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Burundi Told To Cut Force In Somalia Under African Pullback

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African Leaders Meet For 'Last Push' On AU Reforms

The African Union has asked Burundi to reduce its contribution to an African peacekeeping force in Somalia by a thousand men under a progressive pullout from the country by the AU.

The AU made the request through a diplomatic document called a note verbale, requesting that the reduction be completed by February 28.

The AU has a 21 500-strong force, Amisom, to support Somalia’s fragile internationally-backed government and fight Shabaab jihadists blamed for scores of bloody attacks.

The force is to be gradually scaled back as Somalia’s embryonic armed forces are trained up and deployed to replace them.

The note verbale, seen by AFP Friday, summarises the conclusions of a November 30 meeting of Amisom’s military operations co-ordination committee in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.

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“It has been decided that the Burundi National Defence Force should reduce (its contingent by) 1 000 troops by February 28,” the document says, quoting a United Nations Security Council resolution seeking UN funds to help Amisom’s pullout.

Somalia has the second-largest contingent in Amisom with 5 400 troops, after Uganda, which has 6 200 men. Other contributors are Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya.

The note verbale takes place against a background of recent tension between Burundi and the AU.

The AU has called on Burundi – strongly criticised abroad for its record on human rights – to ease its hardline stance on dissent and talk with its exiled opposition.

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In return, Burundi has been staging anti-AU protests, targeting in particular the chairman of the organisation’s commission, Moussa Faki, whom it accuses of backing the opposition.

Participation in Amisom is a valuable source of hard currency, and the scaleback is likely to have a big impact on Burundi – every quarter, the AU pays it around $18 million.

The Amisom pullback was initially intended to be a gradual pro-rata reduction by each contingent to avoid financial shocks of these kind, the AU source said.

But as the Burundi troops are poorly equipped, it was then decided for operational reasons that the first phase of departures should be just the Burundi contingent, the source said.

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However, a senior Burundi government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the country viewed this decision with suspicion.

“We know that it’s a decision which was inspired by the EU in order to hurt Burundi, and unfortunately the AU had to accept it because it is a hostage of the Europeans, which are mainly financing (Amisom),” the official said.

The EU imposed a range of sanctions against Burundi in 2016, targeting individuals deemed to be undermining democracy, violating human rights and fomenting violence.

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MSF Raises Alarm Over Malnutrition In Southern Ethiopia

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MSF Raises Alarm Over Malnutrition In Southern Ethiopia

Medical charity, Doctors Without Borders, MSF has raised the alarm over malnutrition rates in Southern Ethiopia amongst tens of thousands of Internally Displaced People (IDPs).

MSF says, its teams saw rates of malnutrition amongst children to be well above the emergency threshold in one local government area, last month. They also saw a high number of malnourished pregnant women.

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MSF field coordinator in the area, Markus Boening said, the camps are overcrowded and in extremely poor conditions. Markus added that, the people living there are at risk from outbreaks of epidemics and their health is very vulnerable after being forced to move so many times.

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At least a million people were forced from their homes by ethnic clashes last year. Some have returned, but many still live in IDP camps. MSF is now working with local authorities focusing on improving nutrition.

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Egypt Parliament Votes To Extend Sisi Rule Until 2030

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Egypt Parliament Votes To Extend Sisi Rule Until 2030

Egypt’s capital Cairo is full of banners encouraging Egyptians to participate in a referendum after parliament approved amendments to the constitution that could keep President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi in power until 2030. The 596-member parliament, dominated by Sisi supporters, voted 531 to 22 in favor of the amendments, though they still have to be endorsed in a referendum before it takes effect.

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The changes would extend Sisi’s current term to six years from four and then allow him to run again for a third term, which would last six years.

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Sisi’s supporters say the changes are necessary to give him more time to complete major development projects and economic reforms.

Critics of the changes say, the amendments would encourage the role of the military in political life and increase the president’s power over the judiciary.

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Libya Death Toll Rises To 205 Amid Clashes In Tripoli says W.H.O

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Libya Death Toll Rises To 205 Amid Clashes In Tripoli says W.H.O

World Health Organization (WHO) has said on Thursday, at least, 205 persons have been killed in Libya, including 18 civilians, and more than 900 wounded in two weeks of fighting near the capital, Tripoli.

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It says, shells slammed, into a densely-populated district of the area on Tuesday, piling misery on civilians, from a two-week assault by commander Khalifa Haftar’s forces, to take Libya’s capital from an internationally-backed government.

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The UN refugee agency says it has now evacuated nearly 180 migrants from a detention centre close to the area of fighting. It says, people relocated from the Abu Salim centre were among its most vulnerable detainees – including women and children.  U.N said, there’s grave concern for those still in the facility.

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