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Category : {Society}

Economic Prowess Dominates Diplomatic Precision: An Overview of King Mohammed VI’s Tour of Africa South of the Sahara

Friday 14 March 2014, Nabil Ouchagour

Increasingly in recent months, international politics has been split down the red line of foreign policy—a demarcation dividing the EU and the US from Russia and China. Crises like the current showdown in the Crimea, and the dark shadow hovering over Syria, are bleak examples of an embedded opposition between east and west. Clustered around the borders of that red line are countries such as Mali, rising economies with a favorable GDP poised to make a firm, political shift toward a permanent residency on one side or the other.

It is advantageous for the pro-West faction then, that King Mohammed VI of Morocco has become one of the most influential statesmen in African politics. The King maintains a strong relationship with his counterparts in the US and the EU, based on mutual respect and economic links, and is fast extending an equally friendly hand to Mali and other isolated, underdeveloped African nations. Over the past two weeks Mohammed VI has shown impressive diplomacy and business acumen during a tour of the sub-Saharan countries of Mali, Guinea, Gabon and the Côte d’Ivoire. His carefully cultivated relationship with Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, the Prime Minister of Mali, laid the foundations for 18 bilateral agreements signed by the two countries during the King’s state visit, covering areas in finance, energy and national defense.

With hindsight, the success of Moroccan diplomacy in Mali was to set a trend for the remainder of King’s tour. In the Côte d’Ivoire warm words of welcome were extended in an address by President Alassane Dramane Ouattara, which included an expression of support for Morroco’s preferred policy of autonomy in relation to the Western Sahara. At the presidential palace in Abdijan, Ouattara and Mohammed VI presided over the signing of six bilateral agreements in the areas of aquaculture, tourism and civilian protection. A joint communiqué later released highlighted the potential for further economic cooperation and trade between the two countries, with the aim of expanding diplomatic and, most importantly, economic relations. In a speech in front of over 500 business delegates from Morocco and the Côte d’Ivoire, HM King Mohammed VI openly emphasized the necessity for economic cooperation in today’s climate of global interdependency, "Diplomacy used to serve the strengthening of political relations. Nowadays, the economic dimension comes first, and it forms the basis of diplomatic relations."

In Guinea, regal tapestries and jovial conversation were the backdrop to the consolidation of a strong economic partnership. The support of Guinea-Conakry provides Morocco with a strategic entry-point into the ECOWAS and UEMOA markets of West Africa—two markets bustling with foreign investment thanks largely to the local abundance of mineral resources. At the opening of the Morocco-Guinea Economic Forum, King Mohammed VI reiterated the importance of close ties between their two countries, and the mutual economic benefits that should arise henceforth. Over 20 agreements were signed across the fields of transport, energy, water, agriculture, industry and taxation. Morocco is now a privileged partner in Guinea’s economic development, as indicated by the rise in the number of Moroccan banks, including the Attijariwafa Bank Group, that have recently opened up offices in the region.

Further southwards in the city of Libreville, Mohammed VI met with the President of Gabon, Ali Bongo Ondimba, for what was the last state visit on his tour. Two days after the two countries met in an international friendly match of football, the King and the President signed a $2.3 billion joint-venture deal for the construction of fertilizer factories and the development of Gabon’s agriculture industry. The deal, a result of longstanding relations between Morocco and Gabon, is to construct two fertilizer factories in both countries that will expand the industries of Moroccan phosphates and Gabonese natural gas. Morocco’s Trade Minister Moulay Hafid Alamy stated that the estimated output of Morocco’s phosphate factories will be approximately two million tons by the year 2018, all of which is destined for the developing sub-Saharan market. A plant to be constructed in Gabon will produce natural gas from ammonia. The deal is expected to generate at least 5,000 new jobs, and will surely have been the ideal closing to a remarkably productive tour of Africa south of the Sahara for King Mohammed VI. As international relations continue to be dictated by the divisive west-east axis, the vulnerable economies of many African countries seek a confident and strong example such as that currently being shown by Morocco and the leadership of HM King Mohammed VI.

By Nabil Ouchagour www.nabilouchagour.com

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Category : {Society}

African integration and a new president for Mali: a tale of two necessary transitions

Tuesday 1 October 2013, Saïd Ibrahimi

As the world is witnessing the surprisingly smooth political transition in Mali, Morocco is not only determined to speed up the pace of its own partnership with African countries but is also committed, at the highest level, to upgrade the economic integration of the African continent, which has evolved rapidly over the past few years in an area of strategic development.

Indeed, beyond the strong political ties binding Morocco to most African countries, the Kingdom has not waited for the world economic powers to look towards Africa to show interest in the continent and spearhead mutually advantageous south-south cooperation. Having realized years ago that the genuine growth of its economy has to be sought southward, Morocco has multiplied initiatives to boost its economic relations with its southern partners.

Therefore, Morocco’s choice of the southward path is quite natural, given its centuries old historical, cultural, and economic ties with the African continent. Indeed, Morocco has always had a strong presence across Africa and has played a key role in fostering trans-Saharan trade, which dates back to the 9th century BC and which reached its peak between the 13th and 16th centuries, laying a bridge between the mainland and the rest of the continent.

Today, centuries later, this bridge is still crossed by several Moroccan institutions and firms which do not hesitate to invest in African countries, to do business and at the same time to contribute to the socio-economic development of the continent and to promote transfer of expertise and know-how, making every effort to recognize local talents.

These firms find incentives in the personal commitment of Morocco’s King Mohammed VI who endeavours ceaselessly to consolidate his country’s bilateral relations with the rest of Africa and to boost south-south cooperation. Since his coming to power in 1999, the King has made of Africa one of his strategic choices, as evidenced by the number of African tours he conducted and the number of African heads of State he hosted in Morocco. Later last week, the King of Morocco attended personally in Bamako the swearing in ceremony of the newly elected President of Mali, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita (IBK), to renew, if need be, Morocco’s commitment to a unified, stable Mali.

Besides, part of its humanitarian assistance to the Malian people, Morocco set up a few days ago a field military hospital in Bamako that provides medical care in different specialties. Morocco’s commitment towards Africa is also translated by the financial and humanitarian assistance the country provides whenever an African country is facing difficulties, social upheavals or natural hazards.

The King has actually been a driving force in the continental bid to establish a new and modern process of inter-African development and has always shown a constant, keen interest in bolstering Morocco’s relations and cooperation with other African nations.

Given the personal involvement of the Head of state, it is therefore hardly surprising to see Moroccan companies choosing Africa first when they go international. Thus, many Moroccan large firms, including Banks (BMCE, Attijariwafa Bank, Banque Populaire,) real estate developers (Addoha, Alliances Développement Immobilier,) insurance companies (Saham Group), mining and industrial companies (Managem group & OCP) and telecom companies (Maroc Telecom) are currently operating in some 23 African countries, with focus on the members states of the Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS.) Over the 2006-2012 period, about 40% of Morocco’s direct investment went to Africa and Moroccan operators participated in huge projects in the sectors of low-cost housing, civil engineering, water quality, transport etc. The returns of the telecom sector alone have recorded a 12% increase thanks to its sub-Saharan branches (Gabon, Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania) and the Moroccan carrier RAM is servicing 26 African countries from the Casablanca hub.

However, whatever strong Morocco’s ambition can be and whatever bright the investment and business prospects in Sub-Saharan Africa can be, the Kingdom’s anchorage to the continent is affected by the fragmentation of markets and the weak integration of the continent on the economic scale.

Many observers believe that regional integration is a crucial economic necessity for the development of a continent, which remains fragmented. Intra-African trade, for instance, does not exceed the level of 11% while intra-Asian trade stands at 27%.

Whereas the huge cost of non-integration for African economies is assessed at around 1 to 3% of GDP, integration is a critical leverage for economic growth.

It goes without saying that a comprehensive integration is a long, arduous process. In order to move forward, African countries need to begin with the most feasible form of integration, which is also the most optimal in terms of cost, benefit, and time: financial convergence. It can be achieved mostly through increased cooperation, better rules, mutual concessions, and minor investments, knowing that deep and well-functioning financial systems contribute to providing access to cheaper and longer-term capital that companies need to sustain their growth.

Moreover, efficient capital markets that are less fragmented will allow Africa to capture a larger share of international capital, ensure better allocation of funds, improve corporate governance through higher transparency, and facilitate regional cross-border investment and operations through enhanced regional investment climate.

African governments need also to work together to reduce the administrative burden for regional companies and to facilitate cross-border flows through bilateral treaties. This is a crucial prerequisite to attract more international investors and companies looking at investing their extra liquidities in the region. Morocco has already grasped the strategic, economic and commercial importance of the continent. The Kingdom is strongly committed to work with all regional actors in order to facilitate the political and economical transitions Africa is witnessing. A first major step has been accomplished in Mali, but the second step will need everybody’s implication in order to achieve a true financial integration of the continent, source for future common prosperity.

Said Ibrahimi is the Chairman of Casablanca Finance City, the African financial hub of Morocco, and the former treasury general of the Kingdom.

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Category : {Society}

The Democrat

Wednesday 4 September 2013, Nabil Ouchagour

As Mubarak was going back home, the world is watching for an intervention in Syria and Libya is living a chaos.One cannot stop asking himself “was (what we call) Arab Spring worth all human lives that we’ve lost? Was it worth this violence? Was it worth this division among nations?” the answer is no. For the first time in history, journalists, observers and above all, young Arabs are asking this question “would it have been better if “nothing” happened?” the answer is again negative. However between, the status quo in which were living some Arab societies and the huge violence that we are living now, there is an alternative route. This is the one that I want to talk to you about today.

My journey with politics started in the beginning of this century, in the early of my twenties, as my interest started to become broader than my microenvironment. That was when I started to realize that the situation of the world, of my continent, of my region and country are linked to my own situation. This is the moment when a man realizes that he has the ability to influence through his own actions, engagement or words. That’s the moment when we ask ourselves basic questions: what is freedom? What common values do we share as human beings? What is democracy? Is there one and only one model of democracy, which suits for every country, no matter its history and culture?

For the last thirteen years, I have been engaged in community projects, NGOs, bloggers initiatives and conferences, I still didn’t find a final answer for these questions but there is certainly progress that I want to share with you. First, a good balance between freedom and respect for differences is, in my opinion, the key to a healthy society. Second, what is not acceptable is a society that does not do anything for the poor and most vulnerable ones. Third, the terms “democracy”, “human rights” and “religion” are not always used in the mouth of the good ones. The most dangerous minds, the worst dictators had used them before showing their real objectives.

Concerning Morocco’s young generation, most of us discovered politics through the era of King Mohammed VI. This young king has started his reign by many positive signs. From the “Ajdir Speech” in which he had recognized the Amazigh identity of Moroccan people to the launch of the “Equity and Reconciliation Commission” lead by the human right activist figure Driss Benzekri, to the new Moroccan Family Code Mudawana which strengthened women rights, Mohammed VI has shown from the beginning his progressive and open attitude into leading Morocco to a more developed country. When the so-called “Arab Spring” started, Mohammed VI had the fastest and appropriate reaction through a constitutional reform. Lately, the monarch had put Education, which for me is a priority as much as rural development, in the center of debate through an amazing speech. Through social media, I could see the parts that had affected Moroccans the most, which were shared right after the speech: “I belong to no political party and take part in no election. The only party I proudly belong to, thank God, is Morocco.” and “Therefore, we need a broad-based, constructive debate on all the major issues of concern to the nation.”

However, with all these positive aspects we are living in Morocco, one cannot feel any satisfaction. Since violence in Tunisia, Syria, Egypt or any other Arab country cannot be ignored by any citizen of the world. That’s why, I want to draw attention of the world about the situation in the MENA region and call leaders of the region about the necessity of forgetting about religious and political differences. What we need is no more people who underline the differences between Shiites and Sunnites or Muslims and coopts or religious and seculars, what we need are leaders who can talk for everyone as human beings deserving the same rights for a common project that serves the interests of the community. As Martin Luther King Jr said, 50 years earlier, in his legendary speech “Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.” Before adding “Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning”. I also hope that two thousand thirteen is not the end of a dream of Arabs living peacefully with dignity, but the end of violence and extremism. Our time needs great, inspiring and especially unifying leaders!

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Category : {Editorials}

Why we can hope for no more pedophiles in Morocco

Friday 16 August 2013, Nabil Ouchagour

EDITORIAL

The Kingdom of Morocco has just lived one of the most intense weeks of its history. Here’s a brief about it...

Tuesday, July 30 th: it all started with a very “ordinary” procedure. Like every year on Throne day and following a successful visit of Spain’s king Juan Carlos, King Mohammed VI pardoned a list of Spanish citizens in Morocco including a pedophile.

Thursday: The lawyer of one of the victims of the pedophile informed the media. Then a wonderful mobilization started on social media; people from all walks of life decided to meet on Friday night, for a pacific sit-in in front of parliament in order to inform their elected representatives. Unfortunately, the reaction of the police was violent not understanding, at this moment, the real reasons for the pacific demonstration and who are the forces behind.

Saturday: The King Mohammed VI promised, in a first communication by the Royal Cabinet, an investigation adding “It is evident that the Sovereign would never have consented that Daniel Galvan would cease serving his sentence, given the atrocity of the hideous crimes of which he was found guilty”.

This had reassured a major part of Moroccans. Knowing that 24 hours is considered a long delay for young Internet users and activists while a 48 hours reaction from an institution of the Monarchy is a record.

In fact, knowing the engagement of the sovereign for human development and for ending poverty in Morocco, most of Moroccan citizens concluded that this was an error that had to be corrected for sure.

The following days had been fast and slow since every Moroccan has his/her full attention about every aspect of the “story”. The director of the prison authority had been revoked. The king canceled the pedophile’s pardon who was arrested afterwards in Spain.

Happy Ending

On Wednesday afternoon, the king had received families of the victims of the pedophile and in the evening a pacific sit-in took place in memory of all victims of pedophilia.

Lessons

Emotions, debates, questions, interrogations, rumors and suspense had animated the most important week of Morocco’s recent history. For the first time, we all lived united, focused on the same subject.

One of the major conclusions of this event is the birth of a real public opinion in the kingdom. From now on, we know that without any political or any formal organization, a horizontal mobilization can start as long as it is for an issue that unifies all parts of the diversified Moroccan society.

As an editor and socially engaged in my country, I strongly believe that this is the confirmation that, we have, in Morocco, a wise king who is receptive to the citizen’s main issues and open to changes that unifies all Moroccans.

I think that the greatest thing that can occur after what happened after that week is the realization of a national action plan for the eradication of pedophilia, and why not inspire other countries to do the same, that’s my dream!

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Category : {Economics}

INNOVEOX gets Charles Rosier as new Partner and TOTAL EP as first client

Sunday 7 July 2013, Khaled Elraz

In July 2011, Afrik.com announced the launch of a new, innovative company whose patented anti-pollution process - through Supercritical Hydrothermal Oxidation - promised a new beginning for Africa. The particularly relevant invention comes at a time when African countries are confronted with industrial pollution as a result of the ongoing development process. Two years on, Charles Rosier, a well-known banker and investor, has been placed at the helm of affairs as the company’s CEO. The adventure has only started.

Two years ago, Innoveox, a French company, introduced a revolutionary technology directed towards the treatment of waste pollution. Operating under worldwide exclusivity, Innoveox - a specialist company in the area of industrial and community waste - focuses its technological efforts towards sustainable development. Afrik.com has been following the company’s development since July, 2011.

Charles Rosier, the new incomer at Innoveox

Two years on, the growth of the company is relying on a significant incomer. Charles Rosier, banker and former Managing Director at Goldman Sachs, currently partner in the first private bank in Brazil, will be joining as an Administrator and a partner the new company Innoveox SA and its President Jean-Christophe Lépine. He is an expert in new technologies and biotech, indeed he previously invested in the studies of professor Beaulieu in the area of tetraplegy. He is in favour of investment in “ethical” and responsible companies.

He would like to provide his contacts and know-how to Inneveox, thinking that the future of the planet goes hand in hand with sustainable development. Charles Rosier travels around the world representing the Brazilian bank and noticing in several continents, the applications and the advantages of this new French technology that recycles in Fresh water 100% of dangerous liquid waste, without pollution while providing positive energy.

Multiplying contacts with potential clients

His task is to actively participate to the development of new contacts with important oil corporations that have to strictly comply with the new environmental requirements. Charles Rosier states that Presidents of these corporations are aware of the importance of sustainable development even though it takes time to put forward this evolution at the industrial scale.

Total EP first client

A first contract has been signed with the company Total Exploration and production, one of the main actors of oil exploration in the world. This first contract is a milestone for Innoveox entry in this promising market.

Charles Rosier put forward the fact that this revolutionary technology will enable those involved in oil, refining, chemistry and pharmaceuticals to be more profitable while avoiding potential risks for the environment that will harm their reputation and their shareholders. Finance despises this kind of risk and that explains the changing of behaviour.

A move forward for growing zones, Africa, Brazil…

While industrialized countries are interested in this technological breakthrough, it is likely that less developed countries that are young and dynamic, such as African and South American countries, will be more reactive to adopt this new technological process.

But it remains a political deal! The market of dangerous waste is huge, estimated at 9 Md EUR per year…30 billions tonnes of complex and nuclear waste are stored in the Russian soil without being properly treated.

Charles Rosier is convinced that the patents of the CNRS exploited by Innoveox will contribute to the cleaning of an area that is not mature yet; he considers that several developments, based on the Supercritical Hydrothermal Oxydation, are ongoing for the well-being of the planet and its inhabitants. He says: “With all humility, I am glad to contribute to the ecological mutation”

We still have to convert and convince corporations and regional communities in setting up at a large scale those innovating materials. It shouldn’t be difficult. Innovation will soon be concrete in the interest of the planet.

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Category : {Economics}

New York Forum Africa 2013: The ICC, judicial colonialism in Africa?

Friday 28 June 2013, Fouâd Harit

At a debate on "independence" in Africa during the second edition of the New York Forum Africa 2013 in Libreville, Gabon, the Rwandan minister for foreign affairs, Louise Mushikiwabo, called into question the role of the International Criminal Court. The chief prosecutor of the ICC, Fatou Bensouda, tried to defend the judicial institution that she directs.

(By our special correspondent in Libreville)

"The International Criminal Court was created by the international community that is not under the leadership of the great powers," declared Fatou Bensouda, chief prosecutor of the ICC, at the debate on the theme of "The road to a new independence" during the New York Forum Africa 2013 in Libreville, Gabon. The event, founded and directed by Richard Attias, brought together at least 1,500 participants for this, its second session, according to the organisers.

At the debate, the Rwandan minister for foreign affairs, Louise Mushikiwabo, accused the directors of the ICC of being a judicial organisation created specially to carry out justice against African leaders and political figures. "It is not honest to say that the ICC is not stacked up against Africa. I don’t agree with my sister Fatou Bensouda," said the Rwandan chief diplomat. "A large number of Africans believe strongly in this ICC but it is a real problem today." A problem which, according to her, comes directly from Europe. She accuses the Europeans of using "this ICC" to manipulate African politics. She regrets that the ICC "limits" its field of action in Africa and asserts that outside the African countries that have themselves called on the ICC only two countries on the continent have been directly targeted by the ICC, Sudan being one.

Hasty conclusions?

Fatou Bensouda took the floor after applause for Mushikiwabo: "It’s unfortunate that a large number of verdicts have been reduced to political manipulation." According to the chief prosecutor, African leaders in Mali, Côte d’Ivoire and the Democratic Republic of Congo had called on the ICC to intervene in their countries. "With all due respect for the previous speaker [Louise Mushikiwabo], we know that Africa pushed for the creation of the ICC!" she declared, before recalling that "the first country to have ratified the treaty of Rome was an African country – Senegal." Mushikiwabo did not lower her guard, retorting angrily: "Don’t tell me that Africans come to you [the ICC] to be judged. That’s false because Africa does not want judicial colonialism!" Bensouda, in turn, denied that the ICC was exercising judicial colonialism in Africa.

Politicians and representatives of civil society in Africa accuse the West of creating the ICC with the sole aim of hunting down Africa’s black sheep. Fatou Bensouda, on the other hand, insists that the ICC has opened files in other countries outside the African continent. Yes, but how many compared to the numerous judicial files opened by the ICC in Africa?

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News in brief

South Africa: Lonmin offers premium 140 euros for minors

Tuesday 18 September 2012

Lonmin, the third largest producer of platinum, made ​​a gesture to persuade the miners on striking to return to work after five weeks of social conflict. The British company has proposed Tuesday a premium of 140 euros to its employees over 98 euros salary increase proposed last week. This pay increase was rejected by minors. Since August 10, minors of Marikana go on strike to protest against the security and demand a to their boss to triple their incomes from 400 to 1200 euros monthly. This social movement has taken a dramatic turn Thursday, Aug. 16 when South African police opened fire on the strikers killing 34 of them

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New news item

Tuesday 18 September 2012

An Egyptian soldier was killed Sunday in clashes with gunmen in the Sinai Peninsula, according to a spokesman for the Egyptian army, state television reported. The soldier was fatally wounded during an exchange of fire between security forces and militants in the northern Sinai. According to officials of the security services, he succumbed to his injuries after being transferred to a hospital in Cairo.

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New news item

Monday 17 September 2012

Damara and Sibut, two cities located respectively 75 km and 185 km from Bangui, the CAR capital, were stormed Saturday by unidentified armed group reports the BBC. Suspicion would be for a dissident wing of the Chadian rebellion Popular Front for Unity (RPF). reports the BBC.

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Lightning kills several school children in Burundi

Friday 18 February 2011

According to reports from Burundi’s national radio, several people, including 12 school going children and a teacher, were killed and some seriously injured, when lighting struck two provinces on Wednesday, 16 February. The affected provinces include the central region province of Karuzi, where most of the fatal cases were reported, and Bubanza province in the western region. October last year, AFP reported that: "Three people were killed by lightning... as heavy rains pounded the hills of Murambi and Kiganda (southern Burundi), where at least 37 homes were destroyed". A few days earlier, in the same month of October, a lightning incident caused the death of an Anglican priest and three of his church members during mass in southern Burundi.

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Uganda: Bahati defends gay rights death penalty bill

Friday 11 December 2009

Uganda MP Bahati accused of calling for a “gay death penalty” says he has been misrepresented and is only trying to criminalize child abusers. David Bahati says the new offence of “aggravated homosexuality” is a penalty against “defilement” of under-18s. He claims there has been distortion in the media and that the death penalty is aimed solely at homosexuals “who defile a kid less than 18 years old,” notes BBC.

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Angola: President dos Santos to postpone presidential vote

Friday 11 December 2009

According to VOA, President Jose Eduardo dos Santos has announced the country’s first post-war presidential election will likely be delayed for another three years. The leader, who had previously said the vote would take place in 2009, says he wants his MPLA party to complete the mandate it won in last year’s parliamentary elections.

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Nigeria: Ex-Minister El-Rugai tracked down by Nigeria

Friday 11 December 2009

A Nigerian court has issued an arrest warrant for a senior member of former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration charged with abuse of office and criminal conspiracy, reports Angola Press. Authorities have planned to ask Interpol for help in tracking down Nasir El-Rugai, Minister of the Federal Capital Territory under Obasanjo from 2003-2007, after he failed to show up to any of his court hearings in the past seven months.

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Somalia: Pirate patrol need to extend range

Friday 11 December 2009

British admiral in charge of the European Union fleet watching out for Somali pirates wants to extend its patrol area, the Press Association has revealed. Rear Admiral Peter Hudson said his flotilla’s range needed to increase because pirates were launching attacks up to 1,000 miles off the coast, nearer India tha Africa. The EU Naval Force currently deploys up to seven warships, covering a sea area said to be 10 times the size of Germany.

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Zimbabwe: ZANU-PH holds first party congress

Friday 11 December 2009

According to Al Jazeera, Zimbabwe’s Zanu-PF party has met for its first party congress since the formation of a unity government with its rival, the Movement for Democratic Change. Thousands of Zanu PF members are expected to attend the two-day event in Harare. Deligates are hoping to revitalize the party in the wake of last year’s post-election standoff that pushed it into a power-sharing deal with the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), lef by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

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Kenya: 3.8 million starve as famine persists

Friday 11 December 2009

More than 3.8 million Kenyans are currently facing hunger as drought in the Eastern African country persists, writes All Africa. As a result, the team coordinating the emergency intervention program launched in August, the Crisis Response Centre, has recommended in a report that more funds should be raised. The report says areas at high risk of becoming a humanitarian emergency include the greater Marsabit, Isiolo, Mandera, Wajir and most parts of Rana River districts.

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