High Alert: NATO Sends Troops, Warplanes East to Counter Russian Threat

Several NATO member states are sending troops and hardware to allies in Eastern Europe as tensions with Russia escalate. The United States has put several thousand troops on alert. Moscow has over 100,000 troops amassed on the Ukraine border, and the West fears an imminent Russian invasion, which the Kremlin denies. Henry Ridgwell looks at what NATO’s military response means.
Camera: Henry Ridgwell

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Multiple Historically Black Colleges and Universities Receive Bomb Threats 

Several historically Black colleges and universities, known as HBCUs, received bomb threats Monday, prompting lockdowns and investigations by law enforcement. 

Howard University (Washington), Southern University and A&M College (Louisiana), Bethune-Cookman University (Florida), Bowie State University (Maryland), Albany State University (Georgia) and Delaware State University (Delaware) confirmed the threats.

“Classes have been canceled and students are to remain in their dorm rooms until an all-clear is issued. University operations will be suspended until further notice and campus entry will be limited at this time,” Southern University and A&M College said in an initial message on its website. The school later announced that it had received an all-clear and would resume classes and normal operations on Tuesday. 

News reports say that at Howard, the scene “was cleared without any hazardous material found.” Bethune-Cookman, Bowie State, and Delaware State were also cleared.

A message on Albany State’s website said, “At this time, all campuses, classes, and university operations are canceled until further notice.” The announcement also said, “Once the investigation is complete, you will receive an all-clear message.” 

An FBI spokesperson in Atlanta told the Associated Press that, “The FBI takes all potential threats seriously, and we regularly work with our law enforcement partners to determine their credibility.” The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, or ATF, was also involved. 

This is the second time in recent weeks that HBCUs have received bomb threats. Several schools received threats in early January and were cleared. 

Some information in this report came from The Associated Press. 

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Kenya Government Fighting Vaccine Hesitancy

While Kenya has seen the percentage of people fully vaccinated against the coronavirus gradually increase to 19%, some people – like nomadic herders – have been harder to reach.  So, Kenyan authorities offered an incentive – herders who get the jab can also get routine vaccinations and medicines for their livestock. For VOA, Brenda Mulinya reports from Isiolo, Kenya.

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Mali Orders Expulsion of French Ambassador

Mali said it is expelling the French ambassador because of “hostile and outrageous” comments by former colonial power France about Mali’s transitional government.

A statement read on national television Monday said French Ambassador Joel Meyer has been given 72 hours to leave the country. 

“This measure follows the hostile and outrageous comments made recently by the French Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs and the recurrence of such comments by the French authorities with regard to the Malian authorities, despite repeated protests,” the statement said. 

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said last week that Mali’s junta was “illegitimate and takes irresponsible measures.” He also described the junta as “out of control.” 

The French Foreign Ministry said in a statement Monday that it would recall Meyer from Mali. 

Relations between Mali and France deteriorated this month after the junta went back on an agreement to organize elections in February. Instead, the junta has proposed staying in power for up to another five years. 

European nations have also expressed concern that Mali’s interim government has accepted private Russian security contractors. 

France has had troops in Mali since 2013 when it sent forces at the request of Malian leaders to stop Islamist militants who were advancing on the capital. The latest dispute raises questions about whether French troops will remain in the country. 

Last week, Mali’s junta demanded that Denmark withdraw its newly arrived contingent of soldiers to Mali. The junta accused Denmark of deploying without authorization, a charge Copenhagen denied. 

Denmark’s foreign minister said Friday that it supports France in the latest diplomatic dispute. 

“Reports the French Ambassador has been declared Persona Non Grata by Mali transitional authorities are unacceptable. Denmark stands in full solidarity with France,” Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod said in a tweet on Friday. 

Mali’s interim leader Assimi Goita seized power in August 2020 citing widespread popular dissatisfaction toward elected leader Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. However, less than a year later in May 2021, Goita overthrew the transitional government that he helped set up, citing a Cabinet reshuffle that excluded two key military leaders.

Goita claimed the move violated the terms of the new government. French President Emmaneul Macron called the action “a coup within a coup.” 

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

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Turkish-Made Drones in Ukraine Pose Challenge for Turkey-Russia Ties

With Russian forces poised to attack Ukraine, Turkish-made drones are set to face a big test in battle as well as a challenge to Turkey’s relations with Russia. Despite warnings from Moscow, Turkish firms have continued to supply Kyiv with armed drones. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul.

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Cyberattacks Increasingly Hobble Pandemic-Weary US Schools

For teachers at a middle school in New Mexico’s largest city, the first inkling of a widespread tech problem came during an early morning staff call.

On the video, there were shout-outs for a new custodian for his hard work, and the typical announcements from administrators and the union rep. But in the chat, there were hints of a looming crisis. Nobody could open attendance records, and everyone was locked out of class rosters and grades.

Albuquerque administrators later confirmed the outage that blocked access to the district’s student database — which also includes emergency contacts and lists of which adults are authorized to pick up which children — was due to a ransomware attack.

“I didn’t realize how important it was until I couldn’t use it,” said Sarah Hager, a Cleveland Middle School art teacher.

Cyberattacks like the one that canceled classes for two days in Albuquerque’s biggest school district have become a growing threat to U.S. schools, with several high-profile incidents reported since last year. And the coronavirus pandemic has compounded their effects: More money has been demanded, and more schools have had to shut down as they scramble to recover data or even manually wipe all laptops.

“Pretty much any way that you cut it, incidents have both been growing more frequent and more significant,” said Doug Levin, director of the K12 Security Information Exchange, a Virginia-based nonprofit that helps schools defend against cybersecurity risk.

Precise data is hard to come by since most schools are not required to publicly report cyberattacks. But experts say public school systems — which often have limited budgets for cybersecurity expertise — have become an inviting target for ransomware gangs.

The pandemic also has forced schools to turn increasingly toward virtual learning, making them more dependent on technology and more vulnerable to cyber-extortion. School systems that have had instruction disrupted include those in Baltimore County and Miami-Dade County, along with districts in New Jersey, Wisconsin and elsewhere.

Levin’s group has tracked well over 1,200 cyber security incidents since 2016 at public school districts across the country. They included 209 ransomware attacks, when hackers lock data up and charge to unlock it; 53 “denial of service” attacks, where attackers sabotage or slow a network by faking server requests; 156 “Zoombombing” incidents, where an unauthorized person intrudes on a video call; and more than 110 phishing attacks, where a deceptive message tricks a user to let a hacker into their network.

Recent attacks also come as schools grapple with multiple other challenges related to the pandemic. Teachers get sick, and there aren’t substitutes to cover them. Where there are strict virus testing protocols, there aren’t always tests or people to give them.

In New York City, an attack this month on third-party software vendor Illuminate Education didn’t result in canceled classes, but teachers across the city couldn’t access grades. Local media reported the outage added to stress for educators already juggling instruction with enforcing COVID-19 protocols and covering for colleagues who were sick or in quarantine.

Albuquerque Superintendent Scott Elder said getting all students and staff online during the pandemic created additional avenues for hackers to access the district’s system. He cited that as a factor in the Jan. 12 ransomware attack that canceled classes for some 75,000 students.

The cancellations — which Elder called “cyber snow days” — gave technicians a five-day window to reset the databases over a holiday weekend.

Elder said there’s no evidence student information was obtained by hackers. He declined to say whether the district paid a ransom but noted there would be a “public process” if it did.

Hager, the art teacher, said the cyberattack increased stress on campus in ways that parents didn’t see.

Fire drills were canceled because fire alarms didn’t work. Intercoms stopped working.

Nurses couldn’t find which kids were where as positive test results came in, Hager said. “So potentially there were students on campus that probably were sick.” It also appears the hack permanently wiped out a few days worth of attendance records and grades.

Edupoint, the vendor for Albuquerque’s student information database, called Synergy, declined to comment.

Many schools choose to keep attacks under wraps or release minimal information to prevent revealing additional weaknesses in their security systems.

“It’s very difficult for the school districts to learn from each other, because they’re really not supposed to talk to each other about it because you might share vulnerabilities,” Elder said.

Last year, the FBI issued a warning about a group called PYSA, or “Protect Your System, Amigo,” saying it was seeing an increase in attacks by the group on schools, colleges and seminaries. Other ransomware gangs include Conti, which last year demanded $40 million from Broward County Public Schools, one of the nation’s largest.

Most are Russian-speaking groups that are based in Eastern Europe and enjoy safe harbor from tolerant governments. Some will post files on the dark web, including highly sensitive information, if they don’t get paid.

While attacks on larger districts garner more headlines, ransomware gangs tended to target smaller school districts in 2021 than in 2020, according to Brett Callow, a threat analyst at the firm Emsisoft. He said that could indicate bigger districts are increasing their spending on cybersecurity while smaller districts, which have less money, remain more vulnerable.

A few days after Christmas, the 1,285-student district of Truth or Consequences, south of Albuquerque, also had its Synergy student information system shut down by a ransomware attack. Officials there compared it to having their house robbed.

“It’s just that feeling of helplessness, of confusion as to why somebody would do something like this because at the end of the day, it’s taking away from our kids. And to me that’s just a disgusting way to try to, to get money,” Superintendent Channell Segura said.

The school didn’t have to cancel classes because the attack happened on break, but the network remains down, including keyless entry locks on school building doors. Teachers are still carrying around the physical keys they had to track down at the start of the year, Segura said.

In October, President Joe Biden signed the K-12 Cybersecurity Act, which calls for the federal cyber security agency to make recommendations about how to help school systems better protect themselves.

New Mexico lawmakers have been slow to expand internet usage in the state, let alone support schools on cyber security. Last week, state representatives introduced a bill that would allocate $45 million to the state education department to build a cybersecurity program by 2027.

Ideas on how to prevent future hacks and recover from existing ones usually require more work from teachers.

In the days following the Albuquerque attack, parents argued on Facebook over why schools couldn’t simply switch to pen and paper for things like attendance and grades.

Hager said she even heard the criticism from her mother, a retired school teacher.

“I said, ‘Mom, you can only take attendance on paper if you have printed out your roster to begin with,'” Hager said.

Teachers could also keep duplicate paper copies of all records — but that would double the clerical work that already bogs them down.

In an era where administrators increasingly require teachers to record everything digitally, Hager says, “these systems should work.”

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US FDA Gives Full Approval to Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration ((FDA)) Monday gave full approval to U.S. pharmaceutical company Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine, which will be marketed under the name Spikevax.

The vaccine has been widely distributed in the United States and around the world under the FDA’s emergency use authorization since December of 2020. It is the second COVID-19 vaccine the agency has fully approved, after Pfizer’s vaccine received the designation in August of 2021.

In a statement, acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock said full authorization of the vaccine is an important step in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. She said that while hundreds of millions of doses of the Moderna shot have been administered under the emergency use authorization, she understands “for some individuals, FDA approval of this vaccine may instill additional confidence in making the decision to get vaccinated.”

Woodcock said the public can be assured that the Moderna vaccine “meets the FDA’s high standards for safety, effectiveness and manufacturing quality required of any vaccine approved for use in the United States.”

The Moderna vaccine has been approved for use in more than 70 countries including Britain, Canada, Japan and those in the European Union.

Some information for this report was provided by the Associated Press and Reuters.

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UK’s Johnson Apologizes Following Release of ‘Partygate’ Report

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson apologized before Parliament Monday following the release of a report concluding that parties held at the prime minister’s official residence during the country’s COVID-19 lockdown represented “serious failures” to observe the standards set by the government.

The report, conducted by senior civil servant Sue Gray, examined a series of gatherings that had been held at No. 10 Downing St. in 2020 and 2021 when much of Britain was under strict pandemic restrictions.

“The gatherings in question represent a serious failure to observe not just the high standards expected of those working at the heart of government, but also of the standards expected of the entire British population at the time,” Gray said in the report.

She also made note of “excessive consumption of alcohol” at the gatherings, which she said “is not appropriate in a professional workplace at any time.”

Gray said some of the gatherings “should not have been allowed to develop as they did,” and others should not have been held at all. She looked specifically at four gatherings, saying she withheld comment on 12 other events that the metropolitan police were investigating to determine if laws were broken.

In his comments to Parliament, Johnson apologized for “the things we simply didn’t get right” and “for the way that this matter has been handled.” He said he understood people’s anger and accepted Gray’s findings “in full,” as well as “her recommendation that we must learn from these events and act now.”

Johnson had previously said that no rules had been broken. He has dismissed calls from lawmakers — even those in his own party — to resign.

Some information for this report was provided by The Associated Press and Reuters. 

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Britain Promises to Target Assets of ‘Putin’s Oligarchs’ 

President Joe Biden and other Western leaders have repeatedly warned they will impose swift and punitive economic sanctions against Moscow in the event Vladimir Putin orders an invasion of Ukraine. British ministers announced Sunday they plan new legislation to make it easier to impose sanctions on “Putin’s oligarchs” and Russian officials who have investments and assets in Britain.

Russians have invested about an estimated $2 billion in the London property market alone, according to Transparency International, an anti-corruption lobbying and research organization in Berlin.

And the House of Commons’ own research library noted in a report last year: “For some time the UK has been accused of being a hub for dirty money — especially London’s prime property market.”

The British move is in response to frustration in Washington, where officials have complained that the government of Boris Johnson has not done enough to stop London from being used as a destination, and also a way station, for the profits of the Russian mega-rich.

The Britain problem 


Last week, analysis by the Center for American Progress, an influential Democratic-aligned think tank, outlined the challenges the White House will face making economic sanctions bite. It suggested that the “economic domain will be the primary theater for U.S.-Russia confrontation,” but noted “expectations for what imposing economic costs can achieve must be kept in check.”

The think tank singled out Britain as a problem. “The United Kingdom, in particular, has become a major hub for Russian oligarchs and their wealth, with London gaining the moniker ‘Londongrad,’” Max Bergmann, author of the report noted. “Uprooting Kremlin-linked oligarchs will be a challenge given the close ties between Russian money and the United Kingdom’s ruling Conservative Party, the press and its real estate and financial industry,” he concluded.

Britain’s foreign secretary, Liz Truss, is outlining legislative proposals to British lawmakers, which she says will make it easier to freeze the assets of Russians with financial links to Putin and his government.

Britain’s sanctions regime currently only covers assets lodged in Britain that can be tied to businesses or individuals who can be linked to Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea.

“There will be nowhere to hide” for Putin’s oligarchs, Truss told Britain’s Times Radio on Sunday. Truss said new legislation would widen the scope of sanctions.

Bill Browder, a British-American financier who has long campaigned to expose high-level corruption in Russia, has been urging British authorities for years to target Putin-connected oligarchs. In 2018, in the wake of the poisoning on English soil of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal, he told British lawmakers that Western weakness only emboldens the Kremlin. The British government blamed the Kremlin for attempted assassination of Skripal and his daughter, something Russia denies.

“The Achilles heel of the Putin regime is to go after Putin-connected oligarchs in the UK by seizing their assets,” he argued. He told a British parliamentary panel approximately $800 billion worth of Russian state-backed assets, mostly real estate, are held outside Russia and could be targeted. About $300 billion in cash and assets are estimated to be in the United States.

According to a 2018 report by Transparency International, large amounts of the Russian state-backed money controlled by Putin-connected oligarchs flow through British Crown dependencies and British Overseas Territories in the Caribbean and then are transferred to the British capital. 

“London has certain advantages and Russians have always found London particularly attractive,” according to Robert Barrington of Transparency International. “It has these historic links with the Crown dependencies and overseas territories, so it is very easy to be part of that global laundering system. It is also a huge market in itself, so if you want to hide dirty money, it is easier to do,” he said.

Anti-corruption campaigners say there was a huge jump in Russian money flows to London after the 2008 financial crash, partly because Britain courted foreign money and offered easy-to-get investor visas with very few questions being asked. An estimated 500 Russian multimillionaires live in Britain.

Their cash has driven up real estate prices and helped fuel the profits of expensive private schools and exclusive shops as well as providing a large share of the incomes of British bankers, fund managers, lawyers, and PR executives. More than 10,000 properties in Westminster, a central London borough, are owned by anonymous companies; some are thought to be Chinese or Gulf Arab in origin, but many are Russian.

The British government announced new asset-seizure powers in 2017 known as unexplained wealth orders, allowing for the confiscation of property without proving criminality and placing the burden of proof on the owners to explain their wealth. Britain’s i newspaper reported last week that officials were looking to issue more unexplained wealth orders in the event Russia invades Ukraine, forcing those suspected of having tight links to President Putin to explain the origins of their wealth.



But some skeptics harbor doubts about the determination of the authorities to move against Russian wealth. They note since 2017 only five such orders have been issued. “No one has done more to channel the flood of money out of Russia than London’s army of lawyers, bankers, and accountants; no one has been more accommodating of Putin’s oligarchs than Britain’s politicians,” wrote Oliver Bullough in Britain’s Sunday Times this week.

Author of “Butler to the World: How Britain Became the Servant of Tycoons, Tax Dodgers, Kleptocrats and Criminals,” Bullough says: “If the government really wants to help Ukraine, it should force Putin’s oligarchs to take their cash home.”

Critics also say the government needs to insist that so-called crown dependencies in the Caribbean need to introduce rigorous transparency rules for stashed overseas money. And they worry that Russian oligarch money and properties are well concealed behind shell companies.

In December, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged to force offshore companies that own British property to declare their ownership, and to tackle criminals who abuse UK-registered shell companies. He made the promise at the US-convened Summit for Democracy, a virtual conference that explored how to strengthen the world’s democracies.

The chairman of the House of Commons foreign affairs committee, Tom Tugendhat, said he plans to hold a new set of new hearings to discuss the assets and investments of Russian oligarchs in London. His committee did the same thing in 2018 and recommended several steps, but the recommendations languished.

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Turkey Orders TV Programs to Protect Family Values

Turkey’s president has ordered that steps be taken against media like TV programs that are deemed contrary to Turkey’s “fundamental values.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in a circular posted Saturday on the Official Gazette, said the decision aims to eliminate the harmful effects of television programs with foreign content that have been adapted in Turkey and to protect Turkish culture.

All precautions would be taken against productions that negatively affect the family, children and youth, through Turkish laws and the constitution. Children and youth will be protected from “messages conveyed through certain symbols,” the decision stated, without elaborating.

Turkey’s media watchdog, the Supreme Council of Radio and Television, already has wide-ranging powers, and can fine media or order temporary blackouts for television channels that are mostly critical of the government for violating Turkish values. It has also fined channels for erotic or LGBT content.

Ilhan Tasci, a member of the media watchdog from the main opposition party, called the move “the censorship circular” and said it violates the constitution that promises to protect press freedom.

The majority of media companies in Turkey are already owned by businesses close to the conservative and nationalist government and closely follow government lines.

Reporters Without Borders ranks Turkey at 153 out of 180 countries in its World Press Freedom Index of 2021. At least 34 media employees are currently behind bars, according to Turkey’s Journalists Union. 

Last week, well-known journalist Sedef Kabas was arrested pending trial for insulting Erdogan, after citing a proverb on Tele 1 television and social media referring to an ox. Tens of thousands of people in Turkey have been prosecuted for allegedly insulting Erdogan.

The circular follows the launch of Fox TV’s Turkish adaptation of the international show “The Masked Singer,” where celebrities perform in costume to hide their identities. The show has been criticized online for alleged Satanic and pagan content.

Elsewhere in the region, Netflix’s first Arabic movie has sparked intense debate in Egypt and other Middle East countries, with critics denouncing it as a threat to family and religious values that encourages homosexuality.

Others have rallied to the film’s defense. They say detractors are in denial about what happens behind closed doors in real life and say that those who don’t like the movie titled “Ashab Wala A’azz,” (“No Dearer Friends”) can simply not subscribe to Netflix.

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Kenya’s Mixed Reception of Chinese and Their Food

Nairobi, known as a cosmopolitan and culturally diverse African capital, boasts a thriving assortment of Chinese restaurants. It is a testament to China’s cultural and financial influence in Kenya, embraced by some, while bringing uncertainty critique for other native Kenyans.

Mbathi Kimani, a local, owns Hong Kong Kitchen, a joint tucked away in Safi Soki mall in south Nairobi. The hole-in-the-wall restaurant flanks a recently completed section of Ngong Road, a major construction project done in collaboration with Chinese firms.

The road is a part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to create infrastructure to enhance land and sea trade routes from Asia to Africa.

Belt and Road projects have brought a new wave of Chinese immigrants to Nairobi in recent years, some of whom have opened local restaurants.

“The Chinese restaurant competition here is tough. There are quite a number of us for a rather niche market, but I wanted to give it a try,” Kimani told VOA.

He owns three Chinese restaurants inspired by his travels to Hong Kong in the 90s and 2000s. He was so impressed by the efficiency and organization he witnessed in Hong Kong and thinks Kenya can benefit from that model.

He also enjoyed the food there and is replicating Hong Kong’s Cantonese food at his Nairobi restaurants. Kimani found while some local Kenyans like Chinese food, others don’t embrace it.

He tried opening a Hong Kong Kitchen along Mombasa Road, where the population has a lower concentration of expatriates than the other locations. “After just one month, it wasn’t doing great––people in that area weren’t as keen to try the food,” Kimani explained. They’ve closed that restaurant for the time being, but business is steady at the other three locations across town.

Kenyans’ mixed appetite for Chinese cooking parallels the locals’ relationship and perception of Chinese presence in their country. While some Kenyans welcome the benefits of jobs and roads created through Chinese investments, others are more cautious and even critical of the the cost of doing business with China, in terms of debts.

Co-existing in Kenya

Kenyan’s mixed perception of the Chinese and Chinese food in Nairobi also comes from how the two cultures co-exist.

Marvin Akinyi, a 29-year-old Kenyan who works as a biology lab assistant, said he finds it strange how workers from mainland China tend to keep to themselves but attributes it to the language barrier.

“Perhaps, if I had more Chinese friends, I’d have more chances to try the food,” he said in an interview with VOA.

Akinyi gave Hong Kong Kitchen a try once. “It was good,” He continued, “but just very different from what I’m used to. I’m not sure I would try it again, especially since most of my friends are Kenyan. We are used to getting nyama choma [grilled meat] at the same bars rather than trying new places.”

Fusion of flavors and cultures

In the kitchen and the dining rooms, some Kenyans are experimenting with fusing traditional Kenyan cuisine with Chinese ingredients and flavors, and liking what they taste.

A 29-year-old Kenyan chef, Malachi Mwaniki, has also worked in upscale Nairobi restaurants such as Hemingway’s.

“Common Kenyan foods are simple and hearty, but relatively bland compared to the range of spices used across Chinese cooking. Stir-fries have become very popular. Young people in particular are keen on trying new foods and flavors,” he tells VOA.

He is on a journey to explore international foods and makes barbecued brisket, cold-smoked salmon, Chinese bao buns, and even Cantonese dim-sum.

Moses Kulavi, who has worked at the popular Kenyan chain Java Coffeehouse and upscale Hemingway Hotel, attended a culinary course at Kenya’s Tsavo Park Institute of Technology, where he learned the fundamentals of intercontinental cooking.

“Many of the ingredients that we used were local.” Kulavi said, “but we also learned how to use things like bok choy and soy sauce. Overall, I would say that Chinese dishes are spicier.”

Many base ingredients like chicken, beef, and eggs translate across Kenyan and Chinese cuisines. The Kenyan culinary tradition, of cooking meat “wet fry” and “dry fry” — meaning with or without stew or broth — also has similar Chinese cuisine counterparts.

Kulavi now caters private events for clients, mostly middle class and local. He created his version of an African beef dry fry paired with Chinese fried rice.

“It’s been a big hit and is commonly requested by my clients,” Kulavi told VOA in a phone interview.

One of the main differences in the two cuisines is in preparation. For instance, both pilau and fried rice are staple rice dishes. For the former, a coastal Kenyan comfort food, all the ingredients are boiled together in the same pot, while in Chinese-style fried rice, the ingredients are sauteed separately––developed as a way to use up leftovers and odds and ends in the kitchen.

Hong Kong Kitchen’s Kimani appreciates the beauty and diversity of an international palate. However, he recognizes that the situation is different for those who lack firsthand experience in seeing and tasting for themselves.

“Kenyans come into Hong Kong Kitchen with all sorts of stereotypes,” Kimani said. “Some expect to find snakes or things like that. We have to show them that it’s largely the same ingredients, just cooked differently. It’s just food!” 

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African Union Suspends Burkina Faso in Response to Coup

Exactly one week after Burkina Faso’s president was overthrown in a military coup, the African Union has suspended the west African nation.

The AU’s Political Affairs, Peace and Security Department announced on Twitter Monday that it had voted “to suspend the participation of #BurkinaFaso in all AU activities until the effective restoration of constitutional order in the country.”

The announcement came as a delegation from the regional Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) was traveling to Burkina Faso’s capital, Ouagadougou, to meet with junta leader Lieutenant Colonel Paul-Henri Damiba, just three days after ECOWAS suspended Burkina Faso from its activities. A special United Nations envoy was also taking part in Monday’s talks.

Soldiers ousted President Roch Marc Christian Kabore last Monday after a day of fighting near the presidential palace in Ouagadougou. The move came amid rising anger among the rank-and-file stemming from the failure to adequately equip them to fight terror groups linked to al-Qaida and Islamic State since 2015. Rumors of a coup had been rife for weeks after a military base in the north of the country was overrun by terrorists in November, killing 49 military members.    

The junta suspended the constitution, dissolved the National Assembly and closed the country’s borders immediately after the takeover.  

Burkina Faso joins Mali and Guinea in being suspended by the African Union following military coups.

Some information for this report came from Reuters and  Agence France-Presse.

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Cincinnati Bengals, Los Angeles Rams Advance to US Pro Football Championship Game

The Cincinnati Bengals will face the Los Angeles Rams in the 56th edition of the Super Bowl, the championship game of the U.S. National Football League and one of the premier championship events in all of professional sports.   

The visiting Cincinnati Bengals came back from a 21-10 halftime deficit to post a 27-24 overtime win over the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC (American Football Conference) Championship game. Kansas City appeared to be on their way to a third consecutive Super Bowl appearance when they posted 21 quick points in the first half, led by superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes. But the Bengals took command in the second half, thanks to a stellar defensive effort and clutch play by second-year quarterback Joe Burrow, taking a narrow 24-21 lead in the fourth quarter. 

The Chiefs tied the game at the end of regulation after a 44-yard three-point field goal by placekicker Harrison Butker, and won the chance to get the ball to begin the overtime period. But Bengals defensive back Vonn Bell intercepted a Mahomes pass to receiver Tyreek Hill, allowing Burrows to lead Cincinnati on a long drive capped by the game-winning 31-yard field goal by placekicker Evan McPherson. 

The Rams earned their way to the Super Bowl with a 20-17 win over their in-state California rival San Francisco 49ers in the NFC (National Football Conference) Championship on their home field. Los Angeles was led by quarterback Matthew Stafford, who finished with 337 yards and two touchdowns, both of them to star receiver Cooper Kupp, who finished with 142 receiving yards.   

San Francisco held a narrow 17-7 lead early in the fourth quarter when Stafford led the Rams on three drives to go ahead. Los Angeles sealed the victory when the defense staged a furious pass rush on 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who threw a desperation pass that was intercepted by defensive back Travin Howard. 

The two franchises will play for the Vince Lombardi Trophy on Sunday, February 13 on the Rams’ home field of SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles, making it the first team to host both a conference championship game and the Super Bowl in the same season. This is the second Super Bowl appearance in five seasons under Rams coach Sean McVay, while Cincinnati is making its first Super Bowl appearance in 31 years, bringing an end to numerous seasons filled with either losing teams or promising ones that failed to live up their potential, earning them the nickname “Bungles.” 

The first Super Bowl in 1967 was a matchup of the NFL’s Green Bay Packers against the Kansas City Chiefs of the then-rival American Football League. The two leagues merged in 1970 under the NFL banner, with the AFL forming the American Football Conference and the old NFL forming the National Football Conference.   

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UN Security Council to Meet on Russia-Ukraine Tensions

The United Nations Security Council meets Monday to discuss Russia’s buildup of more than 100,000 troops along Ukraine’s border. Western and Ukrainian officials continue to be on alert for a possible invasion. VOA’s Arash Arabasadi has more.

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Macron Tells Iran’s Raisi Nuclear Talks Need to Speed Up

French President Emmanuel Macron has told his Iranian counterpart Ebrahim Raisi that a deal lifting sanctions on Iran in return for curbs on its nuclear activities is still possible but talks need to accelerate, Macron’s office said on Sunday.

France, Germany and Britain, known as the E3, and the United States are trying to save the 2015 Vienna agreement with Iran, but Western diplomats have said negotiations, which have been in their eighth round since Dec. 27, were moving too slowly.

Iran has rejected any deadline imposed by Western powers.

“The President of the Republic reiterated his conviction that a diplomatic solution is possible and imperative, and stressed that any agreement will require clear and sufficient commitments from all the parties,” the Elysee palace said in a statement after a telephone call with Raisi on Saturday.

“Several months after the resumption of negotiations in Vienna, he insisted on the need to accelerate in order to quickly achieve tangible progress in this framework,” it added.

“He underlined the need for Iran to demonstrate a constructive approach and return to the full implementation of its obligations,” it said.

Macron also asked for the immediate release of Franco-Iranian academic Fariba Adelkhah, re-imprisoned in January, and French tourist Benjamin Briere, who was sentenced on Tuesday to eight years in prison on spying charges.

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Biden Calls on Taliban to Release American Hostage

U.S. President Joe Biden on Sunday called on Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers to release a U.S. civil engineer who was abducted two years ago and is believed to be the last American hostage held by the Taliban.

Mark Frerichs is a 59-year-old U.S. Navy veteran from Lombard, Illinois, who worked in Afghanistan for a decade on development projects. He was kidnapped a month before the February 2020 U.S. troop pullout deal was signed and was transferred to the Haqqani network, a brutal Taliban faction accused of some of the deadliest attacks of the war.

Monday marks his second year in captivity.

“Threatening the safety of Americans or any innocent civilians is always unacceptable, and hostage-taking is an act of particular cruelty and cowardice,” Biden said in a statement.

“The Taliban must immediately release Mark before it can expect any consideration of its aspirations for legitimacy. This is not negotiable.”

Biden pulled U.S. troops out of Afghanistan in August in a chaotic withdrawal that drew sharp criticism from Republicans and his own Democrats as well as foreign allies and punctured his approval ratings.

Frerichs’ family has criticized the U.S. government for not pressing harder to secure his release. Last week, his sister, Charlene Cakora, made a personal plea to Biden in a Washington Post opinion piece titled, “President Biden, please bring home my brother, the last American held hostage in Afghanistan.”

The United States has raised Frerich’s case in every meeting with the Taliban, the State Department said in a statement. “We call on the Taliban to release him. We will continue working to bring him home,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken added in a Twitter post.

U.S. and Taliban officials met for the first time since the pullout in October in Doha, Qatar, which had hosted talks on Afghanistan that led to the troop withdrawal.

The Qatari emir was due to visit the White House on Monday on a range of issues that will include global energy security, the White House said last week. Qatar represents U.S. interests in Kabul.

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Manchester United’s Greenwood Held on Suspicion of Rape, Assault

Manchester United player Mason Greenwood was arrested on suspicion of rape and assault on Sunday after a woman posted visual and audio allegations on social media of an incident.

United said the 20-year-old forward “will not return to training or play matches until further notice.”

The police did not name Greenwood but the statement about the investigation was provided after inquiries about the footballer.

“Greater Manchester Police were made aware earlier today of online social media images and videos posted by a woman reporting incidents of physical violence,” the force said in a statement. “An investigation was launched and following enquiries we can confirm a man in his 20s has since been arrested on suspicion of rape and assault.  

“He remains in custody for questioning. Enquiries are ongoing.”  

The allegations were posted early Sunday morning on the Instagram account of a woman who uploaded images of bruising to her body and bleeding from her lip. A voice note purporting to be of an attack was also posted. The posts were all deleted from the social media site but were widely shared.

“Manchester United does not condone violence of any kind,” the club said.

Nike, one of Greenwood’s sponsors, expressed its unease.

“We are deeply concerned by the disturbing allegations and will continue to closely monitor the situation,” the sportswear firm said in a statement.

Greenwood, who progressed through the United academy into the first team, has scored six goals this season. He extended his contract last year through 2025.

Greenwood made his England debut in September 2020 but was sent home from Iceland for a disciplinary breach after the game. He hasn’t played since for Gareth Southgate’s side.

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For Tornado-Ravaged US Churches, Rebuilding Means Rethinking

Mayfield First United Methodist Church, a century-old temple with stately columns and stained-glass windows, has long been an anchor in the life of Kathy O’Nan, the city’s 68-year-old mayor.

She directed the children’s choir for 42 years and attended countless worship services and ceremonies, from weddings to funerals to the baptisms of both her children — before a massive tornado tore off the church’s roof and covered the front entrance in rubble.

“It was just my home,” O’Nan said. “For all of us, it was our home.”

First United Methodist is one of a half-dozen historic churches in the central core of this western Kentucky community that were destroyed or heavily damaged, all with roots dating to the 1800s. Most of their sanctuaries were more than 100 years old, constructed when worship spaces tended to be grand with amenities such as giant pipe organs, heavy wooden pews and the now-collapsed dome that once crowned the nearby First Christian Church.

While the rubble is still being cleared, it’s already apparent that Mayfield’s historic congregations, most with graying, shrinking flocks, are unlikely to rebuild in anything resembling their previous architectural glory. Their leaders say they must instead adapt to meet 21st-century needs and possibilities.

“People at the turn of the last century took great pride in building buildings they thought honored God, and that is no longer the style anymore,” said the Rev. Milton West, senior minister at First Christian.

“I think all of the congregations in the downtown area are using this experience to re-envision their ministries … and how they might make a difference in our community,” West added. “I think the whole town of Mayfield has an opportunity to reinvigorate itself. There were a lot of empty buildings when the storm hit.”


Firefighters say the tornado damaged or destroyed about 1,300 homes, businesses and houses of worship Dec. 10 when it swept through the close-knit town of some 10,000 residents.

Besides First United Methodist and First Christian, the red-brick First Presbyterian Church on Mayfield’s main street and Fairview Baptist Church, about a half-mile away, were destroyed as well. First Baptist Church and St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church sustained heavy damage that could take years to repair.

“These churches were a spiritual touchstone for the community,” West said.

His First Christian expects to receive at least $5 million from its insurance company. But that’s not enough to rebuild like before — replacing just the $800,000 organ and the Steinway piano would account for about one-fifth of the payout, according to the pastor.

Instead he envisions a more cost-efficient and workaday sanctuary for the future, noting that worshipers today are often content to attend services in run-of the-mill settings such as a metal building or gym.

“I doubt if we’ll ever have a building with a pipe organ in it again,” West said. “We were one generation away from not even having anyone who could play one.”

Leaders at the other three destroyed churches see things similarly.

The Rev. Joey Reed, who rode out the storm with his wife, Laurinda, in the basement at First Methodist, said that while he would love to see the original building restored, that will probably be too expensive. Instead, he said, it’s important for the church to devote its resources and energy to its core spiritual mission.

“Our mission is not to create or restore or maintain that historic architectural presence,” Reed said, “even though that is an important part of who we have been.”

Likewise, Don Barger, lay pastor of First Presbyterian, said his church must use its expected budget of $4.5 million to $5.5 million to design a building with the future in mind. That includes an opportunity to correct past oversights — the original structure lacked elevators and other accessibility features for people with disabilities.

“We’ve got to get away from our minds what the building looked like when it was built in 1914,” Barger said.

“We have become, at times, complacent,” he added. “When you’re having to start all over again, you can’t take anything for granted.”


The Rev. Leroy Brent, pastor for 33 years at Fairview Baptist, a predominantly Black congregation affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, recalled his shock at the devastation.

“I could stand on the steps that I would normally stand on every Sunday, and I didn’t know where I was,” he said. “There were no landmarks.”

But he’s optimistic about starting fresh due to the successes he’s seen in his background in church planting, or the seeding of new congregations.

“It gives you a completely new outlook,” Brent said.

The other two damaged downtown churches are not forced to rebuild from zero, but they still face costly and lengthy rehabs and have been rendered temporarily homeless while they try to minister to the shattered town.

“We don’t have a building, but other churches within our denomination have been sending us supplies,” said Thomas Bright, steward at St. James, which suffered major damage to its roof and sanctuary. “We got some U-Haul containers in our parking lot and we set up tables, so we’ve been distributing supplies, food, clothes, cleaning supplies, whatever we can, to the community.”

Bright has been shepherding the congregation even as he mourns his 80-year-old aunt, Ollie Reeves, who helped raise him as a boy. He found her body under debris at her home, one of 22 people in Mayfield and 77 statewide killed that night as storms tore through Kentucky.

Reeves’ death is a loss not only for him but for the congregation — she sang in the choir at the historically Black church, baked pies and cakes and helped with fundraisers.

Still, he’s keeping faith.

“Mayfield is a resilient town,” Bright said. “We’ll bounce back. Maybe not as big as we were before, but better.”

The Rev. Wes Fowler, who hunkered down with his family in a tunnel under First Baptist, cried as he talked about the damage to the church and elsewhere. Five generations of his family have worshiped at the church, where he is senior pastor.

“I know theologically that it’s just a building. And I know theologically that those who have placed our faith in Jesus Christ are the church. I know it deeply. I teach that all the time,” he said.

But a house of worship where people gather weekly becomes part of one’s identity, he continued, and losing that is traumatic.

“We’re focusing right now on our true hope, which was never supposed to be in a building,” Fowler said. “We serve a risen Savior who was the same before this tornado, was the same the day of the tornado and is the same now.”

For now the six displaced congregations are meeting at schools, other churches, even a manufacturing company’s break room.

O’Nan, the mayor, predicted a bright future for Mayfield’s churches but said letting go is hard.

“The same people will be there, and the same memories will begin to be made there again,” she said. “But looking in the beautiful stained glass, the beautiful organ, the smell of old oil that you know was used to clean the pews and that fragrance of candle wax when you walk into the church — that’s gone.”

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Teenage COVID-19 Vaccination Process Meets Resistance in Malawi

Malawi’s government says is registering low numbers of teenagers taking the COVID-19 vaccine. This is largely because parents and guardians are reluctant to give consent to have their children get the shot.

Malawi started administering the Pfizer vaccine to children ages 12 to 17 on January 1st to help contain the spread of the coronavirus among children. 

Vaccination of teens requires health care providers to seek consent from parents. 

Statistics show that fewer than 4,000 children were vaccinated as of Saturday, a figure health authorities said was not impressive. 

The low response is blamed on parents refusing to give consent to health workers. 

Mailesi Mhango is the district coordinator for the Expanded Program on Immunization in the Ministry of Health. 

She says reluctance is more prevalent for children who go to public or government schools, where none of the youngsters has so far been vaccinated. 

“For the privately owned schools, the response is better compared to government-run schools. I don’t know why. But for private schools, at least there is a positive response; many schools are booking us. ‘Can you come and vaccinate our learners?’ So, we are going to such schools and vaccinating them,” she said.

Willy Malimba, the president of the Teachers’ Union of Malawi, says it is a non-starter to expect teenage students to get the COVID-19 shot in schools. 

“This time around, even when the government can decide to go to school to vaccinate learners, I am sure that school can be immediately closed because the learners, even the teachers will run away, unless they are fully sensitized. Otherwise, they are taking this issue as a negative issue because of the coming of this vaccine; it came with negatives,” he said.

Malimba recounts incidents where students have run away from suspected providers of the vaccine. 

“Even myself I have been experiencing some situations whereby I was going to certain schools and when learners saw my car, they ran away and I was told from the head teachers that the learners are running away because they think that we are coming with the vaccine,” he said.

Government statistics show that only about 7.3 % of about 20 million people in Malawi are fully vaccinated, far from the required 60% to reach herd immunity. 

The low uptake is largely attributed to myths that link COVID-19 vaccine to infertility and allegations that the vaccine is the government’s ploy to reduce the population. 

In a statement Saturday, the co-chairperson for the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Dr. Wilfred Chalamira Nkhoma, urged all parents and guardians to get their children aged 12 years and above inoculated. 

He said doing so will protect these children from severe disease and hospitalization, even if they do become infected with the virus that causes COVID-19. 

Some parents say they are not ready for that at the moment. 

Lindiwe Mwale, a mother of three children, two of them teenagers, is among the parents concerned. 

She spoke via a messaging application from her home in Chiwembe Township in Blantyre.

“I am a parent who has vaccinated them before [with] other vaccines which are there, but for this one [COVID-19 vaccine] I really would not want to risk them by getting them vaccinated by a vaccine which is currently on trial. After all, the COVID-19 is not greatly affecting people of that age; many of them make it,” she said.

Mwale, who is vaccinated, also says with a drop in cases in Malawi, from about 700 daily cases previously to now 80 cases as of Saturday, she feels the pandemic poses no threat that would warrant vaccination of her children. 

Health authorities say they are now planning to meet the parents and teachers and educate them on the importance of having children vaccinated against COVID-19. 


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Cameroon Football Team Donates to Stadium Crush Victims

Cameroon’s national football team, the Indomitable Lions, Sunday donated $85,000 and dedicated their 2-0 victory over the Scorpions of Gambia to victims of the stampede that killed eight and injured 38 at Yaoundé’s Olembe stadium this week. The Indomitable Lions say they cannot be indifferent after people died or were injured as they turned out to support Cameroon players taking part at the ongoing Africa Football Cup of Nations tournament in Cameroon.

Members of Cameroon’s national football team, the Indomitable Lions, sing that God will bless victims of this week’s crush at Yaoundé’s Olembe stadium. The players sang on Saturday evening in Douala, Cameroon’s economic hub and coastal city, after beating the Scorpions of Gambia in a quarter-final game in the Africa Football Cup of Nations, AFCON.

A statement after the match from Serge Guiffo, the Indomitable Lions press officer, said the players had donated $85,000 and dedicated their 2-0 victory over the Scorpions of Gambia to victims of the stampede that killed eight and injured 38.

The statement did not say how the money would be distributed to the victims, but said family members of those who died in the stampede will be given a share.

Narcisse Mouelle Kombi, Cameroon’s minister of sports and physical education, addressed the players at Douala’s Japoma stadium after the match.

Kombi said Cameroonians are happy that their national football team players have helped people who died or were injured while they struggled to watch the Indomitable Lions play. He said Cameroonians are happy that the donation comes after a historic victory against the Scorpions of Gambia.

The crush occurred as crowds struggled to get access to Olembe Stadium in the capital city Yaoundé. Cameroon President Paul Biya ordered the injured to be treated free of charge.

Ndukong Edward, a family member of a stampede victim, said the president did not make a statement about any assistance to the families of dead victims. Ndukong said he hopes the government will assist the injured and family members of the dead. He said security lapses by Cameroon’s police might have caused the stampede.

“If the gate was opened as it was supposed to be, nothing would have happened because people would have had access to the field. But if the gate was closed by some overzealous security officers for whatever reasons, then they should take responsibility,” he said.

Cameroonian authorities Friday blamed the deadly stadium crush on what they said was a massive influx of ticketless fans who arrived late to the game involving the host team and tried to force their way in to avoid security checks and COVID-19 screening.

Nasseri Paul Bea, governor of Cameroon’s Centre region, where Olembe is located, said the government will assist victims of the crush after the tournament. He said people attending football matches during AFCON should stop uncivil behavior such as jumping fences to get into stadiums.

“We are calling on this population to follow and respect the institutions, to be able to cooperate to be sure that Cameroon does not represent a bad image by being very patriotic and responsible. It should never happen again. Cameroonians should put in their mind that what happened in Olembe should never happen again,” he said.

Bea said some government ministers, senior state officials and well-wishers have been giving financial assistance to the victims in solidarity with the state of Cameroon.

After the crush, the Confederation of African Football suspended AFCON matches at Olembe until further notice.

Cameroon is hosting AFCON for the first time in 50 years. The tournament, which is the continent’s main football event, was originally scheduled in 2019. The confederation stripped the event from Cameroon that year because stadiums were not ready.

The competition that ends on February 6 began January 9.

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Sudanese Take to the Streets in Latest Anti-Coup Protests 

Thousands of protesters took to the streets of Sudan’s capital and other cities across the country Sunday for the latest in a months-long string of demonstrations denouncing an October military coup that plunged the country into turmoil. 

Protesters, mostly young men and women, marched in the streets of Khartoum and other cities, demanding an end to the military’s takeover. They called for a fully civilian government to lead the country’s now-stalled transition to democracy. 

The coup has upended Sudan’s transition to democratic rule after three decades of repression and international isolation under autocratic President Omar al-Bashir. The African nation has been on a fragile path to democracy since a popular uprising forced the military to remove al-Bashir and his Islamist government in April 2019. 

The protests are called by the Sudanese Professionals Association and the Resistance Committees, which were the backbone of the uprising against al-Bashir and relentless anti-coup protests in the past three months. 

Footage circulated online showed people beating drums and chanting anti-coup slogans in the streets of Khartoum and its twin city Omdurman. Protesters were also seen carrying Sudanese flags and other flags with photos of protesters reportedly slain by security forces printed on them. 

They marched towards the presidential palace, an area in the capital that has seen deadly clashes between protesters and security forces in previous rounds of demonstrations. 

Security forces fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse protesters in at least one location in the capital. At least three people suffered injuries from rubber bullets, said activist Nazim Sirag. 

There were protests elsewhere in the country including the eastern city of Port Sudan, western Darfur region and Madani, the capital city of Jazira province, about 135 kilometers (85 miles) southeast of Khartoum. Medani saw a massive anti-coup protest last week. 

Ahead of the protests, authorities stepped up security in Khartoum and Omdurman. They deployed thousands of troops and police and sealed off central Khartoum, urging protesters to assemble only in public squares in the capital’s neighborhoods. 

The United Nations mission in Sudan on Saturday warned that such restrictions could increase tensions, urging authorities to let the protests “pass without violence.” 

Since the coup, at least 78 people have been killed and hundreds of others wounded in a widely condemned crackdown on protests, the Sudan Doctors Committee, which tracks casualties among protesters, said. 

There were also mass arrests of activists leading the anti-coup protests and allegations of sexual violence, including rape and gang rape, in a Dec. 19 protest in Khartoum, according to the U.N. 

The upheaval in Sudan worsened earlier this month following the resignation of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, who was the civilian face of the transitional government over the past two years. 

The prime minister, who was ousted in the October coup only to be reinstated a month later under heavy international pressure, stepped down on Jan. 2 after his efforts to reach a compromise failed. 

Sunday’s protests came as the U.N. mission continued its consultations to find a way out of the ongoing crisis.

On Saturday, powerful Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, deputy head of the ruling Sovereign Council, and commander of the feared Rapid Support Forces, said they have accepted the U.N. efforts to resolve the crisis, but that U.N. envoy Volker Perthes “should be a facilitator not a mediator.” 

Dagalo did not elaborate but his comments showed the challenges the U.N. mission faces to find a common ground between rival factions in Sudan. 

The pro-democracy movement has insisted on the removal of the generals from power and the establishment a fully civilian government to lead the transition. 

The generals, however, said they will hand over power only to an elected administration. They say elections will take place in July 2023, as planned in a 2019 constitutional document governing the transitional period. 

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‘No justice’: N. Ireland Marks ‘Bloody Sunday’ Amid Brexit Backdrop

The Northern Irish city of Londonderry began commemorations Sunday of one of the darkest days in modern UK history when, 50 years ago, British troops without provocation killed 13 unarmed civil rights protesters. 

The anniversary of “Bloody Sunday” comes with Northern Ireland’s fragile peace destabilized by Brexit, and with families of the victims despondent over whether the soldiers involved will ever face trial. 

Charlie Nash saw his 19-year-old cousin William Nash killed as members of the British Parachute Regiment fired more than 100 high-velocity rounds on January 30, 1972, at the demonstrators in Londonderry, known as Derry to pro-Irish nationalists. 

“We thought there might be rioting, but nothing, nothing like what happened. We thought at first they were rubber bullets,” Nash, now 73, told AFP. 

“But then we saw Hugh Gilmour [one of six 17-year-old victims] lying dead. We couldn’t take it in. Everyone was running,” he said. 

“It’s important for the rest of the world to see what they done to us that day. But will we ever see justice? Never, especially not from Boris Johnson.” 


The UK prime minister this week called Bloody Sunday a “tragic day in our history”.

But his government is pushing legislation that critics say amounts to an amnesty for all killings during Northern Ireland’s three decades of sectarian unrest, including by security forces. 


Thirteen protesters died on Bloody Sunday, when the paratroopers opened fire through narrow streets and across open wasteland. 

Some of the victims were shot in the back, or while on the ground, or while waving white handkerchiefs. 

At the entrance to the city’s Catholic Bogside area stands a wall that normally proclaims in large writing: “You are now entering Free Derry.” 

This weekend the mural says: “There is no British justice.” 

Several hundred people, including relatives of the victims, on Sunday retraced the fateful 1972 march, walking in somber silence under a leaden grey sky ahead of a late morning memorial service. 

Children bearing white roses and portraits of the victims joined the poignant procession.

“I’m here to honor the people who were murdered by the British state who were trying to achieve their civil rights,” said Michael Roach, 67, a Texan with Irish roots. 

“There will be no justice until the paratroopers are held to justice for murder.” 


After an initial government report largely exonerated the paratroopers and authorities, a landmark 12-year inquiry running to 5,000 pages found in 2010 that the victims were unarmed and posed no threat, and that the soldiers’ commander on the ground violated his orders. 

“We in the inquiry came to the conclusion that the shootings were unjustified and unjustifiable,” its chairman Mark Saville, a former judge and member of the UK House of Lords, told BBC radio on Saturday. 

“And I do understand, people feel that in those circumstances justice has yet to be done,” he said, while expressing concern that with the surviving soldiers now elderly, the government should have launched any prosecution “a very long time ago”. 

Then as now, Londonderry was a largely Catholic city. But housing, jobs and education were segregated in favor of the pro-British Protestant minority. 

Simmering tensions over the inequality made it the cradle of the “Troubles” in Northern Ireland starting in the late 1960s, which finally ended with the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.


The UK’s divorce from the European Union has unsettled the fragile post-1998 consensus. 

Protestant unionists want Johnson’s government to scrap a protocol governing post-Brexit trade for Northern Ireland, which treats the province differently from the UK mainland (comprising England, Scotland and Wales). 

The government, which is in protracted talks with the EU on the issue, is sympathetic to their demands. 

Heading into regional elections in May, some nationalists hope that Brexit could help achieve what the Irish Republican Army (IRA) never did — a united Ireland, a century after the UK carved out a Protestant statelet in the north. 

Sinn Fein, which was once the political wing of the IRA, is running ahead of the once dominant unionists in opinion polls. 

“Northern Ireland finds itself again in the eye of a political storm where we appear to be collateral damage for a prime minister whose future is hanging in the balance,” said professor Deirdre Heenan, a Londonderry resident who teaches social policy at Ulster University. 

“The government’s behavior around the peace process has been reckless in the extreme,” she added. 

Protestant hardliners have issued their own reminders of where they stand: leading up to the anniversary, Parachute Regiment flags have been flying in one unionist stronghold of Londonderry, to the revulsion of nationalists. 

“How can they do that, this weekend of all weekends?” asked George Ryan, 61, a tour guide and local historian. 


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NATO Chief: No plans to Send Combat Troops to Ukraine if Russia Invades 

NATO has no plans to deploy combat troops to non-NATO member Ukraine in the event of a Russian invasion, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Sunday. 

Asked on BBC Television whether he would rule out putting NATO troops in Ukraine if Russia does invade, Stoltenberg said: “We have no plans to deploy NATO combat troops to Ukraine … we are focusing on providing support.” 

“There is a difference between being a NATO member and being a strong and highly valued partner as Ukraine. There’s no doubt about that.” 

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Britain Considering Major NATO Deployment Amid Ukraine Crisis

Britain is considering making a major NATO deployment as part of a plan to strengthen Europe’s borders in response to Russia massing troops on the border with Ukraine, the government said Saturday.

Britain has said that any Russian incursion into Ukraine would be met with swift sanctions and would be devastating for both sides.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due to visit the region next week, and also will speak to Vladimir Putin by phone.

Johnson is considering the biggest possible offer to members of the NATO defense pact in the Nordics and Baltics, which would double troop numbers and send defensive weapons to Estonia, his office said.

“This package would send a clear message to the Kremlin “we will not tolerate their destabilizing activity, and we will always stand with our NATO allies in the face of Russian hostility,” Johnson said in a statement.

“I have ordered our Armed Forces to prepare to deploy across Europe next week, ensuring we are able to support our NATO allies.”

Officials will finalize the details of the offer in Brussels next week, with ministers discussing the military options Monday.

Stepping up diplomatic efforts after facing criticism for not doing enough, Johnson will make a second trip to meet NATO counterparts early next month, his office said.

Britain’s foreign and defense ministers will also both go to Moscow for talks with their Russian counterparts in coming days, with the aim of improving relations and de-escalating tensions. 




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