3/30/2014

20 Years On – Rwanda Uses Genocide Reconciliation to Boost Economic Growth

http://www.afronline.org/?p=33484#more-33484

Kigali. It’s almost 20 years now since Sylidio Gashirabake, a Hutu, was a perpetrator in Rwanda’s genocide. It’s also almost 20 years since his neighbour, Augustin Kabogo, a Tutsi, lost his sister and family in the violence. But today, both men work side-by-side in their joint business venture in Kirehe district in southeastern Rwanda.
It is estimated that 800,000 minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus lost their lives in the massacre that began following the death of former President Juvenal Habyarimana, and his Burundian counterpart Cyprien Ntaryamira, when their plane was shot down over Kigali on Apr. 6, 1994.
Gashirabake was released from prison in 2006 after confessing two years earlier to his crimes and revealing to Kabogo — who managed to escape the killing by hiding in a neighbouring marshland — where the remains of his family where. Though Gashirabake has always denied having any part in the death of Kabogo’s family.
“I have deliberately [confessed] so to ease my conscience from this burden, which I am unable to continue bearing after several years,” Gashirabake told IPS.
Two years ago, Kabogo forgave Gashirabake and the neighbours have been business partners ever since.
They are part of a group of 30 people involved in a swine breeding project in Kirehe district that was founded by a Japanese volunteer in 2012 and aims to reconcile victims and perpetrators of Rwanda’s genocide.
And both Gashirabake and Kabogo are convinced that in order for them to be successful, it is imperative that reconciliation in Rwanda becomes a reality. Right now, they earn around 200 dollars per month on average from the business.
Kabogo is convinced that it is no longer important whether Gashirabake killed his family or not. What is important, he says, is that Gashirabake has apologised for the crimes he committed.
“I must agree that reconciliation through poverty reduction is slowly becoming a reality 20 years after [the genocide] in Rwanda,” Kabogo told IPS.
Across the 30 districts of this central African nation there are several projects, supported by both the government and NGOs, which focus on reducing poverty.
This includes the government-funded Girinka (“May you have a cow” ) project. Founded in 2006, Girinka distributes cows to vulnerable families in remote rural areas. The project states that as of 2013, about 350,000 people have benefitted from the programme.
Because almost 90 percent of the population relying on the agriculture sector for their survival, the government has adopted a number of reforms to ensure that poor households and genocide survivors are supported.
This includes the establishment of the Government Assistance Fund for Genocide Survivors which, since its creation in 1998, has had a total budget of 117 million dollars to provide education, healthcare packages and housing for vulnerable genocide survivors.
Since it took power after defeating the genocidaire regime in July 1994, the former rebel group and current ruling Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) has embraced major reforms, including sound economic ones.
In a World Bank report entitled “Rwanda: Rebuilding an Equitable Society – Poverty Reduction After the Genocide” showed that approximately 70 percent of the country’s 11.5 million people lived below the poverty line in 1993. Four years later, this was reduced to 53 percent.
Latest figures published in the government’s third Integrated Household Living Conditions Survey 2011 show that between 2006 and 2011 a further one million people were lifted out of poverty.
And Rwanda has been lauded by its development partners, the World Bank, European Union, and the International Monetary Fund, for these economic achievements and successful reforms.
Continue reading on IPS Africa 

Breaking down the borders

http://www.afronline.org/?p=33457#more-33457

Rarely is there a focus on what Africans can share with each other through interregional business opportunities and the possibilities of cross-border trade despite being a continent made up of more than 50 countries in varying stages of development, and home to a billion people.
Africa is predicted to have the world’s largest working age population by 2040, yet for many it is still startling for a World Bank report to be entitled Africa Can Help Feed Africa. Surely this is common sense. Meanwhile, only 11 percent of African global trade can be categorised as interregional (compared with 53 percent in emerging Asia) due to the multiple barriers – geographic, financial, regulatory and cultural – blocking improvements to the continent’s infrastructure.
I have consistently argued that we are at the dawn of the ‘African century’, with the continent poised for the kind of growth last seen in China. Improving infrastructure is a vital part of this. This growth is not inevitable. It relies on the ability of foreign investors to recognise the potential Africa provides and the importance of partnerships with those with the local knowledge to capitalise on interregional trade opportunities. Such partnerships unlock opportunities while combatting the drastic underinvestment in this area, and in the region more broadly.
Where governments lack resource, the private sector can be a workable solution to the problems posed by poor infrastructure. We have witnessed a shift, with governments becoming increasingly open to embracing third party investment over the last decade.
The potential is obvious. Between 2001 and 2010, six out of 10 of the world’s fastest growing economies were in sub-Saharan Africa. There is a reason that more than 70 percent of the world’s biggest consumer goods companies are already operating in Africa.
Investing in infrastructure is investing in African business as a whole. In landlocked countries such as Malawi, Rwanda and Uganda, as much as 50 or even 75 percent of the price of retail goods is dictated by transport costs. In an extreme example, one kilo of maize in South Sudan costs $10 due to this very issue. While improving electricity grids is a frequent topic of discussion for African politicians, transportation is still taking a back seat.
continue reading on This is Africa
By Ahmed HeikalThis is Africa 

Can documentary film as a genre do justice to the astounding life of Fela Kuti?

http://www.afronline.org/?p=33472#more-33472

Documentary films truncate an entire life into fleeting bursts of exuberance and somber moments. Any moments that exist in between, however significant they are, are left out completely or brushed over. In making a documentary, on any subject, the director carves a narrative. And at times, the narrative carves itself. The decision then to make a documentary on the astounding life of Fela Kuti is a brave one. What do you exclude? What do you include? And most importantly, what informs these decisions?
The other question that is important to address is, who has the right to speak about Fela Kuti? And how is that right earned? On these questions, the documentary succeeds by rounding individuals that worked with Fela, friends, his kids, former lovers, his managers and other musicians.
“Finding Fela” attempts to marry two defined art forms: theatre and cinema. For the first half of the documentary (for which there is no trailer online), the Broadway play ‘Fela!’ forms the foundation of the narrative. And immediately, the classic peculiarity of stage plays, which is exaggeration, is evident. Stage plays are primarily concerned with entertaining. The stage play ‘Fela!’ when juxtaposed with archive footage of Fela Kuti is off in its depiction. It never quite convinces. Even at its best moments, that if they existed by themselves would have been incredible, it fails. Sahr Ngaujah, who plays Fela Kuti in the stage play, never dances, sings or speaks quite like Fela. It is burdened with the problem of depiction. The burden being that a depiction can never be adequate, especially when it tries to depict something perfectly. It is better when it falls short. When depiction does not fall short, when something is over depicted, it becomes obvious that it is being staged.
Though Alex Gibney, the director, uses the stage play to weave the story, he stuck to a prosaic documentary style. The result is a formulaic narrative. The documentary is not at all boring. It benefits greatly from Fela’s eventful life, and the rare archive footage of Fela and the great interviewees but it lacks treatment.
In using the stage play to tell the narrative, the documentary has two perspectives. Those of Bill T Lewis, the stage play director, who is concerned with omitting certain aspects of Fela’s life out of the stage play because he finds them troublesome. The other perspective is that of Alex Gibney who is uninterested in any of that but instead is infatuated with Fela’s philandering and polygamy. As a result Fela’s love for women dominates the narrative, unnecessarily so.
The documentary tells of Fela Kuti’s life, not only through other people but through his own words too, he is not merely a point of discussion. His music dominates. The music is dissected and the meaning of it made clear. The documentary aptly captures most of his songs and politics. Fela’s music however has always possessed more than a single layer. It is deep yet it can also be accessible in a form that makes it seem unimportant. His songs are not loyal to one emotion. They can instigate a riot and yet somewhere else, under a different time, they can start a party.
Lewis reveals that compressing Fela’s songs to fit into the length of the play, was an impossible task. This is true for the documentary as well. The two art forms, theatre and cinema, both operate within the confines of time. Fela’s music did not. His songs were as long as they needed to be. The rhythm of the songs was often repetitive, the same rhythm over and over again until the piece of rhythm justifies its own presence, both in the song and in life itself. Fela’s music embodied his feelings. This he says in the documentary. In the play the songs come in short bursts. Each time, the song is separated from the rest of itself, and often from a point that is vibrant enough to reel the audience in. But this works and the documentary will earn Fela’s music many new fans.
continue reading on Africa is a country
by Dudumalingani Mqombothi

Bahrain gives two weeks to jihadists to return

US Navy to boost long-term Gulf operations

http://gulfnews.com/news/gulf/bahrain/us-navy-to-boost-long-term-gulf-operations-1.1310047

Manama: US Navy operations in the Arabian Gulf will go well into the middle of the century, the commander of the 5th Fleet and the US Naval Forces Central Command has said.
Referring to the $580 million base expansion in Bahrain that includes modifications to accommodate the US Navy’s new littoral combat ships (LCS), due to be operational in the Arabian Gulf by 2018, Vice Admiral John Miller said that it indicated “an enduring presence.”
“Some of the modifications that we are doing right now will help us get the base ready for the arrival of the littoral combat ships, which will start right around 2018,” Miller told Defence News at the Doha International Maritime Defence Exhibition (DIMDEX). “Those are ships that will serve in the US Navy and this area right until the middle of the current century. We would not plan for this infrastructure if we did not plan on staying here and the second thing is that we plan on staying not just as the US Navy but in a coalition environment.”
According to Defence News, the LCS is a fast, agile, focused-mission platform designed for operation in near-shore environments yet capable of open-ocean operation, according to the US Navy. It is designed to defeat asymmetric anti-access threats, such as mines, quiet diesel submarines and fast surface craft. The LCS class consists of two variants, Freedom and Independence. The Freedom variant team is led by Lockheed Martin. The Independence variant team is being led by General Dynamics, Bath Iron Works and Austal USA.
The LCS seaframes will be outfitted with reconfigurable payloads, called mission modules made up of mission systems and support equipment, which can be changed out quickly. These modules combine with crew detachments and aviation assets to become complete mission packages, which will deploy manned and unmanned vehicles and sensors in support of mine countermeasures, anti-submarine warfare or surface warfare missions.
The US presence in the region provides expertise, might and leadership, added Miller, who replaced Vice Admiral Mark Fox as commander in May 2012.
“I see this role as growing over time and will continue to grow; we provide a certain amount of technical expertise; we bring a certain amount of firepower to the maritime security force as a sort of backbone, but the most important thing we provide is leadership,” he said. “We have seen the addition of the flyover that connects us to the waterfront side of things will be completed in a few months, we continue to negotiate additional leases with the Bahrainis and we continue to see some growth there and we also have opportunities with some other partners to consolidate our maintenance activities there to allow us to be more efficient.”

3/21/2014

How To Kill The Nigerian Publishing Industry

http://www.afronline.org/?p=33284#more-33284

The general collapse of education in Nigeria is hardly news. However, any attempt to address the issue is of interest to those trying to improve the hapless lot of Nigerian students. There was therefore a purr of approval on Twitter yesterday that this year’s Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) event would focus on “Transforming Education Through Partnerships For Global Competitiveness.”
The NESG is Nigeria’s premier think tank on private sector development and is best known for its annual conference in Abuja, which brings industrialists and entrepreneurs together with government figures to discuss Nigerian private sector concerns. At last, people felt there might be a commercial solution to a sector in terminal decline.
It was ironic therefore that yesterday was the day it became widely known that the Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has imposed a 62.5% tariff (a mix of levies, duties and VAT) on imported printed books, where previously there has been none. The tariff was approved in a ministry circular on the 28th February but applies from the 1st January 2014. Needless to say, Nigerian publishers had not been consulted. For six decades, Nigeria has kept to a UNESCO agreement (signed in 1950) “on the Importation of Educational, Scientific and Cultural Materials” which in its first Article states that signatory countries will not impose customs duties or other charges on importing books, publications, educational, scientific and cultural materials.” Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala therefore has the distinction of being the first Nigerian Finance Minister in over sixty years to break this convention.
An outsider’s devil’s-advocate response to the news might be, “well, this might contravene a UN agreement, but ultimately it’s good news that Nigeria protects a sector that it wants to develop. Nigeria should try to stimulate the production of its own books in country.”
continue reading on Africa is a country
By Jeremy WeateAfrica is a country 

3/13/2014

World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2014

http://reports.weforum.org/annual-meeting-2014/

The Reshaping of the World: Consequences for Society, Politics and Business

Meeting under the theme The Reshaping of the World: Consequences for Society, Politics and Business, more than 2,500 business, government and civil society leaders from over 100 countries took part in the 44th Annual Meeting in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, to navigate the complexity and interconnectivity of our changing world – a world in which profound political, economic, social and, above all, technological forces are reshaping our lives, communities and institutions.
Highlights from the 44th Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos-Klosters, under the theme: “The Reshaping of the World: Consequences for Society, Politics and Business”.

World Bank to unveil project to map Africa’s minerals

http://www.afronline.org/?p=33141#more-33141

Nairobi – The World Bank is launching a US$1 billion fund to map Africa’s minerals to promote their exploration, a conference has heard.
Although Africa is rich in mineral resources, it remains one of the most under-explored landmasses on earth, creating a huge skills gap and thus justifying the need to commission a massive geo-exploration of its mineral potential, says Paulo de Sa, the manager of the gas, oil and mining unit of the World Bank’s Sustainable Energy Department.
According to De Sa, who made the five-year initiative — dubbed the Billion Dollar Map —  known at the 20th Investing in African Mining Indaba in South Africa last month (3-6 February), the bank is committing US$200 million to the fund and hopes that African governments, donor agencies and mining companies will provide the remaining US$800 million.
“The lack of geological data poses a barrier for companies to select a specific country as a mining destination,” says De Sa, citing Africa’s lack of application of technologies as contributing to the lack of such data.
He adds that satellite and “airborne technologies” including geographical information systems (GIS) will be widely deployed in the continent’s first-ever comprehensive technology-driven exploration mission. A substantial amount of the funding will be used for the acquisition and application of the technologies.
continue reading on SciDev Net 
By Maina WaruruSciDev Net

Middle East ban for Hollywood's Noah epic

http://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-26568107

The UAE, Qatar and Bahrain are among Middle Eastern countries banning Hollywood epic Noah as it breaks Islam's taboo of depicting a prophet.
"There are scenes that contradict Islam and the Bible, so we decided not to show it," Juma Al-Leem from UAE's National Media Centre said.
Director Darren Aronofsky's film stars Russell Crowe as the ark-building Biblical figure.
Paramount Pictures recently admitted the movie takes "artistic licence".
"It is important to respect these religions and not show the film," Mr Al-Leem told the Associated Press.
A separate statement from Al-Azhar in Egypt, one of Islam's most revered religious institutions, said it objects to the film because it violates Islamic law and could "provoke the feelings of believers."
The film, which is thought to have cost more than its $125m (£78m) to make, received negative reactions following test screenings across the US.
The movie also prompted controversy among conservative Christians, leading Paramount to add a disclaimer to marketing material that artistic licence had been taken with the retelling of the story.
There are differences between Biblical and Qu'ranic interpretation of Noah, referred to in Arabic as Nuh, but both mention the flood and his vessel saving a pair of each animal species.
Many children's films and cartoons have told the story in Islam without showing his face.
Other Muslim countries have said it is unlikely censors will approve the Hollywood blockbuster.
Mohammad Zareef from Pakistan's Central Board of Film Censors said they tended to steer clear of films with a religious theme, adding: "We haven't seen it yet, but I don't think it can go to cinemas in Pakistan."
In Tunisia, Culture Ministry spokesman Faisal Rokh said there had not been any requests from local distributors to show the movie, but they did not usually screen films featuring a prophet.
There were riots and demonstrations in the country in October 2011, after a private television station screened the animated film Persepolis, which includes a portrayal of God.
The head of the TV station was later fined 1,200 euros after being convicted of an "attack on the sacred".
Saudi Arabia and the Gaza Strip do not have any cinemas, but one theatre manager in the West Bank said it has ordered Noah.
"The fact that some countries in the region prohibit it makes it the more fun to watch," said Clack Cinema manager Quds Manasra.
He added: "The production is magnificent, the story is beautiful."
Hollywood's depiction of religion have provoked controversy before, including Mel Gibson's Passion of Christ, which shows the crucifixion of Jesus.
It was screened across much of the region, but it was not shown in most cinemas in Israel and parts of the Gulf.

Bahrain, Kosovo establish diplomatic relations

http://gulfnews.com/news/gulf/bahrain/bahrain-kosovo-establish-diplomatic-relations-1.1303715


New York: The Kingdom of Bahrain and the Republic of Kosovo yesterday signed a joint statement regarding the establishment of bilateral diplomatic relations between the two countries.
According to the Bahrain News Agency (BNA) the statement, which was signed at the head office of the Kingdom of Bahrain’s permanent mission to the United Nations, emanates from a mutual desire to boost friendship and cooperation in various fields, and a keenness to develop and boost relationships based on mutual respect, guaranteeing national sovereignty and the territorial integrity of both countries in accordance with United Nations Conventions and international law.
The Kingdom’s permanent representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Jamal Faris Al Rouwai’ee, signed the statement on behalf of Bahrain, while the Republic of Kosovo’s Consul-General to the US signed on behalf of Kosovo in New York.

Bahrain calls for united front against terror

http://gulfnews.com/news/gulf/bahrain/bahrain-calls-for-united-front-against-terror-1.1303578

Manama: Bahrain’s interior minister has called for the reformulation of security arrangements between Arab countries to include more areas of cooperation and to boost readiness to deal with emergencies.
“As a response to security threats, there is a need to redraft some agreements between countries of the Arab League to make them more inclusive of areas related to security cooperation and to be able to deal with anticipated as well as unexpected crises,” Shaikh Rashid Bin Abdullah Al Khalifa said.
“However, these agreements should not be inconsistent with national legislations or the Charter of the Arab League,” the minister said as he addressed the meeting of Arab interior ministers in Marrakesh, Morocco.
Arabs need to work together to be able to protect their unity and confront challenges in unison, he added.
“We are supposedly within the same security system, and the events unfolding in our Arab world should stimulate us to coordinate our positions and unify our stances in order to achieve stability, maintain the sovereignty of our states and ward off dangers that threaten their unity,” Shaikh Rashid said.
“Internal conflicts, under all their forms, have serious implications that impact all individuals and groups and result in homelessness, poverty, absence of productivity, decline in growth rates and lack of basic services provided by the government.”
In the aftermath of all the acts of terrorism that the world had to endure, there is a critical need to work together and join efforts to identify the common threats to social security, the minister said.
“Dealing with security issues on an individual basis largely depends on circumstances and conditions surrounding them,” he said. “Violence and extremism are the main challenges we are facing. The interaction through sessions, bilateral meetings and recommendations of the committees concerned have stressed the need to exert more efforts and take measures and decisions to protect Arab security, especially at these times of transformations and crises,” he said.
Shaikh Rashid said that Bahrain was able to deal with the recent security challenges.
“Today, we are dealing with acts of violence that target policemen. Thank God, the operations to identify the culprits and apprehend them promptly have been successful. However, we do deplore the use of brotherly countries to threaten the security of Bahrain,” he said.
Three policemen, including a UAE officer, were killed last week in a deadly blast in the village of Daih in the suburbs of the capital Manama.
The explosion sparked deep emotions in Bahrain, the UAE and beyond and several countries as well as the United Nations promptly condemned the attack.

3/05/2014

Humanitarian Funding Urgently Needed for the Central African Republic

http://www.afronline.org/?p=32952#more-32952

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) has said that the Central African Republic (CAR) is facing a dire humanitarian situation which the WFP is ill-equipped to deal with. With only 32% of the funds it needs, the WFP says it “will be unable to scale-up ahead of the planting and rainy seasons, or to respond in newly secured areas.”
Around $35 million in funding is urgently needed to cover at least three months of aid. The WFP, in a report released on 28 February, said that levels of malnutrition are high even among adults. In the capital Bangui, malnutrition is so severe that the supplementary food Plumpy’Sup − usually used to treat malnutrition in children − is being provided to adults as well.
In the western part of the country, thousands of civilians are surrounded by armed groups. Reaching them is a major challenge amid the threat of attack. But with low funding, the WFP may not even be able to respond should the opportunity arise. The UN food agency relies entirely on voluntary donations and not nearly enough has been pledged for its hunger relief mission in the CAR.
continue reading on Think Africa Press
By William LambersThink Africa Press 

The making of a GCC crisis

http://gulfnews.com/news/gulf/saudi-arabia/the-making-of-a-gcc-crisis-1.1299809

Beirut: Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain recalled their ambassadors from Qatar to lodge a formal protest at what officials in Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and Manama concluded were gross interferences in regional security affairs.
In an unprecedented move, the three Arab Gulf states issued a detailed and long joint statement that took their Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) ally to the woodshed, the first such public development since the regional alliance was established in 1981. The rare document covered every imaginable detail insisting that Doha abide by the GCC Charter, and various security agreements duly signed by all member-states.
A GCC foreign ministers’ meeting in Riyadh on Tuesday was apparently “stormy” with the Qatari Foreign Minister, Shaikh Khalid Bin Mohammad Al Attiyah, reluctant to commit his state to the November 23, 2013, accord duly signed by King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia and Shaikh Tamim Bin Hamid Al Thani of Qatar in the presence of Shaikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah, the Emir of the State of Kuwait.
That agreement, which was duly endorsed by all GCC leaders a month later at their annual Summit in Kuwait, covered three specific items: to distance all GCC States from the Muslim Brotherhood and its intrusive policies throughout the Arab World, to place strict broadcast restrictions on the Egyptian cleric, Shaikh Yousuf Al Qaradawi, who spread controversial views from his Doha perch, and severely restrict the movement of Iranian operatives within the GCC.
Doha signed this accord more than three months later, yet no actions were apparently taken to implement its clauses.
In fact, after epochal developments brought the Muslim Brotherhood to power in Egypt, Qatar extended blanket support to President Mohammad Mursi, expressed through an $8 billion (Dh29.4 billion) aid package.
Remarkably, and although GCC States failed to persuade Doha to stop its “support for anyone who threatens the security and stability of GCC countries,” the Egyptian Central Bank returned $2 billion in September 2013. Moreover, and to counter Qatar’s financial aid, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE promised $15 billion in fresh aid for Egypt, to stabilise Cairo’s financial situation.
Still, tensions within the GCC worsened after Abu Dhabi issued a letter of protest in response to criticism by the Doha-based Egyptian cleric, Shaikh Al Qaradawi, who maintained close ties with senior Qatari officials and who seldom missed an opportunity to express his support for the Brotherhood. While not specifically included in the joint statement, the UAE repeatedly chastised Qatar in recent months over comments by Al Qaradawi, who used his Al Jazeera television network pulpit to harshly criticise Egypt’s military regime, which is strongly backed by most GCC States.
What was even more problematic were unconfirmed reports that Qatar facilitated the movement of unnamed Middle Eastern citizens — presumed to be Iranians — to circulate within the GCC. According to well-placed sources, this was the main cause of disagreement at the stormy GCC Tuesday evening meeting that led to the withdrawal of the three diplomats.

Bahrain must not use killing of policemen to clamp down on freedoms

http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/MDE11/010/2014/en/3f09d53f-276e-4786-ab76-3c99c05c0d0b/mde110102014en.html

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL �PUBLIC STATEMENT
5 March 2014
Index: MDE 11/010/2014
Bahrain must not use killing of policemen to clamp down on freedoms
Amnesty International has today called on the Bahraini authorities to ensure those arrested following a blast that killed three policemen on Monday are not at risk of torture and other ill-treatment and to not use the attack to justify further clamp down on fundamental freedoms.
The call came after the Interior Ministry issued a statement on 4 March that it had arrested 25 individuals suspected in connection with the killing of three policemen on duty and that it has taken the necessary measures to track down others linked to the attack.
Amnesty International recognizes the Bahraini authorities’ duty and responsibility to apprehend and bring to justice those responsible for the killing of the three policemen. It nevertheless urges the authorities to ensure those arrested are not subjected to acts of torture and ill-treatment while in custody and are given prompt access to a lawyer and family. If charged, they must be given a fair trial without recourse to the death penalty.
In many cases documented by Amnesty International, individuals arrested are often tortured or otherwise ill-treated during their first days or weeks in the custody of the security forces. Many are later tried unfairly and convicted on the basis of “confessions” extracted from them under torture.
The arrests of the 25 individuals were carried out during house raids mainly on the Shi’a villages of al-Daih and Sanabis. Amnesty International has obtained the names of 22 individuals, all of them males and many belong to the same families.
The security forces have reportedly been heavily deployed in al-Daih and Sanabis villages amidst fears amongst the inhabitants of further house raids and arrests.
Amnesty International is concerned about the recent escalation of violence, which has caused the death of at least four police officers and injuries to many protesters. Such violence often followed clashes between the security forces and protesters.
The blast on Monday in al-Daih, which killed three police officers, including one from the United Arab Emirates, is the second to take place in less than a month. On 14 February 2014, a police officer died following a bomb blast in the village of al-Dair.
The Monday blast took place after the funeral procession of Jaafar Mohamed Jaafar, aged 23, who died in hospital on 26 February where he was receiving treatment for sickle cell anaemia. His family alleged he died as a result of torture and ill-treatment in custody and lack of proper medical care. Amnesty International wrote to the Ministry of Interior expressing concerns about the death of Jaafar Mohamed Jaafar and called for an independent, thorough and impartial investigation.
Amnesty International is also concerned at measures announced during a government Cabinet meeting, which include requesting the Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs to monitor the “political societies, religious platforms and mosque preachers who advocate hatred, sectarianism and incite violence”. Such monitoring risks imposing further restrictions on the right to freedom of association and expression.
During the same Cabinet meeting, a decision was also issued to enlist as terrorist groups Saraya al-Ashtar (Al-Ashtar Brigades), which claimed responsibility for the attack on Monday, Saraya al-Muqawama (Resistance Brigades) as well as the 14 February Coalition and to arrest members of any other organisation or association linked to them.
In a separate incident, the headquarters of Al-Wefaq Society, the largest opposition group was attacked yesterday as thugs allegedly broke the gate to the building and an inside door. Members of National Democratic Action Society (Wa'ad) also received threats on Twitter on 3 February that their headquarters will also be attacked.
All major opposition groups in Bahrain publicly condemned Monday’s killings.

Gulf ambassadors pulled from Qatar over 'interference'

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-26447914

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE have withdrawn their ambassadors from Qatar after alleging that it has been meddling in their internal affairs.
A joint statement said Qatar had failed to implement a security accord signed last year stipulating non-interference.
Qatar expressed its "regret and surprise" at the move, and said it would not withdraw its own envoys.
Tensions between the emirate and other Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) members have increased in recent years.
However, this is one of the most serious disputes yet within the grouping.
'Security and stability'

Analysis

The strains between Qatar and some of its more conservative Gulf neighbours have finally broken the surface.
What lies behind this is a growing conviction felt in Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and Bahrain that Qatar is unwilling to end its alleged support for Islamist and extremist groups in the region.
The Saudis believe Qatar is arming the al-Nusra Front in Syria, a jihadist rebel group linked to al-Qaeda.
Qatar is also accused of supporting Houthi rebels in Yemen and the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.
Gulf sources say the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim Al Thani, had promised to change his country's foreign policies to align more closely with its neighbours.
Clearly, the Gulf's more conservative bloc remain unconvinced, and have hinted at still tougher measures if the dispute goes unresolved.
The joint statement said the three countries had made "major efforts to convince Qatar" to implement a November 2013 agreement not to back "anyone threatening the security and stability of the GCC whether as groups or individuals - via direct security work or through political influence, and not to support hostile media".
"With the greatest regret" Qatar had failed to comply, the statement added, without going into specifics.
The recall of the ambassadors from Doha was therefore necessary to ensure "security and stability".
A cabinet statement published by the official Qatar News Agency (QNA) expressed disappointment at the decision but said that it would not withdraw its ambassadors in response.
The emirate would remain committed to "preserve and protect the security and stability" of the GCC, it added.
Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain have been calling for increased military and diplomatic union within the six-nation GCC, which also includes Oman and Kuwait.
However, Qatar and Oman have so far resisted increased integration in these fields.
Brotherhood links
Oil- and gas-rich Qatar has been an increasingly vocal diplomatic player. It strongly supported Egypt's now-ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi and is a key backer of Islamist rebel groups in Syria.

Gulf Co-operation Council

  • Established in 1981
  • Made up of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman
  • Countries co-operate on trade, security and diplomacy
  • Together accounts for more than a third of the world's proven oil reserves
The state is home to the influential al-Jazeera news network, which broadcasts across the world and has been critical of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states.
Anti-Saudi programmes broadcast by al-Jazeera were thought to have been a major reason for Riyadh's decision to withdraw its ambassador to Qatar from 2002 until 2008.
Qatar is also seen as a major financial and diplomatic supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist movement which is banned in Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
On Monday, a Qatari citizen received a seven-year jail sentence in the UAE for supporting an Islamist political society, al-Islah, which prosecutors assert is a local branch of the Egypt-based Brotherhood.
Meanwhile, nine al-Jazeera journalists are currently on trial in Egypt on charges including joining or aiding a terrorist organisation, as the Brotherhood was designated after the military overthrew Mr Morsi.

3/04/2014

Bahrain puts groups on terror list after bomb kills policemen

http://gulfnews.com/news/gulf/bahrain/bahrain-puts-groups-on-terror-list-after-bomb-kills-policemen-1.1299323

Manama: Bahrain blacklisted three anti-government groups as terrorist organisations on Tuesday, a day after a bomb killed two local policemen and an officer from the UAE, state news agency BNA said.
The attack has raised fears of more violence in the kingdom, where opposition groups led by majority Shiites have staged protests for the past three years demanding political reform and an end to perceived discrimination.
The cabinet, meeting in emergency session in Manama, put the “so-called February 14 movement, Saraya Al Ashtar (Ashtar Brigade) and Saraya Al Muqawama (Resistance Brigade) and any group associated or allied to them on lists of terrorist groups”, BNA said.
The decision effectively outlaws these groups and makes their members subject to imprisonment. Bahrain listed Lebanon’s Shiite Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation last year.
BNA said 25 suspects in Monday’s bombing in the village of Daih, west of the capital Manama, had been rounded up. It did not says if they were members of any of the blacklisted groups.
Speaking on Bahraini state television, Interior Minister Shaikh Rashid Bin Abdullah Al Khalifa condemned the attack and blamed Iran for instability in the island kingdom.
“As we have said before, what happens inside our country has foreign links. We have announced publicly that foreign training sessions were organised and hosted at Iranian Revolutionary Guard camps that operated with official backing,” he said.
Iran denies links to Bahrain’s opposition. It does, however, champion their cause.
The three policemen were killed by a remotely detonated bomb during a protest as hundreds of mourners marched in a procession for a 23-year-old Shiite who died in custody last week.
The shadowy Saraya Al Ashtar organisation has claimed responsibility for the attack in a message on social media that could not immediately be authenticated.
Saraya Al Muqawama is also little-known, but the February 14 movement has been organising anti-government protests since February-March 2011.
A Bahraini policeman was killed last month during protests to mark the third anniversary of the uprising.
“It’s clear that the government has not succeeded in the last three years in ending the sort of violent activities that at least one part of the opposition continues to engage in, and not for lack of trying,” said Justin Gengler, a Bahrain expert at Qatar University.
FATE OF TALKS
The policemen’s deaths further clouded attempts to revive reconciliation talks between the government and the opposition.
Mainstream opposition groups, including the main Shiite Al Wefaq movement, condemned the bombing and called on their followers to ensure that protest activities were peaceful.
But Citizens for Bahrain, widely regarded as a pro-government group, said the condemnation was not enough.
“It is good that the Bahraini opposition has come out and condemned the killing of three policemen. However, it should recognise that the terrorists who perpetrated these acts are the seeds of its own creation,” it said in an email on Tuesday.

Oscars: Slave and Gravity share Academy spoils

http://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-26383484

Historical drama 12 Years a Slave has won best picture at the 86th Academy Awards, while space drama Gravity won the lion's share of awards.
Gravity's Alfonso Cuaron became the first Latin American to win the best director award, adding to the film's six Oscars for technical achievement.
Cate Blanchett was named best actress for her portrayal of the heroine in Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine.
Matthew McConaughey won the best actor Oscar for Dallas Buyers Club.
It is the second consecutive year the best director and best picture prize have been awarded to different films.
Cuaron praised the "transformative" power of film and singled out the film's star Sandra Bullock as "the soul, the heart of Gravity".
The film - which took five years to complete, and owes much to the technical prowess of British visual effects specialists - also won Oscars for film editing, sound mixing, sound editing, cinematography, visual effects and original score.

OSCARS - MAIN WINNERS

Gravity - 7 awards
12 Years a Slave - 3 awards
Dallas Buyers Club - 3 awards
Frozen - 2 awards
The Great Gatsby - 2 awards
Blue Jasmine - 1 award
Her - 1 award
Steve McQueen, the British director of 12 Years a Slave, dedicated the best picture Oscar to "all those people who have endured slavery".
"Everyone deserves not just to survive, but to live," he said. "This is the most important legacy of Solomon Northup."
Based on a true story, it follows the life of a free black man - Northup - who is kidnapped and sold into slavery in Louisiana.
Producer Brad Pitt praised "the indomitable Mr McQueen" - a Turner Prize-winning artist-turned-director - for "bringing them all together" to tell Northup's story.
Newcomer Lupita Nyong'o won the best supporting actress award for her film debut as slave worker Patsey.
The Kenyan actress paid tribute to her character and thanked her for her "guidance". "It doesn't escape me for one moment that so much joy in my life is thanks to so much pain in someone else's," said the star, who turned 31 this weekend.
The film won a third Oscar for John Ridley's adapted screenplay. "All the praise goes to Northup," Ridley said. "These are his words."
More...

3/03/2014

Policeman wounded in Bahrain explosion

http://gulfnews.com/news/gulf/bahrain/policeman-wounded-in-bahrain-explosion-1.1298312

Dubai: An explosion wounded a policeman in a village near Bahrain’s capital city Manama, where protesters demonstrating against the government had blocked roads, the interior ministry said.
Clashes frequently erupt on the outskirts of Manama between security forces and protesters from the country’s opposition demanding Bahrain’s government surrender its grip on all key cabinet posts in favour of an elected government.
“Police had confronted a group of saboteurs who blocked roads in the village of Akr Al Sharqi,” the ministry said in a statement late on Sunday.
A policeman trying to “help a woman cross a road” was “lightly wounded” in the explosion, which damaged a police vehicle and a civilian vehicle, the statement said, without giving further details.
Arab Spring-inspired protests backed by Bahrain’s Shiite community began in mid-February 2011 and were quelled a month later.
The International Federation for Human Rights says at least 89 people have been killed since the uprising broke out.
Last year authorities increased the penalties for those convicted of violence, introducing the death penalty or life sentences in cases which resulted in deaths or injuries.

GDN photographer hurt in Daih terror blast

http://bna.bh/portal/en/news/606283

Manama, March 3 (BNA)Gulf Daily News (GDN) photographer Ibrahim Al-Senan today sustained injuries in the terror blast which happened in Daih. Bahrain Journalists Association (BJA) strongly condemned the heinous acts targeting media personnel and correspondents of foreign newspapers and TV channels while covering terrorist acts.


In a statement tonight, it deplored the recurrent cowardly assaults on journalists and attempts to muzzle their mouths through a systematic terror campaign. While urging all journalists and photographers to be prudent as they perform their duties, it said that such heinous acts will not intimidate them.

The (BJA) statement called upon the Interior Ministry to track down the perpetrators and bring them to justice, affirming confidence in the security forces to ward off terror. It extended heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families of the martyrs of duty, reiterating its strong condemnation of the cowardly terror blast.

Bomb blast kills three Bahrain policemen

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-26421744

Three policemen have been killed in a bomb explosion in Bahrain, the interior ministry has said.
A post on Twitter said the officers had been "dispersing rioters" in the village of Daih, west of the capital, Manama, at the time of the attack.
Witnesses reported hearing a blast during clashes between anti-government protesters and police who were firing tear gas and birdshot to disperse them.
Thirteen police officers have now been killed since protests erupted in 2011.
Last month, one was fatally injured by an explosion on the third anniversary of the start of the uprising that has seen people take to the streets to demand more democracy and an end to what they perceive as discrimination against the Shia community by the Sunni royal family.
Funeral procession

Analysis

The national dialogue talks remain stalled despite an initiative by the crown prince in January.
The main opposition group Wefaq has consistently called for non-violent protests, but the harsh reality is that it cannot contain angry youths who attack police with Molotov cocktails, projectiles, homemade weapons and, most disturbingly, improvised explosive devices like the one detonated in Daih.
And despite police and government claims that reform is under way, security measures continue to be heavy-handed. Unless a meaningful dialogue begins soon the violence looks set to worsen.
Following Monday's explosion, six leading opposition groups issued a joint statement saying they "regretted casualties, regardless of which side they belonged to".
"The sanctity of blood applies to every human being," it added.
The statement called on opposition supporters to "adhere to peaceful means, and condemn and disclaim criminal acts" and on security forces to "exercise restraint".
The interior ministry said the "terror blast" happened after "police dispersed a breakaway group of thugs who diverted from a funeral route in Daih to riot".
Earlier, people had gathered in the predominantly Shia village for a third day of funeral processions for a detainee who died in hospital last week.
The government and prosecutors said Jaffar Mohammed Jaffar died as a result of complications caused by sickle cell anaemia, which caused a clot to form in his lungs.
 Clashes between security forces and protesters erupt frequently in villages outside Manama
But the main Shia opposition group, Wefaq, alleged that he had been tortured in custody and denied adequate medical care.
His family said he had been subjected to beatings and electrocution since his arrest in December in connection with a seizure of weapons.
Opposition and human rights activists say that in addition to the 13 policemen, more than 80 civilians have been killed over the past three years. However, the government says the death toll is lower.

3/01/2014

Bahrain: 23-year-old detainee dies

http://gulfnews.com/news/gulf/bahrain/bahrain-23-year-old-detainee-dies-1.1296050


Manama: Bahraini authorities say a 23-year-old detainee has died a week after being taken to the hospital.
Opposition activists and human rights groups have raised concerns about the alleged mistreatment of detainees in custody amid a three-year uprising by the opposition seeking greater political rights. Bahrain says it is committed to complying with human rights norms.
The Ministry of Information said in a statement on Wednesday that detainee Jaffar Mohammad Jaffar died at around 3.15am. He had been receiving treatment at Salmaniya Medical Complex after being admitted on February 19.
The ministry says Jaffar had sickle cell anaemia. No cause of death was given, and it was unclear how his disease contributed to his death.