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Benin police restore calm after post-election protests

Violence broke out on Wednesday shortly after the provisional results were announced of Sunday’s parliamentary elections.

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Benin police restore calm after post-election protests
Photo credit: Yanick Folly / AFP

Calm appeared to return to Benin late Thursday following two days of angry post-election violence in which at least two people died, as the definitive results of the parliamentary polls were published.

“Turnout… was 27.1 per cent,” the president of Benin’s Constitutional Court, Joseph Djogbenou, announced, higher than the 23 per cent previously when preliminary results were released.

“Considering the irregularities and the disturbances (during the vote), these are still not of a nature to compromise the validity and transparency of the vote,” said Djogbenou, who is close to President Patrice Talon.

Violence broke out on Wednesday shortly after the provisional results were announced of Sunday’s vote which had been held without a single opposition candidate. 

Two former heads of state, Boni Yayi, who was president from 2006 until 2016, and Nicephore Soglo, who held office between 1991 and 1996, had urged Talon to annul the vote which they described as an “electoral state coup”. 

Earlier, soldiers had fired shots as they clamped down on the second day of angry demonstrations.

Large numbers of troops and riot police -as well as hundreds of protesters manning burning barricades -squared off in the streets of Benin’s economic capital Cotonou.

A witness said three people were killed Thursday as soldiers opened fire, and a video showed troops shooting as protesters fled.

“The police and soldiers… they started firing, they chased people,” said a resident. “We heard shots, lots of shots.”

A woman died on Thursday after being wounded the day before, medical sources said, and a man was brought to hospital with a gunshot wound to the back.

In the town of Kandi, some 620 kilometres (385 miles) to the north, a young man was also killed late Wednesday, by shots fired by soldiers. 

“They aimed at him,” the victim’s father told reporters. “The bullet went through him. My child is dead.” 

The UN envoy for West Africa, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, was holding talks with regional leaders and officials in Benin to ensure “a peaceful solution”, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York on Thursday, noting a “high-handed response from the security forces.”

“We are closely following the situation in Benin,” Dujarric said.

“We note with concern the ongoing tension and unrest, resulting in destruction of property and high-handed response from the security forces.”

‘Suppression’

Tough new eligibility criteria effectively barred opposition parties from fielding candidates in last Sunday’s parliamentary elections.

Opposition leaders asked people not to vote, and the preliminary results showed that over three-quarters of the country’s five million registered voters heeded the call.

“The people demand the return of democracy,” Boni Yayi told reporters on Monday, calling on people to resist the incumbent president. “Talon will walk over our dead bodies.”

Events in the West African state has given rise to warnings from civil society and rights groups inside and outside Benin.

Amnesty International, ahead of the vote, said a “wave of arbitrary arrests of political activists and journalists, and the crackdown on peaceful protests” had reached an “alarming level.”

Following a meeting of ministers on Thursday afternoon, the Benin government noted the “professionalism” of the security forces in their efforts to maintain public order. 

Sizeable contingents of police and the army were still stationed in Cotonou late Thursday, blocking access to Yayi’s residence. 

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Twelve dead in Boko Haram attack in Gueskerou, Niger

The attack on Friday night in the border district of Gueskerou, is the latest to hit the Diffa region near Lake Chad.

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Boko Haram attacks army base in Nigeria. Kills five soldiers, 30 missing

A night raid blamed on Boko Haram has left a dozen villagers dead in southeastern Niger on the frontier with Nigeria, a local official said Saturday.  

The attack on Friday night in the border district of Gueskerou, is the latest to hit the Diffa region near Lake Chad.

“Twelve villagers were killed on Friday at around 8:00pm by Boko Haram elements,” a local elected official told AFP. He said eleven of those killed had been shot, but did not give further details. 

The Gueskerou area, abutting the Komadougou Yobe river that provides a natural frontier between Niger and Nigeria, has been exposed to years of killings and kidnappings at the hands of the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram.

In March, two attacks in the area left eight civilians and seven police dead. 

Boko Haram, loosely translated as “Western education is banned”, wants to create a hardline Islamic state.

A regional military coalition is battling the group, but at least 27,000 people have been killed in Nigeria alone.

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Egypt’s renovation of Baron Palace sparks online outcry

Mnay have faulted repair works as being misrepresentative of the building’s history and materials to be of poor quality

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Egypt's renovation of Baron Palace sparks online outcry
Ongoing restoration works at the historic "Le Palais Hindou" (also known as the "Baron Empain Palace") built by in the early 20th century by Belgian industrialist Edouard Louis Joseph, Baron Empain, in the classical Khmer architectural style of Cambodia's Angkor Wat, in the Egyptian capital Cairo's northeastern Heliopolis district. (Photo by Khaled DESOUKI / AFP)

Egyptian authorities have defended renovation works at a historic Cairo palace after the site’s new look sparked mockery on social media.

The site, dubbed the Baron Palace, was built between 1907 and 1911 by wealthy Belgian industrialist Edouard Empain. 

The baron also spearheaded the development of the surrounding upmarket neighbourhood of Heliopolis.

Built in a style reminiscent of the Cambodian Hindu temple of Angkor Wat, the striking building set amid lush gardens has long since fallen into disrepair.

READ: Biblio-art: How Polish artist adorns Egyptian monastery with Christian designs

But work to restore the building has sparked outcry.

Many have taken issue with white marble additions to the building’s rosy pink stone exterior, saying the materials are of poor quality and not in keeping with the original style.

One Twitter user asked:

“Who is the fool behind the restoration of Egypt’s palaces? Our heritage is being systematically destroyed.”

A Facebook page called Egyptian Historians chided officials for the “warped” restoration.

Egypt's renovation of Baron Palace sparks online outcry
Ongoing restoration works at the historic “Le Palais Hindou” (also known as the “Baron Empain Palace”) built by in the early 20th century by Belgian industrialist Edouard Louis Joseph, Baron Empain, in the classical Khmer architectural style of Cambodia’s Angkor Wat, in the Egyptian capital Cairo’s northeastern Heliopolis district. (Photo by Khaled DESOUKI / AFP)

“Be honest with yourselves and admit that you ruined it… you are literally demolishing our monument”, a post on the group’s page said.

READ: Tutankhamun gilded coffin receives restoration in Egypt

Antiquities Minister, Khaled El-Enany dismissed online criticisms as “fake news”.

“I didn’t hear one word of truth in all these social media comments,” he said in a statement.

His ministry said the colours of the palace had faded from weather damage over many years.

“The restoration is a real dream and we will breathe life into this abandoned landmark,” Enany added.

WATCH: Egypt begins restoration of Tutankhamun’s coffin

General Hisham Samir, who heads up the ministry’s engineering branch, said the colours were “correct and are backed up by historical sources.”

The works began in July 2017 in co-operation with the Belgian government and will cost 100 million Egyptian pounds (over $6 million), the statement added.

Samir told reporters that the work is expected to be completed by year’s end with plans to open the building to the public by early 2020.

Egypt’s multitude of historical monuments and buildings are a major draw for tourists, though the country has often faced accusations of neglecting these sites.

READ: Contents of two ancient pyramids unveiled in Egypt

The government has recently launched various restoration projects to stimulate tourism, a key sector that has suffered in recent years due to political insecurity and sporadic jihadist attacks.

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Central Africa News

Measles is a bigger threat in DR Congo than Ebola – NGO

Last year, cases more than doubled to almost 350,000 from 2017, according to the World Health Organization

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Measles has killed 2,758 people in DR Congo since January, more than the Ebola epidemic in a year, medical NGO Doctors Without Borders said, and called Saturday for a “massive mobilisation of funds.”

The disease, preventable with a vaccine, has infected over 145,000 people in the Democratic Republic of Congo between January and early August, it said in a statement.

“Since July, the epidemic has worsened, with a rise in new cases reported in several provinces,” said the NGO that goes by its French acronym MSF.

“Only $2.5 million has been raised out of the $8.9 million required for the Health Cluster response plan  — in stark contrast with the Ebola epidemic in the east of the country, which attracts multiple organisations and hundreds of millions of dollars in funding,” it added.

MSF tweeted that without a “massive mobilisation of funds and response organisations, the current measles outbreak in #DRCongo could get even worse.”

The NGO said it has vaccinated 474,860 children between the ages of six months and five years since the beginning of the year and provided care to more than 27,000 measles patients.

In the country’s east, Ebola has claimed more than 1,900 lives since erupting last August.

Measles is a highly-contagious diseased caused by a virus that attacks mainly children. The most serious complications include blindness, brain swelling, diarrhoea, and severe respiratory infections.

Last year, cases more than doubled to almost 350,000 from 2017, according to the World Health Organization, amid a rise in “anti-vaxxer” sentiment in some countries that can afford the vaccine, and lagging resources for the preventative measure in poor nations.

DR Congo declared a measles epidemic in June.

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