SOMALIA: U.S airstrike kills Al-Shabaab militant

ALGIERS, (Xinhua) --Algerian counter-terrorism troops arrested on Sunday four individuals suspected of providing support to terrorists in the province of Batna, 400 km southeast of Algiers, Defense Ministry said in a statement on Monday.

The source specified that the four suspects were arrested after the exploitation of accurate intelligence by counter-terrorism troops.

Later last month, a wide-scale counter-terrorism operation was conducted in the eastern region of Algeria, as six militants were killed and seven others arrested including five women.

Several individuals were also arrested suspected of providing support to terrorist groups.

Located in a region plagued by unprecedented security and political instability, Algeria faces ongoing terrorist threats.

A few militants affiliated to al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and recently established Daesh affiliate groups are still taking refuge in the dense woods in the north, and remote desert areas near the troubled Libya and Mali. 


Somalia vows to intensify military operations against terrorists

MOGADISHU, (Xinhua) --Somalia on Tuesday vowed to intensify military operations against Islamist State (IS) and Al-Shabaab militants to stabilize the Horn of Africa nation.

Information Minister Abdurahman Omar Osman said the government will use all available resources, including foreign military support from international partners, to flush out terrorists from Somalia.

“The government will continue the military operations, including the use of airstrikes, against Al-Shabaab in response to the cowardly attacks against civilians, as well as on Somali security forces and AMISOM,” Osman said in a statement issued in Mogadishu.

AMISOM stands for African Union Mission in Somalia, a peacekeeping mission operated by the AU with the approval of the United Nations Security Council.

Osman’s statement came after a series of airstrikes by the U.S. military in the Horn of Africa nation, which reportedly killed “several” IS and Al-Shabaab militants, in a joint operation with Somali forces.

The U.S. forces have vowed to continue using all authorized and appropriate measures to protect Americans and to disable terrorist threats.

Osman said all airstrikes and offensive operations taking place in Somalia are well planned and “our leaders sought assurances that in attempts to avoid civilian casualties, all necessary precautions are taken prior to every airstrike.”

The minister lauded the Somali people for their support to military operations against terrorists who have killed innocent people, including the Oct. 14 truck bomb attack that left at least 358 people dead.

“We cannot thank enough the support of our people for saying ‘enough is enough’ following the 14 October truck bomb attack in Mogadishu,” said Osman. “Winning hearts and minds of our people is key to the success of counter terrorism in Somalia.” 


Polls open in Somalia’s breakaway region of Somaliland

MOGADISHU, (Xinhua) -- Voting kicked off at 7 a.m. in the breakaway region of Somaliland on Monday as over 700,000 voters lined up in queues to vast their ballot to elect their fifth president.

Queues started forming in a number of the stations as voters lined up to vote in 1,642 polling centers.

“I am very happy to vote and I will give my vote to the most suitable candidate,” Sagal Mohamed told Xinhua.

Muse Bihi Abdi will be defending the ruling party seat while former House Speaker Abdirahman Irro is vying in Wadani ticket. Faisal Ali Warabe is running under Justice and Development Party (UCID).

This is the first poll in Somaliland to use a new voter registration system, which itself marks the first use of iris-scan biometric technology in an African election.

Meanwhile, a 60-member team of international observers from 27 countries is monitoring the polls.

The international election observation mission (EOM), which has been invited by Somaliland’s National Electoral Commission (NEC), said it will conduct its observation activities in accordance with the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation, emphasizing the impartiality and independence of that observation.

The EOM is led by the Development Planning Unit (DPU) at University College London (UCL), and Somaliland Focus UK.

This EOM marks the fourth election in Somaliland observed and reported on by DPU and Somaliland Focus since 2005.

“Preparations for this mission have been intense, and we are very appreciative of the invaluable assistance we have had from so many stakeholders in Somaliland, and from the British government in funding this mission,” Michael Walls of DPU, chief observer on the EOM.

“Now that we are seeing the hard work bear fruit, we are hoping we will see a spirited and peaceful polling day marking another step in Somaliland’s democratic development,” Walls said. 


Security tight as Somalilanders vote to elect new president

MOGADISHU, (Xinhua) -- Security is tight as Somalilanders in the semi-autonomous region of Somalia lined up on Monday to elect their new president in polls delayed by severe drought and political disagreements.

The northern region’s military chiefs promised to ensure that the election which begun at 7.a.m runs smoothly without any disruption from terrorists and pledged to work with whoever emerges the winner.

“We will work with every candidate that wins. Somaliland forces are in every area, at the borders and at all polling stations across the country to secure and make sure the election is peaceful,” said Somaliland Chief of Army Nuh Ismail Tani.

He added that all forces were already prepared to secure the safety of the voters to ensure peace prevails in Somaliland during the presidential election.

Observers said election is significant because it’s the first time an incumbent is not contesting, giving voters in the former British protectorate a real choice between the three candidates.

Tani called on Somalilanders to maintain peace to ensure the election runs smoothly. The results of the presidential election are not expected until Friday.

Residents told Xinhua that there is heavy security presence in Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland and in all polling stations, saying the forces are also guiding voters who are blind, pregnant or weak on to cast their ballot.

“The security situation is okay. So far there are no insecurity incidents which have been reported. There are Special Forces everywhere maintaining security. There has also been public awareness by politicians, community leaders and presidential candidates on the importance of maintaining peace,” said a resident who refused to be named.


U.S airstrike kills Al-Shabaab militant in Somalia

MOGADISHU, (Xinhua) -- At least one Al-Shabaab militant was killed when the U.S. military carried out another airstrike against the Al-Qaida allied insurgent group in Somalia late Saturday.

The operation occurred near Bulogudud, about 400 km southwest of the capital city of Mogadishu, the U.S. Africa Command (Africom) said late Sunday.

“In coordination with the Federal Government of Somalia, the U.S. forces conducted an airstrike in Somalia against Al-Shabaab at approximately 4:30 p.m. local time (1330 GMT) on Saturday, killing one enemy combatant,” Africom said in a statement.

“Prior to this strike, the U.S. forces observed the Al-Shabaab combatant participating in the attacks on a U.S. and Somali convoy. The U.S. forces subsequently conducted the strike under collective self-defense authorities,” it added.

The U.S. military has killed several militants in strikes carried out in coordination with the Somali government in the past week in a bid to stabilize the Horn of Africa nation.

Washington said Al-Shabaab has pledged allegiance to Al-Qaida and is dedicated to providing safe haven for terrorist attacks across the world.

“Al-Shabaab is publicly committed to planning and conducting attacks against the United States and our partners in the region,” it said, vowing to intensify airstrikes against the militants in Somalia.


UN welcomes S. Sudan’s order on humanitarian access

JUBA, (Xinhua) -- The top United Nations relief official in South Sudan on Monday welcomed President Salva Kiir’s decree ordering free, unimpeded and unhindered movement of humanitarian organizations in the country.

Ensuring unhindered humanitarian access is essential to save thousands of lives who are in need of aid, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for South Sudan Alain Noudehou said in a statement issued in Juba.

“South Sudan’s humanitarian partners appreciate the step that President Kiir has taken to ensure the free movement of supplies and personnel, particularly at a time when food insecurity continues to deteriorate and humanitarian organizations face pressure to expand their response,” Noudehou said.

According to the decree issued on Nov. 9, all roadblocks must be cleared immediately for international aid agencies.

The decree came amid complaints from international aid agencies who have had difficulties in reaching the most vulnerable populations in remote areas, worsening a humanitarian crisis, with some displaced people starving to death, especially in the Upper Nile and Equatoria regions.

Noudehou expressed hope that the order will have a positive impact in reducing the many constraints faced by humanitarian partners that delay or prevent the provision of urgently needed help and which too often place humanitarian staff at risk.

“We look forward to seeing the order implemented on the ground swiftly and we will continue to work with all concerned authorities to ensure a safe and secure operational environment that is conducive to the timely delivery of humanitarian assistance to people in need,” he said.


S. Sudan withdraws soldiers from ex-army chief’s home

JUBA, (Xinhua) -- South Sudan said it has resolved the standoff with ex-army (SPLA) Chief of General Staff Paul Malong by withdrawing hundreds of soldiers that had been surrounding the latter’s home following more than one week of standoff over his bodyguards.

SPLA spokesperson Lul Ruai Koang, in a statement on Sunday night in Juba announced the peaceful resolution of the standoff between the government and Malong.

“SPLA announces peaceful resolution of misunderstanding between the government and the former Chief of General Staff,” he said.

He disclosed that Malong who was sacked in May by President Salva Kiir finally accepted the presidential order to allow withdrawal of the over 30 bodyguards from his home.

“Security review was undertaken which indicated lack of real security threats to the government in particular and residents of Juba in general,” Koang said of the reasons behind the withdrawal.

He also added that the decision will help reduce and eliminate uncertainty created by deployment of security forces around the residence of the former Chief of General Staff, and will help to build confidence between the government and Malong.

Koang also said Malong’s house confinement since the beginning of November had caused inconvenience to several road users in the capital and that peaceful settlement of this once contentious matter will free up some roads for public use.

The United States Department of the Treasury this year indicted and effected asset freeze for Malong and other two senior ranking officers accused of fanning the more than three years of violence and obstructing peace efforts.

Hundreds of soldiers on armored personnel carriers (APC) had until surrounded the former army chief’s residence on the pretext he may escape with his bodyguards, after the government in May had blocked him with his heavily armed troops in Yirol Western Lakes state en route to his home area of Aweil in Northern Bahr El Ghazal. 


S. African ruling party refutes claims about removal of its secretary general

CAPE TOWN, (Xinhua) --South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) on Monday denied rumors that its Secretary General Gwede Mantashe would be removed from office.

The ANC rejects with contempt the false, malicious and mischievous reports, the party said in a statement emailed to Xinhua.

The local news outlet eNCA reported on Sunday that Mantashe came under attack at the party’s special National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting in Pretoria at the weekend and there have been calls within the ANC for his removal.

The report claimed that discussions were underway to remove Mantashe.

A decision on whether or not to suspend Mantashe would be made on Monday morning after the NEC meeting resumed, eNCA said, citing sources in the party.

The report came after Mantashe was named in Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa’s proposed leadership team, should Ramaphosa be elected ANC president in the upcoming ANC elective conference next month.

Because of the serious nature of the rumors, the ANC has decided to depart from normal procedure and issue this statement which unequivocally dismisses claims made by nameless and faceless sources that there are discussions underway to remove Mantashe, ANC national spokesperson Zizi Kodwa said.

“These rumors are peddled to sow confusion and division within the movement and are indicative of the media’s laziness and total disregard for proper journalistic ethics in favor of populism and sensationalism,” said Kodwa.

The ANC calls upon its members, supporters and South Africans at large to resist and reject the frenzy of fake news peddled by so-called insiders and analysts and rather await formal communication from the NEC on the outcomes of its meeting, he said.

The ANC has reportedly been locked in a seccession battle, pitting presidential hopeful Ramaphosa against ANC MP Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, former African Union Commission Chairwoman.

The battle heated up last week after Ramaphosa announced his “winning team” in the campaign to lead the party, choosing Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor as his deputy. Ramaphosa lined up Mantashe as the party’s national chairman.

His move drew sharp criticism from within the party for lack of respect to the organizational processes and procedures. According to the ANC’s constitution, preferred candidates are nominated by ANC members at ANC branch general meetings (BGMs).

The ANC will hold its elective conference in December to elect its president to succeed incumbent President Jacob Zuma. Once elected, the new ANC president will automatically become the country’s president if the ANC wins the 2019 general elections.


Elephant kills two Western tourists in southern Zambia

LUSAKA, (Xinhua) -- Two international tourists have been trampled to death in Zambia’ s southern city of Livingstone, the police said on Sunday.

The incident happened on Saturday at a lodge located near a national park, and the deceased were a 57-year-old woman from Belgium and a 64-year-old man from the Netherlands, acting police spokesperson Danny Mwale said.

However, the names of the deceased have been withheld until their next of kin have been informed.

The police spokesperson said the tourists were killed by the elephant as they went close to it to take photographs.

An inquiry file has since been opened for further investigations, he added.

This is the second incident this month in which elephants killed human beings in Zambia’s tourist capital.

Last week., a local security officer was crushed to death by elephants when he cycled through the national park. 


At least 34 killed in train crash in southeast DRC

KINSHASA, (Xinhua) --A 13-car train crashed in the southeast Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on Sunday, killing at least 34 people and injuring 26 others, a provincial governor said.

The number of casualties is likely to rise because some cars remain on fire and some are carrying fuel, according to Lualaba governor Richard Muyej Mangez.

Radio Okapi reported that the cause of the crash is yet unclear and 11 cars of the National Railway Company of Congo train, en route from the southeast city of Lubumbashi to the southern town of Luena caught fire.

The injured were transported to a hospital some 30 km from the crash site, with some losing their limbs, the hospital’s media officer was quoted on radio as saying.


Kenya launches policy on combating antimicrobial resistance

NAIROBI (Xinhua) --Kenya’s Ministry of Health on Monday launched a policy on prevention and containment of antimicrobial resistance to help promote prudent use of antimicrobial agents.

Ministry of Health Cabinet Secretary Cleopa Mailu said the policy will ensure that there is continued successful treatment and prevention of microbial diseases.

“We are going to make safe antimicrobials effective and quality accessible to patients in need,” Mailu told journalists during the launch in Nairobi.

According to reports from hospitals and communities, the east African nation is experiencing rising rates of antimicrobial resistance among infections that contribute the most to human disease.

Antimicrobial resistance, one of the most significant global public health problems, is rising in many developing nations due to overuse of antimicrobial agents, widespread availability of counterfeit or substandard medicines, and poor infection control measures.

Research has demonstrated that a continued rise in antimicrobial resistance globally would lead to 10 million people dying every year and a 3 percent reduction in gross domestic product (GDP) by the year 2050.

According to a March 2016 survey, Kenya is already experiencing high levels of antimicrobial resistance.

Many patients are experiencing such resistance that renders many available antimicrobial regimens like penicillin and cotrimoxazole ineffective against common infections.

“With the increasing levels of international travel and trade, antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to global public health, food security and development,” Mailu said.

He noted that this year’s World Antibiotic Awareness Week is aimed at enhancing public awareness of the increasing threat of antibiotic resistance and the need to enhance appropriate rise of antibiotics.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has recently warned of the emergence of drug-resistant bacteria that are rapidly spreading across the globe, threatening the world’s ability to treat common infectious diseases.

The WHO noted that an increasing number of infections such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, drug poisoning and gonorrhea are now becoming harder and sometimes impossible to treat as antibiotics become less and less effective.

Kenya’s Ministry of Health is partnering with the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries in consolidating efforts toward implementing sustainable measures in mitigating further emergence and spread of antimicrobial resistance. 


China-Africa expo provides new platform for industrial capacity cooperation

BEIJING, (Xinhua) -- An upcoming exposition will create a new platform for Chinese and African businesses to strengthen industrial capacity cooperation, officials said Monday.

The China-Africa Industrial Capacity Cooperation Exposition will take place in Nairobi, Kenya, from Dec. 13 to 16, organized by the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT), according to Chen Zhou, vice chairman of CCPIT, at a press conference.

Preparatory work has been basically completed for the expo, which is being organized by the CCPIT in Africa for the first time, according to Chen.

“Altogether 56 Chinese companies will take part in the expo to showcase high-quality products and advanced technology in railway and road construction, infrastructure, telecommunications, machinery, manufacturing and farm produce processing,” Chen said.

“The expo will provide a new platform for Chinese and African businesses to conduct full-scale communication and deepen cooperation, and encourage more Chinese firms to enter Africa and speed up its industrialization process,” Chen said.

“While Africa has rich natural and human resources and stands at the starting period of industrialization, China has the technology, equipment, talent and funds that can help Africa realize independent, sustainable development,” he said.

Michael Kinyanjui, Kenya’s ambassador to China, said the expo aimed to attract local and regional delegates from over 30 African countries.

“We believe the expo will add impetus to the ongoing China-Africa collaboration in trade, investments, and also cooperation in industrialization,” Kinyanjui said.

Chen hailed the win-win cooperation between China and Africa in recent years, speaking of rapid growth in trade and investment.

The two sides saw their trade volume rise 19 percent year on year to 85.3 billion U.S. dollars in the first half of this year, when Chinese firms’ non-financial direct investment in Africa increased 22 percent year on year to 1.6 billion dollars, according to Chen.

The China Africa Development Fund, an equity investment fund managed by China Development Bank, has authorized 4.5 billion dollars of investment in 91 projects in 36 African nations since its establishment in 2007, according to Zhou Chao, vice president of the fund.

“With investment areas ranging from industrial capacity and infrastructure to energy and agriculture, those projects are estimated to drive more than 20 billion dollars of investment from Chinese enterprises after their completion,” Zhou said.


Roundup: Zuma releases report on feasibility of free higher education in S. Africa

CAPE TOWN, (Xinhua) -- President Jacob Zuma on Monday released the much-anticipated report on the Feasibility of Fee-Free Higher Education and Training in South Africa.

The report, however, falls short of making higher education and training fee-free, raising fears that a new spate of student protest might erupt.

There is currently no capacity for the state to provide free tertiary education to all students in the country, the report has found.

There is insufficient financial capacity in the state to provide totally free higher education and training to all who are unable to finance their own education, let alone to all students, whether in need or not, according to the report.

In January 2016, Zuma established a Commission of Inquiry into higher education and training in order to add into the body of knowledge and evidence that will inform the government’s decision making process in pursuit of a sustainable solution to the on-going higher education funding matter.

The report, released by Zuma, recommends that all undergraduate and postgraduate students studying at both public and private universities and colleges, regardless of their family background, be funded through a cost-sharing model of government guaranteed Income-Contingency Loans sourced from commercial banks.

Through this cost-sharing model, commercial banks should issue government guaranteed loans to the students that are payable by the student upon graduation and attainment of a specific income threshold, according to the report.

The report also recommends that the government increase its expenditure on higher education and training to at least one percent of the GDP, in line with comparable economies.

The Inter-Ministerial Committee on Higher Education Funding led by the Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe, and the Presidential Fiscal Committee led by Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba are processing the report, Zuma said.

“I will make a pronouncement on the report once the ministers have concluded their work. I have decided to release the report prior to the conclusion of our work in processing it so that the public can have an opportunity to study the report while we continue with the processing thereof,” Zuma said.

Students were planning a national day of action as their demands for Zuma to release the much-awaited Fees Commission Report intensified.

Zuma had been under fire for delaying the report.

Following widespread student protests over tuition fee increases in 2015, Zuma established a Commission of Inquiry in January 2016 to investigate the feasibility of making higher education and training fee-free in the country.

After failing to present the report within the 18-month deadline, the commission had its term extended until June 30, 2017.

Zuma received the final report from the commission on August 30, 2017.

Students are threatening to launch fresh protests nationwide to press their demand for free higher education.

In 2015, widespread student protests erupted in all major universities across the country, triggered by tuition fee hikes ranging from 10 percent to 50 percent for the 2016 school year.

The protests continued for weeks until Zuma succumbed to students’ demand for zero-percent increase in tuition fee. 


Zimbabwe relaxes import controls on basic goods to boost supply

HARARE, (Xinhua) -- The Zimbabwe government has relaxed controls on importation of basic goods into the country to improve supply and stabilize prices ahead of the festive season, the state-run Herald newspaper reported Monday.

Industry and Commerce Minister Mike Bimha said the government was also willing to give import licenses to individuals and organizations with free funds to bring in the goods.

Zimbabwe is facing an acute shortage of foreign currency which has resulted in price hikes of some basic commodities as retailers are sourcing hard cash on the parallel market at a premium.

In September, the country experienced a temporary shortage of cooking oil and other basic goods due to panic buying by consumers after social media messages claimed there would be shortages of such commodities due to the ongoing forex shortages.

The availability of such goods has since stabilized but demand for basic commodities usually rise during the festive season.

Bimha said the government wanted to avoid shortages of such goods by licensing more importers.

“What we would want to announce today is that, we want to call upon companies and individuals who have free funds to import basic commodities and my ministry is ready to process permits and licenses to that effect,” Bimha said.

The minister said the government was monitoring prices of various commodities and had discovered that many sectors, including brick making, packaging and pharmaceuticals, had hiked prices without any justification.

“What is disturbing, though, is that some of these companies are companies that are getting a lot of support from government,” he said.

He warned that the government could withdraw operating licenses for companies that had unjustifiably hiked prices.

A cabinet task force appointed recently to monitor prices of various goods would meet this week to identify culprits and decide on the action to take, the minister said.  


Three Gorges project builder signs contract for Nigeria hydropower project

WUHAN, (Xinhua) --Chinese construction giant China Gezhouba Group Corp. (CGGC), the main builder of the Three Gorges project, said Tuesday a CGGC-led consortium has signed a contract with the Nigerian government to build a hydropower project valued at 5.792 billion U.S. dollars.

The Mambilla hydropower project is the largest infrastructure project in Nigeria and also the largest hydropower plant Chinese firms have ever built overseas, the Wuhan-based CGGC said on its official WeChat mobile messaging account.

The consortium includes CGGC, Sinohydro Corp. Ltd. and CGCOC Group Co. Ltd, with stakes of 45 percent, 35 percent and 20 percent, respectively, CGGC said in a statement filed to the Shanghai Stock Exchange.

The project, expected to be completed in 87 months, involves building four dams and installing 12 generators totaling 3,050 megawatts. Upon completion, it will be capable of generating about 4.7 billion kilowatt hours of electricity a year.

Other construction work includes 1,295 kilometers of transmission lines and 184 kilometers of access roads.

The project will ease the power shortage and become a reliable water source for local residents and farmland in the African country, CGGC said, adding that the project’s builders will employ 5,000 to 8,000 local workers and train 1,000 managerial and technical personnel. 


UN authorizes Israel to expand technological support in Central African Republic

UNITED NATIONS, (Xinhua) --The United Nations on Monday authorized Israel to expand its technological support for its peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic and help improve security in the country.

In a letter of assist UN Under-Secretary-General for Field Support Atul Khare signed with Israel, the UN approved the Israeli government’s proposal to expand its existing observation systems used by the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA).

Since 2015, Israel has contributed both static and mobile observation systems to MINUSCA.

“These capacities have proven highly successful in increasing situational awareness and preventing outbreaks of violence, including during the visit of Pope Francis, the election process in Bangui (CAR’s capital) and many other events associated with potential security threats,” said a press release.

“The Department of Field Support (DFS) thanks the government of Israel for its continued support to UN peacekeeping,” it said.

DFS is a UN department dedicated to supporting peacekeeping and political missions.


Zambia to rebase GDP

LUSAKA, (Xinhua) --Zambia intends to revise and benchmark its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to update the country’s economic data, according to the country’s national statistical office on Monday.

“We are planning to rebase and benchmark our GDP for 2017. We wanted to do it in 2016, but because of the bad economic situation we had to postpone our plans, but we will do it now,” said Goodson Sinyenga,  Zambia’s Central Statistical Office (CSO) assistant director in charge of economics and financial statistics.

The idea was to make planning and investment decisions more robust and informed through the collection of highly segregated data, Sinyenga said during a press briefing, adding that the GDP was last rebased in 2010.

The statistics agency has since come up with a model in collaboration with the International Monetary Fund and the International Labor Organization.

The model will provide a detailed picture about the structure of the economy and the relationship between products and industries in a given year by providing elements of the production process, the use of the goods and services and the income generated.

Zambia’s GDP was 216.1 billion Zambian Kwacha (about 21.8 billion U.S. dollars) last year. 


S. African Deputy President travels to London in support of Rugby World Cup bid

CAPE TOWN, (Xinhua) -- South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa will return to London to make a final effort in support of the country’s bid to host the prestigious Rugby World Cup 2023, the President’s office announced on Sunday.

Ramaphosa’s visit will demonstrate the South African government’s support for and commitment to the effort to return the tournament to the African continent in the 21st century, Ramaphosa’s acting spokesperson Tyrone Seale said.

Ramaphosa will leave for London on Monday, leading a high-level delegation to reaffirm South Africa’s readiness to host the event, according to Seale.

In September, Ramaphosa led the South African Rugby World Cup Bid Team to London to present the country’s case to host the 2023 tournament that will take place 200 years after the invention of the game of rugby by William Webb Ellis.

The South African bid had previously been named as the “clear leader” and “unanimous” choice of the Rugby World Cup board to host the tournament. This follows an exhaustive tendering, clarification and evaluation process. Contenders France and Ireland were rated second and third, respectively.

The final announcement is expected to be made in London on November 15.

The final decision rests with 26 World Rugby Council members who collectively exercise 39 votes and among whom a simple majority is required to secure the hosting rights. The three bidding countries do not vote.

South Africa expects the tournament, if held in the country, to help stimulate the economy and further boost its tourism and hospitality sectors.

During his upcoming visit to London, Ramaphosa will be accompanied by Sport and Recreation Minister Thulas Nxesi, SA Rugby President Mark Alexander and Chief Executive Officer Jurie Roux, who laid out South Africa’s technically and commercially compelling case to host the tournament in September.


South African Rugby team leaves for London
ahead of 2023 World Cup announcement

JOHANNESBURG, (Xinhua) --South African deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa will be off to London on Monday where the announcement of the Rugby World Cup 2023 host venue will be announced.

The deputy president will lead South Africa team to the World Rugby Council in London, where the announcement is expected on Wednesday.

President Jacob Zuma has urged the country to rally behind the bid committee ahead of the announcement.

South Africa has been tipped to land the bid to host the tournament, named as the “clear leader” and “unanimous” choice of the Rugby World Cup board to host the event.

The country is competing against France and Ireland which have been rated second and third respectively.

Ramaphosa’s spokesperson Tyrone Seale confirmed to Xinhua on Sunday that the South Africa team will be led by the deputy president, “The final decision rests with 26 World Rugby Council members who collectively exercise 39 votes and among whom a simple majority is required to secure a hosting right,” Seale said.

In May, Jurie Roux, chief executive of SA Rugby, and Ahlangene Cyprian Sigcau, South African ambassador to Ireland, revealed a  827-page document giving their case for hosting the tournament.

South Africa last hosted the tournament in 1995, scoring an epic 15-12 extra time win against New Zealand in the final at Ellis Park in Johannesburg.

It is estimated that hosting the 2023 Rugby World Cup will inject about R27 billion into South Africa’s economy.


Kenyan Ruto wins 2017 Beirut Marathon

BEIRUT, (Xinhua) -- Bahrain’s Eunice Chumba won the women’s marathon with a course record of 2:28:38, while Dominic Ruto from Kenya also set a 2:10:41 course record in the men’s marathon. Both picked up 3,000 U.S dollar bonuses for breaking the course record.

Lebanon’s top finisher in the men’s race was Hussein Awada, who came in ninth. Nisrine Njiem led the Lebanese athletes in the women’s race with a tenth place finish.

Lebanese first lady Nadia Aoun participated in the 8 kilometer Fun Run and officially started the para-athletes race.

Australian Ambassador to Lebanon Glenn Miles was the sole ambassador to run the full marathon, while U.K. Ambassador Hugo Shorter was among other diplomats running in the 21 kilometer race.

Since the marathon’s inception in 2003, 393,000 runners from 105 countries and regions have participated and more than $1.3 million has been raised for various causes. Organizers say that the 2017 competition drew 45,000 participants, with the winners of the men’s and women’s races each taking home some $10,000 in prize money. This year, more than 4,400 volunteers helped the various races run smoothly.


Ghana draws one-all with Egypt to wrap up World Cup qualifying campaign

ACCRA, (Xinhua) -- Ghana wrapped up its 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign with a 1-1 result against Egypt in the final round of qualifiers on Sunday.

Mahmoud Shikabala shot the North Africans into the lead with a sublime finish in the 61st minute much to the admiration of the few Egyptian fans who thronged the China-built sports stadium in the Coastal City of Cape Coast to cheer their team.

Ghana leveled in the 64th minute through Edwin Gyasi whose left-footed shot deflected into the back of the Egyptian net.

The Black Stars piled on pressure in the second half of the encounter but the youthful West African side could not outwit the tight defensive set up of the Pharaohs.

Prior to the game, Egypt, who are seven-time African champions, had already secured the sole ticket to the global soccer fiesta from Group E, dashing Ghana’s hopes of making a fourth-straight FIFA world cup appearance.

The North Africans last featured in the FIFA world cup in 1990.

Before the game, players of Ghana’s Black Stars had promised to win the match in order to boost the West African soccer powerhouse’ s position on the FIFA world rankings, but they were frustrated by a tactical Egyptian side who also played for pride especially to prevent the heavy 6-1 defeat they suffered in their last encounter with Ghana in the 2014 World Cup qualifier.

Both sides were without key players as Egyptian coach Hector Cuper handed opportunities to fringe players in his fold while Ghana coach Kwesi Appiah was without skipper Asamoah Gyan and influential player Christian Atsu on his team.

The pair got injured during preparations for the match.

Ghana coach Kwesi Appiah says he has his eyes fixed on annexing the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) trophy to end the Black Stars’ 35-year title drought and is putting together a strong team capable of winning the 2019 AFCON to be staged in Cameroon.

“We knew we were already out of the race to qualify for the World Cup, so I wanted to give other players the opportunity to see what they can offer my new team for 2019,” Appiah said at the post-match press conference.

Sunday’s result means that Ghana failed to record a win in all its three homes matches throughout the campaign after drawing goalless with Uganda in the opening round of the qualifiers before being held 1-1 by Congo.

The Black Stars thus finished third in Group E, seven points behind leaders Egypt and Uganda.

The final draw for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia will be held at the State Kremlin Palace in Moscow on Dec. 1.


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