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What lies ahead for Mali? | Africa



On Tuesday, September 8 at 19:30 GMT:
People across Mali are anxious over the country’s future, days after President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita stepped down following a military coup.

Army soldiers allied with the National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP) moved against Keita and prime minister Boubou Cisse on August 18, following weeks of popular protests against the government. The mass demonstrations, led by groups that coalesced into a coalition called the June 5 Movement, were sparked by a constitutional court decision to overturn some results in recent legislative elections, awarding extra seats to Keita’s party and making it the largest bloc in parliament. The protests also tapped into simmering resentments over long-running social, economic and security challenges.

The CNSP’s move to arrest Keita, forcing him to declare his resignation, was supported by the June 5 Movement. But in recent days differences have emerged over the contours of a political transition back to civilian rule. The CNSP, led by Colonel Assimi Goita, led recent talks in Bamoko but some members of the June 5 Movement protested at being excluded from some working groups.

While Mali’s military rulers may still be able to count on popular support among Malians, regional and international powers are alarmed at the coup. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which supported Keita in his efforts against rebel groups linked to Isil and al-Qaeda, is calling for the formation of a civilian transitional government and fresh elections within a year. Former colonial power France, which has about 5,000 troops in Mali as part of an ongoing operation against armed groups in central Mali, wants to see a popular vote within months. 

With people across Mali already facing food shortages, displacement and the threat of coronavirus, continued uncertainty over Mali’s political future is another burden to bear. We’ll ask what happens next. Join the conversation.

In this episode of The Stream, we are joined by:
Mohamed Salaha, @mohasalaha

Niagalé Bagayoko, @NiagaleBagayoko
Chair, African Security Sector Network

Fatima Al Ansar, @FatimaAlAnsar2
Founder, Tilwalte Peace Network

Read more:
What does the coup mean for Mali’s spiralling security crisis? – Al Jazeera
EU freezes missions training Malian army and police after coup – Al Jazeera

Source: Al Jazeera

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Wildfires burn across US West threatening Flagstaff, Arizona | Climate News




Dozens of wildfires were burning in hot, dry conditions across the western United States, including a blaze touched off by lightning that was moving towards northern Arizona’s largest city.

The mountainous city of Flagstaff was shrouded in smoke Monday. The national forest surrounding it announced a full closure set to begin later this week — the first time that has happened since 2006.

Intense heat that has hampered firefighting efforts more broadly was expected to moderate in the coming days. But, the National Weather Service noted it could bring uncertainty for fire crews.

“The humidity and the possibility of some scattered rainfall is a good thing,” said meteorologist Andrew Taylor. “The lightning is not a good thing.”

In California, firefighters still faced the difficult task of trying to contain a large forest fire in rugged coastal mountains south of Big Sur that forced the evacuation of a Buddhist monastery and nearby campground.

In Globe, Arizona, US, in early June, firefighters in Arizona were fighting to gain a foothold into an enormous wildfire, one of two that forced thousands of evacuations in rural towns and closed almost every major highway out of the area [File: Joseph Pacheco via AP]

In New Mexico, lightning-sparked blazes have been scorching the southern part of the state where a large portion of the Gila Wilderness remains closed, and fire officials are closely watching the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument.

More land has burned across Arizona so far to date with new wildfire starts quickly shifting resources. While humans are to blame for an overwhelming majority of wildfires, lightning started a 80sq-km (31sq-mile) blaze west of Sedona that was moving towards Flagstaff, called “the Rafael Fire”.

A top-tier management team had been ordered to oversee the blaze that is burning in grass, juniper, chaparral and ponderosa pine.

Some campers already evacuated, and residents of rural areas have been told to prepare to evacuate on a moment’s notice, said Coconino County sheriff’s spokesman Jon Paxton.

If the fire continues its northeastern push, hundreds of people in Flagstaff — a college city about two hours north of Phoenix — also could be affected, Paxton said.

Fire officials were mapping out a plan to starve the Rafael Fire of fuel as it moves through rugged terrain, canyons and wilderness, said fire information officer Dolores Garcia. As of Monday, it was moving parallel to Interstate 40 along the Coconino and Yavapai county lines.

The 7,283sq-km (2,812sq-mile) Coconino National Forest, a popular area for camping, hiking, boating and fishing, is shutting down Wednesday because of concerns it will not have enough resources to respond to any future wildfires.

The forest has only partially closed in recent years because of wildfire danger.

“We have limited resources, and we’re tapped right now,” said forest spokesman Brady Smith.

Arizona is at the highest level of preparedness for wildfires. A large wildfire burning near Superior, about 97km (60 miles) west of Phoenix, was nearly 70 percent contained Monday. The 730sq-km (282sq-mile) blaze was human-caused.

Residents near the small communities of Pine and Strawberry remain evacuated because of another wildfire that has hopped among treetops, with flames jumping ahead carried by wind. Some local roads also were closed.

Firefighting crews have yet to contain any of the wildfire’s perimeter. The lightning-sparked blaze was estimated at 132sq km (51sq miles) Monday and is being managed by a top-tier team.

In Utah, several wildfires were burning in bone-dry conditions. The largest near the small town of Enterprise in southern Utah forced evacuations during the weekend. But homeowners were allowed to return as containment reached 50 percent.

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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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