Seychelles



All-women team of divers works to monitor health of Seychelles' coral

As Seychelles joins the rest of the world to celebrate International Women's Day, SNA spoke with a member of an all-women diver team from the Seychelles Island Foundation currently conducting this year's monitoring in the Aldabra surrounding waters. A marin
Seychelles News Agency

All-women team of divers works to monitor health of Seychelles' coral

As Seychelles joins the rest of the world to celebrate International Women's Day, SNA spoke with a member of an all-women diver team from the Seychelles Island Foundation currently conducting this year's monitoring in the Aldabra surrounding waters. A marine researcher from SIF and a member of the team, Anna Koester, told SNA that «it is great to work with an all-women dive team and to share the passion for the marine environment with likeminded women.» «It is a very encouraging and rewarding experience. There is a powerful team spirit that encourages everyone to take up new challenges and to learn from each other,» said Koester. Under the Aldabra Reef Monitoring (ARM) programme, every year SIF monitors a suite of hard corals, soft corals, other invertebrates, algae and various fish species in the waters of Aldabra. Koester said it is great to work with an all-women dive team and to share the passion for the marine environment with likeminded women. (Seychelles Islands Foundation) Photo License: All Rights Reserved  Koester said that rough weather and strong currents are the most common challenges encountered by the team, which can result in seasickness and difficult dives when currents are strong and there is a lot of swells. On a typical day, the diver team goes out to conduct two to three monitoring dives, depending on the tidal window available. «The diving team gets all the diving and research equipment ready, which includes transect tapes, PVC frames for the benthic photo quadrats and the coral juvenile quadrats, cameras, spare batteries, underwater torches and dive slates to record data underwater. The skipper and boat hand prepare the boat for the day and help the divers loading the boat. The time needed to reach the survey sites ranges between five to 60 minutes, depending on the location of the site and the weather conditions,» said Koester. She explained that once the divers descend to the start of the transect, the fish surveyors are the first to start where one diver swims ahead, conducting the fish counts whilst another diver follows behind and lays the transect tape. On a typical day, the diver team goes out to conduct two to three monitoring dives, depending on the tidal window available. (Seychelles Islands Foundation) Photo License: All Rights Reserved  «Following these are the benthic surveyors – one diver taking photos of the reef floor through the benthic photo quadrat frame while the other diver records juvenile corals. The benthic surveyors usually finish earlier than the fish surveyors and, if needed, download the temperature data from the underwater data loggers. A typical survey dive usually takes 45 to 55 minutes,» she said. Following a surface interval, the team moves to the next site to repeat the procedure. Once back at the station, the team unloads the boat, cleans the equipment and fills the SCUBA tanks used. Datasheets are stored and footage is saved for analysis later on. Koester, told SNA that «this programme is important to understand changes to the coral reef ecosystem and its fish communities over time, specifically in relation to climate change induced coral bleaching events, the potential spread of invasive species and coral diseases.» «It also serves to measure if and how the subsistence fishing of SIF's research stations has an impact on Aldabra's fish communities,» added Koester. ARM was initiated in 2013, shortly before the last global coral bleaching event that affected Seychelles in December 2015 to June 2016, and hence has allowed the foundation to monitor the impact of the event on Aldabra's reefs. Koester said this programme is important to understand changes to the coral reef ecosystem and its fish communities over time. (Seychelles Islands Foundation) Photo License: All Rights Reserved  Koester said that following the bleaching event, SIF recorded 34 to 55 percent coral loss in different sites. Corals found in the reefs inside the Aldabra lagoon have nearly completely recovered from the last global coral bleaching event of 2015 and 2016, whereas recovery of corals on the seaward reefs is slower, even if the coral cover is steadily rising. The Seychelles Island Foundation (SIF), made these observations through an ongoing annual monitoring programme. «In the shallow lagoon, where water flows in and out with the tide twice a day and undergoes substantial temperature changes, the coral loss was lower than on the seaward reefs, likely because corals in the lagoon are better acclimatised to temperature stress,» Koester told SNA.

Opposition leader in court as Senegal braces for more protests

Detained Senegalese opposition leader Ousmane Sonko will appear in court Monday, with his supporters urged to «massively descend onto the streets» for a new round of protests against his arrest. Five people, including a schoolboy, have been kille
Seychelles News Agency

Opposition leader in court as Senegal braces for more protests

Detained Senegalese opposition leader Ousmane Sonko will appear in court Monday, with his supporters urged to «massively descend onto the streets» for a new round of protests against his arrest. Five people, including a schoolboy, have been killed in days of clashes sparked by the arrest, the worst violence in years in a country usually seen as a beacon of stability in a volatile region. Sonko is due before the court in Dakar to answer questions about a rape charge, which he says is politically motivated. Schools in the capital have been ordered closed for a week, as the political opposition has called for three more days of protests beginning Monday. The unrest has alarmed the United Nations and Senegal's neighbours, who have appealed for all sides to show restraint, and President Macky Sall -- yet to publicly address the situation -- is facing mounting pressure to speak out. Sonko, 46, a fierce critic of the governing elite in Senegal, was arrested on Wednesday on charges of disturbing public order. Scuffles between opposition supporters and security forces had broken out while Sonko was on his way to court in Dakar to answer the separate rape charge. People torched cars, looted shops and hurled stones at police during the protests, which have highlighted longstanding grievances over living standards and economic exclusion in the West African state. Clashed had abated by Saturday, but the call from the opposition to take to the streets again has led to concerns the violence could escalate. Ahead of the new protests, 19 foreign embassies in Dakar -- including those of the United States, the European Union and France -- issued a joint statement on Sunday urging non-violence and dialogue. The 15-nation Economic Community of West African States also called for a peaceful solution to tensions, noting that it had «significant concerns». © Agence France-Presse

Air Seychelles opens route to Dubai for 2 months, step forward amid COVID-19

Air Seychelles will return to the skies with regularly scheduled passenger flights after a nearly three-month absence, opening a weekly flight from Seychelles to Dubai World Central Airport between 26 March and 29 May, the airline announced on Monday. The ai
Seychelles News Agency

Air Seychelles opens route to Dubai for 2 months, step forward amid COVID-19

Air Seychelles will return to the skies with regularly scheduled passenger flights after a nearly three-month absence, opening a weekly flight from Seychelles to Dubai World Central Airport between 26 March and 29 May, the airline announced on Monday. The airline, along with much of the tourism industry in Seychelles, has struggled mightily during the period of COVID-19. The last scheduled passenger flight of Air Seychelles was to Tel Aviv in early January. Since then the airline has been doing repatriation, charter and cargo flights on demand. The flights to Dubai, which the airline suggested are ideal for travellers planning their Easter holidays, are on sale at the airlines' sales offices on the main island of Mahe and Praslin, via airseychelles.com. Travellers can also contact the call centre on 4391000 or through travel agents. The airline said that to provide business and leisure travellers a full week in Dubai, the returning flight will operate on Saturday mornings, arriving back to the island nation around midday. The first flight will depart Seychelles International Airport on the morning of Friday, 26 March and return on Saturday, 27 March. Between April 2 and May 29, the flight schedule on Fridays will depart Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean, in the afternoon. All travellers arriving in Dubai and the Seychelles must hold a negative COVID-19 PCR test certificate taken no more than 72 hours before departure. Those travelling to Seychelles must also complete the mandatory Health Travel Authorisation upon receipt of the negative PCR test certificate at seychelles.govtas.com. Meanwhile, Seychelles has formed a special air bubble arrangement with the government of India and flights from both sides will be done under the agreement. Currently, the airline is doing voluntary redundancy in particular targeting older workers as part of its evaluation of its manpower plan in order to sustain the airline's long-term operations. Air Seychelles said this step is being taken to adapt to the unprecedented business environment faced by airlines globally due to a downturn in tourism and border control measures amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pope Francis departs Iraq after historic trip: AFP

Pope Francis concluded on Monday the first-ever papal trip to Iraq, which went off without a hitch despite security worries and a second wave of coronavirus cases in the country. The 84-year-old pontiff covered more than 1,400 kilometres (900 miles) inside t
Seychelles News Agency

Pope Francis departs Iraq after historic trip: AFP

Pope Francis concluded on Monday the first-ever papal trip to Iraq, which went off without a hitch despite security worries and a second wave of coronavirus cases in the country. The 84-year-old pontiff covered more than 1,400 kilometres (900 miles) inside the country, bringing encouragement to its diminished Christian community and extending a hand to Shiite Muslims by meeting top cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani. «In my time among you, I have heard voices of sorrow and loss, but also voices of hope and consolation,» Francis said on Sunday, concluding his last public event. «Now the time draws near for my return to Rome. Yet Iraq will always remain with me, in my heart.» In his packed three full days in Iraq, the Pope made more than a half-dozen speeches in nearly as many cities, repeatedly evoking hope and fraternity. In Baghdad on Friday, he called for an end to violence and extremism and urged officials to do more to fight corruption. Francis called the minority Yazidis «innocent victims of senseless and brutal atrocities,» following the Islamic State group's rampage against their esoteric community in 2014. He also met members of Iraq's other minorities in a moving interfaith ceremony at Ur, where the Prophet Abraham is thought to have been born. On Saturday, he held an extraordinary meeting with the reclusive but highly respected Sistani, who afterwards said Iraq's Christians should have the right to live in «peace.» Francis' full day in Iraq's war-battered north on Sunday embodied a cause close to his heart -- supporting traumatised Christians. There, he said the «tragic» exodus of Christians «does incalculable harm not just to the individuals and communities concerned, but also to the society they leave behind». © Agence France-Presse

SNA Interview: Angela Servina, first woman chief executive of Seychelles' Planning Authority

International Women's Day is commemorated on March 8 all over the world as a celebration of women and their achievements. Seychelles – 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean -- is known as a matriarchal society with independent women assuming different p
Seychelles News Agency

SNA Interview: Angela Servina, first woman chief executive of Seychelles' Planning Authority

International Women's Day is commemorated on March 8 all over the world as a celebration of women and their achievements. Seychelles – 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean -- is known as a matriarchal society with independent women assuming different posts, even those traditionally associated with men. Angela Servina has broken the glass ceiling as the first woman appointed as the chief executive of the island nation's Planning Authority - the authority regulating the construction industry and uses of land in Seychelles. SNA speaks with the mother of two, who has proven that hard work and determination can lead to success.   SNA: Tell us a bit about yourself, your background, about your family in general. AS: I am 36 years old and come from the Anse-Boileau district where I grew up with my sister. My mother was a single mother and our grandparents looked after us when she had to work. My father had to flee from the country because of the politics of the country at that time. I was only 3 years old when he left for the United Kingdom. Today, I am a single mother with two sons, one is 19, the other is 6. I am a pretty simple person who values family and cares deeply for my loved ones. Some people would describe me as someone with a strong personality and perhaps this is true. I am someone who believes in doing things the right and fair way. From as far back as I can remember, I have always been someone who speaks up for what I believe in.   SNA: Tell us about your education. AS: After doing my A levels in French, History and Geography at the Seychelles Polytechnic, I qualified for a fully funded government scholarship. But I spent two years as a supplementary teacher at the Pointe Larue Secondary school before proceeding to university in South Africa in 2007. My intention was to follow a degree course in Tourism Marketing but upon reaching university I found out that the course was a diploma one and hence I changed my mind. One of my colleagues had already registered for a degree in Geography and I decided to enrol in the same course. Geography was something I was familiar with and I figured I could later specialize in a particular branch. I excelled in the course and eventually graduated with a degree with the highest honours. Servina comes from the Anse-Boileau district where she grew with her single mother and sister. (Angela Servina) Photo License: All Rights Reserved    SNA: Tell us about your career path. AS: In January 2010, I was hired for the post of acting senior planning officer in the Land Use and Strategic Planning Unit of the Planning Authority. At the time, the authority had really been hit by the voluntary departure. There were about 30 staff employed, if not less. The mandate of the authority was also seriously under threat due to budget constraints. But I found my way through the difficulties and learnt as best I could. In March of 2010, the chief executive officer called me in and informed me of his intention to put me on the Planning Board as secretary. I had no notion of what this responsibility would entail then, but I agreed. I attended several meetings, observing and taking notes before finally taking over as the permanent secretary and along with my other duties in the land use unit. I also delivered the duties of the planning board secretary in preparing minutes of meeting, communicating decisions to clients, preparing board meetings and visits. Each time the board got re-appointed I was also re-appointed as secretary.  From 2012 to date, I served in the following posts as the head of the Land Use Section, senior planning officer, principal planning officer – a post I held, until my recent promotion in February this year.   SNA: Give us an overview of your current job.  AS: I would describe the place similarly to being the head of a household where you have to care for everyone and think of everyone's well-being and plan so for the household to run well and thrive. In summary, it involves leading the secretariat of the authority, budgeting for the authority, authenticating decisions of the board, acting as the bridge between the board and public, offering advice and solutions to more complex projects to staff, ensuring a high team spirit and direction for the authority and ensuring quality service, which is delivered in a timely manner, for the public. Most tasks are not new. It's only the responsibilities that are more and the pressure is also definitely more acute.   SNA: What is it that you are bringing to the authority? AS: I wish to bring in fresh ideas and some restructuring where necessary to improve on our areas of weaknesses. A lot of work has already been done to improve the authority's work and I am glad that I got to be a part of this. But now, I have a young team of Seychellois professionals at my disposal and I intend to use their knowledge and ideas to further enhance the Authority.   SNA: What are the challenges faced by the authority? AS: In terms of operation, we are stuck with an outdated law (The Town & Country Planning Act 1972) we need to have the Bill to replace the same reviewed and represented to the National Assembly for endorsement. We are encountering a lot of issues in regards to clients and contractors who keep breaking the law by undertaking illegal development or not about necessary provisions of the law. The fines to deal with these are way too low and does not deter the lawbreakers. Similarly to other government agencies, we have suffered budget cuts, due to the current economic crisis. Some parts of our operations could be affected but we are doing our best to spend wisely and still identifying areas to make necessary savings. But we are looking at some possible alternative financing from some of our foreign partners. Lastly, one of our main challenges has to do with the perception or should I say lack of education on the part of the public vis a vis the mandate of the authority.  Since taking office, I have noted that the authority gets dragged into a lot of personal conflicts between neighbours, which takes up a lot of our resources and time and which does not necessarily have much to do with us. In addition, the authority is too often blamed for a lot of issues falling outside its mandate. I believe that we will have to launch a public education campaign in that regard. I think that we should be commended for being one of the first government agencies in Seychelles to become fully digital in terms of our operations. This is why most staff can now work from home at the moment. All applications are submitted via an online platform which are then also circulated digitally to our referral agencies for comments and considered in our online weekly meetings. Decisions are also communicated via e-mails and both clients and agents can follow-up with their plans via the agent's online account. Even the plans are now authenticated electronically. To end, I can say that I am excited to take on this new challenge in my career. I see it as a progression and I certainly aim to make a difference where I can and bring a little personal touch, to our interactions with our clients.   SNA: And on a last note, a message to the girls out there? AS: Stay focused on your studies and work hard to achieve your dreams. Always know your priorities and stay focused on them, in reaching the end product. Remember that nothing is impossible in life, especially if you have the determination and count on God's guidance and blessings.  

Compensation talks for Seychellois fishermen aboard Spanish, French vessels underway

Discussions have begun over the compensation from the European Union (EU) due to Seychellois seamen on EU-flagged tuna vessels pending since 2005. The terms are expected to be settled in April. The Minister for Fisheries and Blue Economy told journalists o
Seychelles News Agency

Compensation talks for Seychellois fishermen aboard Spanish, French vessels underway

Discussions have begun over the compensation from the European Union (EU) due to Seychellois seamen on EU-flagged tuna vessels pending since 2005. The terms are expected to be settled in April. The Minister for Fisheries and Blue Economy told journalists on Saturday that he is both sad and angry as Seychelles has done its part to ensure that the payments are made as «he was pushing for a conclusion in the compensation for the seamen, who have been waiting for too long.» Jean-François Ferrari said the issue of the compensation and other components of the new EU-Seychelles Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreement 2020-2026 were discussed during the first meeting of the Joint Committee on March 3-4. The aim of the Zoom meeting between the EU and Seychelles was to review the implementation of the first year of application of the new Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreement (SFPA) and its six years implementing protocol and to discuss mechanisms to strengthen their cooperation and common efforts towards sustainable fisheries. According to Ferrari, the compensation is a long outstanding issue for payment of compensation for Seychellois seamen for past embarkations on vessels under the SFPA's of the previous protocols. The minister added that Seychelles' delegation had delivered all records and information on this outstanding issue to the European Union. «There is one point that was fundamental and that was the compensation for our mariners. We did all we can and I can say that I am quite angry and a bit sad, because we, on the Seychelles side, did everything for us to be able to give the compensation by the end of the first quarter of 2021, that is the end of March» explained Ferrari. The minister said that he is in constant contact with these seamen and their families – as some of them have since passed away – to keep them informed on their dues. Ferrari said that he wants to make it clear that the delay in the payments is not Seychelles' fault and added that he felt that the European Union had let them down. «So the work continues and I hope that very soon I can see the joy on the faces of the seamen who have been waiting for a long time,» added Ferrari, who said that the delay is caused by bureaucracy within the EU and its 27 member states. One such mariner is Jolfa Louise, whom SNA spoke to on Saturday. Louise explained that there around 60 seamen who had worked or are still working on Spanish and French tuna vessels and are waiting for their compensation. «Compensation from 1984 to 2004 were settled back in 2005. What is outstanding now is the payment from 2005,» said Louise, who added that this is only part of the compensation due. «There will be two more payments due this has to do with leave and pension, but we need to resolve this first compensation,» explained Louise. The new SFPA and its protocol signed in February 2020 represents a key milestone of the long-standing bilateral cooperation in fisheries between the EU and Seychelles, and of their joint commitment to promote sustainable and transparent use of marine resources both in the Seychelles waters and in the Indian Ocean region. In his keynote address, the EU Ambassador to Seychelles Vincent Degert said «the SFPA with Seychelles is »our« agreement, of both the EU and Seychelles, as it has at its core our common values and principles — such as respect, transparency, rules of the law, decisions guided by science — as well as our shared vision towards sustainable fisheries beyond Seychelles waters». Each year for the entire duration of the Protocol, a financial contribution of €2.8 million (around $3.3 million) by the EU is specifically earmarked to promote the sustainable management of fisheries in Seychelles, as well as to support the development of small-scale fisheries. The EU-SEY Protocol allows the EU fleet (40 tuna purse-seiners and eight long-liners) to fish in Seychelles waters for six years while continuing to support the sustainable development of the fisheries sector in the Seychelles – 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean. 

Live-streaming funerals a new option for mourning Seychellois to get around COVID restrictions

With restrictions in place limiting the number of mourners who can attend a funeral in Seychelles, families and friends are finding alternative ways to say goodbye, including through live streaming the ceremony. In January, after a sudden increased in the nu
Seychelles News Agency

Live-streaming funerals a new option for mourning Seychellois to get around COVID restrictions

With restrictions in place limiting the number of mourners who can attend a funeral in Seychelles, families and friends are finding alternative ways to say goodbye, including through live streaming the ceremony. In January, after a sudden increased in the number of community transmitted cases Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean, the health ministry introduced new restrictions, including limiting the numbers of attendees at a funeral to 15. A Seychellois team, Tropix Studios, is offering live stream funeral services for people unable to attend the service for a starting price of SCR 5,000 ($236). Tropix Studios is a multimedia company in Seychelles providing professional services in various fields such as live streaming, videography, photography, graphics design, website design and social media management. The company provides live streaming as well as other professional services. (Tropix) Photo License: All Rights Reserved  The company was launched in 2018 by Steve Nibourette, Alex Zelime and Alvin Abel. Nibourette told SNA that with the restrictions «allowing only 15 family members to attend funerals, we felt that our service can help grieving family members who are not able to attend the funeral service.» «A few days after the strict restrictions ... one of our team members came up with the idea of live streaming,» Nibourette explained. A person looking to assist a virtual service needs to obtain a link from the family or friend who booked the service in order to access the live stream that is currently being aired on YouTube and Facebook. «Using a live streaming service can benefit our clients by saving costs with fewer logistics and planning to organise the usual big events, rent out smaller space to showcase their products or events and in turn get the advantage to reach an unlimited number of people,» said Nibourette. Nibourette said that restrictions in place live streaming is the best alternative to get a large number of viewers. (Tropix) Photo License: All Rights Reserved  He added that with the COVID-19 restrictions in place live streaming is the best alternative to reach a large group of viewers.« Viewers can watch Livestream and also replay the stream anytime they want on their mobile devices, laptops, computers or smart tv, the only thing required is stable internet access. One person who has used the service, Maria Laurencine, told SNA that the service is a very useful tool in the new normal. »In view of the restrictions of downsizing to 15 people attending a funeral, and the fact that my mother was a very well-known person in her career as a nurse, it served the purpose. Her colleagues and patients could pay their last respect by watching,« said Laurencine. The video, which was streamed on her Facebook profile, received over 70 comments and 128 likes. »We are planning to make the service more mobile in the future as there are some venues or locations that don't have electricity and also bad network reception for stable internet access. Also, we are planning to start streaming on multiple social media platforms at the same time to reach out to a bigger audience," said Nibourette.

Madagascar opposition protests against pandemic response

Hundreds of anti-government protesters took to the streets in Madagascar's capital Antananarivo on Saturday, denouncing alleged mismanagement of coronavirus funds and economic hardship. Demonstrators in red t-shirts and face masks gathered for the first oppo
Seychelles News Agency

Madagascar opposition protests against pandemic response

Hundreds of anti-government protesters took to the streets in Madagascar's capital Antananarivo on Saturday, denouncing alleged mismanagement of coronavirus funds and economic hardship. Demonstrators in red t-shirts and face masks gathered for the first opposition protest to be authorised since presidential elections in 2018. Authorities deployed a heavy military and police presence and flew a drone over the protest to surveil the crowd. Hanitra Razafimanantsoa, spokeswoman for the main opposition party Tiako I Madagasikara (TIM), addressed around 1,000 demonstrators from a stage. «We have been victims of exclusion,» she shouted down a microphone. The opposition accuses the government of embezzling a $600-million donation to help fight coronavirus. «None of us have been able to benefit from this aid,» Razafimanantsoa said. Tensions between President Andry Rajoelina and his political rivals have escalated in recent weeks amid growing frustrations at the regime's handling of the pandemic. A senior opposition figure was detained in July for protesting over a herbal drink touted by the president as a coronavirus treatment and cure. Former communications minister Harry Laurent Rahajason was sentenced to 44 months in prison for disrupting public order and inciting hatred. He was denied bail on Friday. Rajoelina has widely boasted the virtues of the locally-brewed artemisia plant infusion to fight coronavirus. The drink, which has not been scientifically tested, has been handed out freely across the country and exported to other African countries. But the Indian Ocean island nation had still recorded more than 19,800 coronavirus cases and at least 297 deaths by the third week of February. Restrictions brought into to tackle the spread of the virus have compounded the hardships in one of the world's poorest countries, where a severe drought in southern regions is threatening food security. «The price of rice per kilogramme... is double the price it was two years ago,» Razafimanantsoa said. The government has not yet laid out any coronavirus vaccination plans, saying it will first observe the roll out in other countries. © Agence France-Presse

New bill creates fines for trustees in Seychelles not in compliance on businesses relationships

A fine not exceeding $5,000 will be applied to trustees who are found to not be complying with provisions made under a new bill approved by the Seychelles' National Assembly on Friday. The National Assembly approved the International Trust Amendments bill wh
Seychelles News Agency

New bill creates fines for trustees in Seychelles not in compliance on businesses relationships

A fine not exceeding $5,000 will be applied to trustees who are found to not be complying with provisions made under a new bill approved by the Seychelles' National Assembly on Friday. The National Assembly approved the International Trust Amendments bill which addresses concerns raised in the Mutual Evaluation Report published in 2018 by the Eastern and Southern Africa Anti-Money Laundering Group (ESAAMLG). Recommendation 25 in the report obliges jurisdictions to ensure that trustees share their information with financial institutions when forming a business relationship or performing a transaction above the set threshold. «The standard of FATF also allows competent authorities to gain information on the trust and beneficial ownership,» said Minister of Finance Naadir Hassan, who presented the bill to the National Assembly members. Another change to the bill is in section 29 where requirements found in the International Trust Register which include names, address, nationality and places of corporation for each trustee, have been inserted. Trustees will be given a period of three months to put the register in line with the new obligations. The National Assembly also approved amendments in three other laws; Anti Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (Amendment) Bill, 2021, Beneficial Ownership (Amendment) Bill, 2021, and Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters (Amendment) Bill, 2021 and Extradition (Amendment) Bill 2021. Hassan said that it is important that the local laws are on par with international standards. «It is important that the weaknesses which have been identified as part of the Mutual Evaluation Report in 2018 are rectified, so as not to compromise the reputation of our jurisdiction, and not put our banking system at risk,» he said. Hassan added that identifying and rectifying the weaknesses in the laws regulating the financial sector is also in line with the Government's long term strategy to modernise the sector. «The aim is to ensure that the financial sector contributes more to the economy, but keeping in mind we should respect our international obligations and requirements.» He pointed out that the reforms are not only focusing on the laws but how to completely revolutionise the financial sector which was set up in the 1990s to bring to today's reality. Now that the amendments have been made to the relevant laws, Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean, will also be asking for a re-rating during the Eastern and Southern Africa Anti-Money Laundering Group meeting in September 2021.

Thousands of Madagascar infants treated for malnutrition : charity

Over 4,000 children have been hospitalised for malnutrition in southern Madagascar this year due to severe drought, Action Against Hunger said Thursday, as food insecurity spirals in the most vulnerable parts of the country. The Indian Ocean island nation i
Seychelles News Agency

Thousands of Madagascar infants treated for malnutrition : charity

Over 4,000 children have been hospitalised for malnutrition in southern Madagascar this year due to severe drought, Action Against Hunger said Thursday, as food insecurity spirals in the most vulnerable parts of the country. The Indian Ocean island nation is grappling with the effects of three consequence years of below-average rainfall compounded by the coronavirus pandemic. Most of the impact is felt in the impoverished Grand Sud region, where the majority of the population survives off agriculture. Global charity Action Against Hunger on Thursday warned that more than 4,000 malnourished children under the age of five had been admitted to its mobile health centres in Grand Sud so far this year. That figure is more than double the number recorded over the same period in 2020, when food insecurity was already widespread. «This is a humanitarian emergency where children will die if we do not take them into our care,» Action Against Hunger southern Africa operations director Valerie Ceylon said in a statement. «We are currently one of the few actors present on the ground to support local health authorities,» she added. While southern Madagascar usually faces a yearly hunger season, Ceylon noted the current situation was «much more serious than other years». Lack of rain caused households to run out of food stock as early as September 2020. Deforestation has meanwhile increased the intensity of sandstorms that have destroyed crops, undermining agricultural production for the year ahead. Action Against Hunger said its teams on the ground had observed «desperate feeding practices» such as eating clay and unripe mangoes, and called for more funding. The UN's World Food Programme in January appealed for emergency aid of $35 million (29 million euros) to fight the hunger crisis. © Agence France-Presse

Tsunami warnings lifted as threat from monster quakes subsides

Tsunami warnings were lifted across several South Pacific islands Friday allowing tens of thousand of evacuees to return home, as the risk from a series of powerful earthquakes appeared to ease. Quakes of 7.3, 7.4 and 8.1 magnitude struck near New Zealand's
Seychelles News Agency

Tsunami warnings lifted as threat from monster quakes subsides

Tsunami warnings were lifted across several South Pacific islands Friday allowing tens of thousand of evacuees to return home, as the risk from a series of powerful earthquakes appeared to ease. Quakes of 7.3, 7.4 and 8.1 magnitude struck near New Zealand's remote Kermadec Islands in quick succession early Friday, followed by dozens of powerful aftershocks and a slew of tsunami warnings across the Pacific. Thousands headed for high ground as waves of up to three metres (11 feet) had been predicted in New Caledonia and Vanuatu, with states and territories from New Zealand to Peru, Russia to Antarctica also put on high alert. In New Zealand, authorities said the entire town of North Island Town of Opotiki, about 4,000 people, had been emptied out. Six hours drive up the coast, Keith Wooderson said he sought refuge in the hills outside town. «There were queues and queues of cars as far as the eye could see. We didn't even get out of our van, we just waited for the all clear,» he said. «There was no panic, it was all pretty orderly.» In the end, the largest surges of one metre were reported in New Caledonia's Loyalty Islands, and eyewitnesses in the Vanuatu capital Port Vila's saw only a few outsized waves slosh against the seafront, soaking the pavement promenade. There were no reports of major damage and the only immediate impact to human health appeared to be mild dehydration among commuters stuck for hours in heavy traffic on the French island of Tahiti. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said that the threat had not completely ended -- South and Central America could still see modest tsunami waves arriving from 1330 GMT -- but many warnings from local authorities were lifted. Authorities in Australia, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Vanuatu and French Polynesia were among those rescinding or downgrading their initial warnings. The sense of relief stood in stark contrast to early fears, when sirens rang out, seaside schools were evacuated and some parents were told to move to high ground immediately without trying to collect their children -- for fear traffic would block emergency routes and leave many of them vulnerable or stranded. In New Zealand, where there had been an evacuation order for a swathe of coastal communities, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern expressed relief. «It's hard not to feel like our country is having a run of bad luck, when you have an earthquake, a tsunami alert and a pandemic to contend with all in one day,» she said. Fiona Rudsdale, who runs the Whangarei Central Holiday Park on New Zealand's North Island, slept though the initial quake but was woken by tsunami warning sirens. She immediately began organising the evacuation of around 30 guests from the caravan park to a nearby hilltop. «We took them up to the top of Morningside Park, you can look down on the town from there,» she told AFP. «We put on some food and drink, it all went pretty smoothly. You've still got a couple of idiots in town driving around but mostly everyone's behaving themselves and doing what they're told.» In other areas some hardy or foolish residents were seen braving the ocean for a swim or surf. Emergency Services Minister Kiri Allan said coastal communities responded to the warnings. «Very swiftly people pulled themselves together, got their backpacks, got into cars and congregated either inland or up high and are now watching it unfold,» she said. The local coastguard ordered hundreds of boats still on the ocean to deeper waters as a precaution. - The earth moved - The largest of the quakes struck around 1,000 kilometres (640 miles) off the New Zealand coast at 8:28 am (1928 Thursday GMT), the US Geological Survey said. It was preceded by two seismic jolts that were also enormously powerful, in an unusually strong cluster even for the Pacific ring of fire, where the Earth's tectonic plates collide. «On average, a magnitude eight or larger earthquake only occurs once a year anywhere in the world, so this is a significant earthquake and at a depth and magnitude to potentially generate a tsunami,» said Adam Pascale, chief scientist at ESS Earth Sciences. Prime Minister Ardern was among those given an early morning wake-up. «Hope everyone is ok out there -- especially on the East Coast who would have felt the full force of that earthquake,» she posted on Instagram after the initial shake at 2:27 am. The South Pacific nation recently marked the 10th anniversary of the Christchurch earthquake, when a 6.3 tremor resulted in 185 deaths in the South Island city. © Agence France-Presse

Web developers train in e-commerce in bid to modernise Seychelles' payment systems

A group of web developers has been trained in e-commerce in a bid to modernise Seychelles' digital payment systems. Sixty participants attended the three-day training hosted by the Central Bank in collaboration with the Department of Information Communicatio
Seychelles News Agency

Web developers train in e-commerce in bid to modernise Seychelles' payment systems

A group of web developers has been trained in e-commerce in a bid to modernise Seychelles' digital payment systems. Sixty participants attended the three-day training hosted by the Central Bank in collaboration with the Department of Information Communications Technology (DICT) and three commercial banks. The training focused on e-commerce and provided website developers with skills on how to embed payment gateways into websites. The financial inclusion analyst of the Central Bank, Jonathan Valentin, told the press on Thursday that it is important for Seychelles to modernise its digital payment system. «There is a need to have website developers in the country that have the ability to work with banks and merchants to see how they can interlink their systems so that more people migrate to using digital payment facility when transacting,» said Valentin. The development of e-commerce is part of efforts to promote the use of digital financial services. This gained momentum with several restrictions in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which spurred the government and private entities to roll out adaptive measures to manage the impact of the pandemic. The training focused on e-commerce and provided website developers with skills on how to embed payment gateways into websites.  (Seychelles Nation) Photo License: CC-BY Safety and security of using digital payment were also covered in the training to gain trust in the services. «There is a lot of work to be done to sensitise people on using digital services as a first option to perform their financial transactions. We want people to trust in these services and we want them to know that there are enough laws in place to protect them while using it,» he added. The subject of internet connectivity was also raised as it is important for online transactions. «A lot of our initiatives being taken to modernise our digital system depends a lot on the internet. We are working to remove these existing barriers by working closely with the Department of Information Communications Technology (DICT) and telecom companies,» said Valentin. A participant in the training, Alvyna Vidot, said it was very fruitful and that «we can keep on exploring new payments method in the future.» In her opening remarks, the Central Bank Governor, Caroline Abel, noted that while there is increased interest and willingness for leveraging online payments, challenges have been identified, especially with regards to capacity in this sector. «Gaps have been identified whereby the average website developer often does not have the competence or awareness to integrate payment solutions within websites. Hence, these specialist services may be sub-contracted, leading to high margins and increasing cost to the client,» she said. «With the appropriate training, we believe that local website developers will be better aware of the options available and will have the technical capacity to integrate these payment platforms within websites, and as such, potentially contributing to the ease of access to goods and services and reducing the cost to the customer,» said Abel. The training ties in with the implementation of the digital economy agenda of the government of Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean.

Seychelles to re-open islands to tourists from around the world on March 25

Seychelles will reopen to tourists from all over the world - with the exception of South Africa - on March 25, a top official said Monday. Visitors coming to the islands will only need a negative PCR test done within 72 hours prior to their arrival to the co
Seychelles News Agency

Seychelles to re-open islands to tourists from around the world on March 25

Seychelles will reopen to tourists from all over the world - with the exception of South Africa - on March 25, a top official said Monday. Visitors coming to the islands will only need a negative PCR test done within 72 hours prior to their arrival to the country. No quarantine will be needed and visitors will be free to enjoy their holidays in certified hotels. Minister for Foreign Affairs and Tourism Sylvestre Radegonde told a press conference that visitors will however need to abide by health measures in place, which means that wearing masks, hand sanitising, and social and physical distancing are mandatory. “We are hoping that this will give the economy the breathing space that the economy needs, the country needs. And we hope that this will follow by a series of economic activities around the tourism industry. There is demand across the world for holidays and Seychelles is being looked at as potential,” said Radegonde. With regards to the South African market, the minister said the decision was taken as is important to protect the European market vital for the industry. Radegonde (middle) told a press conference that visitors will however need to abide by health measures in place. (Seychelles Nation) Photo License: CC-BY “The problem is the European market. We are already on a red list in England associated with flights to South Africa. So we are in discussions with the British authorities to better understand what their problem is and how to resolve this. Once resolved we will open to everyone including South Africa,” explained the minister. The Principal Secretary for Tourism, Anne Lafortune, added that visitors have to book accommodation in the certified tourism establishments. Currently out of 700 licensed accommodations 535 are COVID-19 certified. “Once establishments are certified, they have their SOPs that the establishments have developed and endorsed by health. They need to observe these SOPs, for instance if the visitor falls ill, know what to do, where to put them, because they still can become positive, so these remain, as long as SOPs are observed, there are no restrictions they can move about,” explained Lafortune. The principal secretary added that visitors are free to move on all the islands and they are also free to go on yachts by themselves without crew as was the case before. Sherin Francis from the Seychelles Tourism Board said that travellers are showing interest in Seychelles  - 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean. “For instance there are markets like Germany, Israel and England and there has always been, throughout, markets where many people have researched vacations but due to travel conditions many people had not booked any travels, but with the announcement made today, in the coming week we will monitor how our potential visitors react to the announcement,” explained Francis. According to Francis, airlines already operating to Seychelles are maintaining their flight schedules and may increase flights. The return of Aeroflot to bring in Russian tourists and chartered flights from Israel in addition to flights by Air Seychelles are also planned now. A large number of visitors to the islands are brought in by cruise ship during the cruise season from October to April, but due to COVID-19, the country closed the cruise ship season. But Lafortune said that discussions are underway to see whether this will be opened this year. The minister took the opportunity to also appeal to people working directly in the tourism industry who have not taken their vaccination to do so as to protect fellow Seychellois but the visitors they serve as well.

Seychelles to accelerate COVID-19 vaccination programme ahead of tourism re-opening

Seychelles will accelerate its COVID-19 vaccination programme to ensure that 70,000 residents are vaccinated when the island nation opens to visitors from any country except South Africa on March 25, said a top health official on Thursday. The Public Health
Seychelles News Agency

Seychelles to accelerate COVID-19 vaccination programme ahead of tourism re-opening

Seychelles will accelerate its COVID-19 vaccination programme to ensure that 70,000 residents are vaccinated when the island nation opens to visitors from any country except South Africa on March 25, said a top health official on Thursday. The Public Health Commissioner, Jude Gedeon, told a press conference that presently 56,000 out of 98,000 people have received at least a first dose of either Sinopharm or Covishield. «Seychelles is making good progress and we are presently ahead of all countries in terms of the number of people who have received at least a first dose of vaccine,» he said. Gedeon said if more people get vaccinated «we will be able to reach our target for adequate immunity in the community to break the chain of transmission. This will allow us to open safely to our tourism industry with minimal disruptions to our normal lives.» He added that vaccination is not mandatory but some businesses are moving in the direction of making vaccination obligatory for access to their services. «There are airlines where being vaccinated will be mandatory and this is coming up. We are monitoring the global situation for the time being but we have not reached that stage. It is still optional now,» said Gedeon. The Public Health Commissioner said that Seychelles will be receiving more stock of vaccines in the coming days which will allow the vaccination of more people. He said that presently the health authorities are seeing a downward trend in active cases compared to mid-February. Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean, has recorded to date 2,890 cases out of which 343 are still active and 13 have died of the illness. Gedeon said that the deaths recorded have been due to the patients having had underlying conditions that contributed to their demise. He added that although Seychelles will achieve its target if the programme speeds up, «we don't know how effective the vaccines we are giving are against the different variants. We do know there are some protection but we don't know how much and for how long,» said Gedeon. He said that samples to test for variants in Seychelles have been taken and prepared to ship to Kemri (Kenya Medical Research Institute) laboratory by Friday. «We hope that we can get the results if not next week at the following one. It all depends on how fast they do the test,» said Gedeon.

Shooting mars reunion of freed Nigerian schoolgirls with parents

All the 279 Nigerian schoolgirls released by kidnappers this week were on Wednesday reunited with their parents, in an emotional event overshadowed by chaos and shooting by security forces, an AFP reporter saw. Angered by officials' insistence on a formal ha
Seychelles News Agency

Shooting mars reunion of freed Nigerian schoolgirls with parents

All the 279 Nigerian schoolgirls released by kidnappers this week were on Wednesday reunited with their parents, in an emotional event overshadowed by chaos and shooting by security forces, an AFP reporter saw. Angered by officials' insistence on a formal handover before parents could leave with their children, mobs began throwing stones at officials outside the school in the remote village of Jangebe when the girls were returned. One person was shot in the stomach when security personnel opened fire and was carried away by others in the crowd. «Four people have been shot dead in the confusion,» Jangebe resident Bello Gidan-Ruwa told AFP by phone after leaving the village. The tally could not immediately be confirmed with official sources. Pupils at Government Secondary School in the village in northwestern Zamfara state, the girls were abducted on Friday from their hostels by gunmen known locally as bandits, who released them early Tuesday. Since their release, the students had been in government care in state capital Gusau, receiving medical treatment before being returned to the school to be handed over to their parents. There were tears and hugs from parents and relations as the girls arrived in buses, but officials and security personnel insisted on ushering the children into the dining hall. - 'Infuriating' - Anxious parents were outraged by officials' insistence that the girls must be handed over to the local chief of Anka district, Attahiru Ahmad Anka. «It is infuriating for (officials) to say they had to finish their speeches before handing over our children to us. This is outrageous,» one mother told AFP as she led her daughter away. «They know the roads are insecure but they didn't care. If we leave late and are kidnapped with our daughters again, the girls' rescue will make no sense.» There was chaos in the hall as parents grabbed their children and stormed out to the consternation of the officials. Shooting by the security forces began when the crowd began pelting a convoy carrying regional parliament speaker Nasiru Mu'azu Magarya with stones as it tried to leave the village. Despite the chaos, the girls and parents were happy for their release. «I'm extremely happy to have been rescued from our captors,» Aisha Jamilu, a student, told AFP. «I thank God for saving us from them. It was a horrifying experience I will never forget.» She added that she would leave up to her parents the question of whether to resume her studies and run the risk of a second kidnapping. «Even if I don't go back to the same school I can be transferred to another one,» Jamilu said. Muhammad Sani, father to two of the girls, said he was «delighted» to see his daughters again. «I can't say express how happy I'm. I didn't cry when the girls were kidnapped but I couldn't hold my tears when I saw them today. They were tears of joy.» - 'Reintegration' - UN experts on Wednesday called for urgent rehabilitation of the traumatised students. «Social inclusion of these children requires the provision of long-term measures aimed at restoring their physical and psychological well-being,» the UN Human Rights Special Procedures experts said in a statement. «Sensitising families and communities to the importance of reintegration is imperative for them to be able to build renewed social relations... and to overcome stigma.» The experts condemned the Nigerian government for the «lack of an effective investigation into the abduction of 344 students from a boys’ boarding school in Kankara, Katsina State, in December 2020 and released a few days later.» Heavily-armed criminal gangs in northwest and central Nigeria have stepped up attacks in recent years, kidnapping for ransom, raping and pillaging. © Agence France-Presse

Reggae great Bunny Wailer dead at 73

Reggae icon Bunny Wailer, who co-founded The Wailers with Bob Marley in the 1960s and helped make the catchy Jamaican beat a global phenomenon, died on Tuesday. He was 73. No cause of death was given. but the Jamaican culture ministry said Wailer had been ho
Seychelles News Agency

Reggae great Bunny Wailer dead at 73

Reggae icon Bunny Wailer, who co-founded The Wailers with Bob Marley in the 1960s and helped make the catchy Jamaican beat a global phenomenon, died on Tuesday. He was 73. No cause of death was given. but the Jamaican culture ministry said Wailer had been hospitalized in Kingston since December. Wailer, who was born Neville Livingstone in the Nine Mile district, where Marley also came from, suffered a stroke in 2018 and another in July of last year. He was the last surviving original member of the Wailers. Marley died of cancer in 1981, and Peter Tosh was murdered in 1987. Wailer, who was a childhood friend of Marley, won three Grammys over the course of his career, and in 2017, he was awarded Jamaica's Order of Merit, one of the country's highest honors. «We remain grateful for the role that Bunny Wailer played in the development and popularity of Reggae music across the world,» Culture Minister Olivia Grange said in a statement. «We remember with great pride how Bunny, Bob Marley and Peter Tosh took Reggae music to the four corners of the earth,» Grange added. Marley and Tosh acted as The Wailers' primary singers and songwriters, but Wailer played a key role in providing harmonies and percussion to the trio's songs, according to Rolling Stone magazine. «The Wailers are responsible for the Wailers sound. Bob, Peter, and myself: We are totally responsible for the Wailers sound, and what the Wailers brought to the world, and left as a legacy,» Wailer told Afropop in 2016. The band's debut album on a major label, «Catch a Fire,» released in 1973, helped propel the group to international fame. At one point, that record was ranked 126th on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums list. The band's biggest hits include «Simmer Down» and «One Love.» - Solo career - After leaving the band in 1974, Wailer went on to enjoy a prolific solo career as a writer, producer and singer of what is perhaps Jamaica's best known export. He drew much praise for his album «Blackheart Man,» which included the song «Burning Down Sentence,» which drew on Wailer's experience doing a one-year prison sentence for marijuana possession. «The tracks that were done in 'Blackheart Man' were very symbolic and significant to this whole development of reggae music,» Wailer told Reggaeville in 2017. «I really consider 'Blackheart Man' to be one of those albums that the universal reggae world should be focused on,» Wailer said. Fans in his hometown of Kingston mourned Wailer's death Tuesday. «Bunny had a big impact on me, and I would love for some of the younger folks to listen to his message,» 54-year-old clerk Devon Cole said. «My favorite song from him was ‘Blackheart Man.'» And Neil Parchment in nearby St. Catherine said Wailer «put (Jamaica) on the map.» «We give God thanks for blessing us with that talent and blessing the world with that talent.» Wailer, a Rastafarian like Marley, won the Grammy for best Reggae album three times in the 1990s. Tributes to Wailer poured in Tuesday. «In my view, Bunny Wailer was a more potent musician than even Bob Marley,» said Karyl Walker, a veteran Jamaican entertainment journalist. «He played instruments, more than one, and he wrote very good songs.» Walker noted that the wildly popular line dance song «Electric Boogie» from 1983 was written by Wailer. «Now all the Wailers are dead and it is incumbent on the younger Jamaican entertainers to raise the bar and carry on this rich legacy,» Walker told AFP. «We have lost an icon,» added Herbie Harris, a keyboard player and vocalist who now leads The ATF band. Artistic director of Jamaica's Nexus Performing Arts Company Hugh Douse also called Wailer an «icon.» «He will be missed,» Douse said. «One of the best ways we can pay tribute to Bunny Wailer is to listen to the words of warning and encouragement that he gives to those who have been downpressed and dispossessed.» Wailer's death comes six months after that of another reggae giant, Toots Hibbert of Toots and the Maytals. Hibbert, known for such hits as «Pressure Drop,» died in Kingston in September at the age of 77. © Agence France-Presse

Africa virus fight boosted as jabs reach Nigeria, Angola

Millions of coronavirus shots from the global Covax scheme have arrived in Nigeria, Angola and Kenya, as African countries ramp up their vaccine rollouts. Richer countries have surged ahead with vaccinations but many poorer countries are still awaiting deliv
Seychelles News Agency

Africa virus fight boosted as jabs reach Nigeria, Angola

Millions of coronavirus shots from the global Covax scheme have arrived in Nigeria, Angola and Kenya, as African countries ramp up their vaccine rollouts. Richer countries have surged ahead with vaccinations but many poorer countries are still awaiting deliveries, prompting the World Health Organization (WHO) to warn that the crisis cannot end unless everyone can inoculate their populations. The Covax facility, run by the WHO along with health NGOs, is aiming to supply vaccines to dozens of countries in the first 100 days of 2021, and two billion doses by the end of the year. While the continent's most populous country Nigeria received almost four million jabs on Tuesday, Angola received more than 600,000 doses and DR Congo was scheduled to get a consignment later, following recent deliveries to Ghana and Ivory Coast. Kenya received its first shipment of just over 1 million Covax-funded AstraZeneca/Oxford shots early Wednesday. However, there are still critical hurdles for the scheme's rollout in vast African countries with sketchy infrastructure and an array of security challenges -- a point addressed by Faisal Shuaib, director of Nigeria's primary healthcare agency. «States without a functional airport will have their vaccines transported by road using vans with fitted cold cabins, from the nearest airport,» he said. He called the delivery -- which arrived around noon in the capital Abuja -- a «good day for Nigeria» and promised the rollout would begin in earnest on Friday with frontline health workers the first to be inoculated. Nigerian official Boss Mustapha urged traditional rulers, religious leaders, civil society groups and the media to spread the message that vaccinations were needed, adding: «This is a fight for everyone.» In Angola, where some healthcare workers were vaccinated shortly after the doses were offloaded, the WHO's Djamila Cabral said the arrival of vaccines brought a «stronger hope to save lives», but warned that everyone needed to continue respecting Covid restrictions to beat the pandemic. - 70 percent goal - The almost four million AstraZeneca/Oxford doses received by Nigeria, made by the Serum Institute of India, are the first of 16 million shots that Covax plans to deliver over the coming months to the country of 200 million. The government said it hoped to vaccinate at least 70 percent of its adult population over the next two years and health officials said more than two million people had already registered for the jab online. «As the vaccines arrive in batches due to limited supply we will inform Nigerians about who and where to receive the vaccine,» Shuaib told reporters. Nigeria has recorded 1,915 deaths from 156,017 cases since the start of the pandemic and Angola 508 deaths from 20,854 cases -- though official figures in most countries are considered to be underestimates. A new virus variant has also been discovered in Nigeria, but researchers have not yet determined if it is more contagious or deadly than the original strain. Last week, Ghana and Ivory Coast were the first African countries to receive vaccines from Covax, an initiative led by the Gavi vaccine alliance, WHO and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) with UNICEF as implementing partner. Some 237 million AstraZeneca doses are to be delivered by the end of May to 142 participating economies, Covax says. © Agence France-Presse

UN meeting sought as Myanmar forces fire on anti-coup protests

Britain has called for the UN Security Council to meet Friday on Myanmar, diplomatic sources told AFP, as security forces have steadily stepped up their use of violence against anti-coup demonstrators in the Southeast Asian nation. Authorities fired live rou
Seychelles News Agency

UN meeting sought as Myanmar forces fire on anti-coup protests

Britain has called for the UN Security Council to meet Friday on Myanmar, diplomatic sources told AFP, as security forces have steadily stepped up their use of violence against anti-coup demonstrators in the Southeast Asian nation. Authorities fired live rounds and tear gas at protesters again on Tuesday, leaving at least three people critically injured as international pressure has grown since the military's February 1 ouster of civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi. The UN meeting would be behind closed doors at 1500 GMT under London's proposal, the sources said, as were the Council's discussions a day after the coup. Soldiers and police have steadily stepped up their use of force, deploying tear gas, water cannons, rubber bullets and, increasingly, live rounds after weeks of mass protests. Sunday was the bloodiest day since the military takeover, with the United Nations saying at least 18 protesters were killed across the country. AFP independently confirmed 11 deaths. Another rally turned violent Tuesday in the northwestern town of Kale, where security forces opened fire on protesters, according to medics who witnessed events and treated those wounded. - 'Tear gas and shooting' - «About 20 people were injured in a morning crackdown by police and soldiers in Kale,» said a rescue worker, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of repercussions. «Three... were hit by live rounds and are in a critical condition,» he said. Police had initially deployed tear gas and rubber bullets before doubling back with live rounds, he added. As the violence escalates, Myanmar's military junta and the envoy sent by its toppled civilian government have launched contradictory claims over who represents the country at the United Nations. Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun spectacularly broke with the military before the General Assembly on Friday in an emotional plea for help to restore ousted civilian leadership, which prompted the junta to announce his removal. Both he and the junta now claim to represent the country at the body, with the UN saying it is evaluating what action to take on the competing claims.. «We will continue to oppose the military coup and we will continue to support the restoration of Burma's democratically elected civilian government,» the State Department spokesman said. The bloodshed on the ground in Myanmar came on the same day as a funeral in the commercial capital of Yangon for a student who died Sunday. Mourners sang a revolutionary song as the coffin carrying Nyi Nyi Aung Htet Naing moved through a sea of thousands to an altar. «No mercy, just bullies -- dead bodies are here and there,» the mourners sang in unison as they flashed a three-finger salute that has become a symbol of opposition to the junta. Protests also continued in several neighbourhoods of Yangon on Tuesday, with demonstrators wearing hard hats and wielding improvised home-made shields. In San Chaung township hundreds of police came out in force. «They used tear gas and were shooting as well,» said one resident. More than 1,200 people have been arrested, charged and sentenced since the coup, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners monitoring group, of which about 900 are still behind bars. But the real number is likely far higher -- state-run media reported that on Sunday alone more than 1,300 people were arrested. State-broadcaster MRTV said late Tuesday that 511 people in detention had been released in Yangon. Reporters Without Borders says at least 10 journalists are in jail and 26 have been arrested since the coup. - 'Not acceptable' - The unrest came as foreign ministers from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations bloc held a virtual meeting which included a Myanmar representative. Some regional powers broke with diplomatic convention and issued unusually harsh rebukes of Myanmar's junta. «To use lethal force against civilians and unarmed demonstrators, I think it is just not acceptable,» Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told the BBC. After the meeting, Indonesia's foreign minister Retno Marsudi expressed concern over rising violence and deaths as well as frustration over a lack of cooperation from the Myanmar regime. «It takes two to tango,» she said, calling for the restoration of democracy and the release of political detainees. Philippines foreign secretary Teodoro Locsin said the first step should be the immediate release of Suu Kyi. «The hurt of the small finger is felt by the whole body. Myanmar is not a small finger but a big part of the two hands that together make up the family of ASEAN 10,» he said. Observers are sceptical about what difference the bloc can make, pointing to its policies of non-interference and making decisions based on consensus. © Agence France-Presse

New Seychellois-owned cargo service to start March 6; need is clear but rates a question

A new Seychellois-owned company, EAST Services, will be transporting cargo to and from Seychelles starting on March 6, the company said. The first cargo is being flown into the island nation from Istanbul, Turkey, but EAST Services can ferry goods from all ov
Seychelles News Agency

New Seychellois-owned cargo service to start March 6; need is clear but rates a question

A new Seychellois-owned company, EAST Services, will be transporting cargo to and from Seychelles starting on March 6, the company said. The first cargo is being flown into the island nation from Istanbul, Turkey, but EAST Services can ferry goods from all over the world. EAST (Euro African Star Transport) Services cargo is owned by Seychellois Carol Nalletamby. Nalletamby, who had been living in Europe, moved back to the islands five months ago to help with the launch of Seychelles International Airways (SIA), of which she is a shareholder. In Europe, Nalletamby was running an import/export company that has been importing products to Seychelles for over three years. The first flight, an Airbus A330 passenger and freighter, will land on the main island of Mahe on Saturday morning. «This particular aircraft is on a six-week trial period to ascertain its suitability to the cargo requirements and fish exports of Seychelles, after which a decision on the appropriate aircraft size will be made for a longer-term period,» explained Nalletamby. According to Nalletamby, the aircraft has been chartered from a well known airline as per EAST Cargo's request to meet the needs of Seychelles' market. «The aircraft can carry up to 35 tonnes of cargo in the cargo hold and the main deck combined. EAST cargo expects an inbound tonnage of 24 tonnes and estimated outbound tonnage of 16 tonnes,» she explained. This is welcoming news to Seychelles, as COVID-19 harmed cargo delivery with the number of flights to the 115 islands archipelago in the western Indian Ocean has reduced significantly. Last year another local company, Seychelles International Airways, announced that it will start its long-haul operations with a first flight to the island nation on September 10 for passengers and cargo. The first flight which was to be operated by a chartered Airbus A340-600 had been expected to carry 30 tons of cargo. Unfortunately, this venture failed to materialise. Jean Claude Hoaureau of Fishtech said that the new services will provide business exporting fish more options as this was a challenge. «The rates that the company is offering will be the deal-breaker, as for now, airfreight is very expensive. If the new company gives us a competitive rate, then we will be able to work with that. As for now, Air Seychelles does not offer outboard cargo,» Hoareau told SNA on Wednesday. Hoareau added that for a business exporting fish to make some profit is to export above one ton, as anything below will result in losses.

Seychelles Islands Foundation says 50 coco de mer poached in 2020

The Seychelles Islands Foundation (SIF)  recorded an increase in the poaching of the endemic coco de mer in the Vallee de Mai special reserve on Praslin for the year 2020 during restrictions on movement to curb the increase of COVID-19 infections. The Found
Seychelles News Agency

Seychelles Islands Foundation says 50 coco de mer poached in 2020

The Seychelles Islands Foundation (SIF)  recorded an increase in the poaching of the endemic coco de mer in the Vallee de Mai special reserve on Praslin for the year 2020 during restrictions on movement to curb the increase of COVID-19 infections. The Foundation which manages the site recorded 50 poaching incidents between April and August when restrictions on movement were imposed in Seychelles after the island nation started recording positive COVID-19 cases. There were only two such poaching incidents in 2019. «Based on the drastic decrease in tourists and many people losing income from the ongoing pandemic, we surmise that more people are desperate to find alternative means of income, even if this means being involved in illegal activities,» said Fleischer-Dogley, SIF's chief executive. The coco de mer, the world's biggest nut which grows naturally on in Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean, is a dioecious species which means it has both a male and female plant. It is already on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of threatened species. Aside from Praslin, the nut grows naturally on only one other island, Curieuse, a national park located very close to Praslin. Its status as king of the palms and a giant in the plant kingdom makes it a major attraction for holidaymakers. Fleischer-Dogley said Vallee de Mai is the most targeted place for poachers and very well-known for its considerable coco de mer population. «This prominence attracts unwanted attention, making it vulnerable to planned and opportunistic poaching. Also, unlike other places where it grows abundantly, the Vallee de Mai is more accessible to people,» she told SNA. The nature reserve is the most visited natural site in Seychelles and receives around 115,000 visitors per year.  In an interview with SNA in December, Emeline Lafortune, a project officer at SIF said that «given the implications of COVID-19 on the highly unique and sensitive ecosystem of the Vallee de Mai and the restricted income due to the lack of tourism, the monitoring, research and recreational activities that bring value to this nature reserve has been compromised immensely.»  Coco de mer nuts have always been prized possessions, not only for decorative purposes but also as a delicacy. (Romano Laurence) Photo License: CC-BY Fleischer-Dogley said that the coco de mer nuts have always been prized possessions, not only for decorative purposes but also as a delicacy and to be planted on people's private property. It is possible that continued demand for these nuts is being now met by illegal suppliers. She said that poaching of the coco de mer is very saddening as a few people are robbing their community's natural heritage and prosperity by endangering the regeneration of a sensitive and vital endemic plant. As per the amended coco de mer (Management) Decree, convicted poachers are liable to be imprisoned for a term not exceeding two years or to a fine not less than SCR25,000 and not exceeding SCR500,000. Meanwhile, in 2018, a three-month national census conducted where coco de mer trees are found, except for Curieuse Island, revealed that there are about 8000 healthy trees. The census was undertaken by the Ministry of Environment was to provide updated information to allow better management and ensure the survival of the species.

Seychellois team to manage relaunched prawn farm on Coetivy Island; foreign labour also needed

A Seychellois team will manage the soon-to-be-relaunched prawn farm on Seychelles' Coetivy Island, the Island Development Company (IDC) said. The chief executive of the company said that Seychellois will manage the project, but that since prawn farming is la
Seychelles News Agency

Seychellois team to manage relaunched prawn farm on Coetivy Island; foreign labour also needed

A Seychellois team will manage the soon-to-be-relaunched prawn farm on Seychelles' Coetivy Island, the Island Development Company (IDC) said. The chief executive of the company said that Seychellois will manage the project, but that since prawn farming is labour extensive, foreign labour possibly from South East Asia will need to be brought in. «When SMB (Seychelles Marketing Board) closed this project yes there were a lot of foreigners but there were some Seychellois managing some components of the farm. So, we have now identified these people, and some are coming back to work with us. There is also a young marine biologist who has joined us,» Glenny Savy told a news conference on Friday. According to Savy, they have also managed to identify the Belgian company which back then was working with the prawn factory and «they have agreed to provide us with the know-how.» Savy said that it is not possible to say when production will start but work to open the basins have started. «We are still in the construction phase and we still do not have the final delivery date for some of the equipment that will be required. So we are probably about three months away from being able to determine when production will start,» said Savy. The chief executive added, «the way we are going now is very encouraging.» Facilities from the old prawn farm. «We are still in the construction phase and we still do not have the final delivery date for some of the equipment that will be required,» said Savy. (Aubrey Lesperance) Photo License: All Rights Reserved Prawn farming is not new to the 115-island archipelago in the western Indian Ocean. In 1989, in collaboration with the Seychelles Marketing Board, IDC developed a black tiger prawn farm on Coetivy Island, with broodstocks imported from Madagascar and Mozambique. The farm, however, was deemed not profitable and ceased its operations in 2009. In a previous interview with SNA, the principal aquaculture officer at the Seychelles Fishing Authority, Aubrey Lesperance, told SNA that Coetivy Island was found to be the most suitable site in Seychelles for commercial prawn farming because it already has a lot of the characteristics in place including flat land, high-quality seawater, electricity supply, accommodation, and basic infrastructure still available. A member of the public Amanda Rene, whom SNA spoke to get her views on the redevelopment of the prawn factory. «It is a good initiative, but they need to it well, efficiently so that in the long run the farm can sustain itself. When I look at the prawn production, I also think it will support the tourism industry as now visitors who comes to the island will not only eat fish from our sea but will now have the prawns also, so promoting the Seychelles brand,» said Rene. Aubrey Lesperance  told SNA that Coetivy Island was found to be the most suitable site in Seychelles for commercial prawn farming because it already has a lot of the characteristics in place including flat land, high-quality seawater, electricity supply, accommodation, and basic infrastructure still available (Aubrey Lesperance) Photo License: All Rights Reserved She also expressed her wish that in the long-term prawns from the island nation can be exported, bringing in much needed foreign earnings. For now, IDC said that it plans to produce around 200 tons of prawns per year and will only be for local consumption.

Seychelles to set up register of extradition cases

Seychelles will set up a register of extradition cases occurring in the island nation after the National Assembly approved a bill presented by the Minister of Finance on Tuesday. Naadir Hassan told members of the National Assembly that the proposed Extraditi
Seychelles News Agency

Seychelles to set up register of extradition cases

Seychelles will set up a register of extradition cases occurring in the island nation after the National Assembly approved a bill presented by the Minister of Finance on Tuesday. Naadir Hassan told members of the National Assembly that the proposed Extradition Amendment Bill, 2021, will address deficiencies identified in the mutual evaluation report published in 2018 by the Eastern and Southern Africa Anti-Money Laundering Group (ESAAMLG). The report, which assessed Seychelles' compliance to 40 recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), rated the country to be compliant in 20 areas, partially compliant in 16 and non-compliant in four. Seychelles initially submitted a request for re-rating of 12 recommendations to which the country was deemed partially compliant. Recommendation 39 in the report relates to extradition, in which Seychelles was rated partially compliant due to the fact that terrorism financing is not an extraditable offence and there was no proper case management system for handling extradition cases. Extradition from and to Seychelles is regulated by the Extradition Act (1991), which includes offences established under international conventions or agreements to which the requesting State and Seychelles are parties as extraditable offences. However, these offences still need to be criminalised in domestic legislation in the island nation in the western Indian Ocean.  In the amendment to the Extradition Act, Hassan said that «it is also being proposed that a definition for the term financing terrorism activity is included. The term will adopt the same definition that is found in the law for anti-money laundering and financing of terrorism activity.» In line with procedures established by FATF, the deficiencies must be addressed within three years and Hassan said that «this means that we need to amend the bill to submit to ESAAMLG as soon as possible.»

US to distribute 4 million J&J Covid vaccines by Tuesday

Four million doses of the latest Covid-19 vaccine to get US approval will be delivered across the country as early as Tuesday, a senior administration official said. The United States on Saturday authorized Johnson & Johnson's Covid vaccine for emergenc
Seychelles News Agency

US to distribute 4 million J&J Covid vaccines by Tuesday

Four million doses of the latest Covid-19 vaccine to get US approval will be delivered across the country as early as Tuesday, a senior administration official said. The United States on Saturday authorized Johnson & Johnson's Covid vaccine for emergency use, boosting President Joe Biden's plan to battle the outbreak that has killed more than 500,000 Americans. The single-shot vaccine -- the third type to be authorized -- is highly effective in preventing severe Covid-19, including against newer variants, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said before giving it a green light. «Starting tonight, 3.9 million doses of J&J will be distributed across all channels -- states, tribes, territories, and pharmacies and community health centers. Those J&J doses will be delivered as early as this Tuesday morning,» the administration official said Sunday on a call with reporters. «That's the entirety of J&J's current inventory,» the official added. «J&J expects to deliver approximately 16 million additional doses by the end of March. So that's a cumulative 20 million.» The J&J vaccine is the third to be greenlighted in the United States after Pfizer's and Moderna's were provisionally approved in December. Over 65 million people in America have so far received at least one shot of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines -- but unlike those, the J&J vaccine requires just one dose, and is stored at fridge temperatures, offering logistical and practical advantages. The J&J shot appears less protective than Pfizer and Moderna's two-shot regimens, which both have an efficacy of around 95 percent against all forms of Covid-19 from the classic coronavirus strain. In large clinical trials, the J&J vaccine's efficacy against severe disease was 85.9 percent in the United States, 81.7 percent in South Africa, and 87.6 percent in Brazil. Overall, among 39,321 participants across all regions, the efficacy against severe Covid-19 was 85.4 percent, but it fell to 66.1 percent when including moderate forms of the disease. All three vaccines have been shown to fully protect against hospitalizations and death, however. J&J had earlier announced it aims to deliver 20 million doses by the end of March, with 100 million by June -- though the US is pushing to expedite that timeline. © Agence France-Presse

French ex-president Sarkozy handed jail term for corruption

Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy was found guilty of corruption on Monday and handed a three-year prison sentence, in a ruling that deals a major blow to any lingering political ambitions. The jail sentence includes two years suspended and the remaini
Seychelles News Agency

French ex-president Sarkozy handed jail term for corruption

Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy was found guilty of corruption on Monday and handed a three-year prison sentence, in a ruling that deals a major blow to any lingering political ambitions. The jail sentence includes two years suspended and the remaining year can be served at home with an electronic bracelet, the court ruled, meaning Sarkozy will not end up behind bars over this case. The judge found the 66-year-old had formed a «corruption pact» with his former lawyer and friend Thierry Herzog in order to convince a judge, Gilbert Azibert, to obtain and share information about a legal investigation. «The facts for which Nicolas Sarkozy is guilty are particularly serious having been committed by a former president who was the guarantor of the independence of the judiciary,» the judgement read. Sarkozy, a one-term president from 2007-2012, announced an appeal several hours after the verdict, with his lawyer calling the findings «extremely severe» and «totally unfounded and unjustified». The conviction sets a new low-point in the tumultuous political career of the right-winger who remains a dominant political figure in France, admired by fans for his tough talk on crime and immigration. It is also likely to undermine any attempted comeback to frontline politics -- an ambition he has denied, but which has been promoted by many supporters ahead of 2022's presidential election. Wearing a dark suit and tie, Sarkozy showed no emotion as the sentence was read out and he left court without commenting to waiting journalists. «What a senseless witchhunt, my love Nicolas Sarkozy,» his wife, former supermodel and singer Carla Bruni, posted on Instagram, next to a picture of the couple embracing. «The fight goes on, the truth will come out. #injustice.» Only one other modern French president, Sarkozy's political mentor Jacques Chirac, has been convicted of corruption. Chirac, who did not attend proceedings in 2011 due to ill health, received a two-year suspended sentence over the creation of ghost jobs at the Paris city hall to fund his party when he was mayor. - Wiretaps - The verdict on Monday was based on extensive wiretaps of private conversations between Sarkozy and his lawyer in 2014 during which they discussed helping a judge, Gilbert Azibert, obtain a desirable job in Monaco. In return the judge delivered information about a judicial investigation into Sarkozy's dealings with billionaire L'Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt amid allegations that she had handed over envelopes stuffed with cash for campaign financing. Sarkozy was eventually cleared over his dealings with Bettencourt and has maintained his innocence throughout. He told the court during his latest trial he had «never committed the slightest act of corruption». While reading out her sentence, judge Christine Mee said Sarkozy had «used his status as a former president... in order to favour a magistrate to serve his personal interests.» On March 17, the ex-president is scheduled to face a second trial over accusations of fraudulently overspending in his failed 2012 re-election bid. He has also been charged over allegations he received millions of euros from Libyan dictator Moamer Kadhafi for his 2007 election campaign. And in January, prosecutors opened another probe into alleged influence-peddling by Sarkozy over his advisory activities in Russia. - Repercussions - The guilty verdict on Monday is a further blow to Sarkozy's centre-right allies in the Republicans party who are struggling to coalesce around a single candidate ahead of next year's presidential election. Polls currently show centrist President Emmanuel Macron edging the election, followed by far-right leader Marine Le Pen. «The severity of the punishment is absolutely out of proportion,» the head of the Republicans party, Christian Jacob, complained on Twitter. He took aim at the specialised financial crimes prosecutors' office which pursued Sarkozy, as well as his closest political ally while in power, former prime minister Francois Fillon. Fillon, whose 2017 bid for the presidency was torpedoed by corruption charges, was convicted in June last year of creating a fake parliamentary job for his wife. Political scientist Pascal Perrineau said that Sarkozy had been happy to let speculation about another tilt at the presidency in 2022 take off because it helped rehabilitate his image. «Now it will be a lot more complicated,» he said. On social media, some users shared previous comments from the pugnacious son of a Hungarian immigrant known for his tough-on-crime rhetoric. In 2015, Sarkozy spoke out against arrangements that make it possible to convert short prison sentences into non-custodial punishments, which he will benefit from if he fails with his appeal. «I want there to be no arrangements for sentences of more than six months,» he said. © Agence France-Presse

Restaurants can re-open, curfew pushed back as Seychelles eases COVID-19 rules

Restaurants in Seychelles will be able to reopen under strict guidelines from the Public Health Authority, whilst the nightly curfew will be pushed back two hours to 10 p.m., the Public Health Commissioner said on Monday. Gyms and spas will also be able to r
Seychelles News Agency

Restaurants can re-open, curfew pushed back as Seychelles eases COVID-19 rules

Restaurants in Seychelles will be able to reopen under strict guidelines from the Public Health Authority, whilst the nightly curfew will be pushed back two hours to 10 p.m., the Public Health Commissioner said on Monday. Gyms and spas will also be able to re-open, but only for customers that make appointments in advance. Shops will still close at 6 pm but can now remain open until 6 pm on weekends instead of closing at 3 pm as was the case before. Despite the relaxed guidelines, schools will still remain closed through at least the middle or end of the month. Casinos, standalone bars and discotheques will also remain closed for now. Sporting events, public events, group gatherings indoors and outdoors and church services except for funerals are still not permitted. The relaxing of some restrictions comes at a time when 35 percent of the adult population has taken both doses of the COVID-19 vaccination, but officials said the restrictions cannot be completely removed because the rate of infection is still too high. “Restaurants and food outlets can reopen once they have been reevaluated. Already there are established criteria and have been shared through SCCI (Seychelles Chambers of Commerce and Industry) which we have worked closely with,” explained the health commissioner, Jude Gedeon, shortly after a COVID-19 committee meeting chaired by President Wavel Ramkalawan. Gedeon added that the restaurants are following the same process used with retail shops. These establishments will get the go-ahead to reopen only after public health officers have conducted site visits and endorsed these establishments. According to Gedeon, restaurants and food outlets will not accept walk-in customers. “You will need to make a reservation ahead. Bars within the restaurant can remain open but will be used only for clients using the restaurants,” explained Gedeon. Gym and fitness facilities will also reopen but only a number of people can use the facilities at a given time. Only members will be allowed to use gyms and people will need to call in before and book for a slot. Spas and beauty parlours can also reopen but on an appointment basis only. Gedeon said that the Health Authority is working closely with the Ministry of Education to plan the reopening of schools. Some postsecondary schools are set to open by the middle of March. “They can propose their calendar of school reopening, but we know that some sectors are doing their pre-planning. As for primary and secondary, the ministry is working on their plans for reopening but this will probably be towards the end of March,” explained Gedeon. The Public Health Commissioner added that guidelines and Standing Operating Procedures already in place will be respected. Gedeon added that the ministry is also doing an exercise to find out the coverage of vaccinations amongst school staff, and said that the target is to get at least 70 percent of staff are vaccinated. To date, 2,188 cases of COVID-19 have been recorded in Seychelles – 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean; 2,365 have since recuperated, 312 are active cases and 11 persons have died from the virus.

S.Africa to ease virus restrictions after 'dramatic decline'

South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday said the country will start relaxing coronavirus restrictions, moving from alert level three down to level one, after a «dramatic decline» in infections. The easing of the measures, due to begin
Seychelles News Agency

S.Africa to ease virus restrictions after 'dramatic decline'

South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday said the country will start relaxing coronavirus restrictions, moving from alert level three down to level one, after a «dramatic decline» in infections. The easing of the measures, due to begin at midnight, will see most economic activity resume as the country moves to rebuild its virus-shattered economy. In a televised address to the nation, Ramaphosa said the country had made big strides in the past eight weeks, recording a steady drop in infections and hospital admissions. «Due to the decline in infections, the country can now ease some of the restrictions on movement and economic activity,» Ramaphosa announced. «We do so cautiously,» he added. Ramaphosa said the country had recorded just under 10,000 new infections over the past week, down from more than 40,000 in the last week of January and some 90,000 in the same week in December. He attributed the «dramatic decline» to the public health measures, changes in behaviour, and accumulating immunity in those that had become infected. Under level one restrictions, the country's curfew will now only run from midnight to 4am. The head of state spoke a day after the country received the second batch of Johnson & Johnson vaccines arrived in the country. So far, more than 63,600 healthcare workers have been vaccinated since the country began inoculations nearly a fortnight ago. The elderly, teachers, miners, police officers, soldiers, civil servants and people older than 18 with co-morbidities will be vaccinated in the next phase of the three-phase rollout campaign from the end of April. The government, which has been accused of being slow to acquire Covid vaccines, has secured an agreement to procure 11 million one-shot doses from Johnson & Johnson, 2.8 million of which are expected in the second quarter. Twenty million Pfizer jabs have also been secured, while an additional 12 million doses expected via the COVAX facility, according to Ramaphosa. Having recorded more than 1.5 million infections of which nearly 50,000 have been fatal, South Africa still has the highest number of cases and deaths on the continent. It aims to inoculate around 40 million people -- 67 percent of the population -- by the end of 2021. © Agence France-Presse

Greenpeace to study biological diversity in Seychelles' waters along the Mascarene Plateau

Greenpeace International will carry out research in Seychelles’ waters from February 27 to March 30 as part of an expedition within the Mascarene Plateau through which the island nation will learn more about its underwater life. The research will be done w
Seychelles News Agency

Greenpeace to study biological diversity in Seychelles' waters along the Mascarene Plateau

Greenpeace International will carry out research in Seychelles’ waters from February 27 to March 30 as part of an expedition within the Mascarene Plateau through which the island nation will learn more about its underwater life. The research will be done while the vessel – Arctic Sunrise – makes its transit towards the Saya de Malha Bank which is part of the Mascarene Plateau region between Seychelles and Mauritius. According to Greenpeace, the Saya de Malha Bank, which lies to the southeast of Seychelles, “constitutes one of the largest shallow tropical marine ecosystems on Earth. It is home to one of the few shallow water coral reef ecosystems in the high seas and contains the most extensive seagrass meadow in the world.” The research’s target is to collect information about the biological diversity present at the Saya de Malha Bank, following the scientific expedition visiting unique sites in the international waters of the Atlantic Ocean. During the expedition, Greenpeace International wishes to contribute to the knowledge base about biodiversity in the area through mapping the fish, shark and whale diversity of the area by means of environmental DNA sampling. Through photographic and video surveys, seagrass meadows and coral reefs will be also be monitored. The marine megafauna is expected to be surveyed and possibly detected via passive acoustic monitoring, visual observations and photo identification. Sheena Talma, a Seychellois marine scientist who will be part of the second leg of the expedition, said that she will be helping with the collection of environmental DNA, also known as e-DNA. “The second leg starts on March 14 and it is going to the Saya de Malha. There will be e-DNA collections, where you collect some water so you can find out what animals live in that water,” said Talma. She explained that the water samples contain pieces of scale or mucus that comes from different animals. Once the sample is collected, it is filtered and the small particles are processed to establish which animal lives in this part of the ocean. “They are also doing surveys to find out what kind of whale and dolphins live in that area. You also need to know what the environmental parameters are – what the temperature is like and the salinity of the water,” said Talma. This is not the first time that Talma will take part in an expedition exploring the waters of Seychelles. In 2019, she was part of the Nekton Deep Ocean Exploration. “It is really great to be able to get out at sea, especially in an area I haven’t explored before. For me, this is a great learning opportunity as I get to work with other scientists. It is also a great way to get involved in other research as my main research is in fisheries. The team also contacted me because I have experience using genetics in previous studies. I was on an expedition last year in the Maldives where I was able to collect e-DNA samples,” said Talma. The special advisor for the Blue Economy, Phillipe Michaud, told SNA that Seychelles is not paying anything for the research work. “We will get a copy of the research that they carry out. It is important to know more about what we have in our waters so that we can better plan, manage and exploit them,” said Michaud. The length of time it will take to get the results of the research will vary depending on the type of research carried out. Michaud said that some information can be provided immediately while others will need to be analyzed and hence will take more time to acquire.

Christians in Seychelles observing a 'virtual' Lent

Christians in Seychelles this year are observing Lent at a distance, with prayers, devotions and the weekly way of the cross being broadcast on television. Lent, which started last week with Ash Wednesday, is observed over 40 days and ends with the celebrati
Seychelles News Agency

Christians in Seychelles observing a 'virtual' Lent

Christians in Seychelles this year are observing Lent at a distance, with prayers, devotions and the weekly way of the cross being broadcast on television. Lent, which started last week with Ash Wednesday, is observed over 40 days and ends with the celebration of Easter. The main Christian churches on the island nation, the Anglican and Catholic Churches, are asking devotees to use this time in confinement to be closer to their families and Christ, with the Church accompanying them. The Vicar General of the Catholic Diocese of Port Victoria, Father Eric Leon, said history was made this year as the start of Lent, Ash Wednesday, was observed with people being confined at home. «Interestingly, historically the church started this way. There was no parish. The pandemic has come to remind us of the basis of the church which is the family. The purpose of the church is to strengthen families and help people live their faith in their families,» explained Leon. Father Leon added that Lent is a time for sacrifice and to rethink our way of life which has resulted in the family being forgotten. «COVID-19 reminds us of what is important in life. If my family cannot welcome God, that is, we have a problem. This Lent will be special because families have time to work on themselves. Every day, the church will accompany them with recordings already made and which will be broadcast morning, noon and evening,» said Leon. In his pastoral letter for Lent, the Bishop of the Anglican Church in Seychelles – 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean, said that this is the time when «we enter this blessed season of deeper dialogue with God through prayer and daily reading of the Word of God; of appreciation for his mercy especially for people whose lives are under attack.» James Wong said every year he writes a letter to assist the faithful members to have a blessed and fruitful season. «The central message of the Church has been, is and will always be reconciliation. Reconciliation among humans and between humankind and God,» added Wong. Lent is six weeks from Ash Wednesday to Easter. It is a period where Christians replicate Jesus Christ's sacrifice and withdrawal into the desert for 40 days. This is normally done through the 'giving up' of or abstaining from something important to a person's lifestyle. On Ash Wednesday priests mark the foreheads of Christians with palm ashes. On Good Friday (April 2 this year) Christians remember Jesus' death. Two days later is Easter Sunday, one of the most important events in the Catholic liturgy, when Christians celebrate Jesus rising from the dead, an opportunity for eternal life. During Lent there will be daily devotions on the national television, SBC, and on Fridays, the way of the cross is broadcast. Churches are also making use of social media to share prayers and devotions for both children and adults. A Roman Catholic told SNA that she sees many benefits for devotees with the new normal. «Not all people had the time or could take the time to converge as a congregation in church, but now more people in the comfort of their own home can follow and participate in the service and prayers,» said Lynn Betsy. However, Betsy hopes that by Good Friday, the restrictions will have been lifted, as people would have taken their vaccinations and can participate in the traditional way of the cross which normally attracts thousands of devotees. 

S.African wine 'paradise' finds success by going its own way

Heaven and Earth -- that is the name in Afrikaans for this valley nestled between arid mountains and the cool ocean, a location that makes it a paradise for winegrowing. Not for nothing are vineyards in Hemel en Aarde carving out a global reputation among wi
Seychelles News Agency

S.African wine 'paradise' finds success by going its own way

Heaven and Earth -- that is the name in Afrikaans for this valley nestled between arid mountains and the cool ocean, a location that makes it a paradise for winegrowing. Not for nothing are vineyards in Hemel en Aarde carving out a global reputation among wine lovers seeking a fresh, distinctive flavour. Winemakers here do not try to imitate the big European names, which can often be a stifling benchmark. Instead, they produce wines with a strong South African identity -- wines whose savour tells the story of their distant birthplace and bring with them the heritage from the first Huguenot plantations in the 1600s. «We are not really New World and not Old World,» said 35-year-old winemaker Emul Ross, flanked by his boss Anthony Hamilton Russell. «We are not trying to be Burgundy, we are closer to that style of pinot noir than New Zealand or Oregon, which have more sweetness, more fruit.» Russell bought 52 hectares (128 acres) of land from his family in the early 1990s. The estate produces a red and a white wine from Burgundy grape varieties of eastern-central France. The soils have high clay percentages, similar to those in Cote de Nuits, and «in blind tastings sometimes, our wines are thought as Burgundian,» said Russell, despite very different climatic conditions. At the end of his vineyards are a few fynbos, or local shrubs, a cliff and then the Atlantic, close to its dramatic confluence with the Indian Ocean. «I like to think there is nothing between us and Antarctica. Very clean air,» said Russell. In the middle of the golden-green Chardonnay vines, dozens of workers in overalls move forward, expertly snipping bunches off the plant and taking boxfuls to a tractor. Weeds grow between their feet. «No herbicides. If it's bare ground, it's dead ground,» said the elegant 58-year-old Russell, sporting a large cream-coloured Indiana Jones-style brimmed hat. Harvest this year has been late, taking place in southern hemisphere's early autumn. - No chemicals, no cheating - For South African winegrowers in general, it has been a terrible year, marked by the coronavirus pandemic and several government-imposed national bans on the sale of alcohol. But Hemel en Aarde has suffered less than others, thanks to its reputation for quality -- firmly established abroad -- and less dependence on volume compared to other regions. Pascaline Lepeltier, a French sommelier based in New York, said the region had enjoyed «spectacular success» thanks to «fresh, fine wines that are less orientated towards exuberant fruit and strength.» She singled out their choice to respect the environment and limit additives -- the key to «the true shine of a terroir.» Chris Alheit, a mischievous 39-year-old winemaker donning a T-shirt and dark shorts, is another local celebrity. When he talks about wines, he speaks enthusiastically about a «real Cape identity, a South African DNA». «We are not trying to copy a French wine,» he smiled, slipping in a few words of the language he gleaned during harvest on the old continent. His Chenin, a white grape variety characteristic of the western France's Loire Valley, is of great purity. His exported cuvee, Cartology, aims at a broad swathe of the market for wines that are easy to drink and suitable for most palates. At 6 am, the sky turns pink. Alheit brings boxes to be loaded into a refrigerated truck. Birds chirp away, bringing a joyful lightness to the repetitive noise of pruning shears. «The big sprint is finished already,» he says, of the annual task of figuring out the right moment to harvest. «I already have plenty of good acidity, not too much sugar. Now I need a little sex appeal, to add some curves.» Chenin gives a vast palette, from very dry to tropical. «I don't want my wine to be a pineapple bomb,» he says, in a burst of laughter. No irrigation, no chemicals and no cheating -- his wine is «natural» even if he is reluctant to have it classified as such. «For a wine to grab your imagination, as it should, it needs to be pure. If you sense dishonesty, it becomes less exciting,» he says. © Agence France-Presse

Fans, but no cheering, for delayed Olympic torch relay

Spectators will be allowed to line the route when the Olympic flame begins its delayed relay across Japan next month, organisers said Thursday, but cheering will be strictly banned. The torch relay was scrapped just days before it was due to kick off last ye
Seychelles News Agency

Fans, but no cheering, for delayed Olympic torch relay

Spectators will be allowed to line the route when the Olympic flame begins its delayed relay across Japan next month, organisers said Thursday, but cheering will be strictly banned. The torch relay was scrapped just days before it was due to kick off last year when Japanese and Olympic officials took the unprecedented decision to postpone Tokyo 2020 over the coronavirus pandemic. Despite persistent concerns about the safety of holding the Games this summer, organisers say the massive event can go ahead and the torch relay will kick off as planned on March 25. «The infection situation will vary from area to area, so we need to take that into account and it will be very important to have a meticulous approach,» Tokyo 2020 president Seiko Hashimoto told reporters. «We want to get the understanding of people in every area and connect the whole country under the torch relay concept 'Hope Lights Our Way'.» Hashimoto later said she hopes a decision on how many fans are allowed into Olympic arenas will be taken around the time the torch relay begins. Organisers had previously said it would be taken «in spring». «I think we need to have an indication of which way things are going around the time the torch relay starts,» local media quoted her as saying. The torch relay will start from a symbolic site in Fukushima, highlighting the role of Tokyo 2020 in what Japan has dubbed the «Reconstruction Olympics» -- after the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster. But the relay will be a much more sober affair than usual. Spectators will be allowed to watch the flame pass, but will be required to wear masks, avoid crowding, and only attend segments of the relay near their home. «They must support with applause or by using distributed goods rather than by shouting or cheering,» guidelines warn, adding social distance must be maintained. «Individual relay segments will be suspended if there is a risk of overcrowding,» the guidelines add. Attendance at celebration venues along portions of the route will be by reservation only to limit numbers. And information on which torchbearers will run which sections will be released only at the last minute to avoid crowds gathering to watch celebrity runners. - 'Very difficult' to have foreign runners - «We're not trying to discourage people from coming out to watch,» said Tokyo 2020's torch relay office executive director Teruhiko Okada. «The most important thing is to avoid having crowded areas.» Torchbearers will be able to run without masks -- news likely to be welcomed by those running in the later stages when Japan's fierce summer heat has kicked in. Both runners and staff will have to keep detailed health records in the two weeks before their participation, and avoid risky activities -- including eating out or going to crowded places. But organisers say the relay will not be automatically stopped if a runner who has taken part later tests positive, and that the «basic policy» is to continue unless there is a large-scale cluster. Around 300 runners from outside Japan were set to take part last year -- but organisers said it would now be «very difficult» for them to join in. Japan's borders are closed to almost all foreign arrivals as part of the country's virus control measures. Parts of Japan are currently under a virus state of emergency due to lift by March 7, with some areas possibly exiting the measure earlier. The guidelines warn that segments of the relay could be suspended if the measure is reimposed in areas where the torch relay will take place. The relay is set to visit each of Japan's 47 prefectures, but there is some opposition. Tatsuya Maruyama, governor of sparsely populated Shimane Prefecture in western Japan, has warned he may cancel events if the virus situation does not improve, and met with government officials in Tokyo to repeat his concerns, reports said. The Games are scheduled to open on July 23, and organisers have outlined virus guidelines they say will allow the event to be held safely. Final decisions on some key elements remain, with IOC chief Thomas Bach saying yesterday a ruling on whether to allow foreign spectators could come in April or May. © Agence France-Presse

First six-star resort in Seychelles, Waldorf Astoria Platte Island, to open in 2023

The Seychelles' Island Development Company (IDC) has announced that construction work has re-started on Seychelles' first six-star tourism -- a $100 million development -- and that the Waldorf Astoria Platte Island resort is now expected to open in 2023. T
Seychelles News Agency

First six-star resort in Seychelles, Waldorf Astoria Platte Island, to open in 2023

The Seychelles' Island Development Company (IDC) has announced that construction work has re-started on Seychelles' first six-star tourism -- a $100 million development -- and that the Waldorf Astoria Platte Island resort is now expected to open in 2023. The Hilton group has signed the management agreement for the new resort under the luxury brand Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts currently being built on Seychelles' outer island of Platte, a communiqué announced earlier this month. «Seychelles remains unquestionably one of the world's most desirable destinations for the discerning traveller. We are proud of the role our teams have played in the sustainable development of the Seychelles,» said Carlos Khneisser, vice president, development, Middle East & Africa, Hilton. Waldorf-Astoria is the flagship brand within Hilton's portfolio and offers the highest standards of facilities and services. Platte Island is under the management of Seychelles' Islands Development Company. In a recent posting on its website, the company said «this top-of-the-line brand is a first for Seychelles and IDC is proud to be associated with such a highly reputed brand.» In an interview last Sunday with the national broadcaster, SBC, the chief executive of the IDC confirmed that that the company had stopped work on the project after the last French developer left. «The project has restarted with a new developer associated with investors in Abu Dhabi and with us, IDC. We relaunched the project last year and we are finishing buildings for the back of the house,» explained Glenny Savy. According to Savy, these include staff quarters, staff facilities, water, electricity and sewerage. «This is our first phase and this is expected to complete by March or April.» Savy added that the company is also constructing a bungalow as a sample, which is expected to be completed by March. Once endorsed by the developers the construction of the rest will begin. «We have spoken to several hotel management teams across the world to manage the hotel as the developers wanted the hotel to be the best hotel in Seychelles. We ended with Waldorf-Astoria, the top brand of Hilton,» said the chief executive. IDC currently owns 20 percent of the development, while the investors who have a lease for 70 years own 80 percent. Work on the resort is being undertaken by IDC. The construction of the resort -- at a cost of $100 million--  is expected to finish by the end of next year, with its opening planned in 2023. Once completed the resort will offer 42 seafront villas all equipped with private pools. Guests will have access to six restaurants and bars, a spa, kids' club, outdoor observatory, tennis courts and a marine conservation discovery centre – all within the sanctuary of Platte Island. The island itself lies just over 130 km south of Mahe – the main island of the 115 islands archipelago in the western Indian Ocean - and is renowned as a nature lover's paradise, covered with palm forest and surrounded by a coral reef and lagoon. Platte Island has always been used for tourism, where IDC used to run a small guest house. The island which can be accessed by plane boasts a rich ecosystem and offer breeding grounds for a variety of seabirds: The brown noddy, white-tailed tropicbird, lesser noddy, bridled tern and the Madagascar fody.  The island is also a popular nesting area for the hawksbill turtles.

Treasures of Seychelles campaign being shared by BBC Travel, island nation's tourism board

The treasures of Seychelles waiting to be discovered by future visitors is a campaign idea being shared by the Seychelles Tourism Board and BBC Travel, a partnership in its third year. In the campaign called 'Senses of the Seychelles,'  BBC Travel audience
Seychelles News Agency

Treasures of Seychelles campaign being shared by BBC Travel, island nation's tourism board

The treasures of Seychelles waiting to be discovered by future visitors is a campaign idea being shared by the Seychelles Tourism Board and BBC Travel, a partnership in its third year. In the campaign called 'Senses of the Seychelles,'  BBC Travel audiences will be able to immerse themselves in the beauty of the islands and its hidden gems waiting to be unearthed, STB said. The campaign looks to connect with travellers, presenting them with another side of Seychelles, beyond its beautiful sandy beaches. The chief executive of STB, Sherin Francis, told SNA on Tuesday that the campaign comes at an opportune time as Seychelles will need a lot of visibility when it starts implementing its recovery strategy after the economic downturn as a result of COVID-19. «This is taking into account that there are a lot of competitions out there as many destinations are thinking of launching their campaigns to attract more holidaymakers,» said Francis. The campaign has already begun and will run through the end of the year on BBC Global News, which has up to 450 million viewers in over 200 countries and territories. The campaign will also remain on the BBC website, which has 151 million unique browsers, as well as their social media pages. BBC global audiences are found within the destination's core markets, giving paradise exposure to potential visitors. The chief executive added that «Seychelles and BBC are engaged in a strong partnership which makes it easier for us to push some of our communications on their medium or channel,» said Francis. While the world continues to experience the COVID-19 pandemic, Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean, remains open to visitors and has put in place protocols to ensure safe travel and stay for its visitors. As visitors enjoy their stay, it is essential that they remain conscious of these measures to keep Seychelles safe. STB said that the latest campaign follows the previous 'Secrets of the Seychelles' campaign, which allowed audiences to follow a series of 30-second postcard videos dubbed «A love letter to the Seychelles» where they see the islands through the eyes of several locals sharing their passionate testimonials. Seychellois who have featured in the campaign included conservationist Said Harryba, renowned local artist George Camille, and ceramicist Zara Albert.

Ombudsman tells President of Seychelles that ministries are resisting her office's advice

The Seychelles' Office of the Ombudsman registered 166 complaints in 2020, mostly related to malpractice within the public sector, a top official said on Friday. The Ombudsman, Nichole Tirant-Ghérardi, presented her office's annual report to President Wave
Seychelles News Agency

Ombudsman tells President of Seychelles that ministries are resisting her office's advice

The Seychelles' Office of the Ombudsman registered 166 complaints in 2020, mostly related to malpractice within the public sector, a top official said on Friday. The Ombudsman, Nichole Tirant-Ghérardi, presented her office's annual report to President Wavel Ramkalawan, and told the island nation's leader that more work needs to be done inside government. «I have experienced some frustrations within the public sector. Certain ministries have not adopted recommendations put forth, instead most of the time they said they needed to seek legal advice first before taking a decision,» Tirant-Ghérardi told journalists. According to the report, 71 of the complaints received were premature because the complainant had not exhausted available avenues for seeking remedy. Sixty-five others were outside the remit of the office because the complaint involved actions between private persons or bodies.  The Ombudsman, Nichole Tirant-Ghérardi, presented her office's annual report to President Wavel Ramkalawan, on Friday. (Seychelles Nation) Photo License: CC-BY «Under the Ombudsman's standard operating practice, where the complaint is premature, we advise the complainant of the options available to them and prepare, where necessary, referral letters to ease access to those services,» she added. As of the date of the report, the Ombudsman Office has retained 27 complaints for investigation and three for mediation. The report set out the thematic activities of the Ombudsman office as well as some of the issues that were subjected to scrutiny by a team of investigators in 2020. Tirant-Ghérardi said that she has noted a general weakness across many public authorities in respect of important official documents, such as job descriptions, position papers, reports, and sometimes even official and statutory forms. «A document that is incomplete, lacks the date, signature or other identifications cannot serve its full purpose to fix the time and identify its provenance, said Tirant-Ghérardi.   As a recommendation, the Office of the Ombudsman said that all public authorities should review their official documentation and statutory forms. This will ensure that this anomaly is fully addressed and that all official forms carry the correct formulation in accordance with the relevant regulations.  In the 2019 annual report, the Office of the Ombudsman recommended that all public authorities set up effective internal complaint handling mechanisms to deal with complaints and grievances and improve their service delivery.  »This time again, it has been included in the report as it was not implemented the correct way. The government did set up a sort of complaint bureau, but it was not the idea that we wanted,« said Tirant-Ghérardi. »We wanted people to seek recourse for their grievances within the organisations they are working for first before going elsewhere," she added.  In terms of the mandate of the Ombudsman, Tirant-Ghérardi said that she has made a proposal to the president to see how this role can be strengthened. The Ombudsman office was first created in 1993 with a role to investigate actions and malpractices, including fraud and corruption and human rights violation, by public entities and officers and scrutinise laws passed by the legislature and executive to ensure that they are in line with the Constitution.  The general Annual Report of the Office of the Ombudsman is submitted each year to the National Assembly and copied to the President in compliance with the Constitution.  This year, the report will only be published in an electronic format as part of the cost-cutting efforts of the Ombudsman in the COVID-19 pandemic.

New agreement between Seychelles and Reunion open more opportunities in health field

A new agreement between Seychelles and Reunion – a French department in the Indian Ocean – will give Seychellois more opportunities for exchanges and researches in the health field. The framework agreement for international cooperation was signed betwee
Seychelles News Agency

New agreement between Seychelles and Reunion open more opportunities in health field

A new agreement between Seychelles and Reunion – a French department in the Indian Ocean – will give Seychellois more opportunities for exchanges and researches in the health field. The framework agreement for international cooperation was signed between the University Hospital Center (CHU) of Reunion, the Seychelles’ Ministry of Health and the University of Seychelles. The signing, done virtually on Wednesday, allows for exchanges of teachers, researchers, students, and technical and administrative staff of the two islands. It also aims at strengthening the existing collaboration in training and research in the field of health. The Minister for Health, Peggy Vidot, explained that the agreement will open a new way for the specialisation for young Seychellois doctors. Vidot added that the ministry is aiming at an innovative programme for young doctors, a programme that has proved necessary following multiple difficulties encountered by the Ministry of Health acquiring more specialised and competent Seychellois doctors. «This is one of our ambitious strategies to both have Seychellois doctors in key positions in the Seychelles Hospital, but also to improve the quality of care offered for our flagship hospital. I wholeheartedly thank France for coming to our aid in this process,” said Vidot. The framework agreement for international cooperation was signed between the University Hospital Center (CHU) of Reunion, the Seychelles’ Ministry of Health and the University of Seychelles. (Seychelles Nation) Photo License: CC-BY The Minister added that collaboration between Seychelles and Reunion in health matters dates back several years. “During all these years, we have concluded together many beneficial projects for Seychelles. I would like to believe that Reunion island has also benefited from it, through these fraternal exchanges, through this regional sharing, through these friendships,” added Vidot. The French ambassador to the Seychelles - 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean – signed the agreement on behalf of the French government. »This project is part of the long list of cooperation actions between our region and Seychelles, especially during this period of COVID-19 which saw the creation of working groups between Seychellois doctors and the Reunion University Hospital for exchanges by videoconference. The French Embassy and the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs are honoured and proud to support this initiative for which I express my best wishes for success," said Ambassador Dominique Mas. Mas added that the project is part of the long tradition of regional cooperation, supported by the European Union within the framework of INTERREG partnerships. The ambassador explained that the new project is also part of the perspective of the next French presidency of the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC) which will focus on health, but also the mobility of students and researchers, as announced by the French President Emmanuel Macron during his speech in Reunion in 2019. The agreement will allow the development of joint training programmes, joint research programmes, as well as a joint scientific direction of research work between the Universities of Reunion and Seychelles, Seychelles’ Ministry of Health and the Reunion Island University Hospital which is a nuclear, radiological, biological and chemical referent centre and rare disease referent centre. Seychellois will be exposed to a wide range of health specialisations such as cardiac and vascular, infantile and neonatal, neurosurgery, severe burns, transplants, nuclear medicine, cancerology, and hematology-oncology amongst others.

Eritrean troops killed 'hundreds' in Ethiopia massacre: Amnesty

Eritrean soldiers fighting across the border in Ethiopia's northern Tigray region killed hundreds of people in a massacre last year in a likely crime against humanity, Amnesty International said Friday. The rights watchdog spoke to survivors of the atrocitie
Seychelles News Agency

Eritrean troops killed 'hundreds' in Ethiopia massacre: Amnesty

Eritrean soldiers fighting across the border in Ethiopia's northern Tigray region killed hundreds of people in a massacre last year in a likely crime against humanity, Amnesty International said Friday. The rights watchdog spoke to survivors of the atrocities and used satellite images to piece together the bloody events of last November in the ancient town of Axum in a new report. «The evidence is compelling and points to a chilling conclusion. Ethiopian and Eritrean troops carried out multiple war crimes in their offensive to take control of Axum,» said Deprose Muchena of Amnesty International. «Above and beyond that, Eritrean troops went on a rampage and systematically killed hundreds of civilians in cold blood, which appears to constitute crimes against humanity. »This atrocity ranks among the worst documented so far in this conflict.« Tigray has been the theatre of fighting since early November 2020, when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced military operations against the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), accusing them of attacking federal army camps. He declared victory after pro-government troops took the regional capital Mekele in late November, though the TPLF vowed to fight on, and clashes have persisted in the region. Tigray has been without internet and difficult to access since the start of the conflict, making claims and counter-claims of violence hard to confirm. The presence of Eritrean troops in Ethiopia is widely documented but has been denied by Addis Ababa and Asmara. Eritrea fought a brutal border war with Ethiopia in 1998-2000, back when the TPLF dominated Ethiopia's governing coalition. Abiy won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 in large part for initiating a rapprochement with Eritrea, whose President Isaias Afwerki and the TPLF remain bitter enemies. - 'Killing randomly' - Amnesty said it had spoken to 41 survivors and witnesses of the violence who said that on November 19, 2020, Ethiopian and Eritrean military forces took control of Axum »in a large-scale offensive, killing and displacing civilians with indiscriminate shelling and shooting.« »In the nine days that followed, the Eritrean military engaged in widespread looting of civilian property and extrajudicial executions.« Witnesses said the Eritrean forces were easily identifiable, via their vehicles, language and unique ritual facial scars, while they also openly declared themselves as such. The worst violence unfolded after a small group of pro-TPLF militiamen attacked the soldiers' base on 28 November and they retaliated, leaving the town strewn with bodies. »The Eritrean soldiers came into the city and started killing randomly,« said a 22-year-old man who had wanted to bring food to the militia, who he described as young and barely knowing how to fight. Residents told Amnesty that many victims in Axum carried no weapons and were running away from the soldiers when they were shot. »I saw a lot of people dead on the street. Even my uncle’s family. Six of his family members were killed. So many people were killed,« said a 21-year-old male resident. The next day the soldiers allegedly shot at those trying to move the bodies, while carrying out house-to-house raids. One man told Amnesty he saw soldiers line up six men and shoot them from behind in the street outside his house. - Hundreds buried - The organisation said it had collected the names of more than 240 of the victims, but could not independently verify the overall death toll. However, corroborating testimonies and evidence made it plausible that hundreds had died. »Residents estimate that several hundred people were buried in the aftermath of the massacre, and they attended funerals at several churches where scores were buried,« said the report. Satellite imagery showed signs of mass burials near two of the town's churches. »As a matter of urgency, there must be a UN-led investigation into the grave violations in Axum. Those suspected of responsibility for war crimes or crimes against humanity must be prosecuted in fair trials and victims and their families must receive full reparation,« said Muchena. Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) chief Daniel Bekele said Amnesty's findings should be taken »very seriously«. The EHRC said in a statement it is also looking into the massacre and while its investigation is not complete, preliminary findings »indicate the killing of an, as yet, unknown number of civilians by Eritrean soldiers in the city of Axum." © Agence France-Presse

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