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Senegal Talks Rule Out Presidential Vote Before Sall’s Term Expires

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Political crisis talks called by Senegal’s President Macky Sall on Tuesday reached a “broad consensus” that the presidential vote he postponed could not be held before his mandate ends on April 2, multiple participants told AFP.

Sall’s two-day “national dialogue” aimed at setting a date for the delayed election also advocated the head of state remain in office beyond the end of his term and until his successor is installed.

The conclusions go firmly against the view of a widespread political and civic movement, which is demanding the poll be held before April 2.

The traditionally stable West African country is grappling with its worst political crisis in decades after Sall’s last-minute deferral of the February 25 election.

The Constitutional Council overturned the delay and Sall on Monday launched two days of talks to set a new date — boycotted by major political and social actors.

Two committees were formed to discuss the election date and the organisation of the period after April 2.

The first committee came to the almost unanimous conclusion that the vote could not be held before April 2, four participants told AFP.

Two participants, Amar Thioune and Mamadou Lamine Mane, even said there was a “broad consensus” that the presidential election could not be held before June 2.

The second committee came to a “broad consensus” in favour of President Sall remaining in office until a successor is sworn in, six participants told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Some taking part in the talks proposed the vote should take place in July, the same sources told AFP, referring to discussions rather than any written document.

The two committees were due to present their conclusions to the president late Tuesday.

No indication was given as to when Sall would then make a decision.

Last week, he said he would set a date “immediately” if there was a consensus.

– ‘Get it over with’ –
The president has previously cast doubt on the feasibility of staging the vote before the end of his term.

On Monday, he proposed that it could be held by the start of the rainy season in June or July.

Sall had reiterated several times in recent days that his mandate would end as planned at the beginning of April.

But on Monday, he left open the possibility of an extension.

“If there’s a consensus, I’m prepared, in the best interests of the nation, to take it upon myself to stay on even if it’s not my choice,” he said.

“It’s not what I want because I’m in a hurry to get it over with and leave,” he added.

The February 3 decision to postpone the presidential election plunged Senegal into turmoil, with four people killed in clashes.

Sall, in power since 2012, said he called off the vote over disputes about the disqualification of potential candidates and fears of a return to unrest as in 2021 and 2023.

The opposition called it a “constitutional coup”.

The Constitutional Council, the top constitutional body, ruled the delay unlawful and called for the vote to be organised “as soon as possible”.

A possible extension of Sall’s term is likely to raise more constitutional concerns.

The Council said on February 15 that Mr Sall was due to leave office on April 2.

– Boycott –
The movement galvanised against the election delay says the president is playing for time, either to benefit his political allies or to remain in power.

Seventeen of the 19 candidates approved by the Constitutional Council to stand in the presidential poll boycotted Sall’s national dialogue, as did the major civil society collective Aar Sunu Election (Protect Our Election).

The collective had called for shutdowns across the country and a general strike on Tuesday, demanding the poll take place before Sall leaves office.

But the call appeared to go largely unheeded in central districts of the capital Dakar.

“We live from day to day, so we can’t afford to go a day without working, otherwise our families won’t eat,” said shopkeeper Saer Dieng, 37.

AFP

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Saudi Arabia threatens pilgrims with severe penalties over visa violations

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The Saudi Arabian authorities have warned all pilgrims participating in this year’s Hajj against using invalid Hajj visa to enter the country.

In the warning issued by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, the Saudi Arabian Kingdom threatened to invoke severe penalties against any pilgrim or group found to have entered the country illegally.

The ministry of Interior stipulated a penalty of deportation and fine of 10,000 SR on anyone caught performing Hajj without the authorized Hajj permit.

The warning was contained in a letter received by the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria, NAHCON, through the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs from the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia, Abuja, disclosing the stand of the Saudi Council of Senior Scholars on the matter.

The Council, according to a statement released on Tuesday by the NAHCON’s Assistant Director of Public Affairs, Hajia Fatima Sanda Usara, issued a Fatwa (a legal ruling given by recognized religious authority) to the Muslim Ummah emphasizing the prohibition of performing Hajj without a permit.

“The Council in its Fatwa, urged pilgrims to adhere to rules and regulations, aimed at enabling Muslims to perform the Hajj in safety and tranquility,” the letter to the commission reads in part.

Usara, however, recalled that NAHCON had issued several warnings in the past against Nigerians falling into the bait of scammers making so many job offers for the pilgrimage season.

Similarly, the Saudi Ministry of Interior similarly advised persons against “becoming victims of the several fictitious companies and fake accounts on social media who claim to be agents/ authorities to facilitate Hajj using Umrah, tourism, work, family visit and other types of Visa at attractive rates.”

Assistant Director in charge of Tour Operators Unit, Ahmad Shira, has since shared contents of the message to all licensed Hajj and Umrah operators from the public and private sectors.

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World’s longest serving flight attendant who chose where she flew dies at 88 before retiring

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The world’s longest serving flight attendant, who served mid-flight lobster to the Kennedys and never retired, has died aged 88 after seven decades of service.

Bette Nash started her career in the air in 1957 when she was just 21 years old. She died in hospice care last week after a brief battle with breast cancer.

Her employer of 67 years, American Airlines, posted a touching tribute to her on X (formerly Twitter) mourning her death.

“We mourn the passing of Bette Nash who spent nearly seven decades warmly caring for our customers in the air….Bette inspired generations of flight attendants. Fly high Bette,” the airline’s post read.

The Association of Professional Flight Attendants, the union which represents airline staff in the United States, shared another tribute to her on Facebook. “Bette’s remarkable career spanned over six decades during which she touched countless lives with her warmth, dedication and unparalleled service,” its tribute read.

“Her passion for flying and her commitment to her passengers were truly inspiring. Bette’s legacy will forever be remembered in the aviation community and by all who had the privilege of knowing her.”

As America’s most senior flight attendant Betty was able to fly any route she desired – and the one she liked most was between Washington DC and Boston so she could get back to her home in Virginia to look after her son, who has Down Syndrome.

Bette held the Guinness World Record for the longest ever serving flight attendant which she was awarded in 2022. In 2017 she celebrated her 60th anniversary with the airline and reflected fondly on serving the Kennedy’s lobster and carved meats on platters during their flight to Boston.

“My job means the world to me,” she said at the time. “It’s truly been a joy.”

The Daily Mail reported at the time that she had no intentions of retiring, and was still strong enough to drag a sick or injured passenger out of their seat and into the aisle to start CPR. Bette told ABC affiliate WJLA the first few years of her career were not exactly easy.

“You had to be a certain height, you had to be a certain weight. It used to be horrible. You put on a few pounds and if you stayed that way they would take you off the payroll.”

In addition to the strict body restrictions, Bette said the airline used to check up on her at her home to ensure she wasn’t living with a man, as it was a requirement of the job to be single.

She began her lifelong career when tickets cost just $12 (£9) and the flight schedules were written on chalkboards every morning and afternoon.

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Over 2,000 people feared buried in Papua New Guinea landslide

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More than 2,000 people are feared buried in a Papua New Guinea landslide that destroyed a remote highland village, the government said yesterday , as it pleaded for international help in the rescue effort.

The once-bustling hillside community in Enga province was almost wiped out when a chunk of Mount Mungalo collapsed in the early hours of Friday morning, smothering scores of homes and the people sleeping inside them.

“The landslide buried more than 2,000 people alive and caused major destruction to buildings, food gardens and caused major impact on the economic lifeline of the country,” Papua New Guinea’s national disaster centre said in a letter to the United Nations obtained by AFP.

The main highway to the large Porgera gold mine was “completely blocked”, it told the UN resident coordinator’s office in the capital Port Moresby.

The landslip was continuing to “shift slowly, posing ongoing danger to both the rescue teams and survivors alike”, the disaster centre said.

The scale of the catastrophe required “immediate and collaborative actions from all players”, it added, including the army, and national and provincial responders.“The centre also called on the United Nations to inform Papua New Guinea’s development partners “and other international friends” of the crisis.“

 

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