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How the AU failed Africans, from Sudan to DRC and Zimbabwe | Africa

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As African heads of state and government gather in Addis Ababa this weekend for the 32nd Summit of the African Union, Sudan is deep in its second month of protests sparked by a steep rise in the cost of living. Security forces have killed more than 45 people and caused serious injuries to many more, even firing live bullets and tear gas into a hospital while pursuing injured people.

In Zimbabwe, a sharp rise in the cost of fuel, with consequences for the cost of living, has also spawned widespread protests. In response, security forces have unleashed a deadly onslaught, killing 12 people and arbitrarily arresting over 600. Reports also indicate that many women were raped in the crackdown and many people were left with debilitating injuries. Most of those arrested are denied their fair trial rights in courts, including through arbitrary denial of bail. The internet was also shut down in the wake of the protests, in an apparent attempt to prevent people from supporting or organizing peaceful assemblies.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the just-concluded general election was characterized by palpable tension and pockets of deadly violence, resulting in more than 20,000 people fleeing the country into neighbouring Congo-Brazzaville and Uganda. A UN investigation found 59 mass graves and the killing of over 500 civilians in Yumbi in the western part of the country. In the wake of the elections, the government closed many media outlets and mounted a crackdown on internet and mobile messaging.

In the face of these gross human rights violations, the response from regional bodies, including the African Union (AU) and Southern African Development Community (SADC), has been marked by discordance, delayed reaction or deafening silence.

There has not been a single reaction condemning or calling for an end to the ongoing gross and widespread human rights violations in Zimbabwe, neither from the AU nor from SADC.

It is not much different on Sudan. The last and only statement of concern issued by the AU Commission Chairperson (on 30 December 2018) was soft and lacklustre. Instead of condemning ongoing egregious violations, the Chairperson confined himself to merely calling for “restraint” on all sides. He opted to remind Sudanese political leaders of their “collective responsibility” to find peaceful solutions, effectively preaching peace without unmasking the system that perpetrates violence.

On the DRC, the AU and SADC reactions to the post-election contestation were marred with confusion, contradictions and discordance, undermining their own legitimacy and risking an escalation of the political tension and possible violence. But they had one common feature, they made no comment whatsoever on the media restrictions, peaceful protests and internet shutdowns which amounted to an arbitrary denial of citizens’ rights to freedom of expression and assembly at a time when these were most needed.

As is custom, the AU Summit is expected to assess the state of peace and security in Africa. The latest three crisis situations on the continent – DRC, Sudan and Zimbabwe – and the long-standing ones in the Central African Republic (CAR), the Sahel and Lake Chad basin region, South Sudan and Somalia are expected to be on the agenda.

Africans, especially those affected by brutal crackdowns by their governments, are watching and wondering whether the AU will continue with business as usual or truly address these crises. Based on past evidence, there is little reason for optimism.

Despite commitments, obligations and progress in establishing structures and mechanisms such as the Peace and Security Council (PSC) and Continental Early Warning Systems (CEWS), the AU remains invested in treating symptoms of conflicts and violence as opposed to addressing the real underlying causes behind them – persistent human rights violations and perpetual cycles of impunity.

Examples are many. From CAR and South Sudan, to northeastern Nigeria and Cameroon, the AU and regional bodies have either failed to act or dawdled until the situation reached a tipping point.

Even when the AU has shown concern for human rights abuses, it has repeatedly failed to tackle the issues head-on, lacking the courage and political will to drive change.

For instance, in 2015, the AU was presented with overwhelming evidence of gross human rights violations being committed in Burundi, where President Pierre Nkurunziza was unleashing a brutal crackdown on human rights in his bid for a controversial third term in office. The AU expressed the intention to decisively stop the abuses, only to backtrack before it could take any concrete action. Through the East African Community (EAC), it chose the path of mediation, a process that has completely ignored accountability for the gross human rights violations committed in the country since 2015.

In South Sudan, there is the long overdue promise yet to be realized. It is now more than three years since the signing of the original peace agreement for South Sudan, which provided for the creation of a Hybrid Court for South Sudan (HCSS) by the AU. Despite successive peace agreements, the violence continues. Millions of civilians in South Sudan continue to be killed, displaced and subjected to sexual violence with no justice in sight.

Preaching peace is not enough. It is time the AU made radical changes to how it responds to gross human rights violations and crimes committed in conflict situations. Though its actions and words, the AU needs to be seen as standing on the side of people fighting for justice and their freedoms – not the other way around. For talking peace without ensuring justice and respect for human rights risks evolving into advocacy of capitulation. 

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance. 

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Tiger-Cats claim victory against the Argos to maintain home record on Labour Day

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The Hamilton Tiger-Cats were at their devastating best against the Toronto Argonauts when the two locked horns on Labour Day at the Tim Hortons Field.

Just like with previous Labour Day fixtures, the Ticats produced a stellar performance with Dane Evans throwing two touchdown passes while Frankie Williams scored on a 67-yard punt return as they claimed a 32-19 victory on Monday. With this vital win, the Ticats extended their Labour Day home record to 7-0.

For players and fans of the Tiger-Cats, games on Labour Day are a lot more special and losing is something the Ticats aren’t used to.

“We know the fans are going to be behind us, we know Toronto is going to be chippy, we know it’s going to be sunny; we know it’s going to be windy. Everything that happened (Monday) we prepared for. There is something extremely special about Tim Hortons Field on Labour Day . . . you can feel it in the air, I can’t put it into words,” said Evans.

After the COVID-19 induced hiatus, the CFL is back in full action and fans can now bet on their favourite teams and just like with online slots Canada, real money can be won. Hamilton (2-2) recorded its second straight win to move into a tie atop the CFL East Division standings with Montreal Alouettes (2-2). Also, the Ticats lead the overall Labour Day series with Toronto 36-13-1.

In the sun-drenched gathering of 15,000—the maximum allowed under Ontario government COVID-19 protocols—the fans loved every minute of this feisty game. After all, this was the Ticats first home game in 659 days, since their 36-16 East Division final win over Edmonton in November 2019.

The contest between the Ticats and Argos was certainly not bereft of emotions, typical of a Labour Day fixture, as it ended with an on-field melee. But the Argos often found themselves on the wrong end of the decisions with several penalty calls and most of the game’s explosive plays.

Hamilton quarterback Evans completed 21-of-29 passing for 248 yards and the two touchdowns while Toronto’s make-shift quarterback Arbuckle completed 18-of-32 attempts for 207 yards. Arbuckle also made a touchdown and two interceptions before eventually being substituted by McLeod Bethel-Thompson.

Bethel-Thompson made an eight-yard TD pass to wide receiver Eric Rogers late in the final quarter of the game.

“They got after us a bit . . . we didn’t block, or pass protect well,” said Ryan Dinwiddie, rookie head coach of the Argos in a post-match interview. “They just kicked our butts; we’ve got to come back and be a better team next week.”

The Labour Day contest was the first of four fixtures this year between Toronto and Hamilton. The two teams would face off again on Friday at BMO Field. Afterwards, the Tim Hortons Field will play host to the Argonauts again on Oct. 11 with the regular-season finale scheduled for Nov. 12 in Toronto.

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Roughriders looking to bounce back after Labor Day defeat

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In what an unusual feeling for the Saskatchewan Roughriders, they would now need to dust themselves up after a 23-8 loss to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in what was a Labor Day Classic showdown in front of a full capacity crowd at Mosaic stadium.

Craig Dickenson, head coach of the Riders, witnessed his team with an unbeaten record get utterly dominated by a more superior team from Winnipeg. Now, he has got a lot of work on his hands getting his team back to winning ways as they visit the Banjo Bowl next.

“We’re going to see what we’re made of now…the jury’s out,” said Dickenson.

Dan Clark, who played centre for the Riders expressed his disappointment in losing what was “the biggest game of the year”.

 “If you lose every other game, you don’t want to lose that one. We’ve just got to take the next step,” said Clark in a report. “There are 12 steps to the Grey Cup left and it’s just about taking that next step and focusing on what Saturday will bring.”

With their first defeat to Winnipeg, the Riders (3-1) now rank second place in the CFL’s West Division, trailing the Bombers by one victory (4-1). However, the Riders will have the chance to even the season series during their trip to Winnipeg this Saturday. With the CFL heating up, fans can now enjoy online sports betting Canada as they look forward to their team’s victory.

The Rider’s offensive line will once again have a busy time dealing with the Blue Bombers’ defence.

Quarterback Cody Fajardo, who played one of the best games of his career two weeks earlier, had quite a stinker against the Bombers in the Labour Day Classic—which is the most anticipated game for Rider fans.

Fajardo had a 59 per cent completion percentage which wasn’t quite indicative of what the actual figure was considering he was at 50 per cent before going on a late drive in the final quarter with the Bombers already becoming laid back just to protect the win.

Fajardo also registered a personal worst when he threw three interceptions, but in all fairness, he was always swarmed by the Bomber’s defence.

While Fajardo has claimed responsibility for the loss and letting his teammates down, many would be curious to see how the team fares in their next game and with less than a week of preparation.

Dickenson is confident that his team would improve during their rematch in the 17th edition of the Banjo Bowl in Winnipeg. The only challenge now would be the loss of home advantage and dealing with the noisy home crowd, he added.

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Canadian report reveals spike in food-related litter during pandemic

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TORONTO — Restaurants’ inability to offer their usual dine-in service during much of 2020 may explain why an unusually high amount of food-related litter was found across the country, a new report says.

The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup (GCSC) is an annual program in which volunteers are encouraged to clean up green spaces and other natural areas.

Last year, single-use food and beverage containers made up 26.6 per cent of waste collected through the program – nearly twice as high a percentage as in 2019, before the pandemic.

“We suspect the change may be one of the many implications of COVID-19, including more people ordering restaurant takeaway and consuming more individually packaged foods,” GCSC spokesperson Julia Wakeling said in a press release.

While food- and beverage-related litter accounted for a greater percentage of waste uncovered by GCSC than in the past, it wasn’t the single largest category of items picked up through the program last year.

That dubious honour goes to cigarette butts and other smoking-related paraphernalia, which comprised nearly 29 per cent of all items collected. There were more than 83,000 cigarette butts among the 42,000 kilograms of waste found and clean up last year.

So-called “tiny trash” – little pieces of plastic and foam – also accounted for a sizeable share of the waste, making up 26.8 per cent of the total haul.

In addition to smoking-related items and tiny trash, the main pieces of litter removed by GCSC volunteers last year included nearly 22,000 food wrappers, more than 17,500 pieces of paper, more than 13,000 bottle caps and more than 10,000 beverage cans.

Discarded face masks and other forms of personal protective equipment were also detected and cleaned up, although not tallied in their own category.  PPE waste has been repeatedly cited as a concern by environmental advocates during the pandemic; a robin in Chilliwack, B.C. is the earliest known example of an animal that died due to coronavirus-related litter.

The GCSC is an annual program organized by Ocean Wise and the World Wildlife Fund Canada. Its operations were disrupted by the pandemic as well; only 15,000 volunteers took part in the program last year, versus 85,000 in 2019, due to delays and public health restrictions making large group clean-ups impossible.

Still, there was GCSC participation from every province and the Northwest Territories in 2020. Nearly half of the volunteers who took part were based in B.C., where the program began in 1994.

Data from past GCSC reports was used as part of the research backing Canada’s ban on certain single-use plastic items, which is scheduled to take effect by the end of 2021.

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