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Georgia’s Saakashvili resigns as Ukraine Odessa governor

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Georgia‘s pro-Western former president Mikheil Saakashvili announced his resignation Monday from his post as governor of Ukraine‘s Odessa region out of frustration at allegedly being reined in from fighting corruption.

Saakashvili was a passionate supporter of Ukraine’s 2014 pro-EU revolution that ousted the Russian-backed president and set the former Soviet republic on its westward course.

But he had repeated run-ins with some members of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko‘s inner circle and was frequently accused of having outsized political ambitions of his own.

The 48-year-old fluent Ukranian speaker hinted that he was stepping down after 18 months on the job because he was being held back from cracking his whip against graft-driven officials in the Black Sea resort and port city of one million.

Saakashvili wrote on Facebook that his chief of police was the first one in years “who never took bribes”.

“But first, they took away most of his powers, and then they began harassing him from all sides.”

Saakashvili said he had no choice but to resign under the circumstances.

But he later told reporters: “We will definitely unite and finish this fight, bringing victory to Ukraine.

“The fight continues,” he said.

He also accused Poroshenko of “lying” to him by never keeping his promise to turn the Black Sea region into a tariff-free zone for overseas exports and imports.

Saakashvili’s spokeswoman Daryna Chyzh told the Interfax-Ukraine news agency that the former Georgian leader had already written to the president for permission to step down.

She added that he would continue serving as Odessa governor until his resignation was accepted.

The announcement is a double-edged sword for the Western-backed Ukrainian leader.

It removes a potential political opponent for his post at time when Ukraine still remains focused on the 30-month pro-Russian separatist war in its east that has claimed nearly 10,000 lives.

But it also underscores the level of state graft that penetrates the country almost three years since the start of a popular uprising that appeared to herald fresh change for one of Europe’s poorest and most mismanaged states.

Saakashvili made himself into a US darling in Georgia by cleaning up the corrupt police force and setting the Caucasus country on a far more economically transparent road.

But Georgia’s devastating loss against Russia in a brief 2008 war saw Saakashvili’s star power dwindle to the point that he was beaten in a 2012 election and become the subject of a series of what he viewed as politically-driven investigations.

He left the country and came to Ukraine with a promise to clean up graft-riddled Odessa as he did with ex-Soviet Georgia in the past.

It was not immediately clear what political future Saakashvili envisions for himself or whether he intends to stay in Ukraine.

 

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24 Hours Across Africa

Hong kong train accident leaves eight injured.

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A rare train derailment disrupted services in Hong Kong on Tuesday, the rail operator said, threatening commuter chaos during rush hour.

The disruption to a usually seamless network used by nearly 6 million people every weekday happened after a train derailed while leaving a station in the Kowloon area, rail operator MTR Corp said.

The government’s information department said eight people were injured and five had been taken to hospital.

Rex Auyeung Pak-kuen, chairman of MTR Corp, told reporters that a derailment had not happened in many years and the cause was not immediately clear.

“We will work together with the government to find out the truth as soon as possible so as to continue to provide safe services,” he said. “We apologize that our passengers were injured in the accident.”

Hong Kong’s rail system has been a target of vandalism during recent pro-democracy protests, with activists angry that MTR has closed stations to stop protesters gathering.

Television footage showed hundreds of passengers trying to get off the derailed train. Public broadcaster RTHK said the train had suddenly swayed and a door had flown off before the train stopped.

Nearby stations were overcrowded, and intervals between trains were extended to 12 minutes from two.

MTR’s shares fell 1.1% in line with the broader Hang Seng Index, which was down 1%.

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24 Hours Across Africa

Rwanda ban Burundi,s music star ahead of annual festival

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Burundian musician Jean Pierre Nimbona, popularly known as Kidum, has told the BBC he is confused by Rwanda’s decision to ban him from playing at the upcoming Kigali Jazz Fusion festival.

Kidum is one of Burundi’s biggest music stars and has performed in Rwanda for the past 16 years.

But a police official phoned the musician’s manager to warn that he would only be allowed to make private visits to Rwanda.

“[My manager was told] Kidum is not supposed to perform, tell him to leave. If he comes for private visits fine, but no performances,” the musician told BBC’s Focus on Africa radio programme.

The mayor of Rwanda’s capital said that in this instance permission had not been sought from the authorities for him to perform at the festival in Kigali.

Kidum was a leading peace activist during Burundi’s civil war between 1993 and 2003 and used his songs to call for reconciliation.

The 44-year-old musician said he had never had problems with Rwandan authorities until recently when three of his shows were cancelled at the last minute – including one in December 2018.

That month Burundi had banned Meddy, a musician who is half-Burundian, half-Rwandan, from performing in the main city of Bujumbura.

Kidum said he was unsure if the diplomatic tensions between Burundi and Rwanda had influenced his ban.

“I don’t know, I don’t have any evidence about that. And if there was politics, I’m not a player in politics, I’m just a freelance musician based in Nairobi,” he said.

He said he would not challenge the ban: “There’s nothing I can do, I just wait until maybe the decision is changed some day.

“It’s similar to a family house and you are denied entry… so you just have to wait maybe until the head of the family decides otherwise.”

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