Amr Moussa Appointed Representative at African Union Panel of the Wise

Moussa

Cairo – The African Union Commission (AUC) appointed on Saturday former Secretary General of the Arab League Amr Moussa as the first Egyptian to become a member of the African Union Panel of the Wise.

He has been appointed as a successor to Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi, said Moussa in a statement.

The Panel of the Wise includes Nobel Peace Prize winner Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Gabon former Minister for Social Affairs Honorine Nzet Biteghe, in addition to the former President of Namibia Hifikepunye Pohamba and former Vice President of Uganda Specioza Naigaga Wandira Kazibwe.

Moussa underlined the vital role the Panel played following the June 30, 2013 revolution in Egypt through the visits its members paid to to Cairo, Addis Ababa, and various African capitals. He stressed the importance of Egypt’s presence among African circles and its defense of the continent’s interests.

The Panel of the Wise deals with conflict prevention, management and resolution among African countries. It provides consultations to the Peace and Security Council on relevant issues. The Panel of the Wise serves a three-year term and is composed of five members representing the North, East, West, South and Center of Africa.

It was established in December 2007, and since then it had been concerned with issues of justice, national reconciliation, preserving the rights of women and children in armed conflicts, democracy and governance.

The first Panel of the Wise was comprised of late Algerian President Ahmed Ben Bella, Tanzanian diplomat Salim Ahmed Salim, former President of Sao Tome Miguel Trovoada and others.

Kenya’s Opposition Leader Odinga Withdraws from Presidential Election Re-Run

Kenya’s opposition leader Raila Odinga withdrew on Tuesday from a court-ordered re-run of the presidential election, saying the vote would not be free or fair and leaving President Uhuru Kenyatta as the only candidate.

The election re-run is scheduled for Oct. 26.

According to Reuters, Kenyatta said the election would proceed as planned, promising to get more votes than he did in August and saying his party had no time for “empty rhetoric and divisive politics”.

The election board said on Twitter it was meeting and would communicate the way forward.

But the announcements could further prolong nearly three months of political uncertainty that has worried citizens and blunted growth in Kenya, East Africa’s biggest economy and a staunch Western ally in a region roiled by conflict.

An ally of Odinga called for nationwide protests from Wednesday, raising the prospect of more clashes between police and demonstrators.

For now though there was little sign that the demonstrations could boil over into ethnic clashes. Protests and ethnic violence killed 1,200 people after a disputed 2007 election.

In his announcement, Odinga repeated previous criticism of the election board, called the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), for not replacing some officials, who he blamed for irregularities in the Aug. 8 poll.

Questions on al-Qaeda’s Possible Return

al-Qaeda

Cairo – In mid-August al-Qaeda threatened to derail Britain’s train system, urging its supporters to heed its call. This brought up the debate about whether the extremist organization was on the rise again, 16 years after the United States declared war against it.

There are many factors that support this possibility, starting with the defeats that the ISIS terrorist group has been dealt on the ground and also with the Taliban regaining some of its foothold in Afghanistan. Contrary to his pledges during his electoral campaign, US President Donald Trump vowed to send more forces to combat al-Qaeda in Afghanistan to prevent it from returning to power. So have Washington and the world failed in confronting al-Qaeda throughout a decade-and-a-half?

Al-Qaeda threats

Security agencies in Europe took seriously al-Qaeda’s threat to target the British railways. They consequently upped security at train lines throughout the country, which shows, in one way or another, that al-Qaeda’s plotting has not weakened in recent years. In fact, it may have taken advantage of the world’s preoccupation with the fight against ISIS to quietly regroup to build resources and alliances to continue its eternal war against the United States.

The Washington Institute for Near East Policy released one of the best reports to address al-Qaeda’s future and reawakening in light of the consecutive ISIS failures. It examined the extremist group’s ability to rise again from the rubble of the war against it in Afghanistan. It also tackled the recent crises in the region and the emergence of ISIS, which was originally a dogmatic and more radical branch of al-Qaeda itself.

Al-Qaeda and new host environments

It is perhaps ironic that the years of the so-called Arab Spring would produce new host environments for al-Qaeda and provide it with new allies that would allow it to continue its approach, as un-innovative as it is.

Syria was without a doubt the prime background for the reemergence of al-Qaeda. Since the beginning of the conflict, the extremist group has looked for new allies there and it appears to have found them in al-Nusra Front, which boasts thousands of fighters that believe in al-Qaeda’s ideals and goals. There is no doubt that al-Qaeda took advantage of the civil unrest in a number of Arab countries to gain new followers.

Some of the new host environments for al-Qaeda lie in Libya. The whole world saw how one country, Qatar, had the sole purpose to spread al-Qaeda’s forces in the North African country to seize control of it.

Perhaps the Libyan national consensus government security agencies’ unveiling of a terrorist plot to target with chemical weapons officials in the country’s capital spurred western circles to action. The plot was to be carried out by one of al-Qaeda’s branches in the Arab Maghreb. Revealed in August, the plan raised questions among European security agencies about whether these lethal chemical weapons are still in al-Qaeda’s possession in Libya. Are these weapons being used locally or will they cross the Mediterranean to be used in a terrorist attack in Europe?

Al-Qaeda: From Yemen to Africa

In early August, the US Department of Defense dispatched special forces to Yemen to help the pro-legitimacy forces in their operations against al-Qaeda in the country. Pentagon spokesman Jeff Davis stated that the special forces’ operations will be focused in the Shabwa province where the extremist group is particularly active in the Arab peninsula. So what can we interpret from this statement?

Al-Qaeda-affiliated groups have certainly taken advantage of the situation in Yemen, which is on the verge of being declared a failed state. The country today is divided between pro-legitimacy forces, led by President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, and a fragile alliance between former President Ali Abdullah Saleh and Houthi insurgents.

Amid the complexities of this scene, al-Qaeda has found ways to recruit new members and spread its network beyond the Arab peninsula and reach the Arab Gulf. The organization may be weak in Yemen, and not as powerful as the media, especially western ones, claims. This does not mean that the group is not any less active in the absence of the state. Its power grows as the state weakens. The equation is simple: As long as the civil war in Yemen rages on, al-Qaeda will be able to strengthen itself and defeating it will be difficult.

The catastrophic spread of al-Qaeda in Yemen will have consequences on Africa, where the group is seeking to spread, through Libya and Yemen’s coast that is near several African countries.

In fact, al-Qaeda has not stayed away from the spotlight in Africa and it has claimed responsibility for violence there. The latest of its terrorist crimes was an August 10 attack against a restaurant in Burkina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou. The country itself has been a target of al-Qaeda attacks and it boasts the very active Ansar al-Islam group, led by Ibrahim Malam Dicko, as one of its affiliates. Established in 2016, this group’s ideology is more in line with al-Qaeda than ISIS.

The question about al-Qaeda’s future was best answered by former aide to US forces in Afghanistan, Seth Jones. Now a political scientist at the RAND Corporation specializing in counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism, Jones published an article in the American Foreign Policy magazine in which he discusses al-Qaeda’s future.

In it he quoted Daniel Byman of Georgetown University as saying that the extremist group will weaken due to its poor popular support and the effective international efforts to combat terrorism. In addition, he said that resentment has grown against the group due to its killing of Muslim civilians

Others in Jones’ article shared a different view. Former FBI agent Ali Soufan said that al-Qaeda will undoubtedly make a comeback. He explained that the group is now transforming itself from a small terrorist organization to a powerful network. He asserted that it has grown in numbers, developed its fighting ability and is spreading in the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

Jones examined many hypothetical scenarios where al-Qaeda either returns to power of weakens.

One of the most dangerous scenarios is the probability that with ISIS’ demise, its members would join al-Qaeda and form a new organization. Al-Qaeda is different from what it was a decade ago and its movement is less centralized, meaning loyalties to it are changeable and therein lies the catastrophe.

Al-Qaeda welcomes Trump’s plan

On August 21, Trump announced a new plan on Afghanistan that sees the deployment of more US troops there in an attempt to defeat the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

Has this plan come as the kiss of life for al-Qaeda, in Afghanistan in particular, and its supporters across the globe?

The truth is that prior to Trumps’ announcement, al-Qaeda saw in him and his former aide Steve Bannon a new lifeline to return to spotlight. How is that?

Very simply, before he was sacked, Bannon was the screaming voice of the US administration that claimed that “the power of Islam cannot be stopped by peaceful means.”

Bannon here gave al-Qaeda an opportunity to re-portray the West as being at an existential war with Islam. This is the way that the organization justifies its violence and fundamental ideology.

Now Trump is planning to start a new military war against Taliban and the remaining al-Qaeda affiliates, which will undoubtedly redraw the world map between peaceful and war-torn countries.

The New York Times recently said that even if all the world’s terrorists were killed tomorrow, they will come back again as long as both religious and racial fundamentalism and the lucrative heroine trade on the Afghanistan Pakistan border remained.

So does the solution in Afghanistan lie in leaving the country like Barack Obama did?

Of course not, because that will transform it into a new ISIS hub even if the name of the group changed. Perhaps Trump’s new strategy will provide a temporary solution.

Is there an end?

The extremism embodied by ISIS and al-Qaeda will not suddenly disappear for good. The hostile ideologies will remain in one way or another – whether in the wars in Africa or Asia or the Middle East and as long as central issues are unresolved and preachers of hatred, the end of the world and the clash of civilizations remain.

Sudanese FM Kicks Off US Tour ahead of UN General Assembly

Ghandour

Khartoum – Sudan’s Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour is expected to arrive to the United States on Wednesday, heading his country’s delegation to the meetings of the 72nd UN General Assembly.

Prior to his departure on Tuesday, Ghandour briefed Prime Minister Bakri Hassan Saleh on the arrangements made for Sudan’s participation in the General Assembly’s annual meeting, which will be held on September 18 in New York, as well as the meetings he is expected to hold with some US officials and which will tackle bilateral relations between Khartoum and Washington.

In remarks to the media, the Sudanese foreign ministry’s spokesperson, Al-Qariballah al-Khodr, said that Ghandour would deliver Sudan’s speech before the UN General Assembly on September 23, and will meet with a number of regional and foreign counterparts, as well as with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.

The Sudanese foreign minister will also participate in high-level meetings on southern Sudan and Central Africa and peacekeeping operations, which will be held on the sidelines of the UN meetings.

On a different note, ten African countries, representing the East African Emergency Forces known as ISAF, are preparing to conduct the “multi-polar peacekeeping” exercise in Khartoum next November.

Several countries are expected to participate in the exercise, including Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Seychelles, Comoros and Djibouti.

The deputy Chief of Staff of the Sudanese Army Yehya Mohammed Khair conducted a visit to the Red Sea governorate on Monday to oversee the preparations for hosting armies participating in the exercises.

ISAF, which includes 10 east African nations, was established by the African Union in 2004, and it consists of military, police and civilian components. The force is part of Africa’s standby forces.

European-African Summit Discusses Migration Crisis

LIBYA-ITALY-Migration

Paris- The Elysee Palace hosted on Monday leaders of four European countries – France, Germany, Italy and Spain – and three African countries – Chad, Niger and Libya – to discuss ways to curb the flow of illegal migration.

The Paris meeting aims to “reaffirm Europe’s support for Chad, Niger and Libya on controlling the flow of migrants,” the French presidency said.

Italian Interior Minister Marco Minniti said in a joint statement with his counterparts from Chad, Niger, Mali and Libya on Monday that the summit “could be the beginning of a new relationship between Europe and Africa.”

The meeting was called by French President Macron, who put forward a proposal he had mentioned last month to establish European screening centers to examine asylum applications in Niger, Chad and Libya. But the young French president’s proposal has received little response.

Europeans hoped to “replicate” their experience with Turkey to stop the flow of Syrian migrants across Greece, including the Balkan corridor and the western and northern European countries.

Therefore, the main purpose of the summit was to find ways to “slow down” the migration stream through a screening process on the African side, to differentiate between refugees entitled to come to Europe and the so-called “economic migrants”, who are undesired in the Old Continent.

Macron proposed last month to set up “hotspots” in Libya, Niger and Chad, where migrants would be screened for their asylum claims before reaching Europe.

However, his proposal was met with little enthusiasm by European and African leaders alike. The most negative response came from Chad Foreign Minister Hussein Ibrahim Taha, who openly stated that his country opposed the French proposal “because it will attract thousands of migrants to our country, and we do not have the capacity to receive them.”

A West African official at the meeting told Reuters: “The hotspots announcement was nonsense and neither Chad nor Niger were consulted beforehand.”

“Macron is trying to make up for that mistake. It will be a meeting on the hotspots and migration in general, but we don’t expect much to come from it,” the official added.

Human rights organizations have also expressed opposition to the proposal, noting that its implementation effectively means revoking the internationally recognized right of immigration. But Elysee sources described the summit “an opportunity to reaffirm Europe’s support” for the three African countries in order to enable them to “control” the migratory streams from and across their territories.

Nearly 120,000 migrants, including refugees, have entered Europe by sea so far this year, according to the International Organization for Migration quoted by Reuters. More than 2,400 have drowned while making the dangerous journey, often without enough food or water in overcrowded dinghies run by people smugglers, the agency added.

Europe’s ‘Big Four’ Partake in Paris Summit on Migration, Africa

Paris- France’s President Emmanuel Macron said that the Paris summit on Monday will focus on seeking concrete action on getting Europe’s migrant crisis under control.

Europe’s “big four” continental powers and three African nations participated in the migrant crisis summit.
Over the summer, Macron sought to take the initiative on managing the flow of migrants crossing the Mediterranean from Libya, mainly into Italy. He proposed hotspots in Africa to handle asylum requests.

According to Reuters, the meeting hosts the leaders of Germany, Italy and Spain as well as the leaders of Chad, Niger and Libya – all three of them transit countries for migrants. EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini will also attend.

The 28-nation European Union has long struggled to agree on a coherent answer to the influx of migrants fleeing war, poverty and political upheaval in the Middle East and Africa, and the crisis is testing cooperation between member states.

As for the Africa hotspots, the viability of such centers was questioned by European and African allies and on Monday an official from the Elysee Palace said the idea was no longer under discussion.

“The hotspots announcement was nonsense and neither Chad nor Niger were consulted beforehand,” a West African official said. “Macron is trying to make up for that mistake.”

Leaders at the meeting will seek accord on a migration action plan, notably on tackling the economic model of people traffickers. “The leaders will be presented a roadmap that outlines … what we want to do to tackle all stages of the migrant route,” the Elysee official told reporters.

The Elysee official said the roadmap would include ideas on fighting people traffickers, asylum rights and stabilizing chaotic Libya, where thousands of migrants end up before embarking on a perilous Mediterranean sea journey to Europe.

Arab-African Trade Exchange Sees Remarkable Growth

Cairo- Trade exchange between Africa and the Arab world has grown significantly over the past decade, a UN report said, adding that the volume is expected to increase in the coming period.

Abdalla Hamdok, Economic Commission for Africa’ deputy executive secretary and one of the commission’s senior economists said in a statement that Africa’s exports to the Arab world reached 6.5 percent of its total exports, and Arab exports to Africa stood at 5.3 percent, noting that the analysis of exchanges between the two regions shows that they aim more at diversity.

Celebrating the 100th Session of the Economic and Social Council of the League of Arab States in Cairo, Hamdok explained that boosting trade exchange between Africa and the Arab world would significantly promote the two regions’ position in world trade.

He added that the extensive regional integration between Africa and the Arab world beyond the major regional trade agreements in the two regions, including the Free Trade Area of ​​the continent and the Greater Arab Free Trade Area, promises good results regarding the support of their countries’ efforts aiming diversification, and could also contribute to boosting Africa’s position in the global trade landscape.

The ECA’s Deputy Executive Secretary pointed out that regional and trade integration do not solely provide solutions to current economic challenges, but they offer opportunities and chances to open prospects for progress, industrialization, and better integration into regional and international markets. They will also unleash the potential of African and Arab countries, diversify their economies and provide decent economic opportunities for men and women to achieve a better life, build more inclusive societies, and be more resilient to difficulties, he added.

Responding to the need to diversify their economies due to drop in the prices of basic commodities, Africa has become the engine of global growth. According to a study conducted by the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), the successful establishment of the continental Free Trade Area would lead to a 22 percent increase in intra-African trade and add about $1 trillion to the global economy.

The Arab-African Forum will be held in Jordan end of September, following the conclusion of the 100th session of the Arab League (AL) Economic and Social Council, which tracked the implementation of the resolutions adopted by the Fourth Pan-Arab Summit held in Equatorial Guinea in November, as well as the implementation of the partnership strategy, the workplan, and the financing of Arab and African projects.

On the sidelines of the coordination meeting held between the General Secretariat of the Arab League (Economic Affairs Sector) and the AU Commission, Ambassador Kamal Hassan Ali, Arab League Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Affairs, revealed that an inclusive vision would be agreed upon with the participation of Arab and African finance institutions to fund feasibility studies of project, and how to fund the projects adopted in the joint workplan.

Chad Accuses Qatar of Destabilizing Regional Security, Expels Diplomats

Chad is shuttering Qatar’s embassy and giving its diplomats 10 days to leave the country, accusing the Gulf Arab state of trying to destabilize the central African nation via its northern neighbor Libya, it said on Wednesday.

According to Reuters, it is not the first African state to move against Qatar following its rift with other Gulf states including the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

Senegal said this week that it had reinstated its ambassador to Qatar after having recalled him three months ago, in a bid to encourage a peaceful resolution to the feud.

“In order to safeguard peace and security in the region, Chad calls on Qatar to cease all actions that could undermine its security as well as those of the countries of the Lake Chad basin and the Sahel,” the foreign ministry statement said.

It did not provide any details to support the accusation. The statement from Chad’s foreign ministry added that it would close its diplomatic mission in Doha and recall all personnel.

Qatari officials were not immediately available to comment.

In Libya, after Muammar Gaddafi’s downfall in 2011 a flood of weapons from state arsenals into the hands of extremist groups who then pushed south into Africa’s Sahel nations where they launch attacks on military and civilian targets.

Today in Libya, the UAE, along with Egypt and Saudi Arabia, has backed anti-extremist former army commander Khalifa Haftar, appointed by a government and parliament based in the east. Qatar has supported rival ultra-hardline factions in western Libya.

Climate Change Threatens Protein Deficiency, Global Famine

Climate

London – Climate change is draining crops of protein and therefore creating a famine threat around the world, according to two separate studies published on Wednesday.

Protein deficiency

In a first of its kind step, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, published a study stating that if the present rates of carbon dioxide emissions do not stop, people in around 18 countries around the world may face a loss of around 5 percent of the protein they obtain from their diet by 2050.

Researchers estimate that roughly 150 million people may be at risk of protein deficiency because of elevated levels of CO2 in the atmosphere.

Senior research scientist at the Department of Environmental Health Samuel Myers said that this would serve as a warning to the countries at risk to start working towards monitoring and controlling their emissions as well as improving human nutritional sufficiency and adequacy.

The study, “Estimated Effects of Future Atmospheric CO2 Concentrations on Protein Intake and the Risk of Protein Deficiency by Country and Region,” was published in Environmental Health Perspectives.

Africa and Asia

Researchers explained that around 76 percent of the world population gets most of its dietary proteins from grains, such as rice and wheat, even though these are not high sources of protein.

They collected the data from experiments in which crops were exposed to high concentrations of CO2 and then combined these results with the global dietary information from the UN.

Under elevated CO2 concentrations, protein contents of rice, wheat, barley and potatoes decreased by 7.6%, 7.8%, 14.1% and 6.4%, respectively. The results suggested continuing challenges for Sub Saharan Africa, where millions already experience protein deficiency, and growing challenges for South Asian countries, including India, where rice and wheat supply a large portion of daily protein.

India may lose 5.3% of protein from a standard diet, putting a predicted 53 million people at new risk of protein deficiency, according to the researchers.

Diseases in Europe

Another research studied the impact of climate change on the emergence and spread of infectious diseases in Europe and concluded that it could be greater than previously thought.

The study of University of Liverpool, published in Scientific Reports, is the first large-scale assessment of how climate affects bacterium, viruses or other microorganisms and parasites that can cause disease in humans or animals in Europe.

Growing evidence shows that climate change is altering the distribution of some diseases, in some cases causing epidemics or making diseases spread within their natural range, for example, Zika virus in South America, or bluetongue and Schmallenberg disease in livestock in Europe.

Dr. Marie McIntyre of University’s Institute of Infection and Global Health, explained that although there is a well-established link between climate change and infectious disease, it wasn’t previously understood how big the effects will be and which diseases will be most affected.

“Climate sensitivity of pathogens is a key indicator that diseases might respond to climate change, so assessing which pathogens are most climate-sensitive, and their characteristics, is vital information if we are to prepare for the future,” she added.

Nearly two-thirds of the pathogens examined were found to be sensitive to climate; and two-thirds of these have more than one climate driver, meaning that the impact of climate change upon them will likely be multifaceted and complex.

Diseases spread by insects and ticks were found to be the most climate sensitive, followed by those transmitted in soil, water and food. The diseases with the largest number of different climate drivers were Vibrio cholerae which cause cholera), Fasciola hepatica that causes liver fluke, Bacillus anthracis, causes anthrax, and Borrelia burgdorferi, the cause of tickborne Lyme disease).

Pathogens that spread from animals to humans were also found to be more climate sensitive than those that affect only humans or only animals. Emerging diseases may be particularly likely to be impacted by climate change.

Djibouti Hosts First Chinese Overseas Mission

China

China officially opened on Tuesday its first overseas mission, the same day as the country’s army marked its 90th anniversary, state media said.

China is building the military base in the Horn of Africa’s Djibouti.

Chinese military personnel, officials and guests attended a flag-raising ceremony and military parade to mark the occasion, the official Xinhua news agency reported. State radio said more than 300 people attended the ceremony, including deputy Chinese naval commander Tian Zhong and Djibouti’s defense minister.

The logistics base is the first of its kind for Beijing, which will use it to support “naval escorts in Africa and southwest Asia, (United Nations) peacekeeping and for humanitarian support,” according to a previous China defense ministry statement.

China began construction of the “defensive” logistics base in Djibouti last year. It will be used to resupply navy ships taking part in peacekeeping and humanitarian missions off the coasts of Yemen and Somalia, in particular.

The Chinese navy has long assisted anti-piracy missions in the Gulf of Aden, as well as UN peacekeeping efforts throughout Africa.

Chinese President Xi Jinping is overseeing an ambitious military modernization program, including developing capabilities for China’s forces to operate far from home.

Djibouti’s position on the northwestern edge of the Indian Ocean has fueled worry in India that it would become another of China’s “string of pearls” military alliances and assets ringing India, including Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka.

Djibouti is at the southern entrance to the Red Sea on the route to the Suez Canal. The tiny, barren nation sandwiched between Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia also hosts US, Japanese and French bases.

Ships carrying personnel for the Djibouti base left China last month.

There has been persistent speculation in diplomatic circles that China would build other such bases, in Pakistan for example, but the government has dismissed this.

Beijing has made extensive infrastructure investments throughout the African continent as it seeks to gain access to natural resources and new markets.

Chinese banks have been major funders of at least 14 such projects in Djibouti, valued at 14.4 billion dollars in total, including a railway line that will halve transit times from Djibouti to Ethiopia’s Addis Ababa.