• Former Sierra Leonean rebel leader Sankoh dies

    02/Jan/2016 // 992 Viewers

     

    Associated Press: Foday Sankoh, who led a devastating 10-year rebel campaign in Sierra Leone, has died while awaiting trial for war crimes, the United Nations said today.
    Sankoh, 65, died late last night while in UN custody in a hospital in the capital Freetown, said David Hecht of the UN-Sierra Leone war crimes court.

    Sankoh's death from natural causes granted him "a peaceful end that he denied to so many others", according to a statement from the office of the court's chief prosecutor, David Crane.

    Sankoh had been unwell since his capture in early 2000. In June 2002, in one of his last court hearings in which he spoke, the rebel leader appeared dishevelled, in matted white dreadlocks.

    "I'm a god," the handcuffed ex-warlord told court officials then. "I'm the inner God. I'm the leader of Sierra Leone."

    Authorities announced in October 2002 he had suffered what they at first called a mild stroke. The war crimes court said in June it was pursuing a waiver on a UN travel ban against Sankoh so it could send him outside Sierra Leone for treatment.

    The court's acting chief of defence, John Jones, said then that Sankoh was in a "catatonic, stuporous state".

    Sankoh, a former wedding photographer turned soldier, trained in the cold war guerrilla camps of Muammar Gadafy.

    His companions there included Charles Taylor, the president of neighbouring Liberia, who also has been indicted for his alleged role in supporting rebels in the Sierra Leone conflict.

    Sankoh's Revolutionary United Front, founded in Libya in 1988-89, launched the insurgency in 1991, bent on winning control of Sierra Leone's government and diamond fields.

    His drugged, drunk rebels became notorious for their heartlessness, killing, raping, maiming and kidnapping tens of thousands of civilians.

    Under Sankoh, rebels made a trademark of hacking off the hands, feet, lips and ears of victims with machetes.

    Sankoh was captured after his fighters gunned down more than a dozen protesters outside his Freetown home, and had been in UN custody in prisons and hospitals since.

    The war was brought to an end through military intervention by Britain, Guinea and the United Nations crushed the rebels in early 2002.

    Sankoh, born on October 17 1937, had faced a 17-count war-crimes indictment, as well as separate charges in a Sierra Leone national court.

    His condition had slowed proceedings, and Sankoh's last appearances in court were in a wheelchair, with Sankoh unable to respond to questions.

    The court statement said that despite Sankoh's death, prosecutors would attempt through other war-crimes trials to establish his "involvement in the atrocious deeds that have left a legacy of horror in the minds and memories of those who survived".

    He is survived by his wife, Fatou Sankoh, and at least one daughter. News of his death was slow to break in Freetown, a city still bearing scars of the war. Sierra Leone's government refused to issue any immediate comment.


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  • West African leaders 'in al-Qaida plot

    02/Jan/2016 // 838 Viewers

     

    The governments of Liberia and Burkina Faso facilitated an al-Qaida plot to funnel diamonds and weapons through west Africa before and after the September 11 attacks, it was reported yesterday.
    A joint investigation by European intelligence agencies has uncovered an elaborate web of bribery and clandestine deals which allowed Osama bin Laden's terror group to hide financial assets in the region, according to the Washington Post.

    The paper said the Liberian president, Charles Taylor, received $1m (£625,000) to harbour senior al-Qaida operatives after the attacks in New York and Washington in September 2001.

    The Islamists are said to have shuttled between areas under Mr Taylor's protection and the presidential compound in Burkina Faso while buying $20m worth of diamonds, effectively cornering the market in west Africa's precious stones. At the same time they sought sophisticated weapons, including anti-aircraft missiles.

    President Blaise Campaore of Burkina Faso and Mr Taylor deny the accusation, which is included in a summary of the joint intelligence findings.

    The European investigators, who lost track of the diamonds after they left west Africa, were quoted criticising the CIA for not responding to the information they shared.

    Since Mr Taylor triumphed in Liberia's civil war, the country has been run as his fiefdom and the UN has banned him and his aides from international travel. Gangsters and smugglers have flocked to the capital, Monrovia.

    Al-Qaida's effort to hide assets in the region appears to date from 1998, after the bombings of the US embassies in Tanzania and Kenya led to an international effort to freeze its bank accounts and other assets.

    Two al-Qaida operatives on the FBI's wanted list allegedly toured diamond fields in Liberia and Sierra Leone and supervised the trade from a military camp in Liberia.

    The report named three men - a Lebanese diamond merchant, his cousin and a Senegalese mercenary - as conduits who linked the Islamists to the Liberian leadership and a company in Belgium which polished and sold the stones.

    In 2000 the firm is said to have sold diamonds worth $14m. Calls from its headquarters and a satellite phone were traced to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and Iraq.

    In January 2001 the Islamists and their conduits rented a large house in Monrovia which became their base. In the summer of that year two alleged al-Qaida operatives, Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani and Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, allegedly stayed in the compound of the president of Burkina Faso in the capital, Ougadougou, before moving to Camp Gbatala, a military camp in Liberia near Mr Taylor's private farm. For that the Liberian president was allegedly paid $1m.

    After September 11 the Pentagon sent a special forces team to neighbouring Guinea to snatch the pair, but the plan was scrapped when their identities could not be confirmed.

    Simultaneously, the Islamist cell allegedly tried to buy weapons from an Israeli arms dealer in Panama. An intercepted email from the Israeli to a Russian arms merchant, listing assault rifles, ammunition, ground-to-air missiles and 200 rockets for multiple rocket launchers, said the consignment was for "our friends in Africa".

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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  • Rwanda accused of manipulating poverty statistics

    02/Nov/2015 // 255 Viewers

    Rwandan authorities manipulated the latest official statistics on poverty to make it look like it was going down, while much of the source data suggested it was actually on the increase, according to information obtained by FRANCE 24.

    While international NGOs such as Human Rights Watch regularly accuse the Rwandan government of oppressing its people, Rwanda is usually praised by the West for its development policies.

    But according to information obtained by FRANCE 24 and Belgian university professor Filip Reyntjens, Kigali has brazenly manipulated its latest official report on poverty in the central African country.

    The story starts with private organisation Oxford Policy Management (OPM), which regularly provides statistical data on Rwanda’s socio-economic situation. OPM hands over this data to Rwanda, which then publishes it.

    Poverty ‘actually rose by six percent’

    But in the most recent case – concerning a report entitled “Integrated Household Living Conditions Survey” (EICV4), focusing on the period 2013-14 and published last month – the facts appear to have been altered by the Rwandan government department responsible for publishing official economic statistics.

    “This time there was a disagreement between OPM and Rwanda over the methodology used,” one source close to the case – who like most sources who criticise Rwanda asked to remain anonymous – told FRANCE 24.

    This source contacted Dr Filip Reyntjens, professor of African Law and Politics at the University of Antwerp, who is considered one of the leading experts on Rwanda today.

    “The government changed the methodology, especially the poverty line, before publishing the report,” Reyntjens told FRANCE 24. “So in the final report, instead of going up, poverty levels appears to have gone down by several percentage points.”

    “We redid the calculations using the initial methodology, and the results show that the poverty rate actually rose by six percent in 2013-14,” he added.

    To obtain this decrease in the poverty levels, the authors modified the consumption criteria of the poorest Rwandans.

    “They massively reduced the quantities (by 70% of more) of three traditional staples: sweet potato, Irish potato and banana,” another source, who also asked not to be named, told FRANCE 24. “This is not valid and therefore we cannot have confidence in the new poverty line as put forward by the report.”

    OPM distances itself from the final report

    The Rwandan authorities do state in the report state they had to “update” the methodology. They also compare the EICV4 results with previous reports, an incorrect and misleading argument because of the altered methodology.

    Furthermore, in previous reports OPM was always mentioned as one of the authors. This time it isn’t, and OPM members reportedly refused to be named because of the changes.

    OPM told FRANCE 24 they had submitted work for EICV4 but did not want to make any further comment.

    “Our contract has a confidentiality clause that prevents us from disclosing any information about the work that we have done for Stats Rwanda,” said OPM Director Simon Hunt.

    FRANCE 24 also asked the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda, responsible for publishing the final report, for a reaction. At first they did not respond. The Institute later said that director had gone on holiday for several weeks.

    Britain backs Rwanda

    The United Kingdom is one of Rwanda’s biggest donors, and London is regularly accused of being too lenient with President Paul Kagame, who has been Rwanda’s de facto leader for more than twenty years.

    A change in the constitution will soon allow him to run for a controversial third term in office, and any proof that he has been able to reduce poverty in Rwanda will be a significant advantage.

    London has jumped to defend Kigali amid the latest allegations. The Department for International Development (DFID), a United Kingdom government department responsible for administering overseas aid, told FRANCE 24 it was “aware of concerns raised by some people regarding the latest poverty estimates in Rwanda”.

    “We believe the revision of the methodology used to estimate poverty levels for the EICV4 poverty survey was justified,” a DFID spokesman added.

    Filip Reyntjens, from the University of Antwerp, strongly disagrees: “There were no major changes in the structure of people’s consumption. They didn’t only update the poverty line, as they say, but they went as far as artificially reducing it to give the impression that the poverty rate was going down when in reality it was going up.

    “There is no methodological justification for that.”

    To explain why the West – and particularly the UK – remains silent on such blatant manipulation, one leading expert on Rwanda, who asked not to be named, put forward several reasons.

    “There are strategic interests,” the expert said. “Seven years ago Kagame decided that English would replace French in schools and in government administration. His country joined the Commonwealth and London is Rwanda’s biggest aid donor, so if the country’s results are good it shows that the aid money is being used efficiently.”

    For Filip Reyntjens, the EICV4 case is serious. “Rwanda is keen on showing strong ‘development’ and the international community continues to accept a trade-off between this ‘development’ and repression,” he said.

    “If this ‘development’ is not based on evidence, as appears to be the case now, all that is left is repression.”

    Date created : 2015-11-02


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  • Burkina Faso coup leader in police custody

    02/Oct/2015 // 187 Viewers

    The former leader of a short-lived coup in Burkina Faso, General Gilbert Diendéré, was handed over to transitional authorities on Thursday after seeking refuge in the Vatican embassy, judicial, military and government sources said on Thursday.

    "He has been handed over to Burkinabe authorities," said the judicial source.

    A military source said Jean Baptiste Ouedraogo, the former president of Burkina Faso, escorted Diendéré to Ouagadougou's main gendarmerie camp in a heavily armed convoy.

    Earlier, Prime Minister Yacouba Isaac Zida had said the government had provided guarantees to the embassy that Diendérés life would be respected if he was handed over.

    The recent unrest in Burkina Faso began when soldiers from the elite presidential guard stormed into a cabinet meeting in mid September and abducted interim president Michel Kafando and Zida, disrupting a transition period due to end with polls next month.

    Diendéré, a former spy chief, was named junta head the next day.

    He had sought sanctuary in the embassy in the recent days after the transitional government was returned to power amid international pressure and popular protests.

    The interim government had been in place since ex-president Blaise Compaoré fled into exile following violent protests in 2014, and was charged with running the nation until presidential and legislative elections could be held on October 11.

    Diendéré said he had led the coup because of proposals to dismantle the elite presidential guard and to exclude allies of Compaoré from running in the presidential poll.


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  • 12 wounded in Joburg mall shooting

    02/Oct/2015 // 205 Viewers

    Johannesburg - Twelve people, including a 4-year-old child, were wounded in a shooting at a shopping mall in Alexandra, Johannesburg on Friday, paramedics said.

    Netcare 911 spokesperson Chris Botha said the shooting happened at the Pan African Mall.

    "[Paramedics]... arrived at the scene and found that twelve people, consisting of adults and children, had sustained moderate injuries," spokesperson Chris Botha said.

     

    They were treated on the scene and then taken to various hospitals.

    Further details were not immediately available.


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  • Another country emulates the UK, scraps visa regime for all African countries

    02/Sep/2016 // 2244 Viewers

     

    PARIS, SEPTEMBER 2, 2016: (DGW) As the UK scraps the visa regime for  commonwealth member  countries excluding five African countries namely Ghana , Nigeria, Kenya, Zambia and Tanzania, conversely, citizens of other  African countries could now travel to the Republic of Benin without having to obtain a visa as President Talon scraps visa regime.

    The disclosure was made by President Patrice Talon in Kigali that his country, the Republic of Benin, will no longer request visas from other African countries. The news visa-free  policy, he disclosed , became absolutely necessary to promote African tourism.

    Under this latest arrangement, however,  citizens of other African countries could travel  to the country without a visa.

    In a  statement released by the Presidency, 'Rwanda and Benin enjoy excellent relationship and open collaboration on African and international issues.'

    President Patrice Talon was reportedly hosted by President Kagame at  the Radisson Blue Hotel and Convention Centre in Kigali for dinner.


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  • Over 1,500 boat migrants rescued off Libya

    03/Dec/2015 // 231 Viewers

    © Marina Militare/AFP/File | The Italian coastguard and navy are frequently involved in rescue missions off the coast of Libya

    ROME (AFP) - 

    Over 1,500 migrants have been rescued off the Libyan coast in seven separate operations, the Italian navy said Thursday, after a break in bad weather sparked fresh attempts at the perilous Mediterranean crossing.

    The migrants were plucked from their boats by the Italian coastguard, the navy, a Doctors Without Borders boat and two vessels operating under the EU's Operation Sophia, which patrols the sea for people smugglers.

     

    Source: France24, AFP


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  • Breaking News: The GOVERNMENT in TRIPOLI has failed, Deputy Libyan leader resigns!

    03/Jan/2017 // 482 Viewers

     

    The deputy leader of Libya’s U.N.-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) has resigned on Monday. Musa al-Koni announced his resignation which he says is as a result of failure by the administration in Tripoli to solve the problems in the country since their arrival in March last year.

    “I announce my resignation due the failure of the Presidential Council, because it holds responsibility for the killing, kidnapping, and rape that happened over the past year,” Koni told the media in Tripoli.

    “I don’t think we are unaware of what the citizens are suffering, but we are incapable, and I admit that we are failures because we didn’t solve the problems, which are many,” he added.

    Libya’s GNA is struggling to establish authority in the country with a strong rivalry from the parallel authority led by Marshal Khalifa Haftar, who is based in the east of the country.

    The head of the GNA Fayez al-Sarraj announced in December that the city of Sirte is no more the Libyan stronghold of the Islamic State organization (IS) yet the war against terrorism in Libya has “not finished” - Reuters


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  • Police discover AFRICAN migrants in suitcase, car dashboard being smuggled to Europe

    03/Jan/2017 // 1272 Viewers

     

    Police have detained two Moroccans who tried to smuggle migrants into Spain’s North African enclave of Ceuta – two hidden in a car and one in a suitcase.
     
    When police checked a car on Monday one person was found hidden in the dashboard and another in the hollowed-out back seat.
     
    The man and woman, thought to be Guineans, received first aid as they had had little air to breathe.
     
    Separately, a young African man was found hidden in a woman’s suitcase, BBC reports.
     
    That incident happened on 30 December and again the man – believed to be from Gabon – required urgent medical attention.
     
    A 22-year-old Moroccan woman had tried to smuggle him into Ceuta, but customs officers ordered her to open the case, which was tied to a trolley.
     
     
     
    A photograph supplied by the Spanish Civil Guard shows another migrant found in a car dashboard
    The incidents coincided with a mass attempt by sub-Saharan Africans to storm the 6m (20ft) border fence separating Ceuta from Morocco.
     
    Fifty Moroccan and five Spanish border guards were injured when 1,100 migrants tried to get over the fence on Sunday.
     
    None managed to get through, but two people were injured scaling the fence and were taken to hospital in Ceuta. One guard lost an eye, officials said.
     
    A similar assault on 9 December involved more than 400 African migrants.
     
    There have been many such attempts by sub-Saharan Africans living illegally in Morocco, who desperately want to reach Europe. Melilla – Spain’s other North African enclave – is similarly targeted by migrants.
     
    The enclaves are Europe’s only land borders in Africa.
     
    Most migrants are intercepted and returned to Morocco, while those who make it over the fences are eventually repatriated or released. - BBC


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  • S.Sudan increases states, threatening power-sharing deal

    03/Oct/2015 // 162 Viewers

    AFP/File | S.Sudan's President Salva Kiir, pictured in September, signed an August 26 peace agreement to end a war in which tens of thousands have been killed

     

    JUBA (AFP) - 

    South Sudan President Salva Kiir has ordered the number of regional states be nearly tripled, his spokesman said Saturday, undermining a fundamental pillar of a power-sharing deal to end civil war.

    Kiir, who has been fighting to crush a rebellion since December 2013 in which tens of thousands have been killed, the economy destroyed and war zone regions pushed to the brink of famine, signed an August 26 peace agreement to end the war.

    Months of negotiations led to the internationally-brokered deal, including a transitional government and a complex power-sharing formula in which rebels get a share of seats at national and state levels.

    The rebels, led by former vice president Riek Machar, also choose the powerful governor posts in the northern battleground states of Unity and Upper Nile, the country's main oil production zones.

    The creation of new states threatens to undermine those key power-sharing arrangements and slow implementation of the peace deal.

    The order, broadcast on state radio late Friday, increases the current 10 states to 28, rendering the agreed power sharing formula redundant.

    "The government has ordered there to be 28 states," presidential spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny told AFP.

    "This is about giving more power to the people through better service delivery," he added, saying the government remained committed to the peace deal.

    In a statement, Machar said the decree, "issued unilaterally... is a clear violation of the peace agreement," which "is based on 10 states."

    Both sides are accused of having perpetrated ethnic massacres, recruited and killed children and carried out widespread rape, torture and forced displacement of populations to "cleanse" areas of their opponents.

    The army and rebels have repeatedly traded blame, accusing each other of breaking the ceasefire, the eighth such agreement to have been signed.

    South Sudan media reported fresh fighting on Friday in the Koch district of Unity state.

    The presidential order must now be passed by parliament -- almost entirely in support of Kiir -- before becoming law.

    Ateny added he expected that to happen "within one month."

    ? 2015 AFP


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