UN Warns Of Possible War Crimes On Ethiopia’s Tigray
On the ongoing conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray, the United Nations has warned of war crimes as deadline in the crisis looms.
The UN expressed concern about possible war crimes ahead of a threat by the Ethiopian army to start an assault on the northern Tigray region’s capital.
Fighting between Ethiopia’s central government and forces in Tigray has been going on for three weeks. Hundreds have reportedly been killed and tens of thousands have fled. And prime minister Abiy Ahmed has continued to turn down international intervention or mediation.
Aid groups fear the conflict could trigger a humanitarian crisis and destabilize east Africa.
The UN said it was alarmed by the threat of major hostilities a day before the Ethiopian army said it would advance on Tigray’s capital Mekelle, home to about 500,000 people.
The conflict started after Ethiopia’s central government accused the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), a political party which controls Tigray, of holding an illegal election and attacking a military base to steal weapons.
In response, Abiy – a former Nobel Peace prize winner – ordered a military offensive against forces in Tigray, accusing them of treason.
Ethiopia’s prime minister Abiy Ahmed issued a 72-hour ultimatum to Tigray’s forces on Sunday, telling them to surrender as they were “at a point of no return”.
But Tigray’s forces have vowed to keep fighting, with their leader Debretsion Gebremichael saying they were “ready to die in defence of what they call their right to administer their region.
The TPLF sees Abiy Ahmed`s central government as illegitimate, arguing that Abiy does not have a mandate to lead the country after postponing national elections because of coronavirus.
Michelle Bachelet, UN high commissioner for human rights, expressed “alarm at reports of a heavy build-up of tanks and artillery around Tigray capital Mekelle”.
Cyclone Eloise Brings Floods To Mozambique’s Second City Beira
Mozambique’s National Institute Of Meteorology (INAM) says parts of the central region have been flooded after cyclone Eloise struck near the port city of Beira over the weekend. The city received 10 inches of rain in 24 hours, with wind speeds of up to 160km per hour. At least four persons have been reported killed.
More than one thousand houses have been totally destroyed and another 3,000 badly damaged. A staff of Mozambique’s national institute for disaster management and reduction, Antonio Beleza, said more than 160,000 persons had been directly affected.
Many residents of Beira, Mozambique’s second largest city with a population of about half a million, are now trying to clean up as best they can.
Local officials and aid agencies say they are assessing the scale of the damage so they can help those affected, and trying to restore power and communications, which were cut off in some areas.
Several rivers in the region have burst their banks. Vast areas of central Mozambique are under water.
The cyclone has now been downgraded to a tropical storm and was forecast to be heading towards Zimbabwe and northern South Africa, which have already experienced heavy rainfall.
A worker for the UN in Beira- Chris Neeson said: “it was impossible to sleep because of the noise and fear.”
Neeson said, “I heard so much wind and rain in the early hours of the morning. Water entered my home, as well as rocks and leaves that had flown off my neighbours’ homes. Electricity has been down from last night and we’ve been unable to make calls.
“When I went outside, there was water everywhere – up to my knees – and trees, electrical wires, roof tiles, and fences all destroyed, strewn about on the streets. Thank god it has stopped raining. I never thought i would be afraid of water, but this was horrible,” he said.
Much of this is farmland, meaning there are fears many people will lose their crops. Water levels were already high, even before the cyclone made landfall on Saturday.
The region is still recovering from two devastating cyclones, Idai and Kenneth, which hit in 2019, killing hundreds and forcing many thousands from their Homes.
Egypt Begins COVID-19 Vaccination Drive With Frontline Medical Staff
Egypt has begun coronavirus vaccinations starting with the first responders. The Arab world’s most populous nation says the vaccination process will see more than 100 million citizens take shots against the coronavirus. Egypt has recorded nearly 9,000 deaths from COVID-19.
The Chinese made injections were given to the first recipients — a doctor and a nurse.
Authorities say, vaccines from Britain and Russia will be included in the innoculation programme as it unfolds.
Egypt’s health minister said the country was aiming to produce a local vaccine, with a view to distributing it to the rest of Africa.
There have been warnings that the continent is in danger of being left behind, as richer countries strike vaccine-supply deals and drive up prices.
Zimbabwe COVID-19 Deaths Pass 1,000 As Infections Surge
Zimbabwe’s COVID-19 deaths have surpassed 1,000 as the country struggles to contain a spike in infections that has claimed the lives of three government ministers in the last 10 days.
There are fears the more infectious South African variant of the virus entered the country when thousands of Zimbabweans living in the neighbouring countries returned home for the December holiday.
Data released late on Sunday showed, Zimbabwe has recorded a total of 31,320 coronavirus cases and 1,005 deaths. More than half of these have been reported since the beginning of this year.
The recovery rate has fallen to 71% from 82% on Jan. 1.
Even before the outbreak of the pandemic, Zimbabwe’s healthcare system was facing collapse with workers frequently going on strike to demand better salaries and hospitals facing shortages of medicines and equipment.
In a bid to re-assure anxious citizens, president Emmerson Mnangagwa said in a national address on Saturday that health experts were assessing different vaccines and would “quite soon” recommend to the government which vaccine doses to purchase.
Mnangagwa said, frontline health workers, who complain of a lack of adequate protective clothing, would be the first to receive the vaccine.
Doctors’ groups say that hospitals are quickly filling up with covid-19 patients and that there is an increase in the number of infected people dying at home, unable to afford the steep fees charged by hospitals.
Early this month, Zimbabwe extended a nationwide curfew, banned gatherings, closed its land borders and ordered non-essential businesses closed for a month in an effort to curb the surge in coronavirus infections.
The government said it was ready to introduce stronger measures if necessary.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe doctors have protested against a twitter comment made by the government spokesperson, who referred to them as ‘medical assassins.
The doctors’ association said it was unfortunate that a government official could make such references despite health workers risking their lives to save Zimbabweans.
The association tweeted quote “we are in difficult times as a nation in as much as the whole world is also troubled. We empathize with the sick and the bereaved. Attacking a whole profession at such a time does not add any value to alleviation of our challenges. End quote.
Government spokesperson Nick Mangwana said he was only “amplifying” a matter that was being debated publicly. He added that the doctors “will hear something from the police”.