“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.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Sudan criminalises female genital mutilation

Yahoo – AFP, Abdelmoneim Abu Idris, July 10, 2020

Sudanese women walk in the capital Khartoum's district of Jureif Ghar (AFP
Photo/ASHRAF SHAZLY)

Khartoum (AFP) - Sudan's highest governing body Friday ratified a law criminalising female genital mutilation, a widespread ritual in the African country, the justice ministry announced.

The sovereign council, comprising military and civilian figures, approved a series of laws including criminalisation of the age-old practice known as FGM or genital cutting that "undermines the dignity of women", the ministry said in a statement.

The reform comes a year after longtime president Omar al-Bashir was toppled following months of mass pro-reform protests on the streets in which women played a key role.

Sudan's cabinet in April approved amendments to the criminal code that would punish those who perform FGM.

"The mutilation of a woman's genital organs is now considered a crime," the justice ministry said, punishable by up to three years in prison.

It said doctors or health workers who carry out genital cutting would be penalised, and hospitals, clinics or other places where the operation was carried out would be shut.

Sudanese women lift national flags by burning tyres as they take part in a
demonstration on Sixty Street in the capital Khartoum, on May 23, 2020
(AFP Photo/Ashraf SHAZLY)

Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok hailed Friday's decision.

"It is an important step on the way to judicial reform and in order to achieve the slogan of the revolution -- freedom, peace and justice," he tweeted.

The premier vowed that Sudan's new authorities would "forge ahead and review laws and make amendments to rectify flaws in the legal system".

Long decried as barbaric

Nearly nine out of 10 girls in Sudan fall victim to FGM, according to the United Nations.

In its most brutal form, it involves the removal of the labia and clitoris, often in unsanitary conditions and without anaesthesia.

The wound is then sewn shut, often causing cysts and infections and leaving women to suffer severe pain during sex and childbirth complications later in life.

Rights groups have for years decried as barbaric the practice, which can lead to myriad physical, psychological and sexual complications and, in the most tragic cases, death.

A doctor gives medical advice about female genital mutilation to a woman 
in Egypt, where the practice is already banned (AFP Photo/Mohamed el-Shahed)

The watershed move is part of reforms that have come since Bashir's ouster.

"It is a very important step for Sudanese women and shows that we have come a long way," women's rights activist Zeinab Badreddin said in May.

The United Nations Children's Fund has also welcomed the move.

"This practice is not only a violation of every girl child's rights, it is harmful and has serious consequences for a girl's physical and mental health," said Abdullah Fadil, the UNICEF Representative in Khartoum.

The UN says FGM is widespread in many countries across Africa, the Middle East and Asia, affecting the lives of millions of girls and women.

In Sudan, rights campaigners say the custom has over the past three decades spread to remote regions where it was previously not practised, including Sudan's Nuba mountains.

In neighbouring Egypt, as in several other countries, genital cutting is now prohibited. A 2008 law punishes it with up to seven years in prison.

Sudan's anti-FGM advocates came close to a ban in 2015 when a bill was discussed in parliament but then shot down by Bashir who caved in to pressure from some Islamic clerics.

Yet many religious leaders have spoken out against genital cutting over the years.

Monday, July 6, 2020

Commonwealth should 'acknowledge' past wrongs, says Prince Harry

Yahoo – AFP, July 6, 2020

Harry, Duke of Sussex, seen here in conversation with Formula 1 champion Lewis
 Hamilton, had already spoken out last week against institutional racism (AFP
 Photo/PETER NICHOLLS)

London (AFP) - Prince Harry has urged the Commonwealth, which his grandmother heads, to acknowledge its uncomfortable colonial past, in video extracts published on Monday.

The 35-year-old royal and his wife, Meghan, joined a video conference call with leaders organised by the Queen's Commonwealth Trust (QCT) from their base in the United States.

The sessions were set up in response to the growing Black Lives Matter movement, sparked by the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, during a US police arrest.

Harry last week outlined his personal commitment to tackling institutional racism, saying it had "no place" in society but was still too widespread.

On the July 1 call, posted on the QCT website, he said: "When you look across the Commonwealth, there is no way that we can move forward unless we acknowledge the past.

"So many people have done such an incredible job of acknowledging the past and trying to right those wrongs but I think we all acknowledge there is so much more still to do.

"It's not going to be easy and in some cases it's not going to be comfortable, but it needs to be done, because, guess what, everybody benefits."

Queen Elizabeth II is the head of the Commonwealth, a non-political organisation of 54 countries, most of which have links to the British Empire.

It comprises 2.4 billion people -- a quarter of the world's population -- of which 60 percent are aged under 30.

The QCT was set up to give younger people from member nations a platform to share ideas and insights.

The chief executive of the QCT, Nicola Brentnall, has said the body is studying how the Commonwealth's colonial past and its legacy should shape its future.

Harry and Meghan stepped down from frontline royal duties this year and have set up a non-profit organisation focusing on the promoting of mental health, education and well-being.

Meghan, a mixed-race US former actress, has previously talked about her own personal experience of racism and unconscious bias.

Former army officer Harry has also complained about the "racial undertones" of media coverage of his wife.

The couple are president and vice-president respectively of the QCT.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Belgian 'regret' for Congo past stirs bittersweet response

Yahoo – AFP, June 30, 2020

King Leopold II pillaged DR Congo and treated the colony as his personal
property (AFP Photo/SAMIR TOUNSI)

Kinshasa (AFP) - DR Congo hailed Belgium on Tuesday after its monarch, King Philippe, voiced his "deepest regrets" for the country's brutal colonial occupation, but some in the country demanded reparations for the past.

In a letter to President Felix Tshisekedi on the nation's 60th anniversary of independence, Philippe expressed unprecedented sorrow for colonial acts that historians say led to the death of millions of Congolese.

"I want to express my deepest regrets for these wounds of the past whose pain is reawakened today by the discrimination still present in our societies," Philippe said.

"Acts of violence and cruelty were committed which weigh on our collective memory," he said.

DR Congo Foreign Minister Marie Ntumba Nzeza, in statement to AFP, said the king's letter was "balm to the heart of the Congolese people. This is a step forward that will boost friendly relations between our nations."

Tshisekedi, in a TV address on the eve of the anniversary, paid tribute to Belgium, where he lived in self-imposed exile before returning to run successfully in the 2018 elections.

Philippe, he said, "is searching, just like me, to strengthen the ties between our two countries, without denying our common past, but with the goal of preparing a bright and harmonious future."

In contrast, Lambert Mende, the former spokesman of Tshisekedi's predecessor, Joseph Kabila, said, "It's not enough to say, 'I feel regret.'

"People should be willing to repair the damage in terms of investment and compensation with interest. That's what we expect from our Belgian partners."

Herve Diakiese, spokesman of a citizen's movement called Congolais Debout (Congolese, Stand Up), said the monarch's letter was "a step in the right direction."

"But this belated remorse can only be accepted after adequate reparations for these atrocities which enabled the personal enrichment of Leopold II and his friends," he said, referring to the former Belgian monarch who pillaged Congo from 1885 to 1908.

"Belgium's mischief-making after independence on June 30 1960 to control the DRC's minerals should also feature among reparation issues," he said.

Looted Congolese artefacts, too, should be returned, he added.

Jean-Claude Katende, the president of Asadho, one of the oldest rights groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo, called for a greater effort to identify provinces where colonial Belgium carried out its worst atrocities.

"In Equateur (province), people were killed and others had their hands cut off," he said.

Belgium is contemplating setting up a parliamentary commission to investigate its colonial rule, which also extended over Rwanda and Burundi.

Monday, June 29, 2020

'It's my dam': Ethiopians unite around Nile River mega-project

Yahoo – AFP, Robbie COREY-BOULET, June 29, 2020

The Blue Nile flowing through the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. The project is
passionately supported by the Ethiopian public despite the tensions it has stoked
with Egypt and Sudan downstream (AFP Photo/EDUARDO SOTERAS)

Addis Ababa (AFP) - Last week, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's press secretary took a break from official statements to post something different to her Twitter feed: a 37-line poem defending her country's massive dam on the Blue Nile River.

"My mothers seek respite/From years of abject poverty/Their sons a bright future/And the right to pursue prosperity," Billene Seyoum wrote in her poem, entitled "Ethiopia Speaks".

As the lines indicate, Ethiopia sees the $4.6 billion (four-billion-euro) Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam as crucial for its electrification and development.

But the project, set to become Africa's largest hydroelectric installation, has sparked an intensifying row with downstream neighbours Egypt and Sudan, which worry that it will restrict vital water supplies.

Addis Ababa plans to start filling next month, despite demands from Cairo and Khartoum for a deal on the dam's operations to avoid depletion of the Nile.

The African Union is assuming a leading role in talks to resolve outstanding legal and technical issues, and the UN Security Council could take up the issue Monday.

With global attention to the dam on the rise, its defenders are finding creative ways to show support -- in verse, in Billene's case, through other art forms and, most commonly, in social media posts demanding the government finish construction.

To some observers, the dam offers a rare point of unity in an ethnically-diverse country undergoing a fraught democratic transition and awaiting elections delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Abebe Yirga, a university lecturer and expert in water management, compared the effort to finish the dam to Ethiopia's fight against Italian would-be colonisers in the late 19th century.

"During that time, Ethiopians irrespective of religion and different backgrounds came together to fight against the colonial power," he said.

"Now, in the 21st century, the dam is reuniting Ethiopians who have been politically and ethnically divided."

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (AFP Photo)

Hashtag activism

Ethiopia broke ground on the dam in 2011 under then-Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who pitched it as a catalyst for poverty eradication.

Civil servants contributed one month's salary towards the project that year, and the government has since issued dam bonds targeting Ethiopians at home and abroad.

Nearly a decade later, the dam remains a source of hope for a country where more than half the population of 110 million lives without electricity.

With Meles dead nearly eight years, perhaps the most prominent face of the project these days is water minister Seleshi Bekele, a former academic whose publications include articles with titles like "Estimation of flow in ungauged catchments by coupling a hydrological model and neural networks: Case study".

As a government minister, though, Seleshi has demonstrated an ear for the catchy soundbite.

At a January press conference in Addis Ababa, he fielded a question from a journalist wondering whether countries besides Ethiopia might play a role in operating the dam.

With an amused expression on his face, Seleshi looked the journalist dead in the eye and responded simply, "It's my dam."

In those five seconds, a hashtag was born.

Coverage of the exchange went viral, and today a Twitter search for #ItsMyDam turns up seemingly endless posts hailing the project.

At recent events officials have even distributed T-shirts bearing the slogan to Ethiopian journalists, who proudly wear them around town.

The dam's wall is 145 metres (475 feet) high. Filling the lake that will form behind it 
will probably take years (AFP Photo/EDUARDO SOTERAS)

Banana boosterism

Some non-Ethiopians have also gotten in on #ItsMyDam fever.

Anna Chojnicka spent four years living in Ethiopia working for an organisation supporting social entrepreneurs, though she recently moved to London.

In March, holed up with suspected COVID-19, she began using a comb and thread-cutter to imprint designs on bananas.

Her #BananaOfTheDay series has included bruises portraying the London skyline, iconic scenes from Disney movies and the late singer Amy Winehouse.

But by far the most popular are her bananas related to the dam, the first of which she posted last week showing water rushing through the concrete colossus.

On Thursday she posted a banana featuring a woman carrying firewood, noting that once the dam starts operating "fewer women will need to collect firewood for fuel".

The image was quickly picked up by an Ethiopian television station.

"Maybe the fact that I'm international, and not Ethiopian, but I'm sort of showing solidarity is meaningful," Chojnicka told AFP when asked why she thought the dam posts were so well-received.

"It shows that this is something that's not only seen as valuable by Ethiopians, but the value is also something that an international person can see."

Political pressure

Big hydro projects have in many parts of the world fallen out of favour in the face of their environmental impact and outsized cost compared with wind and solar.

In Ethiopia, though, fervour for the GERD has eclipsed such doubts, and stoked pressure on Abiy to start filling it next month regardless of what happens in upcoming talks.

Failure to do so would prompt a backlash that would be "catastrophic for the prime minister and his government", said Jawar Mohammed, a leading opposition politician.

Abiy has so far shown no sign of retreating from the timeline.

In October, the same month he won the Nobel Peace Prize, he went so far as to assure lawmakers that "millions" of troops could be mobilised to defend the dam if necessary.

Billene, his press secretary, used similarly direct language in her poem extolling the dam's virtues.

"When I say 'it's my dam'," she wrote, "I damn well mean it too."

Monday, June 8, 2020

Kenyans march in capital against police violence

Yahoo – AFP, June 8, 2020

Protest: Residents of Mathare demonstrate against police violence (AFP Photo/
TONY KARUMBA)

Nairobi (AFP) - Around 200 people turned out Monday for a protest in a poor Nairobi neighbourhood against police violence linked to the deaths of 15 people nationwide since the authorities imposed a curfew to fight coronavirus.

The crowd in the Mathare neighbourhood was composed mostly of young people and mothers carrying signs with the names of friends, neighbours and sons killed in police operations in recent years.

"I am here to protest for our youth who have died in the hands of the police without any wrongdoings and we are saying enough is enough. As mothers, many of our youths have been killed while being labelled as thieves," said Mathare resident Rahma Wako.

Kenya's Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) reported last week it had received 87 complaints against police since the dusk-to-dawn curfew and heightened security measures were imposed on March 27.

Some 15 deaths and "31 incidents where victims sustained injuries" have been "directly linked to actions of police officers during the curfew enforcement", it said.

In recent days, cities around the world have seen massive protests against racism and police violence prompted by last month's police killing of George Floyd, a 46-year-old unarmed black man in the US state of Minnesota.

Though Floyd's killing has not led to major protests in Kenya, activists on social media have seized the moment to highlight the country's own scourge of police brutality, which typically goes unpunished.

Kenya's police force is often accused by rights groups of using excessive force and carrying out unlawful killings, especially in poor neighbourhoods.

In April, Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused the police of imposing the coronavirus curfew in a "chaotic and violent manner from the start", sometimes whipping, kicking and teargassing people to force them off the streets.

It described the case of 13-year-old Yassin Hussein Moyo who died in Nairobi on March 31 after being shot while standing on his balcony as police forced people into their homes on the street below.

Other cases include a tomato seller who died in western Kakamega after being hit by a teargas canister, and four men who were beaten to death in different parts of the country.

Interior Minister Fred Matiangi on Friday criticised police excesses, but "took exception to painting the entire service with the same brush", his office said in a statement.

On Thursday, the IPOA announced six police officers would be arrested and prosecuted -- one for Moyo's death; another for shooting dead a secondary school teacher while responding to a burglary at a market in western Siaya; and four others for seriously assaulting a man during an arrest.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Top Egypt medical union warns of health system 'collapse'

Yahoo – AFP, May 25, 2020

Egyptian medical staff intubate a patient in a coronavirus isolation ward at a
Cairo hospital (AFP Photo/YAHYA DIWER)

Cairo (AFP) - Egypt's top medical union on Monday warned of a "complete collapse" of the country's health system, accusing the health ministry of negligence in failing to protect healthcare workers from coronavirus.

"The syndicate is warning that the health system could completely collapse, leading to a catastrophe affecting the entire country if the health ministry's negligence and lack of action towards medical staff is not rectified," the Egyptian Medical Syndicate said in a statement.

COVID-19 has killed 19 doctors and infected more than 350, according to the EMS, a body representing thousands of Egyptian doctors.

"The EMS holds the health ministry entirely responsible for the mounting deaths and infections among doctors due to its negligence... that is tantamount to death through a dereliction of duty," it added.

Egypt, the most populous Arab country, has recorded more than 16,000 COVID-19 cases and over 700 deaths.+

The EMS called on the "executive, judicial and legislative" branches of government to force the health ministry to comply with its demands.

These included providing all doctors with personal protective equipment (PPE), training for dealing with coronavirus cases and testing for those with symptoms or who have come into contact with infected people.

Hospitals have been hit by a flight of doctors abroad in recent years while the frontline staff left behind face shortages of medical supplies and protective gear that heightens the risk of infection.

The EMS statement came after 32-year-old doctor Walid Yehia died on Saturday after being unable to secure a bed in an isolation hospital.

The country's 17 isolation hospitals reserved for novel coronavirus patients reached their maximum capacity at the start of the month, deputy health minister Ahmed al-Sobki told local press last week.

A colleague resigned in protest from the same Cairo hospital where Yehia worked.

In a widely shared online post, the co-worker blamed the health ministry for not treating Yehia as soon as he showed symptoms of the virus.

In recent weeks Egypt has sent medical aid to countries including China Italy and the United States, angering many medical professionals, who complain about the lack of PPE domestically.

"The health ministry has an obligation towards doctors and all medics who are sacrificing their lives on the front lines to defend the safety of the homeland," the EMS said.

"It is imperative to provide them with the necessary protection and rapid medical intervention for those who contract the disease".

Madagascar sends troops, doctors to virus-hit eastern town

Yahoo – AFP, May 25, 2020

Madagascar has made wearing face masks obligatory during the pandemic
(AFP Photo/RIJASOLO)

Antananarivo (AFP) - Madagascar's government has announced it will dispatch troops and doctors to an eastern town after several bodies were found in the streets and where two people died from the novel coronavirus.

Madagascar's cabinet held a special meeting on Sunday to discuss the situation in Toamasina, the country's second largest city.

The Indian Ocean island nation has registered 527 infections and two deaths, both in Toamasina.

Since Thursday, more than 120 new cases were confirmed, and several bodies were found in the city's streets though the cause of death was not clear.

"Doctors must carry out thorough examinations to see if these deaths are caused by another illness (...) or if they are really due to severe acute respiratory problems which is the critical form of COVID-19," Professor Hanta Marie Danielle Vololontiana, spokesperson for the government's virus taskforce, said in a national broadcast on Sunday.

The government will send 150 soldiers to reinforce Toamasina, maintain order and enforce measures against the coronavirus such as mask wearing and social distancing.

The cabinet also fired Toamasina's prefect without providing any explanation.

A team was also ordered to distribute a drink based on artemisia, a plant recognised as a treatment against malaria, which the Malagasy authorities claim cures COVID-19.

The potential benefits of this herbal tea, called Covid-Organics, have not been validated by any scientific study.

The cabinet has also announced an investigation into the death of a doctor in Toamasina. According to local press, the victim was hospitalised after contracting COVID-19 and was found dead hanged in his room on Sunday morning.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Madagascar virus potion scorned because it's from Africa: president

Yahoo – AFP, May 11, 2020

Madagascar's President Andry Rajoelina sips Covid Organics, which he
touts as a remedy for coronavirus (AFP Photo/RIJASOLO)

Antananarivo (AFP) - Madagascar President Andry Rajoelina on Monday batted away criticism for promoting a homegrown "remedy" for COVID-19, charging that the West has a condescending attitude toward traditional African medicine.

"If it wasn't Madagascar, and if it was a European country that had actually discovered this remedy, would there be so much doubt? I don't think so," he told French media in an interview.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has repeatedly warned that the Covid-Organics infusion, which Rajoelina has touted as a remedy against the deadly coronavirus, has not been clinically tested.

The drink is derived from artemisia -- a plant with proven anti-malarial properties -- and other indigenous herbs.

"African scientists... should not be underestimated," he told France 24 and Radio France International (RFI).

"I think the problem is that (the drink) comes from Africa and they can't admit... that a country like Madagascar... has come up with this formula to save the world," said Rajoelina, who claims the infusion cures patients within 10 days.

Already Equatorial Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Niger and Tanzania have taken delivery of consignments of the potion, which was launched last month.

"No country or organisation will keep us from going forward," Rajoelina said in response to the WHO's concerns.

He said proof of the tonic's efficacy was in "the healing of our sick".

Madagascar has officially reported 183 coronavirus infections and 105 recoveries, with no deaths.

"The patients who were cured were cured through the administration of Covid-Organics alone," the president said.

He referred to the remedy as "an improved traditional medicine", adding that Madagascar was not conducting clinical trials but "clinical observations" in accordance with WHO guidelines.

Related Article:


Thursday, May 7, 2020

WHO cautions against use of Madagascar anti-virus potion

Yahoo – AFP, Philippe Alfroy, May 7, 2020

Madagascar's President Andry Rajoelina drinks a sample of Covid Organics which
he touted as a remedy for coronavirus (AFP Photo/RIJASOLO)

Johannesburg (AFP) - The World Health Organization on Thursday advised governments to clinically test a herbal drink touted by Madagascar's President Andry Rajoelina as a remedy against coronavirus.

The Covid-Organics infusion is derived from artemisia -- a plant with proven anti-malarial properties -- and other indigenous herbs.

Rajoelina hopes to distribute the infusion across West Africa and beyond, claiming it cures COVID-19 patients within 10 days.

Equatorial Guinea, Guinea-Bissau and Niger have already received consignments of the potion. Others such as Tanzania have expressed interest.

But the World Health Organization (WHO) has repeatedly warned that there are no published scientific studies of the herbal tea and that its effects have not been tested.

"We would caution and advise countries against adopting a product that has not been taken through tests to see its efficacy," WHO Africa Director Matshidiso Moeti said in a press briefing on Thursday, calling on Madagascar to take the drink "through a clinical trial".

Moeti said that in 2000, African governments had committed to taking "traditional therapies" through the same clinical trials as other medication.

"I can understand the need, the drive to find something that can help," Moeti said. "But we would very much like to encourage this scientific process in which the governments themselves made a commitment."

Rajoelina defended his tonic during a coronavirus screening campaign in Madagascar's eastern city of Toamasina on Thursday.

"The WHO has indicated that artemisia could lead to a cure for coronavirus," the president said, promising to submit the drink to clinical trials.

Scepticism remains

Earlier this week, the WHO recognised artemisia as a "possible treatment" for COVID-19. But the organisation also repeated its calls for more rigorous testing.

South Africa's Health Minister Zweli Mkhize on Wednesday said Madagascar had reached out for "help" with scientific research.

"Our scientists would be able to assist with this research," Mkhize tweeted, adding that South Africa would only "get involved in a scientific analysis of the herb".

The country has the highest number of coronavirus cases in sub-Saharan Africa, with 7,808 infections and 153 fatalities recorded to date.

Neighbouring eSwatini -- a tiny landlocked nation wedged between South Africa and Mozambique -- said it would not consider Rajoelina's tonic for the time being.

"It is important as a country to first ascertain where such herbal products have been tested," she said Health Minister Lizzie Nkosi on Thursday.

"We have to do adequate proper research and be sure that the product works."

To date eSwatini has reported 123 cases of coronavirus, including two deaths.

Meanwhile, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has debunked claims that it had ordered a package of Covid-Organics from a "third country".

"We are aware that several claims of a COVID-19 cure have been made in different parts of the world," ECOWAS said in a statement on Wednesday.

"But we can only support and endorse products that have been shown to be effective through scientific study."

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Last Israeli farmers leave enclave after Jordan deal ends

Yahoo –AFP, April 30, 2020

Israeli farmers will no longer be allowed to enter an agricultural enclave in
neighbouring Jordan, following the expiry of Israel’s lease on the border land
(AFP Photo/MENAHEM KAHANA)

Tsofar (Israel) (AFP) - Israeli farmers left an agricultural enclave in neighbouring Jordan possibly for the last time Thursday, as the extension of a lease enabling their use of the border land expired.

Ghumar, known as Tsofar in Hebrew, is a Jordanian territory south of the Dead Sea that was occupied by Israel during the Six Day War of 1967.

Under the 1994 peace deal, Jordan retained sovereignty over the area, along with another territory called Baqura, seized when Israeli forces infiltrated Jordan in 1950.

As part of the 1994 agreement, Jordan agreed to lease both places to Israel for a renewable 25 years, with a one-year notice period for either party.

The lease expired in November after Jordan's King Abdullah II notified Israel that it wanted to take back the two areas.

His decision came as the country suffers high unemployment, inflation and poverty, exacerbated by the presence of hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing the war in neighbouring Syria.

Despite the peace agreement, relations with Israel have been tense in recent years.

Baqura, or Naharayim in Hebrew, was reclaimed in November.

But the kingdom gave Israeli farmers six months to finish growing their crops in Ghumar, a period that expired on Thursday.

Erez Gibori, a farmer from Ghumar whose fields were in the enclave, told AFP Jordan's decision to take back the lands went "against the spirit of the peace agreement."

Gibori said the last farmers, who had grown peppers in the enclave, had left it by Thursday afternoon.

Opinion polls have repeatedly found that the peace treaty with Israel is overwhelmingly opposed by Jordanians, more than half of whom are of Palestinian origin.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

In role reversal, Egypt sends virus aid to US

Yahoo – AFP, April 22, 2020

The Great Pyramids are lit up with a coronavirus-themed laser projection that
says "Stay Home" on April 18, 2020 (AFP Photo/Khaled DESOUKI)

Washington (AFP) - Egypt on Tuesday flew a plane of medical supplies to the United States to assist in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, a role reversal for a top US aid recipient.

Egypt's general-turned-president, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, has been eager to cement relations with President Donald Trump, and his country has already shipped medical goods with fanfare to China and Italy.

A video statement from Sisi's office showed crates in wrapping that read in English and Arabic, "From the Egyptian people to the American people," being loaded into a military cargo plane.

Dutch Ruppersberger, who leads a group in the US House of Representatives that promotes relations with Egypt, said the plane landed at Andrews Air Force base outside Washington.

The plane brought 200,000 masks, 48,000 shoe covers and 20,000 surgical caps among other supplies, said Ruppersberger, a Democrat who heads the bipartisan group.

"This is why international diplomacy and maintaining relationships with allies like Egypt are essential not in times of crisis, but every day," he wrote on Twitter.

The US ambassador in Cairo, Jonathan Cohen, also voiced appreciation for the "generous" shipment.

Egypt has reported 250 deaths from COVID-19 and some 3,300 cases, according to the World Health Organization.

It is far below the nearly 45,000 deaths recorded in the United States, which has been scrambling to provide supplies and tests.

Still, some questioned whether Egypt, where one-third of the population lives on about $1.50 or less a day, was in a position to offer relief.

"Egyptians who are happy and proud that Egypt sent medical supplies to Italy, UK and the US are probably the ones who can afford to pay 10 EGP for a mask," tweeted a prominent blogger who goes by The Big Pharaoh. Ten Egyptian pounds is more than half a dollar.

Egypt last month revoked the press credentials of a journalist from The Guardian who wrote that the country's COVID-19 infections were higher than reported.

Trump has voiced enthusiastic support for Sisi, who toppled Egypt's elected Islamist president in 2013 and has backed strong relations with Israel.

The United States gave Egypt more than $1.2 billion in the 2018 fiscal year, largely in military aid that goes back to US contractors.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Africa still needs $44 bn to fight pandemic: World Bank and IMF

Yahoo – AFP, April 17, 2020

South African president and African Union chairperman Cyril Ramaphosa said the
coronavirus represents a setback to the continent's progress (AFP Photo/Phill Magakoe)

Washington (AFP) - The World Bank and IMF said on Friday Africa needs $44 billion more to fight the coronavirus pandemic despite a freeze in debt payments for many countries and massive pledges of support.

The Washington-based lenders and other official creditors have already mobilized $57 billion to support healthcare and economic recovery in the world's poorest continent, they said in a joint statement with African leaders, while private funds have given $13 billion.

"This is an important start, but the continent needs an estimated $114 billion in 2020 in its fight against COVID-19, leaving a financing gap of around $44 billion," the statement said.

Africa was high on the agenda during the IMF and World Bank spring meetings this week.

Experts fear the continent's notoriously weak health systems won't be able to stop the spread of COVID-19 while the combined effects of a slump in demand for minerals and tourism together with lockdowns to stem the contagion wallop economies.

The IMF expects Africa's gross domestic product to shrink by 1.6 percent in 2020, "the worst result ever recorded," and the World Bank has warned that the region could slip into its first recession in 25 years.

"This pandemic has already had a devastating impact on Africa and its effects will deepen as the rate of infection rises," South African president and African Union chairman Cyril Ramaphosa said in the statement.

"It is a setback for the progress we have made to eradicate poverty, inequality and underdevelopment."

The G20 grouping of the world's largest economies agreed on Wednesday to a standstill in debt payments for the world's poorest nations, many of which are in Africa.

The World Bank has meanwhile pledged to roll out $160 billion over the next 15 months for health care and economic recovery projects worldwide, while the IMF said 102 countries as of Thursday had asked to tap its $1 trillion lending war chest.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Oil prices, virus, instability put Algeria on edge

Yahoo – AFP, Amal Belalloufi with Philippe Agret in Tunis, April 12, 2020

Saudi Arabia's Energy Minister Abdulaziz bin Salman chairs a virtual meeting
of G20 oil ministers in Riyadh (AFP Photo)

Algiers (AFP) - Algeria faces economic and social turmoil if crude prices continue to collapse, experts have warned, with the oil-dependent country reeling from a year of popular protests, political turmoil and now, coronavirus.

The North African country is an example of how hydrocarbon economies are likely to face unrest if oil prices remain at near two-decade lows due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a price war between key players Saudi Arabia and Russia.

Top oil-producing countries agreed Sunday to slash output by nearly 10 million barrels per day from May 1 to boost prices, Kuwait's Oil Minister Khaled al-Fadhel wrote on Twitter.

But as Algerian oil expert Nazim Zouioueche told official news agency APS, any impact will likely be temporary due to the coronavirus pandemic, leaving Algeria's economy exposed.

The price collapse has destroyed Algeria's revenue projections, with President Abdelmadjid Tebboune acknowledging the "vulnerability" of the country's oil-dependent economy.

It is "imperative to put an end to bad practices instilled over a period of financial well-being, such as waste and a spirit of laziness and overconsumption", Tebboune has said.

His words might be too little, too late, as the drop in prices, the coronavirus and ongoing political uncertainty create a perfect financial and social storm.

'Financial abyss'

Algeria "is on the edge of a financial abyss", according to Luis Martinez, North Africa specialist at France's Sciences Po University.

The government decided to slash public spending in March, after oil prices dipped to $22.50.

The country's 2020 budget had been based on an oil price of $50 per barrel, with growth of around 1.8 percent.

Algiers has already announced a 30 percent cut to the state budget, without touching civil servants' wages, as well as cutting its enormous imports bill.

State oil giant Sonatrach is to halve operating and capital expenditure, from $14 billion to $7 billion, in order to preserve foreign currency reserves.

But former Sonatrach CEO Abdelmadjid Attar said in principle, the company "shouldn't have to reduce hydrocarbon production" as the cuts would affect other operations.

Meanwhile, Algeria's foreign reserves dropped to under $60 billion at the end of March, compared to almost $80 billion at the end of 2018 and over $97 billion at the end of 2017.

Some economists are concerned those could quickly run out.

Economist Ahmed Dahmani warns of multiple dangers: a rapid draining of foreign exchange reserves, a worsening budget deficit and balance of payments, a sharp devaluation of the dinar and an inflationary surge, leading to economic recession and mass unemployment.

Bureaucracy, corruption

"The government has no choice but to broaden the tax base, to resort to public debt and negotiate loans," Martinez said. "With the remaining foreign reserves, that should allow it to hold on until 2021. But after that?"

Others worry that Algeria will struggle to diversify its economy away from oil and attract investors.

Economics expert Aderrahmane Mebtoul expressed doubt the country could recover capital that has already left, and said Algeria's "bureaucracy, fossilised financial system and corruption" would keep foreign direct investment away.

With the coronavirus disrupting economies worldwide, the pandemic could provide a scapegoat for the government.

"The Algerian authorities could in fact argue that the economic and financial situation is no better" elsewhere, Martinez said.

But in Algeria, the pandemic follows a protracted political crisis.

The "Hirak" citizens movement that began in February 2019 brought down longtime autocrat Abdelaziz Bouteflika a year ago.

Only the pandemic was able to halt -- perhaps temporarily -- massive weekly anti-government protests.

And a continued collapse in oil prices could prove to be the final straw for a country on the edge.

"It's not the year 2020 that's on trial, but the 20 years of patronage, nepotism and corruption" of Bouteflika's reign, Martinez said.