Rights groups decry Trump’s plan to send military to guard border

Rights groups have decried US President Donald Trump‘s plan to send the military to guard the US-Mexico border as an “act of aggression”.

“It’s an act of aggression quite frankly, if you station the military at your perimeter what does that say about your relationship with the neighbouring country,” Andrea Guerrero, the executive director of rights group, Alliance San Diego, told Al Jazeera.

“The military’s presence on the border will escalate the tension between the two countries and our fear both here and in Mexico that will lead to tragedy”, she said.

Trump made the announcement at a White House luncheon with Baltic delegates on Tuesday, saying that “until we can have a wall and proper security, we’re going to be guarding our border with our military”.

“I spoke with [Defense Secretary James] Mattis, we’re going to do some things militarily,” he said.

“We cannot have people flowing into our country illegally, disappearing, and by the way never showing up for court.”

The proposal has brought about criticism from those on both sides of the political aisle, as well as from rights groups who pointed that a border wall and fence already exists on much of the US-Mexico border.

“He says we need these troops because we do not have a wall – that is not true, we do. We have 700 miles of a wall,” Guerrero said.

“We are not at war with Mexico and there’s no military threat facing us. There’s no justification for the military,” she added.

Tara Tabassi, an organiser for the rights group War Resisters League, which seeks to end war and its causes, said that its wrong to assert that the US-Mexico border is not already militarised.

“Let it not be mistaken, the US-Mexico border is already militarised, and the addition of soldiers and a wall will only serve to further harass, criminalise, and endanger refugees and migrants fleeing economic and political violence created and sustained by US policies and intervention,” Tabassi told Al Jazeera.

“Trump’s call only enforces the long standing practice of using US military personnel as a tool of white supremacy to protect profits over people,” she added.


Putin, Erdogan and Rouhani to discuss Syrian crisis in Ankara

Turkey will host a trilateral meeting on the Syrian crisis between the presidents of Turkey, Russia and Iran on Wednesday amid significant developments happening on the ground in the seven-year civil war.

Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in Ankara on Tuesday, followed by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in the evening, as the leaders meet for the second time since November to discuss the Syrian situation.

Iran and Russia, which support the Syrian government in the crisis, and Turkey, which backs the moderate opposition, have been in close cooperation through a series of talks aimed at finding a solution to the Syrian conflict since last year.

Various so-called “de-escalation zones” were agreed among the three powers in Syria as a result of multiple rounds of talks throughout 2017.

The earlier talks took place in the Russian city of Sochi and Astana, the Kazakh capital.

Separately, Turkish-Russian relations have been increasingly well. The sides closed a deal in December 2017 for Ankara to buy S-400 air missile defence systems – despite NATO’s concerns – and Russia has been building Turkey’s first nuclear power plant.


French SNCF rail strike to defy Macron labour reforms

Train drivers and other workers at the French state railway SNCF have begun a major strike that is expected to paralyse rail travel across France.

Staff began three months of rolling stoppages on Monday evening as trade unions push back against President Emmanuel Macron’s labour reforms.

It is expected to be the biggest wave of industrial unrest since Mr Macron’s election last May.

The waste collection, electricity and energy sectors also expect strikes.

On 22 March, tens of thousands of teachers, nurses and other workers joined rail staff on strike – a sign of widespread opposition to Mr Macron’s plans for state sector liberalisation.


Winnie Madikizela-Mandela: Anti-apartheid campaigner dies at 81

South African anti-apartheid campaigner and former first lady Winnie Madikizela-Mandela has died aged 81.

She and her former husband Nelson Mandela, who were both jailed, were a symbol of the country’s anti-apartheid struggle for three decades.

However, in later years her reputation became tainted legally and politically.

Crowds of mourners and political figures flocked to her home in Soweto, in Johannesburg, after news of her death broke.

Family spokesman Victor Dlamini confirmed earlier on Monday that Mrs Mandela “succumbed peacefully in the early hours of Monday afternoon surrounded by her family and loved ones” following a long illness, which had seen her go in and out of hospital since the start of the year.


Ethiopia swears in first PM from ethnic Oromo community

Ethiopia’s parliament has elected Abiy Ahmed as the new prime minister, a week after the ruling coalition nominated him to succeed Hailemariam Desalegn.

Abiy was sworn in on Monday shortly after his election to become Africa’s second-most populous country’s 16th prime minister and the first Oromo to hold Ethiopia’s top seat.

Hailemariam resigned in February, following months of protests in the Oromia and Amhara region that led to the deaths of hundreds of people.

The protests, which initially began over land rights, but later broadened to include calls for greater political representation at the national level, met a harsh government response.

Abiy, 41, a former lieutenant-colonel in the army and head of Ethiopia‘s science and technology ministry, has a reputation as an effective orator and reformer.


Iran to block Telegram messaging app: reports

The Iranian government is set to permanently block the messaging app Telegram over national security concerns and replace it with its own messaging app.

Alaeddin Boroujerdi, chairman of Iran’s Parliament National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, announced the ban during a radio interview, Iranian press agency MNA said.

According to MNA, Boroujerdi said the decision to block Telegram was “made at the highest levels of government”.

Boroujerdi said during the interview the government would release its own messaging app later this month, citing “national security” as the reason the messaging service will no longer be accessible.

He added that he hopes Iranian-made messaging apps like Soroush will replace Telegram when it is blocked eventually.

Telegram is very popular in Iran, with about 40 million people currently using the app in the country alone.

The app was used extensively during the mass protests that took place late last year.

At the time, Pavel Durov, chief executive officer of Telegram, said on Twitter that Iran was “blocking access … for the majority of Iranians” after protesters used the popular messaging application to plan and publicise demonstrations.

Instagram, another popular social media app, was also blocked during the protests.

Blocking encrypted messaging apps like Telegram while allowing messaging apps approved by the Iranian government raises concerns over the Iranian-made apps.

Telegram has over 200 million users worldwide, according to the company. The service, similar to other popular messaging apps like WhatsApp, WeChat and Signal, offers communication via text, photos, videos and calls.

The app uses a proprietary encryption technology, which has led experts to raise questions about its security.

Telegram has been in a legal battle with the Russian intelligence service, FSB, when it refused to hand over its encryption keys to the government. Handing those keys over would mean the FSB could decrypt all messages sent using Telegram.

Last month, Telegram lost an appeal in court after the Russian government demanded the company hand over the keys.

The court agreed with the FSB’s claim that Telegram could not keep the encryption key private, according to the Russian constitution.

Telegram has said it will continue to fight that decision.


Trump vents anger on immigrant programme

US President Donald Trump has reasserted his opposition to legalising the status of hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children.

He declared on Twitter that Republicans should “go to Nuclear Option to pass tough laws [on illegal migrants] NOW”.

He accused Mexico of doing “very little, if not NOTHING”, to stop migrants crossing its northern border.

The top candidates for Mexico’s presidency have hit out at Mr Trump.

Mr Trump also threatened to walk away from the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Mr Trump wanted to scrap the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca) programme from March but judges halted the move, saying that the Obama-era scheme providing temporary permits for work and study must remain in place while legal challenges are heard.

The scheme is now closed to new entrants but existing members may renew their benefits while the programme exists.

Mr Trump’s tweets referred to “caravans” coming, a possible reference to a caravan of more than 1,000 migrants which had featured earlier on Sunday on Fox & Friends, known to be one of Mr Trump’s favourite TV shows.

The mostly Honduran migrants, including whole families, are travelling together through Mexico to try to protect themselves against criminal gangs and harassment. Some say they will claim asylum once they reach the US border.


China hits back with tariffs on US imports worth $3bn

China has imposed tariffs of up to 25% on 128 US imports, including pork and wine, after US President Donald Trump raised duties on foreign steel and aluminium imports in March.

The tariffs affecting some $3bn (£2.1bn) of imports kick in on Monday.

Beijing said the move was to “safeguard China’s interests and balance” losses caused by new US tariffs.

China had previously said it did not want a trade war but would not sit by if its economy was hurt.

Mr Trump, however, has insisted that “trade wars are good”, and that it should be “easy” for the US to win one.

The American authorities have already announced plans for further targeted tariffs for tens of billions of dollars of Chinese imports, the BBC’s Chris Buckler reports from Washington.

They say that is in response to unfair trading practices in China that affect US companies but it raises the possibility of yet more action being taken in what has become a tit-for-tat trade battle, our correspondent adds.


Khama Steps Down as Botswana President, Masisi Steps In

Retired army general Ian Khama Saturday stepped down as president of Botswana, and handed the diamond-rich country to his deputy, Mokgweetsi Masisi, after a decade at the helm.

Masisi, 55, according to reports, becomes only the third leader to take charge of the southern African nation outside the Khama political dynasty that has dominated national politics since independence from Britain in 1966.

He inherits a country that has for decades been heralded as a beacon of African democracy and sound economic management but faces a huge task of reducing the country’s dependence on diamonds.

“I am not sure about his competency in as far as the economy is concerned, but if he has the respect of his ministers then he should be able to make them deliver,” political analyst Ndulamo Anthony Morima said.

Masisi, a trained teacher who has also worked for the United Nations Children’s Fund as an education project officer for eight years until 2003, was elected lawmaker in 2009.

He served in the president’s office as a minister of public affairs from 2011 until 2014 when Khama named him minister of education, a post he held until appointed vice president in 2017.

“The business community sees him as being more business-friendly so that should work well for the economy. He seems to be more likely to come up with regulation that enables more economic activity,” RMB Botswana economist Moatlhodi Sebabole said.

Masisi takes office over a year before the election under Botswana’s constitution that restricts the president to serving two five-year terms.

Khama, son of Botswana’s first president, Seretse, also took over from Festus Mogae a year before the 2009 election.

Botswana, one of the world’s poorest countries in the 1970s, transformed itself into one of the fastest-growing economies by harnessing around $3 billion a year in diamond sales, to become one of the world’s biggest producers, and gained middle-income status.

However, dependence on its wealth from the diamond industry might be catching up with the landlocked country of just two million after the collapse in commodity prices in 2014 tipped its economy into recession three years ago.


Ethiopia: More than 1,100 detained under state of emergency

Authorities in Ethiopia have arrested more than 1,100 people since the country declared a state of emergency after the prime minister’s resignation last month, according to state media.

Hailemariam Desalegn’s abrupt decision to step down on February 15 came after more than two years of anti-government protests.

The move prompted the government to declare a six-month state of emergency – the second such measure in two years – in a bid to stem political unrest amid long-standing demands for greater freedoms.

The state-affiliated Fana Broadcast Corporate said on Saturday that 1,107 people have been detained for violating the emergency decree, which includes a ban on protests and the dissemination of publications “that could incite and sow discord”.

“They were detained for killing peaceful civilians and security forces, setting houses and financial institutions ablaze, illicit movement of firearms, destroying government and public institutions (and) blocking roads,” Fana reported, citing Tadesse Hordofa, chairman of the State of Emergency Inquiry Board.