Daily Archives: February 4, 2018

Lebanese Diaspora Conference calls for Lebanese identity preservation, nationality restoration

The Lebanese Diaspora Energy Conference for the African Continent 2018 concluded Sunday its works in the capital of Ivory Coast, Abidjan, with the call for preserving the Lebanese identity and promoting the restoration of Lebanese nationality being at the core of its closing session recommendations.

In its four forums, the conference touched on economic affairs and investment opportunities available throughout the African Continent, and the need to maintain the Arabic language through Lebanese schools abroad, spreading the Lebanese culture, art and taste.

Conferees called for increasing cooperation among Lebanese businessmen in West Africa through the establishment of partnerships between them, aimed at winning huge investment projects through tenders offered by African countries. They also highlighted the need to allow Lebanese commercial banks into the West African market, providing services to Lebanese and Africans alike.

Moreover, the conference stressed the need to provide incentives for Lebanese expatriates residing in Africa to engage in large investment projects in Lebanon that exceed bank transfers and personal projects.

Above said, the conference shed light on capitalizing cultural and fraternal relations with African countries as a step towards improving bilateral economic relations, proposing to form a ministerial-diplomatic committee through which business executives can work to activate trade agreements signed between Lebanon and North African countries. Additionally, such a committee can work to establish business associations and chambers of commerce and industry between Lebanon and African countries.

Furthermore, among the conference’s recommendations was the launching of a Lebanese-African business forum that will allow for capacity building and developing a strategy to support Lebanese investments in Africa. Also, it called for the formation of a committee specialized in the marketing of Lebanese products in Africa, which would include the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Economy, Agriculture and Industry.

In this connection and speaking at the conference’s closing session, Economy and Trade Minister Raed Khoury urged the Lebanese to “invest in their unity, since the homeland lies in the hands of all resident and expatriate Lebanese.”

Khoury touched in his address on the state plan for comprehensive economic development in Lebanon worth 15 billion dollars, which would help open the doors of investments and form a qualitative economic leap.

The Minister also praised the success of the conference despite all the challenges, thanks to the participants’ enthusiasm, determination and belief that this project is the catalyst for mobile success in all corners of the world.

Source: National News Agency


PRETORIA– South African President Jacob Zuma should step down, a senior ruling African National Congress official said, raising fresh pressure on Zuma who has been weakened since Cyril Ramaphosa became ANC leader in December.

Zuma faces a growing chorus of calls for him to resign as president and is expected to meet the ANC’s six most powerful officials this weekend, state broadcaster SABC said.

Deputy President Ramaphosa is in pole position to win an election next year and many in the party want Zuma out so that Ramaphosa can embark on his anti-corruption agenda.

There should be a change of guard. You can’t have two centres of power. The best possible way is if the state president exits, ANC treasurer-general Paul Mashatile told CNBC Africa.

How do you do it? …. Go to him and say ‘look we’re not booting you out but we think we can work better this way’, he said.

Zuma faces a no-confidence vote on Feb 22 after a request from the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters but Mashatile said he opposed that method of removing the president.

Zuma, who is battling corruption allegations, has been in a weakened position since he was replaced as leader of the ANC in December by Cyril Ramaphosa, the deputy president.

Mashatile, Ramaphosa and the rest of the top-six leadership team, were in the northern Limpopo province on Saturday to meet traditional leaders.


Israel Moves Toward Deporting Thousands of African Migrants

Israel is taking steps to deport thousands of African migrants.

Israeli immigration authorities have begun issuing deportation orders to asylum seekers from war-torn Eritrea and Sudan. It is the latest step in Israel’s plan to expel about 40,000 African migrants, after they entered the country illegally during the past decade.

A man who identified himself as Michael received a deportation notice. It said that by April 1st, he must leave for an unnamed African country, reported to be Rwanda.

Michael said it is wrong for Israel to deport refugees, knowing they face certain death back in Africa.

But the Israeli government rejects the refugee claim, saying the vast majority are economic migrants seeking a better quality of life.

The deportation order amounts to an ultimatum: The migrants can accept $3,500 and leave voluntarily, or they will face imprisonment. Israeli officials say the Africans are threatening the Jewish character of the state and blame them for rising crime and a deteriorating quality of life in South Tel Aviv.

An Israeli who lives in South Tel Aviv, Mai Golan, says the migrants must go.

She says Jewish residents are afraid to walk the streets, where they are harassed and sometimes robbed, raped or attacked by the Africans.

Nevertheless, Israeli human rights activists say the government’s policy is illegal under international law, and immoral.

Parliament Member Michal Rozin of the liberal opposition Meretz party says Israel is deporting the migrants to an uncertain future in Africa, noting that Rwanda denies that it has agreed to take them in.

Critics say Israel has a moral obligation to shelter the Africans, considering the fate of Jewish refugees who were turned away from Western countries during the Holocaust.

Source: Voice of America

Child Abductions Rise amid South Sudan’s Grinding Civil War

It’s been almost two years since Deng Machar’s three young children were abducted from his home and likely sold for cattle. Sitting in South Sudan’s opposition-held town of Akobo, the 35-year-old pointed to the dirt beneath his feet.

“They were playing right there,” Machar said. “It would be easier if they were dead because then I could forget.”

Machar said his 4-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son were likely sold for cattle after being seized by men from the rival Murle tribe. He doubts his 2-year-old son is still alive. Eleven children in all were abducted from this area that day and none has been seen since.

It is a little-acknowledged tragedy in South Sudan’s five-year civil war. Child kidnappings between clans have increased as people become more desperate amid widespread hunger and a devastated economy, human rights groups say.

“Child abductions and trafficking in South Sudan is a real issue that requires an urgent response by the government,” said Edmund Yakani, executive director of the nonprofit Community Empowerment for Progress Organization.

While tracking child kidnappings is challenging amid the conflict and mass displacement, he said his organization has confirmed abductions in several parts of the country. Those include 11 children seized last year in Abyei in the north, five taken between 2012 and 2014 in the Wau area in the west, and seven in 2016 and 2017 in the Yei area in the south, near the Ugandan border.

The United Nations says its child protection team confirmed abductions in the regions of Unity, Central Equatoria, Jonglei, Upper Nile and Western Equatoria last year, though it didn’t have a total number.

Although inter-clan fighting, cattle raiding and abductions are deep-seated throughout this East African country, Yakani called it a particular problem in Jonglei state, where the town of Akobo is located and where many in the Murle tribe base “their livelihood” on selling children.

During a recent trip to Akobo, near the Ethiopian border, The Associated Press spoke with Murle tribesmen who acknowledged stealing and trafficking children for personal gain.

“The intention is to trade the children for cattle or use them personally,” said Thiro Akungurouth, a Murle youth leader who knows some of the abductors.

One child, no matter what their age, can sell for 20 cows, worth about $7,000, he said.

Children who aren’t sold are kept by families without kids while girls are groomed for marriage, Akungurouth said. Stigma remains against childless families in South Sudan. Abducted girls often are married to their captors.

Authorities in Akobo said 37 children have been seized in the surrounding areas since 2016, more than in the first three years of the war combined. It was not clear how many children have been abducted across the country during the civil war.

One opposition governor blamed South Sudan’s government for the increase in kidnappings, saying it’s trying to create a wedge between the Murle and Nuer tribes to advance its military agenda.

“It’s happening more now because the government is instigating a rift and telling the youth to attack by distributing arms and ammunition,” Koang Rambang, the governor of Bieh state, which until last year was part of Jonglei, told the AP.

He specifically faulted the country’s First Vice President Taban Deng Gai for “instigating more abductions,” citing 10 children who were seized in January while Gai toured the largely opposition-held Jonglei.

South Sudan’s government denied it, saying Gai was in the region only to promote peace. The government also said it had given “directives to the concerned governors of those states to get rid of those activities,” said Maal Maker Thiong, who works in the office of the presidency.

But as the civil war drives the nation deeper into despair, children continue to be the worst affected.

Although South Sudan in 2015 signed onto the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which states that all parties should take appropriate measures “to prevent the abduction of, the sale of or traffic in children,” the country’s warring factions repeatedly have been accused of committing grave violations against children, including the forced recruitment of child soldiers.

“The abduction of children is abhorrent. They are vulnerable and deserve our protection,” the chief of the U.N. mission in South Sudan, David Shearer, told the AP. He said the U.N.’s human rights team was due to visit Akobo to assess the situation and advocate with local authorities and armed groups to prevent the practice.

Over the years some organizations have tried to work with the tribes, encouraging them to return the kidnapped children and halt the practice.

Last month, a conference held between the Nuer and Murle tribes in the village of Burmath outside Akobo discussed the possible return of some of the children, including three who were abducted on Jan. 17.

“We tell the chiefs that this is having negative consequences and that they need to stop this and live peacefully,” said Ruei Hoth, one of the conference organizers.

As desperation among South Sudanese continues, however, people are skeptical that the abduction and sale of children will end.

“I don’t think abductions will stop,” said Tut Banguot, an aid worker in Akobo. “People have no resources and no salaries, they aren’t working and so they get children and trade them for commodities.”

Source: Voice of America

Ministry of Foreign Affairs announcement on Commissioner Johannes Hahn’s repeated erroneous reference to the name of fYROM in the German magazine Der Spiegel

We call on Commissioner Hahn to respect international legality and to refrain from violating, among other things, the decisions and commitments of the European Union itself. Especially in the midst of the current critical juncture, with relevant negotiations under way. His repeated slips do not contribute to the achievement of progress in the negotiations on the name issue. Nor are they consistent with the constructive role members of the European Commission must exert.

Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Hellenic Republic