Dozens Of Migrants Drown As Boat Sinks Off Mauritania




At least 58 migrants drowned as their boat sank near the Mauritanian coast after a week at sea, the International Organization for Migration said Thursday.

The UN agency said another 83 people swam to shore, while survivors said at least 150 people including women and children were aboard the vessel, which had set sail from The Gambia on November 27.

They said the boat was running low on fuel as it was nearing the coast of the northwestern African nation.

“The Mauritanian authorities are very efficiently coordinating the response with the agencies currently present in Nouadhibou,” said Laura Lungarotti, IOM’s chief of mission in Mauritania.

“Our common priority is to take care of all those who survived and bring them the support they need,” she added.

READ ALSO: Six Dead, Two Missing After Gas Explosion In Poland

The injured are being treated in hospital in Nouadhibou, Mauritania’s westernmost town on the Atlantic coast, the IOM statement said.

Mauritanian authorities are in contact with Gambian consular services “to ensure that the necessary support is provided to the migrants”, the statement said.

The Gambian Ambassador to Mauritania is headed to Nouadhibou, it added.

Federer Battles Past Isner To Save Europe In Laver Cup

Roger Federer



Roger Federer saved Europe from defeat in the Laver Cup after beating John Isner in a tight match 6-4, 7-6 (7/3) that takes the tournament down to the final singles match.

Federer had to win a tense tie-break over world number 20 Isner to take the three points, smashing an ace on the final point to raise the roof in Geneva after the American had somehow shot wide with the court at his mercy.

Team World lead 11-10 ahead of German Alexander Zverev’s clash Milos Raonic, a straight shootout for the tournament after Taylor Fritz had earlier put Team World to within one win of capturing their first Laver Cup with a 7-5, 6-7 (3/7), 10-5 win over Dominic Thiem.

“I’m thrilled that I was able to give something back to the team,” said Federer.

“Obviously to see Rafa on the sidelines after having to pull out with an injury, it’s great camaraderie I feel.”

Team World came into the day 7-5 down but were boosted by Rafael Nadal’s withdrawal with a hand injury.

Fritz, himself a replacement for injured Nick Kyrgios, followed up on Isner and Jack Sock’s 5-7, 6-4, 10-8 defeat of Federer and Stefanos Tsitsipas with a surprise tie-break triumph over world number five Thiem.

“That was such a big match for Team World to win, we really needed that,” said Fritz.

“This has to be one of the biggest wins of my career. It means so much more when you’re playing for other people as well.”

This year is the first time the tournament has been played since being added to the ATP Tour.

Europe won the 2018 edition 13-8 in Chicago.

Geneva Braces For Large Protests Against Cameroon President

A woman holds a placard during a demonstration with other Cameroonian’ nationals living from the different European country, against the presence of Cameroon President Paul Biya, in Geneva on June 29, 2019./ AFP


Large numbers of police, many in riot gear, were posted outside a luxury Geneva hotel Saturday where Cameroon’s president is staying, as protestors against his leadership began gathering nearby.

Cameroon’s 86-year-old president, Paul Biya, who has ruled the country since 1982, “has run his dictatorship for nearly half a century,” said rally co-organiser Robert Wanto, a Cameroonian national who has lived in exile for three decades.

“We are here to demand that Cameroon be allowed to enter the modern democratic era,” he told AFP, standing on a square in front of the United Nations European headquarters, where a large demonstration is scheduled to kick off Saturday afternoon.

A woman holds a placard during a demonstration with others Cameroonian’ nationals living from different European country, against the presence of Cameroon President Paul Biya, in Geneva on June 29, 2019.

Several hours before the rally’s start, around 30 protestors draped in Cameroonian flags were already busy setting up a stage and hanging banners with graphic pictures of dead bodies apparently mangled by torture, with the message: “The people say no to Paul Biya”.

Cameroon’s embassy in Bern warned earlier this week that Cameroonian nationals living in various European countries were planning a “violent” protest against Biya Saturday.

Geneva police told AFP they were expecting a “large” demonstration and said they had been authorised to use to the square in front of the UN.

– ‘Ultimatum’ –
They have not been granted permission to march some 500 metres (yards) to the five-star Intercontinental Hotel, where Biya is believed to have been staying since Sunday.

But Wanto told AFP that the demonstrators had given Biya an “ultimatum” to leave and that if he remained at the hotel when the protest began, “we will march there”.

He pointed out that Biya had made it a habit to stay at the pricy Intercontinental during long visits to Switzerland, where he reportedly comes for medical treatment.

“He thinks it is ok to come here and spend billions of our money when our country is economically sick,” Wanto said.

Early Saturday, dozens of suit-clad men believed to be part of the president’s security detail stood around the hotel.

Several police vans were also parked outside the hotel and groups of officers had been stationed at regular intervals between the tall glass building and the UN square.

Over the past week, there have already been several scuffles with small numbers of demonstrators in front of the hotel and even inside the lobby.

An attack on a Swiss journalist covering the events by men believed to be Biya’s security staff even sparked a diplomatic incident, prompting the Swiss government to summon Cameroon’s ambassador in Bern on Thursday.

“The dictator must be senile to want to transport the violence he unleashes on his country on a daily basis to the soil of a democratic country,” Wanto said.

Cameroon, a former French colony, has faced a succession of crises and is currently wracked by a deadly conflict between separatists and government forces in its English-speaking west.

Opposition leaders have faced mass arrests, and rights groups charge the authorities regularly disappear torture detainees.

Algerian President Seeks Medical Treatment In Geneva


Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika on Monday left for Geneva for regular medical tests, the presidency said in a statement.

The 81 year Bouteflika, has rarely been seen in public since he suffered a stroke in 2013, but his backers have urged him to seek a fifth term in next April’s election.

The veteran leader, in office since 1999, has not said yet whether he will stand.

“He will undergo periodic medical checks,” the statement said, without elaborating. Bouteflika has undergone checks several times since his stroke.

United Nations’ Staff In Geneva To Strike Over Grievances


The United Nations Security Council votes at a meeting on threats to international peace and security at the United States Mission in New York.


Angered by “unfair” pay cuts, UN staff in Geneva are planning a half-day strike next week, as dozens of ministers and other dignitaries attend high-level events at the organisation’s European headquarters.

“We have tried other forms of protest before, to no avail… They have left us no choice,” Ian Richards, who heads the UN staff unions association in Geneva, told AFP Sunday.

He said it remained unclear how many of some 9,500 UN staff members in Geneva would participate in Tuesday’s work stoppage, or what impact it would have, pointing out that “this is not like a bus company where the buses just stop.”

“But we certainly expect this to have an impact,” Richards said.

The half-day work stoppage will come during what is arguably one of the busiest weeks of the year at the UN in Geneva, with around 100 heads of state, government ministers and country representatives from around the world set to attend the main annual sessions of the UN’s top human rights and disarmament bodies.

According to a letter sent to all UN agency chiefs late last week, Tuesday will mark only “a first day of action, (and will) be followed by others.”

It complained of a “substantial deterioration in the employment conditions of UN staff around the world,” and warned that “the reputation of the UN as a leading employer that treats its staff with respect and fairness has been tarnished.”

The letter, sent by the unions and representatives of civil servants working for the UN, went out as staff received their first pay slips showing a 3.5-percent salary cut, and with the knowledge that the cut will swell to five percent by June, Richards said.


Geneva Talks To Resume Sunday, Says Syria Government

The Syrian government delegation will return to Geneva on Sunday for peace talks hosted by the United Nations on ending the country’s brutal conflict, the foreign ministry said on Thursday.

“The Syrian government delegation will arrive in Geneva on Sunday to take part in the eighth round,” state news agency SANA reported, citing a foreign ministry source.

The government delegation was absent for the resumption of the talks on Tuesday following a weekend break.

Maduro Cancels Human Rights Council Appearance In Geneva – UN

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has cancelled a scheduled appearance at the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) next week, a UN spokesman said Tuesday, without giving a reason.

“Please note that per information the HRC Secretariat just received, President Maduro of Venezuela will not address the Human Rights Council.

“Instead, Minister Arreaza Montserrat has been scheduled to address the Council on the opening day of the session” on Monday, council spokesman Rolando Gomez said in an email.

5th Africa CEO Forum To Kickoff March 20 In Geneva

5th Africa CEO Forum To Kickoff March 20 In GenevaHaving cemented its status as the foremost business personalities meeting dedicated to the development of the African private sector, the Africa CEO Forum is set to kick off its 5th edition, themed: “re-thinking Africa’s business model”.

The 2017 edition, set to take place in Geneva, would focus on how to succeed in this new economic cycle on the continent.

Slated to hold between March 20 and 21, the programme would bring together more than 1000 personalities, key decision makers in industry, finance and politics from the African continent and around the globe.

The Africa CEO forum 2017 would open the debate with the economic boom of the 2000s, the context of economic growth in Africa and the critical decisions that must be taken to reach rapid and sustainable growth.

Other themes to be discussed include: Unleashing innovation and the entrepreneurial potential of youth and women, making Africa more attractive for international investors, turning African stock exchanges into competitive powerhouses and creating the next generation of African exporters.

Find out more about the programme

The forum would also offer 20 sessions for debate and reflection, allowing participants to hit strategic topics for driving African corporate growth including: digital transformation, fintech, agri-business, private equity, emerging African champions, electricity and innovation.

Some of the African and international personalities slated to take part in the discussion and debate include:

President, African Development Bank, Akinwumi Adesina, CEO Unilever, Paul Polman, President, Mo Ibrahim Foundation, Mo Ibrahim, CEO, OTMT Investments, Naguib Sawiris, Chairperson, MTN, Phuthuma Nhleko, Co-Founder and Group Executive Director, Sahara Group, Tonye Cole, CEO, United Capital, Oluwatoyin Sanni, Chairperson, Firstbank, Ibukun Awosika, CEO, Mohammed Enterprises, Mohammed Dewji, CEO, Africa and Middle East, Orange, Bruno Mettling, CEO, MSC, Diego Aponte, CEO, Afreximbank, Benedict Oramah, CEO, Rougier, Marie-Yvonne Charlemagne, CEO, Stanbic IBTC Holdings, Sola David-Borha, CEO, Uchumi Supermarkets, Julius Kipng’etich, CEO, Cevital, Issad Rebrab, CEO, Casablanca Finance City Authority, Saïd Ibrahimi, CEO, NSIA, Jean Kacou Diagou.

For more information, visit the African CEO Forum website.

Damascus Under Pressure Ahead Of Syria Peace Talks

Syria peace talkWestern powers have condemned efforts by the Syrian government to set limits to the agenda of fresh peace talks starting on Monday.

Syria’s Foreign Minister, Walid Uuallem, on Saturday, ruled out discussions of presidential elections.

US Secretary of State, John Kerry, responded by accusing Damascus of “trying to disrupt the process.”

Mr John Kerry expressed dismay over the Syrian Foreign Minister’s firm line about President Bashar al-Assad, saying they were a “disruption” in the peace efforts.

He called for Iran and Russia- key backers of Assad  to rein in the Syrian President.

“The fact is that his strongest sponsors, Iran and Russia, have both adopted at the United Nations in support of an approach which dictates that there must be a political transition and that we must move towards a presidential election at some point in time.

“If the regime and its backers think that they can test the boundaries, diminish compliance in certain areas, or act in ways that call into question their commitment to the cessation, without serious consequences for the progress that we have made, they are deeply mistaken, ” Kerry said.

The UN-led talks represent the first serious diplomatic intervention since Russia began air strikes in September.

At the Geneva talks, diplomats hoped to build on the fragile and partial truce, which has reduced the level of violence in Syria since it came into effect at the end of February.

But analysts said that expectations for the talks were low.

On Sunday, the HNC said it would push for an interim government in which President Assad and the current leadership would have no role.

The indirect talks in Geneva were mediated by the United Nations. UN special envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, had said he wants presidential elections to be held in the next 18 months.

The fate of President Assad has been one of the main stumbling blocks in previous talks. The last round collapsed in February without agreement.

More than 250,000 Syrians had been killed and about 11 million people had been forced from their homes in five years of Syria’s civil war, which began with an uprising against President Assad.

Syrian Opposition Sets Terms For Geneva Peace Talks

syrian opposition meet in genevaThe main Syrian opposition group has arrived in Geneva, a day after backing down from their threat to boycott the UN-sponsored peace talks.

But a spokesman said they stood by their demand for an end to air strikes and blockades before they would negotiate with the Syrian government.

Their delegation is due to meet UN envoy, Staffan de Mistura on Sunday.

Meanwhile, UN Chief, Ban Ki-moon called on all sides to put the interests of Syrians above their own.

“Children and women in particular have borne the brunt of this fighting and it is time now to see the end of the fighting and other human rights abuses that have dominated the war,” he said.

More than 250,000 people had died and 11 million had fled their homes in almost five years of civil war in Syria.

The violence has also been the biggest driver behind Europe’s migration crisis.

Al Jazeera reported that on Friday, HNC member, Farah Atassi, said that the delegation was coming “not to negotiate” with the government yet, but to talk to UN officials after receiving reassurances from the organisation.

Atassi spoke at a Geneva hotel not far from the UN offices where UN Syria envoy, Staffan de Mistura and Syria’s UN ambassador Bashar Jaafari were meeting.

HNC spokesman, Monzer Makhous, said that the opposition had not changed a previous position that it would not travel to Switzerland if specific conditions for talking politics were not met.

“Yes, we will go to Geneva to be present but we will not attend the talks at all unless the regime fulfils our humanitarian demands, which specify stoppage to bombings and starvation of civilians in besieged areas as a condition”, Makhous said.

16 Starved To Death’ In Madaya

Syria-MadayaAnother 16 people have been starved to death in the besieged Syrian town of Madaya.

This was revealed by the Medical Charity, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) as the Syrian peace talks get underway in Geneva.

The Medical Charity said that there were also 33 people in danger of dying.

According to BBC, the MSF Operations Director, Brice de la Vigne, disclosed that the situation was ‘totally unacceptable’ when people ‘should have been evacuated weeks ago’.

The MSF had previously said that 30 people died of starvation in the town late last year.

Earlier in January, two emergency convoys of food and aid supplies were delivered to Madaya, up to 40,000 people were believed to be trapped in appalling conditions.

Syrian Rebel Chief’s Death Complicates Peace Talks Push

syrian rebelRussian air strikes like the one that killed a top Syrian rebel leader last week send the wrong message to groups engaged in a political dialogue to end the conflict and complicate efforts to begin negotiations, the U.S. State Department said on Monday.

Syrian rebel chief, Zahran Alloush, the leader of Jaysh al Islam who commanded thousands of fighters in the Damascus suburbs, was killed on Friday in an air strike that rebel sources said was carried out by Russian warplanes.

Jaysh al Islam was a participant in the Riyadh conference where Syrian opposition groups agreed on common aims for proposed political negotiations to end the country’s civil war and chose a former Syrian prime minister to represent them in the dialogue.

State Department spokesman, Mark Toner, said that the United States did not provide support to Alloush’s group and had concerns about its “behavior on the battlefield” but noted that Jaysh al Islam had fought Islamic State rebels and was participating in the political dialogue to end Syria’s civil war.

“So the strike on Alloush and others in Jaysh al Islam and other opposition groups do in fact complicate efforts to bring about meaningful political negotiations and a nationwide ceasefire,” Toner said in response to questions at a State Department briefing. “We need progress on both these efforts in the coming weeks.”

“It doesn’t send the most constructive message to carry out a strike like that,” he added, noting that the United States hoped the attacks would not reverse progress toward negotiations.

Asked if Washington had raised the issue with Moscow, Toner said there had been conversations between the two sides but he was not certain whether that specific issue had been discussed directly.

The U.N. mediator for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, plans to convene representatives of the Syrian government and a broad spectrum of Syrian opposition groups for negotiations in Geneva on January 25.

De Mistura’s spokesman announced the timing for the meeting on Saturday, just a day after Alloush was killed. The statement urged participants not to be deterred by developments on the ground.

Toner said the United States would “encourage the opposition to fully participate in this process” and not to be swayed by the air strike that killed Alloush.