UN to investigate killing of 15 peacekeepers in the DRC

December attack by Ugandan fighters killed 15 Tanzanian peacekeepers and injured 43 other people.

    The United Nations will launch an investigation into a deadly attack on UN forces last month in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Secretary General Antonio Guterres has announced.

    Fifteen Tanzanian peacekeepers were killed and 43 other people were wounded in the town of Semulikion, in the Congos northeastern province of North Kivu, on December 7 by Ugandan fighters from the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), according to the UN.

    Investigators will examine the peacekeepers’ response to the attack, as well as other assaults on UN forces in the area, and make recommendations on how to prevent further violent incidents, Guterres said in a statement on Friday.  

    “This special investigation will include a focus on the 7 December attack in Semuliki, in which 15 Tanzanian peacekeepers were killed, 43 wounded and one remains missing,” he said.

    The former UN assistant secretary general, Dmitry Titov, was appointed by Guterres to lead the probe into the assault, described by Guterres last month as the “worst attack on UN peacekeepers in … recent history”.

    It was the bloodiest attack to date on the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), the UN force deployed in the DRC since November 1999.

    Two military officers from Tanzania will join the UN team assigned to the investigation, which will begin in the Congo later this month. The team will also travel to other countries in the region as part of the review.

    The DRC’s North Kivu province, which borders Uganda and Rwanda, has been beset by violence in recent years.

    The ADF, an Islamist rebel group active in the area, has been accused by the UN of killing more than 700 people in the region since October 2014.

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    North and South Korea to field joint ice hockey team

    North and South Korea to form first joint Olympics team and march together under one flag at the 2018 Winter Olympics.

      North and South Korea have agreed to form their first-ever joint Olympics team and march together under a “unification flag” at the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Games next month.

      The breakthrough on Wednesday follows a year of escalating tensions on the Korean Peninsula, amid several missile launches and a purported test of a hydrogen bomb by the North.

      The two countries will field a single women’s ice hockey Olympics team, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said, quoting a joint statement by officials from both countries.

      Both Koreas have appeared together at the openings of previous Olympic Games, but this would be the first joint team in one sport.

      Yonhap said the North will also send a 230-member cheering squad and a 30-member taekwondo team to the games, which will take place in the South’s Pyeongchang from February 9 to 27.

      The North’s Olympic delegation will use a land route to cross into the South. That will mark the opening of the land border road for the first time since February 2016, the agency said.

      North Korea will also send a delegation to the Paralympics in Pyeongchang in March. 

      ‘Great opportunity’

      The two countries are still technically at war, because the 1950-53 Korean conflict ended with a truce and not a peace treaty.

      Earlier on Wednesday, during a meeting with Olympic athletes, South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in hailed the North’s participation in the Winter Games as “a great opportunity to thaw the South-North Korea relationship that is frozen solid”.

      The agreement followed a third round of inter-Korea talks at the border village of Panmunjom, the first high-level talks between the two Koreas in more than two years.

      The measures agreed on by North and South Korea require approval by the International Olympic Committee (IOC); delegates from the two Koreas will meet IOC officials in Switzerland this weekend.

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      Gazans call for strike over collapsing economy

      The economy of Gaza, assailed by war, poor governance and blockades, has reached the verge of collapse.

        Business leaders in Gaza say the economy is on the verge of collapse. With unemployment soaring and sales falling, they have called a strike to highlight their plight.

        For more than 10 years the Gaza Strip faced a blockade by Israel that has taken a severe toll on its economy.

        Al Jazeera’s Imran Khan reports from Gaza City.

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        #AfricanGangs: Australia's Africans respond to racism

        The African community in Australia used the hashtag #AfricanGangs to show how educated and diverse Australia’s African communities are.

          Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said people in Melbourne are afraid to go out to restaurants at night because of #AfricanGangs.

          This has put African communities in Australia on the receiving end of racist comments and bullying after media reports of gang violence.

          As a response, the African community used the hashtag #AfricanGangs to show how educated and diverse Australia’s African communities are.

          Al Jazeera’s Leah Harding reports.

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          Hesham Genena injured during kidnap attempt: lawyers

          Member of opposition campaign against Egypt’s president was ‘seriously injured’ after men ‘blocked his car’.

            Egypt’s former top auditor and a leading member of an opposition campaign against President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi was seriously injured during a suspected kidnapping attempt, lawyers said. 

            Ali Taha and Tareq el-Awady, lawyers of Hesham Genena, told the Associated Press that three men with knives jumped out of two cars that blocked the path of Genena’s car outside his suburban Cairo home on Saturday. 

            The men attempted to force Genena into their car, but were stopped by passers-by and a fight ensued, in which Genena suffered injuries to his face and leg. 

            Photos circulating on social media showed an injured Genena. Al Jazeera could not independently verify the images. 

            According to the Associated Press, Genena’s lawyers said his injuries were “serious, but not life-threatening”. 

            The suspected attackers and Genena were questioned by police, Reuters reported, citing security sources.

            A security official told al-Shorouk newspaper, however, that Genena was injured after a fight followed a vehicle accident. 

            Genena had been tapped earlier this month to be a deputy to Sami Anan, the former head of Egypt’s armed forces, who initially said he would run in March’s presidential election, but later suspended his campaign after being arrested on accusations he committed violations that “warrant official investigation”. 

            Anan was also accused of incitement against the military. 

            Earlier this month, Egyptian authorities stormed the homes of Anan’s presidential campaigners and arrested a number of them. Anan’s campaign announced the suspension of work on their Facebook page out of fear for their employees’ safety.

            On Saturday, one of Anan’s lawyer told Al Jazeera that he met Anan at a military prison.

            According to Reuters news agency, Anan’s family said earlier on Saturday that they did not know his whereabouts at the time. 

            Sisi sacked Genena as head of Egypt’s Central Auditing Organisation (CAO) in 2016 after he reported that tens of billions of dollars had been lost to government corruption. 

            Genena was appointed head of CAO in 2012 by former President Mohamed Morsi, a member of the now-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. Morsi was overthrown by Sisi in July 2013.

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            Quebec parties oppose marking day against Islamophobia

            Muslim leaders have called to designate anniversary of a deadly mosque attack as a national day against Islamophobia.

              Quebec opposition parties say they oppose designating the anniversary of a deadly Quebec mosque attack a national day to combat Islamophobia.

              Two political parties in the Canadian province of Quebec say they are opposed to a recent call from Muslim leaders to designate January 29 – the date six Muslim men were killed in a Quebec City mosque last year – a national day against Islamophobia.

              The right-wing party Coalition Avenir Quebec and separatist Parti Quebecois say they oppose the demand for several reasons, including being uncomfortable using the term “Islamophobia”, Montreal newspaper La Presse reported late on Monday.

              Last Friday, the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) and dozens of other Muslim and community groups called on Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to make January 29 a National Day of Remembrance and Action on Islamophobia.

              “The CAQ does not intend to support this demand,” the party told La Presse. “We believe January 29 should be devoted to commemorating the memory of the victims of this terrible tragedy. It was an intolerable act committed by a single person and not by an entire society. Quebecers are open and welcoming, they are not Islamophobic.”

              A spokesperson for the Parti Quebecois leader, meanwhile, said the party “chooses not to use the term ‘Islamophobia'” because it is controversial, and “prefers the expression ‘anti-Muslim sentiment'”.

              The Parti Quebecois is the largest opposition party in the Quebec legislature, holding 28 out of 125 total seats, while the CAQ is the third-largest party with 21 seats. Quebecers will vote in provincial elections next October.

              ‘The perils of hate’

              A gunman shot and killed six Muslim men at the Quebec Islamic Cultural Centre in Quebec City, the provincial capital, on January 29 last year. Several others were injured.

              As the one-year anniversary of the deadly attack approaches, Muslim leaders say turning January 29 into a day to combat racism will “enable Canadians to collectively remember the victims of the attack”.

              It will also “enhance public education about the perils of hate, bigotry and Islamophobia”, they said in an open letter.

              “The ongoing impact being felt within the Quebec Muslim community and more broadly, Canadian Muslim communities, one year after the attack speaks to the urgent need for our elected leaders to stand firmly against Islamophobia and the agents of bigotry,” Ihsaan Gardee, NCCM executive director, said in a statement.

              The Canadian government has not confirmed whether it will grant the groups’ demand. In a brief email to Al Jazeera, a spokesperson for Minister of Canadian Heritage Melanie Joly said Ottawa “has received and noted” the proposal.

              “As we approach the one-year anniversary, Canada continues to condemn this terrorist attack on Muslims in a centre of worship and refuge,” spokesperson Simon Ross said.

              “Canadians continue to stand with victims and the families affected by this attack. Our government will continue to work toward promoting a diverse and inclusive Canada. We must condemn all forms of discrimination including Islamophobia.”

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              Gender pay gap: 2018 brought transparency – will 2019 bring change?

              It was billed as the biggest legislative game-changer for working women since the Equal Pay Act made it illegal to pay people of different sexes differently for the same job in 1970.

              And for once, the hype may not have been overstated. Groundbreaking legislation that forced companies to reveal their gender pay gaps in 2018 for the first time has had an immediate and wide-ranging effect, but companies are likely to come under increased pressure to narrow the gap in 2019, according to data and experts.

              Figures from the Confederation of British Industry’s (CBI) employment trends survey show 93% of businesses are taking action to close the gender pay gap and increase diversity in their workforces, compared with 62% who were asked a similar question in 2017. Companies increasingly appear to recognise the business case for building a diverse workforce, with 60% saying it helps attract and retain staff, while half said it increased skills in the workforce.

              Global pay gap will take 202 years to close, says World Economic Forum

              Savvy job candidates are putting more pressure on companies to show they are pushing diversity and gender equality – with two-thirds of women taking a company’s gender pay gap into consideration, according to research from the Equality and Human Rights Commission. But businesses are also facing a real skillset problem, said Matthew Percival, the head of employment at the CBI.

              “There is a longer-term problem related to demographics, where businesses need to work hard to broaden their appeal or it will be increasingly difficult to attract the best talent from a diverse workforce,” he said.

              Percival added that the CBI was holding diversity conferences several times a year, which were increasingly oversubscribed. “I think businesses are sincere; they want to understand how to do things differently,” he said. He expected more companies to talk about the work they were doing to reduce the gender pay gap in 2019, but had a warning: “In year one or year two you might be able to talk about what you are doing but by year three and four you will need to see those metrics moving.”

              The report, which had 250 respondents employing a total of 1 million people, found half of businesses were putting a greater emphasis on gender diversity at all levels of the company, but only a third were placing a greater focus on gender diversity in their leadership.

              Last year, research showed there were more people called David or Steve leading FTSE 100 companies than there were women or people from ethnic minorities. There were five minority ethnic and seven female chief executives of FTSE 100 companies. Nine bosses were named David and four were called Steve.

              In April, the requirements revealed almost eight in 10 companies and public sector bodies paid men more than women. The data showed women were being paid a median hourly rate that, on average, was 9.7% less than that of their male colleagues.

              The gender pay gap expert Helene Reardon-Bond, a former head of gender and equality at the government equalities office (GEO), agreed that executives were coming under increasing pressure both from employees and competitors to demonstrate they were closing their gender pay gaps. Figures due to be published by April 2019 are likely to be closely scrutinised for shifts in either direction.

              “Business leaders are competitive – they don’t want the reputational risk of not publishing, and not being seen to improve,” she said.

              “It’s been amazing to see gender pay reporting become one of the biggest business stories of the year. We were helped by the #MeToo campaign, and the Harvey Weinstein scandal helped throw petrol on the fire – but we now have people speaking about eliminating the gender pay gap as a business imperative. That is pretty seismic.”

              About 1,500 large British companies broke the law by failing to report their gender pay gap in time, but 10,000 employers – 100% of those within the scope of the new law – reported within 10 weeks of the deadline.

              A study from the Institute for Public Policy Research found 81% of large employers had considered or taken steps to close the gender pay gap as a result of the regulations. It also found that despite initial reservations, four out of five employers were supportive of the gender pay gap reporting rules.

              Following the deadline, the GEO published actions that outlined evidence-based suggestions to companies wanting to close their gender pay gaps, including having multiple women in shortlists for recruitment and promotions.

              Joe Dromey, an IPPR senior research fellow, warned that the increased transparency achieved by the reporting rules alone would not tackle pay gaps – government and employers must address the structural reasons behind pay inequalities.

              Can software bring women’s pay up to men’s? This tech entrepreneur thinks so

              “There are a lot of companies who are just complying with the legislation, but many more are looking at what they can do about the issue,” said Dromey, who added that about one in three companies provided an “additional narrative” to their figures.

              Many of these were at pains to stress that the company did not have an equal pay problem, and that the reason for the gender pay gap lay in the fact that top earners were dominated by men, and the lowest earners were women.

              “Just these slightly formulaic statements about not having an equal pay problem, those will wear thin if you have a year-on-year significant gender pay gap which is not narrowing,” Dromey said.

              One challenge facing employers is the fact that some measures designed to lower the gender pay gap in the long term could increase the gap in the short term – such as hiring more young women. According to the CBI, 24% report they are placing a greater focus on improving gender diversity in entry-level recruitment.

              “The expectation at a lot of companies and in the economy as a whole is that you need to see progress year on year,” said Dromey. “The reasons behind the gender pay gap are hard to shift, so there will be a challenge of managing expectations. But the publicity will hopefully push more employers to think what steps they can take.”

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              Egypt sets date for presidential election

              Egypt will hold presidential elections in March, with a possible runoff in April.

                Egypt’s presidential election will take place on March 26-28, with a runoff to be held from April 24-26 if needed.

                At a news conference in Cairo on Monday, Egypt’s national election commission said the results would be announced on April 2 – or, in the event of a runoff if no candidate secures more than 50 percent of the vote – on May 1.

                So far, two candidates have stated their intentions to run: Khaled Ali, a human rights lawyer and opposition leader, and Essam Heggy, an Egyptian space scientist who served as the country’s adviser for scientific affairs from 2013 to 2014.

                Current President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has not yet confirmed whether he will run for a second and final term – in accordance with the country’s constitution – but he is widely expected to.

                In an interview with CNBC in November, Sisi said he would only attempt to remain president if the Egyptian people wanted him to.

                “It doesn’t suit me as a president to stay one more day against the will of the Egyptians,” he said.

                As Egypt’s army chief, Sisi became president in 2013 after removing the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi in a coup. He went on to win by a landslide in the 2014 presidential elections.

                Under Sisi, human rights in Egypt have deteriorated, with organisations reporting at least 60,000 people have been imprisoned since the general came to power.

                There have also been reports of forced disappearances and a clampdown on press freedom.

                Arrests and accusations

                On Sunday, former Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Shafik pulled out of the presidential race, saying after a long absence from the country he was no longer best-equipped to lead.

                “I saw that I will not be the ideal person to lead the state during the coming period,” Shafik said in a statement on Twitter.

                Shafik had previously shared his plan to run in an exclusive video message to Al Jazeera and was seen as a potential challenger to Sisi.

                The New York Times quoted one of Shafik’s lawyers, who asked not to be named, as saying Shafik had been forced to withdraw by the government, which threatened to investigate previous charges of corruption against him.

                A former air force commander, Shafik served as prime minister for one month during the 2011 Arab Spring.

                He was narrowly defeated in the 2012 presidential elections by Morsi, who subsequently issued a warrant for Shafik’s arrest.

                Shafik fled to the UAE and was tried in absentia and found guilty of corruption charges. However, he was later acquitted.

                After returning to Egypt, following deportation from the UAE, Shafik’s family voiced concerns he had been kidnapped by Egyptian authorities.

                Shafik subsequently appeared on television to deny this.

                Another potential candidate, Colonel Ahmed Konsowa, was arrested in December after announcing plans to run.

                Konsowa was sentenced to six years in prison for “stating political opinions contrary to the requirements of military order”, his lawyer told AFP news agency.

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                House Democrats have plan to reopen government when they take control this week

                WASHINGTON — House Democrats have come up with a plan to reopen the government when they take control of the chamber on Thursday — but without the $5 billion President Trump is demanding for a border wall.

                The plan is to pass two bills — one reopening eight of nine closed agencies through September 2019, and another to fund the Department of Homeland Security through Feb. 8 with $1.3 billion for border security.

                That would allow for continued negotiations over the border barrier while the rest of the government continues to operate.

                The GOP-controlled Senate passed that same measure earlier this month, but Trump rejected it.

                Rep., Mark Meadows, chair of the Freedom Caucus and a close Trump ally, immediately shot down the House Democratic proposal, saying Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi was simply putting forward a “wish list.”

                “Nancy Pelosi’s newest funding proposal doesn’t represent any serious attempt to secure our border or find a compromise. A $1.3 billion Democrat wish list that includes zero money for a border barrier is a non-starter and will not be a legitimate answer to this impasse.

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                Yemeni sources: Nephew of slain former president alive

                Sources tell Al Jazeera that Tareq Saleh, nephew of late ex-leader, is alive, contrary to earlier reports of his death.

                  Tribal sources in the Yemeni province of Marib have told Al Jazeera that Tareq Abdullah Saleh, the commander of the Presidential Guard and nephew of late ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh, is still alive – contrary to earlier reports of his demise.

                  Sources said a photo circulated on social media of Tareq Abdullah Saleh wounded during the same attack that killed the former president on December 4 is old.

                  They confirmed that Tareq Abdullah Saleh left the capital, Sanaa, to Marib on December 7 with several of his aides, three days after the killing of his uncle by Houthi rebels.

                  The sources added that forces loyal to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) stationed in Marib facilitated Tareq’s departure by providing a plane on which he flew to the Gulf country.

                  The sources did not clarify whether Tareq remains in the UAE.

                  Two days before Ali Abdullah Saleh was killed by the Houthis, the overthrown president publicly broke ties with his former allies and expressed his openness to talks with a Saudi-led coalition battling the rebels since 2015. 

                  ‘Period of mistrust’ 

                  According to sources in Abu Dhabi, the UAE and Saudi Arabia were keen on negotiating with international and Yemeni players to give a political role to the late president’s son, Ahmed.

                  However, Ahmed reportedly said he was not ready to assume such a role, leading the two countries to turn to Tareq.

                  Tareq was widely seen as one of the closest aides to the late president.

                  Ali Abdullah Saleh depended on him militarily and politically, along with Tareq’s two brothers: Ammar, the former deputy director of the country’s National Security Bureau, and Yehya, the former central security chief.

                  Tareq contributed to the formation of special forces that were loyal to him, prior to the last schism between Saleh’s forces and Houthi rebels.

                  Observers believe that the recent disputes within the ranks of Saleh’s political party, the General People’s Congress, came after a period of mistrust between the leadership that has been split between the Saudi capital Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and Sanaa.

                  They say that a wave of incrimination has overshadowed the GPC, with each side holding the other responsible for Saleh’s death.

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