Daily Archives: May 24, 2018

Rights Group: Europeans Should Press Iran to End Media Muzzling

An international media rights group says European powers seeking to preserve the Iran nuclear deal should use their talks with Tehran to press for an end to its harassment of journalists.

In a report published Thursday, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said the current international focus on Iran’s economic ties with Europe “could represent an opening to engage on press freedom.”

European diplomats have held talks with Iranian officials in recent weeks to try to preserve the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers. The United States withdrew from the deal on May 8, calling it defective and prompting Iran to say it was assessing whether the deal remained in its national interest.

CPJ Middle East and North Africa program coordinator Sherif Mansour said those engaged in negotiations with Iran should make media rights a priority.

“[Iranian] President [Hassan] Rouhani needs to be held to the press freedom commitments he made,” Mansour said.

The CPJ report calls on European governments and institutions to make press freedom an “explicit and essential element of conversations with Iranian officials in bilateral and multilateral meetings.”

CPJ also urged the U.S. government to ease sanctions that it says impede journalists seeking access to software for circumventing Iranian government censorship and surveillance.

On a positive note, the CPJ report said its annual December census of Iranian prisons found the number of journalists detained in Iran was just five in December 2017, the lowest mark in a decade. But the report said journalists who report criticisms of Tehran still face harassment and intimidation.

A statement issued by EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini in January in response to a surge in anti-government protests in Iran said human rights “always have been a core issue” in the EU relationship with Iran. She said peaceful demonstration and freedom of expression are “fundamental rights that apply to every country, and Iran is no exception.”

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert issued a statement in March expressing concern about “grave conditions” facing the press in Iran, as detailed in a report by a U.N. special rapporteur. She called on Iran to respect its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to guarantee the freedom of expression, including for members of the press.

Source: Voice of America

Africa in Spotlight at Paris Tech Fair

French President Emmanuel Macron says his country will invest $76 million in African startups, saying innovation on the continent is key to meeting challenges ranging from climate change to terrorism. He spoke Thursday at a technology fair in Paris showcasing African talent this year.

It is hard to miss the African section of Viva Tech. There are gigantic signs pointing to stands from South Africa, Morocco and Rwanda. And there are lots of African entrepreneurs.

Omar Cisse heads a Senegalese startup called InTouch, which has developed an app making it easier to conduct financial transactions by mobile phone.

Globally, you have more than $1 billion per day of transactions on mobile money, and more than 50 percent are done in sub-Saharan Africa, he said.

Cisse says the challenges for African startups are tremendous, but so are the opportunities.

In Africa, you have very huge potential. Everything needs to be done now, and with local people who know the realities, he said.

Like Cisse, Cameroonian engineer Alain Nteff is breaking new ground. He and a doctor co-founded a startup called Gifted Mom, which provides health information to pregnant and nursing women via text messaging.

I think the biggest problems today in Africa are going to be solved by business, and not by development and nonprofits, he said.

Nteff gets some support from the United Nations and other big donors. But funding is a challenge for many. African startups reportedly raised $560 million last year, compared with more than $22 billion raised by European ventures.

Now they are getting a $76 million windfall, announced by President Emmanuel Macron here at the tech fair.

When the startups decide to work together to deploy ad accelerate equipment in Africa, it is good for the whole continent, because that is how to accelerate everything and provide opportunities which by the way, is the best way to fight against terrorism, jihadism … to provide another model to these young people, he said.

The funding comes from the Digital Africa Initiative, run by France’s AFD development agency (Agence Francaise de Developpement).

I think the main challenge is access to funding, and the second is the coaching to grow. AFD wants them to find solutions, said Jean-Marc Kadjo, who heads the project team.

There are plenty of exciting projects here. Reine Imanishimwe is a wood innovator from Rwanda.

I try to use my wood in high technology. As you can see, my business card is wood, but I print it using a computer, said Imanishimwe.

Abdou Salam Nizeyimana is also from Rwanda. He works for Zipline, an American startup that uses drones to fly blood to people and hospitals in Rwanda, cutting delivery times from hours to minutes.

Now doctors can plan surgery right away and just say, ‘We need this type of blood,’ ” and it can be delivered in about a half hour or less, he said.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame toured the tech fair with Macron. Relations between Rwanda and France are warming, after years of tension over Rwanda’s 1994 genocide.

Entrepreneur Nizeyimana is happy about that. When politics are good, he says, it is good for technology transfer and Africa’s development.

Source: Voice of America

Africa in Spotlight at Paris Tech Fair

French President Emmanuel Macron says his country will invest $76 million in African startups, saying innovation on the continent is key to meeting challenges ranging from climate change to terrorism. He spoke Thursday at a technology fair in Paris showcasing African talent this year.

It is hard to miss the African section of Viva Tech. There are gigantic signs pointing to stands from South Africa, Morocco and Rwanda. And there are lots of African entrepreneurs.

Omar Cisse heads a Senegalese startup called InTouch, which has developed an app making it easier to conduct financial transactions by mobile phone.

Globally, you have more than $1 billion per day of transactions on mobile money, and more than 50 percent are done in sub-Saharan Africa, he said.

Cisse says the challenges for African startups are tremendous, but so are the opportunities.

In Africa, you have very huge potential. Everything needs to be done now, and with local people who know the realities, he said.

Like Cisse, Cameroonian engineer Alain Nteff is breaking new ground. He and a doctor co-founded a startup called Gifted Mom, which provides health information to pregnant and nursing women via text messaging.

I think the biggest problems today in Africa are going to be solved by business, and not by development and nonprofits, he said.

Nteff gets some support from the United Nations and other big donors. But funding is a challenge for many. African startups reportedly raised $560 million last year, compared with more than $22 billion raised by European ventures.

Now they are getting a $76 million windfall, announced by President Emmanuel Macron here at the tech fair.

When the startups decide to work together to deploy ad accelerate equipment in Africa, it is good for the whole continent, because that is how to accelerate everything and provide opportunities which by the way, is the best way to fight against terrorism, jihadism … to provide another model to these young people, he said.

The funding comes from the Digital Africa Initiative, run by France’s AFD development agency (Agence Francaise de Developpement).

I think the main challenge is access to funding, and the second is the coaching to grow. AFD wants them to find solutions, said Jean-Marc Kadjo, who heads the project team.

There are plenty of exciting projects here. Reine Imanishimwe is a wood innovator from Rwanda.

I try to use my wood in high technology. As you can see, my business card is wood, but I print it using a computer, said Imanishimwe.

Abdou Salam Nizeyimana is also from Rwanda. He works for Zipline, an American startup that uses drones to fly blood to people and hospitals in Rwanda, cutting delivery times from hours to minutes.

Now doctors can plan surgery right away and just say, ‘We need this type of blood,’ ” and it can be delivered in about a half hour or less, he said.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame toured the tech fair with Macron. Relations between Rwanda and France are warming, after years of tension over Rwanda’s 1994 genocide.

Entrepreneur Nizeyimana is happy about that. When politics are good, he says, it is good for technology transfer and Africa’s development.

Source: Voice of America

East Africa Flood Deaths Surpass 400

Heavy rains have left hundreds of people dead and hundreds of thousands more displaced across various parts of East Africa. Kenya, Somalia and Rwanda are the worst hit. The flooding comes as the region tries to recover from a severe drought in 2017 that threatened millions of people.

Across Kenya, Rwanda and Somalia, the death toll from the flooding has surpassed 400, with many thousands more forced to flee their homes to escape rising waters.

Rwanda’s Ministry of Disaster Management puts its death toll at just over 200 in a period of four months.The number includes 18 killed this month as a result of landslides triggered by heavy rains.

In Somalia, the Juba and Shabelle rivers have burst their banks.

Justin Brady, head of the U.N. Office of Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Somalia, said the situation has left those affected by the flooding vulnerable to malnutrition and disease.

“We have had a number of deaths reported at different junctures in the flooding.,” he said “I believe right now we are looking at about 220,000 people who are temporarily displaced due to the flood waters and until those recede, those people will remain displaced and in need of humanitarian assistance. We may see that number climb up in the short term with flooding spreading down stream as flood waters move towards the Indian Ocean.”

Earlier in the week, at least 15 people died in Somaliland when heavy rains caused by tropical cyclone Sagar swept through the Horn of Africa. The cyclone system has caused heavy rains in both the Puntland and Somaliland regions of Somalia, and then moved along the coast to Djibouti.

Brady said those areas were especially hard-hit by drought the last three years.

“So you already had a very low level of resilience of the population,” he said. “There are several districts that were most affected. The government is continuing to refine the number of people in need and initially it was around 670,000. That number has come down as I understand, but it’s a case of being able to get into areas.”

In Kenya, the Red Cross said at least 200 people have died as a result of the heavy rains. In the biggest catastrophe, a dam burst last week on a commercial farm in the Rift Valley, killing at least 48.

Emergency appeals have been launched by the affected governments and NGOs for humanitarian assistance.

Source: Voice of America

More Refugees Flee Carnage in Central African Republic

Thousands of people continue to flee violence in the troubled Central African Republic and the United Nations says many lack access to humanitarian care. Its response plan requesting $515 million launched in January is barely 10 percent funded.

Hundreds of Central Africans sing in the Cameroon border town of Garoua Boulai to officially welcome 30 of their fellow citizens who crossed over from the C.A.R. to Cameroon within the past week.

It has become a weekly event to welcome people fleeing the carnage and socially integrate them into their community or reunite them with family members.

Among the newly arrived is 37-year-old Pierre Magnou. He said he and his family were targeted by armed gangs firing automatic weapons and burning houses in areas of the C.A.R capital, Bangui, two weeks ago.

He said in October 2017, he, his wife, and two children returned from Congo where they were in exile and settled in their PK5 Muslim-dominated neighborhood, thinking peace had returned.

But he said bloody conflicts between Muslim Seleka fighters, Christian anti-Balakas and some segments of the population continue in his country.

Not wanting to live in uncertainty, he said they decided to flee until the U.N. peace mission completes what he said is an unending task of bringing peace.

The downward spiral

The Central African Republic descended into bloodshed after longtime leader Francois Bozize was overthrown in 2013 by a predominantly Muslim rebel alliance called the Seleka. Christian militias called the anti-Balaka emerged in response, accelerating a cycle of sectarian violence.

In February 2016, Faustin-Archange Touadera, who promised to bring peace in the troubled nation, was elected president.

C.A.R. minister of humanitarian activities Virginie Baikoua visited Cameroon last week. She said violence has continued because it is hard to bring the various armed factions together for true dialogue.

She said one of the most serious problems they have is the circulation of arms. Young people need a lot of education to understand that they are strong enough to contribute to the development of their country by working, not killing, she added.

U.N. coordinator for humanitarian affairs for the C.A.R. Najad Rochdi said the number of people needing urgent assistance has increased dramatically this year due to the resurgence of violence.

“One quarter of the population is in a situation of vulnerability, fragility, and therefore, it is very easy for them to be recruited by either the armed groups or the criminal gangs,” she said. “Eighteen percent of children under five are dying. That is 18 percent of the future generation of Central Africans who today are not given the chance to live.Not even to go to school, just to live, which is the basic right of a human being.”

She said 2.5 million C.A.R. residents are in dire need of humanitarian assistance.

Source: Voice of America