Chad’s Veteran Leader Deby Targets Sixth Term in Presidential Vote

Voters in Chad head to the polls Sunday for a presidential election in which Idriss Deby is widely expected to extend his three-decade rule despite growing signs of popular discontent and opposition criticism over his handling of oil wealth. Deby, 68, is one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders and an ally of Western powers in the fight against Islamist militants in West and Central Africa. He seized power in 1990 in an armed rebellion, and in 2018 pushed through a new constitution that could let him stay in power until 2033, even as it reinstated term limits. Deby has relied on a firm grip over state institutions and one of the region’s most capable militaries to maintain power. He said recently he knew in advance that he would win again “as I have done for the last 30 years.” “Many of you, my daughters and sons, were not yet born when I took power in 1990,” he said Friday at his final campaign rally. “You have asked me to be a candidate for this sixth term.” Among Deby’s six rivals is former Prime Minister Albert Pahimi Padacke, but several leading opponents are boycotting the race, including the 2016 runner-up Saleh Kebzabo, who has vowed to make Chad ungovernable if Deby wins. Several recent anti-government demonstrations in the capital, N’Djamena, have turned violent and there was a heavy military presence in the city Saturday. As soldiers patrolled the streets, municipal workers collected car tires and plastics that protesters could set on fire. Earlier this week, the authorities arrested several people, including at least one opposition leader, for what they said was a plot to assassinate politicians and bomb polling stations and the electoral commission headquarters. The opposition said the arrests showed mounting repression under Deby, whose government has also arrested scores of people ahead of the vote, according to Human Rights Watch. The government rejects allegations of human rights abuses. It has come under increasing public pressure over a flagging economy as low prices for the main export, oil, in recent years forced cutbacks in public spending and sparked labor strikes. Norbert Djimadoum, a N’Djamena resident, said he expected many people to express their dissatisfaction by staying home Sunday. “There won’t be a lot of enthusiasm at the polls tomorrow and that will be a victory for the start of change,” he said.

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Two Killed During Anti-UN Protests in Eastern Congo Protests, Officials Say

At least two people were killed during violent protests Friday against the United Nations peacekeeping mission in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, local officials said. Troops attached to the U.N. mission, known as MONUSCO, killed one person during a protest in the rural area of Oicha, its mayor Nicolas Kikuku told Reuters. “They [the protesters] set fire to two bridges that lead to the [peacekeepers’] base,” Kikuku said. “The MONUSCO peacekeepers did not accept that and opened fire directly on the demonstrators.” Rosette Kavula, the deputy administrator of Beni territory, where Oicha is located, and Philippe Bonane, a local activist, also said peacekeepers had killed a protester. The incident came after days of protests in several eastern Congo cities by young people angered over the 12,000-strong U.N. Mission’s failure to prevent a wave of civilian killings by armed groups. MONUSCO spokesman Mathias Gillmann said the mission was investigating what had happened in Oicha.  The other fatality occurred when protesters closed a road to the city of Beni, blocking the path of an ambulance carrying the body of a man killed earlier in a suspected rebel attack, said local army spokesman Antony Mwalushayi. “That’s how a woman was hit and died on the scene, and her baby was seriously wounded,” Mwalushayi told Reuters. He said an investigation had been opened into the incident.  At least seven people were killed in the suspected rebel attack, which officials blamed on the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a Ugandan Islamist group that has operated on Congolese soil for decades.More than 300 people have been killed so far this year in violence in eastern Congo, which is in part an unresolved legacy of a civil war that officially ended in 2003. U.N. peacekeepers have been deployed to Congo since 1999 at the invitation of the government. 

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Djibouti President Re-elected in Provisional Vote Count

The president of Djibouti, Ismail Omar Guelleh, has been declared the winner of Friday’s presidential election in the tiny but strategic Horn of Africa nation.Provisional results received Saturday by VOA Somali show President Guelleh winning 167,536 votes (97.44 percent). His rival, businessman and independent candidate, Zakaria Ismail Farah received a mere 4,408 votes (2.48 percent). Official results will be confirmed by a constitutional council in the coming days.After the results were announced, the president thanked the people of Djibouti for electing him to lead the country.“I extend my warmest thanks to those thousands of Djiboutians and Djiboutians who have exercised their civic duty in serenity and have chosen to renew their trust in me by voting majority for the continuation of my action,” he wrote on his Facebook page.Guelleh starts his fifth term as the leader of the country he has been ruling since 1999. The World Bank estimates the population of Djibouti to be about 990,000.Djibouti is a strategic partner of the United States, hosting the only permanent military base in Africa. It also plays a greater role in peacekeeping operations in Somalia, where thousands of its soldiers are serving alongside African Union troops from Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, and Burundi. 

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African Troops Free Dozens of Boko Haram Victims

About 60 former fighters and civilians rescued from Boko Haram by Nigerian, Chadian and Cameroonian troops have been rushed to a disarmament, demobilization and reintegration center in northern Cameroon. Most of the civilians are women and children, some with fresh scars and amputated body parts, an indication of torture by the terror group.  
 
Thirty-five children, 12 men and 11 women, most of them looking exhausted, rushed for food and water at the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration center in Meri, a Cameroonian town on the border with Nigeria and Chad.
 
Among them is 29-year-old Momieni Sudarma. Surdarma said she was abducted from the Cameroon border village of Amchide in July 2014 and taken to Nigeria’s Borno state. The United Nations says Borno state is an epicenter of the Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram.A sign for the CNDDR Center (National Committee for Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegartion, is seen in Meri, Cameroon, April 9, 2021. (Moki Edwin Kindzeka/VOA)Sudarma said she does not know the fathers of the two children she delivered in the bush in the Nigerian town of Banki. Boko Haram fighters sexually abuse girls and women and refuse to provide water and food for the women and their children, she told VOA. She is grateful to God for saving her life and the lives of her two children, Sadarma said, from the heartless armed men who abducted her and took her to Nigeria.
 
Cameroon said Thursday the Multinational Joint Task Force, of the Lake Chad Basin Commission freed civilians from the terrorist group. The task force, based in the Chadian capital of N’Djamena, is made up of troops from Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria.Oumar Bichair, coordinator of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration center in Meri, said 11 of those sent there are Boko Haram fighters who disarmed and surrendered to the military. He said some of the former fighters and civilians had wounds and amputations, indicating they were tortured in Boko Haram captivity.Oumar Bichair, coordinator of the local CNDDR center, speaks in in Meri, Cameroon, April 9, 2021. (Moki Edwin Kindzeka/VOA)He said troops from Cameroon, Chad and Nigeria jointly launched rescue operations along their borders and saved the civilians from Boko Haram atrocities. He said during the rescue operations, some Boko Haram fighters who were disgruntled and wanted to surrender, dropped their weapons.
 
Bichair said some of the rescued mothers said they were sexually assaulted by terrorist fighters. He said most of the 35 rescued children, ranging from 6 months to 9 years, do not know their fathers.
 
Social workers have been sent by the government of Cameroon to take care of the women and children. Habiba Mamma, of Cameroon’s Social Affairs Ministry, said she wants the civilians to, first of all, express their concerns and worries.
 
She said psycho-social workers must pay special attention to each victim because the rescued women and children have difficult stories to share. She said she listened to stories of victims in distress and there is a need to ensure their psychological well-being before they are reintegrated into society.Former Boko Haram fighters are seen in Meri, Cameroon, April 9, 2021. (Moki Edwin Kindzeka/VOA)Cameroon said it will provide psychological and economic assistance to those rescued before they return to their communities.
 
In February Cameroon said 5,000 of the 103,000 Nigerians, mostly women and children, who fled across the border from Boko Haram terrorists had agreed to return to Nigeria.
 
Cameroon said it had agreed with troops from Nigeria and Chad to free civilians still held in captivity by the terror group and make sure Boko Haram’s ability to attack is reduced to minimum, for peace to return.
 
Boko Haram terrorists have been fighting for 11 years with the aim of creating an Islamic caliphate in northeast Nigeria. The fighting has spread to Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Benin.
 
The United Nations says Boko Haram violence has killed over 30,000 people and displaced about 2 million in Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger and Chad.
 

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4 Killed in Baidoa Attack Targeting Somali Governor

A Somali regional governor has survived an assassination attempt Saturday after a suicide bomber attacked a restaurant in the town of Baidoa in the southwestern Bay region.  
 
Witnesses and officials said a man wearing a suicide vest tried to approach the governor of the Bay region, Ali Wardhere Dooyow, but a security guard blocked his way. The bomber detonated the explosive vest, killing three civilians and the bodyguard.  
 
A witness at the scene told VOA’s Somali Service the governor arrived at the restaurant minutes before the explosion.   
 
“The governor came with two people, they sat beside me, we all ordered coffee,” said the witness, Liban Ibrahim. “We were having a conversation when we heard a huge explosion, smoke covered the restaurant.”  
 
Ibrahim said he saw six people lying on the ground, some injured and some dead.  
 
A security official, who requested not to be named, told VOA Somali that the governor’s bodyguards were on alert because the governor was told recently he was the target of an assassination plot.  
 
Meanwhile, two traffic policemen were killed in a roadside explosion in Mogadishu, police said. The attack occurred in the Yaqshid district as the two police officers were heading toward the scene of a traffic accident.  
 
Separately, a security agent was killed in the town of Kismayo when an improvised explosive device planted in his car went off, security officials said.  
 
Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for all three attacks, which took place Saturday.
 

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Archeologists Unearth Ancient Pharaonic City in Egypt

Egyptian archeologists have unearthed a 3,000-year-old lost city, complete with mud brick houses, artifacts, and tools from pharaonic times.Noted archeologist Zahi Hawass said an Egyptian mission discovered the mortuary city in the southern province of Luxor. It dates back to what is considered a golden era of ancient Egypt, the period under King Amenhotep III of the 18th dynasty.“Many foreign missions searched for this city and never found it,” Hawass said in a statement Thursday. The city, built on the western bank of the Nile River, was once the largest administrative and industrial settlement of the pharaonic empire, he added.Last year, archeologists started excavating in the area, searching for the mortuary temple of King Tutankhamun. However, within weeks, the statement said, archeologists found mud bricks formations that eventually turned out to be a well-preserved large city. City walls, and even rooms filled with utensils used in daily life are said to be present.“The archaeological layers have laid untouched for thousands of years, left by the ancient residents as if it were yesterday,” the press release said.The newly unearthed city is located between the temple of King Rameses III and the colossi of Amenhotep III on the west bank of the Nile in Luxor. The city continued to be used by Amenhotep III’s grandson Tutankhamun, and then his successor King Ay.Betsy Brian, professor of Egyptology at John Hopkins University, said the discovery of the lost city was the most important archeological find since the tomb of Tutankhamun.King Tut became a household name and helped renew interest in ancient Egypt when his tomb in the Valley of the Kings was discovered nearly fully intact in 1922.Archeologists have also found clay caps of wine vessels, rings, scarabs, colored pottery, and spinning and weaving tools. Some mud bricks bear the seal of King Amenhotep III’s cartouche, or name insignia.  

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Malawi Expands Eligibility for COVID Vaccine as Doses Near Expiration

Malawi’s Ministry of Health expanded eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine to all Malawians 18 and older.  The decision was prompted by the approaching expiration date for about 40,000 doses the country received from the African Union. Malawi’s government has so far received 512,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which it is administering to the public.The first batch of 360,000 doses came in early March under the COVAX program. A few weeks later, Malawi received other allotments of 50,000 doses from India and 102,000 doses from the African Union.Joshua Malango, the spokesperson for Malawi’s Ministry of Health, said 40,000 of the African Union doses expire Tuesday, while the other vaccine expires in July. He believes there is still time to distribute the AU doses before they become unusable.   “We have four days to go,” he said. “We still have tomorrow, we still have Sunday, and Monday.”In a televised situation update Wednesday, the Ministry of Health said all Malawians 18 and older are now eligible to be vaccinated. Critics have questioned why Malawi accepted doses with such a short shelf life. However, government officials said they did not anticipate the drugs would be unused given the huge turnout of people during the early days of the vaccination process. Dr. Mike Chisema, a manager for the expanded immunization program,  said the ministry also started deploying medical workers to encourage vaccinations.   “The aim is to be near those who would want to receive the vaccine,” he said. “We don’t want people to travel long distances to seek vaccination. This will also help people with disabilities to access the vaccine without difficulties.”The ministry said this week that out of its 512,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine, it has used only 164,000, mostly in urban areas.  Health care activists blame the low rate on a lack of civic education about the vaccine, especially in rural areas.
 

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Fate of Thousands of Refugees in Kenya Remains Uncertain

The fate of hundreds of thousands of refugees in Kenya hangs in the balance as U.N. officials try to dissuade Kenyan authorities from closing two camps that many have called home for the past three decades. The Kenyan government announced its intention to close the Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps on March 24. It gave the U.N. refugee agency two weeks to come up with a road map for relocating the 430,000 residents of the two sprawling camps. Most come from Somalia. That deadline was up Thursday. However, the refugees and the UNHCR have been given a last-minute reprieve. News organizations and activists report Kenya’s high court on Thursday suspended the government’s closure order for 30 days. UNHCR spokesman Babar Baloch says his agency is deeply concerned about the impact Kenya’s closure of the camps would have on the needs of the refugees, including their need for protection from the COVID-19 pandemic. “We are in constant dialogue with the authorities on the issue and have been urging them to ensure that any decisions allow for suitable and sustainable solutions to be found and that those who continue to need protection as refugees are able to receive it in line with Kenya’s national and international obligations,” he said. A statement issued by the UNHCR’s office in Nairobi recognizes the generosity extended by the people and government of Kenya towards the refugees for many decades. FILE – An aerial view shows houses at the Kakuma refugee camp in Turkana District, northwest of Kenya’s capital Nairobi, June 20, 2015.”The statement says that UNHCR has shared with the government of Kenya a proposed set of sustainable and rights-based measures aimed at identifying solutions for refugees living in the Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps,” Baloch said. “We have heard the concerns expressed by the Government of Kenya and hope that these measures will be a significant step forward in accelerating the mentioned sustainable solutions for all those concerned.” The UNHCR’s plan includes a provision for increasing the voluntary repatriation of refugees, taking into account restrictions imposed because of COVID-19. It proposes that some refugees from East Africa be allowed to remain in Kenya and become self-reliant and contributing members of society. The plan also calls for the resettlement to third countries of refugees who would run life-threatening risks were they to be returned to their countries of origin. 
 

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