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Sunday, 20th May 2018
3:45:21pm

East Africa

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An exiled Ethiopian opposition party from the country’s restive Oromiya region said it had held talks with the government, a tentative step in its aim of returning to the political fold. 

The talks on Friday and Saturday followed pledges by Ethiopia’s new prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, to push through democratic reforms in the wake of unrest, mainly in the Oromiya region, that threatened the ruling coalition’s tight hold on Africa’s second most populous nation.

The Oromo Democratic Front (ODF) was formed in 2013 by former members of the secessionist Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) and seeks self-determination for ethnic Oromos, Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group. ODF leaders have been living in exile in Europe and North America since the early 1990s when OLF turned against the ruling coalition and was designated a “terrorist” group by the government.

“A high-level delegation of the government ... and a delegation of the Oromo Democratic Front held a fruitful discussion, from May 11-12, 2018, regarding the reforms currently unfolding in Ethiopia,” the group said in a statement.

“Pursuant to its longstanding public position, the ODF reiterated its commitment to deepening and broadening the reforms and democratization process. The government delegation also expressed its enthusiasm to engage all those espousing non-violent means of struggle.”

It did not disclose where the talks were held but said they were the start of a wider engagement between the two sides, and it would soon send an “advance team” to the capital Addis Ababa for formal talks. 

Government officials were not immediately available for comment.

The ODF previously held lower level discussions with the government in 2015, but government officials declined to meet party leader Lencho Leta when he travelled to Ethiopia from his home in Norway for the talks.

Oromos make up roughly a third of Ethiopia’s population of 100 million.

Oromiya, which surrounds the capital Addis Ababa, has been plagued by violence since 2015, largely fuelled by a sense of political and economic marginalisation among its young population. 

The ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) has been in power since 1991, when it took over from the Derg military regime. Abiy, who became prime minister in April, has told opposition leaders the country will strengthen a range of political and civil rights, in the latest sign he may be willing to push through reforms announced in the wake of violent protests.

-Reuters

Somalia’s al Shabaab insurgents stoned to death on Wednesday a woman it accused of having multiple husbands, residents of a town in the south of the country said. 

Residents of Sablale town in Lower Shabelle region gathered to witness the stoning of the woman, Shukri Abdullahi, 30, who allegedly had 11 husbands.

“Shukri Abdullahi and nine husbands, including her legal husband, were brought at the court, each saying she was his wife,” Mohamed Abu Usama, al Shabaab’s governor for the Lower Shabelle region, told Reuters. 

Al Shabaab is fighting to impose its own harsh interpretation of Islamic law in Somalia. Courts set up by the militants do not allow legal representation or appeals. 

Its members have handed out brutal punishments for religious infractions, including hacking limbs for alleged thieves.

Stoning suspected adulterers in one such punishment; the accused is buried neck-deep and then killed by rocks thrown by a crowd. Both men and women have been stoned.

-Reuters

Landslides caused by heavy rains killed at least 18 people in Rwanda’s Northern and Western province over the weekend, pushing the death toll since January to more than 200, a government official said.

The heavy rains on Sunday night killed 15 people in Western and Northern provinces, Philippe Habinshuti, director of response and recovery unit at the Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs, said in a statement.

“The four months have been far worse than last year and other years. This is terrifying,” Habinshuti told Reuters. 

Three people died earlier on Sunday in Rubavu district, the ministry said. 

On Monday, people dug through mud to searching for missing people in the western province, where three people were missing and six injured.

Sunday’s death toll adds to the 183 who have died since January.

-Reuters

The Islamist militant group al Shabaab has killed nine Kenyan soldiers in Somalia, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said on Monday.

The president’s office offered no other details on the incident that led to the soldiers’ deaths.

“Earlier today, I was appalled and saddened to learn that we had lost nine young patriots to a cowardly terrorist attack in Somalia,” Kenyatta said in a statement.

A military source with knowledge of the incident said the soldiers had been killed by an improvised explosive device in Dobley on Sunday afternoon. 

Al Shabaab is fighting to topple Somalia’s central government and establish its own rule based on its strict interpretation of Islamic law.

The group also conducts frequent assaults in Kenya, mostly in the region bordering Somalia, to put pressure on the Kenyan government to withdraw its peacekeeping troops from Somalia. 

Kenya forms part of the African Union force AMISOM, which is defending Somalia’s government against al Shabaab.

-Reuters

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has ordered the closure of 13 diplomatic missions and most of Sudan’s trade offices abroad, the state news agency reported late on Wednesday, in a bid to cut government spending amid serious economic woes.

Sudan has been largely cut off from international financing in the past decades by U.S. sanctions. These were lifted in October but since then Sudan has struggled to attract investors to help prop up its flagging economy.

Last month Bashir sacked Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour, one day after he asked parliament to step in and help Sudanese diplomats who had not been paid their salaries in seven months.

In his decree issued on Wednesday Bashir ordered the foreign ministry to implement a “foreign representation restructuring plan”. 

It did not identify the missions that are due to close but also includes cutting staff at seven missions down to just the ambassadors, SUNA reported.

Sudan will also shut all its trade and economic offices abroad, apart from the one in the United Arab Emirates capital Abu Dhabi, which was kept open to finalise arrangements for Sudan’s participation at Dubai’s Expo 2020, SUNA said. 

Administrative staff would be cut by 20 percent, in addition to a previous decision to cut staff by 30 percent, the agency said. The decree also dismissed administrative staff at the foreign ministry and diplomats were instructed to handle administrative duties.

Sudan devalued its currency earlier this year in a bid lure back foreign investors. Since then the pound has plummeted to about 35 to the U.S. dollar and inflation has jumped to over 50 percent.

-Reuters

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