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African News

EU Demands Military Action on FDLR

Chimpreports.com

The European Union has demanded immediate military action against the DRC-based Rwanda genocidal group, FDLR, saying “ending the threat from the FDLR and other armed groups is crucial to realising the ambition of a region at peace with itself.”

 

This is latest call from the international community to act against the militia whose ideology and leadership led to the 1994 genocide.

 

While the UN Brigade and DRC forces were expected to start offensive operations as early as January 2 when the deadline for FDLR to surrender expired, it appears President Joseph Kabila remains indecisive.

Chimpreports recently reported that FDLR’s powerful allies in the Diaspora have since threatened to destabilise Kabila’s regime should he allow attacks on the extremist group which is viewed as the only remaining military option for toppling President Kagame.

 

“Noting that the January 2nd deadline has passed without the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) fully complying with the decisions of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), the EU stresses that the moment has come to start military action as per UNSC Resolution 2147, and as called for also by the UNSC Presidential Statement of 8 January 2015 and the International Envoys for the Great Lakes Region Communiqué of 2 January 2015,” said the western international group.

 

“It calls upon the authorities of the DRC and MONUSCO to engage immediately to disarm the FDLR. At any point, FDLR combatants can still choose a peaceful path by entering into the existing Disarmament, Demobilisation, Repatriation, Reintegration and Resettlement (DDRRR) programme which continues to repatriate former FDLR members to Rwanda.”

 

The EU greatly regretted the recent upsurge in violence attributed to armed groups in the eastern DRC and deplored the substantial loss of life incurred.

 

“Continuing and severe human rights violations in the DRC, in particular gender based violence and the recruitment and use of child soldiers, whether conducted by armed groups or other actors, are absolutely unacceptable and must end. The protection of civilians and the neutralisation of all armed groups in the eastern DRC must therefore remain a priority and the EU encourages the DRC, in partnership with MONUSCO, to take robust and effective action against them,” it added in a statement issued Monday night.

 

The FDLR has reportedly been receiving military and medical supplies from regional actors not to mention an intensified recruitment exercise of combatants.

 

Sources say FDLR are yet to exhibit intentions to disarm but preparing for combat with the UN brigade. It is understood UK military instructors will play a huge role in training the joint forces in guerrilla warfare ahead of the operations against FDLR whose force is estimated at over 10,000 fighters.

 

EU said military action has to be complemented by political action that will also build a long-term basis for stability.

 

“By tackling the root causes of instability, it will strengthen confidence and allow for future investment and development. Key to this is pursuing the implementation of commitments taken under the PSC Framework, the organisation of credible and free elections and the active participation of women in line with UNSCR 1325,” said EU.

 

The EU encouraged the guarantors – UN/AU/ICGLR/SADC – and all countries in the region to continue efforts in this regard.

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Cameroon frees 24 hostages after suspected Boko Haram kidnapping

(Reuters) - Cameroon’s army has freed 24 of some 80 hostages kidnapped during a cross-border attack by suspected Boko Haram Islamist fighters based in neighbouring Nigeria, a defence ministry spokesman said on Monday.

The kidnapping, which occurred in the north of Cameroon on Sunday around the village of Mabass, was one of the largest abductions on Cameroonian soil. Many children were among the hostages.

“The Cameroon army was able to free about 24 hostages taken yesterday by Boko Haram in the far north. They were freed as defence forces pursued the attackers who were heading back to Nigeria,” said ministry spokesman Colonel Didier Badjeck.

Boko Haram has killed thousands of people and kidnapped hundreds in its bid to carve out an Islamic state in northern Nigeria. In recent months, it has targeted Cameroon and Niger as it seeks to expand its zone of operations.

At the weekend, neighbouring Chad deployed troops to help Cameroon in its efforts to tackle the insurgency in the area.

In New York, the U.N. Security Council condemned Boko Haram on Monday, warning that some of its actions may amount to crimes against humanity.

“Those responsible for all abuses and violations of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law must be held accountable,” the 15-nation council said in a statement.

The Security Council welcomed a regional meeting scheduled for Tuesday in Niger on the problem of Boko Haram and urged countries involved to press ahead with planning for a multinational military task force aimed at neutralizing the group.

 

(Reporting by Anne Mireille Nzouankeum, additional reporting by Louis Charbonneau in New York; Writing by Emma Farge; Editing by Gareth Jones and Lisa Shumaker)

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At least four dead in protests over possible Congo election delay

(Reuters) - At least four people were killed on Monday in clashes between security forces and protesters in Democratic Republic of Congo’s capital as opposition parties tried to block a change in the law that may delay elections due in 2016.

Protesters burned tyres and police in riot gear and presidential guards deployed across Kinshasa. Protests also erupted in Goma, the main city in eastern Congo, where a Reuters reporter at a march saw at least two people with bullet wounds.

Government spokesman Lambert Mende denied that security forces had fired on protesters. He said two officers had been killed by unknown gunmen, and private guards had killed two civilians looting a warehouse. Seven officers and three civilians were taken to hospital, Mende said.

However, Martin Fayulu, president of the opposition Engagement for Citizenship and Development party, said at least 13 civilians had been killed in Kinshas

The demonstrators oppose a law that requires a census to be conducted before the presidential and parliamentary elections due in 2016 can be held, a move that could delay the polls by years and allow President Joseph Kabila to put off standing down.

The bill, which critics call a constitutional coup, has been approved by the lower house of parliament and was due to be examined by the senate on Tuesday.

The government says the census is essential to the electoral process in the vast country of 65 million people, home to reserves of copper, gold and diamonds.

“We demand that Kabila leaves,” said protester Jean-Paul Beya. “We think the people are getting there little by little and we will replicate Burkina,” he said. Burkina Faso’s president, Blaise Compaore, was ousted last October in an uprising triggered by his bid to stay in power by rescinding term limits.

Opposition parties said two of their leaders who had called on followers to occupy parliament had been prevented from leaving the offices of the UNC party by security forces.

 

A witness in the Matonge neighbourhood near parliament said police had fired in the air in a bid to disperse people, and crowds had looted Chinese-owned shops. Clashes subsided by late afternoon, though many streets in the city remained empty.

 

“There will be no more impunity in this country,” Mende said, adding that opposition leaders who called for looting would be held accountable.

 

A Reuters reporter saw one person who had been shot in the shoulder being treated in Kinshasa’s main hospital.

Kabila’s rivals struggle to mobilise large groups, partly because they fear the police. Before Monday’s march, opposition leaders called on supporter

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2014 Time ‘Person of the Year’ goes to Ebola workers

Newvision

Kenya’s government wants to beef up security laws after a string of attacks by Somalia’s Shebab insurgents, but media and opposition warn some proposals are too severe, reports said Wednesday.

The proposals include boosting the time police can hold terrorism suspects from the current 90 to 360 days, increasing sentences, and more powers to intercept communications, according to a draft seen by AFP.

The draft also proposes capping the number of refugees and asylum seekers in Kenya to 150,000, a dramatic cut to the currently more than 607,000 the country hosts.

New ideas also suggest jail terms of up to three years for journalists broadcasting reports deemed to “undermine investigations or security operations relating to terrorism,” while those who use social media to praise or incite acts of terrorism could face up to 20 years in prison.

The changes, due for initial debate in parliament Wednesday, also propose setting up a specialised Counter-Terrorism Centre bringing together all the branches of the security forces.

Opposition lawmakers said they would oppose many of the proposals, with Orange Democratic Movement party chairman John Mbadi saying some were “draconian amendments”, according to The Star newspaper.

Kenya’s government has been under fire since last year’s Shebab attack on the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, in which at least 67 people were killed.

Earlier this month Kenya’s interior minister and police chief were removed from their posts after the Shebab carried out massacres in the northeast of the country.

Newspapers said that while action to increase security needed to be taken, some of the proposals were too severe.

“The very real and present dangers must not be used as an excuse to roll back the gains of a free and democratic society,” the Daily Nation’s editorial read.

The Standard newspaper warned the proposed bill would bring in “massive amendments... which if implemented could see the ‘long’ hand of government in all spheres of public life.” AFP 

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Over 11 million East Africans homeless and hungry, says UN

New Times

The number of displaced people in the East African region stood at 11.4 million by end of September, a new situation analysis report shows.

According to the report, released by the UN Office of Humanitarian Affairs (Ocha), at least 2.47 million people of the total displaced population are refugees, while another over 8.97 milion are Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and others severely affected by conflict.

This represents an increase of 1.4 million people.

Experts say it is a major humanitarian problem for regional governments with the charity office warning that funding for aid response is proving to be a challenge at a time of critical need.

“Out of the $4.44 billion requested for humanitarian response, only $2.54 billion had been received by December 2,” says the report.

The statistics are provided in the context of populations facing serious food insecurity situations.

The report says at least 12.8 million people in some 10 countries in the region , including Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, are actually facing severe food insecurity.

The report claims that in Rwanda, at least 265,000 citizens and 74,590 refugees are hungry in a country of about 11 million people.

However, numbers of the potentially hungry people in the country are not as alarming as those in other regional countries, the report adds.

In Kenya, for example, 1.5 million citizens and another 552,500 and 309,200 refugees and IDPs, respectively, are hungry.

In Burundi, 689,300 citizens, 78,940 IDPs and 49,800 refugees are hungry; in DR Congo, there are 2.7 million citizens and another 121,520 refugees who need food aid, while in Uganda 10,800 citizens, 405,300 refugees and 30,130 IDPs are also in need of food.

But South Sudan, Sudan, Somalia and Ethiopia face the biggest food insecurity in the region with numbers in their millions.

In Sudan alone, 4.4 million citizens, 2.9 million IDPs and 256,800 refugees are facing severe food shortage, while in South Sudan, 1.5 million citizens, 1.4 million IDPs and over 200,000 refugees are hungry.

Ethiopia’s hungry citizens are 3.2 million people in addition to another 426,700 IDPs and 644,000 refugees who need food.

Rwanda’s efforts

Last month, the Ministry of Agriculture, in partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organisation (Fao), launched a pilot programme, Sustainable Food and Agriculture (SFA), to promote food security in the country.

“In the last 20 years, we have seen substantial progress, especially in terms of agricultural and socio-economic development,” said Attaher Maiga, the Fao country representative.

Maiga said Fao’s plan in Rwanda is to integrate various agricultural production systems into a single approach, while also attending to principles that balance the socio-economic as well as environmental dimensions of sustainable food and agriculture.

Such a process would, according to Mark Davis, the Fao coordinator of the SFA approach pilot phase, accelerate the transition to more sustainable food and agriculture (crops, livestock, forestry, fisheries, and aquaculture) systems at country-level.

 

Food insecure areas

According to a comprehensive food security and vulnerability analysis and nutrition survey released by the World Food Program in Rwanda, in December 2012, households living in rural areas are more likely to have poor food consumption and malnourished children than their counterparts in urban areas.

Road connectivity plays a major role in improving food access with experts noting that while Rwanda’s road infrastructure is far better than their counterparts’ in the region, households living a distance from the main roads and from services such as a market are more likely to have a lower food consumption score.

 

Hope

Moving forward, however, the UN expressed optimism in its new analysis, noting that most parts of the region have received adequate rain except for the arid, semi-arid lands and that excessive rain and flooding is expected to replenish water resources.

The UN, however, warned that this ray of hope could be tapered by concerns over possible crop losses as a result of floods.

“The humanitarian community is, therefore, appealing for urgent support to kick start 2015 operations and scale-up the response to meet the increasing needs of the affected populations,” the report says.

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Zimbabwe’s Mugabe names Mnangagwa as vice-president

BBC

Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe has appointed Emmerson Mnangagwa as his deputy, making the former justice minister the favourite to succeed him.

Mr Mnangagwa takes over from Joice Mujuru who Mr Mugabe sacked after accusing her of plotting to kill him, an allegation she has denied.

Nicknamed “The Crocodile”, Mr Mnangagwa is reputed to be a hardliner.

Mr Mugabe, 90, purged the government of seven ministers on Tuesday as he tightened his grip on power.

He was re-elected leader of the ruling Zanu-PF party at its congress at the weekend while his 49-year-old wife, Grace, was chosen to head its women’s wing.

In his first comments since his elevation to the vice-presidency was announced, Mr Mnangagwa defended the purge.

“The revolution has a way of way of strengthening itself. It goes through cycles, this is another cycle where it rids itself of elements that had now become inconsistent with the correct line,” he is quoted by AFP news agency as saying.

Mrs Mujuru, 59, was seen as Mr Mnangagwa’s main rival in the battle to take over from Mr Mugabe when he retires or dies.

State media and Mrs Mugabe led the months-long campaign to oust her.

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Analysis: Brian Hungwe, BBC Africa, Harare

Grace Mugabe, wife of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, talks to Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa (R) in Harare on 10  December 2014

Grace Mugabe led the campaign against Mr Mnangagwa’s rivals

Emmerson Mnangagwa, affectionately known as Ngwena, or crocodile, is the obvious heir apparent. The first lady, Grace Mugabe, fuelled rumours of a possible Mugabe dynasty after she stole the limelight in recent months, addressing public rallies in which she rubbished senior party officials.

It provoked intense speculation that the president wanted to anoint her, and keep power in the Mugabe family. But Mr Mnangagwa’s appointment has dampened the speculation.

Should the president leave the picture, Mrs Mugabe will become politically ineffective and will only be respected in the party as the spouse of the founding father of independent Zimbabwe.

On state security issues, Mr Mnangagwa is Mr Mugabe’s right-hand man and makes the president feel secure. He looks up to Mr Mugabe, kneeling before him each time he presents official documents. It speaks of a father-son relationship.

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Mr Mugabe appointed diplomat Phelekezela Mphoko as his second vice-president, but he is not a Zanu-PF heavyweight, correspondents say.

Mr Mnangagwa served Mr Mugabe before and during the 1970s guerrilla war against white-minority rule, and has been a member of every administration since independence from Britain in 1980.

He has been minister of state security, defence and finance, as well as the speaker of parliament.

Mr Mugabe, who has been in power since Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980, is due to stand for election again in 2018.

The ministers whose sacking was announced on Tuesday included State Security Minister Didymus Mutasa - another long-time ally of Mr Mugabe - and Energy Minister Dzikamai Mavhaire, who was seen as close to Mrs Mujuru.

There is no word on their replacements yet.

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Steve Biko family take legal action over post-mortem sale

BBC

The family of the South African anti-apartheid activist, Steve Biko, are taking legal action in an attempt to stop a post-mortem report on his death being sold at auction.

The document was scheduled to be sold in Johannesburg and is now the subject of a court hearing on Wednesday.

The family said the report was part of national history and should not be sold for private gain by third parties.

Steve Biko died in South African police custody in 1977, aged 30.

His post-mortem report was listed for sale alongside that of another anti-apartheid activist, Ahmed Timol, who died in 1971.

On Tuesday evening, the auction house’s website still showed an image of Mr Timol’s post-mortem report but there was no reference to Mr Biko.

Nkosinathi Biko, who heads a foundation established in his father’s name, said: “The autopsy report of any deceased person is central to the dignity of the deceased.

“An action by an unrelated party that amounts to auctioning off national history for private commercial reasons fails the nation at the level of morality and decency, and certainly fails at honouring the memory of those who laid their lives down for that very nation,” he added.

He said the post-mortem report rightfully belonged to his family, which wished to preserve the document and display it to all South Africans to further the activist’s legacy.

A nephew of Mr Timol, Imtiaz Cajee, said: “These items are for public consumption and totally inappropriate to be sold at an auction for the personal enrichment of third parties.”

The auction house has not commented on the legal action.

The document was said to have come into the possession of the vendor through his mother, who had been a secretary for Dr Jonathan Gluckman, a pathologist appointed by the Biko family to attend the post-mortem.

The pathologist had apparently given the document to his secretary for safe-keeping because of security concerns.

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Ebola crisis: Obama urges Congress to approve aid

BBC

US President Barack Obama has renewed calls for Congress to approve $6bn (£3.8bn) in emergency aid to fight the deadly Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

The president made the plea on a visit to the National Institutes of Health, where he congratulated scientists on work towards a vaccine.

The WHO says 6,055 people have died in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

The medical charity, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), has again strongly criticised the international response.

It described it as patchy and slow, with the job of tackling the crisis largely left to doctors, nurses and charity organisations.

The MSF report said foreign governments - notably the UK in Sierra Leone and most recently China in Liberia - were continuing to build Ebola treatment centres.

But these were sometimes in the wrong places and using under-qualified local staff.

“It is extremely disappointing that states with biological-disaster response capacities have chosen not to deploy them,” Dr Joanne Liu, MSF’s International President, said in a statement.

Earlier on Tuesday, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said stigma against travellers from Ebola-infected countries was hindering the fight against the disease by discouraging Western medics from helping.

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Analysis: Mark Doyle, BBC international development correspondent

MSF worker being trained

Top UN Ebola bosses gave an upbeat press conference in Freetown, Sierra Leone, on Monday that contrasted sharply with the new MSF report. The UN had met some of its targets, the bosses said - the situation was very bad, but moving in the right direction.

However, privately, UN officials say the country that currently has the worst Ebola hotspots, Sierra Leone, is not coping at all.

These UN officials added - still “off the record” - that the big aid agencies, the government of Sierra Leone and the British army were not “joining the dots” and co-ordinating well. It was of course ironic for UN officials to say that, because the UN is supposed to be doing the co-ordination.

The UN, for all its bureaucratic faults, is the only overarching international body that can hope to manage the fight against Ebola in the long run. But MSF medics and Sierra Leonean health workers have, so far, done most of the dangerous work in the front lines against the viral disease.

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‘Christmas present’

President Obama said the strategy to fight Ebola was “beginning to show results”.

“We’re seeing some progress, but the fight is not even close to being over,” he said.

“Every hotspot is an ember that if not contained can become a new fire, so we cannot let down our guard even for a minute. And we can’t just fight this epidemic, we have to extinguish it.”

He said it was encouraging to see declining infection rates in Liberia and called progress in vaccine research “exciting”.

He urged Congress to give a “good Christmas present” to the world by approving $6bn in emergency funding.

 

Congress is at work on a massive spending bill, but Ebola legislation has become embroiled in political partisanship.

Graphic

Conservative members of Congress are expected to challenge Mr Obama’s appeal for funds in response to the president’s recent controversial executive actions on immigration, helping more than four million illegal immigrants.

Meanwhile, the White House said that the US was better prepared to deal with an outbreak of Ebola at home, and efforts to battle it in West Africa were progressing.

A network of 35 hospitals across the US are ready to treat Ebola patients and the number of labs used for testing the virus has increased from 13 to 42.

Nearly 200 civilians and 3,000 military personnel have also been deployed to West Africa, and three Ebola treatment units and a hospital have been set up in Liberia.

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UN says LRA abductions on rise in C Africa

Al Jazeera

Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels have launched a string of attacks across central Africa with a “steady increase” in abductions, the United Nations said.

The elusive rebels, who raid villages and enslave residents, have abducted 432 people so far this year, a “steady increase” from last year and more than double the number in 2012, the report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) released on Thursday, said.

Those captured, often children, are forced to work as fighters, sex slaves or porters. 

Long driven out of Uganda, small bands of LRA fighters now roam forest regions of the Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan and South Sudan, launching over 150 attacks and killing at least 22 people this year.

Over 160,000 people have been forced from their homes in areas of DR Congo, CAR and South Sudan where the rebels operate, including over 30,000 living as refugees in neighbouring nations.

Rebel chief Joseph Kony, who launched a rebellion in Uganda two decades ago, is wanted by the International Criminal Court along with fellow top commanders on war crimes and crimes against humanity charges including murder, sexual slavery and for using child soldiers. 

The US Department of State is offering a $5m bounty for information leading to his capture.

 

Kony, who claims mystical-religious powers, has long been reported to be based in the Sudanese-controlled Kafia Kingi enclave straddling the border with South Sudan, as well as in neighbouring Central African Republic.

The Ugandan army is leading a US-backed African Union force tasked with capturing the LRA’s leaders.

According to the UN, the LRA has killed more than 100,000 people and kidnapped more than 60,000 children in almost three decades of attacks.

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Mali battles Ebola outbreak as African toll passes 5,000

By AFP 

Mali is scrambling to prevent a major Ebola epidemic after the deaths of an Islamic cleric and a nurse, as the official death toll in the worst ever epidemic of the virus passed 5,000. The two deaths in Mali have dashed optimism that the country was free of the highly-infectious pathogen and caused alarm in the capital Bamako, where the imam was washed by mourners at a mosque after his death. It came as the World Health Organization (WHO) announced on Wednesday that the outbreak -- almost entirely confined to west Africa -- had passed a gruesome landmark, with 5,160 deaths from around 14,000 cases since Ebola emerged in Guinea in December. The WHO and aid organizations have frequently pointed out that the real count of cases and deaths could be much higher. In Mali, the latest country to see infections, the clinic where the imam died has been quarantined, with around 30 people trapped inside including medical staff, patients and 15 African soldiers from the United Nations mission in Mali. The nurse who died of Ebola had treated the imam at Bamako’s Pasteur clinic. Teams of investigators are tracing health workers, and scouring the capital and the imam’s home district in northeastern Guinea for scores of people who could have been exposed. See also: Medical experts in joint effort to fight Ebola, other infectious diseases The deaths have raised fears of widespread contamination as they were unrelated to Mali’s only other confirmed fatality, a two-year-old girl who had also arrived from Guinea in October. A doctor at the Pasteur clinic is thought to have contracted the virus and is under observation outside the capital, the clinic said. A friend who visited the imam has also died of probable Ebola, the WHO said. - Traditional burial rites blamed - Mali’s health ministry called for calm, as it led a huge cross-border operation to stem the contagion. The WHO said the 70-year-old cleric, named as Goika Sekou from a village on Guinea’s porous border with Mali, fell sick and was transferred via several treatment centres to the Pasteur clinic.

Multiple lab tests were performed, the WHO said, but crucially not for Ebola, and he died of kidney failure on October 27. He had travelled to Bamako by car with four family members -- all of whom have since got sick or died at home in Guinea. The imam’s body was transported to a mosque in Bamako for a ritual washing ceremony before being returned to Guinea for burial. Traditional African funeral rites are considered one of the main causes of Ebola spreading, as it is transmitted through bodily fluids and those who have recently died are particularly infectious. The nurse who died treating Sekou, identified by family as 25-year-old Saliou Diarra, was the first Malian resident to be confirmed as an Ebola victim. - 70 percent death rate - See also: Medical experts in joint effort to fight Ebola, other infectious diseases The virus is estimated to have killed around 70 percent of its victims, often shutting down their organs and causing unstoppable bleeding. Ebola emerged in Guinea in December, spreading to neighbouring Liberia and then Sierra Leone, infecting at least 13,000 people. Cases are “still skyrocketing” in western Sierra Leone, according to the WHO, although Liberia says it has seen a drop in new cases from a daily peak of more than 500 in September to around 50. The US military has scaled back plans for its mission in Liberia to fight the Ebola outbreak, and will deploy a maximum of 3,000 troops instead of 4,000, said General Gary Valesky, head of the American military contingent in the country. But the move did not signal less concern about the threat posed by the epidemic, he told reporters in a telephone conference. Britain’s foreign secretary Philip Hammond announced plans Wednesday for hundreds of Ebola treatment beds in Sierra Leone within weeks, admitting the global response had been too slow as he visited the former colony.

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Female suicide bomber attacks Nigerian teaching college

BBC

A female suicide bomber injured four people at a teachers’ college in northwest Nigeria on Wednesday, while the US hit back at allegations it has not done enough to tackle Boko Haram militants.

Police spokesman Ibrahim Gambari said the woman had blown herself up at the Federal College of Education in Kontagora, Niger state before reaching her target, the school library where students were revising for exams.

The blast nonetheless injured four people -- three students and a bystander.

Earlier a student at the college spoke of 10 people dead. 

The attack came two days after nearly 60 people were killed in a suspected Boko Haram suicide bombing at a school in the town of Potiskum in northeast Yobe state. 

The Boko Haram Islamist group is opposed to so-called “Western education” and wants to create a hardline Islamic state in northern Nigeria.

Nigerians have come to expect near daily Boko Haram attacks in the far northeast, but the latest attack will raise fresh concern if linked to the Islamist uprising.

Meanwhile the United States hit back at allegations by the Nigerian ambassador of failing to help fight the Boko Haram militants, saying there had been “a great deal” of US aid to the country.

In the past six months since the Islamic militants snatched some 200 schoolgirls in northern Nigeria, Washington has shared intelligence with the Nigerian army, begun training a new battalion and held high-level talks on the threat of Boko Haram, a US official said.

In a speech made public Tuesday, ambassador Adebowale Adefuye appeared to have taken US officials by surprise when he launched into a tirade against Washington.

But State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki shot back that the US had “provided and approved sales of military equipment to its armed forces”.

She acknowledged, however, that the US had refused to transfer some Cobra helicopters amid concerns over the Nigerian army’s ability to use them.

At the scene of the blast, student Mary Okafor said least 10 students were killed and several others injured.

“We saw bodies on the ground between the library and the female hostel,” she said.

She added that she believed there had been two bombers.

“Among the bodies were two dismembered women who we believe were the bombers,” she said.

“We have all been asked to vacate the school. The authorities in the town have asked all schools to close.”

On Monday’s school bombing in Yobe state, an official from the all-boys school in Potisku said the casualty toll had risen to 58 dead and 117 injured.

Police had previously put fatalities from the bombing at 47.

 

Schools, colleges attacked 

Educational  establishments in northern Nigeria have been hit several times by bombings in recent months.

On September 18, at least 13 were killed in Kano during a shootout between police and suspected suicide bombers, again at a teacher training college.

A female suicide bomber killed six people on July 30 when she detonated her explosives at a noticeboard on the campus of the Kano Polytechnic College while students were crowded around it.

That attack was the fourth by a female bomber in the city in a week and prompted the authorities to cancel public celebrations marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

All the bombings have been linked to Boko Haram.

The Islamist group has also bombed churches, including on Christmas Day in 2011 when 44 people were killed at the St Theresa Catholic Church in Niger’s town of Madalla.

Violence in the area has been relatively contained since, with a handful a gun attacks targeting the security forces through 2012. 

Nigeria’s prolonged offensive in the northeast has become the centrepiece of its campaign against Boko Haram.

But recent violence outside the restive region, including a jailbreak in central Kogi state and Wednesday’s blast in Niger highlight the wide reach of the Islamist rebels.

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Gov’t is not persecuting Mbabazi, says Rugunda

New vision

KAMPALA - Government is not harassing or prosecuting former premier Amama Mbabazi, the Prime Minister, Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda, has told parliament.

Speaking during Prime Minister’s question time, Rugunda said he was not aware of any persecution.

“I don’t have information that my brother, Ndugu Mbabazi, is being persecuted by the Government. If there are issues that friends know, let them be brought forward because the Government will be interested in investigating them,” he said.

Rugunda told the legislators that just like any other Ugandan, Mbabazi has a right to live freely, without prejudice.

The Premier was responding to concerns raised by Busongora North MP William Nzoghu.

“Why is the Government persecuting Mbabazi? You are continuously blocking him from attending meetings with his supporters in Masaka and other places. What are you doing about it?” Nzoghu asked.

Mbabazi’s concerns were, however, raised a few seconds after he had moved out of the chambers.

Dressed in a blue suit, Mbabazi attended the session for only 20 minutes and then left. While in the House, he sat quietly and listened to his successor answer questions on other issues from colleagues.

Occasionally, he turned and greeted or smiled at colleagues. When Nzoghu raised the matter, MPs turned to his seat. Unfortunately he had left.

Mbabazi was last month dropped as prime minister and replaced with Rugunda. A few weeks later, the NRM’s central executive committee also asked him to take leave as secretary general.

Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda responded to questions from MPs. PHOTO/Maria Wamala

CEC members reportedly asked Mbabazi to pronounce himself on his perceived presidential ambitions.

During the meeting, sources said President Yoweri Museveni reportedly produced a letter that Mbabazi is alleged to have written to the American Embassy in Uganda, asking for their support in the 2016 polls.

The meeting was also told that Mbabazi used his attendance of the recent 26th Uganda North American Association convention in San Diego, California, USA, to lobby American diplomats to support his presidential bid.

But Mbabazi has since challenged people to produce evidence that he had held any meeting with anyone on the issue of his alleged presidential bid in 2016

The American embassy in Kampala has also denied reports that Mbabazi has sought US support on his alleged presidential bid.

The NRM parliamentary caucus in a meeting early this year passed a resolution endorsing Museveni as their party’s “sole candidate” in the Govt not harassing Mbabazi — Rugunda 2016 presidential elections. At Wednesday’s plenary, MPs also expressed concern over the declining tea prices, saying it would have a diverse effect on the economy being one of the major cash crops.

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U.S. weighs sanctions on Libyan factions to try to halt proxy war

(Reuters) - The United States is considering imposing sanctions on Libya’s combative factions to try to prevent a proxy conflict fueled by regional powers from erupting into full-blown civil war and force militant leaders to negotiate, U.S. officials said.

Three years after Muammar Gaddafi’s downfall, outside intervention has exacerbated the fighting, with Qatar and, to some degree, Turkey supporting Islamist-linked forces and Egypt and the United Arab Emirates backing more secular rivals.

U.S. sanctions would be separate from potential United Nations sanctions that aim to pressure Libyan factions and militias to take part in U.N.-backed political negotiations to be led by U.N. envoy Bernardino Leon.

The possibility of using U.N. sanctions to help bring about political talks has been aired publicly. The consideration of separate U.S. sanctions has not been previously disclosed.

U.S. officials declined to say who they might target with sanctions or why they felt it necessary to look at U.S. penalties separate from the United Nations. Nor would they detail what sanctions they would propose.

If applied, the United Nations sanctions would target individuals or groups involved in the fighting, rather than their foreign backers, and would freeze their assets as well as impose travel bans.

Libya is in chaos with two rival governments and parliaments struggling for power and control of its oil wealth.

The western part of the country is controlled by militants with Islamist links who call themselves Operation Dawn and who seized the capital Tripoli in August. This group has reinstated the previous parliament and established its own government.

The internationally recognized government is in charge of a rump state in the east, whose parliament operates out of a hotel in Tobruk. In a ruling likely to deepen divisions, the Supreme Court on Thursday declared this parliament unconstitutional.

 

WHY U.S. ACTION?

The officials suggested at least two potential reasons for unilateral U.S. action. First, if the United Nations moves slowly or not at all, U.S. penalties could be imposed whenever Washington wished.

Second, U.S. sanctions could be especially worrisome to Khalifa Haftar, a former Libyan army general who fled to the United States after breaking ranks with Gaddafi and returned to launch a campaign against the Islamists in Benghazi.

Western officials believe the involvement of outside powers such as Egypt and the UAE is exacerbating the conflict and that the two countries are arming and funding the more secular forces.

Haftar, according to Western officials, has become the major proxy in Libya for Egypt, whose military-dominated government, headed by General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, regards extremists on its border with Libya as a primary national security challenge.

The UAE sees Egypt’s leadership as a firewall against militants and has given Cairo financial and military support, U.S. and allied officials say.

Saudi Arabia, a supporter of Sisi, is sympathetic to the Egyptian and Emirati involvement in Libya but is not believed to have played any direct role, diplomats said.

Supporting Libya’s Islamists, including some elements that the United States views as dangerous extremists, are Qatar and Turkey. Qatar, officials said, has given arms and money to Islamist militias while Turkey has offered moral support.

While acknowledging regional fears Libya may become a magnet for militants, a U.S. official said Washington believed outside interference may create “the very kind of conflict ... that will invite negative elements into Libya rather than keep them out.”

 

(Reporting by Mark Hosenball and Arshad Mohammed; Additional reporting by Lou Charbonneau; Editing by David Storey and Howard Goller)

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Zimbabwe opposition calls on parliament to expel renegade MPs

(Reuters) - Zimbabwe’s opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) on Thursday asked parliament to expel 18 rebel MPs on the grounds they no longer belonged to the party.

The 18 include Tendai Biti, a former MDC secretary general and finance minister, thrown out of the party by MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai in April.

Biti’s MDC Renewal group had tried to suspend Tsvangirai for failing to unseat President Robert Mugabe in last year’s elections.

The turmoil in the MDC has weakened the opposition to Mugabe, in power since independence from Britain in 1980.

Last weekend, Tsvangirai was re-elected unopposed at an MDC congress, where party members resolved to recall Biti and his group from parliament.

On Thursday, MDC’s new secretary general Douglas Mwonzora wrote to parliament saying the 18 members, who had been elected as MDC MPs, no longer belonged to the party. The MDC holds 90 seats out of a total 351 in the two houses of parliament.

“Accordingly, and in terms of Section 129(k) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, we hereby formally give notice to withdraw these members of Parliament with immediate effect,” Mwonzora said in his letter, seen by Reuters.

Under Zimbabwe’s constitution, if a political party recalls MPs, parliament declares the seats vacant and calls for a fresh election within 90 days.

But the issue is likely to spill into the courts and Jacob Mafume, spokesman for Biti’s group, said they were unfazed by the latest developments.

“It is a pointless gimmick, no one is moved. This issue is pending before many platforms,” Mafume said without elaborating.

Until last year, Mugabe had been forced to share power with Tsvangirai for four years. He does not face another election until 2018.

The 62-year-old Tsvangirai contested the polls under a cloud of sex scandals, and analysts predicted that dissatisfaction with his leadership would cause a split in the MDC.

Tsvangirai has led the MDC since its formation in 1999 but faces an uphill task in repairing the damage to his reputation enough to stand any real chance in the next election.

 

(Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; editing by Andrew Roche)

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Former LRA rebel commander sits for PLE

Newvision

THOUGH incarcerated, inmates of Luzira Maximum Security Prison still have hope for the future. A total of 70 inmates sat for their examinations which kicked off on Monday.  Among the candidates who sat for the Primary Leaving Examination was Colonel Alfred Onen Kamdulu, the former rebel commander of the Lord’s Resistance Army who is serving a nine-year jail term for aggravated robbery. Uganda Government Upper Prison Primary School registered 81 candidates for this year’s Primary Leaving Examination but 70 turned up for the final exams and of these, 3 are female. Of the 70 male prisoners, 6 are on death row according to the head teacher Anatoli Biryomumaisho. In an interview with New Vision, Kamdulu said that he was not able to study before incaceration but while in prison, he found free education and decided to enroll in order to achieve his goals. Kamudulu possibly tries to remember a point during the examination under the close watch of a warden. Photo by Petride Mudoola“My sentence has been a blessing in disguise because I have got the opportunity to attain education which was not the case outside. That is why I could not miss out on the golden opportunity,” said the former rebel chief. “While in the bush, we did not require qualifications, little did we know that life could turn out to be problematic for some of us who did not go to school. Having realized my mistake, I am determined to leave prison a learned man,” Kamdulu said. The former chief of operations for the rebel group, Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and nine others including the LRA fourth-in-command Thomas Kwoyelo were captured and arrested in 2009 after the UPDF overrun their rebel camp in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo. Brig. Kenneth Banya and Brigadier Sam Kolo Otto, Kamdulu, together with Lt Col. Opio Makasi were granted amnesty but months later, Kamdulu was arrested in connection with highway robbery and was convicted.

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Burkina Faso army told to hand over power

The African Union (AU) has given Burkina Faso’s military a two-week deadline to hand power to a civilian ruler or face sanctions.

The AU said the army had acted unconstitutionally when it took over after President Blaise Compaore was forced to resign on Friday.

The military said a civilian-led transitional government would be established as quickly as possible.

Mr Compaore quit after mass protests at his bid to extend his 27-year rule.

On Saturday, the military named Lt Col Isaac Zida, previously second in command of the presidential guard, as the new interim ruler.

‘Supporting role’

A popular revolt led to Mr Compaore’s resignation, but the military takeover was against democracy, said AU official Simeon Oyono Esono, following a meeting of the body’s Peace and Security Council in Ethiopia.

The AU will apply sanctions against Burkina Faso if the military fails to give up power within two weeks, Mr Esonohe told Reuters.

The BBC’s Emmanuel Igunza in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa says the sanctions could include suspension of Burkina Faso’s AU membership and a travel ban on military officials.

No protest against military, reports Laeila Adjovi

The AU’s Peace and Security Council is expected to meet again in two weeks’ time to discuss the crisis, he says.

Col Zida told diplomats and journalists in Burkina Faso’s capital, Ouagadougou, that the military had no plan to usurp power.

It wanted a transitional government made up of civilians to take office, he said.

The military would play a supporting role, Col Zida added.

BBC Afrique analyst Lamine Konkodo says many people in Burkina Faso expect Col Zida to honour his word, and it is now up to politicians and civil society leaders to agree on who will lead a transitional government.

Burned interior of parliament

The parliament building in Ouagadougou was set on fire by protesters last Thursday

Troops stand guard outside the national television headquarters in Ouagadougou on November 2

The headquarters of state TV were also attacked

Most businesses were open in Ouagadougou as the city returned to normal for the first time since last week’s protests against Mr Compaore’s rule.

At least one demonstrator was killed on Sunday after soldiers fired shots at the state TV station and barricaded the main square in Ouagadougou.

Thousands of protesters demanded the military give up power, chanting slogans like: “The soldiers have stolen our revolution”, “Zida get out!” and “Zida is Judas.”

Mr Compaore, who has now fled to Ivory Coast, first seized power in a coup in 1987, and thereafter won four disputed elections.

The protests were triggered by Mr Compaore’s plan to amend the constitution so that he could run for office again in elections next year.

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Nigeria Shias in Potiskum hit by ‘suicide attack’

BBC

A suicide bomber has killed 15 worshippers at a Shia religious ceremony in north-eastern Nigeria’s Potiskum town, a Shia leader has said.

Security forces killed another five people after arriving at the scene and opening fire, he said.

The military has not commented on the allegation.

No group has said it carried out the attack, but suspicion is bound to fall on militant Sunni Islamist group Boko Haram.

It denounces Shias, a minority in Nigeria, as non-Muslims.

The bomber detonated himself after joining worshippers who were marching to mark Ashura, a solemn day when Shias mourn the martyrdom of Hussein, a grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, in 680 AD at Karbala in modern-day Iraq, witnesses told the BBC Hausa service.

A police officer at the scene who requested anonymity told the AFP news agency: “It was a huge crowd and many of them were affected.”

Initially focused on opposing Western education - Boko Haram means “Western education is forbidden” in the Hausa language

Launched military operations in 2009 to create Islamic state

Thousands killed, mostly in north-eastern Nigeria - also attacked police and UN headquarters in capital, Abuja

Some three million people affected

Although witnesses reported that 20 people had died in the blast, a Shia representative said the explosion had killed 15 of them and the other five had been shot dead by the security forces, BBC Nigeria correspondent Will Ross reports from the main city, Lagos.

About 50 people are said to have been wounded in the blast.

One man, Mohammed Gana, told Reuters news agency that his brother had been killed in the attack.

People at the site of a bomb blast at a bus station in Gombe, north-eastern Nigeria - 31 October 2014

Boko Haram has carried out a spate of bombings in Nigeria

He counted 23 bodies at the scene, he said.

Resident Yusuf Abdullahi told Reuters the explosion took place near his home.

“I heard a very heavy explosion as if it happened in my room,” he said.

This is not the first time that Shia officials in Nigeria have accused the military of killing their members, our correspondent says.

In July, they accused soldiers in the northern town of Zaria of opening fire on a demonstration, killing three sons of Shia leader Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky.

Black-shirted followers of a Sha Muslim sect carry a banner depicting their leader Ibrahim Zakzaky  on 10 February 2005 in the northern Nigerian city of Kano 

Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky is influential in Shia circles in Nigeria

He advocates the creation of a Shia-oriented Islamic state in Nigeria, and his supporters have been involved in many clashes with the security forces over the decades.

Boko Haram has waged an insurgency in Nigeria since 2009, with some 2,000 civilians killed this year alone, rights activists say.

It has repeatedly targeted Christians and rival Muslim groups.

In July, it was blamed for bombing an open-air mosque in Potiskum, killing four people.

Potiskum is in Yobe, one of three states where Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan imposed a state of emergency in May 2013 after vowing to crush the insurgency.

Boko Haram has intensified attacks since then and sparked global outrage in April by abducting more than 219 schoolgirls.

Last week, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau rejected government claims that the two sides had agreed a ceasefire in talks brokered by Chad.

Mr Shekau also denied that Boko Haram planned to release the schoolgirls.

All the girls had converted to Islam, and had been married off, he said.

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Nigeria kidnappers free German Julius Berger staff - company

(Reuters) - Nigerian gunmen have freed a German citizen working for construction firm Julius Berger less than a week after they kidnapped him and killed another German citizen in a raid on their vehicles, the company said on Thursday.

The kidnappers attacked the staff and a contractor for the firm in southwest Nigeria’s Ogun state on Friday as they were making their way to work in a quarry.

The firm said at the time that they were travelling without their security escorts.

“Julius Berger Nigeria...is pleased to...announce the release of the company’s member of staff,” a statement said.

“The company would like to thank the all those who assisted in achieving a swift and safe release, especially government authorities and security services.”

Nigeria is one of the world’s worst countries for kidnapping, a multimillion dollar criminal enterprise seen as one of several major security headaches in Africa’s top oil producer and biggest economy.

It mostly affects the more prosperous south of the country, and its victims are mostly Nigerians, although expatriates are also frequently targeted.

 

(Reporting by Tim Cocks; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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U.N. peacekeepers free 67 hostages in Central African Republic

(Reuters) - U.N. peacekeepers in the Central African Republic freed 67 hostages who had been seized by militia groups, a spokeswoman for the U.N. mission known as MINUSCA said on Wednesday.

Four women were taken hostage in the capital Bangui while the rest were seized in the interior of the country, spokeswoman Myriam Dessables told a news conference. All were released after military operations by the peacekeepers.

The releases represent positive news for civilians and the U.N. mission in a country plunged into chaos when the mostly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power in the majority Christian country in March 2013, toppling President Francois Bozize.

 

Seleka’s rule was marred by abuses that prompted a backlash from the mostly Christian and animist anti-balaka militia. Seleka leader Michel Djotodia bowed to international pressure and went into exile in January.

“In the centre of the country on Oct. 21, around 60 people were kidnapped by the ex-Seleka. The muscular intervention of a battalion from Democratic Republic of Congo enabled these hostages to be freed,” she said.

The kidnappings came in the context of violence in the capital earlier this month in which the United Nations said at least 13 people died.

Dessables said a Rwandan battalion learned on Tuesday afternoon that civilians had been kidnapped and were being held in the Kina neighbourhood of the capital. They were able to secure the release of all four women.

The hostages said they were detained for days by anti-balaka militias who accused them of being traitors for having sold goods at the market at the mainly Muslim KM-5 neighbourhood, according to Dessables.

(Reporting by Crispin Dembassa-Kette; Writing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg; Editing by Tom Heneghan)

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In U.S. Ebola fight, no two quarantines are quite the same

Rueters

 

For some it may feel like imprisonment or house arrest. For others it may be more like a staycation, albeit one with a scary and stressful edge.

If they are lucky, the quarantined may get assigned a case worker who can play the role of a personal concierge by buying groceries and running errands. Some authorities are allowing visitors, or even giving those in quarantine permission to take trips outside to walk the dog or take a jog.

A month after the first confirmed case of Ebola in the United States, state and local health authorities across the country have imposed a hodgepodge of often conflicting rules.

Fears about a possible U.S. outbreak were reignited after American doctor Craig Spencer was hospitalized with Ebola in New York last Thursday after helping treat patients in West Africa, the epicentre of the worst outbreak on record.

Some states, such as New York and New Jersey, have gone as far as quarantining all healthy people returning from working with Ebola patients in West Africa. Others, such as Virginia and Maryland, said they will monitor returning healthcare workers and only quarantine those who had unprotected contact with patients. For a factbox, see:

In Minnesota, people being monitored by the state’s health department are banned from going on trips on public transit that last longer than three hours - the aim being to reduce exposure to others if someone does start to develop symptoms during a journey. But people with known exposure to Ebola patients will be restricted to their homes without any physical contact allowed. 

Spencer’s case has fanned public fears about the deadly virus, pressuring U.S. politicians to bring in harsh quarantine measures. Health experts have criticized such moves, noting the virus can only be transmitted through bodily fluids once an infected person has symptoms, from a fever to vomiting or diarrhoea.

The U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention has tried to establish a national standard, recommending on Monday that only people who had direct contact with Ebola patients without any protective gear submit to isolation at home for 21 days, the maximum period for symptoms to develop. They would still be allowed to go outside on a jog or to walk their dogs, but cannot come within three feet of others or visit places with groups of people, such as a restaurant.   

The smaller details - ranging from how groceries are delivered to who can visit - differ by state and even by city.

Three people who came into close contact with Spencer, including his fiancée, Morgan Dixon, are each being looked after by two case workers. One of the workers is from the New York City health department, and monitors their temperatures and watches for other signs of illness. The other is from the city’s social services department, and acts as a kind of round-the-clock concierge.

For some, the difficulties of being confined alone in a small apartment are beginning to take their toll.

“We have noticed in the past few days it has become much more difficult for the people in terms of the stress levels that one would experience being physically on your own,” said Dr. Jay Varma, a deputy commissioner at the city’s health department, in a telephone interview. “It’s quite an emotional challenge to be separated from your regular social network.”

On Wednesday evening, the city told the three people under quarantine that they could have relatives and friends to visit after all - previously they had been barred. As long as a health worker has come by that day to check that the quarantined person is still not showing symptoms, up to three people can come over at any one time provided they aren’t themselves ill.

The visitors can behave normally, hugging or sharing a meal with the quarantined if they want, Varma said. A friend or relative may even move in for the rest of the confinement if they like, he added.

Still, mundane problems can be more difficult than normal to solve. For example, the oven broke down in the apartment of one of Spencer’s quarantined friends, and the case worker had to cast about for someone willing to come in and fix it. Not an easy task, though someone has now been found to do so, said Varma.

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ICC warns Kenya on media leaks in Kenyatta case

AFP

THE International Criminal Court on Tuesday formally warned Kenya for leaking confidential information to the media in President Uhuru Kenyatta’s case related to a request to help freeze or seize his assets. Kenyatta, 52, earlier this month became the first sitting president to appear before The Hague-based court, where he faces charges of crimes against humanity for his role in bloody post-election violence in 2007-08. “The Chamber notes with concern the Kenyan government’s cumulative inattention to the taking of appropriate measures to ensure the confidentiality of proceedings,” the ICC’s judges said. A pre-trial bench of ICC judges in April 2011 requested that Nairobi cooperate “for purposes of identifying, tracing and freezing or seizing the property and assets belonging or under control of Uhuru Kenyatta.” The confidential request was issued under seal. Nairobi however filed public documents in 2013 referring to the request, even though it was still confidential. Kenya’s lawyers apologised afterwards, saying it would take “necessary caution” to ensure it did not happen again. But in April, the ICC referred to a news article on the Internet which again had details about the ICC’s request. Then in September, “Kenyan media reported again on information contained in confidential filings made by the Kenyan government, quoting directly from those filings,” the judges said. “The Chamber notes with concern what happens to be a pattern of information contained in confidential filings being leaked to the media, in some cases even before the filings have been notified to the Chamber,” they said. “For the foregoing reasons, the Chamber formally cautions the Kenyan government.” The ICC summoned Kenyatta in 2011 to appear on five counts of crimes against humanity for his alleged role in orchestrating post-election unrest in late 2007 and early 2008 that left 1,200 people dead and displaced 600,000 others. Kenyatta’s case however has been dragging on for more than three years, riddled with prosecution accusations of witness intimidation, while the powerful African leader’s supporters claim the ICC only targets African countries. In Kenya, bitter memories are still fresh of the worst violence to hit the east African country since independence in 1963. What began as political riots quickly turned into ethnic killings of Kenyatta’s Kikuyu tribe, who in return launched reprisal attacks.

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