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Ethiopia frees political prisoners

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Agency Report

Ethiopia has freed from prison some opposition leaders, including those of the rebellions Tigrayan region, the state broadcaster reported on Friday.

The release coincided with government announcement that it would begin dialogue with political opponents after 14 months of war when thousands of people were arrested.

The move to free leaders from several ethnic groups is the most significant breakthrough since war broke out in the northern Tigray region, threatening the unity of Africa’s second-most populous state.

Some leaders of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the party fighting Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s central government, are among those freed.

“The key to lasting peace is dialogue,” a statement from the government communications office said. “One of the moral obligations of a victor is mercy.”

The state-run Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation’s list of those being freed included two senior political leaders from Oromiya: Bekele Gerba, a senior leader of the Oromo Federalist Congress party, and Jawar Mohammed, founder of the Oromiya Media Network. Bekele Gerba’s son Samuel Bekele later tweeted the two men were freed. The two men were charged in September 2020 with terrorism offences.

Oromiya is home to Ethiopia’s biggest ethnic group and is Abiy’s political heartland. Oromiya has a long-running insurgency rooted in grievances about perceived political marginalisation and rights abuses by the security services.

The leader of the Balderas for Genuine Democracy opposition party, Eskinder Nega, has been released, his party announced on Twitter. Eskinder, an ethnic Amhara journalist and blogger, was charged alongside Jawar, Bekele and more than a dozen other political activists.

SOME TPLF FREED

Among those freed are Abay Weldu, a former president of Tigray, and Sebhat Nega, the founder of the TPLF.

Getachew Reda, spokesman for the TPLF, could not be reached immediately for comment.

Will Davison, senior Ethiopia analyst at the Brussels-based thinktank International Crisis Group, said the announcement was “the first signs in some time that the federal government is looking to take serious actions towards political reconciliation.”

But he warned that the release of a few prisoners did not mean the resolution of the war.

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New Zealand PM Ardern cancels her wedding as Omicron rages

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Agency Reports

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has cancelled her wedding as the nation imposes new restrictions to slow the community spread of the COVID-19 Omicron variant, she told reporters.

New Zealand will impose mask rules and limit gathering from midnight on Sunday after a cluster of nine cases of the COVID-19 Omicron variant showed community transmission from the North to South islands after a wedding.

A family travelled by plane from the North Island capital of Auckland to a wedding in the South Island attended by 100 people.

The family and a flight attendant tested positive.

New Zealand would move to a red setting under its COVID-19 protection framework, with more mask wearing, and a cap of 100 customers indoors in hospitality settings and events such as weddings, or 25 people if venues are not using vaccine passes, Arden said.

“My wedding will not be going ahead,” she told reporters, adding she was sorry for anyone caught up in a similar scenario.

Asked by reporters how she felt about her wedding cancellation, Ardern replied: “Such is life.”

She added, “I am no different to, dare I say it, thousands of other New Zealanders who have had much more devastating impacts felt by the pandemic, the most gutting of which is the inability to be with a loved one sometimes when they are gravely ill.

“That will far, far outstrip any sadness I experience.”

Jacinda’s wedding to Clarke Gayford this summer was rumoured to be fast approaching. Some reports said it was fixed for this month.

But no specific date has actually been announced.

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Kalu meets Abdulsalami Abubakar

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Chief Whip of the Senate, Orji Uzor Kalu, on Saturday night paid a private visit to former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar.

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Kalu who made the announcement through his verified Facebook page, revealed that his discussion with the former president centered on national issues and peaceful coexistence of Nigeria.
He wrote: “ Tonight, I paid a visit to the former President of Nigeria, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, to greet him for the new year. We also discussed major national affairs and peaceful coexistence of our nation.”

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Lagos police arrest NURTW members amid calls for ban

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By Moses Omorogieva/Lagos

The Police Command in Lagos State on Saturday said that its men arrested some members of the National Union of Transport Workers ( NURTW) who clashed on Lagos Island on Friday.

The Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) , CSP Adekunle Ajisebutu, disclosed this to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos on Saturday.

Ajisebutu did not mention how many people were arrested and where they were being detained.

He added that normalcy had returned to the Island as more operatives had been deployed there.
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“The police have quelled the crisis. Sufficient facilities were deployed in the area immediately we received a distress call and normalcy was restored.

”Investigation into the crisis is ongoing,” he said.

Two factions of the NURTW clashed over the control of some motor parks on the Island on Friday.

The videos of the clash went viral showing the hoodlums using dangerous weapons against each other

The arrests come amid call by Accord Party for a ban on the notorious union in Lagos.

Lagos State chapter of the Accord Party called on Gov. Babajide Sanwo-Olu to proscribe the union following repeated violence by its members.

The Publicity Secretary of the party, Mr Dele Oladeji, in a statement on Saturday called on Sanwo-Olu to tame the members of the NURTW by proscribing the union with immediate effect.

“Again, the members of the NURTW were enmeshed in a deadly fight on Lagos Island which was reported to have resulted in the untimely death of some four youths.

“This deadly clash created a security scare, in which innocent and hardworking residents of Lagos had to scamper into shops, crevices, under table and inside gutters for dear lives.

“Many rushed into shops and were locked in with the shop owners, just to stay away from stray bullets or being caught up in the fracas.

“Traders were forced to shutdown their businesses, which led to the loss of transactions running into billions of naira.

“We advise the Lagos State governor to, with immediate effect, proscribe the NURTW for a peaceful and safe Lagos city.”

The spokesman said that the recent violence was one too many among the members of the NURTW in Lagos State.

Oladeji said that though members of the union were always in the habit of killing themselves during such fracas, their action had always defied the security set up in Lagos State and had always created a state of insecurity among residents.

“Ask an average resident of Lagos, and they will tell you they live and commute in utter fright of these ‘union boys’ daily on the streets and roads.

“Gov. Sanwo-Olu should rise up in service to residents of the state and proscribed these lawless group for a safer Lagos State,” he added.

He said that NURTW factions were known to frequently engage in free-for-all over power tussles at different locations and parks.

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