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AKAGERA NATIONAL PARK, (Xinhua) -- A herd of impala are seen in Akagera National Park, eastern Rwanda, on Feb. 12, 2018. Akagera National Park is Rwanda’s only protected savannah region with a wide range of animals. XINHUA PHOTO: LYU TIANRAN
21 illegal immigrants killed in truck crash in northern Libya

TRIPOLI, (Xinhua) -- A truck carrying illegal immigrants of different African nationalities crashed in northern Libya on Wednesday, killing 21 and wounding 75 others, a local medical source told Xinhua.

The traffic accident occurred in the city of Bani Walid, some 180 km southeast of the capital Tripoli, said Mohammed Al-Mabrouk, director of Beni Walid General Hospital.

These immigrants were on a large transport truck that overturned on the outskirts of the city at 4 a.m., Al-Mabroul cited security reports as saying.

He appealed to the international humanitarian and relief organizations for urgent assistance to the hospital “due to insufficient ability to provide medical services for so many patients at the moment.”

“We have transferred a number of critical cases to neighboring hospitals,” Al-Mabrouk noted.

Beni Walid is a major point of movement for illegal immigrants from southern Libya to the coast in the north, where they are transported by boats through the Mediterranean to European shores.


Libyan Higher Council of State calls on eastern
parliament to amend political agreement

TRIPOLI, (Xinhua) -- The Tripoli-based Libyan Higher Council of State on Tuesday called on the eastern-based House of Representatives (parliament) to amend the political agreement sponsored by the United Nations (UN) in preparation for a constitutional referendum and elections.

“We call upon our partners of the homeland, the members and Speaker of the House of Representatives, to unite efforts, coordinate positions and work together to overcome the challenges and difficulties impeding the achievement of the goals of the political agreement, first and foremost the amendment of the agreement through restructuring of executive authority,” the council said in a joint statement.

Members of the council said they are keen to “create conditions necessary to enhance confidence, cooperation and integration in order to push forward the political agreement and end the Libyan crisis. However, we face increased division.”

The House of Representatives had approved a 12-item compromise formula of amendments to the political agreement, which was proposed by UN Special Envoy Ghassan Salame in January. But the council rejected it.

The amendments are part of an action plan proposed by Salame in September to end the political division in Libya, ahead of parliamentary and presidential elections before the end of 2018.

Libya is suffering a political division between the eastern government based in Tobruk and the western government based in Tripoli backed by the UN.


Libyan army says to sign deal to unify military establishment

TRIPOLI, (Xinhua) -- Libya’s eastern-based army spokesman Ahmad Mismari said Wednesday that an agreement will be signed soon to unify the military establishment in Libya under Egyptian auspices.

“The meetings to unify the military establishment will continue tomorrow in Cairo, to complete the final consultations in particular,” Mismari said in a press conference in Benghazi, eastern Libya.

“We have agreed on most of the items related to the structure and unification of the military establishment in all Libya. We agreed on the structure and formation of defense and national security councils and the general command,” Mismari said, adding that the Egyptian-brokered agreement would be signed soon.

Mismari also noted that the only obstacle to be discussed is related to the ongoing political division, expecting all remaining points to be terminated.

Since October 2017, the Egyptian capital Cairo has hosted four extended meetings for a number of Libyan military officers to unite the national army.

The Egyptian committee on Libya, headed by the Egyptian deputy defense minister General Mohammed al-Kashki, called on all parties later last year to support the unification, restructuring, and organization of the Libyan military establishment.

Libyan UN-backed prime minister, Fayez Serraj, agreed with the eastern-based army Commander Khalifa Haftar, during two meetings in May and July 2017 in United Arab Emirates and France, to develop a strategy for a unified Libyan army under civilian authority.

Since the fall of the late leader Gaddafi’s regime in 2011, Libya has been plagued by insecurity and political division between eastern and western authorities.


Libya, EU sign MoU for development of judicial cooperation

TRIPOLI, (Xinhua) -- The Libyan Ministry of Justice on Wednesday signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the European Union mission in Libya for the development of prisons and criminal justice.

The Minister of Justice, Mohamed Abdel-Wahed, signed the MoU at the ministry’s headquarters here with the Head of EU Border Assistance Mission (EUBAM) in Libya,  Vincenzo Tagliaferri, and EU Ambassador to Libya, Bettina Muscheidt.

Under the MoU, the EU mission will “provide technical and logistical programs that work with the penal institutions of the judicial system,” Abdel-Wahed said.

“Institutional support will be provided in the field of judicial expertise and prison management and health care, in addition to developing the curricula of legal institutes to establish a state of institutions and the rule of law,” Abdel-Wahed added.

The MoU aims to develop the criminal justice system by harmonizing national legislation with international conventions and by helping to build the capacity of judicial and police personnel through specialized training courses and visits of European experts.

In May 2013, EU mission launched its special mission EUBAM Libya for integrated border management, in addition to liaison with the Libyan authorities concerned in security and judicial reform.

However, the mission faced difficulties working from within Libya. The mission is currently based in the Tunisian capital Tunis temporarily. 


Two Kenyan soldiers killed in shootout with police

MANDERA, Kenya, (Xinhua) -- At least two Kenyan soldiers were killed on Wednesday in a shootout with police officers in Mandera county near Somali border.

North Eastern Regional Commissioner Mohamud Saleh and head of the Rural Border Patrol Unit (RBPU) Nguyo Wambua confirmed the incident, saying the soldiers were killed during a “friendly fire” with RBPU officers.

“There was confusion because the soldiers thought the RBPU officers were armed bandits but by the time they realized, there were injuries. We can not understand how the KDF officers mistook our team for armed bandits,” Wambua said.

Saleh had earlier said the soldiers who were heading to Mandera mistakenly attacked officers attached to the RBPU, a combined team of security officers who patrol the porous border near Lafey. 


Kenyan forces kill 3 Al-Shabaab terrorists

LAMU, Kenya, (Xinhua) -- Kenyan soldiers on Wednesday killed three Al-Shabaab terrorists during a security operation in the vast Boni forest in the coastal Lamu region.

Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) spokesman David Obonyo said the troops who were on a routine patrol along Sarira-Kolbio route encountered the militants following a blast that had been heard early Wednesday.

Obonyo said in a statement that they found the body of a Al-Shabaab member following a suspected premature explosion of improvised explosive device the fighter was trying to place on the road used by the troops.

He said the soldiers were later ambushed by another group of Al-Shabaab militants as they continued with the patrol to clear the area.

“During the engagement, three Al-Shabaab terrorist were killed as others fled into the forest with injuries. The troops recovered three AK rifles, Qty 236 rounds of ammunition, bomb-making materials and personal items,” Obonyo said.

He said there were no casualties on the KDF side and appealed for any information on any individuals seeking medical assistance in the area.

The police and intelligence officials said the terrorists who are fleeing increased airstrikes in southern Somalia are trooping to Lakta belt near Boni Forest in Kenya’s Lamu with an aim of attacking locals.

Security officials said Al-Shabaab have changed tactics and resorted to using IEDs to carry out attacks in coastal and northeast regions. The have been using Boni forest as their hideout and also launch attacks in the region.

The police said the explosive devices strategically planted along the roads near Kenya-Somalia border are slowing down security operations to flush out militants hiding in the vast Boni forest, which is near the Somali border.


Morocco arrests British national over links with drug trafficking  

RABAT, (Xinhua) -- A British national was arrested in Morocco’s Marrakech over links to an international drug trafficking network, the police said in a statement on Wednesday.

According to the statement, the 39-year-old British citizen is subject to two international arrest warrants issued by France and European Union in 2014 and 2016 respectively, for drug trafficking.

The police said the man was arrested on Tuesday immediately after arriving in Morocco on a flight from Doha airport in Qatar.

The suspect was remanded in custody and under an investigation awaiting his extradition procedure. 


Egyptian army kills 15 terrorists in anti-terror raids in North Sinai

CAIRO, (Xinhua) -- The Egyptian forces killed 15 terrorists during anti-terror raids in North Sinai Province northeast of the capital Cairo, a military spokesman said Wednesday.

“The forces also destroyed 11 targets used as shelters and hideouts of terrorist elements,” Military Spokesman Tamer al-Refaay said in a statement.

The raids destroyed 181 mountain huts, hideouts and warehouses containing explosives and chemicals used for making improvised explosive devices, according to the statement.

The army forces launched a massive anti-terror operation on Friday and have killed 53 terrorists until Wednesday, while the police forces have killed 13.

The operation mainly targets the Islamic State (IS) militants in the restive North Sinai bordering Israel and the Palestinian Gaza Strip.

It also covers the Nile Delta provinces and the western borders with eastern war-torn Libya.

The northern part of the Sinai Peninsula has been the center of terrorist attacks that killed hundreds of policemen and soldiers following the military removal of former Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in July 2013 in response to mass protests.

Terror attacks later extended to several other provinces including Cairo and started to target the Coptic minority via church bombings and shootings.

Most of the attacks were claimed by Wilayat Sinai, a Sinai-based IS-affiliated group.

Terrorists in Egypt did not stop at targeting security personnel and Copts, as they attacked a mosque in North Sinai’s Arish city last November, killing at least 310 Muslim worshippers and injuring more than 120 others.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the mosque attack, the deadliest terror attack and the first against a mosque in Egypt’s modern history.

Following the attack, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi ordered the army to restore security and stability in North Sinai within three months.

Egyptian security forces have so far killed hundreds of terrorists and arrested thousands of suspects during the anti-terror war declared by Sisi, the army chief then, following Morsi’s ouster in 2013.

The anti-terror “Comprehensive Operation Sinai 2018” comes weeks before Egypt’s 2018 presidential elections scheduled for late March, where incumbent President Sisi is expected to make an easy win for a second term because of the lack of strong rivals in the race.


Roundup: Mixed reactions over S. African president’s recall

JOHANNESBURG, (Xinhua) -- South African experts expressed mixed reactions to the recall of President Jacob Zuma by his party, the African National Congress (ANC).

ANC secretary general Ace Magashule told the media on Tuesday afternoon that the ruling party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) resolved to recall Zuma and that Zuma has been given until Wednesday to respond.

“The NEC decided to recall its deployee, comrade Jacob Zuma... The decision to recall Jacob Zuma is final. That decision can’t change,” Magashule said.

Goolam Ballim, Standard Bank’s chief economist, said Zuma’s recall would be good for the ANC and the country.

“The market has cheered at this prospect in reality, whether it is justified or not is somewhat academic,” he said.

“The reality is that the markets are celebrating the potential for a new regime and a new epoch of an assault on corruption, better predictability,” said Ballim.

Ballim said Cyril Ramaphosa’s election as the ANC president brought in some optimism and hope.

He said that Ramaphosa’s elevation to the president of the country would ignite more hope for South Africa.

Another analyst, Sipho Seepe, told Xinhua that the ANC needs to sort its internal pressure and renew itself. Seepe said Zuma has been sacrificed for the problems facing the party.

“The ANC has gone through a difficult period. It has to find a way of renewing itself. President Zuma has since been treated as a scapegoat,” Seepe said.

“The very new leadership that calls for his removal is the same lot that defended him in the last nine years,” he added.

Shepherd Mpofu, a research fellow at University of Johannesburg, said the recall is an advantage to the party and improves the chances of winning elections.

“Zuma has been unloved by the markets and we are likely going to see the rand firm,” Mpofu said, referring to the country’s local currency.

“Zuma’s recall definitely improves the ANC’s image towards the 2019 election,” he added.

South Africa is scheduled to hold presidential and parliamentary elections in 2019. The ruling ANC performed poorly in local government elections in 2016.

Some organizations, including the Thabo Mbeki Foundation, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), and the South African Communist Party (SACP), welcomed Zuma’s recall.

“It has been obvious for many years that the interests of our country would be best served if indeed Mr. Zuma ceased to be president of the Republic,” the Mbeki Foundation said in a statement. “As a disciplined and loyal cadre of the ANC and out of respect for the constitution of the country, Mr. Zuma must communicate with the speaker of the House of Assembly to tender his resignation as the president of the republic.”

The recall would give the ruling party chance to attend to many challenges and negative developments which have arisen during the years of Zuma’s presidency, the statement said.

The Congress of South African Trade Unions said if Zuma does not agree to being recalled, the ruling party should follow the parliamentary process of a motion of no confidence.

The South African Communist Party said recalling Zuma would enable the ANC to address challenges facing the country.

“The decision should pave the way to a deep-going, decisive self-correction and greater ANC and Alliance unity to revitalize democratic support from lost ground towards greater heights,” the SACP said in a statement, referring to a tripartite alliance grouping the ANC, the SACP, and COSATU. 


Zuma’s political future not to affect BRICS Summit, say experts

JOHANNESBURG, (Xinhua) -- The potential dimission of the South African president is unlikely to impact the 10th BRICS Summit scheduled for July, said experts.

The 10th BRICS Summit is the 10th annual diplomatic meeting of the BRICS, a grouping of major emerging economies that includes Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

South Africa’s ruling party African National Congress (ANC) on Tuesday ordered President Jacob Zuma to step down as the state head after marathon talks over the fate of the leader.

The potential dimission of the president, according to experts, will not impede the 10th BRICS Summit to be held in July in South Africa, which takes over the rotating chairmanship of BRICS this year.

“The Zuma exit (Zexit) will not affect the BRICS summit. A new South Africa president will convene the summit and the programs will continue,” Gwinyai Dzinesa, a researcher at Centre for Conflict Resolution based in Capetown, South Africa, told Xinhua on Tuesday.

The summit scheduled for July 25-27 at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg will see South Africa push forward the programs of development and prosperity for partner countries.

Zuma had earlier requested a three-month “notice period” before he submits his unconditional resignation, ANC Secretary-General Ace Magashule told the local media on Tuesday.

This proposal was put to the ANC’s National Executive Committee (NEC) on Monday, as it discussed Zuma’s recall from office, but was shot down by the committee.

Zuma has reportedly told Cyril Ramaphosa, the leader of the ANC, that he will use the three months to “introduce him” to international bodies such as the African Union, the United Nations and BRICS.

South Africa will not allow the summit to abort, said Ngqabutho Nicholas Mabhena, a political commentator at the Zimbabwe Communist Party.

“The BRICS mechanism has strengthened cooperation for institutional development, which saw the creation of the New Development Bank (NDB) and the recently launched Africa Regional Centre in Johannesburg,” Mabhena added.

He also said South Africa is willing to see BRICS countries help each other with inclusive economic growth, value-added multilateral trade and investment in productive sectors.

Since South Africa joined the BRICS in 2011, the country has scored major achievements, such as the mentioned NDB.

Gerry Thomas, the chief executive officer of Krispy Kreme, a famous South African food producer, said in an interview that the summit is important and “its organization will be an important milestone towards building stronger solidarity and cooperation among the emerging markets.”

Magashule also said on Tuesday that Zuma has not been given a deadline to resign but is expected to respond to the recall on Wednesday.

As uncertainty over Zuma’s future continues, the South African government has postponed a cabinet meeting scheduled for Wednesday.


S. Africa President Zuma, in TV interview, says disagrees to resign

JOHANNESBURG, (Xinhua) -- “No, I will not resign”, said South African President Jacob Zuma in an exclusive interview with South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) on Wednesday. 

President Zuma Speaks to SABC from Union Building in Pretoria. He demands reasons why he must resign and maintains he did nothing wrong.

“It was very unfair to me that this issue is raised...Nobody has ever provided the reasons. Nobody is saying what I have done,” he said in the interview.


Zuma’s resignation good for political stability, says expert

JOHANNESBURG (Xinhua) -- The resignation of Jacob Zuma as President of South Africa on late Wednesday is good for political stability and consequently economic development in the country, an local expert said.

In an interview with Xinhua late Wednesday night, Ricky Mukanyaradzi Mukonza, Senior Lecturer at Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) Public Management, said the African National Congress (ANC) is the governing party and stability in the party gives a picture certainty in both the political and economic environment.

Zuma’s continued stay as President of the South Africa hurts the country because his tenure has been perceived to be littered with allegations of corruption and other forms of mal-governance and this does not create an environment to attract investors, he added.

Zuma faces an uncertain future considering that he is likely to be taken to court on various cases that are hanging over his head, the expert added.

The new president is expected to rebuild the image of the South African government, especially on issues relating to corruption, said Mukonza.

Zuma resigned Wednesday evening as president under the pressure of the ruling party ANC.

“The ANC should never be divided in my name. I have therefore come to the decision to resign,” Zuma said on Wednesday evening at Union Building in a 30-minute farewell address to the nation.


S. African President Zuma resigns “to avoid dividing the party”

JOHANNESBURG, (Xinhua) -- South African President Jacob Zuma announced on Wednesday evening that he just resigned as president because he did not want to divide the ruling party.

“The ANC (African National Congress) should never be divided in my name. I have therefore come to the decision to resign,” Zuma said in a 30-minute address to the nation at Union building here in Johannesburg.

Seventy-five-year-old Zuma told the media that even though he did not agree with the ANC, he had decided to resign. He said he believed he should have been removed through constitutional means. 

“I must accept that if my party and my compatriots wish that I be removed from office, they must exercise that right and do so in the matter prescribed in the manner of the constitution,” he said.

“I have therefore come to the decision to resign as president with immediate effect. Even though I disagree with the decision of the leadership of my organization. I have always been a disciplined member of the ANC,” he added.

He said that his decision followed his recalling by the ANC’s national executive committee on Tuesday and weeks of speculation about his future as president.

Zuma said while working as president, it had been a great learning experience and a mammoth task.

The ANC, which replaced Zuma as party leader in December with Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, ordered him to step down as president on Tuesday over curruption allegations against Zuma.

Ramaphosa is now acting president, and will be sworn in as president either Thursday or Friday.

NEW YORK, (Xinhua) -- File photo taken on Sept. 20, 2017 shows that South African President Jacob Zuma addresses the 72nd session of United Nations General Assembly on the second day of the general debate at the UN headquarters in New York. South African President Jacob Zuma declared his resignation when addressing the nation on Feb. 14, 2018. XINHUA PHOTO: LI RUI

U.S. keen to benefit from Algeria’s counterterrorism experience: official

ALGIERS, (Xinhua) -- Visiting U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for African Affairs Alan Patterson said Tuesday the U.S. is keen to benefit from Algeria’s experience in combating terrorism.

Following his meeting with Algerian Foreign Minister Abdelkader Messahel in Algiers, Patterson told reporters that the talks were held as part of the eighth Algerian-U.S. military dialogue.

Patterson said they discussed the issue of strengthening security consultation through the exchange of information and experience, especially as Algeria plays a pivotal role in the fight against terrorism.

The U.S. official added that the U.S. would like to benefit from Algeria’s experience in order to contribute to the achievement of security and stability in the region and the world.

For his part, Masahel said he discussed with the U.S. official ways of strengthening bilateral relations, and exchanged views over issues of common interest, including the situation in the region, especially in Libya, Mali and the Sahel countries in general.

He said the meeting was “fruitful” as it enabled the two parties to enhance bilateral cooperation and coordination in terms of the fight against terrorism, whether bilaterally, within the United Nations, or on the level of the Global Forum against Terrorism.

Algeria and the U.S. are due to hold their fifth Bilateral Strategic Dialogue on Security and Counterterrorism in June in Algiers.

The dialogue is to assess bilateral counterterrorism partnership amid emerging threats in the North African region, Algerian Foreign Ministry said days ago, following the visit of Principal Deputy Coordinator for Counterterrorism at the U.S. Department of State Alina Romanowski.

Algeria also is due to to host in April a conference on the international fight against terrorism and cutting off financial sources for terrorists, as part of the Global Counterterrorism Forum held in collaboration with the African Union.


AU team in Somalia to assess peacekeeping operations

MOGADISHU, (Xinhua) -- An African Union (AU) team is in Somalia to assess peacekeeping activities as the transfer of responsibilities from AU mission to Somali national security forces gains momentum, officials said on Wednesday.

The AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) said the ten-men delegation from the AU Peace Support Operations Division arrived in Mogadishu on Tuesday for a four-day mission and is scheduled to hold talks with senior government, UN and AU mission officials.

“The discussions will focus on a wide range of issues among them peacekeeping activities, achievements made and challenges being experienced in securing Somalia and transfer of responsibilities to Somali national security forces among others,” said the AU mission.

Francisco Madeira, Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission for Somalia who held talks with the delegation explained that the delegation is in the country on a routine assessment mission.

“They have very specific objectives to see how we are working, what our challenges are; what are our relations with our hosts and how we plan for the transition,” Madeira said.

He noted that the delegation had frank discussions with the government of Somalia officials on issues focusing on peace and stability, noting that discussions also dwelt on the transition plan and the implementation challenges.

“We had the opportunity to speak frankly about the challenges we are facing; coordination activities; how to enhance interaction and unity, and particularly the political atmosphere and movement between us,” he added.

AMISOM has begun implementing a conditions based transition plan that will see it handing over the country’s security responsibilities to Somali national security forces.

The Peace Support Operations Division is mandated to plan, launch, sustain, monitor and liquidate all Peace Support Operations authorized by the AU.


Nigerian troops kill 186 Boko Haram fighters in one month: official

ABUJA, (Xinhua) -- The Nigerian army on Wednesday said 186 Boko Haram fighters have been killed in the past one month by troops in the ongoing clearance operation in the country’s northeast and Lake Chad region.

Rogers Nicholas, commander of the Nigerian troops in Maiduguri, the capital of the northern state of Borno, said the clearance operation had yielded positive results, decimated and degraded the Boko Haram group.

Nicholas said the troops destroyed and took total control of the “Camp Zairo,” a tactical ground of the terror group in Borno.

More than 1,000 Boko Haram fighters had reportedly surrendered or were captured by troops, following the operation.

On Tuesday, Nigerian leader Muhammadu Buhari said that with the narrowing of the recruitment base of the Boko Haram terror group, the era of terrorism is gradually drawing to an end in the west African country.

Buhari noted that the terrorist group has lost its appeal in its initial strongholds, necessitating a steady retreat that will eventually culminate in ending attacks.

Boko Haram has been trying since 2009 to establish an Islamic state in northeastern Nigeria. More than 15,000 people have been killed and millions displaced.


At least 7 killed in road accident in Western Kenya

KISII, Kenya, (Xinhua) -- At least seven people died and two others were injured in a grisly road accident in Kisii County of Western Kenya on Tuesday evening, according to police.

Philip Wambugu, divisional police commander of town Keroka, confirmed on Wednesday that the accident occurred along Kisii-Keroka highway, when the driver lost control of the vehicle before it veered off the road.

“The vehicle was carrying six passengers. We will confirm the nature of other survivors who are hospitalized,” said Wambugu, he added that two injured predestrians also has been rushed to the hospital.

The police commander said the car was speeding when the accident happened. The police suspected that the brakes was failed when the car was descending a steep slope.

According to the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA), the death toll has ascended to more than 300 since Dec 1, 2017.

According to NTSA’s preliminary investigations, the causes of these crashes include overs-peeding, lane indiscipline, reckless driving and driving under the influence of alcohol. 


1st LD-Writethru: Zimbabwe opposition leader Tsvangirai dies aged 65

HARARE, (Xinhua) --  Zimbabwe’s main opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who has been battling colon cancer, died at a South African hospital Wednesday.

A message posted by one of his deputies in the MDC-T party Elias Mudzuri confirmed his death.

Tsvangirai announced in 2016 that he had been diagnosed with colon cancer and had been in and out of hospital for some time.

“It is sad for me to announce that we have lost our icon and fighter for democracy,” Mudzuri said.

A former trade unionist, Tsvangirai had been the face of Zimbabwean opposition politics since 2009.

He became prime minister in an inclusive government led by former President Robert Mugabe in 2009 following disputed elections the previous year.

He had been chosen by the broader MDC Alliance to be the coalition’s presidential candidate in elections slated for 2018. 

HARARE, (Xinhua) -- File photo taken on Jan. 5, 2018 shows that Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa ® meets with the Movement for Democratic Change-Tsvangirai (MDC-T) leader and former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai © at Tsvangirai’s home in Harare, Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe’s main opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who has been battling colon cancer, died at a South African hospital on Feb. 14, 2018. XINHUA PHOTO: WANDA

Extreme weather kills 34 in 13 days in Mozambique

MAPUTO, (Xinhua) -- The Mozambique Institute for Disaster Management (INGC) announced Wednesday that 34 people died as a result of extreme weather condition in the northern and central region of the country in the past 13 days.  

“Of this number 17 were victims of lightning strikes, 2 drawn, and 12 were victims of strong winds, 2 were swept away by water and one was electrocuted,” said Paulo Tomas, the INGC spokesperson, in a press conference.

“During this period the total number of affected people is 3,925 from about 796 families,” added the spokesperson.

The institute did not rule out possibilities of more damages as more rain is expected in the coming four days in the central and northern regions.

The rainy season in Mozambique will last until the end of March and the INGC said it is assisting victims in the affected region with temporary shelters and food.


Study reveals pets help people with mental health conditions

LONDON, (Xinhua) -- People who own pets are better able to manage mental health conditions, a study published Wednesday by three British universities revealed.

In what was the first systematic review of existing evidence, researchers at Manchester, Liverpool and Southampton showed how owning a dog or cat, or keeping goldfish, hamsters and finches helps people with long-term mental health problems.

Published in the journal BMC Psychiatry, academics from the three universities reviewed a collection of academic papers on the impact of animal ownership.

The team searched databases and looked for unpublished literature which identified 8,145 articles that were studied by the team of academics.

The studies found that pets helped pet owners to better manage their feelings and provided a powerful distraction from the stress of having mental health problems. The animals were seen as being non-judgmental about their owners and owning them helped alleviate loneliness.

Some pets were also seen as helpful in terms of encouraging physical activity, such as walking the dog, but also allowing them to engage socially with other pet owners.

One hamster owner said merely cleaning its cage and feeding the animal gave her a purpose.

Helen Brooks from the University of Liverpool said: “Pets provided acceptance without judgement, giving unconditional support, which they were often not receiving from other family or social relationships.”

Kelly Rushton, from the University of Manchester said: “Pet ownership has a valuable contribution to mental health, so should be incorporated into individual care plans of patients.”

“This sort of intervention also offers an opportunity to involve patients in their own mental health service provision through open discussion of what works best for them,” Rushton said. 


Feature: Displaced Tawerghans in Libya yearn for early return to home

By Mahmoud Darwesh, Nawas Darraji TRIPOLI, (Xinhua) -- About 200 displaced families of Tawergha in western Libya are currently stranded in the desert area near their city, as their return to home scheduled for early February has been obstructed by armed groups from the neighboring city of Misurata.

“The situation is difficult and tragic in terms of health and environment. There is cold, rain and dust that hurt the families. Some of them here were stung by scorpions,” said Abdurrahman Shakshak, the head of the municipal council of Tawergha.

“The camp is unprotected and the sandy wind makes it difficult to see and move. It has caused many health problems, especially for children and the elderly,” he added.

However, these families refused to leave without returning home according to the reconciliation agreement between Tawergha and Misurata.

“The lack of tents has made dozens of families wait in their cars. They do not want to go back to the former displacement camps, but are determined to stay in this camp near the city,” Shakshak noted, without specifying a date for return.

“We are waiting to be allowed to enter directly. There is no chance to go back or retreat from our demand to enter the city we abandoned seven years ago,” he explained.

During the 2011 uprising, some residents of Tawergha allied with the forces of former leader Muammar Gaddafi against the rebels of the nearby city of Misurata.

After Gaddafi’s regime was toppled, those residents, accused by Misurata of actively participating in the fighting against them, fled their homes to others cities in Libya. Since then, they have been internally displaced.

In August 2016, representatives of Tawergha and Misurata signed a UN-sponsored draft reconciliation agreement to allow the nearly 40,000 Tawerghan refugees to return home.

Last December, UN-backed Prime Minister Fayez Serraj announced that Taweghans will return home on Feb. 1.

However, the city of Misurata has demanded for postponement of the return, slamming the government’s unilateral announcement of the return date as a move without fully implementing the agreement, particularly in terms of “reconciliation, extradition, taking security measures and compensation for all parties.”

Mohamed Radwan, the president of the Association of Missing and Detained Persons of Tawergha, said such allegations are incorrect “because all the differences were settled through the reconciliation agreement.”

“The date of return was set by the government. When more than 15,000 displaced people gathered from the west and east of the country to return home, we were surprised when seeing armed groups firing guns and dispersing people to force them to retreat,” Radwan said.

Ahmad Al-Agta, the head of the field hospital in the desert camp, said more than 700 were treated in the hospital, and some in critical conditions have been transferred to hospitals in Beni Walid and the capital Tripoli.

“How can we live without water and electricity? It is a human tragedy,” complained 60-year-old Mohamed Meloud.

Fatima Massoud, 70, whose son was tortured to death four years ago in a prison in Misurata, also expressed disappointment.

“We came here and did not think they would treat us like this. We lived together without problems like brothers and good neighbors,” she said, demanding a humane and peaceful return.

“We have been displaced and tired of moving from one place to another. We are willing to return without any aids from anyone. We will live off bread and water only, as long as we are allowed to return to our beloved land,” the old woman said, with tears rolling in her eyes.

For 11-year-old Jaida, Tawergha is also the hometown she is always eager to go back to.

“We want to go back to Tawergha. We want to go back to our schools, and to play with our neighbors,” said Jaida, smiling innocently.

Meanwhile, the Libyan government has warned against the attempts to undermine the reconciliation agreement between Tawergha and Misurata.

“History will witness those who obstructed the return. Let the return of the people of Tawergha to their city become a new era of comprehensive national reconciliation,” the government said early in February.

According to Minister of the Affairs of Displaced People Yusuf Jalal, the government is making intensive efforts to convince relevant forces to stop obstructing the return of Tawerghans.

However, almost two weeks after the scheduled date of return, there is yet no ease of tension in prospect that could allow displaced Tawerghans to return to home.


Five soldiers killed in mine explosion in eastern Algeria

ALGIERS, (Xinhua) -- As many as five Algerian soldiers were killed Wednesday when a home-made mine exploded near the Tunisian border, local media reported.

Quoting a security source, El Khabar newspaper said in its electronic website that a high ranking officer was among the 5 victims, while two other soldiers were injured.

The source specified that the mine exploded at the passage of a patrol of soldiers which was on its way to back up army troops who are conducting a wide scale dragging operation along the border with Tunisia.

The dead corps were transferred to the morgue of the military hospital in the eastern province of Constantine, while the injured soldiers were rushed to hospital to get medical treatments.

Some elements of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), led by Abdelmalek Droukdel, alias Abu Musab Abdelwadoud, 47, are scattered in the eastern mountains and forests of northern Algeria.

The terrorists tend to plough home-made mines and conduct occasional attacks against army or police forces by targeting their patrols.

Located in a region plagued by unprecedented security and political instability, Algeria faces ongoing terrorist threats, as tens of thousands of troops are deployed on eastern and southern border to thwart potential intrusion of militants.   


Kenyan manufacturers to seek advanced technology in China

NAIROBI, (Xinhua) -- Kenyan manufacturers will visit China in April to learn ways of enhancing technology, officials said on Wednesday.

Job Wanjohi, Head of Policy, Research and Advocacy at the Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) told Xinhua in Nairobi that a delegation of manufacturers are set to participate in the Beijing conference on investment and technology transfer.

“We hope to get knowledge on new technologies from Chinese manufacturers that we can deploy in Kenya in order to improve the competitiveness of our sector,” Wanjohi said on the sidelines of the Pre-Budget Hearing for the 2018/2019 financial year that was conducted by the Institute of Economic Affairs.

KAM has prioritized 13 sectors in manufacturing ranging from food, beverage and automotive sectors that will uplift the industrial sector.

Wanjohi said China has over the past three decades invested in manufacturing innovations that have made the Asian nation the most competitive source of industrial merchandise globally.

Wanjohi said Kenya’s manufacturing sector has stagnated at around ten percent of Gross Domestic Product for the past decade.

“The key challenge facing manufacturers is high cost of production that has made imported goods to be competitive locally,” he added.

The manufacturers lobby hopes to benefit from technology transfer from their Chinese peers. “We will use Chinese technology to convert locally available raw materials into goods for export,” he added.


Experts seek heavy investments in Africa’s technology revolution

KIGALI, (Xinhua) -- Technology experts from Africa and beyond on Wednesday pushed for increased investments in the information and communications technology (ICT) industry in Africa to accelerate the continent’s digital revolution.

They were speaking at the Africa Tech Summit opening on Wednesday in the Rwandan capital Kigali, which aims to explore the latest trends in digital technology.

Rwanda is hosting the forum from Feb. 14 to 15, which has attracted about 250 African and international technology leaders, experts and enthusiasts.

“Africa remains one of the preferred frontiers for investment opportunities and doing business, but little investments are channeled towards ICTs which hampers the growth of the technology sector,” said Proud Dzambukira, a strategic product partnerships manager of Facebook.

“In order to promote Africa as the next global technology hub, heavy investments are needed in this sector in the next 10 years.”

He said Africa’s infrastructure has improved over the past few years with new roads, airports, energy plants and communication networks and this should provide a solid ground for investors to massively invest in ICT.

According to Marieme Diop, investment associate at Orange Digital Ventures in Senegal, investment in technology has played a crucial role in the growth of the most developed economies in Europe, Asia, Middle East and the Americas.

“We need increased investments in ICTs to develop African economies to move from agriculture based to knowledge based. In Africa, government’s budgets are often stretched, with funding being directed towards more pressing needs such as healthcare, agriculture and education,” she added.

According to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), only 22 percent of Africa’s population used the Internet in 2016, compared to a global average of 44 percent.


Researcher urges Kenya to increase investments in agriculture

NAIROBI, (Xinhua) -- A Kenyan researcher on Wednesday called on the government to increase investments in agriculture in order to boost economic growth.

Tim Njagi, a Research Fellow and Development Economist at the Tegemeo Institute, an agricultural think tank, told an economic forum in Nairobi that Kenya’s economy is underperforming due to low public investments in agriculture.

“Increased investments in agriculture will result in an overall economic boost for Kenya given that a significant proportion of the labor force derives livelihood from the sector,” Njagi said during the Pre-Budget Hearings for the 2018/2019 financial year that were conducted by the Institute of Economic Affairs.

Njagi noted that Kenya is yet to achieve the target of the Maputo Declaration of Agriculture of 2003, where African nations committed to devote at least ten percent of national budgets on agriculture.

He noted that the country has allocated approximately 350 million U.S. dollars or 2.4 percent of the national budget on agriculture for the 2017/2018 financial year.

He added that increasing funding in agriculture will help to unlock the potential of the sector.

Njagi said the majority of food production is realized by small scale farmers who need access to modern technology, markets and affordable credit in order to boost their incomes.

He said additional public resources should be devoted to hire skilled agricultural extension workers who can train farmers on the latest agricultural techniques.

According to Tegemeo Institute, the declining agricultural yields among most crops have made the sector unattractive especially to the the young generation.


400 new Libyan special forces members graduate

TRIPOLI, (Xinhua) -- A graduation ceremony was held here Tuesday for 400 new Libyan special forces members who will be deployed to guard important figures and institutions throughout the country.

“900 civilians involved in security service have been trained. After that, 400 members of special operations missions have graduated,” Captain Hatem Al-Gamati, the spokesman of the special forces, told Xinhua.

The trainees took five months of theoretical lessons and hard field exercises, Al-Gamati said, stressing that the tasks of the special forces include protecting state institutions. He also said work points and tasks will be expanded in the future.

Attended by Libyan Prime Minister Fayez Serraj and other security and military leaders, the ceremony was held in the Tripoli Maritime Base.

Since the fall of the Gaddafi regime in 2011, the Libyan authorities have been struggling to prepare and form security services capable of countering armed militias, which outgun the regular forces.

TRIPOLI, (Xinhua) -- Trainees perform during the graduation ceremony in Tripoli, Libya, on Feb. 13, 2018. A graduation ceremony was held here Tuesday for 400 new Libyan special forces members who will be deployed to guard important figures and institutions throughout the country. XINHUA PHOTO: HAMZA TURKIA

Malawi suspends sim card registration due to eavesdropping fears

LILONGWE, Malawi, (Xinhua) -- The Malawian government has suspended a weeks-long mass registration of sim cards due to public concerns, Minister of Information and Communications Technology Nicholas Dausi said in a statement Tuesday.

The Malawi National Assembly enacted a new Communication Act in July 2016, which requires all sim cards to be registered. The registration was scheduled from Jan. 1 to March 31. However, it triggered fears that the authorities would listen to private phone calls.

Dausi said the government has taken note of the concerns and has decided to defer the registration until the issues are addressed.

The statement added that the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology would engage the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority, telephone operators and other stakeholders in a mass awareness campaign to address the issues raised.


Ugandan president thanks China for supporting Africa’s development

KAPEEKA, UGANDA, (Xinhua) -- While inspecting a Chinese-built industrial park here Tuesday, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni expressed his gratitude to the Chinese people for continuously supporting African countries’ pursuit for economic independence.

Accompanied by Chinese Ambassador to Uganda Zheng Zhuqiang, Museveni was inspecting the Liaoshen Industrial Park in Kapeeka in Nakaseke District, about 70 km north of Uganda’s capital city of Kampala. He said China’s support for Africa dated back to the early years following the People’s Republic of China.

“The Chinese have been working with us since the anti-colonial struggle. (Late Chairman) Mao Zedong started supporting us even when (China was) still underdeveloped,” Museveni said.

He mentioned in particular the Tanzania-Zambia railway China helped build in the 1960s, saying the project broke “the blockade by the South African Whites.”

“Now China is doing more to support Africa and Uganda in particular. They are working with Africa for mutual prosperity. I congratulate them for finishing the year of the chicken and entering the year of the dog,” the president said. Friday marks the beginning of the Chinese Lunar New Year.

Covering an area of covering 600 acres (2.4 square km), Liaoshen Industrial Park, is expected to accommodate 80 industries and employ up to 16,000 people by 2025.

Ambassador Zheng said in an interview that Chinese investors will invest about 600 million U.S. dollars in the industrial park before it is in full operation.

“At present, there are three factories in operation, namely a fruit processing factory, a maize storage and mill, as well as a ceramics factory,” Zheng said.

Uganda received a total of 219 million U.S. dollars of foreign direct investment from China by the end of 2017, and a booming number of Chinese-invested industrial parks is expected in the African country, adding to the four of them already in place now.

According to Zheng, the Liaoshen Industrial Park, whose manufacturing operation is expected to begin in March, has already employed more than 1,000 local workers, with about 90 percent of the raw material for tiles and other ceramics acquired from Uganda as well.


Kenya’s Chebii faces stiff challenge in quest to retain Lake Biwa marathon title

NAIROBI, (Xinhua) -- Kenya’s Ezekiel Chebii said he is keen to defend his title in the Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon on March 4 in Japan after missing out on the World Half Marathon team. 

Chebii, who holds a personal best time of 2:06:07,  will face a line-up including Switzerland’s Tadesse Abraham (2:06:40), Ethiopia’s Abera Kuma (2:05:56) and Italy’s European marathon champion Daniele Meucci (2:10:56).

Last year, Chebii led compatriot Vincent Kipruto to a 1-2 finish in the men’s race edging out Ugandan Solomon Mutai to third place timed at 2:09:59.

“I was hoping to run under two hours and six minutes but the last half of the race was quite difficult with wind. Hopefully this year it will present better weather and fast pace setters because I intend to run fast time,” Chebii said on Wednesday.

Leading domestic runners in the field include Satoru Sasaki (2:08:56), Takuya Noguchi (2:08:59) and Takuya Fukatsu (2:09:31) while New Zealand’s Jake Robertson will make his marathon debut.

Meanwhile, in Rotterdam, Ethiopians Getu Feleke (2:04:50) and Mule Wasihun (2:05:39) are the fastest runners on paper for the Dutch Port city Marathon on April 8.  

The lineup also includes five more runners with sub-2:07 best times including Kenyans Laban Korir (2:06:05), Marius Kipserem (2:06:11), Festus Talam (2:06:13), Felix Kirwa (2:06:13) and Ethiopia’s Kelkile Gezahegh (2:06:56).


Kenya’s Bett seeks Commonwealth Games redemption after injury scare

NAIROBI, (Xinhua) -- Former world 400m hurdles champion Nicholas Bett of Kenya is hopeful he will redeem his career starting with victory at the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast from April 4-15.

It will be the second time Bett will be competing in the Club Games after failing to make the finals at the 2014 edition in Glasgow.

He emerged from obscurity to stake claim to the gold at the Beijing Worlds in 2015, but his star dimmed thereafter compounded with poor form and injury.

He missed the Beijing Olympics after being disqualified in the preliminary rounds and his comeback last year ended prematurely as he pulled out of Shanghai Diamond League meeting with a right leg injury.

“It is over now. I started treatment after returning from Shanghai in May and now I feel am back to my best form,” he said on Wednesday in Nairobi.

The 28-year-old started his training in November last year with endurance tests and moved to South Africa, where he camped for two months. But he is back in Nairobi ahead of the Kenya trials for the Commonwealth games on Saturday.

“I have put behind the disappointment from Rio Olympics and the withdrawal from the 2017 World Championships. I have regained my fitness and now the target it to get the ticket for Commonwealth Games,”  said Bett.

The former Africa 400m bronze medalist has a personal best time of 47.79 from Beijing but will have to face a stiff challenge from compatriots his brother Haron Koech, a semi-finalist at the London Worlds and Rio Olympics 400m hurdles silver medalist Boniface Mucheru. Others are Aron Koech, Emmanuel Lagat, David Saruni and Cosmas Meli.


FIA boss Todt to visit Kenya for Safari Rally readmission

NAIROBI, (Xinhua) -- Organizers of Kenya’s premier motor racing event, the Safari Rally believe a visit by International Federation of Automobile (FIA) President Jean Todt this month will clear all hurdles before the event is readmitted to the World Rally Championship.

It has been 15 years since the Safari rally was axed from the then 14-tier World Rally Championships mainly due to poor safety measures, lack of sponsorship and government support.

With Todt third visit in four years set for Feb 27, Kenya expect to clear any pending hurdles to reclaim their global status.

Phineas Kimathi, Kenya’s head of the Organizing Committee selected to work on modalities to return the event to the WRC, said by 2020 Safari Rally will be part of the global racing circuit.

“It is true Todt is returning for another visit. He has since met president Uhuru Kenyatta and other top sports officials. The government has given its assurance and there is goodwill from corporate firms to support the event,” he said.

Todt said it will make the WRC complete by having one leg in Africa in order to have a global appeal.

“Africa is a very key region for the FIA but the necessary guarantees set by the FIA must be met for Safari Rally to be readmitted,” he said.

The Safari Rally, which is arguably the most difficult rally to conquer, started in 1953 as part of the coronation for the England Queen and remained the top spot in the WRC until 2002.

Currently the WRC is staged in Monaco, Sweden, Mexico, France, Argentina, Portugal, Italy, Poland, Finland, Germany, Spain, England and Australia. 


Kenya Prisons put mark on quest for Africa Club Cup glory

NAIROBI,  (Xinhua) -- Kenya Prisons volleyball club is hopeful their hard work in training will be rewarded with victory at the Africa Club Championships, which will be staged in Caro, Egypt from March 6-15.

Head coach David Lung’aho has moved to camp with his team and hopes to blend both young and experienced players to recapture the title they last won four years ago.

“We have made progress in strengthening the team. The players are responding very well, the young players that we brought on board like Sharon Chepchumba and Laureen Chebet will be critical in learning the new strength.

“We know each team enters this competition with hopes of winning. But we need to focus on building our own winning mentality, strengthening it and making the players feel they are the best and hopeful that will inspire them to perform better this time,” said Lung’aho.

Over 20 clubs have already have confirmation their participation, beating the old record of 18 teams which happened twice in 2008 and 2017.

Among the teams eyeing the continental glory are hosts Al-Ahly of Egypt, who have been successful in the competition a record eight times.

Another local side Kenya Pipeline, will be eyeing their eighth title with other teams being defending champions Carthage, Marsa (Tunisia), El-Shams Club (Egypt), Alexandria Sporting (Egypt), DGSP (DRC), Asec Mimosas (Cote d’Ivoire), Vision VB, Nkumba University (Uganda), BDF (Botswana), AS Douanes, Muzinga (Burundi), Canon de Ndjii, VB Club (Congo), Injis, FAP, Bafia and Nyong et Kelle (Cameroon).

Last year, Prisons won bronze after edging out former champions Al-Ahly 3-2 in an event that was hosted in Monstir City, Tunisia with home side Carthage beating El-Shams in the finals to claim the gold medal.

Lung’aho is keen to dig deep and stage a surprise to his North African rivals. The winners of this competition will have another chance to compete at the qualifying events for the World Club Championships.


Zambia’s premier soccer league to kick off in March

LUSAKA, (Xinhua) -- Zambia’s premier soccer league will kicked off on March 17, the country’s soccer governing body said on Wednesday.

Desmond Katongo, communications manager of the Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) said the league will be preceded by the holding of the traditional league opener—the Charity Shield semi-finals clash on March 3, with the final slated for March 10.

In the charity shield, Zesco United, the 2017 champions will face Napsa Stars while 12-time league champions Nkana will face Zanaco, he said in a statement.



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