Senior officials from the United Nations, the African Union (AU), the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) on Tuesday began a visit to Bangui to “relaunch” the AU-led peace talks.
The senior officials are in Bangui “to revive international efforts for lasting peace in the country, through dialogue between the government and armed groups under the auspices of the African Union Initiative,” said a UN statement.
The AU mediation, launched in July 2017 and supported by the UN and the main partners of the Central African Republic, is criticized by diplomats and observers for its slow pace and a lack of results.
The visit – which includes Jean-Pierre Lacroix, head of the UN peacekeeping department, and Smail Chergui, AU peace commissioner – is scheduled to last until Thursday.
A parallel mediation has been launched by Russia backed by Sudan. Criticized by France, it brought together, at the end of August in Khartoum, three militias of the former Seléka coalition and the antibalaka group, a self-proclaimed self-defence militia.
At the end of September in New York, Central African President Faustin-Archange Touadéra stated that mediation for peace in his country was the responsibility of the AU, adding that Russia’s involvement in talks with armed groups was only for “facilitation” purposes.
The Central African Republic, has been mired in a deadly conflict for the past six years, which has displaced more than a quarter of its 4.5 million inhabitants.
Civil society groups on Friday accused authorities of arresting at least nine opposition leaders, ahead of fresh anti-government protests expected after weekly Muslim prayers.
A committee of professional organisations involved in the protests said in a statement that authorities had raided a meeting of opposition leaders in Khartoum. They detained a total of nine people, including Siddiq Youssef, a senior leader of Sudan’s Communist Party, as well as leaders from the pan-Arab Ba’ath and Nasserist parties, the statement said.
The raid came after a coalition of opposition groups called for more protests after the weekly noon prayers on Friday.
The head of the media office at the National Intelligence and Security Service denied any knowledge of the arrests.
Fourteen leaders of one of Sudan’s two main opposition groupings were detained last Saturday and then released some nine hours later.
Sudan doubles down on social media amid protests
A digital rights group is reporting that Sudanese authorities have clamped down on access to social media in the wake of spreading anti-government protests.
Access Now and the #KeepItOn coalition – a group that fights internet shutdowns – have thus called on network operators in the country to push back from state pressure and keep people online.
The coalition said on Thursday that it was demanding that: “operators likeMTNSudan and Zain Sudan to more transparently notify the public of restrictions and push back against government requests that could violate human rights.”
Government has officially denied any such move even though social media has been a hot spot for the organization of protesters in what started out as a protest against hikes in bread and fuel prices.
The death toll so far is another area of contention with the latest government figures pegged at below twenty whiles Amnesty said days ago that it was up to thirty-seven.
Journalists join protests
A network of Sudanese journalists went on strike Thursday in the wake of deadly protests sparked by a hike in bread prices, while opposition groups called for further rallies.
“We declare a three day strike from December 27 to protest against the violence unleashed by the government against demonstrators,” said the Sudanese Journalists’ Network which advocates free speech.
Journalists in Sudan frequently complain of harassment from the authorities, and the African country has a dire rating on international press freedom rankings.
Entire print runs of newspapers are often confiscated over articles deemed offensive by the powerful National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS), which is spearheading the current crackdown on protesters.
Activists and opposition groups have called on people to take to the streets again over the next few days.
“We urge the Sudanese people to continue their demonstrations until success is achieved by overthrowing the regime,” the Sudanese Communist Party said in a statement.
Bashir’s allies demand investigation
A member of President Omar al-Bashir’s government on Wednesday called for a probe into the killings of protesters in demonstrations that have rocked the economically troubled country.
Sudanese authorities say eight protesters have been killed in clashes, but Amnesty International has put the death toll at 37.
At a press conference in Khartoum, Popular Congress Party senior official Idris Suleman said his party’s own reports indicated that 17 people “were martyred” and 88 wounded in the demonstrations.
“We call on the government to launch an investigation into the killings,” Suleman said.
“Those who committed these killings must be held accountable.”
Popular Congress Party is part of Bashir’s government and has two ministers of state in the cabinet and seven lawmakers in parliament.
Qatar keen on stability in Sudan
As anti-goverment protests in Sudan entered their fifth day, the presidency said on Monday that Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani called his counterpart, Omar al-Bashir on Saturday to express his support.
Since Wednesday, cities across Sudan have been shaken byproteststriggered by an economic deterioration. Protesters have also called for an end to Bashir’s 29-year rule.
“During the call Sheikh Tamim declared that his country stood with Sudan and was ready to offer all that was necessary to help Sudan overcome this ordeal, stressing his keenness for the stability and security of Sudan,” the statement said.
Qatar’s state news agencyQNAconfirmed the call.
Qatar and its regional rivals have increasingly vied for influence in Sudan and other countries on the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.
Gulf states have also been an important source of funding for Sudan after it lost three-quarters of its oil output when the south seceded in 2011.
Opposition defends protesters
Sudan’s opposition leader, Sadiq al-Mahdi, has called for Mahdi called for a “national and international investigation” into the deaths of protesters during price demonstrations that rocked the country this week.
A government decision to increase the price of a loaf of bread from one Sudanese pound to three (from about two to six US cents) has sparked demonstrations across the country since Wednesday.
The protest movement “is legal and was launched because of the deteriorating situation in Sudan,” he said in his first news conference since returning home on Wednesday after almost a year in exile.
While the official government position says at least eight people died during Thursday’s protests, while only person lost their life on Friday, the opposition said “22 people were martyred and several others wounded”.
Madhi blamed ‘armed repression’ for the death of the protesters, while authorities insist they used restraint in containing demonstrations.
In a rare press conference, the head of Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS), Salah Abdallah Mohamed Saleh, said seven people had been arrested in connection with the burning of ruling party office buildings in earlier protests.
“We recognise that we must have self-restraint and manage things wisely and take care of the lives of the people and of public property, and we are not bothered by demonstrations, but we are upset by the lapse in security,” said Saleh, also known as Salah Gosh.
Protests affect schools, internet
Web users reported problems accessing the internet, and some accused the government of blocking social media including Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp in a bid to stop protesters communicating. There was no comment on that from the government.
Authorities have declared states of emergency and curfews in cities in at least four of Sudan’s 18 states, according to local media.
The education ministry suspended some school or university classes in the states of al-Qadarif, White Nile and Nile River, private TV channel Sudania 24 reported.
The ministry has also announced that it would shutter universities in Khartoum state and schools and kindergartens in the capital city.
Protests ‘derailed’ by infiltrators
Sudan’s government has blamed nationwide protests that have left at least eight people dead, on ‘infiltrators’ and opposition parties, rather than the soaring prices.
The demonstrations on Wednesday and Thursday were among the biggest since crowds came out against cuts to state subsidies in 2013.
Officials told Sudania 24 TV that six people died in protests in the eastern city of al-Qadarif and two more in northern Nile River state, without giving details on how they were killed.
“Peaceful demonstrations were derailed and transformed by infiltrators into subversive activity targeting public institutions and property, burning, destroying and burning some police headquarters,” government spokesman Bishara Jumaa said in a statement released by the official Sudan News Agency.
He did not name anyone but he also said the protesters, some of whom have called for the overthrow of President Omar al-Bashir, were being exploited by opposition parties.
“Some political parties emerged in an attempt to exploit these conditions to shake security and stability in order to achieve their political agenda,” Jumaa said. He did not identify the parties.
He added that the demonstrations had been “dealt with by police and security forces in a civilised way without repression or opposition”.
Police fired teargas to break up a crowd of around 500 people in the capital Khartoum, then chased them through back streets and made arrests, a witness said.
Public anger in Sudan has been building over price rises and other economic hardships, including a doubling in the cost of bread this year and limits on bank withdrawals. At 69 percent, Sudan’s inflation rate is among the world’s highest.
Exiled opposition politician returns
Leading Sudanese opposition figure Sadiq al-Mahdi returned to Sudan on Wednesday from nearly a year in self-imposed exile and called for a democratic transition in Sudan.
“The regime has failed and there is economic deterioration and erosion of the national currency’s value,” Mahdi, who was Sudan’s last democratically elected prime minister and now heads the Umma party, told thousands of supporters.
Sudan’s president Omar al- Bashir, one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders, took power in an Islamist and military-backed coup in 1989. Lawmakers this month proposed a constitutional amendment toextend term limitsthat would have required him to step down in 2020.
Protests spread to other cities
Anti-government protests spread to the Sudanese capital, Khartoum on Thursday, as more people demonstrate against high prices and a liquidity crunch.
Around 150 protesters shut down a main street in Khartoum and chanted: “The people want the fall of the regime.”
Police in riot gear broke up the protests.
A member of parliament said a university student was killed when protests spread from Atbara city to al-Qadarif.
‘‘The situation in al-Qadarif has become dangerous and the protests have developed to include fires and theft and it’s now out of control,’‘ Mubarak al-Nur said.
Thursday protests start in Atbara
Security forces in Sudan fired teargas to quell protests on Thursday, after people took to the streets chanting anti-government slogans.
A state of emergency was declared in the Atbara city on Wednesday after hundreds of people protested against price increases and set fire to the local headquarters of the ruling party.
A curfew was declared from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. in Atbara — Sudan’s railway hub, with a large railworker population manning various lines, interchanges and maintenance workshops — the state security committee said.
Atbara is historically a hotbed for anti-government protests.
“Today, the headquarters of the ruling party in the city of Atbara and the headquarters of the local government and a fuel station were burned,” Hatem al-Wassilah, governor of the Nile River state, said on Sudania 24 TV.
A decision to reduce bread subsidies this year sparked rarenationwide protestsin Sudan after bread prices doubled. But Sudan increased flour subsidies by 40 percent in November.
Port Sudan, the capital of Red Sea state, also saw limited protests on Wednesday, witnesses told Reuters.
Sudan’s annual inflation edged up to 68.93 percent in November from 68.44 percent in October.
Prime Minister Motazz Moussa said inflation for the full year 2018 was expected to be 63 percent.
Severe shortages of fuel and bread, both subsidised by the government, have forced people in the capital and other cities to queue at bakeries and petrol stations.
Earlier on Wednesday, Moussa said Sudan’s 2019 budget included 66 billion Sudanese pounds ($1.39 billion) in subsidies, 53 billion of which is for fuel and bread.
Popular Ugandan legislator Robert Kyagulanyi popularly known as Bobi Wine has been granted bail by the High Court in Gulu, a town in the Northern part of the country.
Bobi Wine, who has been in detention for two weeks, was granted bail along with 11 other co-accused colleagues who are facing treason charges.
The state says Bobi Wine and other opposition supporters are accused of mobilising and attacking president Yoweri Museveni’s convoy.
Justice Stephen Mubiru also granted bail to Arua Municipality MP-elect, Kassiano Wadri, the candidate Bobi Wine was campaigning for when they were both arrested on 13th August.
Other legislators including Jinja East MP, Paul Mwiru, Ntungamo Municipality MP, Gerald Karuhanga were also granted bail along with several opposition supporters who wre detained during the crackdown.
Wadri who won the hotly contested Arua by-election was however restrained by the court, from operating within his constituency for three months, to allow for the investigations to be conducted in a calm environment.
Several people outside the court and on social media celebrated the release of Bobi Wine, even as they continued to demand for the release of all the other detained opposition supporters using the hashtag #FreeArua33.
Ethiopian army has taken over the security of the volatile eastern Somali region after heavy fighting over the weekend left an unknown number of civilians dead and thousands displaced.
The region’s president Abdi Mohamoud Omar, commonly known as Abdi Illey, was forced to resign on Monday and replaced by his finance minister Mr Ahmed Abdi Mohammed.
According to state-owned ESTV website, Mr Abdi was arrested and flown to the capital Addis Ababa on Tuesday.
“Officials from the Somali region in Ethiopia have confirmed to us reports of the arrest of Abdi Mohamoud Omar,” ESTV reported.
Mr Abdi was seen arriving at the Bole International Airport aboard a yellow military helicopter. He was not handcuffed.
Following uprisings in the region, the army and the federal police were ordered to enter the region to maintain peace at the invitation of the Somali Regional Council, the government said.
The deployment led to standoff between the federal forces and the region’s paramilitary Liyu police and sparked protests by residents in the regional capital Jigjiga and Dire Dawa. It is reported that dozens of people died.
Property was also looted including banks and businesses as well as targeted killings of non-Somalis, according to AFP.
The Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, Abune Mathias, told state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting that seven churches were set ablaze and priests killed in the attacks.
“Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed deplores the violence and destruction of property in Jigjiga and Dire Dawa. He expresses his condolences for the tragic loss of lives. These tragedies and cycle of violence must end,” Mr Fitsum Arega, chief of staff of the Prime Minister said Monday.
Ethiopia is divided between ethnically demarcated federal regions that are intended to give different ethnicities a degree of self-rule but have been criticised for exacerbating ethnic tensions.
The Somali region, also known as Ogaden, is the second-largest and has been bedevilled by conflict lasting two decades with the government fighting the rebel Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) that is seeking secession of the oil-rich region.
Ethiopia discovered an estimated 4.7 trillion cubic feet of gas and about 13.6 million barrels of associated liquids at the Calub and Hilala gas fields in the Ogaden Basin about four decades ago. The country, however, is yet to begin exploiting these resources due to communal conflicts and lack of infrastructure.
In June, the country began test-production undertaken by Chinese oil and gas exploration company Poly-GCL Petroleum Holdings Investment Ltd that saw three wells at the Ogaden basin generate 150 barrels of crude oil.
Rashid Abdi, Horn of Africa director at the International Crisis Group (ICG) think tank in Nairobi, said on Twitter that Prime Minister Abiy’s predecessors had relied on the regional president to pacify the Somali region and keep Islamist Al-Shabaab militants in neighbouring Somalia from entering Ethiopia.
But since taking office, Abiy has announced major reforms that Somali regional authorities believe would disrupt their hold on power, Mr Abdi said.
“They distrusted his reform agenda, concluded he was intent on disrupting the cosy arrangement that allowed the (Somali region) leader untrammelled power,” he said.
Rights groups have repeatedly accused the Somali regional government led by president Abdi Iley of committing rights abuses.
Last month, Human Rights Watch said regional authorities ran a secret jail where suspected members of a separatist group are tortured, raped and starved.
Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., China’s biggest online emporium, “will do anything to share technology” with Africa, founder and Chairman Jack Ma said.
“The opportunity in e-commerce in Africa lies in the fact that Africa is lacking logistics, infrastructure and payment systems,” Ma said at a conference in Johannesburg Wednesday, after he met South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and discussed implementing more favorable tax conditions for start-ups in the continent’s most-industrialized economy.
Ma has set aside $10 million for a fund for African entrepreneurs and said his next visit to the continent will be to Nigeria, the region’s most-populous nation.
The death of seven-year-old Joel Urhie is now being treated as murder after a blaze consumed his family’s home early
Arson victim Joel Urhie wanted to be a firefighter
Joel’s brother Sam Urhie, pictured, is said to have been the intended target for the deadly ‘arson’ attack
Police are now treating the little boy’s death as murder – with it feared the arson attack was meant for his older brother Sam, 21.
A picture of Sam was given to The Sun Online today by pals after being shared on Snapchat with the words “pain” and “you won’t even know the half”.
Witnesses told how the grief-stricken brother was heard screaming: “It should have been me. Why not me to die?” as he travelled to the hospital after the blaze.
And today it emerged that grieving mum Efe, also known as Sophie, confronted her son in emotional scenes in hospital barely 24 hours after the fire had claimed his little brother’s life.
A cousin of Joel’s dad John, who did not want to give her name, told The Sun Online: “The mum blamed him. She told him straight away in the hospital ‘you have killed Joel’.”
They further claimed Sam had fallen in with a “bad crowd” before the fire – a potential motive behind the blaze.
They added: “His parents have been trying to get him back on the straight and narrow.
“She’s tried as much as a mum could try. She’s a great mum.
“He fell into the wrong crowd. (His dad) John was getting stressed out by it.”
A friend told how Sam was grief-stricken as he visited mum Sophie, 49, and sister Sarah, 18, in a hospital where they were recovering from non-life threatening injuries.
The family member also claimed parents John and Efe had been driven apart by Sam’s behaviour, adding: “Sam drove them apart, he wasn’t listening, he was getting involved in fights, they didn’t know where he was coming from or where he was going to.”
Joel died trapped in his bedroom after a fire was deliberately started at his home.
His mum and sister escaped by leaping from a first-floor window.
THE grieving mum of a seven-year-old boy killed in a house fire confronted her devastated eldest son in hospital telling him “you have killed Joel”, a family member claimed today.
Schoolboy Joel Urhie, who dreamed of being a firefighter, was killed when his family’s Deptford home was consumed in a blaze in the early hours of yesterday morning.
THE grieving mum of a seven-year-old boy killed in a house fire confronted her devastated eldest son in hospital telling him “you have killed Joel”, a family member claimed today.
Kenneth Umezie accused of killing musician in Camberwell, London, earlier this month
A man has been charged with murder over the death of a London-based musician last week, police have said.
Kenneth Umezie, 31, is accused of killing Sidique Kamara, a 23-year-old drill rapper from Camberwell, in the south of the capital.
Kamara, who performed under the name Incognito with rap collective Moscow17, was found with stab wounds in a sidestreet at about 7.30pm on Wednesday 1 August. He died at the scene, Scotland Yard said.
He had previously spoken about the relationship between drill and violence, saying: “The crime that’s happening, right, music does influence it. You’ve got to put your hands up and say drill music does influence it.”
But he added: “Knife crime and gun crime has been going on way before drill music … 10 years, 20 years, people were still getting cheffed up [attacked with knives].
“There [are] many ways to solve it – you can bring out youth clubs, you can bring out many other things, invest money in other things to help the community, but you don’t want to do that – you just want to use an excuse with drill music.”
Umezie, who is also from Camberwell, is due to appear at Bromley magistrates court on Wednesday.
The Metropolitan police said three other teenagers, aged 16, 18 and 19, who were arrested as part of their murder inquiry, had been released under investigation.
Another member of the Moscow17 collective, 17-year-old Rhyhiem Ainsworth Barton, was fatally shot on the same street in May.
The group’s tracks have had hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube and include lyrics hostile to long-running rivals Zone 2, from Peckham.
Earlier this year, Kamara and another member of Moscow17 were cleared at the Old Bailey of murdering teenager Abdirahman Mohamed, a brother of a member of Zone 2.
This weekend, confectionery giant Mars pulled its advertising from YouTube after one of its brands was shown alongside drill rap videos linked to violent crime in the capital.