A Cairo Appeals court ruled on Monday the release of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, with knowledge of his location, after his legal detention period expired.
Mubarak was detained pending investigations in allegations that he failed to prevent the killing of protesters during the 2011 uprising that toppled his regime.
Despite today's ruling, the former dictator will not be released, upon a general prosecutor's order that he remains in custody pending investigations in squandering public funds.
Mubarak's attorney Farid al-Deeb attributed his client's release-appeal to the criminal code which requires that no one shall be detained pending investigation in one case over the period of two years.
A court had ordered Mubarak's arrest on April 12 in the year of the uprising, but accepted that he appeals the decision last June and granted him a retrial at the beginning of this year.
Tens of Mubarak supporters gathered by the court on Monday to chant in support of the toppled president.
Photo: Aswat Masriya
Source: All Africa
Five years after Zimbabwe’s political and economic crisis peaked in 2008, the economy continues to perform poorly, with the manufacturing sector still shedding jobs and unemployment estimated at 75 percent. But the real level of unemployment is almost impossible to gauge as countless Zimbabweans are making a living in the informal sector.
Kumbirai Katsande, President of the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI), told IRIN Zimbabwe has become a “nation of traders”. The municipal markets in Mbare, a sprawling low-income suburb of Harare, the capital, are overflowing with people selling goods. Trading space and the money to rent it are scarce, so entrepreneurs have set up shop outside markets and in other open spaces.
The police crack down on them every once in a while but Robert Guveya, who sells pirated DVDs, thinks it’s worth the risk. “I cannot get a job and am just trying to earn an honest living,” he said.
Informal trading is not limited to low-income areas. Harare’s city centre has its fair share of sidewalk salespeople and flea markets, one of the largest of which is located behind a shopping centre in middle-class Avondale. Rumbidzai Gava, who quit her job as a dental assistant and now imports second-hand clothing from Mozambique for $250 a bale, rents a stall there for US$10 per day. “I make gross more than $700 per bale and sometimes the clothes go very quickly. I am making much more than the $250 [a month] I got at the dentist’s,” she said.
The Zimbabwe Cross Border Association represents traders who import goods for resale, primarily from South Africa, but also from as far afield as Hong Kong, Taiwan and Britain. Killer Zivhu, the president, estimated that at the peak of the economic crisis - when the informal economy supplied almost everything that could not be found on supermarket shelves - up to three-quarters of adult Zimbabweans were involved in some form of trade.
Low wages mean that many Zimbabweans continue to live off the proceeds of informal trade. They import car parts, electronic goods, clothes and even cars, and often employ other people to sell the goods, thus creating jobs. However, they are not recognized legally and face harassment and arrest by local authorities and the police. Zivhu said their lack of legal status also limits their access to capital.
Shrinking manufacturing sector
Before the Zimbabwe dollar was replaced in 2009 by a multi-currency financial system using the US dollar, Botswana pula and the South African rand, many Zimbabweans were forced out of formal-sector jobs because hyperinflation had made their salaries almost worthless. Tapfumaneyi Tirivanhu left his job at a furniture factory in 2007 when he could no longer make ends meet and moved to Botswana for several years. He returned to Zimbabwe in 2011 and started a carpentry shop in a bay at the Harare Home Industries shed in Mbare with some tools and machinery he had bought in Botswana.
“It was slow in the beginning, as I had little money to buy materials with,” he told IRIN, but after his former employer went bust in 2012 and an ex-colleague joined him, they started supplying the old company’s customers. “There are four of us here and three upholsterers, so I am providing employment for seven people including myself,” Tirivanhu said.
In a good month they each take home as much as $300. “It’s much more than I would earn working for a company, and though I do not have benefits such as medical aid and a pension, I am doing alright,” he said.
CZI’s Katsande said the manufacturing sector had been shedding jobs since a slump started around August 2012. “Some of the companies that are still operating are introducing shorter working weeks so they can manage the wage bill. In a lot of instances they would retrench if they could afford to pay the workers off, but they do not have the money to do so.”
He noted the lack of government and infrastructural support. “We need new technology, as in some factories everything is obsolete, which makes production inefficient and expensive. Too many people are employed, it’s very wasteful.”
Replacing the Zimbabwe dollar with a multi-currency system has been a double-edged sword, he said. “We now have stability, but are at the mercy of the fluctuations of the currencies of wherever we are importing materials or machinery from. We cannot devalue the US dollar, which we could do with our own currency. As a result, our products can be uncompetitive on the international market.”
The high cost of manufacturing in Zimbabwe means that some local goods are more expensive than imported ones, which the government could remedy by levying higher duties on imports, Katsande said, warning that without more government support, the manufacturing sector would keep shrinking.
In contrast, the mining sector is growing rapidly and now employs some 43,000 workers, up from less than 3,000 at the height of Zimbabwe’s economic crisis. “There has been substantial growth in the sector and we expect it to keep growing,” said Edward Mubvumba, of the National Employment Council for the Mining Industry. He added that thousands more unregistered artisanal gold and diamond miners are operating illegally.
Informal sector crucial
Agriculture remains the largest sector in the economy. Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (Zimstat) figures put the number of people employed in agriculture in 2010 at 815,000 - more than double the pre-crisis figure, which peaked at 355,000 in 1997. Prof Tony Hawkins, the head of the University of Zimbabwe’s business school, said this was partly because up to 2009, the figures only took into account employees in the commercial farming sector, but since then they have included communal farmers in resettlement areas, and those who work for them.
Hawkins said Zimbabwe’s informal sector was playing a crucial role in reducing poverty and unemployment. He argued that current unemployment estimates ignored the role of the informal sector, and put the true unemployment figure at less than 50 percent. “Half of the economy is informal but it’s difficult to measure,” he said. “They don’t pay taxes, so they contribute little to the fiscus but… [the sector] definitely has a positive impact on poverty levels.”
Source: Irin News
Ghana's highest court is now hearing a challenge to the outcome of last year's elections. Proceedings are expected to last months and could be a test of patience in one of Africa's more stable democracies.
Ghana's supreme court has begun hearing a petition contesting the election victory of President John Mahama in December 2012.
The petitioners include the presidential candidate of the main opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) Nana Akufo-Addo, his running mate Mahamudu Bawumia and national party chairman, Jake Obetsebi Lamptey.
Lamptey told DW's radio show Africalink "we are challenging the conduct of the whole election process. We are saying that a number of things happened in places that were illegal."
NPP National Chairman Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey told DW he believes he will get a fair hearing from the supreme court
He said he and his supporters had evidence to show that in 2,000 polling stations, "more votes were counted than balloted papers were issued." The NPP wants more than 4.67 million valid votes to be annulled and Akufo-Addo declared the winner.
Official results said Mahama, a member of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), won 50.7 per cent of the vote while Akufo-Addo received 47.74 per cent.
The NDC has denied allegations of fraud.
DW correspondent Isaac Kaledzi was in court and reports that there was a huge security presence with party supporters banned from the premises.
Technical glitches led to long delays for voters in some parts of Ghana
The hearing was adjourned until Wednesday after a request for a postponement because of missing documents.
On hearing of the delay to the start of substantive proceedings, one member of the public in Accra told DW "we are all just praying and hoping that something good will come, because at the end of the day we are all Ghanaians and we need peace in this nation."
Proceedings were expected to last for months in a country seen as one of the few stable democracies in West Africa. Mahama, who was sworn in on January 7, was not scheduled to appear.
International observers said the election four months ago was free, fair and transparent and the poll passed off peacefully despite technical problems that forced voting into a second day.
Source: All Africa
CNN hero 2010 finalist Evans Wadongo is in the United States for a three day exhibition this coming week that will help raise funds for his solar lamp project.
The exhibition will feature 1,000 specially designed one of a kind lamps put together with help from Reed Krakoff, the man who crafted US First Lady Michelle Obama’s inauguration ball.
Reed is known not only for clothes but other luxury items such as jewellery and a range of accessories.
The collector items will be sold at the exhibition at Friedman Benda in New York, and it is hoped that the money raised will be enough to buy some 10,000 lamps for needy populations in Kenya and Malawi.
Evans first developed the lamps in 2004 to help assist children in rural areas study at night, without having to resort to the more harmful kerosene lamps.
Friedman set up the exhibition from April 17-19 with help from Southern Guild, from South Africa.
It has been a busy week for Evans who spoke last week at the Clinton Global Initiative University in St. Louis and will be holding other talks and meetings in the run up to the sale exhibition.
He is currently the chairman of Sustainable Development For All (SDFA), a non-profit organisation that aims to light up rural communities in Kenya and Malawi using the solar lamps.
They are designed to be very easy to use, and are made up of 50% recycled items.
The exhibition next week will be called Evans Wadongo: MwangaBora.
Source: Capital FM
As a UN high-level panel completes worldwide consultations to pick development goals for 2015 and beyond, PlusNews consulted experts to see how HIV/AIDS might fit into this new agenda.
The UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for AIDS in Asia and the Pacific, Prasada Rao, told IRIN countries have generally done well on Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 6, which seeks to stop new HIV infections by 2015.
Twenty-two of the 33 countries that have seen a drop in HIV incidences from 2001-2010 are in sub-Saharan Africa, the hardest-hit region. New HIV infections have been halved from their levels a decade ago, but the goal needs to be carried forward, said Rao. “We can’t just drop it here. We need to go the full length.”
When the MDG goals were presented in 2000 - along with a 2015 deadline to meet them - the idea of an AIDS-free world invited incredulity, said the envoy. But prevention and treatment gains in recent years changed perceptions, he added. “It is no longer [just] an aspiration, but an achievable [goal]… The time has come when we really need to look at this concept of ending AIDS and how to position it in the post-2015 agenda.”
Since August 2012, the UN has held 83 national consultations on creating goals for 2015-2030. For health-related goals, a draft report has been prepared for the 27-member high-level panel. The draft is based on months of moderated debates, web-based consultations, e-surveys, e-discussions and face-to-face meetings with civil society groups, governments, researchers as well as more than 100 position papers.
Focus moving away from HIV?
The 28 February draft includes calls for HIV to be among the new goals, but also suggestions to move beyond disease-specific goals (an “overly narrow, target-driven approach” according to the UK NGO Health Poverty Action) to address health equity, non-communicable disease and weak health systems.
During the consultations, there were already signs that HIV might lose attention, the International Council of AIDS Service Organizations (ICASO) wrote in a December 2012 release: “There are rumblings that the post-2015 health agenda will focus on cancer, diabetes, heart disease and other less politicized afflictions. HIV is no longer seen as a crisis; ironically the AIDS response is being dealt a blow by its own success.”
ICASO, along with Stop AIDS Alliance and International Civil Society Support, hosted an online survey, webinars and a January meeting in Amsterdam for HIV, tuberculosis and malaria advocates.
The health draft report currently reads: “Pulling back from these goals now would waste the profitable investments made to date. Ending preventable child and maternal deaths, and ending the epidemics of HIV, tuberculosis and malaria should be reaffirmed as global priorities.”
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has cautioned against “an overarching health goal that covers such a long list of issues that is it impossible to set any priority” while Stop AIDS Alliance called for “approaches that place human rights and equity at the centre [and] move away from the top-down thinking that characterized the MDGs”.
At a meeting on health in the post-2015 agenda, held in Botswana earlier this month, participants lauded gains facilitated by MDGs - increased funding and attention to global health, for one - but also noted how these goals led to “fragmented approaches to development”.
For Asia’s AIDS envoy, Rao, goals have to be demystified to attract supporters, including parliamentarians, to fight HIV. “Otherwise, it looks very exotic. What do you mean by an AIDS-free generation? One of the [slogans] we used at UNAIDS was ‘End AIDS’, but what do you mean by ‘End AIDS’? You need to translate that into clearly actionable strategies and programmes. What needs to be done in the next 10 years to end AIDS?”
For him, those steps are: reduce new HIV infections to negligible levels, with elimination targets; provide antiretroviral (ARV) treatment to at least 80 percent of those who need it; and change laws, or their enforcement, that have blocked access to HIV prevention and treatment services.
One target of MDG 6 is to provide ARVs to all in need by 2010; this target is still unmet. According to the 2012 MDG Progress Report, from 2008-2010, about 1.3 million new people were enrolled and retained on ARVs. At this rate, less than 14 million people will be receiving treatment at the end of 2015, over one million short of the 15 million target, the report calculated.
The post-2015 panel is expected to present its recommendations to the UN Secretary-General this June.
Source: Irin News
A rebel-led weekend coup in the Central African Republic (CAR) took place against a backdrop of worsening humanitarian conditions in many parts of the country, with access to affected populations severely restricted.
The Séléka rebel group overran the capital, Bangui, on 24 March, putting President François Bozizé to flight and naming Michel Djotodjia as the new head of state.
"With all offices and most stores looted it will be difficult to evaluate needs. Bangui has no electricity or water. We need to have security and for the population to stop looting," Amy Martin, who heads the Bangui branch of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), told IRIN on 25 March.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemned the "unconstitutional seizure" and called "for the swift restoration of constitutional order."
"UN and NGO staff are concentrated in the UN compound. We are expected to evacuate staff, non-essential [staff], as the security is not in place and looting continues, with sporadic gunfire in the streets," said Martin.
A few days before the coup, Martin told IRIN: "In general, the political and security environment is deteriorating as the Libreville Agreements [a peace accord signed on 11 January] are not gaining any traction."
"The agreed conditions are not being respected by either side: release [by the government] of prisoners, the quartering of armed forces by Séléka. There are more rumours of additional former rebel groups to join the Séléka coalition. All remain very uncertain and unpredictable," she said.
On 20 March, the UN Security Council condemned Séléka attacks in the area of Bangassou and the surrounding region, "and the threat of a resumption of hostilities."
"Séléka now controls three-quarters of the country," said Margaret Vogt, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for CAR, several days before the capture of Bangui. She added that rebel members of the government of national unity - which parties agreed to form in the January peace deal - had decided to withdraw from the government and had gone "back into the bush".
The rebels had issued an ultimatum, threatening to resume fighting if their conditions - including the release of political prisoners and the withdrawal of foreign soldiers - were not met.
Humanitarian access limited
The rebels' taking of the town of Bangassou on 12 March, in breach of the January peace agreement, had led to a reduction in humanitarian access to populations in need of assistance.
"The current advancement of the Séléka to the southern town of Bangassou has effectively cut off a major hub for humanitarian actors' access to the southeast, affecting 300,000 people already suffering from six years of LRA [Lord's Resistant Army, a Ugandan rebel group] attacks. Since the beginning of the crisis in December, humanitarian access has been limited to about 33 percent of the areas under Séléka control," stated OCHA in a 12 March press release, adding that Séléka now controls a large part of the country, home to over 1.5 million people or 34 percent of the total population.
On 15 March, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) warned that "renewed fighting in Central African Republic was threatening the civilian population in the southeast of the country and compromising UNHCR's access to refugees and internally displaced people."
"As is always the case in these kinds of situations, as long as there isn't a total cessation of hostilities, the humanitarian crisis will continue and worsen," Pazougou Fulgence, a sociologist at the University of Bangui, told IRIN.
According to OCHA's Martin, humanitarian access has been a constant challenge: "Insecurity prevents free circulation of people, and limits movement between major towns. Looting of organizations' offices, equipment and stealing of vehicles has hindered operations in the field for humanitarians. Lack of protection for civilians limits their freedom of movement, with harassment and other exactions of violence," she said.
"With the rainy season fast approaching and very poor road infrastructure, [access] will reduce even more, especially to the more remote regions of the southeast and northeast of the country."
Latest in series of crises
The Séléka offensive, which began on 10 December 2012, is the latest in a series of crises in CAR, leading to an increase in civilian protection needs and heightening the risk of food insecurity.
Tens of thousands of people in CAR were already in humanitarian need due to past crises, especially in the east. The crises have resulted from a number of factors, according to Kaarina Immonen, the UN Deputy Special Representative for CAR, including "recent conflict, attacks by unknown or uncontrolled armed groups, violent acts by Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army, and continued banditry in parts of the country".
The crises have increased the number of people in need, their level of need and the cost of supplementary interventions, according to CAR's Prime Minister Nicolas Thiangaye. "Civilians have become victims of serious human rights violations: murders, rapes, looting and robberies," he said.
As of 12 March, the Séléka offensive had, according to OCHA, left some 175,000 people internally displaced, with at least 29,000 others seeking refuge in neighbouring Chad and in the Democratic Republic of Congo. An estimated 166,000 children were also out of school. These numbers could increase following the taking of Bangui.
Commenting on the impact of the current crises in CAR, Special Representative Vogt said, "At the best of times, the record in CAR was not good, but it is exponentially worse."