Protesters Storm Sri Lanka PM’s Office After President Flees Abroad

Protesters gather in a street leading to the president’s official residence, against Sri Lanka’s President Gotabaya Rajapaksa while demanding his resignation, amid the country’s economic crisis, in Colombo, Sri Lanka, July 09, 2022.Photo by Pradeep Dambarage/AFP)

 

Protesters in Sri Lanka defied tear gas, water cannon and a state of emergency to storm the prime minister’s office on Wednesday after the president fled overseas, with the crowd demanding both men step down in the face of an economic crisis.

In a televised statement Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said he had instructed the military and police to do “what is necessary to restore order”.

But footage showed armed security personnel standing by in the grounds of his office as protesters, some holding national flags, milled and took pictures.

Other demonstrators at one point broke into state television studios, as the country’s months-long political and economic crisis appeared to be moving towards a climax.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa promised at the weekend to resign on Wednesday after escaping his own official residence in Colombo just before tens of thousands of protesters overran it.

As president, Rajapaksa enjoys immunity from arrest, and he is believed to have wanted to go abroad before stepping down to avoid the possibility of being detained. The 73-year-old, his wife and two bodyguards took a military aircraft to the neighbouring Maldives, immigration sources told AFP.

Hours later, with no formal announcement he was stepping down, thousands of demonstrators mobbed the office of Wickremesinghe — whom Rajapaksa named as acting president during his absence — demanding both officeholders should go.

“Go home Ranil, Go home Gota,” they shouted.

Tear gas and water cannon fired by police and the declaration of both a nationwide state of emergency and a curfew failed to disperse them and the crowd poured into the building.

Wickremesinghe, also 73, would automatically become acting president if Rajapaksa steps down, but has himself announced his willingness to resign if consensus is reached on forming a unity government.

“We can’t tear up our constitution,” he said in his statement. “We can’t allow fascists to take over. We must end this fascist threat to democracy,” he said, adding that the official buildings occupied by protesters must be returned to state control.

The protesters’ actions were a repeat of the capture of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s home and office on Saturday, when Wickremesinghe’s private home was also set ablaze.

The prime minister’s office confirmed that Rajapaksa had left the country, but said it had no schedule for any presidential resignation announcement.

The succession process could take between three days — the minimum time needed for parliament to elect an MP to serve out Rajapaksa’s term, which ends in November 2024 — and a maximum of 30 days allowed under the statute.

 A complicated exit

Rajapaksa is accused of mismanaging the economy to a point where the country ran out of foreign exchange to finance even the most essential imports, leading to severe hardships for its 22 million people.

Earlier Wednesday, smiling Sri Lankans again thronged the corridors of the president’s official residence after his departure, with young couples walking around hand in hand in a mood of quiet celebration.

“People are very happy, because these people robbed our country,” said retired civil servant Kingsley Samarakoon, 74.

“They’ve stolen too much money, billions and billions.”

But he held little hope for an immediate improvement in Sri Lanka’s plight.

“How are people going to run the country without money?” he asked. “It’s a problem.”

Sri Lanka defaulted on its $51 billion foreign debt in April and is in talks with the IMF for a possible bailout.

The island has nearly exhausted its already scarce supplies of petrol. The government has ordered the closure of non-essential offices and schools to reduce commuting and save fuel.

The departure of Rajapaksa, 73 and once known as “The Terminator”, had been stymied for more than 24 hours in a humiliating standoff with immigration personnel in Colombo.

He had wanted to fly to Dubai on a commercial flight, but staff at Bandaranaike International withdrew from VIP services and insisted that all passengers had to go through public counters.

On arrival in the Maldives on Wednesday, Rajapaksa was driven to an undisclosed location under police escort, an airport official in the capital Male said.

His youngest brother Basil, who resigned in April as finance minister, missed his own Emirates flight to Dubai on Tuesday after a tense standoff of his own with airport staff.

The leader of the main opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya party, Sajith Premadasa, who lost the 2019 presidential election to Rajapaksa, has said he will stand for the presidency.

Premadasa is the son of former president Ranasinghe Premadasa, who was assassinated in a Tamil rebel suicide bombing in May 1993.

 

South African Police Fire Rubber Bullets At Anti-Migrant Protesters

Members of the anti-foreigners movement so called ‘Operation Dudula’ sing xenophobic slogans and dance during a gathering at a park in Orange Grove in Johannesburg on February 13, 2022. (Photo by GUILLEM SARTORIO / AFP)

 

South African police fired rubber bullets and stun grenades Sunday at a protest in Johannesburg against migrant workers that drew some 200 people, many of them unemployed.

South Africa, the continent’s leading industrialised economy, is a magnet for migrant workers but immigrants from other African countries are regularly targeted in deadly xenophobic attacks.

“There were some rubber bullets and stun grenades fired when the protesters were becoming unruly,” a police spokesman said. “The situation was then contained,” he told AFP, adding: “There were no clashes.”

No injuries were reported.

Tension mounted when the protesters tried to break through a police cordon, an AFP photographer reported.

The demonstration moved from a park to a nearby supermarket that employs foreign workers.

A simultaneous demonstration took place in the Alexandra township north of Johannesburg, where around 100 anti-immigration protesters tore down stalls belonging to traders described by the demonstrators as “foreigners”.

On Saturday, police used water cannon against protesters in a poor district of Johannesburg who were also demanding the departure of migrant workers.

According to South Africa’s statistics agency, some 3.95 million foreigners live in the country including political refugees and qualified expatriate workers as well as economic migrants.

The competition they provide for work has caused resentment among jobless South Africans.

Unemployment stands at nearly 35 percent overall and around 65 percent among young people.

The Zimbabwean embassy last month complained that its nationals suffered harassment and threats of “forced expulsion”.

South African authorities announced last month that the temporary work visas of around 250,000 Zimbabweans will not be renewed.

Xenophobic riots claimed around a dozen lives in 2019, and in 2008 left around 60 people dead.

Canada Police Arrest Protesters In Bid To Clear Border Bridge

Police look out at protestors against Covid-19 vaccine mandates as they block the entrance to the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, on February 12, 2022. (Photo by JEFF KOWALSKY / AFP)

 

A Canadian mayor Sunday declared the standoff on a key US border bridge over after police moved in and arrested protesters, but the trucker-led movement against Covid-19 restrictions remained defiantly mobilized in the capital Ottawa and elsewhere.

A heavy contingent of officers backed by armored vehicles made their way to the demonstration near Windsor, Ontario, to clear the Ambassador Bridge, a major border crossing to the US city of Detroit, Michigan.

Authorities began their operation Saturday but several demonstrators had remained, extending the protracted standoff and preventing traffic from flowing.

Police took more forceful action Sunday, placing bridge protesters in handcuffs, towing vehicles and reclaiming clogged lanes, saying on Twitter that “there will be zero tolerance for illegal activity.”

The road to the bridge was cleared, but cross-border traffic had yet to be restored by midday.

“Today, our national economic crisis at the Ambassador Bridge came to an end,” Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens said in a statement, referring to the heavy toll on trade and other business by a blockade that had been in place since Monday.

READ ALSO: Four Missing Afghan Women Activists Released, Says UN

“Border crossings will reopen when it is safe to do so and I defer to police and border agencies to make that determination,” the mayor added.

The demonstrations have inspired copycat protests around the globe, including in France, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Australia, and with some US truckers discussing a protest for March.

In Ontario, where authorities have declared a state of emergency, the provincial supreme court had ordered truckers late in the week to end their blockade of the Ambassador Bridge.

The protest has forced major automakers in both countries to halt or scale back production.

Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who blasted the blockades as “illegal,” promised that “this conflict must end,” but he has faced mounting criticism for failing to act more decisively.

Initially, no arrests were made at the bridge; but drivers were warned that they potentially faced major fines, jail time and loss of their driver’s licenses if they continued blocking traffic.

Mayor Dilkens, apparently mindful of the division caused by the protests, urged tolerance and respect moving forward.

“I strongly urge all provincial and federal leaders to refrain from any divisive political rhetoric and redouble efforts to help all Canadians heal, as we emerge from almost two years of pandemic lockdowns and restrictions,” he said.

– 4,000 protesters –

The Ambassador Bridge is vital to the US and Canadian auto industries, carrying more than 25 percent of merchandise exported by both countries.

Truckers originally converged on Ottawa to press their demand for an end to a vaccination requirement affecting truckers crossing the international border.

But the movement has spread, as the protesters now seek an end to all vaccine mandates, whether imposed by the federal or provincial governments.

Ottawa has been the epicenter of protests. Police on Saturday estimated that some 4,000 demonstrators were still occupying the center city, in the third weekend of the movement.

The atmosphere among protesters has been festive, with music, dancing and constant sounding of air horns — but the noise, obstruction and sometimes rude and aggressive behavior of demonstrators has harmed area businesses and infuriated many locals.

The truckers’ message, however, has resonated more widely than authorities expected.

One opinion survey found that a third of Canadians support the protest movement.

The truckers have also found support among conservatives and vaccine mandate opponents in other countries, even as Covid measures are being rolled back in many places.

In Paris on Saturday, police fired tear gas and arrested nearly 100 people in an effort to break up convoys of vehicles coming from across France.

By Sunday hundreds of them drove their self-proclaimed “freedom convoy” of cars and trucks northward to Lille, en route to Brussels, where Belgian officials have already banned a demonstration called for Monday.

A vehicle convoy in the Netherlands brought The Hague’s city center to a standstill in another Canada-style protest.

In Switzerland, hundreds of protesters marched in Zurich to protest Covid-19 restrictions, while several thousand others rallied against them, Swiss media reported. Police used tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets to disperse the crowds.

An estimated 10,000 Australian protesters marched through the capital Canberra to decry vaccine mandates.

Sudanese Anti-Coup Protesters Barricade Streets

Sudanese anti-coup protesters attend a gathering in the capital Khartoum’s twin city of Omdurman on October 30, 2021, to express their support for the country’s democratic transition which a military takeover and deadly crackdown derailed. (Photo by AFP)

 

Sudanese anti-coup protesters on Sunday manned barricades in Khartoum a day after a deadly crackdown on mass rallies, as a defiant civil disobedience campaign against the military takeover entered its seventh day.

Tens of thousands turned out across the country for Saturday’s demonstrations, marching against the army’s October 25 power grab, when top General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan dissolved the government, declared a state of emergency and detained Sudan’s civilian leadership.

The move sparked a chorus of international condemnation, with world powers demanding a swift return to civilian rule and calls for the military to show “restraint” against protesters.

At least three people were shot dead and more than 100 people wounded during Saturday’s demonstrations, according to medics, who reported those killed had bullet wounds in their head, chest or stomach. It takes the death toll since protests began to at least 11.

Police forces denied the killings, or using live bullets.

“No, no, to military rule,” protesters carrying Sudanese flags chanted as they marched around the capital and other cities, as forces fired tear gas to break them up.

More than 100 people were also wounded on Saturday, some suffering breathing difficulties from tear gas, the independent Central Committee of Sudan’s Doctors said.

Sudan had been ruled since August 2019 by a joint civilian-military council, alongside Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok’s government, as part of the now derailed transition to full civilian rule.

Soldiers on the streets

Hamdok and other top leaders have been under military guard since then, either in detention or effective house arrest.

US President Joe Biden has called the coup a “grave setback”, while the African Union has suspended Sudan’s membership for the “unconstitutional” takeover.

The World Bank and the United States froze aid, a move that will hit hard in a country already mired in a dire economic crisis.

But Burhan — who became de facto leader after hardline ex-president Omar al-Bashir was ousted in 2019 following huge youth-led protests — has insisted the military takeover was “not a coup”.

Instead, Burhan says he wants to “rectify the course of the Sudanese transition”.

Demonstrations on Saturday rocked many cities across Sudan, including in the eastern states of Gedaref and Kassala, as well as in North Kordofan and White Nile, witnesses and AFP correspondents said.

As night fell Saturday, many protests in Khartoum and the capital’s twin city of Omdurman thinned out. But on Sunday morning protesters were back on the streets, again using rocks and tyres to block roads.

Shops remain largely shut in Khartoum, where many government employees are refusing to work as part of a nationwide protest campaign.

Soldiers from the army and the much-feared paramilitary Rapid Support Forces were seen on many streets in Khartoum and Omdurman.

Security forces have set up random checkpoints on the streets, frisking passers-by and randomly searching cars.

Phone lines, which were largely down on Saturday, were back apart from intermittent disruptions. But internet access has remained cut off since the army’s takeover.

Sudan has enjoyed only rare democratic interludes since independence in 1956 and spent decades riven by civil war.

Burhan was a general under Bashir’s three decades of iron-fisted rule, and analysts said the coup aimed to maintain the army’s traditional control over the northeast African country.

Sudan Anti-Coup Protests Defy Military, Rebuild Barricades

Sudanese protesters burn tyres to block a road in 60th Street in the capital Khartoum, to denounce overnight detentions by the army of members of Sudan’s government, on October 25, 2021.

 

 

Protests against Sudan’s military coup that has sparked international condemnation entered the fourth day Thursday, as demonstrators rebuilt barricades demolished by security forces during overnight unrest.

Seven protesters have been confirmed killed since Monday by morgues in Khartoum and its sister city Omdurman, a health official said, adding that more corpses had since been received, some with wounds caused by “sharp tools”.

Top general Abdel Fattah al-Burhan — Sudan’s de facto leader since the 2019 ouster of autocrat Omar al-Bashir — on Monday dissolved the fragile government that had been meant to shepherd the country to full civilian rule.

The World Bank and the United States have frozen aid and denounced the army’s power grab, while the African Union has suspended Sudan’s membership over what it labelled the “unconstitutional” takeover.

“Security forces have been trying since yesterday morning to remove all our barricades, firing tear gas and rubber bullets,” said protester Hatem Ahmed, from northern Khartoum.

“But we go and rebuild them as soon as they leave. We will only remove the barricades when the civilian government is back.”

The coup was the latest to have hit the poverty-stricken East African nation, which has experienced only rare democratic interludes since independence in 1956.

Shops have remained closed following calls for a civil disobedience campaign and Sudan’s pro-democracy movements ratcheted up calls for “million-strong protests” on Saturday.

Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, who was detained by the military Monday in sweeping arrests of civilian leaders, remains under guard at his home, where he was moved after an international outcry. Other ministers remain under full military arrest.

A joint statement by the United States, European Union, Britain, Norway and other nations emphasised their continued recognition of the “prime minister and his cabinet as the constitutional leaders of the transitional government”.

Burhan, a senior general during Bashir’s three-decade-long hardline rule, on Wednesday also sacked six Sudanese ambassadors — including to the US, EU, China and France — after they sided with the civilian leaders he ousted.

– Aid frozen –
Protesters rallied late into Wednesday night in the capital, said the Sudanese Professionals Association, a union umbrella instrumental in months-long protests that helped oust Bashir in April 2019.

Online videos shared by the SPA showed protesters chanting for “civilian rule”, calling for mass protests on October 30, and demanding that Burhan be taken to Khartoum’s high security Kober prison, where Bashir is incarcerated.

Violence against protesters has mounted in a “vengeful” crackdown by security forces, the SPA said in a statement.

On Wednesday, hundreds of protesters were seen throwing rocks at security forces in Khartoum’s eastern district of Burri.

The coup has provoked strong international criticism.

The World Bank has put its aid on hold, a major blow to a country already in the grip of a dire economic crisis.

Sudan only recently unlocked funds from the lender and its sister institution the International Monetary Fund, after decades under sanctions during Bashir’s rule.

Washington has also paused $700 million in funding, and the EU has threatened to follow suit.

– ‘Blockaded’ streets –
The information ministry — still loyal to the deposed government — has warned that security forces are tightening their control of the capital.

“Neighbourhoods and streets have been blockaded by armoured vehicles and men carrying rifles,” it said in a statement Wednesday, alleging also that “women were dragged” to the ground.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on Wednesday that Hamdok was still “not free” and confined to his residence, after Volker Perthes, the UN’s Special Representative for Sudan, met with both the prime minister and Burhan.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday spoke with Sudan’s Foreign Minister Mariam al-Mahdi to “solicit her views about what steps the United States can take to support the Sudanese people in their call for a civilian-led transition to democracy”, the State Department said.

The UN Security Council, however, has struggled to agree a joint statement on Sudan’s crisis. Russia opposed a strong condemnation, diplomats said.

Russia’s deputy representative to the UN Dmitry Polyanskiy said negotiations were continuing and described the matter as “very delicate”.

Sudan had been ruled since August 2019 by a joint civilian-military council, alongside Hamdok’s administration, as part of a transition to full civilian rule.

But analysts had said the civilians’ role receded before the coup, which the experts view as the generals’ way of maintaining their long-held grip on the country.

11 Killed As Myanmar Security Forces Crackdown On Protesters

This handout photo taken and released by Dawei Watch on March 27, 2021 shows protesters taking part in a demonstration against the military coup in Dawei. Handout / DAWEI WATCH / AFP

 

Myanmar security forces killed at least 11 protesters on Saturday, witnesses said, in a violent crackdown on demonstrations across the country as the military regime staged a major show of force for its annual Armed Forces parade.

The nation has been in turmoil since the generals ousted and detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi in February, triggering a major uprising demanding a return to democracy.

Violent morning crackdowns by security forces thwarted some plans for fresh protests that had been called in various cities to coincide with the parade in the capital Naypyidaw.

As troops carried torches and flags while marching alongside army vehicles, junta leader General Min Aung Hlaing again defended the coup and pledged to yield power after new elections.

But he also issued another threat to the anti-coup movement that has gripped the country since he took charge, warning that acts of “terrorism which can be harmful to state tranquillity and security” were unacceptable.

READ ALSO: Gunmen Kidnap Eight RCCG Members In Kaduna

“The democracy we desire would be an undisciplined one if they pay no respect to and violate the law,” he said.

Armed Forces Day, which commemorates the start of local resistance to the Japanese occupation during World War II, usually accompanies a military parade attended by foreign officers and diplomats.

But the junta has struggled to achieve international recognition since taking control of Myanmar and said eight international delegations attended Saturday’s event, including China and Russia.

 

– Death and mayhem –

By noon, violence had erupted around the country as protesters attempted to return to the streets to call for democracy.

A doctor in central Mandalay region’s Wundwin town confirmed the death of two protesters, while in northeast Shan state, police and troops opened fire on a rally by university students, witnesses told AFP.

A rescue worker confirmed at least three had died — corroborating local media reports — but his team was not able to remove the bodies.

“Our rescue members tried to drag them out when they were shot, but there was so much shooting,” he said.

Across commercial hub, Yangon, plumes of smoke rose above the former capital which has emerged as a hotspot for unrest in recent weeks.

An overnight gathering in front of a police station in the city’s south — where demonstrators called for the release of their friends — became violent around midnight, and the shooting only stopped around 4:00 am, said a resident.

At least five died, one of them a 20-year-old boy in her neighbourhood.

“We are going to his funeral today,” she told AFP. “The conditions on the ground are very scary at the moment.”

This handout photo taken and released by Dawei Watch on March 27, 2021 shows protesters holding candles as they take part in a demonstration against the military coup in a village near Dawei.

 

Further north near the notorious Insein prison, a pre-dawn rally — which had protesters wearing bicycle helmets and shielded by sandbag barricades — devolved into chaos when soldiers started shooting.

At least one was killed — a 21-year-old police officer, Chit Lin Thu, who had joined the anti-coup movement.

“He was shot in the head and died at home,” his father Joseph told AFP.

“I am extremely sad for him, but at the same time, I am proud of my son”.

– ‘Enemy of democracy’ –

As the military commemorated Armed Forces Day in Naypyidaw, the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH) — a group of ousted parliamentarians working underground against the junta — condemned the show of might after a bloody seven weeks.

“We should not allow these military generals to celebrate after they killed our brothers and sisters,” said its UN special envoy, who goes by the moniker Dr Sasa.

Speaking during a Facebook live stream of a “Global Virtual Protest” — which brought together the Myanmar diaspora around the world — his speech got 20,000 reactions.

“They are the enemy of democracy,” said Sasa. “We will never surrender until democracy is achieved until federal democracy is built, and until freedom comes to our people.”

Security forces have increasingly cracked down with lethal force on demonstrations against the coup in recent weeks, using tear gas, rubber bullets, and live rounds to break up rallies.

A message broadcast on state television warned young people not to participate in what it called a “violent movement” against the military regime.

“Learn the lesson from those who have brutally died… do not die for nothing,” it said.

Nearly 330 people have died in demonstrations against the coup — including a large number killed by direct headshots from security forces — and more than 3,000 others have been arrested, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners monitoring group.

The protest movement has also included widespread strikes by civil servants, which have brought many basic government functions to a halt.

Coming on top of a Covid pandemic that hit Myanmar hard, the events since the coup have also struck the economy. The World Bank has warned the country faces a huge 10 percent slump in GDP in 2021.

AFP

Anti-Coup Protesters Defy Myanmar Junta’s Campaign Of Fear

A man stands on a poster featuring armed forces chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing as he attempts to douse tear gas during a crackdown by security forces on a demonstration by protesters against the military coup in Yangon’s Thaketa township on March 19, 2021.  AFP

 

Protesters returned to the streets across Myanmar on Saturday, defying a junta-led campaign of fear as regional powers Indonesia and Malaysia condemned the violence deployed by security forces against anti-coup demonstrators. 

The country has been in turmoil since the military ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi from power in a February 1 coup, triggering a nationwide uprising as protesters call for a return to democracy.

So far, more than 230 people have been killed in anti-coup unrest, according to a local monitoring group, as security forces have deployed tear gas, rubber bullets and live rounds against anti-coup protesters.

But the movement has pushed ahead — albeit in smaller numbers.

Local media showed protesters in gas masks gathering in northern Shan state, while in the southern coastal city of Dawei, motorists hoisted posters of Suu Kyi and signs that said: “end the dictatorship”.

The protesters in Shan state wielded home-made shields that said: “protect unarmed civilians”.

READ ALSO: Paris Enters New COVID-19 Lockdown As Europe Resumes Astrazeneca Jabs

Outside of protests, crackdowns continue on the streets and residential areas across Myanmar, said the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) monitoring group.

“Casualties and unprovoked shootings are increasing day by day,” it said.

In the central ruby-producing city of Mogok, local media Myanmar Now reported that a neighbourhood’s night guards were shot overnight.

A protester jumps over a makeshift barricade during a crackdown by security forces on a demonstration against the military coup in Yangon’s Thaketa township on March 19, 2021. AFP

 

“One died on the spot last night while two others are in critical condition in the hospital,” a rescue team member confirmed to AFP, declining to give more details.

The country’s commercial hub Yangon has emerged as a hotspot for unrest, as security forces armed with guns continue to root out protesters wielding homemade protection gear.

But the resistance movement remains defiant.

“Who says we have to give up because of unequal weapons? We are born for victory,” tweeted prominent activist Ei Thinzar Maung, with the hashtag #SpringRevolution.

Sporadic demonstrations persisted Saturday across the former capital, with a small group marching on a residential area chanting for the military to “Surrender if you do not want life in prison!”

 ‘Deplorable situation’

Myanmar’s regional neighbours on Friday condemned the escalating violence, with Indonesian President Joko Widodo calling for a high-level regional meeting “to discuss the crisis”.

“Indonesia urges that the use of violence in Myanmar stop to avoid more victims,” he said.

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin echoed the need for an “emergency” summit among the 10-country Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

“I am appalled by the persistent use of lethal violence against unarmed civilians… The use of live ammunition against peaceful protests is unacceptable,” he said in a statement Friday.

“This deplorable situation must stop immediately.”

International condemnation by the United States, former colonial power Britain and the United Nations has so far failed to slow the violence.

European Union foreign ministers are set to approve sanctions on Monday against 11 junta officials, according to EU diplomats.

 Information blackout

Since the military took over in February, the junta has sunk Myanmar further into isolation, throttling mobile data this week that left citizens without wifi capabilities in an information blackout.

It has also instated a nightly internet shutdown for more than a month.

Security forces have also gone after the country’s press corps, raiding multiple newsrooms and arresting more than 30 since the coup, according to AAPP.

A Burmese journalist, Aung Thura, with BBC’s Myanmar language service was taken away by men on Friday in the capital Naypyidaw while reporting outside a court.

“The British Embassy… shares the BBC’s concerns about missing BBC Burmese journalist Aung Thura,” tweeted the embassy on Friday.

“We echo the call for the authorities to help confirm his location and that he is safe.”

Local journalist Than Htike Aung for Mizzima — which had its broadcasting licence revoked earlier this month — was “arrested” as well, reported Mizzima’s Facebook page.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Saturday once again condemned as “unacceptable” the killing of demonstrators and “arbitrary arrests in Myanmar, including of journalists”.

“The continuing brutal violence by the military in Myanmar must stop,” he said in a tweet.

AFP

Lebanon Protesters Block Roads Over Worsening Poverty

Army soldiers negotiate with anti-government protesters to let their and police vehicles pass through a make-shift roadblock in Zouk Mosbeh north of Lebanon’s capital Beirut, on March 8, 2021, during a protest against the deteriorating value of the local currency and dire economic and social conditions. (Photo by JOSEPH EID / AFP)

 

Lebanese protesters set up new road blocks Tuesday to vent anger over political inaction in the face of deepening poverty, but security forces managed to re-open some to traffic.

The country has been mired in economic crisis, which has brought surging unemployment and spiralling prices while the currency has plunged to a new low to the dollar on the black market.

Yet the government — which formally resigned after the massive Beirut port explosion last August that killed more than 200 people — has failed to agree on a new cabinet since.

Road blocks have become a near daily occurrence in the small Mediterranean country and lasted all day Monday, including in and out of Beirut.

Demonstrators on Tuesday again cut off some roads in the northern city of Tripoli and the eastern region of the Bekaa, the National News Agency said.

Highways leading to Beirut were also briefly closed, but then re-opened to flowing traffic.

READ ALSO: Lebanon Protesters Block Roads Over Worsening Poverty

Some protesters have called for a revival of the nationwide street movement of late 2019 that demanded the removal of Lebanon’s entire political class, widely seen as incompetent and corrupt.

More than half of the population is living below the poverty line, and prices have soared as the Lebanese pound has lost more than 80 percent of its value.

With foreign currency reserves dwindling fast, the authorities have warned they will soon have to lift subsidies on fuel and mostly imported food.

President Michel Aoun has accused demonstrators blocking roads of “sabotage”, but also called for authorities to prevent “the manipulation of food prices”.

Despite growing anger on the streets, there have been no serious clashes between security forces and demonstrators in recent days, in contrast to previous rallies.

Lebanon’s economic crisis has been aggravated by several lockdowns to stem the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

On Monday, the country entered a new phase of alleviating the latest stay-at-home order imposed after hospitals became overwhelmed following the winter holidays.

AFP

Luther King’s Daughter, US Lawmaker, Others Ask Buhari To Release Jailed Protesters, Journalists

A file photo of President Muhammadu Buhari addressing the nation on April 28, 2020,

 

Global activists and celebrities have called on President Muhammadu Buhari to direct the release of all #EndSARS protesters, as well as activists and journalists jailed in various parts of the country.

They made the call in an open letter dated December 10, 2020, and addressed to the President – a copy of which was sighted by Channels Television on Thursday.

The 60 activists and celebrities, under the auspices of Diaspora Rising, asked President Buhari to ensure the reinstatement of the international passports, bank accounts, and other items seized from the jailed persons.

They demanded that the military, security, and intelligence officers found culpable in the incident at the Lekki toll plaza, either giving the order or carrying out the shooting, must be made to face the consequences of their actions.

Signatories to the letter included Reverend Bernice King, daughter of Martin Luther King Jr; US activist Opal Tometi; as well as actors Danny Glover and Kerry Washington.

Swedish teenage eco-warrior Greta Thunberg, singer Alicia Keys, civil rights campaigner Angela Davis, US congresswoman Ilhan Omar, and Nigerian-American rapper Jidenna, among others, also signed the letter.

According to them, the President should allow a transparent investigation by human rights monitors into the actions that led to the shooting at the Lekki tollgate and ensure the findings are published by media outfits accredited nationally and internationally.

The signatories also called on the President to support peaceful demonstrations in any part of the country to allow citizens exercise their constitutional right to protest.

“As people who have supported the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States and throughout the diaspora, we cannot be silent when similar atrocities take place in African countries.

“We demand respect for the Nigerian people, especially as they engage in their constitutional right to protest grave injustices,” part of the letter read.

It added, ”As President of the world’s most populous Black republic, you assume a leadership role on the global stage. Nigeria matters.

“We expect nothing short of care for your people and concern for the reputation of your country. As Nigeria is a major powerhouse for the continent of Africa, you must know, President Buhari, that your response has exponential implications for the continent and the African diaspora.”

Peru President Faces Calls To Resign After Three Protesters Killed

Demonstrators, supporters of Peruvian ousted President Martin Vizcarra, holding a Peruvian flag, clash with riot police during a protest against the government of interim president Manuel Merino in Lima on November 14, 2020. PHOTO: ERNESTO BENAVIDES / AFP

 

The head of Peru’s Congress has called for the “immediate resignation” of interim president Manuel Merino after a violent crackdown on protests against his new government left at least three dead and more than 60 injured.

Thousands have taken to the streets in days of protests against Merino following the ouster of his popular predecessor Martin Vizcarra, who was impeached on corruption allegations on Monday.

“I ask Mr. Merino to evaluate his immediate resignation,” Congress head Luis Valdez said in a statement on Saturday night.

Lawmakers will meet in an emergency session on Sunday to discuss Merino’s resignation, a statement released later on the Congress Twitter account said.

The ultimatum came after news of the death of three protesters during a massive and peaceful march in Lima, which was violently repressed by police firing shotgun pellets and tear gas.

Lima mayor Jorge Munoz, from the same center-right Popular Action party as Merino, also demanded the resignation of the president.

“I just found out about the third death” in the protests, said the Archbishop of Lima, Carlos Castillo, deploring the police crackdown in a statement to state television.

Police reported two deaths, while the National Human Rights Coordinator indicated it was investigating whether there were four.

The Ombudsman’s Office said the first fatality, a 25-year-old man, was killed by pellet shots to the head and face. At least 63 protesters were injured, the health ministry said.

The police tactics have been criticized by the UN and rights organizations such as Amnesty International since the protests began on Tuesday.

 

– Ministers resign –

Seven of the 18 ministers in Merino’s cabinet announced their resignation Saturday night after the police crackdown, according to local media.

The political crisis appeared to be heading towards the resignation of Merino, whose whereabouts were unknown early Sunday.

“I’m calling him and I can’t get through, I have no idea if he has resigned. I’m not a fortune teller,” Prime Minister Antero Flores Araoz, the government’s number two, told RPP radio.

Lima’s international airport said it was closed due to the night curfew.

Merino has remained silent since the crackdown on Saturday and the call for his resignation.

At around 2:00 am (0700 GMT) Sunday, the government released a photo of Merino meeting with his cabinet, but doubts arose as to when it was taken because it showed the health minister who had resigned hours earlier.

 

– Tear gas –

Thousands took to the streets on Saturday in opposition to Merino, the former Congress speaker who assumed office on Tuesday as Peru’s third president in four years.

The mostly young protesters gathered in various cities to oppose what they call a parliamentary coup against ousted president Vizcarra.

The largest march in Lima attracted thousands of people, with police again using tear gas fired from helicopters to disperse protesters who were threatening to march towards the Congress building.

They carried signs reading “Merino, you are not my president” and “Merino impostor” while chanting.

The municipal authorities in Lima turned off the public lighting in Plaza San Martin on the crowd gathered there.

The plaza has been the center of protests in the capital.

A group of protesters approached the area around Merino’s home, east of Lima, banging pots and drums.

Archbishop of Trujillo Miguel Cabrejos urged the government to engage in dialogue and respect the right to protest.

“It is essential to listen and attend to the cries and the clamor of the population to regain confidence, tranquility and social peace,” he said in a statement.

When he took office on Tuesday, Merino said he would respect the calendar for the next general elections, scheduled for April 11, 2021, and would leave power on July 28, 2021, the day when Vizcarra’s mandate was to end.

Vizcarra had broad popular support since succeeding Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, the former Wall Street banker who was forced to resign under threat of impeachment over corruption allegations in 2018.

Congress impeached and dismissed Vizcarra on Monday over allegations he took kickbacks from developers when he was governor of the Moquegua region in 2014, charges he denies.

AFP

Fish Out Those Who Ordered Lekki Shooting, Bakare Tells Buhari

 

The Serving Overseer of Citadel Global Community Church, formerly known as Latter Rain Assembly, Pastor Tunde Bakare, has asked President Muhammadu Buhari to fish out those behind the shootings at Lekki Tollgate during the #EndSARS protesters in the Lekki area of Lagos State.

The protesters had converged on the Lekki Toll Gate on Tuesday night when they were shot by security operatives shortly after the Lagos State Government declared curfew in the state.

Bakare, who spoke on Sunday during his sermon in church, asked President Buhari to prosecute the soldiers who sent many young Nigerians to their early graves and left other with varying degrees of injuries.

“I strongly recommend that President Buhari should ensure that those who ordered armed soldiers to fire on innocent citizens are fished out and made to face the full wrath of the law,” he said.

The senior pastor admonished Nigerians to be wary of ethnic colorations, religious differences and other divisive means designed to distract them from the real issues of governance.

He also urged the citizens to keep their hopes alive, adding that the New Nigeria everyone yearned for is within reach.

Pastor Tunde Bakare during his State of the Nation address on October 25, 2020 asked President Muhammadu Buhari to unravel the killers of the #EndSARS protesters in Lekki area of Lagos State.

 

“This is not the nation we hope to bequeath to our children. We will build this nation, not upon the altar of the blood of our young people, but on their visions and aspirations,” Bakare said.

Speaking further, he said that no degree of brutal repression of protesters can overcome the desire of protests in the hearts and minds of the people.

To Bakare, any attempt to resolve the issues must go beyond the surface to excavate the underlying factors that led to the protest.

“Your bullets may drive them off the streets, but your bullets cannot pierce their spirits or puncture their resilience.

“Our overarching challenge is systemic governance failure which, over the decades, has worsened the living conditions of Nigerians. As a result, although the Special Anti-Robbery Squad has been disbanded, the spirit of SARS continues to prowl unchecked,” he said.

His remarks come five days after several people were killed and others injured after security operatives opened fire at #EndSARS protesters in Lekki.

Security operatives had stormed the scene of the protest on Tuesday night hours after the Lagos Government announced a 24-hour curfew and opened fire.

The action drew global condemnation both within the country and outside of Nigeria with the United Nations, African Union and ECOWAS calling for a thorough probe into the tragic shooting.

On Wednesday, the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, called for an end to police brutality in Nigeria, condemning violent clashes that claimed multiple lives and caused many injuries.

According to a communiqué issued by his spokesperson, Stephane Dujarric, the UN chief has been following recent developments in Nigeria and has called for an end to police brutality and abuses.

Similarly, Chairman of the AU Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, offered his sincere condolences to the families of those who lost their lives and wished a speedy recovery to the injured.

Mr Mahamat appealed to all political and social actors to reject the use of violence and respect human rights and the rule of law.

UPDATED: Security Operatives Storm Lekki #EndSARS Protest Scene, Open Fire

 

Pandemonium broke out in the Lekki Toll Gate Area of Lagos State on Tuesday as armed security personnel stormed the scene of the #EndSARS protests and opened fire at protesters.

Several are feared killed, while many others sustained gunshot wounds.

Some videos from eyewitnesses at the scene of the incident showed some persons bleeding seriously, while others tried to extract the bullets.

Others were seen administering CPR to some injured persons, to resuscitate them.

The incident comes hours after the Lagos State Government declared a 24-hour curfew as part of efforts to stop the violence which had broken out in some parts of the state by criminal elements who have been hijacking the protests.

Although the curfew was to commence at 4:00 pm, many were still seen protesting across the state.

At the Lekki Toll Gate which has been one of the major converging points, peaceful and unarmed protesters were still seen gathered in large numbers, hours after the curfew was to have commenced.

The situation, however, took a turn for the worse around 7:00 pm when the security operatives stormed the area and started shooting sporadically.

 

Read Also: Lagos Government Declares 24-Hour Curfew

Meanwhile, the state government in a tweet at 7:08 pm noted that the curfew would not start until 9:00 pm, to allow those stuck in traffic to get to their homes.

 

 

 

 

Amid the confusion, there have been several reports of people being rushed in their hundreds to the hospital.

 

 

Some of the youths who were still at the scene of the incident at about 10:30pm told Channels Television that they were protesting peacefully when the armed security operatives came and opened fire at them.

“We were protesting peacefully after comedian, AY addressed us. There was nothing, we were still protesting peacefully. Then immediately, the street lights went off,” one of the protesters said on the News @ 10.

“People started shooting at us. We were able to recognise them, they were putting on uniform, they were military men, soldiers.

“We were lying down, waving our flags, telling them we are protesting peacefully, yet they were shooting directly at us.

“It wasn’t to drive us away, it was to kills us”.