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Mopti’s regional governor sacked after Mali massacre

The government, referring to the risk of another turn in the cycle of violence, also urged local people “not to fall into the trap of guilt by association and revenge”

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Mopti's regional governor sacked after Mali massacre
Mali's President, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. (Photo by LUDOVIC MARIN / AFP)

The Malian government on Wednesday sacked the governor of the central Mopti region following a village massacre in which 35 people died. Three days of national mourning would also be held “in homage to the victims of the terrorist attack perpetrated on June 10, 2019, against the population of Sobane Da village,” President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita said in a statement read out on public television.

“Drawing lessons from this tragedy, the cabinet had dismissed Mopti’s regional governor,” General Sidi Alassane Toure added in the statement. Twenty-four of the dead were children, the government said earlier in a statement which added that six people had been detained “following routine checks”.

Authorities revised the death toll down to 35 from an estimated 95. In another incident Wednesday, an attack on villages of the Dogon ethnic group in the south of country claimed at least two lives, with several others wounded, a local official and a Malian security source said.

Gunmen late Sunday surrounded the village of Sobane Da, in a Dogon enclave, killing inhabitants and torching homes in a seven-hour assault, survivors said. The killings stirred fears of tit-for-tat violence in the region, an ethnic patchwork where tensions have soared since the emergence of a violent jihadist-led movement in 2015.

The government had given a provisional figure of 95 dead and 19 people missing. That toll was based on early information from soldiers and the district mayor who visited the village, which is also known as Sobane-Kou. But by Monday night there was some doubt and the revised figure was confirmed the following day, officials said.

“This number is based on a painstaking count carried out by a team comprising officials from the (Malian) civil protection force, forensic doctors (and) the public prosecutor of Mopti” region, Wednesday’s statement said. About a hundred women had succeeded in fleeing to the village of Koundo, and this was one of the causes of the confusion, it said.

The government, referring to the risk of another turn in the cycle of violence, also urged local people “not to fall into the trap of guilt by association and revenge”.

Trouble in the region

Ethnic violence in central Mali surged after a predominantly Fulani jihadist group led by preacher Amadou Koufa emerged in 2015. On May 16, the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, MINUSMA, announced it had recorded “at least 488 deaths” in attacks on Fulanis in the central regions of Mopti and Segou since January 2018.

Armed Fulanis “caused 63 deaths” among civilians in the Mopti region over the same timespan, it said. In the bloodiest raid, about 160 Fulani villagers were slaughtered on March 23 at Ogossagou, near the border with Burkina Faso, by suspected Dogon hunters.

The Fulani are primarily cattle breeders and traders, while the Bambara and Dogon are traditionally sedentary farmers. In the heart of the Sahel, Mali is one of the world’s poorest countries. Unrest in the volatile central region coincides with an ongoing jihadist campaign that the Mali government is struggling to contain, despite military support from France and UN peacekeepers.

Falling trust in the government

Analysts said public confidence in the government had slumped, spurring the creation of so-called self-defence groups. “The militias, rightly or wrongly, were created to respond to a need for security among people who no longer have any trust, or very little, in the effectiveness of the institutional responses,” said Baba Dakono of the Institute for Security Studies(ISS), a think tank in Bamako.

An expert working for an aid group in France, speaking on condition of anonymity, criticised the government for a response that had been “above all repressive”, especially towards the Fulani community. The military, he added, had been deployed about 20 kilometres (12 miles) from the massacre yet had been unable to prevent it.

“They are facing enemies who take multiple forms and the threats are pretty much everywhere. They are rather overwhelmed,” he said. In a separate development on Wednesday, the French military said three people were killed in northern Mali when a French counter-terror unit opened fire on a vehicle that failed to halt for inspection.

The incident took place on Saturday west of Timbuktu, one of three northern Malian towns that were recaptured by French and Malian forces in 2013 but which is still periodically attacked by jihadists.

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South Africa’s openly HIV-positive judge retires

Edwin Cameron, 66, won widespread praise for spearheading the fight for people with HIV two decades ago

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South Africa's openly HIV-positive judge retires
Edwin Cameron. (AFP)

A South African Constitutional Court judge and gay rights activist who openly disclosed his HIV status retired on Tuesday.

Edwin Cameron, 66, who hung up his gown after 25 years of serving as a judge, won widespread praise for spearheading the fight for people with HIV two decades ago when the infection rapidly spread under what he called the “AIDS denialism” of the then South African President, Thabo Mbeki.

He revealed his status in 1999 more than a decade after he contracted the virus.

He stirred up the 2000 International AIDS Conference in Durban with a speech detailing his own infection and how he was fortunate to be able to afford to buy antiretrovirals when treatment was so expensive and only accessible to the well-heeled.

“I have survived a pandemic many have perished living under,” he said at a special Constitutional Court sitting held in his honour in Johannesburg.

South Africa has one of the highest rates of HIV infection in the world — 19 per cent according to the UN AIDS agency — with more than seven million people living with the virus.

The country now has the largest state-sponsored anti-retroviral programme in the world, serving 2.5 million people.

Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng paid tribute to Cameron as “a brave and bold man” and for his catalytic role in mobilising authorities to roll out a mass ARV programme.

“When HIV and AIDS attracted stigma, he stood up and declared openly: ‘I am HIV positive’.”

“He could have chosen to mind his own business and care less about (others but) for the sake of the suffering masses, he not only spoke, but he acted.”

Openly gay, Cameron “helped secure the express inclusion of sexual orientation in the South African Constitution,” according to his official profile.

In 2006, South Africa became the sole African nation to allow gay marriage and it has become a haven for African homosexuals who flee persecution at home.

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Police, soldiers deployed to prevent banned march in Zimbabwe’s Bulawayo city

Soldiers and armed police on horseback and in trucks were seen patrolling the central business district

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Police, soldiers deployed to prevent banned march in Zimbabwe's Bulawayo city
Zimbabwean anti-riot police patrol the streets of Harare. (Photo by Jekesai NJIKIZANA / AFP)

Troops and police were out in force in Zimbabwe’s second city of Bulawayo on Monday to prevent a planned opposition march, days after brutally dispersing a similar banned protest in Harare.

Soldiers and armed police on horseback and in trucks were seen patrolling the central business district and most of the high-density suburbs. 

Using a loudhailer, police warned people against joining the demonstration, called to protest deteriorating economic conditions.

One of the city’s usually busy areas, the precincts of Tredgold Magistrate Courts, where illegal forex changers ply their trade, was cordoned off by police.

Police have also set up checkpoints on most roads leading to the city centre.

Zimbabwean police banned the protests organised by the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) after they violently dispersed protesters who had defied a similar order in Harare on Friday. 

The MDC is challenging the ban in court.

READ: Zimbabwean police fire tear gas to dispel opposition protesters

The protesters are angry over the country’s floundering economy and the jailing of a well-known government critic, tribal chief Felix Ndiweni. 

The chief who is highly revered in the western Matabeleland region of the country, was last week jailed for 18 months for allegedly destroying a villager’s property.

Police fired teargas and beat up several demonstrators in Harare on Friday after they gathered in a square where the protest had originally been scheduled to start.

Friday’s protests were the first since President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s decision to hike fuel prices by more than 100 per cent sparked nationwide demonstrations in January which left at least 17 people dead and several injured when soldiers opened fire.

Mnangagwa took over from long-time ruler Robert Mugabe, and then won disputed elections in July last year vowing to revive the economy.

But Zimbabweans say things have gone from bad to worse with shortages of bread, fuel, medicines and other goods and the skyrocketing cost of living. 

According to the UN, about five million Zimbabweans, or a third of the population, are in need of food aid.

“We are deeply concerned by the socio-economic crisis that continues to unfold in Zimbabwe, the UN Human Rights spokesman Rupert Colville said in Geneva on Friday. 

“We urge the Government to find ways to engage with protesters, and to refrain from the use of violence”, it further stated.

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Teenager with albinism found dismembered in Burundi

The teenager was found dead late Saturday in the northwest of the country along the Rusizi river

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Burundi teenager with Albinism found dismembered

15-year-old teen with albinism found dismembered one week after going missing

Case is first of such killing in Burundi for 3 years

Over 20 Burundians with albinism have been killed since 2008

A 15-year-old albino boy has been found dismembered in Burundi a week after going missing, the first such killing in the country in three years, a local albino group said Sunday. Albinos, who have white skin and yellow hair as a result of a genetic disorder that causes the absence of pigmentation, are killed regularly in some African countries for their body parts, which are used in witchcraft rituals. 

The teenager was found dead late Saturday in the northwest of the country along the Rusizi river separating Burundi from DR Congo, not far from his home village.

“The young albino was killed atrociously… His murderers cut his right leg off at the knee, his right arm and his tongue,” said Kassim Kazungu, the head of the local association Albinos Without Borders.

More than 20 albinos have been killed in Burundi since 2008, with the last case in 2016 when a five-year-old girl was found dismembered after being taken from her home. Kazungu said a four-year-old albino boy had been missing since October 2018 from the village of Cendajuri near the Tanzanian border, but that he had “no hope” of finding him alive.

Some experts believe the demand for albino body parts in Tanzania – where such attacks are the most prevalent – has fuelled such killings in border areas.

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