Month: August 2019

Fresh crisis summit planned for Zimbabwe

Southern African leaders planned a new summit to break Zimbabwe\’s political stalemate a day after President Robert Mugabe and rival Morgan Tsvangirai ended marathon talks without a deal.

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After 12 hours of discussions on Monday, Mugabe said he had accepted a proposal from the regional Southern African Development Community (SADC) bloc that would have seen Tsvangirai sworn in as prime minister on Saturday.

Earlier talks fail

However a bitter and angry Tsvangirai left the talks, mediated by South African President Kgalema Motlanthe, refusing to accept the post until crucial issues were resolved.

“We came to this meeting hoping we would put the people\’s plight to rest and conclude these power-sharing discussions.

“Unfortunately, there\’s been no progress because the very same outstanding issues on the agenda… are the same issues that are creating this impasse,” said the leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

“For us as the MDC, this is probably the darkest day of our lives, for the whole nation is waiting.”

Following the latest failure to try and implement a power-sharing deal struck between the two rivals last September, leaders of the 15-nation SADC bloc agreed to hold another Zimbabwe crisis summit next Monday.

But after several failed SADC interventions analysts were gloomy about its prospects.

“I think precedent basically suggests that one shouldn\’t raise their hopes too high that it will bring about anything of substance,” George Katito, a researcher at the South African Institute of International Affairs told AFP.

“It could bring some change but… SADC has done little to inspire confidence in their ability to deal with the crisis.”

The key sticking point for Tsvangirai is the distribution of cabinet posts such as the home affairs ministry, which is responsible for the police.

MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa told AFP on Tuesday that the swearing-in of Tsvangirai and his deputies before the resolution of these outstanding issues would be “putting the cart before the horse.”

Tsvangirai maintains firm stance

Tsvangirai argues that since his party won a majority in parliament and he defeated Mugabe during a first-round presidential vote in March, the MDC should wield more influence in government.

The MDC-led parliament resumed sitting Tuesday, but with the government still in limbo, parliamentarians had little before them.

Mugabe, who unilaterally made his ministerial appointments last year, told reporters it had been the MDC\’s refusal to agree to the swearing-in of Tsvangirai and deputies that had led to the failure of the talks.

“We agreed to that proposal from SADC… but MDC-T (Tsvangirai) did not. They came with counter-proposals, so the meeting broke down.”

Mugabe said both sides would keep talking ahead of next Monday\’s summit, the venue of which was still to be decided.

Regional leaders see the unity deal as the best chance for breaking Zimbabwe\’s political deadlock and curbing the nation\’s stunning economic collapse.

March\’s first round presidential election was followed by a brutal wave of political violence.

Tsvangirai pulled out of a run-off, saying he had taken the decision because of violence against his supporters, leaving Mugabe to declare a one-sided victory in June.

Since then Zimbabwe has plunged ever deeper into crisis amid massive unemployment and crippling hyperinflation. More than 2,200 people have died from a cholera epidemic, while half the population is dependent on food aid.

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Rwandan troops enter eastern Congo

More than 1,500 Rwandan troops entered eastern Congo joining Congolese forces in an effort to oust Hutu rebels who participated in Rwanda\’s genocide and have been at the heart of the region\’s conflict, officials said.

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Congolese government spokesman Lambert Mende said the Rwandan forces arrived Tuesday morning and that the joint military operations would last 10 to 15 days.

“We have officially asked the Rwandan army to participate in the disarmament operations of the Interahamwe (Hutu militia) which have begun,” Mende said.

A Western diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, said there was concern that Hutu militiamen might retaliate against civilians.

Rare joint operation

In a rare move, Congo and Rwanda have agreed to step up efforts against the Rwandan Hutu militants who have long destabilised the region. Still, neither country has been able to eradicate the Hutu rebels since they fled to Congo in 1994.

The Hutu fighters, who helped carry out the genocide in which more than 500,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed, have remained in Congo untouched, heavily armed, and in control of lucrative mines in remote hills and forests.

The militia has terrorised civilians, given Tutsi rebels a reason to fight and also are the reason why Rwanda invaded Congo previously in 1996 and 1998.

The UN mission in Congo said it was not associated with the operations but confirmed that the Rwandan forces had entered Congolese territory. UN peacekeeping spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jean-Paul Dietrich said between 1,500 and 2,000 Rwandan soldiers had crossed the border.

Louise Mushikiwabo, the Rwandan minister of information, said all forces were under the command of the Congolese national army.

“There is new momentum and the government of Rwanda is pleased the fundamental obstacle to stability for the last 15 years … is finally being tackled,” Mushikiwabo said.

Ongoing Hutu attacks

The Rwandan Hutus fled to Congo in 1994 and some lived in overflowing refugee camps there. By 1996, their leaders launched an insurgency and began carrying out cross-border attacks into Rwanda, killing more Tutsis.

Fed up, Rwanda attacked the camps and drove on to Congo\’s capital, Kinshasa, installing late Congolese rebel leader Laurent Kabila as president in 1997.

Eager to prove his independence, Kabila in 1998 expelled the Rwandan Tutsis who brought him to power. Three days later, Rwanda organised another Congolese rebellion, and along with Uganda, seized eastern Congo in a war that drew in half a dozen African nations and lasted until 2002.

Since then, Congo has formed a unity government that gave top posts to rebels. Kabila\’s son Joseph won historic elections in 2006.

Continue reading Rwandan troops enter eastern Congo

Fiat to take 35 per cent stake in Chrysler

Under the outline, non-binding deal, Fiat would obtain 35 percent of Chrysler without making any payment in exchange for giving Chrysler access to its own vehicle platforms, products and technology “to expand Chrysler\’s current product portfolio.

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It would offer access to new markets through its international network.

Press reports had suggested earlier that a transfer of technology by Fiat would be aimed specifically at enabling crisis-hit Chrysler to develop quickly a complete range of small, front-wheel-drive and “clean” low-carbon-emission vehicles. Each group would benefit from the other\’s sales outlets.

The deal would enable Chrysler to demonstrate to the US Treasury that it could remain viable, and so avoid having to repay 5.5 billion dollars of just-received federal rescue finance.

Both groups have had unsuccessful trans-Atlantic alliances — Fiat with General Motors and Chrysler with Daimler of Germany.

A statement by the two sides said that in exchange for contributing products and technology, Fiat “would receive an initial 35 percent equity interest in Chrysler.”

The statement with Chrysler\’s main shareholder, US Cerberus Capital Management, said: “The alliance does not contemplate that Fiat would make a cash investment in Chrysler or commit to funding Chrysler in the future.”

The Chrysler group has just received conditional US state aid of 5.5 billion dollars.

Fiat shares gained 3.5 percent when trading in the shares, which had been suspended pending a statement, was resumed.

Chrysler, the smallest of the big three US carmakers including General Motors and Ford, is also considered to be the weakest.

It was bought by Daimler for 36 billion dollars and jettisoned nine years later in May 2007 to US investment fund Cerberus for 7.4 billion dollars.

Cerberus owns 80.1 percent of Chrysler.

In seeking a route out of crisis, Chrysler is handicapped by its range of four-wheel-drive and pick-up vehicles which no longer match the requirements of the economically-strapped US economy and consumers.

The tiny Fiat 500 model, the Cinquecento, is part of the power package now set to pull Chrysler out of its product-range hole.

The Fiat group, founded in 1899 by the Agnelli family and owner of the Fiat, Lancia, Alfa Romeo, Abarth, Maserati and Ferrari brands, grew rapidly in the post-world-war two years with the launch in 1957 of the minuscule Cinquecento.

The small car was designed to scamper through the narrow back streets of Rome and Italy\’s other ancient cities and was re-launched with a city-chic look in 2007.

The new version is credited with having helped pull Fiat car group from its own financial abyss.

Fiat\’s auto unit finalled switched into profit at the end of 2005 after reporting 17 consecutive quarters of losses.

Italy\’s Industry Minister Claudio Scajola welcomed the alliance as a “great opportunity.”

“It\’s a great opportunity for the automotive industry as well as for Italy,” Scajola said in a statement.

Chrysler and Fiat have been hard hit by the global downturn, but Chrysler is in deep trouble, largely also because sales of typical big US vehicles were slashed by high fuel prices last year.

The statement said that Fiat would help Chrysler draft a viability plan for the US Treasury, commenting that Fiat had restructured successfully in recent years and was a “recognized world leader” in innovative and environmentally-friendly vehicles.

Chrysler chairman Bob Nardelli said said the partnership “creates the potential for a powerful, new global competitor.” It would give a return on investment for American taxpayers “by securing the long-term viability of Chrysler brands in the marketplace.”

Fiat, which has emerged from a long period of financial crisis and has tied up several strategic alliances in the last five years, had an unsuccessful alliance with General Motors.

In February 2005, GM agreed to pay 1.55 billion euros to settle a long dispute over an option for the Fiat group to sell Fiat Auto to GM. The deal involved GM surrendering 10 percent of Fiat and the unwinding of alliances.

The chief executive at Fiat, Sergio Marchionne, had explained at the beginning of December that the only way for car makers to withstand the crisis in the global auto industry was to make alliances or marriages.

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BHP cuts \’shows job stimulus needed\’

Job losses at the world\’s largest mining company, BHP Billiton, demonstrate the need for any new economic stimulus package to focus on job creation, Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull says.

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Mr Turnbull said news that 3,400 Australian jobs would be shed at BHP, paired with other job losses at Rio Tinto, was “very bad news for the workers and families concerned”.

“It underlines the importance of those three priorities I talk about almost every day: jobs, jobs, jobs,” Mr Turnbull told reporters in Sydney.

Rudd \’should focus on jobs\’

“The focus of the government and everybody at this time should be on promoting and preserving employment.

“Any new policies, any new stimuluses, should be directed on jobs and they should be carefully considered, they should be considered for their effectiveness so that the taxpayer gets the maximum economic bang for the taxpayer\’s buck.”

He said the coalition would carefully consider any credit market bail-out on its merits.

The shelving of BHP Billiton\’s Ravensthorpe nickel mine will strip the West Australian government of up to $20 million in mining royalties, Western Australia\’s Acting Premier Kim Hames says.

The mining giant has put the mine, which produces laterite nickel, on care and maintenance indefinitely, slashing 1,800 jobs from the small town in WA\’s south east.

Mr Hames said WA Premier Colin Barnett would take time out from his holidays to fly to the town on Thursday to discuss the situation with the local shire council and the affected workers.

Mr Hames said the cost of the closure to the people of WA would be significant, especially those in Ravensthorpe and the nearby towns of Jerdacuttup and Hopetoun.

WA to \’experience black hole\’

Mr Hames said the government was aware companies had to make difficult decisions with the price of nickel dropping from $US52,000 per tonne in mid 2007 to $US10,000 a tonne now.

Royalties from the mines would leave a black hole of between $10 million and $20 million per year, but the effect of reduced payroll tax had not yet been calculated, Mr Hames said.

The WA government had contributed $18 million in funding to the town for a new school and waste water treatment plant ahead of the mine\’s opening.

The Commonwealth commitment to the town was estimated at $9.8 million for roads.

WA Mines Minister Norman Moore said laterite nickel required high cost processing and he hoped the mine would be reopened if higher growth levels were indicated for China and the need for stainless steel was revived.

Continue reading BHP cuts \’shows job stimulus needed\’

Chinese sites censor Obama speech

US President Barack Obama\’s inauguration speech left China\’s media scrambling on Wednesday, with many attempting to censor his references to communism and dissent.

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However the attempts appeared to backfire after their omission in Chinese translations drew even more attention to the words on Internet forums.

“Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions,” Obama said in his speech.

State broadcaster China Central Television broadcast the speech live, but when the translator said communism, the channel cut to an awkwardly smiling news anchor, Beijing-based lawyer Xu Zhiyong wrote on his blog.

“To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist,” Obama continued.

China\’s two biggest Internet portals Sina and Sohu omitted the word communism from the translations of the speech on their websites and cut the line about dissent entirely.

However, English versions of the speech appeared in some Chinese media intact.

The state-run, English language China Daily, which is aimed mainly at a foreign audience, concluded its front page story with the dissent quote. It also ran the full English text of the speech on its website.

The interruptions to the live broadcast and carefully edited translations indicate China\’s propaganda officials were monitoring the speech, said Xiao Qiang, director of the China Internet Project at the University of California.

The omissions were not necessarily due to concerns about ideological differences, but rather how ordinary Chinese might respond to Obama\’s words, Xiao told AFP.

“Propaganda filtering is one thing, but there are certain concepts, phrases or lines that ring true among the Chinese people and that is what the Chinese propaganda people really want to filter out,” he said.

“It\’s not about perspective, it\’s about what resonates among the Chinese people and will make people say \’That\’s true.\'”

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