planned to address the nation on Tuesday.

Declan Walsh and Matthew Mpoke Bigg reported from Nairobi, and Abdi Latif Dahir from Eldoret.

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A Fiercely Fought Election in Kenya, an African Powerhouse

Credit…Fredrik Lerneryd/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

NAIROBI, Kenya — A wave of relief tinged with jubilation washed across Kenya on Tuesday as its hotly contested presidential election passed largely peacefully after months of bitter jostling and mud slinging. Supporters feted one of the front-runners, Raila Odinga, at his Nairobi stronghold, while his determined rival, William Ruto, praised the majesty of democracy after casting his vote before dawn.

But that’s likely just the start of the battle.

As the polls closed, Kenya’s election shifted into a new and unpredictable phase that, if previous elections are a guide, could be rocky.

Past elections gave way to periods of tense uncertainty involving accusations of vote-rigging, protracted courtroom dramas, bouts of street violence and even a murder mystery. It can be weeks, even months, before a new president is sworn in.

“People just don’t trust the system,” Charles Owuiti, a factory manager, said as he waited to cast his ballot in Nairobi, the line snaking through a crowded schoolyard.

But so far, the ethnic divisions that framed previous votes have been dialed down. In the Rift Valley, the scene of previous clashes, fewer people than in the past fled their homes fearing they might be attacked.

Instead, Kenyans streamed into polling stations across the country, some in the predawn darkness, to choose their president, as well as parliamentarians and local leaders. Among the four candidates for president, most voters were likely to choose between Mr. Odinga, a 77-year-old opposition leader running for the fifth time, and Mr. Ruto, the outgoing vice president and self-declared champion of Kenya’s “hustler nation” — its frustrated youth.

Credit…Mosa’Ab Elshamy/Associated Press

For others, that wasn’t a choice worth making. The electoral commission estimated voter turnout at 60 percent — a huge drop from the 80 percent turnout of the 2017 election, and a sign that many Kenyans, stung by economic hardship or jaded by endemic corruption, preferred to stay home.

“Either way, there’s no hope,” said Zena Atitala, an unemployed tech worker, outside a voting station in Kibera, said to be Africa’s largest slum, on the outskirts of Nairobi. “Of the two candidates, we are choosing the better thief.”

In the coming days, the critical question is not only who won the race, but whether the loser will accept defeat.

It can get murky.

Days before the last vote, in 2017, a senior electoral official, Chris Msando, was found dead, his tortured body strewn in a remote forest outside Nairobi. His girlfriend, Carol Ngumbu, lay beside him. A post-mortem found they had been strangled.

The death of Mr. Msando, who was in charge of the results transmission system, immediately aroused suspicion of a link to vote rigging. Weeks later when Mr. Odinga, who lost the vote, challenged the result in court, he claimed the electoral commission’s server had been hacked by people using Mr. Msando’s credentials.

The election was eventually rerun, and won by Uhuru Kenyatta, the outgoing president. The killings of Mr. Msando and his partner were never solved.

Credit…Brian Inganga/Associated Press

But the nadir of Kenyan elections was in 2007, when a dispute over the results degenerated into a storm of electoral violence that killed over 1,200 people and, many feared, could have tipped the country into a civil war.

After that crisis, Kenyans in 2010 adopted a new constitution that devolved some powers to the local level and helped stabilize a democratic system that, for all its flaws, is today considered among the strongest in the region.

In Tuesday’s election, unofficial results flowed in at night. The election commission posted tallies from polling stations to its website as they became available, allowing newspapers, political parties and other groups to compile unofficial results.

The winning candidate needs over 50 percent of the vote, as well as one quarter of vote in 24 of Kenya’s 47 counties. Failure to meet that bar means a runoff within 30 days.

But given how close the race has been, the most likely scenario is a legal challenge, say analysts. Any citizen or group can challenge the initial result in court within seven days. Many Kenyans hope it doesn’t go any further than that.

Unofficial results flowed in on Tuesday night. The election commission posted tallies from polling stations to its website as they became available, allowing newspapers, political parties and other groups to compile unofficial results.

The winning candidate needs over 50 percent of the vote, as well as one quarter of the vote in 24 of Kenya’s 47 counties. Failure to meet that bar means a runoff within 30 days.

But given how close the race has been, the most likely scenario is a legal challenge, analysts say. Any citizen or group can challenge the initial result in court within seven days. Many Kenyans hope it doesn’t go any further than that.

Credit…Brian Inganga/Associated Press

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Al Qaeda leader Zawahiri killed in U.S. drone strike in downtown Kabul

  • Zawahiri tracked to safe house in Kabul
  • Hit by Hellfire missile while standing on balcony
  • ‘This terrorist leader is no more’ – Biden
  • Taliban ‘grossly violated’ Doha Agreement – Blinken

KABUL/WASHINGTON, Aug 2 (Reuters) – The United States killed al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri with a drone missile while he stood on a balcony at his home in Kabul, U.S. officials said, the biggest blow to the militants since Osama bin Laden was shot dead more than a decade ago.

Afghanistan’s Taliban government has not confirmed the death of Zawahiri, an Egyptian surgeon who had a $25 million bounty on his head and helped to coordinate the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States that killed nearly 3,000 people.

U.S. officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Zawahiri was killed when he came out on the balcony of his safe house in the Afghan capital at 6:18 a.m. (0148 GMT) on Sunday and was hit by Hellfire missiles from a U.S. drone.

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“Now justice has been delivered, and this terrorist leader is no more,” U.S. President Joe Biden said on Monday.

Biden said he authorised the strike after months of planning and that no civilians or family members were killed.

“The world will be a safer place,” said Britain’s foreign minister Liz Truss.

Three spokespeople in the Taliban administration declined comment on Tuesday. The United States accused the Taliban of violating an agreement between them by sheltering Zawahiri.

Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid previously confirmed that a strike took place in Kabul on Sunday and called it a violation of “international principles”.

A spokesperson for the interior ministry said a house was hit by a rocket in Sherpoor, a leafy residential neighbourhood in the centre of Kabul. “There were no casualties as the house was empty,” Abdul Nafi Takor said.

Taliban authorities threw a security dragnet around the house and journalists were not allowed nearby.

A woman who lives in the neighbourhood and spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity said she and her family of nine moved to the safe room of their house when she heard an explosion at the weekend.

When she later went to the rooftop, she saw no commotion or chaos and assumed it was a rocket or bomb attack – which is not uncommon in Kabul. read more

A senior Taliban official told Reuters that Zawahiri was previously in Helmand province and had moved to Kabul after the Taliban took over the country in August last year.

White House spokesman John Kirby told CNN the United States did not have DNA confirmation of Zawahiri’s death, citing “visual confirmation” along with other sources.

He warned al Qaeda and those harbouring the group.

“We are still going to stay vigilant, we’re still going to stay capable,” he told MSNBC.

The State Department warned U.S. citizens overseas that “there is a higher potential for anti-American violence” following the killing and that al Qaeda supporters “may seek to attack U.S. facilities, personnel or citizens.” read more

PROVIDING SANCTUARY

After U.S. Navy SEALS shot bin Laden in Pakistan in 2011, Zawahiri succeeded him as leader.

Pakistan’s foreign ministry on Tuesday said it “stands by countering terrorism in accordance with international law and relevant UN resolutions.”

Kirby said no notifications were given in advance of the strike, when asked at a briefing on Tuesday if Pakistan had been told ahead of time.

Zawahiri had spent years as al Qaeda’s main organiser and strategist. But a lack of charisma and competition from rival militants Islamic State hobbled his ability to inspire devastating attacks on the West. read more

Reuters Graphics

There were rumours of Zawahiri’s death several times in recent years, and he was long reported to have been in poor health.

The drone attack is the first known U.S. strike inside Afghanistan since the chaotic withdrawal of U.S. and allied troops and diplomats in 2021.

The killing may bolster the credibility of Washington’s assurances that it can still address threats from Afghanistan without a military presence in the country.

“I was critical of President Biden’s decision to leave Afghanistan, but this strike shows we still have the capability and will to act there to protect our country,” said U.S. Representative Tom Malinowski, a Democrat. read more

Zawahiri’s death also raises questions about whether he received sanctuary from the Taliban.

A senior U.S. administration official said senior Taliban officials were aware of his presence in Kabul and said the United States expected the Taliban to abide by an agreement not to allow al Qaeda fighters to re-establish themselves there.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the Taliban had “grossly violated” the Doha Agreement between the two sides by hosting and sheltering Zawahiri.

Until the U.S. announcement, Zawahiri had been rumoured to be elsewhere inside Afghanistan or in Pakistan’s tribal area.

A video released in April in which he praised an Indian Muslim woman for defying a ban on wearing an Islamic head scarf dispelled rumours that he had died.

WIFE, FAMILY IN SAME HOUSE

The senior U.S. official said the United States found out this year that Zawahiri’s wife, daughter and her children had relocated to a safe house in Kabul, then identified that Zawahiri was there as well.

He was identified multiple times on the balcony, where he was ultimately struck. He continued to produce videos from the house and some may be released after his death, the official said.

In the last few weeks, Biden convened officials to scrutinise the intelligence. He was updated throughout May and June and was briefed on July 1 on a proposed operation by intelligence leaders.

On July 25, Biden received an updated report and authorised the strike once an opportunity was available, the official said.

With other senior al Qaeda members, Zawahiri is believed to have plotted the Oct. 12, 2000, attack on the USS Cole naval vessel in Yemen which killed 17 U.S. sailors and injured more than 30 others, the Rewards for Justice website said.

He was indicted in the United States for his role in the Aug. 7, 1998, bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people and wounded more than 5,000 others.

Both bin Laden and Zawahiri eluded capture when U.S.-led forces toppled Afghanistan’s Taliban government in late 2001 following the Sept. 11 attacks.

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Reporting by Idrees Ali and Jeff Mason; Additional reporting by Alexandra Alper, Eric Beech, Jonathan Landay, Arshad Mohammed, Patricia Zengerle, Matt Spetalnick in Washington, Jibran Ahmad in Peshawar, Susan Heavey in Washington and Reuters staff in Kabul; Writing by Raju Gopalakrishnan, Krishna N. Das and Costas Pitas; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel, Nick Macfie, Grant McCool and Cynthia Osterman

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Idrees Ali

Thomson Reuters

National security correspondent focusing on the Pentagon in Washington D.C. Reports on U.S. military activity and operations throughout the world and the impact that they have. Has reported from over two dozen countries to include Iraq, Afghanistan, and much of the Middle East, Asia and Europe. From Karachi, Pakistan.

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The big default? The dozen countries in the danger zone

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LONDON, July 15 (Reuters) – Traditional debt crisis signs of crashing currencies, 1,000 basis point bond spreads and burned FX reserves point to a record number of developing nations now in trouble.

Lebanon, Sri Lanka, Russia, Suriname and Zambia are already in default, Belarus is on the brink and at least another dozen are in the danger zone as rising borrowing costs, inflation and debt all stoke fears of economic collapse.

Totting up the cost is eyewatering. Using 1,000 basis point bond spreads as a pain threshold, analysts calculate $400 billion of debt is in play. Argentina has by far the most at over $150 billion, while the next in line are Ecuador and Egypt with $40 billion-$45 billion.

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Crisis veterans hope many can still dodge default, especially if global markets calm and the IMF rows in with support, but these are the countries at risk.

ARGENTINA

The sovereign default world record holder looks likely to add to its tally. The peso now trades at a near 50% discount in the black market, reserves are critically low and bonds trade at just 20 cents in the dollar – less than half of what they were after the country’s 2020 debt restructuring.

The government doesn’t have any substantial debt to service until 2024, but it ramps up after that and concerns have crept in that powerful vice president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner may push to renege on the International Monetary Fund. read more

Reuters Graphics

UKRAINE

Russia’s invasion means Ukraine will almost certainly have to restructure its $20 billion plus of debt, heavyweight investors such as Morgan Stanley and Amundi warn.

The crunch comes in September when $1.2 billion of bond payments are due. Aid money and reserves mean Kyiv could potentially pay. But with state-run Naftogaz this week asking for a two-year debt freeze, investors suspect the government will follow suit. read more

Ukraine bonds brace for default

TUNISIA

Africa has a cluster of countries going to the IMF but Tunisia looks one of the most at risk. read more

A near 10% budget deficit, one of the highest public sector wage bills in the world and there are concerns that securing, or a least sticking to, an IMF programme may be tough due to President Kais Saied’s push to strengthen his grip on power and the country’s powerful, incalcitrant labour union.

Tunisian bond spreads – the premium investors demand to buy the debt rather than U.S. bonds – have risen to over 2,800 basis points and along with Ukraine and El Salvador, Tunisia is on Morgan Stanley’s top three list of likely defaulters. “A deal with the International Monetary Fund becomes imperative,” Tunisia’s central bank chief Marouan Abassi has said. read more

African bonds suffering

GHANA

Furious borrowing has seen Ghana’s debt-to-GDP ratio soar to almost 85%. Its currency, the cedi, has lost nearly a quarter of its value this year and it was already spending over half of tax revenues on debt interest payments. Inflation is also getting close to 30%.

Reuters Graphics

EGYPT

Egypt has a near 95% debt-to-GDP ratio and has seen one of the biggest exoduses of international cash this year – some $11 billion according to JPMorgan.

Fund firm FIM Partners estimates Egypt has $100 billion of hard currency debt to pay over the next five years, including a meaty $3.3 billion bond in 2024.

Cairo devalued the pound 15% and asked the IMF for help in March but bond spreads are now over 1,200 basis points and credit default swaps (CDS) – an investor tool to hedge risk – price in a 55% chance it fails on a payment. read more

Francesc Balcells, CIO of EM debt at FIM Partners, estimates though that roughly half the $100 billion Egypt needs to pay by 2027 is to the IMF or bilateral, mainly in the Gulf. “Under normal conditions, Egypt should be able to pay,” Balcells said.

Egypt’s falling foreign exchange reserves

KENYA

Kenya spends roughly 30% of revenues on interest payments. Its bonds have lost almost half their value and it currently has no access to capital markets – a problem with a $2 billion dollar bond coming due in 2024.

On Kenya, Egypt, Tunisia and Ghana, Moody’s David Rogovic said: “These countries are the most vulnerable just because of the amount of debt coming due relative to reserves, and the fiscal challenges in terms of stabilising debt burdens.”

Kenya’s concerns

ETHIOPIA

Addis Ababa plans to be one of the first countries to get debt relief under the G20 Common Framework programme. Progress has been held up by the country’s ongoing civil war though in the meantime it continues to service its sole $1 billion international bond. read more

Africa’s debt problems

EL SALVADOR

Making bitcoin legal tender all but closed the door to IMF hopes. Trust has fallen to the point where an $800 million bond maturing in six months trades at a 30% discount and longer-term ones at a 70% discount.

PAKISTAN

Pakistan struck a crucial IMF deal this week. read more The breakthrough could not be more timely, with high energy import prices pushing the country to the brink of a balance of payments crisis.

Foreign currency reserves have fallen to as low as $9.8 billion, hardly enough for five weeks of imports. The Pakistani rupee has weakened to record lows. The new government needs to cut spending rapidly now as it spends 40% of its revenues on interest payments.

Countries in debt distress at record high

BELARUS

Western sanctions wrestled Russia into default last month read more and Belarus now facing the same tough treatment having stood with Moscow in the Ukraine campaign.

Belarus bonds

ECUADOR

The Latin American country only defaulted two years ago but it has been rocked back into crisis by violent protests and an attempt to oust President Guillermo Lasso. read more

It has lots of debt and with the government subsidising fuel and food JPMorgan has ratcheted up its public sector fiscal deficit forecast to 2.4% of GDP this year and 2.1% next year. Bond spreads have topped 1,500 bps.

NIGERIA

Bond spreads are just over 1,000 bps but Nigeria’s next $500 million bond payment in a year’s time should easily be covered by reserves which have been steadily improving since June. It does though spend almost 30% of government revenues paying interest on its debt.

“I think the market is overpricing a lot of these risks,” investment firm abrdn’s head of emerging market debt, Brett Diment, said.

Currency markets in 2022
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Reporting by Marc Jones; Additional Reporting by Rachel Savage in London and Rodrigo Campos in New York; Editing by Susan Fenton

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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‘We Buried Him and Kept Walking’: Children Die as Somalis Flee Hunger

DOOLOW, Somalia — When her crops failed and her parched goats died, Hirsiyo Mohamed left her home in southwestern Somalia, carrying and coaxing three of her eight children on the long walk across a bare and dusty landscape in temperatures as high as 100 degrees.

Along the way, her 3-and-a-half-year-old son, Adan, tugged at her robe, begging for food and water. But there was none to give, she said. “We buried him, and kept walking.”

They reached an aid camp in the town of Doolow after four days, but her malnourished 8-year-old daughter, Habiba, soon contracted whooping cough and died, she said. Sitting in her makeshift tent last month, holding her 2-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Maryam, in her lap, she said, “This drought has finished us.”

imperiling lives across the Horn of Africa, with up to 20 million people in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia facing the risk of starvation by the end of this year, according to the World Food Program.

appealed to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia to lift the blockade on exports of Ukrainian grain and fertilizer — even as American diplomats warned of Russian efforts to sell stolen Ukrainian wheat to African nations.

The most devastating crisis is unfolding in Somalia, where about seven million of the country’s estimated 16 million people face acute food shortages. Since January, at least 448 children have died from severe acute malnutrition, according to a database managed by UNICEF.

only about 18 percent of the $1.46 billion needed for Somalia, according to the United Nations’ financial tracking service. “This will put the world in a moral and ethical dilemma,” said El-Khidir Daloum, the Somalia country director for the World Food Program, a U.N. agency.

projected to increase by up to 16 percent because of the war in Ukraine and the pandemic, which made ingredients, packaging and supply chains more costly, according to UNICEF.

displaced by the drought this year. As many as three million Somalis have also been displaced by tribal and political conflicts and the ever-growing threat from the terrorist group Al Shabab.

cyclones, rising temperatures, a locust infestation that destroyed crops, and, now, four consecutive failed rainy seasons.

spend 60 to 80 percent of their income on food. The loss of wheat from Ukraine, supply-chain delays and soaring inflation have led to sharp rises in the prices of cooking oil and staples like rice and sorghum.

At a market in the border town of Doolow, more than two dozen tables were abandoned because vendors could no longer afford to stock produce from local farms. The remaining retailers sold paltry supplies of cherry tomatoes, dried lemons and unripe bananas to the few customers trickling in.

perished since mid-2021, according to monitoring agencies.

The drought is also straining the social support systems that Somalis depend on during crises.

As thousands of hungry and homeless people flooded the capital, the women at the Hiil-Haween Cooperative sought ways to support them. But faced with their own soaring bills, many of the women said they had little to share. They collected clothes and food for about 70 displaced people.

“We had to reach deep into our community to find anything,” said Hadiya Hassan, who leads the cooperative.

likely fail, pushing the drought into 2023. The predictions are worrying analysts, who say the deteriorating conditions and the delayed scale-up in funding could mirror the severe 2011 drought that killed about 260,000 Somalis.

Famine in Somalia.”

For now, the merciless drought is forcing some families to make hard choices.

Back at the Benadir hospital in Mogadishu, Amina Abdullahi gazed at her severely malnourished 3-month-old daughter, Fatuma Yusuf. Clenching her fists and gasping for air, the baby let out a feeble cry, drawing smiles from the doctors who were happy to hear her make any noise at all.

“She was as still as the dead when we brought her here,” Ms. Abdullahi said. But even though the baby had gained more than a pound in the hospital, she was still less than five pounds in all — not even half what she should be. Doctors said it would be a while before she was discharged.

This pained Ms. Abdullahi. She had left six other children behind in Beledweyne, about 200 miles away, on a small, desiccated farm with her goats dying.

“The suffering back home is indescribable,” she said. “I want to go back to my children.”

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Pro-Russia Tweets in India Spark Suspicions of an Influence Campaign 

In the days after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, thousands of Twitter accounts shared messages of support for Vladimir V. Putin, the Russian president.

They tried to deflect criticism of the war by comparing it to conflicts instigated by Western countries. Their commentary — along with tweets from other users who condemned it — made the hashtag #IStandWithPutin trend on Twitter in several regions around the world.

While some of the accounts said they were based in Nigeria and South Africa, the majority of those with a declared location on Twitter claimed to be from India and targeted their messages to other Indian users, researchers said.

evacuating nearly 20,000 of its citizens who were in the country when Russia’s invasion began. Hundreds of Indian students remained stuck amid heavy shelling at the time. India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, who has avoided condemning Russia, appealed to Mr. Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart, President Volodymyr Zelensky, for help.

Russia’s local embassy used Twitter to instruct Indian media outlets to not use the word “war” but to instead refer to it as a “special military operation,” as media outlets in Russia have been forced by law to do. Some Indian Twitter users responded by mocking the embassy, while others chastised local media outlets as inept and needing instruction from Russia.

Pro-Russian sentiment has taken hold in right-wing circles in the United States, misinformation that has spread within Russia claims Ukrainians have staged bombings or bombed their own neighborhoods, and myths about Ukrainian fortitude have gone viral across social media platforms. But in India and other countries where social media users joined the hashtag, pro-Russian narratives have focused on ethnonationalism and Western hypocrisy over the war, themes that have resonated with social media users.

“There were dense clusters of communities engaging with it, many of which were based in India or based in Pakistan,” said Marc Owen Jones, an assistant professor of Middle East studies and digital humanities at Hamad Bin Khalifa University who analyzed the accounts using #IStandWithPutin.

It was not clear whether the accounts promoting pro-Putin messages in India were authentic, although Dr. Jones said some of the most popular ones engaged in suspicious behavior, like using stock photos as profile pictures or racking up likes and retweets despite having few followers.

blog post this month. “These accounts represent a wide range of attempts to manipulate the service — including opportunistic, financially motivated spam — and we don’t currently believe they represent a specific, coordinated campaign associated with a government actor.”

But some of the accounts in India most likely belonged to real people, Dr. Jones said. “If you can get enough people spreading a message, then real people will join in,” he said. “It becomes hard to sort the organic behavior from the inorganic because it’s a mesh.”

In India, some right-wing groups have advanced similar messages. An organization called the Hindu Sena marched in support of Russia this month in the heart of India’s capital. Carrying Russian flags ordered for the occasion as well as saffron ones often flown by Hindu nationalists, participants were led by the group’s president, Vishnu Gupta.

Over 300 activists chanted, “Russia you fight on, we are with you” and “Long live the friendship of India and Russia.”

“Russia has always stood by India and is its best friend. While America supports Pakistan and does not want any Asian power to rise,” Mr. Gupta said in an interview. “We don’t believe in war. But now that it’s happening, India must go with Russia. We must make our position clear.”

Russia’s embassy in India has also used Twitter and Facebook to promote conspiracy theories about biological research labs in Ukraine and to pressure the Indian media.

largest supplier of weapons, and Ukraine by abstaining from voting against Russia at the United Nations. India has also sent medical supplies to Ukraine. It has been looking for ways to maintain its trade relations with Russia despite sanctions imposed on it by many Western countries.

But public sentiment about the war could pressure local politicians to choose a side, experts said.

“It’s a major, major flashpoint for a truly global competition for information,” Mr. Brookie said. “Its an inflection point where a number of countries — not just Russia but the United States, its allies and partners, as well as China — are positioning themselves.”

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Live Updates: Explosions Shake Kyiv and Ukraine’s Second-Largest City

Africans who had been living in Ukraine say they were stuck for days at crossings into neighboring European Union countries, huddling in the cold without food or shelter, held up by Ukrainian authorities who pushed them to the ends of long lines and even beat them, while letting Ukrainians through.

At least 660,000 people have fled Ukraine in the five days following the start of Russia’s invasion, the United Nations refugee agency U.N.H.C.R. said. Most are Ukrainians, but some are students or migrant workers from Africa, Asia and other regions who are also desperate to escape.

Chineye Mbagwu, a 24-year-old doctor from Nigeria who lived in the western Ukrainian town of Ivano-Frankivsk, said she had spent more than two days stranded at the Poland-Ukraine border crossing in the town of Medyka, as the guards let Ukrainians cross but blocked foreigners.

“The Ukrainian border guards were not letting us through,” she said in a phone interview, her voice trembling. “They were beating people up with sticks” and tearing off their jackets, she added. “They would slap them, beat them and push them to the end of the queue. It was awful.”

The African Union and President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria have condemned the treatment of Africans fleeing Ukraine following social media reports about border guards hindering them from leaving. Africans have also reported being barred from boarding trains headed to the border.

“Reports that Africans are singled out for unacceptable dissimilar treatment would be shockingly racist” and violate international law, the African Union said.

Ukraine’s deputy interior minister, Anton Heraschenko, denied that his country was obstructing foreigners from leaving.

“Everything is simple,” he said. “We are first to release women and children. Foreign men must wait for women and children to come forward. We will release all foreigners without hindrance,” he added, in a written response to questions. “Same goes for blacks.”

Credit…Mauricio Lima for The New York Times

Ms. Mbagwu, the Nigerian doctor, managed to reach Warsaw, but said she crossed the border only by struggling and pushing her way through.

“They would say ‘only women and children can pass through,’” she said. “But they were letting some Ukrainian men through. And whenever a Black lady would try to pass, they said: ‘Our women first,’” Ms. Mbagwu added.

“There was no shelter from the cold. It snowed. There was no food, water, or a place to rest. I was literally hallucinating from sleep deprivation,” she said.

She said her 21-year-old brother, a medical student, had been blocked at the border since Friday, but made it into Poland after four days of trying.

Not all foreigners reported ill treatment by Ukrainian authorities at the border crossings.

A Pakistani student and an Afghan national who crossed from Ukraine into Poland on Saturday said the only problem was very long lines. And a group of Vietnamese workers crossed easily into Moldova on Monday.

Mohammed Saadaoui, a 23-year-old Moroccan pharmacy student who traveled from the Ukrainian city of Odessa to Warsaw, said he did not have any problems.

“But we took a long time to find the good border crossing where there would not be too many people,” he said. “There, we were treated the same way as the Ukrainians.”

The International Organization of Migration estimated that there are more than 470,000 foreign nationals in Ukraine, including a large number of overseas students and migrant workers. At least 6,000 of them have arrived in Moldova and Slovakia alone over the past five days, according to the I.O.M., and many more have crossed into Poland.

Many of the foreigners fleeing Ukraine said they were warmly welcomed in neighboring Poland, Moldova, Hungary and Romania. But Mr. Buhari, the Nigerian president, said there were reports of Polish officials refusing Nigerians entry.

Piotr Mueller, the spokesman for the Polish prime minister, denied this, saying, “Poland is letting in everyone coming from Ukraine regardless of their nationality.”

Piotr Bystrianin, head of the Ocalenie Foundation, a Polish refugee charity, said that so far, “problems were on the Ukrainian side.”

Credit…Maciek Nabrdalik for The New York Times

More than 300,000 people have fled from Ukraine to Poland since the Russian invasion began, according to Poland’s interior ministry. Makeshift accommodation is being set up across the country, and Poles are helping Ukrainians on a massive scale, transporting them through the border, hosting them in their homes, feeding and clothing them.

On Monday, Poland’s ambassador to the United Nations, Krzysztof Szczerski, said his country welcomed all foreign students who were studying in Ukraine, and invited them to continue their studies in Poland.

In the years leading up to the Russian invasion, Poland had taken a hard line on migrants trying to enter the country. The army and border guards have pushed asylum seekers from the Middle East and Africa back into Belarus. Last week, aid organizations said a 26-year-old man from Yemen froze to death at that border.

Some of the foreigners arriving in Poland from Ukraine over the past few days were exhausted and freezing, according to local aid organizations on the ground. Some were taken directly to hospitals because of their injuries.

Ahmed Habboubi, a 22-year-old French-Tunisian medical student, said all foreign nationals, including Africans, Israelis, Canadians and Americans, were told to go to one gate at the Medyka crossing from Ukraine to Poland, which would only process four people every couple of hours, while Ukrainians were allowed to pass freely through another gate.

“The Ukrainian army beat me up so much I couldn’t properly walk,” he said in an phone interview. “When I finally managed to enter Poland, the Polish authorities took me straight to the hospital,” he added.

“It was absolute chaos. We were treated like animals. There are still thousands of people stranded there.”

He said that Poland had welcomed him warmly.

Dennis Nana Appiah Nkansah, a Ghanaian medical student, said he saw the same discrimination at the crossing from Ukraine into the Romanian town of Siret — one rule for Ukrainians and another for everyone else. Thousands of foreigners, including Zambians, Namibians, Moroccans, Indians and Pakistanis, were directed to one gate that was mostly closed, while another reserved for Ukrainians was open and people flowed through.

Over about three hours, four or five foreigners were allowed to leave, while there was a “massive influx” of Ukrainians crossing, he said. “It’s not fair,” he said, but “we understood that they have to see to their people first.”

Mr. Nkansah, 31, said he had organized 74 Ghanaian and Nigerian students to pitch in and hire a bus to flee together. They reached the border early Saturday morning, he said, but it took them 24 hours to cross over.

Emmanuel Nwulu, 30, a Nigerian student of electronics at Kharkiv National University, said that when he tried to board a train in Ukraine going west toward the border, Ukrainian officials told him, “Blacks could not board the train.” But Mr. Nwulu and his cousin managed to force their way aboard.

Credit…Laetitia Vancon for The New York Times

Taha Daraa, a 25-year-old Moroccan student in his fourth year studying dentistry in Dnipro Medical Institute, started his journey out on Saturday around noon and crossed the border into Romania in the early hours of Monday morning after days without sleep.

“We were treated so badly. We took buses to the Romanian border. It was very scary then we had to walk across the border while hearing gunshots,” he said via WhatsApp. “All we did was pray. Our parents prayed as well for our safety. It’s the only protection we had,” he added.

“I witnessed a lot of racism.”

He said he was in a group with two other Moroccans and many other Africans and he asked a Ukrainian border guard to let them through. The guard started firing his gun in the air to scare them and so they stepped back.

“I have never felt so much fear in my life,” Mr. Daraa said. “He asked us to move back. Snow was falling on us. As the crowd got bigger, they gave up and let everyone through.”

He said the Romanians were taking good care of him and other foreigners and providing them with food and other necessities.

“They gave us everything,” he said.

Abdi Latif Dahir contributed reporting from Nairobi, Kenya, Valerie Hopkins from Kyiv, Ukraine, Ben Novak from Zahony and Beregsurany, Hungary and Aida Alami from Rabat, Morocco.

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Tonga Shrouded by Ash and Mystery After Powerful Volcano Erupts

The authorities closed several beaches in Peru on Sunday and warned about abnormal wave activity.

The deaths in Peru were reminiscent of the aftermath of the powerful tsunami set off by an undersea earthquake off Indonesia in December 2004 which killed more than 250,000 people. A dozen of the dead then were hit by waves on the eastern coast of Africa, in Kenya and Tanzania.

In Tonga on Sunday, many residents lost not only communication ties but power. Up to 80,000 people there could be affected, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies told the BBC.

One immediate need was clear: potable water.

“The ash cloud has, as you can imagine, caused contamination,” said Ms. Ardern, the New Zealand prime minister. “That’s on top of already a challenging environment, in terms of water supply.”

New Zealand and other nations in the region pledged to give Tonga aid to recover. So did the United States. But with heavy concentrations of airborne ash making flights impossible, it was difficult even to know what was needed.

Ms. Ardern said flights over Tonga were planned for Monday or Tuesday, depending on ash conditions. New Zealand’s navy was also preparing a backup plan, should the ash remain heavy, she said.

In a post on Twitter, Antony J. Blinken, the American secretary of state, offered his condolences: “Deeply concerned for the people of Tonga as they recover from the aftermath of a volcanic eruption and tsunami. The United States stands prepared to provide support to our Pacific neighbors.”

Tonga has experienced a succession of natural disasters in recent years. In 2018, more than 170 homes were destroyed and two people killed by Cyclone Gita, a Category 5 tropical storm. In 2020, Cyclone Harold caused about $111 million in damage, including extensive flooding.

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Ethiopian Airlines to resume using Boeing 737 MAX planes in Feb

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ADDIS ABABA, Dec 27 (Reuters) – Ethiopian Airlines plans to resume flying Boeing 737 MAX planes on its fleet in February 2022, saying it was satisfied with their safety, its chief executive said on Monday.

In 2019, Ethiopian Airlines flight 302, a Boeing (BA.N) 737 MAX bound for Kenya, crashed six minutes after takeoff from Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa, killing all 157 passengers and crew.

“Safety is our topmost priority …. and it guides every decision we make and all actions we take,” Tewolde Gebremariam said in a statement.

“We have taken enough time to monitor the design modification work and the more than 20 months of rigorous rectification process…our pilots, engineers, aircraft technicians, cabin crew are confident on the safety of the fleet.”

The best-selling, single-aisle airplane, which was grounded worldwide after two crashes killed 346 people in the space of five months, returned to service in late 2020. read more

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Reporting by Addis Ababa Newsrooom; editing by James Macharia Chege and Bernadette Baum

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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The Nobel Peace Prize That Paved the Way for War in Ethiopia

NAIROBI, Kenya — Secret meetings with a dictator. Clandestine troop movements. Months of quiet preparation for a war that was supposed to be swift and bloodless.

New evidence shows that Ethiopia’s prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, had been planning a military campaign in the northern Tigray region for months before war erupted one year ago, setting off a cascade of destruction and ethnic violence that has engulfed Ethiopia, Africa’s second most populous country.

Mr. Abiy, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate seen recently in fatigues commanding troops on the battlefront, insists that war was foisted upon him — that ethnic Tigrayan fighters fired the first shots in November 2020 when they attacked a federal military base in Tigray, slaughtering soldiers in their beds. That account has become an article of faith for Mr. Abiy and his supporters.

In fact, it was a war of choice for Mr. Abiy — one with wheels set in motion even before the Nobel Peace Prize win in 2019 that turned him, for a time, into a global icon of nonviolence.

Tigrayans routed the Ethiopian troops and their Eritrean allies over the summer and last month came within 160 miles of the capital, Addis Ababa — prompting Mr. Abiy to declare a state of emergency.

Recently, the pendulum has swung back, with government forces retaking two strategic towns that had been captured by the Tigrayans — the latest twist in a conflict that has already cost tens of thousands of lives and pushed hundreds of thousands into famine-like conditions.

Analysts say that Mr. Abiy’s journey from peacemaker to battlefield commander is a cautionary tale of how the West, desperate to find a new hero in Africa, got this leader spectacularly wrong.

“The West needs to make up for its mistakes in Ethiopia,” said Alex Rondos, formerly the European Union’s top diplomat in the Horn of Africa. “It misjudged Abiy. It empowered Isaias. Now the issue is whether a country of 110 million people can be prevented from unraveling.”

Accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in December 2019, Mr. Abiy, a former soldier, drew on his own experience to eloquently capture the horror of conflict.

his first months in power, Mr. Abiy, then 41, freed political prisoners, unshackled the press and promised free elections in Ethiopia. His peace deal with Eritrea, a pariah state, was a political moonshot for the strife-torn Horn of Africa region.

Even so, the five-member Norwegian Nobel Committee knew it was taking on a chance on Mr. Abiy, said Henrik Urdal of Peace Research Institute Oslo, which analyzes the committee’s decisions.

announced to applause that he was nominating Mr. Abiy for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Back in Sweden, Dr. Kontie persuaded Anders Österberg, a parliamentarian from a low-income Stockholm district with a large immigrant population, to join his cause. Mr. Österberg traveled to Ethiopia, met with Mr. Abiy and was impressed.

at least two nominations for Mr. Abiy that year.

In selecting Mr. Abiy, the Nobel Committee hoped to encourage him further down the path of democratic reforms, Mr. Urdal said.

Even then, though, there were signs that Mr. Abiy’s peace deal wasn’t all it seemed.

reopened borders, were rolled back or reversed in a matter of months. Promised trade pacts failed to materialize, and there was little concrete cooperation, the Ethiopian officials said.

Eritrea’s spies, however, gained an edge. Ethiopian intelligence detected an influx of Eritrean agents, some posing as refugees, who gathered information about Ethiopia’s military capabilities, a senior Ethiopian security official said.

The Eritreans were particularly interested in Tigray, he said.

Mr. Isaias had a long and bitter grudge against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, which dominated Ethiopia for nearly three decades until Mr. Abiy came to power in 2018. He blamed Tigrayan leaders for the fierce border war of 1998 to 2000 between Ethiopia and Eritrea, a former province of Ethiopia, in which as many as 100,000 people were killed. He also blamed them for Eritrea’s painful international isolation, including United Nations sanctions.

For Mr. Abiy, it was more complicated.

He served in the T.P.L.F.-dominated governing coalition for eight years and was made a minister in 2015. But as an ethnic Oromo, Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group, he never felt fully accepted by Tigrayans and suffered numerous humiliations, former officials and friends said.

visited the ancient Amhara city of Gondar in November 2018, chanting, “Isaias, Isaias, Isaias!”

Later, a troupe of Eritrean singers and dancers visited Amhara. But the delegation included Eritrea’s spy chief, Abraha Kassa, who used the trip to meet with Amhara security leaders, the senior Ethiopian official said. Eritrea later agreed to train 60,000 troops from the Amhara Special Forces, a paramilitary unit that later deployed to Tigray.

advocated an effective merger of Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti — a suggestion that dismayed Ethiopian officials who saw it as straight from the playbook of Mr. Isaias.

Aides also saw the remarks as further proof of Mr. Abiy’s impulsive tendencies, leading them to cancel his news conference during the Nobel ceremonies in Oslo 10 months later.

Mr. Abiy viewed the Tigrayans as a threat to his authority — perhaps even his life — from his first days in power.

The Tigrayans had preferred another candidate as prime minister, and Mr. Abiy told friends he feared Tigrayan security officials were trying to assassinate him, an acquaintance said.

At the prime minister’s residence, soldiers were ordered to stand guard on every floor. Mr. Abiy purged ethnic Tigrayans from his security detail and created the Republican Guard, a handpicked unit under his direct control, whose troops were sent for training to the United Arab Emirates — a powerful new ally also close to Mr. Isaias, a former Ethiopian official said.

The unexplained killing of the Ethiopian military chief, Gen. Seare Mekonnen, an ethnic Tigrayan who was shot dead by a bodyguard in June 2019, heightened tensions.

violent clashes between police officers and protesters erupted across the Oromia region, culminating in the death in June 2020 of a popular singer.

publicly appealed to both sides to halt “provocative military deployments.” The next evening, Tigrayan forces attacked an Ethiopian military base, calling it a pre-emptive strike.

Eritrean soldiers flooded into Tigray from the north. Amhara Special Forces arrived from the south. Mr. Abiy fired General Adem and announced a “law enforcement operation” in Tigray.

Ethiopia’s ruinous civil war was underway.

A New York Times reporter contributed reporting from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

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