Farewell to Beji Caïd Essebsi, Tunisia’s First Democratically Elected President

Mohamed Beji Caid Essebsi (Wikipedia)

This past Saturday, July 28 2019, millions of Tunisians bid farewell to their first democratically elected president Mohamed Béji Caïd Essebsi at a state funeral attended by numerous foreign leaders including French President Emanuel MacronQatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Felipe VI of Spain. Essebsi passed away this past Thursday, July 25 at 92 years old. His was a great life of public service, and determination to serve the Tunisian people to the best of his ability.

Essebsi was a seasoned politician whose career spanned over six decades. His first involvement in politics started in 1941, when he joined the Neo Destour youth organization in Hammam-Lif. He was known for his integrity, exceptional public service, and served under Tunisia’s first president Habib Bourguiba, at different positions, including chief of the regional administration, general director of the Sûreté nationale, Interior Minister, Minister-Delegate to the Prime Minister, Defense Minister, and then Ambassador to Paris. The coincidence of him dying on the anniversary of the republic reminded people of the role he played in nation-building since independence.

Flag of Tunisia

In recent years, Essebsi rose to prominence after the overthrow of veteran autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, which was followed by “Arab Spring” revolts against authoritarian leaders across the Middle East and North Africa, including in Libya and Egypt. He was seen as a unifying figure. He founded the Nidaa Tounes political party, which won a plurality in the 2014 parliamentary election. In December 2014, he won the first regular presidential election following the Tunisian Revolution, becoming Tunisia’s first freely elected president.

Essebsi in 2011 (Wikipedia)

Hours after Essebsi’s death, parliament speaker Mohamed Ennaceur was sworn in as interim president in line with the constitution in a smooth transition of power. The presidential election is scheduled for Sept. 15, as stated in the constitution which gives 90-days after the death of the president for new elections to take place; this comes two months earlier than scheduled.

The interim President stated, “[Mohamed Beji Caid Essebsi] spent his life in the service of Tunisia, preserving its gains and defending its values.”  “He was a man of consensus, dialogue and national unity.” Don’t we all need dialogue and national unity?

Please take some time to read the good article The Arab Weekly wrote on the life of this great man who always put the interest of the Tunisian people first.

Cape to Cairo: Trekking 10,000 km for the African Cup of Nations

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Alvin Zhakata in Khartoum, Sudan (Source: Alvin Zhakata)

What would you do for the love of football? How far would you go for a chance to watch the biggest continental football event of the year? Will you cross mountains, rivers, plains, and valleys? Well, Alvin Zhakata, a Zimbabwean man, trekked 10,000 km to cheer for the Zimbabwean warriors at the Africa Cup of Nations 2019 in Cairo this past month. He traveled from Cape Town to Cairo by road enduring visa delays, internet blackouts and revolutionary protests all for the love of football. It took him a total of 44 days; he missed his team who were eliminated in the first round, but the CAF president gave him a VVIP ticket to the final between Algeria and Senegal last Friday.

Cecil Rhodes with his transafrican train project from Cairo to Cape Town - the most imperialist ever
Cecil Rhodes with his transafrican train project from Cairo to Cape Town – the most imperialist ever

What Zhakata did, is no simple feat. He did what even the infamous Cecil Rhodes could not achieve: go from Cape Town at the tip of Africa, to Cairo at the very top of the continent. For those who do not know: the words Cape to Cairo immediately bring to mind the European Scramble for AfricaCecil Rhodes and his ambition for Great Britain to control the whole of Africa from Cape to Cairo, and of course to link all British colonies via the Cape to Cairo Railway crossing Africa from south to north by rail. The Cape to Cairo Road was also planned to roughly connect the same countries; however, it is not praticable today, and has remained more of a dream or rather a possibility, which needs revamping.

What Zhakata did is not just a show of undying love of a fan for football, but also a political statement to all African leaders: we need roads to connect each other; we need better visa system, or rather a borderless Africa for better and safer travel, increased trade among each other: we need a united Africa. Zhakata’s statement is one of Unity,… African Unity. Enjoy the excerpt below from BBC.


CAN 2019
Africa Cup of Nations 2019 in Cairo, Egypt

A Zimbabwean nurse travelled from Cape Town to Cairo by road enduring visa delays, internet blackouts and revolutionary protests all for the love of football.

Alvin “Aluvah” Zhakata had intended to make it to Egypt for the opening match of the Africa Cup of Nations on 21 June, when Zimbabwe’s Warriors took on the hosts.

But he missed the match because his epic journey took much longer than expected.

Yet thanks to those following his adventures on Twitter, he has now become a celebrity – and the African football boss has presented him with a ticket to this Friday’s final between Algeria and Senegal.

When the 32-year-old arrived in the Egyptian capital last week, completing his 44-day 10,000km (6,200-mile) trip, he said it was well worth it despite some nerve-wracking experiences.

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Cape to Cairo (Source: BBC)

His other more sobering discovery was that “Africa is not friendly to Africans” – in terms of visas and borders. “And some of the visa fees for African countries, they are actually more expensive than visa fees when you want to go to Europe – and the waiting period takes too long. “I believe we need a borderless Africa.”

The journey began on 27 May on a route passing through South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt.

Cape to Cairo_Alvin Zhakata_2
CAF president recognizing Alvin Zhakata for his feat, and presenting him with a VVIP ticket to the AFCON 2019 final

[…] His one disappointment has been the performance of the Warriors, who crashed out in the first round – amidst rows over pay.

But he says his achievement – which has become one of the biggest stories of this Africa Cup of Nations tournament – shows it pays to “dare to dream“.

If you have a passion for something, go for it. Pursue it until you get it. It may be delayed, but delay is not denial – be patient and be strong, because the harder the battle, the sweeter the victory,” he says.

The Fennecs of Algeria Win the African Cup of Nations 2019

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The Fennecs of Algeria celebrate winning AFCON 2019 (The Guardian)

This past Friday, the Fennecs of Algeria defeated the Lions of Teranga of Senegal 1-0 to become Africa’s new champions. This was their second title since 1990.  Even though the final was not the desert foxes’s best game, they clearly were the best team of the tournament. Baghdad Bounedjah‘s early goal propelled Algeria to a first Africa Cup of Nations title in 29 years with a fiery 1-0 victory over Senegal in Friday’s final in Cairo.


Algeria’s coach Djamel Belmadi and Senegal’s coach Aliou Cisse

I would like to salute both coaches.  The 2019 Africa Cup of Nations was the first time in over 20 years when both finalists were led by African coaches: Algeria by Djamel Belmadi and Senegal by Aliou Cissé. This should be the norm, rather than the exception. Coincidentally, both coaches grew up in the same suburb of Paris, are the same age only separated by one day, and played against each other at youth level. They came head-to-head in a league game between Marseille and Paris Saint-Germain in February 2001, and then with their national teams two months later. Again African teams should be led by Africans… No wonder Egypt performed so poorly at the AFCON 2019 (this is the first time, they were not led by a local).

Flag of Madagascar

The revelation of this tournament was the Barea of Madagascar which for their first participation ever to the African Cup of Nations, performed extremely well, and went as far as the quarter finals. For their successful performance, their country’s president knighted the whole team.

Overall, AFCON 2019 brought us a lot of joy and tears, and we applaud the winners of this year’s tournament Algeria.

South African Woman wins Prize for Water-Saving Toilet

Toilet bowl

I always wondered why the toilet design used today in almost all bathrooms around the world is 400 years old. So many things have gone through innovation, reinvention, re-design, etc, yet the toilet design has survived 400 years! In the end, I thought it was because the subject was not particularly attractive: I mean who wants to look into toilet bowls, or even think about it, or talk about it? Yuck…! Just do the business and be gone, right? Well, one young lady from South Africa came up with a toilet design which uses 400 milliliters (0.4 L – 0.11 gallons) instead of the usual 13 litres (13 L – 3.4 gallons) consumed in regular toilets. People, this is more than a 300% reduction in water… think about your water bills savings or drought areas! Please help me applaud the work of Monni Mokwena. Her invention is appropriately called the Swallowing Toilet. The excerpt below is from Briefly where the full article is found.

Just a note on July 30, 2019: Monni Mokwena emphasized in the comment section below that her design uses a flexible S-shape design which not only reduces water consumption, but also takes care of the smell: “My toilet have a flexible s- shape compared to the traditional toilet…So when it’s inoperative it has that S shape that help to prevent water for flowing and also to prevent the smell to come back into the bowl…


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Monni Mokwena (Source: Sowetan Live)

Monni Mokwena is the epitome of black excellence. The 25-year-old designed a toilet that does not only save underprivileged people money, but it also preserves water. Mokwena pitched her idea at the Engen Pitch and Polish competition and she was crowed the regional winner.The young inventor was inspired by her upbringing in Bakenberg village in Mokopane, Limpopo. Mokwena was one among many living in rural areas who did not have the pleasure of flushing toilets. According to The Sowetan, Mokwena also saw her gogo spend a lot of money to pay someone to fetch water.

I am a rural girl. Toilets are a serious problems in our community. My grandmother still spends a substantial amount of money of her pension to pay people who get her water from far,” she said. 

She started doing research and found that the everyday toilet was invented over 400 years ago. Briefly.co.za gathered she came up with plans and her invention uses less than a litre of water.

I realised that the mountain of the s-shaped pipe at the back of the toilet is the one that makes the toilet to use a lot of water. This was created to prevent the smell from coming back to the house. We’ve cut that ‘mountain’,” Mokwena said.

Mokwena’s new “swallowing toilet” uses a flexible pipe instead of the s-shaped one and because it swallows the waste, the toilet only requires 400 millilitres of water – opposed to the 13 litres of water a normal toilet uses. Taking to social media, Mokwena gushed about the competition where she pitched her idea before walking away the winner.

Just imagine, a poor girl like me with my poor English, from the village pitching and competing with/to the most sophisticated people. And, I made to the top. Bafowethu – Let’s keep pushing but never forget to pray hey…. the competition is too much there,” she wrote on Facebook. 

Archaeologists Explore the Waters under a Nubian Pyramid to Unveil …

Nubia_Pyramids of Meroe
Pyramids at Meroe (Wikipedia)

As I stated before, Sudan has more pyramids than Egypt, and at one point its pharaohs ruled Egypt for over a century. Only in recent years, has Nubia (Africa’s Forbidden Pyramids: Meroe, Nubia, and Sudan) attracted the attention of more archaeologists. One archaeologist used scuba diving to explore one of the pyramids at the ancient royal burial site of Nuri; making it the first time it is used in Sudan. He unearthed some amazing pottery figurines and gold leaves. The expert below is from the BBC; for the full article, follow the link.


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Nuri Archaeological expedition / Pearce Paul Creasman (Source: BBC)

An underwater archaeologist has told the BBC of the extraordinary lengths he went to to access a pharaoh’s tomb underneath a pyramid.

Pearce Paul Creasman and his team were the first people to go into the tomb for 100 years and, in that time, it has become harder to access because of the rising water level. Mr Creasman told BBC Newsday that this was the first time underwater archaeology had been carried out in Sudan, the location of the ancient royal burial site of Nuri.

He found pottery figurines and gold leaf.

The gold offerings were still sitting there – these small glass-type statues had been leafed in gold. And while the water destroyed the glass underneath, the little gold flake was still there,” he told Newsday.

He believes these offerings were for Nastasen, a minor pharaoh who ruled the Kush kingdom from 335 BC to 315 BC.

This gold leaf would have been taken by thieves if it weren’t for the rising water level making the tomb inaccessible to most, underwater archaeologist Kristin Romey writes in the National Geographic.

Mr Creasman told the BBC that the team “dug as far as we could” down a 65-step stairway which led to the tomb entry. …

Nubia_Nuri archaeological expedition
Nuri archaeological expedition / Pearce Paul Creasman (Source: BBC)

He described what he found as “remarkable“:

There are three chambers, with these beautiful arched ceilings, about the size of a small bus, you go in one chamber into the next, it’s pitch black, you know you’re in a tomb if your flash lights aren’t on. And it starts revealing the secrets that are held within.

The tomb is part of the ancient site of Nuri which is spread across more than 170 acres in northern Sudan.

These pyramids mark the burials of Kushite royals who are sometimes referred to as “black pharaohs“. The Kush kingdom lasted for many hundreds of years and, in the 8th Century BC, it conquered Egypt which it ruled for almost a century.

Nigeria signs African Free Trade Area Agreement

The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA; source: African Union (A.U.))

This is a big news for the African continent as it will now allow for free trade across the continent, increasing trade among countries which should have always traded between themselves. This is what was envisioned by Kwame Nkrumah, all the independence fathers, and more recently by Muammar Kadhafi (Africans and the Trap of Democracy) at the AU: so it is high time it took place. I just pray that this actually works, and that it is not just a way for European goods which already go through some African countries without any tax or control (French speaking Africa), to flood Africa’s biggest economies. The excerpt is from the BBC; to read the full article go to the link.


Flag and map of Nigeria
Flag and map of Nigeria

African superpower Nigeria has signed an agreement which aims to increase trade between African countries….

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari signed the landmark agreement at the African Union (AU) summit in Niger. The first step is to cut tariffs for goods from countries within the bloc but the timeframe to do this is yet to be announced.

The AU says that the African Continental Free Trade Area – called AfCFTA – will create the world’s largest free trade area. It also estimates that implementing AfCFTA will lead to around a 60% boost in intra-African trade by 2022.

Only 16% of international trade by African countries takes place between African countries, according to research by the African Development Bank in 2014.

At the moment some of that intra-Africa trade ranges from fresh fish from the Seychelles to petrol from Angola.

African Union Summit group photo in Niamey, Niger on 07 July 2019 (Source: African Union (A.U.))

[…] Nigeria is Africa’s biggest economy and has long been a regional leader […]

Nigeria has a lot to gain from increasing access to its goods and services to a wider African market. But many of those consulted also feared increased regional integration would lead to unfair competition for jobs and the goods they produce.

With Nigeria signed up, AfCFTA’s dream of increasing intra-Africa trade, which currently lags behind the volume of trade the continent does with Europe, is now one step closer.

Now that AfCFTA can offer access to the enormous Nigerian market, they are in a much stronger position to negotiate with regional bodies in other parts of the world.