Ethiopia PM says China will restructure railway loan

Ethiopia PM says China will restructure railway loan
China has agreed to restructure a loan that financed the Ethiopia-Djibouti railway which handles cargo from The Port of Doraleh. (Reuters)
Updated 06 September 2018

Ethiopia PM says China will restructure railway loan

Ethiopia PM says China will restructure railway loan
  • Ethiopia has been a top destination for Chinese loans in Africa, with state policy banks extending it more than $12.1 billion since 2000
  • The Addis Ababa link with Djibouti handles roughly 95 percent of all inbound trade for Ethiopia

ADDIS ABABA: China has agreed to restructure some of Ethiopia’s debt, including a loan for a $4 billion railway linking its capital Addis Ababa with neighboring Djibouti, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said on Thursday.
Abiy described the rescheduling as limited, but added that repayment of the railway debt has been extended by 20 years.
Landlocked Ethiopia and the Red Sea state inaugurated the railway in January, with 70 percent of the total cost covered through a loan from the Export-Import Bank of China (EXIM).




Stations along the Ethiopia-Djibouti railway. (Wikimedia Commons)

Ethiopia has been a top destination for Chinese loans in Africa, with state policy banks extending it more than $12.1 billion since 2000, according to the China Africa Research Initiative at Johns Hopkins University of the United States.
Speaking upon his return from a China-Africa forum for cooperation in Beijing, Abiy told reporters he held successful talks with Chinese government officials over his country’s debt.
“During our stay, we had the opportunity to enact limited restructuring of some of our loans,” he said in Addis Ababa. “In particular, the loan for the Addis Ababa-Djibouti railway which was meant to be paid over 10 years has now been extended to 30 years.”
The deal was made amid rising concerns over debt distress, with the Ethiopian government’s debt reaching 59 percent of the country’s annual gross domestic product, according to official figures.
The country’s ruling EPRDF coalition, in power since ousting a military junta in 1991, aims for Ethiopia to reach middle income status by 2025. It is pursuing ambitious manufacturing-led industrialization that has involved building roads, railways and industrial parks — as well as mounting debt.
Though the Addis Ababa link with Djibouti, which handles roughly 95 percent of all inbound trade for Ethiopia, is complete, the line’s extension to its north has faced delays owing to a lack of funding.
In addition to Djibouti, Ethiopia is also in discussions with neighboring Eritrea, Sudan and Somalia to expand its options for sea access. It has negotiated deals with Djibouti and Sudan to hold equity in their ports.


India COVID-19 surge hits new record as oxygen runs short

India COVID-19 surge hits new record as oxygen runs short
Updated 2 min 32 sec ago

India COVID-19 surge hits new record as oxygen runs short

India COVID-19 surge hits new record as oxygen runs short
  • India dealing with a second wave of infections blamed on lax government rules and a new ‘double mutant’ virus variant

NEW DELHI: India’s brutal new COVID-19 outbreak set new records on Wednesday with more than 2,000 deaths in 24 hours as hospitals in New Delhi ran perilously low on oxygen.19
India has been in the grips of a second wave of infections blamed on lax government rules and a new “double mutant” virus variant, adding almost 3.5 million new cases this month alone.
Health ministry data on Wednesday showed 295,000 new cases in 24 hours and 2,023 fatalities, among the world’s biggest daily totals of the pandemic and on a par with numbers seen in the United States in January.
In an address to the nation on Tuesday night, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that the country of 1.3 billion people was “once again fighting a big fight.”
“The situation was under control till a few weeks back, and then this second corona wave came like a storm,” Modi said.
There had been hopes that despite its packed cities and poor health care, India had managed to dodge largely unscathed a pandemic that has killed more than three million people around the world.
Recent weeks have seen mass gatherings including millions attending the Kumbh Mela religious festival, political rallies as well as lavish weddings and cricket matches against England.
Production of key coronavirus drugs slowed or even halted at some factories and there were delays inviting bids for oxygen generation plants, according to press reports.
Now distraught relatives are being forced to pay exorbitant rates on the black market for medicine and oxygen and WhatsApp groups are awash with desperate pleas for help.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who on Tuesday went into self-isolation after his wife tested positive, tweeted late Tuesday that some hospitals in the capital “are left with just a few hours of oxygen.”
The health minister of the megacity of around 25 million inhabitants, Satyendar Jain, urged the federal government to “restore oxygen supply chain to avert a major crisis.”
Hospitals in the western state of Maharashtra and its teeming capital Mumbai, the epicenter of the surge, were also experiencing dire shortages, press reports said.
“Normally we would shift some patients to other hospitals... none in the city have spare oxygen,” NDTV quoted one doctor in the state as saying.
“The (central government), states and private sectors are trying to ensure every needy patient gets oxygen,” Modi said in his address.
States across India have imposed restrictions, with Delhi in a week-long lockdown, all non-essential shops shut in Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh set for a weekend shutdown.
Delhi’s lockdown prompted tens of thousands of migrant workers to flee the mega-city, in scenes reminiscent of the national shutdown a year ago that inflicted economic and human misery.
The United States now advises against traveling to India, even for those fully vaccinated, while Britain has added India to its “red list.” Hong Kong and New Zealand have banned flights.
India has administered more than 130 million shots so far and from May 1 all adults will be eligible for a shot.
Some local authorities have however been running short of supplies, and India has put the brakes on exports of the AstraZeneca shot.
“I think in the coming week or two we will have a more quantitative estimate of and if any effect of this variant on the vaccine,” Rakesh Mishra from the Center for Cellular and Molecular Biology said.
In total India has recorded 15.6 million cases, second only to the United States, and more than 180,000 deaths.


Turkey conference in doubt amid international efforts to engage Taliban

Turkey conference in doubt amid international efforts to engage Taliban
Updated 21 April 2021

Turkey conference in doubt amid international efforts to engage Taliban

Turkey conference in doubt amid international efforts to engage Taliban
  • Group boycotting all peace talks until foreign troops exit Afghanistan

KABUL: The Taliban confirmed on Tuesday that officials from the US, UN, Qatar, and Turkey had recently held talks with the group to persuade them to take part in a crucial conference on the Afghan peace process.

Last week the Taliban said it would boycott the meeting in Turkey later this month — and future talks on the peace process — until all US-led foreign troops had withdrawn from Afghanistan.

Earlier this month US President Joe Biden delayed the deadline for a total troop withdrawal from May 1 to Sept. 11. 

The withdrawal was a key condition and basis for an historic agreement that was signed between President Donald Trump’s administration and the Taliban more than a year ago.

“Delegates of the US, Turkey, Qatar and the UN have been holding meetings with our office in Qatar for settling the issue,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told Arab News on Tuesday. “It is not clear if these meetings, which are ongoing, will produce any result or not. But such meetings do not mean we are backing away from our stance.”

The Turkey meeting was proposed by Washington DC. weeks ahead of Biden’s move to delay the withdrawal process to prevent a total collapse of US-sponsored talks in Qatar, which began between the Taliban and Afghan government negotiators last September but have failed to make progress.

The meeting, which has already been delayed once, is seeking to facilitate a future political roadmap for Afghanistan, including the formation of an interim government that would also include the Taliban and end President Ashraf Ghani’s second term in office, which is set to expire in 2024.

Dr. Mohammad Naeem, a spokesman for the Taliban’s Qatar office, told Arab News that there was “no change” on the group’s part regarding its participation in the Turkey meeting.

“There is nothing new in this regard,” he said.

The Taliban accuses Washington D.C. of infringing the deal by extending the troops’ presence in Afghanistan. The deal was designed to end the longest conflict in US history which began with the Taliban’s removal from office in a US-led invasion in late 2001.

Observers said that Biden’s move led to a loss of the Taliban’s trust in Washington D.C., with several commenting that it had also put the Taliban political leaders in Qatar in a dilemma.

“It is unlikely that the group will attend Turkey’s meeting,” former Taliban commander Said Akbar Agha told Arab News. “The Taliban now do not and cannot trust America. After nearly two years of tough talks, you (the US) agree on a deal, and then you break one key part of it. The Taliban seem to have lost any trust in America after this.” 

Wahidullah Ghazikhail, a Kabul-based analyst, said that some Taliban leaders had been holding meetings with the group’s field commanders “to seek their view” on the extension of foreign troops’ presence in the country and participation in the Turkey meeting.

“So far, these meetings have produced no result,” he told Arab News. “The Taliban political leaders can find a justification for the pull-out deadline and Turkey’s talks provided, possibly, the remaining 7,000 Taliban prisoners are freed and names of Taliban are removed from the blacklist. The Taliban waited for 20 years for America to go. They can wait for some more months too perhaps.”

Former government adviser Torek Farhadi doubted that any pressure would work on the Taliban unless they got everything they wanted immediately which, he said, was impossible.

“The US will do the conference without the Taliban,” he told Arab News. “After they leave, they have said it is up to all Afghans (to decide on their future and make peace).”

He said that once the foreign troops had left the US would no longer be offering any guarantees for Kabul except to finance the national forces, but not to keep Ghani in power.

“After the foreign troops’ departure, other political leaders will agree to a truce with the Taliban. Ghani will look odd wanting to defend his presidency. It is not sure at that point the local troops would fight to keep Ghani in the palace.”


India driving global virus surge with more than 10k cases per hour

India driving global virus surge with more than 10k cases per hour
Updated 21 April 2021

India driving global virus surge with more than 10k cases per hour

India driving global virus surge with more than 10k cases per hour
  • The unprecedented surge in cases has added extra pressure on frontline workers

NEW DELHI: India is registering more than 10,000 COVID-19 infections and 70 deaths per hour, according to official data, with the government describing the alarming surge in cases as “very difficult” to manage for the country of 1.39 billion people.

On Wednesday alone, India had recorded 10,798 cases and 73 deaths per hour on average, taking the overall total to 259,170 infections and 1,761 fatalities – a significant jump from the 72,330 infections and 459 deaths reported on April 1.

Some media reports said that India’s latest data accounts for one in three new cases worldwide.

“The situation is tough ... a very difficult situation for India,” Dr. Rajni Kant, spokesperson for the government’s premier medical research body, the Indian Council for Medical Research, told Arab News on Tuesday.

On Monday, the government announced a week-long lockdown in the capital, New Delhi, with several states following suit to address the health crisis, which has been amplified by a shortage of hospital beds, oxygen and medical supplies.

“We are all working to address the situation through the limited lockdown that New Delhi has introduced and the lockdowns and night curfews imposed by some of the state governments,” Kant said, adding: “Nobody can predict what is going to happen and when the situation is going to peak.”

The unprecedented surge in cases has added extra pressure on frontline workers, most of whom are working round the clock on coronavirus duty.

Some doctors said that they are not only putting their lives at risk, but “exposing family members to the virus by working long hours with infected patients.”

Dr. Shariva Randive, based in the financial capital Mumbai, has been working for more than 10 hours a day, four times a week, at a health facility for coronavirus patients.

She used to work for eight hours, and found the time to strike a healthy work-life balance.

“We have our masks on all the time. It’s tough. The second wave is more worrisome than the first, and the fear is more this time, among doctors,” Randive told Arab News on Tuesday.

“The situation is bleak in Mumbai, and even the close relatives of doctors will have difficulty getting beds at hospitals now,” she said, adding: “It’s the sense of social responsibility which keeps us going for long hours.”

The western state of Maharashtra, of which Mumbai is the capital, is the worst affected state in India, and registered almost 60,000 coronavirus cases on Wednesday.

“Patients keep on coming, and you have no breathing space,” Randive said, adding that her biggest fear “is the risk I am putting my parents into by staying with them.”

Just like many states, Maharashtra is facing an acute shortage of oxygen supply and hospital beds, with medical workers forced to work with limited resources.

It presents an additional factor for stress, said Delhi-based doctor Nirmalaya Mohapatra, who added that compared to last year, “doctors dealing with the second wave of the outbreak are under a lot of duress.

“The patient overload is very high, resources are limited and the virus mutant spreads very fast. Health workers are working on automation,” Mohapatra, who works at the Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital in New Delhi, told Arab News.

Adding insult to injury, local media reported on Tuesday that the government had decided to terminate an insurance scheme for health workers who die while on COVID-19 duty, with the medical fraternity saying it was “disappointed” by the move.

Last year, the government announced the almost $69,000 insurance scheme per person, which the health ministry said “reached its conclusion.”

Dr. Jayesh Lele, general secretary of the Indian Medical Association (IMA), said: “It is surprising to see the attitude of the government.

“We oppose this move and will write to the government. At a time when the doctors are going out of their way to serve people and forget their comfort, such a decision discourages medical practitioners.

“Doctors need encouragement more than money. Such a decision is mental harassment.”

According to the IMA, about 747 doctors died last year while on COVID-19 duty, of which only 287 had received insurance money.

“The government does not give insurance money to doctors who work in private hospitals. This is absurd. All doctors died treating coronavirus patients,” Lele said.

Meanwhile, Dr. Roy K. George, president of the Trained Nurses Association of India, said that the decision was a matter of “worry.”

He added: “We are experiencing the second wave, and most health workers are exposed. Therefore we are requesting the government to extend the cover for one more year.”

George said that 62 nurses had died, with most of their families waiting for the government to release the funds.


Chauvin convicted of murdering George Floyd in landmark US racial justice case

Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin in court. (Screenshot)
Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin in court. (Screenshot)
Updated 21 April 2021

Chauvin convicted of murdering George Floyd in landmark US racial justice case

Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin in court. (Screenshot)
  • “It was a murder in the full light of day and it ripped the blinders off for the whole world to see the systemic racism,” President Joe Biden said in televised remarks. “This can be a giant step forward in the march toward justice in America”

MINNEAPOLIS: Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted on Tuesday of murdering George Floyd, a milestone in the fraught racial history of the United States and a rebuke of law enforcement’s treatment of Black Americans.
A 12-member jury found Chauvin, 45, guilty of all three charges of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter after considering three weeks of testimony from 45 witnesses, including bystanders, police officials and medical experts. Deliberations began on Monday and lasted just over 10 hours.
In a confrontation captured on video, Chauvin, a white veteran of the police force, pushed his knee into the neck of Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man in handcuffs, for more than nine minutes on May 25, 2020. Chauvin and three fellow officers were attempting to arrest Floyd, accused of using a fake $20 bill to buy cigarettes at a grocery store.
The jurors remained still and quiet as the verdict was read. Chauvin, wearing a gray suit with a blue tie as well as a light-blue face mask, nodded and stood quickly when the judge ruled that his bail was revoked. He was taken out of the courtroom in handcuffs and placed in the custody of the Hennepin County sheriff.
The conviction triggered a wave of relief and reflection not only across the United States but in countries around the world.
“It was a murder in the full light of day and it ripped the blinders off for the whole world to see the systemic racism,” President Joe Biden said in televised remarks. “This can be a giant step forward in the march toward justice in America.”
Outside the courthouse, a crowd of several hundred people erupted in cheers when the verdict was announced — a scene that unfolded in cities across the country. Car horns honked, demonstrators blocked traffic and chanted: “George Floyd” and “All three counts.”
At George Floyd Square in Minneapolis, the intersection where Floyd was killed and which was later named in his honor, people screamed, applauded and some threw dollar bills in the air in celebration.
While celebrating the verdict, protesters called for justice in the case of Daunte Wright, a Black man who was fatally shot by a police officer after a routine traffic stop on April 11, just a few miles from where Chauvin stood trial. Kimberly Potter, who has turned in her badge, has been charged with manslaughter in that case.
George Floyd’s brother Philonize, speaking at a news conference with several family members, said: “We are able to breathe again” after the verdict, but he added the fight for justice was not over.
“We have to protest because it seems like this is a never-ending cycle,” he said.

’FIRST STEP TOWARDS JUSTICE’
Chauvin could now face up to 40 years in prison. While the US criminal justice system and juries have long given leeway and some legal protection to police officers who use violence to subdue civilians, the Minneapolis jurors found that Chauvin had crossed the line and used excessive force.
Chauvin’s defense team did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the verdict but is considered likely to appeal the conviction.
In a trial that opened on March 29, the defense argued that Chauvin behaved as any “reasonable police officer” would have under those circumstances, and sought to raise doubts about the cause of Floyd’s death.
In his comments, Biden emphasized his support for legislation “to root out unconstitutional policing,” including the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which has been passed by the US House of Representatives and seeks to increase accountability for law enforcement misconduct.
The Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis said in a statement published in the Minneapolis Star Tribune that “there are no winners in this case, and we respect the jury’s decision,” adding: “We need to stop the divisive comments, and we all need to do better to create a Minneapolis we all love.”
The intersection of race and law enforcement has long been contentious in the United States, underscored by a series of deadly incidents involving white police officers and Black people in recent years.
Floyd’s death prompted protests against racism and police brutality in many US cities and other countries last summer, even as the world grappled with the coronavirus pandemic.
Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris watched the verdict being read out along with staff in the White House’s private dining room, the White House said. Biden, Harris and first lady Jill Biden all spoke with Philonize Floyd.
“Nothing is going to make it all better but at least ... now there’s some justice,” Biden told the Floyd family, according to a video posted to Twitter.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison told reporters that the verdict was a “first step toward justice” and should serve as a launching point for police reform. “We need to use this verdict as an inflection point.”

HOURS OF TESTIMONY
Under Minnesota sentencing guidelines, Chauvin faces 12-1/2 years in prison for his murder conviction as a first-time criminal offender.
Prosecutors could seek a longer sentence of up to 40 years if Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill determines that there were “aggravating factors.” Cahill said Chauvin’s sentencing was likely eight weeks away.
The Minneapolis Police Department fired Chauvin and the three other officers the day after Floyd’s murder. The three others are due to face trial later this year on aiding-and-abetting charges.
Witnesses called by prosecutors included a cardiologist, a pulmonologist and a forensic pathologist, who testified that videos and autopsy results confirmed that Chauvin killed Floyd by starving him of oxygen.
Also among the prosecution witnesses was Darnella Frazier, a teenager who used her cellphone to make a video depicting Floyd’s ordeal — images that catalyzed the subsequent protests. Floyd can be heard crying out for his mother and telling officers he could not breathe.
Other eyewitnesses described the horror and trauma of watching Floyd die in front of them. Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo testified that Chauvin’s actions during the arrest represented an egregious breach of his training.
The jurors, who consisted of four white women, two white men, three Black men, one Black woman and two multiracial women, were sequestered during deliberations.


Third Taliban leader killed in Peshawar in past 4 months

Third Taliban leader killed in Peshawar in  past 4 months
Updated 21 April 2021

Third Taliban leader killed in Peshawar in past 4 months

Third Taliban leader killed in Peshawar in  past 4 months
  • The slain Taliban commander oversaw military deployments in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province

ISLAMABAD: A senior Taliban leader, Mullah Nek Muhammad Rehbar, was killed in Peshawar on Monday in an attack by two unidentified gunmen riding a motorbike, a police official and two Taliban leaders told Arab News.

“A probe has been launched to determine the motive behind the incident,” the police official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Arab News.

Three others accompanying Rehbar, 35, were also injured in the attack, according to the police official.

The slain Taliban commander oversaw military deployments in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province. Its governor, Ziaulhaq Amarkhil, tweeted about the attack, which Daesh has claimed responsibility for.

Rehbar was scheduled to return to his native Afghanistan after he and other key commanders were summoned by top Taliban leaders to their respective areas in the war-torn country.

Rehbar’s brother, Maulvi Noor Muhammad, was also killed in Peshawar, in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, during a shooting incident about 15 years ago.

Afghan analysts say the slain Taliban commander had fought against Daesh militants in Nangarhar, which could be the main reason behind the attack in Peshawar.

Zakir Jalali, a security analyst, said Taliban officials are easier to target when they live as refugees in other countries. Jalali told Arab News that Rehbar had resisted Daesh fighters in the Khogyani district of Nangarhar and the group decided to kill him because he was considered a “soft target” inside Pakistan.

The slain commander was the third Taliban leader to be killed in Peshawar during the past four months. Maulvi Abdul Hadi, the Taliban governor for Laghman, was assassinated in Peshawar in February. In January, another Taliban leader, Abdul Samad Mullah Toor, was killed near the city.

Several senior Taliban commanders, including the group’s chief Mullah Akhtar Mansour, were also killed in US drone attacks in the past.

Unidentified gunmen shot dead Nasiruddin Haqqani, the brother of Sirajuddin Haqqani, the Taliban deputy chief, near Islamabad in November 2013.

A former senior Taliban figure, Maulvi Abdul Raqeeb, who was known to be in favor of peace talks with the Hamid Karzai administration, was gunned down in Peshawar in February 2014.

Meanwhile, a former Taliban spokesman, Abdul Hai Mutmayeen, died of COVID-19 in Peshawar in January. Mutmayeen had served as the Taliban spokesperson since 1994 after Mullah Omar launched the movement in Kandahar.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed Mutmayeen’s death and conveyed the insurgent group’s condolences to his family.