Malawi Revokes Dubious Citizenship of Refugees Wanted Abroad

Malawi’s government has started revoking citizenship of refugees and asylum-seekers who they say obtained their status fraudulently.

Officials say the campaign is aimed at flushing out criminals from other countries, including Rwandan genocide suspects. But critics say the program is too broad and will ensnare legitimate refugees. 

Minister of Homeland Security Zikhale Ng’oma told a televised news conference Monday that Malawi received a request from Rwanda to help track down about 55 criminals wanted for various charges who are staying in Malawi.

Ng’oma said the fugitives could not be found easily because they might have changed their identities and started using Malawian names.

As part of the manhunt, he said, the government is revoking passports and citizenships that were fraudulently obtained.

“We want to tighten our security and ensure that whosoever obtained a passport in a manner that is not normal, we have to confiscate that passport. And whoever got citizenship without right procedures, we will also revoke [that] citizenship,” Ng’oma said.

In 2020, Malawi’s High Court sentenced the former minister of homeland security, Uladi Mussa, to six years in jail for issuing fraudulent citizenships and passports to Burundians and Rwandans.

Ng’oma said some of the 55 suspects sought by Rwanda are wanted in connection with the deaths of over 2,000 people during the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

Last month, the government of South Africa arrested a Rwandese genocide suspect, Fulgence Kayishema. Investigations revealed that Kayishema was using a Malawian passport and names.

“Having managed to get one sample of what is happening in South Africa in regard to our passports, we believe that some people are using false identities in Malawi,” Ng’oma said. “As such, as I am talking, Malawi government, we are in talks with Burundi and Rwanda in regard to those people we want to repatriate.” 

Ng’oma said the government is also searching for other criminals the U.N. refugee agency says may have gained official papers in Malawi. 

“And the department of the UNHCR of late wrote us a letter that we need to repatriate 522 asylum-seekers who are associated with criminalities from their countries. And those people are hiding in our villages,” he said.

Ng’oma said the presence of fugitives in Malawi poses a security threat, and he believes many of them are keeping guns and ammunition.

As an example, he cited a grenade explosion at the Dzaleka refugee camp last December which killed a leader for refugees from Burundi and injured five others at a market.

Ng’oma said Malawi has revoked papers for 396 foreigners in all. 

However, rights groups have warned that a program aimed at criminals may victimize legitimate refugees.

“The way the government is implementing this exercise, it’s targeting everyone, indiscriminately,” said Michael Kayiyatsa, executive director for the Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation in Malawi. “And our concern is that children are being victimized, women, people with disabilities, you know, vulnerable groups who have nothing to do with what the government is alleging.”

Kayiyatsa said although there could be criminal elements among some refugees and asylum-seekers, the Malawi government should find better ways of targeting the criminals.

“If the idea was to target those warlords, there was a better way to do it,” he said. “If you look at countries like South Africa, they are hunting for genocide suspects, but in the process, they are not victimizing everyone. It’s targeted, it’s based on intelligence.”

In the meantime, the Malawi government has asked those illegally keeping guns and ammunition to surrender them to police or risk being arrested. 

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Cameroon Journalists Say Suspensions Are Sign of Government Crackdown

Journalists in Cameroon say the government’s indefinite shutdown of a radio station and suspension of four reporters is a sign of a growing crackdown on the country’s news media. The government says it is trying to stop the spread of hate speech, while journalists say officials want to retaliate against criticism of President Paul Biya.

Bruno Bidjang, host of the popular program on Vision 4 TV called “Club d’Elite” has said on his program that he will continue exercising his profession to the best of his ability without fear.

However, Cameroon’s National Communication Council, an organ created by the government to regulate the media, imposed a one-month suspension on Bidjang for hosting guests who the government says used hateful language on his program.

The NCC said Bidjang was warned several times, but he continued inviting such guests on the program.

The council this week also imposed suspensions on a radio station and three other media practitioners for broadcasting offensive or hateful content.

NCC President Joe Chebongkeng Kalabubse said these journalists and media outlets propagated hate speech and xenophobic language.

“We have noticed that we can nip the problem in the bud by encouraging journalists to be more professional,” Kalabubse said. “We want to encourage journalists to be as professional as possible. We will not hesitate to sanction them if they falter.”

Kalabubse said he has informed Cameroon’s minister of territorial administration, Paul Atanga Nji, to make sure that journalists who do not respect the order are punished, and media organizations that continue to broadcast are permanently closed.

Nji said he has instructed police and local government officials to force the journalists to respect the sanctions.

“The media men should know that they have the moral obligation to comply by respecting these decisions taken for the common good,” Nji said. “Because if we are in a state of law and we don’t respect the laws of the republic, then we are walking towards a jungle, and Cameroon is not a jungle. We should use liberty of expression to construct and not to destroy. So, I want to tell the media men that they have the obligation to comply. If they don’t comply, we will accompany them to comply by force.”

But journalists in Cameroon say they are victims of increasing oppression. They say the government clamps down on media that hold contrary opinions to state actions.

The Cameroon Journalists Trade Union said the NCC was set up by Biya to defend his interests and crack down on journalists who oppose his rule.

The trade union said senior state functionaries and military officials who are accused of corrupt practices ask the NCC to suspend reporters — a charge the NCC denies.

The government said hate speech propagated through the media has become rampant since the disputed 2018 presidential election.

In addition, some French-speaking host communities accuse English speakers displaced by the separatist conflict in the west of being separatist fighters or sympathizers.

Cameroon’s minister of territorial administration said local media that do not stop guests in debate programs from asking communities to rise against one another will be punished. Journalists who anchor such programs will also be punished, the government said, though it has not outlined any punishment.

Cameroon has more than 600 newspapers, about 200 radio stations and 60 TV networks, yet producing independent and critical reporting is still challenging, according to Reporters Without Borders.

In its 2023 World Press Freedom Index, the organization said Cameroon is one of Africa’s most dangerous countries for journalists, since they operate in a hostile and precarious environment.

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Tanzania Urges Drivers to Shift to Compressed Natural Gas

Tanzania’s government is encouraging drivers to switch from putting gasoline in their tanks to compressed natural gas (CNG). This initiative aims to lower carbon emissions that cause global warming. As Charles Kombe reports from Dar es Salaam, some drivers are also hoping the switch will save them money in the long run. Camera: Rajabu Hassan

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DR Congo Says Sudan Army Killed 10 Citizens in Khartoum

Ten Democratic Republic of Congo citizens have died in Sudanese army strikes on a Khartoum university campus, the Congolese government said on Monday.

Sudan has been mired in a political and humanitarian crisis since mid-April after fighting erupted between the regular army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).

The capital Khartoum has been an epicenter of the hostilities and civilians have been caught in the crossfire, including foreigners not already evacuated.

Congolese Foreign Minister Christophe Lutundula told reporters that bombardment killed 10 DRC nationals on the campus of the International University of Africa in Khartoum on Sunday.

The strikes, “carried out by the regular army on an area occupied by civilian and unarmed populations, including foreign nationals, seriously wounded other compatriots”, he added. 

Lutundula said he received the charge d’affaires of Sudan’s embassy in Kinshasa on Monday to convey “the message of sadness and protest of the government.” 

The DRC asked for an explanation of events and measures from the Sudanese government allowing the return of the bodies, he added.

The seven weeks of war between the Sudanese army and the RSF have killed more than 1,800 people and displaced over one million, while multiple cease-fires between the rivals have been broken. 

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Ugandan Soldiers Survive Six Days Hiding From Al-Shabab, Says Military

Ugandan soldiers hid for six days before being rescued after al-Shabab militants overran their base, a spokesperson for the Uganda Peoples’ Defense Forces (UPDF) told VOA Somali.  

Brigadier General Felix Kulaigye said the four soldiers, including a lieutenant, survived by hiding within and around the base in the town of Bulo Marer, 110 kilometers south of Mogadishu.  

He said the troops were found after the Ugandan contingent retook the base on Thursday.   

“When we recovered, they were weak because they were only surviving on urine,” Kulaigye said.  

He said each of the soldiers was hiding alone, in separate locations.   

“They were weak out of hunger,” he said. 

“The lieutenant had been wounded, his leg was in bad shape and they have been treated in hospital, but they are promising to recover very well.”  

The news comes as President Yoweri Museveni disclosed that 54 Ugandan soldiers were killed in the May 26 attack.    

“We discovered the lifeless bodies of fifty-four fallen soldiers, including a Commander,” Museveni said in a tweet.  

Uganda sent a team led by land forces commander Lieutenant General Kayanja Muhanga to Somalia to investigate the attack.  

Museveni singled out two commanders for making a “mistake” by ordering the soldiers to retreat.   

“They have been apprehended and will face charges in the Court Martial,” Museveni said.  

The al-Shabab militant group on Monday published a video purportedly from the raid on the UPDF base. In the video, the leader of al-Shabab, Ahmed Umar Abu Ubaidah, whose face is blurred, sends off the attackers.  


Officials said Ugandans were heartbroken and shocked by the news that 54 of their soldiers were killed.  

Ugandan diplomat and former deputy head of the Africa Union Mission in Somalia, Simon Mulongo, who is now a security analyst, said people received the news of the attack and overrunning of the base by militants with shock.    

“They felt their deaths were cruel,” he told VOA Somali.    

“Uganda had never suffered such a deadly attack. There has been some attacks or attempted attacks and probing attacks, but we never lost some high number. And as such, it took us by shock.”    

Mulongo also said the attack generated debate on whether to withdraw troops from Somalia or keep them to let the mission “pursue its objectives to its logical conclusion.”    

“It’s a kind of mixed reaction but in both cases, it’s with pain,” Mulongo added.  

Kulaigye observed similar mixed reactions.  

“Some urge us to go on and make sure we revenge,” he said.  

“Others felt the mission should get out because we are dying for other people, not for our country; and for us, we are saying we have to keep [troops] in [Somalia] so that the entire Africa is peaceful.”  

Kulaigye said Uganda will not withdraw troops from Somalia unless the Africa Union asks them to do so.  

“These casualties do not discourage our pan-African duty,” he said. “We do not take these attacks lightly; when you attack us, we bring the war to you as well.”  

‘Total’ commitment

Mulongo says Uganda does not share a border with Somalia, but its commitment is “total.”    

“We are there purely on humanitarian grounds, and [are the] best on pan Africanism as a driving philosophy,” he said.  

“We believe that stable Somalia is the only alternative we can have of a neighbor with whom we can bloc in terms of economics, in terms of trade, in terms of technological transfer; and to benefit from them since they occupy a strategic position in the eastern region.” 

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Shelling, Looting in Sudan’s Capital as Military Factions Battle for 8th Week

Shelling and heavy clashes hit areas of Sudan’s capital Monday, residents said, with reports of spreading lawlessness in Khartoum and in the western region of Darfur after more than seven weeks of conflict between rival military factions.

Fighting between the army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) intensified after the expiry late Saturday of a cease-fire deal brokered by Saudi Arabia and the U.S.

The war has uprooted more than 1.2 million people within Sudan and sent about 400,000 fleeing into neighboring countries, inflicting heavy damage on the capital where the remaining residents are at the mercy of battles, airstrikes and looting. 

On Monday, residents reported smoke rising in some areas after intense fighting across the three cities that make up the nation’s wider capital – Khartoum, Omdurman and Bahri. They reported clashes in southern Khartoum and shelling in Omdurman.

“The neighborhood where we live in the center of Omdurman is looted publicly on a daily basis without anyone intervening to prevent it, with clashes and shelling continuing around us,” said 37-year-old resident Mohamed Saleh.

In Khartoum East district, RSF troops who have spread out in neighborhoods across the capital were in full control and were looting extensively, said Waleed Adam, a resident of the area.

“You see them right in front of you, taking cars, money, gold – whatever they can get their hands on,” he told Reuters by phone. “I guess it’s just a matter of time until they come to my street.”

The RSF says it has been working to protect civilians by arresting looters.

Darfur violence

Some of those who fled the war have headed to neighboring countries including Chad, South Sudan, and Central African Republic (CAR) that are already struggling with poverty, conflict, and a dip in humanitarian aid. 

The arrival of nearly 14,000 people in northeastern CAR and a halt to cross-border trade “puts additional pressure on the limited resources available to the 130,000 extremely vulnerable people in the region,” Mohamed Ag Ayoya, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator for CAR, told a news briefing in Geneva.

The war has also triggered unrest in Darfur in Sudan’s far west, a region that was already suffering from mass displacement due to earlier conflict and where residents in several cities and towns have reported attacks by militias linked to Arab nomadic tribes.

In recent days at least 40 people were killed and dozens more were wounded in Kutum in North Darfur State, according to activists who monitor the region. Residents have also reported widespread looting and insecurity in the area.

On Monday, the RSF, which has its powerbase in Darfur and its origins in the Arab-dominated militias, released a video purporting to show they had taken over the army headquarters in Kutum, a commercial hub and one of the larger towns in the state.

There was no immediate comment from the army, which Sunday had denied that the RSF had taken the town.

There have been long communication blackouts in parts of Darfur, where aid groups have found it especially complicated to bring in humanitarian supplies.

In El Obeid, a city 360 km (220 miles) southwest of Khartoum and on a key route from the capital to Darfur, residents reported large deployments of RSF troops and the closure of some roads.

Recent days have brought the first showers of the year in Khartoum, marking the start of a rainy season that is likely to complicate a relief effort already hampered by bureaucratic delays and logistical challenges.

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Rights Groups Urge Malawi to Stop Forced Refugee Relocations

An international rights group is asking the Malawi government to stop the forced relocation of 8,000 refugees living outside a congested camp.

Human Rights Watch says it is concerned by reports that children are among those caught up in the sweeps and forcibly taken to a prison in the capital, Lilongwe. The rights group says the forcible relocation violates international conventions for refugees which Malawi ratified. 

Idriss Ali Nassah, who is with Human Rights Watch covering Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe, told VOA the relocation of refugees is troubling.

“There are reports of this raid being carried out by military men and the police, who are arresting indiscriminately women, children and the elderly and taking them first of all to Maula maximum security prison in Lilongwe,” he said. “Not only are the authorities committing abuses during arrests and detaining children, but forcibly removing people from their homes amounts to unlawful forced evictions.”

Nassah said his organization has learned that 20 refugees and asylum-seekers at Maula Prison and Dzaleka refugee camp were allegedly assaulted during raids and that their money was taken.

Last week, Malawi police arrested two police officers for soliciting money from seven refugees from Burundi to spare them from forcible evictions.

Malawi started the forcible relocation last month following the expiration of the April 15 deadline the government gave the refugees to voluntarily relocate to the camp.

The government said by staying outside the camp, the refugees threaten national security. In addition, the encampment policy prohibits refugees from staying outside the camp.

Nassah said the policy contradicts agreements that the Malawi government ratified.

“But this is contrary to what Malawi itself endorsed in 2018 when it endorsed a Global Compact on Refugees, which seeks to include and integrate refugees into host communities,” he said. “Because by doing that, you allow refugees to become self-reliant if they are permitted to have access to education, labor market, access to entrepreneurship, and they contribute to the development of host communities and local economies.”

Dzaleka, the only refugee camp in Malawi, was meant to house 12,000 refugees and asylum-seekers, according to UNHCR. Instead, the camp holds more than 50,000 refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Rwanda, Somalia and Ethiopia.

Several rights groups in Malawi and abroad, including the U.N. refugee agency, have asked Malawi to stop the relocations due to the congestion.

Patrick Botha, spokesperson for the Ministry of Homeland Security in Malawi, told VOA that the refugees outside the camp have long posed a security threat and need to be confined to the camp.

“The position of the Malawi government is that this is a necessary exercise,” he said. “Actually, you have seen that some of the people we are talking about have been found with illegal documentation in South Africa — the case of this Rwandese who is suspected to be a mastermind of the genocide.”

Botha said the recent arrest of a Rwandese national in South Africa who was allegedly using a Malawian passport has fueled the Malawi government to intensify relocation efforts.

However, Botha said refugees that are kept in a prison are not subjected to prison conditions.

“We are using Maula premises not as a way of imprisoning them. Actually, we are using the Maula premises as the center for screening,” he said. “So, depending on what comes out of the documentation — they are either … sent back home, if they have legitimate papers of documentation.”

Nearly 2,000 refugees have relocated to the Dzaleka camp, where some refugees have told VOA they are living under dehumanizing conditions with no food, running water and shelter.

The World Food Program told VOA that the relocation exercise adds pressure on its already strained food assistance for Dzaleka camp refugees. 

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 Kenya Start-Up Creates Online Livestock Marketplace for Rural Farmers

For many years, Kenya’s livestock market has faced challenges, like price instability, low purchasing power among consumers and limited marketing options for pastoralists. Now a Nairobi-based startup called M-nomad is offering small livestock farmers in rural areas a way to buy and sell their livestock online. For VOA, Ahmed Hussein reports from Wajir County, Kenya.

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Gunmen Kill at Least 30 in Weekend Attacks in Northern Nigeria

Gunmen in Nigeria have killed at least 30 people and kidnapped a number of children in separate attacks in three northern states, police and residents said, the latest incidents in a region dogged by armed violence. 

Armed gangs on motorbikes frequently take advantage of thinly stretched security forces in the region to kidnap villagers, motorists and students for ransom. 

Residents said armed men had attacked Janbako and Sakkida villages in northwestern Zamfara state on Saturday, killing 24 people. The gunmen also abducted several children who were collecting firewood in a forest in neighboring Gora village. 

Police spokesperson Ahmad Rufai said the neighboring state of Sokoto was also attacked in five villages of Tangaza local government on Saturday, with the dead buried on Sunday. 

Hussaini Ahmadu and Abubakar Maradun, local residents in Janbako and Sakkida, told Reuters by phone that the gangs earlier in the week had demanded that villagers pay a fee to enable them to farm their fields but villagers did not do so. 

Zamfara police spokesman Yazid Abubakar confirmed the attacks but said only 13 people had been reported killed and nine young boys and girls kidnapped. 

Gunmen killed 25 people and set their houses on fire during an attack on Saturday on the Imande Mbakange community in north central Benue state, two residents said. The motive of the attack was not known. 


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Unemployment, Substance Abuse Leading Cause of Suicide in Namibia 

Namibia ranks fourth in the rate of suicide on the African continent, the country’s deputy minister of health and social services, Esther Muinjangue, said at a recent regional forum attended by participants from New Zealand, India, Ghana, Nigeria and other countries.

According to official government figures provided to VOA by authorities, Namibia recorded 512 cases of suicide in the year 2020, 496 in 2021 and 510 in 2022. That averages nearly 10 deaths per 100,000 people.

Clinical psychologist Shaun Whittaker told VOA that suicide in Namibia is most prevalent amongst young adult men who have a history of substance abuse. He also attributed the high rate to unemployment and poverty.

“Suicide in Namibia is mainly caused by unemployment amongst young adult men. If one looks at the statistics, certainly over the past decade or so it is usually men in the age group of 20 to 29 who commit suicide by hanging themselves,” he said.

VOA spoke to 38-year-old suicide survivor Florence Beukes, who said she attempted to take her life several times during her teenage years and young adulthood but through counseling and therapy, has outgrown the urge to kill herself.

Beukes said she would try to overdose on medication and once attempted to take her life by swallowing broken pieces of glass that almost severed her vocal cords.

“You see the thing is because I am also a sexual abuse victim, survivor. I am a survivor of GBV [gender-based violence], sexual abuse and rape and that is actually what caused me, you know I fell into deep depression,” she said.

Namibian Deputy Minister of Health Esther Muinjangue told VOA the delegates at the regional forum discussed strategies to address stigma and taboos, which are barriers for people needing mental health care.

She also said relationship problems are a leading cause of suicide.

“Family difficulties or relationship problems. A relationship that has come to an end and one of the two partners is not accepting that and feelings of worthlessness that also goes with having low self-esteem and so on. Those are some of the reasons that are really driving people to commit suicide,” she added.

Attempting suicide remains an offense in more than 20 countries and Muinjangue says de-criminalizing the issue, which was discussed at the forum sponsored by LifeLine International, will assist in breaking the stigma surrounding it.

The organization focuses on suicide awareness and prevention through more than 200 centers around the world.

LineLine Namibia is a branch of Lifeline International which aims to prevent suicide through strategies like a 24-hour hotline, where people with suicidal thoughts can call and receive counseling.

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Suez Canal Traffic Resumes After Broken Down Tanker Tugged Away

Egypt deployed three tugboats Sunday to tow away an oil tanker that had broken down and caused brief delays in the Suez Canal, authorities in charge of the vital waterway said.   

Traffic in both directions returned to normal after a brief disruption when the Malta-flagged Seavigour experienced a “machinery malfunction” while en route from Russia to China, the Suez Canal Authority said.   

Three tugboats “successfully towed and moored the ship” at a shipyard where the technical fault will be fixed before the tanker “resumes its crossing,” according to a statement.  

Brief disruptions caused by ships breaking down or running aground are common in the waterway, through which about 10 percent of global maritime trade passes.    

Most are refloated within hours, allowing traffic to resume.  

In March 2021 the giant container ship Ever Given caused a nearly week-long stoppage in Suez traffic after it became lodged diagonally in the waterway.  

The disruption cost billions of dollars in shipping delays, with Egypt losing between $12 million and $15 million for every day of the closure.   

The canal is a major source of much-needed foreign currency for cash-strapped Egypt, earning it $8 billion in transit fees in 2022. 

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Senegal Government Cuts Mobile Internet Access Amid Deadly Rioting 

Senegal’s government has cut access to mobile internet services in certain areas because of deadly rioting in which “hateful and subversive” messages have been posted online, it said in a statement on Sunday.

The West African country has been rocked by three days of violent protests in which 16 people have died, one of its deadliest bouts of civil unrest in decades.

Last week, the government limited access to certain messaging platforms, but many were able to bypass the outage with the use of virtual private networks that mask the location of the user. It extended the outage on Sunday to include all data on mobile internet devices in certain areas and at certain times, the statement said.

It did not specify which areas were impacted or at what times, but five Reuters reporters across Dakar were unable to access the Internet without a wifi connection on Sunday afternoon, a time of day when protests have generally started to gather steam.

“Because of the spread of hateful and subversive messages … mobile Internet is temporarily suspended at certain hours of the day,” the statement said.

The catalyst for the unrest was the sentencing on Thursday of popular opposition leader Ousmane Sonko in a two-year-old rape case. His supporters say the prosecution was politically motivated and he has denied any wrongdoing.

On Thursday, he was acquitted of rape but found guilty in absentia of corrupting a minor and sentenced to two years in prison. That sentence could prevent him from running in the February presidential election and protesters have heeded his call to challenge the authorities.

Protesters have also been angered by President Macky Sall’s refusal to rule out running for a third term. Senegal has a two-term presidential limit.

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Uganda Reports 54 Peacekeepers Killed in Somalia Jihadist Attack

Some 54 Ugandan peacekeepers died when militants besieged an African Union base in Somalia last week, Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni said, in one of the worst recent attacks by Al-Shabaab jihadists in the war-torn country.

“We discovered the lifeless bodies of 54 fallen soldiers, including a commander,” Museveni said in a Twitter post late Saturday.

The veteran leader was speaking during a meeting with members of his governing National Resistance Movement party, the presidency told AFP on Sunday.

The toll is one of the heaviest yet since pro-government forces backed by the AU force known as ATMIS launched an offensive against Al-Shabaab last August.

It was also a rare admission of a major military death toll by African Union members.

Al-Shabaab, which has been waging a deadly insurgency against Somalia’s fragile central government for more than a decade, claimed responsibility for the May 26 attack, saying it had overrun the base and killed 137 soldiers.

Al-Shabaab is known to exaggerate claims of battlefield gains for propaganda purposes, and the governments of nations contributing troops to the AU force rarely confirm casualties.

The militants drove a car laden with explosives into the base in Bulo Marer, 120 kilometers (75 miles) southwest of the capital Mogadishu, leading to a gunfight, local residents and a Somali military commander told AFP.

Museveni had already said last week that “some of the soldiers there did not perform as expected and panicked” as some 800 assailants attacked. 

That forced a withdrawal to a nearby base some nine kilometers (6 miles) away, he said, deploring “a missed opportunity to annihilate” the Qaeda-linked insurgents.

“The mistake was made by two commanders, Maj. Oluka and Maj. Obbo, who ordered the soldiers to retreat,” Museveni said on Saturday, adding that they would face charges in a court martial.

However, “our soldiers demonstrated remarkable resilience and reorganized themselves, resulting in the recapture of the base.”

ATMIS has so far not disclosed how many people died, but said it sent in helicopter gunships as reinforcement after the pre-dawn raid.

The United States also said it conducted an airstrike near the base a day after it was attacked.

U.S. Africa Command said it “destroyed weapons and equipment unlawfully taken by Al-Shabaab fighters”, without specifying when or where the weapons were stolen.

‘All-out war’

The attack highlights the endemic security problems in the Horn of Africa country as it struggles to emerge from decades of conflict and natural disasters.

Last year, Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud launched an “all-out war” against Al-Shabaab, rallying Somalis to help flush out members of the jihadist group he described as “bedbugs.”

In recent months, the army and militias known as “macawisley” have retaken swathes of territory in the center of the country in an operation backed by ATMIS and U.S. airstrikes.

But despite the gains by the pro-government forces, the militants have continued to strike with lethal force against civilian and military targets.

In the deadliest Al-Shabaab attack since the offensive was launched, 121 people were killed in October in two car bomb blasts at the education ministry in Mogadishu.

In May 2022, the militants stormed an AU base and triggered a fierce firefight that killed around 30 Burundian peacekeepers, a high-ranking Burundian military officer told AFP.

The Somali government and the AU condemned the attack, without disclosing how many people had died.

In September 2015, at least 50 AU troops were reported by Western military sources to have died when Al-Shabaab fighters overran a military base southwest of Mogadishu.

The 20,000-member ATMIS force has a more offensive remit than its predecessor, known as AMISOM.

It is drawn from Uganda, Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya, with troops deployed in southern and central Somalia.

Its goal is to hand over security responsibilities to Somalia’s army and police by 2024.

In a report to the U.N. Security Council in February, U.N. chief Antonio Guterres said 2022 was the deadliest year for civilians in Somalia since 2017, largely as a result of Al-Shabaab attacks.

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Fighting Escalates in Khartoum After Cease-Fire Expires

Residents of Sudan’s capital Khartoum reported a sharp escalation of clashes in several areas of the capital on Sunday after the expiry of a ceasefire deal between rival military factions brokered by Saudi Arabia and the United States.

Witnesses also said a military plane had crashed in Omdurman, one of three cities around the confluence of the Nile that make up the greater capital region.

There was no immediate comment from the army, which has been using fighter jets to target the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) spread out across the capital in a conflict that erupted on April 15, triggering a major humanitarian crisis.

Saudi Arabia and the U.S. said they were continuing to engage daily with delegations from the army and the RSF, which had remained in Jeddah even though talks to extend the ceasefire were suspended last week.

“Those discussions are focused on facilitating humanitarian assistance and reaching agreement on near-term steps the parties must take before the Jeddah talks resume,” the two countries said in a joint statement.

The ceasefire deal started on May 22 and expired on Saturday evening. It had led to some decrease in the intensity of fighting and limited humanitarian access, but like previous truce deals it was repeatedly violated.

Among the areas where fighting was reported on Sunday were central and southern Khartoum, and Bahri, across the Blue Nile to the north.

“In southern Khartoum we are living in terror of violent bombardment, the sound of anti-aircraft guns and power cuts. We are in real hell,” said 34-year-old resident Sara Hassan.

Beyond the capital, deadly fighting has also broken out in the remote western region of Darfur, already scarred by a long-running conflict and huge humanitarian challenges.

The seven-week conflict has displaced some 1.2 million people within the country and caused another 400,000 to flee into neighboring countries.

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Battles Rage in Sudanese Capital with Civilians Caught in Crossfire

Air raids, artillery fire and explosions rocked Sudan’s capital Saturday, as fighting between warring generals entered its eighth week.

Witnesses told AFP of “bombs falling and civilians being injured” in southern Khartoum, while others in the city’s north reported artillery fire, days after a U.S.- and Saudi-brokered cease-fire collapsed.

Residents reported that warplanes of the army led by General Abdel-Fattah Burhan targeted positions of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces led by General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, who responded with anti-aircraft fire.

Since the fighting between Sudan’s warring generals erupted on April 15, volunteers have buried 102 unidentified bodies in the capital’s Al-Shegilab cemetery and 78 more in cemeteries in Darfur, a Sudanese Red Crescent statement said.

Both Burhan and his deputy-turned-rival Dagalo have pledged repeatedly to protect civilians and secure humanitarian corridors.

But civilians reported escalated fighting after the army quit cease-fire talks on Wednesday, including one army bombardment that a committee of human rights lawyers said killed 18 civilians in a Khartoum market.

Both sides have accused the other of violating the cease-fire, as well as attacking civilians and infrastructure.

Washington sanctioned the warring parties Thursday, holding both responsible for provoking the bloodshed.

In negotiations in Saudi Arabia last month, both parties had agreed to “enable responsible humanitarian actors, such as the Sudanese Red Crescent and/or the International Committee of the Red Cross to collect, register and bury the deceased.”

But volunteers have found it difficult to move through the streets to retrieve the dead because of security constraints, the Red Crescent said.

Aid corridors that had been promised as part of the truce never materialized, and relief agencies say they have managed to deliver only a fraction of what is needed, while civilians remain trapped.

The mission of the security forces is “to protect — not endanger — their fellow citizens,” a U.S. Embassy statement said Saturday.

More than 700,000 people have fled Khartoum to other parts of Sudan that have been spared the fighting, in convoys of buses that regularly make their way out of the city.

But on their return, bus drivers were shocked to find they “were not allowed into the capital,” one told AFP on Saturday, with others confirming authorities had blocked access since Friday, ordering the drivers to turn around.

On Friday the army announced it had brought in reinforcements from other parts of the country to participate in “operations in the Khartoum area.”

That sparked fears it was planning “a massive offensive,” Sudan analyst Kholood Khair said.

So far neither side has gained a decisive advantage. The regular army has air power and heavy weaponry, but analysts say the Rapid Support Forces paramilitaries are more mobile and better suited to urban warfare.

The RSF announced Saturday that their political adviser, Youssef Ezzat, had met Kenyan President William Ruto in Nairobi, as part of his visits to several “friendly countries to explain the developing situation in Sudan.”

“We are ready to engage all the parties and offer any support towards a lasting solution,” Ruto said on Twitter.

More than 1,800 people have been killed in the fighting, according to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project.

Entire districts of Khartoum no longer have running water, electricity is only available for a few hours a week and three-quarters of hospitals in combat zones are not functioning.

The situation is particularly dire in the western region of Darfur, which is home to about one-quarter of Sudan’s population and has never recovered from a devastating two-decade war that left hundreds of thousands dead and more than 2 million displaced.

The RSF is descended from the Janjaweed, a militia armed in 2003 to quash ethnic minority rebels in Darfur.

Witnesses reported renewed clashes on Saturday in the North Darfur town of Kutum.

Amid what activists have called a total communications blackout in huge swaths of the region, hundreds of civilians have been killed, villages and markets torched, and aid facilities looted, prompting tens of thousands to seek refuge in neighboring Chad.

According to aid group Doctors Without Borders, those crossing the border report horrific scenes of “armed men shooting at people trying to flee, villages being looted and the wounded dying” without medical care.

The U.N. says 1.2 million people have been displaced within Sudan and more than 425,000 have fled abroad, more than 100,000 west to Chad and 170,000 north to Egypt. 

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Death Toll in Senegal Protests Rises to 15

The number of people killed in days of clashes between Senegalese police and supporters of opposition leader Ousmane Sonko has now risen to 15, including two security officers, the government said Saturday. 

Clashes continued in pockets of the city Friday evening with demonstrators throwing rocks, burning cars and damaging supermarkets as police fired tear gas and the government deployed the military in tanks. 

Sonko was convicted Thursday of corrupting youth but acquitted on charges of raping a woman who worked at a massage parlor and making death threats against her. Sonko, who didn’t attend his trial in Dakar, was sentenced to two years in prison. His lawyer said a warrant hadn’t been issued yet for his arrest. 

Sonko came in third in Senegal’s 2019 presidential election and is popular with the country’s youth. His supporters maintain his legal troubles are part of a government effort to derail his candidacy in the 2024 presidential election. 

Sonko is considered President Macky Sall’s main competition and has urged Sall to state publicly that he won’t seek a third term in office. 

The international community has called on Senegal’s government to resolve the tensions. France’s ministry for Europe and foreign affairs said it was “extremely concerned by the violence” and called for a resolution to this crisis, in keeping with Senegal’s long democratic tradition. 

Rights groups have condemned the government crackdown, which has included arbitrary arrests and restrictions on social media. Some social media sites used by demonstrators to incite violence, such as Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter have been suspended for nearly two days. 

Senegalese are blaming the government for the violence and the loss of lives. 

One woman, Seynabou Diop, told The Associated Press on Saturday that her 21-year-old son, Khadim, was killed in the protests by a bullet to the chest. 

“I feel deep pain. What’s happening is hard. Our children are dying. I never thought I’d have to go through this,” she said. 

This was the first time her son, a disciplined and kind mechanic, had joined in the protests, rushing out of the house as soon as he heard Sonko was convicted, she said. 

“I think Macky Sall is responsible. If he’d talked to the Senegalese people, especially young people, maybe we wouldn’t have all these problems,” Diop said. The Associated Press cannot verify the cause of death. The family said an autopsy was underway. 

Corrupting young people, which includes using one’s position of power to have sex with people younger than 21, is a criminal offense in Senegal, punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $6,000. 

Under Senegalese law, Sonko’s conviction would bar him from running in next year’s election, said Bamba Cisse, another defense lawyer. However, the government said that Sonko could ask for a retrial once he was imprisoned. It was unclear when he would be taken into custody. 

If violence continues, it could threaten the country’s institutions, analysts say. 

“Never in their worst forms of nightmare (would) Senegalese have thought of witnessing the prevailing forms of apocalyptic and irrational violence,” said Alioune Tine, founder of Afrikajom Center, a West African think tank. 

“The most shared feeling about the current situation is fear, stress, exhaustion and helplessness. Thus what the people are now seeking for is peace,” he said. 

The West African country has been seen as a bastion of democratic stability in the region. 

Sonko hasn’t been heard from or seen since the verdict. In a statement Friday, his PASTEF-Patriots party called on Senegalese to “amplify and intensify the constitutional resistance” until President Sall leaves office. 

Government spokesman Abdou Karim Fofana said the damage caused by months of demonstrations had cost the country millions of dollars. He argued the protesters themselves posed a threat to democracy. 

“These calls (to protest), it’s a bit like the anti-republican nature of all these movements that hide behind social networks and don’t believe in the foundations of democracy, which are elections, freedom of expression, but also the resources that our (legal) system offers,” Fofana said. 

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As Anti-Gay Sentiment Grows, LGBTQ+ People Seek to Flee Uganda 

Pretty Peter flipped through frantic messages from friends at home in Uganda.

The transgender woman is relatively safe in neighboring Kenya. Her friends feel threatened by the latest anti-gay legislation in Uganda prescribing the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality.”

Frightened Ugandans are searching for a way to get out like Pretty Peter did. Some have stayed indoors since the law was signed Monday, fearing that they’ll be targeted, she said.

“Right now, homophobes have received a validation from the government to attack people,” the 26-year-old said, standing in a room decorated with somber portraits from a global project called “Where Love is Illegal.”

“My friends have already seen a change of attitude among their neighbors and are working on obtaining papers and transport money to seek refuge in Kenya,” she said.

That’s challenging: One message to Pretty Peter read, “Me and the girls we want to come but things a(re) too hard.” Another said that just one person had transport, and some didn’t have passports.

New anti-gay law

Homosexuality has long been illegal in Uganda under a colonial-era law criminalizing sexual activity “against the order of nature.” The punishment for that offense is life imprisonment.

Pretty Peter, who wished to be identified by her chosen name out of concern for her safety, fled the country in 2019 after police arrested 150 people at a gay club and paraded them in front of the media before charging them with public nuisance.

The new law signed by President Yoweri Museveni has been widely condemned by rights activists and others abroad. The version signed did not criminalize those who identify as LGBT+, following an outcry over an earlier draft. Museveni had returned the bill to the national assembly in April asking for changes that would differentiate between identifying as LGBTQ+ and engaging in homosexual acts.

Still, the new law prescribes the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality,” which is defined as cases of sexual relations involving people infected with HIV, as well as with minors and other categories of vulnerable people. A suspect convicted of “attempted aggravated homosexuality” can be imprisoned for up to 14 years. And there’s a 20-year prison term for a suspect convicted of “promoting” homosexuality, a broad category affecting everyone from journalists to rights activists and campaigners.

After the law’s signing, U.S. President Joe Biden called the new law “a tragic violation of universal human rights.” The United Nations human rights office said it was “appalled.” A joint statement by the leaders of the U.N. AIDS program, the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and the Global Fund said Uganda’s progress on its HIV response “is now in grave jeopardy,” as the law can obstruct health education and outreach.

Legal challenges

While a legal challenge to the new law is mounted by activists and academics seeking to stop its enforcement, LGBTQ+ people in Uganda have been chilled by the growing anti-gay sentiment there.

The new law is the result of years of efforts by lawmakers, church leaders and others. Scores of university students marched Wednesday to the parliamentary chambers in the capital, Kampala, to thank lawmakers for enacting the bill, underscoring the fervency of the bill’s supporters.

The new bill was introduced in the national assembly in February, days after the Church of England announced its decision to bless civil marriages of same-sex couples, outraging religious leaders in many African countries. Homosexuality is criminalized in more than 30 of Africa’s 54 countries.

The top Anglican cleric in Uganda, Archbishop Stephen Kaziimba, has publicly said he no longer recognizes the authority of the Archbishop of Canterbury as spiritual leader of the Anglican communion.

In a statement issued after the bill was signed, Kaziimba spoke of “the diligent work” of lawmakers and the president in enacting the law. However, he added that life imprisonment is preferable to death for the most serious homosexual offenses.

Warning signs

There were signs a new anti-gay bill was coming in late 2022. There had been widespread concern over reports of alleged sodomy in boarding schools. One mother at a prominent school accused a male teacher of sexually abusing her son.

Even some signs of solidarity or support with LGBTQ+ people have been seen as a threat.

In January, a tower in a children’s park in the city of Entebbe that had been painted in rainbow colors had to be reworked after residents said they were offended by what they saw as an LBTGQ+ connection. Mayor Fabrice Rulinda agreed, saying in a statement that authorities “need to curb any vices that would corrupt the minds of our children.”

In Kenya, Pretty Peter has watched the events closely.

“Ugandans have in recent days been fed with a lot of negativities towards the LGBT, and the government is trying to flex its muscles,” she said of the administration of the 78-year-old Museveni, who has held office since 1986 as one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders.

Pretty Peter said Kenya, a relative haven in the region despite its criminalization of same-sex relationships, is not as safe as she and fellow LGBTQ+ exiles would like it to be. Still, Kenya hosts an estimated 1,000 LGBTQ+ refugees and is the only country in the region offering asylum based on sexual orientation, according to the United Nations refugee agency.

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Fighting Worsens in Sudan Despite US Sanctions

Shelling rocked greater Khartoum on Friday as fighting between Sudan’s warring generals intensified, despite U.S. sanctions imposed after the collapse of a U.S.- and Saudi-brokered truce.

Witnesses reported “artillery fire” in eastern Khartoum and around the state television building in the capital’s sister city Omdurman, just across the Nile.

For nearly seven weeks, fighting between the regular army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) has gripped Khartoum and the western region of Darfur, despite repeated efforts to broker a humanitarian cease-fire.

The army announced it had brought in reinforcements from other parts of Sudan to participate in “operations in the Khartoum area.”

Sudan analyst Kholood Khair said the army was “expected to launch a massive offensive” to clear the paramilitaries from the city’s streets.

Washington slapped sanctions on the warring parties Thursday, holding them both responsible for provoking “appalling” bloodshed.

The U.S. Treasury placed two major arms companies of the Sudanese Armed Forces, Defense Industries System and Sudan Master Technology, on its blacklist.

It also placed sanctions on gold mining firm Al Junaid Multi Activities Co and arms trader Tradive General Trading, two companies controlled by RSF commander Mohamed Hamdan Daglo and his family.

The State Department meanwhile imposed visa restrictions on both army and RSF officials, saying they were complicit in “undermining Sudan’s democratic transition.” It did not name them.

Washington announced Friday that Secretary of State Antony Blinken will next week travel to Saudi Arabia where he will discuss “strategic cooperation on regional and global issues.”

His trip follows efforts by both countries to broker a durable cease-fire in Sudan.

Shot while fleeing

Analysts question the efficacy of sanctions on Sudan’s rival generals, both of whom amassed considerable wealth during the rule of longtime dictator Omar al-Bashir, whose government was subjected to decades of international sanctions before his overthrow in 2019.

So far neither side has gained a decisive advantage. The regular army, led by Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, has air power and heavy weaponry, but analysts say the paramilitaries are more mobile and better suited to urban warfare.

After the army announced it was quitting the cease-fire talks on Wednesday, troops attacked key RSF bases in Khartoum.

One army bombardment hit a Khartoum market, killing 18 civilians and wounding 106, a committee of human rights lawyers said.

The army will want to make “some military gains before committing to any future talks in order to improve their bargaining position”, said Khair, founder of Khartoum-based think tank Confluence Advisory.

On Friday, the army said it was “surprised” by the U.S. and Saudi decision to “suspend the talks” without responding to an army proposal.

After its own representatives decided to “suspend the negotiations,” they had “remained in Jeddah with the hopes that the mediators will take a fair and more effective position that will guarantee commitment” to the cease-fire, an army statement said.

Since fighting erupted on April 15, more than 1,800 people have been killed, according to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project.

The U.N. says 1.2 million people have been displaced within Sudan and more than 425,000 have fled abroad.

Conditions are especially dire in Darfur, where those fleeing the violence told Doctors Without Borders (MSF) of “armed men shooting at people trying to flee, villages being looted and the wounded dying” without access to medical care, the aid group said Friday.

U.N. mission renewed

Later Friday, the U.N. Security Council extended for just six months the global body’s political mission in Sudan, after Burhan accused its envoy, Volker Perthes, of stoking conflict.

The mission was previously renewed for one-year durations, its newly shortened time frame underscoring the country’s delicate situation.

When the fighting began, Perthes had been focused on finalizing a deal to restore Sudan’s transition to civilian rule, which was derailed by a 2021 coup by Burhan and Daglo.

Growing differences between them were supposed to be ironed out in U.N.-backed talks on the day they turned Khartoum into a war zone.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres repeated his “full confidence” in Perthes. Several other Council members also voiced support for the envoy.

“There needs to be regional and continental leadership to resolve this” conflict, the Norwegian Refugee Council’s William Carter said.

Current council president the United Arab Emirates and its three African members — Gabon, Ghana and Mozambique —”have exceptional leverage on whichever direction the Council takes on this issue,” he wrote on Twitter.

The 15 council members also resolved to “condemn the attacks against the civilian population,” U.N. personnel and humanitarian actors, as well as the looting of humanitarian supplies.

Some 25 million people — more than half Sudan’s population — are now in need of aid and protection, according to the U.N.

Aid corridors that had been promised as part of the abortive humanitarian truce never materialized, and relief agencies say they have managed to deliver only a fraction of the needs.

Humanitarian agencies have repeatedly warned of the rainy season set to start this month, when the already difficult conditions “will worsen and rivers will flood, complicating movement and supplies,” said MSF’s emergency coordinator Christophe Garnier.

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UN Calls for Immediate Cease-Fire in Sudan, Path to Renewed Democratic Transition Talks

The U.N. Security Council called Friday for an immediate cease-fire in Sudan to be followed by a permanent halt to hostilities and fresh efforts to reach a lasting democratic political settlement in the conflict-wracked country.

The U.N.’s most powerful body strongly condemned all attacks on civilians since fighting between rival generals vying for power broke out in mid-April.

The conflict has led to hundreds of civilian deaths and the flight of almost 1 million people from their homes to try to escape the violence, according to the U.N.

The press statement from the council was issued ahead of a vote later Friday to extend the U.N. political mission in the country for six months, instead of a year, to give the council time to consider its future.

On Wednesday, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres asked to brief the council behind closed doors for only the fifth time since he took office in January 2017 about the impact of the ongoing conflict on the U.N. mission known as UNITAMS. It was established by the council on June 3, 2020, to provide support to Sudan during its political transition to democratic rule.

After his briefing, the U.N. chief told the 15 council members it’s up to them to decide whether to continue the political mission to Sudan or whether “it’s time to end it.”

After the ouster of Sudanese strongman Omar al-Bashir in 2019, Sudan embarked on a shaky democratic transition led by civilian and army leaders. But the generals seized complete power in a coup in October 2021, before turning against each other.

Sudanese leader General Abdel-Fattah Burhan and General Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, who heads the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), agreed to restore the transition but clashed over the terms of the RSF’s merger into the army, a disagreement that exploded into open conflict on April 15.

A week ago, Burhan demanded in a letter to Guterres that the U.N. special envoy to Sudan, Volker Perthes, be removed, saying his approach in pre-war talks between the generals helped inflame the conflict and accusing him of “being partisan.” The U.N. chief was “shocked” by the letter.

After Wednesday’s meeting, Guterres said he reaffirmed to the council “my full confidence in Volker Perthes.”

In Friday’s statement, the Security Council reaffirmed support for UNITAMS, which Perthes leads, and underlined the need “for strengthened international coordination and continued collaboration.”

Late Thursday, the United States and Saudi Arabia announced that they were suspending peace talks with representatives of the two generals that had been taking place in the Saudi city of Jeddah since late May. Sudan’s military had suspended its participation in the talks Wednesday, citing “repeated violations” by RSF forces of a U.S.-Saudi brokered humanitarian cease-fire, including their continued occupation of hospitals and other civilian infrastructure in the capital, Khartoum. The RSF said it “unconditionally backs the Saudi-U.S. initiative.”

The U.S.-Saudi joint statement said the talks were being suspended “as a result of repeated serious violations of the short-term ceasefire and recent ceasefire extension” on Monday.

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Nigeria’s Main Labor Federation to Strike Over Fuel Subsidy Removal

Nigeria’s main labor union said Friday it plans to go on strike from Wednesday to protest a tripling of fuel prices in what would be the first big test for new President Bola Tinubu after he scrapped a costly fuel subsidy. 

The price increase has led to a sharp rise in transport fares and Estonian ride-hailing and food delivery startup Bolt said it had hiked its prices in Nigeria, citing increased operating costs due to higher fuel prices. 

Nigeria’s fuel subsidy cost the government billions of dollars annually but was popular as it helped keep prices low in Africa’s biggest oil producer, which is still grappling with high poverty rates among residents. 

The Nigerian Bureau of Statistics says 63% of people living in Nigeria are poor while the World Bank said in a report last year that as many as four in 10 Nigerians live below the national poverty line. 

The government said lifting the subsidy — which caused prices to rise to 557 naira per liter from 189 naira at the petrol pumps — will help alleviate a government funding crisis. 

But Nigerian Labor Congress (NLC) president Joe Ajaero, after an emergency meeting of the union’s executive council in Abuja, said the state oil company NNPC should reverse the price hike. 

“The Nigeria Labor Congress decided that if by Wednesday next week that NNPC, a private limited liability company that illegally announced a price regime in the oil sector, refuses to revert itself for negotiations to continue, that the Nigeria Labor Congress and all its affiliates will withdraw their services and commence protests nationwide until this is complied with,” Ajaero said. 

In 2012, a wave of strikes ensued when Nigeria tried to introduce a similar measure, with authorities eventually reinstating some subsidies. Tinubu, then in the opposition, was among those who opposed ending the subsidies. 

On Friday, the president said Nigeria needs to review its minimum wage of 30,000 naira ($65).  

“We need to do some arithmetic and soul searching on the minimum wage,” he told the ruling party state governors at his offices in Abuja, adding that revenue collection should be strengthened. 

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Senegal Deploys Army as Dakar Braces for More Unrest

Army troops were deployed to parts of the Senegalese capital Dakar on Friday as the city braced for more unrest after a jail sentence for opposition leader Ousmane Sonko sparked one of the deadliest days of violence in the country’s recent memory.

Nine people were killed in clashes between riot police and Sonko supporters on Thursday after he was sentenced to two years for corrupting youth. The opposition says the verdict, which could prevent Sonko from running in elections next year, was politically motivated.

Security forces patrolled streets, which were quiet on Friday but strewn with burned cars, rocks and broken glass and lined with damaged residences and businesses. Large groups of students were bused out of the university campus.

The army was deployed to reinforce security, government spokesperson Abdou Karim Fofana said.

Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar was the epicenter of Thursday’s violence, with protesters setting buses alight and throwing rocks at riot police, who responded by firing tear gas.

One student, Alioune Ndiaye, said he planned to travel hundreds of miles to his home in eastern Senegal to escape the violence.

“Yesterday was difficult and violent,” he said, heading for the campus gate with a backpack full of belongings. The bitter stench of tear gas still hung in the air.

“My main concern is that the school year could be canceled.”

Thursday’s riot was the latest bout in months of protests in Senegal, long considered one of West Africa’s strongest democracies, sparked by Sonko’s court case but also over concerns that President Macky Sall will try to bypass the two-term limit and run again in February elections.

Sall has neither confirmed nor denied this.

Sonko’s PASTEF party has called in a statement for citizens to “stop all activity and take to the streets.”

Internet cuts

Several social media and messaging platforms were still restricted on Friday as the government sought to limit online communications. Authorities in Dakar outlawed motorbikes for the next two days.

Normal life resumed tentatively in the Ouakam neighborhood. Shops reopened and people queued for bread.

A gang had tried to pillage shops in the area, said Mouhamad Diouf, a business owner. He and others defended their stores before security forces intervened.

“We thought they were going to burn down the shop,” said Diouf, 40.

Sonko, 48, was accused of raping Adji Sarr, a woman who worked in a massage parlor in 2021, when she was 20, and making death threats against her.

A criminal court cleared Sonko of rape, but found him guilty of an offense described in the penal code as immoral behavior towards individuals younger than 21.

He denies wrongdoing.

Many, especially the young, strongly support him. Cheikh Hann, a tailor, predicted that the unrest would continue.

“Young people are motivated, they will not let this go,” he said. “The government cannot eliminate opponents.”

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Cameroon Officials Say Prominent Traditional Ruler Freed After 18 Months of Separatist Captivity

A prominent traditional leader in Cameroon’s troubled Northwest region has been freed after 18 months of being held captive by separatists. Government officials say Cameroon’s military rescued Fon Kevin Shumitang in battles with separatist fighters, but the fighters insist that they set the traditional ruler free.

Cameroon government officials say the central African state’s military freed Shumitang from a separatist camp in Bui, in the Northwest region on Thursday morning.

Government officials say several fighters were killed in the encounter but gave no further details.

Deben Tchoffo, the governor of the region, says the traditional leader’s release shows authorities are gradually restoring order after years of separatist unrest.  

“I would like to congratulate military men that carried out the operation, said Tchoffo. “They have been able to take back the Fon of Bambalang. Indeed, it is coming to confirm that things are coming back bit by bit normally in almost all the major parts on the Northwest region.”

Tchoffo says Shumitang will be presented to civilians at his palace after undergoing a medical examination. 

Images shared on social media and broadcast over local TV stations showed Shumitang unkempt but not looking thin or unhealthy.  

Shumitang was kidnapped from his palace in the town of Bambalang by separatist fighters led by self-proclaimed General No Pity on December 7, 2021, according to the military.

The military says it took a long time to free Shumitang because the government wanted him alive.

Capo Daniel is leader of the Ambazonia Peoples Rights Advocacy Platform, one of Cameroon’s separatist groups. 

He says the separatists released Shumitang after five months of negotiations.

“The Cameroon government arrested 15 family members of No Pity and transferred them to Yaounde,” said Daniel. “Both of them were used to pressurize No Pity to come to a compromise to release the Fon of Bambalang. That is exactly what happened. There was no military operation. The Fon was released and then handed over to the Cameroon authorities.

Daniel says the separatists expect officials to release No Pity’s family members in the days ahead as agreed during negotiations.

Cameroon’s military says the allegation that Shumitang’s release was negotiated is unfounded. 

The government has not said whether No Pity’s relatives were arrested to force the self-proclaimed general to release Shumitang.

Shumitang is the president of the Northwest region’s House of Chiefs and vice President of the Northwest Regional Assembly. Both structures are elected organs that discuss community development. 

Shumitang was elected during Cameroon’s first-ever regional elections in 2020. Separatists say he was abducted for participating in the House of Chiefs, a structure they say does not represent the aspirations of English speakers.

Cameroon’s English-speaking separatists launched their rebellion in 2017 after what they say was years of discrimination by the country’s French-speaking majority.

The conflict has killed more than 6,000 people and displaced more than 760,000 others, according to the International Crisis Group. 

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Sudanese Forces Clash in Khartoum After Talks Break Down

Sudan’s warring parties clashed in the capital overnight and into Friday morning after talks aimed at maintaining a ceasefire and alleviating a humanitarian crisis collapsed, prompting the U.S. to issue sanctions.

Residents of Khartoum and adjoining Omdurman said the army had resumed air strikes and was using more artillery as the clashes continued, but with no sign that its paramilitary enemy was retreating from city streets and homes it has occupied.

“We are suffering so much from this war. Since this morning there have been sounds of violence. We’re living in terror. It is a real nightmare,” said Shehab al-Din Abdalrahman, 31, in a southern district of the capital.

Seven weeks of warfare between the army and Rapid Support Forces have smashed up parts of central Khartoum, threatened to destabilize the wider region, displaced 1.2 million people inside Sudan and sent another 400,000 into neighboring states.

The U.S. and Saudi Arabia on Thursday suspended truce talks after a ceasefire they had mediated fell apart, accusing the sides of occupying homes, businesses and hospitals, carrying out air strikes and attacks and executing banned military movements.

Washington imposed sanctions on businesses belonging to the army and RSF and threatened further action “if the parties continue to destroy their country,” according to a senior U.S. official.

Sudan’s ambassador to Washington, Mohamed Abdallah Idris, said the government and army remained fully committed to the truce pact and any penalties should be “imposed on the party that did not abide by what it signed” – a reference to the RSF.

The two sides have blamed each other for truce violations.

Since the overthrow of longtime ruler Omar al-Bashir in 2019 Sudan’s government has been headed by a sovereign council under army chief Abdel-Fattah al-Burhan with the RSF head Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hemedti, as his deputy.

After they went to war on April 15 Burhan said he had dismissed Hemdti from the council, and government departments have remained aligned with the army.

Aid supplies looted

Outside Khartoum, the worst fighting has been in the Darfur region, where a civil war has simmered since 2003, killing around 300,000 people.

More than 100,000 people have fled militia attacks in West Darfur to neighboring Chad since the latest fighting began, and the numbers could double in the next three months, the U.N. refugee agency said on Thursday.

Truce efforts had been aimed at delivering humanitarian aid to civilians caught in a war that has brought deadly shellfire and shooting, disabled power and water networks, ruined hospitals and hampered food supplies in an already hungry nation.

The U.N.’s World Food Programme and its refugee agency UNHCR said continued looting was disrupting their efforts to help Sudanese, calling on all parties to respect humanitarian work.

The WFP said it had recorded losses of more than $60 million since the fighting began. The UNHCR said two of its offices in Khartoum were pillaged and its warehouse in El Obeid was targeted on Thursday.

With the ceasefire talks off, Khartoum residents are bracing for further problems.

“Since yesterday one telecom network has been down. Today another one is down. The power is out but the water has come back. It’s like they’re alternating forms of torture,” said Omer Ibrahim, who lives in a district of Omdurman that has seen little fighting.

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9 Die in Clashes in Senegal, Following Opposition Leader’s Sentencing

Nine people were killed in clashes in Senegal on Thursday, after protests erupted following the sentencing of opposition leader Ousmane Sonko.

Interior Minister Antoine Diome said on national television, “We have noted with regret violence that has led to the destruction of public and private property and, unfortunately, nine deaths in Dakar and Ziguinchor.”

On Thursday, a court in Senegal acquitted Sonko on charges of rape but sentenced him to two years in prison for corrupting youth, disqualifying him, for now, from participating in next year’s presidential elections.

The 48-year-old Sonko, leader of the PASTEF-Patriots party, has maintained the charges were politically motivated since they were first made in 2021 and did not attend the court hearing Thursday. He had been accused of raping a massage parlor worker in 2021 and of making death threats against her.

Though a lesser charge than rape under Senegalese law, the conviction for “Corrupting youth,” which is defined as immoral behavior or encouraging such behavior of a person under the age of 21 — his accuser was 20 when he was charged — disqualifies Sonko from running for office.

Sonko’s attorneys told reporters outside the court Thursday the conviction was designed to prevent him from running against current President Macky Sall in 2024. It is unclear if Sonko can appeal the verdict.

Sonko has been an outspoken critic of the current president and is widely viewed as Sall’s most competitive opponent in the upcoming election.

Earlier this week Sonko, who is popular with Senegalese youth, called for mass protests in response to the case brought against him. Agence France Presse reported Thursday demonstrations and fires set in the streets of the capital, Dakar.

The French news outlet also reports that security forces fired tear gas toward journalists staked out near Sonko’s residence. On its website, the news agency published video of a reporter and camera crew fleeing a cloud of gas.

The case against Sonko has raised tensions in the usually stable West African country. Last week, a “freedom caravan” led by Sonko from his hometown in southern Senegal to the capital led to clashes with security forces, and one person was killed.

On Wednesday, a day before Sonko’s sentencing, Sall launched a “national dialogue” he described as part of an effort to ease tensions, involving political forces, civil society, religious leaders and trade unions. The talks are scheduled to last about two weeks, with a large part of the opposition boycotting them.

Some information for this report was provided by the Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France Press. 

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Whether DRC-China Mining Deal Will Be Restructured Remains Uncertain

Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi faces an uphill battle in his promise to overhaul what he says is an unfair minerals-for-infrastructure deal with China before the resource-rich but conflict-plagued country’s December elections, analysts said after the African leader’s visit to Beijing the past week.

While Tshisekedi’s spokesman told reporters that negotiations over the restructuring of the deal went “wonderfully” when Tshisekedi met with counterpart Xi Jinping, and a revised agreement should be complete by the end of the year, nothing concrete was actually mentioned in a post-meeting press release.

Tshisekedi has long said the multibillion-dollar deal made by his predecessor — which gave China 68% of a major mining stake in exchange for Chinese partners promising to build roads, hospitals and schools — unfairly benefits China more than the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The DRC government earlier this year released a report saying the country had not received nearly as much infrastructure as it should have from the $6.2 billion deal.

Kinshasa now wants to rewrite the agreement so it gets a larger share of the mining output.

“Tshisekedi is facing tremendous pressure from his political opponents ahead of the December elections,” Paul Nantulya, a research associate at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, told VOA.

“China and this particular deal has become a major issue in this campaign,” he added. “It is perceived as patently unfair because obviously the Congolese side could have gotten a lot more.”

DRC is home to huge copper reserves as well as the world’s largest reserves of cobalt, a mineral essential to the batteries in electric vehicles, which are in high demand both in China and the West.

At the U.S.-Africa Summit in Washington in December, the DRC, the U.S., and Zambia — another major source of minerals — signed a memorandum of understanding to develop a supply chain for the electric car batteries, in what was widely considered by analysts as a move to counter China in the region.

Outcomes of state visit

After Tshisekedi’s pomp and ceremony-filled meeting with Xi, a Chinese Foreign Ministry statement said the two committed to strengthening bilateral relations but didn’t mention negotiations around the divisive mining deal, saying Beijing will “support the DRC’s industrialization strategy, strengthen cooperation with the DRC in such fields as energy, minerals, agriculture, infrastructure and manufacturing.”

In what appeared to be a slight dig at Congo, the press release said “China hopes that the DRC will provide policy support and convenient services to Chinese enterprises investing and doing business in the DRC, and foster a fair, just, and safe business environment.”

“Obviously, China is not happy about the one-sided evaluation that was made by the Congolese government” regarding how much infrastructure Congo has got from the deal, said Christian Geraud Neema Byamungu, francophone editor at the China Global South Project, a media organization focusing on Chinese international policies.

“Overall, Tshisekedi didn’t get what he wanted, at least what media were saying he wanted to get,” he told VOA.

“Both parties will have to meet and work together on evaluating the contract. It’s only from there that we will know if renegotiation will happen. It’s obvious that it won’t be an easy or quick process,” Neema Byamungu added.

Nantuyla echoed this, saying: “How are the Chinese partners likely to respond to this? … I think it’s fair to say that they’re going to try and keep their piece as big as possible.”

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Zimbabwe Government Moves to Rescue Worthless Local Dollar

Zimbabwe’s government has instituted several measures it says will increase demand for the local currency and raise its value, as well arrest demand for the U.S. dollar. But as Columbus Mavhunga reports from Harare, economists say the new measures will not work as Zimbabweans have lost faith in the local dollar which continues sliding against the greenback. Videographer: Blessing  Chigwenhembe     

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