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Niger junta closes airspace as ECOWAS deadline expires

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Niger’s military leaders have announced that they have closed the country’s airspace.

Reading a statement on national television on Sunday, Amadou Abdramane, spokesperson for the junta, said they were closing the country’s airspace until further notice due to “the threat of intervention”.

“In the face of the threat of intervention, which is becoming clearer through the preparation of neighbouring countries, Niger’s airspace is closed from this day on Sunday for all aircraft until further notice,” he said.

“Niger’s armed forces and all our defence and security forces, backed by the unfailing support of our people, are ready to defend the integrity of our territory.”

It warned that any attempt to violate the country’s airspace would be met with an “energetic and immediate response”.

The military warned that “any state involved will be considered co-belligerent”.

The move comes as the Economic Community of West African States’ (ECOWAS) deadline for the release of President Mohamed Bazoum expires.

At a meeting on July 30 presided over by President Bola Tinubu, ECOWAS chairperson, the organisation issued sanctions against Niger, asking the military junta to reinstate the ousted president.

ECOWAS said it would take all necessary measures, including the use of force, if Bazoum is not reinstated within a week of the meeting.

Despite several additional calls for the release of the Niger president, the junta has not yielded grounds.

ECOWAS has also not said what its next steps would be after the expiration of the deadline.

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Biden tests positive for COVID-19, cancels campaign event

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The White House says President Joe Biden has tested positive for COVID-19 and is suffering from mild symptoms.

The US President has cancelled a campaign speech he was scheduled to have in Las Vegas.

“President Biden is vaccinated, boosted, and he is experiencing mild symptoms following a positive COVID-19 test,” a post by the White House on X reads.

“He will be returning to Delaware where he will self-isolate and will continue to carry out all of his duties fully during that time.

“The President presented this afternoon with upper respiratory symptoms, to include rhinorhea (runny nose) and non-productive cough, with general mailaise.

“He felt okay for his first event of the day, but given that he was not feeling better, point of care testing for COVID-19 was conducted, and the results were positive for the COVID-19 virus.

“Given this, the President will be self-isolating in accordance with CDC guidance for symptomatic individuals. PCR confirmation testing will be pending.

“His symptoms remain mild, his respiratory rate is normal at 16, his temperature is normal at 97.8 and his pulse oximetry is normal at 97%. The President has received his first dose of Paxlovid. He will be self-isolating at his home in Rehoboth.”

FEARS OVER BIDEN’S FITNESS

On July 4, the White House said 81-year-old Biden would not back down in the country’s presidential election despite growing concerns about his age and fitness.

US citizens and even his fellow Democrats fear that the president’s age and mental alertness could make re-election impossible, especially after his shaky performance against Donald Trump in their presidential debate.

The US president acknowledged that age affected his fluency during the debate but insisted that he “could do the job”.

Biden also cited a cold and jet lag as reasons for his feeble performance.

The White House spokesperson has maintained that “The president is clear-eyed, and he is staying in the race.”

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Computer scientist claiming invention of Bitcoin faces criminal investigation in UK

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Craig Wright, an Australian computer scientist who has long claimed to be Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonymous creator of Bitcoin, is under criminal investigation in the UK for alleged perjury.

According to a Reuters report, Wright faces charges after a judge found him to have repeatedly lied and fabricated documents to support his claims.

The 54-year-old has filed lawsuits around the world, including the US and UK, asserting his role as Bitcoin’s inventor. This culminated in a recent London High Court case.

The Crypto Open Patent Alliance (COPA) took Wright to court to prevent him from suing Bitcoin developers and to preserve the open-source nature of the world’s best-known and most popular cryptocurrency.

In March, Justice James Mellor ruled that evidence against Wright’s Satoshi claims was “overwhelming.” A May written judgment further stated that Wright had lied “extensively” and produced “large-scale” forgeries throughout the case.

On Tuesday, the judge issued a further ruling, referring Wright to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to determine “whether a prosecution should be commenced” for perjury and document forgery.

Mellor also requested the CPS consider whether a warrant for his arrest should be issued and/or whether his extradition should be sought from his current location.

The judge said Wright’s current whereabouts remain unknown. Justice Mellor noted in his ruling, “The evidence shows Dr Wright has left his previous residence in Wimbledon (London) and appears to have left the UK.

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Rwanda’s Kagame wins fourth term with 99 percent of vote

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Rwandan President Paul Kagame was gearing up Tuesday for a fourth term in office after winning a thundering 99.15 percent of the vote in an election where only two challengers were allowed to run against him.

The outcome of Monday’s poll was never in doubt, with Kagame ruling the small African nation with an iron fist as de facto leader then president for three decades.

Partial results issued by the election commission seven hours after polls closed showed that Kagame had won 99.15 percent of the vote — even more than the 98.79 percent he got in the last poll seven years ago.

Democratic Green Party candidate Frank Habineza could only muster 0.53 percent and independent Philippe Mpayimana 0.32 percent, according to the results issued with 79 percent of ballots counted.

In an address from the headquarters of his ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), the 66-year-old thanked Rwandans for giving him another five years in office.

“The results that have been presented indicate a very high score, these are not just figures, even if it was 100 percent, these are not just numbers,” he said.

“These figures show the trust, and that is what is most important,” he added.

“I am hopeful that together we can solve all problems.”

Full provisional results are due by July 20 and definitive results by July 27.

“In general, the electoral process happened in a safe and transparent atmosphere for Rwandans living abroad and at home,” the National Electoral Commission said in a statement.

With 65 percent of the population aged under 30, Kagame is the only leader most Rwandans have ever known.

The bespectacled 66-year-old leader is credited with rebuilding a traumatised nation after the 1994 genocide — but he is also accused of ruling in a climate of fear at home, and fomenting instability in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo.

Over nine million Rwandans — about two million first-time voters — were registered to cast their ballot, with the presidential race being held at the same time as legislative elections for the first time.

“(Kagame) gives us everything we ask him, such as health insurance. This is why he wins by a big margin,” said 34-year-old mechanic Francois Rwabakina.

Kagame won with more than 93 percent of the vote in 2003, 2010 and in 2017, when he again easily defeated the same two challengers.

He has overseen controversial constitutional amendments that shortened presidential terms from seven to five years and reset the clock for the Rwandan leader, allowing him to potentially rule until 2034.

Rwandan courts had rejected appeals from prominent opposition figures Bernard Ntaganda and Victoire Ingabire to remove previous convictions that effectively disqualified them from Monday’s vote.

The election commission also barred high-profile Kagame critic Diane Rwigara, citing issues with her paperwork — the second time she was excluded from running.

Ahead of the vote, Amnesty International said Rwanda’s political opposition faced “severe restrictions… as well as threats, arbitrary detention, prosecution, trumped-up charges, killings and enforced disappearances”.

The imbalance between the candidates was evident during the three-week campaign, as the well-oiled PR machine of the ruling RPF swung into high gear.

The party’s red, white and blue colours and its slogans “Tora Kagame Paul” (“Vote Paul Kagame”) and “PK24” (“Paul Kagame 2024”) were everywhere.

His rivals struggled to make their voices heard, with barely 100 people showing up to some events.

Kagame’s RPF militia is lauded for ending the 1994 genocide when it marched on Kigali — ousting the Hutu extremists who had unleashed 100 days of bloodletting targeting the Tutsi minority.

The perpetrators killed around 800,000 people, mainly Tutsis but also Hutu moderates.

Kagame has overseen a remarkable economic recovery, with GDP growing by an average of 7.2 percent per year between 2012 and 2022, although the World Bank says almost half the population lives on less than $2.15 a day.

But abroad, Kigali is accused of meddling in the troubled eastern DRC, where a UN report says its troops are fighting alongside M23 rebels.

In the parliamentary election, 589 candidates were chasing 80 seats, including 53 elected by universal suffrage.

In the outgoing assembly, the RPF held 40 seats and its allies 11, while Habineza’s party had two.

Another 27 spots are reserved for women, the youth and people with disabilities.

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Bodex F. Hungbo, SPMIIM is a multiple award-winning Nigerian Digital Media Practitioner, Digital Strategist, PR consultant, Brand and Event Expert, Tv Presenter, Tier-A Blogger/Influencer, and a top cobbler in Nigeria.

She has widespread experiences across different professions and skills, which includes experiences in; Marketing, Media, Broadcasting, Brand and Event Management, Administration and Management with prior stints at MTN, NAPIMS-NNPC, GLOBAL FLEET OIL AND GAS, LTV, Silverbird and a host of others

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