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Parliament approves controversial NGO law in Egypt2 minutes read

NGOs are barred from transferring or receiving funds from entities, other than predetermined sources, without official approval

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Egyptian parliament approves controversial NGO law

Egypt’s parliament on Monday approved amendments to a controversial law that rights groups say imposes strict curbs on non-governmental organisations. The changes come after President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi announced last November that the law needed to be more balanced.

“The House of Representatives finally approved a number of important draft laws… including the bill regulating civil society’s work,” parliament said on its website. The new draft law still prohibits foreign organisations from using their headquarters for “unauthorised activities”, without specifics, according to a version of the amended law in local media.

NGOs are also barred from transferring or receiving funds from persons or entities, other than predetermined sources, without official approval. The amendments eliminate jail terms but lay down fines of up to one million Egyptian pounds, according to local media. 

Last week, 10 Egyptian rights groups including the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies rejected the amendments as still too restrictive. “The majority of changes in the draft NGO law are deceptive and superficial,” they said in a statement urging the international community to intervene.

Related: Senegal: Human Rights Watch urges action against Quranic school abuses

Lawmaker Mohamed Abu Hamed, however, defended the amended version. “The law… satisfies all the previous concerns raised by local and foreign civil society groups,” the deputy said. “It removes all the restrictions to freedoms,” he added referring to the exclusion of jail terms. 

He said local NGOs could receive foreign funding provided the authorities had been notified and the organisation did not violate any laws. More than two-thirds of the 596-seat parliament approved the bill, with only six MPs rejecting it, local media said.

“The draft will be sent to the presidency for ratification,” Abu Hamed said. Foreign funding has been a contentious political issue since the 2011 revolution that toppled long-time autocrat Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

Last December, a court acquitted 43 NGO staff including Americans and Europeans accused of receiving illicit foreign funds to stir up unrest during the uprising. Sisi has faced international condemnation for a crackdown on civil society groups since he took power in 2014, a year after the military toppled Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.

Related: Zimbabwean court releases activists arrested for alleged treason

Rights groups have regularly accused his government of human rights violations and repression of dissidents.

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Two Algerian ex-Prime Ministers get heavy jail terms for corruption

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Two Algerian ex-Prime Ministers get heavy jail terms for corruption
(COMBO) This combination of pictures created on December 10, 2019 shows file photos of then newly appointed Algerian prime minister Ahmed Ouyahia attending a congress session in the capital Algiers on September 4, 2017 and Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal giving a press conference on March 09, 2017 in Tunis. (Photos by RYAD KRAMDI and FETHI BELAID / AFP)

An Algerian court has on Tuesday sentenced two former prime ministers to a long jail term in the first of a series of high-profile corruption trials launched after longtime president Abdelaziz Bouteflika resigned in the face of mass protests in April.

The court ruling came just two days to Algeria’s presidential election to replace ousted Bouteflika

Former prime ministers Ahmed Ouyahia and Abdelmalek Sellal, who were both close to the ousted president, were sentenced to 15 years and 12 years respectively.

It was the first time since Algeria’s independence in 1962 that former prime ministers were put on trial.

The state prosecutor had sought 20-year prison sentences for the two ex-premiers.

In all, 19 defendants were tried on charges ranging from money laundering to abuse of office and granting undue privileges in the nascent vehicle assembly industry.

-‘Nepotism and favouritism’

The Algerian automotive sector got its start in 2014, via partnerships between foreign groups and large Algerian corporations, many of which are owned by businessmen linked to Bouteflika’s entourage.

One former industry minister, Abdeslam Bouchouareb, who is on the run abroad, was sentenced in absentia to 20 years. Two other former industry ministers, Mahdjoub Bedda and Youcef Yousfi, were handed 10-year terms.

Businessman Ali Haddad, founder and CEO of private construction firm ETRHB and former head of Algeria’s main employers’ organisation, was sentenced to seven years.

And three businessmen who own vehicle assembly plants — Ahmed Mazouz, Hassen Arbaoui and Mohamed Bairi — were sentenced to seven years, six years and three years respectively.

The prosecutor denounced a sector dominated by nepotism and favouritism, describing businessmen who “managed front companies while benefiting from undue tax, customs and land benefits”.

The automotive scandal cost the treasury more than 128 billion dinars (975 million euros), according to the official APS news agency.

Defence lawyers boycotted the trial, alleging the proceedings were “politicised” and impacted by a climate of “settling scores”.

The defendants protested their innocence and spent the trial shifting blame among themselves.

Before the court retired to deliberate, former prime minister Sellal broke down in tears and begged for leniency, saying, “I don’t have much time left to live.”

In closing remarks Sunday, the prosecutor said the trial sent the message that Algeria had changed this year and that “we are here to apply the will of the people”.

– ‘Children of the system’ 

But the high-profile prosecutions have done little to win over the protesters, who have continued to take to the streets since Bouteflika’s resignation, demanding the total dismantling of the military-dominated system that has ruled Algeria since independence.

Many fear the trials are little more than a high-level purge in a struggle between still-powerful regime insiders, rather than a genuine effort to reform the state.

The military high command, which has long wielded power from behind the scenes, has now been forced to take a visible, frontline role in government — but has rejected the demands of protesters and civil society for sweeping reforms. 

It has paid little attention to popular calls to replace the constitution that served to legitimise Bouteflika’s grip on power.

Instead, the army has pushed for a swift election to pick a replacement for Bouteflika, saying it is the only route to resolving the political crisis.

While no opinion polls have been published, observers expect high levels of abstention, in keeping with previous elections in a political system seen by voters as rigid and unaccountable.

The five candidates in the poll have run low-key campaigns.

All are considered “children of the system”, having either supported Bouteflika or participated in his government — two as ministers and two as prime ministers.

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Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed receives Nobel Peace Prize

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Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed collects Nobel Peace Prize
Ethiopia's Prime Minister and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Abiy Ahmed Ali (R) receives the Nobel Peace Prize from Berit Reiss-Andersen (L), chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee during a ceremony at the city hall in Oslo on December 10, 2019. (Photo by Fredrik VARFJELL / AFP)

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed was on Tuesday handed his Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway. 

The event was attended by the Norwegian royal family, government officials and public figures. Ironically, the prize-giving happened at a time ethnic violence was rising in the East African country.

However, the 43-year-old Prime Minister and former Intelligence Chief reaffirmed his readiness to face the challenges that come with peace.

“For me, nurturing peace is like planting and growing trees. Just like trees need water and good soil to grow, peace requires unwavering commitment, infinite patience, and goodwill to cultivate and harvest its dividends.” Ahmed said.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed collects Nobel Peace Prize
Chair of the Norwegian Nobel Peace Prize committee Berit Reiss-Andersen (L) and Vice-Chair of the Norwegian Nobel Peace Prize committee Henrik Syse (R) applaud Ethiopia’s Prime Minister and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Abiy Ahmed Ali (C) during the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony at the city hall in Oslo, Norway on December 10, 2019. (Photo by Fredrik VARFJELL / AFP)

Following the Nobel Committee’s announcement in October that it was honouring Ahmed for his efforts to decisively resolve the long-running conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea, Ethiopians have expressed their concerns over the decision to honour him the prestigious award with many saying it came too early to the Prime Minister who only assumed office in April 2018.

Few months after the announcement by Nobel Committee, Ahmed shocked many, including the Committee itself when he disclosed that he was not going to grant interviews to international media or even field questions from young students who are usually given such opportunity at an event hosted by Save the Children.

 Following a meeting held in Asmara, Eritrea’s capital on 9 July 2019, between Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and the President of Eritrea, Isaias Afwerki the 20-year-old cold war between the two countries was formally brought to an end.

Recall that the two countries plunged into prolonged hostility following the 1998-2000 border conflict.

The historic achievement happened barely three months after Ahmed assumed office as Ethiopian Prime Minister and was largely due to his diplomacy in tackling the issue.

Ahmed also showed his eagerness to boost the nation’s democracy when he released dissidents from jail, apologised for state brutality, welcomed home exiled armed groups, established a national reconciliation committee and lifted the ban on some political parties.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed collects Nobel Peace Prize
Ethiopia’s Prime Minister and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Abiy Ahmed Ali speaks after receiving the Nobel Peace Prize during a ceremony at the city hall in Oslo on December 10, 2019. (Photo by Fredrik VARFJELL / AFP)

Notwithstanding all the laudable reforms, Ahmed still faces some major challenges.

His commitment to hold the first “free, fair and democratic” elections since 2005 is being threatened by ethnic violence.

About 80 people have been killed in protests in the country in less than two weeks after his Nobel Peace Prize announcement.

On arrival in Oslo, Ahmed told a Norwegian journalist that:

“The situation in Ethiopia has… new challenges but without challenges, there is no way that we can do something new,” 

“We consider those challenges as a great opportunity to do something positive.”

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Suspected killers of the wife of the MD of Maersk Nigeria arrested

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Suspected killers of the wife of the MD of Maersk Nigeria arrested
(Photo credit: pmnewsnigeria)

Two men suspected to have killed the wife of the Managing Director of Maersk Nigeria have been arrested.

The suspects identified as Ade Akanbi and Olamide Adegoke were arrested by men of the Lagos State Police Command following Sunday’s tragic incident at the residence of the Managing Director of Maersk Nigeria, Gildas Tohouo on No. 1 Luggard Avenue, Ikoyi, Lagos State. 

Gildas Tohouo, who is a Cameroonian and wife, Bernadett, were attacked, stabbed and forced to drink a substance suspected to be acid.

 Bernadett who was a Hungarian died from the attacked. Her corpse has been deposited in the mortuary.

One of the suspects, Adegoke was said to be an electrician who regularly visited the apartment of the couple to work.

When NewsCentral TV visited the quiet neighbourhood, a resident narrated how the couple had organised a house party on Sunday and invited friends. Adegoke came and was granted access to the party based on familiarity.

However, Adegoke took advantage of his familiarity with the couple to bring in his accomplice, Akanbi.

When the party ended around 11 pm, the suspects who have carefully orchestrated their evil plan lurked around the victims’ apartment.

In the process, there was a power outage – this was when the opportunity presented itself for the suspects who immediately offered to fix the problem.

Read: Nigerian ‘serial killer’ David West pleads guilty to murder charges

It was at this juncture that they attacked the couple with knives, locked them in separate rooms and forced the deceased to transfer some money to them.

Afterwards, they stabbed the couple and forced them to gulp down a substance believed to be acid. Furthermore, they suffocated the deceased with a pillow, resulting in her instant death.  

However, luck ran against Adegoke and his accomplice, Akanbi when Gildas who was in pains called his company’s Chief Security Officer who quickly alerted the police. The police came and rounded up the suspects.

Lagos State Police Public Relations Officer, Bala Elkana later  confirmed the incident

“The man is a Cameroonian and his wife was Hungarian. They hosted a party earlier on Sunday, and when the guests had left, there was a power outage. The electrician, who was also in attendance with an accomplice, was still in the compound during the outage.

“So, they knocked on the door and volunteered to help the couple fix their power problem. When the door was opened, the two suspects, Ade Akanbi and Olamide Adegoke, attacked the couple and stabbed the man and his wife.

“But the man survived, while his wife died due to the injuries she sustained from the attack.

“The suspects wanted to rob the couple and have been arrested. The knives used in perpetrating the crime have also been recovered.

“The state Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Odumosu, mobilised personnel to the scene of the crime and arrested the suspects. Homicide detectives from the command have also cordoned off the area. Investigation is ongoing.” Mr Elkana said.

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