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No justice for victims in Mozambique’s conflict: Amnesty

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Three years since fighting began in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province, victims of the conflict that has killed more than 2,000 people are no closer to justice today, Amnesty International has said.

The violent attacks in Cabo Delgado have triggered a humanitarian crisis, with more than 300,000 internally displaced people and 712,000 people in need of humanitarian assistance, Amnesty International said in a report published on Wednesday.

More than 350,000 people are facing severe food insecurity, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Members of the armed group “Al-Shabaab” (with no known relation to Somalia’s Al-Shabaab) launched their first assault in Mocimboa da Praia district in October 2017, attacking government institutions, including a police station, and killing two police officers.

Since then, the group’s attacks have targeted civilians and have grown increasingly violent, Amnesty said.

“This armed group is responsible for untold suffering in Cabo Delgado. They have reduced people’s homes to ashes through coordinated arson attacks, killed and beheaded civilians, looted food and property and forced hundreds of thousands to flee their homes,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for East and Southern Africa.

“There is evidence the security forces have also committed crimes under international law and human rights violations, including enforced disappearances, torture and extrajudicial killings.

“These crimes are compounded by the fact that Mozambican authorities won’t allow local and international journalists and researchers to document this situation without repercussions.”

Julieta Carlos, 79, who is now among hundreds of people hoping to find food and shelter at the centre for displaced people near the town of Pemba, told Al Jazeera that she has never seen anything like the recent attack on her village by an armed group.

“We saw our houses burned and they started beheading people. We ran away. Our home is far from here and it took us about two weeks to get here,” Carlos said.

Also at the crowded centre was Mussa Assane, who told Al Jazeera that the fighters abducted many children but he was lucky to escape with his family.

“They wouldn’t let us leave. Then they took us to a school and read out our names and then beheaded them with a machete while everyone was watching,” Assane said.

The violent attacks in Cabo Delgado by the armed group grew by 300 percent in the first four months of 2020, compared to the same period last year, Amnesty said.

People queue at a United Nations World Food Progamme cash-based food assistance site for displaced people in Pemba, Cabo Delgado province, Mozambique [File: Falume Bachir/WFP Handout via Reuters]

Extrajudicial killing

In a recent investigation, Amnesty verified gruesome footage from the region showing attempted beheading, torture and other ill-treatment.

It has verified a video showing the extrajudicial killing of an unidentified, naked, pregnant woman in Mocimboa da Praia.

She was attempting to flee north along the R698 road on the western side of the town of Awasse in Cabo Delgado when she was approached by men who appeared to be members of the Mozambique Defence Armed Forces (FADM) and who were following her, Amnesty said.

After the men beat her with a wooden stick, she was shot 36 times with a variety of Kalashnikov rifles and a PKM-style machine gun and her naked body was left on the highway.

According to analysts, Al-Shabaab’s attacks are partly motivated by grievances over the centralisation of power in the capital Maputo and the social and economic exclusion of the people of Cabo Delgado, Amnesty said.

In June 2019 the group started claiming affiliation with the Islamic State of Central Africa Province.

Amnesty called for violations against civilians to end immediately and urged Mozambican authorities to ensure that no suspected perpetrators of rights abuses, including in the security forces, go unpunished.

“They must start by launching an independent and impartial investigation into these grave abuses and, if there is sufficient admissible evidence, prosecute them in fair trials before ordinary civilian courts,” Muchena said.

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Tense calm in Nigeria after days of unrest

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Abuja, Nigeria – Relative calm has returned to Nigerian cities after more than two weeks of deadly protests against police brutality and widespread anger over the shooting of peaceful demonstrators.

In Lagos, the country’s commercial hub and the epicentre of the protests, authorities on Saturday eased a 24-hour curfew, while the streets of the capital, Abuja, gradually returned to normal.

With Lagos’s residents allowed to leave their homes between 8am and 6pm local time, some decided to go out and help government workers clean up the streets and buildings damaged by arsonists.

“The level of destruction is shocking. We can’t leave everything to the government,” said Lagos resident Chinwendu Madubuike.

“Lagos belongs to all of us. We are not happy with the destruction of buildings and burning of shops. The bit we can do is to clean up the mess and begin to rebuild what has been destroyed,” added Madubuike.

But others decided to boycott the clean-up exercise despite online appeals by some volunteers.

“We the youths have been on the streets protesting peacefully for over a week and cleaning up our mess day and night,” said entrepreneur Chelsea Balls.

“As much I would love to clean up my state and have my state back to its normal form, we the youths didn’t make that mess – the hoodlums hired by the government did that,” added the 36-year-old.

People have started cleaning the streets of Lagos as the state eases a round-the-clock curfew imposed in response to protests against alleged police brutality [Afolabi Sotunde/Reuters]

Demonstrators against police violence have long expressed fears that agitators might be used to disrupt the peaceful character of their movement and create the conditions that would justify a security crackdown against them.

On Tuesday, hours after Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu had announced the round-the-clock curfew, citing what he described as the degeneration of demonstrations “into a monster”, peaceful protesters who had gathered at a toll gate in Lagos’s Lekki district in defiance of the measures were shot at.

Witnesses and rights group said soldiers opened fire on the protesters. The military maintains its men were not involved. Amnesty International said at least 12 protesters were killed by the army and police in Lekki and Alausa, another area of Lagos, on Tuesday.

As tensions rose, gangs on Wednesday vandalised public buildings, burned private businesses, police stations, media houses and courthouses.

“Our beautiful city has seen a level of destruction almost akin to a war zone,” Sanwo-Olu tweeted after visiting some of the sites that came under attack.

“It was a shocking and very sad spectacle. Our land took a beating and this hurts. Historical buildings, cultural centres, private malls, government holdings and private businesses were pillaged and burnt,” added Sanwo-Olu, whose government has pledged to support business owners targeted by gangs.

“Lagos will not burn. Not on my watch. Enough is enough. We want peace and we will get peace.”

Demonstrations against police abuses

Peaceful protests against police brutality broke out across Nigeria earlier in October, demanding the scrapping of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a notorious police unit accused of torture, extortion, harassment and even extrajudicial killings.

Authorities on October 11 announced the dissolution of SARS but protesters remained unconvinced by the announcement, saying they would remain on the streets until their demands were met, including the release of imprisoned protesters and implementation of structural law enforcement reforms.

On Friday, President Muhammadu Buhari said 51 civilians were killed in the unrest and blamed “hooliganism” for the violence while asserting security forces used “extreme restraint”.

Buhari said 11 policemen and seven soldiers had also been killed by “rioters” and another 37 civilians were injured as of Thursday. He did not mention the shooting of peaceful protesters in Lagos that prompted international outrage.

In Abuja, attacks by gangs on Monday and Tuesday left at least eight people dead, according to police. Vehicles were also burned in the unrest, which forced many business owners to close shop.

On Saturday, a growing number of shops opened their doors on Saturday.

Elsewhere, however, pockets of violence and looting were still being reported in parts of Nigeria, including in the states of Plateau, Oyo and Cross River.

Meanwhile, videos of people looting warehouses of COVID-19 palliatives in several cities have been widely shared online in recent days.

The clips show residents scrambling for bags of grain and other food items which were reportedly meant for distribution during the coronavirus lockdown.

Separately, a number of state governments said they have set up judicial panels of inquiry to try policemen accused of abuses.

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Ethiopia slams ‘belligerent threats’ after Trump dam comments

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The US president said Egypt will ‘blow up’ the Ethiopian dam if an agreement is not reached over operation and water flow.

Ethiopia has denounced “belligerent threats” regarding a dispute with Egypt and Sudan over the operation of its massive hydropower dam, hours after US President Donald Trump suggested Cairo would eventually “blow up” the dam if the deadlock was not resolved.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed did not specifically reference Trump in a statement released by his office on Saturday, but said “occasional statements of belligerent threats to have Ethiopia succumb to unfair terms still abound”.

“These threats and affronts to Ethiopian sovereignty are misguided, unproductive, and clear violations of international law,” Abiy said. “Ethiopia will not cave in to aggressions of any kind, nor do we give recognition to a right that is based on colonial treaties.”

On Friday, Trump called for a resolution to the standoff over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam during a phone call with Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok.

He warned: “They [Egypt] will end up blowing up the dam.”

“And I said it and I say it loud and clear … they’ll blow up that dam. And they have to do something,” he said during the call, which came as both leaders announced that Sudan would begin to normalise relations with Israel.

Trump had told the State Department earlier this year to suspend millions of dollars in aid to Ethiopia because of the dam dispute, angering Ethiopians who had accused Washington of being biased in its earlier efforts to broker a deal on the project with Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan. Ethiopia walked away from those talks.

“They will never see that money unless they adhere to that agreement,” Trump said on Friday.

Egypt, for its part, has repeatedly said it wants to settle the dispute through diplomatic means, but has also said it would use “all available means” to defend the interests of its people.

Abiy’s office has said there has been significant progress made in resolving the dispute since the African Union took over negotiations, the most recent round of which broke down in August.

‘Doesn’t have a clue’

In a tweet, former Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn said Trump’s comments were reckless and irresponsible.

“The man doesn’t have a clue on what he is talking about,” he wrote.

Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt have been deadlocked in the dispute over the filling and operation of the dam for years.

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam has been a subject of an ongoing dispute between Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan [File: Adwa Pictures/AFP]

Adis Ababa hailed the completion of the first phase of the dam in August as a national triumph that will help to lift citizens out of poverty by making it a major power exporter.

Cairo has said it is dependent on the Nile for more than 90 percent of its scarce freshwater supplies, and fears decreases in water flow caused by the dam could have a devastating effect on its economy.

Khartoum, meanwhile, stands to benefit from the project through access to cheap electricity and reduced flooding, but it has also raised fears over the dam’s operation, which could endanger its smaller dams, depending on the amount of water discharged downstream daily.

Cairo and Khartoum are seeking a legally binding deal that would guarantee the appropriate flows of water.

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Trump tries to cast doubt on mail-in ballots after casting his vote in-person in Florida

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President Donald Trump leaves after casting his ballot at the Palm Beach County Public Library in West Palm Beach, Florida, on October 24.
President Donald Trump leaves after casting his ballot at the Palm Beach County Public Library in West Palm Beach, Florida, on October 24. Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

After emerging from voting early in-person in Florida, President Trump continued to try to cast doubt on mail-in voting, saying his chosen method was “much more secure.”

“It was a very secure vote, much more secure than when you send in a ballot. I can tell you that. Everything was perfect, very strict, right by the rules. When you send in your ballot, it could never be secure like that,” the President said.

Voting experts have disagreed with Trump’s ongoing assault against mail-in voting and his questioning of its security and reliability.

Trump, who changed his voter registration to Florida in September last year, told reporters it was an “honor” to be voting in the state, where he held rallies on Friday. Florida is a key battleground in this year’s election, and both campaigns have put a lot of resources into the state.

Some data: A CNN poll on Florida this week showed 50% of likely voters say support Joe Biden while 46% said Trump. The difference between the two is right at the poll’s margin of sampling error.

“I don’t think there’s ever been anything like this, this tremendous spirit. I hear we’re doing very well in Florida, and we’re doing very well, I hear, every place else,” Trump said Saturday after voting in West Palm Beach.

When asked who he voted for, the President said he voted for “a guy named Trump.”

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