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  • 'Three killed' in Togo opposition clashes

    Togo's opposition on Thursday said three people were killed and dozens more injured as gangs of youths clashed with security forces trying to prevent the latest anti-government protest in the capital.

    Opposition spokesman Brigitte Adjamagbo-Johnson told reporters "the provisional toll at 3:30 pm (1530 GMT) is three shot dead in Lome", with 44 shot and wounded, and a further 36 beaten up.

    Togo's security minister, Colonel Yark Damehame, denied the claims, however, saying no-one was killed.

    The streets of the coastal capital were largely deserted in anticipation of the rally, which the opposition refused to cancel despite a government ban on weekday marches on security grounds.

    Demonstrators planned to march to the offices of the West African bloc ECOWAS to demand the resignation of President Faure Gnassingbe -- the latest in two months of mounting protests against his regime.

    Gnassingbe has been president since 2005 and is the scion of Africa's longest-ruling dynasty that has been in power in Togo since 1968.

    The opposition wants the constitution changed and the introduction of a limit of two, five-year terms for presidents.

    Colonel Damehame said of the opposition claims that three people were killed on Thursday: "No deaths have been brought to our attention."

    At least four people were reported to have been killed in Lome and the country's second city, Sokode, during clashes between protesters, police and soldiers on Wednesday.

    But Damehame said they had previously been announced on Tuesday, blaming the confusion on the health services in Sokode being overwhelmed.

    "No death was recorded yesterday (Wednesday) in Sokode," he told reporters.

    - Shut down -

    In Lome, most shops were still shut by midday (1200 GMT) and the streets were virtually empty apart from the occasional motorbike-taxi, an AFP correspondent said.

    "Activity is at a standstill after days of disruption by the marches," said one mobile phone vendor in Deckon, the city's commercial hub.

    "What's happening is weighing heavily on us. The politicians need to talk to find a solution to this crisis."

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  • White supremacist shouted down at Florida college speech

    Hundreds of protesters shouted down white supremacist leader Richard Spencer on Thursday at a university in Florida, forcing him to leave the stage without delivering his planned speech.

    Officials were so fearful of disturbances that Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency ahead of the speech by Spencer, an organizer of a white supremacist rally that erupted in deadly violence in Charlottesville earlier this year.

    The order enabled the governor to bring in law enforcement personnel from across the state to keep order in the town of Gainesville.

    Only around 30 supporters of the controversial white nationalist made it into the University of Florida auditorium, massively outnumbered by protesters who chanted "No more Spencer!"

    Spencer has gained notoriety as a leader of the "alt-right" movement, a loose collection of white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups that staged the incendiary protest in Charlottesville, Virginia in August.

    A 32-year-old woman was killed when a Nazi sympathizer plowed his car into counter-protesters, and two police officers died in a helicopter crash as they were responding to the violence.

    As he stepped onto the stage, Spencer was greeted with a chorus of angry and profanity-laced jeers and chants, drowning out his voice.

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  • Ebola-like Marburg virus kills two in Uganda: official

    wo people have died from the Marburg virus in eastern Uganda, in the country's first outbreak of the deadly Ebola-like pathogen in three years, the health ministry said Thursday.

    "Blood samples were taken from two people who have since died and were found positive for Marburg", Uganda's health ministry permanent secretary, Dr. Diana Atwine told AFP.

    She said a team of experts had been sent to Kween district, near the Kenyan border, to contain the virus.

    "At moment we don't know if there are other people apart from the dead who have contracted the disease because the health experts are still investigating in addition to sensitising the population about the dangers of Marburg and we call for public vigilance," she added.

    One individual was a male hunter who died on September 25. His 50-year-old sister died on October 11.

    "The second victim had taken care of her brother during his sickness and burial preparation rituals when we suspect she contracted the disease," Health Minister Ruth Achieng said.

    The two are the first recorded cases of Marburg in Kween district.

    According to the Uganda Virus Research Institute, the first known case of Marburg in the country was in the western district of Kamwenge in 2007.

    A 2012 outbreak killed 10 people and in 2014 one man died.

    The Marburg virus is one of the most deadly known pathogens. Like Ebola, it is a haemorrhagic fever -- it causes severe bleeding, fever, vomiting and diarrhoea. It has a 21-day incubation period.

    Like Ebola, the Marburg virus is also transmitted via contact with bodily fluids and fatality rates range from 25 to 80 percent.

    The name of the disease comes from the city of Marburg in central Germany, where the virus was first identified in 1967 among workers who had been exposed to infected African green monkeys at a research lab.

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  • At least 29 killed in central Nigeria violence

    At least 29 people were killed in a new flare-up of violence in central Nigeria targeting people sheltered in a primary school, prompting President Muhammadu Buhari to issue an appeal to "stop the madness".

    The attack happened on Monday in Plateau state, which has been dogged for years by ethnic, sectarian and religious unrest.

    Sunday Audu, the head of the Irigwe Community Development Association, said armed men stormed the school in the village of Nkyie Doghwro, in the Bassa area of the state.

    Hundreds of local residents had sought refuge there for fear of reprisal attacks, after unidentified assailants killed six cattle herders on Sunday.

    "Our people were attacked... with 29 dead, three injured at a school used as a camp and protected by security," Audu told reporters in the Plateau state capital, Jos, on Monday.

    Plateau police spokesman Tyopev Terna confirmed the attack but declined to give a death toll.

    Audu blamed the killings on the mostly nomadic Fulani herdsmen, accusing them of being "in denial of sponsoring these attacks".

    But the head of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) in Bassa, Umaru Sangare, denied claims they were to blame.

    "We have no hand in the attack against the Irigwe, despite the fact that our six men were killed on Sunday and beheaded at Bajju village while grazing," he said.

    "We didn't take the law into our own hands but reported the incident to the military and police authorities and secured their permission to bury the decapitated bodies."

    - Resource conflict -

    Plateau state lies on the dividing line between Nigeria's mainly Christian south and the mostly Muslim north. It has seen sporadic violence and tensions for decades.

    The violence has been attributed to a battle for resources because of drought and desertification in northern Nigeria and the wider Sahel region, forcing herders further south.

    Farming communities, most of which are Christian, have complained the herdsmen, who are mainly Muslim, damage their fields and crops with their livestock.

    The problem is also linked to wider issues, with the farmers seen as "indigenous" and the herdsmen "foreigners", even if they have lived in the area for generations.

    Fulani leaders say they are deprived of basic rights, such as access to land, education and even political office.

    Tensions frequently boil over and more than 10,000 people have been killed in the state since the turn of the century, according to groups tracking the violence.

    Last month, the International Crisis Group (ICG) warned in a report that the clashes threatened Nigeria's national security and were becoming as dangerous as Boko Haram Islamists.

    It called for more cooperation and the adoption of measures such as better rural security, designated grazing areas and conflict resolution programmes.

    Southern leaders, however, believe President Buhari lacks the political will to tackle the problem, as the Fulani are his kinsmen.

    A statement from Buhari's office on Monday night said he learned of the latest killings "with deep sadness and regret", giving the death toll as "at least 20".

    "This madness has gone too far," the emailed statement said.

    "(Buhari) has instructed the military and the police to not only bring the violence to an instant end, but to draw up a plan to ensure that there are no further attacks and reprisal attacks by one group against the other," it added.

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  • Kenya election chief casts doubt on 'free, fair' poll

    Kenya's polls chief cast doubt Wednesday on his organisation's ability to hold a credible vote next week, as opposition leader Raila Odinga vowed to disrupt the election with mass protests.

    In the latest bombshell to hit the presidential election, Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) chief Wafula Chebukati laid bare internal divisions and accused both major parties of interference.

    His no-holds-barred statement in which he slammed the "arrogance and narcissism of our political class" came just hours after another commissioner announced she had quit after fleeing to New York in fear for her life.

    "Let me be very clear that this is a yellow card to both sides. I will not tolerate the interference in the commission anymore," said Chebukati.

    "Political leaders who are supposed to build the nation have become the greatest threat to the peace and stability of the nation."

    Kenyans are due to go to the polls on October 26 for a second time, after the Supreme Court last month overturned the result of the initial election due to "irregularities" in the counting process, and mismanagement by poll officials.

    The ruling was a rare victory for veteran opposition leader Raila Odinga, who claimed the poll was rigged in favour of President Uhuru Kenyatta, and seen as a sign of Kenya's mature democracy and institutions.

    However the decision has been followed by acrimony, legal battles and confusion over how to carry out a new election that would be accepted as credible, within a constitutionally mandated 60-day period.

    Odinga last week announced he was withdrawing from the race, arguing the move would legally force the IEBC to begin the whole process from scratch, which would allow more time for deep reforms.

    However, the commission has pushed forward with plans to hold the election.

    On Wednesday Odinga addressed a rally of thousands of supporters, vowing there would be "no election" on October 26.

    "​Protests will go on, on the 26th (there) will be the biggest demonstrations in the whole country," he said.

    - Election 'mockery' -

    In a statement announcing her resignation as one of seven IEBC commissioners, Roselyn Akombe said that the panel could not provide a credible election.

    "I do not want to be party to such a mockery to electoral integrity," she wrote.

    In an interview with the BBC, Akombe said she feared for her life and would not return to her home country in the foreseeable future.

    "She is one of our finest brains and it is very sad," said Chebukati of her resignation.

    Chebukati said that operationally, IEBC was ready to hold the election, but politically the environment left a lot to be desired.

    "We are faced with a dilemma as a country, one between the status of operational preparedness and the political environment for credible elections," he said.

    The Supreme Court had accused the IEBC of bungling the electronic results and basing the outcome on dubious documents that could not be verified.

    - Free, fair poll 'compromised' -

    Chebukati outlined steps taken to ensure all tallying forms were standardised, that network coverage to allow transmission of results was improved and that poll officials were better trained.

    But he questioned how credible the election would be if Odinga did not take part, raising examples of polls boycotted in Zimbabwe and Burundi, leading to long-term legitimacy issues and economical crises.

    "I've made several attempts to make critical changes but all my motions have been defeated by a majority of the commissioners," he told journalists.

    He said that without changes to key secretariat staff -- the permanent members of the IEBC -- a "free, fair and credible election will surely be compromised."

    He called on these members to "step aside to allow this team to function without interference."

    Kenya's IEBC has a controversial history. A discredited body that presided over a deeply flawed 2007 poll -- which triggered violence that killed over 1,100 people -- was replaced by commissioners which were forced to resign last year after violent opposition protests.

    The body that had overseen elections in 2013 had been accused of bias, mismanagement and was dogged by corruption allegations.

    Chebukati later invited Odinga and Kenyatta, embroiled in a dynastic political feud that started when their fathers fell out after independence, to a formal meeting on Thursday for talks which he had earlier said would "douse the tension in the air."

    - Election 'at any cost' -

    In her statement Akombe said field staff had in recent days expressed concerns about their safety, especially in areas hit by opposition protests against the IEBC.

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