Pan Africa Newswire
Esteban Lazo Hernandez, President of the National Assembly of Popular Power in Cuba., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
We owe it to the people
So said Esteban Lazo Hernández, President of the National Assembly of Popular Power in a trade with the managers of the local organs of the capital, the Council of the Provincial Administration as well as a representation of the people's councils
Author: Arianna Ceballos | email@example.com
March 15, 2014
Esteban Lazo Hernandez, president of the National Assembly of People's Power, accompanied by Mercedes López Acea, first secretary of the Party in the capital and vice president of the Council of State, members of the Political Bureau and Marta Hernandez, president of the Government in the province, visited several parts of the capital where investments are undertaken. After the tour of the works, in the Convention Center of Cojimar, the delegation had an exchange of work with leaders of government and business levels, as well as invited presidents of People's Councils and their deputies from the various ministries. Present also Maj. Gen. Ulises Rosales del Toro, vice president of the Council of Ministers and Deputy Chief of Government support group to the capital, and representatives of the secretary of the Council of Ministers.
President of the National Assembly of People's Power and Politburo member Esteban Lazo Hernández, toured Havana in which he could learn about the progress of the investment processes of different works carried out in the capital.
One of the places visited was a substation Tallapiedra Power Plant project to be completed in December this year. According to Ricardo Mangana, director of the Electric Company of Havana, the work-which is already a 82%-help strengthen the electrical system of the municipalities of Old Havana, Centro Habana and part of the capital district El Vedado, and will benefit more than 100,000 homes.
During the tour, Bow also chatted with the staff at Children's Hospital William Soler and workers involved in the construction of the new conductive in-Paso Seco stretch of 100th Street and First-Ring, which allows you to recover 200 liters of water per second that were lost before with the old driver. This work will improve water supply services in the municipality of Arroyo Naranjo and part of Cattle.
He stressed the need to improve the investment process through audit, control and confrontation illegalities and social indiscipline which may manifest. Similarly, he stressed the importance of the work carried out running with the required quality.
The leader also met with the presidents of the Municipal Assemblies of People's Power, administrative managers of the capital and a representation of the different people's councils, attended by Mercedes López Acea, member of the Politburo and first secretary of the Party in the territory Marta Hernández Romero, president of the Provincial Assembly and Ulises Rosales del Toro, Vice President of Council of Ministers and Deputy Chief of Governmental Support Group capital.
In exchange, they discussed the importance of improving the planning of local organs of People's Power and fulfill their roles.
On one of the issues that hit closer to the capital, the treatment of solid waste, a problem that threatens the health and hygiene, López Acea, also Vice President of the State Council, said that funding was approved for the import of a container group to help alleviate a little deficit currently presents the capital.
Were also addressed issues related to public transportation, gastronomy and commerce, rehabilitation of water networks, as well as housing.
Lazo said that there should be greater attention to the approaches of the population, "discuss popular advice by popular advice, because we owe it to the people."
Dr. Isabel Moya Richard President of the Jose Marti International Journalism Institute's Gender and Communications Studies faculty. She recently interviewed with Granma International, a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Havana. February 19, 2014
Women’s Studies in Cuba
One of the priorities of more than a few institutions and research centers in Cuba has been to promote the dissemination of studies about women. Taking these debates beyond the walls of academia is fundamental to communication in a world which must become increasingly inclusive.
"The great challenge – what feminism really aspires to – is to see a world for human beings, with recognition of diversity," Dr. Moya asserted.
Dr. Isabel Moya Richard, president of the José Martí International Journalism Institute’s Gender and Communication Studies faculty, shared her opinions on the subject.
How are Gender Studies faring in Cuba at this time?
I think this is a very good time because reflection has begun to develop from within. The creation of 33 Women’s Studies faculties, the existence of a Gender Studies Masters program and the Federation of Cuban Women’s Center for Studies of Women, have been developing knowledge through investigations which allow for our own analysis of the Cuban reality.
Also beginning to be noted is an incipient bibliography, making available the thinking of Cuban researchers on these issues. On some questions we are even fairly advanced, such as in the study of masculinities.
How has the post-graduate course Gender and Communication contributed to better understanding of the issues?
The course emerged in 2002 and was a result, in the first place, of the sensitivity of Guillermo Cabrera, director of the Institute at that time, which hosted the Gender and Communication faculty. We began with smaller efforts. Later we were able to develop this course, from which more than 200 persons from Latin America and Spain have graduated, allowing for the development of other workshops and seminars. The course is one of the many activities we carry out.
Why do so few men care for their children from the age of six months to a year, when they have the same benefits?
Women function in a world in which the male point of view predominates in social relations. How will the moment arrive when a female point of view exists as well?
The problem is not to propose a world from the masculine or feminine point of view. The great challenge – what feminism really aspires to – is to see a world for human beings, with recognition of diversity, of the multiple ways that being a man or a women can be structured.
I believe that the obligatory mandates, about what it means to be a woman or a man, are the big problem of contemporary society. In practice, we see that there are different ways to assume it [gender identity]. These approaches must be developed based on the opportunities, the interests, the desires of people, not by strict cultural mandates. Therein lies the importance of the media providing debate of these issues.
At times, the efforts of the media are very simplistic. It is either a superwoman who is practically impossible to emulate, doesn’t provide an example to anyone because she doesn’t have her own life, or the model of a woman who must renounce having a family to be successful, or on the other hand, maternity as something obligatory and forced. These frameworks don’t lead anywhere.
What responsibility do media professionals have?
Cuba has the second greatest number of female parliamentarians in the world.
I think they must present this reality as a problem. On certain dates we interview magnificent, marvelous, self-sacrificing women, but the way maternity is experienced is not presented as a problem. Why do so few men care for their children from the age of six months to a year, when they have the same benefits?
Women, unfortunately, can also be machistas, because this is an ideology present in society. We have been educated this way.
At times, it is believed that, given the accomplishments Cuban women have achieved in public life, equality has been achieved. We have advanced a great deal in political participation. As a country, we have the second greatest number of female parliamentarians in the world, but there is a cultural challenge which is much more difficult to overcome. There is an extensive cultural scaffolding, which permeates everything from the home to the mass media, continuing to shape us in the traditional way. That is why it is important to present as a problem the specific case of Cuba, where so much has been accomplished and there are problems which other countries don’t have.
The 9th Congress of the Federation of Cuban Women was held in March 2014. Cuban is celebrating 55 years of Revolution., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Federation of Cuban Women Holds Ninth Congress
Cuban Women Affirm Commitment to Country's Leadership and Economic Model
The Ninth Congress of the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC) took place from March 7 to 8 at the Havana Conference Centre. The 373 delegates to the national congress discussed issues related to the role of women in the society. The Cuban Federation of Women brings together more than four million women over 14 years of age from all parts of the country.
Prior to the Congress assemblies were organized at the level of local delegations, municipalities and provinces at which members of the Federation debated their concerns and the initiatives they would take to put their organization at the centre of the social and economic transformations underway in the country.
On March 7, the first day of Congress, the participants gathered in working commissions. These included three working commissions, related to the values the FMC defends, educational work, image and presence of women, and the FMC in the media. Elections were also held March 7 for the national committee and leadership of the FMC.
The plenary session on March 8 debated the central report to the Congress and the conclusions reached at the commissions the previous day. The presentation of the National Secretariat and Committee of the Federation also took place on March 8.
Teresa Amarelle was elected as the organization's General Secretary and presented to the Congress during the closing ceremony. She affirmed the commitment of Cuban women to the country's leadership in the construction of socialism and their support for the process of updating the country's socioeconomic model to strengthen its prosperity and sustainability. In order to advance this work, she pointed out, the Cuban Women's Federation needs to increase the quality of the political and ideological work within the organization, taking into account the members' contributions from their homes and workplaces, including those in new forms of private and cooperative management being promoted by Cuba, she said.
The participants expressed their solidarity with all women worldwide who are still demanding gender equality and full inclusion in their societies. They noted that in Cuba, women's integration in all activities is a result of women's longstanding tradition of struggle from colonial times.
During the plenary session, FMC members approved the documents that will govern the work of the organization until 2015. The FMC also demanded the immediate release of all the Cuban Five anti-terrorist fighters unjustly imprisoned in the United States.
Speaking at the closing session of the Congress, President Raúl Castro stressed Cuba's pride in its women. The President also referred to the progressive change of thinking regarding women's inclusion, gender equality and women's empowerment in Cuba since the triumph of the revolution on January 1, 1959.
In the keynote speech of the closing session, Cuban Vice President José Ramón Machado Ventura stressed the high level of participation and integration of Cuban women in the country's activities, and the importance of the FMC in the eradication of negative social conduct by working directly with families and communities. He added that the main task of the organization is to contribute to the defence of the Cuban Revolution from constant foreign attacks.
Symbolizing the People's Republic of China's eagerness to win new friends in Africa, Mao Tse-Tung (right) extends the hand of friendship to Ghana's President Kwame Nkrumah at a July 28, 1962 meeting in Hangchow, China., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Unfair to call China Africa’s coloniser
Sunday, 16 March 2014 00:00
The African continent, with its fast growth of the past decade, is a future wonderland for prosperity that will benefit foreign investment and entrepreneurs.
Strangely, rumours have been circulating that target China as a “villain” which is plundering Africa for its energy resources. That’s a big lie. The real story about China and Africa is one of a long-lasting friendship based on mutual benefit and support.
Friendly relations go back several decades. China’s signature aid project, the Tanzania-Zambia railroad, is a symbol of that strong bond.
Today those ties are even stronger, with the political relationship having been upgraded to a strategic partnership. This was articulated in 2006 by then Ethiopian premier Meles Zenawi, who noted that China’s principle of sovereign equality and non-interference constituted the foundation of mutual trust between the two regions.
For half a century, China has offered full and unswerving support to African nations in their fight against colonialism and apartheid as well as for independence. Africa, an important group in the UN system, has stood behind China as it sought to safeguard its interests in various fields.
Africa has become one of the pillars in Beijing’s pursuit of sustainable economic development; China is the biggest trading partner and one of the key investors in Africa. Since the 1990s, China-African economic co-operation has morphed from one of mainly economic assistance to a complex model of co-operation in trade, investment, finance and technology.
Annual bilateral trade in 2012 topped US$200 billion while China’s investment stood at US$21,23 billion. Meanwhile, African investment in China — from sovereign funds in South Africa, Nigeria, Gabon, Angola and others — has surpassed US$10 billion.
More than 2 000 Chinese companies have invested in over 50 African countries in areas ranging from finance, aerospace and manufacturing, to logistics and real estate, in addition to traditional sectors like agriculture, mining and infrastructure construction.
It’s true that Africa is one of the key suppliers of energy resources to China and investment in its energy resources is rising. China now imports over one third of its petroleum from Africa.
However, it must be emphasised that China’s imports of oil are much less than those by the US and Europe; and, China is doing its utmost to help build up manufacturing capacity in Africa, knowing very well that this is key to sound economic development.
South African President Jacob Zuma has said that “China has never engaged in any colonialist activities in Africa. The relationship between Africa and China is by no means a colonialist one.”
As relations have become closer, so more reports have appeared in the Western media supposedly exposing China’s misdeeds, claiming, for example, that China’s aid feeds corruption, Chinese companies are violating African people’s human rights and Chinese investments prop up dictators.
These allegations can’t be further from the truth. The first thing that rattles Western countries is the principle of China providing aid with no political strings attached. This is a clear demonstration of China’s long-held policy of non-interference in other countries’ internal affairs.
US Professor Deborah Brautigam, the author of The Dragon’s Gift, has said that China’s aid and investment actually inhibits corruption in recipient countries because the funds are directly transferred to companies instead of going into government coffers, as is the practice of World Bank-financed projects and others.
Take Angola, for example. China needs petroleum and Angola needs infrastructure. A bilateral co-operation programme has been designed to address exactly those needs, with China importing Angolan oil while helping the nation build roads, homes, schools and hospitals with funds from both the proceeds of oil sales and long-term, low-interest loans from Chinese banks.
Another example is Zimbabwe, whose economy has been ruined by Western nations’ embargoes and isolation for political reasons. Meanwhile, China has given assistance to Zimbabwe, proving a great help to that nation.
Secondly, both state-owned enterprises and private companies that invest in Africa take their social responsibilities seriously, contrary to what is reported in the Western media.
The most prominent contribution they make is the provision of jobs for local people.
In Sudan, for instance, a Chinese company was contracted to help build the Merowe Dam; that project alone employed more than 16 000 local workers. A refinery project involved 1 100 local employees, with half in training while the other half worked.
Thirdly, China’s aid and investment is very much tailored to the economic development strategy of African countries. Sudan used to be an oil-importing country and now, with China’s help, it has become an oil exporter with both upstream and downstream capacity in exploration, extraction and refinery.
Another example is Niger, one of the world’s least-developed countries, whose economy had been in poor shape for a long time even though it has abundant reserves of uranium ore. Why?
Because the uranium mines were exclusively in the hands of a French company that artificially kept the prices low. With Chinese companies coming in, the situation has now changed in favour of Niger; not only is uranium ore fetching a better price, but Niger is also building up its infrastructure at a quicker pace.
The most important difference between China’s aid and investment in Africa and colonialism is that the latter was forced upon African countries while China’s activities are based on the needs of Africa and the principle of sovereign and business equality.
The counsel-general of Nigeria in Hong Kong once said that the reason they want to do business with China is because they can sit down and talk on an equal footing. That was not possible in the colonial days.
Zambian author Dambisa Moyo has said that the roughly US$1 trillion in Western aid to Africa over the past half a century has brought more harm than good. History is a mirror as well as a teacher. This mirror reflects China in the right perspective, as long as we view its aid and investment activities in Africa without colonialist bias. — South China Morning Post.
He Yafei is vice-minister of the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office of the State Council.
Egyptian military forces storm encampments protesting the coup killing hundreds and setting fire to tents. The latest massacre took place on August 14, 2013., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Six military conscripts shot dead near Cairo
Ahram Online, Saturday 15 Mar 2014
After shooting dead six conscripts, unknown armed men planted two bombs on the site of the shooting
Six Egyptian military conscripts were killed by unknown gunmen early Saturday near a military police checkpoint in Qalyoubia's Shubra El-Kheima district.
Mohamed Yosri, security director of the Qalyoubia governorate, said that explosives experts have managed to diffuse two bombs planted by the attackers after the shooting occurred.
Military spokesman Ahmed Ali accused members of the Muslim Brotherhood group of being behind the attack.
Ali added that the conscripts were killed soon after they performed dawn prayers.
A military source told Al-Ahram Arabic news website, that four of the slain soldiers came from Upper Egypt's Sohag governorate, one from Menoufiya and and another from Beni Seuf.
All roads to the leading to the site of the incident have been closed.
Attacks on security and army forces have been intensifying since the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013, leaving dozens killed.
While militant attacks, explosions and drive-by shootings first broke out in the restive Sinai Peninsula, in late 2013 violence spread among different governorates, including the capital.
In response, the army and police launched a crackdown on militants leaving hundreds reported dead.
Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis, a militant group affiliated with Al-Qaeda, has claimed responsibilty for most attacks on the police and army.
Egypt's authorities have continued to hold the Muslim Brotherhood, of which Morsi was a leading member, responsible for orchestrating the attacks.
In December, Egypt's interim authoritiesdeclared the Brotherhood a terrorist organisation, a decision that was upheld by a court order in February.
Egypt's state-run Modern Fashion Company Benzaion where workers are on strike over back pay and other issues. A wave of strikes are continuing inside the North African state., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Workers strike at Egypt's historic Ben-Zaion retail company
Bassem Abo Alabass, Thursday 13 Mar 2014
Workers demand withheld back pay and sacking of company's chairman, Nour Bakr, who says that 2013 was first year Benzaion saw profits in a decade
Tens of workers at Egypt's state-run Modern Fashion Company (Ben-Zaion, Ades, Rivoli) protested on Wednesday at the interim government's headquarters to demand withheld back pay and the removal of the company's chairman and board of directors.
The workers claim that the company's debts to its suppliers have reached more than LE20 million ($2.8 million), Al-Ahram's daily newspaper reported on Thursday.
The workers also allege that there is a backroom plan to privatise the company.
In an interview with Ahram Online on Thursday, Nour Bakr, chairman of the 63-year-old company Ben-Zaion, said that the workers's claim "don't make sense," being that the company is one of the "very few" companies in the public business sector to record profits.
In 2013, Ben-Zaion's net profits hit LE2.3 million ($0.3m), the first time in a decade that it had seen any profits at all, Bakr said.
The gains come after LE260 million ($37.6 million) in consolidated losses in 2012, he said.
Bakr dismissed claims that he had let go 25 workers based in the company's subsidiary in the Cairo district of Shubra Al-Khaimah, insisting that he had instead repositioned them in Quesna, Menoufiya governorate where they could be closer to their homes.
In response to the protesting workers' financial demands, Bark said that last year he raised the total wages of the company's 1,250 workers by 60 percent, from LE15.6 million ($2.2 million) in 2012 to LE25.1 million ($3.6 million) in 2013.
Ben-Zaion was established in 1951 by a Jewish businessmen as a high-end shop for wealthy foreigners and upper-class Egyptians.
The company was re-nationalised in the early 1960s by former president Gamal Abdel-Nasser.
Ben-Zaion currently operates under law 203 from 1991 as a subsidiary of the Holding Company for Tourism, Hotels and Cinema (HOTAC), which owns 100 percent of the company's shares.
Before 2008, Ben-Zaion was under the state’s Holding Company for Internal Trade.
Its 84 retail outlets specialise in goods and consumer durables such as textiles, household appliances, linens and furniture.
Ethiopian Great Renaissance Dam Project construction site at Gumba Woreda just 40 kilometers from the border with Sudan. The dam will provide an economic boost to the region., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Govt bonds cover 26.3% of Ethiopian dam costs
Ahram Online, Friday 14 Mar 2014
The Grand Renaissance Dam is currently under construction in Ethiopia
The under-construction Ethiopian Grand Renaissance Dam has received more than 26.3 percent of its construction costs in the form of government bonds purchased by Ethiopians, MENA reported.
The Egyptian state news agency, quoting Ethiopian Walta news, said the Ethiopian National Council for the Coordination of Public Participation on the Construction of the Grand Renaissance Dam “appreciated the remarkable contribution of the Ethiopian people.”
The $4.2 billion hydroelectric dam on the Blue Nile, one of the main tributaries of the Nile, has become a source of concern to Egypt. Officials say the dam may restrict the amount of water reaching Egypt, which is downstream from Ethiopia.
The Nile is Egypt's main source of potable water.
Ethiopians are so keen on the construction of the dam that they are backing it not only in finance but also in diplomacy, the council added.
The council said that Ethiopians, both inside and outside Ethiopia, have played significant roles in fighting negative attitudes in connection to the construction of the dam.
According to the council, March will witness celebrations in Ethiopia and other parts of the world to mark the third anniversary of the beginning of the construction of the dam.
Earlier this month, a spokesman of the government-owned Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation, which is constructing the dam, said 32 percent of the construction has been completed.
Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan formed a tripartite technical committee to study the possible effects of the dam and try to generate consensus on the project. Ethiopia maintains that Egypt's water share will not be negatively affected by the successful completion of the dam.
In recent meetings in Khartoum, the tripartite committee was scheduled to draft a document that entails "confidence building measures" between the countries, and also to form a special international conflict resolution committee.
Egyptian Aswan tomb recently discovered by residents of the area. There has been a series of finding of ancient historic sites., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
New Kingdom tombs discovered in Egypt's Aswan
Nevine El-Aref, Monday 3 Mar 2014
Four rock-hewn New Kingdom tombs uncovered in Aswan may change the history of Elephantine Island
East Aswan inhabitants have accidentally stumbled upon what is believed to be a set of rock-hewn tombs on Elephantine Island, which displays a wide range of monuments from the prehistoric period to the Greco-Roman era.
Minister of Antiquities Mohamed Ibrahim told Ahram Online on Monday that early studies on the tombs' wall paintings reveal that they are dated to the New Kingdom era, which makes a very important discovery that may change the history of Elephantine Island.
Ali El-Asfar, head of the Ancient Egyptian Antiquities section, explains that the first tomb belongs to a top official in Elephantine named User who was a prince of Elephantine during the New Kingdom.
User’s tomb is well decorated with scenes depicting him in different positions with his family and deities. Among the distinguished wall paintings is a scene featuring the deceased wearing leopard fur along with five priests before an offering table, El-Asfar said.
Head of Aswan monuments Nasr Salama said that the second tomb belongs to Ba-Nefer, supervisor of the gods' priests of Elephantine. His tomb is also engraved with scenes depicting him in different positions with his family and deities.
The third tomb belongs to the holder of the stamps of upper Egypt and Elephantine ruler Amenhotep, while the fourth one belongs to Elephantine ruler User Wadjat.
Salama told Ahram Online that the tomb of Amenhotep has a distinguished façade decorated with hieroglyphic texts without any scenes. Its inner walls are decorated with scenes depicting the deceased with his wife, the purification priest and the field scribe.
Ibrahim said that these tombs are under restoration in order to open them to tourists.
Statue of Amenhotep III's daughter unearthed in Luxor
Nevine El-Aref, Monday 10 Mar 2014
Iset, the daughter of Amenhotep III, was the aunt of Tutankhamun
Archaeologists have discovered a new statue depicting the daughter of King Amenhotep III, Tutankhamun’s grandfather and ruler of Egypt over 3,000 years ago.
During routine excavation works at Amenhotep III's funerary temple in the Kom El-Hittan area on Luxor's west bank, a European archaeological mission uncovered the statue of the king's daughter Iset.
The statue, which is 1.7m tall and 52cm wide, forms part of a huge, 14m high alabaster statute of Amenhotep III.
Minister of Antiquities Mohamed Ibrahim told Ahram Online that several parts of the colossal Amenhotep statue had been unearthed during previous excavation seasons.
"It is a very important discovery because it is the first time to unearth a statue that shows the king with his daughter, alone without her mother, brothers or sister," Ibrahim said.
There are several extant statues that show Iset with all the members of her family.
Ali El-Asfar, head of the Ancient Egyptian antiquities sector at the Ministry of Antiquities, explains that the original colossus shows the king sitting on the throne with his hands on his legs, while between his leg stands Iset wearing a rounded wig and long tight garb.
The statue’s face has suffered serious damage due to erosion, and the statue’s legs are missing.
El-Asfar said that the Amenhotep III statue is being restored, and on completion the Iset statue will be installed in its original position between the king's legs. The colossus will be re-erected at its original position in the temple.
Tomb from 18th dynasty discovered in Luxor
Nevine El-Aref, Wednesday 5 Mar 2014
Tomb of 18th dynasty government official accidentally found by Spanish-Italian team on Luxor's west bank in the Sheikh Abdel-Gournah area
A Spanish-Italian team carrying out routine excavation work on Luxor's west bank has stumbled upon what is believed to be the tomb of Maayi, a top governmental official in the 18th dynasty.
Egypt's antiquities minister Mohamed Ibrahim told Ahram Online that the tomb was accidentally found by the excavation team via a hole in the wall of tomb number TT109, in the Sheikh Abdel-Gournah area.
Paintings on the tomb's walls show Maayi in different positions with family members, offering details on his daily life and family relations.
"The tomb is very well decorated, which reflects the luxurious life of its owner," Ibrahim said, adding that one wall painting depicts a feast with men and women gathered in front of a table filled with a variety of food.
Ibrahim said that the tomb is only partly discovered due to debris blocking the entrance. Excavation work is moving ahead to remove sand and rubble so that the rest of the tomb can be explored.
The Pyramids of Egypt are among the largest structures ever built and constitute one of the most potent and enduring symbols of Ancient Egyptian civilization. Most were built during the Old and Middle Kingdom periods., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Egypt sees 28% drop in tourism in Jan/Feb 2014
Ahram Online, Dalia Farouk, Saturday 15 Mar 2014
Drop in tourism largely stems from 58% decline in visitors from Arab countries
The number of tourists visiting Egypt in the first two months of 2014 has dropped 28 percent to 1.3 million in comparison to January and February 2013.
The majority of the decline in visits is attributed to Middle Eastern countries, specifically Syria, Libya and Bahrain.
Visits from Arab countries fell 58 percent, mostly depicting an 85 percent drop from Syria, 54 percent from Libya, and 19 percent decline in visits from Bahrain.
On the contrary, tourists coming from the United Arab Emirates increased by 38 percent to add up to 3088 visitors in January and February.
Tourists visiting from Europe were 24 percent less as compared to January and February 2013.
This period also saw 42 percent less tourists from Asia and the Pacific as compared to the same period in the previous year.
The tourism sector, which accounts for roughly nine percent of GDP, has received several blows since a popular uprising forced president Hosni Mubarak to step down in 2011. Prolonged periods of unrest and sporadic violence have led many countries to warn their citizens against travelling to Egypt.
Egypt attracted 14.7 million visitors in 2010, a record high. That fell to around 10 million in 2011, then rose to 11.5 million in 2012.
As the security situation in South Sinai has deteriorated under a growing militant insurgency, Germany has issued a warning against travel to the peninsula and travel agencies have begun evacuating German tourists from the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh.
In an attempt to save the ailing sector, tourism minister, Hisham Zaazou, oversaw initiatives to encourage domestic tourism through affordable travel packages. Zaazou also hosted a delegation of British experts in Sharm El-Sheikh to assess the safety of Sinai's touristic resorts.
He said that the tourism ministry was eyeing visitors from emerging markets such as India, the source of 18 million tourists annually.
Indian tourists visiting Egypt in the first two months of this year fell by 14.5 percent to 7872 visitors.
However, the second “India on the banks of the Nile” festival starting 1st of April and continuing for three weeks is expected to boost Indian tourism to Egypt.
Rasha Al-Azazi, Spokesperson for the ministry of tourism, assured that the ministry recognizes the high purchasing power for Indian tourists.
Egypt aims to attract one million Indian tourists by September 2017, added Al-Azazi.
Egyptian blogger Alaa Abdel-Fattah trial date set for March 23, 2014. He has been held in detention since November 2013., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Trial date set for Egyptian activist Alaa Abdel-Fatah and 24 others
El-Sayed Gamal eldeen
Saturday 15 Mar 2014
Alaa Abdel-Fatah and 24 co-defendants will stand trial on charges of illegal protesting
Egyptian prominent activist Alaa Abdel-Fatah and 24 co-defendants will stand trial on 23 March.
They all face charges of illegal protesting.
The court decision comes after several protests against the detention of activists for months with no trial.
Abdel-Fatah has spent over 100 days in detention without trial since he was arrested last November.
On 26 November, Abdel-Fattah, along with other activists, organised a protest in central Cairo to denounce the subjection of civilians to military trials. The protest was dispersed by police, and scores of activists were arrested.
Abdel-Fattah was arrested at his home on 28 November, two days after the protest.
In January, he received a suspended one-year jail sentence in a separate case on charges of torching the campaign headquarters of Hosni Mubarak's last prime minister Ahmed Shafiq who ran for president in 2012.
Egyptian blogger Alaa Abdel-Fattah languishes in detention. Thousands have been killed and arrested since the military coup on July 3, 2013., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Arrested protesters languish in Egypt's detention cells
Mariam Rizk and Passant Darwish, Monday 10 Mar 2014
Hundreds of people arrested at protests in recent months remain in prison cells with no sign of trial or release
"There's no sense of law, no hope in the constitution and no value in the courts. We will stay here until they finish their damned roadmap," wrote Alaa Abdel-Fattah from a prison cell, almost a hundred days after he was arrested on charges of illegal protesting.
Longtime blogger and rights campaigner Abdel-Fattah, who has been detained several times since the 2011 revolution, was arrested last November at his home on charges of breaking a newly issued protest law.
The controversial legislation, passed by Egypt's transitional authorities in November, allows public demonstrations only if organisers have notified police three days in advance. Violators of the law face fines and prison terms.
Abdel-Fattah, along with other activists, organised a protest in central Cairo on 26 November, to denounce the subjection of civilians to military trials. The protest was dispersed by police, and although Abdel-Fattah was not arrested at the time, police came to his home two days later, armed with an arrest warrant.
Of the dozens arrested for participating in the protest, only Abdel-Fattah and fellow activist Ahmed Abdel-Rahman remain in custody today.
To date, they have spent more than three months in detention, with no trial date yet in sight.
Abdel-Fattah's family, along with dozens of activists and friends, gathered at the Cairo High Court on Sunday to demand the two men’s release.Abdel-Fattah's relatives have also lodged a complaint against the prosecutor-general with the Supreme Judicial Council.
Arrested at home
"Alaa, Ahmed and thousands of young people are in prison so that the revolution of 25 January 2011 may be extinguished; so that the young don't think any more of revolution," Ahdaf Soueif, a prominent novelist and Abdel-Fattah's aunt wrote on Facebook recently.
Mona Seif, Abdel-Fattah's sister and a founding member of the No to Military Trials campaign, told Ahram Online about the day that her brother was arrested.
"Police stormed his house...and beat up him and his wife. He was dragged out of the house with bare feet, and their laptops were seized," she told Ahram Online during a protest on Sunday calling for his release.
"We did not even know where he was being held for the first 24 hours," she added.
Abdel-Fattah has had his detention period officially extended twice, most recently in December when he was referred to court. Since then he has remained in jail without seeing a judge or hearing word of a trial date.
Osama El-Mahdy, a rights lawyer who represents the detained men, told Ahram Online that the detainees were not being treated fairly.
"There's obstinacy in this specific case," he said.
Reasons for detention 'not valid'
A new movement called Freedom for the Brave, launched to defend detained protesters and demand their release, said in a statement last week that this kind of detention was caused by a "black hole" in the law.
"Without identifying a judicial circuit to look into the case, there is no judicial body able to issue a decision to release prisoners, not even the prosecutor-general," the group said in a statement last week.
Abdel-Fattah and Abdel-Rahman are just two of hundreds of people detained in recent months whose detentions have been renewed repeatedly with no sign of a trial or a release.
"The nature of the law is to protect human freedom…remand detention should be an exception in specific cases assigned by law," Rafaat Fouda, a professor of law at Cairo University told Ahram Online.
The cases, according to Fouda, include those where suspects may abscond, where their freedom may affect the ongoing investigation in some way through witnesses or evidence, or those in which suspects do not have fixed and known places of residence in Egypt.
Amr Imam, a human rights lawyer at the Hisham Mubarak Law Centre, agrees that detention is a problematic issue.
"The reasons for remand detention are limited, and not valid in most of the cases we see," he said.
Detention as 'a new form of abuse'
Freedom for the Brave has highlighted the danger of misuse of detention, warned in its statement that it can sometimes be deployed as a punishment, describing it as "a new form of abuse."
Egyptian law used to stipulate that the period of pre-trial detention should not exceed one-third of the maximum penalty for the charge the suspect is being tried on, to a maximum of six months for misdemeanours, 18 months for felonies and two years for crimes carrying life imprisonment.
Following an amendment to the lawin September last year,detention in cases carrying the death penalty or life in jail can now be renewed indefinitely.
This amendment came after former president Hosni Mubarak was released from prison in August 2013 after serving a two year maximum detention period for a variety of trials, appeals and retrials.
The problem, activists say, is when the law is used as a political punishment rather than a legal procedure for investigation.
"After the revolution, authorities used it as a replacement for the emergency law and for political detention," Imam said.
According to the rights lawyer, at least 1,200 people were detained at protests and clashes on 25 January, the anniversary of the 2011 revolution, and nearly half of them are still detained pending investigation.
In one case monitored by Imam, detainee Ahmed Ayman was arrested in the summer of 2013 and has been detained pending investigation for over six months.
'No political prisoners in Egypt'
Amid outrage from rights groups and political movements following the January arrests, interim President Adly Mansour urged the country’s top prosecutor to look into the status of those detained pending investigation, university students in particular.
Mansour then requested a list of those allegedly arrested randomly without charge and said those proven to be innocent would be released.
In response, Prosecutor-General Hisham Barakat denied that Egyptian prisons hold any political detainees and stressed that all detentions are "in accordance with the country's criminal law and are not subject to any exceptional legislation."
However, in recent weeks prosecutors have ordered the release of dozens of detained students.
"The swift and fair judiciary should look into cases quickly… and either refer them to court or [release them]. The judge should not renew the detention haphazardly," law professor Fouad argues.
"Detention in nature is a form of punishment. Doing it with no justification contradicts the basic of freedoms, rights and dignity stressed in the [new] constitution," he said.
Nelson Mandela with members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Mandela has been eulogized by the Palestinians., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.Israeli Apartheid Week observed across South Africa
Sat Mar 15, 2014 3:34PM GMT
South Africans have marked the 10th annual Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) to voice their solidarity with the Palestinian people in the face of the Israeli occupation, Press TV reports.
In the past week, South African activists, civil groups, and the country’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) party held more than 100 events including rallies, lectures and cultural performances across the country to criticize the Israeli regime’s apartheid policies towards the oppressed Palestinian nation.
The events held during the Israeli Apartheid Week also tried to shed light on how closely the Tel Aviv regime’s propaganda campaign against the Palestinians resembles that of the former apartheid rule in South Africa.
Organizers say the overwhelming interest in the IAW events shows how the anti-Israel campaign has grown since it was launched a decade ago.
The IAW was observed in the United States and Britain between February 25 and March 2. The event has been also held in over 200 cities across the world.
The apartheid regime of Israel denies about 1.7 million people in Gaza their basic rights, such as freedom of movement, jobs that pay proper wages, and adequate healthcare and education.
The Israeli regime also maintains a defiant stand on the issue of illegal settlements on Palestinian land as it refuses to freeze settlement expansion. Tel Aviv has come under repeated and widespread international condemnation over the issue.
More than half a million Israelis live in over 120 illegal settlements built since the 1967 Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East al-Quds (Jerusalem).
Judge Claudia Morcom, Dr. Michelle Alexander and Rev. Ed Rowe at the Central United Methodist Church annual banquet held at the Renaissance Center in downtown Detroit. Alexander was the featured speaker on mass incarceration. (Photo: Abayomi Azikiwe), a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
By April M. Short
Michelle Alexander: White Men Get Rich from Legal Pot, Black Men Stay in Prison
March 7, 2014
Ever since Colorado and Washington made the unprecedented move to legalize recreational pot last year, excitement and stories of unfettered success have billowed into the air. Colorado's marijuana tax revenue far exceeded expectations, bringing a whopping $185 million to the state and tourists are lining up to taste the budding culture (pun intended). Several other states are now looking to follow suit and legalize.
But the ramifications of this momentous shift are left unaddressed. When you flick on the TV to a segment about the flowering pot market in Colorado, you'll find that the faces of the movement are primarily white and male. Meanwhile, many of the more than 210,000 people who were arrested for marijuana possession in Colorado between 1986 and 2010 according to a report from the Marijuana Arrest Research Project, remain behind bars. Thousands of black men and boys still sit in prisons for possession of the very plant that's making those white guys on TV rich.
“In many ways the imagery doesn't sit right,” said Michelle Alexander, associate professor of law at Ohio State University and author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness in a public conversation on March 6 with Asha Bandele of the Drug Policy Alliance.
“Here are white men poised to run big marijuana businesses, dreaming of cashing in big—big money, big businesses selling weed—after 40 years of impoverished black kids getting prison time for selling weed, and their families and futures destroyed. Now, white men are planning to get rich doing precisely the same thing?”
Alexander said she is “thrilled” that Colorado and Washington have legalized pot and that Washington D.C. decriminalized possession of small amounts earlier this month. But she said she’s noticed "warning signs" of a troubling trend emerging in the pot legalization movement: Whites—men in particular—are the face of the movement, and the emerging pot industry. (A recent In These Times article titled “The Unbearable Whiteness of Marijuana Legalization,” summarize this trend.)
Alexander said for 40 years poor communities of color have experienced the wrath of the war on drugs.
“Black men and boys” have been the target of the war on drugs’ racist policies—stopped, frisked and disturbed—“often before they’re old enough to vote,” she said. Those youths are arrested most often for nonviolent first offenses that would go ignored in middle-class white neighborhoods.
“We arrest these kids at young ages, saddle them with criminal records, throw them in cages, and then release them into a parallel social universe in which the very civil and human rights supposedly won in the Civil Rights movement no longer apply to them for the rest of their lives,” she said. “They can be discriminated against [when it comes to] employment, housing, access to education, public benefits. They're locked into a permanent second-class status for life. And we’ve done this in precisely the communities that were most in need of our support.”
As Asha Bandele of DPA pointed out during the conversation, the U.S. has 5% of the world’s population and 25% of the world’s prisoners. Today, 2.2 million people are in prison or jail and 7.7 million are under the control of the criminal justice system, with African American boys and men—and now women—making up a disproportionate number of those imprisoned.
Alexander’s book was published four years ago and spent 75 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, helping to bring mass incarceration to the forefront of the national discussion.
Alexander said over the last four years, as she’s been traveling from state to state speaking to audiences from prisons to universities about her book, she’s witnessed an “awakening.” More and more people are talking about mass incarceration, racism and the war on drugs.
Often when people talk about the reasons certain communities are impoverished or lack education they blame the personal choices or moral shortcomings of the people in those communities, but that way of looking at things has got it backwards, she said.
“That these communities are poor and have failing schools and have broken rules is not because of their personal failings but because we’ve declared war on them,” she said. “We’ve spent billions of dollars building prisons and allowing schools to fail. We’ve decimated these communities by shuttling young people from their underfunded schools to these brand new, high tech prisons. We’ve begun targeting children in these communities at young ages.”
Alexander cautioned that drug policy activists need to keep this disparity in mind and cultivate a conversation about repairing the damages done by the systemic racism of the war on drugs, before cashing in on legalization.
“After waging a brutal war on poor communities of color, a drug war that has decimated families, spread despair and hopelessness through entire communities, and a war that has fanned the flames of the very violence it was supposedly intended to address and control; after pouring billions of dollars into prisons and allowing schools to fail; we’re gonna simply say, we’re done now?” Alexander said. “I think we have to be willing, as we’re talking about legalization, to also start talking about reparations for the war on drugs, how to repair the harm caused.”
Alexander used the example of post-apartheid reparations in South Africa to point out the way a society can and should own up to its past mistakes. After apartheid ended, the nation passed a law called the Promotion of National Unity and Reconciliation Act of 1995. Under the new law, a Truth and Reconciliation Commission was formed to "elicit truth" about the human rights violations that had occurred. The commission recorded the statements of witnesses who endured "gross human rights violations" and facilitated public hearings. Those who had committed violence could request amnesty from civil and criminal prosecution in order to share testimony about what they'd done with the commission.
“At the end of apartheid in South Africa there was an understanding that there could be no healing, no progress, no reconciliation without truth,” she said. “You can’t just destroy a people and then say ‘It’s over, we’re stopping now.’ You have to be willing to deal with the truth, deal with the history openly and honestly.”
Alexander pointed to America’s tendency to shove its racist legacies under the rug rather than own up to them. When the civil war ended, slaves were free on paper but they were left with nothing—“no 40 acres and a mule, nothing,” Alexander said. The only option was to work low-paying contract jobs for the same slave owners who had previously brutalized them.
“And after a brief period of reconstruction a new caste system was imposed—Jim Crow—and another extraordinary movement arose and brought the old Jim Crow to its knees,” she said. “Americans said, OK, we’ll stop now. We’ll take down the whites-only signs, we’ll stop doing that. But there were not reparations for slavery, not for Jim Crow, and scarcely an acknowledgement of the harm done except for Martin Luther King Day, one day out of the year. And I feel like, here we go again.”
Last week, Obama pushed out an initiative called My Brother’s Keeper, focused on helping black boys who have fallen down the social ladder. Alexander said she’s glad Obama is shining a spotlight on the crisis facing black communities. However, she said Obama has perpetuated the backward way of framing the situation when he talks about the issues facing those communities.
"I am worried that much of the initiative is more based in rhetoric than in meaningful commitment to address the structures and institutions that have created the conditions in these communities," she said.
Asked about the unlikely relationship forming between U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Kentucky’s Tea Party senator Rand Paul, both of whom are standing together to end mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenders, Alexander responded she is wary of whether these politicians are making the right decisions for the wrong reasons.
She cautioned that politicians across the political spectrum are “highly motivated” to downsize prisons because the U.S. can no longer afford to maintain a massive prison state without raising taxes “on the predominantly white middle class.” That shortsighted way of thinking fails to recognize the larger societal patterns that keep the U.S. cycling through various “caste-like” systems.
“If we're going to downsize these prisons and change marijuana laws and all that, in order to save some cash, but in that process to change these laws, we haven't woken up to the magnitude of the harm that we have done,” she said. “Ultimately, at least from my perspective, this movement to end mass incarceration and this movement to end the drug war is about breaking our nation’s habit of creating caste-like systems in America,” she said. She added that regardless of whether they’re struggling with addiction and drug abuse or have a felony on their record, people deserve to be treated with basic human rights.
“How were we able to permanently lock out of mainstream society tens of millions of people, destroy families?” she said. “If we’re not going to have a real conversation about that and ultimately be willing to care for ‘them,’ the ‘others,’ those ‘ghetto dwellers’ who’ve been demonized in this rush to declare war, we’re going to find ourselves years from now either still having a slightly downsized system of mass incarceration that continues to hum along very well, or we will have managed to downsize our prisons but some new system of racial and social control will have emerged again because we have not yet learned the core lesson that our racial history has been trying to teach us.”
Women rally at the ZANU-PF National People's Conference held in Bulawayo. The revolutionary party and founder of modern Zimbabwe is preparing for elections in 2013., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Where women rule alongside men
March 15, 2014 Opinion & Analysis
Roselyne Sachiti Features Editor
When many young people hear the name Muzvare, they can easily conclude that it refers to a woman whose womb has “spit” many children.
Some think it’s a reference to a menopausal woman.
But in Zimbabwe’s Manicaland Province in Chief Makoni’s area, Muzvare refers to something more important and precious: women born in the royal family.
Vazvare are royal princesses and are of the Nyati totem.
Loosely translated, Muzvare means Her Royal Highness, the Princess.
People like Girl Child Network founder Muzvare Betty Makoni are fourth generation of Paramount Chief Makoni who moved to Zimbabwe around 1600 and established his Maungwe Kingdom there.
History has it that one of the women to fight in the war was Masara.
Her brothers and fathers honoured her with title Muzvare – Her Royal Highness – and since then it has been passed down to those who proudly hold it today.
In this part of the country, Kamba Village, Baradzanwa area of Makoni, Rusape, to be precise, Vazvare are treated with utmost respect.
They hold onto their culture, trying to preserve it as much as they can.
Local leadership, ordinary villagers and even visitors all know their value.
The Herald tracked down some of the princesses, who spoke of their life, responsibilities, joys and fears.
Muzvare Winnie Bushu, born June 22, 1933, has been around long enough to see different generations of Vazvare.
“I am a one of the many proud princesses from Chief Makoni area. Vazvare, both the living and departed, are important in the day-to-day livelihood of the area.
“Our duties, among others, include working side-by-side with local spirit mediums (masvikiro) for the rain-making ceremonies.
“If there are issues affecting locals to be discussed, Vazvare also meet at Chitsotso – the sacred place – where they brainstorm ideas and find solutions. If there are serious issues, we first meet and discuss before everyone is involved,” she says.
In this part of the country, Vazvare are not afraid to question the patriarchal leadership at household and community levels whenever they feel an issue has been improperly handled.
“If, for example, there is case that is being dealt with and a Muzvare thinks the handling is not proper, she can challenge the father or traditional leader. She can advise them on what she thinks is right and they always listen and even change the decision,” she says.
Adds Muzvare Bushu: “We also listen to issues being handled by the chief. If not satisfied, a Muzvare can signal to the chief saying ‘kahwa, kahwa, shewe’ and the chief will know she wants to say something and give her room.”
When they marry, Vazvare’s husbands earn the title “Dangirwa”. The marital bed does not take away their status and role as Vazvare.
“Even if no one has called us and we see there is an issue that needs attention, we summon each other to Chitsotso. Some who have been married in areas like Chiendambuya, Mukuvapasi come and we discuss the issues,” she adds.
She reveals there are many Vazvare in the area, new ones are born each year.
Even in death, Vazvare are special.
They are buried at the sacred place called Chitsotso, where ordinary villagers are never interred.
Only one man, Dangirwa, is buried there and, as Muzvare Bushu explains, he protects all the Vazvare there.
The graves are marked by small heaps of stone. They have no epitaphs.
“When a Muzvare dies, the elderly Vazvares, sahwiras and Dangirwas usually lead the proceedings. Representatives of the Dangirwa also help,” says Muzvare Bushu.
Sometime in October, Vazvare make a beeline to Chitsotso and cut all long grass around the cemetery.
Making rain, lifting skirts
They also perform rain-making ceremonies.
“When we dance at the ceremonies rain can fall. When we do Chitsotso, we kill a cow and beat the drums. Even rain can fall. The chief and his people also come,” she adds.
From long back, the community has consulted Vazvare when rains do not come on time.
“They say to us ‘Vazvare why have you forsaken us like this? When are the rains coming?’
“But, the rain is not ours; it belongs to God, so Vazvare would go under a tree at Chitsotso and do their rituals and God provides the rain. We also work with spirit mediums like Sakureba,” she narrates.
Adds Muzvare Bushu: “During the ceremonies, the older Vazvare generation would dance and lift their skirts. We would sing the song ‘Muzvare Muzvare, mvura yanaya, kungomuti bii, mvura yanaya’. But the lifting of dresses is dying down.”
She said the chief saw it fit for a Girl Child Network safe house to be built at Chitsotso so that abused girls can be protected by Vazvare.
Modernisation and Christianity, in particular, are to blame for the erosion of their once beloved traditions, Muzvare Bushu believes.
She says younger people no longer respect Chitsotso.
“Trees are being cut on the scared burial area. Some even have their church ceremonies here. They say those following tradition are heathens and do what they want with our area. We have raised our concerns with the chief and village head.
“I don’t know if the village head told his people to stop what they are doing. I told him that this place should be respected but nothing is happening. Vazvare, both living and dead, are not happy.”
Standing at Chitsotso, Muzvare Bushu is clearly unhappy, venting her frustration to village head Mr Lameck Kamba (34).
“I am not happy with the way this place is being treated. Sabhuku, tell your people we want our respect. What is all this? All the trees are gone. Talk to the chief, Sabhuku, we do not want this . . . arrest people who are doing this. You know them,” she wails.
Some of the graves have been there before Muzvare Bushu was born.
And it is evident that the place is a shadow of its former self.
Vazvare want a security fence around the area. What will they tell and show future generation Vazvare if Chitsotso disappears is their main worry.
Muzvare Bushu says they are working hard so that they do not die with their traditions.
What they know, they pass on to those willing among the younger generations.
“We saw what our elders were doing that is why we are still doing, we hope this will not go with us.”
They want Chitsotso to be respected – there should be no cutting of trees whose leaves and branches blanket the graves.
“As young girls, we would be scared to go near Chitsotso. We knew its value, importance and significance to our culture,” she adds.
She says because of Christianity, most Vazvare no longer smoke tobacco, take snuff or drink alcohol.
“We would partake of bute and mudhombo but because of religion, the Bible stops us from doing many things. We would smoke in public when we met,” she recounts.
Some Vazvare are “blessed”: they are both princesses and spirit mediums, earning double respect.
Muzvare Agnes Mugarandega is a rain-making medium.
“We are important. We were born like that,” she says.
And if a chief is being installed she has to be there standing as “Father”.
She says there are seven known spirit mediums in the Makoni area.
Muzvare Mugaradenga thinks the mixture of modern and traditional practices that has crept in the area is a big problem.
“Most people are saying rain-making ceremonies are for heathens. I just hope that those who departed early will see what is taking place and bring natural solutions,” she says.
She blames the local traditional leadership for not doing enough to ensure that traditions are preserved and respected.
Sabhuku Kamba’s one-year-old daughter is a Muzvare.
He was born into the tradition and has seen different generations, over the years learning to fear and respect them.
“For example Muzvare Betty Makoni built Girl Child Network Village at Chitsotso, a scared area.
“The area is not supposed to be electrified but because of her power as a Muzvare she did so,” he said.
He also tells of days when a cow would be
beaten with fists by old men until it died during ceremonies at Chitsotso.
“But one modern chief, the late Naboth Gandanzara, used a gun to kill a cow. He brought too much urbanisation to the area,” he says somewhat ruefully.
He says because of their power, Vazvare never went hungry when drought hit many parts of Zimbabwe in 1992.
“We could hear of hunger from areas like Buhera. Even when others were given yellow maize meal, popularly known as Kenya, we took less because we had enough food. Our Vazvare had danced for the rains and food,” he relates.
He says some Vazvare smoke marijuana and drink alcohol more than men – it is just one way of showing their power.
One wonders if a visitor to the area 100 years from now will find old women dancing and lifting their skirts as they beseech the heavens for rain.
Republic of Zimbabwe Minister of Youth, Development and Indigenization, Francis Dunstan Nhema, granted an interview with the Herald. He said that mining companies must contribute more to the country., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
‘Mining companies must play ball’
March 15, 2014
Opinion & Analysis
Our Senior Reporter Fortious Nhambura (FN) caught up with the Minister of Youth Development, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Francis Dunstan Nhema (FDN) to discuss the operation of CSOTs and the level of compliance with the indigenisation law among companies.
FN: Tell us the background of community share ownership schemes, what motivated Government to start them?
FDN: I think we have to look at it from a point of view of what is happening, what we used to call Campfire. Campfire was a programme for community based programmes in the utilisation of their natural resources to the benefit of the people. That’s the same concept we now have only that we have now taken it into the mining sector and then the other activities that happen within the mining sector. We are saying the background is that you as an operator within an area where there is a natural resource which you are taking out and benefiting from, the communities must also benefit. In other words we are saying you are there to assist the communities to extract whatever it is, be it diamond, gold or platinum – this should be done for the good of the communities. What we are saying is that the communities are going to be obviously affected by the activities and they must also benefit. That is the idea of community share ownership schemes.
FN: What is the response of the different communities in which the schemes are operating?
FDN: The communities are saying, yes, it is the responsibility to be involved, it is us who must participate, it is us who must benefit while we appreciate the companies who are coming to do the work must also benefit, that it is our natural resource and therefore we own it, it is ours and we have to benefit from it.
FN: Minister, how many share schemes are in operation in the country now?
FDN: I think as a country we almost have 70 that have been registered. You will realise that quite a number of some community trusts registered are based in the districts and in some we have more than one community trust that is registered. We are saying we should reduce them so that there is coordination and harmony. This is because more trusts you have the more disputes you have, the more the administration becomes a lot and confusion arises. The instrument we have in this ministry allows us to advise companies in setting up to community ownership trusts.However, because of a number of other interests you might have a community ownership that is looking for mines, another plantations and another in other activities resulting in confusion in these community trusts. That is why we are saying we must now streamline and harmonise them so that in any area one trust can operate.
FN: Critics of the Community Share Ownership Trust schemes say they were only meant to garner numbers for Zanu-PF in the run up to the elections. Are we likely to see more schemes being launched?
FDN: I think it is not about launching more schemes but about making people understand why we have those community share ownership schemes. And we must also impress upon the people who are administrators to understand why they are running them. I think what we did not do was to educate them, give them information why it is relevant to them to understand how it works; it must run as a business; as an entity and they must be sure that they are running it in an economical way and people must see the benefits.
FN: Judging by the performance of the community share ownership schemes established in the country so far, is the Government happy with the manner they have been operating?
FDN: l think a lot needs to be done. This is a new phenomenon to a lot of people, a lot of communities and unless they know and understand how it’s working it will be very difficult. It is early stages yet and I am therefore happy that people are now beginning to know that this is their responsibility, and that they are their own trust and that people must assist. They should not just stand aloof and say they are not working. It is their scheme. The trustees are made up of the chiefs, headmen and people of the area that must advise Government what they want and how the trust must operate. Let us not point fingers to anyone but to ourselves because we are the owners. Let us say why is it that our programme is not operating well when in other areas they are functioning well.
FN: There are allegations that not all is well in these share schemes with some companies still to honour their pledges, what is being done to ensure that companies fulfil their part of the bargain?
FDN: We must understand that not all companies are doing well. There are other companies that contributed early because they had the money and others that were still starting operations and did not have the money. There are others that have only paid a part of the contributions and we are encouraging them to pay up. Let us appreciate that many companies are closing because business is not good and we should not just force them to pay. We must not make noise over these payments but encourage them to pay. We are saying let them give us a timetable and let’s all develop together. What has been happening is that a number of them have been coming and explaining their programmes, when they will start processing or when they think they will be able to pay.
Some have paid up and what we are saying is we will continue discussing with them.
Some are failing to pay off debts and workers and to expect them to pay towards ownership schemes means doom for them. If we are to take the money and the company fails to buy machinery to continue with its operations what will be next?
FN: What is the Government’s understanding of the Marange situation where there have been conflicting reports over the companies’ contributions to the Marange–Zimunya Community Share Ownership Scheme despite making pledges and what is the way forward?
FDN: We are encouraging the players in that area to take up their social responsibilities. In other words we expect these companies to make sure that where they operate from people also benefit even though we have not moved towards any substantive dividend declarations. So we are saying in the process please be cognisant of the fact that the communities want assistance even though you have not realised a meaningful dividend.
FN: There are allegations of abuse of Trust funds in the community share schemes, what is being done to protect looting in these schemes?
FDN: The issue of abuse of trust funds is out of ignorance of what the responsibilities of the trust are and what the Trust must use that money for. In other words we must teach people of these areas how they must invest money and use the money so that people see the benefits. We perhaps did not outline that clearly to the people. Remember you are looking at local chiefs running institutions they had never run before. We cannot expect the chief who has not run a tuckshop, who has not run anything, let alone who has never been on a payroll to run these schemes.
FN: So, are trust monies really safe in the hands of people without the know-how to run business?
FDN: This is a process. Every one of us has not done business. As indigenous people we’re beginning to experience these things now. They monies are very safe because as a ministry we are going around and instructing them on how to operate and how to use the money. We are educating them on the procedures, business plan which must be put in place for it to make sense.
FN: There are reports of infighting in community share schemes — as in the case of Mberengwa and Zvishavane districts over the money pledged by Mimosa as the two communities contribute to the operations of the company, how is the situation being redressed?
FDN: That is natural. Wherever there is money or business there are different interests and priorities and therefore community trusts must therefore learn to prioritise their areas and agree on the best way to utilise the funds when, how and where. The mechanism is for them to find a project that is encompassing in all the districts. If there are four or five chiefs in the area they should look for the common denominator. It might be a central hospital that may be beneficial to all, it might be a road linking all, a secondary school or college that is central to all the chiefs. Even if it is electrification, it must move through every district so that all may benefit. That is the kind of training that we are giving them. We want them to think globally not individually.
The ministry is consulting business people to train the trustees. My appeal to them is to work together and translate this dream.
FN: To what extent has politics affected business in community share ownership trusts?
FDN: I think politics will always be with us. If you want to look for politics in anything you will get it. If you are looking to build a bridge, a road; surely you know what you want. Sometimes we worry so much about politics so that we forget who we are. Sometimes we give politics so much weight that is necessary. If you want breakfast just eat breakfast and if you want lunch just eat lunch and not worry about politics.
FN: What is the future of the indigenisation programme in the country? Are we likely to see Government increasing the pace of indigenising the economy?
FDN: My emphasis is not on indigenisation. I want you to understand that indigenisation is only a small part of the programme. The whole programme is about wealth creation, it is about employment, about Zimbabweans owning, running and creating their own companies. How do we do that, we do that by skills training. We are looking at those people who did not do well at Grade Seven, at ‘O’ Level and those are the people were sending back to vocational training colleges. We have 48 vocational training centres around the country and offering 35 disciplines that they must train for a year. We have your upholstery, painting, mental work, photography, woodwork, mechanics and tilling — the things that you do at home, non academic issues. After indigenising the 2000 companies that are supposed to be indigenised what do we do after that? If 2000 people have taken share in these companies what happens to the 14 million people? The emphasis is to create our own companies, giving them access to knowledge, information on creating wealth.
South Sudan tank during attempted coup on December 17, 2013. Reports indicate that more than 500 have been killed., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
FRIDAY 14 MARCH 2014
Top S. Sudan military officer gunned down in Juba
March 13, 2014 (JUBA) – A top military officer from South Sudan army (SPLA) was inadvertently assassinated on Wednesday in Juba, relatives and police authorities said on Thursday.
A Sudan Tribune reporter who visited the scene said Major General Kuac Deng Kuac, who was commanding SPLA forces around Jonglei’s Pibor area and originally hailed from Northern Bahr el Ghazal (NBeG), was gunned down along Juba University and Tumbura crossing point in South Sudan’s capital.
It remains unclear what caused the shooting that subsequently led to his death, although relatives and government officials claimed he “died in the hands of Central Equatoria Patrol Police force”.
Police officers from the Central Equatoria were on patrol when the shooting occurred and have been accused of involvement in the incident.
More than 10 police officers who were on duty at the time were initially arrested, but some have already been released after preliminary investigations found that they were not in any way involved, although at least two police officers remain in custody.
“They assassinated him by a gunshot at his rear head and the bullet came out in the forehead, injuring his left hand too, Daniel Akol Diing, NBeG’s chief whip, said on Wednesday, describing Kuac as “a hero and freedom fighter”.
Multiple eyewitnesses said the general was last seen at around 8.20pm (local time) on Wednesday at a place in Mahatah Yei, one of the residential areas in Juba between its university and city centre.
He was seen chatting near a tea making place with former NBeG health minister Tong Akeen and several others.
Kuac held several positions, including military police commander of the SPLA forces in Juba, before serving as commissioner for Aweil East from 2010 to 2012 when he was replaced.
Both the SPLA and police spokespersons have confirmed the shooting, saying only that a joint investigation with the full participation of the deceased’s relatives would be conducted to establish the circumstances of the incident.
Kuac is the third top military officer from Northern Bahr el Ghazal to be gunned down following the eruption of violence less than three months ago between rebel forces and those loyal to president Salva Kiir.
His body will be airlifted from Juba to his home state for burial to his home state after the arrival of some of his immediate family members from Uganda.
Republic South Sudan President Salva Kiir with Defense Minister Koul Manyang Juuk announcing that an attempted coup has taken place. He blamed former Vice President Riek Machar., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
SATURDAY 15 MARCH 2014
South Sudan unconditionally accepts regional force deployment
March 14, 2014 (JUBA) - South Sudan has unconditionally accepted deployment of an East African regional force, despite protest and rejection by the rebel group which has been fighting government for almost three months since a split in ruling party (SPLM) and army (SPLA) plunged the young nation into conflict in mid-December.
The confirmation comes after speculation that the SPLM government in Juba had asked leaders from the East African regional block IGAD - the Intergovernmental Authority of Development - to consider deploying a protection force to the country’s oil fields and other important installations.
Nhial Deng Nhial, the former South Sudanese minister for foreign who is a lead negotiator at talks with the rebel SPLM/A in Opposition, told Sudan Tribune on Friday that his government unconditionally accepted deployment of the regional force in accordance with the communique of the IGAD summit attended by heads of state held this week in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
"The summit had agreed to do two important things. One is the emphasis on the commitment of the parties to the resolve the conflict through peaceful dialogue, which the government of the republic of South Sudan had already accepted as a principle and formed negotiating team", Nhial said.
The other important resolution, according to Nhial, was the seven-member bloc’s decision to deploy a regional force to South Sudan "to firstly provide protection to [the IGAD] ceasefire monitoring and verification mechanism team and secondly to provide protection to key economic zones and installations."
The former foreign minister said that he did not think anyone could object to the regional initiative.
However, the leader of the SPLM/A in Opposition, Riek Machar, South Sudan’s former vice president told Sudan Tribune on Friday that he condemned the proposed deployments of such forces, warning that it will widen and regionalise the current conflict.
The rebels have already strongly objected to Uganda’s decision to deploy troops to South Sudan to fight alongside the SPLA against Machar’s rebels, a loose coalition of armed civilians mobilised mainly on the basis of ethnic affiliations and defectors from the army.
Despite beginning as an internal political argument between rival factions within the ruling SPLM, which was not divided along tribal lines, the conflict has killed around 10,000 people many of whom were targeted because of their ethnic identity.
Machar described IGAD’s decision as "unfortunate" as it interfered in South Sudan’s "internal conflict" between factions of the ruling party and army.
The SPLM and SPLA until a 2005 peace deal was a rebel movement fighting against the government in Khartoum. In 2011 the country seceded from Sudan but did not address its internal political differences.
"We reject it and condemn it in the strongest terms. It is an attempt to regionalize the internal conflict," Machar told Sudan Tribune on Friday by phone from one of his bases in oil-producing Upper Nile state.
Nhial, however, insisted that the deployment of IGAD forced "is to create an environment conducive to continue with the dialogue on other issues". So far the peace process in Addis Ababa has only achieved a weak ceasefire deal that was seriously violated by both sides.
The former foreign minister did not provide details regarding who will fund the force or how many troops would be deployed.
However, sources within the ministry of foreign affairs and the presidency claimed three IGAD member countries had shown an interest in contributing to the force but did not give any indication as to their identity.
South Sudan’s president Salva Kiir had made it abundantly clear at the summit that the upcoming talks should be confined to the SPLM government and Machar’s the SPLM/A in Opposition, Nhial said.
A groups of seven senior SPLM officials have joined the talks as a third group after they were detained and accused of collaborating with Machar to overthrow Kiir’s government in a coup on 15 December.
"The president made it abundantly clearly that the position of the government of the republic of South Sudan is to confine the upcoming talks to only the government and those involved in armed conflict", Nhial said.
This group however, "can participate in the subsequent processes, if they so wish. We will have national dialogue where all the stakeholders would participate. I think this is one of the appropriate forums where these people can participate if they so wish".
Many analysts have warned that a political power sharing deal between the warring factions will not bring a lasting solution to the political factors that triggered the conflict and the social issues that have caused the issue of ethnic identity to polarise the young nation.
Nhial’s comments also seem to rule of the involvement of South Sudanese civil society in the talks, a move that has been encouraged by mediators but not the government or the rebels.
The seven former detainees all deny being part of a conspiracy to oust Kiir from power, as do the four senior SPLM officials whose high profile trial began in Juba this week.
"As for those who are being tried, the president can’t do anything now. He can only decide what to do after the outcome of the trial, if he wishes”, Nhial said.
A senior diplomat at the ministry foreign affairs said Sudan and Uganda were unlikely to participate in the deployment of troops as part of the protection and deterrent regional force.
Sudan, as the country that South Sudan seceded from after decades of conflict the Sudan Armed Forces would not be welcomed by the majority of South Sudanese. Khartoum also has had bad relations with Kampala for decades.
Uganda has already deployed troops to support the SPLA and has effectively taken sides in the conflict so it would be politically difficult for them now to be part of a regional peacekeeping mission.
"So far, we have Kenya, Ethiopia and Rwanda as some of the countries which have indicated their readiness to deploy to the country anytime. They are only waiting completion of necessary arrangements which the government is currently putting in place before eventual deployment. What I know is that their deployment would take place immediately within a month of approval", a senior diplomat at the ministry of foreign affairs, who did not want to be named, told Sudan Tribune on Friday.
Ambassador Susan Page of the United States. She represents Washington in Juba, South Sudan., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
March 14, 2014
South Sudan 'Tragedy' Cannot be Resolved on Battlefield: US Ambassador
The U.S. Ambassador to South Sudan, Susan Page, has called on the country’s warring sides to end three months of bloodshed and resolve, through talks, what she called “a real tragedy.”
"This is not a conflict that should or can be won through the use of force and weapons," Page told VOA in an interview conducted Thursday at the State Department in Washington.
Unrest in South Sudan has left thousands dead, destroyed livelihoods, wiped towns off the map and eradicated "the little infrastructure that had managed to be built after 2005," when a comprehensive peace agreement was signed that ended more than 20 years of civil war in once-unified Sudan, Page said.
The current crisis, which erupted in December, "has to be resolved through peaceful negotiations, where people can understand each other and make a way forward to bring peace back to South Sudan," Page said.
"We reiterate there can not be a solution militarily to this conflict that is first and foremost political and where demands of people need to be heard," she said.
Media crackdown 'no good for image of South Sudan'
Page said the government of South Sudan was shooting itself in the foot by cracking down on media rights recently.
"This does no good for the image of South Sudan," she said.
"It's important they uphold their own constitution, which does guarantee free press and free speech... It does not serve the people of South Sudan well, the more they close political speech and political free space," Page told VOA.
"It will not serve the government or the people of South Sudan well, who really just want to hear different views and different perspectives," she said.
As the troubles go into a fourth month, the United States has put on hold program support for South Sudan's security forces, the ambassador said.
"Given that the government itself has acknowledged that some 60-70 percent of the army that was, of the SPLA, has either defected to the rebels or has run from the army, it does not make a lot of sense to continue support for an army that is not yet whole and while recruitment of a new national army goes on, even in the light of the cessation of hostilities agreement, which suggests they should not be recruiting new members to the armed forces -- neither side," Page said.
The ambassador said that although the United States saw early warning signs of the crisis that erupted on December 15, the U.S. and international community could not forestall the crisis. She said it would have been up to the South Sudanese themselves to take steps to prevent it from happening -- just as it is up to them to end the fighting now.
"All we can do is offer advice, but people are not obliged to take advice, and ultimately the government has made decisions and the people that are fighting the government have made decisions that are out of our control," she said.
"At the end of the day, the people of South Sudan have to want the kind of government, want the kind of society that they build themselves. If they don't want it, we cannot want it more than they do," Page said.
Listen to an edited version of the interview by clicking on the link below.
A column of Al-Shabaab fighters in Somalia. The organization reported that it ambushed and killed 30 Kenyan troops involved in a US-backed invasion of the Horn of Africa state., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
US offers bounties for 3 al-Shabab leaders
By By MATTHEW LEE
Friday March 14, 2014 3:45 PM
WASHINGTON (AP) — The State Department is offering bounties of up to $3 million each for three members of a Somalia-based extremist group with ties to al-Qaida.
The group is al-Shabab, and it claims responsibility for last year's deadly attack on a Kenyan shopping mall.
The department says rewards are being offered for information leading to the arrest or conviction of Abdikadir Mohamed Abdikadir, Yasin Kilwe and Jafar, who goes by one name.
The three men hold senior roles in al-Shabab, which has launched attacks in Somalia, Kenya and Uganda. The bounties are part of the "Rewards for Justice" program that offers cash for information about terror suspects.
The department says Abdikadir coordinates al-Shabab's recruitment in Kenya, and Jafar is his deputy. Officials say Kilwe is al-Shabaab's emir for Somalia's Puntland region.
US offers rewards for information on Al Shabaab members
March 15, 2014 07:42
The US State Department Friday announced rewards of up to $3 million each for information on three members of Al Shabaab, a Washington- designated terrorist organisation based in Somalia, Xinhua reported.
The agency is seeking the arrest of Abdikadir Mohamed Abdikadir, better known as Ikrima, for his role in recruiting Kenyan youth into al-Shabaab and as a commander of a force of the group's Kenyan fighters in Somalia.
Jafar, aka Amar, is wanted for being Abdikadir's deputy, while Yasin Kilwe is described as Al Shabaab's emir for Puntland in northern Somalia.
In a statement, the department noted that Al Shabaab has killed thousands of civilians, aid workers and peacekeepers in Somalia, Uganda and Kenya since 2006.
It denounced two terror attacks launched by the group respectively in Kampala, Uganda in July 2010 and in Nairobi, Kenya in September 2013, in which over 70 people including one American citizen and more than 60 people were killed separately.
"Al Shabaab's terrorist activities pose a threat to the stability of East Africa and to the national security interests of the US," the department said.
Washington blacklisted the group as a foreign terrorist organisation in March 2008, which announced an alliance with Al Qaeda in February 2012.
Rewards for Justice - Reward Offers for Information on al-Shabaab Members: Ikrima, Jafar, and Yasin Kilwe
Office of the Spokesperson
March 14, 2014
The U.S. Department of State's Rewards for Justice program is offering rewards for information on three members of the Somalia-based terrorist organization Harakat Shabaab al-Mujahidin, al-Shabaab. The Department has authorized rewards of up to $3 million each for information leading to the arrest or conviction of Abdikadir Mohamed Abdikadir, Jafar, and Yasin Kilwe.
Since 2006, al-Shabaab has killed thousands of civilians, aid workers, and peacekeepers in Somalia, Uganda, and Kenya. Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the July 11, 2010, suicide bombings in Kampala, Uganda, which killed more than 70 people, including one American citizen. Al-Shabaab also claimed responsibility for the September 21-24, 2013, terrorist attack against the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi that left more than 60 people dead and nearly 200 wounded.
Al-Shabaab’s terrorist activities pose a threat to the stability of East Africa and to the national security interests of the United States. The U.S. Secretary of State named al-Shabaab a Foreign Terrorist Organization on March 18, 2008. In February 2012, al-Shabaab and the al-Qaida terrorist network jointly announced they had formed an alliance.
Abdikadir, better known as Ikrima, was born in 1979 in Kenya to Somali parents. Ikrima reportedly has medium-length hair and has worn a thick moustache. He is missing three fingers on his left hand. He has coordinated the recruitment of Kenyan youth into al-Shabaab and commanded a force of al-Shabaab’s Kenyan fighters in Somalia.
Jafar, also known as Amar, is an al-Shabaab facilitator and has served as Ikrima’s deputy, and is reportedly missing one eye.
Yasin Kilwe is al-Shabaab’s emir for Puntland in northern Somalia. Kilwe was officially appointed al-Shabaab’s leader in the region by Al-Shabaab emir Ahmed Abdi aw-Godane. Kilwe pledged his allegiance to al-Shabaab and al-Qaida in February 2012.
More information about these individuals is located on the Rewards for Justice website at www.rewardsforjustice.net. We encourage anyone with information on these individuals to contact the Rewards for Justice office via the website, e-mail (RFJ@state.gov), phone (1-800-877-3927), or mail (Rewards for Justice, Washington, D.C., 20520-0303, USA). All information will be kept strictly confidential.
The Rewards for Justice program is administered by the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Diplomatic Security. Since its inception in 1984, the program has paid in excess of $125 million to more than 80 people who provided actionable information that put terrorists behind bars or prevented acts of international terrorism worldwide. Follow us on Twitter at https://twitter.com/Rewards4Justice.
Somalia residents of north Mogadishu walked pass bodies killed in clashes between the US-backed AMISOM and local forces against the Al-Shabab resistance fighters. Despite the announcement that the Islamists are defeated the war continues., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Two Al-shabab militants killed and two others arrested in Daynile, Mogadishu
Posted on March 13, 2014
[RBC Radio Mogadishu]
Two Al-shabab militants have been shot dead in police operation carried out today at Daynile district, Banadir Region as confirmed by Daynile deputy governor on social affairs Ahmed Dubac Ali.
Ahmed also said that two people identified to operate with Al-shabab militants have been arrested in the course of this police operation at Dayniile and handed over to National Peacekeeping police unit .
The national police launched an attack on a house located at Dayniile which was believed to reside Al-shabab member following a tip-off of their whereabouts.
The Federal government is making efforts to restore the security reliability of the capital city of the country, Mogadhishu.