Category Archives: Central Africa

Burundi – is crisis being exploited to widen Hutu-Tutsi divide

African Arguments

“Let us be heard”: Burundi’s refugees tell stories of ethnic targeting

Burundi’s crisis began as a political dispute, but testimony from refugees suggests that some parties to the conflict may be exploiting Hutu-Tutsi divides.

Burundian refugees gather round as artists and dancers visit Mahama Refugee Camp on Christmas Day 2015. Credit: Djamal Ntagara, Uburanga Art Centre, Kigali, Rwanda.

Near the small town of Gashora in Rwanda, about 20km north of the border with Burundi, hundreds of children and their mothers sit outside tents (or “hangers”) branded with the UNHCR logo. Young boys play football in worn clothing as they pass the time, while malnourished babies lie in a row awaiting treatment from a special medical tent.

Since April 2015, at least 240,000 people have fled Burundi as it has descended into a violent political crisis. A large proportion of these refugees have journeyed north into neighbouring Rwanda, and tens of thousands have ended up here at Gashora Reception Centre before being transferred for more permanent stay at Mahama Refugee Camp. Many have been separated from their loved ones back in Burundi, who may or may not still be alive, and each has his or her own unique story of loss, suffering, and violence.

According to official records, the camp received around 17,000 people in April and another 19,000 over the subsequent fourth months before numbers dropped to hundreds per month. Approximately 60% of these are under 18.

However, the total number of refugees to this area is likely to be significantly higher. Burundians are only taken to Gashora if they indicate at the border office that they are fleeing for political reasons. But with many are afraid to admit being refugees, large numbers say they are crossing into Rwanda for economic motivations or to visit family. Many of these try to assimilate in the nearby town of Nyanza.

Testimony from the camps

The ongoing crisis in Burundi began last April when President Pierre Nkurunziza decided to run for a third term in office – in violation of the constitution and Arusha Accords according to critics – and then won the disputed election in July.

Since then, hundreds have been killed or assassinated on the streets of Bujumbura, while opposition militia have clashed on occasion with government troops. Furthermore, last month, nine mass graves were reportedly discovered around the capital. According to UN human rights chief, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, these sites are believed to hold the bodies of the dozens of Burundians killed in a deadly reprisal attack by security forces on 11 December.

With independent radio stations and media restricted, reliable information in Burundi is difficult to come by. However, as the crisis persists, one question on many people’s lips is to what extent the clashes relate to historical divides between Burundi’s majority Hutu and minority Tutsi populations. There are growing reports that the government is targeting Tutsis, while the recently discovered mass graves are believed to hold mostly Tutsi victims.

Burundi’s turmoil certainly began as a political dispute, but there are fears that ethnicity has since been instrumentalised by actors in the conflict for their own gain. The testimonies of some refugees – whose voices tend to have been neglected in the debate around Burundi thus far – seem to support these concerns.

Jean Bosco has been in the refugee camp with his wife and four children since April. He says that he fled Burundi after being targeted by groups associated with the ruling CNDD-FDD for being a Tutsi.

“The CNDD-FDD youth [known as the Imbonerakure] started to threaten me and my family, saying: we killed armed Tutsis, soon it’s going be your turn,” Bosco tells African Arguments. “One morning, the policemen and Imbonerakure came and ordered that all Tutsi houses had to be checked…They said that we Tutsi want to overthrow the power.”

Desire, a former judge, says he fled Burundi over a dispute that had taken on an ethnic dimension too. He had to pass a judgment on a land dispute that happened to be between some Tutsis and Hutus and says the government pressured him to rule in favour of one side over the other.

“The Minister of Justice called me and told me to give the land to the Hutu family,” he recalls. Desire did not want to directly defy this order and so slowed down the case “to protect myself from the wrath of the CNDD-FDD party and spare time to find a solution”.

However, Desire could not delay for too long and amidst growing warnings from confidants, eventually took flight and headed north. “The day I fled, a squadron of the secret police was sent to capture and torture me, but friends of mine told me before they reached [his home town of] Kirundo,” he says.

The story of Esperance, whose husband was part of the Burundian army, echoes some of these dynamics too.

“Before the [failed May 2015] coup, my husband was asked by officers close to Nkurunziza to execute assassinations of political opposition party members,” she says. “My husband was told that since he was a Hutu, he had to stand for Nkurunziza. He refused, and the SNR [national intelligence service] started to chase him.

“For weeks, my husband was tracked by the intelligence. Fearing for his life as some of his colleagues had been killed or lost, he decided to flee from the army.”

Esperance has not heard from her husband since this time and believes he was picked up by intelligence agents as he tried to escape the country. She escaped to Rwanda in November.

Let us be heard

Thus far, international and regional efforts to resolve the ongoing crisis in Burundi have made little progress. The African Union said in December it would deploy 5,000 peacekeepers to maintain order, but with Nkurunziza’s government vowing to treat the force as an invasion, the AU recently backed down. Meanwhile, although peace talks also officially began in December, led by Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni, they stalled over disagreements regarding who should be at the negotiating table.

Opposing sides diverge over which groups ought to be represented as legitimate parties to any agreement. However, when negotiations do resume, it seems clear that the testimony of some of Burundi’s hundreds of thousands refugees – those such as Desire, Jean Bosco and Esperance – will need to be included.

These voices have rarely been heard as the crisis has worn on, but the experiences of those directly affected by the violence without engaging in it themselves will be critical to both understanding and resolving the situation.

“We refugees are the real ones who are suffering,” says Jean Bosco. “Let us be heard.”

Samantha Lakin is a PhD student at The Strassler Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Clark University, USA. Her research focuses on local perspectives toward memorialisation of mass atrocities and genocide in Rwanda and East Africa. Follow her on twitter at @S_Lakin1.

UN mission in CAR reports more cases of sexual abuse


U.N. mission to Central Africa reports new alleged sexual abuse cases

The United Nations peacekeeping mission for Central African Republic said in a statement on Thursday it has identified seven possible new victims of sexual abuse and exploitation in the country by its peacekeepers, including at least five minors.

The alleged crimes, including rape and gang rape, occurred in the town of Bambari and were brought to the U.N.’s attention by Human Rights Watch, the statement added.

(Reporting by Emma Farge; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Dominic Evans)

UN News Service

New allegations of sexual abuse emerge against UN peacekeepers in Central African Republic

UN Special Representative and head of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) Parfait Onanga-Anyanga. Photo: MINUSCA

4 February 2016 – The United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) reported today that it has identified seven new possible victims of sexual exploitation and abuse in the town of Bambari, just days after the UN revealed which countries’ troops have been accused of abusing minors.

In a press release, MINUSCA said the cases were brought to its attention on 21 January by a team of Human Rights Watch researchers, who passed the information to the Mission in the interest of ensuring medical and psycho-social care for the victims and accountability for any alleged crimes.

Upon receipt of these allegations, MINUSCA says it dispatched a fact-finding expert from the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) to Bambari, near the centre of the country. OIOS found sufficient initial evidence that five of the victims were minors and had been sexually abused and that one adult had been sexually exploited.

Also, OIOS said it was unable to interview the seventh alleged victim, reportedly a minor. Finally, one of the allegations passed to MINUSCA by Human Rights Watch was previously reported and is currently under investigation.

The soldiers implicated in these cases are from the Republic of the Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The Governments of Republic of Congo and DRC have been notified of these allegations and have been asked to launch investigations. The CAR national authorities have also been informed.

“Due to the gravity of these allegations and given the information collected through the initial fact-finding, the United Nations has decided to take immediate measures, including the repatriation of the 120 Republic of Congo soldiers who were deployed to Bambari from 17 September to 14 December 2015,” the Mission announced, noting that this repatriation will occur after an investigation is carried out, and in the meantime the soldiers will be confined to barracks.

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of MINUSCA, Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, today travelled to Bambari with a high level delegation. He expressed his outrage and shame, reminding the troops that “sexual abuse and exploitation is a serious breach of the UN regulations and a human rights violation; a double crime that affects the vulnerable women and children you were sent here to protect.”

He also discussed the sexual exploitation and abuse incidents with affected communities and recommended additional emergency mitigation measures.

Addressing the DRC battalion in the final weeks before its repatriation, MINUSCA’s Force Commander Major General Balla Keita urged the soldiers to “honour themselves, their country, and the UN flag by serving with the highest standards of conduct and dignity.”

Speaking with the press at the end of the visit, the Mr. Onanga-Anyanga said that MINUSCA is “in combat mode” and explained that “he will not rest until these heinous acts are uncovered, perpetrators are punished, and incidents cease.”

Finally, he thanked all partners for the important role they are playing in reporting allegations and caring for victims, adding “we will never win this fight unless we work together.”

News Tracker: past stories on this issue

UN officials name countries whose troops are accused of sexually abusing minors in Central African Republic

Malawi renegotiates over-priced deal by Banda for lake patrol boats

Mail and Guardian

Malawi has renegotiated a $145-million deal with SA’s Paramount group for patrol boats.

Joyce Banda. (Madelene Cronje)

Malawi’s new government has succeeded in slashing a controversial $145-million defence deal signed between former president Joyce Banda and a South African-based arms company, the Paramount Group, saying the contract was “too expensive” and not subjected to “proper analysis”.

After talks with Paramount, Malawi’s finance minister, Goodall Goniwe, said last week that a 2013 credit agreement covering the supply of seven interceptor boats to patrol Lake Malawi was scrapped and replaced by a supply agreement worth $17-million.

The new agreement covered only goods under manufacture at the time of cancellation and “their accompanying services”, Gondwe said.

AmaBhungane was not able to confirm how many of the 8.5m patrol boats had been supplied: neither the defence department nor Paramount would disclose this.

Banda defended the 2013 deal, saying the boats were needed because of a long-running border dispute with neighbouring Tanzania, which was rekindled in 2012 by a Malaw-ian plan to explore the lake for oil. (See below: “Lake’s oil and gas troubles run deep”)

But the deal was criticised as a misdirection of scarce resources in one of the poorest countries in the world.

Questions were also asked about the relationship between Banda and Paramount, said to be Africa’s largest private defence contractor.

“Bypassed” finance ministry

The London-based Daily Telegraph reported that the family foundation of Paramount’s owner, Ivor Ichikowitz, paid for British public relations firm Bell Pottinger to advise Banda on how to polish her image.

The foundation denied any connection between the contract and its charitable activities.

Asked what the government had learnt from the deal, Gondwe said: “The contract highlights the importance of doing proper analyses of contracts before agreeing to them.

“Maybe at the time of making this agreement it was necessary, but when it became apparent that the contract was too expensive it was renegotiated,” he said.

In other media reports, Gondwe charged the contract was illegal and “bypassed” the finance ministry. Another source told the Mail & Guardian it was not passed by government’s procurement committee.

Gondwe was also reported as claiming that the deal damaged Malawi’s credit line to the International Monetary Fund.

Paramount’s director of global marketing, Nico de Klerk, said the group could not comment on the contract’s details because of confidentiality agreements.

He referred to a government-Paramount statement in September 2014, which described as untrue reports that the original deal was illegal and had been terminated.

“We cannot give any information”

At the government’s request, the company “was engaged in constructive dialogue to replace the old contract in order to meet the government’s needs”, the statement said.

It said the original deal “was concluded according to Malawian government processes and signed by the former minister of finance and former minister of defence”, and Malawi’s attorney general had confirmed its legality.

Malawi defence force spokesperson Paul Chiphwanya stonewalled questions about the number of boats supplied and whether and how they were being used.

“We cannot give any information because it’s [a matter of] national security,” he said. “We can’t disclose what we have in the army.”

According to its website, the Paramount subsidiary that supplied the boats, Nautic Africa, has an office at Monkey Bay, in Mangochi, on the southern shores of Lake Malawi.

Its address is given as “Malawi Defence Force – Marine Unit”.

De Klerk said that, as part of the sale of the interceptor boats, Nautic was contracted to provide training for the vessels’ operation and their service and maintenance.

But this had been concluded and the company no longer operated in Malawi.

We have other priorities”

University of Malawi economist Ben Kalua said Malawi was not at war when the contract was signed and that it remained on peaceful terms with its neighbours.

“We are not an economy that needs such contracts,” he said. “We have other priorities: we are in an economic mess and couldn’t repay this loan at the expense of the education and health systems.”

Banda’s spokesperson, Andekuche Chanthunya, insisted Malawi was in danger when the deal was made and needed to bolster its security.

Banda’s former ruling party, the People’s Party, doesn’t regret signing the boats contract, he said.

“We needed the patrol boats on our lake, to keep the country safe. It is routine to have borders checked, even across water. If we just leave the issue we will find our lake gone.”

Lake’s oil and gas troubles run deep

Prospecting for oil and gas on Lake Malawi is to start early this year, according to the Malawi government – despite Tanzania’s objections and Unesco worries about its possible environmental impact.

The principal secretary in Malawi’s ministry of national resources, energy and mines, Ben Botolo, announced at the end of 2015 that exploration would begin in January or February.

Four companies are reported to have been granted exploration licences: South African-based, JSE-listed SacOil Holdings;

Rak Gas, owned by the government of United Arab Emirates emirate Ras al-Khaimah; Cayman Islands-registered Hamra; and Pacific Oil, part of Vega Petroleum, which has oil concessions in Egypt.

When in 2012 Malawi declared its plan to prospect, Tanzania called for exploration to be delayed until the border dispute was settled and then-president Joyce Banda ordered interceptor boats to patrol the disputed waters.

The current frontier skirts Lake Malawi’s northeastern shoreline. Basing its argument on international precedent, Tanzania claims it should run in a north-south line through the middle of the lake.

Fuelling the latter’s sense of grievance is the fact that the Malawi-Mozambican frontier to the south does bisect the lake.

Malawi and Tanzania cite the Heligoland-Zanzibar Treaty of 1890 between Britain and Germany to justify their positions. In keeping with its policy of not meddling with colonially drawn borders, the Organisation of African Unity, and later the African Union, did not become involved.

The dispute first surfaced in 1967 when Tanzania lodged an official protest with the Malawi government, without result. In 2013 there were isolated clashes, amid Tanzanian accusations that its fishermen had been harassed.

Malawians and Tanzanians have waited for the Africa Forum of former African heads of state and government to mediate in the dispute. But the September 2013 deadline came and went, without result.

Some of the prospecting blocks overlap the Lake Malawi National Park, a world heritage site, prompting a monitoring visit by Unesco early last year and a request by the World Heritage Committee for the cancellation of the exploration licences in the park. The committee said an oil spill would be a severe risk to the integrity of the lake’s ecosystem.

Angola – currency falls and economy in crisis as oil price plummets

Daily Nation

Angola economy in crisis as oil price sinks currency

The drop in the price of crude oil has plunged the economy of Africa’s second largest crude producer into a crisis.

This file photo taken on January 26, 2010 shows a woman carrying a bucket of fruits on her head in downtown Luanda. PHOTO | FILE | AFP

This file photo taken on January 26, 2010 shows a woman carrying a bucket of fruits on her head in downtown Luanda. PHOTO | FILE | AFP  


Sitting under an umbrella in the heat of Angola’s capital Luanda, a vendor holds a makeshift currency exchange board on which is scribbled “335 kwanzas: $1” — more than double the official rate of 155 kwanzas.

The drop in the price of crude oil to its lowest level in more than a decade has not only pushed Angola’s currency to record lows, it has plunged the economy of Africa’s second largest crude producer into a crisis.

Despite the country’s oil and diamond resources, Angola suffers endemic poverty, with more than a third of the population of around 24 million living below the poverty line, according to the United Nations.

Fallout from the oil price crunch is inflicting even more pain on the already struggling poor, and risks threatening the stability of the country.

The kwanza currency lost 35 per cent of its value against the dollar last year and Angolans are rushing to turn their local savings into more stable units, yet banks are low on foreign exchange.

The black market is their only hope for now.

“There is a strong demand for the dollar,” said a young black marketeer on condition of anonymity.

The rate “can’t continue to go up like this, otherwise it becomes dangerous, people are fed up”, he said.

In December, central bank governor Jose Pedro de Morais tried to calm nerves, saying there was “no dollar crisis in the country”.

“There is a balance of payment deficit and there are fewer foreign resources, but the 2016 national budget will try to address this temporary difficulty,” he said.

Shortly after his remarks, the bank devalued the currency by 15 per cent against the dollar.

The devaluation did not come as a surprise “given the price of oil, the pressure on the foreign exchange reserves and government revenue below government’s budget,” said an internal note from a regional bank.

“A weaker currency is needed to slow imports demand and help exports.”


Tino Mario Salomao is a businessman who imports mobile phone handsets and other telecommunication products for retail sale in his shop in Luanda.

“We have reached a stage where we cannot travel anymore. At the rate it is going, we will soon run out of stock,” said the 41-year old, who imports from China, India and Dubai.

On January 19, Altantico bank and South African Standard Bank imposed limits on foreign purchases by Angolans.

“Prices of some goods have multiplied four or fivefold,” said Salomao.

“A year ago you could still find a phone for $50 or 5,000 kwanza.

“Now the same phone costs between 15,000 and 17,000 kwanza — a price too high for the majority.

“Many large companies have pulled down their shutters. How can one even pay salaries for 10 or 20 workers?” said Salomao.

“For us who have three workers, we will survive… just for now.”

At Africampos food market, hawker Isabel Paiva, 36, says she is struggling to sell her wares and to scrape together enough to feed her family of four children.

Despite its mineral wealth, Angola has one of the world’s highest infant mortality rates at 167 deaths per 1,000 births, according to the latest UN report.

In 60 per cent of these cases, the deaths are caused by malnutrition, an alarming statistic that may worsen in coming months given the stress on Angola’s economy.

Kenya – counties to get KSh307bn in 2016=17 budget

Star (Kenya)

Micah Cheserem -CRA Chairman

Micah Cheserem -CRA Chairman


THE counties will share Sh307 billion in the 2016/17 Budget, including some Sh3.8 billion in loans and grants, Treasury has proposed.

According to the 2016/17 Budget Policy Statement, the equitable share for the 47 counties will be Sh285 billion, up from Sh259 billion in the current financial year.

The devolved units will also receive an additional allocation of Sh18.2 billion for free maternal health, leasing of medical equipment, Level 5 hospitals and road repairs.

Nairobi will get the largest allocation, of Sh15.3 billion, followed by Turkana, which will get Sh11.8 billion and Kakamega’s Sh10.6 billion.

Others in the top five allocations are Mandera, which will get the fourth largest allocation, Sh10.2 billion, followed by Nakuru at Sh9.8 billion.

Lamu will get the least allocation at Sh2.5 billion, followed by Isiolo at Sh3.5 billion and Tharaka Nithi’s Sh3.6 billion.

Others in the bottom-five allocations are Taita Taveta at Sh3.87 billion and Elgeyo/Marakwet’s Sh3.86 billion.

The Commission on Revenue Allocation had recommended the allocation of Sh377.5 billion to the 47 county governments in the next financial year.

CRA said the allocation should include a Sh331.7 billion total equitable share for the counties and a further Sh44.7 billion as conditional grants.

Treasury said that there are eight conditional allocations being disbursed to the counties in 2015/16, six of them earmarked for the health sector.

According to the BPS, Sh4.3 billion will go to the counties for free maternal healthcare, while Sh4.5 billion will be used for leasing of medical equipment.

In addition, 11 Level 5 hospitals will share Sh4 billion while Sh900 million will be used to compensate the counties for user fees foregone in medical facilities.

There is also a Sh200 million allocation as a special purpose grant for supporting access to emergency medical services in the Lamu and Tana River counties.

County Allocations 2016/17 Financial Year in KSh

Bungoma – 8,870,883,103

Busia – 6,279,682,705

Elgeyo/Marakwet – 3,861,931,534

Embu – 4,666,164,240

Garissa – 7,046,599,071

Homa Bay – 6,545,171,052

Isiolo – 3,556,849,145

Kajiado – 5,231,598,422

Kakamega – 10,675,536,074

Kericho – 5,245,788,652

Kiambu – 9,057,178,400

Kilifi – 8,718,739,315

Kirinyaga – 4,110,570,627

Kisii – 8,615,014,591

Kisumu – 6,991,710,087

Kitui – 8,436,594,415

Kwale – 6,019,918,339

Laikipia – 4,081,024,712

Lamu – 2,521,242,318

Machakos – 8,117,560,933

Makueni – 6,865,922,921

Mandera – 10,202,199,694

Marsabit – 5,950,843,692

Meru – 9,473,803,41

Migori – 6,939,235,598

Mombasa – 6,516,782,616

Muranga – 6,183,321,114

Nairobi – 15,337,765,135

Nakuru – 9,834,875,606

Nandi – 5,491,849,769

Narok – 6,158,483,294

Nyamira – 4,834,267,842

Nyandarua – 4,972,537,724

Nyeri – 5,576,261,514

Samburu – 4,111,578,496

Siaya – 5,827,436,255

Taita Taveta – 3,878,389,095

Tana River – 4,692,620,060

Tharaka Nithi – 3,688,974,425

Trans Nzoia – 5,874,905,698

Turkana – 11,897,147,665

Uasin Gishu – 6,030,878,991

Vihiga – 4,500,627,917

Wajir – 8,282,772,503

West Pokot – 5,021,222,862

South Sudan – troops suffocate 50 civilians in containers


South Sudanese government soldiers. File photoAFP The JMEC report also accused both government troops and rebel forces of rape and looting

South Sudan’s government troops killed about 50 civilians last October by stuffing them into a shipping container in baking heat, a report has said.

The document by the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC), which oversees the country’s ceasefire, said the incident took place in Unity State.

The government has not commented on the claim – the latest reported atrocities in more than two years of war.

Thousands of people have been killed and millions displaced since then.

“About 50 people suffocated in a container on about 22 October. The investigation was protracted. Attribution of responsibility: Government Forces,” the JMEC report said.

The document by the monitoring group, which is backed by the African Union, was made public late on Sunday.

Metal containers are often used as makeshift prison cells in the country.


South Sudan’s government has repeatedly denied carrying out atrocities in the conflict.

The JMEC report also accused both government troops and rebel forces of rape, murder and looting.

The civil war began in December 2013 when President Salva Kiir accused his former deputy Riek Machar of plotting a coup.

The two sides blame each other for violating the terms of a peace deal agreement reached in August.

African Union adopts Kenyan proposal for ICC withdrawal

Star (Kenya) HEAR THIS: President Uhuru Kenyatta makes his address at this year’s African Union Heads of State and Government Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.Inset

NOW HEAR THIS: President Uhuru Kenyatta makes his address at this year’s African Union Heads of State and Government Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

THE African Union yesterday adopted a proposal by President Uhuru Kenyatta for the AU to develop a roadmap for the withdrawal of African nations from the Rome Statute.

The proposal was adopted alongside a report by the AU Ministerial Committee of Ministers of Foreign Affairs. The report draws a red line for the ICC on how it has been handling the case against Deputy President William Ruto and Joshua arap Sang.

The document asks the ICC to terminate the case against the DP and Sang as it lacks any believable evidence.

President Kenyatta said Africa should make a powerful statement that reflects its refusal to be carried along in a system that has no regard for the sovereignty of nations and tramples on the security as well as the dignity of Africans.

He said the only option left for Africa was to completely withdraw from the Rome Statute because the ICC’s utility at this time of global turmoil is extremely limited.

President Kenyatta said the continent’s leaders will be failing in their duty if they continued shoring up a dysfunctional instrument whose mainstay was to humiliate Africans and distract their governments from their mandates.

“We refuse to be carried along in a vehicle that has strayed off-course to the detriment of our sovereignty, security and dignity as Africans,” said the President.

The document and the proposal to instruct the Ministerial Committee of Ministers of Foreign to embark on drawing up the roadmap were adopted in the afternoon.

The ministers will first proceed to have meetings with the United Nations Security Council on the AU resolution asking for the termination of the Kenya cases and several other recommendations.

The outcome of the meetings between the ministers and the UN Security Council will determine the next course of action, which includes exercising the mandate for the mass withdrawal roadmap.

President Kenyatta pointed out that Kenya’s position, which is shared by other countries, was borne out of the total disrespect with which

the ICC has treated the concerns of Kenya and other African nations.

“When Kenya and the large group of African countries joined the International Criminal Court . . . We sought to combat impunity while being sensitive to the reality of our young and fragile democracies.”


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