Gambia’s President-elect Arrives in Senegal After Talks Fail
Gambia’s President-elect Adama Barrow has left the country for neighboring Senegal, a coalition member and local media said on Sunday, a day after West African leaders failed to persuade President Yahya Jammeh to step aside.
Barrow, a former real estate agent, won a Dec. 1 election in the former British colony by a slim margin. Long-ruling Jammeh conceded defeat but then changed his mind, plunging one of West Africa’s tourist hot spots into crisis and dimming hopes for democracy in a region accustomed to coups and autocratic rule.
Barrow, backed by the West and the African Union, is due to be inaugurated on Jan. 19, although Jammeh is seeking to block this pending a Supreme Court ruling on his legal challenge to poll results.
“He [Barrow] is in Dakar. He will be back for the inauguration and we are mobilising the whole country for that,” said Isatou Toure, a member of Barrow’s coalition.
A spokesman for Senegal’s government was not immediately able to confirm his arrival which was also reported by state-owned news agency APS. Toure did not say why Barrow had gone to Dakar, although other supporters said he felt vulnerable given a lack of security.
The regional mediation mission to Banjul on Saturday, led by Nigeria’s President Buhari Muhammadu Buhari and Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, was seen as the last attempt at a diplomatic resolution to the political impasse.
Talks with regional bloc ECOWAS in December had also failed.
The bloc will seek formal approval to send troops if Jammeh continues to refuse to step aside, U.N. Special Representative for West Africa and the Sahel Mohammed Ibn Chambas said earlier this week.
“His Excellency the President reiterated his position and that of The Gambia Government,” said a statement for Gambia’s President on the State House website after Saturday’s meeting.
Jammeh has cited irregularities in the polling process and is challenging the election results at Gambia’s Supreme Court.
But the court could not rule on his challenge this week because judges from Nigeria and Sierra Leone did not show up.
The Supreme Court has indicated it may not be able to sit again until May.
Police Enter Latest Brazil Prison to See Inmates Massacred
Police in Brazil have entered two prisons in the country’s northern state of Rio Grande do Norte where a riot left at least 10 inmates dead on Saturday, authorities said Sunday.
A statement released by the office in charge of state penitentiaries said the rebellion started Saturday afternoon in the Alcacuz and Rogerio Coutinho detention facilities, located next to each other outside the city of Natal.
Police entered the prisons on Sunday morning, according to the statement.
The riot erupted from fighting between rival gangs and was the latest in a series of massacres in the South America country’s penitentiaries that have killed more than 100.
Authorities have said they expect the death toll from Saturday’s rebellion to rise.
The Alcacuz facility should house 620 inmates but has 1,083.
The last rebellion in Alcacuz prison was in November 2015, when a tunnel was discovered in one pavilion. The facility should house 620 inmates but has 1,083.
The recent outbreak of prison violence in Brazil began on Jan. 1-2, when 56 inmates were killed in the northern state of Amazonas. Authorities said the Family of the North gang targeted members of Brazil’s most powerful criminal gang, First Command, in a clash over control of drug-trafficking routes in northern states. Many of the dead were beheaded and dismembered.
Then on Jan. 6, in the neighboring state of Roraima, 33 prisoners were killed, many with their hearts and intestines ripped out.
Experts say First Command, known by the Portuguese acronym PCC, is exploiting overcrowding and squalid conditions in the Brazil’s penitentiaries to expand its reach across the national prison system. The gang runs drug-trafficking operations both inside and outside prisons even though many of its leaders are in maximum security penitentiaries in Sao Paulo state.
Interfax: Russia to Upgrade its Naval, Air Bases in Syria
Russia plans to improve and expand its naval and air bases in Syria, Interfax news agency reported on Sunday, citing an unnamed source, as Moscow cements its presence in the Middle Eastern country, its only overseas military deployment.
The source told Interfax that Russia will start repairing a second runway at Hmeimin air base near Latakia, while the Tartus naval base will be upgraded in order to handle bigger ships such as cruisers.
President Vladimir Putin has announced a partial withdrawal of Russian forces from Syria, where they have been helping forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad. But Moscow wants to retain a permanent presence both in Hmeimin and Tartus.
The source also told Interfax that Russia will still deploy S-300 surface-to-air defense systems and Bastion coastal missile launchers in Tartus.
Iran Says Nuclear Deal Will Not Be Renegotiated
The landmark nuclear deal between Iran and world powers “will not be renegotiated,” Iran’s deputy foreign minister said on January 15, ahead of the first anniversary of the agreement’s implementation.
Majlis Podcast: What’s At Stake After Turkmenistan Turns Off The Taps To Iran?
Why is a suspension of Turkmen gas to Iran happening and how long might it continue? What’s at stake for each of the countries? And how much damage could this do to Turkmen-Iranian relations? LIsten to this week’s Majlis podcast to find out.
Roadside Bomb Kills Seven Civilians In Eastern Afghanistan
Afghan officials say at least seven civilians, including a woman and three children, were killed when their vehicle hit a roadside bomb in eastern Afghanistan on January 15.
Turkey: US to Be Invited to Syria Peace Talks
United States officials will be invited by Turkey and Russia to attend new Syria peace talks set to take place in Kazakhstan later this month, Turkey’s foreign minister said Saturday.
Mevlut Cavusoglu had previously expressed support for U.S. participation in the talks, though Russia has yet to publicly acknowledge any support for the invitation to U.S. officials.
“First of all, as you know, we agreed with Russia on inviting the United States. I spoke with [Russian Foreign Minister Sergei] Lavrov and we will invite the United States,” he said. “We don’t deny the role of United States.”
Incoming White House press secretary Sean Spicer also said Friday that Russia has invited the Trump administration to participate in the peace deal.
The invitation, according to Spicer, came during a phone call December 29 between Trump advisor Michael Flynn and Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak, the same day the Obama administration announced it would impose new sanctions on Russia in retaliation for meddling in the U.S. election.
Peace process had been frozen
The Obama administration had previously been frozen out of the peace process after talks between the U.S. and Russia broke down in late December. Both the US and Russia accused each other of trying to sabotage the previous round of talks.
Syria’s government and rebel fighters agreed to a nationwide cease-fire on December 30 during talks brokered by Russia and Turkey. The U.S. was absent from the discussions.
An official date for the new talks hasn’t yet been set, but Russia hopes to convene the peace summit in the Kazakh capital of Astana later this month.
Cavusoglu said Saturday that Turkey would oppose any participation in the talks by the Syrian Kurdish militant group YPG, which he called a “terrorist organization.”
“We have given them opportunities to stop seceding Syria and carrying out terrorist activities in Turkey. We saw their intentions. Our operation ‘Euphrates Shield’ once again showed that YPG is not aiming to fight against Daesh [Islamic State] but to divide Syria,” he said.
Turkey wants the U.S. to sever its ties with the YPG, but the U.S. has provided aid to the group and considers its members allies in the looming battle to wrest Raqqa from IS militants.
SpaceX Rocket to Carry Airline Tracking Technology
When the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket goes into space Saturday, it will carry a payload that could revolutionize how airplanes fly. Technology on board will make airplanes trackable over the entire Earth, including the black zones over vast oceans and deserts where planes currently can’t be traced. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains.