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Former Gambian president’s generals arrested
23 January 2018, 2:29 PM

Two generals serving under former Gambian president and dictator Yahya Jammeh have been arrested amid rumours that former military officials, now based abroad, are working to undermine Gambia’s relatively new government.

Reuters reported on Tuesday that military authorities in the West African nation arrested two of Jammeh’s generals after they returned unexpectedly from exile over the weekend, the army said in a statement on Monday.

President Adama Barrow was inaugurated a year ago after regional intervention in the form of an Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) military force closed in on the Gambian capital Banjul when Jammeh refused to accept electoral defeat and step down.

He subsequently fled to Equatorial Guinea and both generals, Umpa Mendy, Jammeh’s principal protection officer, and the former head of the State Guards Battalion, Ansumana Tamba, accompanied him into exile.

“They were arrested at their respective homes and are currently being detained at the Yundum Military Barracks, where they are helping the military police with their investigations,” the military statement said.

No further information was given as to why the two men had returned home or on what charges they had been arrested.

Meanwhile, Barrow continues to try and assert his authority over the country following Jammeh’s 22-year authoritarian rule which incorporated jailing and torturing political opponents.

A number of senior military officers have been dismissed after they were suspected of being members of the Jungulars which carried out killings on behalf of the former government.

Other officers, who are currently still serving in the military, are believed to remain hardcore supporters of Jammeh.

Weah sworn in as Liberia president, vows to end corruption
22 January 2018, 9:39 PM

George Weah, the former international soccer star who won the presidency of Liberia last month, promised a crackdown on endemic corruption as he was sworn in on Monday.

Thousands of exuberant supporters and regional presidents and dignitaries crammed into a stadium in the capital Monrovia to watch as Weah, who rose from the city’s slums to become one of Africa’s greatest footballers, took the oath of office.

As a former AC Milan and Paris St Germain striker and 1995 world player of the year, “King George” as his fans call him was no stranger to having crowds cheering him on in packed stadiums.

But he was also aware of the huge hurdles ahead as he replaced Nobel Peace Prize winner Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in Liberia’s first peaceful change of power for seven decades.

“It will be my task to lead this nation from division to unity. I will not let you down,” Weah told the crowd.
Weah, 51, rode to a landslide run-off victory last month on the back of heavy support from young people and the poor.

Making his speech in flowing white African robes, he promised to deliver on his key campaign promises, especially tackling the malfeasance that his predecessor is widely seen as having failed to do during her 12 years in office.

“It is my belief that the most effective way to directly impact the poor, and to narrow the gap between the rich and the poor is to make sure that public resources do not end up in the pockets government officials,” he said.

Founded by freed American slaves, Liberia is Africa’s oldest modern republic. But it has been plagued by years of unrest and bloodshed, including two civil wars in the 1980s and 90s that were notorious for their brutality and use of child soldiers.

Johnson Sirleaf was credited with shoring up peace after that war, but criticised for failing to tackle elite graft or do much to lift Liberians out of poverty.

And in a nod to his opponents, Weah sought to turn the page on what was a bitter election battle, delayed for months by legal wrangling but which despite hot tempers on all sides did not descend into bloodshed.

“We must not allow political loyalties prevent us from collaborating in the national interest,” he said. “Blood should never be the price tag for democracy. … This transition was achieved by … (the) democratic will of the Liberian people.”

But Weah will also have to manage expectations, which are sky high following his win.

 

 

U.S. Senate moves to end government shutdown
22 January 2018, 9:03 PM

U.S. senators voted to move forward on legislation that would reopen the federal government until Feb. 8, ending a three-day standoff between Democrats and President Donald Trump’s Republicans over immigration and border security.

Funding legislation cleared a procedural hurdle in the Senate and was expected to pass a full Senate vote promptly, allowing government to re-open.

Democrats had insisted that any short-term spending legislation to keep the government running include protections for young undocumented immigrants known as “Dreamers.”

Republicans in turn said they would not negotiate on immigration until Democrats gave them the votes needed to reopen the government.

The shutdown, which began on the first anniversary of Trump’s inauguration, threatened to undercut the president’s self-crafted image as a dealmaker who would repair the broken culture in Washington.

The failure to reach a deal had forced Trump to cancel a planned weekend trip to his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida and created uncertainty around his scheduled trip this week to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Tens of thousands of federal workers had begun closing down operations on Monday, the first weekday since the shutdown, but essential services such as security and defense operations continued.

Funding for government operations expired at midnight on Friday and lawmakers worked through the weekend to solve the crisis. The outlines of a deal began emerging as a bipartisan group of senators held talks on Sunday and Monday morning.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said he had come to an arrangement with Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell to keep the government open for the next three weeks and a plan to address the issue of the Dreamers, more than 700,000 immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children.

House of Representatives Republicans have been told by their leaders to plan on voting on a measure to re-open the government immediately.

EU rules on asylum are splitting Europe, says EU presidency Bulgaria
22 January 2018, 3:42 PM

The European Union’s rules on asylum which state that requests be handled by the country where asylum is first claimed are splitting Europe, the prime minister of Bulgaria, which holds the EU’s rotating presidency, said on Monday.

Nationalist-minded, eurosceptic governments in Poland and Hungary have refused to take in a single asylum-seeker under a scheme to have each member state host a number of refugees to ease pressure on the main sea gateways of Greece and Italy.

Slovakia and the Czech Republic, citing security concerns, have also been reluctant to accept migrants from other EU countries.

“The Dublin Regulation does not work the way we want it to,” said Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, referring to one of the main EU laws on asylum.

“It not only divides but also literally splits Europe,” Borissov said at a news conference with Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis in Sofia.

“I think that, with the trust we have with each other, we will find a compromise,” he said, adding that borders should be closed with people entering only through official border checkpoints.

Borissov also said security centres should be built in non-EU countries such as Turkey and Libya to accommodate migrants.

Bulgaria, the EU’s poorest country, assumed the six-month rotating presidency of the bloc three weeks ago for the first time since it joined the EU in 2007.

Babis stressed that the Czech Republic, sharing similar views on migrant quotas with other countries from the Visegrad Four, including ex-communist states Slovakia, Poland and Hungary, would not change its stance.

“It is known that we want to fight against these quotas,” Babis said. “The quotas are ineffective and a compromise is needed.”

[Watch]ANC NEC media briefing on outcomes of Lekgotla
22 January 2018, 3:27 PM

Watch the ANC NEC briefs the media on the outcomes of Lekgotla held in Irene at the weekend.

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