US urges Kenyans to be peaceful, patient as vote verification continues

The US government has appealed for peace and patience as verification of Kenya’s presidential results continues.

In a tweet, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he had spoken with President Uhuru Kenyatta on the importance of Kenya’s elections as a model for the continent.

The US envoy further said their discussion also focused on his just-ended three-nation tour of Africa.

“We encourage peace and patience as the vote tallying continues from the August 9 elections,” he said on his official Twitter handle.

Blinken last year visited Kenya, Senegal and Nigeria, three countries picked for meeting the ‘minimum’ requirements for democracies.

Verification of the presidential results of the Aug 9 election is underway at the national tallying centre at Bomas.

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission revised the verification of the votes to make the process quick. IEBC chairperson Wafula Chebukati has so far announced results from 116 of the 290 constituencies plus one of the diaspora.

The commission has until Tuesday to announce the results.

“The law requires IEBC to declare the president-elect within seven days, the commission shall endeavour to conclude this exercise at the earliest time possible,” the chair said.


Tigray rebels deny ‘direct engagements’ with Ethiopia govt

Tigrayan rebels denied they have had “direct engagements” with the Ethiopian government, following a statement by the African Union which has been leading a push to end the 21-month conflict.

Getachew Reda, spokesman for the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), said an AFP story that cited an AU statement was “pure fabrication”.

“Such engagement simply didn’t happen!” he said on Twitter.

In a statement dated Aug 4, the AU’s Peace and Security Council said it “commends the AU High Representative for the direct engagements between the Government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF)”.

Government forces have been at war with the TPLF since November 2020 but in recent weeks both sides have mooted the possibility of peace talks.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government wants any negotiations to be led by the AU, but the rebels want Kenya’s outgoing President Uhuru Kenyatta to mediate.

TPLF leader Debretsion Gebremichael has also insisted that key services would have to be restored in Tigray before dialogue could begin.

In its statement, the AU council called on the warring sides “to place the supreme interests of Ethiopia and its people above all else and embrace inclusive political dialogue as the only viable approach towards finding a consensual solution to the current situation”.

It also urged international partners to support AU-led mediation under former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo “as the only viable and effective approach towards finding a negotiated lasting solution to the situation in Ethiopia”.

Fighting has eased in northern Ethiopia since a humanitarian truce was declared at the end of March, allowing the resumption of desperately needed international aid convoys to Tigray’s six million people.

Since the war broke out, Ethiopia’s northernmost region has suffered food shortages and access to basic services such as electricity, communications and banking has been severely limited.

In November 2020 Abiy ordered troops into Tigray to topple the TPLF, accusing the rebels of attacking federal army camps.

The TPLF mounted a shock comeback in June last year, retaking Tigray and expanding into neighbouring Afar and Amhara, before the war reached a stalemate.


At Least 41 Dead in Fire at Cairo Coptic Church

Egypt’s health ministry says that 41 people were killed when a fire broke out in a Coptic church in the densely populated Cairo suburb of Imbaba. Witnesses say the fire started following a short circuit in an air conditioning unit.

People shouted and screamed as the fire raged on the top floors of the Martyr Abu Sefein Church. Witnesses say it took firefighters three hours to arrive at the scene. Many of the victims were children.

Egyptian media, quoting eyewitnesses, reported that the fire started after a power outage at the church caused an electrical generator to turn lights and air conditioning units on, triggering a short circuit in one of them.

Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouly, along with General Ahmed Rashed, the governor of the Giza province where the church is located, went to the scene of the fire. They presented the government’s condolences along with pledges to help the families of the victims.

Madbouly said he and members of his government inspected the site of the fire and are prepared to pay 100,000 Egyptian pounds to the families of those who died and 20,000 pounds to families of those who were injured, in addition to providing top notch treatment to victims who were hospitalized.

One-hundred-thousand Egyptian pounds equals about 5,214 U.S. dollars. Twenty-thousand pounds would be just over 1,000 dollars.

Authorities have also pledged to set up technical and engineering committees to investigate the cause of the fire.

Egyptian political sociologist Said Sadek told VOA that the church is located in a neighborhood full of narrow streets and alleyways. The area was a battle zone between government forces and Islamic militants in 1990.

“[Coptic churches] are usually located in very poor areas, overcrowded, and this is Sunday service by the way, and that is why [we are seeing] the high toll,” Sadek said. “Because they exist in overcrowded areas — usually alleys — civil defense and fire brigades cannot reach them very quickly, so this is a problem.”

The incident came nine years to the day government security forces evacuated a Muslim Brotherhood sit-in camp in the north of Cairo, resulting in a large number of casualties.

Source: Voice of America

Mali PM Choguel Maiga placed on ‘forced rest’ by doctor after working for 14 months without break

Mali Prime Minister Choguel Maiga has been placed on forced rest by his doctor on Saturday after months of intense exertion, his office has said.

“After 14 months of working without a break, the prime minister, head of government, Choguel Kokalla Maiga was placed on forced rest by his doctor,” his office said on its Facebook page on Saturday.

“He will resume his activities next week, God-willing,” the statement added.

An adviser denied earlier media reports on Paris-based Jeune Afrique magazine that Maiga had been hospitalised after suffering a stroke.

Mali’s ruling military government named the former opposition leader as prime minister of the transitional government it leads in June of last year, after a military coup in August 2020.

Maiga has been one of the government’s most outspoken voices in repeated public arguments with West African neighbours and international partners who have criticised its military cooperation with Russian mercenaries and repeated election delays.

Maiga repeatedly condemned France for its “abandonment” of Mali in its conflict against armed groups in the country, which has been the epicentre of a bloody 10-year-old campaign by armed groups in the region.

Relations between Mali and its former coloniser deteriorated in January when the military government went back on an agreement to organise elections in February and proposed holding power until 2025.

Maiga’s transitional government has said it will hold elections in 2024.