Crises In Ethiopia, Sudan Are Warnings African Nations Must Heed – Blinken
United Nations Secretary of State Antony Blinken has called on African nations to heed warnings posed by crises in Ethiopia and Sudan, take seriously popular demands for better governance and enact reforms.
In a speech outlining the Biden administration´s policy toward the continent, Blinken said growing extremism, increasing authoritarianism and exploding corruption in Africa are imperiling democracy, human rights and the future of a massive portion of the world´s population.
Blinken delivered the message in Nigeria´s capital of Abuja, a day after telling Nigerian leaders and officials in Kenya the day before that the U.S. is looking to them for results, including setting examples for their Ethiopian and Sudanese counterparts.
“Authoritarianism is on the rise around the world,” he said in an address at the Abuja-based headquarters of the Economic Community of West African States regional bloc.
He cited threats to free speech and freedom of assembly that have been on the rise and that civilian governments in Africa have been toppled at least four times this year.
“Meanwhile, governments are becoming less transparent,” Blinken said. “We see this happening across Africa – leaders ignoring term limits, rigging or postponing elections, exploiting social grievances to gain and maintain power, arresting opposition figures, cracking down on the media, and allowing security services to enforce pandemic restrictions brutally.”
Blinken said the Biden administration is awaiting the findings of recently concluded probes into allegations of brutality by Nigerian police as it seeks Abuja´s leadership more broadly in trouble spots like Ethiopia and Sudan.
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“The threats posed by violent extremists, criminals and internal armed conflict are very real. So is their potential to destabilize nations and regions, undermine development and ignite humanitarian disasters,” he said.
“Part of the answer is effective and professional security forces and local law enforcement that can protect citizens while respecting human rights.”
Nigeria’s security forces have long been accused of human rights violations in their operations, with personnel involved often escaping justice.
In October 2020, the army opened fire at a demonstration in the country´s economic hub where hundreds were protesting against police brutality, killing 11 people and injuring many others, according to a government-backed panel.
Blinken said the U.S. is looking forward to seeing the full results of the investigation and will make a decision on arms sales to Nigeria based in part on the findings and whether those responsible are held accountable.
“We anticipate and look to the state and the federal government´s response to the findings and expect those to include steps that ensure accountability and address the grievances of the victims and their families,” he said at a Thursday news conference with Nigerian Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama.
Blinken´s visit to Nigeria – Africa´s most populous country and largest economy – is the second stop on a three-nation tour of the continent that started in Kenya and will end in Senegal.
After focusing in Nairobi on the crises in Ethiopia and Sudan, Blinken sought to present a broader picture in Nigeria, a country of more than 200 million that is grappling with many challenges, including extremist violence by Boko Haram and the Islamic State West Africa Province in the northeast, kidnapping for ransom and armed violence in the northwest and central parts of the country, and secessionist movements in the south.
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Police Fine British Prime Minister For Not Wearing Seatbelt In Car
The British Police have fined Prime Minister Rishi Sunak for not wearing a seatbelt in the back of a moving car while on a trip to northern England.
Sunak, who recorded an Instagram video on Thursday, was seen turning in his seat to talk to the camera without a seatbelt on, a video that has now been deleted from the social media site.
The PM’s office at Downing Street said the incident was a “brief error of judgment”, but Lancashire constabulary announced they were fining Sunak for the infraction, The Guardian UK says.
The force said: “You will be aware that a video has been circulating on social media showing an individual failing to wear a seatbelt while a passenger in a moving car in Lancashire.
“After looking into this matter, we have today issued a 42-year-old man from London with a conditional offer of fixed penalty.”
Reacting, a spokesperson for Sunak said: “The prime minister fully accepts this was a mistake and has apologised. He will of course comply with the fixed penalty.”
A fixed penalty means Sunak can pay a fine to avoid a court hearing.
The police did not disclose how much they had fined the prime minister, but according to the government’s safety campaign, any driver or passenger not wearing a seatbelt is breaking the law and is liable to be fined up to £500 if the case goes to court, according to The Guardian UK.
Sunak’s transportation habits were already a talking point in the United Kingdom before the incident, a report by AFP says.
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His political rivals have taken aim at his use of a private jet to make multiple short flights in recent days.
This is not the first time Sunak has been slapped with a police fine.
He was fined while serving as Chancellor of the Exchequer for attending a Downing Street party in June 2020 that violated the government’s rules on social distancing, according to an AFP report.
The latest fine makes Sunak the second Conservative prime minister to receive a police fine in less than 12 months. The Metropolitan police, in 2020, issued a fixed-penalty notice to Boris Johnson for attending a party during lockdown. Sunak was fined for attending the same event as Chancellor of the Exchequer.
World’s Oldest Nun Dies At 118
French nun Sister André who was the world’s oldest known person died at age 118 in the southern French city of Toulon, the city’s mayor Hubert Falco said on Wednesday.
Born in the southern French town of Ales on Feb. 11, 1904, as Lucile Randon, Sister André was listed as the oldest person alive by the Gerontology Research Group in April 2022.
The Frenchwoman worked as a home teacher in her youth and did not enter a religious community until she was in her early 40s.
Most recently, Sister André was confined to a wheelchair, and for several years she could no longer see properly.
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She was an honorary citizen of Toulon, where she lived in a retirement home for several years.
Falco praised her as incredibly modern and a nun with a big heart.
Guinness World Records said Lucile, who took the name of Sister André in 1944, was the second-oldest French person and the second-oldest European person ever recorded.
More recently, Sister André received the record for the oldest COVID-19 survivor after an infection in 2021.
“It’s difficult to fathom that someone born before the patenting of plastic, zips or even bras were alive well into the 21st century, and robust enough to beat COVID-19’’, the Guinness World Records editor, Craig Glenday said in a statement.
“It’s been an honour to record her story in the pages of the Guinness World Records book, and she will live on in history as the fourth oldest person ever authenticated.’’
With her death, Maria Branyas Morera, who lived in Spain, assumed the title of the world’s oldest person at age 115.
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Eight Shot At Crowded Martin Luther King Day Block Party
Eight people were shot at a block party packed with more than 1,000 people celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Fort Pierce, Florida, Monday, police said.
All eight of those shot were adults and they were ferried to the hospital for treatment, including one person in critical condition, St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Brian Hester said during a news conference.
Six people, including a baby, were killed in a ‘massacre’ that is likely gang-related, California sheriff’s office says.
At least four others were injured as people ran for safety, the sheriff’s office said. One of those injured was a juvenile who was hurt as people rushed to flee the park where the event was being held, Hester said.
“As the shots rang out, people were just running in all directions,” Hester said. “There were people laying behind cars, laying behind anything they could lay behind. It was kind of hard to tell who was a victim and who was just hiding at that point.”
The shooting began at around 5:20 p.m. in Ilous Ellis Park, he said, where the community had gathered for an afternoon car show, dance performances, live DJ and kids activities to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day, an event flyer shows.
In a video taken by a witness, attendees are seen dancing by their cars and enjoying the music when what sounds like gunfire begins to resonate over the song. People in the crowd start to rush away from the noise, some ducking behind cars or grabbing children’s hands and running across the street.
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The incident marks the 30th mass shooting in the country this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive.
So far this year, the US is averaging about two mass shootings per day.
Two sheriff’s deputies who were stationed in the park ran toward the scene and provided aid to those injured, Hester said. Several witnesses also helped to render aid and drive people to the hospital, he added.
The sheriff’s office has not named any suspects in the shooting, but investigators were following up on several leads from witnesses and community members Monday night.
Investigators preliminarily believe the gunfire involved multiple shooters and resulted from “a disagreement of some sort between two parties,” Hester said.
“So many innocent people that were injured or hurt were not part of the disagreement,” he added.
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“It’s really unfortunate and it’s sad that during a celebration of someone who represented peace and equality, a disagreement results in a use of guns and violence,” Hester said.
He estimated as many as 40 sheriff’s office personnel were working the case Monday night as they processed the scene, spoke to victims at the hospital and followed up on leads.
Investigators are asking anyone with information about the shooting to contact authorities or submit anonymous tips through CrimeStoppers. The sheriff’s department is handling the case because the Ilous Ellis Park is a St. Lucie County park.
Fort Pierce is a coastal city about an hour’s drive north of West Palm Beach.
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