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US slams sanctions on Zimbabwe’s president, other officials

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The United States on Monday imposed sanctions on Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa and other senior leaders, denouncing what it said was a campaign of rights abuses and corruption.

The sanctions, which will block any US-based property and block any unofficial travel to the United States, replace a broader, two-decade-old sanctions programme against Zimbabwe.

“The changes we are making today are intended to make clear what has always been true: our sanctions are not intended to target the people of Zimbabwe,” Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo said.

“We are refocusing our sanctions on clear and specific targets: President Mnangagwa’s criminal network of government officials and businesspeople who are most responsible for corruption or human rights abuse against the people of Zimbabwe,” he said.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken called the new measures were part of a “stronger, more targeted sanctions policy” on Zimbabwe as he voiced concern over “serious cases of corruption and human rights abuse.”

“Key individuals, including members of the government of Zimbabwe, bear responsibility for these actions, including the looting of government coffers that robs Zimbabweans of public resources,” Blinken said in a statement.

“Multiple cases of abductions, physical abuse, and unlawful killing have left citizens living in fear.”

Mnangagwa, whose party has been in power for more than four decades, was declared the winner of a new term in an election in August that international observers said fell short of democratic standards.

He is the second consecutive Zimbabwean leader to face US sanctions following veteran president Robert Mugabe.

Hopes of a thaw briefly surfaced after Mnangagwa pushed Mugabe out of power in 2017, but Western powers and rights groups say that the new leadership has also clamped down on the opposition and protests.

President Joe Biden, in a declaration on Monday, ended an earlier sanctions programme on Zimbabwe imposed in 2003 under George W. Bush, who had advocated for a broader global push of sanctions on the country under Mugabe.

AFP

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It’s called democracy’ – Trump defends trying to influence election

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The prosecution in Donald Trump’s trial has insisted that the former President “orchestrated a criminal scheme to corrupt the 2016 presidential election” in his efforts to cover up an alleged affair with the adult film star, Stormy Daniels.

The prosecution said this on Monday in its opening statement in Trump’s criminal trial.

However, the defense countered that “there’s nothing wrong with trying to influence an election – it’s called democracy”.

Apart from hearing the opening statements from both sides, the trial also briefly heard from its first witness, David Pecker.

Pecker was the former publisher of the National Enquirer, a central figure in Trump’s alleged crimes.

A jury of seven men and five women living in Manhattan will weigh whether Trump’s alleged efforts to conceal an affair with Daniels, which he feared would damage his bid for the White House, were illicit.

The former President was dragged to court with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in the early 2023.

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One Killed, 7 Missing As 2 Japanese Navy Helicopters Crash In Pacific Ocean During Training

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One person has been killed while seven others are missing after two Japanese navy helicopters carrying eight crew members crashed in the Pacific Ocean south of Tokyo during nighttime.

The two SH-60K choppers from the Maritime Self-Defense Force were carrying four crew each and lost contact late Saturday near Torishima island, about 600 kilometres (370 miles) south of Tokyo, the country’s Defense Minister Minoru Kihara told reporters.

AP reports that Kihara said the cause of the crash was not immediately known, but officials believe the two helicopters “highly likely” collided before crashing into the water.

The navy chief of staff, Adm. Ryo Sakai, said training involving the SH-60s will be suspended until the cause of the crash is determined and preventive measures are adopted.

Rescuers recovered a flight data recorder, a blade from each helicopter, and fragments believed to be from both choppers in the same area, signs that the two SH-60Ks were flying close to each other, Kihara said.

Search and rescue efforts for the missing crew were expanded Sunday with the deployment of 12 warships and seven aircraft. Japan Coast Guard patrol boats and planes also joined the operation.

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Togo’s parliament approves constitutional reforms extending Gnassingbé’s rule

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Togo’s parliament has given approval to a new constitution that extends President Faure Gnassingbé’s term.

The parliament on Friday gave the approval which shifts the West African nation from a presidential to a parliamentary system of government.

It also modifies both the term limits and methods of presidential election.

The reforms enable Gnassingbé to remain in power until 2031, after which he could be appointed to the new position of “president of the council of ministers”.

The new arrangement, when effective, transforms the president to prime minister – continuing his family’s 57-year rule.

The parliament initially passed the amendment in March.

However, further consultations and a second parliamentary vote were scheduled due to fierce backlash.

Opposition groups said the reforms amounted to a constitutional coup, but Yawa Tségan, human rights minister, said the move will “improve democracy in the country”.

Gnassingbé came to power in 2005 after the death of his father, who took over the coastal West African country in 1967 via a coup.

Violent police crackdowns on political demonstrations have been routine under Gnassingbe, as they were during his father’s rule.

Groups of civil society organisations (CSOs) have called on the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to intervene in the amendments.

Other West African countries which have made constitutional reforms to allow presidents extend their tenures in office include Central African Republic, Rwanda, Congo Republic, Ivory Coast, and Guinea.

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