Spain on Friday declared “a new stage” in its strained relations with Morocco after the Spanish prime minister wrote to the Moroccan king, agreeing that having Western Sahara operate autonomously under Rabat’s rule is “the most serious, realistic and credible” initiative for resolving a decades-long dispute over the vast African territory.
This marked an enormous departure from Spain’s earlier stance of considering Morocco’s grip on Western Sahara an occupation. The shift followed months of frosty diplomatic relations and led to the announcement of a flurry of visits by Spanish officials to its southern neighbor.
It also opened up disputes within Spain’s left-to-center governing coalition.
The United Nations has continued to regard Madrid as the colonial administrative power for Western Sahara, even after its annexation by Morocco immediately after Spain abandoned its African province in 1975. Over the years, the Spanish government’s official position, along with the European Union’s, has been to support a U.N.-sponsored referendum to settle the territory’s decolonization.
But according to a statement issued by Morocco’s royal palace on Friday, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez recognized “the importance of the Sahara issue for Morocco” in a letter to King Mohammed VI.
“Spain considers the autonomy initiative presented by Morocco in 2007 as the basis, the most serious, realistic and credible, for resolving the dispute,” the royal palace quoted Sánchez.
Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares confirmed the Moroccan announcement.
“Today we begin a new stage in our relations with Morocco and finally close a crisis with a strategic partner,” he told reporters. He added that the new chapter was “based on mutual respect, compliance with agreements, the absence of unilateral actions and transparency and permanent communication.
Relations between Spain and Morocco hit a historical low last year after Spain secretly hosted for medical treatment the leader of the Polisario Front, which has led the yearning for independence by many Saharawis.
But when media affiliated with the Moroccan government revealed Brahim Ghali’s presence in Spain, Rabat allowed 10,000 people to cross the border into Ceuta, a Spanish city on the coast of North Africa. That leashed an unprecedented humanitarian crisis. Morocco also recalled its ambassador in Madrid and hasn’t reinstated her.
Abdulah Arabi, who represents the Polisario in Spain, said Sánchez “succumbs to the pressure and blackmail” from Morocco by paying “a toll” to mend their damaged political and diplomatic ties. He said having Western Sahara be autonomous under Morocco is only one of many options that should be voted upon in a referendum.
“The solution has to be based on the choice voted by the Saharawi people,” Arabi said.
Some 176,000 Saharawi are believed to live in five refugee camps on Algerian soil, east of Western Sahara, in a sweltering desert that many consider no man’s land. They rely on humanitarian help and goods from international aid agencies, under the governance of the Polisario Front, which presides over an exiled Sahrawi republic.
In late 2020, their frustration over three decades in limbo led to the end of a cease-fire and new hostilities between Polisario forces and the Moroccan army.
Thousands of Tunisians rallied in the capital Sunday, the country's independence day, to protest against President Kais Saied and consultations over constitutional reforms proposed by him.
Protesters shouted "the people want to overthrow the president" and "no to consultations", according to AFP reporters.
The demonstration was organised by the Islamist-inspired Ennahdha party and a movement named "Citizens Against the Coup".
It is the latest in a series of demonstrations in the North African country since Saied seized a host of powers after dismissing the government and freezing parliament on July 25.
Critics have dubbed the move a "coup" and rights groups have warned that the country -- seen as the only democracy to emerge from the Arab Spring protests -- is sliding towards autocracy.
Demonstrators marched on parliament in the Bardo neighbourhood of Tunis Sunday, many waving national flags, but a large police deployment blocked their path.
"We will not accept the results of the consultation, this farce against the people," Samira Chaouachi, the vice president in the frozen parliament, told the crowd.
Sunday marked the final day of an online poll launched by Saied in January in a process to help rewrite the country's constitution, with the results set to be presented to a committee of experts.
So far only 508,000 people - about seven percent of the seven million eligible voters, have taken part, according to official statistics.
A referendum on the constitutional reforms, which Saied hopes will bolster his authority, is scheduled for July, exactly a year after his power grab, with parliamentary elections scheduled for December.
"Our condolences for the constitution, President Saied," demonstrators chanted Sunday, mocking the low turnout.
Saied had written off the low turnout to "technical obstacles" and "attempts by the old system to abort this experiment" -- in an apparent reference to his arch-rivals Ennahdha.
Demonstrators also called for the release of the former head of the bar association, Abderrazek Kilani, arrested in early March on the orders of a military court on charges of "disturbing public order with the intent to obstruct the application of the law".
Kilani is a member of the defence committee for former justice minister and senior Ennahdha figure Noureddine Bhiri, who has been under house arrest since December.
When Neha Mandlik moved to India's western city of Ahmedabad in October, she bought Ikea furniture and bric-a-brac for her new home.
Ms Mandlik ordered study tables, stools, lamps, a carpet, dishes and glassware for her one-bedroom apartment. The Swedish furniture giant, which opened in India in 2018, operates large-format stores in two cities and offers online shopping in seven, including Ahmedabad.
When guests come, Ms Mandlik joins the two study tables to make a dining table for eight. White, beige and grey dominate the colour palette of her new home. It reminds her of the 18 months she spent in London in a shared Kensington apartment, pursuing a masters in design research from the Royal College of Art.
"My tastes in furniture have changed completely over the years. And for some reason, Ikea seems to fit my new aesthetics," says Ms Mandlik, an architect who teaches at India's prestigious National Institute of Design.
She grew up in a sprawling joint family home in the western city of Aurangabad. Most of the furniture was heavy: teakwood sofas and chairs, glass-top dining tables, bulky metal folding chairs. Bric-a-brac picked up by her parents during holidays - lamps, baubles, miniature wooden boats, masks - also took up space. "Now families and spaces are getting smaller, and mobility has gone up. The way my generation looks at furniture has changed," the 35-year-old architect says.
This was possibly one reason that encouraged Ikea to set sail for one of the world's most complex furniture markets. Here antique furniture is handed down as a family heirloom; bespoke furniture continues to be made by carpenters; and tens of thousands of unorganised small outlets offer a more modern range that they assemble and deliver swiftly.
India's $40bn (£29bn) "home and living" market - of which furniture and furnishings is a big component - is mainly powered by the country's middle class. Ikea believes it is slowly making inroads - many of the 8,500-odd products on sale at its two 430,000 sq ft stores in Hyderabad and Mumbai, and online, are tailored and tweaked to suit Indian consumers. "Ikea is not in a hurry. They are all about creating and expanding an organised, price-sensitive, modern retail furniture market for India," said Ankit Bisen, senior vice-president at Technopak, a consultancy.
Ghana has been ranked 111th on a United Nations (UN) ranking of the happiest 146 countries in the world.
This indicates a drop of 16 places on the World Happiness Report, a publication of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network.
The country placed 95th in the 2021 World Happiness ranking.
The ranking was based on factors that tend to lead to greater happiness and metrics including GDP per capita, social support, healthy life expectancy, freedom to make life choices, generosity and perceptions of corruption.
The report which was compiled by a group of independent experts acting in their personal capacities was also based on life evaluations from the Gallup World Poll.
No African country was ranked among the top 50 nations, with Mauritius ranking the highest in 52nd place - dipping two places from the 2021 edition of the report.
Other African countries that were ranked higher than Ghana included Libya (86th), Ivory Coast (88th), South Africa (91st), Gambia (93rd), Algeria (96th), Liberia (97th), Congo Brazzaville (99th) and Morocco (100th)
The remaining countries were Mozambique (101st), Cameroon (102nd), Senegal (103rd), Niger (104th), Gabon (106th), Guinea (109th) with Nigeria ranking behind Ghana in 118th place.
President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, has reiterated that the surest way to transform Ghana’s economy and reduce unemployment is by paying critical regard to Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET).
Citing the success stories of countries like Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea with whom Ghana began its independence journey, he observed that Ghana could only attain a global giant status with deliberate and heavy investment in TVET, the area for the development of skills needed for a modern economy.
Consequently, he said government had adopted a strategy to expand technical and vocational opportunities at both secondary and tertiary levels to strengthen the linkages between education and industry and empower the youth to deploy their skills and employ themselves and others.
“This is the reason why government has placed such importance on guaranteeing access to a minimum of Senior High School education for all Ghanaian children and is laying emphasis in particular on technical and vocational training as a major pillar for development,” he added.The President was speaking at the 92nd speech day durbar of the St Augustine’s College in Cape Coast on Saturday under the theme: “Redefining Education Delivery in Technological Aid: The Role of St Augustine’s College.”
The event was marked by the commissioning of the school’s renovated and expanded computer laboratory by the President donated by alumni of the school.
He indicated that concrete efforts were underway to disabuse misconceptions that technical and vocational education was inferior and only patronized by financially or intellectually less endowed students.
Among other measures, President Akufo-Addo, averred that government had officially rolled out a ‘Free TVET For All’ programme in addition to its Free Senior High School (SHS) policy which had catered for some 1.6 million students since inception.
He added that the Ministry of Education was currently undertaking cutting-edge policies to achieve it object of 60:40 Science-Humanities ratio enrolment in secondary schools for its transformation agenda.