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

'The Protester' - Time Person of the Year 2011

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

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

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

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

''17 February Revolution"

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

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

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

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

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

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

African Union (AU)

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

Nelson Mandela

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

Monday, March 31, 2014

Tunisia police deny rape, accuse 'victim' of seeking sex

Yahoo – AFP, Kaouther Larbi, 31 March 2014

Tunisian lawyer and human-rights defender Radhia Nasraoui arrives on
January 23, 2012 at the courthouse in Tunis (AFP Photo/Fethi Belaid)

Tunis (AFP) - Two Tunisian policemen accused of raping a young woman denied the charge Monday, instead accusing her of seeking to have sex with them, provoking an emotional outburst from the alleged victim.

"They denied everything," Radhia Nasraoui, a lawyer of the young woman known by her pseudonym Meriem Ben Mohamed, told AFP.

One of the accused claimed instead that the young woman had tried to perform oral sex, Nasraoui added.

Koutheir Bouallegue, another of the victim's lawyers, confirmed the policemen denied raping her.

"One of them admitted that he masturbated," he said.

Journalists were barred from attending the closed session, which began mid-morning.

Three police officers are facing trial over the incident, which took place in September 2012, two of them accused of rape.

The defendants say they found the young woman and her boyfriend having sex in their car in a Tunis suburb.

According to the charges, they then took the woman to a police car, where two of them took turns to rape her, while the third policeman allegedly tried to extort money from her fiance at a bank cashpoint.

The public prosecutor tried unsuccessfully to bring indecency charges against the couple, sparking a storm of protest and a campaign of support for Ben Mohamed, who was 27 when the incident took place.

She emerged from the courtroom crying on Monday afternoon, saying: "When I demand justice, they insult me."

'Attacking victim's character'

Emna Zahrouni, another lawyer representing Ben Mohamed, said a member of the defence team emphasised during the hearing that the unmarried young woman regularly had sex, saying his claim was based on the forensic report.

"Their intention is to tell the court that she was not a virgin. They are attacking her character," knowing that sex outside marriage is taboo, Zahrouni said.

"The only slur left (to the defence) is to call her a whore," said Radhia Nasraoui.

Speaking before Monday's hearing, Ben Mohamed, who has already published a book in France entitled "Guilty of Being Raped," giving her account of what happened, said she was not optimistic about the outcome of the trial, which she has described as an "ordeal".

But she voiced determination to see her aggressors punished, saying she would appeal if they got off lightly.

"If only this whole episode would finish. But I will not give up, whatever the verdict," the young woman told AFP, standing beside her boyfriend.

Outside the court house, a small group of supporters waved banners and shouted slogans, including Amina Sboui, a former member of the radical women's protest group Femen.

"I'm here to support Meriem and all women victims of rape. Anyone guilty of raping a woman should be punished," Sboui said, urging victims to take legal action.

"Society has been hard on Meriem," she added.

A psychologist's report, commissioned by the court and seen by AFP, diagnosed Ben Mohamed with "depression aggravating a state of post-traumatic stress".

It said her condition was "directly linked to what she suffered," and that her symptoms, which included anxiety, adaptation problems and personality disorder, can last for years after a woman is raped.

EU aid to Africa comes as carrot, not stick: Commissioner

Yahoo – AFP, 31 March 2014

European commissioneer for Development Andris Piebalgs delivers a speech
 during the inauguration ceremony of Kinshasa's new courthouse, on March 4, 2014
in Kinshasa (AFP Photo/Junior D. Kannah)

Brussels (AFP) - The head of the EU's huge aid programme to Africa warned on Tuesday that tying investment on the continent to democratic reforms risked backfiring if viewed as neo-colonialism.

"I would always warn against linking the two things directly, because it seems like blackmailing," the European Union's Development Commissioner Andris Piebalgs told AFP.

He emphasised that conditions on aid were necessary, but said African governments might view them as a "colonial tool".

Speaking at the margins of the fifth EU-Africa Business Forum in Brussels, Piebalgs said that as a Latvian, whose country had been "colonised" by the Soviet Union, he understood these sensitivities.

The EU and its 28 member states are the largest donors of development assistance to Africa, spending over 18.5 billion euros in 2012 -- over half of the state support provided worldwide to combat poverty on the continent.

"If a government is improving human rights and is a stable democracy, we provide support directly to that government. If that is not the case we work through projects." Piebalgs said.

"So there is some carrot in this process, but there is no stick," he said.

While the EU leads the world in aid to Africa, in 2009 it was overtaken by China as Africa's leading trading partner, with Chinese companies making large investments in the continent.

Piebalgs said China's growing presence was positive, because the "need for investment in Africa is so huge" that the EU cannot be the only player.

But he also called on donor countries, including China and India, to improve accountability and transparency, and said there should be greater coordination of international efforts in Africa.

"It does not help if we have the same role, in the same place, but with two different (forms of) financing competing," he said.

African and EU leaders meet in Brussels on Wednesday and Thursday for an EU-Africa summit which will bring together some 80 states from both continents.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

World Cup 2022 Host Qatar Holds Tournament for Foreign Workers

Jakarta Globe – AFP, Mar 30, 2014

Migrant laborers walk past a board on a construction site in Doha in
Qatar on October 3, 2013 (AFP Photo/Karim Jaafar)

Doha, Qatar. FIFA 2022 football World Cup host Qatar, criticized for the dire conditions of foreign laborers building facilities for the tournament, is holding a competition just for them, organizers said on Saturday.

And the manager of a public relations firm in Qatar said the tournament is aimed at deflating accusations that Doha is mistreating the migrants building the venues for the World Cup.

“We care about the workers because they are the ones building the stadiums and facilities,” said Nasser Kuwari.

Labor unions and rights campaigners say the migrant workers building the multi-million-dollar infrastructure for the World Cup facing difficult living and working conditions in energy-rich Qatar.

Amnesty International has they were being treated like “animals,” and urged FIFA to press Qatar to improve the conditions of the laborers, most of them from South Asia.

And a report by the International Trade Union Confederation said as many as 4,000 workers might die on building sites before the tournament kicks off.

Qatar has dismissed that report as full of “factual errors” and published a list of guidelines aimed at protecting the rights of the expatriate workers.

It is against this background that competition in the “Workers Cup” began this month for the second year running, as 24 teams started squaring off until two of them reach the April 25 finals seeking a grand prize of 18,000 riyals ($5,000).

The players, Asians and Africans mostly, are all migrant workers employed by construction companies, said Adil Ahmed, managing director of organizers QSports.

“We wanted to bring a program that the workers can actually call their own,” Ahmed told AFP.

On Friday FIFA accepted “some responsibility” over the welfare of migrant workers but its president Sepp Blatter told a Zurich news conference the football federation was powerless to intervene.

Exclusive: 'locked-up' Saudi princesses' message for Obama

Channel 4, Fatima Manji, 28 March 2014

"He should be ashamed to meet a leader that has four grown women locked up" - the message from two Saudi princesses to President Obama as he meets with their father, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.

In an exclusive on-camera interview with Channel 4 News, we talk to Princesses Sahar and Jawaher, who say they have been held under effective house arrest, by their father, the king, for more than a decade.

Princesses Sahar and Jawaher are the daughters of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. They say they have been held in the royal compound in Jeddah for the last 13 years, and their sisters Maha and Hala are also being held in separate villas. They claim they are not allowed to travel or leave their home.
If he does that to his own children, how do you think the rest of the country is? - Princess Jawaher
Princesses Sahar and Jawaher claim they have little communication outside of their gates - "no-one is allowed in or out." They say the internet is their only window onto the world. Via Skype, they tell Channel 4 News they are "cut off, isolated... and alone" and that "our father, the king, is responsible."

Their mother Alanoud Al Fayez, who is divorced from the king, first went public with their story two weeks ago, giving her first broadcast interview to Channel 4 News. Since that interview was broadcast, the princesses say restrictions on them have been tightened and they are no longer even allowed to make trips with armed guards for food, as they were previously.

They say food is now becoming scarce in their home, that they are desperate for the world to listen to their story and for someone to help.

Their only hope is that our report will make a difference, and that is why they wanted to broadcast this interview. Princess Sahar says: "This is a risk we're taking, we're happy to do it, we understand full well the repercussions, but we don't know what's going to happen."

Princess Sahar said to reporter Fatima Manji "why are we, grown women, held against our will? I believe we are now hostages."

Her sister, Princess Jawaher, said: "If he does that to his own children, how do you think the rest of the country is?"

The Saudi embassy in London has so far only responded to these claims by saying "this is a private matter".

Related Articles:

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Arabs urge Syria political solution, reject 'Jewish state'

Google – AFP, Omar Hasan (AFP), 26 march 2014

Secretary General of the Arab League Nabil al-Arabi attends the closing session
 of the 25th Arab League summit at Bayan Palace in Kuwait City on March 26, 2014
(AFP, Yasser Al-Zayyat)

Kuwait City — Arab leaders called Wednesday for a political solution to the conflict in Syria, overlooking Saudi-backed demands for greater military support for rebel forces to tip the balance in the war.

They were united, however, after a two-day summit in Kuwait in siding with the Palestinians in refusing to recognise Israel as a Jewish state, a flashpoint issue threatening to derail US-brokered peace talks.

Syria's opposition National Coalition chief Ahmed Jarba called at the opening of the summit for the rebels to be supplied with "sophisticated" weaponry.

The Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad
 al-Jaber al-Sabah (L) and Kuwaiti Foreign
Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Khaled attend the
closing session of the 25th Arab League
 summit at Bayan Palace in Kuwait City, on
March 26, 2014 (AFP, Yasser Al-Zayyat)
Saudi Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz, whose country is a key backer of the revolt against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, said the world was "betraying" rebels by failing to arm them and leaving them "easy prey".

But the final declaration read out at the end of the summit called instead for a political solution to the three-year conflict which has cost over 146,000 lives.

"We call for a political solution to the crisis in Syria based on the Geneva I communique," they said.

The communique drawn up at an international conference in 2012 in the Swiss city calls for a "peaceful transition" in Syria without specifying the fate of Assad.

"We have no alternative to a political solution," Kuwait's Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Sabah told a press conference at the end of the summit.

The summit condemned the Syrian regime.

"We strongly condemn the massacres committed by the Syrian regime against unarmed people," leaders of the 22-member Arab League said.

They reaffirmed their "total support for the Syrian National Coalition as a legitimate representative of the Syrian people."

Arab League Secretary General
Nabil al-Arabi speaks during a press
conference following the close of the
25th Arab League summit at Bayan
 Palace in Kuwait City on March 26,
2014 (AFP, Yasser Al-Zayyat)
Although last year's annual Arab summit, held in Doha, allocated Syria's seat to the National Coalition, it remained vacant at Kuwait's meeting.

Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi told reporters the summit decided to "invite representatives of the Syrian Coalition to attend next September's Arab League Council (foreign ministers) meeting on an exceptional basis".

The seat itself would remain vacant until the opposition meets "legal and technical" requirements.

A clearly dissatisfied Jarba told the opening session on Tuesday that the decision "sends a message to the Assad regime encouraging it to continue to kill Syrians".

The Syria government's brutal repression of protests which erupted in March 2011 had resulted in its suspension from the Cairo-based Arab League.

The "Kuwait Declaration" made no mention of arming the rebels, although the Doha summit had stressed the "right of every state to offer all forms of self-defence, including military," to the opposition.

Arabi said the issue of supplying arms to the opposition was "not discussed" in Kuwait.

The declaration echoed UN peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, who called at the summit for a political solution and urged an "end to the supply of arms to all parties".

Arabs reject 'Jewish state'

Separately, Arab leaders announced their "total rejection of the call to consider Israel a Jewish state," in the final statement.

The Palestinians recognised Israel at the start of the peace process in the early 1990s.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas
attends the 25th Arab League summit at
Bayan palace in Kuwait City on March 26,
2014 (AFP, Ysser Al-Zayyat)
But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu now insists they acknowledge it as the national homeland of the Jewish people, in a move which would effectively torpedo the "right of return" for Palestinian refugees.

US Secretary of State John Kerry is facing an uphill battle to keep the floundering peace talks on track beyond an April 29 deadline.

Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas, fresh from talks with US President Barack Obama in Washington last week, told the summit that Palestinians "reject even discussing the issue."

Netanyahu has placed the recognition dispute at the forefront of the talks, describing Arab rejection of the Jewish state as the "root of the conflict".

For the Palestinians, the issue is intimately entwined with the fate of their refugees who were forced out of their homes or fled in 1948 when Israel became a state.

They see Netanyahu's demand as a way to sidestep a negotiated solution to the refugee question.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Nuclear security summit comes to a close, with joint declaration

DutchNews.nl, Tuesday 25 March 2014

The official group portrait. Photo: NSS2014

The nuclear security summit in The Hague drew to a close on Tuesday afternoon with the publication of the final communiqué.

The communiqué states that the 58 world leaders who took part made concrete agreements to stop terrorists getting their hands on nuclear material which further reduces the threat of a nuclear attack.

Among the new agreements are measures to reduce the amount of dangerous nuclear material in the world, to improve the security of radioactive material which can be used to make a 'dirty' bomb and to improve the international exchange of information and international cooperation.

The outcome of this nuclear security summit is 'a major step towards a safer world', the communiqué says.


Not all the delegates stayed until the end. By early afternoon, several world leaders were heading home, including German chancellor Angel Merkel, French president François Hollande and Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi.

They did, however, attend the informal lunch catered by Jonnie and Thérèse Boer, owners of the three-star De Librije restaurant. The meal included a starter of cod from the North Sea with Dutch asparagus and a main dish of Dutch lamb with organic vegetables.

Prior to the lunch, the leaders also gathered for a group photo with host and Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte and US president Barack Obama front and centre.


One agreement made earlier in the day by 32 of the participating countries was to allow experts from other countries to inspect their storage of nuclear waste.

Among them are the US and most of the EU countries. Russia and China are among those who refused to take part.

Also earlier in the day, Dutch foreign minister Frans Timmermans said that countries should do more to make the world nuclear weapons free. Timmermans said that the security of nuclear waste cannot be seen as separate from stock piles of nuclear weapons.

Obama remains in the Netherlands until later in the day. He has a series of meetings in The Hague before flying out to Belgium where he will visit various EU organisations on Wednesday.

Related Articles:

"Fast-Tracking" - Feb 8, 2014 (Kryon Channelling by Lee Carroll) - (Reference to Fukushima / H-bomb nuclear pollution and a warning about nuclear  (> 20 Min)

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Thousands join rare Algeria rally

BBC News, 22 March 2014

Rival Islamist and secular party opposition supporters attended Friday's rally

Related Stories

Thousands of Algerian opposition supporters have called for a boycott of next month's presidential election, during an unprecedented mass rally.

Islamist and secular opposition parties at the rally denounced 77-year-old President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's attempt to win a fourth term of office.

They say a stroke last year has left him unfit to govern.

Mr Bouteflika, in power since 1999, scrapped constitutional rules in 2008 limiting him to two terms in office.

He has rarely been seen in public in recent months, but correspondents say the backing of the governing National Liberation Front (FLN), army factions and business elites almost guarantees him election victory.

'The real Algeria'

Chanting "boycott" and "the people want the regime out" about 5,000 people packed into the sports stadium where various opposition leaders denounced Mr Bouteflika's re-election bid and demanded reforms to a political system they see as corrupt.

About 5,000 people packed into an Algiers sports stadium

Some earlier small protests against Mr Bouteflika's re-election bid were
swiftly quashed by security forces

Friday's rally is believed to be one of the biggest in Algeria in recent months

Large opposition gatherings are unusual in Algeria, where FLN elites and army generals have dominated politics since independence from France in 1962.

"The people here are the people who have been excluded, who have been put aside, but this is the real Algeria," Rally for Culture and Democracy (RCD) party spokesman Mohsen Belabes told cheering crowds.

"The regime will collapse, but Algeria will survive."

Correspondents say Mr Bouteflika ordered heavy spending from Algeria's oil earnings on housing, public services and infrastructure projects to offset social unrest after the Arab Spring uprisings across North Africa in 2011.

But the parties within the opposition are not united and remain weak, analysts say.

Evidence of this disunity was evident at Friday's rally, where rival Islamist and secular supporters heckled and taunted at each other across the stadium.

The president is one of the few remaining veterans of the war of independence against France.

But he has had persistent health problems and his rule has recently been dogged by corruption scandals implicating members of his inner circle.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Ivory Coast to send ex-youth leader Ble Goude to ICC

Google – AFP, 20 March 2014

Charles Ble Goude, a militant youth leader and former Minister for Youth
 in the ousted Ivory Coast regime, is pictured on June 25, 2012 near the
Togo-Benin border (AFP/File)

Abidjan — Ivory Coast will transfer Charles Ble Goude, the jailed right-hand man of former president Laurent Gbagbo, to the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity, an official said Thursday.

The decision was made at a cabinet meeting, a source at the presidency told AFP. Gbagbo's former youth leader was arrested in Ghana more than a year ago and extradited to Ivory Coast.

In September last year, The Hague-based ICC unsealed a warrant for 42-year-old Ble Goude, who faces four counts of crimes against humanity over 2010-2011 post-election unrest.

The firebrand former leader of the "Young Patriots" will join his ex-boss in ICC detention, who was transferred to the Netherlands in late 2011.

Gbagbo also faces four counts of crimes against humanity but the court has yet to confirm the charges, pending further investigation.

The Ivorian crisis started with Gbagbo's refusal to concede defeat in November 2010 elections, sparking armed clashes that killed more than 3,000 people.

His election rival Alassane Ouattara, now the president, eventually ousted him thanks to international military backing.

Abidjan's decision to transfer Ble Goude can be seen as surprising given its prior refusal to do so with Gbagbo's wife Simone, also wanted by the ICC, on the grounds that its own judiciary now offered sufficient guarantees of a fair trial.

A man looks at the front pages of newspapers displaying a picture of Charles
 Ble Goude, a jailed relative of former Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo, on
March 10, 2014 in Abidjan (AFP/File, Issouf Sanogo)

Gbagbo loyalists are still a force to be reckoned with in Ivorian politics and Ouattara had in recent months tried to foster reconciliation with gestures toward the opposition.

The leader of Gbagbo's FPI party, Pascal Affi N'Guessan, regretted the decision, arguing that it would not ease tensions.

"This does not show that the country is advancing on the path of normalisation, of some kind of way out of conflict," he said, but cautioned he would only make further comments when more is known about the planned transfer.

Ble Goude told AFP in an interview in 2012 that he was not afraid of going to the ICC.

"I am not an advocate of weapons, I never maintained a single militia. If the ICC wants to invite me for having organised protest marches, I have no problem appearing before the ICC," he said.

"I am ready to go before the ICC so that we may finally know in Ivory Coast who did what."

Ble Goude galvanised support for Gbagbo during the crisis with fiery speeches urging mass mobilisation against what he called pro-Ouattara "rebels" and their foreign backers, France and the UN.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Zuma ordered to pay for 'unlawful' home upgrades

Google – AFP, Sibongile Khumalo (AFP), 19 March 2014

A view of the controversial homestead of South African President Jacob Zuma
in Nkandla on January 21, 2014 (AFP/File, Marco Longari)

Pretoria — South Africa's public ombudsman ruled Wednesday that some of the $23 million taxpayer-funded improvements to President Jacob Zuma's luxurious private residence were excessive and unlawful.

In a scathing report issued just weeks ahead of South Africa's elections, ombudsman Thuli Madonsela also ordered Zuma to repay part of the costs of the upgrades at his village homestead.

"Some of these measures can be legitimately classified as unlawful and the acts involved constitute improper conduct and maladministration," Madonsela said.

A view of the controversial homestead of 
South African President Jacob Zuma in
 Nkandla on January 21, 2014 (AFP, Marco
The long-awaited report, titled "Secure in Comfort" -- which also implicated several ministers -- found that Zuma violated the executive ethics code by failing to protect state resources and that there was "excessive" spending.

Madonsela blamed the government for the two years it took to produce the report, saying Zuma had taken nine months to respond to her questions.

"There is nothing political about the report, all I have done as the ombudsman is to discharge my responsibility. And I have done that."

The opposition Democratic Alliance said that in light of the "damning findings" it would urgently initiate impeachment proceedings against Zuma.

The ombudsman ordered Zuma to pay a "reasonable percentage" of the cost of renovations not related to security at the sprawling homestead in the southern village of Nklanda.

However the exact amount was not disclosed and Madonsela said it would be up to the Treasury to determine a figure.

In a terse statement, Zuma said he would study the findings and "will communicate his response in due course".

Renovations at so-called "Zumaville" cost taxpayers 246 million rand ($23 million) in a project touted as a security upgrade but which included a visitors' centre, swimming pool, an amphitheatre, private clinic and even a chicken coop.

South African President Jacob Zuma speaks
 during a press conference in Pretoria
 on October 14, 2013 (AFP/File, Alexander
"The expenditure incurred by the state... went beyond what was reasonably required for the president's security, was unconsciously excessive and caused a misappropriation of funds," the report said.

Opulence on a grand scale

Madonsela also ordered Zuma to "reprimand the ministers involved for the appalling manner in which the Nkandla project was handled and state funds were abused".

Zuma is running for re-election in the May 7 vote but his popularity has taking a beating and he was booed at the memorial for South Africa's first black president Nelson Mandela in December.

The vote promises to be the toughest yet for Zuma and his ruling African National Congress (ANC) which has won every election since the end of apartheid in 1994 by a landslide.

A survey late last year showed that support for the ANC had dropped to 53 percent, a slide of 10 percentage points from a year earlier.

The splurge on the house - nestled in the verdant hills of Zuma's political stronghold -- has caused anger in a country where there is widespread poverty and where 10 million people live on welfare.

In contrast to Zuma's luxury lifestyle, some of his rural neighbours are without electricity or running water. Nearby residents collect water from communal taps and streams which often run dry.

The ombudsman said the allegation by a complainant that the Nkandla project constitutes "opulence on a grand scale is substantiated."

South African Bhekekile Ndlovu closes the
 gate to her parcel of land directly opposite
 the lavish residence of South African
 President in Nkandla on January 22, 2014
(AFP/File, Marco Longari)
It "leaves one with the impression of excessive and unconscionable 'Rolls Royce' security constituting an island in a sea of poverty and paucity of public infrastructure."

"The manner in which the Nkandla project was administered and implemented gave me the impression of a toxic concoction of a lack of leadership, a lack of control and focused self-interest," said Madonsela

The home, which Zuma rarely visits as he has official residences in Pretoria, Cape Town and Durban -- also boasts its own helipad.

Madonsela said the upgrades were by far the most expensive for a sitting head of state, including Mandela.

Zuma last year denied that he and his family had benefitted from the security upgrades.

But Madonsela said "this is not true" and that Zuma had "unduly benefited from the enormous capital investment from non-security measures".

While presidents and former leaders were legally entitled to reasonable security upgrades, Madonsela said such additions as a swimming pool did not meet the criteria.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Mugabe vows crackdown on high-profile graft

Google – AFP, 14 March 2014

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe speaks at his 90th birthday celebrations
in Marondera, on February 23, 2014 (AFP/File, Jekesai Njikizana)

Harare — Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe on Friday vowed to crackdown on corruption involving high-profile officials at state institutions following recent damning exposures of graft, including at the national airline.

"If there was any corruption, people will answer for it, I tell you," Mugabe said at a belated party hosted by civil servants and security forces to celebrate his 90th birthday.

His warning came after media reports of alleged corruption involving senior officials across a number of state-run bodies including the government pensions authority, power utilities and the national airline, Air Zimbabwe.

"It has ruined the country," said Mugabe describing corruption as a "growing disease".

The media has also reported on grossly inflated salaries for bosses at the public broadcaster which failed to pay workers for more than six months.

And the CEO of a public service health insurance fund, which has been in arrears in its remittances to hospitals and practitioners, has reportedly been receiving a monthly salary of $230,000 (165,000 euros).

Mugabe also poked fun at the tensions in the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) saying the party's in-fighting was caused by their loss to his party in general elections last year.

"It's disorganised them as you can see," he said.

The MDC has been embroiled in squabbles following the suspension of deputy treasurer Elton Mangoma after he suggested Tsvangirai should step down as leader of the party following last year's defeat to Mugabe.

Mugabe, in power sice 1980, turned 90 on February 21.

Birthday celebrations were held at a stadium in the small town of Marondera, east of the capital and attended by thousands of supporters.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

UN rights chief slams Nigeria ban on gay marriage

Google – AFP, 14 March 2014

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay gives a press conference on
December 2, 2013 at the United Nations offices in Geneva (AFP/File, Fabrice Coffrini)

Abuja — The UN rights chief, Navi Pillay, Thursday said Nigeria's recent ban on same-sex marriage violated human rights and the nation's constitution.

"I'm concerned with the implication of the recently-passed Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act," Pillay said during a meeting with Nigeria's justice minister as part of her three-day official visit to Africa's most populous nation.

"In addition to the violation of fundamental human rights enshrined in the ICCPR (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights), it is a violation also of the African Charter and the Nigerian constitution itself," she said.

Nigeria has been under fire internationally for banning gay marriage and alleged abuses while tackling Islamist insurgents in the north of the country.

President Goodluck Jonathan had in January approved a bill banning gay marriage and same-sex partnerships that sparked international condemnation.

Under the terms of the law -- criticised by the EU, US and Amnesty International among others -- anyone who enters into a same-sex marriage or civil union can be sentenced to 14 years in prison.

"It (the law) may have negative consequences for public health in Nigeria," the UN chief said.

"It may deter LGBT persons from taking up HIV education, prevention treatment and care services and also hinder the ability of government as well as civil society and religious groups from implementing such services.

She called on authorities to observe a "moratorium on prosecution".

The anti-gay law follows similar legislation in Uganda that was condemned by US President Barack Obama as "odious" and compared to apartheid by South African peace icon Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Pillay, who ends her visit to Nigeria on Friday, also expressed her concern about "the impunity enjoyed by perpetrators of human rights violations" in the country and urged authorities "to investigate and prosecute allegations of human rights violation".

She alleged that crimes committed by Boko Haram Islamists and security forces battling insurgents have "horrendous impact" on civilians.

Rights bodies and other groups have often accused security forces of human rights violations in their campaign to battle the insurgency which has claimed thousands of lives since 2009.

She said she would encourage Nigeria to take concrete steps to abolishing the death penalty by reducing the number of crimes punishable by it.

In response, Justice Minister Mohammed Bello Adoke said "the focus of the (anti-gay) Act is therefore discouragement of same-sex marriage which is a reflection of the overwhelming beliefs and cultural values of the Nigerian people".

He claimed that a 2013 opinion poll showed that 92 percent of Nigerians rejected same-sex marriage.

He added that the constitution did not approve extra-judicial killing and "has zero tolerance for any form of cruelty or inhuman treatment".

"While there have reports of extra-judicial killings, let me assure you that security officers that have been found culpable, irrespective of their position, are made to face the full weight of the law," he said.

Her visit is the first by UN human rights chief to Nigeria.

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