INTL Africa: Politics, Economics, Military- October 2021

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB
September's thread:

Regional Conflict in Mediterranean beginning page 75:

Main Coronavirus thread beginning page 1404:

Africa internet riches plundered, contested by China broker

Two young boys use a computer at an internet cafe in the low-income Kibera neighborhood of Nairobi, Kenya Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2021. Instead of serving Africa's internet development, millions of internet addresses reserved for Africa have been waylaid, some fraudulently, including in insider machinations linked to a former top employee of the nonprofit that assigns the continent's addresses. (AP Photo/Brian Inganga)
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Two young boys use a computer at an internet cafe in the low-income Kibera neighborhood of Nairobi, Kenya Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2021. Instead of serving Africa's internet development, millions of internet addresses reserved for Africa have been waylaid, some fraudulently, including in insider machinations linked to a former top employee of the nonprofit that assigns the continent's addresses. (AP Photo/Brian Inganga)

KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — Outsiders have long profited from Africa’s riches of gold, diamonds, and even people. Digital resources have proven no different.

Millions of internet addresses assigned to Africa have been waylaid, some fraudulently, including through insider machinations linked to a former top employee of the nonprofit that assigns the continent’s addresses. Instead of serving Africa’s internet development, many have benefited spammers and scammers, while others satiate Chinese appetites for pornography and gambling.

New leadership at the nonprofit, AFRINIC, is working to reclaim the lost addresses. But a legal challenge by a deep-pocketed Chinese businessman is threatening the body’s very existence.

The businessman is Lu Heng, a Hong Kong-based arbitrage specialist. Under contested circumstances, he obtained 6.2 million African addresses from 2013 to 2016. That’s about 5% of the continent’s total — more than Kenya has.

The internet service providers and others to whom AFRINIC assigns IP address blocks aren’t purchasing them. They pay membership fees to cover administrative costs that are intentionally kept low. That left lots of room, though, for graft.

When AFRINIC revoked Lu’s addresses, now worth about $150 million, he fought back. His lawyers in late July persuaded a judge in Mauritius, where AFRICNIC is based, to freeze its bank accounts. His company also filed a $80 million defamation claim against AFRINIC and its new CEO.

It’s a shock to the global networking community, which has long considered the internet as technological scaffolding for advancing society. Some worry it could undermine the entire numerical address system that makes the internet work.

“There was never really any thought, particularly in the AFRINIC region, that someone would just directly attack a foundational element of internet governance and just try and shut it down, try and make it go away.” said Bill Woodcock, executive director of Packet Clearing House, a global nonprofit that has helped build out Africa’s internet.

Lu told The Associated Press that he’s an honest businessman who broke no rules in obtaining the African address blocks. And, rejecting the consensus of the internet’s stewards, he says its five regional registries have no business deciding where IP addresses are used.

“AFRINIC is supposed to serve the internet, it’s not supposed to serve Africa,” Lu said. “They’re just bookkeepers.”
In revoking Lu’s address blocks, AFRINIC is trying to reclaim internet real estate critical for a continent that lags the rest in leveraging internet resources to raise living standards and boost health and education. Africa has been allocated just 3% of the world’s first-generation IP addresses.

Making things worse: the alleged theft of millions of AFRINIC IP addresses, involving the organization’s former No. 2 official, Ernest Byaruhanga, who was fired in December 2019. It’s unclear whether he was acting alone.
The registry’s new CEO, Eddy Kayihura, said at the time that he’d filed a criminal complaint with the Mauritius police. He shook up management and began trying to reclaim wayward IP address blocks.

Lu’s legal gains in the case have stunned and dismayed the global internet-governance community. Network activists worry they could help facilitate further internet resource grabs by China, for starters. Some of Lu’s major clients include the Chinese state-owned telecommunication firms China Telecom and China Mobile.

“It doesn’t seem like he’s running the show. It seems like he’s the face of the show. I expect that he has got quite a significant backing that’s actually pulling the strings,” said Mark Tinka, a Ugandan who heads engineering at SEACOM, a South Africa-based internet backbone and services provider. Tinka worries Lu has “access to an endless pile of resources.”

Lu said allegations he’s working for the Chinese government are “wild” conspiracy theories. He said he’s the victim of ongoing “character assassination.”

While billions use the internet daily, its inner workings are little understood and rarely subject to scrutiny. Globally, five fully autonomous regional bodies, operating as nonprofit public trusts, decide who owns and runs the internet’s limited store of first-generation IP address blocks. Founded in 2003, AFRINIC was the last of the five registries to be created.

Just shy of a decade ago, the pool of 3.7 billion first-generation IP addresses, known as IPv4, was fully exhausted in the developed world. Such IP addresses now sell at auction for between $20 and $30 each.
The current crisis was precipitated by the uncovering of the alleged fraud at AFRINIC. The misappropriation of 4 million IP addresses worth more than $50 million by Byahuranga and perhaps others was discovered by Ron Guilmette, a freelance internet sleuth in California, and  exposed by him and journalist Jan Vermeulen of the South African tech website MyBroadband.

But that was far from all of it.

Ownership of at least 675,000 wayward addresses is still in dispute. Some are controlled by an Israeli businessman, who has sued AFRINIC for trying to reclaim them. Guilmette calculates that a total of 1.2 million stolen addresses remain in use.

Someone had tampered with AFRINIC’s WHOIS database records — which are like deeds for IP addresses — to steal so-called legacy address blocks, Guilmette said. It’s unclear if it was Byahuranga alone or if other insiders or even hackers were involved, he added.

Many of the misappropriated address blocks were unused IP space stolen from businesses, including mining giant Anglo American.

Many of the disputed addresses continue to host websites that have nonsense URL address names and contain gambling and pornography aimed at an audience in China, whose government bans such online businesses.
When Kayihura fixed his sights on Lu this year, he told him in writing that IP address blocks allocated to his Seychelles-registered company were not “originating services from within the AFRINIC service region — contrary to the justification provided.”

Lu would not discuss the justifications he provided to AFRINIC for the IP addresses he’s obtained, but said he’s never broken any of AFRINIC’s rules. Such justifications are part of what is typically an opaque, confidential process. Kayihura would not comment on them, citing the legal case. Nor would the two men who were AFRINIC’s CEOs when Lu received the allocations.

Emails obtained by the AP show that in his initial request for IP addresses in 2013, Lu made clear to AFRINIC that his customers would be in China. In those emails, Lu said he needed the addresses for virtual private networks — known as VPNs — to circumvent the Chinese government’s firewall that blocks popular websites like Facebook and YouTube there.

He said he discussed this with Adiel Akplogan, AFRINIC’s first CEO, in Beijing in a 2013 meeting cited in the emails. Akplogan, who stepped down in 2015, would not comment on any discussions he may have had with Lu on the subject.

Akplogan’s successor, South African internet pioneer Alan Barrett, would say only that “all appropriate procedures were followed.”

By that time, in 2016-17, Lu said his company, Cloud Innovation, had quit the VPN business and shifted into leasing address space.

Lu notes that other regional registries – including RIPE in Europe and ARIN, the North American registry – routinely allocate address blocks outside their regions.

That may be so, experts say, but Africa is a special case because it’s still developing and vulnerable to exploitation – even if AFRINIC’s bylaws don’t explicitly ban geographical outsiders from obtaining IP space.

Unlike at other regional registries, AFRINIC’s stewards neglected to forge strong alliances with governments on the continent with the resources to fend off legal challenges from wealthy usurpers, said Woodcock of the Packet Clearing House.

“The governmental relationships necessary to get it treated as critical infrastructure were never prioritized in the African region,” he added. “This is not a threat coming from Africa. This is a threat from China.”

The international registry community has rallied to the aid of AFRINIC’s embattled reformers.

ARIN’s president, John Curran, said in a statement of support that the Mauritian court should also consider whether any fraud was committed in awarding the IP addresses to Lu. His legal battle “has potential for significant impact to the overall stability of the Internet number registry system,” he wrote.

A mutual assistance fund of more than $2 million created by the regional registries is available — and has been offered — should AFRINIC need it to keep running during the court fight.

The AP found several pornography and gambling sites aimed at a Chinese audience using IP addresses that Lu got from AFRINIC. While those sites are banned in China, they can still be accessed there via VPNs.

Lu said such sites make up a minuscule part of the websites using his IP addresses and his company has strict policies against posting illegal material like child pornography and terrorism-related content. He said he does not actively police the content of millions of websites hosted by those leasing from his company, but all actionable complaints of illegal activity are immediately forwarded to law enforcement.

It is not clear whether the police investigation into Byaruhanga has advanced. Mauritian police did not respond to attempts to determine if they have even sought to question him. Byahuranga is believed to be living in his native Uganda but could not be located for comment.

Akplogan, his former boss, said he was not aware at the time of Byahuranga’s alleged misappropriation of addresses.

“I don’t know how he did it,” said Akplogan, who is Togolese and now based in Montreal. “And for those who know the reality about my management of AFRINIC they know very well that it’s not something that I will have known and let it go (on).”

Inducted two years ago into the Internet Society’s Hall of Fame, Akplogan is currently vice president for technical engagement at ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), the California-based body that oversees the global network address and domain name businesses.
Bajak reported from Boston and Suderman from Richmond, Virginia.


Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB

Libya arrests hundreds of migrants in 'anti-drug' raids
Libya's Interior Ministry said hundreds of migrants were detained in "anti-drug" raids. Rights groups expressed concern over the mass detentions that includes women and children.

Migrants in a detention camp in Tripoli last year
Migrants in a detention camp in Tripoli last year

Hundreds of migrants were detained in the western Tripoli suburb of Gargaresh Friday, Libya's Interior Ministry said.

Friday's daylong sweep sealed off the dilapidated suburb of Gargaresh 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) west of Tripoli.

The Libyan attorney general said the effort was an attempt to hit "properties exploited in organizing illegal immigration," as well as drug, alcohol and weapons trafficking.

On Twitter, interim Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibah praised the "Interior Ministry heroes" for carrying out the raids on drug dealers who target Libyan youth.

What do we know about what happened in Gargaresh?
Gargaresh is a known hub for human traffickers who have largely benefited from the chaos in Libya since the 2011 revolution led to the overthrow and death of strongman Moammar Gadhafi, who ruled for decades. Libya is a popular departure point for many hoping to reach Europe.
A speed boat full of would be migrants is assisted by aid workers from SOS Mediterranee off the coast of Libya
Libya is a well-trafficked launching point for migrants trying to reach Europe

Witnesses said residents were barred from leaving their homes while the raids took place. Pictures on social media show foreigners in the back of pickup trucks being driven away.
Crews later demolished the ramshackle structures migrants were staying in after they were detained.

Dax Roque, the Norwegian Refugee Council country director for Libya, said: "We are hearing that more than 500 migrants, including women and children, have been rounded up, arbitrarily detained, and are at risk of abuse and ill-treatment."

He added: "Torture, sexual violence and extortion is rampant in Libyan detention centers. We believe this latest wave of arrests is part of wider crackdown by the Libyan authorities on migrants and refugees in Libya."

On Saturday, Libyan authorities said 4,000 had been detained, AP reported, without explanation for the larger, revised number.

Watch video02:42
Libya safe house offers haven for migrants
Where were the migrants taken?

Police colonel Nouri al-Grettli, who heads the Collection and Return Center in Tripoli, said initially migrants were brought to the facility he operates before being dispersed across Tripoli and the surroundings.

Libya's detention facilities are decrepit places where rights groups say abuses such as sexual assault and torture are commonplace.

One official told AP that the government will "deport as many as possible" even though many have lived in Libya for some time.

Tarik Lamloum, a Libyan activist with Belaady Organization for Human Rights, said many who were detained were registered with the UNHCR as either refugees or asylum-seekers.
ar/aw (AFP, AP)

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB

Ethiopia: PM Abiy Ahmed sworn in for new 5-year term
After a landslide election victory for his Prosperity Party in June, Abiy Ahmed's new government still faces a host of challenges, including the deadly conflict in Tigray.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed
Abiy Ahmed has served as prime minister of Ethiopia since 2018

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed was sworn in on Monday for a second five-year term.
His inauguration comes as a nearly year-long war in the northern region of Tigray spreads into other parts of the country and watchdogs warn that repressive government practices are on the return.

'New beginnings'
Signs bearing a flower and the words "New Beginnings" were seen across the capital ahead of Monday's ceremony.

"I, Abiy Ahmed Ali, today in the House of People's Representatives, accept the appointment as prime minister, as I pledge to undertake responsibly and with faith to the constitution the responsibility placed upon me by the people," he said while being sworn in by Supreme Court Chief Justice Meaza Ashenafi.

Just three African heads of state — from Nigeria, Senegal and neighboring Somalia — attended the ceremony.

"Today is a milestone yet only a beginning of a season of hope," Abiy's senior adviser Mamo Mihretu said on Twitter. "The road ahead might be daunting, but we shall not be weary."

What happened in the election?
Abiy's Prosperity Party was declared the winner of parliamentary elections in June.
The vote was criticized and even boycotted by some parties, who said their candidates had been arrested. Yet, electoral observers said it was better run than previous elections.
Abiy called the vote the country's first free and fair election.
The embattled Tigray region was excluded from the polls.

Watch video02:20
Tigray conflict: Ethiopia's growing humanitarian crisis
Races for one-fifth of parliament seats had to be delayed because of security or logistical issues.

Authorities held elections for some of those seats last week. The results, which will not have a major bearing on the balance of power in parliament, are expected later this month.

How did Abiy rise to power?
Abiy has served as prime minister since 2018. He was appointed by Ethiopia's ruling coalition after his predecessor Hailemariam Desalegn stepped down amid widespread protest.

Abiy's appointment was preceded by his election as chairman of the ruling four-party coalition officially known as the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF).

Abiy dissolved EPRDF to form the Prosperity Party in 2019. The move led to a falling out with the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), which had dominated the coalition for nearly three decades.

What about Tigray?
Ethiopia's government is under growing international pressure over its handling of the war in Tigray.

The humanitarian conditions in Tigray are worsening as people begin to starve to death under what the UN has called a "de facto humanitarian blockade."

The 11-month deadly conflict is weakening Ethiopia's economy, once one of Africa's fastest-growing. It also threatens to isolate Abiy, once seen as a regional peacemaker who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 for restoring ties with neighboring Eritrea.

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB

Algeria bars French military planes from its airspace
French armed forces have reported that flights over Algerian airspace have been cancelled. On Saturday Algeria recalled its diplomat in Paris over comments Emmanuel Macron made.

French military transport planes on the tarmac in Orleans, France
France's armed forces have confirmed that planned flights over Algeria have been cancelled as diplomatic spat worsens

A diplomatic spat between Algeria and France has deepened further, with Algiers making the decision to bar French military aircraft from flying in its airspace.

The move comes after Algeria recalled its ambassador to Paris over comments President Emmanuel Macron reportedly made about the former colony.

France's decision to cut the amount of visa's issued to countries in the Maghreb has also fuelled discord between the two countries.

Air passage closed to French aircraft
A spokesperson for the French Armed Forces confirmed that planned flights assisting operations in the Sahel region of western Africa had been refused permission of passage.

"This morning when we filed flight plans for two planes, we learned that the Algerians had stopped flights over their territory by French military planes," an army spokesman, Colonel Pascal Ianni, told news agency AFP.

France is part of military operations targeting jihadist insurgents in the region and frequently flies over Algerian airspace to support ground forces.

France has around 5,000 troops taking part in Operation Barkhane, a multi-national task force that is battling Islamist insurgents in Mali and Niger. In June France announced it would be wrapping up its military operations in early.

Watch video01:49
Mali: France ends 'Operation Barkhane'
What has led to this?

Both French and Algerian media have reported that Macron, in an address to Algerian descendants of those who had fought int the Algerian war that took place between 1954 and 1962, had said that Algeria's "politico-military system" had given an alternate version of history based on "a hatred of France."

Macron also reportedly questioned whether there had been an Algerian nation before French colonial rule.

Its unclear which of the comments angered Algerian leadership, but on Saturday Algiers recalled its envoy to France, accusing Macron of interfering in Algerian internal affairs.
Paris has also taken made a decision to substantially reduce the number of vias issued to Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. This has also enflamed tensions between the two countries.
kb/aw (AFP, Reuters)

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB

14 soldiers killed by jihadists in Burkina Faso
By SAM MEDNICKyesterday

OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso (AP) — At least 14 soldiers were killed and seven injured by extremists at the Yirgou military barracks in Burkina Faso’s Sanmatenga province on Monday, the government said.

The soldiers were targeted at 5 a.m. by a large number of heavily armed men and showed “great combativeness,” Minister of Defense Aime Barthelemy Simpore said in a statement. The government immediately launched an aerial and ground offensive, he said.

Locals near the attack said they were shocked, given there had been an increased military presence in the area recently.

“We are totally devastated because of what happened,” Abdoulaye Pafadnam, the mayor of nearby Barsalogho town, told the Associated Press by phone. “Many defense and security forces were sent to cover the area, and it was very encouraging to see that. We did not think that such an attack would happen in our zone....But when 12 soldiers get killed and equipment is taken away, it creates a big fear,‘’ he said.

Violence linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State is increasing across the once peaceful West African country. As of Saturday there were six explosives detonated within seven days killing eight people and wounding several others, according to a tweet by Menastream, a conflict monitoring consultancy. While attacks had previously been concentrated in the north and east, they’re expanding across the country. At least three of the explosives last week occurred in the west and southwest including the first deadly explosive in the Cascades region, according to Menastream.

Conflict analysts say the intensifying of attacks are due to some jihadist groups trying to consolidate gains before the rainy season ends, when violence typically increases and that the spike in explosives is a response to more airstrikes by the army, said Heni Nsaibia a senior researcher at the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project.

“One could assume that the explosives are both a response of choice to the airstrikes, and a way to deter movements by ground forces, in order to force them to become more static.” he said.

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB

Ethiopian PM begins 2nd term saying war exacts ‘heavy price’
October 4, 2021

Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed speaks behind bulletproof glass at his inauguration ceremony, after he was sworn in for a second five-year term, in the capital Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Monday, Oct. 4, 2021. Abiy was sworn in Monday for a second five-year term running a country in the grip of a nearly year-long war, as a handful of visiting African leaders urged him to hold the nation together. (AP Photo/Mulugeta Ayene)
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Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed speaks behind bulletproof glass at his inauguration ceremony, after he was sworn in for a second five-year term, in the capital Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Monday, Oct. 4, 2021. Abiy was sworn in Monday for a second five-year term running a country in the grip of a nearly year-long war, as a handful of visiting African leaders urged him to hold the nation together. (AP Photo/Mulugeta Ayene)

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) — Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed was sworn in Monday for a second five-year term running a country in the grip of a nearly year-long war against Tigray forces he described as “hateful” toward the nation, while a handful of visiting African leaders urged him to hold things together.

The Tigray conflict “has made us pay a heavy price,” Abiy told a crowd in the capital, Addis Ababa. And he bristled at international pressure as concerns grow over the war’s human toll, saying “there are those who showed us their true friendship and those who betrayed us.” He didn’t name names.

Abiy’s Prosperity Party was declared the winner of parliamentary elections earlier this year in a vote criticized and at times boycotted by opposition parties, but described by some outside electoral observers as better run than those in the past.

The prime minister, the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize winner for restoring ties with neighboring Eritrea and for pursuing sweeping political reforms, now faces major challenges as war in the Tigray region spreads into other parts of the country, deadly ethnic violence continues and watchdogs warn that repressive government practices are on the return.

Abiy said the country will start an “inclusive national dialogue that includes everyone who believes in a roundtable discussion,” led by Ethiopians.

The 11-month war is weakening Ethiopia’s economy, once one of Africa’s fastest-growing, and threatening to isolate Abiy, once seen as a regional peacemaker. Six African heads of state — from Nigeria, Senegal, Uganda and neighboring Somalia, Djibouti, Kenya and South Sudan — attended Monday’s ceremony.

“Today, more than ever before, we hope to see an Ethiopian nation that is at peace with itself,” Djibouti’s president, Ismail Omar Guelleh, told the crowd. “We all know how fragile peace is in our region. ... We remain certain that the Ethiopian nation is bigger and stronger than whatever ails her.”

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta added that “Ethiopia is our mother. If our mother is not at peace, neither can the family be at peace.”

Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki, in a message shared by his information minister, expressed hope that the trajectory of his country and Ethiopia “will be further enhanced and consolidated ... in spite of efforts by negative external forces of regression.” The president, who has never allowed national elections since independence from Ethiopia, didn’t attend Monday’s events.

Ethiopia’s government last week faced condemnation from the United Nations, the United States and several European nations after it expelled seven U.N. officials it accused of supporting the Tigray forces who have been battling Ethiopian and allied forces.

The government is under growing pressure as people begin to starve to death in Tigray under what the U.N. has called a “de facto humanitarian blockade.” Last week the U.N. humanitarian chief told The Associated Press that the situation in Ethiopia is a “stain on our conscience.”

The U.S. has threatened further sanctions if humanitarian access to Tigray isn’t granted soon and the warring sides don’t take steps toward peace. Thousands of people have been killed in the war waged between the Tigray forces who once dominated the national government and Ethiopian and allied forces.

As Abiy faces another term, “I think it will give the government the chance to renew its commitment to reform and to enhance the human rights situation in the country,” Amnesty International researcher Fisseha Tekle told The Associated Press. “They have a parliament which is dominated by one ruling party, so if they have the commitment, they also have the opportunity to do that.”

The results of a joint investigation into the conflict by the U.N. human rights office and the government-created Ethiopian Human Rights Commission will be released on Nov. 1, a few days before the war’s one-year mark.


Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB

Ethiopia: Abiy names Cabinet as pressure from US, EU mounts
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has replaced two key ministers days after being sworn in for a new term. The country's leadership faces growing pressure from the West to resolve the Tigray crisis.

Abiy Ahmed sits surrounded by parliamentarians wearing masks
Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed names his new cabinet in parliament

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has named a new defense minister and peace minister in a Cabinet shake-up that comes just days after he took the oath of office as prime minister for a new five-year term.

The Cabinet was approved on Wednesday by parliament, where Abiy's Prosperity Party has an overwhelming majority after winning June's elections.

The new defense minister, Abraham Belay, was previously the head of the federally appointed interim administration in the Tigray region, where fighting between government forces and the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) has been raging for 11 months.
Abraham is said to be very close to Abiy, with both having done stints at Ethiopia's cyberespionage agency. In addition, Abraham was previously minister of innovation and technology, a position Abiy has also held.
Abraham Belay speaks into a row of microphones
Ethiopia's new defense minister, Abraham Belay, seen here in 2019, is close to Abiy
Abraham is Tigrayan, one of dozens of ethnic groups in Ethiopia.

It is "symbolically interesting" to see a Tigrayan appointed as defense minister, Kjetil Tronvoll, a professor of peace and conflict studies at Norway's Bjorknes University College who closely follows Ethiopia's politics, told DW over the phone from Oslo.

"But I don't think it will be looked upon from the Tigrayan constituency as a kind of an olive branch," Tronvoll said.

Tronvoll said many Tigrayans saw Abraham as having "sold out" when he assumed the position as interim administrator of Tigray earlier this year after Ethiopia's Parliament declared the regional leadership illegal.

New peace minster
The Peace Ministry, which oversees civilian security agencies such as the police, also has a new chief. Benalf Andualem, the head of the Prosperity Party's secretariat, is viewed as one of Ethiopia's most powerful figures after Abiy.

In Benalf's appointment, Ethiopia analyst Tronvoll sees Abiy bringing in a "much stronger, possibly more hard-line, more loyalist figure close to his orbit."
"It might appear in the sense that Abiy is bunkering down and circling the wagons, putting even more loyalists into these very prominent ministries [Defense and Peace]," Tronvoll said.
Abiy Ahmed holds up his hand as he is sworn in
Abiy was sworn in Monday for a new term; he became Ethiopia's prime minister in 2018

Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mokonnen, as expected, has held on to both his posts.

Ethiopia's Foreign Ministry stoked outrage last week after announcing the expulsion of seven UN officials — a decision set to be discussed by the UN Security Council on Wednesday.
Abiy's office touted the fact that three new Cabinet members hail from opposition parties, saying on Twitter that this reflected a "commitment to inclusivity".

Yonas Aday, who researches peace and security expert at Addis Ababa University, told DW that the new Cabinet is something to "congratulate" Ethiopia's government on.
"The way it's been established was very much inclusive," Yonas said. "It is a groundbreaking start to Ethiopian political culture."

Humanitarian crisis in Tigray
Abiy's new Cabinet will be closely watched for signs of a changing approach to the conflict in Tigray amid mounting pressure from the West to resolve the crisis and outrage over the expulsion of the UN officials.

The prime minister's office, which blames the TPLF for starting the war, has said certain conciliatory measures such as declassifying the TPLF as a terrorist group can only happen after the new government has formed.

But analysts don't believe that the new ministers will initially do much to soften Abiy's hard-line approach.
A sick and skinny child sits on a hospital bed in Tigray while receiving medicine
The UN is reporting "alarming" levels of malnutrition among children in Tigray

"It is commendable that some opposition party members are included in his Cabinet selection. However, in my opinion, it is very unlikely that someone from his own Cabinet will come up and challenge Abiy," said Mohammed Girma, an Ethiopian academic who researches social harmony as a visiting lecturer at the University of Roehampton in London.

"The possibilities are that he would select Cabinet members who would defend his position rather than those who would confront him when they think he is wrong," Girma said.
Horn of Africa analyst Cameron Hudson offered similar sentiments.

"If anything, Abiy was at his most vulnerable leading up to the elections and leading up to his inauguration," Hudson, a former diplomat in the Horn of Africa region and now a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, a US think tank, told DW.

"With that behind him, I think he's going to be even more empowered and emboldened to continue to pursue this course of action [in Tigray]," Hudson said.

International pressure
Ethiopia faces growing international condemnation over its handling of the conflict in Tigray, home to 6 million people.

The United States and several European countries, including Britain and France, were behind calls for Wednesday's scheduled UN Security Council meeting about Ethiopia's expulsion of the UN officials for "meddling."

Watch video01:52
UN food agency releases footage of Ethiopia food crisis
The expulsion came after the officials raised concerns about the government's stopping medicine, food and fuel from entering Tigray, where hundreds of thousands of people face faminelike conditions.

Only about 11% of the trucks needed to transport life-saving food have entered the region since mid-July, the UN said last week.

The United States has also threatened sanctions if humanitarian access to Tigray isn't granted soon.

Resolute in the face of criticism
Hudson believes that Abiy will remain defiant even in the face of further international pressure.

Ethiopia enjoys the support of permanent UN Security Council members China and Russia, who have both made clear that they see the Tigray conflict as an internal affair for Ethiopia, Hudson said.

On top of this, Hudson said, despite "the threat of really comprehensive and biting US sanctions hanging over him," Abiy expelled the UN officials in what "many Security Council members are calling the most brazen act of defiance against the UN in decades."

"If that's how he responds in the face of all of this pressure, all of this criticism, the threat of sanctions ... then it's hard to imagine that further threats are going to do much," Hudson said.

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB

Security forces rescue nearly 200 kidnap victims in northwest Nigeria
Issued on: 08/10/2021 - 08:30
Security forces guard the Government Girls Junior Secondary School where more than 300 girls had been abducted by gunmen two days earlier, in Jangebe town, Zamfara state, northern Nigeria, on February 28, 2021.

Security forces guard the Government Girls Junior Secondary School where more than 300 girls had been abducted by gunmen two days earlier, in Jangebe town, Zamfara state, northern Nigeria, on February 28, 2021. © Ibrahim Mansur, AP Photo/File
1 min
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Nigerian security forces have rescued nearly 200 kidnap victims during raids on camps of criminal gangs in dense forests in the country's northwest, police said.

Heavily armed gangs known locally as bandits have plagued northwest and central Nigeria for years, raiding and looting villages and abducting for ransom, but violence has surged over the past year.

The rescued victims -- 187 men, women and children -- were freed in Zamfara State, where they had been kidnapped in separate bandit attacks, police said late Thursday.
Police released photographs showing dozens of men, women and children sitting huddled on the ground after they were freed on Thursday.

"The abducted victims who spent many weeks in captivity were unconditionally rescued following extensive search and rescue operations that lasted for hours," Zamfara State police spokesman Mohammed Shehu said in a statement.

The rescue was part of a weeks-long broader military operation in Zamfara and other northwestern states that has included telecoms blackouts to disrupt bandit communications.

The army said last week that it had "neutralised" nearly 300 criminals during the operations. But violence has not stopped.

On Tuesday, around 100 bandits on motorcycles besieged Kuryan Madaro village in Zamfara, killing 14 people and seizing money and mobile phones, residents said.

News of attacks in the northwest often emerges slowly since authorities suspended telecommunications last month in Zamfara and parts of Katsina, Sokoto and Kaduna states.
Telecom service was restored to Zamfara capital Gusau last week.

The gangs, who maintain camps in forests straddling those four states, have been increasingly targeting schools where they kidnap students for ransom.

Hundreds of schoolchildren have been abducted in mass kidnappings since December. Most have been freed or released after ransoms but dozens are still being held.

Bandit violence is just one challenge facing Nigeria's security forces, who are also battling a 12-year jihadist insurgency in the northeast that has killed more than 40,000 people.

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB

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Congo confirms new case of Ebola in country’s east

BENI, Congo (AP) — A case of Ebola has been confirmed in eastern Congo, according to the country’s Health Ministry and the National Institute of Biomedical Research, about five months after the country declared an end to the last outbreak that killed six people in the region.

A child of nearly 3 years old was sent to the Butsili hospital in Beni after presenting various symptoms related to Ebola. He died on Oct. 6 and tested positive for Ebola, according to the research institute and the ministry.

“This is certainly concerning given the toll of infectious diseases in this region including COVID and beyond and highlights the need for continual surveillance and preparedness even with highly efficacious vaccines,” said Jason Kindrachuk, assistant professor and virologist at the University of Manitoba in Canada who has worked on Ebola in Africa.

“The vast prior experience with Ebola response in the (Congo) will hopefully allow for quick identification of contacts and rapid deployment of vaccines where possible,” he added.

A 2018 outbreak in Eastern Congo was the second deadliest in the world killing nearly 2,300 people.

It was not immediately known if this case is related to that outbreak, which ended in 2020, or to the cases earlier this year.


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Has No Life - Lives on TB

Colombian nun walks free in Mali after Islamist group kidnapping
The liberation of the nun, captured on the border with Burkina Faso nearly five years ago, has been welcomed by the Colombian government. Mali's president saluted her "bravery" after the ordeal.

This grab from a video provided by the SITE Intelligence Group taken on July 02, 2017 shows Colombian nun Gloria Cecilia Narvaez Argoti, one of the six hostages held by al-Qaida's Mali branch
The Malian authorities did not say whether they paid a ransom for the nun's release

A Colombian nun kidnapped by al-Qaida jihadists in 2017 near Mali's border with Burkina Faso was freed Saturday, the Malian presidential office said.

Gloria Cecilia Narvaez was kidnapped by the Islamist Macina Liberation Front in February 2017 while working as a missionary.

What do we know of her release?
Mali interim President Assimi Goita announced the liberation on Twitter where he thanked the security forces for their participation in the operation.

"The presidency of Mali salutes the courage and bravery of the nun. This liberation is the crowning achievement of four years and eight months of combined efforts by several intelligence services," Goita said.

Photos on his Twitter post show Narvaez dressed in a yellow robe and headscarf smiling as she meets the president.

Watch video05:38
Mali: No rest for a country in crisis
"I thank the Malian authorities, the president, for all the efforts made so that I am free," Narvaez said on the country's national television.

She reported staying healthy while in captivity for nearly five years.

The Malian authorities did not say whether they paid a ransom for the nun's release.

What was the reaction in Colombia?
Colombian Foreign Minister and Vice President Marta Lucia Ramirez tweeted her joy at the release of Narvaez.

"We are enormously happy and thankful for this result," Ramirez said.

She acknowledged the role of the French government, personally mentioning Prime Minister Jean Castex and Defense Minister Florence Parly.


French troops helped to secure Mali from jihadist forces in 2013 after Islamists took some cities in the north of the country.
French President Emmanuel Macron (up) flies over Gao inside a military helicopter during a visit to France's Barkhane counter-terrorism operation in Africa's Sahel region, northern Mali,
French forces have helped combat never-ending waves of insurgents in Mali
The al-Qaida-linked group has found kidnapping to be a lucrative way to keep up their fight against national armies, UN peacekeepers and French forces in West Africa's Sahel region. They regularly kill Malian troops in roadside bombings.
The jihadists are still holding a US clergyman and a French journalist in the western African region.
jc/sri (AP, AFP)

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB

Libyan rivals ink initial deal on pullout of mercenaries
By SAMY MAGDYyesterday

ABOARD GEO BARENTS (AP) — Libya’s rival sides reached an initial agreement on the withdrawal of foreign fighters and mercenaries from the North African nation, the United Nations said. It is a key step toward unifying the violence-wracked country.

The dispute over mercenaries and foreign fighters has long been an obstacle, particularly ahead of Libya’s landmark general elections due in December.

Libya has been engulfed in chaos since a NATO-backed uprising toppled longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011. The oil-rich country was for years split between rival governments, one based in the capital of Tripoli and the other in the eastern part of the country. Each side is backed by different foreign powers and militia groups.

The U.N. mission mediating between the rivals said a 10-member joint military commission, with five representatives from each side, signed a “gradual and balanced” withdrawal deal Friday, at the end of three days of talks facilitated by the U.N. in Geneva.

The plan would be “the cornerstone for the gradual, balanced, and sequenced process of withdrawal” of the mercenaries and foreign forces, the mission said.

Jan Kubis, the U.N. special envoy for Libya, welcomed the move as “another breakthrough achievement.”

Libya’s split came into the forefront in 2019, when self-styled military commander Khalifa Hifter, allied with the east-based administration, launched an offensive to take Tripoli from armed militias loosely allied with the U.N.-supported but weak government in the country’s capital.

Hifter was backed by Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Russia and France. But, his 14-month campaign and march on Tripoli ultimately failed in June 2020, after Turkey sent troops to help the U.N.-supported administration, which also had the backing of Qatar and Italy.

After the fighting largely stalemated, subsequent U.N.-sponsored peace talks brought about a cease-fire last October and installed an interim government that is expected to lead the country into the December elections. The cease-fire deal also included the departure of foreign forces and mercenaries within three months — something that was never implemented.

Friday’s deal “creates a positive momentum that should be built upon to move forward towards a stable and democratic stage, including through the holding of free, credible and transparent national elections on 24 December, with results accepted by all,” Kubis said.

The sides said they would now go back discuss this with their base and concerned international parties “to support the implementation of this plan and the respect of Libya’s sovereignty.”

The deal also called for the deployment of U.N. observers to monitor the cease-fire before the implementation of the withdrawal plan.

In December, then U.N. acting envoy for Libya Stephanie Williams estimated that there have been at least 20,000 foreign fighters and mercenaries in Libya over the past few years, including Russians, Syrians, Sudanese, and Chadians.

Though the agreement on mercenaries is seen as a step forward, earlier this month, Libyan lawmakers in the east dealt a setback to the peace process by voting to reschedule the parliamentary elections for January, a month later.

It wasn’t immediately clear how the lawmakers’ move would translate into a postponement of the vote.

Plain Jane

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Tigray forces say Ethiopia has launched a major offensive
Associated Pressyesterday

FILE - In this Saturday, May 8, 2021 file photo, Ethiopian government soldiers ride in the back of a truck on a road near Agula, north of Mekele, in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia. Tigray forces say Ethiopia’s government has launched its threatened major military offensive against them in an attempt to end a nearly year-old war. A statement from the Tigray external affairs office on Monday, Oct. 11 alleged that hundreds of thousands of Ethiopian “regular and irregular fighters” launched a coordinated assault on several fronts. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis, File)
1 of 8
FILE - In this Saturday, May 8, 2021 file photo, Ethiopian government soldiers ride in the back of a truck on a road near Agula, north of Mekele, in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia. Tigray forces say Ethiopia’s government has launched its threatened major military offensive against them in an attempt to end a nearly year-old war. A statement from the Tigray external affairs office on Monday, Oct. 11 alleged that hundreds of thousands of Ethiopian “regular and irregular fighters” launched a coordinated assault on several fronts. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis, File)

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Tigray forces say Ethiopia’s government has launched its threatened major military offensive against them in an attempt to end a nearly year-old war.

A statement from the Tigray external affairs office alleged that hundreds of thousands of Ethiopian “regular and irregular fighters” launched a coordinated assault on several fronts. It blamed Ethiopian forces and those from the country’s Amhara region, where much of the recent fighting has occurred after Tigray forces retook much of their own region in June.

The Tigray statement, which also alleged airstrikes, drone strikes and bombardments by heavy artillery, could not immediately be confirmed amid communications cuts in areas of fighting.

In a statement to The Associated Press, the spokeswoman for Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, Billene Seyoum, said only that “the government of Ethiopia will continue to counter the (Tigray forces’) destruction, violence and killings in the Amhara region and elsewhere.”

The new offensive has shattered a cease-fire that Ethiopia’s government declared in June as its forces retreated from Tigray, where it had been pursuing the Tigray leaders who had dominated the national government for 27 years before Abiy took office and sidelined them.
Thousands of people have been killed since the political dispute turned deadly in November last year.

The new fighting also defies calls for peace by the United Nations and others, and the threat of new sanctions from the United States and European Union.

“Our forces have no other option than to defend their people,” the new Tigray statement said.

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB

ICJ sides with Somalia in Kenya maritime border dispute
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has ruled that a contested maritime border between Somalia and Kenya should be adjusted in a way that grants Somalia rights over most of an oil-rich chunk of the Indian Ocean.

A man seated on a scooter with Somali flags, celebrates the International Court of Justice ruling in Mogadishu
A man seated on a scooter with Somali flags, celebrates the International Court of Justice ruling in Mogadishu

Somalia appears to have benefited most from an International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling on a contested maritime boundary with Kenya.

In a lengthy judgment made in The Hague on Tuesday, judges at the top UN court ruled that there was "no agreed maritime boundary" in force, and drew a new border line close to the one previously proposed by Somalia.

Judges rejected the line Kenya proposed extending from its coast, saying it would have had a "severe cut-off effect" for Somalia. The court's line adjusted Somalia's proposal slightly, saying Kenya was at risk of its having maritime rights squeezed between Tanzania to the south and Somalia to the north.

ICJ President Joan Donoghue reading a summary of the judgment, said the court was "satisfied" that the adjusted line "achieves an equitable solution."

The court found that Kenya had failed to prove there was an established sea boundary between the countries, which would have given it a greater piece of the contested territory.

Although the ICJ decision cannot be appealed and is legally binding, it has no mechanism to enforce rulings. However, states can turn to the UN Security Council if another country fails to obey a ruling.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said his government "rejects in totality and does not recognize the findings in the decision."

Nairobi had already made it clear last week that it would no longer acknowledge the court's jurisdiction, calling the ICJ "biased."

What is the dispute about?
Somalia opened the case against Kenya in 2014 over contested parts of the Indian Ocean believed to have rich natural oil and gas reserves. The claim involves 100,000 square kilometers (nearly 40,000 square miles) of seafloor which both countries lay claim to.

The core contention is the direction in the which the joint maritime boundary lies. Somalia believes that the boundary should follow its land border and head out in a southeasterly direction.

Kenya believes that the line runs in a straight easterly direction of its coastline, essentially granting it rights to the portion of sea in question.
Map of the disputed territory between Kenya and Somalia

The International Court of Justice believes that the boundary line should be shifted in an equitable way

According to the court's decision, Somalia now has control of most of the contested territory, while Kenya got a smaller piece.

How did Somalia respond?
Somalia's President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed described the court's decision as an historic victory.

"The rule of law has succeeded, this victory belongs to the Somali people. I thank the World Justice Court who supported the rule of law," Mohamed said.

The Somali president also called on Kenya to "respect the international rule of law," adding that it "should instead see the decision of the court as an opportunity to strengthen the relationship of the two countries."

Somalian Information Minister Osman Dubbe took to Twitter to express his satisfaction with the court's decision and said: "Finally we made it. Thanks to all great lawyers who represented Somalia on the International Court of Justice."

But Kenyan President Kenyatta said that the ruling amounted to "a zero-sum game, which will strain the relations between the two countries."

"It will also reverse the social, political and economic gains; and potentially aggravate the peace and security situation in the fragile Horn of Africa Region," he added.

Can the ruling be enforced?
The judgment has raised some questions among Kenyan commentators.

Peter Kagwanja, a diplomatic specialist in Kenya, told DW that Somalia disputed Kenya's claim in 2014 as part of an "expansionist agenda" to "encroach on Kenya's territory."

"The ICJ is an arbitration court. It is not a court of justice. You cannot arbitrate between two neighbors who have not talked at all. What are you arbitrating?" he said.

Kelvin Mogeni, who is president of the Kenyan chapter of the ICJ, told DW that it remained to be seen whether the ruling could be acted upon.

"That decision remains a good decision only when it can be implemented. Implementation on international law is a question of determining how powerful that country can be to implement it, and if the other one refuses, then you have to use force," Mogeni said.

What will happen next?
Kenya made the decision to revoke recognition of the court's jurisdiction just days ahead of the ruling. The matter has strained diplomatic relations between the two countries.

"The delivery of the judgment will be the culmination of a flawed judicial process that Kenya has had reservations with, and withdrawn from, on account of obvious and inherent bias," Kenya's Foreign Ministry said.

In March, Nairobi skipped public hearings in The Hague and had already granted oil exploration rights to Italian energy company ENI.

However, in this regard, the court also found no compelling evidence that Kenya should pay any reparations for maritime activity conducted in the area, because of the uncertain status of the boundary line.
kb/wd,wmr (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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Nigeria faces a tough time diversifying from oil
Nigeria's dependence on crude oil makes its economy vulnerable. But the transition to an economy not based on oil won't be easy.

A woman walks along an oil pipeline in Nigeria
Oil has brought Nigeria great wealth but also many problems

The oil sector has an outsize influence on Nigeria's economy despite representing a relatively small proportion of the gross domestic product: about 9% in 2020. But, in the same period, crude oil sales made up one-third of the government's budget revenue and about 90% of the West African nation's export earnings.

"This is bad because it makes Nigeria a very volatile country," said Tokunbo Afikuyomi, a UK-based economist who writes for the Nigerian financial publication Stears Business.
A worker inspects some pipes on a drilling platform in Nigeria
Nigeria is Africa's biggest oil and gas producer

When the price of crude oil is lower than government projections, gaping holes emerge in the federal budget.

Though this has been a problem in Nigeria for at least the past decade, the coronavirus pandemic has made it worse. The slump in global oil prices at the beginning of the pandemic meant Nigeria's oil revenues were around 65% lower than anticipated in the first half of 2020, causing a massive budget shortfall.

Furthermore, diminished oil sales means less money circulating in the country, making it tough for Nigeria's manufacturers to import the raw materials or components they need.

Finite fossil fuels
There are additional reasons why the nation of 206 million people should reduce its dependency on oil and gas, Taiwo Oyaniran, the associate director of the global consulting company PwC in Nigeria, told DW.

"What is happening globally is that a lot of countries are moving away from fossil fuels like crude oil as a source of energy, and they are moving towards clean energy," Oyaniran said.
"So it is quite important for us to consider other sources of revenue generation as a country," he added.

Watch video01:33
Shell blames organized crime for oil losses
Plus, Oyaniran said, Nigeria's oil resources will eventually be exhausted, making it "absolutely essential" to develop other areas of its economy.

Nigeria is seeking to advance agriculture, information and communications technology (ICT), and the creative industries, such as the thriving music and Nollywood film industries, as potential export alternatives.

Agriculture largely unproductive
Before the discovery of oil in Nigeria in the 1950s, agriculture was the backbone of its economy.

Half of Nigeria's workforce currently works in agriculture, Afikuyomi said, so "there is a school of thought that it's almost impossible to grow the economy or do any exports or any production without agriculture."

Palm oil, cocoa beans, sesame seeds and cashew nuts are among the crops identified as potential export earners.
Aerial view of a palm oil plantation in Indonesia
Countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia have overtaken Nigeria as global palm oil producers

Nigeria was once the world's leading exporter of palm oil, a vital global ingredient in many processed foods.

The government is investing heavily in the palm oil industry, providing, for example, an agricultural credit scheme that helps operators buy quality and up-to-date seedlings and set up new plantations and mills.

But it's a question of whether the agricultural sector can increase exports, analysts say, because it mainly involves small-scale farmers who are relatively unproductive, even compared with other African nations.

Nigeria's farmers can produce about 7,000 kilograms (15,400 pounds) of tomatoes per hectare (2.47 acres). In contrast, Kenya can produce 20,000 kilograms of tomatoes on a similar piece of land, according to Nigerian economist Afikuyomi.

Oyaniran also used tomatoes to illustrate the challenges in Nigeria's agricultural sector.
A women holds up a bucket of tomatoes at a market
Nigeria must increase productivity of crops such as tomatoes to expand its agricultural sector

"Almost 50% of tomatoes get destroyed from the farm gate to the market," he said, because of logistical issues arising from "poor road networks, poor packaging systems, and insufficient cooling and refrigeration systems."

Until Nigeria can solve these issues, he said, "we are not likely going to see huge investments coming into the agribusiness space."

Eyeing the ICT industry
Nigeria has long been home to one of the continent's most vibrant tech hubs.
The coronavirus pandemic gave the ICT industry an additional boost. Companies desperately sought remote working solutions for their employees, and people stuck at home turned towards digital communications, online banking, and shopping.

Jumia, Nigeria's largest online trader, reported turnover growth of about 30% for the first quarter of 2020. As a result, the ICT sector contributed nearly 18% of the GDP in the second quarter of 2020 compared to 10% in 2018.

A large part of this increase came from financial technology (fintech) as the need for cashless payments, mobile transactions and easy loans exploded during the pandemic.
Nigeria attracted just over $134 million in fintech venture capital in 2020, capturing more fintech funding than anywhere else in Africa.

An estimated two out of five Nigerians are financially excluded. This, combined with the country's youthful population and increasing smartphone penetration, "creates the perfect recipe for a thriving fintech sector," according to KPMG, an international consulting company.

"We're seeing more and more unicorn companies, companies valued at more than $1 billion [€ 860 million], popping up in Nigeria's tech innovation ecosystem, so that's only going to grow and grow," Afikuyomi said.

The ICT sector, including fintech, still faces myriad hurdles, such as Nigeria's patchy and erratic electricity supply, a fragmented fiber-optic internet network, and a shortage of trained software engineers.
A train stops at a train platform in Nigeria
Nigeria is building a new rail line between Lagos and Ibadan as part of its infrastructure push

Infrastructure not enough
The country's crumbling infrastructure is a major impediment to Nigeria's push to pivot from oil.

In 2020, President Muhammadu Buhari's administration announced a new infrastructure drive, with multibillion-dollar plans to upgrade roads, railways, bridges, airports and power supply.

Oyaniran said Nigeria's growing insecurity was one of the biggest threats to economic-diversification efforts.

Boko Haram insurgents still hit Nigeria's northeast. The northwest is wracked by banditry and kidnapping, whereas the north-central is plagued by violent disputes between farmers and nomadic herders. The southern part of the country has also seen its fair share of attacks and kidnappings.

"Unless we are able to effectively curtail the security issue, the expected outcome from all the investment in infrastructure might not be realized," Oyaniran said.

Watch video02:29
Nigeria faces growing threat from violent extremists

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB

Ethiopia: War in Tigray continues as government stays silent
Military attacks are once again punctuating the ongoing crisis in Ethiopia. But government officials have not acknowledged a fresh offensive, which Tigray forces say began last week.

Dozens of armed people on a tank
Reports of fresh fighting in Ethiopia's north remain unconfirmed by government forces

An air-and-ground offensive in Ethiopia's northern Tigray region is intensifying, according to Tigrayan forces, with the Ethiopian government pressing a fresh attack .

The Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) says the fighting began with airstrikes launched by the federal government last week. However, the office of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has not acknowledged the offensive. The office released a statement stating that the government had "a responsibility to protect its citizens in all parts of the country from any acts of terrorism."

Government officials have not responded to DW's requests for further comment.

The offensive reportedly began just days after Abiy was sworn in for a new five-year term. He is facing growing pressure from the international community to swiftly resolve the Tigray crisis, with the fighting raising fears that the conflict could further destabilize the Horn of Africa nation and plunge the region deeper into famine.
A tank damaged during fighting between Ethiopian federal forces and Tigray forces stands on the side of the road
A tank damaged during fighting between Ethiopian federal forces and Tigray forces

Fighting on all fronts
With the region closed to journalists and most phone connections down, attempts to independently verify the situation and confirm casualty numbers have proved difficult.
Hailemariam Ambaye, the Northern Wollo Zone administration head in Amhara province, was reachable on Wednesday.

"The government forces continue their assault to retake the occupied territories," he told DW. "It has brought a lot of force to the fight. ... At the moment, the offense has started on all fronts, and we will give more details soon."
people with rifles crouching on the ground
Ethiopian army special forces and militia fighting in the Afar region

According to Reuters, TPLF spokesperson Getachew Reda denied claims that the rebels had used heavy weapons against civilians but did confirm fresh hostilities in the Afar region.
"Enemy forces are crumbling and in disarray in parts of Afar," he said.

The TPLF pushed into the neighboring Afar and Amhara regions in July, which it said was intended to stop government forces from regrouping and break what it calls a humanitarian siege of Tigray.

Last month, the government said it had "suffered great losses" and was "routed" from Afar, while the TPLF said it had withdrawn troops from the area.

Afar currently hosts the only land route through which humanitarian aid can enter Tigray.
"We do not target civilians, and the alleged artillery attack is yet another [fictitious] accusation to tarnish our forces' reputation," Reda said. He added that the TPLF's current military objective is to "push back the offensive and go as far as it takes to break the siege on the people of Tigray."

He said the number of casualties was "staggering."

Humanitarian crisis deepens
Humanitarian sources have also reported signs of a government offensive that could potentially mark a new phase of the almost-yearlong Tigray War.

Gahas Mohammed, the chairperson of the Afar Human Rights Organization, told DW how one of the latest attacks unfolded.

"[It] happened on two villages," Mohammed said. "The first was on Lewa, the district is located at the border area between Woldeya in the Amhara region and Harra in Afar. In the last two days six people were killed and more than 20 injured."

"We have said that the war is going on in the Afar region," Mohammed said. "As per their own ratified constitution, crossing a regional border means violating the constitution. But they are committing the offense. They do not care about civilians."
Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed during his swearing in ceremony
Prime Minister Abiy was recently sworn in for a second five-year term

Observers are closely watching Abiy's new Cabinet for signs of a different approach to the conflict, as the government faces growing international condemnation for its handling of the war and the recent expulsion of seven senior UN officials.

The prime minister's office, which blames theTPLF for starting the war, has said certain conciliatory measures, such as declassifying the TPLF as a terrorist group, can only happen after the new government has formed.

Western nations call for ceasefire
Fighting broke out in November 2020 in the Tigray region after Abiy sent troops to topple the TPLF, which dominated national politics before he took office in 2018.

Abiy, the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize laureate said that came in response to TPLF attacks on federal army camps.

Government forces swiftly drove the TPLF from Tigray's cities and towns, but the rebels retook most of the region, including its capital, Mekele, by late June.

The war has soured relations between Ethiopia and Western powers, including the United States, long a critical ally.
Soldiers marching with weapons in Ethiopia's Afar region
Government soldiers in the Afar region: Reports of a fresh offensive have still not been confirmed by officials

A US State Department spokesperson told AFP this week that Washington was "considering the full range of tools at our disposal to address the worsening crisis in northern Ethiopia."
These measures include: "Targeted economic sanctions to hold accountable those responsible for, or complicit in, prolonging the conflict, obstructing humanitarian access or preventing a ceasefire, while mitigating unintended effects on the people of Ethiopia and the wider region."

US global trade representative Katherine Tai on Thursday said Washington would "soon" make a decision on Ethiopia's status under the African Growth and Opportunty Act (AGOA) which currently gives it duty-free access to the US.

"Reports coming back to us through official channels and civil society are not encouraging," she said. "What is happening in Ethiopia is a humanitarian crisis."

On Tuesday the US, the EU, France, Germany and the UK called on all parties "to immediately end abuses and enter into negotiations toward a ceasefire."

Watch video01:52
UN food agency releases footage of Ethiopia food crisis
Alemnew Mekonnen and Mantegaftot Sileshi contributed to this report.

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB

Police officer killed in anglophone Cameroon after he shoots 4-year-old girl at checkpoint
Issued on: 15/10/2021 - 18:35
A crowd of people gathered in protest after a four-year-old girl was shot by police in Buea, Cameroon on October 14, 2021.

A crowd of people gathered in protest after a four-year-old girl was shot by police in Buea, Cameroon on October 14, 2021. © Twitter
Text by:Pariesa YoungFollow
4 min
A four-year-old girl was shot and killed by a police officer on October 14 in Buea, in southwestern Cameroon. She was hit by a bullet when the officer fired shots at a vehicle that failed to stop at a police checkpoint. Checkpoints are a common sight in the region, a hotspot of tension between anglophone separatists and French-speaking government forces. Protests erupted after the incident and the crowd beat the officer responsible to death.

Videos shared on social networks show a crowd of people marching through the streets of Buea, chanting in anger and waving branches of leaves. At the head of the crowd, a man holds the body of young Caro Louise Ndialle, who was shot in the head by a gendarme, a military police officer, at a checkpoint along the road.

According to the young girl’s uncle, who spoke to the FRANCE 24 Observers team, Caro Louise Ndialle was one of three children in the car on the way to school, with her mother and a driver. When ordered to stop at the checkpoint and provide documents, the driver got out of the car and tried to negotiate with the officers, saying the children were late for school. When he went to get back into the car, one of the officers opened fire

Videos showing the gendarme, the mob and the dead girl have been circulating online.

‘When people learned a child had been killed, they came from every corner’
Matthew (not his real name) is a journalist living in Buea who rushed to the scene after hearing about the child’s death. He spoke to us on condition of anonymity, fearing retribution from police.

When I got to the scene, I saw the vehicle in which the little girl was shot. I saw the gendarme. He had already been killed, so he was lying in the gutter with stones all around his body. A crowd had come to kill him immediately, because the place where this happened is very busy – there’s a lot of construction and a football pitch, in the mornings there are always a lot of people there. When they learned a child had been killed, they came from every corner towards the officer. They beat him with stones and took his gun.
The crowd that killed the gendarme had taken the girl and were parading in the streets with her body. The crowd got really bitter after killing the officer and they wanted to take the corpse to the governor’s office. They started blocking the streets and disrupting traffic along the way. Everyone was holding green branches, or something green, because green signifies peace.
A crowd of people marched through the streets of Buea, Cameroon on October 14, 2021 following the police shooting of a young girl.

The crowd brought the child’s body to the office of the governor, who tried to calm them by promising punishment for her death.

The FRANCE 24 Observers team spoke to the girl’s uncle, Witty Mistrel, who travelled to Buea after he learned of her death. He met with the crowd in the street to try to take her body back home.

I went to go talk to [the crowd] but nobody listened. Everyone was just singing and protesting. I followed them until they stopped and then I went to go talk to the person who was carrying the child. I asked to take the child. We wanted to take her body before they continued their riot. But everybody said ‘No, we can’t let the child go’. We followed them all day, begging to take the child, but there was no way to get her. Finally, we told them that we needed to take the child to the church and they accepted.
People are angry and they felt that this was an opportunity for them to show their anger to the world. That’s why everybody was on the streets. We are lucky that there was no fighting, no destruction. Everybody was just out to demonstrate and cry for our baby.
‘Anger has been piled up for so long’
Buea is a hotspot of tension in Cameroon’s “Anglophone crisis.” For nearly five years, English-speaking separatists, claiming marginalisation by the country’s French-speaking majority, have fought to create a breakaway state called Ambazonia.

English-speakers make up around a fifth of Cameroon’s population of 22 million people. More than 3,000 people have been killed in the conflict and a million displaced, with both separatists and the Cameroonian state accused of committing atrocities
According to Matthew, this incident escalated due to this ongoing crisis in Cameroon.

This is, in every sense, related to the Anglophone crisis, because that’s why the gendarmerie officers, the police and the army are everywhere in this region. These checkpoints are here because of the crisis. Since the crisis started, the number of checkpoints has increased, they can decide wherever they want to stop cars and check documents. You can go out and less than a kilometre from home they check your documents. They look at your documents and try to get money as a bribe, five hundred or a thousand francs [about 0.75 to 1.50 euros], corruption is a major challenge. Then a few steps down the road, they stop you again to check the same documents. It’s frustrating. And if you don’t comply they can impound your car, or they’ll follow you with their bikes or vans. But they don’t usually open fire.
The anger and frustration from the people are because of the crisis. When they were marching, they were angry, they said we should remove the police officers. The forces of law and order have a record of harassing people. So the population used it as an opportunity to vent their frustration, this anger that has been piled up for so long.
In a statement, the defence ministry called the officer’s actions “an inappropriate reaction, unsuited to the circumstances and clearly disproportionate to the irreverent behaviour of the driver”. An investigation has been opened into the death of the girl and the officer.

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB

Sudan: Thousands call for dissolution of transitional government
Crowds of protesters have taken to the streets of Khartoum to call for the military to take power. The current political tensions in Sudan could jeopardize the country's transition to democracy.

Group of protesters in Khartoum with flag
Protesters in Sudan have called for the dissolution of the transitional government

Thousands of Sudanese protesters marched in the capital, Khartoum, on Saturday calling for the transitional civilian-military government of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok to be dissolved and replaced by a military administration.

The protesters demanded, among other things, that General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the head of the armed forces and Sudan's joint military-civilian Sovereign Council, initiate a coup and seize power. Some chanted "one army, one people" and "the army will bring us bread."

The demonstration came as Sudan is in the grip of factional divisions that are endangering the country's transition to democracy after two decades of autocratic rule by Omar al-Bashir ended in April 2019. It follows on the heels of a reported foiled coup attempt on September 21 that the government blamed on both military officers and civilians linked to Bashir's regime.

The protest was organized by political parties and military-aligned splinter factions of the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC), an umbrella group that was behind the protests that led to Bashir's overthrow and has played a large role in the transition since then.

The pro-military protesters, many of whom were reportedly bused in from outside the capital, clashed with pro-civilian protesters who oppose a military takeover.

Pro-civilian groups have called for protests on Thursday.
Man with raised fist sitting on shoulders of another man in a crowd, a line of soldiers also visible
The demonstration took place outside the presidential palace

What is the situation in Sudan?
Military and civilian groups have been sharing power in Sudan since al-Bashir was toppled, but the alliance has been one fraught with tensions.

Following the failed coup attempt, military leaders have been calling for government reforms that civilian leaders see as preparing a power grab, adding to the mistrust between the two factions.

On top of this, a package of IMF-backed economic reforms that has included the cutting of fuel subsidies has led to a decline in support for the transitional government. The country is also afflicted with a shortage of essential goods, including medicines, fuel and wheat, owing to anti-government protests that have blocked the main Red Sea port of Port Sudan for more than two weeks.

On Friday, Hamdok warned that the transition was facing its "worst and most dangerous" crisis.

Watch video01:23
Behind Sudan's coup attempt: An economy in crisis
tj/csb (AFP, AP, Reuters)

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB

Beijing, Moscow, Ankara Push US Out Of Red Sea Dominance
Tyler Durden's Photo

MONDAY, OCT 18, 2021 - 02:00 AM
Authored by Gregory Copley via The Epoch Times,
Washington’s escalating hybrid warfare operations against Ethiopia may have cost the United States its strategic influence over the globally-vital Red Sea/Suez sea lanes.

The U.S. abandonment of Ethiopia has forced its government to seek allies and protection elsewhere, and Russia, China, and Turkey have rushed in to fill the power vacuum.
The now-open hostility of the Biden administration toward Ethiopia was rationalized as being supportive of Egypt’s position as the United States’ preferred partner in the region, controlling the Suez Canal. Washington also justifies its hostility on claims—widely discredited by the evidence—of Ethiopian “human rights violations” in its fight against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) marxist insurgency. But it was the TPLF which began the war surging into the neighboring Ethiopian Amhara and Afar regions, causing millions of refugees.

And despite the U.S. efforts to please Cairo, Beijing and Moscow have also improved their positions with the Egyptian government.

As a result, the Ethiopian government, which had seen Washington as its preferred partner, was forced to reopen talks with China—which the government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali had essentially rejected on taking office in 2018—as well as Russia and Turkey. Turkey had until this point been regarded as a threat to Ethiopia, given that it had been funding Islamist insurgents in Ethiopia in recent years.

To improve its defense position, the Ethiopian National Defense Force has been acquiring significant numbers of unmanned aerial combat vehicles (UCAVs) from China, Turkey, and Iran, and large amounts of weapons and ammunition from Russia, Belarus, and the United Arab Emirates. Russia has been moving Sukhoi Su-27S combat aircraft into the Ethiopian Air Force.
The U.S. moves support Egypt’s longstanding rivalry with Ethiopia—a rivalry which has not been reciprocated—out of fear that a strong and united Ethiopia could dominate the lower Red Sea and jeopardize maritime traffic coming into and from Egypt’s Suez Canal. Egypt has also alleged that Ethiopia, the source of the Blue Nile, was restricting Nile water flows to Egypt. This was proven to be a false claim, too, although Egypt does face an increasing water shortage because of its growing population. Cairo, however, needs a scapegoat.

China and Russia have been able to prove that they have real leverage in the region by resisting U.S. attempts to have the United Nations Security Council authorize military intervention against Ethiopia. The U.S. move was to help the TPLF and the equally violent—avowedly genocidal—Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) to break up Ethiopia.

Beijing and Moscow gained considerable gratitude in Addis Ababa by using their veto powers in the Security Council to delay or block Washington’s plans. And Beijing already maintains a significant military base in Ethiopia’s neighbor, Djibouti, and built the new Djibouti-Addis Ababa rail link.

Chinese People’s Liberation Army personnel attend the opening ceremony of China’s new military base in Djibouti on Aug. 1, 2017. (STR/AFP via Getty Image)

In mid-October, Washington escalated plans for economic sanctions against Ethiopia for refusing to allow “U.S. aid” convoys to be routed through the Ethiopian capital to the TPLF. Addis Ababa quickly discovered that the “U.S. aid” convoys were going merely to support the TPLF’s military operations against both the Tigrayan population and other Ethiopians.

Hundreds of “aid convoys” were reaching the TPLF, but the trucks never returned to the capital; they were diverted to be used by the TPLF to aid its mobile warfare, now well-entrenched in the Amara and Afar regions.

Far from being embattled, the TPLF has been engaging in large-scale, formal offensive military operations and causing what is genuinely a humanitarian crisis, with massive casualties and an estimated 2 million refugees. The World Heritage city of Lalibela in Amhara Region has been occupied for several months by TPLF forces, who were trained and armed by the United States under the Obama administration.

Long-serving U.N. officials in Ethiopia have complained that, with the U.S. pressure, new U.N. officials have been shipped into the country and have been promoting the U.S.-TPLF line against the advice of the more experienced U.N. country team. Meanwhile, Ethiopian government forces had, by the second week of October, begun an offensive against the TPLF, utilizing China’s Wing Loong II (CJ-2) MALE (Medium-Altitude, Long-Endurance) UCAVs, which had been shipped in urgently from Chengdu to the Harar Meda Air Base in Ethiopia, not far from the fighting in the Afar and Amhara regions. The CJ-2s can carry 420 kg of ordnance, including precision weapons.

Ethiopia has also acquired Turkish Bayraktar TB2 UCAVs, as well as Iranian UAVs.
It does not appear as though the U.S. escalation of political and economic warfare against Ethiopia will abate as long as the Biden administration’s present State Department team is in place. State Department sources admit privately that they are using the same playbook against Ethiopia as they used during the Clinton administration against Serbia in the 1990s. But the United States was then strategically far stronger, and China, Russia, and Turkey were far weaker.

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB

Ethiopia: Airstrikes hit Tigray capital — local sources
The announcement was made by regional TV controlled by the Tigray People's Liberation Front and confirmed by humanitarian sources. They are the first air raids on Mekele since the conflict began a year ago.

Äthiopien | Luftangriffe in Mekelle

Airstrikes hit the capital of Ethiopia's Tigray region on Monday, injuring several civilians, regional TV controlled by the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) reported. However, the government initially denied the reports.

What do we know about the airstrikes?
Tigrai TV said the attack on the capital, Mekele, was carried out by Abiy Ahmed, Ethiopia's prime minister.

This was confirmed to the Agence France-Presse by humanitarian officials. "Airstrike now in Mekele," one humanitarian official in the city said via SMS to AFP on condition of anonymity. The attacks were also confirmed by a second humanitarian source, two diplomats and a rebel spokesman.

The airstrikes were later confirmed on Monday by the state-run Ethiopian Press Agency.
A resident of the city told Reuters one strike hit close to a market, behind a hotel. An aid worker and a doctor in the region also said there had been an attack, and a diplomat shared pictures of what they said was the aftermath, including pools of blood and smashed windows.

Ethiopia's government spokesman, Legesse Tulu, denied launching an attack. "Why would the Ethiopian government attack its own city? Mekele is an Ethiopian city," he said. "Terrorists are the ones who attack cities with innocent civilians in them, not government," Legesse added. He also accused the TPLF of killing civilians in neighboring regions.

Watch video01:52
UN food agency shows Ethiopia food crisis

'Designed to inflict civilian casualties'

The first air raid occurred in the morning on the outskirts of Mekele near a cement factory, the sources said. The second took place around midday in the city center near the Planet Hotel, which is often used by top officials from the TPLF. The TPLF said the aerial assaults were designed to inflict civilian casualties.

"While they are losing big in what they dubbed as a final offensive against Tigray, they will obviously continue to target civilians in a desperate move to exact revenge on the people of Tigray," TPLF spokesman Getachew K Reda said on Twitter.

The Ethiopian military and its allies have been fighting forces from the northern region of Tigray for 11 months. The strikes come as the government appeared to be pursuing a new offensive in the war against the TPLF, which dominated national politics before Abiy took office in 2018.
There were reports last week of new clashes between government and rebel forces in Afar, a region bordering Tigray, to which fighting has also spread.
lc/rt (Reuters, AFP)

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB

Across Africa, major churches strongly oppose LGBTQ rights

Associate Pastor Caroline Omolo stands for a portrait at the Cosmopolitan Affirming Community church, which serves a predominantly LGBTQ congregation, in Nairobi, Kenya Monday, Oct. 11, 2021. “They have always organized a group to maybe silence us or make the church disappear,” Omolo says. “They don’t want it to appear anywhere.” (AP Photo/Brian Inganga)
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Associate Pastor Caroline Omolo stands for a portrait at the Cosmopolitan Affirming Community church, which serves a predominantly LGBTQ congregation, in Nairobi, Kenya Monday, Oct. 11, 2021. “They have always organized a group to maybe silence us or make the church disappear,” Omolo says. “They don’t want it to appear anywhere.” (AP Photo/Brian Inganga)

In Ghana, home to a diverse array of religions, leaders of major churches have united in denouncing homosexuality as a “perversion” and endorsing legislation that would, if enacted, impose some of the harshest anti-LGBTQ policies in Africa.

In Nigeria, the umbrella body for Christian churches depicts same-sex relationships as an evil meriting the lengthy prison sentences prescribed under existing law.

And in several African countries, bishops aligned with the worldwide United Methodist Church are preparing to join an in-the-works breakaway denomination so they can continue their practice of refusing to recognize same-sex marriage or ordain LGBTQ clergy.

In the United States, Western Europe and various other regions, some prominent Protestant churches have advocated for LGBTQ inclusion. With only a few exceptions, this hasn’t happened in Africa, where Anglican, Methodist, Presbyterian and Lutheran leaders are among those opposing such inclusion.

“The mainstream churches — all of them — they actually are totally against it,” said Caroline Omolo, associate pastor at the Cosmopolitan Affirming Community in Nairobi, Kenya. It is a rare example of a church in Africa serving a predominantly LGBTQ congregation.

“They have always organized a group to maybe silence us or make the church disappear,” Omolo said. “They don’t want it to appear anywhere.”

Ghana, generally considered more respectful of human rights than most African countries, now faces scrutiny due to a bill in Parliament that would impose prison sentences ranging from three to 10 years for people identifying as LGBTQ or supporting that community. The bill has been denounced by human rights activists even as Ghanaian religious leaders rally behind it.

“Their role in perpetuating queerphobia and transphobia is clear and it’s very troubling and dangerous,” said Abena Hutchful, a Ghanaian who identifies as queer and co-organized a recent protest against the bill in New York City.

“The bill’s strongest supporters claim to be doing this in the name of religion,” says Graeme Reid, director of Human Rights Watch’s LGBT Rights Program. He called the measure “a case study in extreme cruelty.”

The lawmakers proposing the bill said they consulted influential religious leaders while drafting it. Among those endorsing it are the Christian Council of Ghana, the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference and the country’s chief imam.

“We don’t accept murderers, why should we accept somebody who is doing sex in a sinful way?” Archbishop Philip Naameh, president of the bishops’ conference, told The Associated Press. “If you take a stance which is against producing more children, it is a choice which is injurious to the existence of the Ghanaian state.”

The Christian Council — whose members include Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian and Anglican churches — considers homosexuality “an act of perversion and abomination,” according to its secretary general, the Rev. Dr. Cyril Fayose of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.

“Homosexuality is not a human right and we reject it in all uncertain terms,” he declared earlier this year.

In Africa’s most populous country, the Christian Association of Nigeria has threatened to sanction any church that shows tolerance for same-sex relationships.

Such acceptance “will never happen,” Methodist Bishop Stephen Adegbite, the association’s director of national issues, told the AP.

Asked about Nigeria’s law criminalizing same-sex relationships with sentences of up to 14 years in prison, Adegbite said there are no alternatives.

“The church can never be compromised,” he declared.

Such comments dismay Nigerian LGBTQ activists such as Matthew Blaise, who told the AP of being manhandled by a Catholic priest distraught that Blaise wasn’t heterosexual.

“The church has been awful when it comes to LGBTQ issues, instead of using love as a means of communicating,” Blaise said.

In Nigeria’s commercial capital, Lagos, Catholic Archbishop Alfred Adewale Martins told the AP that Catholic teaching “recognizes in the dignity of every human person.” However, he said LGBTQ people who enter into same-sex relationships are leading “a disordered way of life” and should change their behavior.

Nigeria is home to one of the United Methodist bishops, John Wesley Yohanna, who says he plans to break away from the UMC and join the proposed Global Methodist Church. That new denomination, likely to be established next year, results from an alliance between Methodists in the United States and abroad who don’t support the LGBT-inclusive policies favored by many Methodists in the U.S.

Bishops Samuel J. Quire Jr. of Liberia and Owan Tshibang Kasap of the UMC’s Southern Congo district also have indicated they would join the breakaway.

The Rev. Keith Boyette, a Methodist elder from the United States who chairs the Global Methodist initiative, said the African bishops’ views reflect societal and cultural attitudes widely shared across the continent.

“Same-sex orientation is viewed negatively,” he said. “That’s true whether a person is from a Christian denomination, or Muslim or from a more indigenous religion.”

In Uganda, where many LGBTQ people remain closeted for fear of violence and arrests, there is a retired Anglican bishop who in 2006 was barred from presiding over church events because he voiced empathy with gays.

In decades of ministering to embattled LGBTQ people, Christopher Senyonjo said he learned that sexuality “is a deep, important part of who we are. We should be free to let people be who they are.”

“Ignorance is a big problem in all this,” Senyonjo told the AP. “When there is ignorance, there is a lot of suffering.”

In 2014, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed a harsh anti-gay law that, in its original version, prescribed the death penalty for some homosexual acts. Later that year, amid intense international pressure, a judicial panel annulled the legislation on a technicality.

However, a colonial-era law criminalizing sex acts “against the order of nature” remains in place.

Frank Mugisha, a prominent gay activist in Uganda, described church leaders as “the key drivers of homophobia in Africa.” Some Anglican leaders, he said, have deepened their hostility toward LGBTQ people in a bid to not lose followers to aggressively anti-LGBTQ Pentecostal churches.

In all of Africa, only one nation — South Africa — has legalized same-sex marriage. Even there, gay and lesbian couples often struggle to be accepted by churches, let alone have their marriages solemnized by clergy.

“People tell me, ‘I grew up in this church, but now I am not accepted,’” said Nokuthula Dhladhla, a pastor with the Global Interfaith Network, which advocates for LGBTQ rights within the religious sector.

She said some religious leaders are privately supportive of same-sex marriage, but reluctant to do so openly for fear of being sidelined by their more conservative peers.

South Africa’s Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu, world-renowned for his opposition to apartheid, has been an outspoken supporter of LGBTQ rights.

“I would not worship a God who is homophobic,” he once said. “I would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven. No, I would say ‘Sorry, I would much rather go to the other place.’”
Caroline Omolo, the activist pastor in Nairobi, said some Kenyan religious leaders blame LGBTQ people for the coronavirus pandemic.

“When we say we are still serving God, they don’t see something that’s possible,” she said. “They think it’s something unfamiliar and should be stopped.”

However, she said some faculty and students at Kenya’s theological schools support her LGBTQ church, which has about 300 members.

“The students, we call them the future generation, leaders of tomorrow,” she said. “When we have that population on our side, I believe there’s nothing that can shake us.”
Asiedu reported from New York, Asadu from Lagos, Nigeria; Muhumuza from Kampala, Uganda; and Magome from Johannesburg, South Africa. Associated Press writers Cara Anna in Nairobi, Kenya, and David Crary in New York contributed.
Associated Press religion coverage receives support from the Lilly Endowment through The Conversation U.S. The AP is solely responsible for this content.


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New airstrikes hit capital of Ethiopia’s Tigray region
By CARA ANNAyesterday

People run next to black smoke and flames in the aftermath at the scene of an airstrike in Mekele, the capital of the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021. New airstrikes have hit Mekele, residents said Wednesday, as Ethiopia's government said it was targeting facilities to make and repair weapons, which a spokesman for the rival Tigray forces denied. (AP Photo)
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People run next to black smoke and flames in the aftermath at the scene of an airstrike in Mekele, the capital of the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021. New airstrikes have hit Mekele, residents said Wednesday, as Ethiopia's government said it was targeting facilities to make and repair weapons, which a spokesman for the rival Tigray forces denied. (AP Photo)

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — New airstrikes hit the capital of Ethiopia’s Tigray region and another community on Wednesday, as video from Mekele showed injured people with bloodied faces being rushed to vehicles and thick black smoke rising in the sky. Ethiopia’s government said it targeted facilities to make and repair weapons, which a spokesman for the rival Tigray forces denied.

Meanwhile, the United Nations told The Associated Press it is slashing by more than half its Tigray presence as an Ethiopian government blockade halts humanitarian aid efforts and people die from lack of food.

The war in Africa’s second-most populous country has ground on for nearly a year between Ethiopian and allied forces and the Tigray ones who long dominated the national government before a falling-out with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize winner.

At least 14 people were injured in the airstrikes in Mekele and three were in critical condition, Hayelom Kebede, the former director of Tigray’s flagship Ayder Referral Hospital, told the AP.
“Indeed there have been airstrikes in Mekele today,” Ethiopian government spokesman Legesse Tulu told the AP, saying they targeted facilities at the Mesfin Industrial Engineering site that Tigray forces use to make and repair heavy weapons. Legesse said the airstrikes had “no intended harm to civilians.”

Another airstrike hours later hit Agbe between the communities of Hagere Selam and Tembien, he said, describing the site as a “center of military training and heavy artillery depot.”

A Tigray spokesman denied the Mekele site was related to weapons. “Not at all,” Kindeya Gebrehiwot told the AP, calling it a garage “with many old tires. That is why it is still blazing.”
Amit Abrha, who said she was a worker at the site, said she didn’t hear the airstrike coming and collapsed when the attack occurred. “People picked me up. And when the explosions continued, I went out and saw a person that I know injured and on the ground,” she said in video footage obtained by the AP, as the smoke billowed behind her and fellow residents tried to control the flames.

The attack came two days after Ethiopia’s air force confirmed airstrikes in Mekele that a witness said killed three children. The air force said communications towers and equipment were attacked. Mekele hadn’t seen fighting since June, when Tigray forces retook much of the region in a dramatic turn in the war.

The airstrikes have caused fresh panic in a city under siege, where doctors and others have described running out of medicines and other basic needs.

Despite pleas from the U.N. and others to allow basic services and humanitarian aid to Tigray’s 6 million people, Ethiopia’s government this week called those expectations “absurd” while the Tigray forces now fight in the neighboring regions of Amhara and Afar. Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced there, widening the deadly crisis.

“Although not all movements have yet taken place, there will probably be a reduction from nearly 530 to around 220 U.N. staff on the ground in Tigray,” U.N. humanitarian spokesman Saviano Abreu told the AP. The decision is “directly linked to the operation constraints we have been faced with over the last months” along with the volatile security situation, he said.
The lack of fuel and cash because of the government’s blockade on Tigray “has made it extremely challenging for humanitarians to sustain life-saving activities” at the time they’re needed most, Abreu added.

Some 1,200 humanitarian workers including the reduced U.N. presence will remain in Tigray, he said.

The AP in recent weeks has confirmed the first starvation deaths in Tigray under the government blockade.

Humanitarian workers are also trying to reach the displaced and often hungry people in the Amhara and Afar regions, where communications blackouts and active fighting challenge efforts to confirm claims by the warring sides. Witnesses have told the AP that some Tigray forces are killing civilians, the latest abuses in a war marked by gang-rapes, mass expulsions and widespread detentions of ethnic Tigrayans.

This week’s airstrikes in the Tigray capital “appear to be part of efforts to weaken Tigray’s armed resistance, which has recently made further gains in the eastern Amhara region, with fighting ongoing in some areas. Along with superior manpower, control of the skies is one of the few remaining areas of military advantage for the federal government,” International Crisis Group analyst William Davison said in a statement. “The bombing of urban areas, however, reinforces the impression that Addis Ababa is willing to risk civilian lives in Tigray as part of its military efforts.”