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Body of former Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe arrives Harare3 minutes read

Mugabe died on a medical trip to Singapore, where he had been travelling regularly for treatment

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Body of former Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe arrives Harare
Pall bearers stand by the casket of late Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe as its arrives in Harare on September 11, 2019. The body of Zimbabwe's ex-president, Robert Mugabe, arrived home on September 11, 2019 for burial. Jekesai NJIKIZANA / AFP

The body of Zimbabwe’s ex-president, Robert Mugabe, arrived home on Wednesday for burial.

Mugabe, a guerrilla leader who rose to power after Zimbabwe’s independence from Britain and governed until he was ousted by the military in 2017, died on Friday in Singapore, aged 95.

His health deteriorated after he was toppled by the army and former loyalists in November 2017, ending an increasingly iron-fisted rule during which he crushed his opponents.

Around two thousand supporters, family members and government officials were on the tarmac at Harare airport to welcome Mugabe’s remains as they arrived by charter flight from Singapore, a reporter at the scene said. 

Soldiers stood guard along a red carpet as military officers walked solemnly with the coffin drapped in the green, gold, black and red national flag.

His wife, Grace, wearing a black veil, sat with President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Mugabe died on a medical trip to Singapore, where he had been travelling regularly for treatment. A delegation including Vice President Kembo Mohadi headed to Singapore on a chartered flight to bring him home.

The body will be taken to Mugabe’s private Harare residence, known as the Blue Roof, for the night. It will be laid out for the public to pay their respects in Rufaro stadium on Thursday, before heading to his homestead Zvimba.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, former Cuban leader Raul Castro and a dozen African presidents, including South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa, are among those expected to attend Mugabe’s state funeral on Saturday in Harare, Zimbabwe’s presidency said.

Mugabe’s final burial place on Sunday, though, is still unclear.

His family and President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government are apparently at odds over whether it would be at his homestead northwest of Harare or at a shrine for liberation heroes in the capital.

From hero to tyrant –

At home, Zimbabweans have been divided over how to mourn a man once hailed for ridding the former British colony Rhodesia of white-minority rule but who later purged his foes in a campaign of massacres and executions known as the Gukurahundi. 

Body of former Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe arrives Harare
Members of the Zimbabwe Presidential Guard stand next to a military ceremonial casket carriage at the Robert Mugabe International Airport in Harare after the arrival of the body of former President Robert Mugabe on September 11, 2019. (Photo by Jekesai NJIKIZANA / AFP)

His increasingly tyrannical leadership and economic mismanagement prompted millions to flee a country crippled by hyper-inflation and shortages of food, drugs and fuel.

Following his death, Mnangagwa announced Mugabe had been declared a “national hero”, flags flew at half-mast across Harare and news of his passing was splashed across newspaper front pages.

Yet, Harare residents appeared largely unconcerned, with shops remaining open and people going about their daily errands.

On Thursday and Friday, the body will lie in state at Rufaro Stadium in Mbare township in Harare for the public to pay their final respects. Officials plan to bus people in from the provinces to attend.

The 35,000-seat stadium is where Mugabe took his oath of office at a colourful ceremony when colonial Rhodesian Prime Minister Ian Smith handed over the reins of the country.

There, Mugabe hoisted the new Zimbabwe flag and lit the independence flame on April 18, 1980 — bringing hope for a new era after a long guerrilla war.

The official funeral will take place on Saturday, at the giant 60,000-seat National Sports Stadium in Harare, where foreign leaders will attend. 

A relative has said that in line with native Shona customs, traditional chiefs from Zvimba will have a final say on where the former leader will be buried.

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Italian diagnosed with coronavirus in Nigeria, health condition ‘stable’

“The patient is clinically stable, with no serious symptoms, and is being managed at the Infectious Disease Hospital in Yaba, Lagos,” a Nigerian health official in Lagos said.

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Nigeria's Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, being addressed by the Director General of Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu (middle) and the laboratory team during his visit to the NCDC National Reference Laboratory in Gaduwa, Abuja on Jan. 12./The Guardian Nigeria

Nigerian health authorities have announced the country’s first case of the dreaded Corona virus or COVID-19 after a visiting Italian businessman got diagnosed and was isolated for treatment and currently “stable with no serious symptoms”.

The COVID-19 patient was detected in the commercial city of Lagos and is the first case recorded in sub-Saharan Africa so ce the disease broke out in China in January.
  
“The case is an Italian citizen who entered Nigeria on the 25th of Feburary from Milan, Italy for a brief business visit. He fell ill on the 26th February and was transfered to Lagos State Biosecurity Facilities for isolation and testing,” Akin Abayomi, Lagos health commissioner said in a statement early Friday.

Abayomi, a Professor of Medicine, said the COVID-19 infection was confirmed by the Virology Laboratory of the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, part of the Laboratory Network of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control.

“The patient is clinically stable, with no serious symptoms, and is being managed at the Infectious Disease Hospital in Yaba, Lagos,” the Nigerian health official said.
 
Health authorities in the West African country have been strengthening measures to ensure that any outbreak in major cities like Lagos or elsewhere is controlled and contained quickly through the multi-sectoral Coronavirus Preparedness Group, led by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).

“We have immediately activated the State Emergency Operations Centre to respond to this case and implement firm control measures,” Lagos city authorities said.
  
Officials announced that they were “working to identify all the contacts of the patient, since he arrived in Nigeria” for diagnosis and isolation, if the need arises.

“Everywhere is vulnerable to Coronavirus. Nigeria is even more prepared than some countries. We are doing our best. There is no change in what we are doing to contain a possible outbreak of Coronavirus in the country,” Health minister, Dr. Emmanuel Ehanire had said in a previous media briefing.

“The Chinese have given us clinical criteria. We suspect and address anything that looks like Coronavirus because the cost of testing is very high.” The Nigerian health minister concluded.

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Guinea referendum, legislative polls must be ‘transparent’: UN rights chief

Months of protests against the referendum have resulted in “dozens of deaths,” Michelle Bachelet told the UN Human Rights Council on Thursday.

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Guinean President Alpha Conde on a campaign. The referendum on constitutional changes is seen by critics as a ploy by President Conde, 81, to stay in power for a third term, after a decade in power./AFP

The United Nations on Thursday called on Guinean authorities to ensure that this weekend’s referendum and legislative votes are transparent and inclusive, warning that any escalation in the country’s crisis would be “profoundly harmful”.

Guinea, a country with a long tradition of political turmoil, is to vote on Sunday in a referendum and in a legislative election.

The referendum on constitutional changes is seen by critics as a ploy by President Alpha Conde, 81, to stay in power for a third term, after a decade in power, an AFP report said.

Months of protests against the referendum have resulted in “dozens of deaths,” Michelle Bachelet told the UN Human Rights Council on Thursday.

“Reports also indicate that ethnic divisions are deepening, with increasing incitement to hatred and violence on social media and at political rallies,” she said.

“Any further escalation of this crisis could be profoundly harmful.”

Bachelet highlighted a warning about  “serious irregularities in the voters’ register” from the international association of French-speaking countries, OIF, earlier this week.

“I urge the authorities to avert greater turmoil and ensure that the electoral process is transparent and inclusive,” she said.

Guinea has suffered serious unrest over the plans for constitutional reform. At least 30 people and a gendarme, have lost their lives, according to an AFP tally.

Jailed under previous hardline regimes, Conde became Guinea’s first democratically elected president in 2010.

He was returned to office by voters in 2015 for his second and final five-year term under the current constitution, but critics say he has become authoritarian.

Earlier this month he left the door open to running for a third term, saying there was “nothing more democratic” than the referendum on constitutional change.

The National Front for the Defence of the Constitution (FNDC) has called for a boycott of the vote.

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‘Africa will not succumb to gay rights pressure’, AU chairman tells European Union

“African countries will not want to be lectured on governance and human rights.”

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African leaders ready to sign AfCTA
Chairman of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat. /AFP

Chairman of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat on Thursday told the European Union leaders that the continent will not succumb to pressure for the recognition of gay rights in various countries.

Mahamat at a press conference kicking off a meeting between AU and EU leaders highlighted “differences” over topics like international justice and gay rights at a meeting with the European Union intended to deepen the partnership between their continents.

“Certainly, we have our differences. International criminal justice, sexual orientation and identity, the death penalty, the centrality of the African Union in certain crises, etcetera,” Mahamat said.

Calling these differences “normal”, Faki said they could be overcome only with “recognition and acceptance”, an AFP report quoted him as saying.

Thursday’s talks mark the second visit by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to AU headquarters in less than three months. 

In December she chose to visit the AU on her first trip outside Europe after taking her post, a decision she said at the time was intended to send a “strong political message” about Europe’s partnership with Africa.

Von der Leyen is in the process of preparing a new “Africa Strategy” for the EU, due to be unveiled in early March. 

In her own remarks Thursday, she said the two continents were “natural partners” and stressed areas of cooperation like trade and the fight against climate change.

Later at a press conference she said she believed the two blocs could work through the disagreements Faki had pointed out.

“This is what the essence of a good partnership and a good friendship is. You build on a solid foundation with common projects you can work on, and you’re able to mark very clearly where differences are,” she said. “We try to convince but we acknowledge that there are different positions.”

“We should not follow the notion of expecting the African Union to adapt to the European Union,” she added. 

The majority of African countries criminalise same-sex sexual acts.

Various African countries have resisted efforts to try African leaders at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. In 2017, Burundi became the first country to pull out of the court altogether. 

Europe will try to use Thursday’s talks to promote trade and economic cooperation in response to “the flood of Chinese investment in the continent”, said Mikaela Gavas, senior policy fellow at the Center for Global Development, an international non-profit foundation.

But the question of human rights remains a major potential barrier to deeper cooperation, Gavas said.

“African countries will not want to be lectured on governance and human rights,” she said. 

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