FILE PHOTO: A man walks in front of a banner depicting Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi before the upcoming referendum on constitutional amendments in Cairo
FILE PHOTO: A man walks in front of a banner depicting Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi before the upcoming referendum on constitutional amendments in Cairo, Egypt April 16, 2019. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany/File Photo

April 19, 2019

By Yousef Saba

CAIRO (Reuters) – Egyptians vote this weekend on constitutional changes that will potentially allow President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to stay in office until 2030 and bolster the role of Egypt’s powerful military.

Sisi’s supporters say the changes are necessary to give him more time to complete major development projects and economic reforms. Critics say they concentrate more powers in Sisi’s hands and return Egypt to an unequivocally authoritarian model.

Egypt’s 596-member parliament, dominated by Sisi’s supporters, approved the amendments on Tuesday, voting by 531 to 22 in favor.

Some 55 million of Egypt’s nearly 100 million population are eligible to cast votes in the referendum, which will be held over three days starting on Saturday.

While the changes are widely expected to pass, observers say the size of the turnout will be watched as a test of Sisi’s popularity, which has been dented by economic austerity measures since 2016.

Opponents of the changes complained that they were being rushed through without proper public scrutiny.

“They are not giving us time to even organize a campaign to ask people to vote no,” said Khaled Dawoud, a member of the opposition Civil Democratic Movement, which has rejected the changes.

“This is the final deathblow after all the ambitions we had after the 2011 revolution,” said Dawoud, referring to the uprising that ousted veteran leader Hosni Mubarak. Dawoud said campaigning would take place online due to the lack of time.

Egyptian officials have said that Egyptians from all walks of life were given a chance to debate the amendments, and that all views were factored into the final proposals.


If approved, the amendments would extend Sisi’s current term to six years from four and allow him to run again for a third six-year term in 2024.

They would also grant the president control over appointing head judges and the public prosecutor from a pool of candidates. They would task the military with protecting “the constitution and democracy and the fundamental makeup of the country and its civil nature”.

Banners urging Egyptians to participate in the referendum sprang up in Cairo this month before the final version of the amendments was known or voted on by parliament. Some of the signs encourage people to vote yes.

“Vote? Vote for what?” asked a horse carriage driver sitting at a cafe in a working class Cairo neighborhood.

“It won’t make a difference,” said the 67-year-old, who declined to give his name. “Leave it to God.”

Sisi came to power after spearheading, as defense minister, the removal of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Mursi as president in 2013, and winning election a year later. He was elected to a second four-year term last year.

Under Sisi, Egypt has witnessed a crackdown on dissent that rights groups say is unprecedented in its recent history. Media and social media are tightly controlled.

Lina Khatib, head of Chatham House’s Middle East and North Africa Programme, said the amendments “pave the way for a power grab” by Sisi.

“This has grave implications for prospects of democracy in Egypt in the medium term and makes it difficult for alternative political voices to contest power in the long term,” she said in an emailed comment to Reuters.

(Reporting by Yousef Saba; Editing by Aidan Lewis and Gareth Jones)

Source: OANN

There is an upcoming solar storm expected this weekend. Researchers have noticed a sunspot that will bombard the Earth with solar particles on Monday.

Sunspots are patches of darkness on the Sun which are caused by an underlying magnetism beneath the surface. A solar storm occurs when that magnetism bubbles up and is released in the form of solar flares, which spew cosmic particles into space. Earth is in the path of these particles, so we can expect an exceptional aural display at the poles soon!

Auroras are caused when solar particles hit the atmosphere. These include the northern lights, or aurora borealis and southern lights, or aurora australis. Both are expected to put on incredible shows thanks to this solar storm. The light show will appear when the magnetosphere gets bombarded by solar winds and that layer of the atmosphere deflects the particles.

According to the Express, a cosmic forecasting website called Space Weather said:

“A minor hole in the sun’s atmosphere is turning toward Earth and spewing a stream of solar wind in our direction. The estimated time of arrival is April 22nd. Geomagnetic unrest and polar auroras are possible when the gaseous material arrives.”

Solar particles have been responsible for power grid failures and disruption in communications systems on Earth when they’ve been strong enough. A surge of particles can lead to high currents in the magnetosphere, which can cause a higher than normal level of electricity in power lines. The results could be devastating, especially considering Earth’s magnetic field is weakening. Eventually, as a solar storm could cause electrical transformers and power stations blowouts and a loss of power. Solar storms can also affect satellites in orbit, potentially leading to a lack of GPS navigation, mobile phone signals, and satellite TV.

Earth’s magnetic field is getting significantly weaker, the magnetic north pole is shifting at an accelerating pace, and scientists readily admit that a sudden pole shift could potentially cause “trillions of dollars” in damage. Today, most of us take the protection provided by Earth’s magnetic field completely for granted. It is essentially a colossal force field which surrounds our planet and makes life possible. And even with such protection, a giant solar storm could still potentially hit our planet and completely fry our power grid. But as our magnetic field continues to get weaker and weaker, even much smaller solar storms will have the potential to be cataclysmic. And once the magnetic field gets weak enough, we will be facing much bigger problems. As you will see below, if enough solar radiation starts reaching our planet none of us will survive. -Michael Snyder, The Economic Collapse Blog

The weakening magnetic field could have apocalyptic implications for all of us. Increased cancer rates will occur and there will be increasingly dangerous outcomes of fairly minor solar storms such as the one expected on Monday.

Alex Jones talks over the phone with callers and gauges their reactions to AG Barr discussing the redacted first part of Mueller’s report.

Source: InfoWars

FILE PHOTO: Supporters of Congolese exiled opposition leader Moise Katumbi gather to watch his address via a video link in Kinshasa
FILE PHOTO: Supporters of Congolese exiled opposition leader Moise Katumbi gather to watch his address via a video link in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo June 9, 2018. REUTERS/Benoit Nyemba

April 19, 2019

KINSHASA (Reuters) – An appeals court has overturned a conviction of exiled Congolese opposition leader Moise Katumbi for real estate fraud, ruling that the trial court had been pressured by former President Joseph Kabila’s government, Katumbi’s lawyer said on Friday.

Katumbi, the former governor of Democratic Republic of Congo’s copper-mining Katanga region, was sentenced in absentia to three years in prison in June 2016, shortly after defecting from Kabila’s ruling party and announcing he would run for president later that year.

He had fled Congo the previous month in the face of separate charges that he had hired mercenaries and was plotting against the government.

Katumbi denied all the charges, which he said were aimed at keeping him from running to replace Kabila, who was due to step down in December 2016 after 16 years in power. Kabila denied that.

His government ultimately delayed the election by two years before he finally stepped down this January, replaced by opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi, who was declared the winner of a Dec. 30 vote.

The appeals court’s ruling, issued on Wednesday, accepted the claims of one of the trial judges, Chantal Ramazani, that the verdict had been issued under duress by the government.

Ramazani went into hiding after making the accusations.

Katumbi’s lawyer, Joseph Mukendi, told Reuters on Friday that Katumbi could return to Congo now to defend himself in the mercenaries case, which has not yet been tried.

Katumbi was blocked from re-entering the country last year to file his candidacy for the presidential election — a race polls showed him leading. He ended up backing opposition leader Martin Fayulu instead.

Fayulu finished second to Tshisekedi, although multiple sources told Reuters the results were rigged in favor of Tshisekedi, who was seen by Kabila as less of a threat to the outgoing administration’s interests.

Kabila and Tshisekedi’s camps deny the vote was rigged.

(Reporting By Stanis Bujakera and Fiston Mahamba; writing by Aaron Ross; Editing by Gareth Jones)

Source: OANN

Protest against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas
Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, who many nations have recognized as the country’s rightful interim ruler, greets his supporters during a protest against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s government in Caracas, Venezuela, April 10, 2019. REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado

April 19, 2019

CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido on Friday called on supporters to take to the streets on May 1 for what he called “the largest march in the history” of the South American country to keep the pressure on President Nicolas Maduro to leave power.

Guaido, the head of the opposition-controlled National Assembly who in January invoked the constitution to assume an interim presidency on the basis that Maduro’s 2018 re-election was illegitimate, reiterated his call for the country’s armed forces to take his side in the three-month power struggle.

“They will need to listen to the people saying: enough,” Guaido told a crowd gathered at a plaza in eastern Caracas, setting the date for the march for May 1, International Workers’ Day.

“We call on all the people to join in the largest march in the history of Venezuela to demand the end to the usurpation so this tragedy can end.”

Guaido has been recognized by the United States and most Western nations as the South American country’s rightful leader. The oil-rich country is in a sixth year of recession, marked by hyperinflation and shortages of basic goods that have prompted more than three million to emigrate.

Maduro calls Guaido a U.S. puppet seeking to oust him in a coup and blames the country’s economic woes on a U.S.-led “economic war.” His ruling socialist party has frequently responded to Guaido’s calls for protests over the past few months with simultaneous marches of their own.

Guaido did not specify the final destination of the May 1 demonstration. But some in attendance on Friday called out suggestions that they march on the Miraflores presidential palace.

“He is not alone,” said Ileidi Vargas, a 58-year-old retired teacher who attended the opposition rally on Friday. “Each day we are moving forward, and there is no turning back. It might not happen tomorrow, but it will be soon.”

Despite Guaido’s offers of amnesty to members of the military who facilitate a transition, Maduro remains in control of the armed forces and the day-to-day functions of government.

(Reporting by Mayela Armas and Deisy Buitrago; Writing by Luc Cohen; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

Source: OANN

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic's campaign rally
Supporters of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic burn flare as they wait for his arrival for his campaign rally “The Future of Serbia” in front of the Parliament Building in Belgrade, Serbia, April 19, 2019. REUTERS/Marko Djurica. The Banner reads: “The future of Serbia”.

April 19, 2019

By Aleksandar Vasovic and Ivana Sekularac

BELGRADE (Reuters) – Thousands of people from all over Serbia flocked to Belgrade’s city center on Friday in a show of support for President Aleksandar Vucic, who has faced five months of opposition protests.

In a lengthy speech to the rally, Vucic called for a dialogue with the opposition, adding, “But we are not going to take any ultimatums”.

The crowd, rallied by a band of drummers, waved with signal flares and Serbian flags, chanting “Aco (Aleksandar abbreviated) the Serb” as Vucic took the stage in front of the country’s parliament building.

“We have no man better suited to lead us than Vucic, he is the savior of Serbia,” said Nevenka, 28, a waitress from the southern city of Nis who gave only her first name.

Vucic, an ultranationalist during the Balkan wars in the 1990s, embraced European values before coming to power in 2012. In coalition with the Socialists of Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic he controls 160 deputies in the 250-seat parliament.

The opposition, which started weekly protests in December, accuses him of stifling media freedoms and turning a blind eye to corruption and what they call the “criminal activities” of his close associates including his brother. Vucic strongly denies the allegations.

“Today is the day for our Serbia,” Vucic told the crowd.


Some analysts said Friday’s rally, a grand finale of Vucic’s “The Future of Serbia” campaign, was an attempt to cement popular support ahead of a long-awaited landmark deal with Kosovo, Serbia’s former southern province.

Predominantly ethnic Albanian Kosovo declared independence in 2008, almost a decade after a bloody war there. It won recognition from the United States and most EU countries, but not from Serbia or its big power patron Russia, and relations between Belgrade and Kosovo remain tense.

A binding agreement on normalisation of ties is a precondition for both countries to join the European Union.

“To sign any deal with Kosovo, he needs to show that he has strong popular support because nationalists will not like it,” said Djordje Pavicevic, professor at the Political Sciences Faculty. “On the other hand if there is no deal, pro-EU forces in the country will complain.”

Vucic said in an interview last month that failure to revive talks between Serbia and Kosovo on normalising relations could destabilize the Western Balkan region, which is still recovering from the wars of the 1990s.

Vucic is due to meet the presidents of China and Russia, Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin in Beijing next week and a week later he is expected to meet the leaders of Germany and France, Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron. Local media have reported that Kosovo will be the main topic of the talks.

Vucic is maintaining a delicate balancing act between Serbia’s EU aspirations and close ties with Russia and China.

Many Serbs remain opposed to his rule. Dragana, a nurse from central Serbia, said she did not come to Friday’s rally voluntarily.

“I had a choice, to decline and lose my job in the (state) hospital, or to be here,” said Dragana, who declined to give her last name.

“They cannot win my mind, I must be here, but tomorrow I will join our real (opposition) protest against injustice and … this ridiculousness.”

(Editing by Frances Kerry)

Source: OANN

TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS: So after two years, here we are. It’s hard to believe any of it actually happened. Two years of unremitting, never-diminishing hysteria about Russia. A continuous wave of panic and superstition over unseen Slavic interference, all stoked by the very people we’re told are the most rational in our society. For two years, our capital city became a kind of massive CNN panel — a living monument to ignorance and dishonesty, where the loudest and dumbest invariably got the most attention. We just lived through two full years of that: screaming, threatening, surveillance, character assassination, loyalty tests, wild allegations of treason and spying and betrayal. Innocent people found themselves afraid to go to dinner, hesitant to send text messages or talk on the phone. For two years we lived in an all-pervasive cult of personality. Our leaders worshipped a 74-year-old federal prosecutor who never spoke in public. He alone was good, they told us. Only they could interpret his will. It was all thoroughly bizarre. Demented really, though nobody said so at the time. They were too afraid. It seems like a dream now. Which of course it was. None of it was real. Nobody colluded with Vladimir Putin. Nobody changed vote totals. Or met secretly in Prague. Or had a pee tape. There never was a Russia conspiracy. Hillary Clinton wasn’t robbed by Julian Assange, or anyone else. She lost the election because she was an entitled boor who didn’t run on anything. In the end, that’s what Robert Mueller proved.

The news anchors couldn’t handle that conclusion. It was too far from what they’d promised their audiences for so long. They were too invested in the lies. When the report arrived in congress this morning, they found themselves reduced to huffing and sputtering. They couldn’t admit what was in it. Well, they told us, Robert Mueller “didn’t exonerate President Trump.” That may be true, but only theologically. Mueller doesn’t have the power to absolve sin. Only God can do that. But in every other sense, Mueller’s report was exculpatory. If dozens of federal prosecutors spent two years trying to charge you with a crime, and then decided they couldn’t, it would mean there wasn’t any real evidence you did it. That’s what happened here. You may not like Donald Trump, but that’s what we learned from the Mueller Report. You’d have to be a mindless partisan to deny it. A lot of news anchors turn out to be mindless partisans. When the facts contravene the interests of their party, they deny the facts, and then attack anyone who persists in stating the obvious. Suddenly the very same people who lied to you for two years about Russia are demanding that, under no circumstances, are you allowed to believe anything that Attorney General Bill Barr might say. Sure, Barr looks like a conventional Republican, being a Jeb Bush donor and everything. Yes, he would appear to be a close personal friend of Robert Mueller’s. But it’s all a ruse. Barr is in fact a Putin stooge like all the rest:

JEFFREY TOOBIN: If you just look at his behavior, it is not that of a geriatric, it is that of a partisan

CHRIS MATTHEWS: This looks like an inside job.

MSNBC guest Elie Mystal: We should not take anything that Barr says tomorrow as anything other than performative.

CHRIS CUOMO: Is Barr the President’s new fixer? The answer to that seems to be yes.

NICOLLE WALLACE: He becomes to first cabinet secretary to plunge into the deep end of Trump’s conspiracy pool.

It’s an inside job. That’s the reigning assumption. Somehow Bill Barr is preventing Robert Mueller from concluding that Donald Trump colluding with Vladimir Putin. How is Barr doing that? It’s not clear, but they’re no less certain that he is. Michelle Goldberg of The New York Times announced that Barr’s press conference this morning marked America’s transformation into a, quote, “authoritarian junta.” Her colleague, Maggie Haberman, suggested Trump might be a Nazi, because the White House played a song from The Sound of Music — which by the way, is an anti-Nazi musical. But still Germanic-sounding, and therefore suspicious. These are hysterical children. They shouldn’t be in journalism. But they are. They run journalism. They have no plans on giving up their power.

The Mueller Report may be the single most humiliating thing that’s ever happened to the White House press corps in the history of this country. How did reporters in Washington respond? They celebrated themselves. Over on CNN, former Obama official Jim Sciutto bragged that Mueller had quote “debunked” all of Trump’s unfair attacks on the media. At the Washington Post, Philip Bump was telling us that quote, “the vast amount of reporting” on Russia was accurate.

Even they don’t really believe this. They know they lied. Buzzfeed claimed its reporters has personally seen evidence that Michael Cohen had been instructed but Donald Trump to perjure himself. The editor of Buzzfeed defended that story extensively, including on this show. Now we know it was a lie. That and so much more. So what happens now? What do we do with John Brennan and Jim Clapper? They used to run powerful intelligence agencies. For the past two years, they’ve gotten rich from talking about Russia on television. The only problem is, they were lying:

O’DONNELL: What makes you believe that he has more indictments?

BRENNAN: Because he hasn’t addressed the issues related to criminal conspiracy as well as individuals —

O’DONNELL: A criminal conspiracy involving the Russians?

BRENNAN: Yes yeah.

CLAPPER: Is there influence whether witting on unwitting by the Russians over President Trump. And in the intervening year and a half or so, you know, his behavior hasn’t done much at least in my mind to allay that concern.

So do Clapper and Brendan get to keep their cable TV contracts? Probably. In decadent societies, the guilty aren’t punished. Only the unpopular are. Over on the other channels, they’re talking about Trump tonight, not themselves. The line they’re quoting most is from today’s report. It’s Trump’s response when he first learned there was going to be a special counsel investigation. “Oh my God,” he said. “This is terrible. This is the end of my Presidency. I’m effed.”

As it turns out, Trump was wrong on the specifics. He never got indicted. Mueller didn’t drive him from office. But, as usual, Trump’s instincts were clearer. In fact, dead on: In the ways that matter most, the Russia hoax did sabotage his presidency. Mueller’s investigation ended critical momentum from the 2016 election almost immediately. Lawmakers, including a shamefully large number of Republicans, were much happier to talk about Russia than about changing the status quo in Washington, which is what Trump ran on. So they talked about Russia. The result: an election that should have realigned the country, had almost no effect. Two years later, virtually nothing has changed. Millions are still flood over our border from the third world, encouraged by an army of non-profits that instruct them to subvert our laws. The opioid epidemic rages on, as horrible as ever. Suicides are up. Troops are still bogged down in Afghanistan and Syria. Goldman Sachs still controls our economy. Tech companies are still spying on you and crushing your freedom of speech. You can still have your life ruined for supporting the wrong candidate, or believing there are two genders. Most ominous of all, Americans are still dying younger and having fewer children. None of this was resolved. It was never even talked about. The Russia investigation didn’t destroy Trump. But it did a lot to destroy America.

FILE PHOTO: Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks at the opening ceremony for the first China International Import Expo (CIIE) in Shanghai
FILE PHOTO: Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks at the opening ceremony for the first China International Import Expo (CIIE) in Shanghai, China, November 5, 2018. REUTERS/Aly Song/Pool/File Photo

April 19, 2019

By Saad Sayeed

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Friday that he would not hesitate to make more changes to his cabinet if required a day after a major reshuffle that saw the appointment of a new finance minister and nine other ministerial switches.

The cabinet shakeup, which comes eight months after Khan took office, included the replacement of Finance Minister Asad Umar, who has been a close ally to Khan for many years, with Abdul Hafeez Shaikh in a renamed role to steer the country out of worsening economic turmoil.

Pakistan is on the brink of signing up for its 13th International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout since the late 1980s in a bid to stave off a balance of payments crisis and ease ballooning current account and fiscal deficits.

“I want to tell all my ministers that whoever is not useful for my country, I will change them and bring that minister who is useful for my country,” Khan said during a speech in the northern region of Orakzai.

Shaikh, who served as finance minister from 2010-2013 under the opposition Pakistan People’s Party when it was in power, has been appointed as “Adviser on Finance” but will be heading the finance ministry once again.

In Pakistan’ it is common for financial experts to be given the title of “adviser”, rather than federal minister, to head the finance ministry when they are not a sitting member of parliament.

Umar has been leading negotiations with the IMF but faced criticism over a worsening economic outlook on his watch, with inflation at a five-year high and the rupee currency down about 35 percent since December 2017.

The central bank last month cut growth estimates, forecasting the economy to expand 3.5 to 4 percent in the 12 months to the end of June, well short of a government target of 6.2 percent. The IMF paints a gloomier picture, predicting growth of 2.9 percent in 2019 and 2.8 percent next year.

In a speech laden with cricket metaphors, Khan, who led Pakistan’s cricket team to World Cup triumph in 1992, said such changes were part of good leadership.

“The captain has one objective and that is to get the team to win. The prime minister also has one objective and I have only one objective, to help my people win, to help them rise,” he said.

“For this, I have the changed the batting order in my team and I will do this again in the future.”

(Reporting by Saad Sayeed; Editing by Nick Macfie)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Thousands of protesters wave Sudanese flags, hold banners and chant slogans during a demonstration in front of the Defence Ministry in Khartoum
FILE PHOTO: Thousands of protesters wave Sudanese flags, hold banners and chant slogans during a demonstration in front of the Defence Ministry in Khartoum, Sudan, April 18, 2019. REUTERS/Umit Bektas/File Photo

April 19, 2019

By Michael Georgy and Khalid Abdelaziz

Khartoum (Reuters) – Thousands of protesters demanding an end to military rule flocked to the sit-in outside Sudan’s Defence Ministry on Friday, in the biggest turnout in the center of the capital since last week when former President Omar al-Bashir was ousted and a military council took over.

Protesters waved the Sudanese flag and chanted “freedom, peace and justice”. Children sitting on a bridge nearby banged with stones on the metal pillars to the rhythm of the chants.

The military council has said it is ready to meet some of the protesters’ demands, including fighting corruption, but has indicated that it would not hand over power to protest leaders.

“If we don’t stay it will be as if we hadn’t done anything, we will stay until we oust the military council,” said 26-year-old protester Rania Ahmed.

Not far from the bridge, 10 effigies dressed in security forces uniform and helmets were hanging from a metal pillar, symbolizing protesters’ animosity toward the security forces.

“I look at this everyday and it brings me great happiness,” said Mostafa Abuel Qassem, a 29-year-old photographer.

“This is the pride of the revolution,” he added.

The Sudanese Professionals’ Association (SPA), leading the revolt, has called for sweeping change to end a violent crackdown on dissent, purge corruption and cronyism and ease an economic crisis that worsened during Bashir’s last years in power.

Protesters formed checkpoints at the entrances of the sit-in, wearing yellow vests and body-searching people coming in for weapons to make sure the protest remains peaceful.

Hundreds performed Friday prayers in the sit-in, while hundreds more marched to the area after the praying in mosques nearby.

The sit-in that began on April 6 outside the Defence Ministry was the culmination of 16 weeks of protests triggered by the economic crisis, leading to Bashir being ousted and arrested after three decades in power.

The military council has said a transitional period of up to two years will be followed by elections and that it is ready to work with anti-Bashir activists and opposition groups to form an interim civilian government.

Sudanese have been struggling with sharp price rises and shortages of cash and basic products. Many analysts blame the country’s economic troubles on mismanagement, corruption and the impact of U.S. sanctions, as well as loss of oil revenue when South Sudan seceded in 2011.

(Writing by Amina Ismail; Editing by Frances Kerry)

Source: OANN

Villagers are seen following the March 23 attack by militiamen, in Ogossagou Village
Villagers are seen following the March 23 attack by militiamen that killed about 160 Fulani people, in Ogossagou Village, Mali, March 31, 2019 in this handout picture obtained April 18, 2019. ICRC via REUTERS

April 19, 2019

By Aaron Ross

DAKAR (Reuters) – Shortly after rolling into the central Malian town of Koro to detain a leader of an ethnic militia suspected of massacring about 160 villagers, a pickup truck of army soldiers was swarmed by hostile residents.

Video provided to Reuters by a senior member of the Dan Na Ambassagou militia appears to show the troops beating a retreat amid a hail of rocks and angry chants.

The episode last weekend, which was confirmed by a local mayor, was an embarrassing blow to the state’s authority in central Mali, where Islamist insurgents have been capitalizing on spiraling communal conflicts to recruit new members and extend their reach.

Government and army spokespeople did not respond to repeated requests for comment about the incident in Koro.

Mali’s prime minister and his entire government resigned on Thursday after legislators discussed bringing a motion of no confidence because of the massacre and a failure to disarm militias or beat back militants.

“The government’s failure to … rein in militia groups is now coming home to roost,” said Corinne Dufka, Human Rights Watch’s West Africa director. “It’s now threatening the very authority of the state.”

Western governments, including former colonial power France and the United States, are alarmed by the rise of jihadist groups linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State in West Africa’s lawless Sahel region.

They have deployed thousands of elite troops there to make sure it does not become a new Islamist haven following the losses inflicted on the groups in the Middle East.

Governments across the Sahel have also tacitly outsourced part of the fight against jihadists to local self-defense groups, many of them intent chiefly on settling ethnic scores.

However, the killings of the villagers on March 23, Mali’s worst ethnic bloodletting in living memory, show what can go wrong when governments turn a blind eye to vigilante groups in order to repel jihadists.


Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita had ordered the Dan Na Ambassagou — an anti-jihadi, ethnic Dogon group — disbanded after suspected members stormed the two villages, Ogossagou and Welingara, inhabited mainly by Fulani herders.

Most of the deaths occurred in Ogossagou, where gunmen left the charred bodies of women and children smoldering in their homes.

The United Nations has sent rights experts to investigate the killings. The International Criminal Court said the crimes could fall under its jurisdiction.

Dan Na Ambassagou denies involvement in the killings and is refusing to lay down weapons it says it needs to defend Dogon farmers against jihadists, whose ranks consist largely of Fulanis.

“When there are two people who are in conflict … you can’t take the weapon from one and leave the other with his,” a senior militia member, Marcelin Guenguere, told Reuters on Wednesday.

Forcibly disarming Dan Na Ambassagou “could provoke a rebellion that will not be so easily contained”, he said.

The shaky footage provided by Guenguere purports to show dozens of people, some wearing floppy brown caps sported by Dogon hunters, yelling and gesticulating at the soldiers as they climb onto the back of the pickup and drive off.

Reuters could not independently authenticate the video.

But Moulaye Guindo, mayor of the nearby town of Bankass, confirmed that soldiers had tried to arrest the militia leader in Koro and withdrew when residents protested.

The government denies it coordinates with any militia.

Security Minister Salife Traore told parliament this month that some groups “thought they needed to fill in for the state”.

Researchers such as Human Rights Watch also say there is no proof of formal collaboration between Mali’s government and militias but, at the very least, there appear to be understandings that allow fighters to openly man checkpoints and defy bans on motorcycles.

Guenguere, however, told Reuters that Dan Na Ambassagou had provided guides for army operations and secured polling places during last year’s presidential election at the government’s request.

The government denies this.

“We have always collaborated well with the Malian army and authorities,” Guenguere said, “but now we are starting to become a little disappointed.”

Jihadi attacks have multiplied in the region, spilling into neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger despite the deployment of thousands of French soldiers to go after Islamist militants who briefly seized northern Mali in 2012.

The jihadis are adept at exploiting ethnic division, often siding with semi-nomadic Fulani pastoralists in conflicts with more settled farming peoples such as the Dogon over land rights.

The massacre of the Fulani villagers followed a deadly assault by jihadists on an army post that killed at least 23 soldiers, also in central Mali, an attack claimed by an al Qaeda affiliate.

So far, authorities have made five arrests. It was unclear if the attempt to apprehend militia leader Mamadou Guindo on Saturday was related.

“The events playing out in the center of our country have reached an unacceptable dimension that cries out to us all,” President Keita said in a speech on Tuesday, saying new measures to counter militia violence were being implemented.

(Additional reporting by Tiemoko Diallo in Bamako and Tim Cocks in Dakar; Editing by Tim Cocks, Alexandra Zavis and Alison Williams)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: People wait in line outside the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the orders being issued, in Washington
FILE PHOTO: People wait in line outside the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the orders being issued, in Washington, U.S. March 18, 2019. REUTERS/Erin Scott/File Photo

April 19, 2019

By Andrew Chung

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Sitting on a working-class commercial strip in the shadows of an above-ground rail line, a group called Make the Road New York’s busy street-level offices are easy to miss. But its mission to support and advocate for immigrants is front and center.

A sign on its front door in a heavily Hispanic neighborhood of the borough of Queens warns law enforcement officers not to enter without a warrant. Its colorful lobby is filled with butterfly-shaped placards made for protests against the hardline immigration policies of President Donald Trump, a fellow New Yorker.

Its latest fight is to contest the Trump administration’s contentious plan to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, which the group has called a “racist attempt to intimidate, undercount immigrants.”

The plan’s legality will be tested on Tuesday in arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court, which has a 5-4 conservative majority.

The nine justices will consider whether Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, whose department includes the Census Bureau, violated a federal law called the Administrative Procedure Act and the U.S. Constitution’s mandate to enumerate the nation’s population every 10 years. A ruling is due by the end of June.

On Jan. 15, Manhattan-based U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman ruled against the administration and blocked the use of the question. Two other courts also have blocked the question since then.

The case comes before the court in a pair of lawsuits, one filed by a group of states and localities led by New York state, and the other by immigrant rights groups including Make the Road.

“We have seen a lot of anti-immigrant rhetoric and a lot of attacks on our communities, and this is just another one on a long list,” said Theo Oshiro, Make the Road’s deputy director, who is leading its efforts on the census.

Opponents have called the question a Republican effort to frighten immigrant households and Latinos from participating in the census, leading to a severe and deliberate undercount, diminishing the electoral representation of Democratic-leaning areas in Congress and costing them federal funds. This would benefit Trump’s fellow Republicans and Republican-leaning parts of the country, they said.

The Constitution mandates a census every 10 years. The official population count is used to allocate seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and distribute some $800 billion in federal funds.

The Trump administration said the citizenship question will yield better data to enforce the Voting Rights Act, which protects eligible voters from discrimination. While only U.S. citizens can vote, non-citizens comprise an estimated 7 percent of the population.

A number of key services that Make the Road provides, from adult English language classes to helping people find health insurance, could be put at risk, Oshiro said.

“The impact would be dire,” Oshiro added.

Furman found that Ross concealed his true motives for adding the question. The judge said the evidence showed that Ross and his aides convinced the Justice Department to request a citizenship question, and that he made the decision despite Census Bureau evidence that such a question would lead to lower census response rates and less accurate citizenship data.

The administration appealed the case directly to the Supreme Court, bypassing a federal appeals court, given the need to resolve the matter before census forms are printed in the coming months.

In a brief to the justices, U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco, who argues the administration’s position at the Supreme Court, called the plaintiffs’ claims “speculative fears that the government itself will act unlawfully by using answers to the citizenship question for law-enforcement purposes.”

Francisco called the citizenship question “wholly unremarkable” and disputed that it would lead to less accurate data.

Citizenship has not been asked of all households since the 1950 census but has featured since then on questionnaires sent to a smaller subset of the population.


On weekday afternoons, Make the Road is a beehive of activity, its clients a mix of citizens and non-citizens. The lobby is packed, with staff providing services such as child care, food assistance and legal advice.

The adult English learners are jammed into a small classroom. When asked about the census, most are hesitant to offer an opinion.

One 36-year-old woman, who works as a house cleaner and gave her name only as Nelly, said people are concerned about the confidentiality of the census and if their information could be used against them or family members. She said she would not fill out the census if the citizenship question were included.

“Census efforts have always been hard in immigrant communities, even without the citizenship question,” Oshiro said. “They are fearful in particular of sharing their information with immigration enforcement agencies, especially with what folks have seen and heard from this administration, the rhetoric around immigration and the ramping up of enforcement.”

Oshiro’s organization has mounted outreach efforts in subways and other places emphasizing the importance of the census to protecting federal funding and ensuring political power.

In the lawsuit spearheaded by New York state, the judge found a “veritable smorgasbord” of violations of the Administrative Procedure Act. The separate suit by the New York Immigration Coalition, Make the Road and other civil rights groups, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, also claimed that the administration was discriminating against non-white immigrants. The judge said there was no evidence of that.

The Trump administration “does not like a system where everybody is counted in America,” said ACLU attorney Dale Ho, even though that is “the bedrock of our constitutional system.”

A number of Republican state attorneys general, led by Mike Hunter of Oklahoma, backed Trump’s administration, saying more detailed citizenship data could reduce litigation over race-based voting rights claims, adding that immigrants’ fear of the question “is no reason to grind the census to a halt.”

For a graphic on the major Supreme Court cases this term: https://tmsnrt.rs/2V2T0Uf

(Reporting by Andrew Chung; Editing by Will Dunham)

Source: OANN

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