Guinea Junta Defies Poll Pressure, Rules Out Exile For Ex-President

Guinea Map

 

 

Guinea’s ruling junta on Saturday ruled out exile for detained former president Alpha Conde and said transition towards civilian rule would be done in accordance with “the will of the people”.

The statement from the ruling council came in defiance of international pressure for Conde’s release and a six-month timetable for elections after a coup on September 5 sparked global condemnation.

It also followed the visit on Friday of a mission from ECOWAS led by two heads of state from the 15-member West African bloc.

Mamady Doumbouya, the colonel who led the coup, told the visiting delegation that “it was important for ECOWAS to listen to the legitimate aspirations of the people of Guinea,” said a junta spokesman, Colonel Amara Camara, at the ruling council’s first press conference on the six-month deadline.

Doumbouya stressed the need not to repeat the “mistakes of the past”, recalling that national consultations to outline the transition had begun on Tuesday and that “only the sovereign people of Guinea will decide its destiny”, Camara said.

“It is also clear to all parties that the former president will remain in Guinea,” he added.

During their visit, the Ghanaian head of state Nana Akufo-Addo, whose country holds the rotating presidency of ECOWAS, and his Ivorian counterpart Alassane Ouattara, presented the junta with the organisation’s demands for elections within six months.

They also insisted on the release of Conde.

“We had very frank, fraternal talks with Colonel Doumbouya and his associates and collaborators and I think that ECOWAS and Guinea will find a way to walk together,” Akufo-Addo said at the end of the visit.

The ruling council, which now designates Doumbouya as “President of the Republic and Head of State”, said that the consultation sessions scheduled for Friday with banks, insurance companies and unions would be held on Saturday.

This consultation will continue next week, it announced, including Monday meetings with cultural actors, press associations and those within the informal sector.

The military has already held talks with political parties, religious leaders, the heads of mining companies, key players in this poor but resource-rich country, and other figures.

‘Burnt Out’: Philippine Nurses Battle COVID-19, Resignations

The pandemic has exacerbated a pre-existing lack of nurses in the Philippines. (Maria TAN/ AFP)

 

 

Exhausted nurses in the Philippines are struggling to care for patients as colleagues contract COVID-19 or quit a profession that was dangerously understaffed even before the pandemic.

The country is enduring a record rise in infections, fuelled by the Delta variant, with the health department reporting a nursing shortfall of more than 100,000 — forcing those left to work long hours for little pay on often precarious short-term contracts.

“They are tired and burned out,” nursing director Lourdes Banaga, at a private hospital south of Manila, told AFP.

“At the start of the pandemic we had almost 200 nurses,” said Banaga, director for nursing services at the Lipa Medix Medical Center in Batangas province.

“By September that will reduce to 63.”

Official figures show 75,000 nurses are working in public and private Philippine hospitals but roughly 109,000 more are needed.

The pandemic has exacerbated a pre-existing lack of nurses, said Maristela Abenojar, president of Filipino Nurses United — a situation she describes as “ironic” in one of the world’s biggest exporters of healthcare workers.

The “chronic understaffing” is down to inadequate salaries, she said.

An entry-level nurse in a public hospital can earn 33,575 pesos ($670) per month, official data show.

But Abenojar said most were on short-term contracts, earning 22,000 pesos with no benefits such as hazard pay. Meanwhile, those in the private sector were making as little as 8,000 pesos.

And many have had enough: About 40 percent of private hospital nurses have resigned since the start of the pandemic, according to the Private Hospitals Association of the Philippines.

More than 5,000 nurses have been given the green light to go abroad this year after a Covid-19 ban was replaced with a cap to ensure enough nurses were available in the Philippines.

It hasn’t worked.

“We can’t get additional nurses, we can’t compel them to apply,” said Jose Rene de Grano of the private hospitals association.

– ‘We feel exhausted’ –
In recent weeks, health workers have protested over unpaid benefits, including a coronavirus special risk allowance. Abenojar said many were still waiting.

President Rodrigo Duterte has asked for patience while the government tries to come up with the money.

“We don’t feel cared for,” said Melbert Reyes of the Philippine Nurses Association.

Many hospitals boosted their bed capacity after a virus surge earlier this year threatened to overwhelm them.

Official data show coronavirus ward and ICU bed occupancy rates at more than 70 percent nationwide as daily cases often exceed 20,000, fuelled by the hyper-contagious Delta variant.

A public hospital in Binan city, near Manila, turned a car park into a ward.

“Many of our nurses are sick and in quarantine,” medical director Melbril Alonte told AFP.

“We feel exhausted… but we always keep in mind that we have to help our people because… no one else will.”

But due to the nursing shortfall, some facilities — like the Lipa Medix Medical Center — have had to slash their bed capacity, and extend their nurses’ shifts.

Nurse Trixia Bautista said she works up to 15 hours per shift looking after mostly severe Covid-19 patients at a public referral hospital in the capital.

At times, she has cared for as many as 30 patients on her own after nurses on her ward quit or got sick.

“Physically it’s very tiring,” she said. “There’s not enough people to cater to all these patients.”

– ‘Not worth being a nurse’ –
But there are plenty of qualified nurses in the Philippines, said Abenojar of Filipino Nurses United.

She estimated 200,000 to 250,000 were not working in the sector.

Many healthcare workers enter the profession to try to secure better-paid jobs abroad, but the shortage is not due to overseas migration.

“It’s because nurses have left the profession,” said Yasmin Ortiga, assistant professor of sociology at Singapore Management University, pointing to the dearth of stable jobs and dismal wages.

A proliferation of nursing programmes led to an oversupply, with many unable to get a permanent position in a local hospital — necessary to work abroad — and subsequently a drop in enrolments.

Ortiga said: “People realised that if I am unable to leave the country it’s really not worth being a nurse at home.”

Arsenal Win Again As Liverpool Top Premier League

Arsenal’s Norwegian midfielder Martin Odegaard (2nd R) scores the opening goal with this freekick during the English Premier League football match between Burnley and Arsenal at Turf Moor in Burnley, north west England on September 18, 2021. (Photo by Lindsey Parnaby / AFP)

 

 

Martin Odegaard scored his first goal since his permanent switch to Arsenal on Saturday to further ease the pressure on Mikel Arteta as Sadio Mane helped fire Liverpool to the top of the Premier League.

Defending champions Manchester City dropped two points at home to Southampton after a 0-0 stalemate while struggling Wolves lost their fourth match in five against 10-man Brentford.

Arsenal were rock bottom of the table before last week’s fixtures but wins against Norwich and now Burnley lifted them to the relative comfort of 12th spot before the late kick-off between Aston Villa and Everton.

Odegaard, who signed from Real Madrid last month after spending part of last season at the Emirates on loan, broke the deadlock in the 30th minute, curling home a free-kick to give the visitors a 1-0 lead at Turf Moor.

 

Arsenal’s Norwegian midfielder Martin Odegaard (C) celebrates with teammates after scoring the opening goal during the English Premier League football match between Burnley and Arsenal at Turf Moor in Burnley, north west England on September 18, 2021. (Photo by Lindsey Parnaby / AFP)

 

Arsenal breathed a sigh of relief when VAR overturned a penalty awarded to Burnley in the second half after Matej Vydra tumbled to the turf following a challenge by goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale.

Liverpool forward Mane continued his eye-catching run against Crystal Palace, netting in his ninth league match in a row against the London side to send Jurgen Klopp’s men top of the table with a 3-0 win.

Mohamed Salah’s glancing header from Konstantinos Tsimikas’ corner was kept out by goalkeeper Vicente Guaita but Mane pounced to lash home his 100th goal for Liverpool in all competitions.

Salah doubled the Reds’ lead in the 78th minute before Naby Keita sealed the win with a sweetly struck volley.

Liverpool, champions in 2020, have made an impressive start to the season, scoring 12 goals in their opening five games and conceding just once.

 

Manchester City’s English midfielder Phil Foden reacts following the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Southampton at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on September 18, 2021. (Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP)

 

City Drop Points

Manchester City will rue their inability to beat Southampton at the Etihad after consecutive 5-0 home wins.

It could have been worse for them after referee Jon Moss pointed to the spot when Kyle Walker bundled into the back of Adam Armstrong in the area, showing the England international a red card.

But the incident was reviewed by VAR and Moss eventually decided to overturn both decisions.

The build-up to City’s match was dominated by a row over attendance levels at the Etihad, with manager Pep Guardiola urging fans to fill empty seats in comments that irritated some supporters.

But fans were frustrated by battling Southampton, who kept City’s attackers at bay despite relentless pressure.

 

Liverpool’s Senegalese striker Sadio Mane (C) vies with Crystal Palace’s English defender Joel Ward (R) during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Crystal Palace at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on September 18, 2021. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / AFP)

 

The home side thought they had snatched victory in the dying minutes after goalkeeper Alex McCarthy saved a Phil Foden header and Raheem Sterling tucked in the rebound but the flag was raised.

Watford beat Norwich 3-1 to condemn the newly promoted Canaries to their fifth consecutive defeat.

Watford took the lead in the 17th minute through Emmanuel Dennis but Teemu Pukki equalised before half time. Ismaila Sarr put the visitors back in front in the 63rd minute and scored again with 10 minutes to go.

In the early kick-off, Ivan Toney scored a goal and created another as 10-man Brentford beat Wolves 2-0 to maintain their impressive start to their first Premier League campaign.

The 25-year-old striker won and converted a penalty before setting up Bryan Mbeumo as the Bees prevailed at Molineux despite Shandon Baptiste’s red card in the second half.

Tottenham host Chelsea on Sunday while Cristiano Ronaldo’s Manchester United travel to West Ham.

 

 

Liverpool’s Egyptian midfielder Mohamed Salah removes his shirt as he celebrates after scoring their second goal during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Crystal Palace at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on September 18, 2021. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE.

AFP

Mane Scores 100th Liverpool Goal In Palace Stroll

Liverpool’s Senegalese striker Sadio Mane (C) vies with Crystal Palace’s English defender Joel Ward (R) during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Crystal Palace at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on September 18, 2021. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / AFP)

 

Sadio Mane scored his 100th Liverpool goal as the Senegal star inspired a 3-0 win against Crystal Palace that sent his side top of the Premier League on Saturday.

Mane’s milestone strike came in his 224th appearance for the Reds, breaking Palace’s rearguard action late in the first half at Anfield.

Egypt forward Mohamed Salah and Guinea midfielder Naby Keita netted in the second half to move Jurgen Klopp’s team three points clear of second-placed Manchester City.

It was fitting that Mane should make it to his century against Palace as he set a new Premier League record for the most consecutive games a player has scored against one opponent.

It was the ninth successive match that Mane had netted against Palace.

More importantly for Klopp, Mane already has four goals this term, suggesting he is ready to put last season’s disappointing personal campaign behind him.

After Liverpool’s lacklustre, injury-hit defence of the Premier League title, they are back in the groove in the chase to regain the trophy from Manchester City.

Klopp’s men have opened the season with an unbeaten run of four wins from five games, with just one goal conceded and 12 scored.

French defender Ibrahima Konate, signed from Leipzig in the close season, was handed his Liverpool debut as one of six changes from the midweek Champions League win over AC Milan.

Klopp switched his entire back four, with Virgil van Dijk returning, James Milner playing on the right instead of Trent Alexander-Arnold and Kostas Tsimikas replacing Andy Robertson.

 

Liverpool’s Senegalese striker Sadio Mane (C) celebrates after scoring the opening goal of the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Crystal Palace at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on September 18, 2021. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / AFP)

 

Mane Stars

Initially, Liverpool seemed unsettled by Klopp’s alterations and Palace nearly took advantage of a defensive blunder that ended with Alisson Becker pushing Wilfried Zaha’s shot onto the post.

Diogo Jota led the Liverpool response as the Portugal forward fired across goal from a tight angle.

Jordan Henderson scored Liverpool’s winner against AC Milan and the England midfielder was close to netting again when his half-volley from Mane’s cross forced Vicente Guaita to make a good stop.

Jota missed a golden opportunity to break the deadlock, firing over from three yards after the ball was palmed out to him by Guaita.

But Mane ended Palace’s spirited resistance in the 43rd minute.

Salah’s header from Tsimikas’ corner was saved by Guaita and Mane pounced to slam the rebound past the Palace keeper.

Alisson had to make a fine save from Joel Ward’s drive to preserve Liverpool’s lead at the interval.

Palace were inches away from earning a second-half penalty when Conor Gallagher was tripped right on the edge of the area.

Christian Benteke wasted the free-kick, before Van Dijk headed just over at the other end.

Keita’s shot was repelled by Guaita, who scrambled to his feet to deny Salah’s follow-up attempt.

Liverpool’s Egyptian midfielder Mohamed Salah removes his shirt as he celebrates after scoring their second goal during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Crystal Palace at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on September 18, 2021. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / AFP)

 

Salah wouldn’t be denied a goal for long and the Egypt star delivered the knockout blow in the 78th minute.

Van Dijk helped on a Liverpool corner and Salah was perfectly placed to slot home at the far post.

Keita, on as a second-half replacement for Thiago Alcantara, put the seal on Liverpool’s stroll when he volleyed in from the edge of the area in the 89th minute.

Liverpool’s Senegalese striker Sadio Mane celebrates after scoring the opening goal of the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Crystal Palace at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on September 18, 2021. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / AFP)

AFP

Three Blasts Kill At Least Two In Afghanistan’s Jalalabad

Afghan people are pictured outside the Nangarhar Regional Specialization Hospital after explosions in Jalalabad on September 18, 2021, as at least two people were killed and up to 20 more wounded in three explosions, a Taliban official said. (Photo by – / AFP)

 

Two people were killed when three blasts struck the Afghan city of Jalalabad on Saturday, at least one of which targeted a Taliban vehicle, in the country’s first deadly attack since the United States withdrew.

The hardline Islamist group stormed to power in mid-August, ousting the government and promising to restore security to the violence-wracked country.

“In one attack a Taliban vehicle patrolling in Jalalabad was targeted,” a Taliban official who asked not to be named told AFP.

“Women and children were among the injured,” he added.

An official from the health department of Nangarhar Province told AFP that three people died and 18 were wounded, while several local media reported the attacks left at least two dead.

Pictures taken at the site of the blast showed a green pick-up truck with a white Taliban flag surrounded by debris as armed fighters looked on.

Jalalabad is the capital of Nangarhar, the heartland of the Islamic State group’s Afghanistan branch.

A chaotic US-led evacuation of foreigners and Afghans who worked for international forces was marred by a devastating bomb attack claimed by IS which killed scores of people.

But since the last American troop left on August 30, the violence-wracked country plagued by fighting, bombs and air strikes, has been free of major incidents.

Although both IS and the Taliban are hardline Sunni Islamist militants, they have differed on the minutiae of religion and strategy.

That tussle has led to bloody fighting between the two.

 

Boys Back To School, Not Girls

Saturday’s bombing came as the Taliban ordered boys and male teachers to return to secondary school in Afghanistan — but girls were excluded.

“All male teachers and students should attend their educational institutions,” a statement said ahead of classes resuming Saturday, the first day of the week in Afghanistan.

The statement, issued late Friday, made no mention of women teachers or girl pupils.

“We lack teachers, most of them are females and are not allowed to come by the new government, that creates a problem for us,” an official at a Kabul secondary school who asked not to be named told AFP on Saturday.

Secondary schools, with students typically between the ages of 13 and 18, are often segregated by sex. During the Covid-19 pandemic, they have faced repeated closures and have been shut since the Taliban seized power.

Since a US-led invasion ousted the Taliban in 2001, significant progress has been made in girls’ education, with the number of schools tripling and female literacy nearly doubling to 30 percent — however, the change was largely limited to the cities.

The United Nations said it was “deeply worried” for the future of girls’ schooling in Afghanistan.

“It is critical that all girls, including older girls, are able to resume their education without any further delays. For that, we need female teachers to resume teaching,” the UN’s children’s agency UNICEF said.

 

Pakistan Pushes For Inclusive Govt

In a further sign that the Taliban’s approach to women and girls had not softened, a sign outside the ministry of women’s affairs was replaced with another — announcing the return of the feared department for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice.

Videos posted to social media showed women workers from the ministry protesting outside after losing their jobs.

No official from the Taliban responded to requests for comment.

After promising a more inclusive rule, the movement unveiled an all-male government of mostly ethnic Pashtuns, dominated by veteran members of the fundamentalist movement.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday said he had launched talks with the Taliban — whose leadership has historically had close ties with its southern neighbour — to persuade the group to form a government that includes Tajiks, Hazaras and Uzbeks.

 

Tragic Mistake

Meanwhile, a top United States general admitted it had made a “mistake” when it launched a drone strike against suspected IS militants in Kabul last month, instead killing 10 civilians, including children.

The strike during the final days of the US pullout was meant to target a suspected IS operation that US intelligence believed with “reasonable certainty” was planning to attack Kabul airport, said US Central Command commander General Kenneth McKenzie.

“The strike was a tragic mistake,” McKenzie told reporters after an investigation.

McKenzie said the government was looking into how payments for damages could be made to the families of those killed.

“I offer my deepest condolences to surviving family members of those who were killed,” US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement.

The UN Security Council voted Friday to extend the UN political mission in Afghanistan for six months, with a focus on development issues but not peacekeeping.

AFP

Emmy Awards: Five Things To Watch Out For

(FILES) In this file photo taken on September 21, 2019, an Emmy Awards statue ahead of the 71st Emmy Awards in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Robyn Beck / AFP)

 

 

The Emmys honoring the best in television return Sunday for the first in-person ceremony since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

In addition to the return of a (small, socially distanced) audience, there are plenty of potential records and historic firsts to look out for:

Posthumous win?

Michael K. Williams, forever remembered as Baltimore stick-up man Omar Little in seminal HBO crime drama “The Wire,” died earlier this month.

His tragic passing will not influence voting — the suspected drug overdose in New York occurred after Emmys voting had closed.

But Williams is the favorite to win the award for best supporting actor in a drama for supernatural horror series “Lovecraft Country.” He was nominated four times in the past but never won a statuette.

Many viewers will hope for a victory for Williams, which would make him part of an elite group of posthumous acting winners at the Emmys — one that includes Ingrid Bergman.

Transgender first?

FX’s “Pose” — about New York’s 1980s underground ballroom culture — has already done much to advance LGBTQ representation.

Two years ago, its star Billy Porter became the first openly gay black man to win the best drama actor prize.

On Sunday, another cast member has a chance to make history.

“Mj Rodriguez has a shot at being the first trans winner in lead actress,” Los Angeles Times journalist Michael Ordona told AFP.

“But she’s got a tough row to hoe, because I think there’s a lot of goodwill toward Emma Corrin for her portrayal of Princess Diana,” in “The Crown,” he added.

Biggest loser?

“The Handmaid’s Tale” was the first ever streaming show to win best drama at the Emmys. Hulu’s adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel strongly resonated with voters back in 2017.

Since then, the Elisabeth Moss-starring series offering a bleak portrait of an authoritarian America has seen diminishing returns — in terms of both critical response and awards tallies.

Still nominated for a whopping 21 statuettes this year, it has won zero in the technical categories handed out so far — meaning it will become the “biggest loser” in a single year of Emmys history if it fails to convert at all on Sunday.

Netflix record?

Netflix needs 10 wins Sunday to tie the all-time record for most Emmys wins in a year — 44, set by CBS network way back in 1974 when shows like “M*A*S*H” and “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” ruled the airwaves.

Such an impressive haul is not necessarily beyond the streamer.

Chess-themed “The Queen’s Gambit” has already bagged nine awards in fields from costumes to cinematography, and should contend for more awards Sunday including best limited series, directing, and actress for Anya Taylor-Joy.

British royals drama “The Crown” is tipped for the night’s top prize — best drama — and has frontrunners across the acting categories including Emma Corrin, Josh O’Connor and Gillian Anderson as Princess Diana, Prince Charles and Margaret Thatcher, respectively.

‘Short straw’

After last year’s pandemic-mandated virtual event, the nominees are to be welcomed back in-person at the Emmys — but only a lucky few of them.

Each nomination will earn a maximum three invitations to the socially distanced 500-person outdoor venue (the ceremony typically has an audience of 4,000-6,000).

This has caused a scramble among those up for best drama, best comedy and best limited series, as each show usually has a large number of producers listed as nominees and eligible to attend.

“Can you imagine the defining moment in your career — you’re nominated for an Emmy, and you just drew the short straw and you can’t go to the ceremony?” said Variety awards editor Clayton Davis.

“That’s going to happen to a lot of people.”

Algeria’s Ex-President Abdelaziz Bouteflika Dies Aged 84

(FILES) In this file photo taken on April 28, 2014 Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika is pushed in his wheelchair as he arrives for his inauguration ceremony as he is sworn as Algeria’s President for a fourth term in Algiers. – Algeria’s former president Abdelaziz Bouteflika died on September 17, 2021 aged 84, public television announced, citing a statement from the presidency. (Photo by Farouk Batiche / AFP)

 

Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who ruled Algeria for two decades before resigning in 2019 as huge protests engulfed the country, has died aged 84, public television announced.

The former strongman had left office in April 2019 under pressure from the military, following weeks of demonstrations over his bid to run for a fifth term in office.

After quitting, he had stayed out of the public eye at a residence in western Algiers.

The announcement of his death late Friday evening triggered little reaction in the North African country, reflecting how his absence had stamped him out of public interest.

The Algerian national flag flies at half-mast in the capital Algiers on September 18, 2021, following the death of former president Abdelaziz Bouteflika. (Photo by RYAD KRAMDI / AFP)

 

A statement from his successor Abdelmadjid Tebboune noted Bouteflika’s past as a fighter in the war for independence from France and said flags would be lowered to half mast for three days to honour him.

But on the streets of the capital Algiers, many residents told AFP the once-formidable president would not be missed.

“Bless his soul. But he doesn’t deserve any tribute because he did nothing for the country,” said greengrocer Rabah.

Malek, a telecoms employee, said Bouteflika “was incapable of reforming the country despite his long rule”.

Even state broadcasters limited their coverage to the news of his death, without running special bulletins on his legacy.

Sabqpress news website said the funeral would take place on Sunday at the El-Alia cemetery east of the capital where his predecessors and other independence fighters are buried.

There was no immediate confirmation from authorities.

 

‘Absolute President’

Bouteflika became president of Algeria in 1999 as the former French colony emerged from a decade of civil war that killed nearly 200,000 people.

He went on to be elected for three more consecutive five-year terms, most recently in 2014.

Dubbed “Boutef” by Algerians, he won respect as a foreign minister in the 1970s and then for helping foster peace after the civil war, notably with an amnesty law that prompted thousands of Islamist fighters to hand in their weapons.

“He was welcomed in countries around the world, and the country improved when Bouteflika became president,” said kitchen porter Amer, 46.

Journalist Farid Alilat, who has written a biography of Bouteflika, says that at the height of his rule in the early 2000s, the president had “all the levers of power”.

Crucially, he was backed by the army and the intelligence services.

“He became an absolute president,” Alilat told AFP.

Algeria was largely spared the wave of uprisings that swept the Arab world in 2011, with many crediting still-painful memories of the civil war — as well as a boost in state handouts — for keeping a lid on tensions.

But Bouteflika’s rule was marked by corruption, leaving many Algerians wondering how a country with vast oil wealth could end up with poor infrastructure and high unemployment that pushed many young people overseas.

“He had a very comfortable life, even after he was ousted from power. But we have to admit that his legacy isn’t the most glowing”, said carpenter Mohamed, 46.

 

Ill Health And Protests

In his later years, Bouteflika’s ill health started weighing on his credibility as a leader.

Despite suffering a mini-stroke in April 2013 that affected his speech and forced him to use a wheelchair, he decided to seek a fourth mandate despite growing public doubts about his ability to rule.

His bid in 2019 for a fifth term sparked angry protests that soon grew into a pro-democracy movement known as Hirak.

When he lost the backing of the army, he was forced to step down.

The Hirak mass protests continued, with demands for a full overhaul of the ruling system in place since Algeria’s independence from France in 1962.

Some key Bouteflika-era figures were eventually jailed in corruption cases, including Bouteflika’s powerful brother Said, but the long-sought changes did not happen.

Bouteflika’s successor Tebboune was elected in late 2019 on record low turnout, with the Hirak calling for a boycott.

A referendum on a constitutional amendment seen as aiming to torpedo the Hirak generated even less interest from voters.

But the protest movement was suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic and has struggled to regain momentum as the government cracks down on opposition.

According to the CNLD prisoners’ group, around 200 people are in jail in connection with the Hirak or over individual freedoms.

And with the Bouteflika-era old guard still largely ruling the country, the legacy of two decades of his rule is mixed.

“For his entire life, Abdelaziz Bouteflika was driven by two obsessions: take power and keep it at any price,” said Alilat.

“But it was this obsession… that sparked the revolt that drove him from power.”

AFP

Pele Briefly Back In ICU But Now ‘Stable’, Says Hospital

In this handout file photo released by WEF and taken on March 14, 2018, Brazilian football legend Pele smiles during the opening plenary at the World Economic Forum on Latin America 2018 in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on March 14, 2018. Football legend Edson Arantes do Nascimento, known as Pele, has been hospitalized for six days in Sao Paulo after some health problems were discovered during routine examinations, local media reported on Monday, September 6.
Benedikt VON LOEBELL / World Economic Forum (WEF) / AF

 

 

Brazilian football legend Pele, 80, was briefly transferred back to an intensive care unit Friday after suffering breathing difficulties but is now stable, said the Albert Einstein Hospital in Sao Paulo, where he underwent surgery earlier this month.

The transfer was a temporary “preventative measure,” the hospital said in a statement, adding that the sporting great was later transferred to “semi-intensive care” as he continues to recover from surgery for a suspected colon tumor.

“He is currently stable from a cardiovascular and respiratory point of view,” it added.

Shortly afterwards, the ex-footballer posted a message on social media stating: “Friends, I am still recovering very well. Today I received visits from family and I am still smiling every day.”

Pele’s daughter Kely Nascimento also posted a photo of herself next to her father in the hospital, seeking to cheer up his fans.

“This is the normal recovery scenario for a man his age. After an operation like this, sometimes you take two steps forward, one step back,” Nascimento wrote on Instagram next to the photo.

“Yesterday he was tired and he took a step back. Today, he has taken two steps forward,” she added.

In the photo, Pele is seen on what looks like a hospital bed in a black puff vest or jacket, alert and smiling.

“He is recovering well, under normal conditions, I promise!” Nascimento added. “There is a lot of angst in the world these days and we don’t want to add to it.”

On September 6 the hospital said Pele had undergone surgery for a suspected colon tumor.

He originally left the ICU unit on Tuesday, telling his fans on social media that he was feeling happier by the day and was looking forward to reuniting with them.

The suspected tumor was detected during routine tests, according to the hospital, where Pele has been undergoing treatment since August 31.

Considered by many to be the greatest footballer of all time, Pele, whose real name is Edson Arantes do Nascimento, has been in poor health in recent years, and has had various stints in the hospital.

The only player in history to win three World Cups (1958, 1962 and 1970), Pele burst onto the global stage at just 17 with dazzling goals, including two in the final against hosts Sweden, as Brazil won the World Cup for the first time in 1958.

Four years later, Pele gave a tantalizing glimpse of his ability with an electric individual goal against Mexico in Brazil’s opening 2-0 win.

“O Rei” (The King) went on to have one of the most storied careers in sport, scoring more than 1,000 goals before retiring in 1977.

Kenyans Voice Fury Over Fuel Price Hikes

Report Any Station Selling Petrol Above N145, NNPC Tells Nigerians
A fuel pump nozzle.

 

Kenyans voiced fury on Thursday at a jump in fuel prices, which threaten to pile on the misery for a population already suffering economic hardship because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Fuel prices are now at record levels after the country’s energy regulator this week put an end to subsidies on petrol, diesel and kerosene that were introduced earlier this year to ease anger over the surging cost of living.

The East African economic powerhouse has suffered huge job losses as gross domestic product shrank last year for the first time in three decades, with Covid-19 battering usually strong sectors like tourism.

The scrapping of the subsidies, which took effect on Wednesday, increased the price of petrol in Nairobi by about six percent to a maximum of almost 135 shillings (about $1.20 or 1.00 euro) a litre.

And the cost is set to rise further with the introduction of a near five percent excise duty on fuel from October 1.

“The increase in fuel is just ridiculous, it shows that the government is not in touch with the reality on the ground, how do they want us to survive,” said James Mwangi, 42, a second-hand car dealer in Nairobi.

“Any increase in fuel prices means an increase in many other things.”

Mercilyne Njeri, 35, who works at a five-star hotel in Nairobi, says she is already trying to survive on 60 percent of her usual salary.

“The government is not realistic, you cannot increase fuel prices at a time we are suffering from tough economic times brought about by Covid-19 challenges.”

Kenya’s Deputy President William Ruto, who is in open conflict with President Uhuru Kenyatta, criticised the decision, warning it will lead to a higher cost of living across the board.

“This is mistaken in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said, calling for the energy ministry and parliament to address the issue.

‘We Can’t Breathe’

The Consumers Federation of Kenya (Cofek) warned of a huge hit on the economy -– “high cost of production, surge in food prices, transport and overall, a higher cost of living”.

“The foreign direct investments as well as consumer purchasing power will be driven south for a struggling economy reeling under the Covid-19 pandemic,” it said in a statement on Wednesday.

Kenyan consumers pay several taxes on fuel, which account for the vast bulk of the price charged by pump operators.

Kenya’s GDP dropped to 10.75 trillion shillings ($98 billion, 83 billion euros) last year and the economy also shed 738,000 jobs, with informal workers such as small traders and artisans bearing the brunt of those losses.

Kenyans are still living under restrictions including a nighttime curfew to contain the spread of Covid-19.

The disease has infected almost 245,000 people in the country including almost 4,950 fatalities, according to official figures.

“Covid made our lives so miserable and now the fuel prices increase has made it even worse,” said 27-year-old Kevin Mwanzia, an electronics technician.

“We simply can’t breathe, the public transport fare will increase, commodity prices will also increase. How are we supposed to survive?”

Salvadorans March Against Bitcoin And ‘Dictatorship’

People protest against President Nayib Bukele’s policies on Independence Day in San Salvador, on September 15, 2021. MARVIN RECINOS / AFP

 

Thousands of Salvadorans protested Wednesday against the government’s introduction of bitcoin as legal tender in the impoverished country as well as against judicial reforms that critics say threaten democracy.

Last week, El Salvador became the first country to use the cryptocurrency as legal tender, alongside the US dollar. The move by President Nayib Bukele was met with a mix of curiosity and concern.

On the day that the Central American country marked the bicentennial of its independence from Spanish rule, protesters burnt a bitcoin ATM in the capital San Salvador, one of about 200 that have been installed throughout the country as part of the reform.

Protesters on a central square in the capital held aloft placards denouncing a “dictatorship” and signs reading “Respect the Constitution” and “No to bitcoin.”

Bukele condemned the protesters in a tweet Wednesday, calling them out for property destruction.

“They say the ‘vandalism’ was done by ‘infiltrators,’ but there is vandalism at ALL their protests,” he tweeted, attaching a video of a masked woman kicking down a glass security wall.

Speaking later at a televised ceremony to mark the country’s bicentennial, the president claimed some protestors were being financed by the “international community.”

“The sad thing is that they are financing a perverse opposition,” he said.

“Those who want to demonstrate, continue to demonstrate, this country is free.”

He also noted that so far police had not used tear gas to contain protests — but suggested they could if the “international community” continued to fund their movement.

“I don’t know if one day they will finance it so much… that it will become necessary, I hope not,” he warned.

Republic ‘in Peril’

Joining protests Wednesday were judges in suits and ties, who came out to demonstrate against a law passed recently by the Bukele-controlled legislature.

The law calls for laying off all judges over 60 or those with more than 30 years of service, a move that will affect about a third of all serving judges.

“We came out on the streets because we are headed in the direction of authoritarianism… of dictatorship,” said Esli Carrillo, 48-year-old judge.

The protesters also oppose a recent ruling by the Supreme Court, populated by judges appointed by Bukele, that gives the president the right to seek a second successive term despite a constitutional limit of a single term.

“The Republic is in peril, that is why we are demanding respect for the independence of powers,” said Zaira Navas, an activist with the rights group Cristosal.

Peasants, workers and union activists also turned out to protest.

“We march because we don’t want that bitcoin law because it does not favor us,” said Natalia Belloso, 41, who wore a white T-shirt with the emblem “No to bitcoin.”

“It (the currency) is very volatile.”

Experts and regulators have highlighted concerns about the cryptocurrency’s notorious volatility, its potential impact on price inflation in a country with high poverty and unemployment, and the lack of protection for users.

Elected in 2019, Bukele has long been accused of authoritarian tendencies.

But he enjoys broad support in El Salvador over his promises to fight organized crime and improve security in the violence-wracked country, and his allies now hold a large majority in parliament.

Kenya’s Odinga Leaves Door Open For Fifth Presidential Bid

File Photo of Kenya’s opposition party, National Super Alliance (NASA) leader Raila Odinga. Photo: YASUYOSHI CHIBA / AFP

 

Kenya’s veteran opposition leader Raila Odinga has dismissed widespread rumours of a power-sharing deal between him and President Uhuru Kenyatta ahead of elections next year as he leaves the door open for a fifth presidential bid.

A mainstay of Kenyan politics, the former prime minister remains hugely popular despite losing four shots at the presidency in 1997, 2007, 2013 and 2017.

But his image as an anti-establishment firebrand has taken a knock since he stunned the country with a headline-grabbing handshake with former foe Kenyatta in March 2018, following deadly post-election clashes the year before.

The truce, known universally as “the handshake”, sparked feverish speculation the two men had made a pact that would see Odinga succeed Kenyatta, a two-term president who cannot run a third time.

In an interview with AFP however, the 76-year-old Odinga brushed off the rumours, saying he had nothing to gain from the rapprochement, which saw the pair vow to work together to defuse months of violence and political turmoil.

“It is propaganda peddled by busybodies,” Odinga said in his Nairobi office.

“The situation was highly polarised in the country, there were demonstrations, extensive use of force, people were dying and there was need for a resolution,” he said.

“As a result of the handshake, peace returned to the country.”

Critics argue that the truce has effectively left the East African country without an opposition and taken the shine off what many expect to be Odinga’s last stab at the presidency.

The two leaders’ push to amend the constitution and expand the executive has also left them open to the charge that their handshake was designed to ensure that Kenyatta could stay in power as a prime minister.

The government intends to file an appeal with the country’s top court after a panel of judges in Nairobi rejected the wide-ranging constitutional changes.

New Friends, New Foes

Odinga called the allegations unfounded.

“I have no foothold in the government. I have no dealings with the government. There is not a single member of my party who is holding a position in the executive,” he said.

But the usually vociferous politician, who has been seen at official government functions with Kenyatta, refused to be drawn on whether he would run for the presidency next August.

“I will talk about that subject at the appropriate time,” he said, in a nod to his nickname “Agwambo” (“the mysterious”).

His new rival, deputy president William Ruto, may leave him with little option but to reveal his cards.

Ruto was promised Kenyatta’s backing for the top job in 2022 in exchange for his support. “The handshake” has since consigned him to the sidelines, revealing new fissures as his bitter feud with the president plays out in public.

‘Self-made’

As the man who has gained the most from the pair’s fractured ties, Odinga now faces a threat to the anti-establishment brand he has spent years cultivating.

Ruto has positioned himself as a leader looking to upend the status quo and stand up for the “hustlers” trying to make ends meet in a country ruled by “dynasties”.

The Kenyatta and Odinga families have dominated Kenyan politics since independence in 1963.

But Odinga, who was jailed for eight years under the autocratic regime of Daniel arap Moi, insists he is “a self-made person”.

“I have not inherited anything from anybody. What I have I have worked for.”

Yet Ruto, who is 22 years younger than Odinga, is hoping that his rags-to-riches journey from street hawker to top-ranked politician will resonate with Kenya’s overwhelmingly youthful population.

Odinga, a grandfather of five, said he would “be very happy to hand over (the reins) to a younger person”.

But not just yet.

“I have a track record which Kenyans understand very well,” he said in a parting shot.

“They know that given an opportunity as the head of government, I can introduce a lot of changes.”

Mystery Still Surrounds Death Of UN Chief After 60 Years

An undated headshot of Swedish U.N. Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld. Dag Hammarkjöld was a diplomat who was the United Nations’ Secretary-General from 1953 till 1961 when he died in North Rhodesia during a plane crash. BILDER / AFP

 

The mystery of how the hugely courageous UN secretary-general Dag Hammarskjold died 60 years ago has only thickened since his plane crashed in the African bush, killing all on board. 

Was the Swede, who was posthumously awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, murdered by rebels and mercenaries working in cahoots with Western intelligence agencies and mining companies, or was pilot error to blame?

A long-running investigation by the British newspaper The Observer found that London and Washington had much to answer for.

And an award-winning 2019 documentary “Cold Case Hammarskjold” pointed the finger at a Belgian mercenary pilot with links to British intelligence.

Tensions in Congo

The tragedy happened on the night of September 17-18, 1961 as the UN’s DC-6 Albertina aircraft took Hammarskjold and his team to Ndola in what was then the British colony of Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia).

He was headed there to negotiate a ceasefire with Moise Tshombe, leader of the secessionist Katanga state that was seeking to break from the former Belgian Congo after independence that June.

The Cold War was at its height and the dashing and dynamic Hammarskjold, the youngest person ever to lead the UN, was determined to defend the international body’s independence from Washington and Moscow as well as the old colonial powers.

The trip was being closely monitored by the big powers all of whom had an eye on Katanga’s vast mineral riches of copper, cobalt and uranium.

Mining consortiums fearing Congo’s independence were bankrolling Tshombe’s government which was also backed by Belgian colonists and European mercenaries.

Human Error?

Hammarskjold’s aircraft never arrived at its destination. At dawn calls to neighbouring airports all came back with the same answer: no radio contact had been made with the missing plane.

After several hours searching, the debris of the Albertina along with 16 bodies, including Hammarskjold and one sole survivor, were found in a forest about 12 km (7.5 miles) from Ndola airport.

Sergeant Harold Julian, an American serving as a UN security officer, was in a critical condition and he died days later, but he said there had been a strong explosion on board, followed by smaller blasts.

Rumours of sabotage were quickly denied and the initial investigations pointed to a pilot error as the cause.

Plot to kill?

The case was revived in the 1990s.

Two former UN representatives in Katanga said in 1992 they were “convinced” the crash had been caused by shots fired by two planes chartered by “European industrialists” who “controlled Katanga”.

A fresh development came in 1998 when the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was set up in South Africa to try the abuses committed under the apartheid regime.

It found documents implicating Pretoria, London and Washington in a plot to kill Hammarskjold code-named “How’s Celeste?”.

But the original documents unearthed by the commission have since disappeared and Britain’s Foreign Office has denied the accusations.

What’s In The Files?

In 2015 after a report carried out by independent experts, the UN accepted the theory that the plane was shot down and said the investigation should continue.

Then-UN chief Ban Ki-moon urged member states to disclose any information they may have had.

This was an allusion to cockpit recordings and radio messages the US intelligence agency NSA is said to have had in 1961.

But in 2019 Moon said no further information had been received.

Heel-dragging by the US and UK has also been at the heart of the investigation carried out over several years by The Observer.

In 2019 the paper cited a report from Mohamed Chande Othman, a former chief justice of Tanzania appointed by the UN to review the case.

Britain and the US, Othman suggested, were dragging their heels despite likely holding “important undisclosed information”.

The paper said the Belgian pilot suspected of shooting the plane down was not aware Hammarskjold was on board. He later confessed his part to a friend, who recorded the conservation.

French journalist Maurin Picard meanwhile concluded in his 2019 book that pro-Katangese foreign mercenaries were responsible.

The UN has extended its investigation and hopes for new leads are now pinned on the declassification of archives related to the case.

With Hammarskjold’s family holding a ceremony in Sweden to mark the anniversary, his cousin’s grandson Peder Hammarskiold, called on governments to finally come clean.

“Some countries in the UN investigation have not been forthcoming, such as Belgium and the US.

“We would welcome more openness, it has been a long time since his death.”