‘They were useless people’ — Executive Jet apologises for flying Naira Marley to Abuja

Executive Jet Services Limited, an aviation company, has tendered an apology for flying Naira Marley, a singer, to Abuja for a concert.

Criticisms trailed the event, with many Nigerians calling for disciplinary measures against the singer and the organisers.

The federal capital territory administration (FCTA) had sealed off the Jabi Lake mall, which hosted the singer, for violating restrictions to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Speaking during the briefing of the presidential task force on COVID-19, Hadi Sirika, minister for aviation, said the Executive Jet flight that conveyed Naira Marley for the concert was approved for a different purpose.

He announced that the flight company had been suspended indefinitely, adding that the flight captain would be sanctioned for providing false information.

But in a letter addressed to Sirika on Monday, Sam Iwu, the company’s chief executive officer, apologised over the incident.

He admitted that the flight was approved to convey a judge to Abuja but said the intended passenger had found his way to Abuja with the help of another flight.

Iwu said his team later got an offer to convey another set of passengers to Abuja but added that he was confused when he saw the name Fashola Babatunde.

The company’s chairman said he thought it was the minister of works and housing not knowing that “it was a bunch of useless people”.

“We hereby apologize for the above flight, with your permit ref: PMA/ATMD/0175/V/V/1268 dated 11th June, 2020,” the letter read.

“Please the flight was to carry a Judge to Abuja on Sunday 14th, 2020 as requested and permit was granted based on the application, but unfortunately when I called the Judge on Saturday morning to inform him that we have the permit, he then said that he has reached Abuja already with a different flight that someone gave him a lift to Abuja.

“So on Saturday morning 13th June, 2020 my staff called me that they have a charter flight to Abuja and that the passengers are already in the lounge as a rule passenger manifest is always sent to me before any departure, when I went through the manifest and I saw FASHOLA BABATUNDE I thought it was the Honorable Minister of Works going to Abuja with his men, so we decided to do the flight since (he) is a serving minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, I didn’t know that it was a bunch of useless people.

“We are very sorry for this mistake and we promise that this would not happen again.”

Here’s some of what we’ve learned six months since coronavirus outbreak

We don’t really know when the novel coronavirus first began infecting people. But as we turn a page on our calendars into June, it is fair to say that coronavirus has been with us now for a full six months.

At first, it had no name or true identity. Early in January, news reports referred to strange and threatening symptoms that had sickened dozens of people in a large Chinese city with which many people in the world were probably not familiar. After half a year, that large metropolis, Wuhan, is well-known, as is the coronavirus and the illness it causes, Covid-19.

In that time, many reporters and editors on the health and science desk at The Bloomgist have shifted our journalistic focus as we have sought to tell the story of the coronavirus pandemic. While much remains unknown and mysterious after six months, there are some things we’re pretty sure of. These are some of those insights.

We’ll have to live with this for a long time.

Jens Mortensen

Rainy season is almost here, states are reopening and new coronavirus cases are declining or, at least, holding steady in many parts of Nigeria. At least 100 scientific teams around the world are racing to develop a vaccine.

That’s about it for the good news.

The virus has shown no sign of going away: We will be in this pandemic era for the long haul, likely a year or more. The masks, the social distancing, the fretful hand-washing, the aching withdrawal from friends and family — those steps are still the best hope of staying well, and will be for some time to come.

“This virus just may become another endemic virus in our communities, and this virus may never go away,” Dr. Mike Ryan, the executive director of the World Health Organization’s health emergencies program, warned last month. Some scientists think that the longer we live with the virus, the milder its effects will become, but that remains to be seen.

Predictions that millions of doses of a vaccine may be available by the end of this year may be too rosy. No vaccine has ever been created that fast.

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The disease would be less frightening if there were a treatment that could cure it or, at least, prevent severe illness. But there is not. Remdesivir, the eagerly awaited antiviral drug? “Modest” benefit is the highest mark experts give it.

Which brings us back to masks and social distancing, which have come to feel quite antisocial. If only we could go back to life the way it used to be.

The bottom line: Wear a mask, keep your distance. When the time comes in the fall, get a flu shot, to protect yourself from one respiratory disease you can avoid and to help keep emergency rooms and urgent care from being overwhelmed. Hope for a treatment, a cure, a vaccine. Be patient. We have to pace ourselves. If there’s such a thing as a disease marathon, this is it.

By Knvul Sheikh

Credit…Jens Mortensen for The New York Times

The debate over whether people should wear face masks to control coronavirus transmission has been settled. Although public health authorities gave confusing and often contradictory advice in the early months of the pandemic, most experts now agree that if everyone wears a mask, individuals protect one another.

Researchers know that even simple masks can effectively stop droplets spewing from an infected wearer’s nose or mouth. In a study published in April in Nature, scientists showed that when people who are infected with influenza, rhinovirus or a mild cold-causing coronavirus wore a mask, it blocked nearly 100 percent of the viral droplets they exhaled, as well as some tiny aerosol particles.

Still, mask wearing remains uneven in many parts of Africa. But governments and businesses are beginning to require, or at least recommend, that masks be worn in many public settings.

Though the Nigeria government as well as African governments are recommending face masks, but The Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC) have outlined who should wear face masks. Though they don’t discourage face masks made out of clothing materials, but they advice people to wear MEDICAL face masks.

Donning a face covering is also likely to prevent you from touching your face, which is another way the coronavirus can be transmitted from contaminated surfaces to unsuspecting individuals. And when combined with hand washing and other protective measures, such as social distancing, masks help reduce the transmission of disease, Dr. Atmar said.

By Mike Ikenwa

Credit…Jens Mortensen for The New York Times

When it comes fighting disease outbreak, Nigeria has come out to be one of the countries with the best strategies in fighting and and containing it. Its strategies in kicking Ebola out of the country — almost immediately it arrived — has been a course of study and has been replicated by other countries including the US t fight the disease. But that strategies seem not to be working in the fight against the coronavirus.

Almost all the front-line troops — the contact tracers, the laboratory technicians, the epidemiologists, the staff in state and federeal hospitals — are paid by state and local health departments whose budgets have shriveled for years. These soldiers are led by 36 commanders, in the form of governors, and with that many in charge, it is amazing that any response moves forward.

The rest of the response is in the hands of over 150 million citizens who have been urged to report any suspected case of the virus and call the NCDC as soon as they suspect someone or feel any of the symptoms. This system has not real been working — at least as expected, as many people are afraid of the process and submitting themselves to what they refer to as inhumane treatment of patience by the officials who ‘abandon’ them at the isolation centers. In fact, there are confirmed cases where patience run away from hospitals after testing positive for the disease.

As war does to defeated nations, pandemics expose the weaknesses of Nigerian medical systems. Our patchwork and uncoordinated response has produced more than 200 deaths; surely we can do better.

By Reed Abelson

The federal government has spent hundreds of billions of dollars and promised to spend more than $2 trillion to address the coronavirus pandemic.

On April 2, Nigeria is requested $6.9bn from multilateral lenders to combat the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on Africa’s biggest economy, the finance minister said.

Nigeria, whose revenues have tumbled with the fall in oil prices, asked for $3.4bn from the International Monetary Fund, $2.5bn from the World Bank and $1bn from the African Development Bank, said Minister of Finance, Budget, and National Planning Zainab Ahmed.

The vast majority of this funds has been spent on purchasing ventilators, testing kits, paying health workers and some of the funds has also been budgeted to implementing the insurance of healthcare workers who are working at the front line to contain the disease.

Lagos State government, an epicenter of the outbreak in Nigeria said on May 21 it had so far spent of N40,000 to N50,000 for each of the 16,000 COVID-19 tests conducted by the state. It, therefore, said it had spent averagely about N800 million on testing alone.

The state’s Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, stated this while giving updates on state government’s efforts to curb and manage Coronavirus, ignoring the question on how much the state government is spending averagely to treat a COVID-19 patient.

Many experts say more funding is needed, but there is ample controversy over how the money already allocated is being spent and which entities are getting funds.

By Katie Thomas

The landscape for testing looks far better than it did in the early days of the outbreak, when Nigeria was faced with the challenges of getting testing kits and ventilators, which led to the reason the Federal government ’emberrassingly’ sent a tweet to Elun Musk, asking for ventilators.

Today, a data from NCDC shows that Nigeria has conducted only 71,336, a very poor number for a very busy and populated country as Nigeria.

The range of tests available is also expanding across African countries. Tests that once required a health care worker to insert a swab through the nose to the back of the throat can now be done with a swipe inside the nose, or by spitting into a cup.

But despite this progress, the Nigeria and the rest of Africa still has a long way to go. Public health experts say that anywhere from 900,000 tests to millions a day will be needed to screen hospital patients, nursing home residents and employees returning to work.

By Mike Ikenwa

The idea is simplicity itself: If enough of the population has antibodies to the novel coronavirus, the virus will hit too many dead ends to continue infecting people. That is herd immunity.

That is the great hope for a vaccine. But it may not happen, even if a vaccine becomes available, as experience with flu vaccines shows.

Malaria and Lassa fever have spread, even after enough people in a community have been vaccinated with more residence having access to over-the-counter malaria drugs, it still has not prevented the spread of both the diseases. That’s because the antibodies that protect people against viruses infecting mucosal surfaces like the lining of the nose tend to be short-lived.

Vaccines against respiratory diseases are, at best, modestly effective, agreed Dr. Arnold Monto of the University of Michigan,

Since the coronavirus usually starts by infecting the respiratory system, Dr. Monto suspects that a Covid-19 vaccine would have a similar effect to a flu vaccine — it will reduce the incidence of the disease and make it less severe on average, but it will not make Covid-19 go away.

He would like the virus to disappear, of course, but a vaccine that reduces the disease’s spread and severity is a lot better than nothing.

“As an older person, what I want is not to end up on a respirator,” Dr. Monto said.

By Roni Caryn Rabin

Credit…Jens Mortensen for The New York Times

Covid-19 is a viral respiratory illness. Many early descriptions of symptoms focused on patients being short of breath and eventually being placed on ventilators. But the virus does not confine its assault to the lungs, and doctors have identified a number of symptoms and syndromes associated with it.

In some patients, the virus propels the immune system into overdrive, causing the lungs to fill with fluid and damaging multiple organs, including the brain, heart, kidneys and liver.

The first symptoms of an infection are usually a cough and shortness of breath. But in April the C.D.C. added to the list of early signs sore throat, fever, chills and muscle aches. Gastrointestinal upset, such as diarrhea and nausea, has also been observed.

Another telltale sign of infection may be a sudden, profound diminution of one’s sense of smell and taste. Teenagers and young adults in some cases have developed painful red and purple lesions on the fingers and toes, but few other serious symptoms.

Severe disease leads to pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome. The blood oxygen levels plummet, and patients may get supplemental oxygen or be placed on a machine, called a ventilator, to help them breathe.

But even without lung impairment, the disease can cause injury to the kidneys, heart or liver. Critically ill patients are prone to developing dangerous blood clots in the legs and the lungs. In rare cases, the disease triggers ischemic strokes that block the arteries supplying blood to the brain, or brain impairments, such as altered mental status or encephalopathy.

Death can result from heart failure, kidney failure, multiple organ failure, respiratory distress or shock.

By Apoorva Mandavilli

Credit…Jens Mortensen for The New York Times

The news, when it was reported, added a frightening twist to the threat from the coronavirus: A study in March in The New England Journal of Medicine found that under laboratory conditions, the virus can survive for up to three days on some surfaces, such as plastic and steel, and on cardboard for up to 24 hours.

Other studies reported finding the virus on air vents in hospital rooms and on computer mice, sickbed handrails and doorknobs.

Many people grew worried that by touching a surface that had been covered in droplets by an infected person, and then touching their own mouth, nose or eyes, they then would contract the virus.

You should still wear a mask, avoid touching your face in public and keep washing your hands. But none of these studies tested for live virus, only for traces of its genetic material. Other scientists commenting on these studies said virus on these surfaces might degrade more quickly. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said since March that contaminated surfaces are “not thought to be the main way” the virus spreads.

The main driver of infection is thought to be directly inhaling droplets released when an infected person sneezes, coughs, sings or talks.

By James Gorman

Credit…Jens Mortensen for The New York Times

The hot and humid weather will not stop the pandemic. More sunlight and humidity may slow down its spread, but we probably won’t know by how much. Other factors, like reduced travel, increased personal distance, closed schools, canceled gatherings and mask-wearing, have effects that would outweigh the influence of the weather.

A few things are known about conditions that do or do not favor the virus. The ultraviolet rays in sunlight help destroy the virus on surfaces and some studies have shown a small effect from humidity. It seems to last longest on hard surfaces like plastic and metal. It won’t survive in pool or lake or seawater. Wind disperses it. Risk of transmission is lower outdoors than indoors.

A wooden bench under a bright sun at a breezy beach is a better bet than a metal and plastic recliner on the shady side of the pool. But if someone infected sits near you and coughs, or talks a lot or sings, it doesn’t really matter where you’re sitting and how nice a day it is.

“The virus doesn’t need favorable conditions,” said Peter Juni, an epidemiologist at the University of Toronto. It has a world population with no immunity waiting to be infected. Bring on the sun; the novel coronavirus will survive.

Air conditioning may blow the virus right to your restaurant table.

NDDC’s executive director died of COVID-19

After the death of Etang, the commission shut its head office in Port Harcourt, Rivers state capital, and asked its staff to go on self-isolation immediately.

This had fuelled speculations that Etang died from complications of COVID-19 but the commission had asked the public to disregard reports on the cause of the death of its director.

But in a statement on Tuesday, Charles Odili, NDDC’s director of corporate affairs, said the family of the deceased authorised the commission to announce that the late executive director tested positive for COVID-19.

“The Rivers State Ministry of Health has written to the Commission to also confirm the cause of death resulting from complications attributable to COVID-19,” he said.

“The ministry has, therefore, directed the Commission to order all management staff to go into self-isolation for a period of 14 days with effects from today, While seeking the cooperation of the organisation in tracing staff and contractors who have had close contact with the deceased.

“During the meeting with the family, they expressed fervent desire, that the death of the Executive Director should not be politicised, wishing to be left alone to mourn with dignity. This also is the position of the Commission.

“We pray for the peaceful repose of the soul of our Executive Director Finance and Administration, Elder lbanga Bassey Etang.”

The director’s death happened during the forensic audit of the commission’s activities as ordered by President Muhammadu Buhari.

In October 2019, the president directed an audit of the commission’s activities from 2001 to 2019.

Last week, the senate set up an ad hoc committee to probe the interim management committee of the NDDC over alleged mismanagement of N40 billion.

Nigerian soldiers guarding civilians who had fled the fighting in Bama in 2015. The country’s military had retaken the northeastern town from Boko Haram, but about 7,500 people were displaced by the fighting. Photograph: Nichole Sobecki/AFP

Nigerian forces accused of torture and illegal detention of children – report

Nigerian soldiers guarding civilians who had fled the fighting in Bama in 2015. The country’s military had retaken the northeastern town from Boko Haram, but about 7,500 people were displaced by the fighting. Photograph: Nichole Sobecki/AFP
Nigerian soldiers guarding civilians who had fled the fighting in Bama in 2015. The country’s military had retaken the northeastern town from Boko Haram, but about 7,500 people were displaced by the fighting. Photograph: Nichole Sobecki/AFP

Widespread unlawful detention and torture by Nigerian security forces has aggravated the suffering of a generation of children and tens of thousands of people in north-east Nigeria, according to a new report.

At least 10,000 victims – many of them children – have died in military detention, among the many thousands more arrested during a decade-long conflict with jihadist groups, according to Amnesty International.

Many left their homes to flee violence from Boko Haram, whose deadly jihadist insurgency began in 2009. Yet displaced people were wrongly arrested by civilian militia forces and soldiers on suspicion of being connected to or supporting the insurgency, the report said.

In allegations strongly denied by the Nigerian army, victims suffered torture and years of detention without charge, trial or medical treatment, in “inhumane” conditions at three centres. One is the Giwa barracks detention centre where rights groups have for years reported endemic human rights abuses.

Another of the centres hosts a reintegration programme for alleged jihadists and their supporters, funded by the UK government and international donors, where conditions were not as severe but abuses were widespread, the report said.

Joanne Mariner, the acting director of crisis response at Amnesty International, called for authorities to investigate the “appalling” treatment of victims.

“From mass, unlawful detention in inhumane conditions, to meting out beatings and torture and allowing sexual abuse by adult inmates – it defies belief that children anywhere would be so grievously harmed by the very authorities charged with their protection,” she said.

“The past decade of bitter conflict between Nigeria’s military and Boko Haram has been an assault on childhood itself in north-east Nigeria,” Mariner added. “Boko Haram has repeatedly attacked schools and abducted large numbers of children as soldiers or ‘wives’, among other atrocities.”

Among the 230 people Amnesty interviewed was 10-year-old Ibrahim, who said his family had fled their village after an attack by Boko Haram when he was five and were arrested several days later by the military.

“We said we escaped from Boko Haram, but the military did not believe us,” he said. “They said that we were part of Boko Haram. They hit us children with a rope of animal skin and slapped our parents with the flat end of a long knife. They beat us every day.”

Another 14-year-old boy was also arrested after fleeing abduction by Boko Haram, and then detained at Giwa barracks: “The conditions in Giwa are horrible. They could make you die. There’s no place to lie down,” he said. “Up to now, nobody has told me why I was taken there, what I did, why I was in detention.”

Col Sagir Musa, the director of public relations for the Nigerian army, dismissed Amnesty’s report as “mere claims”.

“There is no basis for the accusation. The Nigerian army has strongly debunked such malicious claims and no group has convincingly refuted our position,” he said.

The findings add to a litany of abuse allegations that have dogged Nigerian security forces, intensifying during its war with Boko Haram and a jihadist offshoot, the Islamic State West African Province.

More than 36,000 people have died and almost two million are displaced within north-east Nigeria, in one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.

Operation Safe Corridor, an army-run deradicalisation programme of mostly men and boys, which receives funding from the UK, has released thousands of jihadi suspects. Fourteen hundred Boko Haram suspects were released earlier this year.

Former detainees were positive about conditions at the Safe Corridor site yet said a number of human rights violations frequently occurred there.

Detainees were made to produce items such as shoes and soaps in training programmes which amounted to forced labour, Amnesty said. Some detainees suffered serious injuries working with caustic soda without protective equipment. At least seven detainees at the site died.

Kate Allen, the director of Amnesty International, said: “The UK’s support of a military-run detention centre that is unlawfully imprisoning people, including children, and subjecting them to unsafe conditions is particularly worrying.

“The UK government must work with the Nigerian authorities to ensure that the military is protecting the population, and that absolutely no UK support is contributing to the vile abuses taking place in the context of the conflict.”

One dead, many injured as fire burn down IDP camp in Borno

One person has been confirmed dead, while many persons sustained injuries during a fire outbreak at the Muna Albadawy camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Borno state.

According to the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), the fire, which occurred during the weekend, started in one of the kitchens in the emergency shelters erected in the camp.

NEMA said the two sources of water serving 9,678 IDPs in about 1,613 households were also affected.

The incident, it was gathered, has further compounded the plight of the IDPs.

However, according to NEMA, its north-east zonal office has deployed a water tanker to the camp to supply water on a temporary basis.

The agency also says it has conducted rapid assessment to provide immediate relief of food, non-food items and other forms of support in collaboration with the Borno state emergency management agency and other partners.

See photos below:

SOURCE: TheCable

Africa didn’t dither but faces long coronavirus fight

It was an unsettling experience.

Every minute or so, the police would stop their van, jump out and – as people around them began to shout and run away – start to chase citizens more or less at random, it seemed to me, before shoving one or two of them into the back of their vehicle.

One woman wasn’t wearing a mask, an officer explained.

Another might have been selling contraband cigarettes.

Several people had, perhaps, been standing too close together, although it was hard to tell in the dark. And so on.

Lack of trust in the state

The whole process felt arbitrary and alarming – a clear abuse of authority.

Andrew goes on patrol with South Africa’s police

But in the days since then I’ve begun to think of that night in Alexandra in a different way; to consider not the police’s behaviour, but rather the hard-learned reactions of the citizens of the township.

To run. And then, if caught, to submit meekly.

It was, I think, a very clear expression of vulnerability – the behaviour of people who feel, instinctively, powerless to challenge the might of the state.

I’ve seen it often, both here in South Africa and – to a far greater extent – in other parts of the continent.

South African soldiers patrolling in Alexandra township during the coronavirus lockdown
Image captionSouth Africa’s army has been called in to implement strict lockdown restrictions

Something similar applies to hospitals too.

I’ve heard – first and second hand – too many anecdotes about people whose relatives were admitted to underfunded public hospital with “a stomach ache” or “just a cold” and who were abruptly pronounced dead within days.

In other words, many people have learned to look towards the police and the medical profession not for salvation, but for something more nuanced.

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It strikes me that an acute sense of vulnerability – not unique to Africa, of course – has characterised this continent’s response to the pandemic too.

Yes, there was some bluster in the early days about Africa perhaps being spared – and we still hear populists like Tanzania’s President John Magufuli trying to play down the threat.

But most people I’ve spoken to, particularly in poorer neighbourhoods, have shown an increasingly intense and proactive determination to do all they can to protect themselves and their families, and – importantly – not to expect, or rely on, the state to do it for them.

In a sense, that same vulnerable mindset applies to most African governments too.

Africa acted fast and decisively

After all, this is a continent where tuberculosis (TB), HIV, malaria and dysentery still kill – despite impressive recent improvements in public health – millions of people each year.

Six main causes of death in Africa

  • 1) Lower respiratory infections (10.4% of deaths):916,851
  • 2) HIV/Aids (8.1%):718,800
  • 3) Diarrhoeal diseases (7.4%):652,791
  • 4) Ischaemic heart disease (5.8%):511,916
  • 5) Malaria (4.6%)408,125
  • 6) TB (4.6%):405,496

Source: WHO – figures from 2016

And so, governments across the continent are already hard-wired to respond to new public health challenges like Ebola or Covid-19.

That is why they didn’t dither in the early stages of the outbreak.

As other countries dabbled with herd immunity, kept their airports wide open, or merely encouraged their citizens to avoid the pub, African states were busy implementing strict lockdowns and re-training their vast standing armies of community health workers.

Delayed but not contained?

But the question now – for South Africa and for the rest of the continent – is whether that sense of vulnerability can help to sustain a much longer and effective fight against the virus because the evidence – from Nigeria to South Sudan and beyond – now appears to show that Africa’s early successes may simply (and usefully) have delayed, rather than contained, Covid-19.

Students at this Kenyan university are voluntarily making critical medical kits.

The latest expert projections from a team here in Johannesburg indicate that the virus will – despite an impressively lowered infection curve – still kill more than 40,000 South Africans and is likely to peak only at some point in the second half of July.

At the same time, the severe economic damage caused by the early lockdowns is beginning to test the patience and the coping mechanisms of communities and governments which lack the deep pockets of Western nations.

Some excruciatingly difficult choices and battles lie ahead.

This is not to “catastrophise” Africa.

The continent’s early response – fuelled by a well-honed sense of vulnerability – has been world-class”

Andrew Harding
Africa correspondent, BBC News

The outside world sometimes seems to have flip-flopped – when it has even taken the time to notice – between seeing this continent as a slow-motion disaster that will eclipse all others with its coronavirus horrors, or a place where humidity, sunshine, a young population, widespread TB vaccines, or other less benign tropes, will somehow produce a miracle.

The truth is surely more mundane.

Africa is busy adapting to yet another deadly disease.

Muslim worshippers outside a mosque in Dakar, Senegal - Friday 15 May 2021
Image captionAfrica is adapting to coronavirus – like these Muslim worshippers in Senegal

Like other parts of the world, it will struggle, and it will eventually prevail, or at least find some sustainable long-term accommodation with the virus.

The continent’s early response – fuelled by a well-honed sense of vulnerability – has been world-class.

But its healthcare systems have been weakened, many would argue, not just by poverty and corruption, but by the systematic luring of African medical staff to Western nations over decades, by the short-termism at the heart of much international aid, and by the power-imbalances at the heart of the global economy and its key institutions.

Zimbabwe want to jail three anti-government activists who were kidnapped and sexually assaulted

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Three members of Zimbabwe’s main opposition party were abducted from a police station last week, and then beaten, tortured, and sexually assaulted with firearms before being dumped on the side of the road.

Now, rather than pledging to find the perpetrators, the government is threatening to jail the women for breaching coronavirus lockdown measures.ADVERTISEMENT

Activists and opposition leaders say the government and police are mounting a smear campaign to cover-up collusion with the attackers, a campaign that includes allegedly leaking semi-naked images of the victims on social media and calling them prostitutes.

While the government’s reaction to such a heinous crime may seem inexplicable, for those who track Zimbabwe’s politics, it is nothing new.

“To those who have followed events in the country — and certainly for Zimbabweans themselves — the flippant and entirely callous response is par for the course,” Jeffrey Smith, executive director of Vanguard Africa, a nonprofit that focuses on democracy in the continent, told VICE News. “Victim blaming, or otherwise accusing an imaginary ‘third force’ for their own crimes, has long been the regime’s modus operandi.”

Abduction

On Wednesday, May 13, Joanna Mamombe, 27, a member of Zimbabwe’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and a lawmaker for the Harare West constituency, was driving home from an unsanctioned protest against the government’s inadequate provisions for the country’s poorest during the coronavirus lockdown.

Also in the car were two other activists from the MDC’s youth assembly, Cecilia Chimbiri and Netsai Marova.

They met a police roadblock and were ordered to drive the car to the Harare Central Police Station.

In a basement parking lot at the station, armed and masked men forced them into a van and told them they were going to be “fixed” for rebelling against the government.ADVERTISEMENT

The three women were tied up and their heads covered with hoods. They were driven for an hour into the forest.

The women say they were thrown into a pit, beaten, stripped naked and sexually assaulted with firearms. They also said they were forced to drink each other’s urine.

“They beat me on my back, all over the body using sticks. They used a gun to beat us, then molested me,” Chimbiri told the Guardian from her hospital bed.

On Thursday night, May 14, the three women were dumped by the side of the road from a moving car near the town of Bindura, about 50 miles northeast of the capital before being discovered the following morning.

“They pushed [us] out of the truck onto the road. They left us there. They said ‘we will be watching you… What is so special about you that you want to turn against the government?’” Chimbiri said.

Cover-up

The government’s response, rather than pledging to find and punish the perpetrators, has been to accuse the women of lying.

The police, having initially confirmed the women’s arrest, then denied they were detained. But the presence of Mamombe’s car at the police station undermines the police’s claims that the women were not detained.

Justice Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi told the BBC the women made up the story to deflect attention from the fact that they broke lockdown rules by attending a protest, and threatened to prosecute them.

“It is a diversionary tactic and once they are discharged [from hospital] they must be arrested for breaking the law,” Ziyambi said.

Worse still, Energy Mutodi, a deputy information minister, alleged the three women were simply meeting their lovers and that a row erupted overpayment for their “services.” Mutodi has since been fired, though it is unclear if his dismissal was related to his allegation about the women.

Then, photos taken by the police, allegedly as part of their investigation into the attack, appeared on social media. The semi-naked photos of Chimbiri were taken as part of the evidence-gathering process.ADVERTISEMENT

On Wednesday, Chimbiri’s lawyer wrote to Zimbabwe’s police chief to demand a full investigation into how the photographs were leaked and by whom.

The identity of the assailants is unknown, but the MDC claims the attackers were working in collusion with the state, and one of the victims said she would identify one of the men who attacked her.

“This is inhuman and degrading treatment,” Nelson Chamisa, the party’s leader, told ZimLive after visiting the women in the hospital. “This is torture against girl children, torture against the country. Assuming that they had committed a crime, they were supposed to be taken to a police station, tried, and sentenced. But this is a continuation of an ugly past.”

But given the past four decades of Zanu-PF rule, first under Robert Mugabe and now under his former deputy Emmerson Mnangagwa, there is little hope of justice for the three women.

“Like the routine gaslighting of women’s experiences in Zimbabwe, impunity has also long been the norm,” Smith said. “Authorities will continue to deny their role in the abductions and the torture. And the perpetrators will not be held accountable, further emboldening an already vicious, ruthless regime.”

Cover: Zimbabwean opposition leader Nelson Chamisa, right, visits an activist who was reported missing, at a local hospital in Harare, Friday, May 15, 2020. Three young Zimbabwean opposition activists who were reported missing following a protest over COVID-19 lockdown measures this week were been treated at a hospital Friday after asserting they were abducted and sexually abused. (AP Photo)

DR Congo opens probe into killing of separatists

Bundu dia Kongo’s leader Ne Muanda Nsemi (c) was arrested last month

The Congolese government says it has opened an investigation into the killings of dozens of separatists by the security forces last month.

Human Rights Minister André Lite said police accused of looting the separatist leader’s residence were in custody awaiting trial.

The pressure group, Human Rights Watch, has accused the security forces of using excessive lethal force against the Bundu Dia Kongo group which wants to revive the giant ancient Kongo kingdom.

Ne Muanda Nsemi, a self-styled prophet who leads the group, was arrested last month after proclaiming himself president of the Democratic Republic of Congo in what he called a divine coup.

Ohanaeze accuses North of exporting Almajiri kids to South

Uche Achi-Okpaga, national publicity secretary of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, has accused northern leaders of shifting their “burden” to other parts of the country by relocating almajiri kids from their states.

In an interview with The PUNCH, Achi-Okpaga accused leaders from the region of creating a problem for others through the relocation.

Usually between the age of four and 15 years, the almajiri kids are put in the care of Islamic teachers who instruct them on Quranic knowledge.

Most of them end up begging for alms and food in their neighbourhoods as these teachers are often unable to meet their needs.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, a number of governors, mostly in the north, have been returning almajiri children to their home states.

The Ohanaeze spokesman said the movement is against the ban on inter-state travels, adding that the almajiri kids should remain in their locations until the pandemic is over.

“As an apex Igbo social-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze is worried about the influx of Almajirai to southern Nigeria,” he said.

“However, it is a multifaceted problem. You remember that it was during the administration of Goodluck Jonathan that schools were built for Almajirai. The northerners were in power all the while and they never thought of it.

“Even after Jonathan built the schools for them, they did not envisage that in the near future the Almajirai would become a very big problem to the North. I think this is an orchestrated game plan.

“The Almajirai are moving in large number and travelling in trucks and buses. The question you should ask is who are those people providing those buses? The Almajirai we know don’t have money and they cannot afford to travel to far places in buses.

“So who are those providing the buses that are used to transport them within and outside the north? That is the question. The leaders of the North are aware that the Almajirai question has become a problem and they want to shift the burden to other places where people have been able to mind their business and manage their populations well.”

Nigeria impounds British plane for ‘flouting ban’

Nigeria has impounded a British aircraft that is alleged to have flouted a ban aimed at curbing the spread of coronavirus.

Aviation Minister Hadi Sirika said the plane, operated by FlairJet, was allowed to fly humanitarian aid but had contravened a ban that has been imposed on almost all passenger flights.

Describing Flairjet’s action as callous, he said the crew was being questioned and maximum penalties could follow.

The company has not commented on the seizure.

Nigeria’s ban on passenger flights – except for returning nationals – is due to run until 4 June.

Mauritius ‘declares victory in Covid-19 battle’

Mauritians shop for essentials on allocated days

Mauritius has declared victory in the battle against coronavirus, but says it has not yet won the war, the AFP news agency reports quoting the health minister.

Health Minister Kailesh Jagutpal is quoted as saying that there are zero active coronavirus cases in the country and no new cases had been reported in 17 days.

He said:Quote Message: We have won the battle thanks to the cooperation of the public, who understood that the government needed to take extreme measures, including complete confinement, and the closure of supermarkets and our borders.

We have won the battle thanks to the cooperation of the public, who understood that the government needed to take extreme measures, including complete confinement, and the closure of supermarkets and our borders.Quote Message: But we have not yet won the war. Let’s remain vigilant.”

But we have not yet won the war. Let’s remain vigilant.”

In total, the island nation has had 332 cases and 10 deaths. It was among the first in Africa to impose a total lockdown.

The government is however urging people to continue taking precautions even as it maintains some of the restrictive measures.

A few essential stores will be allowed to reopen from Friday but markets will stay shut, AFP reports.

Schools will also remain closed until August, beaches will remain off limits and weddings and funerals can only be attended by 10 people.

The country’s parliament is debating two pieces of legislation, the Covid-19 Bill and the Quarantine Bill, which are designed to help the country get back on track

DETAILS: How Chinese nationals were arrested with $250,000 bribe

Nigeria’s anti-corruption agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, has arrested two Chinese nationals for allegedly offering a $250,000 (£203,000) bribe in local currency to one of its senior officials.

Meng Wei Kun and Xu Koi were arrested on Tuesday inside in their office in the northern city of Sokoto as they gave the money stacked in boxes to the official who pretended to have accepted the bribe, the commission has said.

The alleged bribe was said to be an attempt to scuttle an investigation into multi-million dollar corruption allegations involving a Chinese construction company in Nigeria where the two suspects work.

The bribe money was stacked in boxes

The anti-corruption agency said it was investigating alleged corruption involving about $130m (£105m) in contracts for roads and water projects. It is also investigating money laundering claims.

The contracts were awarded by Nigeria’s Zamfara state government to China Zhonghoa Nigeria Limited between 2012 and 2019. Neither the Chinese company nor its officials have commented on the matter.

Arrests of officials of foreign companies linked to corruption are rare in Nigeria.

Prepare to live with virus for a year – Ramaphosa

South Africans are on the first phase of easing of restrictions. Photo AFP

South Africans have been told to prepare living with the threat of coronavirus for a year or even more.

President Cyril Ramaphosa said people will still be expected to social distance, wear masks and wash their hands for a while.

He used his weekly newsletter on Monday to warn that “it will not be life as we knew it before” even as restrictions are being eased.

He said:

We will introduce new measures to make contact tracing more effective. We will need to implement mass sanitisation of workplaces, public transport and other spaces.”

We will introduce new measures to make contact tracing more effective. We will need to implement mass sanitisation of workplaces, public transport and other spaces.”

He warned that the number of infections is expected to increase. South Africa has passed the 10,000 mark of new infections.

68 buried in Yobe LGA — in three days

Although the deaths have not been linked to COVID-19, the unusual occurrence in the area was said to have caused apprehension among residents.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, strange deaths have been reported in various states, lately BauchiKano and Jigawa

The Nation quoted a cemetery worker as saying one of the burial grounds — Mamman Ali graveyard along Gashua road — has received 48 bodies.

The attendant whose name was not disclosed said: “We don’t know why people are dying like this. We too want to know what the problem is but we don’t know. We want the government to find out and tell us what is happening

“But it is only journalists that are calling us and asking us questions. No government official has come to the grave yard to ask us anything.”

He reportedly listed other graveyards where the bodies have been buried as NEPA where seven corpses were reportedly buried; Garin Jaji, eight; Gishua Dabua, six; Bayin Asibiti, four; in addition to 10 other graves dug by the Mamman Ali cemetery.

Mohammed Gana, Yobe commissioner of health and vice-chairman of the state COVID-19 response team, said the deaths were being investigated.

“People die due to various causes; we may not say it is coronavirus,” he was quoted as saying.

“When this kind of thing happen, we have our standard way of doing things. We have sent out a team to go to the local government to establish that these deaths are happening and the causes.”

Yobe has 13 out of Nigeria’s 4,399 COVID-19 cases recorded so far.

Tanker explosion ‘kills one, injure 16 injured’

An unidentified person died on Friday, when a petrol tanker, laden with fuel, burst into flames in front of Oando filling station at Obalende, Ikoyi, Lagos.

According to the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA), 16 persons, including a firefighter, were also injured in the incident.

In a statement on Friday, Olufemi Oke-Osanyintolu, chief executive officer of LASEMA, said the agency received a distress call that a 45,000-litre capacity tanker had fallen on its side in front of the petrol station.

He said efforts to combat the fire were successful.

“Efforts to combat the flames by the agency’s officials and men of the Lagos State Fire Service and the Federal Fire Service have been successful and the fire has been extinguished and the station and surrounding buildings protected,” he said.

“Unfortunately, the inferno has resulted in a single (1) fatality, fifteen (15) minor casualties and one (1) major casualty who happens to be a Lagos State Firefighter. He has been subsequently transferred to the Lagos State General Hospital for treatment while minor casualties received on-the-scene medical attention.”

The agency appealed for calm and urged members of the public to keep away from the scene of the accident, and allow the responders to conclude recovery, in order to clear the road for vehicular traffic.

Borno records 3 deaths, 11 new coronavirus cases

Three more COVID-19 fatalities and 11 new cases have been recorded in Borno state.

Salihu Kwaya-Bura, the state commissioner for health, and secretary of the response team for the prevention and control of COVID-19, confirmed this at a press briefing on Tuesday.

He said the figures were for Monday and Tuesday, adding that the state is following up on 233 persons, while the number of surveillance teams will be increased, with more isolation and testing centres set up.

The commissioner said the machine at the Umaru Shehu Memorial hospital has the capacity to carry out 500 tests in one day, but plans are on to utilise the microbiology department of the University of Maiduguri for an additional test centre to increase the capacity to 1,000 tests per day.

In his response to the question on whether the three recent deaths were contacts of the index case from Pulka or the case from Biu, the commissioner said they were from different sources.

Borno recorded its first fatality on April 19, 2020, while another death was confirmed on April 22, 2020.

On why no recovery has been reported so far, Kwaya-Bura said no discharge should be expected before the end of the initial 14 days, adding that some of the patients are responding to treatment and series of tests would be conducted before they are confirmed negative.

He called on residents in the state to practise personal hygiene such as regular washing of hands with soap under running water, social and physical distancing and wearing of masks, to control the spread of the virus.

UN warns of ‘biblical’ famines due to coronavirus

Tinubu’s CSO died of Coronavirus

Lateef Raheem, the late chief security officer (CSO) to Bola Ahmed Tinubu, had COVID-19, the media office of the former Lagos state governor has said.

But Tinubu and his wife, Remi, have both tested negative to the disease, Tunde Rahman, his spokesman, said in a statement issued on Monday afternoon.

More to follow…

68 years old Nigerian woman gives birth to twins after four IVF attempts

A Nigerian woman has given birth to twins, a boy, and a girl at the age of 68.

Margaret Adenuga went through three previous IVF procedures before finally having twins.Her husband Noah Adenuga, 77said the couple, who married in 1974 had long desired to have a child of their own.

Adenuga said they never gave up even after the failed attempts.The retired stock auditor told CNN, “I am a dreamer, and I was convinced this particular dream of ours will come to pass.”

The babies were delivered via caesarian section at 37 weeks last Tuesday at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) but the hospital only recently made the news public to give the first-time mother time to recuperate, it said.Dr. Adeyemi Okunowo, who delivered the babies, said a specialist team was assembled at the hospital to monitor the pregnancy because of her age.”

As an elderly woman and a first-time mother, it was a high-risk pregnancy and also because she was going to have twins but we were able to manage her pregnancy to term,” Okunowo told CNN.

Last year, a 73-year-old Indian woman was safely delivered of twin girls after she conceived through IVF and is reported to be the oldest person to give birth at that age.

Okunowo said even though older women are able to conceive through IVF, doctors must lay bare the medical risks associated with being pregnant at that age.”

There are age-related medical complications that come with being pregnant at that age such as the baby being born preterm. She’s lucky but many may succumb to other complications during or after having a baby.”

‘If it comes, it will overwhelm us’: Malawi braces for coronavirus

When the overcrowded, long-distance bus from Johannesburg arrived at the Malawian border post of Mwanza last week, one passenger was dead. Fearing he had picked up Covid-19 in South Africa and infected all his fellow travellers, the guards sent everyone to a hastily built quarantine centre for 14 days.

The man had died of other causes but Malawi, which is well used to devastating diseases like HIV and Aids, cholera and malaria, is taking no chances. Along with São Tomé, Comoros, South Sudan and Burundi in Africa, it is one of the last countries in the world not to have confirmed a single Covid-19 case yet.

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In Malawi only 20 people a day can be tested for the virus, and there are just 25 intensive care unit beds and seven ventilators in the country of more than 18 million people. Since February, however, the government has been racing to curb Covid’s arrival.

It has wheeled out a £24m preparedness plan, suspended international flights, banned weddings and gatherings of more than 100 people, closed schools and universities, and is making anyone arriving from Europe, China, or the US self-isolate. According to the ministry of health, 4,603 people who have entered the country in the past few weeks are “under surveillance”.

As an extra precaution, Malawi’s president, Peter Mutharika, has reduced the number of people he meets to 10-20 a day.

“We have been told to regularly wash hands using soap or alcohol sanitiser. But because there have been no confirmed cases, people are not yet too frightened. Business is going on as usual, people are still making huge gatherings at some places like markets,” says Blantyre accountant James Gomani.

While warnings about Covid-19 are widely heard in jingles and public health announcements in cities like Blantyre and Lilongwe, they have barely reached the remote rural areas where nearly 90% of Malawi’s population live and farm, and few people have access to TV, radio or electricity, says Patrick Kamzitu, a heath worker in Nambuma.


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If Covid-19 gets in, it will spread rapidly across the country and many people will die. The health system is very weakMax Lawson, OxfamAdvertisement

“We fear that it will come. If it does, it will overwhelm us, and be worse than cholera, which we had badly in 2013, and hunger in 2002. People will die in large numbers,” he says.

Kamzitu cycles from village to village warning of what may come and telling people to take precautions, but rural health centres have few drugs. Many people don’t even have soap or running water and are already weakened with malaria, HIV or tuberculosis.

Malawi has plenty of experience of handling contagious diseases but is barely prepared for a disease that can spread so fast, says Oxfam’s international head of inequality policy, Max Lawson, a former resident of Malawi who is now based in Nairobi.

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“If Covid-19 gets in, it will spread rapidly across the country and many people will die. The health system is very weak and poorly resourced. The population is young, which may be in Malawi’s favour with a disease like Covid-19, but there is a lot of untested TB and HIV in the country.

“The UK government and other donors have not been supporting Malawi like they used to. They should immediately suspend the country’s debt payments. It would cost very little and help a lot. As it is, Malawi will be hit very badly economically by Covid-19.”

Health professionals fear it is only a matter of time before the pandemic reaches Malawi. “It has only been in the past few weeks that it has been spreading across Africa. So most people feel it will get here at some point. We may not be 100% ready but government is gearing up,” says Dr Bridget Malewezi of the Society of Medical Doctors.

BREAKING: Nigerian refugees killed in stamped

Reports from Niger say at least 20 people have been killed and many others wounded in a stampede in the south-eastern town of Diffa as thousands of Nigerian refugees, displaced by Boko Haram violence, scrambled to get relief materials supplied by Nigeria’s Borno state government .

More details soon…

Dozens killed in Burkina Faso church attack

There are reports from Burkina Faso that at least 24 people have been killed during an attack on a church on Sunday in the north of the country, near the border with Niger.

This is the latest in a string of attacks by suspected Islamist militants.

Since 2015, hundreds of people have been killed in Burkina Faso and more than 500,000 have been displaced.

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Officials say gunmen stormed the village of Pansi when the church was full.

The pastor conducting the Sunday service was amongst those killed and several people were also abducted by the suspected Islamist militants.

Last week seven people were seized from the home of a pastor in the same Yagha province. Five bodies were later found.

Over the last month at least 60 people have been killed in two other attacks in the north.

With the army unable to defend the population the authorities have started recruiting volunteers.

After just two weeks training they are being given guns to defend vulnerable villages near the border with Mali and Niger.

Adebisi Akinsulire has now made it to the capital, Abuja

‘I’ve been trying to land in Lagos since Monday’

Planes have been unable to land this week at Nigeria’s main airport in Lagos because of poor visibility caused by the seasonal harmattan winds.

Adebisi Akinsulire has now made it to the capital, Abuja
Adebisi Akinsulire has now made it to the capital, Abuja

The BBC’s Adebisi Akinsulire has been trying to get home to Lagos since Monday. He left Barcelona in Spain heading for Lagos via Dubai. A direct flight from Dubai should have taken about eight hours.

My journey started from Dubai on Tuesday and our flight was supposed to land at about 3:40pm but on getting to Lagos we noticed that the plane kept hovering around Lagos airspace.

The pilot made an announcement that he was going to try and land, but the weather was not good.

After he tried we were in the airspace for about [another] 20 minutes, he then took a detour to Accra airport [in Ghana].

On getting to Accra airport we stayed in the aeroplane for about an hour-and-a-half to two hours because they were trying to see if we could get information on the weather in Lagos improving.

But the weather did not improve, so we got off the plane and we were told we were going to try and make the journey the next day, which was Wednesday.

We were supposed to fly by 10am. When it came to that time, the Emirates official said the weather was still not good – they were still having challenges with landing.

One of the pilots walked up to us and he was trying to explain the situation. He said what was broken is actually the ILS system, which is supposed to aid bigger planes in nasty weather. The ILS in the Lagos airport is not functioning.

At about 5pm we were told to go back to the hotel. On Thursday we were told by Emirates officials that they had not been given clearance to come in.

Today being Friday we got to the airport quite early we were told we were going to fly at about 9am.

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On boarding the plane the pilot mentioned to us that we would either be going to Lagos or Abuja. Midway into the flight there was an announcement that he’s tried to reach the tower and the tower is not giving the clearance to land so we were going to Abuja.”

Akinsulire and about 200 other passengers have now landed in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja.


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They are still waiting in the terminal building to find out how and when they will be able to make the journey of more than 700km (400 miles) to Lagos.

Kenya’s longest-serving ruler continues to the country even in Death

Daniel arap Moi, Kenya’s second and longest-serving president, will be buried on Wednesday.

The funeral procession for Daniel arap Moi, Kenya’s second and longest-serving president, in Nairobi on Monday.Credit…Daniel Iringu/EPA, via Shutterstock

NAIROBI, Kenya — Thousands of mourners bade farewell on Tuesday to Daniel arap Moi, Kenya’s longest-serving president, under whose rule the country was haunted by corruption and gross violations of human rights even as it became a stable nation in a turbulent region blighted with wars and crises.

Mr. Moi, the country’s second president, died last week at age 95. As choirs sang and flags flew at half-mast, the reaction to his death was a reflection of this mixed legacy.

Some remembered him as a “wonderful father” and a “great leader” who played a critical role in fighting for Kenya’s liberation and shaping its post-independence future.

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“We should all learn from his inspiring journey and the chronicles of his life,” President Uhuru Kenyatta said in a speech at Nyayo Stadium in Nairobi, where Mr. Moi’s coffin arrived draped in the Kenyan flag. But other Kenyans, particularly on social media platforms, wrote about how Mr. Moi presided over an administration that stoked ethnic violence and committed gross violations of human rights, including massacres, unlawful detention, torture, and assassinations.

Mr. Moi, his critics said, oversaw a kleptocracy that skimmed hundreds of millions of dollars from the treasury, sabotaging economic growth and widening inequality.

From 1978 to 2002, Mr. Moi, who passed away of an unspecified illness at a private hospital in the capital, permeated every aspect of Kenyan life.

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Images of his dour face were omnipresent in all public spaces. Decked in sleek suits and waving an ivory baton, he would make a round of daily activities that headlined the evening news. Children recited loyalty pledges to him at school, and lined up on the streets to greet him and sing his praise, waving miniature Kenyan flags.

Under his stewardship, the East African nation remained an important Western ally, both during the Cold War era and the United States-led war on terror.

Several heads of states and dozens of ambassadors attended Mr. Moi’s state funeral on Tuesday. He will be buried on Wednesday in his home area of Kabarak, located about 120 miles northwest of Nairobi.

Mr. Moi was sworn in as Kenya’s president in October 1978.Credit…Jean Claude Francolon/Gamma-Rapho, via Getty Images

Yet as his funeral service was underway in Nairobi, Mr. Moi’s checkered rule and the different Kenya he could have shaped came into sharp focus.

“There’s a way death is perceived as something that automatically erases who a person was when they were alive,” Scheaffer Okore, a development adviser and vice chairwoman of the youth-led Ukweli Party, said.

Growing up in the southwestern region of Nyanza in the 1980s, Ms. Okore said police officers tear-gassed her school, shut down businesses and stoked a culture of fear and silence. Conversations about the president and his regime, she said, were “whispered,” less you risked jail or death.

“To ignore these experiences is to remind those whose lives were violently affected by Moi that they didn’t matter then neither do they matter now,” she said.

Mr. Moi has elicited a mixed response from Kenyans who view him as either a strongman or a leader who maintained stability.Credit…Suleiman Mbatiah/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Mr. Moi ascended to power in August 1978, after the sudden death of President Jomo Kenyatta, father of current president Uhuru. In the early days, he released political prisoners and preached unity — pushing many to think that he would change course from the ways of his predecessor by eliminating tribal cronyism and tackling rampant graft.

Instead, what emerged was a one-party state with Mr. Moi at its center who demanded blind loyalty from government officials by asking them “to sing like parrots” after his own tune.


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During his reign, freedom of speech was curtailed, ethnic violence proliferated and dissent was crushed, with many opposition figures detained and tortured in the much-dreaded Nyayo House torture chambers.

Mr. Moi’s body laid in state for three days less than a kilometer away from that building.

Mukoma Wa Ngugi, son of the prominent Kenyan author Ngugi wa Thiong’o, said there’s no reason Kenya shouldn’t have become a nation “where resources work for the citizenry, and reserves of wealth invested for future generations.”

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Mr. Ngugi, the author, was among thousands who ran afoul of Mr. Moi for criticizing his government. He was imprisoned and then forced into exile. But for years, before leaving Kenya, the family received death threats, said his son, Mr. Mukoma. Their home was raided, and his siblings couldn’t find jobs or get passports to leave the country. Effigies of his father were burned on television, he said.

Even though the author and his family have since traveled freely back to Kenya, “I deeply miss the me, the Mukoma that would have grown up in Kenya,” said Mr. Mukoma, who is now an associate professor of English at Cornell University, writing in an email. “In a way now, we are always absent from that other life.”

For some, Mr. Moi’s passing brought back the roiling emotions linked to growing up under his rule.

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A 2013 report from Kenya’s Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission noted that, under Mr. Moi’s rule, security forces killed hundreds of people — possibly thousands — in various massacres in the region with the stated goal of disarming the population and combating cattle rustling.

Abdikader Ore Ahmed, a former lawmaker, said he and his family were affected during the 1984 Wagalla Massacre, which targeted ethnic Somalis in northeastern Kenya.

Police chasing protesters during an opposition rally in Nairobi in May 1997.Credit…George Mulala/Reuters

“I have not eulogized Moi or condoled him,” Mr. Ahmed said, adding the atrocities committed by security agents against his family and relatives remained “traumatizing and emotional.”

Others did eulogize him. In the wake of his death, Mr. Moi has been described as compassionate, a jovial leader and a “disciplinarian” with an aptitude for problem-solving.

Raila Odinga, a former prime minister who was detained by Mr. Moi for campaigning for multiparty democracy, both praised and forgave him, calling him a “great leader” who made “great contributions” to the nation.

Kenya declared Tuesday a public holiday to celebrate Mr. Moi. Boniface Mwangi, a Kenyan photojournalist and activist, said this was “sanitizing” Mr. Moi. “It’s a deliberate attempt to photoshop the past,” he said.

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Kenya, he said, is still led by some of Mr. Moi’s closest allies and cronies. Both President Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto are protégés of Mr. Moi. The country continues to be mired in widespread corruption and abuse of office.

To build a truly democratic nature and reverse the entrenchment of the Moi legacy, Mr. Mwangi said Kenyans needed to study their history closely.

Six children ‘suffocated to death’ in Kenya stampede

Post-mortem results show that six of the 14 schoolchildren who died in a stampede on Monday evening in western Kenya had suffocated.

This narrow staircase is said to have aggravated the crush

Pathologist Dickson Mchana says his team is still investigating the cause of death for the other eight children who died in the crush at Kakamega Primary School.

“We are racing against time to finalise the post-mortems and prepare the bodies for collection by the families for a requiem mass to be held at Bukhungu Stadium in Kakamega,” Dr Mchana said.

Police officers are still investigating the incident in which 14 pupils died and 39 others were injured.

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They have recorded statements from teachers, pupils and other witnesses to establish what triggered the commotion.

Two of the pupils are still receiving medical treatment at the Kakamega Referral Hospital.


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Education Minister George Magoha closed the school until Tuesday next week, which has since been declared a national holiday to mourn the death of former President Daniel arap Moi.

14 children killed in crush at Kenya primary school

Police investigate causes of tragedy in Kakamega amid reports that pupils fell from third floor as they ran downstairs at home time.

Parents and teachers gather at Kakamega primary school after the tragedy in which 14 children died. Photograph: STRINGER/Reuters

At least 14 children have died and dozens of others have been injured in a crush at a primary school in Kenya, officials said.

The police have launched an inquiry into what caused the crowd of students to panic as they were leaving the school in the western town of Kakamega to go home at around 5pm local time on Monday.

In the aftermath of the tragedy, the police cordoned off the school and took statements from the teaching staff.

Images broadcast by local media showed parents gathered in front of the emergency ward of a hospital in the town, waiting for news of their children.

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Education minister George Magoha told Citizen TV that 14 children, believed to be mostly in grade five, aged between 10 and 12, had died. “One life (lost) is a life too many,” he said.

ne of the children’s mothers blamed the teachers.

“Those who survived said they were running because there were teachers who were beating them, and that is why they were escaping and fell on each other,” the mother said in an interview with local media.

Corporal punishment is banned in Kenya.

The Daily Nation newspaper said that some of the children fell from the third floor of the school building as they ran.

“As kids were going home from school there was a stampede as they were going down the stairs,” said Peter Abwao, a spokesman for Red Cross Kenya. “It’s a three-storey building, it’s a classroom block.”

The Kakamega primary school did not immediately comment on the incident.

“We are devastated by the tragedy that has hit Kakamega primary school this evening,” said Kenyas vice president William Ruto in a post on Twitter.

“Our prayers, love and thoughts to the families and relatives of the victims of the misfortune.”

Red Cross said that it was setting up psychological support services, as well as a “tracing desk” to help relatives locate potentially affected students.

The Red Cross said 39 students had been admitted to hospital.

St John’s Ambulance said at least 14 students had been killed and more than 50 injured, including two who were in an intensive care unit. Some 37 had been treated and discharged from hospital.

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The tragedy comes two days after 20 people were killed in a crush at an open-air evangelical Christian church service over the border in Tanzania.

Agence France-Presse and Reuters contributed to this report.

Nigeria to ‘quickly’ recruit more soldiers — Osinbajo

There is an ongoing deliberate and comprehensive consolidation of the security situation in the country including plans to recruit more troops and officers to beef up the personnel of security agencies in order to contain the threats and security concerns in the land, according to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.

Nigerian Army says no Boko Haram Attack in Pulka
Nigerian Army says no Boko Haram Attack in Pulka

Mr Osinbajo stated this on Monday when he received, on a courtesy visit to the Presidential Villa, clergymen from the Northern part of Nigeria under the auspices of the Arewa Pastors Forum for Peace.

Speaking on how the Federal Government is managing the security concerns across the country, the Vice President assured the pastors “we are doing everything that needs to be done.”

“We are handling security well, and as you know, including military deployment in diverse fields, like the Boko Haram in the Northeast.

“In fact, we have to now recruit more into the army, and much faster than we ever did because we need men on the ground; resources also – to buy more arms, to buy more platforms,” the Vice President said.

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Mr Osinbajo described how serious the Buhari administration considers the task, saying that “at the last meeting of the National Security Council that was held on Thursday, we had discussions on how to beef up the military’s platforms. How do we beef up the numbers? How do we recruit more men and women into the army? How do we collaborate more with local vigilante, the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) and all that,”

“So, there is a lot going on in terms of trying to beef up security. The security situation is one that is very challenging. We are also looking at aspects of surveillance – how we can do more aerial surveillance using drones and electronic devices to improve surveillance,” the Vice President noted.

Mr Osinbajo assured the clergymen that the Federal Government is also committed to finding lasting solutions to the perennial crisis in communities in the North and other parts of the country, including the ones bothering on religious prejudices.

He urged the group as ‘Men of God,” to also come up with ideas and their thoughts on how to find lasting peace.


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Earlier in his remark, president of the Forum, Bishop Mbayo Japhet said the group’s visit to the Presidential Villa was to support the administration and the Vice President, describing him as an apostle of peace.

‘Police forced me to go naked to prove I was a woman’

A Kenyan female bus conductor who has a beard has shared how she was stripped naked in a police cell to confirm her gender.

Theresia Mumbi was diagnosed with a hormonal imbalance that resulted in her having a beard

Theresia Mumbi told BBC Swahili that traffic police in the capital, Nairobi, arrested her and held her in a cell with other women.

“Two officers came and told me to take off my clothes. They then examined me. I’m not sure what they saw but they told me to return to my cell,” she said.

She says that the July 2018 arrest over identification documents is still fresh in her mind. She presented her documents and was let go.

Ms Mumbi’s experience has made her an advocate for women with unusual features and now she tells her story to create awareness and encourage others to speak out when harassed.

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Ms Mumbi was diagnosed with a hormonal imbalance that resulted to her having a beard.

As a young woman she had to shave her beard often until her skin became irritated by the frequent shaving.

“Some years back I had to suspend shaving at some point because my skin was becoming irritable and the stubborn sores were a problem,” she said.

The beard grew and she started hiding from people, opting to shop at night.

Pushed by the hard economic times she became a bus conductor to earn a living.


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While at work she meets women with unique conditions and encourages them.

She is part of an association of bearded women in Kenya and during their meetings she speaks to the younger women.

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.

Al-Shabaab kills three Americans in attack on US military base in Kenya

Al-Shabaab extremists have overrun a key military base in Kenya, killing three American Department of Defense personnel and destroying several US aircraft and vehicles before they were repelled.

Al-Shabaab militia has conducted an attack against US military base Camp Simba in Kenya. Photograph: Staff Sgt. LEXIE WEST HANDOUT/EPA

The attack on the Manda Bay airfield early on Sunday was the al-Qaida-linked group’s first attack against US forces in the East African country, and the military called the security situation “fluid” several hours after the assault.

Five attackers were killed, Kenyan military spokesman Paul Njuguna said.

Al-Shabaab, based in neighboring Somalia, claimed responsibility for the assault.

One US serviceman and two contractors with the US Department of Defense were killed in the fighting, according to a statement from the US Africa Command, or Africom.

Al-Shabaab claimed that there were 17 US casualties, nine Kenyan soldiers killed and seven aircraft destroyed.

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Kenya is a key base for fighting al-Shabaab, one of the world’s most resilient extremist organizations. A large plume of black smoke rose above the airfield Sunday and residents said a car bomb had exploded. Lamu county commissioner Irungu Macharia told the Associated Press that five suspects were arrested and were being interrogated.

An internal Kenyan police report seen by the AP said two fixed-wing aircraft, a US Cessna and a Kenyan one, were destroyed along with two US helicopters and multiple US vehicles at the Manda Bay military airstrip. The report said explosions were heard at around 5.30am from the direction of the airstrip. The scene, now secured, indicated that al-Shabaab likely entered “to conduct targeted attacks”, the report said.

The military’s Camp Simba has under 100 US personnel, according to Pentagon figures. US forces at the adjoining Manda Bay airfield train and give counterterror support to East African partners.

Al-Shabaab has launched a number of attacks inside Kenya, including against civilian targets such as buses, schools and shopping malls. The group has been the target of a growing number of US airstrikes inside Somalia during Donald Trump’s administration.

The latest attack comes just over a week after an al-Shabaab truck bomb in Somalia’s capital killed at least 79 people and US airstrikes killed seven al-Shabaab fighters in response.

Last year, al-Shabaab attacked a US military base inside Somalia, Baledogle, that is used to launch drone strikes but reportedly failed to make their way inside. The extremist group also has carried out multiple attacks against Kenyan troops in the past in retaliation for Kenya sending troops to Somalia to fight it.

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This attack marks a significant escalation of al-Shabaab’s campaign of attacks inside Kenya, said analyst Andrew Franklin, a former US Marine and longtime Kenya resident.Advertisement

“Launching a deliberate assault of this type against a well-defended permanent base occupied by (Kenya Defence Forces), contractors and US military personnel required a great deal of planning, rehearsals, logistics and operational capability,” he said. Previous attacks against security forces have mainly been ambushes on Kenyan army or police patrols.

The early Sunday attack comes days after a US airstrike killed Iran’s top military commander and Iran vowed retaliation, but al-Shabaab is a Sunni Muslim group and there is no sign of links to Shiite Iran or proxies.

Uganda’s pop star MP Bobi Wine arrested

Gunfire also heard as he tried to hold gathering for 2021 presidential bid.

Bobi Wine was detained by police before the planned event at a school in Wakiso district. Photograph: Reuters

Wine and his People Power pressure group had aimed to start a programme of consultations with supporters on his plans to challenge Yoweri Museveni, 75, who has ruled Uganda since 1986.

Police said Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, was trying to stage an assembly in an open area when he had only been allowed to meet supporters in an enclosed area such as a conference hall.

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“This one is not an enclosed place, we cannot even allow them to be here,” said Edson Muhangi, a police commander. “We are reliably informed that their aim is to engage us so that they can be seen exchanging words, fighting with the police and tarnishing the image of Uganda.”

Colleagues of Wine were also arrested before the planned event at a school in Gayaza, in the central district of Wakiso. Gunfire was heard but it was not clear if live rounds or rubber bullets were fired.

Security personnel in Uganda routinely break up opposition rallies with teargas, beatings and detentions. Human rights activists have accused the police and army of rights violations.

Since he became a legislator in 2017, Wine has rattled Ugandan authorities, who see him as a threat to Museveni. There are growing concerns that the election campaign could turn violent as security forces restrict opposition activists’ interactions with supporters.

The singer and activist has called on Museveni to retire, saying young people must prepare to take over leadership of the east African nation. Museveni, who has indicated he will run again for president, has accused Wine of trying to incite his supporters into rioting.

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Wine came to political prominence nationally in 2017 when, as an independent candidate, he won election as a lawmaker representing a constituency near Kampala. He has since successfully campaigned for other opposition candidates, raising his profile and attracting encouragement to run for president. He is a controversial figure, and has faced repeated accusations of homophobia.

The Daily Monitor newspaper reported that a day-old baby had been rushed to hospital in critical condition after inhaling teargas used to disperse the crowd on Monday.Advertisement

Robert Ssempala, the head of the Human Rights Network for Journalists – Uganda, told Reuters two local reporters had been briefly detained as they covered the confrontation. He condemned the police response as “high-handed and unlawful”.

‘We’d prefer the food to money’ — Zimbabweans

Government dysfunction, an economic meltdown, drought and a calamitous flood have plunged Zimbabwe into a hunger crisis.

Food distribution in the Mutoko rural area of Zimbabwe in March.Credit…Jekesai Njikizana/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The people lined up early for a chance to buy subsidized maize meal from the government-run Grain Marketing Board depot in Harare, at prices they could afford. After three hours, a guard emerged to announce that the depot’s supply was rotten so there would be none for sale that day.

The crowd of 150 reacted with disbelief and anger.

“Life is hard, all things are expensive, there are no price controls and inflation just keeps getting worse,” said Benjamini Dunha, 57, a plumber who makes 700 Zimbabwe dollars a month — about $38 at official exchange rates. Less than a year ago, his salary was worth much closer to $700.

Another shopper, Nyasha Domboka, 52, spoke cynically about a truckful of maize meal, also known as mealie meal, that he had just seen in the depot parking lot. “How can mealie-meal packed just recently be said to have gone bad all of a sudden?” he asked.

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A combination of government dysfunction, an economic meltdown, droughts and a calamitous cyclone this past March have hurtled Zimbabwe toward a hunger disaster that has become the most severe in southern Africa and among the most alarming in the world. While food is not necessarily scarce yet, it is becoming unaffordable for all but the privileged few.

A house destroyed by Cyclone Idai in Chimanimani, in March.Credit…Zinyange Auntony/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“I cannot stress enough the urgency of the situation in Zimbabwe,” Hilal Elver, an independent United Nations human rights expert on food security, said after a 10-day visit in November. Sixty percent of the country’s 14 million people, Ms. Elver said, are “food-insecure, living in a household that is unable to obtain enough food to meet basic needs.”

Hunger in Africa is a pervasive problem, but in Zimbabwe, once known as the continent’s breadbasket, it has been compounded by dysfunction that has left the country in its most serious economic crisis in a decade. The annual inflation rate, which the International Monetary Fund has called the world’s highest, is 300 percent.

Maize meal, a staple of the Zimbabwean diet, doubled in price in November to 101 Zimbabwe dollars per 10-kilogram sack. Now it costs 117. In early December, a two-liter bottle of cooking oil cost 59 Zimbabwe dollars. Now it costs more than 72.

“The money here is valueless now,” said Mr. Dunha, who has eight children. All they can afford to eat, he said, are vegetables and sadza, a thick porridge of boiled maize meal.

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Gerald Bourke, a spokesman for the southern Africa operations of the World Food Program, the anti-hunger agency of the United Nations, said that until recently 60 percent of its assistance to Zimbabweans was in the form of cash, but that the recipients no longer wanted the money.

“Inflation is a rampant problem and people said, ‘We’d prefer the food,’” Mr. Bourke said.

Lining up to withdraw the new Zimbabwe currency in Harare last month. Credit…Jekesai Njikizana/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

So by January, he said, the agency intends to switch to a “fully in-kind food program” for the first time in Zimbabwe, distributing monthly rations of grain, oil and nutritional supplements for children younger than 5. The agency also will double the number of recipients to four million.

“This is certainly the worst we are seeing in southern Africa,” Mr. Bourke said during a mid-December field visit to Harare, the capital. While cases of acute hunger have not been uncommon in rural Zimbabwe, “it’s seen in the cities now,” he said. “Hungry people in the countryside are moving to the cities” in search of food.

The finance minister, Mthuli Ncube, said on Friday that the government would spend 180 million Zimbabwe dollars a month on subsidies as part of an effort to keep the price of maize meal stable.

But for many Zimbabweans, there is fear that the inflation problem portends a return to the days more than a decade ago when a trip to buy groceries required wheelbarrows of cash. Even now, purchases of anything beyond maize meal is considered a luxury.

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“We used to buy favorite foods such as ice cream, cheese, bacon, sausages and ham, and prepare good breakfasts for our families, “ said Moreblessing Nyambara, a 35-year-old Harare schoolteacher. “These things are a vision of the past now.”

Many historians attribute Zimbabwe’s predicament to the legacy of Robert Mugabe, the father of independence in 1980. An icon of African anti-colonialism, Mr. Mugabe became a despot and presided over the decline of what had been one of Africa’s most prosperous lands. He was ousted in 2017, and died in September at age 95.

Any hopes that Mr. Mugabe’s former ally and successor, Emmerson Mnangagwa, could revive Zimbabwe’s economy have almost completely faded.

“No progressive nation can progress without its own currency,” President Emmerson Mnangagwa said. “We will not revert back.” Credit…Jekesai Njikizana/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

This past June Mr. Mnangagwa scrapped a policy known as dollarization, in which the United States dollar and other foreign currencies were used as legal tender. That policy was introduced in 2009 and helped end an era of hyperinflation, which had rendered the Zimbabwe dollar less valuable than the paper it was printed on.

But a newly introduced version of the Zimbabwe dollar has plunged in value, drastically raising the prices of goods priced in the currency.

Foreigners are reluctant to invest in Zimbabwe despite Mr. Mnangagwa’s proclamation that the country is “open for business.” Export sales and remittances from the Zimbabwean diaspora, important sources of United States dollars needed to import food and fuel, have fallen.

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Mr. Mnangagwa has rejected calls to restore dollarization.

“No progressive nation can progress without its own currency,” he told members of the governing ZANU-PF party at their annual conference in mid-December. “We will not revert back.”

Still, for now, the inflation problem remains less severe than what prevailed more than a decade ago.

At that time, prices were doubling every day, reaching a point where a single sheet of two-ply toilet paper cost nearly as much as a 500-Zimbabwe-dollar bill, then the smallest in circulation. That comparison spawned grim jokes about a better use for the currency.

A woman doing a quick calculation on her phone before buying groceries at a shop in Harare.Credit…Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/Associated Press

Four million Zimbabweans are now not that far away from famine, according to a scale commonly used internationally to classify the severity of food insecurity and malnutrition. In the scale’s five phases, Phase 1 is minimal and Phase 5 is famine.

Mr. Bourke, the program spokesman, said the hungriest Zimbabweans were now in either Phase 3 or Phase 4.

With Zimbabwe’s last maize harvest down by half compared with the year before because of drought, he said, the aid will continue until at least through the end of April, when the next harvest is due. But he was not optimistic.

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“The weather forecasters are basically saying we’re looking at a very dry growing season,” Mr. Bourke said.

Ursula Mueller, the deputy emergency relief coordinator at the United Nations, who visited Zimbabwe in June, said the country’s travails were partly tied to a broader climate crisis in southern Africa that has rippled through all facets of life.

Drought begets less food, which in turn begets declines in health and education and increases in crime and other “negative coping mechanisms,” she said.

A hippo stuck in the mud at a drying watering hole in the Hwange National Park.Credit…Zinyange Auntony/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“This is not just a food crisis. It is a wider more complicated situation,” she said in a telephone interview on Friday. “People have to make choices: Do I seek H.I.V. treatment or food?”

Ms. Mueller also said a United Nations humanitarian budget for Zimbabwe had received only half the nearly $468 millionrequested, forcing her office to dip into other emergency funding. Humanitarian aid by the United Nations is financed almost entirely by voluntary contributions.

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Beyond immediate assistance, Ms. Mueller said that more investments were needed to address the root causes of problems in Zimbabwe and other countries that have the potential for more self-sufficiency.

35 civilians killed by terrorists in Burkina Faso

Seven members of the security forces died, while 80 insurgents were reported killed.

A soldier of the Burkina Faso army, whose actions were praised by the president. Photograph: Michele Cattani/AFP via Getty Images

Jihadists in Burkina Faso have killed 35 civilians, mostly women, after attacking a military outpost in northern Soum province, authorities have said.

The violence, which erupted in the town of Arbinda near the country’s border with Mali, lasted for several hours, according to a military statement. Seven members of the security forces who responded died, while 80 insurgents were reported killed.

Of the civilian victims, 31 were women. It was not immediately clear where they were at the time of the attack or why so many died.

President Roch Marc Kaboré declared two days of national mourning in the west African country in response to the attack.

“The heroic action of our soldiers has made it possible to neutralise 80 terrorists,” he said. “This barbaric attack resulted in the death of 35 civilians, most of them women.”

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Jihadists in Burkina Faso have killed 35 civilians, mostly women, after attacking a military outpost in northern Soum province, authorities have said.

The violence, which erupted in the town of Arbinda near the country’s border with Mali, lasted for several hours, according to a military statement. Seven members of the security forces who responded died, while 80 insurgents were reported killed.

Of the civilian victims, 31 were women. It was not immediately clear where they were at the time of the attack or why so many died.

President Roch Marc Kaboré declared two days of national mourning in the west African country in response to the attack.

“The heroic action of our soldiers has made it possible to neutralise 80 terrorists,” he said. “This barbaric attack resulted in the death of 35 civilians, most of them women.”

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.”

Allen Onyema of Air Peace Limited. [CREDIT: The Cable]

Air Peace CEO Onyema will face 105 years in jail if found guilty

Allen Onyema, the Nigerian aviation executive who was recently accused by the United States of committing more than $21 million fraud, could spend up to 105 years in prison if convicted of a laundry of charges bordering on the alleged fraud.

Allen Onyema of Air Peace Limited. [CREDIT: The Cable]
Allen Onyema of Air Peace Limited. [CREDIT: The Cable]

Mr Onyema was indicted by a federal grand jury in the United States on November 19 on multiple charges bordering on criminal conspiracy, bank fraud and money laundering.

According to the initial announcement by the U.S. Department of Justice and the full indictment (PDF) first obtained by PREMIUM TIMES, Mr Onyema was indicted on one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, three counts of bank fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit credit application fraud.

The Air Peace chairman was also charged with three counts of credit application fraud and 27 counts of money laundering. Mr Onyema faces a total of 35 counts — each criminal in nature and carries specific penalties that involve either a hefty fine or jail sentence or both.

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The charges were far greater than those leveled against Mr Onyema’s alleged accomplice, Ejiroghene Eghagha, Air Peace’s head of finance and administration.

Mr Eghagha was slammed with one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, three counts of bank fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit credit application fraud, three counts of credit application fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft.

Both suspects denied the allegations in a November 23 statement and indicated their readiness to fight the charges in court.

Lengthy sentences

Neither Mr Onyema nor his lawyers have said anything about whether or not he would be going to America to defend the charges or when. But the details already made available by the U.S. authorities have provided a good idea of potential penalties that could come from the charges.


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According to the indictment, Mr Onyema, aided allegedly by Ms Eghagha, raised several letters of credit to buy the same planes he had already purchased and added to Air Peace’s fleet of commercial airliners in Nigeria.

Based on the dubious letters of credit, American banking giant Wells Fargo transferred more than $21 million to bank accounts of U.S.-based Springfield Aviation, a suspected shell company registered and controlled by Mr Onyema.

Wells Fargo paid the money to Mr Onyema in a series of transactions between February 10, 2017 and February 20, 2018, court documents said.

Mr Onyema then allegedly transferred the funds to different bank accounts in a series of 27 transactions between March and November 2017, the indictment said.

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As part of the investigation, American authorities have already frozen bank accounts allegedly owned by Mr Onyema in the U.S. and Canada, trapping N5 billion ($14.2 million) in the cross-border measure.

The indictment said a final forfeiture of the funds would be pursued as part of potential penalties against Mr Onyema. Since the businessman has not been formally arraigned in court, prosecutors have yet to disclose possible sentences or fines.

But based on the counts already leveled against him, Mr Onyema could be sentenced to 105 years, including sentences that may run concurrently.

The maximum penalty for bank fraud (Title 18 Section 3144) is 30 years.

Mr Onyema was slammed with three counts of this, which means he could face maximum 90 years on bank fraud charges. But since the charges are likely to run concurrently, it means 30 years would be the maximum.

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Attempt to commit bank fraud (Title 18 Section 1349) carries the same penalty as bank fraud itself. If Mr Onyema is found guilty of the lone count of attempted bank fraud, he could get the maximum 30 years in prison.

Three counts of credit application fraud (Title 18 Section 1014) also carry maximum 90 years’ imprisonment at 30 years per count. Again, only 30 years would apply here if the three counts run concurrently.

The maximum penalty for conspiracy to commit credit application fraud (Title 18 Section 371) is five years.

The 27 money laundering charges (Title 18 Section 3144) carry a maximum 270 years at 10 years per count. Running concurrently, Mr Onyema would get a maximum ten years here also. The 27 charges are for each of the 27 bank transfers that Mr Onyema allegedly initiated between March and November 2017.

Altogether, Mr Onyema faces 105 years from the 35 charges.

Hefty fines

All the charges also carry option of fines, and in some cases both fines and imprisonment. The three counts of bank fraud carry a maximum $1 million each. Attempt to commit bank fraud carries $1 million maximum.

The three counts of credit application fraud carry a maximum of $1 million per count.

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The 27 counts of money laundering carry a penalty of $1 million per count.

Although fines were prescribed as one of the penalties for conspiracy to credit application fraud (Title 18 Section 371), no specific amount was stated, indicating that this would be left to the presiding judge to determine.Based on the prescribed fines, Mr Onyema faces $34 million in potential fines if convicted, and this may be with or without a prison sentence.

Unknown paths

PREMIUM TIMES analysed the potential penalties for Mr Onyema based on information obtained from the Title 18 of the United States Code (USC), which is the main criminal code of the American federal government.

Mr Onyema is facing federal charges and most of the officials responsible for his investigation and indictment are from federal agencies.

However, additional factors may play out, depending on how the case proceeds.

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These include whether Mr Onyema would ask his lawyers to negotiate a soft landing for him and the discretion of the judge that would be assigned to the case.

While our analysis looked at the maximum penalties, actual sentences for federal crimes are usually less than the maximum penalties prescribed by law.

The federal judge that would be assigned to try the case will determine how lengthy a sentence for a successful count would be after taking into account the federal sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors.

How I made my money to start Air Peace — Onyema

When the news broke over the weekend that Allen Onyema had been indicted in the United States for multi-million dollar fraud, a question that echoed amongst Nigerians was how he moved from relative obscurity to become one of the biggest players in Nigeria’s aviation sector in just about half a decade.

By Samuel Ogundipe

Nigerian businessman and founder of Air Peace Limited, Allen Onyema. [PHOTO CREDIT: Thisday Live]

Some commentators said the indictment buttressed their suspicion that Mr Onyema might be a fraudster like many Nigerian businessmen with unexplained wealth; while others rehashed old claims that he has been fronting for unscrupulous politicians who cornered public funds and invested the same through him.

Mr Onyema established Air Peace Limited in 2013, and by the end of 2018, it had gained the largest share in Nigeria’s domestic air travel, according to the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).

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The airline also recorded tremendous breakthrough in foreign travels, flying to more countries in Asia, Europe and Africa than any other Nigerian commercial flights operator.

Earlier this year, the company announced it was expanding both its fleet and destinations, which would include Atlanta and Houston, and effectively asserted its place as a blue-chip entity in the Nigerian aviation industry.

A daunting indictment

But all that came raised more suspicion with the allegation Friday that the man behind the thriving airline had been involved in multiple layers of sharp practices spanning several years in the United States.

The U.S. Department of Justice said Mr Onyema was indicted by a grand jury on several counts of criminal charges bordering on identity theft, bank fraud and money laundering. Facing the charges alongside him is Ejiroghene Eghagha, Air Peace’s head of finance and administration.

The full indictment narrated how Mr Onyema, aided by his alleged accomplice Ms Eghagha, allegedly raised several letters of credit to buy the same planes he had already purchased and added to Air Peace’s fleet of commercial airliners in Nigeria.

Based on the dubious letters of credit, American banking giant Wells Fargo transferred more than $21 million to bank accounts of U.S.-based Springfield Aviation, a suspected shell company registered and controlled by Mr Onyema. Wells Fargo paid the money to Mr Onyema in a series of transactions between February 10, 2017 and February 20, 2018, court documents said.

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Within hours after the indictment was made public, Mr Onyema released a statement pushing back strongly against the charges. He said he would vigorously defend his honour in court, but did not indicate whether or not he would be heading to the United States soon.

Based on the charges, American prosecutors have secured court warrants for the arrest of Messrs Onyema and Eghagha in the United States. Corresponding warrants have also been issued for Canadian authorities to detain both suspects should either or both of them be found there.

Financing Air Peace

Although a large section of Nigerian social media already expressed doubts about the veracity of American charges against Mr Onyema even before his rebuttal Saturday morning, many others withheld their support for the businessman because they felt the source of his wealth, especially how he acquired Air Peace, had been shrouded in secrecy.

“It is only in Nigeria that someone can become a billionaire overnight and you cannot unravel how he accumulated his wealth no matter how deep you dig,” business analyst, Osahon Ojigbede, told PREMIUM TIMES. “It is one of the reasons I have been very reluctant to go with those who say we should give Mr Onyema the benefit of the doubt.”

Mr Ojigbede said he was particularly gripped by a section of the indictment which said Mr Onyema established several non-profit organisations to move funds around in a manner typical of money laundering.

“Since he has said he would clear his name in court, I look forward to seeing how he plans to address charges of drafting fake purchase documents and using proceeds of non-profits to directly fund commercial businesses,” Mr Ojigbede said.

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American authorities said Mr Onyema used about $3 million from his NGOs, including Foundation for Ethnic Harmony, International Centre for Non-Violence and Peace Development, All-Time Peace Media Communications Limited and Every Child Limited, to buy planes for Air Peace.

PREMIUM TIMES reached out repeatedly to Mr Onyema in the wake of the allegations, but he has yet to agree to be interviewed.

However, he briefly addressed how he raised funds to start Air Peace in an April 2017 interview with City People, an entertainment weekly based in Lagos.

In the interview, Mr Onyema expressed his ‘irritation’ about a perennial rumour that he had been fronting for Patience Jonathan in operating Air Peace, saying he had “never met” the former Nigerian First Lady in his life.

He said he grew up in Warri, but moved to Lagos shortly after graduating from the University of Ibadan and becoming a lawyer in 1989. When he moved to Lagos in 1990, he initially joined a law firm, where he worked for a few years before going into real estate.

It was in real estate that he said he became fortunate from selling lands in Lekki and other priced areas in the Nigerian commercial capital.

“By 2008, I was receiving about 18 per cent interest on my deposits. I was building estates from interest alone,” he told City People.

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He said it was in 2008 that he discussed launching Air Peace with his wife, and getting a licence for the airline took several years with exhaustive efforts.

“I brought my finances into it (Air Peace) while getting support from the banks too,” Mr Onyema told the magazine.

“When I had gone halfway with the acquisition of my aircraft, I discovered that it was more than I thought. So I borrowed money from the banks.

“Fidelity Bank is there for anyone who cares to see. I pay the bank daily from sales. It is automatic,” Mr Onyema said.

Since then, Mr Onyema said Air Peace has become so successful that commercial banks can no longer pass on any opportunity to do business with it, even as he emphasised that the company was whole owned by him.

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“I have integrity and every bank that knows my pedigree like Fidelity would readily do business with me,” Mr Onyema said. “I equally borrowed from Zenith but not as much as I did with Fidelity. This is how I set up my airline. For the record, I own Air Peace 100 per cent.”

In another interview with the Vanguard last October, Mr Onyema said Air Peace had a staff strength of 3,000, out of which about 2,000 are women. He spoke glowingly of the dedication of women on his staff, especially top officials like Ms Eghagha whose intelligence and energy he said keep the company flourishing.

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.”

Civil servants ordered to wear ‘made in Kenya outfits’

Kenya’s government has ordered civil servants to wear locally tailored clothes to work on Fridays and during public holidays.

The order is meant to boost the local manufacturing industry, a key plank in President Uhuru’s Kenyatta so-called Big 4 Agenda.

The order was communicated in a circular signed by Solicitor-General Kennedy Ogeto, who has confirmed its authenticity to Kenya’s Daily Nation newspaper.

It reads:Quote Message: Pursuant to the achievement of the Big 4 Agenda and specifically the expansion of manufacturing by producing better goods and creating local employment, I direct that all members of staff shall on all Fridays be dressed in decent, smart casual Kenyan-produced and tailored attire.”

Pursuant to the achievement of the Big 4 Agenda and specifically the expansion of manufacturing by producing better goods and creating local employment, I direct that all members of staff shall on all Fridays be dressed in decent, smart casual Kenyan-produced and tailored attire.”

It is unclear whether there will be disciplinary measures against those who don’t comply.

President Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto led by example during Sunday’s Heroes’ Day celebrations in the coastal city of Mombasa, wearing Kenyan-made attires.

Cabinet ministers and other state officials also wore similar outfits.

South Africa has been rocked by a wave of unrest and xenophobic violence this month

Xenophobia: South Africa officially apologises to Nigeria

South Africa has apologised to Nigeria over a spate of xenophobic attacks which led to a spike in tensions between the two countries.

South Africa has been rocked by a wave of unrest and xenophobic violence this month
South Africa has been rocked by a wave of unrest and xenophobic violence this month

Twelve people were killed earlier this month when mobs attacked foreign-owned businesses, mainly in Johannesburg.

A special envoy from South Africa presented an apology to Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday.

The envoy, Jeff Radebe, expressed the country’s “sincerest apologies” at a meeting in the Nigerian capital, Abuja.

“The incident does not represent what we stand for,” he said, adding that South African police would “leave no stone unturned” in bringing those involved to justice.

Mr Radebe also told President Buhari that the South African government condemned the violence and was taking decisive action.

Mr Buhari thanked Mr Radebe for “coming to explain to us what happened in South Africa recently, leading to [the] killing and displacement of foreigners”.

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‘Ramaphosa’s shame’

“President Buhari responded to profuse apologies from the South African president, pledging that the relationship between the two countries will be solidified,” a statement from his office said.

At the end of last week, South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa told the BBC that he felt ashamed by the recent violence.

“We are very concerned and of course as a nation we [are] ashamed because this goes against the ethos of what South Africa stands for,” he said.

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa has said he feels ashamed by the violence

No Nigerians were killed in the violence in South Africa, but Nigerian-owned shops and businesses are believed to have been targeted by the mobs.

Of the 12 people who were killed, 10 are reported to have been South African nationals and two were from Zimbabwe.

Nigeria has been outspoken in its condemnation of the violence. A fortnight ago, it withdrew a delegation from a major international conference taking place in South Africa.

Tensions were inflamed after videos and images were shared on social media purporting to show Nigerians being attacked and killed. The Nigerian government said there was no evidence that this had taken place.

But it did say that Nigerian-owned businesses had been targeted.

The attacks started after lorry drivers staged a strike to protest against the employment of foreigners.

South Africa has become a magnet for migrants from other parts of Africa as it has one of the continent’s biggest and most developed economies.

Fake videos stoke tension amid South Africa xenophobic attacks

Evacuation of Nigerians

But there is also high unemployment in the country and some people feel foreigners are taking their jobs.

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While the diplomatic mission is taking place, Nigeria has continued to evacuate its citizens from the country.

Last week, Nigeria’s Consul General Godwin Adama said only those who were under distress as a result of the attacks would leave South Africa.

More than 300 Nigerians are expected to arrive in Lagos on Tuesday. Last week, 188 evacuees arrived back.

SOURCE: BBC Africa

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.

Ozubulu Church Massacre: Chief Great Akpunonu is innocent – Court

Anambra High Court sitting in Awka has discharged and acquitted the two remaining suspects standing trial for the attack on worshipers at St. Philips Catholic Church, Ozubulu in Ekwusigo Local Government Area of Anambra State in which 13 people lost their lives.

Unknown gunmen had on August 6, 2017, invaded the Church in a commando style and shot sporadically, killing many worshipers while many were injured in the process.

The incident which generated heated arguments received the attention of the government of Anambra state with the governor vowing to ensure that justice prevails and the killers brought to book.

Chief Great Akpunonu in the Court

Four persons were later arraigned in court, in connection with the massacre and two had earlier been discharged.

The four suspects – Chief Great Chinedu Akpunonu, 44; Vincent Ike, 57; Chukwudi Ugwu, 30 and Onyebuchi Mbanefo, 46, were arraigned on a 24-count charge in Suit No: HN/36C/2017 bordering on conspiracy and murder, while others allegedly involved in the attack were at large.

In a judgment that lasted for four hours, the presiding judge, Hon. Justice Fidelis Aniukwu ruled that the prosecution counsel was unable to prove beyond reasonable doubt, the allegations leveled against the two defendants, Chief Great Chinedu Akpunonu and Onyebuchi Mbanefo.

Well wishers jubilating over the news of Chief Great’s acquittal

The Judge had in January 18, 2019 discharged two of the four persons charged with the attack, one year after the commencement of the trial, for lack of proper evidence.According to Justice F. I. Aniukwu, whose judgment reads in part, ” that the shooting that took place on 6/8/2017 at St. Philips Catholic Church Ozubulu is unfortunate. It is, however, more unfortunate that the Prosecution was not able to prove that the Defendant took part in the shooting.

The consequence of a finding out of guilt against the Defendant or any of the Defendant is death by hanging. For the Court to make a finding of guilt, therefore, the Court insists on cogent and concrete evidence the standard of which is enough to ground such finding against the Defendants. Such evidence was not led before me.

In the circumstances, I am constrained to return a verdict of not guilty in favour of the Defendant in all the counts against them. The Defendants are hereby acquitted and discharged in all the counts of the charge”. 

Friends and supporters jubilating and celebrating the Court’s judgment
Speaking after the ruling, one of the defendants, Chief Great Chinedu Akpunonu said “God has vindicated me from an attempt by some persons to smear my reputation”.

He, however, said he has forgiven his accusers and appealed to them to join hands to ensure that peace reigns in Ozubulu community.

Port Harcourt Mall Explosion: A terror attack? Here is everything we know

There was an explosion at the newly built Port Harcourt Mall Wednesday, leaving at least 1 person dead and six others injured.

An eye witness told The Bloomgist that the incident happened around 4:00 p.m. forcing an early closure of the mall.

There was an explosion at the newly built Port Harcourt Mall Wednesday, leaving at least 1 person dead and six others injured.

An eye witness told The Bloomgist that the incident happened around 4:00 p.m. forcing an early closure of the mall.

The eye witness said the fire started at the continental cuisines’ kitchen, a section within the mall which cooks and serves Chinese and other continental dishes.

Five workers at the kitchen, who were badly burnt were rushed to the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital where they are currently receiving treatment.

“The fire burnt about five of the workers badly. In fact, one of the victims’ skin was peeling off like burnt clothes as he cried, I couldn’t watch, to be honest.”

A gas explosion or a terror attack?

Analysists have been looking into the explosion which they say is @strange” and looking into a posibility of the explosion being a terror attack.

An anonymous contributor told Bloomgist that the explosion is strange and suspecious, having come amidst fear of terror attack plan rumours in the city.

Police and other security operatives have started investigation to know the actual course of the explosion which has left the residents terrified.

There was a recent post by a Port Harcourt base blogger on how to plant a bomb in the mall seem to be the most popular and most visited in the region.

The post was published on June 7th, five days before the explosion at the mall. Photo: The Bloomgist

The blog with the name ‘Nazcardgard’ shared how to get a bomb into the mall and the processes required to make the ‘mission’ a success, tar getting over 50 casualties which is mostly going to be made up of more ‘rich men’ than normal ‘window shoppers’ at the mall.

The publisher who, according to the post seem to be gunning for fame chose June 12th to accomplish this, and that is the exact day the explosion went off at the mall.

Screenshots of the original post which has been deleted by the publisher. Photo: The Bloomgist

The post which has been deleted after the explosion at the mall was published on June 7th 2019, five days before the explosion.

More details soon.

Three persons, 319 cattle’s killed in Plateau

The police in Plateau have confirmed the killing of three persons and 319 cattle in separate attacks on some villages in Bassa Local Government Area.

According to the state police spokesperson, Tyopev Terna, the killing of the cattle occurred in Billi and Ariri Districts.

He said the cattle were killed a day after three persons were killed and one other was injured in different attacks in Maiyanga and Rotsu villages in the same local government.

Mr Terna confirmed the incident in a statement late Tuesday.

He said two cattle rearers were equally missing in the attack.

His statement reads thus:

“The Plateau State Police Command, Jos, received information on 29/04 /2019 at about 0800hrs to the effect that unknown gunmen attacked Maiyanga area of Miango District. As a result, one Jummai Jah ‘f’ 25yrs and Emmanuel Ishaya ‘m’ 37yrs were killed. A 7 months old girl, Tabitha, survived with a neck injury and is receiving treatment at Enos Hospital at Miango. The information also emphasised that Monday Audu of Rotsu village also in Miango District was shot and matched (macheted) to death.

“While the investigation into these crimes were ongoing, the Command on 30/04 /2019 at about 0730hrs received information that about 319 cattle were attacked and killed, 12 cattle were maimed while 11 cattle were rustled. Two cattle rearers: one Mubarak Yakubu and one Shehu Saidu, both males of different addresses, were missing. All these allegedly took place in Billi and Ariri in Miango District.”

He said the police have mobilised a search and rescue team to rescue the missing rearers while efforts are on the way to track and arrest the perpetrators of the crimes.

Earlier on Tuesday, before the police issued the statement, the state chairman of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), Nura Abdullahi, in a statement sent to PREMIUM TIMES, accused the ‘Irigwe’ of being responsible for the crimes.

According to the leader of the umbrella body of herders, the attack took place in Kuru area of Barkin Ladi Local Government Area, as well as in Kwal area of Bassa Local Government Area.

He said his members lost over 300 cattle “and three rearers were missing.”

The MACBAN chairman also confirmed that he spoke with the commander of a joint security team, Operation Save Haven, Augustine Agundu, on the incident “and he asked him to calm down as measures were being taken to check further occurrence of such incidents”.

Also, the National Secretary of MACBAN, Baba Othman, pleaded with cattle breeders in Plateau State not to engage in retaliatory attacks.

Mr Othman said MACBAN officials and security personnel had conducted an assessment of the area in the aftermath of the attack.

He cautioned against “any form of reprisal,” but called on Plateau authorities to take adequate measures to prevent any breakdown of order.

Not True

When contacted, a leader of the Irigwe people, David Chinge, denied the allegations that his tribesmen were responsible for the killings.

“I was not aware of the 300 cattle killed. All I know (is that) we were called today by the commander sector 6, Col. Hassan, that 11 cattle were killed on Monday.

“Apart from that one, I am not aware of the 300 cattle killed. We, as a people, condemn the act and call on both Fulani and Irigwe to live in peace. I also call on Fulani to keep off from the restricted areas where grazing is banned,” Mr Chinge added.

Unending Bloodshed

Fulani herders and some Plateau communities have been at loggerheads over the last few years. The youth of both tribes have engaged in bloody confrontations that have led to the loss of human lives and cattle.

The clashes have mainly been over grazing rights and resistance to encroachment over lands.

Attempts by the federal and state governments to end the clashes have not been successful.

One person killed, many injured as police shoot sporadically in Ogun state

A breakdown of order has been reported after police officers opened fire at a bus-stop in Ogun State, killing at least a young man and causing injuries to an unknown number of others.

The shooting occurred at Iyana Coker area of Ifo, a market community on the Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway. It occured around 4:30 p.m., according to witnesses.

Akeem Akinsanya, a 25-year-old man, was reportedly killed, according to his uncle, Habib Lawal, who said he witnessed the incident.

Mr Lawal, who said he is widely known in the community as ‘Obasanjo’, said the plainclothes officers were in the area to arrest a man.

“They came to our area in a red Mazda 323 around 4:30 p.m. to arrest a man,” Mr Lawal said. “They arrested the man, but they started shooting into the air as they were about to drive away from the area.”

It was the sporadic shooting that led to the death of Mr Akinsanya and severe injury of many others. The injured were taken to the hospital.

Mr Lawal said the officers were arrested on the spot and were still being held at the police station in Ifo as of 7:45 p.m.

“We are all here to ensure that the police officers did not run away,” he said.

The officers were said to be of the Zonal Intervention Squad of Zone 2 Police Command.

Mr Akinsanya was a motorcycle electrician before his death, his uncle said, adding that the family had been mourning the loss.

Irate residents have taken to the streets to express anger about the killing, which comes as the country reels from multiple shootings of unarmed citizens by police officers.

The Ogun State police commissioner, Bashir Makama, told PREMIUM TIMES he was aware of the incident, and the officers suspected to be responsible have been arrested.

“They are from Zonal Intervention Squad, but I have ordered that they should be arrested in Ifo and brought to Abeokuta for disciplinary action,” Mr Makama said.

The incident comes barely three weeks after Kolade Johnson was killed by a stray police bullet in Lagos, and a week after a young woman was shot dead while returning from a nightclub also in the commercial capital.

Both incidents were investigated by the police and the officers responsible were summarily recommended for dismissal.

Algeria’s president Abdelaziz Bouteflika finally resigns after 20 years

Algerian protesters have vowed to continue their uprising after the president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, bowed to weeks of mass demonstrations and resigned, abruptly ending two decades in power.

The 82-year-old leader announced his resignation on Tuesday night in a brief message that said he had “notified the president of the constitutional council of his decision to end his mandate”.

His resignation triggered a 90-day caretaker presidency by the chairman of the upper house of parliament, Abdelkader Bensalah, until elections are held. But Bensalah assuming the leadership is unlikely to satisfy protesters, and further demonstrations are expected on Friday.

“People don’t like him. The president of the senate won’t be accepted by the Algerian people,” said one protester, Zellag Lamine, in Algiers, adding: “I don’t feel good about how these elections will unfold.”

Algerians took to the streets of the capital on Tuesday night, waving flags and chanting in celebration at Bouteflika’s departure.

“This feels new. Personally, this will be the first new president I’ve experienced,” said Nourhane Atmani, a 20-year-old student from Algiers, who took part in the protests calling for Bouteflika’s overthrow. “I’m happy, I’m excited and I’m scared. But most importantly, I’m determined. This is just a first step. We’ll keep going until we have fair, transparent elections and a new government.”

The end of Bouteflika’s 20-year reign marked a new victory for popular protest in the region. But what will happen next is unclear in a country that has rarely seen political changes at the top since gaining independence from France in 1962.

Peaceful demonstrators had taken to the streets every Friday since 22 February, their numbers sometimes in the hundreds of thousands. In just under six weeks, they had forced Bouteflika to cancel his bid for a fifth term in office and relinquish power.

Pressure had also mounted on the leader from within his own regime, and the head of Algeria’s military, Ahmed Gaïd Salah, had called for Bouteflika’s immediate departure on Tuesday. “There is no more room to waste time … We decided clearly … to stand with the people so all their demands get fulfilled,” declared Salah.

Other powerful figures, including the former prime minister Ahmed Ouyahia, had also joined the calls for Bouteflika to go.

Salah argued that a statement issued by Bouteflika’s office on Monday declaring he would step down before his mandate officially ended on 28 April was written by “unconstitutional and unauthorised parties”, pitting him against the opaque clique around Bouteflika, believed to be ruling in his place.

The departing president suffered a stroke in 2013 and has rarely been seen in public since. His brother Saïd was widely believed to have been running the country from behind the scenes, aided by a cabal of sympathisers known as Le Pouvoir.

But as the growing protests emboldened demonstrators, they began to demand more than just the overthrow of Bouteflika. “It’s very clear that the ambitions of the protesters have grown over the past weeks. While this is definitely a significant victory, it’s not going to be enough,” said Chloe Teevan, a Maghreb specialist at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

Hamza Zait, a journalist and political scientist in Algiers, agreed that protesters would only be temporarily satisfied with Bouteflika’s departure.

“At the start people were just saying no to his fifth term, but then they demanded more,” he said. “There are people saying this is victory, but there are others saying it’s not sufficient. The system can’t change in a week, we need years for a real change.”

“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Yasmine Bouchene of the collective Les Jeunes Engagés (Activist Youth). “The demands didn’t change. We want them all gone. People are in downtown Algiers, celebrating this miniature victory, while also chanting that it’s just the beginning.

Nigeria government learnt of the killing of its citizen in Saudi Arabia on newspaper

Nigeria’s government was not aware that one of its nationals was executed in Saudi Arabia on Monday until the details were published in a newspaper.

Abike Dabiri Erewa, who is the Senior Special Assistant to the Nigerian President on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora, questioned whether justice had been done.

The Nigerian woman was executed after being found guilty of drug smuggling.

She was killed along with two Pakistani men and a Yemeni man and was one of 20 Nigerians on death row in Saudi Arabia.

Ms Erewa said that the Nigerian authorities had lobbied the Saudi government to gain access to the prisoners but they were only allowed to visit once.

“As a nation we don’t condone crime and criminality but what we are asking for is a fair trial, let [the trial] be open and thorough before [the defendants] lose their lives.”

There have been 43 executions already in the first three months of this year and according to human rights campaigners 2019 will see the highest number of beheadings ever if Saudi authorities continue in the same vein.

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

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.