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Besigye gives up on presidential elections, moves to ‘Plan B’



Kizza Besigye addressing FDC supporters

Four-time presidential candidate Dr Kizza Besigye has declared that he will not contest for the presidency in the forthcoming 2021 general election.

Besigye announced the decision at the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) headquarters in Najjanankumbi on Wednesday, finally putting an end to the speculation about his candidature. He said he will now move to ‘Plan B’ and leave ‘Plan A’ [elections] for others.  

Besigye has contested for the presidency since 2001, losing the race to incumbent Yoweri Kaguta Museveni according to results released by the Electoral Commission but in all the three previous elections, Ugandan courts agreed that there was vote-rigging but fell short of declaring the elections null and void.

Besigye said he has decided to drop elections as a path for Uganda’s liberation, insisting that he will yet again legitimise Uganda’s sham elections when Museveni is still president. He reiterated his all-time commitment that he will never leave the struggle to overthrow President Museveni’s regime. 

“Never ever imagine that I can leave the struggle, never. If we felt that again moving with both hands is the most efficient way, maybe we would have done that. But trust my judgement, this country will not be free by [Simon] Byabakama [Electoral Commission chairperson] or whatever he’s called going to Kololo to announce that there’s now a new winner who is not Museveni. And for Museveni to come with his hat and hand over power. Those who are waiting for that day when Mr Museveni will come humbly and thank Ugandans for all the things that we have done for him without our permission of course, he will not do so.” said Besigye. 

Before the announcement, Besigye arrived at the FDC headquarters in Najjanankumbi amidst ululations from diehard FDC supporters. He was received by party leaders including the party president Patrick Oboi Amuriat (POA), spokesperson Ibrahim Ssemuju Nganda, lord mayor Erias Lukwago, the party EC chairperson Toterebuka Bamwenda, the vice-chairperson Eastern Region Salaamu Musumba, and several others.

But mini chaos ensued when his supporters started erecting posters bearing his portrait and placards demanding that he picks presidential nomination forms and take part in the 2021 election. However, Nganda asked his supporters to calm down as he prepared to talk to them and the country at large. 

He eventually told the supporters that the struggle to get Museveni out of power will not only rely on elections because Uganda’s democracy has been greatly tampered with.

“Ladies and gentlemen we’re at another crossroad when the junta, the gunmen are organizing another election to legitimize themselves. That is what they are doing. I told you that in 2016 both my hands were busy – this one engaging the election here, this one engaging the fighting here. That is not very efficient, the election here are our ‘plan A’, fighting here is our ‘plan B’. And ‘plan B’ is wide, it is involving, it is my humble decision that I have discussed extensively with my colleagues that we get somebody to lead ‘plan A’ and you leave ‘plan B’ for me.” Besigye said. 

Besigye then commenced his formal speech mainly narrating his journey in elective politics since 2001. He reiterated that he has won elections all the time he has stood against Museveni, but the results were manipulated to keep the incumbent in power.

“As you know they took me to jail, charged me with treason for declaring myself a winner, and I went to court and I said yes; ‘it is true I declared myself, here I am. Try me, let me show you that it is I indeed who won that is why I declared myself winner.’ It is now five years, we’re going into another election, they have never tried me. I am a prisoner of treason, never tried because they don’t want the truth to come out. And since 2016 the then desperate Mr Museveni has been rampaging all over the place. He then created the new electoral commission this one. He created it when he’s not supposed to be in office himself. This Byabakama-commission is itself illegal because it was set up by an illegitimate man.” Besigye added. 

Besigye assured his supporters that he has confidence in all the people who have picked expression of interest forms seeking nomination for the FDC presidential flag, among them, Wasswa Biriggwa the party chairperson and party president Patrick Oboi Amuriat. He added that he will align his support to whoever will be duly nominated and elected presidential candidate for the FDC.

He also pledged his support for other opposition political players both in the 2021 elections and in another strategy of defiance whose details he declined to dwell deep into.

“We’re building a strong front for change. In the ‘plan B’, we move with everybody who wants change whether you have a party or you don’t have a party. I can tell you without a shed of doubt that I have every confidence in our leaders that we have here today. Mulongo Wasswa Birigwa is not new to the challenges of ‘channel A’. I believe I don’t have to talk much about our president POA. POA has been in national politics for decades, there is no corner of this country that he doesn’t know. He also had experience in public service even before coming into election,” Besigye added. 

Besigye’s decision not to contest in the 2021 presidential general elections has generated mixed reactions from several leaders and members of the FDC. Although the announcement was expected by Besigye’s inner circle, it took many party members by surprise.    

Some FDC members said they will pursue other means to ensure that he appears on the 2021 presidential ballot. Harold Kaija, the FDC deputy secretary general asked young party supporters and other members to rest assured that the party is stronger than ever before.    

He said FDC will not only put up a spirited fight in the 2021 elections but also in the ‘plan B’ of defiance led by Besigye. He explained that Besigye’s declaration will only serve to clarify the roles and camps for two groups fighting for the same cause.    

Doreen Nyanjura, the Kampala deputy lord mayor, said the fears of party members, especially young supporters who had high expectations in Besigye’s candidature are understandable. She, however, said Besigye’s announcement doesn’t mean that he is out of the struggle.  

“Our commander is going nowhere, our commander is still around, he’s simply going to take on ‘plan B’ as other commanders take on ‘plan A’. So really this means FDC is going to get stronger because there is division of labour. KB is going to head ‘plan B’ and we’re going to get another commander to head ‘plan A’.  I understand their emotions because personally I got emotional as well. But I had to understand his message that he’s going nowhere and he’s here for the struggle. So our fighters need to be encouraged, they need to give support to KB and to whoever is going to carry our flag because Museveni is still here and I think that is our major enemy.” Nyanjura said. 

Amuriat said the party is set to work with other political organizations in the next elections but on three conditions.   

“If there are agents of Museveni, we have nothing to do with them. The second factor is going to be on the basis of what they expect out of the struggle. The third is what they bring into the struggle. So those are going to be 3 main factors that will determine our operation with anybody who would like to coalesce with us. We’re doing this because we have been in the past been disappointed by some of our friends and how they have treated us. You remember what happened in TDA. You also remember what happened in IPC and so the English say once bitten, twice shy. We’re going to be a little bit shy when dealing with our potential allies, we’ve got to understand them very well,” said Amuriat. 

Besigye’s declaration coincided with the conclusion of the issuance of expression of interest forms for FDC presidential aspirants. FDC Electoral Commission chairperson, Toterebuka Bamwenda described the concluded process as smooth and fruitful. He says they expect Amuriat and Biriggwa to fulfill the requirements and return the forms for nominations next week.   

Besigye’s refusal to participate in the forthcoming elections will be good news to People Power and Kyadondo East MP Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine supporters who have always called on him to step aside for Kyagulanyi. 

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Iran imposes 10-day restrictions amid sharp rise in COVID cases | Coronavirus pandemic News




Tehran, Iran – Authorities in Iran have been forced to impose fresh nationwide restrictions after lack of control over travels during the Persian new year holidays last month led to an explosive rise in COVID-19 cases.

On Saturday, authorities reported 19,666 cases across the country, with the figure only second behind the highest single-day figure of 22,478 cases registered a day earlier.

Iran has reported more than two million cases since the start of the pandemic, including 64,232 deaths, 193 of those being reported in the past 24 hours.

Starting Saturday, all regions across Iran will undergo various degrees of restrictions based on how they have been classified under a colour-coded scale denoting the severity of outbreaks.

Iran’s coronavirus map looks like a sea of red as more than 250 cities, including all 32 province centres, are now classified “red”, indicating the highest level of severity.

In these regions, only essential services can continue while educational activities, dine-in at restaurants, cinemas, shopping centres, and a variety of retail vendors will have to shut down.

Travelling to those regions using personal vehicles will also be prohibited while up to 50 percent of staff will be allowed inside offices.

A curfew is in place across the country for private vehicles from 10pm to 3am.

However, a report by state television from the streets of Tehran showed traffic jams and people crammed in public transport on their way to work on Saturday.

“They say it’s closed but everything is open,” a citizen told the state TV reporter in front of a packed bus.

Fourth wave

Last week, Iran announced the country is facing a fourth wave of infections which would be the biggest so far.

The announcement came weeks after tens of millions of people were allowed to travel across the country and make in-person visits to family and friends during two-week holidays for Nowruz, the Iranian new year, that was celebrated on March 20.

On Saturday, in a televised address during a session of the national anti-coronavirus task force, President Hassan Rouhani said the main reason for the fourth wave is the large-scale entry of the COVID-19 variant first found in the United Kingdom through the country’s western borders with Iraq.

Iranian health officials now estimate that more than half of all cases reported across Iran are of the UK variant.

The president said massively increased shopping activity prior to Nowruz, in-person visits on the day of Nowruz, and weddings in the past two months were the other big reasons behind the rise. Nowruz travels “that were made without following protocols” also contributed to the numbers, he added.

Rouhani said on average only 56 percent of people are now following health guidelines.

“If more than 90 percent of people follow protocols, then we won’t have a new wave. Our healthcare workers are tired. Our society is tired,” he said.

Iran has imported more than 1.7 million doses of coronavirus vaccines from Russia, China, India, and through COVAX, a global vaccine initiative.

Three locally manufactured candidates are also undergoing human trials and five more are in the works.

But less than 1 percent of the country’s population of more than 82 million people has been vaccinated so far.

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Iran unveils new centrifuges, civilian nuclear ‘achievements’ | Nuclear Energy News




Tehran, Iran – Iran began feeding gas to cascades of new, advanced centrifuges and unveiled dozens of “achievements” to mark its national nuclear technology day in an effort to show its nuclear programme is peaceful.

President Hassan Rouhani on Saturday launched several projects across the country via video link in Tehran that was broadcast live on national television, and an exhibition of 133 technological innovations with civilian and medical uses was also unveiled.

The display comes after the opening week of negotiations in Vienna, Austria, to restore the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers – ended on Friday on a hopeful note, and is slated to continue from Wednesday.

In Isfahan’s Natanz, where Iran’s largest nuclear facilities are located, the order was given to feed gas to 164 all-Iranian IR6 centrifuges, with 10 SWU – separative work units that indicate the amount of separation done by an enrichment process.

The IR6 was also deemed the most sustainably efficient centrifuge Iran currently deploys, which is slated to be mass-produced on an industrial level.

It was said to be able to produce 10 times more uranium hexafluoride (UF6) than IR1, Iran’s first-generation centrifuges.

“We can industrialise these machines without any reliance outside the country,” the engineer who answered Rouhani’s questions said.

Rouhani launched an exhibition of 133 technological innovations with civilian and medical uses [Iran President’s Office]

Rouhani also gave the order to begin feeding gas to test a number of 30 IR5 centrifuges and 30 IR6s centrifuges, numbers that could grow if they are successful.

Moreover, mechanical tests began on the top-of-the-line IR9 centrifuge that has a separative capacity of 50 SWU.

Also in Natanz, a unit to assemble and evaluate advanced centrifuges was launched, where the presenting engineer said more than half of all operations are currently industrialised.

The “terrorist move” to blow up parts of the nuclear facilities in Natanz last year in an attack Israel has been suspected of orchestrating did not stop the progress, the engineer said.

In Arak, the second phase of industrial production of deuterium compounds at the Arak Heavy Water Reactor Facility was launched by the president, who also oversaw the launch of a first-of-its-kind emergency unit aimed at treating radiation burns.

A series of achievements were introduced at the National Centre for Laser Science and Technology in the Alborz province, while the president next discussed advances at a national centre to research stable isotope separation.

‘Ill-placed concerns’

After the new projects were launched, the president delivered a televised address in which he once more emphasised Iran does not seek nuclear weapons, and railed against Western powers for acting based on the presumption that it did.

“These ill-placed concerns have created many problems for our people in the past 15 years,” Rouhani said, referring to multilateral sanctions imposed on Iran prior to its nuclear deal that provided sanctions relief for curbs on Iran’s nuclear programme.

Western intelligence maintains that Iran sought to weaponise its nuclear programme, plans that it abandoned in 2003.

President Hassan Rouhani on Saturday launched several projects across the country [Iran President’s Office]

Israel still repeatedly claims Iran is after nuclear weapons despite thorough inspections of its nuclear sites by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Rouhani also harshly criticised world powers and the IAEA for their lack of assistance in developing Iran’s peaceful nuclear programme.

“We don’t owe them, they owe us,” the president said, adding they should have assisted Iran as part of commitments under the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Hours before the unveiling of Tehran’s latest nuclear advances, Reuters news agency cited a confidential IAEA report that Iran has produced a small amount of fuel plates for the Tehran Research Reactor, containing 20 percent enriched uranium.

The IAEA reportedly said in its report that Iran aims to produce molybdenum, which has many civilian uses, including in medical imaging.

As part of the nuclear deal, Iran’s enrichment of uranium was capped at 3.67 percent, a limit that it started gradually scaling back in 2019, one year after then-United States President Donald Trump unilaterally abandoned the nuclear deal and reimposed harsh sanctions on Iran.

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10 Myanmar police killed in attack by ethnic armies: Reports | Conflict News




Fighters from an alliance of rebel groups reportedly attack a police station in a new escalation after the military coup.

An alliance of ethnic armies in Myanmar that has opposed the general’s crackdown on anti-coup protests attacked a police station in the east on Saturday and killed at least 10 policemen, local media said.

The police station at Naungmon in Shan state was attacked early in the morning by fighters from an alliance that includes the Arakan Army, the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, media reported.

Shan News said at least 10 policemen were killed, while the Shwe Phee Myay news outlet put the death toll at 14.

A spokesman for the military did not return calls asking for comment.

Al Jazeera’s Tony Cheng, reporting from neighbouring Thailand, noted the ethnic armies are some of the oldest in the world, having battled central government forces for decades.

“Since the coup, there has been a lot of talk about armed groups operating together but we have not actually seen it before. Today it’s claimed three acted together, joined forces, attacked this outpost manned by Myanmar police, killing a number of policemen,” said Cheng, adding the assault occurred over two hours early on Saturday.

More than 600 people have been killed by the military in the crackdown on protests against the February 1 coup, according to a monitoring group. As violence has escalated, about a dozen armed groups have condemned the coup-makers as illegitimate and pledged to stand with the protesters.

Civilian lawmakers, most of whom are in hiding after their removal, have announced plans to form a “national unity government” – with key roles for ethnic leaders – and are holding online talks about joint resistance to the generals.

Dozens of bodies

Meanwhile, reports from Myanmar say dozens of people may have been killed in a military assault on anti-coup protesters in the city of Bago. About 60 people may have died in the clashes in the city, about 60km (32 miles) northeast of Yangon, according to Radio Free Asia citing witnesses.

News site Myanmar Now cited a protest leader as saying dozens of bodies had been brought inside a pagoda compound where the military was based. Witnesses cited by both media outlets reported hours of gunfire that started early on Friday.

Protests against the February coup continued on Saturday in Yangon, Mandalay, Bagan, Sagaing, Myeik and many other cities.

The military crackdown has also included reports of protesters being tortured in detention and harsh sentences.

The military issued death sentences on 19 people from Yangon’s North Okkalapa township on Friday. They were charged with beating an army captain, according to Radio Free Asia.

The military coup dismissed the elected government led by Aung San Suu Kyi, who is currently under house arrest.

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