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Climate and security to dominate US Secretary of State’s maiden Africa tour

Climate change and security in Ethiopia, Sudan and the Sahel are set to top the agenda as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrives in Nairobi on Wednesday to visit three of the continent’s major players: Kenya, Nigeria and Senegal.

Blinken’s first Africa trip follows the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow, where poorer nations called on wealthy governments to do more to help them combat climate change.

His visit will likely seek to underscore the difference between President Joe Biden’s administration and his predecessor Donald Trump.

Trump dismissed some African nations as”s**tholes”, left key diplomatic posts to Africa empty and scoffed at climate change science.

Blinken’s first stop will be Kenya, where President Uhuru Kenyatta will want to discuss security following last month’s coup in Sudan and a widening war in Ethiopia, Africa’s second most populous nation and the headquarters of the African Union.

Blinken said last week that Ethiopia could “implode”, a prospect that would widen famine there and send millions of refugees around an already unstable region.

Kenya also contributes troops to an African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia, where Al Qaeda-linked insurgents are battling the government.

The mandate of the AU force is up for renewal next month and the United States is a key donor.

Blinken will also meet civil society representatives, considered an important bulwark of Kenyan democracy ahead of next year’s national election.

Polls can sometimes turn violent and Kenya, East Africa’s wealthiest and most stable nation, is headquarters to many multinationals.

VIOLENCE IN NIGERIA

On Thursday, Blinken will visit Nigeria – Africa’s largest oil exporter – to meet President Muhammadu Buhari, whose government is battling an Islamist insurgency in the northeast and mass kidnappings by armed gangs in the north and northwest.

The two are expected to discuss possible security assistance from the United States, a source in the Nigerian presidency told Reuters.

In July, Nigeria received its first six A-29 Super Tucano planes, four years after the United States agreed to sell the light attack aircraft to fight insurgents.

But analysts say Buhari has made little progress tackling corruption that has eroded the nation’s infrastructure – half of its citizens lack access to electricity – or abuses by the security services.

A judicial panel report this week accused the army and police of firing on protesters in Lagos last year in what it called a “massacre.”

Blinken’s final leg is Senegal, considered one of Africa’s most stable democracies, where the focus will be on leaders and female entrepreneurs.

He will also visit Dakar’s Institute Pasteur, which signed an agreement – alongside Rwanda – with BioNtech in October to build the first mRNA vaccine manufacturing facility in Africa starting in mid-2022.

Biden’s government has said it was working with manufacturers to help African countries boost vaccine production.

 

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Over 1 000 people, mostly Tigrayans, detained in Ethiopia in week – UN

At least 1 000 people, mostly ethnic Tigrayans, have been detained in cities across Ethiopia in the past week, the United Nations said on Tuesday.

Ethiopia declared a state of emergency on November 2, a year after a conflict erupted between the federal government and forces aligned with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the political party controlling the northern region of Tigray.

The declaration, which is valid for six months, allows suspects to be detained without trial for as long as the state of emergency lasts and allows house-to-house searches without a warrant.

“At least 1 000 individuals are believed to have been detained over the past week or so with some reports putting the figure much higher,” the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said in a statement.

“These developments are all the more disturbing given that most of those detained are reported to be people of Tigrayan origin.”

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed “his concern over reports of arbitrary arrests and detentions, which serve to widen divisions and resentment between groups,” UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said in a statement.

Ethiopian government spokesperson Legesse Tulu did not respond to a request for comment.

Police have previously said the arrests are not ethnically motivated but are aimed at detaining supporters of the TPLF.

The conditions in detention centres were poor and overcrowded and many were not told the reasons for their detention, the United Nations said.

Ten UN workers also were still being held, after the arrest of 16 last week, the organization said.

And 34 contractors remain in detention out of 72 who were arrested last week.

Any Ethiopians working for the United Nations would be held accountable for lawbreaking, the government said Ethiopian staff working for the United Nations or African Union do not live “in space” and will be punished for any lawbreaking, the government said on Thursday, after the arrest of several UN employees for unspecified offences.

Guterres called for the immediate release of detained UN staff members, the UN statement said.

It said UN staff were held without charge and there was no specific information provided for the arrests.

The TPLF, which used to dominate Ethiopian politics, accuses the federal government of centralising power.

The government accuses the TPLF of trying to return to its previous dominance.

Both are accused of violations that may amount to war crimes,the United Nations has said.

 

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Climate and security to dominate US Secretary of State’s maiden Africa tour

Climate change and security in Ethiopia, Sudan and the Sahel are set to top the agenda as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrives in Nairobi on Wednesday to visit three of the continent’s major players: Kenya, Nigeria and Senegal.

Blinken’s first Africa trip follows the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow, where poorer nations called on wealthy governments to do more to help them combat climate change.

His visit will likely seek to underscore the difference between President Joe Biden’s administration and his predecessor Donald Trump.

Trump dismissed some African nations as”s**tholes”, left key diplomatic posts to Africa empty and scoffed at climate change science.

Blinken’s first stop will be Kenya, where President Uhuru Kenyatta will want to discuss security following last month’s coup in Sudan and a widening war in Ethiopia, Africa’s second most populous nation and the headquarters of the African Union.

Blinken said last week that Ethiopia could “implode”, a prospect that would widen famine there and send millions of refugees around an already unstable region.

Kenya also contributes troops to an African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia, where Al Qaeda-linked insurgents are battling the government.

The mandate of the AU force is up for renewal next month and the United States is a key donor.

Blinken will also meet civil society representatives, considered an important bulwark of Kenyan democracy ahead of next year’s national election.

Polls can sometimes turn violent and Kenya, East Africa’s wealthiest and most stable nation, is headquarters to many multinationals.

VIOLENCE IN NIGERIA

On Thursday, Blinken will visit Nigeria – Africa’s largest oil exporter – to meet President Muhammadu Buhari, whose government is battling an Islamist insurgency in the northeast and mass kidnappings by armed gangs in the north and northwest.

The two are expected to discuss possible security assistance from the United States, a source in the Nigerian presidency told Reuters.

In July, Nigeria received its first six A-29 Super Tucano planes, four years after the United States agreed to sell the light attack aircraft to fight insurgents.

But analysts say Buhari has made little progress tackling corruption that has eroded the nation’s infrastructure – half of its citizens lack access to electricity – or abuses by the security services.

A judicial panel report this week accused the army and police of firing on protesters in Lagos last year in what it called a “massacre.”

Blinken’s final leg is Senegal, considered one of Africa’s most stable democracies, where the focus will be on leaders and female entrepreneurs.

He will also visit Dakar’s Institute Pasteur, which signed an agreement – alongside Rwanda – with BioNtech in October to build the first mRNA vaccine manufacturing facility in Africa starting in mid-2022.

Biden’s government has said it was working with manufacturers to help African countries boost vaccine production.

 

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Over 1 000 people, mostly Tigrayans, detained in Ethiopia in week – UN

At least 1 000 people, mostly ethnic Tigrayans, have been detained in cities across Ethiopia in the past week, the United Nations said on Tuesday.

Ethiopia declared a state of emergency on November 2, a year after a conflict erupted between the federal government and forces aligned with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the political party controlling the northern region of Tigray.

The declaration, which is valid for six months, allows suspects to be detained without trial for as long as the state of emergency lasts and allows house-to-house searches without a warrant.

“At least 1 000 individuals are believed to have been detained over the past week or so with some reports putting the figure much higher,” the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said in a statement.

“These developments are all the more disturbing given that most of those detained are reported to be people of Tigrayan origin.”

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed “his concern over reports of arbitrary arrests and detentions, which serve to widen divisions and resentment between groups,” UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said in a statement.

Ethiopian government spokesperson Legesse Tulu did not respond to a request for comment.

Police have previously said the arrests are not ethnically motivated but are aimed at detaining supporters of the TPLF.

The conditions in detention centres were poor and overcrowded and many were not told the reasons for their detention, the United Nations said.

Ten UN workers also were still being held, after the arrest of 16 last week, the organization said.

And 34 contractors remain in detention out of 72 who were arrested last week.

Any Ethiopians working for the United Nations would be held accountable for lawbreaking, the government said Ethiopian staff working for the United Nations or African Union do not live “in space” and will be punished for any lawbreaking, the government said on Thursday, after the arrest of several UN employees for unspecified offences.

Guterres called for the immediate release of detained UN staff members, the UN statement said.

It said UN staff were held without charge and there was no specific information provided for the arrests.

The TPLF, which used to dominate Ethiopian politics, accuses the federal government of centralising power.

The government accuses the TPLF of trying to return to its previous dominance.

Both are accused of violations that may amount to war crimes,the United Nations has said.

 

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IMF says Zimbabwe debt unsustainable, lending would require restructuring

The International Monetary Fund said on Tuesday it was unable to provide financial support to Zimbabwe due to its unsustainable debt and external arrears, and any lending arrangement would  require a clear path to a restructuring its external debt.

The IMF said its staff completed a virtual mission to Zimbabwe from October 16 to November 16, and noted “significant” efforts by authorities there to stem inflation, contain budget deficits and reserve money growth.

Zimbabwe, which has suffered from bouts of hyperinflation in the last 15 years, has not received funding from lenders like the IMF and World bank for more than two decades due to arrears.

Its external debt is more than $10 billion and most of it is in arrears.

“A Fund financial arrangement would require a clear path to comprehensive restructuring of Zimbabwe’s external debt, including the clearance of arrears and obtaining financing assurances from creditors,” the IMF said.

Creditors owed by Zimbabwe include the World Bank, African Development Bank, European Investment Bank and the Paris Club. The national treasury says it is working on a plan to clear the arrears.

The IMF reiterated that Zimbabwe’s economy would grow by 6%this year but added that uncertainty remained high due to the effects of COVID-19 and the economy’s vulnerabilities to climatic shocks like drought and cyclones.

“Decisive actions are needed to lock in economic stabilization gains and accelerate reforms,” the IMF said.

The Fund called for greater official exchange rate flexibility, removal of foreign currency market distortions and containment of fiscal deficits.

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Triple suicide bombers in Uganda capital kill three civilians, wound dozens

Three suicide bombers in the heart of Uganda’s capital killed at least three civilians and sent parliamentarians rushing for cover as nearby cars burst into flames, witnesses and police said, the latest in a string of bombings over the past month.

At least 33 people were being treated at Mulago Hospital, including five people in critical condition, police spokesperson Fred Enanga said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility. The al Qaeda-linked Somali insurgent group al Shabaab has carried out deadly attacks in Uganda. Last month another group, the Islamic State-aligned Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), claimed its first attack in Uganda.

“Our intelligence also indicates that these are domestic terror groups that are linked to ADF,” said Enanga.

The explosions – the first near the central police station and the second very close to parliament – sent bloodied office workers scrambling for cover over shards of broken glass as a plume of white smoke rose above the downtown area.

A single suicide bomber carried out the first blast near the checkpoint at the police station, which killed two people, Enanga said. Then two suicide bombers on motorbikes detonated, killing one other person.

“A booming sound like that from a big gun went off. The ground shook, my ears nearly went deaf,” Peter Olupot, a 28-year-old bank guard who was near the attack near parliament, told Reuters.

“I saw a vehicle on fire and everyone was running and panicking. I saw a boda boda (motorcycle) man – his head was smashed and covered in blood.”

A Reuters journalist saw burned cars behind a police cordon at the scene and a reporter with local television station NTV Uganda said he saw two bodies in the street.

Irene Nakasiita, spokesperson at the Uganda Red Cross, said they would release information about the blasts later.

Ugandan soldiers are fighting al Shabaab in Somalia as part of an UN-backed African Union peacekeeping force. Al Shabaab’s bombings in Uganda include a 2010 attack that killed 70 people watching the World Cup.

Last month, the ADF made its first claim of responsibility for a blast in Uganda with a bomb – packed with shrapnel – that killed a waitress at a restaurant.

Also last month, Ugandan police said a suicide bomber had blown up a bus, killing himself and injuring others. His affiliation was unclear.

The ADF was originally established by Ugandan Muslims but now have their main bases in the forested mountains of the Democratic Republic of Congo, which borders Uganda.

Both the ADF and al Shabaab frequently use explosive devices and have been accused of killing thousands of civilians.

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Tunisia’s govt says it will implement all deals reached with union

Tunisian employment minister, Nassreddine Nsibi, said on Monday that the government is committed to implementing any deals it reaches with the country’s powerful UGTT union, such as on the minimum wage – even as the country faces a financial crisis.

Tunisia last week resumed talks with the International Monetary Fund on a loan package predicated on Tunis imposing painful and unpopular steps aimed at liberalising the economy.

International donors have also raised the need for broad support within Tunisia for reforms to help tackle corruption and waste, meaning the government is likely to need the backing of the UGTT, which represents 1 million workers and wields huge political clout, to secure an IMF deal.

On Monday, Prime Minister Najla Bouden and the government met with Noureddine Taboubi, the head of the UGTT, and other union officials to discuss the situation.

“There is an agreement that the government will implement previous agreements, including on the minimum wage. We will announce the details soon,” Nsibi told a news conference at the governmental palace.

Taboubi said that the first meeting with the government was positive and that agreements will be issued later.

The government last year approved a plan to raise the wages of about 700,000 employees in the public sector in addition to raising the national minimum wage.

The IMF has urged Tunisia to slash subsidies and its bloated public sector wage bill, however, as well as privatise loss-making state-owned enterprises.

Adding to the government’s problems, the UGTT last week rejected the idea of cutting subsidies, a stance that will complicate its efforts to reach a deal with the IMF.

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Tunisia’s govt says it will implement all deals reached with union

Tunisian employment minister, Nassreddine Nsibi, said on Monday that the government is committed to implementing any deals it reaches with the country’s powerful UGTT union, such as on the minimum wage – even as the country faces a financial crisis.

Tunisia last week resumed talks with the International Monetary Fund on a loan package predicated on Tunis imposing painful and unpopular steps aimed at liberalising the economy.

International donors have also raised the need for broad support within Tunisia for reforms to help tackle corruption and waste, meaning the government is likely to need the backing of the UGTT, which represents 1 million workers and wields huge political clout, to secure an IMF deal.

On Monday, Prime Minister Najla Bouden and the government met with Noureddine Taboubi, the head of the UGTT, and other union officials to discuss the situation.

“There is an agreement that the government will implement previous agreements, including on the minimum wage. We will announce the details soon,” Nsibi told a news conference at the governmental palace.

Taboubi said that the first meeting with the government was positive and that agreements will be issued later.

The government last year approved a plan to raise the wages of about 700,000 employees in the public sector in addition to raising the national minimum wage.

The IMF has urged Tunisia to slash subsidies and its bloated public sector wage bill, however, as well as privatise loss-making state-owned enterprises.

Adding to the government’s problems, the UGTT last week rejected the idea of cutting subsidies, a stance that will complicate its efforts to reach a deal with the IMF.

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Tunisia’s govt says it will implement all deals reached with union

Tunisian employment minister, Nassreddine Nsibi, said on Monday that the government is committed to implementing any deals it reaches with the country’s powerful UGTT union, such as on the minimum wage – even as the country faces a financial crisis.

Tunisia last week resumed talks with the International Monetary Fund on a loan package predicated on Tunis imposing painful and unpopular steps aimed at liberalising the economy.

International donors have also raised the need for broad support within Tunisia for reforms to help tackle corruption and waste, meaning the government is likely to need the backing of the UGTT, which represents 1 million workers and wields huge political clout, to secure an IMF deal.

On Monday, Prime Minister Najla Bouden and the government met with Noureddine Taboubi, the head of the UGTT, and other union officials to discuss the situation.

“There is an agreement that the government will implement previous agreements, including on the minimum wage. We will announce the details soon,” Nsibi told a news conference at the governmental palace.

Taboubi said that the first meeting with the government was positive and that agreements will be issued later.

The government last year approved a plan to raise the wages of about 700,000 employees in the public sector in addition to raising the national minimum wage.

The IMF has urged Tunisia to slash subsidies and its bloated public sector wage bill, however, as well as privatise loss-making state-owned enterprises.

Adding to the government’s problems, the UGTT last week rejected the idea of cutting subsidies, a stance that will complicate its efforts to reach a deal with the IMF.

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Congo government proposes 42% budget increase in 2022

Democratic Republic of Congo’s prime minister on Monday proposed government spending of 20.73 trillion Congolese francs ($9.94 billion dollars) in 2022, a 41.8% increase over this year’s budget.

Prime Minister Sama Lukonde Kyenge told parliament the increase would be made possible by strong economic growth, improved revenue collection and higher donor funding.

Despite the continuing impact of COVID-19, Congo’s public finances have improved significantly this year due to high production of chief exports copper and cobalt, lending from donors and government efforts to boost tax collection.

By the end of August, foreign exchange reserves reached $3.3billion, or 13.5 weeks of imports, up from $710.3 million when Lukonde’s government was sworn in in April. By the end of October Congo had already exceeded forecast revenues for the whole of 2021.

“This performance allows us to hope that with greater effort mobilizing revenues… the country can reach even higher budgets, fulfilling its potential,” Lukonde said.

He said the government would further increase tax revenues by digitising customs and other tax reporting, identifying mining companies no longer entitled to certain tax breaks, and expanding the tax base from telecommunications services.

Previous Congolese governments have struggled to live up to promises to meaningfully expand public revenues and typically end up spending only about half of what their budgets call for.

The current government has benefited from extensive donor assistance, including from the International Monetary Fund, which resumed lending to Congo in 2019 seven years after the IMF suspended its last lending programme.

In July, the IMF agreed a three-year, $1.52 billion extended credit facility with President Felix Tshisekedi’s government to support economic reforms and pandemic recovery.

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Nigeria plans mass vaccination drive, considers booster shot

Nigeria will start a mass COVID-19 vaccination campaign later this week, aiming to inoculate half of its targeted population by the end of January, government officials said.

Africa’s most-populous country has a goal to vaccinate 111 million people to reach herd immunity.

Under the initiative to start on Friday, 55 million doses or more than a million a day will be administered.

The country has to date vaccinated only 2.9% of those eligible to get vaccines.

The plan will see vaccine sites set up at private health facilities, universities, colleges, stadiums, motor parks and shopping malls among other venues.

Boss Mustapha, head of the presidential steering committee on COVID-19, said the government “has enough vaccines in the pipeline to vaccinate about 50% of the target population by the end of January 2022.”

He also said the government was making efforts to secure booster shots “so as to build a healthy level of antibodies.”

He did not provide details.

Faisal Shuaib, executive director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, said Nigeria received about 5 million AstraZeneca shots last month from the COVAX global-sharing facility, both purchases and donations.

Nigeria also had commitments for 11.99 million and 12.2 million doses of Pfizer Inc/BioNTech and Moderna Inc COVID-19 vaccines, respectively, he said.

The government has purchased nearly 40 million Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses, which would be coming in batches, said Shuaib.

 

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Militant attack kills 20 in Burkina Faso, security minister says

An attack by insurgents killed 19 Burkina Faso military police and a civilian on Sunday in the tri-border northern region where the West African nation is battling militants, Security Minister Maxime Kone said.

Kone said the toll was provisional. “This morning a detachment of the gendarmerie suffered a cowardly and barbaric attack. They held their position,” Kone said on national television, adding that 22 survivors had been found.

The attack on a military police outpost near a gold mine in Inata came two days after another attack in which seven police were killed in the area near Niger and Mali.

Militant groups linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State are active in the tri-border area where several nations including France, Chad, Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso have deployed hundreds of troops.

Two Burkina Faso security sources and a diplomatic source told Reuters earlier on Sunday that at least 30 military police were killed in the attack and the toll could be higher, making it one of the deadliest attacks on Burkina Faso troops.

Burkina Faso’s armed forces confirmed the Sunday attack in a statement saying “a gendarmerie detachment was the subject of a terrorist attack”. It did not provide further details.

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Morocco plans additional airport COVID testing amid Europe surge

Morocco will conduct rapid COVID-19 tests to passengers arriving in its airports and ports, and will deny access to any visitor with a positive result, the government said on Saturday.

The measure, which strengthens an existing requirement of a negative PCR test 48 hours before departure, aims to protect the country amid a surge of cases in Europe, the government said in a statement.

Travelers with positive test must be returned at the cost of the airline that brought them into the country, unless they have a permanent residency document, it said.

Passengers visiting Morocco should also have proof of vaccination. The country made the vaccine pass mandatory to access public places after it vaccinated more than 50% of its population.

Morocco has administered more coronavirus vaccine doses than any other African country, inoculating 24.3 million people out of a population of 36 million. It has also started administering booster shots.

Last Wednesday, the country ended a night curfew aimed at combating COVID-19 that it introduced in March 2020 after a fall in cases from the summer peak.

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US top diplomat Blinken to visit Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal next week

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to Kenya, Nigeria and Senegal from November 15-20, the State Department said on Thursday.

In Nairobi, Blinken will meet with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta to discuss topics including cooperation on ending the COVID-19 pandemic and regional security issues such as Ethiopia, Somalia and Sudan, the department said in a statement.

Blinken will travel next to Abuja to meet with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari to discuss cooperation on global health security, expanding energy access and revitalising democracy, it said.

In Dakar, Blinken will meet with Senegalese President Macky Sall “to reaffirm the close partnership between our two countries,” the statement said.

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Sierra Leone president suspends state auditor pending probe

Sierra Leone’s chief auditor Lara Taylor-Pearce, who has been widely praised for her efforts to improve government accountability, said on Thursday President Julius Maada Bio had suspended her while the attorney general investigates her office.

The suspension comes weeks before her office is due to present an annual audit of the government’s handling of public finances in 2020.

Taylor-Pearce told Reuters she was handed a letter addressed to the supervisory board of the state audit service (ASSL) that requested she and her deputy be immediately suspended while the attorney general sets up a tribunal to look into ASSL’s work.

“I have not been told what the remit of this tribunal is or what wrongdoing we are supposed to have committed,” she said.

“ASSL has always maintained the highest standards at all times and we deny any wrongdoing in the exercise of our mandate.”

The office of President Julius Maada Bio did not respond to requests for comment.

Taylor-Pearce has served as auditor general for 10 years, earning a reputation for efforts to improve public sector accountability.

She won international praise for her real-time audit of the financing of the 2014-2016 Ebola pandemic response, which exposed significant corruption.

Some non-governmental organisations expressed surprise at her suspension.

“We find it particularly difficult to understand this decision given the fact that Madam Taylor-Pearce has over a decade provided high-quality service,” said a statement from Sierra Leone’s Institute for Governance Reform.

Ibrahim Tommy of the Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law (CARL) said the government should proceed quickly with the tribunal so Taylor-Pearce can return to work if there is no evidence against her.

 

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UN yet to get official communication on detained staff in Ethiopia

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The United Nations says it has yet to receive any official communication relating to UN staff and contractors detained by Ethiopian authorities. Of the 16 UN national staff confirmed detained on Tuesday, UN officials now say at least nine remain in detention while further 70-plus drivers contracted to the World Food Programme and other aid agencies were arrested in Semera, the capital of the Afar region which borders Tigray.

The city of Semera is viewed as a gateway for aid convoys seeking to reach Tigray where the humanitarian need is most acute due to the yearlong conflict between the Federal Government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front.

The ethnicity of the UN staff detained remains unclear but reports from the region suggest that as part of the broad powers invoked by the declaration of national State of Emergency by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed last week, ethnic Tigrayans were specifically being targeted with arrest.

The Associated Press quotes a government spokesperson saying the UN staff members were detained because of “participation in terror” unrelated to their work but without providing additional details.

The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission said it had received reports that authorities were detaining people of Tigrayan descent.

Stephane Dujarric – the UN Secretary General’s Spokesperson, “We have – as far as I’m aware – not received any official explanation while the number of UN staff as well as people who’ve been contracted to work for the UN are in detention and continue to be detained. The current numbers that I have is that at least nine UN staff members are currently detained. We continue to work and engage with the government to secure their release. We’ve also received reports that at least 70 people who’ve been contracted by the UN to drive trucks have also been detained. They’ve been contracted by both the UN and a number of international NGOs and again, we are calling for their release.”

The UN’s Humanitarian Office says the ongoing conflict has resulted in large-scale displacement, coupled with drought, flooding and disease outbreaks that continue to drive humanitarian needs across Ethiopia, with 7 million people directly impacted by the fighting in the country’s north.

“We can only talk about the facts. We’ve not been able to get the humanitarian aid that we need in. We’ve seen some staff detained. On the other hand, we’ve seen the government facilitate and support Martin Griffiths (UN Humanitarian Relief Coordinator) travels both to Mekelle and to Addis, so we are continuing with the dialogue. Our only aim is really to, our only immediate aim is to bring humanitarian support to the millions of people in Ethiopia and especially in northern Ethiopia who so desperately need it,” Dujarric added.

Dujarric says the detention of drivers further undermines their efforts to get in much-needed aid and relief.

“Well, again, we didn’t give the orders right. But one can only imagine the impact of detaining 70 truckers who are driving trucks that are filled with desperately needed humanitarian goods. It sure doesn’t help the humanitarian situation. Those trucks are not moving, and we desperately need them to move.”

The conflict in northern Ethiopia has killed thousands and displaced more than two million people and has reduced the country’s economy – once one of the fastest-growing in Africa, certainly over the last decade – to a shadow of itself with inflation hitting 35% in September as food and fuel prices soar.

 

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UN says at least 16 staff, dependents detained in Ethiopia

At least 16 United Nations staff and dependents have been detained in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, a UN spokesperson said on Tuesday, amid reports of widespread arrests of ethnic Tigrayans.

“We are, of course, actively working with the government of Ethiopia to secure their immediate release,” UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York.

He declined to answer a question on the ethnicity of those detained, saying: “These are United Nations staff members,they’re Ethiopians…, and we would like to see them released, whatever ethnicity is listed on their identity cards.”

The state-appointed Ethiopian Human Rights Commission said on Sunday it had received many reports of arrests of Tigrayans in the capital, including elders and mothers with children.

Daniel Bekele, head of the commission, told Reuters on Tuesday that it was monitoring “the arrests of hundreds of Tigrayans in Addis Ababa”.

Police have denied making ethnically motivated arrests,saying they are only targeting supporters of the rebellious Tigrayan forces fighting the central government.

Fasika Fanta, spokesperson for the Addis Ababa police, and government spokesperson Legesse Tulu told Reuters they had no information on the arrests of UN staff.

“Those that have been detained are Ethiopians who violate the law,” said Legesse.

The US State Department said Washington finds the reports of arrests of UN staff members “concerning”, adding that harassment and detention on the basis of ethnicity is completely unacceptable.

“The reports do tend to suggest an arrest based on ethnicity and that is something that if confirmed, we would strongly condemn. So, whatever we can do to secure the release of these individuals, we will be prepared to do,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price told reporters.

The year-long conflict in northern Ethiopia between the government and Tigrayan forces loyal to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) has intensified in recent weeks after the TPLF pushed southward.

Tigrayan forces and their allies have threatened to march on the capital.

Ethiopia declared a state of emergency on November 2. That permits the government to arbitrarily arrest,without a court order, anyone suspected of collaborating with a terrorist group.

Parliament designated the TPLF as a terrorist group earlier this year.

Britain tightened its travel advice on Tuesday, advising citizens to leave Ethiopia while commercial flights are available, after the United States on November 5 advised all citizens to leave Ethiopia as soon as possible.

Zambia evacuated non-essential staff from Ethiopia on Tuesday, its foreign ministry said.

Diplomatic efforts continue to try to lay the ground for talks and avert an attack on the Ethiopian capital, home to 5 million people.

“Our position remains that there can be no military solution to this conflict and only dialogue can produce a lasting peace, “Britain’s Minister for Africa, Vicky Ford, told journalists.

Former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo is in Ethiopia on behalf of the African Union to try to facilitate talks:

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US diplomat Blinken says Egypt has more ‘issues of concern’ on human rights ahead of dialogue

Top US diplomat Antony Blinken said on Monday that Egypt had more work to do on human rights as he met with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukryamid calls for Washington to take a tougher stance on the country’s record.

The two met ahead of a US – Egypt Strategic Dialogue in Washington, the first such talks since President Joe Biden took power pledging to put human rights and democracy at the center of his foreign policy.

Blinken in September announced the United States would withhold $130 million worth of military aid from Egypt until President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s government takes action on human rights. Egypt was not invited to Biden’s flagship Summit for Democracy next month.

On Monday, Blinken credited Egypt for launching a national rights strategy and said the United States and Egypt are working together on reforming pre-trial detention and protecting a free press and free expression in Egypt.

“There are also other issues of concern, more areas where positive steps can be taken, not because the United States or anyone else is asking, but because… it’s what’s in the interest of the Egyptian people,” Blinken said.

A group of experts on Egypt wrote a dialogue to Blinken on Monday, urging him to “speak forthrightly about Egypt’s appalling human rights record” and press the Egyptian delegation visiting Washington for meaningful improvements.

Sisi, a former general who ousted the Muslim Brotherhood in 2013, has overseen a crackdown on dissent that has tightened in recent years but denies detaining his opponents.

Shoukry said Egypt under Sisi would “forge our path towards a more democratic state” but that equal attention should be paid to “economic and social rights” alongside “political rights and civil liberties.”

“The experience of the last 10 years has demonstrated that protecting the social cohesion and territorial integrity of the nation-state as well as preserving the stability and efficacy of its institutions is vital in order to fulfill the hopes for change and modernization and to guard against the rise of identity-based politics and sectarian divisions,” he said.

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African Union, US see small window of opportunity to end Ethiopia fighting

The African Union and the United States see a small window of opportunity to end fighting in Ethiopia, they said on Monday, as the United Nations warned that the risk of Ethiopia spiralling into a widening civil war is “only too real.”

The AU envoy for the Horn of Africa, former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, and UN political affairs chief Rosemary DiCarlo both briefed the UN Security Council.

Speaking from Ethiopia, Obasanjo said that by the end of the week “we hope to have a program in hand that will indicate” how they can achieve humanitarian access and a withdrawal of troops that satisfies all the parties. The United Nations estimates 400,000 people in the northern region of Tigray are living in famine-like conditions following a year of war.

“All these leaders, here in Addis Ababa and in the north, agree individually that the differences between them are political and require a political solution through dialogue,” Obasanjo told the 15-member council, but stressed: “The window of opportunity we have is very little and that time is short.”

The U.S. State Department also said on Monday that Washington believes there is a small window to work with the AU to make progress on ending the conflict as U.S. envoy for the Horn of Africa, Jeffrey Feltman, returned to Addis Ababa.

The African Union earlier on Monday held a closed-door meeting to discuss the crisis.

The conflict started in November 2020 when forces loyal to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), seized military bases in Tigray. In response, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent more troops to the northern region. Thousands have been killed and more than 2 million have fled their homes.

Ethiopia’s UN Ambassador Taye Atske Selassie Amde told the UN Security Council: “Our route to a dialogue and political solution will not be straightforward or easy.”

“For now we’re focused on halting TPLF and rescuing and reaching our public that suffered immensely,” he said.

‘TIME TO PUT YOUR WEAPONS DOWN’

The war has intensified in recent weeks. Tigrayan forces and their allies are threatening to march on Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa, while the government has declared a six-month state of emergency.

“It is time to put your weapons down,” US Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said at the Security Council. “This war between angry, belligerent men – victimising women and children – has to stop.”

The TPLF had dominated national politics for nearly three decades but lost influence when Abiy took office in 2018. The TPLF accused him of centralising power at the expense of regional states. Abiy denies this.

Obasanjo told the council he had met with Abiy, the leader of Ethiopia’s Oromio region and travelled to Mekelle on Sunday to meet TPLF leaders. He plans to travel to the regions of Amhara and Afar on Tuesday, where the conflict has spread from neighbouring Tigray.

DiCarlo said the conflict had reached “disastrous proportions” and that incidents of hate speech and targeting of ethnic groups have “increased at an alarming rate. She told the UN Security Council: “What is certain is that the risk of Ethiopia descending into widening civil war is only too real.”

The Security Council on Friday called for an end to the fighting in Ethiopia and for talks on a lasting ceasefire as the body expressed deep concern in a rare statement about the expansion and intensification of military clashes.

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Ethiopians denounce US at rally to back military campaign

Tens of thousands of Ethiopians rallied in Addis Ababa on Sunday to support Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government as federal troops fight rebellious forces threatening to march on the capital.

Some demonstrators denounced the United States, one of the foreign powers that has called for a ceasefire to a year-long war, which has intensified amid advances by rebellious forces in the past week.

The UN Security Council, the African Union, and Kenya and Uganda have also called for a ceasefire in the conflict that has killed thousands of people.

Canada, calling the situation in Ethiopia “rapidly evolving and deteriorating”, has withdrawn the families of its embassy staff and non-essential Canadian employees, the foreign ministry said on Sunday. Its embassy remains open in the capital.

Abiy’s government, which has pledged to keep fighting, said on Friday it had a responsibility to secure the country and urged foreign powers to stand with Ethiopia’s democracy. read more

The state-appointed Ethiopian Human Rights Commission said on Sunday the authorities appeared to be using a state of emergency declared on Tuesday to arrest people based on ethnic identity.

“In some police stations, the families are denied access to the detainees, and they can’t deliver food and clothing. On top of that, elders and mothers with children are among the detainees,” the commission said in a statement.

The government spokesperson Legesse Tulu and federal police spokesperson Jeylan Abdi did not immediately respond to Reuters requests for comment.

Police spokesperson Fasika Fante denied on Thursday that arrests were ethnically motivated, saying those detained “directly or indirectly” backed the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), an outlawed party that was once part of Ethiopia’s government and is now battling federal forces.

Some of those gathered for the rally in Meskel Square in Addis Ababa draped themselves in the national flag.

“Shame on you USA,” read one placard, while another said the United States should stop “sucking Ethiopia’s blood”.

‘THEY WILL NEVER SUCCEED’

US President Joe Biden’s administration on Tuesday accused Ethiopia of “gross violations” of human rights and said it planned to remove the country from a US trade pact.

The conflict in the north of the country started a year ago when forces loyal to the TPLF seized military bases in the Tigray region. In response, Abiy sent troops, who initially drove the TPLF out of the regional capital, Mekelle, but have faced a sharp reversal since June this year.

Some demonstrators voiced anger over a US call for the government and TPLF to negotiate.

“They want to destroy our country like they did to Afghanistan. They will never succeed, we are Ethiopians,” said 37-year-old Tigist Lemma.

Addis Ababa Mayor Adanech Abiebe addressed protesters and cited Ethiopia’s history of resisting colonial power to justify the war.

The conflict has killed thousands of people, forced more than 2 million from their homes and left 400,000 people in Tigray facing famine.

UN aid chief Martin Griffiths travelled to Mekelle on Sunday and met women affected by the fighting and humanitarian partners, the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said.

OCHA said he “engaged with de facto authorities on the need for humanitarian access and protection of civilians through all areas under their control, and respect for humanitarian principles.”

‘ASK FOR RECONCILIATION’

A humanitarian source in Ethiopia and one person familiar with the matter told Reuters that the AU’s special envoy to the Horn of Africa, Olusegun Obasanjo, was also on the trip.

The AU and government spokesperson Legesse did not respond to a request for comment. TPLF spokesperson Getachew Reda told Reuters that Griffiths and Obasanjo visited Mekelle.

At the Addis Ababa rally, popular musician Tariku Gankisi, whose songs call for Ethiopian unity, urged restraint.

“Let no youth go to the front lines to fight, let the elders go holding the fresh grass and ask for reconciliation,” Tariku told the crowd, before his microphone was switched off, it was unclear by whom. Fresh grass is a symbol of peace in Ethiopia.

Under a state of emergency declared on Tuesday, the government can order citizens of military age to undergo training and accept military duties.

Reuters has not been able to confirm independently the extent of the TPLF advance. The TPLF and their allies told Reuters last week they were 325 km (200 miles) from the capital. The government accuses the group of exaggerating its gains.

The government has also complained about foreign media coverage of the conflict and some people at the rally held signs denouncing “fake news” in Ethiopia.

Billene Seyoum, Abiy’s spokesperson, said on Twitter on Saturday: “Orchestrated media propaganda against Ethiopia is escalating … Despite it all Ethiopia will overcome!”

Ethiopia declares 6-month state of emergency: Andualem Sisay Gessesse

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At rally to back military’s campaign, Ethiopians denounce the US

Tens of thousands of Ethiopians rallied in Addis Ababa on Sunday in support of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government as federal troops fight rebellious forces who are threatening to march on the city.

Some demonstrators denounced the United States government, which is among the foreign powers that have called for a ceasefire as a year-long war that has killed thousands of people intensified amid rebel advances last weekend.

The United States, the UN Security Council, the African Union, and Kenya and Uganda have called in recent days for a ceasefire.

Abiy’s government has pledged to keep fighting. On Friday, the government said it had a responsibility to secure the country, and urged its international partners to stand with Ethiopia’s democracy.

Some of those gathered in Meskel Square in central Addis Ababa draped themselves in the national flag. Many singled out the United States for criticism.

U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration on Tuesday accused Ethiopia of “gross violations” of human rights and said it planned to remove the country from the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) trade agreement.

“Shame on you USA,” read one demonstrator’s placard, while another said the United States should stop “sucking Ethiopia’s blood”.

Other demonstrators expressed anger at the US call for the government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) to begin talks.

The conflict in the north of the country started a year ago when forces loyal to the TPLF seized military bases in the Tigray region. In response, Abiy sent troops, who initially drove the TPLF out of the regional capital but have faced a sharp reversal since June this year.

“Why does the US government not negotiate with terrorists like al Shabaab?” said 37-year-old Tigist Lemma, referring to an al-Qaeda linked militant group in Somalia.

“They want to destroy our country like they did to Afghanistan. They will never succeed, we are Ethiopians.”

Speaking at the rally, Addis Ababa Mayor Adanech Abiebe invoked Ethiopia’s history of resisting colonial power to justify the war.

The conflict has killed thousands of people, forced more than 2 million from their homes and left 400,000 people in Tigray facing famine.

‘NO YOUTH’ TO FRONT LINES

During the rally, there was one call for restraint, from popular musician Tariku Gankisi, whose songs call for unity of all Ethiopians.

“Let no youth go to the front lines to fight, let the elders go holding the fresh grass and ask for reconciliation,” Tariku told the crowd, before his microphone was switched off, it was unclear by whom. Fresh grass is a symbol of peace in the country.

A state of emergency declared by the government on Tuesday allows it to order citizens of military age to undergo training and accept military duties.

Reuters has not been able to confirm independently the extent of the TPLF advance. The TPLF and their allies told Reuters last week they were 325 km (200 miles) from the capital. The government accuses the group of exaggerating its gains.

The government has also complained about foreign media coverage of the conflict and some people at the rally held signs denouncing “fake news” in Ethiopia.

Billene Seyoum, Abiy’s spokesperson, said in a Twitter post late on Saturday: “Orchestrated media propaganda against Ethiopia is escalating … Despite it all Ethiopia will overcome!”

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US orders non-emergency government employees in Ethiopia to leave

The United States has ordered non-emergency US government employees in Ethiopia to leave because of armed conflict and civil unrest, its embassy in Addis Ababa said on Saturday.

Denmark and Italy also asked their citizens in Ethiopia to leave while commercial flights were still available, as rebellious Tigrayan forces and their allies have advanced towards the capital Addis Ababa.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government, which has been embroiled in a year-long war against Tigrayan forces, has promised to keep fighting despite calls for a ceasefire from African nations, Western states and the UN Security Council.

“Incidents of civil unrest and ethnic violence are occurring without warning. The situation may escalate further and may cause supply chain shortages, communications blackouts, and travel disruptions,” the US Embassy said on its website.

Government spokesperson Legesse Tulu and Abiy’s spokesperson Billene Seyoum did not immediately respond to requests from Reuters for comment.

Municipal authorities in the capital ordered residents who own firearms to register their weapons this week, to bolster defences in case the city is attacked. Addis Ababa has registered more than 10,000 weapons, Yonas Zewde, a spokesperson for the city administration, told state broadcaster EBC on Saturday.

Abiy’s government declared a national state of emergency on Tuesday, saying it was locked in an “existential war” with forces from the northern Tigray region and their allies.

Getu Argaw, police commissioner for the capital, told EBC it was “only a dream” for the TPLF to think it could capture the city. He said police had confiscated weapons and uniforms from people in the capital.

Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) spokesperson Getachew Reda accused Abiy of using the state of emergency to arrest “thousands of Tigrayans and Oromos”.

The TPLF unveiled an alliance with other factions on Friday aiming to remove Abiy from power, saying this would be done by force if needed.

The government condemned the move, saying Abiy had a mandate to rule based on a landslide election win in June. It urged international partners to help protect Ethiopia’s democracy.

The conflict in the north of Ethiopia started a year ago when forces loyal to the TPLF seized military bases in the Tigray region. In response, Abiy sent troops, who initially drove the TPLF out of the regional capital but have faced a sharp reversal since June this year.

Reuters has not been able to confirm independently the extent of the TPLF advance. The TPLF and their allies told Reuters this week they were now in the town of Kemise in Amhara state, 325 km (200 miles) from the capital. The government accuses the group of exaggerating its territorial gains.

The conflict has killed thousands of people, forced more than 2 million more from their homes and left 400,000 people in Tigray facing famine.

Social media companies Facebook and Twitter have taken action to limit what they call violations of their policies by Ethiopian accounts, including removing a post by Abiy’s official Facebook account.

Twitter said on Saturday it had temporarily disabled the Trends section of its service in Ethiopia, which showcases the most tweeted subjects, because of threats of physical harm.

“Inciting violence or dehumanizing people is against our rules. Given the imminent threat of physical harm, we’ve also temporarily disabled Trends in Ethiopia,” the company said.

The government spokesperson and the federal police spokesperson Jeylan Abdi did not immediately respond to Reuters requests for comment on Getachew’s remarks but police have denied that arrests in the capital are ethnically motivated.

“We are only arresting those who are directly or indirectly supporting the illegal terrorist group,” police spokesperson Fasika Fante said on Thursday, a reference to the TPLF. “This includes moral, financial and propaganda support.”

 

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US issues voluntary departure from Ethiopia due to ongoing armed conflict

The United States has issued a travel advisory for Ethiopia. It’s allowing voluntary departure from the country by some embassy staff and family, a day after the Ethiopian government declared a state of emergency. This as fighting with rebel Tigrayan forces continues.

The advisory further warns its citizens against traveling to Ethiopia due to ongoing armed conflict.

On Tuesday, neighbouring Kenya called for dialogue between the warring parties and the political will to see an end to the year-old conflict.

The decision comes even as US Special envoy for Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman made his way to Ethiopia for talks with the government. The US has expressed “grave concern” with continued fighting in the country, saying it has prolonged the humanitarian crisis in the Tigray region.

On Monday, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) announced that it has taken key towns in the country and warned that it was continuing its march to the capital Addis Ababa, forcing the government to announce a state of emergency.

At the same time, the US has stripped Ethiopia of its duty-free access to its market over what it said was human rights abuses.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in a report released on Wednesday indicated that both sides to the conflict had committed atrocities that amount to war crimes.

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Ethiopia declares state of emergency as Tigrayan forces gain ground

Ethiopia declared a six-month state of emergency on Tuesday after forces from the northern region of Tigray said they were gaining territory and considering marching on the capital Addis Ababa.

The announcement came two days after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed urged citizens to take up arms to defend themselves against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).

Earlier on Tuesday, authorities in Addis Ababa told residents to register their arms and prepare to defend their neighbourhoods.

The state of emergency was imposed with immediate effect after the TPLF claimed to have captured several towns in recent days and said it might march on Addis Ababa, about 380 km to the south of their forward positions.

“Our country is facing a grave danger to its existence, sovereignty and unity. And we can’t dispel this danger through the usual law enforcement systems and procedures,” Justice Minister Gedion Timothewos told a state media briefing.

He said anyone violating the emergency would face three to 10 years in prison, for offences such as providing financial, material or moral support to “terrorist groups”.

Ethiopia last imposed such a measure in February 2018 for six months ahead of the transition of power to Abiy.
Curfews were enforced and people’s movements restricted, while thousands of people were detained.

The Addis Ababa city administration said people should register their weapons and gather in their neighbourhoods. House-to-house searches were being conducted and troublemakers arrested, a statement said.

“Residents can gather in their locality and safeguard their surroundings. Those who have weapons but can’t take part in safeguarding their surroundings are advised to hand over their weapons to the government or their close relatives or friends.”

Before the announcement, people moved around the capital as normal.

“I will try to buy food commodities in advance. But so far I haven’t yet purchased anything,” said one woman who asked not to be named.

The governments of four of Ethiopia’s 10 regions also called upon Ethiopians to mobilize to fight against the Tigrayan forces, state-affiliated Fana TV said.

The conflict in what was once considered a stable Western ally in a volatile region has plunged around 400,000 people in Tigray into famine, killed thousands of civilians and forced more than 2.5 million people in the north to flee their homes.

It erupted in the night of November 3, 2020 when forces loyal to the TPLF – including some soldiers – seized military bases in Tigray, a northern region.

In response, Abiy sent more troops there.

The TPLF had dominated Ethiopian politics for nearly three decades but lost much influence when Abiy took office in 2018 following years of anti-government protests.

Relations with the TPLF soured after they accused him of centralising power at the expense of Ethiopia’s regional states – an accusation Abiy denies.

TOWNS CAPTURED

TPLF spokesperson Getachew Reda said that if Tigrayan forces and their allies succeeded in removing the government, they would establish an interim government. “If the government falls, we will definitely have an interim arrangement.”

There would also need to be a national dialogue, he said, but Abiy and his ministers would not be asked to take part.

“They will have their day in court,” he said.

The TPLF has claimed the capture of Dessie, Kombolcha and Burka, all in the Amhara region, in recent days.

A government spokesperson disputed the capture of Dessie and Kombolcha but later released a statement saying TPLF “infiltrators” had killed 100 youths in Kombolcha.

Spokespeople for the government, military and the Amhara region did not return calls seeking further comment on Tuesday.

On Monday night, Tigrayan forces said they had linked up with fighters from an Oromo force also fighting the central government.

The Oromo are Ethiopia’s biggest ethnic group. Many of their political leaders are currently in prison.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is “extremely concerned” by the latest developments in Ethiopia, said UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said. “The stability of Ethiopia and the wider region is at stake,” Dujarric said.

US ALARM

The US Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa said on Tuesday Washington was alarmed by the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the north, including signs of famine, and urged all sides to find ways to de-escalate and let aid in.

Also on Tuesday, US President Joe Biden’s administration accused Ethiopia of “gross violations of internationally recognised human rights” and said it planned to remove the country from the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) trade agreement which gives it duty-free access to the United States.

Ethiopia’s trade ministry said it was “extremely disappointed” by the US move and called for a reversal by January.

“The Ethiopian government takes all human rights allegations seriously: we are looking at them and conducting investigations and we are committed to ensuring accountability,” it said.

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Ramaphosa to visit Eswatini to discuss political, security challenges

President Cyril Ramaphosa will be visiting Eswatini on Tuesday to discuss the political and security challenges facing the country.

The Kingdom has seen violent scenes as security forces and pro-democracy activists clash in the last few months.

The visit comes after the President appealed to Eswatini citizens for restraint as the country prepares for national dialogue regarding a possible new ruling system.

Last month, in his capacity as the Chairperson of Southern African Development Community’s (SADC) Organ on Politics, Defence and Security – Ramaphosa deployed former Minister Jeff Radebe on a fact-finding mission.  

 

SABC News International News Editor on developments in Eswatini [24 October 2021]

Following a meeting with stakeholders, it was agreed that SADC would support the process of a national dialogue.

King Mswati’s rule has been heavily criticised for failing to develop the poor country while spending lavishly on his family.

Political activists are calling for the country to be declared a republic and a government to be voted in.

Ramaphosa will be accompanied by International Relations Minister, Naledi Pandor.

Eswatini Protests | In conversation with Special Envoy to Eswatini Jeff Radebe

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Up to 100 missing in collapsed Nigerian highrise

Up to 100 people were missing after a luxury residential highrise under construction in Nigeria’s commercial capital Lagos collapsed on Monday, trapping construction workers under a pile of concrete rubble, witnesses said.

A body was retrieved and at least three survivors were pulled out on Monday night as rescue workers raced against the clock to dig up victims at the site in the affluent neighbourhood of Ikoyi, where many blocks of flats are under construction.

Workers told Reuters that possibly 100 people were at work when the building came crashing down.

Rescue workers used excavators to dig through rubble using generator-powered flood lights. The retrieved body was put in a waiting van while at least three people who were rescued were taken to nearby ambulances.

Building collapses are frequent in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, where regulations are poorly enforced and construction materials often substandard.

There were heaps of rubble and twisted metal where the building once stood, as several workers looked on. One man wailed, saying his relative was among those trapped.

The Lagos state government said the building had 22 floors and authorities were assessing whether there had been any damage to nearby buildings.

The collapsed building was part of three towers being built by private developer Fourscore Homes. In a brochure for potential clients, the company promises to offer “a stress-free lifestyle, complete with a hotel flair”. The cheapest unit was selling for $1.2 million.

Calls to the numbers listed for Fourscore Homes and the main building contractor did not ring through.

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Mali army frees three kidnapped Chinese construction workers

Security forces in Mali have freed three Chinese nationals abducted from a construction site in the north of the country in July, the presidency said on Monday.

On July 17, the three Chinese nationals from the COVEC construction company were seized by unknown gunmen alongside two Mauritanians with ATTM, a road-building company, 55 km (34 miles) from the town of Kwala.

“While saluting the courage of the three former hostages, the president … also congratulated the various armed forces for their professionalism,” Mali’s presidency said in a statement on Facebook.

Kidnapping has been a lucrative source of cash for militant groups in West Africa’s Sahel region, where they are waging an expanding insurgency against national armies, French forces and UN peacekeepers.

Earlier this month, a Colombian nun was freed after being kidnapped by militants near the Burkina Faso border in 2017.

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Ethiopia government says Tigray forces killed 100 youths in key town

The Ethiopian government accused rebellious Tigrayan forces on Monday of killing 100 youths in the town of Kombolcha, as the United States expressed concern about Tigrayan advances a year into the fighting.

The Tigrayan forces led by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) denied the allegation. Spokesperson Getachew Reda said from an undisclosed location, “We don’t have to kill the youth. There was no resistance in Kombolcha.”

Government spokesperson Legesse Tulu did not respond when asked by phone and message for a comment on Getachew’s statement, but he had earlier in the day referred Reuters to the government statement on the alleged killing in Kombolcha.

The Tigrayan forces have been fighting the government for the past year in a widening war that has destabilised Africa’s second most populous nation.

Communications to the area are down and journalists are barred. On Sunday, Getachew, the TPLF spokesperson, said its fighters had pushed south to take Kombolcha and its airport. If confirmed, it would be the closest the TPLF has got to the capital since pushing into Tigray’s neighbouring region of Amhara in July.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed later that day called on all citizens to mobilise – threatening to exacerbate a conflict that has threatened to tear apart a country once seen as a stable Western ally in a volatile region.

The Government Communication Service said on Twitter, “The terrorist group TPLF has summarily executed more than 100 youth residents of Kombolcha in areas it has infiltrated.”

The statement gave no further details and Legesse, the government spokesperson, did not answer phone calls seeking comment about whether those killed were combatants or civilians.

HUMANITARIAN CRISIS

While he has in general decried ethnic cleansing and other abuses in the war, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken earlier on Monday criticised Tigrayan forces, saying he was alarmed by reports that they had taken Kombolcha and Dessie, a nearby town that the Tigrayan forces said they had seized on Saturday.

“Continued fighting prolongs the dire humanitarian crisis in northern Ethiopia. All parties must stop military operations and begin ceasefire negotiations without preconditions,” Blinken said.

Tens of thousands of ethnic Amharas have sought refuge from an escalation in fighting in Dessie. The government denied Dessie, which is north of Kombolcha, was under Tigrayan control.

The capture of Kombolcha would be a strategic gain for the fighters against Ethiopia’s military and their allies, who are trying to dislodge the Tigrayans from the Amhara region.

War broke out a year ago between federal troops and the TPLF, which dominated Ethiopian politics for nearly 30 years before Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed was appointed in 2018. The conflict has killed thousands of civilians and forced more than 2.5 million people to flee their homes.

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Ethiopia government says Tigray forces killed 100 youths in Kombolcha

Military

Ethiopia’s government said on Monday rebellious Tigrayan forces had killed 100 youths inKombolcha, one of two towns the rebel group said it capturedover the weekend.

“The terrorist group TPLF has summarily executed more than 100 youth residents of Kombolcha in areas it has infiltrated. The international community should not turn a blind eye to such atrocities,” the Government Communication Service said on Twitter.

The statement did not include details and government spokesperson Legesse Tulu did not immediately answer phone calls seeking comment.

Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) spokesperson Getachew Reda did not immediately respond to phone calls seeking comment on this allegation and other issues on Monday morning.

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Seven Mali soldiers killed in separate convoy attacks: Army

Seven Malian soldiers were killed on Saturday in two separate attacks on patrols in the centre-west of the country, the army said, the latest bloodshed to indicate violence is shifting southward into previously peaceful areas.

At around 11:20 GMT an army escort was ambushed near the town of Mourdiah, around 200 km (120 miles) north of the capital Bamako, killing two and injuring three, the army said in a statement published on Facebook.

Two hours later an army truck hit a roadside bomb near Segou, around 200 km (120 miles) north-east of Bamako, killing all five passengers, the army said.

“A sweep of the area where the incident took place led to the arrest of two suspects who were immediately handed over to the gendarmerie,” the army said, without accusing a group of responsibility for either attack.

Armed attacks by Islamist militants and other groups are common across vast swathes of Mali and its neighbours Burkina Faso and Niger, despite a heavy presence of international troops. Thousands of civilians have been killed and millions displaced.

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Armed group kills five policemen in northern Burkina Faso

Unidentified armed men killed five police officers in an attack on security forces in northern Burkina Faso in the early hours of Sunday, in which around 15 of the attackers died, the security ministry said in a statement.

The incident occurred in Sourou province in the borderlands near Mali, where groups with links to al Qaeda and Islamic State have increased attacks in recent years despite international efforts to stamp them out.

The attackers struck at 5 a.m. and around 15 of them were killed in the ensuing fight, the ministry said.

Attacks have surged across Africa’s Sahel region, killing thousands and driving millions from their homes in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger. About 1.2 million people have been displaced by the violence in Burkina Faso alone.

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Tigrayan and Oromo forces say they have seized towns on Ethiopian highway

Two different groups fighting Ethiopia’s central government said they had seized control of towns on Sunday as the prime minister appealed for citizens to take up arms.

The spreading conflict threatens to further destabilise Africa’s second most populous nation, once considered a stable Western ally in a volatile region.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed urged citizens to join the fight against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the party in control of the rebellious northern region of Tigray, after Tigrayan forces said they took another town on a highway linking the capital of the landlocked nation to the port of Djibouti.

“Our people should march with any weapon and resources they have to defend, repulse and bury the terrorist TPLF,” Abiy said in a Facebook post on Sunday night.

CLAIMS OF GAINS

TPLF spokesperson Getachew Reda said Tigrayan forces have seized the town of Kombolcha and its airport in the Amhara region. He spoke to Reuters by phone from an unknown location.

On Sunday night, insurgents from Oromiya, Ethiopia’s most populous region, said they had also seized the town of Kemise, 53 km (33 miles) south of Kombolcha on the same highway to the capital Addis Ababa.

Odaa Tarbii, a spokesperson for the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), said the group had taken Kemise, 325 km (200 miles) from Addis Ababa, and were engaging government forces.

The OLA is an outlawed splinter group of the Oromo Liberation Front, a formerly banned opposition group that returned from exile after Abiy took office in 2018. The Oromo are Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group; many of their political leaders have been imprisoned under Abiy’s government.

In August the OLA and the TPLF announced a military alliance, heaping pressure on the central government.

Central government spokesperson Legesse Tulu, Ethiopian military spokesperson Col. Getnet Adane and Amhara regional spokesperson Gizachew Muluneh did not immediately respond requests for comment on the TPLF and the OLA’s claims.

Reuters could not independently verify Getachew’s claim as phone lines in Kombolcha appeared to be down on Sunday. Reuters could not reach anyone in Kemise.

On Sunday, the Amhara regional government said in a statement “all government institutions must suspend their regular activities and should direct their budget and all their resources to the survival campaign officials on every level should mobilise and lead…to the front.”

They announced a curfew of 8 p.m. and urged citizens to provide private vehicles to support the campaign.

YEAR-LONG WAR

War broke nearly a year ago between federal troops and the TPLF, which dominated Ethiopian politics for nearly three decades before Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed was appointed in 2018. The conflict has killed thousands of civilians and forced more than two million people to flee their homes.

Tigrayan forces were initially beaten back, but recaptured most of Tigray in July. They then pushed into the neighbouring Amhara and Afar regions, displacing hundreds of thousands  more civilians.

Regional forces from Amhara have fought alongside the military in Tigray. The two regions of Amhara and Tigray have a long-running boundary dispute over farmland in Western Tigray, currently under the control of the Amhara administration.

In mid-October, the Tigrayan forces said the military had mounted an offensive to push them out of Amhara. The military has accused the Tigrayan forces of starting the recent round of fighting.

Tigrayan forces have said they will keep fighting until Amhara forces leave the heavily fortified area of Western Tigray, and until the government permits the free movement of aid into the rest of Tigray.

The United Nations has previously accused the government of a de facto blockade of Tigray, where the UN says around 400,000 people are living in famine conditions. The government denies blocking aid.

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Tigrayan and Oromo forces say they have seized towns on Ethiopian highway

Two different groups fighting Ethiopia’s central government said they had seized control of towns on Sunday as the prime minister appealed for citizens to take up arms.

The spreading conflict threatens to further destabilise Africa’s second most populous nation, once considered a stable Western ally in a volatile region.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed urged citizens to join the fight against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the party in control of the rebellious northern region of Tigray, after Tigrayan forces said they took another town on a highway linking the capital of the landlocked nation to the port of Djibouti.

“Our people should march with any weapon and resources they have to defend, repulse and bury the terrorist TPLF,” Abiy said in a Facebook post on Sunday night.

CLAIMS OF GAINS

TPLF spokesperson Getachew Reda said Tigrayan forces have seized the town of Kombolcha and its airport in the Amhara region. He spoke to Reuters by phone from an unknown location.

On Sunday night, insurgents from Oromiya, Ethiopia’s most populous region, said they had also seized the town of Kemise, 53 km (33 miles) south of Kombolcha on the same highway to the capital Addis Ababa.

Odaa Tarbii, a spokesperson for the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), said the group had taken Kemise, 325 km (200 miles) from Addis Ababa, and were engaging government forces.

The OLA is an outlawed splinter group of the Oromo Liberation Front, a formerly banned opposition group that returned from exile after Abiy took office in 2018. The Oromo are Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group; many of their political leaders have been imprisoned under Abiy’s government.

In August the OLA and the TPLF announced a military alliance, heaping pressure on the central government.

Central government spokesperson Legesse Tulu, Ethiopian military spokesperson Col. Getnet Adane and Amhara regional spokesperson Gizachew Muluneh did not immediately respond requests for comment on the TPLF and the OLA’s claims.

Reuters could not independently verify Getachew’s claim as phone lines in Kombolcha appeared to be down on Sunday. Reuters could not reach anyone in Kemise.

On Sunday, the Amhara regional government said in a statement “all government institutions must suspend their regular activities and should direct their budget and all their resources to the survival campaign officials on every level should mobilise and lead…to the front.”

They announced a curfew of 8 p.m. and urged citizens to provide private vehicles to support the campaign.

YEAR-LONG WAR

War broke nearly a year ago between federal troops and the TPLF, which dominated Ethiopian politics for nearly three decades before Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed was appointed in 2018. The conflict has killed thousands of civilians and forced more than two million people to flee their homes.

Tigrayan forces were initially beaten back, but recaptured most of Tigray in July. They then pushed into the neighbouring Amhara and Afar regions, displacing hundreds of thousands  more civilians.

Regional forces from Amhara have fought alongside the military in Tigray. The two regions of Amhara and Tigray have a long-running boundary dispute over farmland in Western Tigray, currently under the control of the Amhara administration.

In mid-October, the Tigrayan forces said the military had mounted an offensive to push them out of Amhara. The military has accused the Tigrayan forces of starting the recent round of fighting.

Tigrayan forces have said they will keep fighting until Amhara forces leave the heavily fortified area of Western Tigray, and until the government permits the free movement of aid into the rest of Tigray.

The United Nations has previously accused the government of a de facto blockade of Tigray, where the UN says around 400,000 people are living in famine conditions. The government denies blocking aid.

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Mediation efforts seek ‘way forward’ in Sudan after anti-coup protests

A UN official discussed mediation options and possible next steps for Sudan with its ousted prime minister on Sunday, a day after hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets to demand an end to military rule.

The outpouring of dissent posed the biggest challenge to General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan since he toppled Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok’s cabinet last Monday and arrested key politicians. The streets were largely calm on Sunday.

“We discussed options for mediation and the way forward for Sudan. I will continue these efforts with other Sudanese stakeholders,” Volker Perthes, the UN Special Representative for Sudan, said in a Twitter post.

Perthes said Hamdok was “at his residence where he remains well but under house arrest”.

Mediation efforts by the international community and within Sudan had been announced before Saturday’s protests, with no outcome reported.

The main compromise under discussion, say politicians who have presented it, is a proposal for Hamdok to be given full executive powers and appoint a cabinet of technocrats.

The proposal, which the sources say has been presented to all sides, would do away with the 14-member power-sharing Sovereign Council in favour of a three-person honorary council.

Political parties, rebel groups, and the military, partners in the pre-coup government, would be represented in parliament, and the military would continue to lead a Security and Defense Council, they said.

Hamdok has demanded the release of detainees and a return to the pre-coup power-sharing arrangement before negotiating further, sources close to him said last week.

The coup took place 2-1/2 years after a popular uprising ousted the authoritarian Omar al-Bashir, who had ruled Sudan, Africa’s third largest country, for three decades.

The Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors said three protesters were shot dead by security forces in Khartoum’s twin city of Omdurman on Saturday. Sudanese police denied shooting protesters during the demonstrations, saying on state TV that one policeman sustained a gunshot wound.

With Saturday’s deaths, at least 15 protesters have been killed in clashes with security forces this week, a health ministry official said. Some 245 people were injured on Saturday, the official said.

Life returned to a near standstill in the capital Khartoum on Sunday. Residents said strikes and security measures were causing paralysis.

Banks and most markets were closed, with only a few small stores and stalls open.

“You can’t do anything – everything is shut down. We need to work every day to make money,” said a fruit and vegetable seller in the city centre.

People were unable to cross into Khartoum from Omdurman and the capital’s other twin city, Khartoum North, because security forces had closed the Nile river bridges.

Unions of doctors, bankers, teachers and other groups have been on strike since last week and have said they will continue until demands are met, while resistance committees have barricaded neighbourhoods and created schedules of protests.

“We are continuing civil disobedience and strikes. We are continuing to protest in neighborhoods,” said one committee member who asked to remain anonymous. “We will do it in a way that allows people to go out and work,” he said.

Demands range from a handover of power to civilians in full to criminal charges against coup leaders.

The Sudanese Lawyers Union condemned the arrests of activists and political leaders. The union “warns that the Sudanese people are in front of an oppressive military movement paving the way for dark totalitarianism”.

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Mediation efforts seek ‘way forward’ in Sudan after anti-coup protests

A UN official discussed mediation options and possible next steps for Sudan with its ousted prime minister on Sunday, a day after hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets to demand an end to military rule.

The outpouring of dissent posed the biggest challenge to General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan since he toppled Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok’s cabinet last Monday and arrested key politicians. The streets were largely calm on Sunday.

“We discussed options for mediation and the way forward for Sudan. I will continue these efforts with other Sudanese stakeholders,” Volker Perthes, the UN Special Representative for Sudan, said in a Twitter post.

Perthes said Hamdok was “at his residence where he remains well but under house arrest”.

Mediation efforts by the international community and within Sudan had been announced before Saturday’s protests, with no outcome reported.

The main compromise under discussion, say politicians who have presented it, is a proposal for Hamdok to be given full executive powers and appoint a cabinet of technocrats.

The proposal, which the sources say has been presented to all sides, would do away with the 14-member power-sharing Sovereign Council in favour of a three-person honorary council.

Political parties, rebel groups, and the military, partners in the pre-coup government, would be represented in parliament, and the military would continue to lead a Security and Defense Council, they said.

Hamdok has demanded the release of detainees and a return to the pre-coup power-sharing arrangement before negotiating further, sources close to him said last week.

The coup took place 2-1/2 years after a popular uprising ousted the authoritarian Omar al-Bashir, who had ruled Sudan, Africa’s third largest country, for three decades.

The Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors said three protesters were shot dead by security forces in Khartoum’s twin city of Omdurman on Saturday. Sudanese police denied shooting protesters during the demonstrations, saying on state TV that one policeman sustained a gunshot wound.

With Saturday’s deaths, at least 15 protesters have been killed in clashes with security forces this week, a health ministry official said. Some 245 people were injured on Saturday, the official said.

Life returned to a near standstill in the capital Khartoum on Sunday. Residents said strikes and security measures were causing paralysis.

Banks and most markets were closed, with only a few small stores and stalls open.

“You can’t do anything – everything is shut down. We need to work every day to make money,” said a fruit and vegetable seller in the city centre.

People were unable to cross into Khartoum from Omdurman and the capital’s other twin city, Khartoum North, because security forces had closed the Nile river bridges.

Unions of doctors, bankers, teachers and other groups have been on strike since last week and have said they will continue until demands are met, while resistance committees have barricaded neighbourhoods and created schedules of protests.

“We are continuing civil disobedience and strikes. We are continuing to protest in neighborhoods,” said one committee member who asked to remain anonymous. “We will do it in a way that allows people to go out and work,” he said.

Demands range from a handover of power to civilians in full to criminal charges against coup leaders.

The Sudanese Lawyers Union condemned the arrests of activists and political leaders. The union “warns that the Sudanese people are in front of an oppressive military movement paving the way for dark totalitarianism”.

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Mediation efforts seek ‘way forward’ in Sudan after anti-coup protests

A UN official discussed mediation options and possible next steps for Sudan with its ousted prime minister on Sunday, a day after hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets to demand an end to military rule.

The outpouring of dissent posed the biggest challenge to General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan since he toppled Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok’s cabinet last Monday and arrested key politicians. The streets were largely calm on Sunday.

“We discussed options for mediation and the way forward for Sudan. I will continue these efforts with other Sudanese stakeholders,” Volker Perthes, the UN Special Representative for Sudan, said in a Twitter post.

Perthes said Hamdok was “at his residence where he remains well but under house arrest”.

Mediation efforts by the international community and within Sudan had been announced before Saturday’s protests, with no outcome reported.

The main compromise under discussion, say politicians who have presented it, is a proposal for Hamdok to be given full executive powers and appoint a cabinet of technocrats.

The proposal, which the sources say has been presented to all sides, would do away with the 14-member power-sharing Sovereign Council in favour of a three-person honorary council.

Political parties, rebel groups, and the military, partners in the pre-coup government, would be represented in parliament, and the military would continue to lead a Security and Defense Council, they said.

Hamdok has demanded the release of detainees and a return to the pre-coup power-sharing arrangement before negotiating further, sources close to him said last week.

The coup took place 2-1/2 years after a popular uprising ousted the authoritarian Omar al-Bashir, who had ruled Sudan, Africa’s third largest country, for three decades.

The Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors said three protesters were shot dead by security forces in Khartoum’s twin city of Omdurman on Saturday. Sudanese police denied shooting protesters during the demonstrations, saying on state TV that one policeman sustained a gunshot wound.

With Saturday’s deaths, at least 15 protesters have been killed in clashes with security forces this week, a health ministry official said. Some 245 people were injured on Saturday, the official said.

Life returned to a near standstill in the capital Khartoum on Sunday. Residents said strikes and security measures were causing paralysis.

Banks and most markets were closed, with only a few small stores and stalls open.

“You can’t do anything – everything is shut down. We need to work every day to make money,” said a fruit and vegetable seller in the city centre.

People were unable to cross into Khartoum from Omdurman and the capital’s other twin city, Khartoum North, because security forces had closed the Nile river bridges.

Unions of doctors, bankers, teachers and other groups have been on strike since last week and have said they will continue until demands are met, while resistance committees have barricaded neighbourhoods and created schedules of protests.

“We are continuing civil disobedience and strikes. We are continuing to protest in neighborhoods,” said one committee member who asked to remain anonymous. “We will do it in a way that allows people to go out and work,” he said.

Demands range from a handover of power to civilians in full to criminal charges against coup leaders.

The Sudanese Lawyers Union condemned the arrests of activists and political leaders. The union “warns that the Sudanese people are in front of an oppressive military movement paving the way for dark totalitarianism”.

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