Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Ethiopian Army Capable to Avert Provocations of Any Sort: Premier

wendimagegn — May 22, 2022

ADDIS ABEBA – The extensive training the Ethiopian National Defence Forces (ENDF) have got, coupled with its bravery, discipline and capability to withstand challenges put it in utmost readiness to neutralize any sort of provocation from enemy quarters, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

Prime Minister Abiy, who is also the Commander-in-Chief of the ENDF made the above remark yesterday as the Ethiopian Defence War College held its first graduation day.

“Each challenge brings its own unique opportunity, so defense is a great opportunity to organize and build a strong institution in a way that will greatly enhance your self-esteem. The first and foremost mission of the defence is to make Ethiopia prevail”, he said in the occasion.

The Premier further noted that as Ethiopia is a country with a great history and a large population, it will have to be equipped with the latest defence technologies. There is a great need for training to be self-sufficient and to sustain Ethiopia.

“Much of the diplomacy, strategy, leadership skills and knowledge of technology have come from defense. Therefore, graduates need to read, know and work hard.”

As to him, making an immortal history requires a lot of learning, knowledge of history, continuity, and nation-building.

ENDF Chief of Staff Field Marshal Berhanu Jula said for part that the main objective of the War College is to create competent leaders and effectively address the complex national challenges that are filling the leadership gap in the armed forces and other security institutions.

For Defence College Commander Brigadier General Bulti Tadese, a high-level strategic leadership training is essential to curtailing the impact of global and environmental security threats and ensuring the peace and stability of Ethiopia. Efforts need to be made to ensure peace and security in the country, especially in the areas of terrorism, international crime, arms trafficking and human trafficking.

The graduates believe the extensive training they got in the college will enable them to carry out any tasks and withstand any challenges in the areas of deployment.

The War College graduates 38 senior military and civilian leaders for the first time that have taken successive theoretical and practical training over the last two years.

BY TEWODROS KASSA

THE ETHIOPIAN HERALD SUNDAY EDITION 22 MAY 2022

Over 4500 Arrested in the Amhara Region

 

Borkena

Well over 4500 people are arrested in different parts of the Amhara region of Ethiopia in what the government authorities call “law enforcement operation.” 

It is the region’s Peace and Security Office head, Desalegne Tassew, who disclosed the arrest. The office has a press statement regarding the current situation in the region. 

The office is vowing to carry on the duty to ensure “durable peace” in the region, from the report by Amhara Media Corporation (state media from the region). 

According to the report, 40 of the suspects are convicted criminals, and 210 of them are suspects in homicide cases. 

Mr.Desalegn also said the region has now reliable peace except for the operation to arrest what he called outlaws. 

” Government will not tolerate those operating under FANO name but do not represent real FANO and engage in illegal activity against the people,”  he added as reported by AMC. 

He also said, according to the source, the regional government is organising “Real FANO” to work under the government structure. 

It is unclear if FANO will maintain its neutrality, as a volunteer force defending people in the region and the country from attacks of a military nature, if it is working under a government structure. It is also unclear if it will remain a volunteer group or employees of the regional government. 

There has been extensive criticism, mostly from politicised ethnic Amhara in and outside of Ethiopia,  against the regional government on alleged grounds of submissiveness to a radical ethnic Oromo ideology called Oromummaa. 

It has also been criticised for what many believe is an inability to protect ethnic Amhara from organised massacres in different parts of Ethiopia. 

Last week, the regional government released a statement saying that it is facing security threats from groups whom it said are facilitating a crisis for the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). 

It also ordered security forces across the region to be on standby to respond to TPLFs mobilisation against Amhara region and the rest of Ethiopia. 

Ethiopia Launches Crackdown on Journalists and Activists

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Ethiopian security officials are conducting a massive operation across the country that has led to the arrests of more than 4,500 people in one region alone. The crackdown on journalists, activists and others, dubbed a “law enforcement operation,” came into effect after the administration of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on May 20 cited the need to “protect citizens and ensure the survival of the nation.”

On Monday morning, security officials in the northwestern Amhara region announced the arrests of more than 4,500 people. Desalegn Tassew, head of peace and security in the region, told state media outlets the arrests were made “to uphold law and order, deal with criminal activities and get rid of outside enemies.”

Rights groups are expressing alarm. Tigist Shumye, a sister of prominent Ethiopian journalist Solomon Shumye, told The Associated Press he was arrested at his home by people in civilian clothing on May 20. “They were not willing to tell us who they were. They even detained me for two hours, just because I am a sister to a journalist,” she said.

Some political parties and media outlets in the country have been accusing Ethiopia’s government of conducting “abductions,” a practice that some activists call a new tactic. Some Amhara activists claim that the Fano armed group that has been implicated in atrocities in the country’s Tigray war is also targeted.

Some journalists are leaving the country amid threats and intimidation by the government and non-state actors, both online and offline. Recently, Ethiopian officials revoked the license of a journalist accredited to work for The Economist.

Earlier in May, the Ethiopian Mass Media Professionals Association called on the government to end the imprisonment of journalists, citing an increasing trend in arbitrary arrests. “Government security forces’ endless assault against the media … might traumatize the industry for the time being, but eventually such practice will cost the government itself,” it said in a statement.

Ethiopia’s deadly war has subsided in recent months after the government announced a humanitarian truce and Tigray forces accepted it. But killings, rights violations and mass arrests are being reported in several parts of the country, notably in the Oromia and Amhara regions.

On May 20, the U.S. State Department announced that its delegation on Atrocity Prevention and Response will travel to The Hague from May 22 to 25 to “hold high-level talks with allies and partners regarding our responses to atrocities committed in Ukraine, Burma, Ethiopia and other locations experiencing violence.”

Security Concerns, Lack of Support Stall Africa’s Green Wall

By WANJOHI KABUKURU and SAM MEDNICK

FILE - Filao trees form a curtain that protects the beginning of the Great Green Wall, planted to slow coastal erosion along the Atlantic Ocean, in Lompoul village near Kebemer, Senegal, Nov. 5, 2021. A series of complex challenges, including a lack of funding and political will as well as rising insecurity linked to extremist groups al-Qaida and the Islamic State in Burkina Faso, are obstructing progress on Africa's Great Green Wall, according to experts involved in the initiative. (AP Photo/Leo Correa, File)

OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso (AP) — A series of complex challenges, including a lack of funding and political will as well as rising insecurity linked to extremist groups al-Qaida and the Islamic State in Burkina Faso, are obstructing progress on Africa’s Great Green Wall, according to experts involved in the initiative.

There have been some modest gains for the project, which plans to build an 8000-kilometer (4970-mile) long forest through 11 nations across the width of Africa to hold back the ever-growing Sahara Desert and fend off climate change impacts, but many involved with the plan are calling for renewed momentum to combat both insecurity and environmental decline.

Just 4 million hectares (9.9 million acres) of land has been afforested since work on the Green Wall began 15 years ago — a mere 4% of the program’s ultimate goal.

Adama Doulkom, the coordinator for the Great Green Wall for the Sahara and the Sahel Initiative in Burkina Faso, said political instability and security issues are significantly stalling progress in nearly 4,000 villages across the country.

“Terrorist attacks in the affected regions have forced populations to disperse. This limits people’s movements, making it hard for us to directly monitor field actions which could lead to difficulty in creating improvements in certain areas,” Doulkom said.

In the last three years Burkinabe’s Sahel, north and east regions have become inaccessible. Much of the Sahelian region designated for the Green Wall is rife with security issues, with efforts in Sudan, Ethiopia, Mali, Chad, Niger and Nigeria all impacted.

The United Nation’s desertification agency said the plan has several additional challenges to overcome, such as lukewarm high-level political support, weak organizational structures, insufficient coordination and financing, and not enough consideration in national environmental priorities.

The Great Green Wall featured prominently at the U.N. agency’s two-week summit in Abidjan in Ivory Coast, which wrapped up Friday. Desertification, which has severe impacts on food production and security, is exacerbated by climate change and agricultural activity.

First proposed in 2005, the program aims to plant a forest all the way from Senegal on the Atlantic Ocean in the west to Eritrea, Ethiopia and Djibouti in the east. It’s hoped the initiative will create millions of green jobs in rural Africa, reduce levels of climate-related migration in the region and capture hundreds of millions of tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Several countries have struggled to keep up with the demands of the project, with Mali, Nigeria, Djibouti and Mauritania in particular lagging behind.

The U.N. desertification agency says up to 45% of Africa’s land is impacted by desertification, making it more vulnerable than any other continent. The agency’s director, Ibrahim Thiaw, believes that can have multiple negative effects on surrounding communities, including security concerns.

A report released Sunday by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute also noted the link between environmental degradation and conflict. “In the Sahel, social tensions combined with inadequate governance and environmental decline to produce a bigger security risk,” it said.

“By restoring land, you reduce conflicts and irregular migration. There is a link between land restoration and irregular migration,” said Ibrahim Thiaw. “Land restoration is a no-regrets option in that any effort to recover soil health, replenish natural capital and restore land health will deliver benefits that far exceed the costs.”

“What we are calling for now is action to accelerate the implementation of such a program to make sure that farmers, pastoralists, local communities and women are all associated with it,” he added.

Despite a multitude of setbacks, those involved in the project remain optimistic. The coordinator of the Great Green Wall, Elvis Tangem, told the Associated Press that while conflict has slowed down the progress of the project, it has also opened up newer opportunities.

“It started as an environmental project but the dynamics of the region have made us look beyond the ecological aspects of the project and to embrace direct community concerns such as conflict resolution, peace building, youth development, women empowerment and rural development especially among pastoralists and farming communities,” he said.

Some progress has been made in recent years in the east of the continent, according the the program’s coordination office in Addis Ababa.

Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Sudan have all expanded their efforts, with Ethiopia producing 5.5 billion seedlings leading to thousands of hectares of restored land as well as an uptick in job creation. Efforts in Eritrea and Sudan have also resulted in nearly 140,000 hectares (346,000 acres) of afforestation.

Niger is also hailed for making considerable progress.

“In terms of measurable restoration milestones on the ground, Niger can be said to be far ahead of most of the countries with significant citizen awareness and contributing reforestation activities at all levels,” said Tabi Joda, a Great Green Wall ambassador. “More communities are embracing the initiative and taking the lead through their own community led solutions.”

Joda, who heads up youth mobilization for the project, noted that the scheme has seen strong governmental support in Senegal and Nigeria.

Between $36 and $43 billion are needed to realize the Green Wall by 2030, according to estimates by the World Resources Institute. The African Development Bank pledged approximately $6.5 billion for the wall by 2025 during the U.N.’s climate conference in November last year following an effort led by France in early 2021 which committed $14.5 billion towards the project, falling significantly short of the WRI’s estimate.

The U.N. desertification agency says the current land restoration pace must be ramped up to an average of 8.2 million hectares (20 million acres) per year if the project is to achieve its self-imposed goal of 100 million hectares (247 million acres) restored by 2030.

“Investments must be intentional to deliver opportunities that create the right dose of green jobs needed by the critical mass of youths and communities vulnerable to irregular migration and violence due to competition over scarce resources caused by land degradation,” Tabi Joda said.

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Wanjohi Kabukuru reported from Mombasa, Kenya.

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Associated Press climate and environmental coverage receives support from several private foundations. See more about AP’s climate initiative here. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Monday, May 23, 2022

New Floods in Eastern South Africa Displace More Than 300

By MOGOMOTSI MAGOME

A couple, centre, attempt to make their way through muddy waters on a beach near Durban, South Africa, Sunday, May 22, 2022. More than 300 people have been evacuated from their homes as a result of renewed heavy rains, flooding and mudslides in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province, weeks after severe flooding killed more than 400 people and displaced more than 40,000 others. Provincial authorities and emergency personnel say the new rains have damaged roads, homes and electricity infrastructure largely in the northern parts of the province since Friday. (AP Photo)

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — More than 300 people have been evacuated from their homes as a result of renewed heavy rains, flooding and mudslides in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province, weeks after severe flooding killed more than 400 people and displaced more than 40,000 others.

The new rains have damaged roads, homes and electricity infrastructure largely in the northern parts of the province since last Friday, according to provincial authorities and emergency personnel.

KwaZulu-Natal province, which includes the port city of Durban, remains on high alert with warnings of further downpours in some areas.

The new emergency has overstretched local officials who have appealed for assistance from South Africa’s national government, Kwazulu-Natal provincial minister for local government Sipho Hlomuka said in a press briefing.

“We are yet to receive a full comprehensive report on the impact of these latest heavy rains, but as reports come in a worrying picture is emerging,” said Hlomuka.

They also called for the deployment of the South African National Defence Force to the province to assist with disaster management, he said.

The floods that engulfed KwaZulu-Natal last month caused an estimated $1.5 billion in damage to property, said officials.

The communities most affected by the new flooding include Umlazi, Amanzimtoti, Umdloti, Isipingo, Tongaat and Wentworth, which were also badly affected by the previous flooding.

Uganda Detains Opposition Figure Urging Protests Over Prices

By RODNEY MUHUMUZA

FILE - Opposition politician and then presidential candidate Kizza Besigye speaks to the media while under house arrest, at his home in Kasangati, outside the capital Kampala, in Uganda on Feb. 21, 2016. Besigye, a four-time presidential candidate who has been calling for street protests against rising commodity prices, has been unable to leave his home since May 12, 2022 with police pitching camp nearby to enforce his apparent house arrest. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis, File)

KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — A Ugandan opposition figure who is calling for street protests against rising commodity prices is being detained inside his home by police.

Kizza Besigye, a four-time presidential candidate, has been unable to leave his home outside the capital, Kampala, since May 12, with police pitching camp nearby to enforce his apparent house arrest. Ugandan police routinely detain opposition figures inside their homes, insisting they can impose preventive arrest to maintain public order.

Besigye’s detention followed his call for Ugandans to “wake up” and protest against rising commodity prices that the government blames mostly on the war in Ukraine, a major supplier of grain and edible oils.

Besigye is a serial campaigner against the government of longtime President Yoweri Museveni. His “Walk to Work” protest movement following the 2011 presidential election — also sparked by inflationary commodity prices — was violently stopped within months.

Besigye’s current home confinement has drawn anger from his followers, and there are growing calls by activists and others for the government to intervene, possibly by removing taxes on everything from cooking oil to gas.

But authorities are ruling this out and urging the people to tighten their belts.

Museveni, an authoritarian who has been in power since 1986, told Ugandans in a recent speech to substitute cassava for bread, saying the widely cultivated root tuber is a healthy alternative. That drew scorn from many.

“Produce more, if you can. We should also frugally use these imported items or get alternatives,” Museveni said in a speech Sunday.

Museveni, once praised as part of a new generation of African leaders and a longtime U.S. security ally, still has support among many Ugandans for bringing relative stability to this East African country.

But Museveni’s critics say he is increasingly dependent on the security forces to remain in power. The U.S. and others have recently raised alarm over torture allegedly perpetrated by security agents who also are accused of disappearing opposition supporters.

German Chancellor Scholz Kicks off Africa Trip in Senegal

By BABACAR DIONE and FRANK JORDANS

May 22, 2022

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz attends a joint press conference after a meeting with the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, at the chancellery in Berlin, Germany, Friday, May 20, 2022. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said his country is interested in a major gas exploitation project in Senegal as he began a three-nation visit to Africa on Sunday that also is focused on the geopolitical consequences of the war in Ukraine.

Senegal is believed to have significant deposits of natural gas along its border with Mauritania at a time when Germany and other European countries are trying to reduce their dependence on importing Russian gas.

“We have begun exchanges and we will continue our efforts at the level of experts because it is our wish to achieve progress,” Scholz said at a joint news briefing with Senegalese President Macky Sall.

The gas project off the coast of Senegal is being led by BP, and the first barrels are not expected until next year.

This week’s trip marks Scholz’s first to Africa since becoming chancellor nearly six months ago. Two of the countries he is visiting — Senegal and South Africa — have been invited to attend the Group of 7 summit in Germany at the end of June.

Participants there will try to find a common position toward Russia, which was kicked out of the then-Group of Eight following its 2014 seizure of Crimea from Ukraine.

Leaders at the G-7 summit also will be addressing the threat of climate change. Several G-7 countries, including Germany and the United States, signed a ‘just energy transition partnership’ with South Africa last year to help the country wean itself off heavily polluting coal.

A similar agreement is in the works with Senegal, where Germany has supported the construction of a solar farm.

German officials also said Scholz will make a stop in Niger, a country that like its neighbors has long been battling Islamic extremists.

Earlier this month, the German government backed a plan to move hundreds of its soldiers to Niger from neighboring Mali. The development comes amid a deepening political crisis in Mali that prompted former colonial power France to announce it was withdrawing its troops after nine years of helping Mali battle insurgents.

Germany officials say their decision also was motivated by concerns that Malian forces receiving EU training could cooperate with Russian mercenaries now operating in the country.

Germany, though, will increase its participation in a U.N. peacekeeping mission in Mali, providing up to 1,400 soldiers. The Cabinet’s decisions still need to be approved by parliament.

Niger is also a major transit hub for illegal migration to Europe. People from across West Africa connect with smugglers there to make the journey northward to attempt the dangerous trip across the Mediterranean Sea.

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Jordans reported from Berlin.

Lone Survivor of 2009 Plane Crash Testifies in Paris Court

By JADE LE DELEY

FILE - Franco-Comoran Bahia Bakari stands in a courthouse in Paris, France, on May 9, 2022. Bahia Bakari, the lone survivor of a 2009 plane crash in the Indian Ocean, took the stand Monday in a Paris courtroom to recount the deadly accident, and broke down in tears recalling the loss of her mother, among the 152 people killed. Yemen's main airline is charged with manslaughter. (AP Photo/Francois Mori, File)

PARIS (AP) — The lone survivor of a 2009 plane crash in the Indian Ocean took the stand Monday in a Paris courtroom, recounting her ordeal as a 12-year-old girl hearing screams, clinging to floating debris and desperately hoping that her mother was still alive.

Bahia Bakari’s mother was among 152 people who died on the flight operated by Yemen Airways, which is now known as Yemenia.

Composed throughout her testimony, Bakari cried as she mourned her mother’s loss. Others in the courtroom broke down crying too.

Bakari, dressed all in white and praised for her bravery by judges and lawyers, delivered powerful testimony in a room heavy with emotion.

“We were landing, I started to feel some turbulence but people didn’t seem worried about it. Then I felt an electrical shock and I woke up in the water. I don’t remember what happened between sitting in the plane and being in the water. I have a black hole,” Bakari said.

Yemen’s national carrier is charged with manslaughter and unintentional injuries over the crash, which occurred at 11:53 p.m., causing the deaths of 141 passengers and 11 crew members. Sixty-five of the dead were French citizens.

Now 25, Bakari was 12 when she took the plane with her mother to go to Comoros off Africa’s eastern coast to attend a wedding. The plane departed from Paris, made a stopover in the southern French city of Marseille and then landed in Sanaa. Bakari described switching to a smaller plane to go from the Yemeni capital to Moroni in the Comoros. It was a night flight and Bakari remembered that “everyone was exhausted.”

After the plane plunged into the ocean, she grasped a floating part of the destroyed plane and stayed in the water for 11 hours before being saved by fishermen.

Bakari remembered hearing “female voices which screamed for help in Comorian” at first. She then fell asleep and woke up alone: “It was so long. I almost gave up. I almost lost hope. Thinking about my mom helped me to hold up. I convinced myself that everyone except me made it home safe.”

As the hours passed, she said, “I lost track of time when I was in the water.”

After her rescue, Bakari was taken to the Moroni hospital then repatriated to France. Bakari suffered a broken collarbone, a broken hip, burns and other injuries.

Today, “I don’t suffer any physical effects, but my mother is gone. I was very close to her,” she said, in tears.

The young woman, who now works in real estate, has two younger siblings and relied mostly on her father who helped her deal with the trauma. She didn’t seek therapy after leaving the hospital.

“I didn’t feel comfortable talking to a stranger. I was close with my family,” she said.

Bakari said she is “doing much better now,” and resumed flying two years after the crash. She said she doesn’t suffer traumatic flashbacks, but she isn’t at ease in the water.

Bakari couldn’t attend her mother’s funeral because she was still in the hospital, but said she considered herself lucky because her mother’s body was identified, and she had a proper grave.

Bakari, who describes herself as “a proud Comorian,” stood with the more than 250 plaintiffs, who mostly come from Comoros, in a packed courtroom. The trial was broadcast live in a courtroom in Marseille, where many victims came from.

She co-wrote a book “Bahia, the Miracle Girl,” and told the court she did it for the victim’s’ relatives, to “leave them something to hold on to.”

Despite the pain of reliving the memories, she said she felt relieved to have a trial, even so many years later.

In 2015, the airline was ordered in civil proceedings by two French courts to pay more than 30 million euros ($31.6 million) to the victims’ families, who deplored the slowness of the procedure between France and Comoros, a former colony that became independent in 1975.

In 2018, a confidential agreement was signed between the airline and 835 beneficiaries, who had to wait several more years to receive compensation.

No representatives of the company attended the Paris trial. Bakari deplored the absence and said she wishes the company would apologize.

The trial ends on June 2. The airline faces a fine of up to 225,000 euros ($237,000).

World Food Program Chief Presses Billionaires ‘to Step Up’

By JAMEY KEATEN

David Beasley, Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme, arrives to a UN Security Council Meeting on Food Insecurity and Conflict, Thursday, May 19, 2022, at United Nations headquarters. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

DAVOS, Switzerland (AP) — The head of the U.N.’s World Food Program is telling billionaires it’s “time to step up” as the global threat of food insecurity rises with Russia’s war in Ukraine, saying he’s seen encouraging signs from some of the world’s richest people, like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos.

Agency Executive Director David Beasley built upon a social media back-and-forth he had with Musk last year, when the Tesla CEO challenged policy advocates to show how a $6 billion donation sought by the U.N. agency could solve world hunger.

Since then, “Musk put $6 billion into a foundation. But everybody thought it came to us, but we ain’t gotten any of it yet. So I’m hopeful,” Beasley told The Associated Press at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where some of the world’s biggest elites and billionaires have gathered.

“I don’t know what it’s going to take,” he said of Musk. “We’re trying every angle, you know: Elon, we need your help, brother.”

Musk and Bezos didn’t immediately respond to emails or other messages seeking comment.

Beasley’s challenge came as a new study projected that nearly 1.9 billion people could face food insecurity by November. Eurasia Group and DevryBV Sustainable Strategies presented the report at the Global Citizen NOW Summit in New York Monday, saying that as many as 243 million people could fall into food insecurity due to what U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres has called “hurricane of hunger” heightened by the war in Ukraine.

“The projections are bleak right now,” Global Citizen CEO Hugh Evans told The Associated Press. “This doesn’t have to happen. A lot of institutions are failing people.”

Evans said he hopes that launching the Global Citizen Impact Fund, which will only require payment on pledges based on results, will convince ultra high net worth individuals to donate more since they will already have proof of the effectiveness of their gifts. In the short-term, though, Erna Solberg, former prime minister of Norway and a Global Citizen board member, said at the summit that “Agenda Item #1” is to get the grain already harvested in Ukraine out of the country through its ports.

Musk, the world’s richest man, donated about 5 million shares of Tesla stock worth roughly $5.7 billion at the time to an unidentified charity in November, according to a regulatory filing.

It came after Musk tweeted in late October that he would sell $6 billion in Tesla stock and give the money to the World Food Program if the organization would describe how the money would solve world hunger. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing did not name any recipients for Musk’s donation.

Beasley told AP on Monday that his message wasn’t just to those two high-profile tech mavens, but other billionaires, too.

“The world is in real serious trouble. This is not rhetoric and B.S. Step up now, because the world needs you,” he said.

Ukraine and Russia together export a third of the world’s wheat and barley and half of its sunflower oil, while Russia is a top supplier of fertilizer that has surged in price. The Kremlin’s forces are accused of blocking Ukrainian ports, and the interruption of those affordable food staples is threatening food shortages and political unrest in countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

The threat to the global food supply has been a pressing concern for officials, with U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres saying last week that he was in “intense contacts” with Russia and other key countries and is “hopeful” of an agreement to allow the export of grain stored in Ukrainian ports and ensure Russian food and fertilizer have unrestricted access to global markets.

If Ukraine’s supplies remain off the market, the world could face a food availability problem in the next 10 to 12 months, and “that is going to be hell on earth,” Beasley said.

WHO Chief: The COVID Pandemic is ‘Most Certainly Not Over’

May 22, 2022

Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus addresses delegates during the first day of the 75th World Health Assembly at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Sunday, May 22, 2022. (Salvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone via AP)

BERLIN (AP) — The COVID-19 pandemic is “most certainly not over,” the head of the World Health Organization warned Sunday, despite a decline in reported cases since the peak of the omicron wave. He told governments that “we lower our guard at our peril.”

The U.N. health agency’s director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, told officials gathered in Geneva for opening of the WHO’s annual meeting that “declining testing and sequencing means we are blinding ourselves to the evolution of the virus.” He also noted that almost 1 billion people in lower-income countries still haven’t been vaccinated.

In a weekly report Thursday on the global situation, WHO said the number of new COVID-19 cases appears to have stabilized after weeks of decline since late March, while the overall number of weekly deaths dropped.

While there has been progress, with 60% of the world’s population vaccinated, “it’s not over anywhere until it’s over everywhere,” Tedros said.

“Reported cases are increasing in almost 70 countries in all regions, and this in a world in which testing rates have plummeted,” he added.

Reported deaths are rising in Africa, the continent with the lowest vaccination coverage, he said, and only 57 countries — almost all of them wealthy — have vaccinated 70% of their people.

While the world’s vaccine supply has improved, there is “insufficient political commitment to roll out vaccines” in some countries, gaps in “operational or financial capacity” in others, he said.

“In all, we see vaccine hesitancy driven by misinformation and disinformation,” Tedros said. “The pandemic will not magically disappear, but we can end it.”

Tedros is expected to be appointed for a second five-year term this week at the World Health Assembly, the annual meeting of the WHO’s member countries.

Sunday, May 22, 2022

NATO Expansion to Create Conditions for Growing Tension - Post-Soviet Security Bloc Chief

According to Stanislav Zas, the CSTO is capable of adequately responding to NATO’s possible expansion

Secretary general of the Collective Security Treaty Organization Stanislav Zas Russian Foreign Ministry/TASS

MINSK, May 22. /TASS/. NATO’s expansion will lead to growing tension and in no way will help ensure the security of its member nations, Stanislav Zas, secretary general of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a post-Soviet Russia-led security bloc, said on Sunday.

"Naturally, we are considering this extension as a breeding ground for the aggravation of tension and further militarization of the region. As a matter of fact, it will not help enhance security, including of the NATO member states," he said in an interview with the Belarus-1 television channel.

According to Zas, the CSTO is capable of adequately responding to NATO’s possible expansion. "Should we reinforce our potential in this situation? We have enough forces to respond to possible threats that may emerge in this situation. The issue (of enhancing the potential - TASS) is not on the agenda now," he said. "Now, the CSTO is an accomplished international organization and a quite effective one. It means that its is not merely a military political bloc, but it is also a multi-function organization, which offers protection against other threats. And what is also very important, we have created strong mechanisms and a legal basis, we have forces and means and a crisis response system."

Today, the CSTO "has all the possibilities to serve as a security guarantor for our countries," he stressed. "And I think we are really a good shield for our six countries.".

Ethiopian Diasporas to Punish Pro-TPLF Senators in Midterm Elections

wendimagegn — May 22, 2022

ADDIS ABABA- With a view to easing the unwarranted pressure in their home country, Ethiopian Diasporas in the U.S. will make informed decisions in the November’s midterm elections to punish pro-TPLF law makers, the renowned Ethiopian-American artist said.

Speaking to the Ethiopian Press Agency (EPA), the Artist Tesfaye Sima noted that the Ethiopian-American community will cast their voice in a manner to change the position of the U.S. politicians and government in the favor of the people and government of Ethiopia.

The Ethiopian-American community needs to exhibit grievance over U.S conspiracy against their country via protesting against the unlawful draft bills HR.6600 and S.3199. The community has already started coordinating campaigns against the bills thereby lessening the pressure. The diaspora community has been informing members of the U.S. government bodies, senators, human right activists and others about the reality on the ground in Ethiopia during the election campaign, he indicated.

The diaspora community has been strongly protesting the bills as they harm the lower segments of the society. The campaign has been undertaken so far to oppose the two bills deliberately formulated against Ethiopia’s transformation and its people›s wellbeing.

As to Tesfaye, as the voice will have significant impact on shaping the distorted attitudes about Ethiopia, the diaspora community needs to actively participate in the election and contribute their part in protesting against the bill and unwarranted pressure.

The U.S. government is waging a hybrid war on Ethiopia under the guise of ensuring peace and stability, but running for restoring the old ruling party, TPLF, a designated terrorist faction by Ethiopian Parliament.

BY HAILE DEMEKE

THE ETHIOPIAN HERALD SUNDAY EDITION 22 MAY 2022

Sudanese Youth Killed in Fresh Anti-coup Protest in Omdurman

A policeman directs his gun to the protesters in Omdurman on May 21, 2022

March 24, 2022 (KHARTOUM) – A protester was killed in Omdurman, a Khartoum twin city on Saturday as the security forces opened fire to disperse an anti-coup demonstration.

The 20-year-old protester was killed by a cartridge weapon the security forces used against the protesters, near the house of the former Prime Minister Ismail Alazhari in Omdurman.

The Sudanese security forces did not issue a statement to explain the excessive use of violence or its circumstances.

The Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors (CCSD) said that Mohamed Khalis “died of a shot (probably with a cartridge weapon)” after indicating that the pellets of the shotgun spread in the chest.

The security forces also besieged the protesters to prevent them from reaching the hospital, the CCSD underscored.

In total, 96 people have been killed by security forces after the coup d’├ętat of General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan on October 25, 2021.

The military rulers pledged to end violence and to implement a number of confidence-building measures ahead of a dialogue process facilitated by the UN, African Union and IGAD.

Several political forces condemned the murder of the protester.

The National Umma Party in a statement to condemn the use of excessive force against protesters mentioned the mistreatment of political prisoners who are arbitrarily detained by the security forces.

While the Unionist Alliance for its part called to take to the street to break the siege on the protesters in Omdurman neighbourhoods.

In response to Khali’s death, hundreds took to the streets in Omdurman and Khartoum to protest the violence by the security forces against the demonstrators.

The Resistance Committees in Khartoum city, on Saturday, called to escalate the anti-coup protests and to protest in the 60th Street in Khartoum.

(ST)

UK CONFIRMS LOCAL TRANSMISSION OF MONKEYPOX

Britain is seeing daily infections of the rare monkeypox virus that are unconnected to any travel to West Africa, where the disease is endemic, a health official said on Sunday.

Medical staff wearing protective equipment enter the quarantine area of the centre of the NGO Doctors Without Borders in Zomea Kaka in the Central African Republic to combat monkeypox in 2018.

AFP | 

LONDON - Britain is seeing daily infections of the rare monkeypox virus that are unconnected to any travel to West Africa, where the disease is endemic, a health official said on Sunday.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said new figures would be released on Monday, after it registered 20 cases on Friday.

Asked if community transmission was now the norm in Britain, UKHSA chief medical adviser Susan Hopkins said "absolutely".

"We are finding cases that have no identified contact with an individual from West Africa, which is what we've seen previously in this country," she told BBC television.

"We are detecting more cases on a daily basis."

Hopkins declined to confirm reports that one individual was in intensive care, but said the outbreak was concentrated in urban areas, among gay or bisexual men.

"The risk of the general population remains extremely low at the moment, and I think people need to be alert to it," she said, adding that for most adults, symptoms would be "relatively mild".

The first UK case was announced on May 7, in a patient who had recently travelled to Nigeria. The disease is also spreading in Europe and North America.

Monkeypox can be transmitted through contact with skin lesions and droplets of a contaminated person, as well as shared items such as bedding and towels.

Symptoms include fever, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, chills, exhaustion and a chickenpox-like rash on the hands and face. They usually clear up after two to four weeks.

There is no specific treatment but vaccination against smallpox has been found to be about 85 percent effective in preventing monkeypox.

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said the UK government had already started buying up stocks of smallpox vaccine.

"We're taking it very, very seriously," he told the BBC.

RESCUE TEAMS SCRAMBLE TO EVACUATE KWAZULU-NATAL RESIDENTS AFFECTED BY FLOODS

The communities of Umlazi, Wentworth, Isipingo, Amanzimtoti, Umdloti and Tongaat have been some of the hardest hit.

Surfside building in uMdloti damaged during heavy rains on Saturday 21 May 2022. 

Rafiq Wagiet & Mihlali Ntsabo | 

CAPE TOWN - The KwaZulu-Natal government says its resources have been stretched thin as it tries to limit the impact of the floods on residents and infrastructure.

Heavy overnight rain resulted in rising flood waters in parts on the province, particularly in the Durban area.

The provincial government called an impromptu briefing on Sunday where disaster management teams as well as MECs and mayors of several districts gave an update on rescue operations.

The communities of Umlazi, Wentworth, Isipingo, Amanzimtoti, Umdloti and Tongaat have been some of the hardest hit.

Residents in low-lying areas have been urged to move to higher ground.

KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Cooperative Governance, Sipho Hlomuka urged resident to evacuate the area if asked to do so by search and rescue personnel.

"The lives that we lost in the previous disaster, is not something that we are proud of. That's why we have activated disaster management teams because we are proactive. We are alerting our people to ensure that they are in the safer zones," says Hlomuka.

On Saturday, the South African weather services issued a level 10 red warning of torrential rain and strong winds which battered the coastline overnight.

It's been barely a month since more than 450 people died in devastating floods in the province.

Rescue teams are now scrambling to evacuate as many residents to higher ground in a desperate bid to avoid a repeat of the April disaster.

Enemies Seek to Weaken Yemen, Destroy National Coherence: Ansarullah Leader

Sunday, 22 May 2022 6:24 AM 

Supporters of Yemen's popular Ansarullah resistance movement hold up their rifles as they rally in Sana’a, Yemen, on September 21, 2021. (Photo by Reuters)

Enemies seek to destroy Yemen's national unity and coherence in order to assert their own dominance in the war-stricken country, says the leader of popular Ansarullah resistance movement.

Abdul-Malik al-Houthi made the remarks in a meeting with a visiting delegation of tribal leaders and dignitaries from the southwestern Yemeni province of Ibb on Saturday night.

“Neither can we accept to be ruled by US diktats, nor can recognize traitors and agents who would prefer to be manipulated by Saudi or Emirati officers,” the Ansarullah chief added.

The leader of Yemen’s popular Ansarullah resistance movement says the US, with the help of its allied Takfiri militant groups, is building military bases in the country’s eastern provinces of Hadhramaut and al-Mahrah as well as on the Red Sea coast.

“The main objective of enemies is to eradicate all elements of national unity, coherence and strength in Yemen in order to exert their dominance over the country,” Houthi noted.

“The Yemeni nation is fairly determined to tread the path towards independence and freedom, and block foreign interference,” the Ansarullah chief said.

Yemeni forces down Turkish-made Saudi spy drone over Hajjah province

Yemeni troops and allied Popular Committees fighters say they have shot down a Turkish-built spy drone belonging to the Saudi-led military coalition over the country's northwestern province of Hajjah.

Yemeni defense forces managed to “shoot down a Turkish-made Karayel reconnaissance drone” owned and operated by the Saudi-led coalition “while it was carrying out hostile missions in the airspace of the Hayran district,” spokesman for the Yemeni Armed Forces Brigadier General Yahya Saree said on his official Twitter account on Saturday.

He noted that the spy drone had been downed with a “homegrown surface-to-air missile,” which has not been unveiled yet, Yemen's Arabic-language al-Masirah television network reported.

‘Saudi-led coalition violates Yemen truce over 130 times in 24 hours’

Moreover, a Yemeni military official says the Saudi-led coalition forces and their allied militants have violated the ongoing UN-brokered ceasefire, which took effect at the start of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, at least 134 times during the past 24 hours.

The official, who asked not to be named, said the violations included 52 flights of Saudi-led reconnaissance drones in the skies over the provinces of Ma’rib, Ta’izz, Hajjah, Jawf, Sa'ada, Bayda, Dhale, and across the borders.

He added that Saudi mercenaries also fortified their positions in Ma’rib province.

Yemen’s defense minister says it is high time for the Saudi-led coalition forces and their allied Takfiri militant groups to pull out of the country.

The official pointed out that 13 artillery shells were fired at the positions of the Yemeni army and Popular Committees in Sa'ada, Hajjah and Ma’rib provinces, as well as border fronts.

Besides border regions, residential neighborhoods and positions of the army and Popular Committees in Ma’rib, Ta’izz, Sa'ada, Bayda and Dhale provinces came under heavy gunfire at least 68 times, according to the official.

Saudi Arabia launched the devastating war on Yemen in March 2015 in collaboration with its Arab allies and with arms and logistics support from the US and other Western states.

A UN official has warned of a "worsening" humanitarian situation in Yemen.

The objective was to reinstall the Riyadh-friendly regime of Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi and crush the Ansarullah resistance movement, which has been running state affairs in the absence of a functional government in Yemen.

While the Saudi-led coalition has failed to meet any of its objectives, the war has killed hundreds of thousands of Yemenis and spawned the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Top US General Warns of 'Increasing' Risk of Global War'

Sunday, 22 May 2022 7:09 PM

The chair of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, arrives at West Point Military Academy on May 21, 2022 in West Point, New York. (Photo by AFP)

A top US military official has warned that the likelihood of a conflict “between great powers” is growing, citing the military capabilities of both China and Russia.

The chair of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, told a gathering on Saturday that the world "has the potential for a significant international conflict between great powers.”

The general, who was speaking to cadets graduating from US Military Academy West Point, also said that “that potential is increasing, not decreasing.”

“What was once the exclusive province of the United States military is now available to most nation states with the money to acquire them,” he warned.

Milley singled out two world powers, China and Russia, describing both as having “significant military capabilities."

"And right now, at this very moment, a fundamental change is happening in the very character of war," he said.

"We are facing right now two global powers, China and Russia, each with significant military capabilities, and both who fully intend to change the current rules based order," Milley added.

He further said that weapons technology will also change dramatically in future decades.

"You'll be fighting with robotic tanks and ships and airplanes," Milley said.

Citing the ongoing war in Ukraine, the general said that the conflict is “threatening to undermine not only European peace and stability but global peace and stability that my parents and a generation of Americans fought so hard to defend."

Ukraine has been at war with Russia since President Vladimir Putin declared a military operation in the neighboring country in late February, following Kiev’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements and Moscow’s recognition of the breakaway regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.

At the time, Putin said one of the goals of what he called a “special military operation” was to “de-Nazify” Ukraine.

Ever since, Washington has sent heavy weaponry to Ukraine and shared intelligence with the embattled government in Kiev, despite warnings from Moscow that the unfaltering Western support would indefinitely prolong the war.

Member of Iran's IRGC Assassinated in Armed Attack in Tehran

Sunday, 22 May 2022 8:55 PM 

Terrorists assassinated a member of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps in Tehran on May 22, 2022. Hassan Sayyad Khodaei was in front of his home when he was shot.

One of the members of Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) has been assassinated in an armed attack by two motorcyclists in Tehran.

According to Iran's official IRNA news agency, the incident took place around 4 p.m. local time on Sunday, when the IRGC member was dismounting his car to enter his home in an eastern neighborhood of the Iranian capital.

The IRGC member, who has been identified as Colonel Hassan Sayyad Khodaei, was assassinated after two motorcyclists shot him five times before fleeing the scene.

IRIB news agency reported that three bullets hit him in the head and two bullets hit his hand.

The IRGC issued a statement soon after the assassination, saying that its former member was assassinated in a terrorist attack by counterrevolutionary elements.

The statement condoled with his family, adding that necessary measures have been taken to identify and arrest the assailant or assailants.

Following the assassination, head of Tehran Court of Justice, Ali Alqasi, ordered Tehran prosecutor to speed up efforts to identify and arrest those behind this criminal act.

Alqasi also stressed the need to expedite judicial measures aimed at the identification of the perpetrators of this assassination.

Meanwhile, the Nour News website, which is close to Iran’s Supreme National Security Council reacted to the assassination in a Sunday tweet, saying the killing of the IRGC member was “miscalculated crossing of a red line that will change many calculations.”

“The masterminds and agents of this crime will pay a heavy price,” it added.

Later on Sunday, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman strongly condemned the terrorist attack in Tehran, which claimed the life of the IRGC member, condoling with his family and his friends in the force.

“The sworn enemies of the sacred establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran once again revealed their evil nature through the assassination and martyrdom of an IRGC member,” he said.

Khatibzadeh added, “This inhuman crime is committed by the terrorist agents that are affiliated with the global arrogance while those countries that claim to be fighting terrorism are regrettably silent and support it.”

He added that the Islamic Republic of Iran has been a victim of terrorist attacks during more than four past decades.

Khatibzadeh said terrorists think that they can impede the forward march of the “great nation of Iran toward achievement of its sublime ideals ... but the blood of these martyrs guarantees the survival and progress of this nation and country.”

Saturday, May 21, 2022

UN: 18 Million Facing Severe Hunger in West Africa 

FILE - A malnourished baby is cared for in the pediatric department of Boulmiougou hospital in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, Friday April 15, 2022. The U.N. is warning that 18 million people in Africa’s Sahel region face severe hunger in the next three months. Two U.N. agencies are citing the impacts of war in Ukraine, the coronavirus pandemic, climate-induced shocks and rising costs – and warning that people may try to migrate out of the affected areas. (AP Photo/Sophie Garcia, File)

GENEVA (AP) — The U.N. is warning that 18 million people in Africa’s Sahel region face severe hunger in the next three months, citing the impacts of Russia’s war in Ukraine, the coronavirus pandemic, climate-induced shocks and rising costs.

The hunger crisis may press increased numbers of people to migrate out of the affected areas, said a U.N. official.

The largest number of people are at risk of severe hunger across the region since 2014, and four countries — Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali and Niger — are facing “alarming levels,” with nearly 1.7 million people facing emergency levels of food insecurity there, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said Friday.

Parts of the Sahel region, a vast territory stretching across the south of the Sahara Desert, have faced their worst agricultural production in more than a decade, and food shortages could worsen as the lean season arrives in late summer, Tomson Phiri, spokesman for the U.N.’s Nobel Peace Prize-winning World Food Program, said.

“The situation is definitely going to get worse before it gets better,” he told reporters in Geneva. “We may see more people trying to make ends meet by migrating: It’s a very, very likely possibility.”

Many people from the region are among migrants who seek to travel north to Europe in hopes of economic opportunity, more stability and safety.

“A combination of violence, insecurity, deep poverty and record-high food prices is exacerbating malnutrition and driving millions to the fringes of survival,” Martin Griffiths, the head of OCHA, said in a statement.

“The recent spike in food prices driven by the conflict between Russia and Ukraine is threatening to turn a food security crisis into a humanitarian disaster,” he said. Those two countries are key producers of wheat, barley and other agricultural products, and the conflict has almost entirely halted exports through the Black Sea.

Griffiths’ office is releasing $30 million from its emergency relief fund for the four African countries.

Humanitarian groups earlier this year launched appeals seeking $3.8 billion in aid for the region in 2022, but they remain only 12% funded, OCHA said.

Jihadis’ Attack in Eastern Burkina Faso Kills 11 Soldiers

By SAM MEDNICK

OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso (AP) — Eleven soldiers were killed and nearly two dozen injured by jihadis targeting a military base in eastern Burkina Faso, the government said.

Injured soldiers have been taken to hospital and aerial support killed 15 attackers trying to flee after Thursday’s attack in Madjoari in Kompienga province, Burkina Faso’s army said in a statement.

For six years the West African country has been ravaged by violence linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group that has killed thousands and displaced nearly 2 million people. Mutinous soldiers ousted the democratically elected president in January promising to stem the violence, but since then attacks have increased.

Within a 72-hour period last week nearly 60 people, including civilians and security forces, were killed in violence targeting villages in four regions across the country, according to an internal security report for aid workers seen by The Associated Press.

“This attack in Madjoari is yet another indication of militants’ capability to target security forces bases and unfortunately showing the severity of (the) security situation in northern and eastern regions,” said Rida Lyammouri, senior fellow at the Policy Center for the New South, a Moroccan-based organization focused on economics and policy.

Mining Companies Back Away from Brazil’s Indigenous Areas

By FABIANO MAISONNAVE

FILE - Indigenous people painted with red ink representing spilled Indigenous blood and clay representing gold, protest against the increase of mining activities that are encroaching on their land, in front of the Ministry of Mines and Energy, in Brasilia, Brazil, April 11, 2022. Some of the world’s biggest mining companies have withdrawn requests for research and production in Indigenous territories of Brazil’s Amazon rainforest, and have repudiated Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s efforts to legalize mining activity in the areas. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres, File)

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Some of the world’s biggest mining companies have withdrawn requests to research and extract minerals on Indigenous land in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest, and have repudiated Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s efforts to legalize mining activity in the areas.

The Brazilian Mining Association (Ibram), which represents around 130 companies, conducted an internal survey of its members earlier this year, according to Raul Jungmann, its president. For the first time in decades, none of the companies have current research or mining applications for gold, tin, nickel, iron and other ores in Indigenous areas, he said. Neither the survey nor its results have been reported previously.

Members of the association, which accounts for 85% of Brazil’s legally produced ore, include mining giants Rio Tinto, Anglo American and Vale. The AP contacted all three companies. Rio Tinto confirmed it retracted its applications for research concessions in 2019. Anglo American did the same in March 2021. Vale withdrew its requests for research and mining concessions over the last year.

“Ibram’s position is that it is not possible to request mining and research authorizations on Indigenous lands unless you have constitutional regulation,” Jungmann said by phone.

Around two thirds of the applications were filed with the federal mining agency before the government officially demarcated them as Indigenous territory, according to a study conducted by geologist Tadeu Veiga, a consultant who also teaches at the National University of Brasilia.

The collective retreat comes as Bolsonaro insists Indigenous territories contain mineral resources vital to bringing prosperity to both the nation and native peoples. Brazil’s Constitution states that mining can only take place on Indigenous lands after getting informed consent and under laws that regulate the activity. More than three decades later, such legislation still hasn’t been approved.

Bolsonaro was pushing to change that even before he became president, as a fringe lawmaker. During his 2018 presidential campaign, he said deposits of the metallic element niobium, found under Indigenous lands, could transform Brazil into a mining powerhouse, but the proposal fell by the wayside after he took office.

Available resources of niobium, used as an alloy for steel, are more than sufficient to supply the world’s projected needs, according to the U.S. Geological Survey

On Friday, Bolsonaro met with SpaceX and Tesla chief executive Elon Musk in Brazil and suggested producing batteries with niobium, but said afterward Musk showed no interest. “At the moment, this is not on their radar. They think they have to wait a little longer to invest in this area,” he said.

Bolsonaro has repeatedly said the nearly 14% of Brazil that is within Indigenous territories is excessive, and that foreign governments are championing Indigenous rights and environmental preservation as a gambit to eventually tap the mineral wealth themselves.

“Interest in the Amazon isn’t about the Indian or the damn tree. It’s the ore,” he told a crowd of prospectors in capital Brasilia in 2019.

More recently, in March, he pressured Congress for an emergency vote on the bill drafted and presented in 2020 by his mining and justice ministries to finally regulate the mining of Indigenous lands. He said the emergency vote was necessary because of the war in Ukraine, which threatened crucial supplies of the fertilizer potash from Russia to Brazil’s vast farmlands.

With the law in place, “in two or three years, we will no longer be dependent on imports of potash for our agribusiness,” Bolsonaro said. “Agribusiness is the locomotive of our economy.”

Experts were quick to note, however, that most potash deposits in Brazil’s Amazon are not located in Indigenous territory, according to a study from Minas Gerais Federal University based on official data.

Critics have argued the bill’s primary purpose is providing legal cover for thousands of prospectors. The activity mushroomed in recent years amid repeated promises for regulation from Bolsonaro’s government, members of which held several meetings with representatives of prospectors.

The prospectors’ sites often grow over time, creating vast damage, destroying riverbanks, contaminating waterways with mercury and disrupting Indigenous peoples’ traditional ways of life. By contrast, industrial-scale mining in the Amazon produces deep scars in the forest, but mostly limited to the area of the deposit, as is the case with Carajas, the largest open-pit iron ore mine in the world, operated by Vale.

In March, while Bolsonaro’s parliamentary base tried to speed up the bill’s progress, thousands of Indigenous people and their allies protested in front of Congress, led by Brazilian singer Caetano Veloso. They soon found an unlikely ally: Ibram, the mining association, which in the past had kept a low profile.

Bolsonaro’s bill “is not appropriate for its intended purpose,” Ibram said in a statement issued days later, adding that regulation of mining in Indigenous territories “needs to be widely debated by the Brazilian society, especially by the Indigenous peoples, respecting their constitutional rights, and by the Brazilian Congress.”

Jungmann said his association issued the unusual statement, first, because it has decided to become more open and transparent following two mining accidents in Minas Gerais state in 2015 and 2019 that killed hundreds of people and contaminated waterways.

The appointment of Jungmann, a high-profile politician who has been a minister in two center-right governments, also reflects this shift.

Another reason, Jungmann said, is mounting pressure at home and abroad to adopt friendlier socio-environmental practices.

“We are not against mining on Indigenous lands,” he said. “However, we think the bill is inadequate, because it does not comply with the International Labor Organization’s Resolution 169, which demands free, prior and informed consent. Secondly, it doesn’t close the loopholes for illegal mining. Third, we want a project that preserves the environment, particularly the rainforest.”

“Prospecting, which kills and destroys communities, is a case for police, not an economic issue,” he added.

Bolsonaro’s proposal suffered another, international rejection Thursday when ecologist Philip Fearnside and five other scientists published a letter in the journal Science warning that the war in Ukraine was serving as “an excuse for the destruction of the Amazon.”

Indigenous lands are essential for maintaining the ecological benefits provided by the Brazilian Amazon Forest, they wrote. “These lands protect more of the forest than federal protected areas.” The letter calls on mineral importers to ”follow through with possible boycotts to make it clear that Brazil’s irresponsible actions have consequences,” if the law goes through.

To Bolsonaro’s chagrin, lawmakers have thus far declined to put the proposed mining law to a vote. Jungmann said he has met with the presidents of both houses of Congress to explain industry opposition, as well as with the president’s Chief of Staff Ciro Nogueira.

In a speech to farmers on April 25, Bolsonaro rejected criticism from the Ibram and the Indigenous movement, alleging that mineral exploration on Indigenous lands would only occur with the approval of the affected tribe.

In an email, the Ministry of Mining called the mining regulation for Indigenous areas long overdue. The lack of regulation brings disorder and environmental damage, it said.

Ibram-affiliated companies pulling out of Indigenous territories doesn’t mean they or others will cease to mine the Amazon, or that conflicts with Indigenous people are a thing of the past.

Canada-based Belo Sun Mining Corp is trying the develop what would be the largest open-pit gold mine in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest. Nearby Indigenous communities claim they haven’t been consulted. Another Canadian company, Brazil Potash Corp, is fighting in court to implement a $2.2 billion project close to the territory of the Mura people, who fear the operation will affect their lands.

Neither company is affiliated with Ibram, which declined to comment about the cases.

The database of the federal mining regulator, known as ANM, still reflects active applications by many large mining companies in Indigenous territories. Indigenous groups say this means the big mining companies are still interested in their land.

In an emailed response, the regulator said that a withdrawal request goes through a clearing process before an application is officially inactive. Sometimes that can take years. ANM declined to provide details on specific applications. Ibram’s Jungmann says the agency needs to overcome its technical problems.

“Mining companies have shown growing attention to social and environmental governance principles. Shareholders and society demand it,” said Veiga, who has extensive experience consulting for such companies in the Amazon, as well as for non-profits. “And they (mining companies) never felt they were taken into consideration with Bolsonaro’s bill, which was interpreted as an attempt to legalize illegal mining.”

Key Russian Lawmaker Reveals Illicit Ebola, Smallpox Research at US-run Ukraine Biolabs

According to the legislator, the information obtained indicates "aggressive goal-setting that underpins the foundation of these programs, de facto implemented by US Department of Defense on Ukrainian soil"

Russian State Duma Deputy Speaker Irina Yarovaya Mikhail Tereshchenko/TASS

MOSCOW, May 20. /TASS/. The US researched Ebola and smallpox viruses in Ukraine, says Irina Yarovaya, Co-Chair of the Parliamentary Commission on Investigation of US Biological Laboratories in Ukraine.

"Today, we presented an analysis of which pathogens the US was particularly interested in in Ukraine," she told reporters Friday. "Aside from the pathogens that are territorially bound to Ukraine, [the laboratories] researched viruses and pathogens that are endemically very far from Ukraine, such as Ebola and smallpox."

According to the legislator, the information obtained indicates "aggressive goal-setting that underpins the foundation of these programs, de facto implemented by US Department of Defense on Ukrainian soil."

"Unfortunately, it is necessary to particularly emphasize that the betrayal that the Ukrainian regime carried out against its own people has effectively left Ukrainian citizens defenseless in the face of these manipulations, experiments and clandestine research that the US is carrying out on Ukrainian territory," Yarovaya underscored.

She noted that Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) Director Sergey Naryshkin spoke as the main expert at Friday’s commission meeting.

"I would like to underscore that the dialogue that we had with the SVR chief today, combined with the proof obtained by the commission, fully confirms the US-created network of biological intelligence worldwide and the implementation of active military-biological exploitation of the globe, and Ukraine in particular. This essentially poses a serious global threat," Yarovaya warned.

According to the lawmaker, Russia’s main goal today is to guarantee the protection of its national interests and the security of the Russian people.

"But at the same time, [it should] urge the global community to seriously get to the bottom of this secret and dangerous military biological activity, implemented by the US. So that comprehensive measures pertaining to common, equal and indivisible security could be developed. Given the distinction between peaceful and non-peaceful use of bacteriological research and the study of toxins, it must be completely transparent and controlled. And there simply must not be any bacteriological weapons in the world, this is Russia’s principal position," Yarovaya stressed.

Putin, Lukashenko to Meet in Sochi on May 23 — Kremlin Spokesman

According to Dmitry Peskov, it will be a bilateral contact the two presidents agreed during the jubilee summit of the Collective Security Treaty Organization

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin Mikhail Metzel/TASS

MOSCOW, May 20. /TASS/. Russian and Belarusian Presidents, Vladimir Putin and Alexander Lukashenko, will hold talks in Russia’s Sochi on Monday, Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov said on Friday.

"Putin’s meeting with Lukashenko in Sochi is scheduled for Monday," he said, adding that it will be a bilateral contact the two presidents agreed during the jubilee summit of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a post-Soviet Russia-led security bloc, in Moscow on May 16.

According to earlier reports, Putin is expected to hold a meeting of the presidium of the State Council on May 25. Peskov refrained from commenting on Putin’s other plans for the coming week.

Cyber Aggression Against Russia, as Well as ‘Sanctions Attack’ in General, Fails — Putin

"On the whole, we were ready for this attack, and this is the result of the systematic work that has been carried out in recent years," the head of state noted

NOVO-OGAREVO, May 20. /TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin pointed out at meeting of the Russian Security Council on Friday that cyber aggression against Russia, as well as the sanctions attack, have failed.

"Already today we can say that cyber aggression against us, as well as in general the sanctions attack on Russia, have failed. On the whole, we were ready for this attack, and this is the result of the systematic work that has been carried out in recent years," the head of state said.

According to Putin, restrictions on foreign information technologies, programs and products became one of the tools of sanctions pressure on Russia. He emphasized that a number of Western suppliers have unilaterally stopped technical support of their equipment in Russia, also, cases of limiting the work or even blocking programs after their updates became more frequent.

"All this should be taken into account when Russian companies, authorities and administrations use previously installed and introduce new foreign information technologies and products," the president recommended.

The head of the state pointed out that Russian specialists were seriously engaged in the protection of information infrastructure, ensuring stable operation and networks and communication channels security.

"They managed to do a lot, including the creation of their own unique technologies. The very work in this area received clear management and regulatory contours, adequate to the challenges of the time. For example, strategic planning documents were adopted that identified the main threats and risks in this area and specific steps to neutralize them," Putin added.

Russia Will Obviously Not Supply Gas to Anyone for Free, Says Kremlin

Earlier, the Finnish gas company Gasum said that it did not accept requirement to switch to ruble payments

© Maxim Churusov/TASS

MOSCOW, May 20. /TASS/. Russia will not supply gas to anyone for free, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Friday when commenting on a statement made by the Finnish company Gasum, saying that it will not fulfill the requirement on paying in rubles and expects gas deliveries to be suspended in coming days.

"We do not have information about all companies, with which Gazprom has contracts concluded, this is not our authority. Gazprom should be contacted on details, of course. But [Russia] will obviously not supply anything to anyone for free," he said.

The Finnish state-owned gas company Gasum said in a statement earlier this week that it did not accept Gazprom Export's requirement to switch to ruble payments and would consequently not make payments in rubles or under Gazprom Export’s proposed payment arrangement. The Finnish side has decided to take the disputes regarding the supply contract to arbitration, the company added.

Russian President Vladimir Putin Putin ordered on March 23 that unfriendly states must pay for Russian gas in rubles, saying that Moscow would refuse to accept payments under gas contracts with those states in ‘compromised’ currencies, particularly meaning dollars and euros.

Russian Defense Chief Unveils Plans for Western Military District to Counter NATO Buildup

According to Sergey Shoigu, the countermeasures will be synchronized with the supply of modern weapons and military equipment to the troops

Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu Vadim Savitsky/Russian Defence Ministry/TASS

MOSCOW, May 20. /TASS/. During a recent panel, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu revealed how many military units will be formed in the Western Military District in response to NATO's buildup near Russia's borders.

"Twelve military units and subunits will be formed in the Western Military District by the end of the year," Shoigu said, noting that tensions continue to mount in the area of responsibility of the Western Military District, which is also due to the possible admission of Finland and Sweden to NATO.

According to the defense chief, these countermeasures will be synchronized with the supply of modern weapons and military equipment to the troops. "This year, we intend to get more than 2,000 pieces of such equipment," he added.

Shoigu noted that inspections based on the results of the winter training period showed a qualitative increase in the level of training of the district's formations by 25% compared to the previous year.

According to the defense minister, the intensity of combat training tasks performed by the ships of the Baltic Fleet increased by 42%. More than 300 combat exercises with application of various kinds of weaponry were fulfilled. Since the beginning of the year, the aviation of the district has increased by 4%.