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Boko Haram leader Shekau says he is ‘still in charge’

A screengrab taken on October 2, 2014 from a video released by the Nigerian Islamist extremist group Boko Haram

Lagos (AFP) – The leader of Nigeria's Boko Haram denied he had been killed or ousted as chief of the jihadist group in an audio recording released Sunday attributed to him by security experts.

In the eight-minute Hausa-language message, Abubakar Shekau rebuffed claims by Chadian leader Idriss Deby that he had been replaced and called the president a "hypocrite" and a "tyrant".

"It is indeed all over the global media of infidels that I am dead or that I am sick and incapacitated and have lost influence in the affairs of religion," he said in the recording released on social media.

"It should be understood that this is false. This is indeed a lie. If it were true, my voice wouldn't have been heard, now that I am speaking."

Deby declared on August 12 that efforts to combat neighbouring Nigeria's Boko Haram jihadists had succeeded in "decapitating" the group and would be wrapped up "by the end of the year".

Deby told reporters in the capital N'Djamena Boko Haram was no longer led by the fearsome Shekau and that his successor, whom he named as Mahamat Daoud, was open to talks.

"Gratitude be to Allah and with his help, I have not disappeared. I am still alive and I am not dead. And I will not die until my time appointed by Allah is up," Shekau said in the message.

The SITE Intelligence Group verified the authenticity of the message, and an AFP correspondent with extensive experience of reporting Boko Haram said it exactly resembled Shekau's voice in previous recordings.

Shekau's absence from Boko Haram videos in recent months has fuelled speculation that he might have been killed or wounded.

He has not spoken publicly since he pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) group in an audio recording released on March 7.

The jihadist commander refers to himself in the new recording for the first time as "leader of the west Africa wing" of IS and pays homage to its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, referring to him as the "Caliph of Muslims".

He taunted Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari, who came to power on May 29 vowing to crush Boko Haram and ordered his military chiefs last week to end the insurgency within three months.

"This ostentatious person, a liar — I mean Buhari, who raised arms to crush us in three months. You Buhari, why didn't you say in three years?" Shekau demanded.

"We will certainly fight you by the grace of Allah until we establish Allah's law everywhere on Earth."

Boko Haram has been waging a six-year uprising against the Nigerian state, which has claimed more than 15,000 lives.

The jihadists have repeatedly extended their northeastern insurgency into border areas of Cameroon, Chad and Niger.

In recent weeks suicide bombers, many of them women, have staged several attacks in Nigeria, Cameroon and Chad.

The four countries, plus Benin, have pledged troops towards a regional 8,700-strong force aimed at ending the insurgency and due to deploy within days.

– 'Global terrorist' –

Speculation about Shekau's condition — and even his true identity — has been rampant in Nigeria for years.

The wanted Islamist leader's whereabouts are unknown, but he has in the past made himself heard whenever he has been proclaimed dead.

Some experts and Nigerian security officials insist "Shekau" is a composite character, with different militant fighters stepping into the role at different times.

The original Abubakar Shekau — the son of poor farmers who became radicalised in a series of theological schools before taking over Boko Haram in 2010 — actually died months, or possibly several years ago, according to the security services.

But the United States and other experts have questioned the credibility of that claim.

"Here I am, alive. I will only die the day Allah takes my breath," the insurgent leader, who has been sanctioned by the UN Security Council and declared a "global terrorist" by the United States, said in a video released in October last year.

He issued a similarly boastful denial in 2013 after the military claimed he may have died from a gunshot wound.

AFP

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African countries call on WHO to increase funding

2nd February 2023

Minister of Health Dr Edwin Dikoloti says Africa member states call on World Health Organization (WHO) to ensure equitable resource allocation for 2024-2025. Dr Dikoloti was speaking this week at the WHO Executive Board Meeting in Geneva, Switzerland.

He said countries agreed that there is need to address the budget and funding imbalances by increasing the programme budget share of countries and regions to 75% for the next year.

“The proposed budget for 2024-2025 marks an important milestone as it is the first in Programme Budget in which country offices will be allocated more than half of the total budget for the biennium. We highly welcome this approach which will enable the organization to deliver on its mandate while fulfilling the expectations for transparency, efficiency and accountability.”

The Botswana Health Minister commended member states on the extension of the General Programme of Work (GPD 13) and the Secretariat work to monitor the progress towards the triple billion targets, and the health-related SDGs.

“We welcome the Director’s general proposed five priorities which have crystalized into the “five Ps” that are aligned with the GPW 13 extension. Impact can only be achieved through close coordination with, and support to national health authorities. As such, the strengthening of country offices is instrumental, with particular focus on strengthening national health systems and on promoting more equitable access to health services.”

According to Dr Dikoloti, the majority of countries with UHC index that is below the global median are in the WHO Africa region. “For that, we call on the WHO to enhance capacity at the regional and national levels in order to accelerate progress. Currently, the regional office needs both technical and financial support in order to effectively address and support country needs.”

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Botswana still weighing in on Maseko’s assassination

27th January 2023

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Lemogang Kwape says Botswana has not taken any position regarding the killing of a renowned human rights lawyer, Thulani Maseko, who was gunned down at his house in Mbabane, Eswatini.

In a brief interview with WeekendPost, Dr Kwape said Botswana has not yet taken any position regarding his death. He said the purported incident should be thoroughly probed before Botswana can form an opinion based on the findings of the inquiries.

“Botswana generally condemns any killing of human life by all means,” says Dr. Kwape. He wouldn’t want to be dragged on whether Botswana will support the suspension of Eswatini from SADC.

“We will be guided by SADC organ Troika if they can be an emergency meeting. I am not sure when the meeting will be called by Namibian president,“ he said.

However, the Namibian president Hage Geingob notes with deep concern reports coming out of Eswatini about the killing of Mr. Maseko. In a statement, he called upon the “Government of the Kingdom of Eswatini to ensure that the killing of Maseko is swiftly, transparently and comprehensively investigated, and that any or all persons suspected of committing this heinous crime are brought to justice.”

Maseko was chairperson of the Multi-Stakeholder Forum which was established as a coalition of non-State actors to advocate for a process of national political dialogue aimed at resolving the security and political challenges confronting the Kingdom.

“SADC expresses its deepest and heartfelt condolences to the family of Mr. Maseko, his friends, colleagues, and to the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini for the loss of Mr. Maseko. In this context, SADC further calls upon the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini to remain calm, exercise due care and consideration whilst the appropriate structures conduct the investigations and bring the matter to completion,” the statement says.

Geingob reiterated the need for peaceful resolution of the political and security challenges affecting the country.

Meanwhile political activists are calling on SADC to suspend Eswatini from the block including the African Union as well.

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Kopong Murder: Accused interferes with witnesses again!

27th January 2023

State prosecutor, Seeletso Ookeditse revealed before the Broadhurst Magistrate Jobbie Moilatshimo that the third accused involved in the murder of Barulaganye Aston, has interfered with the State witnesses again.

The second and third accused (Lefty Kosie and Outlwile Aston) were previously accused of interference when they were caught in possession of cellphones in prison. They were further accused of planning to kill the deceased’s brother, who is currently the guardian to the children of the deceased.

Ookeditse indicated that Outlwile had earlier went to challenge the magistrate’s decision of denying him bail at the High Court before Judge Michael Motlhabi.

“The third accused approached the High Court and made a bail application, which was dismissed on the same day,” Ookeditse said.

However, even after the High Court verdict on their bail application, the duo (Kosie and Aston) has once again applied for bail this week.

Ookeditse plead with the court to stop the accused from abusing the court process.

“Yesterday, Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) received papers of his bail application filed before the Broadhurst Magistrates Court. However, the papers do not speak to changed circumstances, therefore this back and forth about bail must be put to a stop,” said the State prosecutor.

While giving evidence before court, the Investigations Officer, Detective Inspector Quite Zhalamonto, said his investigations have proved that there is interference continuing regarding the accused trio.

He told the court that on the 12th of January 2023, he received a report from Thato Aston, who is the son of the accused and the deceased. The son had alleged to the Investigation Officer that he received a call from one Phillip Molwantwa.

According to Zhalamonto, Thato revealed that Molwatwa indicated that he was from prison on a visit to the Outlwile Aston and went on to ask where he was staying and where his siblings (Aston’s children) are staying.

“Thato revealed that Phillip went on to ask if he or his siblings saw their father murdering their mother, and he was referring to the crime scene. Thato told me that he, however, refused to answer the questions as he was afraid especially because he was asked about where him and his siblings stay,” said Zhalamonto.

Zhalamonto alluded to the court that he then went to Orange to confirm the communication between Thato and Molwantwa where he found the case.

“I have arrested Philip yesterday and when I interviewed him, he did not deny that he knows Aston and that he has indeed called Thato and asked questions as to where him and his siblings resides even though he failed to give reasons for asking such questions,” Zhalamonto told the court.

He further revealed that Molwantwa indicated that he had received a call from an unknown man who refused to reveal himself.

“Phillip told me that the unknown man said he was sent by the accused (Aston), and that Aston had instructed him to tell me to check if there was still some money in his bank accounts, and he also wanted to know where the kids were residing, the unknown man even asked him to meet at Main Mall” the Investigation Officer told the court.

He further informed the court that he is working tirelessly to identify the “unknown caller” and the route of the cell number.

Furthermore, the fourth accused, Kebaleboge Ntsebe, has revealed to the court through a letter that she was abused and tortured by the Botswana Police Services. She wrote in her letter that she suffered miscarriage as a result of being beaten by the police.

Ntsebe is on bail, while a bail ruling for Aston and Kosie will be delivered on the 6th of next month

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