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VLADIMIR PUTIN WRAPS UP A VISIT TO BEIJING Chinese President Xi Jinping welcomed Russian President Vladimir Putin to Beijing this week, and poured praise on "hard-earned" diplomatic relations between China and Russia that have "stood the test" of a changing international landscape. And now, Moscow's close cooperation with China is taking on even more significance. After Russia launched a war of aggression on Ukraine in February 2022, just days after Putin and Xi lauded their "no limits" partnership, Russia has become more internationally isolated due to US and EU sanctions. Since then, China has provided a vital economic lifeline to Russia, and has held back from explicitly condemning Russia's invasion. A week ago, Putin appointed economist Andrei Belousov as Russia's defense minister. Belousov also traveled with Putin to China. The Kremlin chief knows only too well how important Belousov's expertise is. Raw materials are urgently needed for arms production, and China can supply them. Now, Putin is extending his hand to his "beloved old friend" Xi. Russia and China are at an "unprecedentedly high level of strategic partnership," he said. In Beijing, Putin was treated to an opulent banquet complete with Peking Duck, sea cucumber and sea bass in shrimp cream. A joint statement issued Thursday after the meeting between Xi and Putin focused on "deepening comprehensive partnership and strategic cooperation entering a new era." The question is whether China is serious. Peter Qiu, president of the Hong Kong Center for Globalization (CGHK), told DW that even if both countries want to demonstrate unity, actions speak louder than words. Putin and Xi hail strategic ties, address Ukraine conflict Anyone who had hoped that Xi would put pressure on Putin to change track on his war against Ukraine will be disappointed. The summit's final declaration offered up the same empty phrases that the world has become familiar with since Moscow launched the war. Both leaders stated they are against "further escalation" of the war in Ukraine and expressed their interest in a "political solution." China remains neutral, Xi reiterated, calling for a "balanced, effective and sustainable" security structure in the region. "China expects that peace and stability on the European continent will be restored as soon as possible," Xi said. "China is happy to make its constructive contributions to this," Xi said. "We are grateful to our Chinese friends and colleagues for the initiatives they are putting forward to resolve this problem," Putin said, speaking alongside Xi. However, these calls for "deescalation" ignore the fact that Russia has launched a new offensive in northeastern Ukraine, and has continued to pound civilian infrastructure with airstrikes. China has, thus far, done little to nothing on putting forward actual "initiatives" to stop the war. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has accused Beijing of supplying Russia with critical components that enable Moscow's war machine to continue running. China has repeatedly denied these allegations. Russia is the world's largest country by land mass. Economically, however, it is a dwarf compared to China. Russia's gross domestic product in 2023 was estimated at $2 trillion (€1.85 trillion), barely above the GDP of China's economically strongest province of Guangdong. At the same time, the bilateral trade between China and Russia is growing. In 2018, the trade balance was still at $100 billion. In 2024, it was more than double that. By 2030, goods worth $300 billion per year are to be exchanged between China and Russia, reported Russian news website Sputnik, citing the Moscow Ministry of Economic Affairs after the Putin-Xi meeting on Thursday. "Russia would like to see a clear commitment from Beijing that China is committed to deeper economic exchange," said Hong Kong-based expert Qiu. On the second stop of his China trip , Putin visited a trade fair in the northern Chinese city of Harbin. Russia plans to set up a new center for the wholesale of agricultural products in the city, selling meat, sweets, fish and dairy products. The name: "Good Food Russia." Also included in Putin's entourage were top representatives of financial companies. Legarda said that Putin's visit, coming right after Xi returned from a three-country tour of Europe, sends a "very clear message" that China and Russia continue to see each other as "preferential partners and are looking for ways to deepen their relationship, especially in the economic sphere." Both leaders want to signal that this "will continue to be the case in spite of mounting Western pressure over Ukraine or US sanctions," she added. 17th May,2024

SOMALIA TENSIONS Somalia's breakaway province of Somaliland is commemorating the anniversary of its unilateral declaration of independence on May 18, 1991 — even though its claims of sovereignty have remained unrecognized by the international community. Amid the preparations, Somaliland's authorities have been preparing to conclude a controversial deal with neighboring Ethiopia. Once signed, the agreement would cement Ethiopia's recognition of Somaliland as an independent state — despite strong objections from Somalia's government. In return for landlocked Ethiopia's official recognition, Somaliland will lease out 20 kilometers (12 miles) of sea access for 50 years while also allowing Ethiopia to build a military base on its coast. Somaliland's leader, Muse Bihi Abdi, signed a memorandum of understanding in January 2024 as a first step towards a firm agreement with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. Details of the memorandum were not disclosed. After its signing, Ethiopian officials hinted that the final agreement would include a commercial port for its maritime traffic, but provisions for a port specifically for Ethiopia's commercial purposes does not seem to be on offer. Somaliland's Berbera Port "will be available for all entities including Ethiopian business people and government to use," Somaliland Finance Minister Saad Ali Shire told DW. "So, there is no need for another port to be built." DW understands that a technical team appointed by Bihi has submitted its recommendations for an agreement with Ethiopia. The team, which includes "specialized international law firms and Somaliland lawyers has started working on the Somaliland position paper" for the final agreement, a source close to the government told DW. Somaliland has reportedly identified three possible sites that Ethiopia could lease for its military base. "I'm not privy to tell exactly the names of these three areas that we are thinking about, but it's something that will be decided together with the Ethiopian counterpart," Essa Kayd, Somaliland's Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister, told DW. "As soon as we sign the agreement and agree on the naval base and all the conditions that are attached to it, and we're satisfied — right after that Ethiopia will do the proclamation and recognize Somaliland." "I think I'd say the coming months maybe two months or so should be finalized," Kayd added. Somalilanders have high hopes of the benefits that Ethopia's recognition will bring. "Politically it is important because once recognized, we will have a voice in the international political platform," said Saad Ali Shire. "We will be able to connect with the international financial system, we will be able to borrow money from the international financial institutions." Government officials, opposition leaders and analysts in Somaliland's capital Hargeisa insist that Somaliland is sovereign. They resist terms such as a "breakaway" or a "self-declared" to assert sovereignty. "We flagged it, as it isn't our legal status as a country," said Fatima Omer, a communications advisor for the Somaliland Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. The former British Somaliland gained its independence on June 26, 1960. But enjoyed it only for five days. Then, on July 1, 1960, it united with Somalia Italiana and formed the Republic of Somalia. The merger was intended to unite all Somali-speaking people, who had been divided by the colonizers. "It was not a project of Somalia and Somaliland, it was a project of getting back the land of Somali-speaking people," said Jama Musse Jama, an ethnomathematician and a staunch campaigner for Somaliland. However, it didn't last long, and, according to Jama, "that was the mistake the Somalilanders have done." The whole world — especially the West — was against the project of creating a large Somali-speaking country that would have been the largest in the region. "Somalilanders understood that was not working and they tried immediately to go back and get their independence," he explained. It took Somaliland more than three decades to unilaterally declare its independence after the collapse of Mohamed Siad Barre's government in 1991. But the declaration was never recognized internationally. That's something the government in Hargeisa and campaigners like Jama Musse Jama are still pushing for. "The recognition already has been granted in 1960. We are trying to rectify those mistakes and get the re-recognition of Somaliland," said Jama. Mohamed Warsame, a former UN staffer who now heads one of Somaliland's opposition parties, criticizes the international community for turning its back on Somaliland. "We were funding and financing our republic, which is independent and sovereign, for the last 34 years, while the international community gave us their back," he said. 17th May,2024

BILLBOARD KILLED 16 PEOPLE IN INDIA Police from the west Indian city of Mumbai on Thursday arrested the owner of a huge billboard that collapsed during a storm earlier this week, killing 16. The advertisement sign fell onto a gas station on Monday during heavy rains. Some 75 people were injured, while the storm uprooted trees and disrupted electricity, with several flights delayed or canceled. Police arrested Bhavesh B., the owner of the advertising agency Ego Media Private Limited that erected the billboard in the city of Udaipur, around 800 kilometers (497 miles) north of Mumbai. He was charged with culpable homicide after evading the authorities for three days. The agency did not have a permit for the billboard, which measured about nine times more than the maximum permitted size. The owner had fled from Mumbai to different locations across the states of Maharashtra, Gujarat and Rajasthan. "The operation was a top secret, and even the Udaipur police did not know about it," a person from the investigating team told Indian broadcaster NDTV. The police team arrived back with the owner in Mumbai early on Friday. Rescue efforts were officially called off after 63 hours, but the debris from the sign has yet to be cleared from the site, The Indian Express reported. The incident has highlighted the lax safety standards when it comes to advertisement billboards in Mumbai. The public outrage has led to calls for more stringent enforcement of regulations. An investigation by The Indian Express said the billboard had been flagged with civic authorities for lack of required permissions 14 months ago, but no action was taken. Maharashtra state's Chief Minister Eknath Shinde has called for a city-wide inspection of all billboards in Mumbai. India experiences heavy rains and severe flooding during the monsoon season between June and September, which brings most of South Asia's annual rainfall. The rains are crucial for rain-fed crops planted during the season, but often cause extensive damage. 17th May,2024

POLICE ARREST 260 PEOPLE IN IRAN Some 260 people, including three Europeans, were arrested during the dispersal of an event outside the Iranian capital, Tehran, local news agencies reported Friday, citing a police statement. Police arrested "146 men and 115 women" who were "in an undesirable and obscene state with emblems, signs and symbols of satanism on their clothes, head, face and hair," the statement said. The nationalities of the Europeans involved were not immediately known. Alcohol, psychoactive substances and 73 vehicles were also seized in the overnight raid on a "satanist network," police told Iran's Fars news agency. A 25-second video posted by the agency showed a scene from a gathering resembling a techno event. The Tasnim news agency also published photos alongside its report showing masks, what appeared to be model skulls, and T-shirts with skulls on them. Raids on so-called "satanist" gatherings are not uncommon in the deeply conservative Islamic republic, often targeting parties or concerts with alcohol, which is largely banned in Iran. In July 2009, police in the northwestern province of Ardebil arrested three people for "worshipping satan." In May of the same year, Iranian media reported that 104 "satan worshipers" were arrested in a raid on a concert in the southern city of Shiraz, where people were allegedly drinking alcohol and "sucking blood." In 2007, police arrested 230 people in a raid on an illegal rock concert in a garden near Tehran. Authorities in the Shiite-Muslim-dominated country have branded rock and heavy metal concerts as satanist gatherings in the past. 17th May,2024

Local Ghana News

MINORITY STAGES WALKOUT The Minority in Parliament on Friday, May 17 staged a boycott of the approval of the new ministers of President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo. The minority Leader Dr Cassiel Ato Forson in his submission on the floor questioned how the approval of the ministerial nominees was classified as an urgent matter. “May I ask, how is the approval of the President’s nominees for ministerial positions an urgent matter, when this Akufo-Addo/Bawumia government already has a large number of ministers and deputy ministers?” He asked. While walking out of the chamber, some of the opposition lawmakers were heard saying “Ghanaians are suffering.” Dr Cassiel Ato Forson told the Majority side that “If you don’t care, we care.” The ministerial nominees are Health Hon. Dr. Bernard Okoe Boye; Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, Ophelia Mensah Hayford; Information Ms. Fatimatu Abubakar, Gender; Children and Social Protection Dakoa Newman; Local Government, Decentralisation and Rural Development Martin Adjei-Mensah Korsah; Sanitation and Water Resources Hon. Lydia Seyram Alhassan; Tourism, Arts and Culture Hon. Andrew Egyapa Mercer, MP, Greater Accra Region Hon. Titus Glover, Oti Region Mr. Daniel Machator. The deputy ministerial nominees are for Information Sylvester Tetteh, MP; Local Government, Decentralisation and Rural Development, Vincent Ekow Assafuah; Communications and Digitilisation Hon. Charles Acheampong; Health Adelaide Ntim, MP Alexander Akwasi Acquah; Works and Housing Hon. Dr. Prince Hamidu Armah; Lands and Natural Resources, Akwasi Konadu; Fisheries and Aquaculture Development Hon. Musah Abdul Aziz Ayaba; Energy John Kobina Sanie, Collins Adomako Mensah; Education Kingsley Nyarko; Employment and Labour Relations Hon. Festus Awuah Kwofie; Gender, Children and Social Protection Hon. Benjamin Sekyere Yeboah.” Meanwhile, Parliament on that same day approved a loan facility of $150 million from the World Bank. The loan facility is to fund the ongoing Greater Accra Resilient and Integrated Development (GARID) project. The Loan was approved despite concerns raised by the Minority in the House. TV2’s Komla Klutse who was in parliament reported that “After a heated debate and a head count following a disputed voice vote, the speaker declared the majority MPs having won the vote on the $150 million loan. 137 NPP MPs voted in favour of the loan as against 132 NDC MPs.” Prior to the approval, the Minority Leader Dr Cassiel Ato Forson had said on the floor of the House that “How is the approval of US$150 million loan an urgent issue, when US$200 million for phase one approved by this House has been misapplied and not accounted for? “How is it an urgent matter for Parliament to be summoned from recess to approve a-US$150 million loan agreement at a time that this government is granting questionable US$450 million tax waiver? 17th May,2024

BAWUMIA REAFFIRMS LGBTQ STANCE Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, the presidential candidate of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), has made it clear that he will not allow LGBTQ activities in the country if he becomes president, regardless of any potential consequences. The Vice President reaffirmed his LGBTQ stance, stating that such activities are against the doctrines of both the Bible Bible and the Quran Quran. Also, Dr. Bawumia highlighted that activities related to LGBTQ are against the values of the country and therefore cannot be tolerated. He noted that both the Bible and the Quran, as well as the majority of Ghanaians, do not endorse such practices. The NPP flagbearer, in a meeting with the clergy in Tamale on Thursday, May 16, stated, among other things, that, “On this matter of LGBTQ, I want to say again without any equivocation that we will not allow it in Ghana. It is not going to be allowed. Our Bible says no, our Quran says no, and our people say no. So no. That is the answer.” “No man will be marrying a man, no woman will be marrying a woman. It is not our value. And I will stand firm no matter the consequences. We will stand firm on that matter no matter the consequences. We will safeguard our country and we will safeguard our people.” It would be recalled that the Vice President in April publicly denounced the activities of LGBTQ. In his first public remarks on the controversial issue, Dr. Bawumia minced no words in completely shooting it down while addressing thousands of Muslims in Kumasi during the observation of Eid prayers. “It is important to note our cultural, societal and norms, as well as our values as Ghanaians frown on same-sex marriage.” “As a Muslim, my view on this matter aligns with the position of my religious faith. My faith is strictly against the practice of LGBTQ+. No ifs, no buts.” “All the major religious traditions in Ghana [Christianity and Islam] are opposed to this practice and I stand opposed to it now and I will stand opposed to it as Meanwhile, Ghana’s Parliament has passed a strong anti-LGBTQ Bill, and the Bill is now awaiting a presidential assent President, Insha Allah,” he said. owever, the President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, has indicated his inability to sign the bill into law, as its constitutionality is being challenged in court by human rights activists. 17th May,2024

KONAN BEDIE'S MEMORIAL MASS Former President John Dramani Mahama was part of the guests who were at the memorial mass of former Ivorian President Henri Konan Bedie. 26th May,2024

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