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Spreading out

Kenya

Nairobi has an idea to take the pressure off its urban centre. Plans have been drawn to create a satellite city of Konza, in the Machakos District, and there’s a proposal to build a similar Tatu City on old coffee lands 15km north-east of the capital.

Q&A

Hanan Ashrawi

Executive council, PLO

Palestine

Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) executive council and permanent fixture of the Oslo peace process, believes that the Palestinians are in the middle of a historic process which began with the controversial UN statehood bid last autumn.

Is a two-state solution still possible?
We are reaching the point where it is impossible to implement a two-state solution. Politically people are still talking about it but the issue is the gap between the political discourse and the realties on the ground. I don’t say this happily but there are many people here who have vested interests in maintaining the status quo. In the current climate this is politically dangerous.

What are the most crucial reforms needed for the Palestinian political system now that the statehood bid is no longer in the international headlines?
We must carry out the commitment to set up a new government of independence and unity. I don’t isolate the West Bank from Gaza; we need a new whole approach to the political reality in Palestine. The elections and the formation of a new government are ways of rectifying the disunity which is harming our political system.

What will be the political developments in Palestine in the short term?
We need to have honest and fair elections. This is the only way to repair the issues of legitimacy which exist among the Palestinian people and the leadership. Our drive at the United Nations was part of a process of rectification. Things are not going to happen instantly but we are changing direction, we are changing focus. Instead of being held captive by endless, futile negotiations, we are trying to provide some protection for ourselves while Israel acts outside the law. I am hopeful – but I am also apprehensive.

How will the Arab revolutions affect Palestinian politics?
I think that Palestinians should be cautious. The people who organised the Arab revolutions in places such as Egypt are not necessarily the ones who won the elections. Civil society activists must form an organisational structure to be able to bring people to the streets and win elections. You can’t just challenge the status quo, bring down the system and then hand over to people don’t necessarily share your beliefs. I fear that the current activists in Palestine don’t fully understand this important issue but I applaud their efforts to make their voices heard.

Old timer

Tanzania [FERRY]

Approaching its first century is about the only thing the oldest operating steamship in Africa does fast. The 220ft vessel was built in Germany in 1913 but it never set sail. Instead all 1,200 tonnes of the Graf von Götzen were flat-packed and shipped to Dar es Salaam. By then the First World War had broken out so the Götzen was launched as a gunboat defending German East Africa. The retreating Germans then scuttled the boat.

In 1924 Winston Churchill ordered it recovered and it was re-commissioned as the MV Liemba, a passenger ferry which today shudders its way up and down Africa’s longest lake, connecting villages and towns in Tanzania with Zambia.

ELECTION WATCH

Algeria

Date: 10 May
Type: Parliamentary
Candidates: The three principal Islamist parties have agreed to run as an alliance, while secular opposition party the Socialist Forces Front will stand for the first time, ending a 15-year boycott of Algeria’s elections.
Issues: Algeria’s institutions largely withstood the tumults of the Arab Spring, but the country continues to suffer the problems which sparked the protests: unemployment, poor infrastructure, uneven distribution of wealth.
Monocle comment: Gains by Islamists in Egypt and Tunisia are not encouraging. This looks like a referendum on the sort of country Algeria wants to be.

Spruced up

Saudi Arabia [ART]

Sculptures by Henry Moore, Joan Miró and Alexander Calder line the Red Sea waterfront of Jeddah’s corniche, procured in the 1970s by the city’s former mayor Mohammed Farsi. But with little official interest in the maintenance of the 400 works, at the mercy of sandy winds coming in from the desert and Saudi’s hot climate, these rare examples of public art in the Middle East are looking battered.

Private investment has now stepped in, with restoration of 60 of the key pieces underway. The project is being funded by noted regional patron, Fady Jameel, and comes in tandem with the city’s growing status as a hub for contemporary Saudi art.

Syria in numbers

Unemployment
30%

Inflation
16%

Annual decrease in tourism income
41%

Fall in value of Syrian pound since crisis began
75%

On the move

Iraq [TRANSPORT]

Years of sanctions and war have taken their toll on Iraq’s decrepit transport infrastructure, much built over 30 years ago. Buttressed by increasing oil returns, the 2012 national budget is allocating about €753m for transport and communication.

Transport Minister Hadi al Ameri announced earlier this year plans for a 2,000km rail track. And with Mosul Airport re-opened and more flights linking Baghdad with the rest of the world, he intends to upgrade existing airports and build new ones. Sensing opportunities, foreign companies are offering all kinds of services, from US airport security technology to French port management.

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