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Tuesday:  November 25, 2014

When Will Chile's Post Office's Re-open? 

(PHOTO: Workers set up camp at Santiago's Rio Mapocho/Mason Bryan, The Santiago Times)Chile nears 1 month without mail service as postal worker protests continue. This week local branches of the 5 unions representing Correos de Chile voted on whether to continue their strike into a 2nd month, rejecting the union's offer. For a week the workers have set up camp on the banks of Santiago's Río Mapocho displaying banners outlining their demands; framing the issue as a division of the rich & the poor. The strike’s main slogan? “Si tocan a uno, nos tocan a todos,” it reads - if it affects 1 of us, it affects all of us. (Read more at The Santiago Times)

WHO convenes emergency talks on MERS virus

 

(PHOTO: Saudi men walk to the King Fahad hospital in the city of Hofuf, east of the capital Riyadh on June 16, 2013/Fayez Nureldine)The World Health Organization announced Friday it had convened emergency talks on the enigmatic, deadly MERS virus, which is striking hardest in Saudi Arabia. The move comes amid concern about the potential impact of October's Islamic hajj pilgrimage, when millions of people from around the globe will head to & from Saudi Arabia.  WHO health security chief Keiji Fukuda said the MERS meeting would take place Tuesday as a telephone conference & he  told reporters it was a "proactive move".  The meeting could decide whether to label MERS an international health emergency, he added.  The first recorded MERS death was in June 2012 in Saudi Arabia & the number of infections has ticked up, with almost 20 per month in April, May & June taking it to 79.  (Read more at Xinhua)

LINKS TO OTHER STORIES

                                

Dreams and nightmares - Chinese leaders have come to realize the country should become a great paladin of the free market & democracy & embrace them strongly, just as the West is rejecting them because it's realizing they're backfiring. This is the "Chinese Dream" - working better than the American dream.  Or is it just too fanciful?  By Francesco Sisci

Baby step towards democracy in Myanmar  - While the sweeping wins Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy has projected in Sunday's by-elections haven't been confirmed, it is certain that the surging grassroots support on display has put Myanmar's military-backed ruling party on notice. By Brian McCartan

The South: Busy at the polls - South Korea's parliamentary polls will indicate how potent a national backlash is against President Lee Myung-bak's conservatism, perceived cronyism & pro-conglomerate policies, while offering insight into December's presidential vote. Desire for change in the macho milieu of politics in Seoul can be seen in a proliferation of female candidates.  By Aidan Foster-Carter  

Pakistan climbs 'wind' league - Pakistan is turning to wind power to help ease its desperate shortage of energy,& the country could soon be among the world's top 20 producers. Workers & farmers, their land taken for the turbine towers, may be the last to benefit.  By Zofeen Ebrahim

Turkey cuts Iran oil imports - Turkey is to slash its Iranian oil imports as it seeks exemptions from United States penalties linked to sanctions against Tehran. Less noticed, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the Iranian capital last week, signed deals aimed at doubling trade between the two countries.  By Robert M. Cutler

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Entries in Goodluck Jonathan (3)

Friday
Jan062012

Tensions Building in Nigeria Over Fuel Hike (NEWS BRIEF)

(PHOTO: Intelhub)(HN, UPDATED January 8, 2011) - As Africa's most populous nation headed towards a nationwide, indefinite strike Monday over sudden fuel price hikes, efforts to subdue the situation by Nigerian lawmakers over the weekend fell flat.

An emergency meeting of Nigeria's House of Representatives passed a resolution calling on Jonathan to restore a fuel subsidy that has triggered protests and economic hardship across the country.

“We are sitting near a keg of gunpowder and we are playing with fire,” said Rep. Pally Isumafe Obokhuaime Iriase of the Action Congress of Nigeria. “This will be the last straw that will break the camel’s back if we do not act.”

The 'Occupy Nigeria' protests began to appear shortly after New Year’s, when the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan scrapped a fuel subsidy - a move that more than doubled petrol prices and sparked price hikes for transport. (One report said fares in Rivers State are now 300 percent higher).

Police in the strategic northern city of Kano fired tear gas Thursday to disperse protesters who planned to stay overnight in a major square.

In Kano, protesters said they were not only tear-gassed but also detained by police by the dozens. According to one report, a lawsuit has been filed against authorities in Kano state over efforts to silence the protesters.

Said one spokesperson for the plaintiffs, Jibrin Suleiman Garin Ali: "They beat us to a pulp, they injured several of our protesters, and some are still missing and we don't know their whereabouts."

A harsh police response has been reported elsewhere in the country, including Lagos.

Even with the president and ministers huddled in meetings, there appears to be no resolution to the crisis. With the participation of organized labour, the movement is now positioned to virtually shut down the country starting Monday - even though a court ordered trade unions to call off the general strike.

At least one travel site has warned travellers to avoid visiting the country early next week.

(PHOTO: ALLAFRICA.COM) The protests have lit up Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites used by Nigerians. Because texting is so incredibly popular in the country it has been a major tool for organizers to mobilize the masses.

Wrote one Twitter user in Nigeria regarding the planned Monday strike: "Monday is the D-day in Nigeria. #OccupyNigeria is shutting down the nation. Watch out."

Many members of Nigeria's large Diaspora community have been praising the efforts of the protesters, with some expressing surprise at the huge numbers of people standing up. Tweeted Nigerian-American Yetunde Taiwo: "#OccupyNigeria I am so 4 it. Finally Nigerians r mad enough 2 effect change."

- HUMNEWS staff

Saturday
Feb262011

Developing Nations Feel Powerless as Danger to Their Nationals Escalates in Libya (Report)

African migrants often use Libya as a transit point for destinations in Europe. They are among the thousands of Africans stranded in chaotic Libya. CREDIT: Human Rights Watch(HN, February 27, 2011) UPDATED 1100GMT--- As the increasingly isolated Colonel Gaddafi threatens to crackdown on dissent "to the last bullet," tens of thousands of expatriates from developing countries - mostly sub-Sahara Africa - remain stranded in Libya as their governments scramble to implement evacuation plans.

In recent hours and days, the situation has been exacerbated with a rapidly-deteriorating security situation. Some evacuees landing back in the UK last night described the violence as a "living hell," and some African migrants say they have faced open hostility in Libya because many people associate them with brutal mercenaries hired by the Qaddafi regime.

Libya is also a major transit point for sub-Saharan Africans fleeing to Europe (see map below).

One international observer describes the situation for African migrant workers as utterly dire.

"I tell you, these people, because of their scheme, they will be slaughtered in Libya. There is so much anger there against those mercenaries, which suddenly sprung up. I think it is urgent to do something about it now, otherwise, a genocide against anyone who has black skin and who doesn't speak perfect Arabic," Saad Jabbar, Deputy Director, North Africa Center at Cambridge University, told NPR.

Indeed, one Turkish evacuee told western journalists that he personally saw the bodies of as many as 80 Sudanese and Chadian nationals working for his oil company. "They cut them dead with pruning shears and axes, attacking them, saying you're providing troops for Gadhafi. The Sudanese, the Chadians were massacred. We saw it ourselves," said the unidentified oil worker.

Options even for wealthy nations with expatriates in Libya are limited. The international airport in Tripoli is reported to be in a state of chaos and, according to published reports, the British Foreign Office was forced to pay airport operators astronomical fees for aircraft and passenger handling.

Tens of thousands of sub-Saharan Africans are employed in Libya's oil industry and in other sectors. Countries with large number of migrant workers in the country include: Nigeria, Chad, Ghana, Egypt, Sudan, Turkey, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Ukraine and Vietnam.

The chaotic scene at Tripoli Airport CREDIT: CTVEgypt alone has more than one million migrant workers in Libya. With its proximity next to the country, it's been able to receive many evacuees by land and then transport them by bus to Cairo and other inland points. Egypt is also benefiting from relatively good relations with Tripoli as well as plenty of spare aircraft owned by Egypt Air that have been grounded by the sharp downturn of business and tourist travel to Egypt.

Though Egypt is also trying to figure out how to repatriate 10,000 Egyptians who have crossed over Libya's western border with Tunisia. A BBC correspondent on the border reported Sunday that at least 20,000 refugees from Libya are stranded at the border, and suggested they could be stuck for days - perhaps even weeks, raising the possibility of a humanitarian crisis.

World superpowers India and China have 18,000 and 30,000 workers respectively in Libya, and Beijing has also come in for criticism for a slow response. (Though in the past few hours, Chinese state media has been reporting that 3,000 stranded Chinese nationals have been moved from Benghazi to Crete via two chartered Greek ferries).

One of the countries in the worst situation is Nigeria - the regional power in West Africa which admits it is virtually powerless to extricate at least 2,000 Nigerians from Libya. The two countries have had strained relations for the last decade, with Tripoli having closed its embassy in Abuja several years ago.

On Wednesday Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan ordered the immediate evacuation of Nigerians stranded in the troubled country. However the Gaddafi regime has so far refused to grant landing rights to Nigerian aircraft. Libya still controls its own airspace, so if any government wants to land in the country then permission must be sought from Libyan officials.

The Jonathan Administration came under intense pressure earlier this month when it ignored the pleas of thousands of Nigerians stranded for days at Cairo International Airport amid chaos in that city. Faced with a similar situation in Libya, officials in Abuja even considered asking stranded Nigerians to cross the border into neighbouring Niger or Egypt - but that plan was shelved when it became clear the evacuees would be exposed to fighting and that moving them from border areas would be a logistical nightmare.

As the days drag on, a fuelled aircraft has been waiting for clearance in Nigeria since Thursday - with a large team of immigration officials, foreign affairs and medical personnel. A spokesman for the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Yushau Shuaib, said Nigeria will keep on trying for clearance.

Ukraine says its has about 2,500 of its nationals in Libya. (Among them are at least five Ukrainian "nurses" are reported to be working for Gaddafi - including his personal nurse, Galyna Kolotnytska (Галина Колотницкая), who has decided to abandon the eccentric leader and return to Kyiv, according to Segodnya (Сегодня) newspaper in Ukraine).

Nepal has asked the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to help repatriate about 600 of their nationals who had been working in the Libyan town of Derna and who are now waiting to cross at Salum border crossing. It also reports that 900 of their nationals currently stranded in Tripoli and Benghazi would need assistance if the situation deteriorates further. 

In Tripoli, about 350 Sri Lankans are taking shelter at the Sri Lankan Embassy with several hundred other Sri Lankans spread around the country, the IOM says. Meanwhile, about 750 Bangladeshis out of an estimated population of 50,000 are also now heading for the Egyptian border and who will also need food, water and shelter assistance upon arrival.

Vietnamese authorities have told IOM that there are about 10,500 of their nationals in Libya. Although they say some have left, most are still in the country, many without travel documents which were probably kept by their employers.

"The situation for migrants inside Libya is extremely difficult and we are deeply concerned about their plight," says IOM Director General William Lacy Swing. 

This week, the IOM voiced concern about the large number of migrant workers from Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia stuck in Libya.

Large numbers of Sub-Saharan irregular migrants in Libya work informally in the service sector or as manual labour. Poorly paid and in irregular work, it is unlikely they have the resources to rent vehicles to get to border areas and reach safety, IOM says.

"Of the tens of thousands of Sub-Saharan Africans and South Asians working in Libya, only a handful have managed to reach the border so far. This is probably because they do not have the resources to pay for transport," says Laurence Hart, IOM's Chief of Mission for Libya.

"We are very concerned for all those migrants who may wish to leave, but cannot. Many countries without the adequate resources to evacuate their nationals are now asking IOM for help.  We are therefore urgently appealing to donors for funding to allow us to intervene," he adds.

- From HUMNEWS Africa Bureau

Friday
Jan142011

Goodluck for Nigeria (Exclusive Report)

By HUMNEWS in Abuja

(HN, January 14, 2011) - "We have money - that is not our problem." That's what taxi driver Geoffrey Gumaju repeated as he navigated his battered, green taxi along the roads of the Nigerian capital.Mention of Nigeria's children was almost absent from the PDP convention CREDIT: HUMNEWS

Like many of his countrymen, he complains of a horribly-decaying infrastructure, despite the country's oil wealth. Roads are in bad shape, the health system has been described by DFID as on the brink of collapse and millions of youth are unemployed. "I have to bribe someone to get a job," says Gumaju.

Gumaju and Nigeria's 150-million people woke up this morning to news that incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan has won the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) ticket for the April presidential elections, handily defeating his opponent - former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar.

Ordinarily, the presidency of this oil rich nation rotates between the predominantly Christian South and the majority-Muslim North. Jonathan, who assumed the presidency last year after the death of Umaru Yar'Adua, a northern Muslim, is a Christian from the South.

The PDP has captured every single presidential vote since the country returned to civilian rule in 1999. It gained independence from Britain in 1960.

In what was mainly a lackluster series of speeches, the three PDP presidential aspirants had little to offer in terms of concrete change. In fact, Jonathan, who spoke last before voting last night, said one of the biggest accomplishments during his term of office is that airplanes no longer get lost in Nigerian airspace. "The whole country is covered by radar now," he said.

Sarah Jibril, a colourful candidate and the lone female contender, was the only speaker to emphasize the need to lift the country's women and children out of poverty.

She said: “I represent ‘zoning neutraliser’. When you vote me, Nigeria will not be called one of the corrupt countries again. We did it in Liberia when we elected a female president. I have the mental capacity to lead Nigeria…I will be Mama President from whom there will be a rebirth. ”

The World Bank on Thursday boosted its growth forecast for Nigeria to 7.1 percent in 2011, from a previous estimate of 5.7 percent. Fresh spending on infrastructure is expected to contribute.

According to the UN, however, more than half of Nigeria's population of 150-million live in poverty, and 20 percent of Africa's poor call Nigeria home. The country accounts for 20 percent of global maternal mortality.

- From a HUMNEWS special correspondent in Abuja