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Burundi will not cooperate with ICC over war crimes probe – govt

Burundi said on Friday it will refuse to cooperate with an International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation into war crimes suspected to have been committed by forces loyal to President Pierre Nkurunziza’s government against their political opponents.

The court ordered a formal investigation on Thursday into crimes committed between April 2015 to October 2017.

But experts say it will be hard for ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to gather evidence without support from Burundi’s government, which last month became the first to withdraw from the Hague-based court amid waning support from African nations.

An earlier ICC case in Kenya fell apart due to opposition from the government of President Uhuru Kenyatta. Like Burundi, Kenya and South Africa have threatened to withdraw from the court, arguing that it disproportionately targets Africans.

“The government rejects that decision (to investigate) and reiterates its firm determination that it will not cooperate,” said Burundi’s Justice Minister Aimee Laurentine Kanyana.

Unrest has gripped Burundi since Nkurunziza said in April 2015 he would seek a third term in office, triggering protests and a crackdown by security forces.

He won re-election that July but opponents boycotted the vote, saying his decision to stand violated the constitution and the terms of a peace agreement that had ended a war in the central African country.

The ICC says that under international law it still has jurisdiction over crimes committed while Burundi was a member.

Judges said Bensouda should investigate whether crimes against humanity were committed including murder, torture, rape and persecution.

Government forces are suspected to have killed more than 1,000 people and displaced 400,000 during the crackdown. Human rights groups say the number killed could be far higher.

Human rights groups and opposition politicians in Burundi welcomed the court’s decision.

Charles Nditije, the exiled head of Burundi’s opposition platform CNARED, called the move “a victory for justice …. for those who want the return of peace and rule of law to Burundi.”

Armel Niyongere, a Burundian lawyer representing families of the victims, said he would assist Bensouda’s investigation.


Legal experts said Bensouda may be unable to bring any suspects to the Hague as long as Nkurunziza remains in power.

“I suspect that it will be very challenging for the ICC to access … evidence in Burundi” said Berlin-based international criminal justice lawyer Angela Mudukuti.

Bensouda’s decision was courageous and she will likely seek to use evidence obtained by interviewing refugees who have fled to neighbouring Tanzania and Rwanda, said Karine Bonneau, a senior official at the Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights.

“She had very little choice but to open an investigation given the gravity of the crimes,” she said. Others said the prosecution was largely symbolic.

Bensouda’s job is in part to deter future crimes, said Thijs Bouwknegt, an Africa expert at the Netherlands’ Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies.

“If she acts like some super human rights watchdog and names and shames people I think this may be effective,” he said.


Lawmaker, militiamen on trial in DR Congo for child rape

Eighteen people, including a provincial lawmaker, went on trial in eastern Congo on Thursday for the rapes of dozens of children, victims’ rights activists said.

At least 46 children, some as young as 18 months, were raped near the village of Kavumu between 2013 and 2016, sparking an international outcry and criticism of Democratic Republic of Congo’s government for its slow response.

In June last year, authorities arrested Frederic Batumike, a deputy from South Kivu province, and members of a militia he is alleged to have led.

Rights groups hope the trial, which is expected to last several weeks, will strike a blow against impunity in Congo, where they say government forces and militia groups in the lawless eastern borderland have long used rape as a weapon of war.

The trial opened in a military court in Kavumu on Thursday with the defendants facing charges of rape, murder and organisation of an armed group, Jean Chrysostome Kijana, an activist representing the victims, told Reuters.

Proceedings began 10 hours late and lasted just 20 minutes, during which the defendants’ names were read aloud.

“The start of the trial is a strong signal in the fight against impunity,” said Kijana. However, he added that the delay to proceedings did raise fears that the trial could end up just being “yet another in a long list of botched trials”.

Millions died in eastern Congo in regional wars between 1996 and 2003, most from hunger and disease. Dozens of armed groups continue to prey on local populations and exploit the area’s rich natural resources.

Experts say Congo has made some progress in combating sexual violence and several high-level militia and army commanders have been successfully prosecuted in recent years, but the problem remains pervasive.

According to the government, Batumike’s militia employed a spiritual adviser who told its fighters that raping very young children would confer supernatural protection.

Advocacy groups involved in the case say it has been particularly difficult to investigate because the victims are so young and their families were often asleep when the alleged rapes occurred.


Dlamini Zuma reiterates black empowerment over white minority capital

South African politician Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said on Thursday it was fine if the country’s white business community declined to endorse her bid to succeed President Jacob Zuma as leader of the African National Congress (ANC).

Her priority was to transfer wealth from the white minority to the black majority, who are generally much poorer. Those who opposed the policy were mainly white people or members of the black elite who want to preserve the status quo, she said.

“If we have to choose between our people having a better life and investment, that’s not a choice,” she said, when asked about whether her policies could scare away businesses.

“I‘m not afraid. I‘m not afraid of them. But I‘m not surprised white minority capital is not endorsing me,” she said on ANN7 television in a rare interview.

ANC delegates will vote for a new party president next month, with Dlamini-Zuma expected to face Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, a unionist-turned-millionaire businessman who is more popular with foreign investors.

“From where I sit, it’s looking good. The campaign is going well,” said Dlamini-Zuma, who was married to the president.

The winner of the party vote will be favourite to become the next president of South Africa, either at an election in 2019, or before if Zuma stands down or is forced out by the new ANC leadership next year.

Apartheid in South Africa ended in 1994 but much of the country’s wealth resides with the white minority. Successive ANC governments have said they want to empower the majority, though many black people have seen only modest economic gains.

Dlamini-Zuma, who has held several cabinet posts and was most recently chair of the African Union, has pledged to tackle poverty and close the gaping racial inequality gap.

Some investors are concerned about Dlamini-Zuma’s proposed plan of “radical economic transformation”, which critics have said is a populist term that isn’t backed up by solid policies.


Kenyan cook reminisces about working for Uganda’s most brutal leader

Shopping for groceries at a market in Kisumu, western Kenya brings back memories for Odera Otonde from the days when he whipped up meals at State House Uganda.

He likes to think his dishes may have influenced political decisions that later shaped Africa’s history.
The son of a farmer in rural Asembo, a town on the shores of Lake Victoria, Otonde came from a humble background and never went to school.

“Obote was diplomatic but Amin seemed to push things, so Amin was a person who appeared to be generous but whenever someone told him something he would react immediately. If you told him so and so want to kill you he would say go and kill him so he can die first,“Otonde said.

While in Uganda, Otonde first worked as a waiter and later on as a cook, learning a variety of culinary skills.

And then ended up at State House Uganda, when his friend recommended him for president Milton Obote.
At the time, Idi Amin who would later overthrow Obote, served in the army and visited often.

Amin was known to be a complex character lurching between being warm and fun-loving to being a sadistic monster.
The autocratic ruler was rumoured to keep severed heads of rivals in his refrigerator and once placed some on his dining table to warn guests that he was not to be crossed.

But Otonde said he never saw body parts in the kitchen while he worked for Amin.

“President Nyerere, Kenyatta, would dine there, Habyarimana would dine there. Kaunda, Mobutu Sese Seko dined there. There others too, I can’t remember their names but those are the ones I saw often,” he added.

Otonde worked for Amin until 1986 when President Yoweri Museveni sent him on compulsory leave. He says he never received his terminal pay.

In 2014 he appealed to the Kenyan government to help him get his benefits but he is still waiting.

Even at then he said he regretted nothing. Preparing meals for various African leaders who dined at presidential lunches and dinners are memories worth having.

When he went back home to Kenya Otonde found a job as a driver at a local church. He retired in Asembo where he lives with his family.

Trump lauds China during visit, UK minister resigns over secret Israel trip [International Edition]

A notable shift in tone from US President Donald Trump. Trump has lavished praise on China for the very trade practices he once flogged as unfair.

During his presidential campaign, Trump repeatedly criticised China, accusing it of “raping” the US economy and being the country’s “enemy”.

Meanwhile, in Europe the Catalonia crisis continues to deepen. Pro-independence protesters obstructed major highways, roads and railway lines in Spain’s Catalonia region in protest over the detention of expelled Catalan government officials and secessionist activists.

These are some of the stories we have in store in the International Edition, a programme that highlights stories packaged by the Editorial team of Euronews presented by Elayne Wangalwa

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