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Lebanon’s president keen to deepen ties with France



President Michel Aoun of Lebanon, on Tuesday said his country and France were very keen to enhance bilateral ties on all levels, Lebanon Presidency’s website reported.

Aoun said during his meeting at Baabda Palace with President of the French Economic, Social and Environmental Council, Patrick Bernasconi, that President Emmanuel Macron had emphasised, on many occasions, his keenness to boost ties with Lebanon.

He also commended the agreement signed between the two countries economic councils earlier, which would lead to a great exchange of expertise.

Meanwhile, Bernasconi emphasised the important role played by the French council in the environment sector and in other fields in France while inviting Aoun to visit the French council and deliver a speech.

Bernasconi had earlier met with Lebanese officials and signed a cooperation agreement with the Lebanese Economic, Social and Environmental Council for further cooperation on various levels in the future.


Edited by Yahaya Isah/Abdulfatah Babatunde


Kenya arrests gold-loving Nairobi governor on suspicion of corruption



Kenyan police arrested the Nairobi County governor, known for his chunky gold jewelry and impromptu raps on Friday on corruption charges, a high profile move in the government’s much-trumpeted anti-graft push.

Chief Public Prosecutor Noordin Haji said this at a news conference in Nairobi.

Haji said the Gov. Mike Sonko and his associates were accused of conspiracy to commit corruption, failure to comply with laws related to procurement, unlawful acquisition of public property and laundering the proceeds of crime.

Sonko and his assistants did not respond to calls seeking comment.

Citizens and international investors have long complained of corruption in Kenya, East Africa’s business hub and richest economy.

President Uhuru Kenyatta appointed Haji, a former deputy head of national intelligence, in 2018 after years of taking little action to rein in the widespread graft.

On Friday, Haji accused Sonko, who runs the Kenyan capital as Nairobi’s most senior regional politician, of “deploying intimidation tactics and using goons to threaten law enforcement officials” investigating the case.

Police used teargas to disperse hundreds of Sonko’s supporters when he was called into the anti-corruption office for questioning in November.

Sonko, a former senator, was elected in 2017 after years of news splashes featuring his flamboyant lifestyle and flashy fashion, complete with ubiquitous chunky gold jewelry and eye-catching hairstyles.

After Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto faced charges of crimes against humanity following the disputed 2007 elections and subsequent violence, Sonko showed up to the proceedings at the Hague-based International Criminal Court with “Uhuruto Not Guilty” dyed into his hair.

He was recently photographed using a goldplated iPad and matching iPhone and has appeared in rap videos gyrating in public offices wearing gold-colored trainers while insulting political opponents.

He invited a storm of public criticism this month after he shared photos online of his dining room, featuring a gold-plated lion statue, and a gold-tinted dining table and chairs.

He has recruited hundreds of people into his “Sonko Rescue Team” who sweep out streets or appear at fires wearing “Sonko” branded red boiler suits in Nairobi’s poorest neighborhoods.

On Thursday, Sonko received an award sponsored by the Kenya Red Cross and UN Volunteers for encouraging volunteering.

Sonko has been photographed handing out cash for things like hospital bills but Nairobi has seen little improvement in public services under his watch.

Nairobi’s public schools and clinics are crumbling, roads are potholed and hundreds of thousands of people live in slums without access to electricity, sewage or services.

Edited & Vetted By: Fatima Sule/Emmanuel Yashim

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Several feared trapped as six-storey building collapses in Kenya



Several people were injured and an unknown number are feared trapped after a six-storey residential building collapsed in an eastern suburb of the Kenyan capital of Nairobi on Friday.

“We do not have a figure yet,” Peter Abwao, Kenya Red Cross Communications Manager, said, adding that teams were still on the ground combing through the rubble.

No fatalities have been reported so far.

Television and amateur footage on social media has shown civilians carrying injured people away from the building, which now looks like a heap of flattened concrete layers.

Robert Mbuvi, a resident of Tassia Estate where the incident took place, said that the building had collapsed early this morning.

He said he had counted about “10 casualties in critical condition dislodged from the ruins and rushed to a hospital.”

The incident has sparked fresh outrage over shoddy construction in the city’s poorer suburbs.

In September, eight school pupils were killed and 57 injured after a classroom collapsed.

Prominent Kenyan blogger and activist Robert Alai said that inferior construction prevalent in Nairobi is the result of “impunity among landlords – many of them politically well-connected – who flout building regulations.”

Alai says residents of the collapsed building had recently expressed concerns about it but the relevant authorities had turned a deaf ear.

“Residents flagged the building three or four months ago when it started showing cracks, and nobody took note,” he said.

Edited & Vetted By: Fatima Sule/Emmanuel Yashim

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China imposes restrictions against U.S. diplomats in latest tit-for-tat



China has announced new restrictions against U.S. diplomats in retaliation for a similar measure adopted by the U.S. in October, the latest move in a series of tit-for-tat measures between the two countries.

The Chinese government notified the U.S. Embassy in China about the new restrictions earlier this week, the Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Hua Chunying, said on Friday.

She did not provide details about what the curbs entailed.

Chinese said diplomats working for the U.S. Embassy in China and the U.S. consulates would be required to notify the foreign ministry, five working days in advance if they planned to meet with local government officials or visit education or research institutions.

The move comes after the U.S. in October required Chinese officials to notify the State Department of planned meetings with local authorities and educational institutions.

Washington said at the time the measure was in response to Beijing limiting the access of U.S. diplomats to local authorities in China.

Tensions between the two countries have risen in recent weeks after the U.S. Congress passed several bills aimed at sanctioning Chinese officials over human rights abuses in China’s Xinjiang region and in Hong Kong.

Beijing has retaliated by sanctioning U.S. non-profits.

The stand-off is making it unlikely for trade negotiators on both sides to agree on a deal to end the countries’ protracted trade war, which is slowing the world economy.

Edited & Vetted By: Fatima Sule/Abdulfatah Babatunde

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Pelosi asks House to draft articles of impeachment against Trump



The top Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives announced on Thursday she would ask leaders of the chamber to proceed with articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump.

“Sadly, but with confidence and humility, with allegiance to our founders and our hearts full of love for America, today I am asking our chairman to proceed with articles of impeachment,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said.

Trump’s actions with regard to military aid to Ukraine were in defiance of “the vision of our founders” and the oath of office he took, she asserted a day after three constitutional scholars told lawmakers they fully believed that Trump had committed actions that rise to the level of impeachable offences under the U.S. constitution.

Pelosi said their testimony left no doubt that the president’s actions “are a profound violation of the public trust” and seriously violated the constitution.

“Our democracy is what is at stake.

“The president leaves us no choice but to act because he is trying to corrupt once again the election for his own benefit,” Pelosi said.

A fourth expert, who was called by the Republicans to testify on Wednesday, disputed the claims, saying the evidence was not sufficient.

Trump reacted to Pelosi’s announcement on Twitter, saying the Democrats planned to “impeach me over NOTHING.”

Impeachment is a “seldom used act” and their action could mean that it will be used routinely to attack future presidents, he said.

U.S. President Donald Trump

“That is not what our Founders had in mind.

“The good thing is that the Republicans have NEVER been more united. We will win!,” he tweeted.

Trump is accused of abusing the power of his office by running a “pressure campaign” involving members of his inner circle to coerce Ukraine into digging up dirt on his domestic political rival, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, ahead of elections next year.

He allegedly made the announcement of an investigation into Biden’s son, who served on the board of the energy company Burisma, a condition of granting Ukraine’s newly elected president Volodymyr Zelensky a meeting at the White House and releasing the military aid.

Pelosi appeared on a U.S. news channel CNN “town hall” on Thursday night, taking moderator and audience questions.

She again defended the decision to proceed with articles of impeachment, saying that “this isn’t about politics at all. It’s about patriotism.

“The facts are clear. The constitution is clear. The president violated the constitution.

“If we were not to proceed it would say to any president, any future president, whoever she or he may be, Democratic or Republican, that our democracy is gone,” Pelosi reiterated to the audience.

A House vote on articles of impeachment would send the matter to the Republican-controlled Senate, where a trial of the president would be held with Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts officiating. A two-thirds majority would have to vote in favour to remove the president from office.

Republicans say there is insufficient evidence that Trump committed an impeachable offence and that Democrats leading the impeachment inquiry have let their emotions and hatred of Trump cloud their judgement.

Wednesday’s hearing took place as Trump concluded a NATO summit in London.

Earlier on Thursday, he implored Democrats to move forward with impeachment quickly “so we can have a fair trial in the Senate, and so that our Country can get back to business.”


Edited & Vetted By: Emmanuel Yashim

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29 people die as South Sudan clans clash over Nile Island



At least 29 people were killed in South Sudan on Thursday when two rival clans clashed over the ownership of an island on the Nile river.

An Area coordinator, Joseph Deng Mawaat told dpa that the early-morning clash also left nearly 20 people injured.

The clash involved clans from the states of Eastern Lakes and Jonglei with both claiming ownership of the island, which is strategic as a docking site for boats.

Tribal clashes are common in the East African country, which gained independence from Sudan in 2011.

An ensuing civil war left hundreds of thousands dead and millions of people displaced.

Edited & Vetted By: Hadiza Mohammed/Emmanuel Yashim

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Crowds hit streets as French pension strike stalls transport



 Protesters took to the streets around France on Thursday as a strike against President Emmanuel Macron’s pension reform plans hit public transport and air traffic.

The Gare de Lyon railway station in Paris was all but deserted in the Monday rush hour, with the departure board showing just seven trains scheduled to leave between then and 6:53 pm (1753 GMT).

State railway company SNCF said only one in 10 long-distance trains would be running, while most of the Paris metro’s 16 lines were either shut down or offering a minimum peak-hour only service.

Many schools have closed, with the Education Ministry saying almost half the country’s teachers had joined the strike.

Junior transport minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari said 20 to 30 per cent of flights had also been cancelled.

Civil aviation authorities said 20 per cent of flights would also have to be cancelled on Friday.

The Eiffel Tower closed for the day, as did the Musee d’Orsay modern art gallery, where an Australian tourist who gave his name as Frank told dpa he’d come there to show his son the museum.

“It’s closed, we’re very disappointed,” he said.

Chinese and Japanese tourists meanwhile struggled to understand the notice about the closure, which was written only in French, English and Spanish.

Outside the closed Opera metro station in central Paris, an Argentinian tourist waiting with a suitcase said she was looking for a bus to the airport.

“I hope my plane will take off,” she added.

With Paris workers encouraged to work from home or use ride-sharing apps and e-scooters, the two working metro lines were not exceptionally busy.

A monitoring site showed road traffic around Paris well below normal.

Paris police ordered shops along the route of a trade union march to close with the march getting under way in the afternoon.

Police chief Didier Lallement said that 6,000 officers would be deployed to secure the protest.

Officers had checked 6,476 people and arrested 65, according to police.

The capital’s last major trade union march, the traditional May Day parade, degenerated into clashes when radical protesters threw missiles at police who responded with charges and copious tear gas.

The hardline CGT trade union accused police at the time of not distinguishing in their response between the radicals and peaceful protesters.

Macron is seeking to implement a campaign promise to replace France’s more than 40 pension schemes with a single universal system that would, he argued, treat all workers equally.

Public transport and public hospital staff are particularly worried about the pension reform plans as they currently benefit from early retirement rights that are likely to be phased out.

Initial proposals suggest that early retirement regimes similar to those currently in place will be kept only for the security forces, firefighters and sailors.

CGT leader Philippe Martinez said that Macron’s pension reform would “worsen inequality,” as the new system would be based on whole-career earnings without making allowances for individual or career-related circumstances.

Where public sector workers enjoy earlier retirement rights than people in similar jobs in the private sector, those rights should be extended to all rather than abolished for all, he told RMC radio.

Djebbari acknowledged that the strike could drag on for days.

The Elysee meanwhile said that Macron was following the situation “closely, with calm and determination.”


Edited & Vetted By: Emmanuel Yashim

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