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Dialogue may resolve Ivory Coast’s farmer, herder clashes

Problems are being aired but anger remains and the pathway to enduring peace may be long.

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A livestock farmer guides cattle in a transhumance corridor near the Danoa dam in northeastern Ivory Coast - AFP

Gathered under the spreading baobab tree in Danoa town square, farmers and herders in a remote corner of Ivory Coast are finally talking about a dispute that has poisoned relations and destroyed lives.

Nearly three years ago, the northeast region of Bouna plunged into violence between crop growers and nomadic cattle raisers from the Fulani community, leaving 33 people dead and prompting 2,500 to flee their homes.

The scenario is tragically familiar in many parts of Africa, where sedentary farmers and herders share water and land — and tensions at times of stress may swiftly spiral into ethnic violence.

Livestock farmers guide cattle to graze in a millet field after the harvest near Bouna, in northeastern Ivory Coast, on January 21, 2019. – Nearly three years ago, the northeast region of Bouna plunged into violence between crop growers and nomadic cattle raisers from the Fulani community, leaving 33 people dead and prompting 2,500 to flee their homes. (Photo by Sia KAMBOU / AFP)

Thousands have died in clashes in Chad, the Central African Republic, Mali and Nigeria in recent years.

But in Bouna, a pilot project — part of a scheme to protect the coveted Comoe National Park — has nurtured hopes of a dialogue that will head off future bloodshed.

“After what happened, I was frightened. Everyone was frightened,” said Awa Ouattara, who heads a women’s group of smallholders.

“I hope the plan will work. When everyone is in agreement, it’s better for all of us.”

Supported by German sustainable development agency GIZ, village chiefs, farmers and cattle breeders are creating designated cattle routes to prevent herds from grazing in the park and on to farming land.

GIZ is investing 1.2 million euros ($1.4 million) over four years to support communities around the park.

The forum in Danoa brought together Koulango, mostly landowners, and the Lobi, mostly tenants, as well as Fulani.

“Just getting people around a table and having a discussion is already an achievement,” said Sanogo Issoufou from GIZ.

“Everyone will benefit economically from sharing management of resources between community members. We hope to create a virtuous circle.

Comoe national park is a world heritage site and one of West Africa’s largest protected areas, known for its plant and animal diversity.

A sign in the Comoe National Park in Bouna, in northeastern Ivory Coast, (Photo by Sia KAMBOU / AFP)

Fed by the Comoe river, it is home to shrub savannas and thick rainforest usually found much farther south.

“Our mission is to protect the park,” said D’Angouss Kissi from the Ivorian Parks and Reserves Authority.

“We realised that surveillance alone wasn’t enough to stop cattle entering it illegally. We needed to find grazing land and water outside the park, whilst also easing tensions and avoiding new conflict.”

The project also aims to share management of water points between local committees including herders, landowners, renting crop farmers and local businesses or teachers.

Travelling herders pay a higher rate for water access — 15,000 CFA (23 euros) per month per herd, compared to locals, who are charged 2,000 CFA francs (three euros).

Landowners say they are happy to provide land for crossing routes.

“We explained to the community that it was for the common good,” said chief landowner Amadou Ouattara.

“It’s better for everyone if we avoid conflict.”

Herder Barry Bounangui agrees. “Before, there were arguments every day about water, grass or routes for the animals, so to avoid any conflict, we went to the park,” he said.

Park rangers enter the Comoe National Park in Bouna, in northeastern Ivory Coast, on January 22, 2019. (Photo by Sia KAMBOU / AFP)

“Now, farmers and herders are talking. It’s a good thing. The crossing routes help us a lot, but we need the (leaking) dam to be repaired too.”

Crop farmers are happier too. “There’s less damage now,” said Kambou Tchourite.

Problems are being aired but anger remains and the pathway to enduring peace may be long.

“The cows come on to our fields and destroy everything,” a farmer said at the Danoa meeting.

“I told the herder to stop but he just keeps coming back again and again. We can’t go on like this!”

Separately, a herder told AFP: “The crop farmers want everything. They set fire to the fields so that not even a blade of grass is left.”

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Egypt’s renovation of Baron Palace sparks online outcry

Mnay have faulted repair works as being misrepresentative of the building’s history and materials to be of poor quality

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Egypt's renovation of Baron Palace sparks online outcry
Ongoing restoration works at the historic "Le Palais Hindou" (also known as the "Baron Empain Palace") built by in the early 20th century by Belgian industrialist Edouard Louis Joseph, Baron Empain, in the classical Khmer architectural style of Cambodia's Angkor Wat, in the Egyptian capital Cairo's northeastern Heliopolis district. (Photo by Khaled DESOUKI / AFP)

Egyptian authorities have defended renovation works at a historic Cairo palace after the site’s new look sparked mockery on social media.

The site, dubbed the Baron Palace, was built between 1907 and 1911 by wealthy Belgian industrialist Edouard Empain. 

The baron also spearheaded the development of the surrounding upmarket neighbourhood of Heliopolis.

Built in a style reminiscent of the Cambodian Hindu temple of Angkor Wat, the striking building set amid lush gardens has long since fallen into disrepair.

READ: Biblio-art: How Polish artist adorns Egyptian monastery with Christian designs

But work to restore the building has sparked outcry.

Many have taken issue with white marble additions to the building’s rosy pink stone exterior, saying the materials are of poor quality and not in keeping with the original style.

One Twitter user asked:

“Who is the fool behind the restoration of Egypt’s palaces? Our heritage is being systematically destroyed.”

A Facebook page called Egyptian Historians chided officials for the “warped” restoration.

Egypt's renovation of Baron Palace sparks online outcry
Ongoing restoration works at the historic “Le Palais Hindou” (also known as the “Baron Empain Palace”) built by in the early 20th century by Belgian industrialist Edouard Louis Joseph, Baron Empain, in the classical Khmer architectural style of Cambodia’s Angkor Wat, in the Egyptian capital Cairo’s northeastern Heliopolis district. (Photo by Khaled DESOUKI / AFP)

“Be honest with yourselves and admit that you ruined it… you are literally demolishing our monument”, a post on the group’s page said.

READ: Tutankhamun gilded coffin receives restoration in Egypt

Antiquities Minister, Khaled El-Enany dismissed online criticisms as “fake news”.

“I didn’t hear one word of truth in all these social media comments,” he said in a statement.

His ministry said the colours of the palace had faded from weather damage over many years.

“The restoration is a real dream and we will breathe life into this abandoned landmark,” Enany added.

WATCH: Egypt begins restoration of Tutankhamun’s coffin

General Hisham Samir, who heads up the ministry’s engineering branch, said the colours were “correct and are backed up by historical sources.”

The works began in July 2017 in co-operation with the Belgian government and will cost 100 million Egyptian pounds (over $6 million), the statement added.

Samir told reporters that the work is expected to be completed by year’s end with plans to open the building to the public by early 2020.

Egypt’s multitude of historical monuments and buildings are a major draw for tourists, though the country has often faced accusations of neglecting these sites.

READ: Contents of two ancient pyramids unveiled in Egypt

The government has recently launched various restoration projects to stimulate tourism, a key sector that has suffered in recent years due to political insecurity and sporadic jihadist attacks.

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Central Africa News

Measles is a bigger threat in DR Congo than Ebola – NGO

Last year, cases more than doubled to almost 350,000 from 2017, according to the World Health Organization

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Measles has killed 2,758 people in DR Congo since January, more than the Ebola epidemic in a year, medical NGO Doctors Without Borders said, and called Saturday for a “massive mobilisation of funds.”

The disease, preventable with a vaccine, has infected over 145,000 people in the Democratic Republic of Congo between January and early August, it said in a statement.

“Since July, the epidemic has worsened, with a rise in new cases reported in several provinces,” said the NGO that goes by its French acronym MSF.

“Only $2.5 million has been raised out of the $8.9 million required for the Health Cluster response plan  — in stark contrast with the Ebola epidemic in the east of the country, which attracts multiple organisations and hundreds of millions of dollars in funding,” it added.

MSF tweeted that without a “massive mobilisation of funds and response organisations, the current measles outbreak in #DRCongo could get even worse.”

The NGO said it has vaccinated 474,860 children between the ages of six months and five years since the beginning of the year and provided care to more than 27,000 measles patients.

In the country’s east, Ebola has claimed more than 1,900 lives since erupting last August.

Measles is a highly-contagious diseased caused by a virus that attacks mainly children. The most serious complications include blindness, brain swelling, diarrhoea, and severe respiratory infections.

Last year, cases more than doubled to almost 350,000 from 2017, according to the World Health Organization, amid a rise in “anti-vaxxer” sentiment in some countries that can afford the vaccine, and lagging resources for the preventative measure in poor nations.

DR Congo declared a measles epidemic in June.

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Lifestyle News

Two UN personnel killed in Benghazi by car bomb

Two members of the UN mission were killed and at least eight others wounded including a child, by a car bomb.

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Two UN personnel killed in Benghazi by car bomb
Libyan firefighters extinguish a fire at the site of a car bomb attack in Libya's eastern city of Benghazi on August 10, 2019. - "Two members of the UN mission, one them a foreigner, were killed and at least eight others wounded including a child, by a car bomb" in a shopping area of the Al-Hawari district, the official said. (Photo by - / AFP)

A car bombing in Libya’s eastern city of Benghazi killed two United Nations staff on Saturday, a security official said.

“Two members of the UN mission were killed and at least eight others wounded including a child, by a car bomb” in a shopping area of the Al-Hawari district, the official said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast, which happened as a UN convoy was passing through the area.

Benghazi, Libya’s second city and the cradle of the 2011 uprising that overthrew dictator Muammar Gaddafi, was hit by years of violence targeting diplomatic offices and security forces after his fall.

An attack on the US consulate on September 11, 2012, killed US ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

In 2017, military strongman Khalifa Haftar drove hardline Islamists and jihadists out of Benghazi after a three-year battle.

Haftar, who backs an eastern-based administration that opposes the Tripoli-based unity government, went on to seize Derna, the last city in eastern Libya outside his control.

But bombings and kidnappings have continued.

A May 2018 attack left seven people dead and last month, a car bombing at the funeral of an ex-army commander killed at least four people and wounded more than 30 others.

A Libyan lawmaker is also feared to have been abducted by an armed group in the eastern city, the UN and lawmakers said in July.

Haftar controls most of eastern Libya, and early this year he ordered his self-styled Libyan National Army to purge the south of what he called “terrorist groups and criminals”. 

On the heels of that campaign, his LNA launched in April an offensive to take the Libyan capital from the UN-recognised Government of National Accord. 

The LNA on Saturday announced a truce around Tripoli for the three-day Muslim festival of Eid Al-Adha, after the unity government conditionally accepted a ceasefire called for by the UN.

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