Ethiopia accuses Amhara militia of seeking to overthrow government

A senior Ethiopian official accused militiamen in the Amhara region of seeking to overthrow the regional and federal governments following days of fighting that led the authorities to declare a state of emergency.

Clashes between Fano militiamen and the Ethiopian National Defence Force (ENDF) continued over the weekend. Residents of Gondar, Amhara’s second-biggest city, said that heavy weapons fire that began on Sunday could be heard into Monday morning.

The conflict has quickly become Ethiopia’s most serious security crisis since a two-year civil war in Tigray region, which neighbours Amhara, ended in November.

Temesgen Tiruneh, director-general of Ethiopia’s national intelligence service who was appointed to oversee enforcement of the state of emergency, acknowledged that militia fighters had taken some towns and districts.

“This robbery force is operating with the goal and intention of overthrowing the regional government by force and then advancing to the federal system,” Temesgen said in comments broadcast late on Sunday by state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting.

The state of emergency declaration gives the security services the power to impose curfews, restrict movement, ban the carrying of guns and sharp objects, ban public gatherings and make arrests and conduct searches without warrants.

Government spokesperson Legesse Tulu said on Saturday that the authorities had already started to arrest those behind the unrest.

Fano is a part-time militia that draws volunteers from the local population and was an ally of the ENDF during the Tigray War.

Their relationship later deteriorated, in part over recent efforts by federal authorities to weaken regional paramilitary groups. Some activists say this has left Amhara vulnerable to attack by neighbouring regions.

Violent protests erupted across Amhara in April after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered that security forces from Ethiopia’s 11 regions be disbanded and integrated into the police or national army.

US diplomat visits Niger to meet coup leaders, push for Bazoum’s release

A senior United States diplomat has visited Niger to push coup authorities to restore democratic rule after their overthrow of President Mohamed Bazoum last month.

Victoria Nuland, the US’s acting deputy secretary of state, said on Monday that she held “frank and difficult” talks with military leader Moussa Salaou Barmou and three of his colonels in Niger’s capital, Niamey. It was the first trip by a US official to the country since the coup on July 26.

Nuland’s requests to meet with Bazoum and Abdourahmane Tchiani, the self-proclaimed head of the military government, were denied, she said. In a telephone briefing afterwards with reporters, she offered a grim assessment of her talks with the military leaders.

“They are quite firm in their view of how they want to proceed, and it does not comport with the Constitution of Niger,” she said. “It was difficult today, and I will be straight up about that.”

Nuland, however, reaffirmed her country’s commitment to a “a negotiated solution” to the conflict. If the coup leaders are willing to return to Niger’s “constitutional order”, Nuland said that the US is “prepared to help with that”.

Earlier on Monday, the US State Department had confirmed it had made direct contact with the coup leaders and had stressed the need for Bazoum to be reinstated.

“There has been direct contact with military leaders urging them to step aside,” said Matthew Miller, the department’s spokesperson.

Military leaders seized power in the landlocked West African country last month and detained Bazoum, sparking international condemnation.

Last week, an African regional bloc imposed sanctions on Niger and threatened to use force against the new authorities if Bazoum is not restored to power. But a Sunday deadline set by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) expired without any military action.

Still, the coup authorities — called the National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland — shut down the country’s airspace in anticipation of a conflict and promised to “defend the integrity of our territory”.

Rwanda genocide suspect Kabuga should not face trial, UN judges say

UN appeal judges have ordered the war crimes trial for 90-year-old Rwandan genocide suspect Felicien Kabuga indefinitely suspended because he has dementia, rejecting plans for an alternative slimmed-down procedure.

The decision taken on Monday likely means that Kabuga’s trial, which started last year in The Hague, will not be completed.

In June, judges at the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals ruled Kabuga unfit to stand trial but said alternative procedures should take place. Prosecutors had argued halting the trial would be unfair to the victims and said Kabuga’s own actions put him in the position of facing trial at an advanced age with diminished capacity.

However, appeals judges said on Monday that the lower court made an “error of law” and there was no legal basis for an “alternative finding procedure” instead of a trial for Kabuga.

They had “decided to remand the matter to the trial chamber with an instruction to impose an indefinite stay of proceedings in view of Mr Kabuga’s lack of fitness to stand trial.”

“The appeals chamber further instructed the trial chamber to expeditiously consider the issue of Mr Kabuga’s detention on remand,” the judges said in their ruling.

The decision “must be disappointing” to victims and survivors of the 1994 slaughter who have “waited long to see justice delivered”, the appeals judges acknowledged.

But they said: “Justice can be delivered only by holding trials that are fair and conducted with full respect for the rights of the accused.”

The judges also ordered a lower trial chamber to rapidly evaluate under what circumstances Kabuga could be released.

Sanctions, airspace closures hamper UN humanitarian efforts in Niger

Niger’s military coup is disrupting humanitarian efforts by the United Nations as border and airspace closures threaten to cut off supplies of medicine and food, says a UN official.

UN aid agencies are scrambling to replenish depleting stocks just as regional sanctions potentially increase the number of people in need, its humanitarian chief in Niger, Louise Aubin, warned on Tuesday.

“The risk is that we start running out of assistance materials to be able to help out people – I’m talking about simple things that are so lifesaving,” Aubin told Reuters news agency, listing food, vaccines and cash as areas of concern.

“Some people will soon be feeling the pinch of this … More than the 4.3 million people we had planned on supporting through emergency humanitarian assistance, we might see that number growing and growing fast.”

On Monday, UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths said he was “very concerned” about the situation in Niger and urged the international community to “do everything” to help those in need.