DESMOND TUTU TURNS 82, KEEPS HOPE ALIVE FOR PEACE
Oct. 8 (GIN) – Outspoken peace advocate, former Archbishop Desmond Tutu, marked his 82 birthday Monday amidst well-wishers including former U.N. chief Kofi Annan who delivered the third annual Desmond Tutu International Peace Lecture at the University of the Western Cape.
Annan called on Africans to embrace all people regardless of their gender, sexual orientation or economic status. He urged religious leaders to speak up on these issues.
“There is a crucial role here for Africa’s religious leaders in promoting tolerance, understanding of our common humanity. We need them at every opportunity to denounce violence, discrimination, increments on the grounds of gender and sexuality perhaps above all, they must welcome the freedoms of all of these not just their own,” said Annan.
Tutu referred to the strife in Syria and the Democratic Republic of Congo as he introduced the former UN secretary general. “Can you imagine what it must be like for God… looking down (and) saying those are my children in Syria, those using chemical weapons are my children, those dying are my children.”
Bandile Masuku, spokesman for the ANC’s Youth League said in a statement: “We are happy for our grandfather who has always stood in defense of human rights and equality for all. We wish him a happy birthday full of happiness and joy”. Tutu, an active user of social media, disseminates his messages through Twitter, Huffington Post, and via livestream audio.
Clement Mokone, among the many online well-wishers, wrote: “Here is a man I can peacefully eat a piece of chicken, gravy and pap with and be happy. Happy birth day Des. May God keep more for the sake of our country!! We love You.” w/pix of Desmond Tutu
IN POLITICAL SHUFFLE, NEW PRESIDENT IS NAMED IN ETHIOPIA
Oct. 8 (GIN) – Former diplomat Mulatu Teshome was sworn in this week for a six-year term as president – a largely symbolic and ceremonial post.
Real power rests in the hands of the Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn.
Mulatu, a 57 year old economist, was Ethiopia’s ambassador to Turkey until his appointment. He replaces 88-year old Girma Wolde-Giorgis, who served from 2001 until now. It was widely reported last year that the heavy-set Girma was dead of a heart attack and acute diabetes. However in September 2013, he was quoted in the media wishing the country a happy New Year and pardoning 458 inmates in a New Year amnesty.
“I feel honored to be the fourth president of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia,” Mulatu said after taking the oath of office. Mulatu, often referred to by his first name, has also served as ambassador to China and Japan and was Ethiopia’s minister of agriculture.
Meanwhile, news of the tragic deaths at sea of close to 300 mostly Eritrean, Somali and some Ethiopian refugees near Lampedusa, Italy, has shaken people of the Horn of Africa and in the Diaspora. Some 500 refugees were attempting to make the sea crossing when the boat capsized.
The incident has put the European Union’s refugee policy under fire. Some rights groups say there’s no way refugees can legally enter the bloc.
Sheila B. Keetharuth, the U.N. special rapporteur on Eritrea, said: “The alarming human rights situation in Eritrea is triggering a constant stream of refugees to neighboring countries and far beyond. People continue to flee despite the extreme dangers along escape routes.”
An online petition by the Eritrean diasporic community calls on the government to bring the bodies back from Italy for burial in Eritrea.
It reads in part: “Every Eritrean death has a story, every victim has a mother, a sister, a father, brother or wife mourning. Let these families in grief know that we all care and suffer with them as a nation. This tragedy should be faced together as a people.”
Organizers are hoping for 5,000 signatures. The petition can be found at www.avaaz.org w/pix of Pres. M. Teshome
SURPRISE U.S. RAIDS TO SEIZE TERROR SUSPECTS WORRY EXPERTS
Oct. 8 (GIN) – After two surprise U.S. raids, one into Somalia and one into Libya to capture suspected terrorists, the Libyan government is demanding an explanation of the unannounced manoeuvre.
In the Libyan operation, U.S. special forces seized Nazih al-Ragye, a.k.a Abu Anas al-Liby – a Libyan who is a suspect in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 civilians. He is reportedly being held on a U.S. ship for questioning.
Speaking to reporters, Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan said cautiously: “Our relationship with the USA is important, and we care about that, but we care too about our citizens, which is our duty.” Libyans who commit crimes should be tried at home, he said.
Despite the high praise for U.S. Navy SEALS by Secretary of State John Kerry, experts see the prospect of “blowback” from the two weekend raids.
In the Somalia operation, US Navy commandos from SEAL Team Six attempting to kidnap the terror suspect, found his beachside villa well defended. A firefight ensued and the SEALS were repulsed.
Militant groups have responded furiously, using social media to call for revenge assaults on strategic targets including gas pipelines and ships. They have also called for the kidnappings of Americans in the capital.
Anticipating such threats, the U.S. will move about 200 Marines to a U.S. base at Sigonella, Italy from one in Spain in the next day or so to respond to any crises that may ensue.
The mixed success of the raids prompted Frank Gardner, BBC security specialist to ask: ”How effective in the long run are raids like the ones in Libya and Somalia?
While the US insists that the detention of this long-sought suspect is “lawful” and will be popular back home, in North Africa the raid could well prompt more recruits to join anti-Western jihadist groups like al-Qaeda and its affiliates.
“When the most highly trained commandos from the most powerful military in the world attack a sandal-wearing militia and are forced to retreat, this will be seized on as a propaganda victory for al-Shabab,” Gardner wrote for the BBC.
While the U.S. has no extradition treaty with Libya, there are other legal avenues to have used before the snatch and render method employed,” observed Vijay Prasad, co-editor of Dispatches from the Arab Spring and author of Arab Spring, Libyan Winter. “There is no indication that the U.S. ever asked the Libyans to extradite the suspect, nor that the U.S. informed the Libyans of this operation. It is a major setback to Libyan efforts to create transitional justice, and once more calls into question the U.S. commitment to a rules and regulations society.” w/pix of Navy SEALS
ECONOMIC STAGNATION FOR MANY, WHILE BILLIONAIRES THRIVE
Oct. 8 (GIN) – Africa has 55 billionaires at a time when the number of Africans living in extreme poverty has risen over the past three decades, according to the World Bank, from 205 million to 414 million.
Three of the billionaires are women – the mother of Kenya’s president, a daughter of Angola’s president and a Nigerian oil tycoon and fashion designer. The richest man is Nigeria’s Aliko Dangoe, with a fortune of $20 billion, according to the Nigeria-based Ventures financial magazine.
The number – 55 – is more than three times the figure in the U.S. magazine Forbes last year. Dozens more billionaires were identified by using “on-the-ground knowledge” to overcome hurdles that may have “hampered” other researchers, Ventures said.
The magazine estimated the billionaires’ combined fortunes at $143.88 billion, an average of a $2.6 billion per person.
Of the 55, 20 are Nigerian, nine are South African and eight are Egyptian, Ventures said.
A report earlier this month by research group Afrobarometer suggested that economic growth in Africa was primarily benefiting a small elite.
Afrobarometer, a research partnership of the Institute for Democracy in South Africa, the Ghana Center for Democratic Development and the Department of Political Science at Michigan State University, measures public attitudes on economic, political and social matters in sub-Saharan Africa.
According to Afrobarometer, one in five Africans still suffer from frequent shortages of food, water, medical care and cash, or what researchers refer to as “lived poverty”.
The accumulation of wealth has been helped by the impunity long enjoyed by public officials. However in Liberia, an anti-corruption commission is pursuing top officials who may have illegally benefited.
Under investigation is a former deputy at the Ministry of Public Works who deposited US $305,590.00 into three separate bank accounts outside of his official salary of L$14,137.50.One official declared more than $300,000 in the bank despite earning a monthly salary of just $2,500. A police official earning $704 per month could not explain a one-time deposit of $33,855.
Last week, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said that with more than a billion people in the world living on less than $1.25 per day, extreme poverty was “the defining moral issue of our time.”
Speaking at George Washington University, he said: “Share prosperity with the bottom 40 percent, and share it with future generations. We have an opportunity to bend the arc of history and commit ourselves to do something that other generations have only dreamed of.” His speech can be heard at www.zeropoverty2030.org w/pix of A. Dangote