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

'The Protester' - Time Person of the Year 2011

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

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

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

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

''17 February Revolution"

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

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

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

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

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

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

African Union (AU)

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

Nelson Mandela

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

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Winds of change as Ethiopia harnesses green power

Yahoo – AFP, Karim Lebhour, 28 June 2015

Camels stand near turbines of the Adama wind farm in Adama, south of
the capital Adiss Ababa (AFP Photo/Vincent Defait)

Adama (Ethiopia) (AFP) - The wind blows hard over Adama, a range of rocky hills in Ethiopia's highlands that provide the perfect location for one of the continent's largest wind farms.

"In February, during the dry season, it is even difficult to stand here," said Solomon Yismaw, the engineer in charge of 102 Chinese-built turbines each rising 70 metres (230 feet) into the sky, lining the horizon.

The Adama wind farm opened last month, its 153 megawatt (MW) capacity making it the largest wind farm in sub-Saharan Africa, and the latest of three giant Ethiopian wind farms.

A farmer ploughs his land with an oxen
 on June 15, 2015 near a turbine of the
 Adama wind farm in Adama, south of 
the capital Adiss Ababa (AFP Photo/
Vincent Defait)
The hills here, 100 kilometres (60 miles) southeast of the capital Addis Ababa, are 2,000 metres (6,500 feet) high.

Farmers using simple ox carts to plough the soil around the bases of the wind turbines offer a striking contrast between rural lives, little changed for centuries, and the central government's ambition to develop a modern, climate-resilient economy.

Without its own reserves of either gas or oil, Ethiopia is turning to its significant renewable energy potential to fuel its rapid economic development -- including damming the vast Blue Nile, with turbines there providing over 90 percent of the country's electricity production, and the southern Omo River.

But the flow of rivers is subject to rainfall that is erratic in Ethiopia.

"We have an abundance of hydroelectric energy sources, but during the dry season and when droughts happen the level of the dam decreases," said Solomon, who pointed out that the wind turbines were immune to the dry spells.

Massive power needs

"At that time the wind will complement the dam. The wind is especially strong during dry season, so wind and hydro complement each other," said Solomon.

Ethiopia's energy needs are huge. Over 75 percent of Ethiopia's 94 million people, mainly those living in rural areas, are not connected to the national grid, and the country needs to increase its electricity production by 20 to 25 percent per year to meet rising demand, according to figures from the country's energy ministry.

Ethiopia has set a target of slashing its carbon emissions by two-thirds within the next 15 years, the most ambitious national goal yet presented to an upcoming United Nations climate change conference in Paris later this year.

Ethiopia said it plans to cut emissions by adopting cleaner practices in agriculture, construction and transport, as well as slowing deforestation.

While work continues on the vast Renaissance dam on the Nile -- the largest in Africa -- Ethiopia is working to boost other green power projects, harnessing geothermal, solar and wind energy.

Camels walk along a road near a wind farm in Ethiopia, where the highlands
provide the perfect location to build turbines (AFP Photo/Jenny Vaughan)

"Wind farms are fast track projects, we can construct them within a short time," said Tahaguas Andemariam, consultant engineer and professor at the university of Adama.

"Within 24 months we have constructed this big wind farm of 153 MW -- hydro would have taken much longer," he said.

The 6,000 MW that the Renaissance dam will generate will dwarf the output of the Adama wind farm, but the construction of the facility which began in 2011 isn't slated to finish until 2017.

Yet the Adama wind farm can still power about 10 million efficient light bulbs.

Another wind farm, even larger in size and intended to produce 300 MW, is due to be constructed at Ayesha in the remote eastern desert near the border with Djibouti, another area with strong winds.

"We now have the knowledge how to develop the roadmap of this wind technology in Ethiopia," said Tahaguas, who spent a month in China working with other engineers to learn more about the turbines.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Tunisia to close 80 mosques following terror attack

The Tunisian government has said it plans to shutter dozens of mosques. The move is a countermeasure to the extremist-inspired violence that left 39 people dead at a resort hotel in the city of Sousse.

Deutsche Welle, 27 June 2015

Tunisia's Prime Minister Habib Essid announced on Friday that the government will be shutting 80 mosques that are outside of state control on the grounds that they may incite violence. The plan, which will be carried out in the next week, follows an attack on a tourist resort hotel in the coastal city of Sousse, around 140 kilometers (87 miles) south of the capital Tunis.

Tunis also plans to crack down on financing for certain associations as a countermeasure against another attack.

The gunman had disguised himself as a tourist, hiding a rifle in an umbrella. He then opened fire on lounging tourists at the Imperial Marhaba hotel, killing 39 people including Britons, Germans and Belgians.

The attack was claimed by the jihadist group "Islamic State" (IS) who have been using social media to urge their followers to step-up violence against their enemies during the holy Muslim month of Ramadan.

"Our brother, the soldier of the Caliphate, Abu Yihya al-Kairouni, reached his target the Imperial hotel despite the security measures," said a statement on an IS-linked Twitter account. It continued that al-Kairouni had attacked what they called a brothel and killed 40 "infidels."

Three attacks in one day

The deaths in Sousse came on the same day as two other IS-linked attacks as 27 people were killed and more than 270 wounded when a suicide bomber detonated an explosive inside a Shiite mosque in Kuwait City, Kuwait.

Earlier in southeastern France, a truck driver named Yassine Salhi hung his employer's severed head along with banners carrying inscriptions in Arabic on a factory gate before crashing his vehicle into the chemical warehouse. Salhi triggered an explosion that left two workers wounded.

Although no group claimed responsibility for the France attack, the severed head mimicked IS's practice of beheading prisoners and displaying their heads.

Salhi was apprehended by the police shortly after the blast at the factory.

es/rc (AP, Reuters)

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Mali's Tuareg-led rebels sign landmark peace deal

Yahoo – AFP, Serge Daniel, 20 June 2015

Malian Tuareg leaders attend a signing ceremony for a peace agreement
in Algiers on May 14, 2015 (AFP Photo/Farouk Batiche)

Bamako (AFP) - Mali's Tuareg-led rebel alliance signed a landmark deal on Saturday to end years of unrest in a nation riven by ethnic divisions and in the grip of a jihadist insurgency.

The Algiers Accord aims to bring stability to the country's vast northern desert, cradle of several Tuareg uprisings since the 1960s and a sanctuary for Islamist fighters linked to Al-Qaeda.

The document had already been signed in May by the government and loyalist militias but the Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA), a coalition of rebel groups, had been holding out until amendments were agreed two weeks ago.

French and Malian soldiers patrol next 
to the Djingareyber Mosque on June 6, 
2015 in Timbuktu (AFP Photo/Philippe
Sidi Brahim Ould Sidati, a member of the Arab Movement of Azawad, put his name to the document in a televised ceremony in the capital Bamako on behalf of the CMA.

Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders, former head of the UN peacekeeping force in Mali, and his French counterpart Laurent Fabius welcomed the CMA's commitment to the accord and urged Mali to ensure the deal was implemented.

"This responsibility lies primarily with the Malian actors and the government and armed groups must regain mutual trust -- the only possibility for progress," they said in a joint op-ed in French daily Le Monde published on Friday.

"The political party leaders also have an important role to play, as well as civil society, including women and youth. In a word, reconciliation is the business of all Malians," they added.

Ramtane Lamamra, the foreign minister of Algeria, which has been leading international efforts to mediate the peace talks, attended the ceremony, along with scores of rebels.

The peace accord, hammered out over months under the auspices of the UN, calls for the creation of elected regional assemblies but stop short of autonomy or federalism for northern Mali.


The Malian government and several armed groups signed the document on May 15 in Bamako, in a ceremony spurned by the CMA.

The rebels finally agreed to commit on June 5 after winning a stipulation that its fighters be included in a security force for the north, and that residents of the region be represented better in government institutions, among other concessions.

A French soldier talks to residents 
while patrolling the village of M'Bouna
 in the Timbuktu region on June 5,
2015 (AFP Photo/Philippe Desmazes)
"It is a necessary and highly anticipated step, it will help to clarify the situation on the ground. Violence has increased in recent months," said Bamako-based political commentator Souleymane Drabo.

"The situation is untenable for everyone -- for the people, for the United Nations and government forces."

But Drabo, a columnist at the pro-government L'Essor daily, warned that the CMA's signature did not guarantee peace.

"In 1992, a national pact was signed here between the government and armed groups and... fighting continued for three years after the signing," he said.

Mali was shaken by a coup in 2012 that cleared the way for Tuareg separatists to seize towns and cities of the north, an expanse of desert the size of Texas.

Al-Qaeda-linked militants then overpowered the Tuareg, taking control of northern Mali for nearly 10 months until they were ousted in a French-led military offensive.

The country remains deeply divided, with the Tuareg and Arab populations of the north accusing sub-Saharan ethnic groups in the more prosperous south of marginalising them.

Deadliest UN mission

Loyalist militias seized the northeastern town of Menaka from the CMA in April, violating a ceasefire agreement and sparking an uptick in violence that left many dead on both sides.

The move threatened to undermine the country's already fragile and long-running peace process, but the pro-government forces later agreed to withdraw.

Malian Armed Forces soldiers patrol with the French military on June 6, 2015 
in Timbuktu, as part of "Operation Barkhane", an anti-terrorist operation in the
Sahel (AFP Photo/Philippe Desmazes)

The Malian government has also lifted arrest warrants issued in 2013 against several CMA rebels in a further attempt to smooth the path to peace.

The MINUSMA peacekeeping force in Mali has suffered the largest losses among the UN's 16 missions worldwide, and is regularly targeted by militants in the north.

Its commander, Major General Michael Lollesgaard, said on Wednesday the force lacked the training, logistics and intelligence capabilities to effectively carry out operations.

Koenders and Fabius, in their Le Monde piece, urged European countries to step up their support for MINUSMA, which is made up largely of predominantly African troops.

"The crisis in Mali is indeed key to the interests of the whole of Europe, through the rise of terrorism and the amplification of the flow of migrants, and the UN mission plays an essential role in the stabilisation of Mali and, indirectly, the whole region," they said.

Since MINUSMA's deployment in 2013, 36 soldiers have died and more than 200 have been wounded, making it the deadliest mission since Somalia in the 1990s.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Moroccan villagers harvest fog for water supply

Yahoo – AFP, Zakaria Choukrallah, 19 June 2015

A Moroccan inspects fog fences in a hamlet on the outskirts of the southern
coastal city of Sidi Ifni, on June 7, 2015 (AFP Photo/Fadel Senna)

Sidi Ifni (Morocco) (AFP) - Green technology to turn fog into fresh water straight from the tap has put an end to exhausting daily treks to distant wells by village women in southwest Morocco.

Families in five highland Berber communities have begun to benefit from "fog harvesting", a technique devised in Chile two decades ago and since taken up in countries from Peru to Namibia and South Africa.

On the summit of a mountain named Boutmezguida, which looms over the villages at 1,225 metres (4,019 feet), thick fog shrouds about 40 finely meshed panels designed to trap water and relay it to a network of pipes.

A Moroccan woman uses water collected 
on fog fences to wash her hands in a 
hamlet on the outskirts of the southern
 coastal city of Sidi Ifni, on June 7, 2015
(AFP Photo/Fadel Senna)
To have water running from a faucet at home is a "revolution" for inhabitants of the semi-arid mountains known as the Anti-Atlas, says Aissa Derhem, the chairman of an active regional association called Dar Si Hmad for Development, Education and Culture (DSH).

DSH prides itself on building "the world's largest fog-collection and distribution system" and helping locals in the Sidi Ifni region -- Derhem's birthplace -- to learn to operate it, after repeated droughts and scarce rain.

"Our rain here is the fog," Derhem adds.

Tiny droplets are caught on the mesh while fog wafts through panels. The harvesters mix all they catch with more water derived from drilling, then supply the villages on the lower slopes.

Derhem first heard about fog harvesting 20 years ago. A few years later on returning to Sidi Ifni, he realised that the local climate was similar to that of the Andes in South America.

DSH joined forces with Fog Quest, a Canadian charity whose volunteers work in a range of developing countries. North Africa's first pilot project became operational after almost a decade's work refining techniques.

'An imitation of nature'

The valves were opened at Sidi Ifni for the first time to mark World Water Day, March 22. Ever since, "92 households, or nearly 400 people," have enjoyed running water at home, says Mounir Abbar, the project's technical manager.

Aissa Derhem, the president of the "Dar Si Hamed for development, education
 and culture" association touches a fog fence in a hamlet on the outskirts of the
southern coastal city of Sidi Ifni, on June 7, 2015 (AFP Photo/Fadel Senna)

"Morocco has a lot of fog because of three phenomena: the presence of an anticyclone from the Azores (north Atlantic islands), a cold air current and a mountainous obstacle," Derhem says.

The mesh that traps water is "merely an imitation of nature," he adds, pointing out how spiders have always caught minute droplets of water in their webs.

"This is ecological and enables us to look after the regional water table, which we have been emptying away," Derhem says.

The scheme will be extended to other villages and, in time, advocates hope, to other parts of the country.

In the village of Douar Id Achour, residents are proud of their new taps, for good reason. Women and children used to spend an average of four hours a day on a round trip to a well, even longer in dry summer.

"I filled two 20-litre (5.3-gallon) containers four times a day," says Massouda Boukhalfa, 47. "But even those 160 litres wasn't enough for us, because we have cattle as well."

'Ready for export'

During droughts, water was carried in by tanker trunk. "That took a fortnight and cost 150 dirhams (13.7 euros), $15.6) for 5,000 litres on average," young resident Houcine Soussane recalls.

According to Dar Si Hmad, 7,000 litres of fog water cost three times less than before, even with a fee of 20 dirhams to each household for the right to a counter.

Thick fog is trapped by finely meshed panels and relayed it to a network of pipes
(AFP Photo/Fadel Senna)

Villagers today have more time to collect the nutty fruit of argan trees and extract its prized and potentially lucrative oil, used in cooking, skin care and easing arthritis. Reputed as an anti-ageing product, argan oil has been taken up abroad as an ingredient in high-end cosmetics.

"Our women and daughters no longer wear themselves out. They go to school and are safe," 54 year-old villager Lahcen Hammou Ali sums up. "With the time saved, we can pay for water all year by producing a bottle of argan oil."

DSH next wants to supply fog water to as many villages as possible in the area. It also plans to replace mesh in the panels with a new variety that can resist wind speeds of 120 kilometres per hour (75 mph).

The panels were perfected on Moroccan soil with help from the German charity Wasserstiftung, and successfully passed the testing phase.

"The nets are now ready for export to other towns in Morocco, in all the mountainous regions and along the seafront," Derham says, hopeful they can be deployed in all highland areas where fogbanks are frequent.

Related Article:

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Hundreds arrested in global crackdown on wildlife contraband

Yahoo – AFP, Jan Hennop, 18 June 2015

Workers put ivory items on a sliding belt before being destroyed in Beijing
on May 29, 2015 (AFP Photo/Fred Dufour)

The Hague (AFP) - A global crackdown on wildlife trafficking has netted "huge" amounts of whale bones, rhino horn, ivory and other contraband, leading to hundreds of arrests, European and Asian authorities announced Thursday.

Operation Cobra III saw police in 62 countries swoop on suspected wildlife smugglers between mid-March and May, European police agency Europol said in a statement.

The operation, which was "the biggest ever coordinated international law enforcement operation targeting the illegal trade in endangered species" yielded "huge amounts of wildlife contraband," said Europol, which is based in The Hague.

Carved ivory is shown to the media
 before being destroyed in Beijing on 
May 29, 2015 (AFP Photo/Fred Dufour)
The Association of Southeastern Asian Nations' Wildlife Enforcement Network (ASEAN-WEN), which helped organise the operation, reported "over 600 seizures of assorted wildlife contraband" and at least 300 arrests.

The suspects included eight alleged smuggling kingpins, including a Chinese national involved in Namibia's biggest rhino horn smuggling case and a notorious elephant poacher in India, ASEAN-WEN said.

In Europe alone, police recovered 11,439 dead and live specimens, including 20 kilos (44 pounds) of live leeches in Bulgaria and 10,000 dead seahorses and 400 tortoises in Britain, Europol said.

Seahorses in particular are prized as aquarium animals, ornaments or used in traditional medicine.

Around 20 million seahorses are estimated to be traded every year for traditional Chinese medicine, according to Endangered Species International.

In Spain, police seized 90 kilos of coral and animal horns and heads and a further 25 kilogrammes of coral were netted in Bulgaria.

In India, nearly 11,000 kilos of suspected tigers' bones were found.

Chinese and German police meanwhile confiscated around 800 cactus plants, while 50 kilogrammes of unworked ivory were found in France and 16 whale ribs were discovered in the Netherlands.

Eight suspected kingpins were arrested
 in the operation, including a Chinese 
national involved in Namibia's biggest
 rhino horn smuggling case (AFP
Photo/Tony Karumba)
Massive ivory haul

In Thailand, police in April netted more than four tonnes of ivory hidden in containers originating in the Democratic Republic of Congo and destined for Laos.

Thai police again seized more than three tonnes of ivory a week later in a second haul, this time from Kenya and again destined for Laos.

The 511 pieces of ivory was found in a container "marked as tea leaves transported from Mombasa, Kenya," Thai customs officials said.

The shipping of ivory has been banned since 1989 under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and the tusks are worth millions of dollars (euros) on the black market.

Elephants and rhinos are mainly poached in Africa and India and their tusks and horn sent to South East Asia.

While tusks are used in a "long tradition of ivory carving", powdered rhino horn is used in traditional Asian medicine.

"Sales generate significant profits for the organised crime groups involved," Europol said.

"Investigations continue in many countries," it added.

Thai customs officers carry confiscated elephant tusks during a press conference at
the Customs Bureau in Bangkok on April 27, 2015 (AFP Photo/Pornchai Kittiwongsakul)

Europol, which supported the operation, said COBRA III was organised by ASEAN-WEN and the Lusaka Agreement Task Force, consisting of seven African countries.

"The trafficking of endangered species remains a problem in the EU and beyond," Europol's director Rob Wainwright said.

"Operation COBRA III once again shows the true global dimension of these crimes," he added.

"We will continue our efforts to fight these cruel crimes, to ensure a safe environment for endangered species in Europe and all over the world."

Sunday, June 14, 2015

ICC calls for Sudan's al-Bashir to be arrested at AU summit

The ICC has called for the arrest of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir at an AU summit in South Africa. Al-Bashir is facing international charges of genocide and crimes against humanity.

Deutsche Welle, 14 June 2015

International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said South Africa was legally obliged to arrest al-Bashir and surrender him to the court at the summit starting on Sunday in Johannesburg.

If South Africa fails to carry out the arrest, the matter will be reported to the court's assembly of states and the United Nations Security Council, she said.

Rights groups have echoed the ICC call for al-Bashir's arrest.

"Allowing President al-Bashir into South Africa without arresting him would be a major stain on South Africa's reputation on promoting justice for grave crimes," Elise Keppler, acting international justice director of Human Rights Watch, said in a statement on Friday.

But African Union (AU) Commission spokesman Jaco Enoh-Eben said the AU would not compel any member states to arrest a leader on behalf of the court, saying: "It's like arresting yourself."

The ICC issued an arrest warrant against al-Bashir in 2009, accusing him of war crimes and crimes against humanity related to alleged atrocities carried out by the military and government-backed militias in the conflict in Darfur.

Reported arrival

Al-Bashir was reported by various media sources to have arrived in Johannesburg to lead his country's delegation to the summit.

Since the warrant was issued, he has made most of his international trips to states that have not signed up to the ICC, such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt. However, he has also visited member states that declined to arrest him, such as Nigeria, where he went in July 2013.

Sudan's Darfur conflict, which erupted in 2003 amid an ethnic insurgency against al-Bashir's government, saw 300,000 people killed and two million displaced, according to UN estimates.

The Sudanese army and government-backed militias - commonly known as the Janjaweed - are alleged to have perpetrated heinous crimes against civilians, including indiscriminate bombardment.

Al-Bashir has always denied his or his government's involvement in the killing, and has himself estimated the death toll from the conflict at 10,000.

Burundi in focus

The two-day AU summit is also due to discuss the political unrest in Burundi, where violent protests have taken place against President Pierre Nkurunziza's plans to run for a third five-year term.

The threat posed by Islamist militant groups such as Nigeria's Boko Haram will also be on the agenda of talks, as will the issue of migration, amid the current flood of African and Middle Eastern migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean by boat to Europe.

Nearly 1,800 people have drowned so far this year during the attempt, according to the International Organization for Migration.

tj/ (AFP, AP, Reuters)

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Zimbabweans get chance to swap 'quadrillions' for a few US dollars

New exchange rate is $1 for 35,000,000,000,000,000 old dollars

The Guardian, Staff and agencies, Saturday 13 June 2015

Five billion Zimbabwean dollars. Photograph: Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP

Zimbabweans will start exchanging “quadrillions” of local dollars for a few US dollars next week as President Robert Mugabe’s government discards its virtually worthless national currency.

The southern African country started using foreign currencies including the US dollar and South African rand in 2009 after the Zimbabwean dollar was ruined by hyperinflation, which hit 500bn% in 2008.

At the height of the country’s economic crisis, Zimbabweans had to carry plastic bags bulging with banknotes to buy basic goods. Prices were rising at least twice a day.

From Monday, customers who held Zimbabwean dollar accounts before March 2009 can approach their banks to convert their balance into US dollars, the governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, John Mangudya, said.

Zimbabweans have until September to turn in their old banknotes, which some people sell as souvenirs to tourists.

Bank accounts with balances of up to 175 quadrillion Zimbabwean dollars will be paid $5. Those with balances above 175 quadrillion dollars will be paid at an exchange rate of $1 for 35 quadrillion, or 35,000,000,000,000,000, Zimbabwean dollars.

The highest – and last – banknote to be printed by the bank in 2008 was 100tn Zimbabwean dollars. It was not enough to ride a public bus to work for a week.

The bank said customers who still had stashes of old Zimbabwean notes could walk into any bank and get $1 for every 250tn they hold. That means a holder of a 100tn banknote will get 40 cents.

The bank has set aside $20m to pay Zimbabwean dollar currency holders.

Hyperinflation in Zimbabwe left pensions, wages and investments worthless and spread poverty as everyday items became unaffordable. It also caused severe cash shortages, because the government could not afford to print bank notes to keep pace with inflation.

The crisis in Zimbabwe was reminiscent of the hyperinflation Germany went through in the 1920s when the highest denomination note was 100,000,000,000,000 (100 trillion) marks and people were being paid several times a day.

Zimbabwe’s period of soaring prices came to an end in 2009 and the economy stabilised under a unity government that lasted until 2013, when Mugabe was declared the winner of Zimbabwe’s presidential election. GDP growth averaged more than 10% during 2009-2012. But the economy slowed last year and the outlook remains tough, say economists.

The International Monetary Fund’s latest overview of Zimbabwe in April said growth was expected to weaken further in 2015. “Despite the favourable impact of lower oil prices, the external position remains precarious and the country is in debt distress,” the IMF said.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Africa leaders sign 'Cape to Cairo' free trade bloc deal

Yahoo – AFP, Jay Deshmukh, 10 June 2015

Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was one of the four signatories to the 
Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) during a summit in the Red Sea resort of 
Sharm el-Sheikh, on June 10, 2015 (AFP Photo/Khaled Desouki)

Sharm el Sheikh (Egypt) (AFP) - African leaders signed Wednesday a 26-nation free trade pact to create a common market that would span half the continent from Cairo to Cape Town.

The Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) deal, which must still be fine-tuned and ratified, caps five years of talks to set up a framework for preferential tariffs to ease the movement of goods in an area home to 625 million people.

The Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA)
 is expected to boost economic growth 
across Africa (AFP Photo/Lucien Kahozi)
Analysts say it could have an enormous impact on African economies, which account for only about two percent of global trade despite strong growth.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe and President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan were among those who signed the pact at a summit in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

But hurdles remain, with the timeline for bringing down trade barriers yet to be worked out and the deal needing ratification in national parliaments within two years.

"What we are doing today represents a very important step in the history of the regional integration of Africa," Sisi said as he opened the summit.

"We have told the word today... of our desire to adopt practices that are necessary to increase trade among ourselves... We will do whatever is possible to activate this agreement," he later said, wrapping up the summit.

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said that with the launch of the TFTA "Africa has made it clear that it is open for business."

Bolster intra-regional trade

The deal will integrate three existing trade blocs -- the East African Community, the Southern African Development Community and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) -- whose countries have a combined gross domestic product of more than $1 trillion (885 billion euros).

"The geographical area covers the Cape (of Good Hope) to Cairo... The agreement paves the way for a continental free trade area that will combine the three biggest regional communities," Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said.

Egypt expects to export about $5 billion worth of goods over the next five
 years to fellow members of the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) (AFP 
Photo/Khaled Desouki)

And Mugabe said the deal would create a "borderless economy" that would rank 13th in the world in terms of GDP.

Members of the three blocs range from relatively developed economies such as South Africa and Egypt to countries like Angola, Ethiopia and Mozambique, which are seen as having huge growth potential.

"The establishment of TFTA will bolster intra-regional trade by creating a wider market" that would "increase investment flow... and enhance regional infrastructure development," a final statement said.

Negotiators were optimistic the deal would be ratified by parliaments, and would help not just developed economies but also smaller ones.

"On the ground it means jobs being created... or else there could be an Africa spring far worse than the Arab Spring," COMESA Secretary General Sindiso Ngwenya, who led the negotiations among the three blocs, told AFP.

Negotiators drafted the deal this week in Sharm el-Sheikh, and said it addresses such concerns as management of trade disputes and protection for small manufacturers once the TFTA comes into force.

The TFTA has been widely welcomed by world business leaders, with experts pointing out that only 12 percent of Africa's trade is between countries on the continent.

'One trade regime'

In 2013, the UN Conference on Trade and Development said Africa must focus on creating more space for the private sector to play an active role if it is to boost intra-continental trade.

Egyptian Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab
(R) and President of the World Bank Jim 
Yong Kim attend a meeting to sign a 
trade agreement on June 10, 2015
(AFP Photo/Khaled Desouki)
Analysts say although the continent's growth in the past 15 years outstripped global GDP expansion by nearly three percentage points, falling commodity prices, power shortages, political instability and corruption are still holding back its economies.

Egypt's Minister of Industry and Trade Mounir Fakhri Abdel Nour said the TFTA would help Africa boost trade and investment, while also building infrastructure and production capacities.

Egypt itself expected to export about $5 billion worth of goods in the next five years to TFTA countries.

Officials said companies would benefit from an improved and harmonised trade regime, which would reduce costs by eliminating overlapping trade rules.

"What we have realised is that having one trade regime is better than the costly multiple trade regimes," said Ngwenya.

"The ultimate goal is to expeditiously establish a single free trade area... then establish a single customs union and then merge" the three blocs, he said.

Related Article:

" .... 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, June 8, 2015

UN accuses Eritrea of horrific abuses

Yahoo – AFP, 8 June 2015

An Eritrean refugee holds his child at Sudan's Shagarab refugee camp in 
Kassala on January 12, 2012 (AFP Photo/Ashraf Shazly)

Geneva (AFP) - Eritrea's government is responsible for systematic and widespread human rights abuses on an almost unprecedented scale, driving some 5,000 Eritreans to flee every month, a UN investigation said Monday.

Wrapping up a year-long probe, a UN commission of inquiry on the human rights situation in Eritrea described a nightmare-like society in the authoritarian Horn of Africa state.

The report detailed horrific torture, including electric shock, near drowning, sexual abuse and forcing people to stare at the burning sun for hours.

Its nearly 500-page report details how the country, under Isaias Afwerki's iron-fisted regime for the past 22 years, has created a repressive system in which people are routinely arrested at whim, detained, tortured, killed or go missing.

A system of indefinite conscription of all Eritreans also forces many to toil in slave-like conditions in the military and other state jobs, sometimes for decades.

"Systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations have been and are being committed in Eritrea with impunity under the authority of the government," said Sheila Keetharuth, one of the three commission members.

The report found that some of the numerous abuses committed in Eritrea "may constitute crimes against humanity", she told journalists, pointing out that the violations were taking place on a "scope and scale seldom witnessed elsewhere".

The report provides a list of government and state entities responsible for the abuse, including the military, police, justice ministry and Isaias himself.

Mass exodus

The situation has sparked a massive exodus from Eritrea, which after Syria is the second largest source of migrants risking their lives to cross the Mediterranean to get to Europe.

State oppression has sparked a massive
 exodus from Eritrea, which after Syria is the
 second largest source of migrants risking their
 lives to cross the Mediterranean to get
to Europe (AFP Photo/Ashraf Shazly)
Eritrea, which broke away from Ethiopia in 1991 after a brutal 30-year independence struggle, is "ruled not by law but by fear," Keetharuth said.

That, she said, is the main reason why "hundreds of thousands are fleeing their country, risking capture and torture by Eritrean authorities and death at the hands of ruthless human traffickers."

The report said some 5,000 people were flooding out of the country each month, despite a "shoot-to-kill" policy along the borders, adding to the nearly 360,000 Eritrean refugees counted by the UN last year.

The investigators urged the international community to protect fleeing Eritreans, to make their migration routes safer and, above all, to not send them back.

They described an Orwellian mass-surveillance society, where neighbours and family members are drafted to inform on each other, and where people can be held for years in horrific conditions without ever knowing what crime they allegedly committed.

"When I am in Eritrea, I feel that I cannot even think because I am afraid that people can read my thoughts," one witness was quoted as saying.

The probe was ordered by the UN Human Rights Council last year, and the investigators will present their findings to the body on June 23.

They never gained access to Eritrea, but said they instead based their report on 550 interviews with Eritreans living abroad, and on 160 written submissions.

Sexual slavery

Convincing expat Eritreans to testify was meanwhile difficult, due to Eritrea's extensive network of spies even outside the country, and fear of reprisals against family members back home.

That fear is justified, the report said, stressing "there is no rule of law in Eritrea."

The torture was so widespread that the report concluded "it is a policy of the government to encourage its use," it concluded.

The investigators also found that Eritrea's economy is largely dependent on widespread forced labour, especially using people stuck in indefinite conscription.

Women recruits meanwhile are routinely subjected to "sexual slavery", the report found.

"I was ordered to bring girls to commanders’ rooms. They would give me their names and I would go and collect them," a personal assistant to an official at the Wi'a training camp told the investigators.

He said he would bring one or two girls a day, and that over a three year period, he had brought around 1,200 girls to the officers.