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AFRICA BRIEFS: African immigrants edgy after violence in Israel

An early morning arson attack Tuesday (June 5) on the home of African asylum seekers from Eritrea has marked an upsurge in hostilities towards Africans by Israeli citizens.

Dozens of foreigners, including families with children, lived in the building where the fire broke out on Jaffa Road, one of the city's central arteries. Four residents suffered burns and smoke inhalation. Graffiti in Hebrew sprayed on the building read: "Get out of the neighborhood."

Arson attacks were also reported in Tel Aviv and last month several homes and a kindergarten were firebombed. In Eilat, an African hotel employee was beaten by Israeli beach-goers. Two weeks ago, Israeli youths in southern Tel Aviv smashed storefront windows in a refugee neighborhood, police said.

While the Israeli government officially condemned the violence, some in the government seemed to share the anti-immigrant fever with talk of deporting or imprisoning refugees. One lawmaker called on Israeli soldiers to shoot any refugees attempting to cross the border with Egypt.

Meeting with his party members Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged to complete a 150-mile, 16-foot-tall steel fence along the Israeli-Egyptian border; to speed up construction of a massive detention facility able to hold up to 10,000 immigrants; and to step up efforts to deport foreigners.

Some 60,000 Africans who sought refuge in Jerusalem now face prosecution under a new law allowing authorities to detain illegal migrants for up to three years.

Slew of problems for first-year nation

Some $4 billion of public money has gone missing from the treasury of South Sudan, creating a crisis for the popular president, Salva Kiir Mayardit.

In a letter sent to some 75 former and present government officials, Kiir begged for the return of the funds and blasted those who "forgot what we fought for" in the liberation war. "Many of our friends died for freedom, justice and equality," he said, "yet once we got to power, we began to enrich ourselves at the expense of the people."

Kiir surmised that "most of these funds have been taken out of the country and deposited in foreign accounts. Some have purchased properties, often paid in cash."

Over half of the estimated $4 billion was diverted by the infamous grain scandal, where large orders of sorghum were ordered but never delivered or distributed. Hundreds of grain stores, to be used in emergencies, were also paid for but not built.

Meanwhile, some 22 colleges and private universities, formerly run by Khartoum in the north, have been closed by the Minister of Higher Education.

"There are so many challenges to higher education in South Sudan, including weak standards at a school level, poor infrastructure, a shortage of academic staff, the lack of funding for science and technology research....There are few university places for those that want to study," said John Akec, vice-chancellor of the University of Northern Bahr El Ghazal.

About 80 per cent of the South Sudanese population is illiterate.

Part of the challenge is to standardize the language in which schoolchildren are taught. South Sudan has chosen English as its state language, but many schools still teach in Arabic – the language favored by Sudan before independence.

Nigeria grieves after historic plane crash

nigeriaPlaneNigerians carrying a water hose to a burning plane that crashed, killing all the passengers.President Goodluck Jonathan declared 3 days of national mourning for the victims of a horrific plane crash Sunday (June 3) in which the aircraft flying into Lagos lost altitude and plummeted into a residential area, exploding in flames. All the passengers, over 150 people, died at the scene.

The Federal Government suspended the operational license of Dana Air, citing "safety precautionary reasons," pending investigations.

At least two people on the ground, including a woman clutching a baby in her arms, were also killed. There were no known mechanical problems, according to Dana Air's Flight Operations Director, Oscar Wilson.

The skyrocketing growth of Lagos has seen homes, businesses and industrial sites shoot up along the approach route used by aircraft landing at the airport, changing what used to be forests and wetlands into a sprawling mega-city. The development has put the population there at risk, with many aviation disasters in Nigeria over the last two decades.

Source: Global Information Network

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