Quelling Robberies and Jihadists: The Vigilance Committee of Senegal 

In the Senegalese border town of Moudery, a committee initially created to protect residents from robberies has taken on a new purpose in the wake of jihadist violence in neighboring Mali. In 2010, when Moudery inaugurated its “Committee of Vigilance,” the goal was mostly to identify unknown people who might rob homes in the wealthy Senegalese river town.  Zakaria Ndiaye, one of the committee’s founding members, said robberies had decreased since the committee was set up, because members perform nightly patrols and criminals are aware of the committee’s presence on the ground. 
 
Fousseynou Diallo, now the mayor of Moudery, served in the army for more than 30 years before moving back and helping in the founding of the committee. He said because Moudery is uniquely positioned along the river that separates Senegal from Mauritania, criminals can flee from one side of the border to the other without being prosecuted. This position, along with its proximity to Mali, has made the town sensitive to criminal activity. 
 
The system for reducing crime in the village worked so well that members of the U.N.’s migration organization identified the program as a model for more border towns to secure their communities against the threat of jihadist violence. 
 
Six years after the committee was founded, officials of the International Organization for Migration reached out to Diallo and explained how they thought his committee could serve to identify potential jihadists entering the country. Not a militia
 
The committee is also registered with Senegal’s interior ministry, partially to keep it accountable. Diallo was firm that his committee is not law enforcement or a militia and that his members simply keep an eye on the town and ask any suspicious people for identification. 
 
But as ethnic tensions and jihadist violence in nearby Mali worsen, the city is also welcoming immigrants. After VOA interviewed the mayor, he left for a meeting with the Malians of Moudery to discuss a recent festival honoring that country’s independence day. 

your ad here

Guinea Counter-Rally Backs President’s Constitutional Bid

Tens of thousands of Guineans rallied in support of President Alpha Conde on Thursday after two weeks of violent protests against the leader’s suspected bid to prolong his rule claimed around 10 lives.Communication Minister Amara Sompare said 45,000 people turned out to greet Conde, 81, on his return from a trip abroad, which the minister said proved that the president has wide backing for his push for a new constitution.The pro-Conde rally was a response to a protest that saw hundreds of thousands take to the streets a week ago, according to local journalists. Organisers put the turnout for that rally at around a million, while the government said the protesters numbered 30,000.On Thursday, people thronged the Conakry airport and lined the road leading into town, wearing the yellow and white colours of the ruling party, their T-shirts emblazoned with “Yes to the new constitution” and “Let’s have a referendum”.Fode Oussou Fofana, vice president of one of the opposition parties, claimed that civil servants had been instructed to leave work to attend the rally.He added that buses were chartered to ferry people to the airport at great expense.The authorities have not responded to the accusations.Conde, whose second term ends next year, launched constitutional consultations in September, saying the former French colony’s basic law “concentrates corporate interests”.His adversaries say the president will try to push through an amendment allowing him to seek a third term.At least eight protesters — 10 according to the opposition — and a police officer have been killed since October 24, when opposition parties, unions and civil society groups called for a mobilisation against a possible third term for Conde.More violence is feared in the West African country of 13 million, which is poor despite significant mineral resources.Conde has neither confirmed nor denied his intentions.

your ad here

Fiat Chrysler, PSA Peugeot Boards Approve Merger

The boards of Fiat Chrysler and PSA Peugeot announced Thursday fast-moving plans to merge the two companies creating the world’s fourth-largest automaker with enough scale to confront “the new era in mobility.”The merger would bring together Italian-American Fiat Chrysler, with its strong footprint in North America where it makes at least two-thirds of its profits, and France’s PSA Peugeot, the No. 2 automaker in Europe. Both lag in China, despite the participation of the Chinese shareholder Dongfeng, in PSA Peugeot, and are catching up in the transition to electrified powertrains.The 50-50 merger is expected to create synergies of 3.7 billion euros ($4 billion), a figure that the automakers said they expect to achieve without any factory closures – a concern of unions in both France and Italy where the carmakers have more model overlap.The new company would have combined revenues of 170 billion euros, an operating profit of over 11 billion euros and produce 8.7 million cars a year – behind Toyota, Volkswagen and the Renault-Nissan alliance. The combined market capitalization would be around $50 billion.Once a merger is finalized, PSA Peugeot CEO Carlos Tavares will be chief executive of the new company with Fiat Chrysler Chairman John Elkann taking the role of chairman.  Fiat Chrysler CEO Mike Manley would have a senior executive role and work closely with Tavares.“This convergence brings significant value to all the stakeholders and opens a bright future for the combined entity,” Tavares said in a statement.Manley called it “an industry-changing combination,” and noted the long history of cooperation with the Groupe PSA in the industrial vehicle sector in Europe.The 11-member board will be made up of five members from each company plus Tavares, who is locked in as CEO for five years.The automakers said that the new company would be able to meet the challenges of powertrain electrification, connectivity and autonomous driving “with speed and capital efficiency.”The combined company will be able to share in the cost of developing those technologies with their “strong global R&D footprint,” they said, adding that will also save on investments in vehicle platforms and save money with greater purchasing power.Both companies “share the conviction that there is compelling logic for a bold and decisive move that would create an industry leader with the scale, capabilities and resources to capture successfully the opportunities, and manage effectively the challenges in the new era in mobility,” the statement said.The merger decision comes about five months after a similar deal with French automaker Renault fell apart, mostly over French government concern about the role of Renault’s Japanese alliance partner Nissan. There were no signs of resistance to this deal, beyond concerns for jobs.French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire answers reporters, Oct. 31, 2019 in Paris.French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said in a statement that he “favorably welcomes” the proposed merger.“This operation responds to the automobile sector’s need to consolidate to face the challenges of future mobility,” Le Maire said, adding that the government would be vigilant about preserving French factories and the location of company headquarters.He also is seeking that the new group will create a European electric battery industry, something the French government has pushed for to ensure that European carmakers can reduce their dependence on U.S. and Asian battery technology.The companies said head offices would continue to operate in France, Italy and the United States, and that shares would be traded in the main exchanges in those three countries. The parent company would be based in the Netherlands, as is currently the case with Fiat Chrysler.European automakers have been eyeing consolidation for years in a bid to share the costs of new technology and tackle the issue of overproduction on the continent. Fiat gains some of the advantages that Peugeot has developed in electrified powertrains that should help ease its transition in the face of tough new EU emissions standards. And PSA gains access to North America, which it has long sought.The prospective FCA-PSA tie-up with Peugeot “follows intensive discussions between the senior managements of the two companies.” Both have strong shareholder participation by the founding families – the Peugeots in France and the heirs to the Agnelli family in Italy, represented by Elkann.As part of the agreement, the main shareholders – the Peugeots, the Agnelli family investment arm Exor, as well as the Chinese investor Dongfeng and the French state investment bank – agree to maintain their stakes for seven years. The only exception is that the Peugeots could increase their stake by up to 2.5% during the first three years by buying shares from Dongfeng and the French investment bank.The next step in the deal is expected to be a signing of a Memorandum of Understanding, which could come before the end of the year. 

your ad here

Sources: US Envoy Returns to Afghanistan, Discusses Prisoner Swap

Chief U.S. peace negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad is back in Afghanistan and held fresh meetings with Afghan leaders on the fate of two Western hostages held by the Taliban and efforts aimed at restarting stalled peace talks with the insurgent group, sources said.Insurgent sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, have also confirmed to VOA that “(a) prisoners’ (swap) deal is underway” with Khalilzad’s team and “is in the final stages.”  But when approached for comment, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told VOA, “So far I have no information about this issue.”An Afghan government source confirmed to VOA Thursday the American envoy met with President Ashraf Ghani after arriving in Kabul the previous day from Pakistan. The discussions between the two, said the source, focused on American Kevin King and Australian Timothy Weeks, the two hostages being held by the Taliban for more than three years.FILE – A photo combination if images taken from video released June 21, 2017, by Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, shows kidnapped Australian Timothy Weeks, top, and American Kevin King.U.S. officials have not confirmed or released any details of the Khalilzad-Ghani meeting, but U.S. sources have said, “Getting hostages back is always at the forefront of our policy” of seeking Afghan peace and reconciliation.King and Weeks were teaching at the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul before they were kidnapped at gunpoint near the campus in August 2016.Khalilzad also met with Ghani on Sunday in the Afghan capital prior to the brief stop in Pakistan. In a post-meeting news conference, a senior Afghan official confirmed the U.S. envoy sought cooperation in securing the release of the American professor, who is said to be suffering from serious health problems, and his Australian colleague. National Security Adviser Hamdullah Mohib, however, refused to discuss further details.The Taliban has long demanded the release of around a dozen high-profile prisoners held in Afghan jails in exchange for freeing King and Weeks. The insurgent detainees include death row prisoner Anas Haqqani, a younger brother of Taliban deputy chief Sirajuddin Haqqani, and their uncle, Mali Khan.Khalilzad traveled to Pakistan on Monday and discussed “the current status of the Afghan peace process” with leaders in the neighboring country, said the U.S. embassy in Islamabad. He also underscored the importance of reducing violence in Afghanistan, it said.Afghan officials allege Pakistan shelters Taliban leaders on its soil, charges Islamabad rejects. Pakistani officials maintain their country still hosts around 3 million Afghan refugees and do not rule out the possibility of insurgents hiding among them.The U.S. Afghan reconciliation envoy’s back-and-forth visits to Afghanistan and Pakistan have fueled speculation a prisoner swap could soon materialize to pave the way for the resumption of peace talks involving the United States and the Taliban.U.S. President Donald Trump canceled the negotiations, citing continued Taliban attacks in Kabul, including one that killed an American soldier. 

your ad here

Mexico Marks Day of Dead on 500th Anniversary of Conquest

Mexico is marking its Day of the Dead amid the 500th anniversary of the Spanish Conquest, and true to the holiday’s roots, it has become an opportunity for reflection and reconciliation, not revenge.Often misinterpreted as Mexico’s equivalent of Halloween, the two-day Nov. 1-2 Day of the Dead is a celebration to welcome and commune with the dead, not fear their return or revive old hatreds.This year it comes very close to 500 years after a bloody date: the Oct. 18, 1519 massacre of thousands of indigenous people at the ceremonial center of Cholula, just east of Mexico City.
 
The Cholula killings were perhaps the first large-scale indigenous massacre, the beginning of a series of mass killings in the Americas that would continue up to the early 1900s and result in the near-extermination of indigenous peoples.
 While Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has asked Spain for an apology for the whole of the 1519-1521 Conquest _ when Hernan Cortes defeated the Aztec empire _ Mexicans are taking the opportunity to remember, re-interpret and learn lessons from the date.
 
This year, indigenous dancers burned incense and performed ceremonial dances on the spot where the Cholula massacre is believed to have occurred, and left offerings to the estimated 3,000 victims.
 
At a Day of the Dead parade in Mexico City, dancer Madai Selbor dressed in a feather headdress and skull paint as La Malinche, the indigenous translator and lover of Cortes who has long been viewed as a traitor in Mexico. Now, La Malinche is getting a new, deeper and more nuanced treatment in movies and TV shows coming out this year.
 
“She is a figure who has been very censured in history, but when you look at her story after the passage of the years, she is truly an icon,” said Selbor. “There are people who see her as an icon of feminism, but I see her more as an icon of negotiation and alliances.”
 Mexico City’s Day of the Dead Parade Dedicated to Migrants

        Mexico City dedicated its Day of the Dead parade Saturday to migrants, just as thousands of Central Americans were trekking from the country’s southern border toward the United States under pressure from U.S. President Donald Trump to disband.In an a twist on the traditional dancing skeletons and marigold-adorned altars making their way down the capital’s main thoroughfare, the parade also referenced Mexicans who emigrated as well as foreigners who settled in the capital.“The parade ... 

But Cholula historian Refugio Gallegos noted that La Malinche, and other indigenous people who helped Cortes, played key roles in the Cholula massacre, which occurred just weeks before the Spaniards marched into present-day Mexico City. The Spaniards would be welcomed by Aztec Emperor Moctezuma, then kicked out of Mexico City and wouldn’t return to complete the conquest until 1521.
 
But Cortes and his 400 Spaniards would have lost if it were not for the thousands of allied Tlaxcalan warriors who joined the Spaniards in order to throw off the yoke of the Aztec empire.
 
“One of the advantages of the joint armed formed by Indians and Spaniards was to revive old quarrels and take advantage of the resentments that several groups had against the Aztecs,” who demanded tribute payments from vassals, wrote Gallegos.
 
At the center of all this was La Malinche, who served as Cortes’ translator. While the residents of Cholula initially welcomed the Spaniards, they feared a trap; La Malinche heard of supposed plans to ambush the Spaniards, and warned Cortes.
 
“La Malinche’s role was crucial,” said Gallegos.
 
What Cortes did was simply order his men to massacre everybody they could find in Cholula. In Cortes’ own words: “we hit them so hard that in two hours, more than 3,000 men died.”
 By his own account, Cortes was helped in this task by about 4,000 Tlaxcalans, an indigenous group who inhabited what is now the Mexican state of Tlaxcala. For centuries, that “betrayal” led to sayings like “it’s all the fault of the Tlaxcalans.”
 
But according to Gallegos, this year’s ceremonies marking the 500th anniversary involved all of the towns along Cortes’ route to Mexico City, Cholulans, Tlaxcalans and others, coming together and forgetting past grievances.“The event is about brotherhood, of towns working together,” said Gallegos. “We know that in the pre-Hispanic era that didn’t happen, there were differences, but today there is a new attitude. There is no more talk about traitors.”
 

your ad here

Violations, Violence and Repression Remain Rampant in Indian-Administered Kashmir: UN

The U.N. human rights office has denounced what it calls the ongoing repression in Indian-administered Kashmir and is urging the government to restore the rights stripped from the region’s millions of Muslim inhabitants in August.India’s only Muslim-majority state of Jammu and Kashmir has officially ceased to exist. On August 5, the Indian government revoked constitutional provisions that granted partial autonomy to the area. As a result, the region was divided into two federally administered states – one being Jammu and Kashmir, which will include the restive Muslim-majority Kashmir Valley and the Hindu-majority Jammu. The second territory will include the high-altitude Buddhist enclave of Ladakh.This move, which came into effect on Thursday, ends seven decades of self-rule for the region.  The office of the U.N. high commissioner for human rights says it deplores the restrictive measures and what it calls the wide range of rights abuses that have continued unabated since August. In large parts of the Kashmir Valley, it reports an undeclared curfew is preventing the free movement of people and restricting their rights to health, education and freedom of religion and belief.Human rights office spokesman Rupert Colville says the agency has heard about allegations of excessive use of force by security forces during sporadic protests. He says at least six people reportedly have been killed and scores seriously injured in separate incidents since the area was split into two.“We have also received reports of armed groups operating in Indian-administered Kashmir threatening residents trying to carry out their normal business or attend school, as well as several allegations of violence against people who have not complied with the armed groups’ demands…Hundreds of political and civil society leaders, including three former chief ministers of Jammu and Kashmir, have been detained on a preventative basis,” Colville said.Colville says his office also has received allegations of torture and ill-treatment of people held in detention. He notes torture is banned under international law and says these allegations must be independently and impartially investigated.Colville says restrictions on landline telephones have been lifted, but all internet services remain blocked in the Kashmir valley. At the same time, he says media outlets face restrictions and several journalists allegedly have been arrested in the past three months.He says the people of Kashmir remain bound to the whims and will of the government. He says major political decisions about the future status of Jammu and Kashmir are taken without their consent. He notes the region’s leaders are being detained and their right to freedom of expression and political participation undermined.Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has defended the split, saying the special status had impeded the region’s progress, given rise to terrorism and was used as a weapon by rival Pakistan to “instigate some people.”India has long accused Pakistan of supporting and training militants to foment a separatist insurgency in Kashmir, charges Islamabad denies.

your ad here