Rwanda sends 1,000 troops to insurgency-hit Mozambique

Rwanda sends 1,000 troops to insurgency-hit Mozambique
Mozambican army soldiers on patrol after a Daesh attack, Mocimboa da Praia, Cabo Delgado province, Mozambique. (AFP)
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Updated 09 July 2021

Rwanda sends 1,000 troops to insurgency-hit Mozambique

Rwanda sends 1,000 troops to insurgency-hit Mozambique
  • Attacks have escalated in northern Mozambique, fueling fears the violence could spill over into neighboring countries
  • Rwanda is already a major contributor to the UN’s peacekeeping force in the Central African Republic

KIGALI: Rwanda said on Friday it will send 1,000 troops to Mozambique to help the country battle extremist militants wreaking havoc in the north of the gas-rich nation.
The planned deployment comes on the heels of a similar decision last month by the 16 nations in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) regional bloc.
Analysts warned however that such multiple missions could further militarise the impoverished Cabo Delgado province, which has been terrorized by Daesh-linked extremists since late 2017.
“The government of Rwanda, at the request of the government of Mozambique, will today start the deployment of a 1,000-person contingent of the Rwanda Defense Force and the Rwanda National Police to Cabo Delgado Province,” Kigali said in a statement.
The forces will “support efforts to restore Mozambican state authority by conducting combat and security operations, as well as stabilization and security-sector reform,” it added.
The Rwandan contingent will work with the Mozambique Armed Defense Forces and those from SADC “in designated sectors of responsibility.”
There was no immediate reaction to the announcement from the government in Maputo, whose President Filipe Nyusi vowed last month to root out the militants with the help of regional allies.
Attacks have escalated in northern Mozambique over the past year, fueling fears the violence could spill over into neighboring countries.
The insurgency has claimed more than 2,900 lives, according to conflict data tracker ACLED, and displaced around 800,000 people, according to the United Nations.
But Adriano Nuvunga, head of Mozambique’s Center for Democracy and Development in Maputo, voiced concern at the Rwandan deployment.
“We see this as a not good move because it will further militarise northern Cabo Delgado and it can lead deep into the conflict moving in the wrong direction.”
Rwanda is already a major contributor to the UN’s peacekeeping force in the Central African Republic and last year sent hundreds of troops to the unstable country after an attempted coup.
Nyusi, himself a former defense minister, had long shied away from asking for foreign military intervention to fight the extremists, instead relying on private military companies.
But last month he vowed to crush the militants with the help of SADC and “friendly countries.”
Alexandre Raymakers, Africa Analyst at UK-based global risk consultancy Verisk Maplecroft, said he believes the Rwandan contingent could be used to secure key LNG sites in an effort to lure back international investors.
“The Rwandan security forces have developed a reputation for being a highly capable fighting force,” he said.
But, he added, “the presence of multiple military missions, in the form of a potential Rwandan contingent and the SADC, will likely lead to conflicting priorities and friction at the military command level, hindering the overall.”


Pfizer vaccines available for EU children in two weeks

Pfizer vaccines available for EU children in two weeks
Updated 5 sec ago

Pfizer vaccines available for EU children in two weeks

Pfizer vaccines available for EU children in two weeks
BRUSSELS: The EU’s main Covid vaccine provider, BioNTech/Pfizer, will have jabs available for children in the bloc in two weeks’ time, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said Wednesday.
She said she had spoken with the German-US joint venture about the issue the day before, and they said “they are able to accelerate — in other words children’s vaccines will be available as of December 13.”

Portugal tightens restrictions despite coronavirus vaccine success

Portugal tightens restrictions despite coronavirus vaccine success
Updated 54 min 17 sec ago

Portugal tightens restrictions despite coronavirus vaccine success

Portugal tightens restrictions despite coronavirus vaccine success
  • Under the new rules, most arriving passengers must show negative test results at Portugal’s airports, seaports and land borders
  • Authorities in Portugal have confirmed an outbreak of the new coronavirus variant, omicron, among members of a professional soccer club and a medical worker

LISBON: Portugal tightened passenger entry requirements and mandated masks indoors to curb an upward trend in coronavirus infections as the country with one of the strongest vaccination records in Europe entered a “state of calamity” Wednesday.
The crisis declaration, Portugal’s second this year, is one step below a state of emergency and gives the government the legal authority to impose stricter measures without parliamentary approval.
Masks now are required in enclosed public spaces, and individuals must show proof of vaccination, having recovered from COVID-19 or a negative virus tests to enter restaurants, cinemas, gyms and hotels. Nightclubs, hospitals, nursing homes and sports venues also must require negative virus tests from visitors and patrons, including vaccinated ones.
“With the test, we feel more comfortable. We don’t leave the club thinking, ‘Do I have COVID or not?’” Sara Lopes, a 21-year-old shop worker, said as she lined up at a central Lisbon nightclub as the new requirements took effect at midnight.
“It’s a bit of a hassle to have to make appointment after appointment at the pharmacy, but it’s fine,” Lopes said.
Under the new rules, most arriving passengers must show negative test results at Portugal’s airports, seaports and land borders.
Experts believe that Portugal’s vaccination rate, which at 87 percent of over 10 million residents is one of the highest globally, has shielded the country from the infection spikes recently experienced by some other European countries.
Still, the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients has been rising since September. Portuguese authorities on Tuesday recorded 2,907 new cases and 15 deaths.
Authorities in Portugal have confirmed an outbreak of the new coronavirus variant, omicron, among members of a professional soccer club and a medical worker who had contact with them.


Countries launch WHO pandemic accord talks

Countries launch WHO pandemic accord talks
Updated 01 December 2021

Countries launch WHO pandemic accord talks

Countries launch WHO pandemic accord talks
  • A new agreement on pandemic preparedness and response will come into force in 2024

GENEVA: World Health Organization member states agreed Wednesday to start work on building a new international accord setting out how to handle the next global pandemic.
Countries adopted a resolution at a special meeting in Geneva, launching the process that should result in a new agreement on pandemic preparedness and response coming into force in 2024.


China calls on citizens to leave eastern Congo after attacks

China calls on citizens to leave eastern Congo after attacks
Updated 01 December 2021

China calls on citizens to leave eastern Congo after attacks

China calls on citizens to leave eastern Congo after attacks
  • A number of Chinese citizens had been attacked and kidnapped over the past month in the provinces of South Kivu, North Kivu and Ituri

BEIJING: China on Wednesday urged its citizens to leave three provinces in eastern Congo as violence intensifies in the mineral-rich region.
A posting from the Chinese Embassy in Kinshasa on the WeChat online messaging said a number of Chinese citizens had been attacked and kidnapped over the past month in the provinces of South Kivu, North Kivu and Ituri, where several anti-government rebel groups have a presence.
It said Chinese residing in the three provinces should provide their personal details by Dec. 10 and make plans to leave for safer parts of Congo. Those in the districts of Bunia, Djugu, Beni, Rutshuru, Fizi, Uvira and Mwenga should leave immediately, it said, adding that any who do not do so “will have to bear the consequences themselves.”
“We ask that all Chinese citizens and Chinese-invested businesses in Congo please pay close attention to local conditions, increase their safety awareness and emergency preparedness, and avoid unnecessary outside travel,” the embassy said.
No details of the incidents were given, although the embassy last month reported five Chinese citizens were abducted from a mining operation in South Kivu, which borders Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania.
It warned a the time that the security situation in the area was “extremely complex and grim” and that there was little possibility of sending help in the event of an attack or kidnapping.
No details were given about those kidnapped, who they worked for or who was suspected of taking them.
Several armed groups including the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, known by its French acronym FDLR, the Mai-Mai and the M23 regularly vie for control of eastern Congo’s natural resources.
Despite the danger, Chinese businesses have moved into Congo and other unstable African states in a quest for cobalt and other rare minerals and resources. Chinese workers have also been subject to kidnappings and attacks in Pakistan and other countries with active insurgencies.
Security was a key topic at a meeting Monday in Dakar, the capital of Senegal, on Monday, between Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Congolese counterpart Christophe Lutundula, according to China’s Xinhua News Agency.
China’s government and ruling Communist Party “attach great importance to the safety and security of Chinese enterprises and Chinese nationals overseas and the Chinese side has been extremely concerned with the recent serious crimes of kidnappings and killings of its citizens in the DRC,” Wang said, using the acronym for the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Wang urged Congo to secure the release of those kidnapped and create a “safe, secure and stable environment for bilateral cooperation.”
Xinhua quoted Lutundula as saying Congo would take “forceful measures” to investigate the crimes, free the hostages, punish the culprits severely and safeguard national security and restore stability to the country’s east.
Earlier this week, Uganda said it launched joint air and artillery strikes with Congolese forces against camps of the extremist Allied Democratic Forces rebel group in eastern Congo.
The ADF was established in the early 1990s in Uganda and later driven out by the Ugandan military into eastern Congo, where many rebel groups are able to operate because the central government has limited control there.
At least four civilians were killed less than two weeks ago in Uganda’s capital when suicide bombers detonated their explosives at two locations.
The Daesh group claimed responsibility, saying the attacks were carried out by Ugandans. Ugandan authorities blamed the ADF, which has been allied with the Daesh group since 2019.


Fiji reopens to foreign tourists for first time in nearly two years

Fiji reopens to foreign tourists for first time in nearly two years
Updated 01 December 2021

Fiji reopens to foreign tourists for first time in nearly two years

Fiji reopens to foreign tourists for first time in nearly two years
  • Although limited, the resumption of tourism is a boost to many of the island nation’s 1 million people
  • The reopening marks a risk to Fiji with Australia one of a few countries to record cases of the omicron variant

CANBERRA: Fiji reopened its border to international travelers for the first time in nearly two years on Wednesday, as the Pacific Island country seeks to revive its dominant tourism industry.
Fiji shut its border to all foreign nationals in March 2020 to curb the spread of COVID-19 in a desperate bid to stop its limited medical facilities being overrun.
With about 90 percent of all Fijian adults now fully vaccinated, the Pacific Island reopened its border to tourists from a small number of countries — much to the relief of tourism operators.
“To see the Fiji Airways plane full up and for us to welcome those tourists today was so amazing. It was a great, great feeling and I’m glad to have been there personally,” James Sowane, director of the Fiji tourism company, Tewaka, said.
Tourists arriving will have to stay three nights in an approved resort and undergo rapid testing. They can move around designated areas, including bars and restaurants within the hotels, while they can embark on some day trips and activities.
Although limited, the resumption of tourism is a boost to many of the island nation’s 1 million people.
Tourism accounts for 40 percent of Fiji’s economy and the border closure saw an estimated 10 percent of the population unemployed.
Still the reopening marks a risk to Fiji with Australia one of a few countries to record cases of the omicron variant.
Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama hailed the return of tourists, who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 and tested for infection.
“Today, we are proud and most importantly prepared to welcome the first tourists to fly to Fiji in almost two years. Our message to every fully vaccinated, COVID-tested traveler who arrives to our shores is simple: Welcome Home,” Bainimarama said in a post on Facebook.