Tight security, shops shut as South Sudan warns against protests

SSNPS (South Sudan National Police Service) police officers sit on the back of a pickup truck while they gather ahead of patrolling the streets of Juba, South Sudan. (AFP)
SSNPS (South Sudan National Police Service) police officers sit on the back of a pickup truck while they gather ahead of patrolling the streets of Juba, South Sudan. (AFP)
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Updated 31 August 2021

Tight security, shops shut as South Sudan warns against protests

SSNPS (South Sudan National Police Service) police officers sit on the back of a pickup truck while they gather ahead of patrolling the streets of Juba, South Sudan. (AFP)
  • The peace process has suffered from years of drift and bickering following the 2018 ceasefire and power-sharing deal between Kiir and his former foe Vice President Riek Machar

JUBA: Security forces patrolled South Sudan’s capital Juba on Monday and many shops were shut as the authorities warned of a tough crackdown against anyone joining a planned anti-government protest.
The world’s newest nation has suffered from chronic instability since independence in 2011, with deepening discontent prompting civil society groups to urge its leadership to step down, saying they have “had enough.”
The demonstration was set to take place the same day as President Salva Kiir inaugurated a newly created national parliament, a key condition of a 2018 peace deal that ended the country’s brutal civil war that killed nearly 400,000 people.
The government has taken a hard line against the People’s Coalition for Civil Action (PCCA) and its calls for a peaceful public uprising, arresting at least eight activists and detaining three journalists this month in connection with the demonstrations, according to rights groups.
Although the protest organizers had urged the public to come out in force, no demonstrations were reported in Juba, with residents telling AFP they were afraid even to leave home.
“We are hearing that there is no work today, and besides we are fearing (what the day will bring),” said food hawker Emelda Susu.
“I will go to the market when I see things are normal, but for now one’s life (comes) first, my friend. Yes I am fearing so I have to be careful,” Jimmy Bandu, a small-scale trader, told AFP.

The government is in full control and ... so everybody should resume his or (her) normal duties and ... not fear anything.

Michael Makuei, Information minister

National security officers with militarized mounted vehicles patrolled usually busy neighborhoods in Juba, which also saw a ramped-up police presence and low levels of traffic. The authorities have branded the protest “illegal” and warned of strict measures against anyone who defies the ban.
“The government is in full control and ... so everybody should resume his or (her) normal duties and ... not fear anything,” said Information Minister Michael Makuei.
He dismissed reports of an Internet shutdown after users reported difficulty accessing two of the country’s main networks, Zain and MTN, blaming any problems on technical troubles.
With the mood in the usually bustling capital decidedly subdued, Kiir told members of the new parliament to put citizens’ “needs above partisan consideration ... (and) place the people of South Sudan above any narrow party interest.”
“We should always remember that our final mandate in this (peace) process is to hold free, fair and credible democratic elections at the end of the transitional period,” he added, referring to long-delayed polls now expected in 2023.
In a sign of the lingering challenges facing the country, Kiir also announced that the government was pulling out of negotiations with the South Sudan Opposition Alliance (SSOMA), a coalition of rebel groups.
The talks, which were brokered in Rome by a Catholic association with ties to the Vatican, have failed to curb violence in the south of the country, despite a ceasefire signed in January 2020.
“While the quest for an inclusive peace in our country remains our sole objective, recent killings of innocent civilians ... have tested our patience,” Kiir said, accusing rebels from the National Salvation Front — a member of SSOMA — of indiscriminate attacks.
The peace process has suffered from years of drift and bickering following the 2018 ceasefire and power-sharing deal between Kiir and his former foe Vice President Riek Machar.
The PCCA — a broad-based coalition of activists, academics, lawyers and former government officials — has described the current regime as “a bankrupt political system that has become so dangerous and has subjected our people to immense suffering.”


Solomon Islands PM says riots ‘orchestrated’ to remove him

Solomon Islands PM says riots ‘orchestrated’ to remove him
Updated 41 min 47 sec ago

Solomon Islands PM says riots ‘orchestrated’ to remove him

Solomon Islands PM says riots ‘orchestrated’ to remove him
  • The prime minister said violence that swept the capital had been orchestrated by a few people to topple him

SYDNEY: The prime minister of the Solomon Islands defied pressure to resign Sunday, saying violent rioting that swept the capital had been orchestrated by a few people with “evil intention” to topple him.
“It is very clear that the recent events were well planned and orchestrated to remove me as the prime minister for unsubstantiated reasons,” Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare said in an address broadcast to the Pacific island nation.
“I want to show the nation that the government is fully intent and nothing will move us. We must and will never bow down to the evil intention of a few people,” Sogavare said.
Many residents of the Pacific island nation of 800,000 people believe their government is corrupt and beholden to Beijing and other foreign interests.
Protesters have channelled their anger directly at Sogavare and his government, with mobs attempting to torch parliament and the prime minister’s private residence as police fired tear gas and warning shots.
Sogavare has previously blamed the three days of violence — during which rioters incinerated swathes of the capital before the unrest died down at the weekend — on an unscrupulous few leading others astray with false information.
“We must and will never bow down to the evil intention of a few people. We must stand up to intimidation, bullying and violence. We owe this to our children and the majority of our people who cannot defend themselves,” the Solomon Islands leader said.
He said the violence, centered on the capital’s Chinatown, had caused 200 million Solomon Islander dollars ($25 million) in damage and destroyed 1,000 jobs in an economy already squeezed by the impact of the pandemic.
Sogavare said the government was working on a recovery package to help damaged businesses recover.
The prime minister repeated a promise to hold the unidentified “instigators” responsible.
“Rest assured that they will face the full brunt of the law and arrests are already being made as investigations continue, with more arrests to follow,” he said.


Iranian, Chinese and Russian diplomats meet ahead of nuclear talks

Iranian, Chinese and Russian diplomats meet ahead of nuclear talks
Updated 28 November 2021

Iranian, Chinese and Russian diplomats meet ahead of nuclear talks

Iranian, Chinese and Russian diplomats meet ahead of nuclear talks
  • Bilateral and trilateral meetings were held in Vienna ahead of a resumption in nuclear talks to revive a 2015 agreement between Iran and major powers

DUBAI: Iran’s negotiating team, led by Ali Bagheri Kani, held bilateral and trilateral meetings in Vienna on Sunday, the semi-official ISNA news agency reported, ahead of a resumption in nuclear talks to revive a 2015 agreement between Iran and major powers.
“The Iranian team arrived on Saturday in Vienna and started meetings which continued on Sunday at an expert level with the heads of the Russian and Chinese negotiating teams, as well as the EU Coordinator Enrique Mora,” Iranian diplomat Mohammadreza Ghaebi told ISNA.


Australia confirms two cases of COVID-19 Omicron variant

Australia confirms two cases of COVID-19 Omicron variant
Updated 52 min 10 sec ago

Australia confirms two cases of COVID-19 Omicron variant

Australia confirms two cases of COVID-19 Omicron variant
  • Both passengers came from southern Africa and arrived in Australia
  • Another 12 passengers from southern Africa in the same flight did not test positive for COVID-19 but have been placed in quarantine

SYDNEY: Australia confirmed on Sunday that two people arriving from southern Africa over the weekend had tested positive for the Omicron coronavirus variant, adding to a growing number of countries fighting the highly infectious strain.
Health officials in New South Wales, the most populous state, said both passengers had arrived in the state capital, Sydney, on Saturday evening and tested positive for COVID-19 late that night, before genome sequencing confirmed the Omicron variant on Sunday.
Australia joins Britain, Germany and Italy in detecting Omicron cases over the weekend as more nations imposed restrictions on travel from southern Africa.
Both people were asymptomatic, fully vaccinated and in quarantine, said NSW Health. Another 12 passengers from southern Africa were also in 14 days of hotel quarantine, while around 260 other passengers and aircrew have been directed to isolate.
“Close contacts will be contacted regularly, and compliance checks will be undertaken,” the health department said in a statement.
Australia imposed new restrictions https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/australia-declare-new-travel-curbs-due-new-virus-strain-media-2021-11-27 on Saturday on people who have been to nine southern African countries, as the highly infectious variant raises concerns about another wave of the pandemic.
The countries are South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, the Seychelles, Malawi and Mozambique.
New Zealand announced fresh measures from Sunday evening.
COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said late on Saturday that only New Zealand citizens will be allowed to travel into the country from the nine southern African nations.
Citizens would be required to stay in managed isolation for a full 14 days, as well as undergo testing, he said in a statement.
Australia early this month eased its international border restrictions for the first time during the pandemic, allowing fully vaccinated residents to return to the country without quarantine after higher vaccination levels.
Australia had largely stamped out infections for most of this year until an outbreak of the highly infectious Delta variant in late June spread rapidly across its east. About 205,000 cases and 1,985 deaths have been recorded so far, lower than many other countries in the developed world.


Pakistan says militants kill 2 soldiers near Afghan border

Pakistan says militants kill 2 soldiers near Afghan border
Updated 28 November 2021

Pakistan says militants kill 2 soldiers near Afghan border

Pakistan says militants kill 2 soldiers near Afghan border
  • No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack

PESHAWAR, Pakistan: Militants targeted a Pakistani military post in the northwestern tribal belt near the Afghan border, killing two soldiers in a firefight, the army said in a statement.
The Pakistani army’s media wing said late Saturday that militants attacked a post in the Datta Khel area of the district of North Waziristan in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. The area is a former militant stronghold.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.
During an intense exchange of gunfire two soldiers were killed, the military said, adding that a search of the area was being carried out to find the militants. It gave no indication of the identity of the attackers.
North Waziristan for years served as a safe haven for militants until the military carried out massive operations to try to clear the area. That forced the militants either to escape across the border into Afghanistan or hide in other mountainous areas near the border. Still, militants often strike against security forces.
Pakistan is holding talks with Islamic militants known as the Pakistani Taliban with the help of the Taliban government in Afghanistan. There is a temporary cease-fire in place.


China study warns of ‘colossal’ COVID outbreak if it opens up like US, France

China study warns of ‘colossal’ COVID outbreak if it opens up like US, France
Updated 28 November 2021

China study warns of ‘colossal’ COVID outbreak if it opens up like US, France

China study warns of ‘colossal’ COVID outbreak if it opens up like US, France
  • China’s daily new cases would reach at least 637,155 if it adopted the United States’ pandemic strategy, the report said

BEIJING: China could face more than 630,000 COVID-19 infections a day if it dropped its zero-tolerance policies by lifting travel curbs, according to a study by Peking University mathematicians.
In the report published in China CDC Weekly by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the mathematicians said China could not afford to lift travel restrictions without more efficient vaccinations or specific treatments.
Using data for August from the United States, Britain, Spain, France and Israel, the mathematicians assessed the potential results if China adopted the same pandemic control tactics as those countries.
China’s daily new cases would reach at least 637,155 if it adopted the United States’ pandemic strategy, the report said.
And daily cases would hit 275,793 if China took the same approach as Britain and 454,198 if it imitated France, it said.
“The estimates revealed the real possibility of a colossal outbreak which would almost certainly induce an unaffordable burden on the medical system,” the report said.
“Our findings have raised a clear warning that, for the time being, we are not ready to embrace ‘open-up’ strategies resting solely on the hypothesis of herd immunity induced by vaccination advocated by certain western countries.”
The mathematicians cautioned that their estimates were based on basic arithmetic calculations and that more sophisticated models were needed to study the evolution of the pandemic if travel restrictions were lifted.
China has maintained a zero-tolerance policy toward COVID-19, saying the importance of containing local cases when they are found outweighs the disruptions caused by efforts to trace, isolate and treat the infected. China reported 23 new confirmed coronavirus cases for Nov. 27, down from 25 a day earlier, its health authority said on Sunday.
The World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday designated a new COVID-19 variant detected in South Africa with a large number of mutations as being “of concern,” prompting some countries to impose travel curbs.