“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.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

South Sudan foes sign final power-sharing deal

Yahoo – AFP, Abdelmoneim ABU IDRIS ALI, Jay DESHMUKH, August 5, 2018

South Sudan's President Salva Kiir signs a power-sharing deal with his bitter rival Riek Machar
in neighbouring Sudan's capital Khartoum on August 5, 2018 (AFP Photo/ASHRAF SHAZLY)

Khartoum (AFP) - South Sudanese arch-foes signed a final power-sharing deal on Sunday, aimed at ending a civil war that has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced millions in the world's youngest country.

President Salva Kiir and his bitter rival Riek Machar were in neighbouring Sudan to sign the deal, under which the rebel leader is set to return to a unity government as the first of five vice presidents, an AFP correspondent there reported.

The deal, which paves the way to a final peace accord, was signed in the presence of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and his counterparts from Kenya, Uganda and Djibouti, along with foreign diplomats.

Once a final peace deal is signed, the foes will have three months to form a transitional government which will then hold power for three years.

The talks come as part of a regional push aimed at achieving peace in South Sudan, which plunged into a devastating conflict just two years after its independence from Sudan.

South Sudan's nearly five-year conflict began after Kiir accused his then-vice president Machar of plotting a coup against him in 2013.

Kiir and Machar's factions have already agreed on a permanent ceasefire and withdrawing of their forces from civilian areas, in talks mediated by Khartoum in series of dialogues hosted by Bashir.

The power-sharing deal lays out a plan for a 35-minister transitional government including 20 Kiir allies and nine backers of Machar, along with representatives of other rebel factions.

Challenges ahead

Washington has been sceptical about the success of the latest peace initiative, given the fiery enmity between Kiir and Machar.

Last month the White House warned that "a narrow agreement between elites" would not solve the problems plaguing South Sudan."

"In fact, such an agreement may sow the seeds of another cycle of conflict," it said.

But on Sunday the top US envoy to Khartoum said the United States still backed the process.

"We are supporting any initiative to bring peace to South Sudan and we hope this process will continue comprehensively," US Charge D'affaires in Khartoum, Steven Koutsis, told reporters after Sunday's deal was signed.

A similar peace deal was signed in 2015 but fell apart a year later in a deadly battle that saw Machar flee into exile.

Kiir vowed Friday that the latest peace bid will "not collapse".

But he highlighted several challenges going forward, especially in accommodating a bloated government.

"They need security, they need vehicles, they need houses... five vice presidents, this is a very big responsibility to manage," he said.

"I need to get for them their transport, and one person needs a motorcade of maybe five vehicles. Where will I get this?"

"There are so many things need to be done," he added.

South Sudan's war dashed the optimism that accompanied independence from Sudan in 2011.

The new country plunged into civil war, including fighting within the national army, fuelled by the deep enmity between Kiir and Machar.

The war has killed tens of thousands, displaced some four million people and left the oil-rich country's economy in ruins.

With the country's agricultural sector severely disrupted, seven million South Sudanese -- more than half of the population -- will need food aid in 2018, the United Nations says.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Somalia, Eritrea agree to establish diplomatic ties

Yahoo – AFP, 30 July 2018

Time to celebrate: Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, left, and Eritrean President
Isaias Afwerki reopened the Eritrean embassy in Addis Ababa on July 16

The presidents of Somalia and Eritrea on Monday signed an agreement to establish diplomatic ties after over a decade of animosity, in the latest fast-track rapprochement in the Horn of Africa.

"The two countries will establish diplomatic relations and exchange ambassadors," said a "joint declaration on brotherly relations" signed in Asmara by Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki and Somali counterpart Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed.

Mohamed's three-day visit to Asmara coincides with an extraordinary peace process between Eritrea and Ethiopia -- part of dizzying change in a region burdened by war, proxy conflicts, isolation and iron-fisted rule.

Once close, Somalia and Eritrea fell out over a decade ago as Asmara stood accused of backing Islamist militants on Somali soil in a proxy war with Ethiopia.

Eritrea long denied this, but was slapped with UN sanctions over its alleged backing of Al-Shabaab in 2009.

"Eritrea strongly supports the political independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Somalia as well as the efforts of the people and government of Somalia to restore the country’s rightful stature and achieve the lofty aspirations of its people," read the declaration.

The document, posted on Eritrea's information ministry website, also said the two nations "will endeavor to forge intimate political, economic, social, cultural as well as defense and security cooperation."

They will in addition "work in unison to foster regional peace, stability and economic integration."

Friday, July 27, 2018

Ethiopia's torn Orthodox church reunites after 27 years

Yahoo – AFP, 27, 2018

Ethiopia's torn Orthodox church reunites after 27 years

Addis Ababa (AFP) - Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has overseen the reunification of two feuding wings of the one of the world's oldest Christian churches, his top aide said Friday.

The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church split in 1991 over the naming of a new patriarch after the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) removed the Derg military junta from power.

Dissidents founded a breakaway church based in the United States under the exiled former patriarch, after leading church officials claimed that ousting him violated rules that say the role is held for life.

Talks between the two synods have been going on for years. Abiy, a reformist new premier, is credited with speeding up the peace process, which culminated on Thursday in his maiden visit to the United States.

Abiy oversaw a reunification ceremony in Washington, attended by priests in flowing black and red robes, state media reported.

"After significant mediation efforts, PM Abiy witnessed in DC the reunification of the 2 Synods of the #Ethiopian Orthodox Church. The 2 Synods are reunited into one Holy Synod after 27 years," his chief of staff Fitsum Arega wrote on Twitter.

Further details of the reunification and how it would work in practice were not immediately available.

Tracing its roots back to the fourth century, the Orthodox church is Ethiopia's largest, gathering 38 million people, according to the World Council of Churches.

The country is also home to a Muslim minority and a growing protestant population that includes the prime minister.

"Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed said it is impossible to think of Ethiopia without taking note of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, which he said, is both great and sacred," the state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corporate said.

"While noting that the reconciliation event marks a historic jump, the Prime Minister emphasised that this has been something overdue," the broadcaster said.

It added: "The unification and reconciliation committee extended its deepest gratitude to Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed for his significant efforts during the reconciliation process."

Since taking office in April, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has prioritised reconciliation between dissidents and the EPRDF, which has held power unopposed for 27 years.

He has released numerous jailed dissidents from Ethiopian jails, and sometimes met them personally upon their release.

Earlier this week, he called for "multi-party democracy," a stunning shift for the EPRDF which has been in power continuously since 1991 and holds every seat in parliament together with its allies.

He has also opened the doors to historic reconciliation with neighbouring Eritrea

The visit to the US is set to be something of a charm offensive for Abiy.

After his arrival in Washington, Reuben E. Brigety II, a former American ambassador to the African Union headquarters in Ethiopia, tweeted a photo showing the prime minister smiling and holding hands with a lone protester who greeted him outside the Ethiopian embassy.

He is also visiting diaspora communities in Los Angeles and the state of Minnesota in a visit the Ethiopian government has titled "Tear down barriers, and build bridges!"

Hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians live in the US, among them numerous journalists and politicians who have fallen out with the EPRDF.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Obama warns of 'strange and uncertain times' in Mandela tribute

Yahoo – AFP, Michelle GUMEDE, July 17, 2018

Changing times: Obama warned of the "politics of fear and resentment" in the annual
Nelson Mandela lecture in Johannesburg (AFP Photo/GIANLUIGI GUERCIA)

Johannesburg (AFP) - Former US president Barack Obama on Tuesday used a tribute to Nelson Mandela to warn that the world had plunged into "strange and uncertain times", in what is likely to be seen as a veiled attack on Donald Trump.

Obama made no direct reference to his successor but warned that "politics of fear and resentment" were spreading, driven by leaders who scorned facts and told lies with an "utter loss of shame."

He also blasted climate-change denial, race-based migration policies, unbridled capitalism and "strongman politics" -- stances often cited as the hallmarks of Trump's controversial presidency.

"Given the strange and uncertain times we are in, each day's news cycles brings more head-spinning and disturbing headlines, I thought maybe it would be useful to step back for a moment and get some perspective," Obama said at the start of his speech.

Obama spoke to a crowd of more than 10,000 people at a cricket stadium in Johannesburg in the centrepiece event of celebrations 100 years since Nelson Mandela's birth.

"It is in part because of the failures of governments and powerful elites… that we now see much of the world threatening to return to an older, more dangerous, more brutal way of doing business," Obama said.

On migration, he appeared to take a sharp jab at Trump saying "it is not wrong to insist that national borders matter... but that can't be an excuse for immigration policies based on race or ethnicity or religion."

Banners depicting former US president Barack Obama, right, and other speakers 
who have given the Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture (AFP Photo/MARCO LONGARI)

On climate change, he attacked the entrenched scepticism shown by Trump and others American conservatives in the face of scientific evidence.

"You have to believe in facts, without facts there is no basis for cooperation," he said.

"I can't find common ground if someone says climate change is just not happening when almost all the world's scientists tell us it is.

"If you start (by) saying it is an elaborate hoax... where do we start?

And he drew laughter from the crowd with the line: "Politics today seems to reject the very concept of objective truth -- people just make stuff up.

"We see the utter loss of shame among political leaders who are caught in a lie and they just double down and lie some more," he added.

Mandela's birthday

Tuesday's speech came on the eve of "Mandela Day" -- his birthday, which is marked around the world every year on July 18.

Obama has made relatively few public appearances since leaving the White House in 2017, but he has often credited Mandela for being one of the great inspirations in his life.

Mandela, who died in 2013, remains a global icon for his long struggle against white-minority apartheid rule and for his message of peace and reconciliation after being freed following 27 years in prison.

Obama met Mandela only briefly in 2005 but gave a eulogy at his funeral saying Mandela "makes me want to be a better man" and hailing him as "the last great liberator of the 20th century".

Key dates in the life of Nelson Mandela (AFP Photo/Gal ROMA)

Both men were the first black presidents of their countries.

African President Cyril Ramaphosa and Mandela's widow Graca Machel were among the guests from Obama's speech -- his highest-profile address since leaving office.

"We need more hope because we are living in difficult times," Nomsa Nkosi, 45, a blind woman in the audience, told AFP.

"Mandela was one of a kind and we need the youngsters to come and see what is meant by motivation."

Before arriving in South Africa, Obama paid a brief visit to Kenya, his father's home country.

Obama will also host a town hall event in Johannesburg on Wednesday for 200 young leaders selected from across Africa to attend a five-day training programme.

Mandela was imprisoned under apartheid rule in 1962 and only freed in 1990, when he went on to lead the African National Congress party to victory in the first multi-race elections in 1994.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Eritrea president hails unity with Ethiopia on historic visit

Yahoo – AFP, Chris STEIN, July 14, 2018

Eritrea President Isaias Afwerki and Ethiopia Prime Minister of Abiy Ahmed met on
the tarmac at Addis Ababa airport (AFP Photo/MAHEDER HAILESELASSIE TADESE)

Addis Ababa (AFP) - Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki pledged to resolve his country's dispute with Ethiopia on Saturday in a historic visit to Addis Ababa aimed at cementing peace less than a week after the nations declared an end to two decades of conflict.

Isaias arrived in the Ethiopian capital just five days after Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed visited Eritrea as part of a dizzying peace process aimed at ending years of violence and animosity between the neighbours who were once part of the same nation.

Abiy and Isaias shared laughs and hugs at an official lunch on Saturday as the Ethiopian leader said his counterpart was "beloved, respected and missed by the Ethiopian people."

"We are no longer people of two countries. We are one," Isaias told political and cultural figures gathered in a palace built during Ethiopia's imperial days. "We'll go forward together."

Isaias started his three-day visit at Addis Ababa's airport, where he and Abiy strode down a red carpet as a brass band played and traditional dancers cheered.

The leaders then drove into the city on a road lined with thousands of people dressed in white shawls and waving palm fronds as Ethiopian and Eritrean flags flew side-by-side from lampposts.

There were also banners and pictures of the two leaders who on Monday signed a declaration declaring an official end to the war.

"Welcome home President Isaias!!" Abiy's chief of staff Fitsum Arega wrote on Twitter as the Eritrean leader arrived.

Later in the day, the two leaders flew to the southern city of Hawassa where Isaias toured an industrial park that's key to Ethiopia's economy.

Eritrea was once part of Ethiopia and comprised its entire coastline on the Red Sea until it voted for independence in 1993 after decades of bloody conflict.

The move left Ethiopia landlocked, and the deterioration of relations after the outbreak of the war in 1998 forced Addis Ababa to channel its foreign trade through Djibouti.

The two countries showed little sign of rapprochement since the signing of the Algiers peace agreement in 2000 after a conflict which left 80,000 people dead before settling into a bitter cold war.

Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, on the left, and Eritrean President Isaias 
Afwerki signed a declaration ending the state of war between the two countries 
on July 9 (AFP Photo/Sumy SADRUNI, ASHRAF SHAZLY)

Whirlwind reforms

Analysts say the surprisingly rapid burying of the hatchet was possible only because of Abiy's ascension to the post of prime minister in April.

As part of a whirlwind set of reforms, Abiy announced last month that Ethiopia would abide by a 2002 UN-backed ruling and hand back disputed border territory to Eritrea, including the flashpoint town of Badme.

However Ethiopia has not announced the pull-out of troops from the area.

Abiy then paid a historic visit to Eritrea, where the two leaders announced the re-establishment of diplomatic and trade ties that could mean big benefits for both nations, and the wider Horn of Africa region, plagued by conflict and poverty.

The emotional reunion between the two countries has allowed residents to speak to each other by telephone for the first time in two decades as communication lines were re-opened.

Direct flights are due to start next week.

"Can one find appropriate words to describe the intensity of popular emotions that has gripped both countries; the depth and significance of the promising changes underway in the region!" Eritrean Information Minister Yemane Gebremeskel said on Twitter after Isaias arrived.

Ethiopia's state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corporate said Isaias would also re-open the Eritrean embassy during his three-day stay.

A state dinner in his honour will be held on Sunday.

Map of Ethiopia and Eritrea (AFP Photo/Kun TIAN)

Catalyst for change

Eritrea and Ethiopia are both among Africa's poorest nations.

However, Ethiopia has seen double-digit growth in recent years and is seeking wider options for importing goods and exporting from its nascent manufacturing industry by eyeing ports in Somalia and Eritrea.

Meanwhile Eritrea, one of the world's most isolated nations, has pursued policies that have hamstrung the economy by scaring off investors, including an indefinite military conscription programme the UN has likened to slavery.

Amnesty International said Saturday that the newfound peace should be a catalyst for change in Eritrea, where thousands of people, including rights activists and opposition politicians are "languishing in detention simply for expressing their views."

"The end of hostilities with Ethiopia is a joyous moment for Eritreans, but it must be followed by tangible reforms that make a real difference in the daily lives of the people and put an end to decades of repression in the country," said Seif Magango, AI's deputy director for the region.

In a statement he said Eritrea was the biggest jailer of journalists on the continent, and that its last independent media house was shut down 17 years ago.

Amnesty also called for an end to forced military conscription, seen as a key driver of the departure of hundreds of thousands of Eritreans from their country.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Ethiopia, Eritrea declare war 'has come to an end'

Yahoo – AFP, Chris STEIN, July 9, 2018

Ethiopia and Eritrea agreed to end their war after intensive talks driven by Ethiopian
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (front left) seen here with Eritrean Foreign Minister Osman
Saleh Mohammed (AFP Photo/YONAS TADESSE)

Addis Ababa (AFP) - Ethiopia and Eritrea are no longer at war, the neighbouring nations said in a joint statement Monday after a series of historic meetings in Asmara to end decades of acrimony and conflict.

Eritrean Information Minister Yemane Gebremeskel said on Twitter that Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, 41, and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki, 71, had inked a "Joint Declaration of Peace and Friendship" on the second day of the state visit.

The statement declared that the "state of war that existed between the two countries has come to an end. A new era of peace and friendship has been ushered (in)."

"Both countries will work to promote close cooperation in political, economic, social, cultural and security areas," Yemane added.

Images of the ceremony showed the two men sharing a wooden desk, backed by their nations' flags, as they simultaneously signed the document.

The declaration echoed comments made by Abiy at a dinner hosted by Isaias late Sunday, where he said diplomatic, trade, transport and communications ties would be re-established and borders re-opened.

"We agreed that the airlines will start operating, the ports will be accessible, people can move between the two countries and the embassies will be opened," Abiy said.

"We will demolish the wall and, with love, build a bridge between the two countries," he said.

Ethiopia's state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corporate reported that Ethiopian Airlines would begin passenger flights between the two capitals as early as next week.

Direct telephone communications were also restored for the first time in two decades, sparking emotional phone calls between long-separated families on both sides of the border.

"No words!" a 30-year-old product designer in Addis Ababa told AFP after a phone call from family in Eritrea he hadn't heard from since the war.

"I was crying at home by myself. There are many people who passed away waiting for this day to come," he added, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Abiy left Asmara after signing the joint agreement on Monday to return to Addis Ababa.

Map of Ethiopia, Eritrea and the border between them (AFP Photo/John SAEKI)

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres hailed the dizzying peace process as "a very important symbol of hope not only for the two countries, not only for Africa, but for the whole world."

Abiy's Chief of Staff Fitsum Arega wrote on Twitter that Ethiopia had officially submitted a request to Guterres during his visit to Addis Ababa for the lifting of sanctions against Eritrea, which include an arms embargo as well as asset freeze and travel bans against select individuals.

Recent weeks of rapid rapprochement are aimed at ending decades of animosity, periods of outright conflict and many years of cold war between the two countries.

Whirlwind reforms

The thaw began last month when Abiy said Ethiopia would abide by a 2002 UN-backed ruling, made after a two-year frontier war, and hand back to Eritrea disputed border territory, including the flashpoint town of Badme.

The re-establishment of diplomatic and trade ties after years of bitter separation could mean big benefits for both nations, and the wider Horn of Africa region, plagued by conflict and poverty.

Once a province of Ethiopia that comprised its entire coastline on the Red Sea, Eritrea voted to leave in 1993 after a decades-long, bloody independence struggle.

The break rendered Ethiopia landlocked, and the deterioration of relations due to the continuing cold war forced Ethiopia to rely on Djibouti for its sea trade.

Ethiopian access to Eritrea's ports will be an economic boon for both, as well as posing a challenge to the increasing dominance of Djibouti which had benefited from importing and exporting the vast majority of goods to Africa's second-most populous country.

Free movement across the border will also unite, once again, two peoples closely linked by history, language and ethnicity.

Ethiopia's Foreign Minister Workneh Gebeyehu told journalists Monday that joint commissions on economics, politics and military cooperation would be set up to "work out the exact time and place of the implementation plan.

Regional leaders welcomed the peace efforts with Rwanda's President Paul Kagame telling Abiy and Isaias, "We congratulate you and are with you," in a Twitter statement.

Kenya's Uhuru Kenyatta also congratulated the two leaders for "choosing the path of talking to each other and beginning the journey of friendship."

Since taking office in April, Abiy has driven whirlwind reforms reversing some of the touchstone policies of the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF).

He has released prominent dissidents from jail, announced the partial liberalisation of the economy, admitted the security forces use torture and pursued peace with Eritrea.

A nation of about 5.1 million people, Eritrea is one of the most isolated countries in the world and has been led with an iron fist by Afwerki since 1991. No election has been held since independence and the UN has accused his government of crimes against humanity.

The UN has said 5,000 Eritreans flee their country every month, notably to avoid forced indefinite military conscription.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Ethiopia, Eritrea to normalise relations after historic meeting

Yahoo – AFP, Chris Stein, July 8, 2018

The file picture combo shows Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (L) and Eritrean
President Isaias Afwerki. The two hled a historic meeting in Asmara to restore
relations between the two neighbours (AFP Photo/Sumy SADRUNI, ASHRAF SHAZLY)

Addis Ababa (AFP) - Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said his country would normalise relations with neighbouring Eritrea following an historic meeting with President Isaias Afwerki in Asmara on Sunday, aimed at ending decades of diplomatic and armed strife.

The announcement capped weeks of whirlwind change, driven by Abiy, culminating in his visit to the Eritrean capital for face-to-face taks with Isaias.

"We agreed that the airlines will start operating, the ports will be accessible, people can move between the two countries and the embassies will be opened," Abiy said at a dinner hosted by his Eritrean counterpart.

"We will demolish the wall and, with love, build a bridge between the two countries," Abiy continued.

The sudden rapprochement will spell an end to a years-long cold war that has hurt both countries.

The Horn of Africa nations have remained at loggerheads since Ethiopia rejected a United Nations ruling and refused to cede to Eritrea land along the countries' border following a 1998-2000 war that killed 80,000 people.

There was no sign of that animosity on Sunday.

Abiy stepped from an Ethiopian Airlines plane at the airport in Asmara to be greeted by Isaias, the two men embracing before they strode off along a red carpet.

Crowds lined the streets of the Eritrean capital cheering on the leaders' convoy, waving the twinned flags of Ethiopia and Eritrea.

'A spectacular opportunity'

With Abiy's comments later in the day, the meeting appeared to have achieved its touted aim of seizing "a spectacular opportunity to decidedly move forward peace for the good of our people," as Abiy's chief of staff Fitsum Arega put it earlier.

Eritrea's information minister, Yemane Gebremeskel, later tweeted a photo of the two leaders huddled in discussion, promising the meeting would, "set the tone for rapid, positive changes on the basis of respect of sovereignty and territorial integrity."

The re-establishment of diplomatic and trade ties after years of bitter separation could mean big benefits for both nations, and the wider Horn of Africa region, plagued by conflict and poverty.

Once a province of Ethiopia that comprised its entire coastline on the Red Sea, Eritrea voted to leave in 1993 after a decades-long, bloody independence struggle.

The break rendered Ethiopia landlocked, and the deterioration of relations due to the continuing cold war forced Ethiopia to rely on Djibouti for its sea trade.

Ethiopian access to Eritrea's ports will be an economic boon for both, as well as posing a challenge to the increasing dominance of Djibouti which had benefitted from importing and exporting the vast majority of goods to Africa's second-most populous country.

Free movement across the border will also unite, once again, two peoples closely linked by history, language and ethnicity.

Diplomatic thaw

Sunday's historic visit came after Abiy's move last month to abide by the 2002 decision from the UN-backed commission aimed at settling Ethiopia and Eritrea's border dispute, which fuelled the two-year war.

The UN decision awards chunks of land along the border, including the flashpoint town of Badme, to Eritrea.

Ethiopia had rejected the ruling and continues to occupy the town, sparking a heated rivalry between the two countries that has over the years erupted in gunfire.

Both nations have supported rebel groups intent on overthrowing the other's government and periodically engaged in direct deadly skirmishes along the border.

Eritrea has used the threat of Ethiopian aggression to justify repressive policies, including an indefinite national service programme the UN has likened to slavery.

Abiy took office in April and quickly pursued an ambitious reform agenda that has reversed some of the touchstone policies of the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF).

He has released prominent dissidents from jail and also announced the partial liberalisation of the economy.

Some have raised concerns that the pace of Abiy's reforms may upset some party hardliners. Last month a grenade was thrown at a rally the prime minister addressed in the capital Addis Ababa.

Abiy's decision to honour the boundary ruling began a rapid diplomatic thaw, paving the way for two top Eritrean officials to visit Addis Ababa last month, after which the meeting between the two leaders was announced.

However, Ethiopian troops have yet to withdraw from the disputed territories along the border, and many of the Ethiopian residents of Badme are against ceding their town to Eritrea.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

African meals and football for ICC inmates

Yahoo – AFP, Jan HENNOP, Jul 6, 2018

The Scheveningen detention centre in the Netherlands is a stone's throw
from the North Sea (AFP Photo/ROBIN UTRECHT)

Scheveningen (Netherlands) (AFP) - Deep in the heart of a Dutch prison a group of international detainees finish their African-inspired meal before settling in front of a television to watch the latest World Cup football match.

Welcome to another day at the red-bricked Building 4, Scheveningen prison complex -- the cell block for those accused of committing the world's worst crimes.

Three weeks ago Congolese politician Jean-Pierre Bemba became one of the few to leave through the block's heavy green door, after being acquitted of war crimes by judges at the International Criminal Court.

The Congolese warlord-turned-politician spent 10 years as the ICC's "guest" at the detention unit, situated inside the Dutch prison in The Hague's seaside suburb of Scheveningen, a stone's throw from the North Sea.

"When a new detainee first arrives, we sit him down and have a chat. I tell him: 'A -- you're safe here and B -- you'll be treated with respect," says Paddy Craig, the weathered and grey-haired ICC chief custodial officer.

"But I also tell them we expect respect in return. We are open, but this is after all a detention centre," adds Craig, a former Royal Marine with 27 years of policing experience.

He has a strict policy of not discussing individual prisoners and declined to answer questions relating directly to Bemba.

However, during a rare visit inside the unit, which still houses the likes of Ivorian ex-president Laurent Gbagbo and his right-hand man Charles Ble Goude, journalists gained a glimpse of life behind bars.

The International Criminal Court's Scheveningen detention centre houses those accused 
of committing the world's worst crimes (AFP Photo/MAARTJE BLIJDENSTEIN)

'Unbelievable bakers'

For the ICC's remaining six detainees like African rebel warlords Bosco Ntaganda and Dominic Ongwen, the day starts at 7:00 am when cells are unlocked.

Cells are basic at 15-square metres: a single bed, open toilet, basin, a chair and a few cupboards make up the bulk of the furniture. Possessions include a razor, shaving cream, toothpaste, a toothbrush and a towel. But there is a television inside, and a desk for a computer although there is no internet access.

Inmates are responsible for keeping their cells and communal areas clean.

When not getting ready for a court appearance, the men can roam the wing, meet in its two communal areas or pump iron in its well-equipped gym.

Looking around it quickly becomes clear that cooking is a favourite past-time.

"Some are unbelievable bakers. Some days you cannot believe the smells that come from this area," Craig says.

But diplomatically, he did not want to say who was the best chef.

Rwandan-born Congolese warlord Bosco Ntaganda is one of six detainees in 
the ICC detention centre (AFP Photo/PETER DEJONG)

Combined football teams

Inmates can also spend scheduled time outside in a fenced-off courtyard with an ageing, but functional tennis court, or play football in an adjacent gymnasium.

"Often the ICC's detainees play against their counterparts of the now defunct ICTY (the Yugoslav war crimes court)," says Craig.

But overcrowding is not a problem.

Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic died in the centre while on trial in 2006.

And the ICTY's numbers have been whittled down to two: wartime former Bosnian Serb leaders Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, so teams are often filled out by the 29-strong contingent of correctional officers.

The matches are the only time the detainees of the two courts meet, as they are otherwise kept on separate locked floors.

Inside two communal areas are a table-tennis table and table football set, an aquarium with a handful of goldfish, chess and other board games.

Although there are no restrictions on visits, the ICC's Trust Fund for Victims help with one to two visits a year if the detainee has no money, says Craig.

Ivory Coast's strongman Laurent Gbagbo is on trial for war crimes (AFP Photo/
SIA KAMBOU)

Inmates get 200 free minutes every month to phone loved ones and friends at home, using a list of 25 strictly vetted telephone numbers. All phone calls are recorded.

The unit also has "private rooms" for conjugal visits between spouses, usually lasting a few hours.

Shared meals

It's clear that food plays an important part in the daily lives of the international detainees.

In a kitchen area, a larder stands packed with supplies -- much attesting to the African origins of most men on trial. A cooking roster is pasted on a nearby fridge door.

"The detainees sometimes share their meals with warders. Chicken, garlic and peanut dishes are a favourite," says Craig.

But as he himself has to remain impartial as the head of the ICC prison, he does not share meals.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Heineken ‘suspends’ use of beer promotion female staff in Mozambique

DutchNews, July 6, 2018 - By Senay Boztas

Heineken remains the Dutch student’s favourite potential employer 

The Dutch brewer Heineken is suspending the use of ‘beer girls’ in Mozambique due to allegations of sexual harassment from customers, it emerged on Friday. 

Following a investigation by journalist Olivier van Beemen and allegations of widespread sexual abuse of female beer-selling staff published by the NRC Handelsblad in March, Heineken pledged to respond. 

On Friday it published independent research by Partner Africa showing that 13 sales staff complained of sexual abuse from customers in Mozambique and there were ‘revealing short skirts’ in three countries, Mozambique, Kenya and Uganda. 

It has introduced a new code of practice for its third party partners, who employ the women to sell the beer to bars and restaurants in Africa, including safe working practices and ‘decent uniforms’.

‘Prostitution’ 

Around 15,000 women work for the Dutch firm as sales staff across the world to promote the beer to businesses in their region, according to internal research from 2007. 

NRC had claimed many were sexually propositioned or assaulted and said some prostitutes combined beer promotion with their Heineken work, to get more clients for both. No evidence of links with prostitution was reported by the Partner Africa investigation. 

But the Amsterdam-based brand was under pressure from other businesses, including the Global Fund international health organisation, which had suspended its partnership with Heineken and urged it to protect women beer promoters from sexual exploitation. 

‘Unacceptable’ 

A spokeswoman for Heineken told DutchNews.nl the issue has its full attention: ‘It is our responsibility to always aim to ensure brand promoters have safe working environments,’ she explained. ‘Our operating company in Mozambique will not carry out any further promotional activity involving brand promoters until they can be assured the agencies they work with are compliant with Heineken policies. If this can’t be assured, we will no longer work with these agencies or deploy brand promoters. 

She pointed out that the sales ‘brand promoters’ are mostly employed by third party agencies, which is it now working with ‘to ensure the industry takes a more proactive and robust approach to the promotion of products in Mozambique.’ 

‘As we have said from the beginning, it is unacceptable that people who promote our brands feel unsafe or are being harassed during their work.’