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The family of Gregory Afoko-who is standing trail for the murder of the late Adams Mahama has called for the arrest and interrogation of the Northern Regional Chairman of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), Daniel Bugri Naabu, Gender Minister Otiko Afisa Djaba and Mr. Kamal-Deen Abdulai, the National Nasara Coordinator of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) for having a hand in his murder some two years ago. Spokesperson for the family, Robert Asekabta in an interview with Kwame Tutu on Rainbow Radio 87.5Fm said, they want the Ghana Police to with immediate effect arrest these individuals following the allegations by Bugri Naabu. According to Bugri Naabu, the Gender Minister Otiko Afisa Djaba was involved in the killing of Adams Mahama. He said, the names mentioned by Bugri Naabu must be arrested and investigated. Bugri Naabu he stressed came out clearly to state that he was aware of those who were involved of the gruesome murder of Adams Mahama. He also told the host that the family are demanding for the release of their brother. ‘’The police should intensify and be on top of their work. We also petition the IGP to ensure that justice is delivered.’’ He said, we were quite shocked at the allegation because we felt the killing was well planned. The allegation was serious and was made by no less a man but an astute politician, he added. According to him, Bugri Naabu was not mentally unstable when he made the statement and his retraction is unfounded and should not be tolerated. Adams Mahama died in the hospital following an acid attack on May 20, 2015.   He had been fighting for his life in the hospital after two assailants stopped his car whilst he was about entering his house midnight on Wednesday and poured the corrosive substance on his face and entire body.
A Prosecution witness in the ongoing trial of former officials of the National Service Secretariat (NSS) has revealed to the court that an amount of GH¢280,000 was allegedly paid to the National Democratic Congress (NDC) from the ghost names allowances.   Silas Ewontuma, the third witness to be called by the state alleged that former NSS boss, Alhaji Alhassan Mohammad Imoro, told him that the money was for the NDC party.   He also alleged that that an amount of GH¢56,000 was paid by his office to Alhaji Imoro every month.   According to him, the money was from the ghost names on the National Voluntary Programme.   During cross examination yesterday, he told lawyers for Alhaji Imoro that the former NSS boss took all the money mentioned above from him.   But lawyers in cross examination suggested to Ewontuma that he has no documentary proof to show that, indeed, he gave any such monies to their client.   Ewontuma responded in the affirmative but explained that “if it were an authorised transaction and legal transaction between me and Alhaji Imoro, I would have demanded a receipt" which caused laughter in the court room.   Ewontuma went on to allege that in addition to the monies to be given to NDC, he also paid a total of GH¢405,763 to Alhaji Imoro from his region as part of monies realised from the ghost name scheme from his region.   Lawyers for Alhaji Imoro from Kulendi@law were quick to ask the witness how much he himself stole from the scheme and he replied by saying, he stole a total of GH¢266,000 within the period under investigations 2013/14 service year.   He further admitted during cross examination that he has struck a deal with the state to pay back what he stole of which he has paid a substantial amount so far.   Defence lawyers in the case are seeking to point to the court that the witness is not credible but compromised.   Persons accused in the NSS ghost names scandal are facing several counts of conspiracy to steal and stealing but the prosecution is still in the process of establishing its case. Credit: The Finder    
A  financial and policy analyst at the University of Education Winneba Mr. Samuel Gadjo, has said, he does not believe the National Policy Forum held at the Accra International Conference Centre (AICC) was just a talk shop. According to him, before a government rolls out a policy, he must first dialogue with the stakeholders involved before it is rolled out hence it’s very important. The maiden edition of the National Policy Summit (NPS) was held at the AICC over the last two days. The two-day summit provided a platform where some selected ministries engage stakeholders on specific policies and the implementation plans. Topics covered at the event include: private sector opportunities in the real sector (agric/industry/services); Infrastructure for Poverty Eradication Programme (IPEP); Revenue, Expenditure and Public Financial Management Act; and debt and financial sector management strategies and implications on the economy among others. Commenting on the two-day event, the economist said, ‘’I don’t believe it was a talk shop. As a government, before you roll out any policy, it will be good to interact with key stakeholders involved. You give the stakeholders the opportunity to make an input into the policy framework you want to roll out…The National Policy Summit was a step in the right direction.’’ According to him, the inputs will guide government to draft a roadmap on how they will implement its policies. He explained further that, the initiative of government was very good and should it be carried through, it will be benefit us as a country.    
The late director of a Dutch fertility center is now the subject of a lawsuit accusing him of using his own sperm over several decades to conceive children at the clinic. Twelve people conceived with sperm from the center — along with 10 mothers who were patients at the clinic — filed the lawsuit on Friday, requesting access to the DNA of Dr. Jan Karbaat, who ran the sperm bank from 1980 to 2009, according to the New York Times. Karbaat died last month at 89 and said in his will that he did not want samples of his DNA taken. The plaintiffs in the suit range in age from 8 to 36 years old. The allegations against Karbaat began when one of the plaintiffs, Moniek Wassenaar, noticed her resemblance to Karbaat. In recent years, she visited Karbaat, who acknowledged that he might have been her biological father, though he declined to take a DNA test. Karbaat's center was forced to close in 2009 because it failed to meet storage standards, the Times reported.   Source: Time.com
The Public Relations Officer (PRO), for the Ghana Education Service (GES), Rev. Jonathan Bettey has indicated that, one of the things that the management is happy about is the implementation of the Free Senior High School policy. Speaking to Kwame Tutu on Rainbow Radio 87.5Fm, the PRO said, he believes strongly that has been the major education policy for the country. Rev. Bettey revealed that, GES is always happy whenever the Education Minister hammer on the need for individuals who want to benefit from the Free Senior High School to pass their exams. He was reacting to comments by Dr. Matthew Opoku Prempeh that students who fail at the basic education level, will not benefit from the policy as government readies to roll it out. “Since people want to benefit, they will employ their children to study very hard to pass the exams, because there is still a pass there. It is not how the free will be to enjoy, but you have to pass an exam and indeed to study, so let’s get that one done first. “If you fail an exam how can you benefit from something free; I am surprised. Even now it’s not everyone that gets the chance to go in even with what they pay because if you fail, you fail. How can somebody who has failed progress. Even when COCOBOD is giving scholarships, don’t you have to pass to benefit, for those whose children don’t pass, do they get scholarships?” the Minister said. His comments has generated mixed reactions both on social media and in the public. But the PRO emphasied that, only students who pass their BECE will benefit from the flagship education policy promised by the Nana Addo led administration. He said, the qualification depends on the West African Examination (WAEC) Standard. ‘’The qualification depends on WAEC standard that-If you have written the BECE exam and you pass according to their standard, you should be admitted in a school of your choice…and when you get there, you should benefit from the policy,’’ he told the host. ‘’If you fail, how will they send you to a secondary school,’’ he quizzed. When asked if his explanation and that of the Minister was not generating controversy, he said, the reportage by some media was turned upside down. He urged the media to change the reportage to save the image of the Minister. When asked if students who fails the BECE but resists and pass may benefit, he stressed that, students who will pass by September will benefit. ''If you don't pass, who will send you to secondary school,'' he quizzed further. ‘’The policy is clear and it is meant for Ghanaian children in public schools and government institutions in the country and come September, those who will qualify will benefit from the policy,’’ he concluded.    
The Director of Public Affairs of the Public Utilities and Regulatory Commission (PURC), Nana Yaa Jantuah has resigned from her post. She tendered in resignation letter after 13 years of service to the commission. Nana Yaa Jantuah is expected to resign in November but has requested for her annual leave which will take effect June 4, 2017. Her memo, which was addressed to the Executive Secretary of the Commission, Samuel Sarpong, did not state reasons for her resignation but she and others, including Mr. Sarpong have been accused of misappropriating funds at the Commission.     Nana Yaa Jantuah together with the Executive Secretary are being investigated over some financial malfeasance at the the PURC.
The Public Utilities Workers Union (PUWU) has denied claims that the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) is deep in debt due to faulty meters and recklessness on the part of staff. This was contained in a statement issued and signed by Lawyer Michael Adumatta Nyantakyi, General Secretary of PUWU.   Energy Minister, Boakye Agyarko is reported to have said after visiting the power company that, ECG accumulates a debt of GH¢66 million on a month basis, partly due to inefficiencies of staff. He observed this is unsustainable and would inevitably lead to layoffs. But PUWU in the statement said, ‘’ If there is any accumulation of debt, then it is just coming from the angle of the MMDAs, and this has come about because of political directives not to disconnect the MMDAs because government has promised to pay the bills of the MMDAs. However, as at the end of 2016, the MMDAs debt stood at GH¢1,390,966,034.74. For the first three months of 2017, the MMDA debts totalled GH¢226,967,736.08, and of this debt for 2017, government has paid GH¢18,133,575.17. As at the end of March 2017, total debt including that of GWCL was GH¢1,599,800,195.66, so it is strange for the Minister to attribute this accumulation of debt to the reckless acts or behaviour of ECG employees.’’     Find below the statement   Below is the statement the Public Utilities Workers Union of TUC Ghana   The Public Utilities Workers Union of TUC Ghana, has read with shock the publication in the Daily Guide Newspaper of 15th May, 2017, with respect to a statement purported to have been made by the Minister of Energy, Honourable Boakye Agyarko, under the caption “Energy Minister Uncovers ECG’s Rot.” The statements attributed to the Minister are very much regrettable, and as workers of the Company, we find it very unfortunate that at such a critical stage in the life of ECG, the sector Minister will make such sweeping statements.   The assertion that ECG’s debt stock appears to be worsening by the day due to its faulty metering system and avoidable employee recklessness is not supported by the facts. On the contrary, ECG’s currently average weekly collection is GH¢103,918,594.11, as against a target of GH¢130,000,000. This excludes indebtedness by MMDAs and Ghana Water Company Limited, which are state entities.   If there is any accumulation of debt, then it is just coming from the angle of the MMDAs, and this has come about because of political directives not to disconnect the MMDAs because government has promised to pay the bills of the MMDAs. However, as at the end of 2016, the MMDAs debt stood at GH¢1,390,966,034.74. For the first three months of 2017, the MMDA debts totalled GH¢226,967,736.08, and of this debt for 2017, government has paid GH¢18,133,575.17. As at the end of March 2017, total debt including that of GWCL was GH¢1,599,800,195.66, so it is strange for the Minister to attribute this accumulation of debt to the reckless acts or behaviour of ECG employees.   If there is any debt accumulation, then it is the direct action of government for non-payment of MMDA bills, and not any inaction on the part of ECG employees. There have been several instances where efforts to collect amounts owing from MMDAs have been frustrated and sometimes interfered by political pressures, such that even organisations that were disconnected were asked to be reconnected by political authorities. Concerning the assertion that the US Embassy demands bills and ECG has not been able to provide the Embassy with bills is also very strange because as far we know to date, the US Embassy does not owe ECG in terms of bills. So if they were not getting bills, would they have paid all their indebtedness till date? So this is a statement we find very unfortunate, and ask the Minister to provide further details. Similar details are also required about the issue of spare parts. Currently ECG is having shortage of materials which is affecting the one day service that was introduced by the Company.   With respect to MTN owing ECG about GH¢35,000,000 as asserted by the Minister, this is basically an issue of billing arrangement and some challenges with the initial CMS as it was deployed, which has been identified, and efforts made towards correcting this situation.   MTN has over 1000 sites, and some MTN sites are already being billed through the Automatic Meter Reading (AMR) system, so bills are read automatically from remote areas. It is the few areas which are not on the AMR that arrangements are being made to sort out the actual amounts that MTN has to pay, which some of the residential sites are being made to pay. However, the billing anomaly has been identified and the corrections are being made, so it is not accurate to say that MTN owes that much and nothing is being done to collect monies from MTN.   It is also strange for the Minister to assert that ECG’s networking capital is negative. It is a fact undisputable that Africa, south of the Sahara, with the exception of South Africa, ECG has the widest coverage in terms of electricity distribution, about 80%, despite the challenges with supply upsetting at a point in time, ECG has been distributing power to significant numbers of its customers, so it is strange that a Company which has a negative networking capital of GH¢2,000,000 will be able to continue servicing its customers on such regular basis.   And anybody who has taken time to go around the Country can attest to the fact that ECG, with the support of some external financing agencies, is constantly improving its distribution network, and building a lot of sub-stations as well as warehouses to improve its operational activities.   We will therefore urge and challenge the Minister to come up with specifics with regards to such statements about this negative GH¢2,000,000 GHC networking capital of ECG. In conclusion, we want to state that as the Sector Minister, we expect him to provide strategic direction and policy guidelines for the Company, and not to descend into these minor operational areas which the Management of the Company can easily deal with.   There are bigger issue to make the Company operate efficiently, and we thought that these are the issues which should occupy the mind and attention of the Minister. Four months into the new government, a Company like ECG has no Board, and with an Acting Managing Director. How do you expect key decisions to be taken to ensure improvement in the Company’s operation? Is it the question of giving the dog a bad name, so to hang it?   And we also want to draw the attention of government that such kind of pronouncements will not inure to the benefits of the Company or Ghana, because at the end of the day, even if you are going ahead with this PSP, you are projecting a very weak Company that will weaken the negotiations with any prospective bidder, and we think that the Minister ought to look at the bigger picture and see how to position ECG to be a Company that can provide value for Ghana and for Ghanaians.   Signed.   Lawyer Michael Adumatta Nyantakyi   (General Secretary, PUWU).    
The Energy Minister, Boakye Agyarko has hinted that government will henceforth procure power on competitive basis. The Minister gave the hint at the National Policy Summit on Tuesday said though the Mahama administration failed to ensure competitive bidding in awarding power contracts, the NPP administration will take an entirely different approach to ensure value for money.       The Minister said, “We know what happened when we went into the power crisis from 2012 and in the indecent haste that followed, we were procuring emergency power left, right and centre and therefore the guidelines or the proper shopping methodologies that ought to have followed were not. These things are best done on competitive tender. “We had an open book in terms of the power purchase agreement so the supplier then came and said we will negotiate this price and PURC gave it a blessing and so for the same commodity; electricity, one producer is selling to us at 10.14 cents a kilowatt tab, another is selling at 19 cents a kilowatt tab, some are proposing 22 cents a kilowatt tab for the same commodity, electricity. In our emergency, our first respondents gave us anything and we had to take it that is why going forward all power will be procured on competitive basis…”       According to him, power generators will be required to carry their own “fuel risk” and reduce the price at which government purchases power. “We propose that power generators carry their own fuel risk. We also propose that we cap the price at which we will buy power from anybody. We are looking at 10 cents. If you can provide ten cents we buy from you. If not sorry. Electricity is a commodity and it has to be treated as a commodity.”   Government he indicated will strategise future power deals. He maintained that most of the agreements with Independent Power Producers failed to fully address the energy needs of the country.  “We will also use standardized procedures and documentation so that all the liquidity and security documentation that comes with power procurement will be standardized. Investor A faces the same standard document as investor B,” he added.      
Six months after Muhammed Yusuf had been sold, tortured and forced to watch as a friend died, he found himself back at the parched, dusty bus station where his ordeal began, facing the man who had made him a slave. Unembarrassed and unrepentant, the smuggler was still touting for business among the crowds flooding into Agadez, an oasis town on the fringe of the Sahara desert in central Niger that has for centuries been a trading centre and gateway to shifting paths across the desert. “I told him ‘my friend died in Libya because of you’,” Yusuf said a few days after the meeting. Then, desperately hungry, he asked him for some food. The man shrugged off both appeals, and walked away, saying only: “I am sorry, but God will help you.” Yusuf, a 24-year-old Nigerian, was one of thousands of people who had travelled to Libya looking for work, or hoping to sail to Europe, who were instead sucked into a grim and violent world of slave markets, private prisons, and brutal forced brothels. The dangers of attempting to cross the Mediterranean to Europe, in overcrowded, unseaworthy vessels, have been highlighted by a series of desperate rescue missions and thousands of deaths at sea in recent years. Last week, at least 245 people were killed by shipwrecks, bringing the toll for this year alone to 1,300. Less well-known are the dangers of Libya itself for migrants fleeing poverty across West Africa. The country’s slide into chaos following the 2011 death of dictator Muammar Gaddafi and the collapse of the government have made it a breeding ground for crime and exploitation. Two rival governments, an Isis franchise and countless local militias competing for control of a vast, sparsely populated territory awash in weapons, have allowed traffickers to flourish, checked only by the activities of their criminal rivals. Last year, more than 180,000 refugees arrived in Italy, the vast majority of them through Libya, according to UN agency the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). That number is forecast to top 200,000 this year – and these people form a lucrative source of income for militias and mafias who control Libya’s roads and trafficking networks. Migrants who managed to reach Europe from Libya have long told of being kidnapped by smugglers, who would then torture them to extort cash as they waited for boats. But in recent years this abuse has developed into a modern-day slave trade – plied along routes once used by slaving caravans – that has engulfed tens of thousands of lives. The new slave traders operate with such impunity that, survivors say, some victims are being sold in public markets. Most, however, see their lives and liberty auctioned off in private. “They took people and put them in the street, under a sign that said ‘for sale’,” said Shamsuddin Jibril, 27, from Cameroon, who twice saw men traded publicly in the streets of the central Libyan town of Sabha, once famous as the home of a young Gaddafi, but now known for violence and brutality. “They tied their hands just like in the former slave trade, and they drove them here in the back of a Toyota Hilux. There were maybe five or seven of them.” He was too frightened to speak to the men, who were lined up near a monument known as Dar Muammar, a one-room cabin where Gaddafi had lived as a student. The spot, beside a popular bakery, was apparently chosen for the large volume of potential customers passing by, Jibril said. Another migrant reported being auctioned off at dusty parking lots on the outskirts of town, after being driven in from Agadez, which has for centuries been a last stopping point for traders, goods and slaves heading into the desert. Today, it is the most northerly town that West Africans can reach without papers: it is part of the huge Economic Community of West African States, which allows visa free-travel for citizens of the region. That has made it the place where most put themselves in the hands of smugglers, and many get sucked into slavery at the bases of middlemen, known in migrant slang as “connection houses”. This, according to Jibril, is where the problems start. Some of the victims pay for their journey but are sold off anyway when they reach Libya. Others, like Yusuf, the Nigerian who lost his friend, are told they can travel on credit and pay off the trip by working in Libya. They only find on arrival they have been carried as cargo for sale. Adama Isoomah, warned by friends of the horrors in Libya, thought he had paid for a passage to Algeria. There were no signposts in the desert to alert him to the trickery. “I know there is a desert on the way, but I didn’t know what it looked like,” he said. “After four days, they said ‘welcome to Libya’. I said, is this a dream to me or reality? I know this is where they sell people. And then I realised that the middleman had sold me.” Abahi (not his real name) is one of these modern-day slave traders, though he bridles at descriptions of his trade as trafficking. He shares cheerful selfies taken in the desert with the men he was carrying to market, and even admits to worries about the fate he drove them into. “It’s no good. Now you will see the migrants suffering and say, ‘I am the man who take them in this problem.’ It’s no good. But what can we do? Inside Libya, everything is ruled by the militias.” He says he would never steal from migrants who paid their fare, but admits that the 27 people who cram into his Hilux for each trip are a mix of passengers and cargo, depending on who is paying. “If you take them for nothing, the boss in Sabha pays,” he says. “It’s around €400 per person.” An illegal trade in a lawless country, there is no one model for slavery practised in modern Libya, but the shifting forms of trade and business are all united by the misery and exploitation of its victims. Female migrants are generally sold into sexual slavery, a trade so lucrative it makes them more valuable as a commodity than men. In Sabha, the clearing house and brothel used for trafficking migrant women was well-known, said Fasan Olaside, a 27-year-old Nigerian builder who was himself kidnapped and held for ransom twice inside Libya. “There is a three-storey building, where the business takes place,” he said. “Immediately, the women enter the building, that is it – they can’t leave. Some are forced to work there; some are sold elsewhere. It looks just like a normal house, but the local citizens know what is happening there. The person who buys them can sell them on for two or even four times as much.” Prices for women start at 3,000 Libyan dinars, around €2,000 – more than twice as much as traffickers pay for men, said Olaside, who is still horrified by what he saw: “I was wondering how can this be possible. There were slave markets 300 or 500 years ago, but we are in the third millennium now.” The men’s fates vary more, depending on their skill and who buys and sells them, according to former captives waiting to go home at a centre run by the UN’s International Organization for Migration. It offers free tickets and basic medical help for those on their way to and from Libya who want to return home, and tries to warn migrants of the dangers of the journey. On a baking May day, dozens of men waiting for their tickets home said they had fled captivity in Libya. They came from countries across West Africa, including Senegal, Guinea Bissau, Gambia, Liberia and Nigeria, and described a system controlled by Libyans, but often run on a day-to-day basis by their fellow countrymen, who had joined the trade or been co-opted as guards. They said captors looked for skilled tradesmen among new slaves, and sold electricians, plumbers and others to buyers who needed particular trades. The rest were auctioned off as labourers, or often simply held as human bargaining chips. In grim private jails, their captors forced them to call families across West Africa, demanding ransoms of hundreds of dollars. Those whose families can’t or won’t pay are beaten and tortured, often while smugglers are on the phone to relatives, the cries of agony used to wring out faster payment. “People were tied up like goats, beaten with broom handles and pipes every blessed day, to get the money,” said Isoomah, from Liberia. “If they do not do that, the money will not come.” Some smugglers are even more notorious. Jibril told of a private house-turned-prison that migrants have nicknamed the house of debt: “Some of them, they cut their fingers off, or brand them with hot iron.” The luckier ones were bought as workers. The buyers are men like Tukur, a slim man of Nigerien origin, barely five feet tall and with ceremonial scars by his eyes that marked him as a member of the Hausa ethnic group. He paid for Yusuf and his friend and was named by two other migrants held in the city. The smuggler Abahi also said he knew Tukur and had on occasion sold men to him; his general concern for migrants heading to Libya did not cover those he hands over to the diminutive trader. “Sometimes they say he is not OK, but it is not my problem. I like my money. He pay me and I go. I don’t see what he do. I just like my money and go.” Tukur was based in Sabha, wore traditional robes and a small cap, and was flanked by two bulky henchmen who enforced his orders with cables, sticks or more vicious weapons, victims said. “Someone said ‘wait for the man to take you to the bakery’,” Yusuf remembered. He and his friend had paid half their fares and agreed to work on arrival to pay off the second. But their driver stole their savings and sold them both. “I didn’t realise that we had already been kidnapped. Then Tukur arrived with Abdullah and Isa. They read our names off a list of paper: me, Abdullah Bundu – my friend from Sierra Leone – and three others. ‘You didn’t pay, come this way,’ he said.” Yusuf explained that he and Bundu had paid half, and Tukur invited them into the house for what he thought would be a discussion. Instead, it was the beginning of an ordeal that would cost Bundu his life. “As we entered the building, we heard the lock turning,” he said. Then they said, you should call your family fast and ask for money.” Bundu died of a heart attack following prolonged beatings, and Yusuf was ordered to help take his friend’s body to the hospital, where doctors accepted without question the captors’ story that the heart attack had been spontaneous. On the way back, Yusuf decided to risk an escape attempt, convinced that otherwise he, too, would die in the jail, where some had been wasting away on starvation rations for months. There are thought to be thousands of migrants trapped in similar private jails and extortion centres scattered across Libya, where execution and torture are commonplace. Resting on a clinic bed, his legs swathed in bandages and his skin mottled by burn scars, Couilbaly Yahyah still doesn’t know why his captors decided to burn him alive. After he’d been a captive inside Libya for just three weeks, guards took him into a courtyard and picked up a five-litre jerrycan, whose purpose he understood only when they began splashing fuel over his body. “They only spoke English, not French, and they were just shouting ‘money, money, money’ at me,” said the French-speaking Yahyah, who comes from Ivory Coast. Seconds later someone lit a piece of paper and threw it at him. The pain was instant and searing, although he thinks a thick winter coat he was wearing offered a little protection. Screaming he raced around the courtyard in a crazed bid to escape the blaze, until one of the men took pity on him. “When I was running around in flames, a guard came over and ripped off my coat, tearing it in two, and put out the fire. Without the coat and the guard, I would be dead.” Terribly injured and wearing only his underwear, the 24-year-old was thrown out into the street to die, but saved by a passing African migrant, who took him to the hospital. Months later the burns have left a pattern of scars on his hands and welded his left knee into a permanent crook. Both his legs are still wrapped in bandages, and he lies on a clinic bed in northern Niger with months of slow healing ahead, dreaming of the day he can go home. “I just want to go home and see my daughter Khadija,” he says, showing a picture of a smiling toddler on his phone. She was just a few months old when he left. He had paid for a passage to Italy but was abandoned in Sabha. “We called the smuggler from inside Libya and said ‘we are here’, but he just told us ‘I’ve spent too much on you. You should call your parents and ask for money’,” he said. “It turned out it was all a lie: he didn’t have another connection to take us to Italy.” With no money to continue to Europe or return home, he was seized by a gang while looking for work to pay for passage either onwards or home. The country director for the UN’s migration agency in Niger has spent years working with victims of some of the world’s most abusive and distressing trafficking networks, but found the stories coming out of Libya “shocking”. “I think the conditions are getting worse,” Giuseppe Loprete told the Observer. “What migrants are telling us deserves our highest attention. This violence against vulnerable human beings whose only fault is dreaming about a better life is unacceptable.” A crackdown by the Niger government has choked off much of the trade in Agadez, where it was once carried out almost openly. Dozens of smugglers are in jail, hundreds of vehicles have been confiscated, the cost of bribing checkpoint guards has soared, and fewer migrants arrive or leave. But that is only a very temporary solution to a problem driven by desperate poverty and wild dreams that the horrors of Libya cannot yet overshadow. The IOM is helping those who return from Libya share stories of the horrors that await there. The migrants are all desperate to spare others their fate. “If I meet someone at home who says they want to go to Libya, I will slap him,” said Isoomaah. But in the “ghettos” of Agadez, dozens of others are still waiting for their call to the desert, buoyed by their dreams and convinced that they are smart enough to escape slavery. “Those who say they will take you for free, they will sell you. So if we don’t have money, we will not go,” said Paaliou Jobe, a 30-year-old Gambian who is living in a half-built house in the town with six countrymen, the youngest of them only 16. And he added: “If you have a bad connection man, you are sold. If you have a good connection man, you are safe. We want to go. That is our dream.”   Source: Guardian
Emmanuel Macron has promised to restore France's global standing, as he was inaugurated as the country's youngest president at the age of 39. At an elaborate ceremony at the Élysée Palace in Paris, he said his presidency would "give the French back the confidence to believe in themselves". He vowed to see the EU "reformed and relaunched" during his time in office. He takes over from François Hollande, whose five-year term was plagued by high unemployment figures. Mr Macron was proclaimed France's new president a week after his resounding victory over the National Front's Marine le Pen, with 66% of the vote in the run-off poll.   The former investment banker, who had never contested an election before and only formed his centrist movement a year ago, has vowed to shake up the country's political order and reinvigorate its economy.   Tight security was in place across Paris for the ceremony at the president's official residence, with hundreds of extra police on patrol. France has been under a state of emergency since terror attacks in 2015 and a large section of the city centre was closed to traffic all morning. 'World needs France' During his inaugural address on Sunday, President Macron pledged to restore the confidence of the French people in their country's future. "The division and fractures in our society must be overcome," said the centrist politician. "The world and Europe need more than ever France, and a strong France, which speaks out loudly for freedom and solidarity," he declared. He said he would convince the people that "the power of France is not declining - that we are on the brink of a great renaissance". He was presented with a necklace once worn by Napoleon I, as a symbol of his position as Grand Master of the Legion of Honour (a title usually given to the leader of France). Before the ceremony began, he spent nearly an hour with his predecessor, who handed him the country's nuclear codes. It was Mr Hollande who launched the new president's political career, appointing him first as adviser and later economy minister. Despite historic low approval ratings, the former president tweeted after leaving the palace: "I leave a country in a much better state than I found it." At 39, Mr Macron is France's youngest leader since Napoleon and the first to be born after 1958, when a presidential system was set up. His En Marche political movement was formed just last year and as a new party - La République En Marche - will be fielding candidates across France in June's parliamentary elections. He has promised to "work for everyone" and sees his programme as straddling both left and right. Mr Macron's first week in office will be busy. He heads for Berlin on Monday to meet Chancellor Angela Merkel and to demonstrate his commitment to the European Union. He is also expected to name a prime minister on Monday morning. Mr Macron faces major challenges including high unemployment, especially among France's young, and low growth. He says his main aims are to boost investment and to set up a "new growth model" that increases social mobility and helps the environment. Later on Sunday, Mr Macron visited the Arc de Triomphe and laid a wreath at the tomb of the unknown soldier.   Source: BBC
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