In an unexpected move that surprised everyone, including his own people, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud of Saudi Arabia has suddenly passed a royal decree permitting women to drive. His stunning decision comes after years of the ban, which was justified using Islam as a pretext.
The Council of Senior Religious Scholars, which is close to the royal family and is crucial for shoring up its legitimacy, seems to have strongly supported the move, stressing that the decision was in the interest of Saudi society – this despite the fact these same religious leaders have opposed women’s right to drive for decades, accusing any women who dare to take the wheel of having lost their virginity and integrity. Similarly, the official Saudi media portrayed the decree as a historic step – but presented it as a favour or a royal benevolence boosted upon women, not a legitimate right long overdue.
Despite the noise that accompanied the decree, this move is not some bold initiative to present a new religious interpretation of the issue. Theologically speaking, the ban has no basis in the Quran or Hadith, and should never have been imposed in the first place. Saudi Arabia was the only country in the region that banned women from driving cars, and its claims to religious and cultural legitimacy were baseless. The denial of this basic right was not only blatantly against the precepts of Islam, but has tainted the name of Islam in a country that flatters itself as the defender of the true faith.
So there are plenty of questions to answer. Why exactly was the decree finally issued – and why now? Is Saudi society ready to accept it? And what will be the social, political and religious implications at home and across the Middle East?
Out of nowhere?
It seems the decree was not previously discussed as a serious possibility, and there was no consultation or input from various sections of Saudi society. We also know that only a year ago, when the king’s son Muhammad Bin Salman was asked about the possibility of lifting the ban, he answered that Saudi society was not yet ready to accept such a transformation.
Some stated that the decision came as a natural consequence of the gradual reform policy adopted by the previous king, Abdullah bin Abdulaziz– who allowed women to take part in the recent municipal elections and have some form of representation for the first time in the history of the kingdom.
But others saw the decision as a ploy to assert political authority over the religious establishment that has dominated the kingdom’s politics for years. This is especially relevant given the aforementioned Muhammad bin Salman is predicted to imminently take over the kingdom from his frail, ill father.
In fact, a lot of Saudis believe that he is the prime mover behind the decision. He has already set out his plans for the kingdom under the brand Vision 2030, and is being presented as a king-in-waiting who will set the country on the road to modernity and civil liberty.
In a pinch
While the decree is a step in the right direction, many in the region and beyond believe that the decision is pure tokenism. Saudi women might now have the right to use a car, but they still don’t have full employment rights and cannot travel without permission from a male guardian. They cannot pass their Saudi nationality to their children if they aren’t married to a Saudi citizen, and still face the same restrictive code of female behaviour imposed on them by a patriarchal interpretation of the Islamic texts.
Ultimately, this is less an earnest emancipatory gesture than a useful political play, a distraction from the difficult situation into which the kingdom has lately fallen. Its reckless and erratic policies in Syria and Libya have isolated Saudi Arabia and called its credibility as regional hegemon into question – while its military coalition in Yemen faces mounting accusations of war crimes.
The Saudi government’s recent ostracisation of Qatar came with a heavy-handed crackdown on Saudi academics, human rights activists and moderate religious scholars (such as Salman al-Ouda, who not long ago advocated for ending the driving ban) who voiced opposition. The spectacle of critics being arrested and detained without compunction raised fears of a social and political backlash that could engulf both the kingdom and the region.
This is the real context for the decision to lift the ban. The question now is whether Saudi society, still very conservative and sensitive about women’s issues, will accept or reject the change. For now, the biggest losers are undoubtedly Saudi religious scholars – legitimacy will now be questioned by millions of Muslims in the kingdom and beyond.
Ivory Coast, the world’s top cocoa producer, set its guaranteed price for farmers at 700 CFA francs ($1.27) per kilogram for the 2017/18 main crop season, the Coffee and Cocoa Council (CCC) marketing board said on Sunday.
Lambert Kouassi Konan, the chairman of CCC’s board, announced the price at a ceremony marking the start of the season, adding the cocoa registration tax had been eliminated in order to boost the farmers’ price.
“I can tell by your silence that you are worried by this decision. But I would like you to know that this isn’t easy. If we had relied simply on our theoretical calculations, we should have paid even lower than this price,” Konan said.
Ivory Coast was hit hard last season by a steep drop in London and New York cocoa prices that provoked a wave of contract defaults and forced the CCC to slash the farmer price by more than a third to 700 CFA/kg for the April-to-September mid-crop.
Neighbouring Ghana, the world’s number two cocoa grower, maintained its price throughout the last season and has hinted that it will keep it unchanged or even raise it in 2017/18. That would open a significant price gap with Ivory Coast, raising the risk of large-scale smuggling of Ivorian beans into Ghana.
Kenya is set to get an additional 4,000 hotel beds in the next five years as per an estimate of international and upcoming brands that have announced plans of setting up in the country.
Director of Tourism, Ms Keziah Odemba, said the coming of the international brands portends good tidings for the industry and for the country’s economy as the established brands will directly source for tourists from their niche markets thereby adding to the total visitor numbers.
Speaking during the World Tourism Day fete in Nairobi, Ms Odemba said the expected multi-billion shilling investments among them by Swiss Lenana Motel, Radisson Blu, Villa Rosa Kempinski, Golden Tulip, Amber, Ibis Styles and an array of upcoming brands such as the 64-storeyed Hilton Upper Hill among others across the country show Kenya’s tourism projections are positive.
Last year Kenya received 1.1 million tourists mainly entering Kenya for business and leisure, with 2017’s projects currently set at 1.4 million.
About 937,000 tourists were hosted on holiday, 78,000 were business travellers and a further 136,000 tourists visiting for other reasons.
Online travel marketer Jumia Country Manager Cyrus Onyiego urged passenger airlines and tourist hotels to introduce special rates to cater for local travellers.
Mr Onyiego said Kenyans were keen to travel locally but were discouraged by exorbitant fees charged by the hotels.
“It is cheaper to fly from Tanzania’s Dar es Salaam to Kigali in Rwanda than it is to fly from Nairobi to Mombasa. Hotels also need to come up with an innovative pricing model that embraces cheaper pricing for advance family bookings for locals,” he said.
Ms Odemba said Kenya continues to record high tourism arrivals due to the relative peace that has continued to prevail even after the Supreme Court annulled the August 8 presidential election results.
Tourism expert Carmen Nibigira reiterated her call to African governments to open up borders for intra-Africa travel, saying affordable air fares could be realised if governments eased all charges levied on incoming airlines as well as zero-rating of visa charges like Europe and America had done.
Credit: Nation Media Group
Zimbabwe has suspended import duty on fertilized poultry eggs for a six month period in a bid to revive poultry production following successive outbreaks of Avian Influenza in the country
Zimbabwe was hit by two outbreaks of the highly pathogenic bird flu in May and July at Lanark Farm near Mazowe, which is owned by the biggest chicken breeder in the country, Irvine’s. A total 215,000 birds were culled to contain the outbreaks. In a statutory instrument published in the Government Gazette last Friday, government listed six poultry importers exempt from paying duty.
“Duty is wholly suspended on fertilised poultry eggs for hatching of tariff code 0407,11,00 imported by approved poultry breeders, for a period of six months with effect from August 1, 2017,” reads the statutory instrument.
The approved poultry breeders are Irvine’s Zimbabwe (432,000 ring fenced fertilized poultry eggs per week), Supa Chicks (160,000) and Chinyika Chicks (100,000).
Dr. Henn (90,000), Zim Avian (40,000) and All Avian (30,000) are also part of the list.
- The Source