The World Today for July 10, 2024

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Lost in the Desert

AFRICA

Bella, 27, from a small village in northern Guinea, decided to try her luck getting to Europe. However, the boat she was on, sailing from Mauritania to Spain, was intercepted by Mauritanian security officials. Soon after, she and about 20 others were put on a bus to make a 15-hour journey to the border with Mali, forced to cross it and left there, in a desert region plagued by jihadist violence.

“They wanted to be sure that we went into Mali,” she said. “We were in the middle of the wilderness. There was nothing there.”

Human rights officials and observers say Bella’s story is the end result of anti-migrant programs paid for by the European Union: The bloc is knowingly financing Mauritanian, Moroccan, and Tunisian programs to halt migration to Europe that end up with those countries rounding up thousands of Black migrants and dumping them – without food, water or transportation – in the remote areas of the Saharan desert, often near the Libyan, Algerian and Malian borders but elsewhere as well.

“The reporting shows that EU member states and the European Commission don’t just know about the abandonments, but they also equip the security forces that commit them,” wrote German newsmagazine, Der Spiegel, one of eight news organizations working on an investigation into such practices in collaboration with the non-profit Lighthouse Reports. “The Europeans have paid for the refurbishment of detention facilities, provided pickups and offroad vehicles, trained security forces and even patrolled together with them. In some places, according to an eyewitness, representatives from European security agencies have even received lists containing the names of the migrants that are to be abandoned.”

For more than a decade, millions of migrants from Africa, the Middle East and South Asia have been trying to cross the Mediterranean to seek asylum and economic opportunities in Europe.

Their journeys are often deadly. More than 5,000 people died, for example, traveling from North Africa to the coast of Spain this year between January and May, noted the Anadolu Agency, citing the Spanish non-governmental organization Frontline Defenders.

The EU has long been giving money to governments in North Africa such as Tunisia – and most recently Mauritania and Egypt – to detain and prevent the migrants from traveling further, partly to protect the migrants but mostly to reduce the political pressure that has been mounting on the continent from the opposition of many Europeans to more immigration. In recent years, the region has received more than $430 million.

European governments have also adopted new rules designed to disperse migrants among different countries, rather than concentrating them in border zones where the migrants first arrive in the bloc, added World Politics Review.

In theory, officials in those governments are supposed to adhere to international human rights laws. But often they don’t, wrote Lighthouse Reports, particularly when migrants hail from sub-Saharan Africa.

Cameroonian migrant François, 38, told reporters that Tunisian authorities caught him as he journeyed to Europe, put him and other migrants on a truck bound for the Algerian border, and then on arrival told him to cross it. But Algerian border guards fired shots at him so he and the others scattered into the desert.

“It was cold. We were soaked; all our clothes were wet,” he said. “No one had a sweater or a coat. We were looking for two things: to find food, and follow the first rays of the sun to warm up.”

Nine days later, he was delirious as he and the small group stumbled into an olive grove and collapsed, and a kind farmer came to their rescue.

European leaders have denied the investigation’s conclusions, saying the funds are to help development in those countries and to shore up borders. Migrant advocates corroborated the allegations, however.

“The fact is European states do not want to be the ones to have dirty hands – they do not want to be considered responsible for the violation of human rights,” French human rights expert Marie-Laure Basilien-Gainchen told the Washington Post. “So they are subcontracting these violations to third states. But I think, really, according to international law, they are responsible.”

THE WORLD, BRIEFLY

A War on Children

UKRAINE

Ukraine held a day of mourning on Tuesday and ended rescue operations after Russian missiles struck Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities the previous day, hitting the capital’s main children’s hospital and killing 41 people in the deadliest air strike in recent months, Reuters reported.

At Okhmatdyt hospital, two people were killed, including a doctor, and eight children were wounded, said Interior Minister Igor Klymenko.

The hospital sheltered “Ukraine’s sickest children,” United Nations Human Rights High Commissioner Volter Türk said. Missiles destroyed the toxicology ward, where severe kidney issues were treated, the Guardian wrote.

Four other buildings of the children’s facility, one of the largest in Europe, were hit by Russian strikes. On Tuesday, Ukrainian businesses announced donations to rebuild it, which Reuters tallied at $7.3 million.

Meanwhile, more than a dozen people were killed in eastern Ukraine.

Western leaders and United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres condemned the “particularly shocking” attack, while the UN Security Council held an emergency meeting in response to the strikes.

“Being concerned does not stop terror. Condolences are not a weapon,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy wrote on messaging platform Telegram. Zelenskyy renewed his calls for Western military support.

Zelenskyy was due at a NATO summit in Washington on Tuesday where the war in Ukraine is expected to take center stage. Ahead of the meeting, US President Joe Biden said he and other allies would announce “new measures to strengthen Ukraine’s air defenses to help protect their cities and civilians from Russian strikes.”

Meanwhile, Russia argued it targeted defense infrastructure and that Okhmatdyt hospital was hit by Ukrainian anti-missile fire, without providing evidence.

Since its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022, Moscow has continuously denied targeting civilians, though its attacks have killed thousands of them.

A Hit Squad

KENYA

A Kenyan high court on Monday ruled that Kenyan police’s 2022 killing of a prominent Pakistani journalist violated the constitution, and awarded compensation to the reporter’s widow, the Telegraph reported.

Arshad Sharif, 49, was a famed news anchor who fled Pakistan after receiving death threats for criticizing his home country’s military and elite, and sought shelter in Kenya. On Oct. 23, 2022, he was shot dead by local police at a roadblock.

The killing has long remained a mystery, with no officers arrested or charged. Justice Stella Mutuku criticized the lax investigation by Kenya’s attorney general and the director of public prosecutions, asking authorities to conclude their inquiry.

Kenyan police officials said its officers opened fire because they had mistaken Sharif’s vehicle for a van that was used to kidnap a child even though there were marked differences between the abductor’s van and Sharif’s car, the Diplomat wrote.

Authorities then offered contradictory statements, a panel of Pakistani investigators said later. Their 592-page report developed a theory that Sharif’s death was a “planned assassination” where Kenyan police were used as “instruments.”

Sharif’s widow, Javeria Siddique, had argued an unnamed individual in Pakistan had ordered the murder, the BBC reported.

Monday’s ruling demanded the Kenyan government compensate Siddique and Sharif’s family $78,000.

“This is a win for the family and a win for Kenyans in their quest for police accountability,” said Siddique’s lawyer, Ochiel Dudley.

And Nothing But the Truth

WALES

The government of Wales said within the next two years it will introduce legislation that would make lying in politics illegal, a move described by Welsh politicians as “globally pioneering,” the Guardian reported.

The law would ban any politician found guilty of deception from running for election or becoming a member of the Senedd, Wales’ parliament. This would involve an “independent judicial process,” said Mick Antoniw, the executive’s chief adviser.

Antoniw said a bill would be introduced before 2026 when the next Senedd elections are due. In the meantime, parliamentarians and ministers will need to figure out the practicalities of the legislation.

The announcement came ahead of a planned vote on an amendment proposed by Plaid Cymru, a left-wing opposition party that advocates Welsh independence from the United Kingdom.

Plaid Cymru’s former leader Adam Price had championed a law that would have forced politicians and candidates to withdraw any false statement. Otherwise, lying politicians could have faced a four-year ban from the legislature.

Wales’ executive, led by the Labour Party, opposed the amendment, criticizing an absence of consultation with law enforcement. Some Senedd members argued the ban could “undermine our parliamentary privilege,” Sky News reported.

On Tuesday, Labour, facing a defeat as Price’s proposal had chances to pass nonetheless, struck a deal with the opposition to work towards a draft law, wrote BBC Wales.

Price welcomed the announcement, saying it was “truly historic, globally pioneering”, he added: We are at the beginning of a global movement …We are going to outlaw political lying.”

“Lying in politics has for too long been normalized,” Jennifer Nadel, co-director of the thinktank Compassion in Politics, told the Guardian. “Voters expect and deserve more and now they will have it.”

DISCOVERIES

Nature’s Drugstore

In East Africa just like in other parts of the world, humans have traditionally used plants to cure illnesses, including the tree, Alstonia boonei, used to treat the stomach flu and other bacterial infections.

Now, a group of researchers, who wondered if chimpanzees had similar self-medicating behaviors, saw one eat dead wood from A. boonei, after collecting it far away from his herd’s home. They said the animal had suffered from diarrhea and tapeworms.

Their study focused on two wild chimpanzee communities in Uganda’s Budongo forest, which they observed for eight months. They collected samples of what they ate and what they produced – feces and urine helped establish whether the specimen was sick.

“To study wild chimpanzee self-medication you have to act like a detective – gathering multidisciplinary evidence to piece together a case,” said Elodie Freymann, lead author of the study, from the University of Oxford.

For the first time, her team’s work provided evidence that chimps looked for plants with medicinal benefits – often successfully.

About 90 percent of the analyzed plant extracts inhibited the growth of bacteria, some of which also cause human diseases. And a third had anti-inflammatory qualities.

One chimp, observed to have an injury to his hand, was seen snacking on a type of fern none of his mates were eating. They found the fern had anti-inflammatory qualities: The animal “was using his hand again within the next few days,” Freymann said.

The report came weeks after scientists found an orangutan in Indonesia using a plant compound to treat a wound on its face.

“It’s always very fascinating to find out that our closest relatives are showing behaviors that we humans also show,” primatologist Isabelle Laumer, who led the study on the orangutan, told the Washington Post about Freymann’s team’s report.

The discoveries could help develop human medicine. “One day the knowledge of chimpanzees could save human lives,” researcher Fabien Schultz said.

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