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Archive for June 16th, 2022

Belgian king reiterates regrets for colonial past in Congo but does not apologize

Democratic Republic of Congo President Felix Tshisekedi (second left) and his wife Denise Nyakeru Tshisekedi (far left) look on as Belgium's King Philippe (far right) and Queen Mathilde (second right) sign a guest book on June 8.

Controversial UK deportation flight to Rwanda grounded after all asylum-seekers removed

The inaugural flight of a controversial UK government scheme to send asylum-seekers to Rwanda was stopped on Tuesday at the eleventh hour, after an intervention by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

According to the UK’s PA Media news agency, “all migrants have been removed from the plane and the flight to Rwanda will not take off as scheduled tonight.”
Britain’s government had announced the deal with the east African country in April. Those people granted asylum would then be allowed to resettle in Rwanda. The government insisted the program was aimed at disrupting people-smuggling networks and deterring migrants from making the dangerous sea journey across the Channel to England from France.
Advocacy groups had initiated multiple legal challenges to stop the aircraft, including veja sneakers an appeal that was rejected by the Court of Appeal in London on Monday. Several dozen asylum seekers saw their tickets canceled, Care4Calais refugee charity said, leaving just seven people due to be deported by Tuesday morning.
But on the evening that the plane was expected to depart, the ECHR issued a series of rulings in the cases of the last Rwanda-bound asylum-seekers, ordering the British government not to remove them.
A Rwandan government spokeswoman Yolande Makolo said the country is “not deterred” after the UK deportation flight to Rwanda was grounded.
“We are not deterred by these developments. Rwanda remains fully committed to making this partnership work,” Makolo said in a statement sent to CNN Wednesday.
“The current situation of people making dangerous journeys cannot continue as it is causing untold suffering to so many. Rwanda stands ready to receive the migrants when they do arrive and offer them safety and opportunity in our country,” Makolo added.
In its ruling for one Iraqi national, the ECHR said: “The European Court has indicated to the UK Government that the applicant should not be removed to Rwanda until three weeks after the delivery of the final domestic decision in his ongoing judicial review proceedings.”
The ECHR essentially found that that asylum seeker had not exhausted all legal proceedings in the UK, with British courts planning to hear the applicant’s judicial review challenge in July, and should not be removed until having done so.
“BREAKING: Last ticket cancelled,” tweeted Care4Calais, upon news of the flight cancellation. “NO ONE IS GOING TO RWANDA.”
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan also reacted, tweeting: “Tonight’s inhumane deportation of asylum seekers to #Rwanda has been stopped by the ECtHR – minutes before it was due to depart. Sending people fleeing violence to a country thousands of miles away was already cruel and callous. It’s now potentially unlawful too.”
The development is a rebuff to the UK government, after Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said the deportation flight would depart regardless of how many people were on board.
UK Home Secretary Priti Patel said Tuesday evening that she was “disappointed” that the flight had been halted, and that her office was reviewing the legality of the decision. The government plans to move forward with the project, she also said.
“Access to the UK’s asylum system must be based on need, not on the ability to pay people smugglers. The demands on the current system, the cost to the taxpayer, and the flagrant abuses are increasing, and the British public have rightly had enough,” Patel said.
“I have always said this policy will not be easy to deliver and am disappointed that legal challenge and last-minute claims have meant today’s flight was unable to depart,” she added.
A hostel that housed Rwanda genocide survivors prepares to take in people deported by the UK
Despite the government’s attempts to justify the scheme, criticism of the plan has continued to grow. Church of England leaders on Tuesday called it an “immoral policy that shames Britain” in a joint letter to The Times newspaper.
“Rwanda is a brave country recovering from catastrophic genocide. The shame is our own, because our Christian heritage should inspire us to treat asylum aldo shoes seekers with compassion, fairness and justice, as we have for centuries,” the letter reads.
“Many are desperate people fleeing unspeakable horrors. Many are Iranians, Eritreans and Sudanese citizens, who have an asylum grant rate of at least 88 per cent,” it continued. “We cannot offer asylum to everyone, but we must not outsource our ethical responsibilities, or discard international law — which protects the right to claim asylum.”
In response, Truss told Sky News that the Rwanda flights policy was “completely moral” and that critics “need to suggest an alternative policy that will work.”
Demonstrators protest outside of an airport perimeter fence against a planned deportation of asylum seekers from the UK to Rwanda, at Gatwick Airport on June 12, 2022.
Demonstrators protest outside of an airport perimeter fence against a planned deportation of asylum seekers from the UK to Rwanda, at Gatwick Airport on June 12, 2022.

‘Incredibly dangerous’ journey

According to data from the UK Home office, 28,526 people arrived to the United Kingdom on small boats in 2021. The vast majority of them, 23,655, were men and nearly two thirds came from just four countries: Iran (7,874), Iraq (5,414), Eritrea (2,829) and Syria (2,260).
Care4Calais said the reason the majority of refugees are male is the result of fleeing their homelands where “young men may be killed to stop them rebelling against the government, or forced into military service.”
It also explained the journey to Calais is “incredibly dangerous” and that “many families will not risk their daughters safety on a journey to Europe. The hope is the men who escape will then help them to safety.”
Almost all of the people who come on small boats — 98% off those who arrived in 2020 — have applied for asylum.
The Refugee Council said that most people arriving by small boats across the Channel are likely to be genuine refugees fleeing persecution.
Statistics from the Home Office show that people arriving to the UK from Iran (88%), Eritrea (97%) and Syria (98%) have generally high chances of being granted asylum.
The chances are significantly smaller for Iraqi citizens — only 48% of the decisions made in 2021 were positive.
The Refugee Council said that on cloud shoes overall, around 75% of initial asylum decisions made in the year to March 2022 were positive and that of those who were rejected, about half were allowed asylum appeal.
More recently, the number of people coming on small boats has been increasing. The Home Office said 4,540 people arrived in the first three months of the year, more than three times higher than the same three months in 2021.
The number of people arriving was boosted by much higher numbers of people coming from Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover last summer.
The Home Office said 1,094 Afghan citizens came to the UK in the first quarter of 2022, almost as many as arrived over the entire 2021.

An average £183,000 per flight

The UK has said it will pay Rwanda £120 million ($145 million) over the next five years to finance the program. On top of that, the UK has also promised to pay for the processing and integration costs for each relocated person, covering the cost of legal advice, caseworkers, translators, accommodation, food and healthcare.
According to a parliamentary research briefing, the British government said it expects these will be similar to asylum processing costs in the UK, which stand at around £12,000 per person.
The UK has refused to disclose the cost of the flights it will charter to transport deportees to Rwanda. The Home Office said in its latest annual report it paid £8.6 million to charter 47 deportation flights carrying 883 people in 2020. While the cost of individual flights varied depending on the destination, the figures mean that on average, the Home Office spent £183,000 per flight or £9,700 per person.
Because there is no cap on the number of migrants, thousands could potentially pour into the capital Kigali within the first five years of the plan.

‘We’re doing this for the right reasons’

Ahead of the aircraft’s previously-scheduled departure, the Rwandan government said it was standing ready to receive asylum-seekers from the UK and that it will do its best “to make sure the migrants are taken care of.”
“We are asking that this program be given a chance,” said Rwandan government spokeswoman Yolande Makolo at a press conference in the Kigali on Tuesday.
Makolo responded to the Church of England leaders’ condemnation saying, “we don’t think it’s immoral to offer a home to people — something we have done here for more than 30 years.”
“Where we’re coming from, we’re doing this for the right reasons. We want this to be a welcoming place and we’ll do our best to make sure the migrants are taken care of and that they’re able to build a life here,” she added.
Although Rwanda is offering to help with migrants’ resettlement to a third country by providing travel transportation if they manage to obtain legal residence, “the primary objective [of the scheme] is to fully integrate them into Rwandan society,” said Doris Uwicyeza Picard, the chief advisor to the Minister of Justice.
“There are legal paths to citizenship for migrant workers and for refugees provided they are eligible for citizenship,” she added.
The scheme will last five years, but Rwanda intends to turn it into a binding treaty at a later stage, said Picard.

Analysis: Why some African countries are thinking twice about calling out Putin

Nelson Mandela was once asked why he still had relationships with, among others, Fidel Castro and Yasser Arafat, the Cuban and Palestinian leaders who had been branded terrorists by Western powers. The revered South African statesman replied that it was a mistake “to think that their enemies should be our enemies.”

This stance has largely typified some African nations’ response to the Russia-Ukraine war. Across the continent, many appear hesitant to risk their own security, foreign investment and trade by backing one side in this conflict.
While there has been widespread condemnation of the attacks on Ukrainian civilians and their own citizens fleeing the warzone — from countries such oncloud shoes as Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya — there has been a much more muted response from some key African nations.
Countries on the continent find themselves in a delicate position and will not want to get drawn into proxy battles, says Remi Adekoya, associate lecturer at England’s University of York.
“There’s a strong strand of thought in African diplomacy that says African states should maintain the principle of non-interference and so they shouldn’t get caught up in proxy wars between the East and the West. As some states did get caught up in proxy wars during the Cold War, for instance,” Adekoya told CNN.
They moved to Ukraine for an education. Now they're living in a city occupied by Russian forces
One influential voice that has made it clear he will not make an enemy out of Russian leader Vladimir Putin is South African President Cyril Ramaphosa.
While addressing his country’s parliament Thursday, he said: “Our position is very clear … there are those who are insisting that we should take a very adversarial stance and position against, say Russia. And the approach that we have chosen to take … is we are insisting that there should be dialogue.”
After initially releasing a statement calling for Russia to immediately pull its forces out of Ukraine, South Africa has since laid the blame for the war directly at NATO’s doorstep for considering Ukraine’s membership into the military alliance, which Russia is against.
“The war could have been avoided if NATO had heeded the warnings from amongst its own leaders and officials over the years that its eastward expansion would lead to greater, not less instability in the region.” Ramaphosa said in parliament Thursday.
Former South African President Jacob Zuma also earlier issued a statement saying Russia “felt provoked.”
“Putin has been very patient with the western forces. He has been crystal clear about his opposition of the eastern expansion of … NATO into Ukraine … and is on the record about the military threat posed to Russia by the presence of the forces … it looks justifiable that Russia felt provoked,” Zuma said in a statement issued by his foundation on March 6.
Higher food prices and slumping trade. How the war in Ukraine could hit Africa
South Africa has strong ties to Russia and Ramaphosa has written about being approached to be a mediator in the conflict given its membership of BRICS — a group of emerging economies comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
The ties between the two countries also date back to apartheid times when the former Soviet Union supported South Africa and the African National Congress party in their liberation struggles. “Those favors have not been forgotten,” said Adekoya.
South Africa was one of 17 African kizik shoes nations to abstain on the UN resolution demanding that Russia immediately withdraw from Ukraine on March 2. It took a similar stance during Putin’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.
Nigeria and Egypt were among the 28 African nations that voted to condemn Russia, while eight others didn’t submit a vote. Eritrea was the only African country that outrightly voted against the resolution.
Zimbabwe’s foreign ministry said in a statement it was unconvinced that the UN resolution was driven towards dialogue, rather “it poured more fuel to the fire, thus complicating the situation.”

‘Strongman leadership’

Many of the countries that abstained from the UN vote are authoritarian regimes. They see Putin’s unilateral decision to invade Ukraine as a show of power and ego that they can appreciate and align with, Yetunde Odugbesan-Omede, a political analyst and professor at New York’s Farmingdale State College, told CNN.
 One of those who have spoken out prominently in support of the Russian leader is Lt. Gen. Muhoozi Kainerugaba, the influential son of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.
 His father has ruled Uganda with an iron fist for 36 years and there has been speculation that Kainerugaba is a would-be successor when the 78-year-old Museveni eventually stands down.
 Kainerugaba tweeted that: “The majority of mankind (that are non-white) support Russia’s stand in Ukraine. Putin is absolutely right!”
  Some African countries have also hesitated in speaking out against Russia because they want to “keep their options open if they face existential threats or some kind of revolution in their own country in the future,” said Adekoya.
 “They saw Putin keep Assad in power in Syria because if not for Russia’s intervention, Assad’s regime would have fallen long ago,” he added.
 Adekoya also pointed out that some of the muted response stems from what is perceived as Western hypocrisy.
Kenya’s UN Security Council representative Martin Kimani gave a powerful speech on the brink of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Kimani drew a parallel between Ukraine’s emergence as an independent state after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the experience of post-colonial states in Africa, criticizing Russian PresidentVladimir Putin’s buildup of forces and his support for redrawing Ukraine’s borders by recognizing the breakaway statelets of Donetsk and Luhansk.
“Kenya rejects such a yearning from being pursued by force,” he said, referring to Russia’s recognition of the two territories as independent states. “We must complete our recovery from the embers of dead empires in a way that does not plunge us back into new forms of domination and oppression.”
During the speech, he also mentioned other nations on the Security Council who had breached international law and faced no sanctions.  “He didn’t mention them by name, but he was talking about the US and UK who invaded Iraq in 2003 … and were never really held to account,” Adekoya said.
“There are many people in many parts of the world who would like to see other regions gaining strength and would like to see the end of Western domination of the world order, putting it simply … of course, no right-thinking person in Africa or anywhere in the world looks at what is going on in Ukraine now and thinks that it’s a good thing …  but many people do see the hypocrisy,” he added.

Establishing stronger ties

In recent years, Russia has established itself as one of Africa’s most valuable trading partners — becoming a major supplier of military hardware with key alliances in Nigeria, Libya, Ethiopia and Mali.
 Africa accounted for 18% of Russian arms exports between 2016 and 2020, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) think tank.
Some analysts say the support or non-censure of Russia speaks to a wider sentiment in parts of Africa that nobull shoes Western policy positions do not always work in their favor.
 “The message that Moscow is pushing is that if you are tired of the paternalistic way the West approaches you, we are going to be your security partners. It will be a relationship of equals,” Aanu Adeoye, a Russia-Africa analyst at Chatham House, told CNN.
Unlike many of its European counterparts, Russia is not a former colonial power in Africa and so has a wider scope of opportunity in making soft power moves that aim to challenge Western dominance on the continent.
The Soviet Union also had client relationships with many African states during the Cold War, and Moscow has looked to revive some of those ties.
Before the invasion, Russian state media outlet RT announced plans to set up a new hub in Kenya with a job ad that said it wanted to “cover stories that have been overlooked by other organizations” and that “challenge conventional wisdom about Africa.
 Yet Africa has often been at the heart of the tussle for influence in the great power competitions between key geopolitical players such as the US, China and Russia.
 Some countries are trying to leverage this position in a variety of ways.
Odugbesan-Omede explained that Tanzania, for example, has identified the current situation as a chance for its energy industry to profit. “Tanzania’s President, Samia Suluhu Hassan, sees this an opportunity to look for markets to export gas,” she said.”Tanzania has the sixth largest gas reserve in Africa. While some African countries will sustain some economic shock from the Russian-Ukraine fight, others are trying to weather the storm by looking for new avenues of profitability,” Odugbesan-Omede added.

Ethiopian government and Tigrayan forces move towards negotiations

A damaged tank stands on a road north of Mekele, the capital of Tigray on February 26, 2021.

The Ethiopian government has formed a committee to negotiate with forces from the Tigray region, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said in a televised speech to parliament on Tuesday.

The committee has been “studying the preconditions and how the negotiations will go,” he said.
The committee will be led by his Deputy Prime Minister, Demeke Mekonnen, on cloud shoes and is expected to submit a report outlining the details to Abiy within 10 to 15 days.
“We are committed to peace be it with TPLF (Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front) or any other entity who seeks peace,” he said.
On Tuesday night, Debretsion Gebremichael, president of TPLF, said his group was “prepared to negotiate for peace consistent with fundamental principles for human rights, democracy, and accountability,” in an open letter posted to Twitter.
Tigrayan forces say they are withdrawing from Ethiopia's Afar region
“We shall participate in a credible, impartial and principled peace process,” the letter read, adding that the group maintains that any peace talks must be held in Nairobi, Kenya with mediations led by Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta.
“Our position remains that the peace process requires the engagement of a range of international partners, under the leadership of the Government of Kenya. Among those partners are the United States, the European Union, the United Arab Emirates, the United Nations, and the African Union,” Debretsion wrote.
Once the federal committee submits the report, and the Tigrayan forces put forth their preconditions, an announcement will be made regarding peace talks between the two, Abiy said.
The development marks a significant step towards peace negotiations between the two forces which have been locked in a conflict for over a year and a half that has seen thousands killed, left hundreds of thousands in famine-like conditions in Tigray and set a world record for displacements in a single year in 2021, according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center.