Tuesday, May 22, 2018

SACP Gauteng Condemns the Shameless Feeding Frenzy Off the Life Esidimeni Tragedy
15 May 2018

The South African Communist Party (SACP) Gauteng Province condemns with the contempt it deserves the opportunistic and shameless attempt by the Democratic Alliance (DA) to use the pain of families who lost their loved ones in the Life Esidimeni tragedy to gain political points.

It is precisely for the simple reason that in the DA "black life is cheap" that the it has once again violated and directly attacked the plea by the families that the tragic loss of life not be used for narrow political interests.

We are convinced that the motion of no confidence of the DA has absolutely nothing to do with the interests of the affected families but narrow political interests of the DA. Yet again, the DA's obsession with the 2019 National and Provincial Elections has proven to be at the expense of working class families and that of the survivors of the tragedy.

We welcome the defeat of this senseless Motion of No Confidence against Premier David Makhura by our revolutionary Alliance partners the African National Congress (ANC) in the Gauteng Provincial Legislature and the commitment by the Gauteng Provincial Government to continue working with the families and survivors.

We commend Premier Makhura for a sterling and profound leadership he tirelessly and consistently demonstrated by working with the families, appointing an investigation led by Professor Malegalapuru Makgoba, appointing Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke for the arbitration process and finally for publicly taking final responsibility for the tragedy. This we believe constitute the essence of the best that humanity could be and therefore applaud the leadership of the Premier.

We also salute the ANC Caucus members for their revolutionary combative defeat of the DA teetering on the brink of internal racial implosion and lingering racial heritage.

We also thank the families for their absolute confidence in the leadership of the provincial government led by David Makhura.

We remain resolute that the outcomes of the Moseneke report and that of Professor Makgoba confirm the need for the Provincial Alliance Health Summit which will give the revolutionary Alliance of the ANC, SACP, COSATU and SANCO the opportunity to get to the bottom and root-cause of the problem.

We are confident that the Alliance Health Summit will provide the necessary platform to attend to the contradictions of the entire Health service and system in our province and speedily pave the way for the National Health Insurance (NHI).

Issued by the SACP Gauteng province Contact:

Jacob Mamabolo -
SACP Gauteng
Provincial Secretary
Mobile: 082 884 1868
NEHAWU Distances Itself From Afro Voice Article on PSCBC Wage Negotiations
21 May 2018

The National Education, Health and Allied Workers' Union [NEHAWU] distances itself from the article published in today's edition of Afro Voice titled "NEHAWU backs new wage deal".

The article suggests that the national union has indicated that its members are happy with governments' latest offer. In the statement released on Saturday afternoon as NEHAWU we confirmed that we were engaged in a process of reporting back to our members on the details of the offer made by government on Friday night. During an interview done with the media liaison officer of the union yesterday morning the journalist was clarified that the reporting back process is starting from Monday, 21st May 2018 until completed within two weeks, therefore it can't be true that members are happy with something that has not been reported to them. This article is misleading and not factual as it is the misrepresentation of the union's view.

The national union abhors distorted reporting and will immediately approach the press ombudsman if the publication does not withdraw the false article meant to isolate the leadership from members. As NEHAWU, we remain a worker-led national union that take mandates from its members and always chooses its members. The exercise of reporting to our members is for purposes of listening to them. In this regard, we want to say on record and categorically put it clear that the national union has not signed any offer regarding the public service salary negotiations as it is still waiting to receive the mandate from its members. It has always been our tradition and norm to report back and seek approval from our members and we shall never pre-empt the views of our members before the process is concluded.

Issued by NEHAWU Secretariat

Zola Saphetha (General Secretary) at 082 558 5968; December Mavuso (Deputy General Secretary) at 082 558 5969; Khaya Xaba (NEHAWU Media Liaison Officer) at 082 455 2500 or email: khaya@nehawu.org.za Visit NEHAWU website: www.nehawu.org.za
ANC Statement on the Outcomes of the Land Summit
21 May 2018

The ANC National Executive Committee convened a consultative summit over the weekend of 19-20 May 2018, focusing on its 54th National Conference resolution on land redistribution, and in particular the use of expropriation without compensation as a primary instrument to speed up land and agrarian reform.

The summit included representatives from COSATU, SACP and SANCO, from NGO's, communities, black farmers associations, lawyers, valuators and other professionals working in the sector.

The summit focused itself on broad issues of land redistribution and its recommendations will be submitted to the next ANC National Executive Committee meeting expected to sit this coming weekend from 26th to 28th May 2018.

At the core of the issues discussed was the review of Section 25 of the Constitution. The workshop recommends that the ANC make a submission to the Constitutional Review Panel of Parliament, based on the Conference resolution.

It furthermore interrogated the need for a law of general application on the issue of expropriation as required by the Constitution. Other legal issues which the workshop looked at included provisions for expropriation in other legislation such as the SA Schools Act, and more specifically expropriation in the' public interest' and for 'public good.'

The workshop also reiterated the ANC's position in other policy documents - that land ownership in South Africa continue to be a mix of state, private and communal land ownership and that the challenges and opportunities for redistribution, urban development and agrarian reform, as well as the rights of black communities, be considered in each of these 'sectors' of land ownership.

CALL TO ACTION

The consultative summit acknowledged the ANC's historical role is the key player in the creation of South Africa's democratic order and bill of rights.

Accordingly, the ANC will continue to defend the core values of our constitution while ensuring that its transformative impulses and democratic intentions are strengthened and clarified through the current Constitutional review processes.

The summit called on the ANC to adopt a more comprehensive and multi-pronged approach that is based on the following steps:

1. Immediately use Section 25 of the Constitution to press ahead with expropriation of land in order to test the argument that the constitution does permit expropriation without compensation in certain circumstances.

2. Immediately pass the Expropriation Bill and Land Redistribution Bill to bring greater clarity to the transformative intent and impact of the Constitution.

3. Ensure that the Constitutional review process is used to avoid ambiguity and bring greater clarity to Section 25(2)(B) of the constitution, if it is found that the current legal formulations impede or slow down effective land redistribution.

The workshop proposed that the ANC proceed to affirm the amendment of Section 25 (2) (b) to immediately effect the principle of expropriation without compensation for public purpose and interest.

The summit also received input from and noted the report of the Motlanthe High Level Panel on Assessment of Key Legislation & Acceleration of Fundamental Change, and recommended that the ANC further engage with the specific issues raised and the recommendations outlined in the report, including engagements with traditional leaders and communities living on communal land.

The workshop outcomes document to the NEC will contain recommendations on accelerating urban land redistribution, so that we decisively change the apartheid geography of our cities and towns and unlock economic value in townships, villages and small dorpies.

The recommendations identify the need for a South African agrarian revolution as a key component of land redistribution, promoting small holder farmers, and working together with emerging and existing farmers.

The plight of farmworkers and labour tenants was also a particular issue of concern, as millions of them continue to face insecurity in the land of their birth. The NEC will be asked to take decisions that will ensure that particular measures are taken to protect farm workers and dwellers, and that their continued precarious position in our society is addressed.

The ANC's 54th Conference resolution on Land Redistribution is a call to action, to decisively break with the historical injustice of colonial, apartheid and patriarchal patterns of land ownership, and to build a South Africa that belongs to all.

Issued by the African National Congress

Enquiries:
Pule Mabe
National Spokesperson
071 623 4975
Desperate DA Will Stop at Nothing to Hog Attention
18 May 2018

The ANC has noted with disgust the desperate attempt by the DA who of late seem to stoop as low as is necessary in a poor attempt to remain relevant.

So deep is the level of desperation that the DA want to mislead the nation using an unfortunate fire incident that happened earlier today in Tswelopele Ext 8, Tembisa where two stands caught fire, affecting 10 informal dwellings.

The ANC as led by President Cyril Ramaphosa is in the area to launch the Thuma Mina campaign happening today at Makhulong Stadium this afternoon.

Following the fire breakout, President Ramaphosa immediately instructed the Executive Mayor of Ekurhuleni Comrade Mzwandile Masina to attend to the unfortunate incident and ensure that the situation is stabilized, the safety of the families is secured and the necessary relief is dispersed.

The leadership of the ANC in Ekurhuleni wasted no time in attending to the situation, coordinating food parcels and blankets for the affected families.

Emergency services arrived with 4 major pumps fire engines to put out the fire. The City's Disaster Management is currently busy with impact assessment while the Ekurhuleni Human Settlements Department is busy with measures to ensure that the families will have a roof over their head by the end of the day.

It is unfortunate that the first point action for the desperate DA was to issue a media statement instead of coming to the aid of the community. The DA, which is never on the ground, was in such a hurry to score empty moral points while deliberately misrepresenting facts to suite their narrow agenda.

Today's incident, unfortunate as it was, to the contrary, validates the ANC's reasons to launch the Thuma Mina Campaign to decisively intervene on issues affecting society.

Issued by the African National Congress

Enquiries:

Pule Mabe
National Spokesperson
0716234975
Senior US Defense Official Arrives in Ecuador for Military Deal
Ecuador's Defense Minister Oswaldo Jarrin speaking about restructuring security forces on the northern border. May 14, 2018. | Photo: EFE

Sergio de la Peña arrived to Ecuador to consolidate a security cooperation agreement that could bring back U.S. military bases to the Latin American country.

U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Sergio de la Peña arrived to Ecuador for a two-day visit aimed at strengthening bilateral relations and security cooperation between the two countries, as informed by the U.S. Embassy in Quito.

De la Peña will meet with Oswaldo Jarri, Ecuador's defense minister, to deal with the Latin American country's recent security problems on the border with Colombia, its northern neighbor.

Border security has been a major concern for Ecuador in the last few months, as several violent attacks had taken place at the country's border with Colombia. A group, led by a man known as “Guacho,” have allegedly killed four soldiers and injured about 30 people in bomb attacks.

The group also kidnapped a group of three journalists, who were doing a special coverage of the region's violence for the El Comercio newspaper, based in Quito, who were later murdered in controversial circumstances.

“Guacho” claimed their execution was a response to military landing near their encampment where the three hostages were being held.

De la Peña was appointed as deputy assistant for Latin American affairs byU.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis on May 2017, and has been a strong supporter of President Donald Trump and his policies. He's also in charge of cooperation programs for both the Northern and Southern Commands.

On April 25, Ecuador signed a cooperation agreement with the United States to fight transnational organized crime and drug trafficking.

The agreement, signed by Ecuadorean Interior Minister Cesar Navas and U.S. ambassador Todd Chapman, will support the creation of an Office for Investigating Transnational Criminals.

On the same day Chapman told El Telegrafo the U.S. is waiting for an “official request” by the Ecuadorean government for the return of a U.S. military team in charge of cooperation in security that was expelled from the country in 2014.

Moreno’s move is a further shift away from the policies of his left-wing predecessor and former ally, Rafael Correa, who has criticized and refused to participate in the U.S.-sponsored Plan Colombia, arguing peace is not obtained with helicopters and weapons but rather by promoting economic and social development. During his presidency, Correa also closed down a U.S. base and expelled all U.S. troops from the country alleging that they had infiltrated the country's intelligence and military in service of Washington interests.

Many have criticized the Plan Colombia and the wider U.S. “war against drugs” for producing more violence rather than de-escalating conflicts and finding negotiated ways out. Moreno’s detractors fear these actions will generate more violence as it has done in Colombia, Mexico and Central America over the years.
Cuba and China to Begin Pharmaceutical Production
Cuba and China have signed a memorandum of understanding in Beijing for the creation of joint enterprises to produce world renowned Cuban-developed pharmaceuticals

Cubadebate | internet@granma.cu
May 17, 2018 16:05:44
Photo: Cubadebate

Cuba and China have signed a memorandum of understanding in Beijing for the creation of joint enterprises linked to the healthcare sector, specifically the production of world renowned Cuban-developed pharmaceuticals.

The agreement was signed by Eduardo Martínez, president of the BioCubaFarma group and Huang Lianshen head of Guang Xi Fukang Investment, at the Cuban embassy in Beijing.

According to Martínez - leading a delegation of BioCubaFarma representatives to China, in order to continue strengthening over 15 years of bilateral cooperation in the field of biotechnology - the memorandum is broad and provides for the creation of joint enterprises on the island and in China to produce an important group of new patented Cuban medicines “to resolve important health conditions such as heart attacks and strokes, as well as cancer and neurodegenerative diseases,” he noted.

The Cuban official went on to highlight that the document sets out the bases for strategic cooperation with Guang Xi Fukang Investment over the short, medium, and long term, with the aim of introducing Cuban medicines in to the Chinese market, as well as Latin America and other regions around the world.

The facilities will be based in the Mariel Special Development Zone, located in the island’s western region, and contribute to stimulating direct foreign investment, explained Martínez.

Meanwhile, Huang emphasized the great social and economic benefits of the initiative for both countries, as well as the demand for Cuban-developed medicines in his country. He also stated that such collaboration will help to raise the profile and stimulate Cuba’s pharmaceutical industry.

(With information from ACN)
World Leaders Congratulate Nicolás Maduro for His Reelection
As final results of this Sunday’s elections in Venezuela were announced, with President Nicolás Maduro’s winning more than six million votes, leaders around the world applauded this new victory for Chavista forces

International news staff | informacion@granma.cu
May 22, 2018 09:05:53
Photo: AVN

CARACAS.– As soon as the final results of this Sunday’s elections in Venezuela were announced, with President Nicolás Maduro’s winning more than six million votes, leaders around the world applauded this new victory for Chavista forces.

From Havana, Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, first secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba, emphasized the courage of the Venezuelan people in a message that was shared by Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza.

“With revolutionary pride, I send you, in the name of the Communist Party of Cuba and my own, the warmest congratulations for your transcendental electoral victory,” the message read.

Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, President of the Councils of State and Ministers, in his message of congratulations, noted the continuity of the Bolivarian Revolution initiated by Comandante Hugo Chávez, and reiterated Cuba’s solidarity with Venezuela.

“The Bolivarian, Chavista people have shown once again their determination to defend the legacy of Chávez, which you so honorably represent,” he wrote to the reelected Venezuelan President.

For his part, Bolivian President Evo Morales described the election results in Venezuela as a victory over U.S. interventionism.

“The sovereign Venezuelan people have again triumphed in the face of the U.S. empire’s coup-plotting and interventionism. Free peoples will never be brought to our knees. Congratulations to our brother Nicolás Maduro and the courageous people of Venezuela,” he wrote on his Twitter account.

RT reports that Russian President Vladimir Putin wished his Venezuelan counterpart good health and success in resolving the nation’s socio-economic problems, and in promoting national dialogue in the interest of the country’s entire people.

Leaders in other countries, including Nicaragua, El Salvador, Iran, and Mozambique, likewise sent congratulations to President Maduro.

Election Results:

67.78% of the vote won by Maduro

6,157,185 voters supported the President’s reelection

45.99% voter turn-out

21.01% of voters supported the leading opposition candidate Henri Falcon
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Rejects New US Sanctions
Published 21 May 2018
Telesur

Venezuela's Foreign Minister, Jorge Arreaza, rejected on Monday the new sanctions imposed by the United States Government against the South American nation, based on non-compliance with international law.

During a press conference, the Venezuelan minister mentioned that these issues were touched upon during a meeting with the international observers of Sunday's elections, in which he pointed out the interventionist actions of U.S. President Donald Trump against the public debt and Venezuelan bonds.

Arreaza criticized the U.S. administration for not allowing the liquidation of assets in the territory of the North American country, in order to make Venezuela surrender, while stressing that Venezuelans remain strong.

"There is no unilateral measure, no type of pressure from that power that can intimidate the Venezuelan people, we are going to continue with our friends around the world opening paths for freedom," said the Venezuelan official.

For her part, the Panafrican parliament deputy, Suilma Dairuk, highlighted the transparency of the Venezuelan electoral system, "in which the citizens expressed their will".

"It is a great victory for democracy and transparency in which the will of the Venezuelan people and its president Nicolás Maduro has been clearly expressed," said the African deputy.

African leader Roland Lumumba affirmed that the people of Africa have always reiterated their support for Venezuela, former President Hugo Chávez and re-elected President Nicolás Maduro.

"We have to go beyond the speeches and move on to real events (...) different peoples of Africa have been at the side of this country supporting it," added Lumumba.

The Palestinian representative and specialist in human and international rights, Shady Abuzarqa, showed solidarity with the Venezuelans and established a fraternal common bridge, because both nations "share the same enemy, the enemy of the peoples of the world, but both Palestine and Syria and Venezuela, we are winning, and you so demonstrated yesterday, "said the academic.

For his part, Syrian political observer and analyst Tarek Ahmed added: "President Maduro is resisting together with his people against the strongest and fiercest force of imperialism: the United States," adding that the Syrians must learn from the Venezuelan resistance.
Ceela Electoral Experts Say Venezuela Vote Reflects 'Will of the People,' Must Be Respected
Published 21 May 2018
Telesur

"We have not observed any element that can disqualify the electoral process," said Ceela President Nicanor Moscoso.

Representatives of the Council of Electoral Experts of Latin America (Ceela) stated that the results of Venezuelan elections on May 20 must be recognized because they represent the popular will expressed by the people.

Speaking during a press conference, alongside Delcy Rodriguez, president of the National Constituent Assembly (ANC), the international commission, which was deployed to Venezuela to monitor the electoral process, assured that the decision made by some countries to ignore the results is politically motivated.

"Technically, up until today, we have not observed any element that can disqualify the electoral process," said Ceela president Nicanor Moscoso. "We can emphasize that these elections must be recognized because they are the result of the will of the Venezuelan people."

The organization, which routinely carries out as accredited international chaplains for the presidential and legislative elections in the Americas, highlighted that Venezuela is the only country that audits their voting procedures.

Rodriguez, for her part, stated that “despite difficulties, the people of Venezuela expressed themselves and voted for peace and sovereignty.”

While many countries in Latin America and elsewhere have recognized the Venezuelan elections and congratulated President Nicolas Maduro, such as Cuba, Bolivia, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Iran, Russia and China, right-wing governments have dismissed the vote as "illegitimate," echoing statements by the United States, Canada and other Western countries who had dismissed the electoral process and the results even before it took place.

The so-called Lima Group - Peru, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Santa Lucia, Colombia, Honduras, Costa Rica and Guatemala – plus Canada, issued a statement Monday saying it did not recognize the legitimacy of Venezuela's presidential election. It noted that their respective countries will recall their ambassadors from Caracas for consultations and hold a meeting to coordinate a regional response to what they call "crisis" in Venezuela.

They also said they would seek a new resolution on "the situation" in the South American country.

Meanwhile, the Iranian government issued a statement saying that Venezuela's elections, “despite internal pressure and foreign threats and sanctions, is a great victory and an achievement for democracy in Venezuela.

Meanwhile, Venezuela's popular electoral process did more than just ruffle the U.S. feathers. Vice-president Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Sunday's vote will result in rapid “economic and diplomatic” measures.

“Venezuela's election was a sham, neither free nor fair,” Pence noted in a statement, notwithstanding that his boss, U.S. President Donald Trump, who lost the popular vote, was installed by an elitist, minority electoral college.

“The United States will not sit idly by as Venezuela crumbles and the misery of their brave people continues...The Maduro regime must allow humanitarian aid into Venezuela and must allow its people to be heard,” he said, according to Reuters.

The latest report issued by Venezuela's National Electoral Council (CNE) indicated that incumbent President Nicolas Maduro had exceeded six million votes in yesterday's election, increasing his winning margin from the 5.8 million votes announced Sunday night by the CNE.

Sandra Oblitas, vice-president of the CNE, informed that Maduro received 6,190,612 votes, while his closest opponent, former governor Henri Falcon, obtained 1,917,036 votes.
US, Allies Continue Interventionist Agenda After Venezuela Vote
Published 21 May 2018

After incumbent Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro received an overwhelming majority of the votes in Sunday's elections, the United States and its allies slammed the electoral process and called for further measures aimed at keeping up with the interventionist policies to topple the Bolivarian revolution in the name of “democracy” and "humanitarian intervention."

The U.S. State Department had announced earlier Monday that President Donald Trump put in place new economic sanctions aimed at Venezuela in an executive order banning U.S. citizens from being involved in sales of that country's accounts related to oil and other assets.

"Today's executive order closes another avenue for corruption that we have observed being used: it denies corrupt Venezuelan officials the ability to improperly value and sell off public assets in return for kickbacks," a senior administration official told reporters.

“Venezuela’s election was a sham – neither free nor fair,” U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said shortly before the sanctions order. “The United States will not sit idly by as Venezuela crumbles and the misery of their brave people continues ... The Maduro regime must allow humanitarian aid into Venezuela and must allow its people to be heard,” he said.

In a separate statement, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States “will take swift economic and diplomatic actions to support the restoration of their democracy.” He did not elaborate.

And in a series of tweets written in English and Spanish, the infamous Senator Marco Rubio called the Venezuelan elections a “fraud” and even said there was no electoral exit while the Bolivarian revolution is in power, echoing previously declarations in which he directly called for a military coup. “The only mafia in Venezuela is its regime. Today is the beginning of its end,” tweeted Rubio.

Across the Atlantic, U.K. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson issued a statement Monday saying he was “disappointed” by a “neither free nor fair” electoral process that has “further eroded Venezuelan democracy.”

“The condemnation of the international community is loud and clear. We shall work closely with our EU and regional partners in the coming weeks to determine how we can continue to support a political resolution,” said Johnson.

The controversial foreign secretary claims he was “deeply concerned by the man-made humanitarian and economic crisis, which is growing worse by the day” and urged the Venezuelan government to take immediate action and let international humanitarian aid to deliver food and medicines, but didn't mention anything about the increasing sanctions on the Bolivarian revolution that have hampered their efforts to stabilize the economy.

Also in Europe, the Spanish Prime Minister, who has led EU efforts against Venezuela, expressed his rejection to Sunday's elections. "Venezuela's electoral process has not respected the most basic democratic standards. Spain and its European partners will study appropriate measures," tweeted Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

Meanwhile Venezuela's neighbors led by right-wing governments issued a statement under the banner of the so-called Lima Group said it did not recognize the vote and would downgrade diplomatic relations with Venezuela.

The group deplored Venezuela's "grave humanitarian situation" and vowed to help crack down on corruption and block loans to the government.
Imperialists and Their Agents React to Socialist Victory in Venezuela
May 22, 2018
BBC World Service

Venezuela's President Nicolás Maduro is facing an international backlash after winning his second six-year term, in a landslide vote marred by an opposition boycott and claims of vote-rigging.

Fourteen countries including Argentina, Brazil and Canada have recalled their ambassadors from Caracas in protest.

The US has imposed new economic sanctions after Sunday's election.

Venezuela is suffering from food shortages stemming from its economic crisis and voter turnout was low.

US President Donald Trump called for new elections to "end the repression" of Venezuelans.

However Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated Mr Maduro on his re-election on Monday, wishing him "success in resolving the social and economic issues facing the country" in a statement.

What was the result?

With more than 90% of the votes counted, Mr Maduro had 5.8 million votes, or 67.7% of the total, the electoral council announced. The main opposition candidate, Henri Falcón, stood on 1.8 million votes or 21.2%.

What has the international reaction been?

The US has imposed new economic sanctions on Venezuela, aimed at preventing its officials from selling off state oil assets in return for kickbacks.

Mr Trump said in a statement: "We call for the Maduro regime to restore democracy, hold free and fair elections, release all political prisoners immediately and unconditionally, and end the repression and economic deprivation of the Venezuelan people."

The US Vice President Mike Pence earlier denounced the election as a "sham" and "illegitimate".

The US had already slapped sanctions on Mr Maduro and his senior aides, as well as banned US companies from buying any more debt from Caracas or the state oil company.

"The United States stands with democratic nations in support of the Venezuelan people and will take swift economic and diplomatic actions to support the restoration of their democracy," US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.

Venezuelan foreign minister Jorge Arreaza called the sanctions "madness, barbaric, and in absolute contradiction to international law".

Even before the election took place, the United States, Canada, the European Union and a dozen Latin American countries said they would not recognise the results.

Now Mexico, Colombia, Chile, Panama and Peru are among those scaling back their diplomatic relations with Caracas.

But as well as Russia, El Salvador, Cuba and China congratulated President Maduro on his election win.

Beijing said the parties should "respect the choices made by the people of Venezuela".

Why is there a row about the turnout?

The National Electoral Council (CNE) put it at just 46% but the opposition alleges it was even lower.

Mr Falcón rejected the result soon after the polls closed and called for new elections.

"We do not recognise this electoral process as valid... we have to have new elections in Venezuela," he said.

Due to the opposition boycott, a win by Mr Maduro had been widely expected. What observers were more interested in was to see how many Venezuelans would turn out to vote.

Henri Falcón was labelled "a traitor" by the main opposition coalition for ignoring their boycott
The CNE said turnout would probably rise to 48%, still well below the figure in the 2013 presidential election, when almost 80% of eligible voters cast their ballots.

The opposition, however, accused the CNE of inflating its figures and claimed the real number was closer to 30%. A source within the CNE told Reuters that only 32.3% of eligible voters had cast their ballot by 18:00 local time, when most voting stations closed.

What was President Maduro's reaction?

Mr Maduro and his supporters were jubilant. The 55-year-old told cheering crowds outside the presidential palace in Caracas that "the revolution is here to stay!".

Supporters of the president were jubilant and showed their backing by donning fake moustaches
His supporters chanted "let's go, Nico!" as fireworks went off and confetti was fired in the air.

He also mocked his rival, saying Mr Falcón had been left "groggy" by the knockout victory Mr Maduro had achieved.

And while on the one hand he called for dialogue with the opposition, he also told supporters that "the opposition must leave us alone to govern".

Previous attempts at dialogue between the opposition and the government have failed.

Why is the opposition crying foul?

The main opposition coalition had warned that the election would not be free and fair.

It said the poll had been brought forward from December 2018 to take advantage of disarray within opposition ranks and that some of the most promising candidates had been banned from standing or jailed, while many others had fled the country.

That is why it called for a boycott. Mr Falcón however broke ranks, arguing Venezuelans should be given a chance to vote Mr Maduro out of office.

How did people react in Venezuela?

By Katy Watson, BBC South America correspondent, Caracas

Such was the expectation that Nicolás Maduro would win that his rivals admitted defeat, denouncing the result before it had even been announced. There was never going to be any result other than a Maduro victory - and Venezuelans knew that.

It feels like most people here are no longer outraged. Disappointed, maybe, but it's par for the course in a country where political freedom feels increasingly limited.

Mr Maduro has promised change in Venezuela - why he needed a second mandate to do that is anyone's guess. He's already been in the job five years. Added to that, change for the better under Mr Maduro is unlikely. With international pressure likely to build after these results, and with a crumbling economy, his job is harder than ever - as are the lives of Venezuelans.

What next?

As well as the US, the European Union and Latin American countries had also warned ahead of the vote that they would take further measures against the Venezuelan government if it went ahead with the election.

The exodus of Venezuelans leaving their country is expected to speed up further. According to International Office of Migration figures, the number of Venezuelans living abroad increased to an estimated 1.6 million in 2017 from 700,000 in 2015.

They have been driven out by Venezuela's severe economic crisis which has led to shortages of food and medicine and the world's highest inflation rate.

Those leaving speak of the struggle to feed their families and growing levels of child malnutrition which have hit 70% in some rural areas.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Somalia: Somaliland-Puntland Clash Leaves 4 Dead - Official
By Harun Maruf

Heavy fighting broke out early Tuesday in a disputed part of Somalia's Sool region, leaving at least four people dead, a security official told VOA.

The fighting between Somaliland and Puntland erupted outside the village of Tukaraq. It lies between the main towns of Las Anod in Somaliland – a breakaway Somali state and self-declared republic – and Garowe in Puntland.

The office of Puntland's president, Abdiweli Mohamed Ali, issued a statement accusing Somaliland of launching an "unprovoked" attack on its territory.

Somaliland officials accused Puntland of attacking their positions, local media report.

Both sides reported casualties including deaths, but neither side provided any figures to confirm those provided by the security official.

The official, who is not being named because he is not authorized to speak with journalists, described "intense" fighting with heavy weaponry.

Both Puntland and Somaliland reportedly have well-armed forces, and troops have massed in the disputed area in recent weeks. Michael Keating, the United Nations' special representative for Somalia, visited Puntland and Somaliland over the weekend and urged de-escalation.

Somaliland forces captured Tukaraq village in January after a surprise attack. At the time, Somaliland military officials said their forces conducted an operation "within our own borders." Puntland leaders, meanwhile, said Somaliland was "occupying" parts of its own territories and vowed publicly to "retake" the land.

Territorial disputes in the region go back to the colonial era, when Britain colonized Somaliland and Italy colonized the rest of Somalia. The people in Sool region are represented in both the Somaliland and Puntland administrations.

Somaliland announced its secession from the rest of Somalia in 1991, but has not been recognized as an independent state.

Observers worry that continued fighting will aggravate humanitarian concerns in a region prone to recurrent droughts.
Review KDF Strategies to Reduce Deaths in Somalia, MP Tells Uhuru
May. 20, 2018, 12:00 pm
By MATHEWS NDANYI @ndanyi_mathews

 A file photo of Kenyans planting flags beside KDF helmets, at Uhuru Park in Nairobi, during a vigil to honour soldiers killed in Somalia. /PATRICK VIDIJA

Ainabkoi MP William Chepkut wants a review of the strategies KDF uses to fight terrorists as many of them have been killed in Somalia.

Chepkut said on Saturday that the government needs to employ modern security strategies and equipment  that will keep soldiers more secure.

"North Rift counties of Uasin Gishu, Nandi and Trans Nzoia have the highest numbers of widows, whose husbands were KDF soldiers and members of other security agencies," he said.

“Even America is fighting in Somalia without ground troops ... we need to device strategies that will minimise loss of lives."

He spoke at Wounifer in his constituency after attending the burial of Duncan Kimutai, one of the soldiers killed in Somalia two weeks ago.

Seven troops died when the vehicle they were travelling hit a landmine.

Five were from the North Rift counties and three were buried at the weekend.

Chepkut, however, thanked President Uhuru Kenyatta and DP William Ruto for helping the families of slain soldiers and finding jobs for some of them.

“There are many cases that the President has followed up," he said. "We are indebted to the many young soldiers sacrificing their lives for the country."

Kenya is among several countries that have contributed troops to the African Union Mission in Somalia. The others are Uganda, Burundi, Ethiopia and Djibouti. Uganda began withdrawing its soldiers in December last year.

 Police contributing countries are Ghana, Kenya, NIgeria, Sierra Leone, Uganda and Zambia.

 Following calls for Kenyans to leave the war-torn country, the President noted in March last year that KDF troops will remain there until peace and stability are restored.

 Uhuru noted that more needs to be done before a planned Amison drawdown and transition to Somali security forces next year.
Security Council Extends Support for African Union Force in Somalia
Ethiopian soldiers serving under the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) on foot patrol in Halgan village, Hiran region, on 10 June 2016, a day after a battle with Al-Shabaab militants.AMISOM/Ilyas Ahmed

15 May 2018

The Security Council on Tuesday gave its backing to the African Union force in Somalia, AMISOM, extending its deployment until at least the end of July.

In the resolution, unanimously adopted, the Council also recalled its earlier decision to authorize the AU to reduce the Mission’s level of uniformed personnel to 20,626 by 30 October this year from 22,126 now;  but to include a minimum of 1,040 AMISOM police personnel, including five specialist Formed Police Units.

It also requested that the UN Secretary‑General continue to provide logistical support for AMISOM, its 70 civilian personnel; the 10,900-strong Somalia National Army jointly operating with AMISOM, and the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM).

The Council resolution adopted at the end of August last year, requested the AU and the UN to conduct a joint assessment of AMISOM’s operations - but this assessment has been delayed, leading to Tuesday’s decision to extend the deployment of AMISOM for just over two months, in order to assess the merits of a longer extension.

Briefing the Council, Michael Keating, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia, said that AMISOM continues to play an indispensable role, “at great human cost”, in protecting population centres, main supply routes and Somalia’s overall political progress.

“Suffice to say that successful security transition will require not just deep reform of the Somalia security forces but also, as the AU Commission Chairperson and UN Secretary-General’s Envoys noted, transformation of AMISOM,” he said.

Such transformation would entail more flexible joint operations and combat mentoring; greater emphasis on policing; adequate enablers and force multipliers, together with stronger accountability.

More flexible operational support by the UN Support Office in Somalia (UNSOS) will also be needed, along with predictable financing.

“The AU-UN joint review is likely to underscore that the foremost requirement for success is the need for unity of purpose among Somali actors, as well as between the Somalis, the AU, the troop-contributing countries, and principal security partners,” he said.
KDF Troops Begin Gradual Withdrawal From War-torn Somalia After UN Vote
By Dominic Wabala
East African Standard
May 18th 2018 at 23:12 GMT

Last year, Kenya withdrew 200 troops from Amisom and another 200 are set to return by December task accomplished   Kenyan soldiers will leave in December 2020 after mentoring Somali security forces to take over control from Amisom  The Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) are scheduled to withdraw from Somalia in two years according to timelines drawn by the United Nations Security Council.

The planned withdrawal comes seven years after KDF troops entered Somalia under the aegis of “Operation Linda Nchi” on October 14, 2011 in pursuit of Al Shabaab terrorists who had been entering Kenya at will to abduct and kill aid workers and tourists in North Eastern and Coast. 

According to the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2372 (2017), Kenyan troops will leave Somalia in December 2020 after mentoring Somali security forces to take over control from Amisom.

If the schedule works as planned, all sixteen Forward Operating Base (FOB) occupied by KDF troops working under Amisom will be taken over by Somalia National Army (SNA) and Jubaland Security Force who are currently being mentored to take over security responsibility of their country.

The FOBs include Amisom Sector II headquarters Dhobley, Afmadhow, Tabda, Fafadun, Hoosingow, Kismayo New Airport, Kismayo Old Airport, Kolbio, Buale, Badhaadhe, Beles Qoqaani and Burgavo among others.  Last year, Kenya withdrew 200 troops from Amisom as part of its share in the 1,000-man strong force in the drawdown authorised by the UN Security Council.

Another 200 KDF troops are scheduled to withdrawn from Somalia by December. It is expected that the drawdown will be escalated ahead of the 2020 deadline leaving all security responsibilities to Somalia security agencies. The five Troop Contributing Countries (TCCs) namely Burundi, Djibouti, Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia are bound by the UN Security Council drawdown resolution. Kenya, Uganda, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Zambia are contributing police officers to Amisom.

However, the Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission ambassador Francisco Caetano says the number will be compensated by 500 Amisom police who are coming in to assist in training of Somali police officers.

According to the UN Security Council Resolution 2372 (2017) which extended Amisom’s mandate until May 31, there is an expected reduction of the troops to 20,626 from 21,626 by October 30. 

The Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2372 (2017) under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter in which there would be a reduction of uniformed personnel but an increase of police in Somalia. But as the drawdown of Amisom troops approaches, locals and TCC are apprehensive of the ability of SNA to hold on to territory liberated by African Union troops when they withdraw in 2020.

Lack of a unified command structure for the SNA and other security forces operating in Somalia is the greatest challenge to achieving a realistic transition to and handing over of security responsibility.

Loss of gains During a meeting of Heads of State and ministers of the main TCC including Kenya, Ethiopia, Burundi and Uganda held in March in Uganda, the countries warned that the time frame for the drawdown was unrealistic and would likely lead to the loss of gains already achieved by Amisom.

Amisom recently received an extension of its mandate in Somalia from the UN Security Council. UN funds African Union’s operations in the war-ravaged country. KDF/Amisom troops have over the last one year been training and preparing Somalia security agents to take over the responsibility.

 All security operations are led by SNA with support from Amisom troops.  As part of the condition-based withdrawal, Amisom will soon handover the Mogadishu stadium to SNA troops as well as the Military Academy.

Amisom will then establish a FOB for SNA in Leego to secure the main supply route between Mogadishu and Baidoa.  The Mayor of Mogadishu and Governor of Benadir region Abdirahman Omar Osman is concerned that if Amisom troops leave before degrading Al Shabaab, the insurgents might return.

“Our worry is that the UN and other donors are talking about reducing troops. What we want is for our country to be secure and if the Amisom troops leave, the situation might be overturned,” the mayor says. 

Acting Amisom Force Commander Major General Tai Gituai says the transition period is being purely driven by the Somalia government.

“We want to let them have security responsibility with the support of AU. We are working out the modalities. Next week, we are having discussions on the condition-based transition plan. The transition will be applied based on a comprehensive approach that will drive the transition. We expect the forces to be well developed and ready to take over,” Maj Gen Gituai says.

The officers’ cadre is being trained by the British security officials. Somalia’s security agents are being trained by Turkey, Kenya, Uganda, Britain, EU and United Arab Emirates. 

newsdesk@standardmedia.co.ke   
Read more at: https://www.standardmedia.co.ke/article/2001280938/kdf-troops-begin-gradual-withdrawal-from-war-torn-somalia-after-un-vote
US Forces Accused of Complicity in Somalia Raid That Left Five Civilians Dead
Locals say unarmed men were banana farmers and were killed trying to flee during operation against al-Shabaab extremists

Jason Burke Africa correspondent
Thu 17 May 2018 09.21 EDT

 A Somali soldier near the wreckage of a car bomb in Mogadishu in April. There are several hundred US troops in Somalia helping the local military in its fight against al-Shabaab.

US special forces have been accused of complicity in the deaths of civilians after five unarmed men were killed during a raid by Somali troops last week that they “aided and assisted”.

The casualties were described as banana farmers by local inhabitants, and appear to have been shot while trying to flee the site of the operation, which officials say targeted commanders of the al-Shabaab extremist group.

Somali intelligence officials say three men detained in the raid on a village in the Lower Shabelle region were senior militants.

Mohamed Sheikh Mohamud, a farmer in the village of Ma’alinka, 37 miles south of Mogadishu, told the Guardian the operation started at about 1am last Thursday when “forces came down from a helicopter and started shooting the people in the farm”.

Mohamud said he knew the five men killed. Two were tractor drivers at a banana farm, and three were cattle farmers.

Anisa Abdullahi, a mortuary attendant who inspected the bodies when they were brought into the Medina hospital in Mogadishu the day after the raid, said four of the men died from fatal bullet wounds to the back and one was killed by a wound to the chest.

“After checking, we found all died because of gun shots. The type of the weapon is one type, as the wound holes have similar sizes,” Anisa Abdullahi told the Guardian.

There are no accounts of any sustained resistance to the special forces during the raid. Four Somali security officials and a senior officer with the Amisom regional force based in Mogadishu said they did not believe any weapons had been seized during the operation.

A second resident in the area said he just left the farm when he heard the first shot.

“It was past midnight and all was peaceful when the shooting began. Nobody fired at them as the people there were not armed. They shot the victims from close range and killed them,” said Hassan Muhidin, a farmer.

An account in the Daily Beast said that at least one villager fired a number of shots at the special forces in the belief that they were from a rival clan milita before being wounded and throwing his AK-47 away.

The US has ramped up military efforts against al-Shabaab, the deadliest Islamic extremist group in sub-Saharan Africa, under the Trump administration.

The exact role of the US forces during the raid last week is unclear. There are several hundred US troops in Somalia whose primary role is to enhance the local military’s ability to fight al-Shabaab, which is affiliated to al-Qaida.

Ali Mohamed Moalin, a traditional elder close to where the alleged raid took place on Wednesday night, told the AFP news agency that “two military helicopters” were involved, as well as “some foreign special forces”.

A spokesman for Somalia’s internal security ministry, Abdiasis Ali Mohamed (better known as Abdiasis Hildhiban), confirmed the raid saying troops “including Somali government forces and their friends raided an enemy target … and killed al-Shabaab members.”

US troops routinely accompany their Somali charges on operations. One special forces soldier was killed during a raid on a village last year, the first US soldier to die in Somali since the 1993 Black Hawk Down debacle.

A spokesperson for the US defence department’s Africa Command said that “US forces, in an advise-and-assist capacity, partnered in a Somali-led operation to disrupt and degrade al-Shabaab’s terrorist network near Bulcida, Somalia, on 9 May.”

Earlier this year the Guardian revealed that dozens of civilians have been killed and wounded in Somalia as airstrikes assisted or executed by the US against Islamist militants have increased to unprecedented levels.

Many raids and airstrikes occur in remote locations and al-Shabaab have a long history of exaggerating civilian casualties. But US forces frequently struggle to identify targets in a complex and dynamic environment.

Hassan Abdi Jim’ale, an elder from Ma’alinka, claimed “the Americans” were responsible for Thursday’s shooting.

“They do not kill al-Shabaab. They only kill civilians.” he said.

A statement from Africom said the reports alleging civilian casualties were being taken seriously.

“As with any allegations of civilian casualties we receive, US Africa Command will review any information it has about the incident, including any relevant information provided by third parties. If the information supporting the allegation is determined to be credible, Africom will determine the next appropriate step,” the statement read.

“The Department of Defense is fully committed to countering the threat of global terrorism, and will continue to support capable partners in the region.”

A series of offensives has failed to dislodge al-Shabaab from its strongholds.

Intelligence documents, transcripts of interrogations with recent defectors and interviews with inhabitants of areas in the swath of central and southern Somalia controlled by al-Shabaab have shone a light on the severity of its harsh rule – but also revealed significant support in some areas.

The group has put to death dozens of “criminals”, inflicted brutal punishments on gay people, conducted forced marriages, and used civilian populations as human shields.

Earlier this month a woman was stoned to death after being convicted of bigamy and adultery.
Morocco Accuses Algeria of Supporting Iran in Western Sahara Struggle
Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita says Algeria provided 'operational support' to Iran but expressed desire for dialogue.

13 May 2018

Morocco's foreign minister has accused Algeria of being directly involved in Iran's support of the Polisario, an independence movement in the disputed Western Sahara territory.

Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita told French publication Jeune Afrique in an extensive interview that Algeria offered more than a meeting venue for members of the Polisario Front and Lebanese group Hezbollah, which Rabat accused Iran of using in its support of the independence movement.

"Algeria has given more than its blessing. It has given an opening, backing and operational support," Bourita said.

"In addition, some meetings between the Polisario and Hezbollah were held in a secret Algiers hideout, leased to a certain 'DB', an Algerian woman married to a Hezbollah cadre, who acts as a liaison officer for Hezbollah, notably with the Polisario," Bourita added.

Earlier in May, Morocco severed ties with Iran over its alleged support of the Polisario through Hezbollah and in coordination with Tehran's diplomatic mission to Algiers.

Algiers summoned the kingdom's ambassador at the time to protest Moroccan allegations that it played any role in Tehran's purported support for the rebel movement.

Bourita added in the interview, revealed a day ahead of its scheduled publication by Morocco's foreign ministry, that he believed Algeria resorted to diversionary tactics, such as its support for the Polisario, to shift attention away from the country's more pressing concerns.

"Let's not forget that the Algerian regime, confronted by a grave institutional, political, economic and social crisis could not survive but for the problems and tensions that it has itself generated or intends to create, in order to deflect Algerians' attention from their real concerns," the foreign minister said.

'Our most ardent wish'

Bourita, however, switched tone and insisted that a different path does exist for the two countries, pointing out that France and Germany were able to reconcile after two world wars.

"Dialogue is always possible. It is our most ardent wish … The example of Germany and France is here to remind us. Who could have imagined, at the end of World War II that these two countries would be the engine of Europe's construction."

Last year, Bourita lamented the state of affairs between the two countries, noting that it had been more than seven years since a bilateral visit took place.

A failed attempt in 1963 to retake parts of Tindouf and Bechar provinces (present-day Algeria), territories that Rabat had long considered to be part of Greater Morocco, cast a lasting shadow over the neighbour's ties.

Analysts believe that Algeria's subsequent support for secessionist rebels from Western Sahara - a former Spanish colony until 1975 - is the result of the bad start the two countries got off to since achieving independence from colonial France, Morocco in 1956, Algeria in 1962.

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA NEWS
From Camels to Catfish, Algeria Boosts Fish Farming in the Sahara Desert
by Thin Lei Win | @thinink
Sunday, 20 May 2018 04:00 GMT

TOUGGOURT, Algeria, May 20 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - In a corner of his sprawling farm, Milouda Mohammed proudly unveiled his latest venture - a pond full of catfish that could herald a new future for farmers like him on the Sahara desert.

He is hoping to earn extra income from selling fresh, farmed fish from the world's largest and hottest desert and use the water to irrigate his olive and date trees and vegetables.

"Five years from now, I'm expecting different kinds of products from this land," said Mohammed, 49, clad in thick, long-sleeved overalls, oblivious to the searing afternoon sun.

The 15-hectare farm, some 600 km (370 miles) by car from the capital Algiers, bustled with chickens, quails, ducks, camels, goats and sheep - a hive of activity in this stark landscape where, for miles, there is little else besides sand.

"I'm excited about this. Inshallah, it works," he added, using the Arabic phrase for "God willing" as he threw some home-made feed of leftover chicken and vegetables into the pond.

Farming fish in the desert might sound counterintuitive but Algeria hopes to tap the huge aquifers beneath the Sahara - that covers about 80 percent of the country - as it seeks new ways to feed its growing population and diversify its oil based economy.

Algeria's population is forecast by the United Nations to rise 25 percent to nearly 50 million people by 2030, increasing demand for food and jobs in the North African nation, one of many countries battling water scarcity and population growth.

For several years the government has been promoting agriculture in southern Algeria, offering cheap loans and concessions to farmers willing to take up the Sahara challenge - and with some success, according to government officials.

Taha Hammouche, director-general for fisheries at Algeria's agriculture ministry, said about 13,000 farmers have expressed interest in aquaculture projects, enthused after the Sahara yielded its first harvest of farmed desert shrimp two years ago.

The government is providing training on raising fish and using the waste water on plants instead of chemical fertilisers.

"Fishery resources in the Mediterranean Sea have decreased so we cannot rely on that anymore to increase our production," Hammouche told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Hammouche said Algeria hopes aquaculture in the Sahara will help to nearly double the nation's annual fish production by 2022 from current levels of about 100,000 tonnes a year.

Currently Algeria's fish come mostly from along its 1,280 km (800 miles) of Mediterranean coastline which experts fear is in danger from pollution, climate change and overfishing.

Valerio Crespi from the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said integrating agriculture and aquaculture could provide protein to rural and isolated desert communities globally but cautioned about over-use of underground water.

Studies have shown consuming fish is particularly beneficial for pregnant women and young children, said Crespi, who has been working with Algerian authorities since desert aquaculture was first mooted in the country a decade ago.

"Raising fish in deserts is going to be really critical, even for developed countries, because we've got to be more efficient with water," said Kevin Fitzsimmons, a University of Arizona professor.

Arizona farmers who raise fish improved their soil quality, saved money on fertilisers, and received premium price for their fish, added Fitzsimmons, who has advised desert aquaculture farms in the United States, Mexico, and the Middle East.

Data shows that drylands, including deserts and grasslands, take up about 41 percent of the world's land surface and are home to more than 2 billion people.

But U.N. studies say climate change means nearly half the world population will live in high water stress areas by 2030.

Fitzsimmons said action is needed now and he is looking to develop aquaculture in dry zones in Myanmar and India.

"Making their agriculture more efficient and their land more productive with more vegetables, more fruits, and more fish, is going to be critical to support the fast-growing populations (in dry areas)," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Raising fish can be more efficient than livestock because less space is needed and fish are edible quicker, he added.

Other advantages include better disease control because fish farms in deserts are not connected to water systems, said Dina Zilberg, an expert on fish disease at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel, a pioneer in desert aquaculture.

Critics, however, say aquaculture - the fastest growing agricultural sector for the past 40 years - destroys the environment and put diseases and invasive species into the wild.

Zilberg said while some criticism is warranted, solutions now exist to prevent contamination and besides, she added, there is little alternative, with global fish stocks under strain.

"If we want to continue consuming it, we will have to grow it," she said. "The thing to do is not (stop) aquaculture but make the farms treat the water properly."

CULTURAL BARRIERS

Those wanting to try desert aquaculture can expect challenges, ranging from climate change - with average annual rainfall down more than 30 percent in recent decades and temperatures rising - to consumer perceptions.

In Israel's Negev desert, where costs of water, land and electricity are high, only ornamental fish farms are thriving as these fetch higher prices than fish for eating, Zilberg said.

Meanwhile, thousands of miles away in Ouargla, southern Algeria, a commercial fish farm set up nearly a decade ago has had to reduce production due to a lack of consumer demand.

"People prefer fish from the sea ... but we expect this project to be profitable in the future," said the farm's supervisor, who did not want to give his name.

Sometimes supplies are an issue. The high-tech shrimp centre in Ouargla produced its first harvest in 2016 but is yet to reach its potential due to a lack of shrimp larvae locally.

Shrimps produced at the high-tech Shrimp Cultivation Research Center, a joint venture project between South Korea and Algeria, in Ouargla, southern Algeria, April 11, 2018. Thomson Reuters Foundation/Thin Lei Win
The centre, a joint venture between Korea and Algeria, is importing shrimp larvae from Florida, but that is costly and the quantity is limited, said Kashi Massaoud, the centre's director.

Still, the converts are forging ahead.

Farmer Kaboussa Mohammed, 52 - no relation to Milouda Mohammed - is optimistic for the tilapia and catfish being raised on his one-hectare farm, saying the nutrient-rich water from his pond has improved his dates.

"I used to use chemical stuff for the plants but this is very natural and they grow faster too," he said.

(Reporting By Thin Lei Win @thinink, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, corruption and climate change. Visit www.trust.org)
Algeria's Islamist Opposition Urges National Consensus on Economic Reform
Algeria must build a national consensus to undertake deep economic reforms and end its dependency on volatile gas and oil revenues, the new leader of the main Islamist opposition party said.

19 May 2018 01:16AM

ALGIERS: Algeria must build a national consensus to undertake deep economic reforms and end its dependency on volatile gas and oil revenues, the new leader of the main Islamist opposition party said.

Abderazak Makri, elected last week as the new head of the Islamist MSP party, also told Reuters he will stand in the presidential election in April 2019 if the government does not bring the opposition into its plans for taking the oil-producer country forward.

President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, the veteran leader in power since 1999, has not declared yet whether he will seek a fifth term though the ruling FLN party and the biggest labour union have asked him to run again.

Should the 81-year-old, who is wheelchair-bound following a stroke in 2013, run again this would provide short-term stability in the OPEC oil producer giving the military-backed power brokers time to sort out a smooth transition.

But Makri said the oil producer had no time to lose to agree on economic reforms as Algeria's model of a state dominated economic dependent on oil and gas revenues no longer worked.

"A government needs full support from political parties, unions and organizations to implement difficult reforms. This is why we need a consensus," Makri said in an interview.

"If we do not reach a political consensus, all options will be then open. We may participate. We may boycott," he said.

Islamist parties now play no big role in Algeria where the FLN has dominated since independence from France. The MSP won only 6 percent in the 2017 election and it boycotted the presidential elections in 2014.

Makri said rising domestic gas consumption eating into gas exports showed that the Algeria need to diversify its economy even if oil prices were continuing to pick up.

Oil and gas revenues have halved since 2014, straining a welfare state used to discourage dissent.

Algeria has responded to the economic crisis by reducing imports, a public service hire freeze and postponing some projects to cope with the crash of oil prices.

But the government has maintained subsidies of key products such as milk and powerful elites have resisted opening up the country too much to foreigners.

"The government needs to show very clearly to political parties that it will accept political change," Makri said.

Many ordinary Algerians prefer stability after the civil war in the 90s when the elite overturned an election which Islamists were poised to win triggering a conflict with them in which about 200,000 people were killed.

Makri was undeterred by the apparent modest support for Islamist parties, pointing to Tunisia where Islamist and secular forces rule together.

"Tunisia is a good sample. When elections are free and fair the winners are always Islamists," he said. "In Morocco, the Islamists have won, in Tunisia they have won, and they would have won in Algeria if there had been no fraud."

(Editing by Ulf Laessing and Richard Balmforth)

Read more at https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/world/algeria-s-islamist-opposition-urges-national-consensus-on-economic-reform-10248844
Migrant Crisis Emerges in Sahara Desert on Algeria-Niger Border, IOM Says
In the desert heat, one day without water is enough to cause death from dehydration.

by Alastair Jamieson
Reuters
May.16.2018 / 9:06 AM ET
Image: Algeria-Niger border

Dozens of migrants have died in the searing heat of the Sahara Desert and thousands more are stuck there amid a wave of expulsions by Algeria.

The United Nations migration agency, IOM, says it is providing shelter for 3,500 migrants in neighboring Niger, a landlocked nation that has become a crossroads on the trail toward Europe and a hotspot for human traffickers.

Algeria last year launched a crackdown on illegal immigration across its southern border, and has stepped up patrols along the largely unmarked desert frontier.

It has also begun deporting thousands of sub-Saharan Africans who are living in Algeria without consent — typically from countries such as Mali, Cameroon and Nigeria.

The result is a southward stream of migrants across the sparsely populated region in temperatures of up to 120 degrees.

On a single day last month, 1,500 arrived at the remote border village of Assamakka, according to Giuseppe Loprete, IOM chief of mission in Niger.

Migrants dropped there by Algerian authorities face a 250-mile journey to the nearest town, Agadez. Many give up seeking transport and walk.

“Most of them have no money or identity documents, food or water,” Loprete said. “They are traumatized. In some cases they have been unable to get transport and have walked or they have been abandoned by human traffickers and don’t know where they are."

At least 7,000 are expected to pass through in the year to June, according to IOM estimates, often carrying children or a few belongings.

In the desert heat, one day without water is enough to cause death from dehydration.

“The territory makes it difficult to verify numbers but most groups we find have reported deaths along the way,” Loprete said. “Recently we found a group that started out as 50 but only six remained alive. The total number of deaths must be in the dozens in this current crisis and definitely in the thousands since 2015.”

Niger's border with Libya is formally closed and heavily militarized, and so the Algeria border has become a major destination.

No official figure is available for the number of undocumented migrants in Algeria, but some unofficial estimates put the total as high as 100,000.

Algerian Foreign Minister Abdelkader Messahel last year said migrants are “a threat to national security” and vowed to step up deportations.

Despite the uptick in deportations and the risk of death on route, there are still some migrants heading north in search of a better life.

It means the IOM camps in Niger are dealing with flows of people in many directions.

“We can only explain the dangers and give them advice,” IOM's Loprete said. “Some are determined to go into Algeria but a lot of them get robbed by the traffickers and end up back here with no money. Some just give up and go home; we can arrange that with consular help."

Human Rights Watch has reported that Algerian officials are rounding up migrants from streets or construction sites and holding them in crowded deportation centers before expelling them over the border into Niger.
Tunisia’s First Woman Party Leader Dies
Maya Jribi cofounded secular liberal political party

19:54 May 19, 2018
Gulf News
Habib Toumi, Bureau Chief

Manama: Maya Jribi, a Tunisian politician who was one of the first women to lead a political party in the Arab world, died Saturday afternoon.

Born in 1960 to a Tunisian father and an Algerian mother, Maya engaged in political activism within the students’ union when she was a biology student at a university in Sfax, Tunisia’s second largest city, 260 kilometres south of the capital Tunis.

She joined the Tunisian League of Human Rights and penned several articles in Al Rai weekly newspaper.

Maya was a member of a study group looking into the status of women and her social activism promoted her to join an anti-cancer society and to form an association for studies about women and development.

In 1983, she contributed, alongside Ahmad Nejib Chebbi, to establishing the Progressive Socialist Rally, a secular liberal political party. When she became member of its politburo in 1986, she was one of the rare women to hold an advanced position within the party.

The party gained legal recognition in 1988 and was renamed the Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) in 2001.

In 2006, she was elected as the head of the PDP, succeeding Chebbi and becoming the first woman in Tunisia to lead a national political party.

On October 23, 2011, she was elected to the parliament representing a district in Ben Arous, in the southern suburbs of Tunis.

While she achieved a comfortable majority, her party fared poorly, prompting anger and dismay.

“We will look carefully into the reasons for this failure and will analyse them,” Maya then told Gulf News. “We do appreciate however the massive participation of the people in the elections and which exceeded all expectations.”

Affected by disease, Maya announced her retirement during the party convention in 2017.

Social media in Tunisia were filled with expression of condolences and sympathies for her family.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Egypt: Costs of Economic Growth
Niveen Wahish
Wednesday 16 May 2018

The government has been caught between the need to streamline spending and to keep people happy during Ramadan

This was a good week for Egyptian economic policy-makers, as the country received the first upgrade to its credit rating in seven years when Standard & Poor’s (S&P), the international credit-ratings agency, upgraded its rating for the Egyptian economy from B- to B.

“The upgrade reflects strengthening GDP growth and rising external foreign-exchange reserves, alongside the implementation of reforms,” S&P said, referring to the government’s economic reform program supported by a three-year $12 billion Extended Fund Facility from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

“We also anticipate that ongoing economic and fiscal reforms will underpin rising business confidence and sustain capital inflows,” the agency added. It gave Egypt a “stable” outlook taking into consideration risks from “still-high fiscal deficits and a high stock of relatively short-dated government debt issued at high-interest rates.”

Egypt’s budget deficit has come in at an average of 12 per cent during the last five years, and the government aims at trimming it to 8.5 per cent during the current fiscal year. Public debt has increased to more than 100 per cent of GDP and exceeds LE3 trillion.

On Monday, Moody’s, another international credit-ratings agency, included Egypt among seven emerging markets having the largest risks to global rising debt costs due to its high proportion of short or average maturity debt.

However, while the long-awaited S&P upgrade was good news, many people in Cairo were more concerned with the price of the city’s metro tickets, which this week increased by between 50 to 250 per cent to reach LE3, LE5 or LE7 depending on distance.

According to the government, the actual cost of the ticket is around LE16. Dozens of commuters protested against the rise in prices in some metro stations amid clashes with police that ended with the arrest of some protesters.

While the government has said before that it intended to increase the Cairo metro fares, the timing of the move took many by surprise as it had not previously embarked on price hikes before the holy month of Ramadan, which tends to increase household expenses, especially on food. Ramadan is expected to start today.

Since the government embarked on its economic reform programme in November 2016, many people have been squeezed by the devaluation of the Egyptian pound, pushing up the prices of goods and services and reflected in an inflation rate that reached more than 30 per cent last summer.

However, inflation has been cooling since the beginning of 2018. Annual headline inflation fell to 13.1 per cent year-on-year in April from 13.3 per cent in March, the official statistics agency CAPMAS said earlier this week. Monthly inflation increased by 1.5 per cent in April compared to one per cent in March.

Nevertheless, the cooling inflation has not consoled many, especially as the expenditure of many families tends to rise during Ramadan because of the cost of delicacies eaten in the holy month such as the nuts and dried fruit known as yameesh.

A kilogram of almonds now costs around LE350, more than a quarter of the official minimum wage.

Although Ramadan is a month of worship and fasting where ideally consumption should be less, most people spend more during Ramadan on food items.

Some statistics say that household expenses increase by at least 40 per cent during the holy month, as families tend to eat large meals when they break their dawn-to-dusk fast.

The government has tried to help by organising its annual “Ahlan Ramadan” exhibitions across the country offering food products at competitive prices. It is also selling discounted food staples in affiliated retailers as well as in Armed Forces outlets.

A Supply Ministry spokesman told Reuters that it had prepared for the month by making LE3.5 billion worth of subsidised products available in different outlets including sugar, oil, rice and pasta.

The Holding Company for Food Industries will also send vehicles stuffed with food to residents of low-income neighbourhoods who may not have easy access to retail outlets. Big supermarkets serving different income brackets are also offering discounts.

Sociologist Madiha Al-Safti said the increased consumption during the holy month was a “bad habit” imported into Egypt from the Gulf. “It was not the case two decades ago,” she said.

However, Mahasen Abdallah, a working mother of two, said she found the food discounts attractive, as they meant she could buy in bulk to save time and money throughout the rest of the month.

Yet, despite the discounts, some people still find the prices expensive. Fatma, a mother of two who works as a home cleaner, said she could only afford the basics.

Her ration card, which covers both her and her husband, was very useful in securing some of these, she said, as the card allows purchases of LE50 per person. She also has a card allowing her to buy subsidised bread.

She gets points for any bread she does not buy, which she exchanges for other commodities at government outlets.

Fatma said she hoped the government would put extra credit on the ration cards this year as it had last year, though the minister of supply said recently that this would not take place.

Fatma also receives a charity Ramadan food box distributed by charitable organisations and individuals and varying in size.

One of the larger boxes is distributed by Dar Al-Orman, an NGO, and this, weighing 20kg, contains basic food items such as rice, pasta, fava beans, lentils and sugar that can feed a family of five for 20 days.

“We do not waste donors’ money on yameesh, and we only provide the essentials,” Mahmoud Fouad, deputy head of Dar Al-Orman, told Al-Ahram Weekly. He said the organisation bought in bulk months before Ramadan started in order to secure competitive prices for the items.

Other charities of smaller size cannot always do the same, however. Aida Ali, who runs a small charity that collects money to help residents of villages in Upper Egypt, said that thus far she had only been able to distribute 60 Ramadan boxes.

“Three years ago we used to distribute 150 to 200 bags before Ramadan that included three times the items we put in the boxes now,” she said.

“There has been a decline in the value of donations, together with an increase in the prices of the items included in the boxes,” she added.

The larger charities were luckier, Ali said, as they could run advertisements on television appealing for donations.

She said that inflation had reduced the spending power of many middle-class families over the last two years, and this had meant that many donors only covered the needs of people in Cairo rather than sending donations to Upper Egypt.

However, Fouad said that his association had been seeing a 25 to 30 per cent increase in donations. A good part of this had come in the form of small donations from ordinary people.

“It just goes to show that Egyptian people have real sympathy for those less fortunate than themselves,” he said.

Additional reporting by Sherine Abdel-Razek

*A version of this article appears in print in the 17 May 2018 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline:Costs of economic growth

http://english.ahram.org.eg/News/299653.aspx
Egypt's FM Shoukry Travelling to Algeria for Tripartite Meeting of North African States on Libya 
Ahram Online
Sunday 20 May 2018

Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry will head on Monday to the Algerian capital of Algiers to participate in a meeting of the tripartite initiative of Arab states neighboring Libya, which includes Egypt, Tunisia, and Algeria, Egyptian foreign ministry spokesperson Ahmed Abu Zeid said in statement

"The meeting comes in the framework of regular meetings of the tripartite initiative held continuously between the three states to discuss the latest developments in Libya and how to support the Libyan brothers on the political and security levels to achieve a national consensus and political solution to the crisis in the country," the statement said.

Abu Zeid added that the meeting comes amid intensified international efforts to break the stalemate in the country, and to complete the Libyan political roadmap through holding parliamentary and presidential elections.

"Egypt's participation in the meeting comes in the framework of Cairo's special interest in supporting a political resolution to the Libyan crisis as well as efforts to counter terrorism and unite the Libyan military institution," the statement added.

http://english.ahram.org.eg/News/299879.aspx