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Airbus pulls plug on costly A380 superjumbo as sales plummet

European aerospace giant Airbus said Thursday that it would stop building its A380 superjumbo, the double-decker jet which earned plaudits from passengers but failed to win over enough airlines to justify its massive costs. The final two double-deckers will
Seychelles News Agency

Airbus pulls plug on costly A380 superjumbo as sales plummet

European aerospace giant Airbus said Thursday that it would stop building its A380 superjumbo, the double-decker jet which earned plaudits from passengers but failed to win over enough airlines to justify its massive costs. The final two double-deckers will be delivered in 2021, just 14 years after the first A380 went into service, after the Dubai-based Emirates decided to reduce its total orders by 39 planes, Airbus said. It marks a disappointing end to a bold bet on how millions of people would travel in the future, as airlines struggled to fill a plane capable of carrying anywhere from 500 to 850 people. «Without Emirates, Airbus has no substantial order backlog and no basis to sustain A380 production after 2021,» Guillaume Faure, who is taking over as Airbus CEO from Tom Enders this spring, said in a conference call. Airbus had at one point chalked up over 320 orders for the superjumbo, which has a list price of $446 million -- though the company often had to offer substantial discounts. Analysts had warned that Airbus wouldn't start to recover the roughly 25 billion euros in investment and production costs unless at least 400 planes were sold, and possibly up to 600. Airbus itself never disclosed how many planes it needed to sell to break even, a growing concern among analysts as technical problems and delivery delays piled up. With the reduced orders from Emirates, the A380's biggest client, Airbus said its order book now stood at just 274 planes. - 'Sad day' - The A380's demise is a stark admission of defeat in the race against US rival Boeing, which had pointedly dismissed Airbus's bet that airlines wanted huge transporters serving a handful of global hubs. Most airlines are instead using traditional -- and less costly -- jets to offer more direct flights between more cities. Airbus had already warned last year that the A380 programme could be scrapped if no new orders came in. It later received a lifeline when Emirates ordered 36 more A380s, but on Thursday Airbus said the airline had balked and would buy smaller A330 and A350 models instead. After just 10 deliveries last year, Airbus will build eight this year, seven in 2020 and the final two in 2021. «The A380 is a world-class feat of engineering, much loved by passengers, and we are obviously saddened that deliveries will come to an end,» said Chris Cholerton, head of civil aerospace at Rolls-Royce, one of the A380's engine suppliers. Airbus workers in Britain, where the plane's wings are manufactured, and in France where the jet is assembled, also expressed regret over the programme's demise. The plane-maker has promised that the 3,000-3,500 workers employed on the superjumbo will be moved to other projects. But Rhys McCarthy of Britain's Unite union said it was nonetheless «a sad day» for its UK employees. «It is a much-loved aircraft manufactured by a highly skilled workforce,» he said. Jean-François Knepper of France's Force Ouvriere union said that although rumours that the programme was set to be scrapped had been swirling at the assembly plant it Toulouse «everyone was hoping for a miracle». Winding up the programme cut Airbus's 2018 earnings by 463 million euros, but it still posted a 29 percent surge in net profit to three billion euros. Airbus said it expects to deliver 880 to 890 planes this year after 800 last year, reflecting steady demand for the A320, the workhorse midsize jet for short and medium-range flights. It is also targeting more clients for its long-haul A350. - Turbulent history - Airbus had faced scepticism over the plane's prospects since the 1990s, when it began to envision a competitor to Boeing's hugely successful 747. Initial orders however were solid, especially among Asian and Middle East airlines operating several busy long-haul routes. And passengers raved at a noticeably quieter cabin with decent legroom even in economy class -- most airlines configured the plane for 500 to 550 passengers, instead of the all-economy potential for 850 seats. But Airbus suffered a series of costly delays before the A380's first commercial flight by Singapore Airlines in 2007. Production problems, including extensive wiring issues, and cost overruns in the billions of euros continued to plague the project, forcing Airbus to report its first-ever annual loss for the 2006 financial year. Airbus stood by the A380 even after it was slammed by the global financial crisis of 2008, when airlines started having second thoughts about owning huge planes that were profitable only when filled to the brim. Pledges to get the A380 programme back on track were not enough to avoid further delays, even as a series of safety scares raised questions among potential clients, including long-targeted Chinese airlines. «It is an extremely complex aircraft,» Enders admitted to German magazine Der Spiegel in 2009. © Agence France-Presse

Chagossian community loses argument at UK court

The Chagossian communities have met with another hurdle in their fight to return to their islands as the United Kingdom’ Divisional Court rejected their request for judicial review. The Chagossians said they are going to seek permission to appeal the High
Seychelles News Agency

Chagossian community loses argument at UK court

The Chagossian communities have met with another hurdle in their fight to return to their islands as the United Kingdom’ Divisional Court rejected their request for judicial review. The Chagossians said they are going to seek permission to appeal the High Court judgment handed down on Friday, which dismissed their claims against the UK government. The claimants in this case, Solange Hoareau from Seychelles and Louis Olivier Bancoult from Mauritius, argued that a decision taken by the UK Government in November 2016, not to support the resettlement of the Chagossians, “was unlawful and asked the High Court to quash it in two consolidated judicial reviews.” The Right Honourable Lord Justice Singh and The Honourable Justice Carr said in their ruling: “The [claimants] submit that this case ... concerns an interference with fundamental human rights at common law. Accordingly, they submit that the way in which the standard of irrationality is applied in the human rights context is as described in Ex p. Smith. We do not accept those submissions.  We do not consider that the present case concerns fundamental rights at common law…This is not a case where fundamental rights are affected...  This is because this Court has to proceed on the basis that the legal rights which existed previously have been extinguished at least by the 2004 Orders.” The Chagossians are working on an appeal and legal teams from both island nations are expected to meet next week. The British government carried out a review of their policy on resettlement of the Chagos Islands between 2012 – 2016 to investigate the feasibility of resettlement and concluded, contrary to earlier assumptions, that resettlement was feasible. A consultation with islanders found that 98 percent of them wanted to move homeland. However, on November 16, 2016, the UK Government announced that it would not support the resettlement of Chagossians and would instead allocate £40 million British towards a 10-year support package to improve the lives of Chagossians in their current communities. The current legislation prohibiting the Chagossians from enjoying any right of abode in the BIOT remains in effect. The islanders challenged their deportation and the prohibition of return (since 2004 for reasons of national security) on the archipelago. The Seychelles also contended that they had not been consulted in 2016 when the British government was discussing granting a £40 million «Support Package». The leader of the Chagos Refugee Group, Olivier Bancoult, said he “is distressed by the fact that the court seems to side with the government while «the human rights of Chagossians are violated.» “For years, we have fought tirelessly to be able to return home to our Islands and we will continue to do so. We have been dealt a devastating blow today but we will fight on to try to hold the UK Government to account for their shameful actions,” said Hoareau. Pierre Prosper, the chair of the Seychelles Chagossians Committee reiterated, “we will appeal. We believe we have strong ground for appeal. We urge the British Government to see us as people. We deserve justice. We deserve respect.” Seychelles-based Chagossians on a visit to their homeland for one week in May 2015. (Alvin Tirant) The International Court of Justice in The Hague has yet to decide on the plight of the displaced community. In 2017, on June 22, Seychelles became one of the 94 countries which voted for the UN resolution requesting an advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands, on the legal status of the Chagos Island. Fifty years ago Britain separated the Chagos Islands from its colony Mauritius, expelling the entire population to make way for the installation of a US military base that is today highly strategic. Around 2,000 Chagossians were forcibly evicted from the Chagos archipelago in the central Indian Ocean in 1960 after the UK leased the main island, Diego Garcia, to the United States. More than 200 were deported to Mahe, the main island of Seychelles, between 1967 and 1973, when the country was still a British colony. Upon the independence of Mauritius in 1968, the Chagos islands were transferred to British-administered Seychelles – a group of 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean. When the island nation gained its independence in 1976, the Chagos islands were oonceagainBritish Indian Ocean Territory. 

US officials to meet Xi as trade talks near end

Top US economic officials were to meet on Friday with Chinese President Xi Jinping as the sides aim to wrap up trade talks in Beijing with enough goodwill to extend a truce in their tariff war. The world's two biggest economies are seeking an accord to bridg
Seychelles News Agency

US officials to meet Xi as trade talks near end

Top US economic officials were to meet on Friday with Chinese President Xi Jinping as the sides aim to wrap up trade talks in Beijing with enough goodwill to extend a truce in their tariff war. The world's two biggest economies are seeking an accord to bridge their deep trade differences, after President Donald Trump set a March 1 deadline beyond which he would rescind a freeze on tariff hikes. But Trump has since suggested he may extend that ultimatum, with Bloomberg News reporting he could push it back an additional 60 days. Trump's economic advisor Larry Kudlow confirmed that the American delegation to Beijing would meet with Xi, calling the leader's presence a «very good sign». «They're covering all the ground. They're hard at it,» Kudlow said of the delegation led by US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Kudlow added that «the vibe is good,» though there'd been «no decision» yet on extending the tariff truce. But multiple reports said there had been little progress on thorny issues such as US demands that China crack down on forced technology transfers and reduce subsidies that favour domestic companies. The Wall Street Journal said China had offered to boost imports of US goods with promises of major purchases of semiconductors and other items, but that officials «remained deadlocked on a number of issues». Bloomberg News reported that the two sides had «failed to narrow the gap around structural reforms to China's economy that the US has requested». Both cited anonymous sources. The US officials left their hotel for Friday's talks without making substantive comment. The United States accuses China of a slew of unfair trading practices, including systemic theft of US intellectual property, and wants deep reforms to the system. Beijing and Washington have already imposed duties on more than $360 billion in two-way trade, weighing on their manufacturing sectors and shaking global financial markets. Trump had said this week he was open to extending the deadline to give time for more negotiations and he says he will meet with Xi to finalise any deal. In December he postponed plans to sharply hike tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese imports to allow more time for negotiation. Expectations for a trade deal have grown as China faces pressure from slowing economic growth, and as swooning global markets pose a challenge to Trump and his economic advisors. Data released Thursday in China showed its trade surplus with the US -- a major source of anger within the Trump administration -- narrowed in January to $27.3 billion, even as its American imports plunged 41 percent for the month from a year earlier. The two sides said major progress was made in talks last month in Washington, but a wide gulf remains. Beijing has offered to boost its purchases of US goods but is widely expected to resist calls for major change to its policies. © Agence France-Presse

Proposed bill seeks to ensure more protected areas in Seychelles

A new bill to replace the National Parks and Nature Conservancy Act is being proposed in Seychelles to ensure more protected areas in the island nation. The Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change has started the consultative process to replace th
Seychelles News Agency

Proposed bill seeks to ensure more protected areas in Seychelles

A new bill to replace the National Parks and Nature Conservancy Act is being proposed in Seychelles to ensure more protected areas in the island nation. The Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change has started the consultative process to replace the existing legislation with a new Nature Reserves and Conservancy bill which has been in the making for the past six years. “The Nature Reserve and Conservancy bill is the piece of legislation that will be used to designate, classify and manage protected areas of the island nation. It is expected to be accompanied by a number of subsidiary legislation that will eventually also come into force under this new law,” explained the senior legal officer of the Ministry. Sharon Gerry told SNA the National Parks and Nature Conservancy Act of 1969 provides matters related to protected areas and conservation of biological diversity. “However, the Act is quite dated, does not reflect international best practices and does not align with the various protected areas provided by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) which is also reflected in our Protected Area Policy of 2013. Therefore, we had to review the existing Act with the assistance of our various local stakeholders and in close consultation with the Department of Legal Affairs,” explained Gerry. Currently, the proposed Nature Reserves and Conservancy Bill is going through the “White Paper Stage” whereby the proposed legislation is being presented to the general public for their final comments and suggestions. A series of public meetings have been held on the three main islands of Mahe, Praslin and La Digue. Marie May Muzungaile, the director general in the biodiversity conservation and management division, said that the ministry received a lot of valuable comments. “We received a lot of feedback. Some of the feedbacks will be simple enough to amend in the bill while others will deserve more legal consultations with the office of the Attorney General.” The director general further added that once everything is sorted and there is an updated version of the bill, it will be brought to the Cabinet of Ministers in order to be endorsed and then to the National Assembly for approval. However if the feedback collected from the public consultations brings about major amendments to the bill, the ministry will have to bring it back to the public, meaning the timeline for the bill’s passage is hard to predict. But what will that mean in terms of protection of biodiversity for the island nation renowned as a world leader and champion of environment conservation? “The proposed legislation will provide for a more modern and holistic approach towards biological diversity protection. Modern in the sense that new categories of protected areas will be introduced which is in line with international norms and best practices and holistic in the sense that now, everyone will have an active role to play towards biological diversity protection; from the Ministry to the persons managing these protected areas, to normal citizens,” explained Gerry. Seychelles – a group of 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean -- has over 20 land and marine parks, these include islands as well as special reserves. The legal officer explained that will new bill will also redefine the sizes of these. “This will depend and vary, based on the various characteristics of areas that will be subject to the designation process and the relevant categories under which they will be designated. However, the end goal is to have more protected areas,” concluded Gerry. Once the Nature Reserve and Conservancy bill is approved and becomes law, it will become a major tool for the Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change which will allow it to improve on some current practices and reinforce conservation.

Zil Pasyon, luxury resort in Seychelles, part of mass sale to InterContinental Hotels Group

The Six Senses hotels, resorts and spas including Zil Pasyon luxury resort on Seychelles’ Félicité island have joined the InterContinental Hotels Group. The Six Senses hotels resorts and spas said in a statement this week that the InterContinental Hotel
Seychelles News Agency

Zil Pasyon, luxury resort in Seychelles, part of mass sale to InterContinental Hotels Group

The Six Senses hotels, resorts and spas including Zil Pasyon luxury resort on Seychelles’ Félicité island have joined the InterContinental Hotels Group. The Six Senses hotels resorts and spas said in a statement this week that the InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) purchased the hospitality and wellness company from private equity fund Pegasus Capital Advisors for $300 million. “This is an exciting new era for Six Senses,” said Neil Jacobs, the Chief Executive.  “IHG believes in our purpose to merge the two platforms of wellness and sustainability to promote personal health, and the health of the planet. Joining forces with IHG means we can use a wealth of systems and operational excellence to grow our brand and reach new markets without losing our quirky personality and playful touch,” said Jacobs. The IHG’s Chief Executive, Keith Barr said, “IHG’s growing portfolio of luxury brands is a collection of the very best in the travel industry. Each one offers something unique to our guests, and together they offer an unparalleled choice of locations and experiences.” He added that “we’re incredibly proud to welcome Six Senses into our family of brands and look forward to opening more stunning hotels, resorts and spas - each one staying true to Six Senses’ world-renowned reputation for wellness and an unwavering commitment to purposeful travel.”   The sale includes the management of 16 hotels and resorts, 37 spas and sister companies Evason and Raison d’Etre. The Six Senses hotels, resorts and spas have the Zil Pasyon on Félicité, the fifth-largest island of the Seychelles archipelago in the western Indian Ocean. The luxury resort with 30 pool villas opened in September 2016 and was featured on the Luxury Travel Expert list of the Top 10 best luxury resorts in the Seychelles and Africa’s most astonishing beach retreats. Speaking to SNA via email, the general manager at Six Senses Zil Pasyon, Hilton Hastings, said, «Six Senses Zil Pasyon is very excited to have the support of IHG. The acquisition presents a unique opportunity for Six Senses Zil Pasyon to reach new guests and share our commitments to sustainability and conservation in Seychelles with an even wider audience.» Hastings added that «we look forward to continue to inspire travellers to visit Six Senses Zil Pasyon in the Seychelles and are confident that with IHG behind us, our hosts and local communities will also benefit.» The InterContinental Hotels Group is a global organisation that leases, manages or owns more than 5,500 hotels and approximately 826,000 guest rooms in almost 100 countries. As part of the InterContinental Hotels Group, Six Senses is expected to open properties in surprising locations.

Venezuela at UN enlists countries in show of support

Russia and China joined Cuba, Iran, North Korea and several other countries at the United Nations on Thursday to show support for Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro in his showdown with the United States. Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza told repo
Seychelles News Agency

Venezuela at UN enlists countries in show of support

Russia and China joined Cuba, Iran, North Korea and several other countries at the United Nations on Thursday to show support for Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro in his showdown with the United States. Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza told reporters the newly-formed support group would take action in the coming days «to raise awareness around the dangers that our people currently face.» «We all have the right to live without the threat of use of force and without application of illegal coercive unilateral measures,» Arreaza told journalists, flanked by the ambassadors of several countries. Among those at Arreaza's side were envoys from Russia, China, Iran, Cuba, Nicaragua, Bolivia, North Korea, Syria along with the Palestinian representative and diplomats from Caribbean countries. Diplomats said about 50 countries had joined the group in support of Maduro's government. The 193-nation United Nations has been divided between countries that support Juan Guaido, who declared himself interim president on January 23, and those who back Maduro. The United States is leading a push to recognize Guaido, backed by about 50 countries including Britain, France, Germany and several Latin American nations such as Brazil, Argentina and Colombia. Arreaza did not provide details of the planned action but called on all UN nations to «join us in defending international law as the only guarantor for humanity's peaceful coexistence.» Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told reporters that Venezuela was planning an international conference to show «support (for) the legal government of Venezuela.» «We are very much concerned that some hotheads may be considering a military action,» said Nebenzia. Washington has sent aid to the Colombian border with Venezuela but Maduro's government has refused to let in the shipments, accusing the United States of using the relief packages as a political tool aimed at regime change. Declaring himself «sad» about the «turmoil» in Venezuela, President Donald Trump on Wednesday demanded that Maduro unblock US aid shipments and has refused to rule out military action. Guaido has said the aid blocked at the border would be brought into the country on February 23. Venezuela's economy is in a tailspin marked by hyperinflation and shortages of basic necessities that the opposition blames on corruption and mismanagement by the Maduro government. Caracas maintains that US sanctions are to blame for the economic meltdown that has driven some 2.3 million Venezuelans across borders, according to UN figures. © Agence France-Presse

How to say 'I love you' the silent way in Seychelles

Valentine's Day -- February 14th -- is a day of love and romance in many regions around the world, including the Seychelles, an archipelago of 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean. Valentine’s Day is the day to say I love you, give presents, go on date
Seychelles News Agency

How to say 'I love you' the silent way in Seychelles

Valentine's Day -- February 14th -- is a day of love and romance in many regions around the world, including the Seychelles, an archipelago of 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean. Valentine’s Day is the day to say I love you, give presents, go on dates and share other beautiful messages with each other. In days gone by, people in Seychelles could pass on messages of love and longing without uttering a single world -- by using a handkerchief. That's according to a book published by the Seychelles Heritage Foundation in 2001 that looked back at a practice that existed as far back as the 1940s. As Cupid flies around the islands, SNA presents a visual look back at non-verbal I-LUV-U's.   1. I love you! A handkerchief rolled partially and held against your chin was the way to say I love you! (Najoe Philoe) Photo license: CC-BY   2. My heart aches for you! A handkerchief held against your chest, in the proximity of the heart signifies my heart aches for you! (Najoe Philoe) Photo license: CC-BY   3. Keep your promises! A handkerchief draped over the left eye means keep your promises! (Najoe Philoe) Photo license: CC-BY   4. Follow me. When a man drapes a handkerchief on one of his shoulders, he is asking a loved one to follow him. (Najoe Philoe) Photo license: CC-BY   5. I am in love with someone else. A handkerchief rolled over the right wrist means: I am in love with someone else. (Najoe Philoe) Photo license: CC-BY   6. My heart is yet to be taken! Still single, fancy someone, rolling part of a handkerchief on the little finger means my heart is yet to be taken! (Najoe Philoe) Photo license: CC-BY   7. I am engaged! I am engaged! A handkerchief rolled on the index finger is saying just that. Already taken, sorry better luck next year.   (Najoe Philoe) Photo license: CC-BY

Thousands protest against job losses in South Africa

Thousands of South African workers staged nationwide demonstrations on Wednesday to protest against high unemployment and government policies they say have failed to create jobs and are deepening poverty. Workers dressed in red t-shirts, showing their loyalt
Seychelles News Agency

Thousands protest against job losses in South Africa

Thousands of South African workers staged nationwide demonstrations on Wednesday to protest against high unemployment and government policies they say have failed to create jobs and are deepening poverty. Workers dressed in red t-shirts, showing their loyalty to the trade union movement, gathered in the eastern port city of Durban, Johannesburg and other locations for open-air rallies three months ahead of the country's general election. Companies in South Africa, notably in the mining sector, have shed tens of thousands of jobs in recent years in what unions have termed a «jobs bloodbath» as the economy of Africa's most industrialised nation struggles for growth. South Africa has a near-record 27 percent unemployment rate, and trade unions say that 9.3 million employable people need jobs. Zingiswa Losi, president of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), led the march in Durban, which was attended by about 6,000 people. «Today's march is a national strike and we are marching to (say to the) government and the private sector, we cannot afford to lose jobs in this country,» Losi told reporters. About 2,000 people attended the Johannesburg rally. Singing anti-apartheid songs such as «Senzeni na» («What have we done?»), workers marched through the city centre dancing and «toyi-toying», a protest move synonymous with the struggle against apartheid. Carrying banners that read «we demand decent jobs», «no to job losses» and «no to outsourcing and privatisation», marchers were undeterred by drizzling rain. «Today black children are educated but there is no work,» union member and domestic worker Gloria Sithole, 58, told AFP. - Power cuts - Marcher Ben Venter, deputy general secretary of the South African Society of Bank Officials, told AFP that President Cyril Ramaphosa needed to act on initiatives that would set employment on «an upward trend». «The South African economy can't afford job losses,» Venter said. Official statistics released on Tuesday showed that the unemployment rate dropped marginally to 27.1 percent in the last quarter of 2018 from 27.5 percent in the previous quarter. The drop was largely due to casual workers being hired over Christmas holiday period. South Africa's economy grew less than one percent last year and is currently subjected to its worst electricity cuts in years. Also among the union's demands was an end to state corruption and mismanagement. The continent's largest energy utility Eskom, plagued by debt and mismanagement, plunged the country into darkness this week with periodic black-outs imposed as demand outstripped supply. The ailing state-owned company is grappling with 419 billion rand ($30 billion) of debt. Ramaphosa announced last week that the utility would be divided into three divisions, but unions have rejected the move, saying it would lead to further job cuts. COSATU, which represents about 1.9 million members, called for a halt to any plans of privatising Eskom. It has been a key ally of the ruling ANC party, which is seeking to revive its flagging popularity ahead of elections on May 8, when Ramaphosa is expected to retain power. The trade union's leadership continued to throw its weight behind the ANC. «We are in no way abandoning our ally,» COSATU official Amos Monyela told AFP. «We will mobilise our members to vote for the African National Congress but we will always challenge policy uncertainty that affects workers.» © Agence France-Presse

Need a last-minute Valentine’s gift? New shop in Seychelles has high-end perfumes

Love is in the air. It is Valentine’s Day, a day for lovers and a time when couples make an extra effort to pamper their loved ones. Chocolates and red roses are given freely on this day when cupid is a ‘la une’. Looking for a last-minute gift, and yo
Seychelles News Agency

Need a last-minute Valentine’s gift? New shop in Seychelles has high-end perfumes

Love is in the air. It is Valentine’s Day, a day for lovers and a time when couples make an extra effort to pamper their loved ones. Chocolates and red roses are given freely on this day when cupid is a ‘la une’. Looking for a last-minute gift, and you want to give something different this year? Then why not say I love you with an Estee Lauder or a Lancome perfume. If yes, then Mado is the shop for you. Opened two weeks ago, Mado is located steps away from the clock tower – right in the heart of the Victoria, the capital city of Seychelles. The beauty shop offers a wide variety of perfumes as well as other beauty products.  A wide variety of perfumes as well as other beauty products is available. (Salifa Karapetyan, Seychelles News Agency) Photo license: CC-BY Mary Geers, the owner of the Mado outlet in Seychelles, said that the idea to open such a shop has been there for some time. “When people want to give something they want to give something that is branded and valuable. I think Seychellois like brands and we do have other shops selling other kinds of products, but with brands even though it is a bit expensive, it is valuable and it is a gift from the heart.” The shop is well stocked and clients have a wide choice. “I am proud to say that we have a lot of brands — up to 33 – all under one roof, which give clients a lot of choices, nobody can come out and say they did not get anything,” said Geers. The shop is well stocked and clients have a wide choice. (Salifa Karapetyan, Seychelles News Agency) Photo license: CC-BY “Apart from perfume for men and women, we also have Clarins products which is a very good product for skin care. We also have other natural products for the skin,” said the owner, who has been in the fashion and beauty business for 40 years. Mado also has a makeup section where brands like Black Up is available. “I was very lucky to find a Seychellois who had worked in the makeup department of Sephora in Paris and in Harrods in London and she is bringing to the shop a wealth of experience and giving advice to our clients,” explained the elegant and youthful Mary Geers. Up to the opening of Mado, branded perfumes and other beauty products could be purchased only at a handful of shops in Seychelles – a group of 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean – but clients did not have a lot of brands available for purchase. Only the STC Duty Free Shop was offering a wider selection. Mado also has a makeup section where brands like Black Up is available. (Salifa Karapetyan, Seychelles News Agency) Photo license: CC-BY Chantale Magnan said that the shop “is long awaited with quite a lot to choose from. Unfortunately, I am disappointed as it does not carry my favourite which is Juicy Couture.” Whilst, Dyanna Pool said she is impressed with the variety and the displays. “The price is not too bad. Besides, it is the same price that we buy at duty free after all we are buying brands.” “It is a nice shop and I am having only positive feedbacks. It has surpassed my expectation. A lot of people have congratulated and said that it is high time we had such shops in Seychelles,” concluded Mary Geers.

UN notified of name change to North Macedonia

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has received official notification from the Macedonian government to change the name of the Balkan country to the Republic of North Macedonia. Guterres on Wednesday welcomed the development ending a decades-old dispute b
Seychelles News Agency

UN notified of name change to North Macedonia

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has received official notification from the Macedonian government to change the name of the Balkan country to the Republic of North Macedonia. Guterres on Wednesday welcomed the development ending a decades-old dispute between Greece and Macedonia over the Balkan country's name. At the United Nations, the country had been known as the Former Yugoslav Republic of  Macedonia (FYROM) because Greece objected to the use of Macedonia, the name used for its own northern region. In a statement, Guterres praised Macedonian and Greek leaders for their «forward-looking vision» and urged regional organizations and international partners to support the historical step. The UN chief said the settlement showed that «even seemingly intractable issues can be resolved through dialogue and political will.» The 27-year-old dispute was finally settled in June during UN-brokered talks. The new name came into force Tuesday after constitutional changes were published in the official gazette and Skopje's foreign ministry said both countries had informed the UN by letter that the change is now in force. A notice will be sent to the General Assembly and the Security Council to inform them of the change, a UN official said. Since 1991, Athens had objected to its neighbor being called Macedonia because Greece has a historic northern province of the same name. Greece has blocked Macedonia's NATO and EU integration until it changes the name. © Agence France-Presse

Air Seychelles to restart flights to Madagascar on seasonal basis twice weekly

The Seychelles' national carrier, Air Seychelles, will once again be flying to the capital of Madagascar, Antananarivo, this time with seasonal flights, the airline said on Wednesday. The twice-weekly service will be operated by the airline's Airbus A320 o
Seychelles News Agency

Air Seychelles to restart flights to Madagascar on seasonal basis twice weekly

The Seychelles' national carrier, Air Seychelles, will once again be flying to the capital of Madagascar, Antananarivo, this time with seasonal flights, the airline said on Wednesday. The twice-weekly service will be operated by the airline's Airbus A320 on Wednesdays and Saturdays from July 3 to October 26. Seats are on sale as from SCR7990 ($585) including taxes. Air Seychelles suspended its services to Antananarivo in April last year as part of its new strategic transformation plan aimed at ensuring the long-term profitability and sustainability. “We have reviewed the market and have identified that during the summer season there is an increasing demand for travel to and from Madagascar,” said Charles Johnson, the airline’s chief commercial officer. Johnson added that the decision was taken to ensure that “we capture the business and to further meet the demands of the passengers we have taken the commercial decision to bring Madagascar back into our network as a seasonal operation during the upcoming summer season.” Madagascar is only two and a half hours away from the Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean. Johnson said, “It is the ideal place for business including leisure travellers looking for a quick getaway during the holidays or even to combine their trip with other destinations Air Seychelles operates.” The announcement comes two days after Seychelles assumed the presidency of the Vanilla Islands which includes Mauritius, Madagascar, Comoros, Reunion, Mayotte and Maldives. The concept was created in 2010 by tourism professionals of the six islands to strengthen tourism initiatives between the islands and help implement bilateral initiatives. Air Seychelles was established in 1978 and began long-haul service in 1983. The airline maintains a strategic partnership with Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates and 40 percent stakeholder. Currently, the airline offers flights to Abu Dhabi, Johannesburg, Mauritius and Mumbai, complementing its domestic services. 

Seychelles and Norway talk about blue economy, climate change and renewable energy

A special envoy of Norway met with Seychelles’ President on Tuesday to discuss work that can be done in the fields of the blue economy, climate change and renewable energy. On an official visit to Seychelles, Odd-inge Kvalheim said that these areas are imp
Seychelles News Agency

Seychelles and Norway talk about blue economy, climate change and renewable energy

A special envoy of Norway met with Seychelles’ President on Tuesday to discuss work that can be done in the fields of the blue economy, climate change and renewable energy. On an official visit to Seychelles, Odd-inge Kvalheim said that these areas are important as they are top priorities and common interest of the two countries. “Seychelles is a champion on the blue economy in the African continent and being such an important actor in this region, we need to cooperate closely on that. Our Prime Minister has taken the initiative to establish a high-level panel on the sustainable ocean economy and this is global work,” said Kvalheim. Other areas of cooperation touched during discussions were fisheries management, integrated ocean management, the fight against fisheries crime and the health of the ocean, especially when it comes to marine pollution. The visit of the Special Envoy was also an opportune time for Seychelles, a group of 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean, to discuss the financing of certain projects. Before his meeting with the Seychelles’ president, Kvalheim met with Secretary of State for Foreign Affair, Barry Faure, on Monday. The two diplomats had lengthy discussions on how Seychelles can benefit through a number of projects. Speaking to the press on Tuesday, Barry Faure said that Norway offers development aid on both bilateral and multilateral levels. “As you know, Seychelles no longer qualifies to benefit from development aids on a bilateral level. The possibility for us to get access to development aids from Norway will be through programmes financed by Norway through multilateral organisations such as the World Bank, UNODC and IUCN,” said Faure. The state secretary added that when President Danny Faure met with the Prime Minister of Norway at the G7 Summit held in Canada last year, they discussed the need to establish financing programmes, that countries such as Seychelles can get access to. “Thanks to this conversation, Norway put in place a programme with the World Bank called PROBLUE,” said Barry Faure. PROBLUE is a new multi-donor trust fund that will support healthy and productive oceans by tackling marine pollution, managing fisheries and fostering the sustainable growth of coastal economies. Although Seychelles does not benefit from Norway at a bilateral level, the island nation benefits in other forms. Mid last year, two Seychellois benefitted from a two-week training on board the Dr. Fridtjof Nansen, a Norwegian vessel carrying out a survey within a joint maritime jurisdiction between Seychelles and Mauritius. Equipped for advanced and multidisciplinary marine research, the Dr. Fridtjof Nansen is owned by the Norwegian Organisation for Development Cooperation (NORAD). Researchers from the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research assisted with the training. 

World court to rule on Iran's billions frozen in US

The International Court of Justice on Wednesday will give its decision on a bid by Iran to recover $2 billion in frozen assets that the United States says must be paid to terror victims. The US Supreme Court ruled in 2016 that Iran must give the cash to surv
Seychelles News Agency

World court to rule on Iran's billions frozen in US

The International Court of Justice on Wednesday will give its decision on a bid by Iran to recover $2 billion in frozen assets that the United States says must be paid to terror victims. The US Supreme Court ruled in 2016 that Iran must give the cash to survivors and relatives of victims of attacks blamed on Tehran, including the 1983 bombing of a US Marine barracks in Beirut. Iran said the US decision breached 1955 Treaty of Amity with the United States, an agreement signed before Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution severed relations between the countries. At the last hearing on Iran's appeal in October at the Hague-based tribunal, Washington said Iran has «unclean hands» and that its alleged support for terrorism should disqualify the case from being heard. The ICJ is the top court of the United Nations and was set up after World War II to resolve disputes between member states. Its rulings are binding and cannot be appealed, but it has no means of enforcing them. Wednesday's ruling threatens to throw more fuel on the fire after a decision in October when the court ordered the US to lift sanctions on humanitarian goods for Iran. The United States announced hours after that decision it was pulling out of the Treaty of Amity, upon which Iran had also based the sanctions case. Tensions between Tehran and Washington are already high around the anniversary of the 40th anniversary of the Iranian revolution. - 'Bad faith' - Relations have been strained since US President Donald Trump's decision to pull out of an international nuclear deal with Iran and reimpose sanctions. Iran first lodged the case on the frozen funds in June 2016, accusing Washington of breaking the decades-old bilateral treaty dating from the time of the Shah, who was deposed in the revolution. Tehran said the United States had illegally seized Iranian financial assets and those of Iranian companies. In October, Richard Visek, a US State Department legal official, told the ICJ that «Iran comes to the court with unclean hands -- indeed, it is a remarkable show of bad faith.» US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had added at the time that «we owe it to our fallen heroes, their families, and the victims of Iran’s terrorist activities to vigorously defend against the Iranian regime’s meritless claims... in The Hague.» The US Supreme Court ruled in April 2016 that the $2 billion in frozen Iranian assets should be paid to about 1,000 survivors and relatives of those killed in attacks blamed on the Islamic Republic. As well as the Beirut Marine barracks attack, in which 241 soldiers were killed, these also included the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia. The timing of the US court ruling had been particularly sensitive as it was just a year after the landmark nuclear deal with world powers which led to the unblocking of other frozen funds. © Agence France-Presse

Several dead in Buhari rally stampede in Nigeria

Several people were killed Tuesday when a stampede erupted at a campaign rally of Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari days ahead of general elections, his office said. The president «has just been informed of the tragic deaths of several members of hi
Seychelles News Agency

Several dead in Buhari rally stampede in Nigeria

Several people were killed Tuesday when a stampede erupted at a campaign rally of Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari days ahead of general elections, his office said. The president «has just been informed of the tragic deaths of several members of his All Progressives Congress (APC) party in a stampede during a presidential rally held in Port Harcourt in Rivers State,» it said in a statement released late Tuesday. Local media said panic broke out at the end of the gathering, held inside the Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium, when crowds tried to force their way through a locked exit. «Those from behind were pushing and putting pressure on those in front leading to some persons falling on the ground and being trampled upon,» said journalist Egufe Yafugborhi of the Vanguard newspaper. The incident claimed at least 14 lives, according to a spokesman for the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital. «There are others under medical attention at the Emergency Unit, so we can't force a clear figure beyond what the situation is at the moment,» Kem Daniel-Elebiga told AFP. Saturday's election in Africa's most populous country will see Buhari stand for a second four-year term against former vice-president Atiku Abubakar in what is expected to be a close race. In recent weeks, tensions have risen between the APC and Abubakar's People's Democratic Party (PDP). The PDP has accused the government of seeking to rig the vote while the APC has said the opposition party is fomenting unrest. Five people were killed during weekend clashes between supporters of the two main political parties in the southeast, police had confirmed on Monday. The victims, all APC members, were shot and killed on Sunday in an apartment in Effurun, near the oil city of Warri, said Delta state police spokesman Andrew Aniamaka. The US, Britain and the European Union have in recent weeks publicly warned against vote-rigging and election violence, and also expressed concern over Buhari's suspension of Nigeria's top judge last month. Nigeria's last election in 2015 was considered free and fair, but state and local elections as well as earlier presidential polls have been marred by violence and fraud allegations. Compared to that vote, international interest in Nigeria's election has been muted as the US administration focuses on domestic issues and Britain wrestles with its impending exit from the EU. A British colony until 1960, Nigeria is an ally of both countries which are home to large Nigerian diaspora communities. © Agence France-Presse

Al Salam Bank to introduce Islam banking practices in Seychelles

A new bank offering the Islamic finance banking concept -- which works on the basis of risk-sharing instead of interest -- opened in Seychelles on Saturday. Once the legal framework is approved by the National Assembly, Al Salam bank will be the first in Sey
Seychelles News Agency

Al Salam Bank to introduce Islam banking practices in Seychelles

A new bank offering the Islamic finance banking concept -- which works on the basis of risk-sharing instead of interest -- opened in Seychelles on Saturday. Once the legal framework is approved by the National Assembly, Al Salam bank will be the first in Seychelles to offer Islamic Sharia-compliant products and services. The bank is located at the Maison Esplanade in the capital, Victoria.   Contrary to conventional banking, “where you lend money and earn interests on the amount, in Sharia-compliant banking, the bank becomes a partner. Once the company starts making profits, this will be shared with the bank,” said the bank’s Chief Executive Asim Kumar. “The major difference is that we will not have a fluctuating rate. Our rates will be fixed but they will be very competitive,” he added. In Sharia-compliant banking “there should not be a penalty so if there is a penalty, the money goes to charity. The bank does not keep it for its own benefits,” explained the Chief Executive. The Bank was officially opened on Saturday. (State House) Photo License: CC-BY Al Salam Bank Seychelles is owned by Al Salam Bank of Bahrain, which owns 70 percent of the shares while a local company, Seychelles Pension Fund, owns 30 percent. Kumar told SNA that the bank needed a strategic local partner to start its onshore banking service. “We spoke to the Seychelles’ government and the Central Bank of Seychelles and told them we were looking for a financially strong local partner which could help us in getting business. Seychelles Pension Fund was very interested and we grabbed this opportunity,” he said. Al Salam Bank Seychelles offers retail and corporate banking. The bank is presently focusing on corporate and small and medium enterprises. Personal Banking will start once the legal framework is in place. The Cabinet of Ministers has already approved the policy and strategy on Islamic Banking and Finance, as part of the financial sector development plan for Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean. The legal framework is yet to be approved by the country’s National Assembly. The bank is presently focusing on corporate and small and medium enterprises. Personal Banking will start once the legal framework is in place. (Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY Al Salam bank «will be the first and only bank to provide Islamic banking services in Seychelles as soon as the Islamic banking environment is operationalised,» said Loustau-Lalanne, the Minister for Finance, Trade, Investment and Economic Planning. Loustau-Lalanne added that Seychelles has a well-established and strong trade relationship with Gulf countries. “Al Salam Bank’s presence here will reinforce and better serve our local business community especially micro, small and medium enterprises which constitute the bulk of businesses in our country,” said Loustau-Lalanne. Kumar said that for now, the bank can only own movables such as equipment and vehicles. Prior to launching onshore banking, the bank has been offering offshore banking since 2016. It was formerly the Bank of Muscat International Offshore (BMIO), which was taken over by the Central Bank of Seychelles in 2014, following the breakdown of the bank’s foreign corresponding banking relationship. Al Salam Bank of Bahrain became the new shareholder of BMIO after it acquired BMI Bahrain in 2014. It has 25 employees -- 23 locals and two foreigners.

DR Congo election loser calls for rematch

The runner-up in DR Congo's controversial presidential election has proposed staging the poll again within six months. In a letter to the African Union summit in Addis Ababa, Martin Fayulu restated his allegation that the vote result had been rigged, and sug
Seychelles News Agency

DR Congo election loser calls for rematch

The runner-up in DR Congo's controversial presidential election has proposed staging the poll again within six months. In a letter to the African Union summit in Addis Ababa, Martin Fayulu restated his allegation that the vote result had been rigged, and suggested «holding the elections again within six months». Felix Tshisekedi was declared winner of the December 30 ballot with 38.5 percent of the vote, against Fayulu's 34.8 percent. Fayulu, whose letter was made public on Monday, said the DRC's Independent National Election Commission (CENI) had «quite simply fabricated the results it published». He pointed to reports from independent election monitors and observers from his own coalition, Lamuka, as well as to vote tallies by the CENI itself that have been leaked to the press. «(All) attest that I was elected president of the Democratic Republic of Congo with more than 60 percent of the vote,» he charged. Fayulu suggested setting up an AU special committee to verify the results. The two-day AU summit, which was winding up on Monday, was attended by Tshisekedi, who was elected the organisation's second vice president for 2019. He also met UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and the European Union's foreign relations chief, Federica Mogherini. Fayulu's bitterness over the election outcome has mingled with relief outside the country that the vote was calm by DRC standards and led to the country's first-ever peaceful transition of power. Tshisekedi succeeded Joseph Kabila, whose 18-year tenure was criticised for authoritarianism, rights abuses and corruption. Both Fayulu and Tshisekedi are from the ranks of the opposition. The election should have taken place at the end of 2016 but Kabila stayed in office for an additional two years, invoking a caretaker clause in the constitution. © Agence France-Presse

Seychelles assumes presidency of ‘Vanilla Islands,’ seeks to improve tourism earnings

Maximising earnings from tourists on cruise ships and engaging in more group marketing are some of the areas that Seychelles will focus on as it assumes the presidency of the Vanilla Islands from Mayotte. The Indian Ocean island nations of Seychelles, Maurit
Seychelles News Agency

Seychelles assumes presidency of ‘Vanilla Islands,’ seeks to improve tourism earnings

Maximising earnings from tourists on cruise ships and engaging in more group marketing are some of the areas that Seychelles will focus on as it assumes the presidency of the Vanilla Islands from Mayotte. The Indian Ocean island nations of Seychelles, Mauritius, Madagascar, Comoros, Reunion, Mayotte and Maldives initiated a joint travel brand under the banner ‘Vanilla Islands’ in 2010. The concept was created by tourism professionals of the six islands to strengthen tourism initiatives between the islands and help implement bilateral initiatives. The former president of Mayotte, Soibahadine Ramadani, said that “the Vanilla islands started as a simple concept but today it is a platform for exchange, meetings and actions.” It is Didier Dogley, the Seychelles’ Minister of Tourism, Civil Aviation, Ports and Marine, who will head the group for the coming year. The flag of the ‘Vanilla Islands’ was given to Dogley during a ceremony on Monday marking the official handing over of the presidency. Dogley said that being the president of the organisation “will give Seychelles the chance to be in the driving seat, and allow the island nation to say what we think should be pushed forward.” He outlined that focus will be placed on areas that are important, not only for Seychelles but for the group as a whole. “My plans include continuing the work being done with cruise ships, and see how we can optimise earnings and benefits that the islands get from tourists onboard cruise ships,” said Dogley. The cruise ship sector is an area that the former president of the organisation was already working on. During his term Ramadani established partnerships with various cruise liners, hence creating an increase in the amount of tourist flow in this sector. Secondly, Dogley said that the islands need to gather relevant statistics and share them in such a way that will allow the ‘Vanilla Islands’ to make better decisions. A way to achieve this is to better understand and analyse the statistics received. Thirdly, the minister said that the islands will continue to work on group marketing as this tactic is one that works really well within the region. Before the handing over of the presidency, representatives from member countries -- namely tourism ministers and heads of tourism organisations -- met in a general assembly. They discussed last year’s achievements as well as the programme, propositions and budget for this year. The bulk of financing will go into the marketing of the organisation through their webpage and social media platforms to sell the Vanilla Islands. At the same time, the group will continue to have a strong presence in international fairs where cruise ships are present so as to sell the region better. 

Al Salaam Bank to introduce Islam banking practices in Seychelles

A new bank offering the Islamic finance banking concept -- which works on the basis of risk-sharing instead of interest -- opened in Seychelles on Saturday. Once the legal framework is approved by the National Assembly, Al Salam bank will be the first in Sey
Seychelles News Agency

Al Salaam Bank to introduce Islam banking practices in Seychelles

A new bank offering the Islamic finance banking concept -- which works on the basis of risk-sharing instead of interest -- opened in Seychelles on Saturday. Once the legal framework is approved by the National Assembly, Al Salam bank will be the first in Seychelles to offer Islamic Sharia-compliant products and services. The bank is located at the Maison Esplanade in the capital, Victoria.   Contrary to conventional banking, “where you lend money and earn interests on the amount, in Sharia-compliant banking, the bank becomes a partner. Once the company starts making profits, this will be shared with the bank,” said the bank’s Chief Executive Asim Kumar. “The major difference is that we will not have a fluctuating rate. Our rates will be fixed but they will be very competitive,” he added. In Sharia-compliant banking “there should not be a penalty so if there is a penalty, the money goes to charity. The bank does not keep it for its own benefits,” explained the Chief Executive. The Bank was officially opened on Saturday. (State House) Photo License: CC-BY Al Salam Bank Seychelles is owned by Al Salam Bank of Bahrain, which owns 70 percent of the shares while a local company, Seychelles Pension Fund, owns 30 percent. Kumar told SNA that the bank needed a strategic local partner to start its onshore banking service. “We spoke to the Seychelles’ government and the Central Bank of Seychelles and told them we were looking for a financially strong local partner which could help us in getting business. Seychelles Pension Fund was very interested and we grabbed this opportunity,” he said. Al Salam Bank Seychelles offers retail and corporate banking. The bank is presently focusing on corporate and small and medium enterprises. Personal Banking will start once the legal framework is in place. The Cabinet of Ministers has already approved the policy and strategy on Islamic Banking and Finance, as part of the financial sector development plan for Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean. The legal framework is yet to be approved by the country’s National Assembly. The bank is presently focusing on corporate and small and medium enterprises. Personal Banking will start once the legal framework is in place. (Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY Al Salam bank «will be the first and only bank to provide Islamic banking services in Seychelles as soon as the Islamic banking environment is operationalised,» said Loustau-Lalanne, the Minister for Finance, Trade, Investment and Economic Planning. Loustau-Lalanne added that Seychelles has a well-established and strong trade relationship with Gulf countries. “Al Salam Bank’s presence here will reinforce and better serve our local business community especially micro, small and medium enterprises which constitute the bulk of businesses in our country,” said Loustau-Lalanne. Kumar said that for now, the bank can only own movables such as equipment and vehicles. Prior to launching onshore banking, the bank has been offering offshore banking since 2016. It was formerly the Bank of Muscat International Offshore (BMIO), which was taken over by the Central Bank of Seychelles in 2014, following the breakdown of the bank’s foreign corresponding banking relationship. Al Salam Bank of Bahrain became the new shareholder of BMIO after it acquired BMI Bahrain in 2014. It has 25 employees -- 23 locals and two foreigners.

Michelle Obama delights Grammy crowd with girl power message

Michelle Obama made a surprise appearance on the Grammys stage Sunday to deliver a message about music and women's empowerment alongside superstars Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez, host Alicia Keys and actress Jada Pinkett-Smith. «Music shows us that all of
Seychelles News Agency

Michelle Obama delights Grammy crowd with girl power message

Michelle Obama made a surprise appearance on the Grammys stage Sunday to deliver a message about music and women's empowerment alongside superstars Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez, host Alicia Keys and actress Jada Pinkett-Smith. «Music shows us that all of it matters -- every story within every voice, every note within every song,» said the former first lady, looking glam in a sparkling gunmetal pantsuit with a 1970s-esque wrap jacket. «Is that right, ladies?» she said to resounding applause. The Recording Academy behind the awards gala has faced a barrage of criticism for not embracing diversity within its ranks, after nearly muting women nominees at the show last year. This year, five of the eight nominees for Album of the Year are women: rapper Cardi B, folk-rock singer Brandi Carlile, pop futurist Janelle Monae, R&B prodigy H.E.R. and country star Kacey Musgraves. At the start of the segment, Lady Gaga -- a triple winner so far on the night -- said: «They told me I was weird... And music told me not to listen to them.» Lopez -- who has parlayed her successful music career into acting -- said that music «kept me moving from the block to the big stages and even bigger screens.» Pinkett-Smith added: «Every voice we hear deserves to be honored and respected.» And Obama added: «Whether we like country or rap or rock, music helps us share ourselves, our dignity and sorrows, our hopes and joys. It allows us to hear one another, to invite each other in.» Obama quickly started trending on Twitter. The moment came at the start of a show showcasing the female talent in the music business, one year after women were largely snubbed in the major categories. Neil Portnow, the head of the Recording Academy, told women last year to «step up» if they wanted to do better on Grammys night. The brazen comment drew outrage and Portnow said he would step down when his contract expires this summer. On Sunday, the message was unmistakable -- one of diversity. «Thank you so much, ladies, for your light, your message of love, your sisterhood,» said Keys, the first woman to helm the show in 14 years. «Give it up for these magnificent goddesses!» said Keys. © Agence France-Presse

Humanitarian aid used as weapon in Maduro-Guaido conflict

Desperately needed aid being stockpiled at Venezuela's door is at the heart of a political duel between the two men fighting to lead the oil-rich nation: Juan Guaido and Nicolas Maduro. Guaido, recognized as Venezuela's interim president by around 50 countri
Seychelles News Agency

Humanitarian aid used as weapon in Maduro-Guaido conflict

Desperately needed aid being stockpiled at Venezuela's door is at the heart of a political duel between the two men fighting to lead the oil-rich nation: Juan Guaido and Nicolas Maduro. Guaido, recognized as Venezuela's interim president by around 50 countries, has pressed the all-critical military to allow the mostly American humanitarian aid to reach the most vulnerable population, or around 300,000 people. Maduro insists the shortages plaguing the country are caused by Washington's punitive sections, and he has vowed to stop the «spectacle of fake humanitarian aid.» The aid «is at the heart of the struggle between two pillars of power,» political scientist Luis Salamanca told AFP. «This struggle is playing out as concerns the future of the armed forces. Guaido is trying to get the military on his side, while Maduro tries to keep it behind him.» Using a tanker truck, two container trucks and barriers, the army has been blocking the Tienditas border bridge since Thursday. Several hundred meters (yards) from there on the Colombia side are the hangars where the emergency aid is being stockpiled. For John Magdaleno of the Polity consultancy, the confrontation between the two men is a «major event» that «is inevitably leading toward an escalation» between the government and the opposition, as well as between Maduro and the countries supporting his adversary. «In the end, it's in the hand of the United States. They are the ones who can use force,» Magdaleno said. President Donald Trump's administration, which has insisted that «all options are on the table» -- has frozen the accounts of Venezuelan leaders and unveiled fresh sanctions to bar Maduro from accessing revenues from oil his country sells in the US. Before possibly resorting to force, Washington is exploring «all other options» first, Magdeleno said, adding that «this chapter on humanitarian aid foreshadows a far more significant escalation that could trigger a military intervention.» However, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Kimberly Breier has insisted that the US has no intention of entering Venezuelan territory by force to distribute food and medicine. - Politicized aid - The United Nations said it's ready to send emergency aid to Venezuela, but only if Caracas agrees. «Humanitarian aid should never be used as a political pawn,» UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Thursday. Venezuela has faced a major political and economic crisis in recent years. Expropriations have hurt industry and oil production, which finances 96 percent of the national budget, thus reducing imports of basic goods. More than 80 percent of medicine and medical equipment are missing in a country that has the world's largest proven oil reserves, according to the pharmaceutical federation. There are constant cuts of basic services such as water and electricity. Maduro accuses the United States of setting up an «international coalition... to intervene militarily in Venezuela under the pretext of a non-existing humanitarian crisis.» For the National Assembly's former president and opposition lawmaker Henry Ramos Allup, the government's refusal to allow humanitarian aid to enter the country «reveals once more to the world the regime's human rights violations.» The anti-Maduro camp has also denounced the regime's decision -- while Venezuela grapples with such a dire situation -- to send 100 tonnes of humanitarian aid to Cuba to assist the communist island in the wake of a recent hurricane. The government faces a «strategic dilemma» because «regardless of its decision, it loses,» Magdaleno said. If Maduro relents and allows the aid in, this means he finally acknowledges that there is, in fact a humanitarian crisis. «Maduro is going to put his foot down. It doesn't matter much anymore to him. He is playing a game that seems to be entering its last phase,» which threatens his hold on power, said Salamanca. © Agence France-Presse

Seeking a Valentine’s Day date? Singles auction to benefit charity

Single ladies and gents are invited to have a bit of fun and participate in an auction for a Valentine’s Day date – all for a good cause. Gran Kaz, an entertainment centre, is this year joining forces with ‘Make a Child Smile’ to host a charity aucti
Seychelles News Agency

Seeking a Valentine’s Day date? Singles auction to benefit charity

Single ladies and gents are invited to have a bit of fun and participate in an auction for a Valentine’s Day date – all for a good cause. Gran Kaz, an entertainment centre, is this year joining forces with ‘Make a Child Smile’ to host a charity auction. ‘Make a Child Smile’ is a community-driven organisation that helps children in difficult life situations. Clifford Mondon -- a business development manager -- is the brain behind it. Expected to take place on Valentine’s Day, February 14, at Gran Kaz Bel Ombre, the charity fundraising will offer bidders at the auction the chance to win a date with one of the ten bachelors and bachelorettes who will be participating. The concept came about as an idea for a fun activity for singles on the most romantic day of the year, explained the public relations and communication manager at Gran Kaz, Shama Amesbury. “Most places offer romantic deals for couples, we wanted to do something for those who wanted to celebrate the day, but didn’t have anyone to celebrate it with,” added Amesbury. Gran Kaz is sourcing for vouchers from establishments for brunch, lunch or dinner for two, which the bachelor and bachelorette will randomly pick. The audience will have a chance to bid on that date with the bachelor or bachelorette of their choice. Once a person wins a bid, he or she can organise with the person they bid on to set a date and time for the outing. Only the one date is guaranteed by the auction but should the two wish to see each other again, they are free to do so. “Mostly it’s just for a bit of fun, but who’s to say that we don’t actually play cupid and help match-make some lonely souls in the process, all the while raising funds for a good cause,” said Amesbury. This is not the first time that Gran Kaz is organizing such an activity. Last year, the entertainment centre ran a pilot and Amesbury said that it turned out to be a huge success, where those who attended enjoyed it immensely, and “even said that we should make it an annual occurrence.” The entertainment centre chooses to partner with Make a Child Smile as the latter is starting a new programme in collaboration with the Seychelles Broadcasting Corporation (SBC) called ‘Dreams and Wishes’. Through ‘Dreams and Wishes’, Make a Child Smile will be focusing on making a child’s wish come true. "The aim of the project is to infuse hope, create happy memories, and improve the quality of life, through non-medical assistance, for children who have chronically life-threatening conditions and disorders, have experienced life-changing physical or emotional traumas or have suffered major abuse,” said Mondon. Make A Child Smile in collaboration with SBC along with the help of the public and sponsors, will grant wishes for children aged 3 to 16 years who fall in the above category.  Gran Kaz is helping to raise some of the funds they require to make these special moments happen. The programme will be aired at the end of every month and a different child will be featured each month. The first episode will feature 10 programmes, running from the end of February to the end of November. “The time when a child has a wish granted will be a moment that will be treasured by them for the rest of their life. That magic moment will allow children and their families to forget, even if just for a little while, the fear, pain and suffering that they go through on a daily basis,” said Mondon. The Valentine’s Day auction will kick off with a  barbecue platter at 7 p.m at the cost of $22 (SCR300). It will be followed by the charity auction with the participation of beautiful ladies and dashing young gentlemen, led by auctioneer Sylvie Ah Time, also known as Madanm Franchement, from K-Radio.

Barrel Bar and Nightclub in Seychelles' capital attributes four-decade run to good planning, sacrifices

Good planning and making sacrifices are two reasons that Seychelles’ longest operating nightclub has stayed open for over four decades, the manager told SNA. Barrel Bar and Nightclub, well known locally for its good reggae music, has been open for 41 years
Seychelles News Agency

Barrel Bar and Nightclub in Seychelles' capital attributes four-decade run to good planning, sacrifices

Good planning and making sacrifices are two reasons that Seychelles’ longest operating nightclub has stayed open for over four decades, the manager told SNA. Barrel Bar and Nightclub, well known locally for its good reggae music, has been open for 41 years. SNA met with its manager, Antoine Lablache, to learn more about what has contributed to the nightclub's longevity. “To be able to run a discotheque successfully, there is a lot of sacrifices that need to be made. You don’t get public holidays and you need to be here early to plan the day ahead. You also need to have your priorities straight and not waste money left and right,” said Lablache. He compared the operation of a discotheque to organising a party, where everything has to be prepared and planned during the day. “A reason I think that is also causing some discotheques to close down is that many bars operating today are becoming discotheques, meaning that they are playing loud music and moving tables for people to dance. Each type of establishment has their role and can co-exist, but they should stick to what they have been licensed to do,” said Lablache. Located on Revolution Avenue in Victoria, Barrel Bar and Nightclub stands as a two-story building, but from the road, one will not be able to tell. What is seen from the main road is the part of the building that houses the bar, which has a rustic feel to it. It is one of the few places in town that one can go to play billiards after 7 p.m when it opens. The dancefloor part of the building was built by the Lablache family. (Kevin Agricole) Photo License: All Rights Reserved To the right of the bar is the entrance to the nightclub, located in the basement. After paying your ticket at the booth, which is in the shape of a barrel, one goes through a corridor that will lead you to the first dancefloor. This part of the building was built after the Lablache family acquired the place.  A short distance to left and lower down is the older standing dancefloor, a space which also houses the DJ booth and a bar. According to Seychellois historian Tony Mathiot, the building that stood in the same location in 1905 housed a maternity service. When the Mont Fleuri Hospital was completed in 1924, the maternity unit was moved there, leaving the old one to be transformed into a state school. In the 1950s the building was transformed into a restaurant called Le Mahe. It was a place where people could eat delicious local soups, smoked Kingfish, and a selection of salads all between. The Lablache family took ownership over the building from its South African owner in 1978. “During the time that my family purchased the building, there was a lot of discotheques operating in Seychelles -- Rendevous, Shakira, Seychelles Club, City, Katiolo. Barrel was not considered as having a high status as the others,” said Lablache. He explained that the venture was not attracting a lot of clients when it first opened. The type of music played was what turned things around. Lablache told SNA that other nightclubs were playing European music. “Coming from school, I’d ask the DJ to let me play. I would play reggae, zouk and sega, the music that people would dance to during a house party. That is when we started attracting a lot of people and barrel became popular,” said Lablache. He added that he would observe his crowd, hence playing the type of music that would attract more people to the dancefloor. Though Lablache no longer plays music at the nightclub, there are three in-house DJ’s at Barrel Bar and Nightclub. They each have their designated day when they play. As one of the few discotheques left and located close to the centre of town, the Barrel name has been mentioned at times with criminal activities in its vicinity. The manager said that these events happened away from the discotheque and that all safety measures are taken to ensure the security of clients coming to the establishment. 

Thai King lambasts 'highly inappropriate' move to make princess PM

Thailand's powerful King Maha Vajiralongkorn late Friday described an unprecedented move to make his older sister Princess Ubolratana prime minister as «highly inappropriate» and against «royal traditions». Ubolratana, 67, the older s
Seychelles News Agency

Thai King lambasts 'highly inappropriate' move to make princess PM

Thailand's powerful King Maha Vajiralongkorn late Friday described an unprecedented move to make his older sister Princess Ubolratana prime minister as «highly inappropriate» and against «royal traditions». Ubolratana, 67, the older sister of Vajiralongkorn, was announced hours earlier as a candidate in the upcoming elections for the Thai Raksa Chart party, which is steered by the divisive Shinawatra political clan. Her shock entrance into frontline Thai politics was a first by a member of the powerful royal family and promised to reshape the political landscape of the country. But a late-night statement from the palace left no doubt over the King's displeasure at the move. «The king and royal family exist in a status above politics,» said the statement, published in the Royal Gazette and given blanket television coverage. The statement did not criticise Ubolratana, instead praising her public work. But it appeared aimed at those behind her sudden stride into politics. «To bring a senior royal family member into the political system in any way is against royal traditions and the nation's culture... which is highly inappropriate.» While the monarchy, which is vastly wealthy and protected from criticism by a harsh royal defamation law, has been seen as above the political fray, royals have intervened in moments of political crisis. In a day of high drama, junta chief Prayut Chan-O-Cha also declared his candidacy for premier, running for the pro-military Phalang Pracharat party, moments after the princess's announcement. Election authorities have a week to review which candidates put up by each party are allowed to run for premier after the March 24 poll. - Political drama - Ubolratana's candidacy had electrified the build-up to the election, which has long seemed poised to return the ruling junta and its proxies to power. Her involvement gave a royal sheen to the political machine of Thaksin Shinawatra, the self-exiled billionaire whose parties have won every election since 2001. The princess, who gave up her royal titles to marry a foreigner, took to Instagram earlier Friday to say she was allowed to run under the constitution as a «commoner» had «allowed Thai Raksa Chart Party to use» her name. The party falls under the tutelage of Thaksin, who stands at the heart of Thailand's bitter political schism -- loathed by the army and Bangkok elite, yet adored by the rural poor for health, welfare and education schemes. The announcement appeared set to thrust him back onto the centre stage of Thailand's political drama. He was toppled in a 2006 coup, while his sister Yingluck was booted from power in a 2014 military takeover and forced into exile to avoid a jail term. The King's intervention has cast Thaksin's future role in politics into doubt. - Colourful royal - Ubolratana, a colourful, public-facing royal in contrast to her more restrained brother King Maha Vajiralongkorn, relinquished her royal titles after marrying the American Peter Jensen in 1972. But the couple divorced and she moved back to Thailand where she is still considered part of the royal family. In Thailand, she experienced tragedy, losing her autistic son Poom to the 2004 Asian tsunami. Known to the public for lead roles in Thai films, onstage singing performances, a vibrant fashion sense and a sizeable Instagram following, Ubolratana is the first-born child of the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej. The stride into politics by a royal left Thais scrambling to work out what it may mean for the nation's tattered democracy. «This is quite unprecedented and nobody is prepared for this,» Professor Anusorn Unno of Thammasat University told AFP. «I don't think it's the victory for the people, I think this is part of the adaptation of the ruling elite in terms of changing the landscape of politics.» Since ascending the throne in 2016, King Maha Vajiralongkorn has reorganised palace affairs. The vastly wealthy Crown Property Bureau is now under his personal stewardship, he has appointed several new privy counsellors and established a highly trained personal guard. Crucially he has appointed a new army chief from a different faction of the military to the ruling junta. His coronation will be held in May. © Agence France-Presse

Rent-an-island’ - one villa on a faraway island - to be part of Seychelles’ expanded offerings

The Islands Development Company, IDC, says it will build new hotels and villas on Seychelles’ outer islands as part of expanded tourism offerings.  Tourists will soon have the ability to essentially occupy an entire tropical island, one that will have onl
Seychelles News Agency

Rent-an-island’ - one villa on a faraway island - to be part of Seychelles’ expanded offerings

The Islands Development Company, IDC, says it will build new hotels and villas on Seychelles’ outer islands as part of expanded tourism offerings.  Tourists will soon have the ability to essentially occupy an entire tropical island, one that will have only one villa on it.  IDC sees big potential profits. For the period 2017-2018, the company’s total revenue was $33.6 million (SCR458 million) and “80 percent of that amount was from the tourism sector. So there is great potential there,” Patrick Berlouis, the chair of IDC’s board, told SNA.   The Islands Development Company, which is responsible for the sustainable development of the outer islands, manages 14 islands. It has a permanent presence on 12 of them, but not on Cosmoledo and Providence. Berlouis said that between now and 2023, major tourism activities will be undertaken on these islands. These will include eco-tourism hotels, eco-lodges, private-owned villas, as well as an exclusive villa to be marketed under the ‘rent an island concept’. The first project, expected to start later this year, is the construction of a 55-room eco-tourism hotel on Platte, a coralline island which lies 140 kilometres south of the main island of Mahe. An environment impact assessment is presently being carried out on Platte island. The biggest hotel project of IDC will be an eco-tourism hotel of 55 rooms on Platte Island due to start later this year. (Islands Development Company) Photo License: All Rights Reserved “This project is a good investment because although there is a limited number of rooms, the clients will be paying a substantial amount of money to stay at the hotel.  We are talking of a 4 to 5-star establishment. So everything is geared to having a premium product but not mass tourism,” said Berlouis. The chairperson said this will be the biggest hotel project so far on outer islands managed by IDC. Four Seasons Desroches Island, which opened its doors in March 2018, is the biggest to date with 40 rooms. IDC has also conceptualised eco-lodges for southern islands, like Astove, Farquhar and Providence. Berlouis said it is because these islands are more fragile so IDC will not have big tourism developments there. The management of these six- to eight-room ecolodges on these southern islands will be tendered out. An ecolodge is a tourism accommodation designed to have the minimum possible impact on the natural environment in which it is situated.  “We want to attract fly fishing enthusiasts, who are willing to pay a premium price to have this experience. So the impact on the environment will be minimal but returns to the company will be high,” he said. Coetivy -- renowned for its black tiger prawn farm in the nineties and early 2000 -- has also been earmarked for two major tourism projects once the government transfers the lease of the island to IDC. Coetivy Island will have two major tourism projects. (Islands Development Company) Photo License: CC-BY A boutique hotel of 30 to 40 rooms is planned for Coetivy located 290 kilometres from Mahe and a 4-star hotel with approximately 100-120 rooms and 85 and 100 privately-owned luxury villas. Remire, an island of the Amirantes group, will be marketed as a ‘rent an island concept’. “Most people would enjoy having an island to themselves and this is what we have in mind with this project. To have an exclusive villa on the island where a group of people can come and spend their holidays,” said Berlouis. IDC also plans to have conservation programmes alongside tourism development. The Marie Louise island which became a bird sanctuary last year has the potential for a small ecotourism project of 4 to 5 bungalows especially for bird watchers or for scientific research. Another ecotourism project will be on Assumption, the largest outer island of Seychelles after Aldabra. IDC plans to build guesthouse facilities to be used by visitors overnighting on the island on their way to and from Aldabra.  Berlouis said all construction work will be carried out by IDC. “We follow strict guidelines when building on outer islands as we have to take into account the ecological aspects of the islands,” he added. This is the third islands development plan of IDC which also outlines other projects such as agriculture, aquaculture, conservation and rehabilitation of islands. The company will also be building more facilities to cater to locals who want to visit those islands. The Islands Development Company is a parastatal company created by government in 1980 and is registered under the Companies Act of 1972. The company is wholly owned by the Seychelles government through Société Seychelloise d’Invéstissement  -- a government-owned investment holding company. 

France recalls Italy envoy as relations plumb new depths

France took the exceptional step of recalling its envoy to Rome on Thursday to protest a series of attacks from the Italian government which it described as «unprecedented» since World War II. France's foreign ministry recalled its ambassador to
Seychelles News Agency

France recalls Italy envoy as relations plumb new depths

France took the exceptional step of recalling its envoy to Rome on Thursday to protest a series of attacks from the Italian government which it described as «unprecedented» since World War II. France's foreign ministry recalled its ambassador to Rome for consultations after a series of increasingly personal criticisms of President Emmanuel Macron by Italy's two deputy prime ministers, Luigi Di Maio and Matteo Salvini. «For several months France has been the subject of repeated accusations, unfounded attacks and outlandish claims,» a ministry statement said. «This is unprecedented since the end of the war.» In 1940, Italy under leader Benito Mussolini invaded France, occupying part of the southeast, but they have been allies since and are founding members of the European Union. It is the first time since the war that France has recalled its ambassador. Di Maio and Salvini, who formed a populist coalition government last year, have repeatedly criticised Macron, who has in turn targeted their eurosceptic movements ahead of high-stake European Parliament elections in May. The latest spat erupted Tuesday after Di Maio, who heads the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, said he met French «yellow vest» anti-government protesters outside Paris. Di Maio said the aim of the meeting was to prepare a common front for the European Parliament elections, boasting on Twitter that «the wind of change has crossed the Alps.» But Paris denounced the matter as «an additional and unacceptable provocation». - Escalating spats - Speaking to AFP, a French official described the recall as a diplomatic message warning Italy to «stop playing with Franco-Italian friendship». «The measure is exceptional, but it's not designed to worsen or escalate» the situation. The escalating war of words began when the Five Star Movement and Salvini's far-right League parties won the elections last summer and formed a coalition government. When the populist government then began preventing rescue boats with migrants on board from docking at Italian ports, Macron blasted its «cynicism and irresponsibility», comparing the rise of far-right nationalism to leprosy. It has since spiralled into a string of tit-for-tat exchanges, leading to this week's latest spat. «We don't want to row with anyone,» Salvini said on Thursday, calling for solutions to problematic issues such as French border controls on the Italian frontier and Rome's demands for the extradition of far-left Italian activists living in France. Both Salvini and Di Maio also issued statements saying they were available to talk to Macron and the French government. - 'Terrible president' Last month, Paris summoned Italy's ambassador to protest Di Maio's accusation that France was encouraging immigration to Europe «because European countries, France above all, have never stopped colonising dozens of African countries.» And Di Maio also denounced the French government for protecting the elite and the privileged, saying «a new Europe is being born of the 'yellow vests', of movements, of direct democracy.» Salvini also poured fuel on the fire last month with a Facebook video in which he said: «I hope the French will be able to free themselves of a terrible president.» «The opportunity will come on May 26 when finally the French people will be able to take back control of their future, destiny, (and) pride, which are poorly represented by a character like Macron», he said, referring to the date of the European Parliament elections. Sebastien Maillard, who heads the Jacques Delors thinktank in Paris, suggested there was little reason for the Italians to call off the fight. «I don't quite see what di Maio and Salvini could gain by calling off the battle which serves their domestic political goals,» he said. © Agence France-Presse

11-year-old author - with high-level help - chronicles Seychelles’ diverse bird life

The Seychelles’ diverse birdlife has been captured in a book written by a young Italian, after the author visited the island nation last year, a trip made possible through the help of the Seychelles Tourism Board (STB). Titled “Seychelles Travel Book
Seychelles News Agency

11-year-old author - with high-level help - chronicles Seychelles’ diverse bird life

The Seychelles’ diverse birdlife has been captured in a book written by a young Italian, after the author visited the island nation last year, a trip made possible through the help of the Seychelles Tourism Board (STB). Titled “Seychelles Travel Book – A Young Ornithologist’s Travel Journal” -- the book is the third published work of Francesco Barberini, an aspiring ornithologist aged 11. An ornithologist is a person that studies or is an expert on birds. The book which came out in December is the first of a series dubbed “Francesco birdwatching travel.” It covers the splendid nature of the Seychelles, in particular, the birdlife, which distinguishes these 115 tropical islands of the western Indian Ocean. Qatar Airways and Swarovski Optik Italia sponsored the project. To put the book together, Barberini spent ten days in Seychelles, a trip organised in June 2018 by the Seychelles Tourism Board office in Italy. With 128 pages in colour, richly illustrated with maps, photographs and original drawings, the book can be purchased online at Pandion Edizioni for $23. At the request of the author, part of the book’s profits will be donated to the birdlife conservation projects on Denis and Cousine Islands in the Seychelles.      The director of the Seychelles Tourism Board office in Italy, Monette Rose, along with her staff also assisted with the writing of the book. Written in his own style, Barberini has transferred his observations and emotions felt into writing. Available in English, French and Italian, the book even consists of checklists of all species observed and lots of information about the islands visited by the boy. 11-year-old Barberini has transferred his observations and emotions into the writing. (Seychelles Tourism Board) Photo License: CC-BY The illustrations were made by two noted naturalist-artists, Lorenzo Dotti and Alessandro Troisi. The book includes dedications from three renowned authorities, Sherin Francis, the Seychelles Tourism Board’s chief executive, Fulco Pratesi, the honorary President of World Wildlife Fund Italy, and Fulvio Capria, the President of LIPU (Italian Society for the Protection of Birds). Francis said that the board is happy to be part of this original idea of a book inspired by visits to some of Seychelles’ islands. “His status as an ambassador of the WWF will certainly help to revive the image of the Seychelles as a paradise for ornithologists. Initiatives like this by Barberini, considering his young age, are exactly what we hope to see in the new generations: that they are interested in our wounded planet and its ecosystems and endeavour to preserve them,” said Francis. She added that it is amazing to have a young author add his name to the list of authors who are passionate about the destination and its remarkable features. Pratesi said that “only an experienced and passionate ornithologist like Barberini could have observed, described and catalogued the precious bird fauna of the Seychelles with such love and expertise.” The book was presented to the Italian press and public on January 25 and 26 in Rome during which a Creole buffet was also offered to the guests for the occasion. The event saw the participation of the Seychelles vice consul in Italy and a great number of journalists, tour operators, artists and consumers.   The first book by Barberini was about birds and the second about flying dinosaurs.

Nigeria's military given warning as polls approach

Nigeria's military was on Thursday told to remain impartial in upcoming elections, as the main parties traded accusations and tensions mounted about possible violence and vote-rigging. Defence spokesman John Agim told reporters the armed forces reaffirmed &l
Seychelles News Agency

Nigeria's military given warning as polls approach

Nigeria's military was on Thursday told to remain impartial in upcoming elections, as the main parties traded accusations and tensions mounted about possible violence and vote-rigging. Defence spokesman John Agim told reporters the armed forces reaffirmed «its neutrality, impartiality and strict adherence to professional conduct» before, during and after the vote. He promised «zero tolerance to unprofessional conduct», including fraternising with political parties. «Any military personnel who is not on essential duty that is found on military uniform on election day will be arrested and face the full wrath of military justice system,» he added. Africa's most-populous country votes on February 16 in elections that see President Muhammadu Buhari stand for a second term against former vice-president Atiku Abubakar. Fraud accusations and violence have marred elections since civilian rule was restored in 1999 but observers say the 2015 election in which Buhari triumphed was free and fair. This time, Abubakar and his main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have accused Buhari's ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) of trying to rig the vote. The APC has countered by alleging the PDP is looking to foment unrest. Nigeria has had six successful military coups since independence from Britain in 1960, leading to decades of army rule that blighted development and fostered corruption. Buhari is a former army general who ousted the civilian leader in December 1983 and headed a military government for some 20 months. As civilian president, he has been accused of using security agencies to target political opponents. Nigeria's military are officially uninvolved in politics but are deployed across the country to tackle major security crises, including Boko Haram Islamists in the northeast. Allegations persist that Nigeria troops carry out abuses against civilians in the areas in which they are deployed. © Agence France-Presse

Seychelles Research Journal provides new platform for studies conducted in island nation

Seychellois researchers will now have a platform to share their findings thanks to a journal launched by the University of Seychelles (UniSey) recently. The Seychelles Research Journal is an online publication that will come out twice a year, in February an
Seychelles News Agency

Seychelles Research Journal provides new platform for studies conducted in island nation

Seychellois researchers will now have a platform to share their findings thanks to a journal launched by the University of Seychelles (UniSey) recently. The Seychelles Research Journal is an online publication that will come out twice a year, in February and August. The journal succeeds an early UniSey publication -- Island Studies: Indian Ocean -- an attractive, hard-copy version.   The editor of the newly launched journal, Dennis Hardy, said there is a “lot of research going on in Seychelles and it seems that few people know about it. The idea is to show that Seychelles is a research hub as well.” “The other objective is for Seychellois researchers to show what they are doing. Data and information can be used by other countries and scholars for references,” added Hardy. The journal is a platform to disseminate findings of researches undertaken locally or reported at conferences or other events in Seychelles. It will also publish other articles about the 115-island nation in the western Indian Ocean and the immediate region. The journal contains scholarly articles on various topics. The general reader can also find interest in the journal as it contains an interview in each issue with the leading researcher and reports of local and international conferences. Seychellois scientist Conrad Shamlaye known internationally for his studies, including the Seychelles child development study, is featured in the first issue. A collection of articles drawn from a colloquium at the university organised by Justin Valentin, UniSey Vice-Chancellor can also be found in the journal and a piece on the situation of diabetes in Seychelles authored by Raini Nailer from the Ministry of Health.  Speaking to SNA, Marie-Celine Zialor, a local researcher who concentrates her research mostly on management, leadership and productivity in the organisation said that it was about time to publish something that gives researchers in Seychelles a voice. “Most of the time we make decisions based on our own opinions without getting proper information. Research gives information and this journal will help those taking decision. Hence, the decision taken will be more substantial, based on facts and data,” said Zialor. “The journal will further help to develop the culture of research among the people and scholars. Furthermore, it will enable people to do a little bit of critical thinking other than just reacting on things,” she added. With regards to conference reports, this time the journal features an account by Penda Choppy on the 16th International Creole Studies Colloquium, held at the university during the 2018 Creole Week. The journal is accessible and free for all readers. It can be viewed at www.seychellesresearchjournal.com

Body from wreck of Sala plane taken to Britain

Investigators recovered a body from the wreckage of a plane carrying Argentine footballer Emiliano Sala in the Channel and transported it to Britain on Thursday for identification. Britain's Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) also said that bad weathe
Seychelles News Agency

Body from wreck of Sala plane taken to Britain

Investigators recovered a body from the wreckage of a plane carrying Argentine footballer Emiliano Sala in the Channel and transported it to Britain on Thursday for identification. Britain's Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) also said that bad weather meant they were not able to recover the plane and it was therefore closing down the operation. The light aircraft was carrying the 28-year-old footballer to his new Premier League team Cardiff City when it disappeared near the British island of Guernsey on January 21, along with 59-year-old pilot David Ibbotson. Sala's disappearance prompted outpourings of grief across the footballing world, including at his former club Nantes in France where the plane was flying from. After search operations were suspended, a shipwreck hunter hired by Sala's family with funds donated by football stars such as Lionel Messi found the wreckage on Sunday. The AAIB, who then took over the operation, revealed on Monday that an unidentified body had been found at the site. «In challenging conditions, the AAIB and its specialist contractors successfully recovered the body previously seen amidst the wreckage,» the AAIB said Wednesday. «The operation was carried out in as dignified a way as possible and the families were kept informed of progress.» But it added: «The weather forecast is poor for the foreseeable future and so the difficult decision was taken to bring the overall operation to a close». It said that extensive video footage captured by a remotely operated vehicle is expected to «provide valuable evidence for our safety investigation,» adding that it intends to publish an interim report on the accident later this month. The recovered body was taken to the Isle of Portland in southern England on board the Geo Ocean III offshore supply ship and will be now be passed to the coroner in the county of Dorset for identification. - Private search - Sala was flying to join up with Cardiff City in what was the most expensive signing in the Welsh club's history. Nantes have consulted lawyers to explore legal options to ensure Cardiff pay the transfer fee for Sala, a source close to the French club revealed on Wednesday. According to the source, the first instalment of the 17-million-euro ($19.3 million) deal for the Argentine striker has yet to be paid, despite the transfer being finalised before the accident. Nantes would also consider taking the case to FIFA, the source added. The club has not yet responded to a request for comment by AFP. According to BBC Wales, Nantes have given Cardiff a 10-day ultimatum over the first payment of between five and six million euros. A source at Cardiff told British media that the Welsh club will honour the contract but only once they have clarified «all the facts». Cardiff are said to be «surprised» with the timing of the demand so soon after the tragedy. The plane, a Piper PA-46 Malibu, vanished from radar around 20 kilometres (12 miles) north of Guernsey, with pilot Ibbotson the only other person aboard. After the official rescue team gave up their search, saying there was little chance of finding anyone alive, Sala's family raised more than 370,000 euros ($422,000) in an online campaign to pay for a private hunt. «Had that not happened, I don't think anybody would have searched for the plane,» shipwreck hunter David Mearns, whose private company found the plane, told AFP. The discovery of two seat cushions on the French coast last week revealed that the plane was broken, Mearns added. Earlier this week Sala's father, Horacio Sala, acknowledged that there was no prospect of finding his son alive. «There's no longer any hope,» he told Fox Sports. «We hope the two bodies are inside (the plane). It's over, the only thing I hope now is that they find them.» © Agence France-Presse

Politicians, priests and photographers: 5 important Seychellois of Chinese descent

The arrival of Chinese immigrants to Seychelles has had a profound affect on the country, from politics to religion to business. The names Sham Peng Tong, Chow, Man-Cham, Chang-Him, Ah Moye, and Fayon among others can commonly be found in Seychelles, in scho
Seychelles News Agency

Politicians, priests and photographers: 5 important Seychellois of Chinese descent

The arrival of Chinese immigrants to Seychelles has had a profound affect on the country, from politics to religion to business. The names Sham Peng Tong, Chow, Man-Cham, Chang-Him, Ah Moye, and Fayon among others can commonly be found in Seychelles, in schools, offices, church and the business sector. The first Chinese immigrants arrived on the island nation in 1863. Others arrived from Mauritius in 1886. Until around 1940, it was common for a Sino-Mauritian -- Chinese living in Mauritius -- to bring relatives over from China to Mauritius for a period of apprenticeship in their business. After they had gained sufficient familiarity with commercial practices and life in a colonial society, they would then be sent with letters of introduction, funds to start up businesses in neighbouring regions, including Seychelles, a group of 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean.   Coinciding with the Chinese New Year, SNA presents five Seychellois of Chinese origin.   1. James Chang-Tave -- first Seychellois Roman Catholic priest Father Chang-Tave is the first Seychellois priest and was ordained by Cardinal Pietro Fumasoni-Biondi in Rome, Italy in January 1950. Chang-Tave was ordained alongside other foreign priests. He is the only Seychellois to have been ordained at the Vatican in Rome. (Roman Catholic church archives) Photo License: CC-BY    2. James Mancham -- first president of the republic Descendant of a Chinese immigrant grandfather, Mancham was the eldest son of Richard and Evelyn (née Tirant) Mancham.  Richard Man-Cham was a successful businessman and sent his son James to law school in the United Kingdom. In the sixties, Mancham formed his own party – Democratic Party – and served as the first President of the Seychelles upon Independence from the British in 1976. Mancham passed away in 2017. (James Mancham) Photo License: CC-BY    3. French Kitchener Chang-Him -- first Seychellois Archbishop in the Anglican church Seychellois Anglican Archbishop Emeritus of the Indian Ocean 79-year-old French Chang-Him is the son a father of Chinese origin -- Francis Chang Him – and Seychellois mother -- Amelia Zoe. Hailing from a family of 10 siblings, Chang-Him was ordained to the priesthood in 1963 and became the first Seychellois Anglican Bishop in 1979. In spite of officially retiring in 2005, Chang-Him is today still active in Church and as a member of various charitable organisations. (Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY   4. Marcel Fayon -- co-founder of the first photography shop Born in 1935 and raised in the district of Mont Fleuri, Marcel Fayon is the co-founder of the photography shop Photo Eden.  Initiated by the former President James Mancham, the shop was opened to coincide with the opening of the Seychelles international Airport and arrival of tourists. Photo Eden opened in 1970 and still have two shops, one in the capital city of Victoria and one at Mont Fleuri – on the outskirts of the capital. Fayon was self-taught and photography was his passion. In his late teens, he built his own darkroom and started to develop prints. Over the years, the shop was the agent for Nikkon, Minolta, Kodak and Xerox. Fayon was also the first to initiate postcards on the island nation. Also interesting was the introduction of a machine - Photo me – which people could come to insert coins and take their own passport photos. Fayon passed away in 1998. Photo License: CC-BY   5. Philip Fock-Heng -- first Seychellois chemist Born in 1938, Philippe Andre Fock-Heng was the first Seychellois to be trained as a chemist. Fock-Heng was trained in the United Kingdom. From 1964 until his death in 1991, Fock-Heng assumed different responsibilities including that of Chief Pharmacist, in the Seychelles’ health sector. Fock-Heng is credited with having introduced the first modern concept of a private pharmacy on the island nation with the opening of his pharmacy -- Fock-Heng Pharmacy. Though no longer opened, the pharmacy was opened in the mid-sixties and was located in the Michel Building in Victoria.  (Tony Mathiot) Photo License: CC-BY

Last 4 years hottest on record, UN confirms

The last four years were the hottest since global temperature records began, the UN confirmed Wednesday in an analysis that it said was a «clear sign of continuing long-term climate change.» The UN's World Meterological Organization said in Novem
Seychelles News Agency

Last 4 years hottest on record, UN confirms

The last four years were the hottest since global temperature records began, the UN confirmed Wednesday in an analysis that it said was a «clear sign of continuing long-term climate change.» The UN's World Meterological Organization said in November that 2018 was set to be the fourth warmest year in recorded history, stressing the urgent need for action to rein in runaway planetary warming. On Wednesday it incorporated the final weeks of last year into its climate models and concluded that average global surface temperature in 2018 was 1 degree Celsius (1.8 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial baseline levels. 2016, boosted by a strong El Nino that normally tips the mercury northwards, remains the hottest year on record. The 20 warmest years in history all occurred within the last 22 years. «The long-term temperature trend is far more important than the ranking of individual years, and that trend is an upward one,» said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas. «The degree of warming during the past four years has been exceptional, both on land and in the ocean.» The WMO said heightened temperatures also contributed to a number of extreme weather events such as hurricanes, droughts and flash flooding. «Many of the extreme weather events are consistent with what we expect from a changing climate. This is the reality we need to face up to,» Taalas said. The UN body also said that 2019 had picked up where 2018 left off, with Australia experiencing its warmest January on record. It warned that intense heatwaves «are becoming more frequent as a result of climate change.» - Costly disasters - Similar reports on climate trends released by the US space agency NASA and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) confirmed that last year was the fourth warmest in modern times. Sea ice cover in the Arctic and Antarctic both marked the second lowest ever observed. Meanwhile, there were 14 weather-related disasters costing one billion dollars or more. «The 14 events, in total, claimed at least 247 lives and cost $91 billion,» NOAA said in a statement. «About $73 billion of this total was attributable to three events: Hurricanes Michael ($25 billion) and Florence ($24 billion), and the complex of western wildfires ($24 billion).» - Effects of climate change - As parts of the mid-western United States were gripped by a «polar vortex» last week that saw temperatures plunge to lows of -64 degrees Fahrenheit (-53C), US President Donald Trump suggested that the cold weather front cast doubt over the veracity of climate change data. «What the hell is going on with Global Waming? (sic) Please come back fast, we need you!» he said on Twitter. Taalas said that the deadly cold snap was entirely consistent with the effects of man made climate change, including the warming of the poles. «A part of the cold anomalies at lower latitudes could be linked to dramatic changes in the Arctic,» he said. «What happens at the poles does not stay at the poles but influences weather and climate conditions in lower latitudes where hundreds of millions of people live.» As much of world continues to rely on fossil fuels, greenhouse gases will keep mounting, trapping heat in the atmosphere. Rowan Sutton, director of science for the National Centre for Atmospheric Science (NCAS) said that will likely mean more heat records in the years to come. «Over the next five years the high temperatures seen recently are likely to be sustained and that further warming may well occur, perhaps reaching new record levels for annual average temperatures,» he said. Brian Hoskins, chair of the Grantham Institute at Imperial College London, agreed. «Our lack of decisive action over climate change makes us like a climber ascending a mountain, knowing that there will not be enough oxygen at some height, yet still we go on,» he said. «Not every individual step takes us nearer disaster, but as confirmed by the Met Office, our general direction is clear.» © Agence France-Presse

Seychelles to host elite junior swimming competition in 2020

Seychelles will become the fourth country in the world and the first one in Africa to host an elite junior swimming competition of the International Swimming Federation (FINA). The island nation will host the World Junior Open Water swimming championships i
Seychelles News Agency

Seychelles to host elite junior swimming competition in 2020

Seychelles will become the fourth country in the world and the first one in Africa to host an elite junior swimming competition of the International Swimming Federation (FINA). The island nation will host the World Junior Open Water swimming championships in 2020, an event is held every two years. “This is another historical moment for Seychelles as we are pioneering open water not only in Seychelles but also in the African continent,” said David Vidot, the chairperson of the Seychelles Swimming Association.   Vidot told a news conference held recently that Seychelles won the bid to organise the event last year.  The FINA World Junior Open Water championship is an international swimming competition that brings together boys and girls between the age of 14 and 19, to race at the highest level. Vidot said that the event will serve as an inspiration for our young swimmers as it will offer them the chance of a lifetime to swim in a world championship. The Chief Executive of the National Sports Council, Jean Larue, said that “for the Council, it is an important moment as we are putting a lot of emphasis on the development of our youth.” Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean, is still in discussions with FINA to establish the exact date of the competition. “At the moment, we are hoping to host it back to back with the world cup series as both events will be hosted at Beau Vallon. This will allow us to make the most out of our resources,” said Vidot. It was added that the junior championship might be hosted during the week that follows the final race of the FINA/Hosa Marathon Swim World Series. There will be three age groups and three distances - 3km, 5km and 7.5km – in which participants will compete. The junior championship is the second FINA event to be held in Seychelles after the country signed a four-year agreement to organise and host FINA/Hosa Marathon Swim World Series. Seychelles held the event for the first time in 2018 and the 2019 edition will take place on May 12. Two Italians - Simone Ruffini and Arianna Bridi - came out as the winners of the men’s race and women’s, respectively in last year’s FINA/Hosa Marathon Swim World Series held in Seychelles. Speaking at the press conference, Sherin Francis, the chief executive of the Seychelles Tourism Board (STB), said that as a faithful partner of the open water competitions, STB will give its support to the event. She added that such sports competitions provide a great boost to the tourism industry. “Such big events are broadcast by major television channels and this is a way for people to indirectly discover the destination for the first time. We have noticed in the past that having international press cover such events has allowed us to receive more leverage and visibility as a small country with little resources,” said Francis. She added that all stakeholders in the tourism industry stand to benefit from such an event. Canada, Bulgaria and Israel have previously hosted the event. 

Trump's ambitious plan to eliminate HIV welcomed by experts

President Donald Trump's call for a bipartisan commitment to eradicate HIV in the United States within a decade has been welcomed by experts and advocacy organizations even as major challenges remain. Addressing Congress during the annual State of the Union
Seychelles News Agency

Trump's ambitious plan to eliminate HIV welcomed by experts

President Donald Trump's call for a bipartisan commitment to eradicate HIV in the United States within a decade has been welcomed by experts and advocacy organizations even as major challenges remain. Addressing Congress during the annual State of the Union speech, Trump hailed what he called recent breakthroughs which «have brought a once-distant dream within reach.» «My budget will ask Democrats and Republicans to make the needed commitment to eliminate the HIV epidemic in the United States within 10 years. »Together, we will defeat AIDS in America and beyond.« The announcement was reminiscent of his predecessor George W. Bush's announcement at the same venue in 2003 of his President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), a $15 billion program considered a great success. Though Trump's plan doesn't yet have a dollar figure, his Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar later added details to the president's rhetoric: the initiative would reduce new infections by 75 percent in the next five years and 90 percent in the next 10, averting 250,000 cases in that span. Such lofty ambitions would require a major acceleration of current efforts: some 38,000 people were infected with HIV in the United States in 2017, according to government statistics. Human Immunodeficiency Virus infection can lead over time to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). »We believe that it's very much possible to end all new infections, in fact we believe it could be ended by 2025,« Jesse Milan Jr, the CEO of AIDS United, told AFP. »This initiative, if properly implemented and resourced, can go down in history as one of the most significant achievements of his presidency,« added Michael Ruppal of the AIDS Institute. But without a substantial budget to accompany the words, »it is a false and cruel promise,« David Holtgrave, Dean of the School of Public Health at the State University of New York added. - Known pathway - There is a broad consensus among experts that the pathway toward elimination involves boosting prevention in the most at-risk communities: gay men, blacks and Latinos and, to a lesser extent, intravenous drug users, who accounted for six percent of cases according to the latest figures. It will also require a targeting of efforts in 48 counties, Washington, and San Juan, Puerto Rico where half of new infections occur, according to Azar. Prevention will involve stopping people who are currently infected from infecting others, which involves boosting access to antiretroviral medications -- confirmed by studies to drastically reduce transmission rates to HIV-negative sexual partners. This, however, would require infected patients to first know they are infected, a goal that is currently far from assured with an estimated 165,000 Americans unaware they are HIV positive. Next, they would require access to antiretroviral therapy, a major challenge in a country where navigating the health insurance system can often be a bureaucratic nightmare and receiving even basic care is often a challenge, especially for lower income groups. Currently, about one in two HIV-positive patients have their virus under control -- with the government targeted a rate of 90 percent. Next comes Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis treatments (PrEP), revolutionary HIV prevention drugs meant for at-risk groups that have proven almost 100 percent effective against infection but are greatly under-used. Six years after their approval in the US, only 220,000 people took them in August 2018, according to prepwatch.org. Officials estimate only 10 percent of the 1 million Americans at substantial risk currently make use of the treatment. Finally, condoms must once more come to the fore, according to Michael Weinstein, President of the AIDS Healthcare foundation, who argues: »We've gone so totally in the direction of biomedical that we kind of wiped out any safer sex promotion." Two-thirds of infections occur among men having sex with men, a rate that shows no signs of slowing down. Blacks are particularly hard hit: a 2016 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found one in two gay black men will be infected by HIV in their lifetime. © Agence France-Presse

Brazilian ambassador notices capoeira -- fight-dance-rhythm -- group in Seychelles

Conservation of the environment and development of the blue economy are two areas of cooperation the newly appointed ambassador of Brazil to Seychelles has outlined as a top priority during his mandate. Speaking to the press after presenting his credentials
Seychelles News Agency

Brazilian ambassador notices capoeira -- fight-dance-rhythm -- group in Seychelles

Conservation of the environment and development of the blue economy are two areas of cooperation the newly appointed ambassador of Brazil to Seychelles has outlined as a top priority during his mandate. Speaking to the press after presenting his credentials to President Danny Faure on Tuesday at State House, Victoria, Ambassador Antonio Cesar said that these topics are also of great importance for his country as Seychelles is already playing a leading role in both areas. “Conservation and the blue economy are areas of importance to the Seychellois government, where you are doing a lot and have achieved great accomplishments. It has always been an important topic to Brazil as well, and this topic as a priority in our domestic agenda so we see the many points where we can collaborate and exchange experiences,” said Cesar. Another area of cooperation discussed between the two diplomats was tourism. Cesar and Faure both see further potential for Seychelles’ top economy driver. “We have seen an increase in numbers and nationals of both countries still need to discover the other country as distance nowadays is no longer a big issue,” said Cesar. Several areas for cooperation were discussed by the Brazilian ambassador and President Faure. (Jude Morel) Photo License: CC-BY Seychelles imports beef, poultry and other products from Brazil, an area of trade that will carry on. Cesar outlined that his government is ready to “collaborate in trying to develop small scale agriculture in Seychelles, and see if Brazil can collaborate technically in cooperation projects as we do in other countries of the SADC (Southern African Development Community) regions.” “The President told me that it is the intention of the government of Seychelles to carry on working in this area and to collaborate also in trying to develop small scale agriculture in Seychelles to See if Brazil can in any way collaborate technically in cooperation projects as we do in other countries of the SADC regions,” added Cesar. During his official visit to Seychelles, the Brazilian Ambassador will be meeting with other high officials in the country, more importantly, ministers and secretary of states of the areas discussed. “These topics that we discussed are the highlights but I am sure that we can cooperate in other areas such as culture. I have been told that there is a group that plays capoeira in Seychelles and I would be delighted to meet these people and to assist in any way possible to try and bring more Brazilians to play here,” added Cesar. Capoeira is a Brazilian art form which combines fight, dance, rhythm and movement.  Seychelles and Brazil established diplomatic relations in November 1986 and Cesar described the relations between the two countries as solid and healthy, both locally and in the international arena where both countries share common interests. Ambassador Antonio Cesar will be based in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

Taliban takes centre stage as Kabul cut out of peace talks

President Ashraf Ghani is being pushed to the sidelines as the Taliban ignores his overtures for peace and negotiates instead with his friends, and enemies, over the future of Afghanistan. From Doha to Moscow, the insurgents are meeting an array of envoys wi
Seychelles News Agency

Taliban takes centre stage as Kabul cut out of peace talks

President Ashraf Ghani is being pushed to the sidelines as the Taliban ignores his overtures for peace and negotiates instead with his friends, and enemies, over the future of Afghanistan. From Doha to Moscow, the insurgents are meeting an array of envoys with competing interests in Afghanistan, from the United States eager to withdraw their troops to political leaders in Kabul jostling for power. Experts say regional powers -- including US foes Iran and Russia -- are angling for an audience with the Taliban, who are already outlining their vision for Islamic rule once foreign troops leave. The elephant in the room is Ghani, whose US-backed administration has not been invited to the table, despite a failed year-long effort to spark a dialogue with the Taliban. «The sad irony is that Afghanistan's government is in danger of getting written out of the script of its own peace process,» analyst Michael Kugelman of the Wilson Center in Washington, DC, told AFP. Ghani's allies in Washington insist Afghans should lead the peace process, and ostensibly the months-long push by the US to engage the Taliban has been aimed at convincing them to negotiate with the government in Kabul. Those efforts culminated in an unprecedented six days of talks between the US and the Taliban in Doha in January. The marathon negotiations ended with both sides touting «progress» -- spurring Afghan fears the US could cut a deal with the militants to withdraw its forces before a lasting peace with Kabul is reached. «It's a major snub because without the Americans, the government in Kabul cannot survive,» said Gilles Dorronsoro, a French researcher specialising in Afghanistan. A week later, the Taliban agreed to a rare sit-down in Russia with some of Ghani's biggest political rivals. The talks in Moscow hosted by an Afghan diaspora group in Russia -- which are separate from the US negotiations -- start Tuesday and would canvass the «end of occupation, enduring peace in homeland and establishment of an intra-Afghan Islamic system of governance», the Taliban said. Frozen out for a second time, a furious Ghani vowed he would not be an idle spectator as his country's future was debated abroad. «Even if I have one drop of blood in my body, I am not going to surrender to a temporary peace deal,» he railed in a speech Sunday, as details of the Moscow conference broke. The frustration and sense of betrayal in Kabul is palpable. Amrullah Saleh, a Ghani ally, accused those Afghan leaders travelling to Moscow for the Taliban talks -- including former president Hamid Karzai -- of «begging to terrorists». «A smile to the enemy is a blow to the national spirit,» Saleh said. «We appreciate the efforts, but any peace talks about Afghanistan should be under the umbrella of the Afghan government,» Afghanistan's de facto prime minister Abdullah Abdullah said after the Doha talks. - 'A new war' - The Taliban, who brutally ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, has always refused to break bread with Ghani and Kabul, who they view as US stooges. Instead, the insurgents are marching ahead with their diplomatic agenda. The talks in Moscow would see an «opening of channels to reaching an understanding» with Afghan leaders outside government, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said. Such a meeting between the Taliban and Afghan politicians -- including Karzai, who was appointed by the US -- is almost unheard of. Ghani's rivals could see an opportunity in these various Taliban talks to undermine his leadership, analysts say, ahead of presidential elections slated for July. The Taliban outreach is also drawing a host of rival powers into its orbit, all keen that any finale to the war suits their strategic ambitions. Many of these present «a fundamental clash of vision and interests» for Afghanistan, said Davood Moradian, director of the Kabul-based Afghan Institute for Strategic Studies. The US, Afghanistan and India seek a stable democracy and a bulwark against terrorism, he said. The Taliban and Pakistan, conversely, seek an Islamic authority in Kabul. A broader second group of «legitimate stakeholders and opportunistic spoilers» -- including regional powers like Russia, China and Iran -- have their eyes keenly on waning US influence in the region, Moradian added. Dorronsoro said the US-Taliban talks, which continue later this month, were an «acknowledgement of defeat» by Washington of its military campaign in the country that would not be missed by rivals Russia and Iran, who have also engaged with the insurgents. The departure of US forces -- if achieved under a deal with the Taliban -- could draw the region into a «new war» for dominance in Afghanistan. «India, Pakistan, Iran... everyone will choose sides. Today, nothing is clear. Everyone is in the process of positioning themselves,» Dorronsoro said. © Agence France-Presse

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