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Court nullifies secret loans taken by Mozambique government1 minute read

Mozambique has arrested several senior former officials linked to the scandal

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Court nullifies secret loans taken by Mozambique government

Mozambique’s constitutional court declared on Tuesday that hundreds of millions of dollars in secret government loans were void, signalling that they did not need to be repaid in a ruling hailed by civil society campaigners.

The court ruling focused on one of the secret loans – which combined totalled around $2 billion – taken out by the government between 2013 and 2015 for supposed financing for a tuna-fishing fleet and a maritime surveillance project.

Mozambique has arrested several senior former officials linked to the scandal, which has been described as a vast fraud and money laundering scheme.  

Civil society groups say the loans from international banks were illegal and that Mozambicans must not be burdened with years of hefty repayments.

The constitutional court declared “the nullity of the acts inherent to the loan” – voiding an $850 million debt contracted by the state tuna-fishing company Ematum.

“This decision represents a great victory for the Mozambican citizen,” said Denise Namburete of the Budget Monitoring Forum, an organisation that brought the case.

“It means that any action by the government regarding this debt will be a violation of the country’s highest lawmaking body.”

An independent audit found that $500 million of the loans, which were deliberately hidden from the country’s parliament as well as international donors, was diverted and remains unaccounted for.

When the debt was revealed, Mozambique was plunged into the worst financial crisis in its history.

The international bodies allege that at least $200 million was spent on bribes and kickbacks, including $12 million for former finance minister Manuel Chang.

Mozambique defaulted on the debt, and repayments could swallow up future revenue from natural gas deposits discovered in the north of the country.

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Entertainment

‘54 Silhouettes’ play gets into United Solo Festival

It showed at the British Council of Nigeria’s Lagos Theatre Festival earlier this year

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Photo Credit: Twitter - @Pensage (Africa Ukoh)

Playwright, screenwriter, and theatre director Africa Ukoh’s award-winning play ‘54 Silhouettes’ has made its way to New York City as part of the United Solo Festival, the annual international festival highlighting solo theatre performances through a “variety of one-person shows.” It makes history as the First Nigerian Play to show at this Festival.

54 Silhouettes—which was adapted into a one-man play after originally featuring five actors—has been on the circuit since 2011 and has racked up several accolades since it first premiered. It showed at the British Council of Nigeria’s Lagos Theatre Festival earlier this year and in Rio de Janeiro at the International Theatre Institute’s Network of Emerging Artists and Professionals Festival in 2018.

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Tunisian MP accused of indecency sworn in despite protests

“Stalkers shouldn’t make laws,” they chanted outside the inaugural session of the new parliament

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Tunisian MP accused of indecency sworn in despite protests

Tunisian women protested outside parliament Wednesday against the swearing-in of a newly elected lawmaker who was caught in a video that purported to show him masturbating outside a school.

The protesters fear that Zouheir Makhlouf, who walked free after being investigated for alleged sexual harassment and public indecency, will enjoy immunity from prosecution over any future allegations levelled against him by women.

“Stalkers shouldn’t make laws,” they chanted outside the inaugural session of the new parliament.

A video showing the moustachioed politician sitting in a car with his trousers dropped to his knees was shot last month by a pupil who shared it online alongside accusations of harassment.\

Read also: Triggered by MP’s disgrace, Tunisia’s #MeToo breaks taboos

Makhlouf, who was elected for the Qalb Tounes party of controversial media magnate Nabil Karoui, denies inappropriate conduct and has said he was urinating due to a medical condition.

But the video went viral sparking Tunisia’s own #MeToo movement, with sex abuse victims breaking taboos under the hashtag #EnaZeda.

It was inspired by the huge global movement that bloomed in 2017 in the wake of sexual assault allegations by multiple women against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein.

“Immunity is for your parliamentary duties, not your sexual desires,” read one placard waved by the demonstrators.

Article 68 of the Tunisian constitution provides that no sitting MP can be “arrested or tried for their opinions… or for actions taken in connection with their parliamentary duties,” a formulation that in theory excludes allegations of sexual impropriety.

But “the interpretation of the law in Tunisia means that a lawmaker acquires an immunity that covers all of his or her actions, including those committed before they took office,” said jurist Nour Jihene, who joined the protest outside parliament.

The protesters called for stricter implementation of a July 2017 law that outlaws sexual harassment in public places with a maximum penalty of a year in prison and a 3,000 dinar fine.

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Lifestyle News

Two UN personnel killed in Benghazi by car bomb

Two members of the UN mission were killed and at least eight others wounded including a child, by a car bomb.

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Two UN personnel killed in Benghazi by car bomb
Libyan firefighters extinguish a fire at the site of a car bomb attack in Libya's eastern city of Benghazi on August 10, 2019. - "Two members of the UN mission, one them a foreigner, were killed and at least eight others wounded including a child, by a car bomb" in a shopping area of the Al-Hawari district, the official said. (Photo by - / AFP)

A car bombing in Libya’s eastern city of Benghazi killed two United Nations staff on Saturday, a security official said.

“Two members of the UN mission were killed and at least eight others wounded including a child, by a car bomb” in a shopping area of the Al-Hawari district, the official said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast, which happened as a UN convoy was passing through the area.

Benghazi, Libya’s second city and the cradle of the 2011 uprising that overthrew dictator Muammar Gaddafi, was hit by years of violence targeting diplomatic offices and security forces after his fall.

An attack on the US consulate on September 11, 2012, killed US ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

In 2017, military strongman Khalifa Haftar drove hardline Islamists and jihadists out of Benghazi after a three-year battle.

Haftar, who backs an eastern-based administration that opposes the Tripoli-based unity government, went on to seize Derna, the last city in eastern Libya outside his control.

But bombings and kidnappings have continued.

A May 2018 attack left seven people dead and last month, a car bombing at the funeral of an ex-army commander killed at least four people and wounded more than 30 others.

A Libyan lawmaker is also feared to have been abducted by an armed group in the eastern city, the UN and lawmakers said in July.

Haftar controls most of eastern Libya, and early this year he ordered his self-styled Libyan National Army to purge the south of what he called “terrorist groups and criminals”. 

On the heels of that campaign, his LNA launched in April an offensive to take the Libyan capital from the UN-recognised Government of National Accord. 

The LNA on Saturday announced a truce around Tripoli for the three-day Muslim festival of Eid Al-Adha, after the unity government conditionally accepted a ceasefire called for by the UN.

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