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Can Egypt and Ethiopia resolve their dispute over water?

Water is often said to be the source of life, and it is increasingly becoming the source of conflict in various parts of the world.

The building of the largest hydroelectric dam in Africa has reignited a dispute about its longest river, the Nile.

Ethiopia says the five-billion-dollar Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam near the border with Sudan will be a massive boost to the economy.

Egypt fears that will be at its expense, and reduce its share of Nile water.

Egypt has condemned comments from Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed – this year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner – that the dispute could lead to war.

So how should one of our most vital resources be managed?

Presenter: Hashem Ahelbarra

Guests:

Ahmed Almufti – Former Sudanese negotiator, Nile Waters Agreement

William Davison – Senior analyst on Ethiopia, International Crisis Group

Allam Ahmed – Professor of knowledge management and sustainable development, University of East London

Source: Aljazeera

Heavy rains dousing southern US as tropical disturbance looms

The National Weather Service said a disturbance in the Gulf of Mexico that could briefly become a tropical weather system was combining with a cold front to dump heavy rains across the parched region [Jay Reeves/AP]

Parts of the drought-parched southern United States were under flood watches and warnings Friday with forecasters saying as much as 25cm (10 inches) of rain could fall.

The National Weather Service said an advancing cold front would collide with a weather disturbance that became a tropical depression in the Gulf of Mexico.

The National Hurricane Center said the storm’s centre was 515km (320 miles) south-southwest of Lake Charles, Louisiana. It had maximum sustained winds of 55kph (35mph).

Forecasters issued a tornado watch for southern Mississippi and southwestern Alabama, and a powerful storm prompted a tornado warning for Mobile. But heavy rains were the immediate threat.

Parts of coastal Louisiana could receive as much as 25cm (10 inches) of rain Friday and Saturday, forecasters said, and 10cm (four inches) was possible across a wide section of Mississippi.

Streets were flooding around New Orleans and metro Birmingham, where about 7.5cm (three inches) of rain fell Friday morning, and more rain was on the way.

With scores of high school football games already rescheduled because of the weather, the University of Alabama cancelled its homecoming pep rally, bonfire and parade because of the forecast.

Rainfall totals ranging from 2.5 to 10cm (one to four inches) were possible from Alabama to South Carolina, the weather service said. Hurricane forecasters said there was a slight chance of flash flooding from the Texas-Louisiana line into northeastern Alabama.

Source: Aljazeera

Rights groups: Turkey forcibly deported Syrian refugees

The Turkish government has been forcibly deporting refugees to war-torn Syria, two international rights groups have alleged, days after Ankara concluded a cross-border operation partly aimed at creating a so-called “safe zone” to settle millions of refugees living in Turkey.

Amnesty International said in a report, which was released on Friday and was based on 28 interviews with refugees, that Turkish police had beaten, threatened or tricked them into signing documents stating they were asking to return to Syria.

In a written statement to Al Jazeera, Hami Aksoy, spokesman for the Turkish foreign ministry spokesman, said the report’s claims that Syrians have been forcibly returned to their country, threatened and ill-treated were “untrue and imaginary”.

“While we are hosting four million Syrian refugees, including 3.6 million Syrians, within our borders, we are studiously implementing our policy of ‘non-refoulement’,” he said.

He added: “Our authorities has been carrying out the ‘repatriating process’ in collaboration the UN refugee agency and other non-governmental organisations. Our country has in every opportunity always stressed that refugee returns should be voluntary, secure and in line with the international law.”

But Amnesty said its interviews documented 20 verified cases of forced deportations in the months before the launch of Turkey’s military operation in northeast Syria on October 9. It said the alleged deportations involved people being sent across the Syrian border on buses filled with dozens of other people, who, the interviewees said, were handcuffed with plastic ties and were also seemingly being forcibly deported.

“Some said they were beaten or threatened with violence to force them to sign. Others were told they were signing a registration document, that it was a confirmation of having received a blanket from a detention centre, or a form that expressed their desire to remain in Turkey,” Amnesty said.

“Turkey’s claim that refugees from Syria are choosing to walk straight back into the conflict is dangerous and dishonest. Rather, our research shows that people are being tricked or forced into returning,” said Anna Shea, researcher on refugee and migrant rights at Amnesty.

The London-based group said it estimated that over the past few months, hundreds of refugees were forcibly deported to Syria, adding that it was illegal to do so as “it exposed them to a real risk of serious human rights violations”.

Policy change

Hosting the highest number of refugees from neighbouring Syria, Turkey has frequently complained about not getting financial support from the international community to share the burden.

Following a recent policy change, refugees residing in Turkey have until October 30 to return to the provinces in which they were first registered upon arriving in the country. The Turkish police have been carrying out operations, particularly in Istanbul, to enforce the order since the summer.

Yasin Aktay, an adviser to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said there have been sporadic returns of unregistered refugees to “safe areas” in Syria.

These are not forced returns as they were not supposed to be in the country in the first place. The directorate-general of immigration has also accepted back many refugees after they proved their status and situation,” he told Al Jazeera on Friday.

“They were only allowed to go to safe areas with livelihood and security, and were given the time and opportunity to prove their status,” Aktay said.

Following the launch of its operation and an agreement with Russia, Turkey is in the process of creating a “safe zone” inside Syria cleared of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which Ankara considers a “terrorist” organisation. The country aims at gradually repatriating two million of the refugees currently residing on its soil to the zone.

The safe zone will be a 32km-wide (20 miles) area between the towns of Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ain, which covers 120km (75 miles) of the Turkish-Syrian border, according to the deal reached with Moscow, which also has a military presence in the region as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad‘s main ally.

This was Turkey’s third push into Syria in the last several years. Ankara conducted two operations into northern Syria in 2016 and 2018 to clear the areas of what it called “terrorists”. It controls swaths of land in northwestern Syria as a result of these operations.

The Turkish authorities say some 365,000 people have left for Syria on a voluntary basis in recent years.

Aktay told Al Jazeera that Turkey’s health, security and other services exist in the Syrian areas controlled by the country.

“There are life standards enough to make some people voluntarily move there to establish new lives,” he said.

HRW report

In a separate statement released late on Thursday, US-based Human Rights Watch also said that authorities arbitrarily detained and deported Syrians to northern Syria between January and September 2019.

“Deported Syrians said that Turkish officials forced them to sign forms they were not allowed to read, in some cases after beating or threatening them, and transported them to Syria,” the rights group said.

Human Rights Watch said it spoke with 12 Syrians by phone about their arrest and detention in Turkey and deportation to Idlib in northern Syria, with two Syrians in person who fled Idlib after being deported there and who returned to Turkey, and with the wife of a man deported from Istanbul.

According to the group, 13 said they were deported by bus between July and September. Three said the other bus passengers, a total of about 100, told them they were being returned to Syria against their will.

Gerry Simpson, associate crisis and conflict director at Human Rights Watch said: “Turkey hosts four times as many Syrians as the European Union, but that does not mean it can return them to a warzone.”

Simpson added: “With the Syrian conflict recently taking another deadly turn, the EU should be helping Turkey respond to a reality that requires ongoing protection for millions of refugees.” 

Source: Aljazeera

'All of them': Lebanon protesters dig in after Nasrallah's speech

Demonstrators say they will continue anti-government protests in Lebanon [Aziz Taher/Reuters]

Beirut, Lebanon – Demonstrators in the Lebanese capital say their demands are “clear” and they will keep protesting until the government falls, disregarding a speech by Hezbollah‘s leader who warned that the protest movement risked pushing Lebanon into “chaos” and “God forbid” civil war.

In a televised address on Friday, Hassan Nasrallah said a government resignation would create a power vacuum which could lead the country into civil unrest “similar to what’s happening in the region”.

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“Under the current monetary and economic situation and the fragile political climate and all the targeting that is happening internationally and regionally, void will lead to chaos, void will lead to destruction,” Nasrallah warned, conjuring fears of Lebanon’s 15-year civil war that came to an end in 1990.

“We do not accept the fall of the presidency nor do we accept the government’s resignation and we do not accept, amid these conditions, holding early parliamentary elections.”

For nine days, Lebanese from across the country’s sectarian and political divides have been taking to the streets and blocking major roads to call for the resignation of the country’s sectarian power-sharing government. Angry at official corruption, a stagnant economy and poor services, they demand an overhaul of Lebanon’s political system and an end to austerity measures.

In a bid to appease the protesters, Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Monday unveiled a series of economic reforms, including no new taxes for the 2020 budget, a 50 percent reduction in the salaries of current and former politicians, the abolition of obsolete state institutions and the drafting of a law that seeks to restore public funds.

The leaderless protesters, however, rejected the announcement as insufficient and continued pouring onto the streets of the capital, Beirut, and elsewhere.

In his speech, Nasrallah hailed the reforms package, which he called “unprecedented”, and reassured the protesters that they will be implemented.

He also repeated President Michel Aoun’s call on Thursday for a dialogue and welcomed representatives of the movement to deliver a “clear set of demands”.

‘Everyone means everyone’

At Martyrs’ Square in Beirut, where various civil society groups have set up tents, protesters found Nasrallah’s speech to be irrelevant to their goal – much like Aoun’s televised statement the previous day.

“We tell him – everyone means everyone,” a Lebanese woman told Al Jazeera, preferring to stay anonymous.

“It’s very clear – the cabinet must resign and then everything will fit into what is constitutional and everything will be OK.”

The “All of them means all of them” chant has been a popular slogan since the protests began on October 17, with demonstrators insisting no politician should be exempted from resignation.

Hezbollah, seen as the strongest military and political force in the country, is part of the government that came to power last year after months of negotiations. The movement is aligned with Iran and does not accept any move that could change the status quo.

During his speech, Nasrallah also argued that while the mass protests had started off as a spontaneous movement, they had recently been hijacked.

“Lebanon has entered a stage of regional political targeting, and it is no longer just a popular movement,” he said.

Ahmad Bshennaty, a 19-year-old university student who has been participating daily in the protests, said he was not impressed by Nasrallah’s speech.

“He’s coming up with conspiracy theories just to get people to stop revolting,” Bshennaty said.

“He’s speaking to his advantage … he’s actually one of them. All of them means all of them.

“But that’s not going to stop us. We’re going to come here every single day.”

nasrallah

Earlier, as people looked at screens showing Nasrallah delivering his speech, many remarked that it was a Lebanese flag that was shown hanging behind him, instead of the usual Hezbollah flag, indicating his efforts to garner support and be seen as a leader of all of Lebanon.

Protests have mostly been peaceful, but on Friday, Hezbollah supporters and anti-government protesters clashed at Riyad al-Solh square in Beirut.

Hezbollah supporters shouted “Nasrallah is more honourable than all of them” and “Riad Salameh is a thief” referring to the central bank governor.

Some threw stones and sticks while others reported being hit by men. Riot police had to intervene to prevent it from turning violent. Similar clashes occurred on Thursday evening at the same square.

While Nasrallah urged his supporters to leave the streets, many protesters appeared wary that there may be more altercations.

Hezbollah Clash

As a group of Lebanese physicians marched past the square in their white medical coats and waving Lebanese flags, Ghana Zaghayar, 21 from Btekhnay, Mount Lebanon sat underneath a tent with her friends.

She told Al Jazeera that she feared that if the situation dragged on, a civil war could indeed break out.

“A war could start between the Lebanese, between different religious groups. This is what I’m afraid of,” Zaghayar said.

“We don’t know. We don’t know where we’re going. We just want to live in our country with our dignity.”

Nasrallah’s message did little to address their concerns, she said, noting the expensive cost for education and healthcare which many people cannot afford.

“But Lebanon isn’t poor. The government robbed Lebanon. They stole the money from us and diverted it to Swiss banks,” Zaghayar said.

Source: Aljazeera

US Coast Guard hunts for man who went overboard on cruise ship

The ship, Carnival Dream, started a four-day cruise from Galveston on Thursday [File: Reuters]

The United States Coast Guard was searching early on Friday for a 26-year-old man who went overboard from a Carnival Cruise ship about 76km (47 miles) out in the Gulf of Mexico, near the port of Galveston in Texas.

A spokeswoman said the coastguard was preparing to launch a search-and-rescue cutter after midnight, with more than 10 of its crew having joined the initial stages of the search.

A helicopter and a fixed-wing aircraft manned by divers and rescue equipment, including a hoist to lift a person out of the water, are also being deployed in the effort, she added.

The ship, Carnival Dream, started a four-day cruise from Galveston on Thursday, the cruise operator Carnival Corp said.

“Based on camera footage, it appears the guest jumped from his stateroom balcony,” it said in a statement.

The 14-deck vessel can accommodate more than 3,600 passengers in more than 1,800 cabins, internet cruise tracking site Ship Technology said.

Source: Aljazeera

UN: Almost one million people affected by floods in South Sudan

Nearly one million people in South Sudan have been affected by heavy flooding, according to the United Nations.

Severe floods have devastated large areas of the country since July, submerging entire communities and forced hundreds of thousands from their homes, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a statement on Friday.

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It added that an estimated 908,000 people were affected, including internally displaced people, refugees and their host communities in a country already hit by years of ruinous civil war that caused mass displacement and wrecked its economy.

The situation was “extremely concerning”, as rains are likely to continue for another four to six weeks and put more people at risk, said Alain Noudeho, OCHA humanitarian coordinator in South Sudan.

The floods have limited access to health facilities, nutrition centres, basic services and markets, according to OCHA.

Across the 32 flooded counties in Jonglei, Upper Nile, Warrap, Eastern Equatoria, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Unity and Lakes, more than three million people were in need of assistance even before the rains, it said.

Many affected areas were already facing high humanitarian needs before the flooding started, with more than 60 percent of them classified as having extreme levels of acute malnutrition.

In addition, the crisis will not be over when the water levels recede because considerable damage to crops, arable land and livestock is anticipated, the UN warned. This will obstruct the ability of families to support themselves for months to come, it added.

Despite its richness in oil, South Sudan is among the world’s poorest nations.

The country secured independence from north Sudan in 2011 after decades of war but descended into its own conflict at the end of 2013.

Source: Aljazeera