“Jasmine Revolution”
Symbol of peace: Flowers placed on the barrel of a tank
in very much calmer protests than in recent days in Tunisia

'The Protester' - Time Person of the Year 2011

'The Protester' - Time Person of the Year 2011
Mannoubia Bouazizi, the mother of Tunisian street vendor Mohammed Bouazizi. "Mohammed suffered a lot. He worked hard. but when he set fire to himself, it wasn’t about his scales being confiscated. It was about his dignity." (Peter Hapak for TIME)

1 - TUNISIA Democratic Change / Freedom of Speech (In Transition)

How eyepatches became a symbol of Egypt's revolution - Graffiti depicting a high ranking army officer with an eye patch Photograph: Nasser Nasser/ASSOCIATED PRESS

2 - EGYPT Democratic Change / Freedom of Speech (In Transition)

''17 February Revolution"

3 - LIBYA Democratic Change / Freedom of Speech (In Transition)

5 - SYRIA Democratic Change / Freedom of Speech (In Transition)

"25 January Youth Revolution"
Muslim and Christian shoulder-to-shoulder in Tahrir Square
"A Summary" – Apr 2, 2011 (Kryon channelled by Lee Carroll) (Subjects: Religion, Shift of Human Consciousness, 2012, Intelligent/Benevolent Design, EU, South America, 5 Currencies, Water Cycle (Heat up, Mini Ice Ace, Oceans, Fish, Earthquakes ..), Middle East, Internet, Israel, Dictators, Palestine, US, Japan (Quake/Tsunami Disasters , People, Society ...), Nuclear Power Revealed, Hydro Power, Geothermal Power, Moon, Financial Institutes (Recession, Realign integrity values ..) , China, North Korea, Global Unity,..... etc.) -
(Subjects: Egypt Uprising, Iran/Persia Uprising, Peace in Middle East without Israel actively involved, Muhammad, "Conceptual" Youth Revolution, "Conceptual" (without a manager hierarchy) managed Businesses, Internet, Social Media, News Media, Google, Bankers, Global Unity,..... etc.)
"The End of History" – Nov 20, 2010 (Kryon channelled by Lee Carroll)
(Subjects:Abraham, Isaac, Ishmael, Muhammad, Jesus, God, Jews, Arabs, EU, US, Israel, Iran, Russia, Africa, South America, Global Unity,..... etc.) (Text version)

"If an Arab and a Jew can look at one another and see the Akashic lineage and see the one family, there is hope. If they can see that their differences no longer require that they kill one another, then there is a beginning of a change in history. And that's what is happening now. All of humanity, no matter what the spiritual belief, has been guilty of falling into the historic trap of separating instead of unifying. Now it's starting to change. There's a shift happening."

“ … Here is another one. A change in what Human nature will allow for government. "Careful, Kryon, don't talk about politics. You'll get in trouble." I won't get in trouble. I'm going to tell you to watch for leadership that cares about you. "You mean politics is going to change?" It already has. It's beginning. Watch for it. You're going to see a total phase-out of old energy dictatorships eventually. The potential is that you're going to see that before 2013.

They're going to fall over, you know, because the energy of the population will not sustain an old energy leader ..."

African Union (AU)

African Union (AU)
African Heads of State pose for a group photo ahead of the start of the 28th African Union summit in Addis Ababa on January 30, 2017 (AFP Photo/ Zacharias ABUBEKER)

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela
Few words can describe Nelson Mandela, so we let him speak for himself. Happy birthday, Madiba.

Monday, November 29, 2021

Botswana loses court bid to revoke gay rights

Yahoo – AFP, November 29, 2021 

Rainbow campaign: Activists gathered outside the Botswana High Court
on October 12 to press their case (AFP/Monirul Bhuiyan)

Botswana's government on Monday lost a legal attempt to overturn a landmark ruling that decriminalised homosexuality. 

The country's High Court in 2019 ruled in favour of campaigners seeking to strike down jail sentences for same-sex relationships, declaring the punishment to be unconstitutional. 

But the government sought to revoke the ruling, arguing that the courts had no jurisdiction in this matter. 

"Since the appellant's grounds of appeal have been unsuccessful... the appeal must fall," Botswana's Court of Appeal ruled on Monday. 

It had started hearing the case in October. 

Homosexuality had been banned since 1965 in conservative Botswana, where offenders could face up to seven years in prison. 

The 2019 judgement was hailed internationally as a major victory for gay rights. 

Judge Ian Kirby, who read out the ruling on Monday, said gay citizens had long lived in "constant fear of discovery or arrest" when expressing "love for their partners." 

"This sometimes led to depression, suicidal behaviour, alcoholism or substance abuse," he said. 

Botswana is one of only a handful of African countries to have decriminalised homosexuality. 

Others are Lesotho, Mozambique, Angola and the Seychelles. 

South Africa is the sole nation on the continent to allow same-sex marriage, which it legalised in 2006.

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Tanzania lifts ban on teen mothers attending schools

Yahoo – AFP, November 24, 2021 

Former President John Magufuli had vowed that no student who became
pregnant would finish their studies under his watch (AFP/TONY KARUMBA)

Tanzania said on Wednesday it would allow pregnant students and teenaged mothers to continue with their studies, reversing a heavily-criticised policy instituted by its late autocratic leader John Magufuli. 

In 2017, the East African country began expelling pregnant girls from state schools and banned them from returning to class after giving birth, in a crackdown slammed by rights campaigners. 

Following Magufuli's death earlier this year, his successor Samia Suluhu Hassan has sought to break away from some of his policies and on Wednesday, Education Minister Joyce Ndalichako said that "pregnant school girls will be allowed to continue with formal education after delivery." 

"I will issue a circular later today. No time to wait," she said at a ceremony in the capital Dodoma. 

Magufuli had vowed that no student who became pregnant would finish their studies under his watch, saying it was immoral for young girls to be sexually active. 

"I give money for a student to study for free. And then, she gets pregnant, gives birth and after that, returns to school. No, not under my mandate," he said in mid-2017. 

The decision was widely criticised by human rights lobby groups and international donors, who cut their funding to the country in response to Magufuli's policies. 

At the time, Human Rights Watch published a report saying school officials in Tanzania were conducting pregnancy tests in order to expel pregnant students, depriving them of their right to an education. 

'Welcome step' 

The World Bank, which froze a $300-million loan for girls' education in protest against the ban, hailed Wednesday's decision. 

"The World Bank welcomes the government of Tanzania's announcement to remove barriers to access to education," it said in a statement. 

The Swedish embassy in Dar es Salaam, which cut its funding to Tanzania last year citing shrinking freedoms, also applauded the move. 

"This is a welcome step for many girls, allowing them to unlock their full potential," the embassy said on Twitter. 

Opposition party Alliance for Change and Transparency (ACT Wazalendo) said their push to reverse the policy had paid off. 

"We did it! A clear example of one struggle, many fronts. Everyone who was involved did something towards this achievement," said ACT Wazalendo leader Zitto Kabwe. 

Covid-sceptic Magufuli, nicknamed the "Bulldozer" for his uncompromising leadership style, died of a heart condition on March 17 after a mysterious three-week absence. His political opponents insisted he had coronavirus. 

In the weeks after her swearing-in, his successor Hassan reached out to Tanzania's political opposition, vowing to defend democracy and basic freedoms, and reopening banned media outlets. 

But hopes that Hassan would usher in a new era were dented by the arrest of a high-profile opposition leader on terrorism charges and a crackdown on independent newspapers.

Monday, November 22, 2021

Israel, Jordan agree US-brokered solar power for water deal

RTL – AFP, 22 November 2021 

Jordan, which signed a US-brokered solar power for water deal with Israel, is
one of the world's most water-deficient nations / © AFP/File

Jordan will provide solar power to Israel, which will in turn supply desalinated water to its desert neighbour, under a declaration of intent the two countries signed Monday. 

Ministers from the neighbouring countries inked the US-brokered agreement at a Dubai Expo event joined by John Kerry, the US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate. 

"The Middle East is on the frontline of the climate crisis," Kerry said in a statement. "Only by working together can countries in the region rise to the scale of the challenge." 

The United Arab Emirates, which last year normalised relations with Israel, will reportedly build the solar power plant, the value of which was not disclosed. 

Israeli Energy Minister Karine Elharrar said the Israel-Jordan agreement was the "most significant" since the formers enemies signed a peace treaty in 1994. 

"The benefit of this agreement is not only in the form of green electricity or desalinated water, but also the strengthening of relations with the neighbour that has the longest border with Israel." 

Feasibility studies for the project are due to start next year. 

Jordan is one of the world's most water-deficient nations and its cooperation on water with Israel dates back to before the two established formal relations. 

Israel is also a hot, dry country, but its advanced desalination technology has opened opportunities for selling fresh water. 

The declaration of intent says the Jordan photovoltaic plant with a capacity of 600 MW will export green power to Israel, which will supply Jordan with up to 200 million cubic metres of desalinated water. 

Water diplomacy 

Jordan, nearly landlocked, faces dire water prospects as its population expands and temperatures rise. 

Experts say the future cooperation could help improve relations, which Jordan's King Abdullah has described as a "cold peace". 

Under their 1994 peace treaty, the Jewish state recognises Jordan's oversight of Muslim holy sites in east Jerusalem, which has since 1967 been occupied by Israel and was later annexed. 

But there are often demonstrations in Jordan in solidarity with the Palestinians. 

The recent deals come after relations had cooled under Israel's former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. 

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who took over in June, has made strengthening ties with Amman a priority. 

Even when Israel and Jordan were enemies following the 1948 war that led to Israel's creation, they held water cooperation meetings that helped shape their peace deal. 

They announced in July that Israel would sell 50 million cubic metres of water a year to Jordan, doubling what it already supplies, and in October agreed to raise the amount further.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Gabon paid for protecting forests, in African first

Yahoo – AFP, Tue, June 22, 2021 

Gabon has been a leader in central Africa in preserving its rainforest, creating
13 national parks since 2000 that cover around 11 percent of the country.

Gabon has become the first African nation to receive a financial reward for protecting its forests as part of international efforts to fight climate change, the government announced Tuesday. 

Gabon has received $17 million in recompense for successfully cutting its carbon emissions by reducing deforestation and forest degradation, the environment ministry said in a statement. 

The payment came "after independent experts verified Gabon's results" showing that the country's carbon emissions in 2016-17 had dropped compared with the annual figures for 2006-15. 

The funds were delivered by the Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI), an organisation launched in 2015 by the United Nations and backed by international donors. 

The scheme provides financial incentives to Central African governments to pursue economic growth without harming the vast forests that cover much of the region. 

The world's rainforests are seen as a vital weapon in the fight against climate change by sucking out carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. 

Gabon, where forests cover 90 percent of the territory, is home to some 18 percent of the Congo Basin forest, known as "the second lung of the planet" after the Amazon. 

Under a 10-year deal signed with CAFI in 2019, Gabon is set to receive a total of $150 million if it meets its carbon-cutting targets. 

Gabon is home to nearly 60 percent of Africa's remaining forest elephants,listed
in March as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature

The small tropical country has pledged to cut its carbon emissions in half by 2025 from 2005 levels. 

The forests in Gabon alone "absorb a total of 140 million tonnes of CO2 each year, which is equivalent to removing 30 million cars from circulation throughout the world," the environment ministry said. 

Gabon has been a leader in Central Africa in preserving its rainforests, creating 13 national parks since 2000 that cover around 11 percent of the country. 

Norwegian Environment Minister Sveinung Rotevatn, whose government is a major donor to CAFI, said Gabon had "demonstrated that with vision, dedication and strong dynamism, reductions in (CO2) emissions can be achieved in the Congo Basin forest". 

Gabon's environment ministry said the first cash payment would notably be used to invest in local forestry projects. 

"The aim is to improve the income, livelihoods and well-being of communities in Gabon," it said. 

Along with fighting climate change, protecting the world's rainforests is seen as key to staving off threats to biodiversity. 

Gabon is home to nearly 60 percent of Africa's remaining forest elephants, listed in March as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. 

Monday, November 30, 2020

Spirit of revolt lives on in Syria's exiles

Yahoo – AFP, Serene ASSIR, November 30, 2020 

Spirit of revolt lives on in Syria's exiles

They may be scarred, but nothing, not even torture, bombing or exile, could break them. 

As the Arab Spring revolts swept through the Middle East and North Africa region like a wildfire, thousands of young Syrians joined protests in March 2011 demanding change in a nation ruled by the family of President Bashar al-Assad since 1970. 

The regime's revenge was swift and brutal, and many of the non-violent activists at the heart of the uprising paid with their freedom and their lives. 

AFP interviewed four Syrian activists who ended up as refugees after surviving extreme violence and immeasurable loss. 

But even now, with no end in sight to their exile, they do not regret their revolution. 

Here are their stories. 

Omar Alshogre was tortured while held in one of Syria's most notorius
detention centres

Stockholm: The public speaker 

The first thing Omar Alshogre sees when he wakes up in his Stockholm flat are the photographs of two prison guards who tortured him in Branch 215, one of Syria's most notorious detention centres. 

It may seem surprising but Alshogre wanted the pictures, which he had to buy off the guards' families and keeps on his bedside table, as a reminder to himself that: "They could not break me, and I'm still alive." 

Alshogre, now 25, says he was just 15 when regime forces first arrested him "along with all the men" in his village near Baniyas city -- a protest hub in a largely pro-government province -- on the Mediterranean coast. 

He was released two days later -- but only after his interrogators had pulled out his fingernails and broken his leg. 

"I understood what freedom meant for the first time, and that's when I started protesting," Alshogre tells AFP via a videoconference app. 

Over the next 18 months, he was detained six more times in different places, including at his cousin's home, in the classroom and at checkpoints. 

In May 2012, regime troops attacked his village, killing his father, a retired army officer, and his two brothers. 

Following his final arrest in November 2012, he was transferred to a total of 10 different prisons and detention centres. 

"I saw more of Syria's prisons than I ever saw of Syria itself," he says. 

Released in 2015, he was a shadow of his former self, weighing just 34 kilos (just under 75 pounds). 

To save her sons' lives, his mother smuggled Omar and his younger brother Ali, then 20 and 11 years old, into Turkey. 

At the height of Europe's migrant crisis, they boarded a smuggler's boat to Greece and crossed Europe to Sweden, where they were granted asylum. 

Alshogre has since learned Swedish and English and speaks both fluently. 

Now, he works for the Syrian Emergency Task Force, a US-based advocacy organisation, and has testified before Washington's Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on torture in Syria's prisons. 

He has given TED talks on his experience, inspiring his audience with a universal message on overcoming pain by finding meaning even in one's darkest hour. 

And recently he won a place at Georgetown University in Washington DC to study business and entrepreneurship. 

"It is not easy to lose your home, your father, your brothers, your school, your town, your mountains and your memories," he says. 

"But if I had the possibility to go back in time, I wouldn't do it. Because the revolution is the first thing we did right in Syria." 

Nivin Al-Mousa learned that her younger brother Hamza, also a non-violent
activist, had been tortured to death

Berlin: The humanitarian 

"When I was pregnant and I had pain in my belly, I would cry. Not for me, but for the Syrians living in displacement camps who can't see a doctor, and for the detainees who suffer constantly," says Nivin Al-Mousa, who has lived in Berlin since 2015. 

When she joined the protests in her town of Taybet al-Imam in the central province of Hama, she never imagined she would end up seeking refuge abroad. 

In 2013, her younger brother Hamza, also a non-violent activist, was detained at a checkpoint. 

"We later learned that he had been tortured to death," says Al-Mousa, who identified his body in one of the pictures of torture victims' corpses released by a former Syrian military police photographer, codenamed "Caesar", who fled the country taking thousands of photographs documenting abuse and torture. 

"The moment you see that picture, a wound opens inside you, and the pain never heals," she tells AFP. 

Al-Mousa, her mother and siblings fled to Turkey in an escape "worthy of a James Bond movie. There were warplanes above us, bombing all around us, and the driver was speeding at 200 kilometres (125 miles) an hour," she says. 

In Turkey, she met her husband Mohammad, who originates from the central Syrian city of Homs and had narrowly survived being randomly shot in the head by a sniper while coming home from university. 

In 2015, he was granted a visa to seek medical treatment in Berlin. There, the family received refugee status. 

Al-Mousa, now 36, has frequent nightmares. "We are all traumatised," she says. 

But for her two daughters' sake, she works hard to adapt to her new life. 

She now speaks fluent German as well as English and Arabic, as do her girls, who are six and four. 

She works for international aid group Humanity & Inclusion, formerly known as Handicap International, helping refugees with disabilities in Germany. 

She also participates in protests in Berlin, home to a large Syrian refugee community, to help shine a light on the suffering of Syria's detainees. 

"All we want is a government that respects our basic rights," Al-Mousa says. "One day, the regime will get the fate it deserves." 

Colmar: The feminist 

Tohama Darwish survived an August 2013 chemical attack on the besieged Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta blamed on the regime, in which rights groups say 1,400 people were killed. 

Then in 2018, the area faced an onslaught when the army, backed by Russian warplanes, crushed the armed opposition. 

"The bombing was so intense, I wished my daughter had still been in my belly so I could run faster," says Darwish, whose daughter Sumu was two at the time. 

Darwish, then a volunteer nurse, and her family joined the tens of thousands who fled Eastern Ghouta to the rebel-held northern province of Idlib. 

There, Islamist fighters accused her of spreading "obscenities" through her work raising community awareness about violence against women. 

"We didn't want to leave Syria," the 30-year-old tells AFP. "Unfortunately, there was no difference between the regime and the Islamists ruling Idlib." 

The family went to Turkey, from where Darwish and her husband applied for asylum in France. 

They now live in state housing in the northeastern French town of Colmar, where they are learning the language as they wait for their residence permits to come through. 

"From a gender perspective, life is better here. It's hard to be a feminist in Syria," she says. 

"I feel guilty for leaving my relatives behind. But I am happy that Sumu is at school here," she says. 

"She will always be Syrian, but her life is here now. When she's older, I will tell her everything that happened." 

Detained for joining protest, doctor Bashar Farahat said the cell in which he and
90 to 100 other prisoners were held was so tiny they had to take it in turns to
sleep while the others stood

London: The doctor 

When Bashar Farahat was released from detention in early 2013, he was barred from resuming his postgraduate paediatrics training at a government hospital in Latakia in western Syria. 

He had been jailed for joining the protests, and beaten by his interrogators "even harder" because he was a doctor with a degree from a public university. 

In April 2013, he was detained again for another six months. 

"In prison, the torture during interrogations was bad. But the worst was the constant torture of living in a tiny cell of 30 square metres (320 square feet) with 90 to 100 other detainees," says Farahat, who is now 36 and a registered doctor working in London. 

"We would take turns to sleep while the others stood," he says. 

As a doctor, his cellmates would ask him to treat their wounds. "But I had nothing to treat them with," he tells AFP of his time in a military intelligence detention centre in Damascus. 

"Occasionally, the guards would give us two vitamins or two anti-inflammatory pills to share among 100 people. People would lose limbs because of simple injuries becoming severely infected," he adds. 

Following his release in November 2013, he fled to neighbouring Lebanon, where he applied for resettlement through the United Nations. 

He arrived in Britain in March 2015, and has since passed the conversion exams allowing him to practise medicine there. 

Now married to an interior designer, he works at a National Health Service (NHS) hospital in north London. 

"When the Covid-19 pandemic began, of course I worried for my loved ones, but I think my experiences in Syria prepared me to work well in a crisis," says Farahat, who feels proud to be able to give back to Britain in its time of need. 

He has also set up a telemedicine website offering vulnerable Syrians online consultations free of charge. 

"We have to be strong, work hard and build good lives, so that when the regime falls we can contribute to Syria's future," he says. 

Looking back, knowing now what he didn't know in 2011, what would Farahat tell his younger self? 

"I would say: go out. Protest. Even more than I did. Do I regret the revolution? Never, not for a second. The revolution made me who I am today."

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

France must clean up Algerian nuclear test sites: group

Yahpp – AFP, 26 August 2020

France must clean up nuclear test sites in Algeria where radioactive waste remains from testing in the former colony during the 1960s, a Nobel Peace Prize-winning group said Wednesday.

France must clean up Algerian nuclear test sites: group

France carried out 17 nuclear explosions in the Algerian part of the Sahara Desert between 1960 and 1966.

Eleven of the tests came after the 1962 Evian Accords ended the six-year war of independence and 132 years of colonial rule.

"France must give the Algerian authorities the full list of where the contaminated toxic waste was buried," the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) said in a new 60-page report.

"The 'nuclear past' must no longer remain deeply buried under the sand," ICAN said, citing the concerned areas as the western Reggane region and a zone close to the In Ekker village.

The campaign group identified contaminated, radioactive elements that have either been buried, or are easily accessible.

"The majority of the waste is in the open air, without any security, and accessible by the population, creating a high level of sanitary and environmental insecurity," ICAN said.

The 2017 Nobel Peace Prize laureate group added that almost nothing has been done to clean the sites, inform the populations and evaluate the risks.

Exposure to radioactive material can cause cancer.

"This case study shows once more an asymmetry of power and an injustice that we find all through nuclear history," Giorgio Franceschini, director of the Heinrich Boll Foundation which published the report, said in his forward.

"It is not a coincidence that France tested its first nuclear weapon in Algeria, that was still a French colony in 1960," he added.

France refused to sign up the UN's 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, whereas Algeria signed and is in the process of ratifying the legally binding agreement.

Since Algeria's independence, Franco-Algerian relations have been tumultuous.

Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune in July called on France to fully apologise for its colonial past.

An apology could "make it possible to cool tensions and create a calmer atmosphere for economic and cultural relations", especially for the more than six million Algerians who live in France, he said.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

DRCongo vows to protect Nobel laureate Mukwege after death threats

Yahoo = AFP, Alain WANDIMOYI, 22 August 2020

DR Congo vows to protect Nobel laureate Mukwege after death threats

Congolese gynaecologist Denis Mukwege shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 2018 for his work against sexual violence in war

The government vowed Saturday to protect Nobel peace laureate Denis Mukwege and investigate death threats against him after he called for an international court to try crimes in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

DR Congo's president Felix Tshisekedi pledged that the interior, security and justice ministers and others would "take all measures necessary to ensure Dr Mukwege's security" and "open investigations", the cabinet said in a report, without giving detail.

Mukwege, a Congolese gynaecologist who shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 2018 for his work against sexual violence in war, and his relatives have been the target of "intimidation, hateful messages and death threats," it said.

This has occurred while he has "pleaded for peace in the country's east, by proposing the establishment of an international criminal court for the DRC in order to try the serious crimes committed there against the civilian population," it said.

On July 26, in a message on his Twitter account, Mukwege wrote "these are the same ones who are still killing in the DRC", referring to a massacre in the east.

Civilians in Kipupu, a village in South Kivu on the Fizi heights overlooking Lake Tanganyika, came under attack on July 16, with the death toll ranging widely between 18 and 220.

"The macabre stories from Kipupu are in a straight line from the massacres that have hit the DRC since 1996," the peace prize winner said in a tweet.

The area has seen violence between the Banyamulenge community -- the descendants of ethnic Tutsi migrants who came from Rwanda -- and other local communities such as the Babembe for the past year.

In early 1996, the first Congo war erupted, led by a rebellion backed by regular troops from several neighbouring countries, particularly Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi.

The second Congo war that took place from 1998 until 2003 involved a dozen armies from the region, 30 armed groups and two main rebellions: one in the east supported by Rwanda and another in the north backed by Uganda.

Doctor Mukwege, director of the Panzi hospital that cares for women raped in South Kivu, managed to survive an attack by assailants targeting his home in October 2012

Friday, August 21, 2020

Libya's warring rivals announce ceasefire

Yahoo – AFP, Rim Taher, August 21, 2020

Fighters loyal to Libya's UN-recognised unity government secure the Abu Qurain
area last month, half-way between the countries' rival power centres, the capital
Tripoli in the west and second city Benghazi in the east

Libya's warring rival administrations announced separately on Friday that they would cease all hostilities and hold nationwide elections, drawing praise from the UN, the EU and several Arab countries.

The surprise announcement followed multiple visits by top foreign diplomats to Libya in recent weeks, and came after a series of agreements and pledges that, however, have failed to be implemented.

Friday's statements were signed by Fayez al-Sarraj, head of the UN-recognised unity Government of National Accord (GNA), based in the capital Tripoli, and Aguila Saleh, speaker of the eastern-based parliament backed by military strongman Khalifa Haftar.

The UN's top official to Libya, Stephanie Williams, welcomed the move and called for "all parties to rise to this historic occasion and shoulder their full responsibilities before the Libyan people".

European Union diplomatic chief Josep Borrell hailed an "important and positive" initiative, adding it was "crucial now that all parties stand by their statements".

Sarraj called for "presidential and parliamentary elections next March", and for the "end of all combat operations".

Saleh also backed elections -- though he did not specify a date -- and urged "all parties" to observe "an immediate ceasefire and the cessation of all fighting."

Both leaders called for the resumption of the production and export of oil, a cornerstone of Libya's wealth.

'Important step'

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who backs Haftar and had threatened to deploy troops in neighbouring Libya, said he supported the ceasefire declarations.

"I welcome statements by Libya's presidential council and the House of Representatives calling for a ceasefire," Sisi said in a tweet.

Libya's former colonial power Italy also welcomed the move, as did France, Germany, the Arab League, Qatar and Jordan.

Fighting forces in Libya

"The announcement of the ceasefire in Libya is an important step in the relaunching of a political process that will promote the stability of the country and the welfare of the people," Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said.

The French foreign ministry said the ceasefire announcements "must be realised on the ground" and called for an end to all foreign interference in Libya.

Libya has been torn by violence since the 2011 toppling and killing of longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi in a NATO-backed uprising.

Since then, the North African country has become a battle ground for tribal militias, jihadists and mercenaries and a major gateway for desperate migrants bound for Europe.

In April last year, Haftar launched an offensive to seize Tripoli from the GNA, and foreign powers intervened alongside the rivals' forces.

Turkey and Qatar backed the GNA, while the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Russia support Haftar, who is also suspected of receiving French backing.

Paris has however insisted it is neutral in the conflict, and President Emmanuel Macron has lashed out at Turkey for its military intervention on the side of the GNA.

After 14 months of fierce fighting, Turkish-backed pro-GNA forces expelled Haftar's troops from much of western Libya and pushed them eastwards to Sirte.

The central Mediterranean coastal city, home town of Kadhafi, is the gateway to Libya's eastern oil fields and export terminals, and to the key Al-Jufra airbase to the south.

Sarraj said a ceasefire would allow the creation of "demilitarised zones" in Sirte and the Al-Jufra region, currently under the control of pro-Haftar forces.

Saleh did not mention the demilitarisation zones, but proposed the installation of a new government in Sirte.

Difficult to implement

Libya's National Oil Corporation (NOC) also welcomed Friday's announcement.

Libya sits atop Africa's largest proven crude oil reserves, and earnings from its lucrative oil fields have been a source of intense disagreement between the two sides, including a months-long blockade of oil terminals.

"NOC reiterates its call for all oil facilities to be freed from military occupation to ensure the security and safety of its workers," the state oil producer said in a statement.

"Once this has been done, NOC should be able to... re-commence oil export operations."

International pressure has sought to bring Libya's rival leaders to an agreement several times in past years, but has failed to secure a lasting peace.

Analyst Jalel Harchaoui, research fellow at The Hague-based Clingendael Institute, said there was a long road ahead before peace.

"The question is, is this announcement fully achievable? In all likelihood, implementation will be difficult," said Harchaoui, noting the multiple regional forces who could act as spoilers of a deal.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Mali coup leaves ex-colonial power France in a bind

France24 – AFP, 19 August 2020

The Mali soldiers leading the coup insist that peace is their priority and have
promised to stage elections within a "reasonable" timeframe ANNIE RISEMBERG AFP

Paris (AFP) - Mali's military coup presents former colonial power France with a diplomatic nightmare, having invested considerable military and political capital in a regional anti-jihadist campaign now in peril.

Tuesday's post-coup resignation of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita following weeks of civil protest against his perceived corrupt and inept rule, has robbed Paris of a key ally in the Sahel where France has -- sometimes unpopularly -- been routing jihadists since 2013.

The military campaign, spearheaded by France's 5,000-plus Barkhane force in Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Mauritania and Chad, seeks in the end to bring stability to the conflict- and poverty-ridden region, allowing governments to strengthen institutions and focus on much-needed development.

But now, France faces having to work with a regime born out of Tuesday's coup d'etat against Keita, often referred to as IBK.

"The challenge will be for France to walk a delicate line. It has to condemn the coup. It also has to work with the new leaders," said Michael Shurkin of the California-based RAND Corporation policy think-tank.

"It (France) needs a good outcome, but it has to be extremely careful about influencing the outcome," he told AFP.

Paris issued a condemnation after initial reports of an army mutiny in Mali, but has yet to explicitly denounce the toppling of Keita claimed by coup leaders.

On Wednesday, the French presidency said, "We must deal with the reality of a complicated political situation that has lasted for months...

"We must focus on the return of civilian power and rule of law, with another priority: not to lose the commitment to the fight against terrorism."

Initially expected to last a few weeks, the French Sahel military intervention has been running for seven years at a cost of some $1 billion annually, according to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.

The force has chalked up some wins, but jihadists have continued deadly attacks and 44 French troops have lost their lives in what some have called "France's forever war".

The presence of French boots on the ground has become increasingly unpopular and thousands have protested in Mali and Burkina Faso against what they term "forces of occupation".

Shrugging off the pleas of the international community, Malian soldiers on Tuesday detained the president, prime minister, cabinet ministers and other government officials.

Better to come?

The leaders of the coup condemned by the EU, UN, African Union and regional grouping ECOWAS, insisted that "peace in Mali is our priority" and promised to stage elections within a "reasonable time".

"The junta... does not want to alienate the support of the international community, including Barkhane," tweeted Yvan Guichaoua, a researcher at the University of Kent's Brussels School of International Studies.

"The objective seemingly was mainly to eject IBK and his allies from power."

France itself has been doubtful about Keita's ability to improve security and governance in Mali, say analysts.

And Shurkin believes the coup "could theoretically work out for the best if it yields a government that functions better and that can lay claim to greater legitimacy.

"It has to be acknowledged that things weren’t going well before the coup; Mali under IBK was making little if any progress, which meant that the success of French strategy was questionable anyway," he said.

In the short term, however, French diplomats and military leaders face an uphill battle.

"In a way, it's back to square one," said Jean-Herve Jezequel, Sahel specialist at the International Crisis Group in Brussels.

"Eight years of effort, investment, presence to basically return to the situation of Mali at the time of the 2012 coup, with a confused situation in Bamako, more violent armed insurrections and increased inter-communal violence."

Change in approach

Military historian Michel Goya predicted a political imbroglio that will last for months.

"For the French military, this makes things more complicated. Operations can continue, they can be run independently, but cooperation with the Malian forces will likely be stopped. And armed groups may try to take advantage of the situation to expand their action," he said.

France is also likely to see new reticence from European partners it had been trying to convince to enlarge military operations in Sahel, notably a European special forces group dubbed Takuba and the so-called G5 Sahel, an under-resourced force of regional soldiers.

There will be "a slowdown of major projects while we wait for the dust to settle and are focused on the nature of the new power to be installed in Bamako," said Elie Tenenbaum, a researcher at the French Institute for International Relations.

For Shurkin, an extended transition period, or one that yields more of the same, "would be terrible for France and Mali alike".

"Maybe, just maybe, there will be a relatively quick transition that yields a stronger Mali, one that will meet the requirements of French strategy," he added.

For Jezequel, this was also a chance for France, the Sahel states and other partners to question their approach to providing security aid to the region.

"We cannot sustainably secure a space without changing the forms of governance that manage it," he said.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Israel and UAE to normalise ties in 'historic' US-brokered deal

Yahoo – AFP, Mohamad Ali Harissi and Sarah Stewart, August 13, 2020

Dubai's Burj Khalifa, the tallest structure in the world, and a symbol of the oil-rich UAE

Israel and the UAE agreed Thursday to normalise ties in a landmark US-brokered deal, only the third such accord the Jewish state has struck with an Arab nation, in which it pledged to suspend annexation of Palestinian lands.

The bombshell news was broken by US President Donald Trump, in a tweet hailing a "HUGE breakthrough" and a "Historic Peace Agreement between our two GREAT friends".

Establishing diplomatic ties between Israel and Washington's Middle East allies, including the oil-rich Gulf monarchies, has been central to Trump's regional strategy to contain Iran, also an arch-foe of Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said it was a "historic day" and would launch a "new era" for the Arab world and Israel.

US President Donald Trump announced the agreement between the United 
Arab Emirates and Israel to normalize diplomatic ties

The Palestinians strongly rejected the deal, calling it a "betrayal" of their cause, including their claim to Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

They also announced they were withdrawing their ambassador from the Emirates, and demanded an emergency Arab League meeting.

Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, which runs the coastal Gaza Strip, quickly said the agreement "does not serve the Palestinian cause".

A joint statement by Trump, Netanyahu and UAE's leader Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan announced that they had "agreed to the full normalisation of relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates".

It added that Israel would "suspend declaring sovereignty" over occupied Palestinian West Bank areas -- an idea proposed in Trump's controversial earlier plan to resolve the conflict.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said it was a "historic day" and 
represented a "new era" for the Arab world and Israel

Sheikh Mohamed quickly stressed in a tweet that "during a call with President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu, an agreement was reached to stop further Israeli annexation of Palestinian territories".

But Netanyahu said shortly afterwards in a national television address that he had only agreed to delay, not cancel, the annexations, that the plans remained "on the table" and that he would "never give up our rights to our land".

The controversial Trump plan, unveiled in January, had offered a path for Israel to annex territory and Jewish West Bank settlements, communities considered illegal under international law.

The Palestinians rejected it outright as biased and untenable, as did Israel's Arab neighbours, and it sparked fears of further escalation in a tense region. 

Protestors confront Israeli forces as a structure serving as a home to a 
Palestinian family is demolished in the southern West Bank on August 11

'Things are happening'

Israel has had difficult relations and several wars with its Muslim and Arab neighbours since its founding in 1948, with most states ruling out relations until the Israeli-Palestinian dispute is resolved.

Thursday's deal would make the UAE only the third Arab country to establish formal diplomatic ties with Israel, after its peace deals with former enemies Egypt and Jordan.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of Egypt, which signed a treaty with Israel in 1979 to opposition from across the Arab world, praised the deal on "the halt of Israel's annexation of Palestinian land," and said he hoped it would bring "peace".

The deal marks a major foreign policy achievement for Trump as he heads into a difficult campaign for re-election in November.

The city hall in the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv is lit up in the colours of
the United Arab Emirates national flag

His presumptive Democratic challenger for the presidency Joe Biden welcomed the "historic" agreement and called the UAE's move a "badly-needed act of statesmanship".

Trump hinted to reporters that more diplomatic breakthroughs between Israel and Arab countries in the region were expected, but gave no further details.

"Things are happening that I can't talk about," he said.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo described it as "a historic day and a significant step forward for peace in the Middle East".

"The United States hopes that this brave step will be the first in a series of agreements that ends 72 years of hostilities in the region," Pompeo said, adding that the formal agreement would be signed at the White House at a future date.

Dubai's Burj Khalifa, the tallest structure in the world, and a symbol of the oil-rich UAE

Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, told AFP the deal was "a milestone in Arab acceptance of Israel in the region".

It was also be "a brake on annexation, which would jeopardise Israel's peace with Jordan and Israel's own future as a Jewish, democratic state", he said. 

'Annexation trap'

Israeli and UAE delegations will meet in the coming weeks to discuss investment, tourism, direct flights, security and the establishment of embassies, they said.

The trio were confident of further similar deals with other countries, their statement added.

Israeli and UAE delegations will meet in the coming weeks to discuss investment,
tourism, direct flights, security and the establishment of reciprocal embassies

The UAE's minister of state for foreign affairs Anwar Gargash told a media briefing that "most countries will see this as a bold step to secure a two-state solution, allowing time for negotiations".

Hours after the deal was announced, the Emirati flag was projected onto Tel Aviv's town hall.

Aaron David Miller, a veteran US negotiator on the Middle East peace process and analyst at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, called the deal a "win for all".

"(The) UAE says it's prevented annexation; US prevents annexation too and gets big breakthrough and Netanyahu gets enormous win and off hook from the annexation trap," he tweeted.

Pope Francis and other religious leaders at the Vatican. Photograph: AP

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"The End of History" – Nov 20, 2010 (Kryon channeled by Lee Carroll) (Subjects: Abraham, Isaac, Ishmael, Muhammad, Jesus, God, Jews, Arabs, EU, US, Israel, Iran, Russia, Africa, South America, Global Unity,..... etc.) (Text version)
" ....Abraham, Father of the Jews

I want to honor Abraham [Abram], born in Ur, which is now part of modern Iraq, and I want to honor his sons, not all born of Sara. The one I wish to speak of is Ishmael. Abraham is Jewish... the great Jewish prophet. Ishmael is his son. There's no way that you could say Ishmael was not Jewish, and he is even to this day. Ishmael was born in Hebron. So in addition, he is very Israeli. Ishmael is a Jew.

Now some would argue, due to how the Jewish lineage is computed by men [mother's side]. But Spirit looks at the DNA and the Akashic lineage, so spiritually, Ishmael is a Jew. He came in to be part of the lineage of the Jews.

He fell from favor even with the Jewish people early on for political reasons. Then Ishmael went on to become that which is the ancestor of all Arabs... the father of Arabia. Therefore, you could say that the Arabs are with Jewish blood, that of Abraham flowing through them. But early on, the Jews cast Ishmael out. So although you have the one God and monotheism, and you have the principle of the love of God and the unity of God, there was a split. The truth was mixed with untruths and, even to this day, there would be a billion Human Beings who would say it was Ishmael and not Isaac who was almost sacrificed at the Temple Mount. They would also say that he is not a Jew.

So what is the truth here? Human Beings were not built to unify. In an older energy on the planet from those days, and even the days that you were born in, the energy laid upon you is for you to separate, not unify. And that is why we call it the old energy. Oh, they were wise men and women who knew better, but it is the old energy that separates and divides, and it is the old energy that has created the divisions of hatred within millions of those who are actually "all Jews."

Muhammad's Beautiful Message of Unity

Let me tell you about Muhammad, the prophet. Muhammad is of the lineage of Ishmael, who is of the lineage of Abraham. Therefore, Muhammad had Jewish blood, so that was his lineage but not necessarily his culture. But his Akashic lineage was from Abraham. [Abraham is the founder of Islam, according to the Quran.]

Muhammad had a beautiful meeting, more than one, with an angelic presence. The angels talked to humanity back then in basic 3D ways. But how many of you have put together that most of the angels in that time who spoke to Human Beings talked to those of Jewish lineage? Like Muhammad, like Moses, like Jesus, like Abraham. For this was part of a set-up of history, part of what makes the Jewish lineage important to the core Akash of humanity, and we have spoken before, "As go the Jews, go Earth." Indeed, there is something there to look at which is important, and it is going to change soon. For in our eyes, the "Jews" are all those in the Middle East.

Muhammad's information from the angel was this: "Unify the Arabs and give them the God of Israel." And he did! The information he had was beautiful and was written down later for his followers. It was all about the incredible love of God and the unity of man. Muhammad the prophet was a unifier, not a separatist.

Long before Muhammad, there came Jesus - Jesus the Jew. He became responsible for what you would call Christianity today. All of his disciples were Jewish. The Rock, Peter the fisherman, who started the Christian church, was Jewish. And we tell you these things to remind you that there's a unity here. Perhaps there is a reason, dear ones, why the 12 layers of DNA have Hebrew names? Indeed, it's in honor of the masters and the lineage, including that of Muhammad, of Ishmael, of Isaac, of Abraham and of Jesus. All of them, part of the original spiritual language [Hebrew].

"Oh," you might say, "there was Sumerian and before that there was Lemurian. There was Sanskrit and Tamil, and many other older languages." Correct, but we're speaking of a language of today - one that you can relate to, that has power, and that is spoken today by the pure lineage of the masters who walked the planet.

So what did humanity do with all this? What did they do with all this sacred information from these Jewish masters? They went to war, because Humans separate things. They don't put them together. So here we are with one beautiful God, creator of all there is, and millions who believe that very thing, yet they are going to war with each other over ideology about what God said, which prophet was best, and which group is in God's favor. That's ancient history, thousands of years old. But it shows exactly what the old energy is all about. ..."