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Clinging to power in Africa
December 19, 2015 | 0 Comments

Here is a range of precedents over the past 15 years:

– Successful bids –

[caption id="attachment_23113" align="alignleft" width="300"]An amendment to the constitution would allow Rwandan President Paul Kagame, 58, to run for an exceptional third seven-year term in 2017 (AFP Photo/Zacharias Abubeker) An amendment to the constitution would allow Rwandan President Paul Kagame, 58, to run for an exceptional third seven-year term in 2017 (AFP Photo/Zacharias Abubeker)[/caption]

– BURUNDI: After a constitutional row, President Pierre Nkurunziza won a controversial third term in July 2015, in polls boycotted by the opposition and denounced by the United Nations as neither free nor fair. His re-election bid sparked an attempted coup by rebel generals and months of civil unrest that has killed hundreds and driven hundreds of thousands from the country.

– ZIMBABWE: A new constitution adopted in 2013 allowed President Robert Mugabe, in power since 1980, to stand in an election, which he won.

– DJIBOUTI: In April 2010, Djibouti’s parliament approved a constitutional amendment allowing President Ismael Omar Guelleh, in power since 1999, to run for a third term, which he won in 2011. He is now eyeing a fourth term in 2016.

– ANGOLA: The adoption in January 2010 of a constitutional amendment providing for the election of a president by indirect suffrage, by parliamentarians, allowed head of state Jose Eduardo dos Santos, in power since 1979, to be sworn in in 2012 after his party’s victory in legislative elections.

– ALGERIA: In November 2008, parliament removed the presidential two term limit, voting for a revision of the constitution. President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, in power since 1999, was then re-elected in 2009 and again in 2014. – CAMEROON: In April 2008, parliament revised the constitution, scrapping the limit on the number of presidential terms. Paul Biya, who had been in power since 1982, was elected to a sixth term in October 2011. – UGANDA: In July 2005, a constitutional reform scrapped restrictions on the number of presidential terms. Yoweri Museveni, in power since 1986, was re-elected in 2006 and 2011 and is running again in 2016. – CHAD: In June 2005, a constitutional revision was adopted after a disputed referendum abolished a limit of two five-year terms. Idriss Deby, in power since 1990, was re-elected in 2006 and again in 2011. – TOGO: In December 2002, a constitutional amendment paved the way for Gnassingbe Eyadema, in power since 1967, to seek another term in 2003. After his death in office in February 2005, a constitutional revision by parliament allowed his son, Faure Gnassingbe, favoured by the army, to be sworn in as president. He won a third term in April 2015. – Failed attempts –

Other leaders have not managed to impose constitutional changes to remain in power.

– BURKINA FASO: In October 2014, the announcement that long-serving president Blaise Compaore sought to extend his rule beyond 30 years brought hundreds of thousands of protesters onto the streets, forcing him to step down.

– ZAMBIA: Frederick Chiluba had to throw in the towel in 2001 under popular pressure, and in MALAWI, the parliament in 2002 blocked Bakili Muluzi from seeking a third mandate in 2004. – NIGERIA: Military ruler turned democrat Olusegun Obasanjao failed in his 2006 effort to change the constitution to allow him a third term in power. – Still trying –

– THE REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Veteran Congo ruler Denis Sassou Nguesso’s government on October 27, 2015 claimed a landslide victory in a referendum on changes to the constitution that would make him eligible to contest elections next year, extending his three-decade stay in power.

– THE DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: President Joseph Kabila inherited his post after his father, Laurent-Desire Kabila, was killed in January 2001. The opposition believes Kabila will try to circumvent the constitution and run for a third five-year term in 2016.

*AFP/Yahoo]]>

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Secretary-General appoints Bintou Keita of Guinea as African Union-UN Deputy Joint Special Representative in Darfur
October 28, 2015 | 0 Comments

Bintou Keita Bintou Keita[/caption] United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and African Union Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma announced today the appointment of Bintou Keita of Guinea as Deputy Joint Special Representative for the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID). Ms. Keita succeeds Abdul Kamara of Sierra Leone, to whom the Secretary-General and the Chairperson are grateful for his dedicated service during his tenure with UNAMID. Ms. Keita brings to the position a wealth of experience with more than 25 years of service in the United Nations. Her most recent positions include Ebola Crisis Manager for Sierra Leone and Chief of Staff for the United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response. Prior to that, Ms. Keita served in several senior management and leadership functions with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Chad, Congo, Madagascar, Cape Verde, Rwanda, Burundi and New York. From 2007 to 2010, Ms. Keita was Deputy Executive Representative of the Secretary-General for the United Nations Integrated Office in Burundi. She has also worked with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Canadian International Development Agency in Guinea. Ms. Keita holds a master’s degree in social economy from the University Paris II, France, and a master’s degree in business administration and management from the University of Paris IX, France. Born in 1958, she has one child. *APO]]>

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UN Secretary-General and AUC Chairperson appoint Martin Ihoeghian Uhomoibhi of Nigeria as Joint Special Representative for the UNAMID
October 28, 2015 | 0 Comments

Martin Ihoeghian Uhomoibhi Martin Ihoeghian Uhomoibhi, president of the United Nations Human Rights Council, answers questions during a news conference at the Itamaraty Palace in Brasilia, Tuesday, April 28, 2009. Martin Ihoeghian Uhomoibhi is on four-day visit to Brazil. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)[/caption] United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and African Union Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma announced today the appointment of Martin Ihoeghian Uhomoibhi of Nigeria as their Joint Special Representative for Darfur and Head of the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID), with responsibilities including those of African Union-United Nations Joint Chief Mediator. He replaces Abiodun Oluremi Bashua of Nigeria, to whom the Secretary-General and the Chairperson wish to reiterate their deep appreciation for his dedicated service during his tenure as Acting Joint Special Representative/Joint Chief Mediator. Mr. Uhomoibhi brings to his new position extensive experience after a long and distinguished career in international forums. Most recently, he has served as the Founder and President of the Pan African Institute for Global Affairs and Strategy. During his over 30 years of service in the Nigerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Uhomobihi served as Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Ambassador of Nigeria to Switzerland and Permanent Representative to the United Nations Office in Geneva. He also held positions in the Permanent Mission of Nigeria to the United Nations in New York, Consulate-General of Nigeria in Atlanta, Georgia, United States, and its Embassies in Ethiopia and Yugoslavia. From 2008 to 2009, Mr. Uhomoibhi served as the third President of the United Nations Human Rights Council and Chairman of the World Intellectual Property Organisation General Assembly. Mr. Uhomoibhi holds a doctorate degree in modern history and international relations from Oxford University, United Kingdom, a master’s degree in history and political science and a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria. Mr. Uhomoibhi was born Ewatto, Nigeria, in 1954. He is married with children. *AUC/APO]]>

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Ahmed Mohamed: US 'clock boy' meets Sudan leader
October 17, 2015 | 0 Comments

The 14-year-old American who made headlines after being arrested for bringing a homemade clock to school has met Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.

Ahmed Mohamed and his family were received at a presidential compound in Sudan’s capital Khartoum on Wednesday, according to state-run radio. [caption id="attachment_21612" align="alignleft" width="660"]Ahmed Mohamed with his father and Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir Ahmed Mohamed with his father and Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir[/caption] The Texan teenager was pulled out of class and handcuffed because a teacher mistook his clock for a bomb. His arrest was sharply criticised and the police declined to file charges. The boy’s father, Mohamed Hassan al-Sufi, is a Sudanese immigrant to the US and a former presidential candidate who ran against Mr Bashir. The Sudan leader is wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes in Darfur, which he denies. Ahmed said he was pleased to meet the president and vowed to return one day with a new invention, according to the radio broadcast. He has also been invited to the White House by US President Barack Obama, who tweeted his support after the incident. Nasa scientists and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg also praised the boy’s initiative. The police rejected a suggestion by Ahmed’s family that he was detained because he was Muslim. *BBC  ]]>

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ICC gives South Africa more time to explain failure to arrest Bashir
October 17, 2015 | 0 Comments

Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir greets his South African counterpart Jacob Zuma (L) at the Palace in Khartoum February 1, 2015. REUTERS/ Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir greets his South African counterpart Jacob Zuma (L) at the Palace in Khartoum February 1, 2015. REUTERS/ Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah[/caption]

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – The International Criminal Court has given South Africa more time to explain why it failed to arrest Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, accused by the ICC of war crimes, when he visited the country in June.

As an ICC signatory, South Africa is obliged to implement warrants from the court. But when Bashir visited for an African Union summit, the government refused to arrest him, and allowed him to leave the country in violation of a domestic court order.

The ICC had initially given South Africa until Oct. 5 to defend its decision. But the government, currently reviewing a high court ruling that authorities erred in letting Bashir leave, said it needed more time to respond.

South Africa should report back to the ICC on the progress of legal proceedings no later than Dec. 31, the court, based in the Dutch city of The Hague, said in a statement.

The failure to detain Bashir was a blow to the ICC, which has come under criticism from African states for what they see as its disproportionate focus on their continent.

South Africa’s ruling African National Congress said this month it wants to withdraw from the ICC because powerful nations use it to “trample” human rights and pursue “selfish interests”.

The ICC issued an arrest warrant for Bashir in 2009, accusing him of masterminding genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Sudan’s Darfur region, where an estimated 300,000 people were killed and more than 2 million displaced.

*Source Reuters/Yahoo]]>

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S.Africa's Zuma escapes impeachment bid over Al-Bashir
September 3, 2015 | 0 Comments

The motion to form an ad-hoc committee to start impeachment proceedings against South African President Jacob Zuma failed to gain the necessary one-third votes in the 400 seat parliament (AFP Photo/Rodger Bosch) The motion to form an ad-hoc committee to start impeachment proceedings against South African President Jacob Zuma failed to gain the necessary one-third votes in the 400 seat parliament (AFP Photo/Rodger Bosch)[/caption]

Cape Town (AFP) – South African President Jacob Zuma Tuesday escaped a bid in parliament to impeach him over the government’s refusal to arrest Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir on genocide charges brought by the International Criminal Court.

Zuma was saved partly by widespread resentment of the ICC’s perceived focus on prosecuting African leaders while countries such as the United States have failed to place themselves under the control of the Hague-based institution.

The opposition Democratic Alliance had sought to establish an ad-hoc committee to consider ousting Zuma over his alleged contempt of the constitution by failing to abide by a court order to prevent Al-Bashir’s departure from the country during an African Union summit in June.

The choice was between “the rule of law and the the rule of big men where might is right”, DA parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane told the house.

He said Zuma had helped “a mass murderer” escape justice, and compared that to the pledge by South Africa’s first democratically-elected president Nelson Mandela that the country’s foreign policy would be guided by human rights issues.

Government minister Lindiwe Zulu said in response that Al-Bashir had immunity because he was attending a summit of the African Union.

Zulu said South Africa would “continue to uphold its national interests, and that of our continent, on the basis that we believe that our development is intrinsically linked to that of our neighbours.”

The motion to form an ad-hoc committee to start impeachment proceedings against Zuma failed to gain the necessary one-third votes in the 400 seat assembly.

But a key point in the debate was made by the radical Economic Freedom Fighters, led by firebrand Julius Malema, which said it supported the motion to impeach Zuma for a number of reasons, including corruption, but did not accept that the Al-Bashir affair was the right basis because of the ICC’s bias against African countries.

Another opposition party, the United Democratic Front, took a similar line, saying that the arrest of Al-Bashir would have “isolated us from the rest of Africa”.

Bashir has evaded justice since his indictment in 2009 for war crimes in the Sudanese region of Darfur.

He was welcomed in Beijing Tuesday by China’s President Xi Jinping, who described him as an “old friend of the Chinese people”.

China is not a member of the ICC, and nor is the United States, where Al-Bashir is tipped to attend the UN general assembly later this month.

It is unclear what action the US government might take over such a visit, but if it invokes the immunity provided for heads of state attending UN meetings, its condemnation of South Africa’s failure to arrest Al-Bashir would no doubt be seen as hypocritical.

*Source AFP/Yahoo]]>

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Sudan's Bashir to visit China despite international arrest warrant
August 31, 2015 | 0 Comments

Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir (front) welcomes Yemen's President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi (not pictured) at Khartoum Airport August 29, 2015. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir (front) welcomes Yemen’s President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi (not pictured) at Khartoum Airport August 29, 2015. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah[/caption]

KHARTOUM (Reuters) – Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir is expected to travel to China on Monday for a four-day visit, the foreign ministry said, defying an international warrant for his arrest.

The Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC) issued arrest warrants for Bashir in 2009 and 2010, accusing him of masterminding genocide and other atrocities in his campaign to crush a revolt in the western Darfur region. Members of the ICC are obliged to act on arrest warrants. China is not a member.

Bashir, who rejects the court’s authority, has managed to travel within Africa and the Middle East.

In June, he was forced to flee South Africa, however, after a court ruled he should be banned from leaving pending the outcome of a hearing on his possible arrest. Sudan’s foreign ministry said Bashir would visit China for a commemoration of the end of World War II. Bashir, who has ruled Sudan since a 1989 Islamist and army-backed coup, has not travelled outside the Middle East or Africa since 2011, when he also visited China.

He is due to travel to New York in September for the United Nations General Assembly, Sudan’s deputy U.N. envoy said earlier this month.

*Source Reuters/Yahoo]]>

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11th AFRICAN GAMES – BRAZZAVILLE, REPUBLIC OF CONGO, 04-19 September, 2015
August 27, 2015 | 0 Comments

newsletter-special-brazzaville-2015-englishThe 11th Edition of the African Games is scheduled to take place on 4th to 19th September, 2015, in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo. This edition will mark the 50th Anniversary of the African Games, since the 1st edition in 1965 that was also hosted by the Republic of Congo. Approximately 7000 athletes from 50 African countries will converge back to the birth place of the African Games in Brazzaville to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of the African Union in the spirit of Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance.

This edition is also a milestone for the AU as it is the first one under the auspices of the African Union as the owner of the Games, following the dissolution of the Supreme Council for Sport in Africa (SCSA) as well as the integration of the functions of the SCSA into the AU. The integrated functions of the SCSA include the ownership, coordination and organization of the African Games.

The opening ceremony will take place on 4th September, 2015, and will be presided over by H.E. Denis Sassou Nguesso, President of the Republic of Congo, and attended by the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, H.E. Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, H.E. Dr Mustapha Sidiki Kaloko, Commissioner for Social Affairs and H.E. Martial de Paul Ikounga, Commissioner for Human Resources, Science and Technology. The African Games will be preceded by the Bureau Meeting of the Specialized Technical Committees on Youth, Culture and Sport and a Sub-Committee of the STC Ministers of Sport on 3th September, 2015.

During the games, the AU will rally the continent around the spirit of Pan-Africanism through its key message i.e. “I am African, I am the African Union” and through its 50 year Agenda 2063 development framework. Agenda 2063″ is an approach to how the continent should effectively learn from the lessons of the past, build on the progress now underway and strategically exploit all possible opportunities available in the immediate and medium term, so as to ensure positive socioeconomic transformation within the next 50 years. The agenda will assist the continent achieve its vision, i.e. an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the international arena.

“Because of the power of sport, we see this event as an important milestone on the road to achieving the objectives of our continental vision and action plan, which Africa has christened Agenda 2063: the Africa We Want”, said AU Commission Chairperson Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma.

SOURCE African Union Commission (AUC)

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In Bashir fiasco, Pretoria makes clear Africa comes first
June 15, 2015 | 1 Comments

By Ed Cropley* [caption id="attachment_18721" align="alignleft" width="594"]Sudanese President Omar al Bashir (r0 meets with South African President Zuma during a two day visit on January 31,2015 in Khartoum. AFP photo/Aashraf Shazly Sudanese President Omar al Bashir (r0 meets with South African President Zuma during a two day visit on January 31,2015 in Khartoum. AFP photo/Aashraf Shazly[/caption]

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – From the moment Omar al-Bashir touched down in South Africa, Pretoria had a choice: arrest the Sudanese president for alleged war crimes and face fury from the rest of the continent, or grant him safe passage home and take flak from the West.

The decision, confirmed by the departure of Bashir’s plane into the skies above the capital on Monday, spoke volumes about South Africa’s priorities – Africa comes first, and legal niceties such as the authority of domestic courts or international statutes a distant second.

It was a dramatic volte face from 2009 when, shortly after Bashir’s indictment by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur, his South African counterpart Jacob Zuma made clear he was not welcome.

Appearing on CNN, Zuma was asked if he would order Bashir’s arrest should he “ever set foot inside your country?”

“That is correct,” he replied, confirming lingering remnants of the idealism that underpinned South Africa’s relations with the outside world in the early days of the ‘Rainbow Nation’ under Nelson Mandela.

Six years later, the Bashir episode has highlighted two dominant themes under Zuma: a nation with a split European-African personality for the last three centuries now sees its destiny firmly in Africa; and, with growing South African trade and investment in the rest of the continent, the idealism is dead.

“The moral foreign policy has all but gone,” one Western diplomat in Pretoria told Reuters. “The other thing apparent from the current administration is a very clear prioritization of stability over values.”

“NO LONGER USEFUL”

Compounding the anger among diplomats and rights groups is the flouting of a court order that made it explicitly clear Bashir should not be allowed to leave until a judge had decided whether or not he should be arrested.

The Southern African Litigation Centre, which brought the case, argued that as an ICC signatory South Africa had an obligation to arrest Bashir in spite of the ad hoc diplomatic immunity cast over the African Union summit in Johannesburg.

In Geneva, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told reporters he was taking the issue of Bashir’s arrest warrant “extremely seriously”, and demanded the authority of the ICC be respected.

Yet hours after Khartoum confirmed Bashir was on his way home, the government had made no formal statement about the imbroglio. Justice minister Michael Masutha told Reuters he would “prefer not to discuss it”.

Instead, the only line from those in charge of Africa’s most advanced economy was a statement from the African National Congress (ANC) that sided firmly with the AU: no sitting president should be prosecuted, the most recent example being Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta.

He was accused of provoking ethnic violence after Kenya’s 2007 election. Charges were dropped in March after what prosecutors said was political interference and tampering with witnesses.

Dismissing the court as “no longer useful”, the ANC painted Bashir as the latest in a long line of Africans to suffer agenda-driven prosecution and took a veiled swipe at the United States, which is not a full ICC member.

For many, the valid concerns about selective ICC justice were irrelevant, and marked another low for a country that last month was accused by the United States of paying a $10 million bribe to secure the 2010 soccer World Cup.

“Debates over the merits of the ICC and even the possibility of withdrawing from the treaty are options – but they do not alter South Africa’s current obligations,” NKC African Economists said.

“Our fading human rights record and waning respect for the rule of law have been highlighted once again.”

“PRO-AFRICA CHOICE”

Ironically for South Africa, still trying to patch up relations with its neighbors after a wave of attacks on African migrants, it could yet backfire as a regional public relations exercise.

While backing a Western pariah such as Bashir may win plaudits from the likes of Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, allowing one man’s presence to overshadow a two-day summit of 54 nations will have irked most African diplomats.

The meat of the AU meeting – from women’s rights to the threat posed by Boko Haram to Burundi’s political crisis – was subsumed in the flurry of interest in whether Bashir was in the building and whether or not he was in handcuffs.

“Ultimately, it shows a failure of South Africa’s diplomacy,” said Liesl Louw-Vaudran of the Pretoria-based Institute for Security Studies.

“They clearly knew this was coming and tried to avert it, but having been faced with the Bashir situation, they made the pro-Africa choice – and the anti-international community choice.”

*Source Reuters/Yahoo]]>

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Sudan's Bashir arrives in Khartoum from S.Africa
June 15, 2015 | 0 Comments

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has been in power since 1989 (AFP Photo/) Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has been in power since 1989 (AFP Photo/)[/caption]

Khartoum (AFP) – Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir arrived in Khartoum from Johannesburg Monday, an AFP correspondent said, after a court ordered him not to leave as it decided whether to arrest him over alleged war crimes.

Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in the Darfur region, was returning from an African Union summit.

Dressed in his traditional white robes, a triumphant Bashir waved his trademark cane in the air as he stepped off the plane and shouted: “God is greatest!”.

Walking down a red carpet leading from the aircraft, he was greeted by his ministers on the tarmac as well as a crowd of journalists and photographers.

Nearby, an area had been prepared for a news conference.

Bashir, 71, was indicted over his alleged role in the Darfur conflict.

African rebels in the western region launched an insurgency against Bashir’s Arab-dominated government in 2003, complaining they were being marginalised.

The United Nations says 300,000 people have died in the conflict since, and another 2.5 million forced to flee their homes.

Khartoum says 10,000 people have been killed in the region since 2003.

*Source AFP/Yahoo]]>

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Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan sign deal to end Nile dispute
March 24, 2015 | 1 Comments

Egypt's leader (l) signed the deal, despite expressing reservations Egypt’s leader (l) signed the deal, despite expressing reservations[/caption]

Three African leaders have signed an initial deal to end a long-running dispute over the sharing of Nile waters and the building of Africa’s biggest hydroelectric dam, in Ethiopia.

The leaders of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan signed the agreement in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum. Egypt has opposed the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, saying it would worsen its water shortages. Ethiopia says the dam will give it a fairer share of Nile waters. In 2013, Ethiopia’s parliament ratified a controversial treaty to replace colonial-era agreements that gave Egypt and Sudan the biggest share of the Nile’s water. Egypt’s then-President Mohamed Morsi said he did not want war but he would not allow Egypt’s water supply to be endangered by the dam. Mr Morsi’s successor, Abdul Fattah al-Sisi signed the deal with Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Halemariam Desalegn and Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir.

‘Veto power’

The three leaders welcomed the “declaration of principles” agreement in speeches in Khartoum’s Republican Palace, and watched a short film about the Grand Renaissance Dam that highlighted how it could benefit the region, the Associated Press news agency reports. Mr Halemariam said he wanted to give an assurance that the dam would “not cause any harm to downstream countries”, Reuters news agency reports. Mr Sisi said the project remained a source of concern to Egypt. [caption id="attachment_17087" align="alignright" width="300"]Ethiopia has the support of many African states for building the dam Ethiopia has the support of many African states for building the dam[/caption] “The Renaissance Dam project represents a source of development for the millions of Ethiopia’s citizens through producing green and sustainable energy, but for their brothers living on the banks of that very Nile in Egypt, and who approximately equal them in numbers, it represents a source of concern and worry,” he said. “This is because the Nile is their only source of water, in fact their source of life.” Ethiopia wants to replace a 1929 treaty written by Britain that awarded Egypt veto power over any project involving the Nile by upstream countries. Ethiopia says the $4.7bn (£3.1bn) dam will eventually provide 6,000 megawatts of power. Egypt was apparently caught by surprise when Ethiopia started diverting the Blue Nile – a tributary of the Nile – in 2013. Ethiopia says the river will be slightly diverted but will then be able to follow its natural course. Egyptian politicians were inadvertently heard on live TV in 2013, proposing military action over the dam. Ethiopia has received strong backing from five other Nile-basin countries – Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya and Burundi. *BBC]]>

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Sudan Artist Says He'll Keep Cartooning Despite Threats
January 11, 2015 | 0 Comments

By Karin Zeitvogel* [caption id="attachment_15338" align="alignleft" width="468"]South Sudanese President Salva Kiir says "I am South Sudan" in Arabic in this cartoon by Sudanese cartoonist Khalid Albaih. South Sudanese President Salva Kiir says “I am South Sudan” in Arabic in this cartoon by Sudanese cartoonist Khalid Albaih.[/caption] Khalid Albaih knows what it’s like to be threatened for poking fun at world leaders. The 34-year-old has been doodling since he was a child in Sudan, and turned his talent to drawing political cartoons when he was at university in Qatar. “You get over being threatened for what you draw,” he told South Sudan in Focus in an interview from Doha, where he now lives, on the day that 12 people, including four of France’s best satirical cartoonists, were gunned down in an attack on Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris. “It doesn’t really matter any more. If you’re not dead, then you’re OK,” he said. On Wednesday, Albaih posted this cartoon on his Twitter feed with the hashtag #CharlieHebdo. Albaih said he is deeply saddened by the deaths of four fellow satirists in the Charlie Hebdo killings. “They were just doing their jobs. These are innocent people. They never killed anybody. They never meant to harm anyone,” he said. But he also fears the inevitable anti-Muslim backlash that the Charlie Hebdo killings will provoke, Albaih said. “Islamophobia was already on the rise in Europe and all around the world,” he said. “There’s a huge Muslim community in Europe and these are the people who are going to suffer. Going in and killing people who are doing their jobs is not going to solve the problem at all. You’re making the problem worse. You’re not defending Islam – you’re adding oil to the fire,” he said. Charlie Hebdo often featured caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed on its cover. Its journalists have been threatened on numerous occasions, and the building that housed the weekly satirical magazine was firebombed in 2011 after Charlie Hebdo published a special issue that was “guest edited” by the Prophet Mohammed. Reports from France say that the two suspected shooters, who have been identified as brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi, shouted that the Wednesday killings were vengeance for the blasphemy committed against the prophet. B6wuhxSCEAQrtrRAlbaih said Muslim extremists are generally young men with little education who are “taught by the wrong sheikhs or mullahs and have probably been through a lot of experiences with racism or Islamophobia.” “That’s not an excuse — I’m just trying to see, ‘Why would you have to kill to prove your views?'” he said, thinking aloud. “Part of the reason is, we have no heroes. Our politicians are liars, our governments are corrupt, the people are hungry.  We don’t have social insurance, the people don’t have even basic human rights, health insurance. Their kids are hungry,” Albaih said. “So when the West comes and ridicules the only person they think of as a hero, the only person they have left, that’s when problems will happen.”

Poking fun at political leaders

Albaih has poked fun at South Sudanese President Salva Kiir, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, and Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad in his cartoons. He has depicted Egyptian general-turned-president Abdel Fattah alSisi as a pharaoh; shown a fighter from the hard-line Islamic State group, also known as ISIS or ISIL, giving advice on getting media coverage of the Ebola virus; and used his pen to criticize the lack of rights in the Arab world. To mark South Sudan’s third anniversary of independence last year, Albaih drew a birthday cake piled high with bodies and ringed with grenades. “Part of my family is from South Sudan. It’s such a shame because I had so much hope for that new nation. We thought it was going to be everything that Sudan is not. It’s young, it’s rich, it has all the factors to be the right country,” he said.

Online dialogue

Albaih has been unable to sell his cartoons to politically conservative newspapers in the Middle East where he now lives, so he posts them online. He said that by posting his work on social media, his cartoons spark conversations. “Someone will say, ‘I don’t agree with this because of so-and-so.’ And somebody else will come in and say, ‘You’re a spy for the CIA, someone’s paying you to do that.’ And people will start talking together: Islamists will talk to Communists, everybody will start engaging in a dialogue. This is what I want — that people talk,” he said. [caption id="attachment_15340" align="alignright" width="640"]A cartoon birthday cake by Sudanese cartoonist Khalid Albaih to mark the third anniversary of South Sudan's independence on July 9, 2014. A cartoon birthday cake by Sudanese cartoonist Khalid Albaih to mark the third anniversary of South Sudan’s independence on July 9, 2014.[/caption] “We need to listen to each other. We don’t need to be extreme about our views. The West  needs to listen to the East, and the East needs to listen to the West — just know each other. People are scared of what they don’t know and this is the problem,” he said. Albaih said the Middle East is “full of extremists” but added that they represent, as their name implies, the extreme view of Islam. Their views are not shared by the majority of Muslims, Albaih said. “I don’t agree with a lot of what the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists used to do but this is their right to do it. This is freedom of speech, this is France,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve met a Muslim who was happy about the cartoons but not everyone went there and shot them,” he said. His own cartoons raise hackles but Albaih said that, just as the satirists at Charlie Hebdo refused to bow to threats against them, he has no intention of abandoning his cartoonist’s pen. In fact, he said he will do the opposite, and “…push the limit as much as I can because you’ll never know where your red line is unless you keep pushing… or you get shot.” *Source VOA]]>

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