Lithuania to acquire 200 armoured U.S. military vehicles




Riga, Nov. 21, 2019 The European Union (EU) and NATO member, Lithuania plans to acquire 200 armoured vehicles from the U.S. for 145 million euros (161 million dollars), the Ministry of Defence said in Vilnius on Thursday.

The all-terrain joint light tactical vehicle (JLTV) is being supplied by U.S. manufacturer Oshkosh.

Defence Minister Raimundas Karoblis told journalists following the signing of the agreement, according to BNS news agency.

“The new tactical vehicles will strengthen the present capabilities of the Lithuanian Armed Forces, increase mobility, personnel protection and combat power,” said Karoblis.

They should be adapted to the requirements of the Lithuanian army and delivered by 2024.

The vehicles are to be used for defence purposes and should also be used for international missions.

The agreement provides for Lithuania to buy another 300 vehicles if needed.

According to Karoblis, this will be decided by the end of the first contract phase in 2024.

Lithuania borders on the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad and has concerns about its security given Russia’s alleged involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine and its annexation of the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine in 2014.

Given the potential threat from Russia, the Baltic country is now massively upgrading its army.

Thursday’s major order is the second-largest defence contract in Lithuania’s history after the purchase of German armoured fighting vehicles of the type Boxer worth 385.6 million euros

(Edited by Fatima Sule/Emmanuel Yashim) (NAN)


U.S. threatens visa restrictions over South Sudan peace process



The U.S. on Thursday threatened visa restrictions on anyone, who attempts to damage the peace process in South Sudan as Washington upped its pressure on the country to form a unity government and re-evaluates its relationship with the African nation.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington would implement visa restrictions barring those who “undermine or impede the peace process in South Sudan’’ from entering the U.S.

This including, those who violate a ceasefire or UN arms embargo, commit human rights abuses or engage in corruption.

“The people of South Sudan have suffered enough while their leaders delay the implementation of a sustainable peace.

The South Sudanese deserve leaders, who are committed to building consensus and willing to compromise for the greater good,” Pompeo said in a statement, adding that the visa restrictions could also apply to family members.

The announcement comes after Washington earlier this week imposed sanctions on five South Sudan officials it said are responsible for the likely murders of two human rights activists in 2017.

In November, the U.S. recalled its ambassador from South Sudan for consultations as part of a move to re-evaluate the relationship with the African country.

After a devastating five-year civil war, South Sudanese President Salva Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar signed a peace deal in September 2018 to form the unity government by Nov. 12.

The peace deal was signed under pressure from the UN, the U.S. and regional governments.

But days before the deadline, the two leaders agreed to give themselves an extension of 100 days.

Washington said it was “gravely disappointed” by the delay.

Civil war broke out in oil-producing South Sudan in 2013, less than two years after the country gained independence from Sudan following decades of war.

The conflict has killed an estimated 400,000 people, triggered a famine and created Africa’s biggest refugee crisis since the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

Edited by: Fatima Sule/Felix Ajide


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Facebook delays naming oversight board members until 2020



Facebook will not announce the first members of its independent oversight board this year as it originally expected, the company said on Thursday.

The new board will be able to make final decisions on whether individual pieces of content – such as a sensitive video or ad – should be displayed on the site, even overruling Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg.

The board is one of Facebook’s high-profile efforts to respond to criticism over how it handles problematic content and transparency around its decision-making.

However, the board’s creation is behind schedule, the company confirmed in a blog post.

It will now probably not name the board’s co-chairs and first members until after January 2020.

Brent Harris, Facebook’s head of governance and global affairs, said the delays were due to both the unforeseen complexities of creating a trust to ensure the board’s independence and to the task of whittling down more than 1,000 nominees to no more than about 40 people.

This is not a ‘move fast and break things’ project,” Harris said, referring to the social media network’s early motto.

He said that the recommended members had come through Facebook’s global consultation process in 88 countries, as well as the company’s public online portal, which opened in September.

They range from “former heads of state to Nobel Prize winners to people who moderate groups on Facebook to local judges,” Harris said.

Facebook now plans to announce the board’s co-chairs, of which Harris said there would likely be three and a first set of about 20 members after January.

Both Facebook and its users can submit cases to the board, and while the board cannot make policy, Facebook will be required to respond publicly to any recommendations it makes.

Facebook, which released an updated charter for the board in September, plans to recommend its bylaws in January.

These will help create operating procedures, such as the process by which cases are selected.

In a Thursday blog post, Facebook also said it had made an initial commitment of 130 million dollars to the new trust, to cover operational costs for at least six years.

The board is an actual institution; it’s almost like its own start-up and it needs all the things that new institutions need” such as a legal team and recruiting mechanisms, said Heather Moore, a member of the Facebook team who developed the board’s charter.

The company on Thursday also released the results of an assessment on the human rights impacts of content decisions by the board.

Edited by: Fatima Sule/Felix Ajide


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USAID supports 300,000 orphans, caregivers in 3 states to mitigate HIV impact



The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has  partnered Nigeria to mitigate the impact of by supporting 300,000 orphans, vulnerable children and caregivers in Lagos, Akwa-Ibom and Rivers States.

In a statement by the Public Affairs Department of the U.S Embassy in Abuja on Thursday, the mission said since 2014, the Local Partners for Orphans and Vulnerable Children activity, known as LOPIN 1, reached over 260,000 children and more than 50,000 caregivers.

It stated the assistance included providing integrated services in the areas of health, education, nutrition, psychosocial support, protection, shelter and household economic strengthening in Akwa Ibom, Lagos, and Rivers states.

It stated that similar activities were also ongoing in other regions of Nigeria.

The mission quoted Ms. Olivette Smith, Political and Economic Analyst at the U.S. Consulate in Lagos, as saying:  “In a country like Nigeria, young people are the future.”

By helping this vulnerable cohort of the country’s youth population get access to health care and education and boost its economic resilience, the U.S. Government through USAID is helping Nigeria meet its commitment to ensure the next generation is ready.

The mission said LOPIN 1 activity had shifted from the usual approach to supporting the  populations in implementing a more inclusive and sustainable family- and community-centred strategy.

It explained that the strategy was in-line with Nigeria’s National Priority Agenda and as a result, more children had been linked to lifesaving anti-retroviral therapy.

It stated that this had succeeded in helping move Nigeria closer to the UN goals for control.

According to the mission,  through a large network of indigenous Non-governmental organisations led by the Association for Reproductive Health, LOPIN 1 helps build the capacity of NGOs to better address the needs of orphans and vulnerable children.

It stated that LOPIN 1 also worked to strengthen local health systems in its areas of operation and engaged the private sector to enhance sustainability and access, introducing innovations.

It stated that such innovations included conditional cash transfers, household economic strengthening, community-based health insurance, and village-level savings and loan programmes.

It quoted the 2018 National AIDS and HIV Indicator and Impact Survey as stating that the rate of HIV in the region fell from 3.4 per cent to 1.4 per cent in the last five years.

It said the U.S. and Nigeria agreed that no child should die of the disease.

It stated that through USAID, the U.S. would continue to work with local partners and support the efforts of Nigeria to ensure that all children enjoyed healthy and productive lives.

Edited by: Chioma Ugboma/Chukwudi Ekezie


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Former Bolivian President, Morales seeks refugee status in Argentina



Bolivian ex-President Evo Morales arrived Argentina on Thursday  where he will be granted refugee status, Argentine Foreign Minister Felipe Sola said.

Morales was granted asylum to travel to Argentina and had made the request for refugee status to stay, Sola said on news channel TN.

Four other people had also requested asylum, Sola said.

Morales had previously been in Mexico where he was granted asylum after his resignation in the wake of a disputed election which the Organisation of American States (OAS) says was rigged in his favour.

Morales, an iconic socialist leader in Latin America, who had been in power for nearly 14 years, thanked Argentina and Mexico for their “support and solidarity” in a tweet after arriving in Argentina.

“My eternal thanks to President (Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador) and the government of Mexico for saving my life and for sheltering me.

“I felt at home with Mexican sisters and brothers for a month,” Morales said in the tweet.

Morales resigned as president on Nov. 10 after the OAS declared there were serious irregularities during the Oct. 20 election, prompting political allies to quit and the army to urge him to step down.

The arrival of Morales comes just two days after Argentine centre-left President Alberto Fernandez was inaugurated.

Fernandez said there had been a “coup” against Morales when he resigned.

He offered in November to grant Morales asylum in Argentina after he began his term.

Sola said the government wanted a commitment from Morales to not make political statements while in Argentina.

There was no meeting planned between Morales and Fernandez, but they could talk on the phone, Sola said.

Morales, who was Bolivia’s first indigenous president, insisted on seeking a fourth term in office, in defiance of term limits and a 2016 referendum in which Bolivians voted against him being allowed to do that.

After he resigned, interim President Jeanine Anez was appointed.

Bolivian Foreign Minister Karen Longaric said in La Paz on Thursday that she hoped Argentina would restrict Morales from making political statements.

“We hope that Argentina rigorously complies with the principles and rules of the right of asylum and the right of refuge and that what happened in Mexico – that had an open microphone, an open arena for policy making – does not occur,” Longaric said.

Edited by: Fatima Sule/Emmanuel Yashim

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S. African gov’t urged to address root causes of insecure energy supply



The South African government has been urged to address the root causes of insecure energy supply by breaking the monopoly of state-run electricity utility Eskom.

The opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) said on Thursday gave the charge on Thursday.

Allowing independent power producers (IPPs) to generate and supply power to the national grid will secure supply and bring down the cost of electricity through competition in the energy market, DA leader John Steenhuisen.

Steenhuisen said this as rolling power blackouts continued for the eighth day.

Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy Gwede Mantashe should at once sign permissions for IPPs to provide additional power to the grid via qualifying municipalities in terms of the Electricity Regulation Act, said Steenhuisen.

The DA has held Mantashe responsible for being the biggest roadblock to true energy security in South Africa, accusing him of actually causing the problems that led to the worsening power crisis which reached an unprecedented level on Monday when stage six load shedding was implemented, the highest level in history.

It is only Mantashe, who can deregulate the small scale embedded generation market, who can give municipalities the permission to purchase electricity from IPPs and who can amend schedule 2 of the Electricity Regulation Act to allow users to produce up to 10MW of electricity for their own use, according to the DA.

But the minister has failed to do so, apparently for fear of breaking Eskom’s electricity monopoly.

“If Mantashe will not do so, President Ramaphosa must instruct him to do so, or relieve him of his duties,” Steenhuisen said.

IPP projects in the Western Cape, which is administered by the DA, have generated over 3,200 jobs per year, in spite of the national government’s onerous restrictions, according to Steenhuisen.

Eskom must be immediately be split into two entities, one for generation and the other supply, the DA leader said, adding that these entities must be operated independently of each other.

More than 95 per cent of the electricity consumed in South Africa is provided by Eskom, which has been crippled by mismanagement and corruption, two major factors that have contributed to the power crisis.

“South Africa is fast running out of time to reform our energy sector, and in turn ensure a stable and affordable supply of uninterrupted energy that will attract investment, spur on economic growth and create much needed new jobs,” Steenhuisen said.

In a related development on Thursday, the City of Cape Town said it was currently seeking a legal remedy in court challenging Mantashe and the National Energy Regulator of South Africa to allow municipalities to purchase energy directly from IPPs.

Edited by: Fatima Sule/Emmanuel Yashim

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