Category Archives: LIFESTYLE

COVID19: Morocco removed from EU travel list

The European Union removed Morocco from its safe travel list of countries from which the bloc allows non-essential voyage, after a review by EU ambassadors on August 7, Friday.

Morocco recorded a record high of 6,385 new cases of contamination in the past week, according to a statistics by the Johns Hopkins University. The official soruces in Morocco have reported a total of 29,644 cases and 449 deaths.

The list is recommended as guideline for the EU’s 27 members, proposing to EU members not to open their borders to all the countries which are not included into safe travel list.

It is based on criteria including the monitoring of number of new COVID-19 cases recorded in a country over the fortnight, whether its case load per 100,000 people is in line with the EU average, and testing capacities.

The decision reduces the list to 10 countries, and it takes effect from August 8, after the EU also excluded Algeria last week.

The safe countries deemed to have the coronavirus pandemic largely under control are Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, New Zealand, Rwanda, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia, and Uruguay.

China has been approved, although travel would reumed on reciprocity basis only.

Ghana: «witch camps» controversy

In Ghana an elderly woman was lynched accused of whitchcraft. She didn’t survive the beatings, but some of women who survive the ordeal are sent away or flee to places called “witch camps“.

The recent murder of 90-year-old, Akua Denteh has caused an international outrage. Dentah was accused of being a “witch” by a local fetish priest and as follows was beaten to death in the village of Kafaba near Salaga in northern Ghana. Video of her violent death was posted online. Five people were arrested in the cause of the murder investigation.

The debate on witch camps closure in not a recent phenomenon. Almost a decade ago in 2011, the government announced it would shut down the camps, but they are still there. Contrary to human rights activists demands, the 2012 report by ActionAid gave a piece of advice to the government to restrain from swift action, insisting that for many women these camps offer a refuge, instead of lynching and imminent death. Since the issue came to pubic attention again in a dramatic context of the violent murder of an elderly women, the government and gender ministry are being urged to ensure the definitive closure the camps across the country.

The request of closure concerns also so-called “healing centre” which was established a year ago in Pulmakuom, Pusiga District of the Upper East Region, by father and son Rufai Sumaila. At their settlement near the Ghana-Togo border these self-styled natural healers claim to identify and heal women accused of being witches. They insist that they practice exorcism successfully, diverting women from of exercising the witchcraft, and with the activity of the centre they harmonise community life.

All persons who feel unwell, searching for “healing” at the centre are told their condition is caused by a family member, mostly women, who bewitched them. The relative, becoming a suspect, is forcefully brought to the centre to confess, and participate in ritual, including violent physical abuse.

Those who insist on their innocence are beaten until they confess, and the suspects are accused, being forced into confessing are chained to trees, tortured and made to shave their hair – supposedly to achieve the required result through correctional “therapy”.

In reality the healing centre has only caused physical and emotional pain and suffering to so many women and families, according to the executive director of the Sanneh Institute and a native of Widana, Professor John Azumah.

Accroding to Ghana media, late Dentah was one of 18 women who were identified by self-proclaimed “witch hunter,” Hajia Filipina who had been brought in by some of the villagers to discover who was responsible for the lack of rainfall, which they believed was being caused by evil “witches.” All of the suspected women “confessed” to being “witches” after being tortured in hopes of surviving the abuse, but Dentah, who was the only one in the group who refused to admit she was “witch,” and as therefore she was beaten to death in an attempt to force her to confess.

However, in spite of the shock and international outrage, there are Ghanaians who defend the barbaric tradition.

We have a very wrong perception about the witches’ camp. When I did my research I realized that it is rather this camp that serves as shelter for these old women. Because in the past, killing of these old women was very prevalent in the North. When we destroy this camp we can’t help but experience more of such killings,” said Professor Kwadwo Nimfour Opoku Onyinah, the Ghanaian theologian, while being invited to FM morning show.

Namibia: no alcohol consumption in bars

Namibia has 2,129 confirmed cases and 10 deaths with the country’s rate of daily new cases now the fourth highest on the continent following South Africa, Eswatini and Gabon, according to President Hage Geingob announcement.
Subsequenly he imposed limits on public gatherings, deacreasing to 100 from 250 amid surging cases, the President announced.

People will also not be allowed to consume alcohol at bars and taverns. They will only be permitted to drink beverges at home.

Geingob relaxed rules for international tourists, who will no longer be subjected to a mandatory 14-day quarantine on arrival but will be required to present a negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test conducted 72 hours before arrival.

They will, however, be required to remain at their initial destination in the country for seven days. A test will be conducted during this period and tourists can proceed with their holiday if the result is negative.

In a televised speech on Friday July 31, Geingob said there is also a decision to suspend schools from August 4 for 28 days came after considering the risks associated with the spread of the virus.

The measures also affect early childhood development, pre-primary, primary and the first two grades of high school, while Namibian schools will be suspended for the second time in four months next week.

Namibia has 2,129 confirmed cases and 10 deaths with the country’s rate of daily new cases now the fourth highest on the continent following South Africa, Eswatini and Gabon, according to Geingob.

#COVID19: Algeria exclused from EU safe travel list

The European Union is set to exclude Algeria from its safe list of countries from which the bloc allows non-essential travel after a meeting of EU ambassadors on July 29, Reuters news agency reports, refering to the European diplomatic sources.

The list of countries will fall to 11, assuming the provisional decision is confirmed in writing by EU members, two EU diplomats familiar with the discussions said. The deadline for submissions was likely to be on July 30 afternoon.

The safe countries deemed to have COVID-19 largely under control are Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, South Korea, Tunisia and Uruguay.

China has also been provisionally approved, although travel would only open up if Chinese authorities also allowed in EU visitors.

Africa lost $55bn in tourism revenues

African countries have lost almost $55 billion in travel and tourism revenues in three months due to the coronavirus pandemic, the African Union (AU) commissioner for infrastructure and energy said. 

Ms.Amani Abou-Zeid explained the economic impact of lockdowns and border closures to curb the spread of the COVID-19 would be severe, with the continent’s air industry hit particularly hard. 

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The Commissioner said tourism and travel represented almost 10% of the gross domestic product of Africa.

“We have 24 million African families whose livelihood is linked to travel and tourism,” Ms.Abou-Zeid added, underlining that the downturn had come in a year when Africa was expected to see an increase in travel and air transport. 

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“The blow is very hard, between the economic losses and the job losses,” Abou-Zeid said. African airlines have seen a 95% drop in revenues, or about $8 billion, along with other losses such as the deterioration of assets. 

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“Some airlines in the continent will not make it post-COVID-19,” she said, adding the blow came at a time when some airlines were in the early stages of development, while others, such as South African Airways, were in difficulties even before the pandemic. 

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Ms.Abou-Zeid said more resistant carriers such as Ethiopian Airlines were using the opportunity to acquire smaller struggling companies, but the outbreak had put a halt to the AU’s plan for a single African air transport market. 

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Prosper Zo’o Minto’o, regional director for the International Civil Aviation Organization, told the news conference that African airlines would need an estimated $20 billion to resume operations. 

Cote d’Ivoire national airline Air Cote d’Ivoire, which restarted domestic flights earlier on July 1, confirming it had received 14 billion CFA francs ($24 million) from the government to keep it afloat.

#TBT: Namib Desert oldest on Earth

#TBT The Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission takes us over part of the Namib Desert in western Namibia. At 55 million years old, Namib is considered the oldest desert on Earth.

In this image, captured on 27 October 2019, a large portion of the Namib-Naukluft National Park is visible. The park covers an area of almost 50 000 sq km and encompasses part of the Namib Desert and the Naukluft Mountains to the east. Straight, white lines visible in the right of the image are roads that connect the Namib-Naukluft National Park with other parts of Namibia.

The park’s main attraction is Sossusvlei – a large salt and clay pan visible in the centre of the image. The bright white floors of the pan contrasts with the rust-red dunes that surround it.

Sossusvlei acts as an endorheic basin for the Tsauchab River – an ephemeral river flowing from the east. Owing to the dry conditions in the Namib Desert, the river rarely flows this far and the pan usually remains dry most years. In the past, water from the Tsauchab has reached the Atlantic coast a further 60 km away.

The dunes in this area are some of the highest in the world. The tallest, nicknamed ‘big daddy,’ stands at around 325 m. The dunes facing the river valley are called star dunes and are formed from winds blowing in multiple directions, creating long ‘arms’ that point into the valley from both sides.

These dunes contrast with the saffron-coloured dunes visible in the Namib Sand Sea, just south of Soussusvlei. The sand sea consists of two dune seas, one on top of another. The foundation of the ancient sand sea has existed for at least 21 million years, while the younger sand on top has existed for around 5 million years. The dunes here are formed by the transportation of materials from thousands of kilometres away, carried by river, ocean current and wind.

The Namib Sand Sea is the only coastal desert in the world to contain large dune fields influenced by fog – the primary source of water for the Namib Sand Sea. Haze is visible in the bottom left of the image, the last leftovers of fog coming from the Atlantic Ocean.

Copernicus Sentinel-2 is a two-satellite mission to supply the coverage and data delivery needed for Europe’s Copernicus programme.

Egypt: Grand Museum opening postponed

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi announced postponement of the launch of mega-projects including the Grand Egyptian Museum and moving civil servants to a planned new capital city to 2021 from 2020 due to the coronavirus outbreak, the presidency said on April 4.

The new Museum had been due to open later this year, while the first group of civil servants was to be transferred to the government district in the new administrative capital in June.

Sisi’s government said it wishes to start running Egypt from the new city, 45 km (28 miles) east of Cairo, as soon as the middle of 2020. But the $58 billion project has struggled to raise funds and faced other challenges after some investors pulled out.

Egypt has confirmed more than 1,000 infections with the coronavirus. The authorities have taken measures to combat the epidemic, such as a nationwide nighttime curfew and the closure of tourism facilities.

West African Dogs starring at show

A new participant is looking to be top dog at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

For the first time, the Sahelian Azawakh will be competing at the annual New York City event running February 8-11. It will be one of more than 200 breeds and varieties represented in the competition for which there is no cash prize.

“It’s all about honor, and prestige, and a trophy and being part of history,” says Gail Miller Bisher, Westminster Kennel Club Show national spokesperson.

The sighthound originating from West Africa is now recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) and therefore eligible for Westminster. In order for a breed to become recognized by the AKC, “there must be a minimum number of dogs geographically distributed throughout the U.S., as well as an established breed club of responsible owners and breeders,” according to Samantha Seymour, AKC public relations manager.

Bisher says new breeds are recognized “almost every year.”

“These breeds – they may be very old breeds, actually, in other parts of the world, but they’re becoming more popular in the U.S., and so that’s the case with the Azawakh,” she says.

The Azawakh is a breed of dog from West Africa, named after Azawagh Valley. It is also used as a sighthound, they have been relegated to a secondary function of camp guardian due to the lack of game in the region. With ancient origins, it is raised throughout the Sahelian zone of Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso.

This region includes the Azawagh Valle. While commonly associated with the nomadic Tuareg people, they are also bred and owned by other ethnic groups such as the Peulh, Bella, and Hausa. The Azawakah is more related to the Sloughi than it is to the

Dokolo art collection future in question

The assets of Congolese art collector Sindika Dokolo who is renown for years of repatriation of African artefacts from Western collections have been frozen together with his wife’s fortune. Isabel dos Santos, often referred to as ‘richest African businesswoman‘, the billionaire daughter of the country’s former president, and her husband are facing trail for failing to repay to Angola an amount of $1bn in state loans claimed to be borrowed during her father’s term in office. (Image above: Bozar, Brussels).

The incumbent Angola’s president, Joao Lourenço, who took office in 2017, is attempting to recover the state loans he insists Dos Santos borrowed, abusing her proximity to power, and failed to repay during her father’s term in office.

Dos Santos personal fortune estimated by Forbes at $2.2bn, runs a vast business empire with large stakes in Angola companies across multiple sectors such as banking, telecoms and supermarkets.

Sindika Dokolo  has been devoted to search and repatriation of  precious artefacts which had left the continent during the colonial era to enter the European and US collections.

Dokolo is also a major collector of contemporary African art owning more than 3,000 masterpieces from different origins, and periods, including significant pieces of contemporary artists.

This contemporary art collection, which is administered by the Sindika Dokolo Foundation, is based in the Luanda, according to its website, although some artefacts may be stored abroad, including Dokolo‘s native Congo. At present there is no information about future destiny of the collection.

 

Belgium colonial taboo

By the end of last year Africa Museum in outskirts of Brussels, Belgium, has terminated cooperation with a guide accused of “racist comments” during a tour with students, because of mentioning some positive sides of the colonial past.
He is no longer a guide at our museum,” the director of the Museum Guido Gryseels said while dealing with the allegations. “We have distanced ourselves from his statements.”

The guide, who has not been named, but referred in social media as Dirk, has made some unsuccessful attempts to present an objective from his point of view concept of Belgium’s colonialism of Africa, mentioning some positive elements of introduction of advantages of Western civilisation to Congo, which are an absolute taboo in Belgium modern cultural discourse.

During a recent tour of the Museum given to a group of history students from the University of Antwerp, one of their number, Hanane Llouh, alleged on Twitter and to Agence France Press (AFP),

The student Ms.Llouh wrote on her Twitter page that she was «furious and offended» by the guide interpretations of the past.

Gryseels said the guide, with whom he discussed the complaint, agreed to a “lack of judgement” in some of his comments portraying colonial history positively, but denied making outright racist statements.

We have stopped our collaboration with him,Gryseels said, adding: “He’s a freelancer so we can’t really fire him.”

However not everyone approved the draconian measures of the Museum administration against the ‘heretic‘ guide. The voices were raised against the disproportionate reaction, indicating that the guide Dirk did not twist any facts or figures. However his vision of Congo history was influenced by very personal souvenirs kept in his family. Apparently the stories of his grandmother residing there were preciosus to him, and he was pround of her, treating her African servant as a member of the family, eating all together at the table once a week in a patriarchal manner. Dirk called for more ‘nuanced‘ vision of colonial past, avoiding the trap generalisations, reproducing clichées. The guide also complained that while soliciting he was confronted with discirmination based on his skin color, but finally he was admitted for the job.

Hanane Llouh studies both history and fashion design in Antwerp, apparently she is also an activist, entering polemics with the prominent politician Filip Dewinter from Vlaams Belang party, who objects her imposing burkini swiming costume and the other attributes of Muslim culture onto Flemish lifestyle. “Follow your heart! If you choose a direction in which you always reluctantly dive behind the books, that will have a negative impact on your own well-being…” shares her thoughts student Llouh in an interview for University site, explaining her activism.

Apparently the heart of Ms.Llouh as compass is not accepted by everyone universally. Dewinter has been pointing at Llouh, while criticising wearing the veil in Univeristy of Antwerp (UA). “While women risk their lives in Iran to shed headscarves, Islam discrimination symbol is propagated here by UA! How cynical” he wrote. (Hanane Llouh on the image below in veil).

African Museum is one of five among Belgian establishments nominated for the ‘European Museum of the Year Award’, the European Museum Forum announced.

The Africa Museum has welcomed more than 350,000 visitors since it was re-opened in December 2019, according to BX1. Before the encounter with Antwerp University students. the expelled guide Dirk has conducted 70 groups, and neither of them complained about his narrative.

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