Berbera ports: The africa most valuable real estate

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Berbera and Zeila, two of the Horn of Africa’s ancient trading cities, have long attracted the interest of global powers because of their strategic location near the Bab el-Mandeb Strait connecting the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea. This location makes Somaliland’s coastal ports among the region’s most valuable real estate and an alternative to Djibouti as a key player in terms of trade, development, energy, and water security for the Red Sea and Horn of Africa.

Richard Burton, the British explorer, recognized the importance of Berbera port back in 1896, writing:
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In the first place, Berbera is the true key of the Red Sea, the centre of East African traffic, and the only safe place for shipping upon the western Eritrean shore, from Suez to Guardafui. Backed by lands capable of cultivation, and by hills covered with pine and other valuable trees, enjoying a comparatively temperate climate, with a regular although thin monsoon, this harbour has been coveted by many a foreign conqueror. Circumstances have thrown it as it were into our arms, and, if we refuse the chance, another and a rival nation will not be so blind.

A new geopolitical rivalry in the Red Sea

Somaliland’s ports still remain the object of international interest and rivalry today, although the foreign powers involved have changed. On July 1, according to an official statement, Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said Taiwan had agreed to establish ties with Somaliland based on “friendship and a shared commitment to common values of freedom, democracy, justice, and the rule of law.”

Less than a week later, however, Somalia’s federal government, led by President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, aligned itself with China to prevent a Taiwanese-Somaliland nexus that would have clear geopolitical ramifications for the Horn of Africa.

While China and Somalia rebuffed and condemned the new strategic bilateral ties between Somaliland and Taiwan, the U.S. National Security Council has blessed Taiwan’s venture into East Africa, sending a clear message to China that the U.S. stands with Taiwan. This is a significant blow to the Chinese government, which has used its international influence and “development-trap diplomacy” in recent decades to rally support among African and Middle Eastern states for its efforts to suppress Taiwan’s presence in the international sphere.

Egypt, Ethiopia, and Somaliland

On July 12, a high-level delegation from Egypt traveled to Somaliland. Although an Egyptian delegation had visited in 2019, angering Somalia, this year’s trip comes at a critical time as Ethiopia and Egypt have locked horns in their dispute over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). The Egyptian delegation’s visit prompted protests from the Ethiopian government, and Egypt’s growing bilateral ties and cooperation with Somaliland are giving Ethiopia GERD problems of its own — as in gastroesophageal reflux disease.

It is important to note that Ethiopia has a 19 percent stake in the port of Berbera, which is managed by the UAE’s DP World with a 51 percent stake, while Somaliland holds 30 percent. In May 2019, Ethiopia signed its first military cooperation agreement with France, which covers joint air cooperation and includes assistance for Ethiopia’s efforts to build up its naval forces — although where the landlocked country plans to dock these naval forces remains unclear. Joking aside, Ethiopia’s naval endeavors are driven by two main factors: first, concerns over the future of Djibouti’s port, which the IMF categorizes as at a “high risk of debt distress,” comparable to the Sri Lankan port of Hambantota, which was built with Chinese financing and which Beijing took control of after Colombo failed to meet its debt obligations; and second, to protect 11 state-owned commercial vessels managed by the Ethiopian Shipping & Logistics Services Enterprise (ESLSE).

Scramble for fragile Somaliland

Although Somaliland is relatively peaceful compared to Somalia, its lack of international recognition makes it fragile and susceptible to being drawn into regional disputes as it seeks allies, bilateral ties, and eventual recognition. This has been the case with the Gulf states, where it has sided with the UAE and Saudi Arabia. In part as a result of this fragility and desire to secure more allies and improve bilateral ties, Somaliland now finds itself in the middle of multiple disputes among other states, including Ethiopia and Egypt and China and Taiwan.

Taken together, the current domestic instability in Ethiopia and its tensions with Egypt over the GERD, combined with the global superpower competition in the Horn of Africa and Red Sea, are a recipe for conflict that could trigger the largest refugee influx in African history. This could destabilize Somaliland and with it key international maritime trade routes, making it vulnerable to insecurity and terrorism that directly affects both Ethiopia and Djibouti, with which it shares its western border.

To reduce future geopolitical uncertainty and security risk in the Horn of Africa and the Red Sea, it’s in the best interest of the international community to take the following steps:

Consider recognizing Somaliland;

Praise Taiwan-Somaliland relations instead of giving in to Chinese pressure and potentially keeping at bay Russia, which also has a keen interest in establishing a military base at Berbera port; and

Include Somaliland in the Red Sea Council and help it develop its own navy.

Shakir Essa report

Egypt to withdraw from latest Nile dam talks for consultations

6395874_303Egypt fears the $4bn project could lead to water shortages upstream, while Sudan is concerned about dam’s safety.

05 Aug 2020 GMT+3
Egypt has decided to withdraw from the latest round of tripartite negotiations over Ethiopia’s multibillion-dollar dam on the Blue Nile for internal consultations after Addis Ababa proposed a new draft of filling guidelines.
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The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), which is being built about 15km (nine miles) from the Ethiopian border with Sudan on the Blue Nile, has become a major sticking point between the three countries.
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Egypt fears the $4bn project could lead to water shortages upstream, while Sudan said it is concerned about the dam’s safety.

The Egyptian water ministry, in a statement on Tuesday, said Ethiopia put forward a draft proposal that lacked regulations on the operation of the dam or any legal obligations.
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Addis Ababa’s draft also lacked a legal mechanism for settling disputes, according to the Egyptian ministry.

“Egypt and Sudan demanded meetings be suspended for internal consultations on the Ethiopian proposal, which contravenes what was agreed upon during the African Union summit,” it said.

The Blue Nile is a tributary of the Nile river, from which Egypt’s 100 million people get 90 percent of their fresh water.

Ethiopia dam dispute: Concerns in Sudan’s Blue Nile state (2:55)
Sudan’s safety concerns
Meanwhile, Sudan’s irrigation ministry said the latest Ethiopian position presented in talks on Tuesday raised new fears over the track the negotiations had been on.

Khartoum also threatened to withdraw from the talks, saying Ethiopia insisted on linking them to renegotiating a deal on sharing the waters of the Blue Nile.

Sudan’s water and irrigation minister, Yasser Abbas, said he received a letter from his Ethiopian counterpart who proposed “the deal under discussion be limited to filling up the dam and any deal concerning its management be linked to the question of sharing Blue Nile waters”.

Egypt and Sudan invoke a “historic right” over the river guaranteed by treaties concluded in 1929 and 1959.

But Ethiopia uses a treaty signed in 2010 by six riverside countries and boycotted by Egypt and Sudan authorising irrigation projects and dams on the river.

“This new Ethiopian position threatens the negotiations under the aegis of the African Union, and Sudan will not participate in negotiations which include the subject of sharing Blue Nile waters,” Abbas said.

“Sudan will not allow the lives of 20 million citizens who live along the Blue Nile to be tied to an agreement on sharing the water of this river.”

The call came after a meeting of technical and legal committees from the three countries aimed at pushing for a deal on the filling and operation of the GERD.

The meeting was also attended by observers from the United States and the European Union as well as experts from the Africa

Somalia expects to announce winners of first petroleum auction early 2021

By Wendell Roelf

CAPE TOWN, Aug 5 (Reuters) – Somalia expects to announce the winners of its first oil and gas licensing round early next year, as the country seeks petro dollars to help rebuild its struggling economy, a senior government oil official said on Wednesday.
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Battered by violence and an Islamist insurgency since clan warlords overthrew a dictator in 1991, Somalia is offering seven deep water offshore blocks in its maiden licensing round in one of the world’s last frontier markets.

The oil and gas auction officially opened on Tuesday.

“We are expecting that in the first quarter of next year to finalise and award the block contracts,” Ibrahim Ali Hussein told Reuters in his first interview with international media since his appointment last week as the CEO of the Somali Petroleum Authority (SPA).
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The government had previously mooted offering 15 blocks in this licensing round but cut this down to seven due to capacity constraints, Hussein, a former advisor to Somalia’s energy minister, said. Seismic data previously indicated the 15 blocks could contain around 30 billion barrels of oil.

He said the coronavirus pandemic had delayed talks between the government and a joint venture of legacy rights holders Shell and Exxon Mobil to convert their existing concession into a production sharing agreement (PSA).

“If there was not coronavirus, the roadmap that we agreed … was to get the contract back before the end of this year, December,” he said.

Converting the concession into a PSA would also help end a force majeure by the oil majors that has been in place since 1990, Hussein said. Shell and Exxon hold exclusive petroleum exploration and production rights over five shallow water offshore blocks.

“We have an ongoing and constructive dialogue with the Somali authorities about a roadmap potentially to convert the existing concession to a production sharing agreement,” a Shell spokesman said.

No-one at Exxon was immediately available to comment. (Reporting by Wendell Roelf Editing by Tim Cocks and David Evans)

Allafricas.com

The energy to stay: Senegal’s village of women In northeast Senegal, the Sahara Desert is encroaching and the men are emigrating. But a group of women have pooled their resources and sought out new farming methods to save their villages.

yellowdressThis oasis on the banks of the River Senegal, along the border with Mauritania, is home to a community of small-scale farmers spread across a handful of villages who for centuries have been channelling the river’s water to grow and consume local produce.

But in recent decades, the aridity of the area, which lies at the gateway to the Sahara Desert, has increased dramatically. Arable land has become tougher to find, food production has slowed, livelihoods have worsened, and the men have left in search of work and opportunities abroad.


“The desert is advancing on us,” says Fama Sarr, gazing intensely. The elegant 63-year-old is one of the oldest inhabitants of Sinthiou Diam Dior, a village here in the Matam region.

“The heat has become so extreme and the rainy season so short, that our agricultural activity has decreased year by year and food insecurity is gaining ground everywhere,” she says. Temperatures now regularly exceed 40 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit), and less rain means the river water is drying up.

In the centre of the village is a small adobe mosque and a square with a large Acacia tree, which offers shade during the hottest hours. The low-lying houses are surrounded by walls that protect them from nocturnal snakes and hippos that occasionally wander in from the river.

The tributary that provides villagers with enough water to drink and to nourish the fields is called Moyo in the local dialect, Pular, and life here revolves around it. It is where ancient generations first spotted foreigners coming from unknown, distant lands. During the dry season, little water remains and people cross it by foot to trade with the Mauritanians.
Now, more and more, the desert is encroaching. The change has been slow and gradual, yet constant over time: Cracks appearing on the walls of homes with greater regularity; market days becoming less busy; children asking the women where their fathers have gone.

But what worries the community of Sinthiou Diam Dior the most, is the shortening of the rainy season – and its effect on their main sources of income: agriculture and farming.

“It rains once in July and then it stops for a month, so families often lose their crops,” Sarr says. “We became so poor that my husband had to emigrate to Gabon and my son to France.”

A village of women

In Sinthiou Diam Dior, at least one person from every family has emigrated, most of them men. Across Matam, the women remain behind as the lifeblood that animates and nourishes the villages.

Abandoned, they are at the core of family life but also the economy of the villages: They have a key role in managing resources, food production, animal husbandry, consumption choices and raising children.

Inside her house, surrounded by fences to guard the goats, Sarr feeds her granddaughter in a large, blue room buzzing with old, rickety fans. A loud television holds the attention of a group of children lying in a corner, while women chat on the colourful sofas surrounding the room.

Fama Sarr

Sarr lives in the mud-brick building with 22 other people, 16 of whom are women. Each bedroom houses as many as five people. It is a common arrangement, with the village’s 400 men making up just a third of the total population.

After sharing a large bowl of thieboudienne, the Senegalese national dish of fish, rice and fresh vegetables, Sarr sips on a sugary ataya tea.

“Being the wife of a migrant is very difficult. Love is missing, physical affection is missing,” Sarr says.

“Sometimes we talk on WhatsApp and see each other on video calls, but often the line doesn’t work and we need to walk to other villages [to find a signal], and it’s hard to get phone credit.”

During the day, the heat forces life in the villages to move at a slow pace, measured only by the muezzin sounding the Muslim call to prayer five times a day. At night, the perfect silence and the starry sky blur together.

“When it’s so hot, you can’t live,” says Sarr. “The kids look sick and they stop playing.”
In Matam, poverty affects as much as 75 percent of families, and more than a third does not have enough food to eat, making them even more vulnerable to the consequences of desertification – which is rapidly escalating in the area, according to the United Nations.

Overall, the UN desertification organisation says every year, 12 million hectares (nearly 30 million acres) of productive land around the world are transformed into deserts – an area greater than the size of Portugal. And the pace of land degradation is more than 30 times the speed recorded in the past. UN data also projects that there will be 200 million climate migrants by 2050; northern Senegal is one of the countries that will be affected most severely.

‘Life is really hard here’

When husbands leave, life for women in Matam grows more challenging. Married, but alone, they wait for a visit that often does not happen for years, and for money that sometimes stops coming. They are left in limbo, unable to start a new life.

Coumba Diallo is strong and beautiful. She is in her 40s but says she does not know her exact age. She studied in the capital, Dakar, before moving to the village when she got married in 1991. But her husband has since left.

Coumba Diallo

“When we got married, my husband was always here and we were happy,” says Diallo. “But money was too little, so he decided to emigrate, first to the Ivory Coast, then to Gabon.”

Since he left 10 years ago, she has had to till their field alone. She does not have children, but helps her sister-in-law with her four children. One of them was born with cerebral palsy, and so the mother must constantly tend to him, leaving Diallo alone in the fields.

Every morning Diallo wakes up at dawn. After eating a slice of buttered bread and carrying out religious ablutions, she takes a large, colourful basket filled with tools and heads towards the fields that stand along the river. But for years she has struggled to produce enough food to support herself and the rest of the family.

“Life is really hard here,” she says. “Especially after my husband told me he didn’t have money to send us food any more. That’s why we started to work more and more on the fields.”
She is now involved in every stage of the agricultural process, working the land with the use of new technologies and going to regional markets to sell her produce – mainly tomatoes, onions, aubergines, and rice.

“Since solar panels have been installed in my field and provide energy for water pumps, I don’t need to spend all my savings to collect water for irrigation,” she says.

The income is divided into a portion for herself and the family, and a portion for the community. The rest covers maintenance costs and the purchase of new machinery.

When the men leave

For the men (and few women) who leave home, the conditions are notoriously complicated, with most facing treacherous journeys, racist abuse and violence, along the way.

According to the UN, up to four million Senegalese nationals out of the domestic population of 15 million live abroad, ranking it as one of the countries with the highest number of emigres in West Africa.
But even for those who stay, life is not easy. Left alone by husbands, sons and brothers, women are often forced to leave their studies and take care of the land and children. Many also find themselves marrying younger.

“The women stay. The man marries you, then emigrates and leaves you there,” says 35-year-old Dieynaba Niang who moved thousands of miles to Matam from Gabon to follow her husband, who in turn left for the United States five years ago.

“And you, you have to take care of everything, his family, his mother and for this you have to leave school. Once you are married everything you will do is prepare food and take care of your family.”

Dieynaba Niang

Niang lives on her own with her five-year-old daughter, far from her original family, and further from her husband. But she hopes to join him soon. “He left, but I needed him here, with me,” she says.

“Hopefully, what happened to me won’t happen to my daughter,” Niang says. “I’ll let her finish school. And all the men who want to marry her will have to wait for her to finish, for her to find a good job. Only then can they marry her.”
But in Senegal, as is the case in many African countries, gender inequality is still very high. Although women represent 70 percent of the continent’s agricultural force, produce 80 percent of food and manage 90 percent of its sale, according to the World Bank report on Women and Agriculture in Africa, their rights are not recognised and they have very little decision-making power.

Patriarchal society in Senegal prevents most women from directly managing the land they work on, and in most cases there is a man who enjoys the fruits of the labour carried out by women.

“Here are the women who are strong and work in the fields,” says Niang. “It is basically the women who do everything.”

The old ways

Back when most of their husbands moved away, and with the threat of desertification literally at their doorsteps, the women of the villages dedicated all their strength and energy to agriculture.

But their outdated, inefficient equipment and the rising cost of fuel, ratcheted up financial pressures.

“We have always had to pay for the fuel to drain water from the river and irrigate the fields,” explains Sarr. “But in recent years, more and more of it was required and we ended up spending most of our money on gasoline.”
Then, a beacon of hope appeared five years ago in the form of renewable energy. Desperate and eager for change, dozens of women from the villages joined forces. With the support of the NGO Green Cross, they launched the project Energy to Stay. New technologies have since been installed in the villages to draw water from the river and irrigate the fields.

Instead of using expensive gasoline to pump water, solar panels now power a water collection system. The new system also irrigates the fields using pipelines buried in the soil to gradually deliver the water over time, as opposed to the old method called “flooding”, whereby the pump released water into channels dug in the ground. Green Cross estimates this change has led to a water-saving of 70 percent.
“We stayed and decided to learn solar engineering to irrigate the fields,” says Mame Yaye Pam, the president of the village Koundel, 45km (28 miles) south of Sinthiou Diam Dior. Solar panels allow them to reduce gasoline consumption by 2,700 litres a year, she says.

In each village, year after year, the solar irrigation system allows the cultivation of more than 60 hectares (148 acres) of land, in turn producing enough fruit and vegetables to feed more than 900 people.

Mame Yaye Pam

“This has been the best year of harvest thanks to solar power,” says Diallo, looking at the fields along the river, where green shoots have sprouted in patches that had once turned brown.

“This has allowed us to increase our income, thus reducing poverty and having quality vegetable consumption in families. We’re doing well, we can feed our children and even save some money by selling at the market.”

The aim of the operation was to rehabilitate farmland in an environmentally sustainable manner, and in so doing ensure that the local population has a supply of fresh produce they can eat and sell to generate an income, says Alessandra Pierella, the manager of the Green Cross project.

“Now the women have learned to use the machinery and manage the fields, becoming entirely independent,” Pierella says. “We managed to eliminate the women’s expenses and their carbon dioxide emissions are now zero.”

Alongside the technology, more sophisticated farming techniques have been developed, such as crop rotation – which reduces waste and optimises production, President Yaye Pam says.

To help formalise the structure of the operation, a women’s association has been formed for the region and in each village, a president, a treasurer, and a secretary has been elected.

Community space

The Energy to Stay project is, in a small way, an attempt to reverse Senegal’s societal norms. While there is a lack of female presence in the most important positions in the country, for the first time in this area women not only work, but also take part in decision-making processes and hold positions of responsibility.

“The group is very well organised and women are so dynamic,” explains Diallo, who is secretary in her village. “Every month members meet to contribute to emergencies, if there is a possible breakdown or if there is something to do.”

Within the last five years, in addition to selling agricultural products, travelling to regional markets and taking care of their own business, women have become owners of land parcels.

“The land belongs to the group, but then it is distributed in plots and given to each woman according to the quota she has decided to pay,” explains Diallo.

Diallo shares an eight-hectare (19-acre) field with two dozen other people, and works on her own parcel of land every day. She uses part of the harvest for cooking, part for stocks, but the majority she sells.

From the money the women earn, each also puts in an amount to pay for expenses such as seeds, the caretaker and the pump. Diallo collects contributions from more than 200 women each month.

In this way, year after year, hectare after hectare, the women of the Matam villages have slowly managed to reclaim the deserted lands, improve living conditions and create job opportunities, thus generating an alternative to migration.

‘A little is enough’

It is midnight and Diallo, Sarr and Niang are getting ready to join the other women on the rooftop of a house near the mosque.

The women are all wearing traditional, wax-print dresses with beautiful patterns and fancy jewellery. Taking turns they reach the middle of the rooftop and dance for about 30 seconds, in a climax of energy and rhythm.

The village is celebrating the wedding of a young couple who, thanks to their parents’ money, are studying in the capital Dakar, some 500km (310 miles) away. They have returned home to celebrate their union.

But they are not the only ones who have come back.
Some men, fathers, cousins, friends, childhood companions, are also present at the wedding. They are sitting on the floor and offering money and gifts to the groom, who, according to tradition, must be at a separate celebration for the men only.

Some of the men are here to visit their families, spend a few months in the village, and leave again for Gabon, France, Italy, Germany. But others, many of them, have decided to stay after seeing the transformation of village life.

“I heard things were getting better here,” says one of the husbands, who two weeks earlier returned home after more than 10 years in Gabon. “My wife is so happy that I decided to come back and help her with the field.”

Improved living conditions and new job opportunities brought on by technology, as well as the hard work of Matam’s women, are beginning to halt the climate migration.

“The problem is why we were leaving: it wasn’t a choice,” says the husband.

“But since there’s more money in the family, we live better now. And if we live better, we’ll be less and less under pressure to seek better luck elsewhere.”

“A little is enough to gain the freedom of having a choice again.”

Meet Muwado, the eight-year-old girl making Somalia laugh,she has now more than 235,000 followers and 3.2 million likes on TikTok

The eight-year-old girl is the star of short comedy videos that have taken Somalia by storm. Viewed millions of times on online platforms such as TikTok and YouTube, Muwado Abshir’s sketches touch on a wide range of topics, from unemployment and fashion to social media obsession and even relationships – and her jokes spare no one.

“I like to make people happy. I get happy when I see people laughing,” Muwado tells Al Jazeera, before breaking into laughter herself.

“People look better when they are happy and laughing.”

It all began in December of last year, when the eldest of Muwado’s seven older siblings, Abdikassim Abshir, was making a video for his TikTok channel.

“She wouldn’t leave me alone and kept on asking me to make a video of her,” the 19-year-old recalls.

But simply shooting the video was not enough for Muwado, who insisted that her brother share it online. Abdikassim reluctantly concurred – and within days, the clip had more than a quarter of a million views.

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Abdikassim (centre) writes the script while Muwado delivers the punchlines [Ali Adan Abdi/Al Jazeera]

The funny sketch starts with Abdikassim telling Muwado not to play with his phone because she is too young. He then asks her to go to the shops to buy him ice cream.

“Be patient,” Muwado retorts. When I grow up, I will get you ice cream. I will get lost if I go out to buy you ice cream now.

Thinking that the post’s popularity was accidental, Abdikassim then posted a video featuring just himself – and did this did not go down too well with his followers.

“People would not let me post anything that Muwado was not in. They were not asking but demanding. I had no choice. It was either I post Muwado videos or don’t post anything,” he said.

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The brother-sister duo started posting videos together, with Abdikassim coming up with the script and Muwado delivering the punchlines. No topic was left untouched, with special attention reserved for social media influencers, schoolteachers and politicians.

One post, making light of federal leaders cutting ties with the central government in Mogadishu, garnered more than 1.1 million views.

Because of her age, Muwado’s videos are posted on her brother’s channel.

The account now has more than 235,000 followers and 3.2 million likes on TikTok. Muwado’s YouTube channel has garnered close to seven million views in less than a year – and that excludes the figures from people downloading and resharing her videos.

‘Very smart, very funny’

Somalia is recovering from a brutal two-decade civil war that has damaged almost every sector including the entertainment industry.

With the guns falling silent, many youths have been increasingly taking to social media, mostly TikTok and Facebook, to find entertainment, express themselves and pass their time. But no one could have predicted that an eight-year-old girl would grab the attention of millions in the conservative country.

“We have never had someone her age doing what she is doing. She makes the country laugh. I hope she continues forever,” says Nafisa Abdile Abdi, a store owner in central Mogadishu.

“Whenever I’m down or had a tough day, I go to Muwado’s channels and watch her videos. She makes me happy. For someone so young, she is very smart and very funny.”

With Muwado’s star continuing to rise, one of the country’s most popular musicians, Sharma Boy, released a song dedicated to her.

“Muwado, the happy one. She is better than the rest. She has no arrogance, always joking. No one like her on TikTok,” Sharma Boy raps in the song.

And Muwado’s online fame has also translated offline, with people inviting her to birthday parties, graduations ceremonies and even weddings for an appearance fee –  a figure her family did not want to disclose. 

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Muwado says she wants to become a doctor when she grows up [Ali Adan Abdi/Al Jazeera]

But it was not always like that. Muwado’s mother, Siraad Muuse, did her best to stop her from becoming a public figure.

“She is very young. She needs to focus on other things like school, learning the Quran and just been a child,” says Siraad, who was not happy when she found out Abdikassim had posted videos of his sister online.

She warned him against doing so, but the two siblings continued.

“Every day I will get phone calls from people telling me your daughter is on the internet. I always thought it was the first video until I realised there were dozens of other videos. It was too late to stop them. Now they tell me before they post and they tell me what the video is about,” says Siraad, who is now supporting her daughter.

And because of Muwado’s rising profile, Siraad has also become a celebrity in her own right.

“I get stopped on the streets by people and they ask how Muwado is doing. People are very nice and care about her. They call me Muwado’s mum and have stopped using my name. They even take photos with me,” Siraad said.

Meanwhile, Abdikassim has big dreams and plans for Muwado.

“I want her to make her a big star in Africa then take her to Hollywood where she can become a bigger star. God has given her a gift and I want to share that with [the] world,” he said.

But his young sister might need some convincing.

“I enjoy making people laugh but that is not what I want to do when I grow up,” she said. “My dream is to become a doctor. I think it is better to treat people than to make them laugh.”

“People will find other things to make them laugh,” she added, again bursting into laughter.

Africa: Nearly 300,000 Active Covid-19 Cases Across Continent After 8.5 Million Tests

As of August 6, the confirmed Covid-19 case total from 55 African countries has reached 994,018. Of those, 298,472 are active cases with 8,527,691 tests having been performed.

Reported deaths in Africa have reached 21,641 and recoveries 673,903.

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South Africa has the most reported cases – 529,877, with deaths numbering 9,298. The next most most-affected countries are Egypt (94,875), Nigeria (44,890), Ghana (39,075) and Algeria (33,055).

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The numbers are compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University (world map) using statistics from the World Health Organization and other international institutions as well national and regional public health departments. For the latest totals, see the AllAfrica clickable map with per-country numbers.

Visit the AllAfrica Coronavirus section for more coverage from across the continent. Also see: Africa Centres for Disease Control and PreventionWorld Health Organization Africa and African Arguments.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry delegation, dispatched from Beijing, will arrive in Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A Chinese delegation is reportedly arriving in Somaliland, a self-governing territory in East Africa, following rumors that the Somaliland government is considering formally recognizing Taiwan.
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The Chinese Foreign Ministry delegation, dispatched from Beijing, will arrive in Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland, on Wednesday (August 5), the Somaliland Chronicle cited officials from the East African territory’s foreign ministry as saying. This came just one day after the same paper reported that Somaliland President Muse Bihi Abdi is weighing the possibility of unilaterally recognizing Taiwan.

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Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) on Tuesday declined to comment on the issue, which if confirmed will certainly anger Somalia, a neighboring nation that claims Somaliland as part of its territory, not to mention China. The ministry has full knowledge of the situation and remains in close communication with Somaliland authorities, according to MOFA Spokesperson Joanne Ou (歐江安).

Taiwan and Somaliland pledged to strengthen bilateral ties early in July through the setting up of mutual representative offices as well as the promotion of cooperative projects.

It is also reported that the Chinese Ambassador to Somalia, Qin Jian (覃儉), has been in Hargeisa since August 1 — the third time this year. He has been requesting to meet with President Bihi of Somaliland, who reportedly instructed aides to provide a risk analysis of furthering diplomatic ties with Taiwan but has so far declined to meet with the ambassador.

Somaliland, officially called the Republic of Somaliland, is a de-facto independent state with a population of approximately 3.5 million. Despite declaring itself an independent state in 1991, Somaliland to this day has not been recognized by any foreign government.

China and Somalia both criticized Taiwan for its efforts to advance ties with Somaliland back in July. The Somali government — which has diplomatic relations with China — condemned Taiwan for undermining Somalian sovereignty, while Beijing labeled the move by Taiwan as part of a separatist plot perpetrated by the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

China sent Some mystery illegal seeds to US addresses

Some mystery seeds illegally sent from China identified
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Officials warn not to plant mystery seeds del…
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has identified some of the plant species in bags of unsolicited seeds arriving in mailboxes across the United States. Officials have warned the shipments of mystery seeds, which appear to have originated in China, could be invasive plant species.
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So far, however, the species appear to be innocuous. At least 14 of the seed species had been identified as of July 29, according to Deputy Administrator Osama El-Lissy of the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. They includes mustard, cabbage and morning glory as well as herbs like mint, sage, rosemary and lavender. He said hibiscus and roses were also found.

CBS News confirmed that residents in all 50 states have reported receiving the suspicious packages of seeds. The USDA said if you receive the packets of seeds, do not plant them and contact your state plant regulatory official.

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Images tweeted by the Maryland Department of Agriculture show packets of unidentified seeds received in the mail, unsolicited, by state residents, apparently from China.
MARYLAND DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
Although the species identified so far are harmless, plant experts have warned that seeds from other parts of the world could damage crops.

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State agriculture officials in Virginia warned, “Invasive species wreak havoc on the environment, displace or destroy native plants and insects and severely damage crops. Taking steps to prevent their introduction is the most effective method of reducing both the risk of invasive species infestations and the cost to control and mitigate those infestations.”

Texas Department of Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller urged people to be cautious. “It could be a bacteria. It could be another virus, some kind of invasive species,” Miller told CBS Dallas-Fort Worth.

Robin Pruisner, a state seed control official at the Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship in Iowa, told Reuters that she has heard reports of a coating of possible insecticide or fungicide on the seeds, which could prove especially harmful to crops.

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“I’ve had people describe to me that the seeds are coated with something purple. I haven’t had it in my hands yet, but it sounds an awful lot like a seed treatment,” she said.

The Agriculture Department has said the packages are most likely part of a “brushing” scam, in which a seller sends unsolicited items to someone and then posts false positive customer reviews to boost sales.

“Brushing scams involving seed packets in international mail shipments are not uncommon,” the USDA said. “U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has intercepted similar seed shipments in recent years.”

Phylissia Clark of the Better Business Bureau told CBS DFW that if you are a victim of brushing, “your identity has been compromised.”

“Somebody knows enough about you to create a profile online and use you to manipulate systems,” Clark said.

The seeds typically arrive in white packages displaying Chinese lettering and the words “China Post.” The USDA continues to investigate.

Instagram star flaunted lavish lifestyle but was actually conspiring to launder hundreds of millions of dollars, US prosecutors say

Director of Dubai CID say from di raid, dem gbab’ document of one planned fraud wey dey worth $435 million.

Dubai police say dem also seize:

  • More dan $40.9 million cash moni
  • 13 expensive cars wey worth $6.8 million moni wey dem get from mago-mago activities
  • 21 computer device
  • 47 smartphones
  • 15 memory stick
  • Five hard disk wey contain 119,580 fraud files
  • Address of 1,926,400 victims.
Nigerian internet scammer Instagram star flaunted lavish lifestyle but was actually conspiring to launder hundreds of millions of dollars, US prosecutors say

Hushpupi was arrested Instagram star flaunted lavish lifestyle but was actually conspiring to launder hundreds of millions of dollars, US prosecutors say
Hushpupi and his expensive Lamborghini in Dubai

A Nigerian man nicknamed “Ray Hushpuppi” who flaunted his Rolls Royces, fancy watches and designer clothing on Instagram faces money laundering conspiracy charges in the United States, according to the Department of Justice.

Ramon Olorunwa Abbas appeared in a federal court in Chicago on Friday. He is accused of conspiring to launder hundreds of millions of dollars through cybercrime schemes.

According to a federal affidavit, one of the alleged victims was the client of a New York-based law firm that lost nearly a million dollars in 2019.https://tpc.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html?n=0

Abbas was arrested last month by law enforcement officials in the United Arab Emirates and transferred to the US this week by the FBI.

Prosecutors allege Abbas is one of the leaders of a global network that uses computer intrusions, business email compromise (BEC) schemes and money laundering capers to steal hundreds of millions of dollars.US authorities say this man is Ramon Abbas and he conspired to launder millions of dollars.US authorities say this man is Ramon Abbas and he conspired to launder millions of dollars.

A BEC scheme often involves a hacker who redirects communications of a business email account to others in an attempt to lure them into making a wire transfer.

“This case targets a key player in a large, transnational conspiracy who was living an opulent lifestyle in another country while allegedly providing safe havens for stolen money around the world. As this case demonstrates, my office will continue to hold such criminals accountable, no matter where they live,” US Attorney Nick Hanna said in a statement.

It is unclear whether Abbas has an attorney.

The Department of Justice says the Hushpuppi Instagram account, which boasts 2.4 million followers, shows Abbas inside or in front of jets, shopping luxury brands, posing in front of Rolls Royces, a Ferrari and other expensive cars.

In the bio, Hushpuppi says he is a real estate developer.

According to the Dubai Police Facebook page, Abbas and 11 other people were arrested during raids in which authorities seized nearly $41 million, 13 luxury cars worth $6.8 million and phone and computer evidence containing more than 100,000 fraud files and the addresses of nearly 2 million possible victims

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Conspirators went after English soccer team, feds say

A criminal complaint filed last month alleges that Abbas and an unnamed person conspired to launder funds from a $14.7 million heist of a foreign financial institution in 2019.

Abbas also is accused of conspiring to be part of an attempt to steal $124 million from an English Premier League soccer club. The complaint does not say which team was targeted or if the attempt was successful.The man known as Hushpuppi told his 2.4 million Instagram followers that he is in real estate.The man known as Hushpuppi told his 2.4 million Instagram followers that he is in real estate.

Authorities said he was part of a BEC scheme that defrauded a client of a New York-based law firm out of about $922,857 in October 2019.https://tpc.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html?n=0

The FBI says in the criminal complaint that Abbas and others tricked a paralegal at the law firm into wiring the money meant for a real estate refinance into an account that Abbas and his co-conspirators were using.

Abbas, 37, is being held at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, Chicago, the Federal Bureau of Prisons website says. He will be transferred to Los Angeles in the coming weeks, according the Justice Department.

If convicted of money laundering, he would face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

Di Director of Dubai CID say from di raid, dem gbab document of one planned fraud wey dey worth $435 million.

Dubai police say dem also seize:

  • More dan $40.9 million cash moni
  • 13 expensive cars wey worth $6.8 million moni wey dem get from mago-mago activities
  • 21 computer device
  • 47 smartphones
  • 15 memory stick
  • Five hard disk wey contain 119,580 fraud files
  • Address of 1,926,400 victims.

Facebook reportedly had evidence that its algorithms were dividing people, but top executives killed or weakened proposed solutions

Facebook’s internal research found that it encouraged polarization, but Mark Zuckerberg and other top executives rejected ideas aimed at fixing the problem, The Wall Street Journal reported.

But Zuckerberg and Facebook’s policy chief, Joel Kaplan, repeatedly nixed proposed solutions because they feared appearing biased against conservatives or simply lost interest in solving the problem, The Journal reported.

Facebook had evidence that its algorithms encourage polarization and “exploit the human brain’s attraction to divisiveness,” but top executives including CEO Mark Zuckerberg killed or weakened proposed solutions, The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday.

The effort to better understand Facebook’s effect on users’ behavior was a response to the Cambridge Analytica scandal, and its internal researchers determined that, contrary to the company’s mission of connecting the world, its products were having the opposite effect, according to the newspaper.

One 2016 report found that “64% of all extremist group joins are due to our recommendation tools,” with most people joining at the suggestion of Facebook’s “Groups You Should Join” and “Discover” algorithms. “Our recommendation systems grow the problem,” the researchers said, according to The Journal.

The Journal reported that Facebook teams pitched multiple fixes, including limiting the spread of information from groups’ most hyperactive and hyperpartisan users, suggesting a wider variety of groups than users might normally encounter, and creating subgroups for heated debates to prevent them from derailing entire groups.https://tpc.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html?n=0

But these proposals were often dismissed or significantly diluted by Zuckerberg and Facebook’s policy chief, Joel Kaplan, according to the newspaper, which reported that Zuckerberg eventually lost interest in trying to address the polarization problem and was concerned about the potential to limit user growth.

In response to the pitch about limiting the spread of hyperactive users’ posts, Zuckerberg agreed to a diluted version and asked the team to not bring something like that to him again, The Journal said.

The company’s researchers also determined that because of a larger presence of far-right accounts and pages publishing content on Facebook, any changes — including apolitical tweaks, like reducing clickbait — would have disproportionately affected conservatives.

That worried Kaplan, who previously halted a project called “Common Ground” that aimed to encourage healthier political discourse on the platform.null

Ultimately, many of the efforts weren’t incorporated into Facebook’s products, with managers telling employees in September 2018 that the company was pivoting “away from societal good to individual value,” according to The Journal.

“We’ve learned a lot since 2016 and are not the same company today,” a Facebook spokeswoman told the paper. “We’ve built a robust integrity team, strengthened our policies and practices to limit harmful content, and used research to understand our platform’s impact on society so we continue to improve.”

Facebook has repeatedly been scrutinized by critics who say the company hasn’t done enough to limit the spread of harmful content on its platform. That topic has come into sharper focus as coronavirus-related misinformation has run rampant on social media and as the 2020 presidential election approaches.

  • Author: Shakir Essa

A new film set in Djibouti City presents a searing class critique of Somali girlhood.

In the popular imagination, Somali women are viewed as passive, oppressed subjects, the hapless victims of their patriarchal culture and religion. Where they are visible, it is often through the iconography of the veil and female circumcision. Lula Ali Ismaïl’s Dhalinyaro (Youth)—the first full-length feature film by a Djiboutian woman—is a radical departure from this corpus in depicting Somali girlhood in its full depth and complexity. Most importantly, it does this through depicting the mundane events of everyday life in Djibouti City. There are no wars here, or pirates, or terrorists, no young women escaping fathers, husbands, or the blade of a female elder, no white saviors ready for the rescue. What we see in Dhalinyaro is a coming of age story that shows Somali girls as they are.

The film’s storyline revolves around the final qualification examination for Djiboutian secondary students to enter university, the baccalaureate. The three main characters, Deka, Hibo, and Asma, are classmates at the Lycée de Djibouti but hail from markedly different class backgrounds. The Lycée space becomes one where the different segments of Djibouti’s population interact and form friendships, bonding over the shared ritual of studying for the baccalaureate. Yet, it is the question of higher education that renders class divides most explicit. For wealthy Hibo, who arrives at the Lycée each day in a chauffeured private car, there is no question that she will continue her education in Paris. Deka, who is securely middle class, is less certain, but with the funds saved up by her mother over a number of years, the idea of going to France for university is within the realm of the possible. Asma has no such choices available to her; poverty dictates that she must stay in Djibouti, unless she is among the few top students to receive a scholarship to study abroad.

The palpable burden of class difference saturates the film. One shot silently juxtaposes a well-dressed man at a cafe with a young boy on the street as he hands his shoes to the child to polish while drinking coffee. In another shot, women in wide-brimmed sun hats sweep the city streets at dusk to the sounds of ciyaar Soomaali, a traditional Somali folk dance. It is palpable in Asma’s hesitation to attend Hibo’s birthday party at the luxury Djibouti Palace Kempinski, and in the fuul bean stew her family eats at mealtimes, like the poor neighborhood children that come to Deka’s home for bread. When Hibo gets into an altercation with a group of schoolgirls outside of the Lycée, she disparages them as the “stupid Balabois”—residents of the impoverished Balbala suburb. An angered Asma, who tells her that she is “one of them,” accuses Hibo of believing that her wealth gives her more rights. Over the course of the film, Hibo’s character arc moves from a sheltered and careless rich girl to a more understanding and self-sufficient individual, a transformation made possible by honest friendships across difference.

The stunning cinematography with long shots of the sea and glimpses of the Port of Djibouti subtly signals the confluence and contradictions of global wealth and local poverty. This infrastructure of state capitalism—and, at the end of the film, the national radio broadcasting examination results—are the only glimpses of the state or politics in Dhalinyaro. Djibouti is among the most enduring dictatorships in Africa, ruled by an extended family since its independence from France in 1977. Its ruler, Ismaïl Omar Guelleh, is famously a patron of the arts and culture, and Lula Ali Ismaïl has described the support she received for the film from both the private sector and a government eager to develop the country’s nascent film industry. While one can wonder about the possible implications of this government hand for artistic freedom, Ismaïl’s decision not to engage formal politics explicitly is another subversive act of representation, given that the region is mired in images of political dysfunction. Ismaïl’s political critique is muted and indirect, but no less searing. It takes the form of a city-wide power outage that forces the “haves” to turn on their private generators and the “have-nots” to light lanterns; it is in the figure of the elderly veteran telling Deka the forgotten stories of Djiboutian soldiers who fought for France during the Second World War; it is, at the metalevel, what the film itself embodies in its very existence, in its very refusal to conform.

What Dhalinyaro foregrounds is female sociality and intimacy as it unravels the complex layers of contemporary Djiboutian life. The film has a decidedly female gaze, decentering maleness to the extent that most of the male characters in the film remain marginal and unnamed. Instead, it is the inner worlds of Somali women that are fleshed out in full, and with the immense care and tenderness of a Somali woman behind the camera. When Hibo has a miscarriage in a bathroom stall at school, it is the conservatively-dressed Asma who immediately removes her abaya to cover her friend’s blood-stained clothing, stating that “girls look out for each other.” They openly discuss sexuality and their relationships, the lively female banter reminiscent of the Somali riwaayad (play) and theater tradition that has pushed the envelope on notions of female morality and modesty in Somali society since the 1960s. Markers of Somali womanhood are interspersed throughout the film: the breezy dirac shiid worn as loungewear at home, the fragrant uunsi smoke used to perfume one’s household, clothing and hair, the huruud face masks made of turmeric to keep one’s skin soft.

At the heart of Dhalinyaro is the tension between visibility and invisibility in the desire for a particular kind of freedom. In an early scene, Deka, Hibo, and Asma quietly talk at their desks as their teacher—played by Lula Ali Ismaïl herself—explains the upcoming deadlines for students seeking to go abroad for university. “Think of the freedom!” Deka whispers to her friends, “no one holding you to account, no one looking at you and saying ‘you’re the daughter of so and so.’” These moments of recognition occur most often in their encounters with men. As the girls sit by the waterfront and jokingly evaluate the appearances of young men passing by, a man pauses and greets Hibo, telling her to say hello to her father for him. “There’s no getting away!” an exasperated Hibo tells her friends. In another scene, the searching glance of a male waiter at a restaurant where Deka is having an intimate dinner with the older married man she is seeing is enough to unsettle her and abruptly end the date. Yet, it is the same surveilling gaze—this time by women—that precipitates the end to the predatory relationship, after Deka’s mother hears about it. The communal nature of the Somali social world, while frustrating any notion of individual anonymity, fosters a sense of interdependence and female solidarity that uplifts the girls in times of need, as their friendship illustrates. Ultimately, Deka chooses this world by staying in Djibouti for university.

Ethnicity is conspicuously absent from the film. Djibouti, while dominated politically, culturally and demographically by Somalis, is a multi-ethnic country comprised of the Somali and Afar, as well as smaller communities of Arabs, Ethiopians and Europeans. That diversity is represented in the casting, with the three lead actresses themselves belonging to Djibouti’s different ethnic groups: one is Afar, one is Somali, and one is Arab Somali. Yet each plays a Somali character, in a Djibouti where only Somali people and culture appear to exist. However, there is some ambiguity to Hibo’s background that is not discernible to the non-Somali speaker and flattened by the limited subtitles. In the scene where Hibo is confronted on the schoolyard, a voice in the background, which does not make it into the subtitles, can be heard saying “the little Arab girl is being attacked!” in Somali. Her father, in other scenes, speaks one or two words of Arabic, albeit words that have entered the Somali lexicon. Asma and Deka’s households are completely immersed in their Somaliness, with illustrative scenes including Asma’s sisters playing jag on the veranda as their mother gives them advice using Somali proverbs, and Deka’s single mother listening to gabay poetry composed by a heartbroken Cilmi Boodhari. Hibo’s family, on the other hand, only speaks Somali at home when talking to their maid; they converse in French exclusively between themselves, listen to European classical music during formal dinners, and go to France for education. There is an unexamined politics of language and ethnicity yearning to be explored.

Dhalinyaro is a remarkable feat, particularly for a first full-length film by a self-taught filmmaker hailing from a country with a film industry still in its infancy. Though initially released in 2018, it has recently seen a surge in popularity when it was made available for free streaming as part of this year’s Cinewax Online African Film Festival, breaking OAFF streaming records. It is a beautiful film—a love letter to Somali girls—that deserves to be seen widely.

Author: Shakir Essa

Marriage proposals, dresses, feasts and dances – the story of two weddings in SOMALIland, with traditions old and new.

When it comes to weddings, Somaliland has many approaches. Some couples stick with tradition while others go for more modern marriage ceremonies.

This film tells the story of two weddings, one in a small desert village and the other in a busy city, while highlighting everyday life in different parts of the country. It also contrasts traditional ways of life with modern ideas that come from younger Somalis and social media.

In the remote rural village of Toon, herder Jamalli Muhammad Ahmed can only marry a local woman called  Hoda after first getting permission from her family. In a tradition going back generations, they all gather in the shade of a large tree to decide whether they are a suitable match. Only then can Jamalli and Hoda start planning their lives together.

Somalia Two Weddings - AJW

 Jamalli and Hoda’s wedding followed traditional Somali customs [Screengrab/Al Jazeera]

Abdullatif Deeq Omar in Hargeisa city, however, first met his future wife Najma on Facebook. They eloped but eventually returned to their families who accepted their marriage plans.

Somalia Two Weddings - AJW

 Abdullatif and Najma’s ceremony was in the city of Hargeisa [Screengrab/Al Jazeera]

Both weddings have the same pressures: buying outfits, inviting guests, finding a venue and arranging feasts – but each tells a unique story of family, community and tradition.

In Somali culture, many people also believe that getting married in the run-up to Ramadan ensures additional blessings on the couple, making the happy occasion even more special

Shakir Essa report.

Ethiopia admits shooting down Kenya aid aircraft in Somalia The plane had been carrying humanitarian and medical supplies to help the country

Ethiopia admits shooting down Kenya aid aircraft in Somalia The plane had been carrying humanitarian and medical supplies to help the country fight the spread of coronavirus.
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09 May 2020 GMT+3 Ethiopia on Saturday admitted it was behind the shooting down of a privately owned Kenyan plane in Somalia earlier this week, resulting in the deaths of all six people on board. The plane was shot down on Monday by Ethiopian troops protecting a camp in the town of Bardale in southwestern Somalia, the Ethiopian army said in a statement to the African Union (AU). More: Six killed as plane carrying coronavirus aid crashes in Somalia Anger in Mogadishu after police kill civilian in COVID-19 curfew Somali state minister dies from coronavirus The aircraft had been carrying humanitarian and medical supplies to help the country fight the spread of coronavirus when it went down in Bardale, about 300km (180 miles) northwest of Somalia’s capital Mogadishu. The Ethiopian soldiers mistakenly believed the plane was on a “potential suicide mission” because they had not been informed about the “unusual flight” and the aircraft was flying low, the statement said. “Because of lack of communication and awareness, the aircraft was shot down,” the military said. “The incident … will require mutual collaborative investigation team from Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya to further understand the truth.” Kenya expressed shock over the incident earlier this week, saying the plane’s mission had been to aid Somalia in tackling the coronavirus pandemic.
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Soldiers from Ethiopia and Kenya are among those deployed to Somalia as part of an AU peacekeeping mission to fight the armed group al-Shabab. The shooting down of the plane comes amid strained ties between Kenya and Somalia. Last month, Kenya accused Somali troops of an “unwarranted attack” across its border near Mandera, a northern outpost town, describing the incident as a provocation. Somalia, meanwhile, has long accused its larger neighbour of meddling in its internal affairs, something Kenya has denied.

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