DANNENROD, Germany: Eighteen months ago, German ship captain Carola Rackete was hailed a hero by refugee campaigners after she defied the authorities by steering a migrant rescue vessel into the port of Lampedusa.
Today, Rackete has swapped her captain's hat for a set of yellow waterproofs as she wades through the mud in the Dannenrod forest in central Germany, surrounded by ancient oak trees.
The 32-year-old has been occupying the protected area in Dannenrod along with a group of environmental activists since late September in a bid to prevent the felling of trees to build a section of motorway.
She is still sporting her signature dreadlocks, tied back in a bun, and she still has the same air of calm determination.
"This is civil society saying, 'That's enough,'" she says, pointing to treehouses more than 10m high that protesters have built.
Dozens of activists are occupying them to prevent authorities from clearing the land.
"There are hundreds of road construction projects (in Germany)… It doesn't make sense in the context of the climate crisis," adds Rackete.
Rackete spent three days in prison after sailing the Sea Watch 3 into the port of Lampedusa on Jun 29, 2019, with 43 migrants rescued in the Mediterranean on board.
Matteo Salvini, Italy's far-right former Interior Minister, called her a "troublemaker" and a "criminal", and she faced a fierce backlash from the residents of Lampedusa.
But she was dubbed "Captain Europe" by the German media and lauded in some quarters for championing the rights of migrants.
Rackete also has a history as an environmental campaigner.
After initially training in maritime navigation in Germany, she obtained a master's degree in conservation in Britain and has previously worked for Greenpeace.
Her book, "Handeln statt Hoffen" ('Take action, don't just hope'), has been translated into six languages.
Sleeping in a tent doesn't faze her, despite the chilly weather: Rackete has not had a fixed address for nine years and survives on just a few hundred euros a month in a bid to live as frugally as possible.
"We need a moratorium on all infrastructure projects" if we are to have any hope of meeting the objectives of the Paris climate agreement and address the "dramatic" climate crisis, she says.
Rackete has been closely following the effects of global warming since her first mission as a navigator in 2011 on board the Polarstern ship, which has just completed the world's largest exploration mission to the North Pole.
"ANTARCTICA EIGHT TIMES"
It was a formative experience for her. "You can really see the climate crisis with your own eyes," she said, iRead More – Source
Queen Elizabeth and Duke of Edinburgh receive Covid-19 vaccine
Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh have received their Covid-19 vaccinations, a Buckingham Palace spokesperson said Saturday.
Dozens killed in suspected jihadist attack in Niger
Dozens of people were killed in an attack in Niger on Saturday, in a suspected jihadist attack.
The attack took place around 12:00 CET in the Tchomo-Bangou village in Tillabéri, a western region bordering Mali.
“The assailants surrounded the village and killed up to 50 people,” a local radio journalist said anonymously. “The wounded have been evacuated to the hospital in Ouallam.”
It came on the day provisional results for the first round of the presidential election, held on December 27, were released.
Mohamed Bazoum, the candidate for the ruling Party for Democracy and Socialism (PNDS) and a former interior minister, is in the lead with 39.3 per cent of the votes. Bazoum has vowed to strengthen the country’s fight against Islamist groups.
The second round of the election is to be held on February 21.
Niger has been a target for jihadist attacks for years, particularly in the western and southeastern parts of the country.
On December 21, six days before the presidential poll, seven soldiers were killed in Tillabéri. In May 2020, twenty people, including children, were also killed in two of the region’s villages.
Niger votes in presidential and legislative elections
People in Niger began voting in the country’s presidential and parliamentary elections on Sunday.
Mohamed Bazoum, the right-hand man of outgoing President Mahamadou Issoufou is the favourite to win.
The sixty-year-old former interior minister is aiming for outright victory in the first round — something that no candidate has done before.
He’s focussing on security and education.
Over 7 million people are eligible to vote. But some voters, like Gambina Moumouni, simply want a president they can trust.
“We pray to Allah to choose us the president who has the most mercy for the people, a president who will not betray the country and who will not betray the trust of the people, that is our wish. It is also our wish that Allah may help to make the poor, the peasants, the (cattle) breeders happy.
Thirty candidates are standing including two former presidents and two former prime ministers, but according to seasoned observers in the region, the poll is arousing little enthusiasm among the population.
Niger is the world’s poorest according to the UN’s Human Development Index and also one of those hardest hit by climate change.
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