“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.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Botswana High Court decriminalises homosexuality

Yahoo – AFP, June 11, 2019

Botswana's 1965 penal code makes homosexuality punishable by up to
seven years in jail (AFP Photo/GREGOR FISCHER)

Gaborone (Botswana) (AFP) - Botswana's High Court, in a highly-anticipated verdict, on Tuesday ruled in favour of decriminalising homosexuality, which is outlawed under the country's 1965 penal code.

Judge Michael Elburu "set aside" the "provisions of a Victorian era" and ordered the laws be amended.

In a courtroom packed with activists, the judge emphasised that the current laws oppressed a minority of the population.

"There’s nothing reasonable in discriminating," he said.

"We say the time has come that private, same sexuality must be decriminalized."

"It is a variety of human sexuality," he said.

The High Court had been petitioned by an anonymous person, identified only by initials LM for security reasons.

The individual challenged two sections of the penal code under which offenders face a jail sentence of up to seven years.

In March, the court postponed a ruling on the issue, sparking fears that the much-awaited decision could be delayed indefinitely.

But on Tuesday, Judge Elburu stressed that the country's highest judicial body took the matter deeply seriously.

"Sexual orientation is human, it's not a question of fashion," he said. "The question of private morality should not be the concerns of the law."

Last month, Kenya's High Court upheld laws against same-sex relations, dealing a blow to activists campaigning to roll back anti-gay laws and stigma in Africa.

Before Tuesday's ruling, 28 out of 49 countries in sub-Saharan Africa had laws penalising same-sex relationships, according to Neela Ghoshal, a Human Rights Watch (HRW) specialist in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights.

The death penalty is on the books, under sharia, in Mauritania, Sudan and northern Nigeria, although there have been no known executions in recent times.

In southern Somalia, gay men are believed to have been put to death in territory ruled by the Al Shabaab jihadist group.

However, Angola, Mozambique and Seychelles have scrapped anti-gay laws in recent years.

Rights groups say many laws punishing homosexuality date from the colonial area.

They represent a peril even in countries where they are not implemented, according to campaigners, as their existence on the statute books entrenches discrimination and encourages harassment.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Huawei turns to Africa to offset US blacklist

Yahoo – AFP, Pierre Donadieu and AFP's African bureaus, June 9, 2019

Chinese tech giant Huawei, now in the middle of US-Chinese tensions, has
looked to bolster its ties in Africa (AFP Photo/Pau Barrena)

Paris (AFP) - As the US leads a drive for the West to shun Huawei over security fears, the Chinese tech giant has sought to strengthen its position in Africa, where it is already well-established.

Huawei has taken a leading role in developing next-generation 5G mobile phone networks around the world.

But it has been in turmoil since Washington charged its equipment could serve as a Trojan horse for Chinese intelligence services.

The world's second smartphone marker fiercely denies the allegations, but the US has urged countries to avoid it and several companies have distanced themselves.

They include Google, whose Android operating system runs most smartphones.

And as Washington and Beijing duke it out in an escalating trade war, nations around the world are faced with the dilemma of having to choose a side between the world's two top economies.

Russian President Vladimir Putin weighed in on Friday, slamming Washington's attempt to "unceremoniously push" Huawei out of the global market. Earlier in the week, Russia's MTS telecoms giant signed a deal with Huawei to develop a 5G network in the country.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, a guest of Putin at an economic forum in Saint Petersburg, said China was "ready to share technological inventions with all partners, in particular 5G technology".

But will the escalating fight lead to African nations having to choose between China -- the continent's top trade partner -- and the US?

"For African countries this trade war may end up a binary choice. It will be very difficult for Africa to just ignore" it, said Aly-Khan Satchu, an independent economic analyst based in Nairobi.

'Very aggressive strategy'

Huawei, now a major factor in US-Chinese tensions, has looked to strengthen its ties in Africa, last week signing an agreement to reinforce its cooperation with the African Union.

"This was a way to show that Huawei is still present in Africa and that they want to remain a major player by positioning themselves in this very important growth sector," said Ruben Nizard, an economist and Sub-Saharan Africa specialist at the French financial services firm Coface.

The deal comes after the French newspaper Le Monde reported in 2018 that China had spied on the AU's headquarters in Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, citing sources inside the organisation.

The report said the spying began in 2012 after the completion of the AU's new headquarters that was financed by China, and was only noticed when technicians discovered data on the building's servers was being sent to Shanghai.

Both China and the AU reject the allegations.

Huawei has established itself across Africa since launching in Kenya in 1998, and now operates in 40 countries, providing 4G networks to more than half of the continent.

It will also showcase 5G -- the next-generation mobile phone network that will transmit data at far greater speeds -- in Egypt for the Africa Cup of Nations, which will be held from June 21 to July 19.

"Africa is a market Huawei had identified and which they conquered thanks to a very aggressive strategy based on cheap financing and speed of execution," Satchu told AFP.

"The fact that Huawei has equipped the AU says it all," he added.

'Big Brother Beijing'

Huawei's presence in Africa goes far beyond selling smartphones and building mobile networks.

In South Africa, it provides training at the country's top universities, this year launching a specialised course on 5G.

Kenya's government signed a 17.5-billion-shilling ($172 million) deal with Huawei in April to build a data centre and "smart city" services.

The Chinese giant also offers a "safe city" surveillance programme.

This initiative, according to the firm's website, "can prevent crimes targeted towards the normal citizen, tourists, students, elderly persons etc before they occur".

It has been deployed in Kenya's capital Nairobi as well as Mauritius, with 4,000 "smart" surveillance video cameras set up at 2,000 sites across the Indian Ocean island nation.

Some media outlets in Mauritius have condemned the system as "digital dictatorship" from "Big Brother Beijing".

But Ghanaian Security Ministry Albert Kan-Dapaah, for one, says Huawei's video surveillance technology helps catch criminals.

"When a crime has been committed, thanks to the cameras, we work magic," Kan-Dapaah says in a promotional video for the Chinese firm.

Huawei Marine, the company's submarine cable arm, is helping to deploy a key 12,000-kilometre (7,450-mile) cable system connecting Africa to Asia.

With Huawei so deeply embedded in Africa, the continent may find it difficult to avoid becoming a collateral victim of the US-China bust-up.

"Africa is caught in the middle of a trade war that they should not have to take part in, because they have nothing to gain," said Nizard.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Ethiopian churches oppose gay travel company's tour plans

Yahoo – AFP, 3 June 2019

Anti-gay: Ethiopia is one of the majority of countries in Africa where same-sex
relations are illegal

Ethiopia's religious leaders on Monday urged the government to block a US gay travel company from touring the country's ancient sites, and one group warned visiting homosexuals could face violence.

The Chicago-based business, Toto Tours, which describes itself on its website as "the only gay tour company in existence", told AFP it has received death threats since announcing a 16-day trip to Ethiopia, which includes numerous historical religious sites.

Their itinerary has sparked ire in Ethiopia, which like many in Africa is deeply homophobic and has strict anti-gay laws, punishing homosexual acts with up to 15 years in prison.

"Tour programmes and dating programmes that try to use our historical sites and heritage should be immediately stopped by the Ethiopian government and we urge Ethiopians supporting these sinful and evil acts to desist from their acts," Tagay Tadele of the Inter-Religious Council of Ethiopia told journalists.

The council counts seven Islamic and Christian denominations as members.

An influential Ethiopian Orthodox organisation, the Sileste Mihret United Association, also held a press conference Monday to condemn the tour company.

"Homosexuality is hated as well as being illegal in Ethiopia. Toto Tours are wrong to plan to conduct tours in our religious and historical places," the organisation's vice chairman, Dereje Negash, told AFP.

"If Toto Tours comes to Ethiopia where 97 percent of Ethiopians surveyed oppose homosexuality, they will be damaged, they could even die," he said.

Dan Ware, the president of Toto Tours, said the company had been "terribly misunderstood", in an email to AFP.

Map of sub-Saharan Africa showing the 28 countries with anti-homosexuality 
laws, according to Human Rights Watch

"Our company is not aimed at spreading values contrary to local cultures when we travel around the world. We are simply an organization where like-minded people can travel comfortably together to experience the world's most precious wonders.

"We come with only the greatest respect and humility."

He said the tour had been advertised on the company's social media pages and spotted within Ethiopia, leading to "death threats", and called for protection for the tour group from both the US State Department and the Ethiopian tourism ministry.

"This is terrible discrimination, and when the word of this spreads internationally, as it is most likely to do, it will have a negative impact on the important tourism industry in Ethiopia."

He said that by the time the tour takes place in October "the eyes of the entire world will be on the people of Ethiopia to see what happens to us."

Twenty-eight out of 49 countries in sub-Saharan Africa have laws penalising same-sex relationships, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).

Some countries, like Angola, Mozambique and Seychelles, have moved to scrap anti-gay laws.

However Kenya's high court earlier this month refused to do so, in a major blow to gay activists on the continent.

Anti-gay: Ethiopia is one of the majority of countries in Africa where same-sex relations are illegal

Map of sub-Saharan Africa showing the 28 countries with anti-homosexuality laws, according to Human Rights Watch.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Tanzania latest African nation to ban plastic bags

France24 – AFP, 31 May 2019

More than 30 African countries have banned plastic bans as a way to tackle
plastic waste due to its non-biodegrable nature AFP

Nairobi (AFP) - A plastic bag ban comes into force in Tanzania on Saturday, as Africa leads efforts to stem the tide of plastic blighting the farthest reaches of the globe, and depths of the ocean.

Tanzania is banning the importation, production, sale and use of plastic bags, becoming the 34th African country to implement such restrictions, according to the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP).

"Let me be clear on this, once it reaches June 1, the government is not planning to add any more days and we will not tolerate anyone who will be caught using them. No plastic bag will be allowed in the country," Tanzania's vice-president Samia Suluhu Hassan said when announcing the move in April.

Tanzania -- whose wildlife is a popular tourist draw -- has also issued a notice to travellers that they will have to "surrender" plastic bags in their possession before entering the country.

"The government expects that, in appreciation of the imperative to protect the environment and keep our country clean and beautiful, our visitors will accept minor inconveniences resulting from the plastic bags ban," said the statement.

According to local media, anyone caught manufacturing or importing plastic bags and plastic wrappings could get a fine of one billion Tanzanian shillings ($430,000, 390,000 euros) or face imprisonment for up to two years.

Possession and usage can lead to a fine of $87 or imprisonment for seven days, or both.

Degrees of success

Globally, 127 countries have some sort of plastic bag legislation, 91 of which include a ban or restriction on manufacturing, importation and retail distribution, according to UNEP.

Africa has 34 of these countries, followed by Europe with 29.

Patrick Mwesigye, UNEP's regional co-ordinator for resource efficiency told AFP that the degree of success of the bans varied in Africa.

Rwanda's plastic bag ban has been in place for over a decade and is considered one of the most successful.

"But Rwanda had an advantage that there wasn't much manufacturing of plastics," in the country when the ban was implemented, said Mwesigye.

Countries with manufacturing and import industries, where jobs are impacted by bans, have struggled more to enforce them.

"In Kenya... it has been very effective. Still you have some plastic smuggled from neighbouring countries" like Uganda, he said.

Kenya's 2017 plastic ban imposed particularly harsh laws, with fines of up to $38,000 (32,000 euros) and four-year prison sentences.

However in reality, while there have been waves of arrests, fines and jail terms have been far less than proscribed.

Mwesigye said some countries put bans in place before ensuring there were suitable alternatives in place, while monitoring and practical enforcement were also a challenge.

Scourge of single-use plastics

Joyce Msuya, UNEP's Acting Executive Director, praised Tanzania for joining the nations implementing the ban.

"It is critical that bans now be complemented by efforts to identify effective alternatives to single-use plastics...".

The world currently produces more than 300 million tonnes of plastics annually, and there are at least five trillion plastic pieces floating in oceans, scientists have estimated.

Most of the items polluting oceans and landscapes and causing horrendous deaths for the creatures that live there, are made to be used once and thrown away, such as bags, straws and food packaging.

In March nations failed to agree to a timetable to phase out all single-use plastics, opting instead to "significantly reduce" their production.

Neither the United States, Canada or Australia have national plastic bag regulations -- although some American states like Hawaii or California have implemented bans.

The European Union in March voted to ban a dozen forms of single-use plastics from 2021.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

eSwatini says fake polygamy story 'insult' to king and country

Yahoo – AFP, May 14, 2019

King Mswati III has 14 wives and more than 25 children (AFP Photo/
GIANLUIGI GUERCIA)

Mbabane (eSwatini) (AFP) - The government of eSwatini on Tuesday angrily denied viral online reports that King Mswati III, Africa's last absolute monarch who has 14 wives, had ordered men to have at least two marriages or face jail.

The story, carried by the Zambian Observer and picked up by several other online publications, said that Swazi men would have to marry several wives starting from June.

As well as 14 wives, King Mswati has more than 25 children and a reputation for lavish spending while 63 percent of his 1.3 million subjects in the kingdom formerly known as Swaziland live in poverty.

The story, first published on Monday, said the government would sponsor marriage ceremonies and offer houses to men who entered into polygamous marriages.

Three of King Mswati III's wives look at their husband as he delivers a speech 
calling on men to get circumcised (AFP Photo/Jinty Jackson)

It said the king "has declared in... Swaziland that men will from June 2019 be required to marry at least two or more wives or be jailed if they fail to do so".

Government spokesman Percy Simelane called the story "malicious" and "poisonous".

"His Majesty has not made any pronouncement to that effect as it has never been an issue raised," by the people, Simelane said.

He said the story was "not only an insult to the monarchy and the culture of eSwatini but a disgrace to journalism".

The government has demanded that the newspaper retract its story.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Foreign domestic workers in Lebanon protest abuses

Yahoo – AFP, May 5, 2019

Foreign domestic workers in Lebanon protest against the 'kefala' sponsorship system
that they say leaves them open to abuse (AFP Photo/ANWAR AMRO)

Beirut (AFP) - Hundreds of foreign domestic workers demonstrated in the Lebanese capital Sunday to demand the scrapping of a sponsorship system that they complain leaves them open to abuse from employers.

Lebanon hosts more than 250,000 registered domestic workers, the vast majority of them women, from countries including Ethiopia, the Philippines and Sri Lanka.

They are excluded from the labour law, and instead obtain legal residency though their employers' sponsorship under the so-called "kafala" system.

The protesters marching in Beirut held up placards reading "No to slavery and yes to justice" and "Stop kafala".

"We want the cancellation of this system. There are employees imprisoned in houses and they need to have days off," Dozossissane, a 29-year-old Ethiopian, told AFP.

Lebanon's labour ministry introduced a standard contract for domestic workers in 2009, but the forms are often written in Arabic, a language many cannot read.

Activists regularly accuse the authorities of failing to take claims of abuse seriously, with maids, nannies and carers left at the mercy of employers.

Amnesty International last month urged Lebanon to end what it called the "inherently abusive" migration sponsorship system and change the labour law to offer domestic workers more protection.

A report from the rights group that surveyed 32 domestic workers revealed "alarming patterns of abuse", including physical punishments, humiliating treatment and food deprivation.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Brother of Algeria's Bouteflika, 2 ex-spy bosses arrested: security source

Yahoo – AFP, May 4, 2019

Said Bouteflika (centre), brother of Algeria's ex-president Abdelaziz Bouteflika,
pictured in 2012 (AFP Photo/FAROUK BATICHE)

Algiers (AFP) - Said Bouteflika, the powerful brother of deposed Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, was arrested Saturday along with two former intelligence chiefs, a security source told AFP.

General Mohamed Mediene, known as Toufik, who headed the secret service for 25 years and former intelligence coordinator Athmane Tartag were the two spy chiefs arrested, the source said, asking not to be named.

The security source did not provide a reason for the arrests.

There was no immediate comment from Algeria's police or army, despite efforts by AFP to reach them.

Said Bouteflika was seen as the guiding hand behind the rule of his ailing brother Abdelaziz, who resigned on April 2 following pressure from the military in the face of huge street protests.

The president's brother was frequently cited in the past as a likely successor as head of state.

He had exerted increasing influence behind the scenes, as the former president was rarely seen in public after a stroke in 2013.

Mediene headed the all-powerful DRS intelligence agency, until Bouteflika fired him and then dismantled the institution in 2016.

Algeria's army chief Ahmed Gaid Salah has in recent weeks accused Mediene of being involved in a plot against Algeria.

In mid-April he gave what he called "a final warning" to the former DRS chief whom he accused of conspiring to "hinder solutions to ending the crisis" in the protest-hit country.

Salah had helped Abdelaziz Bouteflika to neuter the DRS, which was long considered a "state within a state".

Tartag -- described by Algerian media as close to the former president's brother -- was fired just after Bouteflika's resignation.

Salah has spoken of a meeting attended by "known individuals, the identity of whom will be revealed at the right time, that sought to lead a virulent media campaign across various media and on social networks against the army."

According to Algerian media, this meeting was attended by Mediene, Tartag and Said Bouteflika.

Mediene said "I have never met, whether it be a single time, this person from the security forces who was cited as taking part in this pseudo-meeting, since I left my position" heading the DRS.

Algeria's former defence minister Khaled Nezzar meanwhile has recently claimed that Said Bouteflika wanted to declare a state of emergency and had considered firing Salah, ahead of the president's resignation.

Demonstrations are ongoing in the North African country, with people pouring onto the streets for the 11th consecutive week on Friday, to demand the resignation of regime insiders and the establishment of transitional institutions.

Remains of nearly 85,000 genocide victims buried in Rwanda

Yahoo – AFP, Arafat Mugabo, May 4, 2019

A woman carries flowers to offer before the mass funeral to bury 81 coffins
containing newly discoverd remains of 84,437 victims of the 1994 genocide in
the mass grave at the Nyanza Genocide Memorial, suburb of the capital Kigali, on
May 4, 2019. The remains of nearly 85,000 people murdered in Rwanda's genocide
 were laid to rest on May 4 in a sombre ceremony in Kigali, a quarter of a century
after the slaughter (AFP Photo/Yasuyoshi CHIBA)

Kigali (AFP) - The remains of nearly 85,000 people murdered in Rwanda's genocide were laid to rest Saturday in a sombre ceremony in Kigali, a quarter of a century after the slaughter.

Mourners sobbed as 81 white coffins containing the remains of 84,437 victims of the 1994 mass killings were buried at the Nyanza Genocide Memorial in the capital.

They were among more than 800,000 people, mostly Tutsis, massacred over 100 days by Hutu extremists and militia forces determined to eradicate the Tutsi minority in Rwanda.

Rwanda begins 100 days of mourning every April 7 -- the day the genocide began. But this year has witnessed particular commemorations to mark the 25th anniversary.

"Commemorating the genocide against the Tutsi is every Rwandan’s responsibility -- and so is giving them a decent burial," said Justice Minister Johnston Busingye at the mass burial.

Some mourners broke down wailing as survivors spoke of the pain of losing their loved ones so brutally. A number were escorted from the funeral by ushers.

Emanuel Nduwayezu said the discovery meant he finally had somewhere to come each April 7 and lay a wreath in memory of his murdered family.

"Right now I am very happy because I have buried my dad, my sister and her children, and my in-law. Twenty-five years have passed and I had not known where they were," he told AFP.

"Everyday I was thinking and getting confused (about) where my dad was but now I found him and I have a buried him.”

The remains of those interred on Saturday were only found early last year, when 143 pits containing thousands of bone and clothing fragments were discovered beneath homes on the outskirts of Kigali.

Those exhumed for burial on Saturday came from just 43 such pits -- leaving 100 more to go.

A painstaking effort was undertaken so that family members could identify their loved ones by their teeth, clothing and other markings.

They join 11,000 other victims already laid to rest at the Nyanza Genocide Memorial.

Grim discovery

Jean-Pierre Dusingizemungu, who heads Ibuka, an umbrella organisation for genocide survivors, said a landlord from the area revealed the location of the graves only after he was threatened with arrest.

More pits were later found when a man, tasked in 1994 with dumping corpses, came forward with new information.

Dusingizemungu said it was likely those living on the graves knew what lay beneath their homes.

"It is unfortunate that... these perpetrators, now free, never bothered to reveal to bereaved families the location of these grave sites, so they could get closure," he said.

Clementine Ingabire was the sole survivor from her extended family of 23 who were massacred in the frenzy.

Seven of her relatives were identified from the pits, their remains scattered among the coffins. But at least they were granted a dignified burial, she said.

Just seven at the time, Ingabire remains incredulous she made it out alive.

"Despite the fact that most people were very cruel, there were those who took risks to save others," the 32-year-old said.

"I was saved by a Hutu woman who was a good friend to my mother. She saw me running and grabbed me... that's how I survived."

The ethnic bloodshed ended on July 4 when mainly Tutsi rebels entered Kigali, chasing the genocidal killers out of Rwanda. The rebel general was Paul Kagame, who became Rwanda's president and has remained in power ever since.)

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Benin voters boycott polls with only one choice

CNA – AFP, 29 Apr 2019

A polling official empties the ballot box at the end of the vote at a polling station during
the elections for a new parliament in Cotonou on Apr 28, 2019. (Photo: AFP/Yanick Folly)

PORTO-NOVO: People in Benin on Sunday (Apr 28) boycotted in large numbers parliamentary polls with no opposition candidate to choose from, as rights groups warned of a crackdown on basic freedoms.

As national radio stations pleaded for voters to "fulfil their duty as citizens" and elect 83 new members of parliament - choosing from two parties both allied to President Patrice Talon - the internet was cut.

The small West African state was long held up as a model for democracy, but the country's main opposition parties were effectively barred from fielding candidates by tough new eligibility rules.

Instead, they asked their supporters to protest by boycotting the polls.

Many of the five million registered voters seemed to stay away, with voting booths in the economic capital Cotonou quiet, streets empty and shops closed all day.

Internet Shutdowns

In 10 polling stations visited by AFP in the largely opposition area of Seme-Podji, no more than 35 voters had cast their ballots out of the more than 400 people registered. The situation seemed similar in other parts of Benin visited by AFP reporters.

"We have never seen such a thing," one election commission official said. "The people have not come out."

In the run up to polling, protests were broken up by force. Internet access was initially tightly restricted with blocks on the main social media and messaging apps.

Amnesty International called the internet shutdown a "blunt violation of the right to freedom of expression."

Then later in the day, internet access was shut down entirely.

"It is effectively silencing human rights defenders, journalists and bloggers who are monitoring contested parliamentary elections without opposition candidates," Amnesty said in a statement.

'Going to far'

Even supporters of the president did not vote.

"I'm not a fierce opponent, I actually support President Talon," said Wilfrid Pokini, a trader in the capital Porto Novo. "But I do not support this election - an unopposed election, what is that? It is going too far."

People say they are "stunned" and "shocked" by the situation, but blanket bans on demonstrations ahead of voting has kept people off the streets.

"The wave of arbitrary arrests of political activists and journalists, and the crackdown on peaceful protests, have reached an alarming level," Amnesty International researcher Francois Patuel said.

Before 1991, Benin struggled under decades of authoritarian rule. The transition to democracy brought a flowering of political competition - five years ago, voters could chose from 20 parties for the 83 seats in parliament.

But this year, lawmakers from the ruling party pushed through a new electoral code.

Tensions

Talon, elected in 2016, portrays himself as a reformer and modernist. He has defended the electoral code, saying it would bring together the scores of political parties - more than 250 parties in a country of some 12 million people - into simpler blocs.

But critics say the rules were too tough and bureaucratic. Only the two parties allied to Talon - the Republicans and Progressive Union - met the new conditions, effectively barring the opposition from taking part.

Several international and domestic observers scrapped their missions to monitor the polls. Some warn of the risk of unrest.

"Banning peaceful protests and detaining those who speak up against the exclusion of opposition parties from the legislative election will only fuel political turmoil," Amnesty's Patuel added.

The president is, however, apparently not worried. There seems little doubt that the new parliament will back the presidency in its entirety.

"The resentment will pass," presidential spokesman Wilfried Houngbedji said. "On Monday, life will resume its normal course."

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Symbol of Sudan protest movement pushes for further change

Yahoo – AFP, Menna ZAKI, April 27, 2019

Sudanese student Alaa Salah shot to prominence after an image of her leading
demonstrators in chants in Khartoum went viral (AFP Photo)

Khartoum (AFP) - Sudanese student Alaa Salah emerged as a singing symbol of the protest movement that toppled leader Omar al-Bashir, and now insists she will keep demonstrating until civilian rule is secured.

The 22-year-old engineering and architecture undergraduate shot to prominence when a picture of her in a white robe leading chanting crowds from atop a car in Khartoum went viral on social media.

Shortly after on April 11 the army ousted long-time leader Bashir, but since then a 10-member military council has resisted calls to handover power.

Every evening Salah heads down to join the crowds still camped out around the army headquarters in the capital -- leading thousands of demonstrators in singing out their calls for change.

"We are staying at the protest site until all our demands are met," Salah said in an interview with AFP.

"We want a democratic civilian government and that all corrupt figures of the previous regime be prosecuted."

Like many gathered outside the military complex she insists "we don't want just words, we want actions".

"Bashir was just the face of the regime, we want the entire regime to be uprooted."

Protesters in Sudan have seen long-time ruler Omar al-Bashir ousted from power 
and are now pushing the new ruling military council to hand over power to a civilian 
administration (AFP Photo)

'No political aspirations'

Portraits of Salah -- dubbed "Kandaka" or Nubian queen online -- have appeared on murals across Khartoum in the wake of Bashir's fall.

The iconic image captured her wearing the traditional flowing white headscarf and skirt, her golden full-moon earrings reflecting in the fading sunset.

The outfit is a nod to the lead role played by women in the protests that ended three decades of iron-fisted rule by the veteran leader.

"I wore this attire as part of an initiative to support the revolution," she says.

Symbolic too is the chant that she recites to raise the spirits of the demonstrators.

The words are those of a well-known Sudanese poem that says "a bullet does not kill, what kills is the people's silence" -- a sentiment she says aptly captures Sudan's new spirit of defiance.

The protest movement in the country initially erupted in December in response to tripling of bread prices by the authorities.

It swiftly mushroomed into nationwide demonstrations against Bashir led by an umbrella group of unions and opposition political groups called the Alliance for Freedom and Change.

Protest leaders from the alliance successfully mobilised supporters -- young, old, women, men, professionals and students -- by posting their calls for demonstrations online.

"I'm one of those who took to the streets based on the schedules announced by the Alliance for Freedom and Change," Salah said.

She also participated in protests on her campus as the demonstrations on the street drew a brutal crackdown from the authorities.

Officials say at least 65 people have been killed in protest-related violence since December.

Despite her new-found fame as the face of the uprising, Salah insists that she intends to limit her involvement in politics to these protests.

"I have no political affiliation. I am a normal citizen who took to the streets for the sake of our country," she said.

"I don't have any aspirations in politics ...but I like to do social work."


Tuesday, April 23, 2019

African summit urges Sudan 'democratic transition' within 3 months: Egypt

Yahoo – AFP, April 23, 2019

Sudanese protesters have continued to demand a civilian government since the
military ousted president Omar al-Bashir ealier this month (AFP Photo/OZAN KOSE)

Cairo (AFP) - African leaders at an emergency summit in Cairo urged Sudan's military rulers on Tuesday to implement a democratic transition within three months, the Egyptian presidency said.

Egypt and representatives from several other African nations agreed on "the need for more time" for Sudanese authorities and political actors "to implement peaceful, organised and democratic transition measures", it said in a statement.

They also urged the African Union to extend by three months a deadline, currently the end of April, for Sudan's military council to hand power to a civilian authority or face suspension from the regional bloc.

That would partially ease international pressure on the council to hand over to civilian rule.

The army toppled longtime president Omar al-Bashir on April 11, but protestors have continued to hold mass rallies demanding a swift transition to a non-military government -- calls the council has so far resisted.

Heads of state and senior officials from states including Ethiopia, Nigeria, Rwanda and South Africa took part in the summit.

"We agreed today into the urgent restoration of a constitutional system through a democratic, political transition owned and led by the Sudanese themselves," said Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who currently chairs the AU.

"This is to institute a comprehensively democratic political system and entrench the rule of law" as well as safeguarding human rights, he added.

The summit statement also expressed "the complete support of the African Union and neighbouring countries for Sudan as it faces it political, security and economic challenges".

The participating countries also said they would help Sudan tackle cross-border crime including arms and human trafficking in order to maintain "regional stability".

Monday, April 22, 2019

Ugandan police detain popstar MP Bobi Wine: sources

Yahoo – AFP, April 22, 2019

Ugandan musician-turned-politician Bobi Wine, real name Robert Kyagulanyi, had
been scheduled to perform before being detained (AFP Photo/Isaac KASAMANI)

Kampala (AFP) - Ugandan police detained pop star-turned-MP Bobi Wine on Monday after shutting down one of his concerts and firing tear gas at his fans, the singer's wife and supporters said.

"He has been arrested in Busabala, where he was to address the media on the cancellation of his concert by the police," Wine's wife Barbie Itungo Kyagulanyi told AFP, referring to a suburb in southern Kampala.

Ugandan police spokesman Fred Enanga confirmed that officers "engaged him earlier and drove him away from Busabala" but would not say if he was formally arrested.

Bobi Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, was scheduled to perform Monday but the much-anticipated show was cancelled by police.

His attempt to reach the venue on the shores of Lake Victoria, flanked by dozens of supporters, was blocked by police who fired tear gas and water cannon at his convoy.

Before being detained, Wine posted on Twitter that police were trying to tow the singer's car away.

"People teargassed, beaten, Many arrested. We shall overcome... Stand firm," he wrote.

Later, a post on his Twitter account signed "admin" said the singer had been "violently arrested".

Police said the concert was cancelled because inadequate safety measures were put in place.

Wine is among the most prominent critics of Uganda's longtime President Yoweri Museveni, and authorities have repeatedly blocked him from performing publically.

Young Ugandans have recently been energised by the singer-MP, who has become a thorn in the side of the government through his songs about social justice.