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UN Martin Kimani, other delegation visit Mali to mount pressure on junta

UN Security Council delegates, led by the ambassadors from the US, France, and Niger, arrived in Bamako for two days of talks to push the military-led interim government for a return to democracy after two coups in nine months.

The delegation adds to international pressure on coup leaders to abide by a February 27 deadline set by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) for a presidential election, a deadline that the regime is openly suggesting might be missed as reported by Africanews.

Kenya’s ambassador to the UN, Martin Kimani said it would be ideal for them to have a better understanding of the situation in Mali in order to know how best to help.

We want to understand the situation in Mali, to feed our discussion in New York. As a fellow African country, the situation in Mali and the Sahel is very dear to Kenya.

Malian Minister of Foreign Affairs & International Cooperation Abdoulaye Diop welcomed the delegation adding that the meeting would help to give a progress report by the government.

“We welcome this mission with open arms. We found this an opportunity to present the reality of the situation in Mali, and also to present the progress that is being made by the transitional government. But also to present our vision of what must be done to complete this transition, through the organization of transparent and credible elections.”

In a statement released on Friday Human Rights Watch had urged the UN mission to use this as an opportunity to encourage Malian authorities to “investigate a spate of alleged summary executions, enforced disappearances, and detentions by government security forces”.

BACKGROUND

It is alleged that since September, at least 14 men last seen in the custody of security forces, had disappeared or remain in “incommunicado detention”.

The bodies of three men allegedly executed after their arrest by soldiers earlier this month were found nearby an army camp, it said.

HRW Sahel director Corine Dufka is reported to have said “Mali’s transitional government shouldn’t be standing back while its soldiers are linked to a wave of abuses, The army earlier this month said it had investigated images published online that purported to show torture and the bodies of victims, and that those involved had been sanctioned and “placed at the disposal of the gendarmerie”.

the poor and landlocked nation that is home to at least 20 ethnic groups has been racked by jihadist and intercommunal violence, as well as coups in August 2020 and May this year.

Military intervention by France and the UN has failed to quell an Islamist insurgency that has swept into central Mali and spilled over into neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger, leaving thousands dead and forcing hundreds of thousands from their homes.

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Politics

Who killed Thomas Sankara? The Trial starts in Burkina Faso By DR.Y.

We all know who killed Thomas Sankara… and we all know that it was an international affair with Blaise Compaoré at the center, France, Felix Houphouet-Boigny of Cote d’Ivoire and even Liberians… we all know… but with all the cover-ups, and the powerful owing the justice, will we, citizens of Burkina Faso and Africa ever get justice for Thomas Sankara and his family? Well, the trial started this past Monday in Ouagadougou, without the main actor Blaise Compaoré, the coward previous president of Burkina Faso who got Ivorian citizenship to avoid getting extradited to face his crimes against the people of Burkina Faso… really a coward… how could someone like that have ever governed people? Excerpts below are from the BBC. Enjoy!

Thirty-four years, almost to the day, since the shocking killing of Burkina Faso‘s then President, Thomas Sankara14 men are going on trial, accused of complicity in the murder of the man known as “Africa’s Che Guevara”.

The charismatic Pan-Africanist was shot dead aged 37 by soldiers during a coup on 15 October 1987, which saw his close friend, Blaise Compaoré, come to power.

Four years previously, the pair had staged the takeover which saw Sankara become president.

Mr Compaoré is among the 14 accused but he is currently in exile in neighbouring Ivory Coast, where he fled after being forced to resign during mass protests in 2014. He has repeatedly denied involvement in Sankara’s death and is boycotting the trial.

I’ve been waiting for this for a long time,” the former president’s widow Mariam Sankara told the BBC. “I want to know the truth, and who did what.”

Sankara remains something of an icon across Africa – … across the continent in South Africa, radical opposition leader Julius Malema cites him as one of his inspirations.

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INVESTIGATION: Alleged ‘Disappearances,’ Executions by Security Forces in Mali

Malian authorities should investigate a spate of alleged summary executions, enforced disappearances, and incommunicado detentions by government security forces, Human Rights Watch said today. The United Nations Security Council, visiting Mali on October 24 and 25, 2021, should press the government to make progress on justice for serious crimes by state security forces and non-state armed groups.

Since September, at least 14 men last seen in the custody of the security forces have “disappeared” or are being held incommunicado, informed sources told Human Rights Watch. The bodies of three men allegedly executed after their arrest by soldiers in early October were found near the army camp in the central Malian town of Sofara, in Mopti region.

“Mali’s transitional government shouldn’t be standing back while its soldiers are linked to a wave of abuses,” said Corinne Dufka, Sahel director at Human Rights Watch. “The UN Security Council should use their visit to reinforce the government’s obligations to respect human rights and investigate and appropriately prosecute abuses by all sides.”

Human Rights Watch spoke by telephone with 22 people with knowledge of the recent allegations including witnesses, family members of the “disappeared,” village leaders, local rights organizations, and foreign diplomats.

Most of the recent abuses occurred during counterterrorism operations in central Mali against Islamist armed groups that in 2021 have been responsible for increasing attacks that have killed scores of security force members and civilians, including a massacre on August 8 of about 50 villagers near Gao.

Other abuses appear to be related to rising political turmoil as a result of Mali’s two military coups in nine months. On August 18, 2020, military officers overthrew the government of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and appointed former Colonel Bah Ndaw as interim president; on May 24, 2021, Ndaw was overthrown by his vice-president, Colonel Assimi Goïta, who was sworn in as head of state in June 2021.

Since the resumption of armed conflict in 2012, Malian authorities have failed to ensure justice for dozens of large-scale atrocities implicating ethnic militias and soldiers during counterterrorism operations. There has been some progress on prosecuting grave crimes by armed Islamists.

All parties to Mali’s armed conflict are bound by Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and other treaty and customary laws of war, which provide for the humane treatment of captured combatants and civilians in custody. Individuals who commit serious violations of the laws of war with criminal intent, including summary executions and torture, may be prosecuted for war crimes.

ldquo;Mali’s authorities should either bring those arrested before a judge and charge them with a credible offense or release them,” Dufka said.  “Those held without charge should immediately be released and the families of those forcibly disappeared should be told where their relatives are.”

Arrests, Enforced Disappearances, and Executions around Sofara

Village leaders and witnesses said that from October 2 to 5, security force members arrested at least 34 men in and around the town of Sofara. Two international security analysts told Human Rights Watch the arrests were apparently in response to an uptick in attacks by Islamist armed groups in the area, and specifically, an October 1 attack on Marebougou, 30 kilometers away.

In an October 13 communiqué, the Malian army acknowledged some of the arrests, noting that “22 presumed terrorists” had been transferred to the gendarmerie for investigation. Family members, witnesses, and local community leaders said that at least 11 of the arrested men remain unaccounted for and three men, believed to have been among those arrested, were found dead a few kilometers from the Sofara military camp a few days after their arrest. Community leaders provided Human Rights Watch with the names of the 22 men in government custody and 11 men who are missing.

Mali’s transitional government shouldn’t be standing back while its soldiers are linked to a wave of abuses

A witness to the arrest of seven men in Sofara on October 2, the majority of whom remain missing, said, “Around 11 a.m., several military vehicles surrounded a small shop near where many families displaced by the war lived. A man working with the army was pointing out who and who to arrest. First, was the shopkeeper, then one by one, others who were drinking tea, walking by, or had come to buy something. The soldiers ripped their clothing to tie their hands and blindfold them, then threw them violently into the vehicles, in which were already 2 others, making 9 arrested in total.”

A trader described the arrests in Sofara on October 5: “It was market day, around 9 a.m. Soldiers flooded the market, some surrounding the animal market, others went into the stalls. It seemed like they were stopping all the [ethnic] Peuhl men – identified by their dress. I didn’t see them asking any questions.” A shopkeeper said, “I heard the soldiers insulting and accusing the men they’d arrested of being terrorists. They took dozens of men. They tied their hands and eyes with the men’s turbans, threw them into the army trucks, then drove off toward their base.”

Two men said they participated in the burial, on October 11, of three of the arrested men whose bodies were found about two kilometers from Sofara. One said, “After hearing about the bodies, we organized a delegation to see for ourselves. After walking for 25 minutes, we found three bodies in the bush, two side by side and the other separated by a few meters. We saw tire tracks near the bodies which were starting to decompose…. We buried them right there.” A cellphone video that circulated on social media appears to show the three bodies described by the witnesses.

Another cellphone video that circulated on social media around the time of the October arrests shows the mistreatment and interrogation (in local Bambara language) of a suspect by four uniformed men. The October 13 government communiqué pledged to investigate the apparent mistreatment, noting that soldiers involved “have been formally identified” and “disciplinary sanctions are already imposed on perpetrators who have been placed at the disposal of the National Gendarmerie for legal proceedings.”

A village elder close to the suspect in the video told Human Rights Watch that the man being mistreated in the video, Hamadoun Diallo, 37, had been arrested by soldiers on October 4 near Tandiama, a village near Sofara, and remains unaccounted for.

Earlier in 2021Human Rights Watch documented other serious allegations of abuse by the Malian security forces. On March 23, soldiers based in Boni severely beat dozens of bus passengers after finding suspicious material in the baggage compartment. The bodies of at least 13 of the passengers remain unaccounted for and are believed to be buried in a common grave near the Boni military camp. Soldiers from the same military camp executed at least seven other men in March and April, and in January, soldiers killed eight men and forcibly disappeared two others, including a child, near Mali’s border with Burkina Faso.

Enforced Disappearance of Government Officials

Witnesses, human rights investigators, and two diplomats said that at least three former high-level government officials are being held incommunicado after their detention by the security services.

Dr. Kalilou Doumbia, 35, a jurist and advisor to Mali’s top political figures, went missing while en route to a meeting on September 6 at the University of Bamako, where he lectures on legal and political studies. “When he didn’t show for a meeting at the university, we started calling people along the route he would’ve taken to work, to see if they’d seen anything,” a colleague told Human Rights Watch.

On September 10, a police commissioner based in Mali’s Kayes region, Moustapha Diakité, 38, went missing after the director-general of police summoned him to Bamako. Two people close to Diakité said he was last seen entering the headquarters of the national intelligence agency, the Directorate of State Security (DSGE). “The summons came from the DG of Police, but once there, Commissioner Diakité was told to report to the DSGE. Once at the DSGE, his phone was confiscated and from that day we have no news as to his whereabouts,” a source close to the family said.

On October 4, in Bamako’s Baco Djikoroni neighborhood, several men in military uniform detained Col. Maj. Kassoum Goïta, 46, was the director of state security during President Ndaw’s administration. Said someone close to the family, “At around 2 p.m., they surrounded the house and forced him into a vehicle. Since then, he doesn’t answer his phone. We have looked everywhere.”

Informed sources said they believe the men have been held for intermittent periods within an unauthorized detention facility in Sundiata Keïta military camp, in Bamako’s Kati suburb; within a gendarme camp in Bamako; and within the DSGE. People close to their families said the authorities have refused to acknowledge the men’s presence in these detention facilities and have not allowed their lawyers access to them.

International law defines enforced disappearance as the detention of a person by state officials or their agents and a refusal to acknowledge the detention or to reveal the person’s fate or whereabouts.

Under both transitional governments in Mali, there have been several high-profile cases characterized by violations of due process, including prolonged detention of suspects without charge and denial of access to lawyers and family members.

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POLITICS: Thousands of Sudanese protesters demand military coup as crisis deepens

Hundreds of pro-military Sudanese protesters rallied for a second day Sunday, aggravating what Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok called the “worst and most dangerous crisis” of the country’s precarious transition.

The protesters rallying in Khartoum are demanding the dissolution of Sudan’s post-dictatorship interim government, saying it has “failed” them politically and economically.

“The sit-in continues, we will not leave until the government is dismissed,” Ali Askouri, one of the organisers, told AFP.

The protests come as Sudanese politics reels from divisions among the factions steering the rocky transition from three decades of iron-fisted rule by Omar al-Bashir.

Bashir was ousted by the army in April 2019 in the face of mass protests driven by the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC), a civilian alliance that became a key plank of the transition.

The latest demonstrations, left undisturbed by security forces, have been organised by a splinter faction of the FFC. Critics allege that these protests are being driven by members of the military and security forces, and involve counter-revolutionary sympathizers with the former regime.

The protesters have converged on the presidential palace where the transitional authorities are based, shouting “One army, one people” and demanding “a military government”.

Poverty-stricken Sudan has undergone dramatic changes since the ouster of Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur, where a conflict that began in 2003 killed 300,000 people.

The United States removed Sudan from its state sponsors of terrorism blacklist in December 2020, eliminating a major hurdle to much-needed aid and investment.

– ‘Scenario of a coup’ –

But domestic support for the transitional government has waned in recent months amid a tough package of IMF-backed economic reforms, including the slashing of fuel subsidies and a managed float of the Sudanese pound.

The latest developments come after the government said on September 21 it had thwarted a coup attempt which it blamed on both military officers and civilians linked to Bashir’s regime.

On Friday, Hamdok warned that the transition is facing its “worst and most dangerous” crisis.

Hamdok’s Minister of Finance Jibril Ibrahim on Saturday addressed the crowd demanding the resignation of the government.

The mainstream faction of the FFC said the crisis “is engineered by some parties to overthrow the revolutionary forces… paving the way for the return of remnants of the previous regime”.

Jaafar Hassan, the spokesman for the FFC, called the pro-military sit-in “an episode in the scenario of a coup d’etat”.

Its aim, he told AFP, was “to block the road to democracy because the participants in this sit-in are supporters of the former regime and foreign parties whose interests have been affected by the revolution”.

The demonstration heightens tensions ahead of a rival rally planned for Thursday by the opposite side, to demand a full transfer of power to civilians.

Hassan said the FFC organisers aim for “a demonstration of one million people … to show the world the position of the Sudanese people”.

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POLITICS: Ex-Ivory Coast president Gbagbo launches new party in Abidjan

Laurent Gbagbo, with a decade-long exile behind him, this weekend embarks on a path he hopes will return him to Ivory Coast’s presidency at the helm of a new party as reported by Africanews.

“This is the grand return of Laurent Gbagbo to the political scene,” his spokesman Justin Kone Katinan told AFP ahead of the launch.

Gbagbo will oversee the new party’s congress on Saturday and Sunday as he seeks to “reunite the left” and use the occasion as a springboard to the 2025 presidential election.

The 76-year-old, whose 2000-2011 rule was marked by turbulence and division in the world’s biggest cocoa producer, has been very visible since returning to his homeland on June 17.

He was removed from office in April 2011 after a short civil war that claimed 3,000 lives, sparked by his refusal to accept electoral defeat by current President Alassane Ouattara.

Gbagbo was then flown to the International Criminal Court in The Hague to face charges of crimes against humanity resulting from the conflict but eventually acquitted.

He has occupied himself by visiting former president and also rival Henri Konan Bedie, held “reconciliation” talks with Ouattara but has fallen out for good with his former prime minister Pascal Affi N’Guessan, who heads a faction of his former Ivorian Popular Front (FPI).

Leaving the FPI behind, Gbagbo now expects around 1,600 delegates will show support at the congress hosted at Abidjan’s prestigious Hotel Ivoire where his new “African People’s Party – Cote d’Ivoire” (PPA-CI) will look to draw up a manifesto.

The mooted party logo comprises two intertwined hands clasping a map of Africa with the accent on a Pan-African dimension.

Indeed one of the major congress themes will be African sovereignty in the face of the abiding influence of Western powers.

The new party hopes to reshape domestic debate in a country where the opposition has become increasingly hollowed out over the past decade.

“We want to constitute a normal opposition party which brings a critique” to the table to enable “debate to leave violence behind and become essentially political,” says Kone Katinan.

“We are waiting to see if this will be a real opposition or a party seeking power. We shall see how they go about things, what will be their alternative programme,” notes political analyst Sylvain N’Guessan.

Crimping Gbagbo’s ambitions could be a bill designed to limit the age of presidential candidates to 75. He will turn 80 in 2025.

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ECOWAS Deploys 55 Observers to the Presidential Election in Cabo Verde

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has deployed fifty five observers for the ECOWAS Election Observation Mission (ECOWAS-EOM) to the Presidential Election in Cabo Verde. The observers were deployed today, October 16, 2021 in Praia, ahead of the October 17, 2021 Presidential Election.

As part of ECOWAS electoral support, H.E. Jean-Claude Kassi Brou, the President of the ECOWAS Commission, approved the deployment of a long-term and short-term election observers to Cabo Verde to support and monitor the entire electoral process.

Gen. Djibo held several meetings with representatives of candidates contesting in the election to assess the political situation and atmosphere

While thanking the Observers, Gen. Francis Awagbe Behanzin, Commissioner Political Affairs, Peace and Security of the ECOWAS Commission, highlighted that ECOWAS electoral assistance to its Member States finds its justification in ECOWAS Supplementary Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance of 2001 and the decision of the Authority of Heads of State and Government relating to the timely deployment of pre-electoral missions and observations in the member states organizing elections.

Gen. Francis added that ECOWAS is determined to accompany the government and people of the Cabo Verde through the Presidential Elections, which he said has been peaceful so far. He called on the observers to be good ambassadors of ECOWAS.

The Head of the ECOWAS Election Observation Mission to the Presidential Election, Gen. Salou Djibo, former Head of the Interim Government of the Republic of Niger, in his welcome address stressed that ECOWAS regularly deploys Election Observation Missions to Member States to ensure that elections are conducted in peaceful atmosphere for the consolidation of peace and security in the region.

The Head of the ECOWAS-EOM called on the observers to be neutral, fair and impartial in discharging their assigment.

After the briefing, Gen. Djibo held several meetings with representatives of candidates contesting in the election to assess the political situation and atmosphere.

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Gambia: President Barrow political party form alliance with Yahya Jammeh’s APRC

The political party of former Gambian President Yahya Jammeh announced on Sunday an alliance with the ruling party three months before the presidential election, casting doubt on the willingness to prosecute the former leader for alleged human rights violations.

The secretary-general of Yahya Jammeh’s APRC party, Fabakary Tombong Jatta, told a news conference in Banjul that his party had reached an agreement with President Adama Barrow’s National Peoples Party (NPP) to support him in the December 4 presidential election.

He did not give more details on the terms of the agreement with the NPP.

Human rights groups called the alliance a betrayal, according to local media, and questioned the government’s willingness to prosecute Yahya Jammeh. A commission of inquiry into crimes committed during his presidency is due to report its findings to President Barrow in September.

Mr. Jammeh took power in 1994 in a bloodless military coup.

He ruled the small West African country with an iron fist until January 2017, when he fled to Equatorial Guinea after losing the presidential election to Adama Barrow, a relative unknown at the time.

The government then established a Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) to investigate crimes committed during Yahya Jammeh’s 22-year rule.

The commission heard chilling testimony about state-sanctioned torture, death squads, and the climate of terror that Mr. Jammeh maintained, including among those closest to him.

Its findings are eagerly awaited by NGOs, which hope that the commission will recommend prosecuting the 56-year-old former dictator.

Mr. Barrow had long indicated that he would wait for the commission’s recommendations before possibly calling for legal action against his predecessor.

The TRRC’s chief prosecutor, Essa Faal, announced his candidacy for the December 4 presidential election in late August.

AFP

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POLITICS: Zambia’s opposition leader Hichilema wins election with over 2.8 million votes

With 155 of 156 constituencies reporting, official results showed Hichilema had garnered 2,810,757 votes against President Edgar Lungu’s tally of 1,814,201.

“I, therefore, declare the said Hakainde Hichilema to be president-elect of the Republic of Zambia,” electoral commission chairman Justice Esau Chulu said in a televised address.

The 59-year-old veteran opposition politician beat his long-time rival Lungu following a bruising race held against the backdrop of deteriorating standards of living.

In 2016, Hichilema narrowly lost to Lungu by around 100,000 votes.

Lungu, who has been in office for six years, faced the electorate amid growing resentment about rising living costs and crackdowns on dissent in the southern African country.

Hichilema enjoyed the backing of 10 opposition parties at Thursday’s vote under the banner of his and the largest opposition United Party for National Development (UPND).

Lungu began crying foul before a winner was declared, claiming the election was neither free nor fair due to incidents of violence reported in what are traditionally Hichilema’s stronghold.

In a statement issued through the president’s office, he alleged that his party’s polling agents were attacked and chased from voting stations.

But even as results were still being tallied, street celebrations erupted in parts of the capital Lusaka with several hundred in party regalia waving flags and rallying outside Hichilema’s house, AFP journalists saw. Others danced and honked car horns.

‘Victory in sight’

Hichilema, popularly referred to by his initials ‘HH’ or as Bally (slang for dad), on Sunday called for peace.

“With victory in sight, I’d like to ask for calm from our members and supporters,” he tweeted.

“We voted for change for a better Zambia that’s free from violence and discrimination.”

“Let us be the change we voted for and embrace the spirit of Ubuntu (humanity) to love and live together harmoniously.”

He later tweeted an image of a silhouette of his raised hand superimposed on a background bearing the inscription “change is here”.

Hichilema also tweeted a picture of himself and former president Rupiah Banda at the latter’s residence, saying they had just concluded a meeting.

“We discussed a wide range of issues bordering on the welfare of our people. We remain committed to ensuring a united and prosperous Zambia for all,” he wrote on Twitter.

Parties that backed Hichilema on Sunday scoffed at Lungu’s “unsubstantiated” claims of a marred vote, and urged him to concede.

International election observers have commended the transparent and peaceful organisation of the polls, but condemned the restrictions on freedom of assembly and movement during campaigning.

Security forces blocked Hichilema from campaigning in several areas, including the strategic Copperbelt Province, citing breaches of coronavirus measures and a public order act.

Lungu also deployed the military following pre-election clashes and reinforced the army presence in three provinces after two deaths were reported on election day.

Social media access, restricted in the capital Lusaka just as Hichilema cast his vote, was restored on Saturday following a court order.

Turnout at the polls was estimated at just over 70 percent.

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Ceasefire in Tigray more urgent than ever: UN relief chief

Speaking in Geneva, Martin Griffiths highlighted the urgency of the situation for all those affected in the northern Ethiopian region, after eight months of fighting between Government forces and those loyal to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).

Earlier this week, the UN senior official warned that 200,000 people had been displaced by fighting in the neighbouring Amhara region, along with more than 50,000 in Afar.

“This war has to stop, this war has to end; we will all of us continue to try to make sure that those 100 trucks a day reach Mekelle, reach the beneficiaries”, Mr Griffiths insisted. “We will do everything we can to help the people affected in Amhara and Afar while continuing the work in other parts of Ethiopia.”

Aid Challenge

Highlighting the logistical challenge of negotiating aid access into Tigray while the violence continues, the UN emergency relief chief said that he had “no reason to doubt” the ceasefire announced by Ethiopian premier Abiy Ahmed, who he met in the capital Addis Ababa earlier this week, along with other senior government leaders.

“The Prime Minister has issued a unilateral ceasefire, he repeated his commitment to it on the two occasions that we met, and I have no reason to doubt that at all. For the Tigrayans who are spreading the war into the south and east, into Afar and Amhara, they need to take into account that without that ceasefire, we will try to get those 100 trucks in, but it’s going to be easier for the Tigrayan people if the war is stopped.”

400,000 face famine

Since the conflict erupted last November, humanitarian needs have grown, amid killings, looting and destruction of health centres and farming infrastructure, including irrigation systems that are vital to successful harvests.

Some 400,000 people face famine in Tigray, UN humanitarians have warned repeatedly, in recent weeks.

“They need food, the harvest which has recently been planted is likely only to produce between a quarter, and maximum a half, of its likely production. So, the need for food is going to go right through until next year,” said Mr Griffiths.

Destruction, pillaging

“They need re-equipment of primary health centres. We saw hospitals and health centres destroyed, the equipment was taken away. There are health workers but not salaries.”

Noting that some 178 aid trucks had reportedly reached Tigray regional capital Mekelle in recent days, with another 40 waiting to arrive, the UN official underscored how difficult it has been to secure regular aid access amid checkpoint delays and detailed searches, which he had experienced at first hand on a UN flight to Mekelle.

This war has to stop, this war has to end

“The frustration of agencies – I’ve just spent two days with them; national NGOs, international NGOs, UN agencies – is that they have access, but haven’t had the supplies needed to exploit the access”, he said. He added it was “hopefully a little bit better today because of those 178 trucks, but a lot still (needs) to be done.”

Assurances from Abiy Ahmed

Despite the complexity of the situation, Mr Griffiths maintained that his discussions with the Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign minister and the Minister of Peace and others, had been “very constructive” during his six-day visit to Ethiopia.

“They, of course, told me that they were very keen to help on the difficult issue of delivery of assistance and then protection of civilians,” he added, before repeating his condemnation of the “very high degree of rhetoric” which had seen humanitarian officials and aid workers “condemned in public and on social media” for “feeding the Tigrayan machine”.

“I spoke to those leaders that I’ve mentioned that any such criticisms need to stop. First of all, it threatens the lives of people who are there to help, and secondly, of course, it has an impact on humanitarian delivery,” he said.

Trapped Eritreans

In a related development, an UN-appointed independent rights expert warned on Friday that Eritrean refugees trapped in Tigray are being targeted by both sides of the conflict.

Ethiopia was home to nearly 100,000 refugees from neighbouring Eritrea before fighting broke out in Tigray last November, said Mohamed Abdelsalam Babiker, UN Special Rapporteur on Eritrea.

“Since the conflict began, I have received many credible allegations of grave human rights and humanitarian law violations committed against Eritrean refugees, both by the Federal Government of Ethiopia and government-allied Eritrean troops and by forces affiliated with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front,” the expert said.

Targeted, victimized

“Eritrean refugees have been singled out, targeted and victimised by both sides for their perceived collaboration with the other side in the conflict.”

A family from Samre, in southwestern Tigray, walked for two days to reach a camp for displaced people in Mekelle. ©UNOCHA/Saviano Abreu

In a written appeal to all parties to protect refugees in line with international human rights and humanitarian law, the rights expert warned that an estimated 80,000 refugees were at “imminent risk” in the Tigray and Afar regions as fighting spread.

“I am extremely alarmed at reports of reprisal attacks and killings, sexual violence, beatings of Eritrean refugees and looting of camps and property. This violence directed at refugees must stop,” Mr Babiker said.

In July, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, expressed concern about 24,000 Eritrean refugees in Mai Aini and Adi Harush camps, who had been cut off from humanitarian assistance and were facing intimidation and harassment.

Recent armed confrontations have also displaced thousands of people in the neighbouring Afar region, which hosts an additional 55,000 Eritrean refugees. In January, Hitsats and Shimelba refugee camps were destroyed. Some 20,000 refugees were displaced and hundreds went missing.

“International humanitarian law has long recognized the need to protect civilians caught in the conflict,” the rights expert said. “I specifically call on all sides to respect the 1951 Refugee Convention.”

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POLITICS: Don’t vote for PDP, APC again; they have bad antecedents, Jega warns Nigerians

For their alleged failure to bring the desired growth and development in Nigeria within the past 20 years, a university don and former Chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission of Nigeria ( INEC), Professor Attahiru Muhammad Jega has urged Nigerians not to vote for the ruling All Progressives Congress ( APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party( PDP) henceforth.

He alleged that the two major political parties were like Siamese twins and it was high time Nigerians look for a credible alternative.

” Nigerians should dump the two parties because of their bad antecedents over the last 20 years. Looking at their inability to change the economic fortunes of Nigeria for 20 years now, it is now apparently clear that they would not do anything even if Nigerians vote for any of the two parties again,” he alleged.

“The APC and PDP have formed governments, we were all witnesses. They did not come with a good intention to make amends. If you look at the fight against corruption, all these corrupt people that were supposed to be prosecuted sneaked into the APC.”

“We are hearing nothing. That is why I’ve since registered with the Peoples Redemption Party( PRP). I am now a PRP member looking for ways to help Nigeria.”

” That is why we believe now is the time to establish a platform where every good Nigerian should join and contribute towards building the nation on the right path,” he said.

He alleged that those in the major political parties have destroyed everything and had made the parties so stigmatized that whichever good person joins the parties would be considered like them.

He said that was why “it has now become imperative to have a new platform where good Nigerians will constitute the membership.”

Jega also alleged that it was lack of good leadership in Nigeria that threw the nation into it current problems, which have led to the series of agitations for the country to be balkanized.

” Since 1979 I’ve been teaching in the university, for 40 years now. So, from what I read and observed, when I was Chairman of INEC, honestly the way I see our politicians conducting elections and from the manner, they represent their people when elected, honestly, it is something to be afraid of,” he said.

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