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

'The Protester' - Time Person of the Year 2011

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

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


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

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


''17 February Revolution"

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

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

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

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


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

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



African Union (AU)

African Union (AU)
Heads of governments during the opening session of the African Union summit on January 30, 2015 at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa

Nelson Mandela

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

Friday, December 2, 2016

Gambia's Jammeh concedes defeat, congratulates opponent Barrow

Yahoo – AFP, December 2, 2016

Gambia's President Yahya Jammeh (centre) leaves a polling booth in Banjul
on December 1, 2016 (AFP Photo/MARCO LONGARI)

Banjul (Gambia) (AFP) - Gambia's President Yahya Jammeh conceded defeat to opposition leader Adama Barrow on Friday night, accepting that Gambians had "decided that I should take the backseat".

Speaking to the public on Gambian television after Thursday's presidential poll, Jammeh congratulated Barrow for his "clear victory", adding: "I wish him all the best and I wish all Gambians the best."

Official results earlier showed Barrow, a businessman and political unknown until six months ago, comfortably winning Thursday's poll with 45.54 percent, capping a remarkable rise to prominence.

"I have always made it very clear that I will never rule this country without your mandate, since we started elections," Jammeh told Gambians, many of whom have only ever known him as president.

"I will never cheat or dispute the election because this is the most transparent, rig-proof elections in the whole world," he added, referring to The Gambia's unique system of voting with marbles.

Jammeh, who has ruled The Gambia since taking power in a 1994 coup and is a devout Muslim, said he "would never question Allah's decision today or at any material time," ultimately putting the decision down to fate.

He had a jovial coversation with Barrow by phone that was also broadcast, in which he joked of a possible future career as a farmer back in his hometown of Kanilai.

According to the Gambian constitution Jammeh has 60 days to leave power.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Vanilla and spice next to bloom in Dutch greenhouses

Yahoo – AFP, Maude Brulard, November 12, 2016

University of Wageningen researcher Filip van Noort and vanilla grower Joris
Elstgeest inspect vanilla orchids, part of four years of ground-breaking research
(AFP Photo/Maude Brulard)

Bleiswijk (Netherlands) (AFP) - Flowers more exotic than the humble tulip will soon flourish for the first time in Dutch greenhouses after intensive research into growing the capricious vanilla orchid to harvest one of the world's most expensive spices.

In the middle of potato fields in a central Dutch rural town, scientists from Wageningen University have for the past four years been nurturing vanilla orchids. And their research has been deemed a success.

"Based on our information, businesses believe vanilla is a plant with a lot of potential for Dutch greenhouses and have decided to start growing it," said researcher Filip van Noort.

How many orchids will be planted will be decided at the start of the next growing season in the spring, and it will take at least three years before the first Dutch-grown vanilla hits the market.

In Bleiswijk, home to the ground-breaking research, vines from about 100 plants stretch metres high in hot, tropical greenhouses. Hidden under fleshy, oval-shaped leaves are the buds, that will eventually become the vanilla pods so prised by chefs the world over.

"The challenge is to ensure the plants blossom and then to be able to pollinate them in a cost-effective way," said van Noort.

Cultivation of the vanilla orchid is hugely labour intensive as the orchid's flowers 
only last one day and must be pollinated by hand if they are to produce fruit
 (AFP Photo/Maude Brulard)

Black gold

Cultivation is hugely labour intensive. The orchid's flowers only last one day and must be pollinated by hand if they are to produce fruit. So it was an apt challenge for the Dutch -- renowned for their green fingers and their expertise in greenhouse cultivation.

"A few years ago we were looking for new plants which could be grown in Dutch greenhouses," explained van Noort.

The aim was to increase the variety of crops grown by Dutch farmers as they search for improved profits.

Vanilla made sense. Currently the Indian Ocean island of Madagascar holds a quasi-monopoly over world supply producing some 80 percent of global vanilla bean stocks.

It is also the world's second most expensive spice, with prices climbing to 350 euros ($380) a kilo this month -- compared with 60 euros in 2014.

"In the past the price was too low to be interesting. But today, with demand increasing, the prices are rising," said orchid expert Joris Elstgeest.

The long, black vanilla pods, with their distinctive caramel and at times woody scent, have to be collected by hand from the vines and then dried before being sold.

It is the sticky tiny black seeds scraped from inside the pods which are a baker's delight, lending an almost intoxicating flavour to everything from cakes and ice-cream.

The long, black vanilla pods, with their distinctive caramel and at times woody scent, 
have to be collected by hand from the vines and then dried before being sold 
(AFP Photo/Maude Brulard)

All organic

Originating from Mexico, the vanilla orchid was brought to Europe by Spanish explorer Christopher Columbus. But all attempts to grow it in milder climates failed for lack of the type of bee which pollinated the flowers.

It was not until 1841 that someone on the island of Reunion figured out how to pollinate the flowers one-by-one.

That method finally paved the way towards large-scale production, with Madagascar proving the most effective of growers.

But even if prices fall and as other countries explore possible vanilla crops, Dutch growers believe it will prove a good investment.

In past decades, synthetic vanilla flavourings were increasingly adopted by the food industry. But with a return to all things authentic and organic, the real stuff is making a welcome return.

Bleiswijk vanilla is wholly organic, say its Dutch growers, unlike in Madagascar, they claim.

Vanilla is also the world's second most expensive spice, with prices climbing
 to 350 euros ($380) a kilo this month -- compared with 60 euros in 2014 
(AFP Photo/Maude Brulard)

Half of Madagascar's vanilla is exported to Europe, and a third to the United States. But clients say the quality has been slipping, with producers harvesting the pods before they reach maturity to cash in on the price boom.

Some Madagascans even speculate the vanilla industry is being used as a front for the illegal trade in rosewood –- a sought-after product in China.

The Dutch consortium behind the project says it has already received lots of interest from local high-end restaurants as well as food companies.

The Netherlands is a global leader in the art of greenhouse growing with almost 10,000 hectares of this lowlands country set with rows of glasshouses growing all kinds of flowers, fruits and vegetables -- compared to just 1,900 hectares in France.

And researchers are already setting their sights on other spices.

"We've also got black pepper, which seems to be adapting well," said van Noort, adding indigo used to dye blue jeans was another project.

And perhaps saffron -- the world's most expensive spice derived from the saffron crocus -- could be next to flourish here.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Protests erupt in Morocco following fish vendor’s death

Morocco has promised an investigation after mass protests in the monarchy's north, triggered by the death of a fish vendor. Sunday's demonstrations were called by the February 20 movement active during the Arab Spring.

Deutsche Welle, 31 October 2016


Authorities promised on Monday an investigation into the brutal death of a fish vendor in the northern city of Hoceima, which led to mass protests that recalled the demonstrations that followed the self-immolation of a Tunisian street vendor during the so-called Arab Spring.

The incident that triggered the protests occurred on Friday after police apparently threw away Mouhcine Fikri's swordfish, which is forbidden from being fished at this time of year. Fikri reportedly dived into the back of a garbage truck to retrieve his wares, only to be crushed to death by the vehicle's mechanism.

Demonstrations took place across
multiple cities on Sunday
Fikri's death in the ethnically Berber region of the Rif - an area long-neglected by the country's monarchy - sparked outrage on social media, where images of the fish vendor's lifeless body partially sticking out from underneath the truck's crushing mechanism were circulated.

Activists involved with the February 20 movement, which organized protests during the Arab Spring, called for demonstrations on Sunday. Thousands of Moroccans reportedly took to the streets of various cities across the country in protest against "Hogra," a Maghreb phrase referring to official injustice.

Morocco is slated to host the COP22
climate talks in November
Shades of 'Arab Spring'

Additionally, thousands attended Fikri's funeral on Sunday, and some demonstrations resumed on Monday morning.

In an effort to calm tensions, Morocco's King Mohamed called for an investigation, while the country's interior minister, Mohamed Hassad, vowed to punish those responsible. Meanwhile, the General Directorate for National Security released a statement saying that its officers were not involved in Fikri's death.

The king was able to quell much of the anger in the country during the Arab Spring, devolving some of his authority during a constitutional reform. Since then, the government has closely monitored protests, nervous of a repeat of 2011.

The protests come as the country prepares to host the COP22 climate talks in Marrakesh beginning on November 7.

blc/msh  (AP, Reuters, AFP)

Saturday, October 15, 2016

African nations hail maritime deal

Yahoo – AFP, Emile Kouton with Sophie Bouillon in Lagos, October 15, 2016

A French Navy helicopter chases a boat carrying suspected Somali pirates as
part of an anti-piracy naval mission on May 3, 2009 (AFP Photo/Pierre Verdy)

Lome (AFP) - African leaders on Saturday signed a deal to boost security off the continent's economically crucial coasts, hoping to shore up development by tackling maritime crimes like piracy and smuggling.

Congolese President Denis Sassou Nguesso hailed the African Union agreement as "historic", while Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta said it showed Africa's ability to put together a continent-wide strategy.

Sassou Nguesso said 43 nations had adopted the binding agreement -- which will see countries pay into a special fund for maritime security -- at a summit in Togo's capital Lome.

The deal is designed to improve information-sharing between African nations, a weakness that pirates and smugglers have benefited from in the past, slipping between territorial waters with little trouble.

The talks drew 18 heads of state -- an unusually high figure for an AU meeting of this kind, signalling the importance that governments have placed on the need to cut piracy and other crime in Africa's waters.

As he opened the summit, Chad's President Idriss Deby, the current AU chief, noted that some 90 percent of Africa's imports and exports are transported by sea, making maritime security key to the continent's economic future.

Of the AU's 54 member states, 38 have coastlines.

Deby said the charter would "allow the promotion of commerce and the exploitation of the huge potential of the maritime sector, as well as the creation of wealth and jobs in several industries".

Congolese President Denis Sassou Nguesso hailed the African Union agreement 
to boost security off the continent's coast as "historic" (AFP Photo/Marco Longari)

It would also "mark a decisive new step in the push to preserve the maritime environment", he added.

The deal will create new national and regional institutions to improve security in African waters, while the signatories pledged a string of measures to protect the maritime environment and fight trafficking in drugs, arms and people.

But Timothy Walker, a maritime security researcher at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), said the deal would allow countries to withhold information from each other if they judge this to be in the interests of national security.

"It's a big step but it can not be the final step. There is still a lot of work to do," Walker told AFP.

Piracy in focus

"African leaders have started to realise that the maritime domain is a source of economic opportunity for the future," Walker added.

Togo's Foreign Minister Robert Dussey told AFP ahead of the summit that there was a clear need for African countries to work together to combat an upsurge in piracy in order to make full use of the continent's maritime resources.

Piracy, smuggling and other crimes at sea have cost the African maritime sector hundreds of billions of dollars in recent decades, according to the AU.

Large-scale illegal fishing also helps drive piracy as it depletes stocks, reducing the legitimate economic activities of coastal communities.

Suspected pirates keep their hands in the air as directed by a patrol from the 
guided-missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf, in the Gulf of Aden (AFP Photo/
Jason R. Zalasky)

In West Africa alone, the AU estimates that illicit fishing causes losses of 170 billion CFA francs ($285 million, 260 million euros) every year.

World piracy has been on the decline since 2012 after international naval patrols were launched off East Africa in response to violent attacks by mostly Somali-based pirates.

But the focus of concern has shifted to the Gulf of Guinea, where a new class of pirates -- mostly offshoots of militant groups from the Niger Delta -- have become active.

At least 27 attempted or successful hijackings and kidnappings at sea have been recorded off west Africa since April, according to the International Maritime Organization, compared to just two off east Africa.

The 17 countries lining the Gulf of Guinea have poor maritime surveillance capacities and have been trying for several years to boost cooperation to clamp down on piracy.

The deal will need to be ratified by at least 15 countries before it comes into force, and Barthelemy Blede, an ISS maritime researcher in Ivory Coast, said it remained to be seen whether there was "real will" to make the deal a reality.

"It's a historic act, but it's one thing to adopt a text and sign it, and another thing to ratify it," he told AFP.

Related Article:

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Maldives quits Commonwealth over rights row

Yahoo – AFP, October 13, 2016

Flags of the Commonwealth nations fly outside the House of Commons in
London on March 10, 2013 (AFP Photo/Justin Tallis)

Malé (Maldives) (AFP) - The Maldives angrily quit the Commonwealth on Thursday after years of wrangling over its human rights record since the toppling of its first democratically elected leader four years ago.

The troubled honeymoon island nation said it had been treated "unjustly and unfairly" by the bloc, a voluntary association of more than 50 countries, mostly former territories of the British empire.

"The decision to leave the Commonwealth was difficult, but inevitable," said a statement from the foreign ministry.

The former British protectorate has come under intense international pressure since the controversial conviction of former president Mohamed Nasheed on terrorism charges.

The Commonwealth put Male on notice after Nasheed stood down as president in February 2012 and said he had been forced out in a coup.

It has since criticised the government over its crackdown on dissidents and its controversial judiciary, and sent a special envoy to try to improve the archipelago's rights record.

In its statement Thursday, the Maldives, which had previously threatened to pull out of the bloc, accused the London-based Commonwealth Secretariat of interfering in its affairs.

"The Commonwealth has sought to become an active participant in the domestic political discourse in the Maldives, which is contrary to the principles of the charters of the UN and the Commonwealth," it said.

"The Commonwealth Secretariat seem to be convinced that the Maldives... would be an easy object that can be used, especially in the name of democracy promotion, to increase the organisation's own relevance and leverage in international politics."

The Commonwealth's watchdog committee of foreign ministers last month voiced "deep disappointment at the lack of progress" in Maldives.

It said it would consider suspension at its next gathering in March 2017.

The Maldives has come under intense international pressure since the
 controversial conviction of former president Mohamed Nasheed on terrorism 
charges (AFP Photo/Ben Stansall)

Hope for return

In a statement received by AFP, Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said the organisation's members and peoples "will share my sadness and disappointment" at Maldives' decision to quit.

"The Commonwealth Charter reflects the commitment of our member states to democracy and human rights, development and growth, and diversity," she said.

"We will continue to champion these values and to support all member states, especially small and developing states, in upholding and advancing these practically for the enduring benefit of their citizens.

"Therefore, we hope that this will be a temporary separation and that Maldives will feel able to return to the Commonwealth family and all that it represents in due course."

The United States has said democracy is under threat in the strategically located archipelago, which sits on key international shipping lanes.

Washington has criticised the rush trial against Nasheed and demanded his release.

A UN panel has also ruled that Nasheed's imprisonment last year was illegal and ordered the regime of President Abdulla Yameen to pay him compensation.

The Maldives has become the latest country to leave the Commonwealth after
Gambia, which quit in October 2013 (AFP Photo/Sanka Vidanagama)

Political unrest

The country of 340,000 Sunni Muslims is famed for its coral-fringed islands but has been gripped by political unrest since the fall of Nasheed and there are regular anti-government protests.

The government faces allegations of corruption as well as cracking down on any dissent while all its opposition leaders are either in exile or in jail.

Nasheed secured political asylum in Britain this year after travelling to London for medical treatment while on prison leave from a controversial 13-year prison sentence.

He travelled to neighbouring Sri Lanka last month to meet with other exiled Maldivian dissidents in a bid to agree on a plan to "legally topple" Yameen.

While dissidents met in Sri Lanka, Maldivian police raided the offices of the Maldives Independent website in the capital Male hours after Al Jazeera aired a documentary accusing Yameen and his government of massive corruption and money laundering.

The country becomes the latest to leave the Commonwealth after Gambia, which quit in October 2013.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

South Africa basks in continent's first solar-powered airport

Yahoo –AFP, Beatrice Debut, October 9, 2016

George, a town of just 150,000 residents on South Africa's south coast, is home
to Africa's first 'green' airport to be powered by the sun (AFP Photo/Gianluigi Guercia)

George (South Africa) (AFP) - At first glance there's nothing out of the ordinary about the regional airport in George, a town of just 150,000 residents on South Africa's south coast.

In fact though, the small site is Africa's first "green" airport to be powered by the sun.

The control tower, escalators, check-in desks, baggage carousels, restaurants and ATMs -- every service here depends on a small solar power station, located a few hundred metres away in a field of dandelions next to a runway.

Its 2,000 solar panels produce up to 750 kW every day, easily surpassing the 400 kW needed to run the airport.

The excess is fed back into the municipal power grid, and a computer screen in the terminal informs passengers: "Within this month (September), 274 households were supplied through this system with green electricity."

For environmentally-conscious travellers keen to reduce their carbon footprint, it's a welcome development.

"Planes have such a big carbon print," said passenger Brent Petersen, 33, in George. "If we compensate, that's cool."

George Airport was originally built in apartheid-era South Africa in 1977 to make getting home easier for PW Botha, a government minister at the time and later president.

It now serves as a transit hub for shipments of homegrown flowers and oysters, as well as golfers visiting one of the region's many courses. Some 700,000 passengers pass through its doors each year.

The solar plant, launched in September 2015, is the second solar-run airport in the world after Cochin airport in southern India.

Nestled between the Indian Ocean on one side and the majestic Outeniqua Mountains on the other, George was a surprising location for the first attempt at a solar-powered airport in South Africa.

Africa gets is first solar-powered airport in George, with a plant that converts 
solar energy into direct current electricity using solar panels (AFP Photo/
Gianluigi Guercia)

Ambitious project

The town's weather is unpredictable: in the space of half an hour, the temperature can plummet by 10 degrees celsius, the blue skies quickly replaced by a steady drizzle.

But so far, so good: even on overcast days, the plant still produces some power.

At night or when necessary, the system automatically switches over to the traditional power grid.

"The thinking was if we put (the solar system) in the worst unpredictable weather, it will absolutely work in any other airport in the country," the airport's maintenance director Marclen Stallenberg told AFP.

The environmental value of the ambitious project is already evident.

Since solar became the airport's main source of power, the hub has reduced its carbon dioxide emissions by 1,229 tonnes –- the equivalent of 103,934 litres of fuel.

The electricity bill has been cut by 40 percent in the space of a year, "which is a plus for me on the budget," said airport manager Brenda Voster.

Voster says it will take another five to 10 years to pay off the initial 16-million rand ($1.2 million) cost.

Meanwhile, regular power cuts, which in recent years have plagued Africa's most developed economy, are a thing of the past, she adds.

Heavily dependent on coal, which is the source of 90 percent of the country's electricity, South Africa is looking to diversify its options to avoid power cuts.

Robyn Spence, who works at Dollar car hire company at the airport, said they "had to replace quite a few computers" fried by electricity surges caused by power cuts last year –- no longer an issue with the solar system.

George airport's 2,000 solar panels produce up to 750 kW every day, easily 
surpassing the 400 kW needed to run the facility (AFP Photo/Gianluigi Guercia)

Untapped potential

But not all the retailers at the airport are feeling the benefits yet.

Lelona Madlingozi, a kitchen manager at Illy restaurant in the main terminal, said they had two power cuts lasting about three hours each just a month earlier. "We could not sell anything in the shop," she said.

Restaurants, said the airport, are not one of the essential services prioritised during power cuts.

Expanding the use of renewable energy is a key focus for management firm, Airports Company South Africa, said its president Skhumbuzo Macozoma.

The company's goal is to achieve "carbon neutrality", or net zero carbon emissions, by 2030.

In a country with an estimated average of 8.5 hours of sunshine a day throughout the year, solar's untapped potential looks huge.

After the success in George, the airports in Kimberley -- South Africa's diamond capital -- and Upington near the Namibian border have also gone green, with three other regional airports next in line.

George Airport now plans on increasing the capacity of the small power station by an extra 250 kW and will soon install batteries capable of conserving energy generated during the day for use at night.

Related Article:


Wednesday, October 5, 2016

New railway raises economic hopes in the Horn of Africa

Ethiopia and Djibouti have inaugurated their first electric railway. It is expected to boost trade in the region. The railway is the first step of a planned 5,000 kilometer long rail project.

Deutsche Welle, 5 Oct 2016

A train shows the logo of Ethiopian railways

The 750 kilometer (460 miles) railway, built by two Chinese companies, will link Addis Ababa to the Red Sea port of Djibouti City in about 10 hours. This will put an end to the exhausting three-days journey that citizens of the two countries have had to endure when travelling from Addis Ababa to neighboring Djibouti. The project cost 3.7 billion US dollars, of which 70 percent was funded by China, while the Ethiopian government accounted for the remaining amount.

At the inauguration ceremony on Wednesday, Mekonnen Getachew, project manager of the Ethiopian Railways Corporation, called the railroad a ‘game changer', because it will accelerate growth in Ethiopian. The economy of the country in the Horn of Africa country grew by 10.2 percent last year, the fastest rate in the world.

Djibouti, the smallest state in the Horn of Africa, sees the project as the start of a trans-African railway crossing the continent from the Red Sea to the Atlantic Ocean, a journey which takes three weeks by boat.

Media interest ahead of the opening ceremony

More hope for better future

The residents of the two countries have placed great hopes on the railroad. "We're so excited! It takes two or three days for a truck to come from Djibouti. The driver doesn't answer his phone. We don't know where he is and that can be a bit of a nightmare," said Ethiopian importer Tingrit Worku. He drives one of the 1,500 trucks that daliy lumber along the road, carrying  90 percent of imports and exports from landlocked Ethiopia to the port. Djibouti is a key trade hub to Asia, Europe and the rest of Africa.

Chinese ambassador to Ethiopia La Yifan said in a statement that the railroad is built along Chinese standards and with Chinese technology. He said there will be other projects of this kind built by China in the near future. According to the diplomat, many people will benefit from the railroad. It is a win-win situation for both countries in regard to economic integration. Ethiopia gains access to the sea and Djibouti gains access to Ethiopia's emerging market of 95 million people, the ambassador said.

Chinese personnel are in charge
of operating the trains
Test period

The infrastructure will first undergo a three-month test period with no paying passengers and carrying only cargo. As soon as the line is fully functional, uniformed Chinese controllers will welcome passengers to platforms of newly built stations all along the route, while Chinese technicians and stationmasters will keep things running in the background.

"We don't yet have the management experience. We have a management contract with Chinese staff for five years, with an Ethiopian counterpart in training," said Getachew. The effectiveness of security measures will also be gauged during this period as the railway has to go through war-torn countries such as South Sudan or the Central African Republic.

Coletta Wanjohi contributed to this article.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Global trade in African grey parrots banned

Yahoo – AFP, October 2, 2016

African Grey parrots on sale at a bird market in Kuwait City (AFP Photo/
Yasser al-Zayyat)

Johannesburg (AFP) - Delegates at a global wildlife conference on Sunday voted to ban international trade in African grey parrots, one of the world's most trafficked birds.

Prized for their ability to mimic human speech, the birds are a highly sought-after pet, but their numbers have been decimated in recent years by poaching and the destruction of their forest habitats.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) meeting in Johannesburg voted 95 to 35 in a secret poll to ban the global commercial trade of the parrot.

The African grey parrot will now have 
"the highest level of protection" (AFP
Photo/Ronaldo Schemidt)
CITES said the vote result would give the African grey the "highest level of protection" by listing it in "appendix 1", which outlaws all international trade in animals facing possible extinction.

Dr Colman O'Criodain of conservation group WWF called the move "a huge step forward" in protecting the bird.

"Fraud and corruption have enabled traffickers to vastly exceed current quotas and continue to harvest unsustainable numbers of African grey parrots from Congo’s forests to feed the illegal trade," he said.

"Banning the trade will make it easier for law enforcement agencies to crack down on the poachers and smugglers, and give the remaining wild populations some much-needed breathing space."

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) estimates that between 2.1 and 3.2 million African greys were captured between 1975 and 2013.

Susan Lieberman of the Wildlife Conservation Society said the parrot had experienced "significant population declines throughout its range in West, Central and East Africa".

"It is extremely rare or locally extinct in Benin, Burundi, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Togo," she said in a statement

"If this bird could talk –- and it certainly can -– the African grey parrot would say thank you."

The CITES treaty, signed by 182 countries and the European Union, protects about 5,600 animal and 30,000 plant species from over-exploitation through commercial trade.

The 12-day conference, which ends on Wednesday, is sifting through 62 proposals to tighten or loosen trade restrictions on around 500 species.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Obama opens new African American Museum amid national racial strife

Yahoo – AFP, Shahzad Abdul, September 24, 2016

US President Barack Obama speaks during the opening ceremony for the
Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture
September 24, 2016 in Washington, D.C. (AFP Photo/Zach Gibson)

Washington (AFP) - President Barack Obama hailed Saturday the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, a long-awaited institution dedicated to the many threads of black suffering and triumph in the United States.

The first black president of the United States cut the ribbon to inaugurate the striking 400,000-square-foot (37,000-square-meter) bronze-clad edifice before thousands of spectators gathered in the US capital to witness the historic opening, at a time of growing racial friction.

"Beyond the majesty of the building, what makes this occasion so special is the larger story it contains," said Obama -- just a few months before he leaves office -- at the star-studded public ceremony that included the likes of Stevie Wonder and Oprah Winfrey.

"African-American history is not somehow separate from our larger American story. It's not the underside of the American story," he said. "It is central to the American story."

The Smithsonian's 19th addition to its sprawling museum and research complex is the first national museum tasked with documenting the uncomfortable truths of the country's systematic oppression of black people, while also honoring the integral role of African-American culture.

"A clear-eyed view of history can make us uncomfortable," Obama said. "It is precisely of that discomfort that we learn and grow and harness our collective power to make this nation more perfect. That's the American story that this museum tells."

Guests of honor on stage included four generations of a black family called the Bonners, led by 99-year-old great-grandmother Ruth, the daughter of a slave who went on to graduate from medical school.

After Obama declared the museum "open to the world," it was she -- stooped in stature but smiling broadly -- who tugged on a rope to ring an antique bell from an historic black church, sealing the inauguration.

"I feel a sense of pride and a sense of humbleness because of all the sacrifices that so many people made to make this happen," said audience member Karmello Colman, who trekked halfway across the country for the ceremony from Kansas City, Missouri.

"I feel honored because it is highlighting the accomplishments of my ancestors, who were probably slaves, and those of so many others."

Oprah Winfrey and Will Smith attend the opening ceremony for the 
Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture
 (AFP Photo/Zach Gibson)

Deteriorating race relations

Elected in a wave of optimism in 2008, Obama pledged to unify, often repeating that he is not the president of black Americans but of all Americans.

But as his presidential mandate ends polls show that the overwhelming majority of Americans see US race relations as "generally bad."

The recent fatal police shootings of black men in Tulsa, Oklahoma and Charlotte, North Carolina laid bare yet again the country's racial disquiet.

Obama delivered his Saturday address amid these ever-heightening tensions, as national outrage grows over the spate of deaths of black men at the hands of police, prompting mass protests.

The president emphasized that a museum alone cannot solve the ills of a country still struggling to overcome a dark legacy of slavery and racial prejudice, but said it "provides context for the debate of our times."

"Perhaps it can help a white visitor understand the pain and anger of demonstrators and places like Ferguson and Charlotte," Obama said.

"It can also help black visitors appreciate the fact that not only is this younger generation carrying on traditions of the past, but within the white communities, across the nation, we see the sincerity of law enforcement officers and officials who, in fits and starts, are struggling to understand."

"And are trying to do the right thing," he said.

Protesters hold signs in front the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department 
during a demonstration in Charlotte, North Carolina (AFP Photo/Nicholas Kamm)

'Hallowed ground'

The dramatic building -- set in a prime location near the White House and the Washington Monument -- features three inverted-pyramid tiers sheathed in bronze-painted filigree panels that house more than 34,000 objects, nearly half of them donated.

Obama noted that the building reaches 70 feet below ground -- "its roots spreading far wider and deeper than any tree on this mall" -- a crypt of historical galleries that wind from slavery to civil rights to Black Lives Matter, ascending into upper floors that include testaments to African-American cultural contributions.

"I'm so happy to see that so many people of color are coming out together just to celebrate themselves and one another," said 50-year-old Derek Jones, who ventured from New York to attend Saturday's celebration that included music, poetry and dancing.

"It's amazing to get this opened by the end of Obama's eight years," Jones said, adding that he is "proud that he's still president during the opening -- it's really profound."

Ringing up to $540 million -- half of which was raised from private donations -- the museum shows "that this country born of change, this country born of revolution, this country of we the people, this country can get better," Obama said.

"It is a monument, no less than the others on this mall, to the deep and abiding love for this country and the ideals upon which it is founded. For we, too, are American."