Category Archives: World

Who is the world’s oldest leader in 2017? Who is the youngest?

Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe celebrated his 93rd birthday on 21 February 2017, making him the oldest living world leader. In this gallery, IBTimesUK presents a list of the top ten oldest world leaders, and the ten youngest:

Oldest World Leaders:

President of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, 93
Born on 21 February 1924 in Kutama, Zimbabwe

Robert MugabeZimbabwe President Robert Mugabe speaks at the party’s annual conference on 17 December 2016 in MasvingoJeksai Njikzana/AFP

Queen Elizabeth II, 90
Born on 21 April 1926 in London, England

Queen Elizabeth IIQueen Elizabeth II arrives to attend the opening of the National Cyber Security Centre in London on 14 February 2017Dominic Lipinski/AFP

President of Tunisia, Beji Caid Essebsi, 90
Born on 29 November 1926 in Sidi Bou Said, Tunisia

Beji Caid EssebsiTunisia’s President Beji Caid Essebsi poses for a picture in Tunis on 20 February 2017Zoubeir Souissi/Reuters

Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah IV Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, 87
Born on 16 June 1929 in Kuwait City, Kuwait

Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-SabahKuwait’s Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah addresses a plenary meeting of the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit 2015 at the United Nations headquarters in Manhattan, New York on 26 September 2015Carlo Allegri/Reuters

Governor General of Barbados, Sir Elliott Belgrave, 85
Born on 16 March 1931 in Saint Peter Parish, Barbados

Elliott BelgraveElliott Belgrave, Governor-General of Barbados, awaits the arrival of Britain’s Prince Harry at Bridgetown Port, Barbados on 29 November 2016Adrees Latif/Reuters

President of Cuba, Raúl Castro, 85
Born on 3 June 1931 in Birán, Cuba

Raul CastroCuban President, Raul Castro waves as he arrives at Punta Cana airport on 24 January 24, 2017Federico Parra/AFP

Governor General of the Bahamas, Dame Marguerite Pindling, 84
Born on 26 June 1932 in South Andros, Bahamas

Marguerite PindlingDame Marguerite Pindling, Governor-General of the BahamasCaribbean elections

Governor General of Belize, Sir Colville Young, 84
Born on 20 November 1932 in Belmopan, Belize

Sir Colville YoungGovernor General of Belize, Sir Colville Young attends a reception for Commonwealth Governor Generals at Buckingham Palace on 5 June 2012John Stillwell/Getty Images

President of Cameroon, Paul Biya, 84
Born on 13 February 1933 in Mvomeka’a, Cameroon

Paul BiyaCameroonian President, Paul Biya inspects guards of honour at the Presidencial Villa in Abuja, on 3 May 2016AFP/Getty Images

Emperor of Japan, Akihito, 83
Born on 23 December 1933 in Tokyo, Japan

AkihitoJapan’s Emperor Akihito waves to well-wishers who gathered at the Imperial Palace to celebrate his 83rd birthday at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo on 23 December 2016Issei Kato/Reuters

Youngest World Leaders:

Supreme leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un, 34
Born on 8 January 1983 in Pyongyang, North Korea

Kim Jong-unNorth Korean leader Kim Jong Un provides field guidance to Farm No. 1116 under KPA Unit 810, in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in PyongyangReuters

Emir of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, 36
Born on 3 June 1980 in Doha, Qatar

Sheikh Tamim bin HamadQatar’s Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani arrives for lunch, during the United Nations General Assembly at United Nations headquarters in New York City on 20 September 2016Lucas Jackson/Reuters

King of Bhutan, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, 37
Born on 21 February 1980 in Dechencholing Palace, Thimphu, Bhutan

Jigme Khesar Namgyel WangchuckBhutan’s King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, during the King’s ceremonial reception at the forecourt of India’s presidential palace Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi on 25 January 2013Adnan Abidi/Reuters

Interim Prime Minister of Macedonia, Emil Dimitriev, 37
Born on 19 March 1979 in Probištip, Macedonia

Emil DimitrievMacedonia’s interim Prime Minister, Emil Dimitriev recieves a mandate to form a new government from the Macedonian president at the presidential office on 18 January 2016 in SkopjeRobert Atanasovski/AFP

President of the Supreme Political Council of Yemen, Saleh Ali al-Sammad, 38
Born on 1 January 1979 in Sahar District, Yemen

Salah al-SammadSalah al-Sammad, President of the Supreme Political Council of Yemen, speaks during a gethering in support of the parliament, in Sanaa on 20 August 2016Mohammed Huwais/AFP

Prime Minister of Estonia, Jüri Ratas, 38
Born on 2 July 1978 in Tallinn, Estonia

Juri RatasPrime Minister of Estonia Jüri Ratas is seen following an oath taking ceremony at the Parliament in Tallinn on 23 November 2016Ints Kalnins/Reuters

Prime Minister of Ukraine, Volodymyr Groysman, 39
Born on 20 January 1978 in Vinnytsia, Ukraine

Volodymyr GroysmanUkraine’s Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman attends a flower-laying ceremony at a monument to servicemen killed during the Soviet military campaign in Afghanistan on 15 February 2016 in Kiev, UkraineGleb Garanich/Reuters

Prime Minister of Belgium, Charles Michel, 41
Born on 18 September 1975 in Namur, Belgium

Charles MichelBelgian Prime Minister Charles Michel (C) visits Yad Vashem’s Holocaust History Museum in Jerusalem on 7 February 2017Ronen Zvulun/Reuters

Prime Minister of Tunisia, Youssef Chahed, 41
Born on 18 September 1975 in Tunis, Tunisia

Youssef ChahedTunisia’s Prime Minister designate Youssef Chahed speaks at the Assembly of People’s Representatives in Tunis, Tunisia on 18 November 2016Zoubeir Souissi/Reuters

President of Moldova, Igor Dodon, 42

Born on 18 February 1975 in Sadova, Călărași, Moldova

Igor DodonMoldova’s Socialist Party presidential candidate Igor Dodon speaks to the media after voting in a presidential election in Chisinau on 13 November 2016. Dodon won the general election, becoming President of Moldova as of 23 December 2016Gleb Garanich/Reuters

IBTimes

Robert Mugabe backs controversial US President Donald Trump

UNITED States President Mr Donald Trump should be given a chance to prove that he is a good leader who can create sound policies that will improve the current world order, President Mugabe has said. The world, he said, should not hasten to judge the new US president, but must wait to see how his policies unfold. Mr Trump has been receiving bad press since thumping establishment candidate, democrat Mrs Hillary Rhodam Clinton in last year’s elections.

And only recently, there was a clear agenda-setting attempt by US media to set President Mugabe and Mr Trump on a collision course after a late-night American live television sketch comedy and variety show, Saturday Night Live, staged a mock-quarrel between the two leaders.

Zimbabwe has been under an illegal US sanctions regime since December 21 2001 when then US president George W. Bush signed into law, the so-called Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act that cut Zimbabwe’s lines of credit from all multi-lateral lending institutions with dealings with the US.

The sanctions, which are estimated to have cost Zimbabwe over $42 billion in lost revenue in addition to contracting the economy by a factor of over 40 percent, were imposed in response to Government’s decision to embark on the fast-track land reform programme..

Successive US administrations have issued Executive Orders every year which served to extend the sanctions regime as they accused Zimbabwe of posing “a continuous and extraordinary threat” to US foreign policy.

To this end, the US State Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control continues to intercept money accruing to Zimbabwean companies which have lost millions of dollars to US piracy, in addition to punishing investors accused of dealing with Zimbabwe.

“I do not know. Give him time,” said President Mugabe speaking to ZBCTv during a wide-ranging interview ahead of his 93rd birthday.

“Mr Trump may even re-look the sanctions on Zimbabwe.”

The interview will be aired today and tomorrow. President Mugabe said he was surprised by Mr Trump’s election though he had not wanted Mrs Hillary Clinton to win the polls because of her anti-Zimbabwe stance.

“I was surprised by his election, but I did not like Madam Clinton to win either,” he said.

“You see, I knew she could slap sanctions on us as a legacy. Indeed (former US president Barrack) Obama did that just before he left. Why did he have to do it? …Why didn’t he leave it to the incoming incumbent to make his own decision? We are just now under sanctions imposed not by Donald Trump but by Obama. What arrogance is that?”

President Mugabe said he had no problem with Mr Trump’s idea of American nationalism.

“But anyway, when it comes to Donald Trump, on the one hand talking of American nationalism, well America for America, America for Americans — on that we agree. Zimbabwe for Zimbabweans.”

Zimbabwe, the President said, was ready to work with the Republican administration. Mr Trump defeated Mrs Clinton to become the 45th president of the United States. Speaking after Mr Trump’s victory last year, Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Minister Dr Chris Mushohwe said it was the Government’s hope that the Trump administration would restore sound relations that existed between Harare and Washington.

Minister Mushohwe said Harare wanted to maintain good relations with Washington and at no point had it tried to pick a fight with the US. The Obama administration worsened relations between Harare and Washington.

This was a continuation of bad relations nurtured by the George Bush administration characterised by illegal sanctions and interference in Zimbabwe’s internal affairs manifest in sponsoring the main opposition and quasi-political, anti-goverment NGOs.

The sanctions have strangled the economy affecting ordinary citizens. -Herald

Nigerians suffer as Buhari extends sick leave abroad

Johannesburg — Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari’s nearly month-long medical leave in London is a sharp reminder to taxpayers that while they finance their leaders’ health care abroad, they often are stuck with decrepit, ill-staffed government health facilities at home.

Victims receive treatment at a hospital, after an explosion in Maiduguri, Nigeria. File photo: Jossy Ola/AP

For decades, Nigerians have paid for their leaders and former rulers to get medical treatment overseas. That courtesy also extends to senior government employees.

This is despite taxpayers’ funding of the State House Medical Center, said to be Nigeria’s best-equipped facility, which serves the president and vice president, their families and staff. The center’s budget this year of 3.8 billion naira to care for fewer than 1 000 people represents 1 percent of the entire public health budget for the country’s 170 million people.

“For years, billions have been budgeted for the State House Medical Center while it has always been evident that every president mostly accessed medical facilities outside the country, going back to the 1980s,” said Oluseun Onigbinde, co-founder of BudgIT, an organization that tries to bring clarity to the West African nation’s opaque budget.

The mysterious nature of Buhari’s absence is adding to the unhappiness at home, as one of Africa’s largest economies and oil producers lurches through a recession.

His government has not said what exactly his health issues might be or when he will return. The president’s trip, originally scheduled from January 20 to February 6, was described as a vacation during which he would undergo routine medical tests. It has been extended for further tests.

Officials insist that Buhari is “hale and hearty,” and he was well enough this week to speak by telephone with US President Donald Trump.

Human rights lawyer

“The practice of allowing poor citizens to die of preventable diseases while top public officers and rich private citizens are allowed to travel abroad for medical treatment can no longer be justified,” he said in a lecture this week, noting that Nigerians have a life expectancy of 52 years, though the World Health Organization puts it at 49.

It is not clear how much the country’s taxpayers pay for leaders’ treatments abroad.

Former first lady Patience Jonathan has claimed that half of $31.5 million frozen in a corruption investigation was a government payout for medical bills she incurred in London in 2013. Ever-witty Nigerians took to social media to ask if she was buying eternal life.

Victims receive treatment at a hospital, after an explosion in Maiduguri, Nigeria. President Muhammadu Buhari’s nearly month-long medical leave in London is reminding his country’s taxpayers that while they finance their leaders’ health care abroad, they often are stuck with decrepit, ill-staffed government health facilities at home. File photo: Jossy Ola/AP

The Ministry of Health estimated that Nigeria paid about $1 billion for government officials traveling abroad for medical care in 2014, with ordinary Nigerians spending about $6.3 billion in 2015 for what is called medical tourism.

Senior Nigerian officials get “high yearly allowances” for health care abroad which “provides them opportunity to demand amounts to take care of their non-health care needs like shopping abroad,” economist Vitalis Chi. Nwaneri wrote in his 2013 book “Governing the Ungovernable.”

Former military dictator Gen. Ibrahim Babangida returned home this month from a six-week “medical vacation” in Switzerland. Last year, he was treated for weeks in Germany.

Taxpayers also footed the bill when former President Umaru Yar’Adua received months of medical treatment in Saudi Arabia in 2008-2009, before he returned home to die in office.

In April, Buhari announced that his government would no longer pay for officials to travel abroad for medical services available at home. But two months later, the president was in London for treatment of an ear infection.

“The best-funded clinic in Nigeria does not suffice to treat the president’s ear infection. Nor does the president have enough confidence in the same clinic to do his ‘routine checkups’ there,” novelist Okey Ndibe wrote at

“Imagine, then, the fate of Nigerians who have no choice but must seek treatment at the ill-equipped, wretchedly funded hospitals in our country?” he asked.

Nigeria has just five hospital beds for every 100,000 people, as opposed to a global average of 35 beds and 24 beds per 100,000 in South Africa, which has the continent’s most advanced medical care, according to a PricewaterhouseCoopers study in 2015.

Nigerians who can afford it shun even private health care at home.

Because the country has one of the world’s worst infant and maternal mortality rates, women fly to the United States and Britain to have babies safely delivered. The risk of a woman dying because of pregnancy or childbirth in Nigeria is one in 15, compared to one in 5,000 in developed nations, according to Dr. Chris Akani, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Nigeria’s College of Health Sciences at the University of Port Harcourt.

Buhari’s medical costs do not come with a heftily priced five-star hotel bill, as did those of predecessors. The 74-year-old anti-corruption crusader known for his simple lifestyle is staying at the residence of the Nigerian High Commission in London, a spokesman said.

Associated Press

U.S. lawmakers push for answers on Trump team’s Russia ties

WASHINGTON – A crisis over the relationship between President Donald Trump’s aides and Russia deepened on Wednesday as a growing number of Trump’s fellow Republicans demanded expanded congressional inquiries into the matter.

Trump sought to focus attention on what he called criminal intelligence leaks about his ousted national security adviser, Michael Flynn.

Trump forced Flynn out on Monday after disclosures he had discussed U.S. sanctions on Russia with the Russian ambassador to the United States before Trump took office, and that he later misled Vice President Mike Pence about the conversations.

The drama of Flynn’s departure was the latest in a series of White House missteps and controversies since the Republican president was sworn in on Jan. 20.

At a news conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday, Trump said Flynn, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant general, was a “wonderful man” who had been mistreated by the news media.

But Republican Trump critics including Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham voiced fresh consternation. Adding to the pressure were comments by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, who has been a Trump supporter.

Corker said the Russia issue was threatening Trump’s agenda on foreign affairs and domestic matters like healthcare and tax policy. He questioned whether the White House was able to stabilize itself and said Flynn should testify before Congress.

“Let’s get everything out as quickly as possible on this Russia issue,” Corker told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program. “Maybe there’s a problem that obviously goes much deeper than what we now suspect.”

Democrats, doubting Trump’s Justice Department or the Republican-led Congress will pursue the matter vigorously, have demanded an independent investigation of possible illegal communications between Flynn and the Russian government and any efforts by Flynn or other White House officials to conceal wrongdoing.

CALLS FOR RECUSAL

The most powerful Democrat in the Senate, Chuck Schumer, said Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a close ally of Trump, must recuse himself from any investigation.

The Republican and Democratic leaders of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee asked Sessions and FBI Director James Comey on Wednesday to send the committee documents and provide a briefing on Flynn’s resignation.

Citing reports that both the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Justice Department were involved in events leading to Flynn’s departure, Senators Chuck Grassley and Dianne Feinstein said they raised “substantial questions” about Flynn’s discussion with Russian officials.

Graham called for a broader bipartisan congressional investigation to be conducted by a newly formed special committee rather than existing committees, if it turns out Trump’s presidential campaign communicated with the Russians.

But the top Republicans in the Senate and House of Representatives have insisted the matter be investigated by existing Republican-led committees.

The Senate and House Intelligence Committees and a subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary committee have announced they launched investigations into alleged Russian efforts to influence the election through computer hacking.

U.S. intelligence agencies previously concluded that Russia hacked and leaked Democratic emails during the presidential campaign as part of efforts to tilt the vote in the Nov. 8 election in Trump’s favor.

Congressional inquiries into alleged Russian interference in the U.S. elections are gaining momentum as Capitol Hill investigators press intelligence and law enforcement agencies for access to classified documents.

The FBI and several U.S. intelligence agencies are investigating Russian espionage operations in the United States. They are also looking at contacts in Russia between Russian intelligence officers or others with ties to President Vladimir Putin’s government and people connected to Trump or his campaign.

The FBI recently questioned Flynn about his telephone contacts with the Russian ambassador in Washington. People familiar with the agency’s multiple probes said there was no evidence so far of pre-election collusion between Russians and Trump’s campaign, or any evidence of criminal activity by Flynn or anyone else connected to Trump.

Some experts expressed concern the White House could curtail or divert probes into Flynn and Russian involvement in the election unless Congress becomes more aggressive by holding hearings and appointing an independent commission or special prosecutor into whether Trump’s team violated federal laws in their contacts with Russia.

Intelligence agencies now overseen by Trump may not be ideally suited to the job, they added.

“It’s not, at the end of the day, the job of the intelligence community to regulate the White House – and it shouldn’t be,” said Stephen Vladeck, a University of Texas law professor who focuses on constitutional law and national security.

‘VERY UN-AMERICAN’

In Twitter posts on Wednesday, Trump called the reported Russian connection with his campaign team nonsense and said the leaks were the “real scandal.”

From early on in his White House bid, Trump said he would like improved relations with Putin, a stance criticized by Democrats and those Republicans concerned about Washington softening its stance after Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine and aggression in Syria.

Only a few Republican lawmakers have supported even the idea of extending any investigation to cover actions by Trump’s team in the weeks after the election, when Flynn made his calls.

Some Republicans, including House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, are calling for investigations into leaks to the news media of conversations between Flynn and Russia’s ambassador in Washington.

The Trump administration has offered Flynn’s former job to U.S. Navy Vice Admiral Robert Harward, said two U.S. officials familiar with the matter. It was not immediately clear if Harward, a former deputy commander of U.S. Central Command, had accepted the offer, according to sources. – Reuters

Michael Flynn quits over secret contacts with Russia

SOME resignations from high office are like the cauterising of a wound: brutal but decisive. Others resemble a battlefield amputation: a painful loss which cannot dispel the sinister whiff of some deeper infection. As Washington, DC absorbs the news, just before midnight on February 13th, that Michael Flynn has quit as National Security Adviser to President Donald Trump after less than a month in office, an ominous note lingers in the air. There is something unhealthy about the way this new government operates.

Mr Flynn, a retired three-star general and former chief of a Pentagon spy agency, had to quit after admitting that he had misled Vice-President Mike Pence about his contacts with a Russian envoy after the November presidential election but before the inauguration in January, when Mr Flynn was still a private citizen. That inaccurate briefing had left Mr Pence to head out onto television and unwittingly spread false information as he defended the man who on January 20th became head of the National Security Council. In his half-contrite, half-defiant resignation letter, Mr Flynn wrote of having sincerely apologised to both Mr Pence and Mr Trump for “inadvertently” misleading them with “incomplete information”.

Mr Flynn had always been tipped as a likely first casualty of the Trump administration. He made few allies with his manner, described as an unhappy blend of grievance, anger and arrogance. His resignation letter spoke of feeling honoured to have served his country in such a “distinguished” post, if only for three weeks. When trusted by a president, the national security adviser holds an immensely powerful job, as gatekeeper, referee, enforcer and co-ordinator whenever questions of defence, foreign policy and national security reach the White House for a presidential decision.

Visitors to White House meetings had reported, with surprise, how much the angular, rail-thin general seemed to grate on his boss, the president. That was even though Mr Flynn had the great advantage, in this administration, of having being one of the first high-ranking figures to endorse Mr Trump, startling his brother officers by leading a chant against Hillary Clinton of “Lock Her Up” at the Republican National Convention in 2016.

In the end, Mr Flynn suffered death by a thousand leaks. Former Obama administration high-ups and still-serving career intelligence officials told reporters, notably at the Washington Post and New York Times, that the general had been overheard by American spooks talking by telephone to Russia’s ambassador to America, Sergey Kislyak, in December, in the dying days of the Obama era. Though Mr Flynn claimed that those contacts had been anodyne, turning on the logistics of future meetings and conversations, allegations spread that the pair had in fact discussed sanctions imposed by the Obama administration to punish Russia for meddling in the November presidential election, notably by stealing and leaking the private e-mails of senior officials in the Clinton campaign and Democratic Party.

Specifically, the word was that Mr Flynn urged the Russians to be patient and wait for Mr Trump to take office, and not to overreact to the sanctions. That allegation was all the more explosive because Mr Flynn already faced questions about ties with Russia after being fired by President Barack Obama as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). Mr Flynn left that agency in 2014, claiming that he was fired for raising uncomfortable questions about the Obama government’s approach to fighting Islamic terrorism (Team Obama called him an insubordinate, obsessive and bad manager). In 2015 the former DIA chief turned up in Moscow at a gala for the state propaganda outlet, Russia Today, sharing a table with President Vladimir Putin.

In theory, Mr Flynn’s contacts with the Russian ambassador in December of last year were a potential breach of a law, the Logan Act, which bars private citizens from conducting foreign policy. But nobody has ever been convicted under the Logan Act. As so often in Washington, the cover-up was worse than the crime. And for critics of the Trump White House, it is that cover-up which seems to give off a gangrenous smell.

For the list of officials who must have known about Mr Flynn’s contacts with the Russian ambassador—a man whose phone calls are routinely intercepted, a fact known to every spy in Washington—is not short. Hours before Mr Flynn’s resignation, even as some senior aides to Mr Trump insisted that the general enjoyed the president’s full confidence, the Washington Post reported that a senior official at the Justice Department had briefed Team Trump in January that they believed that Mr Pence had been misled about Mr Flynn’s Russian contacts. The Post’s sources went further, saying that officials “couldn’t rule out that Flynn was acting with the knowledge of others in the transition.”

Before parting ways Mr Flynn and Mr Trump shared a belief that Mr Putin’s Russia might be a valuable—and usefully unsqueamish—ally in the fight against global Islamic extremism, a fight that Mr Flynn has cast in apocalyptic terms, as a clash of civilisations between Islam and the West.

Relations between Team Trump and the press are already rotten. They will not be helped one bit by the role of the media in taking down Mr Flynn, or—in the other direction—by days of official denials and obfuscation about the fate of the national security adviser. The atmosphere among officials who serve the president, including in the National Security Council, is also rotten. Career officials seconded to the NSC and White House talk of a policy machine paralysed by infighting and distrust. Political appointees brought in by Mr Trump have formed into warring factions, pitting establishment Republicans, such as the chief of staff, Reince Preibus, against radical nationalists with Mr Trump’s ear, such as Stephen Bannon and Stephen Miller. All sides are briefing against each other.

The acting national security adviser is another retired three-star general, Keith Kellogg. Possible permanent replacements are rumoured to include David Petraeus, the former four-star commander and architect of a successful counter-insurgency “surge” in Iraq. Optimists will see a chance for Mr Trump to reset his national-security apparatus after a false start. The president has, after all, hired a distinguished and principled former marine general, James Mattis, to be his defence secretary, and chosen as his secretary of state Rex Tillerson, an accomplished former boss of ExxonMobil, the energy giant. Pessimists will worry that Mr Flynn’s departure is not enough to cure what ails this administration. – The Economist

Trump Makes First Calls to African Leaders

United States  – President Donald Trump made his first phone calls to African heads of state Monday, speaking with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari and South African President Jacob Zuma.

Nigeria and South Africa said the calls were made at the request of the U.S. president, who until now has said little about Africa or African issues since assuming office last month.

The Nigerian presidency said Trump and Buhari discussed issues of terrorism, and said Trump assured Buhari the United States is ready to make a new deal to help Nigeria “in terms of military weapons.”

The statement said Trump also commended Buhari for the strides Nigeria is making against Islamist radical group Boko Haram, and invited Buhari to come to Washington at a mutually convenient date.

Buhari has not made any public appearances since going to London for medical treatment on January 19.

The South Africa presidency said that in their call, Trump and President Zuma affirmed their commitment to “strengthening the already strong bilateral relations between the two countries.”

It said they also discussed the need to work together on other issues, “especially the quest for peace and stability on the African continent.”

Buhari and Zuma congratulated President Trump on his election. – VOA

Zuma, Trump reaffirms commitment to strengthen bilateral relations

JOHANNESBURG – The Presidency says President Jacob Zuma and his US counterpart Donald Trump have reaffirmed their commitment to strengthening the already strong bilateral relations between the two countries.

Zuma’s office confirmed on Monday that it had agreed to a request from the US for a teleconference between him and Trump.

The two presidents also discussed the need to work together on multilateral issues as well, especially the quest for peace and stability on the African continent.

Trump has previously referred to South Africa as a crime-ridden mess and said it’s a country waiting to explode.

Nigerian President’s sister urges Nigerians to pray for leader amid health mystery

The only surviving sister of Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari is calling on Nigerians to pray for their leader, who is currently in the UK for medical treatment. Rakiya Adamu made the appeal during an interview with News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), in which she discouraged people from spreading rumours about Buhari’s health.

The 74-year-old head of state, who was supposed to resume office on 6 February, prolonged his stay in London to complete medical tests recommended by doctors.

The move fanned further rumours about his deteriorating health and is likely to erode confidence in his administration.

“I just returned from the lesser Hajj and even while in Saudi Arabia, I was communicating with him daily,” the president’s sister, known as Amadodo, said. She added that Buahri, as a human being, was bound to fall ill or even die “at any time his Creator wishes”.

“We were 28 from our mother, late Hajiya Zulaihatu, who died in 1992, but Buhari was her last born,” she continued.

Adamu’s remarks came as latest reports suggested Buhari could return to Nigeria on Saturday ( 11 February) with a source telling the Leadership newspaper all was set for the leader’s return.

The Nigerian presidency has released several statements dismissing allegations Buhari was dead. Claims emerged earlier in January after Buhari announced he would take a 10-day-long vacation to relax and undergo a medical checkup in the UK.

Shortly after, fake versions of news websites Metro UK and the Huffington Post – both domains were registered in Arizona, US, and are owned by the same company – reported respectively that Buhari had died and “was caught committing suicide”.

The presidency also released pictures of Buhari “relaxing” in the UK. However, some alleged the pictures had been Photoshopped, with some calling on Buhari to personally dismiss the death claims.

Some have criticised the leader for going on vacation just days after the army mistakenly killed dozens of refugees and aid workers in an airstrike supposed to target Boko Haram militants.

People have drawn similarities between Buhari’s medical leave and that of former president UmaruYar’Adua, who was admitted to a hospital in Saudi Arabia in 2009. The country experienced a a vacuum power filled only when the senate approved a “Doctrine of Necessity” to allow the then vice-president Goodluck Jonathan to be sworn in. – IBTimes

South African opposition seeks court order to bar military from parliament

CAPE TOWN (Reuters) – South Africa’s opposition Democratic Alliance said on Friday it was seeking a court ruling on the deployment of armed soldiers in parliament saying the move, during President Jacob Zuma’s state-of-the-nation speech, was unconstitutional.

The president’s address was delayed by more than an hour and descended into chaos on Thursday as far-left lawmakers brawled with officials after interrupting the speech and the main opposition party walked out.

Zuma had authorised more than 400 soldiers to join the security team at the parliament building during the speech, an unprecedented move his opponents described as a “militarization” of parliament.

“Armed military police, with live ammunition, on the precinct of parliament is completely untenable in a constitutional democracy,” Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane told reporters.

President Jacob Zuma told state broadcaster SABC the disruption in parliament did not reflect a divided nation.

“I doubt that it’s a reflection of the national character. I think it is a reflection of a few kind of people like some parties in parliament,” he said.

“Democracy is not about angry young people, democracy is about debating what we need to do with our country.”

He said of the opposition’s actions in parliament: “It does not bother me. The fact that you could make parliament not to talk and undermine the choice of the majority of this country because you have your own feelings, I think it’s a misplaced kind of vision, in fact there is no vision at all.”

Previous speeches in parliament by Zuma have also led to disruption, but Thursday’s – in which he said the government would push for a greater role for blacks in the economy – was the most violent, with the scuffles spilling over into the precinct of the building.

Zuma, halfway through his second five-year term, ousted Thabo Mbeki in his African National Congress (ANC) party and became president in 2009. He has been dogged by persistent corruption allegations that he has denied.

In September, the president took out a home loan to repay state money spent on non-security-related upgrades to his rural home, in compliance with a court order.

The president’s popularity has waned in tandem with an economy that has slowed sharply over the past five years while unemployment has hit a record 27 percent.

(Additional reporting by Nqobile Dludla in Johannesburg; Writing by James Macharia;

Brawl in South Africa’s parliament as far-left lawmakers ejected

Lawmakers of South Africa’s far-left Economic Freedom Fighters party brawled with parliamentary orderlies as they were ejected from the chamber for interrupting President Jacob Zuma’s state-of-the-nation speech on Thursday.

Scuffling spilled over into the precincts of the building, Reuters reporters saw, as the lawmakers, clad in their trademark red overalls, continued to push the orderlies ejecting them on the Speaker’s orders.

Police fired stun grenades outside to disperse supporters of the EFF and the ruling African National Congress party.

Amid the turmoil, the main opposition Democratic Alliance party walked out of parliament, saying Zuma was unqualified to hold office and questioning the deployment of soldiers at parliament.

Zuma had authorized more than 400 soldiers to join the security team at his annual state of the nation speech, drawing outrage from opponents who called it “militarization”.

The drama started when the 74-year-old leader started speaking, then sat down as members of the EFF kept up questions for more than an hour.

“Sitting in front of us here is an incorrigible man. Rotten to the core,” EFF leader Julius Malema, a former Zuma protege and leader of the ANC’s Youth League, said pointing at the president.

Before calling in the parliamentary protective services to eject Malema, Speaker Baleka Mbete warned him: “We are not going to allow you to abuse us the whole night.”

Zuma’s popularity has waned after a series of scandals, which led an anti-corruption watchdog to call in November for a judicial inquiry into alleged influence-peddling in his government. He has denied the allegations.

Speaker Baleka Mbete asks Malema to leave the House. He replies, “I’m not going anywhere”. Mbete says “we will assist you to go”.

Mbete asked the Serjeant-at-Arms to escort Malema out of the House.

The Economic Freedom Fighters first delayed, then drowned out President Jacob Zuma’s State of the Nation Address, drawing a warning from Speaker Baleka Mbete that they were “abusing all of us”.

“We are not going to sit here the whole night listening to you raising points of order … we have ruled and we are not intending to waste endless time because you have a right to raise a point of order,” she said.

Zuma had begun his speech by welcoming the chief justice, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and other dignitaries but was barely audible as the EFF clamoured to raise points of order.

EFF leader Julius Malema claimed that 21 police officers had been disguised as parliamentary security personnel and armed with cable ties and “biological weapons” to attack the party.

His deputy Floyd Shivambu demanded an undertaking that the EFF would be treated fairly and “we are not going to have SAPS invading the House, violating the Constitution”. But Mbete said she could not act on “hearsay”.

“It should not be a rumour because it came from an opposition [MP],” Malema retorted.

“We are raising a simple matter that this cable tie, we took it from a security guy outside and all of us should enjoy your protection. A caring speaker who is concerned about all members of Parliament and their safety.”

From there it was downhill as EFF MP Godrich Gardee rose to remind the joint sitting that the Constitutional Court had, in the Nkandla case, found that Zuma had flouted the law. ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu stood up to defend Zuma against what he termed a “frivolous” motion.

“This Parliament has decided not to remove the president on the basis of what the honourable member is raising today, it was put to the house, the motion was defeated by the house. We cannot go back.”

Malema made a counter point and was soon shouting at the chairwoman of the National Council of Provinces, Thandi Modise, after she said he was not raising a point of order.

“What was Jackson’s point? What was Jackson’s point? We are all equal here… the point that the majority voted against the Nkandla report does not make the majority,” he said. “Mr Zuma has collapsed his own right to address us here.”

Turning to the president, he said: “Your problem is not outside. Your problem is in here.”

After Zuma started speaking, and Mbete issued her warning, EFF MP Mbuyseni Ndlozi rose undeterred and demanded Zuma leave. “But Mr Zuma is a constitutional delinquent.” At this Modise asked the EFF to sit down or leave the chamber. –

ANA

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