Deadly Protests Erupt in Mogadishu Over Killing of Rickshaw Driver

At least five people were killed Saturday in Mogadishu during violent demonstrations staged by hundreds of drivers, who took to the streets of the Somali capital to protest the killing of a driver of a tuktuk, or motorized rickshaw, as well as road closures that hinder the city’s movement. 

 

The protesters burned tires and chanted slogans against government security forces. Demanding justice and freedom for their businesses, they shouted, “Down with the civilian’s killers!” 

 

At least two protesters were wounded as security forces tried to disperse them, witnesses said. 

 

It was not clear whether the demonstrators were shot by police trying to contain the violence or by private security guards from local firms and businesses trying to protect their properties.

Most of the protests occurred near the main Bakara market on the south side of the city, while just a few kilometers away, the country’s parliament was debating the security situation in the capital. 

Criticism of security forces

 

Opposition lawmaker Mahad Mohamed Salad, an outspoken government critic, accused the security forces of mishandling the protests and killing innocent civilians. 

 

“A driver and a passenger and at least three other people who were protesting were killed by security forces. They were shot by the same security personnel who were meant to protect them,” Salad said. 

 

The last few years, motorized rickshaws have virtually monopolized public conveyance in the city because of their mobility and the fact Mogadishu’s major roads have been closed by government soldiers to prevent al-Shabab car bombs. 

 

Over the last three years, security forces have killed more than 20 tuktuk drivers in Mogadishu.

More than 20,000 young people directly or indirectly depend on the tuktuk business, said Mohamed Abdi, 19, a tuktuk driver. “If the government does not solve the challenges we face, our last resort might be forcing it in some way or another,” he said.

 

Another protester, Ali Nur, 22, was among hundreds of Somali migrants who were repatriated to Mogadishu from Libya months ago. He said this business was the only opportunity available to him, although it is dangerous and even deadly. 

 

“We constantly face soldiers holding their guns improperly, and sometimes they aim their guns at us,” he said. “In several cases, they pull the trigger as they conduct security checks, killing an innocent tuktuk driver.”  

Promise of justice

 

To try to calm the protesters, Mogadishu Mayor Abdirahman Omar Osman promised the government would bring the killer to justice. 

 

“We are very sorry for what has happened and we promise that we will bring the soldiers who carried out the shooting to justice, and the same time figure out how to facilitate your businesses without compromising security,” the mayor said.

The Mogadishu drivers shared videos on social media that show their challenges, including government soldiers blocking the city’s main roads, as well as other soldiers who they say extort money from them. 

 

But Saturday’s protests erupted after one such video showed a government soldier, who was manning one of the city’s security checkpoints, fatally shooting a young driver and a passenger. 

 

The reason for the shooting was still unclear, but in prior shootings, government security officials have accused the young drivers of ignoring soldiers’ warnings and helping al-Shabab assassins to escape. 

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White House Candidate Booker Calls for Unity, Cooperation

U.S. Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, a candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, kicked off his campaign Saturday in Newark, calling for community building, criminal justice reform, gun control, Medicare for all and a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. 

 

Booker told supporters that Saturday’s rally was the launch of a two-week tour of the United States as he tries to make himself more visible in a pack of more than a dozen competitors. The mostly Democratic campaigners are all vying to replace incumbent President Donald Trump in the 2020 election. 

 

“The president wants a race to the gutter and to fight us in the gutter,” Booker said to the crowd at Newark’s Military Park, a revitalized green space. But “to win, we have to fight from higher ground in order to bring this country to higher ground.” 

 

From New Jersey, Booker plans to make stops in states that hold caucuses and primaries early in the presidential race, including Iowa, Georgia and Nevada.

Newark is where Booker made his political reputation, serving as a member of the municipal council and then the mayor from 2006 to 2013. 

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Indonesia’s Jokowi Favored for Re-election

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, facing Gen. Prabowo Subianto in a rematch, is widely expected to win a second term when Indonesians go to the polls Wednesday.

Prabowo has pinned his hopes on emphasizing nationalism, appealing to Muslim hard-liners, and promising to double economic growth. 

 

But analysts said Jokowi’s strong economic performance, particularly delivering on infrastructure projects and a national health plan, coupled with a predictable opposition campaign, had given his Independent Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) a substantial edge. 

 

And that’s reflected in opinion polls. 

Quieter campaign

 

Campaigning has gone peacefully amid tight security. Firebrand rallies by ultra-orthodox Muslim clerics have paled when compared with those of past elections, amid a realization in Prabowo’s camp that such political tactics were unlikely to earn him a victory. 

 

Dirk Tomsa, a senior political lecturer and Indonesian specialist from La Trobe University in Australia, said Jokowi had established his Islamic credentials by choosing Ma’ruf Amin, a conservative favorite among fundamentalist Muslims, as his running mate.  

That blunted Prabowo’s attacks, and in a nationally televised debate, he even appeared to back down, saying those who accused him of wanting a caliphate, or Islamic state, were wrong, while noting that his own mother was a Christian. 

 

To counter Jokowi on the economic front, Prabowo and his running mate, Sandiaga Uno, promised to double economic growth to 10 percent a year by cutting corporate taxes and opening the Indonesian economy to non-traditional markets. 

 

But analysts said that failed to impress an electorate acutely aware of allegations that Prabowo, the son-in-law of former President Suharto, was allegedly involved in the disappearance of pro-democracy activists in 1997 and 1998, charges Prabowo denies.  

Tomsa said Jokowi was now the overwhelming favorite to win the election, aided by a late and unexpected swing back to the president in opinion polls. 

 

“Well, up until now, it looks as if there hasn’t been much change in the polls for the last few months, with the exception of the Kompas poll. It looks as if Jokowi still seems to be quite steady in his lead,” he said. 

 

A March survey by the Indonesian newspaper Kompas found Prabowo’s electability had increased by 4.7 percentage points over the previous six months, to 37.4 percent. Jokowi suffered a decline of 3.4 percentage points, to 49.2 percent. 

 

Jokowi’s camp had expected his almost unassailable lead to drop during the later stages of the campaign, a repeat of the election in 2013, when Jokowi’s numbers in the opinion polls fell but he defeated Prabowo easily at the ballot box. 

Bounced back

 

But three further surveys conducted in April by the Indopolling Network showed Jokowi had recaptured the lost ground and is expected to win between 54 percent and 57 percent of the vote, while Prabowo may only muster between 32 percent and 37 percent. 

 

“Prabowo has apparently not found the right edge to really weaken him [Jokowi],” Tomsa said. “It looks as if Prabowo has been ramping up the pressure in the last couple of weeks or so with various allegations, but it’s only a couple of more days to go and I can’t really see how Prabowo can still turn this around.” 

 

Prabowo’s allegations against Jokowi include a lack of impartiality by poll organizers and that voter fraud might undermine the final result.  Jakarta-based risk security firm Concord Consulting has said there is no evidence to support such claims.  

Prabowo made similar claims following his defeat in 2013 and launched legal action with the General Election Commission and the Constitutional Court, which failed. 

 

Of Indonesia’s population of 264 million, about 190 million are eligible to vote. It remains the world’s most populous Muslim country, ahead of Pakistan and India. But in this election it is living standards and pocketbook issues that have grabbed voter attention. 

 

David Welsh, country director for the Solidarity Center in Indonesia, said most trade unions were focusing on what type of commitment Jokowi and Prabowo had to offer in an economy dominated by multinational companies but found wanting in the application of domestic labor laws. 

 

“Trade unions in Indonesia remain either virtually, or in fact, the largest segment of civil society in the country, with crucial issues at play,” he said. 

 

“In terms of predicting a winner, certainly the majority of trade unions are supporting the current incumbent, but it’s been a contentious election. We’d like to see more focus on bona fide trade union issues, human rights issues, [and] labor rights issues,” Welsh said. 

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Pakistani Media Reports of ‘Illegal Matchmaking’ Draw Chinese Response

Pakistani media are reporting that Chinese human traffickers are operating illegal matchmaking centers in Pakistan, where they allegedly trap women from economically burdened families in fake marriages before transporting them and forcing them into prostitution or even selling their organs in China. 

 

The revelation prompted the Chinese Embassy in Islamabad to respond Saturday, saying the businesses are strictly prohibited under Chinese law and vowing to crackdown in cooperation with Pakistani authorities on the illegal practice of profiting through cross-border matchmaking. 

 

The number of Chinese visiting neighboring Pakistan has dramatically increased since the launch of the bilateral multibillion-dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) five years ago. The flagship pilot project of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative has brought an unprecedented $19 billion in much-need Chinese investment to Pakistan. 

 

News reports about phony marriages between Chinese men and Pakistani women regularly appear in local media, prompting lawmakers to debate the issue and demand that officials look into the unlawful practice. 

TV report

 

The Chinese Embassy’s reaction apparently came a day after a top private Pakistani television station aired images Friday of several Chinese men with six local women in different rooms, including two teenage girls, at an illegal matchmaking center in the eastern city of Lahore.   

The ARY News channel crew showed up unannounced at the facility along with local police and interviewed the foreigners, their local facilitators and the alleged Pakistani wives of the Chinese men. When asked, the station said, members of the alleged gang of Chinese human traffickers failed to produce local marriage certificates or documents showing the men had converted to Islam before marrying Pakistani Muslim women, which is mandatory under local laws.  

 

The Pakistani victims explained their families would get about $300 per month and a Chinese visa for male family members in return for marrying Chinese men. The local facilitators told the TV channel they would lure  families into an agreement by saying their would-be Chinese son-in-law was seeking Pakistani citizenship so he could invest in the country as part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project. 

 

“We remind both Chinese and Pakistani citizens to remain vigilant and not to be cheated. … We hope that the public does not believe in misleading information and works together to safeguard China-Pakistan friendship,” the Chinese Embassy said in its statement. 

 

It noted that both countries are firmly opposed to human trafficking and sales of human organs and rejected as “misleading and groundless” reports about sales of human organs in China. 

Cooperation on crackdown

 

“China is cooperating with Pakistani law enforcement agencies to crack down on illegal matchmaking centers,” the embassy said, adding that both Chinese and Pakistani youths were victims of the illegal agents.  

While briefing Pakistani lawmakers at one of the recent meetings, senior government officials reportedly said Islamabad was in close contact with Beijing about fake marriages and action was being taken to counter the practice.  A spokesman for the Interior Ministry, Tariq Sardar, was quoted as telling the meeting that “some private marriage bureaus were involved in these marriages” and “most of the complaints were being received from Lahore as well as the Pakistani city of Abbottabad.” 

 

Pakistan and China are extremely sensitive to any critical reporting on their relationship. Officials on both sides also discourage skepticism and criticism of the CPEC as well as BRI investments as Western propaganda. Beijing and China defend the CPEC as a highly productive initiative, saying it has created tens of thousands of local jobs and resolved a decade-long crippling power crisis in Pakistan. 

 

The United States contends China’s BRI projects are of dubious economic value and contain national security elements favoring Beijing. Last week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington was trying to warn countries about the risks. 

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Strike Looms In Nigeria’s Aviation Industry Unless DG Of Meteorological Agency Acts Within Seven Days

The Association of Nigerian Aviation Professionals (ANAP) has once again issued a seven-day ultimatum to the Director-General of the Nigeria Meteorological Agency (NiMET) to address the delayed implementation of the Condition of Service (CoS) to its members working in the organisation.

The union also threatened to clamp down on the organisation if the issues raised are not addressed within the seven-day period, beginning from Friday April 12.

This warning was signed by the Secretary General, ANAP, Comrade Abdul-Rasaq Saidu, and made available to our correspondent.

In addition, the association wants the Director-General of the organization to reverse the alleged anti-trade union transfers (postings) of Nimet ANAP branch executives out of Abuja since December 2018,

The organisation explained that it was resorting to calling out workers on industrial protest at the expiration of the ultimatum due the failure of all peaceful dialogue approaches taken by the association for the management to see reasons the two issues being agitated be resolved amicably.

Saidu noted that the management of NiMet and its Director-General had treated all ANAP entreaties with impunity.

He therefore enjoined all workers in NiMet to stay at home indefinitely at the expiration of the ultimatum if two issues are not resolved in favour of the workers, adding that “Enough is Enough. No retreat! No surrender!”

Saidu further stated that actions were being taken to alert all the three labour centres in the sector as back up to this looming industrial strike action.

It would be recalled that ANAP had issued more three seven-day ultimatums to the management of NiMET in the past one year, all to no avail, while the management of the agency also refused to addressed all the issues raised by the union.

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