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  • Why are people protesting in Togo?

    Thousands of Togolese took to the streets on Wednesday in the second phase of a campaign against the 50-year-rule of the Gnassingbe family and demand the immediate resignation of President Faure Gnassingbe.

    Mobile access to the internet was blocked on Wednesday by authorities, as was the case in August and September during mass protests that drew tens of thousands of people.

    Security forces cracked down on the previous nationwide demonstrations leaving several people dead.

    Why are people protesting in Togo?

    Protesters want to see a return to the 1992 Constitution that allowed only two presidential terms. In addition, they want to have it applied retroactively so as to force out President Faure Gnassingbe.

    Gnassingbe, in power since the death of his father in 2005, was re-elected in 2010 and again in 2015, in votes that the opposition denounced for fraud.

    Why are these protests happening now?

    A 14-party opposition coalition and civil society organisations have called the latest rounds of protests suspecting that President Gnassigbe, who is on his third term in office, will seek re-election in 2020.

    In September, President Gnassingbe, in an attempt to appease opponents, tabled a draft bill to reform the constitution and reintroduce a two-term limit.

    But opposition leaders are sceptical that this would apply retroactively, meaning the current president might stay until 2030. They have called for his immediate departure.

    Read more: Life after near-death for Togo’s shot footballer

    Where are the protests taking place?

    Most protests are centred in the capital, Lome, and the northern city of Sokode.

    Until 2017, most opposition against Gnassingbe was concentrated in or near the country’s seaside capital.

    The anti-government protests have now spread to the rest of the West African country of seven million people.

    Has Togo seen protests before?

    It is not the first time calls for Gnassingbe to resign have echoed in the streets.

    The protests that followed Gnassingbe’s first election victory in 2005 triggered a violent security crackdown in which around 500 people were killed.

    Demonstrations also erupted in 2011, 2012 and 2014, when people also asked for electoral reform.

    In the latest round of violence that began in August, at least two people were killed, according to officials.

    Opposition leaders disputed that number and said at least seven people died during the protests.

    In September thousands of people again took to the streets to demand reform.

    Security forces cleared barricades erected by demonstrators and fired tear gas at the crowds.

    How has the government reacted to the latest protests?

    Protests have largely been peaceful, but at least one person was killed and dozens were injured in September in a crackdown in the north of the country, a region previously seen as reliably pro-government.

    The government has also limited internet access in the country, preventing demonstrators from organising on social media. Text messages have also been blocked.

    Critics have called these moves by Gnassingbe’s government an attempt to supress the protests.

    How has the international community reacted to the protests?

    The UN Special Envoy for West Africa and the Sahel, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, has called on all parties “to preserve peace and security”.

    “I remain convinced that all parties want to move forward on the reforms … in order to reach a consensus to respond to the legitimate expectations of the Togolese people,” Chambas said in a statement last month.

    Tel Aviv postponed indefinitely the Israel-Africa summit that was scheduled for late October in Togo due to rising unrest in the country.

    “The decision was linked to the internal situation in Togo. The situation is seen to be unstable, and they [Togo’s presidency] asked to postpone,” Emmanuel Nahshon, spokesperson for the Israeli foreign ministry told Al Jazeera last month.

    Using the Twitter hashtag #TogoEnMarche (Togo on the move) people in and outside of Togo are voicing their discontent with Gnassingbe. The Togolese diaspora has called for marches in several cities around the world, including Montreal, Paris and Washington, DC.

    Source: Al Jazeera News

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  • Novelist Kazuo Ishiguro wins Nobel Literature Prize

    The 2017 Nobel Prize for Literature has been awarded to British novelist Kazuo Ishiguro.

    Born in Japan in 1954, the author’s family moved to England when he was five years old.

    The writer, “in novels of great emotional force, has uncovered the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world”, said the Nobel Prize committee in a statement on Thursday.

    He is best known for the dystopian work Never Let Me Go and The Remains of the Day, a book Ishiguro has said he wrote in just four weeks.

    The 62-year-old also writes screenplays.

    Ishiguro studied at the University of Kent, receiving an undergraduate degree in English and Philosophy and later received a Master’s degree from the University of East Anglia in Creative Writing.

    His latest book, The Buried Giant, was published in 2015.

    Social media users took to Twitter to congratulate Ishiguro on the high acclaim.

    “Congrats to Kazuo Ishiguro on the Nobel! REMAINS OF THE DAY was perfect, emotionally, politically, structurally. Makes me burn with envy,” tweeted author Raj Balasubramanyam.

    “Kazuo Ishiguro! The Nobel committee somewhat begins to redeem itself after last year’s blooper,” said writer and journalist Abubakar A Ibrahim, in an apparent dig at the 2016 decision to award Bob Dylan.

    Source: Al Jazeera News

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  • Troops killed in ambush on joint Niger-US patrol

    Five Nigerien and three US Special Forces were killed and others wounded in an ambush on a joint patrol in southwest Niger.

    The attack, which occurred on Wednesday night, marks the first US combat casualties in Niger, where Washington provides training and security assistance in the fight against armed groups in the Sahel region.

    “We can confirm reports that a joint US and Nigerien patrol came under hostile fire in southwest Niger,” a spokesperson of the US Africa Command told Radio France International (RFI) by telephone.

    According to RFI the ambush took place after fighters from Mali attacked the village of Tongo Tongo in Tillaberi. A counter-operation was launched, but the US and Niger soldiers fell into a trap, according to the radio report.

    Namatta Abubacar, an official for the region of Tillaberi, told Niger TV that five Nigerian soldiers were among the dead.

    READ MORE: The re-emergence of AQIM in Africa

    No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack but the area is largely controlled by fighters, including members of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS).

    African security forces backed by Western troops have been stepping up efforts to counter the armed groups, which are part of a growing regional insurgency in the Sahel region.

    Presidents of the Sahel countries, including Mali, Niger, Mauritania, Burkina Faso and Chad, are working on final modalities to set up a G5 Sahel force to help fight the numerous groups that are active in the region.

    Mali conflict

    In mid-September, the government of President Mahamadou Issoufou extended Niger’s state of emergency in force since March due to a threat coming from Mali.

    Analysts said internal conflicts within Mali were complicating the fight against armed groups in the Sahel.

    “What we see is a big focus on military, on equipment, on institutions that they are going to establish,” Marie Roger Biloa, editor of the Paris-based Africa International, told Al Jazeera.

    She said, however, that so far it has proved difficult to bring troops from different countries to effectively work together, and called for increased political efforts to address Mali’s “very complicated” situation.

    “The problem is that France wants to fight terror – because terrorism is striking on French soil but also abroad – but they fail to realise or to take into consideration that Mali, which is the heart of the problem, is having internal problems to solve,” she said.

    “If you want to be efficient you also have to address that issue.”

    In mid-June, Niger mounted a new military operation in the Tillaberi region to take on the armed groups.

    The United Nations later warned that the conflict in Mali was spilling over to Burkina Faso and Niger, after a significant surge of attacks in border areas.

    The UN has 12,500 troops and police serving in the MINUSMA force in Mali, considered the world body’s most dangerous peacekeeping mission.

    In 2012, Mali’s north fell under the control of groups linked to AQIM who exploited an ethnic Tuareg-led rebel uprising.

    While the fighters were largely ousted by the French-led military operation, attacks have continued on civilians, the Malian army as well as French and UN forces.

    Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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  • Ethiopian diplomat abandons delegation after UN Assembly, seeks asylum in U.S.

    Baye Tadesse Teferi, the state’s chief protocol officer, quit his job in the United States after serving over two years with the government, he told VOA Amharic on Tuesday.

    He added that his decision was due to fears of being persecuted for political reasons.

    Teferi attended the summit with the Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn who has since returned.

    Ethiopia is regarded as one of Africa’s fastest growing economies yet many citizens have faced repression by security forces and the government.

    In the past two years, protests were held in the Oromia and Amhara regions where tens of thousands of people flooded the streets denouncing marginalization by the government.

    The Ethiopian government reacted with force to the protests, leading to the death of about a thousand people, arrests, state of emergency, internet shutdowns among other measures to stop the protests.

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  • Dr Asrat Woldeyes Memorial Fund

    Dr Asrat Woldeyes (1928-1999) was Ethiopia’s most famous and distinguished surgeon. He did his training as a doctor and surgeon at Edinburgh Medical School, UK. He later became personal physician to Emperor Haile Selassie I, and was the first Ethiopian Dean of Addis Ababa University Medical School. Today he is a hero to many medical students and doctors in Ethiopia. Sadly, in 1993 he was dismissed from Addis Ababa University and soon afterwards jailed in Ethiopia for his opposition to the government. Known as a peace-loving politician and as a doctor who preached and practiced the highest ethical ideals of Medicine, Dr Asrat spent over four years suffering in Ethiopian prison. He became severely ill in prison and was released for medical treatment, after much international pressure, but died some months later in the USA.

    This fund has been set up to raise money for a memorial plaque in Edinburgh Medical School, UK, and to bring awareness to Ethiopia’s most famous surgeon, to recognize Dr Asrat in the UK, and to inspire those who study medicine to follow Dr Asrat’s ideals of medical ethics. It is hoped, also, that a link with Ethiopian surgeon trainees will be established with the funds, for example in the form of a scholarship.

    Click here to support the Fund 

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  • Global church body to intervene in Ethiopia – Eritrea border dispute

    The World Council of Churches (WCC) has said it will pray and work for peace between Eritrea and Ethiopia in an attempt to partake in the resolution of a longstanding border dispute.

    This was disclosed by a WCC delegation that visited the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahdo Church last month in what was labeled a historic visit by the body. It was the first time in over a decade that such a visit had been executed.

    The delegation was led by WCC programme executive and convener for Africa, Dr. Nigussu Legesse and Fr. Dr. Daniel Buda head of the Ecumenical Relations. They were met at the Asmara International Airport by high ranking officials of the Eritrean Church.

    The two parties held synod meetings following which the WCC delegation visited ancient monastries and archeological excavation sites dating back some 1,700 years.

    “We came here with great expectations and we are looking forward to having constructive dialogue and encounters with the Eritrean Orthodox Church which is our WCC member church here in Eritrea and with other churches, religious communities and state authorities,” said Legesse during the synod meeting.

    What the Ethiopia – Eritrea border dispute is about

    Political and security tensions between the two neighbours ocassionally escalates since Eritrea gained its independence from Ethiopia in 1993 over a common border. Their contentious border stretch was the subject of mediation by Morocco in 2000.

    The then Ethiopian Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki signed a border demarcation agreement in Algiers but the terms has yet to be fully implemented. It led to a two-year long war in 1998 which claimed about 70,000 lives.

    Eritrea in its address to the United Nations 72nd General Assembly in September 2017 called for an end to what it said was Ethiopia’s continued occupation of sovereign Eritrea. Eritrea described the act as a security risk to the entire Horn of Africa region.

    They also asked the United Nations Security Council to lift ‘ueseless and unjustified’ arms sanctions imposed on them since 2009. The U.S.-led sanctions were imposed with the reason that Asmara was supporting Somali-based Al-Shabaab insurgents, a claim they have denied.

    About the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahdo Church

    The Eritrean Orthodox Tewahdo Church is the biggest church in the country and has some 2 and half million members, with 15,000 priests worldwide including diaspora churches in North America and Europe. The church has eight dioceses in Eritrea and two in the Diaspora.

    The Church was recognized by Pope Shenouda III of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria after Eritrea gained its independence in 1993.

    It is an Oriental Orthodox church with its headquarters in Asmara. It joined the WCCin 2003 and is also a member of All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC), and other religious bodies in the Horn of Africa region.

    Oriental Orthodox Churches played a strong missionary role during Christianity’s early stages, and have had a leading role in the history of Christianity in Egypt and the northern part of Africa.

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