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Militia amnesty peace talks in CAR stumble

These talks come after seven previous rounds failed to reach a lasting agreement.

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Anti-Balaka militia members rest in the outskirts of Bambari - AFP

The Central African Republic’s government and armed militias who control most of the country held more peace talks on Wednesday but an amnesty proposal is impeding progress, sources close to the negotiations say.

Crisis began in the Central African Republic in 2012 after violence erupted from a mainly Muslim rebel insurgency known as the Seleka that sparked the creation of rival Christian militias known as the anti-Balaka.

The new talks, which started last week with senior CAR officials and rebel chiefs in the Sudanese capital Khartoum, came after seven previous rounds failed to reach a lasting agreement.

Talks have focussed since Monday on the demands of the 14 armed groups, notably the formation of a unity government and the amnesty proposal for warlords, national television TVCA reported.

CAR authorities have always rejected an amnesty for militia commanders, many of whom face UN sanctions or human rights accusations.

“After a detailed review of a draft peace proposal we realise that the fundamental and key points of our demands have not been taken into account,” one anti-Balaka militia representative told AFP.

A representative of the FPRC, the country’s largest armed group, said that as the talks currently stand, “we will be rejecting the deal and everyone will be going home.”

Sudanese authorities say the talks in Khartoum could last up to three weeks.

Antibalaka fighters walk in Gambo, southeast Central African Republic, on August 16, 2017. (Photo by ALEXIS HUGUET / AFP)

CAR’s crisis deepened in March 2013, after a power-sharing deal with the government collapsed, and the Seleka entered the capital Bangui to force president Francois Bozize, a Christian, from power.

Former colonial ruler France intervened militarily under a UN mandate, pushing the Seleka from power, and President Faustin-Archange Touadera was elected in February 2016.

But his government controls only a fraction of the state, despite the support of more than 13,000 troops and police in the UN’s MINUSCA mission.

Most of CAR is in the hands of militias, who often portray themselves as defenders of their own religious group but fight turf wars over cattle or mineral wealth, including gold, uranium and diamonds.

Thousands of people have been killed and a quarter of the population of 4.5 million have fled their homes because of the violence.

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Malawi’s parliament elects opposition MP as first-ever female speaker

Catherine Gotani Hara from the opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) gathered 97 votes to defeat her opponent from the ruling party

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Malawi's parliament elects opposition MP as first-ever female speaker
Newly elected speaker of Malawi parliament, Catherine Gotani Hara.

History has been made in Malawi as lawmakers on Wednesday elected a female member of parliament as speaker for the first time in the country’s history.

Catherine Gotani Hara from the opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) gathered 97 votes against 93 of Esther Mcheka Chilenje of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

The Malawian parliament which has 193 seats, was dissolved in March this year, ahead of the fresh elections held on 21st May.

After announcement of the voting results, Eisenhower Mkaka, MCP lawmaker and party spokesperson said; “the victory of Hara as first-ever female speaker of parliament is what every Malawian hoped for. Her election should encourage women that if you invest in girls, they can also become leaders.”  

Viwemi Chavula, who is the team leader of the 50-50 campaign, a consortium of civil rights group which campaigns for 50% representation of women in public offices, has described Hara’s election into office as a milestone for Malawi.

“It has been our aim to increase women’s representation in leadership and decision making positions. The election of the first female speaker of parliament is a huge achievement for Malawi,” Chavula said.

Hara has previously held several ministerial positions including that of health and gender under Joyce Banda, Malawi’s first women president.

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Morsi: Egyptian authorities accuse UN of trying to “politicise a case of natural death”

The spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights had called for an independent investigation into Morsi’s death

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Morsi: Egyptian authorities accuse UN of trying to "politicise a case of natural death"
A man hangs a poster of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi. (Photo by - / AFP)

Egypt accused the United Nations on Wednesday of seeking to “politicise” the death of the country’s first democratically elected president Mohamed Morsi by calling for an “independent inquiry”.

Foreign ministry spokesman, Ahmed Hafez said he condemned “in the strongest terms” the call by the spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Rupert Colville, for an independent investigation into Morsi’s death during a court hearing on Monday. 

Related: Jailed Egyptian ex-president Morsi dies after collapsing in court

Hafez said it was a “deliberate attempt to politicise a case of natural death.”

Colville called Tuesday for a probe into whether the conditions Morsi faced during his nearly six years in custody had contributed to his death.

“Any sudden death in custody must be followed by a prompt, impartial, thorough and transparent investigation carried out by an independent body to clarify the cause of death,” he said.

“Concerns have been raised regarding the conditions of Mr. Morsi’s detention, including access to adequate medical care, as well as sufficient access to his lawyers and family,” Colville added.  

People hold picture of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi during a symbolic funeral ceremony on June 18, 2019 at Fatih mosque in Istanbul. (Photo by – / AFP)

Related: Mohammed Morsi, former Egypt’s president laid to rest in Cairo

He said the investigation must “encompass all aspects of the authorities’ treatment of Mr. Morsi to examine whether the conditions of his detention had an impact on his death.”

Morsi was toppled by then army chief, now President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in 2013 after a single divisive year in power. He was later charged with an array of offences including espionage.

Related: Morsi’s death: Timeline of events in Egypt since 2011 post-Mubarak era

Since his ouster, authorities have waged an ongoing crackdown on dissent of all kinds that has seen thousands of Brotherhood supporters jailed and hundreds facing death sentences.

A group of British parliamentarians in March 2018 warned Morsi’s detention conditions, particularly inadequate treatment for his diabetes and liver disease, could trigger “premature death”. 

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Tunisia fishermen are the lifesavers of the Mediterranean

Fishermen from Zarzis have saved the lives of hundreds of migrants in recent years,

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Tunisian fishermen are finding themselves more and more involved in rescuing illegal boats leaving Libya for Italy,

The Tunisian trawler radioed in for help as it passed the migrant boat in distress out at sea. But with the packed craft still adrift two days later, captain Chamseddine Bourassine took direct action. Fishermen from Tunisia are spending more and more time pulling in stranded migrants after a sharp decline in humanitarian and European naval patrols along the stretch of water between war-wracked Libya and Italy.

Bourassine, his crew and three other fishing boats ferried the 69 migrants back to shore on May 11, five days after their boat pushed off from Zuwara on the western Libyan coast. “The area where we fish is a crossing point” between Zuwara and the Italian island of Lampedusa, said Badreddine Mecherek, a Tunisian fisherman from Zarzis near the border with Libya.

Fishermen from Zarzis have saved the lives of hundreds of migrants in recent years, and as the number of boats leaving western Libya for Europe spikes with the return of calmer summer seas, they will probably have to save even more. “First we warn the authorities, but in the end, we end up saving them ourselves,” Mecherek grumbled as he tinkered with his rusting sardine boat.

European countries in the northern Mediterranean are trying to stem the number of migrants landing on their shores, and the Tunisian navy with its limited resources only rescues boats inside the country’s territorial waters.

Since May 31, Tunisia itself has barred 75 migrants from coming ashore after they were saved in international waters by a Tunisian-Egyptian tug boat. Contacted multiple times by journalists, Tunisian authorities have refused to comment.

Angel

“Everyone has disengaged” from the issue, said Mecherek, adding it was hampering his work. Fishermen who run across migrants on their second day out at sea are at least able to have done a day’s work, he added, “but if we find them on the first night, we have to go back”.

“It’s very complicated to finish the job with people on board.” The complexity of the rescues grows when fishermen find migrants adrift closer to Italy.

When Bourassine and his crew last year tugged a boat towards Lampedusa which was adrift without a motor, they were jailed in Sicily for four weeks for helping the migrants. It took months to recover their boat.

Humanitarian boats and those of the European Union’s “Operation Sophia” anti-piracy force had scooped up most stranded migrants in recent years, but rescue operations dropped in 2019. “Now most often we are the first to arrive… if we aren’t there, the migrants die,” Mecherek said.

On May 10, a Tunisian trawler just barely saved the lives of 16 migrants after they had spent eight hours in the water. Sixty others drowned before the ship arrived.

Survivor Ahmed Sijur said the boat’s appearance at dawn was like that of “an angel”. “I was losing hope myself, but God sent the fishermen to save us,” the 30-year-old from Bangladesh said.

Police of the sea

Mecherek is more worried than proud. “We don’t want to see all these corpses anymore. We want to catch fish, not people,” he said, adding his crew was growing uneasy. “I have 20 seamen on board asking, ‘Who will feed our families?'” he added.

“But local fishermen will never let people die at sea.” For Tunisian Red Crescent official Mongi Slim, the fishermen “are practically the police of the sea”, adding that many migrants say large ships won’t stop to help.

Under pressure to catch their quota during a short annual season, big tuna boats out of Zarzis often call the coast guard instead of stopping themselves to help. “We report the migrants, but we can’t bring them back to shore… We only have a few weeks to fish,” said one crew member. For Chamseddine, the summer months look difficult.

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