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

Seychelles

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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Concerns raised over beach access, road diversion for planned hotel in Seychelles

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Concerns raised over beach access, road diversion for planned hotel in SeychellesThe proposed layout of the mix-use project which will comprise of an area for tourism, retail, residential and entertainment. (Anse La Mouche Development Company Seychelles) 

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(Seychelles News Agency) – The existing moratorium on large hotels and beach access were some issues raised by Seychelles’ civil society concerning a planned mixed-use project at Anse La Mouche in the west of Mahe, the main island.

Members of the Citizen Engagement Platform Seychelles (CEPS) expressed their concerns on Friday during a scoping meeting for the project titled ‘Anse la Mouche’.

The mix-use project, a first for the western coast of Mahe, will comprise of an area for tourism, retail, residential and entertainment. The first phase will include the construction of a 120-room four-star hotel, road diversion, public amenities on the beach, as well as accommodation for hotel staff among other facilities.

The project is owned by the Anse La Mouche Development Company Seychelles (ALDMC) and will be developed by the Royal Development Company.

“There is a moratorium in place on the building of large hotels. Rooms cannot be carried over and a moratorium should apply to all of these. We do not need large hotels in the country as the majority of these big hotels along the west coast are never full,” said Marie-Therese Purvis, a member of Sustainability 4 Seychelles (S4S).

In the western coast of Mahe, the largest tourism establishments are Kempinski Seychelles Resort, Four Seasons Resort Seychelles and Constance Ephelia.

Tourism is the top contributor to the economy of Seychelles, a group of 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean.

The tourism minister, Didier Dogley, told SNA on Monday that when the moratorium came into force in 2015, hotels that had already been approved by the government had been exempted. 

The area where the project will be developed which will include a road diversion. (Salifa Karapetyan, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY

“Since last year, the ministry has started an exercise where developers of approved hotel concepts are being informed that they have a year to submit their plans and other documents. Should they fail to do so, the allocated number of rooms will be given to new investors who are ready to invest in building the number of rooms,” he said.     

Phase one of the project will cost the developers over $75 million and construction is expected to start in 2020.

Purvis further told SNA on Friday that the project has not been very well thought through.

“It will divide the community of Anse La Mouche with the diversion of the road. The additional 700 metres is going to add to people’s lives through the burning of fuel for people who have cars,” said Purvis.

The chief operating officer of the Royal Development Company, Andreas Braeuer, said that “the retail, together with two restaurants that will be developed there, will be the new heart of the community and will create a lot of convenience for the people living at Anse La Mouche.”

Braeuer added that “the area is sitting in an already residential community and some of the points raised by previous studies were the lack of convenience retails. There are small shops but there isn’t any retail in the form of a supermarket, and the studies also informed that basic community services are lacking such as doctor’s or nurse’s office, pharmacy among other things.”

Members of other non-government organisations present also expressed concerns that once the hotel is built the public might not get access to the beach and the ecosystem of the existing marsh in the area will be disturbed.

According to plans of the development, the current road will be closed off to traffic and converted into a beach promenade. The public will have two parking pockets on each end of the promenade where there will also be public beach amenities and reunion parks.

The planned development is currently in the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) stage, where consultation with the public is being conducted. On Saturday, August 24, a consultative meeting will be held at the Anse Boileau community centre, starting at 2 p.m. 

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Iceland commemorates first glacier lost to climate change

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Iceland commemorates first glacier lost to climate changeThe snow can be seen at the old glacier after a monument was unveiled at site of Okjokull, Iceland’s first glacier lost to climate change in the west of Iceland on August 18, 2019. (Jeremie RICHARD / AFP)

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(AFP) – Iceland on Sunday honoured the passing of Okjokull, its first glacier lost to climate change, as scientists warn that some 400 others on the subarctic island risk the same fate.

As the world recently marked the warmest July ever on record, a bronze plaque was mounted on a bare rock in a ceremony on the former glacier in western Iceland, attended by local researchers and their peers at Rice University in the United States who initiated the project.

Iceland‘s Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir and former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson also attended the event, as well as hundreds of scientists, journalists and members of the public who trekked to the site.

“I hope this ceremony will be an inspiration not only to us here in Iceland but also for the rest of the world, because what we are seeing here is just one face of the climate crisis,” Jakobsdottir told AFP.

The plaque bears the inscription “A letter to the future”, and is intended to raise awareness about the decline of glaciers and the effects of climate change.

“In the next 200 years all our glaciers are expected to follow the same path. This monument is to acknowledge that we know what is happening and what needs to be done. Only you know if we did it,” the plaque reads.

It is also labelled “415 ppm CO2”, referring to the record level of carbon dioxide measured in the atmosphere last May.

The plaque is “the first monument to a glacier lost to climate change anywhere in the world”, Cymene Howe, associate professor of anthropology at Rice University, said in July.

“Memorials everywhere stand for either human accomplishments, like the deeds of historic figures, or the losses and deaths we recognise as important,” she said.

“By memorialising a fallen glacier, we want to emphasise what is being lost — or dying — the world over, and also draw attention to the fact that this is something that humans have ‘accomplished’, although it is not something we should be proud of.”

Howe noted that the conversation about climate change can be abstract, with many dire statistics and sophisticated scientific models that can feel incomprehensible.

“Perhaps a monument to a lost glacier is a better way to fully grasp what we now face,” she said, highlighting “the power of symbols and ceremony to provoke feelings”.

– ‘Pretty visual’ –

Julien Weiss, an aerodynamics professor at the University of Berlin who attended Sunday’s ceremony with his wife and seven-year-old daughter, was one of those moved by seeing the ex-glacier Sunday.

“Seeing a glacier disappear is something you can feel, you can understand it and it’s pretty visual,” he told AFP.

“You don’t feel climate change daily, it’s something that happens very slowly on a human scale, but very quickly on a geological scale.”

Iceland loses about 11 billion tonnes of ice per year, and scientists fear all of the island’s 400-plus glaciers will be gone by 2200, according to Howe.

Glaciers cover about 11 percent of the country’s surface.

“A big part of our renewable energy is produced in the glacial rivers…. The disappearance of the glaciers will affect our energy system,” Prime Minister Jakobsdottir said.

– Stripped in 2014 –

Glaciologists stripped Okjokull of its glacier status in 2014, a first for Iceland.

In 1890, the glacier ice covered 16 square kilometres (6.2 square miles) but by 2012, it measured just 0.7 square kilometres, according to a report from the University of Iceland from 2017.

In 2014, “we made the decision that this was no longer a living glacier, it was only dead ice, it was not moving,” Oddur Sigurdsson, a glaciologist with the Icelandic Meteorological Office, told AFP.

To have the status of a glacier, the mass of ice and snow must be thick enough to move by its own weight. For that to happen the mass must be approximately 40 to 50 metres (130 to 165 feet) thick, he said.

According to a study published by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)in April, nearly half of the world’s heritage sites could lose their glaciers by 2100 if greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current rate.

© Agence France-Presse

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Urgent action plan needed for Africa’s oceans, Seychelles’ president tells continent’s leaders

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Urgent action plan needed for Africa’s oceans, Seychelles’ president tells continent’s leadersFaure (third from right) made the statement on Saturday at the 39th summit of heads of the state of the Southern African Development Community which took place in Dar es Salaam Tanzania. (State House) 

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(Seychelles News Agency) – The Seychelles’ president, Danny Faure, urged African leaders to adopt a more proactive and collective strategy to address the rising maritime security challenges at the summit for southern African heads of state.  

State House said that Faure made the statement on Saturday at the 39th summit of heads of the state of the Southern African Development Community which took place in Dar es Salaam Tanzania during the weekend.

“Our challenge today is not only to look at security challenges on the continent but the maritime space that we share. As an oceanic state, economic activities in our EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone) and in the international waters around us, relating mostly to transportation, fisheries and tourism, contribute towards 44 percent of our GDP,” said Faure.

He highlighted how the scourge of piracy has for the past years affected and threatened the livelihoods and economic activities of countries in this region and why further collective commitment and immediate action is critical.

“It was thanks to a regional and global effort, that we were able to raise awareness and develop a strategy that could control the growth and spread of piracy in our region. Today, Seychelles and her neighbours, including many of you here, continue to invest millions in order to protect our territorial waters and the economic livelihood of our countries,” Faure said.

He pointed, however, that as one crisis is put under control others continue to emerge.

“There is a growing number of other illicit activities such as drug and human trafficking in our EEZ, illegal unreported and unregulated fishing; and the poaching of our marine resources including fish and other sea products and greater conditions for terrorist activities to manifest.  For these, we need to find common solutions,” added Faure.

The head of state of Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean, commended neighbouring country Mauritius and the SADC secretariat for the recent initiatives related to reducing maritime security threats. He also called for an urgent gathering of member states to discuss sensitive security issues, threatening the region.

The two-day summit was under the theme: “A Conducive Business Environment for Inclusive and Sustainable Industrial Development, Increased Intra-Regional Trade and Job Creation. (State House/Facebook) Photo License: CC-BY

“The message today is that we need an urgent strategy and action plan in order to secure our region from these scourges. Our Blue Economy agenda will remain an agenda if we fail to secure the very environment it needs to grow,” warned Faure.

The summit of SADC heads of state opened officially on Saturday morning at the Julius Nyerere International Convention Centre in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

Discussions in the two-day meeting focused on ways of advancing integration and sustainable development in the region guided by the banner theme for this year “A Conducive Business Environment for Inclusive and Sustainable Industrial Development, Increased Intra-Regional Trade and Job Creation.”

At the closed session in the afternoon, President Faure thanked Tanzania for choosing a theme that depicts the continuity and progress of the journey together as the SADC family.

“This year’s theme could not have been more apt for the trajectory ahead of us. We have to find new ways and means of creating a conducive environment, which will cater to the needs and aspirations of our young people. We need therefore to use our resources with prudence and find innovative ways to protect our environment and heritage for generations to come,” he said.

President Faure met with his counterpart from Tanzania in bilateral discussions on Sunday.  (State House/Facebook) Photo License: CC-BY

On the sidelines of the summit on Sunday, Faure met with his Tanzanian counterpart John Pompe Joseph Magufuli.

The two leaders discussed the reinforcement of existing cooperation and exploring potential areas for future collaboration.

Faure expressed Seychelles’ desire to deepen collaboration with Tanzania through exchanges particularly in areas such as maritime security, fisheries, food security, the Blue Economy, and investments and trade.

On his part, Magufuli echoed his government’s commitment to enhance relations with Seychelles in the areas highlighted by President Faure and translate them into concrete actions for the mutual benefit of both peoples.

Seychelles and Tanzania established diplomatic relations in November 1986.

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Winner of Miss Bikini bodybuilding competition in Seychelles encourages more women to lift weights

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Winner of Miss Bikini bodybuilding competition in Seychelles encourages more women to lift weightsSimeon said from personal experience women are unable to commit to a regular schedule due to personal reasons and that is why not many women take up the sport. (Jade Simeon/Instagram) 

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(Seychelles News Agency) – Jade Simeon is the winner of Miss Bikini, a competition organised late last month as part of the Seychelles’ first Regis Delorie Classic bodybuilding competition.

The competition was a chance for athletes who train at the Animal Kingdom Gym to show off their ability.

This was Simeon’s third competition. She participated in her first local competition in 2016 and two weeks later competed on a regional level in the Eric Favre bodybuilding competition.

Simeon hopes to inspire other women to venture into the sport despite its reputation of being just for men. 

SNA met with the 24-year-old sales and administration supervisor to learn more about her experience in the competition and as a female bodybuilder.

SNA: What is it like to own the Regis Delorie classic bodybuilding ‘Miss Bikini’ title?

JS: It is a great achievement for me as I have worked really hard and have really pushed my limits. I wear the title with grace and honour but I realise that behind the title is great discipline, hard work, mental and emotional focus and support from loved ones and the Animal Kingdom team. As a woman, I hope to inspire other women to be the best versions of themselves both internally, as working out definitely has positive effects on one’s health, mental health and happiness, as well as physically. It is equally important for people to understand that it is okay for their bodies to progress differently than others, as long as they are comfortable with their progress.

Simeon won the  Miss Bikini in the first Regis Delorie Classic bodybuilding competition. (Jade Simeon/Instagram) Photo License: CC-BY

SNA: How long have you been training for the Regis Delorie classic bodybuilding competition?

JS: After the competition in 2016, there was sadly no competition held for a good two years. Despite that, I kept on training as it had already become a lifestyle. In 2019, Mr Regis Delorie held his first-ever competition and I decided to take part. We had at least 12 weeks to get in shape. I was offseason and was not really eating clean so I really had to work extra hard especially when it came to adjusting my diet in order to lose weight for the competition.

SNA: Leading up to the competition what was your exercise and diet schedule like?

JS: I trained every day except for Saturdays. My workout schedule consisted of lightweight and higher reps and I increased my cardio to a minimum of 30 minutes to one hour.

As for dieting we had to cut out sugar, dairy, oil, sauce and processed foods. The hardest part was the last week before the competition where we had to completely remove salt from our diet in order to lose water weight or water retention. 

For dieting, Simeon had to cut out sugar, dairy, oil, sauce and processed foods. (Jade Simeon) Photo License: CC-BY

SNA: When and how did you get into bodybuilding? How did you become a bikini model?

JS: I started working out during my last year of nursing school in 2015. At that time, I was more or less clueless about everything to do with bodybuilding. I knew I wanted abs and a toned physique but it was not something that I was completely devoted to. I went to school and then would work out at least three to four times a week. I established a routine and before I knew it, I started to see results.

In 2016 my friends at the Animal Kingdom gym convinced me to take part in the first-ever Miss Bikini competition held in Seychelles. I was reluctant at first as I never saw myself taking part in a bodybuilding competition but with much convincing, I signed up for it and under the guidance of Mr Regis Delorie I started to train and diet for the competition. It was then that I began to understand the fitness life and fell in love with it.

SNA: What’s your favourite muscle group to train?

JS: I enjoy training all body parts as they are equally important. But my favourites are legs, abs and glutes.

SNA: What supplements do you take?

JS: I do not take supplements every day and sometimes I will take a break especially if I have been using them for a while. BCAA’s (Branched Chain Amino Acids) are my go-to supplements as they trigger muscle protein synthesis and prevent the breakdown of muscles. I love having my BCAA or Amino acid on hand intra and post-workout to increase energy productivity and to boost my metabolism. I drink whey protein post-workout to promote muscle growth and also as a meal if I’m hungry. I also take multivitamins and fish oil.

SNA: Why do you think not many women practice bodybuilding?

JS: I feel that perhaps many have the wrong perspective of the sport. Perhaps they think that they will end up looking like men, as I have had people judge me before for looking too muscular.

On the other hand, from personal experience, some women are unable to commit to a regular schedule due to personal reasons. For example, working mums, career-driven women who work long hours. Lack of affordable childcare coupled with lack of finances to be able to afford a babysitter and gym membership at the same time. There may be various reasons that are not really intrinsic preventing girls or women from joining the gym world.

Lastly, I believe that a lot of girls are interested but the Miss Bikini category has only been introduced recently. I am sure that more girls will join soon enough.

Simeon said women think they will end up looking like men if they practice bodybuilding. (Jade Simeon/Instagram) Photo License: CC-BY

SNA: How would you encourage more women to join the sport?

JS: I would love to see more girls participate in the future. My advice is not to expect results right away, it’s going to take time and consistency allow yourself to be a beginner as no one is born looking fit. A little workout a day adds up to the process. Be patient and keep going. Enjoy the experience and the journey and it is always handy to find a good support group!

SNA: What are people’s reactions when you tell them you’re a bikini model?

JS: Most people are supportive and happy for me. I am forever grateful to those people.

SNA: What are your plans for the future?

JS: I would love to represent Seychelles and compete internationally and hopefully one day earn my pro card. But more importantly, I would also love to get in a position where I can inspire, help and educate more people on healthy choices and keeping a good body image. 

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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

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Seychelles’ plan for clean-beach ‘White Flag’ designation interrupted by fraud allegations

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Seychelles’ plan for clean-beach ‘White Flag’ designation interrupted by fraud allegationsThe White Flag certification recognises the beach as having been physically cleaned from plastic and other marine debris. (Gerard Larose, Seychelles Tourism Board) 

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(Seychelles News Agency) – The Seychelles government has cancelled plans to have 40 more of its beaches recognised with the White Flag certification for being clean and plastic-free.

The announcement was made on Wednesday by the Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate change after it learned of allegations against the president of the organisation that hands out the designation. 

The organisation is the Ocean Alliance Conservation Member; its president is  Kristijan Curavic.

According to international press reports, Guravic faces fraud allegations and other legal issues in Malta and his native country of Croatia.

On Tuesday, Curavic, met with President Danny Faure at State House and later told reporters that “discussions with the president is to certify 40 to 80 beaches in Seychelles. That is the biggest number of beaches committed by any country.”  

On Wednesday the ministry said it “has decided to put on hold the White Flag project following certain allegations which surfaced on an independent online news platform.”

“The Ministry has been made aware of the articles and the allegations published and has seen it fit to seek further clarifications from the organisation.”

In September last year, the island nation’s first White Flag was put on Beau Vallon beach – a popular beach with visitors. (State House) Photo License: CC-BY

According to the press release, the Minister for Environment, Energy and Climate Change, Wallace Cosgrow, Minister for Tourism, Didier Dogley and the Minister for Finance, Trade, Investment and Economic Planning, Maurice Lousteau Lalanne met with Curavic on Wednesday afternoon to discuss these allegations.

The ministry noted that at this point, the government through the Ministry has only been in consultation with the organisation, for certification of more beaches.

“There has been no financial implications or commitments and pointed out that discussions on the White Flag Project will only resume after satisfactory clarifications have been received from the organization,” the communique added.

At the time of writing, SNA has been unable to reach Curavic for a comment. Through online research, SNA found several links of different reports regarding the organisation – Ocean Alliance Conservation Member (OACM) and the white flag project. The most recent article was published only three days ago.

Several articles on The Shift – a digital newspaper dedicated to investigative journalism based in Malta– reported the allegations against OACM and Curavic.

The Croatian is allegedly wanted in his country and has fraud and other legal issues in Malta – where the white flags have been put on seven beaches. 

The articles also reported that Curavic is also using logos of supposed partners when in reality there is no partnership. One such is the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation.

The Shift News also reported that former actress and human rights advocate Bianca Jagger – the founder of the Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation and a Council of Europe goodwill ambassador — denied claims that she was a Board member of an affiliated organisation put forward by White Flag International.

In September last year, the island nation’s first White Flag was put on Beau Vallon beach – a popular beach with visitors – in the north of the main island of Mahe, one of 115 islands of the Seychelles archipelago in the western Indian Ocean. 

The White Flag indicates that the zone is among the world’s first Certified Safe Marine Areas. The certification recognises the beach as having been physically cleaned from plastic and other marine debris. 

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Golden swimmer Felicity Passon to carry Seychelles’ flag at African Games in Morocco

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Golden swimmer Felicity Passon to carry Seychelles’ flag at African Games in MoroccoVice President Vincent Meriton handed the Seychelles’ flag to Passon in a send-off ceremony on Wednesday. (Jude Morel) 

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(Seychelles News Agency) – Swimmer Felicity Passon will be the flag bearer for Seychelles at the opening ceremony of the 12th African Games in Morocco from August 19 to 31.

Vice President Vincent Meriton on Wednesday handed the Seychelles’ flag to Passon, who won seven gold medals in the Indian Ocean Games in Mauritius.

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

The Team got its official send-off on Wednesday by the Designated Minister, Macsuzy Mondon, who also holds the portfolio for sports.

In her address, Mondon said, “The government has invested a sum of SCR 4.5 million ($330,000) for the Seychelles’ participation in the Games. I have the pleasure to announce rewards for medals for this competition. A gold medal will receive 60,000 ($4,385), silver medal 30,000 ($2,193) and bronze 15,000 ($1,096). This again is an increase on what was given in 2015.”

She wished all athletes success saying “you can do it – believe and succeed.”

Team Seychelles for the 12 edition of the African Games in Morocco. (Jude Morel) Photo License: CC-BY

The flag bearer of Team Seychelles, Passon, who had a strong performance in the Indian Ocean Island Games, said, “I am going to carry on this momentum for the African Games. Hopefully, all goes well and I will be able to perform well.”

The Africa Games, previously called All Africa 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 which will coincide with the commemoration of the Youth Day will serve as a qualifying step for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

At the last Games in Congo Brazzaville, Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean, won 12 medals – three gold, four silver and five bronze. 

The Seychellois gold medalists were weightlifter Ruby Malvina, high jumper Lissa Labiche and the badminton women’s doubles of Juliette Ah-Wan and Alisen Camille.

Over 7,000 African athletes are expected to participate in the competition taking place in Morocco for the first time.

In the last games in Congo, Brazzaville in 2015, Egypt topped the medal table with 217 medals among which were 85 gold.

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President of Seychelles to attend southern Africa heads of state meeting in Tanzania

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(Seychelles News Agency) – The President of Seychelles, Danny Faure, will attend the 39th summit of Heads of State of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, from August 17 to 18.

Faure will leave Seychelles on Friday for the summit which is taking place under the theme ‘A Conducive Business Environment for Inclusive and Sustainable Industrial Development.’

The main objectives of SADC are to achieve economic development, peace and security, and growth, alleviate poverty, enhance the standard and quality of life of the peoples of Southern Africa, and support the socially disadvantaged through regional integration.

Tanzania which is hosting the summit assumed chairmanship of the SADC Council of Ministers on Tuesday taking over from Namibia.

The Council of Ministers meeting which preceded the summit of Heads of State focussed on key issues in the region, such as the state of SADC’s finances, as well as reports from the various committees.

The head of state of Seychelles, a group of 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean, will return on August 19.

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Museum in Germany permanently displaying 6 pieces by Seychellois artist

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(Seychelles News Agency) – Renowned Seychellois artist Nigel Henri now has six permanent art pieces being exhibited in the Museum Zündorfer Wehrturm in Cologne, Germany. 

The pieces were part of his exhibition held there from June 16 to July 14 this year.

“I am proud of this. My artwork will be permanently displayed at this museum where many will visit, and my hope is that this will inspire younger artists in Seychelles,” said Henri.

He told SNA that despite Seychelles being a small island nation, such an achievement goes to show that the country has already made it into the international art circle.

During the four-week-long exhibition, visitors got to see 43 paintings by Henri. Inspired from an early age by his environment and experiences, Henri’s eye for colour and form captures and conveys the richness of specific aspects of Creole culture and island life.

Henri was informed five years ago by the museum that he had been chosen to exhibit there and that the theme of his work would be ‘Underwater’. This came after his artwork had been studied closely and it was deciding that this is the area in which he excels.

Visitors got to see 43 paintings by Henri conveying specific aspects of island life and Creole culture. (Nigel Henri) Photo License: All Rights Reserved

The artist chose to show an array of styles which show his development as an artist during the over 40 years he has been painting. Walking through the exhibition, visitors had the chance to see the vibrant colours of the market place in Victoria, the capital, and the diversity of the Seychellois people.

He expressed that exhibiting in such a museum feels like taking part in the Olympics for an artist.

“Being invited to a museum is not an everyday thing. It means that you have a certain reputation and it means that there is a certain level that you have reached to be able to exhibit with such a museum,” said Henri.

He feels that having exhibited in over 45 international solo and collective exhibition and countless local ones paved his way to where he is today. Internationally, his work has been displayed in many African, Asian and European countries and locally, his painting hangs in the arrival lounge of the airport, in banks and in hotels.

Speaking about the exhibition at the Zündorfer Wehrturm museum Henri said that such exposure was not just for him but for Seychelles as a whole.

“It is not about Nigel Henri, it is about my country. It will help with the marketing of Seychelles as a tourist destination, and as we know, the German market is very good here.”

He wishes to see other artists follow in his footstep, getting recognition on the international platform and making the archipelago proud. 

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Global meet to mull trade rules to protect endangered species

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Global meet to mull trade rules to protect endangered species(FILES) In this file photo taken on June 07, 2013 a mako shark, caught 40 miles off the Monaco coast in JUne 2000 is displayed at the exhibition “Requins” (Sharks)in the Oceanographic Museum in Monaco. Dozens of countries will push at a global meeting for regulations on trade in 18 types of shark and ray, with conservationists warning on August 15, 2019 of looming extinction for many species. (Valery HACHE / AFP)

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(AFP) – Specialists will meet in Geneva from Saturday to try to tighten rules on trade in elephant ivory, rhino horns and other endangered animal and plant species amid growing alarm over accelerating extinctions.

Thousands of conservationists and policymakers from more than 180 countries will meet for 12 days to evaluate changes to regulations and species protection listings under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

The treaty, created more than four decades ago, regulates trade in over 35,000 species of plants and animals and contains mechanisms to help crack down on illegal trade and sanction countries that break the rules.

CITES Secretary General Ivonne Higuero said the conference would “focus on strengthening existing rules and standards while extending the benefits of the CITES regime to additional plants and animals threatened by human activity.”

The meeting follows warnings about rapid species decline, with a UN report in May indicating that one million species are being pushed to the brink of extinction.

– Poaching crisis –

The devastation caused to many species by poaching and booming illegal wildlife trade will be in the spotlight during the meeting, as will new challenges arising as the illicit commerce increasingly moves online.

As is often the case, the plight of African elephants is expected to dominate the discussions.

Global trade in elephant ivory has largely been outlawed since 1989 after their numbers plunged from millions in the mid-20th century.

The African Elephant Database estimates that by 2015, fewer than 415,000 of the giant mammal remained on the continent.

The CITES meeting, which is held every three years, will consider three competing elephant proposals.

Two proposals from countries in southern Africa, where elephant populations have more protection and are healthier, urge the resumption of ivory stockpile sales.

They argue this could satisfy the demand, especially from Asia, that is fuelling illegal poaching and would provide funds for conservation programmes.

Animal protection activists counter that previous experiments with stockpile sales actually boosted demand for tusks, and more poaching, since it is hard to distinguish between legal and illegal ivory.

“We should not be repeating this again when the poaching crisis is still so severe,” Matthew Collis, policy chief at the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), told AFP.

Several countries in western, eastern and central Africa meanwhile want all elephant populations, including healthier southern ones, to be placed in the most-protected category, effectively barring all ivory sales.

None of the proposals are expected to be voted through however.

– Mammoth ivory –

Collis said attention should focus on legal and illegal ivory markets that are driving demand, to shut down “avenues for criminals to launder their ivory.”

One of 56 proposals on the meeting’s agenda aims to prevent traffickers from passing off illegal elephant ivory as coming from mammoths, by listing the long-extinct mammals as a threatened species and thus subject to regulated trade.

CITES scientific chief Tom De Meulenaer said the idea raises interesting philosophical questions about the boundaries of the treaty, but noted that the practice did not seem to be taking place on a large scale.

– Rhino horn trade? –

Southern white rhinos that have been heavily poached in recent years will also figure on the agenda, with Swaziland seeking to sell its existing rhino horn stock.

Collis termed such an idea “disastrous”, and “deeply flawed” as there is currently no legal market for rhino horn.

Giraffes are on the agenda for the first time, with a number of African countries calling for a so-called Appendix II listing that would require tracking and regulation of trade in giraffe parts.

The African giraffe population is considered threatened after shrinking by an estimated 40 percent over the past three decades.

But the CITES secretariat voiced scepticism that trade was a major factor behind the decline, which has largely been linked to habitat loss.

Collis questioned this, pointing to US data indicating that in the decade prior to 2015, around 40,000 giraffe parts, mainly bones, had been traded.

Finally, three proposals for Appendix II listings of 18 heavily fished shark and ray species have been sponsored by dozens of countries, indicating strong support.

© Agence France-Presse

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Medal-winning athletes receive monetary prizes after Indian Ocean Island Games

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Medal-winning athletes receive monetary prizes after Indian Ocean Island GamesThe swimming team collected 11 gold medals with seven from Felicity Passon. (Jude Morel)

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(Seychelles News Agency) – Seychellois athletes who won medals at the 10th edition of the Indian Ocean Island Games in Mauritius received their monetary rewards on Wednesday.

The financial rewards for medal winners is a government incentive to encourage and motivate athletes at international competitions.

In her sending off address before the games, the Designated Minister who also holds the sports portfolio, had announced that for the Indian Ocean Island Games 2019, the government was offering SCR 40,000 ($2,937) for a gold medal, SCR 25,000 ($1,836) for a silver medal and SCR 12,000 ($876) for a bronze medal.

Seychelles won 111 medals, among which were 28 gold, 32 silver and 51 bronze.

Over SCR 2.5 million ($185,600) was distributed among the athletes who brought home medals in a ceremony at the International Conference Centre in the capital Victoria.

Swimmer Felicity Passon pocketed the highest amount — SCR 367,000 ($26,900) —  for her seven gold medals, three silver and one bronze.

“I feel really happy. I feel honoured and I’m really excited by everything that’s happening. I just want to thank everyone for all the support. I really couldn’t have done it without them,” Passon told reporters after the ceremony.

Top financial rewards also went to Steven Baccus, Clementina Agricole and Romantha Larue who all won three gold medals in weightlifting.

The weightlifters brought home 9 gold medals. (Jude Morel) Photo License: CC-BY

Baccus has had a 100 percent success in six consecutive Indian Ocean Games, winning 18 gold medals in total. 

Asked how he felt after receiving the financial rewards, Baccus said, “I see it as a good thing that the government has done because after working hard you need to be rewarded. Like in everything that you do where you make many sacrifices there comes the day that you have to be rewarded.”

In her address at the ceremony, Minister Mondon congratulated all athletes whom she said made maximum efforts to win medals, especially gold.

“Believe and succeed was the motto of team Seychelles for the competition. Seychellois athletes went with positive thinking to believe that yes, they can succeed in bringing medals and that is exactly what many of them did in Mauritius from the 19 to 28 July,” she said.

She added that: “Today I am honouring the commitment I made to you on behalf of the government to reward those who performed better according to the medals you won.”

The chief executive of the National Sports Council, Jean Larue, also congratulated the athletes not only for their performances but the exemplary behaviours they had at the Games.

Volleyball was the only team sport to win gold for the third consecutive games. (Jude Morel) Photo License: CC-BY

“Today I am happy because 60 percent of what we achieved was from the young athletes. They went and they showed us that they are able to do perform. Of course, they had the more experienced next to them who helped them grow during the 10 days,” said Larue.

He added that the athletes had said they were going to bring medals and they did and “the work they have done for a long time brought success and for that, they and their parents should be proud.”

Athletes who won gold also received a voucher to the value of SCR 10,000 ($730) from the All Weather Builders company.   

The biggest sponsor of Seychelles, a group of 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean, for Games, was the Mauritius Commercial Bank.

The next competition for Team Seychelles is the All Africa Games which will start August 19 in Morocco.

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India’s Modi hails ‘path-breaking’ Kashmir move

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India's Modi hails 'path-breaking' Kashmir moveStudents of Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba (IJT), a wing of religious political party Pakistan Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), burn a photograph of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a protest in Peshawar on August 7, 2019. Pakistan announced on August 7 that it is expelling the Indian High Commissioner and suspending bilateral trade with its nuclear-armed neighbour, days after New Delhi stripped the disputed Kashmir region of its special autonomy. (ABDUL MAJEED / AFP)

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(AFP) – Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed on Thursday his “path-breaking” move to strip the restive region of Kashmir of its autonomy, in a tub-thumping speech marking Indian Independence Day.

Parts of Kashmir that India controls — it is split with arch-rival Pakistan — have been under lockdown since August 4, with freedom of movement restricted and phones and the internet cut.

A day later New Delhi scrapped Article 370 in the Indian constitution that had granted Kashmir special status, splitting the state of Jammu and Kashmir in two and downgrading them to union territories.

Modi, in a speech from the ramparts of the Red Fort in Delhi, said Thursday that the decision was one of several “path-breaking” moves by his newly re-elected administration.

He said “fresh thinking” was needed after seven decades of failure to ensure harmony in the region.

“We do not believe in creating problems or prolonging them. In less than 70 days of the new government, Article 370 has become history. And in both houses of parliament, two-thirds of the members supported this step,” said Modi, 68.

“Jammu-Kashmir and Ladakh will become a big inspiration for India‘s growth journey, comfort, progress and peace,” he said. Ladakh is the newly carved-out union territory.

“The old arrangement in Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh encouraged corruption and nepotism, as well as injustice when it came to rights of women, children, (low-caste) Dalits, tribal communities,” he said.

“Their dreams get new wings,” he said.

– Extra troops –

Pakistan has launched a diplomatic offensive aimed at reversing the order and formally asked the United Nations Security Council late Tuesday to hold an emergency session to address India‘s “illegal actions”.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, who has compared Modi’s government to Nazi Germany, said Wednesday that time had come to teach Delhi a lesson and promised to “fight until the end” against any Indian aggression.

“The Pakistani army has solid information that they (India) are planning to do something in Pakistani Kashmir, and they are ready and will give a solid response,” Khan said in Muzaffarabad, capital of Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since independence from Britain in 1947, and has been the spark for two major wars and countless clashes between the two nuclear-armed arch-rivals.

Fearing protests and unrest over India‘s latest move, tens of thousands of extra Indian troops have been deployed to Kashmir — joining 500,000 already there — turning parts of the main city of Srinagar into a fortress of roadblocks and barbed wire.

University professors, business leaders and activists are among more than 500 people taken into custody in the region, some of them spirited away to other locations around India, according to press reports.

Restrictions have been lifted in the Jammu region, where Hindus are in a majority, according to the government, but remain in place in the Kashmir Valley, the main hotbed of resistance to Indian rule over decades.

“Restrictions imposed in Jammu have been completely removed and schools and other establishments there are functioning,” local police official Munir Khan told Indian media.

“Restrictions will continue in some places of Kashmir for some time,” he said.

The lockdown has not completely prevented anger bursting out into the open, however.

According to residents around 8,000 people protested after Friday prayers, with security forces firing tear gas and pellet-firing shotguns to break up the rally.

Only on Tuesday did the Indian government confirm that clashes, blaming them on stone-throwing “miscreants” and saying its forces reacted with “restraint”.

Footage filmed by AFP on Monday showed hundreds of people protesting in the Soura area of Srinagar, shouting slogans such as “We want freedom” and “India go back” as helicopters buzzed overhead.

Modi’s 90-minute speech ended with the prime minister leading chants of “Jai Hind” (“Long live India“) with schoolchildren dressed in the saffron, white and green of the Indian flag, before a rendition of the national anthem.

© Agence France-Presse

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Ecological disaster on Greek island as fire burns on

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Ecological disaster on Greek island as fire burns onA man looks at a fire-fighting plane dropping water over a wildfire near the village of Stavros, on the Greek Evia island on August 14, 2019. Hundreds of villagers were evacuated on August 13 and the Greek prime minister cancelled a vacation as scores of firefighters battled a major wildfire on the country’s second-largest island of Evia, authorities said. “Conditions are exceptionally difficult and the state’s first priority is to protect lives,” Greek prime minister told reporters outside the fire department’s centre of operations, after cutting short a vacation on his home island of Crete. Four Canadair fire-fighting planes from Croatia and Italy would be deployed on August 14 after Greece requested EU assistance. (Louisa GOULIAMAKI / AFP)

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(AFP) – Firefighters on the Greek island of Evia were still battling Wednesday to contain a fire that has caused massive damage to a pristine mountain wildlife habitat after threatening four communities.

“It’s a huge ecological disaster in a unique, untouched pine forest,” said acting regional governor Costas Bakoyannis.

The fire that broke out in the early hours of Tuesday on Greece‘s second-largest island prompted the evacuation of the villages of Kontodespoti, Makrymalli, Stavros and Platana, and threatened the town of Psachna during the night, officials said.

“From Psachna to Kontodespoti and Makrymalli everything has been burned down. It’s fortunate that we do not have human victims,” Thanassis Karakatzas, a deputy regional civil protection officer, told state agency ANA.

Over 200 firefighters were in action backed by 75 fire trucks, nine water-bombing helicopters and seven planes along a 12-kilometre (seven-mile) front, managing to avert damage to inhabited areas.

– Power outages and water cuts –

“We succeeded in protecting human lives and saving properties,” said citizen’s protection minister Michalis Chrisohoidis.

“We should be able to tackle the fire by the end of the day,” Yiannis Razos, a local official, told Athens municipal radio.

The area faced power outages and water cuts on Wednesday, residents said.

An Italian water bomber was expected to join the fray later in the day after Greece requested EU assistance. A second Italian plane and two more from Spain were due to arrive by the evening.

EU Humanitarian Commissioner Christos Stylianides, who held talks with senior officials in Athens, called the mobilisation of Greek forces “exemplary”.

“I think we will be able to limit the ecological losses…European solidarity is tangible,” Stylianides told reporters.

However, the fire has caused major damage to the 550-hectare wildlife habitat of Agrilitsa.

No injuries or respiratory problems that required hospitalisation wre reported at the height of the emergency on Tuesday, Health Minister Vassilis Kikilias said in a tweet.

But three ambulances were stationed close to the area as a precaution.

Greece has been hit by a spate of wildfires since the weekend, fanned by gale-force winds and temperatures of 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit).

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who cancelled his summer vacation and returned to Athens on Tuesday, acknowledged that the fire crews had had a gruelling battle, with the fire department handling about 50 blazes daily.

“I am aware that our firefighters, particularly over the last five days, have given their all, they are without sleep and often without food,” Mitsotakis said.

Other fires on Tuesday were contained on the island of Thassos, the central region of Viotia, and in the Peloponnese region.

On Monday, a major forest fire threatening homes in Peania, an eastern suburb of Athens, was brought under control. At least two houses were burned but there were no reports of injuries.

On Sunday, a fire on the small island of Elafonissos, in the Peloponnese, was brought under control after a two-day battle.

Two more fires were doused on Saturday in Marathon, close to Mati, the coastal resort where 102 people died last year in Greece‘s worst fire disaster.

© Agence France-Presse

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Supermarket in Seychelles fined $ 7,000 for selling goods past date of expiration

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Supermarket in Seychelles fined $ 7,000 for selling goods past date of expirationDanny Faure as the Vice President then and former tourism minister with the owner of the supermarket on the day it opened in May 2015. (Seychelles Nation)

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(Seychelles News Agency) – An international supermarket chain in Seychelles has been fined SCR 100,000 ($7,000) by the Fair Trading Commission (FTC) for failing to comply with consumer protection regulations. 

SPAR Eden Island supermarket was found to have sold goods past their expiry dates, without prices, without an expiry date, and without labels in plain language.

The FTC Board of Commissioners has given the supermarket 60 days to make the payment.

SNA contacted SPAR supermarket but store officials declined to comment.

The supermarket located at Eden Island, a reclaimed land along the eastern coast of the main island of Mahe, is the first SPAR retail shop to open in Seychelles in 2015. 

SPAR is an international group of independently owned and operated retailers and wholesalers who work together in partnership under the SPAR international brand from the Netherlands.

The chief executive of FTC, Francis Lebon, told SNA on Wednesday that the commission is working very hard to ensure that consumers get a fair deal.

“We are constantly doing our routine checks in shops and other businesses to ensure that they are selling products that are good and meet the general safety requirements,” said Lebon.

Fines are currently being imposed on companies or individuals found to be in breach of the Consumer Protection Act 2010 of Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean. Last year, 97 complaints were related to consumer goods.

The Fair Trading Commission is an independent government body established under the Fair Trading Commission Act, 2009. The Commission’s aim is to safeguard the interests of consumers, promote competition and fair trade in Seychelles to benefit consumers, businesses, and the economy.

The Commission is empowered to carry out investigations in relation to the conduct of business to determine if any enterprise is engaging in practices that in breach of the Consumer Protection Act of 2010.

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Want to visit the outer islands? Prices for Seychellois citizens just became more affordable

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Want to visit the outer islands? Prices for Seychellois citizens just became more affordableDesroches is among the outer islands that IDC has accommodations for visitors. (Gerard Larose)

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(Seychelles News Agency) – More Seychellois will be able to afford visiting some outer islands of Seychelles when the Islands Development Company (IDC) lowers transportation and accommodation prices in September.

IDC manages Silhouette and 13 outer islands of the 115-island archipelago of the western Indian Ocean, including Desroches, Astove, Remire, Alphonse and Platte.

“To encourage more Seychellois to visit the outer islands therefore, the Board of Directors has taken the decision to lower the fares for return flights to the islands which are most distant from Mahe. The fares will now be the same as for Desroches, which is relatively close,” said Michael Payet the company’s public relations and communications manager.

Between September 2019 and May 2020, coinciding with the peak tourist season during which there are regular flights to the islands, return fares will be $215 per night plus $36 for accommodation and meals.

Flights fares to the outer islands currently vary between $215 to $716 and accommodations and food per person per day is $54. IDC has accommodation on six outer islands – Desroches, Farquhar, Astove, Alphonse, Remire and Platte.

On Farquhar, cyclone-proof guesthouses facilities have been built and are being used by visitors.  (www.idc.sc) Photo License: All Rights Reserved

The bedrooms in the IDC guesthouses at the disposal of Seychellois only are air-conditioned, apart from the ones on Silhouette. Meals are offered on a full board basis, consisting of breakfast, lunch and dinner and some islands offer complimentary bicycles and canoes. Depending on the island, between two to 12 persons can be accommodated at a time.

Due to infrequent flights to Remire and Platte, the new schemes will not apply to those two islands. This will be the case until planned projects on the two islands are completed.

Over the past five years, IDC has noticed a slow increase in the number of local visitors to the islands. Silhouette is the most visited by Seychellois. Between March 2018 and March 2019, 714 locals stayed on the island.

“Over the same period, 147 visitors stayed in the guesthouses on the outer islands and spent a total of 123 room nights there,” said Savy.

IDC doesn’t think more visitors will affect wildlife unduly or increase pollution significantly if visitors abide by the rules. “We are very conscious of the need to preserve the fragile environment in those special places,” said Savy.

The company’s board is also considering two further schemes.  These will be a scheme for residents of the Homes for the Elderly to visit Silhouette. Another will be directed at primary and secondary school students who have excelled in environmental activities and projects.

The board members and senior management of the company sought the opinion of the government, National Assembly and public during the preparation of IDC’s five-year Development plan for 2018 to 2023.

Improving accessibility to the islands was a point made during the consultation, after which this point was included in the plan as one of IDC’s strategic objectives.

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C.Africa militias abuse peace deal to tighten grip, say experts

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C.Africa militias abuse peace deal to tighten grip, say experts(FILES) In this file photo taken on March 16, 2019 a Minusca armoured vehicle secures the Bambari hospital. The peace deal between the Central African Republic government and rebel groups remains fragile, nearly six months after it was signed. Members of the armed groups who signed the deal have violated international humanitarian law nearly every day since it was signed, said the experts. MINUSCA, the UN peacekeeping mission in the country, had recorded between 10 and 70 violations of the peace deal, every week.(FLORENT VERGNES / AFP)

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(AFP) – After years of bloodshed in the poor and largely lawless Central African Republic, renewed hopes of peace are being eroded by the country’s militia groups, experts say.

The military situation across the landlocked country has been considered stable since the deal — the 13th in a decade — was signed in February between the government and 14 armed groups

But assaults on civilians and fighting among the militias themselves continue unabated in the provinces, and some armed groups are even misusing terms of the pact to tighten their grip.

A new report to the UN says impediments to peace range from attacks on civilians and humanitarian workers to “doublespeak” from rebel forces, banditry and arms trafficking.

“There is little evidence to demonstrate that there has been a significant change in the behaviour of combatants or that leaders have made efforts to identify and discipline those responsible,” according to the report, authored by experts.

The panel was founded to advise the UN on enforcing sanctions on the CAR, including travel bans on targeted individuals, the freezing of assets and an arms embargo.

The CAR has been struggling to recover from the bloodletting that broke out when former president Francois Bozize, a Christian, was overthrown in 2013 by mainly Muslim Seleka rebels.

Former colonial ruler France intervened militarily under a UN mandate, pushing the Seleka from power, and a UN peacekeeping mission was set up to help stability.

But the country is still engulfed in regular clashes and armed groups control about 80 percent of the country.

Murders, rapes, hold-ups, kidnapping and arbitrary detention account for anything between 10 and 70 violations of the CAR peace agreement recorded each week by MINUSCA, the 15,000-strong UN stabilisation force in the country.

– Disarmament task –

The only force capable of rapid deployment across the country to tackle violence, MINUSCA favours dialogue over military action, critics say, especially since the latest peace accord was signed.

UN troops intervened in April to clear the supply corridor from the capital Bangui to neighbouring Cameroon, when it was temporarily blocked by militias loyal to Abdoulaye Miskine.

But no military action was taken against militia of the force known as “3R” (Return, Reclamation and Rehabilitation and Force) who massacred 46 civilians in the northern town of Paoua on May 22. The 3R arms trafficking lines to obtain weapons from Chad are detailed in the report.

3R leader Souleyman Bi Sidi, alias “Abbas Sidiki”, is one of several leaders named by the experts for attempting to use provisions of the peace pact, “in particular the establishment of joint security units, as a way to legitimise their control over parts of the country.”

The Paoua massacre will not be forgotten, Mankeur Ndiaye, the UN special representative in the country has pledged, adding that the UN is putting pressure on those responsible.

Although they faced possible prosecution, several leaders of armed groups were integrated into the new “inclusive” government formed on March 3, as part of the peace agreement signed in the Sudanese capital Khartoum.

Yet, according to the report issued last month, some of these leaders are reluctant to respect the provisions of the agreement.

One of the biggest blanks is their participation in a “disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and repatriation” programme — a keystone initiative launched last December aimed at dialling down tension and returning militiamen to civilian life.

– Troubled centre –

More than 450 militiamen belonging to smaller groups have been disarmed in the west, an area where government authorities are slowly regaining control.

But disarmament will be more complex in the central regions.

These are occupied by the two most powerful armed groups: the former Seleka militia the Popular Front for the Rebirth of the Central African Republic (FPRC) led by Abdoulaye Hissene and Nourredine Adam, and the Union for Peace in Central Africa (UPC) commanded by Ali Darassa.

“The FPRC made multiple declarations of peace, but does not intend to disarm its men,” one FPRC source said.

MINUSCA also condemns armed groups in FPRC- and UPC-controlled areas for failing to lift illicit checkpoints where merchants are forced to pay tolls.

“They remove one, then install another one,” said Balla Keita, commander of the UN force. As well as illegal tolls, armed groups earn revenue from exploitation of gold and diamond deposits in areas they control.

According to the UN report, the FPRC and the UPC also continue to source war material from the borders of 

© Agence France-Presse

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