“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.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Malawi’s Banda Concedes Defeat in Presidential Election

Jakarta Globe – AFP, May 31, 2014

Malawi President Joyce Banda speaks during a press conference at
the Kamuzu Palace in Lilongwe on May 24, 2014. (AFP Photo)

Blantyre. Malawian President Joyce Banda on Saturday congratulated her arch-rival Peter Mutharika for winning the country’s presidential election, whose result she had initially challenged.

Conceding defeat, Banda congratulated Mutharika for his “victory in a closely contested election” and said she was “leaving office a happy person,” according to a statement.

Banda, the country’s first female president, came to power in 2012 after the death of Bingu wa Mutharika, the elder brother of Peter Mutharika.

The electoral commission said Friday that Mutharika took 36.4 percent of the votes cast against Banda’s 20.2 percent.

The results were announced minutes after the high court refused a last-ditch attempt to block their release and allow time for a recount.

Electoral commission chief Maxon Mbendera declared Mutharika “president-elect” after last week’s vote, which Banda said was marred by “serious irregularities” and “null and void.”

The results showed that Banda was beaten into third place by Lazarus Chakwera of the Malawi Congress Party (MCP), who garnered 27.8 percent of the vote.

Party spokeswoman Jessie Kabwila told AFP the MCP, which had made the bid for a recount, would challenge the results in court.

But Banda urged the country to throw its weight behind Mutharika.

She said she wanted “to urge all Malawians to support the newly elected President Professor Mutharika and his Government as they take on this foundation of progress and endeavour to develop Malawi even further.”

Banda described the elections as “tense,” but added Malawians should move forward “as one nation, to remain united, to uphold the rule of law, and continue being peaceful and calm as we head into the next fifty years of Malawi’s future.”

Agence France-Presse

Related Article:

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Peres, Abbas to pray for peace at Vatican on June 8

Yahoo – AFP, 29 May 2014

Israeli President Shimon Peres (L) greets Pope Francis during a welcome
ceremony at Ben Gurion airport on May 25, 2014 (AFP Photo/David Buimovitch)

Vatican City (AFP) - Israeli President Shimon Peres and his Palestinian counterpart Mahmud Abbas will pray for peace at the Vatican on June 8, the Holy See said Thursday.

Pope Francis had invited the pair to his home for a "heartfelt prayer" for peace during his three-day trip to the region, and the meeting "will take place on June 8, during the afternoon," a date "accepted by both parties," the Vatican said in a note.

Despite expectations Francis would steer clear of the thorny politics of the intractable Israeli-Palestinian conflict during his trip, the Argentine pontiff extended a personal invitation to the two men at the end of a mass in Bethlehem on Sunday.

"I offer my home in the Vatican as a place for this encounter of prayer... to join me in heartfelt prayer to God for the gift of peace," he said.

"Building peace is difficult, but living without peace is a constant torment," he added.

Last month, US-led peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators collapsed in bitter recriminations. That ended a nine-month bid to reach a solution and left no political initiative on the horizon.

Pope Francis (R) and Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas attend a
 welcome ceremony on May 25, 2014 in the West Bank Biblical town of Bethlehem
(AFP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

The meeting had to be scheduled to take place before the 90-year-old Israeli president retires at the end of July.

"The meeting in the Vatican is to pray together, it's not a mediation," the pope said during the return flight to Rome.

"It is a prayer without discussions," said the pontiff, who has made interfaith dialogue a cornerstone of his 14-month-old papacy.

Peres is known for his close relationship with Abbas and has frequently pushed for a peaceful resolution of the decades-long conflict.

Earlier this month, he told an Israeli television channel that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had blocked a peace agreement he had secretly negotiated in Jordan with Abbas in 2011.

Rami Hamdallah, the new Palestinian prime minister, left, with
 Mahmoud Abbas. (Photograph: Thaer Ghanaim/AFP/Getty Images)

Related Articles:

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Sudanese woman on death row gives birth

A Sudanese woman sitting on death row has given birth. The 27-year-old was sentenced to be hanged for converting from Islam to Christianity.

Deutsche Welle, 27 May 2014

Little over a week after receiving the death sentence, Sudanese inmate Meriam Ibrahim Ishag gave birth to a girl. The death row inmate, jailed for refusing to deny her Christian faith and convert to Islam, was eight months pregnant.

The woman's husband, Daniel Wani, saw them on Tuesday. In addition to his weekly permitted visits to the prison, located in Khartoum's twin city of Omdurman, Wani has not yet received special permission for an additional visit.

"I'm disappointed really," Wani told news agency AFP. "We weren't able to speak. There [was] a guard sitting there beside us."

The 27-year-old mother would continue to care for the newborn for the next two years, according to news agency DPA. Rights activists have told reporters that the inmate has already been caring for her 20-month old son in prison.

The case emerged last year when relatives of her father's family complained that she had been born Muslim but was married to a Christian man.

On May 15, a Sudanese court handed down the death sentence to the pregnant woman. Ishag was raised as a Christian in Sudan, where Sharia, or Islamic law, has applied since the early 1990s. Judge Abbas Mohammed al-Khalifa said that she would be hanged for not declaring Islam to be the religion of her birth.

One of Ibrahim Ashag's lawyers, Al-Shareef Ali al-Shareef Mohammed, has vowed to appeal the sentence before Sudan's constitutional court if necessary. According to Mohammed, Ishag's Muslim father had left her mother when she was a child and her mother - an Orthodox Christian from Ethiopia - had raised her as a Christian.

Under Sudanese President Omar Bashir, sharia prohibits Muslim women from marrying non-Muslims. Children must follow their father's religion.

kms/jm (AFP, dpa)

Mohammad Iqbal, right, in an ambulance next to the body of his pregnant
 wife who was stoned to death by her own family in Lahore. Photograph:
KM Chaudary/AP

Mo Ibrahim: 'The numbers say Africa is rising'

The Rwandan capital Kigali hosted this year’s annual meetings of the African Development Bank, set up in 1964 with the goal of strengthening African solidarity by means of economic cooperation between African states.

Among the international economists and experts attending the 49th meetings of the African Development Bank (AfDB) in Kigali was Sudanese-British mobile communications entrepreneur and philanthropist Mo Ibrahim. In 2006 he established the Mo Ibrahim Foundation to encourage better governance in Africa. A year later he initiated the Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership.

DW: Mr Ibrahim, how do you evaluate the performance of host country Rwanda towards fulfilling the goal of the AfDB?

Mo Ibrahim: Rwanda really did take very strong steps towards development. I mean this place is unrecognizable. There's a very good management of economy and resources – it's a success story and that's great.

You've been here, attending different meetings and talking about Africa, Africa rising and African entrepreneurs. Do you believe this idea of Africa rising in terms of entrepreneurship could really be achievable?

This is not an idea. It is a reading of the data. African revenue is going up, the number of educated people in Africa is going up, Africa's transparency and governance is improving. We are in the business of data, not the business of slogans. We publish our index every year in which we measure 133 parameters for every African country, It shows that Africa is moving forward. This is data which comes from 25 international organizations. The world is working with us and this is a most credible set of data. I'm not in the business of applauding Africa, we're in the business of telling the truth about Africa and the numbers say Africa is rising.

In the past 20 years Rwanda has made this development that you are talking about. Do you think it can serve as a best lesson for other African countries?

Sure, it's a good example of how things should be done. [There is] clean government and transparency, lack of corruption, educating people and moving forward. It is definitely a success story and we hope that this continues. We are going to keep watching you guys!

Mo Ibrahim is a Sudanese-British entrepreneur and philanthropist and the initiator of the Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership.

Interview: Sylivanus Karemera
Related Articles:

".. Africa

Let me tell you where else it's happening that you are unaware - that which is the beginning of the unity of the African states. Soon the continent will have what they never had before, and when that continent is healed and there is no AIDS and no major disease, they're going to want what you have. They're going to want houses and schools and an economy that works without corruption. They will be done with small-minded leaders who kill their populations for power in what has been called for generations "The History of Africa." Soon it will be the end of history in Africa, and a new continent will emerge.

Be aware that the strength may not come from the expected areas, for new leadership is brewing. There is so much land there and the population is so ready there, it will be one of the strongest economies on the planet within two generations plus 20 years. And it's going to happen because of a unifying idea put together by a few. These are the potentials of the planet, and the end of history as you know it.

In approximately 70 years, there will be a black man who leads this African continent into affluence and peace. He won't be a president, but rather a planner and a revolutionary economic thinker. He, and a strong woman with him, will implement the plan continent-wide. They will unite. This is the potential and this is the plan. Africa will arise out the ashes of centuries of disease and despair and create a viable economic force with workers who can create good products for the day. You think China is economically strong? China must do what it does, hobbled by the secrecy and bias of the old ways of its own history. As large as it is, it will have to eventually compete with Africa, a land of free thinkers and fast change. China will have a major competitor, one that doesn't have any cultural barriers to the advancement of the free Human spirit. …."

Monday, May 26, 2014

Rwanda's deadly methane lake becomes source of future power

Yahoo – AFP, Stephanie Aglietti, 25 May 2014

A man looks towards the hills of Rwanda on the eastern edge of Lake Kivu from
 the Democratic Republic of the Congo's eastern city of Goma on May 28, 2012
(AFP Photo/Phil Moore)

Karongi (Rwanda) (AFP) - Beneath the calm waters of Lake Kivu lie vast but deadly reserves of methane and carbon dioxide, which Rwanda is tapping both to save lives and provide a lucrative power source.

Plans are in place to pump out enough gas for power that would nearly double Rwanda's current electricity capacity, as well as reducing the chance of what experts warn could be a potentially "catastrophic" natural disaster.

The glittering waters of the inland sea, which straddles the border of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, contain a dangerous and potent mix of the dissolved gases that if disturbed would create a rare "limnic eruption" or "lake overturn", expert Matthew Yalire said.

Levels of carbon dioxide (Co2) and methane are large and dangerous enough to risk a sudden release that could cause a disastrous explosion, after which waves of Co2 would suffocate people and livestock around, explained Yalire, a researcher at the Goma Volcano Observatory, on the lake's DR Congo shore.

A man fishes on the edge of Lake Kivu on
 May 28, 2012 near the city of Goma in
 North Kivu province in the Democratic
Republic of the Congo (AFP Photo/Phil
"Right now the lake is stable, but for how long?" asked Yalire, who believes that extracting potentially explosive methane is one way to help "stabilise" the lake.

Near the town of Rubavu, a pilot project of the Rwandan government is already producing about two megawatts of electricity from the methane in the lake.

But a new, additional plant is being built on Kivu's eastern shore, where the US-based power company ContourGlobal plans massively to boost production.

"Our team is focused on extracting methane from the lake to generate electricity that will expand household access to power, lower costs, and reduce environmental hazards," ContourGlobal said.

Its 200 million dollar (145 million euro) "KivuWatt" project aims to lessen the natural threat of an explosion, while turning the deadly gas into a source of energy and profit.

Two million people at risk

On the lake's Rwandan shoreline and at the foot of green hills dotted with banana plantations, hundreds of construction workers are building a platform due to be installed on the lake by the end of the year.

Rather than being a drill platform, it will instead suck up the methane trapped in the depths.

"There is no drilling, gas is pumped from the lower layers of the lake that are saturated with methane," the KivuWatt project's chief, Yann Beutler, told AFP.

"From the moment when the water rises to the surface, it releases gases that are collected."

The methane and Co2 are separated, with the methane sent to a plant on the shore and the Co2 re-dissolved and returned to the depths of the lake.

"The structure of the lake, and the flora and fauna, are not changed," Beutler added.

The project's first phase is planned to generate over 25 megawatts of energy, with production to be multiplied four times in the second phase to 100 MW, almost doubling Rwanda's current national production capacity of about 115 MW.

The scheme is largely financed by private capital, though some 45 percent of the funding takes the shape of loans from international development institutions.

ContourGlobal has signed a 25-year concession with the Rwandan government and an agreement with the country's national power producer and distributor.

Lessons from Cameroon

The electrification of Rwanda is a top objective of Kigali's government, which aims to more than triple access to electricity from a mere 18 percent of the population today to 70 percent by 2017.

The methane will also help Rwanda fulfil the further goal of diversifying energy sources.

Today, almost half of its energy comes from fossil fuels, with the annual bill for imported fuel topping some 40 million dollars (30 million euros).

Kivu is not unique: two other lakes in Cameroon -- Monoun and Nyos -- have similar high concentrations of the gases. In 1984, a limnic eruption killed 37 people around Lake Monoun, then in 1986 a similar disaster at Lake Nyos claimed more than 1,700 lives. These tragedies have been seen as dire warnings for people near Lake Kivu.

A view from a UN base on the edge of Lake Kivu in the Democratic Republic
 of the Congo's eastern city of Goma on May 28, 2012 shows the hills of Rwanda
in the background (AFP Photo/Phil Moore)

"It is essential to extract the gas from the lake," said Martin Schmid, a researcher at the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (Eawag).

"If we let the gases accumulate for a long time, we should expect at a catastrophic eruption of gas."

Stretching over 2,370 kilometres squared (915 miles squared) and plunging to some 485 metres (1,590 feet) deep, the lake holds some 60 billion cubic metres (2,118 billion cubic feet) of dissolved methane gas, and some 300 billion cubic metres (10,594 billion cubic feet) of carbon dioxide.

With some two million people living close to the lake shore in both Rwanda and DR Congo, any eruption could be disastrous.

An active nearby volcano, Mount Nyiragongo, which smothered part of the Kivu lakeshore city of Goma with lava in 2002, highlights the real risk that geological activity in the lake could trigger an explosion.

Both the lake and volcano are located on Africa's continental Rift zone, where the Earth's tectonic plates are very slowly being pulled apart.

Related Articles:

"Fast-Tracking" - Feb 8, 2014 (Kryon Channelling by Lee Carroll) - (Reference to Fukushima / H-bomb nuclear pollution, Oil Spills...  )  (> 20 Min)

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Pope Francis offers prayers at Israeli separation wall in Bethlehem

Stop rouses controversy as pontiff invites Peres and Abbas to Rome in unprecedented papal intervention in peace process

The Guardian, Peter Beaumont in Manger Square, Bethlehem,  Sunday 25 May 2014

Pope Francis visits Israel's separation barrier in Bethlehem. Photograph: AP

It is an image that will define Pope Francis's first official visit to the Holy Land. Head bowed in prayer, the leader of the Catholic church pressed his palm against the graffiti-covered concrete of Israel's imposing "separation wall", a Palestinian girl holding a flag by his side. It was, as his aides conceded later, a silent statement against a symbol of division and conflict.

The powerful gesture was made minutes after an appeal to both sides to end a conflict that the pope said was "increasingly unacceptable". The unscheduled, conspicuous stop halfway through his three-day visit to the Holy Land – made en route to an open-air mass in Manger Square, Bethlehem – confirmed Francis's reputation for determined independence.

So too did his invitation to the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, and Israeli president, Shimon Peres, to join him in Rome to meet and pray together for peace – an unprecedented papal intervention in the stalled peace process.

Francis waves to the crowds at Manger Square. He invited the Israeli and
 Palestinian presidents to come to the Vatican to pray for peace a month after
the collapse of US-backed peace. Photograph: Mohamad Torokman/reuters

Built by Israel as a so-called security fence to protect its citizens from attack after the second intifada, the barrier weaves through the West Bank, cutting through swaths of Palestinian territory and containing Palestinian residents. It has become an emblem of the Israeli occupation.

The pope's scheduled route took him alongside the wall, near Rachel's Tomb outside Bethlehem. His decision to step out of his white, open-sided popemobile and approach it – just days after the Vatican insisted his visit would not be controversial – was a surprise, not least for members of his own entourage.

Surrounded by Palestinian children, Francis's progress towards the concrete barrier was followed carefully by photographers and television cameras, as well as Israeli soldiers revealed in silhouette at the window of a nearby watchtower. "I know all about this," he is reported to have told one Palestinian official.

The Vatican's spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, said afterwards: "I was not informed [of his plans to stop]. It was planned by him the day before … It was a very significant way to demonstrate his participation in suffering … It was a profound spiritual moment in front of a symbol of division."

Pope Francis touches the wall that divides Israel from the West Bank,
on his way to celebrate a mass in Manger Square. Photograph: AP

Despite attempts by the Vatican to insist the visit was "purely religious", it has been loaded with political significance since Francis's arrival in a convoy of Jordanian military helicopters from Amman. While other popes might fly into Tel Aviv and proceed through Israel into Palestinian territory, Francis elected to bypass all Israeli border points.

In a carefully worded statement, delivered with Abbas in Bethlehem on Sunday, Francis referred directly to "the state of Palestine" and called on both sides to summon the courage to forge peace.

"For decades the Middle East has known the tragic consequences of a protracted conflict which has inflicted many wounds so difficult to heal," the pontiff declared. The situation, he said, had become "increasingly unacceptable".

Francis leads an open air mass in Manger Square. Photograph:
Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images

"Even in the absence of violence, the climate of instability and a lack of mutual understanding have produced insecurity, the violation of rights, isolation and the flight of entire communities, conflicts, shortages and sufferings of every sort."

Francis proceeded from the separation wall to Manger Square in Bethlehem, which was packed with thousands of Palestinian Christians waiting for him to say mass. He entered the square – the reputed site of Christ's birth – to calls of "Viva al-Baba!" – or "Long live the pope!"

The service began with a rendition of the Palestinian song Mawatani – My Homeland – that speaks to the Palestinian desire for independence. The singers' voices echoed across a plaza hung with images linking Christ's suffering to that of the Palestinian people. The altar from which Francis delivered his message showed a baby Jesus wrapped in a keffiyeh, the traditional Arabic scarf that is a symbol of Palestinian nationalism.

Francis ate lunch with five families in a community centre on the edge of Deheishe refugee camp before flying out of Bethlehem into Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport, where he was officially welcomed to Israel by Peres.

The helicopter flight meant Francis avoided crossing through the separation wall via a checkpoint as his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, had done.

At Ben Gurion, Peres welcomed Francis, saying: "On behalf of the Jewish people and in the name of all the people of Israel, I welcome you with the age-old words from the Book of Psalms: 'Welcome in the name of the Lord.' Welcome at the gates of Jerusalem."

Here, Francis once again diverted from his prepared script. In Tel Aviv, the pope deplored an attack on a Jewish museum in Brussels on Saturday that left four dead, which he described as "this criminal act of antisemitic hatred". He added: "With a deeply pained heart, I think of those who have lost their lives in the cruel attack that occurred yesterday in Brussels."

While in Israel the pope will visit the Holocaust memorial at Yad Vashem, lay a wreath at the grave of the founder of Zionism, Theodor Herzl, and meet the ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew.

The pontiff visits Israel's separation barrier in Bethlehem. Photograph:
Ariel Schalit/AP

Francis will visit the holiest Christian sites in Jerusalem – including the Room of the Last Supper and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre – amid a long-term decline in the population of Palestinian Christians in the Holy Land. A survey conducted by Near East Consulting and released in April found that two-thirds of Palestinian Christians would like to emigrate.

Israeli authorities have imposed tight security measures during his visit, deploying an extra 8,000 police officers. Restrictions on movement throughout the city have prompted some Christians to complain they will have little chance of seeing Francis.

Some of the security has been prompted by the pope's plan to celebrate mass at the Room of the Last Supper – or "Cenacle" – which has angered some Jewish religious hardliners who venerate the site as the tomb of King David.

Twenty-six people were arrested after stones were thrown at police close to the site.

Pope Francis prays at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City, on the
final day of his Middle East tour

Pope joins Orthodox patriarch in historic prayer for unity

Pope calls for Syria peace at start of Mideast tour
Pope's Middle East mission sows discord

Pope Francis places his hands on a plaque at the Memorial to Victims
of Terror in Jerusalem. Photograph: Government Press Office/EPA

Nigeria girl abduction 'contrary to Islam principles': AU chief

Yahoo – AFP, 25 May 2014

People march holding placards as hundreds of Soweto residents gather
on May 22, 2014 (AFP Photo/Mujahid Safodien)

Nouakchott (AFP) - The abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls in Nigeria last month was "contrary to the teachings of Islam", the head of the African Union (AU) said at an event to mark Africa Day on Sunday.

"We strongly condemn the abduction of the young, innocent schoolgirls in Nigeria. We urge their immediate unconditional release," said Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, who is also president of Mauritania, in a message to Africans sent out over the weekend.

"These actions are contrary to the teachings of Islam, a religion of tolerance and peace," he said, marking the 51st anniversary of the creation of the Organisation of African Unity, the predecessor to the AU.

The Islamist group Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for the mass abduction on April 14 in Chibok, in northeast Nigeria. It has carried out a brutal insurgency in the region since 2009, that has claimed around 2,000 lives this year alone.

"The situation in Mali, in Nigeria, in the Central African Republic, in Somalia, in South Sudan and in Libya challenges us and deserves all of our attention," said Abdel Aziz.

The president also used the speech to call for reform of the United Nations.

"Africa relies on its partners to help meet the challenges of underdevelopment. Reform of the UN system, in the sense of enhancing the role and weight of Africa, is necessary."

He said "food self-sufficiency, the development of agribusiness and the fight against poverty and malnutrition" were key priorities for the AU.

On the economic front, he celebrated the "strong growth in the continent", which is "immensely rich and young, with enormous potential", and called for the creation of "a strong continental free trade zone of more than a billion consumers".

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Pope calls for Syria peace at start of Mideast tour

Yahoo  - AFP, Jean-Louis De La Vaissiere, 24 May 2014

Pope Francis (L) sits in a golf cart with King Abdullah II of Jordan (R) as they
 visit Bethany, a site on the eastern bank of the River Jordan where some
Christians believe Jesus was baptised, on May 24, 2014

Amman (AFP) - Pope Francis made an urgent plea Saturday for peace in war-torn Syria as he kicked off a three-day pilgrimage to the Middle East.

And he called for religious freedom to be upheld throughout a region ravaged by war and bloodshed, where a dwindling Christian population faces daily persecution.

As he walked off the plane onto a red carpet at Amman airport, his white robes flapping in the hot desert wind, he was greeted by officials and two children dressed in traditional costume who handed him bouquets of irises, the national flower of Jordan.

Pope Francis (2nd-L) is greeted by Jordan's King
 Abdullah II (R) and his wife Queen Rania (L) 
at the Royal Palace in Amman on May 24,
2014 (AFP Photo/Andrew Medichini )
On a trip which continues Sunday in the Palestinian territories and Israel, Francis reserved his biggest public event for Jordan, an open-air mass at Amman's main international stadium where he was joyously welcomed by 40,000 pilgrims.

Entering the stadium in an open-topped white jeep, he smiled and waved at the crowds, his white skullcap flying off in the breeze.

Babies and toddlers were passed through the crowd to be held by him for a moment and blessed, as thousands of balloons were released into the air.

"Peace is not something which can be bought, it is a gift to be sought patiently and to be crafted through the actions, great and small, of our everyday lives," he told the crowd packed into a sea of blue and red chairs on a sweltering May afternoon.

His landmark first visit to the Holy Land, billed by the Vatican as a "pilgrimage of prayer," is chiefly aimed at boosting ties with Muslims and Jews, as well as seeking closer unity with Orthodox Christian leaders.

'Humanity and wisdom'

"Lasting peace for the entire region... requires that a peaceful solution be found to the crisis in Syria, as well as a just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," the pope said at the royal palace, ahead of a meeting with Syrian refugees on the banks of the River Jordan.

Syria's civil war, which began in 2011, is estimated to have claimed at least 162,000 lives and forced another 2.7 million people to flee to neighbouring countries, 450,000 of them Christians.

Jordan's King Abdullah II told Francis his "humanity and wisdom" could contribute to easing the crisis confronting Syrian refugees and the burden on host countries like Jordan.

Abdullah himself drove the pontiff in a golf cart to the reputed site of Jesus' baptism on the River Jordan, chatting to the 77-year-old Francis squeezed in beside him, another sign of the pontiff's famed informality.

Pope Francis leads (R) a mass at Amman 
stadium in the Jordanian capital on May 24,
2014 (AFP Photo/Khalil Mazraawi)
The pope stood for a few minutes in silent prayer on the riverbank, his head bowed, before being driven by the king, once again in the cart, to speak and pray with some of the 600,000 refugees hosted by Jordan and hear their accounts of suffering in Syria.

Speaking earlier, Francis urged respect for religious freedom in a region where the Holy See has called for an end to the ongoing persecution of Christians.

"Religious freedom is, in fact, a fundamental human right and I cannot fail to express my hope that it will be upheld throughout the Middle East and the entire world," he said.

Thousands of Christians around the world are killed every year because of their faith, and persecution has become more widespread in countries torn by conflicts involving radical Islamists, including Syria and Iraq.

Ahead of his arrival in a region roiled by political and religious division, the Argentine pope said he felt like the biblical prophet Daniel heading to the lions' den.

"I feel like Daniel, but now I know that the lions don't bite," he told reporters travelling with him on his plane.

Open-topped tour

At the stadium mass, he revelled in the raucous greeting of pilgrims as he toured the crowd in his open-topped vehicle, reaching out to grasp hands as people pressed around his slowly moving jeep on all sides, prompting scuffles with the security detail jogging alongside.

Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople, 
Bartholomew I (C) prays at the Church of
 the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem's Old City
on May 23, 2014 (AFP Photo/Gali Tibbon)
"This pope is special," said 77-year-old Sister Rachel, highlighting his dedication to the downtrodden.

"He only wants to see the poor and the diseased. He is the protector of the helpless."

The pope will take a short helicopter flight early on Sunday across the River Jordan to Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus in the West Bank.

There he will hold a mass and begin his two-day tour of the Palestinian territories and Israel.

Francis said the main reason for his visit is a historic meeting in Jerusalem with the Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, and "to pray for peace in that land, which has suffered so much".

Key events in Pope Francis' visit to the Middle East, with photo
and map (AFP Photo/V Breschi / J Jacobsen, vb/jj/gil)

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Thursday, May 22, 2014

Germany: A new role in Africa?

In the international media, Africa is more present than ever. This week, the German government laid out its new Africa policy. Yet not much has really changed, writes Claus Stäcker.

Deutsche Welle, 22 May 2014

German Chancellor Merkel called it the "continent of opportunities". The gap between Africa and Europe is growing smaller, noted the foreign ministry. Even the media who usually only report on African ferry disasters, abductions and mass killings, are suddenly interested in African development and military presence.

Africa has rarely been so visible to the German public. Yet, recent events in Nigeria, the Central African Republic, South Sudan and Mali, have once again highlighted the risks and old stereotypes, and not the opportunities. Government spokesperson Steffen Seibert commented:

"The hotspots of the continent, the catastrophes and the crises are often the focus of the media reports. The strong economic growth in many African countries is hardly reported. The African policy guidelines of the federal government take all of these topics into account."

Chancellor Merkel and Nigerias President
Jonathan at this year's EU-Africa summit.
German firms pleased with the outcome

The areas of focus are not new: more self-reliance, good governance and accountability, democratization and education. Yet they are taking Germany's policies one step further. Previous governments also placed their hopes in sustainable economic development, which would serve the wider public. New approaches might be taken, by engaging Africans in a stronger dialogue and cooperating with them as equal partners.

In the past, Africans were often sidelined on the global playing-field. High-ranking posts in the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) or the United Nations were often decided without consulting African countries. Their voices were also left unheard in the creation of the G20 and when negotiating the terms of the European Union's Economic Partnership Agreement.

The German-African Business Association, which represents over 600 firms, viewed the new guidelines as a step in the right direction. The investors were glad to hear that the German government had acknowledged the positive changes in Africa. They especially welcomed the introduction of the so called Hermes Cover, which protects German companies if their trade partners fail to pay their debts.

Criticism from the opposition

The German public is often presented
with a picture of war and conflict.
Germany's opposition was less enthusiastic about the new policies. Uwe Kekeritz, a spokesperson for the Green Party described them as empty words. "The policies don't go into any detail," he argued. "There are no actual guidelines on how implement these goals. So these policies are not actually very useful. We have seen similar policies or Africa programs under the former government."

Jan van Aken, a foreign policy expert from the Left Party, warned of a stronger military engagement in Africa. Van Aken told DW. "Germans rarely care about violence and conflict in Africa, unless German interests are at stake". Van Aken noted that it is perfectly correct to want to prevent a genocide, like the Rwandan, yet he believes the German policies lack this preventive element. "One could do more to prevent the outbreak of the conflict on a civil level, rather than solving the problems militarily," he adds.

Development Minister Gerd Müller visited
 South Sudan in March. He appealed for an
 end to the conflict.
France has been pushing for a German alliance to curb the conflict in areas like the Central Africa Republic, which is on the verge of turning into a genocide. The majority of the German public are against foreign military interventions. The costly operation in Afghanistan was enough to make them wary of any further engagements. A survey, carried out by the Körber Foundation, showed that six ot of ten Germans were against further military operations. Germany's Minister for Development Gert Müller did his best to calms his colleagues in the government:

"Africa is not only a partner in trade but also in politics. That's what we do in the UN. In terms of security, we want to enourage the African Union to solve their conflicts themselves."

Müller however ruled out the possibility of sending fighting troops to any African conflict areas.

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".. Africa

Let me tell you where else it's happening that you are unaware - that which is the beginning of the unity of the African states. Soon the continent will have what they never had before, and when that continent is healed and there is no AIDS and no major disease, they're going to want what you have. They're going to want houses and schools and an economy that works without corruption. They will be done with small-minded leaders who kill their populations for power in what has been called for generations "The History of Africa." Soon it will be the end of history in Africa, and a new continent will emerge.

Be aware that the strength may not come from the expected areas, for new leadership is brewing. There is so much land there and the population is so ready there, it will be one of the strongest economies on the planet within two generations plus 20 years. And it's going to happen because of a unifying idea put together by a few. These are the potentials of the planet, and the end of history as you know it.

In approximately 70 years, there will be a black man who leads this African continent into affluence and peace. He won't be a president, but rather a planner and a revolutionary economic thinker. He, and a strong woman with him, will implement the plan continent-wide. They will unite. This is the potential and this is the plan. Africa will arise out the ashes of centuries of disease and despair and create a viable economic force with workers who can create good products for the day. You think China is economically strong? China must do what it does, hobbled by the secrecy and bias of the old ways of its own history. As large as it is, it will have to eventually compete with Africa, a land of free thinkers and fast change. China will have a major competitor, one that doesn't have any cultural barriers to the advancement of the free Human spirit. …."