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Posts Tagged ‘Middle East’

Pentagon approves $1.1 billion Raytheon missile sale to Saudi Arabia

Posted by African Press International on December 7, 2013

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Pentagon has approved the sale of more than 15,000 Raytheon Co anti-tank missiles to Saudi Arabia under two separate deals valued at nearly $1.1 billion.READ more…… 


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Porsche makes strategic move

Posted by African Press International on November 8, 2013

Porsche Middle East and Africa FZE eyes Africa expansion

Porsche eyes Africa expansion

DUBAI, UAE, November 7, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ – In line with the brand’s global 2018 development strategy, Porsche Middle East and Africa FZE (, a wholly owned subsidiary of Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche AG, Stuttgart, is planning to expand its presence across the region, with a particular focus on sub-Saharan Africa. Looking currently after 19 markets across the Middle East, Levant, Africa (excluding the Maghreb states) and India, the regional office in Dubai is eyeing to establish facilities in currently untapped markets, following the creation of a new Network Development department.

Porsche eyes Africa expansion

(Porsche eyes Africa expansion)

The announcement comes together with the launch of a new dedicated investor communication platform which marks a key development in the brand’s regional growth strategy. Potential investors are invited to express their interest in becoming a Porsche importer in the above mentioned region by completing an online application. The selection process continues after the pre-selection screening, with interviews and visits to proposed building sites. As well as identifying dealerships with the ability to meet Porsche’s exacting sales and customer service standards, Porsche Middle East and Africa will support future business partners in a healthy investment structure with a view to creating a sustainable and mutually beneficial partnership.

Christer Ekberg, Managing Director at Porsche Middle East and Africa FZE, commented: “With the implementation of the investor communication platform, we have made substantial progress towards our 2018 growth target. Porsche is looking for investors that are as passionate about the brand as we are, and with the local market expertise to help us deliver an unparalleled experience and unrivalled service to customers.”

A successful finish of the third quarter in 2013 saw Porsche Middle East and Africa deliveries increase 38 per cent compared to the same period in 2012. The new-generation Porsche Panamera – including Porsche’s first plug-in hybrid drive in the luxury class, the Panamera S E-Hybrid – has just arrived. The remainder of the year will also see a focus on the 50th anniversary of the legendary 911, with the regional debut of three new 911 models: the 911 GT3, 911 Turbo and Turbo S, in addition to the exclusive 911 50th Anniversary Limited Edition.

The company also celebrated the world premiere of the production version of the first ever plug-in hybrid super sports car, 918 Spyder, at this year’s Frankfurt Motor Show; first units are scheduled to be delivered to Middle Eastern customers next year. Preparations for the launch of the all-new Porsche Macan, a sporty SUV in the premium segment set to arrive in 2014, are also under way.



Porsche Middle East & Africa FZE


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Norway condemns bomb attacks in Iraq

Posted by African Press International on October 19, 2013

Norway condemns the bomb attacks in Iraq over the past few days, which appear to have killed more than 60 people. I am concerned by the recent surge in violence in Iraq. The situation in the rest of the region is serious, but we must not forget the tensions in Iraq,” said Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende.                                                                          

Over the course of the past few days alone, some 11 car bomb attacks have killed at least 60 people in several cities in Iraq, including Baghdad and cities in northern Iraq. No particular groups have claimed responsibility for the attacks, but there are deep divisions between the various political and religious groups in the country.

According to UN estimates, more than 6 000 people have been killed as a result of armed violence in Iraq over the past six months, and close to 15 000 have been injured. The security situation in Iraq has deteriorated steadily since the beginning of the year, and the level of violence is now at its highest since 2008.

“I am concerned about the humanitarian situation in Iraq and about the civilian population, who are affected by the increasing violence. Norway supports the UN’s appeals for an end to the violence,” Mr Brende said.


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Nearly two million Muslim pilgrims converged on Mecca for the 2012 Hajj

Posted by African Press International on October 7, 2013

Nearly two million Muslim pilgrims converged on Mecca for the 2012 Hajj

DUBAI,  – Public health officials in the Gulf states are playing down fears about an outbreak of the deadly MERS coronavirus among pilgrims travelling to the Hajj in Saudi Arabia this month, though doctors are advising the elderly, people with existing health conditions, pregnant women and young children to stay away.

As of 4 October, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), laboratories in the region had confirmed 136 cases of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV), including 58 deaths since April 2012.

Most cases and deaths have been in Saudi Arabia, where two million Muslims are expected to converge in mid-October for the annual Hajj pilgrimage to the holy cities of Mecca and Madinah.

The virus is seen as a cousin of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which swept through Asia in 2002-3, killing over 700 people.

MERS-CoV can cause breathing difficulties, diarrhoea, kidney failure, and in extreme cases, death.

Saudi Arabia’s Health Minister Abdullah Al Rabia says his country is ready for an outbreak, but stressed that he was confident there would be no problem, given there were no recorded cases during either July’s Umrah pilgrimage or last year’s Hajj.

The country, which has had 120 cases and 49 deaths since September 2012, has assigned two laboratories for MERS-CoV-specific testing. It will also use existing health surveillance points at borders (set up to ensure pilgrims are vaccinated against Meningococcal Meningitis and Yellow Fever) to be on the look-out for cases.

Health authorities around the Middle East, many of whom already send large health support teams to the Hajj, will also be raising awareness of the virus among pilgrims, with a focus on reminding people what they should do if they return from Saudi Arabia and feel unwell.

Dubai Health Authority in the United Arab Emirates is to launch an awareness campaign for pilgrims travelling to the Hajj although details are yet to be released.

The risks of MERS-CoV transmission were discussed at length during a week-long meeting of the International Mass Gathering Medicine Conference held last month in Saudi Arabia, home to the Global Center for Mass Gathering Medicine run by the Saudi government.

Over 1,000 health officials from WHO, the US government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and various governments from around the world attended the event, which focused on MERS-CoV.

One of the difficulties with the virus is that the early symptoms can be easily confused with the common cold. Unless doctors are specifically screening for the virus, it can be hard to pick up.

Another challenge is that despite more than one year of research, scientists remain unsure about the source of the virus and how it is transmitted.

“Until we have a definitive source of infection, it is hard to give targeted advice,” explained Richard Brown, a medical doctor and regional adviser for communicable disease surveillance and epidemiology for WHO’s South East Asia Regional Office.

Brown, who is also focal point for WHO’s International Health Regulations, told IRIN: “There is an assumption that the source is animals, and we have seen some very interesting studies about bats and camels, but if they are a possible source of infection, we don’t really know how it’s getting from those animals to humans, or whether perhaps even these animals are being infected from yet another, undiscovered source.”

He added: “People need to be careful in a very generic way, such as ensuring good hand hygiene. We would normally tell people to avoid very crowded situations, but obviously in this case, with the Hajj, that is unrealistic.”

“We would normally tell people to avoid very crowded situations, but obviously in this case, with the Hajj, that is unrealistic”

Anthony Mounts, a medical doctor and technical lead for the MERS-CoV response with WHO in Geneva, stressed the importance of global awareness about MERS-CoV, not just among countries in the Middle East, or those sending pilgrims to the Hajj.

“The Hajj could possibly be an issue, but actually there are pilgrims that go to sites in Saudi Arabia all through the year. When you look back at our data, we have not seen cases emanating from these people,” he explained.

Global threat? 

“However”, he added, “the concern extends beyond the countries in the immediate region. If you look at the way people travel in the region, in particular the workforce, they come from a lot of poor countries, from places like Pakistan, India and the Philippines, all of which are places which don’t perhaps have the best infrastructure to respond to a virus or even to detect it.”

Mounts said WHO is working globally to ensure all countries are able to test for MERS-CoV and know what to look for.

Brown agrees that while mass gatherings pose a particular risk for MERS-CoV, health actors must always be vigilant.

“The thing that almost makes it easier about Hajj is that you know when people are going and when they are coming back. But if you have migrant workers coming and going the whole time, then it requires constant vigilance,” he explained.

“When people are exiting the country, you should be giving them some basic health advice. And, if they are returning to their home countries, it’s about encouraging them to proactively mention to people where they have been to sensitize the clinician to the possibility of infection.”

In order to track the virus’ spread, WHO has set up the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee on MERS-CoV.

However, at its third meeting last month, the Committee voted unanimously that the conditions for a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) have not at present been met.

This means there will not be a global high alert, as was seen over the last decade when there were outbreaks of SARS, Avian Flu H5NI and Swine Flu.

Experts find some comfort in two things: the pace of the disease has not accelerated, nor has the disease mutated.

“Although we have seen human to human transmissions occur in healthcare facilities, between patients, from patients to doctors, among healthcare staff and close family members, we haven’t yet seen that third or fourth level of community transmission,” Mounts said, meaning when the disease is spread more randomly among strangers.

“There have been quite a lot of investigations looking for this [community transmission], they just haven’t found it yet. What’s more, the clusters that we have seen seem to extinguish themselves with relatively modest interventions, which was not the case with SARS.”

What is MERS-CoV? 

MERS-CoV is short for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus. It is a particular strain of the “coronavirus” family that causes illnesses ranging from the common cold to more serious respiratory conditions. It is regarded as a cousin of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which claimed more than 700 lives when it hit Asia in 2002-2003. It was initially labelled Novel Coronavirus (nCov).

How widespread is MERS-CoV? 

No one is really sure. It is possibly being under-reported because doctors are mistaking it for the common cold and people who are otherwise healthy are able to fight it off. While the World Health Organization (WHO) is taking MERS-CoV seriously, setting up anEmergency Committee to track its progress and organize the response, experts there do not believe it has met the criteria to be named an in international public health emergency. Nor does WHO advise against travel to any countries or special screening at points of entry.

How fatal is the virus? 

So far 58 people have died. At over 40 percent so far, the death rate of MERS-Cov is high compared to SARS. But it is possible people contracting the virus have been able to fight off the symptoms and therefore have not reported it. As such, only the most serious cases are being identified. The elderly or those who have underlying health conditions, like diabetes and hypertension, are most vulnerable to MERS-CoV. This is one explanation for the high death rate among those who get infected.

How would you know if you had MERS-CoV?

It is hard to tell because the symptoms are very similar to the common cold, though in the case of infection, they will rapidly escalate from a fever and cough to breathing difficulties. Many patients have also had gastrointestinal symptoms, including diarrhoea, and some have had kidney failure.

What is the treatment for MERS-CoV? 

No vaccine is currently available. Treatment depends on the patient’s clinical condition and would involve general supportive medical attention. In advanced cases, patients have been submitted to intensive care units to support their breathing and other organ functions.

Does MERS-CoV come from camels? 

study published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal found a high level of MERS-CoV antibodies among camels in the Middle East. This suggests that the virus, or something very similar, has recently been circulating among camels and this may be the source of the infections seen over the last year. However, researchers still do not know how the virus is being transferred from camels to humans. Given that none of the confirmed MERS-CoV patients had a history of direct interaction with camels, an intermediary carrier could be taking the virus from camels to humans. Scientists say it is also possible that the antibodies found in camels could be a very closely related virus, rather than the actual virus itself.

What about bats? 

A team of US and Saudi scientists have looked at bat populations in the Middle East to see if the nocturnal animals may be a source of MERS-CoV. They found that a faecal sample from one bat in Saudi Arabia yielded a fragment that was a 100 percent match for the MERS-CoV, though some have questioned whether the fragment was too small to give an accurate or useful reading. Again, there is still no information about how the virus has been or could be transmitted to humans.

How can you protect yourself from MERS-CoV?

Until more is known about where MERS-CoV comes from and how it is spread, it is hard to give specific advice. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends general common sense hygiene precautions. These include: washing your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds, and if water is not available to use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer; covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze; avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands; avoiding close contact, such as kissing, sharing cups, or sharing eating utensils, with sick people; and cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces, such as toys and doorknobs.

Sources: World Health Organization; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; The Lancet journal.



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My decision to leave Syria came in a hurry, prompted by the sight of my mother after I was released from two weeks of detention.

Posted by African Press International on September 19, 2013

DAMASCUS, – The writer is a recent graduate of the University of Damascus from a well-to-do family belonging to a Syrian minority. For security reasons he prefers to stay anonymous. In this diary entry, he describes being arrested and his subsequent departure from Syria.

My decision to leave Syria came in a hurry, prompted by the sight of my mother after I was released from two weeks of detention.

I had been politically active for some time, but because I belong to one of Syria’s many religious minorities, I was left alone, aside from a few inquiries by the authorities. They contacted my grandfather, a high-ranking regime party member, and asked him to “put me in line”.

That was the extent of it – until one day in July 2012. I was arrested at a demonstration in the Rukn el-Deen neighbourhood of the capital, where singing and chanting protesters were dispersed with live ammunition. I spent two weeks in solitary confinement in a basement, immune to the maltreatment others have suffered because of my minority status. Still, my stint at the department of state security’s branch in Kafar Souseh ended with a clear warning. “I know you want to go to Spain to study,” one officer told me. “I suggest you go now.”

I didn’t care much for what he said until I got home and saw my mother. She was not the elegant mid-40s woman I knew. After two weeks of not knowing where I was or how long they would keep me, she was barely alive. Her lips were cracked, her eyes swollen from crying, her already thin frame 15kg lighter. I knew she would not survive another bout of her only son in prison, or worse, killed.

I decided then and there to pack my bags. But I wasn’t psychologically prepared to leave so much history behind with little time to say goodbye. I was overwhelmed with emotion as friends streamed through a café to wish me off. So many friendships, built over years, were about to come to an end.

I spent my last hours in Damascus with a friend and my sister, visiting the sites one last time. First stop was the spice market in the old city of Damascus. At night, it is a magical place, its scent a breeze of paradise. You can stand there for hours without saying a word, just taking it in. Then we watched the sun rise from the Omayyad Mosque, also a unique Damascus experience.

I packed my bags with clothes, books and a few souvenirs, then sat down for a last morning coffee with my parents, telling jokes to try to make them laugh.

My mother tried to stay resolute, but because she and I do not have a convention mother-son relationship – instead we are good friends – I could sense her deep feelings of injustice. She felt I was being kicked out of my country. But she did not say a word. Instead, she wished me luck, told me to take care of myself, instructed me to come back as soon as possible, and insisted I not worry about anything else.

I resisted getting into the cab that would take me to Lebanon. My departure was now more real than ever. Within the hour, I would be out of Syria.

It amazes me how much taxi drivers can yap. It upset me at first. I needed a little peace to brood as I took one last look at Damascus. But by the time we crossed the Damascus-Beirut Highway, I found myself grateful for his distracting conversation.

It took us a long time to cross the border because there were so many people there, entire families that had packed all they could carry and delved into the unknown completely unprepared. I saw one woman wearing shoes that did not match. She must have left in an even bigger hurry than I had. I was about to enter a life of refuge.



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Migration is a gamble that does not always pay off

Posted by African Press International on September 17, 2013

Migration is a gamble that does not always pay off

JOHANNESBURG, – Although people migrate for a range of reasons and some are forced to leave their country by conflict, persecution or natural disasters, those who leave willingly usually do so because they are seeking a better life. How many of them find it is a question that few studies on migration have sought to answer.

The 2013 World Migration Report, released on 13 September by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), is an attempt to fill that gap. Drawing on data collected by the Gallup World Poll between 2009 and 2011 from 25,000 first-generation migrants and over 440,000 native-born individuals in more than 150 countries, it provides a global snapshot of migrant well-being.

“There’s been a lot of research on the impact of migration on society, on employment, whether it depresses wages or improves them in countries of destination, but relatively little attention has been given to the impact of migration on the lives of the migrants,” said Gervais Appave, Special Advisor to IOM’s General Director and one of the authors of the global report IOM releases every two years.

The findings reveal that whether or not migrants fare better or worse than host populations, or their counterparts back home, depends to a large extent on where they come from and where they end up.

It is often assumed that the majority of migrants move from the developing countries of the South to the developed countries of the North, but the Gallup data found that only 40 percent of migrants move from South to North. At least one-third of migrants move from one developing country to another (South to South) and 22 percent migrate from one developed country to another (North to North). A small but growing number of migrants (5 percent) move from North to South.

Top Migration Corridors
South-South: Ukraine to the Russian Federation (3.7 million)
South-North: Mexico to the United States (12.2 million)
North-North: German to the United States (1.3 million)
North-South: United States to Mexico (0.6 million)

The Gallup Poll assessed well-being with questions about income level, health, housing and working conditions, as well as more subjective indicators like how satisfied individuals were with their careers, communities and social support structures. Migrants surveyed included short-timers (relatively recent arrivals) and long-timers (who have been in a host country for five or more years), and their answers were compared to those of native-born individuals and people who had remained in their countries of origin.

Overall, the study found that migrants who moved north gained the most, with North to North migrants faring the best, and South to North migrants also rating their lives as better than their counterparts back home. Migrants in the South fared similarly or worse than if they had not migrated, with long-time South to South migrants considering themselves worse off than both the native-born and their counterparts back home. More than a quarter of South to South migrants struggled to afford food and shelter, even after being in a host country for more than five years.

Among the migrant voices contributing to the report is that of Mustariya Mohamed, 19, an Ethiopian whose efforts to reach the Middle East ended in the Puntland State of Somalia over a year ago after she was held hostage and robbed of all her belongings by armed men. Despite her traumatic journey and virtual destitution in Somalia, she is still intent on reaching Yemen. “I know the problems; I know people die crossing the sea and many are deported, but I have been told Yemen will offer me a better life. I will do whatever it takes.”

Migration is usually a gamble, but Don Flynn, director of the UK-based Migrant Rights Network, likened the experience of the South to South migrant to walking into a casino. “Everyone dreams about putting money down on the right number and making a big killing, but far more people walk out of the casino probably considerably poorer than when they went in,” he told IRIN.

Migrant well-being depends to a large extent on the policies in place in sending, transit and destination countries. “When [migration] takes place in an orderly, predictable manner, and if there is good regulation, you can expect to see progress. Where that doesn’t exist, it looks like more of a casino. Even in the worst circumstances, people still rise to the top, but the proportion who do well is much smaller,” said Flynn.

The North-South Divide
Migrants in the North…
• rate their lives better than if they had not migrated
• gain in health outcomes compared to those in origin countries
• have less trouble affording basic needs than if they had not migrated
Migrants in the South…
• rate lives similarly or worse than if they had not migrated
• have poorer health outcomes than if they had not migrated
• find it harder to afford shelter than if they had not migrated

The 2013 World Migration Report is expected to make a significant contribution to the High-Level Dialogueon International Migration and Development at the UN General Assembly in October, but Appave of IOM also hopes policy-makers will take the findings seriously. “We need policy makers to focus not only on the economic impact of migration, but equally on the human impact,” he said.

Getting policy-makers to pay attention may depend on a shift in the migration debate in countries like the UK, where the prevailing attitude is that policies should centre around the needs of the host population, while the needs of migrants are considered peripheral, said Flynn. “One politician told me it was a privilege to come to the UK and the government was entitled to say, ‘Take it or leave it’, and didn’t have to do any more than that.”

Flynn welcomed the new IOM report as a useful overview but emphasized the need for further research on migrant well-being in individual countries to identify good practices in employment, integration and social mobility that could be replicated elsewhere.

Appave noted that new questions could be added to the existing Gallup survey to learn more about particular countries or specific groups of migrants such as forced or undocumented migrants.

“We now have a methodology that would enable us to measure the well-being of migrants at regular intervals,” he said. “We really need something that’s a barometer of migrant well-being.”

ks/he source

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Ethiopian political leadership must respect human rights; says Bizualem Beza

Posted by African Press International on August 13, 2013 - Mr . Bizualem Beza - Ethiopian Human Rights Activist based in Norway – Mr . Bizualem Beza – Ethiopian Human Rights Activist based in Norway

Ethiopia, officially known as the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is bordered by Eritrea to the north, Djibouti and Somalia to the east, Sudan and South Sudan to the west, and Kenya to the south. With over 91,000,000 inhabitants, Ethiopia is the most populous landlocked country in the world and the second-most populated nation on the African continent. It occupies a total area of 1,100,000 square kilometres (420,000 sq mi), and its capital and largest city is Addis Ababa.

The sudden death in August 2012 of Ethiopia’s long-serving and powerful prime minister, Meles Zenawi, provoked uncertainty over the country’s political transition, both domestically and among Ethiopia’s international partners. Ethiopia’s human rights record has sharply deteriorated, especially over the past few years, and although a new prime minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, took office in September, it remains to be seen whether the government under his leadership will undertake human rights reforms.

Ethiopian authorities continued to severely restrict basic rights of freedom of expression, association, and assembly in 2012. Thirty journalists and opposition members were convicted under the country’s vague Anti-Terrorism Proclamation of 2009.The security forces responded to protests by the Muslim community in Oromia and Addis Ababa, the capital, with arbitrary arrests, detentions, and beatings.

The Ethiopian government continues to implement its “villagization” program: the resettlement of 1.5 million rural villagers in five regions of Ethiopia ostensibly to increase their access to basic services. Many villagers in Gambella region have been forcibly displaced, causing considerable hardship. The government is also forcibly displacing indigenous pastoral communities in Ethiopia’s Lower Omo Valley to make way for state-run sugar plantations.

Hostility for independent media

Since the promulgation in 2009 of the Charities and Societies Proclamation (CSO Law), which regulates nongovernmental organizations, and the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation, freedom of expression, assembly, and association have been increasingly restricted in Ethiopia. The effect of these two laws, coupled with the government’s widespread and persistent harassment, threats, and intimidation of civil society activists, journalists, and others who comment on sensitive issues or express views critical of government policy, has been severe.


“One on One with Bizualem Beza, Human Rights Activist: Part 1 of 2″

“One on One with Bizualem Beza, Human Rights Activist: Part 2 of 2”

Ethiopia’s most important human rights groups have been compelled to dramatically  scale-down operations or remove human rights activities from their mandates, and an unknown number of organizations have closed entirely. Several of the country’s most experienced and reputable human rights activists have fled the country due to threats. The environment is equally hostile for independent media: more journalists have fled Ethiopia than any other country in the world due to threats and intimidation in the last decade—at least 79, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

The Anti-Terrorism Proclamation is being used to target perceived opponents, stifle dissent, and silence journalists. In 2012, 30 political activists, opposition party members, and journalists were convicted on vaguely defined terrorism offenses. Eleven journalists have been convicted under the law since 2011.

On January 26, a court in Addis Ababa sentenced both deputy editor Woubshet Taye and columnist Reeyot Alemu of the now-defunct weekly Awramaba Times to 14 years in prison. Reeyot’s sentence was later reduced to five years upon appeal and most of the charges were dropped.

On July 13, veteran journalist and blogger Eskinder Nega, who won the prestigious PEN America Freedom to Write Award in April, was sentenced to 18 years in prison along with other journalists, opposition party members, and political activists. Exiled journalists Abiye Teklemariam and Mesfin Negash were sentenced to eight years each in absentia under a provision of the Anti-Terrorism Law that has so far only been used against journalists. Andualem Arage, a member of the registered opposition party Unity for Democracy and Justice (UDJ), was sentenced to life for espionage, “disrupting the constitutional order,” and recruitment and training to commit terrorist acts.

Activists demand respect for human rightsin Ethiopia because the government is insensitive for good governance and allows corruption to be the order of the day. According to the U.S. Department of State‘s human rights report for 2004 and similar sources, the Ethiopian government’s human rights“remained poor; although there were improvements, serious problems remained.” The report listed numerous cases where police and security forces are said to have harassed, illegally detained, tortured, and/or killed individuals, who were members of opposition groups or accused of being insurgents. Thousands of suspects remained in detention without charge, and lengthy pretrial detention continued to be a problem. Prison conditions were poor. The government often ignores citizens’ privacy rights and laws regarding search warrants. Although fewer journalists have been arrested, detained, or punished in 2004 than in previous years, the government nevertheless continues to restrict freedom of the press. The government limits freedom of assembly, particularly for members of opposition groups, and security forces have used excessive force to break up demonstrations. Violence and discrimination against women continue to be problems. Female genital mutilation is widespread, although efforts to curb the practice have had some effect. The economic and sexual exploitation of children continues, as does human traffickingForced labor, particularly among children, is a persistent problem. Low-level government interference with labor unions continues. Although the government generally respected the free exercise of religion, local authorities at times interfere with religious practice. In order to improve Ethiopia’s image, they hired US agencies to improve Ethiopia’s image for 2.5$ million.

During the late 19th-century Scramble for Africa, Ethiopia was the only African country to defeat an European colonial power and retain its sovereignty as an independent country. It was the first independent African member of the 20th-century League of Nations and the UN. When other African nations gained their independence following World War II, many of them adopted the colors of Ethiopia’s flag. In 1974, at the end of Haile Selassie I‘s reign, Ethiopia became a federal republic ruled by a communist military junta known as the Derg, until it was defeated by the EPRDF, which has ruled since 1991.

Ethiopia is a multilingual society with around 80 ethnic groups, with the two largest being the Oromo and the Amhara. It is one of the founding members of the UN, the Non-Aligned MovementG-77 and the Organisation of African Unity, with Addis Ababa serving as the headquarters of theAfrican Union, the Pan African Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the UNECA, theAfrican Standby Force and much of global NGOs focused on Africa. Despite being the main source of the Nile, the longest river on earth, Ethiopia underwent a series of famines in the 1980s, exacerbated by civil wars and adverse geopolitics. The country has begun to recover recently, and it now has the largest economy by GDP in East Africa and Central Africa




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Norwegian Woman (24) reported rape in Dubai and for that she gets Sentenced to 16 months in prison instead of the rapist.

Posted by African Press International on July 18, 2013

The Norwegian newspaper VG writes that Marte Deborah Dalelv aged 24 has been sentenced to prison in Dubai to serve 16 months in jail simply for being raped by a Dubaian. She was expected to be silent with the truth. Instead of taking her seriously, the authorities in Dubai accuse her of having voluntary sex and drinking alcohol.

Marthe‘s appeal “is scheduled for the 5th of September, and until then she is stuck in Dubai with the status “wanted”. This means she will be arrested if she gets in touch with the police again. VG reports

When she was arrested, she has told the media that the police took her passport and money. Now she is waiting for her appeal while being housed in the Norwegian seamen church in the country.

The Norwegian priest Gisle Meling, the minister to seamen at the Norwegain seamen’s church in Dubai characterizes the Norwegian woman’s situation as terrible, according to VG report.

– The legal system here has obviously taken the information she has given them and concluded she is guilty of something else, Meling says.

According to VG News “The minister of foreign affairs in Norway, Espen Barth Eide said Thursday that the conviction of the 24-year-old woman is against the Norwegian belief in justice: adding that – – The conviction in Dubai against a Norwegian woman who reported a rape is against our belief in justice.

VG reports that the minister is engaged in the issue – We are giving her support in the process towards the appeal, he writes on his Twitter account.

The minister says the ministry is happy that the ruling by the court on the conviction is not final, as one awaits to see what the appeal court will say.

Here below is VG’s full story:


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Huge need for aid to Syrian refugees

Posted by African Press International on June 22, 2013

“The situation in Syria and its neighbouring countries is more acute than the worst forecasts predicted at the turn of the year. We are facing the most serious refugee crisis since the Second World War,” said Minister of Foreign Affairs Espen Barth Eide during a visit to the border area between Jordan and Syria today.

“The pressure caused by the refugees and ethnic divides seen in the war in Syria are fuelling concerns that the conflict could spread to neighbouring countries,” Mr Eide said.

The humanitarian situation inside Syria is deteriorating steadily. After two years of civil war, public services have ceased to function in large parts of the country and much of the country’s infrastructure has been destroyed. According to the UN, more than 1.6 million people have fled Syria. If the current trend continues, the number of refugees could have risen to 3.5 million by the end of 2013. In addition there are now an estimated 4.25 million internally displaced persons inside Syria itself.

“International efforts to bring an end to the war in Syria must continue. Unfortunately there are few encouraging signs in the work being done to find a political solution to the conflict. This was emphasised in my talks with UN Special Representative for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi. Nevertheless, our humanitarian efforts must continue unabated. The need for assistance is great both in and outside Syria,” Mr Eide said.

Foreign Minister Eide visited Jordan on Thursday together with UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres, in connection with the celebration of World Refugee Day. During the visit, Mr Eide had talks with Prime Minister of Jordan Abdullah Ensour, among others. Mr Eide also visited refugees from Syria in the border area between Jordan and Syria.

“In my talks in Jordan today, I have praised the Jordanian authorities for the help they have provided to Syrian refugees. At the same time it is crucial that help reaches all refugees and not only those living in refugee camps. It is also vital that the Jordanian authorities, together with the UN and other aid organisations, ensure the necessary level of security,” Mr Eide said.

Due to the situation in and around Syria, the UN has launched its largest ever emergency appeal. The Government has decided to contribute NOK 150 million to the appeal. This total will be made up of the extraordinary allocation of NOK 100 million made in May and the entire reserve of NOK 50 million of the Foreign Ministry’s humanitarian budget.

“In our talks, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees emphasised just how extensive the refugee crisis is, and the huge need for aid that is still unmet. It is vital that the international community now assists Jordan and other neighbouring countries in dealing with the flow of refugees from Syria. The UN plays an important coordinating role here,” Mr Eide said.

Including this most recent contribution, Norway has allocated a total of NOK 360 million to the crisis in Syria in 2013, and a total of NOK 575 million since the conflict started in spring 2011. The Government allocated NOK 210 million to UN humanitarian appeals for Syria in the first half of 2013.




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Yemen: Living in a camp for internally displaced people has put Qasim and his family’s life on Hold

Posted by African Press International on May 27, 2013

IRIN News is proud to announce the launch of a new film, A Life on Hold, which tells the story of Qasim and his family, who for the past three years have been living in a camp for internally displaced people (IDPs) in northwestern Yemen.

Years of conflict in the region between the Houthi tribe and government forces have led to the displacement of more than 300,000 civilians, who have to cope with a decline in health and educational services. Malnutrition is common in the IDPs camps, as well as in the apartments, mosques and schools where many have found shelter.

Authorities have tried to encourage the displaced to go back to their homes, but renewed clashes in 2012 actually increased the IDP numbers in the north. Extensive damage to houses and infrastructure, continuing insecurity, fear of reprisals and the lack of livelihood opportunities and basic services all serve as deterrents to return.



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Kenya: Egypt rebuilds its Energy sector after Turmoil

Posted by African Press International on May 25, 2013

  • By Thomas Ochieng API Kenya 15/5/2013

Citadel Capital (CCAP.CA on the EGX), the leading investment company in Africa and the Middle East, establishes core platform company Mashreq Petroleum has signed a 25-year concession agreement with the East Port Said Port Authority. The agreement is extendable by up to five years based on a 90% achievement rate of operational targets and will allow Mashreq to build the first independent tank terminal in Egypt.

“Coming on the heels of Cabinet-level approval for the project, the concession agreement between Mashreq and the Port Said Port Authority clears the way for the fast-tracking of this critical project, which stands as a backup to Egypt’s national energy security,” said Mashreq Petroleum Chairman and Managing Director Dr. Tamer Abubakr.

Mashreq Petroleum is a core platform company of Citadel Capital established in 2004 to build and operate the first tank terminal and logistics hub of its kind in the region. The original contract for Mashreq was signed on December 10th, 2005 under law number 8 of 1997.The EGP 3 billion facility will have capacity for up to 800,000 metric tons of product, including liquid bulk (fuel oil, gasoil, naphtha and jet fuel) and bunker fuels. Mashreq will have an annual storage capacity of 10 million metric tons per year and an annual bunkering capacity of 2-3 million tons with three berths that will accommodate tankers up to 120,000 DWT and four berths for bunkering barges. The project will be completed in several phases.

The facility will primarily serve the liquid bulk market in the Far East, the Middle East and the broader Mediterranean region. Mashreq will also provide fuel bunkering services for ships transiting the Suez Canal, to capitalize on the unique location of the world’s busiest maritime route, with more than 20,000 vessels transiting annually. Total traffic through the Canal represents 10% of global maritime transport and approximately 22% of container trade worldwide.

Mashreq’s growth prospects in the storage market are based on both the fast-rising rate at which petroleum products are transiting the Suez Canal as well as the Middle East and Mediterranean regions’ status as deficit markets for diesel and gasoil. Transportation of petroleum products through the Canal reached an estimated 110 million tons in 2012, growing at a rate of around 19% annually over the previous eight years, while there remains a notable shortage in bunkering services in the region.The concession is based on a build-operate-transfer (BOT) system for 25 years, extendable by one year for every five years during which the project achieves at least 90% of its operational targets. In total this will result in a 30-year concession in addition to a three-year grace period for construction.

This strategically vital fuel bunkering and storage facility in Port Said Port supports the Suez Canal as the world’s leading maritime trade route for both commodities and petroleum products. The project is expected to help attract global companies and large shipping lines to operate at the port and simultaneously help ease the nation’s shortage of refined products by facilitating imports. In cooperation with EGPC, the facility will be linked to the national petroleum pipeline grid at a junction point located 17 kilometers south of the project.

Mashreq will also help stimulate the growth of additional sectors in East Port Said, including the planned establishment of new power generation facilities and an industrial zone.All necessary regulatory and governmental approvals have been obtained, including approved environmental impact assessment reports. Mashreq has also completed the design of its tank farm.Energy is one of Citadel Capital’s five core industries of focus alongside transportation, agrifoods, mining and cement. Citadel Capital holds a 25% ownership stake in Mashreq.



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The humanitarian legacy – Iraq

Posted by African Press International on April 23, 2013

BAGHDAD/DUBAI,  – Ten years after US forces took over Iraq, opinions on the progress made are as polarized as ever.

On one side, the Iraqi and American governments argue, the gains have been significant.

“Despite all the problems of the past decade, the overwhelming majority of Iraqis agree that we are better off today than under Saddam’s brutal dictatorship,” Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki wrote in a 9 April opinion piece in the Washington Post, marking 10 years after the fall of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein.

Paul Wolfowitz, who served as the US Deputy Secretary of Defence between 2001 and 2005, wrote the same day in Asharq al-Awsat newspaper that given the hardships under Hussein, “it is remarkable that Iraq has done as well as it has thus far.”

Others are more circumspect in evaluating these gains, looking to the 1980s – under Hussein’s rule – as a time when Iraqi society was much further ahead.

“By all measures and standards, there has been a deterioration in the quality of life of Iraqis as compared to 25 years ago,” said Khalid Khalid, who tracks Iraq’s progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) at the UN Development Programme (UNDP). “The invasion comes on top of sanctions that came before it and the Iran-Iraq war. It’s one continuous chain of events that led to the situation Iraqis are facing now.”

Mixed blessings

In the early 1980s, Iraq was regarded by many as the most developed state in the Arab world. The Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, the Gulf War of 1991 and subsequent years of sanctions took a heavy toll on developmental indicators, yet Iraq continued to have strong state institutions, even if they were used repressively to maintain Hussein’s power. For example, even after 10 years of an international embargo, the system of food ration distribution operated effectively.

The US invasion and subsequent civil conflict changed this, said Maria Fantappie, Iraq analyst at the International Crisis Group, as violence and de-Baathification drove away the human resources needed to run effective institutions. In many ways, the country has yet to recover.

“In 2003, that heritage of an efficient Iraqi state was completely lost,” Fantappie said. “We have the consequences of this until today… We are not yet at the level of state institutions that can deliver services equally to all citizens.”

Iraq is the only country in the Middle East where living standards have not improved compared to 25 years ago, the World Bank says. In areas such as secondary school enrolment and child immunization, Iraq now ranks lower than some of the poorest countries in the world.

“The war is just such a series of mixed blessings,” said Ned Parker, a former fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and long-time Iraq correspondent for the Los Angeles Times. “For every positive development, there’s a negative development that counters it.”

Looking at the data

IRIN has taken a look development and humanitarian indicators for Iraq, which show a decade of fits and starts, with progress in one area met by stagnation in another.

Of course, statistics in Iraq are often “wrong, simply not available or politically misused,” as one researcher put it. While a wealth of information and data exists, it comes from a multitude of sources using different methodologies, and much of it is based on relatively small sample sizes. The UN’s Information and Analysis Unit said in a 2008 report: “As is typical in volatile working environments, data reliability in some instances is questionable, contradictory figures exist, and geographic coverage of the indicators is often compromised for either security or political reasons.”

There are also huge discrepancies when national statistics are broken down by region, with the capital Baghdad and the autonomous Kurdish region in the north often the only governorates ranking above national average in measures of development. As Médecins sans Frontières wrote in a recent article in the Lancet journal, “Much more attention needs to be given to remote areas, where the reality for Iraqis has not substantially improved over the past 10 years.”

What is more, much of the progress is seen in indicators tracking inputs, like how many children enrol in school, rather than outcomes, such as how much they actually learn, said Sudipto Mukerjee, deputy head of UNDP in Iraq.

But even with these caveats, the best available data offer a complex portrait of a country that has seen improvement over the last decade, but is still largely struggling. For example, a recent overview of Iraq’s headway towards the Millennium Development Goals found great strides in the eradication of poverty over 1990 levels, but slower progress on primary education enrolment, which still lags behind 1990 levels.

A million Iraqis remain refugees, and over a million are internally displaced; sectarianism holds sway over political institutions; and healthcare is undermined by a lack of medical personnel, unreliable utilities and fragile national security. Women and girls, who once enjoyed more rights than other women in the region, now regularly find themselves excluded from school and work opportunities, though great progress has been made towards gender equality in recent years. While living conditions, clean water access, poverty rates and education levels are all disappointing compared to historical highs in the 1980s, they are greatly improved from the years Iraq spent under sanctions. And increased decentralization of power has offered some hope for the future.

No easy narrative can be accurately applied to the country’s experiences over the past 10 years, and in many ways, the direction the country has taken may only become clear over the decade to come.

Every day this week, we will bring you our findings on each of the following indicators. Check back regularly!

Water and Sanitation
Poverty/Economic Growth
Food Security/Malnutrition
Governance/Human Security
Aid work

In the process of our research, we’ve come across some interesting bits and pieces. For more, check out:

A recent Op-Ed by Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki, where he makes the case that Iraq has progressed

The case for why the US intervention was necessary and successful – by Paul Wolfowitz

An entire issue of the Middle East Research and Information Project dedicated to the 10-year mark of Hussein’s toppling

The Guardian newspaper also has a special section on its website dedicated to articles on Iraq 10 years on from the invasion

A pioneering project to track the costs of American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan: Costs of War

The National Democratic Institute has done a series of public opinion polls in Iraq since 2010. Here is the latest.

The UN’s Joint Analysis and Policy Unit for Iraq is a wealth of detailed, statistical information, including the Iraq Knowledge Network survey the UN helped conduct in 2011.

Over the years, a number of other household surveys have been conducted by the government in collaboration with various UN agencies, including the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS), supported by UNICEF; the Iraq Household Socio-Economic Survey (IHSES), supported by the World Bank; the Iraq Living Conditions Survey, supported by UNDP; and the Comprehensive Food Security and Vulnerability Analysis, supported by WFP.

The government Central Statistics Organization has assembled statistics on human development indicators from various sources, from 1990 onwards, which you can find here.

The World Bank also allows you to download full sets of comparative statistics and the World Health Organization keeps year-by-year statistics since 1999 on each of the health-related Millennium Development Goals.

If you want to crunch numbers, check out the UN Human Development Reports over the years.

The UN recently took stock of Iraq’s progress towards the Millennium Development Goals, with less than 1,000 days to go before the deadline.

IRIN has coverage many of these issues over the years. Our Iraq archives are here.

An interesting debate in Foreign Affairs magazine about whether Iraq is on track.

The US auditor on Iraq reconstruction’s latest and final report that says $60 billion invested in Iraq’s reconstruction had “limited positive effects”

And on that theme, check out this cynical, almost satirical, book (and subsequent blog) by Peter Van Buren: We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People.


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