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10,000 homeless after fire razes Bangladesh slum

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10,000 homeless after fire razes Bangladesh slumBangladeshi onlookers gather after a fire blazes in a slum in Dhaka on August 16, 2019. At least 1,000 shanties were gutted as the devastating fire that broke out at Chalantika slum in Dhaka’s Mirpur. (MUNIR UZ ZAMAN / AFP)

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(AFP) – At least 10,000 people are homeless after a massive fire swept through a crowded slum in the Bangladesh capital and destroyed thousands of shanties, officials said Sunday.

The fire broke out at in Dhaka’s Mirpur neighbourhood late on Friday and razed around 2,000 mostly tin shacks, fire services official Ershad Hossain told AFP.

“I could not salvage a single thing. I don’t know what will I do,” 58-year-old Abdul Hamid, who ran a tea stall inside the slum, told AFP as he broke down in tears.

Authorities eventually got the blaze under control and no-one was killed, although several people had minor injuries, firefighters said.

Many residents — largely low-income garment factory workers — were not in the slum as they had left their homes to celebrate the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday with their families.

“Otherwise, the damage would have been bigger,” local police chief Golam Rabbani said.

Around 10,000 people have taken refuge in crammed camps at nearby schools closed for the weeklong holiday, according to Hossain.

“We are providing them with food, water, mobile toilets, and electricity supply,” municipal official Shafiul Azam told AFP, adding that authorities were trying to find permanent accommodation.

Some families have erected tarpaulins to shelter them from bouts of rain during the monsoon season, but the wet conditions have turned the fields muddy.

Experts say fires are frequent in Dhaka due to lax safety measures.

At least 100 people have been killed so far this year in building fires across the densely populated metropolitan city.

In 2012, a fire swept through a nine-storey garment factory near Dhaka killing 111 workers. An investigation found it was caused by sabotage and that managers at the plant had prevented victims from escaping.

A 2010 fire in Nimtoli, one of the most densely populated districts of the capital, killed 123 people.

© Agence France-Presse

Seychelles

Return to gold: Passon takes first medal for Seychelles in backstroke at African Games

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Return to gold: Passon takes first medal for Seychelles in backstroke at African GamesPasson won seven gold medals for Seychelles at the recent Indian Ocean Island Games in Mauritius. (Seychelles Nation)

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(Seychelles News Agency) – Swimmer Felicity Passon has won the first gold medal for Seychelles on the first day of the swimming competition at the African Games taking place in Morocco.

Passon clocked 2 minutes 14.55 seconds to win the final of the ladies 200 metres backstroke on Wednesday. 

The winner of seven gold medals for Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean, at the recent Indian Ocean Island Games Passon is competing in the 50 metres butterfly on Thursday.

The gold medal of Passon has placed Seychelles in the 12th place on the medal table led by Ethiopia with eight gold medals.

Three other Seychellois swimmers did not progress to the final: Kehma Elizabeth in the ladies 100 metres freestyle, Mathieu Bachmann in the men’s 100 metres freestyle and Samuele Rossi in the men’s 50 metres breaststroke.

In boxing in preliminaries of the men’s lightweight, Jovet Jean lost 5-0 to Shakul Samed from Ghana.

Team Seychelles at the Africa Games is made up of 35 athletes and 13 coaches and will compete in seven events — athletics, badminton, boxing, canoeing, swimming, volleyball and weightlifting.

The African Games is a continental multi-sport event held every four years, organised by the African Union with the Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa and the Association of African Sports Confederations. All of the competing nations are from the African continent.

The 12th edition of the games will serve as a qualifying step for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. 

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Pressure mounting on EU to end ivory trade

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Pressure mounting on EU to end ivory tradeThis photo taken on December 13, 2018 shows Cambodian Customs and Excise Officials looking at ivory seized from a shipping container at the Phnom Penh port. Cambodia seized more than 3.2 tonnes of elephant tusks hidden in a storage container sent from Mozambique, a customs official said on December 16, marking the country’s largest ivory bust. (BAN CHORK / AFP)

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(AFP) – Amid growing calls for an outright ban, the European Union has come under increasing pressure to help protect African elephants by ending the trade of ivory within its borders.

Poaching has decimated the world elephant population, which slumped in Africa from several million at the turn of the 19th century to around 400,000 in 2015.

According to conservation group WWF, as much as 60 percent of all elephant deaths can be blamed on poaching.

The David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation, which campaigns against the ivory trade, says that between 2007 and 2014, 144,000 elephants were killed across Africa — the equivalent of one death every 15 minutes.

The international trade of ivory was officially banned in 1989.

The United States outlawed domestic trade in 2016, with China following suit a year later.

But several other markets, including the EU and Japan, have no such internal bans.

Critics maintain that legal domestic ivory markets fuel laundering of illegal ivory and undermine ivory bans elsewhere.

– More scrutiny, but no ban –

Ivory and the plight of African elephants is a hot-button issue this week at a meeting in Geneva of parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which regulates trade in more than 35,000 species of plants and animals.

On Wednesday, countries agreed to demand more scrutiny of the ivory markets that remain open, but stopped short of heeding a call by mainly African countries to order the immediate closure of all domestic ivory markets.

The conference did however order the EU as well as Japan and other countries that still permit the trade to report back within a year on what measures they are taking to ensure that their ivory markets are not contributing to elephant poaching and illegal trafficking.

Conservationists welcomed the increased scrutiny, but warned it was not enough.

“We are moving in the right direction, but we don’t have time to waste,” Sarah Morrison, with campaign group Avaaz, told AFP.

“We urgently need to close all domestic markets and make sure we put the lives of elephants first.”

Philip Muruthi of the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) agreed, stressing that “there isn’t enough ivory in the world to satisfy current demand.”

“As long as a market exists for ivory, you can be sure that elephants are being killed to sustain it.”

– ‘Exploiting loopholes’ –

The European Union currently has, at least in theory, stringent rules on ivory sales within its borders.

It’s illegal to export elephant tusks out of the EU, and only objects dated before 1947 can be bought without paperwork — any ivory made after that date requires a certificate to purchase.

But last year, a joint study between the University of Oxford and Avaaz showed that as much as a fifth of ivory objects came from elephants killed after the global trade ban in 1989.

Campaigners say it is still too easy to trade illegal ivory within and out of the EU.

A coalition of 17 NGOs calling for a Europe-wide ban said that illegal ivory was being “laundered by exploiting loopholes in EU law”.

Ivory sold as “antique” currently requires no proof of authenticity or origin within Europe, it said.

France, Belgium, Britain and the Netherlands have all adopted or are set to adopt stricter measures against the illegal trade.

France’s environment ambassador Yann Wehrling said that ending main domestic ivory markets would greatly benefit the African elephant.

“The African elephant will be protected because you will no longer be able to buy ivory and poaching will cease,” he said.

Conservationists insist it is still easy to find ivory sculptures for sale online with no proof of their provenance.

The WWF said the world needed “a better understanding of what constitutes an effective market closure” in order to seal off loopholes.

During Wednesday’s debate, the EU hinted new regulations were soon to be introduced across the bloc.

Matthew Collis, policy chief at the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), welcomed that, insisting though that any changes to the EU rules should “shut down ivory markets in the EU with all but extremely limited exemptions, in line with actions taken by other nations like China, the US and the UK.”

© Agence France-Presse

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8 Seychellois writers whose works are worth reading

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A book launched in Seychelles recently gave recognition to the rich contributions made by Seychellois writers to Creole literature in the form of poetry, storytelling, novels, and drama.

“Seychellois Writers: A Biographical Sketch,” by Guinean-born Diallo Addourahamane, is also giving value to the Creole language as well as the rich cultural heritage of the archipelago in the western Indian Ocean.

This week SNA highlights eight Seychellois writers amongst the 150 writers featured in the book.

Lorina Barbe

A former teacher who is also trained in linguistics, Barbe is the author of six books and 20 poems. She was most active from 2000 to 2007. The author has worked closely with the Creole Institute where she was involved in two translations.

Barbe is an active participant of the literary contest in memory of the late Antoine Abel – one of the island nation’s best writers – and in 2013 won first prize for her collection of short stories.  

 (Salifa Karapetyan) Photo License: CC-BY

Leon Bonnelame

The late Leon Bonnelame started his career as a police officer. He later quit the force to join the Department of Immigration.

Bonnelame is remembered for his collection of mystery stories which came out in 1999. The whole series was featured in the daily newspaper Seychelles Nation and earned Bonnelame instant popularity. The talented writer, who lost his sight and spent his last days wheelchair-bound as an amputee, passed away in 2016. 

  (Salifa Karapetyan) Photo License: CC-BY

Hazel De Silva

Born to a Sri Lankan father and a Seychellois mother in Kenya, De Silva spent the first 19 years of her life in the country of her birth, before leaving for tertiary studies in the United States and the United Kingdom.

Upon her arrival in Seychelles De Silva trained as a teacher and then worked as a journalist with both the broadcast and print media. Her literary works include the novel “Black Night of Quiloa” published in 1971 and a collection of 80 poems. De Silva passed away in 1996.  

  (Salifa Karapetyan) Photo License: CC-BY

Edwin Henriette

Henriette, a resident of the western district of Port Glaud, has had a whole career in the education sector. Born in 1960, Henriette has authored books in all three national languages: English, French, and Creole.

He has undertaken many literary research on proverbs, imaginary expressions and traditional beliefs. Henriette who still writes, is an active member of the committee of Seychellois writers, and over the years has won much recognition for his works

  (Salifa Karapetyan) Photo License: CC-BY

Georgette Larue-Jumaye

Jumaye, who is described as a nature lover with a passion for gardening, published her first work in 1994. Apart from novels, Jumaye has produced poems and has worked on several translations.

Her works mostly depict everyday life on the islands. Jumaye’s wish is to see more resources made available for Seychellois writers and hopes that one day their literary works are given visibility through the tourism sector.  

  (Salifa Karapetyan) Photo License: CC-BY

Peter Pierre-Louis

This Kenya born Seychellois is a former employee of the Creative Art Centre of Nairobi and upon his arrival in session worked at the Culture Department. The retiree is the author of both novels and poems, with his first work – a romance – published in 1985.

Pierre-Louis who is all about the development of literature in Seychelles is currently working on a new collection of poems.  

  (Salifa Karapetyan) Photo License: CC-BY

June Vel

The late June Vel is remembered for her novel portraying the tragic story of a young girl “Eva” which was published in 1989. As an adult, she emigrated to Canada and continued to produce poems and novels, some published over there.

Her latest work in 2001, “Mon arc en ciel a moi,” was also released in In the United States. Vel passed away in Canada in 2012.  

  (Salifa Karapetyan) Photo License: CC-BY

Claude Renaud

A medical doctor by profession, Renaud was born in 1971. At a young age, he discovered his passion for writing and when he joined the National Youth Service (NYS) – a boarding type school for teenagers, now closed – he became the editor of the institute’s magazine.

Between 1987 and 1991, Renaud produced a collection of poems and four novels. Though no longer active – possibly due to the nature of his work in the medical field – Renaud has definitely left his mark on the island nation’s literature.  

  (Salifa Karapetyan) Photo License: CC-BY

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Sudan swears in ruling council and prime minister

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Sudan swears in ruling council and prime ministerMohamed al-Fakki Suleiman, a civilian member of Sudan’s new sovereign council that will head the country during its three-year transition to civilian rule, speaks during a press conference after being sworn-in, in the capital Khartoum on August 21, 2019. Sudan took further steps in its transition towards civilian rule on August 21 with the swearing in of a new sovereign council, to be followed by the appointment of a prime minister. The body replaces the Transitional Military Council (TMC) that took charge after months of deadly street protests brought down longtime ruler Omar al-Bashir in April. It was the first time that Sudan was not under full military rule since Bashir’s coup d’etat in 1989. (Ebrahim HAMID / AFP)

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(AFP) – Sudan took further steps in its transition towards civilian rule Wednesday, with the swearing in of a new Sovereign Council and prime minister.

A government is expected to be formed within a week, after which the new institutions can tackle the daunting task of rescuing a failing economy and ending three different internal armed conflicts.

Abdalla Hamdok took the oath as transitional prime minister moments after flying in from Ethiopia, where he spent years working as a senior economist for the United Nations.

“The government’s top priorities are to stop the war, build sustainable peace, address the severe economic crisis and build a balanced foreign policy,” he told reporters.

Hours earlier, the 11 members of a civilian-majority Sovereign Council were also sworn in, marking the first time that Sudan was not under full military rule since Omar al-Bashir came to power in a 1989 coup.

The body replaces the Transitional Military Council (TMC) that took charge after months of deadly street protests brought down the Islamist ruler in April.

General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who already headed the TMC, was sworn in as the new ruling council’s chairman.

– Vigilance –

Wearing his usual green beret and camouflage uniform, Burhan took the oath in a short ceremony, one hand on the Koran and the other holding a military baton under his arm.

He will be Sudan‘s head of state for the first 21 months of the 39-month transition period, until a civilian takes over for the remainder.

The Sovereign Council includes two women, including a member of Sudan‘s Christian minority, and it will oversee the formation of a government and of a legislative body.

The inauguration of the civilian-dominated ruling council, which held its first meeting in the afternoon, was widely welcomed but some Khartoum residents warned they would keep their new rulers in check.

“If this council does not meet our aspirations and cannot serve our interests, we will never hesitate to have another revolution,” said Ramzi al-Taqi, a fruit seller.

“We would topple the council just like we did the former regime,” he said.

The transition’s key documents were signed on Saturday at a ceremony attended by a host of foreign dignitaries, signalling that Sudan could be on its way to shedding its pariah status.

Sudan‘s new rulers are expected to push for the lifting of the country’s suspension from the African Union that followed a deadly crackdown on a sit-in in June.

The ruling council will also seek to have the country removed from the US list of state sponsors of terrorism.

Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague for his role in massacres in the Darfur region, where a rebellion broke out in 2003.

He appeared in court on Monday on corruption charges, for the opening of a trial in which an investigator said the deposed leader admitted to receiving millions in cash from Saudi Arabia.

Pictures of the 75-year-old autocrat sitting in a cage during the hearing instantly became a symbol of his regime’s downfall.

The sight of their former tormentor in the dock was overwhelmingly welcomed by the Sudanese, but many warned the graft trial should not distract from the more serious indictments he faces before the ICC.

– Challenges ahead –

Sudan‘s transitional authorities would need to ratify the ICC’s Rome Statute to allow for the transfer of the ousted ruler to The Hague.

Amid celebrations of the promise of civilian rule, unease was palpable within the protest camp that brought about one of the most significant moments in Sudan‘s modern history.

One reason is the omnipresence in the transition of Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, a member of the sovereign council and a paramilitary commander whose forces are blamed for the deadly repression of the protests.

His Rapid Support Forces sprang out of the Janjaweed militia notorious for alleged crimes in Darfur.

Pacifying a country still plagued by deadly unrest in the regions of Darfur, Kordofan and Blue Nile will be one of the most urgent tasks of Sudan‘s transitional institutions.

The other daunting challenge that awaits the fragile civilian-military alliance is the rescue of an economy that has all but collapsed in recent years.

It was the sudden tripling of bread prices in December 2018 that sparked the wave of protests fatal to Bashir’s regime.

Hamdok, who turned down an offer by Bashir to become finance minister last year, said Sudan‘s economy had great potential but admitted in was in tatters.

© Agence France-Presse

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Ethiopia eager to explore new areas of cooperation, ambassador says

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Ethiopia eager to explore new areas of cooperation, ambassador saysDiscussions between Meles Alem Tika, the Ethiopian ambassador to Seychelles and President Faure focused on existing areas such as air connectivity, tourism and trade, and potential new areas of cooperation. (State House/Facebook) 

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(Seychelles News Agency) – Ethiopia wants to revamp its relations with Seychelles in trade and tourism, and explore other new avenues of cooperation, said the newly accredited ambassador.

Meles Alem Tika, the Ethiopian ambassador to Seychelles, presented his credentials to President Danny Faure at State House on Tuesday.

Discussions between Tika and the head of state of Seychelles focused on existing areas such as air connectivity, tourism and trade, and potential new areas of cooperation such as cargo shipping lines to facilitate investment and transportation by sea.

During the meeting, Faure expressed his wish that the bilateral ties established between Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean, and Ethiopia since April 1982 remain focused on elevating engagements to new heights.

“Your accreditation today is a testimony to the high level of commitment our countries attach to our engagement. In reiterating our sincere congratulations and in wishing you great success in your new tenure, rest assured, Seychelles is committed to further cementing the good friendship between our nations,” he said.

The Ethiopian ambassador told reporters that both countries have their own comparative advantages.

“What Seychelles has we do not have like the maritime brief. Ethiopia is one of the oldest countries of the world. It has thousands of years of history. The historical attractions are so immense if we bring those two comparative advantages into one they can really change the lives of our people,” he said.

Tika added that no matter what kind of strong relations that two countries may enjoy if the relationship benefits don’t trickle down to the people the relations won’t live on. 

Ambassador Tika will be based in Nairobi, Kenya.

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