Yemen PM prepares to flee Aden as separatists advance

Yemen’s Prime Minister Ahmed Obaid Bin Daghar is reported to be on the verge of fleeing to Saudi Arabia. (Reuters)
Updated 30 January 2018
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Yemen PM prepares to flee Aden as separatists advance

SANAA, Yemen: Yemen’s Prime Minister Ahmed Obaid Bin Daghar was preparing to flee to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday after separatists backed by the United Arab Emirates seized the area around the presidential palace in the southern city of Aden in fierce battles, security officials said.
A Saudi-led coalition that includes the UAE has been battling rebels in northern Yemen for nearly three years on behalf of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi’s government. But despite having a common enemy, the UAE and Hadi have been locked in a long-running power struggle, which boiled over on Sunday as clashes erupted across the government’s seat of power.
Elsewhere in Yemen, Al-Qaeda militants attacked a checkpoint in the southern Shabwa province, killing at least 12 soldiers in an area where Yemeni troops had claimed victory against the extremist group. The militants claimed the attack in a statement circulated on social media, saying it was in retaliation for abuses by US and UAE-backed forces.
The security officials said fighters loyal to the so-called Southern Transitional Council fought all way to the gates of the palace in central Aden, forcing Hadi’s troops to abandon their positions. The officials said Hadi’s prime minister and several Cabinet members would leave Yemen imminently for Riyadh, where Hadi is already based.
Saudi troops who have been guarding the palace for months stopped the separatists at the gate, preventing them from entering. A senior government official told The Associated Press that Prime Minister Ahmed Obaid Bin Daghar and several ministers remain inside. The official declined to say whether the prime minister was to leave Aden. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity under regulations.
In the northern district of Dar Saad, witnesses said coalition jets bombed a military camp of Hadi’s forces before separatists took control of it. Brig. Gen. Mahran Al-Qubati told the AP that his forces respected a cease-fire announced by the coalition earlier in the day but the separatists used the truce to attack his base using Emirati armored vehicles.
Col. Turki Al-Malki, the coalition spokesman, declined to comment on the bombing. “I am not able to discuss the details of an ongoing operation,” he told the AP.
The fighting had subsided by midday, when checkpoints run by both sides could be seen across the city.
The fighting in Aden erupted on Sunday, when a deadline issued by the separatists for the government to resign expired. Hadi, who has been in Saudi Arabia for most of the war, has described the separatists’ action as a “coup.” The violence has killed at least 36 people and wounded 185 since Sunday, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross.
It has also exposed deep divisions within the Saudi-led alliance against the Iran-backed rebels, known as Houthis, who control much of northern Yemen, including the capital, Sanaa. The war has been locked in a bloody stalemate for the last three years, with more than 10,000 people killed and some 2 million displaced by the fighting.
The UAE has viewed Hadi with suspicion because of his alliance with the Yemeni branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, a pan-Arab political movement that the Emirates and some other Arab states view as a terrorist organization. Over the past year, the UAE has trained and armed its own forces in Yemen, including the separatists, in a direct challenge to Hadi. Saudi Arabia has thus far avoided taking sides.
The US State Department has expressed concern and called on all parties to “refrain from escalation and further bloodshed.” Washington backs the Saudi-led coalition.
“We also call for dialogue among all parties in Aden to reach a political solution,” the statement said. “The Yemeni people are already facing a dire humanitarian crisis. Additional divisions and violence within Yemen will only increase their suffering.”
In the attack in Shabwa, the militants hit a checkpoint guarded by the so-called Shabwa Elite Force, which has also been trained by the UAE, near the southern city of Ataq, the provincial capital.
Tribesmen in the area say the attack started with a mortar round fired at the checkpoint, followed by heavy gunfire.
Tribesman Youssef Al-Khalifi, who lives nearby, said he helped carry the bodies of the wounded to a hospital but that only one survived. Al-Khalifi said the attackers had destroyed a building next to the checkpoint where some of the guards were sleeping and that he helped retrieve some of the bodies from under the rubble.
The UAE-trained Shabwa force was deployed to the region last year and later declared victory over Al-Qaeda’s branch in Yemen, which had used Shabwa as a safe haven.


The academic fighting to stop Lebanon’s brain drain

MUSTAPHA JAZAR
Updated 13 sec ago
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The academic fighting to stop Lebanon’s brain drain

LONDON: Lebanese professor Mustapha Jazar has made it his life’s work to help connect students to the jobs they deserve.
While Lebanon has long produced highly educated students, this promising pipeline is badly affected by a lack of matching job opportunities.
Jazar set up the Lebanese Association for Scientific Research (LASeR) 10 years ago to “try to help the students through their journey from school to the job market.”
“The government itself isn’t doing anything about it,” Jazar said.
LASeR is a research-driven nongovernmental organization (NGO) that focuses on selecting candidates to pursue work-orientated research programs.
Through the undertaking of specific research initiatives, the students are trained in areas that will have a positive impact on Lebanon’s socio-economic condition, and can acquire skills that will improve their employability.
Jazar says: “I’m a true believer in research. Throughout my life I have been a researcher and I’ve tried to find funds to do research; for myself, for my students and my colleagues. Then one day I had the idea to create an NGO to mobilize the benefits of research in a more systematic way.”
For the first five years, LASeR was focused on university professors but the NGO has since shifted its focus to undergraduates. The program now takes in about 150 students annually.
Jazar says: “LASeR’s programs include a mix of capacity-building, soft skills and advanced technical skills according to their major. The aim is that students will be better equipped for the job market at the end of three years of university.”
The framework is called “E2C: Education To Community.” It has three modules: Media to Community, Health to Community and the soon-to-be launched Engineering to Community.
“The idea is to take a bunch of students nearing graduation in their third year of study, call them to apply, and then enroll them in a competition-based experience for three to four months where we deliver training. At the end, they have to deliver a product,” Jazar said.
He said that previous projects have included society-wide health-awareness campaigns and public-technology solutions.
At the end of the training period, a jury assesses the outcome of each group and gives a grade, along with the public’s assessment.
Jazar said: “In this way, they will learn the basics of how to deliver an awareness campaign and how to run a budget. If they need specific training, we will find a senior or alumni to deliver the training. Every team has a mentor. In the media group, most of the students have already found jobs.”
Jazar said LASeR was funded by donations and corporate sponsorship. The NGO relies heavily on volunteer expertise from corporates and within the university.
Local enrollment at Lebanese universities is exceptionally high — at about 50 percent — but the country’s small size and job pipeline inefficiencies mean career opportunities are limited.
“Lebanon is educating many highly skilled people but they are going abroad to work in the Gulf, Canada, Europe or the US,” Jazar said.
“We are facing a real problem, especially in research. Jobs are becoming competitive. Right now, we are nearing saturation. We will be observing brain 
drain soon.”
In 2018, 4,000 students graduated in engineering, which is a huge number for a country that has a population of four million, he says.
“We do believe that there will be a scarcity of job offers, but what is also lacking in Lebanon is self-employment, start-ups and initiatives led by young people, especially in coding,” Jazar said.
Through LASeR, Jazar aims to create a framework that cherry-picks the best talents from society and focuses these talents on addressing Lebanon’s biggest issues and opportunities.
“We believe there’s a huge amount of social problems that need to be addressed. We aim to raise awareness about our society and the environment with our students.
“We are training our students to look for problems and come up with solutions that will make money for their livelihoods — and for the betterment of Lebanon.”