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Human rights leader killed in Philippine ‘war against dissent’ | News



A human rights leader has been killed in the central Philippines in what observers and rights defenders have said is a continuing escalation of the “war against dissent” under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Zara Alvarez, former education director of the human rights alliance Karapatan, died on the spot after being shot six times on Monday evening as she was heading home after buying food for dinner. She was the 13th member of the organisation killed since mid-2016, when Duterte came to power, the group said.

Police said Alvarez was killed by an unidentified assailant in the central city of Bacolod. Witnesses reportedly chased the attacker, who got away with the help of an accomplice on a motorcycle.

On Wednesday, government investigators promised to investigate the case, adding that they are looking into the victim’s affiliation with alleged “leftist groups” as a possible lead for the attack.

Alvarez’s death comes just weeks after Duterte signed into law controversial anti-terror legislation, which allows for warrantless arrests and longer detentions without charge – provisions that legal experts warned could be directed at anyone criticising the president.

Karapatan’s national leader, Cristina Palabay, told Al Jazeera on Tuesday that given the circumstances of Alvarez’s murder, she is blaming the government.

“Considering the prior threats that they received from state forces, it is not really far from our mind that those who killed them are from the state forces,” she said, adding that Alvarez was among those listed by Duterte’s justice department as suspected “terrorists”.

Palabay pointed out that with the coronavirus pandemic, cities have imposed curfews and set up checkpoints in their respective areas.

“Everything is on lockdown, isn’t it? The streets are very much guarded by state forces with all the checkpoints. And yet, the killers were able to get through these cordons of state forces.”

Failed peace talks

Communist rebels have been fighting a rebellion for more than 50 years in a conflict that has so far killed more than 30,000 people. In recent years, the number of rebel fighters has dropped significantly, and there have been several attempts by both the government and communist leaders to reach a peace agreement.

During his 2016 campaign for the presidency, Duterte promised to negotiate with the rebels and found some allies among activist groups, proclaiming himself as the country’s “first leftist president”. As mayor of the city of Davao, Duterte had also established cordial ties with the communists.

But while he quickly initiated talks with the rebels once taking office, negotiations collapsed in mid-2017.

Since then, the president has stepped up his rhetoric against the rebels, declaring them “terrorists” and pledging to wipe them out after a series of recent ambushes against government troops.

As the prospects of a peace deal with communists dimmed, Duterte even goaded the military in early 2018 to shoot female rebels in their genitals to render them “useless”.

Later that year, Duterte ordered more military troops and police to Negros Occidental – where Bacolod is the capital – and two other central Philippine regions, “to suppress lawless violence and acts of terror”.

He also created a national task force “to end local communist armed conflict”.

Duterte also directed his ire against other activists, farmers organisations, land rights campaigners, as well as those who have openly criticised his deadly war on drugs and other alleged rights abuses.

Around the same time, the military and other officials in the Duterte administration started accusing several activist groups of acting as “fronts” of the rebels, raising fears that they could be killed after the president tagged the communists as “terrorist”.

The government has denied carrying out targeted killings, and said that those who have been killed had resisted arrest.

Advocate for farmers

Alvarez, the 39-year-old rights leader killed on Monday, had been advocating for years for farmers’ rights in Negros, a resource-rich island, where a few politically connected families own vast tracts of sugarcane plantations.

In 2019, she led a group of farmers in documenting and denouncing alleged rights abuses by government troops following the killing of farmworkers, accused of being members of the communist rebels. Alvarez herself was accused of being a rebel sympathiser, or an outright rebel member.

In an interview with Al Jazeera’s 101 East in 2019, Alvarez said that with regards to the recent killings in Negros, “it is very clear that it is the police who killed those victims.”

Authorities denied those allegations and have pledged to investigate the dozens of killings, although no suspects have been apprehended or prosecuted.

Now, Alvarez herself has been killed.

Farmers in Negros island rally against the government following the recent spate of killings of farmers [Al Jazeera 101 East Documentary: Duterte’s New War]

Palabay said her group, Karapatan, and other activist groups are in anguish with the series of killings of their colleagues, including Alvarez.

In a statement obtained by Al Jazeera, San Carlos Catholic Bishop Gerardo Alminaza decried the death of Alvarez saying that her work on behalf of the poor residents of Negros “is worthy of emulation”.

The Philippines’ National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) also condemned the killing, saying Alvarez was “a constant force in the struggle for justice” for farmers in her hometown.

In a separate social media post, NUPL President Edre Olalia said that “the obvious intent” of the Alvarez’s killing was “to sow terror”.

Earlier on Monday, activists buried Randall Echanis, one of the land rights activists who negotiated for a peace deal with the Duterte administration.

Echanis, head of the urban poor organisation, Anakpawis, was killed on August 10 following an alleged encounter with police in Metro Manila. His relatives, however, said the 72-year old activist was undergoing medical treatment and unarmed when he was killed.

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Charles Mbire gains $1.2 million as stake in MTN Uganda rises above $51 million



Ugandan businessman and MTN Uganda Chairman Charles Mbire has seen the market value of his stake in MTN Uganda surge above $51 million in just two days, as the share price in the leading teleco company increased by a single digit.

The single-digit bump in the share price caused the market value of Mbire’s stake to gain UGX4.42 billion ($1.24 million) in less than two days.

The million-dollar increase in the value of his stake came after Uganda’s largest telecom company delivered the country’s largest-ever IPO through the listing of 22.4 billion ordinary shares on the Uganda Securities Exchange (USE).

Upon completing the largest IPO in Uganda’s history, MTN Uganda raised a record UGX535 billion ($150.4 million) from the applications that it received for a total of 2.9 billion shares, including incentive shares.

As of press time, Dec. 7, shares in the company were trading at UGX204.95 ($0.0574), down six basis points from their opening price this morning.

Data gathered by Billionaires.Africa revealed that since the telecom company registered its shares on the Ugandan bourse on Mon., Dec. 6, its share price has increased by 2.5 percent from UGX200 ($0.056) to UGX204.95 ($0.0574) as of the time of writing, as retail investors sustained buying interest long after the public offering.

The increase in the company’s share price caused the market value of Mbire’s 3.98-percent stake to rise from UGX178.45 billion ($49.96 million) to UGX182.86 billion ($51.2 million).

In less than two days, his stake gained more than UGX4.42 billion ($1.24 million).

In a statement after the successful listing of MTN Uganda’s shares, Mbire said the IPO shows the confidence that Ugandans and other investors have in the company, its brand and strategic intent.

“We commend all the regulators for their support in our work to become a USE-listed company and to comply in a timely manner with the listing provisions of the national telecommunications operators’ license,” he said.

Steady but sure-MBIRE who is the biggest investor on Ugandas Stock exchange with stocks valued at more than $55 million is laughing all the way to the bank after MTN declared the latest dividend payout.He has steadily grown his business empire which is believed to be more that $350 million (debt free).

Steady but sure-MBIRE who is the biggest investor on Ugandas Stock exchange with stocks valued at more than $55 million is laughing all the way to the bank after MTN declared the latest dividend payout.He has steadily grown his business empire which is believed to be more that $350. ( debt free).

He is into communications-revenue assurance-cement-distribution-oil services-real estate-oil exploration and logistics.

Source: Billionaires Africa

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2-year-old dies at Arua hospital as nurse demands Shs 210,000 bribe




A two-year-old child died at Arua Regional Referral hospital after a nurse, Paul Wamala demanded a bribe amounting to Shs 210,000 before carrying out an operation. 

The incident happened on Saturday, after Aron Nabil, a two-year-old child was referred to the hospital for an operation after he was diagnosed with intestinal obstruction, a medical emergency caused by a blockage that keeps food or liquid from passing through the small intestine or large intestine.

According to the relatives of the child, Wamala allegedly asked them to initially give him Shs 30,000 to buy medicines to commence the procedure. He however returned shortly asking for an additional Shs 180,000 from the relatives.

Emily Adiru, a resident of Osu cell, in Bazar Ward, Central Division, and a relative of the child says although they paid money to Wamala, he abandoned the child without carrying out the operation. According to Adiru, Wamala later refunded Shs 200,000 through mobile money, after she threatened to report him to the police.

“They told us this boy needs an operation which was supposed to be done in the morning on Sunday at around 7 am. They took him inside there, some doctor came from the theatre, he called one of us and said, we should pay Shs 70,000 for buying medicine to start the operation. We paid the Shs 30,000 [but] after paying the Shs 30,000, after some minutes, the same man came and opened the door and called us again, and told us we should pay another Shs 100,000. We also paid the Shs 100,000 and we thought it is finished. We were outside there waiting for our patient to come out [but] then this man came back again and said we should pay another Shs 80,000,” said Adiru.

Although the operation was later carried out after a 7-hour delay, the child didn’t make it, and relatives attribute the death to negligence. Miria Ahmed, a concerned resident wonders why such incidents have persisted at the facility which is supposed to service the citizens.

“Is the problem the hospital, is it the management or it is the human resource that is the problem in the hospital? A small child like this you demand Shs 210,000 for the operation? Well, if the money was taken and the operation is done, I would say anything bad but this money was taken and the small boy was abandoned in the theatre,” she said. 

When contacted Wamala refused to comment on the allegations. Dr Gilbert Aniku, the acting hospital director says that the hospital will issue an official statement later since consultations about the matter are ongoing.

Arua City resident district commissioner, Alice Akello has condemned the actions of the nurse saying she has ordered his arrest so as to set an example to the rest. The case has been reported to Arua regional referral hospital police post under SD reference No:05/30/05/2022.

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Mexican president’s Mayan Train dealt new legal setback | Tourism News




Activists say the planned tourist train will harm the wildlife and natural features of the Yucatan Peninsula.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has been dealt the latest setback to an ambitious plan to create a tourist train to connect the country’s southern Yucatan Peninsula.

On Monday, a judge indefinitely suspended construction on a portion of the project, known as the Mayan Train, saying the plans currently do not comply “with the proceedings of the environmental impact evaluation”.

The ruling follows a legal challenge by activists who said they were concerned the 60km (37 mile) portion of the train that would connect the resorts of Playa del Carmen and Tulum would adversely affect the area’s wildlife, as well as its caves and water-filled sinkholes known as cenotes.

The original plan for the disputed section was for an overpass over a highway, but the route was modified early this year to go through jungle at ground level.

The federal judge cited the “imminent danger” of causing “irreversible damage” to ecosystems, according to one of the plaintiffs, the non-governmental group Defending the Right to a Healthy Environment. In a statement, the group said that authorities had failed to carry out the necessary environmental impact studies before starting construction of the section.

Lopez Obrador had announced the ambitious project in 2018, with construction beginning in 2020. The roughly 1,500km (930 mile) cargo and passenger rail loop was presented as a cornerstone of a wider plan to develop the poorer states and remote towns throughout the about 181,000sq km (70,000sq mile) Yucatan Peninsula.

The railway is set to connect Caribbean beach resorts with Mayan archaeological ruins, with authorities aiming to complete the project by the end of 2023. The plan is estimated to cost about $16bn.

The project has split communities across the region, with some welcoming the economic development and connectivity it would bring. Others, including some local Indigenous communities, have challenged the project, saying it could not only disrupt the migratory routes of endangered species, including jaguars, tapirs and ocelots, but could also potentially damage centuries-old Mayan archaeological sites.

The National Fund for the Promotion of Tourism, the government agency overseeing the project, has said that it expects to “overcome” the latest challenge and that work should continue after an environmental impact statement is finalised. It said the Environment Ministry was currently reviewing its environmental application for the project.

For his part, Lopez Obrador has insisted the railway will not have a significant environmental effect and has accused activists of being infiltrated by “impostors”.

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