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African students ‘mistreated, evicted’ in China over coronavirus

African students and expatriates in China are reportedly being evicted from their homes and mistreated over fears they could spread the novel coronavirus. African ambassadors in China have written to the country’s foreign minister over what they call discrimination against Africans as the country seeks to prevent a resurgence of the coronavirus, which originated in…

African students ‘mistreated, evicted’ in China over coronavirus

African students and expatriates in China are reportedly being evicted from their homes and mistreated over fears they could spread the novel coronavirus.
African ambassadors in China have written to the country’s foreign minister over what they call discrimination against Africans as the country seeks to prevent a resurgence of the coronavirus, which originated in the central Chinese city of Wuhan last December. 
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Several African countries have separately also demanded that China address their concerns that Africans, in particular in the southern city of Guangzhou, are being mistreated and harassed.
In recent days Africans in Guangzhou have reported being evicted from their apartments by their landlords, being tested for coronavirus several times without being given results, and being shunned and discriminated against in public. Such complaints have been made in local media and on social media.

Having brought under control the original outbreak centred on the city of Wuhan, Beijing is now concerned about imported cases and is stepping up scrutiny of foreigners coming into the country and tightening border controls. It has denied any discrimination.
Al Jazeera’s Sarah Clarke, reporting from Hong Kong, said there seemed to be a concern in China that the African community in Guangzhou could be behind a second wave of infections.
“There is an escalating scrutiny of foreign nationals, but they are targeting the Africans and the African American community. Since last Thursday we saw 114 new cases reported in Guangzhou of coronavirus infections and 16 of those were Africans.”
“We’ve seen a number of reports from social media from members of the African community in Guangzhou making complaints of mistreatment, arrests, eviction and being denied access to restaurants and hotels, and some students are even claiming to be living on the streets and being denied food,” she said.
‘Stigmatisation and discrimination’
The African ambassadors’ letter sent to China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, highlighted a number of reported incidents, including that Africans were being ejected from hotels in the middle of the night, the seizure of passports, and threats of visa revocation, arrest or deportation.
The note said such “stigmatisation and discrimination” created the false impression that the virus was being spread by Africans.
“The Group of African Ambassadors in Beijing immediately demands the cessation of forceful testing, quarantine and other inhuman treatments meted out to Africans,” it said.
Foreign affairs official Liu Baochun told a news conference on Sunday that Guangzhou is enforcing anti-virus measures on anyone who enters the city from across the national border, regardless of nationality, race or gender.
The Chinese embassy in Zimbabwe on Saturday dismissed the accusation that Africans were being deliberately targeted.
“It is harmful to sensationalise isolated incidents,” it said in a tweeted statement. “China treats all individuals in the country, Chinese and foreign alike, as equals.”

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Al Jazeera’s Ahmed Idris, reporting from the Nigerian capital Abuja, said there is both “anger and disbelief” among the African officials.
On Saturday, Ghana’s foreign affairs minister Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey said she had summoned the Chinese ambassador to express her disappointment and demand action.
Kenya’s foreign ministry has also “officially expressed concern”, adding the government is working with Chinese authorities to address the matter.
On Friday, Nigerian legislator Akinola Alabi tweeted a video of a meeting between the leader of Nigeria’s lower house of parliament, Femi Gbajabiamila, and Chinese Ambassador Zhou Pingjian.
In it, Gbajabiamila demanded an explanation from the diplomat after showing Zhou a video of a Nigerian complaining about mistreatment in China.
Al Jazeera’s Idris said, privately, there is also a concern that the incidents could have repercussions for the Chinese community living in Africa.
“There is also a fear among African governments of backlash against Chinese workers working on the African continent because of what is happening in Guangzhou and other parts of China as well,” Idris said.
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West African mediators arrive in Mali to push for coup reversal |NationalTribune.com

A delegation of West African leaders has arrived in Mali in a bid to push for a swift return to civilian rule following a military coup staged after weeks of anti-government protests. Jubilant opposition supporters took to the streets of the capital, Bamako, on Tuesday to celebrate after military officers detained Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and other…

West African mediators arrive in Mali to push for coup reversal |NationalTribune.com

A delegation of West African leaders has arrived in Mali in a bid to push for a swift return to civilian rule following a military coup staged after weeks of anti-government protests.
Jubilant opposition supporters took to the streets of the capital, Bamako, on Tuesday to celebrate after military officers detained Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and other top government officials. But the coup was universally condemned abroad amid fears the unrest could plunge a country plagued by worsening insecurity into further instability.
ECOWAS, the West African regional bloc that led the chorus of international criticism, said on Thursday the high-level mission to Bamako will work “to ensure the immediate return of constitutional order” as it demanded Keita’s reinstatement following the resignation of the president and his government after the coup.
Led by former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, the envoys on Saturday are due to hold talks with the coup leaders, including Colonel Assimi Goita, who has declared himself the group’s leader. The regional delegation will then meet Keita, former Prime Minister Boubou Cisse and other detained officials, according to the ECOWAS programme.
“As ECOWAS, we appreciate what is happening in Mali and ECOWAS wants the best for the country,” Jonathan told reporters after arriving in Bamako. “We are here to discuss with all the key stakeholders and I believe at the end of the day we can get something that’s a success for the people and is good for ECOWAS and good for our community.”

Mali’s president resigns amid military mutiny

Following the coup, ECOWAS swiftly shut borders and ended financial flows this week – a move diplomats said was as much about warning opponents at home as stabilising Mali.
“They cannot tolerate this taking place. They are taking it very personally. It is on their doorstep and they think they are next,” one regional diplomat told Reuters news agency.
The regional bloc has also said it is mobilising a regional military force, an indication that it is preparing for a military intervention in case its negotiations with the coup leaders fail.
Adding to the international pressure, the United States on Friday suspended military aid to Mali, with no further training or support of the Mali armed forces.
‘We won’
But on Friday, Bamako’s central square exploded in celebration when thousands of people attended a rally that was originally organised as an anti-Keita protest by a protest movement that has led the mass rallies against him, but was recast to “celebrate the victory of the Malian people” in the wake of the coup.

A man holds a banner against the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) and Barkhane, an operation started on August 1, 2014, which is led by the French military against Islamist groups in Africa’s Sahel region, during a protest to support the Malian army and the National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP) in Bamako, Mali [Annie Risemberg/AFP]

“I am overjoyed! We won,” said Mariam Cisse, 38, surrounded by people draped in the national flag and blasting on vuvuzela horns.
Speaking at the rally, Ismael Wague, spokesman for the group of coup leaders which calls itself the National Committee for the Salvation of the People, paid tribute to the public.
“We merely completed the work that you began and we recognise ourselves in your fight,” he said.
Al Jazeera’s Ahmed Idris, speaking from Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, said “the military authorities in Bamako can easily count on the support of these young men and women in Mali who have been protesting over the past few weeks”.
‘Transitional council’
The coup leaders have said they welcome the ECOWAS visit but have not talked of restoring Keita to power. The military officers have promised to oversee a transition to elections within a “reasonable” amount of time.
“A transitional council, with a transitional president who is going to be either military or civilian” would be appointed, Wague told France 24 television on Thursday.Keita, first elected in a 2013 landslide the year after a similar military coup, saw his popularity plummet after his 2018 re-election amid a rapidly deteriorating security situation in parts of the country where armed groups affiliated with al-Qaeda and ISIL are active.Thousands of UN and French troops, along with soldiers from five Sahel countries, have been deployed to try to stem the bloodshed that has rendered vast swaths of Mali ungovernable and spilled into neighbouring countries including Burkina Faso and Niger.
Although dissatisfaction over the conflict, along with alleged corruption and Mali’s financial troubles, has been simmering for a while, the spark for the current crisis was a decision by the Constitutional Court in April to overturn the results of parliamentary polls for 31 seats, in a move that saw candidates with Keita’s party get re-elected.
Demonstrators under the umbrella of the so-called June 5 Movement began taking to the streets calling for Keita’s resignation. The protests turned violent in July when a crackdown by security forces during three days of unrest killed at least 14 protesters and bystanders, according to rights groups.
Keita, meanwhile, offered concessions and regional mediators intervened, but the opposition coalition made it clear it would accept nothing short of his departure.
The ECOWAS visit to Mali comes after the UN’s peacekeeping mission in the country said a human rights team had gained access to Keita and other detainees on Thursday.
The coup leaders also released former Economy Minister Abdoulaye Daffe and Sabane Mahalmoudou, Keita’s private secretary, calling the move “proof that we respect human rights”.
While Keita and Cisse have no television, radio or phone, other detainees are in a training centre, where they are sleeping on mattresses and have a TV, according to witnesses to the visit.
Keita, 75, looked “tired but relaxed,” they said, describing his conditions as “acceptable”.
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West African leaders on high-stakes mission to end Mali standoff |NationalTribune.com

West African leaders have arrived in Bamako on a high-stakes mission aimed at defusing Mali’s weeks-long political crisis that has raised concerns of further instability in a country grappling with multiple crises, including an escalating conflict. The visit on Thursday by the presidents of Ghana, Ivory Coast, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal comes days after a…

West African leaders on high-stakes mission to end Mali standoff |NationalTribune.com

West African leaders have arrived in Bamako on a high-stakes mission aimed at defusing Mali’s weeks-long political crisis that has raised concerns of further instability in a country grappling with multiple crises, including an escalating conflict.
The visit on Thursday by the presidents of Ghana, Ivory Coast, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal comes days after a mediation mission by the West African regional bloc ECOWAS failed to break the deadlock.
The foreign leaders are expected to meet Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and key figures of the opposition coalition behind the protests, known as the June 5 Movement.
“It will be difficult to rebuff presidents who come to help bring back peace and stability to your country,” said researcher Demba Moussa Dembele, president of the Dakar-based African Forum on Alternatives.
“The government and the opposition would likely avoid being blamed if the mission were to fail,” Dembele said.

Mobilised by influential Muslim leader Ibrahim Dicko, tens of thousands of opposition protesters have in recent weeks poured onto the streets of Bamako to demand Keita’s resignation.
Although dissatisfaction over the country’s economic woes, corruption and worsening security situation has been simmering for a while, the spark for the current crisis was a decision by the Constitutional Court in April to overturn the results of parliamentary polls for 31 seats, in a move that saw candidates with Keita’s party get re-elected.

The protests turned violent earlier this month when three days of clashes between security forces and protesters left 11 people dead. Several opposition leaders were also briefly detained.
An ECOWAS mission last week, led by Goodluck Jonathan, former Nigerian president, proposed setting up a government of national unity that would include members of the opposition and civil society groups. It also suggested, among others, the appointment of new judges to the Constitutional Court, which had already been “de facto” dissolved by Keita in a bid to calm unrest.
But the proposals were rejected by the June 5 Movement, with protest leaders insisting that Keita must go and calling for accountability for the killings in the June 10-12 protests.
“The gap is currently wide between the demands of the parties – especially the June 5 Movement and what the government is ready to concede,” said Ousmane Diallo, Amnesty International’s West Africa researcher.
Dembele said forcing Keita to step down could be seen as “unconstitutional”, warning it could result in Mali’s international isolation.
In recent weeks, a number of Western diplomats and groups have also been meeting opposition leaders and government officials in an attempt to find a solution.
While a level of calmness has now been restored – the June 5 Movement on Tuesday pledged not to call protests for 10 days, until the forthcoming Eid religious festival – “the situation remains tense and could spill over beyond Bamako, to Kati, Gao and Timbuktu”, Diallo said.
“Beyond the possibility of Mali sliding further into crisis if a middle ground between the parties is not found, the credibility of the ECOWAS mediation itself is also at stake.”

Regional leaders are eager to avoid further instability in Mali, a country of some 20 million people that has been plagued by a conflict that began in 2012 and has since spilled into neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.
According to the United Nations, attacks grew fivefold between 2016 and 2020, with 4,000 people killed in the three countries last year, up from about 770 in 2016. The fighting has also forced hundreds of thousands of people from their homes and led to the closure of thousands of schools.
In central Mali, a multitude of armed groups have been jockeying for control while exploiting the poverty of marginalised communities and inflaming tensions between ethnic groups.
The presence of thousands of foreign troops has failed to stem the violence, while allegations of abuses and extrajudicial killings by Malian forces have perpetuated deep-rooted mistrust and enmity in parts of the country with little government presence otherwise. 
“The [regional] security concerns are real,” Dembele said.
“If the crisis lingers on, Mali is likely to descend into chaos, which will affect the morale of the military and weaken its fight against the terrorist groups. In that case, there is a risk that neighbouring countries, like Senegal and Guinea, will be affected, which in turn will affect other countries.”
Diallo said the visit by the five presidents, only days after the ECOWAS mediation mission, showed “how important it is for them to have stability in Bamako”.
“For a long time, Mali was perceived the weak link regarding the insurgency in the Sahel; there is an imperative of preventing the political crisis from impacting very negatively regional security initiatives,” he added.
“The goal is to prevent a bad situation from getting worse.”
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