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Ethiopia rebels vow to continue fight until federal forces routed

Tigrayan rebels vowed to hunt down Ethiopian and Eritrean troops on the run around the regional capital, Mekelle, on Wednesday after taking full control of the city in a sharp reversal of eight months of war. People in Mekelle said the incoming Tigrayan fighters were greeted with cheers. There were similar scenes on video footage from the northern town of Shire, where residents said government-allied Eritrean forces pulled out and Tigrayan forces re-entered. The Ethiopian government declared a unilateral ceasefire on Monday after the Tigray People’s Liberation Front’s (TPLF) territorial gains. However, Getachew Reda, a TPLF spokesman, said the ceasefire was a “joke”and hundreds had been killed in fighting near the border with the Afar region, information that could not be independently verified. Getachew told Al Jazeera’s Catherine Wambua on Wednesday that rebel forces would not stop fighting until the entire region was liberated. “Getachew says even if [Tigray] forces are making good gains and pushing back opposing forces, the Ethiopian military – backed by Eritrean forces and Amhara fighters – still control large swaths of Tigrayan territory,” Wambua said. The aim of the Tigrayan forces is to push back to make sure that every inch of Tigray is in their control.” Lieutenant-General Bacha Debele told reporters on Wednesday the Ethiopian army left Mekelle because it needs to prepare for threats other than the rebels. “The TPLF is no more a threat but we’ve got [a] more national threat that we need to shift our attention to,” Debele said, without elaborating. The Ethiopian army could re-enter Mekelle within weeks if needed, the government said. “Ethiopia is exposed to an attack from outsiders” because of the conflict, Redwan Hussein, spokesman for the Ethiopian government’s task force for Tigray, told reporters in an apparent reference to Sudan.Redwan described the ceasefire as a political decision “made for humanitarian cause”. “If it is required, we can easily enter to Mekelle and we can enter in less than three weeks,” he said. Cross-border pursuit Over the next few days, TPLF forces will go after soldiers allied to the government from the neighbouring Amhara region – in the south and west – and from the neighbouring nation of Eritrea in the north and northwest of Tigray, Getachew said, adding they would cross borders in pursuit if necessary. The fighting in Ethiopia’s northern region has killed thousands of people and displaced two million. As the United States warns up to 900,000 people in Tigray face famine conditions in the world’s worst hunger crisis in a decade, little is known about vast areas of Tigray that have been under the control of combatants from all sides since November. With blocked roads and ongoing fighting, humanitarian groups have been left without access. The US said atrocities should end immediately and warned Ethiopia and Eritrea that Washington would be watching closely. “We will not stand by in the face of the horrors in Tigray,” said Robert Godec, acting assistant secretary of state for the State Department’s Bureau of African Affairs. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement the truce declaration could be positive if it led to steps to “to end the conflict, stop the atrocities, and allow unhindered humanitarian assistance”. He reiterated a call for the withdrawal of Eritrean forces from Ethiopian territory as a necessary step for a durable ceasefire. ‘Diplomatic persuasion’ House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Greg Meeks said if the disaster in Tigray is not abated, “we could witness one of our closest and most powerful allies in Africa march toward civil war and, eventually, a state collapse”. Cameron Hudson, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council Washington, said the US is trying to preserve all options with respect to its engagement with Ethiopia. “They’ve been trying to use diplomatic persuasion up to this point to get the Ethiopian government to relent in its pursuit of total victory in Tigray,” Hudson told Al Jazeera. “They have not been successful in that conversation but they have withheld some of the most biting sanctions that the US has – sanctions that relate to human rights abuses that have gone on at the hands of Ethiopian government troops and their allies.” African Union Commission head Moussa Faki Mahamat issued a statement on Tuesday welcoming what he described as a “humanitarian ceasefire,” as did the governments of China, France and the United Arab Emirates. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Monday he hoped a political solution would be possible. Diplomats said the UN Security Council would discuss Tigray this week. Getachew, meanwhile, urged the international community to force the government to allow food and aid into the region, accusing Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of blocking it. A spokeswoman for Abiy and the head of a government task force on Tigray did not return messages seeking comment on food blockages or Getachew’s other comments. The government has previously denied blocking food aid and said it provides the majority of food. The UN has previously said that soldiers blocked food from TPLF-controlled areas. Famine and rights abuses Ethiopia is awaiting the results of national and regional parliamentary elections held on June 21. Voting was only held in three of the nation’s 10 regions due to insecurity and logistical problems. No voting was held in Tigray where the TPLF, an ethnically based political party that dominated Ethiopia’s national politics for nearly three decades, has been battling the central government since early November. It made major territorial gains in the past week. The fighting has been punctuated by reports of brutal gang rapes and mass killings of civilians. At least 12 aid workers have been killed. Last week, an Ethiopian military air strike on a crowded market killed at least 64 people and wounded 180. Doctors said women and children were among the dead and wounded, and that Ethiopian troops prevented ambulances from reaching the scene for more than a day. The military said all the victims were combatants.

Brazil suspends Covid-19 vaccine deal with Indian firm

Despite a desperate need for Covid-19 vaccines, Brazil is suspending a deal to purchase 20 million doses of the Indian-made Covaxin vaccines, the Ministry of Health announced on Tuesday, after questions were raised about a pricing increase. The ministry said the decision was made on the recommendation of the Comptroller General of Brazil (CGU). “According to the preliminary analysis of the CGU, there are no irregularities in the contract, but, due to compliance, the Ministry of Health chose to suspend the contract for a more in-depth analysis. It is noteworthy that the federal government did not pay a penny for the Covaxin vaccine,” the ministry said in a press release. The unfulfilled contract, worth over $300 million, had created trouble for President Jair Bolsonaro after a Parliamentary Inquiry Committee (CPI) opened an investigation into the deal with Indian firm Bharat Biotech, which developed the vaccine.CPI members say the agreed price in the contract was much higher than initially quoted — a difference of 1,000% according to the body, citing documents provided to CPI. Emails between Bharat Biotech and the ministry submitted to CPI showed an initial quoted price of $1.34 per dose, which later rose to $15 per dose in the negotiated contract, according to a CPI statement. In a testimony to the CPI last week, congressman Luis Miranda, a former ally of Bolsonaro, and his brother Luis Ricardo Miranda, a Ministry of Health employee, said they warned the President of irregularities in the contract, but he did not do anything to resolve the issue.Vice president of the inquiry Senator Randolfe Rodrigues told the news media last week that he believes there is evidence of a “very serious crime” by the Bolsonaro government in negotiating the purchase. On Monday, Rodrigues, along with Senators Fabiano Contarato and Jorge Kajuru, filed for the Supreme Court to open a criminal investigation into Bolsonaro, based on the accusations of the Miranda brothers. The Brazilian federal government has not responded to CNN’s requests for comment. However, Bolsonaro said to supporters in a public statement on Monday that “we did nothing wrong,” and there was “no way” for him to know what happened on the ministry level. There is trust between him and the ministers, he added. During the rally on Monday, the President also accused political opponents of inventing “virtual corruption,” asserting the contract was never fulfilled and no money changed hands. In a statement, Bharat Biotech said it had followed established industry procedures in its dealings with Brazil. “Bharat Biotech has not received any advance payments nor supplied any vaccines to MOH Brazil,” the statement said. It added the pricing of Covaxin “has been clearly established between $15-20 per dose for supplies to Governments outside India. The pricing for Brazil has also been indicated at $15 per dose.” Brazil has been among the hardest hit nations by the Covid-19 pandemic, with the second-highest death toll after the United States. So far, just 12.1% of the country’s population has been fully vaccinated against the virus, while 21.5% of Brazilians have received at least one dose. The Ministry of Health said the contract’s suspension will not delay the pace of Brazil’s vaccination campaign, however the government has not yet announced a deal that would make up for the 20 million doses expected from Bharat Biotech.”

Bill and Melinda Gates divorce proceed.

In her first public appearance since her divorce announcement, Melinda French Gates traveled to the White House, leaders from her charity and investment firm in tow. She pressed Biden officials on two issues central to her priorities: paid family leave and child care. The same day this month, Bill Gates appeared in a virtual address to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome. Wearing his familiar sweater, collared shirt and glasses, the Microsoft Corp. co-founder spoke for nearly 11 minutes about the impact of climate change on the world’s food supply. The topics laid bare the diverging interests of the billionaire ex-couple behind one of the world’s largest philanthropic foundations. Their split after 27 years of marriage, announced in May, now throws into question the destination of their vast fortune and the focus of their charitable endeavours. It also highlights their individual private-investment arms, which they have been quietly building over the past five years. Both have said they’ll remain involved in the $50bn Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, where they’ve promised to spend the majority of their wealth through their Giving Pledge. But in the years leading up to their breakup, each spouse has dived into projects outside the scope of the foundation’s work, a trend that’s expected to accelerate post-divorce. “One couple is now two individual households,” said Elizabeth Dale, associate professor of nonprofit leadership at Seattle University. The couple’s philanthropic efforts have been enormously influential, she said, and that likely will “continue, both through the current foundation and maybe in other ways as well”. For French Gates, 56, the divorce could mean that more resources will be focused on Pivotal Ventures, her 90-person incubation and investment firm largely focused on gender equality. She’s already received stock worth more than $3bn from the Gates’s Cascade Investment, just a tiny fraction of their combined $145bn fortune at the time of the divorce, according to the Bloomberg Billionaire’s Index. Bill Gates, 65, has centered much of his work on Breakthrough Energy, an organization launched in 2015 that now employs about 100 people specializing in various aspects of climate change, while funding nonprofits and startups employing hundreds more. Spokespeople for Breakthrough and Gates’s private office, Gates Ventures, declined to comment. A spokesman for Pivotal said that French Gates’s “commitment to advancing women’s power and influence around the world, whether as co-chair of the foundation or founder of Pivotal Ventures, remains unchanged”. Fewer Rules Both Breakthrough and Pivotal operate through LLCs, which means they can operate as for-profit entities. It’s an increasingly popular form of giving, used by Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan with their Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and by Steve Jobs’s widow, Laurene Powell Jobs, with her Emerson Collective. An LLC doesn’t always provide the same tax deductions that traditional foundations do, but it comes with fewer rules. Money can go to political lobbying or campaign donations, which aren’t tax-deductible. And, unlike foundations, an LLC’s activities, funding and staff don’t need to be disclosed in annual tax filings that are made public. Depending whom you ask, they are either an innovative tool in the toolbox of the world’s best philanthropists, or a major step backward in terms of transparency. They don’t face the same checks and balances as foundations,” said Linsey McGoey, a professor of sociology at the University of Essex, who wrote a book called “No Such Thing as a Free Gift: The Gates Foundation and the Price of Philanthropy”. Pivotal, launched in 2015, has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in more than 150 organizations to-date, according to a spokesperson. It uses grants as well as venture capital to focus on empowering women, including getting more females into technology jobs and elected to public office, supporting women and girls of color and advocating paid family leave. In Washington this month, French Gates met with officials including President Joe Biden’s chief of staff, Ron Klain, and domestic policy adviser Susan Rice, along with directors from Pivotal and the Gates Foundation. From Pivotal’s side, they discussed paid leave and caregiving as it related to Biden’s American Families Plan, according to a person close to the firm, who asked not to be named speaking about a private meeting. In April, Pivotal hired lobbying firm Finsbury Glover Hering in Washington to focus on caregiving and paid leave issues, said the person, a sign it may be stepping up its efforts in Washington.

The Court’s decision on BBI was not personal.

The Court of Appeal has heard that the High Court erred in stating that the BBI was an initiative of President Uhuru Kenyatta. Solicitor general Ken Ogeto said the claim was a “fundamental factual error on the part of the judges”.  He said nothing in the constitution prevents the President from originating an amendment proposal to the constitution. Ogeto said even so, in the present case, President Kenyatta never played the role the judges claimed that he did.Judges ignored the evidence as to who the promoters of the bill were.” He said judges were keen on personalised attacks against the person of the President. “To them, the facts and the law did not matter, nor the sovereign will of the people.” Ogeto added that BBI was a popular initiative but judges ruled against it in a personalised attack against the President, which he said “climaxed in legally unfounded solutions”. The High Court in February blocked the Independent Elections and Boundaries Commission from subjecting the Building Bridges Initiative Bill to a referendum, throwing the Constitution changing process in limbo. The AG is aggrieved that the five-judge bench found that President Uhuru has breached Chapter Six of the Constitution. He argued that if the High Court’s verdict is allowed to stand, the President and the presidency would be open to a multiplicity of legal proceedings thus impairing the performance of his functions. He argues that the court conferred powers meant for Parliament and independent commissions. According to him, the court set grounds for any person to initiate legal action against the Head of State without evidence that he had acted against the law. The AG says will prove to the Court of Appeal that the judges made a mistake in indicting the President when there was another judgment by Justice John Mativo and which cleared his participation. He cited the participation of the former Prime Minister who is not part of the government but was one of the main drivers of the BBI process, with the President appearing occasionally to drum up his support for the initiative. He argued that the learned Judges of the High Court erred in law and in fact in holding that the President has contravened chapter 6 of the Constitution, and specifically Article 73(1)(a)(i), by initiating and promoting a constitutional change without reference to any evidence on record and contrary to the doctrine of separation of powers thereby usurping the role of independent commissions and Parliament in determining questions on violations of Chapter 6. The President, Raila, BBI Secretariat, Attorney General and the electoral commission have claimed the five High Court judges got it wrong by attempting to overturn the people’s will to amend the constitution.

Jacob Zuma sentenced to 15 months in prison.

South Africa’s former president Jacob Zuma has been sentenced to 15 months by the highest court in the country. The jail sentence comes after the Constitutional Court found him guilty of contempt for defying its order to appear at an inquiry into corruption while he was president. Mr Zuma’s time in power, which ended in 2018, was dogged by graft allegations.  Businessmen were accused of conspiring with politicians to influence the decision-making process. The former president made one appearance at the inquiry into what has become known as “state capture” but then refused to appear subsequently. The inquiry – headed by Justice Raymond Zondo – asked the Constitutional Court to intervene. Mr Zuma has been given five days to hand himself in at a police station. If he fails to do that the police minister must order his arrest. Acting Chief Justice Sisi Khampepe was damning in her ruling. Mr Zuma refused to come to the court to explain his actions, she said, and “[he] elected instead to make provocative, unmeritorious and vituperative statements that constituted a calculated effort to impugn the integrity of the judiciary. I am left with no option but to commit Mr Zuma to imprisonment, with the hope that doing so sends an unequivocal message… the rule of law and the administration of justice prevails.” In a separate legal matter, Mr Zuma pleaded not guilty last month in his corruption trial involving a $5bn (£3bn) arms deal from the 1990s.

Tundu cautions Kenyans over Presidential powers in BBI.

Tanzanian opposition leader Tundu Lissu has expressed concern over the presidential powers envisaged in Kenya’s Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) driven Constitutional amendment process that is spearheaded by President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga. He claimed that the BBI only seeks to cement the powers of the president instead of reducing or spreading them towards other arms of government. The Chadema Vice Chairman also said the creation of the office of Prime Minister as envisaged in the BBI is a dangerous move as he/she will be almost powerless, only serving at the mercy of the Head of State. This, he said, would drive the country down the same path as Tanzania in terms of leadership, something he added that Kenyans should strive to do better than. “I’m very sceptical about BBI, and the reason for me is that the key Constitutional problem that I see in Kenya, and that has bedeviled Kenya since 1964 is presidentialism…the presidency. In my reading, what BBI does is to augment rather than whittle away the presidential powers,” said Lissu. “The most noticeable aspect of BBI is the idea of creation of the Prime Minister; the Prime Minister who is envisaged in the BBI is absolutely no different from the Tanzanian Prime Minister, he has no substantial power of anything, he’s a presidential appointee like any other district commissioner, he serves in the pleasure of the president.”He further added: “Kenyans should do better than copy Tanzania, you’re better than that”

Ethiopia forges forward with its elections despite the setbacks.

Ethiopians are voting in a crucial parliamentary election taking place against the backdrop of war and famine in the northern Tigray region, with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed expected to cement his hold on power. Voting began in the capital Addis Ababa soon after the expected start time of 6am (03:00 GMT) with voters in face masks wrapped in blankets against the pre-dawn chill. Electoral officials in purple vests sprayed voters’ hands with sanitiser before checking their IDs against the register as part of measures against COVID. Polls will close at 6pm (15:00GMT). Many Ethiopians went to the polls very early in the morning, as early as 4am in many places, to cast their vote,” said Mohammed Adow from Addis Ababa. “The electoral commission has increased the number of polling stations across the country to avoid large crowds from gathering at polling centres to reduce the risk of spreading COVID but also to hasten the voting process.” It is the first electoral test for Abiy Ahmed, 44, who rose to power in 2018 championing a democratic revival in Africa’s second-most populous country, and a break from its authoritarian past. “This election is different,” said Milyon Gebregziabher, a 45-year-old travel agent voting in the centre of Addis Ababa. “There are a number of parties to choose from. In the past there was just one, we did not have the luxury of choice.” Tigray conflict Abiy, a Nobel Peace laureate who freed political prisoners, welcomed back exiles and ended a long cold war with neighbouring Eritrea before sending troops to confront the dissident leadership of Tigray late last year, has promised this election will be Ethiopia’s most competitive in history, free of the repression that marred previous ballots. But the spectre of famine caused by the ongoing fighting in Tigray, and the failure to stage elections on schedule in about one-fifth of constituencies, means that promise is in doubt. Once votes are counted, national MPs will elect the prime minister, who is head of government, as well as the president – a largely ceremonial role. Abiy’s ruling Prosperity Party has fielded the most candidates for national parliamentary races and is the firm favourite to win a majority and form the next government. Security ramped up Security was ramped up for the election, with police marching in force in Addis Ababa over the weekend and reinforcements deployed across the country. The election has been delayed twice – once because of the coronavirus pandemic, and again to allow more time to organise the ballot across a huge nation. Some 38 million Ethiopians are registered to vote but polls will not open in nearly one-fifth of Ethiopia’s 547 constituencies. Some areas have been deemed too insecure – plagued by armed conflicts and ethnic violence – while in others logistical setbacks made arranging a vote in time impossible. A second round of voting is to take place on September 6 to accommodate many of the districts not taking part Monday. But there is no election date set for Tigray, where UN agencies say 350,000 people face famine conditions, and atrocities have been documented. The northernmost region represents 38 seats in the national parliament and has been governed by an interim administration since November, when Abiy sent troops in, promising a swift campaign to overthrow its ruling party. Seven months later, the conflict drags on, damaging Abiy’s standing as a peacemaker and overshadowing a vote meant to broadcast Ethiopia’s democratic intent. In a handful of places where the vote is going ahead on Monday, opposition parties are boycotting in protest, reducing some constituencies to a one-horse race. Even in the best of times, organising smooth elections is a tall order in Ethiopia, a huge country hobbled by poor infrastructure. Observers have pointed out that logistical support usually comes from the military, which is largely tied up in Tigray, leaving organisers short on manpower. But after months of setbacks and delays, election officials said they were ready for Monday’s vote, which involves more than 40 parties and 9,500 candidates. Vote counting is due to start soon after polls close, but results are not expected for days. Concerns about credibility have been raised, with traditional ally the United States warning that excluding so many voters risked confidence in the process. Meanwhile on Monday, the UN rights chief voiced alarm at continued reports of “serious violations” in Tigray region, by all parties in the conflict, including continued abuses by Eritrean troops. “I am deeply disturbed by continued reports of serious violations of international humanitarian law and gross human rights violations and abuses against civilians by all parties to the conflict,” Michelle Bachelet told the UN Human Rights Council, pointing to “extrajudicial executions, arbitrary arrests and detentions, sexual violence against children as well as adults, and forced displacement”.

Olympics;Up to 10,000 Japanese fans will be permitted at Olympic venues

Up to 10,000 Japanese fans will be permitted at Tokyo 2020 Olympic venues, despite warnings from health bosses. Overseas spectators are already banned but organisers said domestic fans could attend providing crowds did not exceed 50% of a venue’s capacity. Fans will not be allowed to shout or speak loudly, and must wear face masks at all times while in venues. The Olympics are scheduled to begin on 23 July, while the Paralympics follow a month later, from 24 August. Spectator numbers for the Paralympics will be confirmed by 16 July, said a joint statement from the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), the Tokyo 2020 organising committee, the Tokyo metropolitan government and the government of Japan. The decision to allow spectators comes despite the release of a report last week by Japanese medical experts that said holding the Games without spectators was the “least risky” and most desirable option. “There are so many cases, domestically and internationally [of] sports events with spectators,” said Tokyo 2020 organising committee president Seiko Hashimoto. “By exercising thorough measures and based on the government criteria, we believe we can hold the Games with spectators. “The entire world is facing the same issues and we have to work together to overcome them.” Delegates and sponsors will be classed as organisers, and therefore will not be included in the 10,000 spectator limit. Should there be a rapid increase in Covid-19 infections and impact on Japan’s healthcare systems, the five parties will consider further restrictions. This could include further reducing spectator numbers at venues. There are fears that the Games may trigger a surge in coronavirus infections in Japan. As a result, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga last week encouraged the Japanese public to watch the Games on television, rather than attending events in person. On Sunday, a state of emergency in Tokyo was lifted, five weeks before the start of the Olympics. Emergency Covid-19 restrictions had been in place in Japan’s capital and other prefectures since late April amid a surge in infections. However, some “quasi-emergency” measures will remain in some areas, including Tokyo, until 11 July. On Saturday, a Ugandan athlete because the first to test positive for Covid-19 on arrival in Japan.

Kenya set to receive AstraZeneca vaccines from Denmark.

Kenya will be receiving 358,000 doses of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine from Denmark, the Ministry of Health has said.  The consignment is expected to arrive in the country around 9 p.m. on Monday night. The doses arrive just days after concerns were raised about a shortage of COVID-19 vaccines to be distributed as second doses to healthcare workers and other frontline workers. The Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists, and Dentists Union (KMPDU) had raised concerns, despite the Ministry of Health’s request for patience. Kenya started immunizing its people in March after receiving 1 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine from India. In May, the country was set to start the second phase of immunization. However, India, which is dealing with a massive outbreak of COVID-19, barred vaccine exports to vaccinate its population first.So far, a total of 1,183,376 vaccines have been administered across Kenya. 995,012 people have received their first dose while 188,364 have been fully vaccinated.  The uptake of the second dose among those who received their first dose is at 18.9% percent with the majority being males at 56% while females are at 44%. According to the Ministry of Health, the proportion of adults fully vaccinated is now at 0.72% The uptake of the second dose by Priority Groups is as follows: Health Workers 51,691, Aged 58 years and above 51,135, Others 50,104, Teachers 21,701 while Security Officers are at 13,733.

Speaker Lukasa sued over negligence of his unborn child.

Senate Speaker Kenneth Makelo Lusaka has been sued by a woman seeking Ksh. 200,000 per month in support for her unborn child. The woman is also seeking an order requiring the Speaker to pay a lump amount of Ksh.25 million if he is unable to meet his monthly obligations of 200,000 shillings. She alleges that, as the father of the unborn child, he has refused to fulfil his obligation to support her by providing for her and the unborn kid’s necessities. “That the respondent despite being a man of means, has refused and ignored to take care of the applicants pre-natal clinics necessary to ensure the wellbeing of the unborn child perhaps in the hope of stressing the applicant and causing a miscarriage of their unborn child,” reads the court documents. She claims that she has been dealing with pregnancy difficulties that could endanger her unborn child’s life, and that Lusaka has continually refused his association with her despite the fact that he is well aware that they have been having unprotected carnal knowledge together for years. “Parties have been having a jolly intimate affair punctuated with several instances unprotected carnal knowledge since the year 2018 up until about two months May 2021 when they disagreed strongly after the applicant disclosed that  as a consequence of their unprotected sexual encounters, she had conceived a child,” reads court papers.She claims that because she is currently unemployed, she has been unable to meet the child’s needs, and that Lusaka should be forced to pay a flat payment to cover all the child’s bills in order to prevent further neglect. Also Read: