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Ethiopia – Land for Sale – People & Power – Al Jazeera English

Ethiopia – Land for Sale – People & Power – Al Jazeera English.

Just a few decades ago, Ethiopia was a country defined by its famines, particularly between 1983-1985 when in excess of half a million people starved to death as a consequence of drought, crop failure and a brutal civil war.Against this backdrop, it is impressive that in recent years, Ethiopia has been experiencing stellar economic growth. The headline statistics are certainly remarkable: the country is creating millionaires faster than any other in Africa; output from farming, Ethiopia’s dominant industry, has tripled in a decade; the capital Addis Ababa is experiencing a massive construction boom; and the last six years have seen the nation’s GDP grow by a staggering 108 percent.

But it is not all positive news, because for all the good figures there are still plenty of bad ones.

Around 90 percent of the population of 87 million still suffers from numerous deprivations, ranging from insufficient access to education to inadequate health care; average incomes are still well below $1500 a year; and more than 30 million people still face chronic food shortages.

And while there are a number of positive and genuine reasons for the growth spurt – business and legislative reforms, more professional governance, the achievements of a thriving service sector – many critics say that the growth seen in agriculture, which accounts for almost half of Ethiopia’s economic activity and a great deal of its recent success, is actually being driven by an out of control ‘land grab’, as  multinational companies and private speculators vie to lease millions of acres of the country’s most fertile territory from the government at bargain basement prices.

At the ministry of agriculture in Addis Ababa, this land-lease programme is often described as a “win-win” because it brings in new technologies and employment and, supposedly, makes it easier to improve health care, education and other services in rural areas.

“Ethiopia needs to develop to fight poverty, increase food supplies and improve livelihoods and is doing so in a sustainable way,” said one official.

But according to a host of NGO’s and policy advocates, including Oxfam, Human Rights Watch and the Oakland Institute, the true consequences of the land grabs are almost all negative. They say that in order to make such huge areas available for foreign investors to grow foodstuffs and bio-fuels for export – and in direct contravention of Ethiopia’s obligations under international law – the authorities are displacing hundreds of thousands of indigenous peoples, abusing their human rights, destroying their traditions, trashing the environment, and making them more dependent on food aid  than ever before.

“The benefits for the local populations are very little,” said renowned Ethiopian sociologist Dessalegn Rahmato. “They’ve taken away their land. They’ve taken away their natural resource, because these investors are clearing the land, destroying the forest, cutting down the trees. The government claims that one of the aims of this investment was to enable local areas to benefit by investing in infrastructure, social services … but these benefits are not included in the contract. It’s only left up to the magnanimity of the investor.”

And those investors, he continued, are simply not interested in anything other than serving their own needs: “They can grow any crop they want, when they want it, they can sell in any market they want, whether it’s a global market or a local market. In fact most of them are not interested in the local markets.”

He cited as an example a massive Saudi-owned plantation in the fertile Gambella region of south west Ethiopia, a prime target area for investors: “They have 10,000 hectares and they are producing rice. This rice is going to be exported to the Middle East, to Saudi Arabia and other places. The local people in that area don’t eat rice.”

But the most controversial element of the government’s programme is known as ‘villagisation’ – the displacement of people from land they have occupied for generations and their subsequent resettlement in artificial communities.

In Gambella, where two ethnic groups, the Anuaks and the Nuers, predominate, it has meant tens of thousands of people have been forced to abandon a traditional way of life. One such is Moot, an Anuak farmer who now lives in a government village far from his home.

“When investors showed up, we were told to pack up our things and to go to the village. If we had decided not to go, they would have destroyed our crops, our houses and our belongings. We couldn’t even claim compensation because the government decided that those lands belonged to the investors. We were scared … if you get upset and say that someone stole your land, you are put in prison. If you complain about being arrested, they will kill you. It’s not our land anymore; we have been deprived of our rights.”

Despite growing internal opposition and international criticism, the Ethiopian government shows no sign of scaling the programme back. According to the Oakland Institute, since 2008, an area the size of France has already been handed over to foreign corporations. Over the next few years an area twice that size is thought to be earmarked for leasing to investors.

So what does all this mean for the people on the ground? In Ethiopia – Land for Sale, filmmakers Veronique Mauduy and Romain Pelleray try and find out.

Presenting the latest country to lose confidence in the dollar….

Presenting the latest country to lose confidence in the dollar…..

zimdollars

January 30, 2014
Sovereign Valley Farm, Chile

Zimbabwe. You remember those guys, right?

The country’s plight with its currency became world famous, the butt of untold jokes in economic circles. At its height, hyperinflation in Zimbabwe reached nearly 90 sextillion in 2008.

That’s a 9 with 22 zeros.

To put it in context, if you had 90 sextillion grains of sand, you could cover the entire surface of the earth all the way to the outmost layers of the atmosphere.

Then, in April 2009, the government effectively abandoned the Zimbabwe dollar. The US dollar became the official currency for all government transactions, and US dollars, British pounds sterling, euros, and South African rand became the most widely used tender in circulation.

I’ve traveled to Zimbabwe frequently; they have some of the best stories you could ever hear about standing in line at the banks with wheelbarrows, and using stacks of paper currency at home for toilet paper or furniture.

Given that Zimbabwe is literally THE poster child for hyperinflation over the last half-century, one cannot understate the irony of their latest announcement.

Just yesterday, the government there announced that the Chinese renminbi (among other currencies) will become legal tender in Zimbabwe.

This is big news. As we have discussed so many times in the past, the current fiscal and monetary antics in the United States are absolutely no different than what Zimbabwe employed several years ago.

Zimbabwe printed its currency in nearly infinite quantities. So has the United States. The only difference is that the US dollar is readily accepted around the world thanks to good ole’ American credibility that was built by previous generations.

But that credibility is rapidly deteriorating. And everywhere you look, there are obvious signs that the rest of the world is quickly moving on from the dollar.

Central banks around the world are stocking up on gold. Major powers like China and Russia are calling for a new reserve currency. And a number of nations (Zimbabwe is the latest) have already begun to use other currencies like the renminbi for international trade and central bank reserves.

It’s happening. And it’s one of those things that will play out like what Hemingway wrote about going bankrupt: gradually, then suddenly.

The dollar’s share of global reserves has slowly fallen from roughly 75% in 2001, to just over 60% today.

But the world will eventually reach a bifurcation point where investors, foreign governments, central banks, etc. panic and start rushing for the exits.

It’s something that could happen tomorrow. Or five years from now. No one knows. But rational, intelligent people shouldn’t be waiting around for it to happen.

I very strongly recommend that you take a portion of your savings and move them into real assets– precious metals and productive land are the most obvious. But even things like collectibles or nonperishable goods (like ammunition) would be preferable to US dollars.

Then there’s other currencies that you can hold. Right now, the Norwegian krone has the strongest fundamentals in the world as it is backed by the most solvent central bank on the planet.

The Hong Kong dollar is also an interesting option because it minimizes your downside currency risk while providing protection against the US dollar’s deterioration.

(Premium members: please refer to your SMC welcome guide for actionable information about holding Hong Kong dollars and Norwegian krone.)

Nigeria Central Bank Diversifies Reserves: Sells Dollars, Buys Chinese Yuan | Zero Hedge

Nigeria Central Bank Diversifies Reserves: Sells Dollars, Buys Chinese Yuan | Zero Hedge.

It seems the “dollar is a reserve currency for ever and ever” propaganda has not reached Africa, also known as Southern China as explained here two years ago, where moments ago the Central Bank of Nigeria issued the following surprise announcement:

  • CENTRAL BANK OF NIGERIA TO SELL DOLLARS TO DIVERSIFY RESERVES
  • NIGERIA CENTRAL BANK TO RAISE SHARE OF YUAN TO 7% FROM 2%
  • NIGERIA CENTRAL BANK TO DIVERSIFY RESERVES INTO YUAN
  • NIGERIA CENTRAL BANK CONSIDERING DIM SUM BOND: MOGHALU

But why would anyone buy Yuan when there are so many ever-more diluted dollars available? And now, let’s open it up for the most creative Nigerian email scam involving Chinese Yuan…

‘A chilling warning to others’ – Al Jazeera Blogs

‘A chilling warning to others’ – Al Jazeera Blogs.

Journalists are never supposed to become the story. Apart from the print reporter’s byline or the broadcaster’s sign-off, we are supposed to remain in the background as witnesses to or agents for the news: never as its subject.

That’s why I find all the attention following our incarceration all very unsettling. This isn’t to suggest I am ungrateful. All of us who were arrested in the interior ministry’s sweep of Al Jazeera’s staff on December 29 are hugely encouraged by and grateful for the overwhelming show of support from across the globe. From the letter signed by 46 of the region’s most respected and influential foreign correspondents calling for our immediate release; to the petition from Australian colleagues; the letter writing and online campaigns and family press conferences – all of it has been both humbling and empowering.

We know we are not alone.

But what is galling is that we are into our fourth week behind bars for what I consider to be some pretty mundane reporting.

I’ve produced work in the past that has involved lots of detailed investigation, considerable risk, and not a small amount of sweat, that I wished the authorities would have been even a little bit offended by. Yet too often it has slipped out with infuriatingly little response.

This assignment to Cairo had been relatively routine – an opportunity to get to know Egyptian politics a little better. But, with only three weeks on the ground, hardly time to do anything other than tread water. So when a squad of plainclothes agents forced their way into my room, I was at first genuinely confused and later even a little annoyed that it wasn’t for some more significant slight.

This is not a trivial point. The fact that we were arrested for what seems to be a set of relatively uncontroversial stories tells us a lot about what counts as “normal” and what is dangerous in post-revolutionary Egypt.

‘A routine body of reporting’

Of course, the allegations we are facing suggest anything but normal journalistic endeavours. The state has accused three of us – myself, and producers Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed – of collaborating with the Muslim Brotherhood to use unlicensed equipment to broadcast information we knew to be false to defame and destabilise Egypt. Fahmy and Baher are further accused of being MB members. It’s a rap sheet that would be comically absurd if it wasn’t so deadly serious.

I’m keen to see what “evidence” the investigators have concocted to prove the allegations. But to date we have not been formally charged with any crime. We are merely in detention to give them time to assemble their case so the prosecutor can decide if it is strong enough to take to court. Under Egypt’s judicial system, we won’t get to see the file until charges are formally laid.

So, all we have is what we did – a routine body of reporting on the political drama unfolding around us, and what it might mean for Egypt. The fact that this has put us behind bars is especially alarming given the historical moment Egypt now finds itself in.

The current interim government emerged after widespread street protests and pressure from the military pushed Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi, from power. In the eyes of Morsi’s Islamist group, the Muslim Brotherhood, it was a military coup; to the government’s supporters, it was a popular overthrow – with a little help from the military – of an administration that had broken its promises on moderation; created widespread discontent; cracked down on dissent, and was dragging Egypt towards a closed-minded theocracy.

To defend the revolution, Egyptians have just passed a fiercely liberal constitution that, among other things, explicitly defends… freedom of speech. Article 11 even expressly protects journalists from imprisonment for crimes committed through publishing or broadcast.

‘No desire to see Egypt struggle’

But what constitutes a breach of the law in this case seems to be relative, where anything too far beyond the bounds of normally accepted limits becomes a threat. It isn’t that we pushed those limits. After more than 20 years as a foreign correspondent, I know what is safe ground. And we didn’t stray anywhere near that edge.

But the state here seems to see itself in an existential struggle that pits the forces of good, open, free society against the Islamist “terrorists” still struggling to seize control. In that environment, “normal” has shifted so far from the more widely accepted “middle” that our work suddenly appeared to be threatening.

We were not alone in our reporting, but our arrest has served as a chilling warning to others of where the middle is here.

In this “new normal”, secular activists – including some of my prison neighbours – have been imprisoned at least three times, first for opposing the now fallen autocrat Hosni Mubarak; then for protesting at the excesses of the short-lived Muslim Brotherhood administration and now for what they say is draconian overreach by the current government. Campaigners putting up “no” posters for the recent constitutional referendum are also in prison, as is anyone caught taking part in Muslim Brotherhood organised protests (the Brotherhood is now deemed to be a “terrorist organisation”). In this “new normal”, an independant agency reckons some 21,000 were arrested in the five months since Morsi’s ousting on June 30, while 2,665 people had been killed and almost 16,000 injured in the same period. And, of course, among the detained are journalists, including ourselves, accused of supporting terrorism and undermining the state.

Let me be clear: I have no desire to weaken Egypt nor in any way see it struggle. Nor do I have any interest in supporting any group, the Muslim Brotherhood or otherwise. But then our arrest doesn’t seem to be about our work at all. It seems to be about staking out what the government here considers to be normal and acceptable. Anyone who applauds the state is seen as safe and deserving of liberty. Anything else is a threat that needs to be crushed.

Dozens dead as Egypt marks revolution – Middle East – Al Jazeera English

Dozens dead as Egypt marks revolution – Middle East – Al Jazeera English.

Cairo  At least 29 people have been killed across Egypt amidst nationwide protests on the third anniversary of the 2011 revolution, with unofficial reports of a death toll nearly twice as high.

The worst violence was directed at supporters of deposed President Mohamed Morsi, who staged dozens of rallies across the country. Witnesses reported deadly clashes in Minya, Giza, Alexandria and several other governorates, and the health ministry said that 29 people were dead and more than 170 wounded by 8:30pm (1830GMT).

There were reports of numerous deaths in Alf Maskan, a neighbourhood in eastern Cairo, though the exact number could not be confirmed. Two witnesses in the area took photos that seemed to show at least nine dead bodies wrapped in shrouds.

The Muslim Brotherhood said in a statement that more than 50 people have been killed nationwide, though casualty figures released by the group have often been exaggerated in the past.

Armed groups also staged three attacks on security forces, the most spectacular of which reportedly brought down a military helicopter in North Sinai.

Two explosions rocked Cairo early on Saturday and a third followed in Suez, targeting a police base.

Activists opposed to both the army and the Brotherhood also tried to lay claim to the streets, with a rally in the Mohandiseen district around noon. They were chased off, only to regroup several hours later downtown, blocks away from Tahrir, where security forces fired tear gas and live ammunition.

The April 6 youth movement said one of its members was killed by gunfire, and by mid-afternoon the violence had prompted several revolutionary groups to urge supporters to go home.

But the main pro-military event in Tahrir Square was peaceful, protected by a heavy deployment of soldiers and police. The crowds gathered in the square made little mention of the 2011 uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak.

Instead they came to celebrate General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi who deposed morsi in July.

‘We refuse to submit’

Army helicopters orbited overhead, dropping Egyptian flags and coupons for free blankets. Crowds arrived throughout the afternoon, many of them chanting “the people demand the execution of the Brotherhood.” Others called for the “affirmation of the regime,” a play on the revolutionary slogan calling for its downfall.

“We want to show that we won’t go back to the Brotherhood, and we won’t be scared by their terrorism,” said Mohamed Salama, entering Tahrir Square with a group of about 20 people. “This is about correcting the path of the revolution.”

For many, the next step on that path should be electing Sisi to the presidency.

“Look around, he has our support. If he does not run, who will?” asked Amer Ali Said, an engineer.

Analysts say it is still unclear whether the general will run, though today’s rallies certainly seem to push him in that direction.

Thousands of Sisi’s supporters also gathered in other sites across the capital, and in governorates outside of Cairo. State television showed large crowds in Alexandria, Sohag, Fayoum and other cities. “We aren’t scared. All the people of Port Said, of Egypt, we are down in the streets today,” one man from Port Said told a state television reporter.

Sinai attack

Local media reported that an army helicopter was shot down near the town of Sheikh Zuweid in North Sinai, possibly by a missile. A military spokesman confirmed the helicopter crash, but would not comment on the cause.

The interior ministry confirmed a bombing outside a security barracks in Suez, which injured at least nine people. And a small explosion at a police building in eastern Cairo around 8am injured one person.

There were no claims of responsibility for Saturday’s attacks, which followed a series of four bombings across the capital on Friday. The deadliest, a car bomb, tore through the security directorate downtown, killing four people and injuring more than 70. Prosecutors said on Saturday that the vehicle used in the bombing had been stolen from the electricity ministry.

Ansar Bait al-Maqdis, a Sinai-based armed group, claimed responsibility for all four.

Arandis: The uranium capital of the world – Features – Al Jazeera English

Arandis: The uranium capital of the world – Features – Al Jazeera English.

Windhoek, Namibia – Somewhere in the middle of the vast Namib desert is a settlement by the name of Arandis. It has been here since 1975, ever since the Anglo-Australian mining firm Rio Tinto came to set up its Rössing uranium mine.

It needed a place to house its black workforce.

Almost forty years later, the glamour of the olden days has passed, when uranium prices were high and competition low. Arandis is still the home of the workers, but has lost the financial support of the company. It looks like it is doomed to decay. The town lies like an island in the middle of endless rocks, sand and dust. The streets are dull and lifeless and the houses only distinguishable by the colours in which they’ve been painted.

There’s a saying here: “If you leave Arandis, you will die.” One of those who repeat the phrase is Hoseas Gaomab, who worked in the mine’s laboratory for 23 years. He knows many men who have died. But he doesn’t know why.

Gaomab, aged 73, is a fragile old man. He first came to Arandis in 1975, a year before the Rössing mine started operations. He was there when it became the largest open pit in the world. When it almost single handedly turned Namibia into one of the leading uranium producing countries – by supplying Europe, the US and Japan.

The question is, at what expense this has happened. Many men who worked here in the mine’s early days claim to suffer from severe illnesses including cancers, hypertension and anaemia. Gaomab is sick, too. He suffers from a disease that has made his legs and hands numb for the much of the past 20 years.

I had been feeling weak, but the mine doctors always said it’s okay… The doctors only ever tested us for flu. if I had known, I would have asked them to test me for radiation.Hoseas Gaomab, former mine laboratory worker

“I had been feeling weak, but the mine doctors always said it’s okay,” he told Al Jazeera. He can barely walk, or get up from the armchair in which he sits.

Discovering the risks, too late

For a long time it simply didn’t occur to Gaomab that his illness could be work-related. Then, in 1993, a medical student named Reinhard Zaire arrived, interviewing miners and taking blood samples. “He asked us how long we worked for Rössing and when we got sick. Then he called us together to tell us we were irradiated.”

This was the first time he heard about the existence of radiation in the uranium mine. “The doctors only ever tested us for flu,” he said. “If I had known, I would have asked them to test me for radiation.”

Aside from Zaire’s claims, there is no proof that Gaomab has been fatally irradiated. And chances are slim that he will ever find out. There are no records available from the company of what happens to workers once they leave Rössing. After their retirement, the men return to their homes in rural Namibia, where they rarely have access to proper healthcare facilities.

“To date, there have been no confirmed occupational illness related deaths,” said Rio Tinto spokesperson Penda Kiiyala.

However, there is great scepticism among people here in Arandis towards the company and their medical staff.

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“The mine is a big company, they can tell everyone what to do. They tell you what’s wrong with you and you have to believe them,” said Gaomab. Although scientists have previously linked diseases such as those reported in Arandis to the exposure of radiation, nobody – other than Reinhard Zaire – has investigated them in the context of the Rössing uranium mine.

Zaire studied the effects of long-term exposure to low levels of radiation believed to be found in the Rössing mine. He concluded that there was an increased risk for uranium miners to develop malignant diseases such as cancer. Shortly after the report was published, Zaire was dismissed by the Namibian Ministry of Health and Social Services, his research permission was revoked, and he was accused of practising as a medical doctor illegally.

Rio Tinto – facing a lawsuit in the UK at the time, in which it was accused of damaging an employee’s health – slammed Zaire’s report.

Regulations ‘inadequate’

Doug Brugge from the Tufts University in the United States has conducted research on the impacts of underground uranium mining on the Navajo tribe in North America. Brugge is sceptical to give the issue “the kind of framing” Zaire suggested. “For me, to just talk about low-dose ionizing radiation exposure is inadequate. Other things like the metal toxicity of uranium also plays a role and how the workers were exposed to radiation,” he said.

We had to smoothen out the yellowcake with our hands before we sampled it. There were no gloves, those things only came later.Hoseas Gaomab, former mine laboratory worker

Gaomab and a former lab colleague, Petrus Hoaeb, described the health and safety regulations at Rössing as inadequate in the early days. “For the sampling we used to suck up the yellowcake through a pipette,” said Hoaeb. “Whenever there was crushing, there was dust everywhere.”

Gaomab agreed: “We had to smoothen out the yellowcake with our hands before we sampled it. There were no gloves, those things only came later.”

Yellowcake is a solid form of concentrated uranium which is produced after the ore has been crushed and processed. It is usually stored in drums for transport and not hazardous if handled with appropriate precautions.

“During the lifetime of the mine, safety measures have been in place based on international best practice and applications at the time,” Rio Tinto’s Kiiyala told Al Jazeera. Monthly urine samples are also taken from each worker. This serves “as a check to ensure no internal contamination risk exists”.

Contrary to what the workers say, Rio Tinto emphasises that all workers have access to the results of tests made on their samples.

Rössing Uranium, the Namibian subsidiary of Rio Tinto, denied that workers were exposed to any kind of radiation in its open pit mine. “The biggest danger for the employees is the silica dust inside the pit,” said Alwyn Lubbe, an external relations officer for Rössing who spoke to Al Jazeera inside the mine’s premises. “The uranium levels are extremely low. The radiation is very low, it’s natural. Even when they process it in the final product recovery.”

Lubbe maintained there was also no toxicity leaking from the waste dumps next to the mine, which loom in the background. “There are no hazards here,” he says. From where he stands on the viewing platform, he looks at the huge hole stretching out below him and says: “Only depleted uranium is dangerous for the human body,” referring to the processed uranium that is used in nuclear power plants and in many weapons ammunitions.

Radiating risk

According to Tufts’ Doug Brugge, the biggest threat is not the uranium itself, but its decay products, like radon, a gas that is set free when uranium is mined. “The daughter products of radon are the ones that settle in the lungs,” Brugge said. Solids such as uranium and radium can enter the human system only when inhaled or ingested. “If someone touches the ore, it can get into the body through hand and mouth contact. Once they are in the system the radiation is very strong.

“That there is radiation here and that it can cause health effects is not in question. The question is whether the way the people are exposed to it are leading to those health problems,” he said. “It sounds like what really needs to be done is research on health conditions and exposure.”

Despite the slim chances of success, Gaomab’s former colleague Petrus Hoaeb has decided to take the company to court. Hoaeb met Al Jazeera in his home, sat next to his son. Hoaeb Junior is spearheading the case for his sick father. The lack of knowledge is the biggest hurdle to overcome, he said. “If a researcher comes to you and says: ‘This is what we found,’ then you know how to fight. But if you have limited knowledge, it is very difficult.”

Currently the two parties are negotiating outside of court for a possible compensation package for Hoaeb, who was booked off work sick for twelve years before he was eventually fired in 2012. He failed to provide proof that his sickness was due to radiation exposure.

Hoaeb Jr has a different plan, however. He is about to travel to Namibia’s capital, Windhoek, to discuss further proceedings and to decide what Rössing has to offer.

“We are fighting for a large number of people,” he concluded. “Those who have died and those who are sick.”

Follow Victoria Schneider on Twitter at the Dirty Profits Exposed project: @DirtyProfitsExp

This report was produced with the support of the  Facing Finance  campaign.

UN expert: CAR risks spiralling into genocide – Africa – Al Jazeera English

UN expert: CAR risks spiralling into genocide – Africa – Al Jazeera English.

The UN chief’s special adviser on genocide prevention has warned of a “high risk of crimes against humanity and of genocide” in the Central African Republic.

Adama Dieng and other UN officials briefed the Security Council on Wednesday on the continuing and unprecedented violence between Christians and Muslims in the country.

More than half the country’s 4.6 million people need assistance, according to the UN, and nearly one million have fled their homes after mostly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power in a March coup d’etat that ousted former President Francois Bozize.

Christian self-defence groups known as “anti-balaka” (anti-machete) have taken up arms against them, and the UN estimates that retaliatory violence has claimed thousands of lives.

The officials spoke of children being beheaded, entire villages burned and a complete breakdown of law and order, and they urged the deployment of more peacekeepers as soon as possible.

“The level of hatred between these communities shocked me,” Dieng said, listing widespread reports of summary executions, mutilation and sexual violence among the “widespread and massive” human rights violations.

Bodies dumped

Restoring peace will be difficult “without addressing the current culture of impunity,” he added.

 

Dieng and the other officials spoke after a visit last month as violence spiralled.

Despite the dark outlook for the country, they expressed hope at this week’s election of Catherine Samba-Panza as interim president, and at the $496m in humanitarian assistance newly pledged by international donors.

They also welcomed the approval by European Union foreign ministers this week of a potential joint military force of about 500 troops to assist the roughly 1,600 French troops and about 4,600 African troops trying to restore order.

Samba-Panza pledged after her election to hold talks with armed groups.

“I want to meet with the armed groups and listen to them,” she told reporters. “If they took up arms, then there is a reason for that.”

The statements came as the Red Cross said it had found 11 corpses, most burnt beyond recognition, dumped in the capital Bangui.

Antoine Mbao Bogo, president of the Central African Red Cross Society, said nine of 11 bodies collected from Bangui’s mostly Muslim northern neighbourhood of PK11 earlier this week had been set alight.

He added that the Red Cross had collected 87 bodies in the past five days across the country.

Libya declares state of emergency – Middle East – Al Jazeera English

Libya declares state of emergency – Middle East – Al Jazeera English.

Libya has declared a state of emergency as the air force attacked gunmen in the remote south to end unrest between rival armed groups that have been clashing for days.

The General National Congress, Libya’s highest political authority, took the decision on Saturday during an “extraordinary session” after the parliament put the army on alert as gunmen stormed the air force base, Tamenhant, near the southern city of Sabha, an official said.

“A force was readied, then aircraft moved and took off and dealt with the targets,” Abdul-Raziq al-Shabahi, defence ministry spokesman, told reporters in Tripoli.

He said the army was tracking the attackers after they fled into the desert.

Earlier on Saturday, Prime Minister Ali Zeidan said a small group of gunmen had entered the air force base outside Sabha, 770km south of the capital Tripoli, but the government was in control of the town and its civilian airport.

“This confrontation (at the air base) is continuing but in a few hours it will be solved,” the prime minister told a televised address, without elaborating.

Zeidan said he had sent his defence minister to Misrata to instruct troops based there to move to the south.

“The troops from Misrata have been commissioned by the government to conduct a national task … to spread security and stability in the region,” he said in the address.

Tribal clashes

Local sources said the clashes that started last week were sparked by the death of a rebel chief linked to the Awled Sleiman, adding that the tribe accused the Toubou of murdering him.

The Toubou are black oasis farmers by tradition who also live in southern Libya, northern Chad and Niger, who have repeatedly said they were being marginalised.

Western powers fear the OPEC producer will slide into instability as the government struggles to contain heavily-armed groups and tribesmen who helped topped Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 but refuse to disarm.

Egyptian editor backtracks after saying ‘Americans will be killed in streets’ | World news | theguardian.com

Egyptian editor backtracks after saying ‘Americans will be killed in streets’ | World news | theguardian.com.

General Abdel Fatah al-Sisi

Bakry claims there is a plot to killed General Abdel Fatah al-Sisi (pictured). Photograph: Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters

A prominent Egyptian editor who threatened that Americans could be slaughtered in the streets has been forced to backtrack on his remarks after they were reported by western media.

In an extreme example of the growing xenophobic rhetoric by media outlets who back the country’s army chief, General Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, Mostafa Bakry made the threat on a major TV talkshow, also warning the US president, Barack Obama, and his “puppets” that “we will enter their houses, and we will kill them one by one”.

Bakry speculated that the US government planned to assassinate Sisi, who ousted Egypt‘s first democratically elected leader, Mohamed Morsi, last July after mass protests against his one-year rule.

“There is a plot to kill General Sisi, and the security services know it well,” said Bakry – a pro-regime journalist known for his provocative behaviour. He then suggested that a similar US-backed plot had led to the assassination of Pakistani politician, Benazir Bhutto.

Such a scenario would lead the Egyptian people to rise up in a “revolution to kill the Americans in the streets”, he said.

Egypt’s foreign ministry later forwarded the following clarification from Bakry himself: “These comments were made regarding terrorism and the terrorist group that is waging a war against Egypt. I am opposed to any violence, including any violence against US citizens, and I would like to make it clear that we have no enmity with or hostility towards the American people at all.

“The intention of my comments was to highlight Egyptian independence, and our adamant refusal to allow any outside party, be that the US or any other party, to interfere in internal Egyptian affairs.”

Bakry’s remarks came as the US is reportedly poised to unfreeze millions of dollars in aid to Egypt after the successful completion of a referendum on a new constitution, and follow praise of Egypt’s post-Morsi transition by US the secretary of state, John Kerry.

Egypt’s pro-regime media have increasingly portrayed any dissent – of either a secular or Islamist bent – against the current regime as an unpatriotic act.

Egypt’s flagship state newspaper, al-Ahram, has several times in recent months used its front page to air claims that the US government has joined forces with Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood to divide up Egypt into smaller countries, and to spread chaos within its borders.

The Brotherhood also often uses xenophobic rhetoric to smear its opponents. In its propaganda, the US is conversely portrayed as both a supporter and instigator of Morsi’s overthrow.

But Bakry’s earlier outburst is not a reflection of the views of ordinary Egyptians, many of whom crave the return of Egypt’s decimated tourism industry.

Herders fight farmers over Tanzania water – Features – Al Jazeera English

Herders fight farmers over Tanzania water – Features – Al Jazeera English.

Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania – Tanzanian authorities are finding it increasingly difficult to deal with ongoing conflicts between farmers and pastoralists as they fight over limited land and water resources in this East African nation.

From Tanzania’s Coast Region to Kilimanjaro, violent and sometimes deadly clashes have been raging for decades as farmers and pastoralists scramble for resources.

Most recently, on January 12, ten people were killed in Kiteto district in central Tanzania when Maasai pastoralists allegedly invaded villages in the disputed Embroi Murtangosi forest reserve and set homes ablaze. Local farmers accused district officials of colluding with the Maasai to intimidate farmers living on the reserve in an attempt to chase them off their land.

“It’s no secret, we are being harassed because there are certain people who are getting paid to evict us from this area,” said Kisioki Mesiaya, a farmer in Kiteto district.

Pastoralists, who are generally more affluent than farmers here, have been accused of influencing political decisions through bribery.

Tanzania has approximately 21 million head of cattle, the largest number in Africa after Ethiopia and Sudan. According to the ministry of livestock and fisheries development, livestock contributes to at least 30 percent of agricultural GDP.

Tanzania’s ministry for agriculture, food security and cooperatives says that small-scale farmers produce more than 90 percent of the country’s food. Of the country’s 94.5 million hectares, only half – 44 million hectares – is arable land.

The worst conflict between pastoralists and farmers here occurred in December 2000 in Kilosa district, in the Morogoro region, where 38 farmers were killed. Hostilities reignited in 2008 and eight people were killed, several houses set alight and livestock stolen.

Disputes ‘fuelled by officials’

Deputy national assembly speaker Job Ndugai accused government officials of siding with pastoral communities to intimidate farmers.

“Land disputes are fuelled by officials… who have been soliciting bribes in terms of money and livestock from pastoralists to evict farmers on the pretext that the land occupied by farmers is a reserved area,” Ndugai said in December from his constituency in Kongwa.

We have seen the influx of investors who take swathes of land to start commercial farming ranching or mining activities, in the process triggering conflicts with local people who are evicted from their land without due process

Yefred Myenzi, Land Rights Research and Resources Institute

Kiteto district commissioner Martha Umbulla, however, dismissed this as false. “There’s nothing like that, those allegations are not true,” she said.

Experts say that these resource-based conflicts are also fuelled by ethnic hatred, dwindling resources, poor land management and population growth.

Yefred Myenzi, a researcher from the Land Rights Research and Resources Institute known locally as HakiArdhi, said that most of the fighting over land was the indirect result of decisions and actions taken by the state through its various agencies.

He said that the struggle for land and water resulted from a lack of public awareness and knowledge of the country’s laws, inadequate participation of local people in policy and law formation, and violation of laws by district officials. Of Tanzania’s 42 million people, only 0.02 percent have traditional land ownership titles.

“We have seen the influx of investors who take swathes of land to start commercial farming ranching or mining activities, in the process triggering conflicts with local people who are evicted from their land without due process,” he added.

He blamed the existing land tenure system for sidelining pastoral communities, since no land has been set aside for them. “Although land laws require every village to have in place a land use plan, many villages are yet to implement this due to conflict,” he said.

Myenzi warned that, although a conflict resolution mechanism offered hope, disputes over land were likely to persist due to corruption and a weak system of reinforcement.

‘Growing social problem’

Henry Mahoo, professor of agricultural engineering at Tanzania’s Sokoine University of Agriculture, said that in order to resolve tensions between the two groups, a land use plan, which would clearly identify areas under pastoralists’ ownership and those controlled by farmers, should be drawn up.

“The problem [behind] these clashes is deeper than we think. All concerned parties must be involved in the negotiation process, and there must be a forum where farmers and pastoralists openly talk about their problems,” he said.

“I think these conflicts are a sign of a growing social problem. There are so many idle minds out there who can be incited to do anything,” he added.

Meshack Saidimu, a Maasai pastoralist in Mbalali, said that most of the disputes occurred because the government had not set aside areas for pastoralists.

“I think we are being made scapegoats for all these problems. The Maasai are disciplined people, they don’t just hurt somebody for the sake of it,” he said.

The disputes over land and water have also caused food insecurity among farmers, many of whom have been unable to harvest crops for fear of reprisals from enraged pastoralists.

“In analysing land conflicts we need to critically look at the issue. The farmers complain that pastoralists let their animals trample on their crops while searching for water and pasture but herders argue that there are paths that cattle use without causing damage to crops,” Myenzi said.

But he said a lasting solution could be found only if pastoralists and farmers respect and value each other.

A version of this article was first published by Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency.  

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