Hong Kong bans pro-independence party over ‘national security’ fears

 

Hong Kong on Monday banned a political party which promotes independence, calling it a threat to national security, as Beijing clamps down on challenges to its sovereignty.

It was the first ban on a political party since the city was handed back to China by Britain 21 years ago. The foreign ministry in London expressed concern at the move.

Semi-autonomous Hong Kong enjoys freedoms unseen on the mainland, including freedom of expression. But the space for dissent is shrinking in the face of an increasingly assertive China under President Xi Jinping.

Hong Kong’s security minister John Lee said he had upheld a police request to ban the Hong Kong National Party “in the interest of national security, public safety, public order, and the protection of rights and freedom of others”.

HKNP is a well-known but tiny group with a core membership of only around a dozen.

Lee told reporters the party “has a very clear agenda to achieve its goal of Hong Kong being made an independent republic”, saying that contravened the city’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law.

Lee said the party had tried to infiltrate schools and had spread “hatred and discrimination” against mainland Chinese people in Hong Kong.

HKNP had also said it would not stop at force, Lee added, but he conceded it had never committed violence and that its leader Andy Chan had advocated non-violence.

Chan had no immediate comment on the decision.

Britain’s Foreign Office (ministry)said in a statement it was “concerned” at the move, noting it was the first such ban since the handover.

“The UK does not support Hong Kong independence, but Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy and its rights and freedoms are central to its way of life, and it is important they are fully respected,” it added.

Human Rights Watch called the ban “a milestone in the Beijing and Hong Kong governments’ assault on Hong Kong’s freedoms”.

Lee’s justification that the move was pre-emptive, even though the group had not committed violent acts, set a “dangerous precedent” that could see more pro-democracy groups banned, said HRW’s senior China researcher Maya Wang.

Crackdown on dissent

Police requested the party ban in July under the Societies Ordinance, which stipulates groups can be prohibited in the interests of national security and public safety.

The bid was slammed by rights groups.

Activists calling for Hong Kong’s independence from China emerged after mass pro-democracy rallies in 2014 failed to win reforms.

But pro-independence campaigners including Chan have since been blocked from standing for office, and others disqualified from the legislature.

Leading independence activist Edward Leung was jailed for six years in June on rioting charges after clashes with police in 2016.

HKNP has lost momentum over the past two years as the government seeks to muzzle pro-independence sentiment.

However, the party was back in the headlines after police sought the ban. Chan later gave a high-profile talk at the city’s press club which Chinese authorities demanded should be canceled.

Chan described Beijing as Hong Kong’s “colonial master” in his speech to a packed audience at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club in August.

China’s ministry of foreign affairs had asked the FCC to cancel the talk but it refused, arguing that different views should be heard in any debate.

The Hong Kong government said that while it supported freedom of speech and the press, allowing Chan to speak contravened the city’s mini-constitution.

 

AFP

Dismissed Catalan VP Demands Release From Jail

FILE PHOTO: A demonstrator holds a placard bearing a crossed-out portrait of Catalan regional leader Carles Puigdemont, who was officially ousted by Madrid, reading “Dictators out” as others wave Spanish and Catalan Senyera flags during a pro-unity demonstration in Barcelona on October 29, 2017. LLUIS GENE / AFP

The dismissed vice president of Catalonia on Tuesday asked that he be released from jail, having accepted he no longer holds authority in the Spanish region whose leaders want independence.

Oriol Junqueras has been in custody since November 2 while a judge investigates him and other former regional ministers, including the deposed Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, on charges of sedition, rebellion and misuse of public funds.

In a note presented by lawyers to the Supreme Court, Junqueras and three other axed ministers in the formerly semi-autonomous region admitted that they have been dismissed.

They “accept the application of Article 155”, the constitutional provision which allowed the conservative government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to suspend Catalonia’s regional authority on October 27.

That step followed Puigdemont’s declaration of independence, after a referendum on secession that took place on October 1, despite a court ban. Puigdemont is in self-imposed exile in Belgium.

According to the court note, Junqueras and his fellow detainees accept Madrid’s authority over Catalonia despite having “the deepest political and legal disagreement”.

“They do not give up their political beliefs in strictly peaceful and democratic ways and will work to reach an agreement that puts the decision on the future of Catalonia in the hands of citizens,” it added.

Rajoy dissolved the Catalan parliament and has announced elections to be held there on December 21 in a bid to “restore normality” to the regio

Catalan Ex-leader Says Independence Not Only Solution To Crisis

The deposed leader of Catalonia Carles Puigdemont said Monday that there could be solutions to Spain’s political crisis other than independence for his region, insisting he was still open to “agreement” with Madrid. 

“I’ve always been willing to accept the new reality of a different relationship with Spain,” Puigdemont said in Brussels, where he travelled to after his government declared independence from Spain last month.

“It’s still possible. I’ve been pro-independence all my life, working for 30 years to secure a different way of integrating Catalonia within Spain. I’m still for an agreement,” the former leader told Belgium’s Le Soir newspaper.

Spain was plunged into its worst political crisis in decades when Catalan lawmakers voted to split from Madrid following a banned referendum in the wealthy northeastern region on October 1.

The central government hit back, revoking the region’s autonomous powers, sacking its parliament and Puigdemont’s government, and calling fresh regional elections for December 21.

The crisis has caused deep distress in the European Union as it comes to terms with Britain’s shock decision to leave the bloc.

It has also sent business confidence plunging in Catalonia — home to 7.5 million people and accounting for a fifth of Spain’s GDP — with more than 2,400 firms re-registering their headquarters outside the region.

Asked about Puigdemont’s comments, Spain’s Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis said that “today the alternative to independence passes through the December 21 elections.”

“What Mr. Puigdemont has to do is run for election and see what support he has,” he told reporters in Brussels on the sidelines of a meeting of European Union foreign and defence ministers.

Puigdemont says he wants to run as a candidate in the regional election but his PDeCAT party is lagging far behind another pro-independence group in polling.

The leftist ERC — whose leader was Puigdemont’s deputy — said last week it would not allow its candidates to run on the same ticket as PDeCAT.

– ‘Authoritarian state’ –

Several Catalan former lawmakers are in jail accused of violating Spain’s constitution for declaring independence.

Puigdemont, who says he is in Belgium because he cannot get fair treatment from courts back home, has spoken of slowing his independence drive and last week accused Madrid of planning a “wave” of repression against separatists.

“We’ve been forced to adapt our agenda to avoid violence,” he already said at the end of October.

“If the price to pay is slowing the creation of a republic, then we need to consider that as a price worth paying in 21st-century Europe.”

ERC’s spokesman Sergi Sabria said Monday that the Catalan government “was not prepared” to defend Catalan independence “in the face of an authoritarian state that shows no limits when it is time to apply violence”.

The only alternative was to “maintain this process as a peaceful process,” he told a Barcelona news conference.

AFP

Spain Takes Control Of ‘Independent’ Catalonia

FILE PHOTO: Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy attends a press conference at La Moncloa Palace in Madrid. PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU / AFP

Spain on Saturday moved to seize direct control of Catalonia, sacking its police chief a day after the Catalan regional parliament’s independence declaration sent shock waves through Europe.

The firing of Josep Lluis Trapero, the highest-ranking officer of the Mossos d’Esquadra regional police, follows Friday’s dismissal of Catalonia’s president, his deputy, all ministers, and the entire parliament.

Moving to quash what he termed an “escalation of disobedience”, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy called December 21 elections in the region under sweeping powers granted by the Senate in response to Catalan lawmakers voting to declare an independent republic.

The dismissal of Trapero, seen as an ally of his region’s separatist leaders, was announced in Saturday’s official government gazette.

Madrid accuses Trapero of disobeying court orders to block a banned October 1 independence referendum.

Instead, the ballot was disrupted, violently in some cases, by officers from Spain’s national police and Guardia Civil paramilitary forces.

All eyes this weekend will be on whether Catalonia’s separatist executive, led by Carles Puigdemont, will willingly step aside for caretaker envoys from Madrid.

Spain’s Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria is due to meet later with secretaries of state who will likely take charge of Catalonia’s regional ministries.

– Competing rallies –

Tens of thousands celebrated in Barcelona and other Catalan cities after Friday’s independence declaration, which analysts say the region has no legal power to execute.

But anti-secession rallies have been called for the capital, Madrid, on Saturday, and for Barcelona on Sunday.

The move to quash Catalan powers under Article 155 of the Spanish constitution is likely to anger many in a region of some 7.5 million people that enjoyed considerable autonomy, with control over education, healthcare, and police.

It is the first time the central government has curtailed autonomy in the region since dictator Francisco Franco’s repressive 1939-75 rule.

Independence supporters have warned they will resist the temporary measure, implemented under a constitutional article devised to rein in rebel regions.

“We won’t cave in to Rajoy’s authoritarianism nor to 155,” the far-left CUP party, an ally of Puigdemont, tweeted on Friday.

A motion to declare Catalonia a “republic” was passed Friday with 70 votes out of 135 in the regional parliament, where pro-secessionists hold sway.

Catalan leaders point to the “Yes” vote in the deeply-divisive October 1 referendum as a mandate for independence, even though less than half of voters took part.

Echoing widely-held fears, Federico Santi, Europe analyst at political risk consultancy Eurasia Group, warned the crisis could become violent, with “more serious clashes between national police and pro-independence activists.”

Speaking after the parliament’s proclamation, Puigdemont urged activists to “maintain the momentum” in a peaceful manner.

– Unwavering support for Spain –

The Spanish government has received unwavering support from the United States and its allies in the European Union.

The bloc is increasingly wary of nationalistic and secessionist sentiment, particularly after Britain’s dramatic decision last year to leave the bloc.

EU President Donald Tusk insisted Madrid “remains our only interlocutor” in Spain, but urged it to exercise restraint.

“I hope the Spanish government favours force of argument, not an argument of force,” he tweeted.

AFP

Madrid Stocks Slide As Catalan Parliament Declares Independence

FILE PHOTO: Catalan Regional Government President Carles Puigdemont PAU BARRENA / AFP

The Madrid stock market sank on Friday, bucking an upward trend in Europe and the US as Catalan lawmakers voted to declare independence from Spain but Madrid immediately moved to quash the breakaway bid. 

A motion declaring independence was approved with 70 votes in favor, 10 against and two abstentions, with Catalan opposition MPs walking out of the 135-seat chamber before the vote in protest at a declaration unlikely to be given official recognition.

Madrid’s benchmark IBEX 35 index of major companies ended the session around 1.5 percent lower.

Shares in Catalan banks were among the biggest losers. CaixaBank, Spain’s third largest lender, fell by around five percent while Sabadell, the country’s fifth biggest bank, fell roughly six percent.

“We are likely to see more sustained unrest, possibly including strikes, as well as more serious clashes between national police and pro-independence activists,” Eurasia Group analyst Federico Santi predicted in a note.

Nevertheless, elsewhere in Europe, the other main stock markets extended the previous day’s rally after the European Central Bank said it would soon start to taper its monetary stimulus program.

US markets were also upward bound, as blowout earnings by Microsoft, Google parent Alphabet and other tech giants propelled the Nasdaq 2.2 percent higher to an all-time record of 6,701.26.

Amazon alone surged 13.2 percent, adding nearly $62 billion in market capitalization in a single day after reporting only a modest rise in third-quarter profit but a 34 percent jump in revenues to $43.7 billion.

“Equities remain positive into the weekend, building on the recent recovery in bullish sentiment and rebounds from recent lows,” said Accendo Markets analyst, Mike van Dulken.

– Dollar strengthens –

The greenback shot up after the ECB said Thursday it will reduce from January its purchases of government and corporate bonds to 30 billion euros ($35 billion) a month, from 60 billion at present.

Policymakers, however, left themselves a nine-month horizon to decide on the next step for the quantitative easing (QE) policy.

The dollar added to those gains on Friday after US third-quarter economic growth came in at a better-than-expected 3.0 percent as the US economy absorbed the shocks of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.

Traders have also gotten more bullish on the greenback in light of progress in Washington on President Donald Trump’s tax cut, which has cleared a few preliminary hurdles in Congress but still faces many steps.

Next week’s US schedule of events is busy, with a Federal Reserve meeting and key data, including the October jobs report.

“Political developments may dominate the headlines, but there are also many US economic reports on next week’s calendar that will shed light on how well the US economy snapped back after the hurricanes,” said Kathy Lien of BK Asset Management.

– Key figures around 2100 GMT –

New York – DOW: UP 0.1 percent at 23,434.19 (close)

New York – S&P 500: UP 0.8 percent at 2,581.07 (close)

New York – Nasdaq: UP 2.2 percent at 6,701.26 (close)

Madrid – IBEX 35: DOWN 1.5 percent at 10,197.50 (close)

London – FTSE 100: UP 0.3 percent at 7,505.03 (close)

Frankfurt – DAX 30: UP 0.6 percent at 13,2217.54 (close)

Paris – CAC 40: UP 0.7 percent at 5,494.13 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: UP 0.4 percent at 3,652.23 (close)

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: UP 1.2 percent at 22,008.45 (close)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: UP 0.8 percent at 28,438.85 (close)

Shanghai – Composite: UP 0.3 percent at 3416.81 (close)

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.1604 from $1.1652

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.3131 from $1.3160

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 113.67 yen from 114.00 yen

Oil – West Texas Intermediate: UP $1.26 at $53.90 per barrel

Oil – Brent North Sea: UP $1.14 at $60.37 per barrel

AFP

Catalan Bank Shares Fall After Regional Parliament Declares Independence

Shares in Catalan banks fell sharply on Friday, dragging the entire stock market with them after Catalonia’s regional parliament declared independence.

CaixaBank, Spain’s third-largest lender, fell by around five percent while Sabadell, the country’s fifth-biggest bank, fell roughly six percent.

Shares in the two banks have fallen since Catalonia’s separatist government went ahead with an independence referendum in the wealthy northeastern region on October 1, despite it having been deemed illegal by Madrid and the courts.

Some clients withdrew their deposits from the banks, prompting the two lenders to move their legal headquarters out of Catalonia to other parts of Spain.

Neither CaixaBank nor Sabadell have revealed how much money was withdrawn, but they said the flow stopped after they moved their headquarters.

Nearly 1,700 companies have moved their headquarters outside of Catalonia since the referendum.

The International Monetary Fund warned earlier this month that Spain’s strong economic recovery could be dealt a setback if the political turmoil over Catalonia’s independence push continues.

Catalonia, a region of 7.5 million people in the region bordering France, generates about 20 percent of Spain’s economic output.

As a separate country, its gross domestic product would be about as big as Portugal’s or Finland’s.

AFP

Catalan Parliament Declares Independence From Spain

Protesters wave pro-independence Catalan Estelada flags during a demonstration in Barcelona on October 21, 2017 in support of separatist leaders Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart, who have been detained pending an investigation into sedition charges. Spain announced that it will move to dismiss Catalonia’s separatist government and call fresh elections in the semi-autonomous region in a bid to stop its leaders from declaring independence.
LLUIS GENE / AFP
Catalonia’s parliament voted Friday to declare independence from Spain and proclaim a republic, just as Madrid is poised to impose direct rule on the semi-autonomous region to stop it in its tracks.

 

A motion declaring independence was approved with 70 votes in favour, 10 against and two abstentions, with Catalan opposition MPs walking out of the 135-seat chamber before the vote in protest at a declaration unlikely to be given official recognition by Madrid and abroad.

AFP

Iraq Kurds Offer To Freeze Independence Vote

Iraqi Kurds fly Kurdish flags during an event to urge people to vote in the upcoming independence referendum in Arbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq, on September 16, 2017. SAFIN HAMED / AFP

Iraqi Kurdish leaders offered Wednesday to freeze the outcome of last month’s vote for independence, taking a step back in a major crisis after Baghdad delivered a body blow by seizing swathes of disputed territory.

The proposal came as world powers scrambled to avert any further escalation of the conflict between the key allies in the fight against the Islamic State group that has seen more than 30 combatants killed.

Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi did not respond to the proposal during a visit to Ankara but once again slammed the Kurdish authorities for pushing on with the referendum “unilaterally and without any consideration for the rest of Iraq”.

Iraq’s Hashed al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilisation) force, whose mainly Iran-trained Shiite paramilitaries played a major role in the operation against the Kurds, said a freeze did not go far enough and demanded the outright annulment of the independence referendum.

Washington, Moscow and the United Nations have all pressed Iraqi Kurdish leader Massud Barzani to open talks with Baghdad on a way out of the crisis sparked by the fateful September 25 vote that he called.

The Kurdistan Regional Government, led by Barzani, said it would propose to the federal government “the freezing of the results of the referendum… and the start of an open dialogue” on the basis of the constitution.

It also called for “an immediate ceasefire and cessation of military operations in Kurdistan”.

Since early last week, Iraqi federal troops and allied militia have retaken virtually all of the territory held by the Kurds outside their longstanding three-province autonomous region in the north.

There were clashes on Tuesday between government and Kurdish forces close to the frontier with Turkey as Baghdad made a push to reclaim control of key border crossings around the region.

– Vote must be annulled –

The Hashed al-Shaabi, which has taken a hard line in the dispute with the Kurds, demanded that they annul the independence vote as a precondition for any dialogue.

“The Kurdish proposal is worthless because freezing the referendum means recognising it and the position of the Iraqi government is clear — the referendum must be annulled,” Hashed spokesman Ahmed al-Assadi told AFP.

The independence referendum deeply divided Iraqi Kurdish leaders and many commanders ordered their forces to pull back without resisting.

The loss of so much territory, including the major city of Kirkuk and lucrative oil fields, dealt a huge blow to Kurdish dreams of economic self-sufficiency and eventual independence.

“Today nobody is with us except for God,” lamented Mohammed Ali, 59, a trader in the Kurdish capital Arbil.

Barzani’s longtime political rival, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, had opposed the independence vote and backed a UN plan for negotiations on wider Kurdish autonomy.

The Iraqi constitution adopted during the US-led occupation of 2003-11 provides for plebiscites in the disputed areas on their possibile incorporation in the autonomous Kurdish region.

Washington has made clear that while it will not take sides in the conflict between its Iraq allies, it does not regard Baghdad’s reoccupation of the disputed areas as a fait accompli.

“The reassertion of federal authority over disputed areas in no way changes their status — they remain disputed until their status is resolved in accordance with the Iraqi constitution,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said on Friday.

Iraqi Kurdish leader Massud Barzani casts his vote in the Kurdish independence referendum at a polling station near Arbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq, on September 25. AHMED DEEB / AFP

– UN bids for talks –

The United Nations said on Tuesday that it stands ready to broker talks.

UN envoy Jan Kubis “expressed confidence that despite the recent tensions, Iraq will be able to ride this crisis”.

“Both sides publicly expressed their willingness to engage in dialogue and negotiations on the basis of the Constitution. The UN is ready to assist, if requested,” he said.

Abadi, whose domestic prestige has been sharply boosted by the return of the disputed territories to federal control, has been on a tour of regional countries which share his hostility to Kurdish moves towards secession.

He also held talks in Baghdad on Monday with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

During his visit to Turkey, which is fiercely opposed to Kurdish independence, he was expected to push his demand for the federal government to retake control of border crossings.

As Abadi was looking to press his advantage against the Kurds, Iran — another neighbour opposed to the vote — reopened one of its three border crossings with Kurdistan.

Iran closed the crossings in response to the referendum and, like other governments around the world, last month halted flights to Iraqi Kurdish airports at the request of the Baghdad government.

AFP

Catalonia Set For General Strike Over Independence Poll Violence

People hold Catalan pro-independence ‘estelada’ flags outside the high court in Barcelona. Josep LAGO / AFP

Large numbers of Catalans are expected to observe a general strike on Tuesday to condemn police violence at a banned weekend referendum on independence, as Madrid comes under growing international pressure to resolve its worst political crisis in decades.

Flights and train services could be disrupted as well as port operations, after unions called for the stoppage to “vigorously condemn” the police response to the poll, in which Catalonia’s leader said 90 percent of voters backed independence from Spain.

Barcelona’s public universities are expected to join the strike, as is the contemporary art museum, football club FC Barcelona and the Sagrada Familia, the basilica designed by Antoni Gaudi and one of the city’s most popular tourist sites.

“I am convinced that this strike will be widely followed,” Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont said ahead of the protest.

The central government has vowed to stop the wealthy northeastern region, which accounts for a fifth of Spain’s GDP, breaking away from Spain and has dismissed Sunday’s poll as unconstitutional and a “farce”.

Violent scenes played out in towns and cities across the region on Sunday as riot police moved in on polling stations to stop people from casting their ballots, in some cases charging with batons and firing rubber bullets to disperse crowds.

UN rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said he was “very disturbed” by the unrest while EU President Donald Tusk urged Madrid to avoid “further use of violence”.

The European Parliament will hold a special debate on Wednesday on the issue.

“We call on all relevant players to now move very swiftly from confrontation to dialogue. Violence can never be an instrument in politics,” European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas said, breaking weeks of virtual EU silence on the Catalan issue.

Residents in many cities briefly stopped work at midday on Monday and descended onto the streets in silent, solemn protest.

In Barcelona, municipal police said about 15,000 people stopped traffic as they rallied, many draped in the blue, yellow and red Estelada flag used by Catalan separatists, shouting “the streets will always be ours”.

“This was the norm under Franco!” the crowd chanted, referring to former dictator Francisco Franco whose 1939-75 regime repressed Catalan language and culture.

– Emergency talks –

The government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy held emergency talks after Puigdemont declared Sunday that Catalonia had “won the right to an independent state”.

Puigdemont has appealed for international mediation to help solve the crisis and called for police deployed to Catalonia from other parts of Spain for the vote to be removed.

The regional government said 2.26 million people took part in the poll, or just over 42 percent of the electorate.

But any attempt to unilaterally declare independence is likely to be opposed not just by Madrid but also a large section of the Catalan population, a region of 7.5 million people that is deeply split on the issue.

Puigdemont has said he will now present the results to the region’s parliament, where separatist lawmakers hold a majority, and which has the power to adopt a motion of independence.

The Catalan leader said close to 900 people had received medical attention, though regional authorities confirmed a total of 92 injured. Four were hospitalised, two in serious condition.

Videos posted on social media showed police dragging voters from polling stations by their hair, throwing people downstairs and attacking Catalan firefighters protecting polling stations.

Magdalena Clarena Dabant, a 70-year-old grandmother, described a “brutal” incident when she decided to join “passive resistance” in her village to prevent the Guardia Civil police from seizing a ballot box.

“To stop them, many voters sat on the floor, I sat on a chair. They told me to go away, I responded I wouldn’t move.

“They grabbed me by the arm, strongly, and I fell on the floor. In hospital they told me I had the wrist broken.”

AFP

Seven Killed In Cameroon As Anglophones Declare ‘Independence’

Cameroon police officials with riot equipment patrol along a street in the administrative quarter of Buea some 60kms west of Douala on October 1, 2017. A young man from Cameroon’s English-speaking region was shot dead by security forces in the city of Kumba on the eve of an expected symbolic declaration of independence by anglophone separatists, medical and security forces told AFP. STRINGER / AFP

At least seven people were killed in Cameroon’s restive anglophone belt at the weekend as a separatist group made a symbolic declaration of independence.

The separatists chose October 1, the anniversary of the official reunification of the anglophone and francophone parts of Cameroon, to declare independence for “Ambazonia”, the name of the state they want to create.

Since November, the anglophone minority has been protesting against perceived discrimination.

The government deployed security forces at the weekend in English-speaking regions, notably Buea in the southwest and Bamenda, the main town in the northwest and a hub of anglophone agitation.

Several people were admitted to hospital in Bamenda Sunday after clashes between demonstrators and police, according to a medical source.

“At least one person was injured by live fire” in Bamenda, where the situation was “very tense”, a source close to the local authorities told AFP.

The “security forces had to resort to tear gas and sometimes to shots to disperse the protesters”, the source said by telephone.

Bamenda residents contacted by AFP reported “shooting” by the security forces without giving further details.

– ‘Real bullets’ –

One of the leaders of the opposition Social Democratic Front (SDF), Joshua Osih, told AFP the security forces were “firing real bullets at the protesters” but stressed that he was not a supporter of the secessionist movement.

In Ndop, 40 kilometres (25 miles) from Bamenda, two people were “shot dead”, according to sources, while one was killed in Kumbo on the sidelines of the protests, city mayor Donatus Njong said.

Also in Kumbo, three prison inmates were shot and killed trying to escape while security forces were mobilised for the deployments in anglophone regions, a source close to regional authorities said.

A young man was shot dead by security forces on Saturday in the southwest town of Kumba, known as a rebellious city since the start of the protests, sparking clashes between security forces and the local population.

“They fired at him during a security operation,” a nurse who requested anonymity told AFP. The incident was confirmed by a security source and several local residents contacted by phone.

Cameroon’s long-serving president, 84-year-old Paul Biya, took to social media Sunday to condemn “all acts of violence, no matter where they come from or who is responsible.”

The European Union called on all sides to be responsible and “respect the rule of law and avoid any act of violence.”

The crisis provoked by the protests, which was exacerbated at the start of 2017 when internet access was cut for three months, has intensified in recent weeks with the push to symbolically proclaim independence of the English-speaking regions.

On September 22, “between 30 and 80,000” people demonstrated across Cameroon’s anglophone regions, according to estimates by the International Crisis Group (ICG).

– ‘No longer slaves’ –

The symbolic declaration of independence was made Sunday on social media by Sisiku Ayuk, who describes himself as the “president” of Ambazonia.

“We are no longer slaves of Cameroon,” he said.

“Today we affirm the autonomy of our heritage and our territory.”

Ahead of the declaration, Cameroonian authorities announced a temporary curb on travel and public meetings across the Southwest Region, adding to a curfew in the neighbouring Northwest Region, also English-speaking.

Internet access has been disrupted since Friday, according to an AFP journalist, despite government assurances that there would be no cutting of access in the anglophone areas.

The majority of Cameroon’s 22 million people are French-speaking, while about a fifth are English speakers.

The legacy dates back to 1961, when a formerly British entity, Southern Cameroons, united with Cameroon after its independence from France in 1960.

The anglophone minority has long complained about disparities in the distribution of Cameroon’s oil wealth.

Since November, the anglophone minority has been protesting against perceived discrimination especially in education and the judicial system, where they say the French language and traditions are being imposed on them, even though English is one of the country’s two official languages.

Most anglophone campaigners want the country to resume a federalist system — an approach that followed the 1961 unification but was later scrapped in favour of a centralised government run from the capital Yaounde. A hardline minority is calling for secession.

President Biya opposes any such changes.

AFP

Catalonia Has Won ‘Right To An Independent State’, Says Leader

Students gather at the historical headquarters of the University of Barcelona during a pro-referendum demonstration on September 22, 2017, in Barcelona. LLUIS GENE / AFP

Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont said Sunday the northeastern Spanish region he governs had “won the right to an independent state” after “millions” turned out to vote in a banned independence referendum.

“With this day of hope and suffering, the citizens of Catalonia have won the right to an independent state in the form a republic,” he said in a televised announcement.

[email protected]: 10 Great Songs About Nigeria

 

Nigeria’s Independence from Britain on October 1st, 1960 is a significant day in the history of the country. Nigeria is home nation to different tribes, culture, languages, ethnic groups and religion making it a great nation with diverse strength. Popularly called the Giant of Africa, it is also, the ‘Heart of African Music.’ Nigeria is blessed with great musical talents who have taken Nigerian music across the borders of the country. These music arts have also sung about continuous unity, strength and greatness of the country.

 

Which Way Nigeria – Sunny Okosun

This is a love song about Nigeria our Fatherland. Sunny Okosun in this song calls for the way out of corruption, inefficiency confronting the nation deeply showing concern and calling for a way to save the country.

 

One Love- Onyeka Onwenu

Onyeka Onwenu is a music legend who is passionate about the unity of Nigeria. She has to her record many Nigerian themed songs including “One Love Keep Us Together,” “Peace Song, “Unity Song”, among others. These songs emphasize the theme of love and unity in a world of struggle and dreams of staying alive.

The Way Forward – Sunny Ade

In 1993, King Sunny Ade brought together many Nigerian artistes to sing The Way Forward (Part 1 and 2).  The track was sung in Yoruba, English, Igbo, Hausa, Pidgin English, among others.  The song was sung after the annulment of the June 12 elections but re-composed in 2003 as a reminder of what the country passed through as the aftermath of the annulment. The song calls for unity from all tribes, calling collaborative effort of every Nigerian to make the nation great.

 

 

Nigeria My Beloved Country – Funmi Adams

This song by Funmi Adams was a household anthem in the 80s. Adams who appeared to have disappeared from Nigerian music scene was popular in the 80’s and 90’s. Her songs were aimed at teaching culture in young children. Another of her songs about Nigeria is ‘All we need is love,”

 

Nigeria Go Survive – Veno

This song expresses hope in the survival of Nigeria. Rendered in Pidgin English, the song boasts about the rich agriculture and oil in the country. It emphasizes the rich natural resources in the country including Cocoa, Timber, Rubber, Cotton, among others.

 

Let’s Live Together- Kush

Kush, a Gospel and R&B music group released Let’s Live Together. The song which was a household anthem in the early 2000s song, is a heartfelt appeal to Nigerians to live together in peace and unity and a reminder that there is strength in our diversity.

 

Motherland – Sound Sultan

Sound Sultan popularly called “Naija Ninja” in 2006 dropped this song, appealing to Nigerians in diaspora not to forget their Motherland. Singing in Yoruba language, Sound Sultan in the song says one may travel far and wide, there is no place like home.

 

Green Land – Ty Bello

TY Bello in 2008 released her debut studio album ‘Greenland’. The song with the theme of love, family and nation expresses optimism in the future of Nigeria. It inspires Nigerians to liberate themselves from a place of despair to a place of hope.

 

Great Nation -Timi Dakolo

This soulful song by Timi Dakolo was released in November 2012 has since remained a household anthem. The song express confidence in the greatness of this nation and how we can defend the greatness through peace, unity and Justice.

 

Song of Unity – Nigeria Leaders

Song of unity was sung by past and current Nigerian leaders. It was led by the vice-president Yemi Osinbajo, past Heads of State Yakubu Gowon, Olusegun Obasanjo, Ernest Shonekan and former Vice-Presidents Ebitu Ukiwe, Alex Ekwueme, and Oladipo Diya.

Although many people who are not pleased about Nigerian leaders will disagree with the inclusion of this song on the list of great songs about Nigeria. But seeing Nigerian past and present leader team up to sing about our country expressing hope in God as the ultimate help of the country is worth recognising.