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Ethiopian army chief, regional president shot dead in Amhara coup attempt

Ethiopia’s army chief was shot dead by his bodyguard just hours after an attempted coup in Amhara state left the regional president dead

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Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said on June 22, 2019 that the army chief of staff had been shot, however his condition was unknown after an evening of unrest

Ethiopia’s army chief was shot dead by his bodyguard just hours after an attempted coup in Amhara state left the regional president and another top adviser dead, a spokeswoman for the prime minister said Sunday.

The spokeswoman Billene Seyoum told journalists a “hit squad” led by Amhara’s security chief Asaminew Tsige burst into a meeting on Saturday afternoon, injuring regional president Ambachew Mekonnen and another top official who both died of their wounds.

Later that evening in what appeared a “co-ordinated attack”, army chief Seare Mekonnen, and a retired general who was visiting him, were killed by his bodyguard, said Billene.

The coup attempt was orchestrated by Amhara’s top general, General Asamnew Tsige, the country’s media is reporting.

Ambachew Mekonnen and his adviser were attacked and killed in their offices on Saturday, reports said, adding that General Tsige, Amhara’s head of security, was the leader of the putsch. Amhara is one of nine regional states in Ethiopia.

Earlier, prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, announced Ethiopia’s army chief of staff had been shot as the government thwarted the attempted coup. Abiy took to national television in the early hours of the morning dressed in military fatigues to make the announcement about Seare Mekonnen.

The internet was cut in Ethiopia and more details were not immediately available.

The US embassy issued alerts about reported gunfire in the capital, Addis Ababa, and violence around Amhara’s main city, Bahir Dar.

“The embassy is aware of reports of gunfire in Addis Ababa. Chief of mission personnel are advised to shelter in place,” the embassy said in one of its two alerts.

Earlier, Abiy’s office announced that an attempted coup had taken place in Amhara, one of nine autonomous regions in the country. A statement from his office did not give details on who was believed responsible for the attack.

“The coup attempt in Amhara regional state is against the constitution and is intended to scupper the hard-won peace of the region,” said the statement.

“This illegal attempt should be condemned by all Ethiopians and the federal government has full capacity to overpower this armed group.”

No details were given of the targets of the attack in the second-most populous state in the country, headed by Ambachew Mekonen as regional president.

A journalist in the regional capital, Bahir Dar, told AFP shooting had begun shortly after sunset and continued for several hours. The coup attempt comes a year after a grenade explosion at a rally Abiy was addressing left two people dead.

Since coming to power in April 2018 after two years of anti-government unrest, Abiy has been hailed for his efforts to end the iron-fisted rule of his predecessors.

He has embarked on economic reforms, allowed dissident groups back into the country, sought to crack down on rights abuses and arrested dozens of top military and intelligence officials.

He also sealed a peace deal with neighbouring Eritrea. But he has battled a surge in tensions between ethnic groups in the diverse country – usually over land and resources – leading to deadly violence in the nation of more than 100 million people.

More than a million people have been displaced by the ethnic clashes, which analysts attribute to multiple causes, such as the weakening of the once all-powerful ruling EPRDF and different groups trying to take advantage of opportunities presented by the political transition.

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Kenya becomes 3rd country to adopt world’s first malaria vaccine, RTS,S

Kenya, which joins Malawi and Ghana, earlier this year, commenced their own pilot vaccination programmes supported by the WHO

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Kenya becomes 3rd country to adopt world's first malaria vaccine, RTS,S

Kenya on Friday became the third country to start routinely innoculating infants against malaria, using the world’s first vaccine to combat a disease that kills 800 children globally every day.

The vaccine — RTS,S — targets the deadliest and most common form of malaria parasite in Africa, where children under five account for two-thirds of all global deaths from the mosquito-born illness.

Kenya, which is rolling-out RTS,S in the western county of Homa Bay, joins Malawi and Ghana, which, earlier this year, commenced their own pilot vaccination programmes supported by the World Health Organization (WHO).

“This is the most advanced malaria vaccine that we have today. It has been in the making for the last almost three decades,” Dr Richard Mihigo, WHO’s co-ordinator of immunisation and vaccine development programme, told reporters before the Kenyan launch, which will expand to other malaria-prone areas of the country.

“Children are the most vulnerable group to this severe disease that is malaria, so protecting children can make a big impact in preventing malaria.”

The vaccine will be added in these pilot areas to the other routine shots given to young children under national immunisation schedules.

RTS,S acts against ‘Plasmodium falciparum’, the deadliest form of malaria, and the most prevalent in Africa, where illness and death from the disease remains high despite some gains.

The shots, administered over four doses, have been shown in clinical trials to significantly reduce cases of malaria, and malaria-related complications, in young children.

The vaccine prevented about 4 in 10 cases of malaria and three in 10 cases of the most severe, life-threatening form of the disease, within the trial group, WHO says.

RTS,S will be considered for use more broadly as a tool to fight malaria, alongside other preventative measures such as long-lasting insecticidal nets.

The disease kills more than 400,000 people around the world every year. Of these about 290,000 were children under five. 

WHO says a child dies roughly every two minutes from malaria somewhere in the world. 

Most of these are in Africa, where more than 90 per cent of the world’s malaria cases — and fatalities — occur.

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Rwanda agrees to receive African migrants stranded in Libya

The first group “is principally made up of people originating from the Horn of Africa,” the AU and the UN said in a statement

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Rwanda agrees to receive African migrants stranded in Libya
Rwanda's President Paul Kagame. (Photo by Cyril NDEGEYA / AFP)

Rwanda agreed Tuesday to take in hundreds and potentially thousands of African migrants stranded in Libya, a deal the African Union hopes to replicate with other member states.

“We will be receiving the initial number of 500 in a few weeks,” Hope Tumukunde Gasatura, Rwanda’s ambassador to the AU, told a news conference after signing a memorandum of understanding alongside representatives of the AU and the UN refugee agency UNHCR.

The first group “is principally made up of people originating from the Horn of Africa,” the AU and the UN said in a statement.

They will be housed in a transit centre in Rwanda before being resettled elsewhere unless they agree to return to their home countries.

In the chaos that followed the fall and killing of former dictator Muammar Gaddafi in a 2011 uprising, Libya became a key transit point for sub-Saharan African migrants seeking to embark on dangerous journeys to Europe.

The UN says some 42,000 migrants are currently in Libya.

“We have been desperately searching for solutions for those people,” said Cosmas Chanda, UNHCR’s representative to the AU at the news conference in Addis Ababa, the seat of the pan-African body.

The Rwandan government is prepared to take in as many as 30,000 Africans from Libya, though the plan is for the process to unfold in batches of 500 to prevent the country from becoming overwhelmed.

“Fewer countries around the world are more than prepared to admit refugees,” Chanda said.

Rwandan President, Paul Kagame first offered to take in Africans stuck in Libya back in November 2017, the same month a CNN report showed what appeared to be a slave market there.

The issue took on new urgency in July when more than 40 people were killed in an air strike on a migrant detention centre in the Libyan town of Tajoura.

The Rwandan government is prepared to take in as many as 30,000 Africans from Libya, though the plan is for the process to unfold in batches of 500 to prevent the country from becoming overwhelmed. 

Lessons from Niger –

The UN has been criticised for its handling of a transit mechanism for evacuees from Libya established in 2017 on the other side of the continent, in Niger.

The facilities there have struggled with overcrowding and the slow processing of asylum applications.

Rwandan and UN officials “have learned from the Niger experience and we have fine-tuned the procedure,” Chanda said.

“The process is going to be very lengthy,” he said, however.

Tumukunde Gasatura, the Rwandan ambassador, said refugees and asylum-seekers would be housed in facilities that have previously been used for Burundian refugees fleeing that country’s political crisis in 2015.

The AU hailed the deal with Rwanda as an example of African governments stepping up to solve the continent’s problems.

“It is a historical moment because Africans are extending their hands to other Africans,” said Amira Elfadil, the AU’s social affairs commissioner.

“We kept on talking about finding durable solutions. My belief is this is part of the durable solutions.”

Officials hope that other African countries will offer similar assistance, though Elfadil said so far none have been forthcoming.

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Pope Francis ends three-nation Africa tour in Mauritius

The Pope will celebrate mass at the Mary Queen of Peace Monument, the same hillside location where John Paul II celebrated in 1989

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Pope Francis ends three-nation Africa tour in Mauritius
Pope Francis waves as he arrives prior to leading a mass at the Monument of Mary Queen of Peace, Port Louis, Mauritius, on September 9, 2019. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP)

Pope Francis arrived in Mauritius on Monday on the final stop of a three-nation Africa tour where he is expected to celebrate the diversity and tolerance of one of the continent’s richest, most stable nations.

Thousands of faithful gathered in the capital Port-Louis, some before dawn, waiting for the Argentine pontiff to address the Indian Ocean island, a melting pot of religions and ethnic groups.

The Pope will celebrate mass at the Mary Queen of Peace Monument, the same hillside location where John Paul II celebrated the eucharist during the last papal visit to Mauritius in 1989.

READ: Pope Francis begins Africa tour in Mozambique

“More than 3,500 of us came from Reunion” island — about 175 kilometres — from Mauritius, said Josette, who is among those awaiting the Pope.

Giant screens have been put up in Port Louis to allow devotees to watch the papal mass, and billboards adorned with Francis’ image have sprung up across the coastal city.

Pope Francis ends three-nation Africa tour in Mauritius
Pope Francis (R) arrives at the Port Louis airport, Mauritius, on September 9, 2019, on the final stop of an Africa tour. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP)

“It is very important for us to meet the Pope. It is an occasion,” said Genevieve, 47, from Mauritius.

Mauritius comprises four volcanic islands and lies roughly 1,800 kilometres off the eastern coast of Africa.

The population of 1.3 million is predominantly Hindu but has sizeable Christian and Muslim minorities.

About 30 per cent of Mauritius is Christian, with most being Catholic.

The island nation was briefly colonised by the Dutch, French and the British and since independence in 1968, has developed from a poor, agriculture-based economy, to one of Africa’s wealthiest nations.

It is best known for its position as a global tax haven and idyllic tourist beach destination.

The Pope is on the last stop of his tour which has taken him to Mozambique and Madagascar.

Mauritian Prime Minister Pravind Kumar Jugnauth said the Pope would encounter a “true model of pluralism” during his visit.

READ: Pope Francis arrives Madagascar during three-nation tour

“Our cultural diversity has never prevented us from creating an environment conducive to dialogue, understanding and peace,” he said.

“It will not be a visit of Pope Francis to the Catholics but to the Mauritian people in all its religious diversity,” said Cardinal Maurice Piat, Bishop of Port Louis, ahead of the papal visit.

Francis’ visit coincides with the 155th anniversary of the death of Father Jacques Desire Laval, a French priest who died in Mauritius in 1864 and was beatified in 1979. 

Pope Francis ends three-nation Africa tour in Mauritius
Pope Francis (C) arrives prior to leading a mass at the Monument of Mary Queen of Peace, Port Louis, Mauritius, on September 9, 2019. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP)

The Pope will visit the mausoleum of Laval, known as the “Apostle of Mauritius” for his missionary work.

Every year about 100,000 pilgrims visit the tomb of Laval, northeast of Port Louis, on the night of September 8-9, to commemorate his death.

This year, it was brought forward to September 7-8 to accommodate the Pope’s visit.

READ: Pope Francis to tour Madagascar in locally-made Karenjy popemobile

The pontiff will also visit the official residence of President Barlen Vyapoory, whose role is largely titular, and will also meet with Jugnauth. 

Mauritius has begun planting some 200,000 trees ahead of the Pope’s visit. It is expected Francis will be offering a blessing for the island’s natural environment.

According to the World Bank, one of the greatest challenges for the island is adapting to the effects of climate change — which has worsened tropical storms and floods affecting it.

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