Daily Archives: March 22, 2015

Morocco says it experienced no acts of terrorism in 2014

African securityMorocco says it experienced no acts of terrorism in 2014

Published 22 March 2015

The Moroccan government says that although the Maghreb region as a whole, including Mali, experienced more than 280 terrorist operations in 2014, Morocco is the only country where no single terrorist operation took place. The government says this was the result of Morocco’s anti-terrorism strategy.

Mustafa El-Khalfi, a spokesman for the Moroccan government, said last Thursday that Morocco is the only country in the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region not to have experienced any acts of terrorism in 2014. El-Khalfi said this was the result of Morocco’s anti-terrorism strategy.

Speaking at a press conference in the capital Rabat, El-Khalfi said that the Moroccan government was aware of the new dimensions of terrorism, which has taken on new forms to allow it to expand and spread. “Morocco has been distinguished from a number of countries with its proactive ability and communication policy that work to integrate and involve the public in the efforts of the fight against terrorism,” the Middle East Monitor quotes him to say.

El-Khalfi also said that the government’s was actively propagating a moderate religious policy, and noted that Morocco is one of the few countries in MENA to have adapted its legal system to the new realities criminalizing joining terrorist organizations outside the country.

Referring to the recent attack on the Bardo Museum in Tunisia, in which twenty-three people were killed and forty-seven wounded, and other terrorism incidents across the region, El-Khalfi spoke about “The policy that Morocco’s various institutions have adopted in this respect has had positive results.”

According to statistics presented by El-Khalfi, the Maghreb region as a whole, including Mali, experienced more than 280 terrorist operations in 2014. Morocco is the only country where no single terrorist operation took place.

Morocco is working within an international cooperation system based on the exchange of information and coordination in order to face this phenomenon,” he said. Terrorism, he added, is no longer just related to the southern Mediterranean countries, but it is a transnational phenomenon that targets security and stability.

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At Security Council, UN envoy says Yemen on &#39rapid downward spiral&#39 as tensions rise

22 March 2015 – Yemen stands on the brink of civil war amid deepening political tensions and an uptick in sectarian violence, United Nations Special Adviser Jamal Benomar warned today as he explained that only through dialogue could the country achieve a peaceful political transition.

Briefing the Security Council via video conference in a rare Sunday session, Mr. Benomar told the UN body that Yemen was on a &#8220rapid downward spiral&#8221 as the conflict took on &#8220worrying sectarian tones and deepening north-south divisions.&#8221

&#8220Emotions are running extremely high and, unless solutions can be found, the country will fall into further violent confrontations,&#8221 Mr. Benomar declared. &#8220Events in Yemen are leading the country away from political settlement and to the edge of civil war.&#8221

The situation in Yemen has been rapidly deteriorating since the country formed a new Government in November 2014 aimed at ending a period of political turbulence and bringing about a full transition towards democracy. Nonetheless, the country has continued to be plagued by violence and mass political demonstrations despite UN efforts to bring about a peaceful political resolution.

Just over a month ago, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon voiced serious concern about developments following the abduction by the opposition group Ansarallah of President Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi’s chief of staff and the resignation of the President and Prime Minister amid a takeover of the capital, Sana’a by secessionist Houthi militants. This followed a steady deterioration since the beginning of the year as Government forces clashed with militant groups throughout the capital.

At the same time, the Secretary-General has recently warned that &#8220widespread and lethal&#8221 attacks by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and escalating hostilities between AQAP and the Houthis have also pushed the country to the edge of civil war. These developments, coupled with a burgeoning humanitarian crisis which has enveloped an &#8220astounding&#8221 61 per cent of the population, now threaten regional and international peace and security, according to Mr. Ban.

The effects of this continuing instability have transformed Yemen into a patchwork of simmering feuds &#8211 an explosive mix of unresolved grievances which risk inundating the entire peace-making process. In the oil-rich province of Mareb, for instance, the situation has become very tense with many locals fearing an imminent confrontation between Houthis and tribesmen. Meanwhile, in the South, the situation remains volatile with Southerners, long marginalized and excluded from Yemeni political life, now demanding full separation.

Most recently, on 20 March, two suicide bombers targeted the mosques in the country’s capital, Sana’a, during Friday prayers, killing at least 126 people and wounding scores of others. The terrorists also attacked a government building and mosque in Sa’dah, in the country’s northwest.

In today’s Security Council briefing, Mr. Benomar added that the ongoing instability would only serve the interests of AQAP which, in turn, he said would &#8220cause further chaos&#8221 throughout the country, transforming it into a &#8220Libya-Syria combined scenario.&#8221

Meanwhile, pre-empting criticism of the UN-brokered political talks, the UN envoy also admitted that the international community had no other alternative but to continue in its calls for restraint, de-escalate the situation, and engage all sides, including Yemen’s 12 political parties and the Houthis, in the political process.

&#8220I urge all sides in this time of rising tension and inflammatory rhetoric to appreciate the gravity of the situation and deescalate by exercising maximum restraint,&#8221 Mr. Benomar concluded. &#8220Peaceful dialogue is the only way forward.&#8221

In a Presidential Statement, the Security Council, for its part, reaffirmed its &#8220strong commitment to the unity, sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity&#8221 of Yemen, adding that it supported the &#8220legitimacy&#8221 of President Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi and condemned the &#8220ongoing unilateral actions&#8221 taken by the Houthis which are undermining the country’s political transition.

&#8220The Security Council deplores that the Houthis have not implemented its demands in resolution 2201 (2015) to withdraw their forces from government institutions, including in the capital Sana’a, and normalize the security situation in the capital and other provinces, and relinquish government and security institutions,&#8221 the Statement continued while also reiterating the Council’s &#8220concern&#8221 at the ability of AQAP &#8220to benefit from the deterioration of the political and security situation&#8221 in Yemen.

&#8220The Security Council reiterates that the solution to the situation in Yemen is through a peaceful, inclusive, orderly and Yemeni-led political transition process that meets the legitimate demands and aspirations of the Yemeni people for peaceful change and meaningful political, economic and social reform.&#8221

U.S. evacuates staff as Yemen on edge of ci…

NNA – The United States said it had evacuated all its staff from Yemen, whose embattled president has appealed for “urgent intervention” by the U.N. Security Council as attacks by Iran-backed rebels bring his country nearer to civil war.

“Due to the deteriorating security situation in Yemen, the U.S. government has temporarily relocated its remaining personnel out of Yemen,” State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke said in a statement.

The evacuation comes after several suicide bombings claimed by the Islamic State group killed 142 people in Sanaa on Friday, with the jihadists seeking to exploit the chaos gripping the country.

The impoverished nation is torn between a north controlled by Iran-backed Shiite Huthi rebels and a south dominated by allies of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, who fled house arrest in Sanaa to Aden in February.

The U.N. Security Council is to hold an emergency meeting Sunday following Hadi’s appeal.

In his letter to the Council, Hadi denounced “the criminal acts of the Huthi militias and their allies,” saying they “not only threaten peace in Yemen but the regional and international peace and security.”

“I urge for your urgent intervention in all available means to stop this aggression that is aimed at undermining the legitimate authority, the fragmentation of Yemen and its peace and stability,” Hadi wrote.

Yemen has been torn by unrest since ex-strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh stepped down in early 2012 after a year-long popular uprising against him, with powerful armed groups sidelining the government since.

The country is now on the brink of civil war, with a deepening political impasse and an increasingly explicit territorial division along sectarian lines, with rising violence between the Huthi and Sunni tribes and al-Qaida.

– ‘Two sides of same coin’ –

Washington late Friday pulled out troops from the Al-Anad airbase in southern Yemen amid fighting involving al-Qaida militants nearby which left at least 29 dead.

The U.S. would “continue to actively monitor terrorist threats emanating from Yemen and have capabilities postured in the area to address them,” Rathke said.

Yemen has acknowledged that U.S. personnel gathering intelligence for drone strikes on Al-Qaeda are deployed at Al-Anad.

Hadi pledged Saturday to fight Iranian influence in his country, accusing the Huthis of importing Tehran’s ideology.

The Huthis, who seized Sanaa in September, vowed to take further “revolutionary steps” following Friday’s blasts.

In his first televised speech since he fled to Aden from house arrest in Sanaa, Hadi said he would ensure that “the Yemeni republic flag will fly on the Marran mountain in (the Huthi militia’s northern stronghold) Saada, instead of the Iranian flag”.

“The Iranian Twelver (Shiism) pattern that has been agreed upon between the Huthis and those who support them will not be accepted by Yemenis, whether Zaidi (Shiites) or Shafite (Sunnis),” he said.

The Huthis belong to the Zaidi offshoot of Shiite Islam. They are believed to have converted to Twelver Shiism, which is followed by Iran, but insist that Tehran does not meddle in Yemeni affairs.

In a letter to relatives of the mosque bombings victims, Hadi condemned the attacks as “terrorist, criminal and cowardly”.

“Such heinous attacks could only be done by the enemies of life,” who want to drag Yemen into “chaos, violence and internal fighting”, he said.

“Shiite extremism, represented by the armed Huthi militia, and Sunni extremism, represented by Al-Qaeda, are two sides of the same coin, who do not wish good and stability for Yemen and its people.”

Hadi has declared Aden the country’s temporary capital.

Friday’s bombings came a day after clashes in the southern city between Hadi loyalists and forces allied with the Huthis.

– ‘Tip of the iceberg’ –

Since taking Sanaa the Huthis have tightened their grip on government institutions, aided by loyalists of former president Saleh.

But in their push to widen their control to the south, they have faced fierce resistance from Sunni tribes allied with al-Qaida.

Al-Qaida distanced itself from Friday’s bombings, insisting it does not target mosques.

In an online statement claiming responsibility, the Sanaa branch of IS said the attacks were “just the tip of the iceberg”.

Iran “strongly condemned” the bombings.

Mohammed Abdulsalam, spokesman for the Huthis’ Ansarullah party, called the attacks part of a “clear war against the Yemeni people and its popular revolution” — a reference to Sanaa’s takeover.

“It is now imperative that we complete the revolutionary steps to protect the people and their revolution,” he said in a statement.

The threat came as reinforcements from the Special Forces, accused of links to the Huthis and Saleh, were sent to the city of Taez, which is just 180 kilometers (110 miles) north of Aden and seen as a strategic entry point to Hadi’s refuge.

“The bombings in Sanaa will now be taken as an excuse to open new fronts by attacking Taez and Marib (in the east),” said Yemeni youth activist Bassem al-Hakimi.–AFP


High-Tech to the Rescue of Southern Africa's Smallholder Farmers

Agriculture is the major employer and a backbone of the economies of Southern Africa.

However, the rural areas that support an agriculture-based livelihood system for the majority of the nearly 270 million people living in the region are typically fragile and there is wide variability in the development challenges facing the countries of the region.

The agricultural sector is dominated by crop production, although the share of livestock production and other agriculture practices have been increasing.

Chronic and acute food insecurity remain major risks and Southern Africa still faces enormous challenges in trying to transform and commercialise its largely small holder-based agricultural systems through accelerated integration into competitive markets in a rapidly globalising world

Chronic and acute food insecurity remain major risks and Southern Africa still faces enormous challenges in trying to transform and commercialise its largely smallholder-based agricultural systems through accelerated integration into competitive markets in a rapidly globalising world.

These and other challenges facing the sector were the focus of a three-day meeting (Mar. 10-12) in Durban of management and experts from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which ended with a call to prioritise broad-based partnerships and build synergies to provide countries with effective and efficient support in the agriculture sector.

In an annual event designed to provide a platform for discussion and exchange of information on best practices and the general performance of FAO programmes in the region, David Phiri, FAO Sub-Regional Coordinator for Southern Africa, reiterated the importance of different sectors working together.

“Achieving food and nutrition security in Southern Africa is a challenge far too great for any government or FAO to overcome alone,” he said. “As well as the governments of developing and developed countries, the civil society, private sector and international development agencies must be involved. Above all, the people themselves need to be empowered to manage their own development.”

Building on what works

As one example of the best practices under the scrutiny of the meeting, participants took part in a field visit to the Dube AgriZone facility – a high-tech agricultural development initiative pioneered by the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Government.

The facility aims to stimulate the growth of KwaZulu-Natal’s perishables sector and aims to achieve improved agricultural yields, consistent quality, year-round production and improved management of disease and pests.

The facility – strategically located 30 km north of the important coastal city of Durban – currently incorporates 16 hectares of greenhouses, making it the largest climate-controlled growing area under glass in Africa.

Its primary focus is on the production of short shelf-life vegetables and cut flowers which require immediate post-harvest airlifting and supply to both domestic and export markets.

In addition to its greenhouses, the facility offers dedicated post-harvest packing houses, a central packing and distribution centre, a nursery and the Dube AgriLab, a sophisticated plant tissue culture laboratory.

Dube AgriZone is an eco-friendly facility, adopting a range of ‘green’ initiatives to offset its environmental impact, including rainwater harvesting, use of solar energy, on-site waste management, and the growth of indigenous plants for rehabilitation efforts.

Dube AgriZone provides growers with the potential to achieve improved agricultural yields, consistency of produce quality, close management of disease and pest infestation and year-round crop production with a view to improved sustainability and enhanced agricultural competitiveness.

“I could never have been able put up such a facility and produce at the current scale were it not for this innovative AgriZone,” said Derrick Baird, owner of Qutom Farms, which currently produces 150,000 cucumbers in the glass greenhouse leased from Dube AgriZone.

“This high-tech facility with all the necessary facilities – including transportation and freight – has allowed us to concentrate on producing cucumbers at much lower costs than in other locations where we had previously tried.”

The partnership between the provincial government and the private sector behind the facility was hailed as an example of a success story that could offer valuable lessons to others across Southern Africa.

“There is plenty we can learn from this facility and perhaps one of the more important ones is on forming partnerships and alliances,” said Tobias Takavarasha, FAO Representative in South Africa.

“We need to build on what is working by adopting and adapting technologies to the local situation, and then scaling them upwards and outwards to achieve even better results,” he added.

Edited by Phil Harris

Zimbabwe to Buy Corn From Zambia

ZAMBIA plans to sell as much as a third of its record corn crop to regional countries including Zimbabwe as drought and floods in neighbouring nations decimate harvests of the grain used as a staple food.

The country will sell as much as 1 million metric tons of its white-corn surplus, Agriculture Minister Given Lubinda said. The government has set aside about almost one-third of its record 3.2 million-ton 2014 crop to sell locally and to neighbours, he said.

Lubinda has held talks with its southern neighbour Zimbabwe over a possible sale, he said on March 19, declining to stipulate how much it may buy.

“I’m hoping very much that all of it will go to exports because the quantity we’re sitting on now, about 1.4 million tons, is much more than we require for local consumption,” Lubinda said by mobile phone from Lusaka, the capital.

The worst drought since 1992 in South Africa, the continent’s biggest corn producer and traditional supplier of its neighbors, has damaged plants, with the nation predicting a 32 percent drop in the 2015 harvest to the smallest in eight years.

Botswana said crops are showing signs of “total failure” due to below-average rainfall, while floods in Malawi and Mozambique have curbed production.

Grain SA, the largest representative of cereal crop farmers in South Africa, expects the country to have a surplus of at least 100,000 tons of white corn, enough to meet the needs of the country and neighboring Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland until the new harvest starts in about May 2016, Chief Executive Officer Jannie de Villiers said in a March 18 interview.

Zambia has supplied Zimbabwe with corn in recent years, he said.

Any extra demand by Zimbabwe would imperil the supply balance, said Wandile Sihlobo, an economist at the South African grains organization.

“There’s going to be more pressure on the demand side because Malawi serves a number of countries,” Sihlobo said.

Zimbabwe has bought 56,997 tons of white corn from South Africa since the start of the marketing year in May last year, or 12 percent of the country’s exports, data from the South African Grain Information Service shows. In the previous year, Zimbabwe purchased 28 percent of the total.

Zambia’s government will export corn for prices ranging from $195 to $240 a ton, Lubinda told lawmakers March 18. White corn in South Africa has surged 28 percent this year and was at 2,760 rand ($228) a ton on Friday in Johannesburg. Corn on the Chicago Board of Trade has fallen 5.9 percent to $3.7375 a bushel, or the equivalent of $147.15 a ton.

Transport costs would increase the price of imports from the U.S. to landlocked Zimbabwe.

Higher exports will cut the cost of reintroducing a corn subsidy for local consumers, Lubinda said. He announced the reintroduction of the corn-consumer subsidy in Parliament on March 17, and it becomes effective from March 23.

Cornmeal made from the white variety of the grain is used to make a southern African staple food known as nshima in Zambia, sadza in Zimbabwe and pap in South Africa, while the yellow type is used to feed animals bred for meat. Almost all corn traded on the international market is yellow.