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Winnie Mandela, South African anti-apartheid crusader, dies at 81

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(CNN) Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, the South African anti-apartheid campaigner and former wife of the late President Nelson Mandela, has died at the age of 81.

The family said in a statement that she passed away at the Netcare Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg, South Africa after a long illness, for which she had been in and out of hospital since the start of the year.

“Mrs. Madikizela-Mandela was one of the greatest icons of the struggle against apartheid,” the statement said. “She fought valiantly against the apartheid state and sacrificed her life for the freedom of the country.”

Her death came as a shock. “None of us had predicted this,” a family spokesman told CNN.

Madikizela-Mandela was known as the “Mother of the Nation” because of her struggle against white-minority rule in South Africa.

Nelson and Winnie Mandela raise clenched fists to supporters upon Nelson’s release from jail in February 1990.

She was married to Nelson Mandela for 38 years, including the 27 years he was imprisoned on an island near Cape Town.

“She kept the memory of her imprisoned husband Nelson Mandela alive during his years on Robben Island and helped give the struggle for justice in South Africa one its most recognizable faces,” the statement said.

The couple were divorced in 1996, two years after Nelson Mandela became South Africa’s first black President. They had two daughters together. Nelson Mandela died in 2013.

A longtime stalwart of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) political party, Madikizela-Mandela was a member of South Africa’s parliament at the time of her death.

One of the last official visits she received was from the current South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who went with her to Soweto township last month to encourage people to register to vote in next year’s presidential election.

On Monday, Ramaphosa praised Madikizela-Mandela as “an advocate for the dispossessed and the marginalized” and “a voice for the voiceless.”

“Even at the darkest moments of our struggle for liberation, Mam’ Winnie was an abiding symbol of the desire of our people to be free,” Ramaphosa said in a statement. “In the midst of repression, she was a voice of defiance and resistance. In the face of exploitation, she was a champion of justice and equality.”

Madikizela-Mandela’s family said Monday that it would release details of her memorial and funeral services once these have been finalized.

A link to the outside world

Born in 1936 in what is now known as the Eastern Cape province, Nomzamo Winifred Madikizela was the daughter of a history teacher.

As a young social worker, she married Nelson Mandela in 1958 at the age of 22, and stood by him in the years following his 1964 conviction and life imprisonment sentence for sabotage and conspiracy to overthrow the government.

Madikizela-Mandela led an international campaign calling for his release.

While Nelson Mandela was banned from reading newspapers, his wife was his link to the outside world. Madikizela-Mandela told him of the changes taking place in his homeland and became his often outspoken and controversial public voice.

Nelson Mandela was finally freed in 1990. His defiance of white-minority rule and his long incarceration for fighting against state-sanctioned segregation focused world attention on South Africa’s apartheid system, making him the symbol of the struggle to end the practice and bring racial equality to his country.

Outside of Africa, Madikizela-Mandela was known largely because of her ex-husband, but in South Africa she was the mouthpiece and face of the bitter struggle against the racist regime.

“She refused to be bowed by the imprisonment of her husband, the perpetual harassment of her family by security forces, detentions, bannings and banishment,” said Archbishop Desmond Tutu in a statement. “Her courageous defiance was deeply inspirational to me, and to generations of activists.”

A controversial legacy

Although Madikizela-Mandela, who suffered from diabetes, helped usher in a new, more equitable South African political system during her lifetime, she was also entangled in a number of scandals over the years.

In December 1988, her bodyguards, known as the Mandela United Football Club, kidnapped four boys belonging to another anti-apartheid party. One of them, Stompie Moeketsi, was murdered a few days later.

In May 1991 she was sentenced to six years in prison for kidnapping in relation to the incident, but the sentence was later reduced to a fine.

Madikizela-Mandela bounced back and in 1993 was elected president of the ANC’s women’s league. In 1994, when her then-husband became President, she was elected to parliament and became deputy arts and science minister in the country’s first multi-racial government.

Ever the feisty campaigner, Madikizela-Mandela continued to provoke controversy with her attacks on the government and her strident appeals to radical young black followers.

She was expelled from her husband’s cabinet a year later.

Madikizela-Mandela was reelected for a second parliamentary term in 1999 but resigned four years later after she was convicted of fraudulently taking out bank loans and theft — the loans were used to help poor people.

Her conviction for theft was overturned a year later because she had not recognized any personal gain from her actions.

South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission also accused her of human rights abuses during the apartheid years.

Something of a firebrand, she continued to clash with successive ANC presidents in and out of parliament for the rest of her life.

Tributes to Madikizela-Mandela

Madikizela-Mandela was also close to Julius Malema, the leader of the left-wing populist Economic Freedom Fighters opposition party. He made his tribute on Twitter with a simple black frame and crying emojis.

In 2011, Madikizela-Mandela was the subject of a Hollywood biopic starring Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Hudson, along with an opera that premiered in Pretoria, South Africa. She did not like the film.

“I was not consulted,” she told CNN in June that year. “I am still alive, and I think that it is a total disrespect to come to South Africa, make a movie about my struggle, and call that movie some translation of a romantic life of Winnie Mandela.”

The 2017 British documentary “Winnie” painted a more realistic portrait of her. As the tributes continued to roll in Monday, one of the most tweeted was from the British actor Idris Elba.

“Rest in peace Mama Winnie. My heart is heavy right now,” the actor wrote. You lived a full and important life contributing to the liberation of a nation by force and ACTUAL ACTIVISM. You will never be forgotten.”

South Africa’s parliament said it was “shocked and saddened” by Madikizela-Mandela’s death.

“Today we have indeed lost a great leader, a champion of freedom and development, a people’s hero, and a Mother, and a defender of the down-trodden,” it said in statement Monday. “May her soul rest in peace.”

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Middle East

Is Qatar taking advantage of Somalia – UAE dispute?

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As Somalia seeks to ease tensions with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar which is seen to be at the center of the fallout of the two nations, has donated 30 buses and two cranes to Mogadishu regional officials.

Relations between UAE and Somalia have been steadily declining since the latter’s decision not to cut ties with Qatar, preferring to take a neutral position in the dispute between Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

In March, Somalia banned UAE’s DP World from doing business in the country after it nullified an agreement the company had entered into with Ethiopia and Somaliland for the management of Berbera port.

Diplomatic row

One week ago, Somalia intercepted a plane chartered by UAE diplomats and confiscated $9.6m cash, saying it would investigate the intended purpose of the funds.

UAE retaliated with a scathing statement describing the seizure of the money as a breach of diplomatic protocols.

Both countries have separately issued statements ending a military cooperation program that was started in 2014, where UAE was training and paying some members of the Somali army.

Voice of America (VOA) journalist, Harun Maruf also reported that the UAE-run Sheikh Zayed hospital in Mogadishu had suspended its operations until further notice.

On Monday, it was reported that another UAE plane had been prevented from leaving Bosaso airport by Somali officials after Emirati military trainers refused to hand over their luggage to be scanned and searched.

Reconciliation talks
VOA has also reported that the Somali government on Monday opened conciliatory talks with UAE leaders.

Somali Foreign Minister Ahmed Isse Awad is quoted to have said that ‘talks have begun between the top leadership from the two countries and are progressing well.’

According to the minister, UAE had explained the purpose of the funds and will work with federal government of Somalia on their utilisation.

Mohamed Moalimuu, Secretary General of National Union of Somali Journalists, tweeted on Tuesday evening that the country’s legislators had been summoned to return to duty, supposedly to discuss the UAE dispute.

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Briefing Room

Diplomatic leaks: UAE dissatisfied with Saudi policies

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AL JAZEERA — Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed (MbZ) is working on breaking up Saudi Arabia, leaked documents obtained by Lebanese newspaper Al Akhbar revealed.

Al Akhbar said that the leaked documents contained secret diplomatic briefings sent by UAE and Jordanian ambassadors in Beirut to their respective governments.

One of the documents, issued on September 20, 2017, disclosed the outcome of a meeting between Jordan’s ambassador to Lebanon Nabil Masarwa and his Kuwaiti counterpart Abdel-Al al-Qenaie.

“The Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed is working on breaking up the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” the Jordanian envoy quoted the Kuwait ambassador as saying.

A second document, issued on September 28, 2017, reveals meeting minutes between the Jordanian ambassador and his UAE counterpart Hamad bin Saeed al-Shamsi.

The document said the Jordanian ambassador informed his government that UAE believes that “Saudi policies are failing both domestically and abroad, especially in Lebanon”.

“The UAE is dissatisfied with Saudi policies,” the Jordanian envoy said.

The Qatar vote
According to the leaks, UAE ambassador claims that Lebanon voted for Qatar’s Hamad bin Abdulaziz al-Kawari in his bid to become head of UNESCO in October 2017.

“[Lebanese Prime Minister Saad] Hariri knew Lebanon was voting for Qatar,” the UAE ambassador said in a cable sent to his government on October 18, 2017.

In November last year, Hariri announced his shock resignation from the Saudi capital Riyadh.

He later deferred his decision, blaming Iran and its Lebanese ally in Lebanon, Hezbollah, for his initial resignation. He also said he feared an assassination attempt.

Officials in Lebanon alleged that Hariri was held hostage by Saudi authorities, an allegation Hariri denied in his first public statement following his resignation speech.

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Ethiopia

Ethiopia’s Web Blackout Ends, Raising Hopes of Reforms Under New PM

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REUTERS — ADDIS ABABA — Internet users in Ethiopia said on Monday the government appeared to have ended a three-month online blackout, raising hopes of a relaxation of restrictions after the arrival of a new prime minister who promised reforms.

Mobile and broadband internet services shut down in December in many regions outside the capital that were hit by unrest that threatened the ruling coalition’s tight hold on country.

Rights groups accused the government of trying to stop them spreading news online and organizing rallies calling for land rights and other freedoms – charges the government denied. But internet users said they had noticed services returning following the April 2 inauguration of Abiy Ahmed.

The communications minister and the state-run telecoms monopoly did not immediately reply to requests for comment.

“We are very happy that it is back to normal,” said Hassan Bulcha, who runs an internet cafe in Shashemene, a town in the state of Oromiya which has seen some of the worst violence since protests erupted in 2015.
Groups that monitor internet usage in Ethiopia – one of the last countries on the continent with a state telecoms monopoly – gave the news a guarded welcome.

“Restoration of Ethiopia’s internet is a short-term win in a long-term struggle,” said Peter Micek of Access Now, a group that said it recorded two large-scale internet shutdowns in Ethiopia in 2017 and three in 2016.
The move was a step forward, but worries remained about the government’s wider commitment to freedoms, said CIPESA (Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa), a Uganda-based body that lists Britain among itsfunders.

“Too optimistic”

“It would be too optimistic to expect that the new prime minister’s government will overnight dismantle all the layers of authoritarian control that have for decades been at the center of state power in Ethiopia,” said Juliet Nanfuka from CIPESA.

The government has denied accusations that it abuses protesters’ rights and said it has only acted to keep order.

The new prime minister, a 42-year-old former army officer from Oromiya, has travelled to several areas of the country, promising to address grievances strengthen a range of political and civil rights.

But the country remains under a state of emergency imposed a day after Abiy Ahmed’s predecessor Hailemariam Desalegn resigned in February.

Since 2015, hundreds have died in violence triggered by demonstrations over land rights in Ethiopia’s Oromiya region.

The protests broadened into rallies over freedoms that spread to other regions.

Unlike in other African countries where the majority of internet users access the web through mobile phones, internet cafes are still widely used in Ethiopia because smartphones remain expensive and mobile data costs are high.

Africa’s second-most populous nation has clocked the region’s fastest economic growth rates over the past decade but it has among the region’s lowest internet penetration rates.

People in Oromiya, which surrounds the capital, in the Amhara region, and in the eastern city of Harar and nearby Dire Dawa, told Reuters internet access and mobile 3G servicesresumed about a week ago.

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