Africa leaders give Niger junta week to cede power

Africa leaders give Niger junta week to cede power
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Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Presidents are seen during the heads of states and government extraordinary session in Abuja on July 30, 2023 for a crisis summit on the coup in Niger. (AFP)
Africa leaders give Niger junta week to cede power
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Demonstrators gather in the capital Niamey, Niger, on July 30, 2023, in support of the putschist soldiers as leaders of the Economic Community of West African States met to discuss the crisis. (AFP)
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Updated 31 July 2023
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Africa leaders give Niger junta week to cede power

Africa leaders give Niger junta week to cede power
  • ECOWAS regional bloc considers use of force if President Mohamed Bazoum is not reinstated within a week
  • African Union condemns coup, expresses deep concern over “alarming resurgence” of military overthrows in Africa

ABUJA, Nigeria: African leaders on Sunday gave the junta in Niger one week to cede power or face the possible use of force, and slapped financial sanctions on the putschists, after the latest coup in the jihadist-plagued Sahel region raised alarm on the continent and in the West.

In the third coup in as many years to fell a leader in the Sahel, Niger’s elected president and Western ally, Mohamed Bazoum, has been held by the military since Wednesday.
General Abdourahamane Tiani, the head of the powerful presidential guard, has declared himself leader and said the putsch was a response to “the degradation of the security situation” linked to jihadist bloodshed, as well as corruption and economic woes.
Bazoum is one of a dwindling group of elected presidents and pro-Western leaders in the Sahel, where since 2020 a jihadist insurgency has also triggered coups in Mali and Burkina Faso.
Former colonial ruler France and the European Union have suspended security cooperation and financial aid to Niger following the coup, while the United States warned that its aid could also be at stake.
At an emergency summit in Nigeria, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) regional bloc demanded Bazoum be reinstated within a week.
Otherwise, the bloc said it would take “all measures” to restore constitutional order.
“Such measures may include the use of force for this effect,” it said in a statement.
“No more time for us to send a warning signal... It’s time for action,” said Bola Tinubu, president of Nigeria and ECOWAS chairman.
Washington welcomed “the strong leadership of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Heads of State and Government to defend constitutional order in Niger,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement joining calls for the immediate release of Bazoum and the restoration of the democratically-elected government.
“The United States will remain actively engaged with ECOWAS and West African leaders on next steps to preserve Niger’s hard-earned democracy,” Blinken added.


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It was not immediately clear how the 15-member ECOWAS could use force. Last year, the bloc agreed to create a regional security force to intervene against jihadists and prevent military coups, but details on the force and its funding have not been outlined.
The bloc also slapped financial sanctions on the junta leaders and the country, freezing “all commercial and financial transactions” between member states and Niger — one of the world’s poorest nations, often ranking last on the UN’s Human Development Index.
Niger’s Prime Minister Ouhoumoudou Mahamadou told broadcaster France24 Sunday that sanctions were “going to be a disaster” both economically and socially.
Bazoum’s PNDS party called for demonstrations to be held to demand the release of the president.

On Saturday, the junta condemned the ECOWAS summit, saying its aim was to “approve a plan of aggression against Niger, in the form of an imminent military intervention in Niamey.”
The intervention would be “in cooperation with African countries who are not members of the regional body and certain Western nations,” junta member Amadou Abdramane said on national television.
Former Niger president Mahamadou Issoufou, whom Bazoum succeeded as head of state, on Sunday posted on social media that he intended to negotiate with the junta to restore Bazoum to the presidency.

Rooting for Putin

In the capital Niamey, thousands of people waving Russian and Niger flags rallied outside the national parliament in a show of support for the junta.
Moscow has for years strived to increase its influence in Africa, and in Niger’s neighbor Mali — another impoverished former French colony — the military junta has been cooperating with forces from Russia.
The demonstrators later moved on to the French embassy in Niamey, shouting “long live Putin” and “down with France.”
AFP saw some tear down a sign for the embassy and trample on it.
Demonstrators also tried to storm the embassy, but were dispersed with tear gas, an AFP journalist saw.




Nigerien security forces prepare to disperse pro-junta demonstrators gathered outside the French embassy in Niamey, the capital city of Niger, on July 30, 2023. (REUTERS)

France condemned the assault on its embassy, warning it would retaliate if its citizens or interests were attacked and said it had strengthened security at the embassy.

After a wave of condemnation for the coup, punitive measures have already begun in the West.
France — which has 1,500 soldiers in Niger — said on Saturday it was suspending development aid and budgetary support to the West African nation.
European Union diplomatic chief Josep Borrell meanwhile said the EU would not recognize the putschists, and announced the indefinite suspension of security cooperation with Niger with immediate effect, as well as budgetary aid.
The United States — which has about 1,000 troops in Niger — has offered Bazoum Washington’s steadfast support and warned those detaining him that they were “threatening years of successful cooperation and hundreds of millions of dollars of assistance.”
The African Union condemned the coup and expressed deep concern over the “alarming resurgence” of military overthrows in Africa.
Niger has had a turbulent political history since gaining independence in 1960, with four coups as well as numerous other attempts — including two previously against Bazoum.
 


Italy PM Meloni visits Tunisia for migration talks

Italy PM Meloni visits Tunisia for migration talks
Updated 17 April 2024
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Italy PM Meloni visits Tunisia for migration talks

Italy PM Meloni visits Tunisia for migration talks
  • Tunisia is a major transit point for thousands of sub-Saharan migrants hoping to reach Europe every year

TUNIS: Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni met with officials in Tunis Wednesday to discuss what she called a “new approach” to irregular migration and economic cooperation with Tunisia.
The hard-right leader’s visit, the fourth in less than a year to the north African country, came as her government pledged to curb irregular migrant arrivals in Italy.
Meloni met with President Kais Saied, who said after the meeting Tunisia must not become “a country of transit or settlement” for migrants from other African countries, according to a statement from his office.
In a video address released after her discussions with Saied, Meloni also said “Tunisia cannot be a country of arrival for migrants” from the rest of Africa.
She vowed to “involve international organizations to work on repatriations” of migrants while insisting on more European investment in African nations.
Ahead of the visit, an Italian official had told AFP that “cooperation on migration remains a central aspect of the relationship between Italy and Tunisia.”
“It remains essential that Tunisian authorities continue their action to combat human trafficking and contain illegal departures,” the official added.
Meloni’s latest visit to Tunisia came as part of her so-called Mattei Plan, a program aiming to posit Italy as a key bridge between Africa and Europe.
She said the fight against irregular migration required development for African countries and investments.
“Italy will continue to try to advance this new approach which it is promoting at a European level,” she said.
But critics say the plan would funnel energy north while exchanging investment in the south for deals aimed at curbing migration.
Three agreements were signed Wednesday: a 50-million-euro ($53-million) aid for energy projects, credit for small- and medium-sized businesses, and a university cooperation agreement.
Meloni also said Italy would encourage regular migration by granting 12,000 residence permits to Tunisians trained in specific fields.
Tunisia is a major transit point for thousands of sub-Saharan migrants hoping to reach Europe every year, with Italy as a frontline for their arrivals.
Almost 70,000 migrants were intercepted trying to cross the Mediterranean from Tunisia to Italy last year, according to Tunisian authorities.
Meloni visited Tunisia three times over the summer of 2023, twice with the European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen.
The visits resulted in the European Union’s signing of an agreement in July to provide financial aid to debt-ridden Tunisia in return for its commitment to curb migrant departures.
The agreement provided 105 million euros to curb irregular migration — which the EU has started paying — added to 150 million euros in budgetary support.
European Parliament lawmakers criticized the agreement, citing a deterioration of human rights and freedoms in the north African country.
They also criticized Saied’s increasing authoritarian rule after his sweeping power grab in 2021.
Last month, the EU signed a similar deal with Egypt worth 7.4 billion euros on energy and migration.


Google employees arrested after protesting against $1bn contract with Israel

Google employees arrested after protesting against $1bn contract with Israel
Updated 17 April 2024
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Google employees arrested after protesting against $1bn contract with Israel

Google employees arrested after protesting against $1bn contract with Israel
  • 'Google workers do not want their labor to power Israel’s genocide of Palestinians in Gaza,' No Tech For Apartheid group said

LONDON: Several Google employees were arrested on Tuesday for taking part in a 10-hour sit-in at the company’s offices in New York and California.

The protest, organized by members of the No Tech For Apartheid movement, was meant as a challenge to the tech giant’s involvement with the Israeli government. It centered on a $1 billion cloud computing contract between Google, Amazon and the Israeli government and military, known as Project Nimbus.

The project involves creating a secure Google cloud setup in Israel to facilitate data analysis, AI training and other computing services, Time magazine reported.

According to leaked documents reported by American news organization Intercept in 2022, the project includes advanced features like AI-enabled facial detection and automated image categorization.

During the sit-in, a livestreamed video captured a security worker telling protesters at Google’s California office that they were on administrative leave and cautioned them about trespassing.

Social media videos showed police removing nine protesters from the premises. Similar actions were recorded at the company’s New York office.

A statement from the No Tech For Apartheid group said: “Google workers do not want their labor to power Israel’s genocide of Palestinians in Gaza. The time is now to rise up against Project Nimbus, in support of Palestinian liberation and join calls to end the Israeli occupation.”

Last month, a Google employee from the group interrupted a talk by the company’s Israel chief, accusing the company of “powering genocide.” He was later fired.

A Google spokesman told the Telegraph: “These protests were part of a longstanding campaign by a group of organizations and people who largely don’t work at Google. A small number of employee protesters entered and disrupted a couple of our locations.

“Physically impeding other employees’ work and preventing them from accessing our facilities is a clear violation of our policies and we will investigate and take action.

“These employees were put on administrative leave and their access to our systems was cut. After refusing multiple requests to leave the premises, law enforcement was engaged to remove them to ensure office safety.”


Man guilty of attacks near UK mosques given hospital order

Man guilty of attacks near UK mosques given hospital order
Updated 17 April 2024
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Man guilty of attacks near UK mosques given hospital order

Man guilty of attacks near UK mosques given hospital order
  • Abbkr has paranoid schizophrenia and believed he was controlled by people possessed by evil spirits

LONDON: A man convicted of attempted murder after deliberately setting fire to two elderly men shortly after they left mosques in the UK was on Wednesday handed an indefinite hospital order.
Mohammed Abbkr, from Edgbaston in Birmingham, central England, deliberately set fire to Hashi Odowa, 82, and Mohammed Rayaz, 70, in February and March last year.
Abbkr, originally from Sudan, was convicted of two counts of attempted murder last year at Birmingham Crown Court in central England.
Judge Melbourne Inman told Abbkr, who has paranoid schizophrenia and believed he was controlled by people possessed by evil spirits: “You threw petrol over your victims and then set them alight — the attacks were horrific.”
“The two victims in this case were, on any rational view, chosen at random,” the judge told Abbkr, who watched the proceedings by video-link from Ashworth high security hospital in northwest England.
“You, however, genuinely believed each of them was one of those trying to take control of you.
“I am wholly satisfied that you committed both of these offenses at a time when you were suffering a severe mental illness.”
Abbkr sprayed petrol on the two men outside or near mosques they had attended and then set them alight. The attacks took place in west London on February 27 and Birmingham on March 20.
Odowa, who was attacked in London, was treated for severe burns to his face and arms. The Birmingham attack left Rayaz hospitalized with severe injuries.


70 killed as Afghanistan hit by heavy rains

70 killed as Afghanistan hit by heavy rains
Updated 17 April 2024
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70 killed as Afghanistan hit by heavy rains

70 killed as Afghanistan hit by heavy rains
  • Rains between Saturday and Wednesday triggered flash floods in most Afghanistan provinces
  • Fifty-six people injured, over 2,600 houses have been damaged or destroyed, says Afghan official 

KABUL: Around 70 people have been killed by heavy rains lashing Afghanistan over the past five days, the government’s disaster management department said Wednesday.
Afghanistan was parched by an unusually dry winter which desiccated the earth, exacerbating flash-flooding caused by spring downpours in most provinces.
Disaster management spokesman Janan Sayeq said “approximately 70 people lost their lives” as a result of rains between Saturday and Wednesday.
Fifty-six others have been injured, he said, while more than 2,600 houses have been damaged or destroyed and 95,000 acres of farmland wiped away.
Giving a smaller death toll last week, Sayeq said most fatalities at that point had been caused by roof collapses resulting from the deluges. 
Neighbouring Pakistan has also been hammered by spring downpours, with 65 people killed in storm-related incidents as rain falls at nearly twice the historical average rate.
The United Nations last year warned that “Afghanistan is experiencing major swings in extreme weather conditions.”
After four decades of war the country ranks among the nations least prepared to face extreme weather events, which scientists say are becoming more frequent and severe due to climate change.
At least 25 people were killed in a landslide after massive snowfall in eastern Afghanistan in February, while around 60 were killed in a three-week spate of precipitation ending in March.


President Widodo urges Apple CEO to open manufacturing facility in Indonesia

President Widodo urges Apple CEO to open manufacturing facility in Indonesia
Updated 17 April 2024
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President Widodo urges Apple CEO to open manufacturing facility in Indonesia

President Widodo urges Apple CEO to open manufacturing facility in Indonesia
  • Country has ‘endless’ investment ability, Tim Cook says on visit to Jakarta
  • Tech giant announces opening of new Apple Developer Academy in Bali

JAKARTA: Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Wednesday met the head of tech giant Apple and urged him to open a manufacturing facility in the country.

CEO Tim Cook was in Jakarta following a trip to Hanoi, where the company announced plans to increase spending on suppliers in Vietnam, its most important manufacturing hub outside China.

Before the meeting between Widodo and Cook, Apple announced plans to boost its investment in Indonesia and said it would open a new Apple Developer Academy — facilities designed to nurture local talent in the tech sector — in Bali, its fourth in the country.

“The meeting with Tim Cook focused on exploring strategic plans, including the opportunity of Apple expanding to Indonesia and further integration into the global supply chain,” Widodo said in a statement.

“I invited Apple to establish an innovation hub with potential universities in Indonesia for human resources development. I also urged Apple to develop a manufacturing facility in the country.”

Apple currently does not have a manufacturing facility in Indonesia but opened its first developer academy there in 2018.

The new facility takes the company’s total investment in Indonesia to 1.6 trillion rupiah ($98.4 million), according to Industry Minister Agus Gumiwang Kartasasmita.

“After this, the Ministry of Industry will conduct a business-matching program. We already have a list of the components (that Apple needs) and mobile components that are already produced in Indonesia, so perhaps there can be a partnership,” he said.

Apple has based much of its key manufacturing of iPads, Airpods and Apple Watches in Vietnam, and more recently India, as it explores ways to diversify its supply chains away from China.

Home to more than 270 million people, Indonesia has a young, tech-savvy population with more than 100 million people aged under 30.

According to figures from Statista, as of January, Apple had an 11.5 percent share of Indonesia’s mobile phone market, behind Oppo (18 percent) and Samsung (17 percent).

“We talked about the president’s desire to see manufacturing in the country and it’s something that we will look at,” Cook told reporters after meeting Widodo.

“I thought we had a great conversation and I really appreciated the time with him. It was a dialogue about how much potential there is in the country and our commitment to the country.”

Cook later met president-elect, Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto, who will take over from Widodo in October.

“I think the investment ability in Indonesia is endless, I think that there’s a lot of great places to invest and we’re investing,” Cook said. “We believe in the country.”