Some 800 people were reportedly killed during a massacre at a Christian church in Axum, Ethiopia, where worshippers believe the Ark of the Covenant is housed.

The church of St Mary of Zion became a place of refuge for Ethiopians in the Tigray region fleeing the country’s civil war.

It came under siege last year amid clashes between government forces and rebel militia, resulting in hundreds of deaths, which have only become public knowledge now. Due to Tigray’s phone lines being cut and a ban on journalists, death toll estimates varied.

As the region begins to reconnect with the outside world, a deacon who says he witnessed the atrocity and its aftermath has given an account of what happened over the final weekend in November 2020.

He says he collected victims' identity cards and assisted with mass burials. The deacon, who spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity because remains in Axum, says 800 people were murdered.

"If we go to the rural areas, the situation is much worse," he added.

Among the dead were local worshippers who had rushed to the church to defend its covenant, a wooden chest which is said to have been built to hold the Ten Commandments of Moses.

The atrocities of the Tigray conflict have largely occurred in the shadows due to its isolation from the rest of Africa and the world.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 for making peace with neighbouring Eritrea, announced the fighting as the world focused on the US election.

He accused Tigray's regional forces, whose leaders dominated Ethiopia for nearly three decades before he took office, of attacking the Ethiopian military.

Tigray's leaders called it self-defence after months of tensions.

While the world clamours for access to Tigray to investigate suspected atrocities on all sides and deliver aid to millions of hungry people, the prime minister has rejected outside "interference."

He declared victory in late November and said no civilians had been killed. His government denies the presence of thousands of soldiers from Eritrea, long an enemy of the Tigray leaders.

The killing continues, according to the deacon. He said he helped bury three people last week. Yahoo News/Independent

The posters of two most popular candidates for Uganda's Presidential election, incumbent President Yoweri Museveni (R) and Robert Kyagulanyi (L), aka Bobi Wine, the pop star-turned-opposition leader in Kampala, Uganda, on January 4, 2021./Photo Courtesy

 

What you need to know:

  • The move comes a day after President Museveni, the electoral commission and the Attorney-General filed their 185 affidavits in response to the 53 grounds that the National Unity Platform (NUP) legal team had raised to prove that the election was rigged, and wasn't free and fair.

Ugandan politician Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine has instructed his lawyers to withdraw the presidential poll petition he filed at the Supreme Court, challenging President Yoweri  Museveni's victory in the January 14 General Election.

“We are withdrawing from the courts but we are not opting for violence. We are withdrawing the case from Mr Owiny Dollo's court,” Wine, who has accused some judges of the court of being biased, said as he announced the withdrawal of his petition. 

The move comes a day after President Museveni, the electoral commission and the Attorney-General filed their 185 affidavits in response to the 53 grounds that the National Unity Platform (NUP) legal team had raised to prove that the election was rigged, and wasn't free and fair.

Financial consequences

On Sunday, lawyers of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) said Wine will face heavy financial implications if he withdraws the petition. 

Mr Oscar Kihika, director of the NRM legal department, told journalists at the weekend that the party will ask Wine to pay all the expenses the party incurred in responding to the  petition.

“I hope his lawyers are advising him about this action of his because there are specific provisions to be considered. They should realise it is not a simple thing,” Mr Kihika said at the NRM party secretariat's offices in Kampala.

“This decision cannot be taken lightly. Obviously if he withdraws, he can rest assured that as lawyers for the respondents, we shall go after Hon Kyagulanyi for the costs. That is sure,” he said, terming Wine's remarks "casual".

Wine willing to pay

The Daily Monitor revealed that Wine was mulling withdrawing or carrying on with the petition. 

Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo and two justices of the Supreme Court last week refused to recuse themselves from hearing the petition as Wine had requested.

In a telephone interview, Mr Anthony Wameli, one of Wine's lawyers, revealed that his client will be willing and ready to cover the said costs.

“That is a given; [that] once a matter is withdrawn, there are costs one is expected to pay. I don’t think my client has a problem paying. My client is aware of it,” Mr Wameli said.

Mr Joel Ssenyonyi, the NUP spokesman, said, "We are not worried about the costs because ultimately, we have been paying the price ever since we decided to challenge President Museveni. Look at how many lives we have lost. What is more expensive than life?"  By Sumy Sadurni | AFP/Daily Monitor

Athi River subcounty police commander George Kashimiri counting recovered sheep and goats at Kyumbi police station in Machakos County on Friday, February 19. Photo George Owiti

 

Police on Saturday recovered the body of an unidentified man suspected to be in his late 20s in Mavoko, Machakos county.

Athi River subcounty police commander George Kashimiri said the body was discovered by residents of Acre Fund village in Kamulu at around 2pm. They reported the matter to Joska police station.

Detectives from the Homicide Department visited the scene. Police removed the body to the City Mortuary for an autopsy.

Kashimiri said the deceased could be part of a gang and his killers might have turned their guns on one of their own following a disagreement. The deceased wasn’t known to the locals.

“The boda boda operator was ferrying his clients who turned out to be thugs. They shot him dead and stole the motorbike which they used to speed off thereby escaping from the murder scene. It is suspected that all of them could be thugs who killed one of their own in what looks like a disagreement over something or a deal gone sour,” the police boss told the Star by phone on Sunday.

He said the deceased didn’t have any identification document when the body was being removed from the scene.

“Nobody from the area knew him .He wasn’t immediately identified. That’s the reason body was moved to the City Mortuary where the identification can be done by experts,” Kashimiri said.

He said there was no arrest yet, though police had launched investigations into the matter.

Kashimiri called on the public to volunteer information on the incidednt to help in the probe and arrest of suspects involved in the murder. - George Owiti, The Star

ANGRY MCAs: The County Assembly of Nyeri in session on February 18.
Image: EUTYCAS MUCHIRI/Photo Courtesy

 

The grant was given following president Uhuru Kenyatta's directive.

In Summary

•He argued that the MCAs offered themselves for office without being coerced and therefore they should not turn around and arm twist Kenyans or any government office.

•"...they should not blackmail Kenyans and other government offices to accept their personal issues choreographed as national interest," he said.

A doctor has sued the government over its decision to issue MCAs with car grant.

Dr Magare Gikenyi wants the court to stop the implementation of the car grant saying it is illegal.

The grant was given following President Uhuru Kenyatta's directive.

He argued that the MCAs offered themselves for office without being coerced and therefore they should not turn around and arm twist Kenyans or any government office. 

"...they should not blackmail Kenyans and other government offices to accept their personal issues choreographed as national interest," he said. 

The little resources the country has, he said, should be utilized for other priority things and not car grant for MCAs. By Jillo Kadida, The Star

ODM TRIO: Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho, ODM leader Raila Odinga and Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi during a rally in Mariakani, Kilifi.
Image: COURTESY

 

If ODM leader Raila Odinga decides to run for president, Joho’s ambitions will be nipped in the bud.

In Summary

• Joho’s presidential bid has only served to fuel Coast region’s political divisions, especially because he wants to vie on the ODM ticket.

• The governor believes that coastal interests at the national level can be realised through ODM, if it forms the next government.

Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho’s announcement this week that he will vie for president in 2022 has sent mixed signals.

This is particularly relevant to the success of the ongoing debate about Coast regional unity and the prospects of a homegrown party with a regional leader or spokesperson to drive the Coast agenda. 

To be clear, the debate about regional unity boils down to a singular conclusion — that the Coast, fatigued by opposition politics since 2007, wants to be in government in 2022. It is an issue that has torn Coast leaders apart. 

Joho’s presidential bid has only served to fuel the Coast region’s political divisiveness, especially because he wants to vie on the ODM ticket.

The governor believes that coastal interests at the national level can be realised through ODM if it forms the next government.

Mvita MP Abdulswamad Nassir summed up Joho’s sentiments this week when he said, “We will not desert a house (ODM) that we built to go and build another one from scratch."

What this means is that Joho is not ready or willing to support a party brewed in the Coast region.

But his presidential bid is problematic in that if Raila Odinga, the party leader, decides to run for the presidency — and he will — Joho’s ambitions shall be nipped in the bud.

At best, Joho’s presidential bid can only be characterised as an attempt to justify ODM’s pretentions to internal democracy. It is inconsequential.

The divisive issue facing Coastal unity is not the lack of support from leaders and the people but how to achieve it.

For example, is regional unity achievable through established national parties such as ODM or Jubilee, or is it achievable through a home-grown party?

The other question is who should lead this regional unity of purpose?

To respond to these vexing questions, three opposing camps have emerged.

I have talked about the Joho camp, which strongly believes that ODM is the answer to the articulation and implementation of coastal interests.  

The other camp is leaning towards Deputy President William Ruto and his Jubilee wing, which is by extension, the United Democratic Alliance (UDA).

The local leaders behind this camp include Kwale Governor Salim Mvurya and his Lamu counterpart Fahim Twaha — both elected on the Jubilee ticket.

Though they have not participated in any unity talks, these governors have the support of vocal area MPs such as Aisha Jumwa (Malindi), Owen Baya (Kilifi North), Mohammed Ali (Nyali) and Khatib Mwashetani (Lunga Lunga).

This camp has advocated the formation of a local party with direct links to Ruto.

The third camp is centrist. It is led by Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi of ODM, who seems to be fatigued with the party’s politics of exclusion.

Although ODM swept all the leading representative seats in Kilifi in the 2017 elections, the party’s pulse, including the handshake, has not been felt in the county.

Upset by the national party leaders’ inaction, Kingi at one time considered stepping down as the Kilifi county ODM chairman. He had to re-think his decision.

His argument is that if the Coast region has to be in government in 2022, of necessity, it must be on its own political party.

That party, according to his reckoning, could then negotiate for coalitions with like-minded parties and leaders to form the next government.

To achieve this objective, Kingi has been working extra hard to bring local parties together to form a grand regional coalition of parties that will lead the Coast into government.

The missing voices in the Coast regional unity quest and inclusion in government are Tana River Governor Dhadho Godhana and Taita Taveta’s Granton Samboja. Although they are committed to regional unity, their positions on how to achieve this objective have not been expressly stated publicly.

These muffled drums in Coast politics raise another vexing question: Who will lead the Coast in 2022?

Given that Raila is likely to vie in 2022, Joho’s bid is viewed with a pinch of salt among leaders and communities here. This raises the question: Is Joho’s presidential bid a myth or reality? By Kazungu Katana, The Star

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