Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikos Dendias to participate in the EU Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) (Brussels, 24.01.2022)

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nikos Dendias, will travel tomorrow, Monday, January 24, 2022, to Brussels, where he will participate in the EU Foreign Affairs Council (FAC).

Prior to the opening of the Council’s proceedings, the Minister of Foreign Affairs will attend along with his counterparts an informal working breakfast, hosted by the Cypriot Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides together with Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kuwait, Ahmad Nasser Al-Mohammad Al-Sabah.

The Council’s agenda includes the latest developments in Syria and Libya, as well as the security situation in Eastern Europe. A discussion on the latter issue between the EU Foreign Ministers and their American counterpart, Anthony Blinken will follow, via videoconference.

Under “Current Affairs”, the Foreign Ministers will exchange views on EU policy in the Indo-Pacific region, as well as on developments in Mali and Sudan. In addition, the current political situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina will be discussed at a joint proposal by Greece and Croatia.

Finally, on the sidelines of the FAC, the Minister of Foreign Affairs is expected to have a bilateral meeting with the EU Special Representative for the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue, Miroslav Lajčák.

Five people perish in Kajiado accident

NAIROBI— Five people died and three others were injured after they were involved in a road accident along the Namanga-Kajiado highway.

The Saturday accident involved a head-on collision between a Probox and a salon car.

The driver of the salon car, which was headed to Namanga, reportedly lost control and rammed into the oncoming Probox, killing the four occupants on the spot.

The bodies have since been moved to the Kajiado County Referral Hospital mortuary, while the critically injured passengers are receiving treatment at the same facility.

Confirming the incident Namanga police base commander Jackson Mathenge said the accident may have been caused by human error.

The police are urging motorists to exercise caution and avert what may end up as one of the darkest months on Kenyan roads.

The National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) has said it is working on a Transport Integrated Management System that will ground all unroadworthy vehicles and help bring some much-needed sanity on Kenyan roads.


Covid-19: Covax opens new front in pandemic arms race

GENEVA— Covax aims to break the Covid-19 pandemic in 2022 by ensuring a steady supply of vaccines at last for the world’s poorest countries — and swiftly getting them into arms.

The global scheme, aimed at procuring donor-funded jabs for the 91 weakest economies, delivered its one billionth dose last weekend — a major milestone that came far later than anticipated after a year of setbacks.

The battle for Covax in 2021 was getting hold of doses — besides rich countries cornering most of the vaccine supply, it faced export bans from producer countries, regulatory red tape and manufacturing delays.

Rather than bulk-bought jabs, the scheme ended up relying on doses donated by wealthy nations, which too often were about to expire and couldn’t be used in time.

Covax sees the new front in 2022 as smoothing the supply chain — from a reliable stream off the production lines to efficient distribution set-ups in recipient countries.

The facility is co-led by the World Health Organization (WHO); the Gavi vaccine alliance, which handles procurement; and CEPI, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, which invests in prospective vaccines.

Covax this week called for $5.2 billion over the next three months to steady the ship this year.

“We can break the cycle of transmission and the pain and suffering,” Gavi chief Seth Berkley told the funding drive launch.

However, “what we do not have today are the resources to help countries adapt to the new challenges that we know Covid-19 will create in 2022”.

Covax therefore wants to build a pool of 600 million doses to ensure a reliable supply, and to cover eventual variables such as boosters or new variant-specific vaccines.

It also needs to support readiness and delivery in poorer nations, and cover the costs of syringes and transportation.

“I think we’ll still have rocky supply for the next six months or so and I’m a little worried, frankly, if there are new variant vaccines, that we might have an inequity 2.0,” said Berkley.

Covax reckons it has enough confirmed vaccine supplies to jab 45 percent of the population in the poorest 91 economies.

But the WHO wants 70 percent fully jabbed in every country by July to end the acute phase of the pandemic — a much bigger stretch, given how far behind many countries are, especially in Africa, where more than 85 percent of people are yet to receive a single dose.

At the current pace of vaccine roll-out, 109 countries will miss the mid-2022 target, the WHO has said.

Covax was launched in June 2020, when few would have imagined that several highly effective vaccines would emerge within nine months. Historically, the vast majority of potential vaccines fail.

The first Covax doses were administered in March 2021, “but then we hit barrier after barrier”, said Berkley.

“We were able to get this back on track — and now you’re seeing an accelerated drive towards getting vaccines out.”

The next billion doses is expected to take four to five months to deliver.

Of the billion doses delivered so far, around 285 million were AstraZeneca, 260 million Pfizer, 150 million Moderna, 125 million Janssen, 95 million Sinopharm and 85 million Sinovac.

Only WHO-approved vaccines can be used, of which there are eight so far. The latest is a major CEPI-funded vaccine, Novavax, which could do much of the heavy lifting in 2022.

CEPI chief executive Richard Hatchett said the target was now building capacity in poorer countries to roll out mass vaccination at speed.

“The last mile is going to be the major challenge for 2022,” he told a World Economic Forum session.

Up to 25 countries need particular help getting their vaccination programme in shape.

Overall, some 9.8 billion Covid-19 vaccine doses have been administered around the world. Covax jabs account for 82 percent of injections in the 91 poorest economies.

The top Covax donor-funded dose recipients so far are Bangladesh with 130 million, Indonesia 87 million, Pakistan 77 million and the Philippines 66 million.

Hatchett said that with the manufacturing capacity now available, helping poorer countries turn those doses into vaccinations could transform the course of the pandemic.

Whether primary vaccination or a booster, getting a jab to everyone who wants one “is an achievable goal in 2022”, he insisted.


Kenya ready for Aug 9 polls despite tight budget-IEBC

NAIROBI— Kenya’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) says it is ready to conduct the Aug 9 general election though under a tight budget and urged all eligible Kenyans to register as voters before the Feb 6 deadline.

IEBC Chairperson Wafula Chebukati told Kenyans that they should register as voters in readiness for the August contest.

He said most IEBC clerks remain idle due to low turnout at the registration centres. IEBC has been running an online campaign targeting the youth to persuade them to register as voters.

The IEBC said voter registration exercise for Kenyans living in the diaspora is also underway in various countries for a period of 15 days.

The exercise will be carried out in the 18 registration centres in the following countries; the United States of America, Canada, United Kingdom, Germany, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, South Sudan, Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and South Africa.

However, due to COVID -19 related travel restrictions and logistical challenges, the exercise will not take place as scheduled in Kenya High Commission in London, Canada (Kenya High Commission in Ottawa, Kenya Honorary Consulate in Toronto and Kenya Honorary Consulate in Vancouver) and United Arab Emirates (Kenya Embassy in United Arab Emirates and Kenya Consulate in Dubai).

The poll body has pledged to extend the exercise in the affected countries to make up for the lost days.

“Upon commencement, the exercise will be extended by the number of days lost to ensure that eligible voters are availed the set 15 days for registration,” said the Chair.

Meanwhile, IEBC has gazetted Aug 9 as the date for the general election and listing the timeliness for the various pre-election processes.

He said that a political party intending to present a Presidential candidate through direct nominations or party primaries shall submit the name of the person nominated to contest in the election to the Commission on or before Thursday, April 28.

Chebukati further said candidates intending to participate in the election as independent candidates shall not be members of any registered political party by May 2, at least 3 months before the General Election.

He also said that a public officer who intends to contest in the General Election shall resign from public office by Wednesday, Feb 9.

The IEBC boss said the campaign period for purposes of the Aug 9 general election will officially commence on Sunday, May 29.


Egyptian, French Navies Conduct Joint Drills In Mediterranean Sea

CAIRO, Jan 23 (NNN-MENA) – Egyptian and French naval forces, conducted joint military drills in the Mediterranean Sea with the involvement of two frigates, one from each country, the Egyptian army announced in a statement yesterday.

The drills included an air defence exercise, tactical sailing formations, and electronic warfare exercises, according to the army statement.

The drills also included training on night transport operations and defensive operations against atypical threats, with the participation of Egypt’s domestically built Sagem Port Said frigate and France’s La Provence frigate.

In the last two years, the Egyptian and French naval forces have performed regular joint exercises.

Naval troops from the two countries conducted manoeuvres in the Mediterranean Sea, in Nov, 2020, and in the Red Sea in May of last year.