Category Archives: Education

African Union: High-Speed Rail Network on Track

NAIROBI, Plans are on track for a high-speed rail network connecting the continent’s borders by 2063, the African Union’s Development Agency says. The ambitious multibillion-dollar project aims to ease the movement of goods and people across African borders, but the AU warns that corruption could derail that goal.

Road, rail, and air traffic connections are so poor between some African countries that it is better to transit through Europe than to travel directly between neighbors.

Intra-African trade is less than 15% of total trade, says Adama Deen, the head of infrastructure at the AU’s Development Agency.

“You cannot have integration without connectivity, whether it is road or rail connectivity, especially when we are talking about the Africa Continental Free Trade Area, where you need a single market and connectivity to move goods, persons within the market,” Deen said.

During a two-day meeting this week in Nairobi, AU experts discussed linking all African capitals and commercial centers through a high-speed rail network by 2063.

The Africa Integrated High Speed Network would ease the movement of goods, people and services across African borders by building on and improving existing national railways to link Africa’s 54 countries, constructing at least 12,000 kilometers of new tracks.

The aim is for 20% of the pilot phase to be completed in the next four years, says the technical committee’s Cleopatra Shiceka Ntshingila.

“In terms of the pilots that we have looked at � which ones can readily work in terms based on existing infrastructure, existing studies. And this is why we will take it one tranche at a time, and that is why we think we will have at least one project up and running,” she said.

Six corridors have been designated for connecting Africa by high-speed rail.

Three of them include linking Kenya’s Mombasa port city to Uganda’s capital, Kampala; South Africa’s Durban to Botswana’s Gaborone; and the Ivory Coast’s Abidjan to Burkina Faso’s Ouagadougou.

China’s role

In the past five years, Chinese loans have funded Kenya’s first phase of the railway from Mombasa to Nairobi and from landlocked Ethiopia to Djibouti.

But critics say Chinese loans are risking state assets and saddling African nations with heavy debts that Beijing can use for political leverage.

The CEO for the AU Development Agency in Kenya, Daniel Osiemo, says the continent should look to funding from within.

“For example, look at the pension funds, all over the continent we have pension funds that have been established, but which have not been channeled to productive investments,” he said. “So, if these are harnessed and put into this kind of investments, in a little time to come, they will be able to pay everybody. It will be a win-win for everybody.”

But Osiemo says there are other challenges to meet the 2063 railway goal.

“Then there are political challenges, you know � Central African Republic, South Sudan � political instability to work in such countries requires extra effort at the highest level to have these corridors facilitated and the links established.”


AU High Representative for Infrastructure Development, former Kenyan prime minister Raila Odinga, worries corruption could be the project’s biggest obstacle.

“I will you give an example of railway, you go to Ethiopia and the rates are different, you go to Nigeria they are different, you come to Kenya, you go to Tanzania � they are different � yet you find that the same companies [are] doing them. That has a lot to do with investment environment in those countries and this is an enemy of Africa, which must be fought,” he said.

How many of those battles are won will determine just how quickly Africa’s first cross-continental, high-speed train rolls out of the station.

Source: Voice of America

Italy Rebuffs Ship with 64 Migrants Rescued in Sea Off Libya

Italy’s interior minister said Wednesday that he won’t offer safe harbor to 64 migrants rescued off Libya by the German humanitarian group Sea-Eye.

The people brought to safety from a rubber dinghy off the coast of Zuwarah, west of the Libyan capital of Tripoli, included 10 women, five children and a newborn baby, the group said. Sea-Eye said on Twitter that its rescue ship, the Alan Kurdi, picked them up after Libyan authorities couldn’t be reached.

Sea-Eye is asking Italy or Malta to open a port to the ship. Italy’s anti-migration interior minister, Matteo Salvini, said the Alan Kurdi, like other private rescue ships before it, won’t be welcome in Italy.

“A ship with a German flag, German NGO, German ship owner, captain from Hamburg. It responded in Libyan waters and asks for a safe port. Good, go to Hamburg,” Salvini said.

Both Italy and Malta have refused to accept ships that humanitarian groups have patrolling the Mediterranean Sea, leading to numerous delays in getting rescued migrants to land while European countries haggle over which will take them in.

Sea-Eye said another 50 migrants it has been searching for since Monday remain missing.

Source: Voice of America

Sudan Graffiti Artist Honors Anti-Government Protest Victims

KHARTOUM As Sudan’s government seeks to quell months of anti-government protests that have left more than 50 people dead, a Sudanese graffiti artist is painting portraits of deceased demonstrators.

Sudanese graffiti artist Assil Diab lives in Qatar but earlier this year returned to the country of her birth.

Diab came to honor protesters who were killed in Sudan’s months-long anti-government demonstrations.

“Initially I wanted to participate in the protests in Sudan,” Diab said. “It took a long time for me to convince my parents to come to Sudan and participate in the revolution. And, once I got here, I heard a lot of stories about the martyrs. It was very emotional, and I just had to do something about it.”

Diab began visiting families of protesters who were killed and painting their portraits as a memorial on the walls of the buildings where they once lived.

Relatives warmly welcomed Diab into their homes.

Abubakr Omer’s 24-year-old son, Abdulazeem, was killed in January, allegedly shot by police during a protest.

He says Diab’s painting has renewed the memory of Abdualazeem’s becoming a martyr. Whenever he sees the painting, adds Omer, he feels like Abdulazeem is still here with them.

Diab also paints those killed in earlier protest clashes – such as Adiyla Mustafa’s son, Musab, who was shot at age 26 during 2013 protests.

She says that when the painting was made, she wasn’t there. When she saw it for the first time, she was surprised. It’s a painful memory for her, says Mustafa.

At least 50 people have been killed in Sudan since protests broke out in late December over price hikes and shortages.

The demonstrations quickly morphed into calls for President Omar al-Bashir to leave power.

A pioneer of Sudan’s modern art, Rashid Diab — no relation — says Assil Diab’s work is empowering the protest movement.

He says that freedom of expression in painting is very important. It gives actual value to the revolutionary act, says Diab. It fuels the revolutionary act, increases its power, flame, and importance, he says. It creates the pillars of a future, civilized presence.

Diab’s portraits of protest victims can be found in Khartoum and in Omdurman and Bahri, Sudan’s other major cities.

At the street level, Diab says her graffiti spurs discussion about how unarmed protesters became casualties.

“And once I start painting in the street, people as well, the audience, they stop and ask,” Diab said. “It connects me with the families and the families with the public and there’s an immediate connection between everyone that walks past the art work.”

As Diab prepared to leave Sudan this month, she visited the families of the victims and gave some of the portraits a touch up.

Diab says she hopes that on her next visit to Sudan, there will be fewer portraits for her to paint.

Source: Voice of America

Burundi Extends Bans on VOA, BBC, Deepening Media Crackdown

WASHINGTON Burundi will continue to block broadcasts from two international media organizations and expand restrictions on their operations, the government announced Friday.

At a meeting in Bujumbura, the president of the National Council of Communication, Nestor Bankumukunzi, said the British Broadcasting Corp. and the Voice of America are no longer allowed to broadcast, effective immediately. The ban is indefinite and extends to journalists, both foreign and domestic, who provide information to either broadcaster.

“We are alarmed that reporters in Burundi are now forbidden to communicate with VOA and believe these continuing threats to our journalists undermine press freedom in the country,” VOA Director Amanda Bennett said. “We stand with the people of Burundi against those who are restricting their access to accurate and reliable news and information.”

The BBC condemned the decision, calling it “a serious blow against media freedom.”

Last May, the Burundi government suspended both news organizations for six months, a week before holding a referendum on a new constitution. The outlets have been off the air since.

Rachel Nicholson, a researcher for Amnesty International, said Burundi’s government is angry at the broadcasters for different reasons.

The government was upset by a documentary the BBC broadcast last year, she said, about members of Burundi’s intelligence service operating secret sites where dissidents are detained and tortured.

Burundi has accused VOA of employing a journalist who opposes the government, Nicholson added. Patrick Nduwimana, the former director of Bonesha FM Radio in Burundi, is “wanted for participating in deadly violence that preceded the May attempted coup,” the National Council of Communications wrote in Friday’s statement.

“I think it’s really worrying to see the government personalize attacks on radio stations. They have such an important role to play, particularly BBC and VOA, particularly in the absence of independent Burundian radio stations operating from within the country,” Amnesty’s Nicholson said. “The BBC and VOA have such an important role to play in sharing information with people in Burundi.”

In a phone interview with VOA, Willy Nyamitwe, senior adviser to Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza, said the news organizations were banned for spreading falsehoods.

“Some international media are biased. Everybody knows some reports were fake reports, fake news,” Nyamitwe said. “So if people cannot even try to speak the truth, but if some people are using some media outlets only to spread lies, what other comments do I have to do?”

Nyamitwe also said that Burundi has an open media landscape and that all countries have the right to ban news organizations that spread lies. “There are thousands of journalists in the country. There are tens of media houses, radio stations, TV stations, newspapers, media online.

“So I think people are exaggerating thinking that there’s no media houses in the country,” he said. “I do know that even in the United States there are some media houses that have been called biased or fake news media houses.”

In its 2018 press freedom report, Reporters Without Borders ranked Burundi 159th out of 180 countries worldwide. It said security forces routinely harass journalists and pointed to the unsolved 2016 disappearance of journalist Jean Bigirimana as evidence of intimidation and violence against reporters.

Source: Voice of America

Zimbabweans Unite to Ease Cyclone Idai’s Effects

HARARE Zimbabweans have started raising funds and donating goods to provide relief to those who have been affected by Cyclone Idai, which the government says has killed nearly 100 people and displaced hundreds. The government says people are wary of who receives the donations.

At a local church, volunteers arrange donated items destined for places affected by Cyclone Idai in Zimbabwe. Food, water, blankets, clothing � are all found here. The volunteers then load them onto waiting trucks � provided by donors � to head to Zimbabwe’s eastern border where Cyclone Idai ravaged homes and left dozens dead.

One of the volunteers – Johanne Chapungu Oposi – is from the affected region. The 43-year-old man tells me that his former classmate and neighbor � together with the classmate’s wife and three children, were buried alive when a hill collapsed on them while they slept.

But my elder brother and our family survived, when they saw that that’s what was about to happen they quickly escaped. I want to say that the food supplies there and where to stay are a challenge, or even where to buy food; there is nowhere they can buy because the shops are at the steep slopes so they were destroyed too. I feel quite relieved to be seeing these efforts.

Tadzi Madzima of the non-governmental organization Ignite Youth says she is happy that Zimbabweans have responded to her calls for people to donate to ease the effects of Cyclone Idai.

We reached out to the youths in Zimbabwe. We went out mainly on social media where most youths are,” she said. “The response has been overwhelming. We plan to give everything that has been collected here to people affected by Cyclone Idai. We felt that this is the role that we have to play as young people, to help where we can.

The Red Cross is one of the aid organizations leading efforts to bring relief to Cyclone Idai’s victims. Karikoga Kutadzaushe, the Zimbabwe Red Cross Society operations director, says his organization has deployed teams to ensure that the injured are treated and that there is clean drinking water.

The situation on the ground is quite dire in that accessibility has been one of the biggest challenges considering Tsinde Eastern is a mountainous area and there have been serious landslides, damaged roads and inaccessibility is one of the worst situations,” he said. “To date, we have almost closer to 100 people who have been confirmed dead, 200 closer to 250 are also currently missing and with regards to people who are currently displaced, we have plus or minus 600 who are actually only currently staying on higher ground within the area.

Government spokesman Ndavaningi Nick Mangwana told reporters that Harare has deployed army engineers to ensure that damaged roads and bridges are fixed so that assistance can reach the needy. On Zimbabweans responding to calls on social media from organizations and individuals to assist victims of Cyclone Idai, he said:

“It’s good that we have got such goodwill among Zimbabweans; it’s good that we are all running altogether in one accord to help our vulnerable others, our compatriots who are in a bad state at the moment and in a bad place,” he said. “The only thing is we need accountability – we know that in situations like this there is the very fringe minority who will take advantage of the situation…that’s why we say corruption is one of our issues so we hope that there will be systems in place to make sure that whatever is donated, whatever is given ends up at the end user to the point of need where it’s needed most.”

As the truck leaves Harare for Chimanimani and other affected areas, it is hoped the donations reach the intended recipients � those affected by Cyclone Idai. Nancy Kachingwe is among those who donated items.

The sense of if it was if this happens to me what would I do, you know this happens to families and households so we all have to all understand that, you know, in these days of disasters and climate change, it can happen to anybody; any of us can be next where we end up finding ourselves losing everything, so solidarity has to be part of how we live, she said

Emergency workers have described flooding spawned by the cyclone as the region’s most destructive in 20 years. Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa visited the affected region Tuesday.

Source: Voice of America