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Ethiopia’s Tura, Kenya’s Chepngetich win at Chicago Marathon

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Ethiopia’s Seifu Tura won the men’s title and reigning world champion Ruth Chepngetich of Kenya captured the women’s crown in her US debut on Sunday at the 43rd Chicago Marathon.

The 26.2-mile event was canceled by Covid-19 last year but runners were back after 728 days on a flat course through the streets of the “Windy City” in warm and breezy conditions.

Tura, who didn’t qualify for his homeland’s Tokyo Olympic squad, pulled away late to take the victory in 2hrs 6mins 12secs with American Galen Rupp second, 23 seconds adrift, and Kenya’s Eric Kiptanui third in 2:06:51.

Tura, who was sixth at Chicago in 2019, won the 2018 Shanghai and Milan titles and was fourth at Milan in May in 2:04:29.

“I’m very happy to have won here in Chicago,” Tura said. “I prepared for more than three months for this race. If it hadn’t been for the heat I was hoping to run a personal best time.”

Chepngetich grabbed the lead from the start and won for the fifth time in six marathon starts in 2:22:31, defeating American runner-up Emma Bates by 1:49 with American Sara Hall third in 2:27:19.

“The race was good but it was not easy,” Chepngetich said. “I pushed alone from the 10k. The weather was nice. I believed in myself and I was fortunate and I pushed myself.”

By 10km, Chepngetich had stretched her lead over Kenyan Vivian Kiplagat, who finished fifth, to 27 seconds with no one else within two minutes.

She moved past a male pacer after 40 minutes, reached the midpoint in 1:07:34, 76 seconds ahead of Kiplagat, and was comfortably ahead to the end.

“I just pushed myself,” Chepngetich said. “I didn’t look back. I just pushed forward to the finish line. I was feeling strong but I could feel it in my legs.”

Chepngetich, 27, set a world half-marathon record of 1:04:02 in April at Istanbul and her marathon best of 2:17:08 to win at Dubai in 2019 makes her the fourth-fastest woman in history at the distance.

Spectators lined the downtown streets as a lead pack of 11 opened a quick gap in the men’s race, trimming to seven after 10km.

The seven were together at the halfway mark at 1:02:29 and stayed tight until just before mile 24 when Tura, Rupp and Kiptanui picked up the pace.

Tura surged again starting the 25th mile to open a gap on his nearest rivals and Rupp could not overtake him down the stretch.

“I just didn’t quite have it at the end,” Rupp said. “He ran an unbelievable race.”

Chicago 2017 champion Rupp, who was third at the Rio Olympics and eighth at the Tokyo Olympics, called the result “a step in the right direction”.

Daniel Romanchuk won his third consecutive Chicago Marathon men’s wheelchair crown while fellow American Tatyana McFadden took the women’s title for a ninth time.

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Africa

Ethiopia Conflict Dynamics Shift as New U.S. Envoy Takes Over

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Recent signs out of Ethiopia are encouraging, but major issues standing in the way of a sustainable peace remain unresolved.


By Michelle Gavin, Guest columnist and blogger

News coming out of Addis Ababa suggests that the conflict in Ethiopia is entering a new phase. For over a year, momentum seemed to be forever driving toward worsening violence between the federal government, its allies, and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), as well as a deepening rift between the Ethiopian government and international partners including the United States. But now the TPLF has retreated back to Tigray, and federal ground forces have declined to advance on the region. Ethiopian authorities have freed prominent opposition leaders from prison—including members of the TPLF and Oromo groups that have been at odds with the government—framing the pardons and amnesty as a step toward unity and reconciliation. Late last month, lawmakers approved the establishment of a national dialogue commission that will seek political solutions to the multiple fractures in Ethiopian society. While the dialogue as envisioned will not include armed opponents of the government, it could perhaps create a pathway toward more inclusive and consequential talks.

But not all the news is good. Humanitarian conditions in Tigray are as dire as ever, in large part because the Ethiopian government continues to impede access to the region. Ongoing aerial attacks on civilian targets are exacerbating the loss and suffering, killing Ethiopians and refugees and prompting aid organizations to suspend operations because they cannot safely do their work. This weekend the TPLF claimed that Eritrean forces were continuing to fight in Tigray—a claim that, if true, would render the restraint of federal forces far less meaningful. Meanwhile, many Ethiopians who were swept up in a wave of dubious arrests targeting human rights activists, journalists, and ethnic Tigrayan Ethiopians—whose only crime seemed to be their ethnicity—are still detained.

The Biden administration is assessing these developments and trying to capitalize on the positive trends as it transitions from Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman, whose resignation was announced last week, to his successor, David Satterfield. It will be important to resist the temptation of wishful thinking in this moment and to ensure that a desire for a reset of the bilateral relationship does not lead to a selective reading of the latest developments. There are positive signs, but doubts over the sincerity of the government’s desire for peace persist, as do real questions about the sustainability of steps toward peace. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s political base may have been unified in its animus toward the TPLF, but without an urgent threat from a common enemy, competing and sometimes contradictory interests will be hard to satisfy. Some of the militant Amhara nationalists that Abiy relied on over the past year already view the latest amnesties as a betrayal. Eritrea will continue to pursue its own agenda, which does not entail standing down while Ethiopians resolve their political differences peacefully and emerge a stronger and more just society. Accountability for atrocities committed by all parties to the conflict remains elusive.

Over the past year Abiy and his supporters have used the history of U.S.-Ethiopia relations as a cudgel, pointing to Washington’s tendency to overlook internal repression and abuse during the years of TPLF dominance to question U.S. motives. It would be ironic if American desires to end this difficult period led to repeating the same mistakes. Of course, the United States wants a productive relationship with Ethiopia—especially a just, peaceful Ethiopia that models a successful heterogeneous society, champions democratic norms, and supports African institutions. But good relations with the government in Addis Ababa are not worth much if the country is tearing itself apart, simmering with grievances that explode into violence, or practicing and exporting the kind of brutal authoritarian governance that characterizes Eritrea. The United States should take care to consider the totality of the picture in Ethiopia today, remembering that it is the ultimate course of that influential country, not rapport with any one leader, that matters most.

*Michelle Gavin tracks political and security developments across sub-Saharan Africa. This article first appeared in CFR.

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Gold Mine Collapses, Kills Over 30 In Sudan

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At least 31 miners were killed and eight missing in Sudan on Tuesday when a rudimentary gold mine collapsed, a government official said.

The disaster occurred near Nuhud, a town about 500 kilometres (310 miles) west of Khartoum, said Khaled Dahwa, the head of the state-run Mineral Resources Company in West Kordofan.

“Thirty-one traditional miners were killed because of a mine collapsing,” he told AFP, adding one person survived and eight others were still missing.

Another official at the company said four miners were killed at the same mine in January.

“Authorities at the time shut down the mine and installed security but a couple of months ago they left,” he said.

Artisanal gold mining is a dangerous profession in Sudan largely due to ramshackle infrastructure.

It flourished around a decade ago in various parts of country, with people digging the ground using excavators in hopes of unearthing the precious metal.

About two million artisanal miners produce about 80 percent of the country’s annual gold production of around 80 tonnes, according to official figures.

Sudan, one of the world’s poorest countries, has recently suffered runaway inflation and embarked on tough economic reforms, including slashing subsidies on petrol and diesel and launching a managed currency float.

It is also reeling from political turbulence in the wake of a coup-led military chief General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan on October 25.

 

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Deadly bombing at restaurant packed for Christmas in Congo

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Officials in the Democratic Republic of Congo say at least six people have died in a suicide bomb attack on a crowded restaurant in the eastern city of Beni.

Police prevented the bomber from entering the building, but he blew himself up at the entrance killing himself and five other people.

Another 13 people were injured.

The officials blamed Saturday’s attack on the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a militant group said to be linked to the so-called Islamic State (IS).

So far no group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

More than 30 people were celebrating Christmas at the In Box restaurant when the bomb went off, two witnesses told AFP news agency.

Children and local officials were reportedly in the restaurant at the time.

“I was sitting there,” local radio presenter Nicolas Ekila told AFP. “There was a motorbike parked there. Suddenly the motorbike took off, then there was a deafening noise.”

After the explosion the military officer responsible for the state of emergency in the country’s east told residents to return home for their own safety.

There have been frequent clashes in Beni between the army and Islamists in recent weeks.

In November, Congolese and Ugandan forces began a joint operation against the ADF in an attempt to end a series of brutal attacks.

Authorities in Uganda say the group is behind a series of recent attacks in the country, including in the capital Kampala.

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The militant group was formed in the 1990s by Ugandans disgruntled with the government’s treatment of Muslims, but it was routed from western Uganda and its remnants fled across the border to DR Congo.

It established itself in the eastern DR Congo and has been blamed for thousands of civilian killings there over the past decade, including in attacks on Christians.

In March the US put the ADF on its list of terror groups linked to IS. For its part, IS says the ADF is an affiliate.

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