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Archive for March, 2019

Ethiopian crash victims were aid workers, doctors, students

March 11, 2019

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) — Three Austrian physicians. The co-founder of an international aid organization. A career ambassador. The wife and children of a Slovak legislator. A Nigerian-born Canadian college professor, author and satirist. They were all among the 157 people from 35 countries who died Sunday morning when an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 jetliner crashed shortly after takeoff from Addis Ababa en route to Nairobi, Kenya. Here are some of their stories.

Kenya: 32 victims

— Hussein Swaleh, the former secretary general of the Football Kenya Federation, was named as being among the dead by Sofapaka Football Club.

He was due to return home on the flight after working as the match commissioner in an African Champions League game in Egypt on Friday.

— Cedric Asiavugwa, a law student at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., was on his way to Nairobi after the death of his fiancee’s mother, the university said in a statement.

Asiavugwa, who was in his third year at the law school, was born and raised in Mombasa, Kenya. Before he came to Georgetown, he worked with groups helping refugees in Zimbabwe, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, the university said.

At Georgetown, Asiavugwa studied international business and economic law.

The university said Asiavugwa’s family and friends “remembered him as a kind, compassionate and gentle soul, known for his beautifully warm and infectious smile.”

Canada: 18 victims

—Pius Adesanmi, a Nigerian professor with Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, was on his way to a meeting of the African Union’s Economic, Social and Cultural Council in Nairobi, John O. Oba, Nigeria’s representative to the panel, told The Associated Press.

The author of “Naija No Dey Carry Last,” a collection of satirical essays, Adesanmi had degrees from Ilorin and Ibadan universities in Nigeria, and the University of British Columbia. He was director of Carleton’s Institute of African Studies, according to the university’s website. He was also a former assistant professor of comparative literature at Pennsylvania State University.

“Pius was a towering figure in African and post-colonial scholarship and his sudden loss is a tragedy,” said Benoit-Antoine Bacon, Carleton’s president and vice chancellor.

Adesanmi was the winner of the inaugural Penguin Prize for African non-fiction writing in 2010.

Mitchell Dick, a Carleton student who is finishing up a communications honors degree, said he took a first- and second-year African literature course with Adesanmi.

Adesanmi was “extremely nice and approachable,” and stood out for his passion for the subject matter, Dick said.

—Mohamed Hassan Ali confirmed that he had lost his sister and niece.

Ali said his sister, Amina Ibrahim Odowaa, and her five-year-old daughter, Safiya, were on board the jet that went down six minutes after it took off from the Addis Ababa airport on the way to Nairobi, Kenya.

“(She was) a very nice person, very outgoing, very friendly. Had a lot of friends,” he said of his sister, who lived in Edmonton and was travelling to Kenya to visit with relatives.

Amina Ibrahim Odowaa and her daughter Sofia Faisal Abdulkadir

The 33-year-old Edmonton woman and her five year-old daughter were travelling to Kenya to visit with relatives.

A family friend said Odowaa has lived in Edmonton since 2006.

— Derick Lwugi, an accountant with the City of Calgary, was also among the victims, his wife, Gladys Kivia, said. He leaves behind three children, aged 17, 19 and 20, Kivia said.

The couple had been in Calgary for 12 years, and Lwugi had been headed to Kenya to visit both of their parents.

Ethiopia: 9 victims

— The aid group Save the Children said an Ethiopian colleague died in the crash.

Tamirat Mulu Demessie had been a child protection in emergencies technical adviser and “worked tirelessly to ensure that vulnerable children are safe during humanitarian crises,” the group said in a statement.

China: 8 victims

—A statement from the Chinese Embassy in Addis Ababa said the Chinese victims included five men and three women, including one person from the semi-autonomous region of Hong Kong.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said two United Nations workers were among the eight Chinese killed. Four were working for a Chinese company and two had travelled to Ethiopia for “private matters.”

Italy: 8 victims

—Paolo Dieci, one of the founders of the International Committee for the Development of Peoples, was among the dead, the group said on its website.

“The world of international cooperation has lost one of its most brilliant advocates and Italian civil society has lost a precious point of reference,” wrote the group, which partners with UNICEF in northern Africa.

UNICEF Italia sent a tweet of condolences over Dieci’s death, noting that CISP, the group’s Italian acronym, was a partner in Kenya, Libya and Algeria.

—Sebastiano Tusa, the Sicilian regional assessor to the Italian Culture Ministry, was en route to Nairobi when the plane crashed, according to Sicilian regional President Nello Musemeci. In a statement reported by the ANSA news agency, Musemeci said he received confirmation from the foreign ministry, which confirmed the news to The Associated Press.

In a tweet, Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte said it was a day of pain for everyone. He said: “We are united with the relatives of the victims and offer them our heartfelt thoughts.”

Tusa was also a noted underwater archaeologist.

—The World Food Program confirmed that two of the Italian victims worked for the Rome-based U.N. agency.

A WFP spokeswoman identified the victims as Virginia Chimenti and Maria Pilar Buzzetti.

—Three other Italians worked for the Bergamo-based humanitarian agency, Africa Tremila: Carlo Spini, his wife, Gabriella Viggiani and the treasurer, Matteo Ravasio.

United States: 8 victims

France: 7 victims

—A group representing members of the African diaspora in Europe is mourning the loss of its co-chairperson and “foremost brother,” Karim Saafi.

A French Tunisian, Saafi, 38, was on an official mission representing the African Diaspora Youth Forum in Europe, the group announced on its Facebook page.

“Karim’s smile, his charming and generous personality, eternal positivity, and his noble contribution to Youth employment, diaspora engagement and Africa’s socio-economic development will never be forgotten,” the post read. “Brother Karim, we’ll keep you in our prayers.”

Saafi left behind a fiancee.

— Sarah Auffret, a French-British national living in Tromsoe, northern Norway, was on the plane, the Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators said. Auffret, a staffer, was on the way to Nairobi to talk about a Cleans Seas project in connection with the U.N. Environment Assembly this week, the company said in a statement.

U.K.: 7 victims

— Joanna Toole, a 36-year-old from Exmouth, Devon, was heading to Nairobi to attend the United Nations Environment Assembly when she was killed.

Father Adrian described her as a “very soft and loving” woman whose “work was not a job — it was her vocation”.

“Everybody was very proud of her and the work she did. We’re still in a state of shock. Joanna was genuinely one of those people who you never heard a bad word about,” he told the DevonLive website.

He also said she used to keep homing pigeons and pet rats and travelled to the remote Faroe Islands to prevent whaling.

Manuel Barange, the director of Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations fisheries and aquaculture department, tweeted saying he was “profoundly sad and lost for words” over the death of the “wonderful human being”.

— Joseph Waithaka, a 55-year-old who lived in Hull for a decade before moving back to his native Kenya, also died in the crash, his son told the Hull Daily Mail.

Ben Kuria, who lives in London, said his father had worked for the Probation Service, adding: “He helped so many people in Hull who had found themselves on the wrong side of the law.”

Waithaka had dual Kenyan and British citizenship, the BBC reported.

Egypt: 6 victims

Germany: 5 victims

—The United Nations migration agency said that one of its staffers, German citizen Anne-Katrin Feigl, was on the plane en route to a training course in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya and the plane’s destination.

India: 4 victims

Slovakia: 4 victims

—A lawmaker of Slovak Parliament said his wife, daughter and son were killed in the crash. Anton Hrnko, a legislator for the ultra-nationalist Slovak National Party, said he was “in deep grief” over the deaths of his wife, Blanka, son, Martin, and daughter, Michala. Their ages were not immediately available.

Martin Hrnko was working for the Bubo travel agency. The agency said he was traveling for his vacation in Kenya.

President Andrej Kiska offered his condolences to Hrnko.

Sweden: 4 victims

— Hospitality company Tamarind Group announced “with immense shock and grief” that its chief executive Jonathan Seex was among the fatalities.

— The Stockholm-based Civil Rights Defenders, an international human rights group, said employee Josefin Ekermann, 30, was on board the plane. Ekermann, who worked to support human rights defenders, was on her way to meet Kenyan partner organizations. The group’s executive director, Anders L. Pettersson, says “Josefin was a highly appreciated and respected colleague.”

Austria: 3 victims

—Austrian Foreign Ministry spokesman Peter Guschelbauer confirmed that three Austrian doctors in their early 30s were on board the flight. The men were on their way to Zanzibar, he said, but he could not confirm the purpose of their trip.

Russia: 3 victims

—The Russian Embassy in Ethiopia said that airline authorities had identified its deceased nationals as Yekaterina Polyakova, Alexander Polyakov and Sergei Vyalikov.

News reports identify the first two as husband and wife. State news agency RIA-Novosibirsk cites a consular official in Nairobi as saying all three were tourists.

Israel: 2 victims

Morocco: 2 victims

Poland: 2 victims

Spain: 2 victims

Belgium: 1 victim

Djibouti: 1 victim

Indonesia: 1 victim

Ireland: 1 victim

— Irishman Michael Ryan was among the seven dead from the United Nations’ World Food Program, a humanitarian organization distributing billions of rations every year to those in need.

The Rome-based aid worker and engineer known as Mick was formerly from Lahinch in County Clare in Ireland’s west and was believed to be married with two children.

His projects have included creating safe ground for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh and assessing the damage to rural roads in Nepal that were blocked by landslides.

His mother, Christine Ryan, told broadcaster RTE that “he had a marvelous vision and he just got there and did it and had great enthusiasm…He never wanted a nine to five job. He put everything into his work.”

Irish premier Leo Varadkar said: “Michael was doing life-changing work in Africa with the World Food Programme.”

Mozambique: 1 victim

Nepal: 1 victim

Nigeria: 1 victim

—The Nigerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it received the news of retired Ambassador Abiodun Oluremi Bashu’s death “with great shock and prayed that the Almighty God grant his family and the nation, the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss.”

Bashu was born in Ibadan in 1951 and joined the Nigerian Foreign Service in 1976. He had served in different capacities both at Headquarters and Foreign Missions such as Vienna, Austria, Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire and Tehran, Iran. He also served as secretary to the Conference of Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

At the time of his death, Bashu was on contract with the United Nations Economic Commission of Africa.

Norway: 1 victim

—The Red Cross of Norway confirmed that Karoline Aadland, a finance officer, was among those on the flight.

Aadland, 28, was originally from Bergen, Norway. The Red Cross said she was traveling to Nairobi for a meeting.

Aadland’s Linkedin page says she had done humanitarian and environmental work. The page says her work and studies had taken her to France, Kenya, South Africa and Malawi.

“People who know me describe me as a resourceful, dedicated and kindhearted person,” she wrote on Linkedin.

The Red Cross says in a news release that it “offers support to the closest family, and to employees who want it,” the organization said in a news release.

Rwanda: 1 victim

Saudi Arabia: 1 victim

Serbia: 1 victim

Serbia’s foreign ministry confirmed that one of its nationals was aboard the plane. The ministry gave no further details, but local media identified the man as 54-year-old Djordje Vdovic.

The Vecernje Novosti daily reported that he worked at the World Food Program.

Somalia: 1 victim

Sudan: 1 victim

Togo: 1 victim

Uganda: 1 victim

Yemen: 1 victim

U.N. passport: 1 victim

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Cyclone’s huge floods leave hundreds dead in southern Africa

March 19, 2019

CHIMANIMANI, Zimbabwe (AP) — Aid workers rushed to rescue victims clinging to trees and crammed on rooftops against rapidly rising waters Tuesday after a cyclone unleashed devastating floods in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi. More than 238 were dead, hundreds were missing and thousands more were at risk.

“This is the worst humanitarian crisis in Mozambique’s recent history,” said Jamie LeSueur, head of response efforts in Beira for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. At least 400,000 people were left homeless.

The rapidly rising floodwaters created “an inland ocean” in Mozambique, endangering tens of thousands of families, aid workers said as they scrambled to rescue survivors of Cyclone Idai and airdrop food, water and blankets.

Mozambique’s President Filipe Nyusi said the death toll could reach 1,000. Emergency workers called it the region’s most destructive flooding in 20 years. Heavy rains were expected to continue through Thursday.

“This is a major humanitarian emergency that is getting bigger by the hour,” said Herve Verhoosel of the World Food Program. Many people were “crammed on rooftops and elevated patches of land outside the port city of Beira” and WFP was rushing to rescue as many as possible, he said.

Mozambique’s Pungue and Buzi rivers overflowed, creating “inland oceans extending for miles and miles in all directions,” Verhoosel said. Dams were at 95 percent to 100 percent capacity. “People visible from the air may be the lucky ones and the top priority now is to rescue as many as possible,” he said.

The extent of the damage was not yet known as many areas remained impassible. With key roads washed away, aid groups were trying to get badly needed food, medicine and fuel into hard-hit Beira, a city of some 500,000 people, by air and sea.

Cyclone Idai swept across central Mozambique before dropping huge amounts of rain in neighboring Zimbabwe’s eastern mountains. That rainfall is now rushing back through Mozambique, further inundating the already flooded countryside.

“It’s dire,” Caroline Haga of the Red Cross told The Associated Press from Beira. “We did an aerial surveillance yesterday and saw people on rooftops and in tree branches. The waters are still rising and we are desperately trying to save as many as possible.”

Satellite images were helping the rescue teams target the most critical areas, Haga said. Rescue operations were based at Beira airport, one of the few places in the city with working communications. The waters flooded a swath of land more than 30 miles wide in central Mozambique putting more than 100,000 people at risk, said the aid group Save the Children.

“The assessment emerging from Mozambique today is chilling,” said Machiel Pouw, Save the Children’s response leader in Mozambique. “Thousands of children lived in areas completely engulfed by water. In many places, no roofs or tree tops are even visible above the floods.”

“The full horror, the full impact is only going to emerge over coming days,” Red Cross spokesman Matthew Cochrane told reporters in Geneva. Torrential rain was still lashing the region on Tuesday, and Buzi town could be entirely submerged within 24 hours, the aid group said.

Hardest hit was Beira, where thousands of homes were destroyed. The city and surrounding areas were without power and nearly all communication lines were destroyed. Beira’s main hospital was also badly damaged. Large areas to the west of Beira have been severely flooded and flood waters have completely covered homes, telephone poles and trees, the Red Cross said.

Beira could face a “serious fuel shortage” in the coming days, WFP said, and its power grid was expected to be non-functional through the end of the month. The nearby cities of Dondo and Chimoio were also badly affected.

In Zimbabwe the death toll rose to 98, the government said. The mountain town of Chimanimani was badly hit. Several roads leading into the town were cut off, with the only access by helicopter. Residents expected the death toll to rise.

“We did over 38 burials this morning,” Absolom Makanga, a Salvation Army divisional commander, told the AP. “It is difficult. We have to walk long distances because the roads are cut off but also because sometimes the graves are then washed away.”

Among those fleeing on foot was Luckmore Rusero, who carried a small bag with his remaining possessions. His wife carried their 1-year-old child while their 11-year-old son struggled to keep pace as they joined many others in seeking refuge.

“Thank God we survived. There are no roads, no transport, so we have been walking for more than 20 kilometers now through the forests and the mountains,” Rusero said. Some escaped with nothing but their lives.

“I fled naked,” Tecla Chagwiza said. “I only received clothes in the morning from well-wishers who are also helping me with food.” She said her family’s home was destroyed and three neighbors were dead. Others were missing.

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa arrived in the area on Tuesday, saying a number of countries, including the United Arab Emirates, South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and Angola, were offering aid.

The U.S. Embassy in Zimbabwe said the U.S. was also “mobilizing to provide support” to partners in the three affected countries, but provided no details. The European Union and Britain also pledged aid.

Malawi’s government confirmed 56 deaths, three missing and 577 injured in the flooding, which caused rivers to burst their banks, leaving many houses submerged and around 11,000 households displaced in the southern district of Nsanje.

Neighboring Tanzania’s military airlifted some 238 tons of emergency food and medicine to the three countries.

Meldrum reported from Johannesburg.

Before meeting Kim, Trump oversees big Vietnamese plane deal

February 27, 2019
HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — President Donald Trump and Vietnamese President Nguyen Phu Trong presided over the signing of several trade deals in Hanoi on Wednesday, including agreements to sell the booming Southeast Asian country 110 Boeing planes worth billions of dollars.
The deals give Trump tangible progress to take home ahead of meetings expected for later in the day with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in the Vietnamese capital. Those talks, which follow an initial summit in Singapore last year, are focused on North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and seeking peace on the Korean Peninsula.
Trump has downplayed the likelihood of a breakthrough at the summit. “Hopefully great things will happen later on with our meeting but a lot of good things are happening before, and that’s the signing of trade deals with the United States, and we appreciate it very much,” Trump told Nguyen as the trade agreements were being unveiled.
In the biggest of the deals, Chicago-based aircraft manufacturer Boeing Co. said it is selling 100 of its 737 MAX planes to Vietnamese low-cost carrier Vietjet. The privately owned carrier operates domestic and regional flights using Airbus planes.
Boeing and Vietjet said their deal was worth $12.7 billion at list prices. Airlines typically negotiate discounts for bulk orders. Vietjet is doubling down on its bet for the 737 MAX, which is an updated version of the workhorse single-aisle 737 model. It already had 100 of the planes on order following a 2016 deal, though none have been delivered so far.
The deal marks a major confidence boost for Boeing, which has faced questions about the plane’s safety since a 737 MAX 8 operated by Indonesia’s Lion Air plunged into the Java Sea, killing all on board, just minutes after taking off from Jakarta on Oct. 29.
Boeing sealed a second sale to Bamboo Airways of 10 787 Dreamliners, which they valued at $3 billion. The startup airline was founded in 2017 and began operating domestic flights in January. It is owned by Hanoi-based conglomerate FLC Group and already had 20 Dreamliners on offer.
U.S.-based aviation technology company Sabre also inked a deal with the flag carrier Vietnam Airlines during Trump’s visit. It said the memorandum of understanding has a “potential value” of $300 million.
The deals follow a determination by the Federal Aviation Administration earlier this month that Vietnam now meets international standards for aviation safety. That decision, which follows an assessment by the agency in August, would allow Vietnamese airlines to fly to the United States and to cooperate with U.S. carriers.
There are currently no direct flights between the two countries.

Vietnam vows ‘maximum level’ security for Trump-Kim summit

February 25, 2019
HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — With North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on an armored train barreling through China toward Vietnam’s capital, and U.S. President Donald Trump about to board a jet for Hanoi, Vietnamese officials scrambled Monday to finish preparations for a rushed summit that will capture global attention.
Officials in Hanoi said they had about 10 days to prepare for the summit — much less than the nearly two months they said Singapore was given for the first Trump-Kim meeting last year— but still vowed to provide airtight security for the two leaders.
“Security will be at the maximum level,” Vietnamese Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Le Hoai Trung told reporters at a briefing meant to showcase the nation’s efforts to welcome Kim and Trump. Another official, Nguyen Manh Hung, the leader of the information ministry, said the 3,000 journalists from 40 countries expected in Hanoi could rely on his agency as “you’d count on a family member.”
The world will be watching as Trump and Kim deal with one of Asia’s biggest security challenges: North Korea’s pursuit of a nuclear program that stands on the verge of viably threatening any target on the planet.
Although many experts are skeptical that Kim will give up the nukes he likely sees as his best guarantee of continued rule, there was a palpable, carnival-like excitement among many in Hanoi as the final preparations were put in place.
T-shirts were being sold bearing Kim’s face along with the phrase “Rocket Man,” a nod to the insulting nickname Trump gave Kim in 2017, when North Korean weapons tests and back-and-forth threats by the leaders had many fearing war. Kindergarteners dressed in traditional Korean Hanbok were practicing songs meant to welcome Kim. Grinning tourists were posing in front of the hundreds of U.S. and North Korean flags around the city.
The ultra-tight security will be appreciated by North Korean authorities, who are extremely vigilant about the safety of Kim, the third member of his family to rule the North with absolute power. Kim’s decision to take a train, not a plane, may have been influenced by better ability to control security. When Kim flew to Singapore, North Korea borrowed a Chinese plane.
Vietnam is eager to show off its huge economic and development improvements since the destruction of the Vietnam War, but the country also tolerates no dissent and is able to provide the kind of firm hand not allowed by more democratic potential hosts.
Take the reaction to two men impersonating Kim and Trump who’d been posing for pictures with curious onlookers ahead of the summit. Last week, the Kim lookalike, whose name is Lee Howard Ho Wun, posted on Facebook that about 15 police or immigration officers demanded a mandatory “interview” and threatened him with deportation. He said officials later told him that his visa was invalid and he had to leave the country.
“I feel a little bit annoyed,” the Hong Kong-based impersonator, who uses the name Howard X, said as he checked out of his hotel. “But what is to be expected of a one-party state with no sense of humor?”
Vietnam has also announced an unprecedented traffic ban along a possible arrival route for Kim. The Communist Party’s Nhan Dan newspaper quoted the Roads Department as saying the ban will affect the 169-kilometer (105-mile) stretch of Highway One from Dong Dang, on the border with China, to Hanoi.
Hundreds of soldiers guarded the area near the Dong Dang railway station on Monday ahead of Kim’s expected arrival. Kim may get off his train in Dong Dang and finish his journey to Hanoi by car. There are high expectations for the Hanoi summit after a vague declaration at the first meeting in June in Singapore that disappointed many.
In a meeting with senior aides in Seoul, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Monday that the Trump-Kim talks would be a critical opportunity to achieve peace on the Korean Peninsula. Moon, who met Kim three times last year and has lobbied hard to revive nuclear diplomacy between the U.S. and North Korea, is eager for a breakthrough that would allow him to push ambitious plans for inter-Korean engagement, including lucrative joint economic projects that are held back by U.S.-led sanctions against the North.
“If President Trump succeeds in dissolving the world’s last remaining Cold War rivalry, it will become yet another great feat that will be indelibly recorded in world history,” Moon said. Trump, via Twitter, has worked to temper those expectations, predicting before leaving for Hanoi a “continuation of the progress” made in Singapore but adding a tantalizing nod to “Denuclearization?” He also said that Kim knows that “without nuclear weapons, his country could fast become one of the great economic powers anywhere in the World.”
North Korea has spent decades, at great political and economic sacrifice, building its nuclear program, and there is widespread skepticism among experts that it will give away that program cheaply. South Korean media have reported that Trump and Kim might strike a deal that stops short of a hoped-for roadmap for full North Korean denuclearization.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on “Fox News Sunday” that he was hoping for a “substantive step forward.” He cautioned, “it may not happen, but I hope that it will.”
AP journalists Yves Dam Van in Dong Dang and Kim Tong-hyung in Seoul, South Korea, contributed to this report.

UN judges increase sentence for Bosnian ex-leader to life

March 20, 2019
THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — United Nations appeals judges on Wednesday upheld the convictions of former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, and increased his sentence from 40 years to life imprisonment.
Karadzic showed almost no reaction as presiding judge Vagn Joensen of Denmark read out a damning judgment, which means the 73-year-old former Bosnian strongman will likely spend the rest of his life behind bars.
In increasing the sentence, Joensen said Karadzic’s original 40-year sentence “underestimates the extraordinary gravity of Karadzic’s responsibility and his integral participation in the most egregious of crimes.”
Defense lawyer Peter Robinson said Karadzic vowed to fight on to clear his name. “He says that politics triumphed over justice today,” Robinson said. “The appeals chamber whitewashed an unjust trial and an unfair verdict.”
Robinson said Karadzic felt “moral responsibility” for crimes in Bosnia, but did not believe he was criminally responsible. Karadzic had appealed his 2016 convictions for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, as well as his sentence for masterminding atrocities in his country’s devastating 1992-95 war — Europe’s bloodiest conflict since World War II.
The former leader is one of the most senior figures tried by the Hague war crimes court. His case is considered as key in delivering justice for the victims of the conflict, which left over 100,000 people dead and millions homeless.
Joensen said the trial chamber was wrong to impose just a 40-year sentence given what he called the “sheer scale and systematic cruelty” of Karadzic’s crimes. Applause broke out in the public gallery as Joensen passed the new sentence.
Families of victims who traveled to the Hague welcomed the verdict. Mothers of victims, some elderly and walking with canes, wept with apparent relief after watching the ruling read on a screen in Srebrenica.
Bosnian Serb wartime military commander Ratko Mladic was also awaiting an appeal judgment of his genocide and war crimes conviction, which earned him a life sentence. Both men were convicted of genocide for their roles in the slaughter by Serb forces of 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the Bosnia’s eastern Srebrenica region in July 1995.
Last week, Bosnian war wounds were revived when it was revealed that the white supremacist suspected in the mosque shootings that left at least 50 people dead in New Zealand appeared to show admiration for Karadzic and his legacy. In a video, the self-proclaimed white supremacist is seen driving apparently on his way to the attack and listening to a wartime Bosnian Serb song praising Karadzic and his fight against Bosnia’s Muslims.
Prosecutors had appealed Karadzic’s acquittal on a second count of genocide, which saw Serb forces drive out Muslims and Croats from Serb-controlled villages in a 1992 campaign. Judges on Wednesday rejected that appeal.
At an appeals hearing last year, prosecution lawyer Katrina Gustafson told a five-judge panel that Karadzic “abused his immense power to spill the blood of countless victims. Justice requires that he receive the highest possible sentence — a life sentence.”
Karadzic has always argued that the Bosnian Serb campaigns during the war, which included the bloody siege of the capital, Sarajevo, were aimed at defending Serbs. After his indictment by the tribunal in The Hague, Karadzic remained at large for years before he was arrested in Serbia in 2008 disguised as a new-age therapist.

Thai parties jostle for power after 1st election since coup

March 25, 2019

BANGKOK (AP) — A military-backed party that based on unofficial results won the most votes in Thailand’s first election since a 2014 coup said Monday it will try to form a government, after a rival party also claimed it had the right to govern.

The conflicting claims following Sunday’s election highlight the deep divisions in Thailand, which has been wracked by political instability for nearly two decades. Uttama Savanayana, the head of the Palang Pracharat party that is backed by junta leader and Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, said it would contact like-minded parties to form a new administration.

But earlier Monday, Sudarat Keyuraphan, leader of the Pheu Thai party that was ousted in the 2014 coup, said it would try to form a government because it won the most constituency races. The party is allied with exiled Thai leader Thaksin Shinawatra.

“As we have said before, the party with the most seats is the one that has received the confidence from the people to set up the government,” Sudarat said. But the party faces an uphill battle because selection of the next prime minister will be decided by the 500-member lower house as well as a 250-member junta-appointed Senate.

The Election Commission announced the results of 350 constituency races but said full vote counts, which are needed to determine the allocation of 150 other seats in the House of Representatives, won’t be available until Friday.

Unofficial results show Palang Pracharat had the highest popular vote, which along with the appointed Senate puts Prayuth in a relatively strong position to stay in office and cobble together a coalition government. Analysts say the next government is likely to be unstable and short-lived, whichever party leads it.

The election is the latest chapter in a nearly two-decade struggle pitching conservative forces including the military against the political machine of Thaksin, a tycoon who upended tradition-bound Thailand politics with a populist political revolution.

Thaksin was ousted as prime minister in a 2006 military coup and now lives in exile abroad to avoid a prison term, but parties allied with him have won every election since 2001. His sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, who led the Pheu Thai government that was ousted in 2014, also fled the country after what supporters said was a politically motivated prosecution.

The blunt-speaking Prayuth, who as army chief led the 2014 coup, has aimed to extend his hold on power by engineering a new political system that stifles the influence of big political parties not aligned with Palang Pracharat and the military.

Under the convoluted election system created by the junta, 350 of the lower house members are elected from constituencies and 150 are allocated to parties based on share of the nationwide popular vote.

Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, leader of the anti-junta Future Forward party, which polled in a strong third place after scooping up first-time voters, said the party won’t nominate him as a prime ministerial candidate to avoid a political deadlock.

He urged all parties that support a true democracy to form a coalition to trump the spoiling effect of the votes of 250 junta-appointed senators. The Election Commission’s secretary-general, Charoongwit Poomma, defended the EC’s handling of Sunday’s vote and said delays in announcing full results reflect its duty to ensure the election is free and fair.

“Elections in our country are not like other countries,” he said. “We have laws to determine whether the election was free and fair or not. It needs to go through the process of orange, yellow, red cards before results are announced,” Charoomwit said, referring to different levels of seriousness for election violations.

Thai party insists on right to form gov’t as votes counted

March 24, 2019

BANGKOK (AP) — The leader of the party ousted in a coup five years ago insisted Sunday that the political grouping with the most votes in Thailand’s election should form a government, as unofficial results showed her party leading a military-backed rival.

Voting stations closed at 5 p.m. and meaningful results were expected within several hours. The formation of a new government, likely to be unstable and short-lived, could take weeks of haggling. In addition to early vote counts, an opinion survey taken in the days before the election and released after voting closed indicated that the ousted party, Pheu Thai, allied with Thailand’s exiled former leader Thaksin Shinawatra, would win the most parliamentary seats but not enough to govern alone.

The military-backed Palang Pracharat party, meanwhile, would win the second-highest number of seats, according to the Suan Dusit survey of nearly 80,000 voters. “I insist that the party that receives the most votes has the right to form the government first,” Pheu Thai leader Sudarat Keyuraphan said a news conference after voting closed.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, the blunt-speaking army chief who led the 2014 coup, is hoping to extend his hold on power after engineering a new political system that aims to stifle the influence of big political parties not aligned with the military.

About 51 million Thais were eligible to vote. Leaders of political parties opposed to military rule urged a high turnout as the only way to derail Prayuth’s plans. The election is the latest chapter in a nearly two-decade struggle between conservative forces including the military and the political machine of Thaksin, a tycoon who upended tradition-bound Thailand’s politics with a populist political revolution.

Thaksin was ousted in a 2006 military coup and now lives in exile abroad to avoid a prison term, but parties allied with him have won every election since 2001. His sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, who led the government that was ousted in 2014, also fled the country after what supporters said was a politically motivated corruption prosecution.

After the coup, political party gatherings were banned and pro-democracy activists and other dissenters were regularly arrested, interrogated and imprisoned. Just days before Sunday’s election, Pheu Thai said the houses of party officials and its campaign canvassers in some provinces were searched by military personnel in an act of intimidation.

Thais were voting for a 500-seat parliament that along with a 250-member junta-appointed Senate will decide the next prime minister. That setup means a military-backed figure such as Prayuth could become leader even while lacking a majority in parliament.

“I hope that the 250 senators who are appointed by the NCPO (junta) will respect the will of the people,” said Sudarat. Thailand’s powerful King Maha Vajiralongkorn issued a statement on the eve of the election that said the role of leaders is to stop “bad people” from gaining power and causing chaos. It was also broadcast on Thai television stations minutes before voting started.

Invoking a speech by his father, the previous Thai king who died in 2016 after reigning for seven decades, Vajiralongkorn said not all citizens can be transformed into good people so leaders must be given support in ruling to create a peaceful nation.

He urged government officials, soldiers and civil servants to look after national security. It was the monarch’s second notable intervention in politics recently. Last month, he demanded his sister Princess Ubolratana Mahidol withdraw as a prime ministerial candidate for a small Thaksin-allied party within 24 hours of her announcement.

When it seized power in 2014, the military said it was to end political unrest that had periodically turned violent and disrupted daily life and the economy. The claim has been one of the few selling points for the gruff Prayuth, who according to critics has overseen a period of growing inequality and economic hardship in Thailand.

“I want things to improve,” Narate Wongthong said after voting. “We had too many conflicts in the past and I want to see lots of people come out and vote.”

Associated Press journalists Hau Dinh, Grant Peck, Kaweewit Kawjinda and Tassanee Vejpongsa contributed to this report.

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