline was “putting the safety of our passengers and crew first”.

More than 300 Boeing 737-MAX planes are in operation and more than 5,000 have been ordered worldwide since 2017.

In Britain, the holiday operator Tui Airways ordered 32 Max aircraft as part of a major fleet overhaul and took delivery of its first Max 8 in December. Tui was the first UK-registered airline to receive one of the new Boeing aircraft and plans to roll out its orders over the next five years.

Based at Manchester Airport, the planes are due to ferry passengers to a range of holiday destinations from the north-west. The carrier’s German parent company is reported to have bought 54 Max 8s.

Several airlines told the Guardian they did not intend to ground their flights, including Fiji Airways, which said it had “full confidence in the airworthiness of our fleet.”

BOC Aviation, an aircraft leasing company based in Singapore, which has five Boeing Max 8, 9 and 10 aircraft in service with lessees and another 90 on order said they had “no intention of grounding aircraft at this stage or changing our aircraft orders. The data available is limited and we can’t speculate on [what] might have been the cause of the crash.”

30 nations grieve for victims of Ethiopian Airlines crash

UN a ‘house in mourning’ as 19 staff members die along with 32 Kenyan citizens, 18 from Canada and seven Britons

Joanna Toole was the first British victim of the plane crash to be named. Photograph: Facebook

Three young Austrian doctors, an environmental campaigner from Devon, a former Nigerian ambassador and the wife and children of a Slovak legislator, have been named among the 157 people killed after Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 from Addis Ababa to Nairobi crashed shortly after takeoff.

The plane contained passengers from more than 30 nationalities including 32 Kenyan citizens, 18 from Canada, nine from Ethiopia, eight from Italy, China and the US and seven from the UK and France.

Many of the passengers were en route to the United Nations environment assembly in Nairobi, which starts on Monday. At least 19 people affiliated with the organisation were killed. Not all of the victims have been named so far but stories about those onboard were starting to emerge on Monday.

‘In deep grief’

A lawmaker from Slovakia said his wife, daughter and son were killed in the crash. Anton Hrnko, a legislator for the ultra-nationalist Slovak National Party, said he was “in deep grief” over the deaths of his wife, Blanka, son, Martin, and daughter, Michala. Their ages were not immediately available. President Andrej Kiska offered his condolences to Hrnko.

Kenya had the largest number of victims, including Hussein Swaleh, the former secretary general of the Football Kenya Federation who was due to return home on the flight after working as the match commissioner in an African Champions League game in Egypt on Friday.

Another Kenyan on the flight was Cedric Asiavugwa, a law student at Georgetown University in Washington, DC. Asiavugwa, who was born and raised in Mombassa, was on his way to Nairobi after the death of his fiancee’s mother. Before he came to Georgetown, he worked with groups helping refugees in Zimbabwe, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, the university said.

At least seven Britons were on the flight, the British Foreign Office has confirmed.

The first British victim to be named was Joanna Toole, a 36-year-old environmental campaigner from Exmouth, Devon, who worked for the fisheries and aquaculture department of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

The department’s director, Manuel Barange, tweeted that he was “profoundly sad and lost for words” over the death of his colleague. He said she had been travelling to Nairobi to represent the FAO at the UN environment assembly.

Barange said Toole was “a wonderful human being who loved her work with a passion. Our love to her family and loved ones.”

Toole’s Facebook profile states that she lived in Rome, where the FAO is based.

Her father, Adrian, told Devon Live: “Joanna’s work was not a job, it was her vocation. She had never really wanted to do anything else but work in animal welfare since she was a child. Everybody was very proud of her and the work she did; we’re still in a state of shock.”

The family of Joseph Waithaka, a Kenyan and British dual national, said the 55-year-old had died in the crash.

His son Ben Kuria told the BBC his father, who had lived in Hull for more than a decade before moving back to Kenya, was a “generous” man who “loved justice”.

Waithaka, who had worked for the Humberside Probation Trust, saw his son on Saturday in Croydon, London, before flying to Kenya via Addis Ababa.

“I gave him a hug and shook his hand, because in my culture it’s more about the handshake than it is about the hug,” Kuria told BBC News. “I said we’ll probably see you at some point soon. We usually spend a bit more time saying goodbye, but yesterday it kind of just felt routine.”

Abiodun Oluremi Bashu, an ambassador from Nigeria, was also killed in the crash. The Nigerian ministry of foreign affairs said it received the news of his death “with great shock”.

After joining the Nigerian foreign service in 1976, Bashu served in embassies around the world including Vienna, Austria, Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire and Tehran, Iran. He also served as secretary to the Conference of Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. At the time of his death, Bashu was on contract with the United Nations Economic Commission of Africa.

Michael Ryan. Photograph: World Food Programme/PA

One Irish national was killed; Michael Ryan, a father of two who worked for the UN’s World Food Programme. Ryan, who was based in Rome, was global deputy chief engineer for the aid agency and had been on a work trip in Ethiopia.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar paid tribute to Ryan on Twitter, saying: “Our thoughts tonight are with families of all those lost in the Ethiopian Airlines crash, including Irish engineer Michael Ryan.

“Michael was doing life-changing work in Africa with the World Food Programme. Deepest sympathies to family, colleagues & friends.”

Pius Adesanmi, a Nigerian professor with Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, also died on the flight.

The author of “Naija No Dey Carry Last,” a collection of satirical essays, Adesanmi was described as a “towering figure in African and post-colonial scholarship” by Benoit-Antoine Bacon, Carleton’s president and vice chancellor.

Pius Adesanmi, a Nigerian professor with Carleton University in Ottowa, Canada, was the winner of the inaugural Penguin Prize for African non-fiction writing in 2010. Photograph: Josh Hotz/AP

Sebastiano Tusa, 66, a renowned Italian underwater archaeologist, was another killed, the Italian government said. He had been flying to Kenya for a project with Unesco.

In a tweet, Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte said: “We are united with the relatives of the victims and offer them our heartfelt thoughts.”

‘This is a house in mourning’

Austrian foreign ministry spokesman Peter Guschelbauer confirmed that three doctors in their early 30s were on board the flight. The men were on their way to Zanzibar, he said, but he could not confirm the purpose of their trip.

The Boeing 737 Max 8 plane was believed to be carrying 149 passengers and eight crew members en route to Nairobi when it hit the ground six minutes after departing Addis Ababa on Sunday morning.

Theresa May said she was “deeply saddened to hear of the devastating loss of life following the plane crash in Ethiopia”.

In a statement posted to Twitter, the prime minister said: “At this very difficult time my thoughts are with the families and friends of the British citizens on board and all those affected by this tragic incident.”

The spokesman for the UN secretary general, António Guterres, said he was “deeply saddened at the tragic loss of lives”.

“He conveys his heartfelt sympathies and solidarity to the victims’ families and loved ones, including those of United Nations staff members, as well as sincere condolences to the government and people of Ethiopia,” the spokesman said. “The United Nations is in contact with the Ethiopian authorities and working closely with them to establish the details of United Nations personnel who lost their lives in this tragedy.”

Inger Andersen, the incoming head of UN environment, told the Guardian the organisation was “devastated”.

“This is a house in mourning but a house that doesn’t yet know all the facts.”

Justin Trudeau, the Canadian prime minister, said in a statement he joins the international community in mourning the lives of so many. He says the Canadian government is providing consular assistance and working with local authorities to gather further information.

UK investigators from the Air Accidents Investigation Branch are likely to be communicating with their counterparts in Ethiopia to keep next of kin informed.

How ‘excellent’ pilot was unable to avert disaster

The scene of the crash near the town of Bishoftu, south-east of Addis Ababa. Photograph: Tiksa Negeri/Reuters

Aviation authorities have begun investigating how a new Boeing plane with an experienced pilot crashed minutes after takeoff from Addis Ababa on Sunday, killing all 157 people on board.

The destruction of Ethiopian Airlines flight ET 302, which was on its way to Nairobi, is the second calamity involving a Boeing 737 Max 8, a new model that experienced a similar accident in Indonesia in October.

The largest number of the victims were Kenyans. At least seven Britons were on the flight, which left Bole airport at 8.38am local time (5.38am GMT).

At least 19 people affiliated with the United Nations were among those killed, according to the UN migration agency chief. Many were delegates on their way to the UN environment assembly, which starts in Nairobi on Monday. Eighteen Canadians also died.

The pilot said he was experiencing technical problems and asked to return to the airport. The control tower lost contact with the aircraft at 8.44am. Wreckage was later discovered near the town of Bishoftu, 39 miles (62km) south-east of the Ethiopian capital.

The flight tracking website Flightradar24 tweeted that the plane had unstable vertical speed after takeoff.

The cause of the accident is not yet known. The Ethiopian Airlines chief executive, Tewolde GebreMariam, said routine maintenance had revealed no problems with the plane, and the captain Yared Getachew had flown more than 8,000 hours with an “excellent flying record”. The airline took delivery of the plane in November.

“As I said, it is a brand new airplane with no technical remarks, flown by a senior pilot and there is no cause that we can attribute at this time,” he told reporters.

Questions have been raised about the safety of the Boeing 737 Max 8, which has been in commercial operation since 2016. The same model was involved in the Lion Air crash, where a jet plunged into the Java Sea soon after takeoff last year, killing 189 people.

More than 300 of these planes are in operation with different airlines. Ethiopian has six more. Asked whether they would be grounded, GebreMariam said no because “we don’t know the cause of the accident”.

Several airlines around the world fly the 737 Max 8. On Sunday night reports said China had asked its local airlines to temporarily ground the planes.

In a statement, the airline said it would conduct a forensic investigation in conjunction with officials from Boeing, the Ethiopian civil aviation authority, the Ethiopian transport authority other international bodies.

The plane contained passengers from more than 30 nationalities. According to the airline, Kenya had 32, Canada 18, Ethiopia nine, Italy, China and the US eight each, the UK and France seven each, Egypt six, the Netherlands five, India and Slovakia four each, Sweden and Russia three each and other countries one or two.

Sebastiano Tusa, 66, a renowned Italian archaeologist, was among those killed, the Italian government said. He had been flying to Kenya for a project with Unesco.

A Slovakian MP, Anton Hrnko, wrote on Facebook that his wife, son and daughter had all been killed in the crash. “It is with deep sorrow that I announce that my dear wife, Blanka, son Martin and daughter Michala, died in the air disaster in Addis Ababa this morning.”

Kenyan authorities offered support to families and friends waiting at Nairobi airport. The transport secretary, James Macharia, said they would be transported to an emergency centre at a nearby hotel. “It is a very sensitive emotional matter,” he said.

Earlier many people had been waiting at the arrival gate with no information.

“We’re just waiting for my mum. We’re just hoping she took a different flight or was delayed. She’s not picking up her phone,” said Wendy Otieno.

Robert Mudanta, 46, was waiting for his brother-in-law coming from Canada. “We haven’t seen anyone from the airline or the airport,” he told Reuters more than three hours after the flight was lost. “Nobody has told us anything. We are just standing here hoping for the best.”

Four of those on board were travelling on UN passports. . “Early indications are that 19 staff members of UN affiliated organizations perished,” said International Organization for Migration head Antonio Vitorino.

“Numerous other staff members from at least five UN and affiliated organizations are understood to have also perished,” he said.

Inger Anderson, the incoming head of UN environment, told the Guardian: “We’re devastated by what transpired. Obviously many of our partners and colleagues are deeply impacted. This is a house in mourning but a house that doesn’t yet know all the facts.” The assembly’s organisers have shared details of emergency hotlines with delegates.

Several prominent humanitarian workers were among the victims, including International Committee for the Development of Peoples founder Paolo Dieci; three members of Italian humanitarian organisation Africa Tremila, including the president Carlo Spini, his wife, and treasurer Matteo Ravasio; and Save the Children child protection in emergencies adviser Tamirat Mulu Demessie.

The Ethiopian prime minister’s office sent condolences via Twitter to the families of those lost in the crash.

Justin Trudeau, the Canadian prime minister, said the crash was “devastating”.

Under international rules, responsibility for leading the crash investigation lies with Ethiopia but the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) will also participate because the plane was designed and built in the United States.

Representatives of Boeing and Cincinnati-based engine-maker CFM, a joint venture between General Electric and the French company Safran, will advise the NTSB.

The aircraft had shattered into many pieces and was severely burnt, a Reuters reporter at the scene of the crash said. Clothing and personal effects were scattered widely over the field where the plane came down.

An eyewitness told AFP the plane came down in flames. “The plane was already on fire when it crashed to the ground. The crash caused a big explosion,” Tegegn Dechasa recounted at the site. “I was near the river near the crash site. Shortly after the crash police and a fire crew from a nearby air force camp came and extinguished the plane’s flames on the ground.”

He added: “The plane was in flames in its rear side shortly before the crash. The plane was swerving erratically before the crash.”

The cause of the earlier crash involving a Boeing 737 Max 8 in Indonesia is still under investigation. A preliminary report focused on airline maintenance and training, as well as the response of a Boeing anti-stall system to a recently replaced sensor, but did not give a reason for the crash. Since then, the cockpit voice recorder was recovered and a final report is due later this year.

State-owned Ethiopian is one of the biggest carriers in Africa by fleet size. It said previously that it expected to carry 10.6 million passengers last year. Its last major crash was in January 2010, when a flight from Beirut went down shortly after takeoff.

The airline is in the middle of an expansion, aiming to double its fleet to 120 and become Africa’s biggest airline by 2025. It has tripled its passenger numbers over the past decade. A new terminal recently opened at Bole, tripling the airport’s size.

Additional reporting by Lorenzo Tondo

Second new Boeing 737 to crash in four months

Confidence that a newer plane inevitably means a safer plane in danger of being shaken

An Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8. Photograph: EPA

The crash of Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 from Addis Ababa to Nairobi is a tragedy that threatens to leave fresh questions hanging over the aircraft manufacturer Boeing.

Few details about the crash are yet available, but according to Ethiopian Airlines the pilot, who was experienced with an excellent flying record, reported difficulties and asked to turn back.

Africa’s aviation safety record has never been good, though Ethiopian has been regarded as an exception. Technical experts from Boeing are standing by for an international investigation into a crash that involved passengers from at least 32 countries.

The Boeing 737 MAX 8, a brand new plane only registered in November, disappeared from the radar six minutes into the flight. Immediate comparisons have been drawn with Lion Air flight 610, which crashed just over four months ago, killing 189 people. Flight data showed erratic climbs and descents before the plane, also a MAX 8, came down 12 minutes after takeoff from Jakarta.

More than 300 Boeing 737-MAX planes are in operation and more than 5,000 have been ordered worldwide since 2017. It is the latest iteration of the 737, the world’s bestselling plane, ever more capable of flying autonomously.

Autonomy, however, can bring problems. It is notable that insurers considering driverless cars worry most about the period when highly autonomous vehicles will coexist with human drivers, the uncertain interface between human and artificial intelligence.

Pilots worldwide were angered after the Lion Air crash that subtle software modifications to the MAX 8’s autopilot had not been fully communicated. Nor were they made the subject of mandatory pilot retraining.

The new plane automatically compensates if it believes its angle puts it at a risk of stalling, a safety feature that worked in a slightly different way to that which 737 pilots were used to. Lion Air’s black box suggested the pilots of flight 610 had been wrestling with this issue.

Boeing argued that if pilots followed existing procedures, there should be no danger. Past crashes, however, and most famously the AirFrance flight 447 disaster in the south Atlantic, have shown that the sensors on which aircraft computer systems rely can malfunction, and that pilots who have grown to trust the technology can become rapidly bewildered when things go wrong. All too human reactions led to disaster.

The aviation industry has boasted that it is safer than ever in recent years, and the International Air Transport Association reported no accidents involving a modern commercial passenger jet over several years this decade. Turboprops and old cargo planes might fail, but the worst disasters were ascribed to deliberate acts – terrorist attacks, pilot suicide, Russian missiles – or, in the case of MH370, left unexplained.

Emerging details from Ethiopia may quickly show a specific cause that is completely unrelated to any issues at Lion Air or to the new 737. Boeing and the Federal Aviation Authority, which regulates the company, will hope so. Confidence that a newer plane automatically means a safer plane is in danger of being shaken.

SOURCE: The Guardian, UK/NYT/Sky News/Al Jazeera

Malian and French soldiers on patrol in Mali, where France has been aiding counter-insurgency efforts.

Alleged killed Malian jihadist leader is alive

Amadou Koufa appears in video three months after French armed forces minister declared him ‘neutralised’

Malian and French soldiers on patrol in Mali, where France has been aiding counter-insurgency efforts.
Malian and French soldiers on patrol in Mali, where France has been aiding counter-insurgency efforts. Photo: Benoit Tessier/Reuters

A senior jihadist leader in Mali whom France said it had killed last November survived the attack and appears in a new propaganda video mocking French and Malian forces.

The French armed forces minister, Florence Parly, told parliament a few days after the 22 November raid that Amadou Koufa, a radical preacher and senior leader of a militant group linked to al-Qaida, was one of 35 fighters who had been “neutralised”.

Mali’s army also said Koufa had been killed, in what was seen as a blow to Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM), Mali’s strongest Islamist militant group.

But Koufa, sporting a white turban and dyed red beard, appears in a video published by Mauritanian media and circulated on social media this week, in which he mocks the claims that he has been killed.

According to the US-based SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadist websites and confirmed the video’s authenticity, Koufa tells an interviewer that the announcement of his survival was delayed “to observe political reactions … to design the best plans to deal with them in the media, politically and on the ground”.

A spokesman for France’s army chief of staff said authorities were in the process of authenticating the video. A Malian army spokesman declined to comment.

Parly said last week French forces had killed Yahia Abou Hamman, JNIM’s number two, in a raid on 21 February.

Violence by jihadist groups has proliferated in the scrublands of the west African Sahel in recent years, with groups linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State using central and northern Mali as a launchpad for attacks across the largely desert region.

French forces intervened in Mali, a former French colony, in 2013 to push back a jihadist advance but the militants have since regrouped. Some 4,500 French troops remain based in the wider Sahel, most of them in Mali.

SOURCE: The Guardian, UK


About 60 miners are thought to have been inside the mine in Kadoma, northern Zimbabwe. Photograph: Philimon Bulawayo/Reuters

Zimbabwe gold miners trapped after flood

Relatives of more than 40 illegal workers say there is little chance of saving them.

About 60 miners are thought to have been inside the mine in Kadoma, northern Zimbabwe. Photograph: Philimon Bulawayo/Reuters
About 60 miners are thought to have been inside the mine in Kadoma, northern Zimbabwe. Photo: Philimon Bulawayo/Reuters

More than 40 illegal gold miners are believed to have died in Zimbabwe after they were trapped deep underground following a flash flood.

Police, engineers and other miners have struggled since Tuesday to reach any survivors of the accident, which took place in the town of Kadoma, 125 miles (200km) west of the capital, Harare.

About 60 miners are thought to have been working at about 11pm local time (2100 GMT) on Tuesday when heavy rains sent a wave of water pouring into shafts that were up to 100 metres deep.

Relatives searching for their loved ones said they had lost hope on Friday.

Kazius Zvikiti, 94, said of his two missing sons, Xavier, 47, and Marlon, 35: “I am old and I was relying on my children for survival. I don’t know how I am going to survive without them.”

Charles Mwenye, a 41-year-old survivor, said four of his friends were inside the shaft. “I could have been the one trapped underground too,” he said. “When I was on my way out of the shaft, I saw a flood coming straight in … Thank God I am alive. The police came yesterday and today but nothing has been done. All my hope is lost now.”

Mwenye said he and his friends earned a living as illegal gold miners since 2015 in areas surrounding the northern province of Mashonaland West.

Zimbabwe’s economy has collapsed in recent years, forcing thousands to try to feed themselves and their families by excavating in areas abandoned by major commercial companies. It is dangerous and physically gruelling work.

Onlookers watch the rescue efforts.
Onlookers watch the rescue efforts. Photo: Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP

Kadoma and nearby areas are rich in gold deposits and popular with the artisanal miners who use picks and shovels and generator-powered water pumps. The makeshift shafts and tunnels can easily collapse in the rainy season when the ground is soft.

The miners, known locally as makorokoza, or hustlers, usually work at night using torches and can disappear into shafts and tunnels for more than two days.

The Centre for Natural Resource Governance (CNRG), a mining watchdog, blamed Zimbabwe’s environmental management agency for failing to protect lives by properly decommissioning disused mines. The NGO said the mine should have been sealed to avoid tragedies of this nature.

Lovejoy Mbedzi said her brother Evan Chibuwe, 29, has been missing since Wednesday. “I am very sad. This mine shaft is full of boys between the ages of 18 and 30. They are so young and don’t deserve to die in this manner,” she said.

Trapped miners have no funeral cover and relatives are pleading for government assistance. “I don’t have a funeral policy, burying my child will be very difficult,” said Idah Gwangwari, 60, who lost her son Donald, 20.

“I’ve been waiting since the day he went missing , hoping he would come back to me.”

Gold is the largest foreign currency earner for the struggling Zimbabwean economy and this makes illegal gold mining attractive to unemployed young people.

Fatal mine accidents occur frequently, though rarely on this scale.

Illegal gold miners last year contributed significantly to the record bullion output of 33 tonnes in the southern African nation. They sell their gold to a central bank subsidiary or private buyers.

Raab resigns as Britain’s Brexit minister

British leader Theresa May suffered a huge blow on Thursday when a series of ministers including her Brexit secretary quit as she tried to sell her proposed EU withdrawal agreement to a divided parliament.

Dominic Raab resigned from his role at the Brexit ministry while a second cabinet minister and two junior government ministers also walked out over the draft deal.

But May insisted that while the negotiations had not been comfortable, it was the best Britain could hope for when it leaves the EU on March 29.

“If we get behind a deal we can bring our country back together and seize the opportunities that lie ahead,” she told lawmakers.

“The British people want us to get this done.

“The course is clear: we can choose to leave with no deal, we can risk no Brexit at all or we can choose to unite and support the best deal that can be negotiated.”

‘I must resign’ 
EU leaders will hold an extraordinary Brexit summit on November 25.

If they approve the agreement, the British parliament is scheduled to vote on it in early December.

But May faces stiff opposition to her agreement in the legislature from Brexit hardliners who see the deal as conceding too much to Brussels and EU supporters who want closer ties to the EU or a second referendum.

Before May spoke to MPs, Raab said he could not back the draft deal.

“I cannot reconcile the terms of the proposed deal with the promises we made to the country in our manifesto,” he said.

“You deserve a Brexit secretary who can make the case for the deal you are pursuing with conviction.

“I must resign.”

Brexit hardliner Esther McVey also quit as the work and pensions secretary.

“We have gone from no deal is better than a bad deal, to any deal is better than no deal. I cannot defend this, and I cannot vote for this deal,” she said.

Suella Braverman quit as a junior Brexit minister and Shailesh Vara resigned as a junior Northern Ireland minister over the draft accord.

In parliament, Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the main opposition Labour Party, told May: “The government must now withdraw this half-baked deal”.

“This is not the deal the country was promised,” he said.

Pound plunges 
The pound plunged against the dollar and euro as Britain’s business sector gave a lukewarm verdict to the proposed agreement.

At 1000 GMT, the pound was worth around $1.2784, compared with almost $1.30 late Wednesday. The euro meanwhile jumped to 88.26 pence, a gain of 1.3 percent.

May had secured her cabinet’s collective approval for the agreement during a five-hour meeting on Wednesday, an important step that helped allay growing fears in the business community of a disorderly divorce.

May’s governing centre-right Conservative Party — which does not command a Commons majority — was already split between Brexiteers and those who wanted to remain in the union, and now many on both sides of that divide oppose her deal.

The outraged response by many MPs to the deal has heightened concerns that even when finalised, it will not pass parliament.

May told MPs: “Delivering Brexit involves difficult choices for all of us.

“What we agreed yesterday was not the final deal. It is a draft treaty that means that we will leave the EU in a smooth and orderly way.

“I do not pretend that this has been a comfortable process or that either we or the EU are entirely happy.”

Special summit planned 
Speaking in Brussels, EU President Donald Tusk said EU member states would have until Tuesday next week to examine the deal and to agree the wording of a parallel political statement setting out goals for the bloc’s future relations with London.

Ater that, preparations will begin for an EU summit on the following Sunday to sign the deal.

“As much as I am sad to see you leave, I will do everything to make this farewell the least painful possible, both for you and for us,” said Tusk.

The deal covers citizens’ rights, Britain’s financial settlement and plans for a post-Brexit transition period during which both sides hope to agree a new trade deal.

The most controversial element is the “backstop” plan to keep Britain in a customs union with the EU until a trade deal is agreed that avoids the need for border checks with Ireland.

Many Brexiteers fear this would leave Britain a “vassal state”, tied to the bloc indefinite


Cover Photo; In this file photo taken on August 31, 2018 Britain’s Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab gives a joint press conference with EU Chief Brexit Negotiator at the European Commission in Brussels. – British Prime Minister Theresa May suffered a huge blow on November 15, 2018 as Dominic Raab quit as her Brexit secretary, saying he “must resign” over the proposed EU withdrawal agreement. Photo;  Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP.

Slavery is an ‘indelible stain’ – Prince Charles

The Prince of Wales has acknowledged Britain’s role in the transatlantic slave trade but stopped short of giving an official apology, which is likely to disappoint campaigners who have long called on the British Royal Family to do so.

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Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne and next head of the Commonwealth, is in West Africa, and in a speech to a conference in Ghana’s capital, Accra, he said:

Quote Message: The appalling atrocity of the slave trade and the unimaginable suffering it caused left an indelible stain on the history of the world.

Quote Message: While Britain can be proud that it later led the way in the abolition of this shameful trade, we have a shared responsibility to ensure that the abject horror of slavery is never forgotten, that we uphold the existence of modern slavery and human trafficking and that we robustly promote and defend the values which today make it incomprehensible for most of us that human beings could ever treat each other with such utter inhumanity.”

Britain outlawed the slave trade in 1833. It has never apologised for its role in slavery.

Reparations to the tune of $22bn (£17bn) in today’s money were paid to former slave owners to compensate them for the loss of their human property. But slaves themselves did not receive reparations nor have their descendants.

British taxpayers’ money was used pay off the 46,000 or so former slaver owners, and these payments only ended in 2015.


SOURCE: BBC Africa

Cover photo: Ghana is the latest stop on Prince Charles’ tour of West Africa. Photo: Reuters

Amal Hussain, who died at age 7. “My heart is broken,” her mother said. Photo: Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

The girl who brought world’s attention to the famine in Yemen is dead

A haunted look in the eyes of Amal Hussain, an emaciated 7-year-old lying silently on a hospital bed in northern Yemen, seemed to sum up the dire circumstances of her war-torn country.

Amal Hussain, who died at age 7. “My heart is broken,” her mother said. Photo: Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

A searing portrait of the starving girl published in The New York Times last week drew an impassioned response from readers. They expressed heartbreak. They offered money for her family. They wrote in to ask if she was getting better.

On Thursday, Amal’s family said she had died at a ragged refugee camp four miles from the hospital.

“My heart is broken,” said her mother, Mariam Ali, who wept during a phone interview. “Amal was always smiling. Now I’m worried for my other children.”

The grievous human cost of the Saudi-led war in Yemen has jumped to the top of the global agenda as the outcry over the killing of the Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi prompts Western leaders to re-examine their support for the war.

Recently, the United States and Britain, Saudi Arabia’s biggest arms suppliers, called for a cease-fire in Yemen. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said it should take effect within 30 days. “We have got to move toward a peace effort here, and we can’t say we are going to do it some time in the future,” Mr. Mattis said on Tuesday.

Riveting images of malnourished Yemenis like Amal — one of 1.8 million severely malnourished children in Yemen — have put a human face to fears that a catastrophic man-made famine could engulf the country in the coming months.

The United Nations warns that the number of Yemenis relying on emergency rations, eight million, could soon rise to 14 million. That’s about half Yemen’s population.

Aid workers and now political leaders are calling for a cessation of hostilities, as well as emergency measures to revive the battered economy of Yemen, where soaring food prices have pushed millions to the brink.

On a trip to Yemen to see the toll the war has taken, we found Amal at a health center in Aslam, 90 miles northwest of the capital, Sana. She was lying on a bed with her mother. Nurses fed her every two hours with milk, but she was vomiting regularly and suffered from diarrhea.

Dr. Mekkia Mahdi, the doctor in charge, sat by her bed, stroking her hair. She tugged on the flaccid skin of Amal’s stick-like arms. “Look,” she said. “No meat. Only bones.”

Amal being treated for acute malnutrition last month at a mobile clinic in Aslam, Yemen. Photo: Tyler Hicks/The New York Times
Amal being treated for acute malnutrition last month at a mobile clinic in Aslam, Yemen. Photo: Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

Amal’s mother was also sick, recovering from a bout of dengue fever that she had most likely contracted from mosquitoes that breed in stagnant water in their camp.

Saudi airstrikes had forced Amal’s family to flee their home in the mountains three years ago. The family was originally from Saada, a province on the border with Saudi Arabia that has borne the brunt of at least 18,000 Saudi-led airstrikes in Yemen since 2015. Saada is also the homeland of the Houthi rebels who control northern Yemen, and are seen by the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, as a proxy for rival Iran.

The geopolitics of the war seemed distant, however, in the hushed hunger wards in Aslam.

Amal is Arabic for “hope,” and some readers expressed hope that the graphic image of her distress could help galvanize attention on a war in which tens of thousands of civilians have died from violence, hunger or disease. Last year, Yemen suffered the largest cholera epidemic in modern times, with over a million cases.

Amal was discharged from the hospital in Aslam last week, still sick. But doctors needed to make room for new patients, Dr. Mahdi said. “This was a displaced child who suffered from disease and displacement,” she said. “We have many more cases like her.”

The family took Amal back home, to a hut fashioned from straw and plastic sheeting, at a camp where relief agencies do provide some help, including sugar and rice. But it was not enough to save Amal.

Her condition deteriorated, with frequent bouts of vomiting and diarrhea, her mother said. On Oct. 26, three days after she was discharged from the hospital, she died.

Dr. Mahdi had urged Amal’s mother to take the child to a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Abs, about 15 miles away.

But the family was broke. Fuel prices have risen about 50 percent in the past year, part of a broader economic collapse, and that has pushed even short, potentially lifesaving journeys beyond the reach of many families.

“I had no money to take her to the hospital,” Ms. Ali said. “So I took her home.”


Reporting was contributed by Fuad Shaif al Kadas in Sana and Saeed Al-Batati in Al Mukalla, Yemen.

Cover photo: Amal Hussain, who died at age 7. “My heart is broken,” her mother said. Photo: Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

Students make world’s first brick out of human urine

The bio-brick created by students in Cape Town mixes urine with sand and bacteria, which they say is a world first.

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Students in South Africa have created the world’s first brick made from human urine.

The bio-brick was produced by students from Cape Town, who collected urine from specially designed male urinals at the university’s engineering building and mixed it with sand and bacteria.

Bio-bricks are made in moulds at room temperature, removing the need for high temperature kilns. Nitrogen and potassium, which are crucial for commercial fertilisers, are created as by-products during the process.

“In this example you take something that is considered a waste and make multiple products from it. You can use the same process for any waste stream. It’s about rethinking things,” said Dr Dyllon Randall, a senior lecturer in water quality engineering at the University of Cape Town, who supervised the project.

The idea of using urea to grow bio-bricks has previously been tested in the US using synthetic products, but UCT master’s student Suzanne Lambert is the first to use real human urine to make a brick, according to the university.

Bio-bricks are created through a natural process called microbial carbonate precipitation, said Randall, similar to the way seashells are formed. Loose sand, which has been colonised with bacteria that produces urease, is mixed with the urine. Urease breaks down the urea in the urine, producing calcium carbonate, which cements the sand into shape.

While regular bricks are kiln-fired at temperatures of 1,400C and produce large amounts of carbon dioxide, the bio-bricks do not require heat.

“If a client wanted a brick stronger than a 40% limestone brick, you would allow the bacteria to make the solid stronger by ‘growing’ it for longer,” said Randall.

“The longer you allow the little bacteria to make the cement, the stronger the product is going to be. We can optimise that process,” added Randall.

The urine is collected from fertiliser-producing urinals, which are also used to make a solid fertiliser. The remaining liquid is used to grow the bio-brick.

Randall described urine as liquid gold. By volume, urine accounts for less than 1% of domestic waste water, but it contains 80% of the nitrogen, 56% of the phosphorus and 63% of the potassium found in waste water.

The vast majority of the phosphorus present in the urine can be converted into calcium phosphate, a crucial ingredient in fertilisers, but one that is depleting in supply.

“Given the progress made in the research here at UCT, creating a truly sustainable construction material is now a possibility,” said Vukheta Mukhari, a civil engineering honours student who worked with Lambert.

Some 400,000 people fled Burundi in 2015, the UN says

Burundi boycotts final round of peace talks

Burundi’s government is boycotting a final round of peace talks to end a political crisis that erupted three years ago.

Some 400,000 people fled Burundi in 2015, the UN says

The talks in the Tanzanian town of Arusha are meant to heal the deep divisions that emerged after President Pierre Nkurunziza stood for a controversial third term in 2015.

A crackdown on opposition protests led to more than 1,000 people being killed and there was a failed coup plot in the same year

The government has said it is not sending anyone to Arusha because October is a month of mourning in Burundi.

A former prime minister was killed in October 1961 and a former president was assassinated during the same month in 1993.

But for many Burundians, this is a strange excuse to skip an event which is meant to heal deep political divisions.

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Pierre Nkurunziza, who has been president since 2005, says he will step down in 2020. Photo: AFP

Just last week the government accused an opposition leader of organising a plot to kill President Nkurunziza.

Pierre-Celestin Ndikumana dismissed the accusation as a crude plot to intimidate him.

The president says he will not run for office again but the political crisis remains unresolved.


Cover photo: Some 400,000 people fled Burundi in 2015, the UN says. Photo: Reuters

Erdogan wants Istanbul trial over ‘planned’ Khashoggi murder

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday called for the trial in Istanbul of the Saudi suspects in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a crime that he said was intricately planned days in advance.

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This handout photo released by Turkish President Office shows Turkish President and leader of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party Recep Tayyip Erdogan (C) is applauded after delivering his speech during his party’s parliamentary group meeting at the Grand National Assembly of Turkey in Ankara, on October 23, 2018. – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for 18 Saudi suspects in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi to stand trial in Istanbul, saying all those involved had to face punishment. (Photo by KAYHAN OZER and HO / TURKISH PRESIDENT OFFICE / AFP) / 

Erdogan had promised that his speech in Ankara would give the “naked truth” about the killing and he gave a host of new details while still saying Turkey wanted answers to key questions, including who gave the orders.

Hours before Erdogan delivered his speech to ruling party lawmakers, a major Saudi investment forum opened in Riyadh under the heavy shadow of the murder after key delegates pulled out.

The murder of the Washington Post contributor has damaged the international reputation of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who has spearheaded a reform drive in the kingdom.

“My demand is that 18 people be tried in Istanbul,” Erdogan said in a speech to ruling party lawmakers in Ankara, referring to 18 people including security officials who have already been detained by Riyadh.

He added that “all those who played a role in the murder” had to face punishment.

Erdogan said that the murder was “planned” days in advance according to a “roadmap” set up by a Saudi team who were sent to Istanbul for the purpose. The surveillance system at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul was deactivated on purpose, he said.

“First they (the Saudis implicated) removed the hard disc from the camera system,” Erdogan said. “This is a political murder,” he added.

But Erdogan added he still wanted answers on numerous issues including “who gave orders” to the team and where the corpse is.

Erdogan did not mention Prince Mohammed by name in the speech but said he was confident of the full cooperation of his father Saudi King Salman in the probe.

‘Must never happen again’ 
Saudi Arabia only confirmed the killing more than two weeks after the event. The killing has alarmed even Saudi Arabia’s staunchest Western allies.

US President Donald Trump said he was “not satisfied” with Riyadh’s explanations.

A former royal family insider turned critic of the Saudi crown prince, Khashoggi, 59, disappeared after he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2 to collect a document for his upcoming marriage.

The case has shone the spotlight on the crown prince, who was credited with reforms including giving women the right to drive but is now accused of having ordered Khashoggi’s murder — a claim Riyadh denies.

The timing of the controversy could not be worse for Prince Mohammed as the investment summit, dubbed “Davos in the desert”, began in Riyadh,big-named owned by big name cancellations and Erdogan’s threat of revelations.

Dozens of executives, including from banks Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan, ride-hailing app Uber and Western officials such as International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde have pulled out of the three-day Future Investment Initiative (FII).

French energy giant Total’s head Patrick Pouyanne, however, said he would attend the meeting, arguing that “empty chair politics” do not advance human rights.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Berlin would not export arms to Riyadh “in the current situation,” despite Germany’s approval last month of 416 million euros’ ($480 million) worth of arms exports in 2018.

Despite also pulling out of the summit, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin met the crown prince behind closed doors for bilateral talks in Riyadh. CIA Director Gina Haspel, meanwhile, headed for Turkey, although details of her trip were not immediately clear.

White House advisor and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, believed to have close ties with the crown prince, said he had urged him to be “fully transparent”, stressing that “the world is watching”.

Speaking in Jakarta, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir vowed “a thorough and complete investigation”. He said procedures would be put in place to “ensure that something like this can never happen again.”

Abandoned Saudi car 
With Khashoggi’s remains still missing, Turkish police have found an abandoned car belonging to the Saudi consulate in an underground car park in the Sultangazi district of Istanbul, state media said.

CNN broadcast images apparently showing a Saudi official playing a body double for Khashoggi, wearing the journalist’s clothes, exiting the consulate.


Cover Photo; Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Photo; The Guardian.

Mental illness is coming out of the shadows

The stigma of mental illness is fading. But it will take time for sufferers to get the treatment they need.

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FOR John Mooney, it was a career highlight. In March the Irish cricketer took a crucial catch that gave his team the victory in a World Cup match and eliminated the higher-ranked Zimbabwe. But afterwards the Zimbabwe Herald, a daily paper with links to Zanu-PF, the thuggish ruling party, claimed that Mr Mooney had lied when he said that his foot had not been touching the boundary, meaning the catch should have been disallowed. The article cited previous interviews in which the sportsman had spoken frankly about his long battles with drink, depression and suicidal thoughts. Under pressure, it claimed, a “man of such a character” could not be trusted to have “the honesty, let alone the decency” to tell the truth.

The prospect of such prejudice leads many with mental ailments to conceal their conditions and avoid seeking help. Even if they know better than to believe that mental illnesses are untreatable, or that all sufferers are delusional, they may fear being shunned by friends or employers. Many people think the mentally ill cannot work, but in reality few jobs are off-limits, and only for the most severe cases. (Someone suicidal should not be flying a plane.) What bothered Mr Mooney most about the Zimbabwe Herald article, he says, was that other sufferers might read it and decide never to risk letting anyone know. So he kept talking about his condition. The reaction was heartening. Messages of support and thanks are still coming in.

More people from all walks of life are opening up about mental illness, says Sophie Corlett of MIND, a British mental-health advocacy group. Campaigns by many governments and charities to get rid of the stigma are part of a virtuous circle in which each person who speaks out lessens ignorance and makes it easier for other sufferers to do so too. Only 13% of Britons surveyed in 2013 agreed that a history of mental illness should bar someone from public office, down from 21% five years earlier. The number who said that they would be willing to have a mentally ill co-worker or neighbour went up.

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With greater openness comes more understanding of just how common mental illness is. One in five working-age people in rich countries suffer from a mental condition each year. About a quarter of those suffer from severe illnesses, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, and the rest from less debilitating ones, such as mild depression or anxiety. But mental ailments are far less likely to receive treatment than physical ones. Over three-quarters of those suffering severe conditions, and over 90% of those with moderate ones, are treated by non-specialists or not at all (see chart 1). Lack of training means primary-care doctors miss some cases. Others go untreated because their conditions make it hard to push for referrals or deal with the insurance paperwork.

The resulting misery is huge. Put together, mental illnesses account for more suffering and premature death in rich countries than heart disease and strokes, or than cancer (see chart 2). One study estimates that depression is 50% more disabling than angina, asthma or arthritis, as measured by a health score that combines factors such as reduced mobility and pain. Men with mental-health problems die 20 years earlier than those without, according to the British Medical Association, mostly from causes other than suicide. That is partly because mental illnesses make physical ones tougher to treat, and because sufferers often live less healthily. Research has linked even moderate levels of stress to lower life-expectancy. Nearly half of Finns who seek help for addictions, for instance, have a mental illness. Most of the long-term homeless in rich countries are seriously mentally ill, addicted or both.

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Estimates from several rich countries put the economic cost of mental illness at 3-4% of GDP. Around a third of that is the cost of treatment; the rest is from lost productivity and the payment of disability benefits. Worklessness and mental illness feed off each other. Between a third and a half of claims for disability benefit are for mental conditions. A study in the Netherlands estimated that €1 ($1.07) spent on treatment saves €4.24 in increased productivity and reduced costs of care.

All this is propelling mental-health care up governments’ agendas. In 2013 nearly 200 countries approved the WHO’s Mental Health Action Plan, which calls for more and better treatment by 2020. Since 2012 Britain’s National Health Service is supposed to grant “parity of esteem” to mental and physical care. Though funding is still very unequal, the principle has improved the attitude of bureaucrats and patients’ access to care, says Ms Corlett. Since last year health insurers in America have had to cover mental-health services. But demand far outstrips supply, says Paul Appelbaum of Columbia University, because not enough medics specialised in mental-health care during the many years when insurance paid little or nothing for it.

Over the past few decades some rich countries have moved away from housing patients with severe psychiatric conditions in asylums and started opening community centres and care homes, and hiring more social workers and mental-health nurses. Australia, Britain, Italy and the Nordics have largely completed the transition. Japan, Korea and most countries in eastern Europe have barely started.

Though the idea was sound, in some countries community-based care was not ready before institutions closed. America is perhaps the starkest example, and the consequences are visible in its criminal-justice system. In 44 states the biggest mental-health institution is a prison, and police spend much of their time dealing with the effects of untreated mental illness (see article). But it is not the only one. British police spend as much as two-fifths of their time dealing with cases that involve mental illness, though few have the necessary training. Across Europe, 40-70% of prison inmates are mentally ill.

Mental-health courts, introduced in Florida in the 1990s and now opening in other American states, aim to divert the mentally ill from prison to community care. In Britain mental-health nurses join police officers on patrol. Their contribution can be as simple as using health records to find the address of someone who is acting oddly or causing a disturbance, or to assess the threat he poses. In a pilot scheme, the approach led to police detaining 26% fewer mentally ill people and sending more who needed acute care to psychiatric assessment rather than a jail cell.

The stigma of mental illness has fallen particularly fast in Australia, says Patrick McGory, a psychiatrist whom the government named “Australian of the year” in 2010. Last year the country’s biggest television station raised A$1.5m ($1.2m) for mental-health research during a weeklong campaign, which included programmes about mental illness. Most treatment, even for severe conditions, is at home, with backup from crisis-resolution teams that combine social and medical care. The country’s family doctors are being trained to identify and treat mental-health problems, and paid to hire mental-health nurses. An early-intervention model for psychosis, which aims to diagnose patients and provide intensive care quickly after the onset of symptoms, has been shown to improve patient outcomes and is now being copied elsewhere.

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Britain has expanded access to cognitive behavioural therapy for anxiety and depression, and is now doing so for severe mental illness and those with physically unexplained symptoms. This consists of a series of counselling sessions in which sufferers are taught to watch out for situations that trigger their affliction, and how to avoid thoughts and actions that are likely to lead to a relapse. Half of patients with anxiety conditions (such as social phobia, health anxiety or panic disorders) recover after an average of ten sessions, in most cases for life. Around the same share of those with depression recover within four months, and they are less likely to have a relapse. Such therapy alleviates the severity of physical illness, too, whether psychosomatic or physical in origin. It is particularly helpful for those with pain for which no cause can be found. Greater awareness is boosting demand for treatment, though waiting lists are long.

Cheaper options that can reach more people quickly also show promise. According to a study published on April 21st in the Lancet, a British medical journal, group cognitive behavioural therapy could be as effective as antidepressants for recurrent depression. The MoodGYM, an online programme that works along the same lines, is now in use in Australia, China, Finland, the Netherlands and Norway.

Employers have woken up to the toll of mental illness too. Nearly a third of companies surveyed by the World Economic Forum in 2010 had established some sort of stress-reduction programme. Last year a group of big European businesses launched a charter to target the impact of depression at work. Canada’s voluntary psychological safety standard for business, published in 2013, mirrors initiatives to improve physical safety. It includes a guide on how to cut stress at work, for example by cracking down on bosses who harangue their underlings or set unachievable deadlines, and suggests training some managers to spot the signs of common problems such as anxiety and depression.

Girls and boys, interrupted

The biggest gains will come from improving mental-health services for young people. Half of adults with long-term mental conditions suffered their first symptoms before turning 14. Left untreated, even moderate conditions such as anxiety hurt school results and the prospects for employment. For serious conditions such as psychosis, prompt treatment greatly improves outcomes.

But teenagers are image-conscious creatures for whom the fear of being labelled “crazy” or thought weak looms even larger than for adults. That means tact is needed, and targeted programmes. Australia’s “Headspace” centres, which combine a range of health and employment services for 12- to 25-year-olds, make it easier for the embarrassed or ashamed to seek help. Finland, Norway and Sweden have schemes in schools to tackle the stigma of mental illness. Better to sort out problems early, says Mr Mooney. He dates the start of his problems to losing his father when he was 11, bottling up his grief and turning to drink to cope. Back then, he says, no one even talked about depression. Now they do.

Melania Trump handed out blankets and teddy bears at an open-air clinic at Accra's Ridge Hospital. Photo: BBC

Melania Trump arrives Ghana, visits Accra hospital

US First Lady Melania Trump’s two-day visit to Ghana has kicked off with a visit to a hospital in the capital, Accra. Earlier on, she had tea with Ghana’s first lady at the presidential palace.

Melania Trump handed out blankets and teddy bears at an open-air clinic at Accra's Ridge Hospital. Photo: BBC

With support from the US Agency for International Development (USAid) Mrs Trump hopes to explore ways to support Ghana in enhancing healthcare for mothers and their newborns.

Her visit is also likely to boost tourism in Ghana, according to Information Minister Kojo Oppong-Nkruma.

But a Bloomberg journalist tweets that local reaction to the US first lady’s visit, however, has been underwhelming.

Some observers in Ghana say her visit is an indication of US President Donald Trump’s resolve to engage with African nations after largely ignoring the continent since his start in office.


Cover photo: Melania Trump handed out blankets and teddy bears at an open-air clinic at Accra’s Ridge Hospital. Photo: BBC

US First Lady Melania Trump is on her way on a trip to Africa

U.S. first lady Melania Trump departed for Africa on Monday for a four-country trip that serves as her first major solo sojourn abroad on behalf of her husband President Donald Trump’s administration.

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Mrs. Trump is scheduled to make stops in Ghana, Malawi, Kenya and Egypt in a nearly week-long trip to focus on children’s issues. She is due to arrive in Accra on Tuesday.

President Trump has not visited Africa since entering office in 2017, but he has garnered sharp criticism for reportedly referring to immigrants from African countries with a derogatory term.

Deadly gun attack at Iran military parade

Gunmen have opened fire during an Iranian military parade in the south-western city of Ahvaz, killing several people and injuring at least 20 people, state media say.

The attackers shot from a park near the parade and were wearing military uniforms, reports say.

State media say Islamist militants are thought to be behind the attack.

Iran is marking the anniversary of the beginning of the 1980-88 war with Iraq with several nationwide parades.

Pictures from the scene show wounded soldiers being taken to safety.

The shooting lasted for about 10 minutes, but security forces are now in control of the situation, state media says.

Ahvaz was one of the cities to see large anti-government protests over falling living standards late last year.


Cover Photo: Map of Iran. Photo: BBC

Former Malaysian PM, Najib Razak, charged with money laundering, abuse of power

Malaysian prosecutors charged former Prime Minister Najib Razak with 21 counts of money laundering and four counts of abuse of power on Thursday over hundreds of millions of dollars received in his personal bank account.

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The charges bring the total number against Najib to 32 as investigators ramp up a probe into how billions went missing from scandal-plagued 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) – a state fund that he founded and chaired.

Najib has pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

Charges have piled up on Najib since he unexpectedly lost a general election in May to Mahathir Mohamad, who reopened the 1MDB investigation.

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Former Malaysian PM pleads not guilty to new corruption charges. Photo; usnews.com

Prosecutors said Najib used his position as prime minister, finance minister and chairman of 1MDB to obtain funds totaling about 2.3 billion ringgit ($556.23 million) between 2011 and 2014.

Najib has faced money laundering allegations since the Wall Street Journal reported in 2015 that $681 million was transferred to a personal bank account of the then-prime minister.

A year later, the U.S. Department of Justice confirmed the transfer and said the funds originated from 1MDB. It also said a total of $4.5 billion was stolen from the Malaysian fund.

Despite growing calls to step down, he clung to power by cracking down on dissent and the media. But Najib has come under close scrutiny since the election defeat to his former mentor.

Earlier this year, prosecutors brought a total of seven charges, involving money laundering, criminal breach of trust and abuse of power, relating to funds of about 42 million ringgit that allegedly flowed from SRC International, a former 1MDB unit, into his personal bank account.

The SRC trial will begin in February.

1MDB is being investigated by at least six countries, including Singapore, Switzerland and the United States, over alleged money laundering and graft.


Cover Photo: Former Malaysian PM arrested over new corruption charges. Photo: hindustantimes.com.

Yoga ball murder: Man jailed for using poison gas to kill wife and daughter

An anaesthetist has been jailed for life in Hong Kong for murdering his wife and teenage daughter using a yoga ball filled with carbon monoxide that he had placed in their car.

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Prof Khaw Kim-sun, 53, shook his head and looked at his three other children sitting in court on hearing the verdict on Wednesday, broadcaster RTHK reported. One of them burst into tears.

Prosecutors had told the high court that Khaw, from Malaysia, left the inflatable ball in the boot of a car and the suffocating gas leaked out and killed them.

His wife, Wong Siew-fing, and 16-year-old daughter Lily were found by the roadside in a locked yellow Mini Cooper in 2015 in a case that initially baffled police.

The pair were certified dead at the same hospital where Khaw worked and a postmortem examination concluded they had died from inhaling carbon monoxide. Police found a deflated yoga ball in the back of the car.

Prosecutors accused Khaw – a specialist in anaesthesiology and an associate professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong – of hatching a murder plot because he was having an affair with a student.

The court heard earlier in the trial that Khaw had told colleagues he planned to use the gas on rabbits. He later told police he had taken it to get rid of rats at home.

The professor told police after his arrest that Lily knew about the dangerous gas in the yoga ball and suggested she may have wanted to kill herself.


Cover Photo: Khaw Kim-sun is escorted by officers at a police station in Hong Kong last year. Photo: The Gaurdian.

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