Journalists Warn New Bosnia Defamation Law Will Limit Reporting

The adoption of a law to criminalize defamation in Bosnia’s republic of Srpska has oppositional lawmakers, media watchdogs and the EU concerned. For VOA News, Aid Mrsic has the story. Camera: Dragan Stegic

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US Charity Helps Maasai Herders Recover From Deadly Drought

A record drought in the Horn of Africa has killed vast numbers of cows, goats and sheep, imperiling the livelihoods of pastoralists like the Maasai in Kenya. Now, a U.S charity called Water is Life Kenya is giving herders new animals and cash. Juma Majanga reports from Enkong’u Narok village.

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New York City Residents Protest Migrant Crisis 

Nearly 60,000 asylum-seekers are in New York City’s care. Some of them have no choice but to sleep outside, and some residents don’t want them. Nina Vishneva has the story, narrated by Anna Rice.

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Experts Warn of Shrinking Civic Space as BRICS Expands Membership

Some analysts warn that the choice of countries selected for induction into the BRICS bloc suggests the grouping as a whole may be headed on a path toward decreased tolerance for public dissent and debate.

The five-nation developing bloc, which comprises Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, announced on August 24 the admission of six countries into its fold: Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Their membership is expected to become effective in January 2024.

Of the six states, four — Egypt, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia and Iran — have a history of heavily clamping down on dissenting voices. Their inclusion draws them closer to Russia and China, both known as authoritarian regimes that allow little engagement by independent civil society groups.

Neil Melvin, director of International Security Studies at London-based Royal United Security Institute, the U.K.’s oldest defense and security policy group, told VOA the selection of these six nations from among some 40 applicants reflected the disparate interests of the existing BRICS members.

“Argentina is there because of its neighbor Brazil. Russia and China also want to bring in Iran. And Egypt is there primarily because of the centrality of the hydrocarbon sector to many of the BRICS countries. And, for South Africa, it likely wanted Ethiopia because of its centrality for African diplomacy,” he said. The African Union is headquartered in Addis Ababa.

“We do see a group of countries that certainly have a democracy problem, and this is strengthening non-democratic trends in the BRICS, and a human rights problem,” Melvin said.

The Committee to Protect Journalists has cited Ethiopia, Iran and China among the 10 most censored countries for journalists in the world. Like political analysts, the advocacy group wants openness on the part of BRICS leaders.

Guillen Kaiser, CPJ’s advocacy and communications director, told VOA that because BRICS makes up “a significant portion of the world’s population,” it is imperative for member states, “many of which are repressive regimes,” to accept that their people want to be informed.

“The public wants transparency and accountability. Journalists provide this every day, with reporting that moves markets and allows people to make informed decisions,” she said. “BRICS leaders must accept that ultimately, their chokehold on the flow of information isn’t grounded in reality and it is in their interest to embrace a free press.”

Melvin noted that the BRICS expansion follows Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the refusal by some countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America to join the United States and most of Europe in retaliatory sanctions.

The expansion, he said, might be a signal of the bloc’s resolve to lead a new kind of Global South movement to broaden its legitimacy. “But I think this is going to be a very difficult agenda because it is relatively easy to complain about the existing [world] order.”

Melvin said if BRICS expects to offer an alternative to the West, it will have to address the challenges faced by its incoming members — an economic crisis in Argentina and massive debts faced by Ethiopia and Egypt.

“The West has been struggling with this for many years,” he said. “So, can China, Russia and the rest actually put something together? That’s the question they have put on themselves, and they’re going to have to answer that.”

Mandeep Tiwana, chief officer for evidence and engagement at CIVICUS, a global civil society alliance, told VOA that many of the newly inducted BRICS members have a record of suppressing human rights and dismantling the democratic aspirations of their people.

“BRICS is, in a sense, trying to reframe global governance,” Tiwana said. “Because when you have governments that are totalitarian in nature, it is going to create more challenges for people around the world rather than resolve challenges or create a better life for all.”

Tiwana said with Russia and China having disproportionate influence within the bloc, it is still not clear whether democratic states like Brazil, India and South Africa can have a positive influence on the other members.

“The leaders have not openly spoken about this, and our research shows that four of the countries BRICS is admitting have serious civic space restrictions, and so it doesn’t augur well for people-centered decision-making when you practically have no independent civil society in these countries,” he said.

“Our hope is that countries with democratic traditions within the BRICS alliance can influence the others to be more open to civil society so they can involve people in their decision-making.”

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa said BRICS would expand more in the future.

This story originated in VOA’s English to Africa Service.

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Russian Malware Targeting Ukrainian Mobile Devices

Ukrainian troops using Android mobile devices are coming under attack from Russian hackers, who are using a new kind of malware to try to steal information critical to the ongoing counteroffensive.

Cyber officials from the United States, along with counterparts from Australia, Britain, Canada and New Zealand, issued a warning Thursday about the malware, named Infamous Chisel, which aims to scan files, monitor communications and “periodically steal sensitive information.”

The U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, or CISA, describes the new malware as “a collection of components which enable persistent access to an infected Android device … which periodically collates and exfiltrates victim information.”


A CISA report published Thursday shared additional technical details about the Russian campaign, with officials warning the malware could be employed against other targets.

Thursday’s warning reflects “the need for all organizations to keep their Shields Up to detect and mitigate Russian cyber activity, and the importance of continued focus on maintaining operational resilience under all conditions,” said Eric Goldstein, CISA executive assistant director for cybersecurity, in a statement.

According to the report by the U.S. and its allies, the malware is designed to persist on a system by replacing legitimate coding with other coding from outside the system that is not directly attached to the malware itself.

It also said the malware’s components are of “low to medium sophistication and appear to have been developed with little regard to defense evasion or concealment of malicious activity.”

Ukraine’s SBU security agency first discovered the Russian malware earlier in August, saying it was being used to “gain access to the combat data exchange system of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.”

Ukrainian officials said at the time they were able to launch defensive cyber operations to expose and block the Russian efforts.

An SBU investigation determined that Russia was able to launch the malware attack after capturing Ukrainian computer tablets on the battlefield.

Ukraine attributed the attack to a cyber threat actor known as Sandworm, which U.S. and British officials have previously linked to the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence service.

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Ex-Proud Boys Organizer Gets 17 Years in Prison in Jan. 6 Capitol Riot Case

A former organizer of the far-right Proud Boys extremist group was sentenced on Thursday to 17 years in prison for spearheading an attack on the U.S. Capitol to prevent the peaceful transfer of power from Donald Trump to Joe Biden after the 2020 presidential election.

The sentence for Joseph Biggs is the second longest among hundreds of Capitol riot cases so far, after the 18-year prison sentence for Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes.

Federal prosecutors had recommended a 33-year prison sentence for Biggs, who helped lead dozens of Proud Boys members and associates in marching to the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Biggs and other Proud Boys joined the mob that broke through police lines and forced lawmakers to flee, disrupting the joint session of Congress for certifying the electoral victory by Biden, a Democrat.

U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly said the Jan. 6 attack trampled on an “important American custom,” certifying the Electoral College vote.

“That day broke our tradition of peacefully transferring power, which is among the most precious things that we had as Americans,” the judge said, emphasizing that he was using the past tense in light of how Jan. 6 affected the process.

Biggs acknowledged to the judge that he “messed up that day,” but he blamed being “seduced by the crowd” of Trump supporters outside the Capitol and said he’s not a violent person or “a terrorist.”

“My curiosity got the better of me, and I’ll have to live with that for the rest of my life,” he said, claiming he didn’t have “hate in my heart” and didn’t want to hurt people.

Prosecutors, though, defended their decision to seek 33 years behind bars for Biggs, saying it was justified because he and his fellow Proud Boys committed “among the most serious crimes that this court will consider,” pushing the U.S. government “to the edge of a constitutional crisis.”

“There is a reason why we will hold our collective breath as we approach future elections,” prosecutor Jason McCullough said. “We never gave it a second thought before January 6th.”

The judge who sentenced Biggs also will separately sentence four other Proud Boys who were convicted by a jury in May after a four-month trial in Washington, D.C., that laid bare far-right extremists’ embrace of lies by Trump, a Republican, that the 2020 election was stolen from him.

Enrique Tarrio, a Miami resident who was the Proud Boys’ national chairman and top leader, is scheduled to be sentenced on Tuesday. His sentencing was moved from Wednesday to next week because the judge was sick.

Tarrio wasn’t in Washington on Jan. 6. He had been arrested two days before the Capitol riot on charges that he defaced a Black Lives Matter banner during an earlier rally in the nation’s capital, and he complied with a judge’s order to leave the city after his arrest. He picked Biggs and Proud Boys chapter president Ethan Nordean to be the group’s leaders on the ground in his absence, prosecutors said.

Biggs, of Ormond Beach, Florida, was a self-described Proud Boys organizer. He served in the U.S. Army for eight years before getting medically discharged in 2013. Biggs later worked as a correspondent for Infowars, the website operated by conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.

Biggs, Tarrio, Nordean and Proud Boys chapter leader Zachary Rehl were convicted of charges including seditious conspiracy, a rarely brought Civil War-era offense. A fifth Proud Boys member, Dominic Pezzola, was acquitted of seditious conspiracy but was convicted of other serious charges.

Prosecutors also recommended prison sentences of 33 years for Tarrio, 30 years for Rehl, 27 years for Nordean and 20 years for Pezzola. The judge is scheduled to sentence Rehl later on Thursday. Pezzola and Nordean are scheduled to be sentenced on Friday.

Defense attorneys argued that the Justice Department was unfairly holding their clients responsible for the violent actions of others in the crowd of Trump supporters at the Capitol.

More than 1,100 people have been charged with Capitol riot-related federal crimes. Over 600 of them have been convicted and sentenced.

Besides Rhodes, six members of the anti-government Oath Keepers also were convicted of seditious conspiracy after a separate trial last year.

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Kenya Slated for 100% Bean Consumption Hike to Improve Diets, Food Systems

A campaign in Africa to make beans the answer to food insecurity in areas affected by climate change will begin next week, with a focus on Kenya. A coalition of proponents will present its roadmap for increased production and consumption of beans and similar foods like lentils and peas at the Africa Food Systems Forum, to be held in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. 

“Beans is How,” the name for a coalition of more than 60 non-profit organizations, companies and research institutes, has set its eyes on Kenya, pushing for a 100% increase in the consumption of beans and other foods classified as pulses. 

Jean Claude Rubyogo, head of the Pan-African Bean Research Alliance (PABRA), an organization that pushes for beans as a source of food and income for the continent, said the first step is to help farmers grow more beans. 

“First of all, we need to double the production because if we don’t have enough, like in Kenya, there are many people, maybe half, who would like to eat beans daily and even as a meal but the availability is minimum,” he said. “So, we need to increase productivity, we need to see how we can reduce the cost to the consumer and at the same time incentivize the farmer with better varieties, with better agronomic practices so that they can increase production and productivity.”  

Climate change has affected bean farming just as it has impacted other crops. Unpredictable weather patterns have made it challenging for farmers to cultivate beans and get good harvests.

Experts say low awareness among farmers about utilizing the proper seed varieties for their specific local conditions has led to reduced yields. The presence of pests and diseases has also played a role in declining bean production.

Rubyogo said a reduction of planting and harvesting time can help alleviate the farmers’ hunger and poverty.


“For now, we have varieties going up to 65 days, 70 days, 80 days,” he said. “That’s shorter than any other food crop, so you can see when it’s short, it allows farmers to get cash because it reduces cash hunger periods. It also reduces the hunger period in families so that people can get food in a short period of 70 days. That means you can grow several seasons a year if you invest in water management.”  

Experts are also working on beans that can take less cooking time, saving families energy and time.

Despite not producing enough beans, according to the Global Diet Quality Project, half of Kenyans eat pulses daily.  

Paul Newnham, head of the Sustainable Development Goal 2 Advocacy Hub, which coordinates the Beans is How campaign, said beans are universal and nutritious on top of it.

“Beans is something you find in all different cultures around the world,” he said. “So, you find traditions that have used beans right back from indigenous cultures and all types of different cuisines. Beans are also relatively cheap compared to many other foods … Beans are also super nutritious. They have not only protein, they have fiber, and they have lots of micro-macronutrients. They are also great for the soil.”

Newnham said Beans is How has developed a roadmap to increase the production and consumption of beans.

“The first is to influence and activate a community of bean stakeholders and a champion and influencers in this, being producers, retailers, champions, chefs, young people, and social media influencers, to make beans visible and accessible and desirable and at the same time to build understanding among the decision makers as the value of beans and tackling the policy agenda to ensure and inspire the public to eat, grow more beans, he said.” 

Beans is How will be featured at the Africa Food Systems Forum in Tanzania next week. Bean advocates will host a market stall there, demonstrating ways to cook the food.

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Some Neighbors Reject Sudan Refugees as Numbers Hit 1 Million

The United Nations says 1 million people have fled Sudan, confounding expectations about the scale of the exodus triggered by the country’s war. While some neighboring states, such as Chad and South Sudan, welcome refugees, others, such as Egypt, are pushing them away. Henry Wilkins reports from Renk, South Sudan, and Adre, Chad.

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A Man’s Hobby Becomes a Crucial Tool in Global Efforts to Enforce Sanctions on Russia

It started as one man’s hobby, but watching Russian cargo ships on the Bosphorus Strait and spotting those that are busting sanctions by carrying illegal cargo from occupied ports in Ukraine has become a crucial resource for global media and others who monitor compliance.

From his terrace, Yoruk Isik captures with his camera another Russian cargo ship passing Istanbul’s Bosphorus waterway from the Black Sea to European markets and beyond. It started as a hobby, but for Isik, a regional political analyst, monitoring the ships has become a personal passion.

“I am interested in Russian foreign policy, and watching ships on the Bosphorus really gives clues about Russian foreign policy and what they are engaging in, what they are planning to do in the coming months,” he said. 

With the Bosphorus waterway narrowing to a few hundred meters, monitoring ships is relatively easy. Isik records the name of the ships, the cargo, and the flag it is sailing under. He works with an international network of volunteers and nongovernment organizations that share data online on the movement of Russian cargo ships.

The information is crucial for world media and others who monitor compliance. 

Isik’s website,, has become an important go-to resource for media including Reuters news agency, which uses his photos. With sanction-busting ships often turning off their Automatic Identification System or AIS that allows them to be tracked by international authorities, monitoring efforts by people like Isik are vital, said George Voloshin, a global financial crime expert at ACAMS, a U.S.-based watchdog.

“I think this (ship monitoring) is very valuable because, actually, a common technique is to manipulate your AIS signal by resample just turning down your transponder or trying to manipulate it, interfere with it so that a ship appears to be in a different place in a different location. So, all those leads are potentially valuable,” he said.

Voloshin said such monitoring helped expose Russia’s exports of stolen Ukrainian grain and coal from Black Sea ports that it occupied in Ukraine, much of which Isik recorded passing through the Bosphorus waterway.

Moscow denies accusations that it is busting sanctions.

The waters off Istanbul are under limited Turkish jurisdiction and are an international hub for hundreds of empty cargo ships and tankers that frequently change owners. Experts say this makes tracking difficult and creates conditions favorable to those seeking to circumvent a long list of sanctions.

Adding to the difficulties in applying the sanctions is Turkey’s refusal to enforce them. Ankara says it is not bound by them.

Trade between Russia and Turkey has surged since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

“Russia is the world’s most sanctioned country. So, most of the people who are engaged in trade with Russia, they are trying to hide their activities because they are worried that somehow some sanctions will come back and haunt them,” said, the Bosphorous Observer analyst Yoruk Isik.

In 2015, Isik exposed Russia’s export of arms by sea to the Syrian government for its fight against rebels. Now, he spends most of his spare time tracking ships, which he expects to continue for many years, as Russia shows no signs of changing its behavior.

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A Man’s Hobby Becomes a Crucial Tool in Global Efforts to Enforce Sanctions on Russia

It started as one man’s hobby, but watching Russian cargo ships on the Bosphorus Strait and spotting those that are busting sanctions by carrying illegal cargo from occupied ports in Ukraine has become a crucial resource for global media and others who monitor compliance. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul.

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Russia Says it Downed Ukrainian Drone Near Moscow

Russian officials said Thursday the country’s air defenses shot down a Ukrainian drone flying toward Moscow.

The Russian defense ministry said the drone was destroyed over the Voskresensky district.

Sergei Sobyanin, Moscow’s mayor, said on Telegram there were no reports of casualties or damage.

Ukraine on Wednesday launched a wave of drone attacks aimed at six Russian regions, including hitting an airport near Russia’s border with Estonia and Latvia.  That drone ignited a huge blaze and damaged four Il-76 military transport planes, which can carry heavy machinery and troops, the Russian news agency Tass reported, quoting emergency officials.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said the Russian military would undoubtedly analyze “how this was done in order to take appropriate measures to prevent these situations in the future.”

Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said Ukraine was relying on foreign help because the drones “simply would not be able to fly such a distance without carefully researched information from Western satellites.”

Meanwhile, Moscow’s forces hit Kyiv with drones and missiles with what Ukrainian officials described as a “massive, combined attack” that killed two people with falling debris.

Sergei Popko, the head of Kyiv’s military administration, described Russia’s attack on the Ukrainian capital as the biggest since the spring, even as Ukraine’s air defenses shot down more than 20 drones and missiles.

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

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Improved Relations Won’t Signal Vietnam Alignment with US, Experts Say

When U.S. President Joe Biden visits Vietnam in early September, experts say Washington and Hanoi are likely to upgrade ties to a strategic partnership, an important step for bilateral relations. Experts add, however, that this should not be misinterpreted as Vietnam aligning with the United States.

In Hanoi’s diplomatic hierarchy, a strategic partnership is the second tier, only surpassed by the highest-level designation – a comprehensive strategic partnership.

The White House said August 28 that U.S. President Joe Biden would be going to Hanoi September 10, to meet with Communist Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong, who holds the country’s top position, and other leaders on ways to further deepen bilateral cooperation.

While experts said upgraded ties are close to a sure thing if Biden’s visit goes as planned, they said that Vietnamese leaders are upgrading their partnerships more broadly as a defense to China’s growing aggression in the region.

“This is not Vietnam moving into a U.S. orbit. This is Vietnam maintaining its own independent orbit – maintaining its own space from China,” said Gregory Poling, director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

“That leaves a lot of room for pragmatic cooperation and shared interest but Vietnam is not coming to our side of the playground,” he said.

‘Web of partnerships’

Vietnam has been busy on the diplomatic front over the past year, seeking to upgrade ties with many in the region.

In December, Vietnam upgraded ties with South Korea to a comprehensive strategic partnership, the highest level in Vietnam’s diplomatic hierarchy, also held with China, Russia, and India.

Vietnam is also expected to sign a comprehensive strategic partnership with Australia this year, which was announced after Foreign Affairs Minister Bui Thanh Son and his counterpart, Penny Wong, met in Hanoi on August 22.

Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong also visited Hanoi August 27. There, he met with Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh and the two discussed embarking on a comprehensive strategic partnership.

These enhanced ties are a concerted effort by Hanoi to create a bulwark against Beijing, said Alexander Vuving, a professor at the Asia Pacific Center for Security Studies in Honolulu.

Vietnam “has to upgrade their relationship with all these countries that can help them in case of crisis or even help them to boost their resilience against Chinese encroachment,” Vuving said. “If you look at that kind of web of partnerships with all the significant powers in the region, you can be a little more secure. That’s the overall strategy for Vietnam. Reaching out – geopolitical promiscuity.”

Threats to Vietnam’s territorial sovereignty often play out in the South China Sea, known in Vietnam as the East Sea. Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone extends 200 nautical miles off the coastline. China claims nearly all of the resource-rich waters with its nine-dash line – a disputed map demarcation encompassing most of the South China Sea.

China “has coast guard ships and militia ships harassing and disrupting Vietnam’s exploration for oil every day,” Vuving said. “They are pushing the Vietnamese fishermen out of their own EEZ.”

This ceaseless badgering of Vietnamese operations at sea is a top rationale for upgraded ties with the United States and other partners, said Ray Powell, who leads Stanford University’s Project Myoushu on the South China Sea.

“The constant pressure that China puts on [Vietnam] from all kinds of angles factors into their desire to keep raising the levels of those partnerships,” Powell said. “In a lot of ways it is more about balancing against China than it is about aligning with the United States.”

Balancing act

This year marks 10 years since Washington and Hanoi launched a comprehensive partnership. Although experts say the Biden administration is keen to jump two levels to a comprehensive strategic partnership, Vietnamese leaders must be cautious about not angering Beijing even while trying to counter its growing power.

Hanoi and Washington normalized bilateral relations in 1995, and elevated to a comprehensive partnership in 2013. The partnership is a formal designation in Vietnamese foreign policy which puts the U.S. currently in the third tier among Vietnam’s diplomatic partners.

Nguyen Khac Giang, visiting fellow at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute, said moving one step up to a strategic partnership is the likely outcome of Biden’s visit as Hanoi treads carefully in order to keep peace with Beijing. “Vietnam is quite careful at balancing that relationship with the two great powers,” he said.

Still, the strategic partnership would be an important step for Vietnam to “toughen up” its maritime capabilities, enable potential arms procurement, and send a message to Beijing, he said.

“Very strongly, it would respond to China’s pressure that if you push me too far I will have the U.S. [partnership] at least to help protect my own national interest,” Giang said.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct the date of the White House statement referenced in graph 3.

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Regional Bloc Calls for ‘Return of Constitutional Order’ in Gabon

The Central African regional bloc ECCAS Thursday condemned the use of force to resolve political conflicts as it called for a rapid return to constitutional order in Gabon.

The Commission of the Economic Community of Central African States said in a statement it was closely monitoring the situation in Gabon, and that heads of state would hold an imminent meeting to discuss the political and security situation.

After army officers said they seized power and placed President Ali Bongo under house arrest Wednesday, other nations condemned the events, including the United States which called for Bongo’s release and the preservation of civilian rule.

“The United States is deeply concerned by evolving events in Gabon.  We remain strongly opposed to military seizures or unconstitutional transfers of power,” State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said in a statement.

Miller also noted concern about “the lack of transparency and reports of irregularities surrounding the election” in Gabon in which Bongo won a third term in office.

The mutinous soldiers announced the coup on national television just moments after the nation’s election commission declared Bongo had won.

The officers said that the election results were invalidated, all state institutions dissolved and all borders closed until further notice.

General Brice Clotaire Oligui Nguema, chief of the Republican Guard, was designated president of the transitional committee.

Oligui is Bongo’s cousin. He had been a bodyguard for Bongo’s late father, President Omar Bongo, and was the head of the secret service before becoming the leader of the guard.

Bongo later appeared in a video calling on “friends of Gabon” to “make some noise” to support him. The 64-year-old president, seated in a chair, said he was at his residence and that his wife and son were elsewhere.

But the crowds that poured into the streets of the capital, Libreville, celebrated the news of the president’s removal, with several demonstrators saying they were glad the Bongo family was out of power.

Bongo first took office in 2009 after the death of his father, Omar Bongo, who had ruled the oil-producing country for the previous 42 years.

Opponents say the family has failed to share the country’s oil and mining wealth with its 2.3 million people.

Gabon is a former French colony and one of its closest allies in Africa.

“France condemns the military coup that is underway in Gabon and is closely monitoring developments,” French government spokesperson, Olivier Veran, said Wednesday. Véran restated France’s commitment to free and transparent elections, as did Great Britain and Canada. France has about 400 troops in Gabon.

However, according to a French accountability group, nine members of the Bongo family are under investigation in France, and some face preliminary charges linked to corruption. The family has been linked to more than $92 million in properties in France, including two villas in Nice, according to the group.

Gunfire was heard throughout Libreville after the officers’ initial television appearance. The U.S. Embassy has advised Americans in the capital to shelter in place and limit unnecessary movements.

Flights out of Libreville have been canceled, and the city’s port has halted operations.

Saturday’s elections were overshadowed by a lack of international observers, raising concerns about transparency.

Afterward, Bongo’s government curtailed internet service and imposed a nightly curfew across the nation, saying it was necessary to prevent the spread of misinformation.

Internet access seemed to be at least partially restored after the coup announcement.

The declared coup comes on the heels of last month’s military overthrow of President Mohamed Bazoum of Niger, the latest in a series of coups across West and Central Africa since 2020. Bongo survived an attempted military takeover in January 2019 as he was recovering from a stroke.

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

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Shapps Named New British Defense Minister

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak named Grant Shapps as his new defense minister Thursday following the resignation of defense chief Ben Wallace. 

Shapps had been serving as secretary of energy security.

Wallace, who led Britain’s military response to the war in Ukraine, signaled his intention to step down last month and issued a formal letter of resignation Thursday after four years on the job.

Wallace said the defense ministry is “more modern, better funded and more confident” than when he took the post in 2019.

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

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Fire Kills More than 50 in Johannesburg

A building fire in central Johannesburg, South Africa, killed at least 58 people and injured 43 others.

Emergency Services spokesman Robert Mulaudzi released the death toll on X, formerly known as Twitter, saying search and recovery efforts were ongoing.

The fire broke out before dawn in a multi-story building that Mulaudzi said was being used as an informal settlement.

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

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TPS Extended for 2 Countries, 5 More Set for September

The Biden administration recently announced an extension and redesignation of the program that gives temporary protection from deportation for nationals of Sudan and Ukraine. Nationals of El Salvador, Honduras, Nepal and Nicaragua will also have their protection extended in September.

The Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program allows migrants whose home countries are considered unsafe to live and work in the United States for a period of time if they meet certain requirements established by the U.S. government.

In a call Wednesday with reporters, immigration advocates urged the Biden administration to designate new countries to receive TPS status and redesignate current ones to allow more people to qualify for the program and work legally in the U.S.

Daniel Costa, director of immigration law and policy research at the Economic Policy Institute, said current TPS holders have high labor force participation rates and contribute billions to the U.S. economy every year.

“TPS raises wages through the provision of work authorization for people who don’t have it. … Higher wages also mean more spending back in the economy, which creates more jobs,” he said.

The original TPS designations for Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador were made more than 20 years ago. When the Biden administration extended TPS for those countries in June, it was for current TPS holders.

If the Biden administration were to redesignate TPS, it would change the cut-off date of when people had to have entered the U.S. in order to qualify for the program, and those who entered within the last 20 years would be eligible.

According to a report by the Niskanen Center, a Washington-based policy research institute, the “vast majority” of TPS holders are employed.

“More than 94% of TPS holders were in the labor force as of 2017, working in sectors ranging from retail to health care. According to some estimates, ending TPS for just El Salvador, Honduras, and Haiti would lead to a loss of over $160 billion to U.S. GDP over a decade,” the report shows.

New countries

Advocates also called for new TPS designations. Immigrants rights groups have ongoing campaigns for Mauritania and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Nils Kinuani, the immigration coordinator for the Congolese Community of Washington Metropolitan, told VOA the group had conversations with DHS officials in April, and they are still hopeful.

“Last winter, we were joined by over 110 organizations, national and state, to request a TPS designation for DRC. We launched the campaign in February 2023. We have been also working with congressional leaders to push for this designation,” Kinuani said.

According to the State Department, the DRC is suffering a humanitarian crisis marked by civil conflicts that have spanned more than two decades.

Black Mauritanian leaders and others have also urged the administration to designate Mauritania under TPS status.

“This is the longest TPS campaign many of our organizations have worked on; a stark difference from the TPS designation for countries like Ukraine, which received TPS within a week of the conflict starting. The United States had a long-standing policy of not deporting Mauritanians because of the country’s well documented record of human rights abuses, which include the practice of enslaving Black people and maintaining an apartheid regime,” Haddy Gassama, policy and advocacy director of the UndocuBlack Network, wrote in a statement.

A bipartisan letter from Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown and Republican Representative Mike Carey was sent to President Joe Biden and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas urging officials to consider the circumstances in Mauritania and requesting immediate TPS designation for Mauritanians living in the United States.

DHS officials did not disclose why these countries have yet to receive a TPS designation, but they said DHS is “monitoring” the situation.

Who has TPS designations?

Congress established TPS in 1990. Currently, 16 countries are designated for the program.

A U.S. Department of Homeland Security spokesperson wrote in an email to VOA on background — often used by U.S. officials to share information with reporters without being identified — that TPS is not to be equated with other recently expanded pathways to legal residence in the United States.

These include “a dramatic expansion of refugee resettlement processing from the Western Hemisphere; parole processes for Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans, and Venezuelans; expanded Family Reunification Programs; expanded labor visas; and direct access to appointments at Ports of Entry via the CBP One app,” the official wrote.

Current TPS holders who want to extend their status must register again during the 60-day registration period for their country’s designation.

What is the process for a country to receive TPS designation?

Congress authorized the DHS secretary to decide when a country should be placed under TPS designation.

Before making a decision to designate a country, the secretary is required to consult with various government agencies. While the specific agencies are not outlined in the law, these consultations typically involve the Department of State, the National Security Council, and sometimes the Department of Justice.

“The Department regularly monitors country conditions and consults other appropriate government agencies to determine whether a TPS designation is warranted. The department does not have anything specific to share regarding the status of these considerations for any particular country,” a DHS official wrote in an email.

These designations are set for six, 12, or 18 months. About two months before a country’s TPS expiration, the secretary has to decide once again if the U.S. will terminate or extend the TPS benefit.

Whatever the decision, it needs to be published in the Federal Register — the nation’s daily publication system for a variety of public documents.

The TPS program, however, does not lead to permanent U.S. residency. As of March, about 610,000 foreign nationals currently hold TPS status.

TPS holders who leave the U.S. without first obtaining a travel authorization may lose their TPS status and won’t be able to reenter the country.

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Fiji Says It Will Sign Defense Agreement With France

Fiji will sign a defense agreement with France, after the Cabinet of the Pacific Islands nation approved the deal, Fiji’s government said in a statement Thursday.

France’s President Emmanuel Macron in July toured the Pacific Islands, where France has overseas territories, denouncing predatory behavior by big powers in a region where China is extending trade and security ties.

Macron’s advisers say France can be an “alternative” and help island nations diversify their partnerships without becoming too reliant on one single country.

A statement from the Fiji Prime Minister’s Office on Thursday said its Cabinet had discussed defense cooperation between Fiji and France and approved a Status of Forces Agreement.

Areas covered by the agreement include joint defense technology research, training, logistical support and emergency and humanitarian assistance.

“The agreement provides a framework for cooperation and assistance through military exchanges and the sharing of expertise between the Republic of Fiji military force and the defense force of the French Republic,” the statement said.

A joint document would be signed by both parties, it said.

France’s embassy in Fiji did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Fiji and France began negotiations for a Status of Forces Agreement in 2016, under the Bainimarama government. China instead became a major donor of military vehicles, vessels and other defense equipment around 2018.

The government of Sitiveni Rabuka, elected last year, has shifted attention to the United States and Australia.

France has recently worked with Fiji, Australia and the United States on illegal fishing patrols in the Pacific Ocean.

Rabuka said last week the Pacific Islands should be a “zone of peace, a zone of non-aligned territories”, adding that he hopes the rivalry between the United States and China in the region does not develop into a military conflict or build-up.

The Pacific Islands, pivotal during World War II, are again at the center of a geopolitical contest: Solomon Islands has a security pact with China, while Papua New Guinea signed a defense cooperation deal with the United States.

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In Sudan’s East, Murky Arms Trade Thrives as War Rages

More than four months into Sudan’s devastating war, arms dealers are struggling to keep up with demand for a trade that is booming, at a deadly cost.

“A Kalashnikov? A rifle? A pistol?” said a 63-year-old dealer known as Wad al-Daou, offering his wares with a resounding laugh.

“The demand for weapons has soared so high that we can’t possibly meet it,” he said at a market near Sudan’s borders with Ethiopia and Eritrea.

Fighting broke out on April 15 between army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and his former deputy Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, who commands the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).

The war has killed thousands, displaced millions and flooded the arsenals of a country already awash with weapons.

Arms dealers say prices have skyrocketed, while authorities loyal to the army have repeatedly reported the seizure of “sophisticated” weapons.

On Aug. 10, state media said a shootout erupted in the eastern city of Kassala between soldiers and traffickers over vans loaded with weapons bound for the RSF.

A security official said it was one of “three major seizures of weapons” in Kassala and near the Red Sea port of Suakin.

“That’s in addition to smaller operations,” he told AFP on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

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But smugglers say authorities have been unable to curb the arms flow.

“We used to receive a shipment every three months, but now we’re getting one every two weeks,” Daou said.

Even before the war, authorities had sought to curb the massive influx of arms.

At the end of 2022, a government commission charged with rounding up illegal arms estimated there were five million weapons in the hands of Sudan’s 48 million citizens.

This excluded “those held by rebel groups” in the western and southern states of Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile that are served by long-established smuggling routes.

But since the war began, there have been many “fresh faces” trying to make a quick buck, said Saleh, another arms dealer who refused to give his real name.

It’s a “thriving market”, the 35-year-old said after hopping down from his new four-wheel drive clutching two smartphones.

Demand is high, since what began as a war between rival generals has spiraled to include tribes, rebels and civilians desperate to protect themselves.


In a recent video, one of Sudan’s eastern tribes showed hundreds of its members — weapons in hand — vowing to support the army.

Such shows of force are costly, with the price of a Kalashnikov jumping to “$1,500 per rifle, up from $850 before the war,” Saleh said.

More sophisticated arms are even more expensive.

An American M16 rifle goes for $8,500, and a prized Israeli firearm for up to $10,000.

Asked where his weapons come from, Saleh cut the conversation short, only saying “machine guns and assault rifles… come from the Red Sea.”

He refused to elaborate on the supply route that the security official also blames for the arms influx.

“Smugglers take advantage of the war in Yemen and the situation in Somalia” to carry out their business via the southern Red Sea, the official said.

“These groups are connected to international arms trade networks and have massive capabilities.”

Along the coast south of Tokar, near Eritrea, traffickers take advantage of “a weak security presence,” using “isolated ports and the rugged terrain” that others can’t navigate, said the official.

“The border area has always been a crossroads for arms deals, thanks to Ethiopian and Eritrean armed groups at war with their governments,” he added.

‘We don’t ask’

The arms then converge at one spot — the sparsely populated Al-Batana region between the Atbara tributary and Blue Nile state.

In late August, police raided the area, injuring civilians in the process, according to activists.

This is where Daou sells his shipments, to customers he describes as “farmers and herders who want weapons to protect themselves.”

Authorities insist the arms they have found in the country’s east were bound for the RSF, who categorically deny any illicit dealings.

“We are a regular force,” one RSF source said, referring to the paramilitary group’s former status as an auxiliary branch of the army since 2013.

“Our weapons sources are well known and we do not deal with traffickers. We catch them,” he told AFP on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media.

For Saleh, it is inconsequential.

“We sell our weapons to people in Al-Batana,” he said. “We don’t ask them what they’re going to do with them afterwards.”

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US Senators Hail Recommendation to Ease Marijuana Restrictions

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has delivered a recommendation to the Drug Enforcement Administration on marijuana policy, and Senate leaders hailed it Wednesday as a first step toward easing federal restrictions on the drug.

HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said Wednesday on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, that the agency has responded to President Joe Biden’s request “to provide a scheduling recommendation for marijuana to the DEA.”

“We’ve worked to ensure that a scientific evaluation be completed and shared expeditiously,” he added.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement that HHS had recommended that marijuana be moved from a Schedule I to a Schedule III controlled substance.

“HHS has done the right thing,” Schumer, D-N.Y., said. “DEA should now follow through on this important step to greatly reduce the harm caused by draconian marijuana laws.”

Rescheduling the drug would reduce or potentially eliminate criminal penalties for possession. Marijuana is currently classified as a Schedule I drug, alongside heroin and LSD.

According to the DEA, Schedule I drugs “have no currently accepted medical use in the United States, a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision, and a high potential for abuse.”

Schedule III drugs “have a potential for abuse less than substances in Schedules I or II and abuse may lead to moderate or low physical dependence or high psychological dependence.” They currently include ketamine and some anabolic steroids.

Biden requested the review in October 2022 as he pardoned thousands of Americans convicted of “simple possession” of marijuana under federal law.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., issued a statement calling for marijuana to be completely descheduled.

“However, the recommendation of HHS to reschedule cannabis as a Schedule III drug is not inconsequential,” he added. “If HHS’s recommendation is ultimately implemented, it will be a historic step for a nation whose cannabis policies have been out of touch with reality.”

Bloomberg News first reported on the HHS recommendation.

In reaction to the Bloomberg report, the nonprofit U.S. Cannabis Council said: “We enthusiastically welcome today’s news. … Rescheduling will have a broad range of benefits, including signaling to the criminal justice system that cannabis is a lower priority and providing a crucial economic lifeline to the cannabis industry.”

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Tropical Storm Idalia to Move into Atlantic After Hitting Florida 

Tropical Storm Idalia brought heavy rain to the U.S. states of North Carolina and South Carolina late Wednesday after slamming into Florida’s Gulf Coast as a powerful hurricane early in the day.

The National Hurricane Center warned of the potential for flooding in the Carolinas on Thursday as the center of the storm moved back into the Atlantic.

The forecast path for Idalia could take it to Bermuda still at tropical storm strength sometime around Sunday.  The island dealt Wednesday with rains from another storm, Hurricane Franklin.

Idalia knocked out power to nearly 500,000 customers in Florida and neighboring Georgia while flooding coastal areas in Florida and spawning at least one tornado in South Carolina.

The storm made landfall with winds of about 200 kph and was tied with an 1896 hurricane as the strongest ever to hit Florida’s Big Bend area, where the peninsular state curves to meet its panhandle region to the west.

Storm surges pushed the coastal surf to nearly 2.5 meters higher than normal at Cedar Key, near the landfall site, but the hurricane came ashore at low tide, minimizing an even worse surge of floodwaters.

Authorities reported at least two people were killed in weather-related car crashes in Florida, while Georgia reported one death related to the storm.

In preparation for rescue and repair efforts, about 5,500 National Guard troops were activated, and more than 30,000 utility workers stood by ahead of the storm’s arrival. 

Some information in this report came from The Associated Press.   

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Gabon’s Decadeslong Dynastic Leadership in Jeopardy After Coup

Gabon, an oil-rich coastal country in Central Africa, has found itself at the center of global attention as military officers in the nation declared they had seized power in an apparent coup on Wednesday.

The announcement made on state-run television is perhaps the most significant threat to the country’s dynastic leadership and highlights the underlying power struggles that have been simmering for years.

The coup also heightened regional and global concerns about a “coup contagion” gripping West Africa.

The Bongo dynasty

Gabon has been ruled by the Bongo family for more than half a century. Omar Bongo Ondimba, who served as the president of Gabon for 42 years until his death in 2009, was a former French air force officer and politician who took power in the post-independence years.

Omar Bongo’s legacy was carried forward by his son, Ali Bongo Ondimba, who took office after an election in 2009 that saw the worst post-election violence in years. The Bongo family’s extended rule has ensured political stability that is rare for the region, but it has also been dogged by allegations of corruption and nepotism.

“One family has turned the country into a dynasty,” Henry Muguzi, a coordinator for the African Election Observers Network in Kampala, Uganda, told VOA. “Leadership is handed over from father to son, as if there are no other Gabonese that have capacity to do this.”

In 2022, Omar Bongo’s children were charged with corruption and embezzlement of public funds in France. French prosecutors said the Bongo family had fraudulently acquired an estimated $92 million in France. The case is ongoing, and all accused children of Omar Bongo denied any knowledge of the origins of the assets.

In 2010, an investigation by the advocacy group Transparency International campaigned against what it called Bongo’s “ill-gotten gains,” pointing to the need for accountability and financial transparency.

Gabon’s latest presidential election was held Saturday against the backdrop of those historical grievances. Ali Bongo was announced the winner on Wednesday for a third term with 64.27% of the vote, according to the Gabonese Election Centre. But the opposition denounced the results as fraudulent.

Challenges to dynastic rule

The coup Wednesday in the early hours underscores the growing dissatisfaction within segments of Gabonese society regarding the continuation of the family’s rule. While the Bongo family has enjoyed support from some quarters for maintaining stability and relatively strong economic growth, others view their grip on power as emblematic of a political system that stifles democratic processes and hinders social progress.

Critics argue that dynastic leadership can lead to a concentration of power, lack of transparency and a stifling of political debates.

“In a political context, where you have an authoritarian regime for 50 years, such as the Bongos’ regime has been in Gabon, there is no civic space for citizens,” Muguzi told VOA’s English to Africa Service.

Muguzi said the president, who is under house arrest, has remained in power by making amendments to the country’s constitution to extend his power, and that gave little chance for the opposition to fairly compete with the ruling party. This, Muguzi said, is the “kind of recipe for electoral violence, but also for military coups.”

Social and economic disparities

The country of 2 million people has stark social and economic inequality. While the capital, Libreville, showcases pockets of affluence, many Gabonese citizens struggle to make ends meet, complaining of a lack of access to quality health care and inadequate education systems. The perception that the ruling elite benefits disproportionately from the nation’s wealth while neglecting the needs of the broader population has fueled resentment and unrest.

“Gabon is not a very poor country,” said Steven Nabieu Rogers, a public policy and African governance analyst. He added that despite the country’s importance to global commodities markets because of its oil and manganese, the people “have clearly not enjoyed the benefits that the country holds, because only one family has had accounts for a century, [half-century] and more than 70% of this population doesn’t even know any other president, except this one family.”

Oil production accounts for 38% of the country’s GDP, making Gabon the fourth-largest oil producer in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the World Bank. Despite its mineral riches, 40% of Gabonese between the ages of 15 and 24 are unemployed.

But Rogers predicts “a little bit of change” in its economic stability because of the coup, especially if the military closes borders and suspends the constitution. That will allow a military junta to govern “in a way that is not constitutional, which is not acceptable, because people have a right to vote for the president that they want,” Rogers said in an interview with English to Africa Service’s “Africa 54” TV program.

International reaction

The coup raises concerns about the potential for increased political and economic volatility in the region, with a potential ripple effect beyond Gabon’s borders. Gabon joins a string of former French colonies plagued by coups since 2020, following Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso and, most recently, Niger.

International reactions to the coup were swift.

Stephane Dujarric, the spokesperson for U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, said Guterres called for “all actors involved to exercise restraint, engage in an inclusive and meaningful dialogue, and ensure that the rule of law and human rights are fully respected.”

“He also calls on the national army and security forces to guarantee the physical integrity of the president of the republic and his family. The United Nations stands by the people of Gabon,” Dujarric said.

Speaking at a virtual press briefing, John Kirby, U.S. National Security Council communications coordinator, said, “We’re going to also stay focused on continuing to work with our African partners and all the people on the continent to address challenges and to support democracy.”

Kirby said the U.S. would continue to promote “democracy on the continent and around the world, because we think that’s the best type of governance to promote peace and prosperity for people.”

This story originated in the Africa Division. VOA English to Africa Service’s Esther Githui-Ewart and Paul Ndiho; VOA White House Bureau Chief Patsy Widakuswara; and VOA U.N. Correspondent Margaret Besheer contributed to this report.

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UN Sanctions on Mali to End After Russia Blocks Renewal

United Nations sanctions on Mali will end on Thursday after Russia vetoed a renewal of the measures me that targeted anyone violating or obstructing a 2015 peace deal, hindering aid delivery, committing rights abuses or recruiting child soldiers.

Independent U.N. sanctions monitors reported to the Security Council this month that Mali’s troops and its foreign security partners, believed to be Russia’s Wagner mercenary group, are using violence against women and other “grave human rights abuses” to spread terror.

Thirteen Security Council members voted in favor of a resolution, drafted by France and the United Arab Emirates, to extend the U.N. sanctions and independent monitoring for another year. Russia cast a veto, while China abstained from the vote.

Russia then instead proposed extending U.N. sanctions in Mali for one final year, but immediately ending the independent monitoring now. It was the only country to vote yes, while Japan voted no and the remaining 13 members abstained.

Deputy U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Robert Wood told the council that Russia wanted to eliminate the independent monitoring “to stifle publication of uncomfortable truths about Wagner’s actions in Mali, which require attention.”

In response, Russia’s Deputy U.N. Ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy told Reuters that was speculation and resembled “paranoia,” adding that Russia was “upholding the interests of the affected country — Mali, as the council is supposed to do.”

The U.S. has also accused Wagner, which has about 1,000 fighters in Mali, of engineering an abrupt request by the junta for a 13,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping force to leave. The decade-long operation is due to shutdown by the end of the year.

Mali’s junta, which seized power in coups in 2020 and 2021, teamed up with Wagner in 2021 to fight an Islamist insurgency. Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin died in a plane crash in Russia last week and President Vladimir Putin then ordered Wagner fighters to sign an oath of allegiance to the Russian state.

Mali’s military junta wrote to the Security Council earlier this month to ask for the sanctions to be lifted.

The current annual mandate for the U.N. sanctions regime and independent monitoring will expire Thursday. Russian U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia made clear that Russia would not discuss the issue any further after the two votes Wednesday.

The council established the Mali sanctions regime in 2017, which allowed it to impose travel bans and asset freezes. There are currently eight people subjected to the U.N. sanctions measures. The independent monitors reported to the council twice a year on implementation and potential new designations. 

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Colorado Ukrainian Community Offers Job Fair for New Arrivals

A Ukrainian community group in the western U.S. state of Colorado organized a job fair for newly arrived war refugees. Svitlana Prystynska has our story from Denver. Camera: Volodymyr Petruniv.

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Nigeria Police Raid Same-Sex Wedding; Dozens Arrested

Gay rights activists in Nigeria are criticizing the arrest and detention this week of dozens of people who attended a same-sex wedding. It is one of the biggest mass arrests in recent years targeting the country’s LGBTQ community.

A Nigerian police spokesperson said 67 people remained in custody on charges they broke the law by attending the same-sex wedding in the Delta state town of Ekpan.

The Delta state police said they received information about Monday’s wedding after officers on routine patrol Sunday randomly stopped one of the invited guests and interrogated him. It was not clear if he was stopped based on what he was wearing.

The police raided the wedding venue on Monday and rounded up the two grooms, along with guests.

Authorities also paraded the defendants before the media and said the accused will be made to face the law.

“We already have the remand warrant from the court to still have them in custody because we still have more evidence to bring up together,” Bright Edafe, the Delta state police spokesman, told VOA by phone, “but by the end of this week, they’ll be charged to court.”

Edafe said police recovered materials, including hard drugs and gay marriage ceremonial dresses, during the raid.

If convicted, the defendants face 14 years’ imprisonment, according to an anti-homosexuality law that went into effect in 2014. Police said others accused in the case will be jailed for 10 years if convicted.

The latest arrests come five years after police raided a hotel in Lagos and arrested 57 men for homosexuality.

But criticism has been growing following the latest incident. Rights group Amnesty International condemned the arrests in a statement on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, and asked authorities to “put an immediate end to this witch-hunt.”

The group said that the arrests discriminated based on perceived sexual orientation and gender identity, and that Nigeria’s law was being increasingly used by officers to harass, blackmail and extort victims.

“Basic rights of privacy, freedom of association has been rolled back, and it’s worrying because you don’t see public pushback against this,” said Kayode Somtochukwu Ani, founder of Queer Union for Economic and Social Transformation. “And because these human rights abuses are launched on minorities, particularly minorities … the state knows that they can drum up moral panic about [it].”

Edafe said he disagrees with activists defending the detainees.

“If Amnesty International knows what they’re doing, they’ll know that there’s a law in this country that prohibits gay marriages, so calling the same government who put that law in place to take action, I wonder what kind of action they’re requesting,” he said. “This is Nigeria, and whomever must live in this country must live by the laws of the land.”

Homosexuality is widely viewed as a Western import in many parts of Africa, including Nigeria.

In May, Uganda passed a law that punishes homosexuality by imposing the death sentence, despite pressure from Western governments and rights organizations. Two men this week were charged under the new law for what authorities called “aggravated homosexuality.”

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