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Biden welcomes South Africa’s Ramaphosa to White House

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The two leaders call for close cooperation on health, security and climate, as Biden puts a new focus on African powers after their reluctance to take on Russia

The leaders of South Africa and the United States called Friday for close cooperation on health, security and climate, as President Joe Biden puts a new focus on African powers after their reluctance to take on Russia.

President Cyril Ramaphosa was set to meet President Joe Biden weeks after Secretary of State Antony Blinken paid his own trip to South Africa and promised that the United States will do more to listen to Africa.

Starting his visit over breakfast with Vice President Kamala Harris, Ramaphosa voiced gratitude to the United States for its “considerable support” on the Covid pandemic as the Biden administration donates 1.1 billion vaccine doses around the world.

“The visit really is about strengthening the relationship between South Africa and the United States,” Ramaphosa said, adding that Washington had a “key role” to play on security issues across Africa.

Harris hailed the leadership of Ramaphosa — who is under growing pressure at home over a scandal — and said she would discuss working together on fighting climate change, a key priority for the Biden administration.

“I cannot emphasize enough how important the relationship between our countries is to the people of the United States both in terms of our security and our prosperity,” she said.

Like other developing nations, South Africa — whose eastern Mpumalanga province has one of the world’s largest concentrations of coal — argues that industrialized nations should bear the brunt of efforts to cut emissions due to their historic responsibility for climate change.

Wealthy nations at last year’s Glasgow climate conference promised $8.5 billion of financing to South Africa to transition away from coal.

‘Histories’ behind Russia stance

Successive US administrations have focused much of their energy in Africa on countering the growing influence of China, which has become the continent’s dominant trading partner.

But Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has triggered a new front in the battle for influence in Africa, where many nations have been reluctant to embrace the West in its campaign to punish and pressure Moscow.

South Africa’s Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor denied being neutral but said “there are reasons for the perspectives that exist and one should never, I think, try to pretend that there aren’t histories.”

She pointed to the former Soviet Union’s championing of anti-apartheid forces compared with periods of Western cooperation with South Africa’s former white supremacist regime.

“I think we’ve been fairly clear, in our view, that war doesn’t assist anyone and that we believe the inhumane actions we have seen against the people of Ukraine can’t be defended by anybody,” she said this week at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington.

“But what we have said is that a lot of the public statements that are made by leading politicians are not assisting in ameliorating the situation, because the first prize must be to achieve peace.”

The United States has sought to highlight the invasion’s role in soaring food prices, as Ukraine was one of Africa’s largest suppliers of grain.

Russia has sought to blame food scarcities on Western sanctions, an argument dismissed by the United States, which says it is not restricting agricultural or humanitarian shipments.

South Africa’s top diplomat broke with the usual polite bipartisanship of foreign dignitaries visiting Washington, not mincing words on Biden’s Republican predecessor Donald Trump, who notoriously referred to nations in the developing world with an epithet.

“We relate very well, I think probably better, with the Democrats than the Republicans,” she said. “You will recall how President Trump described Africa and no one has apologized for that as yet.”

Trump was the first US president in decades not to visit sub-Saharan Africa. Biden has not yet visited but has pledged a renewed interest, including with a summit of African leaders planned in Washington this December

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AU official calls out Germany over leopard jibe that left some offended

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A Leopard 2 tank is pictured during a demonstration event held for the media by the German Bundeswehr in Munster near Hannover, Germany, Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2011. - Copyright © africanews Michael Sohn/AP2011

Germany apologized on Thursday (Jan. 26) for using a leopard emoji in a tweet refering to the Russian Foreign Minister’s visit to Africa. The post that was regarded as offensive by some users was called out by the spokeswoman for the African Union chairman Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat.

The German foreign ministry attempted to poke fun at Russia’s top diplomat during his tour of Africa when it tweeted that he wasn’t there looking for leopards, but using the trip to try and justify Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

The tweet, and the leopard emoji the foreign ministry used on its official account, apparently sought to play off Germany’s decision to send some of its advanced Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine to back its military fight off Russian forces.

An African Union official questioned the use of emoji, pointing it could be interpreted as the continent being portrayed once again as only about wild animals.

Ebba Kalondo, the spokeswoman for AU Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat, tweeted back to the German government account questioning if Africa, its people and its wildlife was “just a joke to you?”

“Foreign policy is not a joke nor should it be used to score cheap geopolitical points by illustrating an entire Continent with colonial tropes,” Kalondo wrote in a follow-up tweet.

The German foreign ministry apologized and said that the tweet wasn’t meant to offend, but rather “to call out the lies that Russia uses to justify its imperialist war of aggression against Ukraine.”

Lavrov has visited South Africa, Eswatini, Angola and Eritrea this week, where he has repeated his claims that the United States and its Western allies are using Ukraine as a tool in a “hybrid war” against Russia.

Many African nations hold historical ties with Moscow. South Africa was one of several to abstain from a U.N. vote last year condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Eritrea voted against the resolution alongside Russia, Belarus, North Korea and Syria.

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Bomb injures at least a dozen people near a market in north-eastern DR Congo

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Congolese Defense Forces soldiers inspect the scene of an attack near the town of Oicha, 30 kms (20 miles) from Beni, Democratic Republic of Congo, Friday July 23, 2021.

A bomb exploded at a market in eastern Congo on Wednesday (Jan. 25), injuring at least a dozen people, authorities said.

An unknown person detonated a bomb inside a bag in North Kivu’s Beni town, said Tharcisse Katembo, a local official.

“Damage was documented (and) at least 12 people were injured. They were injured in the lower limbs, others in their upper limbs and others were hit in the head,” he told reporters in Beni.

The victims were taken to the hospital and an investigation was underway, Katembo said.

No one claimed responsibility for the bomb. However, attacks by the Allied Democratic Forces, which is believed to be linked with the Islamic State extremist movement, have been increasing in North Kivu, according to the United Nations.

Deadly violence

Earlier this month, at least 14 people were killed and dozens injured in an attack on a church in Kasindi town, which was claimed by Islamic State. It said in its Aamaq news outlet that it planted an explosive device inside the church and detonated it while people were praying.

Since April, attacks by the Allied Democratic Forces have killed at least 370 civilians, and the group has abducted several hundred more, including a significant number of children, the U.N. says.

The explosion Wednesday (Jan. 25) occurred in a local market next to a cassava mill, witnesses said.

Danny Syaghuswa, 16, said he was sitting on his motorcycle when a man in a striped shirt put a small bag behind a door, saying he would come back for it, according to an interview with local reporters heard by The Associated Press. “Less than five minutes after he left the bomb exploded,” Syaghuswa said.

Images of the attack circulating on chat groups show people lying on the floor. One woman in blood-stained clothes was carrying a small child.

Violence has wracked eastern Congo for decades as more than 120 armed groups and self-defense militias fight for land and power. Nearly 6 million people are internally displaced, and hundreds of thousands are facing extreme food insecurity, according to the United Nations.

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Somalia: Al-Shabaab terrorists storm mayor’s office, killing six

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Al-Shabaab terrorists set off a bomb and stormed a government building in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu.  The Al-Qaeda-backed terror group has stepped up bombings in the country.

At least six people were killed on Sunday in an attack by Al Shabaab militants at the mayor’s office in central Mogadishu, police said.

A suicide bomber set off a huge blast that tore through building near the office complex with gunfire erupting afterwards, Somali police spokesman Sadik Dudishe said at the end of the four-hour siege.

“All the six attackers died. Five of them during the fire exchange with the security forces and one of them detonated himself,” Dudishe told reporters.

“Six civilians also died during the attack and the situation is back to normal.” All the staffers at the mayor’s office were rescued, the police added.

Al 0Shabaab, a militant group allied with Al Qaeda claimed, responsibility for the attack via its communication channels, saying its fighters “made their way inside the targeted building after killing the security guards.” Witnesses said the initial explosion damaged nearby buildings and gunfire could be heard in the vicinity of the mayor’s office.

The area was quickly cordoned off by security officers, a witness who runs a business near the offices said.

Another witness, Omar Nur, said he was inside a nearby mall when the explosion went off and “was lucky to have escaped safely.” The Al Shabaab militants have been waging a bloody insurgency against the frail internationally backed central government for 15 years, carrying out attacks both in Somalia and neighbouring countries.

The latest attack comes days after seven soldiers were killed on Friday at a military camp in Galcad, a town in central Somalia about 375 kilometres north of the capital Mogadishu. The US military said the attack — in the Somali town retaken by the army this week — involved more than 100 Al Shabaab jihadists.

“The combined actions by partner forces on the ground and the collective self-defence strike is estimated to have resulted in three destroyed vehicles and approximately thirty Al Shabaab terrorists killed” the US military command for Africa (AFRICOM) said in a statement.

Source: Dawn

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