Morocco Reports 346 New Coronavirus Infections

Morocco reported as many as 346 new cases of contracting Coronavirus infection, in the last 24-hour, putting the tally at 520,769.

Only four deaths were reported, raising the fatalities to 9,169, since the outbreak of the pandemic, against overall 508,570 recoveries.

Source: Saudi Press Agency

‘It Was A War’: Ethnic Killings Cloud Ethiopia’s Election Buildup

As gunfire crackled outside, Genet Webea huddled with her husband and seven-year-old daughter, praying they would be spared in the latest bout of ethnic strife to rock central Ethiopia.

But that morning in April, around a dozen gunmen broke down the front door and, ignoring Genet’s pleas for mercy, fatally shot her husband in the chest and stomach.

He was one of more than 100 civilians to die in a recent flare-up of violence in the town of Ataye that also saw the assailants torch more than 1,500 buildings, leaving once-bustling streets lined with charred and twisted metal.

The destruction continues a pattern of unrest that has blighted the tenure of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, winner of the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, and now threatens to disrupt elections in which he will seek a new term.

Ethiopia’s polls are scheduled for June 21, but officials say insecurity and logistical challenges make voting impossible — at least for now — in at least 26 constituencies across the country.

That includes Ataye, where Abiy’s vision of unity for Ethiopia’s diverse population of 110 million can seem like a distant dream.

Since Abiy became prime minister in 2018, the town has endured at least six rounds of ethnic killings, and ties between members of the country’s two largest groups, the Oromos and Amharas, have visibly frayed, said mayor Agagenew Mekete.

Genet, an ethnic Amhara, told AFP that since the April attack she blanches when she hears the language of her husband’s ethnic Oromo killers, saying it conjures the painful image of him bleeding out on their kitchen floor.

“I don’t want to see or hear them,” she told AFP.

‘It was a war’

A lowland farming town 270 kilometers (167 miles) northeast of Addis Ababa, Ataye’s population of 70,000 is majority Amhara, but it borders Oromo settlements in three directions. For Agagenew, the mayor, the relentless violence reflects tensions over lush land used to grow wheat, sorghum and maize.

Ethiopia is Africa’s second most-populous country, with different ethnic groups living cheek by jowl in some areas, straining ties as they jostle for land and resources.

In recent years tensions have worsened in parts of the country, leading to deadly violence and displacing millions.

Abiy took office vowing to put an end to the government’s iron-fisted rule, yet this has created space for violent ethno-nationalists to wreak havoc, Agagenew said.

“There has been a looseness after Abiy came to office, in the name of widening the democracy,” he said.

“There is looseness in enforcing the rule of law.”

Like Genet, he blames the killings partly on the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), a rebel group that lawmakers last month designated a terrorist organization.

But the OLA denies any presence in the area and says officials falsely invoke the rebels to justify “ethnic cleansing” against ordinary Oromos.

Boru, who gave only his first name for safety reasons, is one of several Oromo residents of Ataye who said the OLA were not involved.

Instead, he said, the carnage was set off when Amhara security forces shot dead an Oromo imam outside a mosque, then prevented mourners from retrieving the body.

“It did not come out of the blue,” he said. “It was a war. Each side was attacking the other.”

This jibes with accounts from officials in nearby Oromo communities, who note that the violence extended beyond Ataye and claimed many Oromo victims.

Ethiopia’s chief ombudsman, Endale Haile, told AFP more than 400 were killed in total and more than 400,000 displaced, declining to provide an ethnic breakdown.

Election apathy

Whoever bears responsibility, there is no disputing the killings have left Ataye resembling a ghost town.

The hospital and police station were both ransacked, and demolished storefronts offer only scattered clues — burnt shoeboxes, the ripped sign of a beauty salon — to what they once contained.

Most residents have fled, with crowds gathering only when officials hand out sacks of wheat as food aid.

Ethiopia’s electoral board insists voting will take place in Ataye and other violence-wracked constituencies before a new parliamentary session opens in October.

But no preparations are under way and residents have little enthusiasm.

“Why would we vote in elections? We have no interest in elections,” said 19-year-old Hawa Seid. “We’ve lost our homes.”

‘Politicized’ deaths

The Ataye violence spurred days of protests in cities across the Amhara region, where the bloodshed could shape the election.

“For people whose basic existence is questioned and being violated, I think the security of Amharas all over Ethiopia will determine how people vote,” said Dessalegn Chanie, senior member of the National Movement for Amhara, an opposition party.

The Amhara Association of America, a Washington-based lobbying firm, says more than 2,000 Amharas have been killed in dozens of massacres going back to last July.

The regional spokesman, Gizachew Muluneh, accused rival parties of “trying to politicize the killings and get something from the deaths of others,” adding, “It is not morally good.”

Genet, whose husband was shot dead in their kitchen, participated in the protests herself.

“I was happy to be there because I wanted to show how much they are hurting us and to ask the government to stop the Amhara genocide,” she said.

But she has not given up on the idea that Amharas and Oromos could one day live together in harmony.

She noted that after her husband was killed, Oromo neighbors briefly housed her and her daughter until it was safe to leave.

It was a gesture of kindness that reminded her of a more peaceful era she would like to return to.

“Once,” she said, “we all lived together like a family.”

Source: Voice of America

Cameroon Clears Illegal Miners from Border Village after Landslide Kills 27

Cameroonian authorities say they are deporting more than 1,000 illegal gold miners on the country’s eastern border with the Central African Republic after 27 miners died in May due to landslides. Those being expelled include 400 Central Africans and Senegalese in the village of Kambele.

At least 300 illegal miners were forced by Cameroonian police and military to sit on the floor at the Kambele market square on Tuesday night this week. Among them are Cameroonians, Central Africans and Senegalese.

Alfred Kamoun is a 31-year-old father of two from the neighboring Central African Republic. He says he was forced out of a mining site called Boukarou in Kambele village.

He says he and his two brothers will no longer be able to raise $50 each night from digging and selling gold. He says while at the mining site they could dig at least 7 grams of gold each night. Kamoun says his son will no longer be paid $4 every night for supplying water to wash gold.

Kambele is a village in Batouri, an administrative unit located about 700 kilometers from Cameroon’s eastern neighbor, CAR.

On Monday local authorities at Batouri said 27 illegal gold miners died in Kambele village in May. Auberlin Mbelessa, mayor of Batouri says an emergency crisis meeting recommended the deportation of at least 1,000 civilians from the risky mining area.

He says no one can be indifferent when civilians are dying in gold mines, yet thousands of people continue to rush to mining sites which from every indication are dangerous. He says while deporting the illegal gold miners, rescue workers and Cameroon military will also search to remove corpses and save the lives of people who may still be trapped in the collapsing mines.

Cameroon said it deployed its rescue workers, military and police to Kambele to clear the area of illegal miners and make sure foreign illegal miners either obtain their residence and mining permits or leave.

The military is prohibiting miners from visiting risk zones where trenches dug to harvest gold are collapsing. Baba Bell, traditional ruler of Kambele says some civilians may have drown in trenches filled with water from heavy rains.

He says every year during the rainy season as from the months of April, so many gold mines collapse leaving many people severely wounded or dead. He says a majority of the victims are unemployed Cameroonian youths who flood his village in search of opportunities. He says several hundred foreigners from Congo Brazzaville, Central African Republic, China and Senegal are in his village.

Hilaire Kembe is a Cameroon illegal gold miner at Kembele village. He says it is impossible to know the exact number of dead or wounded people in May in Kambele.

He says miners do not report when they discover fresh corpses and human bones at mining sites because of fear that they will be held for several weeks at police posts for interrogations. He says several hundred villagers and foreign miners whose identities are unknown prefer digging for gold at night when Cameroon police and military retire to their barracks. He says it is difficult to know when the night miners are buried by collapsing soils.

Cameroon says some of the illegal miners are displaced persons fleeing the conflict in CAR and fleeing from Boko Haram terrorist groups on its northern border with Nigeria. Some are escaping from the Anglophone separatist fighters in the country’s English-speaking western regions.

The government has always prohibited unauthorized people from digging in the area. But many youths ignore the order saying that they are unemployed.

Source: Voice of America

Tanzania Activists Urge Government to Begin COVID-19 Vaccinations

The president of Zanzibar, a semi-autonomous region of Tanzania, has said his government will soon import COVID-19 vaccines. This puts the region at odds with the national government, which has yet to approve any COVID vaccine. Opposition parties are urging the government to allow vaccinations to begin.

Zanzibar’s President Hussein Mwinyi said Saturday that he will allow COVID-19 vaccines to be administered in the semi-autonomous region. He said the vaccinations, when they begin, will be both optional and safe.

Mwinyi said there will be nobody who will be forced to get a vaccination they don’t want. He added we should not accept people’s sayings that if you get vaccinated would die; all over the world, people have been vaccinated. He said we will bring in the vaccine and those who want it will be vaccinated and those who don’t won’t take the shot.

Former Tanzanian president John Magufuli, who died in March, denied the presence of COVID-19 in the country and dismissed the vaccines as unproven and risky.

The new president, Samia Hassan, accepts that the disease exists and has said she is looking to import vaccines. But still, weeks have gone by without any sign of vaccines being delivered to or administered in Tanzania.

Rights activists like Deogratias Mahinyila say it’s high time the government to follow the world’s approach in handling the infections.

He says what is being done in Zanzibar and here on the mainland should be done quickly and go with this pace. Mahinyila adds that Tanzania is not an island; whatever we are doing should match with other countries in the world how they are handling this.

Some citizens say vaccinations will reduce the fear of infections.

Dar es Salaam resident Jackline Thomas thinks the government should speed up allowing vaccination to be brought in Tanzania “because we all know that vaccination is the main weapon to avoid a person getting ill.” She says if a person gets the COVID-19 vaccine, that means the infections will not spread and we won’t live under fear.

After more than a year of pandemic, Tanzania still has no figures on the numbers of COVID-19 cases or the deaths caused by the disease.

Zanzibar’s president says he’ll import the vaccines by Saturday, although the details of the plan remain unclear.

Source: Voice of America

At least 55 Killed in Eastern Congo Massacres, UN Says

At least 55 people were killed overnight in two attacks on villages in eastern Congo, the United Nations said on Monday, in potentially the worst night of violence the area has seen in at least four years.

The army and a local civil rights group blamed the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), an Islamist armed group, for raiding the village of Tchabi and a camp for displaced people near Boga, another village. Both are close to the border of Uganda.

Houses were burned and civilians abducted, the U.N. office for humanitarian affairs said in a statement.

Albert Basegu, the head of a civil rights group in Boga, told Reuters by telephone that he had been alerted to the attack by the sound of cries at a neighbor’s house.

“When I got there I found that the attackers had already killed an Anglican pastor and his daughter was also seriously wounded,” Basegu said.

The Kivu Security Tracker (KST), which has mapped unrest in restive eastern Congo since June 2017, said on Twitter the wife of a local chief was among the dead. It did not attribute blame for the killings.

“It’s the deadliest day ever recorded by the KST,” said Pierre Boisselet, the research group’s coordinator.

The ADF is believed to have killed more than 850 people in 2020, according to the United Nations, in a spate of reprisal attacks on civilians after the army began operations against it the year before.

In March, the United States labeled the ADF a foreign terrorist organization. The group has in the past proclaimed allegiance to Islamic State, although the United Nations says evidence linking it to other Islamist militant networks is scant.

President Felix Tshisekedi declared a state of siege in Congo’s North Kivu and Ituri provinces on May 1 in an attempt to curb increasing attacks by militant groups.

Uganda announced earlier this month that it had agreed to share intelligence and coordinate operations against the rebels but that it would not be deploying troops in Congo.

Source: Voice of America

Sudan closes schools, universities to curb COVID-19 cases

May 18, 2021 (KHARTOUM) – Schools and universities in Sudan will close for at least four weeks as part of new national restrictions to fight rising COVID-19 cases.

After a meeting held on Tuesday, the Supreme Committee for Health Emergencies announced the closure of universities, schools, Muslim and Christian worship houses.

The unexpected decision warned against a new wave of COVID-19 after the emergence of new variants in Brazil, India and South Africa.

The committee imposed an entry ban on travellers coming from India or who were in India during the past 14 days.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there have been 34,889 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 2,446 deaths in Sudan.

A total of 290,500 vaccine doses have been administered, as of 9 May 2021.

Taking into account the high spread rate of the disease, health forecasts in Sudan show that the number of infected people may exceed 100,000 cases next June if the health restrictions are not observed as is the case now.

“This leads to more deaths and more deterioration,” stressed the statement.

Recently, WHO called for equitable COVID-19 access in Africa.

“The delay in the delivery of vaccine doses from the Serum Institute of India earmarked for Africa, the delay in the deployment of vaccines and the emergence of new variants means that the risk of a new wave of infections remains very high in Africa,” said a statement issued on 7 May.

 

Source: Sudan Tribune