“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.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

South Sudan president names new cabinet: state media

Google – AFP, 31 July 2013

South Sudan President Salva Kiir arrives at a summit in Addis Ababa,
Ethiopia, on May 26, 2013 (AFP/File, Simon Maina)

JUBA — South Sudan President Salva Kiir named his new cabinet Wednesday after sacking his entire team last week, but has yet to appoint a vice president, a decree on state media read.

Some are new appointments, such as military strongman Kuol Manyang, currently governor of troubled eastern Jonglei state, who takes the key position of defence minister, the decree read.

But crucial absences include Riek Machar, the sacked former vice-president, and Pagan Amum, the suspended secretary-general of the ruling party, the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM).

Kiir, the leader of the world's newest nation, last week fired Machar as well as all cabinet ministers and their deputies in the most dramatic change of leadership since independence two years ago.

Kiir, who has had to juggle complex ethnic rivalries in his appointments, also slashed a third of ministries, combining many together.

Other ministers have been reshuffled, such as Martin Elia Lomoro, previously minister of animal resources and fisheries, who now becomes minister of cabinet affairs.

Oil Minister Stephen Dhieu Dau is one of the few to retain his post, a key job for the oil-rich but deeply impoverished nation.

Manyang, the new defence minister, was among the founders of the 1983-2005 rebellion against Sudanese government troops, a much feared guerrilla commander of the SPLM's armed wing, the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA).

More than 100,000 people have fled their homes from Manyang's homeland of Jonglei in recent months, fleeing bitter rounds of ethnic violence and battles between the army and rebels.

On Saturday Kiir promoted former information minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin to the post of foreign minister.

Many of the sacked ministers were key figures in two decades of war against the government of Sudan, which led to a 2011 referendum in which South Sudan voted overwhelmingly to split from the north and form a new nation.

There was no word on when a vice-president would be appointed.

Analysts have said that while last week's sackings were dramatic, the real test of the reshuffle will come from a resulting power struggle within the ruling party.

Ahmed Soliman, of Britain's Chatham House think tank, argued on Monday that Machar and Amum now face the possibility of a two year wait until elections due in 2015 to make a challenge for Kiir's job.

"They could carve their own separate factions from the SPLM and attempt to run as opposition candidates," Soliman said.

Aly Verjee, from the Rift Valley Institute, pointed out that "the real political drama is still to come", when leaders vie for positions within the ruling SPLM party.

Related Article:

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Tanzania's long battle with HIV-AIDS

Deutsche Welle, 30 July 2013

1.6 million people in Tanzania are HIV positive – almost six percent of the population. But the country is managing to contain the disease with the help of drug therapy and investment in the health service.

Eighty four thousand people in Tanzania still die each year from AIDS-related diseases, but the country has nonetheless made enormous progress in combating the pandemic, according to Christoph Benn from the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Malaria, and Tuberculosis. Twenty years ago, funerals of AIDS sufferers were an everyday occurrence,”  recalled Benn, who himself was the head of a hospital in Tanzania at the time. “Young people were dying; children were uncared for, there were orphans in every village. One could see how this country was suffering socially and economically.”

The breakthrough came at the end of the 1990s when it became possible to treat, though not cure, HIV-AIDS. As Benn explained, noboby was going to get themselves tested for HIV if the outcome could be a death sentence. But that has changed since the arrival of drug therapy and the number of  AIDS cases in Tanzania has declined.

People now talk about AIDS

Japo Hemedi has been living
with HIV for five years
When the Tanzanian government launched an HIV-AIDS public awareness campaign in 2005 calling on people to get themeselves tested for the virus, Japo Hemedi was among those who went to a doctor. She had been sick and feeling weak for a long time. The diagnosis confirmed her worst fears. She was HIV positive. But thanks to free medical treatment and supervision, she has now learned to live with the disease. The 50-year-old single mother of five children sells fresh fruits and vegetables at a stand outside the hospital in Temeke district in Dar es Salaam. Her family and most of her customers know she is HIV positive. “I have never felt stigmatised. My family and neighbors have accepted me in spite of the disease,” she said.

Up to 200 HIV patients are treated daily in the hospital in Temeke. Improved public health education has made work easier for the doctors, said the hospital's medical director, Dr. Suleiman Muttani. “Patients who come to the hospital with a broken leg now tell the doctors when they are HIV positive. People have learned they can live with AIDS”. However they have to take their medicationss regularly and go to the doctor immediately in the event of an infection,“ he said. "We are trying to make people understand that it is possible ro control AIDS more easily than diabetes, for example," he added.

Possible to live with AIDS

The Pasada AIDS clinic in Dar es Salaam attends to the needs of about 3,000 adult patients and almost 6000 children, including orphans, every  month. Christa Alunas is a young mother. “I was very sick before I came here” she said. Christa is HIV positive, but she believes her nine month old daughter is HIV negative. “I have been treated here since 2005. At the beginning I only had fever. Then I got skin rashes and later tuberculosis. Both have been treated successfully,” says the 34 year old. “ Today I feel good. I take my medicines reglarly and my life is great."

NGO PSI hands out free condoms to
help stop the spread of HIV-AIDS
Pasada, a Roman Catholic aid organisation, receives financial support from the German Leprosy and Tuberculosis Relief and  the Global Fund and takes part in  the Tanzanian government's program to prevent the transmission of HIV from mother to child.

During pregnancy, HIV-positive women receive regular medication to prevent transmission of the disease in the womb. The babies are also given medical treatment for HIV until they are 18 months old when they are tested for the disease. Christa is confident that her daughter will grow up without HIV.

Recommending but not sharing condoms

Pasada director Frank Manase admits that his clinic's allegiance to the Catholic Church imposes limits on its ability to prevent the spread of AIDS. It cannot encourage the use of condoms.  “Drawing on our faith, we explain the importance of condoms, but we do not distribute them. There is a conflict here. We do not turn people away who ask for condoms, we tell them where they can get them," he said.

One NGO that has no qualms about the use of condoms is Population Services International, with which the German government has been working in Africa since 2005 . PSI uses street theater, musical events and video evenings in villages to educate people about HIV-AIDS and how to prevent it from spreading.

Khadija Azoma has just been to an open air video presentation in the outskirts of Dar es Salaam with her two children. The message in the video is clear, she said. “When you are in a relationship, be faithful. When you do have an affair outside your marriage, then use a condom.” Last year PSI distributed around 80 million condoms.

Tanzania is on the right path

PSI uses street theater to educate
 people about HIV-AIDS and how to
protect themselves
Khadija also wished that her husband had joined them for the video evening, "because  then he would now be better informed,“ she said . But at least her children are going to be taught what they need to know. Khadija said her young daughter has already had some sex education,  “but of course I will want to talk to her as well.”

Christoph Benn from Global Fund believes Tanzania is on the right road . Thanks to the economic growth of recent years, the country is investing more in the health sector. “But one should not forget what would have happened, had the country not been able to beat back the disease.”

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Israeli government agrees to release Palestinian prisoners ahead of peace talks

Deutsche Welle, 28 July 2013

The Israeli government has approved a proposal to release Palestinian and Arab prisoners in a bid to jumpstart peace talks. The proposal was greeted by protests from Israelis who view the prisoners as murderers.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday sought and won cabinet approval for the contentious release of the prisoners which he and others hope will enable negotiations to get past a three-year diplomatic rut.

The approval on was greeted with a positive response from Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat.

"I believe this is a step toward peace and I hope that we can use this opportunity that the U.S. has provided for us to resume negotiations," he said.

The vote

The Cabinet voted 13-7 with two abstentions in favor of Netanyahu's controversial proposal. Relatives of those killed in Palestinian attacks, meanwhile, protested against the measure outside Netanyahu's office (pictured above).

Netanyahu's office said in a statement that the cabinet approved peace talks with the Palestinians but without elaborating where or when.

The move is part of a US-brokered push to get the two sides back to the negotiation table and envisions the release of the prisoners over a period of several months, in four stages, with each stage linked to the progress made in the negotiations.

Emotions run high

The move has stirred emotions on both sides, because the prisoners in question are viewed as heroes by many Palestinians and criminals by many Israelis. When Netanyahu asked the Cabinet to consider the proposal, he spoke of the difficulty of the decision.

"This is not an easy moment for me, and is not easy for the ministers in the government and is especially difficult for the bereaved families," Netanyahu said.

"But there are moments where I need to make tough decisions for the good of the country, and this is one of those moments."

He went on to say that the upcoming talks are important to Israel and that any accord reached in the negotiations would be put to a referendum in the country.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Archbishop Tutu 'would not worship a homophobic God'

BBC News, 26 July 2013

Archbishop Desmond Tutu compared homophobia to racism

Related Stories

South Africa's Nobel peace laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu says he will never worship a "homophobic God" and will rather go to hell.

The retired archbishop was speaking at the launch of a UN-backed campaign in South Africa to promote gay rights.

Despite sex-same relationships being legal in South Africa, it had some of the worst cases of homophobic violence, UN human rights chief Navi Pillay said.

Archbishop Tutu, 81, is a long-standing campaigner for gay rights.

'Toilet brush attack'

He retired as Archbishop of Cape Town in 1996, but has remained the moral conscience of the nation, correspondents say.

Same-sex relationships are illegal in more than a third of countries around the world and punishable by death in five, Ms Pillay said.

In Africa, homosexual acts are still a crime in 38 countries, according to the rights group Amnesty International.

"I would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven. No, I would say sorry, I mean I would much rather go to the other place," Archbishop Tutu said at the launch of the Free and Equal campaign in Cape Town.

"I would not worship a God who is homophobic and that is how deeply I feel about this."

Archbishop Tutu said the campaign against homophobia was similar to the campaign waged against racism in South Africa.

"I am as passionate about this campaign as I ever was about apartheid. For me, it is at the same level," he added.

Ms Pillay said gay and lesbian people in South Africa had some of the best legal safeguards since apartheid ended in 1994, but they still faced brutal attacks.

Last month, a lesbian was found dead, having been sexually assaulted with a toilet brush.

"People are literally paying for their love with their lives," she said, AFP news agency reports.

The UN would push for gay rights to be recognised in countries where they are illegal, Ms Pillay said.

"I constantly hear governments tell me, 'but this is our culture, our tradition and we can't change it'... So we have lots of work to do," she added.

Archbishop Tutu won the Nobel peace prize in 1984 for campaigning against white minority rule in South Africa.

Related Articles:

Question: Dear Kryon: Regarding homosexuality or transsexuals. WHY are they the way they are and WHY are they not accepted in mainstream society?

Answer: [From the Kryon Office]
There is often a tremendous amount of information on subjects that are not necessarily part of the on-line magazine Q&A database. Kryon has been channelling for fourteen years, with 9 books covering many, many topics. Homosexuality was one of them from the very beginning. Please see our "Books index page" for subjects contained in the Kryon books: [http://www.kryon.com/direct.html]

An excerpt from Kryon Book 6, page 306

Question from the book: Dear Kryon, I am gay, and an enlightened man. I live in an American society that barely tolerates me, and actually has some laws against my way of life. The church I used to belong to cast me out as being evil and anti-God. I don't feel that I am violating some Human ethic. My love is as true as any heterosexual, and I am a light worker. Tell me what I should know.

Answer from the book: Dear one, less than two generations from now, there will be those who find this book and laugh at the quaintness of this very question. Before I answer, let me ask you and those reading this to examine a phenomenon about Human society and "God."

Thirty years ago, interracial marriage was considered to be wrong by the laws of God. Now your society finds it common. The spiritual objections around it were either dropped or "rewritten" by those divinely inspired and authorized to do so. Therefore, your actual interpretations of the instructions from God changed with your society's tolerance level--an interesting thing, indeed, how the interpretations of God seem to change regularly to match a changing culture!

The truth, of course, is that you find yourself in a situation that is known to create a test for you. Right now, in this time, you have agreed to come into your culture with an attribute that may alienate you from friends and religious followers. You have faced fear of rejection and have had to "swim upstream," so to speak, just as an everyday life occurrence. Your contract, therefore, has been set up well, and you are in the middle of it. Additionally, like so many like you, you have a divine interest in yourselves! You feel part of the spiritual family. What a dichotomy indeed, to be judged as evil by those who are the high spiritual leaders--interpreting God for today's culture.

Now I say this: What is your intent? Is it to walk with love for all those around you and become an enlightened Human Being in this New Age? Is it to forgive those who see you as a spiritual blight on society? Can you have the kind of tolerance for them that they seem not to have for you? Can you overlook the fact that they freely quote their scriptures in order to condemn you, yet they don't seem to have the love tolerance that is the cornerstone of their own message?

If the answer is yes, then there is nothing else you must do. Your INTENT is everything, and your life will be honored with peace over those who would cause unrest, and tolerance for the intolerable. Your sexual attributes are simply chemistry and setups within your DNA. They are given by agreement as gifts for you to experience in this life. Look on them in this fashion, and be comfortable with that fact that you are a perfect spiritual creation under God--loved beyond measure--just like all humans. But then you know that, don't you?

Girl's online plea highlights plight of Yemen's child brides

BBC News, Abubakr al-Shamahi, Sanaa, 26 July 2013

Nada's uncle took her in after she ran away
In a three-minute video posted online, Nada al-Ahdal, a slight and pretty 11-year-old girl, has caught the attention of millions in her home country, Yemen, and abroad, as she tells her story.

Sitting in a car, she speaks to the camera eloquently and forcefully, and tells of an alleged attempt by her parents to forcibly marry her to an older man.

"Does it satisfy you for me to be married? Does this satisfy you?... Mum, accept this: I don't want you. You killed my dreams, all of them."

The video went viral, first in Arabic, and then in a version that was translated into English, and clocked over seven million views in three days.

However, since it first emerged, a number of sides, including Nada's parents, have disputed the child's story.

The case has thrown a spotlight on the contentious issue of the forced marriage of children in Yemen, where it is a socially accepted custom in some areas.

Some Yemeni social media users reacted negatively to the video itself, feeling that it was wrong to expose Nada's parents to public criticism, as it was not in keeping with Yemeni traditions.

"I swear this is shameful. How can you bash the girls of Yemen like this… You've embarrassed us… This is the start of her going astray," was the reaction of one Yemeni Facebook user.

Nada is now in the custody of the Yemeni Women's Union, a women's rights NGO.

Nada al-Ahdal says she ran away from home to avoid marriage

Ramzia al-Eryani, the head of the organisation, maintains that Nada's story is genuine, and not uncommon.

"This is not the first time this has happened, there have been far worse cases. Only last week we had two cases that were much worse," she said.


The issue of child marriage in Yemen began to hit the international headlines with the case of Nujood Ali, who was nine years old when, in 2008, she escaped her two-month marriage and went to court seeking a divorce.

She was granted one, and went on to win international awards, as well as publishing a book, I am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced.

In 2009, there were attempts by Yemeni parliamentarians and civil society groups to get a law passed restricting marriage to those who are 18 years and over.

However, this failed after opposition from hardline conservative MPs, and a fatwa from Abdulmajeed al-Zindani, a prominent cleric.

The official marriage age remains 15, a law set in 1994, although the law is vague and not widely implemented.

Despite the national and international attention, child marriage remains prevalent in Yemen.

The International Center for Research on Women records in a study that 48.9% of Yemeni females were married before the age of 18.

According to the Gender Development Research and Studies Centre at Sanaa University, up to 65% of marriages between 2010 and 2012 involved children, rising to 70% in rural areas.

In the Yemeni headquarters of Save the Children, a villa in the suburbs of Sanaa, Alaa al-Eryani, who works on the ground in Yemen for the international NGO, says there is a discrepancy between people living in rural and urban areas in their reaction to Nada's case, and child marriage in general.

"If you go to a small village, they would tell you that she's crazy for running away from her parents, if you go to these villages, eight-year-olds are being married… Here in the city, where people are generally more educated and aware, they would tell you that it shouldn't happen."

Ms al-Eryani remains optimistic that Nada's case will cause some change.

"I hope it was a wake-up call for some people," she says.

'Strong and brave'

Meanwhile, Nada's uncle, Abdulsalam al-Ahdal, who took her in, says the majority of the family, and wider society, have given him and Nada their support.

He says any negative reactions to Nada are the result of what he describes as a misuse of religion to justify child marriage.

"There wasn't a problem. The whole family knows she is strong and brave, and that this is a decision that she has taken for her future."

He also says that Nada is adamant that she will not return to her parents.

"Nada is saying that she has a choice - she doesn't want to be with her mother under these circumstances. If they force her, she will run away again, or she says she will commit suicide."

Nonetheless, Nada, clearly not fazed by the events of the past few weeks, appears to be regaining the dreams she once had.

"I want to be a singer," she exclaims excitedly, as her uncle watches on, "I want to be a star!"

Related Article:

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Togo goes to the polls

Deutsche Welle, 25 July 2013

Togo voted on Thursday in parliamentary elections delayed by months of protests, with the opposition seeking to weaken the ruling family's decades-long grip on power.

"I expect nothing from these elections," said the Togolese blogger Fabbi Kouassi. "The electoral commission is controlled by the ruling party. This is not about vying for power under a democracy, this is a fake democracy," she said.

Fabbi Kouassi: frustrated by the
absence of political change
The present leader, Faure Gnassingbe, was installed as president by the military eight years ago on the death of his father Eyadema Gnassingbe, who had ruled the country since 1967.

Critics of the government expect that the ruling party, the Union for the Republic (UNIR), will win the elections. Like many people living in the big cities, Kouassi uses social media to express her frustration with prevailing conditions in the country. In her blog, the journalist criticizes Gnassingbe's regime and reports about corruption and the excessive use of force by the Togolese police.

Fabbi Kouassi received Deutsche Welle's BOBS (Best of Blogs) Reporters Without Borders award in May, giving her recognition for her work for press freedom.

President Faure Gnassingbe has ruled
Togo since 2005
Opposition too divided to be effective

Many Togolese are frustrated, but that isn't boosting support for the opposition parties, said Ralf Wittek. Based in neighboring Burkina Faso, he runs the local branch of the Hanns Seidel Foundation, which has links to Germany's conservative CSU party. The foundation promotes democracy and good governance in Togo. Wittek is a frequent visitor to the country.

Wittek said the political parties are far too divided amongst themselves to operate as an effective opposition at national level. "Even if the regime loses votes, they will still benefit from the opposition parties' disarray," he said. Only the Gnassingbe family had the resources and organization to "get their way" up and down the country.

Among the parties competing in the elections is the Union of Forces for Change (UFC). Three years ago, it joined Gnassingbe's unity government and now champions most of its policies. In protest, a splinter group left the UFC to found a new party, the Alliance for Change (AFC). The AFC is the only opposition party fielding candidates across the whole country. It also has a good reputation among the population.

Opposition leaders had threatened to boycott the vote after the government refused to implement sweeping electoral reforms, but ultimately decided to take part.

No Arab Spring in Togo

The international community complained of ballot rigging during the 2007 and 2010 elections. The European Union – among others – has been calling for constituency boundaries to be redrawn, because the present structure gives votes cast in Gnassingbe's strongholds a disproportionate influence over the final outcome.

Authorities were said to have shut down
 a radio station that had aired reports of
fraud on polling day
One party competing for the first time is New Engagement for Togo (NET). Supporters meet and communicate online, on social media like Facebook. The party's founder and leader Gerry Taama is a well-known blogger and former officer, but he has no chance of making any headway in Togolese politics. That at least is the view of Dirk Kohnert, expert on West Africa at Germany's GIGA institute. "The party has been puffed up by western media and the odd diplomat, because they hope that the Arab Spring and social media will start to have an impact on sub-Saharan Africa, but it is not going to happen in Togo," he said.

Polling had been delayed by waves of 
protests amid concern about electoral
Economic woes

The international community hopes that the violence which marred the 2005 poll will not be repeated. The UN estimates that it claimed the lives of between 400 and 500 people. Dirk Kohnert does not expect any disturbances this time. "I think the vast majority of the population are fed up with party political bickering. People in Togo are interested solely in economic growth, in finding a way out of poverty," he said. Togo is one of the poorest countries in the world. The African Development Bank says every third young person is out of work and two thirds of the country's youth - according to the latest UN development report - can neither read nor write. Most of the population live in rural areas and their frustration is growing.

Fighting poverty is on the agenda of the ruling UNIR party, but its efforts are dependent on development aid and on the global economy picking up. 60 percent of Togo's budget comes from foreign aid and loans. Over the next three years, Togo will receive 27 million euros ($36 million) in aid from Germany. Kouassi finds it frustrating that the international community does not bring more pressure to bear on Togo to introduce democratic reforms. But she refuses to give up. "I want to be able to look our children in the eye and say we fought for something worth fighting for," she said.

Assassins again strike critic of Tunisia Islamists

Google – AFP, Hamida Ben Salah (AFP), 25 July 2013 

People mourn outside the hospital in Ariana, outside Tunis after the
killing of Mohamed Brahmi on July 25, 2013 (AFP, Fethi Belaid)

TUNIS — A leading critic of Tunisia's ruling Islamists, MP Mohamed Brahmi, was shot dead outside his home Thursday in the second such assassination this year, with fingers again pointed at the authorities.

The murder by unknown gunmen sparked angry street protests in central Tunis and the top opposition figure's birthplace of Sidi Bouzid where he served as MP, AFP correspondents said, as well as a call for a general strike on Friday.

"Mohamed Brahmi, general coordinator of the Popular Movement and member of the National Constituent Assembly, was shot dead outside his home in Ariana," near Tunis, Watanya state television and the official TAP news agency reported.

"He was riddled with bullets in front of his wife and children," Mohsen Nabti, a fellow member of the small leftist movement, said in a tearful account aired on Tunisian radio.

A photo taken October 19, 2012 shows Tunisian
 opposition figure Mohamed Brahmi in Tunis
(AFP, Fethi Belaid)
The interior ministry, cited by TAP, said that Brahmi, a 58-year-old MP and vocal critic of Tunisia's ruling Islamists, was assassinated as he left home.

Watanya said Brahmi was struck by a hail of 11 bullets fired from point-blank range.

The February 6 assassination of Chokri Belaid, another opposition figure, in front of his home sparked a political crisis in Tunisia and charges of government connivance.

The family of Brahmi, who had five children, swiftly charged that Ennahda was behind both murders.

"I accuse Ennahda. It was them who killed him," the MP's sister Chhiba Brahmi told AFP at the family home in Sidi Bouzid, without providing any evidence.

"Our family had the feeling that Mohamed would suffer the same fate as Chokri Belaid," whose family also blamed the authorities, she said.

Ennahda chief Rached Ghannouchi in a statement to AFP rejected the charge, calling Brahmi's killing "a catastrophe for Tunisia".

"Those behind this crime want to lead the country towards civil war and to disrupt the democratic transition," he said.

UN human rights chief Navi Pillay demanded an investigation into the killing.

"I call upon the authorities to immediately launch a prompt and transparent investigation to ensure that the people who carried out this crime are held accountable," Pillay said in a statement in Geneva.

"The Tunisian authorities must take very serious measures to investigate these assassinations, identify the culprits and bring them to justice," she said.

Rights group Amnesty International echoed her, calling for "a truly independent and impartial investigation into the killing".

Brahmi, a man with a bushy moustache and weather-beaten complexion, was elected MP for Sidi Bouzid in October 2011, birthplace of the revolution earlier that year that toppled president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

On July 7, he resigned as general secretary of the Popular Movement, which he founded, protesting that it had been infiltrated by Islamists.

"Tunisia is free, Brotherhood out!" angry demonstrators shouted in Tunis on Thursday, referring to the Muslim Brotherhood-linked Ennahda which heads the country's ruling coalition.
"Ghannouchi murderer!" they chanted.

"This is a plot against the country, and the government must be held responsible for its lack of vigilance," said protester Fethi Mouelhi.

-- 'Down with the Brothers' --

In Sidi Bouzid, crowds chanted "Down with the Brothers, down with the people's torturers!"
Thousands also took to the streets of nearby Menzel Bouzaine, where Ennahda party offices were set ablaze.

Belkaeis Brahimi, the daughter of Tunisian
 opposition politician Mohamed Brahmi, on
July 25, 2013 in Ariana (AFP, Fethi Belaid)
French President Francois Hollande, whose country was the pre-independence colonial power in Tunisia, strongly condemned Brahmi's killing and called on the country to unite behind its post-revolutionary democratic transition.

He urged "all political and social forces in Tunisia to demonstrate more than ever the spirit of responsibility needed to preserve national unity and to guarantee the continuation of the democratic transition".

France's leader called for "light to be shed as quickly as possible" on both the murder of Brahmi and that of Belaid.

On Wednesday, a minister and senior adviser to the prime minister said six people believed to have orchestrated Belaid's killing have been identified.

Noureddin B'Hiri said after a cabinet meeting the details would be revealed "soon" by Interior Minister Lotfi Ben Jeddou.

The General Union of Tunisian Labour (UGTT) called for a general strike across Tunisia on Friday in protest at "terrorism, violence and murders".

The union, which says it has half a million members, last called a two-hour general strike on January 14, 2011, the day of Ben Ali's fall.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Liberian albinos fight for rights

Deutsche Welle, 24 July 2013

In Africa, albinos face discrimination. It can lead to verbal abuse or even ritual killings. In Liberia, albinos are discovering that there is strength in numbers and have formed their own advocacy group.

U-Thant Smith is a 27-year-old Liberian albino and president of the Organizing United Albinos Association of Liberia, a group set up to fight for the rights and protection of albinos in the West African nation. He is supported by the group's general secretary, Nasuma Kamara.

Smith told Deutsche Welle "albinos face lots of difficulties in this country" including "segregation and discrimination."

Smith said that being an albino in a black African nation like Liberia makes you stand out within society. Being set apart is generally accompanied by prejudice. He said albinos can barely participate in society and when they try to "people always say things that are not necessary."

Nasuma Kamara and U-Thant Smith are
 working to end discrimination against
albinos in Liberia
Smith feels both anger and sadness at the way he and other albinos are treated in Liberia.

"It is not easy. It hurts me a lot. I feel very frustrated. Sometimes, if I'm ready to express it, tears set in my eyes. Why will we be born in this kind of society and be discriminated? I don't know why," he said.

Despite such challenges, Smith, whose parents are also albino, takes pride in his achievements. He has completed high school in a nation which has a high rate of illiteracy and now has his sights set on a place at university.

"Love my complexion and my color"

Numasie Kamara (not to be confused with Nasuma Kamara) is also a member of the advocacy group. She is an albino who was born to black parents and told Deutsche Welle she is the only albino in her family and that makes her feel special, in spite of the negative reactions from society.

"I feel very proud because that's how God fixed me," she said. "I love my complexion and my color."

Kamara is a primary school teacher, married with "a lovely all black family." She has three children. "All of them are black. My husband is black. I feel pleased.

Liberia is recovering from a civil
war that ended in 2003
Civil society activist Clarence Farley said more needs to be done to end the discrimination of albinos in Liberia. "They are being discriminated against – which is wrong – and this questions their fundamental rights," he said.

Another activist, Anderson Miamen, told Deutsche Welle a change in attitude was needed. "These people are humans like us, black people like us, and we should not discriminate against them," he said.

Preventing discrimination through education

Earlier this year a group of independent experts from the United Nations drew attention to discrimination against albinos in the East African nation of Tanzania, where they are the victims of ritual attacks and routinely mistreated.

The UN also noted on its news website that albinism was "a genetically inherited condition occurring in both genders regardless of ethnicity." It added that almost all people with albinism were visually impaired. They may also have a life span shortened by lung disease or may develop life-threatening skin cancers.

The UN's Special Rapporteur on the right to education, Kishore Singh, said educating children about albinism was important in preventing discrimination.

Monday, July 22, 2013

30mn girls risk genital mutilation: UNICEF

Google – AFP, Kerry Sheridan (AFP), 22 July 2013

Somali girls are pictured at the Dadaab refugee complex in northeastern
Kenya on April 12, 2013 (AFP/File, Tony Karumba)

WASHINGTON, District of Columbia — More than 125 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation, and 30 million more girls are at risk in the next decade, UNICEF said Monday.

Although genital cutting is on the decline, the practice remains "almost universal" in some countries, said the UN Children Fund's report that spans 20 years of data across 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East.

The tradition involves removal of some or all of a female's external genitalia. It can include cutting out the clitoris and sometimes sewing together the labia.

Laws are not enough to stop the practice entirely, and more people must speak out in order to eliminate it among certain ethnic groups and communities, the researchers said.

Social acceptance is the most commonly cited reason for continuing the tradition, even though it is considered a violation of human rights, UNICEF found.

The practice "is becoming less common in slightly more than half of the 29 countries studied," said the report.

However, the tradition remains "remarkably persistent, despite nearly a century of attempts to eliminate it," it said.

"As many as 30 million girls are at risk of being cut over the next decade if current trends persist."

The ritual is practiced by various faiths, including Christians, Muslims and followers of African traditional religions. Some believe it improves a girl's marriage prospects, or that it is more aesthetically pleasing.

The report found the highest rates in Somalia, where 98 percent of females aged 15-49 have been cut, followed by 96 percent in Guinea, 93 percent in Djibouti and 91 percent in Egypt.

The amount of data for analysis varied from country to country, but some declines, even slight ones, were apparent over time.

"In Kenya and the United Republic of Tanzania, for example, women aged 45-49 are approximately three times more likely to have been cut than girls aged 15-19," said the report.

Prevalence of genital cutting among teenage girls has dropped by about half in Benin, the Central African Republic, Iraq, Liberia and Nigeria.

In parts of Ghana, 60 percent of women in their 40s have undergone cutting, compared to 16 percent of teenagers.

In Togo, 28 percent of older women have been cut, compared to three percent of girls 15-19.

However, there was "no discernible decline in countries such as Chad, Gambia, Mali, Senegal, Sudan or Yemen," it said.

The report also found that even though the genital cutting is often considered a form of patriarchal control, there is a similar level of support among men and women for stopping it.

"Overall support for the practice is declining," said the report.

"Social norms and expectations within communities of like-minded individuals play a strong role in the perpetuation of the practice."

UNICEF said it should be open to greater public scrutiny, and called for groups that still practice the ritual to be exposed more to those that do not.

"The challenge now is to let girls and women, boys and men speak out loudly and clearly and announce they want this harmful practice abandoned," said Geeta Rao Gupta, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director.

Last year, the UN General Assembly adopted a non-binding resolution to intensify global efforts to eliminate female genital mutilation.