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Kenya at 59: Reflections, homage as East African powerhouse aims high

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East African powerhouse, Kenya, marks its 59 years of independence from British colonial rule on Monday amidst national reflections and projections.

The country’s fifth president, who was recently sworn in William Ruto, speaking in Nairobi, Ruto said independence had brought many achievements and much progress to the country.

“The sixth decade of our independence, we can proudly cite many achievements and impressive progress made through our own consistent efforts as evidence that our freedom struggle was neither an empty political adventure nor a reactionary born of idle resentment,” he said.

“We gather as a nation to commune with our forefathers who were long-suffering innocent victims of imperial plunder and colonial oppression, yet also heroic defenders of inalienable sovereignty and valiant fighters of our freedom,” he added.

President Ruto also paid homage to those who helped free Kenya from British colonialism nearly six decades ago as heroic defenders of the country’s “sovereignty”.

Kenya poses as a regional power in the East African, sub-region, the country has been consistent in peacekeeping missions to ensure security and stability in Africa, with a consistent record of leadership to advance the cause of peace, cohesion, security, and stability in our region.

“Under various regional and continental frameworks and with the support of international partners, we are deploying our position as a regional anchor state for the benefit of our neighbours and region,” Ruto said.

Economically, Kenya has had measures of financial gains with its rebound from the pandemic in 2022 and the real gross domestic product (GDP) increasing by 6% year-on-year in the first half of 2022, driven by broad-based increases in services and industry.

But the recovery was dampened by global commodity price shocks, the long regional drought, and uncertainty in the run-up to the 2022 general elections.

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South Africa wants Israel’s ‘occupation’ of Palestinian territories declared illegal

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South Africa is back at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) over Israel’s role in the ongoing Hamas war. On Tuesday, Johannesburg asked the World Court to issue a non-binding legal opinion that the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories is illegal.

South Africa argued that the proclamation would help efforts to reach a settlement as its representative opened the second day of hearings at the court in the Hague.

Vusimuzi Madonsela, South Africa’s ambassador to the Netherlands told the judges that “a clear legal characterization of the nature of Israel’s regime over the Palestinian people can only assist in remedying the ongoing delay and achieving a just settlement.”

Palestinian delegates asked the U.N.’s top court on Monday to declare Israel’s occupation of their territory illegal, adding that the advisory opinion of the court might help bring about a durable peace and a two-state solution.

Israel sent a written statement claiming that an advisory opinion would be detrimental to reaching a negotiated settlement with the Palestinians, despite not being present at the hearings.

The most recent wave of violence in Gaza, which was sparked by Hamas’s attacks on Israel on October 7, has exacerbated the region’s long-standing grievances and harmed attempts to find a peaceful solution.

The ICJ’s fifteen-member panel was tasked with “occupation, settlement and annexation … including measures aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem, and from its adoption of related discriminatory legislation and measures.”

It is anticipated that the judges will take about half a year to respond to the request, which also asks them to evaluate the implications of the occupation’s legal standing.

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Tunisia: Jailed opposition leader Ghannouchi begins hunger strike

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Embattled Tunisian opposition leader, Rached Ghannouchi, who has been a political prisoner since April, has begun a hunger strike in support of other opposition activists who are fasting in protest and calling for their immediate release.

Ghannouchi had threatened to go on a hunger strike in September, and a group of opposition lawyers representing him confirmed the strike had finally begun on Monday.

The 82-year  the leader of the main opposition group Ennahda and a ferocious opponent of President Kais Saied, was imprisoned last year on allegations of inciting violence against law enforcement and scheming to undermine national security.

In a different case earlier this month, a judge found him guilty of taking outside funding and sentenced him to three years in prison.

The lawyers said in a statement that “While he is fighting the ’empty stomach’ battle, Ghannouchi calls on Tunisians to adhere to a democratic Tunisia that includes everyone on the basis of freedom … and the independence of the judiciary.”

An indefinite hunger strike was launched this week by six opposition leaders who were detained during a crackdown last year in protest of their detention without charge or trial and in demand of their prompt release. The jailed leaders, Jawher Ben Mbarak, Rida Belhaj, Abdelhamid Jalasi, Ghazi Chaouachi, Issam Chabbi, and Khayam Turki, were taken into custody on charges of allegedly arranging an attack on state security.

President Saied has been adamant about suppressing dissenting opinions in the nation ever since taking office. In 2023, over 20 political figures were detained, including Ghannouchi, on suspicion of trying to compromise national security.

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