Botswana to Repatriate Elephants to Angola to Reduce Overpopulation

Botswana, home to nearly half of Africa’s wild elephants, is preparing to repatriate thousands of the giant mammals to neighboring Angola to reduce overpopulation and conflict with farmers.  Tens of thousands of elephants fled Angola’s decades-long civil war to Botswana, as Mqondisi Dube reports from Chobe, Botswana.Camera: Reference Sibanda 

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Turkey-Backed Rebels Attack Syrian Town, Displacing Residents

Recent attacks by Turkey-backed rebels have caused another round of displacement in Syria, where dozens of families have left their homes in the border town of Ain Issa. The town is held by Kurdish forces that Turkey views as terrorists. VOA’s Reber Kalo reports from Syria.

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US Urges End to Violence in Ethiopia’s Tigray Region

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday urged a stop to all fighting in Ethiopia, as Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed lauded his troops for what he termed their victory in the Tigrayan capital of Mekelle.  “I spoke with Ethiopian Prime Minister @AbiyAhmedAli today and urged a complete end to the fighting in Tigray, a start to dialogue, and free, safe, unhindered humanitarian access,” Pompeo wrote on Twitter.I spoke with Ethiopian Prime Minister Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed gestures while addressing the House of Peoples Representatives in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on Nov. 30, 2020.Authorities have not confirmed whether there were any deaths in a Saturday offensive, which followed a 72-hour ultimatum for the TPLF to surrender to the national government. But the International Committee of the Red Cross noted that the Ayder Referral Hospital in Mekelle was lacking body bags for the deceased.     Meanwhile, local hospitals in Mekelle were running out of medical supplies to treat the injured, aid workers said Sunday.According to the ICRC, roughly 80% of patients at the hospital were suffering from trauma injuries. ”The hospital is running dangerously low on sutures, antibiotics, anticoagulants, painkillers and even gloves,” Maria Soledad, head of operations for the ICRC in Ethiopia, was quoted as saying in a Sunday press release from the ICRC.”The influx of injured comes more than three weeks after supply chains were disrupted into Mekelle,” she added. Tens of thousands have fled the area for neighboring Sudan. Some reports say thousands have been killed since the violence broke out. Meanwhile, the U.N. refugee agency has appealed for $147 million to support the Ethiopians who have fled to Sudan. The agency says some 43,000 people have gone to the neighboring country in recent weeks. 

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Greek Monastery Seeks Return of Stolen Religious Objects from Bulgaria

Leading clerics and monks in Greece are urging the state to take legal action against Bulgaria in a bid to win back hundreds of rare religious relics, including Byzantine manuscripts, that Greece alleges were stolen by Bulgarian guerrillas during World War I.The move comes after the U.S.-based Museum of the Bible, which holds some of the world’s most revered collections of religious manuscripts, agreed last week to return a rare 10th century gospel book to the Monastery of Theotokos Eikosiphinisa in northern Greece.“This return marks a glorious achievement,” said Bishop Pavlos of the northeastern Greek city of Drama, who oversees the monastery. “[But] more manuscripts and relics are out there, around the globe, and they need to be repatriated.”“We plan to get tougher in our fight, potentially taking legal action against Bulgaria. But the bigger question is why isn’t the Greek state – the ultimate keeper of the country’s national treasures and identity – backing this repatriation campaign also.”Greece says there has been no response from the Bulgarian government.Successive Greek governments have long lobbied for the return of the Parthenon Marbles, billing their repatriation a top national priority and insisting the British Museum hand them back after a British aristocrat, Lord Elgin, hacked them off the ancient temple, selling them to the British Museum over 200 years ago.FILE – A woman looks at the Parthenon Marbles, a collection of stone objects, inscriptions and sculptures, also known as the Elgin Marbles, on show at the British Museum in London, Oct. 16, 2014.“There is no difference to what happened in the case of Eikosiphinisa,” the bishop said.Painstakingly written out in Greek and preserved for centuries at the monastery, also known as Kozintsa, the decorated manuscript was stolen in 1917 by Bulgarian separatists who looted some 430 sacred documents from the convent’s library and 470 religious relics.They then sold them to bookshops and collectors across Europe. The documents and relics eventually found their way to art dealers, who allegedly auctioned them off to major institutions or private collectors in Europe and the U.S.These include elite universities such as Princeton and Duke, and the Morgan Library and Museum in New York City.Legal action spearheaded by ecumenical Patriarch Batholomew I, the spiritual leader of the world’s 200 million Christian Orthodox adherents, has already been waged in the United States.But the front line of the battle, Bishop Pavlos said, should be Bulgaria, where the bulk of the booty remains in the hands of the state there.“It is unthinkable that the Greek state has not even submitted a simple petition after so many years,” he says.The Greek Culture Ministry did not respond to repeated requests by VOA for comment.Claims for restitution target the Ivan Dujcev Center for Slavo-Byzantine Studies in Sofia, which holds around 300 of the looted manuscripts, despite the 1919 Treaty of Neuilly which required Bulgaria to return all cultural objects taken during the First World War.In a statement, the Museum of the Bible in Washington said it acquired the 1,000-year-old gospel book from Christie’s auction house in 2011. But details of its provenance remain murky, allowing Patriarch Batholomew to weigh in and insist on its return.FILE – A visitor looks at various Bibles during a preview at the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., Nov. 14, 2017.The museum has since then acknowledged that pieces of its collection, originally owned by the Green family in Oklahoma City, founders of the arts and crafts chain Hobby Lobby, were looted and smuggled out of their country of origin – an admission that has sparked a thorough in-house investigation.Similar moves led the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago to hand back another priceless manuscript to the Eikosiphinisa monastery in 2016 – a landmark return that adds firepower to Greece’s campaign to win back the Parthenon Marbles.Religion, Bishop Pavlos advises, should not become a factor in cultural restitution.But even if it is, he quips, “Then those in the helm of power should not forget that the Parthenon was once a religious temple too.” 

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France Faces Public Resistance to COVID Vaccine

As French authorities prepare to roll out their COVID immunization strategy this week, they face skepticism in a country where surveys show many people do not trust the vaccine.France was among the nations of Europe taking the heaviest hit from the COVID-19 outbreak as more than 50, 000 people died of the virus.Like the rest of the world, hopes are high that vaccines will defeat the virus and enable people to go back to a normal life. The French immunization campaign is scheduled to start by the end of December with the elderly, people living in nursing homes and medical personnel slated to receive the first doses.In an address to the nation, French President Emmanuel Macron said a scientific committee would supervise the immunization campaign and a citizen group would be created to make sure the population is part of the process. Immunization against COVID-19 must be clear and transparent and information must be shared  on what is known and unknown, insists Macron, who stressed that immunization will not be mandatory in France.The government is worried that millions of French people will refuse coronavirus vaccine shots due as skepticism grows in the country. Fifty-nine percent of French people surveyed say they would not get vaccinated, according to an IFO poll published on Sunday.Prime Minister Jean Castex recently said his fear is that not enough French people will get vaccinated.Jean Paul Stahl, a French doctor of infectious diseases, said the numbers concern him.The professor explains there is a common fear of side effects for these vaccine.He said there is also skepticism as people see this vaccine as a tool used by the government. Stahl said that nowadays in our societies, more and more people do not trust any authority: political, scientific, and others.France has budgeted more than $1.75 billion to buy vaccines next year. 

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Used to Freedom, Women in Afghanistan’s Bamiyan Worry About Future Under Taliban Rule

In Afghanistan’s central Bamiyan province, women have enjoyed relatively more freedom than elsewhere in the country. But many of them are now facing an uncertain future. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.Camera: Rahim Gul Sarwan    

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