“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.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Egypt state of emergency ends for first time in 30 years

Mubarak-era state of emergency lifted after three decades; Egypt's ruling military council will continue to secure country until hand over of power to civilian ruler

Ahram Online, Thursday 31 May 2012

emergency law


Egypt’s ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) announced Thursday afternoon the lifting of the longstanding state of emergency, adding that the military will continue to secure the country until the 30 June transfer of power following the upcoming presidential elections runoff.

Egypt has been under a state of emergency since 1981, following the assassination of president Anwar El-Sadat.

Earlier today, Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged Parliament to put an end to this "abusive chapter" in Egypt's history as the law is set to expire on 31 May 2012.

The statement added that Parliament should also pass legislation insuring that all exceptional measures of the law are suspended. HRW further recommended that the Ministry of Interior release all 188 detainees still being held in Egyptian prisons under Emergency Law provisions and to transfer all trials under the mandate of the Emergency State Security Court (ESSC) to regular civilian courts.

“The Egyptian parliament should make sure that this state of emergency, a hallmark of Hosni Mubarak’s abusive police state, has no future,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Parliament should also initiate a comprehensive investigation into human rights violations that flourished under the Emergency Law, and the public prosecutor should make sure that the key people responsible for systematic torture and enforced disappearance are prosecuted.”

Egypt has been under Emergency Law since 1981 – a cause of much tension between Mubarak’s regime and the country's political forces. Calls for an end to the repressive law became a main demand of the January 25 Revolution.

In September 2011, the military junta amended certain articles of the law, and, following clashes outside Israel's Cairo embassy the following month, added new articles to it.

In January, SCAF head Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi declared in a televised address that application of the emergency law would be limited to acts of thuggery and drug-related crimes. Then, on 17 May 2012, Egypt’s first post-Mubarak Parliament called for an ending of the law by 31 May with no possibility of further extensions.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

IMF chief Christine Lagarde pays NO TAX on her £300,000 salary (despite attacking Greece for dodging payment)

Daily Mail, 29 May 2012

  • Questioned about Greek crisis head of IMF said country can help itself collectively 'by paying all their tax'
  • Suggests that IMF's money would be better spent on African children than on people in Athens
  • Lagarde takes home £298,675-a-year untaxed
  • Receives further tax-free allowance package of £52,000
Laughing all the way to the bank:
 IMF managing director Christine Lagarde
 criticised beleagured Greeks for not
 paying taxes, while she earns a tax-free
salary herself
The head of the International Monetary Fund who controversially proposed that struggling Greeks should pay taxes contributes nothing herself to the public purse.

Christine Lagarde openly criticised citizens of the ailing EU country in an interview last week, but it has now emerged that the former French lawyer takes home every penny of her own £298,675 a year salary.

In addition the IMF managing director also receives a tax-free allowance package of £52,000 a year.

Ms Lagarde told the Guardian that she believes children in Niger with little schooling deserve the fund's money more than people in Athens.

She continued: 'Do you know what? As far as Athens is concerned, I also think about all those people who are trying to escape tax all the time.

'All these people in Greece who are trying to escape tax.'

She added: 'I think they should also help themselves collectively. By all paying their tax.'

Lagarde also criticised Greek citizens 'who are trying to escape tax,' and said the country needs to club together to make more of an effort to solve its economic problems.

Her comments came as the IMF increases the pressure on the Eurozone nation and makes it clear it will not be softening the terms of the nation's austerity package that is deeply unpopular with the country's electorate.


The former French finance minister took over from disgraced countryman Dominique Strauss-Kahn in June last year with strong support including the British, U.S., Chinese and German governments and is now a year into her five-year term.

At the time the former French president Nicolas Sarkozy described her appointment as 'a victory for France.'

Others were less impressed however, with Oxfam labeling the decision 'farcical' because of what it judged to be a lack of transparency in the appointment process.

Imposing: The headquarters of the IMF in Washington is where representatives
 of 184 countries aim to work together to foster global monetary cooperation
and secure financial stability

Mr Strauss-Kahn had been forced to step down under a media storm after he was charged with sexually assaulting a New York hotel maid - the charges were later dropped.

Lagarde, 56, who began her career at Chicago-based law firm Baker & McKenzie, earns more than US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron who both pay taxes.

Mr Obama earns around £255,000 a year while Mr Cameron receives a salary of £142,000 for running the country.

Lagarde's salary could also go up in a few weeks as her contract entitles her to a pay rise on July 1 every year.

Lagarde does not pay tax in line with other international organisations such as the United Nations where workers are entitled to a similar tax break.

It comes under article 34 of the Vienna convention on diplomatic relations which declares that diplomatic agents are 'exempt from all dues and taxes, personal or real, national, regional or municipal.'

Contributors: Christine Lagarde earns more than both Barack Obama, left,
and David Cameron, right

Annual pay for UN workers start at between £29,000 to £51,000 with senior salaries range between £61,000 and £80,000 although this figure varies depending on where an employee is based.

A UN worker based in Geneva could expect to see their base salary increased by 106 per cent while even in Juba, the relatively poor capital of South Sudan, a UN worker could anticipate a 53.2 per cent top up of their salary.

Additional perks include rent subsidies and travel expenses, as well as subsidised medical insurance.

Frustration at the luxury, tax-free lifestyles of international public service workers is not a new issue, the argument dates back to the moment the IMF was created at the Bretton Woods economic conference in 1944.

British representatives felt salaries put forward by U.S. delegates were huge, but they were overruled.

The counter argument suggested by those who work for the organisation is that the whopping salaries are required to attract the best people from the well paid private sector.

However, studies have found that in fact most senior employees are already working in government positions.

Related Article:

Charles Taylor sentenced to 50 years

RNW, 30 May 2012

The Special Court for Sierra Leone has sentenced former Liberian president Charles Taylor to 50 years behind bars for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The sentence was handed down on Wednesday in The Hague. The judge said that Taylor, also a former warlord, used his position to aid and abet rebels rather than to promote peace. The prosecution had asked the court to sentence Taylor to 80 years in prison but the judge found that excessive. The sentence means that Taylor, who is 64, will almost certainly spend the rest of his life behind bars.

Last month, Charles Taylor was convicted on 11 counts including murder, rape, sexual slavery, recruitment of child soldiers and enslavement. Though the court ruled that Taylor did not have command of the rebels who terrorised Sierra Leone, it also ruled that he provided them with weapons and other supplies.

Taylor denies his guilt and says he is the victim of a US effort to sweep him out of power.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Morocco protests fill Casablanca streets

BBC News, 27 May 2012 

Related Stories 

Demonstrators say the government
 is failing to deliver promised social reforms
Tens of thousands of anti-government protesters took to the streets in Morocco's largest city, Casablanca.

The rally, organised by trade unions, was believed to be the biggest since a new government took office in January.

Those taking part accused Prime Minister Benkirane of failing to deliver promised reforms.

Morocco's King Mohammed VI managed to hold off Arab Spring protests last year by curbing his powers and pledging a raft of reforms.

In November, polls brought to power a coalition government led by the Justice and Development Party, a moderate Islamist party, but many are frustrated over the pace of change in a country plagued by high unemployment and illiteracy rates.

'United message'

"There are more than 50,000 people who are demonstrating to call on the government to start a genuine dialogue addressing our country's social ills," opposition Socialist MP Hassan Tariq said on Sunday.

"The trade unions are united and the message to the Benkirane government is clear: he needs to change his strategy," he told AFP news agency.

An official put the number of demonstrators at between 15,000 and 20,000, according to AFP news agency.

Trade unions have been calling for an improvement in salaries and social conditions in Morocco, where almost half of those aged between 15 and 29 are unemployed.

Last year, after the country found itself caught up in the protest movement that swept through the region, the king unveiled a new constitution and promised to transfer powers to an elected government.

Morocco's talk of a democratic agenda went down well internationally, but critics say the changes were largely cosmetic.

Syrian defectors accuse Assad relatives of ordering crimes against humanity

Legal experts say president himself must have been aware of systematic killing and torture

guardian.co.uk, Jonathan Miller, Sunday 27 May 2012

UN observers at a morgue holding victims of the Houla massacre.
Photograph: Shaam News/AFP/Getty Images

New evidence has emerged that members of Bashar al-Assad's family and inner circle are directly ordering the commission of crimes against humanity in Syria. Experts in international law consider it "preposterous and completely implausible" that the president himself would be unaware of the systematic and widespread killing and torture.

Defectors from Syrian intelligence and security agencies, used by the regime to crush the revolt, claim that Assad's cousin issued shoot-to-kill orders against civilian protesters in Dera'a, the cradle of the insurrection. Kill quotas were reportedly issued to snipers tasked with assassinating pro-democracy activists.

They allege that Assad's brother Maher, a senior army commander, was among senior figures operating out of a secret command centre in Dera'a when orders were issued to contain a protest march by all means necessary. More than 100 civilians were shot dead. In addition, Maher is accused of ordering the indiscriminate mass punishment of the entire male population of a troublesome town, al-Moudamya, last year.

The defectors' testimony, to be broadcast by Channel 4 Dispatches on Monday night, has added resonance after a weekend when arguably the ugliest atrocity of the 15-month confrontation was perpetrated at Houla. Though the regime blamed rebels, western powers are adamant that regime tanks were responsible.

In the documentary, The Real Mr & Mrs Assad, there is footage not seen before in the UK of the president saying: "Every mistake [that] happens in this government, you are responsible, not somebody else. Not the minister. Not the prime minister. At the end you should be responsible." In more recent months, Assad has repeatedly denied any role in the killings.

"No one is authorised to give orders to the security forces except for him," said the exiled former Syrian vice-president Abdul Halim Khaddam, who fell out with Assad in 2005, having served under him and his father. Speaking in Paris, where he lives, Khaddam said: "Will anyone believe that 300,000 soldiers can come out of their barracks to slaughter citizens due to an initiative by their officers? These orders are issued by the president of the state."

The eyewitness accounts follows the publication by the Guardian in March of emails downloaded by activists from the private accounts of Assad and his London-born wife, Asma. The emails revealed that the president was kept personally informed about military deployments in the city of Homs, where an estimated 4,000 died during weeks of relentless bombardment.

The Dispatches documentary further examines emails from the same cache which indicate that the Assads were aware of the arrest of individuals as part of the crackdown. In two separate cases, they appear to have personally intervened to secure the release of detainees.

One email, dating from mid-December last year, was sent to both Bashar and Asma al-Assad by her father, the London-based cardiologist Fawaz Akhras. It drew their attention to a Channel 4 documentary, Syria's Torture Machine, which was about to be aired. He suggested that the Syrian government respond to the allegations that state-sanctioned torture was systematic and widespread.

The Syrian embassy in London did respond, before the programme was broadcast, using an almost identical form of words to those suggested by Akhras in his email.The defectors also detail allegations against Brigadier-General Atef Najib, Assad's cousin, who headed the political security directorate in Dera'a at the start of the uprising. Two defectors claim to have received direct orders from Najib to fire live ammunition at demonstrators.

One of them, Amar Sheikh, formerly of central security in Damascus – who was drafted in to Dera'a – described Najib telling a briefing which he attended: "You who are armed, you are required if you see that the situation is getting out of control to shoot the demonstrators with bullets."

The bloody crackdown in Dera'a caused national outrage and was raised in parliament by a clearly angry Dera'a MP – after which Najib was transferred.

"Clearly this decision was made very high up," said Anna Neistat of Human Rights Watch, an expert in the command structure of the Syrian armed forces. "He is the president's cousin. I think there was clearly awareness that something he did was bad enough that it could lead to a major revolt."

Another defector, Afaq Ahmed, a former member of the special operations directorate of the feared air force intelligence branch, claims that a later killing spree, in which 100 protesters were shot dead, was approved by the head of air force intelligence. He was allegedly based in a secret command centre in the Kuwait hotel on the city's eastern outskirts.

It is understood that Maher al-Assad was one of the members of his brother's inner circle decamped to Dera'a and had based in this command centre. The European Union describes Maher as "the principal overseer of violence against demonstrators."

Ahmed, who is in a secure location in a neighbouring country, said: "Our task was restricted to assassinating activists and protesters based on orders and the permitted killing quota authorised by the authorities. The quota varied. Some days it was 10; others, 15 or 20."

This accords with evidence gathered by Neistat. "There does appear to be a policy on how to crack down on the protests," she said. "We interviewed one of the snipers … and he said that before the protest they were given a specific percentage – essentially a quota – on how many people, in relation to the overall number of protesters in the streets, they were allowed to take down."

As yet, there is no smoking gun linking Assad directly to the commission of crimes. But William Schabas, a professor of international criminal law, said that even without "a signature on direct orders" he believes there is now sufficient evidence to hold the president to account, using the doctrine of command responsibility.

"We can hold him responsible," Schabus says, "even if we can't prove that he actually ordered the crimes. Whether he is a micro-manager of atrocity, or whether he's a macro-manager, it doesn't actually make much difference.

"Hitler was a macro-manager. There is very little evidence of Hitler ordering direct atrocities to be perpetrated. Does anyone have any doubt that Hitler wasn't in charge? I don't think so. And I think that this is a similar case."

Last month, the former US Middle East peace envoy, George Mitchell, said Assad could be put on trial in the same way as Charles Taylor, the former president of Liberia, who was found to have "aided and abetted" war crimes by a UN-backed tribunal in The Hague.

Any future prosecution of Assad on charges of crimes against humanity must be unanimously referred by the United Nations security council to the International Criminal Court – as happened in the case of Libya last year. At present, this is considered unlikely, owing to the likelihood of a Russian and Chinese veto. But the British government, among others, is assisting in the gathering of evidence which could one day be used in court.

"We will do everything within our power," says the Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt. "We have seen former leaders of regimes in the ICC already, so no one can discount the possibility that it may well happen and if you were Bashar al-Assad, you would not bet that it would not happen to you."

Saturday, May 26, 2012

In growing Africa, where is Indonesia?

The Jakarta Post, by Veeramalla Anjaiah,  Jakarta, Fri, 05/25/2012

Alice Mageza: (JP/P.J. Leo)

Many people in Indonesia still consider Africa a backward continent, the epitome of extreme poverty, hunger, disease, drought, civil war and dictatorships. But now Africa, once known as the “dark continent”, is shining and full of surprises.

“Africa, which has long been stigmatized by its negative image as an area rife with disease, famine and civil war, has now been transformed into a region of rapid economic development,” Riyadi, an official from the Foreign Ministry’s directorate of African affairs, said at a seminar recently.

A similar view was echoed by the dean of the diplomatic corps, Zimbabwean Ambassador to Indonesia Alice Mageza, in connection with the celebration of Africa Day, whose theme is “Boosting Intra-African Trade”, on Friday.

 “It is remarkable to note that despite a global economic slowdown, African countries’ average growth rate reached 5 to 6 percent in 2011, some even posted double-digit growth rates,” Ambassador Mageza, who is also the dean of the Group of African Ambassadors, told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.

Africa Day is celebrated by all Africans every May 25, symbolizing the establishment of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) on May 25, 1963. In July 2002, the OAU transformed into the African Union (AU) , which has currently 54 members. Morocco, a North African country and one of the founders of the OAU, is not a member of the AU but African solidarity has not diminished in Morocco.

“Moroccan diplomacy has always worked in order to place the issue of African development as central to international concerns,” Moroccan Ambassador to Indonesia Mohamed Majdi, told the Post on Thursday.

Africa is not only promising but some countries are actually booming and the rapid economic growth is poised to continue in 2012.

According to the EconomyWatch website, six of the world’s 12 fastest growing economies in 2012 will be from Africa: Niger, Angola, Liberia, Ethiopia, Mozambique and Zambia.

Despite old problems of poverty and underdevelopment, democracy is blossoming in Africa and gender equality is improving, particularly in Rwanda where women lawmakers outnumber men. Africans have more mobile phones than Europeans or Americans. Foreign investors are flocking to Africa. And the list goes on.

But the question is where is Indonesia in this fast-growing Africa?

Indonesia has a good image among Africa’s 54 countries, including the new nation of South Sudan, thanks to Jakarta’s leading role in organizing the Bandung Conference in 1955 to boost solidarity among Asian and African countries and liberate both continents from colonialism. In 2005, Jakarta hosted the Asian-African Summit (AAS), which yielded the historic Declaration on the New Asian African-Strategic Partnership (NAASP).

Though there has been an increase in trade and investments since 2005, Indonesia, the biggest economy in Southeast Asia, lags behind its Asian peers like China, India, Japan, South Korea and Malaysia.

Indonesia’s exports to Africa reached US$5.56 billion in 2011, while imports touched $3.99 billion. Overall trade surged to $9.55 billion in 2011, a huge jump from the $4.76 billion in 2009.

These trade figures are far below the figures of China and India, who gained maximum benefit from the NAASP. For example, China’s trade with Africa in 2011 jumped to $160 billion, a 16-fold surge from a mere $10.6 billion in 2000. India’s trade with Africa was valued at $62 billion in 2011.

Only a few Indonesian firms like Indorama, Indofood, Wika, Garuda Food, Medco and Bakrie Group had invested in several African countries. But their investments are small in nature.

The time has come for Indonesia and its businesses to focus more on this rising Africa, which offers numerous opportunities in oil and gas, diamonds, cocoa, cotton and minerals. Most African countries need Indonesia’s prime products like palm oil, coal, coffee, rubber, tires, paper, electronics, automobiles, textiles, food, furniture and IT products.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Somali al-Shabab militants abandon Afgoye stronghold

BBC News, 25 May 2012

African Union and Somali government forces are on the outskirts of Afgoye

Somalia - Failed State 

Somali Islamist militants have abandoned a strategic town near the capital, Mogadishu, which allowed them easy access to the city.

Residents in Afgoye told the BBC al-Shabab fighters had left because of an joint advance towards the town by government and African Union troops.

Analysts say these forces have yet to take the town, perhaps fearing a trap.

Eyewitnesses say Afgoye's main administration buildings were looted following the militants' departure.

The town's loss will be a big blow for the group, which joined al-Qaeda earlier this year.

Afgoye, 30km (18 miles) north-west of Mogadishu, lies on a strategic crossroads for routes to the north, west and south of Somalia. 

It has allowed al-Shabab fighters to mount frequent attacks in the capital - despite being expelled last August from its bases there by the African Union force in the city.

Despite facing pressure on a number of military fronts, al-Shabab still controls much of the country.

The advance by Somali government troops, backed by African Union forces in tanks, began early on Tuesday.

The forces have avoided using the main road linking Mogadishu to Afgoye as this stretch of land - known as the Afgoye corridor - is home to up to 400,000 people who have fled years of fighting and are now living in makeshift camps.

Army commanders have told the BBC they have approached Afgoye over scrub land.

Despite these precautions, people living in the Afgoye corridor have been fleeing in their thousands either towards Mogadishu or Afgoye town.

A resident in Afgoye town said that office equipment and food were looted from buildings previously occupied by al-Shabab on Thursday evening.

The Horn of Africa nation has been without an effective central government since 1991 and has been racked by fighting ever since - a situation that has allowed piracy and lawlessness to flourish.

On Wednesday evening, leaders of disparate Somali factions agreed to a timetable that will elect a new president by 20 August, ending the transition period of the UN-backed interim government.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Russia pays tribute to US budget

Pravda, 21.05.2012

There are many elementary things that recieve no attention at all, although they can be extremely important. If you take a Russian banknote in your hands, you will see that it says: "Note of the Bank of Russia." If you take a look at Soviet banknotes, you will see that they say: "State Treasury Note." It means that it is not the Russian state that makes the money that all Russians use in their everyday lives today. This is a consequence of 1991 - the time when the Soviet Union collapsed.

Modern-day bank notes are made in today's Russia on the base of the Constitution, as well as on the base of the laws about the Central Bank. The production volumes of today's banknotes in Russia are proportionate to the volume of the purchased virtual foreign currency. In other words, in order to pay, let's say, a note of 100 rubles to a cashier in a supermarket, the Russian economy has paid the United States of America the face value of this note.

If we add the structure of the Russian reserves, the general systems of balance of payments, the crediting mechanism - i.e. the elements of economic sovereignty, which Russia does not have, - then we will see that today, Russia pays nearly $200-300 billion to the US. This amount corresponds to the taxes, which Russian tax-payers pay - without customs payments.

Conditionally, every Russian citizen pays two taxes. One of them goes to the Russian budget, and the other one - in the same amount - goes to the American budget. Russia spends this money on the inflation mechanism, because this money is withdrawn from the economy. Therefore, Russia will never solve the inflation problem until it solves the problem of the Central Bank. Hungary tried to do it, for example, but was punished for it.

Russia is not alone here, of course. America defeated many countries of the world. The above is not a specific problem of Russia. That is why the USA consumes a half of the world's GDP because they collect tribute from everyone, not just Russia. 

Sergey Fyodorov

State Duma deputy
Related Articles:

Ivory Coast minister quits over 'missing' Trafigura money

Adama Bictogo, minister in charge of distributing compensation to victims of toxic waste dumping scheme, was named in police report

guardian.co.uk, Rupert Neate, Thursday 24 May 2012

Adama Bictogo (right) at a meeting in Burkina Faso this month, before
the Trafigura allegations emerged. Photograph: Ahmed Ouoba/AFP/
Getty Images

An Ivory Coast minister has resigned over allegations that he stole £700,000 from a compensation fund for the victims of toxic waste dumped by Trafigura.

Adama Bictogo, the minister in charge of dispensing the funds to victims, stood down after he was named in a police report into missing funds that was leaked to local media this week.

Trafigurawas found guilty in 2010 of exporting toxic waste from Amsterdam, which was later dumped in Ivory Coast's economic capital, Abidjan, in 2006. The company agreed to pay £28.7m to compensate about 30,000 victims.

The multinational oil trader denies that the waste could have caused the victims' illnesses, which have reportedly led to at least 17 deaths. The company, which made profits of $1.1bn (£700m) last year, also said it was not directly involved in the dumping and said it paid a local company to dispose of the waste legally.

Bictogo, Ivory Coast's minister for African integration, had been brought in by the previous government as facilitator of the process to distribute the funds to the victims.

A statement from Bictogo's office, seen by Reuters, said: "Following the most recent developments in the case of toxic waste dumping in Abidjan by Trafigura, Minister Adama Bictogo, who played a role in negotiating compensation for the victims, has asked to be heard by the state prosecutor."

It added that Bictogo had resigned "to ensure and guarantee a separation between the executive and judiciary powers".

Leigh Day, the law firm that represented the victims, said 6,000 of its clients are still awaiting compensation.  

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Egyptians vote in landmark elections

Deutsche Welle, 23 May 2012

Egyptians went to the polls Wednesday on the first day of presidential elections seen as an important step in the country's transition to democracy. Voting has been running smoothly apart from isolated incidents.

Egyptians on Wednesday cast their ballots on the first day of landmark free elections as they voted for a new president.

More than 50 million eligible voters from a population of 80 million have been choosing from among 13 candidates that include both Islamists and secular figures.

Turnout on the first day of the two-day poll has been described as moderate, and voting was extended for another hour on Wednesday. Thursday has been declared a public holiday to encourage voters.

The elections are the first free poll in over 30 years, following the ousting of President Hosni Mubarak in a popular uprising 15 months ago. Independent monitors say they have seen no major abuses.

Voting has been largely calm. However, a policeman guarding a polling station in the capital, Cairo, was shot dead in an exchange of fire with suspected criminals, state television reported.
The report said a gunman and a passing motorist were also injured by the gunfire.

Attack on candidate

In another incident, protesters attacked the candidate Ahmed Shafiq, who was Mubarak's last prime minister, as he voted at another Cairo polling station late in the day.

Witnesses said Shafiq, 70, was not hurt as shoes and stones were thrown at his convoy.

Other contenders include former foreign minister and Arab League head Amr Moussa, the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohammed Morsi, independent Islamist Abdel-Monaem Abul-Fetouh and the leftist candidate, Hamdeen Sabahy.

The Egyptian election system will require a run-off between the top two candidates if no one gets more than the half of votes needed to win outright. This would take place on June 16 and 17.

The final result would be announced on June 21.

First-round results will be formally announced on Tuesday, but the outcome may be clear as early as Saturday.

tj/sej (AFP, Reuters, AP)

Friday, May 18, 2012

Bahrainis protest Saudi Gulf union proposal

Deutsche Welle, 18 May 2012

Opposition activists in Bahrain have rallied to protest a proposed union with neighboring Saudi Arabia. Some protesters view the plan as an attempt by Riyadh to end the uprising in the Gulf island nation.

Tens of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Bahrain on Friday, denouncing proposals for closer military and political cooperation with neighboring Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states.

The mainly Shiite demonstrators blocked one of the island nation's major highways outside the capital, Manama, in a rally that stretched for nearly five kilometers (three miles). The demonstrators chanted slogans such as "No, no unity" and "Bahrain is not for sale."

On Monday, the leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council met for a summit meeting in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, to disclose closer union between the organization's six member states. The council is comprised of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The meeting postponed any decisions on closer political integration for later in the year. Some critics believe the proposal is a push by Saudi Arabia's Sunni monarchy to consolidate its regional power against its main rival, Shiite Iran.

Regional power politics

Bahrain, a small island state in the Persian Gulf, plays an important strategic role in the region: it is home to the US Navy's fifth fleet. Once a province of Iran, a Sunni monarchy currently rules over the majority Shiite population.

In February 2011, mainly Shiite activists - inspired by the revolts in Tunisia and Egypt - rose up against the Al Khalifa monarchy, calling for greater political participation. At least 50 people have died in the unrest so far. The monarchy blames the unrest on Iran.

Saudi Arabia, which has a large Shiite population in its eastern, oil-producing regions, deployed troops last year to help shore up the Al Khalifa family. Some opposition activists suspect that Riyadh wants to use the GCC proposal to secure control over Bahrain and deny Tehran influence in the region.

Protests against a Saudi-Bahraini union also took place in Iran on Friday, with the cleric Kazem Sediqi delivering a sermon broadcast live on state radio.

"This is an ill-fated plot that is taking place with the American and Zionist (Israeli) green light but they should know that the people of Bahrain and the region, Muslims around the world and in Iran will never tolerate it," Sediqi said.

"Instead of surrendering to its own people, it (the Bahraini government) is surrendering its identity, with total abjectness, to another country," Sediqi said.

slk/jm (AP, Reuters)

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Bahrain's King Hamad al-Khalifa and Swaziland's King
Mswati III are both expected.

The Queen's lunch for monarchs attracts controversy

BBC News, 18 May 2012

The Diamond Jubilee 

Bahrain's King Hamad al-Khalifa
 and Swaziland's King Mswati III are
both expected
The King of Bahrain and Swaziland's King Mswati III are among controversial monarchs expected at a Windsor Castle lunch being hosted by the Queen later.

Critics accuse Bahrain of human rights abuses and say King Mswati lives in luxury while his people starve.

Campaigner Peter Tatchell criticised The Queen for inviting "royal tyrants to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee".

The Foreign Office said it was having "a full and frank discussion on a range of issues" with Bahrain's government.

Buckingham Palace said it will not comment on the lunch.

It will be followed by an evening banquet, hosted by Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall. Not all the monarchs will be at both events.

Mr Tatchell said the invitations were "a shocking misjudgement" that showed the Queen was "out of touch with the humanitarian values of most British people".

"Inviting blood-stained despots brings shame to our monarchy and tarnishes the Diamond Jubilee celebrations," he said.

"It is a kick in the teeth to pro-democracy campaigners and political prisoners in these totalitarian royal regimes."

Bahrain officials said King Hamad al-Khalifa - whose country is in a state of civil unrest following crackdowns on protests last year - was expected to attend.

Last month, Bahrain Grand Prix organisers were urged to cancel the race amid public unrest in the country and accusations of human rights abuses.

And in April 2011, Bahrain's Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa pulled out of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's wedding amid controversy over human rights.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "On human rights we support the reforms already under way in Bahrain and we want to help promote that reform.

"We have consistently encouraged the Bahraini government to take further urgent steps to implement in full the recommendations of the Independent Commission of Inquiry as his majesty the King has committed to doing.

"This includes bringing to account those individuals responsible for human rights abuses."

On Thursday, former Foreign Office Minister Denis MacShane criticised Bahrain for doing "such terrible things to its own people since the Arab awakening a year ago".

He said Arab nations "must let their citizens vote in free elections and let them speak without fear of arrest, torture or death".

"For too long we have turned a blind eye to the repression carried out under the rule of royals in Arabia - the Foreign Office should protect the British Queen rather than expose her to having to dine with a despot."

On Wednesday, meanwhile, a group of UK-based Swazis protested outside the Savoy hotel, in London, where King Mswati - who is widely accused of profligate spending - is thought to be staying.

The Swazliand Vigil group said it had written to the Queen to ask her to influence the king. 

Spain's Queen Sofia has pulled
 out because of a dispute over Gibraltar
King Mswati is rated by Forbes magazine as the world's 15th richest monarch with a personal fortune of $100m (£62m) - while many of his 1.2 million subjects live in poverty.

Saudi and Kuwaiti royals are also attending the banquet.

Amnesty international has recently highlighted repression in Saudi Arabia, as the authorities there crack down on protesters and reformists.

And Human Rights Watch has criticised Kuwait for the suspension of a daily newspaper and the conviction of its editor for incitement.

Meanwhile, Queen Sofia of Spain will not be attending because of a dispute over fishing rights off Gibraltar, a UK territory that Spain also claims.

The Spanish government statement said it was "hardly appropriate" for the 73-year-old to attend the lunch.

Her husband, King Juan Carlos, had already declined an invitation because he is recovering from a broken hip.

BBC diplomatic correspondent, Bridget Kendall, says that two problems always hung over this Diamond Jubilee lunch list - the possibility of protests at the inclusion of the despots and non democrats among the invited crowned heads of states, and the risk of diplomatic spats intervening.

Gibraltar has been the cause of a no-show by Spain before at a royal occasion. Spanish royalty stayed away from Prince Charles' wedding to Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1981 because the honeymoon was to include a stop in Gibraltar, our correspondent added.

Other members of the British royal family, including the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Harry, the Earl and Countess of Wessex and the Duke of York and Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie will also be at the lunch.

Guest list

The full guest list for the monarchs' lunch is:

HM The King of Bahrain; HRH Princess Sabeeka bint Ibrahim Al Khalifa (Bahrain); HM The King of The Belgians; HM The Queen of The Belgians; HM The Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei; HM Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Hajah Saleha (Brunei); HM King Simeon II of the Bulgarians; HM Queen Margarita of the Bulgarians; HM Queen Margrethe II of Denmark; HRH The Prince Consort (Denmark); HM King Constantine of the Hellenes; HM Queen Anne-Marie of the Hellenes; HM The Emperor of Japan; HM The Empress of Japan; HM The King of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan; HM Queen of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan; HH Sheikh Nasser Mohamed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah of Kuwait.

HM King Letsie III of Lesotho; HM Queen Masenate Mohato Seeiso of Lesotho; HSH Prince Hans-Adam II of Liechtenstein; HRH The Grand Duke of Luxembourg; HRH The Grand Duchess of Luxembourg; HM Seri Paduka Baginda Yang di-Pertuan Agong of Malaysia; HM Seri Paduka Baginda Raja Permaisuri of Malaysia; HSH The Prince of Monaco; HSH The Princess of Monaco; HRH Princess Lalla Meryem of Morocco; HM The Queen of the Netherlands; HM The King of Norway; HM The Queen of Norway; HH The Emir of The State of Qatar; HH Sheika Mozah bint Nasser Al-Missned (Qatar).

HM King Michael I of Romania; HM Queen Anne of Romania; HRH Prince Mohammed Bin Nawaf Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia; HM King Mswati III of Swaziland; Inkhosikati LaMbikiza (Swaziland); HM The King of Sweden; HM The Queen of Sweden; HRH The Crown Prince of Thailand; HRH Princess Srirasm of Thailand; HM The King of Tonga; HM The Queen of Tonga; HH The Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi; HRH The Crown Prince of Yugoslavia; HRH The Crown Princess of Yugoslavia.

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A British-inspired menu was prepared for the monarchs using many
ingredients sourced locally