News

Photo: Daily Monitor

AU heads of state are against the idea of quitting en mass preferring that withdrawals from the ICC are done at an individual country level (file photo).

analysis

The South African government has made clear it is pressing ahead with its intention to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC). By PETER FABRICIUS.

Justice and Correctional Service Minister Michael Masutha announced the government's intention at a meeting of the ICC's Assembly of States Parties (ASP) in New York on Wednesday.

There has been considerable speculation about whether the government would proceed with the withdrawal after the High Court ruled that its original application to withdraw had been unconstitutional because it had not gone through Parliament.

But Masutha told the ASP that on behalf of the Cabinet he would shortly serve on Parliament for its approval, a new notice of withdrawal from the Rome Statute.

Masutha said he would also introduce the International Crimes Bill, through which "Parliament will be requested to remove legal uncertainty regarding South Africa's international obligations under both domestic and international law.

"The Bill repeals the current Rome Statute Implementation Act (which makes the Rome Statute domestic law) and enacts international crimes similar to those in the Rome Statute. The new legislation will grant extra-territorial jurisdiction to our courts and proposes continued co-operation with other States and international bodies, including the ICC," Masutha said.

The...

By Cynthia Alo

Flurex Foods and Beverages Limited, a subsidiary of Flurex Group has unveiled plans to export 45 percent of its product,Ello table water, to four African countries.

Speaking at the launch of the product in Lagos, President of the group, Dr. Jerry Ariomovuohoma said, the cross border markets are Togo,Tanzania,Ghana and Kenya.

"Beyond Africa, we are thinking of going to Asia, Singapore; these countries don't have water. The spirit that is going round the country now compels us to do things right," he said.

Fielding questions on the expected revenue from the export, he said: "For now we can't say but I can assure you it'll be large."

He stated that the new table water was launched in response to the market demand for a more hygienic, refreshing and unique drinking water in the country and beyond.

"In consideration of the health hazard associated with drinking sub-standard water as is obtainable in the country, the Flurex group is launched a very hygienic, refreshing and unique drinking water called Ello table water," he said.

Also speaking during the launch, the company's corporate affairs manager, Dr. Emmanuel Ibeziako, said that the decision to tap into table water market was borne out of the desire to tackle water borne diseases affecting the country.

"We believe humans deserve the best, therefore, Ello table water can provide the best for the country."

analysis By Leighann Spencer

Nigerians are calling for Special Anti-Robbery Squad, a notoriously brutal police unit, to be disbanded. With good reason.

Recently ranked as the worst in the world, Nigeria's police have a history of using torture and brutality, alongside a reputation for corruption and inefficiency. And Nigerians have had enough.

This week, the hashtag campaign #EndSARS went viral as people called for the Special Anti-Robbery Squad - a particularly brutal police unit - to be disbanded. Social media users shared their encounters with SARS and called on the government to address their human rights abuses.

In response, the Inspector General of Police Ibrahim Idris announced a total reorganisation of the Squad and an investigation into the allegations. But will this make any difference?

Extensive torture

Since the Nigeria Police Force's (NPF) inception, numerous national organisations - such as CLEEN, NOPRIN, Stop the Bribes and Access to Justice - alongside international ones - such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International - have reported on its acts of torture, ill-treatment and brutality.

In 2007, Manfred Nowak, the UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, visited Nigeria. He concluded that torture and ill-treatment was widespread in police custody, particularly in the Criminal Investigation Departments (CID) where it was a challenge to find any detainee that had not been a victim.

Methods of torture included beatings, being shot in the foot, mock executions, suspension from the ceiling or metal rods, and denial of medical treatment. The latter had resulted in deaths, essentially amounting to extrajudicial killing. Nowak also noted the lack of effective complaint mechanisms and a culture of impunity.

The Network on Police Reform in Nigeria's (NOPRIN) 2010 report saw no improvement. It found that hundreds are murdered each year by the NPF, predominantly by the SARS and CID. Families are simply told that the victim has been transferred to another station, or officers fabricate a story about an attempted escape to justify excessive force. NOPRIN also documented evidence of severe beatings, suspension from rods, burning, waterboarding, stress positions, rape and pepper spray used on genitals.

An Amnesty International report based on over 500 interviews from 2007-2014 made similar conclusions. They found extensive torture by both the NPF and Nigerian military, with the aforementioned tactics alongside electric shock, nail and tooth extraction, and rape. Women and children were not immune to these abuses. In 2016, Amnesty released another report, this time focusing on SARS. They found that torture was frequently used to extract information and confessions, which were then used as a basis for convictions in court. Some detainees were also extorted; for example, 24-year-old university student Ekene was told that his mother had to pay a N100,000 ($280) bribe or "his life would not be guaranteed".

Entrenched abuses

Torture and police brutality has become so commonplace in Nigeria that a new lingo has been created to describe it. An O/C (officer in charge of) Torture exists in every major police station. Torture rooms are referred to as "theatres" or "temples". The SARS detention facility in Abuja is known as "The Abattoir". The Sector Alpha Military facility in Damaturu is known as "Guantanamo".

Different types of torture have names like "J5" (sleep deprivation from prolonged standing), "suicide" (being tied upside down by the ankles) and "third degree" (being tied with ankles and wrists folded behind the back and hung from a rod).

Official comments further entrench these abuses. A military representative told Amnesty in 2013 that torture and ill-treatment was necessary in the context of fighting Boko Haram. In 2008, the head of SARS Enugu boasted about ordering extrajudicial killings. Police officers told NOPRIN that they commit extrajudicial killings as they do not want suspected armed robbers to be released on bail.

Nigeria's police officers do befall numerous problems in their line of work. Both colonialism and events since independence - periods of military rule, coups and civil war - have cemented a culture of police brutality. Additionally, in a country of diverse languages, cultures and terrain, a centralised police force faces many difficulties.

Moreover, police resources and salaries are poor. With a lack of effective investigative resources, officers may resort to torture to obtain results. Poor pay leads many to turn to corruption, soliciting bribes to get by. In addition to extorting detainees, the NPF and particularly SARS are known to arbitrarily arrest those with fancy laptops, phones or cars to extract money.

A major problem in tackling these abuses is that police officers are rarely held to account. Many people told Amnesty that they did not report torture and ill-treatment due to fear of reprisal. Most cases that are reported are not investigated, with oversight bodies simply making recommendations and referring investigations back to the police. In terms of discipline, officers are seldom punished but simply transferred. Rarely are victims compensated.

Why reform isn't enough

On paper, torture and police brutality has no place in Nigeria. The constitution prohibits it, while the country has ratified relevant UN conventions and is party to various international charters that outlaw torture and ill-treatment.

Nigeria has also previously launched a National Committee against Torture to investigate complaints. In 2014, a NPF manual to prevent torture and ill-treatment was released. Then in 2015, SARS was reorganised into two units to combat abuses, and the Public Complaint Rapid Response Unit was introduced. The 2015 Administration of Criminal Justice Act further addressed some aspects of ill-treatment, although it has yet to come into effect in all states.

Despite these measures, however, brutality continues to reign. Attempts to introduce a specific anti-torture bill, undertaken periodically since 2012, have been unsuccessful. In the first half of 2017, the Public Complaint Rapid Response Unit received 1,115 complaints. Yet according to the Unit, no SARS officers are currently being investigated. With a mandate to only make recommendations and refer investigations back to the police, the Unit has made little difference.

The Inspector General of Police's promises following the #EndSARS media campaign are also unlikely to make much difference. He vowed to reorganise the SARS and mandated the X-Squad - located in the CID - to investigate allegations.

But further restructuring is not the answer, and expecting the CID to hold other police accountable is an abysmal response. The culture of torture and brutality within the whole NPF needs to be addressed, alongside issues of corruption and poor resources. Ending impunity in the police system will require an independent oversight system with a mandate to properly investigate and prosecute allegations.

When it comes to the notoriously brutal SARS unit, reform may not achieve substantial change. As countless Nigerians are demanding through the hashtag, the only solution may be to #EndSARS.

opinion By Cameron Duodu

British journalist Charles Bremner's recent report represents neo-colonial wishful thinking, concocted from probably the bar at George The Fifth Hotel in Paris. The Times, once a paper that published great foreign reporting, must not become a rag full of stories of the type that used to emanate from the Nairobi Hilton Hotel bar.

Time was - in the 1960s and 70s - when Africa appeared regularly in the world press; especially, the British press. The situation has changed radically, because newspapers are cutting costs all over the place.

The trouble in the 1960s and 70s was that the owners of the newspapers that covered Africa often thought that Africa was a "country." Not only that - their foreign correspondents somehow managed to persuade them to believe that this one "country" of their imagination, vast though it was, had one capital and it was situated in - Johannesburg, South Africa!

Johannesburg, their highly-valued foreign correspondents argued to the newspapers' bean-counters, was "cost-effective". It was almost like "home", only cheaper. The weather was generally like summer in Europe and America; the food combined the best in UK, Dutch and to a lesser extent, German and French cuisine. And it was half the cost because - labour employed in the kitchens was unbelievably cheap. But above all, things worked in "Joburg"!

What they didn't specify to any great extent was that apartheid "job reservation laws" made it extremely cheap to employ even skilled blacks as general underlings; household help especially - something no foreign correspondent would be able to afford at home, even if his proprietor was loaded like Lords Beaverbrook and Rothermere or other Lord What's-his-name.

But enjoying a good "Western" lifestyle in Johannesburg had its risks: if a foreign correspondent had views that were the slightest bit "liberal" and which therefore obliged him to report unfavourably on the racial situation in South Africa under its then apartheid regime, he would be thrown out of the country. Or he would be followed everywhere he went, on a daily basis, by the not-so-subtle plain-clothes policemen of the police state that South Africa was.

To avoid this unpleasant situation and continue to be welcome in apartheid South Africa (it was rumoured) some of the foreign correspondents took the precaution of allowing the relevant officials of the South African Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Information to read their dispatches before they were sent by cable to the UK or the US or wherever. This was something they would never do on home territory, but you know? Abroad is abroad!

These correspondents invariably took the "advice" of the South African officials and removed words and sentences that might not please the "authorities" (South African ministers in charge of enforcing apartheid laws.) Some of the correspondents did not need to go through this voluntary censorship at all, for they were quite paternalistic about the human rights of the blacks (if not as racially prejudiced as their hosts, the apartheid-mongers).

With time, the independent African countries to the north of South Africa got wise to the existence of a South African enclave within the "Africa Correspondent" fraternity, and they began to refuse visas to journalists based in South Africa. Ghana under Nkrumah led the way - it eventually obliged anyone arriving in Ghana from South Africa to sign a paper denouncing apartheid, before being allowed entry. However, this did not deter the more resourceful journalists: they normally carried passports from acceptable Western countries like the UK, the USA and Canada, and would fly first to London or Paris or New York, before flying to Ghana, Guinea, Mali or some of the other more anti-colonial West or Central African countries.

The trick did not work too well, however, for the by-lines of some of the correspondents who were prejudiced against black-ruled countries betrayed the fact that they were almost permanently domiciled in South Africa. So, eventually, the stratagem was adopted of foreign correspondents migrating almost en masse from Johannesburg to Nairobi, Kenya (a country which, under Jomo Kenyatta, did its best to dilute, if not hide the racism that had sparked the "Mau Mau" rebellion in the 1950s.) There, the correspondents managed to put flesh on some of the practices that Evelyn Waugh had satirised in his extremely funny book about foreign correspondents entitled Scoop.

In Nairobi, so much drinking was done -mainly at the Hilton Hotel bar or "watering hole" that some of the correspondents began to believe that stories they had heard from fellow journalists the night before had originated from the diplomats and businessmen who acted as the source of many of the stories about Kenya and black Africa they published. So, a journalist would ask, "Did you hear that (say) Emperor Bokassa/Idi Amin/Other Terror-monger had his political opponents chopped up into little bits and fed to crocodiles in his private pond"?

Such a story would gain in horror as it was recycled around the tables at the Nairobi Hilton and elsewhere for a week or two. And then - it would appear in print: one journalist would have taken the plunge! The story would be attributed to "diplomatic sources" or "usually reliable sources" or "travellers recently arrived from the benighted country", causing angry cables to the other correspondents from their foreign editors, querying how they could have missed such a story!

My very good friend, the late Richard West, who had spent a lot of time in the company of foreign correspondents, once told a group of us a story that bore all the mark, not of the Nairobi Hilton, but of the Lagos Bristol Hotel. A foreign correspondent had arrived in Lagos with a demand from his foreign editor that he should chase stories about the massive "corruption" that was occurring in Nigeria.

Now, the correspondent chanced upon a very good story indeed - as he drank at the Bristol Hotel bar, he happened to be within earshot of a Nigerian lawyer who was briefing a visiting counterpart about how his client intended to make a packet of money: he was on the verge of landing a huge contract for the importation of cement into Nigeria.

The beauty of the contract lay in the fact that at the time [the oil boom years following the 1973 Arab-Israeli war] so much cement was being imported into Nigeria that the ships bearing them could not all be easily unloaded at Apapa port and were forced to queue up for miles on the sea. All a cement importer had to do was to present complicit government officials with a manifest not only for the cost of the cement allegedly on board the ship but also massaged figures denoting "demurrage charges" covering the long period the ship was detained in Nigerian waters, unable to discharge its cargo.

The journalist added some imaginative details to the story (such as a claim he made that some of the ships stayed in Nigerian waters for so long that the cement they carried "caked" up!) and wrote a fantastic report entitled "The Great Lagos Cement Armada."

He then rushed it to the Lagos "Cable Office". Only to be told that the cable lines were "down" (i.e. inoperative).

The journalist then tried to find a traveller to take the story abroad by air and mail it to his newspaper. The paper would reward such a traveller well, he knew.

But there were no flights out of Lagos because - the airport had been closed by a strike!

In exasperation, the journalist coined a phrase to encapsulate how a foreigner in West Africa often got thwarted by forces he could not control: "The WAWA Syndrome".

"WAWA", Richard West explained, stood for: "West Africa Wins Always."

The peals of laughter that greeted Richard West's story lasted for at least five minutes. No one cared whether the story itself was apocryphal or not. For it was a story that we would nowadays say 'clicked' every cliché: bad African telephone lines; patchy electricity supplies; periodic shortages of water; sweaty taxis; unreliable tradesmen - all these "conspired" together to make West Africa Win Always against the poor visitor.

I have been reminded of these "Nairobi Hilton" stories by a report published by the London Times newspaper on 1 December 2017. Entitled "Macron eyes former British colony Ghana as jewel of Francophone Africa" the story, by Charles Bremner, claims that: "On his visit to Ghana, [French President] Emmanuel Macron had "broken new ground on a trip to Africa... by visiting Ghana, a Commonwealth member and a former jewel in Britain's colonial empire.

[Macron, Bremner continued] "is trying to make France Europe's main broker on the continent at a time that an inward-looking Britain is in retreat... [He] chose Ghana for his foray into the Commonwealth because its economy is growing fast, but it is also surrounded by French-speaking nations, and the president, Nana Akufo-Addo, is a democratically respectable Francophile. Mr Macron is the first French president to make an official visit to Ghana.

"Mr Macron, who travelled with Mark Rutte, the Dutch prime minister, saluted his Ghanaian counterpart as "the embodiment of a new generation of African leaders who believe in a new narrative for the future of their youth". [Macron] is determined to reverse a loss of French influence in recent decades, reflected by the increasing adoption of English, notably in hitherto Francophone Rwanda and Gabon."

You may ask, "So Akufo-Addo is to be used by Macron as his "instrument" in renaissance of French influence in Africa? Where was Charles Bremner when Macron was wooing Akufo-Addo? Has Charles Bremner seen the speech Akufo-Addo made when he addressed Macron at the official dinner?

Other than that, does the mere fact that Akufo-Addo speaks fluent French make him a Francophile? What exactly does being a "Francophile" mean? If you love or even adore some things that are French, does it mean that you would automatically become an instrument of French policy? If that were so, then Akufo-Addo's education at Oxford University would not only make him an Anglophile but a British stooge? How does Charles Bremner square that circle? Can a British stooge turn round to become a French stooge in the Brexit era of all times?

Charles Bremner's report represents 'neo-colonial' wishful thinking, concocted from (probably) the bar of George The Fifth Hotel in Paris! The Times, once a paper that published great foreign reporting, must not become a rag full of stories of the type that used to emanate from the "Nairobi Hilton Hotel bar". That does not befit it.

* CAMERON DUODU is a veteran Ghanaian journalist and author.

Photo: allafrica.com

Left: ANC MP Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. Right: Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa.

analysis By Susan Booysen, University of the Witwatersrand

The suspense is tangible as the African National Congress (ANC) - South Africa's former liberation movement that's turned into a tired governing party - approaches its fiercely contested 2017 elective conference.

By December 5, the party's branches had largely spoken, and its provincial structures had consolidated the branch delegates' voting preferences. The lay of the land seemed clear. Yet, on close dissection it's evident that developments could still subvert what appeared to be definitive trends in branch nominations.

Less than two weeks prior to ballots being cast at the Nasrec Expo Centre in Johannesburg, the contest is closer than both the Polokwane race of 2007, (when Jacob Zuma beat Thabo Mbeki) and 2012 in Mangaung (when Zuma beat then deputy Kgalema Motlanthe).

The branch nominations have confirmed that the two leading 2017 candidates for the ANC presidency are Cyril Ramaphosa and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. While Ramaphosa has a lead, the intricacies of the election process caution against early celebrations: there are black holes that could still devour the advantages he appears to have.

The voting

The voters at the ANC conferences comprise roughly of 90% delegates from ANC branches across the nine provinces. Provinces had been allocated a total of 4,731 delegates (proportionately in terms of membership figures). The rest of the about 5,240 voting delegates come from the ANC's national executive committee and top six officials (roughly 90 in total). The nine provincial executive committees (27 each, thus 243), the women's, youth and veterans' leagues (60 each, thus 180).

The number of branches endorsing Ramaphosa by the evening of December 4 were 1,860 and Dlamini-Zuma 1,333. A total of 3,193 for both candidates, or around 2,000 fewer than the total number of conference voters.

Given that the race will go down to the wire, and that a few hundred ballots in either direction could make a world of difference to the ANC and South Africa, this analysis dissects eight black holes that account for the approximately 2,000 "discrepancy".

Uncertainties

At the core, the uncertainties that make up the eight black holes are:

  • The scores released by the ANC's Provincial General Councils have a "margin of error". This is because the scores are of branches and not individual delegates. But big branches send more than one delegate and are given more weighting in the voting. This can substantially change the balance between leading candidates come the election.
  • Mpumalanga province brings its own black box of 223 "unity" votes. The biggest bloc of branches refused to endorse a particular candidate and entered 'unity' on nomination forms, following the instruction of provincial leader DD Mabuza. These votes can therefore go to either leading candidate should the delegates cast their vote rather than waste it.
  • A further uncertainty comes in the exact number of branches that have missed the deadline for their branch general meetings. The deadline for convening these was a week ago. Missing the deadline means they have missed the opportunity to be represented at the conference. The ANC in an interview with the author estimated that between 95-98% made the target date. Exclusions will lower the number of delegates.
  • A number of branches are caught up in disputes. Challenges centre on the lack of legality of the branch general meetings, some of which have been chaotic. Some battled to reach quorums (50% of members had to be present), or they faked quorums. In other instances officials disappeared with meeting materials and memberships lists, attendance registers were signed off-site, or bickering and fist-fights ruled. These branch delegates could still make it into the voting booths at the conference if the ANC task teams resolve the disputes.
  • A number of branches and provincial structures have taken their disputes to court. Prominent cases are in KwaZulu-Natal, Free State and the Eastern Cape. The national conference does not ultimately depend on the provincial structures, but provincial leaders may have influenced their branch-based underlings substantially, or have covered up irregularities that affected whom the branches nominated. Disputes at the time of conference could exclude some from voting, or having their votes counted.
  • The ballots of individual delegates are secret and it's therefore uncertain to what extent branch nominations will convert into matching votes. Prior conference outcomes show that the branch or provincial counts tended to hold: delegates are inclined to vote according to their mandates. But, political times have changed. Beyond the scrutiny of the superiors and away from branch commissars, delegates might vote according to "conscience".
  • Hand-in-hand with individual discretion in the voting act is the practice of "brown envelopes", or bribes. Speculation is that the bribes could be enormously persuasive, going into six-figure rewards for the right vote.
  • The final big uncertainty comes via the three leagues - for women, youth and veterans - and the ANC's executive structures. The large block of around 90 NEC and top-six votes, for example, could split relatively equally between the big candidates. It is this block that has kept Zuma in power through a series of votes in the National Executive Committee, and interventions in parliamentary votes. But, they could by now see that the writing is on the wall given that Zuma will cede his position as head of the party in two weeks time, and his post as head of state in 2019.

Hard to call

The battle lines are drawn and the result is close. Exact calculations will remain impossible; the result is likely to be known by 17 or 18 December. In the interim, all South Africans can do is rely on circumstantial evidence, including signs of confidence or panic in the ranks of the candidates. They can also try and plug the black holes.

By Merga Yonas

Zimbabwe's ex-President Robert Mugabe gave refuge to Col. Mengistu Haile Mariam, convicted of genocide in Ethiopia. Mugabe's departure has raised hopes that Haile Mariam could be extradited, but this is all uncertain.

In a move that stunned the world, Zimbabwe's defense forces ousted President Robert Mugabe from power on November 21, 2017, bringing his 37 years of strongman rule to an end. When his successor, Emmerson Mnangagwa, took office three days later, a new chapter opened for the country.

Major General SB Moyo, the country’s chief of staff logistics, said the transition was aimed at ending social and economic suffering and bringing criminals to justice. The unfolding transition of power with its promise of change has brought hope not only to Zimbabweans but also to other Africans.

One such hope is that Ethiopia’s former Marxist-leaning leader Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam could finally be brought to justice. Mugabe gave Haile Mariam a residency permit after the latter fled Ethiopia in 1991. His motive for giving Haile Mariam refuge was thought to be to allow the Ethiopian ex-leader to train and arm Zimbabweans during their liberation struggle in the 1970s.

In a campaign aimed at repressing political dissent that would become called the "Red Terror," Mengistu’s administration was alleged to have killed an estimated half a million people, including the last emperor of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie.

After the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) came to power, a court sentenced Mengistu to life in prison in absentia. Although the Ethiopian government requested his extradition in 2006, Mugabe reportedly refused to hand over the ex-leader, who was at the time his adviser on Ethiopia’s security affairs.

Social media hopes of repatriation

Social media users in Ethiopia have recently been asking about the fate of the 80-year-old Mengistu now that Mugabe is gone.

Others were quick to demand the forced repatriation of Mengistu to Ethiopia, where they hope he can face justice. But such demands, even though genuine, seem sometimes to be mixed with sarcasm.

A tweet bearing the name Zirak Asfaw congratulates Mnangagwa on the peaceful power transition and pleads: “Please remember the mothers of #Ethiopia who are still waiting for justice: extradite #Mengistu Hailemariam.”

Another Twitter user under the name Deki sawa went further, urging Zimbabweans: “If #Zimbabweans are the kind of justice-loving people they claim to be, it is time to pressure their government to transfer the #genocidal #Ethiopian #dictator #MengistuHaileMariam …“

Among those who weighed in was Awol Kassim Allo, an assistant professor of law at the London School of Economics, who also asked what would happen to Haile Mariam.

'Dwindling appetite' for obtaining justice

Speaking to DW, Allo said states could give asylum to any individuals they chose, but this did not mean their actions were not in breach of international obligations. He noted that hosting countries often displayed a lack of political will and turned a blind eye to international law, which made extradition difficult.

Allo was not also sure whether the two countries had signed an extradition treaty and expressed doubts that the current Zimbabwe administration would do such a thing.

“I think what people forget,” Allo said, is that “it is still the same party that is ruling Zimbabwe, still the same individuals who were very much part of Mugabe’s inner circle that are in control of the government.”

Yacob Hailemariam, a lawyer based in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, and former senior prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, argues, for his part, that there has not been any serious demand made by the Ethiopian government for Mengistu's extradition. Hailemariam also maintains that authorities in Harare “remain indebted to him [Mengistu] for the liberation of Zimbabwe”.

Although Mengistu Haile Mariam was tried in absentia in 2006 along with 73 high ranking Derg, also known as "committee" officials, victims and other people concerned with the case have been alleging that the EPRDF has not put much pressure on Zimbabwe to help bring Mengistu to justice.

Allo contends that the EPRDF’s initial move of bringing those officials to the courtroom was merely for political reasons, such as trying to obtain international legitimacy as a country and to publicly show a determination to do away with wrongful impunity and ensure criminals were held to account.

“I think there is not the same appetite today as there was back in the 1990s,” Allo added.

Mengistu’s denial

Mengistu has been quoted as saying he had “never killed even a fly” let alone a human, and that the crimes he was accused of “are all lies perpetrated by my enemies.”

“He doesn’t have to have killed a fly,” says the lawyer Yacob Hailemaraim, but “he was an instrumental in ordering many of these killings. He was responsible. He knew these killings were going on."

Yacob Hailemaraim, 73, who fled to Kenya from prosecution at the time, remembers the Derg’s era as “the most horrible thing that the country had to go through.” Hailemaraim said that he had lost many friends and accused Haile Mariam of “killing several people himself.”

“If [the Red Terror] is not an atrocity, what is an atrocity?” asks Allo.

Political and legal analysts draw a very thin line between the EPRDF and Derg regime on their respective human rights records: The EPRDF, which has now been in power for more than quarter a century, is also being accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

“As it has turned out, the Ethiopian government has itself become extremely authoritarian and repressive, almost in the same way as the previous government,” Allo notes.

Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe could well be replaced by Education Minister Bright Msaka in a Cabinet reshuffle likely to be held after Parliament sitting.

Gondwe may be given charge of another ministry, say sources.

The government purse-keeper has been facing widespread criticism on the way some payments from Treasury are being made and continue plunder of public resources known as Cashgate.

It is also believed that President Peter Mutharika want a fresh face to push key reforms to kickstart the economy.

It is learnt that Mutharika plans to bring in new ministers in place of those who haven't been performing up to expectations.

Msaka is said to be the blue-eyed boy of Mutharika and well positioned to be given the Treasury bag.

Government spokesman Nicholous Dausi said he could not comment on the speculations because appointment of cabinet members is a "prerogative" of the President.

He said these are the Constitutional powers endowed to Mutharika, as the President of Malawi.

Government spokesman stressed that Mutharika is empowered to appoint cabinet Ministers, and dismiss them as and when it is necessary for him, to do so.

Photo: The Observer

Forum for Democratic Change delegates donning red ribbons and caps over the weekend ahead of elections for party president. Red ribbons are a national symbol against the age limit amendment (file photo).

A survey conducted by civil society organizations has indicated that 85 per cent of Ugandans do not support the proposed constitutional amendment to lift caps on the presidential age.

The study, titled: 'Citizen's Perceptions on the Proposed Amendment of Article 102(b) of the Constitution' was commissioned by Citizens Coalition on Electoral Democracy (CEEDU) and Uganda Governance Monitoring Platform (UGMP). It sampled 50,429 citizens in 80 constituencies across the country. It covered 22,926 females and 27,503 male respondents.

The findings released yesterday indicate that 95 per cent of citizens in the eastern region do not support the proposed age limit removal. In the northern region, 86 percent of the respondents rejected the proposal, while 76 per cent of respondents in western Uganda objected. Buganda (central) region had the least rejection rate of 66 per cent.

Kyegegwa North in Tooro sub-region has the largest number of citizens supporting the amendment of the Constitution to remove the presidential age limit with 92 per cent of the sampled population in the area endorsing the amendment. The one question survey didn't delve into the reasons for supporting or rejecting the age limit amendment.

In Igara East, 83 percent of the sampled females and 88 percent males don't support the amendment. The constituency is represented by Raphael Magyezi, the mastermind of the private member's bill on which the proposed amendment is based.

Constituencies such as Mbale Municipality, Bulamogi (Kaliro District) Bungokho South (Mbale District) registered 100 percent rejection rates.

The Great Lakes Institute for Strategic Studies (GLiSS) executive director Godber Tumushabe who presented the survey findings at Olive Gardens, Bugolobi said it shows Ugandans are unanimously opposed to the constitutional amendment. He said the findings also mean that government needs to subject the amendment to serious public scrutiny.

"We found that out of the total number of citizens who participated in this survey 85 per cent are opposed to the removal of the age limit and 15 per cent are in support of the age limit. In central the support for the bill is at 34 per cent, the opposition to the bill is at 66 per cent. For the Eastern region, the opposition to the bill is at 95 per cent, the support is at only at 5 per cent. In the West, the support for the bill is at 24 per cent and the opposition is at 76 per cent", Tumushabe said.

The report suggests that there is a need for parliament to come up with minimum standards on conducting consultations on matters concerning constitutional amendments. The report also suggests that there is a disconnect between the assumptions made by MPs about the people they represent on amending the age limit.

"There's also need for parliament to come up with minimum standards on conducting consultations on such important matters like amending of the constitution. Because like I said, part of what triggered this study, was to say how can MPs go out there and somebody says I will consult my party, the other one says I will organise a public rally. How does that become a process of consultation?

Related to the above, the government needs to prevail over security organ individuals to desist from disfranchising citizens and the organisations who hold divergent views from those held some members in government", added Tumushabe.

The three-month survey conducted between September, October and November was supposed to cover 100 constituencies but Tumushabe says it fell short of the targets because some research assistants were arrested or data confiscated by security agencies.

Dr Livingstone Sewanyana, the executive director of Foundation for Human Rights Initiative says the survey shows amendment of the constitution is not a priority for Ugandans. He says Ugandans would like to see government tackle pressing challenges such as unemployment, poor remuneration of government employees as shown by striking government employees.

"I think what we need to emphasize and what the data seems to establish is that amendment of article 102(b) is not a priority for Ugandans. I think that should be clear to government of Uganda. Whatever steps they take to amend that particular article they should know it is not a priority for Ugandans.

And actually, the pattern shows you very clearly that where people are in dire need of services, they really don't want to hear about anything about the amendment of article 102(b).

A member of the East African legislative assembly, Hon Abdallah Makame has stated clearly that even within the East African Community, they are opposed to the amendments of presidential term limits, age limits. And that is the reason why up to date within the East African Community, there is no protocol on governance. They have put it very clear", said Sewanyana.

The Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee which is handling the bill is now retreating at Lake Victoria Serena Resort- Kigo to draft the report anticipated to be presented to parliament on Tuesday next week.

The committee chaired by West Budama South MP Jacob Oboth-Oboth met President Museveni on Tuesday this week, who told them that Ugandans should have a final say on who rules them. During the meeting, Museveni argued that the presence of age limits for any elective office goes against Article 1 of the 1995 Constitution, the bedrock of that supreme law, which says "power belongs to the people."

Since Ugandans are the custodians of the Constitution and their country, the president said, they should be given the ultimate duty of determining how and who should lead them through regular free and fair elections instead of being merely "legalistic... If someone votes, why can't he be voted for?"

The amendment has been interpreted as a ploy to give Museveni a leeway to contest again for the presidency. Museveni who has been in power since 1986 will be aged 77 in 2021 when Uganda is supposed to have the next round of presidential elections. With the constitution capping president between 35 and 75 years, Museveni would be ineligible to contest.

analysis By Steven Friedman, University of Johannesburg

In a society like South Africa in which one racial group has dominated another, poor people are ignored in economic debates by those who claim to speak for them.

Take the calls for free higher education which featured prominently in student protests over the past two to three years. They are back in the limelight because President Jacob Zuma's desire to spend billions on providing free tertiary education has prompted a public controversy in which he was accused of wanting to bankrupt the Treasury for political gain. Although it later became clear that Zuma only wanted to pay for students whose household incomes were below R350 000 a year, the reports revived interest in the free education demand.

Outsiders might find something curious about the higher education fees debate in South Africa. The demand that no-one should pay is an article of faith among people who occupy the left in the country. The view that the well-off should continue to pay so that the poor are funded is seen as a sign of conservatism. Elsewhere in the world, it is the left which wants the rich to pay for services to the poor.

This is no isolated case in South Africa. Another example is electronic tolling (e tolls) in the country's economic heartland, Gauteng. Vehicle owners, including companies, pay the toll. People who use busses and minibus taxis, the vehicles of the poor, don't. Anyone suggesting that it's fair to expect people who own trucks and busses to pay for roads on which poor people can ride for free is likely to be dismissed as a right-wing zealot.

How did the interests of wealthy students and their families, or the owners of vehicles, become those of the left and social justice campaigners? Around the world, the views of well-off groups are often presented as those of everyone. The South African oddity is that those who in other societies would be arguing against free passes for the affluent, argue for them.

To see why, we must look at the history of the campaign against minority rule, which I discussed in a book on radical thought.

Economic inequality versus race

The first campaigners for economic change in South Africa were socialists and trade unionists who immigrated from Britain. They took the standard left view of the time - racial divisions were created by bosses and other fat cats who hoped to hang onto their privilege by dividing the workers. Because both black and white workers were exploited, they argued, they could and should unite against their common enemy, economic exploitation.

Within a few years, the view that economic inequality mattered more than race was killed by striking white miners who, in 1922, added to a banner reading "Workers of the World Unite" the words and fight for a white South Africa'.

Competition for jobs from black workers was one reason the miners gave for the strike. For the next seven decades, white workers made it clear that the privileges which their whiteness offered were more important to them than their supposed common interest with black workers.

The view that race was more important than economic inequality was shared by those who fought against apartheid. Although left-wing activists, particularly in the South African Communist Party, were active in the African National Congress, they gave up early on the idea that race could take a back seat to the fight for economic change.

Racial equality versus private ownership

In the late 1920s, the Communist International, to which the communist party belonged, adopted the theory of "national democratic revolution". It committed communists to fight against colonialism and racial domination in colonised countries - the battle against capitalism could wait.

In South Africa, this "revolution" which even today is seen by some on the right as a call to destroy the market economy, was always about fighting for racial equality, not abolishing private ownership. Those who complain that the ANC has not delivered on this "revolution" are saying it has not done enough to end white control of the economy, not control by private owners.

While the ANC often used left rhetoric, black intellectuals and activists, including those in the South African Communist Party, reminded white colleagues who wanted to emphasise economic inequalities that racial inequality was more important.

This view was shared by movements to the ANC's left. Instead of denouncing it for fixating on race rather than economic divisions, they argued that apartheid was a form of "racial capitalism" in which racial and economic exploitation was so intertwined that one could not survive without the other. While this meant that they could fight against racism while claiming they were fighting for socialism, it made race the central issue.

The enemy was white minority rule

The South African left may have read different books and chanted different slogans, but it endorsed the mainstream view that the key issue was racial inequality. Left-wingers earned their credentials by fighting harder against racial minority rule, not by fighting for economic equality - and they found no shortage of left-wing theories and slogans to justify this.

This history has shaped thinking, ensuring that there has never been a strong lobby, or an influential body of opinion, stressing the interests of the poor. If the problem is racial domination, it follows that economic differences within racial groups matter less, if at all. And so, it seems natural to demand changes which would benefit the rich by lumping them with the poor.

Since this prompts people to endorse policies which are biased against the poor, this analysis might seem to be a warning against racial thinking on the economy. It is not. The reason why race has always mattered more than economic inequality is that it is more important: black scholars and activists who emphasise race do so because this squares with their experience not only under apartheid, but now.

The point is illustrated, again, by the student protests demanding free higher education. A careful look shows that they are essentially about race - the protesters are rebelling against what they see as a failure of higher education institutions to take them seriously.

Two decades ago, the left-wing scholar Harold Wolpe- who started his academic career trying to convince the ANC and South African Communist Party that apartheid was simply a product of capitalism but who changed his position when he recognised how important race is in South Africa - wrote a paper on higher education change. He argued that historically white universities were expecting black students to change to fit into their culture rather than changing to meet the needs of new students as the racial make-up of their student bodies changed. It's this failure to accommodate black student needs which prompted the student slogan "Fees Must Fall".

The history described here shows why it seems almost automatic to present this demand for racial change in an economic slogan which would again send the poor to the end of the line.

By Bram Posthumous

Mali has a difficult international image: it still struggles to control the country's north and the investment climate is often deemed unfriendly. Will a forum change all that?

"I want a strong private sector," Malian president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, said as he opened one of the country's first major investment forums at a multi-star hotel in downtown Bamako. "One that powers economic growth and creates thousands of jobs, especially for young Malians."

The 500 delegates from Europe, Africa and a few from Asia and North America attended numerous workshops, met in business-to-business meetings, and gathered around the cocktail tables. At the heart of the event: questions. How can we make Mali's agriculture sector competitive? How can we export more of our products? What's the solution to the endless electricity problems? And, on a more positive note: How do we use clever technology to build tomorrow's infrastructure?

Mali is looking for investment in four specific areas, Awa Bagayoko, an investment promotion officer at Mali's government investment agency, explained. "We have chosen four areas in our national investment strategy: agriculture, animal husbandry, energy and infrastructure. We then added information technology because we believe that development happens faster and more smoothly with these new technologies," she said.

These choices make a lot of sense. Mali needs to up its entrepreneurial game in all of these areas. Prominent national businessman, Cyrill Achcar, told his audience what that means: make credit available to those who need it, get Malians to buy Malian products because they seem to think that foreign is best, put an end to corrupt smuggling practices that kill business and develop the political will to help entrepreneurs, male and female.

A risky business environment?

One concern that potential investors often have about Mali is the security situation. Mali has for many years seen large cultural, ethnic and economic disparities between the more developed south and the north. In 2012, Tuareg groups fought the Malian government in a move to secede from the south. What followed was a coup d'etat over President Amadou Toure's handling of the situation and continued fighting in the country's north. With the shifting alliances of the Tuareg groups and Islamist groups like al Qaeda in the Maghreb (AQIM), Mali has had a difficult time in controlling the crisis, which it has done mainly with the help of the French special forces.

In November 2015, the capital Bamako itself became the target of an Islamist attack as gunmen killed over 20 people and took hostages at the Radisson Blu Hotel. In June 2017, a tourist resort was attacked and five people were killed.

However the aspect of security was hardly discussed at the forum. "We did discuss it during the preparations for this forum. But we did not want to put it front and center," Bagayoko said. "We're not hiding the security issue, though. After all, it will come up when people are discussing investment guarantees."

The City of Windhoek has approved the conversion of post-paid electricity to prepaid electricity meters for all pensioners.

Mayor Muesee Kazapua made the announcement at an early Christmas lunch for senior citizens yesterday.

Kazapua said the much anticipated approval was done on 25 November after pensioners complained about the unaffordable costs of water and electricity services.

This comes after the mayor had announced in May this year that pensioners' and vulnerable residents' debt for municipal services had accumulated to approximately N$12.8 million since 2013.

The city had since written off an unspecified amount of the debt.

According to Kazapua, pensioners will now be able to afford electricity through the prepaid electricity meter card system.

"The city council has budgeted N$3 million for this project, which will be a pilot project for the next financial year," he explained.

Kazapua added that by the start of 2018, the project will be well underway, starting with the households most urgently in need. He also urged all Windhoek pensioners to start registering for the prepaid electricity cards at their respective constituency offices.

Kazapua further stated that CoW is working on changes for the provision of prepaid water in near future.

- Nampa

By Kennedy Kangethe

Nairobi — The sun bearing down on them, the university dons were subdued on Saturday when they wearily accepted to pick up the tools they downed a month ago.

The resoluteness that had been on display only days earlier when the dons vowed they would not go back to work unless and until the promised improvements on their terms of service were realised, was muted.

On Saturday however, the mood was quite different as the Universities Academic Staff Union directed its members to resume work.

"Today's agreement is a compromise, and coming to it was challenging," the Union's Secretary General Constantine Wasonga was not too proud to admit.

Still, he said, they had walked away with the best they could hope to get in the prevailing circumstances; including a promise that there members would not be victimised for resorting to industrial action.

They also walked away with the promise of the speedy commencement of negotiations for the next Collective Bargaining Agreement and a commitment that what was in arrears would be paid out in a timely fashion.

"Universities are fully implementing the national 2013-2017 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA); (ii) All pending Internal 2013-2017 CBAs for individual universities be completed by 28th February 2018... UASU thanks the Inter-Public Universities Council Consultative Forum (IPUCCF) and government for their commitment to commence, within 10 days, talks on the 2017-2021 CBA - an agreement that is expected to restructure lecturers' wage structure and enhance quality education," their statement of acquiescence reads.

By Nahashon Musungu

Kenyan Television stations, save for the national broadcaster KBC, have ceased covering the ongoing Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup in the country in the wake of a row with the competition's rights holders, Azam TV.

The tiff reportedly escalated when Azam initially barred local media stations from covering the matches from the stadium.

"Initially, Azam demanded payments in exchange for allowing us to access stadiums and conduct pitch-side interviews," a source explained.

"We understand they have bought the exclusive rights to cover the tournament for the next three years but we required an exemption to get content for our bulletins."

The firm, which replaced SuperSport after signing a three year deal with Cecafa earlier this year, own a separate deal with Kenya Broadcasting Corporation to air most of the matches live.

LOCAL STATIONS

As a result, none of the local stations including Citizen, NTV and KTN have been airing news of the ongoing tournament, even as the tournament organisers led by Cecafa secretary general Nicholas Musonye work behind the scenes to salvage the situation.

Matches in the two-week international tournament, involving nine-countries, are being played at Bukhungu Stadium in Kakamega and Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos, with the Moi Stadium in Kisumu is slated to host the semis.

Meanwhile, Kenya's Harambee Stars will face Zanzibar in their third game of this tournament, at the Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos on Saturday.

Stars beat Rwanda 2-0 in their opening fixture before being held to a barren draw by guest team Libya.

Photo: Chris Wamalwa/Daily Nation

Kenya's Kepha Aswani (centre) vies for an aerial ball with Zanzibar's Yahya Mudathir during their Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup match on December 9, 2017 at Kenyatta Stadium, Machakos.

By Timothy Olobulu

Machakos — Abeddy Birahimire stepped off the bench to hit a second half winner as Rwanda's Amavubi bowed out of the CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup on a high, beating Tanzania 2-1 at the Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos in their only win of the tournament.

Tanzania's Kilimanjaro Stars who are on one point play Kenya in their final group match on Monday, but their fate is more or less sealed and they will follow Rwanda out of the tourney.

Rwanda broke the deadlock through Innocent Nshuti, but the Tanzanians fought back to draw level via a Daniel Lyanga diving header. However, Antoine Hey's men produced a brilliant move in the 65th minute, ending in Birahimire tapping the ball home.

As they head back to Kigali, Hey has picked up some valuable notes as he prepares the team for the African Nations Championship (CHAN) next month in Morrocco.

The CHAN bound Amavubi started the match on a high, Hey maintaining the same squad that played against Libya save for keeper Eric Ndayishimiye who paved way for Marcel Nzarora, with the tactician saying he wanted all his three keepers to play.

Muhadjiri Hakizimana and Eric Rutanga had the first two close chances for Rwanda, first Hakizimana heading inches wide from the edge of the six yard box while Rutanga had a curling freekick from the right go inches wide.

They broke the deadlock in the 18th minute when Nshuti side footed the ball home inside the box from a Fitina Omborenga cross from the right.

Tanzania's Ibrahim Ajib came close to giving Tanzania the lead but his curling freekick from the left came against the side netting.

Coming off the break on level terms, it was going to be anyone's game with the two sides fighting for pride.

Four minutes into the restart, Tanzania's Ajib forced a brilliant save off the Rwandese keeper after dribbling past his markers inside the box before finding space, shooting on target with a ferocious low right footer.

Three minutes on the turn, Lyanga was presented with a brilliant opportunity when Ajib's cross from the left found him unmarked inside the box, but the burly forward could not execute a shot on target, firing the ball over from close range.

It seemed to be a period of epic misses as three minutes later Rwanda missed an equally open chance.

Hakizimana was gifted with the ball on the left after Himid Mao missed a clearance, but the Rwandese forward took too much time with the ball allowing the Tanzanians to fall back and his eventual go at goal was a curling effort which went miserably wide.

But his blushes were wiped in the 65th minute when Omborenga registered his second assist of the game, making a brilliant move on the right with a deft touch which left his marker gasping for breath and the crowd wowing in amazement.

Lifting his head up, he cited Birahimire and Djihad Bizimana racing into the box, sliced in a wonderful cross which Birahimire gladly slid in to tap into an empty net.

On the opposite end, keeper Nzarora almost undid all this great work when his delayed clearance was blocked by Tanzanian forward Lyanga, but luckily, the ball spiraled away from goal.

Nzarora redeemed himself with a one on one save off Yahya Omari who had picked up the loose ball from the left. The shot stopper once again pulled off a decent save to punch away a shot from substitute Yohana Oscar.

By Ayumba Ayodi

Regional pride and bragging rights are at stake when Kenyan riders try to wrestle the regional motorcross title from their arch-rivals Uganda Saturday at Nairobi's Jamhuri Park race circuit.

Thrills await in the superior MX1 class where Kenya's 2014 and 2016 champion Tutu Maina has been forced to forego his retirement to slug it for Kenya.

Maina will be joined by Ngugi Waweru, who is waiting to be crowned the national MX2 champion, in the MX 1 showdown.

Waweru, who is unassailable in the MX 2 in the National Championship with 400 points, has moved to MX 1 so as to make the category more interesting.

With first round winner Maxime Van Pee of Uganda missing, Maina and Waweru will battle Maxim's brother Olivier.

Action at the regional contest, that will double up for the 2017 National Motocross Championships' final round, starts at 1pm with the first heat, but not before the scrutineering gets underway at 8.30am with the practice round going down from 11am.

The close to 55 Kenyan riders will be eying to turn the tables on their Ugandan rivals who won the first leg in April.

Uganda, who will be represented by 30 riders, cashed on their numbers to win their first leg.

They proved yet again that they have matured when they needed a margin of 40 points to wrestle the regional title from hosts Kenya at the Jamhuri Park track in December last year.

The visitors, led by Van Pee, wrapped up the season in emphatic fashion, beating Kenya by 1957-1917 points to recapture the trophy.

By Ellina Mhlanga

THE National Athletics Association of Zimbabwe have set their eyes on developing some of the country's former top and current athletes into coaches as part of their plans towards turning around their fortunes.

The athletics mother body is running a 12-day International Association of Athletics Federations level one coaching course at White City Stadium in Bulawayo. And they have engaged former athletes such as Themba Ncube and Gabriel Chikomo. Cuthbert Nyasango is also attending the course which focuses mainly on coaches working with youths.

NAAZ president Tendai Tagara and director for coaching, talent identification and development, Lisimati Phakamile are the course facilitators. Tagara said the involvement of former athletes at a coaching level is key for the development of the sport.

"This is a 12-day course according to the international standards where we can train a maximum of 24 coaches and we are happy that we have all the athletes that we invited for the course. One of the things I am happy with is that some of our top runners who are going towards their retirement have also attended and those who have retired are also there.

"Themba Ncube is there, Gabriel Chikomo is there and we have also Cuthbert Nyasango, who is the chairman of the athletes' commission and who was a representative for Zimbabwe in London World Championships.

"This is a good indication that we are setting a good foundation for the future of this federation. We are trying to bring the former athletes in athletics. We believe when we are gone athletics can still go on.

"And we are proud as a federation that when we retire we can hand over the baton to our young former athletes who have seen it all. They have been in the athletics arena and coming back to them it means they are consolidating their federation," said Tagara.

The course, which has also attracted coaches from schools comes at a time the national association is concluding their activities for 2017 and shifting their focus to 2018.

Tagara said they are grateful to their stakeholders such as naph and nash who have been supportive of their programmes and added that it's only wise that they invest in the school system as it is their base from which they identify most of the talent.

"If you look at the Youths Championships, the Youth Olympics, the World Junior teams they are in the school system so we are happy when schools attend. And we are happy with the relations that we have with naph and nash. So as a federation we feel if we continue working like this, athletics will never be the same again. We would have set a strong foundation.

"Finally, we are also happy with the support that we are getting from the Zimbabwe Olympic Committee in preparing our coaches and support for these coaches. We can only perform when we have got the best coaches," Tagara said. The NAAZ president challenged the likes of Ncube and Nyasango to lead the way in assisting upcoming athletes to follow their footsteps having qualified and represented the country at major international competitions themselves.

Nyasango has been to the Olympics twice, in 2012 and 2016 and the World Championships as well while Ncube was part of the 4x400m relay team that won a gold medal at the African Championships in 2004.

The course runs until December 18.

North Korea: Urgent need to open channels, UN says after visit

  • 9 December 2017
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North Korea's Foreign Minister Ri Yong-Ho shakes hands with with Jeffrey FeltmanImage copyright Reuters
Image caption Mr Feltman met top North Korean officials on his trip including Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho

A top UN official told senior North Korean figures there was an "urgent need" to keep channels open to avoid the risk of war, the organisation says.

The statement follows a visit to Pyongyang by Jeffrey Feltman, the highest-level trip by a UN official to the isolated nation in six years.

North Korea says it has agreed to regular communication with the UN.

Tensions over the North's weapons programme were raised further after a fresh ballistic missile test last week.

North Korea said it was its most advanced missile yet, capable of reaching the continental US.

The test was the latest in a series of nuclear and missile tests conducted in defiance of UN sanctions.

South Korea and the US have meanwhile been carrying out large-scale military drills in a show of force.

'Hostile US policy'

The UN continues to operate in North Korea, with programmes providing food, agricultural and health aid but .

After the UN's Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Mr Feltman met senior North Koreans all agreed "the current situation was the most tense and dangerous peace and security issue in the world today", .

"Noting the urgent need to prevent miscalculations and open channels to reduce the risks of conflict, Mr Feltman underlined that the international community, alarmed by escalating tensions, is committed to the achievement of a peaceful solution," it added.

North Korean state media earlier said current tensions were "entirely ascribable to the US hostile policy".

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Some of latest pictures released by North Korea showed Kim Jong-un on Mount Paektu, the country's highest peak

But in its reporting of Mr Feltman's trip, KCNA also said both sides agreed on "communication through visits at different level on a regular basis in the future".

Before leaving for Pyongyang, Mr Feltman held talks in China, North Korea's historic ally and main trading partner.

Despite calls from other world leaders for restraint, this year has seen US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un hurl insults at each other, both at one time saying the other was mad.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson though has .

North Korea argues nuclear capabilities are its only deterrent against an outside world seeking to destroy it.

Portugal's Eurovision winner Salvador Sobral has heart transplant

  • 9 December 2017
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SalvadorImage copyright Reuters
Image caption Salvador Sobral missed a week of Eurovision rehearsals due to his heart condition

Portugal's celebrated Eurovision Song Contest winner, Salvador Sobral, is recovering in hospital after undergoing a heart transplant.

Surgeons at the Santa Cruz Hospital in the Portuguese capital, Lisbon, said the 27-year-old was "doing well".

Sobral, who suffered from a longstanding heart condition, (Love for Both of Us).

It was the first time Portugal had taken the title.

"The surgery went well," said surgeon Miguel Abecasis, .

"He was very well prepared. He is a young man who understood the difficulties of this type of procedure."

Mr Abecasis said that before Friday's operation the singer had wished him "good luck".

The recovery would take a long time, Mr Abecasis added, but said that if all went well, Sobral would have "a completely normal life".

The singer had to wait several months until a suitable donor was found, Publico reported. He announced in September that he was taking a break from performing.

Sobral's winning ballad, written by his older sister, Luisa, made him a national hero in Portugal.

He described it as "an emotional song with a beautiful lyrical message and harmony - things people are not used to listening these days".

Iraq declares war with Islamic State is over

  • 9 December 2017
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The Old City of Mosul, July 2017Image copyright AFP
Image caption Recapturing Mosul was the bloodiest conflict - for both combatants and civilians

Iraq has announced that its war against so-called Islamic State (IS) is over.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi told a conference in Baghdad that Iraqi troops were now in complete control of the Iraqi-Syrian border.

The border zone contained the last few areas IS held, following its loss of the town of Rawa in November.

The US state department welcomed the end of the "vile occupation" of IS in Iraq and said the fight against the group would continue.

Iraq's announcement comes two days after the Russian military declared it had accomplished its mission of defeating IS in neighbouring Syria.

The jihadist group had seized large swathes of Syria and Iraq in 2014, when it proclaimed a "caliphate" and imposed its rule over some 10 million people.

But it suffered a series of defeats over the past two years, losing Iraq's second city of Mosul this July and its de facto capital of Raqqa in northern Syria last month.

Some IS fighters are reported to have dispersed into the Syrian countryside, while others are believed to have escaped across the Turkish border.

A battle unfinished

By Sebastian Usher, BBC Arab affairs editor

This is undeniably a proud moment for Mr Abadi - a victory that once looked like it might only ever be rhetorical rather than real.

But if the direct military war with IS in Iraq is genuinely over, and the country's elite forces can now step back after a conflict that's taken a huge toll on them, it doesn't mean the battle against the group's ideology or its ability to stage an insurgency is finished - whether in Iraq, Syria or the wider world.

Attacks may be at a lower level than they once were, but Iraqi towns and cities still fall prey to suicide bombers, while the conditions that fuelled the growth of jihadism remain - even in the territory that's been recaptured.

Mr Abadi said on Saturday: "Our forces are in complete control of the Iraqi-Syrian border and I therefore announce the end of the war against Daesh [IS].

"Our enemy wanted to kill our civilisation, but we have won through our unity and our determination. We have triumphed in little time."

The Iraqi armed forces issued a statement saying Iraq had been "totally liberated" from IS.

Interactive Slide the button to see how the area IS controls has changed since 2015

2017

Area controlled by Islamic State group at the end of October 2017

2015

Area controlled by Islamic State group in January 2015

"The United States joins the government of Iraq in stressing that Iraq's liberation does not mean the fight against terrorism, and even against Isis [IS], in Iraq is over," she added.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May congratulated Mr Abadi on a "historic moment" but warned that IS still posed a threat, including from across the border in Syria.

Last month, the Syrian military said it had "fully liberated" the eastern border town of Albu Kamal, the last last urban stronghold of IS in that country.

On Thursday, the head of the Russian general staff's operations, Col-Gen Sergei Rudskoi, said: "The mission to defeat bandit units of the Islamic State terrorist organisation on the territory of Syria, carried out by the armed forces of the Russian Federation, has been accomplished."

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Estimates of civilian deaths in Mosul alone vary wildly, with one figure as high as 40,000

He said Russia's military presence in Syria would now concentrate on preserving ceasefires and restoring peace.

The collapse of IS has raised fears that its foreign fighters will escape over Syria's borders to carry out more attacks abroad.

Iraq's war with IS

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Civilians flee as Iraqi forces battle to retake Mosul in March 2017
  • January 2014: Forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant capture the cities of Falluja and Ramadi
  • June 2014: The jihadists take Mosul, Iraq's second city, after a six-day battle
  • 29 June 2014: ISIL changes its name to Islamic State, announcing a new caliphate under Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi
  • August 2014: IS captures Sinjar. Some 200,000 civilians, mostly Yazidis, flee to the Sinjar mountains, prompting US-aided air drops
  • March 2015: Iraqi forces and allied Shia militias retake Tikrit
  • December 2015: Ramadi recaptured
  • June 2016: Falluja retaken
  • October 2016: Iraqi forces, Shia militias, Kurdish units and international allies lay siege to Mosul
  • July 2017: Mosul retaken
  • December 2017: Iraq's PM announces an end to the war with IS

Erik Skoglund's only defeat was against Callum Smith (left) in September

Swedish boxer Erik Skoglund is in a "serious yet stable condition" after having surgery for a bleed on the brain, his promoters

The 26-year-old is in a medically induced coma and Sauerland Promotion said: "The next three to four days are critical for his recovery."

Skoglund, who has won 26 of his 27 fights, was taken to hospital on Friday after feeling ill following a training session in his hometown of Nykoping.

His last fight was on 16 September.

That was a in the World Boxing Super Series quarter-final in Liverpool, his only loss to date.

He was due to fight Rocky Fielding on the now postponed Tony Bellew-David Haye undercard.

"Doctors are pleased with the results and Erik remains in a serious yet stable condition," Sauerland said.

Fellow boxers pay tribute

Britain's WBA super-middleweight champion George Groves‏ on "So sad and deeply concerning to hear the news Erik Skoglund has fallen ill and is in a medically induced coma. He is such a nice guy, thoughts are with his family and team."

Britain's super-middleweight Callum Smith on "Thoughts and prayers are with Erik Skoglund and his family. Wishing him a speedy recovery."

Britain's light-middleweight Liam Smith on "Sad to hear the news about Erik Skoglund. Thoughts with him and his family, hope he pulls through, a real gentlemen of the sport."

Former WBO cruiserweight champion Enzo Maccarinelli on "Gutted to hear the news regarding Erik Skoglund, hope he makes a full recovery. Don't think a lot of people realise the risk that fighters take when we step into that ring."

7 December 2017

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