NAMIBIA: 1st Lady engages on social problems

KISUMU, Kenya, (Xinhua) — Kenya’s security officers have launched investigations after a police station in Western Kenya was raided by armed thugs who also slashed one officer on duty on Tuesday night.

Western Regional Police Commander Moses Ombati confirmed the incident on Wednesday, saying the robbers made away with seven rifles and more than 100 bullets stored in the armory at Booker Police post.

“We are investigating the attack with hopes of making recoveries and arrest of those behind it. We don’t know who they were and their motive but investigations have been launched,” Ombati said.

Sources at the station said the injured officer was found unconscious by a colleague checking in at the station early Wednesday. He was rushed to the hospital where he is receiving treatment.

On Saturday evening, Kenyan police killed four suspected terrorists as they foiled a planned terror attack a police station in Mandera County in northeast Kenya.


11 Al-Shabaab militants killed in southern Somalia

MOGADISHU, (Xinhua) — Somali National Army (SNA) on Wednesday killed at least 11 Al-Shabaab militants during a heavy fighting at Gof-Gadud village near Baidoa town in southern Somalia.

Special Police Commissioner for Southwest State in Somalia Mohamed Isak Hassan told reporters that the joint forces overpowered the insurgents during the fight resulting in the killing of the militants.

“Al-Shabaab fighters’ dream of capturing the area was dashed when 11 of their fighters were killed on the spot and several others were injured. We lost three soldiers and two others sustained injuries, SNA and Southwest State forces fought with the militants here,” Hassan said.

The commissioner said the SNA and African Union troops will intensify attacks against the militants until they are flushed out of the Horn of African nation.

However, Al-Shabaab also claimed victory over the latest clashes with Somali government and Southwest State forces, saying they killed three government soldiers.

Independent sources say there were more casualties on Somali forces during the battle and some of the injured were rushed to the hospitals in Baidoa town.

The latest attacks come amid tight security in Somalia due to the ongoing indirect elections which enter final round next week with the election of speaker and president.


S. Africa battles to secure release of hostages held by al-Qaeda militants

JOHANNESBURG, (Xinhua) — South Africa’s disaster relief organization Gift of the Givers said Wednesday it is still battling to secure freedom for their compatriots held hostage by al-Qaeda militants in Timbuktu, Mali.

Yehia Dicko, negotiator of the organization, is currently in Mali and will meet the influential people on the Algerian border to negotiate the release of Stephen McGown, who was taken hostage five years ago, and another hostage Gustafsson, said Imtiaz Sooliman, founder, director and chairman of the Gift of the Givers.

Sooliman added that tribal, religious and spiritual leaders are now negotiating with al-Qaeda for the release of the two. The rebels had asked the South African and Swedish governments for 5 million euros (5.25 million U.S. dollars) each in ransom.

“We responded that the governments don’t talk to terrorists nor pay any ransoms,” he said.

The militants have also demanded the release of the two in exchange of prisoners either from Mali or Niger, which was also declined by the Gift of the Givers.

The South African organization has distributed food and water during the Islamic month of Ramadaan, built boreholes and upgraded places of worship to encourage the rebels to release the hostages.

“We pray that by this Christmas we succeed in securing an unconditional release as we have run out of options,” Sooliman said.

Malcolm McGown, father of Stephen McGown, told Xinhua that they are hoping that the government, the Gift of Givers and the international community could assist in the release of his son.

“The last five years has been very difficult to us as a family. We do not have the means to pay the ransom money demanded by al-Qaeda.” he said.


Namibia’s anti-corruption environment still evolving: report

WINDHOEK, (Xinhua) — Namibia has done relatively well, especially when compared to its neighboring countries in Africa, in meeting obligations under the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), according to a report.

The briefing paper from the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) seen by Xinhua on Wednesday, said despite its good performance, the country clearly falls short of meaningful compliance in all areas.

According to the paper, the anti-corruption environment is still in a state of evolution.

“Authorities need to realise that effectively fighting corruption does not come down to just activities of a spearheading agency, law enforcement bodies and judicial actors, but essentially requires buy-ins from civil society and the greater public,” the report stated.

The report said that in order for the country to effectively make headway in the fight against corruption, it needs to be realized that civil society should occupy a prominent spot at the discussion and decision-making table.


China, Ethiopia agree to augment military cooperation

ADDIS ABABA, (Xinhua) — Fan Changlong, Vice Chairman of China’s Central Military Commission, has agreed with Ethiopian President Mulatu Teshome and Minister of Defense, Siraj Fegessa, to strengthen the two countries’ cooperation in the military arena.

The military relations between China and Ethiopia are currently advancing, and they have made fruitful exchanges and cooperation through personnel training, military medical care, frequent high-level visits, the United Nations peacekeeping and others, said Fan at his meeting with Mulatu on Tuesday.

He added that China and Ethiopia have continually enhanced their mutual political trust, and the friendship between the two peoples has also fortified over the years.

Noting that China is Ethiopia’s most important and reliable strategic partner, Mulatu said the two countries have strong common interests and similar development model and China’s great development achievements have provided good reference for Ethiopia.

The president expressed his country’s keen interest in working with the Asian country to enhance political trust, boost economic and trade ties, and push bilateral military relations to a new level.

Fan also visited a military club in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa and held talks with Siraj. The two military officials agreed to strengthen high-level exchanges and cooperation in the military sector.

Fan, who is in Ethiopia for a three-day official visit, also held working talks with Chief of Staff of the Ethiopian National Defense Forces, Samora Yenus.


4th Africa-Arab World Summit held in Malabo

YAOUNDE, (Xinhua) — The 4th Africa-Arab World Summit meeting opened on Wednesday in Equatorial Guinean capital Malabo with around 60 leaders from the two regions participating.

Under the theme “Together for sustainable development and economic cooperation,” this year’s summit focused on the “assessment of the progress achieved in the implementation of the action plan” adopted in the 3rd summit held in Kuwait in 2013, according to reports from Malabo.

The discussions also focused on “ways likely to deepen this cooperation framework at a time when Africa and the Arab world are working to collectively take up the common challenges they are facing.”

Equatorial Guinean President Obiang Nguema Mbasogo said while hosting the summit that there are many things in common between Africa and Arab countries, like history, culture and religion, etc. He hoped Africa can emerge and increase its position in international arena. He asked the Arab countries to help Africa emerge by providing avanced technologies.

General-Secretary of Arab League Ahmed Abou EL Gheit said the security situation in Africa is related with the security situation in Arab region, and hoped the two regions strenghthen the cooperation in the concerned areas.

At the summit, African Union President Nkosazama Dlamini Zuma called the youth in the two regions to promote their communication and cooperation in order to face the challenges of the new era.

The Africa-Arab Summit is the supreme policy organ of the Africa-Arab Partnership. It adopts the long and short term action plan and strategies of the partnership. The first Africa-Arab summit was held in Cairo, Egypt, in 1977, since 2010, the summit is held every 3 years alternatively in African and Arab countries, with the second one held in Libya, and the third in Kuwait.


Roundup: Rwanda demands apology from Vatican over genocide

KIGALI, (Xinhua) — The Government of Rwanda has demanded an apology from the Vatican for the role played by members of the Catholic Church in the 1994 genocide against Tutsi,according a government statement released on Wednesday.

The demand comes days after Rwanda’s nine Catholic bishops apologized – in a general manner – for some of the acts committed by some members of the Catholic Church during the genocide which claimed the lives of about one million people.

“Given the scale of the crimes, there is ample justification for an apology from the Vatican, as has occurred repeatedly with other cases of lesser magnitude,” it said in the statement.

Pope Francis last year made a surprise public apology for recent scandals “either in Rome or in the Vatican” during his weekly general audience in St Peter’s Square, but did not specify which scandals.

In the Wednesday statement meanwhile, Rwanda government said while the bishops step is welcome, as individual expressions of remorse, its “profound inadequacy only serves to highlight how far the Catholic Church still remains from a full and honest reckoning with its moral and legal responsibilities.”

“First, as they apologize on behalf of a few unnamed individuals, the bishops appear to take the extraordinary step of exonerating the Catholic Church as a whole for any culpability in connection with the genocide. Everything in the historical record contradicts this divisive claim,” it said.

It also wondered why some churches did not read out the apology statement as directed by the bishops.

“It is regrettable that some priests apparently declined to read the bishops’ message to parishioners as intended, thus disassociating themselves from even this mild expression of regret.”the statement said.

Survivors say several clergy have blood of genocide victims on their hands.

For example Father Athanase Seromba is said to have ordered the bulldozing of his church in western Rwanda with 2,000 Tutsis inside and ordered the survivors shot.

Catholic monks reportedly helped him get to Italy, change his name and became a parish priest in Florence. Several catholic churches were turned into memorial sites.

On a lighter note, the Government of Rwanda commended the bishops on the importance of combating genocide ideology, and offered to continue to engage in an open and frank dialogue with Church leaders with a view towards encouraging the Catholic Church to face up to its own past without excuses or fear.


Egypt unearthed ancient cemetery and town

CAIRO, (Xinhua) — The Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities announced on Wednesday the discovery of a Pharaonic necropolis and a town near an ancient tomb in Upper Egypt’s province of Sohag, official MENA news agency reported.

“The necropolis and the town date back to the beginning of Pharaonic dynasties at around 5316 B.C.,” MENA quoted Mahmoud Afifi, head of the ministry’s archaeology sector, as saying.

Afifi said the sites have been unearthed during the work of the ministry’s excavation mission 400 meters south of the temple of ancient King Seti I, at Arabet Abydos area in Sohag.

“It is likely that the cemetery and the town belonged to senior personnel in charge of the construction of royal tombs and funeral walls of the kings of the First Dynasty in Abydos,” Afifi added, noting the mission also found remains of ancient huts and daily life potteries and stone tools.

For his part, Hani Abul-Azm, head of the central administration of Upper Egypt’s antiquities, said that the mission has discovered so far 15 large tombs inside the necropolis.

He said the unearthed tombs are even larger than those royal tombs in Abydos that date back to the First Dynasty, “which indicates the importance, influence and social status of their owners during that time of ancient Egyptian history.”

Several ancient tombs have been discovered in Sohag over the past decade, including the 13 tombs unearthed in 2008 that date back to over 5,000 years also southern Abydos town in Sohag.

A Pharaonic tomb was discovered at the Millions of Years Temple of Egyptian King Thutmose III in Upper Egypt’s ancient city of Luxor in November, with a royal servant’s coffin and a mummy inside, which are believed to be dating back to the Pharaonic Third Intermediate Period around 1,000 years B.C.


Zambian leader confers with South Sudan counterpart on security

LUSAKA, (Xinhua) — Zambian President Edgar Lungu has held talks with his South Sudan counterpart Salva Kiir on the security situation of the world’s youngest nation, his office said on Wednesday.

The two leaders held the talks on the sidelines of the 4th Africa-Arab Summit currently underway in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, according to a statement released by his office.

According to presidential spokesperson Amos Chanda, Lungu assured his South Sudan counterpart of Zambia’s unflinching support towards peace building in that country.

The Zambian leader wanted violence to end in South Sudan and that his administration supports efforts of leaders of Kenya and Ethiopia who have taken a tough stance against those instigating violence in that country.

The presidential spokesperson added that the Zambian leader will be raising the issue of South Sudan at the next African Union (AU) summit.

The Zambian leader also met a delegation from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and discussed issues of deepening trade and investment, the statement added.


128 Nigerian policemen killed in 3 months: police chief

ABUJA, (Xinhua) — A total of 128 Nigerian policemen died on duty in the past three months, the country’s Inspector-General of Police Ibrahim Idris said Wednesday.

The police personnel died while preventing attacks or ensuring law and order in various parts of the West African country, Idris said in a statement to Xinhua.

The police chief cited recent killings by bandits in the northwestern state of Zamfara, the southeastern state of Anambra, and in Okrika waterways in the oil-rich Rivers State as “disturbing cases in point.”

He said efforts have been intensified to halt the trend of killing.


Ghana Oct. PPI edges up to 9.8 pct

ACCRA, (Xinhua) — The Producer Price Index (PPI) in Ghana in October was 9.8 percent, a slight increase from the 9.7 percent recorded in September, the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) said here on Wednesday.

The monthly change rate was -0.4 percent for the month under review, relative to the 0.8 percent recorded for the month of September.

Acting Government Statistician Baah Wadieh explained that a 1.6 percentage point rise in manufacturing, the largest industry sector, to record 3 percent inflation, was mainly responsible for the slight rise in inflation.

On the other hand, the producer inflation rate for mining and quarrying decreased by 7.5 percentage points to record an inflation rate of 14.7 percent in October.

Wadieh attributed the fall in mining and quarrying to the behavior of gold prices on the world stage.

However, industry inflation for the utilities sector remained flat at 38.2 percent during the month of October.

Ghana strengthens climate change fight with three new strategies

ACCRA, (Xinhua) — Ghana on Wednesday launched three key strategies aimed at supporting the country’s fight to reduce emissions that lead to climate change.

The Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Nii Osah Mills, who launched the Ghana REDD+ Strategy(reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation), Ghana Forest Plantation Strategy and Ghana Forestry Development Master plan, underscored the need for sustainable management and use of Ghana’s natural and forest resources.

“We are launching these three strategic documents today in furtherance of national and global efforts to promote best-practice forest governance, restoration of degraded landscapes, and to tackle the adverse impacts of Climate Change and variabilities,” he stated.

While the Forestry Development Master Plan (2016 to 2036) seeks to implement fully the 2012 Forest and Wildlife policy, the Ghana REDD+ Strategy aims at assisting Ghana to prepare itself for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.

The Country Director for the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), Dominic Sam, who spoke on behalf of development partners, lauded Ghana’s efforts in tackling the drivers of deforestation and forest degradation.

He said the UNDP however recognized that the West African country still faced some challenges with its annual rate of deforestation estimated at two percent.

“This trend has implications for not just the forest and biodiversity, but also for livelihoods, eco-system functions and services that support Ghana’s predominantly agrarian economy.”

The Forestry Commission of Ghana is the state agency that implements all policies pertaining to Ghana’s forest and forest products.


S. Africa’s CPI increases to 6.4 percent

JOHANNESBURG, (Xinhua) — South Africa’s consumer inflation moved outside the Reserve Bank’s 3-6 percent target range in October, as some economists had expected.

According to figures released by Statistics South Africa on Wednesday, the consumer price index increased to 6.4 percent in October, up from 6.1 percent increase reported for September.

The figure is used by the Reserve Bank to determine whether or not to increase interest rates.

Core inflation, which excludes the price of food, non-alcoholic drinks, petrol and energy, increased slightly to 5.7 percent.

“Food price inflation, coming from 11.7 percent on a year-on-year basis, has obviously been exacerbated by the drought conditions that we’ve had earlier this year,” Independent economist Mohammed Nalla told Xinhua on Wednesday.

“And hopefully the kind of rain that we’ve been getting more recently will lead to a massive alleviation in terms of food pricing inflation over the course of the coming months,” Nalla added.

The SA Reserve Bank’s (SARB) Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) is expected to leave interest rates steady without calling an end to the rate-hike cycle as uncertainty from Donald Trump’s election as U.S. president to local political uncertainty keeps the rand volatile.

At previous meetings the Bank has said that although consumer inflation has consistently been higher than the target for most of this year, it seemed stable at those levels.

Many economic experts believe that with the stubborn inflation raising the Bank is will leave the repurchase rate at 7 percent.

Elize Kruger, an economist for KADD Capital, does not expect many changes and surprises because of the uncertainties.

“I don’t think we have any option, but a hike should not even be considered, because of the sluggish economic growth, I don’t think they will even discuss that,” said Kruger.


China, S. Africa to advance comprehensive strategic partnership

CAPE TOWN, (Xinhua) — South African President Jacob Zuma met visiting Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao here on Tuesday, with both vowing to further advance the comprehensive strategic partnership between the two countries.

Zuma said that South Africa and China are best friends and comrades who are dear to each other like brothers. He said the two countries hold the same or similar views on many issues and maintain frequent high-level exchanges.

Bilateral cooperation is strong in various fields and full of potential, said Zuma. China’s investment in the COEGA Industrial Development Zone in the Eastern Cape Province and other major cooperative projects have helped create jobs in South Africa and contributed to the nation’s development, he said.

Zuma, who is also president of South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC), said that the ANC enjoys a deep friendship with the Communist Party of China (CPC), and is willing to conduct exchanges concerning state governance with the CPC.

He added that the CPC’s adherence to the strict governance of the Party is worth learning from by the ANC.

For his part, Li said Chinese President Xi Jinping and Zuma have met eight times since 2013 and conducted profound exchanges concerning development of bilateral relations and major issues of mutual concern.

Li said that China always regards its relations with South Africa from a strategic and long-term perspective, and will actively adhere to its Africa policy based on the principles of sincerity, practical results, affinity and good faith, and strike a right balance between upholding principles and pursuing benefits.

He said China will comprehensively implement the consensus reached by the heads of state of the two countries and the outcomes of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation summit held last December in Johannesburg, South Africa so as to advance the development of the China-South Africa comprehensive strategic partnership.

He added that the CPC is willing to deepen cooperation and strengthen exchanges on state governance with the ANC so as to serve the development of state-to-state relations.

CAPE TOWN, (Xinhua) — South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa (R) shakes hands with visiting Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao during their meeting in Cape Town, South Africa, on Nov. 22, 2016. XINHUA PHOTO: ZHAI JIANLAN

South Sudan launches anti-poaching initiative

JUBA, (Xinhua) — South Sudan’s Ministry of Wildlife Conservation and Tourism on Wednesday launched a major conversation initiative in a bid to combat increased poaching and destruction of wildlife habitat.

The ministry’s spokesman Khamis Adieng Ding said the new campaign seeks to educate the public about benefits of conserving nature and also to reduce widespread poaching of endangered species such as elephants and rhinos.

“Wildlife resource is our national heritage. It should be conserved, protected and managed for the current and future generations,” Ding said.

As part of the drive, all mobile subscribers in the South Sudan have started receiving short messages encouraging them to protect wildlife resources in the conflict-hit country.

South Sudan is home to a variety of endangered species of both flora and fauna that are scattered throughout the Sudd wetland, one of the largest tropical swamps in the world.

Species such as elephants, rhinos and pangolins have declined in recent years following decades of civil conflict and lack of conservation efforts by the government — with conservationists warning early this year that the country’s elephant population has dropped to fewer than 2,500 from 10,000.

Ding said the current South Sudanese civil war impeded law enforcement officers to patrol the protected areas, leaving the survival of wild animals on the mercy of local communities.

He said strong laws and policies are required in South Sudan to combat poaching and also develop to enhance efforts for tourism development.

“If the security situation doesn’t allow us to be in the field, then we have to prepare ourselves to work with the communities. We are almost done with the wildlife policy to reduce the threat to our wildlife resources,” Ding added.


Feature: Sudan’s children cancer hospital represents
glimpse of hope for young patients

KHARTOUM, (Xinhua) — Posters will be put on different means of transportation in Sudan to promote the community initiative of Hospital for Free Treatment of Children’s Cancer (7979), which is entering its second phase aiming at involving all the Sudanese community to contribute to the project.

Launched by Sudan’s Bital Balad Charity Society, the initiative helps manage the deteriorating health reality and lack of a specialized hospital for treatment of children with cancer in Sudan.

Having received wide response, organizations and citizens actively contributed to the construction of the hospital, situated in the capital Khartoum, and are gearing up to provide it with necessary equipments and specialists.

“This is a great initiative that Sudan really needs to serve our children,” said Hussein Omer Abu Reem, chairman of the sub-committee of transportation means in Khartoum locality, who confirmed the “posters plan.”

“The idea of the hospital emerged from the urgent need for such a project. It is the first hospital of its kind in Sudan,” said Laila Mohamed Ali, chair of Bital Balad Charity Society.

The chair thanked “all the popular sectors which support us in this humanitarian project,” referring to the project as it entered the second phase.

Figures show that the number of children with cancer in Sudan is estimated at about 450,000, which alert the public of the instant need to provide treatment for the infected children.

The children’s cancer hospital is launched in Bahry locality, north of Khartoum, said Hassan Mohamed Hassan, commissioner of Bahry locality, promising to provide the necessary support for the hospital.

He added that some of the children travel to neighboring countries, such as Egypt, to receive treatment due to lack of specialized children cancer hospital in Sudan, and “such a hospital could reduce the cost of treatment abroad.”

The hospital tends to make use of similar successful experiences from hospitals like 57357 children’s cancer hospital in Egypt, a team of it visited the patron of the Sudanese initiative few days ago.

The hospital is a six-story building with an integrated surgery complex, intensive care and emergency rooms.

It is set to receive 300 cases daily, and would be constructed in three phases, according to Bital Balad charity society.


Tanzania to use vintage air rally to market its tourist destinations

ARUSHA, Tanzania, (Xinhua) — Tanzania is expected to use the vintage air rally, which involves experienced pilots from across the world, to market its tourism destinations.

The global event, scheduled to start on November 28, is expected to involve more than 40 experienced pilots from six countries including Germany, South Africa, United Kingdom, the Untied States, Belgium and Russia.

Phillipe Corsaletti, one of the local coordinators of the global event, said that during the five-day air fly, pilots will be flying over the Tanzania’s national parks and other tourist attractions.

He said that the air rally involves old aircraft of as old as 1920’s which will be operated by pilots from various parts of the world.

“The first-ever vintage air rally is being followed by thousands of people around the globe…it will help to promote national tourism on a global level,” said Corsaletti.

Corsaletti, who is the general manager of Puma Energy Tanzania, said that as the main host of the amazing adventure they have also been supported by the government through the Tanzania Tourists Board (TTB) and other relevant bodies to ensure that available tourists’ attractions are known worldwide.

He said the rally is also meant to raise funds for various community-related issues globally through UNICEF, Bird Life International and Seed Bombing. The institutions he said are involved in activities which have direct impact to nature conservation since it affects human life prosperity.

“Tanzania is one of the few countries in the world where the rally will take place. We welcome the public to be part of this historic event when the vintage planes pass their areas as well as use the event to promote the country’s tourism,” he noted.

He said that Puma is prepared to host the team of pilots and provide all necessary required services in order to ensure reliable flights. He said the company has knowledgeable technicians who can re-fill fuel in the vintage aircraft since it also provides the same services in eight airports in the country including Kilimanjaro International Airport (KIA) and Julius Nyerere International Airport (JNIA).

He said that in Tanzania the vintage aircraft will refuel at Kilimanjaro, Arusha, Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar, Dodoma and Songwe.

Raymond Tungaraza, Puma aviation operations manager, said the rally commenced on November 12, 2016 at Crete in Greece, and that the entire trip will take 35 days covering 10 countries including Greece, Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa.

Tungaraza said the rally aims at testing pilot’s skills and the old aircraft. Puma Energy is the official fuel sponsor for the 2016 vintage air rally.


Egypt welcomes U.S. decision to consider it “safe” for tourism

CAIRO, (Xinhua) — The Egyptian Tourism Ministry welcomed as “positive” the decision of the U.S. Department of State to consider Egypt among the safe countries for travel and tourism, the ministry said in a press statement Wednesday.

The U.S. Department of State published a map on Tuesday highlighting in green the safe countries for travel and tourism, which included the most populous Arab country.

“The decision is a message of reassurance regarding the Egyptian tourist sites and an invitation for tourists to visit Egypt,” Egyptian Tourism Minister Yehia Rashed said in the statement.

He also stressed the importance of the decision for improving the mental image about Egypt as a tourist destination.

Egypt’s tourism industry suffered over the past five years of political instability and relevant security issues that followed the ouster of two heads of state after mass protests.

It further worsened after a Russian plane crash in Sinai that killed over 200 Russians in October 2015, an Italian student’s ambiguous death in Cairo in February and a tragic EgyptAir flight crash in May that killed all 66 passengers onboard, including 15 French.

Employing about four million people, the tourism sector is one of Egypt’s main sources of national income and foreign currency, bringing the country about 13 billion U.S. dollars in 2010 alone.

The Egyptian tourism minister said last week that about four million tourists visited Egypt since the start of 2016, compared to 14.7 million tourists who visited the country in 2010.


Roundup: Environmentalists push for protection of Congo Basin forests

KIGALI, (Xinhua) — Environment experts have called for concrete measures to protect the mammoth Congo Basin rainforests from deforestation and slow climate change.

They made the call on Wednesday during the 16th meeting of parties of the Congo Basin Forest Partnership (CBFP) that started on Monday at the Kigali Convention Center, in Capital Kigali.

Rwanda hosts the regional forest conservation meeting, from November 21 to 26, with a focus on developing policies, sustainable forest management strategies, economic and development objectives in dealing with challenges facing the Congo Basin forests.

Speaking at the meeting, Andrea Athanas, program design director at African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), said that much effort is needed to protect Congo Basin forest cover from depletion by encroachers.

“The Congo rainforest has been degraded to the point where it is losing its ability to provide shelter to wildlife species inhabiting the forest. Protection and sustainable management of forests and the entire biodiversity in the Central Africa region is paramount towards addressing climate change impact,” he noted, “We are looking forward to ensure that the green heart of Africa continues to remain green — benefiting not only its own people and species, but the entire globe.”

The one week-long conference has attracted conservation experts and scientists from governments, organizations, civil society and the academia from states that are party to the Central Africa Forests Commission (COMIFAC) Treaty.

The meeting will discuss and exchange on a variety of topics related to the protection and sustainable management of the Congo Basin forests.

According to organizers, delegates are expected to produce concrete outputs of direct relevance and value to CBFP members and practitioners in the field as well as key recommendations addressed to policymakers on a limited and well-focused set of crucial issues.

Jef Dupain, Regional Director, Central and Western Africa, at the AWF said that Congo basin forest cover wields significant influence on regional and world climates and so protecting it is of vital importance to the world.

“We want to conserve biodiversity, maintain the Congo rain forest with a maximum level of conservation and by lowering deforestation rates. This is possible if we strengthen our efforts backed by political will,” he added.

Since the adoption of the sub-regional COMIFAC Convergence Plan in 2005 in Brazzaville, the heads of state and government of the Congo Basin countries confirmed their commitment to the principles of conservation of the biodiversity and the sustainable management of Central African forest ecosystems, the fundamental rights of their populations to benefit from forest resources.

The Congo Basin holds the second-largest bank of rainforest on the planet after the Amazon in South America. That’s about 300 million hectares, but only about 13 percent of it is protected, according to CBFP.

The forest cover is known for its high levels of biodiversity, including more than 600 tree species and 10,000 animal species.

Ten countries are included in the regional CBFP discussion are Cameroon, Republic of Congo, Gabon, Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Chad, Sao Tome and Principe, Burundi and Rwanda. Other governments, representing the EU and the United States, as well NGOs round out the 85 members of the group.

The 15th meeting of Parties of the Congo Basin Forest Partnership (CBFP) was held in Yaounde, Cameroon, last year.


Rwanda signs deal on peat-to-power project

KIGALI, (Xinhua) — Rwanda on Wednesday signed a 350-million-U.S.-dollar contract with local and international financial institutions to fund construction of its peat-to-power project as part of its drive to increase energy access.

The deal, which is expected to add 80 megawatts (MW) to the national grid, will help address the country’s constant power shortages, according to the ministry of infrastructure.

The power plant will be the second in the country when it starts production by the target date of 2019. The first peat plant is expected to be completed this year with 15-MW capacity.

Yumn Ltd, a Turkey-based investment company, signed an agreement to construct the peat fired energy plant in Akanyaru marshland, Gisagara district, Eastern Province.

According to the power purchase agreement, the Turkish firm will operate the plant for 26 years upon completion, and then transfer it to the government of Rwanda.

A consortium of financial companies that will inject funds towards the construction include Preferential Trade Association-PTA bank, Africa Finance Corporation, Finnfund-Finland’s development finance company, Development Bank of Rwanda, African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) and Export-Import Bank of India (EXIM Bank).

Speaking to reporters after the signing of the agreement, James Musoni, Rwanda minister of infrastructure, said that the power plant will boost energy access across the country and facilitate enhancement of power generation for industrial development.

“The peat project comes as another commendable step towards achieving our economic goals as replicated in our development strategies. Our country has made a commitment to this investment plan because we recognize that energy is the engine of our growth,” he added.

Rwanda has set an ambitious target to increase installed electricity generation capacity to 563 MW within the next two years, which requires investments of 3 billion dollars in the energy sector.

Currently, the country’s energy production capacity is about 161 MW, up from 50 MW seen in 2008.

In May this year, Rwanda unveiled a mega methane gas power plant — the Kivu-Watt Gas Power project, which is expected to produce 100 MW of electricity from Lake Kivu, the world’s only methane-rich water body.

The country is set to import 30 MW from Kenya on a five-year arrangement expected to start later this year. Rwanda also plans to import 400 MW of power from Ethiopia by 2018.

In February last year, the small central African nation unveiled 23.7 million dollars solar power plant, the first of its kind in the region and the third in Africa after those in South Africa and Mauritius.

The utility power located in Rwamagana district, eastern province, which was developed by the Netherlands-based company Gigawatt Global, adds 8.5 MW to the national grid.


S. Africa’s Zuma promises to let no cash-strapped child out of school

CAPE TOWN, (Xinhua) — There will be no child not going to school as his or her parents do not have enough money, South African President Jacob Zuma promised Wednesday.

“We want to get a lasting solution” to the educational crisis, Zuma said at a Q&A session in Parliament.

In response to a question about whether the government has reached consensus with students on zero fee increases or fee-free education, Zuma said the matter is being considered and “we will make a plan to address the questions”.

Zuma said the country will come to a consensus and encourages those who are contributing to finding a solution.

“There is a general consensus that education must not be interrupted. If there are problems we must address them,” Zuma said.

South African universities had been hit by a new wave of protests against fee increases over the past few weeks. Although students have returned to class, student leaders say their struggle for free education is not over.

Zuma expressed thanks to the students for going back to school, saying it is important for the future of the country.

It is good that students are also contributing to finding a solution, he said.

Zuma said he did not want any university students missing out on education due to financial problems.

He said the government is not opposed to the students’ call and is doing and has done everything to ensure more money for the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).

Zuma said the government must study the feasibility for free education.

Free education is a promise made by the Zuma’s African National Congress (ANC). In its congress in 2007, the party made a resolution to have free education in seven years. The ANC has been criticized for failing to keep its promise.


Italy, UNIDO to support Ethiopia’s leather sector

ADDIS ABABA, (Xinhua) — Italy and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Wednesday to advance leather sector developments in Ethiopia.

Part of the agreement was a 2.8-million-Euro financial support from the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation to assist UNIDO’s initiative, dubbed “Technical Assistance Project for the Up-Grading of Ethiopian Leather and Leather Products Industry – Phase 2”.

Signing the MoU in Addis Ababa, capital of Ethiopia, Giuseppe Mistretta, Italian Ambassador to Ethiopia, said the support is designed to create conducive environment for Micro, Small and Middle Enterprises (MSME) in Ethiopia’s leather products sector.

Tadesse Haile, State Minister of Industry of Ethiopia, noted that MSME development is considered as one of the most important pillar of the second 5-year Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP II / 2016-2020).

UNIDO Representative Jean Bakole said the technical assistance project targets to build local capacity, facilitate access to loans and linkage with financial institutions, and create new cluster areas for MSME development in Ethiopia’s leather production sector.

With 52 million heads of cattle, Ethiopia is the No. 1 in Africa and sixth in the world in cattle population.


Kenya’ s Kipyegon ruled out competing in World Indoor circuit

NAIROBI, (Xinhua) — Olympic 1500m winner Faith Kipyegon of Kenya has ruled out competing in next year’ s World Indoor circuit.

The 22-year-old, instead will focus her effort on improving her endurance to be able to compete favorably in the cross country circuit, which she believes will boost her performance in the season as she targets to dominate the IAAF Diamond League and the World Championships in London.

“I have not factored the indoor circuit in my plans for now. I just started my preparations for the cross country and would like to focus on it solely so that I can see how fast I can run,” she said Wednesday in Nairobi.

IAAF World Indoor Tour will consist of four competitions which have regularly staged IAAF Indoor Permit meetings in previous years.

The four meetings will all be staged in February 2017. They are Karlsruhe indoor meeting (Karlsruhe, Germany), New Balance Indoor Grand Prix (Boston, USA), Globen Galan (Stockholm, Sweden), and Glasgow Indoor Grand Prix in Scotland.

The indoor tour, which will have half of the individual indoor championship disciplines as tour events each year across a two-year period, contains several innovative features, including a points system and prize money.

The individual overall winner of each event will receive 20,000 U.S. dollars in prize money. Kipyegon said her goal is to run an International cross country race in January, then Kenyan trials and to represent Kenya in World Champs cross country in Kampala in March.

She hopes the endurance gained in the cross country will exalt her higher and boost her fitness as she embarks on the track season where she is targeting to win the World Championships in London.

Kipyegon started her senior contest in London in 2012, but could not make the semifinals of the women’ s 1,500m race. She returned in Moscow in 2013 and was fifth in the final and last year, she won silver at the Beijing World Championships before upgrading that to gold in Rio Olympic Games.

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