Chad appoints former opposition leader Masra as prime minister of transitional government

Succes Masra (C) waves while arriving at a polling station to cast his vote during the constitutional referendum in N’Djamena. (File/AFP)
Succes Masra (C) waves while arriving at a polling station to cast his vote during the constitutional referendum in N’Djamena. (File/AFP)
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Updated 02 January 2024
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Chad appoints former opposition leader Masra as prime minister of transitional government

Chad appoints former opposition leader Masra as prime minister of transitional government
  • Succes Masra recently returned to the central African country following a deal with the ruling junta,

N’DJAMENA: Chad’s transitional president General Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno on Monday appointed one of his leading opponents, who recently returned from exile, as prime minister.
Succes Masra, president of The Transformers party, was a virulent opponent of the regime, which came to power in 2021 after the death of Idriss Deby Itno who led the country with an iron fist for 30 years.
Masra returned to Chad in November after reaching an agreement with the military leaders. The government had issued an international warrant for his arrest after he left.
Masra’s appointment was announced in a decree read on national television.
“Doctor Succes Masra is appointed prime minister, head of the transition government,” general-secretary to the presidency Mahamat Ahmat Alabo announced on state TV.
Days before a referendum last month on a new constitution — which saw 86 percent of participants vote “yes” — Masra publicly urged supporters to vote in favor, with the positive outcome now expected to pave the way to elections.
He had argued that its adoption would accelerate the end of the transition, while the rest of the divided opposition urged Chadians to vote “no” or to boycott the December 17 referendum.
Eric Arsene, 35, a supporter of Masra’s party, said he was pleased about the new appointment.
It will help to “redress the political and economic situation of the country,” he said.
But Narcisse Armand, also 35, said he was not happy at Masra’s arrival as prime minister.
“I am against this nomination because light has not been shed on the October 20 massacre. The people of Chad require an explanation,” said Armand outside The Transformers’ party headquarters.
Masra went into exile shortly after Oct. 20, 2022 protests against the military regime, which had just extended by two years an 18-month transition supposed to culminate in elections and the return of power to a civilian government.
The country’s military government at the time suspended his party and six others in a clampdown on protests against interim leader Deby’s decision to extend his time in power by two more years.
Authorities say more than 60 people were killed that day in the protests, which the government condemned as “an attempted coup.” The opposition and local and international NGOs put the toll between 100 and 300.
Almost all of the victims were shot dead by the military and the police, mainly in the capital N’Djamena.
In the aftermath of the massacre Amnesty International notably decried a lack of “serious investigation” into the killings and who was responsible.
Masra only returned from exile on Nov. 3 following a reconciliation agreement, signed in the Democratic Republic Congo capital, Kinshasa, on Oct. 31, which guaranteed him free exercise of political activities.
He has told the government he wants to “continue dialogue... with a view to a peaceful political solution.”
Several opposition parties have distanced themselves from Masra, while speaking out against a general amnesty that the regime has granted for “all Chadians, civilians and military” involved in the events of the October 2022 protest which has become known as Black Thursday.
(With AFP, Reuters and AP)


More than 300 buried in Papua New Guinea landslide, local media says

More than 300 buried in Papua New Guinea landslide, local media says
Updated 5 sec ago
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More than 300 buried in Papua New Guinea landslide, local media says

More than 300 buried in Papua New Guinea landslide, local media says
  • Hundreds are feared dead in the landslide that hit Kaokalam village

SYDNEY: More than 300 people and over 1,100 houses were buried by a massive landslide that levelled a remote village in northern Papua New Guinea, local media reported on Saturday.
Hundreds are feared dead in the landslide that hit Kaokalam village in Enga Province, about 600 km (370 miles) northwest of capital Port Moresby, around 3 a.m. on Friday (1900 GMT on Thursday).
The landslide in the Pacific nation north of Australia buried more than 300 people and 1,182 houses, the Papua New Guinea Post Courier said, citing comments from a member of the country’s parliament, Aimos Akem. Akem did not immediately respond to Reuters request for comment via social media.
The Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported on Saturday that four bodies had been retrieved from the area after emergency teams reached the sparsely populated area, where the death toll is expected to rise.
The landslide has blocked highway access, making helicopters the only way to reach the area, the broadcaster reported.
Social media footage posted by villager Ninga Role showed people clambering over rocks, uprooted trees and mounds of dirt searching for survivors. Women could be heard weeping in the background.
Prime Minister James Marape has said disaster officials, the Defense Force and the Department of Works and Highways were assisting with relief and recovery efforts.


French court sentences 3 Syrian officials to life in prison in absentia for war crimes

French court sentences 3 Syrian officials to life in prison in absentia for war crimes
Updated 25 May 2024
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French court sentences 3 Syrian officials to life in prison in absentia for war crimes

French court sentences 3 Syrian officials to life in prison in absentia for war crimes
  • The trial focused on the officials’ role in the alleged 2013 arrest in Damascus of Mazen Dabbagh, a Franco-Syrian father, and his son Patrick, and their subsequent torture and killing
  • Former intelligence officials Ali Mamlouk, Jamil Hassan, and Abdel Salam Mahmoud are the most senior Syrian officials to go on trial in a European court over crimes allegedly committed during the country’s civil war

PARIS: A Paris court sentenced three high-ranking Syrian officials in absentia to life in prison Friday for complicity in war crimes in a landmark case against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad and the first such case in Europe.

The trial focused on the officials’ role in the alleged 2013 arrest in Damascus of Mazen Dabbagh, a Franco-Syrian father, and his son Patrick, and their subsequent torture and killing. The four-day trial featured harrowing testimonies from survivors and searing accounts from Mazen’s brother.
Though the verdict was cathartic for plaintiffs, France and Syria do not have an extradition treaty, making the outcome largely symbolic. International arrest warrants for the three former Syrian intelligence officials — Ali Mamlouk, Jamil Hassan, and Abdel Salam Mahmoud — have been issued since 2018 to no avail.
They are the most senior Syrian officials to go on trial in a European court over crimes allegedly committed during the country’s civil war.
The court proceedings came as Assad has started to shed his longtime status as a pariah that stemmed from the violence unleashed on his opponents. Human rights groups involved in the case hoped it would refocus attention on alleged atrocities.
Clémence Bectarte, the Dabbagh family lawyer from the International Federation for Human Rights, said the verdict was the “first recognition in France of the crimes against humanity of the Syrian regime.”
“It is a message of hope for all Syrian victims who are waiting for justice. It is a message that must be addressed to states so that they do not normalize their relations with the regime of Bashar Assad,” she said.
The trial began Tuesday over the alleged torture and killing of the French-Syrian father and son who were arrested at the height of Arab Spring-inspired anti-government protests. The two were arrested in Damascus following a crackdown on demonstrations that later turned into a brutal civil war, now in its 14th year.
The probe into their disappearance started in 2015 when Obeida Dabbagh, Mazen’s brother, testified to investigators already examining war crimes in Syria.
Obeida Dabbagh and his wife, Hanane, are parties to the trial along with non-governmental organizations. They testified in court on Thursday, the third day of the trial.
Obeida Dabbagh said he hoped the trial would set a precedent for holding Assad accountable. “Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have died. Even today, some live in fear and terror,” he said.
Despite the defendants’ absence, the trial’s significance was underscored by Brigitte Herremans, a senior researcher at the Human Rights Center of Ghent University. “It’s very important that perpetrators from the regime side are held accountable, even if it’s mainly symbolic. It means a lot for the fight against impunity,” she said.
 


Some 45,000 Rohingya have fled fighting in Myanmar: UN

Some 45,000 Rohingya have fled fighting in Myanmar: UN
Updated 25 May 2024
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Some 45,000 Rohingya have fled fighting in Myanmar: UN

Some 45,000 Rohingya have fled fighting in Myanmar: UN

GENEVA: The United Nations warned on Friday that escalating fighting in conflict-torn Myanmar’s Rakhine State had forced around 45,000 minority Rohingya to flee, amid allegations of killings and burnings of property.
“Tens of thousands of civilians have been displaced in recent days by the fighting in Buthidaung and Maungdaw townships,” UN rights office spokeswoman Elizabeth Throssell told reporters in Geneva.
“An estimated 45,000 Rohingya have reportedly fled to an area on the Naf River near the border with Bangladesh, seeking protection,” she said.
Clashes have rocked Rakhine since the Arakan Army (AA) attacked forces of the ruling junta in November, ending a ceasefire that had largely held since a military coup in 2021.
The AA says it is fighting for more autonomy for the ethnic Rakhine population in the state, which is also home to around 600,000 members of the persecuted Rohingya Muslim minority.
Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya fled Rakhine in 2017 during a crackdown by the military that is now the subject of a United Nations genocide court case.
“Over a million Rohingya are already in Bangladesh, having fled past purges,” Throssell pointed out.
UN rights chief Volker Turk was urging Bangladesh and other countries “to provide effective protection to those seeking it, in line with international law, and to ensure international solidarity with Bangladesh in hosting Rohingya refugees in Myanmar,” she said.
James Rodehaver, head of the rights office’s Myanmar team, described the horrifying situation many were fleeing from.
He said his team had received testimonies and seen satellite images, online videos and pictures indicating that Buthidaung town had been “largely burned.”
“We have received information indicating that the burning did start on May 17... two days after the military had retreated from the town... and the Arakan Army claimed to have taken full control of the village.”
He stressed that the UN rights office was still working to corroborate that information, to clearly establish “who were the perpetrators.”
One survivor had described seeing dozens of dead bodies as he fled Buthidaung, while another had said he was among tens of thousands who fled the town only to find themselves blocked by the AA on the road west toward Maungdaw town.
Other survivors also said AA members had abused them and extorted money from them as they tried to make their way to Rohingya villages south of the town.
In the weeks leading up to the burning of Buthidaung, Rodehaver said the rights office had documented renewed attacks on Rohingya civilians by both AA and the military in northern Rakhine, including through air strikes.
The team had documented “at least four cases of beheadings,” he said, adding that they had determined with a high level of confidence that those were carried out by the AA.
Beyond Buthidaung, Throssell warned of “clear and present risks of a serious expansion of violence.”
She pointed to the beginning of a battle for Maungdaw town, where the military has outposts and where a large Rohingya community lives.
“In this appalling situation, civilians are once more victimized, killed, their properties destroyed and looted, their demands for safety and security ignored,” she said.
“They are again forced to flee their homes in a recurring nightmare of suffering.”


Zelensky says Ukrainian forces now control area where Russia pushed into Kharkiv region

Zelensky says Ukrainian forces now control area where Russia pushed into Kharkiv region
Updated 25 May 2024
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Zelensky says Ukrainian forces now control area where Russia pushed into Kharkiv region

Zelensky says Ukrainian forces now control area where Russia pushed into Kharkiv region
  • A late-night report by the General Staff said Ukrainian forces had repelled 10 Russian attacks in the area, including around Vovchansk.
  • Russian forces were using less infantry around Vovchansk and instead firing from a distance, with limited accuracy.

President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Friday that Ukrainian forces had secured “combat control” of areas where Russian troops staged an incursion this month in northern parts of Kharkiv region.

“Our soldiers have now managed to take combat control of the border area where the Russian occupiers entered,” Zelensky said in his nightly video address.
Zelensky’s comments, after holding a meeting of military and regional officials in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, appeared to be at variance with comments by Russian officials.
Viktor Vodolatskiy, a member of Russia’s State Duma lower house of parliament, was quoted by Tass news agency as saying Russian forces controlled more than half the territory of the town of Vovchansk, 5 km (three miles) inside the border.
Vodolatskiy was quoted as saying that once Vovchansk was secured, Russian forces would target three cities in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region — Sloviansk, Kramatorsk and Pokrovsk.
Reuters was unable to verify independently battlefield accounts from either side.

Russian forces pushed into border regions of Ukraine’s Kharkiv region this month and Russia’s Defense Ministry said they had secured control of about 12 settlements.
Zelensky and other Ukrainian officials had been reporting success in “stabilising” the area.
The Ukrainian military’s General Staff, in its evening report on Friday said the situation in Vovchansk was “tense but controlled by the defense forces.”
“The Russian army today launched air terror against this town — eight guided bombs hit the town,” it said. Attacks were launched on at least two other settlements north of Kharkiv.
A late-night report by the General Staff said Ukrainian forces had repelled 10 Russian attacks in the area, including around Vovchansk.
It also noted Russian forces had achieved “partial success” in areas near Kupiansk, further east in Kharkiv region, and the Pokrovsk sector where heavy fighting has been taking place further south in Donetsk region.
Ukrainian military bloggers said Ukrainian troops had been holding their ground around Vovchansk and Russian forces were using less infantry in the area and instead firing from a distance, with limited accuracy.


Azerbaijan takes control of four villages on border with Armenia as part of deal

Azerbaijan takes control of four villages on border with Armenia as part of deal
Updated 25 May 2024
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Azerbaijan takes control of four villages on border with Armenia as part of deal

Azerbaijan takes control of four villages on border with Armenia as part of deal
  • Armenia had said in April it would return the uninhabited villages to Azerbaijan, which both sides said was a milestone on the road toward a peace deal
  • Armenian PM Nikol Pashinyan's decision to hand over the four villages has triggered protests at home, with demonstrators calling for him to step down

MOSCOW: Azerbaijan’s border service has taken control of four villages in the Gazakh district on the border with Armenia under an agreement struck with Yerevan, Azerbaijani Deputy Prime Minister Shahin Mustafayev said on Friday.

The size of the territory returned to Azerbaijan under a border delimitation agreement on Friday was 6.5 square kilometers (2.5 square miles), Mustafayev said.
Armenia had said in April it would return the uninhabited villages to Azerbaijan, which both sides said was a milestone on the road toward a peace deal between Yerevan and Baku who have clashed for more than three decades.

The decision by Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan to hand over the four villages has triggered protests at home, with demonstrators calling for him to step down over what they cast as a betrayal.
Pashinyan, in an address to the nation late on Friday, described at length how Armenians had long sought a homeland within a specific geographic area and how demarcating national borders was part of that process.
He said the aim of all Armenians was to act “so that a sovereign and democratic Armenia with demarcated borders becomes a national ideology and concept.”
Azerbaijan’s retaking by force of the entirety of its Nagorno-Karabakh region in September last year, a move which sparked an exodus of ethnic Armenians living there, dealt a painful blow to Yerevan.
But it has also paved the way for an elusive deal by removing a long-running source of disagreement from the table.
Azerbaijan and Armenia still have other unresolved territorial disputes though, mostly focused on enclaves which the two sides want the other party to relinquish control of or provide access to.