Monday, May 30, 2016

Buhari to Keep Delta Amnesty Program
May 30, 2016

Lagos. — Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari vowed yesterday to keep and “re-engineer” a controversial amnesty programme for Niger delta militants designed to stem attacks that have slashed oil exports but set to be scrapped.

The announcement, made in a televised speech marking his first year in office, is an apparent reversal from earlier this year when his government pledged to end the scheme by 2018.

The costly programme introduced in 2009 after years of violence by separatist militants pays monthly stipends to 30 000 former militants as well as offering them training opportunities. A wave of recent attacks on Nigeria’s oil infrastructure has seen the country’s oil output drop to the lowest level in two decades, putting pressure on the Nigerian government to restore peace in the southern swamplands.

“The recent spate of attacks by militants disrupting oil and power installations will not distract us from engaging leaders in the region,” Buhari said.

“Re-engineering the amnesty programmes is an example of this.”

This week militant group Niger Delta Avengers claimed responsibility for three separate attacks targeting oil giants Chevron and Shell as well as the Nigerian National Petroleum Company. Faced with a looming recession and depleted cash reserves, Buhari has limited options to deal with rebels having already cut back spending on the amnesty programme. — AFP.
Arab League Chief Denounces Israel at Peace Talks Meeting
AFP, Ahram Online
Sunday 29 May 2016

Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi blasted Israel as a bastion of "fascism and racial discrimination" on Saturday at a meeting of Arab foreign ministers that backed France's Middle East peace initiative.

The Arab ministers at the end of the meeting adopted a resolution backing "the French initiative and all Arab and international efforts" for peace talks between Israeli occupation authorities and Palestinians.

In his speech to the ministers, Arabi, who has been a vocal critic of Israel, said the country "has truly become today the last bastion of fascism, colonialism and racial discrimination in the world".

Palestinian Authority president Mahmud Abbas has rejected an Israeli offer for direct negotiations instead of the French multilateral peace initiative, which Israel has turned down.

On Saturday, he blamed Israeli occupation authorities for stalling the talks.

"We tried hard with the Israeli government to implement signed treaties and respect our and their commitments, but they refused," he said.

The French initiative involves holding a meeting of foreign ministers from a range of countries, including US Secretary of State John Kerry, on June 3, but without the Israelis and Palestinians present.

An international conference would then be held in the autumn, with the Israelis and Palestinians in attendance. The goal is an eventual relaunch of negotiations that would lead to a Palestinian state.

Meanwhile, Egypt's foreign minister Sameh Shoukry said that Egypt will participate in this Middle East peace conference.

During his speech at the Arab foreign ministers meeting on Saturday, Shoukry expressed his wish that this initiative brings peace stalled talks between Palestinians and Israelis back on track. Negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians have been at a standstill since a US-led initiative collapsed in April 2014.

Since the start of October 2015, Israeli occupation forces have killed at least 205 Palestinians. Meanwhile, almost daily stabbings, shootings and car-ramming attacks by frustrated and unarmed Palestinians have killed 28 Israelis and a US citizen.

The current wave of protests by Palestinians and repression by Israeli occupation forces started in late July when toddler Ali Dawabsha was burned to death and three other Palestinians were severely injured after their house in the occupied West Bank was set on fire by Israeli settlers.

Settlement-building, racial discrimination, confiscation of identity cards, long queues at checkpoints, as well as daily clashes and the desecration of Al-Aqsa mosque, describe Palestinians' daily suffering.

The anger of Palestinian residents of Jerusalem has increased in the last three years after the Israeli authorities allowed increasing numbers of Jewish settlers to storm the Al-Aqsa mosque.

The surge in violence has been fuelled by Palestinians' frustration over Israel's 48-year occupation of land they seek for an independent state, and the expansion of settlements in those territories which were captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war.

Palestinian leaders say a younger generation sees no hope for the future living under Israeli security restrictions and with a stifled economy. The latest round of U.S.-brokered peace talks collapsed in April 2014.

*The story was edited by Ahram Online.

http://english.ahram.org.eg/News/217853.aspx
Egypt Says Ethiopia Remains Committed Not to Harm its Nile Water Share
Ahram Online
Sunday 29 May 2016

For several years, Egypt has raised fears that Ethiopia's $4.2 billion Grand Renaissance Dam will negatively affect its Nile water share

Egypt's foreign ministry has underlined that Ethiopian officials repeatedly deny being indifferent towards any damage that could result from construction of the country's Grand Renaissance Dam.

Ethiopia's communications minister, Getachew Reda, was quoted by Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper Friday as saying that the Grand Renaissance Dam has become a "reality" and that "no matter what happens, things will not change."

Reda stated that “Sudan, Ethiopia and Egypt have agreed on the technical committees. Furthermore, we haven’t promised to stop construction work pending the completion of technical studies.”

Egypt's foreign ministry spokesperson Ahmed Abu Zeid said in a statement on Sunday that the communications office of the Ethiopian council of ministers highlighted that Ethiopia is committed to the declaration of principles on the building of the Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile.

"The Egyptian embassy in Addis Ababa has directly contacted Ethiopian officials to verify the accuracy of the statements ... Ethiopian officials stressed they are committed not to harming Egypt's water share," the statement read.

The declaration of principles signed by Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt on 25 March was a step towards putting an end to a four-year dispute over Nile water sharing arrangements among Nile Basin countries. Ten principles are outlined in the document signed by the three countries.

For several years, Egypt has raised fears over Ethiopia's construction of the $4.2 billion Grand Renaissance Dam, saying it would negatively affect its Nile water share.

The 6,000 megawatt Ethiopian dam, set to be Africa's largest, is expected to be completed by 2017. Ethiopia has finished constructing at least 70 percent of the dam.

http://english.ahram.org.eg/News/217857.aspx
Egyptians Fear Reconciliation Could Subvert Justice in Sectarian Attacks
Menna Alaa El-Din
Ahram Online
Sunday 29 May 2016

With Minya prosecutors releasing on Sunday five defendants on bail who were suspected to have been involved in sectarian attacks against Christians in the Upper Egyptian governorate last week, some fear that possible attempts to reach reconciliation may result in the assailants escaping justice.

President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi had urged the government to take "necessary measures to preserve public order to protect [citizens] and property within the rule of law" after the sectarian mob attack in El-Karm village, which saw several Christian homes burned and an elderly Christian woman stripped in public.

Members of the ‘Family House’ organisation, made up of Al-Azhar sheikhs as well as Coptic Orthodox Church officials, visited the village in Minya in an attempt to help resolve the issue.

An official delegation visited the village and held a meeting at the governor’s office to "affirm the rule of law and hold the perpetrators accountable," as well as help spread “religious and moral awareness so such incidents... do not take place.”

The meeting was attended by the governor and several Christian leaders and MPs.

However, Bishop Macarius of Minya and Abu Qirqas, delegated by Pope Tawadros II to speak on behalf of the Coptic Orthodox Church on the Minya case,denounced the visit, which he said aimed to reach a reconciliation that would prevent the perpetrators from being held accountable.

He said the Christian officials who attended the meeting did not represent the Coptic Orthodox Church.

"I refused to attend the meeting so as to deliver a message that enforcing the law should come before any meeting," he said in an official statement.

The bishop said the efforts by the ‘Family House’ could lead to a "crisis" where the victims are “forced to withdraw.”

He added that similar interference in several earlier incidents that led to "reconciliation" resulted in the issue never being resolved.

A member of the delegation, Abdel-Fattah El-Awary, denied the claims that talks about a possible reconciliation took place.

"No one discussed the issue of reconciliation. How can reconciliation take place if justice has not been served?" El-Awary said in a phone interview with a television programme, adding that the ‘Family House’ was responding to El-Sisi's call.

Reconciliation vs justice

Religious and community leaders often hold meetings to resolve sectarian tensions between Muslims and Christians in an extra-legal manner in Egyptian villages.

The head of the religious freedoms desk at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, Ishak Ibrahim, told Ahram Online that such informal assemblies convened to solve sectarian issues “have always had a bad and worrying history.”

“Such reconciliation sessions are often used as a justification to resolve the issue by having victims give up on their rights,” Ibrahim says.

According to Ibrahim, the prosecution is still obliged by lawto continue its investigations and collect evidence and listen to eyewitnesses.

"This is a crime that involves an assault on families and the threatening and intimidation of citizens," he adds.

Ibrahim believes that this latest incident – which he says was particularly extreme due to its degrading nature – comes amid a growing frustration with these reconciliation talks.

"There had to come a time when people feel that such [efforts were circumventing] the law," he said.

http://english.ahram.org.eg/News/217868.aspx
One Civilian Killed, 20 Others Injured in Terrorist Rocket Attacks on Aleppo
A Syrian military gunner takes up position in war zone.
29 May، 2016

Aleppo, SANA-A citizen was killed Sunday and three others were wounded in a rocket shell, fired by terrorists on al-Siryan al-Jadidah neighborhood in Aleppo.

Earlier, 17 civilians were injured in terrorist attacks with rocket shells on residential neighborhoods in Aleppo in a new breach of the cessation of hostilities.

A source at Aleppo police command told SANA reporter that terrorists targeted al-Midan neighborhood with 8 rocket shells, injuring four people and causing the collapse of an entire building.

On Sunday afternoon, terrorist groups targeted al-Ramouseh neighborhood with a rocket shell and snipper shots, injuring nine civilians.

A rocket shell fired by terrorists on al-Neel street injured three civilians, whereas explosive shots fired by terrorists from machine guns towards locals in Adonis neighborhood injured a woman.

On Saturday, four people including two children were killed and scores others were injured in similar terrorist attacks that targeted residential neighborhoods in Aleppo city.

Terrorist groups breached the cessation of hostilities more than 600 times since it came into effect on February 27.


Many terrorists killed in army operations, including 44 in Hama

Provinces, SANA – More terrorists are getting killed as the army units, backed by the Air Force, continued Sunday striking their positions in various areas, with their equipment and vehicles destroyed in the operations.

Homs

Dozens of ISIS vehicles were destroyed during sorties by the Syrian Army air force against terrorists’ gatherings in the eastern countryside of Homs.

The Syrian army’s air force carried out on Sunday morning sorties against ISIS terrorists’ dens in al-Sukhneh town and to the east of it and in the villages of Taiba, Unq al-Hawa, Abu al-Hawadeed in the eastern countryside of Homs central province.

The sorties inflicted heavy losses upon the terrorists in personnel and weaponry and destroyed vehicles loaded with weapons and others equipped with machineguns.

The air force also destroyed supply lines of ISIS and vehicles equipped with machineguns during sorties that targeted the movements of the terrorists in Rahoum village 85 kilometers to the east of Homs city.

Later on Sunday, army units in cooperation with the popular defense groups carried out a concentrated operation against ISIS terrorists’ gatherings in al-Bardeh area in the south eastern countryside of Homs.

Four vehicles loaded with weapons belonging to ISIS were destroyed during the operation.

An army unit destroyed 4 vehicles loaded with weapons belonging to ISIS in al-Bardah area in the southeast countryside of Homs.

Hama

Army units operating in the northern countryside of the neighboring Hama province clashed at dawn with terrorist groups from Jabaht al-Nusra, Ahrar al-Sham Islamic Movement and al-Jabha al-Shamia that attacked military posts in the directions of Tal Bzam, Tal Huweir and to the east of Morek.

The clashes ended with thwarting the assault, where at least 35 terrorists were killed and a 57mm machine gun, a rocket launcher and 6 vehicles equipped with machine guns were destroyed.

In the eastern countryside of Hama, an army unit repelled an ISIS attack on army posts in the vicinity of al-Saan-Atherya road, killing 9 ISIS terrorists and destroying a vehicle equipped with a machine gun.

Deir Ezzor

The air force also carried out intensive sorties on the gatherings and hideouts of ISIS terrorists in the vicinity of Deir Ezzor city.

The sorties targeted ISIS terrorists in the vicinity of Tharda Mountain near the military airport and south and east of Panorama area on the southwestern sides of Deir Ezzor city.

ISIS terrorists suffered heavy losses as their various machineguns-equipped vehicles were destroyed in the airstrikes.


Four civilians killed, scores others injured in rocket terrorist attacks on Aleppo

Aleppo, SANA- Four civilians were killed and scores others were injured in terrorist attacks with rocket shells on residential neighborhoods in Aleppo city on Saturday.

Terrorist groups violated the cessation of hostilities and targeted al-Sheikh Maqsoud neighborhood with rocket shells, killing four civilians including two children and injuring 18 others.

A source at Aleppo police command said in a statement to SANA reporter that terrorist groups targeted al-Midan residential neighborhood with a rocket shell, injuring a civilian and causing material damage to seven cars and some houses in the area.

Later on Saturday afternoon, terrorist groups fired rocket shells on New Aleppo and al-Ashrafiyeh neighborhoods, injuring a number of civilians and causing material damage to locals’ properties.

On Friday, terrorist groups fired more than 10 rocket shells on al-Midan neighborhood, killing an elderly woman, injuring nine other persons and causing a vast devastation in an infirmary and a number of houses and properties in the area.
Thousands of Vaccines Coming From Turkey Enter Terrorist-controlled Areas in Aleppo Countryside
29 May، 2016

Damascus, SANA- About 6,000 doses of vaccines for children coming from Turkey entered areas in the northwestern countryside of Aleppo where terrorist organizations are active during the past few days.

Local sources told SANA reporter that the locals refused to give vaccines to their children for fear of them being corrupt or inconsistent with health conditions in terms of quality, expiry date, reliability, the producing company and the way they are saved and transferred.

On September 16 2014, fake health establishments linked to terrorist organizations in cooperation with the Turkish authorities vaccinated children in the eastern areas of Maaret al-Nouman in Idleb countryside with corrupt, polluted and poisoned vaccines for measles, killing 15 children who died immediately after being vaccinated while scores others suffered from suffocation.

In a relevant context, the Ministry of Health called on locals in the areas near the joint border with Turkey not to deal with any medicines or vaccines which enter their areas by the Turkish authorities, asserting that the ministry will spare no effort in providing locals with medical needs especially vaccines for children through all available means in cooperation with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and other international organizations concerned with health affairs in the Syrian territories.

The ministry said that it takes into account the fact that giving the vaccines to children requires strict standards, technical conditions, skills and expertise by specialized medical staffs.
Turkish Army Crosses Syrian Border
27.05.2016
Pravda.Ru

The Turkish army has crossed the Syrian border and advanced 700 metres towards Aleppo.

The Turkish soldiers fought their way through Syria, leaving behind the border of Turkey and Syria.

The Al Mayadeen TV Channel reported that the Turkish soldiers set a checkpoint near the city of Afrin. It is situated to the north-west of the Aleppo province. It is noted that Afrin's population consists of the Kurds mainly.

As for now the mass media possesses no official confirmation of the data.

Previously the Turkish Armed Forces delivered artillery fire against the military airfield of Minnekh, which is situated to the north of the Syrian Aleppo province.

Beside that, the Turkish Armed Forces attacked one of the cities in the same province. According to witnesses, the shells hit civil homes. Before that, the Turks struck Kurds near the city of Azaz in the north of Syria. The shells hit an airbase the Kurdish People's Protection Units had retaken from the ISIS.

- See more at: http://www.pravdareport.com/news/world/asia/syria/27-05-2016/134557-turkey-0/#sthash.WIVhkf9l.dpuf
Four Ceasefire Violations Reported in Syria in Past Day - Russian Reconciliation Center
May 30, 1:28 UTC+3

In the province of Damascus, Jaysh al-Islam groups shelled the settlements of Harasta and Marj al-Sultan and Damascus’ Masakid Barza district from multiple missile launcher systems and mortars

MOSCOW, May 29. /TASS/. The ceasefire regime has been generally observed in most of Syria’s provinces, with four violations reported in the provinces of Damascus and Aleppo in the past day, the Russian center for reconciliation of the warring parties in Syria said in its regular daily news bulletin posted on the Russian defense ministry’s website on Sunday.

In the province of Damascus, Jaysh al-Islam groups shelled the settlements of Harasta and Marj al-Sultan and Damascus’ Masakid Barza district from multiple missile launcher systems and mortars. Aleppo’s al-Zahra district came under shelling from multiple missile launcher systems.

"No air strikes were delivered by the Russian air group and the Syrian air force at armed opposition group which have declared cessation of hostilities and referred their coordinates to the Russian or U.S. reconciliation centers," the center said.

The regime of silence in Eastern Ghouta and Darayya in the province of Damascus is still in place.

However groups constituting the international terrorist organization Jabhat al-Nusra (outlawed in Russia) are continuing provocation aimed at disrupt the regime of cessation of hostilities. During the day, they used multiple missile launcher systems and mortars to shell the settlement of Handrat, the al-Nayrab airport and Aleppo’s districts of Sheikh Maksoud, Meidan and Salah al-Din.

Jabhat al-Nusra groups shelled the settlement of Fua in the province of Idlib, the capital city’s airport in the province of Hama, the settlement of Mesherfa in the province of Homs, the settlements of Khakur-Takhtani, Rasha and Ard al-Wata in the province of Latakia.

Islamic State gunmen attacked positions of the Kurdish forces near the settlement of Azaz in the province of Aleppo. The Kurdish forces drove the terrorists from the settlement of Sheikh-aisa. Government troops repelled a Jabhat al-Nusra attack near the settlement of Beitima in the province of Damascus, as follows from the bulletin.

A ceasefire regime brokered by Russia and the United States on February 22 officially came into effect in Syria at midnight Damascus time on February 27. This does not cover terrorist groups such as Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra, both outlawed in Russia, and other groups recognized as terrorist by the United Nations Security Council.

An hour before the ceasefire came into force, the United Nations Security Council adopted a resolution in support cessation of hostilities in Syria. The document was initiated by Russia and the United States and won support from all the 15 members of the United Nations Security Council.

Humanitarian aid

A total of 15 tons of humanitarian aid has been delieverd to a camp for internally displaced persons in Latakia which gives shelter to up to 2,500 people, including more than 1,300 children.

According to the bulletin, more humanitarian convoys are being formed for Syrians. The Russian center’s doctors offered medical services to 93 citizens, including 38 children.

Apart from that, one ton of humanitarian cargoes was delivered to the settlement of Terqan in the province of Aleppo and one ton was delivered to a camp for internally displaced persons in the settlement of Mesherfa in the province of Homs, the bulletin says.

A ceasefire regime brokered by Russia and the United States on February 22 officially came into effect in Syria at midnight Damascus time on February 27. This does not cover terrorist groups such as Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra, both outlawed in Russia, and other groups recognized as terrorist by the United Nations Security Council.

An hour before the ceasefire came into force, the United Nations Security Council adopted a resolution in support cessation of hostilities in Syria. The document was initiated by Russia and the United States and won support from all the 15 members of the United Nations Security Council.

The Russian reconciliation center aims to assist armed groups in Syria in concluding ceasefire agreements, maintain the truce regime, control its observance and organize the delivery of humanitarian cargoes to civilians.

More:
http://tass.ru/en/politics/878820
Syrian Forces Deliver Air Strikes at IS Base to South of Raqqa - Media
May 30, 5:34 UTC+3

BEIRUT, May 29. /TASS/. Syrian Air Force has attacked a large base of the Islamic State (IS) terrorist organization in eastern Syria, SANA new agency reported on Monday.

As a result of the attack, IS transport and military equipment were destroyed on their way from the Syrian Desert.

Syria Air Force also delivered strikes at militant camps along the highway to Raqqa. According to SANA, IS transports oil and gas in tankers to the Turkish border through Rahum - a settlement at the junction of Raqqa and Homs provinces.

Air strikes were also delivered at IS positions in 70 kilometers from Palmyra and adjacent areas. Militants sustained losses in personnel and equipment.

In Deir ez-Zor on the Euphrates river (in 432 kilometers from Damascus), Syrian forces attacked IS positions on Jebel-Sarda heights near a military aerodrome.

More:
http://tass.ru/en/world/878826
Lavrov, Kerry Discuss Situation in Syria, Moscow’s Initiatives on Joint Operations
May 29, 20:50 UTC+3

The sides agreed to invigorate work with all of the Syrian parties and with all the countries concerned to have them obey by the resolutions of the ISSG and UN Security Council resolutions

MOSCOW, May 29. /TASS/. Russian and U.S. top diplomats, Sergei Lavrov and John Kerry, had a telephone conversation on Sunday to discuss the situation in Syria and Russia’s initiatives on joint operation against terrorist organizations and other armed groups that violate the ceasefire in Syria, the Russian foreign ministry said.

"Sergei Lavrov once again stressed the necessity of the soonest closure of Syria’s border with Turkey from where infiltration of militants continue and of Washington’s keeping its promise to dissociate Syrian opposition groups it has contacts with from Jabha al-Nusra terrorists who are not covered by the ceasefire," the ministry said.

The sides agreed to invigorate work with all of the Syrian parties and with all the countries concerned to have them obey by the resolutions of the International Syria Support Group and United Nations Security Council resolutions 2254 and 2268, the ministry said, adding that the two ministers discussed other topical international issues, including the situation in UKraine, and certain issues of the bilateral agenda.

A ceasefire regime brokered by Russia and the United States on February 22 officially came into effect in Syria at midnight Damascus time on February 27. This does not cover terrorist groups such as Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra, both outlawed in Russia, and other groups recognized as terrorist by the United Nations Security Council.

An hour before the ceasefire came into force, the United Nations Security Council adopted a resolution in support cessation of hostilities in Syria. The document was initiated by Russia and the United States and won support from all the 15 members of the United Nations Security Council.

More:
http://tass.ru/en/politics/878806
Conference on Russian-Chinese Relations Opens in Moscow
MOSCOW, May 30. /TASS/. The two-day conference "Russia-China: transition to new quality of bilateral relations" opens in Moscow on Monday. The forum organized by the Russian Council on International Relations (RCIR) will gather politicians, high-ranking diplomats, experts and entrepreneurs.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will make a speech at the conference on May 31.

The event is devoted to two important dates - 15th anniversary of signing a bilateral agreement on good-neighborly relations, friendship and cooperation, and upcoming visit of the Russian President Vladimir Putin to China in June.

Russia, China to discuss construction of Western route — minister

Among the main topics on the agenda are practical issues of linking the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB).

"The cooperation between two strategic projects creates optimal conditions for forming a principally new economic and political environment on the Eurasian space," the Council said. "However, crisis events in the global economic system and complicated processes in national economics of Russia and China create new challenges for fulfilling large-scale development projects as they require new, innovational approaches to cooperation."

The Russian Foreign Ministry noted that it is important to discuss main achievements at the conference and analyze unresolved problems in bilateral cooperation, as well as to prepare proposals on further development of the strategic partnership.

Preparations for visit

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov visited Beijing on April 28-29, in the framework of preparations for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to China. Lavrov met with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

According to Lavrov, proposals are being prepared in all spheres of cooperation "with an aim of further deepening cooperation in politics, economy and humanitarian sphere."

"We have big agreements in the economic sphere, and we want to do as much as possible to promote them in the practical sense before the Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit. Of course, we closely cooperate on the international arena, where our cooperation serves as a very important stabilizing factor," Lavrov said.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that the sides will increase their cooperation in energy, innovations and production.

Linking integrations

Apart from the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa), the topic of linking integrational processes in EAEU and Silk Road Economic Belt are also on the agenda of relations between Moscow and Beijing.

Cooperation is developing very fast as EAEU is already preparing a corresponding document.
"Dialogue is simultaneously developing at the level of foreign ministers of Russia and China, devoted to coordinating the list of promising projects for implementation in the context of general framework which we characterize with the term ‘linking’," Lavrov said in Beijing. "These projects are being developing not only as exclusively Russian-Chinese, but they are also open for admitting other interested partners.".

More:
http://tass.ru/en/politics/878821
As Many as 900 Migrants Killed at Sea This Week
By Daniel Politi
Slate Magazine

Migrants are seen on a capsizing boat before a rescue operation by Italian navy ships off the coast of Libya in this handout picture on May 25, 2016. Marina Militare/Handout via REUTERS

At least 700 refugees are believed to have been killed in numerous shipwrecks across the Mediterranean this week, according to the United Nations high Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Doctors Without Borders estimated that the number of dead was as high as 900 although it emphasized on Twitter that “we will never know exact numbers.” Around 14,000 people were rescued since Monday and there have been at least three large shipwrecks. The loss of life appears to add up to the deadliest week in the Mediterranean since April 2015, when as many as 800 people are believed to have been killed in a single shipwreck.

"It really looks like that in the last period the situation is really worsening in the last week, if the news is confirmed," Giovanna Di Benedetto, a Save the Children spokeswoman in Italy, tells the Associated Press.

The deadliest shipwreck of the week took place on Thurday, when a large fishing boat overturned. Although initial estimates put the number of dead in that shipwreck at 400, the U.N. refugee agency says the real number is likely closer to 550. The agency is also estimating that around 100 people died when a boat capsized Wednesday off the coast of Libya and some 45 people were killed on Friday with an unknown number still missing.

More than 13,000 people have entered Italy through the sea since Monday, reports the Los Angeles Times, which notes that government authorities were caught off guard by the sudden surge in migrants. “This week has been the most intense this year and one of the busiest ever,” said Save the Children’s Di Benedetto.

On Friday, the International Organization for Migration said an estimated 194,611 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea so far this year, while around 1,475 died during the journey. 
700 Reported Drown in the Mediterranean
(Vatican Radio) The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees says more than 700 people fleeing war and poverty are believed to have drowned in the Mediterranean Sea in recent days, and survivors claim dozens of children are among those feared dead.

The UNHCR also warned Europe that the death toll will rise further unless more legal ways are opened for asylum seekers in Europe.  

The week of shipwrecks and death in the Mediterranean culminated with harrowing testimony from refugees who narrowly survived these tragedies. They said hundreds have drowned including at least 40 children. On Sunday, the UNHCR, the UN's main refugee agency, their stories saying many drowned in three Mediterranean Sea shipwrecks south of Italy.

UNHCR spokesperson Carlotta Sami said thousands had been rescued since Monday, May 23. "Fifteen thousand people have been rescued by the Italian coast guard and by the Italian coast guard and many other assets," she said.

"But from survivors who are still landing in Italy we heard that at least 700 people may have died and gone missing. Several bodies have been recovered out of three ships wrecks that happened on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday," Sami explained.  

"There were other incidents. Like for example four women have died because of suffocation and burns and we have an orphan of nine months only. And several other people have fallen out of the boat," she added.

DRAMATIC IMAGES

The Italian navy released video of an operation last week in which it said 562 people were rescued and five found dead. A large wooden fishing boat carrying  desperate people capsized off the coast of Libya. Hundreds of migrants were seen in the water swimming away as Italian sailors threw life jackets.

An Italian navy patrol boat had approached the vessel to hand out life jackets, but before it could begin a rescue the boat flipped over due to the sudden movement of passengers.

A helicopter, and several rubber motor boats were eventually used in the rescue operations.  Yet, UNHCR spokeswoman Sami warns of more tragedies to come. "What is happening...this is the new normal. It is awful,but basically the central Mediterranean route is confirmed as the most dreadful," she said.

"It is very much needed to open some legal way for those who have right to asylum to arrive to arrive into Europe otherwise they will continue to get into these really flimsy boats," the spokeswoman stressed.

She added that survivors said human smugglers often push people out of boats into the sea. But for now, the European Union seems unwilling to take in many more refugees. The Balkan route is virtually closed off and several EU countries don't even want to participate in a plan to distribute some 160.000 refugees among member states.
Rescued Migrants Say Ship Sank Off Italy With Hundreds Aboard - NGO
MAY 29, 2016 - 00:14

Migrants sit in their boat during a rescue operation by Italian navy ship Grecale (unseen) off the coast of Sicily, Italy, in this handout picture courtesy of the Italian Marina Militare released on May 6 2016. Marina Militare/Handout via REUTERS

ROME (Reuters) - Migrants rescued from two boats in the Mediterranean this week told humanitarian workers in Italy that they saw another vessel carrying some 400 migrants sink, Save the Children said on Saturday.

Three vessels carrying migrants already are confirmed to have sunk or capsized this week. More than 60 bodies are said to have been recovered, including those of three infants, and hundreds are believed to be missing.

But the possible sinking of a fourth vessel on Thursday had not been reported, said Giovanna Di Benedetto, spokeswoman for Save the Children in Italy.

That ship along with another fishing boat and a rubber boat left Sabratha in Libya late Wednesday night, according to interviews on Saturday with some of the more than 600 survivors from the two other vessels in the Sicilian port of Pozzallo.

They said the rubber boat had its own motor, but the smaller fishing boat, carrying some 400 migrants, did not. It was towed by the larger fishing vessel, which held about 500 others.

Eventually the smaller boat began to take on water and, when the captain of the larger boat ordered the tow line cut, sank with most of its passengers, the survivors told Save the Children. Those aboard the other two vessels were not rescued until much later.

"There were many women and children on board," the survivors said, according to Di Benedetto. "We collected testimony from several of those rescued from both (the rubber and fishing) boats. They all say they saw the same thing."

On the orders of the court of Ragusa, police have detained a man who they suspect was the captain of the larger boat, state news agency Ansa reported. Police are interviewing witnesses of the possible tragedy, la Repubblica Web site said.

Mild weather has brought on a surge in migrant traffic this week between Libya and Italy, and about 700 more migrants were picked up on Saturday, the coast guard said.

Pope Francis met with children at the Vatican earlier in the day to talk about migration, urging them to welcome migrants because they "are not dangerous, but in danger."

(Reporting by Steve Scherer; Editing by Paul Simao)
More Than 700 Migrants Have Drowned in Mediterranean in Past Few Days
The UN refugee agency, as well as aid agency Medecins San Frontieres, say anywhere from 700 to 900 migrants may have died at sea this week making the journey from Libya toward Italy. (Reuters)

By Chico Harlan
Washington Post
May 29 at 6:09 PM

More than 700 migrants died in the Mediterranean Sea last week as their boats foundered, aid and refugee agencies estimated Sunday, with most of them attempting to flee the Libyan coast for Italy in the deadliest period of migration to Europe this year.

The sinkings raise concerns that Europe is facing yet another summer with an overwhelming surge of new arrivals and intensify the debate over how to handle them. Although the migrant influx tends to slow during the winter and early spring, waters are growing warmer and calmer: Over the past week alone, 15,000 people arrived in Italy, many of them pulled to shore in dramatic emergency naval or coast guard rescue operations.

“This is the beginning of the peak season,” Federico Fossi, a spokesman for the United Nations’ refugee agency, said by phone from Rome. “It’s intense.”

Fossi cautioned that the death toll from last week was an estimate based on accounts from survivors. But he said that in the span of three days starting last Wednesday, there were three ­separate and deadly shipwrecks about 35 nautical miles from Libya. Photos from one rescue showed a trawler flipping over, shoveling hundreds of people into the sea. The week was probably the deadliest in the Mediterranean since April 2015.

Of last week’s sinkings, the most catastrophic occurred on an engineless vessel tied with rope to a fishing boat. About 500 migrants were on the fishing boat and 600 more were on the vessel being towed, Fossi said. When it began to sink, several dozen passengers were rescued or managed to climb aboard the other boat. But 550 died or were left missing.

According to several accounts from news wire services, a Sudanese captain ordered the cutting of the rope between the two vessels as the trailing one began to take on water. That captain was arrested after his arrival in Pozzallo, a port town in Sicily.

“And let me tell you — this is quite a new thing,” Fossi said. “We have never seen that before — a boat without an engine tied by a rope to the other one. That shows you the human traffickers are becoming really, really greedy and cynical and merciless. Tying a boat to another one is really dangerous.”

Last year, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), about 3,800 people died or vanished at sea trying to make it to Europe. This year, after accounting for the latest sinkings, the number stands above 2,000.

War, repression and government collapse in parts of the Middle East and Africa have caused what many consider to be the worst migration crisis since World War II. In 2015, more than 1 million migrants tried to enter European Union countries. This year, nearly 200,000 have arrived on Europe’s shores.

The influx has tested the con­tinent’s ability to cope and has provided fertile ground for politicians favoring tighter border controls and decreased European integration. Hungary has built razor-wire fences along its borders with Serbia and Croatia. A right-winger vowing to “stop the invasion of Muslims” was narrowly defeated in Austria’s presidential race. Those who favor the British exit from the European Union — the nation votes on the matter next month — say such a move would allow vastly tighter border control.

According to the Associated Press, quoting Britain’s Home Office, 18 migrants coming from Albania were rescued this week from an inflatable boat that ran into trouble in the English Channel.

Although a large-scale exodus from Syria is partly responsible for the unparalleled flow, the routes between Libya and Italy have tended to transport Africans — particularly Nigerians, Eritreans and Somalis. Aid workers have speculated that Italy, rather than Greece, could emerge this year as the primary starting point for migrants, following the tightening of borders between Greece and its northern neighbors. That has effectively thwarted migrants from moving into the more prosperous parts of northern Europe. Last month, Greek and European Union officials also started deporting migrants to Turkey.

Those who have survived the latest wrecks have been taken to Italian port cities, given food and blankets and, in some cases, received medical treatment. But Italy — with a sagging economy and an unemployment rate of 11 percent — has also been strained by the influx, particularly as Austria has tightened its own border controls along a path that migrants have taken en route to more-welcoming countries such as Germany and Sweden.

Italy is bracing to house tens of thousands of people while processing more asylum seekers, a duty it shrugged off in the past.

“The pressure is on the Italians to deal with them” and process the asylum seekers as they’re supposed to, said Leonard Doyle, a spokesman for the International Organization for Migration. “If in the past they’ve been turning the blind eye and encouraging people to skedaddle, the political situation is a bit different now.”

Compared with Syrians, who are fleeing a particularly dire situation, Nigerians and other Africans arriving in Italy face steeper odds for winning asylum claims, analysts say. But Europe is also unlikely to send migrants back to Libya, where competing governments have fought recently for power and the Islamic State has gained a foothold. Europe also doesn’t have a “readmission” agreement with Libya for returning migrants.

“So, what to do with these people next — that is a huge, huge question mark,” said Matteo Gara­voglia, the Italy Program fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Center on the United States and Europe.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Million Man March: Just the Beginning
Lincoln Towindo
Zimbabwe Sunday Mail

Zanu-PF’s Million Man March will be held annually alongside provincial rallies aimed at driving youth development and economic empowerment, a ruling party official has said.

The inaugural march on Africa Day, described by party National Secretary for Administration Dr Ignatius Chombo as “a demonstration of Zanu-PF’s force and might” saw hundreds of thousands of people pouring into Harare to show their support for President Mugabe.

That event climaxed with a Presidential address reminiscent of President Mugabe’s delivery at Zimbabwe Grounds on his return from Mozambique after the liberation struggle.

And following this thunderous display, the Zanu-PF Youth League wants the march held annually, and countrywide youth empowerment meetings to begin in June 2016.

Youth League Deputy Secretary Cde Kudzai Chipanga told The Sunday Mail, “That Million Man March was just the beginning. We are going to have several gatherings of similar nature. There will be provincial tours in which Cabinet ministers will be invited and asked to explain what they are doing for young people and how youths can benefit from programmes under their portfolios.

“There are various ministries, most of them economic. Therefore, we want each of them to have a youth policy and a youth desk. Young people are Zimbabwe’s future, they constitute the majority when it comes to the national population.

“We will take a break and then embark on countrywide tours in two months’ time, finishing them before 2016 is out. In 2017, we plan to invite the President to join the Youth League on a tour of all 10 provinces to assess progress on what we would have resolved with the respective ministers.”

Cde Chipanga also spoke on the issue of priorities.

“We have realised that some comrades are reluctant (to facilitate development). Who are they? They are (Cabinet) ministers, chief executives, captains of industry. They seem very reluctant when it comes to fighting this (economic) war we are in.

“They are expecting cake in a war, leading us to question their priorities and how they are executing their duties. For instance, while we are complaining about Government not having money, we see ministers every now and then changing vehicles.

“We complain that our local authorities are failing to even repair tarred roads, but the next thing you see is the top brass at Council A buying new vehicles. One wonders why they say there is no money for service delivery when all the money is going to vehicles and other luxuries.”

Dr Chombo said the Million Man March was a party programme organised by Zanu-PF’s Youth League for the purpose of celebrating President Mugabe’s leadership of Zimbabwe, as well as in Sadc and the African Union – bodies that he recently chaired.

“It was really a show of force and demonstration of the support the President enjoys. We are delighted with the party’s capacity to mobilise and happy with the level of organisation shown throughout. The march was a demonstration that Zanu-PF is well, alive, vibrant and well-geared for 2018.”
Zimbabwe Debt Plan Gets Key Backer
LANGTON NYAKWENDA
Zimbabwe Sunday Mail

The African Development Bank will back Zimbabwe’s external debt clearance plan when its board, the IMF and World Bank jointly review the country’s strategy in September, a Cabinet minister has said.

AfDB has also advised Harare to draw up a programme under which the three multi-lateral lending institutions will fund key economic growth enablers if the strategy is adopted.

A committee chaired by Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor Dr John Mangudya and comprising AfDB, IMF and World Bank country representatives is already working on that programme.

Zimbabwe’s external debt is US$10,8 billion, with Government accounting for US$6,8 billion.

The debt excludes the country from global financial packages, compelling it to rely more on cash transactions for capital projects.

On May 18, 2016, Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa and Dr Mangudya met AfDB president Dr Akinwumi Adesina in Cote d’Ivoire to aprise him on Zimbabwe’s debt clearance strategy first presented at a global finance meeting in Peru last year.

In an interview with The Sunday Mail, Minister Chinamasa said, “We went to Abidjan, Ivory Coast to firm up our debt clearance strategy and get commitment from the AfDB that they will support us.

“The meeting went on well; we got renewed support and encouragement that we will have their (AfDB) backing when we present our case to the three multi-lateral institutions. The board members of these institutions are expected to sit in September to determine whether or not to accept Zimbabwe’s strategy.

“The rules of this game state that if a member is in arrears, it cannot enjoy benefits. These institutions cannot make investments in members that are in arrears.”

Minister Chinamasa said Dr Mangudya’s committee was drafting a country financing programme, with priority going to agriculture and manufacturing.

“That quadripartite committee is working to identify key sectors of the economy that, if supported, can trigger economic transformation.

“Agriculture is at the top of our heads, while enabling infrastructure development like power supply lines, road, rail and water piping will also be taken into account. Recapitalising and retooling of the manufacturing industry, and credits to SMEs are important elements that will feed into that framework.”
WHO ARE THE NIGER DELTA AVENGERS, NIGERIA'S NEW OIL MILITANTS?
BY CONOR GAFFEY
Newsweek
5/27/16 AT 1:34 PM

The Niger Delta is once again under siege.

Seven years on from the end of a sustained period of militancy—which saw oil workers kidnapped and production cut to less than a third of maximum capacity—a recently formed group is leading a fresh campaign of attacks in a bid to cripple Nigeria’s economy.

The Niger Delta Avengers (NDA), which announced its formation in February, has declared war on Nigeria’s oil infrastructure. The group claimed via its Twitter account that it had blown up the main electricity pipeline to U.S. firm Chevron’s onshore Escravos facility in southern Nigeria, and a Chevron source confirmed to Reuters on Thursday that the company’s onshore activities had been “grounded,” cutting a potential 90,000 barrels per day (bpd) from Nigeria’s production. On Friday, the group claimed another attack, saying it had blown up  a “heavily guarded” pipeline close to a refinery in Warri, in Nigeria’s southeast Delta state, which is managed by the state-run Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC). The NNPC has not yet confirmed the attack.

The upsurge in attacks by the group has coincided with a dramatic fall in oil production in Nigeria, traditionally the continent’s biggest producer. Petroleum Minister Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu said earlier in May that production had fallen by 800,000 bpd to 1.4 million bpd, the lowest in two decades. It’s a drop that means Angola has at least temporarily taken over the mantle of Africa’s oil king.

The NDA follows the pattern of other groups, such as the Movement for the Emancipation for the Niger Delta (MEND), which led the militancy campaign in the mid-2000s. MEND and some of its most notorious leaders, such as Government Ekpemupolo—an ex-militant also known as Tompolo who is wanted on money laundering allegations totaling 46 billion naira ($231 million)—have disassociated themselves from the NDA. But according to Malte Liewerscheidt, senior Africa analyst at political risk consultancy Verisk Maplecroft, the group’s membership is likely made up of disaffected ex-militants who have not benefited from the presidential amnesty program that brought the previous campaign to a close in 2009. The amnesty included monthly subsidies to reformed militants, but also afforded lucrative security contracts to former leaders, like Tompolo, for protecting oil installations.

The NDA came to international attention after claiming an attack on an underwater pipeline run by Shell in February, forcing the Dutch oil giant to temporarily shut down its 250,000 bpd Forcados terminal. According to Liewerscheidt, the attack showed a level of sophistication and expertise that suggests the group may have insider knowledge of some of the international oil firms working in the Niger Delta. “[Forcados] was not just another pipeline somewhere out in the creeks, it’s right under the nose of the largest [international oil company] out there, namely Shell,” says Liewerscheidt. “[The NDA] have proven their capability to strike major targets again and again.”

As well as links with former Niger Delta militants, the group also appears to have connections with the pro-Biafra movement in southern Nigeria. The NDA has avowed its support for Nnamdi Kanu, the head of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), who has been in detention in Nigeria since October 2015 and is awaiting trial on charges of treason, which he denies. Pro-Biafra activists are campaigning for Kanu’s release and the realization of the independent state of Biafra, which was declared in southeast Nigeria in 1967 but was reintegrated into the country in 1970 following a devastating civil war.

“Operational links” exist between the NDA and IPOB, but the extent of these connections is not yet clear, according to Fulan Nasrullah, an independent conflict researcher based in Nigeria. “Publicly, the NDA has declared support for the Biafran struggle, while maintaining its separate agenda focusing on the Niger Delta,” says Nasrullah. If the NDA were to gain IPOB’s support, its manpower could be dramatically increased; thousands of people have taken part in protests in Nigeria demanding Kanu’s freedom, and IPOB has previously claimed to Newsweek that its global membership numbers in the millions, though this has not been independently confirmed.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has vowed to take harsh action against oil militants like the NDA. The president and leader of the All Progressive Congress party said in April that the “vandals and saboteurs” responsible for attacking oil pipelines would be dealt with “the way we dealt with Boko Haram.” Nigeria’s military has reclaimed much of the territory once held by Boko Haram under Buhari’s administration and has inflicted numerous casualties on the group, though Boko Haram continues to carry out occasional suicide bombings in the country’s volatile northeast.

While he has allowed the amnesty program to continue, Buhari has cut the subsidies and ended the handing out of security contracts to ex-militants. “[Buhari] has no interest in returning to the negotiating table,” says Liewerscheidt. “Both the actual costs of reinstating the amnesty program [to its former level], as well as the political costs, are now much too high for the government.”

Nigeria is heavily dependent on oil for its economy—petroleum products make up more than 90 percent of the value of the country’s total exports—and the recent fall in production has shown the ability of the NDA and others to impact upon the West African country’s most vital industry. Recent events suggest that the NDA is likely to pose an economic, as well as a security, threat to one of the world’s most important oil hubs. 
Nigerian Oil Production Halved as Militants Blow Up Pipelines
Associated Press
28 MAY 2016 • 10:37PM

Militants blew up strategic gas and crude pipelines belonging to Shell and Agip on Saturday in an increasingly fierce campaign that has chopped Nigeria's oil production in half, militants and residents said.

A new militant group, calling itself the Niger Delta Avengers, reported in social media that they had dynamited the trunkline linking the Dutch-British Shell company's Bonny terminal and the Brass export terminal of the Italian company Agip. A local community leader Eke-Spiff Erempagamo confirmed the attack.

Nigeria's oil production had already fallen from a projected 2.2 million barrels a day to 1.4 million barrels before the latest attacks on the oil industry in southern Nigeria, including three within the past week on facilities of the U.S. oil major Chevron. Several companies have evacuated some of their workers.

The Niger Delta Avengers has given the oil companies a May 31 deadline to leave Nigeria's southern, oil-producing Niger Delta.

"Watch out something big is about to happen and it will shock the whole world," the Avengers warned Saturday, addressing international and indigenous oil companies and Nigeria's military.

In a surprise development, community leaders and non-violent activists have recently sided with the militants, saying residents of the Niger Delta support their demands for a greater share of the country's oil wealth. Oil pollution has destroyed the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of farmers and fishermen.

The militants are also angry that the government is winding down a 2009 amnesty program that had paid 30,000 militants to guard installations they once attacked.

Nigeria's government has deployed thousands of soldiers to defend oil installations.

But the militants announced on Friday that they had blown up a state-owned gas and crude trunkline, noting it was "heavily guarded by the military."

Thousands of civilians have fled the fallout from the military campaign, though the army denies reports that uninvolved civilians have been killed.

Supporters of Nigeria's government and the southern based opposition party are accusing each other of funding the Avengers.

This year's renewed campaign targeting the oil industry in the Niger Delta have caused Nigeria to lose its position as Africa's largest oil producer, with Angola having taken the leading role since March.
Madiba: Thy Will Is Done
27 May 2016 at 13:42pm
By Getrude Makhafola

Johannesburg - Nelson Mandela’s estate, which included R22 million in cash, has been collated and distributed to all beneficiaries as requested by the former statesman in his will, former Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke announced on Friday.

The estate executioners, who included Moseneke and struggle stalwart George Bizos, a close friend of Mandela, addressed the media at the Nelson Mandela Foundation offices in Johannesburg.

“Mandela was a public figure, it is not usual to see distribution of an estate done publicly… but Nelson Mandela was Nelson Mandela. We are here to tell the nation that we have come to the end of our task and we did as were asked by Mandela in his will, we went out to accomplish his mission,” Moseneke said.

A few beneficiaries such as higher education institutions, schools and former Mandela staffers were handed out cheques on Friday.

A total of R22 million in cash would eventually be handed over, with some of the beneficiaries such as Mandela’s personal assistant Zelda le Grange opting to have their money sent electronically, said Moseneke.

Mandela left R50 000 for Le Grange, as stated in his will. He however left nothing for his former wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.

Distribution of the Mandela properties would follow after the dissemination of the cash. Moseneke said none of Mandela’s assets have been sold in order to pay monies to beneficiaries.

“We have identified all assets domestic and foreign, and his liabilities. We are delighted to inform you that no assets of the deceased have been sold in order to pay the bequests and to discharge estate liabilities and costs. The estate was sufficiently liquid to meet the wishes of Mr Mandela.”

Cheques were handed to Mandela’s driver Richard Maponya, who chauffeured the late statesman from the first say he was released from prison. Other former staffers, Sarah Mabuela and Albertina Dima were also present to receive their R50 000 cheques as stated in the will.

Education institutions such as the University of Fort Hare and Witwatersrand University, the two institutions where Mandela studied, thanked the family and Mandela for the R100 000 cash each they received.

“We are honoured to be the recipients of this bequest, not because of it being monetary but because the issues are too enormous to be satisfied monetarily. This symbolises Mr Mandela’s love for education and for Forth Hare, where he was an alumni… this is timeous because we are celebrating 100 years of existence, and we accept the challenge to uphold the legacy of Fort Hare and also fulfil the legacy of education in this country,” said Ayanda Mjekula, chairman of University of Fort Hare council.

Qunu Secondary School in Mandela’s home village in the Eastern Cape, Orlando West High School in Soweto and the historic Clarkebury Senior Secondary School in Ngcobo, Eastern Cape also received cheques.

Mandela’s left properties and cash for widow his Graca Machel, her children and grandchildren and Mandela’s children, grand children and great grand children. The late statesman died in 2013, aged 95.

African News Agency
Neo-Colonial Ivorian Court Rejects Simone Gbagbo's Appeal Against 20-year Jail Term
Africa News

Ivory Coast’s supreme court has rejected former first lady Simone Gbagbo’s appeal against a 20-year sentence handed to her last year.

The former first lady was charged with undermining state security for her role in the violence that followed the 2010 elections which left more than 3,000 people dead.

She was tried with 78 co-defendants for their part in the crisis caused by the refusal of her husband and former president Laurent Gbagbo to recognise Alassane Ouattara’s victory in the November 2010 presidential poll.

Simone Gbagbo is also due to stand trial on May 31 in Abidjan on charges of crimes against humanity related to the wave of post-election violence.
Simone Gbagbo Will Not Be Handed Over to the ICC - Ivorian PM
18/05 - 14:18
Africa News

Ivory Coast’s former first lady Simone Gbagbo will not be transferred to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to face war crimes charges, Prime Minister Daniel Kablan Duncan has said.

Duncan who is in Paris to chair a meeting on Ivory Coast’s development plan affirmed the government’s decision not comply with an arrest warrant from the ICC against the former first lady.

The warrant of arrest was issued against the 66-year-old in 2012 and till date, the case remains in the pre-trial stage at the Hague-based court

Simone is wanted for her role in the country’s 2010 post-election unrest that saw more than 3,000 people die.

Nevertheless, Duncan maintained that Simone Gbagbo will still face trial in the country on May 31 for crimes against humanity.

Former Ivory Coast first lady Simone Gbagbo will be tried for crimes against humanity at home starting on April 25.

The former first lady is currently serving a 20-year jail sentence after she was found guilty by an Ivorian court in March of undermining state security.

Popularly referred to as the ‘Iron Lady’ during her husband’s reign, Simone Gbagbo was arrested in an assault backed by the UN and French troops.

Last week, Amnesty International said that Ivorian authorities should reconsider their refusal to comply with their obligation to surrender her to the ICC.

She has been charged by the ICC with crimes against humanity, including murder, rape, and persecution.

Her husband is currently on trial before the ICC for crimes against humanity in relation to the post-election violence.

News Agencies
 Ivory Coast Court Rejects Appeal by Ex-first Lady Simone Gbagbo
May 27, 2016
Africa News

Ivory Coast’s supreme court has rejected former first lady Simone Gbagbo’s appeal against a 20-year sentence over her role in the violence that followed the 2010 elections that her husband Laurent Gbagbo lost, her lawyer said.

“The supreme court Thursday rejected our appeal,” Rodrigue Dadje told AFP, criticising it as a “political decision”.

Simone Gbagbo, currently being held in Abidjan, was sentenced in March 2015 to 20 years imprisonment after being convicted of “attacking state authority” over her role in the post-election violence, which left more than 3,000 people dead.

She was tried with 78 co-defendants for their part in the crisis caused by the refusal of former president Laurent Gbagbo to recognise Alassane Ouattara’s victory in the November 2010 presidential election.

The former first lady is also due to go on trial on May 31 in Abidjan on charges of crimes against humanity related to the wave of post-election violence.

Laurent Gbagbo is currently on trial at the International Criminal Court in the Hague for war crimes also linked to the unrest that followed his refusal to step down.

Ivory Coast, the world’s top cocoa producer, has struggled to return to normalcy after years of civil war, which effectively divided the country between the mainly Christian south and the largely Muslim north.

Ouattara finally took power in 2011 with help from former colonial ruler France and the arrest of the Gbagbos.

This post was syndicated from The Guardian NigeriaThe Guardian Nigeria. Click here to read the full text on the original website.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

The Other Side – Million Man March: So Hard a Fact, So Harder to Accept
PRESIDENT Mugabe and the First Lady Amai Grace Mugabe greet multitudes of zanu-pf supporters who, in spite of the bad press from private media and cold weather, graced the Million-Man March in Harare on Africa Day

Nathaniel Manheru
Zimbabwe Herald

BACK in the 1970s, marriage took the form of musical rivalry that pitted families of the bride and the groom. Each side composed songs that exalted the qualities of their side — both real and imagined — while heaping execrable qualities on the opposite side. The starting point was the physical side of either party: the big, lumpy lips that resembled lungs left to dry by the fireplace; big eyes that would frighten even the owls, sunken face structure that beat a baboon in a competition; rickety legs wider than goal posts.

Things like that, but all said in fierce jest. And when the physical side was exhausted — which was more not that often — the taunting would extend to families: how they did not have bedrooms of zinc; how they survived on ants, their precarious welfare levels, which is why marriage for them was a coping mechanism, a way of lessening mouths to feed.

When wedding taunts reigned

There was this one song the Manherus were fond of singing, always a winner in the competition. It extolled our own, while excoriating those to whom our daughters would have been betrothed. It would be accompanied by a reckless throw of limbs, not least the family economy as wielded by our women folk. It went like this:

All done in utter joy

The song was a threat to parents of the groom, a dire warning that the Manherus would not hesitate to follow through and repossess their daughter in the event of any mistreatment, a nagging mother-in-law or a nagging husband. It pampered the bride while presumptively warning the groom already heaped with imaginary excesses. Much worse, presumption soon gave way to conviction, which is why the groom would be imaged in animal epithets, principally chidhanana — that rock lizard which feigns hitting against the rock as if in resistance. And so the banter would go on, with the groom’s side responding in kind. A typical song from the groom side would go like this:

The past that’s gone forever

In the riposte, the bride was likened to the little one of a donkey roguishly running away from its home and mother without knowing where to spend the night. The innuendo-filled song suggested the girl had eloped, something that was always frowned upon in Shona custom. But the competition would be limited to the young ones while the elders would treat each other with befitting dignity, distance and decorum. We did not have radios. We did not have DJs. But then, who needed them? Marriage ceremonies generated their own forms of entertainment and it used to be real fun. It is harder to recapture that era, what in this world of ICTs and staid music from machines.

The day a small palm started a fight

The Million Man March came on Africa Day, May 25th, and it is now past as an actuality. But it remains firmly entrenched in the hearts and minds of an ailing opposition which must be kicking itself for ever challenging Zanu-PF to the game of street politics. It is a nightmare, an ever living fear hard to overcome.

Led by the Party’s Youth League, the event lived up to its billing. In spite of the vast numbers, there was order, perfect order. In spite of the cold weather, the turnout was massive, far greater than the crowd that greeted the President in 1980, at the close of the war of liberation, the beginning of electoral politics which Zanu won by a landslide. In spite of the bad press, the mood was buoyant without being boisterous, and even those who decided to stand aloof were left alone, more pitied than accosted. With a million, one did not need one man more.

Call it arrogance of the majority. A great show of force in the presumed citadel of opposition. In Harare, where the MDC-T had marched a handful previously, hoping to send shivers to those in power. Tsvaru wadana tivu, we say in Shona, which is to say a man with a small palm must not start a fight, the reply will be hefty and filling.

When a million is figurative

The opposition press is in denial, hopeless denial. The opposition itself, always used to a rote-learnt line, says the march was nothing, a farce. Really? Sometimes you gain credibility by acknowledging a score. Or where you can’t help it, by simply letting a bad day pass. That way the bad day may be shorter.

But when you challenge the obvious — as did this Obert Gutu guy — you provoke a louder response, a bigger, more filling slap that leaves you misshapen, reeling, worse off. Here we go. Million? You would be a fool take that literally, a big fool bereft of the art of political messaging. The language of politics is figurative, always. Where numbers are counted — as was the case with MDC-T’s miserly stampede — that mobilisation will have failed, the call will have gone unheeded.

Typical of hard sale, waning influence. Back home, the lore is vanhu kwaive mavhu nemarara — sand and debris — our own figurative way of reckoning big gatherings. Who has ever counted sands that make our earth? Or the debris that make our MDC-T-led Harare such an eyesore? And that is all you need to reach the political million, to suspend disbelief. The issue is the Youth League pulled a stunning one, a nonpareil. I challenge any party to do half as well, I, the son of Manheru. And the bandwagon effect, oh God help the opposition!

Spacious arguments from those who should know

I read two responses, both desperate coping mechanisms. One: at attempt by Coltart to set off the Zanu-PF million against Tsvangirai’s little thousands who gathered at the same venue towards the tail-end of 2013 campaign. Cross-over rally they dubbed it, but one that marked a slouch back to dejection and current endless oblivion.

What a sparse argument, decidedly spacious for a lawyer to make. The subsequent poll results situated that baby crowd into its proper perspective, which is why Coltart is writing from without, while Mugabe speaks from within, from the podium of presidency, yehumambo. So we have here a self-nullifying argument answered here just in case there is persistent, stubborn denial.

Two: that dzakutsaku in 1980 had such a huge turnout, but proceeded to show poorly in the intervening election. Deliberately, the argument does not say showed poorly against who. And deliberately, the same argument is not used to caution Coltart and his red caps in 2013, both beckoning parallels. This is how the opposition self-deludes, and pretends shock when beaten fair and square.

Lauding our own

The third response is borrowed from Manheru’s argument when the MDC-T raised its handful a few weeks back. Then, I said what then after that? Now there is an attempt to raise the same question in respect of Zanu-PF and its million man march (I like the internal rhyme mhani!). Ahh the fallacy of comparisons. Get real guys.

The million man march — I can’t say it enough — was meant to celebrate the President as a triple leader: of Zimbabwe, of sadc, of Africa. Three portfolios rolled in one, two of them transnational. All done ably by this Atlas-like veteran politician. It has not happened. It may never happen again, at least in my lifetime. Certainly never in Tsvangirai’s lifetime, what with him struggling just to be one of these, struggling more than four times! You would be a big fool to think Zanu-PF had its sights set on local politics.

It is local politicians who are panicking, drawing local meaning. Serves them right. Zanu-PF sought to speak to Africa, to the world, to say: here we have produced a world leader from a continent. We laud our own, like the proverbial lizard that jumped off the high iroko tree and still lived long enough to tell its grandparents how the jump felt. The numbers did just that and you would be a fool to ask what next. Huru inokudzwa newayo, we say in Shona. We did just that.

Zanu yapinda muchiona/Heyo yapinda

But just in case you persist in asking what next, here are the dampening facts. With such a massive parade, Zanu-PF is making its sure win in 2018 only a matter of course and time. It has made an emphatic entry into the electoral register. Yes, Rugare Gumbo got it right when he said through the million man march, Zanu-PF is rehearsing to rig!

Let him rehearse back so the crowds battle is back on an even keel. Let MDC-T rehearse back so Zanu-PF’s street dominance is equalled or challenged. Let both combine so we see what their grand coalition is made off. It was their choice that the 2018 elections start in 2016. So why cry now? In the absence of matching acts, who would be condemned for interpreting this as a prefigurement of 2018?

Who in the opposition? And when 2018 confirms it, who dares mumble about rigging? And hope to be heard? During the war, Zanu had a song that celebrated its quiet advance as a fighting machine. The song went like: Zanu yapinda/ Muchionaaa Muchiona/ Heyo yapinda/ Muchiona makangotarisa muchiona.

Roughly translated the song celebrated Zanla’s ineluctable advance against Rhodesian gaping eyes. As I write, the western world, both directly and through their union, have begun pouring money into regime-change NGOs in anticipation of 2018. Here was a very considerate message from Zanu-PF to say tarry thee, don’t waste your resources in lost cause. 2018 is won already.

2018 was won on Africa Day. As for the Americans, just read their latest human rights report on Zimbabwe and you begin to see what mischief is already afoot, much of it fed in by the hostile press and facile NGO reports. A whole superpower, accredited here, but going by shallow media claims for a report? But there is bound to be a real rethink as we head up to London for another round of re-engagement. I liken this to the battle for Mavonde in 1979. It gave us a good Lancaster.

Taking politics off streets

Secondly, this whole game of taking politics to the streets should stop, and the way to stop it is not through police bans. It is by setting an unattainable benchmark, itself an everlasting image to invoke against any ambitious handfuls paraded by the little parties. Zanu-PF does not need another one in Bulawayo or anywhere.

It has raised a million for the electoral century and the rest is history. Through that action, the constitutional right to assembly will exist as an uncontested right, a passive one which none dare claim. So, yes, the idea was to make street politics very, very expensive for whoever tries them, expensive through deadly comparison.

On that score one finds the MDC-T a bit obdurately foolish. They know their leader is bedridden, unwell after a serious procedure. Sure to be unavailable for quite a while. Yet they continue to suggest he will lead from the front in Bulawayo. Really? Or is the coup complete? Save vadingurwa? In politics you are better off dealing with obdurate facts of life than seeking to wrap them with khaki paper. And obdurate facts are like a beast with horns: you don’t wrap it flat as we say in Shona.

The game has changed guys

Thirdly, the lore of factionalism which the hostile press has been harping on has proven to be just that, an old wives’ tale. I kept saying even at its most fractious moment, Zanu-PF was always mobilising, the real challenge being to ensure the internal contradiction is not allowed to get out of hand.

This is why the meeting between the President and War Veterans was so key. I mean the real meeting, not the subsequent media performance which many mistook for the actual meeting. And pity the ill-adjusted press still holding on to an old, stale script of divisions. As we move into the future, Zanu-PF shall be one whole, indivisible. Which for me was what emphatically answered the so-what of opposition. They say it was about Mugabe showing his invincibility inside his party.

Yes it was, as indeed he should. The perception of a Zanu-PF without a centre has vanished, once and for all. Let’s change the debate guys, throwing real light where the centre is begging, namely in MDC-T and ZPF. The biggest gesture was the image of Kudzi Chipanga and his Youth League briefing the Main Wing of the Party at the Party HQ about the project.

Those with clear heads should have read that the times had changed, and with them, the game. That then made the million men march a show of intra-party, inter-generational, inter-arms unity in organisational action. Exactly the monster the opposition will meet in 2018. It’s awesome.

Zanu Yedu Tinooidaaa

Fourthly and for this week lastly, there is this lame argument around bussing people he he he! Nonsense! Did we not see the Youth League executive addressing meetings in all the country’s 10 province? Do you reach 10 provinces to raise crowds for a local rally? And were people supposed to come on foot from those provinces?

How is it different on Election Day? Is there a law that stops bussing of voters seeking to reach a booth, assuming there will be some booths far away from the voting public? What is the point? Yes, people were bussed from all over the country, people today, voters tomorrow. And the difficulties by some in getting back to their home provinces. What does that tell?

That resources for the million man march were sparse, hard to come by. What was abundant was the zeal, the will to march for a million. You can’t argue that State resources were abused and still find people stranded in Harare. Does that make sense? What is your day like, dear critic? Zanu-PF will did it again! Zanu Yedu/ Tinooidaaa Zanu Yedu tinoida/ Kunyangwe zvavo/ Kunyangwe zvavo vakachema, vakarovera musoro padombo, mangopinda tinokunda.

Icho!

nathaniel.manheru@zimpapers.co.zw
MugabeOne million-man marchZanu-PFZimbabwe
South Africa Passes Land Expropriations Bill
Some groups critical of bill allowing compulsory purchase in public interest that ruling ANC says will tackle injustice.

South Africa has passed a bill criticised by some opposition parties and farming groups that allows the compulsory purchase of land in the public interest.

The bill, approved by parliament on Thursday, will enable the state to pay for land at a value determined by a government adjudicator and then expropriate it for the "public interest", ending the willing-buyer, willing-seller approach to land reform.

Twenty years after the end of apartheid, most of South Africa's land is still white-owned and the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party says the legislation will tackle an injustice and put more land in black hands.

The national assembly initially passed the bill in February before it was sent for amendments and it remains only for President Jacob Zuma to sign it into law.

Tough times

Many commercial and small-scale producers in South Africa are currently facing tough times because of the worst drought in at least a century.

Experts say the bill will not signal the kind of often violent land grabs that took place in neighbouring Zimbabwe, where white-owned farms were seized by the government for redistribution to landless blacks.

"The passing of the bill by parliament is historic and heralds a new era of intensified land distribution programme to bring long-awaited justice to the dispossessed majority of South Africans," the ANC said in a statement.

Some economists and farming groups have said that the measure could hit investment and production at a time when South Africa is emerging from drought - pointing to the serious economic damage arising from farm seizures in Zimbabwe.

They have also complained about a lack of clarity on how it will work.

The ANC says land will only be expropriated after "just and equitable" compensation has been paid.

Around eight million hectares (20 million acres) of land have been transferred to black owners since apartheid, equal to eight to 10 percent of the land in white hands in 1994.

The total is only a third of the 30 percent targeted by the ANC.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies
MOODY’S LOWERS OUTLOOK FOR SOUTH AFRICAN BANKS TO NEGATIVE
Moody's cited deteriorating operating conditions it expected in the next 12-18 months.

Reuters

JOHANNESBURG - Ratings agency, Moody's, on Friday lowered its outlook for the South African banking system to negative from stable, citing deteriorating operating conditions it expected in the next 12 to 18 months.

“The outlook expresses Moody's expectation of how bank creditworthiness will evolve in this system over the next 12 to 18 months,” the annual banking system outlook said.

“The challenging economic outlook will strain borrowers’ repayment capacity, fuelling increased asset risks.”

Yesterday, ratings agency Fitch warned South Africa’s underperformance of GDP growth posed a risk to the country's rating.

The agency, which rates the debt of Africa's most industrialised country at BBB-, one notch above speculative grade, is expected to publish a review of the country’s debt rating on 3 June.                    
Fitch said there were several risks to the rating South Africa will receive next week.

One of them mentioned related to "quick fixes" in fiscal policy in the run up to elections, which Fitch said will discourage investment.

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan met with Fitch and Standard & Poor’s last week, saying it’s unclear at this stage whether the country’s debt will be downgraded.

Gordhan and his team have been working hard to encourage investors, in an effort to avoid the dreaded junk credit rating.

Fitch Managing Director Ed Parker told Reuters, “Authorities may feel, if they have a poor showing, that there is a need for fixes like the introduction of a high minimum wage that would appear to help the poor but may also discourage investment".

Additional reporting by Gia Nicolaides