Daily Archives: January 8, 2019

Gabon foils coup attempt, with ailing president out of country

Gabon foiled an attempted coup on Monday, capturing the rebel chief and killing two of his men after a group of soldiers stormed a radio station to call for an uprising while the country’s ailing president was abroad.

Renegade soldiers burst into RTG state radio broadcasting offices in the capital Libreville at dawn and urged the public to “rise up”, in an appeal made as President Ali Bongo was in Morocco recovering from a stroke last year.

Three soldiers wearing the green beret of the elite Republican Guard, two of them carrying assault rifles, were visible on a video of the speech released on social media.

But security forces stormed the building soon afterwards, capturing the commander, killing two of his men and freeing radio technicians who were held hostage and forced to help the mutineers make their broadcast, the presidency said.

“The situation is under control,” it said in a statement.

Shots were heard earlier around the state broadcasting headquarters in the centre of capital of the oil-rich West African nation, at about the same time as the message was read at 6:30 am (0530 GMT).

Security forces were deployed across the city and will remain there over the coming days, a government spokesman said.

The Republican Guard was stationed around the radio building, armoured vehicles blocked access to the area and a helicopter circled overhead, an AFP correspondent saw.

In a rundown district nearby, dozens of young people had earlier torched a car and set fire to tyres before security forces dispersed them with tear gas.

But much of the city was deserted, with businesses closed and local and foreign companies telling their workers to stay home.

The dramatic developments came as Bongo was staying at a private residence in the Moroccan capital Rabat after suffering a stroke. He made a televised speech on New Year’s Eve but has not been in the country since October.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the attempted putsch and called on all political actors to follow the constitution.

“The secretary general has always stood against unconstitutional changes of power, especially by force, and in that light, he condemns the attempted coup that took place this morning in Gabon,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

The UN envoy for Central Africa, Francois Lounceny Fall, who is based in Libreville, was closely monitoring the situation and is ready to offer assistance if needed, the spokesman said.

The African Union and former colonial power France also strongly condemned the attempted coup and warned against any “unconstitutional” change of power.

– ‘Democratic transition’ –

The rebel message was read on state radio by a person who identified himself as Lieutenant Ondo Obiang Kelly, describing himself as deputy commander of the Republican Guard and head of a previously unknown group, the Patriotic Youth Movement of the Gabonese Defence and Security Forces.

He said a “national restoration council” would be formed “to guarantee a democratic transition”.

The movement “calls on all young people from forces for the defence and security and Gabonese young people to join us,” the officer said.

“The eagerly awaited day has arrived when the army has decided to put itself on the side of the people in order to save Gabon from chaos.

“If you are eating, stop; if you are having a drink, stop; if you are sleeping, wake up… Rise up as one and take control of the street,” he said, urging people to seize public buildings and airports.

– ‘A difficult period’ –

The 59-year-old Bongo has not been back to Gabon since he suffered a stroke in Saudi Arabia on October 24.

In his absence, the Constitutional Court transferred part of his powers to the prime minister and the vice president.

On December 31, Bongo addressed the country for the first time since falling ill, saying in a recorded speech from Morocco that he had “been through a difficult period.”

His critics seized on signs of apparent ill-health, noting that the address was unusually short, his speech was slurred and his right hand seemed stiff and immobile.

The speech was “shameful,” the officer said in Monday’s address, describing Gabon as “country (which) has lost its dignity.”

The Bongo family has governed the equatorial African nation for five decades.

Bongo took over from his father Omar, who took office in 1967 and gained the reputation of a kleptocrat — one of the wealthiest men in the world, with a fortune derived from Gabon’s oil wealth.

He was also a pillar of “Francafrique” — a now much-contested strategy by which France bound itself to its former African colonies through cronyism, often tainted with corruption and rights abuses.

Ali Bongo was elected head of state after his father’s death in 2009.

He was narrowly re-elected in 2016 following a presidential poll marred by deadly violence and allegations of fraud.

Source: Seychelles News Agency

New campaign in Seychelles will raise awareness on the world’s first sovereign blue bond

A new campaign is to be launched in Seychelles to better inform the public on the world’s first sovereign blue bond, a financial instrument designed to support sustainable marine and fisheries projects.

The campaign will begin in April by the Blue Economy Department in the Vice President’s Office. It will involve different strategies which involve going around in the district to talk to fisherman and people having an interest in sustainable fishing, said the department.

The department added that: It will also give information on areas where people can launch themselves into in the blue economy sector.

The sovereign blue bond was launched at the ‘Our Ocean’ conference in Bali, Indonesia, in October last year.

Seychelles is balancing the need to both develop economically and protect its natural endowment. (Gerard Larose, Seychelles Tourism Board) Photo License: CC-BY

Valued at $15 million over 10 years with guarantees from the World Bank and the Global Environment Facility, the bond is to support the Seychelles’ transition to sustainable fisheries.

As one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots, Seychelles, with an Exclusive Economic Zone of 1.4 million square kilometres, is balancing the need to both develop economically and protect its natural endowment.

Speaking at the conference in Bali, the Vice President of the island nation, Vincent Meriton, said that Seychelles is honoured to be the first nation to pioneer such a novel financing instrument.

The blue bond, which is part of an initiative that combines public and private investment to mobilise resources for empowering local communities and businesses, will greatly assist Seychelles in achieving a transition to sustainable fisheries and safeguarding our oceans while we sustainably develop our blue economy, added Meriton.

Bonds are financial instruments to raise public and private capital for specific activities which can generate a return on investment. Blue bonds often fund the development of sustainable fisheries.

The blue bond, is part of an initiative that combines public and private investment to mobilise resources for empowering of local communities and businesses (Gerard Larose, Seychelles Tourism Board) Photo License: CC-BY

Proceeds from the bond will be used to support the expansion of marine protected areas, improved governance of priority fisheries and the development of the Seychelles’ blue economy.

Grants and loans will also be provided through the Blue Grants Fund and Blue Investment Fund, managed by the Seychelles’ Conservation and Climate Adaptation Trust (SeyCCAT) and the Development Bank of Seychelles.

Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean, was assisted in developing the Blue Bond by the World Bank by reaching out to the three investors — Calvert Impact Capital, Nuveen and Prudential.

The Seychelles blue bond is partially guaranteed by a $5 million guarantee from the World Bank and further supported by a $5 million concessional loan from the Global Environment Fund which will partially cover interest payments for the bond.

According to the Vice President of Sustainable Development at the World Bank, Laura Tuck, the World Bank is excited to be involved in the launch of this sovereign blue bond and believes it can serve as a model for other small island developing states and coastal countries. It is a powerful signal that investors are increasingly interested in supporting the sustainable management and development of our oceans for generations to come.

On his side, Naoko Ishii, the chief executive and chairperson of the Global Environment Facility said, the Seychelles blue bond is a significant milestone in our long-standing support for ocean conservation, and the GEF is proud to invest in developing national blue economies that protect the rich marine ecosystem while supporting economic growth, improved livelihoods and jobs.

Proceeds from the bond will also contribute to the World Bank’s South West Indian Ocean Fisheries Governance and Shared Growth Programme, which supports countries in the region to sustainably manage their fisheries resources and increase economic benefits from their fisheries sectors.

Source: Seychelles News Agency

Malawi Campaigners Seek to End Sex in Girls’ Initiation Ceremony

MULANJE, MALAWI In rural Malawi, families send girls as young as 12 years old for “initiation,” a traditional, cultural practice that marks a child’s entry into adulthood. But child rights campaigners say the ritual entices young girls into early sex, marriage, and teenage pregnancy � forcing many to drop out of school. One local organization is seeking to change this by teaching initiation counselors to give girls age-appropriate information.

Madalitso Makosa was 13 years old when she underwent a traditional, Malawian initiation ritual to become an adult.

She says after the initiation ceremony, the counselors advised her to perform a Kusasa Fumbi or “removing the dust” ritual with a man of my choice. She chose to sleep with her former boyfriend but, unfortunately, became pregnant.

“Removing the dust” refers to a girl losing her virginity, often without protection, to become an adult. Those who become teenage mothers pay the price for this tradition.

Makosa says when she discovered she was pregnant, she was devastated because she had to drop out of school. She is now struggling to get support to take care of her baby. She wished she had continued with her education.”

During the initiation, counselors show how they prepare girls for marriage and for sex.

Agnes Matemba, is an initiation counselor.

She says she gives girls these lessons so that they should keep their man and prevent him from going out to look for another woman. Because, if he goes out and finds excitement in other women, he is likely to dump her.

Child rights campaigners say the initiation ritual fuels Malawi’s high rate of child marriage. Half the girls here marry before age 18.

Malawian group Youthnet and Counselling, YONECO, wants to keep girls in school with a more age-appropriate initiation ritual.

MacBain Mkandawire is YONECO’s executive director.

“This is a traditional cultural thing that people believe in, and it will be very difficult to just say let us end initiation ceremonies, Mkandawire said. But what we are saying is that can we package the curriculum in such way the young people are accessing the correct curriculum at the correct time?”

YONECO is working with initiation counselors and traditional leaders to tone down Malawi’s initiations. Already, some areas are banning the practice of encouraging sex after the ceremony.

Aidah Deleza is also known as Senior Chief Chikumbu.

“We say no, no, no, Chikumbu said. This is why we have a lot of girls drop out from school, that is why the population has just shot so high just because of that, just because a lot of girls now they have got babies, most of them they are not in marriage.”

To further discourage teenage pregnancy, traditional leaders like Chikumbu are dividing girls’ initiation rituals into two camps.

One is a simple ceremony for teenage girls like Makosa, while the other provides some sex education for older girls who are preparing to marry.

Source: Voice of America

North Korea’s Kim visits China ahead of expected Trump summit

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un arrived Tuesday on an unannounced visit to Beijing for talks with President Xi Jinping, as preparations ramp up for an expected second summit with Donald Trump.

China is the key ally of isolated, nuclear-armed North Korea and its main source of trade and aid.

After arriving in the Chinese capital, Kim met with Xi for around an hour, Seoul’s Yonhap news agency reported late Tuesday, citing unnamed sources who said the talks focused on a possible summit with US President Trump and ways to deepen ties.

Kim and his wife Ri Sol Ju then attended a dinner hosted by Xi and first lady Peng Liyuan at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, Yonhap reported.

China’s foreign ministry earlier said Kim would meet with Chinese leaders to discuss “relevant issues” but did not reveal more about his itinerary.

The North Korean leader, accompanied by several senior officials, had left Pyongyang on his private train on Monday, the official Korean Central News Agency reported.

The trip, at Xi’s invitation, is set to run until Thursday, according to KCNA and China’s official Xinhua news agency.

Kim’s fourth visit to China comes a week after he warned in a New Year’s speech that Pyongyang may change its approach to nuclear talks if Washington persists with sanctions.

“Both Xi and Kim see value in coordinating their positions in advance of Trump-Kim summits. That appears to be a pattern,” Bonnie Glaser, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told AFP.

“Kim also seeks Beijing’s help in getting international sanctions eased.”

While China and Russia have both said the United Nations should consider relaxing sanctions on Pyongyang, Trump insisted Sunday that they would remain “in full force” until the US sees “very positive” results on the nuclear issue.

Kim’s trip coincides with the second day of talks between US and Chinese officials in Beijing aimed at resolving their trade war, but China rejected the notion that it was using the North Korean issue as a bargaining chip in the negotiations.

“Xi also gains from a summit with Kim — and the timing could not be any better,” said Harry Kazianis, director of defence studies at the Center for the National Interest, a US think tank.

“With Chinese and US officials meeting to discuss how to end the growing trade war between the two superpowers, it shows Beijing clearly has a North Korea card to play if it sees fit.”

The trip began under the usual veil of secrecy and Kim has not been spotted in public since a motorcade believed to be carrying the North Korean entourage left a Beijing train station under heavy security early Tuesday.

While the visit was the second item on China’s evening news broadcast, newscasters simply read out a statement from the morning without showing any images of the visit.

– ‘Like family’ –

Kim — whose birthday is reportedly on Tuesday — visited China three times last year for talks with Xi.

“This is Kim’s first birthday in China. It shows his close relationship with China, like members of one family,” said Beijing-based independent political commentator Hua Po.

But relations hit a rough patch in recent years as China backed the UN sanctions over Pyongyang’s nuclear tests.

Until his first trip in March, Kim had not met Xi in the six years after inheriting power from his father.

“At different times, our interactions are different, but communication is maintained,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said at a regular press briefing.

“As to in what form this is reflected, I don’t think there’s a need to read too much into it,” Lu said, adding that US trade talks and Kim’s visit were unrelated.

A whirlwind of diplomacy enveloped the Korean peninsula last year, with Kim also meeting the South’s President Moon Jae-in three times, and culminating in his high-profile Singapore summit with Trump in June.

In Singapore, Kim and Trump signed a vaguely worded pledge about denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, but progress has since stalled amid disagreements over what that means, with meetings and visits cancelled at short notice.

– ‘Springboard’ for Trump summit? –

In Seoul, Kim Eui-kyeom, spokesman for the presidential Blue House, said it had been aware of the visit in advance.

“We hope that the latest exchange between China and the North will help establish complete denuclearisation and permanent peace on the Korean peninsula and serve as a springboard for a second North-US summit,” he said.

Negotiations were underway on the location of their next meeting with Kim, Trump said Sunday, while remaining evasive on its timing.

The US president said last week he had received a “great letter” from the North Korean leader but declined to reveal its contents.

Washington is demanding Pyongyang give up its nuclear arsenal before any relief from sanctions is granted, while the North is insisting on immediate concessions from the US.

Culminating in late 2017, Pyongyang carried out six nuclear tests and launched rockets capable of reaching the entire US mainland, but has now carried out no such tests for more than a year.

Source: Seychelles News Agency

North Korea’s Kim visits China ahead of expected Trump summit

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un arrived Tuesday on an unannounced visit to Beijing for talks with President Xi Jinping, as preparations ramp up for an expected second summit with Donald Trump.

China is the key ally of isolated, nuclear-armed North Korea and its main source of trade and aid.

After arriving in the Chinese capital, Kim met with Xi for around an hour, Seoul’s Yonhap news agency reported late Tuesday, citing unnamed sources who said the talks focused on a possible summit with US President Trump and ways to deepen ties.

Kim and his wife Ri Sol Ju then attended a dinner hosted by Xi and first lady Peng Liyuan at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, Yonhap reported.

China’s foreign ministry earlier said Kim would meet with Chinese leaders to discuss “relevant issues” but did not reveal more about his itinerary.

The North Korean leader, accompanied by several senior officials, had left Pyongyang on his private train on Monday, the official Korean Central News Agency reported.

The trip, at Xi’s invitation, is set to run until Thursday, according to KCNA and China’s official Xinhua news agency.

Kim’s fourth visit to China comes a week after he warned in a New Year’s speech that Pyongyang may change its approach to nuclear talks if Washington persists with sanctions.

“Both Xi and Kim see value in coordinating their positions in advance of Trump-Kim summits. That appears to be a pattern,” Bonnie Glaser, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told AFP.

“Kim also seeks Beijing’s help in getting international sanctions eased.”

While China and Russia have both said the United Nations should consider relaxing sanctions on Pyongyang, Trump insisted Sunday that they would remain “in full force” until the US sees “very positive” results on the nuclear issue.

Kim’s trip coincides with the second day of talks between US and Chinese officials in Beijing aimed at resolving their trade war, but China rejected the notion that it was using the North Korean issue as a bargaining chip in the negotiations.

“Xi also gains from a summit with Kim — and the timing could not be any better,” said Harry Kazianis, director of defence studies at the Center for the National Interest, a US think tank.

“With Chinese and US officials meeting to discuss how to end the growing trade war between the two superpowers, it shows Beijing clearly has a North Korea card to play if it sees fit.”

The trip began under the usual veil of secrecy and Kim has not been spotted in public since a motorcade believed to be carrying the North Korean entourage left a Beijing train station under heavy security early Tuesday.

While the visit was the second item on China’s evening news broadcast, newscasters simply read out a statement from the morning without showing any images of the visit.

– ‘Like family’ –

Kim — whose birthday is reportedly on Tuesday — visited China three times last year for talks with Xi.

“This is Kim’s first birthday in China. It shows his close relationship with China, like members of one family,” said Beijing-based independent political commentator Hua Po.

But relations hit a rough patch in recent years as China backed the UN sanctions over Pyongyang’s nuclear tests.

Until his first trip in March, Kim had not met Xi in the six years after inheriting power from his father.

“At different times, our interactions are different, but communication is maintained,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said at a regular press briefing.

“As to in what form this is reflected, I don’t think there’s a need to read too much into it,” Lu said, adding that US trade talks and Kim’s visit were unrelated.

A whirlwind of diplomacy enveloped the Korean peninsula last year, with Kim also meeting the South’s President Moon Jae-in three times, and culminating in his high-profile Singapore summit with Trump in June.

In Singapore, Kim and Trump signed a vaguely worded pledge about denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, but progress has since stalled amid disagreements over what that means, with meetings and visits cancelled at short notice.

– ‘Springboard’ for Trump summit? –

In Seoul, Kim Eui-kyeom, spokesman for the presidential Blue House, said it had been aware of the visit in advance.

“We hope that the latest exchange between China and the North will help establish complete denuclearisation and permanent peace on the Korean peninsula and serve as a springboard for a second North-US summit,” he said.

Negotiations were underway on the location of their next meeting with Kim, Trump said Sunday, while remaining evasive on its timing.

The US president said last week he had received a “great letter” from the North Korean leader but declined to reveal its contents.

Washington is demanding Pyongyang give up its nuclear arsenal before any relief from sanctions is granted, while the North is insisting on immediate concessions from the US.

Culminating in late 2017, Pyongyang carried out six nuclear tests and launched rockets capable of reaching the entire US mainland, but has now carried out no such tests for more than a year.

Source: Seychelles News Agency