Russian hypocrisy and the death of a Zambian student in Ukraine | Opinions

On December 11, the stays of 23-year-old Zambian citizen Lemekhani Nyirenda lastly made it again dwelling to his household. A month earlier, the Zambian authorities had launched an announcement on his demise in Ukraine, which raised extra questions than solutions.

Subsequently, it turned clear that Nyirenda, who studied in Russia earlier than being imprisoned on drug costs, had signed up for the Wagner Group, a Russian mercenary firm, to battle in Ukraine in a bid to get a lowered sentence.

In a November 29 submit on the Russian social media platform VKontakte, Wagner founder Evgeny Prigozhin claimed he spoke to Nyirenda, who allegedly informed him he had volunteered as a result of: “You, Russian, helped us Africans achieve independence. When it was tough for us, you stretched out a hand to us and proceed to do that now. Wagner is saving hundreds of Africans; going to conflict with you is paying again for not less than a few of our debt to you.”

However Nyirenda’s household has insisted on an investigation into his recruitment, suspecting he might have been coerced. Additionally they say he was wrongfully convicted; he had been working as a courier to assist himself whereas learning in Moscow however was stopped and searched by the police, who discovered a bundle he was carrying with medication in it.

Nyirenda’s demise and the way the Russian authorities dealt with it communicate to the obvious hole between Russian official rhetoric and the way it treats Africans in actuality. Whereas it insists it has an anti-imperialist method to Africa, Russia has no qualms about victimising Africans on the continent and inside its personal borders.

An ‘anti-imperialist’ drive

As Russia turned a world diplomatic pariah within the aftermath of its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Africa’s significance to its overseas coverage and public relations has grown. The Kremlin has labored onerous to take care of a picture as an anti-imperialist drive that helps the African wrestle in opposition to (neo)colonialism – one thing Prigozhin referenced in his alleged dialog with Nyirenda.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and varied Russian authorities officers have additionally constantly made references to supposed Russian assist for African states’ wrestle in opposition to colonial powers. “Our nation has at all times been on Africa’s facet and has at all times supported Africa in its battle in opposition to colonialism,” he declared in June.

This rhetoric has been prominently featured in Russian media and official social media accounts. On December 2, for instance, the English-language Twitter account of the Russian overseas ministry tweeted: “#Russia was among the many few world powers that neither had colonies in #Africa or elsewhere nor participated in slave commerce all through its historical past. Russia helped, in each doable method, the peoples of the African continent to realize their freedom and sovereignty #EndSlavery.”

Hooked up was an image of a well-liked Soviet-era political poster that includes an African man breaking the chains binding his palms together with the phrases: “Africa fights, Africa will win.”

The tweet displays the Russian authorities’s declare that it maintains Soviet anti-imperialist insurance policies in direction of the International South. Whereas participating in an ideological battle in opposition to the US in the course of the Chilly Conflict, the Soviet Union targeted its sources on constructing a sphere of affect in Africa.

The Soviets supported varied left-leaning governments and teams all through the continent and equipped arms, navy coaching, and funds to anti-colonial actions in Southern Africa, together with Angola, Mozambique, and South Africa within the Nineteen Seventies and Nineteen Eighties. Soviet specialists went to varied nations on the continent to coach residents of newly unbiased nations in governance, know-how, and sciences. On the identical time, the USSR invited hundreds of African college students to pursue larger training in varied Soviet republics.

The Kremlin’s use of Soviet-African relations to craft a picture of optimistic engagement with the continent has labored. African leaders and folks have largely embraced the Russian narrative on the conflict in Ukraine.

Throughout the UN Normal Meeting vote on a decision calling for Russia to take away its troops from Ukraine in early March, of 35 nations that abstained, 17 had been African; and one of many 5 that voted in opposition to was Eritrea.

Over the approaching months, various African leaders welcomed Russian overseas minister Sergey Lavrov to their nations and reiterated their assist for Moscow.

The Russian authorities has additionally sought in charge the worldwide meals disaster exacerbated by the conflict in Ukraine on Kyiv – a story that has additionally been embraced by many Africans. In June, after receiving an official invitation from Putin, African Union President Macky Sall travelled to Russia to fulfill with the Russian president to debate the grain shortages.

Just a few weeks later, Russia struck a cope with Ukraine and the UN to launch grain blocked in Ukrainian ports. In official authorities rhetoric, the settlement was offered as an indication that Moscow protects African pursuits.

Extractive insurance policies and racist views

However the Kremlin’s narrative on Africa belies a really completely different actuality. Though it claims to assist Africa’s struggles in opposition to former colonial and present neocolonial powers, Russia itself has engaged in predatory practices on the continent that smack of neocolonialism.

It’s fairly ironic that Prigozhin alleges Nyirenda noticed the Wagner Group as a supply for good provided that it has been on the forefront of Moscow’s extractive insurance policies in Africa. Wagner has change into notorious in Sudan and the Central African Republic for each its employed weapons and its involvement in illicit mining operations.

The group has additionally had a hand in navy conflicts plaguing the Central African Republic, Mali and Mozambique. The United Nations has accused the Russian mercenaries of committing a number of human rights abuses, together with harassment of civilians, wrongful detainment, torture and abstract executions.

Russia doesn’t deal with Africans that significantly better inside its personal borders both. As Nyirenda’s case illustrates, Africans who come to Russia to review or work don’t discover the post-colonial, anti-imperialist paradise Moscow claims to be.

Africans have confronted racism and anti-Black violence, which was significantly lethal within the 2000s and 2010s. In a 2006 report, Amnesty Worldwide mentioned African college students and asylum seekers they met in Russia “averted going out after darkish and one coated his face with a shawl so his pores and skin color was much less conspicuous to passers-by”. Additionally they detailed a number of murders of African college students, together with the 2004 stabbing of Bissau-Guinean pupil Amaru Antoniu Lima and the 2006 capturing of Senegalese pupil Lamsar Samba Promote.

In media experiences, African college students have shared tales of being denied service by taxi drivers, being barred from shops and golf equipment, seeing “Slavs solely” necessities in rental adverts, and being ignored when reporting violence in opposition to them to the police.

When African college students making an attempt to flee the Russian invasion confronted racism in Ukraine, the Russian authorities took benefit, encouraging anti-Ukrainian sentiment amongst Africans by amplifying their tales. However the Russian authorities have remained largely silent on racism and discrimination inside Russian borders.

Anti-Black racism in Russia, after all, is nothing new. Africans didn’t really feel that rather more welcome throughout Soviet occasions both, with African college students typically encountering racism and violence due to their pores and skin color. In 1963, African college students staged a uncommon protest after the killing of a Ghanaian pupil allegedly as a result of his relationship with a white Soviet girl.

Just like the miscegenation fears within the American South in the course of the Jim Crow period, the Soviets wished Africans to maintain their distance from Slavic ladies. Combined-race youngsters typically confronted racist abuse and had been known as “Pageant Kids” and “Olympics youngsters”, referring to worldwide occasions throughout which overseas guests supposedly fathered youngsters with Soviet ladies.

This sentiment endured after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Forward of the 2018 World Cup that Russia hosted, Tamara Pletneva, head of the State Duma Committee on Kids, Ladies, and Household, reminded Russian ladies to not enter into relationships with guests who weren’t of the identical race.

Afro-Russians nonetheless routinely face racism in Russia. Russian-born footballer Bryan Idowu, who has performed for a number of Russian soccer golf equipment, has been vocal concerning the racist abuse he confronted on and off the sector. Regardless of being a well known participant, he says he has been racially profiled by the police, routinely getting stopped and searched.

In June 2020, amid the Black Lives Matter protests urgent for an finish to institutional racism in the US and Western Europe, a viral video of a Russian taxi driver refusing service to an African pupil highlighted simply how little the Russian public was prepared for such conversations. After the driving force was fired by the corporate he labored for, an internet marketing campaign in his assist was launched underneath the hashtag #RussianLivesMatter.

In the meantime, Maria Magdalena Tunkara, an Afro-Russian blogger who tried to clarify BLM to her Russian viewers, confronted a brand new wave of on-line harassment and demise threats.

On this context, Lemekhani Nyirenda’s life in Russia and his demise in Ukraine are consultant of Russia’s two-faced method to Africa and Africans. Whereas the Russian presence in Africa may be very a lot extractive and Russian views of it fairly racist, the continent continues to buoy Russia’s worldwide repute, simply because it did in the course of the Chilly Conflict.

Moscow launders its repute via African want. Many African states rely on Russian agricultural exports or on Russian navy coaching and provides and have few causes to show in opposition to it.

Till there’s a concerted and targeted Western effort to enhance relations with the continent that features reckoning with the long-lasting impacts of European and US imperialism, Russia will proceed to have an outsized affect in Africa and can proceed to downplay and ignore the anti-African racism and xenophobia in its midst.

The views expressed on this article are the writer’s personal and don’t essentially mirror Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.

Death toll from Christmas rains, floods in Philippines now at 13 | Floods News

Torrential rains compelled greater than 45,000 individuals into evacuation centres, many of the lacking believed to be fishers.

The demise toll from Christmas day rains and flooding within the southern Philippines has risen to 13, in keeping with the nation’s catastrophe administration council, with an additional 23 individuals nonetheless lacking.

Many of the deaths have been brought on by flash floods after two days of heavy rains over Christmas, which affected greater than 166,000 individuals and compelled greater than 45,000 to take shelter in evacuation centres, the Nationwide Catastrophe Threat Discount and Administration Council mentioned on Tuesday.

Pictures on social media present coast guard, police and firefighters wading by means of waist-deep floods and carrying residents alongside landslide-hit areas and out of inundated villages and streets. Twelve roads have been flooded by overflowing rivers, and greater than 20 areas within the affected area have been nonetheless with out energy on Tuesday, in keeping with native information outlet Inquirer.web.

In contrast to earlier catastrophe introduced on by tropical storms within the Philippines, the newest torrential rains and flooding was the results of a shear line — an space the place heat and chilly winds meet and trigger big rain clouds to kind.

The fatalities included a one-year-old lady and a 64-year-old man who drowned in separate incidents in Camarines Sur province, about 270km (168 miles) southeast of Manila. 4 extra have been reported killed within the southern province of Misamis Occidental, together with a 68-year-old girl who suffered a coronary heart assault after being rescued.

Rescue workers carry a resident affected by floods while walking through a water-filled street in Plaridel, Misamis Occidental Province, Philippines.
Rescue staff assist a resident affected by floods in Plaridel, Misamis Occidental Province, Philippines, on December 26, 2022 [Philippine Coast Guard via Reuters]

These nonetheless lacking are largely fishers who went out to sea regardless of the risks related to dangerous climate, the catastrophe company mentioned.

Rescue operations are persevering with, and injury to agriculture is being assessed, Carmelito Heray, head of the catastrophe company in Clarin city in Misamis Occidental province, advised DZBB radio station.

“The large injury right here is livestock,” Clarin city Mayor Emeterio Roa mentioned on the radio.

The nation’s climate bureau, Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Companies Administration (PAGASA), mentioned on Tuesday that the shear line persists and can see heavy rainfall proceed in components of the nation, and rain-induced landslides are possible in some areas.

“The general public and catastrophe danger discount and administration workplaces involved are suggested to take all vital measures to guard life and property,” PAGASA mentioned.

UK refusal to sanction Bangladesh ‘death squad’ revealed | Investigation News

Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit (I-Unit) can reveal that the United Kingdom was set to impose sanctions on Bangladesh’s anti-terrorism Speedy Motion Battalion (RAB) in 2021 however held again for causes that stay unexplained.

The US carried out sanctions towards the RAB and 7 high-ranking present and former members on December 10, 2021, for alleged human rights violations comparable to torture and compelled disappearances. The RAB has been likened to a “loss of life squad” by a number of human rights organisations.

However the UK determined on the final minute to not implement sanctions that have been to coincide with the restrictions by its closest ally. Al Jazeera was in a position to affirm with a number of sources who stated they heard accounts of the plan being pulled on the eleventh hour.

UK barrister Toby Cadman, a member of the group that submitted requests for sanctions towards the RAB to the US and UK governments, instructed Al Jazeera the actual fact the restrictions weren’t carried out got here as a shock for these concerned.

“I filed the request for sanctions and while I’m not ready to debate the substance, I can affirm that I mentioned the request with the International, Commonwealth & Improvement Workplace [FCDO],” Cadman stated, referring to the UK International Workplace.

“Having labored on each the US and UK request for sanctions, I used to be strongly of the view {that a} coordinated response was essential within the circumstances,” Cadman stated. “Our submitting within the UK focused political officers and people within the safety sector.”

“It was definitely my place that the UK would challenge mirror sanctions in coordination with the US. I used to be extraordinarily disillusioned once they failed to take action.”

‘Very stunning’

Cadman’s disappointment was shared by Mohammad Ashrafuzzaman, liaison officer on the Asian Human Rights Fee who offered the proof of human rights abuses by the RAB hooked up to the sanctions requests to the US and the UK.

“The expectation was that the UK and US, being sturdy allies, that they might be collaborating with one another by asserting back-to-back sanctions. The US did that on the tenth of December, the UK didn’t,” Ashrafuzzaman stated.

“That was very stunning to us.”

Cadman conceded that requests for sanctions, such because the one he and his group submitted, don’t all the time come to fruition, however that there’s often a motive introduced.

“It usually pertains to a scarcity of an evidential foundation and, after all, if there was one thing missing it will be regular for the FCDO to hunt additional data or clarification,” Cadman stated.

However he added on this case no clarifications or explanations have been offered by the International Workplace.

Ashrafuzzaman famous the documentation collected by his group was utilized by the US as justification for sanctions towards the RAB.

“The proof was despatched to the US state division and treasury, it was utilized by the US. That proof was despatched to the UK as nicely.”

Gross human rights abuses

The US used that proof to sanction the RAB as an organisation and 7 present and former high-ranking officers from the unit beneath the World Magnitsky Act, citing proof of alleged involvement in at the least 600 compelled disappearances since 2009 and greater than 600 extrajudicial killings since 2018.

The Bangladesh authorities has denied these accusations, saying the deaths have been the results of so-called “crossfires” – not abstract executions – with the “prison” being killed when he received caught within the crossfire between his gang and the RAB.

Below the World Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, which was created to penalise human rights abusers by freezing their property, American firms and people are prohibited from doing enterprise with these sanctioned.

In keeping with Amanda Strayer, supervising workers lawyer for accountability with human rights organisation Human Rights First, the truth that the British authorities didn’t undergo with the sanctions was “stunning and disappointing”.

“Quite a lot of occasions, when the US authorities is contemplating sanctioning somebody or an entity like this, they might attain out to the UK, or Canada and the European Union to see if there’s curiosity in taking joint motion collectively,” Strayer stated.

“The truth that at the moment and nonetheless now, a 12 months later, these jurisdictions haven’t taken any motion, it’s very disappointing.”

In response to questions by Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit, the UK International Workplace didn’t dispute the claims, nor did it clarify the explanations for the last-minute about-turn.

It said that: “The UK is a number one advocate for human rights world wide and we commonly increase human rights points straight with different governments, together with Bangladesh”.

UN says Myanmar military uses death penalty to ‘crush’ opposition | Conflict News

UN rights chief Volker Turk stated that greater than 130 opponents of Myanmar’s army regime have been sentenced to loss of life.

Myanmar’s army authorities is utilizing capital punishment as a device to crush opposition to its rule and has sentenced greater than 130 opponents of the regime to loss of life since February 2021, a senior United Nations official stated.

UN Excessive Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk stated on Friday that at the least seven college college students have been sentenced to loss of life behind closed doorways on Wednesday, and there are studies that as many as 4 extra youth activists have been additionally sentenced on Thursday.

Turk referred to as for a suspension of all executions and for Myanmar’s army rulers to put a moratorium on using the loss of life penalty.

“The army continues to carry proceedings in secretive courts in violation of fundamental ideas of honest trial and opposite to core judicial ensures of independence and impartiality,” he stated in an announcement.

The army had additionally proven a disdain for regional and worldwide peace efforts “by resorting to make use of loss of life sentences as a political device to crush opposition”, the UN chief stated.

FILE - UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk speaks at news conference in Khartoum, Sudan on Nov. 16, 2022. Myanmar's military-installed government has sentenced more critics to death, bringing the total to 139, and is using capital punishment as a tool to crush opposition, Turk said Friday, Dec. 2, 2022. (AP Photo/Marwan Ali, File)
UN Excessive Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk stated Myanmar’s military-installed authorities has sentenced extra critics to loss of life, bringing the overall to 139 [File: Marwan Ali/AP Photo]

The College students’ Union of Dagon College in Yangon – the nation’s largest metropolis – introduced on Thursday that seven college college students between the ages of 18 and 24 who have been arrested on April 21 had been sentenced to loss of life on Wednesday by a army courtroom in Yangon’s Insein jail.

An govt member of the Dagon College College students’ Union instructed The Related Press that the seven have been accused of hyperlinks to an city armed motion against army rule and have been convicted of homicide for allegedly collaborating in capturing a financial institution department supervisor in April.

About 2,000 individuals have additionally been killed because the army seized energy and toppled the democratically elected authorities of Aung San Suu Kyi, stated Duwa Lashi La, the pinnacle of a parallel civilian authorities established in opposition to the army regime.

Duwa Lashi La, the appearing president of the Nationwide Unity Authorities (NUG), which is comprised of remnants of the administration of deposed chief Aung San Suu Kyi and others, instructed Reuters on Thursday that the loss of life toll was excessive but it surely was “the worth we should pay” to withstand the army.

The crushing of peaceable protests in opposition to army rule has now fuelled a preferred armed resistance motion and that, in flip, has elevated repression by the army, significantly in rural areas.

In late July, the army hanged 4 political activists within the nation’s first executions in at the least 30 years.

The hangings prompted condemnation from Western nations and the Affiliation of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which has sought to defuse the disaster with a five-point peace plan that the army authorities has didn’t implement.

Whereas Western nations have voiced assist for the NUG and sanctioned army commanders and firms, they’ve stopped in need of supplying army support for the opposition and say that ASEAN is the most effective positioned to resolve the disaster peacefully.

Hurricane Ian death toll rises above 80, response criticised | Weather News

Federal authorities plans huge quantity of support as native officers in worst-hit communities defend evacuation orders.

The loss of life toll from Hurricane Ian within the southeastern United States has climbed previous 80 as some officers face criticism over their response to the storm.

Not less than 85 storm-related deaths have been confirmed since Ian made landfall on Florida’s Gulf Coast on Wednesday as a Class 4 hurricane, with most sustained winds of 249 kilometres per hour (155 miles per hour).

Florida accounted for all however 4 of the fatalities.

The sheriff’s workplace in coastal Lee County, which incorporates devastated Fort Myers, mentioned it had counted 42 lifeless, with 39 deaths reported by officers in neighbouring counties.

Officers in Lee County have confronted questions over whether or not they mandated evacuations in time.

Cecil Pendergrass, chairman of the county’s board of commissioners, mentioned on Sunday that evacuation orders got as quickly because the hurricane’s route turned clear. Even then, some folks selected to trip out the storm, Pendergrass mentioned.

“I respect their selections,” he mentioned at a press convention. “However I’m positive a number of them remorse it now.”

Deanne Criswell, the Federal Emergency Administration Company administrator, mentioned the federal authorities deliberate to unleash an enormous quantity of support, focusing its consideration on Florida first. President Joe Biden and first girl Jill Biden are because of journey to the state on Wednesday.

Criswell instructed Fox Information Sunday that the federal authorities, together with the Coast Guard and Division of Protection, had moved into place “the most important quantity of search and rescue property that I believe we’ve ever put in place earlier than”.

Nonetheless, she warned that risks stay.

“We see so many extra accidents and typically extra fatalities after the storm,” Criswell mentioned. “Standing water brings with it all types of hazards — it has particles, it may have energy strains.”

A car on a destroyed road surrounded by water and fallen trees after Hurricane Ian in Florida
Ian made landfall on Florida’s Gulf Coast on Wednesday as a Class 4 hurricane, with most sustained winds of 249km/h (155mph) [Marco Bello/Reuters]

Authorities in North Carolina mentioned a minimum of 4 folks had been killed there. No deaths have been instantly reported in South Carolina, the place Ian made one other US landfall on Friday.

Chugging over land since then, Ian has diminished into an ever-weakening post-tropical cyclone, however water ranges have continued to rise in some flooded areas, inundating houses and streets that have been satisfactory only a day or two earlier.

The Nationwide Hurricane Heart forecast extra heavy rainfall was potential throughout components of West Virginia and western Maryland into Sunday morning, and “main to report flooding” in central Florida.

Washed away

As the total scale of the devastation turned clearer, officers mentioned among the heaviest harm was inflicted by wind-driven ocean surf that smashed into seaside communities and washed buildings away.

Satellite tv for pc photos from the Nationwide Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration confirmed seaside cottages and a motel that lined the shores of Florida’s Sanibel Island had been destroyed in storm surges. Though most houses appeared to nonetheless be standing, roof harm to all was evident.

Surveys from the bottom confirmed that the barrier island, a well-liked vacationer getaway that was house to some 6,000, was devastated.

“It’s all simply utterly gone,” Sanibel’s metropolis supervisor, Dana Souza, mentioned. “Our electrical system is just about destroyed, our sewer system has been broken badly and our public water provide is beneath evaluation.”

The Nationwide Guard and the Coast Guard have been flying in helicopters to the islands to rescue folks after Sanibel’s solely bridge to the mainland collapsed.

Greater than 700,000 companies and houses remained with out energy on Sunday afternoon in Florida alone, the place greater than 2 million clients misplaced electrical energy the primary night time of the storm.