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North Africa Politics

Pharaohs of Egypt criticised by press over ’embarrassing’ loss to South Africa

The record seven-time champions were dumped out in the last 16 by South Africa on Saturday with a 1-0 defeat

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Pharaohs of Egypt criticised by press over 'embarrassing' loss to South Africa
Egypt's Mohamed Salah (L) and Amr Warda appeared dejected after their team's defeat in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations round of 16 soccer match against South Africa at Cairo International Stadium. Photo: Oliver Weiken/dpa

Egypt’s usually tame press did not hold back after the national team’s exit from the Africa Cup of Nations on home soil, branding the side “embarrassing” after a “still-born performance”.

The record seven-time champions were dumped out in the last 16 by South Africa on Saturday with a 1-0 defeat at the Cairo International Stadium.

“You embarrassed us…Our national squad disappoints millions and bows out of the African Cup of Nations,” Al-Akhbar, one of Egypt’s main newspapers, splashed on its Sunday front page.

In a country where the press is rarely critical of official institutions, there was plenty of blame thrown around.

Al-Akhbar lambasted “the absurdities” of Mexican coach Javier Aguirre’s tactics and “the still-born performance of the players”.

A photo of star forward Mohamed Salah on the verge of tears accompanied the front-page article.

Meanwhile, state mouthpiece Al Ahram declared the loss as “one of the biggest surprises of the 2019 AFCON”.

Egypt, with most of their team playing in Europe’s top leagues, were the pre-tournament favourites.

“Egyptian football paid the price for the coaching staff who chose players unfit to play at an international level,” the paper said.

“Coach Javier Aguirre is the number one man responsible for this humiliating exit.”

The Egyptian Football Association (EFA) sacked Aguirre just hours after the loss along with the entire coaching staff.

EFA president Hani Abou Rida also tendered his resignation. Papers wary of fans’ swelling anger shied away from criticising the association directly as it is politically loyal and backed by the authorities.

‘Catastrophic failure’ –

In Al-Watan, one of the biggest tabloids close to the security services, the devastating loss was summed up with:

“The dream goes up in smoke.”

It also went after Aguirre for making “catastrophic” errors throughout the tournament, leading to a national “failure”.

Previously praised in this competition, rising star Mahmoud Trezeguet “wasted every single opportunity” he was given to put South Africa away, Al-Watan said.

Popular football website, Yalla Kora questioned whether “this generation will ever reach the next World Cup in 2022”.

Even beloved national icon Salah was caught in the cross-hairs of criticism.

Several reasons were given for the disappointing exit, including how the Liverpool star had “imposed” his will by demanding the return of his teammate Amr Warda.

The controversial player was initially kicked out of the squad following sexual harassment allegations surfacing online, but was then brought back into the fold after an outcry by the players supporting him.

Many fans actually welcomed the defeat of the Pharaohs on social media, with the “National Team of Harassers” trending last night.

They felt the loss was punishment for players defending the inclusion of Warda.

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North Africa Politics

Nabil Karoui arrested in Tunisia for money laundering

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Tunisian authorities arrested presidential candidate and media mogul, Nabil Karoui for alleged money laundering, his party said, hours after his channel was banned from covering campaigns.

“About 15 police cars blocked the road and rushed to Nabil Karoui’s car before armed civilian police asked him to come with them, saying they had instructions to arrest him,” said Oussama Khlifi of the mogul’s Qalb Tounes party.

Private radio station Mosaique FM quoted a judicial official Friday confirming that an arrest warrant had been issued against Karoui and his brother Ghazi for money laundering.

Authorities did not immediately confirm his arrest.

Tunisia has been seen as a rare success story among nations that underwent the Arab Spring uprisings, emerging as a nascent democracy.

Karoui was among 26 presidential candidates given preliminary approval this month to run in the election, set for September 15.  

The tycoon was charged with money laundering in early July shortly after stating his intention to stand in the polls, but has remained a leading candidate.

His apparent arrest came the same day as authorities announced a ban on three local outlets — including Karoui’s Nessma TV — from reporting on the election campaign, after they had broadcast “illegally” without licenses. 

Karoui has been accused by regulators and some politicians of using Nessma to bolster his political ambitions. 

The station, launched in 2007, has played up his charity work with footage of him handing out food and clothing. 

He was nearly removed from the race in June when parliament passed an amended electoral code that would bar any candidate who handed out “favours in cash or in kind” in the year before the vote.

But then-president Beji Caid Essebsi neither rejected nor enacted the bill, leaving the door open for Karoui to run.

The polls were brought forward from November, following Essebsi’s death last month.

Karoui had been an active supporter of Essebsi’s election in 2014 and has become the fiercest rival of Prime Minister Youssef Chahed, who is also running for president.

He formally stepped down from Nessma’s management after being criticised by international observers for his channel’s partisan conduct during the 2014 campaign, and officially joined Essebsi’s Nidaa Tounes party in 2016.

But he subsequently made no secret of continuing to pull the strings at Nessma, while honing his political profile.   

Tunisia’s broadcasting authorities banned Nessma in October 2018, but it did not comply and remains on air.

The regulator accuses the channel of “positioning itself to influence government bodies”, and rebuked it for not having disclosed its shareholders — reportedly including Italian politician Silvio Berlusconi. 

Karoui has said he is being targeted by “attempts to undermine his growing popularity”.

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North Africa Politics

Libyan Navy rescues 335 migrants, recovers 1 body

Nine children were among 57 migrants in a wooden boat rescued Saturday about 40 nautical miles from the town of Zuwara

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Libyan navy rescues 335 migrants, recovers 1 body
(File photo)

The Libyan navy said Sunday 335 migrants had been rescued and one body recovered in separate operations off the coast, as they tried to cross the Mediterranean to reach Europe.

Nine children were among 57 migrants in a wooden boat rescued Saturday about 40 nautical miles from the town of Zuwara, west of Tripoli, navy spokesman General Ayoub Kacem told reporters.

He said they were from Ethiopia and Egypt. 

The rescue came days after Libyan navy patrols on Tuesday “rescued 278 migrants on board four inflatable boats northwest and northeast of Tripoli”, Kacem added.

The operations took place off the coasts of the cities of Khoms, 120 kilometres east of Tripoli, and Sabratha, located 70 kilometres west of the capital.

READ: IOM reports over 100 migrants missing off Libyan coast

According to the statement, 128 Sudanese were on the boats, in addition to migrants from Chad, Egypt, Niger, Benin and Eritrea, including 35 women and 11 children.

One body was also recovered by the coastguard.

Libya, which has been facing transition crisis since the 2011 uprising that killed dictator Muammar Gaddafi, has long been a major transit route for migrants, especially from sub-Saharan Africa.

In general, migrants rescued at sea are first met by humanitarian agencies that provide medical care and food.

They are then taken into the charge of the body working to combat immigration at the interior ministry of the UN-recognised Government of National Accord. 

On August 9, the Libyan navy accused the authorities of failing to manage migrants rescued at sea, claiming that it could be forced to let people go free once brought back to land.

READ: From Sudan to Libya, nightmare for migrants continues

Despite the risks, migrants continue to attempt to reach Europe by sea, preferring to take their chances than stay in Libya, where they are subject to abuse, extortion and torture, according to humanitarian organisations. 

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President declares state of emergency in 2 provinces due to ethnic violence in Chad

The state of emergency will run for three months in Sila and Ouaddai regions

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Chad President Idriss Deby declared a state of emergency in two eastern provinces

Chad President Idriss Deby declared a state of emergency in two eastern provinces on Sunday after violent intercommunal clashes left dozens dead earlier this month.

The state of emergency will run for three months in Sila and Ouaddai regions bordering Sudan where 50 people have died since August 9 in fighting between cattle herders and settled farmers, the president’s office said.

“From now, we will deploy military forces who are going to ensure the security of the population in the region,” Deby said while on a trip to Sila. “We must disarm all the civilians who have weapons in their hands,” he continued.

Eastern Chad is in the grip of a cycle of violence between nomadic camel herders and sedentary farmers from the Ouaddian community. Herders have for decades moved their livestock through the Ouaddai region in rotations between summer and winter pastures.

Most of the herders’ animals belong to the president’s Zaghawa ethnic group, and the farmers say they often escape censure when unrest breaks out between the two sides. Similar conflicts between herders and farmers erupt in other African countries, notably Nigeria.

Drought and population growth have aggravated the conflict, while an influx of weapons from conflict-stricken neighbours have made it even more deadly. Deby earlier this month blamed the surge in violence partly fon an influx of guns to the former French colony from conflict zones in neighbouring Libya, Central African Republic and Sudan, where a protest movement ousted the president in April.

“The government has created special disarmament units. We take away the weapons, but the next day more arrives,” he said. The president described the violence as a “national concern”, adding: “We are witnessing a terrible phenomenon.”

“Those with guns are not hesitating to shoot the police. We must wage a total war against those who carry weapons and are killing people,” he said at the time. Legislative elections in Chad are scheduled to take place by the end of the year. They have been postponed several times since 2015 as Deby, who got into power in 1990, looks to maintain his rule of the country.

Deby hinted in June that military courts may be reintroduced in a bid to curb unrest, a suggestion denounced by the country’s opposition. Military justice, applied to civilians as well as the armed forces, was abolished in Chad in 1993. In 2016, the country also scrapped the death penalty, except for “terrorism”

Deby said the decades-long conflict over land in Ouaddai had spread since the start of this year to other regions where previously the communities lived side by side in an “exemplary” manner. He cited Sila where he said more than 40 people had been killed since January.

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