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Rival Forces Fight over Key Sites in Burundi’s Capital

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Demonstrators celebrate what they perceive to be an attempted military coup d'etat, with army soldiers riding in an armored vehicle in the capital Bujumbura, Burundi Wednesday, May 13, 2015. Police vanished from the streets of Burundi's capital Wednesday as thousands of people celebrated a coup attempt against President Pierre Nkurunziza. (AP Photo/Berthier Mugiraneza)

Demonstrators celebrate what they perceive to be an attempted military coup d’etat, with army soldiers riding in an armored vehicle in the capital Bujumbura, Burundi Wednesday, May 13, 2015. Police vanished from the streets of Burundi’s capital Wednesday as thousands of people celebrated a coup attempt against President Pierre Nkurunziza. (AP Photo/Berthier Mugiraneza)

Andrew Njuguna and Melanie Gouby, ASSOCIATED PRESS

 

 

BUJUMBURA, Burundi (AP) — Gunfire and explosions rang out Thursday as military forces backing an attempted coup against President Pierre Nkurunziza battled troops loyal to him over key sites in Burundi’s capital, while his office reported he had returned to the country.

Weeks of turmoil in this impoverished Central African country boiled over Wednesday when an army general announced that Nkurunziza was being ousted.

The president was in Tanzania at the time for a meeting with regional leaders about the political crisis. Late Thursday, his office announced on Twitter that Nkurunziza was back in Burundi, although the report could not be independently verified.

The report also said Nkurunziza saluted the patriotism of the police and the patience of the Burundian people. His office had earlier said he had urged calm and said the situation was under control.

Shooting and explosions could be heard in central Bujumbura as loyalist troops guarding the national broadcaster RTNB exchanged fire with forces believed to support Maj. Gen. Godefroid Niyombare, the senior army officer leading the coup attempt.

The RTNB building and its surroundings were under attack for about 25 minutes, presidential communication adviser Willy Nyamitwe said on Twitter. State radio was playing music after going briefly off the air amid the fighting.

Following one of the clashes, the body of one of the soldiers who supported the coup lay on the edge of a road near the state radio station as troops loyal to Nkurunziza looked on. Police patrolled a deserted major road and some civilians walked timidly down another street, carrying a cross to show neutrality.

The military is divided between supporters of Nkurunziza and Niyombare, who was fired in February as intelligence chief. The army chief of staff, Maj. Gen. Prime Niyongabo, said on state radio late Wednesday that he was against Niyombare.

A grenade attack Wednesday night seriously damaged the building of private broadcaster Renaissance TV, where Niyombare made his coup statement, said the station’s director, Innocent Muhozi, who added that one of his offices was also burned overnight.

Police withdrew from the streets of Bujumbura after Niyombare’s coup statement, and people thronged Bujumbura’s streets and applauded soldiers who rode by in tanks and trucks.

At least 15 people have been killed in demonstrations since April 26 over Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term. Protesters say his candidacy violated the Constitution as well as peace accords that ended a civil war.

During the unrest, the military acted as a buffer between police and protesters.

Tanzania President Jakaya Kikwete, who chaired the summit on the Burundi crisis, said the region’s leaders condemned the coup and called for return to constitutional order.

Following an emergency meeting Thursday, the African Union Peace and Security Council condemned any attempts to seize power through violence in Burundi and urged talks between the warring factions.

The U.N. Security Council and Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned leaders of the attempted coup for trying to oust the elected government.

The council also condemned those facilitating violence against civilians, an apparent reference to government supporters, and called for “the swift return of the rule of law and the holding of credible elections.”

Both the council and the U.N. chief, in separate statements, called for an urgent halt to all fighting and the restoration of peace. Ban stressed that anyone responsible for ordering or committing human rights violations will be held accountable, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

The U.N. special envoy on Burundi Said Djinnit has been in touch with various parties on the ground, and calls have been made to regional leaders, Dujarric added. He briefed the Security Council by videoconference.

Djinnit was in Nairobi and was trying to get back to Bujumbura, Dujarric said.

Burundi’s Constitution states a president can be popularly elected to two five-year terms. Nkurunziza maintains he is eligible for a third because parliament elected him to his first term, leaving him open to be popularly elected to two terms.

The U.S. government urged all sides in Burundi to end the violence and expressed full support for the ongoing work by regional leaders.

Hutus are the majority ethnic group in Burundi, making up about 85 percent of the population, while Tutsis make up the other 15 percent.

Burundi erupted into civil war in 1993 following the assassination of the country’s first ethnic Hutu president, Melchior Ndadaye. That conflict, which underscored longstanding ethnic tensions between the Hutu and the Tutsi people, lasted until 2005.

Nkurunziza, a Hutu, took over as president and embarked on a campaign of ethnic reconciliation and economic rehabilitation. In 2009, his government signed a peace agreement with Burundi’s last rebel group.

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Associated Press reporter Elias Meseret in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and Cara Anna in New York contributed to this report.
Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Commentary

COMMENTARY: Muslims in France Face Worsening Climate of Hate Under Leadership of President Macron

For France, which colonized Algeria for more than a century, the idea that people from the former colonies should live the life they want seems unbearable. Many white French people seem to have a fear that those from the former colonies may want to treat the descendants of the European French in the same way that the colonial masters treated us. Assuming always the worst for its Muslim citizens says a lot about the country and its beliefs.

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A demonstration in France by Muslims protesting their treatment under President Macron in 2020.
A demonstration in France by Muslims protesting their treatment under President Macron in 2020.

By Larbi Ben Krima

Editor’s Note: We are accustomed to hearing travel advisories telling us to avoid countries in the midst of civil war or government repression. Last month a Muslim civil rights organization warned Muslims not to travel to a country that many consider to be the birthplace of liberty. The author of this article, a French citizen, explains how France has become an oppressive place for Muslims.

I was born and raised in France to an Algerian family. I, like millions of other French citizens, heard about colonization and the mistreatment it created. There was some progress made, and now, piece by piece, that is being erased.

One year ago, in October 2020, French President Macron decided to launch his 2022 re-election campaign with a speech targeting Muslim people. He used terrorism as an excuse. Everybody in France knew it was really about politics, although the citizens of the world did not know that.

Macron’s government followed up by dissolving organizations that had criticized his Islamophobic government.

Schools, humanitarian NGO’s, mosques, publishing offices, and civil right movements with Muslim participants have been shut down by a government looking for Far Right votes in the next election.

France is still pretending to fight for rights around the world, but these rights are never really applied to its Muslim citizens, who are always seen as a Fifth Column and who always have to prove that they are French enough.

Every Muslim act is seen as a danger to the country. It seems that Muslim prayers threaten the French republic; Muslim food is seen as a challenge to the religion of other French people; and Muslim clothes are seen as an attempt to change France’s way of life. Most religions have special foods, and prayers and clothing. Having these customs should not be made so difficult for us after all these years. What’s the big deal?

For France, which colonized Algeria for more than a century, the idea that people from the former colonies should live the life they want seems unbearable. Many white French people seem to have a fear that those from the former colonies may want to treat the descendants of the European French in the same way that the colonial masters treated us. Assuming always the worst for its Muslim citizens says a lot about the country and its beliefs.

That may explain why this country, which refuses to take accountability for its colonial past, can’t accept the kids who are born and raised here.

Quoting the world-famous psychiatrist and political philosopher Frantz Fanon, “It should not be said that such and such a country is racist, but there are no lynchings or extermination camps there. The truth is, all of this and something more is on the horizon.”

We can say that racism runs deep in France’s institutions and politics, cheered on by the media, with applause from a substantial group who likes what they are hearing.

This is a country where an openly racist media pundit has growing support in his campaign for president, just as Donald Trump did.

France, which always despised the USA, has now became one of the United States of Islamophobia, along with China and India.

A former great country, known for its ideals, France has used its former glory around the world. Recently, the world has come to know what a very small country France has actually become a country that should stop preaching to others what it obviously refuses to apply to itself.

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Business

Opinion: Different Summit, Same Story for the Polluters, Politicians, Privileged and Poor at Global Climate Meeting

So far, Glasgow has heard a lot of talk. President Biden and other world leaders touted two ‘major’ agreements earlier this week. One commits to ending deforestation by 2030, and the other to cut planet-heating methane emissions by 30%. But these aren’t binding. They are promises, an invitation to take leaders at their word. Many of these leaders promised to halve deforestation by 2020 back at a New York summit in 2014, a promise that was quietly broken.

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Despite the looming catastrophe, a tour of the COP26 premises makes it very clear that at these talks, nothing has changed.
Despite the looming catastrophe, a tour of the COP26 premises makes it very clear that at these talks, nothing has changed.

By Louis Wilson, Special to California Black Media Partners

Global negotiations kicked off this week in Glasgow, Scotland, in what John Kerry, President Biden’s climate envoy, described as our ‘last best chance’ to avoid environmental disaster.

These talks matter to California – so much so that a delegation of elected and government officials led by Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis made the 5,000-mile trip.

The goal is simple: agree to a plan to reduce the emissions that cause dangerous heating. To do that, governments need to end our reliance on fossil fuels, and support less-wealthy nations and communities in their decarbonization process.

We’ve been here 25 times before. The 26th U.N. Climate Change Conference COP26 is a gathering of over 100 nations in search of a solution to the climate crisis. Sadly, since the first meeting in Berlin in 1995, global emissions have increased. By almost every measure, the climate crisis is getting worse. That’s visible to Californians in the record wildfires, drought, and extreme weather that has intensified in the past two years.

The science is clear – something needs to change right now, otherwise the climate will change it for us. The current business-as-usual trajectory is set to make the world somewhere between 4.5 degrees F to 5.4 degrees F hotter than it was before we started burning fossil fuels. That would mean more droughts, fire, hurricanes, famines, climate refugees, and the list goes on.

So far, Glasgow has heard a lot of talk. President Biden and other world leaders touted two ‘major’ agreements earlier this week. One commits to ending deforestation by 2030, and the other to cut planet-heating methane emissions by 30%. But these aren’t binding. They are promises, an invitation to take leaders at their word. Many of these leaders promised to halve deforestation by 2020 back at a New York summit in 2014, a promise that was quietly broken.

Despite the looming catastrophe, a tour of the COP26 premises makes it very clear that at these talks, nothing has changed. The same old faces are here – the politicians, the polluters, the big companies, and people representing privileged and largely white interests.

Companies sponsoring the talks for a seat at the center of the action include one of the world’s largest plastic polluters (Unilever), a bank (NatWest) that has financed billions of dollars’ worth of fossil fuel projects since 2015, and a consumer goods company (Reckitt) whose suppliers included, until very recently, companies tearing down one of the world’s last remaining tropical rainforests in Papua New Guinea.

One of these sponsors, SSE, is currently building a new fossil gas plant, even while hosting a friendly stall touting unproven future technologies that might eventually help reduce emissions. Reckitt, meanwhile, is organizing an official side-event titled ‘Changing Consumer Behaviour,’ which appears aimed at deflecting responsibility onto individuals.

Presumably, the main recommendation will be to steer clear of their products until they can remove deforestation from their supply chain.

While companies that have had a hand in causing the crisis are overrepresented, notably underrepresented are BIPOC communities, or representatives from the worst affected countries. It is, as many have called it, the richest, Whitest COP ever.

That’s a problem ethically, but it’s also a big problem because clearly, ‘business as usual’ hasn’t worked. If we want to prevent the worst of what is to come, we need to focus on the interests of people on the frontlines: those who lost their homes in wildfires this year, or who were forced off their land by agribusinesses, or whose air is being polluted by mining projects. We can no longer prioritize the narrow interests of a very noisy but destructive business community.

This matters for California – the state which has long been a leader in the U.S. on climate action but is suffering the most immediate impacts of the climate crisis right now. If Californians want this state to be liveable for future generations, we need to see through ambitious action at home – but we also need these global negotiations to be a success.

Right now, we’re on track for more warm words, more bold, unmet promises, and more degrees of global heating. Unless this COP and all future climate summits put the worst affected, most vulnerable communities first, we will continue on this disastrous path which will see California and many other parts of the globe become inhospitable for our descendants within generations.

Louis Wilson is a senior communications advisor with Global Witness, a climate advocacy group.

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Black History

U.N. Climate Summit: Black Caucus Member Isaac Bryan Is Representing California in Scotland 

Elected to his Assembly seat in May, Assemblymember Isaac Bryan (D-Los Angeles) is mainly known for his work on social justice issues. But he has received praise for the multifocal approach he takes to standing up for environmental justice.

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During his campaign for the Assembly, Bryan received an endorsement from California Environmental Voters (EnviroVoters). The Sierra Club California also gave Bryan a score of 100% on its 2021 Legislative Report Card.
During his campaign for the Assembly, Bryan received an endorsement from California Environmental Voters (EnviroVoters). The Sierra Club California also gave Bryan a score of 100% on its 2021 Legislative Report Card.

By Aldon Thomas Stiles | California Black Media

Assemblymember Isaac Bryan (D-Los Angeles) is the only Black member of the California Legislature attending the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland this week.

Gov. Gavin Newsom is not present at the summit as he abruptly opted out last week, citing personal reasons.

“Due to family obligations, Governor Newsom will no longer be traveling to the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) and will instead be participating virtually, focusing on California’s landmark climate change policies,” Newsom’s spokesperson Erin Mellon said October 29.

Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis is attending the conference in Newsom’s place.

The conference began Sunday, October 31 and will last through Friday, November 12. It is co-hosted by the United Kingdom and Italy.

Bryan, who represents California’s 54th district and serves as the Assembly’s Assistant Majority Whip, joins 22 government officials attending the conference. He is also a member of the California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC).

Elected to his Assembly seat in May, Bryan is mainly known for his work on social justice issues. But he has received praise for the multifocal approach he takes to standing up for environmental justice.

During his campaign for the Assembly, Bryan received an endorsement from California Environmental Voters (EnviroVoters). The Sierra Club California also gave Bryan a score of 100% on its 2021 Legislative Report Card.

“Isaac Bryan is a bold, visionary leader whose intersectional approach to policy is much needed in the California legislature,” said EnviroVoters CEO Mary Creasman.

“We do not have time to waste when it comes to climate justice, and California needs leaders who are willing to stand up to big oil and polluters. Isaac has proven that he will lead the charge and do what is right at this critical point. Assembly District 54 needs an Assembly member who will take bold action on the community values of racial, criminal, economic, and environmental justice, and Isaac Bryan is clearly that candidate. EnviroVoters is excited to endorse Isaac Bryan for Assembly District 54,” Creasman continued.

Bryan responded to this endorsement and another one from Equality California (EQCA) in a statement.

“This is our moment. The support of these two frontrunners for progress is an important call to protect our vulnerable communities, prioritizing the needs of our LGBTQ+ and BIPOC neighbors; ensure clean air and water for all; and lift people out of poverty by preparing for jobs in emerging technologies,” Bryan said.

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