Unchartered Territory! Uncertain future for Chad as slain leader’s son takes power

Unchartered Territory! Uncertain future for Chad as slain leader’s son takes power

Chad woke up to an uncertain future on Wednesday as the son of slain president Idriss Deby Itno took charge following the death of his father, who had ruled the country with an iron fist for three decades.

The presidency moved swiftly to put the reins of power in the hands of General Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno and tear up Chad’s constitution, establishing a “Transition Charter” that lays out a new basic law for the desert country of 16 million people.

The new charter issued Wednesday proclaimed that Mahamat 37, a career soldier like his father, will “occupy the functions of the president of the republic” and also serve as head of the armed forces.

Mahamat had already been named the head of a military council on Tuesday soon after the announcement of Deby’s death in combat, a move that sidelined other political institutions in Chad and has been branded a coup d’etat by opposition groups.

Deby, 68, died only a day after provisional results declared him the winner of an April 11 election giving him a sixth term in office.

The outcome was never in serious doubt, with a divided opposition, boycott calls, and a campaign in which demonstrations were banned or dispersed.

The military council has already dissolved parliament and the government, and been tasked with leading an 18-month transition period ahead of new “free and democratic” elections.

Anxious Western powers including Chad’s former colonial master France have called for a peaceful transition that paves the way for a civilian government.

– Rebel incursion –

The West has lost a key partner in its anti-jihadist campaign in the unstable Sahel region particularly due to the relative strength of Chad’s military and its ability to supply weaponry and soldiers.

His demise came only days after the army had claimed a “great victory” against fighters from the Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT) who had launched an incursion from Libya on the same day as the presidential election.

Deby, a herder’s son who took power on the back of a coup in 1990, had on previous occasions gone to the frontlines as government forces battled rebels.

The military said Monday it had killed more than 300 rebels and captured 150 others, with the loss of five soldiers.

But FACT spokesman Kingabe Ogouzeimi de Tapol told AFP on Tuesday that the rebels would pursue their offensive after a pause for Deby’s state funeral on Friday.

“We categorically reject the transition,” he said. “Our troops are en route towards N’Djamena.”

Gun-toting soldiers in fatigues and members of the red-bereted presidential guard were seen patrolling the capital in the aftermath of Deby’s death.

But on Wednesday, banks, markets and most shops were open while the national flag flew at half-mast on public buildings.

– ‘Security crossroads’ –

Analysts warned that Deby’s passing threatened to bring more instability to a region where jihadist groups are gaining in strength.

“Chad is at a critical security crossroads for the whole of the African continent and for many years now has been not just a staunch Western ally but an effective security partner,” said Cameron Hudson, a senior fellow and Africa expert at the Atlantic Council think-tank.

France, which has a force of 5,100 in the Sahel region, said it insisted on the “stability and territorial integrity” of Chad in the face of the rebel push towards the capital.

The French presidency also underscored “the importance of the transition taking place under peaceful conditions”.

There should also be “a spirit of dialogue with all political and civil society actors, and allowing the rapid return to inclusive governance based on civil institutions,” it added.

Both the United States and the European Union also offered condolences and urged a peaceful transition of power.

UN chief Antonio Guterres said Deby was a “key partner” and had made significant contributions to help “combat terrorism, violent extremism and organised crime in the Sahel”.

One analyst said the country was “entering uncharted territory”.

“A damaging succession crisis is to be feared, while government forces and rebels have been fighting each other in the north and centre of the country,” said Richard Moncrieff of the International Crisis Group think tank.

China Expects To Deepen Int’l Cooperation In Poverty Reduction

China Expects To Deepen Int’l Cooperation In Poverty Reduction

China has long maintained close cooperation with the international community in poverty alleviation and rural development, and expects to deepen such cooperation, Wang Zhengpu, head of the national administration for rural vitalization, said on Monday.

China’s poverty reduction practices, including increased investment in infrastructure construction, targeted poverty alleviation and the mobilization of the country’s impoverished population, are applicable in other countries, Wang said at a sub-forum of the Boao Forum for Asia annual conference.

“Now that China has eradicated absolute poverty nationwide, we are willing to share our experience with the rest of the world and contribute to the global cause of poverty reduction,” he said.

He added that China is learning from the experience of other countries in pushing forward its ongoing rural vitalization drive, and hopes for more support and assistance from the international community.

Wang’s views were echoed by Jeffrey Sachs, an American economist and author of the bestselling book “The End of Poverty.” Sachs attended the sub-forum and gave a speech by video link.

Sachs said that China’s poverty alleviation success is an important model and can provide assistance for Africa in the latter’s own quest for development.

Sachs said he appreciated that China will share its broad-based, goal-oriented development experience with Africa, and cooperate with Africa in areas such as infrastructure, agricultural innovation and business development.

Steps In The Direction Of More Resilient Post-Covid Economies

Steps In The Direction Of More Resilient Post-Covid Economies

Economies across Africa have experienced dramatic slowdown even countries with limited initial incidence of the virus faced severe economic aftershocks. Significant disruption in agricultural markets and labour in sub-Saharan Africa has restricted income and led to rapid food insecurity for many.

Ensuring emergency financial support could reach people quickly became a priority for many governments, but with lockdowns and social distancing, traditional means of distributing relief were unavailable. Countries which had invested in making financial systems more inclusive mitigated the most severe economic shocks to households.

The ability of the countries to act wasn’t built on radical reinvention, but rather on effective use of established solutions that drive digitisation, growth and inclusion. Of course, there is a limit to how much countries can expand financial access amid a crisis, so the time to upgrade financial policies and infrastructure to drive inclusion is now.

As African and global leaders look to implement plans following discussions at the World Bank and
IMF Spring Meetings last week about steps countries can take to rebuild economies from the pandemic, they need not reinvent the wheel. Here are three suggestions for how countries can make economies more resilient to future shocks.

First, countries should craft financial services regulations that provide space for companies and industry to innovate while safeguarding consumers against risks, including data privacy and cyber security. When countries get financial regulations right, the benefits of financial inclusion can accrue rapidly. Governments also need to increase ability to identify citizens and transact with them safely and quickly.

Investing in inclusive digital payment and identity infrastructure is the second step governments should take to rebuild financial systems and build more resilient economies. During the pandemic, countries
with high levels of payment and ID connectivity could quickly identify and deliver payments to households eligible for emergency funds.

Digital payment and ID systems eliminated the need for people to complete paper forms or contend with crowded lines to receive emergency funds; they could apply online or by SMS and be paid digitally. By contrast, countries with limited payment connectivity and identity systems had less effective options.

Some governments had to physically deliver cash, while others relied on social protection measures, such as subsidising the price of food or fuel. Fortunately, governments seeking to upgrade their digital financial systems need not start from scratch. They can make use of new, open-source payment and identity platforms built on best-in-class privacy, data protection and cyber security frameworks.

These innovations are accelerating digital financial inclusion in several countries. Ethiopia and Guinea are exploring pilots based on the MOSIP platform. A third step governments can take to build more resilient economies is to put women front and centre. A growing body of experimental evidence demonstrates that getting money into the hands of women to connect them to the formal financial system can lead to long-term benefits, including more decision making power in their household and greater economic security.

Through targeted emergency payment systems, enabled by strong, inclusive digital financial systems, governments have bolstered economic activity and supported women during the pandemic. An understanding of the outcomes of rapid response measures undertaken by governments to alleviate the economic impact of the pandemic will take time. It is clear, however, that over the last year, governments have preserved millions of lives and livelihoods through use of inclusive digital financial infrastructure.

As we emerge from the pandemic, governments have a chance to use lessons from the crisis to build the inclusive financial systems they will need to respond to future economic crises. By doing this, they can also position their economies for growth and resiliency in this digital century.

US, EU condemn move to extend Somalia president’s term

US, EU condemn move to extend Somalia president’s term

The United States and European Union have condemned the move by Somalia’s parliament to extend the terms of the president and members of parliament by two years amid concern it could deepen divides in the country.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he was “deeply disappointed” by the approval of the legislation on Tuesday.

“Implementation of this bill will pose serious obstacles to dialogue and further undermine peace and security in Somalia,” Blinken said in a statement.

“It will compel the United States to reevaluate our bilateral relations with the Federal Government of Somalia, to include diplomatic engagement and assistance, and to consider all available tools, including sanctions and visa restrictions, to respond to efforts to undermine peace and stability,” he said.

Somalia’s lower house of parliament voted on Monday to extend President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed’s four-year term, which expired in February, for a further two years.

Lower House speaker Mohamed Mursal Sheikh Abdurahman said the measure would allow the country to prepare for direct elections but the speaker of the Senate upper house, which would normally have to approve the legislation, immediately condemned the move as unconstitutional.

Abdi Hashi Abdullahi warned it would “lead the country into political instability, risks of insecurity and other unpredictable situations.”

The president and the leaders of Somalia’s five semi-autonomous federal states had reached an agreement in September to prepare for indirect parliamentary and presidential elections in late 2020 and early 2021.

But the deal fell apart amid squabbles over how to conduct the vote.

The political crisis threatens to deepen Somalia’s divisions, distracting attention from the fight against the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab in which thousands of civilians across the region have died over the past 12 years.

The African Union, European Union, United Nations, and the regional bloc, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, said in a joint statement on Saturday that they would not support any extension of the president’s term.

After the extension was agreed the EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell warned of the threat to stability.

“The European Union believes that the passage and signing of this resolution will divide Somalia, impose additional delays and constitute a grave threat to the peace and stability of Somalia and its neighbors,” Borrell said in a statement.

“It certainly does not serve the interests of the people of Somalia,” he added.

The international community has urged that immediate elections be held.

Somalia has not had an effective central government since the collapse of Siad Barre’s military government in 1991, which led to decades of civil war and lawlessness fuelled by clan conflicts.

The country is currently governed under an interim constitution and its institutions, such as the army, are backed up with international support.

War on Terror: Pentagon Chief Orders New Review of Attack That Killed 3 Americans in Kenya

War on Terror: Pentagon Chief Orders New Review of Attack That Killed 3 Americans in Kenya

The unusual review of the conclusions of the initial inquiry comes more than a year after the attack by the Shabab revealed security lapses at the base.

Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III has ordered a high-level review of an initial military investigation into an attack on a Kenyan base by Islamic extremists in January 2020 that left three Americans dead, the Pentagon said on Monday.

In a written statement announcing Austin’s decision, his press secretary, John Kirby, did not pinpoint what Austin found lacking in the initial investigation, which was conducted by U.S. Africa Command. By apparent coincidence, Austin plans to meet with Africa Command officials Tuesday in Stuttgart, Germany, as part of a broader tour of Europe to consult with allies and talk to U.S. commanders. He also will meet separately with officials at the U.S. European Command, also in Stuttgart.

“An independent review will provide added insight, perspective, and the ability to assess the totality of this tragic event involving multiple military services and Department of Defense components,” Kirby said.

AFRICOM is now examining the security at Manda Bay, and of other U.S. installations throughout the entire continent.

Kirby said that after considering the results of Africa Command’s investigation, which have not been released publicly, Austin decided to order the Army to pick a four-star general to conduct the review. The Army chose Gen. Paul Funk, commander of Army Training and Doctrine Command. Funk is an experienced combat veteran who served six deployments in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“It is the secretary’s desire to ensure there is a full examination and consideration of the contributing factors that led to this tragic event and that appropriate action is taken to reduce the risk of future occurrence,” Kirby said. “The families impacted deserve nothing less.”

The attack by al-Shabab militants at the Manda Bay base destroyed six aircraft in addition to killing three Americans and wounding three others.

Spc. Henry Mayfield Jr. died during an al-Shabab attack on Jan. 5, 2020, in Manda Bay, Kenya. (Facebook)
Shabab militants from Somalia may have received help from Kenyans for deadly Manda Bay attack
U.S. Africa Command officials believe that al-Shabab militants from Somalia crossed the border into Kenya to conduct an attack on U.S. and Kenyan forces earlier this month in Manda Bay — with the assistance of facilitators within Kenya.

The base, in the Kenyan seaside resort, was overrun by 30 to 40 of the al-Qaida-linked insurgents on Jan. 5, 2020, marking al-Shabab’s first attack against U.S. forces in the East African country. The predawn assault triggered a lengthy firefight and daylong struggle for U.S. and Kenyan forces to search and secure the base.

The base at Manda Bay has been used for years by the U.S. military, but it only became a full-time airfield in 2016, with increased personnel, aircraft and operations.

The initial phase of the assault came near dawn, when 20 to 30 al-Shabab militants slipped through the forest and fired rocket-propelled grenades onto the airfield at the base. The opening rounds of grenades quickly killed a soldier in a truck and wounded another, and killed two contractors in an aircraft and wounded one other. About a mile down the road, other militants fired on Camp Simba, a section of the base where U.S. forces are stationed.

Marines from Camp Simba initially responded to the attack site and begin to fight back against the militants, who had made it onto the airfield and into buildings. But it took all day for Kenyan and U.S. security forces to finally quash the attack, search the airfield and secure the area.

Air Force Col. Chris Karns, spokesperson for U.S. Africa Command, said a “great deal of rigor” was put into the investigation, resulting in a number of immediate improvements. He said the goal has been to reassure the families and the American public “that we did everything possible to understand the situation and take appropriate action.”

The investigation team made “findings and recommendations that fall outside U.S. Africa Command purview and ability to effect, therefore we fully support the additional independent review directed by the Secretary of Defense,” Karns said. “We are confident in the report’s findings and remain committed to ensuring fixes and improvements in Kenya and across the continent.”

Kenya has been a key base for fighting al-Shabab, which is based in Somalia and is one of the world’s most resilient extremist organizations. Al-Shabab has launched a number of attacks inside Kenya, including against civilian targets on buses, at schools and at shopping malls.

Al-Shabab had been the target of a growing number of U.S. airstrikes inside Somalia during President Donald Trump’s administration. But Trump late last year ordered the withdrawal of the roughly 700 American forces there, and the bulk of those troops were pulled out of the country by mid-January. According to officials, there are well below 100 U.S. troops in Somalia now.

Austin has launched a review of America’s military posture around the world.

Till Death Do Us Part: 74-Year-Long Love Affair of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip

Till Death Do Us Part: 74-Year-Long Love Affair of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip

Coming from the royal Greek and Danish families, 18-year-old Philip first caught the eye of Princess Elizabeth (at the time) in 1939, when she was just 13 years old and he was a young cadet enrolled in the Royal Naval College in Dartmouth.

When royal family accounts tell the story of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, it is often likened to a fairy-tale-like sequence of events for the couple. Philip wasn’t deemed as the most ideal candidate for princess Elizabeth by her father King George VI due to his financial dependence and being a bit rough around the edges.

Despite the obstacle, Philip was given permission to propose to Elizabeth by 1947, which happened in Scotland. Having had renounced his birth titles – His Royal Highness Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark – and after becoming a British subject, Philip then married the future queen of England.

Former Prime Minister Winston Churchill called their wedding a “flash of color on the hard road we have to travel”, referring to the climate of post-war Britain.

The title of the Duke of Edinburgh was bestowed upon Philip and he carried it through more than seven decades of married life to the woman who became the longest-reigning British monarch, having commemorated 65 years on the throne back in 2017.

“He has, quite simply, been my strength and stay all these years,” said the Queen on their golden wedding anniversary in 1997.
The royal couple had lived abroad when Prince Philip was stationed in the Royal Navy in Malta, where his spouse lived the life of a naval wife from 1949-1951.

Philip was the one to break the news to his wife of her father’s death in 1952, following which Elizabeth II ascended to the throne in 1953.

Their love affair was bound to undergo its fair share of rough patches, with the role of the cohort being assigned to Prince Philip, who wasn’t fond of it and said so on many occasions.

When Philip’s biographer Gyles Brandreth asked him how he thought he was perceived, he said: “I don’t know. A refugee husband, I suppose”.

The couple had to see three of their children end their marriages in 1992 and the confirmation of the love affair between their first-born son Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles. In the many years of her reign, the Queen has admitted that her husband played a major role as her supporter.

“He has, quite simply, been my strength and stay all these years, and I, and his whole family, and this and many other countries, owe him a debt greater than he would ever claim, or we shall ever know,” the Queen said about Prince Philip.

Britain’s Prince Philip sits in the driving seat of a car, talking to his wife, Queen Elizabeth II
In 2017, the royal couple celebrates 70 years together, which prompted another comment by the Queen.

“When we were married I don’t think there was such a thing as a platinum anniversary, they didn’t know we would be around that long,” she said at the time.
The Duke of Edinburgh was meant to celebrate his 100th birthday in June when Brits will also mark Her Majesty The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee – the first time any British monarch has reached this historic milestone.

A marriage that lasted through 74 years in the public eye and hundreds of official trips and events, ended on 9 April with the passing of the Duke of Edinburgh.