Nagasaki Marks 75 Years Since Atomic Bombing

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe lays a wreath during a ceremony marking the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, at the Nagasaki Peace Park on August 9, 2020. Philip FONG / AFP
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe lays a wreath during a ceremony marking the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, at the Nagasaki Peace Park on August 9, 2020. Philip FONG / AFP

 

The Japanese city of Nagasaki on Sunday commemorated the 75th anniversary of its destruction by a US atomic bomb, with its mayor and the head of the United Nations warning against a nuclear arms race.

Nagasaki was flattened in an atomic inferno three days after Hiroshima — twin nuclear attacks that rang in the nuclear age and gave Japan the bleak distinction of being the only country to be struck by atomic weapons.

Survivors, their relatives and a handful of foreign dignitaries attended a remembrance ceremony in Nagasaki where they called for world peace.

Participants offered a silent prayer at 11:02 am (0202 GMT), the time the second and last nuclear weapon used in wartime was dropped over the city.

“The true horror of nuclear weapons has not yet been adequately conveyed to the world at large” despite decades of effort by survivors telling of their “hellish experience”, Nagasaki mayor Tomihisa Taue said in a speech afterwards.

“If, as with the novel coronavirus — which we did not fear until it began to spread among our immediate surroundings — humanity does not become aware of the threat of nuclear weapons until they are used again, we will find ourselves in an irrevocable predicament.”

 

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe delivers a speech during a ceremony marking the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, at the Nagasaki Peace Park on August 9, 2020. (Photo by JAPAN POOL VIA JIJI PRESS / JIJI PRESS / AFP) / Japan OUT

 

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, in a message read by his undersecretary Izumi Nakamitsu, warned that “the prospect of nuclear weapons being used intentionally, by accident or miscalculation, is dangerously high.”

“The historic progress in nuclear disarmament is in jeopardy… This alarming trend must be reversed,” he said.

‘Nuclear-free world’

The number of participants in this year’s ceremony was reduced to roughly one tenth the figure in previous years due to coronavirus fears, with proceedings broadcast live online in Japanese and English.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe refreshed his pledge that Japan would lead “the international community’s efforts towards the realisation of a nuclear-free world”.

Terumi Tanaka, 88, who was 13 and at his hillside home when the bomb hit Nagasaki, remembers the moment everything went white with a flash of light, and the aftermath.

“I saw many people with terrible burns and wounds evacuating … people who were already dead in a primary school-turned shelter,” Tanaka told AFP in a recent interview, saying his two aunts died.

Atomic bomb survivors “believe that the world must abandon nuclear arms because we never want younger generations to experience the same thing”, he said.

The remembrance comes as worries linger over the nuclear threat from North Korea and growing tensions between the US and China over issues including security and trade.

“I’m determined to keep appealing (to the world) that Nagasaki must be the last atomic bomb-hit city,” survivor Shigemi Fukahori, 89, said at the ceremony.

“I hope young people will receive this baton of peace and keep running.”

The US dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, killing around 140,000 people. The toll includes those who survived the explosion itself but died soon after from radiation exposure.

Three days later, the US dropped a plutonium bomb on the port city of Nagasaki, killing 74,000 people.

Japan announced its surrender in World War II on August 15, 1945.

The United States has never acceded to demands in Japan for an apology for the loss of innocent lives in the atomic bombings, which many Western historians believe were necessary to bring a quick end to the war and avoid a land invasion that could have been even more costly.

Others see the attacks as unnecessary and even experimental atrocities.

Last year, Pope Francis met with several survivors on visits to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, paying tribute to the “unspeakable horror” suffered by the victims.

In 2016, Barack Obama became the first sitting US president to visit Hiroshima. He offered no apology for the attack but embraced survivors and called for a world free of nuclear weapons.

High school students take part in a memorial for bomb victims at Nagasaki Hypocenter Park to mark the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombing of the city on August 9, 2020. (Photo by Philip FONG / AFP)
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pays his respects during a ceremony marking the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, at the Nagasaki Peace Park on August 9, 2020. – Nagasaki was flattened in an atomic inferno three days after Hiroshima in 1945, twin nuclear attacks that rang in the nuclear age and gave Japan the bleak distinction of being the only country to be struck by atomic weapons. (Photo by Philip FONG / AFP)
A choir group comprised of elementary schoolchildren performs at a ceremony marking the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, at the Nagasaki Peace Park on August 9, 2020. (Photo by JAPAN POOL VIA JIJI PRESS / JIJI PRESS / AFP) / Japan OUT
Monks participate in a march for COVID-19 coronavirus victims as they gather to offer prayers for victims of the atomic bombings on the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Nagasaki, at the Nagasaki Peace Park on August 9, 2020. – Nagasaki was flattened in an atomic inferno three days after Hiroshima in 1945, twin nuclear attacks that rang in the nuclear age and gave Japan the bleak distinction of being the only country to be struck by atomic weapons. (Photo by Philip FONG / AFP)
Monks participate in a march for COVID-19 coronavirus victims as they gather to offer prayers for victims of the atomic bombings on the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Nagasaki, at the Nagasaki Peace Park on August 9, 2020. – Nagasaki was flattened in an atomic inferno three days after Hiroshima in 1945, twin nuclear attacks that rang in the nuclear age and gave Japan the bleak distinction of being the only country to be struck by atomic weapons. (Photo by Philip FONG / AFP)

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe lays a wreath during a ceremony marking the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, at the Nagasaki Peace Park on August 9, 2020. Philip FONG / AFP

China Criticises History Exam Question In Hong Kong

A picture of the Chinese flag.
A picture of the Chinese flag.

 

A history exam question asking Hong Kong students to assess colonial Japan’s occupation of China sparked a rebuke by Beijing on Friday and reignited a row over academic freedoms in the semi-autonomous city.

The criticism comes as Hong Kong’s schools and universities — some of the best in Asia — become the latest ideological battleground in a city convulsed by political unrest.

China’s foreign ministry and state media rounded on a university entrance exam question that asked students whether they agreed Japan “did more good than harm” to China from 1900 to 1945.

“Hong Kong’s education sector must not become a chicken coop without a roof,” the foreign ministry wrote on the Facebook page of its Hong Kong office, using a metaphor referring to the idea that students should be protected from negative influences or ideas.

“Hong Kong’s (university exam) question leads students to be traitors,” wrote the pugnaciously nationalist Global Times newspaper on Friday.

After the criticism from the mainland, Hong Kong’s Education Secretary Kevin Yeung announced the question would not be marked by examiners because it was “biased” and had “seriously hurt the feelings and dignity of the Chinese people”.

He also ordered the city’s exam board to report to him on how it was included in the test.

Japan’s colonial occupation of parts of China between 1900-1945 was brutal and led to millions of deaths.

Mainland China’s schools and universities are strictly controlled, with little deviation from Communist Party lines tolerated.

Semi-autonomous Hong Kong has a much freer system that encourages debate and analysis.

But education is becoming a new target for Beijing after seven months of huge and often violent democracy protests rocked Hong Kong last year.

The “chicken coop” metaphor was used by Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing leader Carrie Lam last week as she warned liberal studies, a secondary school class that teaches critical thinking, helped fuel last year’s unrest.

The subject has become a bete noire for China and pro-Beijing politicians in Hong Kong who have called for more openly patriotic education.

Lam has promised to unveil plans to reform the subject later in the year.

The exam question went viral on China’s heavily policed Twitter-like platform Weibo on Friday, with a hashtag about the topic receiving around 400 million views with many comments condemning Hong Kong.

Some academics and teachers are rattled by the government’s enthusiasm for reforming curriculums.

Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union on Thursday accused the government of “placing politics above education”.

“In order to pursue political correctness, the education bureau is smothering the space for discussion in exams,” the union said.

Ip Kin-yuen, a lawmaker who represents the education sector, said students would be expected to know and write about Japan’s violent excesses in an exam question assessing the country’s legacy within China.

“Students… can use what they know to discuss against a statement, this is very common in a history exam,” he told AFP.

Sixty Years On, Africa Still Seeks Right Model For Growth

 

 

As 1960 dawned, sub-Saharan Africa braced for historic change: that year, 17 of its countries were destined to gain independence from European colonial powers.

But six decades on, the continent is mired in many problems. It is struggling to build an economic model that encourages enduring growth, addresses poverty and provides a future for its youth.

Here are some of the key issues:

Youth ‘explosion’

Africa’s population grew from 227 million in 1960 to more than one billion in 2018. More than 60 percent are aged under 25, according to the Brookings Institution, a US think tank.

“The most striking change for me is the increasing reality of disaffected youth… a younger population that is ready to explode at any moment,” Cameroonian sociologist Francis Nyamnjoh told AFP.

“They are hungry for political freedoms, they are hungry for economic opportunities and they are hungry for social fulfilment .”

Joblessness is a major peril. Unemployed youths are an easy prey for armed groups, particularly jihadist movements in the Sahel, or may be tempted to risk clandestine emigration, often at the cost of their lives.

The continent’s population is expected to double by 2050, led by Nigeria, Ethiopia and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Poverty and inequality

The proportion of Africa’s population living below the poverty line —- less than $1.90 (1.7 euros) per day —- fell from 54.7 percent in 1990 to 41.4 percent in 2015, according to the World Bank.

But this average masks enormous differences from one country to another, exemplified by Gabon (3.4 percent of the population in 2017) and Madagascar (77.6 percent in 2012).

“The inequalities between countries are as extreme as in Asia and the inequalities within countries as as high as in Latin America, where landless peasants coexist with huge landowners,” said Togolese economist Kako Nubukpo.

Christophe Cottet, an economist at the French Development Agency (AFD), pointed out that inequality in Africa is “very poorly measured.”

“There are notably no figures on inequalities of inherited wealth, a key issue in Africa.”

Mega-cities and countryside

Recent decades have seen the expansion of megacities like Lagos and Kinshasa, typically ringed by shantytowns where people live in extreme poverty, although many medium-sized cities have also grown.

More than 40 percent of Africans now live in urban areas, compared with 14.6 percent in 1960, according to the World Bank.

In 1960, Cairo and Johannesburg were the only African cities with more than a million residents. Consultants McKinsey and Company estimate that by 2030, about 100 cities will have a million inhabitants, twice as many as in Latin America.

But this urban growth is not necessarily the outcome of a rural exodus, said Cottet.

“The population is rising across Africa as a whole, rather faster in towns than in rural areas,” said Cottet.

“There is also the problem of unemployment in towns — (rural) people have little interest in migrating there.”

Lost decades of growth

Growth in Africa slammed to a halt in the early 1980s, braked by a debt crisis and structural adjustment policies. It took two decades to recover.

Per-capita GDP, as measured in constant US dollars, shows the up-and-downs, although these figures are official and do not cover Africa’s large informal economy: $1,112 in 1960, $1,531 in 1974, $1,166 in 1994 and $1,657 in 2018.

“If you do an assessment over 60 years, something serious happened in Africa, with the loss of 20 years. But there is no denying that what is happening now is more positive,” Cottet said.

The IMF’s and World Bank’s structural adjustment programmes “broke the motors of growth,” said Nubukpo, whose book, “L’Urgence Africaine,” (The African Emergency) makes the case for a revamped growth model.

The belt-tightening programmes “emphasised the short term, to the detriment of investments in education, health and training.”

New thinking needed

Africa has a low rate of industrialisation, is heavily dependent on agriculture and its service sector has only recently started to emerge.

“We have not escaped the colonial model. Basically, Africa remains a producer and exporter of raw materials,” said Nubukpo.

He gave the example of cotton: 97 percent of Africa’s cotton fibre is exported without processing — the phase which adds value to raw materials and provides jobs.

For Jean-Joseph Boillot, a researcher attached to the French Institute for International and Strategic Affairs, “Africa is still seeking an economic model of development.”

“There is very little development of local industries,” he said.

“This can only be achieved through a very strong approach, of continental industrial protection — but this is undermined by the great powers in order to pursue free trade.

“The Chinese, the Indians and Westerners want to be able to go on distributing their products.”

Governance problem

Lack of democracy, transparency and efficient judicial systems are major brakes on African growth, and wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few, said the experts.

Of the 40 states deemed last year to be the most world’s most corrupt countries, 20 are in sub-Saharan Africa, according to Transparency International.

“Africa is not developing because it is caught in the trap of private wealth and the top wealth holders are African leaders,” said Nubukpo.

“We must promote democracy, free and transparent elections to have legitimate leaders who have the public interest at heart, which we absolutely do not have.”

Nyamnjoh also pointed to marginalised groups — “There should be more room for inclusivity of voices, including voices of the young, voices of women.”

Two Decades Of School Mass Shootings In The US

 

Two students were shot dead and another three wounded when a classmate opened fire at their California high school, the latest in the United States’ relentless cycle of school mass shootings.

Here are America’s deadliest classroom gun massacres in the last two decades.

Columbine High School (1999)

Two teenagers from Columbine, Colorado, armed with an assortment of weapons and homemade bombs, went on a rampage at their local high school.

Twelve students and a teacher were killed during the April 20 massacre. Another 24 people were wounded.

Columbine, whose name has become synonymous with school shootings, is one of the first — and still among the deadliest — such shootings in the United States.

Virginia Tech (2007)

A South Korean student at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute opened fire on the Blacksburg, Virginia campus, killing 32 students and professors before committing suicide.

Thirty-three people were wounded.

The gunman had apparently idolized the Columbine shooters, referring to them as “martyrs” in a video, part of a hate-filled manifesto he mailed to police during the shooting.

Sandy Hook Elementary School (2012)

A 20-year-old man with a history of mental health issues killed his mother in Newtown, Connecticut, on December 14 before blasting his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Twenty children, aged six and seven, were shot dead, as well as six adults. The shooter then committed suicide.

The parents of Sandy Hook victims have led numerous campaigns to toughen gun control laws, but their efforts have largely failed.

Some conspiracy theorists insist the massacre was a government hoax, claiming the shooting involved “actors” in a plot to discredit the gun lobby.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (2018)

On February 14, a 19-year-old former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who was expelled for disciplinary reasons returned to the Parkland, Florida school and opened fire.

He killed 14 students and three adult staff.

Stoneman Douglas students have become crusaders against gun violence under the banner “March for Our Lives,” lobbying for tougher gun control laws and organizing protests and rallies.

Their campaign has taken off on social media, mobilizing hundreds of thousands of young Americans.

Santa Fe High School (2018)

Ten people, including eight students, were killed when a 17-year-old student armed with a shotgun and a revolver opened fire on his classmates in rural Santa Fe, Texas.

Classes had just started on the morning of May 18 when the shooting began.

Following the tragedy Texas Governor Greg Abbott unveiled 40 recommendations, mainly focused on increasing armed security on school campuses and stepping up mental health screenings to identify troubled children.

Gun ownership can be a point of pride for many Texans, and even some Santa Fe High School students spoke out against linking the shooting to the need for better gun control.

Pompeo Warns Against China, Russia On Eve Of Berlin Wall Anniversary

 

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday issued a stark warning against China and Russia on the eve of the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

“Western, free nations have a responsibility to deter threats to our people” from governments like China, Russia and Iran, Pompeo said, speaking just a few metres (yards) away from where the Wall ran past the German capital’s world-famous Brandenburg Gate.

The US and its allies should “defend what was so hard-won… in 1989” and “recognise we are in a competition of values with unfree nations,” he added.

Picking at sore spots in Washington’s relationship with Berlin, Pompeo said the under-construction Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany would mean “Europe’s energy supplies… depend on (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s whims”.

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Chancellor Angela Merkel has repeatedly said the pipeline is a purely private business concern.

And he warned of “Chinese companies’ intent to build 5G networks”, after the German government failed to exclude tech giant Huawei from the bidding process for the next-generation mobile network infrastructure.

Pompeo is on a whirlwind two-day tour of Germany where he has revisited the site of his Cold War military service on the former Iron Curtain border and is slated to meet leaders including Merkel.

While in Europe, he has looked to shore up transatlantic relations eroded by trade conflicts and discord over geopolitical crises and military spending.

Spurred by the US leaving the way open to Turkish and Russian military action in northern Syria, France’s President Emmanuel Macron told The Economist this week that the NATO alliance — of which Ankara is also a member — was suffering a “brain death” of lack of coordination between Europe and Washington.

Recalling past “challenges between partners” within NATO, including France’s 1960s departure from the alliance’s command structure, Pompeo on Friday dismissed the debate around Macron’s comments as a “kerfuffle”.

Other leaders including Merkel, NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have also firmly rejected Macron’s assessment.

Archeologists Find Remains Of 227 Sacrificed Children In Peru

Handout picture released by Programa Arquelogico Huanchacho on August 27, 2019 showing remains of some 227 children, allegedly offered in a sacrifice ritual by the pre-Columbian culture Chimu. PROGRAMA ARQUEOLOGICO HUANCHACO / AFP

 

Archeologists in Peru say the 227 bodies they have unearthed from a site used by the pre-Columbian Chimu culture is the biggest-ever discovery of sacrificed children.

Archeologists have been digging since last year at the huge sacrificial site in Huanchaco, a beachside tourist town north of the capital Lima.

“This is the biggest site where the remains of sacrificed children have been found,” chief archeologist Feren Castillo told AFP on Tuesday.

Castillo said the children, who were aged between four and 14, were sacrificed in a ritual to honor the Chimu culture’s gods.

“They were sacrificed to appease the El Nino phenomenon,” and show signs of being killed during wet weather, he said.

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He added that there may still be more to be found.

“It’s uncontrollable, this thing with the children. Wherever you dig, there’s another one,” Castillo said.

The children’s remains were found in a position facing the sea. Some still had skin and hair.

Huanchaco was a site where many child sacrifices took place during the time of the Chimu culture, whose apogee was between 1200 and 1400.

Archeologists first found children’s bodies at the dig site in the town’s Pampa la Cruz neighborhood in June 2018, unearthing 56 skeletons.

Pampa la Cruz is a short distance from Huanchaquito, where the remains of 140 sacrificed children and 200 llamas were found in April 2018.

The Chimu civilization extended along the Peruvian coast to Ecuador but disappeared in 1475 after it was conquered by the Inca empire.

‘I Put Two Bullets In German Officer’s Head’ Recalls French Resistance Heroine

Madeleine Riffaud, 94, speaks about the liberation of Paris on 1944. NATALIE HANDEL / AFP

 

One sunny summer Sunday in 1944 Madeleine Riffaud hopped off her bicycle and followed a German officer who was taking a stroll on one of the most picturesque bridges over the River Seine in Paris.

He was taking in the view of Louvre and the Tuileries gardens when Riffaud, then just 19 and a trainee midwife, shooed a little boy away and took out her pistol.

“It happened all very quickly,” she told AFP. “I didn’t want to shoot him in the back… I wanted him to see me, so he would have time to get his weapon out.

“He turned and I put two bullets in his head. He dropped like a stone. He didn’t suffer.

“It wasn’t done with hate, if anything I was pained about having to do it,” she said, her eyes closed as she remembered the moment.

Riffaud, now 94, was one of the most remarkable Resistance leaders who helped liberate the French capital in August, 1944.

But she very nearly did not live long enough to see it. Having ridden away on her bicycle, members of the collaborationist French militia chased her and mowed her down with their car.

Knowing she would probably be sexually abused and tortured before they killed her, she reached out for her gun that had been knocked onto the pavement.

But they got there first.

‘I expected to be shot’

“I was lucky because they could have killed me right there,” and she was “lucky” again that they handed her over to the Gestapo so their leader could collect a bounty for her rather than to his own militia interrogators — who tended to rape their female prisoners.

“Because it was a Sunday afternoon the Gestapo’s torture specialists were off, so I was questioned by some crudely brutal SS members who knocked me out but lacked the finesse of the true experts.

“I told them nothing and I expected to be shot the next morning,” Riffaud said, holding a cigarillo.

Instead she was handed over to the French police. While in detention Riffaud helped a Jewish woman deliver a baby.

It was stillborn. A notorious quisling officer had repeatedly kicked the mother in the stomach to try to get her to betray the child’s father.

Having shamed him into allowing the haemorrhaging woman to go to hospital, the officer battered Riffaud and handed her back to the Gestapo, saying they would “poke out my eyes and cut me into little pieces”.

But somehow Riffaud — who had taken on the codename “Rainer” after the Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke — survived, narrowly avoiding the firing squad before briefly escaping as she was being deported to a concentration camp.

She was then released in a prisoner swap on August 19, a week before Paris was liberated.

German arms train ambush

A day or two later Riffaud was back in action commanding a group of fighters in the working class northeast of Paris as a popular revolt against the Nazis broke out across the city.

She was already regarded as a hardened veteran of the Resistance, even though she had only joined the armed struggle the previous winter.

Back then the raids and bombings she and her comrades undertook were often little more than suicide missions.

Now people were flocking to join the Resistance “who had done nothing during the war. They were pouring onto the streets and learned very quickly how to handle a rifle.

“It was joyous,” Riffaud recalled. “People were falling in love and kissing each other without knowing each other. After years of having to do everything in secret, we could fight in the open.”

Outfoxing the Germans

Her biggest exploit was capturing a German arms and supply train and taking the 80 soldiers on board prisoner with just three men and an heroic French train driver.

After a fierce battle where they chucked all the grenades and explosives they had at the train, Riffaud used fireworks to hoodwink the Germans into thinking they were hugely outnumbered and outgunned.

“We made an incredible amount of noise and it terrified the poor Germans and they pulled back into a tunnel. The locomotive was still sticking out and we managed to persuade a retired train driver who was washing the dishes with his wife to go down with us to detach it.

“He was a brave man. We warned him that he would be a perfect target, but he told us not to worry, and crawled underneath the engine, unhooked it and drove it away, and then walked home. We didn’t even think to thank him.”

By then Riffaud’s happy few had been reinforced by local firemen and even the mayor. “It was all quite festive,” she admitted.

Cut off inside the tunnel, the cowed Germans eventually gave themselves up.

It was only then that Riffaud realised it was her 20th birthday and they partied with the ham, jam and dried sausages they found on the train.

Two days later, while the rest of Paris celebrated the liberation, she was battling the last battalion of fanatical SS soldiers holed up in the city.

Her men carried the last Resistance fighter to die in Paris, her old comrade violinist Michel Tagrine, to her, but she could do nothing for him.

Frontline journalist

Riffaud later tried to join the French army but was not allowed because of her sex and age. “You had to be 21,” she said.

In the months that followed, she battled depression but luckily the young communist fell in with writers and artists like Paul Eluard, Louis Aragon and Picasso, who drew her portrait.

“They stopped me from doing myself in, because a lot of Resistance fighters killed themselves after the war.”

Riffaud returned to the frontlines after the war as a radically engaged journalist, meeting the Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh, covering the Algerian War of Independence and living with the Viet Cong guerrillas fighting the Americans in South Vietnam before returning to France.

There she took up the cause of low-paid workers by becoming one herself, writing a bestselling expose of the drudgery of care assistants in Parisian hospitals.

France To Return 26 Artworks To Benin

This file photo shows the Ato ceremony of the Kingdom of Dahomey, circa 1934 on May 18, 2018 at the Quai Branly Museum-Jacques Chirac in Paris. Photo: GERARD JULIEN / AFP

 

France’s President Emmanuel Macron agreed Friday to return 26 artworks to Benin “without delay,” his office said.

The decision came as Macron received the findings of a study he had commissioned on returning African treasures held by French museums, a radical policy shift that could put pressure on other former colonial powers.

He proposed gathering African and European partners in Paris next year to define a framework for an “exchange policy” for African artworks.

Macron agreed to return 26 royal statues from the Palaces of Abomey — formerly the capital of the kingdom of Dahomey — that were taken by the French army in 1892 and are now housed at Paris’ Quai Branly museum.

Benin had requested their restitution, and earlier this week welcomed that France had followed the process through to the end.

But Macron’s office said this should not be an isolated or symbolic case.

The president “hopes that all possible circulation of these works are considered: returns but also exhibitions, loans, further cooperation”, the Elysee palace said.

The report he received on Friday proposed legislation be developed to return thousands of African artworks taken during the country’s colonial period, now in French museums, to nations that request them.

There are conditions, however, including a request from the relevant country, precise information about the works’ origins, and the existence of proper facilities such as museums to house the works back in their home country.

Macron also wants “museums to play an essential role in this process”, his office said.

They will be invited to “identify African partners and organise possible returns”.

This file photo shows Funerary crown of the Kingdom of Dahomey dating from 1860-1889, on May 18, 2018, at the Quai Branly Museum-Jacques Chirac in Paris. Photo: GERARD JULIEN / AFP

 

Museums should quickly establish “an online inventory of their African collections” to allow for searching an item’s provenance, the statement said.

Macron also called for “in-depth work with other European states that retain collections of the same nature acquired in comparable circumstances”.

Calls have been growing in Africa for restitution of artworks, but French law strictly forbids the government from ceding state property, even in well-documented cases of pillaging.

Macron raised hopes in a speech last year in Burkina Faso, saying “Africa’s heritage cannot just be in European private collections and museums.”

He later asked French art historian Benedicte Savoy and Senegalese writer Felwine Sarr to study the matter.

Their report has been welcomed by advocates of the restitution of works which were bought, bartered, or in some cases simply stolen.

AFP

Key Dates In Kofi Annan’s History

 US President George W. Bush (L) shakes hands with United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan (R) at a luncheon during the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York. 
STAN HONDA / AFP

 

Key dates in the life of former UN chief and Nobel peace laureate Kofi Annan, the first black man to head the world body.

– April 8, 1938: Born in the Ghanaian city of Kumasi to an aristocratic family from the Fante tribe.

– 1962: After studying economics in Geneva he joined the World Health Organization and went to work in a number of other UN bodies including the UN refugee agency.

– 1972: Annan obtained a master’s degree at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

– 1993-96: He served deputy head of UN peacekeeping, during the Rwandan genocide and the war in Bosnia.

– January 1, 1997: He became UN secretary general, the first from within the organisation and the first from sub-Saharan Africa. He was re-elected for a second five-year term in June 2001.

– October 12, 2001: Annan and the United Nations were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

– 2005: He became embroiled in a corruption scandal over the UN oil-for-food programme in Iraq. He was later cleared of any wrongdoing.

– 2007: He became a founding member of The Elders, a group of statesmen who speak out on global issues. He also set up the Kofi Annan Foundation which says it aims to promote better global governance and work for peace.

– February 2012: Annan is chosen by the United Nations and the Arab League to mediate in the Syrian war, but he throws in the towel five months later.

– August 18, 2018: Annan dies in Switzerland after a short illness.

AFP

Key Date In Israel’s History

Migrants In Israel To Resettle In Canada, Germany, Italy – Netanyahu
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to the press in his Jerusalem office on April 2, 2018. Menahem KAHANA / AFP

 

Israel’s definition of itself as a “nation state for Jewish people” harks back to its creation 70 years ago as a homeland for Jews.

After the parliament adopted the controversial nation-state law Thursday, here is some background on Israel’s long search for identity.

 The quest for a homeland 

In 1917 the British government published the Balfour Declaration that called for “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.”

In the name of foreign secretary Arthur James Balfour, it was a victory for the aspirations of the Zionist movement established in the late 1890s.

In 1922, after the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, Palestine fell under a British mandate.

A painful birth 

In 1947, after the end of World War II which saw the extermination of more than six million Jews, the United Nations adopted a plan to split Palestine into two states, one Jewish and one Arab.

The holy city of Jerusalem was to be under international control.

The plan was rejected by Arab leaders.

In 1948 long-time Zionist leader David Ben-Gurion proclaimed the creation of the state of Israel on May 14.

War broke out the following day, with Arab forces confronting the new Jewish state. More than 760,000 Palestinians were pushed to exodus or to flee from their homes.

About 160,000 remained in Israel, their descendants making up the 17.5 per cent of Arab Israelis in the country today.

 Wars and treaties 

Israel embarked on various wars as it sought to assert itself.

In 1956 Israeli forces invaded Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula to reach the just-nationalised strategic Suez Canal, but withdrew.

In 1967 Israel captured in the Six-Day War the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Arab East Jerusalem, Syria’s Golan Heights and Egypt’s Sinai.

It started to build Jewish settlements in the occupied territories.

Egypt and Syria attacked Israel in 1973 but were repelled. In 1978 the Israeli and Egyptian leaders agreed on peace terms after talks brokered by the United States at Camp David, paving the way for the first peace agreement between Israel and an Arab state.

In 1982 Israel invaded civil war-wracked Lebanon to attack Palestinian militants there.

A second peace accord, with Jordan, followed in 1994.

Intifadas 

The first Palestinian intifada, or popular uprising against Israel, erupted in 1987 in territories that it had occupied.

It ended in 1993 as Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) agreed on limited Palestinian autonomy in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The second Palestinian intifada broke out in 2000 after the failure of peace talks and a visit of Israel’s Ariel Sharon to Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque compound.

The Israeli army reoccupied much of the West Bank and built a wall to stop Palestinian attackers from entering its territory. The intifada ended in 2005.

Netanyahu and Trump’s support 

In 2015 Benjamin Netanyahu, premier since 2009, formed the most right-wing government in Israel’s history.

In 2017 the government built the first Jewish settlement in 25 years in the West Bank, in defiance of international concern.

In late 2017 US President, Donald Trump recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, angering Palestinians who view east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

On May 14, 2018 — 70 years after the creation of Israel — the United States transferred its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem amid bloody clashes with Palestinians.

AFP

Soyinka Asks Buhari To Fast-track Action On Niger Delta

Soyinka on Niger Delta RegionNobel laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, has asked the President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, to be more proactive in dealing with the problems of the Niger Delta region.

Professor Soyinka, at a press conference in Lagos believes that the government is not doing enough in handling “the tension in the Niger Delta region”.

The Nobel laureate said he was asking the Federal Government, like other key players in Nigeria and the region, to change its government’s style and move swiftly to deal with the issues of the Niger Delta.

He is advocating a more proactive intervention by the President and his government to douse the tension.

Agreed A Ceasefire

His comment is coming at a period militancy resurgence in the Niger Delta region, with the militants resorting to bombing oil installations.

Their activities have reduced Nigeria’s oil output by 700,000 barrels per day to 1.56 million bpd.

It is a huge loss of revenue, amounting to billions of Dollars, for the nation that relies solely on crude oil sales.

The major militant group in the region that calls itself the Niger Delta Avengers last week said it has agreed a ceasefire and that it is open for negotiation with the government.

On the Education Sector, Professor Soyinka condemned the removal of History as a subject in the nation’s school curriculum saying, the decision is responsible for what he calls, the low quality of the nation’s learning.

Insurgents Are Sub-human

He also condemned the activities of the Boko Haram terrorists in the northeast of Nigeria.

Professor Soyinka said Boko Haram insurgency was a result of religious lunacy and believed aggression should be met with reasonable force.

He also believes the activities of insurgents are sub-human and must be treated as one.

The Nobel laureate told reporters terrorists have no business taking innocent lives and that he stands to request that such barbaric people must be wiped out.

Professor Soyinka, who was at the Presidential Villa few days ago, further told reporters that he was there to discuss issues about his interactions in the House of Commons with the President.

After that meeting with the President, he promised reporters that he would hold a press conference and speak on national issues.

Nigeria Needs State Craftsmanship To End Insurgency – Umar

Aliyu-Umar-and-Tor-IorapuuRetired military personnel, Captain Aliyu Umar, has emphasised the need for Nigerian leaders to be sincere and move from Demagoguery to State Craftsmanship in order to end the insurgency in the north east.

Discussing issue of insurgency in Nigeria on Sunday, on Channels Television’s programme ‘Politics Today’, Mr Umar stressed that a Demagogue would appeal to sentiment, religion and emotions to do what he must do while a state’s craftsman would see potentials in those resources that seem to be scattered and articulate them.

He stated that the insurgency was fallout of the doings of the leaders who had left so much undone.

“The undoings of our leaders in the past are what we are seeing now as security challenges.

“Our leaders should learn to be social engineers. Those security problems that the police need to go there and monitor properly are actually sponsored by deficits in policies they are known to spurn.

“Having a state police is one way less travelled. It seems to me that people who are avoiding it have something to hide,” he said.

He also disagreed with the notion that education was western and should not be embraced by Muslims, a notion that the Boko Haram terrorist group have held unto when it started attacking villages in the north east.

“I want to make a position. I do not see education as being western or eastern. Education is education.

“If you go into history of education, Algebra, Astrology and History, they all have their roots in the endeavours of Arab scholars and for us to start appending education to cardinal points it is somewhat a bit comic.

“Education is about individuals and getting them to know things,” he stressed.

Captain Umar also explained that terrorism only thrive where there are no contentment, unity and responsible governance.

“What the terrorist does is to look for incubative areas that have certain traits. When they get it, they go and woo the oppressed class and give them what they feel they cannot get from their own government.

“They were suicide bombers but today they are plunderers.

“The design, modus operandi and temperament of the people we are seeing today are more of the Janjaweed inclined than the Boko Haram we use to know,” he pointed out.

Another discussant, a Senior lecturer of the University of Jos, Professor Tor Iorapuu, said that Nigerians had compromised the country’s security for many reasons – selfishness, interest of ethnic dimensions and intrigues of religiosity to that extent.

On the killings by herdsmen in Plateau State, Professor Iorapuu said that thhe attack had spilt to other states because it was not checked.

He stressed the need for delegates at Nigeria’s National Conference to discuss issues of insecurity and how to end it, but pointed out that deliberations would be successful when there is respect for each other.

“There should not be situations where people would be made to feel they are second class or third class citizens.

“The leaders should be sincere.

“The security system in Nigeria shuld also be purged,” he suggested.

The third discussant and one of the delegates to the National Conference, Mr John Dara, also blamed the insurgency on the government’s failure to educate northern children.

“I think we, as a people, have treated the issue of our national security with too much levity. We should know that we have, even among our neighbours, people who do not wish Nigeria well.

“There is self-inflicted division, hatred and crisis.

“It is a multidimensional problem and it demands concerted efforts in order to bring it under control.

“The problem is a bit complex and we should avoid simplistic analysis or solutions. It is correct that Boko Haram is a religious organisation but what created the Boko Haram phenomenon was the neglect to educate the children of northern Nigeria,” he stated.

Mr Dara described as tragic the fact that out of 10 million children that were out of school worldwide, seven million of those children were in Northern Nigeria.

“We are behind war torn countries in the education of our children.”

He also said that Fulani children would be more influential if they get educated and that the herdsmen would also become richer if the nation would modernise pastoral farming.

He suggested that the government should consider creating grazing areas for herdsmen to confine them in a particular location.