38 Injured in Fire at Egyptian Police Headquarters

Thirty-eight people were injured Monday when a fire erupted at a police headquarters in northern Egypt, according to police.

A police spokesman said some of the injured were treated on site, while others were transported to the hospital.

The cause of the fire at the building in Ismailia was not immediately clear, officials said.

At least 50 ambulances and two airplanes were sent to the scene.

Large fires are not uncommon in Egypt due to lax enforcement of safety and fire codes and regulations.

In August 2022, a fire broke out in a Coptic church in Cairo, killing 41 people.


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Nigeria Offers Measures to Offset Rising Costs as Unions Mull Strike

Nigerian President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s government on Sunday proposed a temporary wage hike for federal workers and more cheap gas-powered public transport among other measures to offset the impact of his economic reforms and convince labor unions to call off a planned national strike.

Speaking in a broadcast to mark Nigeria’s 63rd independence day anniversary, Tinubu’s announcement came after he ended a long-standing fuel subsidy that cost the government billions of dollars a year to keep fuel cheap and also his liberalization of the naira currency.

Government officials say the reforms were needed to revive Africa’s largest economy and investors applauded them, but Nigerians are struggling with a tripling of fuel prices, a sharp naira devaluation and inflation now at 25%.

“There is no joy in seeing the people of this nation shoulder burdens that should have been shed years ago,” Tinubu said. “I wish today’s difficulties did not exist. But we must endure if we are to reach the good side of our future.”

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC), the two major unions representing industries from aviation workers and nurses to teachers and bankers, had called an indefinite strike for Oct. 3 because they say the government failed to address their concerns.

In his broadcast, Tinubu said the federal minimum wage for the lower-grade public employees would increase by 25,000 naira a month ($32) for the next six months.

Later Sunday, government officials and labor unions met for negotiations, and the government said the temporary wage increase would now apply to “all treasury-paid federal government workers for six months,” according to a presidency statement.

The temporary wage hike was among other offers, it said.

“NLC and TUC will consider the offers by the Federal Government with a view to suspending the planned strike to allow for further consultations,” the statement said.

NLC chief Joe Ajaero told reporters the union would take the government offers to its membership for consultations.

“We’re hopeful that (membership) will have a look at them and give us a fresh mandate,” he said.

Tinubu said the government was also preparing to speed up the introduction of gas-powered buses for public transport, which would lower the costs of transport — one of the main complaints for Nigerians since the fuel subsidy removal.

Social security cash transfers to the poorest Nigerians would also be extended and investments made available for small businesses, he said.

Tinubu — a former Lagos governor elected in February in a highly contested ballot — has promised to bring in more investment and tackle the country’s complex security challenges, from jihadists to bandit militias carrying out mass kidnappings.

The Nigerian leader has also sought to shake up the country’s central bank, whose previous director critics say was responsible for unorthodox monetary policies that kept investors away.

The former central bank director has been replaced and arrested.

The fuel subsidy had been in place for decades and kept petrol prices artificially low in what was seen by many Nigerians as a benefit from their government.

But the measure cost the government billions annually because although Nigeria is a major oil producer, it imports most of its fuel because of a lack of functioning refineries.

The NLC and TUC went on strike in August over the same issues, with many businesses, government offices, markets, banks closed for a day in the capital Abuja. But the call to strike met with more mixed response from businesses in the economic capital Lagos.


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New Gabon President Gets Show of Support in Congo Trip

Gabon’s transitional president, who ousted the leader of the central African country at the end of August, received a show of support from neighboring Republic of Congo after he met his counterpart Sunday, aiming to improve relations and ease Gabon’s isolation. 

General Brice Oligui Nguema overthrew Ali Bongo Ondimba, 64, who had ruled Gabon since 2009, moments after he was proclaimed the winner in a presidential election in late August.

The election result was branded a fraud by the opposition and the military coup leaders, who had also accused his regime of widespread corruption and bad governance.

Under the presidency of Ali Bongo, relations between Gabon and neighboring Congo were notoriously tense.

Oligui said his visit was aimed at improving the ties and easing Gabon’s international isolation following the coup.

“I have come to consult, to discuss, to exchange with (the president), who for us is a key in the region, who can relay to global authorities what we have done,” Oligui said after holding talks with Congo President Denis Sassou Nguesso.

“It is also to ease the sanctions… we hope to once again take our place among the nations,” Oligui said.

Gabon was suspended from the African Union and the Economic Community of Central Africa States (ECCAS) after the change of government.

ECCAS has also ordered the immediate transfer of its headquarters from Gabon’s Libreville to the Equatorial Guinea capital Malabo.

The Congo president did not address reporters after the talks, but his Foreign Minister Jean-Claude Gakosso hailed Oligui as “a man of humility and reconciliation.”

“I think that the Gabonese should support him and aside from the Gabonese, the Congolese. Also, our brothers in central Africa,” he told reporters.

“We know that there was a change in Libreville,” Gakosso said. “The main thing is that there was no bloodshed.”

“We have rarely seen this, a forceful change of regime without bloodshed.”

“The Congo and Gabon are in reality the same country. We have to work tirelessly [to] have good relations,” he said.

The visit marked the second overseas trip by Oligui, who was sworn in last month as Gabon’s interim president.

The talks were held near Oyo, in central Congo.

Oligui, wearing green military fatigues and a beret, was greeted by the prime minister and a red carpet when he landed.

Many in Gabon saw Ali Bongo’s overthrow as an act of liberation rather than a military coup.

Oligui has promised to hold “free, transparent and credible elections” to restore civilian rule, but has not given a timeframe.

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South Sudan Faces Growing Health and Hunger Crisis   

The World Health Organization warns that soaring rates of severe malnutrition, acute hunger, and deteriorating health conditions are threatening the lives and well-being of millions of people in South Sudan with the situation set to worsen as the climate crisis kicks in.

“South Sudan is a country where you see the overlap and compounding impact of conflict, climate crisis, hunger crisis, and disease outbreaks that have been going on for several years,” said Liesbeth Aelbrecht, WHO incident manager for the Horn of Africa. “Three in four South Sudanese need humanitarian assistance this year; two in three are facing crisis levels of hunger,” she said. “And these numbers are only getting worse.”

The United Nations reports 6.3 million South Sudanese are suffering from acute hunger and more than 9 million of the country’s population of 12 million people depend on humanitarian assistance.

As conditions continue to deteriorate, the World Health Organization reports 500,000 more people this year will need international aid. Among the most vulnerable are the children.

Aelbrecht said, “The numbers of children with severe malnutrition needing medical intervention have been higher this year than at any point in the last four years,” adding that almost 150,000 children had been treated for severe acute malnutrition so far this year.

She warned the humanitarian crisis facing South Sudan will worsen with the onset of El Niño, a climate phenomenon that can cause temperatures to rise and excess rains.

“Flooding and hunger and drought will increase hunger even further. But it is also very likely to increase the risk of mosquito-borne diseases, especially malaria and dengue and water-borne diseases,” she said, adding that malaria is one of the five main causes of death in South Sudan.

Aelbrecht recently returned from a mission to South Sudan, where she visited so-called stabilization centers for severely malnourished children in the capital, Juba, and in Bentiu, the capital of Unity State.

Speaking Friday from the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, to journalists in Geneva, Aelbrecht said she watched doctors trying to resuscitate babies on life support. In one of these centers, she said she saw a baby pass away in her mother’s arms.

“I quote figures. I give you percentages, but behind those figures there are just faces. I am standing there as a bystander and watching this child die of hunger and of preventable diseases,” she said. “Even after doing humanitarian work for 25 years now, it does remain one of the most difficult things to do.”

She said the international community must not act as a bystander but help South Sudan during this time of immense need. Since conflict in Sudan erupted in April, she said there has been a large inflow of refugees and returnees from Sudan, putting an even greater strain on South Sudan’s overstretched health system.

“In fact, one out of four of all the people who had fled Sudan, 1.2 million people who fled Sudan are being hosted now in South Sudan,” she said.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA, reports humanitarian operations in both Sudan and South Sudan are severely underfunded. It says lack of security in these countries is also a huge hindrance to the delivery of aid to the millions in need.

“South Sudan and Sudan are the world’s most dangerous countries for aid workers,” said Jens Laerke, OCHA spokesman.

Of 71 aid worker deaths recorded so far this year, he said 22 were in South Sudan and 19 in Sudan.

“The victims are overwhelming local humanitarians working on the front lines of the response,” he said.

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Mali Army Says New Fighting With Separatist Rebels in North

The Malian army said on Sunday that new fighting had broken out in the north between the military and armed rebel groups, the latest in a series of attacks on the army in the troubled West African country.

The army reported on social media “intense fighting” against “terrorists” in the early hours of the morning, in the area of Bamba which separatist rebels claimed to have taken control of.

The rebels said they had seized the northern locality in a social media message published on behalf of the Permanent Strategic Framework, which is dominated by the Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA).

The CMA is an alliance of predominantly Tuareg groups seeking autonomy or independence from the Malian state.

No further details on the fighting were provided by either side.

Tuareg-dominated separatist groups said on Saturday that they had inflicted heavy losses on the Malian military in an attack in the centre of the country, claiming to have killed 81 soldiers.

Since the end of August, the north of Mali has seen a resumption of hostilities by the CMA and an intensification of jihadist attacks against the Malian army.

On September 7, the army was attacked in Bamba in an operation claimed by the Al-Qaeda-linked alliance, the Support Group for Islam and Muslims (GSIM).

The escalation in violence coincides with the ongoing withdrawal of the UN stabilisation force MINUSMA, which has been pushed out by the ruling junta.

Mali’s junta, which seized power in 2020, faces a multitude of security challenges throughout the poor and landlocked country.


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Libya’s Eastern Government Postpones Derna Reconstruction Conference

Libya’s eastern authorities Sunday announced the postponement of a reconstruction conference for the flood-hit city of Derna that had been planned for October 10 but was met with international skepticism.

The event was put off until November 1-2 to “offer time for the submission of effective studies and projects” for the reconstruction effort, the committee charged with planning the meeting said in a statement.

The divided country’s eastern administration last month invited the “international community” to attend the conference in Derna, the coastal city where a September 10 flash flood devastated large areas and killed thousands.

The authorities later said that the conference would draw in international companies, and on Sunday the committee said the postponed event would be held in both Derna and the eastern city of Benghazi.

The North African country has been wracked by fighting and chaos since a NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed veteran dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011.

Libya is now divided between an internationally recognized Tripoli-based administration in the west, and the one in the disaster-stricken east backed by military strongman Khalifa Haftar.

‘Separate efforts’ 

The United States on Friday called on Libyans to set aside their political differences and agree on a framework to channel aid to eastern towns.

“We urge Libyan authorities now to form such unified structures –- rather than launching separate efforts –- that represent the Libyan people without delay,” US special envoy Richard Norland said in a statement. 

Despite a wave of nationwide solidarity since the flood, there has been no show of support for the proposed conference from the Tripoli-based government of interim Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibah.

Jalel Harchaoui, a Libya specialist at the Royal United Services Institute, on Sunday said the eastern authorities were facing a “largely predictable setback”, adding that “they will have no choice but to somehow work with the Tripoli authorities”.

On Wednesday, the eastern authorities had announced the creation of a fund for the reconstruction of Derna and other areas affected by the flooding.

They did not indicate how the new fund would be financed, but Libya’s House of Representatives, also based in the east, has already allocated 10 million dinars ($2 million) for reconstruction.

On Friday, the eastern administration announced that they had begun compensating residents affected by the floods, distributing cheques to the mayors of the stricken towns.

During talks with the European Commission, UN envoy Abdoulaye Bathily on Thursday said he had called for funds delivered to Libya to be monitored.

“I… emphasized the need for a joint assessment of reconstruction needs of storm-affected areas to ensure the utmost accountability in the management of reconstruction resources,” he said.

According to the latest toll announced by the eastern authorities on Tuesday, at least 3,893 people died in the disaster. 

International aid groups have said 10,000 or more people may be missing.


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Senegalese Navy Stops Two Migrant Boats Carrying 272 People

The Senegalese Navy said it had intercepted two wooden boats carrying 272 would-be migrants Friday 100 kilometers (60 miles) off the coast of the capital Dakar. 

Seven children and 16 women were among the passengers who were taken back to a navy base in Dakar, it said in an online post Saturday. 

It shared a photo of a brightly painted fishing vessel on the open ocean, overloaded with people with no shelter from the elements. 

Thousands of migrants brave the hundreds of miles of ocean separating Africa from Europe each year in a desperate search for a better life. Summer is the busiest period for crossings. 

At least 559 people died attempting to reach the Canary Islands in 2022, while 126 people died or went missing on the same route in the first six months of this year with 15 shipwrecks recorded, according to the International Organization for Migration. 

In August, only 37 survived after a migrant boat carrying 101 people from Senegal had been adrift in the ocean without fuel for weeks. 

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Canada’s ReconAfrica Violated Namibia’s Laws

A parliamentary investigation in Namibia found that Canadian oil exploration company ReconAfrica violated several of the country’s laws and that its local partner deceived and misled the public about the value of its shareholdings on various international stock exchanges.

Despite the findings, ReconAfrica has been allowed to continue exploring for oil.

Vincent Marenga, a ruling party member of Namibia’s Parliamentary Committee on Natural Resources, told VOA that the committee’s investigation found ReconAfrica did not secure the proper permits before it began its oil exploration activities. But he said the violations were minor.

“That is our argument,” Marenga said. “We are not saying that ReconAfrica is an angel that has been doing everything accordingly. They have violated [laws], but it was for permits. They drilled boreholes without permits, and on that one there will definitely be penalties against them.”

Nadia April, one of the petitioners who approached parliament to protest ReconAfrica’s presence in the Okavango Delta — a wilderness area in northeastern Namibia — said their opposition to the presence of Recon was based on the contamination the oil drilling could create, as well as the plight of the indigenous people.

She said the fact that the company was found in violation of the law but still allowed to proceed was a disappointment to her and the group she represents.

“The project started without the proper consultation within the region, and the consultations were done without the indigenous people,” April said. “We were referring to also the U.N. declaration on rights of indigenous people that says there has to be free, prior and informed consent … from indigenous people, so those consultations were not being done.”

Outside of Namibia, ReconAfrica is being sued in a U.S. court for having allegedly misled its shareholders. The Namibian parliamentary committee said it was concerned that ReconAfrica is seeking to raise money using Namibian resources on the basis of a 10% partnership with a local partner, the Namibia Petroleum Corp., or NAMCOR.

Rinaani Musutua, a trustee of the Economic and Social Justice Trust, opposed ReconAfrica’s presence in Namibia on the basis of environmental concerns, such as fracking and water pollution. 

“Some of the activists that are on the ground in the Kavango region have also told us that ReconAfrica has left, and it’s not a surprise to us at all that they have left,” Musutua said. “They have built up quite a bad reputation for themselves. In the end, they started getting sued by investors, first in the Unites States of America and now in Canada, for having given investors misinformation and provided them with information that wasn’t true.”

ReconAfrica’s spokesperson could not be reached despite various attempts by the Voice of America.

The parliament committee that investigated the petitioners’ concerns said the issues in their petitions were not serious enough to warrant the company’s expulsion from the country.

While the protesters want the company to be forced to leave, the parliament committee recommended the company stay but refrain from breaking Namibian laws.

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