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24 Hours Across Africa

Brazilian police sniper gun down Rio bus hacker

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Reuters – Brazilian security forces in Rio de Janeiro on Tuesday shot dead a man who hijacked a bus on a bridge across Guanabara Bay and took 37 people hostage, in a dramatic end to an incident that underlined the city’s daily grind of violence.

The hijacking began around 5 a.m. local time when a masked man commandeered a commuter bus on the bridge connecting Rio with the city of Niteroi. The man took 37 people in the bus hostage before freeing six of them, officials said.

About four hours later, the hostage-taker walked out of the bus, flung a backpack toward police and then fell to the ground as he tried to reenter the vehicle, TV images showed. Police officials said he was shot by a police sniper. They did not provide other details on the hostage-taker.

All hostages emerged from the bus unharmed.

“Congratulations to the Rio de Janeiro police for the successful action that ended the bus hijacking on the Rio-Niteroi bridge this morning,” President Jair Bolsonaro wrote on Twitter. “The criminal was neutralized and no hostage was injured. Today, no family-member of an innocent person will be in tears.”

Bolsonaro, a far-right former federal congressman who represented the state of Rio de Janeiro for nearly three decades, has long advocated that police take a tougher line in the face of years of rising crime. In 2015, he said Brazil’s military police should “kill more people.” Since taking office in January, he has sought to broaden access to guns and pushed measures to protect police if they kill on the job.

Although the number of murders in Rio has fallen sharply in recent months, the city’s police have killed 15% more people so far this year compared to the same period in 2018. A total of 881 people, or nearly five per day, died at the hands of police between January and June, putting it on track to be the highest number since records began in 2003.

This week’s bus hijacking also highlighted a grim reality of life in Rio, where many use specialized apps to safely navigate their way past daily gun battles between police, drug gangs, and vigilante militias comprised of current and former cops.

Local media reported the unidentified hijacker was armed with a plastic gun but there was no official confirmation. Hans Moreno, a passenger on the bus, told Globo News the hijacker had a pistol and a knife, and never explained to passengers the reasons for his actions.

As the hijacking ended, Rio’s Governor Wilson Witzel arrived by helicopter and bounded across the bridge to hug police involved in killing the hijacker.

Witzel, a close ally of Bolsonaro who also took office in January, says police should kill anyone with a rifle, and has ordered snipers to fire on suspects from helicopters.

Slideshow (8 Images)
In an interview with journalists at the scene, Witzel celebrated the outcome but lamented the death of the hijacker.

“We don’t want anyone to die, but … the police will act rigorously and will not be lenient with those who endanger other people’s lives,” he said, while also defending his previous arguments in favor of police shooting anyone with a rifle.

“Some people do not always understand that police work sometimes has to be this way. If they had not shot this criminal, many lives would not have been spared,” he said.

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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24 Hours Across Africa

Zimbawe’s doctor goes missing after masterminding strike

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Fearless Zimbabwe’s minister of health has called on the government to address insecurity lapses that has lead to the disappearance Peter Magombeyi, the head of a doctor’s union, who disappeared on Saturday.

Fears are rising over the fate of Zimbabwe medical doctor Dr Peter Magombeyi after he sent a message to say he had been abducted in that country by unknown persons – apparently for demanding a “living wage”.

An AFP report earlier on Sunday quoted the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctor’s Association (ZHDA) as saying Magombeyi had not been heard from since he sent a WhatsApp message on Saturday night saying he had been “kidnapped by three men”.

Zimbabwe doctors, who earn a miserly equivalent of about R3 000 are on strike to press for better wages, equipment and medicines in state hospitals.

The ZHDA has reportedly accused state security forces of abducting the doctor because of his role in organising work stoppages.

This week some doctors said the death of deposed Robert Mugabe, 95, in a Singapore hospital on 6 September was an indication of how bad health services in Zimbabwe

“Dr Magombeyi’s crime is only to ask for a living wage for his profession. This is a reflection of the troubles born out of refusal to implement Political Reforms.”

The Zimbabwe government led by Emmerson Mnangagwa has not publicly commented on the doctor’s disappearance

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