Former Malawi Lawmaker Commits Suicide at Parliament

A former high-ranking lawmaker in Malawi committed suicide Thursday afternoon in the country’s parliament building.

Clement Chiwaya, 50, a former second deputy speaker, fatally shot himself in the head with a pistol while inside the National Assembly. Details about what led Chiwaya to kill himself remained sketchy.

The parliament said in a statement that the public would be informed at an appropriate time, as the Malawi Police Service was investigating the incident.

When in office, Chiwaya represented the opposition United Democratic Front.

According to the statement from parliament, Chiwaya recently was involved in a court case regarding his vehicle. The car was in an accident before the transfer of ownership was completed, and the insurance had expired.

Chiwaya sought help from the government’s Office of the Ombudsman, who made a determination in his favor, but Malawi’s High Court set the determination aside.

 

The parliament statement said guards have the proper equipment and protocols to ensure safety in the building. However, Chiwaya’s suicide raised concerns.

Former military officer Sheriff Kaisi, a security expert based in Blantyre, said, “To me, I would say that there is negligence on how security should be provided at high-risk places like parliament. This is a wake-up call in the management of security. There is no way you can manage security in that sense, when you have cameras and detectors.”

Chiwaya had used a wheelchair for a number of years. In its statement, the National Assembly said that while Chiwaya’s entrance had set off alerts when he passed through metal detectors Thursday, the alerts were deemed to be from the wheelchair, and therefore guards did not look for any firearms.

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NY Hospitals Start Firing or Suspending Unvaccinated Health Care Workers

Thousands of health care workers in New York received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine as the deadline for a statewide vaccination mandate neared. Workers at New York hospitals and nursing homes had until Monday to get their first vaccine doses or lose their jobs. More with VOA’s Mariama Diallo.

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US Immigration Agents to More Narrowly Target Migrants for Deportation 

The U.S. government will narrow whom immigration agents target for arrest and deportation, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said on Thursday, in a marked departure from the hardline approach taken by former U.S. President Donald Trump. 

New guidance issued Thursday gives agents more discretion to make case-by-case decisions, Mayorkas said, focusing primarily on those who pose national security or public safety threats as well as recent border crossers. 

Immigrants who have been in the United States for a long time, who are elderly or minors, or whose family members might be adversely affected by deportation could be spared enforcement, according to a memo issued Thursday. Some other mitigating factors given consideration could be service in the military by the immigrant or an immediate family member or having been a victim of a crime, the memo sent to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said. The new guidelines take effect in 60 days. 

U.S. President Joe Biden, a Democrat, pledged a more humanitarian approach to immigration than that of his Republican predecessor, Trump. Under Trump, ICE agents were told no immigrant would be exempt from immigration enforcement, including low-level offenders and noncriminals as well as people who have been in the United States for many years. 

“It is estimated there are more than 11 million undocumented or otherwise removable noncitizens in the United States,” including teachers, farmworkers and people working on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic, the memo said. “We do not have the resources to apprehend and seek the removal of everyone.” 

The new guidelines do not include categories. Instead, they instruct the agents to look at the totality of circumstances as a way to prioritize resources. 

“In the area of public safety, very often guidelines in the past have defined who is a public safety threat by looking at the issue categorically — if you have done X, then you are public safety threat,” Mayorkas said. That approach “could lead to ineffective and unjust results,” he said. 

Earlier interim guidelines by the Biden administration instructed ICE agents to focus on categories of immigrants deemed security threats and those who entered the United States after November 1, 2020. A federal judge blocked those guidelines in August, siding with two Republican-led states — Texas and Louisiana — that had challenged them.

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UN Chief ‘Shocked’ as Ethiopia Expels 7 Aid Officials

The U.N. secretary-general expressed “shock” Thursday after the Ethiopian government announced the expulsion of seven senior U.N. humanitarian officials working in the country.   

“In Ethiopia, the U.N. is delivering lifesaving aid — including food, medicine, water, and sanitation supplies — to people in desperate need,” Antonio Guterres said in a statement. “I have full confidence in the U.N. staff who are in Ethiopia doing this work.”   

He said the organization is engaging with the Ethiopian authorities “in the expectation that the concerned U.N. staff will be allowed to continue their important work.”   

The seven officials have been given 72 hours to leave Ethiopia. They include the U.N.’s deputy humanitarian chief, the deputy humanitarian coordinator, and the U.N. Children’s Agency (UNICEF) representative.   

In a tweet, the ministry of foreign affairs said the seven were “meddling in the internal affairs of the country.” 

Conflict-induced hunger 

The Ethiopian federal government has been engaged in an armed conflict with rebels in the northern Tigray region for nearly one year. The government declared a unilateral cease-fire and withdrew its forces in June, but the conflict has continued to spill into the neighboring regions of Amhara and Afar. 

Of the 6 million people who live in Tigray, the U.N. says 5.2 million need some level of food assistance. Over 400,000 people are already living in famine-like conditions, and another 1.8 million people are on the brink of famine. 

On Wednesday, U.N. Humanitarian Chief Martin Griffiths said that after 11 months of conflict and three months of a de facto government blockade, the humanitarian crisis in Tigray is spiraling out of control. 

In an interview with The Associated Press, Griffiths said the humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia is a “stain on our conscience,” as civilians starve because aid workers are being blocked from getting enough supplies to them. 

One hundred aid trucks are needed daily in the region, but in the past week, only 79 in total were allowed in, a U.N. spokesman said. 

“Trucks carrying fuel and medical supplies still cannot enter into Tigray,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Wednesday. “Trucks are waiting in Semera, in Afar, to travel to Mekelle.” 

The federal government headed by Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, blames the rebels for blocking the aid deliveries. 

White House condemnation

“The U.S. government condemns in the strongest possible terms the government of Ethiopia’s unprecedented action to expel the leadership of all of the United Nations organizations involved in ongoing humanitarian operations,” White House spokesperson Jen Psaki told reporters on Thursday. 

Earlier this month, U.S. President Joe Biden signed an executive order allowing the government to impose financial sanctions on those who prolong the conflict. 

“We will not hesitate to use this or any other tool at our disposal to respond quickly and decisively to those who obstruct humanitarian assistance to people of Ethiopia,” Psaki said. 

Patsy Widakuswara contributed to this report.

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Nigerian Police Deny Killing Members of Banned Shiite Group

Nigerian police have denied killing any members of a banned Shiite Muslim group during a gathering this week in the capital, Abuja.

The Islamic Movement of Nigeria said police on Tuesday shot and killed eight of its members as they marked the religious ritual of Arbaeen. 

The Abuja police command denied the allegation in a statement Wednesday, saying operatives intervened during the Islamic Movement of Nigeria procession to prevent a breakdown of law and order.

The command said members of the IMN attacked security officers before officers shot tear gas into the air, arrested 57 of them, and seized petrol bombs and bags of stones. 

An Abuja command spokesperson couldn’t be reached for a comment, but national police spokesperson Frank Mba backed the command’s statement on the matter. 

Statement approved

“That statement is comprehensive enough, and it answers all questions. I am okay with that statement,” Mba said.

The IMN rejected claims by the police that its members attacked officers, however, and said it would file a lawsuit against authorities. 

Spokesperson Abdullahi Muhammed Musa said it was IMN members who were attacked at the group’s procession to mark the religious ritual.

‘We have videos’

He said at least eight people were shot, while dozens of people scampering to safety were injured.

“Armed police and soldiers come out and attack unarmed, innocent citizens that are carrying out their religious activities, which is their constitutional right, but they’re denying that they didn’t kill anybody,” Musa said. “We have videos, we have people around that you can come and investigate.”

Muhammad Rufai was at the procession Tuesday. He said he heard gunshots and saw bodies soon after.

“We saw these joint taskforce vehicles. I think they’re up to 20-something,” Rufai said. “They started shooting tear gas and bullets immediately, as at that time, I saw three persons that they shot down.” 

The Shiite minority Muslim group in Nigeria has long complained of discrimination and repression. 

IMN banned in 2019

Authorities banned the IMN in 2019 following violent clashes with security during protests to demand the release of their leader, Ibrahim Zakzaky. 

Zakzaky and his wife had been detained since 2015 after a clash in which the army killed an estimated 350 Shiites.

In July, a Nigerian court acquitted the IMN leader of all criminal charges, and Zakzaky and his wife were released from prison.

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Government Relief Programs Slashed US Poverty Rate

The number of people living in poverty in the United States dropped to a record low last year following government relief programs to offset the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Struggling families have been kept afloat because of the government lifelines, as VOA’s Veronica Balderas Iglesias reports.

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Turkey Eyes Economic Bonanza in Nagorno-Karabakh

As Armenia and Azerbaijan mark the one-year anniversary of the start of their campaign in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, Baku is vowing to rebuild the region, and Turkish companies see an economic bonanza. Dorian Jones in Istanbul reports.

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London Policeman Sentenced to Life for Sarah Everard Murder

A London Metropolitan Police officer has been sentenced to life in prison without parole after pleading guilty in July to the murder of Sarah Everard, whose disappearance and death in March sparked nationwide grief and outrage.

Wayne Couzens confessed to abducting Everard on the evening of March 3, 2021, during a 50-minute walk home from her friend’s house in south London. Prosecutors said he falsely accused her of violating COVID-19 restrictions to lure her into his car.  

Everard’s body was discovered a week later near Ashford in County Kent, about 90 kilometers southeast of London.  

Following Couzen’s sentencing Thursday, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick told reporters she was “absolutely horrified” Couzens used his position as a police officer to deceive and coerce Everard into his vehicle. She said his actions were “a gross betrayal of everything policing stands for.” 

 

She said she knows for some, the bond of trust in the police has been damaged, but she pledged the police department’s dedication to the public remains undiminished.  

Sarah Everard’s disappearance caused a nationwide outcry in Britain, with thousands expressing grief and anger regarding the safety of women in London and elsewhere. Women also then began sharing experiences of being threatened or attacked – or simply facing the everyday fear of violence when walking alone.

The incident prompted British opposition Labour Party lawmaker Jess Phillips to pay tribute to the 118 women in Britain who have died at the hands of men over the last 12 months by reading their names aloud in Britain’s House of Commons.

 

Some information in this report came from the Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.

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