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South Africa’s Pistorius granted parole over girlfriend’s murder

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South Africa’s ex-Olympic runner Oscar Pistorius will be released from prison in January after he was granted parole on Friday. This came a decade after he shot dead his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.

Steenkamp’s mother was “satisfied” with the parole terms. The terms include therapy for anger and gender-based violence issues.

However, she said she did not believe the ex-athlete was rehabilitated for he had not shown true remorse.

“She feels heard,” June Steenkamp’s lawyer, Tania Koen, told AFP. “(The ruling) sends a clear message that gender-based violence won’t be tolerated.”

A parole board reviewing whether Pistorius, 37, was fit for social reintegration decided to allow him out of prison early. This was revealed by the Department of Correctional Services.

“Mr Pistorius will complete the remainder of the sentence in the system of community corrections. He will be subjected to supervision in compliance with parole conditions until his sentence expires,” the department said.

He will be released on January 5.

A spokesman for Steenkamp’s family said that as part of the parole conditions, Pistorius will have to do community service and attend therapy for anger and gender-based violence issues.

He will also not be allowed to leave the Pretoria district of Waterkloof without prior authorisation, Steenkamp family spokesman Rob Matthews said. He added that the parole period will end in December 2029.

Before being let out, Pistorius will undergo a pre-release programme that is to prepare him for life outside prison, said Department of correctional services spokesman Singabakho Nxumalo.

“Not everyone will find it easy to adjust,” Nxumalo said. He added the scheme was to prepare inmates that “not everyone will welcome you as others will open their arms”.

Pistorius killed Steenkamp, a model, in the early hours of Valentine’s Day 2013, firing four times through the bathroom door of his ultra-secure Pretoria house.

Known worldwide as the “Blade Runner” for his carbon-fibre prosthetics, he was found guilty of murder. Pistorius was given a 13-year jail sentence in 2017 after a lengthy trial and several appeals.

He had pleaded not guilty and denied killing Steenkamp in a rage, saying he mistook her for a burglar.

But June Steenkamp said she does not believe Pistorius has told the truth about what happened. She was not present at the parole hearing on Friday and was being represented by Matthews and a lawyer.

“I do not believe Oscar’s version,” she said in her submission to the board.

“My dear child screamed for her life loud enough for the neighbours to hear her. I do not know what gave rise to his choice to shoot through a closed door four times at somebody with hollow-point ammunition when I believe he knew it was Reeva.”

‘A broken heart’
While she did not oppose parole for Pistorius, Steenkamp’s mother was not convinced he was fully rehabilitated, the spokesman said.

“Rehabilitation requires someone to engage honestly, with the full truth of his crime and the consequences thereof. Nobody can claim to have remorse if they’re not able to engage fully with the truth,” she said.

Nevertheless, she said she forgave the former sprinter “long ago, as I knew most certainly that I would not be able to survive if I had to cling to my anger.”

The hearing held at a correctional centre outside Pretoria where he is currently detained, was Pistorius’s second shot at parole in less than eight months.

He lost a first bid in March when the board found Pistorius had not completed the minimum detention period required to be let out.

The Constitutional Court last month ruled that was a mistake, paving the way for a new hearing.

Pistorius’ lawyers welcomed the ruling. He said he was however “disappointed” that the release date was “not sooner”, given the delay caused by the error made in March.

As part of his rehabilitation, Pistorius met Steenkamp’s parents last year. Authorities said it was aimed at ensuring inmates “acknowledge the harm they have caused”.

Steenkamp’s father Barry died in September aged 80.

“I’ve no doubt that he died of a broken heart,” the widow said in her statement.

Offenders in South Africa are automatically eligible for parole consideration after serving half of their sentence.

The board, normally made up of correctional services and community members, assesses whether an inmate still poses a danger to society.

This takes into account the seriousness of the offence as well as Pistorius’s behaviour behind bars.

 

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3 million children at risk in Sudan as civil war engulfs – U.N

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The war between the army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces has killed 12,190 people, according to conservative estimates by the Armed Conflict Locations and Events Data project. It has displaced 5.4 million people inside the country, according to the UN, and sent over 1.3 million fleeing abroad.

Sudan’s raging civil war threatens the lives of almost 3 million children, the United Nations Children’s Fund said Thursday, as fighting imperils what had become a haven for hundreds of thousands of displaced people.

Fighting in the huge northeastern African nation has now reached Jazeera state, the country’s breadbasket with a population of 5.9 million people — half of whom are children, UNICEF said.

« This new wave of violence could leave children and families trapped between fighting lines or caught in the crossfire, with fatal consequences, » the organization’s executive director, Catherine Russell, said in a statement Thursday.

The latest about of violence broke out on April 15, as Sudan’s military and a powerful paramilitary force vied for power. Since then, heavy fighting has left hundreds of thousands of people facing the agonizing decision of whether to flee their homes or stay and risk injury or death in the violence. Cease-fires have failed to halt the power struggle and fueled the growing humanitarian crisis.

Civilians are often caught up in the crossfire as neighborhoods are divided between the armed forces, led by Gen. Abdel Fattah Burhan and the Rapid Support Forces, led by Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo.

Some 9,000 people have been killed in the violence, according to the U.N., but local doctors groups and activists say the death toll is likely far higher.

Almost 300,000 people have fled Jazeera state, moving to the nearby Sennar state, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said Wednesday.

 

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‘Nothing for me in Cameroon’: Waiting in Tunisia, one eye on Europe

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Having lost everything and everyone precious to him, Joseph tries to hold things together, waiting to leave Africa.

Joseph Afumbom is a big man who has faced unimaginable tragedy.

The conflict in Cameroon between Anglophone separatists and the government killed the 27-year-old’s mother, father and siblings. It also took his home in Bamenda in the country’s northwest.

“I was there when the war started. The war took everyone,” he said, “It was three years ago. My brothers and sisters are all gone.”

With his home and family destroyed and no jobs available, Joseph felt he had no option but to gather his fiancee, Esther, and their three-year-old daughter and travel the 5,000km (more than 3,000 miles) overland to the Mediterranean coast. They arrived in Algeria, where they considered crossing into Tunisia and from there to Europe.

However, both Joseph’s fiancee and daughter died in El Menia. “They are all gone because of the cold,” he says. “That was last month.”

“I’m just trying to act normal, you know,” he tells Al Jazeera. “See, I’m smoking. I’m whiling away my thinking, trying to act like a normal person, but I’m not.”

He paused, allowing his thoughts to drift back. “We had been together for years. My daughter was three. I called her ‘Little Joy’.”

Eventually, Joseph crossed into Tunisia, making his way to the coastal city of Sfax before travelling by shared taxis to the capital, Tunis. He didn’t eat for two days.

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“There is nothing left for me in Cameroon,” he says. “I will continue to Europe if I have the opportunity.”

This article is the third of a five-part series of portraits of refugees from different countries, with diverse backgrounds, bound by shared fears and hopes as they enter 2024. Read the first and second parts here.

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA

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Chad: Supreme court approves ‘yes’ referendum vote

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Chad’s Supreme Court definitively validated the results of the referendum for a new constitution organized by the military junta that has been in power for the past two and a half years, a key step intended to pave the way for elections in the country at the end of 2024.

According to the final results, the « yes » side won with 85.90% of the vote, while the « no » side won 14.10%, with a turnout of 62.8%, the president of the Supreme Court told a press conference.

For some members of the opposition and civil society, the result of this ballots a plebiscite resembles designed to pave the way for the election of the transitional president, General Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno.

The Supreme Court rejected an appeal by the Bloc Fédéral, an opposition coalition which had called for the results to be annulled on the grounds of several irregularities in the voting process.

The opposition, which had widely called for a boycott, denounced, in the words of Max Kemkoye, president of the Groupe de concertation des actors politiques (GCAP), « a second coup d’état by Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno », in the face of results which, in his view, were not credible.

The new constitutional text is not very different from the one already in force, and still gives great power to the Head of State.

Mahamat Déby, 37, was proclaimed transitional president by the army on April 20, 2021, at the head of a junta of 15 generals, following the death of his father Idriss Déby Itno, who was killed by rebels on his way to the front. Idriss Déby Itno had ruled the country with an iron fist for over 30 years.

The young general immediately promised elections after an 18-month transition period, and made a commitment to the African Union not to run. Eighteen months later, his regime extended the transition by two years and authorized him to stand in the presidential elections scheduled for late 2024.

On the anniversary of the 18-month transition, October 20, 2022, between 100 and more than 300 young men and teenagers were shot dead in N’Djamena by police and military, according to the opposition and national and international NGOs.

They were demonstrating against the two-year extension of the presidential term.

More than a thousand were imprisoned before being pardoned, but dozens were tortured or disappeared, according to NGOs and the opposition.

 

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