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Morocco submit bid to host 2026 World Cup

The Moroccan 2026 World Cup Bid Committee announced on Friday that it has formerly submitted its bid book at FIFA headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland.

“The committee has kept its commitment by submitting a quality bid book while respecting FIFA’s deadlines,” said a statement released by the committee on Friday.

“The 2026 World Cup in Morocco will benefit players, fans, FIFA, Morocco, Africa and the whole World,” the statement said.

FIFA experts are expected for an official inspection visit on April 17-19.

This is Morocco’s fifth bid to host the World Cup, after their unsuccessful bids for the 1994, 1998, 2006 and 2010 editions of the tournament.

Morocco is competing a joint bid from the United States, Mexico and Canada.

FIFA will make the decision at FIFA Congress on June 13 in Moscow, Russia, on the eve of the opening match of the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Canada to send helicopters, troops to Mali

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with his country's military

Canadian peacekeepers backed by helicopters will join UN Blue Helmets in the troubled west African nation of Mali before autumn, a government source said on Friday.

Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan is to provide details of the number of troops on Monday, said the source, speaking on condition of anonymity about what will be Canada’s first mission to Africa since Rwanda in 1994.

Jihadists have ramped up their activities in central Mali in recent months, targeting domestic and foreign forces in violence once confined to the country’s north.

Four United Nations peacekeepers were killed and four wounded in late February when a mine exploded under their vehicle in central Mali.

The peacekeeping mission, known by the acronym MINUSMA, currently has more than 13,000 military personnel and 1,900 police.

They have been deployed in Mali since 2013 to counter the jihadist insurgency and general lawlessness.

Canada’s contingent to MINUSMA will also include police and will provide “logistical support and assistance” during a planned 12-month mission, the government source said, after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke with Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel and Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte, whose countries are already part of MINUSMA.

“Everybody is interested in reinforcing Sahel security,” the Canadian source said.

Islamic extremists linked to Al-Qaeda took control of Mali’s desert north in early 2012, but were largely driven out in a French-led military operation launched in January 2013.

In June 2015, Mali’s government signed a peace agreement with some armed groups, but the jihadists remain active, and large tracts of the country are lawless.

In November, Trudeau said Canada would boost its support for UN peacekeeping missions by mobilizing a “quick reaction force” of 200 soldiers that would be backed by tactical helicopters and Hercules transport aircraft.

The numbers fell short of Trudeau’s initial pledge of 600 troops but marked a recommitment to multilateralism after his predecessor Stephen Harper sought distance from the United Nations during his decade in office.

It was not immediately clear if the quick reaction troops are the ones being assigned to Mali, a former French colony.

France has 4,000 troops in the area as part of its Operation Barkhane anti-jihadist mission.

Two French soldiers from that contingent were killed and another was hurt in late February when their vehicle struck a mine in northeast Mali, an attack claimed by a jihadist alliance.

Mali and neighboring countries belong to a new G5 Sahel force, to become fully operational in mid-2018, that will work alongside MINUSMA and the French contingent.

Canada’s General Romeo Dallaire commanded the United Nations Assistance Mission in Rwanda (UNAMIR) from October 1993 to August 1994.

He has been credited with saving tens of thousands of Rwandans during the troubled mission, which left him with deep psychological scars, an experience detailed in his autobiography “Shake Hands With The Devil.”

Mali set to follow Congo DR step in revising mining code

Dr. Boubou Cissé, Minister of Economy and Finance

Mali’s government is negotiating with mining companies to draft a new mining code but will move to implement a new law unilaterally if no compromise is reached, the West African country’s economy minister said on Friday.

Many mines in Mali, Africa’s third-largest gold producer, are protected from changes to the fiscal regime for 30 years, but Boubou Cisse told reporters during a joint news conference with an International Monetary Fund mission that the government aimed to reduce those protections to the lifespan of the mine.

“The negotiations are underway. If they don’t pan out, it will be a unilateral decision like in DRC,” Cisse said, referring to Democratic Republic of Congo, which this month raised taxes and royalties miners have to pay, despite industry opposition.

Companies with stakes in industrial gold mines in Mali include Randgold, AngloGold Ashanti, B2Gold and Hummingbird Resources.

Cisse also said the government expected economic growth of 5 percent in 2018, down from 5.3 percent last year.

The IMF, meanwhile, said in a statement that Mali’s macroeconomic outlook was “broadly positive” but cautioned that rising insecurity in the country’s north and center could hold back economic progress.

3 Tanzanians arrested with drugs in Kenya

Kenyan police on Friday arrested three Tanzanian nationals and seized heroin worth over 900,000 U.S. dollars at the common border in Lunga Lunga in the coastal town of Kwale.

The drugs weighing 30 kilograms were seized by a team of security officers on a public bus on transit to Mombasa.

Head of Anti-Narcotics Unit Hamisi Massa said the suspects are among wanted drug traffickers nabbed during the covert operation.

“Acting on intelligence information we arrested the three and seized the drugs concealed in three suitcases. This is major breakthrough in the war on narcotic,” said Massa.

He said the three are being interrogated before they are arraigned in court to face drug trafficking charges on Monday.

Massa said reports indicate that the three were hired by a wanted Tanzania drug baron Swale Ahmed to smuggle the drugs in the country for distribution targeting mainly foreigners.

Ahmed was arrested last year where drugs worth 100,000 dollars were seized by security team in Mombasa.

Intelligence reports indicate that Ahmed runs an empire that smuggle hard drugs, mainly heroin, and has evaded several police dragnets by bribing security agents.

The Friday crackdown was carried out by detectives who were behind the arrest and extradition of four suspected drug traffickers to the United States.

South Africa’s Zuma hit with arms deal corruption charges

Former South African president Jacob Zuma was charged with corruption on Friday over a $2.5 billion state arms deal, a stunning judicial ruling on a continent where political ‘Big Men’ rarely face their day in court.

Zuma, who was forced to resign by the ruling African National Congress (ANC) last month, was at the center of the deal to buy European military kit that has cast a shadow over politics in Africa’s most industrialised economy for years.

Chief state prosecutor Shaun Abrahams told a media conference that Zuma’s attempts to head off the charges that have been hanging over him for more than a decade had failed.

The 75-year-old disputed all the allegations against him, he added.

“After consideration of the matter, I am of the view that there are reasonable prospects of successful prosecution of Mr Zuma on the charges listed in the indictment,” Abrahams said.

“I am of the view that a trial court would be the most appropriate forum for these issues to be ventilated and to be decided upon,” he said.

Zuma will face 16 charges relating to 783 instances of alleged wrongdoing, National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesman Luvuyo Mfaku said.

Then deputy president, Zuma was linked to the arms deal through Schabir Shaikh, his former financial adviser who was jailed for corruption. The counts were filed but then dropped by the NPA shortly before Zuma successfully ran for president in 2009.

Since his election, his opponents fought a lengthy legal battle to have the charges reinstated. Zuma countered with his own legal challenges.

Zuma has also been implicated by South Africa’s anti-corruption watchdog in a 2016 report that alleges the Gupta family, billionaire friends of Zuma, used links with him to win state contracts. The Guptas and Zuma have denied any wrongdoing.

How Congo DR faced down world’s biggest mining firms

In an ornate room in Democratic Republic of Congo’s presidential palace last week, some of global mining’s most powerful men faced off against government officials over proposed changes to the country’s mining code.

Facing the officials, including President Joseph Kabila, the executives at times threatened to pursue arbitration or close mines if the government went ahead with changes including royalty increases, according to one of the president’s top advisers, Barnabe Kikaya bin Karubi, who attended the meeting.

But there was no mistaking the sense of defeat as executives from Glencore (GLEN.L), Randgold (RRS.L), Ivanhoe (IVN.TO) and other firms descended the red carpeted stairs after six hours to accept before the media a mining code that hikes taxes and removes exemptions for cobalt and other minerals.

It was an extraordinary climb down for companies that had campaigned tooth-and-nail for six years for better terms, and the president signed the bill into law two days later.

Congolese officials close to the process say that, in being so publicly combative, the miners overplayed their hand, and in so doing hardened the government’s resolve. “We realised the bad faith on their part,” said Patrick Kakwata, president of the National Assembly’s Natural Resources Commission, which oversees mining legislation.

“They only wanted to look after their own interests and not also the interests of the Congolese people.”

The changes to the mining code in Congo, which supplies some 60 percent of the world’s cobalt, could have repercussions for consumers around the world if mining companies pass on costs.

Cobalt is a key ingredient in lithium-ion batteries that power smartphones and electric cars. Rising demand for those products has caused cobalt prices to more than triple in the last two years.

The Congolese government’s success in facing down the companies’ lobbying could also signal a shift in the balance of power as countries sitting on increasingly lucrative resources become emboldened.

Congo’s effort could serve as a model for other countries looking to boost mining sector revenue, particularly those that can leverage demand for prized metals like cobalt.


Meeting participants Glencore, Randgold, Zijin (601899.SS), China Molybdenum (603993.SS) and Ivanhoe declined to comment for this story. The other participant, MMG, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Early last month, Randgold publicly threatened to challenge the new code through international arbitration if Kabila did not return it to the mines ministry for further consultation with industry.

And, in December, several of Congo’s largest mining companies said in a statement that an earlier version of the code passed by the lower house of parliament would “cause the certain death of a young industry”.

On Thursday, the mining companies said in a statement they had dispatched a team of legal and technical specialists to Kinshasa for talks with the Congolese government about drafting measures to implement the code.

The companies said they hoped those discussions would include negotiations over royalties and taxes as well as recognition of the previous code’s stability clause.

Mines Minister Martin Kabwelulu, however, said after last week’s meeting that nothing agreed to in the follow-up negotiations could contradict the terms of the new code.

The new mining code strips away a stability clause protecting existing investments from changes to the fiscal and customs regime for 10 years, opens the door for cobalt royalties to increase five-fold and introduces a 50 percent windfall profits tax.

The new code applies to all minerals, including copper, of which Congo is Africa’s top producer.

Companies could still challenge it through international arbitration. It is also unclear how rigorously the code will be enforced in a country where informal arrangements often supersede legal provisions.

In a joint statement issued by the Congo government and the mining executives directly after the meeting, the miners said they had received assurances from Kabila “that their concerns will be taken into account through a constructive dialogue with the government after the promulgation of the new mining law”.


Private investors have poured money into Congo since Kabila signed the 2002 mining code at the tail end of a 1998-2003 war. But locals have seen few benefits. Congo remains one of the world’s least developed countries, plagued by corruption and poor governance.

In March 2015, the government submitted a bill to parliament that proposed raising royalties to levels higher than in the 2002 code but still lower than in most rival mining countries.

Mining companies resisted, saying that proposed changes to the code would “put the future of the country’s mining industry at grave risk” and urged the government to retain the 2002 code.

Following a steep drop in commodities prices, Congo’s government buckled to industry pressure and announced in March 2016 it was suspending consideration of the new code.

But as the commodity slump bit into the national economy last year – stretching foreign reserves to breaking point and pushing inflation to 47 percent – the government needed cash.

Parliament toughened up the code at the start of this year.

Protections under the previous code’s stability clause were axed entirely. A 10 percent royalty was introduced on “strategic substances”, which the prime minister’s office said this week would include cobalt and possibly copper.

Companies were also mandated to repatriate 60 percent of export revenues to Congo, up from 40 percent in earlier drafts.

Lawmakers involved in the negotiations did not provide clear explanations for how these last-minute changes came about, but two of them said that they had grown inured to doomsday warnings from miners about the code killing investment.

“There is this contradiction that emerges each time … when the miners declare losses (in Congo) when their mother company is only enjoying success,” said Alain Lubamba, an MP closely involved in the revision process.

“This means that we’re being suckered.”

Mining companies in Congo typically say that the high risk and cost of investing in the vast country with poor infrastructure hit profitability, justifying demands for favorable terms.


Randgold, based in Jersey in the English Channel, formed a new lobbying platform with Glencore and others and requested an audience with Kabila.

The president accepted a meeting with top executives from six mining companies, but insisted they come to Kinshasa in person; no stand-ins would be admitted.

After a last-minute postponement by a day, the meeting finally began at around 2:30 p.m. last Wednesday with Kabila presiding.

Randgold CEO Mark Bristow, the miners’ designated spokesperson, started by laying out their main concerns and imploring Kabila to re-open negotiations. The other executives chimed in from time-to-time, according to Kikaya, the Kabila adviser.

“For three hours, they were very confrontational and they were talking in terms of closing down the mines,” Kikaya said. Bristow couldn’t be reached for comment.

Kabila interjected occasionally, Kikaya said, urging the miners not to pursue arbitration.

“The president explained that this would be bad for everyone. He said, ‘Look you are a businessman. If you make a mistake, you lose money. I am a politician’,” Kikaya said.

A breakthrough appeared to come after Kabwelulu, the mines minister, promised the miners that their concerns would be addressed on a case-by-case basis in regulations to be hammered out after the code was signed, according to Kikaya.

Kabila then exited the room, leaving his advisers and the executives to figure out how to break the news.

Mugabe says never thought Mnangagwa would turn against him

Zimbabwe’s former leader Robert Mugabe said he never thought new President Emmerson Mnangagwa would turn against him and denounced Mnangagwa’s move to oust him last year as a coup, in an interview broadcast on Thursday.

Mugabe, 94, ruled Zimbabwe from independence in 1980 until he stepped down under pressure from Mnangagwa’s allies in the army in November.

“I never thought he whom I had nurtured and brought into government and whose life I worked so hard in prison to save as he was threatened with hanging, that one day he would be the man who would turn against me,” Mugabe said in the interview with South African state broadcaster SABC from Harare.

Mnangagwa was convicted of sabotage under white minority rule and sentenced to death. But he was spared the noose because it was deemed that he was a minor when he had committed the crime.

Mugabe said he was ousted in a “military takeover” and that Mnangagwa had assumed the presidency illegally.

“I don’t hate Emmerson, I brought him into government. But he must be proper, he is improper where he is. Illegal,” Mugabe said. “We must undo this disgrace, which we have imposed on ourselves. We don’t deserve it.”

Since his fall from power, Mugabe has stayed at his Harare mansion with his wife Grace. His ousting was the culmination of a power struggle between Mnangagwa and Grace Mugabe, who was being groomed by her husband as his potential successor.

Mugabe was granted immunity from prosecution and assured that his safety will be protected in his home country under a deal that led to his resignation.

Mugabe quit as parliament began a process to impeach him, triggering wild celebrations in the streets.

Zimbabwe was once one of Africa’s most promising economies but suffered decades of decline as Mugabe pursued policies that included the violent seizure of white-owned commercial farms and money-printing that led to hyperinflation.

Mnangagwa has said Zimbabwe still wants to end discrimination between black and white farmers but will seek new ways to compensate those who have lost their properties. Former colonial ruler Britain said last month that Harare should press on with transparent and fair land reform.

Amnesty slams Shell, Eni for being negligent on Nigeria oil spills

Amnesty International on Friday accused international oil majors Shell and Eni of negligence when addressing spills in Nigeria.

Describing their actions as “serious negligence”, Amnesty said the companies were “taking weeks to respond to reports of spills and publishing misleading information about the cause and severity of spills, which may result in communities not receiving compensation”.

A Shell spokesman said Amnesty’s allegations “are false, without merit and fail to recognise the complex environment in which the company operates”. ENI declined immediate comment.

Shell and Eni have for decades been two of the most active oil majors operating in the Niger Delta region.

Nigeria’s crude-producing heartland is an ecological disaster zone, scarred by decades of spills that have killed trees and other plants.

Yet clean-ups, and the associated compensation, are highly contentious, with some local communities even blocking teams’ access to spill sites, allowing the damage to worsen, in the hope of extracting a bigger pay-out.

Under Nigerian law, companies must visit sites within 24 hours of reporting a spill. Amnesty said that in one case Italian Eni took more than a year to respond to a spill in Bayelsa state.

While oil companies frequently attribute spills to sabotage and theft, locals say they are often due to other issues such as corrosion.

Shell has reported 1,010 spills since 2011, and Eni 820 since 2014, according to Amnesty, which said among those 1,830 reports it found 89 “about which there are reasonable doubts surrounding the cause provided by the oil companies”.

In 2015, the Bodo community and a British law firm negotiated a 55 million pound pollution settlement with Shell in 2015.

The Natural Resource Governance Institute, a non-profit group that advises countries on how to manage oil, gas and mineral resources, acknowledged there were sometimes difficulties on both sides.

“There’s no good guy here, everybody’s kind of bad. I’m sure the companies don’t do all that they can to get to these places. But then they also have genuine grievances and genuine difficulties dealing with these communities,” said Aaron Sayne, from the institute.

“When spills become an opportunity to make money, your clean-up becomes really tough.”

Ethiopia lauds economic impact of China-built Ethiopia-Djibouti railway

Ethiopia on Wednesday commended the first two months of transportation operation of the Chinese-built electrified railway.

The Ethiopia-Djibouti railway that connects landlocked Ethiopia to its neighbouring Red Sea nation of Djibouti has transported over 2,000 containers of commodities from the port to central Ethiopia during its first two months of operations, the Ethiopia-Djibouti Standard Gauge Rail Transport share-company revealed on Wednesday.

The railway, currently transporting commodities from the Djibouti port to Ethiopia’s Modjo dry port, located some 76 km from Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa, is said to help propel Ethiopia’s logistics and fright service delivery.

According to Tilahun Kassa, Director of the Ethiopia-Djibouti Standard Gauge Rail Transport company, the linkage between the Djibouti port and Ethiopia’s Modjo dry port has shown early achievements as it is expected to further expand Ethiopia’s international export business and trading.

The Chinese-built 756-km electrified rail project, which officially commenced its commercial operations earlier this year, has the capacity of transporting 106 containers in a single route, it was noted.

The railway, by reducing the journey time from port to Addis Ababa to less than 12 hours from the previous three days, has also eased challenges related to congestion of imported materials at Ethiopia’s long-serving Djibouti port, according to Kassa.

The two countries have repeatedly pronounced the railway as a new imputes for boosting the economic integration between the two Horn of African countries amid an increasing demand from Ethiopia’s import-export activities.

Contracted by two Chinese companies, the first 320 km of the rail project was carried out by China Rail Engineering Corporation (CREC), while the remaining 436 km connecting to the Djibouti port was built by the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC).

The railway project, with an investment of 4 billion U.S. dollars, provides both passenger and freight services between Addis Ababa and Djibouti.

Protesters clash with police in Morocco’s poor mining town

Moroccan protesters on Wednesday clashed with security forces in a poor mining town where residents have been demanding government help to tackle poverty, officials and activists said.

The town of Jerada in the remote northeast has seen protests since two artisan miners were killed in an accident in December but demonstrations calling for state aid and alternative jobs had remained peaceful until now.

On Wednesday, protesters set five police cars on fire and clashed with police, a local official said. An unspecified number of policemen were wounded and brought to a hospital in Oujda, the main city in the northeast, a statement said.

Nine persons had been detained, officials said.

An activist in Jerada said residents had staged a sit-in against a statement by interior ministry on Tuesday that had warned it was ready to act decisively unless the protests stopped.

Security forces fired teargas, according to a video posted on social media purportedly showing the clashes.

Some 500 security had surrounded the protest which had led to the violence, the activist said by phone, asking not to be named.

Residents say the town has been neglected since the mines closed some 20 years ago, part of growing public dissatisfaction in some poor areas at a time when the government is implementing currency reforms and cutting subsidies to drive economic growth.

The Jerada protests have found common cause with dissent that has rumbled since 2016 in the Rif, also in the north and making economic and political demands.

They are a far cry from the mass protests which rocked the North African country in 2011 when uprisings ousted rulers in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, but pose a challenge to a constitutional monarchy in which the king has far-reaching powers.

Stability in Morocco is important for Western governments as it is the only country in North Africa where jihadist groups have failed to gain a foothold. Rabat is also a key intelligence-sharing partner on Islamist militancy.

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