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US senator urges Kenyan president to aid peaceful transition

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NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — A visiting U.S. senator says he has encouraged Kenya’s outgoing president to participate in a “peaceful transition of power” amid the latest election crisis in East Africa’s most stable democracy.

“I’ll let the president speak for himself, but that was certainly a hope I expressed today,” Sen. Chris Coons told The Associated Press after his meeting with President Uhuru Kenyatta on Thursday. He said they discussed ways in which Kenyatta can play a “constructive peacemaking role” after leaving office.

Kenyatta has remained publicly silent since the Aug. 9 vote, adding to the anxiety as Kenya again faces post-election uncertainty and a likely court challenge by the losing candidate, Raila Odinga. Coons, leading a congressional delegation on a five-country Africa visit, was in Kenya in part to meet the key parties and urge that calm continue.

Sen. Chris Coons, second right, leading a U.S. congressional delegation, is accompanied by his wife Annie Coons, right, and Rep Dave Joyce, left, as he speaks to patient David Oduor, center, at his home, after visiting the Tabitha Medical Clinic run by CFK Africa in the Kibera neighborhood of Nairobi, Kenya Thursday, Aug. 18, 2022. The delegation also met with current President Uhuru Kenyatta, Kenya’s new president-elect William Ruto, and opposition figure Raila Odinga who has said he will challenge his recent election loss in court. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

Kenyatta had backed longtime rival and opposition leader Odinga in the close race against his own deputy president, William Ruto, who fell out bitterly with Kenyatta years ago. Ruto on Monday was declared the winner, but not before Kenya’s most peaceful election ever slid into chaos in the final moments.

The electoral commission split in two, each side accusing the other of trying to tinker with the results. It came as a shock to many Kenyans after an election widely seen as the country’s most transparent ever, with results from the more than 46,000 polling stations posted online.

Now Odinga almost certainly will challenge the results in Supreme Court. His campaign has seven days from Monday’s declaration to do so, and the court will have 14 days to rule. Odinga has urged supporters to remain patient instead of taking to the streets in a country with a history of sometimes deadly post-election violence.

After meeting with Kenyatta, Odinga and Ruto, Coons told the AP “I was encouraged that in all three meetings we heard a commitment to a call for calm and tranquility, to respect the legal processes established in the 2010 constitution.” He said the conversations were about the rule of law, the importance of free and fair elections and peaceful transitions.

“Obviously, the United States has had a very difficult experience with these issues for the past few years,” Coons said, referring to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol as former President Donald Trump tried to remain in power. “I said in all three meetings we have things to learn from Kenya.”

Kenyatta told Coons that Kenya would uphold “its position of a shining example of democracy in the continent by maintaining peace during this transition period,” according to a statement issued by the president’s office.

Coons said he did not come to Kenya seeking anything like the handshake that Kenyatta and Odinga, after prodding, famously shared to end months of crisis after the 2017 election, whose results were overturned by the Supreme Court over irregularities, a first in Africa. Odinga boycotted the fresh vote and declared himself the “people’s president,” bringing allegations of treason.

This time, with Kenyatta’s backing, the Odinga campaign felt he would win the presidency after a quarter-century of pursuing it.

Kenyatta is stepping down after two terms, itself a notable act in a region where longtime presidents like Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Paul Kagame of Rwanda have been accused of clinging to power through changes in term limits, manipulation of elections and crackdowns on dissenting voices.

The U.S. delegation is also visiting Rwanda, where human rights and violent tensions with neighboring Congo are almost certainly on the agenda following Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit there last week. Coons said he looks forward to visiting again with Kagame.

Kenyatta has played a leading role in efforts to calm the Rwanda-Congo tensions and in trying to mediate in neighboring Ethiopia’s deadly Tigray conflict, with support from the U.S. Coons did not say what kind of peacemaking role he hoped to see Kenyatta play after stepping down.

Ruto’s public comments this week have been on domestic matters, not foreign, but Coons said the president-elect made an “expression of concern and intent in trying to help lead to positive resolutions” in such regional crises.

Coons also has played a role in trying to calm the Ethiopia conflict. But he told the AP the delegation was not having a meeting with Ethiopia’s government or the Tigray forces while in Kenya.

Coons, a member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, and his delegation have already visited Cape Verde and Mozambique and will visit Tunisia as well.

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Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso agree to create a joint force to fight worsening violence

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BAMAKO, Mali (AP) — A joint security force announced by the juntas ruling Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso to fight the worsening extremist violence in their Sahel region countries faces a number of challenges that cast doubt on its effectiveness, analysts said Thursday.

Niger’s top military chief, Brig. Gen. Moussa Salaou Barmou said in a statement after meeting with his counterparts Wednesday that the joint force would be “operational as soon as possible to meet the security challenges in our area.”

The announcement is the latest in a series of actions taken by the three countries to strike a more independent path away from regional and international allies since the region experienced a string of coups — the most recent in Niger in July last year.

They have already formed a security alliance after severing military ties with neighbors and European nations such as France and turning to Russia — already present in parts of the Sahel — for support.

Barmou did not give details about the operation of the force, which he referred to as an “operational concept that will enable us to achieve our defence and security objectives.”

Although the militaries had promised to end the insurgencies in their territories after deposing their respective elected governments, conflict analysts say the violence has instead worsened under their regimes. They all share borders in the conflict-hit Sahel region and their security forces fighting jihadi violence are overstretched.

The effectiveness of their security alliance would depend not just on their resources but on external support, said Bedr Issa, an independent analyst who researches the conflict in the Sahel.

The three regimes are also “very fragile,” James Barnett, a researcher specializing in West Africa at the U.S.-based Hudson Institute, said, raising doubts about their capacity to work together.

“They’ve come to power through coups, they are likely facing a high risk of coups themselves, so it is hard to build a stable security framework when the foundation of each individual regime is shaky,” said Barnett.

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Associated Press writer Chinedu Asadu in Abuja, Nigeria contributed.

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Mexican Authorities say they saw a huge increase in migrants from Africa and Venezuela in 2023

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Mexican authorities say they saw a huge increase in the number of migrants from Africa and Venezuela entering the country in 2023.

Those migrants generally enter Mexico from Central America, and cross the country in a bid to reach the U.S. border.

Mexico’s Interior Department said year-end figures showed that nine times more migrants from Africa entered Mexico in 2023, with numbers rising from 6,672 in 2022, to 59,834 in 2023.

The report also showed the number of migrants from Venezuela more than doubled last year, rising from 96,197 in 2022 to 222,994 in 2023.

In part, that may reflect more rapid and more numerous movements of migrants through the jungle-clad Darien Gap that connects South America to Panama.

Smugglers are moving migrants more quickly through the dangerous route, which last year was traversed by over half a million migrants. Once in Panama, migrants make their way through Central America to Mexico.

Overall, the number of all irregular migrants found in Mexico in 2023 rose by 77%, going from 441,409 in 2022 to 782,176 last year.

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Nigeria vs South Africa: AFCON prediction, kick-off time, TV, and live stream

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A meeting of two imperious defences will decide the first entrant to the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations final when South Africa and Nigeria meet on Wednesday.

The Super Eagles have conceded just one goal at this AFCON and dispatched Angola in a tight game to qualify for the semi-finals.

But Bafana Bafana matched their run of four consecutive clean sheets as goalkeeper Ronwen Williams delivered the heroics in their penalty shootout win over Cape Verde.

Only once since their last Cup of Nations title, which came just over a decade ago, have Nigeria reached the last four – and they have lost five of their last six AFCON semi-finals.

South Africa’s wait stretches back even further, with no title since 1996 and this their first run to the last four since 2000.

Date, kick-off time and venue

Nigeria vs South Africa is scheduled for a 5pm GMT kick-off on Wednesday, February 7, 2024.

The match will take place at Stade de la Paix in Bouake.

Where to watch Nigeria vs South Africa

TV channel: In the UK, the game will be televised live on BBC Two, with coverage starting at 4.30pm GMT, as well as Sky Sports Main Event and Premier League.

Live stream: Sky subscribers can also catch the contest live online via the Sky Go app while the game will also be shown for free via the BBC Sport and iPlayer portals.

Live blog: You can follow all the action on matchday via Standard Sport’s live blog.

What we know

♦ Nigeria striker Victor Osimhen was taken off late on against Angola with an abdominal injury and he did not join the rest of the squad in flying out to Bouake on Monday evening.

A team statement assured that he could yet be released to travel on Tuesday if he passes medical checks.

Hugo Broos has a settled line-up for South Africa, with the defence entirely made up of Mamelodi Sundowns players.

However, after failing to score against Cape Verde he could tinker with the attack.

♦ Both teams have been outstanding defensively throughout the tournament and it feels as though a single goal will prove the difference in this game.

Head to head (h2h) history and results

Super Eagles captain William Troost-Ekong scored an 89th-minute winner when Nigeria knocked Bafana Bafana out of the 2019 Cup of Nations quarter-finals, which was these two sides’ last meeting.

Nigeria wins: 7

South Africa wins: 2

Draws: 5

Nigeria vs South Africa match odds

Nigeria to qualify: 1/2

South Africa to qualify: 7/1

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