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South Africa’s apartheid-era statues ‘should be put in a theme park’



Historical statues are at the centre of debate around the world. What should modern societies do with reminders of colonial and racist history?

South African sculptor Pitika Ntuli, himself an anti-apartheid veteran who spent decades in exile, has been mulling over this question.

Filmed and edited by Christian Parkinson

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Ethiopia Election 2021: Voters cast ballots in a twice delayed election




What has been heralded as a true test of democracy in Ethiopia, the twice postponed elections finally took place in the shadow of a pandemic, internal struggles in the country’s northern state of Tigray and boycotting by some of the country’s biggest opposition parties.

This poll is Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s first electoral test since coming to power in 2018.

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AMLO to investigate US-Mexico border killings of innocents | Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador News




Mexico’s president pledged to investigate the border shootings that left 19 dead during the weekend, even as the latest homicide figures showed a rebound in killings nationwide.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said evidence indicated that 15 of the victims were innocent bystanders. The other four dead were suspected gunmen from a group that drove into the northern border city of Reynosa and opened fire indiscriminately.

“Everything indicates that it was not a confrontation, but rather a commando that shot people who were not involved in any conflict,” López Obrador said.

Reynosa is located across the border from McAllen, Texas, and has been the scene of fighting between factions of the Gulf cartel. But those disputes usually target rival gunmen or security forces. The dead in the Saturday attack included taxi drivers, workers and a nursing student.

Authorities are still investigating the motive, though in the past, drug cartels have sometimes used random killings of civilians to turn up the heat on rival gangs or intimidate local authorities.

López Obrador asked federal prosecutors to take over the case and pledged “a thorough investigation”.

María Elena Morera, director of the civic anti-crime group Common Cause, said many people have become inured to such violence.

“Mexicans have become accustomed to all these atrocities, without there being any real reaction,” Morera said. “In the face of so much violence, people prefer not to let the pain in, and turn away.”

The killings Saturday in Reynosa, and the latest nationwide homicide figures, suggest that López Obrador’s “hugs, not bullets” crime strategy is doing little to decrease killings.

There were 2,963 homicides in May, the latest month for which figures are available, higher than May 2020 and well above the numbers that prevailed when López Obrador took office in December 2018.

The government said homicides declined 2.9 percent in the first five months of 2021 compared with 2020, but that may be because January and February of this year were marked by Mexico’s worst coronavirus wave, when public activities were curtailed.

“This is nothing,” Morera said of the drop. “It is as if you keep a patient in a coma and then say he’s doing very well.”

Tamaulipas Governor Francisco García Cabeza de Vaca called the Reynosa victims “innocent citizens”, and said, “Criminal organisations must receive a clear, explicit and forceful signal from the federal government that there will be no room for impunity, nor tolerance for their reprehensible criminal behaviour.”

García Cabeza de Vaca belongs to the rival National Action Party and is himself being investigated by the federal prosecutor’s office for organised crime and money laundering – accusations he has said are part of a plan by López Obrador’s government to attack him for being an opponent.

Local businessman Misael Chavarria Garza said many businesses closed early Saturday after the attacks and people were very scared as helicopters flew overhead.

On Sunday, he said, “The people were quiet as if nothing had happened, but with a feeling of anger because now crime has happened to innocent people.”

The attacks sparked a deployment of the military, National Guard and state police across the city.

The area’s criminal activity has long been dominated by the Gulf cartel and there have been fractures within that group. Experts said there has been an internal struggle within the group since 2017 to control key territories for drug and human trafficking. Apparently, one cell from a nearby town may have entered Reynosa to carry out the attacks.

Soldiers patrol during an operation one day after the murder of two men and where a tourist was injured during a shooting at Tortugas beach in Cancun, Mexico June 12, 2021 [Paola Chiamonte/Reuters]

Olga Ruiz, whose 19-year-old brother Fernando Ruiz was killed by the gunmen, said her sibling was working as a plumber and bricklayer in a company owned by his stepfather to pay for his studies.

“They killed him in cold blood, he and two of his companions,” said Olga Ruiz, adding that the gunmen arrived where her brother was fixing a drain.

“They heard the gunshots from afar and my stepfather told him: ‘Son, you have to take shelter.’ So he asked permission to enter a house but my brother and his companions were only about to enter when the vehicles arrived,” Ruiz said. “They stopped in front of them and started to shoot.”

López Obrador has sought to avoid confrontations with drug cartels, at one point releasing a top trafficker to avoid bloodshed. He prefers to focus on addressing underlying social problems like youth unemployment.

Earlier this month, López Obrador praised the drug cartels for not disrupting the June 6 midterm voting, even though three dozen candidates were killed during the campaigns.

“People who belong to organised crime behaved very well, in general, there were few acts of violence by these groups,” the president said. “I think the white-collar criminals acted worse.”

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Israel allows limited Gaza exports, one month after truce | Gaza News




Israel has allowed a limited resumption of commercial exports from the besieged Gaza Strip in what it called a “conditional” measure, one month after a truce halted an 11-day offensive on the Strip.

“Following a security evaluation, a decision has been made for the first time since the end of (the fighting) to enable … (the) limited export of agricultural produce from the Gaza Strip,” COGAT, a branch of Israel’s Defence Ministry, said on Monday.

COGAT said the measure was approved by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s government and was “conditional upon the preservation of security stability”.

Palestinian officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to talk to the media, said 11 truckloads of clothes were exported through Karm Abu Salem (Kerem Shalom) crossing for the first time in 40 days. On Sunday, Israel said it would allow limited agricultural exports from Gaza.

A Palestinian police officer searches a truck’s fabrics cargo slated for export at the Karm Abu Salem (Kerem Shalom) crossing in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, June 21, 2021. [Said Khatib/AFP]

The easing also included the resumption of mail service in and out of Gaza, according to Saleh al-Zeq, an official from the Palestinian Authority’s liaison committee. Thousands of passports and paperwork have been delayed since the fighting between Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian group that rules Gaza, broke out on May 10.

However, other restrictions by Israel remain in place and are taking a toll on different sectors in Gaza.

On Monday, a Pepsi bottling plant said it was closing and laying off 250 workers because raw materials needed to stay in business were being kept away. Instead, the company will import ready-made products from its factory in the occupied West Bank.

“The raw materials have not been allowed. We have been waiting for them for 60 days,” said Hammam Alyazji, development manager at the factory. The materials include carbon dioxide and syrup.

The resumption of exports does not include fish, said Nezzar Ayyash of the fishermen’s union. He said Israel reduced the fishing by more than half, keeping it at six nautical miles (11kilometres) instead of 20 miles (37km), as agreed upon in the Oslo Accords.

“This is very bad for the livelihood of fishermen; buying power is low in Gaza and the fishermen barely make up their fuel expenses,” he said.

Other restrictions include a limit on the number of medical patients who can get treatment in Israel or the occupied West Bank.

Head of the political wing of the Palestinian Hamas movement in the Gaza Strip, Yahya Sinwar, speaks to reporters during a press conference in Gaza City on June 21, 2021. [Mohammed Abed/ AFP]

‘No intentions to solve humanitarian crisis’

Following a meeting with United Nations mediators, Hamas’s leader in Gaza Yahya al-Sinwar said the easing of Israeli restrictions was not enough and did nothing to change the situation in Gaza, pointing out that Israel continues to block international aid, as well as critical fuel deliveries needed for the electricity plant.

“The meeting was bad, it was not at all positive,” he told reporters.

“They listened to us attentively, but there are no signs that there are intentions towards solving the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip,” Sinwar added.

He added that Israel was “blackmailing” Hamas in exchange for further lifting of restrictions.

Sinwar was apparently referring to Israel’s position that a major improvement in Gaza hinged on Hamas releasing two Israelis and the bodies of two soldiers it holds captive. Sinwar said he told the UN’s top regional envoy, Tor Wennesland, that Hamas “will not accept that”.

Israel keeps tight controls on Gaza crossings, with support from neighbouring Egypt, citing threats from Hamas. The Israeli restrictions were intensified during the May fighting, effectively halting all exports.

Sinwar also accused Israel of keeping out aid from Qatar, which in recent years has bankrolled Gaza reconstruction projects worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

“It seems the occupation (Israel) didn’t understand our message, and that we maybe need to carry out popular resistance to put pressure on the occupation,” Sinwar said.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s office did not provide comment on Sinwar’s remarks.

At a memorial service on Sunday for Israeli soldiers killed in the 2014 Gaza war, Bennett, who was sworn in last week and replaced longtime prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said Israel would not tolerate any resumption of hostilities.

“(We) will not tolerate even a few rockets. We will not show forbearance nor exercise containment towards splinter factions,” he said, alluding to past attacks by armed groups other than Hamas.

“Our patience has run out.”

Egypt and the United Nations stepped up mediation last week after Israeli air raids pounded the Gaza Strip, challenging the fragile ceasefire.

The war killed 257 Palestinians including 66 children. Thirteen people were killed in Israel, including two children.

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