1 Jan 2013 Updates


Libya says it will put Saif al-Islam Gaddafi and Abdallahal- Senussi on trial “within a month”

Western Sahara: Right to self-determination affirmed by UN, international consultations in 2013 to unlock conflict. The Western Sahara issue witnessed a rebound during 2012, particularly with publication of the UN Secretary General’s hard-hitting report, criticizing barriers imposed on the MINURSO mission by Moroccan authorities and by Morocco’s withdrawal of confidence in Christopher Ross, later changing position due to strong international pressure.

Al Jazeera has a new television reporter in Mauritania, our very own Baba Hourma (@bHourma). He does an excellent job in this clip about immigration

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lQTn1ZSVK1g]

1 Jan 2012 Mauritania bans plastic bagsI hope Baba will do an item soon on the ban on plastic bags which came into force in Mauritania today, an attempt to eradicate the extreme pollution caused by an influx of almost 1 billion bags annually. The campaign includes activities to raise awareness, including flyers,  distribution of paper bags, an explanatory video and media coverage. Penalties include up to a year in prison, and fines of up to 1 million Ouguiya (Euro 2,500) for manufacturers, 500,000 for importers, and up to 10,000 for users of the illegal plastic bags or “Zazo” as they are called. This is an ambitious enterprise for a country which has failed to eradicate descendant slavery despite repeatedly criminalising it, and which recently approved a new law prohibiting coups d’etat, which are almost a national sport in Mauritania.

Kinross Gold’s drilling subcontractor, Capital Drilling Mauritania, is accused of breaking labour laws to discriminate against CGTM union members. Capital Drilling gave itself an award for ‘Commitment and Excellence in Safety’ in August 2012 for having completed 500 days without any “lost time incidents” (LTI).

Meanwhile, reports that Mauritania’s Central Bank is restricting access to significant values of both local and foreign currency raised many questions and concerns. What happened to the bumper reserves boasted of in the middle of 2012, and praised by the IMF? Is this the result of massive capital flight following the “shooting incident of October 13? These and other questions are still looking for answers.

Despite the endless reinforcement in press statements that US and European troops will be involved in any future conflict as trainers and advisers only, Mali FM told JeuneAfrique journalist @Babahmed1: “Our soldiers are already trained”. He also added that elections are unacceptable while rebels still occupy the north, and is anticipating a donor conference this month. Interim president Traoré said more or less the same thin in a New Year’s Day speech. What is the point of the UN Resolution if they have no intention of abiding by the provisions attached to it?

Stone-throwing Palestinian protesters carry an injured protester during clashes with Israeli security officers in the West Bank village of Tamoun, near the West Bank city of Jenin January 1, 2013. Clashes broke out after an Israeli military operation in the village on Tuesday. REUTERS/Ammar Awad

Stone-throwing Palestinian protesters carry an injured protester during clashes with Israeli security officers in the West Bank village of Tamoun, near the West Bank city of Jenin January 1, 2013. Clashes broke out after an Israeli military operation in the village on Tuesday. REUTERS/Ammar Awad

Israeli soldiers disguised as vegetable vendors raided the Palestinian village of Tammoun, north of Nablus city. The village has been repeatedly raided, leading to many arrests over several years.
Today’s clandestine operation and the subsequent arrest of Murad Bani Odeh, a member of Islamic Jihad, led to clashes with residents who threw stones. Soldiers replied with live ammunition, rubber bullets and tear gas. One man was hit in the eye with a tear gas canister and taken to hospital for treatment, and over 100 people suffered inhalation effects of tear gas. A state of siege is now being reported.

More than 60 people were killed in a stampede at a New Year’s Eve celebration in Ivory Coast‘s capital, Abidjan

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?&v=qwffREFWcQc]
New Year's stampede in Abidjan  (Reuters)

New Year’s stampede in Abidjan (Reuters)

Details of Tunisia‘s new government line up were published by Al Jazeera. Now they need new policies & attitudes.

Last but not least, today is a special day for the internet.

Happy 30th Anniversary, Internet and TCP/IP!


New Statesman – The Arab Spring: one year on


by Wadah Khanfar

Still in its formative stages, this process of transition will take a long time and embrace all aspects of our reality.

The great hall in Carthage Palace was teeming with guests for a reception hosted by the new Tunisian president on the eve of the first anniversary of the revolution. Despite the best efforts of the state protocol corps to keep the occasion formal, an unusual spirit pervaded the extravagant Andalusian-style hall.

The huge palace, located at the foot of a fortified mountain in Tunis, was not accustomed to this odd mixture of invitees. Sitting in the middle of the main table was President Moncef Marzouki, who was, one year ago, an exiled opposition figure. Most Arab regimes deemed him a persona non grata to avoid the wrath of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s regime.

On his right was the prime minister, Hamadi Jebali, who was imprisoned for 16 years after an alleged coup in 1992; a decade of that was spent in solitary confinement. Also in attendance was Rachid Ghannouchi, the head of the moderate Islamist Nahdah party, who was previously sentenced to death and exiled for two decades. He shakes the hands of guests from across the Arab world in his capacity as the head of the winning party in the country’s first democratic elections on 27 October.

The guests are an eclectic mix of presidents, ministers, Arab ambassadors, and beside them, political leaders and opposition figures. Our Arab region has never witnessed such a gathering in one place.

The driver who took me to the dinner said that he accompanied the deposed president on his final journey from the palace to his aircraft, bound for Saudi Arabia, last January. He recalled how Ben Ali was visibly shocked and traumatised; yet he hoped to return. When Ben Ali left, with him went the fear, impotence and disillusionment which dominated the Arab soul for many decades.

Last year’s revolution disposed of Ben Ali in a way that was wholly unexpected. The former president, in his seventies, had been re-elected for a fifth term just one year earlier. The banned opposition was dispersed between prison and exile. The licensed parties were wallowing in their divisions and ineffectiveness. And the elite had grown accustomed to the low political standards set for them. Meanwhile, the West aided the regime; an erstwhile ally in what was called the “war against terror”.

Through the mass media, the Tunisian regime managed to conceal the true picture of its rule, employing bribes and buying loyalty. When it was unable to do that, it put obstacles before TV crews and correspondents. And if that failed, it opposed and harassed them.

When I was its director-general, Al Jazeera was banned from operating in Tunisia. The primary duty of any ambassador in Doha, where the network is based, was to protest against every news item, comment or guest who criticized the Tunisian regime. If the ambassador failed, a minister intervened and perhaps the president. When Al Jazeera hosted a number of Tunisian opposition leaders as part of its coverage of the presidential elections in 2009, the Tunisian government decided to close its embassy in Doha and launched a sinister attack on Al Jazeera, which crossed all bounds.

The paradigm which the Arab regimes established in their relationship with the traditional opposition was always in favor of the authorities. This led the regimes to degrade their people and they plotted to remain in power without any shame. But something began to form outside the framework that the regimes had designed. The social networks which opened channels before the Arab youth gave them the means to contact each other and the wider world. Quietly, they began to expound new political visions.

By their very nature, the networks are democratic and are not in need of long-standing party membership cards or organisational rank. Innovation was afforded to everyone without need for planning committees or research centres. Equally, the networks adopted initiatives instantly, without bureaucracy.

The challenge which the Arab Spring faces today, especially in Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen, is how to maintain the spirit which the youth created during the revolution. They must reduce centralisation. They must become more transparent in their decision-making, more tolerant of criticism and open to new ideas.

The Arab Spring is still in its formative stages. It started a process of transition that will take a long time and embrace all aspects of our reality. We must welcome this change and accept it with courage and patience. This is the only way for the Arab world to advance. There is nothing worse than despotism and repression whilst corrupting minds and societies.

On the first anniversary of Ben Ali’s overthrow, the Tunisian masses gathered in the capital to affirm a future different from the past. There is a message here for the new political elite which came to the Carthage Palace. High walls are no longer capable of protecting those who betray the hopes of the people.

Wadah Khanfar is a former Director General of Al Jazeera Network; currently he is the chairman of The Sharq Forum.

via New Statesman – The Arab Spring: one year on.

AlJazeera Journo Harassed at #Mauritania #ISERI Protest

ISERI Protests 12 Jan 2012 AlJAzeera cameraman hassled

ISERI Protests 12 Jan 2012 AlJAzeera cameraman hassled

An official of the college tries to prevent the Al Jazeera cameraman from filming protests at the ISERI higher ediucation institute earlier today, 12 January, 2012. This is supposed to be the coolest time of year, but things are heating up in Mauritania. Protests over the suspected closure of the Institute of Islamic Studies in the capital, Nouakchott, have been ongoing since student registrations were suspended towards the end of 2011. There has been increasing intensity of protest action and in the violence perpetrated against protesters by the police, who have stormed the building several times, using tear gas grenades and shells, even inside the corridors of the school building. Four students are still under arrest since last weekend. The reasons for suspending student registration and now the rumored closure are unclear, but in an Islamic country with a reputation for excellence in Islamic Studies this issue is seen as an attack on the very heart of Mauritanian culture.

This photograph from protests on 10th January 2012 shows the markings on the 12-gauge tear gas cartridges – “Spartan France” and “Nobel Sport”

ISERI Protest Mauritania - "Made In France" Tear Gas Shells 10 Jan 2012

ISERI Protest Mauritania - "Made In France" Tear Gas Shells 10 Jan 2012 Pic: Alakhbar

What makes this situation even more puzzling is that just 3 months ago, the Mauritanian government announced a month-long training programme for imams at the Institute of Islamic Studies as part of a push to encourage “moderate beliefs”.

Events at ISERI are just one of a series of protests and other issues affecting civil and political society that are rapidly reaching boiling point in what promises to be a challenging year for Mauritania.

#Syria death toll by location


City-by-city chart of the number of reported killed since March 2011.

AJE Syria Death Toll Map

AJE Syria Death Toll by Location as at 5 Jan 2012

The United Nations has estimated that more than 5,000 people have been killed in Syria since anti-government protests began in March 2011. The Syrian government has said more than 2,000 soldiers and security forces have died at the hands of “armed terrorist groups” during the same period.

Al Jazeera has compiled data, broken down by city, on the number of dead from three anti-government groups: the Syrian Revolution Co-ordination Union, Local Co-ordination Committees and the United Kingdom-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Strict media restrictions have made it impossible to independently verify the exact number of killed.

These figures were last updated January 5, 2012.

via Syria death toll by location – Interactive – Al Jazeera English.

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