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Rwanda agrees to receive African migrants stranded in Libya3 min read

The first group “is principally made up of people originating from the Horn of Africa,” the AU and the UN said in a statement

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Rwanda agrees to receive African migrants stranded in Libya
Rwanda's President Paul Kagame. (Photo by Cyril NDEGEYA / AFP)

Rwanda agreed Tuesday to take in hundreds and potentially thousands of African migrants stranded in Libya, a deal the African Union hopes to replicate with other member states.

“We will be receiving the initial number of 500 in a few weeks,” Hope Tumukunde Gasatura, Rwanda’s ambassador to the AU, told a news conference after signing a memorandum of understanding alongside representatives of the AU and the UN refugee agency UNHCR.

The first group “is principally made up of people originating from the Horn of Africa,” the AU and the UN said in a statement.

They will be housed in a transit centre in Rwanda before being resettled elsewhere unless they agree to return to their home countries.

In the chaos that followed the fall and killing of former dictator Muammar Gaddafi in a 2011 uprising, Libya became a key transit point for sub-Saharan African migrants seeking to embark on dangerous journeys to Europe.

The UN says some 42,000 migrants are currently in Libya.

“We have been desperately searching for solutions for those people,” said Cosmas Chanda, UNHCR’s representative to the AU at the news conference in Addis Ababa, the seat of the pan-African body.

The Rwandan government is prepared to take in as many as 30,000 Africans from Libya, though the plan is for the process to unfold in batches of 500 to prevent the country from becoming overwhelmed.

“Fewer countries around the world are more than prepared to admit refugees,” Chanda said.

Rwandan President, Paul Kagame first offered to take in Africans stuck in Libya back in November 2017, the same month a CNN report showed what appeared to be a slave market there.

The issue took on new urgency in July when more than 40 people were killed in an air strike on a migrant detention centre in the Libyan town of Tajoura.

The Rwandan government is prepared to take in as many as 30,000 Africans from Libya, though the plan is for the process to unfold in batches of 500 to prevent the country from becoming overwhelmed. 

Lessons from Niger –

The UN has been criticised for its handling of a transit mechanism for evacuees from Libya established in 2017 on the other side of the continent, in Niger.

The facilities there have struggled with overcrowding and the slow processing of asylum applications.

Rwandan and UN officials “have learned from the Niger experience and we have fine-tuned the procedure,” Chanda said.

“The process is going to be very lengthy,” he said, however.

Tumukunde Gasatura, the Rwandan ambassador, said refugees and asylum-seekers would be housed in facilities that have previously been used for Burundian refugees fleeing that country’s political crisis in 2015.

The AU hailed the deal with Rwanda as an example of African governments stepping up to solve the continent’s problems.

“It is a historical moment because Africans are extending their hands to other Africans,” said Amira Elfadil, the AU’s social affairs commissioner.

“We kept on talking about finding durable solutions. My belief is this is part of the durable solutions.”

Officials hope that other African countries will offer similar assistance, though Elfadil said so far none have been forthcoming.

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Drama as Kenyan traffic officers accidentally shoot female colleague

Sources say that one of the traffic officers attempted to fire at the EACC detectives but, instead, shot a female colleague in the thigh

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Drama as Kenyan traffic officers accidentally shoot female colleague

A melee ensued on Wednesday morning in the lakeside city of Kisumu, Kisumu County in Kenya after traffic police officers at a roadblock opened fire on Ethics and Anti-Corruption (EACC) officers.

The fracas broke out following a sting operation conducted by the EACC detectives targeting police officers suspected of receiving bribes at the Mamboleo roadblock as well as the Kisumu International Airport area.

Sources say that one of the traffic officers attempted to fire at the EACC detectives but, instead, shot a female colleague in the thigh.

WATCH: Kenyan traffic officers accidentally shoot female colleague during gun battle

As at the time of this report, she had been taken to a nearby hospital for treatment. One of the other officers attempted to escape by jumping from the Mamboleo flyover but broke a leg and had to be assisted to the police station. A total of five officers were apprehended and will face various charges.

That a traffic officer was armed raises significant questions given that police officers assigned to traffic duties in Kenya are generally not armed.

None of the EACC detectives were injured during the incident.

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Ethiopia’s Sidama ethnic group votes in referendum on statehood

At present, Ethiopia is partitioned into nine semi-autonomous regional states — with the Sidama voting for a potential tenth

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Ethiopia's Sidama ethnic group votes in referendum on statehood
Men wait in a queue to vote during the Sidama referendum in Hawassa, Ethiopia, on November 20, 2019. Polls opened on November 20, 2019, in Ethiopia's ethnic Sidama region in a referendum for a new federal state, a critical vote in a tense region that could embolden others to follow. Michael TEWELDE / AFP

Polls opened on Wednesday in Ethiopia’s ethnic Sidama region in a referendum for a new federal state, a critical vote in a tense region that could embolden others to follow.

The Sidama push for statehood already triggered days of unrest in July that left dozens dead and prompted the government to place Ethiopia’s southern region under the control of soldiers and federal police.

But the mood on Wednesday morning in the regional capital, Hawassa appeared calm.

READ: Ethiopia set to vote on breakaway state

People formed long queues at polling stations at dawn, with some 2.3 million people registered to vote.

Away from the polling stations, the streets of Hawassa were much quieter than usual, with Wednesday declared a holiday for the vote. Heavily armed police and soldiers patrolled the streets.

“The voting process is inclusive, smooth, transparent and exciting,” said 27-year-old Fantahun Hatiso, after casting his ballot.

“I voted for a decision that I believe will work towards development, peace and personal well-being.”

The referendum on autonomy springs from a federal system designed to provide widespread ethnic self-rule in a hugely diverse country, Africa’s second-most populous, with more than 100 million people.

READ: Ethiopia’s Orthodox Christians decry rise in persecution ahead of major holiday

At present, Ethiopia is partitioned into nine semi-autonomous regional states — with the Sidama voting for a potential tenth.

The constitution requires the government to organise a referendum for any ethnic group that wants to form a new entity.

The Sidama — who number more than three million — have agitated for years to leave the diverse Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region.

READ: Four killed in Ethiopia during secessionist protest

The dream gained fresh momentum after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, winner of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, took office last year.

“I stayed up until late in the night,” Hatiso added. “The excitement of waiting for this day, which will bring liberty and peace to my people, kept me awake.”

At least ten other groups in the south of the country have already launched plans for self-determination similar to that of the Sidama. Analysts fear it could unleash further ethnic violence.

Polls opened at 6:00 am (0300 GMT) and close at 6:00 pm (1500 GMT). Preliminary results are expected on Thursday.

READ: Political party delays creation of new state in Ethiopia

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Gunmen ambush and kill 8 Burundian soldiers

Dozens more soldiers were missing in the ambush on their base, one of largest and deadliest attacks for several years

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Gunmen ambush and kill 8 Burundian soldiers

Burundian soldiers were attacked in a night jungle ambush near the border with Rwanda, Burundi’s defence ministry said, with military sources on Tuesday reporting at least eight soldiers’ deaths.

Dozens more soldiers were missing in the ambush on their base, one of largest and deadliest attacks for several years, senior army officers said Tuesday, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“A group armed with rifles from Rwanda attacked a position of Burundian soldiers on Mount Twinyoni,” defence ministry spokesman Major Emmanuel Gahongano said on state television on Monday.

“This armed group has withdrawn to Rwanda.”

He did not give details of casualties or the identity of the attackers.

READ: Burundi arrests 4 reporters for “undermining” state security

Burundi has been in crisis since President Pierre Nkurunziza defied constitutional limits to seek a third term in office, winning re-election in 2015.

Burundi has repeatedly accused neighbouring Rwanda of supporting rebel groups in its territory, a claim Kigali denies.

Rwanda on Tuesday denied any role in the attack.

“It is not true that the attacks were made from people who came from Rwanda,” Olivier Nduhungirehe, State Minister for Regional Affairs, told reporters.

“These are unfounded allegations being made from Burundi — as they have done previously for the last four years. We have other things to do.”

The attack, some 100 kilometres north of the capital Bujumbura, in thick forests 10 kilometres from the Rwandan border, took place in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Around 90 soldiers were reported to be in the base before the attack. 

But when reinforcements arrived hours later, they found only the bodies of eight comrades, including of the company commander, a senior officer told reporters.

READ: Burundi receives almost 600 refugees from Tanzania

Later, 15 soldiers were found alive, some of them wounded.

“The rest of the company is still missing,” the officer said. Their fate is unknown.

The military source reported that attackers were well-equipped.

“Our soldiers were surprised by assailants wearing bullet-proof vests and night-vision goggles, which completely wiped out the position,” the officer said, a report confirmed by two other military sources.

“We believe that it is not mere rebels who are responsible for it.”

No Burundian armed group has claimed responsibility.

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