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Omar al Bashir: Uganda may offer ousted Sudan leader refuge despite ICC warrant

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Uganda will consider an offer of asylum for ousted Sudan leader Omar al Bashir despite an indictment for his arrest by the International Criminal Court.

Bashir is wanted by the court in The Hague for crimes against humanity, murder, extermination, torture and rape, among other crimes, in the Darfur region in the 2000s.

He was removed by the military on 11 April after sustained protests by large crowds of people in the capital Khartoum.

He is thought to be in prison after being moved from a presidential residence where he was under armed guard.

Okello Oryem, Uganda’s foreign minister, said: “Uganda would not be apologetic at all for considering an application by Bashir.”

Claims were made at the time of the Darfur Crisis of villages being burned to the ground

Claims were made at the time of the Darfur crisis of villages being burned to the ground

Officials confirmed Bashir had been moved from a “safe place” to Kopar Prison on Wednesday morning, fulfilling one of the protesters’ demands.

His fall followed months of street protests against his 30-year rule, which opponents say was riddled with mismanagement and brutality.

The protests have continued as their leaders say the ruling Transitional Military Council (TMC) must hand power to a civilian-led authority ahead of elections.

An estimated 300,000 people died during a military campaign to end an insurgency in Sudan’s western Darfur region over a decade ago.

A refugee camp in Chad housing thousands who fled from Darfur in 2004

A refugee camp in Chad housing thousands who fled from Darfur in 2004

The ICC says in its indictment: “A core component of that campaign was the unlawful attack on part of the civilian population of Darfur.

“During the campaign, (Government of Sudan) forces allegedly committed crimes against humanity, war crimes, and crimes of genocide… carried out numerous unlawful attacks, followed by systematic acts of pillage, on towns and villages… subjected thousands of civilians… to acts of murder, as well as to acts of extermination… subjected thousands of civilian women… to acts of rape… and encouraged members of other tribes… to resettle in the villages and lands previously… inhabited.

“Omar Al Bashir… played an essential role in coordinating the design and implementation of the… plan; and used such control to secure the implementation of the… counter-insurgency campaign.”

There were widespread reports of children dying and suffering from malnutrition as the refugee crisis took hold

There were widespread reports of children dying and suffering from malnutrition as the refugee crisis took hold

The Darfur conflict resulted in a refugee crisis that affected several countries in the surrounding region as more than a million people fled their homes.

Mr Oryem said Bashir had yet to contact Kampala to seek asylum, but added he thought that there was no harm in considering such a claim if one was to come in.

The ICC is yet to comment.

ICC member states, including Uganda, are required to hand over anyone who enters their territory who is under indictment.

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Iran warned of ‘serious consequences’ over seizure of UK oil tankers

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Jeremy Hunt has warned Iran will face “serious consequences” if it does not release a British-flagged tanker which was taken in the Strait of Hormuz.

The foreign secretary attended a meeting of the government’s emergency committee Cobra on Friday night amid the escalation of tensions in the region.

Following the talks, a government spokesperson said Iran’s actions were “unacceptable” and added that UK ships had been warned to avoid the area.

The Stena Impero has been seized in the Strait of Hormuz

The Stena Impero has been seized in the Strait of Hormuz
“We remain in close contact with our international partners and there will be further meetings over the weekend,” they said.

The owners of the Stena Impero confirmed the vessel was approached by unidentified small crafts and a helicopter as it passed through the Strait of Hormuz on Friday at around 4pm UK time.

The Iranian Revolutionary Guard told state TV last night they had seized the ship for “violating international maritime rules”.

This morning, an Iranian official told Fars News that the tanker had been involved in an accident with a fishing boat and had “ignored” the boat’s distress call.

The tanker is reported to be at Iran’s Bandar Abbas port, with all 23 crew members on board.

A second oil tanker, the Liberia-flagged Mesdar, was also boarded by armed Iranian guards before being allowed to continue its voyage, its Glasgow-based owner Norbulk said.

Mr Hunt said Iran’s actions were “completely unacceptable”, but stressed he wanted a diplomatic solution to the incident.

The Iranian Revolutionary Guard told state TV it seized the Stena Impero. File pic: Stena Bulk

The Iranian Revolutionary Guard told state TV it seized the vessel. File pic: Stena Bulk

He said: “We’re not looking at military options, we are a looking at diplomatic way to resolve the situation.

“But we are very clear that it must be resolved.”

Mr Hunt said he understood there were no British citizens on board either ship.



Jeremy Hunt
Jeremy Hunt has warned Iran it will face ‘serious consequences’

A statement from the owner of the Stena Impero said it was “in international waters” when it lost contact.

The company, Stena Bulk, added: “We are presently unable to contact the vessel which is now heading north towards Iran.

“There are 23 seafarers aboard. There have been no reported injuries and their safety is of primary concern to both owners and managers.

“The priority of both vessel owner Stena Bulk and ship manager Northern Marine Management is the safety and welfare of the crew.”

The tanker's owner said the vessel was in international waters

The tanker’s owner said the vessel was in international waters

Iran’s semi-official Tasnim news agency said Iran’s Revolutionary Guards had not captured the Mesdar.

“Despite reports, the ship has not been seized… and was allowed to continue its course after being warned about safety issues by Iranian forces,” the report said.

A spokesman for Norbulk Shipping UK confirmed the crew of the Mesdar were “safe and well” and the vessel has been “allowed” to continue its voyage.

It comes after the Iranian tanker, Grace 1, was seized on 4 July off the coast of Gibraltar for trying to take oil to Syria in violation of European Union sanctions.

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called the tanker’s seizure an act of “piracy” and warned the UK to expect a response.

Just days later a Royal Navy warship deterred Iranian patrol boats attempting to impede a British tanker sailing through the Strait of Hormuz, leading the government to deploy a second vessel to the region.

US President Donald Trump has announced he will discuss the situation with the British government.

The ship was boarded by Royal Marines and Gibraltarian authorities

The Grace 1 was boarded by Royal Marines and Gibraltarian authorities on 4 July

“We will talk to the UK and we have no written agreement but we have an agreement. They’ve been a very great ally of ours.

“They will have a new prime minister soon, which is a good thing, and we will be working with the UK – but we have no written agreement, but I think we have an agreement which is longstanding.”

But Mr Trump was criticised by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who said America’s decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal had fuelled tensions in the Gulf.

“A negotiated reinstatement of the nuclear deal through the UN is essential to wind down tensions and defuse the threat of war in the Gulf,” he said.

The US says it has authorised the bolstering of forces in Saudi Arabia in response to heightened tensions with Iran.

The Pentagon said it would be sending forces including fighter aircraft, air defence missiles and likely more than 500 troops to a Saudi airbase.

Lord West, former head of the Royal Navy, told Sky News the UK should not “pretend we’re surprised” by the Stena Impero incident.

“What I find extraordinary is that we knew that the Iranians would try something like this a few days ago.

“I’m absolutely amazed that we haven’t implemented some sort of control of red ensign shipping within the region whereby no tanker would go in to what is clearly a dangerous zone without an escort, and I find it bizarre that we seem to have ships doing exactly that.”

Iran Tensions – Timeline Of Key Events

12 May: Four tankers from the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Norway hit off the Emirati coast.

13 June: Two oil tankers hit by explosions which the US claim were caused by Iranian limpet mines.

20 June: Iranian military shoots down a US surveillance drone.

21 June: Donald Trump calls off a planned airstrike on Iran in retaliation for shooting down the drone.

4 July: Iranian tanker, Grace 1, seized off the coast of Gibraltar for trying to take oil to Syria in violation of European Union sanctions.

11 July: Three Iranian boats try to stop a British oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz before they were warned off by HMS Montrose.

18 July: US warship destroys an Iranian drone in the Strait of Hormuz after it ignored warnings to back off.

19 July: Iran seizes two oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz – one the British-flagged Stena Impero.

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Government Plans To Issue Birth Certificates For Cattle

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Plans have reached an advanced stage for the issuance of “birth certificates” for the animals as well as registration of all farmers and their cattle by the Ugandan government.

Ugandan Minister of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, Vincent Ssempijja, said the move became necessary to enable government trace where the products are coming from.

Ssempijja explained that the international market demanded that all countries producing food for the European market needed to provide proof so that the food could be traced.

“They want to know where the meat and crop products are coming from.

“They have been impounding and banning all consignments from Uganda if they find one box with issues.

“Farmers will be registered and their products given barcodes so that if they find a problem with one box, they look for the source and sort out the problem.

“We cannot enter lucrative markets unless farmers register,” he said at the official opening of the National Agricultural Show in Jinja, southern Uganda.

Ssempijja added that all the cattle must be registered and given “birth certificates”.

“For cattle farmers, it is going to be worse. You will be registered as a farmer, the cow will be registered, numbered and will have a birth certificate because the importers of our products demand meat for cows aged between 15 to 24 months.

“So we are going to sell the meat depending on their age,” he added.

An audit team from the European Union is expected to arrive in Uganda in September to that effect, the News Agency of Nigeria reports.

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Ebola forcing Congolese to change the way they bury the dead

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In Beni, they have changed the way they bury the dead.

There is little ceremony now and there are no public prayers. Instead, traditional rituals have been replaced by an elaborate process designed to halt the spread of infection.

This morning, at the city morgue, there was a little coffin sitting in front of the main door. It was wrapped in decorative plastic and it had been built for a baby or a small child.

Family members are not allowed to get close to the bodies of those they have lost to Ebola

Family members are not allowed to get close to the bodies of those they have lost to Ebola

There was a baby inside who had died during child birth just a few hours earlier. The little girl was suspected of contracting Ebola and the mother was gravely ill.

However, I could see the child’s grandmother looking on from the side. After a few minutes a man in a protective suit told her she could take a look at the body.

She approached slowly as the burial team sprayed the path with disinfectant and she quickly glanced at the child. But she was not allowed to linger and she could not touch the body as Congolese tradition dictates.

An official from the Red Cross told me why.

More from Democratic Republic Of Congo

“We are careful because every dead body [in Beni] is suspected of Ebola,” said Cleophas Vyavuwa.

“The virus is so dangerous that if we touched it without protection we risk losing our lives.”

Burial teams take no risks when it comes to dealing with bodies of those who have died from Ebola

Burial teams take no risks when it comes to dealing with bodies of those who have died from Ebola

The coffin was loaded onto the back of a pick-up truck, then driven through town.

I could see the locals keeping their distance. People on motorcycles passed on the far side of the road as if they risked contamination if they came too close.

Clearly, most residents are afraid and there are some who simply don’t want to know – itself a product of fear.

It is a major reason why the World Health Organisation has re-classified this outbreak as a global emergency with some 1,700 losing their lives.

An ad-hoc burial site for Ebola victims has been set up in a forest

An ad-hoc burial site for Ebola victims has been set up in a forest

The pickup stopped at an ad-hoc burial ground that has been carved from the forest outside Beni. Men with heavy-duty gloves weaved around the freshly dug graves as they carried the coffin to its designated spot.

The relatives of the dead, like Muhindo Mathe, the child’s grandfather, were told to keep their distance and that is extremely difficult for some. Family members are supposed to organise the funeral – it is they who decide where their loved ones are laid to rest.

Mr Mathe said: “We are losing our family members and you know, in our culture, people would come and see you and give messages of compassion but that isn’t possible today.”

The family of the little girl, who was named Masika Mathe, have followed the rules – they have the permitted members of the Red Cross to bury the child.

The grave of young girl Masika Mathe, who is feared to have contracted Ebola

Image:
The grave of young girl Masika Mathe, who is feared to have contracted Ebola

But there are many Congolese who have not and it has fuelled the spread of Ebola.

Susana Rico, who works for the World Food Programme, is one of the most experienced coordinators on the ground and told me that this is a crucial argument that has to be won if they are going to rid this region of Ebola.

She said: “Just allowing someone else to handle that body is a leap culturally, but that has to be overcome – even if it is an enormous change.

“Where we have seen the community taking charge, it begins to change. It is happening in some communities.”

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