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South Sudan NEWS Portal ®

Venezuelan Maduro in Algeria with oil at the heart of talks

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro began Monday a 24-hour official visit to Algeria, with the oil issue crucial for these two OPEC member countries.

The Venezuelan president met at midday with President Nation (upper house), Abdelkader Bensalah, second personage of the State. The interview took place at the state residence in Zeralda, where President Abdelaziz Bouteflika lives, works and receives his foreign guests.

Among them were Algerian Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia and Algerian Energy Minister Mustapha Guitouni, according to the Algerian national agency APS.

According to journalists accompanying the Venezuelan president, the talks focused on the oil agreement signed at the end of 2016, in which the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and non-cartel producer countries pledged to reduce their extractions until March 2018 to limit supply on the world market and try to correct the prices of the barrel.

President Maduro said there is “a climate favorable to the policy of the fair price of black gold”, according to statements reported by the Venezuelan government.

The bilateral cooperation between Algiers and Caracas in the oil sector was also on the agenda, the Venezuelan government said.

Algeria and Venezuela, both OPEC members, have suffered from the fall in oil prices since 2014, which supplies about 95% of their currencies to both countries.

The decline in crude oil prices caused Algeria’s foreign exchange reserves to melt about 45% in three years. Venezuela is stuck in a serious economic crisis, aggravated by recent US sanctions.

Mr. Maduro landed late in the night in Algiers on the way back from Astana, where he participated in a summit of Heads of State of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), as Chairman-in-Office of the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries.

The official program does not mention an interview of the two heads of state, but presidency officials did not expressly exclude it. “We do not know yet,” an official told AFP.

Bouteflika, 80, is weakened by the sequelae of a stroke in 2013 and his health is a source of constant speculation in Algeria. He has made only a few public appearances since the beginning of the year and received very few foreign dignitaries.

According to his agenda, the Venezuelan head of state must have an official dinner in the evening in the presence of the Prime Minister, raising questions about a possible interview with Mr. Bouteflika.

In February, German Chancellor Angela Merkel had to postpone a visit to Algiers at the last moment. And observers have recently estimated that French President Emmanuel Macron, expected in Algiers, had still not made the trip, failing to be received by his Algerian counterpart.

This is Maduro’s second visit to Algeria, where he had already visited in January 2015 for a visit focused on oil. His predecessor Hugo Chavez had made four official visits to Algeria.

Tunisia: President Essebsi emphasizes government’s control

Tunisian President Béji Caïd Essebsi has sharpened his grip on the government during the recent reshuffle by his prime minister Youssef Chahed, who must secure the confidence of Parliament on Monday, as electoral deadlines close.

Stemming from the party Nidaa Tounès, founded in 2012 by the head of state, Mr. Chahed, the youngest head of government of the modern history of the country, should easily carry the favor of the deputies: his formation and the Islamists of Ennahdha are majority in Parliament and allied to the government.

In front of the Assembly of People’s Representatives (ARP), Youssef Chahed once again spoke of a “combat government” charged with continuing to carry out “the war on terrorism, against corruption, for growth, against unemployment and regional inequalities “.

It was to “strengthen the capacity of our country in the fight against terrorism, against organized crime and smuggling” that new ministers of the interior and defense were appointed, he argued .

“Many economic indicators have improved,” Chahed said. Foreign investment grew by 7% in the first seven months of 2017, as was phosphate production (+ 34%), and the tourism sector picked up again, he said.

Youssef Chahed warned that the new composition of his government respected the “national unity” necessary for the launch of reforms.

But for observers, if the reorganized government did not upset the political balance in force between Nidaa Tounès and Ennahdha in particular, it marks an accentuation of the power of the head of state on the executive, a few months from the first municipal post-revolution and two years of legislative and presidential elections.

The new team includes prestigious men of the president and consolidates the presence of Nidaa Tounès, who had carried Béji Caïd Essebsi to the victory in 2014.

The new finance minister Ridha Chalghoum-the former minister of the deposed dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali- was advisor to Mr. Essebsi, as was the new health minister Slim Chaker. The Defense, Abdelkrim Zbidi, held the same post when Mr. Essebsi was Prime Minister in 2011.

Béji Caïd Essebsi, 90, “places his men”, summarizes the French newspaper Le Quotidien, for which it is obvious that “it is the president who pulls the strings”.

Independent analyst Selim Kharrat said: “Essebsi had things (already) in hand well before this reshuffle … The only difference is that it is much more blatant this time and that the Presidency hardly hides “.

To date, the president has given no indication of his intentions at the end of his five-year term in 2019. Among his critics, many voices worry about the claims of his son, Hafedh Caid Essebsi, himself an influential leader of Nidaa Tounès.

In a country still marked by decades of dictatorship, several parties and personalities have also criticized the entry to the government of former ministers of Ben Ali.

‘Insufficiency’

On the day of the reshuffle, Béji Caïd Essebsi gave an interview to two national dailies, in which he called for a review of the post-revolutionary political system, which he accuses of “paralyzing practically the government’s actions.”

“It is time to evaluate the current constitutional system in order to rectify the shortcomings and overcome the obstacles contained in the Constitution,” he said.

Adopted in early 2014 and welcomed as a successful democratic transition, this new constitution strengthened the powers of the head of government to break with the presidential regime that prevailed since independence in 1956.

At the same time, in a pre-electoral context – the municipal ones are planned in December – the challenge for the government “Chahed 2” will be to prove its ability to break with the disillusions and instability observed since the 2011 revolution .

But the seventh post-revolutionary head of government is “caught in the grip of the parties, which is constantly tightening” as the elections approach, Selim Kharrat.

AFP

S. Sudan summons U.S. charge d’affaires in Juba over sanctions

September 11, 2017 (JUBA)- South Sudan's government has protested the imposition of sanctions placed on key officials, summoning the U.S. charge d'affaires in Juba to protest targetted sanctions on government officials.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman told reporters on Monday that the ministry has summoned the U.S. charge d'affaires in South Sudan, Michael K. Morrow, to lodge a formal protest against recent sanctions.
“We believe sanctions are not the best ways to address the issues. (...)

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UNAMID denies “improper handover” of bases in North Darfur

September 11, 2017 (EL-FASHER) - The hybrid peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID) on Monday denied allegations of “improper handover” of team sites in North Darfur.
On Saturday, two Darfur armed groups, the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and Sudan Liberation Movement-Minni Minnawi (SLM-MM), accused the Mission of handing over two former bases in North Darfur state to the notorious Rapid Support Forces (RSF) militia.
They said the Mission gave its bases in Maleet and Malha areas of (...)

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Watery diarrhoea cases declined significantly in east Jebel Marra: minister

September 11, 2017 (KHARTOUM) - Sudan's Minister of Health Bahar Idris Abu Garda Monday said the “Acute Watery Diarrhoea” (AWD) cases in east Jebel Marra area, South Darfur state have declined significantly, pointing that the daily average of incidents falls between 4 to 5 cases.
Last week, the government of South Darfur set up a high-level body to work alongside the state health ministry's emergency committee to tackle the AWD that has hit large parts of the state.
On Saturday, Abu Garda (...)

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South Africa likely to miss 2017 growth target – Finance Minister

South Africa is in danger of missing its 1.3-percent growth target in 2017 due to poor performance of major sectors of the economy that will likely restrain tax revenues, Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba said on Monday.

Africa’s most industrialised economy aims to collect just under 1.3 trillion rand ($98 billion) in taxes during the 2017/18 fiscal year that ends in March, versus the 1.14 trillion rand a year earlier.

“Our current level of growth is simply insufficient and not enough … We cannot be complacent about the 2.5 percent second quarter growth that got us out of technical recession,” Gigaba told a tax conference.

That 2.5-percent expansion in the three months to the end of June followed contractions of 0.6 percent in the first quarter and 0.3 percent in the final quarter of 2016.

With growth and revenues expected to underperform and analysts predicting a budget shortfall of as much as 50 billion rand, the deficit is unlikely to come down, raising the risk of credit downgrades deeper into junk territory.

Tax Commissioner Tom Moyane, speaking at the same event, also warned that the revenue service collection target would be difficult to achieve in current conditions.

“The 2.5-percent growth does not provide us with a glimmer of hope … the 1.265-trillion target for this year will be a stretch. It will be difficult in these sluggish economic conditions,” Moyane said.

In February former Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan announced increases in taxes for top income brackets in a bid to reduce the budget deficit to 2.6 percent of national output by 2019/20 from the current 3.4 percent.

All three major ratings firms cut the country’s credit after President Jacob Zuma fired Gordhan as finance boss in March, and have warned that a combination of policy and political uncertainty and low growth could trigger further cuts.

Kenyan lawmaker, former senator arrested over hate speech

Kenyan police detained a lawmaker from the ruling party and a former opposition senator on Monday over allegations of hate speech, a spokesman for the interior ministry said.

Reported instance of hate speech have risen sharply since Sept. 1, when the Supreme Court annulled the results of last month’s presidential election.

The surprise ruling, the first of its kind in Africa, voided the win of incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta, citing irregularities in the tallying process.

“Moses Kuria, a member of parliament and Johnson Muthama, a former senator, have been arrested on hate speech allegations,” ministry spokesman Mwenda Njoka told Reuters by phone.

Njoka did not give details on why the two politicians had been arrested, and police did not respond to queries.

Last week, Kuria gave a public speech calling for a “manhunt” for supporters of veteran opposition leader Raila Odinga, who had greeted the court ruling with jubilation.

Two witnesses described to Reuters a roadblock set up the next day near where Kuria gave his speech, where ruling party supporters checked the ethnicity of passengers in vehicles to see if they might be opposition supporters.

Politics in Kenya often follows ethnic lines.

On Sunday, Muthama, a former senator for the opposition Wiper party, gave a speech peppered with insults aimed at Kenyatta.

“When you (Uhuru) are drinking your alcohol, when you are getting drunk, stop thinking we are children of a monkey,” Muthama said according to a recording posted on YouTube.

Reuters

Somali army regains control of border town after deadly al Shabaab attack

Somali government forces have regained control of a town on the border with Kenya after al Shabaab militants stormed an army base there on Monday, causing heavy clashes in which at least 17 people died, the military said.

Islamist insurgents attacked the base at Balad Hawo early in the morning with a car suicide bombing before entering the compound, both sides said.

“We were awoken by a suicide car bomb this morning and then fierce battle followed,” Major Mohamed Abdullahi told Reuters from the town.

“We chased al Shabaab out of the town,” he said.

Al Shabaab spokesman Abdiasis Abu Musab said the group’s fighters left the town after releasing 35 prisoners from the local jail. At least 30 soldiers were killed, he said.

According to the military official, at least 10 soldiers and seven al Shabaab militants were killed, though the death toll on both sides could still rise.

Formed in 2006, Al Shabaab wants to topple the Western-backed government and impose its strict interpretation of Islam. Somalia has been at war since 1991 when clan-based warlords overthrew dictator Siad Barre and then turned on each other.

Al Shabaab carry out frequent attacks on security and government targets, but also on civilians. They also target African Union peacekeeping troops.

Residents confirmed fighting had ended and that the militants had left the town.

“Now Balad Hawo is calm and government forces fully control it,” Ahmed Hassan, a resident of the town told Reuters.

Hassan said he saw 13 bodies collected from the military base.

Reuters

Paris 2024 Olympic bid chiefs pledge full transparency

Chiefs of the 2024 Paris olympic committee have pledged full transparency in planning the games.

The pledge comes against the backdrop of fresh waves of corruption allegations within the International Olympic Committee.

Paris is set to be formally confirmed as hosts of the 2024 Olympics during a vote to hold on Wednesday.

“I think that today, for the Olympic movement, for the Olympic family, transparency is a problem. And with this agreement between LA, Paris and the 2020 agenda, we are on the right track to give this trust between cities and the Olympic movement,” Paris Mayor, Anne Hidalgo said.

Paris bid officials emphasize that the French bid was mindful of public criticism that had forced several other bid cities out of running in the race for the 2024 games.

91-year-old ex-Senegal president quits as MP a month after winning seat

Former Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade has resigned as a member of the National Assembly ahead of its first sitting on Thursday.

91-year-old Wade won the seat in the July 30 legislative elections under the Senegalese Democratic Party and a coalition of parties.

He announced his resignation in a letter published by local media on Monday saying he “joined the contest only to support the party and the coalition”.

Wade’s party won only 19 seats against the ruling party’s 125 seats in the 195-seat legislature.

He returned to the country from his base in France three weeks before the polls in July for the campaign.

He was expected to chair the inauguration of the legislature on Thursday as the Dean of the Assembly.

Abdoulaye Wade was President of Senegal from 2000 to 2012.

[Interview] Addis Standard boss on surviving Ethiopia’s ‘suppressed’ media industry

In late 2016, Addis Standard magazine – one of Ethiopia’s most influential and hard-hitting news outlets announced the suspension of hard copy production but said they were pushing on with the online wing.

Months on, in June 2017 they ushered in a new face – a digital phase – and put out recruitment notices. They have been at the heart of some of the biggest scandals to have rocked the East African country in its six years of operation.

Their most recent expose was about how a deadly accident at the country’s biggest stadium construction site had been covered up. A detailed report revealed the cover up but that is only characteristic of a portal that had in the past reported some of the biggest scandals.

Tsedale Lemma, editor-in-chief of the magazine granted Africanews an interview that spanned the old and new phase of the news portal since it was established in February 2011.

She details how they continue to navigate the delicate media waters for a country notorious for jailing journalists who make life uncomfortable for the establishment. Below is a transcription of some of the views Addis Standard’s Editor-in-chief had to share

WHAT WAS THE MAIN OBJECTIVE OF SETTING UP?

To embrace fringe narratives and by doing so to challenge the culture of the mainstream media in Ethiopia as well as to provide the alternative to state dominated media, which is unevenly dominating the media scene in Ethiopia.

WHAT ARE THE THREE TOP CHALLENGES YOU HAVE FACED?

The first is the challenge of operating in an environment of fear, whereby we don’t know whether or not our journalists or anyone who is a member of the team could survive a given story that we often take the chance to publish.

Operating in such an environment of fear whereby we don’t know when and how we cross the so-called “red light” due to the state’s practice of persecuting and prosecuting journalists under the garb of criminal or even terrorism offences keep producing chilling results among us all.

The second is a challenge which is mutually inclusive with the first and that is, getting adequate human resource in the field.

Journalism in Ethiopia is a suppressed and depressing industry one would not wish to join even if there are no other options, and even if one is a graduate of journalism.

This in turn has placed a severe constraint on the progress of professionalism in the field, which the government often uses to blame the media.
The third is financing. As an independent media, we rely on independent AD (advertisement) revenues. But that is not easy to come by.

We face challenges from advertisers who either tell us they don’t feel safe to advertise with us because we provide formidable critics of the political system on the ground.

Or they tell us they have been directly or indirectly influenced to terminate their contracts with us. We have had several such incidents in the past. This in turn puts a considerable strain in our capacity to grow as a strong and financially independent media organization.

SHARE SOME SUCCESSES THE TEAM HAS CHALKED

I think our biggest success so far is the success that we have cemented our credibility and reputation on a solid rock foundation. A look into the reaction from the international media when we announced the unfortunate termination of our print version speaks to this claim loud and clear. I think our hard working team earned that and we will continue working forward to protect that status.

WHAT IS BEHIND THE NEWS DIVERSIFICATION?

The people (our audience) are the main drive behind this. We follow people to tell their stories; we give priorities to stories of people who would otherwise find it hard to tell their stories. We also look into the flip side of the mainstream media in Ethiopia and go for the stories that don’t make into the normal headlines.

COULD THE PRINT VERSION STAGE A COMEBACK IN THE FUTURE?

Looking at it from the current point of view in Ethiopia, that is an unlikely scenario. Instead, we are trying to venturing more into digital options. It is posing a huge challenge but we are getting there.

WHAT IS THE IDEAL MEDIA LANDSCAPE ADDIS STANDARD ENVISAGES?

We would like to see a scene whereby our editorial choices are not influenced by polarized political debates. A scene whereby telling one people’s story is not taken as an attempt to hurt others’, but an attempt to tell untold stories.

We would also like to see an environment whereby the government considers us a media that critically looks it to the fault lines and not an opposition to the government. We have no political mission to pursue but an ambition to challenge the accepted wisdom.

WHAT IS THE CURRENT STAFF STRENGTH?

We are a very small, but dedicated team. Unfortunately, we were forced to shed some jobs following the closure of the print version, but through time, we have reintegrated a few staff members into the upcoming digital version. So right now, we are about a team of 13.

WHERE DO YOU SEE AS IN FIVE YEARS?

That is a very difficult question given the unpredictability of the media landscape for independent journalism in Ethiopia. But then, we never thought we could reach here as well six years ago. So, I would like to see AS grow in its efforts to shape new narratives by continuing to challenge the old ones.

IS IT COMMERCIALLY VIABLE RUNNING A NEWS PORTAL?

No it is not. And perhaps one of the reasons AS succeed in building its credibility reputation is because its primary focus is not to expand commercially, although that too is essential to sustain its operative costs; but to focus on the quality of journalism and professionalism in the country.

THE WORK OF ADDIS STANDARD

From their presence at courts to cover terrorism cases of politicians and journalists alike, exposing issues of rights abuses, religious persecution and government cover up in some instances, the portal even in its post-print era commands respect as an independent outfit serving the masses.

The recent digital switch means they continue to tell top news stories rolling in Ethiopia and in the Horn of Africa region. Incidentally, the narrative about Ethiopia internet is not the best.

Its last print edition bordered on the Irreecha festival chaos, the aftermath of which was the imposition of a six-month state of emergency, only lifted after 10 months in August 2017. It was renewed upon initial expiry in April this year.

Addis Standard have become a reference point relative to news on the country, they have been cited severally by the BBC, Africanews and other top international news outlets. Clearly, for editor-in-chief Tsedale Lemma and her team, the fight to report ‘the news,’ rolls on.

New seasons weave in new beginnings in Akobo, South Sudan

By Tim Bierley –  Things can change quickly. January in Akobo and searing heat has scorched the earth almost to dust. Surrounding the town, the dry husks of bushes rustle in the breeze and naked trees dig their claws in, braced for another four months of sun. The market is bustling though. Shop keepers poke […]

U.S propose more UN sanctions, arms embargo on S. Sudan

September 11, 2017 (JUBA) - The United States proposed to impose an international arms embargo on South Sudan if there is no positive development in the implementation of the peace agreement, diplomatic sources told Sudan Tribune..
(ST)The proposal was made during a joint meeting for the UN Security Council and the African Union Peace and Security Council held in Addis Ababa on 8 September 2017.
The meeting, which discussed different conflicts including Somalia, South Sudan, and central (...)

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