Sunday, March 31, 2013

THE NEW WORLD ORDER: The Rise Of The BRICS, Challenging The Old Global Economic Order - Precursor To The Collapse Of The White Supremacy Paradigm?!

The importance of the BRICS summit cannot be overestimated partly because it represents new countries beginning to take power and partly because it heralds a new world coming into being.

March 31, 2013 - SOUTH AFICA
- Look out! The ‘BRIIICS’ are coming! Yes, BRIIICS, with three “I”s. That’s because to the countries of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (which have just held a summit in Durban, South Africa) will soon be added Iran and Indonesia.

Iran is a stalwart moral and political leader. It stands up against Zionism. It has huge natural resources. It is making extraordinary technological progress. It will soon be a BRIIICS member.

And so will Indonesia, which has the world’s fourth largest population, a fast developing economy (around 7% per year) and, again, huge natural resources.

BRICS leaders (From L) India Prime minister Manmohan Singh, President of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping, South Africa's President Jacob
Zuma, Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff and Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin, pose for a family photo in Durban on March 27, 2013.
(AFP Photo/Alexander Joe)

Already, the present BRICS have 40% of the world’s population, 30% of its land mass, and 25% of its GDP with the latter being a sharply rising figure. Other countries, like Venezuela, Turkey, Egypt, Pakistan and Malaysia, are certain to join in.

Much more important, however, is the BRICS decision to set up a new development bank for long-term infrastructure. This is intended to rival, indeed, outclass, the Western-backed institutions. The underlying rationale is simple: the BRICS are determined to challenge Western political and economic dominance and, in particular, to break the dominance of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, which have not served the development needs of poor countries and have generally served only to put them into ever-increasing, un-repayable debt.

All of which is excellent news. The West has exploited emerging and poor countries and everywhere has been financially and militarily aggressive. Put simply, other countries are fed-up with the West: they have had enough.

President Jacob Zuma briefing the media on the hosting of BRICS Summit
and the events that occurred in the Central African Republic. Sefako Makgatho
Guest House, Pretoria, 25 March 2013. Photo: GCIS
The new bank, however, has more purposes than just being a development bank. American aggression, for example, is ultimately dependent upon the US dollar being the world’s reserve and main trading currency. The BRICS are going to end that by establishing a new reserve and trading currency.

Indeed, the situation can be put even more clearly. The West has long exploited and oppressed everybody that it could but now the boot, in the traditional metaphor, is on the other foot. Political power is shifting away from the West; economic power is shifting away from the West and its moral authority has almost completely disappeared (torture, assassinations, the creeping genocide of the Palestinians and the deliberate furtherance of a vicious sectarianism have seen to that).

Significantly, the BRICS are objecting to sanctions and war threats against Iran and are strongly opposed to Zionist Israel. It will not be long they declare that Israel is a pariah state.

Perhaps the most significant outcome of the BRICS summit is the proposed creation of an optic fibre cable linking all five states (with relatively easy extensions to Iran and Indonesia). Indeed, it could be that the BRICS are constructing an independent global optic fibre internet system or at least an extensive one over which they will have complete control. The BRICS are intensely aware that the USA, denying the evidence of its own sixteen intelligence agencies, is pursuing a Zionist agenda against Iran which includes excluding Iran from the SWIFT international banking system and other banking transactions. The new cable should put an end to that.

The BRICS are raising the flag of independence and are telling the West that its abuse of others has gone so far that the others are going to make their own way in life. And that will really matter because more and more Non-Aligned Movement nations will be joining the BRICS in various ways which will particularly include regional, economic, financial, military and technological agreements. An example is that China and Brazil have signed a currency swap deal under which they will be using their own currencies for half of their mutual trade i.e., the US dollar will not be involved. For a while the US dollar can be expected to remain the main trading currency - until suddenly it isn’t.

The BRICS nations argue that the current global economic order should be changed because it is out of date or perhaps out of balance.

Furthermore, Africa, for example, long exploited solely for its minerals and resources with no concern for the lives of the inhabitants, is simply going to turn to those who can provide the one big thing that Africa needs - industrialisation.

The importance of the BRICS summit cannot be overestimated partly because it represents new countries beginning to take power and partly because it heralds a new world coming into being.

However, a new world is not necessarily a better world and the BRICS, becoming the BRIIICS and much more, must be careful not to incorporate, without realising, assumptions and practices stemming from corrupt old Western institutions, thinking and practices. Chief of these is thinking that it does not matter if there is huge rich-poor division. This is at the heart of corrupt Western ‘trickle-down’ economics and is a complete breach of fundamental market principle, which says that producers and consumers must be the same people i.e., real productive (and therefore consuming) power must be spread to everyone in society.

Another corrupt assumption is that interest is necessary for the spreading of real productive capacity. Interest is not necessary: it is an unnecessary tax imposed by the global financial elite merely for its own benefit. The BRIIICS must ensure that the commercial banks are controlled so that they can only lend their own money (which they can then waste, if they want to, or charge interest on it). But the main money supply, for the spreading of the real economy, must stem, interest-free, from the national bank (although it may be administered by the commercial banks making only a fair administration charge).

Jalal (making a comment on the Press TV website) writes: “This is the best thing that could happen to the world. A new power that will not let the ex-colonials have the big cake to themselves as usual. This could also be the right path to finally new world order that will contribute to free human being and lead mankind towards a more balanced and harmonious world.”

Quite right, Jalal.

- Press TV.

WATCH: Inside Story - BRICS, Challenging the global economic order.

BLACK ACHIEVEMENTS: Serena Williams Wins Record Sixth Sony Open Title - The Oldest Female Champion At Key Biscayne!

March 31, 2013 - UNITED STATES - Serena Williams now stands alone as the woman with the most Sony Open championships after storming back to defeat Maria Sharapova, 4-6, 6-3, 6-0, in Saturday’s final. It was her sixth title in the event, one better than Steffi Graf. She solidified her world No. 1 ranking by winning the last 10 games after being broken in the fifth game of the second set.

“It feels really good,” said Williams, who also extended her record for victories at this event to 61. “At the start of the tournament, I definitely didn’t feel like I would be here, not with the way I was playing.”

She added: “I finally have some record. It’s really cool. I can’t seem to catch up with Margaret Court or Steffi, so I’m really happy to have something going right now.”

Serena Williams beats Maria Sharapova in the Sony Open final to become the fourth woman to win an event six times.
Al Bello/Getty Images

After she ended the match with a service winner, Williams did a pirouette at the net and waved to the capacity crowd of 13,859. She lives north of Crandon Park Tennis Center in Palm Beach Gardens and considers this her hometown event.

Sharapova seemed poised to take home her first winner’s trophy in five finals appearances. She won the first set, then in one stretch in the second, she took three consecutive games to put Williams on her heels. She pumped her fist and shouted, “Come on,” after breaking Williams to go ahead3-2, but her momentum was short-lived.

“That was pretty fast, but I thought I still had opportunities to get back in the set at 3-4,” Sharapova said. “I was up, 40-15 and love-30, in the next game, and then, you know, those are the games that you really need to keep challenging out there and keep being in them, because those are the chances that you will have to take if you want to win the match. But I certainly put myself in a much better position today.”

There was no shortage of exciting points between the top two women’s players in the world, with Sharapova whipping forehands and backhands that most opponents would not be able to return. She sprinkled in some impressive lobs as well, but Williams was able to find her game at the right moment.

Serena Williams defeated Maria Sharapova, 4-6, 6-3, 6-0, in the Sony Open final on Saturday.
Al Bello/Getty Images

If there was one troubling trend for Williams throughout these two weeks, it was her slow starts. She allowed herself to get into some deep holes, most notably in the quarterfinals against Li Na. She lost the first set, 2-6, and was trailing, 1-4, in the second. Williams reeled off 11 of the next 13 games to advance. She found herself in a similar situation against Sharapova.

“Yeah, today wasn’t my day, I don’t think,” Williams said. “Maria played really the best I have seen her play, and I think she was moving unbelievable and she was hitting winners from everywhere. I think after the first set, I had over 20 unforced errors. I just thought, Why am I playing like this? It definitely is a way to be like, how did I end up winning when I actually wasn’t on top of my game?”

Williams became the first top seed to win the Sony Open since she did it in 2004. She is 12-2 in her career against Sharapova and has won their last 11 meetings. Her last loss to Sharapova was in the 2004 WTA Tour Championships.

Sharapova had an 11-match winning streak coming into the final and had won 23 straight sets. And as well as she was playing, it looked at the beginning to be the match that would end her drought against Williams.

“I think today I certainly played a lot better,” said Sharapova, who is 19-3 this season. “I had my chances. There’s no reason why I couldn’t win the match today. I was playing well, not well enough to win the match, obviously, but it was a step in the right direction, and there’s no doubt that we’ll be playing many more times. There’s no doubt I’ll be able to beat her.”

Serena Williams set a Sony Open record Saturday with her sixth title at the Key Biscayne tournament.
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

With the clay court season set to start Monday with the Family Circle Cup in Charleston, S.C., Williams is not wasting time making the transition. She said she planned to hit a few balls on clay on Sunday, just to get the feel for sliding again.

Williams has her sights set on a better performance at the end of May in the French Open. As much as she loves the clay, however, she acknowledged she preferred to play on grass because she serves better on that surface. When she was asked on what surface she would like to play Sharapova, or any of the top players in the world, Williams showed off her competitive side.

“Anywhere,” she said. “It could be ice, grass, clay. It could be — I don’t care. Just give me a racket and a ball. I’m ready.” - NY Times.

THE MOTHERLAND: The Latest News Out Of Africa - Churches Hold Prayers For Ailing Nelson Mandela; South African Copter Crash Kills 5 Soldiers On Rhino Patrol; Prosecutors Question Egypt Satirist Bassem Youssef; Egyptian Protests In Solidarity With Alexandria's Detained Activists; Nigerian Army Kills 14 Islamist Insurgents In Raid; Suicide Bomber Attacks Timbuktu, Mali; Sudanese Govt, Darfur Rebels Sign Peace Agreement In Doha; Angola Police Detain 18 At Rights Rally; Four Suspects Arrested In Libya Rape Case; CAR Rebel Leader To Review Mining Deals!

March 31, 2013 - AFRICA - Churches across South Africa are holding prayers for Nelson Mandela, who has been in hospital for four days being treated for pneumonia.  Several hundred people gathered at the Regina Mundi church in Soweto - once a focal point of the struggle against apartheid. 

Churches Hold Prayers For Ailing Nelson Mandela.
On Saturday, South Africa's presidency said Mr Mandela, 94, was breathing without difficulty.  It said excess fluid had been drained from the lungs to ease his breathing.  There are no details yet on how long he will remain in hospital and no statement on his condition has been given for the past 24 hours.  After Mr Mandela was admitted to hospital late on Wednesday, President Jacob Zuma said people "must not panic".  The former president first contracted tuberculosis in the 1980s while detained on windswept Robben Island.  His lungs are said to have been damaged while working in a prison quarry. This latest spell in hospital is his fourth in just over two years.

Mr Mandela served as South Africa's first black president from 1994 to 1999 and is regarded by many as the father of the nation for leading the struggle against apartheid. The statement read by presidential spokesman, Mac Maharaj, on Saturday said that Mr Mandela had been admitted to hospital "due to a recurrence of pneumonia".  It said: "Doctors advised that due to the lung infection, former President Mandela had developed a pleural effusion which was tapped. This has resulted in him now being able to breathe without difficulty.  "He continues to respond to treatment and is comfortable."  Mr Maharaj, a prisoner on Robben Island with Nelson Mandela in the 1960s and 70s, said the presidency "would like to acknowledge and thank all who have been praying for, and sending messages of support for, Madiba and his family."  Madiba is Mandela's clan name and is widely used to refer to him.  The hospital Mr Mandela is attending has not been disclosed. 

Last December Mr Mandela was treated for a lung infection and gallstones - his longest period in hospital since leaving prison in 1990.  In February, he was treated for a stomach condition.  When asked whether people should prepare for the inevitable, Mr Zuma told BBC News: "In Zulu, when someone passes away who is very old, people say he or she has gone home. I think those are some of the things we should be thinking about." But he stressed that Mr Mandela had been able to handle the situation "very well" so far.  BBC Africa correspondent Andrew Harding says South Africans have been praying for the recovery of Mr Mandela, who remains a moral beacon in the country despite withdrawing from public life almost a decade ago.  Despite his long imprisonment, Mr Mandela forgave his former enemies and as president urged South Africans of all races to work together and seek reconciliation.  In 1993 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.  His main home is in Qunu, a small rural village in Eastern Cape province, where he says he spent the happiest days of his childhood.  However, doctors said in December he should remain at his home in the Johannesburg neighbourhood of Houghton to be close to medical facilities. - BBC.

South African Copter Crash Kills 5 Soldiers On Rhino Patrol.
Five South African soldiers died in a helicopter crash while patrolling for rhino poachers in the sprawling Kruger National Park. All aboard the flight were killed in the crash Saturday night, according to a government spokesman. The soldiers were conducting Operation Rhino, which aims to combat rampant poaching at the park. "On behalf of government and the entire nation, we wish to express our sincere condolences to the families of these five soldiers and may their souls rest in peace," President Jacob Zuma said in a statement. An investigation is under way to determine the cause of the crash. Conservation group Save the Rhino estimates that there are 25,000 rhinos in Africa. Of those, about 21,000 live in South Africa. A record number of rhinos were killed in South Africa last year, fueled by the belief that their horns can cure cancer. The unsubstantiated belief on their healing powers is spreading in southeast Asia, sending clients paying top dollar for the horns. In an effort to combat poaching, South Africa has cracked down on the illegal trade and teamed up with countries that serve as destinations for the rhino horns. South Africa signed an agreement with China last week to work together to reduce poaching. So far this year, 188 rhinos have been poached nationwide, 135 of them at Kruger, according to government numbers released last week. The crash adds to a grim toll for the South African military. Last week, it lost 13 soldiers in the Central African Republic capital of Bangui, where they were helping the local military quash a rebel uprising. - CNN.

Prosecutors Question Egypt Satirist Bassem Youssef.
Mr Youssef shot to fame in Egypt after the February 2011 uprising.
Prosecutors in Egypt are questioning the popular Egyptian satirist Bassem Youssef over allegations of insulting Islam and President Mohammed Morsi.  Mr Youssef arrived at the public prosecutor's office on Sunday morning, a day after a warrant was issued for his arrest.  He has faced several complaints over his show El Bernameg (The Programme), which satirises many public figures.  The case has highlighted worries about press freedoms in Egypt.  At one point during his arrival at the prosecutor's office Mr Youssef donned an oversized academic hat, mocking one which Mr Morsi wore recently when he received an honorary doctorate in Pakistan.  In a statement sent out on his Twitter account as he arrived, he said that lawyers and policemen at the office wanted their picture taken with him, and joked that this was perhaps the real reason for his summons. Bassem Youssef is a doctor who shot to fame after winning a large number of followers with his witty lampooning of public figures in amateur videos posted on the internet following the uprising that ended Hosni Mubarak's rule in February 2011.  He became a household name when his satirical show - likened to Jon Stewart's The Daily Show in the US - began to be broadcast three times a week on one of Egypt's independent satellite stations.  But sketches in which he portrayed Mr Morsi as a pharaoh, calling him "Super Morsi" for holding on to executive and legislative powers, and, separately, putting the president's image on a pillow and parodying his speeches angered one Islamist lawyer, whose formal complaint resulted in the investigation.  As well as insulting Mr Morsi and Islam, Mr Youssef is also accused of "spreading false news with the aim of disrupting public order".  Mr Youssef's case is also seen as the latest in a string of prosecution actions against opponents of the president and the movement that supports him, the Muslim Brotherhood.  Earlier this week, Egypt's top prosecutor ordered the arrest of five political activists, among them a leading blogger, on suspicion of inciting aggression against the Brotherhood.  Many journalists have criticised the Islamist-backed constitution which came into force earlier this year, arguing it does not offer enough guarantees for a free media.  The constitution also sparked protests from opponents who say it favours Islamists and does not sufficiently protect the rights of women or Christians. - BBC.

Egyptian Protests In Solidarity With Alexandria's Detained Activists.
Opposition parties called on Saturday for staging protests at Egypt's High Court to demand the release of detained political activists and lawyers who were captured in Alexandria's clashes on Friday.  Protesters opposing President Mohamed Mursi and the Muslim Brotherhood in Alexandria clashed on Friday with unknown assailants after the latter attacked the protesters' march leaving scores of people injured.  Security forces arrested 15 protesters outside Alexandria's Raml Police station. Allegedly, the lawyers who went to offer legal aid to the captured protesters were also detained and assaulted.  Alexandria's East prosecution charged the detained activists of damaging and attempting to storm the Raml Police Station and assaulting police officers.  The Popular Socialist Alliance Party and the Liberal Egyptians Party called on their Facebook pages for staging the protests at five pm in solidarity with the assaulted protesters against "fabricated charges". - All Africa.

Nigerian Army Says Kills 14 Islamist Insurgents In Raid.
Photo: Vanguard. Boko Haram cartoon
Nigerian soldiers killed 14 suspected Islamist insurgents on Sunday during a dawn raid on a house in the main northern city of Kano, the military said.  Islamist sect Boko Haram wants to carve an Islamic state out of Nigeria. It and other Islamist groups have become the main threat to stability on Africa's top oil-producing state and increasingly menace neighbors like Cameroon.  Boko Haram has killed hundreds in gun and bomb attacks, including 25 in Kano earlier in March, since it intensified an insurgency two years ago.  In Sunday's raid, one soldier was killed and another seriously injured while a suspected suicide bomber was arrested in a car packed with explosives, the army said.    "This operation was conducted following a tip-off from our intelligence. You can see that there are over 10 of the terrorists all dead," Iliyasu Abbah, an officer in the military task force dealing with Islamist rebels, told Reuters.  Task force spokesman Ikedichi Iweha confirmed 14 suspected terrorists had been killed. A witness, who asked not to be named, said he saw a woman and a child among the dead.  Security was stepped up in northern Nigerian cities this weekend to cope with an increased threat posed by Islamist groups during Christian holidays, when churches have been targeted by suicide bombers.  Western governments fear that ties with groups like al Qaeda's North African wing are drawing Nigerian Islamists towards a more explicitly anti-Western agenda.  Such concerns have risen since France launched an operation in January to flush jihadist rebels out of northern Mali.  Al Qaeda-affiliated Nigerian group Ansaru said earlier this month it had killed seven foreign hostages seized on February 7 in the northern state of Bauchi because of attempts to free them.  A French family was kidnapped from north Cameroon last month and is believed to be being held by Boko Haram in Nigeria. - Reuters.

Suicide Bomber Attacks Mali's Timbuktu.
French and Chadian troops continue to patrol northern Mali to look for militants
A suicide bomber has blown himself up in the northern Malian city of Timbuktu, raising fears of a new wave of violence as the European Union launches an ambitious new programme to overhaul Mali's ragtag army.  An army officer said a Malian soldier had been wounded in the attack on Saturday at an army barricade in Timbuktu, the fabled city's second in nine days.  "A jihadist suicide bomber detonated his explosive belt after trying unsuccessfully to force his way through the barricade at the west entrance to Timbuktu, which was guarded by Malian soldiers," the officer told the AFP news agency by phone.  Earlier Saturday, a land mine explosion killed two Malian soldiers in the country's Gao region, to the east of Timbuktu, the defence ministry said. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attacks. As France prepares to withdraw its 4,000 troops, the first of four Malian battalions will begin training with European instructors on April 2 as part of a wider effort to bring the army up to scratch as quickly as possible.  "Objectively, it must be entirely rebuilt," said French general Francois Lecointre, who heads the European Union training mission in Mali.  Underpaid, ill-equipped and riven by divisions, Mali's armed forces fell apart last year when well-armed militants seized the country's vast northern reaches. Today no one knows exactly how many soldiers are left, probably around 6,000 - about half of which will train with the EU mission over the next year.  Class is at a dusty green-shuttered military academy 60km from the capital, Bamako, its grounds now packed with rows of EU-supplied troop transport vehicles, a field hospital, tents, and trunk-loads of equipment. 

After 10 weeks of training, the first 670 Malians are expected to be ready for combat and deployed to northern Mali, where French and Chadian troops are still on the lookout for pockets of fighters.  The French are to hand over to an African force of 6,300, likely to come under a UN mandate in the coming weeks. But UN leader Ban Ki-Moon said last week that up to 11,200 troops were needed as well as a second "parallel" force. All of these troops will confront a mounting series of attacks claimed by insurgents since France launched its military intervention against al-Qaeda-linked groups that had seized the north of the country.  The French-led operation, which began on January 11, forced the militants from cities they had seized for 10 months in the chaotic aftermath of a March 2012 military coup. But French and African forces have faced continuing suicide blasts and guerrilla attacks in reclaimed territory.  On March 21, a suicide bomber blew up a car near the Timbuktu airport, launching an overnight assault on the city. The blast killed one Malian soldier. Around 10 militants were killed in the ensuing battle with French and Malian forces, a French army spokesman said.  The attack was claimed by the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), one of three rebel groups that had seized the north.  MUJAO said it had "opened a new front in Timbuktu", which had not come under attack since French-led forces entered the city on January 28 - unlike Gao, the largest city in the north, which has been hit by a string of suicide bombings and guerrilla attacks claimed by MUJAO. - Al Jazeera.

Sudanese Govt, Darfur Rebels Sign Peace Agreement In Doha.
The Sudanese government signed a new peace agreement with a Darfur rebel group concluding a process they started earlier this year in the Qatari capital, days before the Donors conference.  The Justice and Equality Movement - Mohamed Bashar (JEM-Bashar) is the second group to sign an agreement with the government under the basis of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD), a framework text prepared by the joint mediation.  "The Protocol on the Participation of the Justice and Equality Movement-Sudan at the Different Levels of Government and on the Integration of its Forces" was signed today, March 29th, 2013, announced the mediation in a statement released from Doha.  The signed text determines the positions JEM Bashar obtained in the national government, Darfur Regional Authority and Darfur five states in the executive and legislative organs, said Nahar Osman, JEM-Bashar political adviser.  However he declined to provide further details on the agreement saying they will be made public soon.  Nahar said the two parties also agreed on the details of the integration of the rebel fighters in the Sudan Armed Forces, adding that some of them will be demobilised.  The mediation said preparing the final signing ceremony as the parties have already initialled an additional agreement on three of the DDPD chapters including compensation and the Return of IDPs and refugees, Justice and reconciliation, and wealth sharing on 24 March.  Nahar mentioned that the signing ceremony will take place during the donor conference which will be held in Doha on 7 and 8 April.  "The Mediation considers this achievement as an important step that would contribute to forging peace and stability in Darfur in particular, and in Sudan in general", said the mediation.  The Justice and Equality Movement inaugurated the Doha process on 17 February 2009 when it had signed a goodwill agreement with the Sudanese government. However, the two parties failed to reach a final peace deal as JEM demanded to open the DDPD for new discussions just before the final signing with Liberation and Justice Movement on 14 July 2011. - All Africa.

Angola Police Detain 18 At Rights Rally.
Angolan police arrested 18 activists staging a rare anti-government rally in the capital Luanda on Saturday, demonstration organizers said.  The protest was the first against President Jose Eduardo dos Santos - in power for 33 years - since an election last August where his MPLA party 72 percent of the vote to secure a new five-year term.  "The protest, which fulfilled all legal requirements, was the target of the usual repression by the regime, using the Angolan police," the youth protest movement Central Angola 7311 said on its Twitter feed. Two of the 18 arrested protesters were later released without charge, it said.  Calls to Angolan police for comment on Saturday went unanswered.  Saturday's protest - held near the Santa Ana cemetery, just meters away from the Luanda police command headquarters - was called to defend "the right to life and freedom of those who think differently", according to an online poster for the event.    The protesters accuse the president of mismanaging Angola's oil revenues, suppressing human rights and doing too little to end corruption and poverty.  Organizers did not say how many people were on the demonstration, but sporadic protests - which began two years ago - are usually only attended by a few dozen people.  While Dos Santos has never commented on the protests, senior members of his MPLA have accused opposition parties of planning "a national insurrection".  The U.N. Rights Committee on Thursday said it was concerned by reports of the disappearances of protesters in Luanda in 2011 and 2012 and "the reported impunity of security forces involved in such human rights violations".  Two organizers of a protest by former presidential guards, have been missing since a rally last May. - Reuters.

Four Suspects Arrested In Libya Rape Case.
New Libyan flag raised in Benghazi to celebrate the second
anniversary of Nato's first military operation in Libya
Two British female activists were raped two days ago in the eastern city of Benghazi and four suspects have been arrested, Libyan officials said Thursday.  In a statement posted on his official Facebook page, Libya's Deputy Prime Minister Awad al-Barassi said the women, who are sisters, were kidnapped Tuesday and raped in front of their father.  According to al-Barassi, the young women are British citizens who were born in Pakistan and were part of Turkish non-governmental organization IHH's aid convoy to the Gaza Strip.  Al-Barassi and Libya's Interior Ministry said four men involved in the incident had been arrested and security forces in Benghazi were pursuing a fifth person. While al-Barassi said it was unclear whether the men were part of the "revolutionary brigades" that serve under the country's security ministries, the Interior Ministry blamed the incident on "outlaws."  The Libyan state news agency LANA, quoting security sources in Benghazi, reported that other members of the aid group also were assaulted by a different armed group and two activists who were kidnapped are still missing.  Al-Barassi said he visited the victims and met with their father at a Benghazi hospital on Thursday to apologize on behalf of the Libyan people and government for this incident. He told them it didn't represent the Libyan society and its Islamic values.  He said the family was in a "very bad psychological state." 

In an interview with a Libyan TV channel, al-Barassi said the women and their father were on their way to Benghazi's Benina International Airport when they were stopped at a checkpoint nearby. The women and their father were kidnapped, and the man witnessed the rape of his daughters, he said.  The deputy prime minister said he was in touch with the British ambassador to Libya throughout the day.  "We are aware of an incident in Libya, involving a number of British nationals who were part of an aid convoy. We are providing consular assistance," a U.K. Foreign Office spokesperson told CNN.  The Interior Ministry said in a written statement that the father, along with a translator, notified police of the incident on Wednesday.  Lt. Majdi al-Erfi, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said the family had returned to Benghazi after the aid convoy was turned back by Egyptian authorities. He said the family was on a bus when they were stopped at an "unofficial checkpoint" by armed young men in military uniforms.  According to al-Erfi, the family was held at the checkpoint and "its members assaulted while two outlaws ... kidnapped two of the young women and took them to a farm on the outskirts of the city to carry out the crime."  The remaining members of the humanitarian aid convoy are at the Turkish consulate in Benghazi, officials said.  Al-Barassi promised the results of the investigation would be made public and said those involved would stand trial soon.  He said the young women were wearing veils and "Free Palestine" T-shirts.  Two years after the start of the revolution and a bloody civil war that overthrew Libyan dictator Moammar Qadhafi in 2011, the government is still struggling to exert its authority and control the hundreds of militias, most of which continue to operate freely across the country. - CNN.

CAR Rebel Leader To Review Mining Deals.
Fighters from the Seleka rebel coalition overran the army and ousted
the president in a coup last week [Reuters]
Central African Republic's new President Michel Djotodia, who seized power last week, said he would review resource deals signed by the previous government and promised to step down at elections in 2016.  "I will ask the relevant ministers to see whether things were done badly, to try to sort them out," Djotodia said, when asked about resource licences awarded to Chinese and South African firms.  Djotodia, a former civil servant turned rebel leader, said on Friday he would seek aid from former colonial power France and the United States to retrain the ill-disciplined army, which was easily overrun by fighters from his Seleka rebel coalition.  Paris and Washington have called for the rebels to adhere to a power-sharing deal signed in the Gabonese capital Libreville in January which mapped out a transition to elections in 2016 at which then-President Francois Bozize was forbidden from running.  "We are going to act according to the spirit of the Libreville agreements," Djotodia told his first news conference since seizing power. "Anyone currently in power supporting our takeover will not contest the next presidential elections, myself included."  The rebel takeover has been strongly condemned internationally.

Suspension and sanctions 
The African Union suspended Central African Republic's membership and imposed sanctions on Seleka leaders, including Djotodia.  A Pentagon spokesman said the US Defence Department had had no contact with the rebels and it condemned their illegal seizure of power.  "We call on all involved parties to adhere to the Libreville Agreement and work to resolve this conflict," Major Rob Firman said.  In a bid to tap the country's under-exploited mineral wealth, Bozize had awarded China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC) rights to explore for oil at Boromata, in the country's northeast near the border with Chad.  South Africa's DIG oil is also prospecting in the southeast of the country, near the town of Carnot.  Bozize, who fled to Cameroon immediately after the coup, has requested asylum in the West African nation of Benin, said the foreign minister of Benin, Nassirou Bako.  "He has not yet arrived in Cotonou and everything indicates he is still in Cameroon," Bako said late on Thursday.  Although Central African Republic has deposits of gold, diamonds, oil and uranium, these remain largely untapped, and the coup-prone nation is one of the poorest on Earth.  "We will rely on the European Union to help us develop this country," Djotodia said, adding that 80 percent of the country's foreign aid came from the bloc.  "When we have been sick, the European Union was at our bedside. It will not abandon us now."  Djotodia's comments appeared to mark a change of tack from his predecessor Bozize's close ties to South Africa, with which he had signed a fresh bilateral defence agreement in January.  South Africa deployed a training mission of about 400 troops in Central African Republic, 13 of whom were killed and 27 wounded when they fought rebel forces in the outskirts of Bangui at the weekend.  The Red Cross announced on Friday it had recovered 78 bodies from the streets since the rebel attack on the capital, which began on Saturday. - Al Jazeera.

COCOA BUTTER: The Black Image - India Arie Accused Of Lightening Skin, Singer Looks Very Different On New Single Cover?!

March 31, 2013 - UNITED STATES - Is that you, India Arie?

The 37-year-old star is almost unrecognizable in the cover image from her new single "Cocoa Butter," which is causing a lot of backlash and many to believe that she has been lightening her skin. This is quite a shock considering the afro-centric R&B singer is known for promoting black beauty-- most notably expressed in her hit songs "Brown Skin" and "I Am Not My Hair."

Sources close to India told TMZ that her "lightened" skin tone is the result of the camera flash and angle. And added that the singer never asked to be lightened. Nevertheless, the celebrity website makes the valid point that India approved the photo without correcting the color of her skin. Check out this photo TMZ pulled together on India's "Cocoa Butter" cover and an Image from 2012 to highlight the stark difference:

We're also a bit confused about this image since India recently spoke out about the skin color controversy surrounding the Nina Simone biopic. Extremely upset by the photos of Zoe Saldana's darkened skin and fake afro on set for the film, India wrote the following on her website:

"Yes there should be a movie made, and YES they should have chosen someone who LOOKS like Nina Simone, ESPECIALLY since her RACE played such a PIVOTAL role in WHO, WHAT and WHY, she was."

Issues surrounding skin aren't uncommon in show business. You might recall that Beyonce has been accused on several occasions (see: here and here) of lightening her skin as well. And Kelly Rowland recently spoke out about the path towards learning to appreciate her dark skin. What do you think of India Arie's "Cocoa Butter" photo? Do you believe she lightened her skin on purpose?

UPDATE: India Aria has responded to the accusations with a Tweet and longer statement on her Facebook page.

- Huffington Post.

THE RACIAL WEALTH GAP: Black Unemployment Increases - BET Founder Bob Johnson Declares That America "Would Never Tolerate White Unemployment At 14 Or 15 Percent"!

March 31, 2013 - UNITED STATES - Black Entertainment Television (BET) founder Bob Johnson said Tuesday that the nation would “never tolerate white unemployment at 14 or 15 percent” and yet unemployment for the black community has been double that of white Americans for over 50 years.

Black Entertainment Television (BET) founder Bob Johnson
(AP Photo/Pablo Monsivais).
“This country would never tolerate white unemployment at 14 and 15 percent. No one would ever stay in office at 14 or 15 percent unemployment in this nation, but we’ve had that double unemployment for over 50 years,” Johnson said while speaking at the National Press Club about the gap between whites and blacks in America.

“The national average is 7.7 percent, and African-American unemployment is 13.8 percent. To be honest, it’s probably greater than that when you count the number of African-Americans who have simply given up on finding employment,” said Johnson, who is also founder and chairman of The RLJ Companies.

In 1972, the unemployment rate for African-Americans was 11.2 percent in January of that year and as low as 9.4 percent in December of that same year. It dipped as low as seven percent in April 2000. The unemployment rate for blacks in February 2013 was 13.8 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Johnson said the challenge was to figure out why the unemployment rate for blacks has been so high, “and if that doesn’t change, somebody’s going to have to pay— 34 million African-Americans are not going to leave this country, millions of African-Americans who don’t have jobs.”

“Somebody’s going to have to pay for them. Somebody’s going to have to take care of them, and if somebody’s going to have to take care of them, that money’s got to come from somebody. And whoever’s paying for it is going to be upset about it, and they’re going to start looking for somebody to blame,” Johnson said.

According to the poll Johnson commissioned, which was conducted by Zogby, 50 percent of African-Americans blame the “failure of the education system for minorities/African-Americans” for high unemployment among blacks, while 48 percent say the “lack of corporate commitment to hiring minorities/African-Americans” is to blame for unemployment in the black community.

Twenty-five percent of respondents blame the lack of government policies for the high rate of black unemployment. Eighteen percent don’t blame anyone or anything, and twelve percent aren’t sure.

“We can’t be competitive if we don’t put all our people on the field to work, and African-Americans can’t be consumers if they don’t have jobs. They can’t buy houses, and the reason the wealth gap is so high, we don’t [have] home ownership. We don’t have savings. We don’t have investments, and part of that is because we don’t have capital,” Johnson said.

“So a white household can buy a home. Now it’s even more difficult to buy a home. There’s talk about taking the home deduction away as part of a chance to balance the budget, so all of these things, as I said, however the solution comes out, it’s going to impact us,” he said.

Johnson's comments on black unemployment.


The net worth of median white households is $118,000 and stands in stark contrast with the net worth of median black households at only $11,800, Johnson said, citing the Pew Research Center. Net worth is defined as assets minus liabilities.

In 2009, the median net worth of white households was $113,149, while the median net worth of black households was $5,677, according to a July 26, 2011 report released by the Pew Research Center entitled, “Wealth Gaps Rise to Record Highs Between Whites, Blacks, Hispanics Twenty-to-One.”

“The median wealth of white households is 20 times that of black households and 18 times that of Hispanic households, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of newly available government data from 2009,” a summary of the report said.

“These lopsided wealth ratios are the largest since the government began publishing such data a quarter century ago and roughly twice the size of the ratios that had prevailed between these three groups for the two decades prior to the Great Recession that ended in 2009,” the report said.

“The wealth gap between black Americans and white Americans over the past 20 years has increased from $20,000 to $90,000, according to the Pew Research Center. And again, according to the Pew Research Center, nearly half of African-Americans born to middle-class families in the 60s will never attain the wealth of their parents,” Johnson said. - CNS News.

ALBINOIDS: The Origins Of The Recessive Caucasoid - German Researchers Traces The European Lineage To The Neanderthal Genome And Pinpoints The Skeletal Remains Of The First Known Human-Neanderthal Hybrid?!

"The white man has no idea or concept of his own origins,... which is why he continues to go around the world digging up graves and ancient sites to find himself...

He has tricked us into believing that this physical life is the real life. He wants us to stay in the body, because there is nothing else for him. Without us in the body for him to learn from, he doesn't grow a soul. He doesn't energize a soul. He has tricked us into believing that we are equal in our vibrational rates as an entity or that we are all humans. Yes, we are, but there are variations in the theme. All cultures showed a gravitation to the planet, where he never did..."
- Dr. Phil Valentine.

March 31, 2013 - GERMANY - Researchers believe they have pinpointed the skeletal remains of the first known human-Neanderthal hybrid, according to a study published Wednesday in the peer reviewed scientific journal PLoS ONE. The finding comes from northern Italy, where some 40,000 years ago scientists believe Neanderthals and humans lived near each other, but developed separate and distinctly different cultures. A segment of a jawbone found during an archaeological dig in the area reveals that the bone’s owner had facial features attributable to both modern humans and Neanderthals, the study explains.

A remarkable finding in 2011 could answer the question whether our human ancestors and the Neanderthals interbred some time after both species left Africa many thousands of years ago. Only 10 years after scientists triumphantly decoded the human genome, an international research team mapped the genes of the long-extinct Neanderthal people and report there's a pinch of Neanderthal in all of us. The 2011 report capped more than five years of intensive work by a group of 56 international scientists led by German paleogeneticist Svante Pääbo and Richard E. Green of UC Santa Cruz.

The project's scientists used tiny specks of powdered bone retrieved from three Neanderthal females who died in a Croatian cave more than 40,000 years ago to complete the draft of the Neanderthal genome. They then compared the genes to those of modern humans living today in five different regions of the world: France, Papua New Guinea, China, and southern and northern Africa. The research concluded that humans living today carry between 1 and 4 percent of Neanderthal genes that carry the code for proteins in our bodies. Those genes must have entered our lineage sometime during a 50,000-year period when the Neanderthals and humans left Africa through the Middle East and spread throughout Europe and Asia. The Neanderthals became extinct about 30,000 years ago.

The complete genomes of the Neanderthals and modern humans, whose lineages separated from some unknown common ancestor at least 400,000 years ago, are 99.5 percent identical. They are, in fact, our closest evolutionary relatives. By comparison, humans and chimpanzees share 98 percent of their genes. The scientists analyzed 4 billion units of Neanderthal DNA, called nucleotides - at least 60 percent of the Neanderthal's entire genome. While incomplete, Pääbo told reporters during a teleconference this week that 60 percent "is a very good statistical sample of the entire genome." Finding the Neanderthal genes in people living today provides "compelling" evidence that thousands of years ago some interbreeding occurred between the two species, Green said. - Daily Galaxy.

The skeletal remains of an individual living in northern Italy 40,000-30,000 years ago are believed to be that of a human/Neanderthal hybrid, according to a paper in PLoS ONE. If further analysis proves the theory correct, the remains belonged to the first known such hybrid, providing direct evidence that humans and Neanderthals interbred. Prior genetic research determined the DNA of people with European and Asian ancestry is 1 to 4 percent Neanderthal. The present study focuses on the individual’s jaw, which was unearthed at a rock-shelter called Riparo di Mezzena in the Monti Lessini region of Italy. Both Neanderthals and modern humans inhabited Europe at the time.

“From the morphology of the lower jaw, the face of the Mezzena individual would have looked somehow intermediate between classic Neanderthals, who had a rather receding lower jaw (no chin), and the modern humans, who present a projecting lower jaw with a strongly developed chin,” co-author Silvana Condemi, an anthropologist, told Discovery News.  Condemi is the CNRS research director at the University of Ai-Marseille. She and her colleagues studied the remains via DNA analysis and 3D imaging. They then compared those results with the same features from Homo sapiens.  The genetic analysis shows that the individual’s mitochondrial DNA is Neanderthal. Since this DNA is transmitted from a mother to her child, the researchers conclude that it was a “female Neanderthal who mated with male Homo sapiens.”

By the time modern humans arrived in the area, the Neanderthals had already established their own culture, Mousterian, which lasted some 200,000 years. Numerous flint tools, such as axes and spear points, have been associated with the Mousterian. The artifacts are typically found in rock shelters, such as the Riparo di Mezzena, and caves throughout Europe.  The researchers found that, although the hybridization between the two hominid species likely took place, the Neanderthals continued to uphold their own cultural traditions.  That's an intriguing clue, because it suggests that the two populations did not simply meet, mate and merge into a single group.

As Condemi and her colleagues wrote, the mandible supports the theory of "a slow process of replacement of Neanderthals by the invading modern human populations, as well as additional evidence of the upholding of the Neanderthals' cultural identity.”  Prior fossil finds indicate that modern humans were living in a southern Italy cave as early as 45,000 years ago. Modern humans and Neanderthals therefore lived in roughly the same regions for thousands of years, but the new human arrivals, from the Neanderthal perspective, might not have been welcome, and for good reason. The research team hints that the modern humans may have raped female Neanderthals, bringing to mind modern cases of "ethnic cleansing."  Ian Tattersall is one of the world’s leading experts on Neanderthals and the human fossil record. He is a paleoanthropologist and a curator emeritus at the American Museum of Natural History.  Tattersall told Discovery News that the hypothesis, presented in the new paper, “is very intriguing and one that invites more research.”  Neanderthal culture and purebred Neanderthals all died out 35,000-30,000 years ago. - Discovery News.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

INSIDE AFRICA: Kenya's Elections - Supreme Court Declares That Uhuru Kenyatta Won Presidency Fairly; Raila Odinga Vows 'To Continue Struggle Peacefully'; Clashes Kill 2 In Western Kenya After Election Verdict!

March 30, 2013 - KENYA - Kenya's Supreme Court upheld Uhuru Kenyatta's presidential election victory on Saturday and his defeated rival accepted the ruling, helping douse tensions after tribal violence blighted the election five years ago. The decision cleared the way for Kenya's richest man to take the top job in east Africa's biggest economy, but left Western powers with the headache of dealing with a leader charged with crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court. After the judgment, police fired shots in the air and tear gas at hundreds of stone-throwing youths in the western city of Kisumu, a stronghold of defeated candidate Raila Odinga, who had challenged Kenyatta's win. Protesters looted shops and burned tires in the city that was a flashpoint five years ago.

A general view shows the proceedings at the Supreme Court in Kenya's capital Nairobi March 30, 2013.
REUTERS/Noor Khamis.
An official at Kenya's Red Cross said two people were killed from gunshots, and 11 others were wounded. But the violence was less severe than after the 2007 election. And shortly after the court ruling, Odinga delivered a televised statement accepting the court's unanimous decision. "The court has now spoken," Odinga said. "I wish the president-elect, honorable Uhuru Kenyatta, and his team well." Western donors, worried about a nation seen as a vital ally in the regional battle against militant Islam, also congratulated Kenyatta. But they have said his indictment in the Hague will complicate their relations. There was no immediate sign of major flare-ups in other areas of Kenya blighted by violence after the disputed ballot in 2007 that triggered bloodshed and killed more than 1,200 people.
Riot police walk past a bonfire lit by supporters of Kenya's Prime Minister
Raila Odinga, the defeated presidential candidate of the Coalition for Reforms
and Democracy (CORD), after the Supreme Court ruling in the western town
of Kisumu, March 30, 2013.  REUTERS/Moses Eshiwani

During a 10-minute session to read the ruling, Chief Justice Willy Mutunga said the six-member court had reached the unanimous decision that Kenyatta and his running mate for deputy president, William Ruto, had been "validly elected. It is now for the Kenyan people, their leaders, civil society, the private sector and the media to discharge (their duty), to ensure that the unity, peace, sovereignty and prosperity of the nation is preserved," he said. After a week of hearings, he said the court ruled that the March 4 vote was conducted in a free, fair and credible manner. Many Kenyans said they were determined to avoid a re-run of the violence five years ago and that, this time round, they had more trust in the newly reformed judiciary and the chief justice, Mutunga, a well-respected lawyer appointed in 2011. Kenyatta, in a televised address, thanked the court for its work and also Odinga for wishing him well. The president-elect promised his government would "work with and serve all Kenyans without any discrimination whatsoever."


Peaceful voting in this year's vote, and the fact the dispute was played out by lawyers not machete-wielding gangs, has helped repair Kenya's image. Paramilitary police, some on horseback, formed a security cordon around the court before the ruling, keeping back a few dozen Odinga supporters who had defied a ban on rallies. After the ruling, Kenyatta's backers ignored the rain and took to Nairobi's streets cheering. Cars hooted their horns. Twitter lit up after the decision, with many saying it was time for Kenya to move on. Judith Sidi Odhiambo‏ praised the chief justice: "You have made Kenya proud and restored our dignity. Well done. We can now move ahead as a nation."

Kenyatta comfortably beat Odinga in total votes won, but only just avoided a run-off by edging above the 50 percent mark. Kenyatta is facing charges of crimes against humanity in the Hague-based court, accused of helping incite violence after the 2007 vote. Kenyatta denies the charges and has promised to cooperate with the court to clear his name. In Washington, the White House issued a statement congratulating Kenyatta on his victory. It said: "We also congratulate the people of Kenya on the peaceful conduct of the election and commend Raila Odinga for accepting the Supreme Court's decision. We urge all Kenyans to peacefully accept the results of the election."

British Prime Minister David Cameron wrote to Kenyatta to congratulate him. European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso sent a congratulatory message that also welcomed the new government's commitment to abiding by international obligations. That referred to Kenyatta's acceptance speech on March 9 in which he promised to cooperate with international bodies but - in an apparent swipe at the West - said the world should also respect the democratic will of Kenyans. Western nations have a policy of only "essential contacts" with court indictees. They say that will not affect dealings with the government as a whole, but will worry the issue could drive a long-time ally closer to emerging powers such as China. Ahead of the ruling the Kenyan shilling had been trading in a tight range to the U.S. dollar and traders said it could strengthen if the ruling upheld Kenyatta's victory. - Reuters.

WATCH: Kenya court upholds Kenyatta poll win.

Clashes Kill 2 In Western Kenya After Election Verdict.
Mr Odinga's supporters reacted angrily outside the
courthouse as the verdict was read.
Two people died in clashes in western Kenya after the top court in the nation upheld Uhuru Kenyatta's victory in the presidential election.  The deaths occurred Saturday in Kisumu, the stronghold of his chief rival, Raila Odinga. At least 22 others were hospitalized, the Kenya Red Cross said.  Most of the casualties suffered gunshot wounds, said Abbas Gullet, chief of the local Red Cross  The rest of the country remained relatively calm after the ruling.  Protesters took to the streets in Kisumu after the Supreme Court ruling Saturday that dismissed Odinga's petition and retained Kenyatta's victory.  They looted shops and lit bonfires on the road to block traffic, according to the Red Cross. 

Kenyatta, 51, won the March 4 election with 50.07% of the vote.  Odinga, who got 43.31%, had challenged the outcome in court on the grounds that it was flawed and marred by technical problems.  After the court issued its ruling, he said he accepted its judgment and would abide by it.  "The court has now spoken," Odinga said, "I wish the president-elect and his team well."  Kenyatta will be sworn in April 9, making him the nation's fourth and youngest president.  Kenyatta and Odinga are the sons of the nation's first president and vice president, respectively, bringing back memories of a political dynasty that dates to the 1960s.  Their fathers started out as allies in the quest for Kenyan independence from Britain.  But the elder politicians' relationship ended in bad blood when founding President Jomo Kenyatta forced out his vice president, Jaramogi Odinga, following a series of disputes. - CNN.

Raila Odinga 'To Continue Struggle Peacefully'.
Defeated Kenyan presidential candidate Raila Odinga vows
to seek peaceful ways to end a row over poll results.
Defeated Kenyan presidential candidate Raila Odinga has said he will seek peaceful ways to end a row over poll results, which gave a narrow first round victory to rival Uhuru Kenyatta.  He was speaking after Kenya's Supreme Court upheld Mr Kenyatta's victory, rejecting Mr Odinga's challenges.  He said he accepted the court verdict because he wanted to avoid bloodshed.  But two people died and 11 were hurt as Odinga supporters clashed with police in his western stronghold of Kisumu.  There was an angry mood in the Nairobi slums of Kibera, says the BBC's Gabriel Gatehouse in the city, and police briefly used tear gas to chase away protesters outside the courthouse. Tensions were reported in another slum, Mathare. But our correspondent says that dire predictions of a return to the violence of five years ago has not yet come true, and any lingering questions over the conduct of the election have been subordinated to an overwhelming national imperative: peace.  The violence that followed a disputed election in 2007 left more than 1,200 people dead.  The presidential, legislative and municipal elections held on 4 March were the first since the 2007 poll.  Official results said Mr Kenyatta beat Mr Odinga - who is currently prime minister - by 50.07% to 43.28%, avoiding a run-off by just 8,100 votes. 

Mr Kenyatta and his running mate, William Ruto, are expected to be sworn in as president and vice-president on 9 April.  But they are facing trial on charges of crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court (ICC) for allegedly fuelling unrest after that election. They deny the charges. In a BBC interview, Mr Odinga said he wanted to avoid the kind of bloodshed that had occurred five years ago.  "I am going to tell my people to look at peaceful ways of resolving this issue," he said. "The Supreme Court is just one step, there are many other avenues. "Wounds have not been healed, in fact they've been opened up by what's happened."  He hinted that if nothing was done there could be a return to violence.  "I fear that five years from now, there will be voter apathy. This will lead people to explore other means to resolve this issue," he said.  Some of Mr Odinga's supporters were less diplomatic.  "We cannot trust the court, democracy is dead in Kenya," one man protesting outside the courthouse told the BBC.  Earlier the court, in a unanimous decision, declared the elections free and fair and said Mr Kenyatta had been "validly elected".  Supporters of Mr Kenyatta took to the streets of central Nairobi after the verdict, tooting their horns, blowing on vuvuzelas and chanting.  The president-elect made a televised victory speech hours after the announcement, vowing to work with and serve all Kenyans "without any discrimination whatsoever".  Mr Odinga responded to the verdict with a speech expressing "dismay" at the conduct of the election but saying he fully respected the court's decision. - BBC.

Friday, March 29, 2013

AFRICAN VOICES: "King Peggy," A Woman's Journey To Royalty - The American Secretary Who Became King!

"I have to really work hard to help my people. I have to give myself to people to better their lives." - King Peggy.

March 29, 2013 - GHANA - When Peggielene Bartels went to bed on a summer night in 2008, she was an ordinary administrative assistant living in a modest one-bedroom condo just outside Washington D.C.  But a few hours later, when a persistent ringing phone woke her up in the dead of the August night, the 55-year-old found out she was much more than simply a secretary.  At the other end of the line was Bartels's cousin, from Otuam, a small fishing village on the coast of Ghana. Excited and humble, he congratulated her on being the new king of Otuam.  "I said, 'listen, it's 4 o'clock in the morning in the U.S., I am very tired, let me sleep,'" remembers Bartels. "I thought he was trying to really play games with me."

King Peggy with her regent Nana Kwesi. When she's not in Otuam, King Peggy phones her regent on a daily
basis to be informed about what's happening in the community.

But this was no time for games.

The previous king of Otuam, who was Bartels's uncle, had just died. The village elders, who remembered Bartels from the times she'd visited with her mother, had decided to anoint her as their new ruler. After the initial shock, Bartels decided to accept the kingship. Over the course of a few days, she went from being plain old Peggielene Bartels, who had worked for nearly three decades at the Ghanaian Embassy in the United States, to becoming King Peggy -- the first female king of Otuam, reigning over approximately 7,000 people.

For some 30 years, Bartels has been working in the Ghanaian embassy in the United States as a secretary.

"It never ever occurred to me [that I'd be Otuam's king]," says Bartels, who's been living in the United States since her early 20s. "I realized that on this earth, we all have a calling. We have to be ready to accept it because helping my people has really helped me a lot to know that I can really touch their lives," she adds. "I would have really regretted it if I hadn't really accept this calling." Although she still works at the Ghanaian Embassy, Bartels uses all her holiday every year to spend a month in Otuam. King is the traditional title of Otuam's ruler, and Bartels says she's happy to be called a king, rather than queen, because it means she can achieve more. "Most of the time, a king is the one who has all the executive power to do things, while the queen is mostly in charge of the children's affairs and reporting to the king," she says. "So I really love this."

The previous king of Otuam, who was Bartels's uncle,
died in 2008. The village elders, who remembered
Bartels from the times she'd visited with her mother,
decided to anoint her as their new ruler.
King Peggy was born in Takoradi, southern Ghana, in 1953. She studied in England before moving to the United States, where she became an American citizen in 1997.  But after inheriting the throne, Bartels has been living two very different lives in two different continents.  In Washington, her secretarial duties include typing letters, answering phone calls and booking appointments. In her little apartment her life is far removed from the luxuries of her royal roots.  "When I am in the United States I do everything by myself," she explains. "I do my own laundry, I do my own cooking, I do my own driving and I do my own bed when I wake up in the morning."

But back in Ghana, she stands out as a gold crown-wearing, scepter-holding king who lives in a refurbished palace. Otuam residents usually address her as "Nana" -- an honorary title given to royalty but also to women with grandchildren -- and bow when they see her.  "When I am back home they see me as their king and they want to pamper me," she says.  "They have to cook for me, they have to carry me around and they have to protect me from people. They want to do everything for me which I usually refuse ... Sometimes I say to them 'please, don't bow.' I just want them to be free and comfortable so that way we can really address issues."

But beyond the bows, the royal attire and certain luxuries that come with her title, being a king in an impoverished place like Otuam is all about dealing with the pressing needs of the community and improving the lives of the people, says Bartels.  "To be a king in an African village or some places like this, it's not like European queens where everything is on a silver platter for them," she says. "I have to really work hard to help my people. I have to give myself to people to better their lives."  In the last few years, she's helped poor families pay school fees for their children and brought computers to classrooms. With the help of other Americans she's also provided Otuam with its first ambulance, as well as access to clean, running water. Her next priority, she says, is to bring state-of-the-art toilets to Otuam.

King Peggy in her palanquin during her coronation ceremony in Otuam. She still works at the embassy in the
United States but uses all her holiday every year to go back to Ghana for a month.

King Peggy with her regent Nana Kwesi. When she's not in Otuam, King Peggy phones her regent on a
daily basis to be informed about what's happening in the community.

And even when she's not in Ghana, her royal duties do not stop; she wakes up at 1am every morning to call Otuam and be informed about what's happening in the community.  "I talk to my regent, I talk to my elders," Bartels says. "If there is something that I want to know, they tell me. If there is something that I want them to do, I tell them."  Last year, King Peggy's real-life fairy tale was documented in a book written by her and author Eleanor Herman. And now she says her amazing life journey from secretary to king will be told in a film, after Hollywood star Will Smith bought the rights to the book.  "Next year, God willing, we are going to have a movie out there," says King Peggy. "Queen Latifah is going to play me and I'm so happy to at least let the whole world know that a secretary can become a king and lead wisely and help the people." - CNN

WATCH: "King Peggy"  - A Woman's Journey To Royalty.

INSIDE AFRICA: Nigeria's Space Race Programme - Could An African County Become The Next Space Super-Power?

"Eventually we were able to catch up." - Elijah Oyedeji, Satellite programme worker.

March 29, 2013 - NIGERIA
- Nigeria is running one of Africa's biggest space programmes. The hope is the satellite-based project will help manage agricultural production, but not everyone is convinced of the benefits. In 2003 Nigeria announced its space programme and within a few years it had launched its first satellite, which quickly lost power and disappeared from orbit.

Satellites are being tested for Nigeria's space programme.

Now Nigeria has three satellites in orbit including NigComSat-1R, built in China. It was launched in 2011 and has boosted internet and telecommunications services across the country. Next, the Nigerians turned to Britain's Surrey Satellite Technology, which has built two earth-observation satellites, including the top-of-the-range NigeriaSat-2, which at the time of its launch was producing the highest resolution images of any UK-built satellite.

The other part of the project involved a trained team of 26 Nigerian engineers putting together the second satellite, NigeriaSat-X. Both satellites are now providing data to help government agencies with planning. For example, the satellites are tracking crops and weather around the country in an effort to protect long-term food supply.

There is also closer monitoring of the oil-rich Niger Delta, where there has been massive crude oil theft and environmental damage from oil spills. This vantage point could also be useful in the Nigerian government's fight against militants in the north.

"We've just collected images over Mali, which we've handed over to the armed forces because we believe they will be helpful to them in the peacekeeping mission over there," says Seidu Mohammed, director-general of the National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA).

Data deluge

All the satellite data is collated and analysed at the NASRDA headquarters in Abuja. The modest buildings show that Nigeria's space capabilities are still a long way away from those of some developed nations. Elijah Oyedeji is part of the team that worked on NigeriaSatX and found the initial task of building a satellite programme from scratch quite daunting. "Eventually we were able to catch up," he says.

He is now based in the control room and hoping to inspire a new generation of Nigerian scientists. But not all Nigerians are convinced by these space ambitions. "These projects are always impressive to the ear," says Akintunde Badiru, a Lagos-based banker, "that's why they are commissioned in the first place."

"Let's see whether they are still functioning after four or five years, then we will see if this is worth it," he says. Although satellite capability should help with effective disaster management, the government was widely criticised last year for its slow response to nationwide floods.

So while up-to-date information might be readily available, some say it is no use if the relevant agencies do not have the capacity to deal with it. But satellite imaging has already shown tangible benefits in some parts of the country.

In the capital, Lagos, and its surrounding area, satellite images are being used for urban planning and tax collection. The plan is to use this to help manage the rapidly growing population of Africa's second largest city.

Nigeria is still plagued by problems of corruption and poor governance, which threaten the success of the programme, and many believe government money would be better spent on bread-and-butter issues such as health and education. The next few years will show to what extent Nigeria's satellites can help with the country's development. - BBC News.

THE MOTHERLAND: The Latest News Out Of Africa - Tanzania Building Collapse Buries Dozens; Nelson Mandela Is 'Making Steady Progress' In Hospital; Kenyans Await Ruling In Disputed Presidential Race; CAR Rebel Head Michel Djotodia To Review Mining Deals; China's Xi Wraps Up Africa Tour In Republic Of Congo; Libyans Held For 'Sex Attack' On Britons In Benghazi; Guinea To Hold Polls With Or Without Opposition; Italian Coast Guards Intercepts More Than 470 Migrants; UN Security Council Creates Offensive Force For DR Congo; Zambia's First Budget Air Carrier Announced; Several Dead In Attack On Kenya Casino; Two Policemen, 24 Others Killed In Renewed Plateau Attacks In Nigeria; Morsi Supporters And Opponents Clash In Egypt!

March 29, 2013 - AFRICA - A desperate search for survivors is under way in the Tanzanian capital, Dar es Salaam, after a half-built multi-storey building collapsed, killing three people.  Hundreds of people, including residents and army rescuers, clawed through piles of rubble assisted by earthmovers and excavators. 

Rescuers have been directed to 'continue with the operation until the last victim is found' [AFP].

Tanzania Building Collapse Buries Dozens.
The shell of the 16-storey building collapsed on Friday near a mosque in the Kisutu area of Tanzania's economic capital.  Many people, including children, were working or playing nearby, the AFP news agency reported, citing witnesses.  "I thought there was an earthquake and then I heard screaming. The whole building fell on itself," witness Musa Mohamed said.  Dar es Salaam regional police chief  told reporters he had instructed rescuers to "continue with the operation until the last victim is found".  "Four children remain unaccounted for. They were playing near the building," he said, adding that he had directed rescuers to "continue with the operation until the last victim is found," said Suleiman Kova. 

He said that although it was too early to establish the cause of the accident, "the owner of the building would be held responsible and taken to task".  Several people have been arrested as part of the ongoing investigation, police said without giving further details.  Scores of people were reportedly working in and around the building at the time of the incident at around 8:45am (0545 GMT).   Residents told AFP that during normal working days, the area bustles with activity from a mix of business people, passers-by and playing children.  "My children normally come to play here during Sundays and holidays. I am not sure whether they are also trapped," one desperate local resident Elizabeth Richard said.  Next to her, rescue workers were dragging out pieces of wood, iron rods, chunks of sand and bricks from the 20-metre high piles of rubble with the hope of locating more survivors.  "I was terribly shocked with the strange noise," said Ramadhan Issa, a taxi driver who was having tea at a nearby restaurant at the time of the disaster.  Saidi Mecky Sadiky, the Dar es Salaam regional commissioner, said up to 60 people, including workers, food vendors and children could have been around the area, which has a mix of both commercial and residential developments. - Aljazeera.

WATCH: Raw Images - Deadly Building Collapse in Tanzania.

Nelson Mandela 'Making Steady Progress' In Hospital.
Mandela’s illness has cast a shadow over the Easter holiday in South Africa.
Photograph: Siphiwe Sibeko/AFP/Getty Images
Nelson Mandela is in good spirits and "making steady progress" in hospital in South Africa, according to officials.  The 94-year-old hero of the anti-apartheid struggle spent a second night receiving treatment for a recurring lung infection. His illness has cast a shadow over the Easter holiday.  But Mac Maharaj, spokesman for the South African presidency, said: "The presidency wishes to advise that former president Nelson Mandela is in good spirits and enjoyed a full breakfast this morning, 29 March 2013. The doctors report that he is making steady progress. He remains under treatment and observation in hospital.  "We would like to repeat our appeal for the media and the public to respect the privacy of Madiba and his family."  The former president is believed to be at 1 Military Hospital in Pretoria and to have been visited by close family. This is his third stint in hospital in four months.  President Jacob Zuma said people should "slow down the anxiety" about the health of the country's first black president, whom he referred to by his clan name, Madiba.  "Of course I have been saying to people, you should bear in mind Madiba is no longer that young and if he goes for check-ups every now and again, I don't think people must be alarmed about it," Zuma told the BBC on Thursday. "I would like to really say the country must not panic."  When asked if people should prepare for the inevitable, Zuma replied: "In Zulu, when someone passes away who is very old, people say he or she has gone home. I think those are some of the things we should be thinking about."  But he stressed that Mandela had been able to handle the situation very well so far. "Very few outstanding personalities in the world live to his level," he added.  Mandela was admitted for treatment shortly before midnight on Wednesday, his third stint in hospital in four months. He is believed to be at 1 Military Hospital in Pretoria and to have been visited by close family.  Barack Obama led wellwishers around the world in expressing hope for his speedy recovery. The US president said he was "deeply concerned with Nelson Mandela's health" and "we will be keeping him in our thoughts and prayers".  He added: "When you think of a single individual that embodies the kind of leadership qualities that I think we all aspire to, the first name that comes up is Nelson Mandela. And so we wish him all the very best." - Guardian.

Kenyans Await Ruling In Disputed Presidential Race.
People watch a live broadcast on the last day of the presidential poll
petition in Kenya's capital Nairobi, March 28, 2013.
Credit: Reuters/Noor Khamis
Kenya's Supreme Court rules on Saturday on a challenge to Uhuru Kenyatta's presidential election win, a judgment seen as a test of the democratic system five years after another disputed vote triggered tribal bloodshed.  The country's outgoing president called for calm ahead of the decision that will either confirm the victory of Kenya's richest man Kenyatta or force another vote.    Defeated candidate Raila Odinga says the March 4 poll was marred by technical problems and widespread rigging. Both politicians have promised to abide by the court's final word.  Many ordinary Kenyans insist they will not allow a repeat of the anarchy that killed more than 1,200 people and hammered the economy following a dispute over the last election in 2007.  "We have moved on," said Monica Njagi, 28, owner of an Internet cafe in the port city of Mombasa. "Whatever the ruling, we shall go by it ... We have enough useful lessons from our past."  Peaceful voting this time round, and the fact that the dispute is being played out by lawyers not machete-wielding gangs, has already helped repair the image of east Africa's largest economy.  Saturday's ruling will test whether Kenyans trust their reformed judiciary and whether supporters of rival candidates will accept the result quietly in a nation where tribal loyalties largely determine political allegiances.  Chief Justice Willy Mutunga has yet to set a time on Saturday that he and his panel of judges will issue a verdict. Comments at a brief hearing on Friday suggested it might not come till later on Saturday.  "As the country awaits the Supreme Court ruling which is due this Easter weekend, I call upon all of us to accept the ruling and maintain peace," outgoing President Mwai Kibaki said in a message to mark the Christian Easter holiday.

Western donors are watching the fate of a trade partner and a country they see as vital to regional stability. But they also face a headache if Kenyatta wins, because he is facing charges of crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court.  Kenyatta is accused of helping incite the violence after the 2007 vote but has denied the charges and promised to cooperate to clear his name.  Western nations have a policy of having only "essential contacts" with indictees of the court. They say that will not affect dealings with the government as a whole. But they still face a delicate balancing act to avoid driving a long-time ally of the West closer to emerging powers such as China.  Neighboring African states are also keeping a careful eye on the proceedings after they were hit by the knock-on effects when vital trade routes through Kenya were shut down five years ago.  Kenyatta comfortably beat Odinga in terms of votes won, 50.07 percent versus 43.28 percent, but only narrowly avoided a run-off after winning just 8,100 votes more than the 50 percent needed to be declared the winner outright.  In the Supreme Court's hearing on Friday, the legal teams reviewed results of recounts ordered in 22 of the 33,400 polling stations after Odinga said more votes were cast than registered voters. Both sides said the recounts supported their arguments.  Odinga's team argued that the failure of technology in tallying undermined the vote. Rival lawyers said any irregularities or technical hiccups had an insignificant impact and did not change the overall outcome.  International observers said voting itself was credible, but diplomats say observers did not watch the full five-day count. - Reuters.

CAR Rebel Head Michel Djotodia To Review Mining Deals.
Michel Djotodia's Seleka rebels have looted the presidential palace.
The rebel now in charge of the Central African Republic has said his government will look into mining contracts signed with South African and Chinese companies by the ousted leader.  Michel Djotodia said the new authorities would reconsider any deal that had been "badly done".  Meanwhile the Red Cross says it has found 78 bodies in the capital, Bangui, since last weekend's seizure of power.  President Francois Bozize has asked for asylum in Benin, it has been announced. He initially fled to Cameroon.  Benin's Foreign Affairs Minister Nassirou Arifari Bako told the Associated Press news agency that Mr Bozize had asked for asylum but "nothing has been decided yet".  The former president was said to have been a close ally of South Africa, which sent about 200 soldiers to help protect the capital earlier this year.  Thirteen South Africans were killed as the rebels marched into Bangui last weekend.  Red Cross official Albert Yomba Eyamo on Friday told AFP news agency that the 78 bodies had been taken to mortuaries by volunteers.  "We ask the population to come to these sanitary institutions to identify the bodies with a view to taking them away for burial," he said.  The head of the only functioning hospital in Bangui said it was still receiving about 30 wounded people a day.  Hospital director Romain Guitinzia told the BBC that because of a lack of electricity, some of the bodies in the morgue have started to decompose.  "I worry there will be public health problems," he said.  CAR has large deposits of minerals including gold and diamonds but decades of conflict and mismanagement have left its people among the world's poorest.  At the same news conference where Mr Djotodia announced the mining reviews, also said he would ask former colonial power France to help retrain its army.  Mr Djotodia has said he would legislate by decree until holding elections in three years' time. - BBC.

China's Xi Wraps Up Africa Tour In Republic Of Congo.
China's newly appointed President Xi Jinping wrapped up a six-day tour of Africa on Friday in Republic of Congo, where he signed off on infrastructure projects and pledged deeper cooperation between his country and the continent.  Thousands of people, many wearing T-shirts bearing the president's likeness, turned out under a blazing equatorial sun to welcome the new Chinese leader to the former French colony's sprawling riverside capital, Brazzaville.  Xi, who in previous stops along the week-long trip has attempted to outline his African policy as a partnership among equals, used a speech before Congo's parliament to point to China and Africa's mutual reliance for their future success.  "The future, the development of China will be an unprecedented opportunity for Africa, and Africa's development will be the same for my country," Xi told lawmakers.  "We expect to work together with our African friends to seize upon historic opportunities and deepen cooperation ... in order to bring greater benefit to the Chinese and African peoples," he said.  China is offering $20 billion (13 billion pounds) of loans to Africa between 2013 and 2015, and many governments welcome Beijing's growing business-focused presence on the continent as a welcome alternative to Western influence.  China imports oil from Congo, and on Friday, in line with promises to deepen the relationship with African partners, Xi oversaw finalization of nearly a dozen new deals.  He agreed to finance a $63 million project to construct a river port in Oyo, the hometown of Congo's President Denis Sassou N'Guesso, where the government plans to develop a new special economic zone.  Other projects to receive Chinese backing include a 19-megawatt hydroelectric power station in the northwest, and the construction of a new port capable of handling mineral ore shipments in Congo's economic capital, Pointe-Noire.  China also agreed to around 15 billion CFA francs ($29.36 million) in grants and zero-interest loans, and will build 200 homes and a school in the capital's Mpila, which was largely destroy when a weapons depot exploded there last year. - Global Post.

Libyans Held For 'Sex Attack' On Britons In Benghazi.
Checkpoints are frequently set up by the army and militia groups.
Two Libyans have been arrested over claims they sexually assaulted three British aid workers earlier this week.  The workers were apparently abducted at a checkpoint near the city of Benghazi and held for hours before being freed on Wednesday.  The women were in a convoy travelling overland to Gaza.  Defence official Abdul Salam Barghathi told the BBC the arrested men were soldiers. He described their behaviour as "an individual, isolated act".  Officials quoted earlier said four people had been arrested and two women had been assaulted.  But Mr Barghathi, who is based in Benghazi, said three women had been attacked.  He said two suspects had been arrested, but two were still on the run.  The BBC's Rana Jawad in Tripoli says Friday prayer sermons in some mosques began with condemnations of the assault.  The women were in a convoy driving from Morocco to Gaza.  They reached the Egyptian border, where officials refused permission for them to cross.  Five members of the convoy, including the women, took a taxi to Benghazi in the hope of catching a flight back to the UK.  They were stopped at a checkpoint, abducted and the women were allegedly sexually assaulted.  UK ambassador Michael Aron told the BBC that the incident was horrific and the Libyan authorities were investigating.  The group of aid workers were taken to the Turkish consulate in Benghazi after their release. British officials said they had now returned to the UK. - BBC.

Guinea To Hold Polls With Or Without Opposition.
Guinea will hold long-delayed parliamentary elections this year, to conclude its transition to civilian rule, with or without the participation of the country's main opposition coalition, a government minister said on Friday.  The mineral-rich country was originally supposed to hold the vote in 2011 - but it was held up amid wrangling over the makeup of the electoral commission and opposition accusations that the government was planning to rig it.  Eight people were killed and hundreds more wounded during two weeks of clashes this month between security forces and opposition protesters demanding reforms before the election, currently scheduled for May 12, could be held.    Guinea's minister for territorial administration, Alhassane Conde, told Reuters the objections would not block the vote.  "Yes, the elections will be held this year, very soon, with or without the opposition," Conde said in an interview at his office in the capital Conakry's administrative district.  "We don't want to do it without them, but if necessary, we will go ahead and hold the election without them," he said.  The vote is meant to be the last step in a drawn-out transition to civilian rule after a coup in late 2008 led to two bloody years with the army in charge.  Conde accused some members of the opposition of making unacceptable conditions to try and delay elections he said they feared losing.  Opposition groups have alleged there were irregularities in awarding a contract to update the electoral register to the South African firm Waymark - and demanded a replacement.  "If we were to bring in a new company to replace Waymark, there is no way we'll be able to organize the election within the next six months," said Conde.  The European Union, a major donor, unblocked about 174 million euros ($223.43 million) in aid after the elections commission proposed a date for the parliamentary polls late last year. But Conde said Guinea risked losing future donor funding if elections were not held by September. - Reuters.

Italian Coastguard Intercepts More Than 470 Migrants.
Italy's coastguard said on Friday it had intercepted eight flimsy and rickety boats carrying more than 470 migrants, mostly from Africa, who were attempting to reach Italian shores over the past two days.  Italy bears the brunt of clandestine seaborne migration to southern Europe. Most migrants risk the voyage across the Mediterranean Sea in small and overcrowded fishing boats.  Thousands have died as a result of shipwreck, harsh conditions at sea or a lack of food and water in recent years, activists say.  "With the arrival of the spring and the subsequent improvement in the weather conditions, migrant attempts to reach the Italian coast have picked up massively," the coastguard said in a statement.  A 15-metre long rubber boat carrying 98 people from sub-Saharan Africa was intercepted 96 miles off the coast of the tiny Sicilian island of Lampedusa on Thursday, a coastguard official said.  Rescue workers then received an emergency call from another boat carrying 131 people from sub-Saharan Africa, Pakistan and Bangladesh close to Lampedusa, which they brought to shore.  Overnight the coastguard rescued 31 people from Morocco and sub-Saharan Africa on a boat off the southern coast of Sicily, which was also heading to Lampedusa.    The official said 214 other migrants, mainly from Africa, on five boats had also been detained in the past 48 hours.  All the migrants are being held in reception centers in Sicily and Lampedusa, the official said.  Maltese authorities intercepted 90 migrants in Maltese waters late on Thursday.  An estimated 1,500 migrants lost their lives in the Mediterranean in 2011 during the Arab Spring uprisings in North Africa, according to Human Rights Watch. It estimates the death toll in 2012 at more than 300. - Reuters.

UN Security Council Creates Offensive Force For DR Congo.
United Nations Security Council has approved the first "offensive" UN
force to battle rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo: Radio Okapi.
The Security Council has approved the first "offensive" UN force to battle rebels in Democratic Republic of Congo. Armed groups such as M23 (pictured) have taken over large parts of the east of the country.  The resolution gave the 2,500-troop force orders to "neutralize" and "disarm" armed groups in the east of the country. The brigade and surveillance drones to monitor the Democratic Republic of Congo's borders will be operating by July, UN officials said.  The force will act "in a robust, highly mobile and versatile manner and in strict compliance with international law," according to the resolution, to "prevent the expansion of all armed groups, neutralize these groups, and to disarm them."  Eastern Congo is experiencing renewed fighting. More than 30 people died in Kitchanga in clashes between the army and rebels of the "Alliance of Patriots for a Free and Sovereign Congo" (APCLS). (01.03.2013)  The brigade will comprise three infantry battalions, one artillery and one special forces and a reconnaissance company with headquarters in Goma, the North Kivu provincial capital. The UN campaign aims to end conflict in Democratic Republic of Congo's border regions with Rwanda and Uganda.  Rwanda - a temporary member of the Council - and Uganda have been accused of backing the M23 rebels who briefly took Goma in November. Both countries have denied the charges.  The mandate to conduct "targeted offensive operations" is the first of its kind.  Guatemala, a Council member that has troops in Democratic Republic of Congo, "wavered" over backing the resolution, said Gert Rosenthal, its UN envoy. Several countries fear that the offensive brigade will make other peacekeepers targets.  Pakistan's UN ambassador, Masood Khan, also stressed that the intervention brigade should be a one-off operation. - All Africa.

Zambia's First Budget Air Carrier Announced.
Zambia's first budget carrier, Mukuba Airlines, will be based in
Livingstone, near the tourist center of Victoria Falls.
While the past decade has seen a reported 60% increase in arrivals of regional and international air carriers to the Republic of Zambia, relatively few locals have been able to take part in the country’s air travel boom.  That will change if a group of Zambian aviation professionals and foreign investors can get its revolutionary vision off the ground.  According to a story this week in the Zambian Lusaka Times, the investment and operating group has announced the launch of Mukuba Airlines, said to be the southern African nation’s first budget carrier.  In a press statement, a company official said the airline will be operational within a few months, in time for the United Nations World Tourism Organisation's General Assembly conference, to be held in Zambia in August.  Commenting on the “record numbers” of regional and international travelers in Zambia in recent years, Mukuba Airlines chairman and chief executive officer Mwansa Chalwe said the airline would target domestic travelers.  Zambians have been left “as spectators in their own country” according to the article, which also stated that Mukuba Airlines would “demystify and democratize air travel and emulate emerging economies like Brazil, India, Indonesia and others that have extended air travel to those who have never flown before, including domestic workers.”  The airline is also expected to improve the domestic tourism market by making destinations within the landlocked country more accessible to travel.  Mukuba Airlines will be based in the Zambian city of Livingstone, near the tourism center of Victoria Falls. It will operate French-built ATR 42-500 and ATR 72-500 turbo-prop aircraft. - CNN.

Several Dead In Attack On Kenya Casino.
Aggrey Adoli, regional police chief claimed the men were
members of a coastal separatist group [Reuters]
At least seven people including one police officer have been shot dead in gun battles after gunmen attacked a Kenyan coastal casino, police said.  Aggrey Adoli, regional police chief, said on Thursday that a large group of men - who he claimed were members of coastal separatist group Mombasa Republic Council (MRC) - had attacked a casino in the town of Malindi, a popular Indian Ocean tourist resort.  "Six of the attackers were shot dead but they also killed one of our police officers," Adoli told AFP news agency. There were no reports that any tourists had been harmed in the attack.  "There was a raid by MRC attackers at Malindi casino earlier this morning at 2:00 am by a gang of about 100," Adoli said. Four police officers were at the casino when the raid took place, he added. "There was a fierce shoot-out outside the casino, because they wanted to try to get in but they were repulsed," Adoli said. The officers had arrested four people, he added.  "We have a contingent of police officers looking for the attackers, we suspect they are hiding in forests around Malindi."  Malindi, some 95km north of Kenya's main port city of Mombasa, is home is several top-end international tourist resorts.  Silvio Berlusconi, Italy's former prime minister, has visited the palm-fringed resort several times.  Kenya's billion-dollar tourism industry is the East African nation's second biggest cash earner after horticulture.  The MRC, a group seeking the secession of the coastal region, were blamed for a series of attacks just hours before Kenya's March 4 general elections in which at least 12 people were killed.  The MRC claims that the predominantly Muslim coastal region is not part of Kenya and argues that it has been neglected by the central government.  Several Western embassies have issued warnings to their citizens to take care over the weekend, as the country waits for a ruling by the Supreme Court on a legal challenge to the validity of the March 4 polls.  The court has until Saturday to decide whether Uhuru Kenyatta - who was declared the winner of the polls - should be confirmed as Kenya's new president or whether new elections should take place. - Al Jazeera.

Two Policemen, 24 Others Killed In Renewed Plateau Attacks In Nigeria.
A number of people, including police officers, have been killed in an attack
on Mangor and Matol villages in the Bokkos Local Government Area of
Plateau State (file photo).
About 26 persons, including two riot policemen attached to the Special Task Force (STF) on Jos crisis, were Thursday killed by gunmen in a renewed overnight attack on the people of Mangor and Matol villages in Bokkos Local Government Area of Plateau State.  Following the attack, it was gathered that there was a serious crisis between the residents and the Fulani in the area.  Sources from the villages said the gunmen stormed the villages at night and killed the people in their sleep, adding that before the arrival of the security personnel many had been killed.  Another source claimed that the villagers, who suspected that the attackers came from Chad and Niger Republic had connivance with the Fulani residents in the area, resulting in a serious crisis between the Fulani and the indigenes of the communities, which disrupted the popular Thursday Potato-market.  Confirming the attack, the spokesman of the STF, Lt. Jude Akpa, said the STF killed six of the attackers after a serious gun battle, adding that two of the policemen attached to the task force were seriously injured and were in critical condition. THISDAY later gathered that the two policemen died.  Condemning the attack, the state government described it as "another unsettling event in the state with the accompanying implication of creating disaffection among communities that had long lived together."  In a statement by the state Commissioner for Information, Abraham Yiljap, the state government maintained that it was ready to use every legal means to ensure that law and order is maintained in the state.  The statement read: "Let it be known that the Plateau State Government is determined to use every legal and constitutional means to ensure the maintenance of law and order in every part of the state. - All Africa.

Morsi Supporters And Opponents Clash In Egypt.
An anti-Morsi demonstrator holds pans reading, "Mubarak -
Mursi" during a protest in Cairo [Reuters]
Clashes have erupted in two cities in northern Egypt, and protesters rallied in Cairo in the latest demonstrations against Egypt's President Mohammed Morsi, who claims the recent wave of anti-government unrest is the work of conspirators.  In the Mediterranean city of Alexandria on Friday, hundreds of unidentified assailants threw stones and fire bombs at protesters rallying against Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's most powerful political group.  The anti-government protesters hurled stones back at the assailants during the clash in a square that used to be home to the Brotherhood's office before it was stormed weeks ago by demonstrators.  Morsi's opponents say the elected president has continuously defied legal norms to force through his agenda and trampled on the judiciary's independence in a bid to consolidate his power.  They also say he has failed to live up to his promises to have an inclusive political process where liberals are represented.  Separately, protesters and riot police clashed in the president's home province of Sharqiya in the Nile River Delta.  Police fired tear gas and exchanged stones with demonstrators who tried to torch a Brotherhood office in the city of Zagazig, 50 miles north of the capital, Cairo. In Cairo, hundreds of Egyptian protesters rallied in front of the office of the nation's embattled Prosecutor General Talaat Abdullah, part of a nationwide call to hold demonstrations against actions that Morsi has taken against the opposition.  The protesters, clapping and beating drums, sealed off Abdullah's office with locks and chains and displayed a sign that read: "Leave. Enough."  "We are here to say that we are not fearful, we are not hiding," said Wageh Abdel-Salam, one of the demonstrators.  "The revolution must continue." - Al Jazeera.

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