Libyan Unity Government Chief Says He Is Ready To Step Down

Fayez al-Sarraj (R), Prime Minister of Libya’s UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), meets with Italy’s Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio (L) in the Libyan capital Tripoli on June 24, 2020, while clad in masks due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by – / AFP)

 

 

The head of Libya’s UN-recognised Government of National Accord said Wednesday he planned to step down within six weeks as part of efforts to broker a peace agreement.

Libya has endured almost a decade of violent chaos since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed veteran dictator Moamer Kadhafi.

Fayez al-Sarraj’s GNA has battled against a rival administration in eastern Libya led by strongman Khalifa Haftar, whose offensive against the regime in Tripoli recently ground to a halt after more than a year of deadly conflict.

Both sides have since met for peace talks in Morocco after last month announcing a surprise ceasefire and pledging national elections.

Sarraj said during a brief televised address on Wednesday evening that he was willing to leave his post in favour of a new executive determined by the talks.

“I announce to all my sincere wish to cede my functions to the next administration before the end of October at the latest,” he said.

The talks had outlined the process for determining a new Presidential Council and the appointment of a new head of government who would take office “peacefully”, Sarraj added.

 

 

He welcomed the “preliminary and promising recommendations” agreed to during the Morocco dialogue.

The Morocco summit, dubbed the “Libyan Dialogue”, has brought together five members of the Tripoli-based GNA and five from the rival parliament headquartered in the eastern city of Tobruk.

Talks have focused on appointments to the top of the country’s key institutions, with the naming of the heads of Libya’s central bank, its National Oil Corporation and the armed forces the main points of dispute.

Morocco also hosted talks in 2015 that led to the creation of the GNA.

AFP

African Leagues: Moroccan, Egyptian Clubs Hit By COVID-19

 

More than 20 positive tests for coronavirus at several clubs led to the postponement or cancellation of league matches in Morocco and Egypt at the weekend.

Three matchday 22 fixtures were called off in the Moroccan Botola Pro 1 with Ittihad Tangier worst affected as 23 of the staff tested positive.

Wydad Casablanca and Rapide Oued Zem were also hit by a COVID-19 outbreak and could not play.

Egyptian club Al Masry said 22 of their staff tested positive and the Port Said outfit did not turn up for a fixture against Ismaily.

EGYPT

With runaway leaders Al Ahly set for a record-extending 42nd title, arch rivals Zamalek improved their chances of coming second thanks to a 1-0 win over lowly Misr Lel Makkasa.

Forward Hossam Ashraf scored in the fourth minute of stoppage time to secure three points for Zamalek, whose rivalry with fellow Cairo club Ahly dates back to 1911.

Third-place Pyramids FC had to come from two goals behind to draw 2-2 against relegation-threatened El Gaish with Tunisian Amor Layouni levelling eight minutes from time.

Ahly have 53 points, Zamalek 38, Pyramids 36 and Al Mokawloon Al Arab 34 in the strongest league in the continent judged by Confederation of African Football (CAF) titles.

MOROCCO

Raja Casablanca won 2-0 at lowly Hassania Agadir and extended an unbeaten run to six matches since play resumed last month after a suspension since March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The leaders needed just three minutes to break the deadlock in southern Morocco with Soufiane Rahimi scoring and Hamid Ahaddad added a second goal soon after half-time.

Raja have won four matches and drawn two since the resumption, and the 14-point haul has propelled them to the top of the table with nine rounds remaining.

The three-time African champions have 42 points, arch-rivals Wydad Casablanca 40, Renaissance Berkane 39 and FUS Rabat and Mouloudia Oujda 36 each.

TUNISIA

Leaders Esperance snatched a 1-1 draw at Etoile Sahel in the biggest matchday 20 attraction of the Tunisian Ligue Professionnelle 1.

Karim Aribi gave fourth-place Etoile a 19th-minute lead they held until the third minute of additional time when Taha Yassine Khenissi equalised.

Ivorian Chris Kouakou netted after 14 minutes to earn second-place CS Sfaxien a 1-0 home victory over mid-table Soliman.

Esperance have 50 points with six rounds remaining as they chase a fourth straight title, Sfaxien 40, Monastir 39, Etoile 34 and Club Africain 33.
ZANZIBAR

Mlandege have been crowned champions in the semi-autonomous region of Tanzania, garnering 68 points from 30 matches to finish one point above Zimamoto.

It was the seventh title for the club, but the first since 2002, and success qualifies them for a maiden CAF Champions League appearance next season.

Zimamoto trounced Kapinga 4-0 in the final round while JKU came third after drawing 1-1 with Malindi.

Defending champions KMKM had to settle for fourth spot, 12 points adrift of Mlandege, after a 2-2 draw against Mafunzo.

AFP

About 102 Stranded Nigerians Arrive In Abuja From Morocco

102 Stranded Nigerians Arrive In Abuja From Morocco

 

About 102 stranded Nigerians have arrived in Abuja from Morocco.

The evacuees arrived at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport on Thursday with Air Morocco from Casablanca.

This was announced on the official Twitter handle of the Nigerians In Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM).

Prior to their return, the commission noted that the evacuees tested negative to COVID-19 and will proceed on a mandatory self-isolation.

“Air Morocco from Casablanca with estimated 102 Nigerians arrive Nnamdi Azikiwe Int’l Airport, Abuja at about 1602hrs from Morroco today 30th July 2020,” the agency said.

“All Evacuees tested Negative to #COVID19 and will now proceed on a 14-day SELF-ISOLATION as mandated by the NCDC.”

See Tweets Below:

Morocco Arrests 11 For ‘Illegal Abortions’

 

Morocco Rejoins African Union

 

Moroccan police said they arrested 11 people Tuesday for “illegal abortions” in the kingdom, where prison sentences for terminating pregnancies remain a topic of fierce public debate.

National security said it had opened an investigation after “receiving complaints about a clinic performing illegal abortions” in the tourist city of Marrakesh.

The 77-year-old doctor who owned the clinic, four nurses and six clients including a 17-year-old girl were detained on charges including illegal abortion, statutory rape, adultery and complicity in those offences, it said in a statement.

Eight of the defendants were remanded in custody, while the minor was placed “under police control”.

In 2015, Morocco debated the “urgent need” to reform legislation in the face of hundreds of clandestine abortions performed daily, often under appalling conditions.

An official commission recommended that abortion be legalised in special circumstances, including for cases of rape or serious fetal abnormalities.

No law reform followed these recommendations, despite the lobbying of women’s rights supporters.

Abortion remains a criminal offence in Morocco, with penalties of one to five years in prison for those who perform the procedure and six months to a year in prison for women who undergo it.

NGOs say up to 150 children are abandoned daily in Morocco, a phenomenon to which unwanted pregnancies contribute.

Morocco Reports Record Spike In COVID-19 Cases

A man, wearing a protective mask due to the COVID-19 pandemic, crosses a street while drivers wait at a traffic light in the Moroccan capital Rabat on June 10, 2020, as the government declared the extension of coronavirus lockdown until July 10. FADEL SENNA / AFP
A man, wearing a protective mask due to the COVID-19 pandemic, crosses a street while drivers wait at a traffic light in the Moroccan capital Rabat on June 10, 2020, as the government declared the extension of coronavirus lockdown until July 10. FADEL SENNA / AFP

 

Morocco reported on Friday its highest number of confirmed novel coronavirus infections in a single day since recording its first case in March, according to the health ministry.

Over 450 of the infections were recorded in the western Rabat-Kenitra region, the health ministry said, noting the cases were “asymptomatic”.

Local media reported the source of the outbreak was a strawberry packing plant in the town of Kenitra.

Morocco, with a population of 34 million, has until now recorded on average fewer than 100 new COVID-19 cases daily.

In total, it has reported fewer than 10,000 cases and 213 deaths from the respiratory illness.

The spike comes as the country prepares to relax restrictions aimed at containing the virus on Saturday.

On June 9, authorities announced a gradual lifting of lockdown measures, though restrictions remain in force in major cities and a public health state of emergency has been extended until July 10.

Meanwhile, a massive screening campaign for private-sector workers has been launched after authorities urged companies to resume working.

Morocco Artisans Fear ‘Knockout Punch’ From COVID-19

A Moroccan potter works on a wheel at a workshop in the city of Sale, north of the capital Rabat, on June 3, 2020, during the novel coronavirus pandemic. – Artisans in Morocco have been starved of income for almost three months because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The crafts industry represents some seven percent of GDP, with an export turnover last year of nearly 1 billion dirhams ($100 million). FADEL SENNA / AFP.

 

Pottery, basketwork and wrought-iron furniture pile up in the deserted stalls of the Oulja arts and crafts complex in Sale near the Moroccan capital Rabat.

Artisans have been starved of income for almost three months because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Coronavirus is the knockout punch: without help, without support, our profession will disappear,” said Youssef Rghalmi, a 49-year-old potter.

In the family workshop, where skills have been handed down from generation to generation, the clay has dried up, the oven is turned off and the nine employees no longer turn up for work.

The last order, for a customer from France who called off her visit because of border closures, is gathering dust in a corner.

“We were already struggling to survive because lifestyles have changed,” said Mohamed Touel, a master carver of “gebs” decorative plaster.

“Traditional trades are being lost because young people don’t want to take over.”

The enterprising 62-year-old had added a small restaurant to his shop but it closed because of lockdown measures imposed since mid-March.

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Foreign tourists have vanished, the lockdown has paralysed economic life and local customers “have other priorities”, Ahmed Driouch said in his store cluttered with copper lamps, ceramics, daggers, jewelry, inlaid chests and carpets.

Business has been “two hundred percent affected by the virus”, he said, grimly forecasting it would take “at least two or three years” to return to normal.

-‘Nobody’s coming’-

Upstairs, employees dusted some 10,000 carpets in stock, one by one.

“We must clean everything even if, for now, nobody’s coming,” one of them said ruefully, vacuum cleaner in hand.

Minister of Tourism and Handicrafts Nadia Fettah has proposed ideas such as exhibition spaces in supermarkets to revive a sector that provides employment to two million people.

That includes about 230,000 traditional artisans.

The crafts industry represents around seven percent of GDP, with an export turnover last year of nearly one billion dirhams ($100 million).

Despite their role in the economy, artisans work without social security cover and with a limited distribution network, much of it through word of mouth, like elsewhere in North Africa.

– ‘Don’t know internet’ –

The 30 women who weave rugs for a small cooperative called “Creative Woman” in Sale have all lost their meagre incomes.

Weavers work eight hours a day for barely $100 a month “when the carpets are sold” and they “have nothing left because there has not been a single sale in three months”, explained Rachida Nabati.

The energetic woman in her 40s, who has been a weaver since the age of seven, has been forced to borrow from friends to supplement her modest earnings from a vegetable garden next to her shack.

In the cooperative, some have been bailed out by a state coronavirus emergency fund, while many others “can no longer pay their rent”.

“We have to sell on the internet but we don’t know how to do that,” said the mother who taught herself to read and write.

“A digital platform was launched for artisans a few years ago, but it doesn’t work,” master plasterer Mohamed Touel said.

In Tunisia, the National Office of Handicrafts has been working on an electronic platform for sales in Europe and has organised small exhibitions in hotels.

It also encourages artisans to launch Facebook pages or electronic sites.

But Sabiha, a potter in the Tunisian rural town of Sejnan whose works are on UNESCO’s list of “intangible cultural heritage”, said she cannot “even afford to recharge” her mobile phone.

AFP

Over 60 COVID-19 Cases Recorded In Morocco Prison

Members of the medical staff at the Mohammmed V military hospital, wearing protective outfits, are pictured during the novel coronavirus pandemic crisis, in the Moroccan capital Rabat on April 15, 2020. FADEL SENNA / AFP.

 

More than 60 cases of coronavirus infections have been recorded in a jail in southern Morocco, mostly among staff, the country’s prisons service said.

The DGAPR agency, in a statement late Monday, said 60 workers and six inmates had tested positive for COVID-19 at the prison in the town of Ouarzazate after checks were carried out on all prisoners.

Nine staff and two inmates had previously tested positive at a jail in the southern city of Marrakesh and in Ksar Kebir, in the north of the kingdom, it said.

The prison service said that cases of contamination in Morocco’s prisons — which hold a total of 80,000 inmates — were under control because of “preventives measures” such as quarantines for workers with the respiratory disease.

At the start of April, more than 5,650 prisoners were released to reduce the risks of the spread of coronavirus, which has cost 144 lives in Morocco and contaminated more than 3,000 people.

READ ALSO: UEFA Recommends Completion Of League Seasons

Other Middle East and North African countries have also released prisoners, a measure UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet has called for across the world as part of the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

Morocco, a country of 35 million, has closed its borders and imposed a lockdown until May 20, enforced by security forces, to stem the spread of the disease.

AFP

COVID-19: Morocco Arrests Over 4,300 For Breaching Emergency Rules

Moroccan authorities wearing protective masks check people at a road block in a street in the capital Rabat on April 9, 2020 during the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic crisis. Photo by FADEL SENNA / AFP.

 

More than 4,300 people were arrested over the weekend in Morocco for breaching emergency rules in place to combat the novel coronavirus, according to official figures.

More than half of those detained were taken into police custody.

Since mid-March, authorities have arrested 28,701 people across the North African country, 15,545 of whom have been referred to court after being held in custody, according to the country’s national security force DGSN.

Penalties for violating measures in place to curb the spread of the COVID-19 disease include up to three months in jail and fines of up to 1,300 dirhams ($130), or both.

Morocco imposed a public health state of emergency on March 19, confining everyone to their homes except those with a permit to be out for work.

Last week, authorities made wearing face masks in public obligatory.

Police and security agents supported by soldiers in armoured cars have been deployed around the country, erecting road barriers and control points to enforce the measures.

Morocco has recorded 1,746 COVID-19 cases, with 120 deaths and 196 recoveries. Fewer than 7,000 tests have been carried out.

READ ALSO: COVID-19: Asia Markets Down As Oil Bounces On Output Cuts Deal

The largest number of arrests were made in the country’s economic centre of Casablanca and the capital Rabat, according to the DGSN.

Isolation measures have proved most challenging in densely populated, working-class neighbourhoods, according to local media reports.

Economic paralysis brought on by the pandemic has left millions of Moroccans in a precarious existence, with the bulk of the workforce made up of informal workers dependent on odd jobs and lacking access to social safety nets.

In the absence of a social database, authorities are working to identify needy families to distribute direct financial aid and food baskets.

AFP

Morocco Makes Face Masks Compulsory To Fight Coronavirus

A member of the Red Cross questions a man in Morocco. Sylvain THOMAS / AFP

 

 

Wearing face masks in public will be obligatory in Morocco from Tuesday in a bid to stem the spread of coronavirus, according to an official decree.

The decision was announced late Monday after a government meeting on how to control the epidemic.

Morocco imposed a public health state of emergency on March 19, confining everyone to their homes except those with a permit to be out and about for their work.

Police, security agents and soldiers in armoured cars have been deployed around the country, erecting road barriers and control points.

The official number of COVID-19 cases in Morocco has doubled in a week to 1,120, including 80 fatalities.

The real numbers are likely to be significantly higher as there is a lack of testing gear in the country.

AFP

15 On Trial For Stealing Luxury Watches Belonging To Morocco’s King

This handout picture provided by the Moroccan Royal Palace on January 15, 2020, shows Morocco's King Mohammed VI (C) during a visit to the "Bayt Dakira" (House of Memory) museum, in the Atlantic coastal city of Essaouira. Moroccan Royal Palace / AFP
This handout picture provided by the Moroccan Royal Palace on January 15, 2020, shows Morocco’s King Mohammed VI (C) during a visit to the “Bayt Dakira” (House of Memory) museum, in the Atlantic coastal city of Essaouira. Moroccan Royal Palace / AFP

 

Fifteen people went on trial in the Moroccan capital on Friday over the theft of dozens of luxury watches belonging to King Mohammed VI.

Defence lawyers said the suspects, arrested at the end of last year, were also charged in a Rabat court of forming “a criminal gang”.

The main suspect is a 46-year-old who worked as a cleaning woman in a royal household and has allegedly confessed to the robberies, while the others have denied involvement.

The woman, who is alleged to have stolen 36 watches, had many of them melted down and sold on to gold merchants.

The 14 others in court, all men, are gold traders or intermediaries who said they had no knowledge of the robberies.

Forbes magazine in 2014 classified the 56-year-old monarch as one of the world’s richest men with wealth estimated at more than $2.5 billion.

He has a taste for luxury cars, paintings and watches, and was shown in an Instagram post in September 2018 with a Patek Philippe diamond-encrusted watch in white gold with an estimated value of $1.2 million.

 

AFP

Morocco Jails Youtuber, Detains Journalist

Vice Principal Gets Life Imprisonment For Raping 12-Year-Old In Ekiti
File Photo

 

A Moroccan YouTuber was sentenced Thursday to four years in prison for “insulting the king” in a video broadcast on social networks, his lawyer said.

In a separate case, a Moroccan journalist and activist was charged and detained over a tweet that had criticised a court decision, his defence council told AFP.

The cases come after the Moroccan Human Rights Association had deplored in July an “escalation of violations of human rights and public and individual freedoms” in Morocco.

The YouTuber Mohamed Sekkaki, known as “Moul Kaskita”, was sentenced by a court in the western city of Settat to four years in prison, his lawyer Mohamed Ziane told AFP.

Sekkaki, whose videos usually exceed 100,000 views, was arrested in early December after posting a video in which he insulted Moroccans as “donkeys” and criticised King Mohammed VI, whose is considered “inviolable” under the constitution.

Ziani said his client would appeal the verdict.

The conviction of the YouTuber came less than a month after a Moroccan rapper was sentenced to a year in prison for “insulting a public official”.

Also on Thursday, journalist Omar Radi, 33, was detained in Casablanca and now faces trial, his lawyer Said Benhammani told AFP.

He is being prosecuted for a tweet published nine months ago criticising the judge in charge of the case against the leaders of the Hirak protest movement, he said.

Morocco’s criminal code punishes “insulting magistrates” with imprisonment of between one month and one year.

The group Reporters Without Borders in its latest annual press freedom index ranked Morocco 135th out of 180 countries.

‘Valley Of Souls’ Triumphs At Marrakesh Film Festival

British actress Tilda Swinton (R) stands as Colombian director Nicola Rincon Gille holds his trophy of the ” Etoile d’Or ” during the closing ceremony of the 18th edition of the Marrakech International Film Festival on December 7, 2019, in Marrakech. FADEL SENNA / AFP

 

 

Colombian director Nicolas Rincon Gille’s “Valley of Souls”, the story of a father’s solitary search for the bodies of his murdered sons, won top prize Saturday at the Marrakesh film festival.

It follows the journey of Jose, who comes home from a night of fishing to discover that paramilitaries have killed his two sons and dumped their bodies in the river.

So he sets off in a canoe to try to find their bodies and give them a proper burial.

READ ALSO: ‘Emotional’ Will Smith Campaigns Against Homelessness In New York

Marrakesh’s 18th annual festival was attended by top cinema stars such as Harvey Keitel, Marion Cotillard, Tilda Swinton and Robert Redford, who received a lifetime achievement award.

Toby Wallace won Best Actor for his role in the Australian comedy “Babyteeth”, directed by Shannon Murphy.

Nichola Burley and Roxanne Scrimshaw shared the Best Actress prize for British comedy “Lynn + Lucy”, directed by Fyzal Boulifa.

Tunisia’s Ala Eddine Slim was named Best Director for “Tlamess”, a drama about a soldier who deserts the army after his mother’s death.