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Peace a distant and naive dream as PM Kabila refuses to resign

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The UN peacekeepers are on red alert – a call has just been put out on the radio.

“Red zone, red zone”. There’s a ripple of sound around our truck as they cock their weapons ready.

The two-truck convoy we are in is entering one of the areas in the north east of the Democratic Republic of Congo identified as a ‘hotspot’.

Village after village in parts of Ituri province appear to have been attacked.

Many of the homes have been set alight and are destroyed through fire. Some are smashed to the ground, leaving just a pile of gravel.

On some of the walls still standing, there’s graffiti scrawled by various rebel groups. Many of the communities have been deserted, leaving behind the shells of vandalised buildings and the scraps of lives scattered around the dust.

There have been repeated attacks directed against residents. In Kafe village, which sits on Lake Albert, many have fled in boats across to Uganda which now houses the most number of refugees in Africa.

The DRC is a mineral-rich country but its people are poor
Image:
The DRC is a mineral-rich country but its people are poor

The UN Uruguayan contingent we are with set about fortifying their position in Kafe, laying out barbed wire, filling sandbags, setting up lookout posts surrounding our camp.

Peacekeepers have been killed and aid workers kidnapped elsewhere in this country, so they are under strict instructions not to take any chances.

:: Militia attacks displaced children with machetes in war-ravaged DR Congo

Few areas are considered safe in the restive DRC right now. There are more than 16,000 UN peacekeepers in the country – the largest peacekeeping operation in the world – but peace seems a distant naive dream here right now.

The upsurge in violence which is threatening to engulf the DRC is being put down to the political instability amid increasingly strident calls for President Joseph Kabila to step down.

His second mandate expired in December 2016, but so far he has resisted calls for him to resign and hold elections.

Various government statements from ministers have insisted recently he will respect the constitution – and elections will be held in December but it has done little to quell the unrest or halt the violence.


A severely malnourished child in the Democratic Republic of Congo



Video:
Plight of DRC’s ‘internally displaced’

It has all added to the growing humanitarian crisis leaving swathes of the country desperate for food and huge numbers of the population displaced – having been frightened away from their homes and communities and moved to other areas of the country.

They are now living in large crowded, squalid camps under tarpaulin bamboo tents where disease is festering and where despair is the only commodity not in short supply.

Aid agencies say the humanitarian situation in the former Belgian colony is reaching breaking point with more than 13 million people needing help – that’s the same number as in Syria.

Yet there is little worldwide awareness of what is going on in this mineral-rich country. DRC should be rich, her people should go to sleep with full stomachs every night.

The country is Africa’s largest producer of copper and has more than half of the world’s stock of cobalt under its soil.

Yet it is pitifully low on the UN Human Development Index and hasn’t experienced a peaceful transition of power since independence in 1960.

UN soldiers patrol the area surrounding the village of Kafe
Image:
UN soldiers patrol the area surrounding the village of Kafe

The increasingly autocratic DRC authorities have denounced the mounting humanitarian concerns as exaggerated.

The President and his administration are deeply unpopular and his army, of which he is Commander in Chief, is much feared.

Many suspect the Congolese soldiers are somehow involved in stoking the unrest.

The President has used it as an excuse not to hold elections in the past. And his administration has said it won’t attend an aid donor conference in mid-April which was due to raise billions for the country’s struggling people.


Mave, 11, ran away from two militiamen but they caught up and hacked at her head and neck



Video:
‘They cut me like they were killing a goat’

The UN convoy rolls into another village. They stop to chat to the residents. Their presence, they hope, instils some calm amongst the population and acts as a deterrent to the multiple militia groups doing the attacking.

In the crowd of hungry people, many of whom have fled their homes in Tche, we spot a small baby on the back on a child who herself only looks about eight years old.

The baby is crying. It’s a sick, hungry, wailing cry. It turns out Novita has been surviving here with her baby sister and four-year-old brother for three weeks now.

The three of them have been on their own for three weeks. They’ve somehow survived by begging for scraps from strangers.

They got separated from their parents when their village was attacked. They have no idea where their parents are or even if they’re still alive.

They look dusty, noticeably thin and terrified. They tell us the last time they ate was a couple of days ago.

The surrounding adults appear somewhat embarrassed at our questions about who is looking after them. Everyone here is hungry. Everyone. The UN Captain turns to me. “Yes. It’s awful. Truly, truly tragic.”

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French fisherman says the post-Brexit fishing agreement is ‘unfair and unsustainable’ | World News

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On Monday morning in the harbour of Granville in Normandy, the anchors were up before dawn.

While most of the town slept, the fishermen boarded their boats, slacks in hands, cigarettes in mouths.

For many the last time they went out wasn’t to fish but to fight.

Fishermen in France say the new post-Brexit licensing rules weren't discussed or agreed on
Image:
Fishermen in France say the new post-Brexit licensing rules weren’t discussed or agreed on

Granville is one of the closest French ports to Jersey.

A week ago 50-or-so boats from here and other towns up the coast sailed to protest outside the port of St Helier.

The Cap Lihou fishing boat, her captain and three crew were among them.

Their target: new post-Brexit licences needed to fish in Jersey’s waters.

Today, however, it was scallops they sought, with huge mechanical dredging nets pulling up sand, shellfish and seafood.

Boats use tracking systems to see where other vessels are, but some do not have enough data to be eligible for longer licenses
Image:
Boats use tracking systems to see where other vessels are, but some do not have enough data to be eligible for longer licenses

It’s hard, gruelling work. For the 12 hours they spent on the boat, the young men barely stopped; managing the machinery and sifting through the catch by hand.

But they’d rather be fishing in the deeper waters off Jersey – an area that is wider and where the produce is often bigger.

The new licences stipulate how many days each boat is allowed to work there as well as placing restrictions on some equipment.

Captain Baptiste Guenon estimates the new rules will cut his business by half.
Image:
Captain Guenon estimates the new rules will cut his business by half.


The Cap Lihou is now only allowed to fish in Jersey’s waters for 22 days of the year. Previously it would head there at least 100 days in any given year.

Captain Baptiste Guenon estimates the new rules will cut his business by half.

In the cockpit, he points out the navigation system on the boat which tracks where the other vessels are. Almost none of them were in Jersey’s waters, most of them concentrated in just a few square miles.

This week France's maritime minister said talks were ongoing but there hasn't yet been any agreement.
Image:
This week France’s maritime minister said talks were ongoing but there hasn’t yet been any agreement.


It’s a situation he feels is unfair and unsustainable.

“Jersey needs France in order to sell its produce,” he says. “And we need them for 50% of the fishing waters we use.

“It’s an agreement that’s been in place for years and that they’ve broken.”

Last week, French fishermen were protesting the rules. This week Captain Baptise's team were out hunting scallops
Image:
Last week, French fishermen were protesting the rules. This week Captain Baptiste Guenon’s team were out hunting scallops

Fishing for him is more than just a livelihood, it’s a family history and tradition. Every man in his family all the way up to his great-grandfather have been fishermen.

Because of its geographical proximity, French fishermen have fished in Jersey’s waters amicably for centuries.

Baptiste and his colleagues say all they want is a continuation of what they’ve always had, and they insist new conditions weren’t discussed or agreed.

The British authorities say that time allocated in each licence is based on how much each boat has previously fished in Jersey’s waters. It can be updated if more records are forthcoming.

Jersey fishermen are now being banned and blocked from landing their catch and selling it at numerous ports along the Normandy and Brittany coastlines
Image:
Jersey fishermen are now being banned and blocked from landing their catch and selling it at numerous ports along the Normandy and Brittany coastlines

But not all boats have good enough tracking data to prove where they’ve been and others have fallen through loopholes.

Baptiste says he has a friend who’s been a fisherman for years and who invested a million euros in a new boat just two months ago.

But because the new vessel had only been at sea a few weeks and because the licences are for boats not the captains, he’s been rejected for a licence to fish Jersey waters.

For now, Jersey isn’t backing down and the French are retaliating.

Jersey fishermen are now being banned and blocked from landing their catch and selling it at numerous ports along the Normandy and Brittany coastlines.

It means many now have too much fish and nowhere to sell it.

Louis Jackson owns The Fresh Fish Company based in Jersey and although he supports the new licensing system, he’s concerned about escalation.

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French fishing boats disbanded their protest in Jersey waters but argue their livelihoods are at risk.

“I’m worried about the future of the fishing industry in Jersey,” he says. “Because of Brexit, we have a golden opportunity to change things and be on a more-than-even playing field.

“At the moment everything is geared towards the French.”

And there are other serious threats on the table. The French maritime minister Annick Girardin has previously threatened to cut electricity to Jersey. Some 90% of the power to the island comes from France via underwater cables.

This week she said talks were ongoing but there hasn’t yet been any agreement.

Meanwhile, the EU backs France.

According to Captain Baptise, the current situation seems unfair and unsustainable
Image:
According to Captain Guenon, the current situation seems ‘
‘unfair and unsustainable’

Michel Barnier, the EU’s former chief Brexit negotiator, said the British were acting like “pirates”.

But any official intervention would be slow and likely take many months to resolve: time fisherman on neither side have.

As his catch was hoisted off the Cap Lihou and onto the harbour, Baptiste looked on.

“I’m angry, astonished but above all confused,” he says. “If it doesn’t get sorted soon, things could get a lot worse.”

Politically there’s still a lot to unpack. Fishermen have little choice but to wait.

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Israel-Gaza violence: Street battles break out in cities where Jews and Arabs have coexisted | World News

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The horror for the communities of Gaza and the terror for communities in southern Israel is rightly the focus in this latest clash in the long struggle between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

From Gaza the rockets continue to fly, and into Gaza the missiles continue to drop.

But amidst this renewed conflict, the bitter history behind it and a toxic politics has spawned something else.

In Israeli cities for the past two nights, lynch mobs have run riot.

Israeli security force members patrol during a night-time curfew following violence in the Arab-Jewish town of Lod, Israel May 12, 2021
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Israeli security force members patrol during a night-time curfew in Lod

Extraordinary, violent and gruesome videos are flooding Israeli social media.

They show Israeli Arabs and Israeli Jews in street battles.

In Bat Yam near Tel Aviv a video shows an Israeli Arab being attacked in his car by mobs of Israeli Jews.

Another video shows a blooded man lying on the ground and being repeatedly kicked in the face.

A burnt vehicle is seen after violent confrontations in the city of Lod, Israel between Israeli Arab demonstrators and police, amid high tensions over hostilities between Israel and Gaza militants and tensions in Jerusalem May 12, 2021
Image:
Extraordinary, violent and gruesome videos are flooding Israeli social media

Another shows rocks being hurled at a shop owned by an Arab.

In the northern town of Akko rioters set fire to one of the country’s most famous restaurants, Uri Buri (which was ironically a local symbol of coexistence).

In the central city of Lod, Jewish Israelis told me that Arab gangs had run amok in the town smashing cars owned by Jews and throwing rocks at police.

But around the corner next to charred cars owned by Arabs, young men told me it was the Jews who started it.

People walk next to burnt vehicles as they enter a building after violent confrontations in the city of Lod, Israel between Israeli Arab demonstrators and police, amid high tensions over hostilities between Israel and Gaza militants and tensions in Jerusalem May 12, 2021
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Cars belonging to people on both sides of the violence have been destroyed during days of fighting

Whoever it began with, the point is that there is significant civil unrest in cities across the country.

Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is spooked by it all and he is right to be.

He can end the conflict in Gaza with a single order. It may take days or weeks but it’s in his gift.

But such open hatred on Israeli streets – that’s feels rather more existential. This country’s deep schisms are well known and these past few days they have been dangerously exposed.

Remember – what’s happening here isn’t clashes between Jews in Israel and Palestinians in the West Bank.

This is unrest in cities within Israel, where people of these different cultures and different religions had managed to live alongside each other.

Arabs with Israeli citizenship (Palestinian Citizens of Israel) are those Palestinians who were not forcibly moved from their homes during the Nakba in 1948.

Around 700,000 Palestinians were forced out of their land during Israel’s “War of Independence” but some managed to stay.

A coexistence in these towns has been blown apart in the space of just a few days.

Mr Netanyahu visited some of the towns in the safety of daylight and called the clashes “unbearable”.

“It is something we cannot accept, it is anarchy. Nothing justifies it…”

But is he just reaping what he sowed? Far right Israeli nationalism had been emboldened as he tried to build a coalition. And harder line Palestinian / Arab nationalism grows every time perceived injustices are committed against the Palestinians.

Rockets from Gaza again fell on Israeli cities overnight. And the Israelis retaliated once more.

Behind all this, a land so divided for so long feels, right now, extremely tense.

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COVID-19 can infect penis tissue and could lead to erectile dysfunction – study | World News

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COVID-19 can infect tissue in the penis and potentially contribute to erectile dysfunction, researchers have found.

A scientific research paper published in the World Journal of Men’s Health observed the difference in tissue composition between men who had contracted the disease and men who had not.

COVID can cause damage to blood vessels, which in turn can damage parts of the body the vessels supply, including the sponge-like tissue in the penis.

Remnants of the virus were found in penis tissue, as indicated by the blue arrows. Pic: Dr. Ranjith Ramasamy/University of Miami Health System
Image:
Remnants of the virus were found in penis tissue, as indicated by the blue arrows. Pic: Dr Ranjith Ramasamy/University of Miami Health System

Ranjith Ramasamy, associate professor and director of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine’s reproductive urology program led the study.

He said that erectile dysfunction “could be an adverse effect of the virus”.

It focused on four men who were having penile prosthesis surgery for erectile dysfunction.

Two had suffered with COVID-19, and two had not. They were all aged between 65 and 71 and of Hispanic ethnicity.

The pair who had the coronavirus were infected six and eight months before the observations, with one hospitalised for the virus and the other not.

Neither had a history of erectile dysfunction.

Remnants of the virus were observed in the penis tissue of the two COVID-positive men.

Dr Ranjith Ramasamy lead the study. Pic: University of Miami Health System
Image:
Dr Ranjith Ramasamy led the study. Pic: University of Miami Health System

The damage COVID causes to blood vessels is known as endothelial dysfunction.

Dr Ramasamy said: “In our pilot study, we found that men who previously did not complain of ED [erectile dysfunction] developed pretty severe ED after the onset of COVID-19 infection.”

He added: “Our research shows that COVID-19 can cause widespread endothelial dysfunction in organ systems beyond the lungs and kidneys.

“The underlying endothelial dysfunction that happens because of COVID-19 can enter the endothelial cells and affect many organs, including the penis.”

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Eliyahu Kresch, a medical student working with Dr Ramasamy, said: “These latest findings are yet another reason that we should all do our best to avoid COVID-19.”

The paper suggested: “For now, history of COVID-19 should be included in the work-up of ED and positive findings should be investigated accordingly.

“Patients should be aware of the potential complication of post-COVID-19 ED.

“Any changes observed in ED after infection should be followed up with the appropriate specialist for treatment and to help further investigation into the condition.

“Future studies are needed to validate the effects of this virus on sexual function.”

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