SUEZ CANAL PASSAGE OPEN AGAIN
Ships have started sailing through Egypt’s Suez Canal again, a day after a giant container vessel blocking the vital trade route was freed. Thirty-seven ships stuck at the midway point worked hard to clear the waterway overnight, and now, 70 others are due to travel the entire length of the Suez Canal on Tuesday. Canal authorities hope to clear the traffic jam of some 400 vessels waiting to use the waterway in three-and-a-half days. Meanwhile, the freed cargo ship will be inspected for seaworthiness by experts.
The 400 meter-long, 200,000-tonne Ever Given became wedged diagonally across the canal a week ago after running aground amid high winds. It was refloated on Monday afternoon after a salvage operation involving a flotilla of powerful tug boats and dredging vessels shifted 30,000 cubic meters of mud and sand.
THE BOSCO APPEAL
The International Criminal Court will rule today on an appeal by the Democratic Republic of Congo’s rebel leader, Bosco Ntaganda, against his conviction for war crimes. The former commander, nicknamed The Terminator, was handed a 30-year jail sentence in 2019, after being found guilty on 18 counts of murder, rape and the use of child soldiers.
Ntaganda was the first person to be convicted by the court of sexual slavery. The charges relate to crimes carried out in the mineral-rich Ituri region of the Democratic Republic of Congo between 2002 and 2003. Prosecutors have asked the judges to consider a tougher sentence.
SOUTH SUDAN POSTPONES COVID-19 VACCINE ROLLOUT
South Sudan has postponed the launch of its Covid-19 vaccination campaign, although it did not offer a specific reason for the delay. The vaccination program was scheduled to start on Monday in the capital, Juba, as announced last week by the health ministry. Government official John Romunu noted the vaccination exercise was postponed for simple logistical reasons. Romunu disclosed they are yet to receive information on when the vaccinations will take place. South Sudan received its first batch of 132,000 doses of the vaccine on 26 March. The country has recorded 10,119 cases and 108 related deaths.
PRESIDENT SAMIA HASSAN NOMINATES PHILIP MPANGOAS VICE-PRESIDENT
Tanzania’s President Samia Suluhu has nominated Finance Minister Philip Mpango as her Vice-President. Mpango’s nomination has been announced by parliament Speaker Job Ndugai ahead of the approval vote. Members of parliament applauded at the mention of his name, an indication of early approval. The minister was last month seen in a viral video coughing during a press conference while paying tribute to senior government officials who had died of suspected Covid-19 complications. Mpango is one of the two ministers re-appointed by former President John Magufuli as he started his second term.
NIGERIAN WOMEN SEEK FURTHER INCLUSION IN GOVERNANCE
Nigerian women have called for more inclusion in Nigeria’s governance process. This is as women from Nigeria’s 36 states converged on Abuja to appraise the Federal Government’s commitment to the 35 per cent affirmative action to ensure women are represented in all spheres of governance. The Initiative organized by the Ministry of Women Affairs and Action Aid of Nigeria, also reviewed efforts aimed at domesticating the Violence against Persons Prohibition law. The women are calling on state governors to bring an end to marginalization and non-inclusion of Nigeria’s women in the nation’s governance process.
In Mozambique, the Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the attacks in Palma, multiple Army outposts, the death of Christians among western citizens, and the destruction of government buildings and banks. The militant attack on Palma is the closest yet to the major gas project in a three-year terrorist insurgency across northern Mozambique. Extremist fighters have raided villages and towns in the region, forcing nearly 700,000 to flee their homes since October 2017.
The President of the ECOWAS commission Jean Claude Kassi-Brou has assured member states that the commission is working round the clock to mobilize resources to ensure member states have access to available COVID-19 vaccines. Kassi-Brou while speaking at the opening session of the ECOWAS parliament’s first delocalized meeting holding in Free town Sierra-Leone, noted the ECOWAS investment bank is already in talks with the West African Health Organization WAHO to ensure this becomes a reality. He pledges the commission will ensure member states have enough access to enough vaccines needed to meet their needs.
Mali has approved the use of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine against COVID-19, the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) disclosed on Tuesday. RDIF, which has actively promoted the vaccine abroad, notes the shot has so far been approved for use in 58 countries. The country received its first batch of vaccines against COVID-19 earlier this month, becoming the first country in the Sahel-Sahara region to receive shots through the COVAX initiative. Mali like other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa is battling a second wave of coronavirus infections, although infection rate has decreased from a peak in early January.
Algeria has reported 110 new COVID-19 cases, raising the total confirmed number in the North African country to 116,946. The Algerian Ministry of Health said the death toll from the virus rose to 3,084 after four new fatalities were added. It added that 82 more patients recovered from the disease, bringing the total number of recoveries in the country to 91,349. A donation of Chinese Sinopharm vaccines arrived in Algeria on February 24 to help combat the pandemic.
CHINA TIGHTENS GRIP ON HONG KONG
State media say China has passed several changes to Hong Kong’s electoral rules which will tighten its control over the city. The aim of the reforms is to ensure only patriotic figures can run for positions of power. The changes mean prospective Members of Parliament will first be vetted for their loyalty to the mainland. There are fears this will mean the end of democracy, as it removes all opposition from the city parliament. Beijing’s rubber-stamp parliament first approved the plan during the National People’s Congress (NPC) meetings earlier in March. Chinese state media report that the country’s top decision-making body, the NPC Standing Committee, voted unanimously to pass it.
UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson has joined more than 20 world leaders in the call for a new global settlement to help the world prepare for future pandemics. In an article for newspapers around the world, President Macron of France and German chancellor Angela Merkel among other world leaders say Covid-19 has posed the biggest challenge since World War Two. They say another pandemic or health crisis is a matter of not if, but when. At a Downing Street briefing on Monday, Johnson warned that more deaths, infections and hospitalizations are inevitable as the UK comes out of lockdown.
NIGERIA AVIATION INTERVENTION FUND
Nigeria has released N5 billion intervention fund for the aviation sector from the N27 billion promised to the sector but the funds has stirred some complaints from those who were left out. N4billion of the bailout funds was shared between 18 scheduled and non-scheduled local carriers, to cushion the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Aviation service providers got N1 billion. The process was thrown open to all airlines with valid Air Operating Certificates and distributed according to carrier size. These parameters made some dead airlines beneficiaries of the COVID-19 stimulus package. Following complaints, the House of Representatives Committee on Aviation has pledged to investigate.
FLIGHT DISRUPTIONS IN KENYA
Like Easter eggs, Flights around Kenya will experience some bumps. Kenya Airways has suspended new frequencies that it had planned during the Easter holiday between Nairobi, Kisumu, Eldoret, the coastal town of Mombasa and Entebbe in Uganda. This is because the Kenyan Government has issued a cessation of movement directive within Kenya. Kenya Airways flights to Mombasa, Kisumu and Eldoret will be suspended effective noon March 29, until April 9, 2021. Those who booked flights have been given waivers and can make unlimited changes to their tickets at no extra cost for travel in the same cabin as previously ticketed. Customers are advised to leave their tickets open until May 31, 2021. The new departure will be rebooked and ticketed free of charge in the same cabin for any future flight.
NIGERIA AFCON QUALIFIERS
After sealing their qualification for the Africa cup of nations, fans of the Super Eagles of Nigeria cannot contain their joy as the team returns to Lagos for the first time in 20 years to play their last round of AFCON qualifiers against Lesotho.
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