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Saturday, 17th November 2018
7:32:32pm

East Africa

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Ethiopia’s former deputy intelligence chief has been arrested, Attorney General Berhanu Tsegaye said on Thursday, in the latest move targeting security officials for human rights abuses and corruption.

“Former deputy of NISS and Federal Police Commission Commissioner General Yared Zerihun has been apprehended by police,” Berhanu Tsegaye said on Twitter early on Thursday.

He did not disclose any details, but the arrest followed that of dozens of security officials on charges of human rights abuse and corruption.

On Monday, the wife of Yared Zerihun was also arrested. Sources told Reuters that she was trying to hide him. Yared was moved from that role to head the federal police in April but resigned three months later.

On Tuesday, Ethiopia arrested the former head of a military-run industrial conglomerate and flew him in handcuffs to the capital, a day after authorities announced investigations targeting senior members of the security forces.

Kinfe Dagnew, a brigadier general in Ethiopia’s army and former chief executive of METEC, was taken into custody close to the border with Sudan and Eritrea.

Kinfe is due in court on Thursday, after appearing there briefly on Wednesday and requesting a lawyer.  

On Monday, Berhanu said investigations had uncovered corruption at METEC (Metal and Engineering Corporation), which makes military equipment and is involved in sectors from agriculture to construction. 

Kinfe and Yared’s arrests are the most high-profile since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed came to power in April promising to rein in the security services and tackle what he called economic mismanagement, corruption and rights abuses.

He has pushed through reforms that have upended decades-old policies and hierarchies in east Africa’s economic powerhouse - including moves to let private investors get stakes in the huge conglomerates run by the army and other state bodies.

In August, Ethiopia removed METEC from the $4 billion Grand Renaissance Dam project on the River Nile due to numerous delays in completing the project.

-Reuters

Ethiopia arrested the former head of a military-run industrial conglomerate on Tuesday and flew him in handcuffs to the capital, state media reported, a day after authorities announced investigations targeting senior members of the security forces.

Kinfe Dagnew, a Brigadier General in Ethiopia’s army and former chief executive of METEC, was taken into custody close to the border with Sudan and Eritrea, state-run broadcaster EBC said.

State media broadcast footage showing Kinfe surrounded by a ring of soldiers and later images of him in handcuffs arriving by military helicopter in the capital later on Tuesday.

A day earlier the attorney general announced the arrests of other METEC executives in a corruption investigation and the detention of security officials accused of abusing prisoners - moves that were welcomed by rights groups and a prominent opposition politician.

Amnesty International said the arrests announced on Monday “are an important first step towards ensuring full accountability for the abuses that have dogged the country for several decades”.

One Western envoy, who asked not to be named, described the crackdown as a “full frontal assault on the establishment”.

Kinfe’s arrest was the most high-profile since Prime Minister Ably Aimed came to power in April promising to rein in the security services and tackle what he called economic mismanagement, corruption and rights abuses.

He has pushed through reforms that have upended decades-old policies and hierarchies in east Africa’s economic powerhouse - including moves to let private investors get stakes in the huge conglomerates run by the army and other state bodies.

There was no immediate statement from the attorney general on Kinfe’s arrest. The Prime Minister’s office referred Reuters to the attorney general.

“BIG FISH”

On Monday, attorney general Berhanu Tsegaye said investigations had uncovered corruption at METEC (Metal and Engineering Corporation), which makes military equipment and is involved in sectors from agriculture to construction. Reuters has not been able to contact METEC for comment - senior public relations officials were among those arrested.

The attorney general said 27 METEC officials had been detained - alongside 36 intelligence officers, police and other military officials accused of abusing prisoners.

He also accused senior members of the security services of ordering an attack on the prime minister in June.

The detained METEC employees and security officials appeared in court later on Monday. A judge denied the suspects bail and gave police 14 days further to investigate. None were charged.

Opposition politician Berhanu Nega welcomed the development and said the vast majority of Ethiopians were happy with the arrests.

“People believe it is about time such measures are taken to address the issue of justice in the past but also to indicate in the future that these kind of crimes are not acceptable in the future,” he told Reuters.

A list of the arrest warrants released by the attorney general’s office named 27 METEC current and former executives including the head of military equipment production and the head of corporate logistics and supply.

One of those arrested was “caught ... while trying to destroy evidence”, the document read.

There was no immediate comment from the defendants or their lawyers.

Abiy - Ethiopia’s first leader from its majority Oromo ethnic group - was chosen by the EPRDF to head it after three years of street protests and strikes piled pressure on the coalition to reform. 

Some analysts say Abiy’s reforms have targeted the old guard of the EPRDF, long dominated by the minority Tigrayan ethnic group. But others have suggested he must have high-level backing from senior members of the TPLF, the Tigrayan political party in the coalition.

“It would be a recipe for conflict to go against these big fish without consent, or some bargaining from the TPLF,” said one Ethiopian analyst who declined to be named.

-Reuters 

Rwanda is "like a prison" with Paul Kagame its imperious warden, according to Diane Rwigara, a young politician who sought to challenge for the presidency and whose treason trial begins on Wednesday.

The 37-year-old, who was released on bail in October, struck a defiant tone speaking to AFP ahead of her trial for treason, insurrection and forgery.

"I just came out of a prison but my country still feels like a prison. And the prison guard is none other than the ruling party... dictating to us how to live, what to do and what to say," she said in an interview at her home in the capital Kigali.

"I was not surprised by my arrest. I was kind of expecting it because of what I was doing in the country: if you dare criticise the government that is what happens, you get arrested, imprisoned or lose your life. I expected some form of retaliation." 

Victoire Ingabire, another woman who sought to run for the presidency in 2010, was blocked from competing, arrested, tried and spent six years in jail before her release in September.

Other political dissidents abroad have been assassinated, abducted or threatened. Rwigara believes her own father, Assinapol, who died in a 2015 car crash in Rwanda, may have been the victim of a political murder after he fell out with Kagame.

 A family affair 

When Rwigara appears in the dock she will not be alone: her mother has also been charged, with insurrection and "divisionism", an idiosyncratic Rwandan crime levelled at those who question the dominant narrative of the 1994 genocide.

"The hard part for me was seeing my mother and sister in such a situation," she said.

Rwigara's brothers and sister have been interrogated, family assets have forcibly been auctioned to pay off a multi-million dollar tax claim, while a hotel they owned was demolished for allegedly failing to abide by city guidelines.

"My family had nothing to do with my political journey," she said, adding, "people are guilty by association, meaning that my family had to be punished for my actions."

Their arrests in September last year followed the election commission's decision to bar Rwigara from running on the grounds that she had forged papers.

Prior to that an attempt had been made to smear the young female candidate by the online sharing of naked photographs purporting to be of her.

Kagame has been Rwanda's defacto leader since 1994 when his rebel forces invaded, stopped the genocide that killed at least 800 000 mostly ethnic Tutsis and seized power.

He became president in 2000, a post he might hold until 2034 thanks to a constitutional amendment waved through three years ago. He later won the presidential election from which Rwigara had been excluded with 99% of the vote.

Although the opposition Green Party won its first-ever parliamentary seats earlier this year, Kagame and his party dominate and Rwigara is one of the very few openly critical voices in the country.

Unbowed 

Despite the threat of a maximum 15-year sentence, the sweeping up of her family into her case and her lack of a political constituency or even party, Rwigara still aims to become a lightning rod for opposition to Kagame.

"What is lacking in this country is accountability. The ruling party does what it does because there is no consequence for their actions," she said.

"I am not in this for fame. I have gone through a lot and I have to do what is necessary for our country. The only people going to bring about change in this country are us Rwandans. No one is going to do it for us," she said, echoing Kagame's own rhetoric of empowerment and independence.

Those sentiments are core to Kagame's legitimacy which he maintains by constant reminders that he saved Rwandans from the genocide and has built an economic success out of the ashes.

But Rwigara said that image - beloved of Kagame's admirers - is false.

"Some of the statistics on Rwanda's development appear to be cooked," she said, repeating allegations made by many regime critics.

"There is a high level of poverty and unemployment but you will not hear that," she said.

On Wednesday, Rwigara hopes to defend herself against what she says are trumped-up charges.

"I am innocent and the charges are fabricated because I opposed the ruling party," she insisted. "I hope I will not go back to prison but if I go back, I go back."

-Reuters

Tanzania’s President John Magufuli said the government could buy up the country’s cashew nut stock after he fired two ministers and dissolved the industry regulator in a row over the price of the commodity.

Last month, Magufuli ordered a 94 percent increase to cashew nut prices at the industry regulator’s auctions and fired the organisation’s head in moves he said were aimed at safeguarding farmers from unsustainably low prices.

Cashews are the most valuable of the East African nation’s export crops, but falling prices have prompted Tanzanian farmers to halt sales, saying operational costs were higher than what was offered for the produce.

Minister of Agriculture Charles Tizeba and his trade counterpart Charles Mwijage were dropped from their posts, the presidency said late on Saturday.

Japhet Hasunga was named as the new agriculture minister while Joseph Kakunda will be in charge of trade.

The president, who had accused the cashew nut board of failing to manage the industry properly, leading to the low prices of the crop, also disbanded the board.

The government has asked cashew nut buyers to submit their purchasing plans by Monday.

On Saturday, Magufuli visited a military unit and inspected 75 vehicles that will be used by the government to facilitate the purchasing of cashew nuts in the country should private buyers fail to take up the crop at the government prescribed price of 3,000 shillings ($1.31) per kilo.

The government will use the army and the board of mixed crops to purchase all cashew nuts at the price of more than 3,000 Shillings, Magufuli said.

“If private buyers fails to respond to the government and tell us how many tonnes they will buy by Monday, the government will buy all cashew nuts and we have the money for it,” he said.

Farmers have complained that the prevailing price of 1,500 shillings per kilo does not even meet their cost of production.

Opposition leader Zitto Kabwe said that Magufuli should seek parliamentary approval before the government starts buying cashews from farmers. 

“The government needs 600 billion Shillings to pay farmers. This money requires parliamentary approval,” Kabwe wrote on Twitter.

“If president want to do this without following the law we will oppose him.”

-Reuters

South Sudan freed two associates of rebel leader Riek Machar from prison on Friday, advancing a peace agreement to end almost five years of civil war.

The two - retired South African colonel William Endley, an adviser to Machar, and James Gatdet, Machar’s spokesman, had been sentenced to death.

President Salva Kiir on Wednesday ordered their release on Wednesday to reinforce the peace accord signed in September.

“We are here to implement the orders of the president. Their release comes as part of the peace process. They are now free,” Interior Minister Michael Chiangjiek said after signing the paperwork confirming their release.

Sudan erupted in conflict in 2013 after Kiir sacked Machar as vice president. Ethnically charged fighting soon spread, shutting down oil fields and forcing millions to flee.

At least 383,000 South Sudanese have died as a result of the war, through combat, starvation, disease or other factors,

according to a recent study by London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine researchers. 

Under pressure from governments in East Africa and from United Nations and Western donors, Machar’s group, other rebel factions and the government signed the peace accord under which he will again become vice president.

Endley was sentenced to death in February for trying to bring down the government, while Gatdet was sentenced to death in the same month on charges of treason and incitement against the government.

A Reuters witness at the prison where they had been said the two were brought out of their cells and told to put on civilian clothes.

Gatdet will go to Khartoum, Sudan’s capital. Endley left South Sudan on Friday afternoon to return to South Africa, a Reuters witness at Juba international airport said.

Before their release, the two had expressed excitement at their impending freedom.

“I hope to see peace in South Sudan,” Gatdet told Reuters from his jail cell, seated next to Endley.

“After two years and two months. It is finally a few minutes to go and also very happy today for the signed peace for the Republic of South Sudan,” Endley said.

Machar returned to Juba on Wednesday.

He fled to neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo in 2016 after fighting broke out again in the capital, wrecking an earlier peace deal. He later travelled to South Africa, where he was held under house arrest.

-Reuters

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