East Africa: Now EAC Dares EU On Trade Deal

Photo: Citizen TV Flags of EAC member states (file photo).
Dar es Salaam — The East African Community Heads of State yesterday told the European Union to remove economic and trade sanctions on Burundi if it expects the member states to sign the Economic Partnerships Agreement (EPA).
Speaking in the city at the conclusion of the Summit both the outgoing EAC chairman Tanzanian President John Magufuli and the incoming chair Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said Burundi is a key member of the regional bloc and no trade deal can be signed without its involvement.
“In our meeting we have deliberated on the EPA issue and we have decided that we cannot sign it without the involvement of Burundi which is under EU sanctions. Of course there are still some issues in the agreement that we are continuing to sort out but removing sanctions could serve as a catalyst for us to sign,” President Magufuli said at a briefing held after the summit.
In October 2015 the EU imposed sanctions against four Burundians. The sanctions included travel restrictions and asset freeze of the four persons “whose activities are undermining democracy or obstructing efforts to achieve a political solution to the current crisis in Burundi,” according to a statement issued by the EU at the time of imposing the sanctions. The sanctions were to last for one year but were renewed in September 2016 and would last till October 31 2017.
Interestingly the statement said the measures against the four Burundians were part of the EU’s action in support of efforts by the by the EAC and the African Union.

Keep off EAC affairs, EU warned

But yesterday the EAC leaders told the EU to keep off the region’s internal affairs, or at least to stop taking unilateral decisions to punish specific member states.
“Our bone of contention with the EU is putting sanctions on Burundi unilaterally… You can’t come into my house and punish one of my children without my involvement,” President Museveni said soon after taking over the chairmanship of EAC from his Tanzanian counterpart Dr Magufuli, adding that Burundi was so important member of the EAC that it could not be left out.
“Because the Burundi’s industrial base is nascent they depend so much on other EAC member states for the supply of consumer goods. And for this reason Burundi has always been a natural member of the region,” President Museveni noted.

Now EAC united on trade negotiations

Yesterday’s joint decision on the way forward for EPA was the first significant pronouncement that they had made on the trade deal after the member states had been divided among two groups, with one comprising Kenya and Rwanda pushing for immediate signing of the deal while Tanzania and Uganda calling for more deliberations. In fact the first group to have anything to do with a report conducted by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa that warned of dire economic consequences for EAC if they signed the EPA.
The differences in opinion on the trade negotiations among member states still exist but President Museveni said they will seek to iron them out and form a common stand.
“My duty now as the new chairman of the EAC is to work to ensure we harmonise our position on EPA before we can sign it,” President Museveni said. One of the reasons that had made Kenya push for meeting the deadline of the signing of the EAC-EU trade deal was the fear that its products could attract higher tariffs when exported to the EU. The remaining EAC countries would continue enjoying zero tariffs on the goods they export to the EU under the Everything But Arms arrangement. But President Museveni yesterday said this would be taken care of. “I will soon lead a delegation of the EAC to the Brussels to tell them not to punish Kenya.”
He also hinted that the Heads of State have decided to be united on the EAC-EU trade negotiations. He said the more important task ahead was to ensure the EAC integration advanced according to plans, that the EAC become much more stronger and that the whole process resulted into prosperity, improved security and kinship among East Africans.
“If we are not united as a region, we will not be able to compete in this world… And we will be in a weak position when we negotiation with big powers,” President Museveni said.
He told the EU to stop pressuring the EAC member states to sign EPA. “The other time an official from the EU was in Kenya attending a conference. So here they come they telling Kenya… ‘You should sign the deal before the official gets back to Brussels… This is your only opportunity,’… So I told Kenyans tell them to let the official to come back to Kenya another time and we will sign the deal,” he said amidst laughter from the audience.
He also added that at another time Brussels also told EAC leaders to sign the deal before European Members of Parliament to on vacations.
“I have never gone for vacations for the past 47 years. So when you tell me about vacation I do not follow… let the MPs go on vacations… “


Not a Joke: the ‘Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology’ is in Saudi Arabia

WATCH: ‘Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology’ being built in 30 days

World leaders, including Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz and US President Donald Trump, inaugurated the Global Center for Combating Extremism headquartered in Riyadh as the US-Islamic Summit came to a close on Sunday.
Riyadh hosted on Saturday and Sunday three anticipated summits during Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia with nearly 50 leaders, mainly from the Muslim world will be attending.
The center took 30 days and 720 hours to build.

(For embedded video go to Source)



WHO splurges more on posh travel than it spends on fighting AIDS & malaria – report

WHO splurges more on posh travel than it spends on fighting AIDS & malaria – report

A flag bearing the World Health Organization (WHO) © Fabrice Conffrini / AFP
The UN’s World Health Organization ponies up some $200 million a year for luxury travel, including first-class tickets and posh hotels – much more than it spends on combatting AIDS, tuberculosis, or malaria, the AP has revealed.
According to internal files obtained by the news agency, since 2013, the World Health Organization (WHO) has allocated $803 million for travel – approximately $200 million per year. The WHO’s two-billion-dollar annual budget is made up of contributions made by 194 member countries, of which the US is the largest sponsor.
Last year, the WHO allocated just over $60 million to tackling malaria and $59 million to containing the spread of tuberculosis, while $71 million was spent on fighting AIDS and hepatitis. Programs aimed at containing certain diseases, such as polio, do get considerably larger funding, however, with $450 million allocated annually.
Though the organization has been struggling to achieve its goals, while at the same time appealing for more financing, its employees and top brass apparently do not shy away from booking first-class airline tickets and rooms in luxurious five-star hotels.
In particular, WHO Director-General Margaret Chan and Executive Director Bruce Aylward are first and second on the list of the agency’s top spenders, according to a confidential 25-page analysis of the WHO’s expenses seen by AP.
When Chan recently went to Guinea following a successful effort to stop an outbreak of Ebola there, she stayed in the biggest presidential suite at the Palm Camayenne hotel in Conakry, with the price per night amounting to €900 ($1,008). To avoid bumpy roads, Aylward opted to use a chopper to reach clinics on several occasions.
During the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa, the WHO allocated $234 million to employee travel. Some experts told AP the agency should have sent more money to the poor region – where authorities couldn’t even afford protective gear or soap for medical staff or body bags for the victims – rather than deploy its own staff at such a high cost.
“There’s a huge inequality between the people at the top who are getting helicopters and business class and everyone else who just has to make do,” said Sophie Harman, a global health politics expert at London-based Queen Mary University.
The UN agency admits that its budget policy had allowed for the director-general to fly first class until February, but said the spending rules have been changed and the first-class option has been effectively eliminated.
However, the organization’s own findings suggest that traveling in comfort is widespread among employees. One internal memorandum sent to WHO executives reported that compliance with a rule requiring all travel to be booked in advance was “very low.” An internal analysis accessed by the AP stated that only two of seven WHO departments at the Geneva headquarters had met their budget targets.
Interestingly, other aid agencies spend less on travel. For instance, Doctors Without Borders explicitly forbids its staff from traveling business class, and even its president flies economy class, a spokeswoman told AP.
Employing about 37,000 aid workers, Doctors Without Borders spends about $43 million a year on travel. In addition, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it does not normally allow staffers to book business class flights and only sanctions it in special cases, such as medical emergencies.


China Pushes Public to Accept GMO as Syngenta Takeover Nears

China will carry out a nationwide poll next month to test the public’s acceptance of genetically-modified food, a technology the government says would boost yields and sustainable agriculture in a country that’s seen consumption soar.
Beijing’s prestigious Tsinghua University and two other Chinese colleges will carry out the survey, said Jin Jianbin, a professor at Tsinghua’s School of Journalism and Communication. The poll, sponsored by the government, will be carried out in tandem with a campaign on social media to broadcast basic knowledge on GMO technology, which is widely misunderstood in the country, Jin said.
China is the world’s fourth-largest grower of GMO cotton and the top importer of soybeans, most of which are genetically modified and used for cooking oil and animal feed for pigs and chickens. But public concern over food safety issues and skepticism about the effects of consuming GMO foods have made the government reluctant to introduce the technology for staple crops.

A bowl of genetically-modified “Golden Rice.” Photographer: Imaginechina
A 2012 trial of so-called Golden Rice — a yellow GMO variant of the grain that produces beta-carotene — caused a public storm after reports that the rice was fed to children without the parents being aware that it was genetically modified.
“Many Chinese turn pale when you mention the GMO word,” said Jin in his small office. Some still believe GMO food can cause cancer and impair childbirth, due to misleading reports in newspapers and social media, he said. A recent decision by a local legislative body against growing GMO crops has added to public confusion, Jin said.

‘Half-Cooked Rice’

The national survey aims to discover what the public’s concerns are so that the government can resolve the confusion, Jin said. “If the government pushes ahead before the public is ready to accept the technology, it would be embarrassing — like offering a pot of half-cooked rice to eat.”
Jin said he expected the poll result to show that the general public’s perception of GMO is still negative, but “as more people get to know the technology, more would be willing to accept it.”
The lack of an authoritative scientific institution to answer questions, the widespread illegal cultivation of GMO crops, and public mistrust of government authorities after a series of food scandals have all contributed to skepticism about GMO, Jin said.
Producers of GMO crops claim they offer improved yields, enhanced nutritional value and resistance to drought, frost and insects. Critics have raised concerns over safety and potential adverse ecological effects. Last year, the U.S., the world’s largest producer of GMO crops, mandated that food makers label products with modified ingredients. EU lawmakers this month objected to imports of herbicide-resistant strains of corn and cotton.

Syngenta Strategy

Syngenta AG, which produces genetically modified seeds for corn, is gearing up for rapid expansion in the country after shareholders accepted a $43 billion offer for the Swiss agribusiness by China National Chemical Corp. The Chinese state-owned company is expected to complete the deal this month.
The American Chamber of Commerce in China had complained that U.S. strains of GMO suffered from slower and less predictable approval for import into China. Chinese and U.S. officials have agreed to evaluate pending U.S. biotechnology product applications by the end of the month, including corn and cotton.
China itself has spent billions on research of its own GMO technology over the past decade, but has not allowed commercial production of grains, with scientists citing public resistance as part of the reason for the delay. China has said that it will allow commercial production of modified corn and soybeans by 2020.
Government officials have said that the country would introduce the use of the technology first on feed grains after cotton. China’s corn consumption is estimated to grow nearly 20 percent in the coming decade on demand for protein-rich meat and dairy products.


Rwanda: Fresh Graduate Uses Earthworms to Produce Organic Fertilizer

Photo: Emmanuel Morin/Wikimedia Commons Earthworms transform feces and toilet paper into compost.

Twenty-six-year-old Xavio Dominique Imbabazi graduated from University of Rwanda’s College of Agriculture with a degree in horticulture last year. But he couldn’t find a job for several months.
“After a while I remembered that my dissertation was on turning waste into organic fertiliser using earthworms, a system known as vermicompost. That’s when I started to think how I can put that into practice,” he tells Sunday Times, tracing the moments that inspired him to venture into the world of entrepreneurship.
He says, later, he used earthworms imported from America which he mixed with earthworms collected from Rwanda and carried out hybridisation to get those that he is using today.
“I tried eight kinds of earthworms until I got those which are able to decompose waste. The earthworms decompose waste into flour-looking organic manure. The system increases capacity for manure to retain water. And the produced manure does not smell,” he says.
Roots of plants, unlike chemical fertilizers, easily absorb the nutrients in earthworm compost.
Plants fertilised by earth compost have capacity to obtain the nutrients and get the maximum benefit.
Imbabazi makes loads of waste that capture warmth and after a week he mixes the waste with earthworms. He then starts pouring water into it in well-constructed structured.
He tells Sunday Times that when he was at school writing his dissertation he tested 50kg of organic fertilizer from earthworm compost which provided a harvest of 19 tonnes of Irish potatoes per hectare in Musanze District.
“I started to replicate the system on farmlands. Currently, I produce five tonnes of organic fertilizer in three months which I sell to farmers, my target is 20 tonnes in three months,” he says.
He says he doesn’t buy waste but only pays transport for those who supply waste to him. Currently, he said, he’s working with University of Rwanda, which supports him in testing his output in laboratories.
“I’m also working with the University so can I get market. Many farmers lack manure and only use chemical fertilizer which deplete soil nutrients,” he added.
His project is one of the social innovations that were showcased during a three-day youth conference last week which sought solutions to community challenges.
The conference was organised by DOT Trust and the 100 youth delegates who took part were required to have spent the previous four to six months designing, testing, and launching a social enterprise project that addresses a challenge in their community
Imbabazi is one of young social innovators and leaders from 10 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Middle East and Canada who attended the young innovators meeting in Bugesera District to share their experience, best practices and accomplishments.
The others were drawn from Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, South Africa, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Jordan, Lebanon, Ghana and Canada.
The Minister for Youth and ICT Jean Philbert Nsengimana encouraged young innovators to actively contribute toward finding solutions to social challenges.


Donald Trump’s speech to the Muslim world was filled with hypocrisy and condescension

By Robert Fisk

(For embedded video go to Source)

Despite claiming he wouldn’t give a lecture, the President did just that, displaying a blatant anti-Iran bias intended to appease the nation with whom he’d just signed a multi-billion dollar arms deal at the expense of the truth.
So after inventing “fake news”, America’s crazed President on Sunday gave the world’s Muslims a fake speech. Donald Trump said he was not in Saudi Arabia to “lecture” – but then told the world’s Islamic preachers what to say, condemned “Islamist terrorism” as if violence was a solely Muslim phenomenon and then announced like an Old Testament prophet that he was in “a battle between good and evil”. There were no words of compassion, none of mercy, absolutely not a word of apology for his racist, anti-Muslim speeches of last year.
Even more incredibly, he blamed Iran – rather than Isis – for “fuelling sectarian violence”, pitied the Iranian people for their “despair” a day after they had freely elected a liberal reformer as their president, and demanded the further isolation of the largest Shiite country in the Middle East. The regime responsible for “so much instability” is Iran. The Shiite Hezbollah were condemned. So were the Shiite Yemenis. Trump’s Sunni Saudi hosts glowed with warmth at such wisdom.
And this was billed by CNN as a “reset” speech with the Muslim world. For “reset”, read “repair”, but Trump’s Sunday diatribe in Riyadh was in fact neither a “reset” nor a “repair”. It was the lecture he claimed he would not give.
“Every time a terrorist murders an innocent person, and falsely invokes the name of God, it should be an insult to every person of faith,” he announced, utterly ignoring – as he had to – the fact that Saudi Arabia, not Iran, is the fountainhead of the very Wahhabi Salafist extremism whose “terrorists” murder “innocent people”.

(For embedded video go to Source)

Melania and Ivanka Trump did not wear headscarves for Trump’s Saudi speech
He tried to avoid his old racist “radical Islamic extremist” mantra and tried to replace it with “Islamist extremism” but he apparently fluffed his words and said “Islamic” as well. The subtle difference he was trying to make in English was thus for Muslims no more than a variation on a theme: terrorists are Muslims.
All this, let us remember, came after Trump had sewn up yet another outrageous arms deal with the Saudis ($110bn or £84.4bn) and the proposed purchase by Qatar of what Trump obscenely referred to as “a lot of beautiful military equipment”. It seems almost fantastical that he should make such a remark only two days before meeting the Pope who in Cairo two weeks ago railed along with the Muslim Sheikh of Al Azhar against the evil of arms dealers.
“We are adopting a principled realism, rooted in common values and shared interests,” Trump told the Saudis and the leaders of another fifty Muslim nations on Sunday. But what on earth are those values? What values do the Americans share with the head-chopping, misogynist, undemocratic, dictatorial Saudis other than arms sales and oil?
And when Trump said that “our friends will never question our support, and our enemies will never doubt our determination,” were his friends supposed to be the Saudis? Or the “Islamic world” – which should surely include Iran and Syria and Yemen – and the warring militias of Libya? As for “enemies”, was he talking about Isis? Or Russia? Or Syria? Or Iran, whose newly elected president surely wants peace with America? Or was he – as part of the Muslim world will conclude with good reason – declaring his friendship with the Sunni Muslims of the world and his enmity towards the Shia Muslims?
For that, ultimately, was what the Riyadh speech-fest was all about. Take this little quotation: “We will make decisions based on real-world outcomes – not inflexible ideology. We will be guided by the lessons of experience, not the confines of rigid thinking. And, wherever possible, we will seek gradual reforms – not sudden intervention.” Now let’s parse this little horror. “Decisions based on real-world outcomes” means brutal pragmatism. “Gradual reforms” indicates that the US will do nothing for human rights and take no steps to prevent crimes against humanity – unless they are committed by Iran, Syria, Iraqi Shiites, the Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah or Yemeni Shiite Houthis.
It was all about “partnership”, we were supposed to believe. It was about a “coalition”. You bet it would be. For America is not going to bleed as it did in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is the Arabs who must bleed as they fight each other, encouraged by the biggest arms supplier of them all. Thus Trump lectured them on their need to share “their part of the burden”. The Arabs will be “united and strong” as “the forces of good”. If the battle is between “decent people of all religions” and “barbaric criminals” – “between good and evil” – as Trump inferred, it was significant, was it not, that this battle was to start in the “sacred land” of Sunni Saudi Arabia?
By the time Trump reached the bit in which he threatened the bad guys – “if you choose the path of terror, your life will be empty, your life will be brief, and your soul will be condemned” – he sounded like a speech-writer for Isis. Apparently – and unsurprisingly, perhaps – Trump’s actual speech was partly the work of the very man who wrote out his much ridiculed (and failed) legal attempt to ban Muslims of seven nations from the United States. All in all, quite a “reset”. Trump talked of peace but was preparing the Arabs for a Sunni-Shia war. The fawning leaders of the Muslim world, needless to say, clapped away when the mad president of America had finished speaking. But did they understand what his words really portended?