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South Africa Police open fire on protesters following 3rd day of aggressive action

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South Africa Police open fire on protesters following 3rd day of aggressive action

South Africa President Jacob Zuma

Special to USAfrica multimedia networks, Houston. USAfricaonline.com,CLASSmagazine, The Black Business Journal, USAfrica e-group andNigeria360@yahoogroups e-group
Police fired rubber bullets as protestors set alight tyres in a destitute South African township on Wednesday in a third day of demonstrations to demand jobs and improved services.
Riot police deployed into the streets of Wesselton, around 200 kilometres (124 miles) east of Johannesburg, to disperse protesters who also dragged the charred remains of Tuesday’s barricades back into the road.
However calm returned on the streets of the township after South African police commissioner Bheki Cele visited the area and warned residents that law enforcements officers will not tolerate any further violent protests.
“It is their constitutional right to participate in mass action without violence, if they do that then police can go home,” he told reporters.
“But it is not their right to burn tyres, it is not their right to loot, it is not their right to injure and attack people. If they do that we (police) will respond accordingly. It looks for now we have agreed on that approach. I hope that approach stays that way.”
He said 160 police officers were deployed to the township to keep watch on the demonstrators.
About 124 people have been arrested since Monday and police were investigating whether criminals took advantage of the situation, he added.
“I am looking for people that we suspect might have a hand in the crime and criminality activities that were committed (during the protest),” Cele said.
Businesses were closed and school children stayed at home amid fears that the streets could again explode into violence after Tuesday’s clashes, when police opened fire with rubber and live bullets.
A man was found dead Tuesday but authorities said it was not yet clear what had killed him.
Two children died in protests elsewhere in South Africa Tuesday, with a woman saying they drowned as they tried to escape police fire at a township demonstration in Boipelo, 300 kilometres southwest of Johannesburg.
However police denied the children’s death were linked to protest and said they would investigate the matter, media reported.
South Africa routinely sees violent protests in its impoverished shantytowns over demands for better housing and services like water and electricity, although deadly clashes are rare.
Residents felt they needed to make their voices heard ahead of local elections due late May, said Owen Manotsi, an unemployed 29-year-old who took part in the Wesselton protests.
“Whenever there are elections, these councillors, these government officials, they come to us, (and say) ‘Hey, we’re gonna do this for you, we’re gonna do that for you, everything will be fine’,” he said.
“But none of that happens after the elections. Nothing. So this is the right time for the people to voice their opinions, to voice their crisis.
“This is the only voice we have. We have to fight. The votes are making no difference,” he said, also complaining of corruption in the municipal government.
Police said they fired rubber bullets Tuesday at Wesselton protesters who trashed and looted foreign-owned shops, and shot live ammunition into walls as a warning after demonstrators opened fire at the security forces.
“They don’t care if you’re participating or just watching, they shoot everybody,” resident Sbusiso Nkosi, 21, said Wednesday as he crouched behind a tin-roof shack after running from riot police firing rubber bullets and carrying assault rifles.
Nkosi, an unemployed welder, told AFP that residents were angry over the government’s failure to deliver services and the lack of jobs in the township, which is near the town of Ermelo.
Police minister Nathi Mthethwa warned that violence would be punished.
“Police have a mandate to protect law-abiding citizens and those who find themselves on the wrong side — we shall have no leniency on them,” Mthethwa said in a statement.
He also warned truck drivers on the third day of a wage strike in Johannesburg, saying they had the right to protest but not to “violent, barbaric and intolerant behaviour”.
Four taxi passengers were seriously hurt near Johannesburg on Wednesday when a trucker fleeing an attack by strikers crashed his vehicle into theirs, and other trucks were burned, stoned and looted, media reported.
Despite being the continent’s economic powerhouse, South Africa has battled to improve living standards for the black majority since the 1994 fall of the white minority apartheid regime. ref: ANP/AFP

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AFRICA

Gabon President Ali Bongo recovering from an undisclosed illness in Saudi Arabia

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Gabonese President Ali Bongo Ondimba is recovering from an undisclosed illness in Saudi Arabia and still performing his duties, according to a statement released on Sunday amid mounting speculation about his health.

The issue is a particularly sensitive one in the Central African nation. When Bongo’s father died in 2009 after more than four decades in power, Gabonese officials angrily denied French media reports of his death for almost a day, and shut down the internet in the country for several hours.

The statement said that Ali Bongo was suffering dizziness at his hotel in Riyad, Saudi Arabia on Oct. 24 when he sought medical care at King Faysal Hospital.

The information about the president’s health is “extremely reassuring” and the president “continues to perform his duties,” the presidency said.

The communique came amid a swirl of rumors over the president’s health back home in the Central African nation. Some media reports suggested that Bongo had suffered a stroke, though government spokesman Ike Ngouoni cautioned people about “fake news”.

“It would be in his interest entirely to make his presence. I think they’re not putting him in front of the cameras intentionally,” said Douglas A. Yates, a Paris-based Gabon expert.

One of the world’s largest producers of oil, Gabon’s wealth is far from evenly distributed. About a third of the population, estimated to be below 2 million people, live below the poverty line, according to the World Bank.

The elder Bongo, who ruled the oil-rich nation from 1967 until his 2009 death, was viewed by many as the father of the nation. His time in power, though, was dogged by allegations of corruption and the use of oil profits for personal luxuries, including properties in several European and American cities, and lavish trips abroad.

Ali Bongo won a special presidential election that was held a few months after his father’s death. The opposition claimed it was rigged.

In 2016, protesters took to the streets of the capital, Libreville, and the Parliament building was burned after Bongo’s opponent, Jean Ping, accused Bongo of vote-rigging. The European Union, the United States, and France also expressed concerns about some of the results. Gabon’s constitutional court later upheld Bongo’s victory. AP

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Nigerian army posts Trump video to justify shooting muslim Shiites

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Nigeria’s army (has) posted a video of US President Donald Trump saying soldiers would shoot migrants throwing stones to justify opening fire on a Shiite group (last) week.

In the video, Trump warns that soldiers deployed to the Mexican border could shoot Central American migrants who throw stones at them while attempting to cross illegally.

“We’re not going to put up with that. They want to throw rocks at our military, our military fights back,” said Trump in remarks made on Thursday.

“I told them (troops) consider it (a rock) a rifle. When they throw rocks like they did at the Mexican military and police, I say consider it a rifle.”

Nigeria’s defence spokesman John Agim told AFP that the army posted the video in response to criticism that its security forces had acted unlawfully.

The Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) said 49 of its members were killed after the army and police fired live bullets at crowds who marched near and in the capital Abuja. The army’s official death toll was six.

Amnesty International said Wednesday it had “strong evidence” that police and soldiers used automatic weapons against IMN members and killed about 45 people in an “unconscionable use of deadly force by soldiers and police”.

The United States embassy in Nigeria said Thursday it was “concerned” and called for an investigation.

“The video was posted in reaction to the Amnesty International report accusing the army of using weapons against pacifist Shiite protesters…. Not only did they use stones but they were carrying petrol bombs, machetes and knives, so yes, we consider them as being armed,” said Agim.

“We intervened only because the IMN members are trying to harm our people, they are always meeting us…at security check points and trying to provoke us, they even burned a police vehicle.”

Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy, is almost evenly split between a mostly Muslim north — which is predominantly Sunni — and a largely Christian south.

Experts have warned the government that a heavy-handed response to the group risks sparking conflict in a volatile region where poverty is widespread.

IMN leader Ibrahim Zakzaky has been in custody since 2015, when an army crackdown killed 300 of his supporters who were buried in mass graves, according to rights groups.

Zakzaky is facing a culpable homicide charge in connection with the 2015 violence. He remains in jail despite a court order granting him bail.

On Thursday, 120 of 400 IMN members arrested by police on Monday were  charged with “rioting, disturbance of public peace and causing hurt,” said a court official in Abuja on Friday.

According to court documents seen by AFP, the IMN members had been ordered to disperse but they “refused and started throwing stones at the police officers and other members of the public and thereby caused them bodily harm”.

All the suspects pleaded not guilty and were granted bail with the court hearing to resume on December 5.

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U.S calls on Nigeria to investigate killings of Shiite muslims by soldiers

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The United States embassy in Nigeria said on Thursday it was “concerned” and called for an investigation after supporters of an imprisoned Shiite cleric were killed in clashes with security forces.

The Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) said 49 of its members were killed this week after the army and police fired live bullets at crowds who marched near and in the capital Abuja, calling into doubt the military’s official death toll of six.

“The United States embassy is concerned by the deaths resulting from clashes between Nigerian security forces and members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria in areas surrounding Abuja,” said the US embassy in a statement.

“We urge government of Nigeria authorities to conduct a thorough investigation of the events and to take appropriate action to hold accountable those responsible for violations of Nigerian law. We urge restraint on all sides,” it added.

Amnesty International said on Wednesday it had “strong evidence” that police and soldiers used automatic weapons against IMN members and killed about 45 people.

“We have seen a shocking and unconscionable use of deadly force by soldiers and police against IMN members,” said Amnesty’s Nigeria director Osai Ojigho.

Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy, is almost evenly split between a mostly Muslim north – which is predominantly Sunni – and a largely Christian south.

Experts have warned the government that a heavy-handed response to the group risks sparking conflict in a volatile region where poverty is widespread.

IMN leader Ibrahim Zakzaky has been in custody since 2015, when an army crackdown killed 300 of his supporters, who were buried in mass graves, according to human rights groups.

Zakzaky is facing a culpable homicide charge in connection with the 2015 violence, and is in jail despite a court order granting him bail. ref: AFP

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