Inter Press Service » Extra TVUN Turning the World Downside Up Sun, 21 Dec 2014 18:34:24 +0000 en-US hourly 1 ICC Drops Darfur Seeks Surrender of Simone Gbagbo Mon, 15 Dec 2014 06:21:50 +0000 Global Information Network By Global Information Network
NEW YORK, Dec 15 2014 (IPS)

(GIN) – The list of war crimes being investigated by the International Criminal Court (ICC) is growing smaller.

Earlier this month, the case against President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya was dismissed after witnesses became unavailable to testify and the government rejected the court’s jurisdiction over the charges.

This week, Fatou Bensouda, International Criminal Court prosecutor, suspended investigations into alleged war crimes in Sudan’s Darfur. She criticized the UN Security Council for inaction over the conflict-hit region.

Her comments came amid a Ugandan-led campaign for African countries to pull out of The Hague-based ICC, following the collapse of the case against President Kenyatta.

“I am left with no choice but to hibernate investigative activities in Darfur as I shift resources to other urgent cases,” Bensouda told the Security Council last Friday.

The UN body failed to push for the arrest of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for alleged crimes committed in Darfur, she said.

Without action from the top UN body, the cases against Bashir and three other indicted suspects would remain deadlocked and there would be “little or nothing to report to you for the foreseeable future.”

Claiming victory over the ICC, the Sudanese president responded: “They wanted us to kneel before the International Criminal Court but the ICC raised its hands and admitted that it had failed.”

“The Sudanese people have defeated the ICC and have refused to hand over any Sudanese to the colonialist courts.”

With two cases dropped in the last month, the ICC has turned its attention to the wife of the former president of the Ivory Coast. Simone Gbagbo “allegedly bears individual criminal responsibility, as indirect co-perpetrator, for four counts of crimes against humanity: murder, rape, persecution and “other criminal acts” during post-election violence between Dec. 2010 and Apr. 2011.

The ICC warrant issued last year alleges that as a member of the president’s inner circle, his wife was an “indirect co-perpetrator.” She attended meetings where plans were discussed and carried out to persecute (Alassane) Ouattara supporters, according to the warrant.

Mrs. Gbagbo is currently in the Ivory Coast which refuses to surrender her to the international court, saying it can handle the case in-country. Her husband, former president Laurent Gbagbo, is in ICC custody awaiting trial over similar charges.

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LOWER GAS PRICES HIT AFRICA HARD Mon, 15 Dec 2014 06:15:18 +0000 Global Information Network By Global Information Network
NEW YORK, Dec 15 2014 (IPS)

(GIN) – Falling oil prices are happy news for American car owners but disastrous news for Africa which was recently celebrating an “oil boom” around the continent.

Some energy consultants see falling prices as a political maneuver by the West designed to bring rebellious countries to their knees. Saudi Arabia also had a bone to pick with Iran.

Soon there was a glut of cheap oil, pushing down prices in Iran, Russia and Venezuela. But the “collateral damage” of these price manipulations have been the people of Nigeria, Angola, Ghana and Uganda whose economies are heavily oil-dependent.

Examples of the pain abound. In Angola, government is budgeting major spending cuts on HIV/AIDS programs. According to Bloomberg news wire, Angola will set aside $11 million to fight HIV next year, compared to $16 million in 2014 and $22 million in 2013.

Angola’s government relies on oil for more than three quarters of revenue.

In another case, the newly-blessed oil state of Ghana borrowed heavily – about $500 million from the IMF – on the back of anticipated profits to fund fuel subsides and salaries. This hasn’t helped Ghana’s currency, the cedi, which depreciated by about 40 percent to the dollar in the first three quarters of this year.

“We are woefully short,” Sydney Casely-Hayford, a financial consultant and former adviser to Ghana’s treasury, told Dow Jones.

Ugandan officials say they fear lower oil prices could deter companies from following through on plans to invest up to $15 billion to develop the country’s oil fields.

It’s the same for Mozambique which saw a $5 billion investment to develop natural-gas fields look a lot less attractive now.

Dow Jones Business wire wrote: “The continent’s biggest economies have staked their futures on robust prices for oil and gas… The London-based Capital Economics research firm says falling commodity prices will cut growth across sub-Saharan Africa by one percentage point next year, to around 4%, the slowest rate since the late 1990s.

“It’s bad for all of Africa,” said Jack Allen, an economist at the firm.

Africa’s largest economy Nigeria is another case in point. The oil crude producer has grown 7% a year for the past decade. As retail and telecommunications companies have taken off, the oil industry has shrunk to a more balanced 14% of economic activity.

But Nigeria’s government revenue hasn’t evolved with its economy. Oil still fuels more than 70% of the budget, leaving public institutions dependent on the ebb and flow of global energy prices.

As Brent crude prices fell below $70 a barrel this month, Nigeria’s naira currency plummeted to record lows.

Nigeria’s Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala says the drop in oil prices could drag economic growth down by a percentage point to 5.3% in 2015.

Falling prices for oil and other commodities are hurting African economies in other ways, too, notes Don Jones business writers.

The country’s currency, the rand, has dropped to a six-year low as investors retreat from the slowing economy.

Persistent weakness in the rand undermines any lift from cheap oil, said Nico Bezuidenhout of South African Airways.

“You’ve got the break on the fuel price,” he said. “But the currency has gone to the dogs.”

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Global Economy Set to Improve Marginally Wed, 10 Dec 2014 11:54:17 +0000 an IPS Correspondent By an IPS Correspondent
New York, Dec 10 2014 (IPS)

Over the next two years, global economic growth is expected to increase marginally, according to a new U.N. report released Wednesday.

The report, World Economic Situation and Prospects 2015 (WESP), said the world economy will grow 3.1 per cent in 2015 and 3.3 per cent in 2016, compared with an estimated growth of 2.6 per cent for 2014.

During 2014, the global economy expanded at a moderate and uneven pace. Legacies from the global financial crisis continue to weigh on growth, while new challenges have emerged, including geopolitical conflicts such as in Ukraine and the Ebola epidemic, the report said..

Unemployment figures remain historically high in some regions, but appear to have stopped rising. While global inflation remains subdued, the spectrum ranges from deflation risks in the euro area to high inflation in some developing countries.

Foreign direct investment inflows have remained the most stable and relevant source of financing for developing countries whereas portfolio capital flows are highly sensitive to changes in risk appetite.

Trade growth is expected to pick up moderately with the volume of world imports of goods and services projected to grow by 4.7 per cent in 2015. In 2015, fiscal tightening in most developed economies will continue, although the pace of tightening is expected to slow.

The report predicted the US dollar will remain the dominant trend on foreign exchange markets.

“While some economic indicators are positive and moving in the right direction which points to the potential for a gradual return to consistent economic growth,” said Pingfan Hong, Director of the Development and Policy Analysis Division for the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, “many risks and uncertainties could dash efforts to get the global economy on track and moving forward.”

Among the developed economies, while the US maintained an annual growth rate above 2 per cent in 2014, the economic situation in Europe has been precarious, particularly in the euro area, where a number of euro members teetered on the brink of recession.

In Japan, momentum was generated by a fiscal stimulus package and monetary easing from 2013 tapered off in 2014.

The US economy is expected to improve in 2015-2016, with GDP projected to expand by 2.8 and 3.1 per cent, respectively.

Only a slight improvement in growth is expected in Western Europe. The region is held back by the travails of the euro area, where the level of GDP has yet to regain its pre-recession peak.
A projected slowdown in Japan is mainly attributed to the drop of private consumption due to a higher consumption tax.

Growth rates in developing countries and economies in transition diverged more during 2014, as a sharp deceleration occurred in many large emerging economies, particularly in Latin America and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

In contrast, East Asia, including China, experienced only a mild slowdown, while India led South Asia to a moderate uptick.

Among the developing countries, Africa’s overall growth momentum will continue, with GDP growth expected to accelerate to 4.6 per cent in 2015 and 4.9 per cent in 2016.
East Asia will remain the fastest-growing region, and is projected to see stable growth of 6.1 per cent in 2015 and 6.0 per cent in 2016.

Economic growth in South Asia is set to gradually pick up, while economic growth in Latin America and the Caribbean is projected to moderately improve.
In the CIS, prospects are weak with near-zero growth expected in the Russian Federation.

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Nuclear States Face Barrage of Criticisms in Vienna Tue, 09 Dec 2014 10:20:58 +0000 Jamshed Baruah By Jamshed Baruah
VIENNA, Dec 9 2014 (IPS)

There was a sarcastic laughter when a civil society representative expressed his “admiration for the delegate of the United States, who with one insensitive, ill-timed, inappropriate and diplomatically inept intervention” had “managed to dispel the considerable goodwill the U.S. had garnered by its decision to participate” in the Vienna Conference on Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons.

The speaker was Richard Lennane, who prefers to call himself the “chief inflammatory officer” of “Wildfire”, a Geneva-based disarmament initiative.

He was making a statement at the two-day conference which concluded in the Austrian capital on Dec. 9 – the third after the Oslo (Norway) gathering in 2013 and Nayarit (Mexico) earlier this year.

Unlike the previous conferences, the United States and Britain – two of the five members of the nuclear club, along with France, Russia and China – participated in the Vienna conference.

But Washington’s diplomatic jargon was far-removed from the highly emotional impact of statements by survivors of the atomic bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and of nuclear testing in Australia, Kazakhstan, and the Marshall Islands.

They gave powerful testimonies of the horrific effects of nuclear weapons. Their evidence complemented other presentations offering data and research.

Ambassador Adam Scheinman, special representative of the president for non-proliferation, assured that “underpinning all of our efforts, stretching back decades, has been our clear understanding of the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons use”.

This claim not only left a large number of participants unimpressed but also failed to give reason for hope that the non-proliferation treaty (NPT) review conference next year would bear fruit.

All the more so, because as the U.S.-based Arms Control Association, Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, Nuclear Information Project of the Federation of American Scientists, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and the Union of Concerned Scientists pointed out in a joint statement, “nearly five years after the successful 2010 NPT review conference, follow-through on the consensus action plan – particularly the 22 interrelated disarmament steps – has been very disappointing”.

“Since the entry into force of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) in 2011,” the statement added, “Russia and the United States have failed to start talks to further reduce their still enormous nuclear stockpiles, which far exceed any plausible deterrence requirements.”

2015 will also mark the 70th anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the consequences of which are still being felt by hibakusha (survivors) and their families, as Setsuko Thurlow, Hiroshima Peace Ambassador and survivor of the atomic bombing explosion on Aug. 6, 1945 illustrated in an impassioned statement.

“The consequences of any nuclear weapon use would be devastating, long-lasting, and unacceptable. Governments simply cannot listen to this evidence and hear these human stories without acting”, said Akira Kawasaki, from Japanese NGO Peaceboat.

“The only solution is to ban and eliminate nuclear weapons and we need to start now,” Kawasaki added.

US ambassador Scheinman sought to assure in a statement prepared for the general debate: “The United States fully understands the serious consequences of nuclear weapons use and gives the highest priority to avoiding their use. The United States stands with all those here who seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons. The United States has been and will continue to work to create the conditions for such a world with the aid of the various tools, treaties and agreements, including the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty regime.”

Irrespective of the veracity of the US claim, Washington’s diplomatic jargon stood in stark contrast to passionate pleas made by representatives of 44 out of 158 states, which participated, that as long as nuclear weapons exist, the risk of their use by design, miscalculation or madness, technical or human error, remains real.

States that expressed support for a ban treaty at the Vienna Conference include: Austria, Bangladesh, Brazil, Burundi, Chad, Colombia, Congo, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Ghana, Guatemala, Guinea Bissau, Holy See, Indonesia, Jamaica, Jordan, Kenya, Libya, Malawi, Malaysia, Mali, Mexico, Mongolia, Nicaragua, Philippines, Qatar, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Senegal, South Africa, Switzerland, Thailand, Timor Leste, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Uganda, Uruguay, Venezuela, Yemen, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Echoing worldwide sentiments, Pope Francis called in a message to the conference for nuclear weapons to be “banned once and for all”.

In a message delivered by Angela Kane, High Representative of the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the Oslo, Nayarit and Vienna initiatives had “brought humanitarian considerations to the forefront of nuclear disarmament. It has energized civil society and Governments alike. It has compelled us to keep in mind the horrific consequences that would result from any use of nuclear weapons.”

Questioning the rationale behind nuclear weapons, Ban – who is known to be committed to nuclear disarmament – said that keeping the horrific consequences of nukes in mind, was essential in confronting those who view nuclear weapons as a rational response to growing international tensions or as a symbol of national prestige.

In his widely noted message, he criticized “the senselessness of pouring funds into modernizing the means for our mutual destruction while we are failing to meet the challenges posed by poverty, climate change, extremism and the destabilizing accumulation of conventional arms.”

With any eye on “the 70th year of the nuclear age”, Ban said “possession of nuclear weapons does not prevent international disputes from occurring, but it makes conflicts more dangerous”.

Besides, he added, maintaining forces on alert does not provide safety, but it increases the likelihood of accidents. Upholding doctrines of nuclear deterrence does not counter proliferation, but it makes the weapons more desirable. Growing ranks of nuclear armed-States does not ensure global stability, but instead undermines it – a view with which also faith organizations gathered in Vienna agreed.

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Malaria Deaths Fall Dramatically Tue, 09 Dec 2014 10:04:19 +0000 an IPS Correspondent By an IPS Correspondent
NEW YORK, Dec 9 2014 (IPS)

Since 2000, there has been a dramatic reduction in the number of people dying from malaria, according to a new report released Tuesday by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The World Malaria Report 2014 says between 2000 and 2013, the malaria mortality rate decreased by 47% worldwide and by 54% in the WHO African Region – where about 90% of malaria deaths occur.

New analysis across sub-Saharan Africa reveals that despite a 43% population increase, fewer people are infected or carry asymptomatic malaria infections every year: the number of people infected fell from 173 million in 2000 to 128 million in 2013.

“We can win the fight against malaria,” says WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan. “We have the right tools and our defences are working. But we still need to get those tools to a lot more people if we are to make these gains sustainable.”

Between 2000 and 2013, access to insecticide-treated bed nets increased substantially. In 2013, almost half of all people at risk of malaria in sub-Saharan Africa had access to an insecticide-treated net, a marked increase from just 3% in 2004.
And this trend is set to continue, with a record 214 million bed nets scheduled for delivery to endemic countries in Africa by year-end, according to a WHO press release.

Access to accurate malaria diagnostic testing and effective treatment has significantly improved worldwide. In 2013, the number of rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) procured globally increased to 319 million, up from 46 million in 2008.
Meanwhile, in 2013, 392 million courses of artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs), a key intervention to treat malaria, were procured, up from 11 million in 2005.

Globally, an increasing number of countries are moving towards malaria elimination, and many regional groups are setting ambitious elimination targets, the most recent being a declaration at the East Asia Summit to eliminate malaria from the Asia-Pacific region by 2030.

In 2013, two countries reported zero indigenous cases for the first time (Azerbaijan and Sri Lanka), and 11 countries succeeded in maintaining zero cases (Argentina, Armenia, Egypt, Georgia, Iraq, Kyrgyzstan, Morocco, Oman, Paraguay, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan). Another four countries reported fewer than 10 local cases annually (Algeria, Cabo Verde, Costa Rica and El Salvador).

But significant challenges remain: “The next few years are going to be critical to show that we can maintain momentum and build on the gains,” notes Dr Pedro L Alonso, Director of WHO’s Global Malaria Programme.

In 2013, one third of households in areas with malaria transmission in sub-Saharan Africa did not have a single insecticide treated net. Indoor residual spraying, another key vector control intervention, has decreased in recent years, and insecticide resistance has been reported in 49 countries around the world, according to the press release.

Even though diagnostic testing and treatment have been strengthened, millions of people continue to lack access to these interventions. Progress has also been slow in scaling up preventive therapies for pregnant women, and in adopting recommended preventive therapies for children under five years of age and infants.

In addition, resistance to artemisinin has been detected in five countries of the Greater Mekong subregion and insufficient data on malaria transmission continues to hamper efforts to reduce the disease burden.

Dr Alonso believes, however, that with sufficient funding and commitment huge strides forward can still be made. “There are biological and technical challenges, but we are working with partners to be proactive in developing the right responses to these. There is a strong pipeline of innovative new products that will soon transform malaria control and elimination. We can go a lot further,” he says.

While funding to combat malaria has increased threefold since 2005, it is still only around half of the USD 5.1 billion that is needed if global targets are to be achieved.

“Against a backdrop of continued insufficient funding the fight against malaria needs a renewed focus to ensure maximum value for money,” says Fatoumata Nafo-Traoré, Executive Director of the Roll Back Malaria Partnership. “We must work together to strengthen country ownership, empower communities, increase efficiencies, and engage multiple sectors outside health. We need to explore ways to do things better at all levels.”

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Energy Companies Eye Somalia Mon, 08 Dec 2014 10:34:11 +0000 Global Information Network By Global Information Network
NEW YORK, Dec 8 2014 (IPS)

(GIN) – It may not be clear who is running Somalia these days but energy companies appear to know who to call as they conduct onshore and offshore seismic surveys which could make the Horn of Africa an oil giant within six years.

Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell, BP and Chevron are all activating plans to drill in Somalia, according to area news reports. London-based Soma Oil and Gas, backed by Russian billionaire Alexander Djaparidze, is encouraged by the results of exploration. Details could be published as soon as the year’s end.

“The government has recognized they need to stimulate exploration. They need to stimulate the creation of a hydrocarbon regime because they are in a prospective area,” said Bob Sheppard, chief executive of Soma Oil and Gas.

The initiative, however, appears to defy a continent-wide environmental movement to “keep the oil in the soil” in order to reduce carbon emissions and control global warming. Nigerian environmentalist Nnimmo Bassey came up with the phrase which reads in its entirety: “Leave the oil in the soil, the coal in the hole and the tar sands in the land.”

In addition to environmental opposition, security remains an obstacle for foreign investors. Somalia says with the help of troops from the African Union, it is making progress against the Islamist insurgents al-Shabab.

Still, attacks continue in the region, with ones in the capital, Mogadishu, the south-central town of Baidoa and north-eastern Kenya, near the Somali border, in the last week alone.

Last week’s terrorist attacks in Baidoa left numerous casualties including several local politicians and journalists and alarmed the top United Nations official in Somalia, Nicholas Kay, who called for political unity following the ouster of the Prime Minister, Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed.

“The use of such indiscriminate tactics against the Somali people demonstrates a shocking disregard for the most basic principles of humanity,” Kay said. “Those responsible need to be brought to justice swiftly.”

The Committee to Protect Journalists has described Somalia as one of the top 10 countries where crimes against journalists go unpunished. In addition, media workers risk not just death on a daily basis but also arbitrary arrests.

Also shadowing the potential oil rush is a territorial dispute with Kenya over the offshore border between the two nations. Kenya has also issued exploration licenses to drill in the region as have the autonomous regions of Puntland and Somaliland.

Somalia has filed a formal claim for a bigger chunk of the continental shelf and urged the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea to ignore applications made by Kenya, Tanzania and Yemen.

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Malawi Leaders Back Off on Pay Hikes Mon, 08 Dec 2014 10:30:22 +0000 Global Information Network By Global Information Network
NEW YORK, Dec 8 2014 (IPS)

(GIN) – A misguided effort to quietly hike up the paychecks of Malawi’s President Peter Mutharika and his VP roundly backfired, forcing them to cancel the generous gift to themselves “until a more appropriate time.”

“The Head of State and his deputy have suspended their new salaries,” a government spokesman told the Nyasa Times in a phone interview. Instead, he said, they will prioritize the improvement of living standards of civil servants and Malawians in general.

The new pay package was seen as bad taste at a time when the country was facing economic turmoil and belt tightening following foreign aid flight. In fact, almost every public service sector is facing labor unrest. In addition to higher pay, the two top leaders would have received free gas coupons and a rent allowance.

Meanwhile, from court room staff on strike for the past five months to primary school teachers boycotting classes to obtain salaries not paid for the past six months, labor militancy appears to be on the rise. Last week, supporting staff of the University of Malawi launched a sit in to demand a 45% salary hike.

The Anti-Corruption Bureau is also seeing a job action over wages while the Bureau chief says the office has been underfunded for investigations into the Cashgate scandal that brought down former president Joyce Banda.

“We’re not asking for anything out of this world,” one worker observed. “Our employers have failed to enforce the contract.”

“Our national Cake is not equally shared,” said opposition leader James Nyondo. “Our politicians are doing things that favor them.

Amidst the walkouts and slowdowns, huge pay raises recently sailed through parliament for ministers and lawmakers, doubling salaries from $1,150 to $3,000 monthly – or 168 percent plus fuel and housing allowances. Deputy Ministers’ salaries were doubled as were those of the 193 lawmakers who comprise the Malawi parliament. They also receive 1,000 litres per month in fuel allowance.

Ironically, in August the President rejected a salary hike for ministers calling them “unethical. “ “His Excellency President Mutharika finds it to be unethical to raise salaries when the cost of living is not only high for them but for every Malawian,” declared the leader’s press secretary. “He appeals to ministers to be good leaders and lead by example and forego the salary review being proposed.”

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Fancy Cars, Florida Homes Seized in Probe of Guinea’s Ex-President Thu, 04 Dec 2014 09:36:48 +0000 Global Information Network By Global Information Network
NEW YORK, Dec 4 2014 (IPS)

(GIN) – In the bad old days, natural resources were bartered away with trinkets and a few suitcases filled with cash.

The West African nation of Guinea, under a new president, is now trying to clean up the mess left by the previous regime by cancelling lucrative mining contracts allegedly bought in exchange for a diamond necklace, houses in Jacksonville, Florida, $5.3 million in cold cash, two Toyota Land Cruisers, an ice cream cooler, grills and some display cases for a catering business.

The gifts, lavished on the family of Guinea’s former head of state, Lansana Conté, were seized last week by the U.S. Justice Department as part of a federal investigation into the corrupt practices of some multinationals still attempting to cart away Africa’s natural resources through lavish bribes and money laundering.

President Conte’s fourth wife, Mamadie Toure, who received much of the largess, is a cooperating witness in the current federal case.

According to Madame Toure, in exchange for getting her president husband to transfer contracts from one mining company to another, the money tap was turned full on.

Because some of the alleged bribery took place on U.S. soil, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977 was invoked. It prohibits the payment of bribes to win business, or when the conduct involves U.S. soil or the U.S. banking system.

Rights to iron ore deposits in Guinea’s Simandou mountain range – have been a long sought-after prize by foreign multinationals. It’s been called the “jewel in the crown” of West Africa’s vast natural resources.

Shortly before his death in 2008, President Conté signed over multi-billion-dollar mining rights at Simandou to BSG Resources, owned by family trusts of the Israeli billionaire Beny Steinmetz. He canceled existing contracts with an Anglo-Australian firm prompting cries of outrage by that firm.

Neither Steinmetz nor his company BSGR are named in the current probe. But the possibility of such prompted Steinmetz Trust to hire former Senator and vice presidential candidate Joe Lieberman and former FBI head Louis Freeh to run an internal probe of the bribery allegations, a source told Bloomberg news.

Meanwhile, BSGR was stripped of the Simandou concessions in April this year when a Guinean government committee reviewing all mining contracts signed with the previous government, said it had established “with sufficient certainty the existence of ‘corrupt practices’ surrounding the granting of mining rights.”

Global Witness, a UK-based group which campaigns “to stop elites getting away with looting entire states, from armed factions militarizing the natural resource business, and for an end to the exploitation of our environment that is destroying lives, habitats and ecosystems,” has posted an extensive report on the bribe probe.

While billions in profits are seen for mining operators, benefits for ordinary Guinean could be small. Bauxite mining at the Sangaredi Mine in western Guinea, for example, has led to a collapse in local wildlife populations, dwindling forests, unemployment and landlessness

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Scathing Report on Zimbabwe Election Debacle Puts Mbeki on the Defensive Thu, 04 Dec 2014 09:34:32 +0000 Global Information Network By Global Information Network
NEW YORK, Dec 4 2014 (IPS)

(GIN) – A formerly classified report regarding allegations of voter fraud in Zimbabwe has raised uncomfortable questions for former President Thabo Mbeki about what he knew of problems with the last election of President Robert Mugabe, and when did he know it?.

An editorial in the widely-read local Mail & Guardian was blunt. “(Thabo) Mbeki chose to ignore the opinion of Judge Sisi Khampepe and Judge Dikgang Moseneke” whose report was released after a six year fight and multimillion-rand court battle under three presidents.

The judges found out what many suspected, the paper said. “The 2002 Zimbabwe election was not free and fair.”

In their 27-page report, the judges said the three-day voting process, excluding delays in two urban areas, met legislative requirements and was free of violence and/or apparent ballot tampering.

But they weighed this against pre-election intimidation and the deaths of 107 mainly opposition members and lengthy legal battles to change laws in favor of Zanu-PF, largely around citizenship. Polling stations were reduced in urban areas, they noted, where the opposition Movement for Democratic Change had its largest support base.

“The Khampepe report underscores Mbeki’s betrayal of our Constitution’s values,” the paper claimed in its lead editorial. “By trying to play God, he undermined the democratic will of Zimbabweans and helped to entrench a pattern of electoral violence and intimidation in subsequent polls.”

Mbeki responded with a strong denial of the charges.

“The self-righteous, misguided and insulting opinion of the Mail & Guardian is based on the disturbing failure by the newspaper to convey the truth about the basis of the decisions of the then South African government elections,” he wrote.

He confirmed that “various negative developments relating to the elections,” were observed by the South African Parliamentary Observer Mission (SAPOM) but they remained “a credible expression of the will of the people”.

The judges’ report – an advisory for the president – was classified “not to conceal from the public the content of such advice (but) to ensure that the quality of this advice is not compromised by fear or incentive that it might get into the public domain,” Mbeki said.

“We owe and will make no apology to anybody whatsoever both about resisting the publication of the Khampepe report. The vacuous pontifications of the M&G in this regard are nothing more than that.”

The editorial writers maintained their stance. “Our view is that the report raises questions about Mbeki’s credibility as a peace broker. He continues to be regarded as one of Africa’s elder statesmen and is currently the African Union mediator in Sudan.”

Reached for comment, opposition candidate Morgan Tsvangirai noted that South Africa’s endorsement of the polls carried extra weight – it was the decisive vote.

Mbeki was concerned not with democracy in Zimbabwe but only with stability, he said. “And if stability meant [President Robert] Mugabe remains in power, even by illegitimate means, then so be it.”

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Electronic Voting Comes to Namibia Mon, 01 Dec 2014 08:57:28 +0000 Global Information Network By Global Information Network
NEW YORK, Dec 1 2014 (IPS)

(GIN) – Presidential polls in Namibia have incumbent prime minister Hage Geigob of the ruling SWAPO party leading with 84 percent of the roughly 10 percent of votes officially released so far but the new electronic polling gizmos are leaving some Namibians skeptical.

Some 1.2 million people are expected to cast their votes electronically in the country’s fifth election since independence. It will be the first use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) on the African continent.

Voters will select presidential and parliamentary candidates directly on the EVMs – slabs of green and white plastic with the names and images of candidates and their party affiliation – that make a loud beep after each vote.

The voting modules will not be connected externally to any sources to prevent tampering, and the commission hopes electronic voting will reduce lines and speed up counting.

But according to local media reports, results have been trickling in at a snail’s pace at the election centre in the capital Windhoek, worrying the ruling party.

“The Swapo Party has become aware of many voters who were turned away from polling stations across the country while expecting to cast their votes,” Swapo information secretary Helmut Angula said in a statement.

“This is a worrying and disturbing situation. This could also affect the credibility of the elections.

“Swapo therefore demands that the electoral commission explain this situation and also assure the nation that this will not have a negative impact on the entire elections.”

Problems with hand held scanners verifying voter cards and fingerprints of voters caused huge delays and long lines at polls seen deep into the night on Friday, South Africa’s News24 reported.

The Democratic Turnhalle Alliance (DTA) president McHenry Venaani, 37, and Hidipo Hamutenya, 75, of Rally for Democracy (RDP) and Progress are competing for second and third positions respectively.

Some 3,400 India-made EVMs were purchased at a cost of Namibian $10 million ($948,000) from Bharat Electronic Limited (BEL) of Bangalore.

Other African countries like Ghana, South Sudan, Nigeria and Kenya have shown interest in the purchase of the EVMs, but “everything will depend on the success of these machines in the Namibian presidential polls,” said K.N. Bhar, secretary, Election Commission.

South African observers have already called the polls “free and fair” despite a litany of problems such as delays in the opening of some polling stations due to election officials “lack of clarity” on use of the new devices, operator errors, and consistent breakdown of the voter verification devices in some cases, noted International Relations Minister Maite Emily Nkoana-Mashabane, who heads the region’s observer mission.

She was interrupted by heckling from the Namibia Economic Freedom Fighters (NEFF) party, formerly the Swapo youth wing, who contradicted her “free and fair” judgment.

Youth wing spokesman Job Amupanda was suspended from Swapo after he moved on to a vacant lot in one of Windhoek’s upscale suburbs as a protest over the allocation of plots to well-off individuals at discounted prices by the Windhoek city council.

Citing “affirmative land repositioning”, he also mobilized large numbers of landless people to apply to the council for plots.

Last week, hundreds of people gathered at the council’s offices to submit 14,000 applications for land. The municipality was given a July 2015 deadline to respond.

Meanwhile, there were few believers in the democratic voting process on the News24 comments section. They ranged from “All elections in Africa are corrupt” to “You should see how George Bush won!”

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Citizens Worldwide to Celebrate International Volunteer Day Mon, 01 Dec 2014 08:14:13 +0000 an IPS Correspondent By an IPS Correspondent

Come December 5, people in over 80 countries will celebrate International Volunteer Day by taking action to improve their communities.

Global citizens will organize parades, sports festivals, group clean-ups, blood donations, rallies, social media campaigns, conferences, exhibitions, fundraisers, workshops, and other events, in order to “make change happen” around the world.

International Volunteer Day 2014 recognizes and celebrates volunteerism, with a special focus on honoring people’s participation in making a difference at all levels: locally, nationally, and globally, according to a statement released Monday..

This year’s theme underlines the ability of volunteerism to help create open spaces for dialogue and inclusion, ultimately fostering the participation of people from all age groups, genders, and backgrounds in decision-making processes.

This grassroots engagement is currently helping to build a more inclusive process of crafting the post-2015 development agenda – the world’s next plan for eradicating extreme poverty and achieving sustainable development.

“People’s engagement makes change happen locally, nationally, and globally,” said Richard Dictus, Executive Coordinator of the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) Programme. “Through volunteering, people can participate in peace building, sustainable development, and decision-making processes. Volunteerism also opens spaces for dialogue and civic responsibility. All over the world, peace and development efforts become more effective when they fully engage people, irrespective of their background, race, gender, or age. Participation through volunteerism is a way to empower people from marginalized groups, by providing them with an opportunity to act.”

Globally, volunteerism is on the rise. Between 2012-2013, the number of people who volunteered their time increased by 0.1 percent in developed and transition economies and 2.2 percent in developing countries, according to the just-released World Giving Index 2014.

∙In Bangladesh, national and international volunteers will gather in Rabindra Sarabor Park in Dhanmondi to share their stories about how they have made a difference by volunteering.

A “Volunteerism Caravan” is currently traveling across Cambodia to gather the voices and experiences of volunteers across the country. The results will be presented in an event in Phnom Penh on International Volunteer Day.

∙A week-long celebration of International Volunteer Day in Cameroon will include a photo exhibit on how volunteerism helps refugees and empowers women and in Egypt it will include a Tedx event discussing volunteerism.

∙ In Hong Kong, a networking breakfast event will help foster partnerships between corporate professionals interested in volunteering and local organizations.

∙In India, thousands of people are expected to gather to clean the banks of the Yamuna river at Kudsia Ghat.

∙ In Laos, UN Volunteers is organizing a photo competition on its Facebook page,, to capture images of volunteers making change happen.

∙ In Namibia, volunteers will gather food donations for people who have disabilities and HIV/AIDS.

∙ In the United States, at an event at the United Nations headquarters in New York, United Nations Volunteers and partners will launch IMPACT 2030, an initiative that will recruit corporate volunteers to contribute to the post-2015 development agenda.

∙In Uzbekistan, volunteers will send postcards to other volunteers around the globe, thanking them for their service. ∙ A cycling tour is being organized in Sri Lanka to help spread the message about the importance of volunteerism.

Mandated by the UN General Assembly, International Volunteer Day is held each year on 5 December. It is viewed as a unique chance for volunteers and organizations to celebrate their efforts, share their values, and promote their work among their communities, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), United Nations agencies, government authorities, and the private sector.

The United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme contributes to peace and development through volunteerism worldwide.

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U.S. Demand for Ebola “Moon Suits” Creates Shortages in Africa Tue, 25 Nov 2014 11:44:22 +0000 Global Information Network By Global Information Network
NEW YORK, Nov 25 2014 (IPS)

(GIN) – Aid agencies that use the iconic ‘moon suits’ – the odd-looking full-body outfits used in battling Ebola – are running dangerously low as the protective garb is being snapped up by institutions in the U.S.

World Vision, a Christian charity, was reportedly looking to send the hazmat suits to Sierra Leone when they found the items were out of stock. “There’s been some sleepless nights,” Jennifer Mounsey, director of Corporate Engagement, told the Wall St Journal. “We’re all sweating bullets.”

African needs are competing with U.S. hospitals and government agencies which are stockpiling some of the scant supply made by companies such as the Lakeland Industries in Ronkonkoma, NY, that manufacture the chemical suits, boot covers, face masks, hoods that comprise the Personal Protective Equipment or PPEs.

Even the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) ordered $2.7 million in PPEs for its Strategic National Stockpile. According to the CDC, American hospitals and firefighters also need PPEs on hand in case a potential Ebola suspect wanders into an emergency room or dials 911.

Aid groups on the front lines of West Africa’s Ebola virus outbreak say the shortage of protective suits is one more source of stress. These groups already face flight cancellations and travel bans that make it harder to get doctors to the field.

Meanwhile, of the countries that promised money to fight Ebola, little has been delivered: 7 percent of China’s $122 million pledge, 17 percent of the $265 million promised by the EU, and 43 percent of the United States’ $572 million, according to a new website that tracks contributions worldwide.

While the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the UN, and the World Bank have data on the dollar figures associated with each pledge, little was known how much of those resources have actually made it to the ground in West Africa.

That’s what inspired the nonprofit to create the Ebola Response Tracker, which can be found on its website.

The tracker focuses on three specific forms of support: financing, health-care personnel, and in-kind contributions. This “deeper dive” into individual country’s commitments, ONE hopes, will persuade leaders to put their money where their mouth is.

Even private institutions, which most likely have less bureaucratic hurdles to deal with, have been slow to pull the trigger. The Silicon Valley Community Fund has thus far sent 0 percent of the 25 million pledged. At the Google/Larry Page Family Foundation, it’s the identical equation.

Erin Hohlfelder, global health policy director at ONE, says the tracker shows the importance in transparency. “It’s one thing to make a great pledge and commit to doing that,” says Hohlfelder. “

“But in the meantime, every day that goes by without these resources is a missed opportunity.” While progress has been made in the months since those pledges, there is much work still to be done.

According to October estimates from the World Bank, the epidemic could cost the West African countries affected upward of $32 billion in the next 24 months.

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U.N. Marks International Day for Eliminating Violence Against Women Tue, 25 Nov 2014 10:55:22 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands Sudanese community members outside the U.N. on International Day for Eliminating Violence Against Women. Credit: Lyndal Rowlands

Sudanese community members outside the U.N. on International Day for Eliminating Violence Against Women. Credit: Lyndal Rowlands

By Lyndal Rowlands

The United Nations marked the International Day for Eliminating Violence against Women with the colour orange.

New York City buildings, including the United Nations headquarters and the Empire State Building were last night illuminated in orange. The campaign aims to bring attention to what U.N. Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka described as a “massive and pervasive human rights violation.”

Sudanese community members also marked the day with a demonstration outside U.N. headquarters to raise awareness about ongoing violence against women and girls in their home country.

In light of an alleged mass rape of 200 women in Tabit last month, Sudanese community members called on the United Nations and the international community to investigate and to hold the Sudanese government and those responsible accountable.

Hawa Abdallah Mohammed Salih, a Sudanese activist, and the 2012 recipient of the International Woman of Courage Award, told IPS: “We came here today to tell the international community, the U.N. Security Council and the U.S. government about the violence against women in Darfur and in Sudan.”

“Our girls need immediate action,” she said. “It has been 12 years and the genocide in Darfur is still going on. Women are killed every day. And women are raped every day.”

Salih called on The African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) to protect women and bring peace to Sudan and Darfur and for those responsible to be taken to the International Criminal Court.

Mohamed Ebead the President of the Darfur People’s Association told IPS: “We are here because of the mass rape on October 31st in a city called Tabit in North Darfur. We want to push the U.N. to do something to have an investigation about the mass rape .”

The UNAMID investigation into the alleged rapes has been hindered by the ongoing heavy presence of military and police in the town of Tabit. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has asked the Government of Sudan to grant “unfettered access” so that the alleged rapes can be investigated.

U.N. Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka speaking on the International Day for Eliminating Violence against Women. Credit: Lyndal Rowlands

U.N. Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka speaking on the International Day for Eliminating Violence against Women. Credit: Lyndal Rowlands

“Far too often, sexual and gender-based crimes go unpunished and the perpetrators walk free. Society turns a blind eye and a deaf ear,” U.N. Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka said in her speech at the official U.N. commemoration of the International Day to Eliminate Violence against Women today.

“No country, no culture, no age group is untouched by this massive and pervasive human rights violation,” she said. Mlambo-Ngcuka said it was important for men and boys to stand up against violence,

“We all have a role in changing norms that accept or ignore violence and confer sexual entitlement,”

“This includes having more men and boys standing up against violence, denouncing it, and stopping it,” she said.

Ban said, “Violence against women and girls is a global pandemic that destroys lives, fractures communities and holds back development.”

“It is not confined to any region, political system, culture or social class. It is present at every level of every society in the world. It happens in peacetime and becomes worse during conflict.”

“But violence against women and girls does not emerge from nowhere.”

“It is simply the most extreme example of the political, financial, social and economic oppression of women and girls worldwide,” he added.

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Nigeria in the Grip of Election Fever Tue, 25 Nov 2014 10:48:42 +0000 Global Information Network By Global Information Network
NEW YORK, Nov 25 2014 (IPS)

(GIN) – With only three months to presidential elections, Nigeria is witnessing public feuding between the incumbent party of Pres. Goodluck Jonathan and members of the opposition.

In a contentious confrontation last week, police fired tear gas to prevent the House of Representatives from meeting. A lockout was announced but the parliamentarians scaled the iron fences around the building to get inside. Photos widely published showed the distinguished representatives hauling themselves over the high gates.

The lawmakers had been scheduled to discuss Jonathan’s request to extend the state of emergency in the country’s northeast, where the armed group Boko Haram operates.

The request was rejected with angry MPs shouting that the state of emergency has scored few if any victories against the terrorist group.

Later in the week, security forces carried out a raid on the Lagos offices of the opposition All Progressives Congress party, destroying more than a dozen party computers and documents.

Nigeria’s State Security Service claimed it was investigating an alleged duplication of voters’ cards for next year’s elections.

APC spokesman Lai Mohammed compared the invasion to the Watergate scandal leading to the resignation of U.S. President Richard Nixon in 1974.

If the government suspected any illegal activities, he said, it should have obtained a court order to search the premises.

Olisa Metuh, national publicity secretary of the ruling party, brushed off the accusations. The APC is crying wolf, he said, because it has no winnable message for the people of Nigeria.

Meanwhile, a report by the International Crisis Group, warned that Nigeria was “sliding dangerously towards violence before, during and after the February 2015 elections. “

“The electoral environment is highly destabilised by insecurity, particularly in the North East,” the report said. “Preparations for the elections suffer from a deficient legal framework and lack of confidence in the Independent National Electoral Commission and the security agencies.”

“Boko Haram’s insurgency makes these elections particularly fraught, but it is only a microcosm of the country’s deepening political, religious and ethnic divides”, said Nnamdi Obasi, Nigeria Senior Analyst. “With only three months to the polls, a sense of urgency is more than ever imperative, particularly on the part of the government and the election-management and security agencies”.

“As Africa’s most populous country and largest economy, Nigeria would pose a very real security threat if it were destabilised by election violence”, says EJ Hogendoorn, Africa Program Deputy Director. “Salvaging the situation requires concerted efforts by all national actors and international partners”.

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African Agro Research & Development Understaffed & Underfunded – Report Tue, 25 Nov 2014 10:11:43 +0000 Global Information Network By Global Information Network

(GIN) – Much-needed research and development for agriculture is under-funded and understaffed throughout the continent, threatening food security for African people, according to a new study by researchers at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

“Addressing these R&D challenges will be critical to enhancing future agricultural productivity,” said Gert-Jan Stads, one of the authors of the report entitled: “Taking Stock of National Agricultural R&D Capacity in Africa South of the Sahara.”

The report was produced by the Agricultural Science and Technology Indicators (ASTI) program me led by IFPRI and will be presented at the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) in Johannesburg during a three-day conference currently underway.

The conference marks the launch of the Science Agenda for Agriculture in Africa, which identifies a suite of issues and options for increasing and deepening the contributions of science to agriculture in Africa.

“It is critical that African countries invest more in agricultural research to ensure that they can feed their populations,” said Nienke Beintema, head of ASTI and one of the authors of the report.

“Underinvestment, inadequate human resource capacity, poor research infrastructure, and a lack of coherent policies continue to constrain the quantity and quality of research outputs in many countries.”

Other findings in the report include the problem of high researcher turnover across Africa due to low salary levels and poor conditions of service; the approaching retirements of a very large share of senior researchers, the gross underrepresentation of female scientists in agriculture R&D, donor dependence and funding volatility.

From 2000-2011, the researchers found, the region’s public agricultural research capacity showed an increase of 50 percent to an estimated 14,500 full-time researchers (FTEs).

Put in context, however, just three countries—Nigeria (2,688 FTEs), Ethiopia (1,877 FTEs), and Kenya (1,151 FTEs)—employed more than one-third of those researchers in 2011. Moreover, just two countries—Nigeria and Ethiopia—were responsible for most of sub-Saharan Africa’s capacity growth during this period.

Thirty eight countries included in ASTI’s analysis employed far fewer researchers – 10 employed fewer than 100 FTEs each, and growth across countries was primarily driven by the recruitment of less qualified staff. In addition, a number of Sahel countries (Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, and Senegal) recorded rapid decreases in researcher numbers between 2008 and 2011.

On the subject of funding, the report pointed out that in most countries, the bulk of government funding is allocated to salaries, so the costs of operating actual research programs and of developing and maintaining R&D infrastructure and equipment are highly dependent on donor contributions.

This being the case, donors and development banks can have a disproportionate influence on critical decision-making processes, potentially skewing the research agenda toward short-term goals that may not necessarily be aligned with national and (sub)regional priorities.

The report cited recent policy responses from specific countries to their human resource challenges.

In Burundi, a 2009 law improving faculty salary levels prompted most of the Burundian nationals who had sought better paying positions in Rwanda to return to the National University of Burundi.

Eritrea had one of the youngest and least-qualified pools of agricultural researchers in Africa, so the National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI) and Hamelmalo Agricultural College collaborated to develop a PhD program at HAC, and the government has increased its support to make this possible.

In Uganda, collaboration between the National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO) and Makerere University has been even more extensive; the two organizations are working together to strengthen human resource capacity, develop and implement research projects, and share and build on their knowledge bases.

Governments in Guinea, Madagascar, and Sudan have raised the official retirement age for public agricultural researchers, which gives the institutes extra time for senior staff to train and mentor their junior colleagues.

Finally, in Rwanda, the government of President Paul Kagame is supporting the development of a number of MSc and PhD programs in agricultural sciences at the University of Rwanda, which was recently established through the merger of the countries public universities.

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Burkina Faso’s Military Scoops Up Major Posts Tue, 25 Nov 2014 10:08:41 +0000 Global Information Network By Global Information Network
NEW YORK, Nov 25 2014 (IPS)

(GIN) – Three weeks after a people’s revolt in Burkina Faso, which sent President Blaise Campaore fleeing into exile, dreams of a civilian-led transition to free elections were dimmed this week as the military held on to powerful posts in a new Cabinet.

Lieutenant Colonel Isaac Zida will be both prime minister and defense minister. Four other ministries, Interior and Territorial Administration, Sports, Environment, and Mines, will also be headed by military men.
Interim civilian President Michel Kafando will also serve as foreign minister.

Meanwhile, renewed efforts were announced this week to verify the burial place of Burkina’s slain revolutionary leader Thomas Sankara.
According to the Sankara family, the body was not buried as claimed by the ousted president, but dumped in a mass grave.

Identification of Captain Sankara’s body and nearly a dozen of his comrades had been the subject of dispute with the ousted leader since Sankara’s assassination in October 1987.

In the aftermath of Sankara’s murder, Compaoré made it appear like the revolutionary leader’s body received an official burial in a grave painted in national colors in the main cemetery in the capital, Ouagadougou.

Now, Interim President Michel Kafando has pledged to verify the actual burial place and identify the body.

Benewende Sankara, the lawyer of the Sankaras said: “This is what we have long been denied and by this decision, I can only but say that the new leadership has restored confidence and hope of greater things to come in this country.”

Hopes have also been raised that an investigation of the murder of investigative journalist Norbert Zongo in 1998 will be carried out.

At the time of his death, Zongo was working on a story about how the driver of the ex-president’s younger brother was tortured and killed in 1998 for allegedly stealing money from his employer.

All efforts by Zongo’s family and their lawyers to seek accountability for his killing were thwarted until the case reached the heights of the African Court on Human and People’s Rights.

In a landmark ruling, the Court decided that Burkina Faso engaged in a cover-up and violated a provision of the Economic Community of West African States which requires it not only to protect freedom of expression, but also the vocation of journalism.

A protest this week against the former prosecutor, Adama Sagnon, for enabling the case to be dismissed in 2006, produced his resignation from the interim administration.

“We wanted to show our refusal to endorse the appointment of Judge Adama Sagnon who is implicated in the Norbert Zongo case,” said Rasmane Ouedraogo, a Burkinabe musician who participated in the protests.

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Kenyan Catholic Clerics Attack Tetanus Shot Program Mon, 17 Nov 2014 07:11:07 +0000 Global Information Network By Global Information Network
NEW YORK, Nov 17 2014 (IPS)

(GIN) – Leaders of Kenya’s Catholic Church are attempting to derail a vaccination campaign that would protect 2.5 women from a life-threatening nerve disease.

Calling it a stealth birth control campaign, clerics have been telling parishioners to refuse the shot that would immunize women against tetanus – popularly known as lockjaw. It would also reduce the number of babies who
die of neonatal tetanus.

Some 550 Kenyan babies died of the disease in 2013 and according to UNICEF, 8,000 babies worldwide died of neonatal tetanus in 2010.

Tetanus is a serious bacterial disease that affects the nervous system, leading to painful muscle contractions, particularly of the jaw and neck muscles. Tetanus can interfere with breathing and be life-threatening.

Cases of tetanus are rare in the United States where vaccinations are given widely. The incidence of tetanus is much higher in less developed countries. Around a million cases occur worldwide each year.

Treatment focuses on managing complications until the effects of the tetanus toxin resolve.

But a statement, signed by all 27 Kenyan bishops, attacked the campaign sponsored by the World Health Organization and UNICEF, calling it “a disguised population control program.”

John Cardinal Njue, Archbishop of Nairobi, urged women in the country to keep away from the vaccine. Certain ‘powers’ with a hidden agenda were behind the vaccine campaign, he warned.

According to the religious leaders, the proposed vaccine is laced with Beta-HCG hormone which, they claimed, causes infertility and multiple miscarriages in women.

But a doctor that tested the vaccine said the church had misinterpreted the results in two tests conducted in March and October.

James Elder, UNICEF’s communications officer for East Africa, explained that the aim of the vaccination campaign was to prevent neonatal tetanus in newborns who bear the highest burden of tetanus disease. These children live
in parts of the country with limited access to health facilities – most births occur at home in non-sterile conditions.

“Children born at home are at risk of tetanus through the cut umbilical cord. Their mothers are also at risk of infection with tetanus during childbirth.

“Vaccinating girls and women of child bearing age (15 to 49 years) protects the women even under unhygienic conditions. They pass this protection to the unborn child in the womb.”

The Kenyan clerics’ claims are supported by the Virginia-based Population Research Institute (PRI), which also opposes tetanus shots they describe as “mass sterilization agents that, with the stick of a needle sterilize women
for years, or a lifetime.”

The group also lobbies against family planning funding and succeeded in cutting $34 to $40 million per year for seven years from the U.N. Population Fund.

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Burkina Faso’s Army Pick to Fill Ousted President’s Seat Mon, 17 Nov 2014 07:03:21 +0000 Global Information Network By Global Information Network
NEW YORK, Nov 17 2014 (IPS)

(GIN) – Political and military leaders in the West African nation of Burkina Faso have settled on a former foreign minister, Michel Kafando, to oversee a year-long transition to elections. The country has been without a leader since the former president was ousted by the citizens.

Blaise Compaore was overthrown on Oct 31. He escaped to neighbouring Ivory Coast after tens of thousands of citizens, angered over his attempt to add extra years to his 27 year rule, rallied in the streets. Compaore first
seized power in a coup in 1987 and went on to win four disputed elections.

Kafando, 72, was ambassador of Burkina Faso at the United Nations and also served as president of the Security Council. His candidacy was proposed by the army.

Paul Ouedraogo, the archbishop of the southern Bobo-Dioulasso diocese, was considered for the post but ruled himself out. “I don’t anticipate it. The cleric doesn’t engage in this kind of power,” he said in a press interview.

It’s not clear whether Kafando will satisfy the population which was considered “low income” by the World Bank. Unmet needs include schools, running water, housing and jobs.

A popular socialist president, Thomas Sankara, gave the country the name Burkina Faso for “land of honest men.” He led the country from 1983 until 1987 until he was murdered and replaced by the ousted president.

At the time of his assassination Sankara was just 37 and had ruled for only four years. But his policies and his vision are still cherished both by some locals who were around when he was in power and, significantly, by many young people who were born since his death.

Burkina Faso has significant reserves of gold, but processing cotton is the economic mainstay for many Burkinabes.

African Union chief Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma praised the people of Burkina Faso “for their political maturity and sense of responsibility” and called for “a smooth transition under the direction of civil authorities”.

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Praise For UNIDO’s Technical Assistance Tue, 04 Nov 2014 11:48:10 +0000 an IPS Correspondent By an IPS Correspondent
VIENNA, Nov 4 2014 (IPS)

Ethiopia and Senegal have lauded the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) for its “crucial assistance” in enhancing development and progress in Africa.

Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn of Ethiopia said that inclusive and sustainable industrialization, aided by the UNIDO, would help his country develop. He said Ethiopia was looking forward to boosting its economic transformation and that such a partnership model would help implement this vision.

Prime Minister Mahammed Dionne of Senegal also lauded UNIDO’s work in the field of inclusive and sustainable industrialization in Africa. He said economic growth must lead to the eradication of poverty and address the problem of unemployment, adding that inclusive and sustainable industrialization would help implement Senegal’s development plan by providing the collective action needed to make it happen.

The two African leaders were addressing the ‘Second UNIDO forum on partnerships to scale up investment for inclusive and sustainable industrial development’ (ISID) on Nov 4, which brought together about 440 participants from 93 countries.

They included heads of State and government, ministers, representatives of bilateral and multilateral development partners, the United Nations system, the private sector, non-governmental organizations and academia. (To watch video of the opening, click here.)

“UNIDO is fully committed to supporting the Governments of Ethiopia and Senegal in implementing the two programmes. These pilot Programmes for Country Partnership mark the beginning of a larger, more comprehensive and ambitious approach to how UNIDO undertakes technical cooperation with and for Member States to support their industrialization agenda,” said Director General LI Jong.

“If we want to achieve the scale of development needed, we have to explore the full potential of inclusive and sustainable industrial development. We have to strengthen productive capacities. We must build enterprises. We must reach out to farmers and entrepreneurs, and promote economic diversification and structural transformation based on adding value to the natural resources of these countries.”

Opening the ISID forum, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that “the overarching imperative for our planet’s future is sustainable development. We have a vision of a just world where resources are optimized for the good of people. Inclusive and sustainable industrial development can drive success.”

Ban added that among the main areas of action, climate change presents an opening for inclusive and sustainable industrial development. “Smart governments and investors are exploring innovative green technologies that can protect the environment and achieve economic growth. For industrial development to be sustainable it must abandon old models that pollute. Instead, we need sustainable approaches that help communities preserve their resources,” he said.

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Liberian Women Push Back Against Ebola Scare Mon, 03 Nov 2014 09:56:32 +0000 Global Information Network By Global Information Network
NEW YORK, Nov 3 2014 (IPS)

(GIN) – “I am a Liberian, not a virus.” That’s the loud and clear message of a campaign launched online by a group of Liberian women who refuse to be shamed by thoughtless outbreaks of rejection and cruelty that link African people with the epidemic that has taken thousands of lives.

“If I am Liberian, that doesn’t mean that I have Ebola,” Carolyn Woahloe, a registered nurse, told the Los Angeles Times. “This is not a Liberian problem. This is a world problem.”

Misinformation about the virus has sparked fears around the country and around the world, prompting some national leaders to deny visas to West Africans despite medical guarantees that this was unnecessary and unsafe. As with the AIDS virus in the early days, Africans have been singled out for slurs and rejection even when they present no threat at all.

In Texas, for example, Liberians living in the Dallas area where the first Ebola death was recorded were taunted with “Go back to Liberia.” Students from Rwanda were ordered to stay away from a New Jersey school where they were enrolled.

An Oregon high school canceled a planned visit by 18 African students – all from countries untouched by Ebola – citing a “fluid” situation on the continent.

In response, Shoana Clarke Solomon, a Liberian photographer and TV host, created a hashtag “#IamaLiberianNotaVirus,” (I am a Liberian, Not a Virus) that quickly went viral.

“We are Liberians, Sierra Leoneans, Guineans and Nigerians. We live in a region that has been devastated by a deadly disease, but we are not all infected,” she said.

“It is wrong to stereotype and stigmatize an entire people. Remember we are human beings.”

Her message was echoed by singing sensation Angelique Kidjo from the West African nation of Benin who found a jeering comment posted on her Facebook page when she announced her concert this week at Carnegie Hall honoring the late South African singer Miriam Makeba, known widely as Mama Africa.

They wrote: “Instead of mama africa it should be mama ebola” and “I wonder if she is bringing any Ebloa [sic] with her?”

“Overnight it seems that all the naïve and evil preconceptions about Africa have surfaced again.” Kidjo wrote on the op-ed page of The New York Times. “Ebola has brought back the fears and fantasies of Africa as the Heart of Darkness and the fear-mongering about the disease threatens to reverse decades of progress for Africa’s image.”

“Stigma is bound to happen,” added Clarke Solomon, “especially when people don’t take the time to learn the facts.”

Still, she said, “I am also grateful for the media. It’s bringing much-needed attention to Liberia and other countries that need help with ending this epidemic. Without press coverage, this situation would be far … worse.”

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