The Libyan Slave Trade Has Shocked The World

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME NEWS)

 

By Casey Quackenbush

3:58 AM EST

A video of men appearing to be sold at auction in Libya for $400 has shocked the world and focused international attention on the exploitation of migrants and refugees the north African country.

The footage and subsequent investigation conducted by CNN last month has rallied European and African leaders to take action to stop the abuses. On Wednesday, the leaders of Libya, France, Germany, Chad and Niger and four other countries agreed on a plan to evacuate thousands of migrants stuck in Libyan detention camps.

The grainy undercover video appears to show smugglers selling off a dozen men outside of the capital city Tripoli.

“Does anybody need a digger? This is a digger, a big strong man, he’ll dig,” said an auctioneer, according to CNN. “What am I bid, what am I bid?”

The report has drawn attention to an issue that aid and migrant groups say has gone on for years.

Why is there a slave trade in Libya?

Libya is the main transit point for refugees and migrants trying to reach Europe by sea. In each of the last three years, 150,000 people have made the dangerous crossing across the Mediterranean Sea from Libya. For four years in a row, 3,000 refugees have died while attempting the journey, according to figures from the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the U.N.’s migration agency.

The Libyan Coast Guard — supported with funds and resources from the E.U. and more specifically, Italy — has cracked down on boats smuggling refugees and migrants to Europe. With estimates of 400,000 to almost one million people now bottled up Libya, detention centers are overrun and there are mounting reports of robbery, rape, and murder among migrants, according to a September report by the U.N. human rights agency. Conditions in the centers have been described as “horrific,” and among other abuses, migrants are vulnerable to being sold off as laborers in slave auctions.

“It’s a total extortion machine,” Lenard Doyle, Director of Media and Communications for the IOM in Geneva tells TIME. “Fueled by the absolute rush of migrants through Libya thinking they can get out of poverty, following a dream that doesn’t exist.”

The IOM said in April that it had documented reports of “slave markets” along the migrant routes in North Africa “tormenting hundreds of young African men bound for Libya.”

“There they become commodities to be bought, sold and discarded when they have no more value,” Doyle said in the April statement.

Illegal immigrants are seen at a detention centre in Zawiyah, 45 kilometres west of the Libyan capital Tripoli, on June 17, 2017.
Illegal immigrants are seen at a detention centre in Zawiyah, 45 kilometres west of the Libyan capital Tripoli, on June 17, 2017.
Taha Jawashi—AFP/Getty Images

How is Libya handling the crisis?

According to CNN, the U.N.-backed Libyan government has launched a formal investigation into the allegations. But Libya is largely considered a failed state. Since Muammar Gaddafi, who ran the country for four decades, was ousted in 2011, the country has descended into civil war. A transitional government failed to implementrule of law in the country, which has splintered into several factions of militias, tribes, and gangs. In lawless Libya, many see the slave trade and smuggling as a lucrative industry. Tackling the country’s humanitarian crisis will require international assistance.

On Wednesday, Libya reached a deal with E.U. and African leaders to allow the emergency repatriation of refugees and migrants facing abuse in its detention centers. The government also agreed to open a transit center for vulnerable refugees after months of negotiations, according to Reuters. The center is intended to safely house people before they are resettled or sent to a third country.

How is the international community responding?

Following the publication of the video, there was outcry from all corners of the globe, with some nations recalling their ambassadors from Libya. Protesters rallied outside Libyan embassies across Africa and in Europe.

On Wednesday, African and European leaders met at a summit in the Ivory Coast and agreed on an urgent evacuation plan that would see about 15,000 people flown out of Libya. Most of the migrants will be sent back to their home countries. Speaking at the summit, French President Emmanuel Macron, called the abuse “a crime against humanity” and vowed the summit members would “launch concrete military and policing action on the ground to dismantle those networks,” according to the Guardian. The deal also included initiatives to target traffickers, including setting up a task force to dismantle trafficking networks, the BBC reports.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari expressed shock at how his compatriots were being treated “like goats.” On Wednesday, 242 Nigerian migrants were flown out of Libya back to Nigeria.

The day before, the U.N. Security Council held an emergency meeting and said it would be “stepping up its work” to stop the abuses. However, the U.N refugee agency said it faces “dramatic” funding gaps, especially for its operations in sub-Saharan Africa. “Slavery and other such egregious abuses of human rights have no place in the 21st century,” U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said.

Since 2015, the IOM has repatriated 13,000 people from Libya under a voluntary program. But Doyle, the IOM spokesperson, says more needs to be done to stop migration at its core, particularly from tech companies who own online platforms where traffickers can falsely lure people into paying smugglers.

“They’re being completely misled into thinking that’s a happy future for them and being misled thorough social media,” he tells TIME.

Earlier this week, the foreign ministry of Rwanda said it would extend asylum to 30,000 mainly sub-Saharan Africans stuck in Libya. “Given our own history … we cannot remain silent when human beings are being mistreated and auctioned off like cattle,” the foreign ministry said.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley condemned the abuses, saying: “To see the pictures of these men being treated like cattle, and to hear the auctioneer describe them as, quote, ‘big strong boys for farm work,’ should shock the conscience of us all.”

“There are few greater violations of human rights and human dignity than this.”

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China’s Government Loses An Old Friend With Ouster Of Mugabe

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF GLOBAL VOICES)

 

How Chinese See the Fall of Their Country’s Old Friend Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe

Chinese president Xi Jinping welcomed Zimbabwe President Mugabe's visit in August 2014. Photo from Xinhua.

Chinese President Xi Jinping welcomed Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe during a visit in August 2014. Photo from Chinese state news agency Xinhua.

As political and military forces in Zimbabwe moved to push longtime President Robert Mugabe from power, Chinese were watching the path of removal of a man many described as a dictator with interest.

Mugabe, 93, has ruled Zimbabwe for more than 30 years since the country’s independence from British colonial rule until today. When the majority of western countries started to sanction Zimbabwe for Mugabe’s land seizure policy and human rights abuses in the early 2000s, China stepped in and became Mugabe’s most important ally.

Throughout the years, relations between Zimbabwe and China have grown closer through loans, construction and investment projects and diplomatic visits. Between 2010 and 2015, China granted Zimbabwe over US$1 billion in loans.

Such financial support has led Zimbabwe’s opposition party to accuse Beijing of aiding Mugabe and stealing billions from the country with illicit trade in the diamond industry. And, in fact, Zimbabwe’s economy has been deteriorating under Mugabe’s regime, and corruption is a serious problem. At the start of November Mugabe sacked his vice president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, in a move to seemingly position his own wife Grace Mugabe to take over the presidency.

The situation culminated on November 15, 2017 when the military took control of the country. Tens of thousands of Zimbabweans poured into streets of the capital Harare to celebrate and chanted anti-Mugabe slogans like “Mugabe must go” and “No to Mugabe dynasty”. ZANU-PF removed Mugabe as leader of the ruling party, pulling Mnangagwa into the spot, and threatened to impeach Mugabe if he didn’t step down as president.

So far, however, Mugabe has refused to resign till today.

‘Such an old friend was not reliable’

Quite a number of international media outlets have speculated China’s involvement in the Zimbabwean coup as the military action took place just three days after the commander of the Zimbabwe army, Constantino Chiwenga, returned from a visit to China.

On popular social media platform Weibo, many Chinese netizens have also repeated the theory:

The chief of the coup just returned from China. The coup happened soon after the return, draw your own conclusion.

The old friend has become very old and easily influenced by his wife. His wife had many negative remarks about China. Just two years ago, this old friend even said the country’s poor economy was thanks to China. Such an old friend was not reliable. The new guys graduated from the Shijiazhuang Army Academy.

Zimbabwe has sent its military officials to China for training since the 1960s and reportedly, former Vice President Mnangagwa was also trained by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.

‘An African version of the crackdown on the Gang of Four’

Beyond possible Chinese influence on the coup, many netizens saw parallels between the situation in Zimbabwe and a certain period of China’s own history — the arrest of the “Gang of Four” by the military on October 6, 1976, a month after former state leader Mao Zedong’s death.

The gang’s leading figure was Mao’s last wife, Jiang Qing. The comment below is one of the most popular on Weibo:

This incident is basically an African version of the crackdown on the Gang of Four.

Just as Mao Zedong was considered a founding father of the People’s Republic of China, Mugabe was viewed as a great leader who played a central role in liberating Zimbabwe from British colonial rule.

Even given the damage inflicted on the country’s economy and the human rights abuses that have happened under Mugabe, he was appointed as the chairman of the 54-state African Union in 2015.

‘The nature of an undemocratic country is like a prison’

Many comments on Twitter said Mugabe’s fall demonstrates the power of the people. For example, @twiqiang08 wrote:

津巴布韦人民撕毀他们曾经的“伟大领袖、伟大舵手、伟大导师、红太阳”穆加贝的巨幅画像。

评: 人民一旦觉醒,所有的“伟大”都会荡然无存,独裁者就会像垃圾一样被扫进历史垃圾堆!

People in Zimbabwe tear down huge portrait of Mugabe, their once “great leader, great captain, great teacher and red sun”. Comment: When people wake up, all “greatness” will vanish, the dictator will be relegated to the dustbin of history.

The description of “great leader, great captain, great teacher and red sun” were used to describe Mao Zedong. Recently, Chinese-state affiliated media outlets have started calling President Xi Jinping as “great leader” after the 19th national congress of the CCP and recently used more than 15,000 Chinese words to explain why “Xi is the unrivaled helmsman who will steer China toward this great dream”.

On Weibo, one user was skeptical of the euphemism of “people’s power” as dictators are often endorsed by “people” in the first place:

The so-called “people” are just cheering squads, people throughout the whole world are the same. When Mugabe came into power, they cheered and took him as savior. Eventually he turned them all into billionaires (because of the devaluation of currency) and their average lifespan was reduced from 60s to 30s. [According to World Bank report, the life expectancy of Zimbabwe had dropped from 62 years in mid-1980s to 40 years old in 2002 and 2003. In recent years the figure is back to 59.] Now that he has fallen, they cheer again.

But Twitter user @huangmeijuan pointed out that the cheering crowds are forced to endorse dictators because there is no room for dissent:

今天的津巴布韦街头,到处是”穆加贝滚蛋‘’ 的口号!人民不需要伟大领袖。
伟大领袖消失了,并没有天下大乱,也没有军阀混战,以前专门镇压示威游行的警察,早就躲得远远的,一个都没有出来。因此,不是民主的国家本质就是一座大监狱,所谓的伟大领袖只是监狱狱长而已。

Today, slogans like “Mugabe must go”, “People don’t need a great leader” have occupied Zimbabwe’s streets. Now that the great leader has gone, the country has not fallen into chaos or warlordism. The police responsible for the rally crackdowns of the past have run away, no one has shown up. The nature of a undemocratic country is like a prison and the great leader is just a prison guard.

Chinese political dissidents on Twitter expressed wishful thinking about which authoritarian leader would fall next. @BaiqiaoCh said:

又一个臭名昭著的大独裁者被轰下台了。津巴布韦发生政变,93岁的总统穆加貝被赶下台。穆加貝跟中共关系非常密切,2015年还闹剧般地获得过中共颁发的孔子和平奖。下一个被政变下台的会是谁呢?北朝鲜的金胖子还是西朝鲜的习包子?太令人期待了!

Another notorious dictator has fallen. 93-year-old Mugabe was forced to step down in a coup in Zimbabwe. Mugabe has close relation with the Chinese Communist Party and in 2015 he was even awarded with the Confucian Peace Prize. Which [dictator] would be the next to step down in a coup? North Korea Fatty Kim or West Korea [meaning China] Xi the bun? Am so eager to see this happen.

Trump Opens Up U.S. Market To Elephant Poachers/Hunters

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME.COM NEWS)

 

African elephant and calf walking, Masai Mara N.R, Kenya
African elephant and calf walking, Masai Mara N.R, Kenya
Anup Shah—Getty Images

By Justin Worland

11:58 AM EST

The Trump administration on Thursday said it had reversed a ban on hunters importing elephant trophies from Zimbabwe and Zambia, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS).

The FWS said the move, which reverses a prohibition enacted by the Obama administration in 2014, follows a revaluation based on new information about the elephant populations and their management in those countries. New estimates show there are 80,000 elephants in Zimbabwe, according to the FWS. The agency does not say what the estimate was in 2014. The government of Zimbabwe issues permits to hunt 500 elephants annually, collecting fees that hunting backers say supports conservation.

“Sport hunting, as part of a sound wildlife management program, can provide benefits to conservation,” the FWS said in a bulletin announcing the decision. “When the Service announced an interim suspension on the import of elephant trophies from Zimbabwe on April 4, 2014, we based our decision on the limited information available to us… the facts on the ground have changed and improved.”

The agency will immediately begin issuing permits to carry elephant trophies — typically the elephant’s severed head — back to the U.S. as a symbol of the hunt. The practice received public outcry in 2015 after reports that an American dentist had killed a lion in Zimbabwe illegally. Still, trophy hunting remains popular among a small group of hunters, including the president’s children, Donald Trump Jr. and his brother Eric.

Trophy hunting remains controversial in the U.S. with animal protection groups arguing that it contributes to unsustainable population decline in a slew of threatened species. Elephants, in particular, remain an endangered species with a rapid decline continuing as a result of poaching and the ivory trade.

“The global community has rallied to stem the ivory trade,” said Humane Society President Wayne Pacelle in a blog post. “And now, the U.S. government is giving American trophy hunters the green light to kill them.”

The FWS service said it was still evaluating whether to allow hunters to import elephant remains from Tanzania.

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Zimbabwe News: Country on the brink of collapse

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE ZIMBABWE NEWS AGENCY ‘NEWS.COM.AU)

 

Country on the brink of collapse

The currency is failing, the government’s digging its heels in, and tourists are staying away as this nation faces collapse.

news.com.auNOVEMBER 7, 20178:04AM

Mugabe removed as WHO goodwill ambassador

UNEMPLOYMENT is at a staggering 90 percent, the currency — or lack thereof — is a global laughing stock and any money that could be raised through tourism isn’t coming through.

Welcome to Zimbabwe: the country that’s about to collapse.

Zimbabwe’s financial ruin is a foregone conclusion for many of the world’s economists. A new currency experiment by the government, spearheaded by president Robert Mugabe, 93, is backfiring. The country can’t pay for its borrowed electricity, a cash shortage has forced people to barter to survive, and it’s managed to drive away any foreign tourists otherwise willing to spend their money there.

And while a general election will be held next year, there seems little sign of change: Mr. Mugabe’s wife Grace, 52, revealed on the weekend her plan to succeed her aging husband as the country’s first woman president.

People burn worthless note bearers cheques during a protest against the introduction of new bond notes and youth unemployment in Harare. Picture: AFP/Wilfred Kajese

People burn worthless note bearers cheques during a protest against the introduction of new bond notes and youth unemployment in Harare. Picture: AFP/Wilfred KajeseSource: AFP

But as Mr. Mugabe focuses on his party’s election victory, a cash shortage has sparked panic-buying as people struggle to find patrol and basic needs, and it echoes the economic crisis of 2009 that’s still a fresh nightmare to millions of people in the debt-ridden nation.

IT’S GOING TO GET WORSE

Zimbabwe’s currency dysfunction has long been the stuff of infamy.

The government scrapped the Zimbabwe dollar in 2009 after hyperinflation peaked at an eye-watering 500,000,000,000 percent — wiping out people’s savings and destroying businesses. At that time, a loaf of bread was more than 100 trillion Zimbabwe dollars or 40 US cents.

Zimbabwe then switched to a whole host of foreign currencies and largely settled on the US dollar. But amid a shortage of the greenback, the Mugabe government came up with a new plan — “bond notes”, equivalent to US dollars, which it introduced a year ago to boost economic growth.

It was hoped the bond notes, which are not valid outside Zimbabwe, would stop US dollars flowing overseas. But they divided ordinary Zimbabweans, many of whom feared the alternative currency would trigger a similar economic crisis as with the old Zimbabwean dollar.

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe is at the helm of another currency crisis. Picture: AFP/Zinyange Auntony

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe is at the helm of another currency crisis. Picture: AFP/Zinyange AuntonySource: AFP

In the past few weeks, a lack of confidence in the bond notes has set further in and stockpiling and panic-buying have seen prices rocket. The fear is things are returning to how they were in 2008, at the height of hyperinflation.

“We are already witnessing shortages of basic commodities,” Peter Mutasa, president of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, told AFP.

“The situation has been triggered by lack of confidence in the bond notes. We are being driven to barter for goods as there is no hard currency in the banks.”

Meanwhile, the government is back to its notorious habit of printing more money to cover its rising costs and hyperinflation is creeping back. This year, it’s at 348 percent, according to Forbes.

Zimbabwe’s export opportunities are limited — especially in the agriculture sector, in light of farm raids. Fuel shortages have struck the capital, Harare.

The country is powered by electricity from South Africa’s state-run power company Eskom but doesn’t pay for it: Eskom threatened to cut power to Zimbabwe earlier this year. Whether the cash-strapped government finally pays its electricity bill, or it doesn’t, there’s bound to be trouble.

Introduced 12 months ago, Zimbabwe’s bond notes have sparked a multi-tier pricing structure. Picture: AFP/Wilfred Kajese

Introduced 12 months ago, Zimbabwe’s bond notes have sparked a multi-tier pricing structure. Picture: AFP/Wilfred KajeseSource: AFP

Meanwhile, protests held in the capital Harare to oppose Mr. Mugabe and his economic policies turned to violence last month, with police using tear gas on protesters.

Zimbabwe economist Prosper Chitambara said things were likely to get worse ahead of next year’s election.

“There is a lot of uncertainty due to the political situation,” he told AFP.

“That is why we have seen the re-emergence of the parallel market and a multi-tier pricing structure. As we approach the elections, the uncertainty will increase.”

WHY TOURISM ISN’T HELPING

There have been many countries in economic crisis that have at least been able to rely on tourism to inject some funds into depleted coffers. Greece, for instance, recently described its tourism revenue as its “lifejacket” during its debt crisis.

Not so in Zimbabwe.

The naturally beautiful country is famous for its safaris and the awe-inspiring Victoria Falls — the largest waterfall in the world and an Instagram sensation — and locals are famously warm and welcoming. Outside of Africa, tourists from the US, the UK, Ireland, and Germany have been among its top 10 foreign arrivals.

But Zimbabwe a notoriously expensive place to visit and that’s been a huge turn-off for travelers.

“I went to some country recently where I booked in a five-star hotel and paid a bill of $53 all inclusive. I was shocked and thought they had made a mistake in their calculations,” Zimbabwe Tourism Authority chief executive officer Karikoga Kaseke said last year.

“This was when I realized that as a country, we need to do something to review our prices if we are not to earn a bad name as the world’s most expensive tourist destination.”

Victoria Falls on the Zambezi River, at the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe, is a major tourist attraction.

Victoria Falls on the Zambezi River, at the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe, is a major tourist attraction.Source: Supplied

Zimbabwe recently started charging foreign tourists a value-added tax of 15 percent, but that was another plan that backfired — if anything, it’s kept tourists away.

The Zimbabwe Council for Tourism president has called the tourist tax “exceptionally unhelpful, if not destructive” and last month George Manyumwa, president of Zimbabwe’s hospitality association, called for the tax to be scrapped.

“The introduction of the tax, unfortunately, resulted in an increase in the service rates in the tourism sector and reduced profitability due to a decline in demand,” Mr. Manyumwa told the Zimbabwe Independent. “The occupancy rates have remained stagnant at an average of 50 per cent.”

Mr Manyumwa said tourists were also staying away because they feared Zimbabwe’s notorious police roadblocks. The money-making initiative, which is widely considered corrupt, has targeted tourists driving around the scenic country.

“The reality of the roadblocks is that tourists felt unwelcome into the country when they were penalized for offenses unfamiliar to them,” Mr. Manyumwa said.

“The most affected market that has since declined is that of self-drive tourists, whose form of tourism benefited various parts of the country … Some indicated that they thought there were safety concerns resulting in the need for heavy police presence, implying that Zimbabwe might not be a safe destination.”

Zimbabwean first lady Grace Mugabe said on Sunday she was willing to succeed her ageing husband Robert Mugabe. Picture: AP/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi

Zimbabwean first lady Grace Mugabe said on Sunday she was willing to succeed her aging husband Robert Mugabe. Picture: AP/Tsvangirayi MukwazhiSource: AP

Tourists from South Africa can usually be relied on to comprise a third of the foreign visitors in Zimbabwe, but the South African rand’s depreciation against the US dollar has seen those figures fall below 10 percent.

But tourism isn’t the focus in Zimbabwe right now. Neither is, it seems, the economy.

The ruling party, Mr Mugabe’s ZANU-PF, needs to win next year’s election. As of now, Mr. Mugabe remains the party’s candidate, despite his failing health and his wife’s recent promise to succeed him.

Meanwhile, the party is spending money as fast as it can, sociology professor Roger Southall said in a recent piece for The Conversation.

Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa, who had been warning of the country’s economic stability, has just been dumped by Mr. Mugabe. His replacement, according to Prof Southall, is a “party loyalist, who will brook no talk of any need for structural reform”.

“Zimbabwe is living on borrowed time and borrowed money,” Prof Southall, of Johannesburg’s University of the Witwatersrand, said.

“It will again end in financial ruin, as it did in 2008.

“But all ZANU-PF cares about is ensuring that it wins the next election and allowing its political elite to ‘eat’.”

Robert Mugabe Removed From WHO Ambassador Position

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe may be one of the longest-serving leaders, but his stint as a goodwill ambassador was anything but.

Days after the World Health Organization named him as a goodwill ambassador, a move that angered and stunned human rights activists, it rescinded the appointment.
“I have listened carefully to all who have expressed their concerns, and heard the different issues that they have raised,” WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
“It is my aim to build a worldwide movement for global health. This movement must work for everyone and include everyone.”
Tedros said he consulted the Zimbabwean government and concluded it’s in the organization’s best interests.
The public health agency announced the appointment last week, saying the African leader would focus on noncommunicable diseases on the continent such as heart attacks and strokes.
A public outcry ensued. Angry tweets took aim at Tedros and the public health agency.
“The government of Robert Mugabe has brutalized human rights activists, crushed democracy dissidents and turned the breadbasket of Africa — and its health system — into a basket case,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, which monitors the performance of world body.
WHO is part of the United Nations and focuses on international public health. Mugabe has long been criticized for corruption and abuse of power.

Zimbabwe's society struggles under Mugabe's rule

Zimbabwe’s society struggles under Mugabe’s rule 02:43
In making the appointment, Tedros, an Ethiopian andWHO’s first African director-general, had said Mugabe would use his role to ensure other leaders make noncommunicable diseases a priority.
“Zimbabwe … places universal health coverage and health promotion at the center of its policies to provide health care to all,” he said.
At 93, Mugabe is one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders and has ruled Zimbabwe since 1980 with little opposition.
Along with his inner circle, he has been under US sanctions since the early 2000s over human rights abuses and the erosion of democratic institutions. President Barack Obama extended sanctions for another year before leaving office in January.
In 2009, Mugabe’s ruling party spent more than $250,000 on a lavish birthday party for the leader despite an ongoing food shortage and cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe's President celebrates as people suffer

Zimbabwe’s President celebrates as people suffer 02:08
Goodwill ambassadors for WHO are public figuresappointed to two-year terms by the director-general. They work closely with UN officials to raise awareness of global health issues.
Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was named a global ambassador for noncommunicable diseases last year.

16 Egyptian police officers killed in shootout with militants

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

16 Egyptian police officers killed in shootout with militants

Mourners in Cairo pray during a funeral Saturday for a police captain killed in the desert shootout.

Story highlights

  • Police trying to raid “terrorist elements’ hideout” in Western Desert, ministry says
  • At least 16 police officers were killed and 13 injured, it says

(CNN)At least 16 Egyptian police officers were killed and 13 injured in a shootout with militants in Egypt’s Western Desert, Egypt’s Interior Ministry said Saturday.

The firefight occurred Friday as police were attempting to raid “a terrorist elements’ hideout” in the desert’s Bahariya Oasis about 370 kilometers (more than 220 miles) southwest of Cairo. The shootout lasted several hours, according to an Interior Ministry statement.
The statement said national security forces had received information that “terrorists” were in the desert to “hide, train, equip, and carry out terrorist operations, taking advantage of the rugged desert and ease of movement.”
Fifteen “terrorists” were killed or injured in the attack, state-run media outlet Ahram Online reported Saturday, citing the Interior Ministry.

Senegal Thwarts Terrorist Attack On Hotel In Dakar Thursday Night

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Senegal Thwarts Terrorist Attack in Collaboration with Western Intelligence

Saturday, 21 October, 2017 – 10:30
Above, an aerial view of Dakar. AP Images
Nouakchott – Al-Sheikh Mohamed

Senegal’s security apparatuses in collaboration with Western intelligence agencies have thwarted a terrorist plot to target a hotel in the capital Dakar, local media reported on Friday.

The media quoted sources as saying that Senegalese security forces foiled the attack that was set to take place on Thursday night.

The hotel that lies on the shores of Dakar is frequented by Westerners, the sources said, although they did not name it.

The sources also refused to reveal more information about the operation to foil the plot.

Earlier this week, the US embassy warned its citizens in Senegal of a “credible threat” of a terror attack in Dakar, advising them to take special care when visiting places and areas popular with Westerners.

The embassy also told its own staff members to stay away from seaside hotels in the capital.

A message, issued on Wednesday to US citizens in the country, warned them “to be vigilant when visiting establishments and staying at hotels frequented by Westerners due to a credible threat related to potential terrorist activity in Dakar”.

It went on to advise US nationals to “review your personal security plans, remain aware of your surroundings,” while banning embassy personnel from staying at the seaside hotels until the first week of December.

The Canadian government on Thursday issued a similar warning to its nationals in the west African nation.

Somalia: Deadly explosion hits Mogadishu

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Somalia: Deadly explosion hits Mogadishu

At least 20 people died and others were wounded in a bombing Saturday in Mogadishu,

Mogadishu, Somalia (CNN)At least 20 people were killed and many more were wounded Saturday in a massive vehicle bomb explosion at a busy junction in the Somali capital of Mogadishu, a senior police officer said.

Security forces had been tipped off about the vehicle carrying explosives and were pursuing it in the busy K5 district of the city when the explosion happened, said Col. Ahmed Hassan of the Mogadishu police.
Another vehicle bomb later went off less than a mile from the first blast. There were no reports of injuries, Hassan said. The driver of the car was arrested before the explosion but it remains unclear what triggered the blast.
No one has claimed responsibility for the bombings. The blasts triggered a heavy security presence in the city, with security forces blocking many major roads.
Wire service news footage showed torn-up buildings and a burning truck at the first blast site.
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Men carried away a stretcher holding a person concealed by a brown material. A large white building collapsed into rubble and other structures appeared blackened and destroyed.
In other instances, it was hard to determine precisely what was destroyed in the devastated streetscape.
Other videos from the scene posted on social media showed a huge plume of black smoke rising from the blast site.
The UK ambassador to Somalia, David Concar, tweeted that the blast was clearly audible from inside the British Embassy. He also posted a video clip showing thick, dark smoke on the skyline.

Mogadishu Somalia

Mogadishu, a large city on the east African nation’s coast, has endured a lot of violence in recent years.
Al-Shabaab, an al Qaeda-linked terror group, carried out several deadly car bomb attacks in the city in just the first few months of this year.
Somalis also face another threat — starvation.
he country is in the midst of a severe drought and 3.1 million people are threatened by famine because of the food shortages and violence, according to reports from the United Nations this year.

Body Of Missing U.S. Soldier In Niger Has Been Found: 4th American

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

(CNN)The body of a US service member who went missing following a deadly ambush Wednesday in southwest Niger has been recovered, multiple US officials told CNN Friday.

The discovery of the missing US service member in a remote area of the northwestern African country by Nigerien troops comes nearly 48 hours after he was first discovered to be missing in the wake of the attack.
The recovery of the missing US service member raised the number of US troops killed in Wednesday’s attack to four.
The Pentagon later confirmed the recovery.
“The body of another US service member has been recovered from the area of the attack bringing the number of US service members killed in this attack to four,” Department of Defense spokesman Col. Rob Manning told reporters at the Pentagon.

The attack

The American service member, who has been identified by US military personnel, went missing after a group of US soldiers near the Niger-Mali border were attacked by up to 50 fighters that are thought to be likely affiliated with ISIS, a US official said.
The 12-member US team was leaving a meeting with local leaders in unarmored pick-up trucks when they began taking fire from small arms, machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades, according to a US defense official.
With window glass exploding all around them, the US soldiers, including multiple Green Berets, exited the vehicles, ran for cover, and began returning fire, killing some of the attacking militants.
It is unclear how the missing service member became separated during the firefight from the rest of the advisory team he was accompanying. None of the other soldiers involved in the engagement witnessed him being captured or taken away by enemy forces.
The US military does not believe the missing service member was ever in enemy hands.
One reason the US military launched the urgent search and rescue mission was that electronic signals were monitored indicating the possibility that he was still alive in the field.
The US military initially issued a statement Thursday saying the attack left three US service members dead and two wounded.
A large-scale search and rescue operation involving US, French and Nigerien troops was launched soon after US officials realized one of the US service members was unaccounted for.

Coordination of efforts

Elite US Special Operations Forces troops were flown in from the continental US to aid in the recovery effort.
US Navy SEALs were deployed to a US military base in Sigonella, Sicily in anticipation of a possible rescue attempt but never went into Niger.
“We had everything, jets, rotary wings, (Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance), various platforms, human intelligence, signals intelligence, you name it,” US Army Col. Mark Cheadle, a spokesman for Africa Command told reporters at the Pentagon Friday via a phone call. “There was a full-court press by all of (the Department of Defense), the Nigerien government, the Department of State and the French to help us recover our lost one.”
He added that the Nigerien troops who found the body in the vicinity of the attack transferred the remains to a team of US Special Operations Forces who flew the body to the capital, Niamey, where it was identified, Cheadle said.
Cheadle said the Nigeriens were “very respectful” and “fully aware of the need to honor the fallen.”
CNN did not report the details of the search operation while it was ongoing and did not report the deceased service member’s recovery until CNN was assured that his family was notified.

The investigation

A US official says a full investigation into what happened is underway.
Cheadle told reporters that Africa Command was reevaluation its force protection procedures for its advisory missions.
“This was not expected,” Cheadle said, adding “had we anticipated this sort of attack we would have absolutely devoted more resources to it to reduce the risk and that’s something we are looking at right now.”
A spokeswoman for the French Ministry of Defense told CNN Thursday that French troops from the Barkhane anti-terror force based in neighboring Chad were involved in an operation in Niger. She said the operation was led by Niger with French troops supporting them. US officials told CNN Thursday that French military Super Puma helicopters evacuated the wounded Americans along with those killed in action while also providing covering fire. The wounded were first flown to the capital Niamey and later to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany.
French military attack aircraft also flew to the area in an attempt to support US personnel on the ground.
“Our allies the French were very quick to respond,” Cheadle said.
Five Nigerien soldiers also were killed in the attack, according to a Nigerien security official.
About a platoon-sized element of Nigerien troops were accompanying the US team.
“We are resolved and stalwart in our efforts to go after those who attacked us,” Cheadle said, adding that while the US military has “an idea” who was behind the ambush, he declined to identify the group involved.

Advise and assist mission

The US soldiers were part of a team advising and assisting local forces.
The Army issued a statement Friday identifying the three soldiers earlier reported killed in action as being two Green Berets, Staff Sgt. Bryan Black, and Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright, and a third soldier, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson.
All three soldiers were assigned to 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) at Fort Bragg, according to a statement issued by US Army Special Operations Command.
The attack occurred approximately 200 kilometers north of the country’s capital, Niamey, in southwest Niger, according to the statement from Africa Command, which oversees military operations in Africa.
“US forces are in Niger to provide training and security assistance to the Nigerien Armed Forces, in their efforts to counter violent extremist organizations in the region,” the statement from Africa Command said.
There are about 800 US troops in Niger and the US military has maintained a presence in the northwest African country for five years, with small groups of US Special Operations Forces advising local troops as they battle terrorist groups, including, Islamic State in Greater Sahara, the ISIS-affiliated Boko Haram and al Qaeda’s North African branch, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
“US forces are in Niger to provide training and security assistance to the Nigerien Armed Forces, including support for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance efforts, in their efforts to target violent extremist organizations in the region,” US Navy Lt. Cmdr. Anthony Falvo, a spokesman for US Africa Command, said Wednesday, adding, “one aspect of that is training, advising and assisting the Nigerien’s in order to increase their ability to bring stability and security to their people.”
“Niger is an important partner of ours, we have a deep relationship with them,” Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the director of the Joint Staff, told reporters at the Pentagon Thursday. “We are committed to that relationship, we believe that they are as well in fact I think it’s a very good success story.”

Terror group movement

US officials access that these terrorist groups view Chad, Niger and Mali as being particularity important as they serve as bridges between north and sub-Saharan Africa, saying that local al Qaeda and ISIS affiliates use control of these transit routes to gain revenue that helps them recruit, expand and export attacks. ISIS uses these North-South transit routes to move fighters northward, where they can gain more easily access Europe and the West.
One official told CNN that ISIS is attempting to illegally infiltrate the gold mining industry in Niger to sell on the black market and finance world terrorism.
Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb has maintained a presence in the Mali-Niger border area, despite a multi-year French-led military counterterrorism effort, Operation Barkhane, which began in 2014.
The US military has largely played a supporting role, providing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets in support French forces operating in Mali and Niger. The French operation involves thousands of French troops as well as forces from Germany, Mali, Niger and other countries in the region.
And while US troops largely play a supporting role in Niger, military leaders acknowledge the risks they face.
“Clearly there are risks for our forces in Niger,” McKenzie said while declining to discuss the specifics of Wednesday’s attack, citing “ongoing partnered operations.”
“Any time we deploy full forces globally, we look very hard at the enablers that need to be in place in order to provide security for them and that ranges from the ability to pull them out if they’re injured to the ability to reinforce them at the point of a fight if they need reinforcement,” he said.
“Certainly to the soldiers in the fight it was combat,” McKenzie added.
The Pentagon is in the process of establishing a drone base just outside the city of Agadez in Niger in an effort to bolster regional counterterrorism efforts. The US has been using a local Nigerien airport while the base is under construction, according to US Africa Command.

Guinea Sells Its Soul And Freedom To China For 20 Billion Dollars: They Just Don’t Know It Yet

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF GLOBAL VOICES)

 

A 20 Billion Dollar Trade Agreement Between China and Guinea Raises Concerns

Meeting between President Xi Jinping and the Guinean delegation, via CGTN Africa.

Leaders of BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) gathered in Xiamen, China as the five rising emerging economies for the ninth annual summit held from 3-5 September 2017. Alongside this conference, Ibrahim Kassory Fofana, Guinean Minister of State in charge of public-private partnerships, announced a framework trade agreement between China and Guinea.

This 20 billion dollar agreement will finance significant infrastructure projects over a 20 year period from 2017 until 2036. The deal constitutes an agreement through which Chinese investment will be repaid in exchange for allowing Chinese companies to undertake mining projects in Guinea, raising concerns among Guineans about its terms.

The Office of the President in Guinea has published a press release in an attempt to clarify the terms of the agreement; however, as noted by Diallo Boubacar on the site Africaguinee.com, details have not yet been made known. Several opposition leaders, including François Bourouno voiced their concern:

The trade deal (worth 20 billion USD) signed last Tuesday between Guinea and China has raised some concerns. Although it is anticipated that this deal will, for the most part, finance infrastructure projects in exchange for mining resources over a 20 year period, we, in the opposition party, have our doubts.

“We understand it is a mixed agreement, consisting of loans and gifts. However what we don’t know is what the loans will entail, such as the repayment rates, the terms and conditions, as well as the compensation details. Nor do we know how the gifts will be defined. As such, there are many questions we need to ask.”

In 2016, the mining sector accounted for 98.97% of Guinea’s exports (compared to 84.12% in 2015). Trains carrying ore can comprise up to 120 cars, emitting an infernal noise as well as dust clouds stretching from the extraction site all the way to the port.

Nevertheless, Guineans hope this sector will bring improvements to their living conditions, unlike the farming sector, which has been almost totally neglected. While Guinea has vast agricultural potential due to its varied climate and many rivers, the country is known as a “geological scandal” due to the disparity between the wealth of untapped resources and the poverty of its citizens.

Guinean blogger Jeanne Fofana from kababachir.com has raised doubts regarding additional debt representing more than 50% of the national debt, which already constitutes 48% of the gross domestic product (GDP). She concludes:

Guineans want to see a marked improvement in their living conditions. Simply providing billions of dollars and extolling the virtues of Alpha Condé [The Guinean President], quite frankly, borders on populism: “when talking about these kinds of amounts of money, the average Guinean remains sceptical, and with good cause! Because for them, this does not translate to an improvement in their daily life. The only way to convert this into bettering their lives is by providing employment.” Guineans are feeling deceived.

In an article by Radio France Internationale, RFI, Amadou Bah from the non-governmental organization (N.G.O.) Action Mine Guinée expresses his concerns:

However there has not been, as of yet, any clarification as to the quantity of the resources allocated.

Will this not just discourage investors from other multinationals from seeking concessions in Guinea? Will this be by mutual agreement? Will the value of the infrastructure be equal to that of the minerals to be exported? At the moment, we are hanging on the government’s every word as they negotiate this without providing many details.

Guinean netizens speak out

Guinean citizens have taken to Facebook to voice their doubts. The first bauxite exploitation in Guinea took place in 1937, but Guineans are still amongst the poorest in West Africa. Siradiou Paraya Bah, a resident of Conakry  joins the debate by posting on the wall of influential Guinean blogger Sidikiba Keita to ask what lessons can be learned from the past:

Can we know exactly what these trade agreements between China and Guinea entail?
What can we learn from previous decades of bauxite exploitation in Guinea?
What lessons can we take away from this?

What concerns Demba Thez Mara, a Guinan netizen in Boké, is the need to process the minerals before exportation:

I would like to see us put in place metallurgical and ore dressing plants so that we can process our unrefined products on site. In terms of the enrichment of AI203 (aluminium), China has the best flotation technologies; therefore in order to better develop our mines, we need on site processing, which will also require sufficient energy production.

Law enforcement officers have clashed with protesters at the centre of the main bauxite extraction site in Boké, Guinea in response to the adverse environmental impact of extraction and lack of economic benefits, particularly in terms of employment. Against this backdrop, blogger Sidikiba Keita responds to active Guinean Facebook user Ibrahim Ghussein’s message and warns Guineans:

1. Let’s not delude ourselves. SMB [Société Minière de Boké, in English: Boké Mining Company]’s current operations are on a small scale compared to what we are expecting, as this should increase tenfold, from 30,000 tons/day (t/d) to 300,000 tons/day. The Chinese have a very clear agenda: an all-out reduction in production costs, from extraction to FOB delivery. The EITI [Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative]’s latest report confirms that the Guinean government expects an average return of $4/t of bauxite, whereas CBG [Cie de Bauxites de Guinée] pay more than double that amount, due to their environmental protection measures. The stripping and blasting phases already create a barely manageable pollution issue. On top of this, the transportation phase will undoubtedly be via lorry, as it is currently. In any case, in light of the traumatic experiences endured by the population who live near to the SMB site, this is simply unsustainable, unless the local population are to be moved out in droves.

2. In any case, in light of the traumatic experiences endured by the population who live near to the SMB site, this is simply unsustainable, unless the local population are to be moved out in droves.

In terms of the environmental impact, Tidiane Sylla highlights the potential consequences of over-exporting, which risks flooding the market and causing the price to fall:

Exporting large quantities of bauxite could cause the price to fall on the international market. In the Boké, Boffa and Télimélé regions, more than ten companies are involved in bauxite production. We need to diversify and innovate so as not to saturate the market.

Guinea’s history of public distrust

A lack of public trust around national mining deals emanates from unfair contracts signed by Guinean Mining Minster Mamoudou Thiam during his term in 2009-10. Thiam has been in prison in the United States (U.S.) since December 2016 after U.S. courts found him guilty of laundering 8.5 million dollars in backhanders.

The Africa Center for Strategic Studies, an academic institution created by the U.S. Department of Defense and financed by Congress to study security issues in Africa, published a study in May 2015 entitled The Anatomy of the Resource Curse: Predatory Investment in in Africa’s Extractive Industries, which analyses problems caused by mineral wealth in certain African countries. In the chapter dedicated to Guinea entitled Exploiting a State on the Brink of Failure: The Case of Guinea, the study details how Mr. Thiam was able to illegally line his pockets while in power.