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At rally to back military’s campaign, Ethiopians denounce the U.S

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November 7, 2021

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) -Tens of thousands of Ethiopians rallied in Addis Ababa on Sunday in support of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government as federal troops fight rebellious forces who are threatening to march on the city.

Some demonstrators denounced the United States, which is among the foreign powers that have called for a ceasefire as a year-long war that has killed thousands of people intensified amid rebel advances last weekend.

The United States, the U.N. Security Council, the African Union, and Kenya and Uganda have called in recent days for a ceasefire.

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Abiy’s government has pledged to keep fighting. On Friday, the government said it had a responsibility to secure the country, and urged its international partners to stand with Ethiopia’s democracy.

Some of those gathered in Meskel Square in central Addis Ababa draped themselves in the national flag. Many singled out the United States for criticism.

U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration on Tuesday accused Ethiopia of “gross violations” of human rights and said it planned to remove the country from the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) trade agreement.

“Shame on you USA,” read one demonstrator’s placard, while another said the United States should stop “sucking Ethiopia’s blood”.

Other demonstrators expressed anger at the U.S. call for the government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) to begin talks.

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The conflict in the north of the country started a year ago when forces loyal to the TPLF seized military bases in the Tigray region. In response, Abiy sent troops, who initially drove the TPLF out of the regional capital, Mekelle, but have faced a sharp reversal since June this year.

“Why does the U.S. government not negotiate with terrorists like al Shabaab?” said 37-year-old Tigist Lemma, referring to an al-Qaeda linked militant group in Somalia.

“They want to destroy our country like they did to Afghanistan. They will never succeed, we are Ethiopians.”

Speaking at the rally, Addis Ababa Mayor Adanech Abiebe invoked Ethiopia’s history of resisting colonial power to justify the war.

The conflict has killed thousands of people, forced more than 2 million from their homes and left 400,000 people in Tigray facing famine.

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On Sunday, U.N. aid chief Martin Griffiths and the AU’s special envoy to the Horn of Africa, Olusegun Obasanjo, landed in Mekelle, one humanitarian source in Ethiopia and one person familiar with the matter told Reuters.

A spokesperson for the U.N.’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Ethiopia did not respond to a request for comment, and U.N. officials in New York were not immediately reachable. AU spokesperson Ebba Kalondo did not respond to a request for comment.

“I can confirm only that they are both here and we are having discussions,” TPLF spokesperson Getachew Reda told Reuters.

Government spokesperson Legesse Tulu did not respond to a request for comment on the officials’ visit.

‘NO YOUTH’ TO FRONT LINES

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During the Addis Ababa rally, there was one call for restraint, from popular musician Tariku Gankisi, whose songs call for unity of all Ethiopians.

“Let no youth go to the front lines to fight, let the elders go holding the fresh grass and ask for reconciliation,” Tariku told the crowd, before his microphone was switched off, it was unclear by whom. Fresh grass is a symbol of peace in the country.

A state of emergency declared by the government on Tuesday allows it to order citizens of military age to undergo training and accept military duties.

Reuters has not been able to confirm independently the extent of the TPLF advance. The TPLF and their allies told Reuters last week they were 325 km (200 miles) from the capital. The government accuses the group of exaggerating its gains.

The government has also complained about foreign media coverage of the conflict and some people at the rally held signs denouncing “fake news” in Ethiopia.

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Billene Seyoum, Abiy’s spokesperson, said in a Twitter post late on Saturday: “Orchestrated media propaganda against Ethiopia is escalating … Despite it all Ethiopia will overcome!”

(Reporting by Addis Ababa newsroom and Nairobi newsroomWriting by Duncan MiririEditing by Maggie Fick and Frances Kerry)

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Three missionaries released in Haiti following October kidnapping

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December 7, 2021

By Katharine Jackson

(Reuters) – Three missionaries who were kidnapped in Haiti in October have been released, the U.S. State Department and the Ohio-based missionary group that organized the group’s trip to the Caribbean nation said on Monday.

“We are thankful to God that three more hostages were released last night. Those who were released are safe and seem to be in good spirits,” Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries said in a statement.

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U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price on Monday confirmed the release, adding that the United States is continuing to work to secure the release of the others.

Haitian National Police spokesman Garry Desrosiers said the three were released on Sunday night. He declined to give additional details, citing the security of the remaining hostages.

Sixteen Americans and one Canadian, including five children, were abducted after visiting an orphanage. The incident has highlighted Haiti’s dire kidnapping problem, which has worsened in recent months amid economic troubles and political upheaval.

Two other ministry group members were released last month.

(Reporting by Katharine Jackson in Washington; Additional reporting by Gessika Thomas in Port-au-Prince; Editing by Susan Heavey and Matthew Lewis)

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Dutch court to rule on Palestinian’s case against Israeli defence minister

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December 7, 2021

By Stephanie van den Berg

THE HAGUE (Reuters) – An appeals court in the Netherlands rules on Tuesday in a case alleging war crimes against Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz, who is blamed by a Dutch Palestinian for the loss of six relatives in an Israeli air strike on Gaza in 2014.

Ismail Ziada filed the civil case against Gantz and another former senior Israeli military official, seeking unspecified damages under Dutch universal jurisdiction rules. His case was thrown out by a lower Dutch court in January 2020.

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Universal jurisdiction allows countries to prosecute serious offences such as war crimes and torture no matter where they were committed.

But the lower court ruled that the principles of universal jurisdiction could be applied for individual criminal responsibility, but not in civil cases.

Ziada appealed, arguing that universal jurisdiction should be applied in civil cases if the alleged conduct involved serious violations of international humanitarian law. He asked the appeals judges to reverse the decision, which effectively granted Gantz immunity from prosecution.

Gantz, a career soldier turned politician, was commander-in-chief of the Israeli armed forces during a war against Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip in 2014, when the incident took place.

About 2,200 Palestinians are estimated to have been killed, up to 1,500 of them civilians, in the conflict, according to U.N. figures. Ziada said he lost relatives when his family home in Gaza was bombed during a June 2014 Israeli air strike. On the Israeli side, 67 soldiers and five civilians were killed.

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Gaza is controlled by the Palestinian Islamist Hamas movement, regarded by the West as a terrorist organization. Israel says Hamas puts civilians in harm’s way by deploying fighters and weaponry inside densely populated areas of Gaza. 

    Human rights groups have accused both sides of war crimes in the 2014 conflict. The International Criminal Court (ICC) is currently investigating alleged war crimes committed on Palestinian territory since June 2014 by both Israeli defence forces and Palestinian armed groups.

(Reporting by Stephanie van den Berg in The Hague with additional reporting by Jeffrey Heller in Jerusalem; Editing by Anthony Deutsch and Mark Heinrich)

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Global finance system partly to blame for inequality – World Bank’s Malpass

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December 7, 2021

By Andrea Shalal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – World Bank President David Malpass on Monday said fiscal and monetary policies were operating in “uncharted territory” since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and may be contributing to a sharp rise in global inequality and poverty.

Malpass told a roundtable hosted by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang the number of people in extreme poverty had increased by over 100 million since the beginning of the pandemic even as global spending has increased to an all-time record.

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Advanced economies have rebounded, while the poorest countries had seen only a weak rebound, or none at all, he said. This was causing “tragic reversals” in median incomes, women’s empowerment and nutrition, he said, and inflation, supply chain bottlenecks, and high energy prices were aggravating these trends.

“Part of the inequality problem is global finance itself and the unequal structure of the stimulus,” Malpass said, noting that prevailing sovereign debt, fiscal and monetary policies were adding to inequality.

Malpass said monetary policy in the advanced economies had long focused on reserve requirement ratios and limited growth in bank reserves to achieve stability in currencies and prices, an approach still used by China.

Other major central banks had switched to a “post-monetarism system” of using very large amounts of excess bank reserves to purchase and hold long-duration bonds and other assets, which he said provided price support for a highly select group of assets.

That approach, he said, excluded small businesses and developing countries, while restraining policy through regulation of liquidity and bank capitalization ratios.

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Fiscal policy was also channeling resources to narrow groups within major borrowers, while leaving others behind, and sovereign debt policies were contributing to inequality.

Malpass repeated his call for greater transparency in debt contracts and a freeze in debt payments for countries with unsustainable debt. He said creditors should move away from collateral and escrow arrangements.

“As one of the largest creditors of developing countries, China’s active participation and strong voice in debt reduction efforts are very much needed and would benefit all participants by encouraging sustainable investment and debt,” he said.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by David Gregorio)

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