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  • The Trump administration made it easier to export the AR-15

    It will now be easier for buyers in foreign conflict zones to obtain firearms made in the US, including high-capacity semi-automatic rifles like the AR-15, short-barrel shotguns, and “.50 caliber rifles” capable of firing bullets .5 inches in diameter, under a new rule enacted by US president Donald Trump.

    When a US company wants to export a weapon, it typically must receive approval from the US Department of State, which monitors the official US Munitions List and determines if selling deadly technology overseas is in the interest of national security.

    Now, many firearms formerly classified as “close assault weapons and combat shotguns” will be monitored by the Department of Commerce, which puts fewer restrictions on trade and need not notify Congress of weapons purchases. Gun manufacturers have pushed for the reclassification for years. Fully automatic weapons are still under State’s purview.

    The move reflects a domestic debate about the sale of semi-automatic rifles, which are frequently used in mass shootings, in American retail stores. Gun safety advocates call them “weapons of war” (their designs are based on the fully-automatic weapons used by US soldiers), but the Trump administration is explicitly saying that these are not military weapons.

    Experts, however, disagree. Most conflict deaths are caused by small arms, which tend to last longer and spread further than other weapons. Throughout the Middle East, US forces frequently face off against extremist groups armed with American firearms that had previously been given to ostensibly friendly regimes.

    “The big ticket weapons get a lot of the public attention—the fighter jets and the tanks and the anti-missile systems—partly because of the dollar values attached to them,” Jeff Abramson, a senior fellow at the Association for Arms Control, told Quartz. “The reality is that it is the smaller weapons that fuel and extend conflicts around the world. … We might sell them now to our ally of the day, but down the road we see them misused in that conflict or in other conflicts.”

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  • African airports and health bodies ready for China’s coronavirus’ as first suspected cases appear

    A Kenya Airways passenger who arrived in Nairobi on Tuesday (Jan.28) afternoon on a flight from Guangzhou displaying flu-like symptoms is the first suspected case of the Wuhan originating coronavirus in East Africa. The patient is currently being quarantined at Kenyatta National Hospital in Nairobi.

    This comes after the Chinese Embassy in Kenya issued a press release saying it is “closely monitoring…the entry of Chinese into Kenya” with the Chinese community, reiterating measures being taken in China to prevent the spread of the virus.

    Kenya’s potential coronavirus case, along with that of a 34-year old student who arrived on a flight from Beijing to the Ivory Coast last Sunday, highlights the pressing need for African governments to take preventative measures against the spread of the deadly virus. With an average of eight direct flights between China and African nations per day, the African continent is especially vulnerable.

    Ethiopia, a country with increasingly close ties to China, is also screening flights from countries with proven cases of coronavirus contraction.  The BBC reported up to four people suspected to have virus have been put in isolation in Addis Ababa. Three of the people were students from universities in the Wuhan area. Two fever testing areas have been constructed at Bole International Airport and two hospitals in Addis Ababa remain on standby for potential cases.

    Kenyan port authorities began increasing surveillance at all ports of entry and measuring passenger body temperatures as early as last week. According to Kenya Airways the standing procedure is that passengers are “…required to undergo quarantine screening by the health authorities before being cleared to board any aircraft”.

    Nigeria also took preemptive steps early on by implementing “exit screening measures” for passengers entering the country from Wuhan and mobilizing a task force through the Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC) aimed at “assessing and managing the risk of importation to Nigeria”.


    While prevention and fever checks upon entry is an essential first step, it may not be enough. Despite measures set in place, the Kenya Airways passenger was screened and cleared by China Port health authorities at the Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport and cleared for boarding.

    The problem is the coronavirus’ long incubation period. While direct flights from cities in China to major hubs in East and West Africa range from anywhere from 12 hours to13 hours, coronavirus symptoms can appear anywhere between two to 14 days after exposure, according to the US government’s Center for Disease Control (CDC). In African regions where borders are porous and passengers hop on short flights between countries for business and travel, a unified response to containing the coronavirus’ spread is key.

    When Ebola broke out in West Africa in early 2014, “untracked contacts across borders” curtailed efforts towards to contain the disease despite early intervention by local governments and the World Health Organization (WHO).

    With the fallout from Ebola serving as a powerful lesson, the WHO has been coordinating with officials in Africa since news of the virus’ spread hit.

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  • Why African countries seek greater role in Libya peace process

    African Union leaders are expected to renew calls for greater involvement in efforts to resolve Libya's long-running conflict at a summit held on Thursday in the Republic of the Congo.

    The meeting in Brazzaville will be held almost two weeks after international stakeholders - including many who back opposite sides in the months-long battle over Libya's capital, Tripoli - gathered in Berlin and agreed to push the warring sides for a permanent ceasefire and respect an existing United Nations arms embargo.


    The oil-rich North African country has been beset by war and insecurity since the 2011 overthrow and killing of longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi during a NATO-backed uprising, with rival factions and militias fighting over control of the county. 

    Libya has since been split into rival western and eastern administrations: the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) holds Tripoli in northwestern Libya, while a rival administration in the east is aligned with renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar, whose forces in April 2019 launched a military offensive to seize the capital.

    "The whole African continent is worried about the consequences of what is happening in Libya," Senegalese President Macky Sall said on Tuesday during a news conference with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Dakar.

    Sall called for the bloc's involvement "in any search for a solution", which he said could only be political.

    Proliferation of arms

    The push for greater AU say is led by the countries bordering Libya, especially in the Sahel region, which fear the crisis will have a greater knock-on effect on an escalating conflict with armed groups operating across the region including in Chad, Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso and Mauritania.

    The worsening violence in the region involves fighters linked to al-Qaeda and ISIL (ISIS) and last year killed more than 4,000 people.

    At the root of the Sahelian countries' concerns is the number of arms flowing into the region from Libya.

    "There's no doubt that the 2011 war in Libya had ripple effects across the Sahel in the form of weapons being transferred from Libya into neighbouring countries to the south," Claudia Gazzini, senior Libya analyst for the International Crisis Group, told Al Jazeera.

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  • Two Christian Aid Workers Executed In Nigeria

    JOS, Nigeria (BP) -- Islamic extremist group Boko Haram reportedly released a video last week showing the execution of two Christian aid workers in Nigeria.

    Lawrence Duna Dacighir and Godfrey Ali Shikagham, both members of the Church of Christ in Nations (COCIN) in Plateau state, are shown kneeling while three masked, armed men stand behind them in a video posted Sept. 22 on Boko Haram's Amaq news agency site. The two young men, who had gone to Maiduguri to help build shelters for people displaced by Islamic extremist violence, are then shot from behind.

    Speaking in the Hausa language, one of the three terrorists says in the video that they have vowed to kill every Christian they capture in revenge for Muslims killed in past religious conflicts in Nigeria.
    Dacighir and Shikagham, originally from Plateau state's Mangu County, were captured by Boko Haram, now called the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP), as they carried out their work in displaced persons camps.

    Ethnic and religious tensions resulted in large-scale clashes between Muslims and Christians in Jos in 2001 and 2008.

    It is not clear from the video, temporarily posted on YouTube, when the two men were executed. Their identities were confirmed by a relative, John Pofi, a COCIN pastor.
    Pastor Pofi, a cousin of the two executed Christians, told Morning Star News in a text message statement also shared with others that the two Plateau state natives had gone to Maiduguri from Abuja.

    "Lawrence and Godfrey left Abuja for Maiduguri in search of opportunities to utilize their skills for the betterment of humanity and paid with their lives," Pofi said. "We will never get their corpses to bury. The community will have to make do with a makeshift memorial to these young lives cut short so horrifically."

    Pastor Pofi noted, "We must ask ourselves if this is the kind of country we want where young men who are earning an honest living are brutally killed while those who abduct and kill others are invited to dialogue with government and paid handsomely," he said.

    In a letter last week to the United Nations secretary general, attorney Emmanuel Ogebe of the U.S.- Nigeria Law Group, a legal consulting firm with an emphasis on human rights, expressed concern that the Nigerian government did not condemn the killing of the two men even though they were helping to provide shelter for displaced

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