Macron To Host Africa ‘Summit’ Without Leaders

French President Emmanuel Macron attends the One Planet Summit videoconference meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris on October 4, 2021.  (Photo by Michel Euler / POOL / AFP)

 

President Emmanuel Macron will host a conference on Africa on Friday billed as a summit but with no other leaders attending, as he aims to readjust France’s relationship with the continent.

Instead of other heads of state and premiers, Macron is inviting hundreds of young businesspeople, artists, and sporting figures to the southern city of Montpellier.

The aim is “to listen to the words of African youth” and “to leave behind obsolete formulas and frameworks”, said a French presidential official who asked not to be named.

The meeting comes at a delicate moment between France and many of its former colonies in French-speaking Africa, as a row rumbles on over a decision to cut visas to citizens of Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia.

Algeria recalled its ambassador after Macron reportedly said the country was ruled by a “political-military system”, while tensions have erupted between France and Mali over plans to deploy Russian mercenaries as part of an anti-jihadist fight.

The new format hints at the frustration felt by France, which has held summits with African leaders since 1973, with the political leadership of some countries.

Roughly 3,000 participants including more than 1,000 young people are expected in Montpellier for discussions on economic, cultural, and political issues.

Macron is set to debate with a panel of young people chosen after months of dialogue led by the Cameroon intellectual Achille Mbembe, who is in charge of preparing the meeting.

“Subjects that cause anger will be on the table,” the French presidential official said, adding that “the current political context makes the discussion particularly sensitive”.

French officials are promising concrete proposals from a report that Mbembe is to submit to Macron on Tuesday.

 

‘Symbolic Gestures’

Macron vowed in a November 2017 speech in Burkina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou to take a new approach to Africa, where France would no longer tell Africans what to do.

He has also made a point of reaching out to English-speaking Africa to build sway beyond France’s former colonial possessions.

On Thursday, Macron will meet in Paris with former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo, still a hugely influential figure on the continent.

Since the 2017 speech, cultural artefacts pillaged from Benin have been returned and the abolition of the CFA franc, a currency once used in several countries but guaranteed by France, has been abolished.

Meanwhile, a report commissioned by Macron acknowledged France’s “overwhelming responsibilities” over the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, an issue that has poisoned relations between Paris and Kigali.

“Since the speech in Ouagadougou, the lines have moved symbolically, there have been important gestures,” said Amadou Sadjo Barry, a Canadian philosopher of Guinean origin.

“But in terms of foreign policy, we cannot speak of major changes,” he told AFP.

France remains more than ready to tolerate autocratic regimes, quickly accepting the handover of power from Chad’s president Idriss Deby Itno to his son in April.

While the Montpellier format may help bring some new life into France-Africa relations, Barry described the meeting as “a symbolic defeat for Africa”.

“Why is it still that the human, political and economic future of the African continent is being discussed in France? Why don’t African governments themselves listen to the concerns of their populations,” he asked.

AFP

S.Africa Presses WTO For COVID-19 Vaccine Patents Waiver

South Africa and Africa National Congress (ANC) President Cyril Ramaphosa delivers a speech during the launch of the ANC electoral manifesto in Pretoria, on September 27, 2021. (Photo by GUILLEM SARTORIO / AFP)

 

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Tuesday asked the World Trade Organisation to suspend intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccines to bridge the huge gap in vaccination rates worldwide.

India and South Africa last year brought forward the intellectual property waiver proposal before the WTO but there has been no consensus.

Proponents argue the temporary removal of IP rights will boost production in developing countries and address the dramatic inequity in access.

But there is fierce opposition from pharmaceutical giants and their host countries, which insist patents are not the main roadblocks to scaling up production and warn the move could hamper innovation.

“The world is at this moment experiencing the debilitating effects of inequality in the patterns of global production,” Ramaphosa told a WTO round table by video link on the pandemic and trade-related issues.

“It is said that less than three per cent of adults are fully vaccinated in most low-income countries, compared to almost 60 per cent in high-income countries. This gross inequality is both unjust and counterproductive,” said Ramaphosa, whose country is the worst hit by coronavirus in Africa both in terms of infections and deaths.

“Passing a time-bound targeted TRIPS waiver as proposed by South Africa and India — and now supported by many countries around the world — is urgent if we are to save millions of lives.”

TRIPS is a comprehensive WTO agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights which is used to resolve trade disputes over IP.

Pressure is mounting for an accord ahead of the 12th ministerial conference of the WTO, which runs from November 30 to December 3 in Geneva.

WTO chief Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said the yawning chasm in vaccination rates between the haves and the have nots was “devastating for the lives and livelihoods of Africans” and “morally unacceptable”.

She added: “That is why it is so important to deliver results at the WTO in the weeks remaining before our 12 ministerial conference.”

AFP

Afghan President Flees Country As Taliban Captures Kabul

Soldiers from Afghan Security forces travel on a armed vehicle along a road in Panjshir province of Afghanistan on August 15, 2021. (Photo by Ahmad SAHEL ARMAN / AFP)

 

President Ashraf Ghani fled Afghanistan on Sunday, a top official said, effectively ceding power to the Taliban as they reached the capital Kabul to seal a nationwide military victory in just 10 days.

“The former Afghan President has left the nation, leaving the people to this situation,” Abdullah Abdullah, who heads the peace process, said in a video on his Facebook page.

“God hold him accountable, and the people will have their judgement.”

He gave no indication where Ghani was going, but leading Afghan media group Tolo news suggested he was heading to Tajikistan.

Ghani’s departure from office was one of the key demands of the Taliban in months of peace talks with the government, but he had stubbornly clung to power.

In just over a week, the Taliban have carried out a lightning sweep of the country, with troops incapable of holding onto territory without US military support.

The insurgents said they want a “peaceful transfer” within the next few days, two decades after US-led forces toppled it in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

The group ordered its fighters earlier Sunday not to enter the capital, saying the remnants of the government’s forces were responsible for security.

READ ALSO: UK PM Holds Afghanistan Crisis Talks, Recalls Parliament

But later, a spokesman tweeted that Taliban forces should enter areas deserted by Afghan forces in order to maintain law and order.

“God forbid the common thieves and robbers in Kabul do not mix, the abusers do not harm the people, the Islamic Emirate ordered its forces to enter the areas of Kabul from which the enemy went,” a statement by the Taliban said.

“There is a risk of theft and robbery.”

There are fears of a security vacuum in the capital as thousands of police and other armed services members have abandoned their posts, uniforms, and even weapons.

The United States began moving its citizens and Afghan staff to Kabul airport, with the help of thousands of troops deployed to the capital to assist with the evacuation.

However, Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Sunday dismissed comparisons with the chaotic American departure from Saigon in 1975.

READ ALSO: Germany Moves Diplomatic Staff In Afghanistan To Kabul Airport

“The fact of the matter is this: We went to Afghanistan 20 years ago with one mission in mind,” he said.

“That was to deal with the people that attacked us on 9/11. That mission has been successful.”

The Taliban’s imminent takeover triggered fear and panic in Kabul among residents fearful of the group’s hardline brand of Islam.

– Evacuations –

The scale and speed of the insurgents’ advance have shocked Afghans and the US-led alliance that poured billions into the country over the past two decades.

President Joe Biden ordered the deployment of an additional 1,000 US troops to help secure the emergency evacuation from Kabul of embassy employees and thousands of Afghans who worked for American forces and now fear Taliban reprisals.

That was on top of the 3,000 American soldiers deployed in recent days, and 1,000 left in-country after Biden announced in May that the final withdrawal of the US military presence in Afghanistan would be completed by September 11.

That decision has come under increased scrutiny given the collapse of the Afghan armed forces, but he insisted Saturday there was no choice.

“I was the fourth president to preside over an American troop presence in Afghanistan — two Republicans, two Democrats. I would not, and will not, pass this war onto a fifth,” Biden said.

READ ALSO: Canada Temporarily Closes Embassy In Kabul

Ghani’s government was left completely isolated on Sunday after the insurgents overran the anti-Taliban northern stronghold of Mazar-i-Sharif and the eastern city of Jalalabad.

Like with most of the other captured cities, the seizure of power came after government forces surrendered or retreated.

Videos posted on pro-Taliban social media accounts showed the group’s heavily armed fighters in cities across the country, waving white flags and greeting locals.

Most of the fighters appeared young, suggesting they were most likely infants or unborn when the Taliban was toppled from power in 2001.

– Panic –

As the Taliban closed in on the capital, panicked residents swarmed banks for a second straight day, hoping to withdraw their savings.

Many were already resigned to the Taliban taking power.

“My only wish is that their return leads to peace. That is all we want,” said Kabul shopkeeper Tariq Nezami.

READ ALSO: Albania Ready To Welcome Hundreds Of Afghan Refugees

A worker was seen Sunday whitewashing advertising billboards on a beauty parlour featuring a glamorous bride.

For the tens of thousands who have sought refuge in Kabul in recent weeks, the overwhelming mood was one of apprehension and fear.

One doctor who arrived in the capital with his 35-strong family from Kunduz said he planned to return.

“I am worried there will be a lot of fighting here. I would rather return home, where I know it has stopped,” he told AFP, asking not to be named.

AFP

Mali Constitutional Court Declares Colonel Goita Transitional President

FILES) In this file photo taken on August 19, 2020 Colonel Assimi Goita speaks to the press at the Malian Ministry of Defence in Bamako, Mali, after confirming his position as the president of the National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP). MALIK KONATE / AFP

 

Mali’s constitutional court on Friday named Colonel Assimi Goita, leader of the post-coup junta, as the country’s transitional president.

The judgement stipulated that Goita would “exercise the functions of transitional president to lead the transition process to its conclusion”, following his seizure of power this week.

The constitutional court said it had made the decision due to the “vacancy in the presidency” following the resignation of caretaker president Bah Ndaw.

Soldiers detained Ndaw and prime minister Moctar Ouane on Monday, before releasing them Thursday after they resigned.

Ndaw and Ouane had led a transitional government tasked with steering the return to civilian rule after a coup last August that toppled Mali’s elected president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.

Keita was forced out by young army officers, led by Goita, following mass protests over perceived corruption and his failure to quell a bloody jihadist insurgency.

Goita had originally been named vice president with other key posts given to fellow army officers.

Earlier Friday, Goita explained that the army had had little choice but to intervene.

“We had to choose between disorder and cohesion within the defence and security forces and we chose cohesion,” he said.

AFP

WHO Expert Slams US Pandemic Intel As Curbs Tightened In Europe

This picture taken on April 24, 2020 shows a sign of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva next to their headquarters, amid the COVID-19 outbreak, caused by the novel coronavirus. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP
This picture taken on April 24, 2020 shows a sign of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva next to their headquarters, amid the COVID-19 outbreak, caused by the novel coronavirus.
Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

 

A WHO expert sent to China to probe the coronavirus hit out at US intelligence on Covid-19 as his team headed home with few answers about the origin of a pandemic that was forcing more clampdowns in some of the hardest-hit parts of the world.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was set to seek an extension of strict virus curbs, as the European Commission chief prepared to defend the stumbling vaccination rollout in the continent — which accounts for a third of the 2.3 million Covid-19 deaths worldwide.

The coronavirus has infected close to 107 million people, devastating the global economy, and questions over the handling of the initial outbreak in central China sparked an intense diplomatic row between Washington and Beijing.

The WHO mission to the ground zero city of Wuhan wrapped up Tuesday without any concrete answers, with Washington again expressing scepticism about China’s transparency and cooperation.

But WHO team member Peter Daszak tweeted: “Please don’t rely too much on US intel: increasingly disengaged under Trump & frankly wrong on many aspects.”

He said they worked “flat out under the most politically charged environment possible”.

READ ALSO: Prince Charles Receives First Dose Of COVID-19 Vaccine

China had repeatedly delayed the WHO trip, and bristled at accusations of a lack of transparency. Beijing warned Washington not to “politicise” the mission after the White House demanded a “robust” probe.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said Tuesday that the United States supports the investigation. But when asked if China had fully cooperated with the WHO, he said: “The jury’s still out.”

The WHO team did not identify which animal transferred the coronavirus to humans, but said there was no indication it was circulating in Wuhan before December 2019, when the first official cases were recorded.

WHO expert Peter Ben Embarek also scotched the controversial theory that the virus may have leaked from a lab in Wuhan.

– Vaccine, surge worries in Europe –

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen was due to explain the EU’s vaccine strategy to the European Parliament in Brussels on Wednesday, with the bloc’s leadership under growing pressure.

Vaccine supply issues have already caused a diplomatic row after AstraZeneca said it would not be able to immediately ship the doses it promised to Britain and the EU.

At the same time, the resurgence of infections across the continent is adding to the pressure on its leadership.

A stricter lockdown will be imposed in Greece from Thursday — in particular in the Athens region — as Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis warned that his country was facing a third Covid-19 wave.

Wary of infection numbers exploding again, German Chancellor Angela Merkel will seek to extend strict curbs at least until the end of February as fatigue grows with the partial lockdown in Europe’s top economy.

Immunisation efforts are being ramped in other parts of the world with a number of vaccines.

Peru on Tuesday began administering shots developed by China’s Sinopharm, while Argentina approved the Indian-made version of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

South Korea on Wednesday also authorised the AstraZeneca shot for people aged 18 and above, including over-65s.

A number of European countries have not authorised the AstraZeneca vaccine for the elderly — considered the demographic most vulnerable to Covid-19.

Japan will start vaccinations next week — most likely the Pfizer/BioNTech jab — but it is scrambling to secure suitable syringes so doses won’t go to waste.

– Valentine’s Day worries –

Along with mass vaccinations, researchers and engineers around the world are searching for other ways to help end the pandemic and return life to normal — especially international travel.

Tech-savvy Estonia is working on a pilot project with the WHO on how a globally recognised electronic vaccine certificate might work, including addressing concerns about security and privacy.

A more immediate concern for authorities in many countries this week is Valentine’s Day, with fears that the upcoming celebrations could lead to a surge in infections.

Authorities in Thailand’s capital Bangkok announced the city would not register marriages on Valentine’s Day, a popular day for weddings.

In Brussels, however, where restaurants are closed, some hotels have converted rooms into private dining salons for two.

“We’re over the moon about being here tonight, just like in a restaurant,” said Marine Deroo, a 34-year-old who tried out the concept ahead of Valentine’s Day.

Equatorial Guinea Imposes Curfew As COVID-19 Rebounds

 

Equatorial Guinea on Tuesday said it would impose a curfew for the first time, limit flights and reintroduce other restrictions after cases of coronavirus rebounded in the West African country.

The tiny state, ruled by 78-year-old President Teodoro Obiang Nguema for the past 41 years, scaled back a rigorously enforced range of restrictions in August.

But bars, restaurants, discotheques, casinos and other “leisure sites” will once again be closed, according to a decree read on television on Tuesday.

But places of worship, which were shut during the first wave last year, will remain open.

Added to these measures is the country’s first curfew, which will run from 7:00 pm to 6:00 am, as well a reduction in flights.

Domestic flights will be cut back to one per day, while international flights will be scaled back to two per week for national airlines and one per week for international carriers.

Wearing masks in public places will remain obligatory.

Equatorial Guinea, a country with 1.3 million people, has officially recorded 5,614 cases of coronavirus, of which 87 have been fatal.

But Tuesday’s decree warned of the “aggressive spread of the pandemic”.

According to official figures reported on state TV, there were fewer than 15 cases per week towards the end of 2020, compared with more than 50 per week currently.

Navalny Aides Push EU For New Russia Sanctions

This screen grab from a handout footage provided by the Babushkinsky district court on February 5, 2021, shows Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, charged with defaming a World War II veteran, looking from inside a glass cell during a court hearing in Moscow. Handout / Moscow's Babushkinsky district court press service / AFP
This screen grab from a handout footage provided by the Babushkinsky district court on February 5, 2021, shows Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, charged with defaming a World War II veteran, looking from inside a glass cell during a court hearing in Moscow. Handout / Moscow’s Babushkinsky district court press service / AFP

 

Aides of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny said they have pushed the EU to sanction prominent members of President Vladimir Putin’s circle including business tycoons to ramp up pressure on Russia.

The move comes after the tit-for-tat expulsion of several European and Russian diplomats as tensions run high over the Navalny affair.

The head of Navalny’s regional network Leonid Volkov and another associate, Vladimir Ashurkov, made the calls on Monday during a video conference with EU states dedicated to the bloc’s “next steps” on Russia.

The call was hosted by Poland and included envoys from the United States, Canada, Britain and Ukraine, Poland’s mission in the EU wrote on Twitter.

Volkov wrote on the Telegram messenger late Monday that he and Ashurkov had discussed “personal sanctions” against billionaires Roman Abramovich, the owner of Chelsea football club, and Alisher Usmanov.

He said they also named the head of Russian state bank VTB Andrey Kostin and television executive Konstantin Ernst, among others.

Any new sanctions on Russia imposed by the West would add to a wave of penalties slapped on Moscow by Washington and Brussels following the annexation of the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine in 2014.

Navalny and his team say that for the Kremlin to change its course, the West should introduce targeted sanctions against oligarchs close to Putin.

Volkov did not disclose whether the meeting resulted in concrete agreements, but said Navalny’s team will promote personal sanctions “in the coming weeks and months”.

He said that the proposed sanctions were in the interests of ordinary Russians.

– Valentine’s Day protest –

“It is hard to come up with something more patriotic; something that would be even more in the interests of Russia,” Volkov added.

The video call took place at a time of heightened tensions between the European Union and Russia, exacerbated by the arrest and jailing of Navalny.

Moscow on Friday expelled three European diplomats during a visit to Russia by EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, accusing them of taking part in protests in support of Navalny.

On Monday Germany, Sweden and Poland each ordered the removal of a Russian diplomat in retaliation.

EU foreign ministers have said they will debate punitive measures and possible sanctions against the Kremlin when they meet on February 22.

Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova on Tuesday called Navalny’s team “traitors” for holding talks with people “who see Russia either an adversary or an enemy or an aggressor”.

Vyacheslav Volodin, speaker of parliament’s lower house, has said that Moscow may introduce legislation holding criminally liable those calling for new sanctions against Russia.

Navalny was arrested on his arrival in Moscow in mid-January after recovering in Germany from a Novichok poisoning attack the West believes was ordered by the Kremlin.

He was jailed for nearly three years last week for violating parole conditions while in Germany.

Volkov on Tuesday called on Navalny’s sympathisers to show support Sunday evening by lighting phone flashlights outside their homes for 15 minutes.

“Love is stronger than fear,” he said on Facebook.

Biden Pushes For Unity Two Days Before Taking Over Crisis-Laden White House

President-elect Joe Biden introduces key foreign policy and national security nominees and appointments at the Queen Theatre on November 24, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware. Mark Makela/Getty Images/AFP
Mark Makela/Getty Images/AFP

 

Just 48 hours before becoming president, Joe Biden pressed Monday for unity, while President Donald Trump remained secluded in the White House at the center of a capital inundated with troops and security barriers.

Biden was marking the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday with a trip from his home in Delaware to Philadelphia to perform community service — a gesture symbolizing his call for Americans to come together after four divisive years.

“Service is a fitting way to start to heal, unite, and rebuild this country we love,” Biden said in a video marking the occasion.

But the 78-year-old Democrat’s fervent appeals for optimism and healing — which are also set to dominate his inauguration ceremony at noon on Wednesday — are running up against the hard reality of multiple crises.

Covid-19 is out of control, vaccine distribution is stumbling, and economic recovery remains in the balance.

READ ALSO: 108-Year-Old Italian Woman Receives COVID-19 Vaccine

And after Trump refused for more than two months to accept the results of November’s presidential election the country is seething with division and anger. When Biden takes the oath of office at noon on Wednesday, he will face a city under the protection of 20,000 National Guard soldiers.

Checkpoints and large zones closed to ordinary citizens mean there will be only a smattering of guests. Similar lockdowns have been imposed at state capitol buildings around the country where local authorities fear provocations from right-wing groups ahead of the inauguration.

A brief security scare on Monday near Congress sparked an evacuation of the site where Biden will take the oath.

– Trump mulls pardons –

Trump, who has still not congratulated Biden or invited him for the traditional tea visit in the Oval Office, has been largely out of the public eye since his supporters rampaged through Congress on January 6, triggering his historic second impeachment a week later.

According to US media, one of Trump’s final actions could be announced Tuesday at the latest: scores of pardons for convicted criminals.

Speculation is mounting over whether Trump will take the unprecedented and legally murky step of issuing himself and his children, who work as campaign and White House advisors, preemptive pardons.

According to CNN and other outlets, Trump has a list of about 100 people he will grant clemency.

After what The New York Times reports has been an intense lobbying effort, these are expected to be a mix of white collar criminals and people whose cases have been championed by criminal justice activists.

More controversial possible pardons that have been the subject of speculation for months would be for the likes of Edward Snowden, Julian Assange and Trump’s influential advisor Stephen Bannon.

If Trump gave himself or his children a pardon — something currently not expected, according to latest US reports — that would ensure a politically explosive finale to one of the most polarizing presidencies in US history.

A self pardon might also harden anger at Trump among Republicans in the Senate, which is expected to start an impeachment trial soon.

– Inauguration snub –

Trump, the first president to lose reelection since George H.W. Bush was replaced by Bill Clinton, is skipping Biden’s inauguration — the first ex-president to snub his successor in a century and a half.

On Wednesday, he’ll travel to his Mar-a-Lago golf club residence in Florida, departing the White House early in order to benefit from full presidential travel privileges up to the last minute.

Marine One will take him from the White House to Joint Base Andrews to catch Air Force One — the presidential plane that will no longer be his to use from noon.

According to a Bloomberg report, Trump is organizing a military style sendoff for himself at Andrews.

AFP

US Democrats Begin Process To Impeach Trump

Republican and Democrats clap as House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) commends Capitol Police and law enforcement for their work after Pro-Trump demonstrators stormed the Capitol in the House chamber on January 6, 2021 in Washington, D.C. Pool/Getty Images/AFP
Republican and Democrats clap as House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) commends Capitol Police and law enforcement for their work after Pro-Trump demonstrators stormed the Capitol in the House chamber on January 6, 2021 in Washington, D.C. Pool/Getty Images/AFP

 

US Democrats began the process Monday of impeaching President Donald Trump for a historic second time, accusing him of “incitement of insurrection” over his supporters’ deadly storming of the US Capitol.

The move — which threatens to torpedo the single-term president’s future political ambitions — could make for a frenetic culmination of four years of controversy ahead of Joe Biden’s January 20 inauguration.

Democrats introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives calling for Vice President Mike Pence and the cabinet to remove Trump — who has been absent from the public spotlight for days — as unfit for office under the Constitution’s 25th amendment.

But Republicans blocked an immediate adoption of the resolution, forcing a vote, and Democrats followed up by introducing an article of impeachment of Trump for “incitement of insurrection”.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi hit out at House Republicans, accusing them of enabling Trump’s “unhinged, unstable and deranged acts of sedition to continue.”

READ ALSO: Trump Twitter Ban Problematic, Says Merkel

“Their complicity endangers America, erodes our Democracy, and it must end,” she said in a statement.

Pelosi said the House would vote Tuesday on the demand for Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment, and would give him 24 hours to respond.

After that, she said, Democrats would move forward with bringing impeachment legislation to the floor.

Trump has been largely silent in recent days — making few statements and holding no news conferences. Twitter, his favored public platform, has banned him for language that could incite violence.

He plans to travel to Texas on Tuesday in one of his final trips as president, reportedly to claim success in delivering on his pledge to build a border wall to keep immigrants from Mexico out of the US.

As Democrats began to act, the US Capitol building was open to lawmakers and staff but under tight security and ringed by a metal fence after Wednesday’s assault by Trump supporters that left five people dead.

– Historic second impeachment –

Inside, some windows and doors that were broken and breached by rioters remained boarded up with plywood, while reinforced glass on the outside doors near the Rotunda bore cracks from repeated battering.

The attack on Congress shook the core of American democracy and drew international condemnation. It has ignited a new effort to remove Trump, who is accused of whipping up the mob into storming the capitol where lawmakers were certifying Biden’s November 3 win.

Trump was already impeached once by the Democratic-controlled House in December 2019 for pressuring the Ukrainian president to dig up political dirt on Biden.

He was acquitted by the Republican-majority Senate.

If the House again votes to impeach, Trump would be the first US leader to be formally charged for a second time with “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

Even with time running short, Democrats likely have the votes in the House to impeach Trump again and Congressman David Cicilline, who introduced the resolution, told reporters afterward he expects it will find Republican backing.

“This was an attempted coup, to overthrow the government, and we have a responsibility as Congress to respond to that,” said Cicilline.

But although two Republican Senators — Pat Toomey and Lisa Murkowski — have urged Trump to resign, Democrats are unlikely to muster the two-thirds majority needed to convict Trump in the 100-member Senate and remove him from office.

– ‘Attempted coup’ –

The impeachment effort is nevertheless seen by Democrats as worthwhile.

Although any conviction would likely occur after Trump has already left office, it would lead to a secondary vote on banning Trump, who is thought to be considering a run in 2024, from holding federal public office again.

Authorities are still seeking to arrest more Trump supporters who stormed the Capitol following a rally by the president repeating false claims that he had lost the election to Biden due to fraud.

Capitol security has been stepped up and Trump supporters have threatened new action in coming days both in Washington and state capitol buildings.

Senate rules mean the upper chamber would likely be unable to open an impeachment trial before January 19.

Some Democrats, for their part, have expressed concern that a Senate trial would overshadow and hamper Biden’s efforts to quickly lay out his agenda, starting with the fight against the coronavirus and the need to support the economy.

AFP

Cyprus Leader Ready To Attend UN Meet On Ending Deadlock

A handout picture provided by the Cypriot government’s Press and Information Office (PIO) on January 11, 2021, shows UN Special Envoy Jane Holl Lute (R) meeting with President Nicos Anastasiades (L) and ministers at the presidential palace in the capital Nicosia. (Photo by Stavros IOANNIDES / PIO / AFP)

 

Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades told a UN envoy Monday he is ready to attend an informal conference involving Britain, Greece and Turkey to end a deadlock in peace talks, officials said.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkey occupied its northern third in response to a coup orchestrated by the military junta then in power in Athens aimed at annexing the island to Greece.

There have been no official UN-sponsored negotiations on the island’s future since a conference in Switzerland –- also involving Britain, Greece, and Turkey –- collapsed in July 2017.

UN envoy Jane Holl Lute, on her second visit to Cyprus since December, held talks on Monday with Anastasiades before crossing the UN-patrolled ceasefire line to meet Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar.

READ ALSO: Pakistan Suspends Power Plant Staff After Nationwide Blackout

“During the meeting, the President of the Republic expressed his readiness to participate in the informal five-party meeting,” Cyprus government spokesperson Kyriacos Koushios said.

“He also expressed his expectation that the… meeting will lead to a substantial resumption of talks, with the aim of reaching a solution to the Cyprus problem,” he told reporters.

Lute had told Anastasiades that UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres intended to convene a five-party conference in February.

Guterres is hoping to get the three governments more involved to build momentum.

In a report to the UN Security Council this month, Guterres said the parties had expressed a willingness to attend an informal conference under his auspices.

“I intend to invite the sides and the guarantor powers to this informal meeting as soon as practicable in 2021,” Guterres said.

Guterres also acknowledged “scepticism” on the prospects of peace talks resuming has risen on both sides of the divided island.

In November, rival Cypriot leaders held a “break-the-ice” meeting at which they promised to back a UN-led peace push involving the outside powers.

It was their first and only meeting since the Ankara-backed Tatar was elected leader of the breakaway north in October.

Tatar was elected on a hardline platform of seeking a two-state solution for Cyprus, rather than a bi-communal federation.

The two men have acknowledged their positions on the way forward are “far apart”.

Britain, Greece and Turkey act as guarantors of the island’s sovereignty under the treaty that gave Cyprus independence from British rule in 1960.

Indonesia’s President To Receive Country’s First COVID-19 Vaccine Shot

 

Indonesian President Joko Widodo said Wednesday he would be the first person in the country to be vaccinated for Covid-19 as he unveiled a campaign promising free inoculations for everyone in world’s fourth most-populous nation.

Widodo’s announcement comes as Indonesia battles misinformation over the virus in order to stave off a fresh wave of infections, with some 630,000 recorded by Wednesday and more than 19,000 deaths.

“The Covid-19 vaccine for all citizens will be FREE,” Widodo said in a video on his Twitter account.

The government originally said only health workers, the elderly and other key personnel would be given the vaccine for free.

Widodo did not say when he would take the vaccine, or when the national inoculation program would start.

But said he was happy to be the first to be inoculated in order to prove it was safe.

READ ALSO: WHO Urges Use Of Masks During Christmas Celebration

“There’s no reason people shouldn’t get the vaccine or doubt its safety,” he added.

Indonesia has signed deals for more than 350 million vaccine doses from various international pharmaceutical companies — including British-Swedish firm AstraZeneca and Chinese suppliers Sinovac.

The current vaccine deals do not, however, provide enough doses for the required two per person that would cover Indonesia’s entire 270-million population.

The country received its first delivery of 1.2 million Sinovac doses this month, with another 1.8 million to arrive in January.

South Africa’s Ramaphosa To Face First No-Confidence Motion

Cyril Ramaphosa delivers a speech during his inauguration as South African President, at Loftus Versfeld stadium in Pretoria, on May 25, 2019.
File photo: Cyril Ramaphosa delivers a speech during his inauguration as South African President, at Loftus Versfeld stadium in Pretoria, on May 25, 2019.

 

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa faces a no-confidence motion next week, a parliament official said Thursday, his first since taking power nearly three years ago.

A small opposition party, the African Transformation Movement (ATM), which has just two seats in the 400-member National Assembly, filed a request with the speaker in February for a no-confidence debate.

“The speaker has approved that request, and our recommendation is that it be dealt with next Thursday,” Masibulele Xaso, secretary to the National Assembly, told the parliament’s programming committee.

The ATM, which was formed in 2018 after ex-president Jacob Zuma’s forced resignation, submitted a motion alleging that Ramaphosa was unfit to hold office.

When the party requested the debate, its leader, Vuyolwethu Zungula, said many people believed South Africa “has been on a slippery slope ever since President Ramaphosa occupied the highest office in the land.”

A no-confidence vote requires a simple majority of 201 votes to pass, but Ramaphosa’s African National Congress (ANC) holds 230 seats, and the motion stands little chance of success.

Ramaphosa became president in February 2018 after Zuma was forced to step down amid growing corruption scandals. The following year he won a popular mandate following general elections.

AFP