EAC-led eastern DR Congo peace process on track

ARUSHA (Tanzania)— The peace process on eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) led by the East African Community (EAC) is on track, the EAC said in a statement.


The statement issued by the EAC headquarters in Tanzania’s northern city of Arusha said the peace process was reviewed during a consultative meeting on Friday in the Burundian capital Bujumbura, by the chairperson of the EAC summit of heads of state, Burundian President Evariste Ndayishimiye and EAC facilitator on the peace process in the eastern region of the DRC and former Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta.


According to the statement, the two leaders reviewed progress in the implementation of the political and military tracks, set out to stabilize eastern DRC.


The leaders said while the force generation and deployment are in progress, the political track is being energized towards a comprehensive solution to the protracted security situation, it noted.


The two leaders also reviewed the recent developments in North Kivu, particularly the resurgence of violence, which has undermined the gains that had been made, the statement said.


The consultative meeting agreed on a roadmap for the implementation of the political track, towards a sustainable solution to peace and security in eastern DRC and encouraged continued complimentary engagement between the EAC-led process and the Luanda process to ease tension between the brotherly states of DRC and Rwanda, it further noted.


The statement added that the consultative meeting appreciated Burundi, Kenya and Uganda for timely deployment of troops and urged other troop-contributing countries to expedite their deployment within the agreed structure and framework.


The next session of the peace dialogue will commence on Nov. 16 in the Kenyan capital Nairobi, said the statement.


Source: Nam news Network

World Bank approves South Africa’s $497m request for Komati power plant’s decommission, repurposing

The World Bank has approved South Africa’s request for a $497 million project to decommission and repurpose the Komati coal-fired power plant using renewables and batteries.


In a statement, the World Bank said the project would also create opportunities for the affected workers and communities.


“This is in line with the government’s efforts to transition the country toward a low carbon development path with reliable, affordable, and sustainable energy for all. Addressing energy poverty and transitioning toward lower carbon development requires a reliable power sector to underpin inclusive economic growth,” said the Bank.


The Komati Project aims to help mitigate climate change, enhance energy security, and support economic opportunities in the Komati area. The project is aligned with the country’s Just Transition Framework, which aims to minimise the socio-economic impacts of the climate transition, improve the livelihoods of those most vulnerable, and embrace the opportunities stemming from the transition.


The Bank said the decommissioning and repurposing of the Komati coal-fired plant was a demonstration project that can serve as a reference on how to transition fossil-fuel assets for future projects in South Africa and around the world.


The project will provide learning experiences through a cycle of piloting, monitoring, assessing, documenting and information sharing.


“Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a difficult challenge worldwide, and particularly in South Africa given the high carbon intensity of the energy sector,” said World Bank Group President David Malpass.


“Closing the Komati plant this week is a good first step toward low carbon development. We are cognisant of the social challenges of the transition, and we are partnering with the government, civil society, and unions to create economic opportunities for affected workers and communities.”


The decommissioning of the Komati coal-fired plant will result in reduced carbon emissions and improvement of ambient air quality in the vicinity of the plant. The power sector is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in South Africa, accounting for 41 percent of its CO2 emissions.


This is due mainly to Eskom’s fleet composition. Its 15 coal-fired power plants, with an average age of 41 years, provide 38.7 GW of the country’s 52.5 GW installed capacity.


“This project is critical to our understanding of the sustainability of decommissioning, repurposing, and mitigating the socio-economic impacts for workers and communities before we scale up the move of the power sector into a low-carbon path,” said South Africa Minister of Public Enterprises, Pravin Gordhan in PRETORIA.


“It is part of implementing the country’s Integrated Resource Plan 2019 to gradually retire 12 GW of our old and inefficient coal-fired power fleet by 2030 and to scale up private sector-led renewables of 18 GW during the same period.”


The repurposing of the plant will enhance energy security in South Africa with the installation of a combination of 220 MW renewable energy solutions (including 150 MW solar PV solar and 70 MW wind) and 150 MW batteries, which together will help to improve the quality of electricity supply and grid stability.


Under the Komati project, the workers will be supported through a comprehensive transition plan, elaborated jointly with inputs from staff and unions.


Options for the affected workers will include transfers to other Eskom facilities, re-skilling, and upskilling for deployment to the renewable energy plants.


A portion of project financing will be devoted to creating economic opportunities for local communities, which is expected to benefit approximately 15 000 people.


Community-driven projects, skills training, incubation support, and business development services for new and existing micro, small, and medium enterprises are expected to create jobs in agriculture, local manufacturing, and digital technology.


Activities will be carried out in coordination with local government, civil society organizations, and the private sector.


The Komati Just Energy Transition Project is financed jointly through a $439.5 million World Bank loan, a $47.5 million concessional loan from the Canadian Clean Energy and Forest Climate Facility (CCEFCF), and a $10 million grant from the Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP).


Source: Nam news Network

Activists Fear for Qatar Workers as World Cup Spotlight Dims

In the face of heavy international criticism, Qatar has enacted a raft of reforms in recent years, including the partial dismantling of a system that tied workers to their employers and enacting a minimum wage — changes praised by the U.N. as well as rights groups.

But activists say abuses ranging from unpaid wages to harsh working conditions in one of the hottest countries on Earth, are still widespread, and that workers — who are barred from forming unions or striking — have few realistic avenues to pursue justice.

They also worry about what happens after the monthlong tournament ends in December, when the international spotlight moves on and employers slash their payrolls.

Qatar says it leads the region in labor reforms and that progress will continue after the World Cup. Officials from the ruling emir on down have lashed out at critics, accusing them of ignoring the reforms and unfairly singling out the first Arab or Muslim nation to host the Cup.

Qatar, like other Gulf countries, relies on millions of foreign workers, who make up a majority of the population and nearly 95% of the labor force — everyone from highly paid corporate executives to construction workers.

Qatar has dismantled much of what is known as the “kafala” system, which tied workers to their employers and made it virtually impossible for them to quit or change jobs without permission. But rights groups say much of that system survives in different, more informal ways.

Workers often must pay exorbitant recruitment fees, taking on debt even before they arrive. And employers can still cancel visas or report those who quit for “absconding,” a criminal violation.

“If a migrant worker walks away from a job that hasn’t paid them in several months, there’s just a real risk that they’re not going to get that money back,” said Michael Page, of the New York-based Human Rights Watch.

Equidem, a London-based labor rights group, recently released a lengthy report documenting abuses in more than a dozen World Cup hotels, where it says workers from Africa and Asia face sexual harassment, discrimination, wage theft and health and safety risks.

Ella Knight, a researcher at London-based Amnesty International, says many migrants working as security guards or domestic helpers go months or even years without a day off, despite laws mandating at least one per week.

“Impunity remains a massive problem, so employers are just not being held to account or not being penalized in a way that prevents abuses from being repeated,” she said.

Qatari law bars workers from forming unions or staging protests, and authorities heavily restrict media access to laborers. Police detained at least 60 workers who struck over unpaid wages in August. Last year, two Norwegian reporters were detained while reporting on migrant workers.

Malcolm Bidali, a Kenyan security guard who had anonymously blogged about the plight of workers, was detained for three months — including 28 days in solitary confinement — and fined $6,800 before leaving the country last year.

In an article about his ordeal, he said Qatar’s reforms “look splendid” on paper, but that the reality on the ground is different, with authorities seemingly more keen to silence dissent than penalize abusive employers.

“I can’t help but wonder what’s in store for migrant workers after the World Cup,” he wrote. “If workers still live in horrible conditions, if workers still go months without pay, if workers still can’t freely change jobs, if domestic workers still can’t get justice, what happens when no one’s looking?”

Qatar has defended its reforms and says it will continue to safeguard workers’ welfare after the World Cup.

“Qatar has always acknowledged that work remains to be done, notably to hold unscrupulous employers to account — as is the case with any country around the world,” Ali Al-Ansari, Qatar’s media attache in the United States, said in a statement.

“We are already seeing the number of offences declining year-on-year as compliance increases among employers.”

Labor rights activists say Qatar still owes compensation to those who worked on World Cup infrastructure projects going back to the awarding of the tournament in 2010 —years before the reforms were enacted. Amnesty says authorities failed to investigate the deaths of workers during that period.

Amnesty and other rights groups now urge soccer’s governing body FIFA to establish a $440 million fund — equivalent to the tournament’s total prize money — to compensate workers, an appeal that several federations support. The global soccer body has said it is open to the idea.

Qatar established its own fund in 2018 to compensate workers who are injured on the job or who are not paid, which Al-Ansari said had paid out some $270 million this calendar year alone. He did not comment directly on the calls for a larger remedy fund.

Page, of Human Rights Watch, says the sizable payouts by Qatari authorities, which only cover claims in recent years, show the importance of establishing a larger fund to address the “very serious abuses” that took place in the several years before the reforms were enacted.

“If this is their stance now, in the heat of the spotlight, what is their position going to be — the Qatari authorities — after the World Cup, in terms of reforms and migrant worker protections, when the spotlight is off them? I think that’s really concerning,” he said.




Source: Voice of America

Last Total Lunar Eclipse for Three Years Arrives Tuesday

Better catch the moon’s disappearing act Tuesday — there won’t be another like it for three years.

The total lunar eclipse will be visible throughout North America in the predawn hours — the farther west, the better — and across Asia, Australia and the rest of the Pacific after sunset. As an extra treat, Uranus will be visible just a finger’s width above the moon, resembling a bright star.

Totality will last nearly 1 1/2 hours — from 5:16 a.m. to 6:42 a.m. EST — as Earth passes directly between the moon and sun.

Known as a blood moon, it will appear a reddish orange from the light of Earth’s sunsets and sunrises. At the peak of the eclipse, the moon will be 390,653 kilometers away, according to NASA scientists. Binoculars and telescopes will enhance viewing, provided the skies are clear.

South America will get a glimpse of Tuesday’s lunar eclipse, weather permitting. Striking out altogether, Africa, the Middle East and most of Europe will have to wait until 2025.

Among those providing a livestream of Tuesday’s lunar extravaganza: Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles and the Italian-based Virtual Telescope Project.

It’s the second total lunar eclipse this year; the first was in May. The next one won’t be until 2025. Plenty of partial lunar eclipses will be available in the meantime.




Source: Voice of America