Chad votes on new constitution ahead of promised end of military rule

Chad votes on new constitution ahead of promised end of military rule
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A general view in N'Djamena of a poster calling people to vote 'yes' in the referendum scheduled on December 17, 2023 on a new constitution, in a key step towards elections seen as a test of legitimacy for the Deby dynasty's more than 30-year rule. (Denis Sassou Gueipeur / AFP)
Chad votes on new constitution ahead of promised end of military rule
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A general view of a banner saying: "I decide, Chad advances" of the national commission in charge of organizing the referendum. Chadians vote on December 17, 2023 on a new constitution, in a key step towards elections seen as a test of legitimacy for the Deby dynasty's more than 30-year rule. (AFP)
Chad votes on new constitution ahead of promised end of military rule
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A general view of a poster in a street that says "Halt the Referendum", in N'Djamena on December 13, 2023. Chadians vote on December 17, 2023 on a new constitution, in a key step towards elections promised but postponed by the ruling junta and seen as a test of legitimacy for the Deby dynasty's more than 30-year rule. (Denis Sassou Gueipeur / AFP)
Chad votes on new constitution ahead of promised end of military rule
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A general view of a banner of the National Rally for Democracy in Chad calling on citizens to stay at home during the referendum vote, in N'Djamena on December 13, 2023. The "yes" vote is expected to win the constitutional referendum after a well-financed campaign by the ruling junta against a divided opposition. (Denis Sassou Gueipeur / AFP)
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Updated 17 December 2023
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Chad votes on new constitution ahead of promised end of military rule

Chad votes on new constitution ahead of promised end of military rule
  • Mahamat Deby was proclaimed transitional president by the army in April 2021, following the death of his father Idriss Deby Itno
  • Deby senior had ruled Chad, who ruled for more than 30 years, was killed by rebels on his way to the front line of the fighting
  • A large section of the opposition and civil society in the central African country are calling for a boycott

N’DJAMENA: Chad voters go to the polls on Sunday for a referendum on a new constitution, in a key step toward elections and the return of civilian rule promised, but postponed, by the ruling military junta.

A large section of the opposition and civil society in the central African country are calling for a boycott.
They argue the plebiscite is designed to pave the way for the election of the current transitional president, General Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno, and the continuation of a “dynasty” begun by his late father 33 years ago following a coup.
The “yes” camp seems assured of victory after a well-financed campaign by the ruling junta against a divided opposition, which has faced arrest, intimidation and threats for more than a year.
The capital N’Djamena has been plastered with posters championing a “yes” vote to bring in a constitution for a “unitary and decentralized state.”
It is not very different from the constitution that the military repealed in 2021, enshrining a regime in which most of the power is concentrated in the head of state.
The opposition, which advocates federalism, backs the “no” vote.
The “yes” camp retorts that a unitary state is the only way to preserve unity, while federalism would encourage “separatism” and “chaos.”




A general view of a poster in a street that says "Halt the Referendum", in N'Djamena on December 13, 2023. (Denis Sassou Gueipeur / AFP)

Provisional results are scheduled to be published in late December, with the Supreme Court due to validate them four days later.

The two main platforms of parties and civil society organizations hostile to the junta have called for a boycott, hoping a low turnout will delegitimize a leader whom they accuse of perpetuating a 33-year “Deby dynasty.”
Where they can find space, they have put up posters with the words “Stop the referendum” and a big red cross.
They are hoping a low turnout will undermine the credibility of the referendum, which is “purely and simply legitimising the dynasty that they want to impose on us,” said Max Loalngar, coordinator of one of the groups, Wakit Tamma.
He was speaking to AFP by telephone from a country of exile that he declined to name.
Some advocates of a boycott were dismissive of both sides.
“They’re all the same, whether they’re campaigning for ‘yes’ or ‘no’. They’ve shared the money out between themselves,” Badono Daigou for the GCAP opposition platform told a rally.
“The result is a foregone conclusion. The ‘yes’ vote will win.”
Mahamat Deby, 37, was proclaimed transitional president by the army in April 2021, following the death of his father Idriss Deby Itno, who was killed by rebels on his way to the front line of the fighting.
Deby senior had ruled Chad, the second least developed country in the world according to the United Nations, with an iron fist for more than 30 years.
When he took power, his son promised elections after a transition period of 18 months and made a commitment to the African Union not to stand in them.
But 18 months later, his regime extended the transition by two years and authorized him to run in the presidential election, now scheduled for the end of 2024.




 general view of a banner saying: "I decide, Chad advances" of the national commission in charge of organizing the referendum. Chadians vote on December 17, 2023 on a new constitution, in a key step towards elections seen as a test of legitimacy for the Deby dynasty's more than 30-year rule. (AFP)

On the anniversary of the 18-month transition — October 20, 2022 — between 100 and 300 young men and teenagers were shot dead in N’Djamena by police and military, according to the opposition and national and international NGOs.
They had been peacefully demonstrating against the two-year extension of the transitional government.
More than 1,000 others were imprisoned before being pardoned, while dozens more were tortured or disappeared, according to NGOs and the opposition.
Most were supporters of prominent opposition figure Succes Masra, a longtime opponent of the Deby dynasty.
Yet in late October, Masra signed a reconciliation agreement with the regime and went into exile, from where he has been encouraging his followers to vote “yes” on Sunday.
Since what has come to be known as the “Black Thursday” crackdown, demonstrations have been systematically banned and many opposition leaders have fled Chad in fear of their lives.
“For there to be any legitimacy, the opposition parties and their activists must feel free to meet and campaign,” the Human Rights Watch group said in October.
“Otherwise, there is a risk that the referendum will be seen as a means of transforming the transitional government into a permanent one.”
 


Nearly 3 out of 10 Afghan children face emergency levels of hunger in 2024— NGO 

Nearly 3 out of 10 Afghan children face emergency levels of hunger in 2024— NGO 
Updated 5 sec ago
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Nearly 3 out of 10 Afghan children face emergency levels of hunger in 2024— NGO 

Nearly 3 out of 10 Afghan children face emergency levels of hunger in 2024— NGO 
  • Estimated 2.9 million Afghan children under five years of age to suffer acute malnutrition in 2024, says Save The Children 
  • Afghanistan reels from immediate impacts of flood, long-term effects of drought and return of refugees from Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: About 6.5 million children in Afghanistan were forecast to experience crisis levels of hunger in 2024, a nongovernmental organization said.

Nearly three out of 10 Afghan children will face crisis or emergency levels of hunger this year as the country feels the immediate impacts of floods, the long-term effects of drought, and the return of Afghans from neighboring Pakistan and Iran, according to a report released late Tuesday by Save The Children.

New figures from global hunger monitoring body Integrated Food Security Phase Classification forecast that 28 percent of Afghanistan’s population, about 12.4 million people, will face acute food insecurity before October. Of those, nearly 2.4 million are predicted to experience emergency levels of hunger, which is one level above famine, according to Save the Children.

The figures show a slight improvement from the last report, released in October 2023, but underline the continuing need for assistance, with poverty affecting half of the population.

Torrential rain and flash floods hit northern Afghanistan in May, killing more than 400 people. Thousands of homes were destroyed or damaged and farmland was turned into mud.

Save the Children is operating a “clinic on wheels” in Baghlan province, which was hit the worst by floods, as part of its emergency response program. The organization added that an estimated 2.9 million children under the age of 5 are projected to suffer from acute malnutrition in 2024.

Arshad Malik, country director for Save the Children in Afghanistan, said that the NGO has treated more than 7,000 children for severe or acute malnutrition so far this year.

“Those numbers are a sign of the massive need for continuing support for families as they experience shock after shock,” Malik said. 

Children are feeling the devastating impacts of three years of drought, high levels of unemployment, and the return of more than 1.4 million Afghans from Pakistan and Iran, he added.

“We need long-term, community-based solutions to help families rebuild their lives,” Malik said.

More than 557,000 Afghans have returned from Pakistan since September 2023, after Pakistan began cracking down on foreigners it alleges are in the country illegally, including 1.7 million Afghans. It insists the campaign isn’t directed against Afghans specifically, but they make up most of the foreigners in the South Asian country.

In April, Save the Children said that a quarter-million Afghan children need education, food and homes after being forcibly returned from Pakistan.

Malik added that only 16 percent of funding for the 2024 humanitarian response plan has been met so far, but nearly half the population needs assistance.

“This is not the time for the world to look away,” he said.

Meanwhile, the European Union is allocating an additional 10 million euros (nearly $10.9 million) to the UN food agency for school feeding activities in Afghanistan. These latest funds from the EU follow an earlier contribution of 20.9 million euros ($22.7 million) toward the World Food Program’s school meal program in Afghanistan for 2022 and 2023.

The funding comes at a timely moment and averts WFP having to downsize its school meal program this year because of a lack of funding, the WFP said in a statement.

“Hunger can be a barrier to education. The additional EU funding to our long-standing partner WFP ensures that more children in Afghanistan receive nutritious food,” said Raffaella Iodice, chargé d’affaires of the EU’s delegation to Afghanistan.

The WFP’s statement said that the agency will be able to use the funding to distribute fortified biscuits or locally produced nutritious school snacks to pupils in more than 10,000 schools in the eight provinces of Farah, Ghor, Jawzjan, Nangarhar, Nuristan, Paktika, Uruzgan and Zabul.

Last year, WFP supported 1.5 million school-age children through this program.


Poland charges Ukrainian with ‘incitement to espionage’

Poland charges Ukrainian with ‘incitement to espionage’
Updated 36 min 45 sec ago
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Poland charges Ukrainian with ‘incitement to espionage’

Poland charges Ukrainian with ‘incitement to espionage’
  • The Ukrainian citizen, identified as Oleksandr D., was arrested in early March
  • He is suspected of having “encouraged a Polish citizen to participate in foreign intelligence activity against Poland“

WARSAW: Poland’s security services on Wednesday said a 26-year-old Ukrainian man had been charged with provocation and incitement to espionage against the NATO member.
In recent months Poland, a staunch Ukraine supporter, has seen several sabotage plots on its territory that it has blamed on neighboring Russia.
The Ukrainian citizen, identified as Oleksandr D., was arrested in early March and is suspected of having “encouraged a Polish citizen to participate in foreign intelligence activity against Poland,” security services spokesman Jacek Dobrzynski said in a statement.
“This activity was to consist of sharing photos of military vehicles that were intended for aiding Ukraine and which were crossing the border between Poland and Ukraine,” he added.
In exchange for information, the Polish man was to receive a payment of 15,000 euros ($16,000), Dobrzynski said, without specifying if he had accepted the offer.
Oleksandr D. was charged on Tuesday and faces at least eight years in prison if found guilty.
Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk has said previously that several attempts at diversion, sabotage and arson had been undertaken in Poland on behalf of Russia over the past few months.
These acts “were fortunately averted thanks to the vigilance of our services and allies,” Tusk said in mid-May.
He also said that Poland would reinforce its intelligence services amid the sabotage attempts and concerns over Russia.
A loyal ally of Kyiv’s, Poland is a main country through which Western nations are transferring weapons and munitions to Ukraine to help in the fight against Russia.


Volcano in Iceland erupts again

Volcano in Iceland erupts again
Updated 29 May 2024
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Volcano in Iceland erupts again

Volcano in Iceland erupts again
  • Authorities had warned of the risk of renewed volcanic activity in the area just south of the capital Reykjavik

COPENHAGEN: A volcano in southwestern Iceland erupted on Wednesday, live video from the area showed, making it the fifth outbreak since December.
The new outburst happened as another eruption on the Reykjanes peninsula recently ended after spewing fountains of molten rock for almost eight weeks.
Authorities had warned of the risk of renewed volcanic activity in the area just south of the capital Reykjavik as studies showed magma accumulated underground.
The fiery spectacle underlines the challenges the island nation of almost 400,000 people face as scientists have warned eruptions could happen over and over in Reykjanes for decades or even centuries.
The eruption was the eighth on the peninsula, home to some 30,000 people, since 2021 when geological systems that were dormant for some 800 years again became active.
Previous incidents had disrupted district heating, closed key roads and even razed several houses in the Grindavik fishing town, where only a few residents have since returned.
In an attempt to prevent further damage man-made barriers have been built to steer lava away from infrastructure including the Svartsengi geothermal power plant, the Blue Lagoon outdoor spa and Grindavik.
Icelanders often refer to their country as the “Land of Fire and Ice” as a tribute to its otherworldly landscape forged by glaciers and volcanoes which is positioned between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates, making it a seismic hotbed.
While a 2010 eruption in a different part of Iceland grounded some 100,000 flights internationally due to huge ash clouds, Reykjanes is typically home to fissure outbreaks which do not reach into the stratosphere.


Philippines to develop halal travel offerings in top resort island

Philippines to develop halal travel offerings in top resort island
Updated 29 May 2024
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Philippines to develop halal travel offerings in top resort island

Philippines to develop halal travel offerings in top resort island
  • Known for its beaches and coral reefs, Boracay is one of the world’s most famous islands
  • Philippines wants to grow its Muslim-friendly and halal tourism portfolio, tourism secretary says

MANILA: The Philippines is developing halal-friendly options in its top resort island of Boracay to attract more Muslim visitors, Tourism Secretary Christina Frasco said on Wednesday.

Located in the province of Aklan, in the center of the Philippine archipelago, Boracay is known for its white sand beaches and coral reefs that make it one of the world’s most famous islands.

Tourism is a key sector for the Philippines, and its Department of Tourism has lately been trying to attract more Muslim visitors, particularly by ensuring that they have access to halal products and services.

“Muslim-friendly and halal tourism is a portfolio that we wish to grow,” Frasco told reporters.

“We are now in talks with a Boracay local government unit, as well as the Department of Tourism, to … offer halal-friendly tourism in Boracay.”

 

 

The predominantly Catholic Philippines — where Muslims constitute about 10 percent of the nearly 120 million population — welcomed more than 2 million international travelers since the beginning of the year and marked a 10 percent increase in visitors arriving from Gulf countries, including Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which have been among the Philippine government’s key emerging-market targets.

The Philippines was recognized with the Emerging Muslim-friendly Destination of the Year award in 2023 at the Halal in Travel Global Summit in Singapore. Since then, the Muslim market has been its priority.

Earlier this month, the Department of Tourism led a delegation to the Arabian Travel Market in Dubai, where it promoted the country’s best destinations.

“When we attended the Arabian Travel Market … we signed a memorandum of understanding with Megaworld such that all their properties will be converted into Muslim-friendly and halal-friendly tourism establishments,” Frasco said, referring to one of the largest Philippine hospitality chains.

“What we expect is really to be able to tap into this billion-dollar industry that is halal and Muslim-friendly tourism.”


Dutch police say they’re homing in on robbers responsible for multimillion-dollar jewelry heist

Dutch police say they’re homing in on robbers responsible for multimillion-dollar jewelry heist
Updated 29 May 2024
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Dutch police say they’re homing in on robbers responsible for multimillion-dollar jewelry heist

Dutch police say they’re homing in on robbers responsible for multimillion-dollar jewelry heist
  • Police said they now have narrowed down the location of the robbers, who they previously said came from the Balkans
  • The investigation team also said that a diamond taken from a necklace that was stolen in the robbery had been found in Israel and another in Hong Kong

THE HAGUE: An international investigation is homing in on a gang of robbers believed to be responsible for a brazen multimillion-dollar jewelry heist at an art show in the Netherlands and two stolen gemstones have been recovered, Dutch police said Wednesday.
Smartly dressed robbers wielding sledge hammers snatched jewelry from display cases at an international art fair in the southern Dutch city of Maastricht nearly two years ago, triggering an international police operation to hunt them down and recover the loot that police say is worth tens of millions of dollars.
In their latest update on the progress of the investigation, police in the southern Dutch province of Limburg said they now have narrowed down the location of the robbers, who they previously said came from the Balkans.
“It is now clear that this concerns Serbia, more specifically the town of Nis. It cannot be ruled out that the suspects are currently staying there, but possibly also in Belgrade or the surrounding area,” police said in a statement.
The investigation team also said that a diamond taken from a necklace that was stolen in the robbery had been found in Israel and another in Hong Kong. Police last year reported the discovery of one of the diamonds, but at the time gave no further details.
“Both diamonds have been seized for examination,” police said in Wednesday’s statement, without giving details of when the stones were recovered.
Police had previously revealed that they were hunting for four men and said Wednesday that a woman also is a suspect in the heist.
Two more women are under investigation for allegedly returning a rental car to a company near the airport in the German city of Frankfurt. The two women are “at the moment, not suspects in the investigation into the robbery,” police said.