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XINHUA NEWS SERVICE REPORTS FROM THE AFRICAN CONTINENT

 

 
MALI-BAMAKO-CHINA-FM-MEETING | COASTWEEK

BAMAKO, (Xinhua) -- Visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (L) meets with his Malian counterpart Abdoulaye Diop in Bamako, Mali, May 21, 2017. XINHUA PHOTO BY: XING JIANQIAO

Five soldiers killed in helicopter crash in Algeria 

ALGIERS, (Xinhua) -- A military helicopter crashed on Sunday overnight in the province of Tipaza, west of the Algerian capital of Algiers, killing all the five soldiers on board, local media reported.

The Algerian navy helicopter crashed at a farm in Hamr el Ain during a reconnaissance mission. The aircraft lost control after hitting a high voltage electric post, Ennahar TV channel reported, quoting local eye witnesses.

No Defense Ministry statement has yet been issued to provide more details about the incident.

In March 2016, the last military helicopter crash in the North African country killed 12 soldiers and injured two others.

The past three years have seen several crashes of Algerian military aircraft, the most serious of which was a C-130 Hercules air force aircraft crash in February 2014, killing 77 servicemen. 

  

Algeria to form new cabinet soon after installation of new parliament

ALGIERS, (Xinhua) -- Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal said on Friday that President Abdelaziz Bouteflika will form a new cabinet soon after the installation of the new parliament.

“The formation of the cabinet falls under the authority of President of the Republic Abdelaziz Bouteflika, and it is to be announced after the installation of the new National People’s Council (lower house of parliament) following elections of May 4,” Sellal told reporters at a ceremony in the capital Algiers.

The prime minister also commented on the refusal of Islamist movement of Society of Peace (MSP) to join the cabinet.

“We invited them to join the cabinet team, but the offer was declined by the party’s Advisory Council. This does not mean that we won’t deal with MSP in the future. After all we are all Algerians and partisans of national reconciliation,” he said.

Despite Bouteflika’s efforts to include all political factions into the new cabinet, regardless of Islamists, secular (left-wing) or nationals (right-wing), major opposition parties such as the Labour Party, the Socialist Forces Front and the Rally for Culture and Democracy, in addition to Islamist parties, have all refused to join.

The May 4 parliamentary elections were won by the ruling parties of National Liberation Front, which seized 161 seats, and the National Democratic Rally, with 100 seats secured.

Experts say the two parties will also command a majority in the forthcoming cabinet. 

  

South African deputy president supports independent probe into “state capture”

CAPE TOWN, (Xinhua) -- South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday called for the establishment of an independent judicial commission to thoroughly investigate all allegations of “state capture.”

“Only through such a commission will we be able to establish the extent to which the institutions of our state have been used to improperly - and illegally - enrich a few individuals and families,” Ramaphosa said while giving a lecture in the platinum-mining hub of Rustenburg, North West Province.

He was referring to the Gupta saga in which the wealthy Indian Gupta family allegedly exerts undue influence on President Jacob Zuma in the appointments of cabinet ministers and CEOs of state-owned enterprises.

Both Zuma and the Guptas have denied the allegations.

Last year, South Africa’s graft ombudsman recommended the establishment of a judicial commission into the alleged “state capture.”

An independent judicial commission would help get to the bottom of these rumours, reports, and allegations, Ramaphosa said.

“We must act to stop all forms of capture, corruption, and cronyism,” Ramaphosa noted.

As part of these efforts, the Financial Intelligence Centre Amendment (FICA) bill must now be actively implemented, in particular as it relates to so-called “politically exposed persons,” to ensure that there is no space for illicit financial activity, said Ramaphosa.

The bill is aimed at further strengthening the transparency and integrity of the South African financial system in its objectives to combat financial crimes, which include tax evasion, money laundering and the financing of terrorism and illicit financial flows.

In April, Zuma signed the bill into law.

Ramaphosa also said the ruling African National Congress (ANC) must fight rampant corruption and narrow personal enrichment.

Ramaphosa warned that South Africa faces the risk of becoming a mafia state.

“If we are to counter this grave threat, if the ANC is to recover its leadership role in society, then it is absolutely imperative that we act with urgency and purpose,” he said.

The ANC must ensure that South Africa does not become a mafia state “because once you reach that state, all the wheels have come off,” said Ramaphosa.

The ANC, he said, must implement lifestyle audits of all those in leadership structures.

“We must introduce, as has been proposed by the ANC this week, transparency into party political funding. All of these steps must be implemented without fear or favour. They must not be guided by factional interests,” Ramaphosa added.

  

S. African civil society groups march against women, child abuse

By Stanley Karombo PRETORIA, (Xinhua) -- South Africa’s civil society groups on Saturday marched against women abuse in Pretoria amid a series of rapes and murders in recent weeks.

Although it is difficulty to have precise figures of the rape cases in South Africa, it is reported to be one of the countries with highest rates of female murders by their intimate partners.

According to government statistics, a woman is killed by a current or ex-intimate partner every six hours in South Africa, and 21 percent of women over 18 reported experiencing violence by a partner. Eight percent of women reported experiencing violence in the past 12-month period.

Under the banner “not in my name,” the groups marched against gender violence in the wake of the deaths of several women and kids.

The nation this month was shocked by news of a gruesome murder of Karabo Mokoena, 22, who was sexually abused before charred beyond recognition by her boyfriend.

“We call on all men to stop killing and burning women beyond recognition. Men have gathered here today to speak against gender-based violence,” Siyabulela Jentile, one of the organizers of the event, told Xinhua on Saturday.

“As men, we’ve broken that long silence. No man should beat a woman or rape a woman while you’re watching,” he said.

South African Deputy Minister of Justice John Jeffery said concerted effort was needed to halt the scourge of gender violence in the country.

“These cases are really horrific and they’re a terrible reflection of humanity. We will do whatever we can to ensure the perpetrators are brought to book and tried in court,” said Jeffery.

He also disclosed a new collaboration between his department and UNICEF to effectively tackle sexual offense issues, but bemoaned a lack of resources, infrastructure and the cost as hammering the program in some rural areas.

  

Sudanese army repulses attacks by armed groups in Darfur

KHARTOUM, (Xinhua) -- Sudanese army said Saturday it repulsed two separate attacks by two armed groups in east and north of Darfur region.

The army said in a statement that the two groups moved simultaneously from Libya and South Sudan.

“Our forces and the Rapid Support Forces have managed to repulse simultaneous attacks in North and East Darfur by two armed groups that moved from Libya and South Sudan,” the statement said.

It added that the clashes were still continuing at the two areas of the attacks.

According to the statement, the army succeeded in repulsing the aggression because the armed forces and other security bodies have been closely following the movements of the mercenary armed groups in South Sudan and Libya as they were preparing to target the prevailing peace and stability in Sudan generally and Darfur States in particular.

The army statement did not mention any details on the number of killed and injured people from both sides.

The Sudanese army has been fighting three armed groups in Darfur including the Justice and Equality Movement, the Sudan Liberation Movement and the Sudan Liberation Army.

  

Tunisian soldiers disperse sit-in protest demanding social justice

TUNIS, (Xinhua) -- Tunisian soldiers dispersed a sit-in protest on Saturday in southeastern region after protesters stormed a petrol station in the desert, local sources told Xinhua.

The military fired warning shots to disperse the crowd, while respecting the peaceful aspect of the movement, a source said on condition of anonymity.

This sit-in protest, supported by a group of civil society and non-government organizations, has lasted dozens of days in the commune of Al Kamour in the province of Tataouine, the source said.

The protest aims to “stimulate the government’s awareness of the urgent needs of this region, including equitable development and social justice in terms of employability,” according to the coordinator of the sit-in.

Despite a series of measures announced by Tunisia’s Minister of Employment Imed Hammami, many protesters still called the government’s response insufficient.

An agreement reached between the government and the protesters demands recruitment of 1,000 people in oil companies from June 2017, and 500 more by the end of 2018.

In addition, the government has injected 50 million dinars (20.5 million U.S. dollars) into an annual investment fund.

  

UN refugee agency to step up humanitarian work in Libya

TRIPOLI, (Xinhua) -- The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Filippo Grandi said on Sunday that the UNHCR is stepping up its humanitarian work in Libya to help the country tackle the worsening situation.

Grandi made the comments on a visit to Libya’s capital Tripoli on Sunday, where he met with refugees and migrants in some detention centers.

“I was shocked at the harsh conditions in which refugees and migrants are held, generally due to lack of resources. Children, women and men who have suffered so much already should not have to endure such hardship,” Grandi said.

“We should not underestimate the challenges of operating in an unstable and volatile environment such as Libya today. Our ability to access and effectively deliver much needed protection and assistance is a constant challenge. The people we are trying to help and my staff live and work under enormous strain and risks,” the UN official explained.

According to the UNHCR, there are about 300,000 Libyans displaced due to the ongoing conflict. 

Libya has been suffering political division, insecurity and chaos since the uprising of 2011 that toppled the country’s former leader Muammar Gaddafi.

  

East Libyan forces target rival militia with airstrikes

TRIPOLI, (Xinhua) -- East Libyan armed forces bombed locations of rival militia in southern Libya in an overnight raid on Saturday, a spokesman said on Sunday.

“Our Air Force just raided Qaeda locations near Jufra, Libya,” Said Ahmad Al-Mismari, an army spokesman, said in a press conference.

The strike came three days after dozens of East Libyan forces’ men were killed in an attack on an air base.

A militia called Third Force, allied with the UN-backed government in Tripoli, on Friday attacked Brak al-Shati airbase, Al-Mismari said.

The attack killed 141 people, including civilians and unarmed soldiers, the spokesman said.

Libya has been suffering turmoil following the uprising that toppled former leader Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in 2011. The country is plagued with unrest and political division.

Forces aligned with the eastern-based Libyan National Army have skirmished since late last year with opponents aligned with a U.N.-backed Government of National Accord in Tripoli. 

  

UN chief calls for calm after military escalation in S. Libya

UNITED NATIONS, (Xinhua) -- United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Saturday called on all parties to restore calm in southern Libya after clashes at an air base there killed over 140 people.

The UN chief is “deeply concerned” about the military escalation at the Brak al-Shati air base and “calls on all parties to exercise restraint and restore calm,” said his spokesperson in a statement.

Clashes at the air base between the armed forces and a rival militia killed 141 people, a military spokesman said in Libya on Friday.

Guterres noted that continued insecurity in Libya is a reminder that there is no military solution.

“The Secretary-General therefore urges all key Libyan stakeholders to re-commit to the political dialogue and engage constructively towards that goal,” said the statement.

Libya has been suffering insecurity and chaos since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in 2011. The country is plagued with unrest and political division. 

  

Somalia reviews anti-graft law

MOGADISHU, (Xinhua) -- The Somali government said Sunday it has reviewed the anti-corruption law with experts which will soon be presented to parliament for a review and approval.

A statement from the ministry of information, culture and tourism said the government is committed to combating corruption at every level.

“So far within a short period of time, the new government has made efforts to show its commitment and determination to eradicating corruption,” it said.

The ministry listed several achievements which the government has made including increasing revenue generation since Feb. 8 due to strict reforms on public financial management that gives the government more income to provide service delivery.

The ministry said the new management at Aden Adde International airport in Mogadishu has this week collected more than 130,000 U.S. dollars of khat taxation when compared to the past days and weeks, that 34,000 dollars has been saved which was used to be diverted into the wrong pockets, without tax increases, and no extra khat arriving.

“As a result of this, the government saved between 600,000 dollars to 900,000 dollars per month, which will hugely help the government to provide services to its citizens,” it said.

The ministry said it conducted operations to eradicate bandits who laid illegal roadblocks on the roads is launched in the Middle Shabelle region on May 18.

“Over 1 million dollars is saved every month as a result of very strict procedures at the ministry of finance in order to ensure that all money is spent according to financial regulation,” the ministry said.

The Somali government said its committed to making further necessary reforms in the public financial management system.

“The government is fully aware of previous culture of impunity when it comes to corruption allegations, therefore, Somali leaders are now convinced that all necessary measures to safeguard public resources are implemented including legal proceedings to individuals that are subject to mismanagement of public resources at every level in the government institutions,” it said. 

  

Ugandan president takes over East African Community chair

DAR ES SALAAM, (Xinhua) -- Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on Saturday took over the chairmanship of the East African Community (EAC) from Tanzanian President John Magufuli at the 18th EAC ordinary summit in Dar es Salaam.

Speaking shortly after he had handed over the chair, President Magufuli asked his Ugandan successor to steer the community by maintaining the cost-cutting measures.

“During my chairmanship, the EAC saved 3 million U.S. dollars through cost cutting. I hope the coming chairman will continue with the same,” Magufuli said.

Magufuli also appealed to Museveni to try to sort out some of the thorny trade deals that the EAC was still negotiating with other countries.

“I failed to find a solution for EAC-European Union (EU) Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA) trade deal but I am optimistic President Museveni will take this forward,” said Magufuli.

The summit was expected to come up with a jointly accepted roadmap towards the signing of the EAC-EU trade deal that has divided the member states over its impact.

The EPA would result in six members of the EAC allowing European goods in at extremely low tariff rates over 25 years while the EU would permit EAC products tariff-free access.

For the EPA to be functional, all EAC members, namely Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan, must sign the deal. So far, only Kenya and Rwanda have signed it.

Tanzania has refused to approve the EPA deal, saying the deal would kill its infant industries and distress its future industrialization drive. The deadline for the EAC countries to append their signatures on the trade agreement was October 1, 2016.

Last week, the EU expressed willingness to initiate negotiations with the government of Tanzania on the EPA.

The summit was also expected to deliberate on Somalia’s application to join the EAC.

The EAC ordinary summit also deliberated on sustainable financing mechanism for the EAC, political federation and progress report on verification exercise for the admission of Somalia into the regional bloc.

The statement said other issues on the agenda were a report on the modality for the promotion of the reduction on importation of used motor vehicles and a report on the review of the textile and leather sector with a view to phasing out importation of used textiles and footwear.

The summit was preceded by the 34th Extraordinary Meeting of the EAC Council of Ministers, held from May 16 to 18. 

  

China is reliable partner on Kenya’s transformation agenda: official

NAIROBI, (Xinhua) -- China has been in the last few years a loyal partner in Kenya’s transformational agenda, particularly pertaining to the development of economic physical infrastructure, a Kenyan official said on Sunday.

State House spokesman Manoah Esipisu told a news conference in Nairobi that the center-piece of that transformation is the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR), the first phase of which is complete.

“On that day, China, who provided the funds through loans that ensured the SGR was built - will be sending a senior delegation of the State Council, two ministers and one vice minister as the official delegation at that launch,” Esipisu said in Nairobi.

China’s Exim Bank has provided 90 percent of the financing towards construction of Standard Gauge Railway project that will cost 3.6 billion U.S. dollars.

He said President Uhuru Kenyatta will on May 31 commission the first phase of the high speed railway that has been completed on budget, 18 months ahead of schedule.

He said President Kenyatta is also expected to officiate at events on the container terminal at the SGR on May 30 before taking the inaugural ride from Mombasa to Nairobi on May 31.

“That ride will include a number of stops along the way to commission some of the new stations as well as to address people that are resident in some of the counties that the SGR passes through,” Esipisu said.

He said the President strongly believes that infrastructure is at the core of development, growth and creating opportunity for young people and that is why when he was invited by President Xi Jinping to visit Beijing for an infrastructure conference last week, he gladly accepted.

At the Beijing conference, Kenyatta reached agreement on new partnerships with China, which are expected to further support the development of critical infrastructure in the country and beyond.

  

Egypt refers 48 to military trial over twin church bombings

CAIRO, (Xinhua) -- Egypt’s prosecution referred 48 suspects accused of belonging to the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group to military trials on Sunday over twin church bombings, reported the official MENA news agency.

Dozens of worshippers from the country’s Coptic Christian minority were killed in those recent church attacks.

The defendants face charges of forming two IS-affiliated cells in Cairo and Upper Egypt’s Qena province as well as participating in a series of explosions against three churches since Dec. 2016.

During New Year’s Mass in Dec. 2016, a suicide bomber attacked a small church adjacent to Saint Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo’s Abassiya neighborhood killing at least 29 Coptic Christian worshipers, mostly women and children.

In April 2017, during Palm Sunday celebrations, the IS-claimed the double church blasts in the Gharbiya and Alexandria northern provinces which left at least 47 dead and wounded over 120 others.

Terrorist attacks in Egypt have killed hundreds of policemen and soldiers since the mid-2013 removal of former Islamist president Mohamed Morsi by the military in response to mass protest against his one-year rule.

Subsequently, security crackdowns on Morsi’s supporters killed hundreds and thousands more were arrested, while his Muslim Brotherhood group was designated as a “terrorist organization” by the new administration. 

Most nationwide terrorist attacks, particularly those in the North Sinai province by the Israeli border, were claimed by a Sinai-based group loyal to the IS.

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, in his capacity as military chief back then, led Morsi’s removal, and declared a war on terrorism which has killed hundreds in recent years, with a similar number of suspects arrested.

Experts believe that the IS started widening the scope of its terrorist operations against the country’s Coptic Christian minority in order to pressure the Egyptian government.

The rising terrorist wave in Egypt has negatively impacted the country’s economy, causing a sharp decline in vital sources of national income and hard currency, including in the tourism sector and foreign investments. 

  

Trump due on Egypt visit to mend soured ties under Obama

CAIRO, (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Donald Trump said Sunday he will visit Egypt soon at an invitation from Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi to mend soured ties under former U.S. administration, official MENA news agency reported.

“I will get to Egypt. We will absolutely be putting that on the list very soon,” Trump said in a statement following his meeting with the Egyptian president in Riyadh, MENA reported.

Sisi had “done a tremendous job under trying circumstance,” Trump added.

The Trump-Sisi meeting was held on the sidelines of the Arab-Islamic-U.S. summit.

The bilateral relations between Egypt and U.S. worsened during Trump’s predecessor Barrack Obama’s administration after the Egyptian military ousted Islamist president Mohammed Morsi in 2013.

Obama did not invite Sisi for a visit and even temporarily suspended U.S. aid to the Arabic country citing U.S. concerns about human rights situation in Egypt.

The ties, however, have improved under the new U.S. administration of President Trump, who pledged to support the key U.S. ally with 1.3 billion U.S. dollars annually in military aid.

Sisi paid his first official visit to the United States and met Trump at White House in Early April. 

  

Bodies of four Cambodian UN peacekeepers killed
in Central African Republic arrive home

PHNOM PENH, (Xinhua) -- The bodies of four Cambodian United Nations (UN) peacekeepers killed in a convoy ambush in the Central African Republic (CAR) earlier this month were airlifted to Cambodia on Sunday night.

Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen, along with his cabinet members, paid his last respects to the ill-fated peacekeepers at Phnom Penh International Airport before allowing the bodies to be transported to their respective hometowns for funerals.

Hun Sen has said that despite the peacekeepers’ deaths, the Southeast Asian country would step up its efforts to continue sending troops to war-torn countries under the UN umbrella.

The four peacekeepers were killed by a rebel group on May 8 during a convoy attack near Bangassou, about 474 km east of Bangui, capital of CAR.

Cambodia firstly dispatched troops abroad in April 2006. Since then, the county has sent a total of 4,459 personnel to join UN peacekeeping missions in eight countries. 

  

Tanzania’s Lake Victoria district to use mobile courts to fight illegal fishing

DAR ES SALAAM, (Xinhua) -- Tanzania’s northwest district of Musoma on the shores of Lake Victoria plans to use mobile courts to speed up determination of illegal fishing cases in Africa’s largest lake, authorities said on Saturday.

Vincent Naano, Musoma District Commissioner, said the use of mobile courts will speed up the hearing of illegal fishing cases since most of those involved in the malpractice live in remote villages along the lake.

Tanzanian authorities have said that illegal fishing in Lake Victoria shared by Kenya and Uganda has immensely reduced fish catches,

Naano said the decision to use mobile courts followed the rise on illegal fishing by fishers from remote villages along the lake—home to Nile Perch and Tilapia.

“Some of fish processing industries along the lake have been forced to close down due to poor supply of fish,” Naano told a news conference on the lake shore district of Musoma.

He appealed to people using illegal fishing gear to drop the malpractice or face punitive punishment.

Some of Musoma district residents have commended the decision to use mobile courts.

Makongo Kalisa, a resident in the area, suggested that there should be joint patrol operations to end illegal fishing within all districts along Lake Victoria. 

  

Exercise, healthy diet found lowering risk of colon cancer recurrence

SAN FRANCISCO, (Xinhua) -- A team led by University of California, San Francisco, researchers have found that colon cancer patients who have a healthy body weight, exercise regularly and eat a diet high in whole grains, fruits and vegetables have a significantly lower risk of cancer recurrence or death.

Published on May 17, ahead of the 2017 annual gathering of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), the world’s largest clinical cancer research meeting, the study was based on an analysis of data collected on patients participating in a national study for people in the United States with stage III colon cancer and going through evaluations over about seven years.

“We found that colon cancer patients who reported a healthy body weight, engaged in regular physical activity, and ate a diet rich in whole grains, vegetables and fruits that was low in red and processed meats, had a lower risk of cancer recurrence and death compared to patients who did not engage in these behaviors,” said lead author Erin L. Van Blarigan, assistant professor in the UCSF departments of epidemiology and biostatistics, and urology.

This was a prospective study among nearly 1,000 stage III colon cancer patients enrolled in a chemotherapy trial conducted from 1999 to 2001. Clinical researchers from Harvard University administered a validated questionnaire on lifestyle at two points during the trial. The data was made available to a team led by UCSF researchers, who performed the analysis.

The researchers found that over a median follow-up period of seven years, colon cancer survivors who adhered to the American Cancer Society Nutrition and Physical Activity Guidelines for Cancer Survivors had a 42 percent lower risk of death and 31 percent lower risk of cancer recurrence compared to patients who did not engage in these behaviors. There were 335 people with colon cancer recurrences, 256 of whom died; 43 additional patients died during the study from other causes.

In the study, the patients were given a score from 0 to 6 measuring the degree to which their lifestyle matched the healthy lifestyle guidelines. Only 9 percent of them had a lifestyle that adhered closely to the guidelines, indicated by a score of 5 or 6.

“There are more than one million colorectal cancer survivors in the United States,” Van Blarigan, a member of the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, was quoted as saying in a news release. “These individuals are living longer than ever before, but the disease remains the second leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. There is a pressing need for improved survivorship care, and resources to help people adopt and maintain a healthy lifestyle after cancer diagnosis.”

  

Kenya says measures in place to curb rising food prices

NAIROBI, (Xinhua) -- The Kenyan government said on Sunday that it has taken action to contain rising food prices.

State House Spokesperson Manoah Esipisu said to help bring stability that was required in the maize flour prices, a series of actions were taken over time and not overnight.

“It is not lost to many of us that our region has endured one of the severest droughts in our history. Our production of maize and supply of food have been strained. Kenyans have had to work harder to put maize flour on their tables. The president recognized that for many of us, this has been a real struggle,” Esipisu told journalists in Nairobi.

He said President Uhuru Kenyatta recognized the misery caused by the strained maize production and supply of food occasioned by one of the severest droughts in the country’s history and measures have been taken to bring down the cost of maize flour.

“The bottom line for us is that unga (maize flour) is affordable again to the ordinary Kenyan and no matter the amount of debate or the amount of inquisition, there is likely nothing that can be done to change the fact that 2kg of maize flour cost 0.90 U.S. dollars,” Esipisu said.

“This series of actions outlined have been taken over time, they weren’t taken overnight, and all of them have contributed to getting the stability that was required in the maize flour prices.”

The remarks come as Kenya introduced the subsidy program early this week to sell a two kilogram packet of maize at 0.90 dollars that was previously selling at 1.80 dollars.

Under the program, Kenya will buy the maize at 36 dollars per 90 kg and sell it to millers at 23 dollars. Kenya has set aside 60 million dollars to finance the program.

On April 13, Kenya waived import duty on maize to encourage importers to bridge the production deficit so as put downward pressure on the price of the staple food. 

  

Feature: New journeys begin! Chinese group
wedding heralds Kenya’s new railway

By Ben Ochieng NAIROBI, (Xinhua) -- Work at the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) Nairobi Terminus on Saturday momentarily came to a halt when Kenyan workers joined their Chinese peers to witness a group wedding of four Chinese couples.

The ceremony, conducted according to Chinese traditions, marveled many Kenyans who work for the China Roads and Bridges Corporation (CRBC), the contractor of the SGR.

The date of the wedding, May 20, was both symbolically chosen for its similar pronunciation to “I love you” in Chinese, and to mark the coming commissioning of the railway.

“Our Chinese counterparts will never cease to amaze. The wedding ceremony was astonishingly brief but colorful,” Chris Musyoki remarks on the one-and-half-hour ceremony.

The wedding started with the grooms kneeling down and presenting flowers to their brides. The couples were then declared as man and wife, after which they uncorked champagne and gave short speeches as in a typical modern Chinese wedding.

They later treated their guest to a luncheon at SGR Camp 8, where people ate and drunk to their fill.

“I met my future wife three years ago during a train ride in Hunan Province back home in China after which we exchanged numbers. That brief meeting and my bravery has now resulted into us tying the nuptials today,” Li Bosheng, 26, a public relations officer with CRBC, told Xinhua.

“My wife Jiao Yang is a graduate student in China and we will travel back home after the commissioning of the railway,” he noted.

The railway linking the port city Mombasa and Kenya’s capital Nairobi is expected to be commissioned by Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta soon.

Wang Xiaoyu, who works as a technical supervisor at the Nairobi Terminus and his newly-wedded wife Zhang Weiping, who also works for CRBC as an accountant, associated their love and marriage to the new railway.

“We met here in Kenya and got married in this beautiful country. Kenya will always remain etched in our minds wherever we shall be. It is a country we cherish and whose people are very hospitable,” they said. 

  

Ethiopian Airlines increases direct flights to China

ADDIS ABABA, (Xinhua) -- Ethiopian Airlines has increased its weekly direct flights to China to 34 with the opening of thrice weekly flights to Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province.

Speaking at a ceremony starting the flight to Chengdu on Sunday in Addis Ababa International Airport premises, Liu Tao, Counselor at the Chinese embassy in Ethiopia said with Chengdu being an economic and culture hub for inland part of China the new route has great potential to enhance the agricultural, trading, tourism cooperation with the outside of the world with Ethiopian acting as bridge.

“The enhancement of people to people exchange is also a result of the cooperation between these two great civilizations in all areas including trade, investment, cultural education and agriculture vice versa with the booming of cooperation between these two countries bringing more and more people to exchanges,” he said.

Busera Awol, Chief Commercial Officer at Ethiopian Airlines, said the new route is just the latest manifestation of both countries’ deep bond ever since 1973 when the national carrier opened its first route to Beijing.

“We shall offer the best and fastest connectivity with a total 34 weekly flights to China,” he said.

“With this new flight to Chengdu the major hub for Air China, which is our ally and star alliance partner, passengers from Ethiopian Airlines’ vast and growing network, will be able to connect to dozens of cities in China, including Shenzhen, Kunming, Hangzhou, Xiamen, Changsha and Urumqi, similarly Chinese travelers will enjoy faster travel and connection to more than 54 countries and further to Sao Paulo, Brazil and the U.S. with minimum layover in Addis Ababa Hub,” explained Awol.

As part of its commitment, Ethiopian plans to utilize it’s latest fleet, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and the Airbus 350 airplanes, emphasizing how it values its share in the world’s largest air travel market.

Ethiopian Airlines was the first African carrier and the fourth in the word to fly to China back in 1973.    In addition to the Already launched three weekly flights to Chengdu, Ethiopian Airlines currently operates daily nonstop flights to Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai and Hongkong. 

  

Tanzanian, Ugandan leaders sign crude oil pipeline deal

ARUSHA, Tanzania, (Xinhua) -- Tanzanian President John Magufuli and his Ugandan counterpart Yoweri Museveni on Sunday signed an agreement to start construction of the crude oil pipeline from Hoima to Tanga Port.

According to a statement issued by Tanzania’s State House, the two leaders signed a communique agreeing to start construction of the East African Crude Oil pipeline (EACOP) project from Hoima in Uganda to Tanga Port in Tanzania.

“The issues of the Hoima-Tanga pipeline are agreed and resolved,” the statement said, adding that the signing was witnessed by ministers, senior government officials from different institutions which are involved in the project.

The two countries have been negotiating how to proceed with the EACOP project after the East African nations agreed in April last year to the pipeline going through Tanzania and not Kenya as had been earlier planned.

The communique signed in Dar es Salaam adds that a date for the two presidents to lay a foundation stone at either Hoima or Tanga will be arranged as soon as possible.

The two presidents asked the ministers responsible for energy in Uganda and Tanzania to sign the Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) this Friday, May 27 in Uganda’s capital, Kampala.

The 1,443-kilometre crude oil pipeline worth 3.55 billion U.S. dollars will be able to transport 200,000 litres of oil per day once the project starts its operation.

The project will be able to generate employment between 6,000 and 10,000 people.

Tanzanian President Magufuli described the project as important for the development of the two countries and east African region in general. Uganda’s President described Tanga Port as key because of its geographical location and security.

He said that the project will also make fuel cheaper hence foster aviation industry, whereby regional airlines will get cheaper jet fuel.

Ugandan leader has been in Dar es Salaam since Saturday, where Magufuli handed over to him the chairmanship of the East African Community (EAC). 

  

Tanzania embarks on unsafe school bus crackdown

ARUSHA, Tanzania, (Xinhua) -- Tanzanian police have embarked on a school bus crackdown to ensure that all vehicles carrying schoolchildren are roadworthy.

The crackdown came few days, when 33 pupils, two teachers, and a driver were killed after a school bus plunged into a gorge in northern Tanzania’s safari capital of Arusha.

In Tanzania’s Lake Zone district of Tarime on Sunday, police announced that five school buses have been deregistered.

Joseph Bukombe, head of traffic police in Tarime/Rorya special zone, said that during the crackdown, 17 school buses were inspected in two districts of Tarime and Rorya since the crackdown started one week ago.

Tanzanian government had directed schools in the east African nation to meet the required standards to ensure the safety of children.

Bukombe said that the deregistered school buses were of poor quality to be allowed to carry pupils.

“They must have their buses good, well checked, with good tires, seat belt and comfortable seats. Drivers should also be careful and adhere to traffic regulations,” said Bukombe.

He noted that owners of de-registered vehicles should repair them to meet the required standards.

On May 6, 33 pupils, two teachers and a driver from Arusha-based Lucky Vicent primary school died after their bus plunged into Marera River Gorge in Karatu District.

 

Tanzania faces alarming environmental destruction: minister

DAR ES SALAAM, (Xinhua) -- Tanzania is now facing alarming environmental destruction caused by haphazard felling of trees, a senior official said on Sunday.

“Almost every Tanzanian is using one cubic meter of firewood or logs as daily energy source which is equivalent to more than 50 cubic meters annually,” said January Makamba, the east African nation’s Minister of State in the Vice-President’s Office responsible for environment.

Speaking at the launch of an environmental project known in Kiswahili as Jumuiko la Pamoja, Suluhisho la Pamoja loosely translated as Collective Responsibility for Collective Solution, Makamba said the ever-increasing economic activities posed challenges to environmental conservation and management in the country.

The project launched in Sumbawanga district in Rukwa region was jointly managed by the government of the Netherlands, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and Kaengesa Environmental Conservation Society in the region.

Makamba said economic activities that were contributing to massive environmental destruction included agriculture, livestock keeping, fisheries, mining, infrastructural improvement and huge investments.

He said extra care was needed because all livestock keepers were depending on ecological systems.

“If we destroy forests and carry out destructive activities in catchment areas and near sources of water, rivers, swamps, lakes and spring water, most of these water bodies will dry up,” said Makamba.

According to the minister, about 372,000 hectares of forests were felled each year in the country.

According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, 37.7 percent or about 33,428,000 hectares of Tanzania is forested with 240,000 hectares of planted forests.

  

Tanzanian farmer killed by stray elephants

ARUSHA, Tanzania, (Xinhua) -- A farmer was trampled to death by a herd of marauding elephants in southern Tanzania’s district of Tunduru, authorities said Sunday.

The killed man was identified as Ally Kalengo, 56, of Kalulu village in the district 1,205 km from the Tanzania’s commercial capital Dar es Salaam.

Limbega Ally, Tunduru District Acting Wildlife Officer, said that the farmer died on the spot at his farm after a group of five elephants attacked and killed him on Saturday.

He said that the elephants had strayed from Selous Game Reserve, one of the largest faunal reserves in the world, located in the south of Tanzania.

According to the official, the elephants were in search of food before attacking the farmer, who was busy harvesting rice on his farm, at around 6 p.m.

He said that the farmer was trying to ward off the elephants.

Ally said officers were sent to help return all the elephants to the game reserve.

According to the most recent elephant census, published in June 2015, Tanzania has 43,000 elephants, down from 109,000 in 2009. 

  

UN decries spreading food insecurity, malnutrition in S. Sudan

By Denis Elamu JUBA, (Xinhua) -- The UN on Saturday sounded alarm over the spreading food insecurity and malnutrition across South Sudan amid protection crisis.

Guiomar Pau Sole, spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), told Xinhua that the most critical sectors for the famine response are not only food security and livelihoods, but also nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene, health and protection.

“Beyond the 100,000 people affected by famine, we are deeply alarmed by the protection crisis and spreading food insecurity and malnutrition across the country. We still need nearly 900 million U.S. dollars to tackle famine and the other live-saving needs across the country,” Sole said.

Sole added that since localized famine was declared on Feb. 20 in Leer and Mayendit counties in Unity, humanitarian agencies have scaled up their response in a variety of key sectors.

General food distributions have reached more than 320,000 people in 15 locations in Koch, Mayendit, Leer and Panyijiar counties, and rapid response missions have been carried out in at least 17 locations.

However, the UN official regretted that the humanitarian workers in this country are always under attack from the warring factions especially in the northern Unity state.

“We continue to be hampered by conflict, insecurity and access challenges. All parties to the conflict must ensure that the operating environment is conducive to the delivery of aid by ensuring free, safe and unhindered access to all areas, especially to avert the spread of famine,” Sole disclosed.

The UN estimates that about 82 aid workers have been killed in South Sudan since the onset of the December 2013 conflict.

Humanitarian agencies have faced repeated challenges to reach people in dire need in famine-affected and at-risk areas as a result of clashes, insecurity and access denials, she explained.

“Just last week, there was an attack in Luom, Mayendit County, were an inter-agency team was deployed to deliver nutrition, health, water, sanitation and hygiene, and protection services, as well as household items, seeds and fishing kits. Aid workers had to be relocated from the area, and civilians were attacked, with reports of homes and properties burned and destroyed,” Sole noted.

“This highlights the precarious security situation in Unity, which remains one of the most challenging operating environments in South Sudan. We constantly have to balance potential risks to civilians and aid workers against the humanitarian imperative to save lives,” she said.

  

Ethiopia puts a squeeze on plastic bags

ADDIS ABABA, (Xinhua) -- It’s a ubiquitous item found strewn on the streets, used to wrap gifts, carry food items and store belongings, but plastic bags use in Ethiopia might be running out of favor. 

Recently, three factories were closed in the country when they were found to be producing less than 0.3 milligram weight of plastic bags, a measurement deemed to be toxic to Ethiopia’s environment.

Deyasa Leta deputy director of the Chemical and Construction Industries Development Institute at the Ethiopia Ministry of Industry (MoI) says the measure is part of Ethiopia’s desire to maintain the society’s health and the country’s environment with the country’s need to generate job and revenue for the country.

Yonas Abate, plastics and related materials directorate director at MoI, emphasized however that the closure in no way meant Rwandan style of complete ban on plastic bags is in the offing.

That’s because plastic bag manufacturing firms have created employment opportunities for thousands and saves hundreds of millions of dollars that would’ve been lost through imports had the country not had the plants to produce plastic goods.

While environmentalists lament Ethiopia’s obsession with plastic bags which they fault for polluting river systems, soil and choking city sewage system, Abate cautions that Ethiopia’s fault is primarily in how it uses plastic bags, not the content itself.

Abate cities the example of China, the world’s most populous nation with close to 1.4 billion people, having few problems with plastic bags.

“Ethiopia hasn’t even reached 100 million people with Addis Ababa’s population being only about 4 million, but a city like Shanghai, China with around 30 million people doesn’t have a problem with plastic bags,” he says, adding that China’s efficient recycling and waste management system are the way to go.

“Lack of proper waste management and collecting mechanism is the main problem when it comes to plastic bags and closing industries while necessary at times isn’t the first option” says Abate.

Leta highlights the fact that plastic products’ general uses have intertwined with Ethiopians’ day to day lives meaning while plastic bags use can run out of favor, it won’t disappear from Ethiopia’s streets any time soon.

“From our pants to bras, electric appliances to medicine packages, pipe fittings pass through plastic processes, with Ethiopia even starting to export some plastic products,” says Abate, surmising that while Ethiopia may start to frown on plastic bags, its relationship with plastic products will continue for some time.

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