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ECOWAS Confident Of Mali’s Return To Civilian Rule Before 18 Month Deadline

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Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) mediator – Nigeria’s former president Goodluck Jonathan, says he is confident Mali’s post-coup interim administration will hand over power back to civilians within the agreed 18-month deadline.

Jonathan arrived in Mali’s capital Bamako on Monday for a two-day visit following increasing questions over the post-coup government’s ability to reform the constitution and hold elections within a year. Jonathan held meetings with political and civil-society figures.

He said “we believe that the transitional government will be able to conclude everything that it is set up to do within the 18 months.”

The west African regional group, ECOWAS, has charged Mali to quickly prepare its plan for elections to replace the transitional government.

ECOWAS delegation, which has just finished a two-day mission to Mali, urged all parties to engage in more dialogue so as to “guarantee peace and stability in the country.”

When the transitional government was set up five weeks after the takeover its role was to prepare the country for to the return to civilian rule within 18 months – and as a consequence ECOWAS lifted sanctions imposed in the aftermath of the coup.

The delegation also commented on a recent alleged attempt to destabilize the transition, which has led to the arrests of several civilians.

It urged the authorities to ensure their cases were dealt with fairly under the law.

The mission will report on its visit and make recommendations to the region’s heads of state at a summit in a few weeks.

Army officers ousted president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita on august 18, after weeks of protests fuelled by frustrations over his failure to tackle the eight-year conflict, as well as perceived corruption. ECOWAS then placed sanctions on Mali, which were lifted in October after the military junta handed power to the caretaker civilian government, which is meant to rule for 18 months before staging democratic elections. But figures with army links still have influence over the coalition.

Coup leader Assimi Goita was appointed interim vice president, for example. And the interim president, Bah Ndaw — a civilian — was an army officer before retiring from the military.

Ndaw nonetheless pledged on December 31 to return Mali to civilian rule on schedule.

Jonathan is expected to meet both Ndaw and Goita during his visit, according to a programme published by ECOWAS.

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Baby Vaccination Drops In Rwanda Amid Lockdown

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Baby vaccination rate is of concern to Rwandan authorities.  The Rwanda biomedical center says it expects to vaccinate 360,000 babies every year with their first shot, but the number has dropped in Kigali during the total lockdown.

Some mothers in Kigali city say they cannot miss their babies’ vaccination schedules despite the city currently being in total lockdown.

At a vaccination exercise in Kigali on Monday, not all who were supposed to bring their babies for the vaccination showed up, thinking the medical personnel would not be available because of the lockdown.

The Rwanda biomedical center says the government spends $10 million annually to provide babies with no cost vaccinations.

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Tunisian Protesters Marching To Parliament Blocked

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Hundreds of Tunisians have taken to the streets in renewed protests.  The demonstrations first, in the town of Sbeitla were triggered by reports that an injured young man during last week’s clashes, Haykel Rachdi, had died. The man’s family said he was hit by a tear gas canister.

He had joined nationwide protests to mark the 10th anniversary of the Tunisian revolution, which ushered in democracy and triggered the Arab spring uprisings across the region.

Soldiers were deployed to government buildings in the town after protesters tried to storm the police station.

On Tuesday, Tunisian police blocked the path of hundreds of protestors who were trying to reach the parliament building in the capital, Tunis.

It was the latest in a series of demonstrations that have been fueled by frustration at the lack of jobs and spiraling prices.

More than one thousand young protesters had been arrested during the previous protests, and many of the protesters on Tuesday were calling for their release.

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Morocco Begins Rolling Out COVID-19 Vaccinations

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After Egypt, Morocco is set to become the latest country in Africa to roll out a vaccination programme against COVID-19 giving priority to frontline medical staff.

The country has received two million doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, and is expected to take delivery of half a million doses from China’s Sinopharm on Wednesday.

Morocco was hit hard last year when it recorded a higher number of cases compared to its neighbours

Tunisia has pushed back its vaccination campaign to April, while Algeria expects to acquire a batch of Russia’s Sputnik V vacc Oxford/AstraZeneca ine by the end of this month.

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