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Six killed in Sudan after agreement on ruling body

Demonstrators converged on the military complex last month seeking the army’s help in ousting Bashir.

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A Sudanese man waves a banner showing the national flag colours as protesters gather and chant slogans at the protest outside the army headquarters in the capital Khartoum

Five Sudanese protesters and an army major were shot dead Monday in the capital, hours after protest leaders and the ruling generals reached a breakthrough agreement on transitional authorities to run the country.

The latest developments came as the prosecutor general’s office said ousted president Omar al-Bashir had been charged over the killings of protesters during anti-regime demonstrations that led to the end of his rule last month.

The major and a protester were killed at a sit-in outside the army headquarters in Khartoum where thousands of protesters remain camped for weeks, demanding that the army generals who took power after ousting Bashir step down.

Three soldiers and several protesters and civilians were also wounded when “unidentified elements” fired shots at the Khartoum sit-in, the ruling military council said.

A doctors’ committee linked to the protest movement later said four more protesters had been shot dead, but did not specify if they were actually killed at the sit-in.

The military council said in a late night press conference that it had “noticed some armed infiltrators among the protesters”.

The umbrella protest movement the Alliance for Freedom and Change said Monday’s violence was to “disturb the breakthrough in the negotiations” with army generals as it blamed the bloodshed on the former regime’s militias.

Earlier on Monday, the generals and the protest movement said a breakthrough had been reached in their talks over handing of power to a civilian administration.

“At today’s meeting we agreed on the structure of the authorities and their powers,” Taha Osman, a spokesman for the protest movement, told AFP.

“The authorities are as follows — the sovereign council, the cabinet and the legislative body,” he said.

Osman said another meeting would be held on Tuesday “to discuss the period of transition and the composition of the authorities”.

Talks to continue Tuesday

The military council confirmed an accord had been reached.

“We agreed on forming the transitional authority on all three levels — the sovereign, the executive and the legislative,” council spokesman Lieutenant General Shamseddine Kabbashi told reporters.

“Tomorrow we will continue to discuss the percentage of participation… and the transitional period.”

The generals insist the transitional period should be two years, while protesters want it to be four years.

The crucial talks between the two sides follow a deadlock in negotiations.

The apparent breakthrough came as Sudan’s acting prosecutor general Al-Waleed Sayyed Ahmed said Bashir “and others have been charged for inciting and participating in the killing of demonstrators”.

The charges form part of an investigation into the death of a medic killed during a protest in the capital’s eastern district of Burri, his office said in a statement.

Ninety people were killed in protest-related violence after demonstrations initially erupted in December, the doctors’ committee said last month.

The official death toll is 65.

Mass protests which drove Bashir from office on April 11 are still being held outside the army headquarters, vowing to force the military council to cede power.

Prior to Monday’s talks, dozens of protesters blocked Nile Street, a major avenue in the city, for the second consecutive day, an AFP correspondent reported.

Pressing their demand for a handover to civilian rule, protesters also blocked a road leading to the capital’s northern district of Bahari.

Three protesters were wounded by “live ammunition” when security personnel tried to dismantle blockades put by demonstrators in parts of the capital, the doctors’ committee said.

“We reject using force against the civilians … we are calling on the military council to take its responsibility in protecting the peaceful protesters,” the Alliance for Freedom and Change said.

‘Optimistic atmosphere’

Following a deadlock in negotiations, the protest alliance on Saturday said the army generals had invited the movement for a new round of talks.

The generals in earlier talks had proposed the new council be led by the military, while the protest leaders want a majority civilian body.

Late last month, the alliance — which brings together protest organisers, opposition parties and rebel groups — handed the generals its proposals for a civilian-led transitional government.

But the generals pointed to what they call “many reservations” over the alliance’s roadmap.

They have singled out its silence on the constitutional position of Islamic sharia law, which was the guiding principle of all legislation under Bashir’s rule.

Demonstrators converged on the military complex last month seeking the army’s help in ousting Bashir.

Days later the army ousted the veteran leader, but a 10-member military council took power and demonstrators have kept up their sit-in against the generals.

Although crowds have dwindled during the day due to the scorching heat, protesters gather in their thousands after breaking the daytime fast during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

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Botswana suspends elephant hunting ban

Landlocked Botswana has the largest elephant population in Africa, with more than 135,000 roaming freely

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Botswana suspends elephant hunting ban
African savanna elephant (Loxodonta africana), around a water hole, Nxai pan national park, Bostwana. Biosphoto / Sylvain Cordier

Botswana on Wednesday lifted its ban on elephant hunting, saying the population had increased and farmers’ livelihoods were being impacted, in a move set to trigger outrage from conservationists.

A prohibition on elephant hunting was introduced in the country in 2014 by then-president Ian Khama, a keen environmentalist.

But lawmakers from the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) have been lobbying to overturn the ban, saying numbers have become unmanageably large in some areas.

President Mokgweetsi Masisi took over from Khama last year and a public review began five months later, with reports suggesting growing political friction between Masisi and his predecessor.

“Botswana has taken a decision to lift the hunting suspension,” the environment ministry said in a statement.

It said a cabinet committee review that found that “the number and high levels of human-elephant conflict and the consequent impact on livelihoods was increasing”.

“The general consensus from those consulted was that the hunting ban should be lifted,” it added, vowing that hunting would be re-started “in an orderly and ethical manner”.

Landlocked Botswana has the largest elephant population in Africa, with more than 135,000 roaming freely in its unfenced parks and wide open spaces.

Some experts say the number of elephants in the country, renowned as a luxury safari destination, has almost tripled over the last 30 years, and that the population could now be over 160,000.

Crops destroyed –

Farmers struggle to keep elephants out of their fields where they eat crops and can kill people.

Lifting the hunting ban could be a popular move with rural voters ahead of an election due in October.

Many of Botswana’s elephants roam across borders into Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

All four countries have called for a global ban on elephant ivory trade to be relaxed due to the growing number of the animals in some regions.

“We cannot continue to be spectators while others debate and take decisions about our elephants,” Masisi told a meeting of the countries’ presidents this month in Botswana.

“Conflict between elephants and people is on the rise as the demand for land for agriculture and settlements is growing,” he said.

While elephant numbers have increased in some areas, over the past decade, the population of elephants across Africa has fallen by about 111,000 to 415,000, largely due to poaching for ivory, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Zimbabwe said this month it had sold nearly 100 elephants to China and Dubai for a total price of $2.7 million over six years due to overpopulation.

Botswana last year rejected claims by a leading conservation charity that there had been a surge of elephant poaching.

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Kenyan High Court due to pass rule on homosexuality

Activists believe Kenya has a chance to blaze a trail in Africa.

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Kenyan court. (File photo)

Kenya’s High Court is on Friday expected to deliver a long-awaited ruling on whether to scrap colonial-era laws which criminalise homosexuality in the country.

However, the LGBT community fears yet another postponement. In February, the three-judge bench pushed back its decision, citing a heavy workload, prompting dismay from a persecuted community who have fought for years to be accepted.

“There are a lot of mixed emotions around this because people are just wary of the fact that it could be postponed yet again,” Brian Macharia of the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya (GALCK), one of the petitioners, told AFP.

“Everyone is just hopeful and we recognise that things could go either way.”

Gay rights organisations are asking the court to scrap two sections of the penal code that criminalises homosexuality.

One section states that anyone who has “carnal knowledge… against the order of nature” can be imprisoned for 14 years. Another provides for a five-year jail term for “indecent practices between males”.

Activists believe Kenya has a chance to blaze a trail in Africa where homophobia is virulent in many communities, with similar laws in over half the countries on the continent.

While convictions under the decades-old laws are rare, gay activists say the legislation is unconstitutional and fuels homophobia.

The National Gay And Lesbian Human Rights Commission says it dealt with 15 prosecutions under the laws in 2018, with no convictions recorded.

‘Unimaginable harm’ –

The petitioners argue that under Kenya’s 2010 constitution, every person is said to be equal before the law.

However, members of the LGBT community are blackmailed, evicted, fired, expelled from school, or assaulted over their sexual orientation, but are unable to access justice without effectively confessing to a crime.

“LGBTQ people in Kenya for years and years have faced and suffered violence and harm in unimaginable ways, but justice has not been afforded to them because of the penal code,” said Macharia.

Activists are optimistic of an eventual ruling in their favour, given recent decisions by the court.

In March, the High Court banned forced anal testing of men suspected of being gay.

And in September, a court ruled that “Rafiki” (“Friend”), a film about a lesbian love affair which was the first Kenyan movie to be shown at the Cannes film festival, could be screened domestically for seven days after its initial banning.

Macharia said Kenya’s powerful churches had been holding special events in the leadup to the ruling to fight what they term “the LGBT agenda”.

“The church is spreading a lot of hatred, a lot of misinformation,” he said.

The petition is being fought by an association of Catholics, Protestants and evangelicals.

Twenty-eight out of 49 countries in sub-Saharan Africa have laws penalising same-sex relationships, according to Neela Ghoshal, a Human Rights Watch (HRW) specialist in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights.

The death penalty is on the books, under Islamic sharia law, in Mauritania, Sudan and northern Nigeria, although there have been no known executions in recent times. In southern Somalia, gay men are believed to have been put to death in territory ruled by the Al-Shabaab jihadist group.

Angola, Mozambique and Seychelles have scrapped anti-gay laws in recent years.

On the other hand, Chad and Uganda have introduced or toughened legislation.

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Kenyan writer and rights activist, Binyavanga Wainaina dies aged 48

He died just days before Kenya’s High Court was expected to deliver a long-awaited ruling on whether to abolish colonial-era anti-gay laws.

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Kenyan writer, Binyavanga Wainaina dies aged 48 | News Central TV
Kenyan author Binyavanga Wainaina looks on during an interview with the AFP, in Nairobi. - Internationally-renowned Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina has died aged 48, his publishing house said on May 22, 2019. (Photo by Simon MAINA / AFP)

Internationally-renowned Kenyan writer, Binyavanga Wainaina, whose high-profile coming out in a country that criminalises homosexuality made him a revered figure for gay rights in Africa, has died aged 48, his publishing house said Wednesday.

The celebrated author came to world prominence with the Caine Prize for African Writing in 2002.

He died just days before Kenya’s High Court was expected to deliver a long-awaited ruling on whether to abolish colonial-era anti-gay laws.

“He passed on some time last night,” Tom Maliti, the chairman of the Kwani Trust, a Nairobi-based publishing house founded by Wainaina, told AFP.

Wainaina had suffered a stroke in 2015 and was living with HIV.

His brother, James told Capital News that condolences were pouring in from around the globe.

“We lost Ken last night. We are grieving the loss… but Ken was an incredible person, with an incredible wit,” he said.

“The wound is still fresh, but we have received an outpouring of messages, from the people across the world, we are greatly comforted by them.”

At times faced with opposition in his native Kenya, where same-sex relationships are outlawed, Wainaina sparked huge debate in 2014 with his bombshell short story entitled “I am a Homosexual, Mum”. 

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