Saturday, July 31, 2021


WHO Africa has said that the COVID-19 pandemic's third wave had been the fastest rising surge so far due to pandemic fatigue, coupled with the presence of more transmissible coronavirus variants and the continent's extremely low vaccine coverage rate.

FILE: A traveller wears a face mask, as a preventive measure against the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, while he waits for an intercity bus at the Namirembe Bus Park in Kampala, Uganda, on 4 June 2020, the first day of re-opening public transport. Picture: AFP.

Kevin Brandt 

CAPE TOWN – The latest figures show that only 21 million people or 1.6% of the African population have so far been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Addressing a virtual media conference of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, WHO Regional Director, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, reiterated the importance of maintaining the momentum of current vaccine supplies to the continent.

The target is to have at least 30% of the continent's population fully vaccinated by the end of this year.

WHO Africa has said that the COVID-19 pandemic's third wave had been the fastest rising surge so far due to pandemic fatigue, coupled with the presence of more transmissible coronavirus variants and the continent's extremely low vaccine coverage rate.

Dr Moeti said that vaccine deliveries to the continent were however picking up pace.

“Over the past week alone, 3.8 million vaccine doses were delivered to 13 countries through the Covax facility – bringing the total doses delivered to the continent to 82 million.”

Moeti said that these vaccines were part of 60 million doses that COVAX has allocated to 49 African countries to be delivered between now and September.

Around 167,000 people on the continent have succumbed to COVID-19.


South Africa's Department of International Relations has accused the commission chair of failing to consult with member states before granting Israel's request.

President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: GCIS

Eyewitness News 

JOHANNESBURG - President Cyril Ramaphosa said that the continuing conflict in Palestine should have been enough to deny Israel "observer status" by African Union Commission chairperson, Moussa Faki Mahamat.

“We are concerned about the decision that has been made and as it is now, a number of countries on the continent are expressing their unhappiness and dissatisfaction,” said the president.

South Africa's Department of International Relations has accused the commission chair of failing to consult with member states before granting Israel's request. The government said that granting Israel observer status was shocking following another year of it oppressing Palestine amid its ongoing illegal settlement.

Israel enjoyed this status until 2002 when the Organisation for African Unity dissolved itself to become the AU.

Ramaphosa said that South Africa remained opposed to the decision.

Ethiopian Government Must Take Decisive Military Action against Terrorist Group: Scholars

July 31, 2021


 ADDIS ABABA – The Ethiopian government must have outlined uncompromised and compromised conditions and take irreversible military action against the terrorist TPLF remnants if it is going to end conflict in Tigray State via negotiation, so remarked scholars.

Associate Professor of Sociology at Iona College, New Rochelle, NY Derese Getachew (Ph.D.) highlighted that if TPLF quests for dialogue, it has to bring the fugitive and suspect TPLF members to the federal government, disarm and willing for peaceful ends without any protest.

Besides this, the TPLF has to announce officially that Wolkait was part of Amhara, Gondar district before 1991. Just as TPLF did, Amhara State has also claimed on this area. This area demands political and public solution. TPLF has to stop their cooperation of doing conspiracy with other rebelled groups, he recommended.

Law and International Security Expert Blen Mamo said that “realistic decision is crucial in the process. So the conflict is with a terrorist group not with Tigray public. The government has to outline and rethink about uncompromised and compromised key issues of political solutions before going to hold dialogue with the political actors that are not suspected of committing crimes in the state and the country.

“In history, TPLF has not fulfilled it promises. It is also labeled as a terrorist group by the parliament. This makes situations harder and harder.” In general, even now the dialogue is not that much crucial to end the conflict but if the government is going to take round table dialogue it has to come up with strong uncompromised elements that grant the country’s sovereignty and other things because our national interest and pride should come first though foreign pressure is rising,” she recommended.

“It has to set out crucial points to create political settlement and negotiation but I don’t think taking TPLF as a political entity for dialogue is decisive. As we often hearing the TPLF narration, it has been trying to ruin Ethiopia. Hence, TPLF’s problem is with Ethiopia not only with the federal government. Hence, decisive military victory will be the sole solution to end this conflict which will make TPLF lame not to be a potential threat of the region.”

“TPLF is the enemy of Ethiopian government and Ethiopia which it put the country’s sovereignty at stake, so demolishing it for good is incomparable means,” said Blen.

The points outlined for dialogue from TPLF side are not encouraging to hold dialogue since the government has to break TPLF military wing before the dialogue. Unless the wing is irreversibly destroyed, the dialogue will not be fruitful.

The Ethiopian Herald July 31/2021

Document Unmasks Conspiracy Waged to Disintegrate Ethiopia

July 31, 2021

• Intelligence tasks go with humanitarian cloak


 ADDIS ABABA – Some Western news media companies, with the help of C2FC task force, have been serving TPLF’s destructive agenda and backing its war against the Ethiopian government in casting the criminal faction in positive  light among global audience, Geopolitics Press revealed.

The Western officials established a C2FC task force to bring regime change in Ethiopia through dissemination of toxic information that hugely favors the terrorist TPLF and harms the Ethiopian government. The key functions of C2FC are playing advisory, facilitation, capacitation, and intelligence operations in social media through employing lethal journalism covering the current situation in Ethiopia.

According to the report, following TPLF’s treasonous attack against the Ethiopian National Defense Forces base in Tigray, selected Western officials discussed the situation of Ethiopia and wrote a seven-page report. The report expressed the West’s concern and fear about the tripartite alliance of Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia, Isaias Afwerki of Eritrea, and Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed of Somalia.

Geopolitics’ account revealed that TPLF has been utilizing this task force and distributing biased internet search results to get media dominance over the government of Ethiopia. TPLF propaganda has also been leading the corporate media to promote false narratives and even when these claims are disproved, the outlets do nothing to correct errors.

“The above was evident in July 2021 when Amnesty International purposely misguided its audience by using the photograph taken by Agence France-Presse’s Amanuel Sileshi that shows the routine security checkup of electorates before entering a polling station to condemn the government of Ethiopia for mass arrests of ethnic Tigrayans in Addis Ababa.”

Highlighting Western media bias against Ethiopia, the report said that most international news media companies  deliberately violated the government’s ruling not to describe TDF as a military force and use terrorist TPLF to describe both TPLF and TDF. The outlets opt for calling the two independently.

“Western media have been adversely influencing international organizations’ attitudes towards the current Ethiopian government and that is why almost similar messages have been released by supposedly different Western governments, aid agencies, journalists and reports.”

Also, the propagandist has been working with C2FC to fast-track verification of social media accounts of their political and military allies. This explains why the twitter handle of Getachew Reda, which was started in September 2020, was quickly verified in the second quarter of 2021. Apart from helping its allies and assets dominate the social media space, they also work to stifle the presence and voice of their opponents in social media, the report elaborated.

The attempt had been to “peacefully” break up Ethiopia and allow the ethno-regional states to use referendum to vote for secession, which the central government will accept. The document said this is to avoid the Somaliland-like limbo where the semi-autonomous state cannot gain full recognition as a republic unless the national government in Mogadishu consents to its secession. The second scenario was that if Ethiopia accepts regime attenuation, then there will be need for a national dialogue supervised by a Government of National Unity that includes the TPLF.

The Ethiopian Herald July 31/2021

Sudan’s PM, Eritrean Officials Discuss Tigray Conflict

Abdallah Hamdok receives Eritrea's FM Osman Saleh and Presidential adviser Yemane Gebreab (unseen) on 29 July 2021 (ST photo)

July 30, 2021 (KHARTOUM) - Sudanese Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok received a message from Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki on the 8-month armed conflict in the Tigray region of Ethiopia.

On Thursday evening, Osman Saleh Eritrean Minister of Foreign Affairs and Presidential Advisor Yemane Gebreab delivered a verbal message to Hamdok from Afwerki, according to a statement released by his cabinet.

The statement said that the Eritrean leader responded to a message on the bloody conflict in Tigray from Hamdok who is also the chairman of the East African bloc, IGAD.

In a recent message to a number of IGAD and African leaders, the Sudanese premier stressed the need "to reach peaceful and political solutions in Ethiopia that ensures the unity of Ethiopia and meets the aspiration of the Ethiopian people," said the statement.

He further urged to prioritize addressing humanitarian issues.

Following the start of fighting in Tigray last year, Hamdok proposed to mediate between the government and the TPLF but Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed rejected the offer.

In a statement released in Asmara, the information ministry stated that the two sides had "frank and extensive discussions" and agreed on the need for a regional effort to overcome the "internal and external challenges".

For its part, the Ethiopian foreign ministry said that its nationals living in Sudan rejected "undue external pressures on the government of Ethiopia and (...) meddling in the internal affairs of the country".

Speaking to a gathering with Ethiopians in Sudan inside the embassy, Ethiopian Ambassador to Khartoum Yibeltal Aemero called to condemn the TPLF "for its atrocious acts"

"Ethiopia would win the just war against the racist TPLF and ensure the survival and wellbeing of the state," Aemero further said.

U.S. May Appoint Ambassador to Sudan Soon

July 30, 2021 (KHARTOUM) - John Godfrey, U.S. Acting Coordinator for Counterterrorism might be soon appointed as the US ambassador in Sudan for the first time since 1996.

According to the Foreign Policy, Godfrey is "a leading contender for the position of the first US Ambassador to Sudan" citing officials familiar with the matter.

In December 2020, the Trump administration removed Sudan from a list of state sponsors of terrorism after 27 years, opening the door for the full normalization of bilateral relations between the two countries.

However, the Biden administration did not show a big enthusiasm to appoint an ambassador to Khartoum despite the appointment of a Sudanese ambassador in Washington.

In October 2019, four U.S. Senators including Christopher Coons who is a close friend to President Biden called to appoint an ambassador in Khartoum to show American support to the civilian-led government in the East African country.

Sudanese political forces were hoping that the election of a Democrat president would help to support the Hamdok government and end the direct cooperation between the Trump administration and the military component in the transitional authority.

Samantha Power

USAID Administrator Samantha Power will be the first senior American official to visit Sudan under the Biden administration.

During her visit which will begin on 31 August, the American official will discuss ways to consolidate the partnership between the two countries.

"Power will travel to Sudan and Ethiopia July 31–August 4 to strengthen the U.S. Government’s partnership with Sudan’s transitional leaders and citizens, explore how to expand USAID’s support for Sudan’s transition to a civilian-led democracy," reads a statement released by the USAID.

In Addis Ababa, she will discuss humanitarian access in the troubled Tigray region.


US Official Lands in Sudan to Support Democratic Transition


CAIRO (AP) — The U.S. official who wrote a Pulitzer Prize-winning book on genocide landed Saturday in Sudan, aiming to support the country’s fragile transition to democracy before travelling to Ethiopia to press the government there to allow humanitarian aid to the war-torn Tigray region.

Samantha Power, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, is set to meet in Khartoum with top Sudanese officials including Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, head of the ruling sovereign council, and Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, the civilian face of Sudan’s transitional government.

She travelled Saturday to the western region of Darfur where she said she investigated atrocities in the its civil war in the 2000s, according to Sudan’s state-run SUNA news agency.

“I first visited Sudan in 2004—investigating a genocide in Darfur perpetrated by a regime whose grip on power seemed unshakeable. I couldn’t imagine Sudan would one day be an inspiring example to the world that no leader is ever permanently immune from the will of their people,” Power wrote on Twitter upon her arrival in Khartoum.

Power’s visit to Khartoum is meant to “strengthen the U.S. Government’s partnership with Sudan’s transitional leaders and citizens, explore how to expand USAID’s support for Sudan’s transition to a civilian-led democracy,” USAID said.

Sudan is now on a fragile path to democracy and is ruled by a military-civilian government after a popular uprising led to the military’s ouster of longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir in 2019. The Khartoum government, which seeks better ties with the U.S. and the West after nearly three decades of international isolation, faces towering economic and security challenges that threaten to derail its transition into chaos.

The U.S. official would also meet with Ethiopian refugees in Sudan who recently fled the conflict and atrocities in the Tigray region which borders Sudan.

Since the Tigray war began in November, tens of thousands of Ethiopians have crossed into Sudan, adding to the country’s economic and security challenges.

Power’s five-day trip will also take her to Ethiopia as part of international efforts to prevent a looming famine in Tigray, a region of some 6 million people that has been devastated by the months-long war.

Power will meet with Ethiopian officials “to press for unimpeded humanitarian access to prevent famine in Tigray and meet urgent needs in other conflict-affected regions of the country,” USAID said.

The world’s worst hunger crisis in a decade is unfolding in Tigray, where the U.S. says up to 900,000 people now face famine conditions and international food security experts say the crucial planting season “has largely been missed” because of the war.

Ethiopia’s government has blamed the aid blockade on the resurgent Tigray forces who have retaken much of the region and crossed into the neighboring Amhara and Afar regions, but a senior official with the U.S. Agency for International Development this week told the AP that is “100% not the case.”

Tunisia’s Saied Says Will Not ‘Turn into a Dictator’ amid Arrests

President Saied rejects accusations he staged a coup, as a judge and two members of parliament arrested.

On Sunday, Saied removed the immunity of parliament members, leaving any with cases against them vulnerable to arrest [File: Zoubeir Souissi/Reuters]

31 Jul 2021

Tunisian security forces placed a judge under house arrest for 40 days, local media reported on Saturday.

The decision against Judge Bechir Akremi came after President Kais Saied pledged to lead a campaign against widespread corruption.

It also came a day after Saied said he would “not turn into a dictator” after the arrest of two MPs on Friday, following his decision to lift their immunity when he seized control of the government this week.

Tunisia has been thrust into a political crisis by Saied’s move on Sunday to dismiss the prime minister and suspend parliament for 30 days, leading main parties to accuse him of a coup.

Saied has yet to carry out steps that critics say are needed to reassure Tunisians, including the appointment of an interim prime minister and a road map to end the emergency measures.

“I know the constitutional texts very well, respect them and taught them and after all this time I will not turn into a dictator as some have said,” the presidency quoted the former law professor as saying.

On Sunday, Saied removed the immunity of parliament members, leaving any with cases against them vulnerable to arrest.

Concerns over rights and freedoms in Tunisia, a democracy since the 2011 revolution, rose on Friday after the arrest of parliamentarian and influential blogger Yassin Ayari and the announcement of investigations into alleged violence by people protesting against Saied’s actions during a demonstration on Monday.

The military judiciary said on Saturday that Ayari will be imprisoned for two months after being convicted of “demoralising the army”.

Tunisian news agency TAP on Saturday, citing the military judiciary, said a military court in 2018 issued a final two-month sentence against Ayari for “participating in an act aimed to wreck the army’s moral”.

Ayari has spoken out against the military and the government and faced legal problems in the past.

Another member of parliament, Maher Zid of the Karama party, was detained late on Friday, according to his lawyer.

He was sentenced to two years in prison in 2018 for offending people on social media and insulting the then president.

On Monday, the biggest party in parliament, Ennahdha, held a sit-in outside parliament after it was surrounded by the army.

Hundreds of supporters of Ennahdha and Saied confronted each other, some throwing stones and bottles.

The judiciary said it had opened investigations into four people linked to Ennahdha for “attempting to commit acts of violence” during the protest, including a member of a party council and two members with connections to its leader.

Ennahdha has been a key player in Tunisian legislative elections since the country’s 2011 revolution, which unleashed the Arab Spring uprisings across the region.

Saied’s move to seize executive control appears to have widespread popular support in Tunisia, where years of misgovernance, corruption, political paralysis and economic stagnation have been aggravated this year by a deadly surge in COVID-19 cases.


Tunisian Police Detain Lawmaker, Islamist Party Officials


Tunisians walk past a military armored personnel carrier at Habib Bourguiba avenue in Tunis, Tunisia, Friday, July 30, 2021. Days of political turmoil in Tunisia over the economy and the coronavirus have left its allies in the Middle East, Europe and the United States watching to see if the fragile democracy will survive. (AP Photo/Hassene Dridi)

TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — Tunisian authorities jailed an opposition lawmaker Friday and briefly detained four members of the powerful Islamist movement Ennahdha in the wake of the president’s decision to seize exceptional powers, according to Tunisian media reports.

The Ennahdha members were brought before investigating magistrates and accused of trying to incite violence outside the parliament building after President Kais Saied’s announcement Sunday, according to party official Riadh Chaidi.

The four were questioned but later released for lack of proof of violence, Chaidi told The Associated Press.

The president suspended parliament, lifted the immunity of parliament members, fired the prime minister and took control of the executive branch. He said the move was necessary to save the country amid public anger at the government over joblessness, rising prices and one of Africa’s worst coronavirus outbreaks.

But Saied’s decision raised concerns about Tunisia’s young democracy. Critics — most notably Ennahdha — accused him of a coup. Ennahdha has been a major player in Tunisian legislative elections since the country’s 2011 revolution, which unleashed the Arab Spring uprisings across the region.

The next day, Ennahdha supporters skirmished with backers of the president outside parliament, but the crowd was eventually dispersed by police.

Among those detained Friday were the bodyguard of Ennahdha leader and parliament speaker Rachid Ghannouchi, his protocol officer and a member of the party’s advisory council.

The four were accused of inciting people from a working-class neighborhood close to parliament to bring sticks to carry out acts of violence during the rally, according to the official TAP news agency.

“There was no link with violence,” said Chaidi, a member of the party’s executive bureau. “Violence is not a choice of Ennahdha.”

He sought to minimize the detentions, and played down concerns that they were a sign of a government crackdown singling out his party.

U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan spoke Saturday with Tunisia’s president and conveyed President Joe Biden’s strong support for the people of Tunisia and for Tunisian democracy, National Security Council spokesperson Emily Horne said in a White House press release.

“In this spirit, the call focused on the critical need for Tunisian leaders to outline a swift return to Tunisia’s democratic path,” the press release said. “National Security Advisor Sullivan underscored that this will require rapidly forming a new government, led by a capable prime minister to stabilize Tunisia’s economy and confront the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as ensuring the timely return of the elected parliament.”

Also Friday, outspoken legislator Yassine Ayari was arrested outside his home, according to a Facebook post by his party, the Hope and Action Movement.

His lawyer Mokhtar Jemai said Ayari was apparently arrested in connection with a June 30 court conviction, but was not informed of the reason for conviction. Ayari has spoken out against the military and the government and faced legal problems in the past, but no longer enjoys parliamentary immunity because of the president’s decisions.

On Thursday, the president named a new interior minister, his first major appointment since the shakeup. Ridha Gharsallaoui, a former national security adviser to the presidency, will now head the Interior Ministry, which oversees domestic security, including policing.

Regional Forces Join Offensive against Mozambique Extremists


July 30, 2021

In this photo supplied by the Mozambican Presidency, President Filipe Nyusi, right, during a visit to his Defence and Security Force Troops in Northern Mozambique, Friday, July 9, 2021. Rwandan troops have joined the Mozambican forces to launch a major offensive against Islamic rebels in northern Mozambique as more troops arrive from South Africa and other neighboring countries to help battle the insurgency. (Photo Mozambique Presidency via AP)

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Rwandan troops have joined Mozambican forces to launch a major offensive against Islamic rebels in northern Mozambique as more troops arrive from South Africa and other neighboring countries to battle the insurgency.

Less than two weeks after landing in Mozambique, the 1,000 soldiers from Rwanda fought alongside Mozambican troops to regain control of Awasse, a strategic town in northern Cabo Delgado province, according to the Mozambican government.

“We have attacked and re-occupied the enemy position at Awasse,” President Filipe Nyusi said in a broadcast to the nation earlier this week. He said three other towns also were retaken from the rebels.

The new offensive is seen as a drive to regain control of Mocimboa da Praia, the Indian Ocean port that the rebels have held for nearly a year.

The joint forces have also been fighting the rebels in Palma and appear to be trying to secure the nearby Afungi peninsula where the French firm Total was forced to stop operations in its $20 billion liquified natural gas project, according to Cabo Ligado, a newsletter about the extremist violence.

Rwanda’s forces killed 14 extremists, that country’s army spokesman announced Thursday. Mozambican media report that both sides have suffered casualties.

The campaign against the rebels will be further supported by troops arriving from South Africa, leading the contingent being sent by the 16-nation Southern African Development Community to assist Mozambique.

South Africa, the regional powerhouse, will send about 1,500 troops at a cost of nearly 1 billion rand ($68 million), President Cyril Ramaphosa informed parliament this week. A South African general is to lead the regional force.

Zimbabwe announced Thursday that it will deploy 300 soldiers as trainers and advisers, and Botswana sent 300 troops to Mozambique earlier this week. Angola and Botswana have also announced they are sending forces.

The countries of southern Africa are giving military support to Mozambique to try to prevent the extremist rebels from expanding their foothold in the region.

Since its start in 2017, the insurgency has been blamed for more than 3,000 deaths, according to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data project. The rebels, allied to the Islamic State group, have beheaded scores of people and imposed Shariah law in areas they have seized. More than 800,000 people have been displaced by the conflict and nearly 1 million people need food aid, according to the U.N. World Food Program.

The U.S. has sent 12 special forces officers to help train Mozambique’s military, and the European Union is to send a military training mission to build on a training program provided by Portugal, according to a recent report by Cabo Ligado, a project led by ACLED to research the conflict.

Friday, July 30, 2021

International Court Drops Simone Gbagbo Arrest Warrant


FILE - In this Saturday, Jan. 15, 2011 file photo, Simone Gbagbo, wife of Laurent Gbagbo, smiles during a pro-Gbagbo rally at the Palace of Culture in the Treichville neighborhood of Abidjan, Ivory Coast. In a written ruling issued confidentially on July 19, 2021 and made public this week, the International Criminal Court has withdrawn its arrest warrant for the wife of former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo following her husband's acquittal on charges of involvement in deadly violence that erupted following his country's disputed 2010 presidential election. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell, File)

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — The International Criminal Court has withdrawn its arrest warrant for the wife of former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo following her husband’s acquittal on charges of involvement in deadly violence that erupted following his country’s disputed 2010 presidential election.

Simone Gbagbo had faced similar charges under an arrest warrant issued by the global war crimes court in 2012.

Her husband was acquitted in 2019, midway through his trial at the ICC, of responsibility for crimes including murder, rape and persecution during post-election violence in Ivory Coast. Judges said prosecutors failed to prove their case. Appeals judges at the global court upheld the acquittal in March, clearing Gbagbo and co-defendant Charles Ble Goude to fly home.

In a written ruling issued confidentially on July 19 and made public this week, a panel of ICC judges approved a request by prosecutors to withdraw the warrant against Simone Gbagbo.

“The Chamber finds that developments at the trial and appeal stage of the case of Mr. Gbagbo make it apparent that the evidence upon which the Warrant of Arrest for Simone Gbagbo was grounded can no longer be considered as satisfying the evidentiary threshold required,” the judges wrote.

In 2017, a court in Ivory Coast found Simone Gbagbo not guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity for her alleged role in abuses following the 2010 election. She was convicted two years earlier of crimes against the state and sentenced to 20 years, but was released after being granted amnesty in 2018.

Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara met on Tuesday with Laurent Gbagbo, who returned home last month, in an attempt to ease political tensions that have persisted in the West African nation since their last meeting more than a decade ago.

Gbagbo’s arrest by French commandos who deported him to Europe for a year-long trial concluded with no conviction. Ouattara ultimately prevailed with the backing of French and United States imperialism and has been the president of Ivory Coast ever since, 

Colombia Coastal City Crowded with African, Haitian Migrants


A Haitian migrant carries a baby to a boat that will take them to Capurgana, on the border with Panama, from Necocli, Colombia, early Thursday, July 29, 2021. Migrants have been gathering in Necocli as they move north towards Panama on their way to the U.S. border. (AP Photo/Ivan Valencia)

NECOCLI, Colombia (AP) — A small city on Colombia’s Caribbean shore is being crowded with migrants from Haiti, Africa and Cuba making what they hope will be a journey toward the United States.

Local official estimate more than 10,000 migrants have massed recently in Necocli, a city of some 20,000 people better known for its beaches, coconuts and burbling mud volcanos. It has become a bottleneck on the global migrant trail that winds through South and Central America, and on to Mexico and then the U.S. southern border.

Necocli residents say they have never seen so many migrants and city authorities have declared a “public calamity” because of water shortages caused by the additional demand from the migrants. Colombian ombudsman Carlos Camargo on Thursday visited the city’s docks where boats depart to verify the humanitarian situation of the thousands of migrants.

“I make a call to my counterparts in other countries to carry out joint actions to confront this problem,” he told The Associated Press.

For many migrants, the journey runs from the Ecuadorian border through Colombia to Necocli, where ferries carry people across the Gulf of Uraba to the even smaller border town of Capurgana — and then into a dangerous, roadless expanse of Panama known as the Darien Gap.

But the ferries can carry only about 750 people a day — half of the 1,500 a day that have been arriving of late. The ferries also sometimes shut down on weekends or due to bad weather.

So the migrants wait, some renting rooms in cheap tourist accommodations, others sleeping on the beach. When day comes, they line up — sometimes with children in arms — in hopes of buying the $50 ferry ticket.

“I am here in search of a better life, a better job,” said Rijkaard Samedy, a 27-year-old Haitian who, along with his spouse and son, spent five years among the burgeoning Haitian population in Chile. He said they decided to head north because they felt discriminated against in the South American nation.

Colombia’s government Defense of the People agency says at least 33,000 migrants so far this year have passed into Panama, most of them originally from Haiti, Cuba, Senegal and Ghana. Others from Somalia, Guinea, Congo and Burkina Faso have passed through as well.

That’s a sharp rebound from last year, when pandemic restrictions reduced mobility for locals and migrants alike.

Many head first to South America, where some countries sheltered Haitians after a 2010 earthquake devastated that country. Some, like Samedy, eventually look north — especially after the pandemic squeezed regional economies.

The trek is dangerous and Colombian authorities have identified human trafficking networks operating in the region. Migrants are both aided and preyed upon as they make their way from the Darien through Central America and then Mexico. Rapes and robberies are often reported.

Monsignor Hugo Torres said a family with seven children arrived in Necocli this week. Some migrants are pregnant. “They have no idea what danger awaits them in the Darien,” he said.

The number of Haitians reaching Mexico, the last stop before the U.S. border, appears to have increased significantly this year. Those requesting asylum in Mexico — one measure of their presence — mounted to 9,327 through June, compared to annual totals of less than 6,000 the past two years.

Large numbers of Haitians wait in lines each day in the southern Mexican city of Tapachula near the Guatemalan border as they try to regularize their status before continuing north. Their numbers have swelled in northern Mexico as well, especially in Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez.

While many entered Colombia illegally, officials have made little effort to deport them. Immigration officials have said it would be too costly to fly so many home.

With a bag on his shoulder and sweating under the hot sun, 58-year-old Cuban Esteban Martínez waits to get on a small boat in Necocli to take him on the next step toward Panama and ultimately the United States.

Martínez began his journey in February 2019 when he left Cuba in search of the “American dream.” He crossed Guyana and Suriname, where he worked in a gold mine for longer than he had planned because of the COVID-19 pandemic. A couple of months ago he resumed his journey, arriving in Colombia from Ecuador.

“The focus of all of us is to climb that hill and get to Panama and then up to the United States,” said Martínez, who is traveling with his wife and 11 other Cubans. “I think it’s time; there is no other way.”

Dominika Arseniuk, director in Colombia for the Norwegian Council for Refugees, said it’s urgent that authorities in Colombia and Panama to work together on dealing with the crisis.

Samedy, the Haitian said he hopes U.S. President Joe Biden will set policies that help migrants, saying he sees no way of returning to Haiti, which is embroiled in political, economic and health crises.

“What is happening in my country is very complicated. The president wasn’t safe,” he said, alluding to the recent assassination of Jovenel Moïse.


Suárez reported from Bucaramanga, Colombia.

Burundi, in Reversal, Says it Will Accept COVID-19 Vaccines


July 29, 2021

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Burundi’s government now says it will accept COVID-19 vaccines, becoming one of the last countries in the world to embrace them. But the health ministry says it will not take responsibility for any side effects they might cause.

Health Minister Thaddee Ndikumana on Wednesday said the vaccines will arrive with the support of the World Bank. It was not immediately clear how many doses the East African country will receive or when.

“The vaccine will be given to those who need it,” the health minister said. The government will store the doses but will not take responsibility for any side effects, he added.

Burundi’s announcement came the same day that neighboring Tanzania launched its vaccination campaign, retreating from former President John Magufuli’s denial of the pandemic. He died in March and the presidency went to his deputy Samia Suluhu Hassan, who has since reversed course on COVID-19 in one of Africa’s most populous countries.

Burundi’s late President Pierre Nkurunziza, who died last year, also was criticized for taking the pandemic lightly. The administration of his successor, President Evariste Ndayishimiye, earlier this year said the country of more than 11 million people didn’t yet need COVID-19 vaccines.

Burundi continues to carry out mass screenings for the virus, and the health minister noted the more infectious variants now spreading. “If we do not change our behavior, we risk finding ourselves in the coming months at the starting point situation,” he said.

Burundi has had more than 6,700 confirmed infections, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Burundi’s decision leaves Eritrea, one of the world’s most closed-off nations, as the only African country that hasn’t accepted the vaccines. Eritrea’s government has reported more than 6,500 confirmed cases.

The director of the Africa CDC, John Nkengasong, told reporters on Thursday he was not sure why Eritrea is not taking vaccines but “we continue to engage them....We leave no country behind.”

Africa: Shona Newest Tribe as 1,649 Granted Citizenship

Lucy Wanjiru/Nation Media Group

Members of the Shona community celebrate after receiving their identification cards and certificate of citizenship on July 28, 2021.

30 JULY 2021

The Nation (Nairobi)

By Mercy Chelangat and Mercy Simiyu

The Shona community is now Kenya's newest tribe.

This is after 1,649 members of the community, who had been stateless, were presented with citizenship certificates.

Speaking during the ceremony on Wednesday, Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i said all stateless people who are eligible for Kenyan citizenship will be recognised as citizens by this year's Jamhuri Day celebrations.

"We have been working on ending statelessness in our country, and I'm very happy about the progress we've made. When our President began his tenure in 2013, he pledged to end statelessness by the end of his term. We are well on our way to completing that job," Dr Matiang'i said.

The ministry, he added, will conduct the process in line with the international conventions on human rights and without compromising national security.

Genuine individuals

The CS revealed that the stateless Sagaf community in Tana River will receive citizenship through the Department of Civil Registration in collaboration with the Directorate of Immigration Services and the National Registration Bureau.

Dr Matiang'i said the government is in talks with international migration agencies to assimilate genuine individuals into the country to curb crime.

"This is a strong demonstration of our respect for human rights. Kenya remains hospitable to all Africans who wish to live and engage in legitimate economic activities," he said.

"All individuals will be subjected to rigorous background checks and will be meticulously verified to avoid potential devaluation of the Kenyan citizenship. We recently deported several people who obtained identity documents fraudulently.

"Some of them find ways of mixing with criminals in our midst, and we have a duty to ensure our country remains safe and secure," Dr Matiang'i added.

He explained that the government has started simultaneous processing of citizenship certificates and identity cards in order to expedite the process.

"The intention is to flatten the barriers to adjustment of citizenship status and social integration, and the process is set to be expeditious due to the capacity adjustment in the immigration quality control," he said.

In 2016, 1,496 members of the Makonde community in Kwale County were granted citizenship.

Last year, 2,970 stateless Shona and Rwandese received recognition as citizens, in line with the Constitution, which obliges the State to confer citizenship on stateless persons.

Read the original article on Nation.

A Tale of Two Lectures: UCT Student Council Boycotts Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Lecture, Accuses Her of Transphobia

By Sandisiwe Shoba 

29 July 2021

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie delivered the virtual Vice-Chancellor’s Open Lecture at UCT on Wednesday, 28 July. (Photo: Screen grab)

Renowned author and feminist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie delivered this year’s second Vice-Chancellor’s open lecture at UCT amid a wave of criticism from the university’s SRC, which accused her of being transphobic.

As feminist and author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie delivered the virtual Vice-Chancellor’s Open Lecture at UCT on Wednesday evening, the university’s Student Representative Council held a parallel lecture to boycott Adichie whom they accused of transphobia.

The SRC hosted transgender doctor Anastacia Tomson who spoke on “the dangers of sectional feminism in the context of trans women”.

During a 2017 interview on BBC Channel 4, Adichie said “trans women are trans women” in response to a question on whether she considers trans women as real women. She received heavy criticism for her comments and subsequently apologised.

But the matter has not been put to bed.

The SRC wrote a letter to Vice-Chancellor Mamokgethi Phakeng, requesting that Adichie be removed as guest speaker in solidarity with transgender students and staff at the institution.

The request was denied.

UCT’s SRC held its own webinar on ‘The Dangers of Sectional Feminism: In the Context of Trans Women’ on Wednesday, 28 July 2021.

The SRC wrote: “As an institution which actively promotes intersectional feminism through its curriculum, it is important for us to recognise that Ngozi-Adichie divided the feminist community with her remarks, instead of recognising how trans women also have a right to simply be recognised as who they are without having to defend their womanhood.”

They went on to name 10 individuals who were victims of transphobic and homophobic attacks this year.

In response, Phakeng appreciated the SRC’s “views” but said cancelling the lecture would “rob us all of the opportunity to share, to express, to learn and to change our minds.” Phakeng went on to mention that UCT is the first university in South Africa to ratify the Inclusivity Policy for Sexual Orientation which allows students to choose their preferred title or no title at all.

“Students who choose to change their title are allowed to select from Miss, Ms, Mrs, Mr, Mx or the blank option, which indicates no title.”

“We believe this decision has helped in our efforts to create an environment in which all will flourish and be respected, as encouraged by the Constitution of our country.”

The boycott drew mixed responses.

On Twitter, some users accused the SRC of engaging in gratuitous radicalism and submitting to “cancel culture” rather than taking the opportunity to discuss their views with the author.

Meanwhile, others showed their support for the SRC’s protest. 

Towards the end of her lecture titled, “The idolatry of theory: a defence of storytelling” Adichie addressed the criticisms levelled against her after an audience member raised the issue.

She stood by her remarks saying that the premise of inclusivity is that differences exist.

“There is an impulse on the political left to wish away difference because difference is often the cause of oppression,” she said.

“Why can we not see difference as difference rather than better or worse, why can we not in intellectual debates resist that urge of creating a hierarchy of oppression?”

In her BBC interview, Adichie had couched her argument about trans women in the sentiment that trans women had lived with the privileges accorded to men before they transitioned to womanhood, therefore their experiences differ from those of persons born as women.

Adichie released her first novel, Purple Hibiscus, in 2003 which won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award. Her other award-winning books include Half of a Yellow Sun, which won the Orange Prize; and Americanah, a 2013 National Book Critics Circle Award winner. Her book, Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions, was published in March 2017, and her book Notes on Grief, an account of the loss of her father, was published earlier this year.

She has delivered two landmark TED talks, with the first being “The Danger of a Single Story” in 2009. Her 2012 TEDxEuston talk, “We Should All Be Feminists”, started a worldwide conversation about feminism and was published as a book in 2014.  DM

Adichie Speaks at UCT Lecture After Boycott Calls From Students' Council


UCT open lecture invite.

30 JULY 2021

By Sethi Ncube

Johannesburg — On July 28 internationally acclaimed Nigerian author and renowned feminist, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie presented the second University of Cape Town (UCT) Vice-Chancellor's Open Lecture titled The Idolatry of Theory: A Defense of Storytelling.

But the university's Students' Representative Council (SRC) held a parallel lecture to boycott Ngozi Adichie, whom they accused of transphobia, with guest speaker Dr Anastacia Tomson who spoke on "the dangers of sectional feminism in the context of trans women".

They boycotted Ngozi Adichie's lecture because of an interview with BBC in 2017, where she said "trans women are trans women" in response to a question about whether she considers trans women as real women. She apologised after getting a backlash. She was criticised by members of the LGBTQIA+ community for the comment, saying she is transphobic and her feminism is "lacking intersectionality".

The SRC said, in a statement, that: "As an institution which actively promotes intersectional feminism through its curriculum, it is important for us to recognise that Ngozi Adichie enhanced the divide in the feminist community with her anti-trans remarks, instead of using her platform and influence to highlight how trans women also have a right to simply be recognised as who they are without having to defend their womanhood."

"The argument that transwomen are different from cis women assumes that trans women did not experience any form of discrimination prior to transitioning," the SRC tweeted.

(Editor's note: A cisgender person is a person whose gender identity matches their sex assigned at birth. For example, someone who identifies as a woman and was identified as female at birth is a cisgender woman. It is often abbreviated to "cis".) 

In their parallel lecture which they called a "safe space", the SRC clarified that the boycott was not about "cancel culture" but a call for institutions like UCT to support people like Ngozi Adichie who have anti-trans views and sideline affected people.

The request that the VC Mamokgethi Phakeng change her as the speaker in solidarity with transgender students and staff at the institution fell on deaf ears.

According to News24, UCT viewed the lecture as an opportunity for debate and different perspectives on the same issue.

Phakeng has also been criticised on social media for having the rainbow flag as part of her Twitter bio, yet "she entertains people with anti-trans views".

Lorde @TshepiMamashela The rainbow flag in the Twitter name and CNA as a guest speaker will never make sense.

Call Me J4M4L @CallMeJ4m4l UCT said let's give the known TERF and transphobe with her entry-level feminism a platform. That Pride Flag is clearly just for varbs.

Nkgono Neria  @neriahlakotsa Read the room. Respect Trans people. Stop being arrogant. Noone needs to hear Chimamanda.

Under Pressure, Saeid Appoints Tunisia’s New Interior Minister

Former national security adviser named new interior minister days after President Saied sacked prime minister, suspended parliament.

The presidency announced Garsalaoui's nomination just as Saied, who has spoken of 'imminent dangers' to the North African country, came under increasing international and domestic pressure to form a new government [File: Reuters]

30 Jul 2021

Tunisian President Kais Saied has appointed a former national security adviser to the presidency to run the interior ministry and pledged to protect rights and freedoms.

The presidency announced Ridha Garsalaoui’s nomination on Thursday just as Saied, who has spoken of “imminent dangers” to the North African country, came under increasing international and domestic pressure to form a new government.

The new appointee is also a top-ranking former police official, local media reported.

On Sunday, the president invoked a national emergency to seize control of government, dismissing the prime minister and freezing the parliament.

“The state is not a puppet moved by strings, there are lobbies and corrupt individuals who have been pulling the strings from behind the curtains,” Saied said. “The conditions at this historical moment forced me to take such exceptional measures.

“I tell you and the whole world that I am keen to implement the constitutional text and keen more than them on rights and freedoms.

“No one has been arrested. No one has been deprived of his rights but the law is fully applied.”

Tunisians are awaiting the appointment of a new prime minister and the announcement of a road map to find a way out of the crisis.

Saied’s supporters have cast his intervention as a welcome reset for the 2011 revolution after years of economic stagnation under a political class that has often appeared more interested in its own narrow advantage than in national gain.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday said he had urged Saied to take action that would return the country “to the democratic path” and also urged the restoration of parliament.

“The intentions he expressed to me were to return Tunisia to that democratic path, and to act in a way that was consistent with the constitution,” Blinken said during an interview with Al Jazeera, referring to a conversation with Saied earlier this week.

“But of course, we have to look at the actions that the president takes, that Tunisia takes,” he said.

The young democracy had often been cited as the sole success story of the Arab Spring.

But 10 years on, many say they have seen little improvement in living standards and have grown infuriated by protracted political deadlock amid rising cases of COVID-19 infections, along with infighting among the elite.

Saied accused 460 businessmen of owing 13.5 billion Tunisian dinars ($4.9bn) to the state, citing the findings of a commission of inquiry into corruption under former strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

“This money must be returned to the Tunisian people,” he said, adding that he intends to offer the businessmen “judicial arbitration”.

Saied also asked traders and wholesalers to “lower prices” in a crisis-hit economy where soaring inflation has eaten away at the purchasing power of consumers.

He also called for a revival of phosphate production, one of the country’s few natural resources.

The power grab has been welcomed by many Tunisians struggling to make ends meet and fed up by the mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Wednesday evening, the president also announced the establishment of a crisis unit to manage surging COVID-19 cases.

Tunisia, with a population of approximately 12 million people, has one of the worst COVID-19 death rates in the world, with 19,000 fatalities linked to the coronavirus.


Thursday, July 29, 2021


Saied slammed the "bad economic choices" made in recent years, during a meeting with a leader of the employers' federation UTICA.

Academic Kais Saied celebrates his victory in the Tunisian presidential election in the capital Tunis on 13 October 2019. Picture: AFP


TUNIS - Tunisia's President Kais Saied accused 460 businessmen of embezzlement as he declared a crackdown on corruption, days after grabbing power in what his opponents have labelled a "coup".

Saied, who suspended parliament for 30 days and seized all executive powers on Sunday, slammed the "bad economic choices" made in recent years, during a meeting with a leader of the employers' federation UTICA.

In his comments late Wednesday, the president singled out for criticism "those who plunder public money".

Saied accused the 460 businesspeople of owing 13.5 billion dinars ($4.9 billion) to the state, citing the findings of a commission of inquiry into graft under former dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

"This money must be returned to the Tunisian people," he said, adding that he intends to offer them "judicial arbitration".

In exchange for dropping proceedings, the reimbursed money would be injected into less developed parts of Tunisia.

Saied also asked traders and wholesalers to "lower prices" in a crisis-hit economy where soaring inflation has eaten away at the purchasing power of consumers.

He also called for a revival of phosphate production, one of the country's few natural resources often used for agricultural fertiliser.

Gafsa Phosphate Company, a former flagship of the Tunisian economy, has seen its production collapse since the 2011 revolution that toppled Ben Ali, due to a lack of investment and bouts of social unrest.

Saied raised suspicions of corruption that surround the industry, referring to "people in parliament who protect themselves with parliamentary immunity".


Hours before his comments, prosecutors appointed by Saied as part of emergency measures announced the opening of an investigation into political parties suspected of receiving foreign funds for campaigning in 2019 elections.

The probe, initially opened on July 14, before Saied's power grab, targets Ennahdha, which has been part of all coalitions since the 2011 revolution, as well as its liberal ally Qalb Tounes and the Aich Tounsi movement.

After months of political crisis, Saied, whose presidential duties are normally limited to diplomacy and security, seized power on Sunday by invoking the constitution.

The move was denounced as a "coup d'etat" by his main opponents, the Islamist-inspired Ennahdha party.

Before his power grab, Saied, an austere legal academic who won office in 2019 thanks to his virulent criticism of political parties, had been well known for his stance against corruption.

Saied in January blocked a cabinet reshuffle by prime minister Hichem Mechichi, whom he sacked on Sunday, citing suspected conflicts of interest and corruption by some ministers.

While the power grab has been welcomed by many Tunisians struggling to make ends meet and fed up by the mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has sparked concern at home and abroad.

On Wednesday evening, the president also announced the establishment of a crisis unit to manage the COVID outbreak, supervised by a senior military officer.

Tunisia has been facing a new peak in the pandemic in recent weeks.

The North African country of around 12 million people has one of the worst COVID death rates in the world, with 19,000 fatalities linked to the coronavirus.

South Africa is Sending Troops to Mozambique


Jul 29, 2021 06:28 PM

South Africa is sending almost 1,500 troops to Mozambique to help its neighbor battle jihadists wreaking havoc in the gas-rich north of the country, part of a growing multinational force there.

In a statement on Wednesday, parliament said President Cyril Ramaphosa had authorized the deployment of as many as 1,495 soldiers to support Mozambique in its fight against "acts of terrorism and violent extremists." 

Attacks have escalated in northern Mozambique over the past year, fueling fears that    violence could spill over into neighboring countries.

Since 2017, the Cabo Delgado region has been battered by a bloody jihadist insurgency that has killed more than 3,100 people, according to conflict data tracker ACLED, and displaced more than 800,000 people.

The three-month mission for South Africa's force - from July 15 to October 15 - is part of a deal agreed in June by the 16 nations of the Southern African Development Community (SADC). The operation is expected to cost the country more than 984 million rand (about $66 million), said the parliamentary statement.

South Africa is the latest country in the region to dispatch troops to Mozambique after Botswana, which sent soldiers on Monday. Earlier in July, Rwanda sent in a 1,000-strong force.

The SADC approved the deployment of its "Standby Force"  in late June to help smoke out the Islamic State-linked militants that have been terrorizing its gas-rich north for nearly four years.

The total force size of the SADC regional deployment is not yet known.

Living in China’s Technological Miracle

CPC’s innovation-driven strategy powers xiaokang society

By Global Times

Jul 29, 2021 08:23 PM

Photo taken on Tuesday shows China's new maglev transportation system in Qingdao, east China's Shandong Province. It is currently the world's fastest ground vehicle. Photo: cnsphoto

Editor's Note: On July 1, China declared it had reached its first centenary development goal - building a moderately prosperous society, or xiaokang, in all respects and is marching confidently toward the second centenary goal of building China into a great modern socialist nation. To decipher what that means in the context of where China is now and where it's heading, the Global Times is publishing a series of multimedia productions about achievements under the xiaokang goal in various aspects. This piece focuses on technological miracles that have changed people's lives.

If China were able to build a time machine and send one of its 1.4 billion citizens back to the late 1970s, the person would be stuck in a kerosene lamp-powered life without any electronics. Communication with family and friends would rely on mail carriers. Long-distance travel would mean standing in slow-moving trains for hours or days. Grocery shopping would require different stamps for different items.

Those are just several aspects of what the life of an ordinary Chinese person looked like before China embarked on what has been an unparalleled journey to building a moderately prosperous society in all respects, or xiaokang - the 2,500-year old concept that was revived by late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping in 1979 to describe China's goal of modernization.

China might not be able to build a time machine. However, the changes brought about by the country's achievement in science and technology for ordinary Chinese people over the past four decades or so are just as magical as they are miraculous.

Thanks to technological breakthroughs in various areas, kerosene lamps have been replaced with smart lights controlled by voice command or even the sole presence of a person and powered by greener energies. Mail carriers have been replaced with 5G-powered equipment ensuring that family and friends are just a button away. Old slow trains have been replaced with ultra-fast high-speed rail. And to buy groceries, you might just need to scan your face, if you have to show up at all.

Over the past four decades, life in most countries around the world has been changed by advances in science and technology, but none could possibly match the pace or the extent of the change in Chinese life. What China has achieved in terms of scientific and technological advances is nothing short of a miracle. 

It's hard to pinpoint China's scientific and technological advances as it leads in countless areas from renewable energy to 5G network, and high-speed rail to artificial intelligence (AI), and has numerous world-leading companies. 

Miraculous advances

Several statistics may put things into perspective. China's annual research and development (R&D) spending grew 169 times over from around 14.3 billion yuan ($2.21 billion) at the beginning of the 1990s to 2.44 trillion yuan in 2020. Based on exchange rate conversion, China's total R&D expenditures overtook Japan's in 2013, becoming the world's second after the US. 

China saw its patent applications flourishing from zero case prior to 1985 to 68,720 filings in 2020, having led the world in the number of patent filings since 2011 and overtaking the US in 2019. China has also surpassed the US in terms of the number of academic research papers in 2016. 

The profound progress in China's scientific and technological capabilities is an integral part of China's xiaokang goal, which contains a sweeping set of targets including economic growth, poverty alleviation, as well as technological innovation. At the centennial of the Communist Party of China (CPC) on July 1, Xi Jinping, Chinese president and general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, declared the completion of the goal and called for further building up of the country's strength in science and technology.

Technological innovation and independence have been included as a core part of the CPC's next centennial goal of building China into a modern socialist power by 2050. And with the CPC's firm leadership, innovation-driven strategies, and unique institutional strength, China is well-positioned to become a technological superpower along the journey to socialist modernization, analysts have said.   

"The institutional advantage of socialism with Chinese characteristics, as reflected in the CPC's centralized and unified leadership, is also a key factor that drives the nation to concentrate its efforts on major tasks in order to make breakthroughs in areas that are closely related to national security and core competitiveness," Sun Fuquan, vice-president of the Beijing-based Chinese Academy of Science and Technology for Development, affiliated with the Ministry of Science and Technology, told the Global Times.

Some current global technological leaders, most notably the US, have been increasingly nervous about China's technological rise and have even moved to contain China's rise. However, just as technological advancements under the xiaokang goal were aimed primarily at improving the livelihood of the Chinese people, China's pursuit of further scientific and technological advances are also aimed at further improving the lives of the Chinese people, analysts have said. 

To understand where China is headed in terms of how future technologies could change lives, it's noteworthy to look back at how China's achievements over the past several decades completely changed the most basic aspects of life that many have taken for granted.    

Kerosene lamp to green brightness 

With China's electricity market design highlighting a wide-reaching network of ultra-high voltage (UHV) transmission lines and a gradual shift toward renewable energy, the country's rise as the world's second-largest economy has been well underpinned by its miraculous advance in terms of power, experts have said. 

Such a miracle apparently overshadows the US, which is still being haunted by blackouts, as slow UHV progress versus an over-reliance on non-renewable energy fundamentally challenges the stability of the US power supply.  

Recollecting herself as a young woman in her mid-20s when the xiaokang goal began, a 65-year-old retiree from East China's Anhui Province surname Xing told the Global Times that a typical nightlife scene then was family members sitting around a kerosene lamp. Later on, during the early days when electric lights became initially available, kerosene lamps, candles, and flashlights remained viable alternatives.

Over four decades on, she now takes the brightness of bulbs as a guarantee wherever she might be and she even has a handful of color-changing lighting devices that react to her touch and could be synced to music. She said she's now gotten accustomed to the company of a wide array of home appliances and electronics gadgets.

As the country continued to gain economic momentum over the years, its electricity consumption has soared amid the influx of various digital gadgets into Chinese households.

Last year, the country's power consumption grew by 3.1 percent from the previous year to 7.51 trillion kilowatt hours, official data showed. Back in 1979, China only consumed 276.2 billion kilowatt hours, media reports said.

Behind the vicissitudes of life is the country's electricity revolution that has rendered different sources of power an increasingly important part of its technological rise. 

With a national network of UHV transmission lines in place that transmit energy over a long distance, linking far-flung interior regions with abundant solar, wind, hydro, and nuclear power to energy-thirsty coastal regions, China has taken the global lead in enabling efficient, cost effective, and environmentally friendly power transmission.

The transition underway toward renewable energy, notably solar and wind power, is considered as the cornerstone of the Chinese economy's aim to hit peak emission by 2030 before becoming carbon neutral by 2060.

By comparison, the US, a major global energy producer and consumer, has made slow progress in building a powerful national electricity grid, although a UHV transmission superstructure is widely seen as a solution to the aging transmission infrastructure that cripples the nation.

Mail carriers to 5G network

Another high-profile technological miracle is the giant leap China has taken in eventually establishing itself as a world leader in 5G, to the extent of unnerving the US which has gone to extreme lengths to sanction Chinese 5G equipment vendors, notably Huawei, industry watchers have said, attributing the feat to the country's continued, forward-looking commitments to updating its telecom infrastructure.

The eagerness for the arrival of mail carriers to make a delayed connection with your friends or family members, and the excitement of making a call on a public rotary dial telephone, among the common things in the earlier decades were only emblems pictured in some TV episodes or movies of that era.

With a 1 billion-strong population of internet users, the country is now acknowledged as the global paradise for mobile communications where tech-savvy users with at least one smartphone are now deeply immersed in a mobile internet-linked world: Real-time video calls or conferences, geographically unbound mobile payments, shopping, food ordering, and taxi-hailing, among other activities that are all powered by the country's almighty mobile network.

By the end of 2020, China's mobile phone subscribers had reached 1.59 billion. In stark contrast, there were only 3,000 subscribers in 1988 when China ushered in the era of mobile communications for the first time.

By the end of 2020, a total of 989 million users in China were enjoying fast connectivity speeds and a rich variety of internet content by surfing on the web. In stark contrast, only 620,000 people could have access to the internet in 1997, the first year that marked China's entrance into the age of the internet.

With internet-related industries taking a huge step, the country has rolled out 916,000 5G base stations, accounting for 70 percent of the world's total, and it's now home to over 365 million 5G-connected devices, making up 80 percent of the world's total, according to latest official data.

The country's rise as a global leader in the 5G era, with domestic heavyweights including Huawei sitting atop the world's 5G-related patents, has unnerved the US in particular. Feeling frequently on edge over the past few years, the US government has gone to desperate lengths to add a rising number of Chinese entities and businesses to its export control and sanction lists.

China, for its part, has been pushing even harder into a head start in next-generation wireless communication. 

In a fresh sign, Shanghai, where its Pudong New Area has recently been declared to be built into a pioneer area for socialist modernization in the coming decades, on July 21 unveiled a plan for the development of strategic, emerging industries during the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25). The development plan prioritizes breakthroughs in 6G core technologies and the active participation in 6G standardization competitions.

Isolation to high-speed travel 

In yet another instance of China's miraculous rise in the tech world, high-speed rail (HSR) technology and bullet trains are now almost instantly labeled Chinese made, although it is actually China's fast-paced and impressive progress in HSR technology that makes many forget that the first HSR system began operations in Japan. The country's focus on sharpening its edge in higher-end manufacturing arguably makes the case for the HSR miracle, observers have said.  

Riding on an ultra-fast, comfortable HSR from Shanghai to Beijing, Liu, a frequent traveler, booked a food delivery via his smartphone one hour before the train stopped for a few minutes at the station in Ji'nan, capital of East China's Shandong Province.

Receiving a freshly made rice and meat set meal from a restaurant outside the train carriage, Liu told the Global Times how he marveled at the drastic changes of train technologies and services. 

He still recalls the scene a decade ago when standing in the train for a whole night, enduring its slow movement, and felt his feet completely go numb on reaching the destination.

Now the Beijing-Shanghai HSR, one of China's busiest and fastest rail lines, carried 1.35 billion passengers during its first decade of operation, running a distance equivalent to approximately 40,000 revolutions around the globe. It takes only four and a half hours between the two major cities, compared with nearly 17 hours in the 1980s on the green-skinned train.

By the end of 2020, the country had more than 37,900 kilometers of HSR lines in service, the longest in the world, according to China State Railway Group, the country's railway operator.

Marked as a historical breakthrough, the HSR demonstrated to the world the country's growing technology prowess by mastering technology in its own hands that was once held by Japan, Germany, and France, as well as its increasing prosperity as the world's second-largest economy.

Not stopping its pursuit for more advanced HSR technologies, China is among the first in the world to introduce new technology such as autonomous train operation, as evidenced in the high-speed railway line connecting Beijing and Zhangjiakou, the cities to co-host the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics.

With a maximum design speed of 350 kilometers per hour (kph), the trains can automatically start and stop, run between stations, open and close doors, as well as handle emergencies, marking the first time China will have had autonomous high-speed trains.

To seek higher speed on land, China's self-developed high-speed maglev transportation system running at a speed of 600 kph debuted in Qingdao, East China's Shandong Province, on July 20, which symbolized a cutting-edge scientific and technological achievement in the field of rail transit.

Stamps to facial scan 

China's spectacular march in artificial intelligence over the past decade is surely another miracle that can't be overlooked when gauging the country's technological revolution at a much later stage of its xiaokang adventure, as the economy's transition toward being innovation-oriented has prioritized AI, alongside big data and cloud computing, among other emerging technologies, to power the economic growth.

As a consequence of the country's stunning leap toward being a trendsetter in AI, face recognition-enabled ticket checking machines have been deployed in a growing number of railway stations across the country. Face recognition clocking in machines are also becoming commonplace in the country.

Thanks to broad-base applications of AI technology into everyday life and the workplace, these technological advancements helped in the quick and effective tracing of virus infections, with the country ahead of other major economies in emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a sign of the country's fabulous stride from a manufacturing hub to a global technology power into the future, China holds 389,571 out of over 520,000 AI patent applications globally over the past decade, according to findings in a report by the Tsinghua University Artificial Intelligence Research Institute earlier this year.

The four Chinese AI heavyweights - Megvii, SenseTime Group, YITU Technology, and CloudWalk - have also in recent years bagged numerous world-class AI-related awards, notably in image recognition and algorithm terms. 

The country has achieved a transition in AI technologies development from a focus on basic research to the enabling of its application into specific industries to AI functioning as infrastructure, Sun Jian, chief scientist of Megvii, said at the AI firm's tech open day in Beijing in mid-July.

As part of efforts to close China's gap with the US in the AI ecosystem, Megvii has unveiled its proprietary open-source deep learning framework, MegEngine, as a new, promising alternative to Google's TensorFlow and Facebook-backed PyTorch.

Maps to navigation satellites

Last but not the least, a number of milestones China has hit in the aerospace spotlight the country's enviable miracle in space technology, backed by efforts of several generations of China's space industry experts to turn the country into a space power.

An autonomous driving car packed with vegetables, fruits, and fresh seafood was driving to a residential area in Beijing's Shunyi district in July 2020 when the coronavirus epidemic put many people to stay at home.

By receiving the signal of BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS), the driverless car could adjust its route in real time operation while being guaranteed to stay on the right track. 

It was just one of various scenarios that the Chinese home-grown navigation system was applied to in quotidian life.

With the last BDS satellite successfully sent into space in June 2020, it marked the completion of the country's domestically developed BeiDou constellation.

The satellite system has now become part of usual technological advances in China in the space area; however, it was hard to imagine how Chinese pioneers overcame difficulties in extreme conditions to undertake "mission impossible" back in the 1970s.

With the familiar melody of "Dongfanghong", a Chinese song that pays tribute to Chairman Mao, broadcasting from space, China's first man-made satellite Dongfanghong-1 was successfully launched in 1970. The launch was via China's own booster - Long March 1 rocket, making China the fifth nation to put a spacecraft into orbit using its own rocket.

By that moment, China had proved to the world that it could realize what other foreign countries could. China's aerospace development started late from a low point, but has achieved outstanding progress in a short period of time. Through the efforts and contributions of several generations of people engaging in the aerospace cause, China has caught up with the world's other aerospace powers.

Following successful tests of its first atomic bomb and hydrogen bomb in the 1960s, and the Dongfanghong-1 satellite, China opened a new chapter in space exploration, sending hundreds of self-developed spacecrafts including man-made satellites, crewed spacecrafts, and space probes.

The space industry has produced a remarkable score over the past two years characterized by the nation's first independent Mars mission and the Chang'e 5 mission that retrieved rock and soil samples from the moon.

The latest advance came as China sent three taikonauts into orbit in June via the Shenzhou-12 spaceship, the first of four crewed space flights to complete the country's space station by the end of 2022.

US Terrorizes on COVID-19 Origins-tracing: Official

Blinken-WHO chief talks on origins studies part of Washington's political maneuver: experts

By Chen Qingqing

Published: Jul 29, 2021 09:57 PM

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Chinese diplomats rejected again the political agenda driven by the Biden administration on the COVID-19 origins-tracing and denounced the US government for engaging in a "terror-making" campaign on the matter. As it has become clearer that Washington is turning the origins studies into a political maneuver, more foreign scientists have regretted contributing to the US-led conspiracy theory that has been seriously impeding global efforts in scientific research.  Some believed that the latest meeting between the US and WHO chief was merely "playing politics."

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in Kuwait on Wednesday, affirming US support for the WHO's plans to conduct additional studies into the COVID-19 origins, including in China, to better understand the current pandemic and prevent future ones, according to a statement on the website of US Department of State. The US top diplomat said in the statement that origins-tracing will be scientific, transparent, expert-led and free from interference. 

"This clearly shows that the director-general is playing politics," a person close to the WHO-China joint team on origins-tracing work told the Global Times on Thursday. For his re-election next year and by including the lab leak theory as part of his request for the next-phase study, the WHO chief has pushed a political agenda into a scientific question and lined up support from the US to help with his re-election, the person said, who spoke on condition of anonymity. 

It's become an open secret for scientists in China and overseas that the US has been pressuring the WHO on COVID-19 origins-tracing in recent months, as there has been invisible pressure formed after the signal of its return to the international organization in January and announcing to pay the millions of dollars it owed to the WHO. 

The meeting with Blinken also sent a message "to other member states that they will be supporting his re-election as a quid pro quo for him bringing politics into the virus origins work," the person said. 

The Chinese health authority rejected WHO's phase-2 COVID-19 origins study last week, calling it lacking respect to common sense and arrogant to science amid rising politicized moves of the US government on the matter, as the WHO's plan was proposed when the US-led West intensifies the politics-driven conspiracy about a lab leak theory and exerted political pressure on international scientists to give up their scientific position on the origins issue.

After being aware of such ill-intentioned political attempts, some foreign scientists also began to openly call on a scientific and fact-based research on the origins-tracing. For instance, Pamela Bjorkman, a biology professor at the California Institute of Technology, said in a letter quoted by the Xinhua News Agency that she did not anticipate a letter to Science asking for increased investigation into the origins of COVID-19 would be used to promote the lab origins hypothesis. 

She also explained that her motive for adding her name to the letter was assuming that the letter would have the effect of prompting more funding for searching for natural viruses in animal reservoirs, which she has always assumed represent the origins of COVID-19infections in humans. 

Science published an open letter in May entitled "Investigate the origins of COVID-19" saying the probe must "take hypotheses about both natural and laboratory spillovers seriously until we have sufficient data," which has revived the US-led lab leak conspiracy theory targeting a Chinese lab in Wuhan. 

Bjorkman was quoted as saying in the report that she should have been more proactive, should not have signed the letter, or requested more changes in the wording to make her position clear. 

When asked about the latest proposal from the Blinken-Ghebreyesus talks, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said on Thursday that he wanted to clarify three points. China agrees COVID-19 origins-tracing should be evidence-based, expert-led, and free from interference. But US hyped the "lab leak" theory and ignored relevant clues like to-be-tested blood samples. China took actions to support origins-tracing work on a global scale, and with the WHO-China joint team study, scientists reached a clear conclusion for the phase-one study, so the next-phase study should be conducted on a global scale. 

The US is guilty of three sins in epidemic response and origins-tracing, Zhao said, noting that the US has always put the political maneuver over epidemic prevention, becoming a super virus spreader after failing to contain the outbreak and hiding the true numbers of confirmed infections and the death toll. 

The US government has been engaging in a terror-making campaign on origins-tracing, as from using the term "China virus" to spreading rumors and suppressing scientists. Their actions are no different from practicing "terrorism on origins-tracing," Zhao added. 

Dai Bing, charge d'affaires of China's permanent mission to the UN, also strongly refuted the groundless accusations the US made against China on Wednesday, saying that the US "has completely lost its scientific ethics and moral bottom line" on the origins-tracing issue.

The WHO should not fall into the political trap of the US government, turning itself into a political tool for the Biden administration in wrestling with China, Li Haidong, a professor at the Institute of International Relations of the China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times on Thursday. 

"The anticipated WHO reform can't become a geopolitical battle to represent values of only few countries, as that would go against the organization's genuine goal of serving global public health," Li said. 

The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson also affirmed on Thursday that the phase two study on the origins-tracing should not repeat the phase one study, as the WHO-China joint report has already concluded that the lab leak theory was "extremely unlikely," and the next phase should focus on the zoonotic source and reservoir, pushing forward studies in multiple places worldwide. 

However, there are still questions unanswered in the most hard-hit place - the US on the origins-tracing. And if the US government truly supports the origins studies, it should respond to the rising call as an online petition for a probe into the Fort Detrick lab on COVID-19 origins has gathered nearly 18 million signatures as of Thursday, Zhao said.