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Italy rescues over 250 migrants off Libyan coast

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More than 250 migrants were rescued in the central Mediterranean, off the coast of Libya, during the night between Monday and Tuesday, Italy’s Coast Guard said.

The non-governmental organisation Proactiva Open Arms picked up a rubber dinghy carrying 134 people, including seven children, on Monday night. They were to be transferred to the Aquarius rescue ship operated by another NGOSOS Mediterranee, before being taken to Pozzallo in Sicily.

A military ship from the European anti-smuggling operation Sophia also rescued 121 people aboard two other boats, the coastguard said.

Migrant arrivals to Italy have fallen by two-thirds year on year since July after officials working for the U.N.-backed government in Tripoli put pressure on people smugglers in the Libyan city of Sabratha to stop boats leaving.

Italy is also bolstering the Libyan coast guard’s ability to turn back boats.

Last week, the United Nations began bringing African refugees to Italy from Libya, evacuating them from detention centers whose conditions have been condemned by rights groups as inhumane.

In his traditional Christmas address on Monday, Pope Francis urged people around the world not to forget the plight of migrants, who had been “driven from their land” because of leaders willing to shed “innocent blood”.

24 Hours Across Africa

Thousands bid fare well to Mugabe..

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Zimbabwe’s founder Robert Mugabe was honored as an icon, principled leader and African intellectual giant at a state funeral on Saturday, after a week of disputes over his burial threatened to embarrass President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Mugabe led Zimbabwe for 37 years, from independence until he was ousted by the army in November 2017, by which time he was viewed by many at home and abroad as a power-obsessed autocrat who unleashed death squads, rigged elections and ruined the economy to keep control.

He died in a Singapore hospital on Sept. 6 aged 95, far away from a country he left polarized by a raging political rivalry between its two largest political parties, ZANU-PF and the opposition MDC.

His remains will be interred in a mausoleum at the National Heroes Acre in the capital Harare in about 30 days, his nephew said on Friday, contradicting earlier comments that a burial would be held on Sunday.

On Saturday, Mnangagwa walked behind the casket carrying Mugabe’s body as it was wheeled into the center of Harare’s National Sports Stadium and placed on a podium decorated with flowers so that heads of state could say their farewells. Senior army generals and Mugabe’s wife and children followed, as a brass band played.

The 60,000 seater stadium was only half-filled.

In a tribute to his predecessor, Mnangagwa said Mugabe stood in defense of Africans. He urged the West to remove sanctions that were imposed during Mugabe’s rule.

“We who remain shall continue to hear his rich, brave, defiant and inspiring voice … encouraging and warning us to be vigilant and astute,” Mnangagwa said in a speech.

“A giant tree of Africa has fallen. Today Africa weeps.”

Mnangagwa and the ruling ZANU-PF party wanted Mugabe buried at the national shrine to heroes of the 15-year liberation war against white minority rule. But some relatives, expressing bitterness at the way former comrades ousted Mugabe, had pushed for him to be buried in his home village.

Walter Chidhakwa, who spoke on behalf of Mugabe’s family, said Mugabe was an icon who was determined and unflinching in pursuing policies like land reform and later the black economic empowerment program.

Mugabe left behind a country wrecked by hyperinflation, dollarization and deeply entrenched corruption.

But many Zimbabweans also remember Mugabe as their country’s liberator from white minority rule and for broadening people’s access to education and land

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24 Hours Across Africa

Nigeria: FG approves $5.3bn Ibadan-Kano rail project

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