Voice of America – English
Qatar is in talks with coronavirus vaccine makers to ensure all fans attending the 2022 World Cup in the country have been vaccinated, the foreign minister said Friday.
The Gulf nation is facing a resurgence of virus cases and deaths despite progress in its mass vaccination programme, forcing authorities to impose a nationwide lockdown.
“We have been negotiating and talking to the vaccination providers on how we can make sure that everyone attending the World Cup is vaccinated,” Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani said.
“Right now there are programs under development to provide vaccination to all the attendees of the World Cup,” he added during the Raisina Dialogue, a virtual event hosted by the Observer Research Foundation.
“We will be able, hopefully, to host a COVID-free event. We also hope that globally the pandemic will start to go down and disappear.”
Globally no one vaccine certification system has yet been universally accepted or recognised, though the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Travel Pass has gained popularity amongst Gulf airlines including Qatar Airways.
As of Friday, 194,930 of Qatar’s 2.75 million people have tested positive for the coronavirus since the pandemic began, with 21,965 currently active cases — almost one percent of the population.
Over 26,000 vaccine jabs were administered on Friday, bringing the total to 1,209,648 doses, according to official data.
One in five of the 367 deaths Qatar has suffered since the start of the pandemic has been reported this month with officials blaming the more virulent British variant.
Last week Qatar announced the reimposition of strict lockdown measures, banning most indoor activities except retail and work in an effort to contain the virus.
Qatar has defied soaring coronavirus case numbers to stage several high profile global sporting events in recent months, serving as a test bed for different restrictions but also suffering high-profile infection cases.
The wealthy Gulf nation has bucked the trend of more established sporting nations which have cancelled or postponed a slew of leading events, instead hosting soccer, tennis, motorcycling, judo and beach volleyball since January.
FIFA boss Gianni Infantino has previously said that measures to contain the coronavirus will need to be taken during the 2022 tournament but did not given details.
“Maybe some precautionary measures have to be taken,” he told AFP during the FIFA Club World Cup in Doha in February.
As well as saying unspecified distancing measures could still be in place for next year’s World Cup, Infantino suggested FIFA could “concretely” help travelling fans from countries with patchy vaccine rollouts.
“We need to see how the situation looks by then. It’s very difficult to foresee now.
“It will take a little bit of time, and we have two years of time to come back to some sort of normality.”
Voice of America – English
Somali government forces are set to take the lead in maintaining the country’s security by the end of this year, according to Somali and African Union officials who met in Mogadishu this week.
The parties agreed to forge ahead despite concerns about the Somali parliament’s controversial extension of the president’s mandate for another two years.
The conference marked an important milestone on the road toward peace and stability in Somalia, which has struggled with violence and lawlessness for decades.
Attending the meeting were representatives from the Federal Government of Somalia, military commanders from the Somali National Army (SNA) and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), and officials from the U.N. support office in the country.
FILE – Ugandan instructors of African Union’s peacekeeping mission in Somalia (AMISOM) coach Somali soldiers during their training session at the shooting range in Ceeljaale, Somalia, Sept. 19, 2019.
The parties agreed that Somali security forces would soon assume a lead role in their own operations, as laid out in the Somali Transition Plan approved by the government and AMISOM in 2018.
The AU mission recently handed control of a base near Afgoye town to the SNA. Last week, SNA troops also repulsed an attack by al-Shabab militants on a military base in Awdhigle, 75 kilometers south of Mogadishu. Somali military officials say at least 76 militants were killed.
Special forces ready, military chief says
Somalia’s military chief, General Odowa Rage, expressed the commitment by his side to the new security plan. He said special forces were ready to conduct operations anywhere, anytime.
Rage pledged that his side would fully implement the outcome of the key security conference with AU counterparts, but he underlined that partners in security such as AMISOM should also take seriously the new commitment.
The AU special envoy in Somalia and the head of AMISOM, Francisco Madeira, said the AU mission would do its part.
“As the mission gets into the next phase, where AMISOM is expected to gradually transfer the security responsibility to the Somali security forces, joint planning and coordination as well as the harmonized force corroboration will enable the mission to maintain operational effectiveness” and effectively respond to threats, Madeira said.
However, developments like the ongoing political standoff that has delayed elections may impede full implementation of the transition, according to security analyst Mohamed Salah.
“The primary purpose is to gradually and cautiously transfer all security responsibilities to [the SNA],” he said. “Its implementation is delayed and challenged by the recurrent political stalemate in the country, including those linked to elections and differences between federal government and state leaders in some instances. Also the interference of security agencies into political affairs.”
As Somali agencies try to take responsibility for security, many observers believe political accountability is the ultimate key to peace and stability in the Horn of the Africa nation.
Voice of America – English