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ARABICA - A Daily Shot Of What the Arab World is Saying/Hearing/Sharing

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad finally addressed the nation in a televised speech. As with recent pronouncements from Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi, Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh and Bahrain's King Hamad Al Khalifa, Assad's performance contained all the classic elements of the time-tested Arab strongman's harangue

A R A B I C A ارابيكا

By Kristen Gillespie

SYRIAN STRONGMAN

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad finally addressed the nation in a televised speech. As with recent pronouncements from Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi, Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh and Bahrain's King Hamad Al Khalifa, Assad's performance contained all the classic elements of the time-tested Arab strongman's harangue:

*Blaming unnamed, external enemies who are conspiring to destroy your country.Assad: "Syria is the target of a major, external plot, the timing of which has been accelerated."

*Trumpeting the dignity of a great people. Assad: "I belong to the Syrian people, and whoever belongs to the Syrian people will always keep his head held high."

*Pledging reforms that all know he has no intention of implementing. Assad: "There are no hurdles to reforms, but there are delays."

*Blaming unarmed civilians holding peaceful protests for their own deaths. Assad: It is "conspirators' who are behind the protests that have ended in the deaths of scores, if not hundreds, of citizens.

*The government is busy "studying" the demands of protesters.Assad: "The emergency law and political parties law have been under study for a year…We want to speed it up, but not be too hasty."

But though the script from on high is still the same, the context – post-Tunis, post-Cairo – has changed. The twittersphere was panning the speech in realtime:

*@shamnews: "If people stay quiet after a farce like this, they will have no peace until Judgment Day…this is a mockery of the Syrian people and its martyrs."

*@MohamadMS adds, "I am still in shock even though I have learned not to expect much from an Arab leader… but this is the worst speech I have ever heard."

TUNISIAN PRIDE

Yadh Ben Ashour, a member of Tunisia's Committee to Implement the Revolution's Objectives, says the country "will never accept" international observers monitoring upcoming elections on July 24. "No respectable country accepts international observers… the electoral process is completely transparent," Ben Ashour said.

March 30, 2011


photo credit: illustir

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Economy

In Uganda, Having A "Rolex" Is About Not Going Hungry

Experts fear the higher food prices resulting from the conflict in Ukraine could jeopardize the health of many Ugandans. Take a look at this ritzy-named simple dish.

Zziwa Fred, a street vendor who runs two fast-food businesses in central Uganda, rolls a freshly prepared chapati known as a Rolex.

Nakisanze Segawa

WAKISO — Godfrey Kizito takes a break from his busy shoe repair shop every day so he can enjoy his favorite snack, a vegetable and egg omelet rolled in a freshly prepared chapati known as a Rolex. But for the past few weeks, this daily ritual has given him neither the satisfaction nor the sustenance he is used to consuming. Kizito says this much-needed staple has shrunk in size.

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Most streets and markets in Uganda have at least one vendor firing up a hot plate ready to cook the Rolex, short for rolled eggs — which usually comes with tomatoes, cabbage and onion and is priced anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000 Ugandan shillings (28 to 57 cents). Street vendor Farouk Kiyaga says many of his customers share Kizito’s disappointment over the dwindling size of Uganda’s most popular street food, but Kiyaga is struggling with the rising cost of wheat and cooking oil.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has halted exports out of the two countries, which account for about 26% of wheat exports globally and about 80% of the world’s exports of sunflower oil, pushing prices to an all-time high, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization, a United Nations agency. Not only oil and wheat are affected. Prices of the most consumed foods worldwide, such as meat, grains and dairy products, hit their highest levels ever in March, making a nutritious meal even harder to buy for those who already struggle to feed themselves and their families. The U.N. organization warns the conflict could lead to as many as 13.1 million more people going hungry between 2022 and 2026.

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