Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Patrice Lumumba: Commemorating 57th Anniversary of His Assassination
January 17, 2018
Sam Ditshego Correspondent

JANUARY and February are two of the saddest months for most Africans and people of African descent on the continent and in the African Diaspora. The source of this melancholy is Europe and the United States of America. The recent utterances attributed to one of the leaders of these countries rubs salt into our wounds at a time when we want to reflect on the pain Europe and the United States of America has inflicted on us through centuries of white supremacy (racism), slavery, colonialism, capitalism and imperialism.

In his 1952 book, Black Skin White Masks, Frantz Fanon wrote that racism originated in Europe. Fanon continued, “At the risk of arousing the resentment of my coloured brothers, I will say that “the black man is not a man.” In this statement Fanon is not arguing that black people are inhuman. Instead, he is making the point that Western ideas of humanity have been built on the foundation of anti-black racism. “Man” is supposedly a universal term, but the image of “man” created in Western culture is white. In other words, in racist societies only white people are human and people of colour are instead ‘Other’ to human, or beasts and animals. Black people don’t even get to be considered human in racist societies. That’s what it means to say “the black man is not a man.”

“Sometimes people hold a core belief that is very strong. When they are presented with evidence that works against that belief, the new evidence cannot be accepted. It would create a feeling that is extremely uncomfortable, called cognitive dissonance. And because it is so important to protect the core belief, they will rationalise, ignore and even deny anything that doesn’t fit in with the core belief.”

The quote above from Black Skin White Masks describes how white people react when it is proven to them that white superiority is a myth as PAC founding president Robert Sobukwe said in his 1959 inaugural address.

I wonder why Fanon’s Black Skin White Masks was not made required reading in schools in South Africa after 1994. Sobukwe’s speeches and the 1970 interview with Gail Gerhard should also have been made required reading in schools. I guess it depends on the state of mind of those who were handed a crown without the jewels in 1994.

A noted white historian, Basil Davidson wrote in 1987, “The racism that we know was born in Europe and America from the cultural need to justify doing to black people, doing to Africans, what could not morally or legally be done to white people, and least of all to Europeans.

To justify the enslavement of Africans, in short, it was culturally necessary to believe, or be able to believe, that Africans were inherently and naturally less than human, but were beings of a somehow sub-human, non-human, nature. That was the cultural basis, in this context, of the slave trade and of the modern imperialism in Africa which followed the slave trade.

“The consequence of this need to condemn Africans as less than human — and how otherwise justify enslaving and then invading them? — have been many and various.

“Among these consequences, logically enough, has been a denial of the Africans’ possible possession of histories of their own, and thus of common humanity with other people’s elsewhere. Not surprisingly, this denial began to be heard from eminent spokesmen (such as Hegel in 1830) in Europe as soon as Europe’s modern imperialism imposed a corresponding need to structure and systematise its attitudes to overseas conquest and imperialist enclosure.”

Dr Cheikh Anta Diop writes that “imperialism, like the prehistoric hunter, first killed the being spiritually and culturally, before trying to eliminate it physically. The negation of the history and intellectual accomplishments of Black Africans was cultural, mental murder, which preceded and paved the way for their genocide here and there in the world.”

This article raises the issue of the dehumanisation of Africans in order to demonstrate that even in their brutal assassinations of African leaders, western leaders and their spy agencies convince themselves that “the black man is not a man.” But listen to the same hypocrites criticising suicide bombers as ‘brutish beasts.’

On the 17th January 1961, Africa lost one of its greatest sons, Patrice Lumumba, the first Prime Minister of what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo. On the 20th January 1973, Amilcar Cabral of Guinea Bissau was assassinated in Conakry, Guinea.

On the 3rd February 1969, Dr Eduardo Mondlane, the founder in 1962 of Frelimo and Samora Machel’s predecessor, was assassinated by a parcel bomb in Dar es Salaam. On 21st February 1965, Malcolm X succumbed under a hail of bullets at the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem, New York. On the 1st February 1974, Onkgopotse Tiro, a young Black Consciousness Movement leader was assassinated by a parcel bomb in Gaborone, Botswana. On the 27th February 1978, the founding President of the PAC, Robert Sobukwe died of what PAC members believe was a cancer induced disease. On 7th February 1986, well renowned scholar Cheikh Anta Diop died in his sleep in Senegal.

According to Karl Evanzz’s The Judas Factor: The Plot to Kill Malcolm X — based on more than 300 000 declassified CIA and FBI documents — which I reviewed for the Times Colonist in Victoria, Canada in 1992, Lumumba was killed for his country’s resources and for fear by Dwight Eisenhower’s administration that Lumumba could expel the Rockefeller and Morgan families who controlled the Congo’s economy by virtue of their joint monopoly of the banking system.

The second reason Lumumba was killed was that under pressure from other African nations, he nullified the agreement giving Detwiler carte blanche over his nation’s critical resources.

Following the revocation of the Detwiler contract, Eisenhower apparently concluded that American control of the Congo Central Bank could evaporate as quickly as the Detwiler contract. After his visit to the White House, Ambassador Claire Timberlake, Richard Nixon, Eisenhower and others who had attended the meeting with Lumumba concluded that he could not be trusted. During a National Security Meeting shortly after Lumumba’s visit, Eisenhower indicated that it would be in America’s best interest to remove Lumumba from power, (p.101).

Lumumba’s trouble began the day that he and Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana signed an agreement they regarded as another step toward the creation of the United States of Africa.

A year earlier, Nkrumah had signed an agreement with Sekou Toure of Guinea asking their respective parliaments to ratify a similar agreement. White supremacists held that another man had no right to do what he pleased with his country’s resources and to decide the destiny of his country. This is what Fanon refers to when he says in racist societies a black man is not regarded as human.

Africa was regarded as a big zoo which one of them recently described as a “sh*thole.”

But they are after the minerals and other resources that come from that “sh*thole.” They kill and die for the minerals that come from that “sh*thole.”

Who would believe that the CIA contracted the Mafia and criminals such as Belgian national Colonel Huyghe to execute Lumumba? Lumumba’s two aides, Maurice Mpolo and Joseph Okito, were also killed. Lumumba’s body was placed in a vat of concentrated acid supplied by the CIA and it has never been found — Britain’s MI6 spy agency which Nelson Mandela went to thank for protecting after becoming South African president and the Belgian government are accomplices in the demise of Lumumba. It’s not true that Lumumba escaped, he was lied to that his daughter was on her death bed only to be trapped, caught and killed. UN Secretary-General at the time Dag Hammarskjold was privy to the plot against Lumumba and did nothing to protect him. He would later die in a mysterious plane crash.

According to (kiko-unplugge.blogspot), declassified Portuguese archives and testimonials it is clear that the conspiracy behind Amilcar Cabral’s assassination was a plot involving the Portuguese secret police force PIDE-DGS (Policia Internacional De Defesa do Estado) similar to US CIA and several Guineas PAIGC members led by Momo Toure and Aristides Barbosa, who were both imprisoned in the 60s and later released by the Portuguese. The report continued to state that Amilcar Cabral was murdered by Inocencio Kani a fellow PAICG naval commander at approximately 10:30pm on January 20th 1973 in front of the PAIGC office in Conakry upon his return from a dinner at the Polish embassy accompanied by his then wife while unarmed and unprotected.

Shortly after Cabral’s death with the help of Guinea Conakry’s Sekou Toure, Kani and the rest of the plot leaders were captured and interrogated. About 10 were executed including Kani. At the time of Mondlane’s assassination, the Portuguese government was not as weak as it was during the assassination of Cabral. The Portuguese government probably carried out Mondlane’s assassination without ruling out collaboration by his fellow comrades just like in the case of Cabral and Herbert Chitepo of Zimbabwe.

Africans must revisit this history and protect our genuine leaders and the continent’s resources. We must determine our destiny.

— African Executive
$4,1m Boost for Parastatal Reform in Zimbabwe
January 17, 2018

Photo: Finance and Economic Planning Deputy Minister Terrence Mukupe

Darlington Musarurwa Deputy News Editor
Zimbabwe Herald

The African Development Bank (AfDB), through the African Development Fund, has extended a $4,1 million grant to Zimbabwe, part of which will be used to reform three State-owned enterprises (SOEs) — Agribank, IDBZ and SMEDCO. Government is now scouting for a consultant that is expected to assist in reviewing and providing turnaround plans for the three SOEs which fall under the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning.

Parastatal reform is among key result areas being pursued by Government as it is envisaged to lessen the burden on Government finances and facilitate economic growth. In an announcement at the weekend, the AfDB said the grant was specially meant to finance the Institutional Support for State Enterprise Reform and Delivery Project (ISERDP).

“The Government of Zimbabwe has received a grant from the African Development Fund to finance the Institutional Support for State Enterprise Reform and Delivery Project (ISERDP) and intends to apply part of the agreed amount for these grants to payments under the contract for consultancy services to provide technical assistance to undertake performance reviews and develop turnaround strategies for State enterprises and Parastatals (SEPs) in the banking sector, namely Agribank, the Infrastructure Development Bank of Zimbabwe (IDBZ) and the Small to Medium Enterprises Development Corporation (SMEDCO),” said AfDB in a statement released on Saturday.

It is believed that the consultancy work will help inform Government on how it can intervene to make the entities more efficient and deliver on their mandate.

“The main objective of this assignment is to undertake a detailed assessment of the SEPs governance and technical operating systems, processes and procedures in order to determine the possible quantified and time framed interventions by Government (in terms of governance, systems, capitalisation , et cetera) to improve on the SEPs’ performance in order for them to deliver on their respective mandates, vision and objectives in the most economic, efficient and effective way for the realisation of national socio-economic objectives,” said the Pan-African and Ivory Coast-based development bank.

Government opines that enabling the three SOEs to perform will help to stimulate key sectors of the economy. Agribank is supposed to provide financial support for the agriculture sector, while the IDBZ’s mandate is to provide funding to critical infrastructural projects that are expected to underpin local economic growth.

Apart from raising funds for various local housing projects, IDBZ also provided some resources for the Kariba South expansion project, which is already feeding 150 megawatts (MW) to the local grid. But reforms will cover all the country’s 93 parastatals. Government, through various line ministries, has begun evaluating SOEs, as part of an exercise to identify firms that can either be retained or disposed of.

Failing parastatals, including companies under their portfolio that are beyond redemption, will be shut down. The initiative is part of the 100-day target set by President Mnangagwa. Finance and Economic Planning Deputy Minister Terrence Mukupe this month said line ministries had been directed to come up with comprehensive and exhaustive information on how the SOEs had been faring, including recommendations on the way forward.

Worryingly, the 2016 financial audits show that 38 out of 93 parastatals incurred a combined $270 million loss due to weak corporate governance practices and ineffective control mechanisms.
Davos Beckons •Zimbabwe Set for Maiden Appearance •Turnaround Efforts Pay Dividends
January 17, 2018
Herald Reporter

Zimbabwe will next week make history when President Mnangagwa joins other Heads of State and Government and luminaries from all over the world at the prestigious World Economic Forum’s 48th meeting set for Switzerland. Secretary for Finance and Economic Planning Mr Willard Manungo said the invitation to Davos was in recognition of President Mnangagwa’s efforts in turning around the economy. “The invitation made to His Excellency the President, Cde Emmerson Mnangagwa, is viewed as recognition of the impact he is making in fostering economic reform in Zimbabwe.

“The World Economic Forum meeting is where leaders of various countries exchange views in terms of economic development. The President’s thrust of economic reform, obviously, caught the attention of other countries,” said Mr Manungo. This will mark the first time Zimbabwe attends the forum, with President Mnangagwa being one of only 10 African leaders to grace the prestigious indaba scheduled to run from January 23 to 26 in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland.

The invite could not have come at a better time as the message from the new administration has been Zimbabwe is open for business amid positive vibes and engagements efforts from the Western hemisphere. This year the WEF brings together a record number of Heads of State, Government and international organisations alongside leaders from business, civil society, academia, the arts and media, offering the perfect platform for Zimbabwe to relay its message.

Running under the theme, “Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World”, the meeting will focus on finding ways to reaffirm international cooperation on crucial shared interests, such as international security, the environment and the global economy. Zimbabwe Investment Authority (ZIA) chief executive Richard Mbaiwa told The Herald that the invitation to the forum was key as it would afford the President a chance to market Zimbabwe and to explain the country’s new policy thrust.

“I am sure that he (President Mnangagwa) will be given an opportunity to speak on the new direction that we are taking as a country, the re-engagement process and the policy thrust. “(He will also speak on) the reforms that are taking place in terms of the laws, I am sure indigenisation will also come up, I think it’s a key policy issue that has always been an area of concern to investors, so I am sure it will be articulated.

“So generally it’s an opportunity to us as a country to showcase what we offer and say to investors, you are welcome to invest in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe is open for business,” said Mr Mbaiwa. Attending the conference is also set to improve the country’s risk profile going forward as Government will be able to articulate its position to a wider audience in line with their new approach to doing business.

The Annual Meeting will feature over 340 top political leaders with 10 heads of state and government from Africa, nine from the Middle East and North Africa and six from Latin America. These include; Hailemariam Dessalegn, Prime Minister of Ethiopia; President Mnangagwa; Yemi Osinbajo, Vice-President of Nigeria; Saad Al Hariri, President of the Council of Ministers, Lebanon; His Majesty Abdullah II Bin Al Hussein, King of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan; Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel; and Juan Manuel Santos, President of Columbia.

Alongside international cooperation, an additional priority of the meeting will be to overcome divisions within countries. These have often been caused by breakdowns in the social contract as a result of failure to protect societies from the transformational impacts of a succession of shocks, from globalization to the proliferation of social media and the birth of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Collectively, these shocks have caused a loss of trust in institutions and damaged the relationship between business and society.

“Our world has become fractured by increasing competition between nations and deep divides within societies. Yet the sheer scale of the challenges our world faces makes concerted, collaborative and integrated action more essential than ever. Our Annual Meeting aims to overcome these fault lines by reasserting shared interests among nations and securing multi-stakeholder commitment to renewing social contracts through inclusive growth,” said Professor Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum.

Opening address will be delivered by Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India. Donald Trump, President of the United States of America, will deliver a keynote address before the close of the meeting.

This year a record number of leaders from G7 economies will participate, including Paolo Gentiloni, Prime Minister of Italy; Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission; Emmanuel Macron, President of France; Theresa May, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom; and Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, in addition to President Trump. As well as Prime Minister Modi, other leaders from the G20 include Liu He, Member of Political Bureau and General Director of CPC Central Committee of the People’s Republic of China.
Zimbabwe Government Protests Trump’s ‘Hurtful, Prejudicial Language’
January 17, 2018
Takunda Maodza News Editor—
Zimbabwe Herald

GOVERNMENT yesterday protested recent utterances by US President Donald Trump branding Africa a “sh*thole” and urged Washington to dump its hurtful and prejudicial language, saying it had no place in contemporary times. Mr Trump last week referred to African countries as “sh*tholes” in remarks that ignited protests across the developing world. In statement yesterday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade said the statement by Mr Trump “has shocked and dismayed us”.

“The statement which was attributed to the USA’s President, Mr Donald J. Trump, on 11 January 2018, has shocked and dismayed us. “The USA is a prominent country of which the world expects the best example in its projection of democratic values, commitment to the fight against bigotry, upholding the civil rights of all of its people and generosity towards the less fortunate countries in the world,” said the ministry.

“We join fellow African countries and others in rejecting this unfortunate characterisation of our peoples and countries. “We all desire the amplification of positive relations with the USA, and would hope that care will be taken going forward to avoid jeopardising prospects for those relations through such hurtful and prejudicial language from any official quarter in the USA.”

The ministry said international relations must be based on mutual respect. “Zimbabwe, and we believe the majority of countries in the world, desire relations based on mutual acceptance and respect, values that serve and demonstrate the human family at its best. Bigotry and hate speech must find no place in contemporary statecraft and diplomatic discourse,” it said.

In condemning Mr Trump’s utterances, Zimbabwe joins other African countries that have expressed anger and dismay over the statement by the American leader. South African diplomats met US embassy’s Charge d’Affaires on Monday and raised concern over the unfortunate remarks by Mr Trump.

Its Department of International Relations and Cooperation said international reaction to the Trump remarks served as a united affirmation of the dignity of the people of Africa and the African Diaspora.

Ever since he made the statement, Mr Trump has tweeted retractions claiming that he is not a racist and that he never used such language during an Oval Office meeting on immigration last Thursday. Mr Trump said African countries alongside Haiti and El Salvador constituted “sh*tholes” from where migrants into the United States are undesirable”. The African Union has since expressed outrage and disappointment over the Trump remarks.

“The African Union Mission wishes to express its infuriation, disappointment and outrage over the unfortunate comment made by Mr. Donald Trump, President of the United States of America, which remarks dishonor the celebrated American creed and respect for diversity and human dignity,” it said in a statement to the United States.

The AU demanded a retraction of the comment and an apology to Africans and all people of African descent globally. Botswana also summoned the US ambassador to Gaborone last week and expressed its displeasure over the reckless and racist remarks by the loquacious US president.
Syrian Army Establishes Control Over New Areas in Aleppo and Hama Countryside
16 January، 2018

Provinces, SANA – Syrian Arab Army units continue to advance in their operations against Jabhat al-Nusra terrorists and other terror groups affiliated to it in Aleppo’s southern countryside.

SANA reporter said on Tuesday that army units and supporting forces are carrying out operations against al-Nusra terrorists in the southern countryside of Aleppo, and in the recent hours the army established control over Maseh and Tel Maseh villages west of the town of Tel al-Daman after clashes with al-Nusra terrorists and the affiliated groups to it.

Earlier, the army established control over al-Shaheed hill northwest of Jafr Mansour village around 60 km south of Aleppo city, after destroying the terrorists’ fortified positions in the area.

The reporter said that the army took advantage of the vantage point represented by al-Shaheed hill, targeting with preemptive fire the supply lines of al-Nusra and groups affiliated to it in the surrounding area, and then launched a focused operation that resulted in establishing control over the villages of Uwainat Saghira, Uwainat Kabira, and Marhamiye.

The reporter said that the army’s engineering units are combing the hill and the liberated villages and dismantling the explosives planted by the terrorists, while army units are pursuing the remaining fleeing terrorists in the surrounding area.

The army restores a hill in Hama countryside

Units of the Syrian Arab Army established full control over Motilat Hill in the northeastern countryside of Hama.

SANA’s reporter in Hama said army units, in cooperation with allied forces, continued military operations in the northeastern countryside of Hama and engaged in fierce battles with Daesh terrorists in the area, establishing control over Motilat Hill, tightening noose around the villages of Totah and Abu Harik.

A number of terrorists were killed as a result of the operations in addition to the destruction of all their vehicles and dens in the Hill, the reporter added.

English Bulletin

3,000 displaced persons return to their towns in Deir Ezzor countryside

16 January، 2018

Deir Ezzor, SANA- Hundreds of families returned to their homes and towns in Deir Ezzor province’s eastern countryside which the Syrian Arab Army had liberated from Daesh (ISIS).

SANA’s reporter said that three thousand persons returned on Tuesday to their towns and homes in Deir Ezzor countryside as state establishments resumed operations and services were restored after the army removed all landmines and explosive devices planted by Daesh in the towns.

The reporter added that all workers started working in all the state institutions to provide most of the services for the displaced families who came back, such as providing drinking water, food, communications, and fuel, as well education, medical, and police services.

Army units, along with supporting forces, restored safety and security to many villages, towns, and farms in Deir Ezzor’s eastern countryside following operations against Daesh which resulted in killing thousands of terrorists and destroying hundreds of their vehicles and car bombs.

Maya Dayoub / Hazem Sabbagh
Two Civilians Including Child Killed, Six Injured in Terrorist Attacks in Aleppo, Damascus and Hama
16 January، 2018

Provinces, SANA- Two civilians, one of them a child, were killed and three others were injured on Tuesday due to a terrorist shell attack on al-Nile Street in Aleppo city.

A source at Aleppo Police Command said that terrorists, positioned in the western outskirts of Aleppo city, targeted the city with a number of shells as one of them fell on a kindergarten in al-Nile Street, killing a two year-old child and the driver of the kindergarten’s bus, and injuring three teachers.

Later, a source at Damascus Police Command said that armed groups located in the Eastern Ghouta area in Damascus Countryside fired a rocket a shell which struck a building near al-Tahi roundabout in Masaken Barzeh neighborhood in Damascus city, injuring one woman and causing material damage to houses and properties.

SANA’s correspondent said that the Syrian Arab Army responded to the attack by targeting the area from which the shell was launched with precision strikes, inflicting losses upon the armed groups.

In Hama, two women were seriously injured  when terrorist organizations targeted with rocket shells al-Saan town in the eastern countryside of the province.

The terrorist organizations fired two rocket shells on al-Saan town in the eastern countryside of Hama, injuring two women who were rushed to al-Salamiyeh National Hospital, in addition to causing material damage to citizens’ properties, according to SANA’s reporter.

English Bulletin
Khamenei: Iran Assumes Its Duty Towards Syria
16 January، 2018

Tehran, SANA- Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution in Iran Ali Khamenei said that Iran assumes its duty towards Syria because “this is its mission.”

Khamenei met speakers of the parliaments and delegations participating in the 13th Session of the Parliamentary Union of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Conference in Tehran on Tuesday.

During the meeting, Khamenei asked Speaker of the People’s Assembly, Hammoudah Sabbagh, to convey his amity and greetings to President Bashar al-Assad.

Khamenei, commenting on the US decision concerning Jerusalem, said that the Americans would not be able to carry out this measure and their efforts will not bear fruit.

For his part, Speaker Sabbagh conveyed President al-Assad’s greetings to Khamenei and the Syrian people’s amity and thanks for all the efforts exerted by Iran to support Syria’s steadfastness in the face of conspiracy to which it is exposed.

He expressed the Syrian people and leadership’s solidarity with Iran against the threats posed from outside.

Lavrov, Zarif Discuss Settlement of Crisis in Syria
16 January، 2018

Moscow, SANA – Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif discussed means to settle the crisis in Syria in a phone conversation on Tuesday.

The two sides exchanged views on a number of vital international issues, in particular the settlement of the crisis in Syria in the context of holding the Syrian National Dialogue Congress in the Russian city of Sochi, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

On Monday, Lavrov said that Russia will carry on with counterterrorism efforts in Syria in parallel with the preparations for holding the Syrian National Dialogue Congress in Sochi.

Manar al-Freih / Hazem Sabbagh
Rouhani: Iran Will Continue Backing Syria Till Victory Over Terrorism is Achieved
16 January، 2018

Tehran, SANA – Iranian President Hassan Rouhani affirmed on Tuesday that his country will continue supporting the Syrian government and people in their war on terrorism until the final victory in that battle is achieved.

The Iranian President’s remarks came during a meeting with Speaker of the Syrian People’s Assembly Hammoudeh Sabbagh, who heads the Syrian delegation to the Conference of Union of Councils of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Member States, which kicked off on the Iranian Capital of Tehran earlier this day.

Rouhani denounced the illegal presence of US forces on Syrian soil, which violates international laws and norms, indicating that Washington is leading a conspiracy against the sovereignty and unity of Syria and against the entire region.

He also stressed the importance of continuing the fight against terrorism and facing foreign intervention.

Manar al-Freih / Hazem Sabbagh
Union of Councils of Member States of OIC Conference Kicks Off With Participation of Syria 
16 January، 2018

Tehran, SANA- The conference of Union of Councils of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Member States kicked off in Tehran on Tuesday with the participation of Syria.

The Syrian delegation to the conference is headed by Speaker of the People’s Assembly, Hammoudah Sabbagh.

In his speech at the opening of conference, Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani, has said that the Islamic states should unite and cooperate for rooting out extremism and terrorism and drying up their sources.

President Rouhani added that Iran was one of the pioneer countries which helped fighting terrorism and stood by Syria and Iraq in facing the terrorist powers.

He  stressed that one of the most important reasons for destabilizing the Middle East region is continuation of Zionist occupation of the Arab lands and the US government’s unwavering support and bias to this usurping entity and depriving the Palestinian people of their fundamental rights to establish an independent Palestinian state with al-Quds (Jerusalem) as its capital.

In turn, Speaker of the Iranian Shura Council, Ali Larijani, stressed the need for enhancing cooperation among the OIC member states in all domains, particularly in the economic field.

“Today, we are in dire need to further cooperation among the Islamic states in all domains,” Larijani said, hoping the conference to come up with outcomes that upgrade to the level of aspirations of the Islamic states.

Lebanon’s Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri , called for supporting the resistance of the Palestinian people in all its forms to realize the dream of return, self-determination and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

He urged the Arab countries to make a clear declaration recognizing the state of Palestine with al-Quds as its eternal capital.

Syria’s Ambassador to Tehran, Dr. Adnan Mahmoud, attended the opening of the conference.

On Saturday, activities of the 13th session of Union of Councils of Member States of OIC Conference were launched in Tehran with participation of Syria, experts and representatives of 44 states.

The five-day Conference is an annual event that tackles matters important to the Islamic states including the Palestinian Cause.

H. Zain/ Ghossoun
Arab Writers Union: Al-Quds Will Remain Arab in Identity
16 January، 2018

Damascus, SANA – The General Secretariat of the Arab Writers Union (AWU) affirmed that Al-Quds (Jerusalem) will remain Arab in identity and the capital of Palestine, condemning the US administration’s decision to recognize Al-Quds as the capital of the Israeli occupation entity.

In the recommendations and decisions issued at the conclusion of the periodic meeting of the Permanent Bureau of the AWU, which was held in Damascus over three days, the AWU called on all the unions in its member countries to raise the Palestinian flag next to each union building.

The Union announced that it will print a black book in many languages documenting the crimes committed by the Israeli occupation authorities in Palestine and Arab countries, and it will sent the book to the international cultural organizations and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and its affiliated institutions.

The Union stressed the the need to be open to changes in human life and the latest developments in science and technology.

Shaza / Hazem Sabbagh
Egyptian, Ethiopian FMs to Meet in Cairo on Wednesday for Cooperation Committee Talks
Ahram Online
Tuesday 16 Jan 2018

Egyptian foreign minister Sameh Shoukry will hold talks with his Ethiopian counterpart Tedros Adhanom in Cairo on Wednesday as part of meetings by a high-level joint cooperation committee.

The ministerial talks of the sixth meeting of the joint Egyptian-Ethiopian Higher Committee will set the stage for discussions between Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi andEthiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn this week.

The last meeting of the committee was held three years ago.

The new round will tackle regional and international political developments as well as discuss means of boosting bilateral economic, social and artistic ties, Egypt's foreign ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.

The talks will also involve the signing of multiple memorandums of understanding, with officials from the ministries of trade, investment, irrigation, tourism and electricity to attend.

Tensions between Egypt and Ethiopia heightened in recent years over Ethiopia's Grand Renaissance Dam, which Egypt worries could reduce its share of Nile water.

Ethiopia, which aims to become Africa’s biggest power exporter, says the dam will not have a negative impact on Egypt.

'Egypt Doesn't Conspire or Fight Against Its Brothers': President Sisi Tells Sudan and Ethiopia
Ahram Online
Monday 15 Jan 2018

Egypt is not willing to enter into a war with brotherly nations, President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi affirmed on Monday during his inauguration of several development projects in the country.

El-Sisi's statements come amidst recent rising tensions between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia.

"We will not enter a war. I tell this to our brothers in Ethiopia and Sudan: Egypt doesn’t conspire or interfere in the affairs of any country and is very keen on maintaining good relations between our nations," the president added.

"It is already enough what the region has already witnessed in the past years. We have a fixed policy of development, building and construction and nothing else," El-Sisi said.

"I say again, we will not enter a war against anybody, our country needs every pound," the Egyptian president added.

Sudan withdrew its ambassador from Cairo earlier this month after renewing its complaint to the United Nations Security Council over the Halayeb triangle region.

The Halayeb Triangle, located on Egypt's southern border with Sudan, has been a source of tension between the two countries since Sudan gained independence from joint British and Egyptian rule in 1956.

Both Cairo and Khartoum lay claim to the 20,580-square kilometer region, though Egypt exercises administrative control over it.

Relations between Egypt and Ethiopia have been strained in recent months over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) negotiations.

Last November, negotiations between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia broke down over how to conduct technical studies of the dam's potential impact on downstream countries.

Egypt approved of the initial report by the European consultancy firms, though Ethiopia and Sudan demanded major amendments to the proposed studies.

The dam, situated near Ethiopia's border with Sudan, is slated for completion this year and expected to generate 6,000 megawatts of electricity.

Ethiopia hopes to be able to export electricity generated by the dam, which will be the largest hydroelectric power plant in Africa.

Cairo, however, has expressed concerns that the dam might reduce its share of Nile water.

Ethiopia maintains that the dam will not have any negative impact on Egypt or Sudan.

The Ethiopian Dam: Escaping the Deadlock
Doaa El-Bey
Ahram Weekly
Monday 1 Jan 2018

Construction of the Renaissance Dam continues apace despite the failure to complete technical studies

Though more than one round of technical talks took place this year, the Ethiopian minister of foreign affairs visited Cairo in April and Egypt’s minister of irrigation made an official visit to the Ethiopian Renaissance Dam in October these potentially positive signs appeared to lead nowhere.

The same is true of the issuing of a preliminary report on Ethiopia’s Renaissance Dam in March and Addis Ababa’s repeated reiteration that it remains committed to the2015 declaration of principles which includes a provision none of the signatories will cause harm to the others.

In meetings on the periphery of the African Union Summit in June and during the UN General Assembly in September, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri voiced Egypt’s worries about the failure to finish the required technical studies on the hydrological, environmental and economic impacts of the dam on Egypt and Sudan, yet as the year ends 62 per cent of construction work on the dam has been completed.

“Egypt initially dealt with the file as a chance for cooperation between downstream and upstream Nile Basin state that could benefit all. Unfortunately, the deadlock on the technical track does not reflect the timetable recognised in the Khartoum Agreement which states studies on the impact of filling the reservoir must be undertaken before the work continues,” Shoukri said during a meeting with his Italian counterpart earlier this month.

Mona Omar, former assistant foreign minister for African affairs, argues that while the past 12 months saw a clear failure to progress on the technical track, issuing the preliminary report on the planned studies, increased cooperation between Cairo and Addis Ababa, and greater understanding on the part of the political leadership in both countries of the others’ position could be seen as positive developments.

“While the technical track is very important it cannot be divorced from the political process. The problem is not the sole responsibility of the Ministry of Irrigation but must be tackled on all levels,” she told Al-Ahram Weekly.

Mohamed Hegazi, an expert on Nile-related issues, believes “involving a third party” could help break the deadlock on the technical track.

The tripartite technical committee has held three meetings since September, the last of them in Cairo in November, in the hope of reaching agreement on the preliminary report prepared by two French consultancy firms which outlines the methodology to be adopted by the technical studies which will assess the effects of the dam on downstream countries. Following the November meeting Minister of Irrigation Mohamed Abdel-Ati declared that the technical track had failed. “The constant delays have raised concerns about the three states’ ability to work together to ensure Egypt’s water security,” he said.

The technical committee also failed to agree on a timetable for the filling of the reservoir and protocols for the operation of the dam once it is complete.

Ethiopia wants the reservoir filled within three years whereas Egypt is seeking a seven to 10 year period in order to minimise the impact of water flow.

The Khartoum Agreement, signed in December 2015, stipulates that the reservoir can only start to be filled once all technical studies are complete. The studies were supposed to begin in September 2016, with preliminary reports issued every three months and a final report after 11 months at most. Yet 15 months later a single preliminary report has appeared.

The agreement also allows for field visits to the construction site by Egyptian and Sudanese experts, and in October the ministers of irrigation of Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt visited the site.

With no solution to the deadlock found in 2017 most analysts believe a breakthrough now hinges on the exercise of sufficient political will.

Hopes are being pinned on a visit to Cairo by the Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn initially scheduled for December but now delayed – tentatively – to January.

Egyptian officials are also raising the issue of the dam during bilateral meetings, which is what Shoukri did this month with his Saudi and Italian counterparts.

“We can also refer the issue to international bodies like the African Union and the UN. After all, water security is a human right,” says Mona Omar, former assistant foreign minister for African affairs.

Hegazi argues that pushing ahead with the Nile Corridor Project which seeks to establish a mechanism by which dams in Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt are linked in a manner that ensures the level and storage capacities of one and are not adversely affected by another that could help facilitate wider cooperation. The project envisages a network of links that will include roads, railways and power grids which Hegazi says will boost political understanding and have a positive effect on relations between the three states.

Since Addis Ababa began building the dam in 2011 Cairo has repeatedly voiced its concern the dam will reduce Egypt’s annual share of Nile water.

The dam will generate 6,000 megawatts of electricity. It is planned as Africa’s largest hydro-electric power plant with a storage capacity of 74 billion cubic metres. Partial operation is likely to start by the middle of 2018.

*This article was first published in Al-Ahram Weekly

Egypt's Sisi Hails Late President Nasser's Legacy on 100th Birthday
Ahram Online
Monday 15 Jan 2018

Late Egyptian president Gamal Abdel-Nasser embodied the people's hopes for independence and dignity, said President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi in a televised speech on Monday

Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi has hailed the accomplishments of late president Gamal Abdel-Nasser on the occasion of his 100th birthday, saying that he exerted his utmost efforts to ensure Egypt's well-deserved regional and international status.

In a televised speech on Monday, El-Sisi said Nasser - who was born on 15 January,1918 - the Egyptian nation’s ability to carry out independent economic development and to defeat poverty and ignorance.

“Egypt today celebrates the birth of Gamal Abdel-Nasser whose life-journey embodied the people's hopes for independence and dignity," said El-Sisi "He expressed those hopes with devotion and pride. That's why the Egyptian people have continued to hold him in high regard, even after his death, and his name remains a symbol of the people's hopes for controlling their destiny."

El-Sisi added that the late president worked hard during his period in office, operating within the limitations and requirements of his era.

“Abdel-Nasser’s influence extended to inspiring the revolutions of national liberation, not only in the Arab region, but globally, because the struggle of the Egyptian people under his leadership was inspirational and motivational to liberation movements in Africa, Asia, and Latin America,” El-Sisi said.

Egypt became a symbol of principles of national dignity, independence, and non-alignment in political foreign policy, El-Sisi added.

The late president believed in the Egyptian people’s ability to accomplish national self-development, said El-Sisi, as well as fighting poverty, ignorance and disease, which were the result of centuries of foreign occupation and the exploitation of the resources and riches of Egypt, and of other nations.

“He gave special importance to achieving social justice, to provide the vast majority of the nation with opportunities for a decent life,” El-Sisi said.

Born in Alexandria to a family which hailed from Upper Egypt's Assuit, Nasser remains a symbol of dignity, pan-Arabism, and social justice for millions around the Arab world.

Nasser and the Free Officers movement led the 23 July, 1952 revolution that toppled the British-backed monarchy in Egypt.

He served as president until his death on 28 September, 1970.

In his speech on Monday, El-Sisi said that the Egyptian state continues to devote efforts to accomplishing the country’s higher interests, with the security of the nation and its territories among it's main goals, along with prosperity for a population which grew since Nasser's era from 20 million in 1952 to the current figure of 100 million.

Egypt's PM Stresses Respect for Upper Egyptians Following Minister's Controversial Remarks
Ahram Online
Tuesday 16 Jan 2018

Sherif Ismail sought to calm tensions after comments earlier this week from newly-appointed Minister for Local Development Abu Bakr El-Guindy that some deemed insulting to Upper Egyptians

Egypt's Prime Minister Sherif Ismail has stressed that his cabinet respects Upper Egyptians and that the development of the country's south is a priority, following controversial remarks by a newly-appointed minister which seemed to blame Upper Egyptians for contributing to the growth of Cairo's expansive slum areas.

Earlier this week, the newly-appointed Minister for Local Development Abu Bakr El-Guindy told satellite TV channel Al-Hayat that he aims to encourage investment in Upper Egypt to create job opportunities so that "Upper Egyptians stop taking the train and coming to Cairo ... and forming slums here."

His comments sparked uproar, with several MPs demanding that he apologise for what they deemed prejudiced comments.

The minister apologised shortly after, saying that his remarks were "misunderstood".

In a cabinet statement late on Monday, PM Ismail said that Upper Egypt is a "precious" part of Egypt and is "at the heart of the comprehensive development plan that aims to offer a better future" and prosperity for Egyptians living in Upper Egypt.

In Egypt, where tens of millions of people live below the poverty line, large numbers of people from the impoverished rural south migrate to the capital Cairo in search of jobs and better living conditions.

A 2016 report by Egypt's official statistics agency CAMPAS said that 57 percent of rural areas in the country's south are poor, with the highest poverty rates appearing in the southern govenorates of Sohag, Assiut and Qena.

Many Egyptians have long blamed previous governments for neglecting to develop that part of the country.

Moody's Expects Growth in Egypt to Accelerate to Around 5% by 2019 
Ahram Online
Tuesday 16 Jan 2018

Moody's expects GDP growth to accelerate further to 5.5% by 2021

Moody’s expects Egypt’s GDP growth to accelerate to around 5 percent by 2019 and 5.5 percent by 2021, up from 4.2 percent in 2017, the credit rating agency said on Tuesday.

The forecast for GDP growth in Egypt comes “as structural reforms support more broad-based activity compared to the mostly consumption-driven pre-reform growth model,” Moody’s said.

Egypt had revised its GDP growth forecast to 5.3-5.5 percent for fiscal year 2017/18, from a previous 4.8 percent, the Planning Ministry announced last week.

Moody's forecast was part of the agency’s announcement of a stable outlook for the Levant and North Africa in 2018 on the back of improving growth that “offsets persistent fiscal and political risks.”

“High debt levels, low debt affordability, large funding needs and relatively high debt roll-over rates increase Lebanon, Egypt, and Jordan's exposure to a sharper-than-expected rise in interest rates,” the agency added.

This comes despite the fact that fiscal reform programmes and liquidity assistance mitigate exposure to higher interest rates, Moody's notes.

The agency also said that fiscal consolidation will be more challenging for Tunisia, Egypt and Lebanon.

Moody’s Investors Service had affirmed in August 2017 Egypt's long-term issuer and senior unsecured bond ratings at B3, maintaining a stable outlook.

The agency left Egypt’s rating unchanged since then, a decision mainly driven by the country's high debt levels.

Egypt's Elections Authority Sets Cap of EGP 20 Million for Campaign Financing in Presidential Elections
Ahram Online
Tuesday 16 Jan 2018

Egypt's National Elections Authority has set a cap of EGP 20 million (1.3 million) on campaign financing for each candidate running in the country's upcoming presidential elections, which are set for 26-28 March.

The ceiling for campaign financing during the run-off period – if one were to take place – is set at EGP 5 million ($282,000), the authority said on Tuesday.

Candidates must mostly finance their campaigns with their own private funds, and are allowed to receive donations of no more that 2 percent of the funding limit.

The decision also prohibits contributions from foreign countries, organisations or individuals. It also requires candidates to keep a detailed record of contributions and their sources, which are to be presented to the authority one day after the end of the campaigning period.

The campaigning period will start on 24 February and end on 23 March.

Candidates are to deposit the campaign funds in a bank account that will serve as the sole source of campaign expenditures, with the authority to be informed of all transactions.

According to the election timeline announced by the authority last week, candidates must register their candidacy between 20-29 January.

If no single participant wins a majority vote in the first round, a run-off will be held on 24-26 April.

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi not announced his intention to run for a second term, although he is widely expected to run and is favoured to win.

Several others have announced their candidacy for president, including prominent rights lawyer Khaled Ali, former army chief-of-staff Sami Anan, and lawyer and Zamalek Sporting Club chairman Mortada Mansour.

Egypt's Al-Azhar to Hold International Conference 'in Support of Jerusalem' on Wednesday
Ahram Online
Tuesday 16 Jan 2018

Egypt's Al-Azhar – the world's foremost institution of Sunni Islamic learning – is holding an international conference on Wednesday that will be attended by officials from 86 countries to discuss the issue of Jerusalem.

The conference, which will be held on 17 and 18 January at Al-Azhar Conference Centre in Cairo, will highlight a number of issues including “raising awareness about the issue of Jerusalem and emphasising its Arab and Islamic identity,” according to a statement by Al-Azhar.

The event, which comes under the auspices of Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, will be held nearly one month after a decision by US President Donald Trump decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

The conference will be attended by the head of Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Church Pope Tawadros II, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, as well as the heads of Arab Islamic and Christian organisations.

The conference will tackle three main themes; affirming Jerusalem’s Arab status, raising awareness about the Jerusalem issue, and highlighting the international community's responsibility regarding the holy city.

The event, which will be led by Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Sheikh Ahmed El-Tayyeb, is expected to conclude with several recommendations that support the Palestinian cause and stress the rights of Palestinians to establish an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital.

“The conference will also discuss preserving Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem in addition to a number of measures and decisions that will educate young people about the issue of Jerusalem, its history and its holy sites,” the statement added.

Following Trump's decision on Jerusalem, which sparked protests in several Arab countries, Egypt presented a draft resolution to the Security Council on behalf of Arab countries that would have required the US to reverse its decision.

The resolution was vetoed by the US, though it gained support from all 14 other members of the Security Council, including key US allies Britain, France, Italy, Japan and Ukraine.

A total of 128 countries later voted in the UN General Assembly in favour of a resolution condemning Trump's decision and calling on the US to reverse the move.

Egypt has consistently maintained its full support for a two-state solution along the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state.

World’s Fifth-Largest Diamond Found in Lesotho
The 910-carat gem is a D-color, type-IIa stone, meaning it is completely colorless and has no visible impurities

By Jason Daley
JANUARY 16, 2018 1:43PM

Miners in the African kingdom of Lesotho have found a 910-carat diamond, the fifth-largest ever discovered. According to Thomas Biesheuvel at Bloomberg, the 6.4-ounce rough stone is about the size of two golf balls and comes from the Letšeng mine, operated by the London firm Gem Diamonds.

The New York Times’ Richard Pérez-Peña​​ reports that it is rated a D color, a rare completely colorless diamond; it is also rated Type IIa, which means the stone has no noticeable nitrogen or boron impurities.

This is not the only mega-diamond extracted from the mine. According to a press release from Gem Diamonds, it states that since it took over the mine 12 years ago, it has recovered seven other diamonds sizing in at or above 299 carats. However, this find is of particular note for the mine. “[T]his exceptional top quality diamond is the largest to be mined to date,” explains Clifford Elphick, company CEO.

So what will happen to the huge diamond? While Pérez-Peña​​ of the Times reports that the company has not announced immediate plans for the gem, Biesheuvel of Bloomberg points out that the sale of other recent gem-quality diamonds could serve as a guide.

To offer some point of comparison, the mine’s 603-carat diamond find, dubbed Lesotho Promise, was auctioned off in 2006 for $12.4 million. Last September, Lucara, another diamond company, sold the 1,109-carat Lesedi La Rona, the second largest gem-quality diamond ever found, called for $53 million. The same company also sold an 813-carat stone recovered around the same time, named “The Constellation,” for $63 million in 2016.

It’s likely the Gem Diamonds’ rock will sell in the tens of millions. “The pricing of diamonds is hugely variable and driven by a multitude of factors,” Ben Davis, analyst for Liberum Capital Markets, tells Biesheuvel. “But assuming that there are no large inclusions running through the diamond, we initially estimate a sale of $40 million.”

The largest diamond ever discovered remains the 3,106-carat Cullinan diamond found near Pretoria in South Africa in 1905. The mine’s owner, Sir Thomas Cullinan presented all 1.33 pounds of the stone to Edward VII of the United Kingdom as a birthday present. That stone was then cut into nine large stones and 100 smaller ones. Many of the stones have become part of the crown jewels. The largest stone, the 530-carat Cullinan I, named the Star of Africa, is now part of the U.K.’s Royal Sceptre, and the 317-carat Cullianan II is mounted on the U.K.’s Imperial State Crown.

About Jason Daley
Jason Daley is a Madison, Wisconsin-based writer specializing in natural history, science, travel, and the environment. His work has appeared in Discover, Popular Science, Outside, Men’s Journal, and other magazines.

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Giant 910-carat Diamond Mined in Southern Africa Kingdom of Lesotho
Kevin McCoy, USA TODAY
2:02 p.m. ET Jan. 16, 2018

One of the biggest diamonds in history has been discovered and it’s going to give Queen Elizabeth's collection a run for its money.

(Photo: Gem Diamonds, via EPA-EFE)

One of the largest diamonds in world history has been mined in the southern Africa kingdom of Lesotho.

The gem, equivalent to 182 grams and roughly the size of two golf balls, was recovered in Lesotho's historically-productive Letšeng mine, according to United Kingdom-based Gem Diamonds.

The stone is believed to be the fifth-largest diamond ever recovered in world history. It is a D color Type IIa diamond, which means the gem has little to no nitrogen atoms and is among the highest quality and expensive stones, Bloomberg News reported.

"This exceptional top quality diamond is the largest to be mined to date and highlights the unsurpassed quality of the Letšeng mine," Gem Diamonds CEO Clifford Elphick said in a statement about the discovery. "This is a landmark recovery for all of Gem Diamonds' stakeholders, including our employees, shareholders and the government of Lesotho, our partner in the Letšeng mine."

The Letšeng mine is famed for recovery of large, top-color, exceptional white diamonds, making it the highest dollar per carat kimberlite diamond mine in the world, Gem said.

Since 2006, the mine has been the recovery site for seven other diamonds of 299 carats or more in size. The finds include the 603-carat Lesotho Promise, recovered in 2006. Gem sold a 357-carat diamond found at the Letšeng mine for $19.3 million in September 2015.

What is a whopping 709-carat diamond worth? It's a mystery in Sierra Leone

Gem Diamonds did not disclose the estimated value of the 910-carat stone or reveal how the gem would be marketed and sold.

The largest diamond ever discovered is the 3,106-carat Cullinan, found in 1905 near Pretoria, South Africa.

The stone, which weighs just over 37 carats, will be auctioned in Geneva. Video provided by Reuters Newslook

Follow USA TODAY reporter Kevin McCoy on Twitter: @kmccoynyc
'Employ Us or Kill Us': Tunisian Youth on the Margins
by Jillian Kestler-D'Amours
Al Jazeera

Ettadhamen is home to more than 200,000 people with unemployment between 15-30 percent [Jillian Kestler D'Amours/Al Jazeera]

Ettadhamen, Tunisia - Montasser Khedher turned 24 on Monday. But he didn't have much to celebrate.

Instead, he spent a large part of his birthday on a plastic chair on the curb, across from a cafe in this suburb of the capital, an empty cup of coffee on the table between himself and about half a dozen friends.

"Ettadhamen is seen in a bad light," Khedher told Al Jazeera about his neighbourhood.

Home to more than 200,000 people, Ettadhamen ("solidarity" in Arabic) is a largely impoverished town in the greater Tunis area, less than a dozen kilometres west of the city centre.

Once a rural area, families began moving into the now densely populated town in large numbers in the 1970s, as Tunisia experienced a wave of internal migration to the country's urban centres.

Today, while Ettadhamen's main arteries are lined with clothing stores, restaurants, bank kiosks and fruit and vegetable stalls, the area is perhaps best known for its high unemployment and youth delinquency.

Khedher finished high school and has a driver's license, but he said he cannot find any work. While he is among many other young, unemployed Tunisians, he said being from Ettadhamen puts him at a distinct disadvantage.

"If you go to look for a job and say you live in Ettadhamen, people will feel uncomfortable. They think you're going to steal," Khedher said.

Police regularly stop and search him or demand his ID card any time he goes into downtown Tunis, he said.

Despite their age, the situation has already taken a toll on Khedher and his friends.

"Either they employ us or it's better that they kill us," he said. "At least then we'll be able to rest."

Frequent clashes

Sunday marked the seventh anniversary of the fall of Tunisian leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who was forced from power after the Tunisian revolution.

People gathered for a commemoration in the capital while protesters marched along the main avenue downtown, to demand the government cancel a contentious budget law that has hiked up prices.

For many people across the country, the economic situation has remained the same, or worsened, since the Ben Ali era. Unemployment sits at about 15 percent, while some 30 percent of youth are without jobs.

On Sunday night, youth in Ettadhamen clashed with police who reportedly fired tear gas into the neighbourhood. The young protesters threw stones and set tyres on fire to block roads, local media reported.

It wasn't the first time frustrated youth from the area battled security forces since the anti-austerity protests began this month.

But, according to Khedher, the problem is that Ettadhamen is over-policed.

"With or without protests, even if we didn't do anything, if we're just sitting around, [the police will] shoot tear gas," he said.

Before the clashes broke out on Sunday, the neighbourhood was full of police and military officials who closed roads and set up barricades.

Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi was in town to highlight the refurbishment of a local youth centre. Essebsi described it as "the starting point of a new policy that will give more attention to the youth who led the revolution", local media reported.

But Khedher said he was frustrated that the state would allocate money to a youth centre, when residents have trouble making enough money to meet their basic needs.

"It's better for them to give [the money] to people to eat," he said. "If I get hungry, will I eat a book?"

'We want to work'

Maha Kasdaoui, a youth programme director with the Amal Association for the Family and Child, which works to support young people in Ettadhamen, told Al Jazeera economic conditions are dismal.

Without any activities or programmes to join locally, youth in the area often fall into delinquency, which can mean "stealing, engaging in crime [and] consuming alcohol and drugs", she explained.

"Dropping out of school is the main reason children's behaviours change. They find themselves in the street with nothing to do," Kasdaoui said.

Teenagers are in a critical period between the age of 14-17, when they are most vulnerable to dropping out of school.

"We're working within the framework of the rights of the child: the right to participate [in society], the right to go to school, the right to life and dignity," she said.

But a place like Ettadhamen is "forgotten [and] marginalised" and children here are "not given a chance compared with [children in] other neighbourhoods", she added.

As Al Jazeera spoke to Khedher and his friends on the pavement, another local resident rolled down the window of a white van, its right-side door wide open.

He had turned the vehicle into a makeshift taxi to take residents around the area. Each ride costs less than one Tunisian dinar - about 30 US cents, he said.

"We want to work, but the state doesn't want us to work," the man, who didn't give Al Jazeera his name, said from his window before driving down the street to pick up another passenger.

Another young Ettadhamen resident Moslim, one of Khedher's friends at the cafe who gave only his first name, said he relies on cannabis and ecstasy to make it through the day.

"Every day people use these things here," said the 22-year-old who didn't want to give his real name.

He said he's been doing drugs since he was eight.

"If you're fully awake", Moslim said, "you'll set yourself and everyone around you on fire."

In recent years, Ettadhamen has also become tied to violence as many youth from the town - as well as other parts of the country - have gone to Syria and Iraq to join groups such as Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS).

Mohamed Iqbel Ben Rejeb, head of the Rescue Association of Tunisians Trapped Abroad, which works to repatriate those who have joined violent groups abroad, said youth across the social spectrum in Tunisia have been recruited.

"Rich, poor, educated, non-educated, this phenomenon touched everyone," he said.

Ben Rejeb told Al Jazeera government estimates show 27,500 Tunisians have attempted to join violent groups abroad since March 2013.

About 3,000 succeeded in reaching conflict zones, and 900 Tunisians who joined such groups have returned to Tunisia so far.

But young people in a place such as Ettadhamen are particularly vulnerable to extremist ideologies because they are marginalised and live in "one of the most densely populated neighbourhoods in the world", Ben Rejeb explained.

"With so many marginalised youth, we've seen many [from Ettadhamen] who were enlisted to join conflict zones," he said.

"They are looking for jobs. They are looking to be listened to. They are looking for something to do."

Meanwhile, some residents have left Tunisia to start their lives elsewhere, including Oussama, 26, who grew up in Ettadhamen but left the country in 2012.

He told Al Jazeera he took a boat with dozens of other undocumented migrants to Italy, and today he is a resident of France.

"It's dangerous, but there are no other choices," said Oussama, who didn't give Al Jazeera his surname.

Back in town to visit his family, he said life in Ettadhamen has always been hard. Youth can't get jobs and there is nothing to keep them busy. "There's one football field but if people don't work, why would they go play?" he said.

For residents here, the Tunisian revolution "changed nothing", Oussama said.

"In fact, it's the opposite. Things have become more difficult."
Tunisia: Simmering Discontent
Real risk of complacency about country’s democratic path

Irish Times

Seven years after Tunisians took to the streets to oust the dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, crowds returned to the streets of Tunis in recent days in search of the lost promise of that uprising. Reviving the 2011 demand for “employment, freedom and national dignity”, Tunisians of various political stripes marched on Avenue Habib Bourguiba – the epicentre of the protests that culminated in Ben Ali’s departure. Some of the protests turned violent, with clashes reported in a number of towns and the interior ministry reporting 800 arrests.

Tunisia is the only democratic success of the Arab Spring. It is the one state that toppled its autocrat without triggering widespread violence or civil war, or sliding back into the grip of a tyrant. But the slow pace of economic improvement since 2011 has caused widespread discontent and gave the protesters their unifying grievance. Unemployment is at 15 per cent and the vital tourism sector has been slow to recover from the fallout from a number of terrorist attacks in recent years.

The International Crisis Group believes Tunisia is drifting back towards its old authoritarian reflexes
With the government under pressure from donors to reduce the budget deficit, on January 1st it imposed painful tax and price increases. A sudden jump in prices for fuel and consumer goods and taxes on cars, phone calls and the internet has brought a simmering anger to the boil.

After several days of protests, the government has belatedly begun to acknowledge the depth of public anger. But its hurried pledges – a $40 million fund to help 200,000 of the poorest families, free healthcare for the jobless and a housing aid fund – will do little to assuage public discontent.

More widely, there is a real risk of complacency about Tunisia’s democratic path. A recent report from the International Crisis Group argued that the country was drifting back towards its old authoritarian reflexes, partly due to the failure of the nationalist and Islamist partners in the coalition government to implement the 2014 constitution. Strengthening institutions – notably by creating a constitutional court, setting up independent oversight bodies and holding long-delayed local elections – should be priorities for the year ahead.
With Its Economy In Crisis, Tunisia Sees Protests Across The Country
January 15, 20184:19 PM ET

Heard on All Things Considered

Tunisia celebrated the seventh anniversary of when the country ousted a dictator on Sunday. But current economic problems are touching off new protests about unemployment and poverty.


Seven years ago this week, Tunisia's dictator fled the country. That's how the so-called Arab Spring started. Pro-democracy protests spread across the Middle East after that. Many of those movements ended up in conflict or chaos. Tunisia formed a democracy. In recent days, though, there have been violent protests across Tunisia because of the poor economy, and also anniversary celebrations. NPR's Ruth Sherlock reports from the capital, Tunis.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Singing in foreign language).

RUTH SHERLOCK, BYLINE: In downtown Tunis, on the wide, tree-lined Habib Bourguiba Avenue, thousands gathered to mark the anniversary of the day Tunisians forced their dictator, President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, from power. On one part of the street, followers of the religiously conservative Ennahda political party chant and play songs from the revolution. The women wear headscarves.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Singing in foreign language).

SHERLOCK: But beside them, liberals celebrate their way. A scantily clad bellydancer moves sensually to French pop music on stage. And these liberals and conservatives seem to revel in their differences. They laugh and yell insults as they pass each other. The one thing everyone does agree on is that freedom of expression is the main reward of the 2011 revolution. Here's how Chehab Bendala, a factory worker at the anniversary celebrations over the weekend, puts it.

What changed in your life before and after the revolution?

CHEHAB BENDALA: Hurriyah, freedom. Yes. Now I have liberty to speak to anyone and anywhere.

SHERLOCK: Tunisia's revolution in 2011 set the stage for the Arab Spring. And of all the countries in the Middle East that tried to throw off their dictators, Tunisia has fared the best. It's not succumbed to wars like in Syria, Yemen or Libya, or a strongman-style president like in Egypt. But its democracy is fragile. Meherzia Labidi, a leading female member of Parliament, reflects on this at her office. Tunisia has already gone through nine governments since the revolution seven years ago. She says they've all failed to give Tunisians, especially young Tunisians, what they're asking for - a better economy.

MEHERZIA LABIDI: The government, one after the other, have not answered the expectations of Tunisian youth. This is really the failure. This is where we failed as politician.

SHERLOCK: That failure has plunged Tunisia into crisis. The government is struggling to pay off an International Monetary Fund loan and has imposed austerity measures that have shrunk the public sector. But that means fewer jobs at a time when unemployment is at 15 percent.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting in foreign language).

SHERLOCK: Anger and resentment have boiled over into mass demonstrations the last week, some of them violent. Some 800 people have been arrested. All this has given rise to a new movement led by young people whose name translates in English to, what are we waiting for? It's only a few weeks old, but it seems to be having an impact. Nawra Douzi, a spokeswoman, was at the anniversary celebrations. She's just 21 and wears a T-shirt with her group's slogan on the front and a checked keffiyeh scarf. I ask how she defines the austerity measures.

NAWRA DOUZI: Well, when you have to be starving and poor enough to - in order to let the state have more money and the government have a lot of money. Yeah. Classic.

SHERLOCK: The movement isn't calling to overthrow the government at this stage, she says. But young people have to have a future in Tunisia, she warns, otherwise the government risks the very future of the country itself. Ruth Sherlock, NPR News, Tunis.
Tunisia’s Government Pledges Improvements After Protests
JAN. 14, 2018

Tunisians marked the seventh anniversary of their revolution in Tunis on Sunday. Credit Hassene Dridi/Associated Press

TUNIS — The Tunisian authorities are moving to defuse the anger that has driven protesters to the streets over the past week and led to hundreds of arrests.

As still more people gathered on Sunday to mark the seventh anniversary of the Tunisian revolution, a wave that set off the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings, the government said it was taking steps to ease the plight of the poor and the jobless. Among the measures: Government aid to needy families will be increased to $86 a month from $61, with about 120,000 families getting extra help, they said.

Government officials also said they would review the retirement disbursements for some people who are being underpaid because their employers did not declare their real salary. And they said they would extend health care to all Tunisians.

Early Sunday, President Beji Caid Essebsi went to a neighborhood in Tunis, the capital, to announce a new youth center.

“This is the first time a senior official has visited this neighborhood,” Mr. Essebsi said. “Today, we inaugurate this youth housing complex, which was burned down during the revolution. The innovation in this project is that it is a pilot project, financed not only by the government, but also by private investors and members of civil society.”

The opposition Popular Front, a coalition of leftist parties, mocked the measures in a statement on Sunday and called for protests “until suspension of the measures in the finance law that affect citizens’ buying power.”

And the protesters seemed little mollified as they rallied on Habib Bourguiba avenue, the site of large protests that in 2011 toppled the dictator Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. Coming from across the political spectrum, they seemed united on at least one issue: dissatisfaction with the current government.

Nawres Douzi, a 21-year-old student, was part of a youth group that came to the demonstration dressed as clowns.

“We did not come today in the name of our movement,” he said, “but more as young citizens and activist clowns, to spread some sarcasm on what has been announced during those last days by the government. We want them to be aware that we are not buying any of it.”

On one side of the demonstration, protesters chanted for the “fall of the establishment.” On the other side, backers of the Islamist party Ennahda, which took power for several years after the revolution, called for its return.

Protesters from each side shouted at one another, the taunts competing with loud music from a concert stage in the middle of the avenue. Small clashes erupted between the demonstrators, and some accused Ennahda of trying to dominate the event.

“They are in permanent electoral campaign,” said Mouna Ben Halima, a 44-year-old tourism executive at the demonstration. “It is not surprising. It is the fault of other political parties if they don’t do the same.”

Ms. Halima expressed mixed feelings about the day.

“I am happy because last year the avenue was less crowded and today there were people, there was tension,” she said. “But at the same time, I am a bit worried because were are at a crossroads. Will it get better or will get worse for the country?”

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Over all, the atmosphere on the avenue was friendly. People came with their children, stores opened for shoppers and vendors sold Tunisian flags at each corner.

At one end, a small group stood holding photographs, their faces showing anger and desperation. They were the families of the “martyrs” — those who died during the 2011 uprising but have not, their loved ones say, gotten recognition or justice.

“We especially protested for them today,” said one protester, Sabra Chraifa, 33. “Because the other challenge of this year is that the government is supposed to release an official list of names people who died during the revolution, and it has been seven years that we are waiting for this.”

Over the weekend, Prime Minister Youssef Chahed, Mr. Essebsi and other government officials spoke separately about their goals for improving the quality of life.

Government officials acknowledge that the events of the past week reflect despair among the people, but argue that they can put the country back on track. They have pointed to positive indicators like the return of tourism and improved growth. About 6.7 million tourists came to Tunisia in 2017, up from 4.5 million in 2016. Tunisian tourism had suffered after the revolution and after terrorist attacks on the Bardo Museum and a hotel in Sousse in 2015.

The government hopes to bring unemployment down to 12.5 percent, from the current 15 percent.

It has also committed to being a guarantor for poor people who do not fill the criteria to apply for bank loans so they can at least have money for housing — a change that is expected to reach 500,000 families. In Tunisia, bank loans are often available only to public servants or others with stable salaries. Others are sometimes required to put down extra money.

A recent poll published by the International Republican Institute found that an overwhelming majority of Tunisians consider the economic situation “very bad.”

Michael Ayari, a senior analyst for Tunisia for the International Crisis Group, which just released a report about the authoritarian drift in the country, said the past week’s events “showed that there is a fertile ground for social anger that needs to be taken into account.”

“What will be interesting in the next days,” Mr. Ayari said, is “how the youth movements, which lack leadership, will structure themselves to have an impact during the next elections.”
New Website to Help Curb Online Crimes in Kenya
Kenya Daily Nation   

The National Intelligence Service is in the process of constructing the National Cyber Command Centre website that will help combat cybercrime and secure Internet users.


The National Intelligence Service is in the process of constructing the National Cyber Command Centre website that will help combat cybercrime and secure Internet users.

According to sources in the security sector, officers drawn from the NIS, Kenya Defence Forces, the Kenya Police, Administration Police and other security agencies, will be deployed to the command centre to help crack down on virtual crimes.

“The site http://www.nc3.go.ke is set to be officially opened 82 days from today and it will also have a section where citizens can volunteer information to the security agencies for action,” a security officer said.

It will also have updates on developments in the security sector as far as cybercrime and cyber security are concerned.

The construction of the site has elicited a lot of concern from Kenyans who believe that the government may intrude into their privacy, more so, because the government has recently been concerned about what people share on social media groups.

The site, dubbed “NC3”, currently has no content, but only contains a timer silhouetted on top of a short video of a man typing on a laptop.

Currently, cyber security is monitored under the Computer Incident Response and Coordination Centre at the Communications Authority.