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‘We need justice’: Nigerians to keep up #EndSARS pressure

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Despite disbanding of notorious police unit, activists find redeployment of its officers ‘problematic’ and vow to continue protesting.

Abuja, Nigeria – Nigerian protesters have promised to keep up their campaign seeking justice for victims of police brutality and an overhaul of the security apparatus, even as authorities announced the immediate disbanding of a notorious anti-robbery unit that has long been accused of grave human rights abuses.

Sparked by the alleged killing of a man by an officer in southern Nigeria, thousands of people this week took to the streets across the country to demand the complete abolition of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). Many more used the #EndSARS hashtag online to share stories alleging extortion, torture, disappearances and even murders at the hands of members of the unit.

After days of angry protests, Inspector General of Police Mohammed Adamu said in a statement on Sunday SARS had been dissolved “in response to the yearnings of the Nigerian people”.

He added, however, all SARS officers would be redeployed to other police units.

‘Problematic’

Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, executive director of the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, welcomed the dissolution of the unit but said the announcement “fell short of the expectations of Nigerians”.

“Nigerians want accountability [for] those officers who have murdered, who have brutalised Nigerians,” he told Al Jazeera. “Disbanding the unit without taking sanctions against those who perpetrated these acts, it means that when they are transferred to another unit, they could replicate the same atrocities.”

Describing the redeployment of officers as “problematic”, Abuja-based lawyer Abdul Mahmud said what was needed was “root-and-branch” reform.

“The psyche of our police officers is built on working outside the law. We will continue to demand respect for the rights of citizens,” he told Al Jazeera.

“The police have to return itself to constitutionalism; step up the training of its officers and ensure that the issue of discipline of erring officers is handled transparently,” Mahmud said. “We have been on this for 10 years.”

Hours after the police chief’s announcement, there were reports of protesters being arrested, while a handful of demonstrators in Abuja were forcefully dislodged with water cannons by police officers.

“They are saying one thing and another thing is happening on the streets. We do not believe they have been disbanded,” Chioma Agwuebo, a protester in the capital, told Al Jazeera.

“You cannot announce that you have disbanded SARS but on the streets of Abuja my brothers and sisters are getting tear-gassed. People are getting injured, women are getting beaten up. That’s not how you disband SARS,” she said, adding that demonstrators will continue their campaign “until we see a disbandment that goes beyond a statement”.

She continued: “We need to see justice for everyone who has been killed. Who are these officers? Prosecute them.”

In his statement, Adamu said the Nigerian police force would work with human rights groups and civil society organisations to investigate cases of alleged human rights violations.

“A new policing arrangement to address anticipated policing gaps the dissolution of SARS would cause has been evolved and shall be announced in due course,” he added.

‘Now they know we have a voice’

The announcement instantly sparked a flood of reactions on social media.

“The proscribing of SARS is a victory in the right direction – though this wouldn’t be the first time this has happened. However, we believe with the camaraderie exhibited by Nigerians and the silent majority, this would be the last of such an unruly unit of law enforcement,” Senator Ben Murray-Bruce said on Twitter.

Afrobeats star Wizkid said this was “just the beginning”.

“Now they know we have a voice! And we the youths understand the power we have. We shall continue to speak up about other pressing issues/police brutality and good governance!”

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Seychelles opposition candidate wins presidential election

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Ramkalawan, running for the presidency for the sixth time, won 54.9 percent of valid votes cast, poll body says.

Seychelles opposition candidate Wavel Ramkalawan has won the archipelago’s presidential election with 54.9 percent of valid votes cast, upsetting incumbent President Danny Faure.

“I declare… Ramkalawan as the elected candidate,” the electoral commission chairman Danny Lucas said on Sunday.

Voters on the main islands of Seychelles cast their ballot on Saturday in presidential and parliamentary elections spanning three days.

More than 74,000 registered to take part in the polls.

The opposition, narrowly defeated in a presidential election in 2015 and buoyed by a landmark victory in a parliamentary poll a year later, won its first presidential poll in the 40 years since Seychelles gained independence from Britain.

Ramkalawan, an Anglican priest and leader of the Seychelles Democratic Alliance, was running for the presidency for the sixth time. He lost the 2015 poll by 193 votes to James Michel in an unprecedented second round of voting.

The campaign took place mainly over social media, with rallies banned due to the coronavirus.

Seychelles has recorded only 149 cases, mostly imported, but the pandemic has been a burning campaign issue as restrictions on global travel bottom out the tourism industry – a major earner for Seychelles and employer for many of its 98,000 people.

Visitor numbers have collapsed since March in the archipelago nation of 115 islands, normally a popular destination for honeymooners and paradise-seekers drawn by its fine sandy beaches and turquoise waters.

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Thousands of seals found dead at breeding colony in Namibia

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Cause of mass die-off unknown but scientists suspect pollutants, bacterial infection, or malnutrition.

An estimated 7,000 Cape fur seals have been discovered dead at a breeding colony in central Namibia.

Conservationist Naude Dreyer of the charity Ocean Conservation Namibia (OCN) began noticing dead seals on the sandy beaches of Pelican Point colony – a tourist destination known for its colony of seals and schools of dolphins – near Walvis Bay city in September.

In the first two weeks of October, he found large numbers of seal foetuses at the colony.

Tess Gridley from the Namibian Dolphin Project estimated that between 5,000 and 7,000 female seals had miscarried young with more still being found.

Last week, there was a spike in the number of dead adult females, Dreyer said.

“What we have been observing is less freshly dead seal pups and a lot of dead female adults,” he said.

Fur seals normally give birth between mid-November and mid-December.

The cause of the mass die-off is yet to be established but scientists suspect anything from pollutants or bacterial infection to malnutrition.

Some of the dead females found were “thin-looking, emaciated, with very little fat reserves”, said Gridley.

In 1994, some 10,000 seals died and 15,000 foetuses were aborted in a mass die-off that was linked to starvation suspected to have resulted from a shortage of fish as well as from a bacterial infection at another breeding colony, the Cape Cross, some 116km (72 miles) north of the central tourist town Swakopmund.

Annely Haiphene, executive director in the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources,  told AFP news agency she suspected the seals died from “lack of food” but will wait for the outcome of the tests.

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Treaty banning nuclear weapons to enter into force

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Fifty countries have ratified an international treaty to ban nuclear weapons, the United Nations has announced, allowing the “historic” text to enter into force in 90 days.

Honduras became the 50th country to ratify the landmark Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), the UN said on Saturday, in a move hailed by anti-nuclear activists but strongly opposed by the United States and the other major nuclear powers.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres commended the 50 states and saluted “the instrumental work” of civil society in facilitating negotiations and pushing for ratification, his spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on Saturday.

The UN chief said the treaty’s entry into force on January 22, 2021, crowns a worldwide movement “to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons” and “is a tribute to the survivors of nuclear explosions and tests, many of whom advocated for this treaty”.

According to Dujarric, Guterres also said the treaty “represents a meaningful commitment towards the total elimination of nuclear weapons, which remains the highest disarmament priority of the United Nations”.

‘UN at its best’

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize-winning coalition whose work helped spearhead the nuclear ban treaty, called the development a “historic milestone”.

“This moment has been 75 years coming since the horrific attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the founding of the UN which made nuclear disarmament a cornerstone,” said Beatrice Fihn, executive director of ICAN.

“The 50 countries that ratify this Treaty are showing true leadership in setting a new international norm that nuclear weapons are not just immoral but illegal,” she said.

The 50th ratification came on the 75th anniversary of UN Day, commemorating the ratification of the Charter of the United Nations, which officially established the UN.

“The United Nations was formed to promote peace with a goal of the abolition of nuclear weapons,” Fihn said. “This treaty is the UN at its best – working closely with civil society to bring democracy to disarmament.”

The treaty requires that all ratifying countries “never under any circumstances … develop, test, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.” It also bans any transfer or use of nuclear weapons or nuclear explosive devices – as well as threatening to use such weapons – and requires parties to promote the treaty to other countries.

Once it enters into force, all countries that have ratified it will be bound by those requirements.

The group of nuclear-armed states, including Britain, China, France, Russia and the US, have not signed the treaty.

However, campaigners hope that it coming into force will have the same impact as previous international treaties on landmines and cluster munitions, bringing a stigma to their stockpiling and use, and thereby a change in behaviour even in countries that did not sign up.

‘Strategic error’

The US had written to treaty signatories saying the administration of US President Donald Trump believes they made “a strategic error” and urging them to rescind their ratification.

The letter, obtained by The Associated Press news agency, claimed the new treaty was “dangerous” to the half-century-old Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which sought to prevent the spread of nuclear arms beyond the five original weapons powers.

Fihn dismissed the claim, saying: “There’s no way you can undermine the Nonproliferation Treaty by banning nuclear weapons. It’s the end goal of the Nonproliferation Treaty.”

Francesco Rocca, president of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said: “The simple reality is that the international community could never hope to deal with the consequences of a nuclear confrontation. No nation is prepared to deal with a nuclear confrontation. What we cannot prepare for, we must prevent.”

There are more than 14,000 nuclear bombs in the world, thousands of which are ready to be launched in an instant, Rocca said. The power of many of those warheads is tens of times greater than the weapons dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

Setsuko Thurlow, a survivor of the 1945 bombing of Hiroshima, who has been an ardent campaigner for the treaty, said: “When I learned that we reached our 50th ratification, I was not able to stand.”

“I remained in my chair and put my head in my hands and I cried tears of joy,” she said in a statement. “I have committed my life to the abolition of nuclear weapons. I have nothing but gratitude for all who have worked for the success of our treaty.”

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